The Late Show (1977) Robert Benton

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The Late Show (1977) (2x)
Written and directed by Robert Benton
Produced by Robert Altman, Scott Bushnell
Cinematography by Charles Rosher Jr.
Warner DVD – library (1:33)

The Late Show is a film I first saw when I was 15 years old, far too young to adequately appreciate it. I hadn’t gained enough life experience, hadn’t seen enough film noir, and felt as if its stars Art Carney and Lily Tomlin were trapped in a movie where they didn’t belong. To this 15-year-old mind, Carney belonged on reruns of The Honeymooners; Tomlin belonged on TV variety shows performing skits as Edith Ann and Ernestine the telephone operator. Yet here they were on the big screen in a… what? A comedy? A crime picture? To make things even weirder, I saw The Late Show in one of the strangest places you can see a movie: the theater of a cruise ship on the way to the Virgin Islands. At the time, I thought little about the movie. Now 40 years later, I embrace it as a rare gem.

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Stoker (2013) Park Chan-wook

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Stoker (2013)
Directed by Park Chan-wook
Produced by Ridley Scott, Tony Scott, Michael Costigan
Written by Wentworth Miller
Cinematography by Chung-hoon Chung
DVD – library (1:39)

Another recommendation from the guys at Pure Cinema Podcast, Stoker is the first English-language film from South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook, whose previous films include the Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) and who later made Snowpiercer (2013) and The Handmaiden (2016). If you know Chan-wook’s earlier work, Stoker will seem quite toned-down, but for this particular story, a quieter, more serene atmosphere serves to heighten the tension rather than reduce it.

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The Proposition (2005) John Hillcoat

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The Proposition (2005)
Directed by John Hillcoat
Produced by Chris Brown, Chiara Menage, Jackie O’Sullivan, Cat Villiers
Written by Nick Cave
Cinematography by Benoît Delhomme
DVD (1:44)

“He’s right, Samuel. A misanthrope is one who hates humanity.”

“Is that what we are? Misanthropes?”

“Good Lord, no. We’re a family.”

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The Proposition is a brutal film about a brutal period of history in a brutal place and one man’s efforts to bring civilization to it. In the Australian outback in the 1880s, law enforcement Captain Morris Stanley (Ray Winstone) captures Charlie (Guy Pearce) and Mikey Burns (Richard Wilson), two of three brothers who are the nucleus of a notorious, ruthless gang who raped and murdered members of a local family, seemingly just for the hell of it. Although he’s captured two of the Burns brothers, it’s the gang’s leader Arthur Burns (Danny Huston) that Capt. Stanley really wants. Stanley decides to make a deal with Charlie: if he’ll kill his brother Arthur, Stanley promises to release both Charlie and Mikey.

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Night of the Comet (1984) Thom Eberhardt

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Night of the Comet (1984)
Written and directed by Thom Eberhardt
Produced by Andrew Lane, Wayne Crawford
Cinematography by Arthur Albert
Library DVD – interlibrary loan (1:35)

“The burden of civilization is on us, okay?”

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Night of the Comet is a horror/science fiction/comedy/satire recommended by the guys at Pure Cinema Podcast last week. The plot is pretty simple: a comet has streaked past the Earth several days before Christmas, wiping out every person in the Los Angeles area except for a few survivors who stayed indoors protected by any structure made of steel. It’s not much of a set-up, but it’s enough to get us going.

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That’s Entertainment! (1974) Jack Haley, Jr.

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That’s Entertainment! (1974)
Written, produced and directed by Jack Haley, Jr.
Cinematography by Russell Metty
Warner Blu-ray (2:14)

For many years, I have hated musicals. My friends and co-workers have known this for years and were understandably shocked and confused when I chose Singin’ in the Rain for inclusion in our library’s Great Movies series last year. I also tell them that the main reason I hate musicals is that I played trumpet in far too many little theater pit orchestras (both out of obligation and necessity) when I was younger. The long hours of never-ending rehearsals can really wear you down, especially when you’re in your early to mid-20s and have the energy to do something besides waiting for one of the actors to find the right key or listen to the director arguing with the conductor over whether or not a certain verse can be cut from a song.

But that’s beginning to change. I still do not enjoy professional-level Broadway musicals performed onstage, but I’m discovering that movie musicals contain a sort of magic you just can’t find anywhere else. That’s why That’s Entertainment! (and no doubt its sequels) should be shown to people like me who think they hate musicals.

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