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End Credits #49: Cinema's 2016 Lost Treasures

 

The grim reaper, super busy this year, has struck once again and this time, it's one of the acting profession's most notably talented individuals. Steven Hill has died at age 94. A member of the Actor's Studio, he was a highly regarded thespian of stage, film, and television, notably becoming the first (throughout season 1's) leader of the latter's Mission Impossible (1966 - 1967) task force, the smooth and confident Dan Briggs. He also made a lasting impression as D.A. Adam Schiff on the immensely popular series Law & Order (1990 - 2000). Few actors were as convincing in their roles as Steven Hill. In films, Hill's uncanny ability to disappear into the parts he played often meant his "performance" would go unnoticed. His typically soft-spoken but assured demeanor suggested his characters' many years of dependable tried-and-true experience, and considerably enhanced the authenticity of Eyewitness, Rich and Famous, Yentl, Garbo Talks, Raw DealLegal Eagles, and Running on Empty, amongst others. From a scene-stealing point of view, Hill could blow even the best of his fellow actors off the screen: James Woods in The Boost, Dustin Hoffman in Billy Bathgate and Ed Harris in The Firm come to mind. He made his film debut in the Hedy Lamarr starring noir Lady Without Passport and afterward received larger parts in Storm Fear, The Goddess, and Kiss Her Goodbye. In 1963 Hill gave a stunning portrayal of deep conviction as the emotionally devastated father of an intellectually disabled boy in John Cassavetes' A Child is Waiting. This most challenging role required Hill to deplorably abandon his only child and yet still elicit considerable sympathetic support. Hill exceeded those expectations with consummate skill and aplomb, more than holding his own with Gena Rowlands as his wife, Burt Lancaster and Judy Garland, his son's institutional caretakers. This truly legendary actor of staggering professionalism will be sorely missed. Steven Hill (February 24, 1922 - August 23, 2016) R.I.P.

 

 

 

21st Century Treasure Quest #6

Our contributor Renard N. Bansale has completed 11 more contemporary film reviews for your consideration. The rating system he'll use is devised primarily to give those who are trying to decide which films to see, a fun and easy way of (hopefully) choosing a more pleasurable movie-going experience. For a more thorough introduction to this series please see 21st Century Treasure Quest #1. (A.G.)

 

The Ratings

1 chest: Definitely worth missing
2 chests: Okay to kill some time
3 chests: Not a complete success, but rewarding
4 chests: Well-crafted, creative and memorable
5 chests: A real treasure, deep, profound and original

 

 

 

Central Intelligence (2016—Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber)

This action comedy has nonexistent stakes, supporting characters of little consequential value, and a bloated anti-bullying message that feels out of place in this genre. Dwayne Johnson's broadly chipper cover demeanor undermines his credibility as a skilled government agent; worst of all, he smothers Kevin Hart’s subdued and well-mannered persona, resulting in an imbalanced and mostly ineffective comedic duo.

 

 

 

Finding Dory (2016—Director: Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane)

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A follow-up to 2003’s Finding Nemo, this animated comedy manages to overcome its “needless sequel" preconception by wisely addressing some of the earlier film's loose ends involving Dory the royal blue tang fish (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres in both films) with sophistication and care. Flashbacks to her nostalgic childhood offset her somewhat disagreeable present-day attitude. While not as breathtaking as the preceding film's Great Barrier Reef location, this story’s SeaWorld-like setting provides a subtle but admirable anti-captivity message, not to mention a host of fun supporting characters particularly Hank the octopus (voiced by Ed O’Neil). Lastly, the film leaves audiences with one of the most subtle and poignant endings, not only in Pixar film history but in all of past animated family entertainment.

 

 

 

Free State of Jones (2016—Director: Gary Ross)

Matthew McConaughey portrays with utmost conviction the neglected historical figure Newton Knight. The supporting cast, including a sturdy Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the slave woman Newton falls in love with, interact well with McConaughey making many individual scenes highly impactful. In the greater narrative, however, these dramatically isolated moments—combined with some abrupt flash-forwards to a 1940s subplot involving Knight’s mistreated great-great-great-grandson—fall short in capturing the true significance of, and passion behind, this leader's efforts at racial unity. Consequently, the film comes across as being the cinematic equivalent of a history textbook: Important but uninspired. 

 

 

 

Independence Day: Resurgence (2016—Director: Roland Emmerich)

Belated as it is, this popcorn spectacle remains a true and proper sequel to the rather frivolous but noteworthy ‘90s blockbuster, still the template for many modern-day disaster films. Actors from the first installment, namely Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and Brent Spiner, return confidently to their roles unlike many of the newer actors whose collective charisma fail to measure up to that of an in absentia Will Smith. The inclusion of a properly-formulated backstory regarding the invading aliens adds a welcome complexity and, perhaps fortuitously, looks forward to a killer third installment.

 

 

 

The Legend Of Tarzan (2016—Director: David Yates)

Sandwiched between the last 'Harry Potter' film and what promises to be an equally magical Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them, director David Yates has fashioned The Legend of Tarzan: A classy and thrilling Hollywood action-adventure experience. This rather familiar cinematic tale stumbles a bit in its execution due to a heavy visual effects environment and superficial characterizations. Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal of an American diplomat accompanying the "Lord of the Apes" is effectively engaging, albeit projecting a somewhat too modern-day facade. Christoph Waltz as the fiendish villain proves that his character-enhancing talents often dwarf those of his fellow thespians even outside of a Tarantino film.

 

 

The Lobster (2015—Director: Yorgos Lanthimos)

The director of 2009’s Dogtooth has crafted a bizarre, sparse and deliberately emotionless romantic comedy that starts off strong but sadly looses momentum from the narrative's midpoint onward. One can only imagine the film winning a more prestigious prize at 2015’s Cannes Film Festival if the filmmakers had infused the storytelling with greater creative energy in keeping with its bold premise of humans transforming into animals. 

 

 

 

Love & Friendship (2016—Director: Whit Stillman)

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Writer-director Whit Stillman, known for authenticating his story's settings through more than mere costume and production design, tackles Victorian Britain and romantic entanglements in an assured but stiff adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella. Kate Beckinsale’s star performance as Lady Susan Vernon shines to the extent of making apparent the story’s staleness whenever she is absent. Additionally, Stillman's overly literate character introductions help demonstrate little cinematic creativity in what is best described as a filmed play.

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Now You See Me 2 (2016—Director: Jon M. Chu)

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The first Now You See Me packaged impressive wizardry along with some rather egregious plot holes in slick fashion. This follow-up amounts to a more convoluted retread of the same with Lizzy Caplan's clumsy casting and a bizarre dual performance by Woody Harrelson. These flaws aside, this cinematic magic trick of a sequel excites, entertains, and distracts just enough to warrant screen space.

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Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016—Director: Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone)

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Despite emphasizing comedic quantity over quality and having excessive adult content, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping makes a robustly glorious case for being the current generation’s This is Spinal Tap. Lead star Andy Samberg captures the notorious egoism of modern pop singers such as Justin Bieber to hilarious effect. Andy's co-writers Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, (who along with Samberg form the group's 'Lonely Island' comedy trio), provide dependable supporting roles and prevent any failed jokes from overstaying their welcome. Furthermore, the filmmakers' composed a variety of propulsive but downright ludicrous songs that are sure to leave audience members howling with laughter.

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Warcraft (2016—Director: Duncan Jones)

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Of the many films this reviewer has seen in 2016, this adaptation of the popular real-time strategy game is the most pitiful. The overall narrative is adventurous, tragic, and rises above many contemporary franchises by "killing off" several principal characters in what is clearly intended to be the first installment of an enthralling extended story. The passionate direction of Duncan Jones—who brought us such concise and potent sci-fi works as Moon and Source Code—cannot overcome dated visual effects and uneven pacing, two factors that diminish many of its scenes' dramatic weight. Hopefully, a planned sequel will improve on this film’s failures.

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X-Men: Apocalypse (2016—Director: Bryan Singer)

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Advanced speculation had director Bryan Singer’s latest outing in the X-Men franchise providing disappointing results, establishing an almighty villain whose powers would become underutilized by the story's final battle, and by incorporating some contrived plot shifts designed primarily to introduce more mutant participants. Such suspicions can be mostly set aside, however, by witnessing the immensely thrilling final product. This is especially true when focusing on the continuing tragic arc of Michael Fassbender’s Magneto and experiencing an amazingly rhythmical, music accompanied sequence with Evan Peters’ Quicksilver, both of which are alone worth the price of admission.

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R.N.B.

End Credits #48: Cinema's 2016 Lost Treasures

Gloria DeHaven (July 23, 1925 - July 30, 2016) the supremely gifted actress has died at age 91. She was also a dearly loved mom to 4 children and a grandma to 3. My deepest condolences to her family for their loss. May her captivating illumination forever shine on cinema lovers everywhere. 

Guest contributor Bob DiMucci has provided this tribute to many of her motion picture accomplishments:

The Films of Gloria DeHaven

 

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"Now Listen to Me..."

Just some thoughts on current happenings:

 

There are 12 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:

Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru

Montgomery Clift, Joanne Dru

Director Howard Hawks was known for his confident, straight-forward westerns like Rio BravoEl Dorado and Red River which is perhaps his finest. It has been selected and reviewed as one of the Top Ten (#6) westerns here. It's about the opening of the Chisholm Trail, used after the Civil War to drive cattle from Texas to Kansas and stars John Wayne portraying one of his least heroic characters most enthusiastically. The "drive" will begin on TCM Saturday, August 6 at 5pm PST.  

 

 

 

 

Humphrey Bogart, Robert Blake

Humphrey Bogart, Robert Blake

Some have identified my next selection as a western. Whether it is or not, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is certainly one of America's finest motion pictures and has been previously recommended here. This cinematic treasure can be discovered Tuesday, August 9 at 5pm PST.

 

 

 

 

Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman

Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman

Although many have compared the re-make unfavourably to a previous version released a decade earlier, 1941's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde has many attributes of its own including a noir-like focus on its title subject's more beastly and repressed thoughts and desires. This previous TCM recommendation has been reviewed here. The psychological terror will begin Thursday, August 11 (early morning) at 4:30am PST.

 

 

 

 

MGM's 1952 musical Singin' in the Rain was not adapted from a stage production, though the film was turned into one and first performed in 1983. Its abundant creativity, innovation, and driving energy place it at the top of all musicals ever produced on celluloid. It will be reviewed below as this month's Blu-ray selection and will dance its way onto TCM Sunday, August 14 at 11am PST.

 

 

 

 

(From left) Cyd Charisse, Audrey Totter

(From left) Cyd Charisse, Audrey Totter

Later that same evening TCM is showing one of film noir's greatest treats: Tension, the commonality with Singin' in the Rain undoubtedly being the presence of actress Cyd Charisse. This is also a prior TCM recommendation previously made here and can be felt Sunday, August 14 at 11 pm PST.

 

 

 

 

In 1963 the colossally troubled production of Cleopatra was finally released.

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor

The film's director/writer Joseph L. Mankiewicz hoped it would be presented as 2 separate pictures running 3 hours each. 20th Century-Fox decided instead to cut the almost 6-hour film to just over 4 and had the $44 million-dollar epic exhibited as a single film. Since then, it has been much derided by numerous film critics (Judith Crist's career was launched based on her scathing review), unfairly I might add, considering its epic scope, compelling characters, intelligence and mature thoughtfulness. Surprisingly, the motion picture did well at the box office and in 1966 when ABC-TV paid $5 million for two showings, the film more than recouped its cost. Two hours is a lot to lose from a film's narrative but when it was cut, another 49 pages of re-shoots were made that provided an even flow to its highly literate and engaging historical portrayal. I have previously written about this film here with a distinct focus on, and deep appreciation for, its outstanding musical score provided by Alex North. Cleopatra will make her grand entrance onto TCM Monday, August 15 at 10:45pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

Lee Marvin

Lee Marvin

There's little that compares to the visceral excitement generated by the cream of classic films noir (the time period between 1940-1959). Even the best of neo-noir, (those psychological crime films that followed) were primarily emulating their style. Most offered little worth remembering... except for a British filmmaker's tale of a crook shot dead by his best friend who needed a greater share of the stolen cash to buy his way back into the L.A. mob and maintain an infidelity with the victim's wife. Little did he know the aptly named Walker would rise from the dead, make his way out of a deserted Alcatraz Island, and hunt him down with a Terminator-like vengeance... or "was it a dream?" 1967's Point Blank is a previous Blu-ray recommendation here and will hit its mark with all the impact and precision of its title's promise on TCM Thursday, 5pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers

There were quite a few "musicals" produced in the '30s about "putting on a show" but this one has to be the most inventive, daring and fun all-around. Part of its success (at least compared to the others in the 'Gold Digger' series), is due to its pre-code origins. This is a previous TCM recommendation here. Please have a read and see why Gold Diggers of 1933 is as enjoyable and meaningful as the shows these spirited characters struggle to produce. "The show must go on" Friday, August 19 at 3pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart

Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart

This next film is one a few of you may have heard about: 1944's Academy Award Best Picture Winner Casablanca. This choice may come as a surprise to readers more familiar with my past articles since it is included on a list of overrated films that was previously reviewed here. There is no denying the fact that Casablanca casts a magical spell and is certainly capable of sweeping one up in its appealing blend of romance, sacrifice, and political intrigue. Besides, for those who haven't seen it, or seen it enough, how are they to know if my criticisms are sound? This 1942 classic, one of Hollywood's proudest, airs Saturday, August 20 at 11am PST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Douglas Kennedy, Humphrey Bogart

Douglas Kennedy, Humphrey Bogart

Approximately 5 years after the release of Casablanca, Humphrey Bogart starred in a thrilling film noir adapted from David Goodis’ novel and directed by Delmer ('3:10 to Yuma') Daves. Co-starring Bogart's partner in love, Lauren Bacall, Dark Passage combines the best of romance with the best of noir in the best location for both: San Francisco. It has been previously recommended as a Blu-Ray release here. Bogart will make his "dark passage" on TCM Saturday, August 20 at 1pm PST.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean-Luc Godard, known for his cinema-verite style expressed in films such as Breathless and Pierrot le Fou, made, along with writer Alberto Moravia in 1963's Contempt, a different kind of film: Structured, complex, and purposeful with interrelated topics of romantic decay, personal, business, and artistic compromise and their various influences on the individual human spirit.

Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli

Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli

Godard additionally explores the subject of art versus commerce vis-à-vis the fictional film three distinctive and multi-culturally different collaborators are attempting to make: Homer’s 'Ulysses', the story of which will closely parallel the writer’s declining marital relationship and wife's subsequent romantic entanglement with the film’s producer. The settings, music, shot compositions, faithful performances, and colours all meaningfully contribute to symbolising and enhancing the shifting moods and emotions expressed by and brewing under the surface of characters, who although privileged, are seemingly transforming into lives less resolute than they previously envisaged. Contempt is a film filled with humour, pathos, irony, elegance, maturity, visual and aural splendour. Its complex themes, creatively and subtly interwoven throughout a brilliant, multi-dimensional narrative, are substantial and grandly communicative. They are also tonally variable. So much so, it is possible to come away from this subsuming movie with a wildly varying response, anything from contempt to contentment, even from the same person after separate viewings. Contempt will make its indelible impression Tuesday, August 23 (late in the evening) at 1am PST. 

 

 

 

 

(From left) Stubby Kaye, Frank Sinatra (pointing to) Jean Simmons, Marlon Brando

(From left) Stubby Kaye, Frank Sinatra (pointing to) Jean Simmons, Marlon Brando

My final TCM recommendation is a previous one made here, the rapturous musical Guys and Dolls all of whom will make their gambling way onto TCM Tuesday, August 30 at 2:15pm PST.

 

 

 

TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right-hand corner of TCM's programme.

 

 

 

 

 

A Happy Birthday shout-out to the brilliant actress Vera Miles who turns 87 on August 23rd.

Her considerable performances have enlivened such classic Hollywood fare as For Men OnlyWichita, The Searchers, The Wrong Man, The FBI Story, Psycho, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Hellfighters, and Into the Night amongst other motion pictures and notable TV series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This month's soundtrack recommendation conatins the music to the fairly camp but enormously expensive-looking sci-fi cult film 1997's Starship Troopers.

Although the film's shifting temperaments challenge its credibility, Basil (Conan the Barbarian) Poledouris' thunderous and driving score is never less than serious, delivering an awesome listening experience that mixes celestial magnificence with military might, desolate sublimity and suspense, with or without the film. A soundtrack was made available at about the same time as the film's release, but it was far from complete. Courtesy of Varese Sarabande's CD Club, we now have this expanded 2 CD deluxe edition that includes for the first time the epic 10-minute end titles! Keep in mind, this is a limited (3000 only) release that's likely to go out-of-print very soon. More information including international ordering can be obtained by clicking on the image. 

 

(To Be Continued)      A.G.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

21st Century Treasure Quest #5

Our contributor Renard N. Bansale has completed 11 more contemporary film reviews for your consideration. The rating system he'll use is devised primarily to give those who are trying to decide which films to see, a fun and easy way of (hopefully) choosing a more pleasurable movie-going experience. For a more thorough introduction to this series please see 21st Century Treasure Quest #1. (A.G.)

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21st Century Treasure Quest #4

Our contributor Renard N. Bansale has completed 10 more contemporary film reviews for your consideration. The rating system he'll use is devised primarily to give those who are trying to decide which films to see, a fun and easy way of (hopefully) choosing a more pleasurable movie-going experience. For a more thorough introduction to this series please see 21st Century Treasure Quest #1. (A.G.)

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Capturing a Golden Moment #15

In this series, I'd like to present some exceptional scenes inspired by cinema's most gifted artists of yesteryear.

 

Guys and Dolls (1955)

 

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz

 

Scene: "Sit Down, You're Rocking the Boat"

 

Stubby Kaye as Nicely-Nicely Johnson sings this showstopping song fabulously, perhaps as a result of perfecting the role and number on Broadway during the show's 1200 performances. Guys and Dolls won the 1951 Tony Award for the Best Musical. With such lively and exuberant characters and songs like the one seen here, it's easy to see why.   

 

 

Guys and Dolls  is available on Blu-Ray here:

Guys and Dolls [Blu-ray]
$18.49
Starring Various

 

It is also available for U.S. download here:

A.G.

21st Century Treasure Quest #3

Our contributor Renard N. Bansale has completed another batch of more contemporary film reviews for your consideration. The rating system he'll use is devised primarily to give those who are trying to decide which films to see, a fun and easy way of (hopefully) choosing a more pleasurable movie-going experience. For a more thorough introduction to this series please see 21st Century Treasure Quest #1. (A.G.)

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Top Ten: Cinema's Most Treasured Images Part 8 (#71 - 80)

I'll continue with some of cinema's most treasured images. For those familiar with the scenes represented they're bound to invoke a strong emotional response. Like the previous selections, these will be listed in order of greatest impression with #71 as the most iconic. The narratives' indelible moments are the primary reason these captures were selected. 

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Treasure Trivia: Quiz #6

Treasure Trivia:

The Cinema Cafe has a chat room on Facebook that readers are welcome to join here. On Mondays we have a movie trivia game called "Match-up Mondays" where the object is to name the common denominator between all of the captures provided and also identify each of the films pictured. 

My most recent post seems to have stumped even our most knowledgable and regular members as to the common denominator, so I thought I would post it here and offer a prize to the first person who can identify (in the comments section below) what the following film characters share in common. 

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There are 6 characters, all of whom have been identified correctly by various chat room members and confirmed on the "Match-up Monday" post. One may use whatever resources are available to answer correctly and guess as often as possible. The prize selected is one I believe most film buffs don't already have but should: A new and sealed Region A Blu-Ray of Hidden Gem #17: The Matrimony a.k.a. Xin zhong you gui (2007, China)  which will be internationally airmailed to the winner. 

 

 

Here are the 6 previously identified film characters (Good luck!):

 

1.

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6.