Sunday, January 6, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for January 8-14

January 8–January 14 


THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (January 11, 10:45 am): A classic gritty Warner Brothers film about two wildcat truck-driving brothers, George Raft (Joe, the lead) and Humphrey Bogart as his younger brother, Paul, who loses his right arm after falling asleep at the wheel and crashing. Bogart provides strong support in the smaller role, but the stars of this 1940 film are Raft and Ida Lupino, who plays the conniving wife of a trucking executive (Alan Hale Sr., the Skipper's dad, in one of his best performances). Lupino kills her husband, takes over his business and bring in Raft as her partner while trying to seduce him. She tries to pin the murder on Raft, but I'm not giving anything away by writing it doesn't work when all is said and done. There's not a lot of action scenes for a film about a couple of truck drivers, but the storyline is solid, the dialogue is authentic and the acting is excellent.  

BULLITT (January 13, 6:00 pm): I'm not a huge Steve McQueen fan, but this is not only his finest performance, but an excellent film. Initially, the plot is a bit confusing, but comes into focus after about 20 minutes - sort of like nearly every James Bond film ever made. McQueen is Frank Bullitt, a no-nonsense San Francisco police lieutenant who is in charge of protecting a key witness who is to testify against a mobster. Things go bad - or do they? There are a number of plot twists and Bullitt features one of, if not the best, car chase in cinematic history. It was made in 1968 and watching it today, the nearly 10-minute chase is still fresh and exciting. The movie also features strong performances by Jacqueline Bisset as Bullitt's girlfriend, and Robert Vaughn as an opportunist politician. 


BOB LE FLAMBEUR (BOB THE GAMBLER) (January 8, 12:15 am): In the pantheon of my favorite directors, Jean-Pierre Melville ranks right near the top. And this film is a major reason why. Bob (Roger Duchesne) is an old gambler nearly broke due to being on one hell of a bad streak. To recoup his losses he plans to rob a casino. Unfortunately, things don’t quite work out, which is to be expected in a film noir, but you will not believe how things do not work out. It’s a fantastic ending to a wonderful film. Needless to say, this is a “must see.”

THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE (January 12, 5:30 pm): Is there any cinephile out there that hasn’t seen this classic? And for those that haven’t yet seen it, this is your chance. It’s a wonderful adaptation of the B. Traven novel about two down-on-their-luck Americans who turn a winning lottery ticket into a bigger dream for gold and recruit crusty, wise Walter Huston along the way. Each of the stars – Huston, Bogart, and Tim Holt – gives performances to remember. Bogart is especially memorable as a sour man whose natural distrust becomes paranoia after they strike a rich gold vein. Worth watching again even if you’ve seen it 100 times.

WE DISAGREE ON ... VIVA LAS VEGAS (January 8, 1:15 pm)

DAVID: B+. For the most part, if you've seen one Elvis film from the 1960s, you've seen them all. While 1964's Viva Las Vegas doesn't stray too far from the Elvis Formula - he has a rugged-type job, somehow gets into a jam, sees a pretty girl, sings some songs, gets into a fight, gets the girl and lives happily ever after - it is significantly better than most of them. That's not much of a compliment, but this is one of Presley's best films. The reason? The on-screen and off-screen chemistry between Elvis, who plays race-car driver Lucky Jackson, and Ann-Margaret, who plays Rusty Martin, his love interest in one of her sexiest roles. While not the best actress to play opposite Elvis, Ann-Margaret is the most entertaining and interacts better with him than any other. Rusty is a swimming instructor and dancer, great excuses for her to wear skimpy clothes. But it's more than a T&A film. There's some great dance numbers that are filmed nicely with the use of several different camera angles, the excellent theme song along with a few other musical numbers, an exciting car race (of course Elvis is a race-car driver, a job he had in several of his films), and Presley's charisma, rarely captured during this era. Is it a masterpiece or even Elvis' best movie? No, but it's very entertaining to watch.

ED: C+. Elvis’s films from the ‘60s tend to blend into one for me. They are bland musicals with nary a memorable song, and Elvis is usually cast as a racing car driver, a rodeo star, a doctor, or some role where he will come into contact with lots of young, nubile women. And this entry is really no different. The reason I gave it the grade I did was due to the presence of Ann-Margaret, who makes the film quite watchable, and the fact that the title song is actually catchy. Cesare Danova is also on hand as Elvis’s rival and adds to the fun.

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

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