Starring Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Gloria Grahame, Charles Boyer, Lillian Gish, Susan Strasberg, John Kerr, Fay Wray
The doctors have just as much problems as the patients it seems in this lurid melodrama set in a psychiatric institution. Dr. McIver (Widmark) truly cares about his patients, but competing egos, an affair with a member of his staff, Meg (Bacall), and a growing distance from his wife, Karen (Grahame), threaten to unravel him. Well acted by all, the trumped up emotions and amplified colors become a style, and it’s a style director, Minnelli does successfully. Not as much happening subtextually in this one as in some of the better examples of ’50s melodramas, but still an entertaining potboiler.
Starring Edward Woodward, Christopher Lee, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, Ingrid Pitt
Righteous, determined Seargeant Howie (Woodward) comes to Summerisle, an island inhabited by a pagan religious cult, to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. Tempted and repulsed by the people who deny the girl even have existed, Howie finds it increasingly difficult to think straight. Horror icon, Christopher Lee plays Lord Summerisle , King of the heathen island. Thoroughly bizarre and mysterious, The Wicker Man boasts one memorable sequence after another. Edward Woodward, with his theatrical delivery of the lines, is spectacular, and in other circumstances would make a perfect hero. Here though, there seems to be no hope at all, and the end is suitably devastating. Beautifully shot, written, and performed. At times hilarious and shocking, and I loved the outlandish musical numbers. I could see this film influencing David Lynch, especially his series, Twin Peaks.
The short that started it all for animation juggernaut, Pixar, was merely a tease of what was to come. It’s a very simple story about a lamp and that lamp’s son playing with a ball, but it’s a testament to the studio that out of that premise, they were able to make a relatable film. To make the audience empathize with inanimate objects would prove to be their first claim to fame nearly a decade later with Toy Story.
Starring Adrienne Barbeau, Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh, John Houseman, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook
A mysterious, glowing fog has swept in to Californian coastal town, Antonio Bay, on its 100th anniversary, and with it comes vengeful undead figures, killing whoever gets caught in the fog. Several of the town’s characters attempt to get to the bottom of the strange happenings, with Father Malone (Holbrook) discovering his grandfather’s old journal, revealing the truth of the matter. A beautifully crafted, slow burner, not unlike John Carpenter’s next movie, The Thing, which is a horror masterpiece, but The Fog has less of bite than that film. There are a couple of nice jump scares, but the thrill of the luminous fog is significantly less than that of an alien capable of replicating your peers.
Starring Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville, Camilla Rutherford, Brian Gleeson
Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) is a world famous designer. Like many great artist, he sacrifices all else in favor of his craft. He needs everything to be just so, and the opening reveals, how this forces the women from his life. Then one day, he meets Alma (Krieps), and while Alma too marvels at Woodcock’s work, where other women were pushed away, she gradually begins to push back. Paul Thomas Anderson, who hit the ground running with Hard Eight and Boogie Nights, has, over the years, has grown more enigmatic and opaque with his work. I’m sure there will be several essays deciphering what exactly is going on between Woodcock and Alma (and the indomitable sister, Cyril, looming over the picture, played expertly by Lesley Manville). I saw, in the end, a strong male figure who ultimately wants to be mothered, with the ghost of his departed mother casting a shadow over his life and work. It becomes nearly masochistic by the end. What’s clear and indisputable, however, is the skill involved, both in front of behind the camera. The film, for large segments, becomes akin to one of Ingmar Bergman’s chamber plays, with three dominant characters stuck in a confined space, allowing their quirks to plays out. I also was reminded of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, wherein Professor Henry Higgins takes a woman named Eliza Doolittle off the street, and attempts to mold her in the image of his liking. Only in Phantom Thread, Alma, unlike Eliza, does the final molding.
Starring Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor, Jacqueline White, Queenie Leonard, Paul Maxey
Hard-boiled Detective Seargeant Walter Brown (McGraw) has to escort a mobster’s widow (Windsor) from Chicago to Los Angeles by train where she’s set to speak before a grand jury. Powerful underworld figures are willing to do anything to make sure that doesn’t happen. Brown, whose partner was already murdered protecting the big-mouthed dame, has his work cut out for him, standing alone against a team of crooks and murderers. They even try bribing him. Meanwhile he meets a married woman, Ann (White), on the train, and quickly grows attached to her. Fast, tightly plotted tale with strong performances and a surprising finale. Very suspenseful. Prime B-movie.
Starring Jack Black, Joan Cusack, Mike White, Sarah Silverman, Miranda Cosgrove
Dewey Finn (Black) lives the life of a rock star, minus the success, the women, or the money. Already kicked out of the band he created, and on the verge of being kicked out of his patient best friend, Ned’s apartment, he jumps at an opportunity to pretend to be Ned in order to pick up some money as a substitute teacher at an elite private school. Another brain wave hits, and Dewey decides to turn his overworked pupils into a rock band, in order to compete at a talent competition. Easily could have been a miserable comedy, but thankfully, Richard Linklater, the script, and Jack Black (in a role, tailor-made for him) squeeze every possible laugh out of the material, making the film a blast.