Movies

Noises Off

Noises off coverI’ve always liked films and plays that are about films and plays themselves.  Maybe it’s because there is still a part of me that would have like to have been “an actor.” (Said term must be pronounced with the air of exaggerated sophistication that implies the lack of same.)  Noises Off is one of my favorites.  It has an all-star comedy cast featuring Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, Denholm Elliott, Julie Hagerty, Marilu Henner, John Ritter, and Christopher Reeve.  The story is about a group of actors in a touring company performing a comedic play that they hope will head to the big time.  In this case the action behind the scenes is as funny, or funnier, than what is taking place on stage.  The film gives us a chance to the see the action from both sides.  From the front we see the play “Nothing On,” from the back we see the interactions among the actors.  There are affairs, personality conflicts, and drinking to the point of drunkenness.  The term “noises off” comes from the direction that backstage sounds are to cease, something that doesn’t exactly happen backstage in the movie.

Noises Off is a comedy based on the play by Michael Frayn. It is a fast paced and driven movie that reminds me quite a bit of some of the best skits from the Carol Burnett Show.  In most plays backstage is an area of controlled chaos.  In the case of the backstage action in Noises Off remove the word controlled.   If you like a good, semi intelligent comedy mixed with slapstick and outrageous personalities you should give Noises Off a try.

Harvey

“Well, I've wrestled with reality for 35 years, Doctor, and I'm happy to state I finally won out over it.”

Elwood P. Dowd.

Jimmy Stewart once said that his role as Elwood P. Dowd in Harvey was one of his favorites.  It is perhaps his most famous movie role beside that of George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”   Harvey is a laid back and enjoyable film about a man who has left the work-a-day world and apparently entered into a life of unreality.

Across the Universe

I’m not much of a purist about most things but Beatles’ songs are an exception. The idea of a movie that used the songs of The Beatles to tell a story did not really appeal to me. That the songs were not the original recordings made the idea seem even worse.  However after re-reading Roger Ebert’s review of the movie “Across the Universe” I felt I had to at least give the film a shot.   Jude (Jim Sturgess) has come to the United States to find his father and make his way as an artist.  While here he meets Max Carrigon and his sister Lucy.   From here the film follows Jude and Lucy through the turbulent sixties while capturing their up and down relationship.  This happens to the beat of the accompanying background of Beatles tunes.

Oscar

Oscar DVD CaseOne doesn't usually think of Sylvester Stallone in terms of comedy. OK, I'll admit some people think of all his acting as comedic, however most of us tend to think of Stallone as an action adventure star or as Rocky. Oscar is a departure from his normal role. This movie, loosely based on a French play of the same name by Claude Magnier, features Stallone as gangster boss Angelo Provolone trying to honor his father's wish that he would put aside his gangster ways and become an honest businessman.

Mud

There are times when everything in life seems just as clear as... mud. That’s doubly true if you happen to spend lots of time scrounging the Mississippi River, which is exactly what the characters in the latest from Jeff Nichols (director of 2011’s shamefully overlooked Take Shelter) do to get by. Centering on Ellis and Neckbone, two early-teens swamp rats who befriend a fugitive hiding out near their fishing spot,

If You Liked Doctor Who

Doctor Who In November a show which is perhaps the longest running television series in the history of Television celebrates 50 years. The show is BBC One's time traveling adventure Doctor Who. "Who" is more of a question than a name. Launched 1963 with William Hartnell as "The Doctor" a Time Lord from Galafrey who travels in time and space in a ship known as The T.A.R.D.I.S; a ship inexplicably larger on the inside than the outside and which looks exactly like a 1960's British police call box.

Jeremiah Johnson

I was once asked what I thought of Robert Redford. My response was immediate. I didn't like him and I thought he was a lousy actor trading on his good looks, though he was certainly a talented director. A short while later the discussion turned to our favorite movies when asked I began naming them: Sneakers, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Last Castle, The Sting, The Great Waldo Pepper, The Natural and finally Jeremiah Johnson. There was a sudden pause in the discussion when the person I was talking to said, "Didn't you just say ...?"

The World Ends.... Again!

Quite a while ago I posted about the movie "Melancholia," a film about the end of the world and how people reacted to the knowledge that not only their lives would end, but also the lives of everyone else on the planet. Recently I watched the film "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World." As the title suggests this is another film about the end of the world. The premise is almost exactly the same; what effect would knowing you and your world will end in a matter of days have upon you. In fact these movies could almost be two episodes of the same movie. "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" stars Steve Carell as Dodge and Keira Knightly as Penny two individuals traveling together for very different reasons. Dodge is seeking his old high school sweetheart to spend his last days with. Penny just wants to be with her family.

Unpublished

Roger Ebert: Film Critic and Writer

Life ItselfRoger Ebert, film critic extraordinaire and Pulitzer Prize winner, died last week after a battle with cancer.  Immediately following his death, there were lots of quotes circulating online from Ebert which reminded me what a great writer he was.  In writing about movies, Ebert was able often able to put his finger on the pulse of real life human behavior and articulate the human condition - both the happy and the sad.  I forgot how funny he was, and his reviews are a joy to read even if you disagree on the rating.

Those interested in starting with the basics, check out his Movie Yearbooks - complete with movie reviews, essays, tributes, journal entries, and new additions to his popular Movie Glossary.  If you are looking for critiques that might lead you to viewing of really good movies, try The Great Movie series. However, some of Ebert's best writing was in critiquing bad movies.  If you aren't looking for movie suggestions, but just some hilarious examples of his writing check out Your Movie Sucks

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