Saturday, March 29, 2008

Woman in the Moon (1929)

"Progress on earth will not fail because of learned ignoramuses who totally lack in fantasy and whose brains operate in inverse proportion to their calcification!!!"
One of the first major films to dwell upon the possibility of space travel, Fritz Lang's Woman in the Moon (Frau im Mond) is, like many of its modern-day counterparts, more successful on a special-effects level than it is in terms of character development. The titular female, played by Gerda Maurus (one of the stars of Lang's 1928 classic Spies) joins an extraterrestrial expedition in search of gold on the moon. Among the many prescient aspects of the film is its use of a countdown before blast-off and its depiction of the effects of centrifugal force upon the lunar passengers. Willy Ley, later a leading light of the U.S. space program, served as technical adviser. Reportedly, Adolf Hitler was so overwhelmed by Woman in the Moon that he used the rocket depicted in the film as the prototype for the dreaded V1 and V2 assault missiles. Curiously unavailable during the "Sputnik fever" of the 1950s, Woman in the Moon rose back to the surface when it was excerpted in David Wolper's landmark 1960 TV documentary, The Race for Space. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 169 mins
Woman in the Moon (1929)
Another long film at over 2 1/2 hours, but was worth it. They did get many of the facts about space travel wrong, and yes it was a fiction when they did not need space suits on the other side of the moon. But the film does recognize the fact of weightlessness in space. Although somehow they felt the moon would have just a slightly smaller effect of gravity. Thus they used wooden soles on the bottom of the shoes when on the surface of the moon. Also to handle weightlessness of space they used straps on the floor that to walk the person would insert foot in one strap and remove from another strap. Launching was also performed under water because nothing could support such a rocket ship in lift off.

It definitely had Fritz Lang's handiwork in it. I felt the three way love affair was a classic Lang and even more dramatically was the all powerful evil controller of all the other characters that forced the group to go to the Moon so the evil syndicate could reap the gold rewards.
He [Helius] avoids their engagement party, but is then mugged on the way home by operatives of the evil businessmen, led by the creepy Mr. Turner. Woman in the Moon

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Destiny (1921)

Beggar, would you like an end to all your sufferings?
Give me your life-
Reply: Not one day-
Not one hour-
Not one breath!!!

And same for the old man, and even those that were supposedly weary of their lives at the hospital.
Fritz Lang was a stickler for realism in his American films; not so his German silents, which were fanciful to the point of being fairy tales. Der Müde Tod, Lang's first big critical success, is an allegorical tale of love, fidelity and death. The heroine (Lil Dagover), who in her dreams is confronted by Mr. Death (here the personification of evil), argues for the life of her beloved, but is unable to make the personal sacrifices that Death insists upon. Originally presented in three parts, Der Müde Tod was often boiled down to a single film for its non-German showings. Its English-language titles range from The Weary Death to Between Two Worlds to Beyond the Wall to Destiny. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 99 mins
Destiny (1921)
She loses in all three matches (story of the first, second and third lights) against death and all three candles blow out one at a time after each scenario. Death is a "digger" in the first scenario (Turkey in the holy month of Ramadan) and buries her lover up to the neck. In the second scenario, there is some gratuitous sex in having a topless woman in a parade. Death intercepts the letters of the plot by the heroine to kill him and then Death replaces the note to the lover so that the poison meant for death is delivered by the body guard as the lover is in disguise as the two are fencing in masks. In the third scenario (China) death is an archer that uses a magic horse to find the lovers and shoots the man as he is disguised as a tiger with the magic wand from A. The heroine sure begs a lot for being cast as a hero and not very smart at playing the game.

Again no special features on this disk.

Who gives his life away shall gain it...

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Blue Angel (1930)

Marlene Dietrich became an immediate international star on the strength of her performance as the temptress Lola Frohlich in Josef von Sternberg's classic tale of love and obsession. Professor Immanuel Rath (Emil Jannings) is a strict and humorless schoolmaster who is shocked when he discovers the boys in his class have been spending their time at a sleazy cabaret called The Blue Angel, where an entertainer named Lola (Dietrich) keeps the men in thrall and sells suggestive postcards of herself. Rath goes to the club in hopes of catching his students and giving them a severe dressing-down, but he instead finds himself entranced by the carefree atmosphere of the club, and is struck by Lola's earthy, sensual beauty. Rath finds himself strongly attracted to Lola, and she later entertains him in her dressing room. When word of Rath's infatuation with Lola spreads to his students, he is taunted mercilessly, and eventually Rath is dismissed from the school. While Lola agrees to marry Rath, she shows little affection for him and delights in humiliating him, making him her servant and forcing him to play a clown in her stage show. The Blue Angel was shot in both German and English language versions; the German is preferable, as most of the cast were obviously more expert in that tongue. Dietrich introduced her theme song, "Falling In Love Again", in this picture. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide
Running Time: 106 mins
The Blue Angel (1930)
This was the English version from Blockbuster. The Blue Angel bar also had a larger than lifelike bare-breasted mermaid where Rath also spends the night in Lola's room up the circular staircase. The "eventually Rath is dismissed" is actually in the first outbreak in class with the students putting Graffiti on the chalkboard of Rath and Lola. When Rath proposes, Lola laughs hysterically like a hyena but does put the engagement ring on right away-kind of confusing signals.

The scenes of Rath and the boys hiding out in the dressing rooms is quite amusing and funny. More of the slapstick comedy that US films have mastered.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)

For Werner Herzog's 1979 remake of F.W. Murnau's classic 1922 silent horror-fest Nosferatu, star Klaus Kinski adopts the same makeup style used by Murnau's leading man Max Schreck. Yet in the Herzog version, the crucial difference is that Nosferatu becomes more and more decayed and desiccated as the film progresses. Essentially a retelling of Bram Stoker's Dracula, Nosferatu the Vampyre traces the blood-sucking progress of the count as he takes over a small German village, then attempts to spread his influence and activities to the rest of the world. All that prevents Dracula from continuing his demonic practices is the self-sacrifice of Lucy Harker, played by Isabelle Adjani. Director Werner Herzog used the story to parallel the rise of Nazism. The film was lensed in the Dutch towns of Delft and Scheiberg. Nosferatu the Vampyre was filmed in both an English and a German-speaking version; the latter runs 11 minutes longer. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 107 mins
Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979)
Since the origianl one was not really that memorable in Nosferatu (1922), I consider this even a cheaper rip off. We are not even given the pleasure of Dracula attacking the captain of the boat and rising out of the coffin.

Parts of the movie were comical at best. The manager goes mad and even in the beginning laughs after nearly every sentence like Beavis and Butthead. The scenes of the rats were all gathered in the street in a mass as they were eating the feed that was laid out for them. Yes, really really scary. Not!

And like all egotistical directors this one decided to leave the ending as seeds for a sequel. Part of the directors feelings are included in a short documentary of the film making with the special features.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Indian Tomb (1921)

Even though Americans embraced The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, they seemed a bit puzzled by this fanciful German-made melodrama. Three Oxford graduates -- Robert Allen (Paul Richter), Carl Langland (Olaf Fonss) and Indian Prince Ayan (Conrad Veidt) -- pledge to remain devoted to one another. It doesn't take long for the oath to be broken, as the prince believes that his wife, Princess Savitri (Erma Morini), has been unfaithful with Allen. He decides to bury his wife alive and has Yogi Ramigami (Berhard Goetze) travel to England to fetch Langland. But when he orders his old pal to build him a tomb, he refuses. The prince holds him prisoner, and his fiancee, Laura Valmy (Mia May), comes looking for him. She too is captured and Ayan, with Ramigami's help, subjects all of them -- Langland, Allen and Laura -- to cruel torture. Finally Langland tries to rescue Savitri from the prince's troops by carrying her across a suspension bridge, but she sacrifices herself by cutting the bridge's ropes and falling to her death. Meanwhile, the prince renounces his religion, damning him to a fate worse than death. ~ Janiss Garza, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 212 mins
The Indian Tomb (1921)
Yes, this is close to the longest film I have ever watched. Greed was restored to 239 minutes. Unlike Greed, this film seemed to do a lot of flashbacks with the same film stock. Kind of a waste of time for the viewer. We already know what went on before. None of the scenes replayed seemed to be exceptional anyway and just leads the viewer to get confused as to how the scenes had changed.

Even in B/W the sets were magnificent with lots of scenic shots also. The bridge was scary at how much it sagged in the middle.
The part about:but she sacrifices herself by cutting the bridge's ropes and falling to her death. The reviewer has it wrong. Laura cuts the rope on the oncoming side and then Savitri sacrifices herself by just jumping into the cavern when the Prince holds Laura hostage. And says before she jumps to her death: "No more innocent victims! I will atone!"

Since the film was so long I guess this was the reason for no special effects and not even a title page just scene selection comes up for menu.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Catch-22 (1970)

Voice: Help Him!
Capt. Yossarian: Wha?
V: Help him, help him.
CY: Help who?
V: Help the Bombardier.
CY: I'm the bombardier. I'm alright.
V: Then Help Him, help him.

Director Mike Nichols and writer-actor Buck Henry followed their enormous hit The Graduate (1967) with this timely adaptation of Joseph Heller's satiric antiwar novel. Haunted by the death of a young gunner, all-too-sane Capt. Yossarian (Alan Arkin) wants out of the rest of his WW II bombing missions, but publicity-obsessed commander Colonel Cathcart (Martin Balsam) and his yes man, Colonel Korn (Henry), keep raising the number of missions that Yossarian and his comrades are required to fly. After Doc Daneeka (Jack Gilford) tells Yossarian that he cannot declare him insane if Yossarian knows that it's insane to keep flying, Yossarian tries to play crazy by, among other things, showing up nude in front of despotic General Dreedle (Orson Welles). As all of Yossarian's initially even-keeled friends, such as Nately (Art Garfunkel) and Dobbs (Martin Sheen), genuinely lose their heads, and the troop's supplies are bartered away for profit by the ultra-entrepreneurial Milo Minderbinder (Jon Voight), Yossarian realizes that the whole system has lost it, and he can either play along or jump ship. Though not about Vietnam, Catch-22's ludicrous military machinations directly evoked its contemporary context in the Vietnam era. Cathcart and Dreedle care more about the appearance of power than about victory, and Milo cares for money above all, as the complex narrative structure of Yossarian's flashbacks renders the escalating events appropriately surreal. Confident that the combination of a hot director and a popular, culturally relevant novel would spell blockbuster, Paramount spent a great deal of money on Catch-22, but it wound up getting trumped by another 1970 antiwar farce: Robert Altman's MASH. With audiences opting for Altman's casual Korean War iconoclasm over Nichols' more polished symbolism, the highly anticipated Catch-22 flopped, although the New York Film Critics Circle did acknowledge Arkin and Nichols. Despite this reception, Catch-22's ensemble cast and pungent sensibility effectively underline the insanity of war, Vietnam and otherwise. ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 121 mins
Catch-22 (1970)
A real black comedy about a man that must be insane to want to stay in a bloody war as a bombardier but to admit that he does not want to fly anymore must indicate to the "Doc" that he is sane. And from this basic formula of "Catch 22" the whole film creates illogical actions of participants. Capt. Yossarian to finally get a discharge has to like his commanding officers-or in other words say nice things about them. And then he gets stabbed in the back by another person raking.

The unit is transferred into a "syndicate" the creative ideas of a brown-nosing Captain in the Air Force-an ultra-entrepreneurial Milo Minderbinder (Jon Voight).

At first I missed it but the funniest scene of the movie for me was the a man that was wrapped from head to toes in a cast with a tube out of his crotch and a IV into his arm. The two nurses come by and disconnect his urine bottle and connect it to his IV feed and then reconnects that empty bottle to the urine tube.


There is commentary by the director Mike Nichols and Steven Soderbergh which was worth a run through also.

The director dissed John Wayne when he came and landed in their field strip, lol! He was the "enemy". Later Mike said he did get to know John.

One last comment was that I decided to watch this from reading an economist's paper that mentioned this film in passing.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lust, Caution (2007)

Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee adapts this Eileen Chang story set in World War II-era Shanghai that details the political intrigue surrounding a powerful political figure named Mr. Yee (Tony Leung) in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. Spanning the late-'30s and early-'40s, the movie introduces us to Hong Kong teen Wong Chia Chi (Tang Wei), a shy college freshman who finds her calling in a drama society devoted to patriotic plays. But the troupe's leader, Kuang Yu Min (Wang Leehom) isn't just a theater maven - he's a revolutionary as well, and he's devoted to carrying out a bold plan to assassinate top Japanese collaborator Mr. Yee. Each student has an important role to play, and Wong puts herself in a dangerous position as Mrs. Mak: she befriends Mr. Yee's wife (Joan Chen), and slowly gains trust before tempting him into an affair. While at first the plan goes exactly as scripted, things suddenly take a deadly turn and Wong is emigrate from Hong Kong. Later, in 1941, the occupation shows no signs of ceasing and Wong is simply drifting through her days in Shanghai. Much to her surprise, the former actress finds Kuang requesting that she resume the role of Mrs. Mak. Now, as Wong again gains intimate access to her dangerous prey, she must struggle with her own identity in order to pull off the performance of a lifetime. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 155 mins
Lust, Caution (2007)
This story is a basic tragic love story of a love that like a fine wine never gets drunk. A young girl falls in love for a man that can not love her back and thus she is willing to do any act to win his love, including joining and participating in a movement that she did not have a deep desire to join. Unlike Contempt , the woman does not get to be in the position of intimacy with her love and thus has no contempt even when she is basically pimped in the same way as Contemp's main actress.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Nosferatu (1922)

F. W. Murnau's landmark vampire film Nosferatu isn't merely a variation on Bram Stoker's Dracula: it's a direct steal, so much so that Stoker's widow went to court, demanding in vain that the Murnau film be suppressed and destroyed. The character names have been changed to protect the guilty (in the original German prints, at least), but devotees of Stoker will have little trouble recognizing their Dracula counterparts. The film begins in the Carpathian mountains, where real estate agent Hutter (Gustav von Wagenheim) has arrived to close a sale with the reclusive Herr Orlok (Max Schreck). Despite the feverish warnings of the local peasants, Hutter insists upon completing his journey to Orlok's sinister castle. While enjoying his host's hospitality, Hutter accidently cuts his finger-whereupon Orlok tips his hand by staring intently at the bloody digit, licking his lips. Hutter catches on that Orlok is no ordinary mortal when he witnesses the vampiric nobleman loading himself into a coffin in preparation for his journey to Bremen. By the time the ship bearing Orlok arrives at its destination, the captain and crew have all been killed-and partially devoured. There follows a wave of mysterious deaths in Bremen, which the local authorities attribute to a plague of some sort. But Ellen, Hutter's wife, knows better. Armed with the knowledge that a vampire will perish upon exposure to the rays of the sun, Ellen offers herself to Orlok, deliberately keeping him "entertained" until sunrise. At the cost of her own life, Ellen ends Orlok's reign of terror once and for all. Rumors still persist that Max Schreck, the actor playing Nosferatu, was actually another, better-known performer in disguise. Whatever the case, Schreck's natural countenance was buried under one of the most repulsive facial makeups in cinema history-one that was copied to even greater effect by Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog's 1979 remake - Nosferatu the Vampyre. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 93 mins
Nosferatu (1922)
Being that this film was made in 1922, it is understandable that every technique was used to give films more creativity including some coloring of scenes and one scene of a negative image. I have always enjoyed that being a photographer but it has to be used very discretely. And the wagon going up a hill probably was not the right scene since they had already used the technique of speeding up the scene by taking out frames. The rising Dracula out of his coffin was a good effect and they used plenty of rats to get the image of filth.

Horror films are not my forte so I can not give this a high rating but still acceptable at 3.5 (/5).

There was not any commentator dialogue as one of the special features, but it did have some nice clips from other old films (1921-1931) by F.W. Murnau:
The Haunted Castle-1921
The Last Laugh-1924
and I look forward toward watching these films if available.

It also have "Meeting the Count" where they compare the styles of the Novel by Bram Stoker, Screenplay by Henrik Galeen, Film by Murnau and the Radio Play by Orson Welles (loved his voice).

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited stars Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody as three brothers who, at the insistence of the oldest, take a train ride through India together in order to strengthen their bond. Even though the vacation goes wrong in ways they do not anticipate, the strangeness of their setting and some revealing honesty produces some surprising changes between them all. ~ Perry Seibert, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 91 mins
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
An amusing little film, although like most Hollywood Productions, it leaves some wrong impressions of India and some of the Indian Parts are mere characterizations of stereotypes. This was especially true of the poisonous snake incidents. Some of the scenes were nice and I enjoyed the film although I only rate it a 3/5.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Michael Moore Hates America (2004)

From Michael Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan to the movie-making capital of the United States, director Mike Wilson's inflammatory documentary travels across the country to hold the controversial Sicko director's allegedly questionable tactics up to the light for closer examination. Wilson is a filmmaker who wants viewers to question what they see and hear in the media, and he's willing to travel thousands of miles in order to highlight why you too should remain skeptical about Moore's motivations as a filmmaker. The result is a meditation on the American Dream, and the manner in which diligence and determination can eventually pay off for the folks who aren't willing to let their dreams fade. Additionally, by speaking with such well known media figures as Penn Jilette and John Stossel as well as a host of highly respected scholars, Wilson highlights how Moore manipulates interviews and statistics to serve his own personal agenda. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 95 mins
Michael Moore Hates America (2004)
A very personal documentary where we get to see the perspective of a documentary filmmaker as he deals with a variety of issues. The director was even willing to clarify his position and how his own bias came through. He also asked the Mayor of Davos to understand the reason of doing the interview after the fact because the director and the filmographer had questions about the techniques they were using.

I liked the game show 6 degrees of conspiracy. The graphics for this section was amateurish at best, but the idea was worth it.

I think this will be the first time for a five rating for a movie. Rating 5 (/5)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Into the Wild (2007)

Into the Wild is writer/director Sean Penn's adaptation of the popular book by Jon Krakauer, a nonfiction account of the post-collegiate wanderings of a young Virginia man, who divorces himself from his friends, family, and possessions in search of a greater spiritual knowledge and communion with nature. Upon his 1990 graduation from Emory University in Atlanta, Christopher McCandless (Emile Hirsch) walks away from a loving if dysfunctional family and sends his nearly 25,000-dollar life savings to Oxfam International. Instead of the normal life his parents planned for him, Chris rechristens himself "Alexander Supertramp" and heads west in his beaten-up automobile until it no longer runs, at which point he takes up hitchhiking. The goal on the horizon? Alaska. By hook or by crook -- but without his limited cash, which he symbolically sets aflame -- Chris/Alexander determines to make it to his personal promised land, with stops along the way to experience America and its people. These adventures include a kayak trip down dangerous rapids, a gig working in a grain mill, extended stays with a hippie couple and a kindly old widower -- and enough cold, hunger, and exhaustion to leave him emotionally defeated more than once. Meanwhile, his parents (William Hurt and Marcia Gay Harden) and sister (Jena Malone) haven't received so much as a postcard from him, and begin to fear the worst. Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder composed the contemplative soundtrack. ~ Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide

Running Time: 148 mins
Into the Wild (2007)
A foolish youth that felt he could accomplish anything, and a complete rejection of everything he was raised at. His philosophy bordered on Marxism. But ultimately nihilism consumed in him in his rejection of all things modern. The wildness of Alaska is quite different than a desert that is within short range of civilization. It does bring up that when he got hungry he foolishly ate a plant that was poisonous, although this was never really confirmed according to some news reports.

Should we move to Alaska?

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Killing (1956)

The Killing was director Stanley Kubrick's first major film effort -- though, like Kubrick's earlier films, it was economically produced with an inexpensive cast. In a variation of his Asphalt Jungle role, Sterling Hayden plays veteran criminal Johnny Clay, planning one last big heist before settling down to a respectable marriage with Fay (Colleen Gray). Teaming with several cohorts, Johnny masterminds a racetrack robbery. The basic flaw is that all the crooks involved are losers and small-timers who find themselves in way over their heads despite their supposed cleverness. None of the participants is more pathetic than George Peatty (Elisha Cook Jr.), who is goaded into the robbery by his covetous and far-from-faithful wife (Marie Windsor). As in a Greek tragedy, Johnny's best-laid schemes go awry. Prominently featured in the cast of The Killing are offbeat character actors Tim Carey and Joe Turkel, who'd show up with equally showy roles in future Kubrick productions. The Killing is based on the novel Clean Break by Lionel White. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

Theatrical Feature Running Time: 89 mins
The Killing (1956)
Basically a story of crime does not pay. This was more of an attempt to see any patterns in Stanley Kubrick's films and what his views of the world are. But this was more or less just a dime store crime novel. The wife was the most memorable with the fact that she was willing to back stab her husband at the drop of a dime and even collaborated for his ultimate demise.

Fritz Lang Epic Collection|Disk 4|Spies

Another one of the 5 that was a repeat for myself, as in Spies. Only this version did not have any commentator track.

Fritz Lang Epic Collection [5 Discs]