Archive | May, 2012

Men In Black 3

31 May

Synopsis: Agent J (Will Smith) travels in time to MIB’s early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K(Tommy Lee Jones/Josh Brolin) and changing history.


Will Smith ….. Agent J

Tommy Lee Jones …… Agent K

Josh Brolin ……..Young Agent K

Jemaine Clement …… ‘Boris the Animal’

Michael Stuhlbarg …… ‘Griffin’

Emma Thompson …… ‘Agent O’

Mike Colter …… ‘Colonel’

Nicole Scherzinger  …… ‘Boris’ Girlfriend’

Alice Eve …… ‘Young Agent O’

David Rasche  …… ‘Agent X’

Michael Chernus  …… ‘Jeffrey Price’

Bill Hader  …… ‘Andy Warhol’

Review:  Right off the bat I will tell you MIB3 is as good if not better than MIB1. The time traveling sub-plot, Josh Brolin’s outstanding spot on version of a young Tommy Lee Jones coupled with Will Smith’s off the cuff Agent J make this an enjoyable entertainment.  Barry Sonnenfeld is also back aboard as director and he vindicated himself with this one after the disastrous MIB2. In case you forgot MIB2 the first sequel, don’t feel bad it was a forgettable film. I am also happy that Rip Torn is not involved in this project, he wore out his cantankerous one note acting in  the last one.

One of the joys of watching actors having fun was watching Emma Thompson as O the head of the super secret MIB organization. She did a wonderful job up against Will Smith’s, agent J. Notably the time traveling method used by Agent J involves jumping off the ledge of the Chrysler building, as he attempts to save the life of his partner Agent K from being assassinated by an alien in the 1960’s. Another great stunt involves the first Apollo moon attempt, a machine that will save mankind must be placed on the capsule before take-off and then escaping through an emergency exit before anyone gets caught. They also kept the memory eraser device from the previous 2 films, an arsenal of fancy laser guns and of course this time Rick Baker out did himself with the myriad of aliens he designed.

The script is polished, funny and ironic, so do you need to see the 3D version? No, the film stands up fine without it. So for a fun entertaining outing at the cinema I say go for it.


The Dictator

25 May

Synopsis: The heroic story of a dictator who risks his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.  This fish out of water story tells the tale of Haffaz Alladeen who has been the dictator of the oil-rich African nation of Wadiya for 40 years. Alladeen is as egotistical and ruthless as dictators come, executing anyone who disagrees with him by using his signature “head chop” signal. Alladeen is summoned by the UN to address their concerns about his nuclear program. A subplot involves him being kidnapped by Clayton  a hitman hired by his traitorous uncle Tamir . Tamir then replaces Aladeen with a decoy named Efawadh, who he can manipulate into signing a document democratizing Wadiya and opening the oil rich country for business. Aladeen escapes, but his beard has been shaved off by Clayton, making him practically unrecognizable. He encounters activist Zoey who offers him a job at her alternative lifestyle co-op. Aladeen refuses the offer and travels to New York’s “Little Wadiya”, populated by refugees from his country, where he encounters Nadal , the former chief of Wadiya’s nuclear weapons program, whom Aladeen thought he had previously had executed. Peppered with caustic and controversial humor the film follows Aladeen as he tries to regain power.


Sasha Baron Cohen: as Admiral General Aladeen and his impostor Efawadh

Ben Kingsley: as Tamir, Aladeen’s uncle

Jason Manzoukas: as nadal

Ann Faris: as Zoey

John C. Reilly:  as Clayton

B.J. Novack

Chris Elliot as Mr. Ogden

Fred Armisen as Death to Aladeen Restaurant waiter


Megan Fox: as herself

Edward Norton: as himself

J.B. Smoove: as Funeral Usher

Chris Parnell: as ABN News anchor

Asif Mandvi: as Wadiyan doctor

Rizwan Manji: as Wadiyan patient

Horatio Sanz: as aide on balcony.

Review: Sacha Baron Cohen has once again teamed up with director Larry Charles (Borat/Bruno) and both have delivered a funny and controversial albeit more mainstream story to tell. Inspired by the book Zabibah and the King by Iraqi Dictator Saddam Hussein, Cohen takes on a journey through the world of a narcissistic, mad Islamic dictator, Admiral, General Aladeen of the pseudo middle eastern country of  Wadiya. He does things like have sex with Megan Fox, who sleeps with him as a booty call but won’t commit to a real relationship, crowns himself best actor/film-star in the country and wins all the country’s sporting events by shooting the competition, what a guy. It is Cohen’s commitment to character that makes this movie so hilarious. Cohen tends to find his characters from the inside out and makes them so real you believe this chameleon is the genuine article. Cohen is so committed to his character in fact you might remember the stunt he pulled at the 2012 Academy awards spilling the ashes of Dictator Kim Jong ii onto Ryan Seacrest.

Ben Kingsley portrays his Uncle Tamir who wants to democratize Wadiya and sell its’ oil for profit. He does a wonderful job as does a terrific supporting cast. Ann Faris plays Zoey the love interest and holds up well as the foil for all the anti-women slurs Aladeen throws at her. The entire film is a reflection of the world situation and Cohen who also wrote the screenplay deserves kudos for having the nerve to dish up this Islamic, Terrorist Dictator with humor and intelligence.

The cameos are well done and add an element of who will show up next. This is certainly worthy of Sacha Baron Cohen’s inspired lunacy.


Lost Horizon (1937)

21 May


Before returning to England to become the new Foreign Secretary, writer, soldier and diplomat Robert Conway has one last task in 1935 China: to rescue 90 Westerners in the city of Baskul. He flies out with the last few evacuees, just ahead of armed revolutionaries.

Unbeknownst to the passengers, the pilot has been replaced and their aircraft hijacked. It eventually runs out of fuel and crashes deep in the  Himalayan Mountains, killing their abductor. The group is rescued by Chang and his men and taken to Shangra La, an idyllic valley sheltered from the bitter cold. The contented inhabitants are led by the mysterious High Lama.


Ronald Coleman – Robert Conway

Jane Wyatt – Sondra Bizet

H.B. Warner – Chang

Sam Jaffe – High Lama

John Howard – George Conway

Edward Everett Horton – Alexander P. (lovey) Lovett

Thomas Mitchell – Henry Barnard

Margo – Maria

Isabel Jewell – Gloria Stone

David Clyde – Club Steward


The first time I saw Lost Horizon I was a child watching the movie on a local television station. I was wide eyed at the prospect of an adventure in a foreign land and wished Shangra La was a real location.

Directed by Frank Capra, screenplay by Robert Riskin and produced by Capra for Columbia Pictures, the film is based on the book by James Hilton.  Lost Horizon was the most expensive film ever produced up until that time and was problematic  for Capra. The film’s cost overruns and artistic differences between Capra and Columbia boss Harry Cohn are legendary and cost Capra his friendship with screen writer Riskin as well.

Cohn budgeted the film at $1.25 million the highest sum ever for a movie in those days. Capra wanted Coleman for the lead from the start but had to wait for Coleman to become available. After filming Mr. Deeds Goes to Town Coleman became available and the project began. Capra’s first compromise was that he wanted to film in color but since the only stock footage of the Himalayan mountains was in black and white he had no choice but to abandon the technicolor which would have proved to be much more cost prohibitive based on budgetary constraints imposed by Cohn.

Principal photography began on March 23, 1936, and by the time it was completed on July 17, the director had spent $1.6 million. Contributing to the added expenses was the filming of snow scenes and aircraft interiors at the Los Angeles Ice and Cold Storage Warehouse, where the low temperature affected the equipment and caused lengthy delays. The Shangri-La set, designed by Stephen Gooson, had been constructed adjacent to Hollywood Way, a busy thoroughfare by day, which necessitated filming at night and heavily added to overtime expenses. Many exteriors were filmed on location including the Sierra Nevada Mountains, adding the cost of transporting cast, crew, and equipment to the swelling budget.

In the end the film’s budget soared to $2,626,620 keeping the film unprofitable until its re-release in 1942. When finished the final cut of the film was six hours long and the studio considered releasing it in two parts. Not being possible to release the film at the six hour length Capra with the help of  editors Gene Havlick and Gene Milford manged to cut the film down to a three and a half hour running time. The film was previewed in Santa Barbara to a lukewarm reception. People just didn’t want to sit through a three and a half hour epic story.

Following the disastrous preview, Capra made extensive cuts and, on January 12, 1937, re shot scenes involving the High Lama which placed more emphasis on the growing tensions of the world at the time. Still unhappy with the film’s length, Harry Cohn intervened; he cancelled the February 1 priemier and edited the film himself. When it finally premiered on March 2, it was 132 minutes long. During the film’s initial release in selected cities, it was a limited release, with only two presentations per day and tickets sold on a reserved-seat basis. Because the box office returns were so low, the studio head deleted an additional 14 minutes before the film went into general release the following September. Due primarily to the cuts made without his approval, Capra later filed a lawsuit against Columbia, citing “contractual disagreements,” among them the studio’s refusal to pay him a $100,000 semi-annual salary payment due him. A settlement was reached on November 27, 1937, with Capra collecting his money and being relieved of the obligation of making one of the five films required by his contract. In 1985, the director claimed Cohn, whom he described as the “Jewish producer,” trimmed the film simply so theaters could have more daily showings and increase the film’s chance of turning a profit.

There are actually three endings to the film that can be interpreted as different approaches to Conway’s return to Shangra La.

1. Capra’s Ending written by Riskin:



MOVING IN FRONT OF CONWAY – as he walks forward with a steady step – his head held high – his eyes sparkling – snow pelting his face.


Over his silhouetted back.

As he walks away from the CAMERA, and we STAY WITH HIM a long time as he approaches a hill.



He has now ascended to the middle of the steep hill – his gait unchanged. THE CAMERA PANS UP to the summit of the incline – and we see that beyond it the horizon is filled with a strange warm light. Conway’s figure – in silhouette – disappears over the hill – bells ring – and as the music begins to swell.



2. Cohn’s ending he required of Capra:

  1. Medium shot of Sondra standing at the railed mountain pass, with the lamasery visible in the distance behind her. Suddenly she seems to notice something.
  2. Long shot of Conway making his way over a snow-covered mountain.
  3. Close shot of Sondra, who joyously waves, calling out “Bob.”
  4. Medium shot of Conway looking up and waving back.
  5. Medium shot of Sondra, as two Tibetans join her from behind, and Sondra says to them: “It is he. It’s Mr. Conway. Go, tell Chang.” They hurry away.
  6. Close-up of Conway.
  7. Close-shot of Sondra, waving and calling out: “Bob, Bob,” then rushing out of frame.

These seven shots are followed by a montage sequence which includes bells ringing in a steeple, the façade of the lamasery and the words “The End.” This was the ending on the prints of the film seen in major U.S. cities during the first half of March 1937.

3. Capra, Riskin and Cohn’s compromise for an ending:

  1. Long shot of Conway, making his way over a wind-swept glacier.
  2. Medium shot of Conway, leaning on an ice axe and looking up at something (off-screen) that has caught his eye.
  3. Conway’s p.o.v.: the familiar stone archway with its wooden railing and the lamasery visible in the background.
  4. Close shot of Conway who visibly reacts to what he sees, finally breaking into a smile.

Cohn wanted a pat Hollywood ending that would bring in the audience but Capra wanted the audience to imagine what happened to Conway as did Hilton in the ambiguous ending to his book.

This classic film was restored by A.F.I. (The American Film Institute) starting in 1973 and the process took 13 years to complete.  Although all 132 minutes of the original soundtrack were recovered, only 125 minutes of film could be found, so the seven minutes of the missing footage were replaced with a combination of publicity photos of the actors in costume taken during filming and still frames depicting the missing scenes.

The film is available on DVD, Netflix and is occasionally shown on TMC (Turner Classic Movies).


Frank Capra

18 May

Bio: Frank Russel Capra born May 18, 1897 in Sicily immigrated to America at six years old.  Capra was considered by his peers as the American Dream personified as he had worked his way through college and ultimately became the creative heart and soul of major award winning films during the 1930’s and 40’s. During his peak years critics called his films “Capra-Corn” for their upbeat sentiments about human nature, the average man’s triumph over corrupt powerful leaders, and peoples innate kindness to others. During these years audiences flocked to his films and Capra’s name above the film title on the marquee guaranteed success.

Commentary: The other day I was watching Pocket Full of Miracles (1961) Capra’s last film, critics were lukewarm and audiences pretty much stayed away. Pocket Full of Miracles is a remake of his earlier film Lady for a Day, both films tell the tale of Damon Runyon’s  Apple Annie and the human kindness that helped the beggar woman become gold in her daughter’s eyes.   After the films lackluster release, at 64 years old, Capra decided he had enough of the film business, ” I’ve done it all and said what I had to say, I’ll leave the business to the younger directors” .  This prompted me to take a look at the sum total of the whole and remind you of why his films still resonate today.

In 1934 Capra directed It happened One Night, this romantic comedy starring Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable had elements of a screwball comedy but was also the first film to win all five major Academy Awards, Best Picture, Director, Actor Actress and Screenplay. Colbert didn’t hide her disdain for the role saying the part was unladylike and she didn’t want to show her leg in the famous hitch-hiking sequence. Capra claimed, Colbert “had many little tantrums, motivated by her antipathy toward me,” however “she was wonderful in the part.”After her acceptance speech at the Oscars ceremony, she went back on stage and thanked Capra for making the film. Another foot note Chuck Jones (Famous Bugs Bunny Director/Animator) claimed he based Bugs Bunny’s character on Clark Gable eating carrots from the hitch-hiking scene in this film, ears and all.

The same year he directed Broadway Bill a screwball comedy about horse racing but it was after this he began thinking about adding new dimensions to his films concluding that he needed to convey messages and new thoughts on the human condition to the public. Capra explained his thinking after he had an encounter with a Christian Scientist who inspired him to add dimension to his films. “My films must let every man, woman, and child know that God loves them, that I love them, and that peace and salvation will become a reality only when they all learn to love each other”.  His fantasies of goodwill” won him two more  Best Director Oscars for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and You Can’t Take It With You.

In 1939 Capra directed Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” , it is considered to be the one film that truly personified the Capra myth and message. This is a story of a man elected to office and by sticking to his ideals uses democracy to overcome political corruption in congress. It became a source of controversy when war was looming overseas and the powers that be at the time didn’t want the film released in Europe in case America entered the war. When the filming was completed, the studio sent preview copies to Washington. Joe Kennedy, U.S. ambassador to the UK, wrote to Columbia head Harry Cohn, “Please do not play this picture in Europe.”  Kennedy wrote to president Roosevelt that “in foreign countries this film must inevitably strengthen the mistaken impression that the United States is full of graft, corruption and lawlessness.” At the pleading of Capra, Cohn released the film anyway and it became the symbol of democratic patriotism both here and abroad. The significance of the film’s message was established further in France, shortly after World War II began. When the French public were asked to select which film they wanted to see most, having been told by the Vichy government that soon no more American films would be allowed in France, the overwhelming majority chose it over all others. To France, soon to be invaded and occupied by Nazi forces, the film most expressed the “perseverance of democracy and the American way.”

In 1941 America was about to step into WWII and America’s future was unsure and people were afraid of what was yet to come. Capra stuck to his ideology although also unsure of what was next for American Democracy and directed what some consider his most controversial film of the day Meet John Doe. Starring Gary Cooper  as a washed up ball player who has lost focus and direction in his life. Cooper is chosen by a news reporter to become the symbol of  “the common man” and is used to capture the imagination of average Americans. The film has been considered ” deliberately made to reaffirm American values”

The perennial It’s A Wonderful Life released after the war in 1946 was the first film he directed under the Liberty Films banner founded by Capra, George Stevens and William Wyler. Although the film was nominated for five Oscars it proved to be a box-office disappointment. It wasn’t until it became public domain and aired on Television that it became a Christmas Classic. Loaded with “Capra-Corn” little guy beats power mad banker, finds love, is helped by a guardian angel, reevaluates his life and overcomes diversity. The American Film Institute claims this as one of its  all time 100 top films. What’s not to like, this is perhaps his best known work.

Capra lived until he was 94 and died in 1991 after living a long and wonderful life. His films are available at, Netflix, and there is also a wealth of books written about this master story teller. If you have Turner Classic Movies (TCM) that is great source for Capra films.

Dark Shadows

17 May

Synopsis:  Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp who plays Barnabus Collins  in this quasi-spoof/reboot of the 60’s Gothic soap opera Dark Shadows. In Collinsport, Maine, in the 1760’s,  Barnabus Collins is imprisoned by Angelique a spurned but beautiful witch, who wants his love. In revenge she turns him into a Vampire and locks him in a coffin until he is accidentally released in 1972 and returns to his home, and dysfunctional family descendants. He comes to terms with having to save his family name and the family business from Angelique who has spent the last 200 years trying to destroy the Collins family name and fortune.


Johnny Depp portrays Barnabus Collins

Eva Green portrays vengeful witch Angelique Bouchard

Michelle Pfeiffer portrays Elizabeth Collins Stoddard

Helena Bonham Carter portrays Dr. Julia Hoffman

Jackie Earle Haley plays Willie Loomis, the manor’s caretaker.

Jonny Lee Miller as Roger Collins, Elizabeth’s “ne’er-do-well” brother.

Gulliver McGrath as David Collins, Roger’s “precocious” 10-year-old son

Bella Heathcote as Victoria Winters/Maggie Evans, David’s governess and Barnabas’ love interest, she also plays the role of Josette Du Pres. Victoria and Maggie Evans’ roles, separate in the series, were combined in the film.

Chloe Grace Moretz as Carolyn, Elizabeth’s rebellious teenage daughter.

Ray Shirley as Mrs. Johnson, the manor’s elderly maid.

Christopher Lee as Silas Clarney, a “king of the fishermen who spends a lot of time in the local pub, The Blue Whale.”

Alice Cooper as himself.

Ivan Kaye as Joshua Collins, the father of Barnabas Collins.

Susanna Cappellero as Naomi Collins, the mother of Barnabas Collins.

William Hope as Sheriff Bill of Collinsport

Review: You would think that the one – two punch of a Burton/Depp collaboration would whet anyone’s appetite to spend their hard earned cash on seeing this film.  Tim Burton is arguably one of the finest directors of Gothic pieces, set design and storytelling, unfortunately this is one of his lesser efforts. Depp’s take on Barnabus Collins is as an eccentric a performance as we have come to expect from Depp, that said, this fish out of water story really loses steam quickly. Angelique is one bad witch and Eva Green does an admirable job up against the eccentricities of Depp’s Barnabus.

Michelle Pfeiffer as Elizabeth Collins Stoddard portrays the family matriarch and really has little to do in this role. You can see her dysfunction as the Collins Estate is falling apart and she keeps a hired live-in psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman. The rest of her family includes a rebellious, provocative daughter Carolyn, Elizabeth’s brother Rodger an indifferent father to his son David,who has delusions that he can speak to his dead mother, Doctor Hoffman an alcoholic psychiatrist who is payed unsuccessfully to help David overcome his delusion and also several eccentric servants that work at the Collinswood mansion.

Rocker Alice Cooper has a cameo, Depp as Barnabus Collins refers to Cooper as the “ugliest woman he has ever seen”. Also Christopher Lee appears in the film along with Helena Bonham Carter and an assortment of character actors doing their best to make this campy reboot better than it actual turns out to be.

There are a few joys in this film mostly by Depp who has the best lines in the film and his portrayal is worth a look see. On the whole I would wait to rent this on DVD after all even a bad Burton film isn’t all that bad.


The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

11 May

Synopsis: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (also known as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful) is a 2012 British film directed by John Madden and written by Ol Parker. Based on the 2004 novel, These Foolish Things, by Deborah Morgacch. The ensemble cast includes Britain’s elite and arguably their best character actors, Dame Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton, as a group of British retirees “outsourcing” their retirementin the Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful, in India. Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) rounds out the cast as Sonny the young owner of the hotel.

Review: This is film less about the destination and more about the journey and catharsis of a group of seven retired British nationals whose life circumstances have brought them to Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful in a small city in India. Each with their own tale of woe and search for a greater future in their twilight years.

The movie begins with an prologue that describes each character’s present situation and what leads them to the hotel.

Dame Judi Dench plays Evelyn a recently widowed housewife who is forced by her family to sell her flat to pay off her dead husband’s debts.  Despite their son’s protestations, she decides to make her home in India, in Sonny’s home for the “elderly and beautiful”. She keeps a blog to inform her family of all that she does and all whom she encounters. It is through the blog that on a daily basis the story unfolds.She is marvelous in the role and plays it with class, determination and wit.

Tom Wilkinson (Benjamin Franklin in HBO’s John Adams Series) plays Graham, he is an British high court judge who for the past few years keeps saying he will retire any day now., finally at a retirement party for a colleague he decides today is the day. He goes to India where he gre up for the first 18 years of his life only to go back 40 years later to reconcile his past.

Dame Maggie Smith portrays Muriel an ex-housekeeper with a head for figures, is deemed surplus to requirements by her lifelong employers after she unwittingly trains her own replacement. She finds herself without a family of her own, having devoted her life to the care of another family. Living in a flat alone she is bitter and racist, and, when her doctor tells her that the only alternative to a six-month wait for a hip replacement is to be “outsourced” to India where the operation can be scheduled without delay, she is sent to Sonny’s hotel.

Bill Nighy plays Douglas the Husband of Patricia Wilson’s Jean. This is a married couple who gave all their savings to their daughter who has stated a new internet based company. Needless to say this has made the hotel the only place they can afford to retire to. Douglas is up for the adventure and his wife is desperately unhappy from day one. The strain on their marriage is too much for Jean to take and the couples differences bring their marriage to the brink.

Ronald Pickup plays Norman an aged Lothario, constantly on the look-out for a new woman and unable to face up to his own age and consequent undesirability for young women. He seeks a new start with new possibilities in India.

Celia Imrie plays Madge, she has had several unsuccessful marriages and, like Norman, wants fun, adventure and a new man. Tired of her daughter’s attempts to keep her at home as the family babysitter she flees the house and leaves for India.

The screenplay is witty and the humor is at times so true it touches you from the inside and at times moves you to tears. This is a fine film with a human soul that tugs at your heartstrings as it points out the irony of aging in a young world and coping with the sometimes bittersweet realities of life. This films caters to the much neglected demographic of aging baby-boomers and judging from the size of the audience I was in I would say that the future looks successful for this group of seven.


The Avengers

6 May

Synopsis: Norse God Loki, brother of  the hammer wielding Thor , steals the Tesseract, the all powerful gamma ray infested cube of power and portal to the Norse realm, in order to enslave the earth and all its people. Nick Fury leader of S.H.I.E.L.D, an international secret organization designed to defend the earth against military attacks, restarts the abandoned  Avengers Initiative by calling upon Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye to stop Loki from sending for his army and enslaving mankind. In theaters in 3D and 2D.

Robert Downey Jr. reprises his role as Tony Stark/Iron Man for the third time, Chris Evans reprises his role as Steve Rodgers/CaptainAmerica as does Scarlett Johansson reprising her role from Iron Man 2 portrays Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Chris Helmsworth as Thor, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Gweneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts, Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson and Stellen Skarsgard as Erik Selvig With newcomers Mark Ruffallo as Bruce Banner/Hulk and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye rounding out the cast.

Review: Having grown up on Marvel comics and also enjoying the previous films that led up to The Avengers I went into the film with much anticipation and I was not disappointed. The film is a blend of  action summer blockbuster, sci-fi, and family relationships all held together by enough humor to captivate and at the same time not take itself too seriously. The story starts out slow then takes off at the arrival of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. The first 30 minutes or so are taken up by Loki’s arrival on earth to steal the Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters after that the fun begins. Tony Stark’s character is given all the smart, sarcastic and pompous things to say and his interactions with the serious Captain America as well as the other Avengers really gives the film a sense of humor. Marvel heroes have always been multi – layered individuals who are not only fighting the war but are continually struggling with their own internal battles, it is this human connection that keeps you rooting for them and going back to watch them film after film. Look for the Hulk having a smashing time with Loki and his hordes, the interpersonal relationships as they develop between Thor and his brother Loki, and the the entire Avenger’s Team. Also see if you can find Marvel comics founder, Stan Lee’s cameo.

The film has enough going for it to please everyone including fan-boys, comic geeks and those of the general audience. This is solid entertainment and of course sequel worthy. The film already generated over 200 million in box office overseas and will probably surpass that figure here in the states.

As far as the 3D experience goes the film that set the pace for the others in total 3D immersion was of course John Cameron’s Avatar. The use of 3D worked best during the war scenes between Loki’s army using New York City as the battleground, otherwise I would have to say save your money and see it in 2D you won’t be missing much but do see it.

I couldn’t help but the remember my favorite comic book as a teen NICK FURY AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D as written and drawn by the great Jim Steranko, let’s just say Nick Fury was not Samuel L. Jackson. That said Jackson plays it perfect and for those who don’t have a memory such as mine he is the new face of Fury.


A Film Trilogy by Ingmar Bergman

3 May

Synopsis: The Criterion Collection based on Bergman’s own spiritual crisis, brings you fully restored, his trilogy of films produced between 1961 and 1963. Bergman stories concern themselves with dysfunctional family relations, loss of spirituality and abandonment by God. The three challenging films in the trilogy or chamber pieces are as follows: Through a Glass Darkly, Winter Light and The Silence. Bergman and his new cameraman the brilliant Sven Nykvist gave the cinema going public three stories in rapid succession of release that threw out Bergman’s images of dreamy landscapes and chess games with death in exchange for a darker reality of angst and despair.

Reviews: Through a Glass Darkly centers around Karin played with a terrifying realism by Harriet Andersson. She is  a psychologically fragile woman,who seeks recovery from a nervous breakdown while on a remote-island vacation with her family. Her father portrayed by Gunnar Björnstrand, is a successful writer who regards her with clinical detachment. Karin’s husband , a doctor portrayed by Bergman regular Max Von Sydow,  feels unavailing in the effort to treat her. Karin’s brother portrayed brutally by Lars Passgard, is wrapped up in his narcissistic quest for sexual fulfillment. Karin’s descent into further loneliness and delusion exacerbates the heretofore unspoken alienation at the heart of this entire family, and drives the characters to brood over the existence of God, in Karin’s case, imagine that God is the chilling spider hidden behind an attic door. Through a Glass Darkly is heartbreaking, and a powerful work of art.

Winter Light stars Gunnar Björnstrand, this time playing a pastor suffering a crisis of faith while ministering to a shrinking congregation, he wrestles with the question does God exist?   Has God Abandoned me? He has no answers and he a man of the cloth feels empty and powerless. Max Von Sydow plays a parishioner lost to acute anxiety over the possibility of a nuclear holocaust. Neither man can help or heal the other, or even inspire renewed confidence in practiced rituals and older, more certain views of the world. Set on a chilly, Sunday afternoon, Winter Light‘s heavy stillness, lack of music, preference for intense close-ups and distancing long shots, and barren setting all lead us inescapably into the core of a profound silence, an echo chamber in which love can’t grow and religion rings hollow.

The Silence, The last chamber story in the trilogy is a nightmarish story of two sisters, Esther portrayed by Ingrid Thulin and Anna portrayed by Gunnel Lindblom, and the latter’s son played by Jörgen Lindström, all traveling by train to Sweden but forced to stay in a foreign country when Esther’s chronic bronchial problems require her to rest. A stifling atmosphere, a desolate hotel, encounters with a troupe of carnival dwarves, Anna’s anchoring illness, and an empty sexual encounter for Esther underscore the unnerving feeling that God has abandoned these characters to dubious salvation in their own connection. A highly memorable film.

These are perhaps Bergman’s most thought provoking films and are considered masterworks by this cinema giant. The mood set by the language of the images through-out each film rivet you and challenge your spirituality and religious beliefs.  The drama and intensity each film captures draws you into each story, kudos to the actors who were so true to the emotions, to Sven Nykvist’s stark and moody cinematography and to Bergman whose deeply layered story telling brings these masterworks to level of cinematic art rarely seen.

Available on Netflix, DVD, and for purchase at


Flipper (1963)

3 May

“They call him Flipper, Flipper, faster than lightning, No-one you see, is smarter than he, And we know Flipper, lives in a world full of wonder, Flying there-under, under the sea!”

Synopsis: Filmed in the Florida Keys this family friendly story centers around Sandy Ricks, played by Luke Halpin, who played Sandy in the popular TV show of the same name, is a young boy living in the Florida Keys who befriends a dolphin injured by a harpoon. His father, fisherman Porter Ricks , played by Chuck Connors, TV’s Rifleman, is upset, as dolphins compete for fish, which jeopardizes the family income and is upset Sandy neglects his chores.

Sandy names his new friend Flipper, after Flipper recovers from the wound, the dolphin puts on a show to entertain the neighborhood children. Later, however, the animal devours Porter’s entire catch of pompano fish, Porter harshly berates Sandy for allowing Flipper to jump into the holding pen of valuable fish waiting to go to market, “What’s wrong with you boy? How old are you, 12, — almost in your teens, or are you five, — a child who doesn’t have the sense to know what his next meal depends on?” Reduced to tears, Sandy retreats to his bedroom as Porter’s wife Martha, played by Kathleen MaGuire defends Sandy by reminding Porter, “He is only a boy!”

Determined to make up for the loss, Sandy sets off to find more fish, and is led by Flipper to a large school of fish near a reef. Later, Sandy is rescued from a threatening shark by Flipper, and the grateful father draws closer to his son. Porter Ricks is finally convinced there are enough fish for both the local residents of the area and the dolphins.

The story was written by Richard Browning, known for his underwater work as “The Creature From The Black Lagoon.” Browning noting the success of Lassie decided to bring a story of a boy and his Dolphin to the big screen. No studio bit. He brought the idea producer Ivan Tors whom he worked for on Sea Hunt. The movie was a huge success and spawned (pardon the unintentional pun) a successful TV show with Halpin minus Connors and ran from 1964-67. Two movie sequels and a remake followed.  Flipper was portrayed by Mitzi a female trained at The Santini Training School. She lived for 13 years and died in 1972. Her grave is at the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key, Fla.  and it is the first stop on the tour.

This was filmed for family audiences and reminds us of a much simpler time.  Flipper is an icon of American culture and has been remembered fondly by us humans of a certain age.

The film is available on DVD and Netflix and can be seen once in a while on TCM. Recommended for family viewing.