The Nazis got into Titanic act
Video Viper Bob Lebzelter gives a video review of a rare Nazi propaganda film about the sinking of the Titanic.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Movie tells you much about movies
JEAN-PIERRE LEAUD and Jacqueline Bisset in "Day For Night."
If you like movies, you will LOVE “Day For Night.”
I did the first time I saw it years ago and now, thanks to a Turner Classic Movies' recent tribute to director Francois Truffaut, I got to see it all over again.
The title describes a technique of shooting a scene during the daytime and through darkroom manipulations make the film look like it happened at night.
You see, “Day For Night” is a movie about the making of a fictitious movie and the pitfalls and joys. It is not all glamour and stardom.
The film is interesting because it not only shows filming techniques, but shows how the movie cast and crew quickly become family for the short time they are together, then go their separate ways.
In one scene, a woman is supposed to be living in an apartment across from her in-laws, except there is no building. So the crew built a tree-fort like structure with a bay window. Shooting at the correct angle looks it appears to be an apartment.
Often when two people in a moving car are filmed, it's with a blue screen. The background, like city streets or back roads, is added later. But it looks fake. In “Day For Night,” the car is towed by a truck with the film crew in front and one actor fakes driving. More realistic and pretty sweet.
Of course, “Day For Night” was filmed in 1973 and technology has changed filmmaking a great deal.
The movie within “Day For Night” is called “Meet Pamela,” the story of a woman and her new husband who meet her new in laws and she falls in love with her father-in-law. The movie ends tragically in more than one way.
The delicious Jacqueline Bisset plays the actress who is Pamela, while her husband is played by Jean-Pierre Leaud. The father-in-law is played by Jean-Pierre Aumont.
While the plot of the in-movie is rather pedestrian, the story of the those involved in making the movie is much more interesting.
The Bisset character is married to a doctor who helped her out of her depression. Her movie husband is a needy, whiney sort who is in love with the girl who uses the clapboard to announce the next scene. He always wants her within his sight, so naturally when an Englishman flies in to do a particularly dangerous car-crash stunt, the girl runs off with him.
So the movie husband can't go on. He's going to walk out of the picture. The Bisset character shows a little too much sympathy for him and ends up spending the night. He then repays her kindness by calling the doctor husband and tells him he just slept with hubby's wife.
Truffaut plays the director and the production goes on while coming apart at the seams.
There are many fine backstories that make this comedy-drama a lot of fun.
It's probably Traffaut's best work. See it in the day or night. It's worth it.
DAY FOR NIGHT
Written by Jean-Lois Richard and Suzanne Schiffman
Directed by Francois Truffaut
5 stars out of 5
Rated PG for mild sexual themes
Runtime: 120 minutes
Sunday, August 25, 2013
A magical film about Paris
Sony Pictures Classics
OWEN WILSON and Carla Bruni in "Midnight in Paris."
Maybe because I recently visited Paris, I was quickly drawn to Woody Allen’s romantic comedy “Midnight in Paris.
” First off, Owen Wilson can be an annoying actor. Heck, he gets annoying in this film.
But with the backdrop of Paris, and the plot and the dialogue, I soon forgot any annoyances.
Even though many characters in the “modern Paris” part are annoying. They are snooty, one upping each other.
Wilson and his girlfriend, played by Rachel McAdams, are staying in Paris. He operates a nostalgia shop back in the states, selling old radios and the like. (Only in movies can you operate a little shop and make enough money for an extended trip to Paris.)
McAdams plays Inez, a rich girl whose parents show up in Paris. Mimi Kennedy plays her snooty mom who likes only expensive jewelry and Kurt Fuller is the dad. He doesn’t like his future son-in-law and hires a detective to follow him during his long nightly walks.
The couple also run into her old friend, played by Nina Arlanda, and her boyfriend, played by Michael Sheen.
Sheen’s character is especially annoying, because he knows everything about everything, from history to art to wine. He argues with French tour guides.
So it is a welcome respite when Wilson’s character decides to ditch the gang and walk back to the hotel. Where he ends up getting lost. But a 1920s-era taxi pulls up and offers Wilson’s character a ride. And that’s when the magic begins.
He ends up at a hotel where he meets F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda, played by Alison Pill and Tom Hiddleston, as well as Ernest Hemmingway, Gertrude Steid, Salvador Dali, T.S. Elliot and a host of intellectuals and artists. Yep, his taxi takes him back in time to the era and the place he most covets, Paris in the 1920s.
And there the usually goofy Wilson gets to hobnob with the elites, the people who are his heroes, living in their era, young and witty and drunk.
Pill as Zelda is especially fun and entertaining.
Every day, Wilson returns to his life of modern antagonists, knowing at night he will catch that taxi and go back to a more magical time and place, with people he has become friends with, who know and respect him and don’t downgrade him for his opinions.
Time travel movies are difficult to do and often come out worse for the wear. But Allen’s talents shine through. And even though he doesn’t appear in the film, it has his trademark characters and dialog.
I was especially impressed with Carey Stoll as Hemingway, who stresses novels about strength and honor and being valiant and not fearing death.
There are some scenes that could have been omitted. The Wilson character tries to steal his girlfriend’s pearl earrings to give to his 20s friend, Adriena, and that ends disastrously. That should have been cut. It is totally out of character and doesn’t progress the plot.
But overall, it’s a good story, it’s Woody Allen, it’s lots of loving shots of Paris, there’s conflict, there’s romance. It’s a pretty nice package, all tied with a pretty bow.
Annoying, yes, but pretty special as well.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Directed and written by Woody Allen
Runtime: 100 minutes
9 stars out of 10
Friday, June 28, 2013
Even Clint couldn't save this one
Leonardo DiCaprio and Naomi Watts in "J. Edgar."
It had all of the elements of being a winner.
It had a good cast with people like Leonardo DiCaprio and Judi Dench.
It was a biographical film about one of the most fascinating men of the 20th century. Plus, it was directed by Clint Eastwood.
Why “J. Edgar” proved so disappointing, I’m not certain. Perhaps Eastwood was nearing that chair-talking stage of his life.
Leonardo DiCaprio played FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the only man to hold the position from the bureau’s inception until Hoover’s death in 1972.
The film flashed back and forth from Hoover’s later days and various high points in his life.
He started in the Department of Justice in 1919, concerned about the infiltration of communists and Bolsheviks. Hoover took on more responsibilities than his title and training gave him.
He had a core of agents and was bent on creating a database of bad guys’ fingerprints. Hoover wanted everyone fingerprinted, to better find the perpetrator should a major crime take place.
Other agents were concerned they were investigating people who weren’t really suspected of a crime. Hoover was undeterred. He wanted to catch the bad guys before they committed a crime and personal rights weren’t a big deal to him.
He eventually squeezed his way into becoming the FBI director, working hard to gain power. Originally, agents had no arrest powers.
Throughout the years, we witness Hoover waiting in the outer office to meet the new president. Hoover always stopped to look at a painting of George Washington.
In each instance, the president had plans to bring Hoover down a peg or two, until Hoover quietly disclosed some information he had about the new chief executive or other family members. For instance, Hoover had info about Eleanor Roosevelt’s affair with another woman.
Hoover saw himself as a bigger man than others did. He encouraged comic books and graphic novels in which he arrested the bad guy with a machine gun. In reality, Hoover had nothing to do with arrests until it was publicly brought to his attention. Then he joined in on arrests only when it was safe.
Naomi Watts played his faithful secretary who immediately began shredding documents at his death.
She first met him when she started working for the Department of Justice back in 1919. After one date, Hoover was ready to propose, but she ended up as his secretary for decades instead.
Armie Hammer played the agent who ended up living with Hoover and certainly became his lover.
But the film has no life to it. The Hoover story just plods along through the Lindbergh baby kidnapping to John Dillinger’s killing. The story, the acting, needed to be turned up a notch or two.
We feel sorry for the little man who had a mother fixation his whole life. (She was played by Judi Dench.)
I would have liked to see more about what happened when John F. Kennedy or Martin Luther King were assassinated.
We see this historic figure brought down to something resembling a vanilla milkshake.
The movie needed more cream.
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Dustin Lance Black
2 stars out of 5
- Read more viper columns at videoviper.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
MIKAEL PERBRANT (left) and Trina Dyrholm in "A Better World."
Subject lives in two worlds in ‘A Better World’
Mikael Persbrandt plays Anton, a man who lives in two different worlds with two very different sets of challenges in the film “In A Better World.”
Anton is drifting apart from his wife while straining to work as a doctor in a dangerous and crude African refugee camp while trying to keep his life going in a Denmark town.
He and wife Marianne (Trine Dyrholm) are looking at a separation. Meanwhile, his son, Elias, 10, is being bullied in school. Every day, his bicycle tires are flattened and the stems are taken out so he can’t simply inflate them.
Then there’s the new boy in town, Christian, played by William Nielsen, who moved from London with his recently widowed father, Claus, played by Ulrich Thomsen.
Christian has his share of problems, most manifested by the death of his mother and his hatred for his father, whom Christian perceives as to be relieved by her death.
When a bully turns his anger from Elias to Christian, Christian retaliates by clubbing the bully and threatening him with a knife.
In this movie at least, bullying seems to be tolerated in Denmark. When Elias’ parents are initially called in to discuss the bullying, a school administrator seems to indicate his parents’ marital problems are a part of the problem.
Even after Christian violently beats the bully, the ramifications don’t appear serious.
Anton, meanwhile, is juggling a lot of issues. One day he must stand up to a tribal leader who demands treatment and laughs when a woman dies.
He must operate under crude conditions, under dusty tents with marauding gangs in Jeeps shooting off guns.
He comes home to a cold wife and a confused son.
At one point, Anton separates his son and another boy who are fighting. He finds himself the target of a bully himself. We know Anton isn’t a coward. He stood up to a fierce tribal leader.
But in the case of the local bully, he takes his lumps and leaves. But Elias is horrified.
Christian, with so many anger issues, decides he’s going to get revenge by building a pipebomb and placing it under the bully’s vehicle. If it’s exploded early in the morning, it won’t hurt anyone, Christian decides.
But the horrific blast does have its consequences.
This film seemingly dumps us into a group of interesting people and their compelling lives. We hang for awhile and the movie ends. There are no certain conclusions. There’s no happy endings.
Their lives go on and so do ours.
The characters are interesting and compelling. There are many side stories to keep us interested.
The actors, even the younger ones, know their stuff.
“In A Better World” is indeed a better movie.
Read more viper reviews at videoviper.blogspot.com.
IN A BETTER WORLD
• Directed by Susanne Bier
• Written by Anders Thomas Jensen and Bier
• Rated R for violence and disturbing content, some involving preteens
• In Danish, Swedish and some English
• Runtime: 119 minutes
• 4 stars out of 5
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
‘Abduction’ starts with a blast, but ends with fizzle
DENZEL WHITAKER (right) and Taylor Lautner in "Abduction."
Nathan seems to be a typical teenager in the film “Abduction.”
When the film opens, he is waking up on a lawn where he apparently spent the night after a drunken party.
Played by Taylor Lautner, best known from the “Twilight” series, the hungover lad goes home where he meets the wrath of his daddy, played by Jason Isaacs.
Dad decides being hungover is a good time for a bit of boxing. So father and son fight and it’s brutal and no-holds barred.
Bloodied, it takes awhile for the Lautner character to fight back.
And you wonder, this is child abuse, right?
Not really, because nothing is as it seems. Queue eerie music.
Later, the boy must do a paper with the cute girl next door, played by Lily Collins. The topic? Missing children.
In their research, they soon come upon a young boy who looks strongly like Lautner’s character. A feature on the web site shows what the boy would look like today. And of course, it looks just like him.
And down in the basement, the teen actually finds the shirt the missing boy in the photo was wearing, right down to the stain.
It’s come-to-Jesus time. He asks his mother, played by Maria Bello, if she is indeed his mother. Tearfully she says no.
Let me tell you, this is riveting stuff. If you don’t have your fingers squeezing the couch cushion yet, you will be soon.
Because before Mom can explain, she meets some bad guys at the door and it is fight time. While she can fight better than most mothers, her demise is soon a reality. As is dad. To make matters worse, there’s a bomb in the microwave with a timer.
It is ka-boom city and soon the house is a pile of debris. Actually several piles of debris. And son and his female friend are dodging house remnants in the family pool.
More action. More fighting, Suspense. This is a good movie — so far.
When the Lautner character calls the cops, MORE seemingly bad guys arrive. Is there anyone he can trust?
He takes the injured Collins character to the hospital where a TV news broadcast states nobody was killed in the blaze at his so-called parents’ home. As the bad guys descend on the hospital, they boy’s shrink, played by Sigourney Weaver, comes to the rescue.
This is fly-by-your-seat, exhilarating fun as the pair are chased around. The climax comes at Pittsburgh Pirates Stadium. That was of particular interest to me, since I’ve been to the stadium and recognized the bridge leading in. (I was there for a Rolling Stones concert, not the Pirates.)
Yes, the film does run out of steam and starts to sputter. There are also parts that are hard to swallow, like Pirates stadium full of people.
But hey, the first part alone is worth your time. And it is available for streaming for free to Amazon Prime and Netflix customers. You can watch it right now if you want.
If you are at work, take your tablet into a restroom stall to watch. For heaven sakes, keep the volume down. Those explosions are loud.
• Directed by John Singleton
• Written by Shawn Christensen
• Rated PG for sequences of intense violence and action, brief language, some sexual content and teen partying
• Runtime: 106 minutes
• 3 1/2 stars out of 5
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Revisiting 1981’s ‘Taps’ best to watch George C. Scott
20th Century Fox Film Corp.
TIMOTHY HUTTON in "Taps."
When you haven’t watched a movie for 30 years, you tend to forget a lot of the plot.
I revisited “Taps” the other day. Not really on purpose. The good folks at Netflix sent me the DVD. Maybe they made a mistake, maybe I put it in my queue and forgot about it. Netflix does offer the movie streaming, meaning the disc wasn’t really wasn’t necessary.
The streaming turned out to be a good thing, because 20 minutes into the disc, there was a crackle and the sound went out. So I pulled it up on streaming and continued watching without missing a beat.
This isn’t compelling cinema. It’s more of a curiosity because of who is in it. George C. Scott reprises his “Patton” demeanor as General Harlan Bache, the commander of this junior high West Point called Bunker Hill.
It’s 114 years old and at the film’s beginning, the students and staff are calling out the names of alumni who gave their lives to their country.
It’s the end of the term and the new cadet major is Brian Moreland, played by a youthful Timothy Hutton. Two other cadets are played by Sean Penn and Mr. Divorce himself, Tom Cruise, then a mere 19.
Now the Hutton character reveres the Scott character. They eat dinner. They retire to brandy and cigars. The Hutton character hates cigars, but who cares? It’s cigars with George C. Scott!
Now from the beginning, it appears the Scott character is, well, a bit off. Drinking brandy and talking the glories of war with a bunch kids? A civilian, he says, is someone who hits a little white ball around. The military has honor.
Hutton is in awe. He tells the other guys, some who are maybe 10 or 12, that it’s gonna be a great year.
Mmmmm, maybe not. Because Scott announces to the school later that the academy is being torn down at the end of the school year.
Worse yet, at what appears to be a prom, some of the townies start a fight with the military guys and when Patton tries to stop it, a kid tries to grab his gun, which is loaded. There is a scuffle and one of the townies is killed.
Can it get any worse? Oh yeah, because the Scott character has a heart attack and is in critical condition. The academy, even though it is for teens and preteens, is filled with guns, ammunition, even handgrenades. So the kids take over the academy, put up barricades and present a list of demands.
They hunker down for a fight. They hunker down for honor.
The movie is more than two hours long. Guns are fired. Kids die. People go berserk.
Ronny Cox, best known as the fatality in “Deliverance,” does a wonderful job as Col. Kerby, a secondary character who tries to diffuse the situation before anyone gets hurt.
It is difficult to think of a way this can have a satisfactory yet somewhat realistic ending.
There are plenty of weak spots in a movie which tries to determine if it is making an anti-war statement or is just providing two hours of entertainment.
If you want to revisit this 1981 movie, it might be better to look at it as a way to determine how Cruise and Hutton and Penn have evolved over the years.
Unless you want to see little kids getting shot up for no discernible reason.
• Directed by Harold Becker
• Written by Devery Freeman and Robert Mark Kamen
• 126 minutes
• Rated PG
• 2 stars out of 4