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What Was The Last Movie You Watched?

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
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5,237
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Hudson Valley, NY
Excellent review, as always! But...

Note that 3 Godfathers was remade by John Ford in 1948, in color, starring John Wayne.

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Interestingly, it was Ford's second pass at the story, he'd previously directed a lost silent version back in 1916!

I've seen the 1948 Ford film - which is, of course, excellent - but not the 1936 version. It's on my list...
 

FOXTROT LAMONT

One Too Many
Messages
1,723
Location
St John's Wood, London UK
If in a beer and boxing mind try the spectacular Cinderella Man, a two-fisted bio of heavyweight champion (1935-1937)
James Braddock who rose from Depression era breadlines and dock work to win the title against Max Baer.
Baer had killed two men inside the ring and Braddock faced death meeting him at age 29 to Baer's 26. Directed Ron Howard (2004) and features Russell Crowe and Renee Zellwinger. A knockout. Insightful depth with superb cast and direction.:)
 
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Messages
17,010
Location
New York City
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I'll Be Seeing You from 1944 with Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotton, Shirley Temple, Tom Tully and Spring Byington


Feel-good Christmas movies are tricky as they can easily slip into mawkishness, yet if the movie has too-much conflict, it risks losing its Christmas magic. I'll Be Seeing You does a good job balancing those competing forces with its biggest flaw being a few slow scenes.

Joseph Cotton plays a soldier who fought at the grueling Battle of Guadalcanal and now is in a military hospital recovering from physical injuries and what was called battle fatigue then, but is what we call post traumatic stress disorder now.

While on a train during a Christmas furlough, he meets a pretty young woman, played by Ginger Rogers, who is on her own furlough of sorts. She's been given a Christmas pass from prison to visit her aunt and uncle, played by Spring Byington and Tom Tully.

Cotton gets off the train at Rogers' stop on the pretense of meeting his sister there, but really so he can spend more time with Rogers. She's told him she's a traveling salesperson as, well, who wants to tell the handsome man one just met that she's in prison?

Rogers' aunt and uncle are all wholesome middle America with their charming house, cute teenage daughter, played by Shirley Temple, and welcoming arms to both niece Rogers and her new friend Cotton.

For a sense of the family, look for the scene where the women go dress shopping. Rogers doesn't want aunt, Byington, to overspend on the dress she's buying her niece, Rogers, and Byington doesn't want Rogers to worry about the price.

Being good people, they both quietly palm money to the very confused saleswoman to bring down the price. If you've ever been in a similar situation, you'll appreciate how well the actresses and directors William Dieterle and George Cukor captured the scene's nuance.

There is tension in the house, though, as Temple, who has to share a room with Rogers, is outwardly nice to her, yet she has all but quarantined her possessions in the room as if she's afraid she'll catch "prisonitis" from Rogers.

Back in his hotel room, we see that Cotton is fighting his own demons as, like many PTSD sufferers, just making it through the normal ups and downs of a day is hard for him. But together, he and Rogers seem to help each other.

Surprisingly though, even with the war still raging, the movie doesn't shy away from showing the severity of Cotton's mental challenges.

He shakes, sweats and experiences fear from small noises or minor confrontations. The movie was introducing the public to what would become PTSD.

Most of the picture is Cotton coming over to Rogers' house and spending time with her family or with Rogers alone. The idea is that normal life is helping both of them to heal their wounds. A message America wanted to hear in 1944 with the war's end in sight.

While Cotton openly admits his problem to Rogers early on, Rogers, under the pretext of not wanting to burden Cotton, asks the family to keep her situation a secret. That sets up the final climax, no spoilers coming, of Rogers having to reveal that she's a prisoner.

Her explanation, in today's terms, is that in fighting off a man attempting date rape, she pushed him, causing him to fall out of a window and die. Then or now, the challenge is that there were no witnesses. But like with PTSD, the movie was putting out new ideas.

It's 1944 and it's a Christmas movie, so you can all but guess the ending. The hidden value in this one, though, is the surprisingly modern take on "combat fatigue" and date rape. Despite those tough issues, the movie is still heartwarming overall.

All the actors - Rogers, Cotton, Temple, Tully and Byington - know how to create likable characters. It's fun to see a now young-adult Shirley Temple show that she was more than just a child-acting sensation.

Owing to a thin story, the movie has a few slow scenes and some treacly Christmas dialogue. Yet with its forward-looking social messages and talented cast, I'll Be Seeing You is an engaging, albeit sentimental, Christmas wartime homefront picture.
 
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Hell's Angels from 1930 with James Hall, Ben Lyon and Jean Harlow


The interwar years saw no lack of anti-war movies with Hell's Angels, co-directed by Howard Hughes, being noted for its still-to-this-day impressive aerial combat scenes.

At just over two hours, it's very long for an early talkie. Not helping are several silent film tics and cluncy production qualities, but it also has an eight-minute two-strip Technicolor sequence, which is impressive for a picture from 1930.

Just before the war, we meet two English brothers, played by Ben Lyon and James Hall, who are good friends with their German roommate at Oxford. Hall is the serious brother, while Lyon is the good-time Charlie with no morals.

Lyon sleeps with brother Hall's girlfriend, played by Jean Harlow, behind his brother's back and even lets his brother fight a duel for him when Lyon is caught cheating with another man's wife. These character traits will not be changed by war.

When war does come, their German friend is drafted into his country's army and Hall enlists in his, but Lyon is all but tricked into joining up. It's the standard but effective moment when good friends have the horrible realization they'll be fighting against each.

Early on, in a moving scene, a German Zeppelin bombs London where the brother's German friend is sacrificed along with other German airmen in a futile attempt to save the airship. The brothers, themselves, are part of the airmen who shoot down the Zeppelin.

Now over in France, Hall distinguishes himself as an airman while Lyon gets labeled yellow for dodging dangerous night duty assignments. He also drinks and sleeps with whores while denouncing the war.

Lyon is not a hero, an intellectual or a formerly gung-ho warrier now denouncing the war - the ploy most anti-war movies take. He's a bit of a louse, but he's also a guy who wants to live, which is his basic excuse for everything bad he does.

It's not ennobling, but it's effective in its own way as it's so believable. He's a regular guy, a guy you know and maybe don't like, who doesn't want to die fighting for a "cause" or to be used as cannon fodder for terms like "patriotism" spouted by people not fighting.

Harlow, too, is unchanged by the war. Now in France as a hostess in an army canteen, she cruelly mocks Hall's love for her as she says bluntly she'd rather get drunk and sleep around.

Harlow, who rarely if ever wore a bra on screen (and, one guesses, off), is so braless in a few scenes, especially in one where she's wearing an evening gown, she comes close to exposing herself. Knowing Hughes' predilections, one senses his hand in these scenes.

In one of those 1930 Hollywood oddities, Hell's Angels turned out to be the only movie in which Harlow, who died in 1937, was filmed in color. In an otherwise black-and-white movie, she's filmed in the aforementioned eight-minute party scene shot in two-strip Technicolor.

After several good aerial scenes, the movie has its most famous one where the boys have volunteered - Hall because he's a hero, Lyon, in a moment of pique, to prove he's no coward - to bomb a German ammo depot in a captured German plane.

If caught in the German plane, they will likely be shot as spies according to the rules of war. The climax, no spoilers coming, takes a few twists, but effectively says character doesn't change in war and war is hell on almost everyone.

The acting by all three leads is sometimes stilted as none of them have yet to fully drop their silent film mannerisms and embrace the more-natural style of the "talkies." Still, Harlow's star qualities show as, when she's in a scene, you can't not watch her.

These "between the war" anti-war movies helped to educate the public to the horrors the men endured fighting. Hell's Angels, as opposed to some, doesn't become sanctimonious as its anti-war hero is a weak man, but there's value in that honesty.

These movies are correct about their anti-war points, but none of them have ever solved for the one unanswerable challenge to the anti-war ideal: how do you stop the Hitlers or Putins of the world without fighting, without war, without having men, and now women, dying?

Hell's Angels is a giant impressive mess of a movie with too many silent film tics, but several incredible aerial combat scenes. Its one most-notable feature, though, is its courage to use a not-likable character to deliver its anti-war message.

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Julian Shellhammer

Practically Family
Messages
876
Klaus, from 2019, from directors Sergio Pablo and Carlos Martinez Lopez, written by Sergio Pablo, Jim Mahoney, and Zach Lewis. Sort of an animated How Did Santa Become Santa? movie. Voice talent includes Jason Schwartzman, J.K. Simmons, and Rashida Jones. In its own way a naturalistic proposal of how a bearded toymaker began delivering gifts to kids in response to kids' letters, and how reindeer inadvertently came to pull a sleigh, set against the moral renovation of a self-centered rich guy*, who is won over to gift-giving when he sees the joy it brings. Fun, but probably not a candidate for the heavy rotation schedule next Christmas.


* Do not think "Scrooge." He was misanthropic; the character here is a spoiled, rich heir to the family fortune.
 
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The Cheat from 1931 with Tallulah Bankhead, Irving Pichel and Harvey Stephens


Today, the most interesting thing about The Cheat is Tallulah Bankhead, who acquired her awesome name, amazingly, by being christened that way. In this movie, she plays an upper-class gambling addict, flirt and status-conscious wife of a man who deserves better.

At the opening, we see Bankhead rack up a large gambling debt that is quietly paid off by a wealthy man, played by Irving Pichel (a name Hollywood of that era should have changed). He's a bachelor whose hobby, or really obsession, is the Oriental culture.

This was a time when "the Oriental culture" was almost always portrayed as dark, mysterious and slightly evil by Hollywood. Pichel didn't pay off Bankhead's debt to be a good guy as Pichel and Bankhead know exactly what he expects in return.

Bankhead's husband, played by Harvey Stephens, is the good guy in all this who has asked his wife to rein in her spending a bit, at least until he puts over a business deal he's working on. She clearly can't tell him about her massive gambling debt after that speech.

That's the set up with a few side distractions about Bankhead borrowing from the mob and "borrowing" from a charity of which she's a board member, but the real story and climax comes down to how she's going to "pay off" Pichel.

With a check from her husband - his deal came through and he gave her the money to pay off the debt even though he doesn't know the details - Bankhead tries to repay Pichel, but Pichel doesn't want to be repaid in cash, he wants to be repaid in "trade."

What follows is a fast and dramatic climax, no spoilers coming, involving a brutal human branding, a fight, gun shots, a wounded body and a trial driven by self sacrifice and histrionics that no real judge would allow, but it makes for a heck of a denouement.

Putting a modern lens up to the movie, the representation of the Oriental culture, as noted, isn't balanced. The choice, though, was probably less about prejudice and more about Hollywood needing a nefarious and ominous overtone to frame Pichel's character.

The Cheat is not a particularly good movie, but it's fast and reasonably entertaining. Also, today it provides both a look at how Depression Era audiences saw the upper class and at a still-youngish Tallulah Bankhead.

Movies about the rich and silly were all the rage in the Depression. For ten cents (about $2.40 today), the moviegoer could peek into a world of luxury and ease. Yet the message in most of these pictures is that money doesn't buy happiness.

Whether that message was truly embraced by the public or not, they kept showing up to see the rich make their lives of ease difficult and unhappy. Certainly, no one wanted to be Bankhead in this one, despite her fancy gowns and servants.

Bankhead was a prominent theater actress who never fully made a successful transition to movies. Not helping was the fact that she was almost thirty when talkies began and she - known for smoking, partying and God knows what else - didn't age slowly.

Here, though, Bankhead is fine, but her male counterparts - Pichel and Stephens - are unimpressive as they often come across as if they are just reading dialogue. One imagines a more-engaging picture had, say, James Cagney and Richard Cortez been cast.

The Cheat is short enough at seventy-four minutes to be worth viewing to see an early Bankhead picture, plus there's enough lying, cheating, philandering and whatnot going on to make it a good example of precode nautiness.

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Arsene Lupin from 1932 with John Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore and Karen Morley


Arsene Lupin is a good movie, but to fully appreciate it today you have to think of it in a 1932 context: the technology that looks quaint now was state of the art, the Barrymore brothers were mega-stars appearing together and it was the era of the "society burglar."

Arsene Lupin is one such society thief who preys upon the wealthy of Paris by stealing their jewels, artwork and bonds. He's notorious in the truest sense of the word.

He leaves tantalizing and brash notes for the police and his victims at the scene of his crimes. He is presumed to move anonymously amongst the upper class, which gives him the information and access necessary to commit his crimes.

Trying to catch him is a noted French police detective played by Lionel Barrymore who wants capturing Lupin to be the capstone to his career.

Barrymore suspects the Duke of Charmerace, played by John Barrymore, but evidence points to others as well, even to Lionel Barrymore's character himself as he shares Lupin's limp and other physical traits of the noted thief.

Like many early movies, it's very stagey with most of the action taking place over a few days in a couple of stately mansions. It is easy to see how this story started life as a play.

As was the wont of these types of pictures, the Barrymore brothers engage in much repartee as they try to catch or misdirect the other, leaving the viewer to wonder who is really Lupin.

Thrown into the mix is a, mabey, Russian seductrix, played by the pretty and lythe blonde Karen Morley, who introduces herself to John Barrymore by waiting for him naked in his bed.

There's a silly explanation about her dress being repaired, but we all get it: she's there to sex-up the picture and she fulfills her mission.

The movie, though, is driven by Barrymore and Barrymore matching wits and acting talents - John is still a bit stagey; Lionel understood motion-picture acting better by now.

Also providing some kick to the picture is a cool cutting-edge-for-1932 electrified safe, several disguises, a few Keystone Cop scenes, the Mona Lisa and a surprising amount of witness tampering and police deal making.

The conclusion is fun and satisfying in a lighthearted movie way that's done almost with a wink and nod to the audience saying we hope you enjoyed the ride.

Today, with the leading edge of crime having moved to the world of zeros and ones, movies like Arsene Lupin are fun trips to a fantasy world of elegant criminals and polished detectives operating within a code of honor.

Even in 1932, crime was probably never really quite this refined and sophisticated, but it’s fun as heck to think it was.
 
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Rain from 1932 with Joan Crawford, Walter Huston, Guy Kibbee, William Gargan and Beulah Bondi


One reason they don't make movies like Rain anymore is that we no longer live in a religious country and many "sins" today are celebrated or "understood," but in 1932, a woman who drank, smoked and had sex for money was fodder for the religious "reformers."

Rain, based on a W. Somerset Maugham novel, was made when fire-and-brimstone preachers had a sizable following and there was meaningful voter support for their efforts to legislate sin out of existence (see Prohibition).

What Maugham did in Rain was move that battle to a small South Sea island and boil it down to a handful of people, forced by a cholera outbreak, to spend several days together in a small hotel during the rainy season.

Walter Huston plays a religious zealot and leader of a movement, who along with his wife, played by Beulah Bondi, are affronted to have to share a roof with a wanton woman played by Joan Crawford.

Along for the ride are a doctor and his wife who are on friendly terms with Huston and Bondi, but they aren't fervent believers. They want Huston to just leave Crawford alone, but they also don't want to have a big confrontation with Huston over it.

Rounding out the key characters are Guy Kibbee playing the laid back owner of the hotel and bar where everyone is staying and a sergeant, played by William Gargan, from the island’s US army base, who takes an immediate (more than) liking to Crawford.

Huston is insufferable in his religious fervor and judgement. He not only openly condemns Crawford, he goes to the governor of the Island to have her deported. He obnoxiously couches his efforts in terms of saying he's just trying to "save her soul."

Crawford is everything Huston rails against; she drinks, smokes, dances in public and, it's strongly implied, is a prostitute. Yet you have to give the woman her due as Crawford tries repeatedly to stand up to Houston withering attacks.

As this war rages on, Gargan and Crawford develop a relationship, which gives Crawford an ally until Huston uses his influence with the governor to get Gargan confined to the base. Huston is relentless.

Even Huston's friend, the doctor, goes to the governor to try to save Crawford, but he strikes out. Guy Kibbee, the most enjoyable character in the movie, tries to appeal directly to Huston, but it's like talking to a statue.

Kibbee, a perennial character actor, has one of his meatiest roles here as an easy-going non-judgemental man who married an island woman. He implies he left the States because he was fed up with Prohibition. His sincere efforts to help Crawford are moving.

In a powerful scene of religious "conversion," Huston finally breaks Crawford down, even convincing her to go back to the States where she says she'll have to serve time for some unstated crime. You probably won't like the result, but the scene is memorable.

Gargan and the others try repeatedly to save Crawford from "being saved", but she, now zombie like, follows only Huston. Maugham clearly had no truck with the fanatical branch of the Christian missionaries.

The climax, no spoilers coming, plays out against the backdrop of another night of nonstop rain, while the natives are having a festival with dancing and drum-beating music, which Huston dismisses as unimportant since they aren't Christians.

But does he truly dismiss it? The fast moving conclusion needed a bit more setup with hints along the way, but it still doesn't come as a complete surprise. It does, though, dramatically reshuffle the deck.

Today, the "sins" of Maugham's day are all but lauded as religion is no longer the West's cultural northstar. Instead, there are new political pieties that are enforced by secular scolds with the same obnoxious moral condemnation as Huston used in his day.

You'll hate him, but Huston's performance as the all-mighty preacher is scary good. Crawford, still learning her craft, is uneven but moving as the young girl trying to stand up to Huston's enervating assault.

As Huston's fire and brimstone is smashing about, it's Kibbee who provides the antidote with a very "Grateful Dead -" like 1960s live-and-let-live philosophy that makes you wish you could just hang out and have a beer with him. His is a wonderful performance.

Maugham knew how to tell a story, which director Lewis Milestone translated well to the screen with a talented cast. Rain's early talkie clunkiness is noticeable, but the power of the story, even ninety-plus years later, still comes through.
 

Bushman

I'll Lock Up
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4,138
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Joliet
John Carpenter's "The Thing" (1982)

Perhaps one of the greatest horror remakes ever made, being a remake to Winchester/RKO's 1951 classic "The Thing from Another World." This is actually the movie I was watching when I got the idea to start this page. I remember being terrified by the Dog Thing scene the first time I ever watched this one. It just happened to be the scene I started the movie on.

This movie takes isolation to another level. You could be in a packed theater watching this movie and still feel like you're the only humans left on Earth. Not to mention Ennio Morricone's iconic score, and the great polar pairing of Kurt Russell and Keith David, whose clash of personalities is almost as hostile as that of the lifeform they're battling.

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Radio Days from 1987 with Seth Green, Julie Kavner, Michael Tucker, Dianne Wiest, Wallace Shawn, Mia Farrow, Larry David and Diane Keaton


You never know what will tumble out when writer/director Woody Allen spills the contents of his brain onto the screen. Often, it's a mix of his love-life escapades and sexual insecurities, but in Radio Days, Allen takes us on a nostalgic trip to the 1940s.

Lacking any plot, Radio Days is a slice of life as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish boy living in Queens, NY with his loud, kind middle-class family where the popular medium of radio provides the soundtrack and entertainment for their lives.

It is hard to imagine today, but radio shows in the 1940s were the podcasts of their day. The airways were full of shows - news, soaps, comedies, dramas, kids fare, mysteries, live music, etc. The show's stars were often household names.

Allen's extended family lives together in its overcrowded home where privacy doesn't exist as everyone knows everyone else's business, but the love and support feels genuine. Today, we value space and privacy, but through Allen's eyes, the family looks happy.

The single middle-aged sister-in-law, worried about becoming a spinster, has one bad date after the other, but the family, in its kindly prying way, is there to support her. Allen is raised by everyone in the house as it was a time of "it takes an extended family."

An uncle is overly excited about all the fish he brings home from his job at the fish market, while the dad is embarrassed to tell his family he's driving a cab for a living. They celebrate birthdays and holidays, mourn losses and share griefs and worries.

As all this chaotic life is taking place, the radio plays in the house. Everyone has his or her favorite show; they fight about what to listen to; dramatic war news brings the entire family to a stop and getting the radio repaired is a big deal (you don't just update the software).

In alternating scenes, the movie shifts between Allen's exaggeratedly boisterous Queens home and the glamorous world of radio in Manhattan. There, the stars live lives of black-tie dinners and champagne cocktails all captured in the next day's society columns.

One quirk of radio is that the "handsome and virile" hero of the show can really be a nebbishy looking man, something which had to appeal to the nebbishy looking Allen. While the NY City radio scenes are fun, the heart of the movie is Allen's family in Queens.

As in all Allen productions, the list of stars is long and impressive. Dianne Wiest is outstanding as the unmarried sister-in-law; Wallace Shawn is wonderful as the radio show hero and Mia Farrow is annoying as heck as the cigarette girl turned radio star.

Seth Green, whose long career shows he avoided the curse of being a Hollywood child star, is perfect playing a boyhood Woody Allen surrogate. Julie Kavner and Michael Tucker turn in spot-on performances as Allen's quirky but loving parents.

A youngish Larry David pops up as the family's communist neighbor and Diane Keaton makes a cameo appearance at the end as a singer at a swanky New Year's Eve party.

With Allen providing the voice over narration as his now adult self looking back at his childhood, the movie is unapologetically nostalgic. Was it really so charming and warm back then, of course not, but clearly Allen has fond memories.

At the time of Radio Days' release, Allen was recalling a forty-year old era, making the movie nostalgic for anyone in their late forties or older. Today, almost forty years later, only someone in their late eighties or older would have their memories stirred.

For the rest of us, Radio Days is time travel through Allen's forgiving eyes. It's not his best effort, but the period details are beautiful, most of the characters are enjoyable and the vibe is playful and light hearted. It's a pleasant albeit romanticized trip to a different time.

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Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
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5,237
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Hudson Valley, NY
One of Woody's best - and best-natured - films. I've loved it since it first opened. And it seems even better now, because unlike when it appeared in the 80s, he isn't still making another impressive film every year. (Just in the four years before Radio Days - Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters.)

At the time, it marked a change in his work. Up until then, whenever he had a childhood flashback in a film, his parents were portrayed for quick laughs or cringes (*). In Radio Days, they're treated with warmth and love. As Fading notes, they are center stage here, and played by a wonderful cast that exudes love and support for one another.

(See: his doctor and nurse parents in Bananas who insist that he can finish an operation; the deprogramming sequence in Sleeper where clueless Erno, playing his father at the dinner table on a Friday night, says, "Eat your shicksa!"; the squabbling family ["He has dia-beat-is!"] - so different from the restrained WASPy Halls - in Annie Hall; the crazy father with "a small piece of land" in Love and Death, etc.)
 
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Edward

Bartender
Messages
24,904
Location
London, UK
The best of what I watched, film-wise over Christmas:

I mentioned Belfast before. It came up in passing on the phone with my folks. The events depicted are of course all set half a decade before my birth, so I was born into the period of conflict. My dad, on the other hand, was in his middle twenties and remembers being stopped at checkpoints and having to treat children (literal children - ten and eleven) as 'Sir' because their armed parents were in the bushes at the side of the road. He has no interest whatever in seeing that on film.

Brannagh's take on Murder no the Nile. I missed this second one of his, so went back to it after the latest. I rather enjoyed it. It's not book-perfect Poirot, but then if it was it would have been redundant, give Suchet already did that. It feels to me something of an equivalent to Downey Junior's Sherlock Holmes, albeit less of an 'action' side. I liked it a lot for what it is.

See How They Run, a comedy whodunnit set in London around the 100th performance of The Mousetrap, is a lot of fun, well worth seeing. Set in 1953, it really does accurately portray Britain of that period (see also TV's Murder is Easy, Christmas 2023's big Christie, which sets the action of the original 1939 book in the early-mid 50s, albeit mostly rich people), still very much recovering from the war and little changed from the 1940s.
 

Doctor Strange

I'll Lock Up
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5,237
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I wanted to like See How They Run more, but I found Sam Rockwell's protagonist inspector character somewhat off-putting. Which is weird, because Rockwell is frequently the best thing in a film - he's sometimes the savior of a weak one.

But as you observed, it does the period well. It's got a great cast and production design, a reasonably clever script, and some good moments... Charming, yes, but I found it a bit underwhelming.

And I didn't like Death on the Nile nearly as much as Murder on the Orient Express. Very by the numbers. Branagh can do much better. (As a director, that is. His performance as Poirot was fine).
 

Worf

I'll Lock Up
Messages
5,183
Location
Troy, New York, USA
George Pal Double Feature:

"When Worlds Collide"

"War of the Worlds"

Both in glorious technicolor. Both frightened the crap out of me as a kid with their depictions of world wide destruction, ravage and ruin!

Worf
 

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