Friday, July 20, 2018

TCM TiVo Alert for July 23-31

TCM TiVo ALERT
For
July 23–July 31

DAVID’S BEST BETS:

BADLANDS (July 24, 8:00 pm): Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek show their incredible talents in this 1973 film, loosely based on a serial killer and his girlfriend on a 1958 cross-country killing spree. The two become more detached to reality and violent as the movie progresses. The film focuses on the alienation and hopelessness felt by the two doomed young criminals. Despite their horrific actions, you feel somewhat sorry for them. An excellent script, a remarkable job by Terrence Malick in his directorial debut, and outstanding acting from Sheen and Spacek, who would go on to be major stars. It's an exceptional film that shouldn't be missed.

THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (July 28, 2:00 am): To be nostalgic for a moment, this movie was often on Channel 5 (WNYW) in New York City when I was growing up. My father and I would often watch this excellent film together when it aired. It's a smart thriller about four men who hijack a NYC subway car for ransom money. Walter Matthau was a wonderful actor, and this is among his best as a cynical transit authority police lieutenant who deals directly with the criminals. While it's a great drama, there are a lot of comedic moments and the final scene is one of the most memorable in movie history. This film came out in 1974, and is right up there with the excellent NYC-based gritty crime dramas of the era, including The French Connection (1971), Serpico (1973) and The Seven-Ups (1973).

ED’S BEST BETS:

GODZILLA (July 23, 6:00 am): This is not your father’s Godzilla, with Raymond Burr inserted for American audiences. No, this the original, inspired by a tragic accident that took place when America exploded the first H-Bomb in the Marshall Islands, which used to belong to Japan until World War II. A nearby fishing boat, thought to be out of range of the fallout, got caught and the crew died horribly. That was eight months before this film went into production. Godzilla is a metaphor not only for The Bomb, but for America. In other words, Godzilla R Us. Forget about the American version of the film, which at times didn’t appear to make sense amid all the cuts. This version makes perfect sense and its meaning is clear. It’s also a very frightening and serious film, in contrast to the ever increasing silliness of its sequels (except for the first, Gigantis the Fire Monster). It’s a picture that deserves to be seen.

CAT PEOPLE (July 30, 5:00 pm): Producer Val Lewton’s first horror hit, this tale of a strange, shy woman (Simone Simon) and her fear of an ancient curse within her and the man (Kent Smith) who falls in love with her depends more on shadows and suggestion than actual visual horror. Lawton creates an eerie atmosphere of mood and style that draws us in, and once it has us, builds relentlessly until the finale. Tom Conway and Jane Randolph give wonderful supporting performances. Watch for the swimming pool scene. Lewton’s first film and the harbinger of more wonderful horror to come.

WE DISAGREE ON ... A BUCKET OF BLOOD (July 23, 4:00 pm)

ED: C. A Bucket of Blood is a watchable, enjoyable little B-horror flick. It’s the typical Roger Corman formula for his horror-comedies: Walter Paisley (Dick Miller), a dorky character, works as a busboy at a beatnik café. He envies the more talented customers, such as the poets and artists, but he just doesn’t fit in with the cool scene. Trying to impress the café’s hostess, Carla (Barboura Morris), with whom he’s in love, he decides to create a sculpture, but his clumsiness results in the death of the landlady’s cat. Seeking to hide the evidence, he covers the dead cat in clay. The next day he shows her the sculpture. It’s a hit and patrons demand more of the same, so Walter has to keep upping the ante. But despite a great performance from Dick Miller, the film never rises above the usual level of Corman’s quickies (filmed in five days at a cost of $50,000). The humor is obvious, and the tongue-in-cheek attitude ultimately brings the film down. There’s something to be said for playing a bad film seriously. Like I said, it is watchable and enjoyable, but nothing worth going out of you way about.


DAVID: B+. I've put myself in an awkward position – defending Roger Corman. I was outraged when he was given an honorary Oscar in 2010 alongside Lauren Bacall. The "King of the Bs" made a career by being a lazy filmmaker who let others do most of the work. In the process, he helped launch the behind-the-camera careers of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and James Cameron, among others. However, I must admit A Bucket of Blood – the name is another one of Corman's gimmicks; give a film an outrageous name to bring in the audience – is among his two best movies along with Little Shop of Horrors (hmm, another outrageous name). In "The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film," Michael Weldon calls A Bucket of Blood "an all-time classic," as well as "a wonderful beatnik horror comedy shot in five days." I suppose there aren't many other movies in the quickly-made beatnik horror comedy genre, but this is enjoyable and charming even for those not looking for films in that category. Dick Miller, who went on to appear in many of Corman's films, plays Walter Paisley, a coffeehouse busboy loser who dreams of being in with the in-crowd. In a ridiculously-quirky twist, Paisley accidentally kills his landlady's cat and covers it in clay making what the beatniks consider to be an amazing piece of art. He ups the ante when he kills people, first by accident and then intentionally. The story is funny and the beatnik "Daddy-O" dialogue is equally amusing. It's funny and suspenseful, and is nicely paced, wrapping everything up in 66 minutes.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Ant-Man and the Wasp (Marvel/Disney, 2018) – Director: Peyton Reed. Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers. Stars: Paul Rudd, Michael Pena. Color, Rated PG-13, 118 minutes.

You don’t have to have seen all the Marvel comics movies thus far to understand the premise behind this one (they explain it very well with a flashback), but it helps. The special effects of going from minuscule to big in seconds are eye-popping to dizzying and sometimes very funny.

Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has been building a quantum entry tunnel so that Hope Van Dyne/Wasp II (Evangeline Lilly) can be reunited with her mother and he can be with the love of his life. But they need a way to track Hope and Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) supposedly destroyed the Ant-Man suit that had it. Hope installed a memory in Scott’s brain to help them find her. They also need a high-tech piece of equipment to make the tunnel work and go to cyber gangster Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) to procure it. Sonny’s no dope. He figures out what they’re building and wants in on the action with a little Hope on the side.


But as a result of the destruction from the civil war movie and violation of an international accord, Scott has had to be wearing a tracking ankle bracelet that goes off if he sets foot outside the fence around his house. FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) and his team are ready and eager to put him back behind bars as soon as that happens. The two years are almost up and Scott has remained faithful to his location.

Hope smuggles Scott out of his house and replaces him with a man-sized ant programmed to follow his daily routine (including playing a cyber drum set to his favorite rock songs). In the process, they meet Ava Starr/The Ghost (Hannah John Kamen), who was involved in a quantum accident as a child and consequently phases in and out of reality and can walk through walls, but is in constant pain.

As if this movie didn’t have enough comic relief, Scott’s best friend Luis (Michael Peῆa) has a business that’s going broke and he and his hilarious coworkers Dave (Tip ‘T. I.’ Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) wind up involved in this three-way plot while driving around in a garishly painted van whose horn plays “La Cucaracha.”

Scott’s daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) worships her Dad and has a part-time relationship with him due to the prison thing resulting in a divorce. Ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and boyfriend Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) share her with Scott. But she just wants everything to alright again. Does that make four subplots or three? I lost count. It’s just a fun movie. Every time it starts to get too serious, something funny happens to lighten it up.

At one hour and 58 minutes, the film is a bit too long, and I did have to shift in my seat. But that was not because of dead space. I kept getting jolted forward in my seat by the 4DX machinery and had to reposition myself after every battle and crash. I thoroughly enjoyed the performances of all the actors and was especially surprised to see Laurence Fishburne play a younger version of Dr. Bill. And…this can’t be said too often with today’s movies, stay through the credits. There’s a scene dropping a big hint to the next sequel.


Scampi
30 West 18th Street, New York

When I hear that a restaurant is “Northern Italian” I expect white sauces and unusual dishes. When a place describes itself as “Southern Italian,” I think of rich tomato sauces and cheesy meatballs. In fact, I think of most of the eateries in Little Italy. Scampi’s website acclaims it as southern, but put all your Mama Leoni prejudices aside. I once discovered that if a restaurant menu describes the dishes minimally, you’re in for a treat.

The menu itself is a single card with four major columns: Crudo, Vegetable, Grilled and Pasta. But first, a cocktail. There were several interesting potions listed and I chose the Allora – gin, cucumber, lime, Thai chili, Dolin Blanc and aromatic salt. The thin, lengthwise slice of cucumber was impaled on a long wood toothpick in an overlapping fashion. It looked more like a piece of ribbon candy suspended over the slightly tart, slightly spicy pale green drink. I liked it.

Most of the wines were seriously overpriced and I almost laughed at a $4,000 Barolo. But the reverse side of the food menu had more choices at reasonable prices. I close the 2015 Salvo Foti “Vigna di Milo” Etna Bianco Superiore, an Italian white with spicy, herbal Greek overtones. It accented all my dishes nicely.


My first dish was from the “Crudo” column. I haven’t had mackerel since I went to a Greek place called Ithaka. There, they served the fish whole with olive oil and capers. This Mackerel was de-skinned and de-boned and cut into tender, juicy, bite-sized cubes over a tomato and eggplant caponata, mixed with pine nuts and basil. It was definitely ambrosia and I told Parker so. He commented that it was a favorite of his too.

Under the category “Vegetable” I chose the Endive. Leaves of endive sprinkled with Bagna Cauda Parmesan, fried capers and breadcrumbs. The fried capers were a great idea. The leaves were crunchy, the breadcrumbs were crunchy and there was always the surprise crunch from the capers amongst the cheese. Another fantastic dish.

I then saw a pasta dish that easily fed two people. I ordered the Mezzaluna (half-moon) – braised pork ravioli, Pomodoro sauce and Pecorino Romano cheese. This was what I expected from Southern Italy cuisine: rich, tomato-y, al dente, and dreamy. With a little fresh black pepper, it was heaven. It did not surprise me that my wine was still doing a beautiful job of accenting the meal.

This was one of those rare occasions when the first thing on the dessert menu would be my choice. The Torta – olive oil cake, Mascarpone cheese, Harry’s berries, and strawberry swirl gelato was perfect. Olive oil cake sounds heavy but it was light, everything was light, refreshing and sweet.

My usual double espresso came next and I looked at the after dinner drink list which contained several amaros I’ve never tasted. I chose the Luxardo Amaro Abano, a dark, slightly bitter digestive with flavors of cinnamon, cardamom and bitter orange peels. I could feel it settling all my other courses as I sipped it. Only open since December 2017, I wished them all a long stay in New York.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Cinéma Inhabituel for July 16-31

A Guide to the Interesting and Unusual on TCM

By Ed Garea

KUROSAWA

July 29: At 3:00 am Akira Kurosawa turns his attention to Fyodor Dostoyevsky in Hakuchi (The Idiot), from 1951. Probably the most underrated of all his films, it was dismissed by critics when released, even though Kurosawa was faithful to the source material. The “idiot” is Kinji Kameda, (Masayuki Mori), a naive and epileptic war veteran who comes home to Hokkaido. There his guileless nature sets off a romantic triangle, which along with other dramatic developments, leads to a tragic finale. Setsuko Hara stars as Taeko Nasu and Toshiro Mifune co-stars as Denkichi Akama. The original, which ran well over 200 minutes, has been lost for years. An almost three-hour version survives as the most complete version of the film.

EISENSTEIN

July 25: Sergei Eisenstein made his debut with Strike (1925), a powerful account of a 1912 strike by factory workers in Czarist Russia and its violent suppression. It airs at 8:00 am.

LAUREL AND HARDY

July 22: A double feature of the comic duo begins at 4:00 am with the rarely seen Saps at Sea (1940). The boys accidentally set sail with an escaped killer. Following at 5:00 am, a reunion goes predictably wrong in 1938’s Blockheads

NOIR ALLEY


July 21: Escaped convict Humphrey Bogart undergoes plastic surgery, then hides out at Lauren Bacall’s place until his face heals in the engrossing 1947 noir Dark Passage (12:30 am). She later helps him clear his name.

July 28: Hard-boiled L.A. cop Van Johnson (Is there any other kind?) sets out to solve the murder of his former partner, who might have been on the take, in 1949’s Scene of the Crime.

PRE-CODE

July 16: At 6:00 am, card sharp from the other side of the tracks Barbara Stanwyck marries society guy Joel McCrea in 1934’s Gambling Lady. Later, at 2:15 pm Stanwyck uncovers a plot to starve children for their trust fund money in Night Nurse (1931). Following immediately after at 3:30 pm, Babs marries German immigrant Otto Kruger, only to face anti-German hysteria during World War I in the seldom aired Ever in My Heart (1933).

At 3:35 am it’s Pat O’Brien as Hildy Johnson and Adolphe Menjou as Walter Burns in the original The Front Page (1931).

July 17: At 10:45 am, fading dipso director Lowell Sherman helps waitress Constance Bennett become a movie star in What Price Hollywood? (1932).

July 21: Inspector Lionel Barrymore is hot on the trail of art thief John Barrymore in 1932’s Arsene Lupin (Noon).

July 24: Beginning at 6:45, Constance Bennett and Joel McCrea in Rockabye (1932), followed at 8:00 am by Bennett in Our Betters (1933). At 9:30 am, Marie Dressler and Lionel Barrymore lead an all-star cast in Dinner at Eight (1933). 

At 10:00 pm, Barbara Stanwyck is a mail-order bride sent to farmer George Brent in William A. Wellman’s The Purchase Price (1932).

July 26: William Haines uncovers a bank robber posing as a psychic who uses his radio appearances to deliver coded messages to his gang in 1930’s Remote Control, at 11:30 am. At 5:30 pm Haines returns as an unhappily married radio announcer who kills his wife, then leads the hunt for her killer in Are You Listening? (1932).


July 29: Nightclub singer Marlene Dietrich ruins the life of stodgy professor Emil Jannings in the 1930 classic The Blue Angel.

July 31: It’s an entire day of Pre-Code films, beginning at 6:00 with John Gilbert in Downstairs (1932), and ending at 6:30 pm with Cagney and Blondell in Blonde Crazy (1931). Along the way enjoy such fare as Faithless (1932) at 10:00 am, Hell’s Highway (1932) at 11:30 am, Safe in Hell (1931) at 12:45 pm, Jewel Robbery (1932) at 2:00 pm, and the strongest of the lot, Three on a Match (1932) at 3:15 pm.

PSYCHOTRONICA AND THE B HIVE

July 20: Telepathic Dennis Quaid is part of an experiment to project physics into people’s dreams in the thriller, Dreamscape (1984). Max von Sydow and Kate Capshaw co-star at 2:30 am. Following at 4:15 am, farmer von Sydow is framed and railroaded into an asylum by his sister (Liv Ullmann) and her doctor husband (Per Oscarsson) in The Night Visitor (1971).

July 21: Gordon Scott rescues five survivors of an airplane crash in Tarzan and the Lost Safari (1957) at 10:00 am.

Christopher Walken and Natalie Wood have a Brainstorm in this 1983 sci-fi thriller airing at 6:00 pm. It was Wood’s last film.

July 23: A morning and afternoon of psychotronic films begins at 6:00 am with the original Godzilla (1954), followed by the American version, Godzilla: King of the Monsters (1956) at 7:45 am. Other highlights include The Black Scorpion (1957) at 1:15 pm; Roger Corman’s A Bucket of Blood (1959) at 4:00 pm; and House on Haunted Hill (1958) at 5:15 pm.

July 25: The horrors of slavery are mixed with a dose of sex and violence in Mandingo (1975), airing at 2:30 am. James Mason, Susan George, Ken Norton and Perry King star.

July 27: Trucker Jan-Michael Vincent refuses to get involved with shady characters in White Line Fever (1976) at 2:45 am. Immediately following at 4:30 am, independent trucker Jerry Reed stands up to the bag guys with the help of Peter Fonda and Helen Shaver in High Ballin’ (1978).

July 28: Gordon Scott tries to help a doctor establish a mission in the 1958 Tarzan’s Fight For Life at 10:00 am.


July 30: The day is devoted to the films of producer Val Lewton. Besides the familiar horrors such as The Seventh Victim (1943) at 7:30 am, The Ghost Ship (1943) at 8:45 am, and Cat People (1942) at 5:00 pm, the day also features Mademoiselle Fifi (1944) at 6:00 am, and his JD classic, Youth Runs Wild (1944) at 3:45 pm. But perhaps the real must see of the day is the rarely shown Please Believe Me, a film Lewton produced for MGM in 1950 after a career spent at RKO. Directed by Norman Taurog, the film concerns three gold digging men (Robert walker, Mark Stevens and Peter Lawford) who pursue a shipboard romance with Deborah Kerr, who a they think is an heiress.

Giant ants threaten L.A. run 1954’s Them! at 8:00 pm.

URGENT MESSAGE

To Mary Lewis, if you are out there, please know that I lost your e-mail address and I need you to get in touch with me. I have your answer, and, no, it does not concern Van Heflin, as you thought.

Friday, July 13, 2018

TCM TiVo Alert for July 15-22

TCM TiVo ALERT
For
July 15–July 22

DAVID’S BEST BETS:

MEET JOHN DOE (July 15, 7:45 am): This is a wonderful film and I've never seen Gary Cooper more relaxed in a role than of the fictitious John Doe, the every-man who is created by fired newspaper columnist Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck writes a column with a letter from "John Doe," who is tired of the corrupt system that has left him jobless and bitter, and plans to jump off the roof of city hall on Christmas Eve. The story takes on a life of its own so she convinces the paper's bosses to find a John Doe and write articles about him, thus creating a national movement. The movie is a comedy with an important message about how society ignores the regular guy. Frank Capra's films are often too sentimental for my tastes, but he hits the right notes with this movie. The supporting cast is solid, particularly Walter Brennan as Cooper's tramp buddy, known as the Colonel, and James Gleason as the headline-hungry managing editor. 

THE APARTMENT (July 15, 3:15 pm): Director Billy Wilder's follow-up to Some Like It Hot, this wonderful comedy-drama stars Jack Lemmon as an opportunistic office worker who sort of sleeps his way to the top. Well, he lets his office managers use his apartment as a place to have sex with their various mistresses. Because of that, he gets promoted to the personnel department, where his supervisor, Fred MacMurray, so deliciously sleazy in this role, convinces his new assistant to let him have the apartment on an exclusive basis. MacMurray's latest mistress is the company's elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine), who Lemmon likes a lot, but doesn't say anything to her. A fabulous cast with one of Hollywood's best directors and an intelligent, funny script, and you have 1960's Oscar winner for Best Picture. It was nominated for nine others, winning four of those. Incredibly, MacMurray wasn't even nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

ED’S BEST BETS:

VIVRE SA VIE (My Life to Live - July 15, 2:30 am): A woman from the provinces (Anna Karina) has abandoned her husband and family to try her hand at becoming an actress in Paris. But things don’t exactly work out, and as her funds dry up, she takes a job as a clerk at a record store to make ends meet.  However, the pay is not enough to save her from eviction. Desperate, she turns to prostitution, taking up with Raoul (Saddy Rebbot), a pimp who offers her protection. In time, she meets and falls in love with a man (Peter Kassovitz) who truly cares for her and offers her hope. But when she tries to break away she discovers that Raoul has other plans, plans that lead to tragedy. Director Jean-Luc Godard approaches his film almost as if it was a documentary, using a cinema verite type of approach and dividing the film into 12 brief chapters, each preceded by a written intertitle. Heartbreaking and totally compelling.

NIGHT NURSE (July 16, 2:15 pm): What is it about Barbara Stanwyck Pre-Codes that so intrigues me? She’s great as a nurse who discovers that an alcoholic mother and her chauffeur lover are starving her two children to death by for the inheritance. This is a sordid, well-paced story directed by studio regular William Wellman full of double entendre remarks and plenty of shots of Stanwyck and co-star Joan Blondell running around in their underwear. Clark Gable makes an impression as the evil chauffeur (in a role originally intended for James Cagney before he shot to stardom in The Public Enemy and his scenes with Stanwyck retain their ability to shock even today.

WE DISAGREE ON ... A RAISIN IN THE SUN (July 18, 3:45 am)

ED: A. This groundbreaking, socially conscious screen adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking play, which takes its title from a line in Langston Hughes’ poem, “Africa,” follows the Youngers, an African-American family living together in an apartment in Chicago. Following the death of their patriarch, they try to determine what to do with the substantial insurance payment they'll soon receive, and opinions as to what to do with the money vary. Matriarch Lena (Claudia McNeil) want to buy a house for them all to live in, while son Walter Lee (Sidney Poitier) wants to invest the money in a liquor store. Walter’s wife, Ruth (Ruby Lee) agrees with Lena, and daughter Beneatha (Diana Sands) would like to use some of the money to pay for her medical school tuition. Claustrophobic at times, the film is an American version of the English “Kitchen Sink” dramas of the time. Daniel Petrie’s direction is pedestrian, but the strength of the storyline, combined with the overall excellent performances, keep the audience’s interest, and the film astutely examines such serious issues as assimilation, the pursuit of the American Dream, and pride in one's heritage. Claudia McNeill gives a splendid performance as Lena, and her differences with son Walter give the movie a compelling edge. Poitier also gives a strong performance, one of many he was to give later in his career. Both were nominated for Golden Globes, but the fact no Oscar nominations came their way was all too typical of the age. The film stands as an accurate look not only into the issues of the time, but also illuminates the fact that all families basically have the same problems, be they White, Black, Hispanic or Asian.


DAVID: B. There's no doubt this is a fine film, but it doesn't deserve an "A" grade. A Raisin in the Sun was originally a play – and my issue with it is it feels too much like a play with the small set. That's not always a bad thing such as 12 Angry Men. But A Raisin in the Sun would have benefited from giving the performers more space and less opportunities to overact. Overacting is far too common on Broadway, and it carries over into this film. The premise is simple: the family inherits $10,000 in life insurance after the death of its patriarch and everyone is torn as to how to use the money. The actors work well together with effective performances by most, particularly Sidney Poitier (of course), Claudia McNeil as his mother, and Ruby Dee as his wife. The storyline is touching and tragic though the ending is just not believable. It's a very good film and one worth seeing. But it falls a little short to me as far as being a great film.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Untamed

Film in Focus

By Ed Garea

Untamed (MGM, 1929) – Director: Jack Conway. Writers: Sylvia Thalberg & Frank Butler (adaptation), Willard Mack (dialogue), Charles E. Scroggins (story), Lucille Newmark (titles), Stars: Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery, Ernest Torrence, Holmes Herbert, John Miljan, Gwen Lee, Edward J. Nugent, Don Terry, Gertrude Astor, Milton J. Fahrney, Lloyd Ingraham, Grace Cunard. Tom O’Brien & Wilson Benge. B&W, 86 minutes.

Now that sound was the norm, MGM decided to try out two of their more promising stars, Joan Crawford and Robert Montgomery, in this rather bizarre romance that moves from the jungles of South America to the urban sprawl of New York City with a little music added, being as it’s a sound picture.


Crawford is Alice Dowling, raised in the jungle by her oil-exploring father Hank (Ingraham). Nicknamed “Bingo” by the natives, she loves to sing and dance, as is shown in the film’s opening sequence. Yes, Bingo is her name-o. One thing Crawford proves is that she can dance, but she’s no singer. Warbling “Chant of the Jungle,” she sounds like a cat in heat. The natives, obviously desperate for entertainment, love her singing and gyrations. 

In the midst of her revelry she is interrupted by the arrival of several oil workers, led by Bennock (Miljan). He tells her it’s been a long time since he’s seen a woman sing and dance, and would she repeat the performance. Of course, she would, but as she goes into her dance he gets amorous and attacks her, only to be beaten off by a flurry of fists from Bingo and threats from the natives.

Meanwhile Hank is indulging in his hobby – getting stone drunk – at the local waterhole. There he’s found by old friends Ben Murchison (Torrence) and Howard Presley (Herbert). The meeting its broken up by the arrival of Bennock, who offers Hank drinking money in return for Bingo. Hank takes umbrage at the offer and gets into a brief scuffle during the course of which his weak heart gives out. Taken back to his hut Hank tells Ben and Howard about a tin box underneath his bed that contains a clear title to huge tracts of oil rich land further south, Before he dies he has them promise to take Bingo out of the jungle and make sure she gets her fair share of the royalties. 

Ben and Howard take Bingo to New York City aboard a tramp steamer, where she meets and falls for Andy McAllister (Montgomery). Andy has looks, charm and education, but lacks money. The romance worries Ben and Howard, not only because Andy is poor, but also that realize that while they have taken Bingo out of the jungle, it will take some time to take the jungle out of Bingo and make her into a proper lady. For instance, Bingo later threatens to beat up Marjorie (Lee), the woman Andy had been dating, if she doesn’t give him up.

Just when we begin to wonder just how Ben and Howard are going to civilize Bingo, a title tells it that it’s eight months later, and Bingo, now known by her proper name of Alice Dowling, is a proper society woman, save for her quick temper. She still loves Andy and he still loves her, but he refuses to live off her money. On the eve of their engagement party Ben writes Andy a check for $50,000. The plan is that Andy will be so insulted he will tear the check up and leave forever. In that case Howard, who has fallen himself for Alice, can marry her, even though she never once considered him as a romantic partner. Andy, however, throws a monkey wrench into their plan when he tells them he’ll take the money and marry Marjorie on it.

Later, after he gets thoroughly soused at the party, Andy decides to tear up the check after all. At the urging of Bingo, Ben and Howard offer Andy a job running the Dowling mines in South America. He can now marry Alice and not have to worry about her money becoming an issue.

Afterwords

This was the first pairing of Crawford and Montgomery and was a box-office success, returning a profit of $508,000 for MGM,


The critics, though, weren’t as kind. Mordaunt Hall, in The New York Times, noted that, “… this pictorial effusion never really appears to get outside the wall of a Hollywood studio. It does wander, however, from anything real, and the trite dialogue and vacillating natures of some of the persons involved make one shudder to think to what queer lengths producers can go with their relatively new vocalized toy … Miss Crawford has a good voice, but she never strikes one as a girl who has been away from civilization for most of her life. There are moments when the fault is with Miss Crawford, and then there are instances where one is impelled to sympathize with her because of her lines.”  

The Brooklyn Eagle, on the other hand, was kinder in its evaluation: “If Untamed does little else for Miss Crawford, it proves that she is an actress for whom the microphones should hold no fear. Her diction is clear and unaffected and while there is nothing in the lines that offers her opportunity for exceptional acting, she managed to make the impulsive heroine of the story somewhat more credible than the part deserves.”     

Crawford took an understandable interest in the film, as it was to be her featured sound debut. Though she never doubted her ability to talk, she bought a Dictaphone in 1929 and with husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr. supervising her, began reading verse from the English love-poets into it. Lowering the timbre of her voice, she found it recorded well, causing some at MGM to hail her as a new singing star. However, after getting a load of her singing in the film the studio decided to focus just on her acting abilities. Worse, later in the film she and Montgomery sing a duet of “That Wonderful Something Is Love,” proving Montgomery was an even worse singer than his co-star.

Technically, Untamed was a good movie, with varied camera movement and the actors delivering their lines in a naturalistic manner without obviously hunching over into a microphone and taking pauses between each other’s lines. Crawford shines in her part, though Montgomery comes off a little stiff. Torrence and Herbert acquit themselves nicely, and the direction by Jack Conway combines with the production values for a well made film, despite the dizzy plot. 

Trivia

During post-production a fire broke out at Consolidated Film Industries Laboratories where the negatives for Untamed were being edited, resulting in one death and the destruction of the physical plant. However, five of six adjoining vaults containing film negatives were undamaged. MGM reportedly “lost negatives” for Untamed, but no further information was given as to the extent of the loss, and no resulting release delays were announced.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom 

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (Universal, 2018) – Director: J.A. Beyond. Writers: Derek Connolly & Colin Trevorrow (s/p). Michael Crichton (based on characters created by). Stars: Chris Pratt, Bryce Callas Howard, Rafe Spall & Jeff Goldblum. Color, Rated PR-13, 128 minutes.

While Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) is trying to explain what a colossally bad idea messing around with genetics is at a Senate committee hearing, a submarine pilot (Kevin Layne) is entering the underwater gates at Isla Nublar to obtain a tooth from the now deceased Indominus Rex, the genetically engineered “new” dinosaur from the last movie that was killed by the outrageously large Mosasaur. The tooth is retrieved and the Mosasaur gets the sub as a tasty tidbit.

After four movies, we pretty much know all the characters, we know that the T-Rex can be a hero as well as a villain, and we know that Blue is the last of the velociraptors (Beta, Delta and Echo were killed in the last film). And a theme carried over from the previous episode is that socially misguided Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) thinks that using the recovered genetic material from the tooth, Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) can create a powerful, intelligent monster that will obey commands. Worse, he thinks that he can sell these always-hungry creatures to the world powers as weapons of war.


Back on Isla Nublar, the formerly dormant volcano is going to blow in a big way. Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) feels she must save the dinosaurs from going extinct (again) and talks Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) into returning to the island on a rescue mission for his favorite velociraptor, Blue. They bring Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) a computer geek to restart Jurassic World’s systems and locate Blue and Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) a paleo-veterinarian. Yes, by now, that’s a real vocation. She comes in handy when mercenaries mortally wound the hapless raptor.

This rescue mission is funded by Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), former partner of park founder John Hammond. He has a plan to relocate the dinosaurs to their own island where they can live in peace without human interference. But Mills and Gunnar Eversol (Toby Jones) have their own plan to relocate the huge beasts to the basement of Lockwood’s North California mansion, where they will be sold at auction. Their army of mercenaries under the ruthless Ken Wheatley (Ted Levine) accomplish this incredible deed by sedating and caging the animals and stowing them on a really large boat.

What a surprise for Maisie Lockwood (Isabelle Sermon) when she overhears Mills’ plan, rats out Mills to grandpa and later meets a Baryonyx in her very own basement (kind of a large raptor or small T-Rex with a crocodile-like head). It’s shocking to the housekeeper and Maisie’s nanny, Iris, (Geraldine Chaplin) when Mills locks the child in her room.

But Maisie escapes. Owen and Claire are captured, but escape (with the help of a Pachycephalosaur – the one that look like it’s bald and keeps butting things with its head); we know at the beginning that the Mosasaur has escaped and the party begins. Poor Dr. Ian Malcolm has to reappear at another senate hearing at the end to explain coexisting with dinosaurs. “These creatures were here before us. And if we’re not careful…they’re going to be here after.”

One might think that, with all the familiarity with the cast, the plot and subplots and the over-sized saurians, the story might have gotten old and almost hackneyed. This film actually had me chuckling in a couple of places, like when the Indoraptor fakes sedation as Wheatley tries to pull one of its teeth (a really bad idea). Or when it roars at the terrified Gunnar and blows back his Trump-like blond hair.

At two hours and eight minutes, the movie is a bit long, but it has its surprises, tense moments and scenes that bring you to the edge of your seat. Hey, Blue needs a transfusion from a dinosaur with two or three fingers on each hand. That sounds like the T-Rex, right? I enjoyed the humor scattered throughout the film. I suspect there might be another one. Stay all the way through the credits and see if you agree with me.

Rating: 4 out of 5 martini glasses.


Joe Allen
326 West 46th Street, New York

Having dined at 32 restaurants on New York’s famed Restaurant Row (46th Street, between 8th and 9th Avenues) I wonder how I ever missed this one.

Containing a long room is divided in two by a wall of open brick punctuated by large arched “windows” with potted plants on their sills, I had a table by the brick wall and I couldn’t help but notice the long line of Broadway show posters hanging on the opposite wall. I could not recognize a single one of them (and I’m pretty good with shows). After my waiter, Matt, brought me my usual Beefeater martini, I scanned the single card menu, noting nothing exotic except for the Thai Vegetarian Stew. The rest was just basic American comfort food.

I started off with Caesar Salad and Black Bean soup, which arrived simultaneously. The black bean soup was served with sour cream and chopped onions, and both were good. The soup stayed hot long enough to finish it and enjoy the salad.

To my joy, none of the bottle on the wine list were priced above $78. I found a 2012 Chateau des Mille Anges Bordeaux Blend (60% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Cabernet Franc) St. Germain de Graves. It was a beautiful red with a bright fruity flavor and authoritative finish.


Of the six choices for main course I chose the Strip Steak with French Fries with sautéed spinach as a side. The steak was cooked to my specifications and was tender and juicy inside, blackened and crisp of the outside, and the fries were excellent. A little too salty, but perfectly crispy and flavorful. I asked if they were double-fried, but Matt didn’t know. The steak came with a red wine reduction for dipping that was subtle and didn’t interfere with the flavor of the meat. The spinach was a nice pile of savory leaves, slightly garlicky and well prepared and the only part of the main course I finished. As I was becoming full I had Matt pack up the remainder of the steak and fries to go and asked for the dessert menu.

The seven selections on the card were all something I’ve had before except for one. The Mango Cheesecake sounded good. It was a square of almost flavorless cheesecake with a mango compote on top and a raspberry sauce for color. Oh well.  I ate the mango part and left the rest, telling Matt it wasn’t what I was hoping for.

The double espresso, on the other hand was very nice and a snifter of cognac finishes off a traditional meal perfectly. Joe Allen keeps a low profile on Restaurant Row as compared to the gaudier places like Bourbon Street or The Ritz. The menu is simple but satisfying for all tastes and the prices couldn’t be better. If you’re a beer fancier, they have a remarkable variety from local brews to International IPAs. I would definitely return there if I have to meet a friend who fears most of the foods I like.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

Friday, July 6, 2018

TCM TiVo Alert for July 8-14

TCM TiVo ALERT
For
July 8–July 14

DAVID’S BEST BETS:

HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (July 8, 12:00 pm): A very funny film about a boxer/amateur pilot Joe Pendleton (played by the charming Robert Montgomery) who crashes his plane and is mistakenly taken to heaven by angel. He survives, but the angel doesn't want him to suffer. A check by the angel's boss, Mr. Jordan (played by the charming Claude Rains) show Pendleton is correct. But by the time they go to put him back in his body, it's too late. The body has been cremated. The angels have to find Pendleton another body – one that can be a champion boxer. They find a rich guy who is killed by his wife and his personal assistant who are lovers. This 1941 movie is a joy to watch. Warren Beatty uses the exact same story (except he's a quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams) with many of the same character names in the excellent Heaven Can Wait in 1978.

THE GREAT DICTATOR (July 9, 12:00 pm): TCM shows this 1940 Charlie Chaplin masterpiece on a regular basis so it often gets overlooked. As he did in so many of his roles, Chaplin brilliantly portrays the film's protagonist, known as "a Jewish barber," with great empathy and humility while still being funny. And when you mention funny, his impersonation of Adolf Hitler – the character in the film is named Adenoid Hynkel – is spot-on and highly entertaining. The film, made before the United States was at war with Nazi Germany, has several iconic scenes, including Hynkel playing with a bouncing globe, and a chase scene between the barber and storm troopers. Chaplin's brilliance lied in his ability to make people think about the world while making them laugh. There is no finer example of that than The Great Dictator. The ending is beautiful. It's too bad life rarely turns out to have a happy Hollywood ending, but that doesn't diminish from the entertainment and importance of this landmark film. 

ED’S BEST BETS:

THE PHENIX CITY STORY (July 10, 12:30 am): A wonderful docudrama about “the wickedest city in America” and how it came to be cleaned up. TCM shows the full version, which includes a prologue with noted correspondent Clete Roberts interviewing citizens of Phenix City after the National guard stepped in to restore order. If crime movies are your thing, this is one to see. And if crime movies aren’t exactly your thing, this well-made and well-acted movie is still worth your time.

MONKEY BUSINESS (July 11, 10:45 pm): The incomparable Marx Brothers star in their first film written directly for the screen as four stowaways aboard a ship who get involved with rival gangsters. That’s about all there is to the plot, as the film is a series of outrageous sight gags, monologues, and puns. Groucho romances Thelma Todd, who happens to be married to his gangster boss not that it matters to Groucho as only Groucho can. All four brothers try to disembark at port by pretending to be Maurice Chevalier, with hilarious results, especially in the case of Harpo. And they invite themselves to a coming-out party for a gangster’s daughter, during the course of which she is kidnapped by rivals and ultimately rescued by Zeppo, with nominal help from his brothers. This is the only movie with the four brothers in which Zeppo actually matters to the script, and he acquits himself quite well over the course of the movie. As with all their Paramount pictures, highly recommended.

WE AGREE ON ... MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (July 9, 4:00 am)

ED: B. Perhaps the most overrated movie of all time with an ending too preposterous for words. Political neophyte Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stewart) is appointed by the Governor (Guy Kibbee) to fill the seat of recently deceased Senator Sam Foley as a sort of middle finger to political boss Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold). Simply put, Smith is a babe in the woods, or more to the point, a boob in the woods. Once in Washington he’s taken under the wing of senior Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains) while he embarrasses himself around town, especially with the press, who make fun of him. Wanting to be useful while he’s there, he decides to write a bill with the help of his secretary, Clarissa Saunders (Jean Arthur). Smith’s big idea? To buy some the land in his home state for the purpose of making it into a national boys’ camp, the money to be paid back by youngsters across America. What he doesn’t know  and never bothered to find out  is that the Taylor machine has designs on that land for a dam, part of a graft scheme. When the bill hits the fan the machine tries to reason with Smith, but he won’t budge. Then they try to smear him and have him kicked out of the Senate. This leads to the famous filibuster scene, with one man against the combined forces of a corrupt government. Of course, in the end he wins thanks to a sudden change of heart on the part of Sen. Paine. Frank Capra’s Manichaeism is on full display in this movie: everyone is either an apostle (Smith), a devil (Taylor) or a fallen apostate (Paine), There is no middle ground. Also in this film Capra is clearly in thrall to the Big Idea. This is a film about his Big Idea, not about people, as Mr. Deeds was. He will carry over this radical Populism to his next project, Meet John Doe, an extension of his thinking on the Big Idea. Everyone treats Smith as a sort of wayward child in the first part of the movie. And their presumption proves to be correct, as Smith absolutely refuses to compromise. Like a spoiled child he’ll hold his breath until his face turns blue unless he gets what he wants. He could spill everything to the press, but Capra shows earlier in the film that the press is a pack of jackals, not to be trusted. The bad guys in the movie, led by Edward Arnold, are one-dimensional cardboard cutouts. And Smith won’t back down until he gets the land for his precious campsite, where he can presumably spend weekends with the Boy Rangers (And the less said about that, the better.) Is Capra trying to make a point against the Roosevelt Administration (Hoover Dam and the Tennessee Valley Authority), big government-in-general, the mass media, or what? We never find out. Meet John Doe made a helluva lot more sense, though it also has trouble with its ending. On the plus side, the acting is first-rate, especially Stewart, Arthur, Rains and Arnold. No one can play a bad guy quite like Edward Arnold. The camerawork and art direction is also first-rate; the re-creation of the Senate chamber is absolutely breathtaking. Too bad Capra sacrifices with could have been a marvelous human interest story to his notion of the Big Idea.


DAVID: B. This is a classic film. But if you look at it objectively it's the cliched formula Frank Capra used a few too many times. It's ridiculously corny, preachy, sentimental with an ending you know is going to happen as soon as Mr. (Jefferson) Smith, played by James Stewart, goes to Washington. After a senator from an unnamed Western state dies, the state's political power-brokers look for a replacement. They eventually decide on Smith believing him to be a sap they can easily control. He's the incredibly naive and idealistic head of the state's Boy Rangers who doesn't realize he's supposed to be a puppet of the political machine. Of course, he's way out of his element in the Senate, but eventually wises up thanks to his sassy secretary (Jean Arthur). Stewart's filibuster scene toward the end of the film followed by Sen. Joe Paine's (Claude Rains, who's not so charming in this film) attempt to commit suicide out of guilt and his subsequent admission that he was part of the conspiracy to discredit Smith are almost unbearable to watch. However, I agree with Ed that the acting is exceptional. I've never seen a film with Stewart or Arthur that a viewer could criticize either for their performances, and they've both very good here despite the lines they're reading and how over-the-top preachy the film is. 

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.