Foreign Friday: Mafioso

Foreign Friday: Mafioso

Netflix is exceptionally daunting. The instant options alone gather around you like an angry mob. The titles confuse you in their obscurity, and your attempt to whittle your options down to a manageable list quickly gets out of hand. Calm down. We’re here to help. Here at LonelyReviewer, Foreign Friday opens your eyes to a sampling of international film and allays the stress associated with Netflix decisions. This week we take things back to an earlier time with a black-and-white film in a rustic setting. Come with me on a trip to Italy for the black comedy Mafioso.

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5 Great Concert Films

5 Great Concert Films

There’s something about this season that brings back the memories of summers gone by. Memories of friends.  Memories of particular nights.  Memories of particular songs, sung along to, full-throated, beside 10,000 strangers who, for that one moment, could be considered close friends. And while film can never completely capture that feeling, there are a few that at least replicate it enough to warrant multiple viewings.  The following list shares a few of these films. [Read more…]

DVD Review: Make Way For Tomorrow

DVD Review: Make Way For Tomorrow

Sometimes people ask me why I watch so many movies, why I spend so much time reading about, studying and looking for hard-to-find old movies.  Now, as a response, I can just present them with a copy of “Make Way For Tomorrow.”  This is why I search through old movies.  This is something special.  Never before released on any home video format in the US, “Make Way,” is the kind of movie that anyone who has seen it sings the praises of so highly and so frequently, that you are compelled to see what all the fuss is about.  Such is the way with this movie.

Directed by Leo McCarey, and based on the book The Years Are So Long, “Make Way For Tomorrow” tells the story of Barkley and Lucy Cooper.  (Better known as Pa and Ma.)  As the movie opens, they have gathered their grown children at their house to tell them that, because of their financial position, they have lost their house to the bank.  The children are horrified, but promise to help, offering the parents a place to stay,  Unfortunately, only child one has a house large enough and she needs to make some chagnes before she moves them in.  So Ma and Pa are packed off to two different children’s homes.  At her house, Ma clashes with her daughter-in-law, as she tries to run a class to teach the finer points of bridge.  Ma’s granddaughter doesn’t feel comfortable bringing gentlemen callers around and is constantly sneaking around.  Meanwhile, Pa makes a friend in the neighborhood where he’s living, but his daughter and her family don’t approve.  They don’t like the rules changing.  They live how they want to live.

Eventually things change and the plot moves along, and Ma and Pa are finally reconnected before parting again.  The final sequence of the movie is a 30 minute walk through New York City and memory lane for the two heads of the family.  It is one of the most touching sequences of film I have ever seen.

Orson Welles reportedly called “Make Way For Tomorrow,” “The most depressing movie ever.”  While I didn’t find it that, I found it incredibly touching and moving.  It reminds me in many way of the opening sequence of “Up,” where you see how close these two people have grown together.

The movie was directed by Le McCarey, who is probably better known for his work with the Marx Bros., (“Duck Soup,”) Cary Grant, (“The Awful Truth,”) and Bing Crosby, (“Going My Way.”)  Released during the depression, “Make Way For Tomorrow,” was praised by critics, who at the same time warned audiences that the movie was terribly depressing.  Not surprisingly, they stayed away in droves.  When he won the Academy Award for “The Awful Truth,” McCarey thanked the Academy, but said he thought they gave him the award for the wrong movie.  (“Make Way,”) was released the same year.

“Make Way,” never seemed to get a fair shake.  That is, until now.  Continuing their tradition of releasing and reminding audiences of great, perhaps overlooked films, The Criterion Collection has released “Make Way.”  It is a highlight in their 500 plus films.  It is great to see a movie so overlooked for so long to receive this kind of loving treatment.  “Make Way,” deserves the rediscovery it have found recently.  Check it out.  Highly recommended.  -Sam

DVD Review: Hickey & Boggs

hickeyboggs1If you’ve seen every episode of “The Cosby Show,” and are disappointed that you haven’t seen Dr. Cliff Huxtable shoot anyone down in cold blood, have I got a movie for you.  1972’s “Hickey & Boggs,” re-teams Bill Cosby with former “I, Spy,” co-star Robert Culp. (Culp also directed the film.)  “Boggs,” is a typical 1970s film in the sense that it is dark, paranoid and moves at it’s own pace and is not going to speed up just to keep an audience happy.  While that can make if feel overlong and kind of lumpy, this was clearly part of director Culp’s plan- making a movie that doesn’t nothing to glorify detective work.

Al Hickey and Frank Boggs are a couple of LA detectives, who are tired of their jobs, their lives and their city.  Things seemingly pick up when they’re hired to find a missing girl.  But they seemingly don’t care.  They have pretty much given up on life, eating terribly, drinking worse and spending much of their time reveling in their misery.  The case isn’t that interesting and both Hickey and Boggs are not over excited to get involved.  Their job seems more like a chore and they have to try to psych themselves up to go and do it.

While this can make parts of the movie seem like tough going, there’s something admirable about Culp sticking to his guns and making the movie he wanted to make.  There’s also a sub-plot about counterfeited money being passed around, but it’s not a key element and, it doesn’t seem to really bug Hickey or Boggs all that much, so, really, why should it trouble us?

The script is by Walter Hill, (who wrote “The Getaway,” and “The Drowning Pool,” and later directed “48 Hours,” and “The Warriors,”) moves at a perfect pace.  Well, a perfect pace for Hickey and Boggs, restless audiences be damned.

What is most impressive about the movie is the attention to detail and the mundane.  Both Hill and Culp revel in it and it’s clear to see that they see these small facts as the most important parts to the story.  There’s a lot of similarities in tone and attitude, (to say nothing of one location, which both films share,) to Robert Altman’s “The Long Goodbye.”  Both are the kind of movies that probably play best late at night, when you’re by yourself and there’s nothing on TV and you want to get into a mood.  “Hickey” will put you in that mood and then keep you there.  Guarantee.

Culp and Cosby are both excellent in the movie too.  Sure, they aren’t playing their “I, Spy,” characters, but Cosby is doing actual acting, something that you don’t always see.  (I would highly recommend “Mother, Juggs and Speed,” for another example and that if you want to see him coast, you check out “Ghost Dad.”)  In fact, Cosby’s career since this movie opened has changed in such a way that it’s really interesting to see him working like this on a movie like this.  It’s really cool to see him trying to play a character other than the understanding but disappointed father.

“Hickey & Boggs,” will not change your take on films of the 1970s at all.  However, if you’re like me, and love everything about them, there’s a lot to enjoy.  Well, ‘enjoy’ might be a strong word, but maybe ‘admire.’  -Sam

Check this film out on DVD here.

Retro Review: Across a 110th Street

Retro Review: Across a 110th Street

‘Across a 110th Street’ is a 1972 film directed by Barry Shear, and starring Anthony Quinn and Yaphet Kotto. I hadn’t heard of the film (though I’d heard the song) until a trailer festival I went to a few months back. The film looked gritty, violent, and right up my alley, so I threw it on the Netflix queue, and finally checked it out.

The film takes place in New York City, it opens with a shot of a suitcase in the backseat of the car. The suitcase travels uptown, into Harlem, and is brought into a slummy looking flat where a few bookkeepers are waiting to hand off what is likely to be the weeks profit. There is a knock at the door, and the criminals look through, and see two police officers. They cover the money and open the door, looking to payoff the beat cops. What happens next? Those “cops” shoot up the entire room, and steal the money, $300,000 dollars.

We then meet Captain Mettelli (Quinn), a racist Italian-American cop, who is forced to work with the by the book Lieutenant Pope (Kotto), a black cop whose risen in the ranks of the precinct.

The film is violent, though, some of that violence hasn’t aged well, its forgivable, because the story is actually quite entertaining (if dirty crime stories are your thing). Some of the blood might remind you of another quite notable 70s film, Taxi Driver.

From what I’ve read about the film, the camera used during production allowed for quite a bit more hand-held shots then was the norm in its time, giving the film a look that is much more common these days.

The film deals with a lot of issues regarding black and white relations in New York City at the time, and definitely is not your typical “blaxploitation” film. Its a very serious film, and definitely deserves a higher place among 70s cinema. ‘Across a 110th Street’ pulls no punches, its brutal to the very end. The films resolution perhaps is an echo of the very life that was depicted in the film, people will die, and nothing will ever change.

Sam’s Best of the Decade

Sam’s Best of the Decade

These ‘best of’ lists are always a bit of a pain to write and to read.  You usually start out scanning the list for stuff you’ve seen and loved, and then you probably count the number of movies you’ve seen.  Sometimes you finish the list feeling like you’ve seen the right things, and sometimes you end up feeling like the person who put the list together was just showing off the obscure crap that they’ve seen.

So, when I was asked to put together a ‘best of the decade,’ list, I was hesitant.  Surely I was going to forget something that I loved.  And I would probably give in to the temptation to pick stuff that looked good on a list like this.  I’m trying not to do either, but am sure I am.  So, let’s not consider this the complete, best of list.  Instead, let’s consider it a look at some of the movies from the past 10 years that I love.  (Also, there is no order, so, don’t look for one.)

Zodiac-  It runs 2 ½ hours and it could’ve run for two hours more.  Incredibly fascinating and everything about it is impressive.

Amelie-  In the fall of 2001, I found myself looking for something happy and life affirming.  This movie was everything I was seeking.  I found myself looking at the world differently after leaving the theater.

Man on Wire-  Phillippe Petit sees the world in a unique and original way.  To see the world from his eyes for an hour and a half is an exciting, thrilling and touching journey.

Up-  Picking a movie so recently released as the best of the decade is usually a terrible idea.  However, I’ve seen this movie three times and each time it has touched and moved me immensely.

Once-  This is a completely personal choice and I love it for reasons that have nothing to do with the movie.  Everyone has a movie like this and this one is mine.  (That said, everything about it is wonderful.)

The Magdalene Sisters-  Yes, I know it’s not a horror movie, but it’s one of the scariest movies I’ve seen in the past 10 years.

Children of Men-  I have always loved the work of Alfonso Cuaron, but it was during “Children of Men,” that I found myself saying over and over, “I will happily watch anything this man makes.  Movies, credit card commercials, anything.”

There Will Be Blood-  I think I will forever be telling people, “I drink your milkshake.”

DVD Review: Emergency Squad

DVD Review: Emergency Squad

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In Italy in the early 1970s the spaghetti western fad was slowly dying and filmgoer’s attention was now turning to poliziotteschi, a cop-and-robber brand of cinema that contained high body counts, violence and lawlessness.  1974’s “Emergency Squad,” contained all the elements, presented in an exciting and entertaining fashion. [Read more…]

DVD Review: Adios, Sabata

DVD Review: Adios, Sabata

Adios Sabata

Director Gianfranco Parolini’s 1969 spaghetti western, “Sabata,” was a surprise hit.  So much, in fact, that this film, wasn’t even going to be a Sabata story.  However, once the box office receipts came in, “Indio Black,” was re-named, “Adios Sabata.”  Unfortunately, the movie plays as convoluted as the story that happened behind-the-scenes. [Read more…]

DVD Review: Grand Slam

DVD Review: Grand Slam

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Riding high on the James Bond/spy wave, some of the most memorable movies from the 1960s are international affairs, with art and jewel thievery being a completely reasonable career choice.  Thankfully, 1968’s “Grand Slam,” does nothing to dispel any of these cliches. [Read more…]

DVD Review: Knowing

DVD Review: Knowing

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There are three words that, depending on your reaction to them, will say what you will think of Alex Proyas’ latest sci-fi thriller starring Nicolas Cage: CGI flaming moose.  Thoughts? [Read more…]