Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Young and Innocent (1937)

Following a loud and passionate argument with her ex-husband, Guy (George Curzon), successful actress Christine Clay (Pamela Carme) washes up on a beach the next morning near her seaside home, wearing her bathing suit and apparently drowned.

Her neighbor, Robert Tisdall (Derrick De Marney), discovers her and runs for the police. Two young women see him running before discovering the body themselves.

Robert becomes an immediate suspect, especially when police find a raincoat belt at the scene. Unfortunately, Robert had lost his raincoat recently, which made him appear all the more suspicious.

Local police chief Colonel Burgoyne's (Percy Marmount) daughter, Erica (Nova Pilbeam), gives Robert a ride after he escapes from court. She finds him likable, believes him innocent and after lunch with her family, returns to where she dropped him off. Erica sets about helping him any way she can.

They search for someone named Old Will (Edward Rigby), a china-mender who may have found Robert's lost raincoat. Along the way, they stop by to see Erica’s aunt (Mary Clare), unaware that it's her uncle's (Basil Radford) birthday and that there’s a party in progress. They can't get away, for auntie is a suspicious and nosy sort, but uncle catches on to what's happening and helps them escape.

Auntie calls the colonel, whose suspicion is aroused. He makes a phone call, and things begin to fall apart.

Young and Innocent culminates in an extended Grand Hotel ballroom scene where the murderer is revealed but not identified because he is in blackface. But if you've been paying attention, you'll know who he is.

Released in America as The Girl Was Young, Alfred Hitchcock’s Young and Innocent is based on Josephine Tey’s 1936 novel, A Shilling for Candles. However, only about one-third of the novel was used, and the murderer’s identity was changed.

No matter, Young and Innocent is a tight, entertaining Alfred Hitchcock murder mystery.

In the mine scene, the hand that pulls Erica Burgoyne (played by Nova Philbeam) out of the hole belongs to Pen Tennyson. Nova and Pen later were married, after meeting while making the film.

The drummer in the Grand Hotel performance was “outta whack,” so to speak. He’s tapping on the drum head while cymbals, drum rolls, rim shots and more are heard on the soundtrack.

Hitchcock made his signature cameo about 14 minutes into the film, holding a camera outside the courthouse.

Grade: B+

Quotations I like from the film

Don’t shout, I tell you! Don’t shout!” – Christine Clay (Pamela Carme)

"You're a liar. A liar. You lied when you married me, you lied to get rid of me. You're a liar and a cheat." – Guy Clay (George Curzon)

Ha ha! So I have won you over!” – Robert Tisdall (Derrick De Marney)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Prisoners (2013)

Keller and Grace Dover's (Hugh Jackman and Maria Bello) 6-year-old daughter, Anna (Erin Gerasimovich), goes missing after Thanksgiving dinner at their neighbors Franklin and Nancy Birch's (Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) home. Also missing is her young friend, Joy Birch (Kyla Drew Simmons).

Son Ralph Dover (Dylan Minnette) tells his dad that he and Eliza Birch (Zoë Soul) saw an old RV and thought there was something inside.

When the APB goes out, Detective David Wayne Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Pennsylvania police check out an old RV parked on the side of a road and arrest the driver, Alex Jones (Paul Dano), when he tries to make a getaway. Det. Loki learns from Alex's aunt, Holly Jones (Melissa Leo), that his parents are dead.

Keller is really ticked off, he can't understand why Alex isn’t charged and is getting mighty irritated. Det. Loki pleads for more time before releasing Alex, but his boss, Capt. Richard O’Malley (Wayne Duvall), won't give it to him. Following a lead, Loki finds a tied-up corpse in Father Patrick Dunn's (Len Cariou) basement, whom Father Patrick killed when he confessed to killing children.

Alex is released and is attacked by Keller in front of the press. Something he says further enrages Keller, who demands that the police re-arrest him. No go. Keller decides to take matters into his own hands and brutally breaks laws pursuing the truth.

There's a weird detour when a Bob Taylor (David Dastmatchian) is chased by Loki at a night vigil. Taylor frequents a kids' clothing store and a search of his home turns up all kinds of fetish items – e.g., mazes, bloody kids' clothes, snakes. Loki slowly begins to zero in on the truth, a truth that takes a few twists and turns with some heartbreaking red herrings along the way.

I'll leave you with but one revelation: Alex Jones is not Alex Jones.

Melissa Leo’s gray hair and butt weren’t real. She wore a wig and foam-rubber posterior, and also didn’t clean her glasses at the end of each day’s shooting. She wanted to keep the character as real and grounded as possible.

Prisoners performed well at the box office, returning $122 million against its $46-million budget. It received an Oscar for Best Cinematography (Roger Deakins). Originally rated NC-17 by the MPAA, Prisoners’ rating was changed to R when torture and suggested pedophilia scenes were edited.

A pretty disturbing film, Prisoners studies how far a desperate father will go to find out who kidnapped his child. I'm not sure that I wouldn't take the same actions he did. It also demonstrates how obsessed a detective will become to pursue the same goal. In the end, the child's safety is of utmost importance. We all become prisoners of our single-minded obsessions.

At the end of filming, the clothing and props used in the film were donated to the Fodac Thrift Store in Tucker, Georgia.

Grade: B+

Quotations I like from the film

He’s not a person anymore. No, he stopped being a person when he took our daughters.” – Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman)

Look, kid, we can’t always save the day. All right? We’re just cops. Janitors.” – Capt. Richard O’Malley (Wayne Duvall)

Eliza: “Did you feel bad for that deer when you shot it?Ralph:Do you feel bad for cows when you go to McDonald’s?” – Eliza Birch (Zoë Soul) and Ralph Dover (Dylan Minnette)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jamaica Inn (1939)

A gang in Cornwall, England, preys upon ships passing the rocky coast in stormy weather, deliberately causing shipwrecks so they can plunder its cargo.

Traveler Mary Yellen (Maureen O’Hara), recently moved from Ireland, where her mother died recently, arrives via coach at the Jamaica Inn. She's the niece of the inn proprietor Joss Merlyn's (Leslie Banks) wife, Patience.

Unfortunately, the coachman refuses to go to the inn, and drops her off at a nearby manor owned by Justice of the Peace Sir Humphrey Pengalian (Charles Laughton).

Sir Humphrey tries to dissuade her from going to Jamaica Inn, but she's determined and asks to borrow a horse. Sir Humphrey escorts her there, then leaves. Joss isn't too thrilled with her arrival and seems suspicious of her contact with Sir Humphrey.

Joss, you see, is leader of the gang that plunders ships, Sir Humphrey is the mastermind, and the brigands are permanent frequenters of the inn. The gang's share of the booty has been dwindling, and they blame the newest member, Jem Trahearne (Robert Newton), of skimming. But it's actually Sir Humphrey's doing.

When Jem is hanged, Mary secretly cuts the rope and saves his life. Patience helps Mary escape the wrath of Joss; Mary holes up with Jem, who turns out to be an undercover lawman investigating the ship-wrecking incidents. That revelation puts Sir Humphrey ill at ease and ticks Mary off because she'd been left in the dark.

Trusting Sir Humphrey is a bad idea, right? Right, and eventually we get to say we told you so. Another ship is supposed to run aground, but Mary has something to say about that.

I had to really concentrate and listen very carefully to understand what Charles Laughton was saying – his enunciation and English accent are pretty bad at times. And he actually looks like a clown. I read somewhere that he was a pain in director Alfred Hitchcock's neck with his interfering.

Co-producer Laughton insisted that Maureen O’Hara be cast as Mary. This was her second film, and the first using the last name O'Hara. Her new name was chosen because Laughton believed her real last name, Fitzsimmons, was "too long for the marquee." He gave her the choice of O'Mara or O'Hara. When she rejected both, Laughton picked O'Hara.

Jamaica Inn is the first of three Daphne du Maurier stories adapted by director Alfred Hitchcock for the big screen. Rebecca and The Birds were the other two. It was also Hitchcock’s final film made in the United Kingdom before moving to America. It is also included in “The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (and how they got that way)” list by Harry Medved and Randy Lowell. Despite the fact that it made a profit of $3.7 million, Hitchcock was not happy with the final release.

There is no Alfred Hitchcock cameo appearance in Jamaica Inn.

Grade: B

Quotations I like from the film:

That place, Jamaica Inn. It’s got a bad name. It’s not healthy, that’s why. There’s queer things goes on there.” – Coachman (unidentified)

That’s women for you – save your life one minute, frightened of you the next.” – Jem Trahearne (Robert Newton)

You can laugh now, but you’ll sing a different tune on when you’re roasting in the consuming fire that’s waiting for all of us … including me!” – Salvation Watkins (Wylie Watson)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Non-Stop (2014)

Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) is an alcoholic still hurting from his daughter's death from leukemia. He's also a U.S. Federal Air Marshal on board British Aqualantic Flight 10, flying business class non-stop from New York to London. Sitting next to him is Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), who is on the fight due to an airline boo-boo.

Deep into the flight, he gets a series of texts from a passenger aboard the plane, culminating with a message that unless $150 million goes into bank account, someone aboard will die in 20 minutes.

Jack meets with the other air marshall onboard – Jack Hammond (Anson Mount), who isn't very helpful. Jack fills in the flight captain (Linus Roache), First Officer Kyle Rice (Jason Butler Harner), and flight attendant Nancy Hoffman (Michelle Dockery). He also enlists Jenn Summers' help.

They ID Jack Hammond as the culprit, and the confrontation turns out badly. In self-defense, Bill kills him. But he isn't the terrorist. He was smuggling cocaine.

The offshore account turns out to be in his name. The flight captain and the Transportation Security Administration now suspect that HE is the terrorist. 

A second death – the flight captain. Jack recruits Zack White (Nate Parker), a cell phone programmer, to hack into the secure network.

A third death – a passenger being subdued by Bill. He figures out how the captain and passenger were killed and finds a bomb. The passengers on board use their phones to listen to news accounts about the "hijacking," and take him down.

It gets pretty hairy after that. Really hairy. Really tense.

Interesting Trivia: Liam Neeson had a stroke while shooting the final scene but didn’t break character. Julianne Moore kept asking co-actress Michelle Dockery for spoilers and secrets on Downton Abbey (Ms. Dockery is the main character and Ms. Moore is a big fan of the TV series).

Non-Stop did blockbuster business. Produced on a $50-million budget, it earned nearly $223 million at the box office. Producer Joel Silver is contemplating a sequel.

I have to admit, I don't know why, but I got pretty emotional at the end. Guess I must have become fully involved and invested in the film. A good script and a good situation and a great lead actor will do that.

Grade: A

Quotations I like from the film:

I hate flying.” “Really? I always kinda liked it. Y'know, six hours in the same spot. Nobody can get to you. Nothing to do but just be present, y'know.” – Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), and Jen Summers (Julianne Moore)

I can’t continue talking to you … we will not negotiate with a terrorist.” – Agent Marenick (Shea Wingham)

I’m not hijacking this plane. I’m trying to save it!” – Bill Marks (Liam Neeson)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)

American Ann Lake (Carol Lynley) is frantic. Her daughter, Bunny (Suky Appleby), has disappeared from the Little People’s Garden kindergarten in London.

Ann has been trying to find someone to turn her daughter over to on the first day, after putting her in the "First Day Room" as directed when she called. The cook (Lucie Mannheim) tells her she'll look after her, and Ann rushes off to meet the movers at her new flat.

Her landlord, Horatio Wilson (Nöel Coward), an aging actor, makes a nosy nuisance of himself, prompting her to rush out shopping for groceries and household items. When she returns to the school, her daughter is not there ... and nobody remembers meeting her.

Ann calls her brother/roommate Steve (Keir Dullea), who rushes over and grills the office secretary, Elvira Smollett (Anna Massey). They bump into retired owner-partner Ada Ford (Marita Hunt), but she's a little eccentric and not very helpful. Police Supt. Newhouse (Laurence Oliver) joins the search, bringing in search dogs.

It gets worse. Bunny's possessions disappear from her home, the creepy Wilson tries to seduce her, and Supt. Newhouse suspects that Bunny never existed, especially when talking with Ada Ford, whom Steve has told that Ann had an imaginary friend when she was younger.

Then, a break. Ann remembers a doll maker (Finlay Currie) who fixed Bunny's doll; he can prove 
Bunny exists. His doll hospital is closed, but he's in. Unfortunately, the doll is destroyed by the real kidnapper, who is ... well, you're going to have to find out for yourself.

The last act, by the way, is pretty strange, with reversions to childhood.

The British rock and roll band, The Zombies, appears in a TV broadcast in a bar where Ann and Newhouse are having a glass of brandy, interrupting a news story about the missing child.

Directed by Otto Preminger, Bunny Lake is Missing is a British psychological thriller based Merriam Modell’s 1957 novel. Preminger was pressured by Columbia Pictures to cast Jane Fonda in the lead role, but he stuck to his guns and selected Carol Lynley, who did a stellar job.

A remake that was in the works in 2007-2009 was to star Reese Witherspoon, but the project was shelved.

Grade: B+

Quotations I like from the film

This doll had almost been loved to death. You know, love inflicts the most terrible injuries on my small patients.” – The Doll Maker (Finley Currie)

Junket [English milk pudding] is junket. No matter what you do with it, it still tastes like swill and swallows like slime.” – The Cook (Lucie Mannheim)

Ever heard him read poetry? It’s like a Welsh parson gargling with molasses.” – Police Supt. Newhouse (Laurence Oliver)

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Purge: Anarchy (2014)

The Purge: Anarchy is the sequel to 2013’s action-horror flick, The Purge. One night a year, all crime is legal, with police, fire and medical emergency services shut down for 12 hours starting at 7 p.m. This tradition was instituted by the “New Founding Fathers of America,” a totalitarian government that came into power following an economic collapse.

Ostensibly providing catharsis for societal tensions, it actually is a method of artificial population control, with those living in poverty and in depressed areas of town usually affected.

It’s March 21, 2023, and the sixth purge is about to begin. Los Angeles waitress Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) and her coworkers head home when their restaurant closes early. Eva and her daughter, Cali (Zoë Soul), prepare for their safety. Their father, Papa Rico (John Beaseley), however, has other plans. He has sold himself to a rich family who wants someone to hack to death with their machetes.

The Sanchez home is invaded by Diego (Noel Gigliemi), who's sick of being ignored by Eva every day. But he's cut down by soldiers who work for Big Daddy (John Conley).

Elsewhere, others are making more violent preparations. LAPD Sgt. Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), for example, arms himself heavily and heads out into the streets to find the man who'd killed his son. Luckily for Eva and Cali, he drives by as they are being subdued. Reluctant to get involved, he saves them nonetheless and takes them along. Now, there are three of them.

Shane (Zach Gifford) and his wife, Liz (Kiele Sanchez), are heading for his sister's house to ride out the purge when their car dies. They've been set up by a gang wearing scary masks and end up running around the streets of downtown Los Angeles, alone, panicking and defensive.

They take refuge in Leo's car while he rescues the Sanchezes. Now, there are five. And of course, the car breaks down. Leo really doesn't want them tagging along but Eva makes a deal and he can get a car from her coworker friend, Tanya (Justina Machado).

Here's where things start getting hairier and scarier – really hairy, really scary – when it all falls apart. Why? Because the rich are sick – very, very sick. Thank God for the cavalry: Carmelo Jones (Michael K. Williams), the "Stranger” (Edwin Hodge), and their army.

The Purge: Anarchy is a big improvement over its predecessor, The Purge. The characters are better defined and more interesting, the pace has picked up, and the story is more plausible.

Zach Gifford and Kiele Sanchez (Shane and Liz) not only are married on screen, they are also married in real life. Edwin Hodge reprises his 2013 role as Dwayne.

The Purge: Anarchy had a boffo box office earning $110.6 million against its small $9-million budget. A third installment, a prequel, is in the works; it will focus on the very first purge, set in 2017. The annual purge always occurs on the day before the spring equinox, which is the symbol for rebirth and cleansing.

Grade: B+

Quotations I like from the film

We can’t have heroes … oh no sir … no heroes. I hope you feel cleansed. Blessed be America, a nation reborn.” – Big Daddy (John Conley)

You’re good with guns. I’m guessing you’re either a cop or a criminal, huh?” – Cali Sanchez (Zoë Soul)

America, 2023. Unemployment is below 5%. Crime is virtually non-existent while every year, fewer and fewer people live below the poverty line. All thanks to … The Purge: Anarchy.” – Title Card