Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Steamboat Bill, Jr." the last of an era

BASIC INFO:
TITLE: "Steamboat Bill, Jr."
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1928
DIRECTOR: Chas. F. Reisner
STARS: Buster Keaton, Ernest Torrence, Marion Byron
EDITOR: Sherman Kell
AWARDS: N/A
BOX OFFICE: N/A
RUN TIME: 70 min.
RATING: N/A
VIEWING FORMAT: 35 mm film print

SUMMARY:
When a young, and slightly effeminate, William Canfield Jr. (Keaton), is reunited with his father, steamboat captain William Canfield Sr. (Torrence), he does his best to live up to his father's expectations. Add to that a rival steamboat captain, and a cyclone, and Jr. has a lot to tackle.

WHY THIS IS THE FILM OF THE WEEK:
This film is, arguably, not the best work that Keaton ever did, but what makes it special is that it was the last piece under his independent label. Following this, he signed with MGM, and disappeared into relative obscurity for the rest of his life. This piece, which received no credit for co-directing, has risen in recent years as a forgotten classic. While it received some mixed reviews upon initial release, it now holds a 100% on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes, and has become relatively popular fare.

What also helps this film to stand out is Keaton's stunt work. His trademark stunts and slapstick comedy have helped his reputation to last for generations, but this film actually has one stunt that could have killed him. A now infamous gag, where the wall of a house falls onto Jr., with his placement being exactly where an open window lands, involved a full weight wall. Half of the crew walked off the set, and refused to participate in the stunt due to its danger, but Keaton did not care. His own company was being shut down, and he apparently did not care if he lived through the stunt or not.

CRITIQUE:
Perhaps other pieces by Mr. Keaton are better. Perhaps some audiences prefer Charlie Chaplin or Harold Lloyd. Keaton's onscreen persona cannot be denied, though. "The Great Stone Face" had his moment during the silent comedy era, and this goodbye was a phenomenal one.

It stays fast throughout, and the momentous slapstick comedy translates through the years. This fan thinks that this was perhaps the best unofficial goodbye Keaton could have given. While he worked for a few more years, this was the last piece that was ultimately "his." It is funny, heartfelt, a little edgy, and all-together good. Check this one out, and luckily for you, it is on youtube!

MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10


Thursday, March 22, 2012

"Cool Hand Luke" the granddaddy of prison dramas

BASIC INFO:
TITLE: "Cool Hand Luke"
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1967
DIRECTOR: Stuart Rosenberg
STARS: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper
EDITOR: Sam O'Steene
AWARDS: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Oscar, George Kennedy)
BOX OFFICE: $23,517,773 (US and rentals)
RUN TIME: 126 min.
RATING: Approved
VIEWING FORMAT: DVD

SUMMARY:
When Lucas Jackson is caught defacing parking meters, he is sentenced to two years in prison as part of a chain gang in the South. His non-conformity, and unwillingness to respect authority immediately sets him apart of the rest of the population, and Luke does all he can to make life better for his fellow inmates.

WHY THIS IS THE FILM OF THE WEEK:
Essentially, any film with Paul Newman could be considered a classic. His reputation is iconic. He has garnered nominations and wins for the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTAs, SAG, the Cannes Film Fest, and the Emmys. He is also a well known political activist, and philanthropist. Newman was well respected in all of his ventures.

This film specifically is well known because of it's message of rebellion, anti-authority, and standing up for oneself. Newman garnered an Oscar nomination for his role, which was later considered to be one of AFI's top 100 Heroes and Empire Magazines Top 100 Movie Characters. It's inspiration can be seen in many dramas since, notably "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994) which dealt with similar themes decades after this classic's release.

CRITIQUE:
This movie may not be perfect, but it is close. Newcomer Roseberg did well with camera work, by having an engaging look. The pacing of the film never really lags, even with a lack of much physical action.

Neman's performance is stand out, but so are the performances of most of the supporting cast, with a special mention for Jo Van Fleet, who's single scene as Luke's ill mother is not soon forgotten.

All in all, this is a movie to see. It is entertaining, inspirational, well made, and all-together enjoyable. Check this one out before that next straight-to-video piece on your Netflix queue.

MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10


Thursday, March 15, 2012

"The Gold Rush" Chaplin's Classic Original

BASIC INFO:
TITLE: "The Gold Rush
YEAR OF RELEASE: 1925
DIRECTOR: Charles Chaplin
STARS: Charles Chaplin, Georgia Hale
EDITOR: Charles Chaplin
AWARDS: Best Music Scoring, of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Oscar), Best Sound, Recording (Oscar)
BOX OFFICE: N/A
RUN TIME: 95 min.
RATING: N/A
VIEWING FORMAT: 35 mm film print

SUMMARY:
The story of a lone prospector (Chaplin in his famed "Little Tramp" role) who tries to find wealth in both riches and romance in Alaska during the gold rush.

WHY THIS IS THE FILM OF THE WEEK:
Any film of Charlie Chaplin's could be considered a classic. His "Little Tramp" is considered to be one of the most recognized icons in history, and his comedy survives past its initial audience to continue to please audiences around the world.

This film is unique in that it was recut and rereleased in 1942, for which it earned two Oscar nominations. Many consider this to be an inferior film. Chaplin cut out complete scenes, including much of the romance story (he was having an affair with Georgia Hale at the time of filming, but no longer at the time of the rerelease). He also re-scored the film, and in essence, changed the tone and impact of the movie itself. It was believed for many years that the original cut was gone, but it has recently been laid to film once again, thanks to the hard work of collectors and film historians, and can be seen in some repertoire theatres today.

CRITIQUE:
This film was almost magical. It is hilarious (when is Chaplin not funny?). It incorporates a few of his most famous routines, including the dancing rolls, and the shoe dinner scene. It is a hard film to critique, because it seems to do everything so well. The comedy is timeless, the story is relatable, and heartfelt. It is exciting at times, and does not let down. This is a film to see!

MY IMDb RATING:  8 out of 10