Retro Week In Cinema: March 21-27, 2013

the african queen

Being stuck on a boat with Katharine Hepburn doesn’t sound like a bad time at all!

Retro Week In Cinema is a new column I decided to add to the blog. Basically, I’ve been on a mission of late to complete my blog. I want Bill’s Movie Emporium to be the one place that houses all of my film reviews. To that end I have added links to all the reviews I have written for other websites. I’ve even gone through the task of seeking out all the capsule reviews I once wrote for various message boards. Every week, probably every Thursday, I will be posting a Retro This Week In Cinema that will cover five of my previously written capsule reviews. I’ll be cleaning them up a little in terms of grammar, punctuation and spelling. However, I will not be changing any of the opinions or content found in the capsule reviews. My opinions on some of these films, and film theories I discuss in the capsule reviews, may have changed since they were written. But, I want to give you the capsule reviews as I wrote them. This project will continue until such a time as I have collected and published all of the capsule reviews I once wrote for the message boards I used to frequent. Below are the first five capsule reviews,

The Final Cut (2004, Omar Naim, Canada/Germany/United States Of America) **

An interesting premise, but ultimately a very flawed and distant movie. When Robin Williams plays the role as a complete loner you need others to bring you into the movie, and The Final Cut has no one that is willing to do that. Every actor in The Final Cut plays their part as cold and distant, making it where you have no connection to the story or the events that are transpiring. As interesting as the premise may be, it is riddled with plot holes all over the place. The main character of Hakman is almost inhuman in how he treats people and views relationships, and that is another way in which it’s nearly impossible to connect with the movie. A movie that set its sights high but missed the mark most of the time and failed to deliver.

The Purple Heart (1944, Lewis Milestone, United States Of America) **

Boring, boring movie. It presents every event, every turn, every piece of action with such a blase attitude that you end up not caring about what is happening. The Americans and the foreign reporters are all caricatures, they have no reality to them (ironic since this is based on a true story) and nothing in their plight or travails captures you and makes you want to see what will happen to them next. If you’re looking for a World War II movie, look elsewhere.

Jerry Maguire (1996, Cameron Crowe, United States Of America) ***1/2

I will readily admit to being a fan of Tom Cruise as an actor, and films like this are why. When you strip away the mans religion or politics and look at him simply as an actor, you are left with a man that shows range in a wide variety of roles and someone that is willing to take chances. He will make fun of himself in a movie, he will play the sports jock, the gung ho heart throb, the too cool for school guy, the tough ass warrior, etc.. Mr. Cruise is a man that is willing to play many different roles, and Jerry Maguire highlights that. Here he is willing to play the man that is at a crossroads in his life, a man that is losing it all. In steps a woman that appears to save all that, but he’s not ready for that yet and like a man at a crossroads he runs away, yet again. That is where Jerry Maguire most excels, in the life and times of Mr. Cruise’s character, and mainly in his interactions with his only remaining client, Rod Tidwell. Renée Zellweger is good in her role, and that is a rarity indeed. Outside of the kid being a tad too cute the cast does work well together, and the story does gel together rather nicely. Perhaps a bit too long, and a bit too schmaltzy in parts, but still a very good movie that delivers in every way it intends to deliver.

Marie Antoinette (2006, Sofia Coppola, France/Japan.United States Of America) ***

Marie Antoinette is a movie that could have been so much better than it was, but it fails on too many levels. I will give major props to Marie Antoinette for the gorgeous visuals, costumes, and for taking someone that I usually don’t find attractive at all in Kirsten Dunst and making her look very good. And, the story was interesting to a point, but it was also a bit too shallow and attempted to both paint Marie as a misunderstood teen while somehow ignoring the damage that her excesses did cause. That part wasn’t misunderstood at all, she was excessive in her spending and in her actions (not as much as history tries to say, but still too the point where it was detrimental to the people around her). So, in that regard the movie both succeeds in painting a misunderstood girl, and also fails in ignoring the role the girl played in bringing about a great deal of her own problems. Probably my biggest complaint with Marie Antionette would be the soundtrack/score. I’ve never been a fan of modern music put into classical settings, and this is no different. Especially in the case of Marie Antionette, where most of the time the modern music is excessive and screams out, “Hey, here this trippy music, that means this movie is special, so pay attention.” A classical score would have suited the film much more.

Also, while I thought Miss Dunst looked the part I envisioned someone along the lines of Reese Witherspoon in the role. She’s more of the classical beauty that the role needed and I believe her acting would have greatly benefited the movie in comparison to Miss Dunst’s (But, I do realize that her age would probably preclude her from the part). Finally, I was not a fan of the ending. I didn’t need to see Marie’s head cut off, but I do feel it would have been better served to at least show her approaching her fate, rather than an abrupt cut that leaves you feeling flat at the end of the movie.

Even with the above being the case Marie Antoinette is a good movie despite its many faults. It looks beautiful and presents an interesting take on a classic figure. Worth your time, and if you can overlook the faults a good movie experience.

The African Queen (1951, John Huston, United Kingdom/United States Of America) ***1/2

The effects leave something to be desired, and yes, it is a knock against the film. But, it’s Humphrey Bogart’s best performance and Katharine Hepburn is well, Katharine Hepburn like usual. It’s a simple story, but it works in spades. A man changing because of a woman and because of her innate desire to do what is right, but at the same time she must take stock of her life as he realizes how meaningless her earlier missionary work was and how wrong it was to try and “convert” the locals.

Wrap-Up:

I know I didn’t say much about it back when I wrote the capsule review, but The African Queen is a heck of a movie and it takes home retro movie of the week honors. I’ll be back next week with five more retro capsule reviews!

Cheers,
Bill

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7 responses to “Retro Week In Cinema: March 21-27, 2013

  1. I agree that Cruise did a wonderful job in Jerry McGuire. He also did great in Magnolia and a couple other films. But that doesn’t keep him from irritating me in general, and unless there is a film I really want to see, or has been highly recommended, he alone can keep me from watching a film. Jerry McGuire is a wonderful film, though.

    I personally think that Bogart did a better job in In a Lonely Place, but African Queen is such a romp, it is so worth seeing.

  2. I’ve always had a soft spot for Cruise. I know that lots of cinephiles dislike him, but I find an earnestness to his acting that always wins me over.

    I have yet to see In a Lonely Place, but I have seen quite a few other Bogart movies since I wrote my review of The African Queen where I enjoyed his performance a lot more.

  3. Pingback: Review: High Sierra (1941) | Bill's Movie Emporium

  4. Howard Roller

    Your piece about Purple Heart is obtuse, poorly consider and thoughtless. You are doubtless too young and ignorant to perceive the film in the context of history. Today’s political correctness has all but obscured the reality of 1944. Those of us who grew up after WW2 know and remember the emotional truths about the wartime Japanese regime and the atrocities of war they performed . In their way they were a terrible as those if their Nazi allies, and shouldn’t be buried under by historical ignorance and glibness. This movie is effective wartime propaganda with actual reality as its subtext. It dishonors our war dead ti dismiss it this unfeelingly .

  5. Reality is nuanced, it’s not a series of caricatures. And hey, I like my historical fiction to be interesting, shame on me for that I suppose. Nothing in what you wrote says, “Hey, this is a good movie because,” instead it’s a series of “History says, you’re ignorant.” I was a history major, I know history, I had a Grandpa who served, I know from him about the truth of the war, the enemy, and those who served. Come with something tangible next time, something rooted in reality, or don’t bother at all.

  6. Howard Roller

    You are much too smug to be a useful movie reviewer. And like most of your time you are oblivious to historical context. Purple Heart is anything but boring. It is very strong, opinionated anti Japanese propaganda . And to the extent it portrays Japanese torture practices, it is harrowing even now. I had nightmares from it as a kid. Nobody will ever discuss Japanese torture objectively anymore. A lot is said about waterboarding these days, but that is one of many techniques the Chinese and Japanese originated .

  7. You have yet to address anything in the actual film. Why does its propaganda work, why is it harrowing, etc.? I don;t agree with those takes, bit at least bring meat to your opinion, because right now all you’re bringing to the table are surface level cuts that say nothing about the film or your opinion of the actual film. Which is important because it’s a film, not history or a historical document, but a film. Tackle the film, not the history, which can provide context yes but does not in and of itself make for a quality film.

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