Comments on watching and making films.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street

4 out of 5 stars

The only reason I'm not giving this movie 5 out of 5 is that the characters are so disgusting, that they make the film hard to enjoy at times. That being said, that basically means that Scorsese was doing his job... Everything else about this film was amazingly well done, as you would expect from a master like Martin Scorsese.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

World War Z

3 out of 5 stars.

This ended up being better than I thought it would be, considering the whole reshoot debacle. The only thing that bugged me was the almost super human-ness of the Zombies. Other than that, though, Forster really created a tight and tense thriller.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Bling Ring

3 1/2 out of 5 Stars.

While the movie is well crafted, and you can definitely see a lot of Sofia's style in it, it still comes off a bit flat, which was a little disappointing. It's worth a watch, but I just feel like anyone could have directed this...

Friday, June 14, 2013

Things Change, People Change

When this blog started, it was to stay in touch with someone, so I could share my thoughts and opinions on films and television with them, and exercise my ability to analyze other people's work, in the hopes that it would improve my own. It also was supposed to exist as a record of what I thought about the films I was seeing, at the time I was seeing them.

 I'm not going to do that anymore.

 There are enough people talking about movies on the internet, and, to be honest with you, I'm not adding anything to the conversation. Being a critic is a job. People do this for a living, and they do it much better than I do. I've also felt, for a long time, a growing disinterest in dissecting people's efforts. I will still update this blog on what I'm working on, video's from Vimeo and YouTube that I like, filmmaker information, and maybe promote some things that I like. I'm thinking of still keeping a list of everything I see, and maybe just a simple 5 star rating system. That should suffice as a record of what I thought (at the time) about what I've seen.

Man Of Steel

2 1/2 out of 5 stars.

It had some moments, but, ultimately, it felt like plot development had been jettisoned in favor of action sequences (not a surprise, considering it's Zack Snyder).

Saturday, June 8, 2013


5 out of 5 stars.

Perfect. Amazing performances, writing, cinematography, etc. Jeff Nichols hits it out of the park.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Veronica Mars, Crowd Funding, and the easiest decision Warner Brothers ever made.

Earlier today it was announced that the cult TV show Veronica Mars would be coming back as a movie, assuming they could crowd fund the production costs through Kickstarter. Some people have taken this opportunity to publicly wonder if Warner Brothers, who owns Veronica Mars, has gone completely insane, or if this is the beginning of the end for the studio system. If Veronica Mars can get crowd funded to the tune of 2 million dollars, in the span of less than 24 hours, do we even need studios anymore?

The answer, ultimately, is yes, we still need studios and no, they probably won't be going anywhere anytime soon. For all of their complaining about how poorly the box office seems to perpetually be doing (even though, in recent years, profits have shown a sharp rise), these folks are ridiculously shrewd, and have so many back door deals going on, they have an almost endless supply of cash coming in. Even in hard times, they will be able to pay the bills.

But what about Warner Brothers? Are they really so insane, or so strapped for cash, that they would simply let Rob Thomas, creator of Veronica Mars, crowd source a big screen version of the show? I'm not an insider (obviously), so I have no idea what WB's fortunes look like, but, ultimately, this is one of the most shrewd, and potentially profitable, decisions they could make.

Think about it - A studio allows a show runner to take the idea that the studio owns the rights to, and crowd source funds to create a movie out of it. This person is able to raise the funds for the production and (I assume post production), and the studio takes over on distribution. Warner Brothers has, essentially, just gained an extra film for their 2014 schedule, and didn't have to put out a single up front penny. They don't have to squeeze out a single, up front dime until the movie is finished. And then, all they have to do is distribute it, which is easy, because they already have all of their necessary channels and deals set up. Getting the word out is a cinch - They simply continue to take advantage of the army of folks that helped them raise that staggering sum of 2 million dollars.

Put simply, Warner Brothers wins. They put out nothing up front, they give away some BS prizes for the different Kickstarter levels, they get content (of which, THEY still own the rights to), and they collect the profits.

Don't get me wrong, Veronica Mars fans win, too, but only because WB wins. Don't think, not even for a second, that WB would allow this to happen if they didn't see dollar signs. There is a reason Veronica Mars was cancelled, and there is a reason it has never been made into a movie before now. Warner Brothers sees a sure thing, and Veronica Mars fans are willing to do whatever it takes to get their little piece. The awful truth? 2 million is a drop in the bucket for someone like Warner Brothers. They could EASILY have floated that at any time, if they truly believed in this project, but they don't.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jeremy Adams' "Herb Williams - The Call of the Wild"

HERB WILLIAMS "The Call of the Wild" / short documentary from Jeremy Adams on Vimeo.

This is a short documentary that was shot and directed by Jeremy Adams and edited by myself. Hope you enjoy!

All The Light In The Sky

No Budge, Kentucker Audley's website dedicated to giving smaller, independent films an opportunity to gain an internet signal boost that they might not otherwise gain by just self releasing on YouTube or Vimeo, recently hosted a "secret" (and limited time) screening of Joe Swanberg's new feature All The Light In The Sky. I had a chance to see the film, and I have to say, I truly feel like it is Swanberg's most accomplished film yet. I am putting it on my list of favorites of his, alongside Hannah Takes The Stairs and Nights and Weekends. 

The film stars Jane Adams as Marie, an aging actress, who is visited by her niece, Faye, played by Sophia Takal. During their visit, Marie see's the spark of youth she is missing, while Faye revels in the spoils of war that only someone who has been around long enough to achieve these things might have. Kent Osborne makes an appearance as a friend of a friend of Faye's, who ends up getting involved with Marie. Larry Fessenden also pops up in a great performance as Rusty, Marie's neighbor and surfing partner.

Moments are the key to most Swanberg films. You're not looking to get the typical Hollywood formula out of these films, and, if you are, you'll be leaving frustrated. Moments like Marie's conversation with her agent, in which she slowly gives into the idea of an extremely low budgeted film in order to just be doing something, or Faye's fear of being caught by Marie if she shows some skin to her boyfriend over Skype. There's an amazing moment with Marie and Dan (Osborne), where they're trying to figure out whether it feels right to kiss. All of these moments, and some pretty gorgeous cinematography, add up to another great piece by Swanberg. Adams perfectly encompasses that late thirties/early forties malaise of actors who have given up a traditional family structure to further their career, and the emptiness and loneliness that can breed when that career slows (which is natural for almost any working actor short of the 1% superstars).

I wish we would have had more time with Faye. It felt like her character could have been explored more and  issues could have been addressed from the perspective of a younger character, but, ultimately, this is Marie's film, and Adams commands the screen in a way that, as a viewer, you don't question that.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Texas Chainsaw 3D

**I did not see this movie in 3D.**

There are some experiences you have in the movie theater that are so utterly confusing and depressing, you don't even know what to say about them. This was my experience with Texas Chainsaw 3D. The original film is, to this day, one of the best horror films ever made, but in the forty, or so, years that have followed, Hollywood has desperately tried to capture that magic again, but never has been able to. All of the follow ups, short of (surprisingly), Marcus Nispels Platinum Dunes produced remake, have been a sorry attempt to make a franchise out of lightning in a bottle. This newest addition is no different than all of the others.

Texas Chainsaw 3D's first mistake is immediate. The film begins with an opening credits sequence, which is, basically, a highlight reel of the original film. By the time the credits are over, one is left to wonder - Now that I've seen all of the most important parts of the original, why am I still watching this? And that's just a few minutes in. It gets worse. The film is supposed to be a direct sequel to the original. The next mistake it makes, though, is that, once you've sat through the aforementioned highlight reel, they immediately change the story. We pick up at the farm, probably half an hour or an hour later, and the sheriff, who, at this point it is presumed, has talked to Sally (from the original film), has come to the house to arrest Leatherface and the three other members of his family - The Old Man, Grandpa, and the Hitchhiker. Now, SOMEHOW, in that short period of time, those four people grow to, like, TWELVE people. WHO ARE ALL OF THESE OTHER PEOPLE??? A shootout ensues, Leatherface manages to escape, and a baby girl is torn away from one of these (illegitimate) family members. She grows up (and, mind you, if this film was actually following logic, would be in her late thirties or early forties at this point) to be an artistic butcher shop worker named Heather (assumedly in her early to mid twenties, because, apparently, she went into stasis for twenty years). When Heather finds out that she is inheriting a piece of property in Texas, it is revealed that she was adopted (even though she was actually stolen). Looking to discover more about her roots, her and a small group of friends head up to the farm where, of course, they discover Leatherface and craziness ensues.

You could write a BOOK about everything that is wrong or ridiculous about this movie. That anyone, on the money side, who read this script thought that it was a good idea is BAFFLING. I'm not going to bother going into everything, it would take too long, but just know that this film is RIDICULOUS and, honestly, most of the horrible sequels that have been made to the original film are better than this one.

One thing I do want to mention, though, that ABSOLUTELY KILLED ME, was the fact that they brought Gunnar Hansen back (the original Leatherface) to play an unnamed member of the (illegitimate) family, who dies in the opening flashback sequence. If this  is, in fact, a direct sequel, why not have Hansen play Leatherface? What was the point in bringing in some other guy to play him?

Again, so much that is ridiculous in this film.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Side Effects

Steven Soderbergh's final theatrical film (for now, at least...), is a taut and surprising thriller. Side Effects stars Rooney Mara as Emily, a young woman who's mental health is in a fragile balance, after her husband, Martin (Channing Tatum), is sent to prison for Wall Street indiscretions. After Martin is released, she begins seeing a psychologist, Dr. Banks (Jude Law), who begins prescribing her medication. An event happens, which I won't spoil for you, that launches everyone into a downward spiral.

I can't really say too much else, because, as I said, I don't want to spoil it.

What can I say about the film from a technical standpoint? It's pretty awesome. It's Soderbergh. Would you expect any less. That he is retiring is, literally, humanity's loss. He's one of our best, and still has, at least, twenty more years of making amazing films in him. It's his choice, though, and while Side Effects isn't a Traffic or Ocean's movie, he's still going out on top.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Impossible

Disaster films are, generally, more about special effects than they are about story, but The Impossible manages to side step that pitfall, and create a story driven tear jerker, with amazing effects to boot. Naomi Watts (in what is probably the best performance of her career) and Ewan McGregor are parents who bring their three sons one a trip to Thailand for the Christmas holidays. While there, One of the largest tsunami's on record hits the coast, right where they're staying. The rest of the film is the aftermath of this event, but I don't really want to go into it, because I don't want to spoil anything.

The film was made by a Spanish production company, which explains why it's a good film. Hollywood would have jacked the budget up, cut anything remotely resembling story or good dialog out of the script, and tried to sell it as a summer blockbuster. This film was perfectly executed and needed to be released just the way it was. The acting and directing are amazing, and the cinematography, while often times the result of having to work around the effects, is still gorgeous.

This is one of the best films of the year. It will stick with you for a long time, afterwards, and I LOVE films like that. I highly recommend it, and if you get the chance, see it in a theater. It really is something amazing.

DVD - A Safe Place

Part of Criterion's BBS Productions box set, A Safe Place is Henry Jaglom's debut feature, and all I can really say about it is this - I didn't get it. It appears to be, roughly, about a woman's relationships with the men in her life. I mean, that's the closest thing to a plot I can figure out. A Safe Place is definitely the most experimental (other than the insanity that is Head) of the BBS films, and, because of that, feels completely out of place. It feels like a film school undergraduate project that happened to be shot on 35mm and star Orson Welles and Jack Nicholson. I've never seen any of Jaglom's other films, but, I can tell you that starting out with A Safe Place doesn't excite me to see more.

DVD - Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

David Gelb's Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is an inspirational documentary about one mans dedication to his craft, in this case being a Sushi chef. Jiro, alongside his oldest son and a host of apprentices, operates a small Sushi restaurant which, because of the reputation it has built up over decades, has a month long waiting list, and charges upwards of three hundred dollars per meal. The point of the film, however, is not that this man has built a business which, by its nature, is exclusive, but that his dedication, hard work, and energy have brought him success and freedom, which, even though he is Japanese, sounds like the American dream.

This is a must watch, and probably one that could use to be watched again and again (especially if you need a little job related pick me up).

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Matthias Grunsky Discusses Using A 1970's Sony Tube Camera For Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess

Matthias Grunsky, the cinematographer for all of Andrew Bujalski's films, including his newest piece Computer Chess, made the above video, and also wrote a blog post detailing his work with the Sony AVC-3260, a 1970's era tube based video camera that was used to shoot the entire film. Both are interesting, especially for techies. A few years back, I had the idea to shoot my script, The Definers, on one of these cameras, as opposed to shooting it on Super 8, as I had originally planned. Realizing, now, that they had to have an electrical engineer come in and modify the cameras... I might just stick with Super 8, if I ever get to make it.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

DVD - Drive, He Said

Jack Nicholson's directorial debut is a kinetic burst of late sixties/early seventies zeitgeist. From the get go, Drive, He Said, evolves out of sports film into protest film, into romance film. William Tepper is Hector, a basketball player who is involved in an affair with Karen Black's Olive. She's married to a professor at the college that Hector plays ball for, and he seems completely oblivious to what's going on. While this is happening, there is a simultaneous story going on of Hector's roommate, Gabriel (Michael Margotta), who is trying to lead a campus revolution while dodging the draft for Vietnam.

Nicholson really tries to shove as many ideas as he possibly can into this film, and somehow manages to do so, without becoming preachy. The film keeps a steady pace, which is appreciated as a film like this could end up meandering VERY easily. The acting in it can be questionable sometimes, but with great cinematography and a sense of urgency, Drive, He Said, feels like an important watch, especially when focusing on films of the period. It reminded me, a lot, of Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool.

DVD - The King Of Marvin Gardens

Part of Criterions fantastic BBS Productions box set, The King Of Marvin Gardens stars Jack Nicholson and Bruce Dern as estranged brothers David and Jason Staebler, who reunite in Atlantic City on the verge of Jason closing a real estate deal, and moving to Hawaii to make another deal. As David spends time with Jason and his girlfriends, Sally and Jessica (Ellen Burstyn and Julia Anne Robinson, respectively), they traverse the desolate frontier that is Atlantic City in the off season, all while trying to allude the police and the "associates" of Jason's business partner Lewis (Scatman Crothers), and figure out their places in a world that is changing around them.

While I felt like it was a little slow, Bob Rafelson's intimate character drama is excellently acted, with Nicholson, Burstyn, and Dern all standing out. You really get the sense of a group of people in their mid to late thirties who haven't really done a whole lot with their lives. Among each other, they are important, even if alone they aren't. The King Of Marvin Gardens is a great meditation on right and wrong, ambition, and facing reality.

Gary Weis's "80 Blocks From Tiffany's"

Monday, January 21, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Zero Dark Thirty is probably up for every award possible, but there is always that one movie that gets a lot of hype and probably doesn't deserve it. In my mind, that's this one. The film concerns the CIA, and the global manhunt for Osama Bin Laden. It takes place, roughly, over a decade, in which the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States happen, and the May 2nd, 2011 capture and execution of Bin Laden.

Now, ten years+ is a lot of time to cover in a movie, and most of the time a movie will cover the highlights of the events occurring on such a long timeline. In Zero Dark Thirty, it never feels like anything is much of a highlight. There's never too much intrigue here. It's more like someone is reading a report on what happened during that decade, and you're imagining it in your head to keep from being bored to death (and, somehow, you were able to edit the worst parts out). You never really get to know any of the characters that much, even the films supposed "lead" Jessica Chastain, who comes off as just being a secondary character who happened to have more lines and more screen time than anyone else.

Then again, I suppose, maybe that's the genius of Zero Dark Thirty. Here is a movie that is about the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, and you could almost say that Bin Laden is, in fact, the main character in the movie. It feels like you're waiting the entire movie to get to him, and then, just like the audiences relationship to the movie, You are allowed only brief glimpses of the man, and almost all moments are after he is dead. Zero Dark Thirty is one long trudge to the end, where you are allowed brief glimpses of something interesting, only to be over taken by the boring and tedious procedural aspects, and the barely there supporting cast. Why people feel this is somehow Bigelow's masterpiece is confusing. She's made much better films than this, and, hopefully, will continue to do so.

Rust And Bone

Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) is a brutal and selfish loser, put in charge of his son, and in need of a new start in life. He relocates to an ocean side city in France, where he gets a job as a security guard. It is while he is working the door at a club that he meets Stephanie (Marion Cotillard), a dolphin trainer at a local amusement park who seems at the end of her limit of patience with her own life. When Stephanie is involved in an accident that costs her her legs, she leans on Ali to try and find a way back to the world. Ali's true nature is revealed quickly, though, leaving Stephanie to contend with the emotional roller coaster of being involved with this man.

Directed by Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, The Beat That My Heart Skipped), Rust and Bone is a powerful film about accepting others for who they are, and having to accept your own faults and problems and over coming them. It is not just Stephanie who must overcome her injury. Ali must also come to the realization that his behavior is dangerous to both himself, and those around him. The film moves at a perfect pace, with perfect acting, and perfect cinematography. It is one of my favorites of this year, so far.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Shadow Of A Doubt

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

In Shadow Of A Doubt, Joseph Cotten plays Uncle Charlie, a man running away from something, who ends up in the mid west, somewhere, with his extended family, including his niece, who is named after him (and played by Teresa Wright). When his namesake niece, Charlie, begins to discover information about her Uncle, things that reveal a very dark and dangerous side, Uncle Charlie begins to become a menace to the young girl, only confirming her suspicions.

I was a little worried about this one, because it just didn't seem very solid, but it turned out to be pretty good. Joseph Cotten is great as a man who has slid into evil. His menace is palpable, and Teresa Wright's concern for her own life seems authentic. She's scared, there's no doubt. The supporting cast is here and there, but Charlie's parent's and little sister do a good enough job.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

North By Northwest

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

Cary Grant returns to Hitchcock's universe as Roger Thornhill in North By Northwest. When Thornhill is caught up in a case of mistaken identity, his life is threatened, and he's forced into being a pawn for both sides of a game he never asked to play. Working against him is a man named Vandamm (James Mason), who is convinced that Thornhill is an operative, sent to spy on him. Thornhill ends up traveling from New York City to Mount Rushmore, with various stops along the way (and an assassination attempts), trying to solve the mystery of George Kaplan, the agent that Vandamm thinks Thornhill is.

There's zero you can complain about with North By Northwest, which feels like one of Hitchcock's best realized films. His scope runs across America, and he knows how to use major locals between the east coast and South Dakota to their maximum effect. The film is gorgeous, in all of its Technicolor-ish style, and Grant never ceases to be the man that, at least the male audience, wants to be. Mason is devilish, but real, and Eva Marie Saint plays the cool double cross VERY well. You never really know what side she's on.

To Catch A Thief

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

It's funny, because I remember seeing this on DVD a few years ago, and I went back and read my review of it, and I said something to the effect that it was a very "competent" film. Seeing it on the big screen (or, perhaps, it was the years distance) definitely changed my mind on this one. I think it's now one of my favorite Hitchcock's, along with Psycho.

To Catch A Thief s the story of a retired cat burglar, John Robie (Cary Grant), who must solve a rash of burglaries done in his old style in order to clear his name. No one believes him, but help comes in the way of Frances Stevens (Grace Kelly), a bored socialite who falls in love with Robie, and her mother Jessie (Jessica Royce Landis).

The acting, such as it is for the period is fantastic, and Kelly is the real stand out here. Every time I see her on screen, I'm reminded of what a travesty it was that her career was ended early. She seems so natural, she's almost weightless on screen. Hitchcock captures the French Riviera with flair, opulence, and rich cinematic tones. This truly is, I think, one of his best.

Friday, January 4, 2013


NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

A charming young man, John Aysgarth (Cary Grant), woo's a young woman, Lina (Joan Fontaine) into marrying him. She soon finds out, though, that he isn't the person she thought he was, and she might be in grave danger.

Suspicion... I feel like a tool for saying this, but I just didn't like it. It was long. It really didn't feel like Lina was in danger, and it always felt like she could pretty much leave at any time, so... Call me a spoil sport, but I never bought into the idea that Cary Grant would ever play a cold blooded murderer, either. It just never felt like there were any real stakes, and, without giving anything away, it just felt like the whole thing was resolved at the snap of a finger, which was incredibly frustrating. You sit through almost two hours of Hitchcock building all of this up, and then one quick thing happens, and everything is cool again. No way... No dice.


NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

How do you live up to a legacy of perfection? That is the question that forms the entire narrative thread for Hitchcock's Rebecca. One of his most universally revered films, and, probably, one of my least favorite of his "popular canon". Joan Fontaine plays a young common girl who meets a rich socialite, Max de Winter (Laurence Olivier), and marries him, only to find that his dead wife was the object of everyone's affection, primarily for her ability to be perfect at everything she did. How will the new Mrs. de Winter handle it? Will she buckle under the pressure? or set a different standard by which the deWinter house operates?

I've never particularly liked this film. I think a lot of that comes from the fact that this is one of the very few Hitchcock films that feels like anyone else could have made it. All of his films have his stamp all over them. When you see one, there's little denying it's a Hitchcock. Not so with Rebecca. The film is, at worst, mediocre, which is still more than you can say for a lot of films, but given that it is from a master, and especially during the period where he was TRULY establishing himself as such, here in America, you would think he would have found some way to do more than plop out a fairly pedestrian seeming adaptation. The theme is great, but the way he tackles it never suggests any real innovation or concern as to establishing how this picture fits into the broader scheme of Hitchcock.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Lady Vanishes

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

In The Lady Vanishes, Iris (Margaret Lockwood) plays a young, privileged woman on a railroad trip home to marry her fiancee. The night before she leaves, she meets a nice, older woman, Miss Froy (Dame May Whitty), and a carefree troublemaker named Gilbert (Michael Redgrave). Before boarding the train, a large object is accidentally dropped on her head, causing her lingering pain. Miss Froy sits with her on the train, and makes her feel comfortable enough to take a nap. When she wakes up, though, Miss Froy is gone, and no one seems to remember her ever being there in the first place. She has to enlist the help of Gilbert to help find Miss Froy, if, in fact, she exists at all.

Hitchcock really put a lot into this. It is equal parts comedy, suspense, and mystery. Because it is so many things at once, it can sometimes seem a little lop sided, but you notice it rarely. Everything in The Lady Vanishes is top notch, as is expected from a Hitchcock film, by this point in his career.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Secret Agent

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

Set during World War 1, Secret Agent is the story of two English spies (John Gielgud and Madeleine Carroll) who are sent to Switzerland to track down and assassinate a German spy, with the help of another spy, a man known as "The General" (played by Peter Lorre). When the two English spies fall in love with each other, they begin to wonder if they have what it takes to carry out their mission.

Secret Agents is pretty taut. It doesn't feel like anything is wasted here, and I think that's what I like about it. It's a complex story, but Hitch keeps it as simple as he possibly can. Does love conquer all? and does it come before or after duty to country? and, when it comes to taking another persons life, how sure do you have to be that it's the right person before you pull that trigger?

A lot of interesting questions here.

The 39 Steps

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

Robert Donat is Hannay, a Canadian visiting England, who decides to attend a show. When a riot breaks out at this show (along with gun shots), Hannay finds himself in the company of a mysterious woman who reveals that she is a spy, and some folks are after her. They take refuge in Hannay's apartment, but the next morning, he wakes to find the woman dead, and the evidence pointing to him. He takes off across the Queen's country to unravel the mystery this woman was trying to solve, and try to prove he didn't kill her.

Films of this era are always a toss up for me, but, for the most part I enjoyed The 39 Steps. It did feel a little slow, at times, but I tend to chalk that up to the filmmaking of the time. I wish I had more to say. It was good, but it was kind of "One and Done" for me.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

Vertigo is a mind jangling story of the supernatural. Or, perhaps, it's simply a story of the tricks a man's mind can play on him. Or, maybe, both? Jimmy Stewart teams up with Hitch one more time to play a retired police detective who is hired by an old friend to follow his wife around to see if she's going insane, or if the ghostly presence of a long dead relative has come back to possess her.

Vertigo is notable for a lot of things, namely some of the GORGEOUS shots of San Francisco, the color pallet used, the infamous stair case shot (accomplished by the camera operator pulling the camera up, while the zoom lens was simultaneously zoomed out), and, of course, Kim Novak as the drop dead gorgeous object of Stewart's affection. The film never misses a beat. Whereas I've felt like some of Hitch's films are oddly paced, Vertigo does not fit in that category. By this time, he has gotten past what I would call his "front load" phase, and now gotten into more balanced pictures. Vertigo is definitely on the must see list.

The Man Who Knew Too Much

NOTE: This post is a review of a Hitchcock film that was seen projected on 35mm at the Belcourt Theater in Nashville, TN, as part of their Alfred Hitchcock: Master of Suspense Series. These movies were not watched on DVD, but in a theater, projected on film.

A remake of one of his own, earlier, films, Alfred Hitchcock's Jimmy Stewart/Doris Day helmer The Man Who Knew Too Much is the inspired and calculated story of an average family on vacation, who, like many of Hitchcock's "average" characters, gets caught up in some kind of web of murder and intrigue. When Stewart and Day, as Mr. and Mrs. McKenna have information on an assassination attempt passed on to them by a dying man, their boy is kidnapped and ransomed for their silence. It's up to the McKenna's to try and get him back, and stop the assassination.

I think Jimmy Stewart was one of Hitch's greatest leading men. Even though he had a lot of that "Aww... Shucks" demeanor to him, he was believable in almost any role Hitch put him in, and he tried many. The story and acting are top notch, as always, though the use of Que Sera Sera got on my nerves (even though it would go on to be a hit, following its introduction in this film). There's really nothing to complain about, this film is part of Hitch's golden years.