The Cinema Cafe

Serving Cinema's Tastiest Treasures

21st Century Treasure Quest #19


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 further 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


Beast (2017—Director: Michael Pearce)

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Irish actress Jessie Buckley dominates the screen in this romantic yet bleak psychological thriller by writer-director Michael Pearce. Pearce’s film, despite its confused ending, succeeds in transforming the scenic island of Jersey (in the English Channel) into an oppressive mental prison for Buckley’s lovestruck heroine.

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BlacKkKlansman (2018—Director: Spike Lee)

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Seasoned filmmaker Spike Lee deftly handles sensitive and politically charged themes in reenacting Ron Stallworth’s somewhat farcical investigation of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s (adapted from Stallworth’s 2014 memoir). Star John David Washington brings brash initiative while Adam Driver grounds the story as the voice of reason. Rarely has cinema so effectively portrayed and opposed racism with such uninhibited joy.

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Book Club (2018—Director: Bill Holderman)

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Writer-director Bill Holderman (with co-writer Erin Simms) delivers a bland ensemble rom-com about four senior women (Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen) and the effect their eponymous regular hangouts have on their love lives. The film is less an insightful examination on the diverse facets of autumn romance than a slack paycheck vehicle for its aging stars.

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Deadpool 2 (2018—Director: David Leitch)

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This sequel to the 2016 superhero comedy Deadpool, boasts slicker action scenes and to some degree, more substantial and heartfelt conflicts compared to its predecessor. Unfortunately for #2, without the first film’s crucial novelty factor, the tired meta jokes, gratuitous violence, and groan-inducing digs on sentimentality become a tug-of-war for the viewer, more burdensome than pleasurable.

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First Reformed (2018—Director: Paul Schrader)

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Ethan Hawke is mesmerizing as a spiritually-troubled evangelical pastor in writer-director Paul Schrader’s plodding drama and intense character study. Occasional moments of comic relief might linger more in the minds of viewers compared to the pressing themes that get resolved by the story’s trite and abrupt conclusion.

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How Long Will I Love U (2018—Director: Su Lun)

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Liya Tong and Jiayin Lei (the latter playing the present and future versions of his character) headline writer-director Su Lun’s clever Chinese time-traveling romantic comedy. The film makes up for a modest “fun and games” midsection with its impressive production design by Zheng Chen, amusing setups in the story’s beginning, and an earned finale that brims with surprising heart.

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Mission: Impossible—Fallout (2018—Director: Christopher McQuarrie)

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After having written and directed the previous M:I entry, Christopher McQuarrie becomes the first director to helm two successive Tom Cruise-starring installments of the popular franchise, delivering one of the most technically ferocious spectacles in recent action cinema. However, unlike his previous M:I Rogue Nation, McQuarrie asks viewers to perform their own “Mission: Impossible” by sorting out one too many convoluted plot developments.

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Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2018—Director: Masaaki Yuasa)

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Director Masaaki Yuasa transforms Tomihiko Morimi’s 2006 novel and in the process, colorfully tackles themes of college-age angst, drunken honesty, unrequited infatuation and fate versus coincidence in a tale consisting of a single glorious whirlwind of a night… creating one of the most unique and memorable animated works of the new millennium.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018—Director: Ron Howard)

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Alden Ehrenreich becomes Harrison Ford’s iconic pilot-smuggler (minus ten years from the 1977 Star Wars’ time setting) in this competent, yet largely inconsequential, second Star Wars Anthology film (2016’s Rogue One being the first). Bradford Young’s crisp camerawork and John Powell’s musical refurbishment of John Williams’ iconic themes redeem the space adventure from a lacklustre and passionless narrative perhaps due to the film’s unfortunate production turmoil (i.e., Ron Howard replacing Phil Lord and Christopher Miller in the director’s chair).

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A Star Is Born (2018—Director: Bradley Cooper)

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Bradley Cooper teams up with pop star Lady Gaga to provide a worthy update on the classic Hollywood tale. The star duo’s raw and vulnerable chemistry in both their musical and quiet moments is particularly commendable especially considering Cooper’s multiple duties as director (a first-time effort), writer, producer and co-star.

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R.N.B.

End Credits #90: Cinema's 2019 Lost Treasures Seymour Cassel, Agnès Varda, Larry Cohen

Sadly, three greatly inspired “independent” filmmakers have passed away.

Guest contributor A.C. Francis has paid tribute to their careers.


Goodbye and Farewell to character actor Seymour Cassel, a stalwart of independent cinema. He died at age 84.

“Independent film is film that has thought in it. There's no independent thought in studio films. It's collective thought. These things you get from Hollywood are no more than computer games, where you might as well have a little wired handset that you could blow up this truck if you want instead of that one, that would at least allow audience participation. With independent film, simply because they don't have the money to make a big-budget film, they're forced to make a story that's important to them, that they would like to see on film, a personal story that people can relate to, about people, where you can see the love of the characters. That's true of the best films I've done, certainly John Cassavetes films."

“Independent film is film that has thought in it. There's no independent thought in studio films. It's collective thought. These things you get from Hollywood are no more than computer games, where you might as well have a little wired handset that you could blow up this truck if you want instead of that one, that would at least allow audience participation. With independent film, simply because they don't have the money to make a big-budget film, they're forced to make a story that's important to them, that they would like to see on film, a personal story that people can relate to, about people, where you can see the love of the characters. That's true of the best films I've done, certainly John Cassavetes films."

Oscar nominated for his work in his friend John Cassavettes’ Faces (1968) and Hugo Award Winner for In the Soup (1992), the actor carved out a career with memorable roles for talented filmmakers throughout the decades.

Working mostly with Cassavettes through the bulk of the 70s, he made strong impressions in the filmmaker’s Shadows (his film debut), Minnie and Moskowitz, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Opening Night.

Cassel ended the decade with a wonderful little film from John Hancock, 1979’s California Dreaming. The actor played “Duke Slusarski” in perhaps his most soulful performance, as a man who comes so close to realising his dreams but...

With over 200 films to his credit, Cassel worked with some of the best filmmakers of their respective times such as John Cassavettes, Elia Kazan, Sam Peckinpah, Barry Levinson, Dennis Hopper, Nicholas Roeg, Larry Cohen, Warren Beatty and Wes Anderson.

He was always a dedicated actor, evident in every performance. Seymour Cassel (January 22, 1935 - April 8, 2019).

Rest In Peace



Goodbye and Farewell to Agnès Varda who’s left us at age 90. 

“Women are not a minority in the world, and yet our industry says the opposite. The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all.”

“Women are not a minority in the world, and yet our industry says the opposite. The stairs of our industry must be accessible to all.”

Varda came to prominence in 1962 with the superb Cleo from 5 to 7, a story told in real-time about a young woman who finds she may have cancer and awaits her doctor’s call. The film moves with grace from one emotional precipice to the next.

She would create another near masterpiece in 1965 with Le Bonheur (Happiness), a cruelly ironic portrait of a loving young family and its patriarch's attempt to increase his joy by taking a mistress. The film’s title infers upon the patriarch’s misguided sense of what his heart yearns for and is quite powerful in its depiction of the “sullying” of an otherwise peaceful family.

The filmmaker explored themes of illness, life and death throughout her career. Her biggest commercial success (and one of her finest films) came in 1985 with Vagabond starring Sandrine Bonnaire, who plays the tragic role of young woman wandering the roads to her fate, a story with immediacy and palpable poignancy.

In all of her films, Varda carefully observes but does not moralise her characters, allowing her audience to freely engage or pass judgement on their actions. She never coerces sympathy, instead reminds us with her imitable style that it's possible to say one thing and mean another. Such is life.

Outside of the mainstream, Varda eschewed the studio system, staying fiercely independent, tested when she travelled to Los Angeles in 1967 with her husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy. She was never seduced by the mainstream, maintaining her autonomous spirit until the end.

Agnès Varda portrayed life from her refreshingly unique and always unexpected perspective. Agnès Varda (May 30, 1928 - March 29, 2019) R.I.P.


Goodbye and Farewell to Larry Cohen who passed away at age 82. 

“I've gotten a great deal of enjoyment out of making these films. There's always a sense of the danger of the unknown. And, yet, you have to proceed with the absolute belief that everything will work out fine - and it has. Isn't that what life is all about?”

“I've gotten a great deal of enjoyment out of making these films. There's always a sense of the danger of the unknown. And, yet, you have to proceed with the absolute belief that everything will work out fine - and it has. Isn't that what life is all about?”

A genre icon is gone and it’s an especially sad loss for fans of Grindhouse Cinema. Larry Cohen was a maverick low-budget filmmaker whose specialising in the horror genre gave us some fascinating creative dynamos such as It’s Alive (1974), God Told Me To (1976), It Lives Again (1978), The Stuff (1985), A Return to Salem’s Lot (1987) and perhaps the most precious of all, the wildly imaginative Q The Winged Serpent (1982). His horror films typically infused cutting social commentary and infectious humour into the gruesomeness, leaving an enthusiastic and passionate stylistic impression. In the ‘70s he became known for contributing to the “Blaxploitation” brand of films with Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem (both 1973). Cohen also wrote and directed the notable biography/drama The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977). Larry Cohen (July 15, 1936 - March 23, 2019). R.I.P.

A.F.


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Classic film screenings from around the world this month include:



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Throughout various locations in Australia, Event Cinemas will host Hollywood Classics On the Big Screen. This month's showings will include Psycho on Monday, April 1 and Bullitt on Monday, April 15. 

For a list of the theatres hosting these films, and their complete schedule throughout the first half of the year, click on the banner image above.




In addition, throughout various locations in Australia, Event Cinemas will present Alien on Monday, April 8 and Monty Python’s The Life of Brian Thursday, April 18.

For a theatre nearest to your preferred location, click on the respective poster image.



In Reykjavík, Iceland Harpa and The Iceland Symphony Orchestra will present Star Wars: A New Hope with live musical accompaniment featuring John Williams’ iconic score on Wednesday, April 3, Thursday April 4 and Friday, April 5. Click on the above image for more information.




In San Francisco, California Midcentury Productions and The Roxie Theatre will present The Curtain Rises (Entree des Artistes) on Thursday, April 4 and Saturday, April 6. For more information, click on the above banner.


In Los Angeles, California The Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival will return to Hollywood for its 10th edition April 11 - 14. This year's theme is “Follow Your Heart: Love at the Movies.” Highlights include Dark Passage and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg on Thursday, April 11, Broadway Danny Rose, A Patch of Blue, Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans and Road House (1948) on Friday, April 12, A Woman Under the Influence, Nashville and Waterloo Bridge (1931) on Saturday, April 13 and The Defiant Ones, The Killers (1964) and The Godfather Part II on Sunday, April 14… plus so many more exciting films and events for cinema enthusiasts! Click on the above banner for the complete schedule and further information.

In Bristol, United Kingdom Watershed Arts Trust Ltd will present as part of a series on the early film scores of John Williams, Family Plot on Sunday, April 7. Click on the above image for more information.


In St. Louis, Missouri The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra will present Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix with live musical accompaniment featuring Nicholas Hooper’s rousing score on Friday, April 12. Click on the above image for more information.



In Belo Horizonte, Brazil The Associação Cine Theatro Brasil - Vallourec will present Rio Bravo on Monday, April 22 and Rear Window on Monday, April 29. For more information, click on the respective poster image.

In Pithiviers, France The pithiviers-fait-son-cinema Le Mail will present The Swimmer (1968) on Thursday, April 25. Click on the above image for more information.


In Perth, Australia The West Australian Symphony Orchestra will present The Little Mermaid with live musical accompaniment featuring Alan Menken’s spirited score on Friday, April 26 and Saturday, April 27. Click on the above image for more information.

In Prague, Czech Republic Kino Aero will present Mad Max 2 The Road Warrior on Saturday, April 27. Click on the above image for more information.

In Edinburgh, United Kingdom Senbla will present The Goonies with live musical accompaniment featuring Dave Grusin’s lively score on Saturday, April 27. Click on the above image for more information.

In Wellington, New Zealand The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra will present Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back with live musical accompaniment featuring John Williams’ exciting score on Sunday, April 28. Click on the above image for more information.

There are 18 recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month.

Don't miss Nicholas Ray's character study In a Lonely Place with Humphrey Bogart perfectly cast as Dixon Steele whose unpredictable explosions of anger make him a prime suspect for the killing of a young ingénue. This highly probative film noir, previously recommended here, is scheduled to arrive Saturday, April 6 at 10am PST.

(From left) Humphrey Bogart, Don Hamin

(From left) Humphrey Bogart, Don Hamin

Later, when it’s dark, The Night of the Hunter will emerge, previously reviewed in Opening Up a Treasure: The Night of the Hunter. This highly expressionistic Grimm-like fable will be told Saturday, April 6 at 7:15pm PST.

Next up is a starring vehicle for James Cagney and Joan Blondell, a pre-code charmer sure to delight fans: Blonde Crazy. This recommendation was previously made here. The fun will begin Monday, April 8 at (early morning) 3am PST.

Joan Blondell, James Cagney

Joan Blondell, James Cagney

Next is one of the western genre's finest and another excellent pairing of star James Stewart with director Anthony Mann: The Man from Laramie.

James Stewart

James Stewart

This was the last western the duo made together and perhaps their finest. Previously they collaborated on Winchester '73, Bend of the River, The Naked Spur and The Far Country in that order. In this film, Mann's by now familiar themes of buried hostility, vengeance, familial loyalty and expectation seem developed in a more complex fashion, therefore affording the director a deeper exploration of his characters' conflicts, motives and desires. As always the situations are masterfully presented and infinitely captivating. The Man from Laramie has been previously reviewed as Top Ten Western #7 and will appear Thursday, April 11 at 7pm PST.  


Selecting the Top Ten Westerns for my article was a daunting task. Particularly problematic was filling the last (#10) spot, which I felt should be taken by one of the Bud Boetticher directed/Burt Kennedy scripted films starring Randolph Scott. These were stories of richly drawn characters, multi-faceted and unusual, often interlocking conflicts told with miraculous narrative efficiency. Finally, I chose The Tall T for conveying a special sense of urgency, complexity and concise dramatic impact especially during the closing standoff. However, there is another film created by these aforementioned collaborators that I now feel could (and perhaps even should) replace The Tall T on the list for its heartfelt poignancy and lingering resonance: Ride Lonesome.

Ride Lonesome’s story is, on the surface, straightforward. Brewing within the distinctive characters and acted with the utmost conviction by an extraordinary cast, nevertheless, are an array of unique and deeply coveted resolves customarily unobserved in the western genre. Action and dialogue are so terse, they exist as one. Psychological undercurrents are ever present but unpredictably contained like the lava in a dormant volcano. Adding to the film’s enigmatic quality is our hero’s hidden agenda fuelled by a personal tragedy of devastating proportions, revealed toward the film’s unforgettable conclusion. Ride Lonesome will arrive Thursday, April 11 at 11:15pm PST.

Rounding out a trio of exemplary westerns is John Ford’s masterpiece The Searchers, previously reviewed here. It is Top Ten Western #2 and is as likely as any film to provide one with a truly rich and rewarding movie watching experience. The search will begin Thursday, April 11 at (late evening) 12:45am PST.

John Wayne

John Wayne

For a complete change of pace accept TCM’s invite to The Party, previously reviewed as a Blu-ray recommendation here. The fun will begin Friday, April 12 at 9:15pm PST.

The late Stanley Donen directed my next two TCM recommendations. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (reviewed here), an outrageously enjoyable musical will be presented on Saturday, April 13 at 3pm PST.

… and Singin’ in the Rain reviewed as a Blu-ray selection here will joyously follow on TCM Saturday, April 13 at 5pm PST.

Although it aired just last month, TCM (perhaps by popular demand) is bringing back Bringing Up Baby previously recommended here. "Baby" will be brought back and up on TCM Sunday, April 14 at (early morning) 5am PST. 

Virginia Walker, Cary Grant

Virginia Walker, Cary Grant

Next on my list of recommended films to watch is King Kong (1933), who's scheduled to make his grand entrance on Monday, April 15 at 5pm PST. I have previously reviewed this film with a focus on its musical score here.

Fay Wray

Fay Wray

Immediately following King Kong is the king of cool, Steve Mc Queen as Bullitt, reviewed here. Bullitt will speed his way onto TCM Monday, April 15 at 7pm PST. 

My next recommendation is one of those lesser known films noir with a most appropriate title: Impact. One can experience this captivating little cinematic explosive, previously reviewed here, Thursday, April 18 at (early morning) 5:15am PST. 

Ella Raines, Brian Donlevy

Ella Raines, Brian Donlevy

From the same director who brought us Citizen Kane comes another kind of cinematic hero (of sorts). Michael O'Hara, like the deeply flawed Kane, is flawlessly played by his creator Orson Welles. Unlike Citizen Kane however, this film fell under its producer Harry Cohn's butchery with considerable footage lost and destroyed forever. Nevertheless, what survives is vastly entertaining and not to be missed. The Lady from Shanghai was also previously recommended here and will reappear on TCM Saturday, April 20, at 9am 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.

(To be continued…) A.G.

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Time Out



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In this clip from the 1985 BBC documentary series In at the Deep End (1982-87), the great British actor and notorious hellraiser Oliver Reed (February 13, 1938 - May 2, 1999) teaches broadcaster Paul Heiney about acting (for the latter’s subsequent role as an evil German mercenary in the 1985 film Water starring Michael Caine) in what appears to be Reed’s home, at the time this was filmed. Even though Reed’s initial instructions spark some hilarious reactions between the two, there might actually be some useful information here that could seriously benefit less experienced actors. When the lesson comes to an abrupt end because of Reed’s frustration, notice he cannot help but grin as he throws the young man out of his house. That levity and the camera still being present would indicate that this entire episode was purposely staged for humorous effect, which if so, it surely achieved.

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Capturing a Golden Moment #22: Bad Day at Black Rock

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

 

Director: John Sturges

 

Scene: "Getting chilli"

This famous scene is spotlighted because it packs as much of a wallop as the beating dished out here by our hero John J. Macreedy (played with his customary thorough commitment by the legendary Spencer Tracy). Doubters of the one-armed man’s fighting method’s effectiveness (including at first, the star himself) might be surprised to know that a Marine instructor who saw the footage after completion told Tracy the karate blow if intentionally carried out, would have killed his adversary. Trivia buffs might also be aware of Tracy’s Oscar nomination for Best Actor in this film being denied a win by the same year’s competing performance by Ernest Borgnine (here playing Coley Trimble) in Marty. Finally, here’s a Trivia Question: As of this date, who is the only cast member of Bad Day at Black Rock still alive?

Bad Day at Black Rock is available on Blu-ray here:

Bad Day at Black Rock [Blu-ray]
Starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan

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Top Ten Treasured Performances Part 1: The Actresses (The First Five)

In this series, I'll outline both the finest performances by an actress and those given by an actor in a motion picture. The criteria concerns actors of both genders who are able to communicate an idiosyncratic and thorough understanding of how their characters feel toward, and relate to, the people and situations they are involved with. These performances are delivered in an entirely natural manner without unnecessary affectation or embellishment. Their preservation on film gives the viewer an opportunity to keenly scrutinise each thespian's work. Therefore, the acting must not only be appropriate for the cinematic medium (as opposed to a more emphatic stage delivery) but allow for new character revelations to be discovered upon repeat viewings.

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Treasure Trivia: Quiz #8


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 films pictured and correctly identify them. 

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Like Quiz #7, each film has a memorable scene taking place at a similar site, only this time, instead of a pawnshop, it is a place (in one form or another) where most of us have likely frequented. Can you name the films shown and the locale each of their scenes has in common? Feel free to use all available resources. The first person to correctly identify all of the films and the common denominator here will receive a Region 4 (Australia) DVD (legitimately licensed from Universal) of The Great Gatsby (1949)


Here are the 6 films (Good luck!):



1.

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2.

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3.

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4.

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5.

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6.

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