Friday, February 6, 2015

TCM TiVo Alert for February 8-14

February 8–February 14


ALL THE KING'S MEN (February 11, 8:00 pm): I recommend this film once a year simply because it is one of the 10 greatest films ever made. It's in regular rotation on TCM, which is a great thing because this 1949 film is to be viewed and enjoyed again and again. I can't stress how outstanding it is and how those who've never seen it, must do so. Broderick Crawford is brilliant as Willie Stark, a do-gooder who fails as a politician until he works the system, gets dirt on friends and foes, and becomes a beloved populist governor. There are other incredible performances, particularly John Ireland as Jack Burden, a journalist who "discovers" Stark and helps him climb the political ladder, stepping over anyone in the way; and Raymond Greenleaf as Judge Monte Stanton, Burden's mentor and role model. As I had previously written, if you love politics, this is the best movie on the subject ever made. If you hate politics, you'll love this film as it gives you plenty of reasons to confirm your belief on the subject.

LIBELED LADY (February 14, 8:15 am): First, a few words about the cast. You can't possibly make a bad movie with William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow (the latter had top billing). Well, I suppose you can, but it would be extremely difficult. The chemistry between all four in this 1936 screwball comedy is among the best you'll find in any movie. While Walter Connolly is fine as Loy's father, the legendary Lionel Barrymore was originally cast in the role. If that had come to pass, this would rival Key Largo as the greatest ensemble-cast film ever made. There are so many wonderful and genuinely funny scenes in this film with these four great comedic actors. Powell and Harlow were married at the time, but it was decided that Powell and Loy, one of cinema's greatest on-screen couples, would fall in love though Harlow got to do a wedding scene with Powell. Harlow died of renal failure the year after this film was released. She was only 26. The plot is wonderful with socialite Loy (who was such a beautiful woman) suing a newspaper for $500,000 for falsely reporting she broke up a marriage. Tracy is the paper's managing editor and Harlow is his fiancée who he won't marry. Tracy hires Powell, a slick newspaperman who is a smooth operator when it comes to women, to seduce Loy and then purposely get caught in a compromising position by Harlow, who would pretend to be his wife. Things don't turn out as planned with Loy and Powell falling in love. It's a great movie with a fantastic cast and a joy to watch. It's a wonderful movie for Valentine's Day.


BATTLEGROUND (February 9, 3:00 pm): The first film depicting an actual World War II battle, released in 1949, when memories of the war were still fresh in the minds of the soldiers that fought in it. Employing an excellent ensemble cast, including James Whitmore, Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, John Hodiak, and George Murphy, it’s the story of the 101st Airborne Division and its brave stand at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge as told by writer Robert Pirosh and director William Wellman. Seen as somewhat dated today when compared to the awe-inspiring realism of the Band of Brothers mini-series, the film was considered as cutting edge when first released in terms of realism and faithfulness to history. It’s still well worth your time and still retains its punch after all these years.

THE THIRD MAN (February 12, 9:30 pm): For the cinephile this is a no-brainer if there ever was one. Screenplay by Graham Greene; direction by Carol Reed; and starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten in perhaps their greatest teaming (yes, even better than Citizen Kane). This has been cited as the greatest British films of all time and it’s difficult, if not downright impossible, to argue with that assessment. Greene and Reed – along with the wonderful work of cinematographer Robert Krasker – capture perfectly the decay of postwar Vienna, once the jewel of European capitals. Cotten, as the nominal hero, is ineffective almost to the point where we in the audience become cynical and begin rooting for Harry Lime (Welles playing a great, complex villain) to get away with his crimes. Those familiar with the fiction of Graham Greene know that the dividing line between good and evil is always thin and blurred. The Third Man is a prime example of that philosophy.

WE DISAGREE ON . . . MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (February 11, 4:15 am)

ED: B-. Mighty Joe Young is no classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it is quite watchable. My partner absolutely hates it, probably the result from some trauma suffered in childhood where his parents broke his crayons to make sure that he watched the movie. We should see the film for what it is - the entertaining, friendlier version of King Kong that Son of Kong tried, but failed, to be for the studio. This time around, however, the film has a much more pronounced subliminal message than did either two Kong films. Willis O’Brien was an early version of today’s animal activist, he believed that animals should be left alone, and further, be free to be left alone. Joe Young was happy living in the wilds of Africa until Robert Armstrong and his pals showed up to take both Joe and his companion, Jill (Terry Moore), back to “civilization” as part of a nightclub act. The poor ape is abused by drunken audiences and placed in a cage between performances. Anyone who sees the scene of Jill visiting Joe in his prison can’t help but be moved by Joe’s plight. When Joe has a natural; reaction one night to his audience abusers, he (no pun intended) goes ape and is ordered to be shot by a judge. But Joe escapes, and to show what a good guy he really is, rescues about a dozen orphans from a burning building. The judge relents and Joe and Jill return to Africa to live happily ever after. Unlike the earlier Kong movies, this film is quite obviously aimed at the kiddies. Most of the budget went for O’Brien’s special effects, and Armstrong was brought in to remind audiences of King Kong. (In fact, this film often played on a double, or triple, bill in some cities to cash in on its predecessors.) As such, important things such as plot, direction, and star power went by the wayside, which hurts the film. Disney remade Mighty Joe Young in 1998, but steer well clear of that one, as one would of all King Kong reboots.

DAVID: D+. I'm not a fan of King Kong so you can imagine how much I dislike this pathetic Kong rip-off. Ed is partially correct about this film and trauma I suffered in childhood, but it has nothing to do with crayons or at least I don't think it does. My father was a huge Kong fan and he loved this film so I've seen it about a dozen times. I freely admit I haven't seen this film in about 30 years, but when you've seen it as often as I did and loathe it, the memory of this train-wreck of a movie stays with you for a very, very long time. The plot reminds me of "Curious George" meets Santa in the courtroom scene of Miracle on 34th Street. There is barely a plot. There's a pathetic attempt to be some sort of message movie though I don't understand what the film's message is. Ed wrote the film has a more pronounced subliminal message that the first two Kong films. The message must be extraordinary subliminal because I don't get it at all, or maybe I do and it hasn't reached my consciousness yet despite seeing it so many torturous times. The acting is atrocious. The special effects are a mixed bag, but not awful. However, Joe's changing height is laughably bad. He's sometimes the height or a person and then he's much taller in other scenes. At least the movie doesn't take itself seriously, or it shouldn't take itself seriously as it comes across as a cheap-looking attempt at slapstick comedy. That's not saying much, but the all-too-few bright spots save the movie from getting an F. 

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

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