Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Flick Pick: Hart's War

Hart's War
(MGM, 2002)

Criminally underrated and cracking good suspense/whodunit, set in a WWII POW camp, and starring Bruce Willis in another in a series of his latter career renaissance roles.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Flick Pick: The Grey

The Grey

Liam Neeson and 8 stranded castaways vs. two relentless killers: A pack of grey wolves, and the arctic. Evidently, the wolves didn't see Taken. Bad luck for them.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Flick Pick: Never Cry Wolf

Never Cry Wolf
(Disney, 1983)

Charles Martin Smith and a family of wolves star in this biopic of Farley Mowat's life in the Arctic. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Flick Pick: Captain Blood

Captain Blood
(Warner Bros., 1935)

Originally premiering 78 years ago today, this is the original bucklesquashing million dollar movie epic of all time.
Remember this:
If Errol Flynn is the hero;
If Olivia de Havilland is the leading lady;
If Basil Rathbone is the villain;
If Michael Curtiz directed it;
And if Erich Korngold wrote the score;
you should be sitting in that theatre when the curtain parts, and the lights dim.
In this case, Flynn, at age 26, was making his debut film in America, and Olivia de Havilland was a second-choice pick at all of 19 years when given this role. Lightning was bottled, and the rest is movie history.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Flick Pick: Monty Python's Life Of Brian

Monty Python's Life Of Brian
(Handmade Films, 1979)

Among the top comedies of all time, and than which no better biblical epic comedy has ever been made, therefore totally apropos for the season. God help us, every one.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Flick Pick: Die Hard

Die Hard
(20th Cent. Fox, 1988)

In case the usual Christmas fare has induced cinematic diabetes, a little spice to go with the sugar: Bruce Willis in the movie that made him an action hero superstar, after the role was turned down by Frank Sinatra, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Richard Gere, Clint Eastwood, and Burt Reynolds. Still the measure by which dozens of other action films are measured, and justifiably so because it still delivers. Yippee ki yay.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Flick Pick: A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol
(CBS, 1984)

The best, most faithful, and truly definitive version of Dickens' most famous ghost story, with George C. Scott in a phenomenal star turn as the villain-cum-hero of the tale. On this day of days, nothing less than the best will suffice.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Flick Pick: Miracle On 34th Street

Miracle On 34th Street
(20th Cent. Fox, 1947)

Maureen O'Hara, a pint-sized Natalie Wood, and Edmund Gwenn as perhaps the best on-screen Santa ever.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Flick Pick: Home Alone

Home Alone
(20th Cent. Fox, 1990)

John Hughes via Chris Columbus created in this movie the highest-grossing comedy of all time, and sadly, the biggest comedy franchise ever. It made its entire production budget back on opening weekend. No word on where Warner Bros. sprinkled the ashes of the accounting genius who shuffled this pic off to Fox when the budget "soared" from $14M to $17M; perhaps they kept him on because they didn't need a spare half a billion dollars that year. The casting, from Macaulay Culkin to Roberts Blossom, and everyone in between, was inspired. A masterful and enjoyable Christmas romp, that still manages to find its way back...home.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

I Feel Your Pain

Pop over to American Mercenary's blog for this thought. (Which leads, serendipitously to Tam's blog, and ultimately to the original germinal seed of this beanstalk.)

When dealing with the tsunamis of Internet Stupid, besides the helpful Demotivation poster that reminds us Internet arguments are like competing in the Special Olympics, two quotes by Albert Einstein definitely apply:

"If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”

"Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.”

The biggest difficulty in communicating with people with both fingers in their ears repeating "Lalalalalala I can't hear you" is getting a laser to carve through their publicly-funded armor that blocks them from considering things rationally and factually, rather than an exercise in whose feelings are hurt, because Every Snowflake Is Special.

It's seldom worth the effort, unless you not only sway their opinion, but also somehow spark a small glowing appreciation of thinking which most of their developmental years were dedicated to ruthlessly stomping out.

We are rapidly becoming a nation not only of economic haves and have-nots, but of intellectual ones as well.

Societally, it's going to end in tears, and probably, almost inevitably, bloodshed.

Picture "The Walking Dead" as less documentary than metaphor.

The major differences now being that it's not actually legal to jam a crowbar into their faces, and that occasionally, once in a very great while, you can turn one back into an actual thinking breathing human being.

I'm a sentimental mushball for saying this, but I'm thinking that the ultimate cultural value of getting the occasional Dennis Miller, David Mamet, Bill Whittle, or Ronald Reagan back from the drooling, shambling horde of braindead bozos means it's still worth the effort to try and salvage a few more from the Sarlac Pit of Liberal Stupidity, and therefore not time to start welding concertina and metal spikes to the outside of your 4WD.


Flick Pick: Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn
(Paramount, 1942)

Bing Crosby sings, Fred Astaire sings and dances, and Irving Berlin wrote the story and the score, all of them performing brilliantly, including launching "White Christmas", the biggest selling single of all time, and winner of the Academy Award for Best Song of 1942. Production took place from November 1941-January 1942, and the 4th of July segment was re-written after the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred in the middle of filming.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Flick Pick: It's A Wonderful Life

It's A Wonderful Life
(RKO, 1946)

The finest example of what Hollywood snob-sophisticates dubbed "Capra-corn" ever made, and largely given a lukewarm reception at the time, it was drubbed critically and financially by The Best Years Of Our Lives, which won 9 Oscars. Now, It's A Wonderful Life is an annual staple and hailed as a masterpiece film and likely the most inspirational movie ever made, while few people alive outside of film school have even seen The Best Years Of Our Lives. Things even out.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Flick Pick: Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins
(Disney, 1964)

Everything in this story has happened before, and will happen again, but it was when Mary Poppins floated in on an east wind in 1964 that will be remembered the longest. Quite possibly the finest movie Walt Disney ever made, garnering universal acclaim and a record 13 Oscar nominations, while winning 5, including Best Actress for Julie Andrews in her first film role, who was practically perfect in every way. Movie magic this wonderful is far too rare, and like Dick Van Dyke's Bert wishes about Mary, we only wish it wouldn't stay away so long between visits.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Flick Pick: A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story
(MGM, 1983)

I first saw this movie on a double date the weekend it opened in 1983,and I have the scars from shooting soda through my nostrils to prove it. The hands-down most screamingly funny Christmas movie ever made, propelled by a masterpiece of a story narrated by the author himself, and delivered by a truly inspired selection of actors. A sleeper at the time, only repeated TV and cable exposure has gotten it a deserved ranking as one of the biggest Christmas movie favorites of all time.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thought For The Day: Timing Is Everything

If you start shooting the bad guys early enough to make a difference, you'll be labeled a radical crazy person.

If you wait until it's acceptable, you'll be 80 pounds underweight, unarmed, and being loaded into a boxcar.

(H/t to blog.ushanka.us)

Flick Pick: How The Grinch Stole Christmas

How The Grinch Stole Christmas
(MGM/Cat In The Hat, 1966)

Unlike the unfortunately awful live-action version (which we wouldn't touch with a 39-and-a-half foot pole), this is the genuine article, and a certified classic flick. Coming shortly on the heels of WB firing genius cartoon director and godfather of modern animation, Chuck Jones, then dumping (and later closing) its Animation Department, this release and its long-time status helpfully puts that brilliant move in its proper light. Boris Karloff's narration, and Thurl Ravencroft's rendition of "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" earned this short a Grammy. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Flick Pick: Fitzwilly

(United Artists, 1967)

Delightful and mostly forgotten Christmas caper flick featuring Dick Van Dyke, with Barbara Feldon in her first film role. Languishing in some vault, but occasionally spotted on movie channels, and currently posted in full on YouTube. Enjoy.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Flick Pick: Battleground

(MGM, 1949)

On the anniversary of the Battle of The Bulge, one of the best versions of it this side of Band Of Brothers, with a cast of mostly baby-faced future stars such as James Arness, Richard Jaeckel, Ricardo Montalban, and an ancient-looking 27-year-old little force of nature playing the platoon sergeant, for which he received a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination, a fellow named James Whitmore - in precisely his third film ever. Being all of 3 years out of a hitch in the Marines as both an NCO and officer during WWII, it wasn't much of a stretch.

Sometime when you think you have it rough, some December put on an old set of cammies, go out in the woods, heat up a can of pork and beans, dig a hole, and sleep in the snow under one thin wool blanket, and remember the Battered Bastards of Bastogne.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Peter O'Toole - R.I.P.

Peter O'Toole died yesterday in hospital in London, after a long illness.
O'Toole was a phenomenal talent and an unquestionable acting legend, famous for delivering riveting performances throughout his career.
His honorary Oscar in 2003 was by way of an apology from AMPAS, for the unconscionable sin of nominating him for an acting Oscar 8 times, and never awarding him one. Rectified in 2003 , and somewhat mollified by his prior possession of the Golden Globe, the Emmy, as well as BAFTA, Irish, and NZ acting honors. He initially declined the honor, hoping instead to "win the lovely bugger outright", and had he not already possessed that Honorary Lifetime Oscar, he probably would have done just that in 2006, for Venus.
It's not a loss that he died at 81, looking at all he did and all the performances left behind, so much as an embarrassing acknowledgement that no one can live forever.
What an incredible ride!

Flick Pick: Tangled

(Disney, 2010)

Fantastic re-imagining of the Rapunzel fairy-tale, and worthy to enter the pantheon of Disney classic princess tales. Cartoons, even Disney cartoons, can be hit-or-miss, but this is what they're aimed at becoming.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Flick Pick: Sword In The Stone

Sword In The Stone
(Disney, 1963)

The last feature animated film supervised by Walt Disney, with complex animation, deeper themes, classic Sherman brothers' tunes, and absolutely worth watching just for the Wizard's Duel between Merlin and Mim.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Flick Pick: Cinderella

(Disney, 1955)

The perfect fairy tale, perfectly executed in a timeless cartoon masterpiece. After a series of commercial missteps, the loss of European markets during wartime, and years of wartime production for the government during WWII, this was a last-gasp effort to save the Disney Studio from financial ruin. It was a grand slam critical and financial success, raking in revenue hand over fist and ensuring the survival of Disney.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Flick Pick: Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer
(Rankin-Bass/NBC, 1964)

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of this long-running Christmas classic TV special, narrated by Burl Ives. Just because.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Flick Pick: Rio Grande

Rio Grande
(Republic, 1950)

The final of Ford's epic cavalry trilogy, and the one of the three he didn't want to make. He took on the task as Republic Films pre-condition to them funding production of The Quiet Man, which every studio in Hollywood had already turned down. All Republic asked in return was that John Ford bring his promised stars, John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, and make Republic a cavalry picture, and in her first screen appearance opposite him (of what would become five) she shows why Ford picked her, how she could hold her own toe to toe with Wayne, and that both were the better for each pairing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Flick Pick: She Wore A Yellow Ribbon

She Wore A Yellow Ribbon
(Warner Bros., 1949)

Second of Ford's cavalry trilogy, with John Wayne, John Agar, Ben Johnson, and Harry Carey Jr. against the backdrop of Monument Valley, this time around in living color.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Flick Pick: Fort Apache

Fort Apache
(Fort Apache, 1948)

John Ford's masterpiece of the frontier, and the first of what would become his cavalry trilogy, starring his best find in Hollywood, John Wayne, and Henry Fonda as the ultimate ramrod-backed commander.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Flick Pick: They Were Expendable

They Were Expendable
(MGM, 1945)

And for the day after, what came next, in John Ford's classic Robert Montgomery/John Wayne movie of PT boats and the men who fought from them. Notable for having been shot while the war still raged in both Europe and Asia, and with some pretty serious special effects for back in the day in the battle scenes.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Flick Pick: Tora!Tora!Tora!

(20th Cent. Fox, 1970)

Apropos of the day, both sides of the infamous attack on Pearl Harbor, done on an epic scale by Fox when there wasn't any CG, just lots of real planes and explosions.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Flick Pick: Beauty And The The Beast

Beauty And The Beast
(Disney, 1991)

First animated film ever nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, and deservedly so, and winner for Best Score and Best Song (competing against itself with three of the five nominations that year). Great story, told perfectly, using the best writers, musicians, and state-of-the-art animation techniques, to deliver a perfect film.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Flick Pick: Peter Pan

Peter Pan
(Disney, 1953)

All this has happened before, and it will happen again. But it never happened better than in this animated classic. Second star to the right, and straight on until morning!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Flick Pick: Jurassic Park III

Jurassic Park III
(Universal, 2001)

Sam Neill and a new batch of adventurers back for another foray into John Hammond's dreamland of why one should be careful what they wish for.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Flick Pick: The Lost World

The Lost World
(Universal, 1997)

A sequel that doesn't suck is the goal. This one from a director who has a handle on making movies, with Jeff Goldblum leading the expedition, scores. The Evil Hunter is the only good guy among the bad guys, and dinosaurs eat Toby Ziegler.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Flick Pick: Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park
(Universal, 1993)

Richard Attenborough. Sam Neill. Jeff Goldblum. Laura Dern. Dinosaurs. A blood sucking lawyer. Dinosaurs eating the bloodsucking lawyer. And all based on a cracking good Michael Crichton novel. What's not to like?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Flick Pick: Beverly Hills Cop

Beverly Hills Cop
(Paramount, 1984)

The original and genuine article, a classic Eddie Murphy comedy made by the A-list, and loaded with rising talents in every spare scene. (Damon Wayans, Paul Reiser, Bronson Pinchot).