Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Look Back at What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

melodrama, thriller

The poster also included five points or "things you should know about this motion picture before buying a ticket":
If you're long-standing fans of Miss Davis and Miss Crawford, we warn you this is quite unlike anything they've ever done.
You are urged to see it from the beginning.
Be prepared for the macabre and the terrifying.
We ask your pledge to keep the shocking climax a secret.
When the tension begins to build, remember it's just a movie.
I remember seeing this movie as a junior in high school when it first premiered in 1962. It was my first Bette Davis experience, and her freakish makeup, wig and costume scared the bejesus out of me. A ten foot Godzilla monster couldn't have frightened me more. Davis created her very own look for Baby Jane Hudson, so it is to her credit that Jane has become the cult classic that it is. Robert Aldrich drew brilliant work from both Davis and Crawford, and as much as Crawford complained about the director and his harsh tactics, she is awfully good in the part of Blanche, and should also have been nominated Best Actress along with Davis.
Despite the apparent feuds between the two - I understand the set had a Coke machine on one side and a Pepsi on the other - they were true professionals and in a poster of them sitting discussing the script in matching directors chairs, they appear like two schoolgirls, giggling and having a blast. Whatever, their chemistry on screen was sensational, and I just love to curl up with a big box of buttered popcorn, Junior Mints and a large diet Pepsi and devour that film with my galpal Diva Dona. "Jane, you wouldn't treat me this way if I weren't in this chair." "Butcha' are, Blanche, ya' are in that chair!" The two of us know every line and can go at it for hours, no days!

A Look Back at The Yearling (1946)

family drama
A classic film based on Marjorie Kinnan Rawling's best-selling novel of the same name, The Yearling won a juvenile Oscar for its star Claude Jarman, Jr. and nominations for director Clarence Brown, Best Actor Gregory Peck and Best Actress Jane Wyman.
I challenge anyone, young or old, not to cry in the final scenes. I recently caught it in the wee hours of a weekday morning on TCM (Turner Classic Movies)-my favorite cable channel!
What great performances - especially from Jarman and Wyman, who made herself look totally that prairie mom. I've always loved her work, and this is one of her finest!
The care and detail of the novel is cautiously preserved by director Brown, and the movie's cinematography is simply beautiful. It was a location shoot - not usual for the 40s - which helped to create a truly authentic and memorable film.

review - Avatar

(released theatrically December 18, 2009; now on DVD & Blu-ray - in both regular and 3-D formats)
sci-fi, fantasy, adventure

What makes a filmmaker brilliant is his ability to take a familiar theme or story and make it come to life in a brand new or engagingly different form. James Cameron, renowned director of Titanic and The Terminator series, has achieved further greatness with Avatar.

Avatar tells the story of a magical place called Pandora. The people who inhabit Pandora are called the Navi. The Navi bear a striking resemblance to a tribe of American primitive Indians and live in a world unlike any other, with trees, plants and minerals that hold curative powers. One paraplegiac soldier, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), in a wheelchair, is given the opportunity to convert his body into a Navi-like creature. The complicated process involves going to sleep within a machine that looks like a coffin. When he sleeps, he dreams and through dreaming he becomes an avatar, a creature with Navi physicality but retaining his own human mind and spirit. He will live amongst the splendor of Pandora, learning to adapt to the ways and culture of the Navi. He accepts, unwillingly at first, and finds an unparalleled existence of beauty and, more importantly, a chance to become more than the complete being that we once was. In fact, he will be a kind of superhero with the physical agility of a bird and possessing the mental and emotional potential for unequalled greatness. The sky's the limit. However, when he ascertains that the army to whom he owes allegiance are studying Pandora in order to dominate the Navi culture, forcing them to leave their beloved homeland, he joins a rebel faction determined to save Pandora from destruction.

Cameron has achieved cinematic wonder with the exotic appearance of Pandora, and the Navi that are digitally created using real actors. The creatures are of enormous size with distinctly enhanced limbs and facial features with blue skin. The actors actually walked through the movements which were later digitally enhanced. The result is unlike anything you have seen or are likely to see on the big screen. It's amazing. The performances are all uniformly excellent with kudos especially to Stephen Lang as the evil hardnosed Colonel Miles Quaritch and Sigourney Weaver as a tough yet tender officer in charge, Dr. Grace Augustine. The cast also includes Wes Studi and CCH Pounder. Worthington as Sully proves a formidable screen presence.

The movie is best viewed with 3-D glasses. The Pandora sequences where the creatures soar through the air leap out at you and hold you spellbound. Indeed, the whole experience is a uniquely emotional ride, and at the core there is a love story between Sully and one of the beautiful young Navi females Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). As in Titanic, you will get so caught up in the love story that the devastating tragedy about to enfold the characters will keep you on the edge of your seat. James Horner’s musical score, reminiscent of his award-winning Titanic, adds greatly to the emotional richness of the love story. Cinematographer Mauro Fiore’s work is consistently breathtaking.

There have been many, many other films depicting aggressive acts of war against minority nations, to be sure, but none quite like Avatar. What is the secret? It’s Cameron-esque magic. Go see for yourself!
On a scale of one to ten, a 10+