Movie Diary 5/20/2018

Compulsion (Richard Fleischer, 1959). The Leopold and Loeb case, lightly fictionalized (from Meyer Levin’s novel). The anti-capital-punishment argument might be easier to make because the movie leaves out a depiction of the murder itself, a brutal act that would seriously complicate things. Orson Welles plays the Clarence Darrow role, and is both authoritative and somewhat disengaged; the acting overall is set at a generally high pitch, and Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman are both dialled in – it works that they are not really top-drawer actors, as the two killers themselves are never as smart or competent as they think they are. Fleischer’s pace is right on, and the widescreen camerawork fluid, although the film suffers when its two sociopaths are relegated to the sidelines during the trial. Also: peak E.G. Marshall.


Deadpool Fest (This Week’s Movies)


Ryan Reynolds: Deadpool 2 (courtesy Twentieth Century Fox)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

Deadpool 2. “How deep do the pop-culture references go in Deadpool 2? Let’s dive.”(Herald review here.)

Another Seasoned Ticket post for the Scarecrow Video blog, spurred on by screenings of Fassbinder and Mizoguchi at the Seattle International Film Festival: read it here.

Movie Diary 5/16/2018

The Silence (Ingmar Bergman, 1963). Re-visited this at the Edinburgh Filmhouse. One of Bergman’s bleakest, and not often championed (maybe because it’s easy to parody, with the dwarves in the hallway and all that?), but I think it’s great. So concentrated in its focus on death and sex that it almost becomes abstract, like the strangely unreal images that flash past the train windows in the first sequence.

Beast (Michael Pearce, 2017). Going back and forth on this one. Clearly the work of talented people – Jessie Buckley and Johnny Flynn are fascinating in the main roles – but can’t shake a slightly ersatz feeling about the whole thing. It’s set on the Isle of Jersey, where a serial killer is loose, and either of the two romantic leads might be the killer.

Movie Diary 5/15/2018

Deadfall 2 (David Leitch, 2018). The sequel isn’t quite as tough as the first one, and the pop-culture slicing and dicing requires a spreadsheet. But there are some very gratifying jokes along the way. In my review I didn’t get to describe the scene where Deadpool has baby legs because his body must grow a new pair of limbs, and this I regret.

Movie Diary 5/14/2018

A Tale of Five Cities (Montgomery Tully et al., 1951). A stilted postwar project about a British RAF pilot (Bonar Colleano) with amnesia, who travels to five places in order to locate women he met, in the hope they can identify him (he’s got their autographs but no I.D. of his own). The premise is actually workable; it’s the execution that constantly relies on contrived bad-sitcom-level misunderstandings. The cities are Rome, Vienna, Berlin, Paris, and London, all with some pretty interesting location shooting (the movie apparently has uncredited directors for the different sections; for instance, Wolfgang Staude, who did the harrowing “rubble film” The Murderers Are Among Us, shot the Berlin segment, using some of the same ruined streets). There’s one affecting section, in Vienna, with Eva Bartok as a Hungarian immigrant who can’t leave the country and exists as a paid escort. (Thanks to going down the IMDb rabbit hole, I now know all about Eva Bartok, including her claim that the daughter she bore while married to Curt Jurgens was actually the child of Frank Sinatra.) There’s some fun with Gina Lollobrigida in the Roman segment, whose boyfriend is played by an extremely young Marcello Mastroianni. Otherwise – a weird one.

Movie Diary 5/13/2018

Life of the Party (Ben Falcone, 2018). Melissa McCarthy in another vehicle, this one with less of the maudlin undertone of some of her recent projects. As I said in my review, I wonder whether the embrace of PG-13 here limits McCarthy, whose best form needs an R rating.

Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice? (Lee H. Katzin, 1969). Hadn’t seen this since a childhood drive-in experience. Geraldine Page really commits to the Grand Guignol but also to the sarcasm, as the loony killer who steals the savings of her string of housekeepers (Ruth Gordon being the latest and most capable). Produced, but not directed, by Robert Aldrich, following Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. It appears to have undergone some severe post-production pruning, as the editing frequently makes no sense. With Rosemary Forsyth (whatever happened to her?) and Robert Fuller, and some prime Nixon-era costuming. Page’s performance energizes the whole mess.

Kill Me Tomorrow (Terence Fisher, 1957). Shot the same year Fisher did The Curse of Frankenstein, and done with occasional flair, if not much conviction. Pat O’Brien is the obligatory American star imported for this UK production, and while his image fits the role (lippy, hard-drinking newspaperman), O’Brien is way too old for the action. Fairly decent plot device: O’Brien takes money from a gangster so he can pay for his ailing kid’s operation, agreeing to take the fall for a mob murder; the hitch is, the cops don’t believe him, but if they release him they mob will think he reneged on his deal and try to stop the plane taking the kid to a Switzerland clinic. All right, maybe the device isn’t so decent. Lois Maxwell, the future Miss Moneypenny, plays O’Brien’s visibly half-hearted love interest; George Coulouris plays the mobster, with accent. There’s a club where Tommy Steele plays “Rebel Rock” over and over.

Party Festival (This Week’s Movies)


Melissa McCarthy, The Life of the Party (courtesy Hopper Stone/Warner Bros.)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly.

Life of the Party. “Everybody is pretty much in this for the fun. Even the two sorority mean girls eventually come around.”

A “what I’m looking forward to seeing” preview piece on the upcoming Seattle International Film Festival. (Weekly version here.)

A second installment of “Seasoned Ticket,” for the Scarecrow Video blog, this one on Chantal Akerman and Brad Dourif: Here.