Film Review: Wind Across the Everglades (1958)

Also known as: Across the Everglades, Lost Man’s River (working titles), Inferno Verde (Uruguay), Muerte en los pantanos (Spain)
Release Date: September 11th, 1958 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Nicholas Ray, Budd Schulberg (uncredited)
Written by: Budd Schulberg
Music by: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Cast: Burl Ives, Christopher Plummer, Gypsy Rose Lee, Chana Eden, Mackinlay Kantor, Emmett Kelly

Warner Bros., 93 Minutes

Review:

“Ah! The sweet-tastin’ joys of this world!” – Cottonmouth

I never knew about this movie, which is odd, as I have grown up and lived near the Everglades almost my entire life. I’m also a fan of Nicholas Ray’s films but I am also mostly just familiar with his work in film-noir. Needless to say, this was an interesting discovery, as I was perusing the content on FilmStruck (a streaming service every cinephile should get).

What’s fantastic about this film is its use of on location shooting. This was legitimately filmed within the Everglades, which is really impressive for a motion picture that came out in 1958.

Having lived on the edge of the ‘Glades, I know that the production must have been an insane undertaking. The swamps are a hell of an undertaking just trying to hike them and since this film really gets into the murk, lugging all that heavy equipment had to be a hell of a workout. Plus that heat, the humidity, the never knowing when the hell you’re going to get instantaneous downpour from the heavens, the bugs, the snakes, the alligators, the boar, the bears, the panthers, the snapping turtles, all of it, man. So I can’t give enough props and respect for the crew that captured this beautiful picture.

I really loved that this film put its focus on environmental conservation, especially in the Florida Everglades. I loved the opening sequence that showed a train arriving to Miami around 1900 or so. The lavish outfits of the women and their love of fashionable plumage was a good addition to the film’s backstory of showcasing how mankind doesn’t really give a crap about how it wrecks the planet, as long as they can achieve the level of status that affords them the luscious plumage of birds being hunted towards extinction. I’m not a super lefty or anything but pillaging nature for fashion is pretty f’d up, just sayin’.

Anyway, Christopher Plummer (in his first starring role and only his second film) shows up in Miami, which is pretty much just a swamp with a train station in 1900. He makes a goofy mistake and finds himself forced into being a game warden for the Audubon Society. He is warned about a man named Cottonmouth (Burl Ives), who has a posse that kills wild birds for their feathers. The two men cross paths and make their intentions clear to one another.

As the film progresses, Plummer’s Murdock falls in love with the job, the wild around him and pretty much sees God’s hand in it all. This isn’t a religious film, he just goes on some tangents about natural beauty and whatnot from the perspective of a dude from 1900ish America.

The two men, despite their rivalry and being on opposite ends of the law, develop a respect for one another, which all comes to a head in the film’s climax. This isn’t a predictable film. It actually feels a lot more realistic than Hollywood’s standard theatrics of the time.

It’s worth noting that Nicholas Ray was fired before the film was completed and Budd Schulberg, the film’s writer, took over and then handled the editing. His lack of experience is apparent in how the film is cut and paced but Ray’s vision still comes through in the framing of most of the shots and the general cinematography. There are just a handful of things that come off as weird in the film. For example, when Murdock, talking about the majestic birds, refers to the sun gleaming off of their feathers, a shot of birds in silhouette is cut over the dialogue. But maybe getting all the wildlife footage was difficult and this is all they had to work with in post-production.

I really liked this movie, despite its few flaws. Plummer and Ives had a good chemistry, the direction was mostly pretty good and it just taps into the history of a place I call my backyard.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: Nicholas Ray films: Hot Blood, The Savage Innocents and Bitter Victory.

Film Review: Call Me by Your Name (2017)

Release Date: January 22nd, 2017 (Sundance)
Directed by: Luca Guadagnino
Written by: James Ivory
Based on: Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman
Music by: various
Cast: Armie Hammer, Timothée Chalamet, Michael Stuhlbarg, Amira Casar, Esther Garrel, Victoire Du Bois

Frenesy Film Company, La Cinéfacture, RT Features, M.Y.R.A. Entertainment, Water’s End Productions, Sony Pictures Classics, Warner Bros., 132 Minutes

Review:

“We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of thirty and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to make yourself feel nothing so as not to feel anything – what a waste!” – Mr. Perlman

I didn’t get to see this in the theater, where I intended to check it out. It wasn’t the highest on my list of “awards worthy” films last year and I had a big list to work through. Plus, I’m not in an area where “awards worthy” films are looked at as all that important. But hey, everyone around here is really excited for that Bumblebee movie.

Anyway, I finally caught this on the Starz app, it’s still there, if you’ve been wanting to see this highly lauded motion picture.

The film is about an American named Oliver (Armie Hammer) that comes to live with an Italian family for the summer. The son, Elio (Timothée Chalamet), quickly develops a crush on Oliver. As the film progresses, Elio’s feelings towards Oliver are found to be mutual and we go along with him on his journey of self-discovery: trying to understand what attracts him, what love is and how to deal with the overwhelming emotions of being a passionate young man.

The film is heartbreaking at its lowest emotional moments and not just for Elio but for a few characters. At the same time, there’s hope and positivity in Elio learning to accept and find comfort in who he is. Luckily for him, he has loving and understanding parents. And while this does end on a sad note, I guess there’s a sequel in the works for some reason, even though it really isn’t necessary and sort of takes the impact away from the ending, knowing that these two characters will meet again.

The framework of an uncertain future is pretty much what makes the final moments work. And yeah, I guess the future is still uncertain but this takes some of the story magic away. Besides, I had incredibly strong feeling for the first few people I had sex with but at 39 years-old, I’ve moved on a half dozen times. That’s what life does, it moves on, you meet new people and what was once intense emotional pain was just something that happened lifetimes ago. Elio should never forget the experience but he also shouldn’t be crippled by it as life moves forward.

I thought that both Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamet did a fantastic job. However, I thought their physical age differences, at least how they appeared in the film, were pretty drastic. Oliver is supposed to be 24 in the story but Hammer looks over 30. Elio is 17, which is well over the age of consent in Italy, but he looks 15. 7 years isn’t a big deal and Elio being 17 probably only seems weird in the U.S., where some states have the age of consent set at 18 and where the media is pedo crazy and we obsess over sex offenders. But in the film, the age difference looks greater than the original story intends. And I don’t think that their ages are actually mentioned in the film. It’s really not a big deal but Hammer looked much older than just being some college student living abroad for a few months.

The film moves kind of slow but it’s still well put together and it at least looks beautiful. Luca Guadagnino certainly has an eye for style and understands how to make his visuals a true accent to the narrative and the emotion unfolding on screen. While I was vehemently against anyone remaking Suspiria, I’m kind of intrigued by his vision for it after seeing this film and seeing the trailer for that film. I’m hoping that Guadagnino uses the same key crew members for that film, as this picture is so rich, visually.

In the end, I enjoyed this but it isn’t something I think I’d ever watch again. It looks beautiful, it told a good story but I feel it is also overblown due to its subject matter, which is the type of thing Hollywood snobs love because their progressive nature means that they have to push those politics and ideas into the mainstream. Which honestly, distracts from this just being a really good movie and just makes it one of many films that Hollywood has to prop up to prove that they’re not bigots anymore. But a lot of them are pedos and this doesn’t help that image, just sayin’.

Again, this is a good film. Picture of the Year nominee? Not really. But then again, most of the films that get that distinction aren’t worthy. Now if Timothée Chalamet fucked a fish man, this would have won all the big ones. Bestiality trumped gay sex this past year but gay bestiality would’ve broke the Academy.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: In recent years, Moonlight and Lady Bird.

Film Review: Mildred Pierce (1945)

Release Date: September 28th, 1945 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Ranald MacDougall, Catherine Turney (uncredited)
Based on: Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain
Music by: Max Steiner
Cast: Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Ann Blyth

Warner Bros., 111 Minutes

Review:

“If you take a swim, I’d have to take a swim. Is that fair? Because you feel like killing yourself, I gotta get pneumonia.” – Policeman on Pier

Mildred Pierce is one of the most critically acclaimed film-noir motion pictures of all-time. But when you put master director Michael Curtiz with acting legend Joan Crawford, a magical concoction is ensured. It was a fantastic pairing that lead to Crawford winning the Academy Award for her performance. Curtiz wasn’t nominated but he probably should have been.

Ann Blyth and Eve Arden both got nominations for Best Supporting Actress but lost out to Anne Revere for her role in National Velvet. The film also received nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography.

This is also considered one of Crawford’s best performances. Honestly, she has hit it out of the park with every single performance I have seen from this era. She was one of the most capable actresses of her time, or any time, and she elevated not just the picture but the other actors around her. She had to carry many scenes but she was able to pull some of the best work out of her co-stars that they have ever showcased. I can’t ignore Curtiz’s direction in this either but if you go back and watch Crawford, especially in the ’40s, you’ll see how she elevates the performances of those around her.

The story is mostly told through flashback. It focuses on Mildred Pierce, a mother that has been through some rocky relationships but is willing to give all she can to make her materialistic and ungrateful daughter whatever she wants. The film taps into this heavily and definitely makes you question Mildred’s character and her motivations. The reason being, her ex-husband has been murdered and Mildred is the focal point of the police investigation. But this is a noir and there must be twists and surprises. All I’ll say is that I never saw the ending coming.

That being said, this was a well orchestrated plot and the screenwriters and director did a fantastic job of moving this story along, dropping in little hints and some suggestive nuances. I won’t say whether they are red herrings or not but it’s pretty entertaining watching this all unfold.

I thought that the Max Steiner score was really good. I also loved the cinematography by Ernest Haller, who was involved in Gone with the Wind and also worked a lot with Crawford, as well as Bette Davis and Ingrid Bergman.

This is just a really good story, plotted out wonderfully, well directed and superbly acted. Plus everything looks and sounds great. This is a motion picture comprised of nothing other than strong positives.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Other film-noir pictures with Joan Crawford: Humoresque, Possessed and Sudden Fear.

Film Review: Party Girl (1958)

Release Date: October 28th, 1958 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Nicholas Ray
Written by: George Wells, Leo Katcher
Music by: Jeff Alexander
Cast: Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse, Lee J. Cobb

Euterpe, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 99 Minutes

Review:

“I’ve been out with the mobs before. Most of the time all they want to do is wear their cash around. By the end of the evening they’re usually too drunk to for anything else.” – Vicki Gaye

A classic film-noir in color?! That’s crazy talk! But that’s what this film is. But it is also more than just standard noir and it came out at the very end of the style’s classic run throughout the ’40s and ’50s.

Party Girl is directed by Nicholas Ray, who also did the film-noir classics They Live by NightIn a Lonely PlaceThe Racket and On Dangerous Ground. He also directed Rebel Without a Cause.

We also get to see Robert Taylor and Lee J. Cobb come together in this picture, bringing it a supreme level of gravitas. Cobb plays a sadstic Chicago mobster during the height of the city’s organized crime. Taylor plays the nice guy lawyer that is the confidant to Cobb’s Rico Angelo thus making him the one man that knows all the man’s dark secrets.

Taylor gets in a little too deep, Cobb gets a little too paranoid and well, we get a classic noir tale of deception, betrayal, twist and turns. Plus there is a beauty thrown in and also a sneaky ex-wife that has some devious plans of her own.

I liked Party Girl but I wouldn’t call it a noir classic even though it came out in the classic era, has a good cast and is directed by a noir maestro. But it is certainly worth your time, considering that you are into these sort of films.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Nicholas Ray films I already mentioned: They Live by NightIn a Lonely PlaceThe RacketOn Dangerous Ground and Rebel Without a Cause.

TV Review: Justified (2010-2015)

Also known as: Lawman (working title)
Original Run: March 16th, 2010 – April 14th, 2015
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Fire in the Hole by Elmore Leonard
Music by: Steve Porcaro, Gangstagrass (theme)
Cast: Timothy Olyphant, Nick Searcy, Joelle Carter, Jacob Pitts, Erica Tazel, Natalie Zea, Walton Goggins, Jere Burns, M.C. Gainey, Brent Sexton, William Ragsdale, Stephen Root, Margo Martindale, Brad William Henke, Neal McDonough, Stephen Tobolowsky, Scott Grimes, Jeff Fahey, Garret Dillahunt, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Danielle Panabaker, Amy Smart, Alicia Witt, Michael Rapaport, Patton Oswalt, Gerald McRaney, Adam Arkin

Sony Pictures Television, Rooney McP Productions, Timberman-Beverly Productions, Nemo Films, Bluebush Productions, FX, 78 Episodes, 37-53 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

*Written in 2015.

Justified was one of those shows that everyone told me to watch. I really loved Deadwood and was pissed that it ended when it did, only after three seasons and on a cliffhanger. Timothy Olyphant was fantastic in that show. When Justified came around, it seemed like the modern spiritual successor to the near perfect Deadwood. And many people went on to confirm that to me, before I even saw it.

Then I saw it.

I don’t know what it is about majority opinion and my own opinion but when it comes to television shows, they don’t seem to match up. The thing is, I hate this show. “Awful” isn’t a strong enough word to describe it.

Maybe there is just something about FX that is horrible because every single FX show I have ever watched, except for Always Sunny, has completely underwhelmed me and left me befuddled as to how so many people are in love with FX’s product. The network is perceived by many to be on par with the greats like HBO, Showtime and AMC. Justified is just one of a string of many shows that feels just as safe and generic as the episodic crime drama bullshit found on the big networks: CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox.

I also don’t know who the music director is at FX but Justified easily has the worst theme song in television history. It is eye rolling, stomach churning and just a horrendous attempt at trying to force together hip-hop and bluegrass. But FX shows have a history of having really shitty theme songs, except for Always Sunny. The Justified theme, actually makes the terrible Sons of Anarchy theme, sound like a masterpiece.

The worst part, is that I like Olyphant and even more than him, I love Walton Goggins. This show has great talent on the screen but the final product is still crap. Sure, the acting is better than average but the plot, the characters and everything else is so drab and cookie cutter.

I only made it about halfway through the third season before giving up. I rarely give up on a show. But nothing really grabbed me by that point and the consensus from the fans of the show is that the first three seasons are the best and then it falls off after that. Well, it was never really on for me to begin with so I certainly don’t want to invest another twenty-plus hours in it “falling off”.

I wish there were more westerns and even neo-westerns on TV. I just wish more were like Deadwood, Hell On Wheels and Longmire (once it went to Netflix) and less like this basic bag of bullshit.

And ultimately, it’s just made me go back and start re-watching the far superior Deadwood once again.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: Sons of AnarchyBreaking BadFear the Walking Dead and Deadwood.

Film Review: Explorers (1985)

Release Date: July 12th, 1985
Directed by: Joe Dante
Written by: Eric Luke
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson, Amanda Peterson, James Cromwell, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller, Meshach Taylor

Paramount Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“It’s asking for coordinates on x-, y- and z-axes to locate a point in space relative to its terminal. How did you dream this?” – Wolfgang Müller

The Explorers was one of my favorite movies in the mid-’80s. It kind of fit in with all those other kid adventure movies like E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialThe Goonies and Monster Squad. These kid films did really well back then and they all sort of just tapped into something that films didn’t do as good before the decade. I guess that’s why Stranger Things and the modern It movie have built up solid fan bases off of the nostalgia for these sort of films and stories.

This movie is no different and it also came from the imagination of Joe Dante. Ultimately, this feels like a Spielberg film too but he wasn’t even involved but maybe Dante’s experience working with Spielberg on Gremlins, a year earlier, kept that magic mojo going.

The plot follows three boys and their attempt at building a spaceship. Yeah, it is really fantastical and unrealistic but the movie is more about imagination and childhood than the going to space bit. Granted, they do go to space and meet aliens but even then, this is still about youthful imagination, living your dreams no matter how ridiculous they may be and never losing hope in yourself. It’s a metaphor, y’all!

What makes this movie so fantastic is that you do see this through the eyes of children but you also see it through the eyes of an adult, in this case the super talented and underutilized Dick Miller. Miller’s character, an old man that once had dreams and aspirations similar to the kids, discovers what these kids are up to and when he witnesses them succeed, he is living vicariously through them and tapping into something he hasn’t felt in decades. It’s pretty f’n touching and Miller really conveyed the right emotions in playing this part. While Miller’s role in the movie isn’t very big, it’s central to the most pivotal message this film tries to communicate to its audience.

The special effects in this are really good and I loved the sets and the creature effects on the aliens, once these kids journeyed to their spaceship.

Spoiler alert, the aliens are friendly and as the film rolls on, you come to discover that they’re just kids to. So the Earth kids and the alien kids meet and you see that they’re not too dissimilar. The alien kids are also driven to go on adventures and discover the universe with childlike enthusiasm. Plus, Robert Picardo was awesome as the male alien, even if you couldn’t see him under the bulky costume.

I like watching this film as an adult because it keeps me grounded by making me remember the ideals and view of the universe I had when I was a kid. Watching this as an adult is similar to being in the shoes of the Dick Miller character.

This is one of Joe Dante’s best pictures.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Flight of the NavigatorE.T the Extra-TerrestrialD.A.R.Y.L., The Goonies, Monster Squad.

Film Review: Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (2013)

Release Date: April 10th, 2013 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: James Nguyen
Written by: James Nguyen
Music by: Michael Gordon Shapiro
Cast: Alan Bagh, Whitney Moore, Patsy van Ettinger, Thomas Favaloro, Chelsea Turnbo, Brittany N. Pierce, Thuan Luu, Aaron Pressburg, Sam Hyde

Moviehead Pictures, I Got A Fish Productions, Chill, 79 Minutes

Review:

“Squaaah! Squaaah! Squaaah!” – every bird in the movie

This movie shouldn’t have been made once, let alone twice.

Seriously, this was fucking terrible with a capital FUCKING TERRIBLE.

I don’t mind the cast though. They seem like nice people having fun making these shitty ripoffs of The Birds, which are littered with environmental nonsense, alarmism and misinformation to the point that I can’t believe that the director is remotely serious about it. But then I’ve watched his interviews… he’s totally serious.

Anyway, the plot is even crazier than the first movie. Somehow it rains blood on the La Brea Tar Pits and prehistoric birds come flying out of the muck. Then there are other creatures effected too and we even get scenes featuring human zombies and killer cavemen. This tapestry of terrible bullshit makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like 2001: A Space Odyssey.

There is a sequence where a woman is attacked by a CGI jellyfish that is very pixelated. It’s one of the most bizarre and baffling sequences I have ever seen on film. And then when the girl emerges from the water, she is covered in blood all over her body. How in the fuck can a jelly fish do that? Seriously? The director needs to watch a friggin’ Nat Geo documentary about jellyfish or hell… birds. While we’re at it, he should probably also watch ones on global warming, the environment and just general science.

The acting is beyond atrocious, the directing is completely nonexistent but we do get to see some nice boobies and horrendous dancing from uncoordinated white people.

I watched this alone in my room but the film made me feel awkward. Like people were looking down at me from Heaven, judging me for wasting my time on this. I could hear my dead relatives going, “There he is, just wasting away in his room spending 79 minutes on this garbage when he could be bettering himself somehow or making sandwiches for starving hobos.”

This movie is a blight on humanity. It’s easily one of the worst things ever filmed and I feel bad for the actors that came back to do this a second time. Like did their hours get cut at Starbucks? Because they certainly didn’t make more money doing this than working the Thursday morning shift.

Rating: 1.25/10
Pairs well with: Birdemic and really nothing else.