Wednesday, February 20, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for February 23-28

February 23–February 28


MIDNIGHT EXPRESS (February 24, 2:30 am): Largely fictional (after all Oliver Stone wrote the screenplay) but compelling account of an American (played by Brad Davis, who died seven years after the release of this 1978 film) caught attempting to smuggle hashish out of Turkey. He ends up in a Turkish prison in which the inmates suffer through a horrific existence. It's brutal, it's violent, it's exciting, filled with action and tension, and an excellent story of how prisoners relate to each other. If you're looking for historical accuracy, you're not going to find it here. But if you're interested in an excellent film that is based on a true story, this is one you shouldn't miss. Also, the soundtrack, particularly the movie's theme, by disco-synthesizer writer/producer Giorgio Moroder is catchy.

DODSWORTH (February 26, 8:00 pm): This 1936 film is one of the greatest film you haven't seen. If you have seen it, you know what I mean. Sam Dodsworth (Walter Huston) is a rich automobile manufacturer who loves his job, but is convinced to retire early by his wife Fran (Ruth Chatterton), a vain woman who is fearful of growing old. She wants to see the world, particularly Europe, lead an exciting life. Sam is a regular guy who wants to please his wife. Fran quickly grows bored of Sam and spends most of her time with other men. She eventually dumps him for a European noble, leaving Sam to mope around Italy, where he sees a divorcee (Mary Astor), who he first met while traveling on the Queen Mary to Europe. The two fall in love, but Fran wants to reconcile. I won't ruin the ending. Everything works exceptionally well in this film. The acting is top-notch (besides the three leads, David Niven is great in a smaller role in one of his earliest films, and Maria Ouspenskaya as a baroness is a scene-stealer), the story is first-rate, and with William Wyler as the director, the movie is filmed and paced perfectly.


THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T (February 23, 8:00 am): A great evocation of a child’s nightmare, written by the great Dr. Seuss himself. Tommy Rettig (who later went on to star in TV’s Lassie) dreams he is sent to a music school run by the mad Dr. Terwilliker (Hans Conreid), whose dream is to have 500 pupils play with 5,000 fingers on the world’s largest piano, which happens to be his. Tommy aided by Peter Lynd Hayes, fights two men connected by their beards and builds a bomb that absorbs sounds right out of the air. If you remember this classic as a child, you’ll want to see it again. If you haven’t yet seen this, then it’s must viewing.

THE MAN IN THE WHITE SUIT (February 28, 9:15 am): In this reviewer’s opinion, this s not only the best film to come from Ealing Studios, but possibly the sharpest satire ever filmed. Alec Guinness is Sidney Stratton, a monomaniacal scientist who will take the lowliest job offered – provided it’s at a textile plant, where he can get into the laboratory. Why? So he can perfect his idea: a suit that never wears out ad never needs cleaning. He actually pulls it off, initially to the excitement of everyone – until they realize this invention would end up putting them all out of business. With sterling support by the deliciously feline, beautiful Joan Greenwood, Cecil Parker, Michael Gough, and Ernest Thesiger as the “Mister Big” of the textile industry. They’ve never been made any better.


ED: A++. There are few post-1985 American films I would consider essential. This is one of them. It’s a wild joyride through a world where seemingly nothing makes sense unless we adjust ourselves to its world. Bob Hoskins is Eddie Valiant, a Standard Issue, dyed-in-the-wool Film Noir detective. He doesn’t like toons, but he likes money more, so he’s hired by studio chief Marvin Acme to look into allegations that studio star Roger Rabbit’s wife Jessica is playing pattycake with someone else. But when Acme is murdered, Roger is framed and Hoskins has a new client. Go from there into the wildest scenario since Porky in Wackyland, as Hoskins meets a virtual Who’s Who of cartoon characters as he works to prove Roger’s innocence. The melding of animation with live action is seamless, and after a while we begin to believe along with Eddie Valiant that the toons are real. It’s Hoskins who makes the movie so enjoyable, as he seems to be having the time of his life in Toontown. Another highlight is Kathleen Turner as the voice of Jessica Rabbit, who tells Valiant, “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” It helps, of course, if you like animation to start, but if you haven’t yet seen this masterpiece, by all means tune in and discover the time when cartoon were made for adults instead of children. 

DAVID: C+. I love cartoons, particularly Warner Brothers classics with Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Sylvester. When Who Framed Roger Rabbit hit the theaters in 1988, I was genuinely excited to see the film. This was likely to be the first and last time anyone would see Bugs and Mickey Mouse in a scene together, Daffy and Donald Duck interacting as well as dozens of other legendary cartoon characters from various cartoon studios together in one movie. While technology today makes interactions between people and cartoon characters look legitimate, it wasn't easy back in 1988. Yeah, Gene Kelly danced with Jerry Mouse in 1945's Anchors Aweigh and there were other movies with somewhat similar scenes, but Who Framed Roger Rabbit made it look authentic and effortless that you believed the interactions between the people and 'toons are real. Also, Bob Hoskins was an excellent "post-film-noir" actor (he announced his retirement last year because he has Parkinson's disease) though I greatly prefer his performance in Mona Lisa made two years prior to this film. Hoskins is solid in Roger Rabbit as Eddie Valiant and seeing the characters from the different studios together is cool. But, unfortunately, that's all that is good about this film. The plot is supposed to be outrageous and funny. I found it forced and contrived. It relies too greatly on the 'toon cameos and the ability to have them interact with people. The plot has some interesting twists, but in an effort to be clever, it comes across as ridiculous at times. The entertainment value of the film is severely damaged by its over-reliability on the old cartoon characters and lack of focus. The plot is predictable. There's a deadline to find the will of the murdered owner of Toontown or else an evil character (played by Christopher Lloyd) will take over the town and turn it into a money-making roadway. What do you think happens? The technology used to make the film is excellent. Unfortunately, the quality and plot of the movie doesn't come close to matching the exceptional technology.

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

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