Quick Review : A Night to Remember (1958)

Directed By – Roy Ward Baker
Starring – Kenneth More, Ronald Allen, Robert Ayres, Honor Blackman, Anthony Bushell, and Michael Goodliffe

Ahhh, a film about the Titanic. I remember reading about it in elementary school and then waiting a whole year to see the James Cameron version on VHS. Remember when it used to take a whole year for a film to be released on home video? It’s like two months now. Crazy. I wasn’t allowed to see it in theaters because my mother heard there was boob in it. I remember being shocked when a few classmates were able to go see it with their families. “DID YOU SEE ANY BOOB?” I would ask. They saw boob. They also saw a ship of 2300 people go down and over a thousand people die, but hey, Kate Winslet got nakey. I think it actually took me three or four viewings before I even got to see her naked. My parents would watch the film before hand, figure out precisely the moment before she got naked, pause the movie, and tell me it’s time for bedtime. I saw through their shit. I stuck out of bed one night and watched that whole damn movie at three in the morning. You know what’s funny? I didn’t give a shit about Kate Winslet naked. I gave about as much of a shit as I do now, which is not much. I was more interested in rewinding the part where the guys legs hit the propeller blade and he does like 12 flips before he hits the water. Wasn’t childhood fun?

Anyway, that film sucks for the most part. In watching the “original” version from Criterion I learned a few things. James Cameron takes other filmmakers ideas and recreates them using his fancy technology. I’d honestly rather watch a Michael Bay film instead of a James Cameron film not named T2 because I think that guy sucks that much. I admitted to taking a lot of ideas, characters, and even full lines from the original film, so I can’t say that he stole from this film, but my god is he an unoriginal bastard. You remember that scene where the band plays as the ship is sinking? Re-done. Mr. Andrews going down with his creation? Re-done. Fuck, even the gypsie dance, the iceberg hockey, and the fact that they cast Kathy Bates to mimic everything Tucker McGuire did as “Molly Brown”. All re-done. There was so much more heart and soul in this film that “Titanic” couldn’t even touch with a ten foot pole. The look of terror on the kids faces. The snobby way the 1st class passengers treated the steerage passengers. It was just better. Hell, I even got a little teary eyed during the end. Titanic never had that effect on me. Not for a second.

“A Night to Remember” is a great telling of what happened on that ship. They used actual survivor stories to recreate that night and it shows. The terror that those people must have lived through was accurately portrayed by a crew in a studio. The film is a fantastic document of that night. The last 30 minutes in particular being pretty damn fantastic. I recommend seeing this film if you liked the James Cameron version even a little. It’s a vastly superior film.


Classic Film Review : Five Easy Pieces (1970)

IMDB Score – 7.5
Rotten Tomato Score – 86%
Academy Award Nominee for Best Picture, Best Actor (Jack Nicholson), Best Supporting Actress (Karen Black), Best Original Screenplay
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Directed By – Bob Rafelson
Starring – Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Bill Green Bush, Susan Anspach, Sally Struthers, Ralph Waite, and Lois Smith

A drop-out from upper-class America picks up work along the way on oil-rigs when his life isn’t spent in a squalid succession of bars, motels, and other points of interest.

I have a confession to make. I actually watch two films before this one and I’m not going to write about them because I didn’t enjoy them like I thought I would and even so, I have no idea what the hell I’d write about. The films are “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain”. What batshit insane films. The only way that I’ll watch those again is if I’m wasted and it’s okay to shout. I’m still going to watch “Santa Sangre” though. I just felt like disclosing that.

What is it about Jack Nicholson when he was young in which I instantly see Jack Torrance in every one of his roles. It’s easy to see how perfect he was for that role because you can see little pieces of Jack in all his characters. This is no different. Jack plays Bobby, a, well, he’s a dick. The film starts out with him working on an oil rig and being a total bastard to his girlfriend Rayette, played by Karen Black. Rayette is a dumb southern belle who doesn’t know what the hell is good for her and puts up with his shit until Bobby gets word his father is ill and they both ride up to Washington to see him.

The film marks the first award nomination for Jack in the Best Actor category and although he didn’t win, gave one hell of a performance. The transformation he goes through, or seems to go through during the film was heavily helped by Jack’s performance as the direction of the film was just kinda of shabby. The story was interesting but the camera work and editing was flat as it left me a bit confused when the scenes changed. It wasn’t a fluid transition. Besides Black, Susan Anspach gave a great performance as the wife of Bobby’s brother, a woman who would go toe to toe with Nicholson on more than one occasion and hold up to him.

The film ended up being a nice watch for fans of acting and the ending to the film, while a little bleak, was fitting and true to the character of Bobby. The film was also one of the beginning films that started a new era of Hollywood. It’s just a shame Rafelson couldn’t join the ranks of Hal Ashby and other great directors of that time. He tried though.


Suggested Viewing – Last Picture Show, Midnight Cowboy, Paris Texas

Classic Review : Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)

IMDB Score – 7.2
Rotten Tomato Score – 100%
Nominated for four Oscars including Best Editing, Best Sound, Best Writing, and Best Actor (John Wayne)

Directed By – Allan Dwan
Starring – John Wayne, John Agar, Forrest Tucker, Wally Cassell, James Brown, Richard Webb, and Adele Mara

A dramatization of the World War II Battle of Iwo Jima.

My Netflix dvd queue is a funny machine. I had about 13 films in front of this but every single one of them wasn’t available when it was time to ship out so I was surprised when this came in the mail. I honestly forgot all about it but was eager to sit down and watch an old film as it’s been way too long due to all the films from last year that I’ve been cramming in my face. There are so many older films that I’m finally going to be able to sit down and watch now that my Netflix queue is starting to get older and this pleases me. I’d rather watch bad film from the 40s than a bad film from last year any day. “Sand of Iwo Jima” ended up being a completely patriotic cookie cutter of a film but when you’re watching John Wayne and his infinite manliness, it doesn’t really matter.

The film follows a group of soldiers through boot camp to the…well…sands of Iwo Jima. John Stryker is the leader of this group, played by the manliest man of all men, John Wayne. Stryker is kind of a mix between drill instructor Hartman from “Full Metal Jacket” and Tom Berenger from “Platoon”. The men don’t like him. He is tough as nails and don’t take no shit from NOBODY! You had plans to get laid over the weekend? I don’t think so! Looks to me like your bed is a little uneven. That will be a revocation of your weekend pass soldier. Seriously, this exact scenario played out in the film. Wayne, who would later go on to earn his first Oscar nomination for the role, was made to play this character. He takes nobodies shit and dishes out punishment. He ended up giving one of the performances of his career as we follow Stryker through his bouts of alcoholism, regrets, anger, and acceptance. The films co-star, John Agar, plays one of the privates who claims to be an intellectual and finds his Sargent deplorable. What plays out for the next two hours is a cookie cutter production of every single war cliche that has ever happened. Yet, with this being a mere four years after WWII ended, it’s obvious that this film was made as a symbolic power fist in the air for America, and for that I can put up with it.

One cool aspect of the film is that they spliced a lot of great real footage from Iwo Jima and other pacific battles into the film. If you know what you’re looking for, you can spot the actual footage which is always an interesting watch. I’ve always been interested in the years we went to war and the film shed more light on what it was actually like to run up those beaches into a hail of gunfire. Due to the time of its release, you’re not really getting anything gritty or brutal. The men who get killed on screen just kid of fall down or do that clutching to the chest as they slowly let gravity bring them to the sand. Like I said, cliche and cheesy. It was however a great display of acting from Wayne and a much needed break from the glitter and glamour of films released this year.


Suggested Viewing – The Longest Day, Bridge on the River Kwai, Band of Brothers: The Pacific

Classic Review : What’s Up Doc? (1972)

IMDB Score – 7.8
Rotten Tomato Score – 91%

Directed By – Peter Bogdanovich
Starring – Barbara Streisand, Ryan O’Neil, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars, Austin Pendleton, Michael Murphy, Phillip Roth, Stefan Gierasch, and Liam Dunn

The accidental mix up of four identical plaid overnight bags leads to a series of increasingly wild and wacky situations.

Finally, I am able to return to watching some films that weren’t released in 2013. This year I’m going to try to see as many films as I can in the theater that way I’m not playing this much catch up after New Years. It’s been a busy week for me so I haven’t been able to sit down and catch of with a lot of films. Today however, is a snow day. My home state of New Jersey is under yet another blanket of snow, so I decided to sit down and watch something (hopefully) funny in order to ease into the day.

If you have been reading my writing then you know I’m not a huge comedy fan. I just find more misses than hits so I usually stop trying until I’ve read enough about a film to give it a go. Classics however are always appealing to me. “His Girl Friday” and “Bringing Up Baby” are some of my favorite comedies ever so it’s not a surprise that I ended up enjoying this film, which is a self proclaimed homage to the great screwball comedies of the thirties. “What’s Up Doc?” follows four travel bags that hold entirely different items as they swap owners and cause mayhem. We’ve seen this before, but screwball comedy is more about the sight gags and dialogue than unique story.

Would you believe this is the first film starring Babs that I’ve seen? I hated “Meet the Parents” so I didn’t end up seeing any of the sequels and a road trip film with Seth Rogan just turned me off. I’ll get around to seeing her famous musicals and her Oscar winning debut in “Funny Girl” somewhere down the line. This was my first and honestly I found her adorable. Her character was that perfect blend of quirky and smart that hit the chord with me. She carried the film, which is saying something considering she was partnered up with one of the worst big name actors I’ve ever seen. I just can’t understand why people think Ryan O’Neil is a good actor. The only film he is decent in is “Barry Lyndon” but lucky for him, Kubrick requires a lot of standing and looking instead of reading lines. I mean, everybody has seen this clip right…?

So bad. Maybe it’s not his fault. Maybe the director was a five year old throwing oreos and telling him how to dictate the lines. I just think he’s terrible. He did however manage to prevent this film from going down the toilet and I commend him for that. Other great comedic performances in the film come from Madeline Kahn, who plays the real fiancee of O’Neal. This was her film debut and she nailed the uptight, romance-less control freak, and exact opposite of Babs. Kenneth Mars plays a character very similar to his nazi supporting theater go-er in “The Producers”. His accent and overall douche-iness didn’t get old. Finally the brief appearance of Liam Dunn as the judge was probably the hardest I laughed during the whole film. He was a riot.

The film also boasts one of the most entertaining car chases in film and I’m not surprised. It took up a quarter of the whole film budget. The whole thing was filmed like a less epic version of the chase in “The Blues Brothers” but with Chinese dragons, plates of glass, and the wonderfully steep streets of San Francisco.

It was a very enjoyable film, as most screwball comedies were back when Hollywood had a sense of humor. It’s also one of the rare hilarious films that can be enjoyed by the whole family.