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The Hill (1965)

May 30, 2016

Sean Connery stars in a movie about five military prisoners in a detention camp in North Africa during World War II.

Roberts (Sean Connery) is a former  Sergeant Major who was convicted of assaulting his commanding officer who he felt was ordering his men in to a suicidal attack.

Regimental Sergeant Major Wilson seems to have good intentions. He breaks the men down and then builds them back up so that they will be useful to the army again.

Sergeant Major Williams is assisted by Staff Sergeant Harris, who sympathizes with the men and the camp’s Medical Officer (Michael Redgrave). Staff Sergeant Williams arrives on the scene and is very ambitious and cruel. He uses the Hill, a sand mountain in the middle of camp to break and torture the men.

The five prisoners begin to come together as a group as they are tortured by the cruelty of Sergeant Williams.

In a battle between the views of Sergeant Harris and Sergeant Williams, one of the men is driven to his death as he left out in the sun, and a cover up begins.

Roberts decides to make a report about what Sergeant Williams did and the men in the prison begin to revolt. He accuses Williams of causing prisoner Stevens death, but his cell mates won’t back him up because they are afraid of the hill.

The camp Medical Officer and Sergeant Harris decide to report Williams. Williams then goes to beat Williams, but his two cell mates intervene and severely beat Major Williams, while Roberts pleads with them to stop.

 

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Garbo Talks (1984)

September 20, 2015

Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel both gave this movie negative reviews. They both really wanted to have hear what Garbo would have said in the situation.

But I liked it. I thought it was an interesting premise and was really well done.

The movie is about an eccentric Jewish mother, Estelle, diagnosed with having inoperable brain tumor. Her son, Gilbert (who was names after Garbo’s co-star John Gilbert) is an accountant who is just the opposite of her. When she protests he just wants to get along. But even though she drives him crazy, you can see the affection he has for her.

Estelle tells Gilbert that she really wants to see Garbo and Gilbert takes this as her last wish. He sacrifices his job and his marriage, neither of which he was happy with anyways.

As Gilbert pursues Garbo, he becomes more and more like his mother, and he becomes a much happier person.

I really liked the movie, and I think most movie lovers will too.

The Pawnbroker (1964)

February 7, 2011

“No, no, Miss Birchfield, I am not *bitter*. No, that passed me by a million years ago. I’m a man of no anger. I have no desire for vengeance for what was done to me. I have escaped from the emotions. I am safe within myself. All I ask and want is peace and quiet.”

Sol Nazerman, played by the great Rod Steiger, is not a happy person. He runs a pawn shop in Harlem and lives in the suburbs at his brother’s house. Something horrific has happened to him in the past, but we just catch glimpses in the flashbacks that Sol has. The story unfolds as a mystery as we try to find out what happened to Sol, what happened to his family that we had seen in the flashbacks?
We begin to see scenes of a younger Sol, watching in horror at scenes from the concentration camp that he is in. We begin to understand that his life has been destroyed within those gates.
A young man, Ortiz, works for Sol. In to the shop comes a revolving cast of people from the neighborhood. Sol gives them a dollar or two for their possessions. In his spare time Rodriguez learns the trade from Sol.
Sol looks down on the people who come in to the shop. He doesn’t want to have anything to do with them. All he cares about is money. As the movies go on and the flashbacks continue, we begin to understand just how damaged Sol is.
As the movie comes to an end, Sol is held up by Ortiz and some local thugs. His flashbacks also continue as we see the Nazis coming to take him and his family.
A great acting performance in a great movie. Might be one of the most depressing movies ever made, but extremely well done.

The Fugitive Kind (1960)

October 3, 2010

If you like to watch good acting this is the movie for you. Marlon Brando, Joanne Woodward, Anna Magnani, and Maureen Stapleton are all great in this film written by Tennessee Williams play, and based on his play Orpheus Descending.
Like all of Tennessee’s writings, the story deals with the smoldering human desires that dwell beneath the surface in a small Southern town. Great, Southern Gothic dialogue (“I carried your child in my body. The summer you quit me”). Every scene is designed to make the viewer uncomfortable.
Valentine ‘Snakeskin’ Xavier (played by Brando), who has just been bounced from New Orleans by the law has just turned 30 and is looking to turn over a new leaf. he lands in a small town and gets a job in a store run by Lady Torrence (Magnani) , a star struck woman whose tyrant husband is dying of cancer upstairs and bangs his cane on the floor when he wants her. Val is pursued by Carol Cutere (Joanne Woodward), the local tramp.
We can see the look in Lady’s eyes and we know that she is heading for trouble when she hires Val to work in the store. She knows she is headed for trouble too, but she can’t help herself. Val, not one to mince words tells Lady what he thinks of her : “I see a not so young, not so satisfied woman … who hires a guy in off the highway to do double duty … without even giving him overtime for it.” We can see Val try to contain the violent emotions that we know lurk beneath his calm facade. Lady knows what Val thinks of her, but she can’t help herself.
Val really does fall for Lady but the Sheriff tells him to be out of town by sundown. Before he leaves he finds out Lady is pregnant.
In a truly bizarre ending, even for Tennessee Williams, the dying husband burns down the house and shoots and kills Lady with Carol screaming in the background for Val. Val also dies in the flames being driven into them by the firemen’s hoses.
A very good movie, especially for those with a taste for things different.

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

March 6, 2010

There are not many directors who had a successful forty-year career, but Stdney Lumet directed this really good movie forty years after he directed 12 Angry Men (1957). And if it is his last one, it was a great one to end with.
The movie has a great cast, starring Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney and Marisa Tomei. The movie is well worth watching just to see these professionals at work.
But the movie itself is really good. It is disturbing and unsettling as Lumet jumps back and forth between time and place. I really liked the nourish elements as Andy (Hoffman) gets dragged down by his cheating, uncaring wife Gina (Tomei) who pretends to love him but is carrying on an affair with his brother Hank (Hawke).  Hank’s love affair with Gina may also have dragged him down as he needs money because he wants her too. Two brothers dragged down by one femme fatale.
The two brothers decide to rob their parents’ jewelery store to get some quick cash, but things go terribly wrong and their hired accomplice and their mother are killed. Their father than pursues the others responsible, unaware he is after his own sons.
The rollercoaster only goes in one direction in this movie as we watch all the characters’ lives fall apart.
A downer of a movie that is nonetheless really good and extremely well acted.

A Stranger Among Us (1992)

February 9, 2010

This movie is sort of a rip off of Witness (1985). This time we have a tough female detective who is assigned to investigate a problem in a “foreign” culture. This time it’s not the Amish, but the Hasidic community in Brooklyn.
But I think it was an interesting premise. The main reason I really enjoyed Witness was because it introduced me to a culture I knew very little about. This movie was attempting to do the same thing. As the detective learns about the culture, so would we.
A young man has disappeared and Emily (Melanie Griffith) is sent in to investigate. Over 700 thousand dollars in diamonds are also missing. She finds the man’s body in the ceiling tiles and now we have a murder. She has to live in the community to find who in the community would do something like this.
The sparks begin to fly, from a distance, between Emily and Ariel, the son of the Rebbe. Leah, Ariel’s sister is the host for Emily who can’t keep from flirting with Ariel.
James Gandolfini, in his first real role, walks in to the diamond store and offers protection so something like this doesn’t happen again.
Ariel’s engagement is announced at a party with a lot of Hasidic dancing. In a really stupid scene Ariel reads some erotic passages from the Kabbahlah. Then Emily tries to lecture Ariel on the pleasures in love. The writing, acting and directing fall apart in this silly scene which needed to cement the movie together. Not believable at all. Melanie Griffith won a Razzie for Worst Actress for this movie. It was probably because of this poorly written scene.
Emily has fallen in love with Ariel and the movie gets worse. When Ariel stops over Emily’s apartment she tries to teach him how to dance. Witness, this is not. When Ariel kisses her the movie just continues to sink. When Ariel shoots Mara, who is the real culprit, the movie hits rock bottom.
The concept for this movie was pretty decent and Sidney Lumet is a great director. Somehow this movie just turned into a disaster. One of Sidney’s worst.

Running on Empty (1988)

November 28, 2009

In 1971, Arthur and Annie Pope blew up a napalm lab to protest the war… Ever since then they have been on the run from the FBI. They move often, change their names and put their two boys in new schools.
Now Danny, played by River Phoenix, is a senior in high school and would like to go to school at Julliard. He would also like to stay with his girl friend. If he does his parents won’t be able to see him because the FBI will be watching.
The movie works as a an interesting historical piece. It also works as a love story. It also works as a story about a family that is struggling and fighting to stay together.
Like most Sidney Lumet films the story doesn’t have black and white issues. There is a lot of gray. The Popes had done what they thought was right to help stop the war. An innocent person was seriously injured. Now they just do what they have to do to stay free.
In the end the Popes do the right thing and let Dan go off to live his own life. They selfishly wanted to keep him but they finally realized they had to let him go.
Excellent movie with some really good acting.