Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Action in the North Atlantic 1943

     The setting of this film is WWII.  The American oil tanker, the SS Northern Star is captained by Steve Jarvis and a German U-boat sinks the ship in the North Atlantic Ocean.  The First Officer is Joe Rossi and they make it to a lifeboat with the other crew members.  The U-Boat crew starts to film the men in the lifeboat and then they are rammed by the sub.  They drift at sea on a raft for 11 days.  They have a brief liberty and then they are back aboard a newly launched ship.  It’s the Liberty Ship SS Seawitch and this ship is armed with 5-inch anti-aircraft guns.  There is a Navy Armed Guard force on the ship to man the guns.  The Seawitch sails with a convoy but they are attacked by a German wolf pack.  The convoy ships are ordered to scatter and one of the U-boats follows the Seawitch.  The U-boat contacts the Luftwaffe and the next day a pair of Heinkel He 59 seaplanes attack the Seawitch with machine guns and bombs.  Several seamen are killed and Capt. Jarvis is wounded. 
     I was surprised that none of this sea action was actually on the water, it’s all done on sound stages and a back lot.  The directors were prohibited from filming at sea due to wartime restrictions by the US government.  The working title for this film was Heroes Without Uniforms.  More than a dozen merchant mariners and several hundred US sailors were at the premier in New York.  The shipbuilding magnate Henry J. Kaiser wanted this film shown to all his employees.  The Merchant Marine schools used it for training because of the technical and educational material.  Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing (Best Original Story).  I previously reviewed this film in July of 2013.  3 ½* (I liked this movie)
126 min, Action directed by Lloyd Bacon and Byron Haskin with Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Alan Hale, Julie Bishop, Ruth Gordon, Sam Levene, Dane Clark Peter Whitney, Dick Hogan.

Note:  Imdb 7.0 out of 10, 70% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, TCM Leonard Maltin 3* out of 4* user rating 4.4* out of 5*.

Special Note:  Filmed in Santa Barbara and Burbank, California.  Near the end of this film as the ship is nearing Murmansk, several Russian airplanes fly out to meet them.  One of the pilots guns his engine in short bursts.  Three short bursts followed by a long one.  Audiences of the 1940’s would know that this is the three dots and a dash of the more Code V for Victory.  It was heavily used as a slogan during WWII.    A replica of a ten thousand-ton tanker was built in sound stages six and seven.  Each stage contained ½ of the ship’s hull and deck-housing fixtures.  A Liberty Ship was constructed on the same stages for later scenes.  Their size prohibited rocking equipment and a rocking camera mounted on a crane was used.   The House Un-American Activities Committee looking for subversive activities later investigated several writers, John Howard Lawson, A.I. Besserides and Alvah Bessie and they were blacklisted.  Bessie and Lawson became known as members of the Hollywood Ten, a group of writers and directors refusing to answer questions from the Committee.  They invoked their Fifth Amendment rights under the US Constitution.  They were sent to prison for refusing to testify.  Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing (Best Original Story).

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

In This Corner of the World 2016

     This film is based on the award winning manga of the same name written and illustrated by Fumiyo Kono.  The setting of this film is Japan during WWII.  It takes place in two cities between the 1930’s and 1940’s in Hiroshima, Eba and Kure.  Suzu Urano loves drawing and she lives in a seaside town called Eba in Hiroshima City.  In 1944, Suzu is 18 years-old and she is working for her grandmother’s small family business of cultivating Nori, an edible sea weed.  Her parents tell her that an unknown young man has proposed marriage to her.  His name is Shusaku and he lives in Kure City.  This is a large naval port city 15 miles away from Hiroshima City and he is a navy civilian.  He remembers when he first met Suzu during one of Suzu’s childhood visits to the city.  Even though she doesn’t remember Shusaku, she agrees to marry him.  Suzu begins to adjust to her new life with Shusaku and his family in Kure.  Life is changing in this city for everyone because US air raids are beginning to concern the townspeople     
     The main focus of this film is between 1944 and 1945.  This is the period when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It is interesting to see the Japanese side of WWII.  There are food shortages and the government implements food rationing.  Whenever anyone talks about relocation to Hiroshima, it immediately comes to my mind that the first atomic bomb was dropped there.  On August 6, 1945 a bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.  Three days later, a bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.  The two purposes for using these bombs were for the Japanese to surrender and to save American lives.  There isn’t anything mentioned about the Pearl Harbor attack on the United States or any other military action by the Japanese against other countries in this film.  In reality, this is slanted to ensure viewers have sympathy for the Japanese people.  3 1/2* (I liked this movie)            
130 min animation directed by Sunao Katabuchi with Non, Kira Buckland, Christine Marie Cabanos, Barbara Goodson, Todd Haberkorn, Megumi Han, Yoshimasa Hosoya, Natsuki Inaba, Nanase Iwai, Minori Omi.

Note:  Imdb 7.9 out of 10, 98% critic 96% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*, Metacritic 73 out of 100 with 21 critics 8.6 out of 10 with 8 reviews, The Guardian 3* out of 5* review by Wendy Ide, Amazon 4.4* with 51 reviews.
Special Note:  This film is produced by MAPPA with character designs by Hidenori Matsubara and music by Kotringo. The title in Japanese is Kono sekai no katasumi ni.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Miss Lulu Bett 1921

     This is a sepia toned American silent film based on a 1920 play and the bestselling novel by Zona Gale.  Lulu is a very timid young woman and she lives with her married sister.  Their town is a boring Midwestern town and Lulu is an exploited household drudge.  Her brother-in-law Dwight Deacon is overbearing and Lulu never sits down at the table with the family.  She always eats her cold meal after they have finished.   The family also includes Lulu and Ina’s mother and Ina’s daughter Diana.  Ninian is Dwight’s brother and he has been traveling the world.  He stops by the house for a visit.  He invites Lulu to come to the city for dinner with him.  Of course, Ina and Dwight must tag along.  On the spur of the moment, Ninian asks Lulu to marry him!!  He has seen how she is treated and how hard she works for the family without any thanks.  Dwight is able to perform marriages as a Justice of the Peace and they marry right there at the table in the restaurant.
     Everyone in town is shocked to hear about the marriage!!  Now Ina and her mother either have to cook and clean or they have to let things go which they do.  They want Lulu back and they miss everything she has been doing for them.  There were no modern conveniences at this time period.  Everything had to be done by a hand and with LOT of work!!  3 ½* (I liked this movie) 

71 min Drama directed by William C. de Mille with Lois Wilson, Milton Sills, Theodore Roberts, Helen Ferguson, Mabel Van Buren, Mae Giraci, Clarence Burton, Ethel Wales, Taylor Graves, Charles Ogle, Peaches Jackson, Carrie Clark Ward. 
Note:  Imdb 7.2 out of 10, Amazon 4.1* out of 5* with 6 reviews, TCM user rating 3.5* out of 5*.
Special Note:  The premier of the play was on December 27, 1921.  It ran for 198 performances and won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1921.  In 2001, this film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry for cultural, historical or aesthetic significance.

The Informer 1935

     This is a black and white film and the setting is Dublin of 1920.  Gypo Nolan was a member of the rebel organization but he was let go.  Now he is starving and on the street.  He’s not the only one in this situation because many people in Dublin are very poor and hungry.  Gypo passes by a wanted poster for his former comrade Frankie.  There is a 20-pound reward for information about Frankie.  Gypo is distressed about the dire circumstances of his sweetheart Katie and he gives in to temptation.  He betrays Frankie and collects the reward.  Gypo feels horribly guilty about what he has done to get this money.  Frankie is killed because he would not give himself up.
     Gypo wishes he could turn back time and reverse the decision he made to turn in Frankie.  He ends up squandering the blood money that he received.  There is an abundance of fog to set the dreary mood.  It's the Irish rebellion against the British that is causing the hardships in Ireland.  There have been many years of struggles between Ireland and Britain.  Currently, the economy is more prosperous with more employment opportunities.  Also, the conservative Church is not holding as much of a tight grip on the people.  There are still questions abut the future of the country and the population.  3 1/2* (I liked this movie) 
91 min, Crime directed by John Ford with Victor McLaglen, Heather Angel, Preston Foster, Margot Grahame, Wallace Ford, Una O’Connor, J.M. Kerrigan, Joe Sawyer, Neil Fitzgerald, Donald Meek, D’Arcy Corrigan, Leo McCabe.

Note:  Imdb 7.5 out of 10, 91% critic 78% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, TCM Leonard Maltin 3.5* out of 4* user rating 4.4* out of 5*.
Special Note:  John Ford told Victory McLaglen more than once that he wouldn’t be needed for filming the next day.  Ford knew McLaglen would go out and get drunk and be hung over when he was called to the set.  A terrible hangover was the effect Ford wanted.  Dudley Nichols turned down acceptance of an Oscar and he was the first person to do this.  It was because of union disagreements but he took possession of his Oscar by 1949.  A presentation copy of the script was recently found on a garbage pile in Madison, WI.  It was brought on the set of Antiques Roadshow in 1979 and appraised for about $4000.  It took Dudley Nichols six days to write the script.  The 20-pound reward would be $88.50 in 1922 or $1,250 in 2016.  Awards were received for Best Director, Best Actor, Best Writing, Best Music.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

May in the Summer 2013

     After the successful release of her first book, May is thinking she has it all.  To top it off, she is preparing to marry her sensible, stable, studious fiancé.  She travels to meet with her family in Amman, Jordan.  It’s been too difficult to plan the ceremony in New York where she lives.  She has underestimated the drama and chaos of the life she was leading in Amman.  Her mother Nadine is judgmental and headstrong.  Nadine disapproves of the forthcoming marriage because Ziad is a Muslim.  She plans to boycott the wedding and refuses to attend.  May has two younger sisters, Dalia and Yasmine.  Her sisters seem to behave like children even though they are adults?  Her estranged father has remarried and it is a BIG surprise to May that he is interested in making amends?  May begins to question everything from her past and her present?
     I wonder if May would’ve been better served in this period of her life if she had planned her wedding in New York and continued what she established for herself in the United States?  Everything she has set in motion, thinking of doing and preparing for comes under intense scrutiny.  I wonder if she will regret the decisions she is making under family pressure?  I don’t believe she plans to remain in Amman?  Does she need to remold her life to adjust to this culture if she isn’t going to live there but return to New York?  Is her first priority pleasing her family or living her own life?  None of these questions are addressed or answered in this film?  3* (This movie is OK) 

99 min, Drama directed by Cherien Dabis with Alaadin Khasawneh, Cherien Dabis, Alia Shawkat, Nadine Malouf, Hiam Abbass, Tarek Shafakoj, Ali Elyan, Mary Nuqul, Sima Salti, Ritu Singh Pande, Bill Pullman.

Note:  Imdb 5.7 out of 10, Amazon 4.2* out of 5* with 9 reviews, Read The Spirit 3* out of 5*, Screen Crush 5* out of 10*.
Special Note:  Filmed in Jordan.  This is the second time I’ve seen this film and I reviewed it previously in February of 2015.   Cherien Dabis is the writer, director and lead actress in this film.  She was also the director, writer and executive producer of Amreeka 2009.  She was the supervising producer of 6 episodes of Empire from 2016 to 2017. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Undefeated 1969

     The setting of this film is just after the Civil War.  John Henry Thomas was a Union Colonel and James Langdon was a Confederate Colonel.  John Henry and James are in separate groups but both are leading both animals and people to the Mexican border.  John Henry has sold a large herd of horses to the unpopular Mexican government for $35 a head.  He had planned to sell to the US government but they were paying $25 a head.  James is leading a group of displaced southerners looking for a new life in Mexico.  There properties have been lost to carpetbaggers overrunning the South. When faced with both bandits and revolutionaries, the two men need to mend their differences and join together to stay alive.
     You can tell that Wayne is older in this film than North to Alaska of 1960.  He was 53 years-old 1960 in 62 years-old in 1969.  Fist fights, brawls and shoot outs must have been very popular between 1960 and 1969?  There are many of them in North to Alaska and also in this film?  Maybe they are a script fill in with no dialog needed?  I think this film has a weak plot and script!!  2 1/2* (This movie is so-so)     

115 min, Western directed by Andrew V. McLaglen with John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Antonio Aguilar, Roman Gabriel, Marian McCargo, Lee Meriweather, Merlin Olsen, Melissa Newman, Bruce Cabot, Jan-Michael Vincent, Ben Johnson, Edward Faulkner.

Note:  Imdb 6.7 out of 10, 17% critic 65% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 2*, Amazon 4.7* out of 5* with 328 reviews, TCM user rating 5* out of 5*.
Special Note:  Filmed in Baton, Rouge, Louisiana; Durango;, Sierra de Organos, Sombrerete, Zacatecas, Sierra de los Ajos, Bavispe, La Presca de La Angostura, San Pedro de la Cueva, Huasabas, Nacori Chico,  Bavispe River and Bacadehuachi, Sonora, Mexico.  John Wayne needed to lose most of the weight he put on to play Rooster Cogburn in True Grit of 1969.  Wayne fell from his horse, fractured three ribs and was unable to work for almost two weeks.  Later, he tore a ligament in his shoulder and couldn’t use one arm at all.  During that time, he could only be filmed from a certain angle for the rest of the picture.  Wayne liked working with tall actors.  He was hoping James Arness at 6 feet 7 inches would be cast in the role played by Rock Hudson.  Wayne also liked to play bridge and Hudson was a good player plus the same height.  Wayne wore lipstick in his movies that he applied himself?  He told Hudson that his lips would not show on film without lipstick?  This film implies that most of the people in Mexico supported the fight against Maximilian.  The Catholic Church thought Benito Juarez to be a troublemaker and a rabble-rouser.  The Church strongly supported Emperor Maximilian’s rule.  There is another film with the same title from 2011.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

North to Alaska 1960

     The setting of this film is Nome Alaska of 1900 and it’s based on a play titled Birthday Gift by Ladislas Fodor.  Sam McCord and George Pratt are partners in a gold mine in Nome.  They strike it rich and George sends Sam to Seattle Washington to bring back his fiancée Jenny Lamont and also obtain heavy drilling equipment.  George has been committed to and waiting to reunite with his fiancée.  When Sam gets to Seattle he learns she is maid and already married to a butler.  Instead, he returns with Angel.  She falls in love with Sam and she misunderstood what he said about George.  Sam leaves her off at a hotel in Alaska but she runs into con man Frankie Cannon.  They know each other from Seattle and Angel wants nothing to do with Frankie.  She throws a suitcase out the window and screams for help.  Sam retrieves her and they head for the mine.  Sam has heard that there must be a guard on the mine at all times because of claim jumpers.  One of these men is the con man Frankie.  When Sam and Angel get to the mine, George becomes enraged and rejects Angel.  George’s brother Billy is definitely interested in Angel but he’s 17?
     I would’ve hated living in Nome during this time period because of the constantly muddy streets in the town!!  There is a LOT of drinking plus gambling in the saloon and a LOT of brawls.  Conman and saloon owner Frankie is always operating and on the lookout for the next new scam.  Sam is pig-headed and he can’t get the idea in his head that Angel is actually in LOVE with him!!  I was surprised that none of the scenes are filmed in Nome or Alaska?  3 ½* (I liked this movie, especially the song North to Alaska)    

122 min, Romance directed by Henry Hathaway with John Wayne, Stewart Granger, Ernie Kovacs, Fabian, Capucine, Mickey Shaughnessy, Karl Swenson, Joe Sawyer, Kathleen Freeman, John Qualen, Stanley Adams.

Note:  Imdb 7.0 out of 10, 43% critic 77% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, TCM Leonard Maltin 3* out of 4* user rating average 3* out of 5*, Amazon 4.7* out of 5* with 403 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Hot Creek, Inyo National Forest; Big Bear Lake, Big Bear Valley, San Bernardino National Forest; Point Mugu and Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California.  Originally, this film was to re-team John Wayne and Dean Martin after their huge success with Rio Bravo of 1959.  Howard Hawks was set to direct again.  Richard Fleischer was also hired to direct but he learned there wasn’t a script?  He also talked to Capucine and he thought she was wrong for the role of Angel.  Capucine said that Wayne wore lifts in his shoes?  You can see Wayne without his wig when he falls backwards from being punched?  Granger and Fabian are playing brothers but Granger is 30 years older than the 17-year-old Fabian.  The day after Johnny Horton recording of the theme song was released, he was killed in a car crash.  It reached #1 in the country chart and #4 on the Hot 100 plus 23 in the UK.