Lust for Gold (1949)- S. Sylvan Simon



“Lust for Gold” (1949), is an extremely interesting story because, in addition to being an adventurous searching for gold movie, it also happens to be true, at least as far as legends go anyway. The screenplay by Richard English and Ted Shereman is based on the novel, “Thunder God’sLust for Gold (1949) Gold”, written by Barry Storm. The film is told from the perspective of Storm, in the 1940’s, with William Prince playing the role of Barry Storm. Unfortunately, Storm was unhappy with the film, in particular his portrayal, and he successfully sued Columbia Pictures in 1950.

The film is broken up into two different stories that are intercut together. First, there is Barry Storm in the 1940’s, who has traveled to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona to find his grandfather’s hidden gold mine. While he is there, he discovers (and we see through flashbacks), the details that surrounded his grandfather, Jacob “The Dutchman” Waltz (Glen Ford), and his love for a local woman, Julia (Ida Lupino). It’s these flashbacks that make up the second, more interesting story. Julia happens to already be married to Pete (Gig Young), but she is looking for a better life and chooses The Dutchman since he has reportedly discovered a huge gold mine. In the film, $20 million in Lust for Gold (1949)gold was originally discovered by Pedro Peralta sometime around 1840, but he was killed by Apaches because his mine was in a holy place. The gold has been waiting there since, and now The Dutchman is the only person alive who knows the gold’s location.

“Lust for Gold” is an interesting film because the flashback sequences with Ford and Lupino are very entertaining due to the good, dramatic story filled with love and betrayal. Any time you have a story with $20 million in gold, you can expect plenty of betrayal, and that is certainly the case here. The Dutchman, Julia and Pete are all insightful characters, and their love triangle is unfolded to the audience extremely well. All three of these actors are incredibly professional, and the intensity of their performances help to keep the filmLust for Gold (1949) feeling suspenseful.

It’s the “modern” part of the film that falls apart, partially because it seems like a a ploy to increase tourism in Arizona, and also because this part of the story isn’t told extremely well. Most of the plot from the film comes out of the legend of The Dutchman’s lost gold, and the scenes in the 1940’s don’t hold the same level of drama. There are some scenes (mostly in the modern section) that were filmed on location in Arizona, specifically in the Superstition Mountains, and it is these locations that keep the film moving. “Lust for Gold” was the last film directed by S. Sylvan Simon before his premature death, and his abilities as a director had not fully developed. There are moments that the movie feels as if it’s heading Lust for Gold (1949)in the right direction, but then because of the intercut flashbacks (and flash forwards), the even, smooth flow is interrupted.

Mud (2013)- Jeff Nichols



“Mud” (2013), is a simple coming of age tale. Ellis (Tye Sheridan) and Neckbone (Jacob Lofland) are two teenage Arkansas river boys looking for some adventure. The smart-mouthed Neckbone lives in a trailer with his uncle (Michael Shannon), and the more sensitive Ellis lives in aMud (2013) boathouse with his emotionally distant, constantly bickering parents (Sarah Paulson and Ray McKinnon), who have come to a crossroads in their marriage. The boys have heard a story that during the last flood a boat was washed up into a tree on a nearby island. Seeking a little adventure, the boys travel there to claim the boat for their own.

Upon their arrival, they discover that the boat is already inhabited by the gritty, tough edged Mud (Matthew McConaughey). Mud enlists the boys help in getting the boat down from its tree, in order to use it in his escape from both the local authorities and the nasty gang of Texas bounty hunters on his trail. How does everyone know that Mud is in the area? Because his longtime on again, off again girlfriend, Juniper (Reese Witherspoon), is Mud (2013)also in town, anxiously waiting for Mud to carry her off, in search of their “happily ever after”.

Neckbone is hesitant to help Mud, but Ellis, in his youthful, romantic exuberance can’t help but be taken in by the commitment and devotion between Mud and Juniper. For Ellis, there isn’t any limit to how far someone should be willing to go for love, as he shows repeatedly with the older high school girl (Bonnie Sturdivant), who has caught his own attentions.

Writer/ director Jeff Nichols has brought forth a stunning, emotionally stirring drama about love and how far it can take you. The cast is filled with characters that in one way orMud (2013) another have become despondent in their own love lives. Despite the discouraging relationships around him, Ellis continues to believe that love will be triumphant. It is only through the hopeless relationship of Mud and Juniper that Ellis can find hope and inspiration.

The film suffers from a script that, although it moves smoothly, still follows a fairly straight and predictable line. Reminiscent of other coming of age stories like “Stand by Me” (1986) and the obvious literary connections to Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”, this film could easily have fallen into the category of other lifeless, rehashed stories. There are no big plot twists or surprises in “Mud”, but that wasn’t really Mud (2013)the goal either. Jeff Nichols goal was to take a simple idea for a story about love and transform it (through interesting characters, captivating settings and incredible acting) into something special; and that is exactly what he has accomplished.

Remember a few years back when Matthew McConaughey took some time off from acting in order to get back on the right track? He has succeeded admirably. After a 2012 that saw him give memorable performances in “Bernie”, “Killer Joe”, “Magic Mike” and “The Paperboy”, he has taken things up one more notch and proved that he has the ability to be a great actor on a consistent basis; much in the way we had always hoped. Mud is not an easy character to play, but because of McConaughey’s diligence to getting this role exactly right, he has left us with an emotionally charged performance that is nothing short of the finest in his career.Mud (2013)

Of course, McConaughey is only one of this film’s two stars. Young Tye Sheridan is probably not a name you recognize now, but it will be soon. His role as Ellis in “Mud” is only the second film in his career (after his small role in 2011’s “Tree of Life”), and he appears, and carries, almost every scene throughout the film.  This is Sheridan and McConaughey’s film, and because of their strong performances, the overall film is elevated from a good, character drama, to a riveting portrayal of dedication and love.

From Russia with Love (1963)- Terrence Young




Bond #2: “From Russia with Love” (1963)

The villainous organization SPECTRE is angry and ready for revenge after the killing of their operative, Dr. No. In this James Bond film, weFrom Russia with Love (1963) actually get to see the SPECTRE group at work, including their awesome training island and some of the group’s leaders. Their evil plot in this film is to steal a Lektor decoding device from the Soviet counterintelligence agency, using the recently defected Colonel Klebb (Lotte Lenya), who is now a loyal SPECTRE employee. She is going to pretend to still be with the Soviets, and command a low level cryptographer named Tatiana (Daniela Bianchi) to pretend to defect and turn over the Lektor to the British Secret Service. The brilliance of the plan is that she will only hand the machine over to James Bond (Sean Connery). SPECTRE sends Grant (Robert Shaw), one of their top field agents, to follow Bond and keep him safe until he has the Lektor in hand. Then Grant is supposed to kill both Tatiana and Bond while stealing the already stolen Lektor machine, thus exacting From Russia with Love (1963)revenge on both James Bond and the Soviets.

Can’t you just hear the SPECTRE masterminds cackling over this plan?

“From Russia with Love” does everything that you would expect from a sequel, including bringing back many of the same characters and events from the first film. Obviously Bond is there, but also his boss, “M” (Bernard Lee), and M’s lovely and unobtainable secretary, Miss Moneypenny (Lois Maxwell), returns. There is also mention of Bond’s time in Jamaica, Dr. No and an appearance by the beautifulFrom Russia with Love (1963) Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson), who was Bond’s first romantic interlude in “Dr. No”.

At the same time, “From Russia with Love” began setting things up for the future installments of the franchise, including the introduction of gadget creator “Q” (Desmond Llewelyn), the unseen SPECTRE leader, “#1” and his white cat, an opening title sequence with scantily dressed female silhouettes, composer John Barry’s musical score and the first James Bond title song (sung by Matt Monro). Of course they hadn’t realized the importance of using the theme during the opening credits, but it can be heard as source From Russia with Love (1963)music when Bond first appears.

As a film, “From Russia with Love” is quite good. The story, although quite overly complicated, is very intriguing to watch unfold, especially with how much time is spent with SPECTRE and their agents. James Bond doesn’t even appear until minute 18 of the film. In a somewhat surprising turn, the acting in this film is very good as well. Robert Shaw is a terrifying villain, and the scenes where he is pretending to be a British Agent are especially fun to watch. Sean Connery seems to have settled into the role nicely. He’s comfortable, confident and uses the humor of the script to his advantage. Daniela BianchiFrom Russia with Love (1963) is a bit of a surprise in this film. She’s here for her sex appeal, but her acting ability stands out far above other Bond girls. (Not that her sex appeal is lacking in any way.) Pedro Armendariz also has a nice supporting role, that although isn’t a major part, has been written with a great deal of humor. He (and his many sons) are a source of numerous jokes throughout the film.

Terrence Young’s straight forward direction is carried over from “Dr. No”, and helps keep things from becoming too confusing. There is nothing special about his accomplishment here, but under the skill of a lesser director, this film could have been a disaster. Peter R. From Russia with Love (1963)Hunt was the editor, and did a marvelous job getting all the necessary information into the film, without bogging it down with needless scenes. He also managed to keep the running time under two hours. The fact that this film came out just 12 months after “Dr. No” could imply that “From Russia with Love” being rushed, but it doesn’t appear that way.

Here are the statistics from “From Russia with Love”, as well as a running total for all the James Bond films.

  • Number of people killed by James Bond: 19 (A much higher body count this time. Yeah for boat explosions!) Total kills: 23From Russia with Love (1963)
  • Number of times we hear, “Bond, James Bond”: 0 (I guess they hadn’t figured out how cool it is yet. He also never drank a martini in this film.) Total thus far: 1
  • Number of women that succumb to Bond: 4 – We’re counting Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson) again for this film (but not again in the running total), the two (implied) gypsies at the camp (Aliza Gur & Martine Beswick) and of course Tatiana Romanova (Daniela Bianchi). Total women: 6

I am also going to start rating the James Bond song for each film because, well… it sounds From Russia with Love (1963)like fun.

  • “From Russia with Love” theme song: ★★★★ Written by Lionel Bart and sung by Matt Monro, this theme is a timeless classic. It has remained enjoyable as the years have passed, without seeming old or tired. It is also guaranteed to get stuck in your head.

“From Russia with Love” was also the first James Bond film that during the closing credits announced that Bond would return. Bond will return (and so will I) with “Goldfinger” (1964).

For more James Bond fun, check out:

“Dr. No” (1962)

“Goldfinger” (1964)

“Thunderball” (1965)

“You Only Live Twice” (1967)

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969)

“Diamonds Are Forever” (1971)

“Live and Let Die” (1973)

“The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974)

“The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)

“Moonraker” (1979)

“For Your Eyes Only” (1981)

“Octopussy” (1983)

“Never Say Never Again” (1983)



Cronos (1993)- Guillermo del Toro: Countdown to “Pacific Rim” Part 1 of 8



Over the past twenty years, Guillermo del Toro has made quite a name for himself throughout the cinematic world. For that matter, his love and passion for the unusual has gone beyond films, as he has also written novels, worked in television and even helped in the design of some video games. His eight directorial films (soon to become nine) are filled with lush, entrancing images, and his stories are a brilliant blend of science fiction, fantasy, fairy tale and horror. del Toro’s latest endeavor, “Pacific Rim” (2013), is scheduled to hit theaters July 12th, 2013, so inCronos (1993) preparation for what appears to be the most expansive (and expensive) film of his career, I am going back twenty years to his first full length feature, “Cronos” (1993). I will continue to work through his unusual (and very élan) filmography, finishing just in time to make my way to the theater to see “Pacific Rim”.

For his feature film debut, Guillermo del Toro choose a highly unorthodox tale in “Cronos”. This Spanish language film revolves around an elderly antiques shop owner named Jesus (Federico Luppi), and his granddaughter, Aurora (Tamara Shanath). Jesus notices something amiss with an archangel statue in his shop, and upon further investigation, he discovers a baroque scarab ornament hiding within. While holding it in his palm, the ornament unleashes insect like legs and a stinger that attach themselves to Jesus’s hand, inserting a strange Cronos (1993)substance into him.

Jesus begins a transformation on both the inside, as well as in his outward appearance. He feels younger, more vigorous, and even finds himself becoming more attractive to his wife (Margarita Isabel). Of course there are negative effects, as well, as Jesus finds himself craving something new: blood.

Jesus also meets a strange man named Angel (Ron Perlman), who comes to the antique shop looking specifically for the same archangel statue. He buys it and takes it to his dying uncle (Claudio Brook), who obviously is really looking for the ornament, and understands the powers that are locked inside.

For a feature film debut, “Cronos” is extremely well made. The story (also written by del Toro), is beyond intriguing, and seeing as how “vampire” movies were just beginning to become popular in the early 1990’s, it’s fair to say that “Cronos” served as a major influence to Cronos (1993)American filmmakers over the next ten years. “Cronos” also goes beyond the normal, expected story. It doesn’t follow the typical cookie cutter mold that seems inevitable at the beginning, and combines a delicious sense of humor with a fair amount of suspense.

Teaming with del Toro on this film, is cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, who’s dark, seductive style gives this film a creepy feel that slowly takes over as the story continues to dig deeper. It is hard to believe that this was only Navarro’s second film, but it’s easy to understand why he and del Toro have worked together on five more films since. (Once winning a cinematography Academy Award.) They seem to have a shared vision of the way a story should be seen on the screen, and each of them seems to be better when they collaborate.

The acting in this film isn’t anything that’s going to win awards. Ron Perlman and Federico Luppi carry the weight of the film, but where Luppi is obviously an experienced actor who adapts easily into his role, Perlman looks like a beginner, still trying to figure out how to be his Cronos (1993)character. Of course it wouldn’t take Perlman long to become comfortable in front of the camera. The musical score goes even further down the wrong path, by having such an amateurish feeling that it becomes almost laughable. This music has no place in a film this suspenseful, and almost feels as if it were written for a different film entirely.

“Cronos” has been release as part of The Criterion Collection, and included in the bonus features is a brief video tour through parts of Guillermo del Toro’s “Bleak House”. This house is the home of del Toro’s imagination and his inspiration, and looks remarkably similar to Jesus’s antique shop, with its walls and table tops full of interesting and frightening relics. It is an insightful look into the creative mind of one of today’s most interesting directors.

Join Lasso the Movies on a journey through director Guillermo del Toro’s career, all the way through his latest film, “Pacific Rim” (2013) due in theaters Friday, July 12th, 2013.

“Mimic” (1997)

“The Devil’s Backbone” (2001)

“Blade II” (2002)

“Hellboy” (2004)

“Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006)

“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (2008)

“Pacific Rim” (2013)

Sorry Wrong Number (1948)- Anatole Litvak



“Sorry, Wrong Number” (1948) is unlike the other films that Barbara Stanwyck made in her long and glorious career. Her character, Leona Stevenson, is not a strong, independent woman, but rather one that is weak and insecure. Of course, this isn’t the Barbara that we all know andSorry, Wrong Number (1948) love, and perhaps that is what makes this performance so extraordinary.

In the film, Leona is an invalid wife who finds herself alone one evening, waiting for her husband, Henry (Burt Lancaster), to return from work. She is franticly trying to reach him by phone, and while having trouble connecting to his office, she inadvertently hears two men discussing the murder of an unknown woman. As the minutes go by, Leona soon realizes that she could be the unfortunate victim that she heard being discussed, and unless she can figure out what has happened to her husband by 11:15 P.M., it might be too late.

“Sorry, Wrong Number” is based on the hugely successful radio play by Lucile Fletcher, and fortunately for the film, she also agreed to write the screenplay. By doing this, she was able to keep the story the way she had originally envisioned it in her mind. The film itself feels like a radio play, in that much of the dialogue is heard either over the phone or as a Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)voice over. “Sorry, Wrong Number” has found itself at the top of a small list of great radio to film adaptations.

Director Anatole Litvak is not one of the greatest directors of his day, and most people don’t even recognize his work, but there is something magical about this film that makes it stand out in his career. “Sorry, Wrong Number” is a crime, or film noir, but in addition to that, it also is an extremely enlightening character piece. Throughout the rest of Litvak’s career he stayed away from the crime films and continued to explore filmmaking with a focus on character study, in acclaimed films like “The Snake Pit” (1948), “Decision Before Dawn” (1951) and “Anastasia” (1956). Perhaps “Sorry, Wrong Number” worked out soSorry, Wrong Number (1948) well because of Litvak’s collaboration with cinematographer Sol Polito. The film is shot in extreme darkness, with a constant barrage of shadows hovering over all of the characters that seem even darker. Polito’s work, although somewhat easy to overlook, keeps “Sorry, Wrong Number” feeling suspenseful at every moment.

We could talk all day about the great story or the masterful way that “Sorry, Wrong Number” was filmed, but the truth is that the reason this film works- the reason it has remained one of the most beloved (and most terrifying) thrillers of all time, is that Barbara Stanwyck gives an absolutely scintillating performance. There is no denying that I am an enormous fan of both Stanwyck and her work, and although “Sorry, Wrong Number” isn’t my favorite of her performances, it clearly is out of her normal comfort zone and stands as one of the top two or three performances in her career. Her uneasiness slowly builds into fear and then to trepidation, until finally reaching a level of terror as the film climaxes. Yes, this is one of those movies that has you Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)yelling at the screen, “Get up, run, what’s the matter with you?!”, but that’s only because with everything that is ridiculous about the character of Leona Stevenson, we love Stanwyck too much not to try and help her.

The rest of the cast falls into the category of competent, not because they do a bad job, but because “Sorry, Wrong Number” is a one woman show, and doesn’t have time to allow any supporting characters to interfere. The multi-talented Burt Lancaster seems lackluster in a role that doesn’t give him space to get emotional or intense. Even with his significant screen time, the role seems ill suited for an actor as amazing as Lancaster, making the Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)performance mostly forgettable.

The one thing that always keeps this from being a truly perfect film for me, is the fact that so much time was spent away from Leona, alone in her room. Imagine if the entire film was just her sitting there, contemplating what was happening around her. She could have countless phone conversations where all the same dialogue is exchanged, but instead of seeing the other characters or events, we could just stay with her, alone in the room. The film was done in “real time”, and it would have added to the already great drama to watch the clock tick away as we sat there in the room, as well. This would have given the film a more personal feel for the viewers, and would have given Barbara Stanwyck even more time to show off her talents. Perhaps it could have even elevated her performance from Academy Award nominee, to Academy Award winner.

New Releases to Blu-ray and DVD for April 23rd, 2013

Here I have been complaining the last few weeks about not having enough choices, and then this week there are so many new releases I don’t think I can even cover them all! The downside is that although there are numerous titles being released, many of them are uninspiring films, and the week still feels like a let down. Still, it’s nice to have choices once again.

  • “Gangster Squad” (2013): This crime action/drama film from director Ruben Fleischer was something that looked as if it was going toGangster Squad (2013) be a very entertaining movie to behold, but then something strange happened: nobody seemed to like the film. Set in the early 1950’s in Los Angeles, the plot centers on a group of men within the L.A.P.D. who are brought together to stop gangster Mickey Cohen by any means necessary. Overall, the film was considered to be an extremely violent story that was very under developed. There were, however, many who praised the film for its acting, and with a cast this great, it’s easy to see why. “Gangster Squad” stars Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Pena, and Sean Penn as Mickey Cohen.
  • “The Impossible” (2012): Based on a true story, this emotionally gripping drama isThe Impossible (2012) about one family’s will to survive during the horrific tsunami that stuck Thailand in 2004. The strength of the film rides on the acting, which couldn’t be any better. Naomi Watts was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance, but the rest of the cast is quite deserving of attention as well. Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast round out the cast, and director Juan Antonio Bayona somehow was able to evoke some incredible performances out of each and every member of his cast. Although this might not be a film that you would necessarily want to see, it is something that we all should see.
  • “Richard III” (1955): Two weeks ago I mistakingly said that this film was comingRichard III (1955) out, and I humbly apologize for my mistake. I don’t exactly know how that happened. However, I have verified that it is supposed to come out this week, thank goodness. Often considered the greatest screen adaptation of any William Shakespeare play (not by me, but by many others), “Richard III” was directed and produced by the film’s star, Laurence Olivier. (I suppose we could say that he wrote the screenplay as well, but he must have been too busy doing everything else to remember to take any credit here.) The plot deals with Richard’s attempt to steal the throne from his brother, King Edward. The cast is one of the finest ever assembled, with Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson in some of the major roles. Surprisingly, there were also several other talented actors and actresses in this film who weren’t bestowed with a “Sir” title in front of their name. We will try not to look down on them for their obvious mediocrity. These inferior actors are Paul Hudson, Mary Kerridge, Clive Morton and Dan Cunningham. This is another film in The Criterion Collection, although it was inducted into their collection several years ago and is now earning a blu-ray upgrade, as well as a whole slough of new bonus features.
  • “Promised Land” (2012): Written by and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski, this drama film is about two corporate workers whoPromised Land (2012) come to a small farming community and attempt to buy drilling rights from the land owners. The general consensus on this one is that it isn’t a bad movie, but it certainly doesn’t reach its full potential. The film also stars Frances McDormand, and was directed by Gus Van Sant.
  • “Pierre Etaix” (1962-1971): Most of the movie watching world knows very little about renowned French comedian Pierre Etaix because for years all of his filmsPierre Etaix have been unavailable due to legal issues. Thankful that is over now, and The Criterion Collection has put together this gem of a collection for us to enjoy. This set includes ALL, that’s right ALL, of Etaix’s full length and short films. These titles include “Suitor”, “Yoyo”, “As Long as You’ve Got Your Health”, “Le Grand amour” and “Land of Milk and Honey”, plus all three of his short films. His unique style of comedy is something truly marvelous to behold, and this collection promises to be something that film lovers shouldn’t miss.
  • “Jurassic Park 3D” (1993): Well I said it wouldn’t take to long for “Jurassic Park 3D” to find it’s way into our homes, but I had no ideaJurassic Park (1993) they would be this fast! After a successful release into theaters earlier this month, the 3D issue of this Steven Speilberg classic is now available to attack your home. Now the question remains: How long do you have to wait for “The Lost World”?
  • “Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes” (1984): From director Hugh Hudson, this epic telling of the Tarzan story is the most critically acclaimed version,"Greystroke" (1984) although audiences have never seemed to enjoy it as much as the critics have. The film stars Christopher Lambert, Andie MacDowell, Ian Holm and Sir Ralph Richardson, in a performance that earned him an Academy Award nomination. It is often considered the best adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s classic novel.
  • “The Great Gatsby” (1974): Nicely timed for the upcoming remake by director Baz Lahrmann, this adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’sThe Great Gatsby (1974) classic novel has often been considered on of the best film versions since it’s release nearly 40 years ago. Starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern and Sam Waterson, and featuring a screenplay written by Francis Ford Coppola, “The Great Gatsby” is a drama that’s not to be missed, even if the film lacks the spark that Lahrmann’s upcoming version is certain to include.
  • “A Haunted House” (2013): Directed by Michael Tiddes, this spoof comedy tackles the popular “Paranormal Activity” films that have become popular these last few years. I don’t need (or want) to say anything about this release. It’s just a waste of time, money resources, and in many ways, it’s an embarrassment to the art of filmmaking. I vow to never watch this movie.
  • “Central Park Five” (2012): This critically acclaimed documentary is about the Central Park jogger case from 1989. Considered one of the best documentaries of 2012, this film was directed by the great Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon.

There are also some films being released this week that although they may not be films you have heard of regularly, it is a glorious event to haveMagic Town (1947)  them finally find their way to blu-ray and DVD. Many of these older titles have never been available before, and I would love to catch up with several of them, such as: “Magic Town” (1947) starring Jimmy Stewart and Jane Wyman, “The Red Pony” (1949) starring Myrna Loy and Robert Mitchum, “City That Never Sleeps” (1953), “Champion” (1949) starring Kirk Douglas and  “Copacabana” (1947) starring Groucho Marx.

In addition to these films, there are also a few more lesser known John Wayne films being released for those out there that hope to one day see every film John Wayne even made. These titles are “The Fighting Seabees” (1944), “Wake of the Red Witch” (1948), “Santa Fe Stampede” (1938) and “War of the Wildcats” (1943).

So there they are. Are you excited about any of these titles, or is this just another disappointing week?

Torrid Zone (1940)- William Keighley



It’s hard to beat that winning combination of James Cagney and Pat O’Brien. Their real life friendship helped their on screen chemistry, and with “Torrid Zone” (1940) being their eighth film together, their comic ease and constantly scintillating exchanges make this film one ofTorrid Zone (1940) complete enjoyment. Of course the screenplay by Richard Macauley and Jerry Wald showcases fast, witty dialogue, not just between these two, but by everyone in the film. Ann Sheridian adds her spunk that, of course, mixes perfectly with Cagney and O’Brien. In fact the script as a whole feels like one long running inside joke for everyone involved with the production, but it also manages to stay fresh and entertaining for those of us in the audience.

The story revolves around a Central American banana plantation that is being run by the hard, manipulative Steve Case (O’Brien). His banana shipments are experiencing problems because of a revolutionary named Rosario (George Tobias), who constantly is rallying the locals against the American businessman. Case is also struggling with his Torrid Zone (1940)new forman, Anderson (Jerome Cowan), who seems overmatched by the revolutionaries, as well as his own insidious wife, Gloria (Helen Vinson).

In order to put a halt to the dwindling production, Case attempts to rehire (in a conniving manner) his previous foreman, Nick (James Cagney), as he just happens to be passing through on his way to a new job in Chicago. (Aren’t movies convenient?) Due to the excessive amount of money he is offered, Nick agrees to return to the plantation, but he didn’t count of an American drifter (and card cheat) named Lee (Ann Sheridan). The two have an instantaneous connection, but their tumultuous relationship has as many downs as ups, and with Nick’s attention evenly divided between the revolutionaries, the bananasTorrid Zone (1940) and both Lee and Gloria, it’s no wonder Lee and Nick can’t seem to find a way to get together.

What’s great about “Torrid Zone”, aside from the excellent screenplay, is that it seamlessly blends action, comedy and romance throughout, without any of these aspects feeling underdeveloped. It’s not hard to enjoy a movie that moves quickly and keeps things light, and that is exactly what director William Keighley has done with this film. Cagney, Sheridan and O’Brien have the reins of the film in hand, and they deliver an unending amount of humor and smiles. The supporting cast of excellent character actors only add to the enjoyment of the production. Jerome Cowan, George Tobias and the always funny Andy Devine don’t waste a second of their screen time, and each adds to the overall allure Torrid Zone (1940)of this highly entertaining film.

“Torrid Zone” isn’t the type of film to win awards or make it’s way to any list of films considered to be “one of the greatest”, but that doesn’t mean it should be overlooked. It is a wildly entertaining ride of a film, that despite any shortcomings, fully satisfies in the amusing department. Plus, you can’t beat James Cagney with his thin little mustache!

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)- Derek Cianfrance



Boldness should be acknowledged, and in “The Place Beyond the Pines” (2013) that is exactly what you will get; bold and inventive filmmaking. It is a daring, gritty, realistic glance into the relationships between fathers and sons, and with a high level of craftsmanship, it is aThe Place Beyond the Pines (2013) stand alone film hiding among a conglomerate of summer nonsense. Set in Schenectady, New York, director Derek Cianfrance’s epic drama is about a carnival motorcycle stuntman named Luke (Ryan Gosling), who had a brief relationship with Romina (Eva Mendes) a couple years ago that resulted in a son. Determined to provide for his child, Luke quits the carnival life and tries to get a new start for himself. He works with a mechanic (Ben Mendelsohn), but when there isn’t enough money to procure a living, Luke looks for something better. He turns to bank robbery, using his motorcycle skills for his getaway, The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)and although the money turns things around for him, Luke’s volatile temper gets him in more trouble than ever before.

As the police begin to close in on Luke, Officer Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper) happens to be the man in the right place at the right time. His accidental involvement in the case propels him to the spotlight, changing the course of his career, and the dynamic of his relationship with his wife (Rose Byrne) and his infant son, forever.

It hard to summarize this film without delving too deeply into the outcome of events. “The Place Beyond the Pines” covers more than fifteenThe Place Beyond the Pines (2013) years in the lives of the central characters, giving insight into not just what the consequences are for their decisions, but how the same decisions effect and guide families for generations. Cianfrance’s direction and storytelling technique on “The Place Beyond the Pines” is unquestionably perfect because he didn’t feel the need to adhere to the typical scenes of action every twenty minutes in order to keep the audience’s attention. It’s not an action-packed summer blockbuster; this is a dramatic character study. Throw your preconceived notions out the window, and prepare to see an insightful film that casts convention aside and evokes The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)realism at its very best. In that respect, it is similar to what Cianfrance did on his last film “Blue Valentine” (2010), only that one was about love, and this one is about family.

One of the unusual aspects of this film is the fact that it doesn’t have a star. It looks at all the characters as “supporting” to each other, and the film wouldn’t work well if there was one character as the focal point. Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper are responsible for setting the tone of the film, but the smaller roles from actors like Eva Mendes, Mahershala Ali, Ray Liotta, Emory Cohen, Dane DeHaan and Bruce Greenwood deserve a serious amount of recognition of their own because it’s these roles that take “The Place Beyond the Pines” to the next level. Don’t get me wrong about Gosling and Cooper, because it is theThe Place Beyond the Pines (2013) clearly intense performances by both of these men that keeps us holding tightly to the story and riding it through to the end. Gosling has long been considered and admired for his dramatic capabilities, and this film certainly won’t hurt that legacy. His emotions seem to come from somewhere more deep within himself, and although it isn’t a huge part, it is the best work I have seen him do to date. Cooper is still on the upswing in the dramatic world, but with his Academy Award nominated performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012), and now this remarkably personal and heartfelt role as a follow-up, it’s obvious that he is in the spotlight to stay.

The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)Much like the acting, the production should be looked at as a whole, as well. I could go on for quite a while about the direction, but in addition to Cianfrance’s work, there are also a few other aspects that elevate the overall splendor of this film. Sean Bobbitt’s cinematography is a marvel unto itself, and the editing by Jim Helton and Ron Patane was absolutely perfect. The musical score by Mike Patton is a wonderfully blended mixture of emotions, and has one of those haunting melodies that will remain unforgettable.

I understand why some movie goers would be turned away from a film that is this serious and insightful. A late spring release, competing with The Place Beyond the Pines (2013)early summer blockbuster films, doesn’t seem quite right, but that shouldn’t take away from what can be gained by giving a film with this much soul a chance. “The Place Beyond the Pines” is a cinematic marvel that should find itself among the best films of the year; at least, thus far.

Oblivion (2013)- Joseph Kosinski



“Oblivion” (2013) is set on Earth in the year 2077. Jack (Tom Cruise) and Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are the mop-up crew for the human race that is now living on one of Saturn’s moons, after an alien invasion left the war torn planet in an uninhabitable state. Their primaryOblivion (2013) function is droid maintenance, as the remaining alien scavengers (Scavs) are still in hiding on the Earth, and attack the droids in an attempt to destroys the machines that are sucking the Earth’s water supply into space. Jack and Victoria have no interaction with other humans, except for their commanding officer, Sally (Melissa Leo), whom they talk to through a video feed. With their mission on Earth coming to a close, Victoria is excited at the prospect of joining the other humans in space, but Jack questions why the human race should be forced to leave their planet after having won the war. Simultaneously, he is having trouble with his own past memories that keep creeping into his mind, despite the Oblivion (2013)fact that he was given a full memory wipe before his mission began.

While on a perimeter check of the border to the “radiation zone”, Jack witnesses the crashing of a spaceship and he travels to the crash site to investigate. He finds several pods with humans inside, including one that holds a woman, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), who happens to be the same woman that has appeared in Jack’s memories. The droids show up and begin to annihilate the humans while they’re still sleeping in their pods, but Jack manages to save Julia. Confused about the actions of the droid, and about his own memories, Jack goes against orders from Sally and the wishes of Victoria, in order to uncover the truth about his own past, as well as Oblivion (2013)the war that left Earth in such an abysmal state.

There is nothing really wrong with the story for “Oblivion”. It seems to have borrowed a little something from every major science fiction film, and combines it all together in order to try and create something fresh. Unfortunately, it doesn’t feel new, and as a result, becomes fairly predictable and very uninspiring. One could say that it was writer/producer/director Joseph Kosinski’s goal to have his film serve as a homage to all the science fiction films from our past, but without anything new to add to the already tired Oblivion (2013)concepts, “Oblivion” becomes a lackluster effort.

The payoff in this film is in the action scenes, as well as the nicely achieved visual effects. Jack’s ship alone deserves special recognition as its design and abilities are probably the most original part of the production. The downside to the visuals effects of “Oblivion” is that there is so many drama filled scenes, there just isn’t enough time to focus on the action. It’s seems that the goal was to be more than just an average action film, but that was a mistake. At least if “Oblivion” was two hours of mind-numbing action, the targeted Oblivion (2013)audience would feel fulfilled.

The cast does a nice job, as the downfall come not from the acting, but in the roles themselves. Jack is the only character that is given enough depth to gain our interests, as each of the supporting characters has extremely limited screen time. (Including Morgan Freeman, who is in the film’s trailer almost as much as the movie.) Tom Cruise didn’t have to stretch outside his comfort zone for this film, but that’s a good thing. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing him play roles like this one, and although his performance is reminiscent of a few of his previous science fiction endeavors, he still is able to pull it off Oblivion (2013)and be entertaining.

In a summer filled with similar seeming action films, “Oblivion” lacks the heart that audiences are seeking. The film holds your attention while you’re watching, but is easily forgettable, and just reminds viewers about the other science fiction films that came before; and how much better they were.


Dr. No (1962)- Terence Young



Bond, James Bond. That’s right, it’s time to finally get around to writing down my thoughts and feelings on one of the most historic film franchises in history. I will attempt to go through each of these films, one by one, and separate the good from the bad, and also figure outDr. No (1962) which ones are the very best. I also thought it might by fun to TRY an keep track of a few different statistics along the way, like how many times he says “Bond, James Bond”, or how many people he kills, or even the monumental task of counting his numerous “Bond girls”.

So, without further ado, let’s begin. Bond #1: “Dr. No” (1962)

At the beginning of the film, British Intelligence Agent John Strangways (Timothy Moxon) is stationed in Jamaica, where he and his assistant are murdered. The British Dr. No (1962)Government suspects that it may have something to do with a case that Strangways was working on while teamed with the CIA, involving the radio jamming of American rocket launches. The head of the British Secret Service, “M” (Bernard Lee), summons one of his agents, James Bond (Sean Connery), also known as 007, to head down to Jamaica and continue the investigation.

Upon his arrival, Bond instantly becomes the next target for the villainous Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) and his clan of henchmen. Bond teams up with CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jack Lord) and a local fisherman named Quarrel (John Kitzmiller), and discovers the local island where Dr. No is living in hiding. Bond travels to the mysterious island, and it is there that he meets a young woman named Honey Rider (Urula Andress) who collects Dr. No (1962)shells on the shore, and together they uncover Dr. No’s plans to take over the world.

“Dr. No”, when looked at as a stand alone film, is actually quite enjoyable. Obviously, nobody understood how enormous the series of films would become, but they went at the first film with the sole purpose of making an “entertaining” movie. Director Terence Young is not what I would consider to be a brilliant director, and in many ways his films have a very mediocre directorial quality to them. His most popular films will always remain the three of the first four Bond movies and his suspense thriller “Wait Until Dark” (1967), starring Audrey Hepburn. You can see his limits as a director in the way the film doesn’t have any Dr. No (1962)real continuity. Each scene seems out of place with the others, and many scenes are completely lackluster.

The main reason that “Dr. No” works so well is that James Bond is an unbelievably well written character. Everything about him is likable, from the way he dresses to the glib way he speaks, even when his life is in peril. Of course having Sean Connery play the part worked out rather well, too. He is desired by the women who watch the film, and  the men just want to be him. When someone watches “Dr. No” they can’t help but smile at the acting performance that Connery delivers. I don’t think he gets more fun to watch than thisDr. No (1962).

Whether by accident or on purpose, the inclusion of several key elements into the personality of James Bond in “Dr. No” helped establish the way he would act and the things he would do in future Bond films. We quickly learn about his love for gambling (in this case, chemin de fer), a vodka martini, fast cars, loose women and his eternal hatred for SPECTRE (SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, Extortion). Of course “Dr. No” also included a couple of things that we wouldn’t see much of in future Bond films, like James singing (underneath the mango tree…) and him shooting an unarmed man.

Here are the random statistics that I took notice of in “Dr. No”:

  • Number of people killed by James Bond: 4 (plus one villain who kills himself to avoid talking, and a car with an unknown Dr. No (1962)number of assailants inside that drives off of a cliff).
  • Number of times that we hear “Bond, James Bond”: 1- but don’t worry we’ll hear it plenty from this point on.
  • Number of women that succumb to Bond: 3- Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson), Miss Taro (Zena Marshall) and Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress).

For more James Bond fun, check out:

“From Russia with Love” (1963)

“Goldfinger” (1964)

“Thunderball” (1965)

“You Only Live Twice” (1967)

“On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969)

“Diamonds Are Forever” (1971)

“Live and Let Die” (1973)

“The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974)

“The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977)

“Moonraker” (1979)

“For Your Eyes Only” (1981)

“Octopussy” (1983)

“Never Say Never Again” (1983)