Category Archives: Movie Review

Movie Review: The Lost King

Correcting History, Near and Distant

I have written from time to time of my distain for screenwriters who play fast and lose with the facts when they tell of historical events on the screen. To the viewer who knows nothing of the actual events, they are left to assume that the largely fictional Hollywood version is the “truth”.

Fortunately, this movie has kept the important facts intact, and presented them in both an educational and entertaining way.

It is a story – and an affirmation – of one ordinary woman’s obsession with finding the remains of King Richard III, who was killed in battle in 1485. Philippa Langley was a divorced woman with 2 sons and a mundane job living in Edinburgh. It was after she saw Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, with her sons that this obsession started to consume her. It was a drive that either brings one to madness and bitterness, or takes one to great things.

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The Price of Fame

Tonight, on New Year’s Eve, the power went out in my neighborhood. After an hour of moving around in my dark house with my flashlight – with various electrical devices beeping – I decided to drive the 15 miles to my favorite movie theater and see a recommended movie – Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody.

It followed – from what I know of her – fairly close to her life. A start, as with many black singers, in church singing to a discovery by a top record executive and then a rocket flight to fame and fantastic wealth – and then because of turmoil in her personal life, a plummet. A turmoil brought, in large part, by the fantastic wealth that was coming in.

I suspect had Whitney simply stayed singing in church all of this Sturm und Drang – and her eventual death from drowning in her bathtub from drugs – would have not been on the timeline.

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The Background Was As Dramatic As The Movie

It became a movie that none other than someone who was Mafia Royalty (and chose to leave the Life, and managed to live), considers to be one of the 2 greatest and most realistic movies on La Cosa Nostra.

The man whose dream it was to produce this was new to the industry, having worked in a cubical at the Rand Corporation, faced unbelievable opposition to the making of this movie. Besides convincing the head of Paramount that he could produce a movie, the opposition he faced involved death threats.

Even the head of Paramount Studios found something in his bed even more terrifying than the movie’s portrayal.

You learn that you can have a good script, but without the right casting the movie can still flop. Without the right screenwriter, the movie will flop.

This miniseries, produced by the producer of The Godfather, Albert S. Ruddy, delves into the painful process and politics they had to overcome in the making of a movie that is considered in anyone’s short list as “one of the best”.

I look at the cast, and can’t imagine anyone else in any given part.

I’d love to tell you more, but don’t wish to be a spoiler.

The story of the making of this magnificent movie is as dramatic as the movie, and Albert S. Ruddy is finally telling the story after 40 years.

The Offer is streaming on Paramount +.

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Everybody Comes To Rick’s

January 25, 2022

In the 1980s someone, either as a joke or an experiment, sent the screenplay of this unproduced play to various movie studios. None considered it to be a project, a handful “got it”, but most came back rejected, for their various reasons.

Not enough sex“, said one. “Too much dialogue“, said another.

The play rights were eventually bought by Warner Brothers Studio for the ridiculous sum (even then) of $20,000.

It became on the silver screen one of the greatest movies ever made.

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If Shakespeare Had Been A Cinematographer

I believe that he would have approved of this adaptation of MacBeth. These days, it takes courage for a producer to have his work in Black and White, rather than color. I can think of only a few modern movies that were done in B & W.

In The Tragedy of MacBeth, the cinematographer really understood the medium and exploited it. Every shadow, every shade, was enhanced by this medium.

Take a look at the trailer:

One critic called the cinematography a visual feast.

My only issue? It’s really an issue highlighting my own ignorance, and not that of The Bard.

With the Elizabethan and Shakespearean English, I felt that I sometimes needed subtitles :-).

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2 Modern Westerns I’m Watching

For some reason, Hollywood seems to have forgotten Westerns. Growing up in the 50s, America had a plethora of Westerns. There were more TV series than I can count.

In 1959, NBC started a series that lasted 14 years. It was also one of the first shows that transitioned to color. I can remember, in the early 60s, going with my family to some friends who had a rare color TV every Sunday evening where we would all watch Bonanza.

There have been some low-budget Westerns lately – movies you probably hadn’t heard of but I saw one on Netflix some time ago. I thought Gone Are the Days was a great Western – ended up buying a DvD. A father who led a life of crime had one chance at redemption.

ColoComment recommends Old Henry.

In the 2000s the only big budget Western I can remember was Open Range.

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Being the Recardos – Review

Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, as Lucy and Desi

I go to the movies fairly frequently. I generally avoid the “movies of the month” at the local metroplex, but prefer either the “classics” shown there occasionally, or the smaller produced movies. Last night, for example, I went to see The Matrix (1999) which is apparently being reshown on the big screen. I found it to be just as entertaining as it was 22 years ago, although some of the aspects are still perplexing. I’ve heard that House of Gucci is pretty good, and may see that in the upcoming weeks. I think Lady Gaga is very talented; having seen her in a biography movie a few years ago.

I saw Belfast a few weeks ago – a great movie on the origins of “The Troubles” in 1969 at Northern Ireland.

I just finished Being the Recardos today. It tells the story of one tumultuous week during the making of an episode in Season 2 1 * (1952) of I Love Lucy.

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There are few TV series that I have enjoyed so much as to see them again (through streaming). The 7th and final season of Bosch (Amazon Prime) is out, and I have been going through the entire series again before enjoying that final season. For me it has been a series to be savored.

I’ve had a friend for years I would call a cinemaphile. Had a collection of over 1,000 movies in his library and wanted me to have a cinematic education. We got up to Hondo (1953) before he moved out of state.

Over the years I have recommended the occasional police movie or series only to have him tell me “I hate Cop and Doctor shows”.

But he has always had an exception. He enjoyed House for a “doctor show”, and upon my recommendation enjoyed Bosch. Bosch isn’t a typical “cop show”.

Why do I so enjoy this series?

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La Bamba

Since the danger of getting COVID seems to be lifting, I decided to go to the theater yesterday. That, and the fact that for me anyway I’m not going to stay sequestered in my house for an indefinite time; life is short enough as it is. They recently allowed them to re-open. And one of my favorite programs is the one put on by TCM/Fathom Events. They generally present a classic movie once a month, to be shown only a few days, usually on a Sunday and Wednesday.

Although I question some of their definition of “classic”, vs old (Shrek is on next!), I have seen some fantastic movies, such as North by Northwest (Hitchcocks greatest, IMO), Casablanca and the Maltese Falcon.

Currently (this Wednesday and Thursday are the last days) they are showing the movie La Bamba, about the all-too-short life of 50s rocker Richie Valens.  

Valens (actual name, Ricardo Valenzuela), was one of those rock and roll pioneers in the 50s who rose from aspiring singer to national prominence in only 8 months. He and such other headliners as Dion and the Belmonts and Buddy Holly were touring the Midwest playing in small local venues. I was thinking today that rock stars play in stadiums making millions, but in those days it was frequently all night rides playing in front of hundreds.

Towards the end of his short 17 year old life, Richie would be traveling in an old bus with a broken heater in the freezing Midwest. It would be Buddy Holly who decided that day on February 3, 1959, to charter a Beechcraft Bonanza and with 3 available seats, well, 2 since Buddy would have one, they would beat the bus and avoid the freezing and uncomfortable night. The Beech took off in the snow and into immortality. It was the day the music died. And Richie would lose his life, like movie star Carole Lombard 17 years earlier, on a coin toss.

This 1987 movie is what made the career of a previously unknown Lou Diamond Phillips. And in the credits they thank the Valens family for their help, so I am assuming that it is not some screenwriter’s fictional embellishment.

It’s an inspirational story about a boy who rescued his widowed mother and sisters from a San Joaquin valley migrant camp and rose to stardom, all in 8 months.

It’s worth a look.

Lou Diamond Phillips as Ritchie Valens, and Danielle von Zerneck as Donna Ludwig

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The Memphis Belle – Her Final Mission

I’m watching a wonderfully produced program on YouTube on the Memphis Belle. Beautifully made because it goes from the restoration crew at Wright-Patterson doing the restoration, telling you how they refabricated parts, to voices of the now-gone crew talking about certain missions, to general information on her missions first to France, then Germany.

The Belle was famous – became an iconic piece of American history, for finishing 25 missions and boosting the morale of a war-weary American public.

Among the things I learned during her 6 month combat tour was that 10 engines were replaced, major wing parts, and the vertical stabilizer.

That a flight crew had only a 28% chance of surviving though the magic 25 combat missions and the ticket home.

How A-List Hollywood Director William Wyler, in Europe as an Army Major, picked the Belle as the B-17 he would use to document the war.

How every day in the War, the Pentagon sent 297 telegrams to the families of the 8th AAF crewmen giving them the worst news.

When I reviewed the book by Erik Larson on Churchill’s first year as PM, I came to the realization to get those fantastic recollections of family members, they had to have kept diaries.

Apparently many people in the 40s kept diaries, including the co-pilot of the Belle and a waist gunner.

We are the richer for it.

“After 13 years in the restoration hanger, the Memphis Belle was ready for her final mission. She would tell a story of valor and sacrifice for those whose voices are now silent”

It is well worth the hour it takes to view it.

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