Sunday, August 5, 2012

TCM TiVo Alert for Aug. 8-14

August 8 – August 14


THRONE OF BLOOD (August 9, 12:45 pm): Never before have I recommended two movies from the same actor (Toshiro Mifune) with the same director (Akira Kurosawa), but there isn't a better actor/director team in cinema history. Honestly, you can't go wrong with any of the Mifune/Kurosawa films airing on TCM on August 9. Throne of Blood is a brilliant adaption of Macbeth done with samurais. Mifune is Washizu (the Macbeth equivalent), a samurai general easily manipulated by his conniving and ambitious wife, Asaji (played exceptionally well by Isuzu Yamada), into murdering the castle's lord and becoming lord himself. Mifune is captivating as he slowly loses his mind because of the guilt he feels about what he's done. Yamada is also outstanding in the Lady Macbeth character. The scenery - particularly the castle and the forest, where nearly all of the film takes place - is stunning. And the ending is so good that when I watch it I often wear out the rewind button. Not only don't I want to miss a second of it, but I want to see it over and over again.

YOJIMBO (August 9, 2:45 pm): If you think A Fistful of Dollars, the spaghetti Western starring Clint Eastwood, is a great movie, not only are you correct, but that 1964 classic is essentially a remake of this 1961 film. Also, it's obvious director Akira Kurosawa was strongly influenced and inspired by John Ford's Westerns when making this film. In Yojimbo, Toshiro Mifune is a Japanese warrior-for-hire. He's "The Man with No Name," even though he gives a phony name. After arriving in a village and in the middle of a war between two rival gangs, he convinces both crime lords to hire him as protection as he is easily the best warrior around. Like A Fistful of DollarsYojimbo has some very funny moments and a ton of action. It's beautifully filmed and highly entertaining.


RASHOMON (August 9, 7:45 am): Is TCM out of their minds, putting this beautiful film on at such an ungodly hour? This is one of the greatest films ever made, in my opinion, and one of star Toshiro Mifune’s best performances. The setting: 17th century Japan. A priest is relating his account of a trial for a brutal rape-murder to two men. It seems that a samurai named Takehiro (Masiyuki Mori) was found stabbed to death after his wife, Masako (Machiko Kyo), is raped by a lecherous bandit (Mifune). We see flashbacks from the trial, during which we see the accounts of the wife, the bandit, and even the dead samurai, who is speaking through a medium. What really happened? That’s up for us to see. Again, forget the fact it’s subtitled. Just start watching and let yourself go. You’ll be glad you did with this one.

LADY KILLER (August 14, 9:00 am): Jimmy Cagney poured out a lot of films during his early days at Warners. This is one of his best. Cagney is right in form as a gangster on the lam who hides out in Hollywood and inexplicably becomes a movie star. But just as he’s getting comfortable and pursuing both his dream to be a Hollywood star and a hot romance with leading lady Lois Underwood (Margaret Lindsay), his old gang reappears and tries to blackmail into going back to his old profession. This is a broad comedy with sharp satirical jabs both at Hollywood life and the Horatio Alger myth. Douglas Dumbrille, Leslie Fenton, and Russell Hopton are along for the ride, along with Mae Clarke as the gang’s moll. The last time she got together with Cagney, he shoved a grapefruit in her face. This time he drags her by the hair and boots her out a door. Clarke should have held out for combat pay.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . THE FIGHTING 69th (August 14, 1:45 pm):

ED: B+. A great morale film (How did they know a year before?) starring that duo of James Cagney as the Bad Boy and Pat O'Brien as the Good Guy. Cagney is his regular form when teamed with O'Brien - he's a selfish braggart who won't conform to discipline and whose actions lead to the death of others on the battlefield. O'Brien is the unit's chaplin (a real stretch, that) who treats Cagney with a kindler, gentler approach and has faith that he will come around. And he does, you know. (Surprise, surprise.) The Warners' stock company provides great support - look for Jeffrey Lynn as poet Joyce Kilmer. But it's the performance of Cagney that lifts this from the garbage pile into one of the best war films Hollywood has made. His turn from bragging coward into heroic sacrifice should have at least earned him an Oscar nomination. If war films are your meat and potatoes, don't miss this one. 

DAVID: C-. First, whatever issues I have with The Fighting 69th, I think James Cagney is good in his role. Why shouldn't he be? He's played a similar role in several other films. This 1940 film is about an Irish-American military unit during World War I that actually existed. What's peculiar is many of the characters were real people, while Cagney's Jerry Plunkett is fictitious. The film is a 90-minute cliche with Cagney as the egotistical hot-shot who is also a coward. He finally learns humility and sacrifice, and a short time later he dives on a live grenade blowing himself to bits to save his fellow soldiers. Pat O'Brien plays (what else?) a priest who tries to make Plunkett see the error of his ways. Every character is a stereotype from the gruff but lovable sergeant (played by Alan Hale, the Skipper's dad) to Jeffrey Lynn as the sensitive poet. There's no new ground broken here. Actually it's a bit annoying that you know exactly where this film is heading at all times.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert for Aug. 15-22, click here.

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