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Friday, June 26, 2015

Of Time and the City (2008)

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#1,775. Of Time and the City (2008)

Posted: 26 Jun 2015 09:51 AM PDT


Directed By: Terence Davies

Starring: Terence Davies



Line from this film: "If Liverpool did not exist, it would have to be invented"

Trivia: Won for Best Documentary at the 2009 Australian Film Critics Association Awards









The trailer for Terence Davies' 2008 documentary Of Time and the City refers to the film as "A love song and a eulogy for the city of Liverpool". This sums the movie up perfectly. it's a love song in that it pays tribute to the town its director grew up in, showing images from a time when he called this UK city his home; and it's a memorial to an age that now exists solely in one's nostalgic recollections, a time that has vanished, never to return.

Narrated by Davies himself, who helmed such films as 2000's The House of Mirth and The Deep Blue Sea in 2011, Of Time and the City combines still photographs, home movies, and modern-day footage of the city's landscapes (including St. George's Hall and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King) to compose what is, in the end, a very personal journey through Liverpool's past, with Davies focusing almost exclusively on the era of his youth, the 1950's and '60s. "Here was my whole world", he says over pictures from that period, which, for him, was all about "Home, school, the movies, and God". He was 15 when he fell in love with the cinema, a time he says was also taken up by wrestling matches at Liverpool Stadium (alongside shots of stars like Gregory Peck, Of Time and the City treats us to a black and white wrestling bout). To coincide with its stunning imagery, the movie offers literary and historical quotes from the likes of Carl Jung and James Joyce (which Davies mixes in with his narration), and music ranging from classical (Gustav Mahler) to pop (Peggy Lee), all blended together to make Of Time and the City as much a work of art as it is a document of the past.

Yet not even nostalgia can wipe the slate completely clean. As Davies reveals, this era had its share of problems as well, including the strict, often oppressive doctrine of the Catholic church ("As far as I knew", Davies says at one point, "Mother Church still wanted me, but I no longer wanted her"); the Korean War (scenes of which play over The Hollies' 1969 hit, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother"); and, perhaps most troubling of all, the discrimination that disguised itself as the law of the land (Davies recalls the arrest of 2 gay men in London, who, during their trial, were chastised by the Judge for committing "an act of gross indecency", which was made worse, he said, because it occurred under one of the city's "most beautiful bridges"). Still, the filmmaker harbors fond memories of this period, and focuses on those things that were vital to him and his upbringing, often at the expense of what history tells us is important (no movie about Liverpool would be complete without The Beatles, but Davies dedicates no more than a minute or two to the band, leading us to believe their impact on pop culture was much stronger than their influence on him personally).

While the images on display in Of Time and the City are, indeed, gorgeous, the city itself, as seen in the film, was far from elegant. An industrial town brimming with poverty, its streets lined with decaying buildings and graffiti-filled walls, Liverpool clearly wasn't the ideal place to grow up, yet it was the only home Davies knew. It may not have been perfect, but if Of Time and the City is to be believed, he cherishes the experience of his youth, and that's something we can all relate to in one way or another.







#1,774. Adventure in Sahara (1938)

Posted: 25 Jun 2015 08:31 PM PDT


Directed By: D. Ross Lederman

Starring: Paul Kelly, C. Henry Gordon, Lorna Gray

Tag line: "A Yankee Daredevil Hits The Foreign Legion... To Bring You Breath-Taking Thrills!"

Trivia: Based on a story by future director Samuel Fuller




Based on a story written by Samuel Fuller (who also penned the tale that inspired 1943's Power of the Press), Adventure in Sahara is a passable, if unspectacular drama / adventure about mutiny in the French Foreign Legion.

When his brother, a legionnaire, dies while on duty, American Jim Wilson (Paul Kelly) joins the Foreign Legion in the hopes of getting his revenge on Captain Savatt (C. Henry Gordon), who he believes was responsible for his brother's demise. At his request, Wilson is stationed at the Agadez Outpost in the Sahara, where Savatt serves as commanding officer, and before long has rallied his fellow troops against the tyrannical Captain. Ignoring the pleas of Lt. Dumond (Robert Fiske), Savatt's second-in-command, as well as those of his girlfriend Carla (Lorna Gray), who ended up at Agadez when the plane she was flying crashed in the desert, Wilson goes ahead with his mutiny, taking control of the entire outpost. Yet as he'll soon discover, his problems are far from over.

Adventure in Sahara isn't without its charms. Along with a handful of well-staged (though not particularly exciting) battle sequences in which the Legion faces off against Arabs on horseback, the film does a good job establishing Captain Savatt as a stern disciplinarian who occasionally crosses the line into cruelty. While on sentry duty, new recruit René Malreaux (Stanley Brown) tries to piece together a photo of his fiancé, which Savatt had torn into pieces earlier in the day. When Savatt happens by, he has Malreaux arrested for neglecting his responsibilities, and then sentences him to serve as lookout on the wall for 48 hours straight (a punishment that ends in tragedy). On top of this, Adventure in Sahara also features a cameo appearance by actor Dwight Frye (Dracula, Frankenstein, The Vampire Bat), who pops up briefly in the role of Gravet, Capt. Savatt's right hand man.

Yet, despite its stronger elements, Adventure in Sahara fails to generate any lasting thrills, and will fade from memory soon after the final credits roll.







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Saturday, June 20, 2015

BOYS' TOWN (1938)

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#1,769. Boys Town (1938)

Posted: 20 Jun 2015 03:51 AM PDT


Directed By: Norman Taurog

Starring: Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Henry Hull


Tag line: "Greater than the imagination of the best writers!"

Trivia: Freddie Bartholomew was considered for the part of Mickey Rooney's best friend, but was not cast because the producers felt he was too associated with Little Lord Fauntleroy






Based on the true story of Father Edward Joseph Flanagan, who, in 1921, established Boys Town, a small community outside Omaha, Nebraska, designed to give orphaned and wayward boys a place to call home, 1938's Boys Town stars Spencer Tracy as the good father, who fought both the banks and politicians to keep his facility (which, at its height, housed some 500 kids) going strong. Providing a place to live as well as a future for the young men in his care (giving them a basic education while also teaching them a trade), Father Flanagan lived by the credo that "there's no such thing as a bad boy". This belief is challenged, however, with the arrival of Whitey March (Mickey Rooney), younger brother of convicted murderer Joe Marsh (Edward Morris). Cocky and street-wise, Whitey has a hard time fitting in, but when his actions lead to a near tragedy, he runs away, only to become embroiled in a scandal that, if the authorities have their way, could close the doors at Boys Town for good.

Though he was only 17 years old at the time he made Boys Town, Mickey Rooney was already a seasoned Hollywood pro, having acted since the age of six in shorts and feature films (in 1935, he played Puck in director William Dieterle's version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream). As the often stubborn Whitey, Rooney has a few good scenes (those moments late in the movie when he breaks down and cries are especially effective, and pack quite an emotional punch), but, in the end, it's Spencer Tracy's understated performance as Father Flanagan that makes Boys Town the tearkjerker it is. From the moment he first appears, comforting convicted killer Dan Farrow (Leslie Fenton) less than an hour before he's to die in the electric chair, we get a sense of Father Flanagan's selfless nature, and spot the inspiration in his eyes when Farrow says his life might have been different if he had just one friend when he was 12 years old. Armed with the basic philosophy that there's no such thing as a bad boy, Father Flanagan raises the money needed to start Boys Town from friends such as businessman Dave Morris (Henry Hull), and then works tirelessly to make his dream come true. From his calm approach when dealing with the financiers (who constantly try to shut him down) to the way he handles the volatile Whitey, Tracy brings Father Flanagan's generosity to the surface in just about every scene, and in so doing gives the film its heart and soul.

There's not a second in Boys Town where Spencer Tracy looks as if he's acting, which is the mark of a great performance. A noble, caring individual who transformed Boys Town into a safe haven for young delinquents, Father Flanagan was clearly an exceptional man, and Tracy, at his absolute best, brings him convincingly to life.







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Crackle Newsletter

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THE BRICK DOLL HOUSE (1967)

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#1,768. The Brick Dollhouse (1967)

Posted: 19 Jun 2015 01:00 AM PDT


Directed By: Tony Martinez

Starring: Tina Vienna, Janice Kelly, Peggy Ann



Tag line: "Tormented by burning desire!"

Trivia: Because he purchased the film unfinished, Producer David F. Friedman had to direct several of the scenes himself








The music is groovy, the starlets are naked, and the story is as flimsy as a tissue in a hurricane. It must be another nudie cutie from the "Mighty Monarch of Exploitation", producer David F. Friedman, and true to form, his 1967 offering The Brick Dollhouse gives us boobs galore, and not much else besides.

Exotic dancer Min Lee (Joyanna) has been murdered, and police Lt. Parker (George French) is bound and determined to find out who killed her. So, he interrogates the victim's roommates: Carmen (Tina Vienna), Danielle (Lee Cory), Sherry (Peggy West), Linda (Helena Clayton) and Sandy (Frankie O'Brien), a quintet of luscious babes who recount their experiences with the deceased, most of which involve a party of some kind. With few leads to go on, Lt. Parker finally gets the break he was looking for when he answers the all-important question: why was the victim wearing a red wig?

In the guise of a murder mystery, The Brick Dollhouse features nudity in just about every scene, which you'd think would be enough to hold the attention of every red-blooded guy in the audience. Well, it isn't. Take, for example, the flashback sequence in which one of the girls is taking a shower. In close-up, we see her lathers up her breasts, the water cascading down her back as she does so. But it doesn't end there; we next follow the girl into the bedroom, where she puts on make-up (topless), then walks over to the dresser to decide what she's going to wear (exposing her bare ass). After trying on a pair of pants, she changes her mind, and grabs another. In short, the scene plays on far too long. Yes, the actress has a great body, but when you find yourself shouting "Get on with it!" at a screen that has a naked girl on it, you know something is very, very wrong.

Aside from the shower sequence, The Brick Dollhouse gives us nude massages, stripteases, skinny-dipping (er…, make that skinny-splashing), orgies, a little S&M, sex on a pool table, and girl-on-girl action, all crammed into a scant 55 minutes. Yet when it's over, you still come away feeling that half the movie was filler. The Brick Dollhouse is, indeed, a swinging '60s party, but if you decide to attend, be sure to bring some No-Doze along.







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Thursday, June 18, 2015

This week on MUBI: Watch Red Cliff

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Ever since falling for the _The Assassin_ at Cannes, we've been in the mood for _wuxia_, and John Woo's kinetic action epic—a clash of swords and colors—is the stuff CinemaScope was made for. We're pleased to present _Red Cliff_ in its complete, uncut international version. In HD. Expect part 2 tomorrow! Weekly
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Red Cliff

John Woo, 2008
Ever since falling for the The Assassin at Cannes, we've been in the mood for wuxia, and John Woo's kinetic action epic—a clash of swords and colors—is the stuff CinemaScope was made for. We're pleased to present Red Cliff in its complete, uncut international version. In HD. Expect part 2 tomorrow!

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