Sunday, August 31, 2014

Silent Sundays: The Perils of Pauline: The Pirate Treasure (1914)

In this episode of The Perils of Pauline entitled The Pirate Treasure:
            Koener and his old associate Hicks are still trying to get rid of Pauline Marvin (Pearl White) and take all her money. Koerner and Hicks have an old man go to Pauline’s house pretending to be an old man with a story.
            The old man goes to the house and tells Pauline the story of how he had been working on a ship years and years ago and had come into some treasure. The old man claims to have lost the treasure and would like Pauline’s help in finding it.
            Pauline’s fiancé Harry does not want her going on any trips to find this treasure but of course she strikes out on her own not telling him all the details of her trip. Wanting to know what she is up to Harry follows her. Harry and his friend are misled by a guide from town and are set adrift in the ocean. They come upon the villa of some of their friends but no one is there. They go ashore and disguise themselves. They find out Pauline’s plans.
            Koener finds out that Harry has made it on board the ship. He sees this as a perfect chance to get rid of both Pearl and Harry. He plants a bomb on the ship. Pauline and Harry find the bomb. Fortunately for them there is another ship coming their way and they wave wildly for it to come and save them.
            Pauline and Harry are saved… for now. Koener, Hicks, and the old man have escaped.

            The Pirate Treasure was good but not as much fun or as exciting as the first two episodes of The Perils of Pauline. Even so it is definitely worth watching. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Image result for trouble in paradise 1932
“Darling, remember, you are Gaston Monescu. You are a crook. I want you as a crook. I love you as a crook. I worship you as a crook. Steal, swindle, rob. Oh, but don't become one of those useless, good-for-nothing gigolos.”

            Trouble in Paradise is my ideal film story. I love stories with thieves and con artists. I love the romanticized idea of sophisticated jewel thieves. Usually they are men who are devishly handsome and ooze charm. Trouble in Paradise also has the added bonus of having been made in the glamorous film world of the 1930s on top of being a story about thieves and con artists. To me it is the perfect setting with an almost perfect story.
            In Italy, a man has been knocked unconscious. Two women are knocking on his door but get no answer. Staying in the next room is a Baron (Herbert Marshall). He is standing on the balcony of his hotel when he sees a beautiful woman (Miriam Hopkins) riding past his view on a gondola. The woman comes up to his room. She comes in a huff worried that people will start talking that a countess with a high social standing will be seen in the room of a Baron. The phone rings, the call is for the countess. She tells the Baron that it is the duchess of some country. On the other end it is just a regular woman and she calls the “countess” Lily and that her dog has done something to the carpet.
            The man who was knocked out is named Francois Filiba (Edward Everett Horton). The police are in his room. He tells them that a man had just walked into his room claiming to be a doctor and wanted to check on his tonsils. Filiba tells the man there is nothing wrong with his tonsils. When this “doctor” told Filiba to open his mouth the man hit him and took his wallet.
            The Baron’s servant tells him about Filiba being robbed. The “countess,” whose real name is Lily, tells him she knows he is a crook. He replies that he knows she is a thief herself she has taken Filiba’s wallet and he felt her take it out of his pocket. They figure each other out. The “Baron” is a world renowned thief named Gaston Monescu. Lily and Gaston become lovers and literal partners in crime.
            In Paris Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis) runs a very successful perfume factory her husband had left to her when he died. She is seeing two men. One of them is simply called Major (Charles Ruggles) and the other happens to be Filiba. Mariette is playing them both. She does not have feelings for any one of them but likes their attention. She goes to an opera one night. She had arrived with Filiba and sat in a box with Major. During the day she had bought a brand new purse studded with diamonds. At a break in the opera Marietta goes to the bathroom. A moment later, Lily also walks out. When the opera is over Marietta is frantic about her bag it cost her 125,000 francs.
            Lily and Gaston have situated themselves in a room in Paris. They are reading their own separate newspapers. Lily jumps up excitedly. She sees there is a reward for the missing purse with a reward of 20,000 francs. Gaston had planned to sell it but he figures he would not get half as much as the reward. They decide to be honest and give the bag back and collect the money. Men and women are lined up all around Mariette’s house thinking they have purse. Gaston comes in playing a sort of hero when a crazy Russian man comes in and tells her that people are suffering and she has the nerve to spend so much money on a simple bag. He speaks to the man in Russian and gets him out of the room. Gaston tells Mariette his name is M. Laval. He takes out all the things in her bag just to show that he has not taken anything out. As she looks around her room for her checkbook Gaston has a look around the house for a safe. He finds it and eventually works his way into getting Mariette to hire him as her secretary.
            Gaston moves himself into every facet of Mariette’s life. He manages her money and even changes the amount of some of her insurance policies. He even hires Lily as his own secretary. Lily mentions that Mariette has a lot of jewelry but Gaston reminds her that they are only in it for the cash he does not want to take anything else.
            Mariette throws a party where Major and Filiba are in attendance. Gaston sees Filiba and asks him if they have ever met before. Filiba thinks Gaston is just trying to butter up to him so he can move up the social ladder. But the part goes on Filiba cannot shake the feeling that he has met Gaston somewhere before. Gaston gets Lily alone and tells her they have to clear out Mariette’s money that night because Filiba will figure him out and blow their cover. He has Lily get them two fake Spanish passports and tickets to Munich for a midnight train. Mariette is supposed to be going to a party that night it is perfect for Gaston to take all her money. Unfortunately he did not plan on his boss seducing him. They try to talk each other into staying and going. Lily tries to get in touch with Gaston but he does not pick up the phone.
            Gaston finally gets Mariette to leave to go to dinner at Major’s house. He calls Lily to buy a ticket for the following morning which makes her furious. At Major’s party, Filiba figures out who Gaston is. Mariette leaves she cannot handle what Filiba is going on about. Before she gets to her house, her business associate goes there and confronts Gaston. He knows who he really is. Gaston had arranged certain things that if need be he can make it look like the business associate had been the one stealing the money.
            Lily is the next one to come to the house. She wants the money and she wants to get away from Gaston. She was worried he would become a gentleman and fall in love with Mariette. Just as she is about to storm out the front door Mariette’s car pulls up to the front. When Mariette comes in she immediately goes upstairs to Gaston. He confesses who he is because he knows she will not call the police. She loves him and he loves her. They both wish their relationship could have worked out. Lily is still in the house and she is furious. She confronts both Gaston and Mariette. She still takes the money from Mariette and Mariette lets her take it without any issue. Lily storms out of the room and Gaston follows. He comes back to tell Mariette that he has to leave.
            In the car Lily and Gaston find they have both pick pocketed each other and fall in love all over again.
            I really liked the cast. Miriam Hopkins gets top billing even though she is not in the film very much. With Hopkins I like her but after a while she can become too much. She seemed to be very aggressive but not in a bad way and she just talked too fast at certain moments and at times she just seems like she tries too hard. I honestly do not think the script allowed for Hopkins to get too crazy so she was actually quite calm and controlled and very good. I liked her with Herbert Marshall. Marshall I have seen him in like snotty society roles where he is stiff and boring. The man just oozed charm. I would have fallen for him in a moment. He was the perfect gentleman thief/con artist in the 1930s. Kay Francis was good but her character was such a bore. Mariette was way too gullible. The part definitely could have gone to someone with lesser talent but Mariette had a bigger part and thus needed a star. Her chemistry with Marshall was great.  I always like seeing Francis in films no matter what her role is.
            Ernst Lubitsch was such a great director. His comedies are subtle, brilliant, and genius. There were so many innuendos and lines that if you catch them and understand them you cannot help but either laugh or blush. What I really like about Lubitsch’s comedies is the way he captured his characters’ sex appeal and the sexual tension between them. He also left a lot to the audience’s imagination which, let’s face it, is probably dirtier than what could have been shown on screen! I wish romantic comedies could be made like Lubitsch’s.

            Now at the beginning of this review I said that Trouble in Paradise has an almost perfect story. As much as I liked the film and I liked the story thieves and con artists I did find it a bit boring. I think that comes down to the characters of Mariette and her just agreeing to everything and the rivalry between Major and Filiba for Mariette’s attention. Other than those aspects Trouble in Paradise is an excellent Pre-Code film (so much Pre-Code goodness that I can spend another page just gushing about it but I will hold back) and one I suggest watching if you can find it. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Cas & Dylan (2013)

“Let me drive.”
“Over my dead body.”
“You know there’s a sad irony to that.”

            There have been so many movies where two completely opposite people meet, are forced to spend a great deal of time together, and eventually they both learn from each other about how to live life and be a better person. That plot is so clichéd and overused like so many other plots. However, there is one movie I found that uses this plot and actually made it different, funny, touching, sad, and very entertaining. The movie is called Cas & Dylan.
            Dr. Cas Pepper (Richard Dreyfuss… and yes he is Dr. Pepper) has been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He has lived his life alone for some time with his Pug Winston. Poor Winston dies one night and Cas decides he needs to head west to get away. The next day he goes to the hospital. He is sitting in his car trying to write something when a girl named Dylan Morgan (Tatiana Maslany) comes over to him. Dylan has been wandering around the hospital trying to get material for a book she is writing. She has seen Cas a few times. He recognizes her when she comes to his window. Cas tells Dylan he is heading west and she gets him to give her a ride home. He sees her as a pain who talks too much and is invasive but he decides to give her a ride anyway.
            After he drops Dylan off, Cas sees that she has left her notebook in the car. He throws it out the window but immediately feels bad, gets it, and brings it back to her. When he gets to her house Dylan is running out and away from her boyfriend who has a shot gun. Dylan and Cas run into the car and as he is pulling away Cas hits the boyfriend with the car. Dylan yells at him to go he hit someone with his car they have to get away. Thinking he killed the boyfriend Cas ditches his car and buys a small classic Volkswagen Beetle.
            They spend the night at a motel. Cas has been trying to write something but he cannot write what he wants and has thrown out multiple pages. Dylan picks up two pieces. The next day she confronts Cas about his planned suicide. Dylan tells him that since she is a writer she can help him write a note.
            At a rest stop Dylan gets a call from the publishing company she had submitted her book to wanting to schedule a meeting. She gets Cas to drive her to the meeting since it is on the way to where he wants to go. When she gets to the company it turns out that they called the wrong Dylan. Cas tries to help her. He goes into the office and tells the secretary that Dylan is sick and he is trying to help her out and he even grabs the phone from the secretary who is not listening. They get in to see the publisher but she tells Dylan her book is not good it seems as if she cannot relate to the subject. The poor girl is beyond crushed. Crying and upset she tells him she wants a better life she does not want to end up like her parents who are losers. Cas consoles her and tells her she is just an apprentice she has time to learn and become a better person.
            Cas becomes really sick and has to be brought to the hospital. He keeps telling Dylan he wants to leave he needs to get to his house out west. Dylan is afraid she wants him to stay to get better so she takes his wallet and keys out of his reach. He pleads that he does not want to spend his last days in a hospital. When they get to the house Cas keeps saying that it was supposed to be easy it was not supposed to be difficult. Dylan asks him what he is talking about. He replies that his plan to come to the house and die was supposed to be simple but then he met her.
            With Cas’s help, sometime later Dylan is going to school and finally happy with her life.
            Richard Dreyfuss and Tatiana Maslany were perfection together. They had such a good rapport and good chemistry. You can tell they had fun working together. Dreyfuss was great as this old doctor who was so set in his ways and just wanted to be alone and he got this young vibrant girl as his travel companion. Cas could have been a mean nasty old bugger but Dreyfuss played him with a warmth that was not out in the open but underneath yet you could still see it. I enjoyed him in this role a lot. Alright onto Tatiana Maslany….
            Holy crow this girl is so damn talented! Maslany was incredible. Like Cas, Dylan could have been a typical character. She could have been this truly annoying young girl who lies about everything in her life and cannot get her crap together. Maslany made Dylan wonderfully vibrant and sympathetic. You root for Dylan to better her life and admire her for wanting to do so. Maslany was fantastic at playing the comedic scenes and then heartbreaking in the sad scenes. This may sound weird but I have a crush on this girl’s acting. Maslany makes her characters so believable and more than what they are supposed to be. The more movies and shows I see her in the more I am amazed at how ridiculously talented she is. Richard Dreyfuss commented on her talent: “She was so talented and so exciting! She is gonna be the Meryl Streep of her generation. And she is a fantastic actor and she’s fantastically fun to work with.”  It is interesting to watch Maslany in this movie knowing she got the part on Orphan Black while she was making this.
            Much praise goes to Jason Priestly who directed the movie (yes the actor from 90210). Along with the acting his direction made the plot not stereotypical. His direction enhanced the scenery of the roads and buildings and even the Volkswagen. He made the scenery and the car supporting characters. Priestly filmed Richard Dreyfuss and Tatiana Maslany in such a way that showed the depth of their characters and even added more depth to them.
            Cas & Dylan is a very enjoyable, well made, and well acted movie. The story is familiar yet different. What I loved about this movie is it was not a stupid love story between a guy and a girl it was a story about a man who has lived his life and at the end has met someone who brightened his life and along the way he helped her. Dylan definitely helped Cas see life in a different way but it was not profound. He was the one who left a more profound and meaningful impact on her life. It was not the young teaching the old how to live it was the old teaching the young that they are just beginning to learn about life. The story is a perfect balance of comedy and drama that is severely lacking in so many movies today. I highly, highly recommend watching Cas & Dylan.

            You can watch Cas & Dylan in full all thanks to the lovely tumblr blogger Cosima Hella Baked who uploaded it. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Silent Sundays: The Perils of Pauline: The Goddess of the Far West (1914)

         This episode of The Perils of Pauline entitled Goddess of the Far West continues where episode one left off.
            Pauline Marvin (Pearl White) had been kidnapped and left for dead in a burning house until Harry Sanford came and rescued her. No ones that Harry’s father’s secretary Koerner was the one who was trying to kill her so he and his associate Hicks could take her money.
            Now Pauline is constantly hounded by the press. She needs a break so she decides to go to her aunt’s house in Montana. Koerner still wants Pauline’s money. He packs his bags as well and heads out west without Pauline knowing. Hicks tags along with him as well. Koerner gets some local rough necks to go along with his plan of kidnapping Pauline and leaving her in the woods.
            Pauline is picked up from the train station by her uncle. On the way the rough necks that Koerner hired kidnap Pauline right off the wagon. They take her out into the woods and tie her up and leave her in a cave. Pauline is able to untie herself but she cannot find a way out.
            Some Indians in the hills are fox hunting. The pursued fox comes into the cavern where Pauline is stuck. She figures if the fox can get in and out then there must be some way for her to do the same. She manages to climb out of a small hole in the ground but gets stuck. She sees one of the Indians and asks for his help. The Indian thinks she is part of a legend that a white woman would come from the ground and help their people in battle. Pauline is brought back to the camp and brought to the chief. He promises to train her for her battle.
            In the city both Harry and Koerner receive letters. Harry’s comes from Pauline’s aunt telling him that Pauline has been kidnapped. Harry rushes out to Montana. Koerner’s letter is from Hicks and the rough necks that the job has been done.
            One hundred volunteers are rounded up back in town in Montana to find Pauline. They get to Pauline just in time to save her from the plans the Indians have in mind for her.
            Goddess of the Far West was fast paced and exciting. It was nice to see a female lead in such an early film use her head to get out of a jam instead of being a damsel in distress. I think the title is a bit funny because Pauline did not go to the Far West as in Asia she went out to the far west of the United States and she was a goddess-like figure to the Indians.  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Annie Hall (1977)

“Love fades. That is a depressing thought.”

            Ever since I became interested in movies I have heard about Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. I have seen some of his later films such as Midnight in Paris and Scoop but I had never seen Annie Hall or any of his other earlier films. There have been points in my movie obsessed life where I have broken down and watch a movie that is always raved about as one of the greatest of all time. Some of them have lived up to their reputation and others have not. Annie Hall was one of the movies that to me did not live up to its reputation.
            Alvy Singer (Allen) is a comedian from New York. He has a very pessimistic view of the world. He feels the world is against for being a Jew and he feels New York City is the only great place in the world and cannot understand why anyone would ever want to leave it. Alvy has been married twice but the women never fully understood him and he never tried to be a part of their lives with certain things.
            Alvy finally, truly falls in love with a woman named Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). He met her when she was a tennis partner for his friend. She is nerdy and a bit nervous when they first talk. She takes him back to her place for a drink. Soon they are dating. They spend a great deal of time together and never want to be apart.
            Before long, though, Annie begins to feel smothered by Alvy. He gets jealous when he sees her walking with her professor after class and just become completely overwhelming. Eventually Annie breaks up with him for good. Alvy wants to try to get back together. He travels all the way out to California just to ask her to marry him but she gets upset, tells him no, and walks away.
            I did not find the story to be that great. Both Alvy and Annie got a bit annoying after a while. But I can appreciate the writing and many of the scenes were genius. The scenes I liked were when Alvy broke the fourth wall and spoke to the audience, when he walked around New York talking to himself and other people answered him, and when there was a split screen between either Alvy and Annie or one was their families when he was at her parent’s house for Easter. There was one joke right at the beginning I cracked up with. He mentions to Annie how two guys that were talking to him were like characters from The Godfather. Diane Keaton was in The Godfather movies as Michael Corleone’s wife.
            With Annie Hall I liked it but, as I said at the beginning of this review, I do not think it that great that it can be considered one of the greatest films ever made. I think it is a completely original movie the way Woody Allen wrote and directed it and I will say it is a great inspiration for any aspiring filmmaker and it is awesome to watch as a movie fan. Alvy’s asides to the audience were great ways to dig into his character and to know what he was thinking at certain moments. I like knowing what a character is thinking so that aspect of the movie was my favorite. I will say watch Annie Hall. Even though I was not a great huge fan of the movie it is still worth watching for the writing and the direction.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Silent Sundays: The Perils of Pauline: Chapter One (1914)

Imagine going to movie theaters in the early 1900s when movies were still new. Every story idea was fresh, every idea and camera angle were new and inventive. They were a great adventure, a great romance, a great comedy. They were all still innocent and sweet and exciting. There are so many films that make me wish I could go back in time and see them in the theaters. One series of films I would like to travel back in time and see is the very first chapter of The Perils of Pauline that was first released in 1914.
            Pauline Marvin (Pearl White) has been left in the care of an older man named Sanford after her father died.  Pauline is set to inherit a large fortune but while she waits for her inheritance Sanford looks after her money.
            Sanford has a young son named Harry. Harry is madly in love with Pauline but she is in no rush to get married. She wants to live her life and travel the world.
            The old man has a secretary named Koerner. One day Koerner is approached by a man he used to run around with. The man wants money from Koerner or else he will tell Sanford that Koerner was once in jail and escaped. He tells the man to wait that Sanford will likely die soon and leave him something.
            Sanford does eventually die. He places Koerner in charge of Pauline’s money. The secretary relays this information to the man he knows. The man comes up with a plan to have Pauline go up in a hot air balloon at Pallisades Park and fly away. The man bribes a few people at the park to put his plan of killing Pauline into motion.
            Pauline is thrilled to be going up in the hot air balloon. Of course her ride does not go over as she had hoped. When the rope to the air balloon is cut Pauline finds herself sailing over the Palisades cliffs. In a smart move she climbs down the rope and lands on the cliff side.
            Harry and Koerner had been following Pauline. Harry gets to Pauline first and attempts to pull her up by tying the rope to his car. He climbs down to get her. When he gets to her to rope falls. Koerner and the man have cut the rope. Pauline comes up with the idea to inflate the balloon again and fly back up. Koerner comes down. He knocks Harry down and carries away Pauline. Koerner takes her to an abandoned house. He has Pauline tied up, places her on the floor, and sets the room on fire.
            Luckily Harry arrives before the house can burn down and saves Pauline. Back at the house Koerner calls the police to report Pauline missing thinking she is dead. Pauline comes walking into the house with Harry. They are both a bit shaken but they will alright.
            The last few seconds literally end with a question mark since Koerner walks away with the other man. The last title card tells the audience to come back the following week to see another chapter of Pauline’s story.
            I had first heard about the Perils of Pauline through the Betty Hutton film of the same title. That film is good especially because Betty Hutton is hilarious and her Rumble, Rumble, Rumble number is one of my all time favorite musical numbers in a film ever but it barely has anything to do with the real story of the film series or Pearl White. Ever since that time I have been interested in seeing the original Perils.
Fire was put under my behind to watch the series after I began interning at the Fort Lee Museum in Fort Lee, NJ. For those of you who might not be aware Fort Lee was where the motion picture industry really took off. The motion pictures studios in New York would send their troupes over the Hudson River to film outdoor scenes. Soon studios such as Goldwyn, Selznick, World, Solax, Universal, and Éclair built studios in the town. Many films from the various studios filmed along the Palisades Cliffs. At the museum I have seen and handled several photographs and pieces of memorabilia from The Perils of Pauline and also those pertaining to Pearl White. Every few years the museum shows one of the chapters from the series along the cliff side of the Palisades where White filmed many of her famous scenes. The museum even uses a famous photograph of White, camera man Arthur Miller, director George Seitz, and Antonio Moreno on their business cards and other professional signs and posters to advertise. The Perils of Pauline hold a special place in the heart of the local cinephiles in Fort Lee with its view of the Palisades but I believe they take more pride in that Palisades Amusement Park is featured (PAP, even though it closed down, is a huge part of the area’s history).

I greatly enjoyed watching the first chapter of The Perils of Pauline. It was cute and I must say it was even exciting. It is definitely a film and a series I would have liked seeing had I been alive one hundred years ago. Pauline Marvin would have been my hero and someone I admired. 
If you live in New Jersey or would like to take a trip to see some silent film memorabilia please come by The Fort Lee Museum. Also, please visit the Fort LeeFilm Commission’s website for more information on the early film industry. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Big Chill (1983)

 “Do you think we're all trying trying to avoid dealing with Alex? You know, every time it comes up somebody changes the subject.”
“Hey, it's a dead subject.”

            I remember when I was working at Best Buy years ago seeing the soundtrack for The Big Chill. I think the soundtrack was reissued for some anniversary of the movie. I can remember thinking that the movie, based solely off of its poster, looked like it would be silly and boring yet for some reason I wanted to someday sit through it. Since the time I first saw the soundtrack for The Big Chill I have had several other jobs and have grown into a movie buff. I finally got around to seeing the movie and I was right that I would find it boring.
            A group of former college friends reunites at the funeral of one of their friends named Alex. They all feel guilty that they used to all be so close and neither one of them knew how Alex was feeling and why he would want to kill himself.
            They all stay at the home of Harold (Kevin Klein) and Sarah (Glen Close) for a few days. Harold and Sarah have a lot of money and they have a family. The others are a housewife, a TV show star, a journalist, a lawyer, a former radio host, and Alex’s girlfriend. They have all come a far way from where they were in college. Besides Harold and Sarah they are all unhappy with their lives.

            Really, that is all I got out of The Big Chill. I got so bored of it before it was half way in. The story depressed me and it was not the story of their friend killing himself that depressed me. It was seeing how miserable these people were in their lives that depressed me. They had all wanted great things to happen to them and they just fell flat. I hope and pray all the time that my life does not end up in the crapper and I constantly feel miserable. The Big Chill was not terrible but it is a movie I do not plan on ever seeing it again I found it boring beyond what my focus and attention span could handle. I will say it is worth watching just once.