Tag Archives: classic film

Our Oscar Season Preview

The leaves are changing a golden hue, little trick-or-treaters will soon be ringing our bells, and the quality of films suddenly takes a huge leap after the September lull that always follows a summer of blockbusters. Yes, Oscar season is here, and we can’t wait to see some of the enticing films coming to theaters very soon or are already here. We each picked three we can’t wait to see.

The Master
Currently in limited release but I have not seen it yet. Director Paul Thomas Anderson is currently, in my opinion, the finest American director working today. This has a chance at a second, wider release, like last year’s best picture winner “The Artist.”

Academy Award-winner Sam Mendes (American Beauty) steps in to direct the new James Bond film. How could you not get excited?

Ben Affleck directs another thriller, and if his last two films are any  indication, this will be fantastic.

Wreck It Ralph

It’s not too hard to predict that a Pixar film will be nominated for an Oscar, but this is the first one in a while I’ve been pumped for. It looks stocked full of video game nostalgia wrapped in a nice story.

Steven Spielberg has whiffed on a lot of movies over the last decade, but this ambitious period piece could just put him back on the map. Academy Award-winners Daniel Day Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Sally Field round out an excellent cast.

Django Unchained
Any time Quentin Terrantino makes a movie, the world sits up and pays attention. He has yet to win best film or director, but perhaps this is the one to do it. Academy Award-winners Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz star in Terrantino’s first western — a genre that feel made for him.

The Night of the Hunter


Bogus “preacher” Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) learns cellmate Ben Harper (Peter Graves) has stashed stolen loot on his property. So after the demented Powell is released, he charms Ben’s widow (Shelley Winters) into getting hitched, and in time, only Ben’s kids stand between him and the money. As he stalks the siblings relentlessly, they seek refuge with the indomitable Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish), setting the stage for a battle of wills.

Rating: 10 out of 10

It’s really a shame that the late, great actor Charles Laughton only directed one film in his entire career. The upside of that is that he created one of the best screen thrillers I have ever seen.

When this film was released back in 1955, it was both a critical and box office failure and it was hard to see how when you watch it today. The performance by Robert Mitchum is nothing short of perfection, the cinematography is absolutely gorgeous, and the screenplay is filled with intelligence and memorable characters. But, because of its lack of success and a less than warm reception from audiences, Laughton was so heartbroken that he decided to never sit in the director’s seat ever again. He would go on to pass away before the film was rediscovered by art film students in the 1970’s. Today, it has been on numerous top 100 lists, was added to the Library of Congress, and is held in the highest esteem by directors such as Spike Lee and Martin Scorsese.

The story is simple enough. A man robs a bank, shoots two people dead, and returns home with $10,000 and tells his children to never tell anyone where it’s hidden. While in prison, he talks in his sleep and his cell mate (Robert Mitchum) hears about it. Once Mitchum is released, he goes after the family in hopes of finding the money. The premise, while terrific, is not the only thing that will keep your eyes glued to the screen. There’s a real tension here from beginning to end. The Mitchum character not only has self-motivated intentions but he does it through the fog of posing as a man of God. The underlying current of religion being used as a tool for evil deeds is not only subtle, but also extremely effective. Who back in those times would believe the family of a murderer over a man who claims to be a preacher? This sets up a great cat and mouse between the children who know where the money is and the man who has moved in on their lives in hope of taking it away. I wouldn’t dare give away any more details but just know that the mood and style of this film is unmatched within this genre. I have never seen a movie that had a better sense of gloom through its black and white cinematography and its use of sound except Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Shadows are always lurking, evil permeates through Mitchum singing church hymns, and the rivaling between hush quiet and loud anger is felt deeply when you view it. Trust me, if you enjoy a good thriller, I cannot recommend one higher than “The Night of the Hunter.”


Plan 9 From Outer Space

Welcome to the new feature on The Movie Brother — Movie Camp. Whenever you see this, you’ll know a silly, campy flick will follow. For our first Movie Camp review, the campiest and corniest of all, “Plan9 from Outer Space.”

After the embarrassing failure of the first eight plans, a group of evil aliens enacts Plan 9 — resurrecting the dead to take over the Earth. Bela Lugosi makes his final film appearance — along with Vampira, Tor Johnson, Criswell and a chiropractor acquaintance of director Ed Wood — in one of the most popular cult classics of the 20th century. This is a two-time winner of the Golden Turkey Award for worst film and worst director of all time.

Rating: 5 out of 10

Can a film be so monumentally bad that in some strange, bizarre and twisted way it can become brilliantly good? In regards to any other bad film, and there are many out there to easily pick from, I would confidently say a resounding “No!” A crappy film will always be a crappy film.

Director (can we really call him that?) Ed Wood’s sci-fi turkey, “Plan 9 from Outer Space” (originally titled “Grave Robbers from Outer Space”) was made in 1959 and may be the exception to the rule that bad movies can be good. This astoundingly awful film has a perplexing charm that has endured over the years and has transformed it into a somewhat strange cult legacy. Many film fans actually LOVE watching this film and it is unfortunately the last screen performance for Bela Lugosi, famous for his portayal in Tod Browning’s 1931 masterpiece “Dracula.” He was replaced in Plan 9 by an actor a foot taller who does a bad job of hiding the fact that he is clearly NOT Lugosi. Brilliant.

Let’s start with one of many of the “strongest bad” things about Wood’s cult pooper. First, the redundant and goofy dialogue by actor Criswell sets the very low standard for what is to come. I love the brilliant line: “Future events such as these will affect you in the future.” Then there are the great on-screen antics Ed Wood forces us to watch like the hubcap-shaped, shaky UFO that clearly has a piece of string holding it aloft. Who can ignore that cheesy, low rent, set of the airplane cockpit where the stewardess is obviously flicking or hitting the curtain as she waits for her queue. One may even relish in watching the pivotal sequence where the alien commander calls the human race “Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.” What is not to love, here?

I’ve concluded that this film is so loved because we have to ultimately give Ed Wood a lot of credit for his passion, tenacity, insanity  (he did direct films wearing his girlfriend’s angora sweaters) and his complete inept ability to make films. You’ve got to give credit to a man who stuck it out in the Hollywood system dedicating his life to creating a twisted little legacy consisting of some of the shittiest movies ever put on celluloid.

Vic’s Classics – “Cat People”

Famed RKO Radio Pictures producer Val Lewton managed to single-handedly redefine the horror genre in the 1940s, cranking out low-budget, high-volume box office hits that rarely disappointed audiences — or studio execs. This double feature of Cat People (1942) and The Curse of the Cat People (1944) — Lewton’s first film and its subsequent sequel starring Simone Simon — is the first installment of a five-DVD collection of Lewton’s work available on Netflix.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Jacques Tourneur directed this atmospheric 1942 psychological thriller for RKO Pictures under the supervision of producer Lewton, who was renowned in many circles as a film maker who could produce them fast and produce them good. He did have an uncanny ability to use mood, shadow and that most alluring of cinematic manipulations, the subtext, to tell a good story. And boy is “Cat People” a story that oozes with dark, fairytale melodrama.

With the great writing by DeWitt Bodeen and the eerie, suggestive cinematography, Lewton and Tourneur most likely started the genre of what will one day become the psychological, thinking-person’s film. Shadows, lines and what we do not see in the darkness makes “Cat People” a sublime and ethereal classic.

Simone Simon, a slender, attractive and very stoic actress, plays Irena, a Serbian fashion artist. She harbors deep desires and secrets that Lewton and Tournuer bring forth with lean visual passion. Oh and she turns into a mean bitch of a Panther when aroused or jealous. The film gets bogged down in some melodrama which almost emulates soap operatic tendencies and at times has a cheap, staged atmosphere. Butthe film rises above these shortcomings and dissects the core material – the female psyche and sexuality – by using the Black Panther/Irena as a great metaphor to explore this provocative theme.

Cat People is chock full of noir style and may not be for everyone. Especially if you like your suspense films fast and furious. Many actually favor the sequel “Curse of the Cat People” to the first film. Lewton’s original classic does succeed in bending light and shadow while facing deep, dark themes of sexuality and animal tendencies.

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