April Summary

















ACTION/ADVENTURE:
Little Big Man
Papillon
Shaft
The Terminator
Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Best: "Papillon"
Worst: "Little Big Man"



COMEDY:
Four Lions
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Naked Gun

Best: "The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Worst: "The Naked Gun"—This isn't to say that it isn't enjoyable...because it is.



CLASSICS:
An Affair to Remember
Anatomy of a Murder
Diary of a Country Priest
High Society
King Kong
Laura
Lola
My Man Godfrey
Satyricon
Shock Corridor
The Kid
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Best: "Lola" and "Diary of a Country Priest"
Worst: "An Affair to Remember"



DOCUMENTARY:
20 Feet from Stardom

Best!



DRAMA:
A Woman Under the Influence
Saving Mr. Banks

Best: "A Woman Under the Influence"
Worst: "Saving Mr. Banks"



FOREIGN:
Amarcord
Blue is the Warmest Color
In the Mood for Love
Incendies
Juliet of the Spirits
Nights of Cabiria
Pan's Labyrinth
Talk to Her
The Triplets of Belleville
Wings of Desire

Best: "In the Mood for Love", "Incendies, "Juliet of the Spirits"
Worst: "Amarcord"



GUEST REVIEWS:
Sherlock Holmes




HORROR:
Night of the Living Dead
Straw Dogs

Best: "Night of the Living Dead"
Worst: "Straw Dogs"



?????
Close-Up
Naked Lunch

Best! I liked both of these.

Laura (1944)




















"Laura" is very similar to another film of the 40s—"Rebecca". Hitchcock's piece was a film of complete absence while Otto Preminger's "Laura" is never quite so cerebral, bracing the moments of oddity with realism.
The movie begins with an acknowledgement of murder by our smug and highly dislikable narrator, Waldo Lydeker (Clifton Webb), who is a columnist and a figure of prominence. Laura, the title character played in flashbacks by Gene Tierney, is dead. She has been murdered in her apartment and the media has jumped on the story, crying out for her murderer to be arrested.
Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews, delightfully droll) has been assigned to the case and in the movie's first scene, which ushers in the noir cigarette stained feel of the film, he is present at our narrator's house. Lydeker is a curious man, the sort of person that most people would avoid and be happy with avoiding. He is known for his written word, but his spoken verbal barbs are also a delight. He has the disposition of being a nonchalant sadist and certainly is one of the many that would inspire characters that we love to hate.
McPherson is determined to find Laura's killer in a resigned sort of way. He's just going to do his job; but the people he comes across are very...difficult.
You have Lydeker himself, whose tongue is silver and attitude is oily. He is an intelligent man and he always is correcting McPherson on what to do and how to do it. We somehow empathize with Lydeker at first; but it is nice to see McPherson tell him off.
Then you have Laura's fiance, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) and her aunt Ann (Judith Anderson) who both seem not too grieved over the loss of their loved one.
Instead of being a movie without Laura's figure, we have flashbacks...told mostly by Lydeker and we come to understand Laura as our own character instead of recreations by other people. I appreciate the genius of "Rebecca" and was kind of hoping for a repetition of that; but "Laura" wins you over eventually.
Preminger is a very forward director and his brashness plays to his favor here. This movie goes hand in hand with "The Big Heat" and films of that nature—"The Maltese Falcon" inspired movies and the whole noir ambiance.
McPherson is met with stubbornness time and time again. He has lies to shift through, deceit to peer into...somewhere in there is the truth; but by the time he gets close, that may not be what he's interested in anymore.
Clifton Webb is wonderful as the pious and dedicatedly odd Lydeker. Waldo was in love with Laura, as was everyone who knew her. She seemed to exude charm, which brings up the question why was she murdered?
A murder mystery wonderfully crafter, "Laura" is a pleasure to watch simply because it's very entertaining. Preminger's movie walks along at a great pace and tells a very interesting story.













Score: ★★★½

Amarcord (1973) (R)
















You can't deny Fellini's talent...you just can't. What you can do is question the application of it. I've seen Fellini work in wondrous ways with movies like "La Dolce Vita"; but when it comes to the esteem and the amount of blind submission, I am different than the most. Fellini can't be good just because he's Fellini and here we come to "Amarcord" which must have something else beneath it than what I see.
Certainly a movie about the past, teenage delinquency, lost love, and Fascism—"Amarcord" is Fellini at his most adult. Contained within the minutes of "Amarcord" is the undying thought that the most acceptable pervert in society is the teenage boy. It's handled casually in movies like "My Left Foot"; but with "Amarcord", it really spells out the awkward rampant adolescence of the characters.
Educated in a strict school, they rebel in grotesque and slightly humorous ways like making a long tube that extends to the front of the room for one of the boys to urinate into, leaving a puddle of fluid at the front of the classroom and blaming another classmate for it. Wow, that's cheerful.
In fact, urine seems to be a large part of the story telling because later on a journey, we stop to see two character relieve themselves, only to have one simply wet himself...wow, that's cheerful, round two.
Yet all this doesn't compare to the sexual acts of the characters, who appear to be in the most severe grip of puberty at the movie's opening. They ogle the women, cat-call the girls, have fantasies about the ladies. They can't seem to walk down the street without making some sort of wolfish comment or action towards a girl. This would hold true to Fellini's previous works with the feminine persuasion. My thoughts go back to "8½" when the main character whips a harem of women into place.
Still, there's something almost laughable about how Fellini moves this group of boys. They mutually masturbate in a car and later think about how much they do this while confessing to a priest. The movie vaguely rings true of Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America".
Yet Fellini's talent shines through it all. The way characters address the camera is a joy to see. The movie seems to be about a small town in Italy. There is no real narrative here and no real moral conveyed, no matter what people say. If the movie is about Fascism why is the philosophy introduced like a character and then swept away later on?
Perhaps "Amarcord" is a coming of age story, the closest thing I can find it resembling. The main character, if there was one, is Titta (Bruno Zanin) who suffers from the worst of the adolescent cravings. He sidles up to the town's sex symbol during a movie and tries to lift her skirt up...he gets farther than we'd expect, but still comes away empty handed.
As the few years past and our various narrators tell us of the places and people, we begin to understand the frivolity of it all. "Amarcord" at its best, seems like a historical mockery and at its worst it looks like a completely unnecessary picture.
Of course, I am one of the few that feels like this, just read Roger Ebert's extolling review if you want another point of view. The film would go on to win the Oscar for Foreign Film; but to me, the town as a character isn't enough to make me care about anything.
I don't care how many breast,s prostitutes, peacocks, snowfalls, or shouting families you put into a movie in the end, it has to add up to something and "Amarcord" doesn't add up to anything at all.












Score: ★★

In the Mood for Love (2000) (PG)
















This review contains SPOILERS!
Sometimes it's all about the style, sometimes it's about the acting, sometimes it's about the music—and on some rare occasions a movie succeeds because of a combination of all things considered. "In the Mood for Love" is one such movie that transcends its story with its visuals but never leaves it behind long enough for us to forget. The narrative and the style aren't closely intertwined, they are one.
The film itself is a work of love and propriety, heartache and betrayal.
The movie opens rather unsuspiciously, with two people moving in. They are searching for rooms with their spouses and find themselves living next to each other. One of them is Mrs. Chan (Maggie Cheung) whose husband seems to always be away on business trips and the other is Mr. Chow (Tony Chiu Wai Leung). They don't know each other and find that they move in on the same day. Bureaus, magazine racks, and mirrors get shuffled from apartment to apartment in the confusion. Once everything is sorted, they seem to get on with their lives.
Their jobs seems terrifically ordinary—Mrs. Chan is a secretary and Mr. Chow works in an office. What makes the film unusually effective is that it shows the splendor of everyday lives, mixing in the terrible sadness that can be accompanied with love.
To condense, to bring the stories whimsical fascination to a brief synopsis would be cruel—yet it must be done.
Both Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow are in marriages that appear to be on the brink of falling apart. Though no confrontations or throwing dishes occur, it's a unsentimental drift that separates our two main characters from their spouses. The film is so subtle, yet so sure to never show the face of the wife or the husband—the film is entirely about Cheung and Leung.
The film comes from director Kar Wai Wong, who proves his worth behind the lens.
After many days of the wife coming home late or the husband being away at work, Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow come to a similar discovery: their significant others are having an affair.
The two desolate outcasts of the relationship, Chan and Chow console each other with their presence. They do not wish to be like their partners, they have higher morals; yet they find themselves asking the dreaded question: why?
In order to better answer this question, the two embark on a role-playing style of relationship where they each mirror the other's spouse.
It may seem unhealthy to the viewer and a little unsettling either, but once you belong to the aura of the movie, you believe in everything you see. It's not a comfortable work, nor is it extremely erotic, it shouldn't be.
The mood of the movie is punctuated with rain that cascades from the sky at the slightest notice and food that fills plates. We see people eat, we see them play, we see life pass by.
There is a horrid resignation that the picture captures beautifully in reference to love. By all rights, our two main characters seem to be falling in love; but they are forced into the position because of infidelity.
"In the Mood for Love" is visually one of the most stunning films you could find. Thematically, it's pleasing to see a movie that doesn't slip into the stereotypes of a romance movie. Emotionally, the movies makes its biggest impact—this is what makes the movie great.
A smart script, good actors, beautiful cinematography, and a haunting score—it's an easy and incalculable success.










Score: ★★★★

The Triplets of Belleville (2003) (PG-13)

















Exaggeration, style, and silent communication are all key when you're watching "The Triplets of Belleville". It's a film that doesn't utilize voice acting, in fact the amount that characters talk is very minimal; yet this proves again that dialogue isn't everything with story telling and French director Slyvain Chomet brings the world a very original and totally wacky sentimental quest of reunion.
Starting out in a cheesy black and white, the film manages to bounce around for a few minutes before cementing its style and showing the viewer how the story will be told. There is hyperbole to the animation of the characters. They are caricatures, but lovable ones at that.
We are shown the story of a woman who is raising her demure and silent grandson. She is trying to make him cheerful, but he seems to be stuck in melancholy. She buys him a dog which he names Bruno; but it doesn't help him get a hobby. One day, she discovers his scrapbook and sees how he was interested in cycling, so she buys him a tricycle and the rest is history.
Years later, as their small town in France has started to become modernized, the grandmother is still raising her grandson, and she's helping him train for the Tour de France. It should be noted that except for the title characters, most everyone in the film remains nameless.
The boy has massive legs and a tiny torso, exaggerating the physique of a cyclist.
But this grandmother is a beast. She does everything. She has a special shoe because one leg is shorter than the other, but that doesn't stop her from being ingenious, determined, plucky, and virtually unstoppable.
Providing the best life the boy can have, this grandmother takes the child and lets him do what he loves.
But nothing is that simple.
While biking the Tour de France, sinister, box-like henchmen kidnap the boy and the grandmother is left trying to track him down.
There is no real law to "The Triplets of Belleville". You can't nail down something down...it'll just evade you. When you think it's about realism, a dog is used for a car tire and happily survives the ordeal. When you think that the film is a comedy, it gets really dark, really quickly. When you think it's surrealism, the sentimentality hits you hard.
Much like its drawing style, "The Triplets of Belleville" is a film that samples the best of everything. It may be a little hard to sink your teeth into the style of the movie; but that's half the fun.
The little moments make the film, the way that Chomet lets scenes stretch out. We watch the dog more than any other character in the movie, and she's certainly the most vocal character. Every time the train passes by, Bruno will climb the stairs and howl as it passes by.
Perhaps the best use of the exaggerated style is the way a high-class waiter is drawn as a flexible, slimy suck-up.
"The Triplets of Belleville" has an enormous amount of charm. It's likable when it shouldn't be and though it isn't the best movie ever, it's certainly worth seeing.










Score: ★★★½

My Man Godfrey (1936)




















Set on the heels of the Great Depression, "My Man Godfrey" is a movie that has many plates spinning. It tries to juggle a social commentary with its—let's face it—rather unrealistic plot, sprinkling in a dash of romance, and serving it up to its viewer with a side dish of crazy women.
As likable as our protagonist is by the end of the movie, in the first scene we meet him, he is a churlish and rather disagreeable person. Godfrey (the effortlessly charming William Powell) is living in the city dump, surviving on the trash that other people throw away. He's happily minding his own business one night when he is approached by a woman who has obviously descended from high society. She tells him that wants to give him five dollars if he'll do her a favor. What is the favor? She gets to parade him around as a "forgotten man" and win a scavenger hunt. That's all.
Offended at the idea of being objectified, Godfrey pushes the lady into an ash pile—something that he actually never does but is continually referenced throughout the rest of the movie. The lady stalks off, but her sister remains somewhat unintentionally. Striking up a conversation with Godfrey, the sister, Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard), introduces herself as quirky and enjoyable company. To spite the first woman, Godfrey agrees to join Irene at the scavenger hunt, where people collect objects that no one could want.
Irene wins but Godfrey loses. She feels bad about letting Godfrey get humiliated in front of the group of people so she remedies the situation by offering him a job as butler at the Bullock household. He accept and arrives at the house the next day to find the leftovers from the party still lingering around, including a horse in the library.
The maid warns him that he won't last long because this family is crazy. Surely she must be exaggerating, he thinks. But no, she doesn't use hyperbole. This family is insane in the strictest definition of the word: the mother sees fairies. This could be a result of her rampant alcohol attraction; or, as I see it, she's just a little crazy.
Godfrey arrives, thanks to some money that Irene gave him, well coiffed and groomed, looking like a completely different person. Now the story takes a turn. Instead of being a commentary of the classes, it feels like a gender swap version of the dregs to damsel saga. It's "My Fair Lady" without all the singing and Audrey Hepburn whining—sorry, but she whines.
Anyway....
Dedicated to his work and not trying to be laissez faire about the situation, Godfrey takes his position very seriously. Not loafing around, Godfrey quickly establishes himself as a great worker and he wins over the affection of the entire Bullock family—expect the ash-pile sister, Cornelia (Gail Patrick).
What we don't understand at the first glance is that the Bullock family is a little more than eccentric. Irene sees Godfrey as her protege, she will be his sponsor and will be held responsible for him just as her mother does for a musician wannabe named Carlo (Mischa Auer).
They are very much like the family from "You Can't Take It With You" a film that would sweep the Oscars just a few years later.
Though the film is entertaining enough and the acting is fun, though overstated—the film is one of the few movies that got recognized in all four acting categories—it's a movie with no nice finality. It never cements some of its ideas, opting for the laughs and happy feelings instead, which I guess is fine.
William Powell is a sensational presence and the quirks of the family are hard to find at least somewhat endearing.









Score: ★★★

A Woman Under the Influence (1974) (R)
















What is astonishing about "A Woman Under the Influence" is Gena Rowlands who embodies the main character's antics so desperately that we start to see a shred of dark and glorious genius beneath her. She is guided in her steps by John Cassavetes who brings us here one of the craziest movies you could ever ask for.
In the movies I've seen by him, Cassavetes likes to hold the viewer out a little bit...here he does it again. He doesn't go in for sentimentality, but that doesn't stop us for caring for his characters.
"AWoman Under the Influence" is high on characters and low on plot...something that I heard Paul Thomas Anderson say once and it stuck with me. I've said it a lot—what do I mean by that?
I'll explain: Mabel Longhetti (Rowlands) after getting rid of the children so she and her husband could have a date night, is left cold at the last minute because an emergency at her husband's work takes precedence over her. She drinks and goes stumbling through the night to a bar where she picks up a guy and brings him home. The first bar she goes into has only a few men lounging around and some lame music. Mabel walks in the door, the camera sees the room, and then she leaves.
This is why it's high on characters. Why did she leave the first bar? Was she offended? Was she uninterested? Was is just not her style? The movie never spells out the "whys" which is the reason it is so effective and so frustrating at the same time.
The day after Mabel wakes up and the guy she brought home is walking around. We start to get a glimpse into the life of this woman...she's just crazy. As insane people go, Mabel is functioning; but still a lunatic. She can not read situations and is plagued with the most horrid social ineptitude. Yet for all her insanity and quirky behavior, this is all it seems like is ill with her—she's extremely socially awkward. She thinks that people should behave as she does and though her psychotic moments flare up in certain situations, she is certainly never without them.
Her husband, Nick (Peter Falk in a somewhat villainous role) should belong in a Scorsese movie. He's the typical husband we see in such dramas—loving, but temper ridden and not afraid to use his fists as necessary.
As the movie progresses, Mabel's condition gets worse and it isn't helped by Nick's actions. Gena Rowlands, given a very showy role, doesn't overstep her boundaries. She flies around the room, her mouth always open as if she's ready to speak but no one wishes to hear. Her eyes are wide and full of fear, happiness, and sorrow often at the same time. While at moments the film feels peeled off of the hyperbolic broadway stage, Rowlands stands above the rest as the shining light of the picture.
Peter Falk is good here to as a troubled and naive father, who thinks he is doing the best for his children.
Not much happens in the movie, so for its length it feels over complicated. There are scenes that are unnecessary though the true Cassavetes fan would disagree.
All-in-all, it doesn't do much good. What was the point? Cassavetes blends insanity with sane behavior and it makes us ask who is the crazy person—the husband, the wife, or even the viewer?
Certainly containing sexual politics, "A Woman Under the Influence" is as elusive as a movie can be. Just when you think you get it nailed down, it moves from under you...which, while genius in its own way, is quite an unsettling experience.










Score: ★★★

Shaft (1971) (R)
















There's something attractive about how unfussy and unpretentious "Shaft" is. It relies on its story to make it enjoyable while crafting characters that are neither commentary nor caricatures. It is a fine example of pure entertainment, carried out in an unconventional way.
Not bothering with politics, "Shaft" introduces its title character as a black detective who is great with the ladies. Somewhat fashioned in the James Bond mold, John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) has pieces of every famous detective in his character while still being his own man. Probably the most notable similarity is between John Shaft and Sam Spade, which reaffirms the noir feeling that director Gordon Parks carelessly throws into the movie.
Men are looking for John Shaft. Cops are looking for Shaft. Gangsters are looking for Shaft—he's a popular man. At the beginning of the movie, Shaft is questioned by cops who want to know why a couple of shady characters were looking for him...he shrugs them off and goes to find two hoodlums waiting for him at his office. After a brief scuffle, in which one of them is thrown out the window, Shaft decides to give them a chance.
They carry the calling card of a mob boss named Bumpy Jones (Moses Gunn) who sends his greetings and would like to set up a meeting with Shaft.
The real reason that everyone wants to get to know the detective more intimately is fairly simple—Bumpy's daughter has been kidnapped and he wants her back and he's willing to pay any price. The only downside is that he has no idea who's grabbed the girl or where she's being held. So he decides to use his money to buy himself a detective.
Shaft doesn't say no to money; but we get the idea that he just likes being the best. He lives for the thrill of it, for the adrenaline. He doesn't search these situations out, they just seem to find him on their own accord.
Racism is a large issue that remains, properly, untouched for most of "Shaft". Though racist slurs do appear rarely and the ethnicity of the characters is brought up multiple times, the script calmly addresses it near the beginning and then moves on.
One of Shaft's colleague is questioning him about the body that was thrown from the window and Shaft makes a quick jab about being black. The man hold up a black pen next to Shaft's face. "You ain't so black" he says. Shaft responds by holding up a white porcelain cup next to the man's face: "And you ain't so white either, baby."
Then, it remains unspoken for a long time. It's brought up again when Shaft realizes that the kidnapping of Bumpy's daughter has lined up a media frenzy for racism and my mind goes back to a scene from "In Bruges" in which a war is predicted of black versus white.
Yet "Shaft" is just a movie designed to entertain, and it does just that. It's smart, funny, sassy, and irresistible.
It could have probably been an even shorter film, but those are small fries compared to the catchy score and the non-showy performances. Richard Roundtree is just delightful and "Shaft" is plain fun.










Score: ★★★½

Diary of a Country Priest (1951)


















Comparisons will get you nowhere with "Diary of a Country Priest". Though the film resembles many other films, comparatives would be useless. If you judge the "town mentality" of the movie, it might appear that this film predates "The White Ribbon" or even "The Village". But if you look at the priest himself, you might find yourself likening the film to "Doubt" or even "The Exorcist". Yet "Diary of a Country Priest", though blandly titled, is nothing except its own film. It may use techniques and ideas from the past, but this little seen film encompasses so much with so little.
Beginning as a very young priest (played by Claude Laydu who was only 23 at the time) enters a small village as the vicar, the movie sets him up as an outsider. The ways of the villagers are secretive and he rarely finds himself in their company with their permission. There is only one woman who comes to mass everyday, but the priest can hardly call himself acquainted with the lady.
The priest is a sick man. He can eat no meat and he has no wife that will eat no lean. The only dinners he finds that he can stomach are bread and wine...literally. He will take stale pieces of bread and let them soak in the wine and then drink that—he believes that it is making him healthier.
Though the chain of events is slow, it is started off with the priest wishing to be a little more inviting. He wants to make minor changes to the church including adding electric lights; but he is held up by politics and stubbornness.
He learns of a Count and Countess and their daughter. He has to involve himself in their lives because it's his duty, but he'd probably rather not. These are resilient people, resentful of him sticking his nose into their business.
"Diary of a County Priest" makes you really feel for the main character. It's his voice that we hear all movie long, through narration of his diary. He condenses his experience in as little words as possible, leaving time for the visuals to make up for his lack of description.
Perhaps the most laudable thing about "Diary of a Country Priest" is how it tackles religions itself. I know it's silly to think that a movie about a priest wouldn't have religion in it, but the film's take on the subject is undeniably effective.
Religion is a belief and that belief is taught by the priest. Yet he does not masquerade as if he doesn't have doubts. He freely admits to it, while still holding fast to the teachings.
The most important and the best written scene involves the Countess and the priest having a discussion. She wishes for happiness and forgiveness, maybe intangible things for her. He tells her that she must be more loving. She questions the nature of God. He answers as best he can.
Near the end of the scene she remarks that her life was orderly and precise until he said something. Her foundations crumble, but it brings her the sweetest peace.
"Diary of a Country Priest" is about blind faith. Accepting that which was cannot believe to be just. It's about faith during hardships and trials—a staple in the teaching of Christianity.
As much as the film revolves around religion, it never feels like it's preaching and for that reason, it is great.
It causes despair, joy, and intellectual thought. This is the kind of movie that should be made today. Christian studios have been made fun of for their films...indeed, most everyone is terrible. If you're looking for a faith-based film, you should take your cues from movies like this.










Score: ★★★★

Pan's Labyrinth (2006) (R)


















"Pan's Labyrinth" is the piece that put director Guillermo del Toro on the map. Yes, he'd been making films for years and yes, the cinephile and casual viewer would have already heard of him; but upon the release of "Pan's Labyrinth" the movie world virtually exploded. Critics hailed the piece as one of the best films of the decade and it raked in a mound of awards, including three Oscars.
Still, the movie itself can be condensed into escapism. It's a film that is incredibly smart and wonderfully executed.
In the middle of the 20th century in Spain right after a civil war, revolutions are still being put out like fires across the land. At the movie's beginning, we are escorted along a trip with Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) and her very pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil). Her mother is very ill and has to stop the car to get out and calm herself. Ofelia is a smart child, one who always has her nose in a book. Her particular favorite genre seems to be fairy tales and when the car stops, she doesn't realize that she is standing on the edge of magical grounds. She sees a flying insect and tells her mother it was a fairy. Her mother, like most every adult in the movie, brushes Ofelia aside and thinks to themselves "kids will be kids".
Ofelia's mother has remarried after the death of her first husband. Her current beau is a Captain named Vidal (Sergi López). Ofelia's mother asks her to refer to the Captain as "father", something that Ofelia refuses to do with a childlike nonchalance. 
When they arrive at the estate, it's clear that we are not supposed to like the Captain. He seems less than interested in his pregnant and ailing wife and corrects Ofelia on the way she wants to shake his hand. Perhaps it was his upbringing, or maybe Vidal is just a cruel man.
It's not long into the movie that we see his unflinching resolve to quell the rebellions. He dispatches a father and son for hunting on his property because he thinks that they are spies.
Ofelia, not privy to the whims and monstrosities of the Captain, discovers a labyrinth on the property. A giant stone maze stands only a few hundred meters from the house. 
One of the maids, Mercedes (Maribel Verdú) takes a liking to Ofelia and is the only character who even comes close to indulging in the child's fantasies.
As her mother's condition deteriorates, Ofelia discovers fairies. They fly into her room in the middle of the night and show her a way through the maze.
She comes across a large, well-like opening in the earth and climbs down the flights of stairs. Below, there is a giant faun-like creature who tells her of a quest she must complete is she is to return to her father.
Ofelia is at first confused, but the faun explains. Her father and mother were rules in a magical land and at the insistence of their daughter, allowed her to venture into the human world, where she died. They have kept a portal open in case the spirit of their daughter returns and wishes to be immortal with them again. Ofelia is told that she is the princess and that if she wants to rejoin her family, she must complete three tasks.
The magic of "Pan's Labyrinth" is what makes or breaks the movie for you. If you enjoy fantasy, you'll enjoy the film...if you don't, perhaps not. I read an amusingly ignorant article about "Pan's Labyrinth" claiming that the film was a pedophiliac and Satanist work. Just because you don't like it, doesn't make it evil.
What "Pan's Labyrinth" is about is escaping from reality and returning to security...that and mortality. Death is a very present figure in the film, so much so that it is a surprise that we do not see some physical representation of it. 
Winning Oscars for art direction, makeup, and cinematography, it's not wonder that the film looks fantastic. By using the time period he does, del Toro is able to weave fantasy and bitter reality into each other almost seamlessly.
"Pan's Labyrinth", if nothing else, is simply entertaining. The one thing I don't appreciate about it was how "videogame-esque" it felt. It was quest-like with a resolution that came about too soon. I would have been fine with this movie stretching out for another hour. I feel like it deserves it.
Nonetheless, it is a wonderful fantasy tale.










Score: ★★★½

Juliet of the Spirits (1965)















Fellini is in rare and incoherent form with "Juliet of the Spirits"...well, isn't he always? The director has a way of blending sounds, using random images, and applying the surreal to evoke a response. He is more like Terrence Malick than people give him credit for.
Perhaps both his most straight-forward and enigmatic piece, "Juliet of the Spirits" feels like a love letter Fellini penned to his wife Giulietta Masina, who plays and shares her name with the title character. This is added onto the commentary that Fellini makes on women, marriage, love, and happiness and you've got yourself the right ingredients for a fable. Indeed, the way Fellini handles each scene makes you feel like you're watching a fantasy movie—he quickly introduces new characters, allows for Fincher-esque editing, and has the most unusual score playing in the background of all of this. It feels like a side attraction on a circus, but then again, it also feels like a masterpiece.
The movie begins with Juliet (or Giulietta in the original Italian) waiting for her husband on their anniversary night. She's been prepping for him to return home all day and her two maids are dizzy with excitement. In the first scene, Fellini and cinematographer Gianni Di Venanzo make sure not to capture Juliet's face. She sits in front of mirrors and reflections seem to be on every door; yet somehow we manage to never see her face until she steps into view, purposeful and grandly. It's this moment that we see Masina out of her element—in a good way. Known as a comedic actress she entrusts herself to her husband and he directs her—the collaboration is stunning and her performance alone makes the movie worth watching.
Juliet is greeted by her husband Giorgio (Mario Pisu) who seems to have forgotten the special day. He smiles to himself and then invites a plethora of odd characters to join them for festivities, claiming that it is a surprise for Juliet. She is a gracious host, but obviously shaken and we see her telling herself not to cry as she gets overwhelmed with the eccentric characters that stream into her house.
Later in the evening, part joke and part drunkenness, the guests decide that they want to communicate with the ghosts in the house. They all gather around the table and they begin communicating with a spirit named Iris who soon gets replaced with an angrier soul named Olaf. It would seem that this is just fun; but it awakens something inside Juliet.
Over the next few days, she discovers a change. Whenever she starts to dose off or whenever her concentration is being pulled apart, she starts to see things. The film is never crass enough to label these people as "dead people" or "ghosts", instead calmly avoiding any stereotype of the horror genre. These are not scary, yet their imagery is very flaunted and can be shocking. Juliet gets understandably shaken by their appearances.
"Juliet of the Spirits" is a movie about character development and it is an exercise in paying attention. You must notice everything going on in the movie, you might get lost other wise.
Light and sound play a huge part in this movie, more so than any other Fellini picture I've seen. He enjoys shooting his characters in complete darkness and letting them step into the light—this would agree with the over-arcing theme of self-realization.
The costume design is quite stunning and won gain an Oscar nomination; but the real star of the film is Juliet herself. Masina is charming, sarcastic, wounded, and slightly unhinged. What we see here is close to the nicest Fellini ever was towards women.
Still, it's ghostly feeling, the vaudeville infused scenery, and the sexual politics—all inclusive it makes "Juliet of the Spirits" a complicated and fruitful movie.








Score: ★★★★

An Affair to Remember (1957)
















I think the only applicable words to say after finishing "An Affair to Remember" are "Thank God that's over!". Seriously, what a horrid and insipid story, riding on the back of melodrama! Just fair warning, as I sit and ponder my genuine reaction to the film I find my anger growing...so heads up for that.
Let's get the good stuff out of the way first. There are very stellar moments in "An Affair to Remember". These are pulled off nonchalantly, talent flowing in the scenes. Some of them involve a simple conversation while a band sings "Auld Lang Syne" or the reflection of the Empire State Building in a door, giving us some foreshadowing. Yes, there are good moments contained here.
But that's why I hate the film all the more. You have everything going for you: the director, the actor, the actress, the budget, the studio...how do you mess this up?
I'll tell you, no body thought long and hard about this movie...they should have.
Hollywood was no stranger to controversy at the point in time when "An Affair to Remember" came along. This is nothing terrible audacious as far as how adult the story is. By the title itself, we expect an affair; yet here I was very much disappointed because I expected more affairing! (it's not a word, but it totally should be).
So Nickie (Cary Grant) and Terry (Deborah Kerr) meet on a boat. They are both voyaging from a state of loneliness towards their respective loved ones. Nickie has a reputation that precedes him. In fact, in the opening montage of the movie, reporters talk about how this famous ladies' man is now going to settle down with a very rich heiress. En route to matrimony, Nickie couldn't care less about his prior engagement.
He flirts with everyone he can, though being a man of simple and disgustingly materialistic pleasures, he doesn't want to pursue anyone because he doesn't think any of the women on the boat are that pretty.
Enter Terry, who by some miraculous plot device has discovered the man's cigarette case. Perhaps it was just lying out on the deck and she picked it up, or maybe it fell out of his pocket, or maybe aliens abducted them both and upon returning the earthlings to their home planet, spat the cigarette case out like a wet loogie. Splat. It lands on the ship and Terry plucks it up. I'm most inclined to believe the alien thing, but since it's not in the movie, we'll never know.
Anyways, that's how they meet. He asks for his case back and she...well...she flirts with him and then asks surprised when he makes an advance on her. Oh, not me, I'm not that kind of girl. I'm a good, proper she-person. No one believes her.
Not only does the film make the commentary that a cheating man is acceptable while a cheating woman is a slut—the thought of the day isn't contained in this film alone—it also goes on to say that a woman in love is an irrational, incapable mass of flesh and lastly, a conniver.
So they chat for a while and the gossip on the ship is on everyone's lips. They remark on Nickie's latest ventures. Because he was so infamous for being a man of the bed linen, Terry's appearance with him can only mean one thing...gasp!
But Terry is a good, proper she-person and she will not stand around and let these idle rumors ruin her life. She tells Nickie that they cannot be seen again in public. Then...Nickie offers to take her ashore and introduce her to his grandmother. Wow! Hot!
Trip to grandma turns out to be one of the weirdest moments in film history. Grandma Janou (Cathleen Nesbitt) turns out to speak wonderful English and her foreign accent fades away from scene to scene. These moments are terrible sentimental and I just didn't get why Grandma Janou got so teary over a piano song...oh well.
Turns out that Nickie is a wonderful painter...yeah, that just kind of gets thrown in there. He is a true artist, but so critical of his own work that he can't be successful. This, plus he likes bedding all the rich she-persons.
Terry is now incredibly turned on by Nickie because nothing is a better aphrodisiac than an oil painting and a grandmother. She begins to appreciate that she might be in love with Nickie. Alas, they both know that they are on a doomed voyage of love. They will have to be pulled apart at the end of the journey. They make a pact to meet after six months on the Empire State Building and see if they still love each other.
In the meantime, they both make preparations as if the other person was acting the same way. Nickie tries to sever his relationship with his fiance as does Terry. Seriously, these people are idiots.
They both want to get jobs to see if they survive the anti-socialite scene. Nickie paints and Terry sings and of course they both make money from this extremely competitive and virtually impossible niche in society.
Perhaps the most offensive part of "An Affair to Remember" is how stupid it assumes that its audience is. Leo McCarey has made some good movies like "Duck Soup". Then again he made some so-so flicks like "Going My Way". With "An Affair to Remember" he hits the bullseye for a line taken from Ian Malcolm's character from "Jurassic Park".
Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, we get musical numbers from a children's choir...great, lovely, wonderful, there's got to be a good drinking game in here somewhere.












Score: ★

Wings of Desire (1987) (PG-13)

















Wim Wenders' "Wings of Desire" is a movie about angels, love, and humanity. It may come across as Malick-ian to some, indeed the narration does resemble the philosopher's work; but Wenders' film is much more about longing and it has a conclusion...something that Malick rarely does.
Beginning in Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, we are introduced to two angels, who for most of the movie, remain nameless. They meander around, flying with the camera, privy to the conversations of the mind, and talk to each other. They observe humans as subjects. They aren't necessarily guardian angels, though they try their best to put men at ease. They aren't ghosts either. In fact, one scene tells us that they existed long before man ever did and the religious connotations of the angels are not here. Just because they're angels, doesn't mean that they are Christian or anti-Christian.
For this reason, "Wings of Desire" should be viewed as more of a science fiction movie than anything else. Though not sci-fi as we have come to know it through works like "Jurassic Park" and "Gattaca"...this is not thriller. No, science fiction in the way that Tarkovsky's "Solaris" was science fiction. This is a drama, an in depth look at a decidedly human non-human-being.
That's the one problem I had with the movie, the angels are capable of such deep emotions and they all reflect human longing. One of the angels (played by Bruno Ganz) wishes to be human when he thinks that he's fallen in love. But these are wishes coming from somehow who longs for more...that's a very human characteristic and some would argue is particular to humans.
But anyways.
History plays a large part of "Wings of Desire". Because of the time period the film is set and where it is based, the angels have glimpses into the past that mainly involve WWII. The angels seem fascinated by some humans more than others, and I don't think it's because they need their help more. No, they are prejudiced and imperfect, but I like that fact.
What is astonishing about the film is the camerawork which manages to float around Berlin on wings, from the point of view of the angels. There are hardly any moments that the camera is still and those moments stretch on for eternity because of the momentum the film had going.
The problems I had with "Paris, Texas" I have again with "Wings of Desires". Wenders is a tremendous artist, but perhaps he feels things different than I do. When he expects me to cry, I get bored...when he wants for me to engage, I disengage.
There is one scene where the main angel is following a young woman, beginning to think that he's fallen in love. She dances while a punk rock band plays on stage. Wenders lets this scene stretch out forever. There is nothing furthering the plot, just some dancing and some walking.
It is a poetic film, I'll give it that; but it also comes across equally as pretentious with simple circus acrobats using the most beautiful language imaginable...I'm not saying it's not possible, but it doesn't feel genuine.
The film is clever though and Peter Falk's appearance gives the movie another side.
All-in-all, it's a beautiful and well-made movie; but I'm not sure I would see it again.











Score: ★★★

Nights of Cabiria (1957)




















"Nights of Cabiria" is one of Fellini's most personal and intimate works. It doesn't hold that ruthless anti-sentimentalism that his most famous works like "La Dolce Vita" or "8½" hold and it certainly contains none of the borderline surrealism that his critics always make reference to. "Nights of Cabiria" is Fellini at his most vulnerable and his most poignant.
A movie about love, life, the pursuit of happiness, and the differences in classes—"Nights of Cabiria" choses as its protagonist, a prostitute. It takes a while for us to learn of her profession and even then, its implications are not over-exaggerated .
Cabiria (Giulietta Masina) says to herself that she's perfectly happy. She owns her house, she has a bank account, she has a bird...what more could she want? Still, love has always stayed elusively around the corner and at the movie's opening, we see just how horrible Cabiria's taste in men is. While out on a date, Cabiria's beau decides to steal her purse from her and throw her in the water, letting her drown. She's rescued by a few youths and resuscitated by some local men. Once she regains consciousness she runs back to her house and breaks in because her keys were in her purse. 
She starts living in a state of denial, not wanting to accept that the man she was in love with a man would want to steal from her. It sinks in later that she might have actually died and he wouldn't have cared about it. This is what hits her the hardest and she starts to realize that she may want something more out of life...happiness.
But how does one achieve happiness?
Fellini certainly never tries to answer the question himself. Self-awareness, self-realization, self-contentment...yes, all of those are important ingredients but can you pin down a single correlation between an attribute and genuine happiness? Perhaps it's just a mindset. Tell yourself: "I am happy!" This seems to be Fellini's conclusion, though he is as vague as he always is.
Punctuated with a seemingly shouty and altogether unpleasant heroine, "Nights of Cabiria" strips away all pretensions and lets the viewer just its main character as they would.
It's hard not to like the short, blonde spit-fire. She has so much energy, so much charisma, she goes through so much that it becomes impossible to not love her. Though we empathize with her, we don't always agree with her decisions. The audience gets along with her more than the fellow characters do.
For much of the film, "Nights of Cabiria" could be seen as a wandering movie. One about a woman literally walking towards her fate. Still, I think that the film is much less about its plot—which does seem like a fairy tale and fairly surreal—and much more about the reaction of its characters. It's not important that Cabiria is transported from high class to middle to the lowest of lows again, what is important is who she meets there and what they say to her. A famous movie director picks her up and takes her to a bar and then back to his place. His mansion is opulence incarnate. In a later scene, Cabiria finds herself in a wilderness where people live in caves and rely on the kindness of strangers (see what I did there?).
"Nights of Cabiria" for all its emotion and charm, does wear you down a little. It's a bit too long for its own good.
Shooting the film with his wife as its lead, Fellini cannot separate himself from the story.
"Nights of Cabiria" would win an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, but its impact stretches far beyond awards shows. This film, though laden at moments, is very charming.









Score: ★★★½

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

















No one ever talks about how crazy "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" is. This is the kind of movie that helped birth the thriller, though it also proves that thrillers got a lot better over the years. As edgy as possible without insulting the censors, the film tells the story of two women, two sisters, two rivals.
The movie begins with a quick prologue as we are introduced to the character of Baby Jane. She's a young star, a Shirley Temple-like character of the stage. She sings and daces and wins everyone's hearts and then drops her on-stage persona.
A group of audience members witness a tantrum as Baby Jane is exiting the theater. She screams and cries just because she wants an ice cream. The crowd starts murmuring to themselves that this wonder of the stage may just be another brat.
Fast-forward almost twenty years and Baby Jane has fallen into the background. Her sister Blanche is now the actress who everyone wants to see yet Jane is still a baby. She throws fits, doesn't seem to get along with anyone...Hollywood would like to ostracize her, but her contract is intertwined with her sister's.
Then, an accident cripples Blanche and the main titles are cued.
We are thrown forward even farther in time and shown Blanche and Jane as aging has-beens. Blanche (Joan Crawford) has a legacy that is left behind. She was a respectable actress, one whom everyone admired and Jane (Bette Davis) wasn't.
Jane has returned to the bottle as a source of entertainment and as the movie caries on, the audience wishes that we brought a flask too. Drunken, cruel, and insane—Jane makes us wonder what the title of the film has to do with anything.
No body thought that Baby Jane Hudson was a sweet girl, she was a complete brat. No body thinks that the sweet little girl has vanished...so why the title? It could be referring to the career of the girl; but even that makes no sense.
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" seems much like a warning against the gluttony of the lime light; but it's hard to take seriously when all things are considered.
There is a not so clever last minute reveal, one that was totally unnecessary, that I suppose makes us review everything we have just seen...but it didn't work. The ending implies that violence is justifiable if we have a good enough reason for it.
For a movie that's wound as tightly as this one is, "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" is remarkably slow and low on plot movements. Not much happens in a day.
Jane now cares for her sister who lives on the second floor in a wheelchair, which just seems like a bad idea to me. Everything starts to pick up momentum when a television channel starts airing all of Blanche's hit movies during one week. Jane's resentment grows and she starts to act out. Elvira (Maidie Norman), the maid, is suspicious of Jane's doings and finds a pile of fan letters to Blanche in the trash can, opened.
Cleverly censoring Jane's mouth with the intercom system, the movie tries its very, very best to be as nervy as possible. What results is an overly-long, not-so-scary freak show.
There is no describing how insane all of the characters get.
"What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" has two very pivotal performances given by Davis and Crawford. These are landmark roles and remind us that Stephen King might have seen this movie.
At the end of it all, when the last shot has faded, what good did it do? It wasn't that entertaining and it certainly presented no moral argument.
This is a film that loves hyperbole which is fine because so do I. It's the most catastrophic idea ever conceived.








Score: ★★

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) (R)













The likability of "The Terminator" is completely lost in its sequel, which is widely considered to be exponentially better than its predecessor. "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" starts off just as the first one did, in the middle of the night with big flashes of lightning.
The story line picks up where the first one leaves off, so be prepared for SPOILERS for "The Terminator".
Earth in the future is destroyed by sentient robots. They nuke the entire planet and give themselves the throne, metaphorically. The one man who could have possibly stopped them was named John Conner and in "The Terminator", one robot is sent to kill the boy's mother and one human tags along to try stop the machine, which turns out to be rather difficult.
Likewise, "Terminator 2" begins with the same electrical storm and the appearance of two naked men behind strategically placed objects. One of them we recognize, it's Arnold Schwarzenegger. This was the baddie from "The Terminator".
In the wake of the incident involved with the first movie, Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) has been jailed in a mental hospital. No one believes her story about the robot from the future coming to Earth to destroy her before she can give birth to the savior of mankind...so they lock her up.
All I can say is Cameron must have thought Jesus was a little brat, because the savior of this movie couldn't be more intolerable. John (played by Edward Furlong) is just an average bratty kid, well, more than your average bratty kid. Raised by a mother who society deems as insane, your childhood consisting of one drill after the other, you might find yourself a little rebellious too.
John has foster parents who seem like your average white trash. Then again, they aren't given a lot to work with since John's on their hands.
Post-duo-of-naked-men-appearing-in-the-dead-of-night, we are to assume that one of the two men is here to kill John and one is here to protect...our assumption is correct.
John is off doing his normal rebellious activities like visiting an arcade when he is confronted by the terminator....ooh, cue scary music.
John, who I would have been fine getting killed, decides that he will take his protector and try to get his mom out of the mental hospital.
Shot with the intensity of a road chase, "Terminator 2" doesn't meander much, though it does supply John with way too many lines. The script, which loves to generate explosive-necessary situations, is nothing terrific. It has Sarah Connor changing from a loving mother to a butch, merciless crazy person—which is fine, because she's more tolerable that way.
The moments in which John isn't whining or screaming are actually quite entertaining, though they lack the brash charm of the original. This sequel tries to be more serious, which, considering how goofy some of the material is, doesn't work.
The most famous object to escape from the movie, besides "Hasta la vista, baby" is the animation of the Terminator, which was ground-breaking for its time. The special effects are still quite enjoyable, but the movie as a whole is quite tedious.
The film would go on to sweep the visual effects categories at the Academy Awards and land itself permanently in pop culture, spawning its own obsessive following.
James Cameron isn't in top form here, pumping out a dumber, and no where near as enjoyable film as the first.
I just wish that I didn't have to put up with that kid.








Score: ★★½

The Terminator (1984) (R)















Not only the movie that launched James Cameron's name into superstardom but also confirmed Arnold Schwarzenegger as a hugely successful actor, "The Terminator" combines all the tryings of fellow directors to make an effortlessly entertaining sensation and it blows them all out of the water.
Owing a lot of its success to "Alien"—Cameron would later direct a sequel—"The Terminator" reminds us that people were always concerned about the ramifications of the digital age. How far is going too far? Apparently, "The Terminator" thinks that any technology is bad; then again, I'm getting ahead of myself.
Beginning in 2029 in an apocalyptic world where machines seem to dominate the entire world, we are thrown back in time to a night in 1984. Lighting sparks from the sky and a naked Arnold lands next to a surprised garbage man who promptly runs off.
Still spewing a few sparks, the nude body builder runs off into the night and comes across three good-for-nothing teenagers. This is typical. The first person that the uber-bad guy will kill is someone who may deserve it; but it proves that he is committed to killing. Then we can be afraid of him.
Sure enough, he rips one of the guys' hearts out with his bare hands and then demands clothing.
On the same night, another lightning storm occurs and another naked guy drops from the sky. This one seems less *ahem* intimidating than the first; but he seems more agile. The cops spy him just putting on clothes and they chase him; but he gets away. Then he finds a phone book and looks up the name Sarah Connor and then stalks off in the night.
First naked dude, who now is clothed, is also looking for Sarah Connor so naturally Sarah is the next character that we visit.
A plucky and energetic, easily disturbed young waitress, Sarah Connor is a hipster in training. She's the girl that's easy to cheer for. Sarah doesn't realize that she has two post-naked men looking for her, both armed with guns—ignorance is bliss.
A woman named Sarah Connor is killed, not our Sarah Connor. Our leading lady hears of this and shrugs it off as a freak coincidence but the audience knows better.
Becoming aware that people are hunting her down, Sarah has to survive and hopefully save humanity.
"The Terminator" is not a great movie, it takes too long to establish all of its emotions and it tries too hard to be the most of itself. It tries to bring tears, chills, laughter, scares...it is mostly successful in some of these; but definitely not all of them.
James Cameron always has been one to indulge himself so its no surprise that we see a lot of it here; but that doesn't make the film bad...on the contrary. "The Terminator" is actually a very smart movie, the thought behind it appearing to be very far ahead of its time. Technology will kill us, at least in the world the film creates, and it's not hard to see the science fiction that spawned from this. From "I, Robot" to some of the "Star Trek" spin-off series, the movie is certainly influential.
What I didn't appreciate about the film was how often the action gets truncated for the sappy, "Top Gun" style of nonsense...another movie that tried to ride of the success of the action movie, defined and redefined by Cameron.
Birthing its own series, "The Terminator" is a movie that you should see at least once, just to say you have. It's so entertaining, I don't think you'll regret it.








Score: ★★★½

Sherlock Holmes (2010) (PG-13)
















This is a guest review by Laura Razniewski.


   It is a fact known to any of my friends familiar with my taste in film that I have a weakness for the desperately cheesy and inanely overdramatic.  Therefore, it stands to reason that this movie, in particular, should serve as my introduction as guest blogger.

   Ever since I was a young girl, I have found myself fascinated with the character of Sherlock Holmes.  Add to that my love of Jurassic Park and you can’t get much more exciting for me.  Holmes and Watson saving the city of London from dinosaurs—No, wait! Robot dinosaurs!  (SPOILER ALERT: At no point do either Sherlock or John punch the aforementioned robot dinosaur in the face.  The fact of which, I find deeply disappointing, and I believe it to be an opportunity missed by cast and crew alike.)  Naturally, this film looked so terrible that I absolutely had to watch it as soon as possible.
   
Now, I could ramble on for a few paragraphs about the poor CGI, stiff dialogue with fake accents, or that uncomfortable feeling that the wardrobe department may have actually raided the costumes from your elementary school’s production of Annie.  However, I feel that to do this would only be an insult to the reader’s intellect, since no one would actually go into this viewing experience expecting anything else.  Instead, I feel it would be more appropriate to give a synopsis and let you decide for yourself whether or not to invest your hour and twenty-nine minutes…So, SPOILERS.  You have been warned.
  
  The film opens on the London Blitz with an aged Watson sitting at his window watching the bombs falling outside.  I must give kudos on the accurate timeline; Watson would have been roughly eighty-seven years old at the beginning of World War II as the film portrays him.  He is being taken care of by a “Miss Hudson” whom I can only assume is the granddaughter of their previous housekeeper by the same surname.  Watson asks her if she would be willing to transcribe one last story for him, a story that “he” asked never to be written because the public wasn’t ready for “his greatest and last known accomplishment”.  The “he” of course, being the great Sherlock Holmes.
   
We rewind fifty-eight years earlier to a ship on the English Channel.  It is night, the crew spots movement in the water off the starboard bow, and the ship is suddenly overtaken by a dozen giant tentacles.  The chaos caused by the surprise kraken attack employs almost enough handheld camera work to distract us from the cluster of modern-day street lighting on the nearby coastline.  Screaming, scrambling, and scared the unfortunate scene disappears into the dark waters.
   
Cut to Dr. Watson cheerfully humming over a corpse that he is about to dissect.  Holmes rudely interrupts before John can begin, informs him that the ship was carrying a valuable cargo of gold for the government, and tells him that he must come along to investigate the site of the wreck.  Watson’s protestation of having to finish his autopsy is rebutted by Sherlock’s customary five-minute long explanation of the “obvious” cause of death (we should just be grateful that he does not apply his riding crop to the unfortunate fellow!).  And “the game’s afoot!”
   
Their search discovers nothing but empty scraps of the hull and the fantastic ravings of a giant monster from the only surviving crew member.  Watson has a harrowing experience while climbing the cliff face above the wreckage when the rope anchoring him snaps.  Holmes is the first to spring into action in an effort to save his friend.  Once Watson is safe however, Sherlock returns to his typical data collecting state before he’s even caught his breath.  Watson follows him back to London on somewhat shakier legs.
   
Meanwhile, on the back alleys of London’s East End, poor, naïve John Poole is just looking for some action.  He spends his last three pounds on a prostitute named Sally only to be attacked in the street by—of all things—a pygmy Tyrannosaurus Rex!  The news of this second bizarre attack reaches Holmes and Watson over their morning tea.  Watson angrily exclaims that the newspaper is printing “sensationalist claptrap”, but Holmes, ready to consider every possibility before settling his deductions, voices his doubt that these witnesses are completely off their rockers.  Watson replies, “The only monsters I believe in look very much like you and I”.  Hmmm…foreshadowing?!  The doctor’s stance is altered though, when he and Sherlock are attacked on their morning constitutional by the very beast Watson had discredited only hours before.
   
One thing leads to another.  A bit of rubber, a homicidal dinosaur, a missing water pump, a small stone, and a copper factory.  What could all these things have in common you ask?  Sherlock’s brother, Thorpe Holmes, what else!  Yes, I thought his name was Mycroft too; however, since he continuously refers to Sherlock as “Robert”, we can only assume that the scriptwriter took a few liberties.  A bullet wound suffered while chasing after some bank robbers with his former partner, none other than Inspector Lestraude of Scotland Yard, left the elder Holmes brother completely paralyzed.  So, Thorpe has returned from his seven years of self-imposed exile with a vengeance and a frightening talent for creating life-like robots.  That’s right, Thorpe was the one responsible for building a kraken to steal the gold from the ship so he fund his creation of the murderous dino and complete his scheme to attain neuro-regeneration and rewire his central nervous system to a copper suit of armor so he could control his body once again with electrical impulses conducted throughout the copper.  He also turns his robotic girlfriend into a literal walking time bomb so she can blow up Buckingham Palace while he terrorizes London with his giant, mechanical, fire-breathing dragon.  If you think that was a run-on, you should watch the movie.  All this so he could pin the crime on Lestraude since Thorpe is convinced that the inspector was responsible for the bullet that destroyed his own career so many years before.  Also, he made a robotic peacock, but it’s not clear why.
   
Minutes after Thorpe Holmes departs on his mission of revenge, Sherlock discovers another of his brother’s inventions; a hot air balloon, complete with propellers, Gatling gun, and more dashboard buttons than a nuclear submarine.  He leaves to catch up to his brother and orders Watson to stop the robotic woman from destroying Buckingham Palace.  After an epic battle which causes serious fire damage to some of London’s most historical and iconic buildings, Sherlock ultimately must end his own brother’s depraved life in order to save that of his good friend, Watson.  John later comments that it was the only time that he ever saw Holmes use a gun.  Inspector Lestraude is saved as well, and Sherlock is quick to tell him that the bullet that paralyzed Thorpe could not have come from his gun since the markings on the bullet indicate that it was shot from a completely different firearm altogether.  All is well with the world!
   
We return to 1940 just as Miss Hudson finishes writing.  She asks Watson if such a fantastic story could possibly be true, but when she gets no reply, she looks up to see that he has passed away.  So, could the story be true or is it just the dementia of an old man on his deathbed?  We may never know, but when Miss Hudson visits the gravesite of her late friend, she glances over to see another woman dressed in Victorian garb with an uncanny resemblance to Dr. Watson’s robotic woman that he allegedly fought so many years earlier.  Damn!  What kind of batteries does this lady use?
   
I appreciate and enjoy the various adaptations conceived over the years to continually bring our favorite detective to new life for each generation.  Whether it be Basil Rathbone or Wishbone, animated talking mice or box office favorites, the moral of Sherlock and John remains fundamentally the same; the moral is friendship.  Although Sir Arthur Conan Doyle despised his hero and even succeeded for a time in bringing about his demise, I believe it is that same moral which will always draw audiences.  Yes, we love to marvel at the mental prowess of Sherlock Holmes and listen to him spouting off deductions at the speed of light, but what really draws intellectuals and fangirls alike is the relationship between this genius and his doctor.  John brings about a human side in Holmes that allows us to see beyond the impassiveness and the hubris.  We can see that Watson’s friendship and loyalty, although not always apparent, are reflected ten-fold in his friend, Sherlock.  I believe that there is a part in each of us that drives us to want to be somebody’s Sherlock and somebody’s Watson.










Score: ★

Lola (1961)













It's easy to underestimate the power of "Lola" by tuning out in the first five minutes. You could be lethargic about the piece, nonchalant—oh great, another new wave French cinema film...yay! Yet the sarcastic barbs which might seem appropriate hardly do the picture justice because what the film is so deadly clever with is keeping you engaged with its characters...it's much more than just its own sub-genre.
What is fascinating about "Lola" is how the narrative jumps from one character to the other, as if being passed off like a baton in a relay race. It makes full circles many times, tagging one character after the other. Yet the construct of the plot is nothing if not the predecessor to Tarantino's work, because everyone somehow touches everyone. This isn't a "Crash" story or "Disconnect"—it's much more like "Pulp Fiction".
Beginning with a white convertible driving along the road, we quickly are thrown from character to character until the camera settles down on Roland Cassard (Marc Michel). This is our everyday hero. He is late for work and stops by a cafe to talk to the waitress there who scolds him for being lazy. It's not that he doesn't like his job, he's just getting tired of it all. He doesn't like the rat-race, he's done it for too long to be interested in it.
To borrow a line from Peter Jackson: he needs a vacation.
While Roland struggles with what his life is all about, we have other characters' woes tossed at us. There is a mother whose son she believes is back in town, a sailor who is in love with a cabaret dancer, the cabaret dancer and her son, and a single mother and her daughter.
How these lives touch each other is not the sole reason to watch the movie...it's more than just a puzzle-box. "Lola" manages to create intense emotions for each character.
There is a sense of longing unfulfilled that the picture has that makes its viewer empathize and uncomfortable. It's the kind of movie that makes you question what you're doing in life...while it may not be pleasant, it's certainly effective.
A group of sailors from America often frequent the cabaret and one of the men named Frankie (Alan Scott) has taken a liking to our title character, Lola (Anouk Aimée), Lola is a woman who seems content with life so far. She is also longing for something, for her first love to return to her and sweep her off her feet.
The writer and director Jacques Demy seems to be asking his audience about complacence and the need for change. Why are we discontent when our lives could be happier with the tools we have right in front of our faces? Why must we search for an intrinsic piece of joy when its looking us in the face?
The ending of "Lola" may turn some audience members sour, but how else could it have ended?
"Lola" is a masterfully constructed piece, one that remains surprisingly entertaining.
Lola herself is not a great main character, partially because she's not the main character. Roland, on the other hand, is very likable...very relatable.
The film itself is a fast-paced wonder-work. It's amazing the amount of complexity within the relatively simplistic story. Simple lines of dialogue reveal worlds of thought beneath the film.
Demy's debut feature film is stunning.









Score: ★★★★