“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is the movie that Wes Anderson has been hinting at and promising for 15 years. It has wit and yet doesn’t short-circuit emotion, style that’s more than a gesture or attitude, and good scenes that don’t only stand alone but that build and become part of a substantial whole. It is every bit what people think of when they think of a Wes Anderson movie, only this time the gap between the talent and the achievement is gone.
It’s set primarily in the early 1930s, in a fictional central European city, with shades of Budapest, Prague and Vienna – but not the real Budapest, Prague and Vienna, but rather those cities as imagined and dreamed across a distance of time and space. The hotel of the title is like a hotel in a Greta Garbo movie, except rendered in candy colors, harking back to a time when people really believed that splendor and refinement were states of the soul, not mere acts of display. Continue reading
Blonde (wigged) and beautiful New York City model Sharon Kent (who was also a favorite of Barry Mahon) stars as Ann, a lovely secretary whose life is perfect. Her best friend Babs (middle-aged and buxom Jackie Richards) works with her in a friendly office and her boyfriend Bob recently proposed to her. Her world comes crashing down around her, however, when a creepy bespectacled geek (Wishman regular Michael Alaimo) begins stalking her. Through a supernatural mishap (which is never explained, but who cares?), the stalker finds a blonde doll and a tacky ring in the garbage can and suddenly, everything he does to the doll, Ann can feel being done to her! As the loser whips, feels up, undresses and puts a cigarette out on the doll, Ann feels every bit of it, and begins to believe her mind is unraveling. Babs is too busy whoring it up with a foreign sleazeball (Buck Starr, of TOO MUCH, TOO OFTEN) and Bob is away on business. Can she escape this hell? Continue reading
“Robert Cole, a film editor, is constantly breaking up with and reconciling with long-suffering girl friend Mary Harvard, who works at a bank. He is irrationally jealous and self-centered, while Mary has been too willing to let him get away with his disruptive antics. Can they learn to live with each other? Can they learn to live without each other? The movie also provides insight into film editing as Robert and co-worker Jay work on their current project, a cheesy sci-fi movie.” Continue reading
Enchanting, always funny, sometimes hilarious, and featuring a surprisingly light comic performance from the ever adaptable Meryl Streep, this is the most likeable and endearing comedy to date for writer/director/star Albert Brooks. His satirical edge, so sharp in his three previous films — Real Life (1979), Modern Romance (1981), and Lost in America (1985) — seems at first glance to have been dulled, even if his funny bone is still in perfect working order. But Brooks is still mocking the human race; it’s just that his humor has become gentler, suggesting that his longtime bitterness has evolved into a bemused, perceptive wisdom. Those who have become addicted to the Brooks oeuvre and its underlying neurotic cynicism might be dismayed that their favorite artistic pessimist has created a film that can be labeled heartwarming. But most Brooks fans will be delighted to find intact the brand of raw, naked honesty about the writer/director’s own shortcomings they expect, treated with a tender forgiveness that’s a new development to be sure, but an entirely welcome one. Peopled with memorable supporting players (particularly Rip Torn as a gruff but amiable legal eagle), and overflowing with creative ideas about the afterlife and its machinations, Defending Your Life amounts to a must-see film from one of the funniest, most under-appreciated filmmakers of our time. — Karl Williams
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader wrote:
Charles Chaplin’s best-loved film, with the tramp down-and-out (as usual) in Alaska, where he looks for gold, falls in love with a dance-hall girl (Georgia Hale), eats his shoes for Thanksgiving dinner, and ends up a millionaire. The blend of slapstick and pathos is seamless, although the cynicism of the final scene is still surprising. Chaplin’s later films are quirkier and more personal, but this is quintessential Charlie, and unmissable. The film has been issued in several different forms with different sound tracks and cuts, including a 72-minute version butchered by Chaplin himself in the 40s. Hold out for the 1925 original, which runs 82 minutes. Continue reading
Based in part on a true story, Kiss of Death is given a veneer of reality by being filmed on location in New York, with a bare minimum of studio work. In one of his best performances, Victor Mature plays a cheap crook who is sent up the river for 20 years for robbery. District attorney Brian Donlevy, out of sympathy for Mature’s two young daughters, gives him a chance to go free—if Mature will blow the whistle on his accomplices. Stubbornly adhering to the “code” of thieves, Mature refuses to do so, until his wife kills herself and his kids are placed in an orphanage. Once paroled, Mature is prevailed upon to extract additional information from sadistic mob torpedo Richard Widmark (in his chilling screen debut). Continue reading
M stands for murder and also for mindfuck in this, one of Hitchcock’s best films. Based on a stage play by Frederick Knott (whose credits also include another great thriller, Wait Until Dark), Dial M For Murder includes one of the most intricate plots of any murder mystery as well as maximum amounts of Hitchcock’s trademark suspense.
A quietly evil Ray Milland plays a cold fish who plots to kill his wife (Grace Kelly) for her insurance money. As he explains at the beginning of the movie, he also wants to commit the “perfect murder” – i.e. one that is complicated and dangerous, yet foolproof and never suspected. John Williams is the Scotland Yard inspector who may be onto him.
It doesn’t matter that the movie starts with a lengthy exposition… or even that the identity of the villain is revealed in the first twenty minutes. Dial M will pull you to the edge of whatever you’re sitting on and keep you there. (If you don’t pay attention, you won’t be able to follow all the twists and turns of the plot.) Hitchcock’s direction was never better. In fact, the film is a good model to follow for mystery directors; Hitchcock draws exactly the right amount of attention (but not too much) to the subtle actions and details that are crucial to the murder plot.
Dial M For Murder is not always regarded as one of Hitch’s best. Critics seem to prefer the more theatrical, psychological melodramas to the brainy whodunits. But pay no attention – this film is definitely a classic. Continue reading