Wednesday, March 24, 2010

203. Dial M For Murder

Dial M For Murder (1954)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Starring: Ray Milland
Grace Kelly
Robert Cummings

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 8.5

"People don't commit murder on credit."

Former tennis pro Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) is plotting to murder his wife Margot (Grace Kelly) with both revenge and money as his motives. Tony has discovered that while he was on tour playing tennis, his wife had been having an affair with American mystery writer Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings). Tony calls on an old college classmate Charles Alexander Swann (Anthony Dawson), and blackmails him into murdering his wife. The murder is to take place while Tony is entertaining Mark during a gentleman's evening. Although, the murder goes horribly wrong when Margot escapes capture, grabs a pair of scissors, and stabs Mr. Swann in the back. Seeing that his plot has failed, Tony must now spin a new web of lies to deceive the police into thinking that there was no murder attempt on Margot at all. Rather she was intending to murder Mr. Swann.

Dial M For Murder isn't exactly one of director Alfred Hitchcock's most suspenseful films. Although, it is definitely one of his best structured. A lot of that can be attributed to the excellent screenplay from Frederick Knott, which was also based on his play of the same name. I've seen this film a few times, and have yet to see an error in it's writing. There are times when it gets a little intricate, but never once falters. Also Hitchcock's signature long takes are present here. Many scenes go on for ten minutes before a cut is made. I have always loved this technique, mainly because it does give the viewer a keen sense that their in the room. The combination of Knott's excellent story and Hitchcock's keen hand in directing, makes this film a true classic.

There is only one thing that is unbelievable about this film, and that is someone wanting to murder a woman as beautiful as Grace Kelly. You often hear about her elegance, but until you see it at work on screen, you have no idea. Kelly gives an excellent performance that instantly grabs your attention. Ray Milland is also good as Tony Wendice, who apart from wanting to murder his wife, seems to be an all right guy. He is almost charming enough to have you rooting for him, and not Margot. The rest of the cast turn in great performances as well, but they seem to pale in comparison to Milland and Kelly's wonderful work.

Dial M For Murder came around the middle of Hitchcock's career, but served as the beginning of a run of his most popular films that featured Rear Window, Vertigo, and Psycho. It might not live up to the pedigree of those films, but it is still quite excellent. All of Hitchcock's signature traits are here including his excellent choice in scores and beautiful blonds. It serves as a pretty straight forward film, with few twists and turns. That might seem foreign to Hitchcock's style, but rest assured, nothing is compromised with this film. Hitchcock's unique style and vision is indeed present in every frame of this truly incredible film.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

204. Kill Bill Vol. 2

Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Uma Thurman
David Carradine
Michael Madsen
Daryl Hannah

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 9

"I've killed a hell of a lot of people to this point, but I have only one more. The last one. The one I'm driving to right now. The only one left. And when I arrive at my destination, I am gonna kill Bill."

Before Kill Bill Vol. 2 continues from where the previous installment left off, we take a look back to the wedding rehearsal of The Bride (Uma Thurman). Here she and her entire wedding party were murdered by her former gang, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. Prior to the attack, The Bride has a conversation with her former lover Bill (David Carradine) about her future plans. Bill wishes her the best, and agrees to pose as her father during the actual ceremony. Soon the Deadly Viper's, which Bill is the leader, show up to end the day. They kill everyone in the church, but fail to finish the job with The Bride leaving her in a coma. Since the massacre, The Bride has recovered and gone on her own journey of vengeance, killing two key members of her former gang (These stories were told in the first installment).

Upon hearing of The Bride's trail of revenge, Bill goes to warn his brother Budd (Michael Madsen) that he is next on her list. Late one night, The Bride sneaks up to Budd's trailer, but is caught with a shotgun blast of rock salt that hits her in the chest. He then takes her to a graveyard and throws her body inside a casket in a robbed grave. This seems to be the end of The Bride, but then she recalls her training in China and busts out of the grave. Once out of the grave she approaches Budd's trailer to see Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), another member of the Deadly Viper's, visiting him. Budd has agreed to sell his one of a kind sword to Elle for a suitcase filled with one million dollars. Although, Elle has booby trapped the suitcase with a black mamba snake that bites and kills Budd. Right as she is leaving, The Bride bursts into the front door and the two begin to fight, ending in Elle losing her other good eye. As the Bride walks out the door, only one stop remains, and she has every attention to KILL BILL.

I am not sure if I get Quentin Tarantino, or if he gets me. All I know is that there is no writer currently working in Hollywood that appeals to me more. He has this incredible ability to take the most normal settings, and bless them with some of the most brilliant dialogue you have ever heard. I understand that some people can just no sit through a film where all the people do is talk. Although if you listen to the pacing and words chosen by Tarantino, you cannot deny his unbelievable talent. I might be over-hyping his abilities here, but as a writer who desperately wants to make sense, I applaud Tarantino on his truly original style of writing.

One thing that I feel this film does well is that it omages, rather than copies. This film pulls and uses past films of the kung-fu and revenge genre's to make suitable film that belongs near the top in either catagory. Some of the same actors from these classic films are used to play new, but most of the time similar roles. Also, the music had a western appeal, which might make no sense for a film with so much martial arts, although it greatly works with thiw film. For true fans of the many genres that this film pulls from, Kill Bill Vol. 2 holds even more fun and significance for you.

Over the last five years or so, I have become a huge fan of the emerging "vengeance" genre. You could easily say that the Kill Bill films are what started that love in me. This film series lead me to find one of my favorite directors, Chan-wook Park and his own Vengeance Trilogy. If it were for that reason alone, I would always hold a special place for this film. Luckily, this film is much more than a stepping stone to other great films. Kill Bill Vol. 2 serves as beautifully written conclusion to an epic journey. The first installment of Kill Bill carried much of the action, where Volume 2 really focuses on the emotions of our heroine and her surroundings. This film paired with Volume 1, is a must see for all movie and film lovers.

*be sure to view my post for volume 1 coming this fall!

Monday, March 22, 2010

205. Let the Right One In

Let the Right One In (2008)

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Starring: Kare Hedebrant
Lina Leandersson
Per Ragnar

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 8.5

"Please Oskar... be me for a little while."

Oskar (Kare Hedebrant) is your typical outcast. He is constantly bullied at school, and really has no friends. His parents are divorced, so he lives alone with his mother in a small apartment. One evening while sitting outside of his apartment complex, he meets a strange young girl named Eli (pronounced like Elle - E, and played by Lina Leandersson). Eli has recently moved into the apartment next to Oskar's with an older gentleman named Haken (Per Ragnar), who appears to be her father. Haken goes out at night and murders people, so that he main drain their blood to feed Eli. For you see, she is not actually a young girl, but an ancient vampire.

Oskar begins to confide in Eli as a friend, even though she has warned him about doing so. This is most likely to protect Oskar, although Eli never reveals why in the beginning. She encourages Oskar to fight back against the bullies at his school. As their relationship grows, so does Oskar's confidence and general attitude. During this time, Haken has failed at supplying blood for Eli on a few occasions, leaving her to do her own killing. One particular failed attempt proves to be ultimately fatal for Haken, and ends up leaving Eli with only Oskar in her life. With the community becoming suspicious of the random deaths and attacks, the two most both find a way to go on with their lives. This leaves Eli no choice, but to expose her true identity to him. But will Oskar let her into his life once he knows her secret?

I remember seeing Let the Right One In in theaters and being very impressed with it's exceptional attention to detail. For instance, when Eli doesn't feed, she always looks weak and frail. Almost appearing to be older at times. Although after she has just fed, she always appears to be youthful and eager. There are a few scenes where you actually do see Eli as an older woman. These scenes are met with flawless transition, giving the true appearance of something supernatural. It's the simple things that makes this film something truly extraordinary.

This film also has two of the better child performances I have seen. Lina Leandersson was only twelve during the filming, but turns in a performance well past her years. Her portrayal of Eli relies on realistic reactions to convey the trials of being a vampire. Usually the vampire is the enemy in the film, and Eli is really no different from any other vampire. Although, you cannot help but root for her. Kare Hedebrant is also great as the very reserved Oskar. You find yourself pitying him, but also identifying with him quite a bit. We've all feared running into that bully when we were in primary school. Hedebrant captures that perfectly. In the case of Let the Right One In, the kids are definitely where the acting talent lies.

I don't usually do this, but I would like to explain to you my interpretation of the end of the film. So if you have not seen it yet, please do not read any furthur into the paragraph. I do not think that Eli really loves Oskar. I believe that she is using him, as she did Haken. Oskar and Haken both seem to have similar personalities. They are very reserved, trustworthy, and will do anything for the ones they love. I like to think that Haken was once misunderstood, and Eli took him away from that. Much like Eli does when she runs away with Oskar. I am a sucker for romance in film, but I just don't buy it with Eli. If you have seen the film, go back and watch it again with this in mind. I think you will definitely see where I am coming from.

Let the Right One In is a top film in the horror and vampire genre. I feel with the release of a certain teen vampire film and this film's only two weeks apart, it was not really given a chance. So I strongly urge you though to see this film. Especially before the unneeded American remake from Cloverfield director Matt Reeves comes out later this year. Some might feel that this film moves at a slow pace, but that is one of the things that makes the action scenes that much more effective. Overall, It's attention to detail and superb acting should satisfy horror loves and film lovers alike.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

206. Duck Soup

Duck Soup (1933)

Director: Leo McCarey

Starring: Groucho Marx
Harpo Marx
Chico Marx
Margaret Dumont
Louis Calhern

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 9

"This is Rufus T. Firefly coming to you through the courtesy of the enemy. We're in a mess folks, we're in a mess. Rush to Freedonia! Three men and one woman are trapped in a building! Send help at once! If you can't send help, send two more women."

The fictional country of Freedonia is in financial ruin. Wealthy widow Mrs. Tisdale (Margaret Dumont) agrees to give the hefty sum of two-million dollars to Freedonia, but on the condition they name Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho Marx) as it's leader. This is much to the dismay of the leader of Slyvania Ambassador Trentino (Louis Calhern), who secretly wants to take over Freedonia. Firefly turns out to be an unpredictable dictator who goes about his job in a very unpolitical and unorthadox manner. If Firefly has one goal, it is to win the favor of Mrs. Tisdale, but only for her fortune. Ambassador Trentino also plans on wooing her, but with his mind set on taking control of Freedonia. The two men's plans clash and war is declared between the two countries leaving both men and their countries in total jeopardy.

So my description of Duck Soup might sounds pretty straight forward, but don't be fooled, it is hilarious! This film is the epitome of a comedy classic. The jokes come at bullet speed, and the gags are non-stop. Groucho Marx gives one of his most memorable performances with more one-liners than one could even count. Harpo and Chico Marx are also excellent as the spies Pinky and Chicolini, who are hired by Ambassador Trentino to get dirt on Firefly. Their gags are some of my favorite moments in the film. The most memorable scene in the film is the classic mirrored movement scene between Harpo and Groucho Marx. There has never been physical comedy scene timed better. Duck Soup is the best in a long standing set of films from the Marx Brothers, as well as one of the finest comedic films of all time.

What is also great about this comedy is that it is boldly political without an agenda or party affiliation. I have seen two presidential administrations come and go since my first viewing of this film over ten years ago. Anytime any slip up was made by one of our leaders, my mind instantly went back to Duck Soup and the ideals and antics of Rufus T. Firefly. George W. Bush's occasional mind slips came to mind when Firefly often forgot simply what room he was in. Bill Clinton's stereotypical charm with the ladies is also present in the relationship of Firefly and Mrs. Tisdale. Great comedies stand the test of time, I am not even sure the Marx Brothers knew that we would be satirically comparing them to our past and current world leaders almost eighty years later.

Arguably the greatest comedy team off all-time is on full display in this film. The comedic timing and abilities of the Marx Brothers will most likely never be matched. Their gift to the world was laughter, and that is exactly what Duck Soup delivers. The chuckles might come at a premium, but the political satire is also to be noted. A film like this comes along once in a great while. Duck Soup is easily the funniest film from it's generation and one of the greatest in cinematic history. This film is an essential view from the list thus far. Highly recommended indeed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

207. The African Queen

The African Queen (1951)

Director: John Huston

Starring: Humphrey Bogart
Katharine Hepburn

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 9

"Dear... what's your first name? ... Charlie! That's a nice name, Charlie."

Rosa Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) and her brother Samuel Sayer (Robert Morley) are missionaries in a village in German Eastern Africa during World War I. The importer of their supplies and mail is Canadian born boat Captain Charlie Allnut (Humphrey Bogart). He warns the Sayer's that the German's and Britain's are at war. It isn't too long until their village is burned to the ground, including the Sayer's missionary. Samuel rebels against the German's and is beaten, which results in a fatal fever. Charlie returns to the village to find it and Rosa in ruins. He offers to help her bury her brother and escape from the village on his boat "The African Queen." Rosa agrees, and they soon start to go down river and leave her home for the last ten years behind.

Once on the boat, Charlie and Rosa start discussing what they are going to do. Charlie happens to mention that a German gunboat is on patrol in a lake far up river. Rosa tries persuading Charlie to sink the German vessel with a make-shift a torpedo. Charlie agrees to the plan, but believes that she will abandon her idea when she sees the rough obstacles that are ahead. Although, his plan seems to backfire as she finds the adrenaline rush of rapids and waterfalls to be exhilarating. The two at first bicker and fight, but soon a romance starts to bloom. As soon as the prospect of love is present, Charlie fully agrees to the plot to sink the gun ship. The adventure ahead of them may be rough, but the two are determined to seek vengeance for a fallen brother and a country that they both desperately love.

Much like the previous film on the 250, The African Queen works mainly with only two actors, Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Of course, with two actors of their caliber, you don't need much else. Hepburn gives one of her most light-hearted and lovable performances. Don't get me wrong, Hepburn is rarely anything but outstanding, but most of her roles show her to be rather shrew. In this film, she actually brings forth a character that you can care about. Bogart is also excellent in his Academy Award winning performance. Here he drops some of his edge, in what I find to be one of his softer roles. You don't see as much vulnerability, like in his famous late night binge drink in Casablanca. It's honestly more of a caring and understanding approach than I am used to with him, but it works wonderfully. Separately Bogart and Hepburn always deliver, but their combined performances here is one of the finest parings in film history.

I was also glad to see that the continent that shares the film title was not forgotten. Much of the film features the beautiful scenery and wildlife of Africa. The waterfalls and rapids that come in the film are equally beautiful and thrilling. Each time The African Queen comes upon one of the obstacles, your heart races just as much as it marvels. Even though some of the shots are shot against a blue screen, it still somehow maintains it's realism. The animals are also a fun addition, with the appearance of hippos, crocodiles, and blood sucking leeches. Director John Huston's additional focus on Africa's rich natural beauties shows that he realizes there is more to be seen on camera than his actors.

This film couldn't come on the list at a better time. The African Queen makes it's United States debut on DVD and Blu-ray disc this Tuesday. Before Tuesday, you would have had to wait for a viewing on Turner Classic Movies (like I did), or pay a costly import fee. The African Queen is by far one of the most entertaining films on the list thus far. Bogart and Hepburn have rarely been better. It would be hard for anyone not to like this film, as there is truly something for everyone. So come this Tuesday, do yourself a favor and spend an evening with this fantastic film.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

208. Sleuth

Sleuth (1972)

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Starring: Laurence Olivier
Michael Caine

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 7.5

"Remember, be sure to tell them, it was only a bloody game."

Andrew Wyke (Laurence Olivier) is a rich author of mystery novels and great lover of games. His entire house is filled with darts, billiards tables, and other rare and unusual activities. Although, his playful personality extends past the traditional family game nights. When salon owner Milo Tindle (Michael Caine) approaches Andrew about marrying his current wife Marguerite, Andrew puts into place a deceptive game of cat and mouse that appears to have fatal consequences. A few days after Milo and Andrew's encounter, a strange detective shows up at Andrew's door inquiring about a disturbance. Slowly a new game begins, although this time Andrew is the pawn.

Sleuth is one of those films that is almost completely driven by it's script. With only one set and two actors, the dialogue had little room for error. Luckily the script is written brilliantly and is in the very capable hands of Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine. It's rare to see a film made with just two actors and no additional cast members. The two give the screenplay life with equally fantastic performances. Their banter fluctuates from hilarious to terrifying with barely any transition. This makes the film all that more fun, and unpredictable. Olivier and Caine's perfect delivery of the script is definitely where this film shines brightest.

In the case of this film, the set does much of the characterizing and storytelling. The film keeps one singular location intact, only expanding to create an upstairs area with rooms. The statues located around the house, eventually play out to be almost like supporting characters in the film. Such as Olivier's constant use of a cued laughing sea captain to establish his aura madness. I cannot recall a film in which it's set and pieces told just as much of a story than the characters themselves. Even though the way the arrangement of the set seemed like it would be distracting, it eventually proved to be essential to setting up the characters and their unique personalities.

Sleuth proves that solid films can be made with the use of single locations, small casts, and superbly written dialogue. Although, when a film relies on so much dialogue, some viewers might bore easily. I do not, but I could see where some people could. I had seen the remake starring Jude Law and Michael Caine (Caine plays the opposite role than he did in the original) prior to this viewing, and it is nowhere near the caliber of this film. Sadly, Sleuth is out of print on DVD, and as a result has become forgotten. If the opportunity ever arises, I strongly encourage you to see this truly unique and entertaining film.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

209. Magnolia

Magnolia (1999)

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Julianne Moore
William H. Macy
Tom Cruise
Philip Seymour Hoffman
John C. Reilly
Philip Baker Hall

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 9

"and it's not going to stop / 'til you wise up"

is a twenty-four hour journey into the lives of two separate groups of people. Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) has cancer, and is very close to dying. He tells his nurse Phil Parma (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that he wants him to find his estranged son, who turns out to be men's self help author Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise). Earl's much younger wife Linda (Julianne Moore) is out getting the prescription drugs to help ease his pain. She stops by the lawyer in charge of Earl's will to explain that she did not love him at the time of their marriage, and wants to be taken out of the will. The lawyer informs her that since she is listed as sole beneficiary, the money would then go to Frank. This sends her into a fit of rage, increasing even more when she returns home to find that Phil has been instructed to get in contact with Frank.

Meanwhile, television quiz show host Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), has been informed that he too is going to die. Jimmy goes to visit his cocaine addicted daughter Claudia (Melora Walters) to tell her the news. She is angered at the site of him, and causes a scene as she tells him to leave. The noise from the dispute alerts neighbors and they call the incident in. Police Officer Jim Kurring (John C. Reilly) is alerted to the call, and interviews Claudia in her apartment. After having a cup of coffee, Jim asks Claudia out on a date for that same evening. Claudia accepts the invitation, but it seems only to get Jim out of her apartment.

After leaving his daughter's apartment, Jimmy Gator heads to the studio to host his show, "What Do Kids Know." Here we meet young whiz kid Stanley (Jeremy Blackman) who's verbally abusive father has almost guided his success. Stanley is also two days away from setting the record for continuous days on the show, set by former contestant Donnie Smith (William H. Macy). Donnie's life since the show has been filled with misfortune not limited to having all his prize money stolen by his parents, getting struck by lightning, and most recently getting fired from his job. As each person continues on through the day, their two groups eventually intertwine to become one, all sharing the pain of life and opportunity lost.

As you can see from the description above, there is a lot going on in this film. The script, written by director Paul Thomas Anderson, is amazingly written and is a true look into the struggling human spirit. Where other films details and subplots might become scrambled, Magnolia never once falters. Not once do the stories become confusing or uninteresting. With the multiple stories involving two seperate groups, the three hour run time does go by pretty fast. Although, each story is given equal time to develop and mature, and the film leaves no loose ends to tie up. Given the complexity of Magnolia, I would venture to call it one of the best structured scripts of the last twenty years.

There are so many great performances in this film, but it's actually not difficult for me to single one of them out. Tom Cruise gives the finest performance of his career as Frank T.J. Mackey. When we first meet Frank, he seems to be nothing more than an egocentric alpha-male type. Cruise plays these scenes with incredible amounts of confidence and humor. It isn't until Frank is being interviewed for a television show that the truth behind his life comes out. Cruise's performance quickly goes from comedic, to vulnerable and disturbing. This first transition is excellent, but pales in comparison to when Cruise falls deeper into despair, as he angrily grieves for his father's apparent death. I think film lover's all have that one performance where they feel someone got robbed of an Oscar, Tom Cruise in Magnolia will always be mine.

Even though Magnolia is on this list, I still feel like it is never given the proper amount of respect. It's very rare that an ensemble of actors as talented as this, is paired with such an incredible script. Paul Thomas Anderson has a gift with these large ensemble films, and it has never come across better than it did here. His films have become smaller in scale with his two most recent efforts, and I hope that he eventually goes back to this style of film making. Overall, I encourage you all to watch this film. Every time I go back to it, I find another reason to love it. And if none of what I've said has convinced you to see the film, it eventually rains frogs. That's right frogs.

*Fun Trivia : Can anyone name the two other films where Tom Cruise sings in a car?

not-250: BNinside Article

This article was featured on my company's in-house website called 'bninside'. Since it is in-house, there is no way of forwarding you to the actual article. So I thought I would post it here instead.

Music/DVD Manager Turns Film Critic

by: Kimberly Miu

In a quest to view and review IMDB’s Top 250 films by the end of the year, Music/DVD Manager Joey Wright is expanding his film knowledge and sales at Store 2188

On his days off, Music/DVD Manager Joey Wright can usually be found parked on his couch in front of the television watching a movie. As a film fanatic, this has become Joey’s side project – he is determined to watch IMDB’s Top 250 films (approximately 500 hours) by the end of the year.

“I’ve scheduled myself to watch five movies a week. On my days off, I’ll try to watch two a day so I can get ahead of myself,” says Joey. After each movie, he posts his review on his blog, He believes that this project will help him find new favorite films and a reason to re-watch some of the classics.

The rewards of watching the Top 250 will also be reaped by Joey’s customers at Store 2188 in Altamonte Springs, FL, who rely on him for his opinion about movies and music. “Expanding my personal knowledge about movies will help me hand-sell,” says Joey. “Knowing similar titles and artists to what customers enjoy is the best way to make a sale. When I recommend music titles, I always use the RedDot system, which makes add-on sales a breeze.”

Since joining Barnes & Noble in December 2006, Joey has found the most satisfying part of being a bookseller is building relationships with customers. He has many regulars that always stop by to chat, ask for recommendations and pick up new titles. In one instance, a newly-engaged couple who were regulars in the store (where they also met) asked Joey to pick the music for their wedding. Joey says, “I was honored… I hand-picked several classical wedding CDs for them, which they were very pleased with. They even invited me to their wedding!”

Beyond his regular customers, Joey tries to get to know each customer that enters the Music/DVD Department. He immediately welcomes them with a smile and greeting and uses name recognition whenever possible. His friendly demeanor makes it easy for him to share his growing knowledge of film and music, ultimately leading to sales.

While Joey’s go-to hand-sells are artist Tristan Prettyman (“she’s the female Jack Johnson”) and the movie Casablanca (“it’s still the best movie – funny and romantic!”), he soon plans to create a promotional display for some of the titles in the Top 250 that he wants to share with customers.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

210. Stalag 17

Stalag 17 (1953)

Director: Billy Wilder

Starring: William Holden
Otto Preminger
Don Taylor
Robert Strauss
Harvey Lembeck

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 7.5

"There are two guys in this barracks that know I didn't do it. Me and the guy that did do it."

Stalag 17 is the name of a German P.O.W. camp for American airmen during World War II. Even though the men are prisoners of war, they attempt to keep their own spirits high with things such as volleyball games and gambling on mouse races. One evening two men from Barracks Four attempt to escape, but are killed as soon as they cross under the final barbed wire fence via an underground tunnel. This instance, and many others, start to raise suspicions through out Barracks Four. All the men agree that there must be a spy in their midst giving information to the German officers. They immediately accuse Sergeant J.J. Sefton (William Holden) of being the spy and beat him in his bunk. Sefton knows that he is innocent and begins to unravel the mystery of who the spy could actually be.

Stalag 17 is definitely the most light-hearted movie about war that I have seen. There are just as many comedic elements in this film, as dramatic ones. Much of the humor comes from the performances of Robert Strauss and Harvey Lembeck. They get into all sorts of funny predicaments, like painting a white stripe down the middle of the road so that they can get into the women's P.O.W. camp that is next door. At first all the humor threw me off, but eventually I found that it definitely does belong. Stalag 17 really shows that there can be bright moments even in the darkest situations.

Something that really grabbed my attention was the mental state of the prisoners and the way that their barracks treated them. As some characters slowly being to crack, you saw a genuine concern and comradery much like a family. This wasn't something that built over time either. From the very beginning, you are made aware that these men are a team, and rarely seen as individuals. This element is important because it does establish the story of how it's Sergeant Sefton versus everyone else. As a group the barrack decides to turn their back on him, so he must prove his innocence to the group, rather than just a single individual. This makes his struggle even more rewarding, when his innocence is finally proven.

If you are a fan of director Billy Wilder, this film is sure to find your favor. It contains the classic humorous Wilder appeal, while never compromising it's credibility as a great film. I thought this film was very good, and will probably see it again after finding out the identity of the spy. Overall, this movie is really about the friends you make and the true meaning of family. We eventually all get stuck at some point in life. It's the people you surround yourself with that will help you maintain your sanity, and sometimes they'll even help you to explore your insanity.

not 250 - My Oscar Predictions

I thought I would post my Oscar predictions for tonight. These are not necessarily the people I want to win, but who I think will win. If I had it my way, Quentin Tarantino would have the night of his life tonight, but I sadly don't see that happening. Here are my predictions for tonight's awards....


The Hurt Locker


Kathryn Bigelow


The Dude (Jeff Bridges)


Gabourey Sidibe


Christoph Waltz (my favorite performance of the year!!!)




Inglourious Basterds


Up In the Air


(I had trouble deciding on which picture to use, there were like 9 other movies to choose from.)


A Prophet


Fantastic Mr. Fox (upset alert!)

*to my loyal followers (heh), I have been stacking some reviews up so that when I go on my cruise later this week, you have lots to read. enjoy!

Monday, March 1, 2010

211. Rocky

Rocky (1976)

Director: John G. Avildsen

Starring: Sylvester Stallone
Talia Shire
Carl Weathers

IMDb Rating: 8
My Rating: 8.5

"Nobody's ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I'm standin', I'm gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren't just another bum from the neighborhood."

Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) is a local boxer fighting out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who makes ends meet by collecting debts for a middle of the line loan shark. Rocky is well liked and respected through out his community. Every morning Rocky stops by his local pet store to visit the very shy Adrian Pennino (Talia Shire). He has had his eye on her for quite sometime, though she is quite oblivious to this. Through the help of her brother Paulie (Burt Young), Rocky finally secures a date with her. The two go ice skating, and as the evening progresses, Adrian finally starts to come out of her shell. It isn't long after this night, that her and Rocky become a couple.

While Rocky is courting Adrian, he gets an offer to fight the heavyweight boxing champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers). Rocky begins his training without any management or professional help. He feels like if he reached this fight alone, he should fight the fight alone. Although, following a late night visit from local boxing trainer Mickey Goodmill (Burgess Meredith), Rocky finally agrees to let someone help train him. With Mickey's help, Rocky gets in top physical condition to face Apollo. The night before the fight, Rocky tells Adrian that he has never felt like he was anything. He knows that if he can last a full fifteen rounds with Apollo, he will finally get the recognition he has been searching for. With the love of Adrian and his never-say-die attitude, Rocky faces Apollo in what turns out to be the fight of both their lives.

Rocky is often viewed as the quintessential underdog sports film, but it's not only about sports. It's also stands up as a timeless love story. Rocky pursues Adrian just as much, if not more, as his dream of being an established fighter. His final fight with Apollo is very reminiscent of his entire relationship with Adrian. In the build up, he couldn't get so much as a word in with either. Apollo talked too much, and Adrian gave absolutely no feedback. Both leaving Rocky short of what he wanted to say. Although once a chance is given, he comes out swinging. With Apollo, Rocky sends him to the falling to the canvas in the first round. Adrian instantly starts falling for Rocky as soon as she sees how caring and attentive he can be. In the end, all that mattered to Rocky was the journey. Whether it was win, lose, or draw he just wanted to prove that he could do it.

Rocky will forever be one of the most inspirational films of all time. It is one of those movies where you cannot help, but root for the guy. In all fairness, Apollo isn't that terrible of a guy. He is generous enough to give Rocky the opportunity many would kill for, yet you still want to see him get clobbered. Also, Adrian and Rocky come together in one of the cinema's most unlikely and classic romances. I found that to be the strongest and most appealing part of the film. Although, someone else could just as easily find the boxing angle to be the best part. That is what has made Rocky so universally appealing over the last thirty years. Each person that sees the film really can take something different from it. It is far from one dimensional. If you have not seen this film, you definitely owe it to yourself to see one of cinema's iconic treats.