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The Odd Life Of Timothy Green

19 Apr

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Synopsis: A small-town couple, Jim and Cindy, grieving over their inability to conceive, write the attributes of their dream child on scraps of paper that they bury in a box in their garden. That night, during a violent storm, a shift in the wind and a little mystery, their dreams are transformed into reality.

CAST

Jennifer Garner……………………………..Cindy Green

Joel Edgerton…………………………………..Jim Green

Dianne Wiest…………………………Bernice Crudstaff

C J Adams……………………………..….Timothy Green

Rosemarie DeWitt…………………………Brenda Best

Ron Livingston…………………….Franklin Crudstaff

M. Emmet Walsh…………………………….Uncle Bub

Odeya Rush………………………………….Joni Jerome

Lin-Manuel Miranda……………………Reggie Marks

Lois Smith…………………………………………Aunt Mel

David Morse……………………………James Green Sr.

Common…………………………………………..Coach Cal

Review: This charming Disney fantasy, centers around a young couple, Jim and Cindy Green. The story begins at an adoption agency, and is told in flashback, as they try to convince the two adoption agents that are fit parents. When asked what experience they had as parents, they tale their remarkable tale.

Cindy retreats into gardening and Jim retreats into his work at the local pencil factory. It seems the factory may shut down and Jim is involved in all the meetings with his fellow workers to discuss their future. The pair becomes depressed as their life together seems unfulfilled. One night Jim had enough of and convinces Cindy they can have a child. For luck they write down all the attributes their child will have, he/she will be musical, have a sense of humor like Uncle Bob,  artistic , perhaps a young Picasso, have heart and compassion…etc.  They take the writings and place it in a wood box which they bury in their garden. After they are asleep a freak storm, over their house, wakes then up and also spreads some magic on the garden.

Jim hears something in the house when he sees the back door open; he notices a whole in the ground where the box was buried. After, a mysterious chase ensues, with flashlights and shadows, we discover the intruder is a boy named Timothy. He is covered in dirt and wet from the rain. After Cindy cleans him up, she notices something unusual. Timothy has leaves growing out of both his legs. When they ask him his name he replies Timothy Green and he refers to the couple as mom and dad. Could this be their dreams coming true.

As time goes by and Timothy is accepted by friends and family and this when the story becomes bitter sweet.  There are many twists and turns in the plot as Timothy falls in love with a young girl, Joni who discovers his secret and bonds with him as she shares a secret of her own.

During the course of the story as Timothy achieves each written attribute, he changes the community in subtle and wonderful ways. He also starts to lose his leaves one by one, as his parents struggle comically to become good parents, they are unaware that Timothy is changing, but Timothy understands what is happening and the story becomes bittersweet.

This is a  wonderful family film that deals with the issues of childhood, parenting, love and adoption. The film will warm your heart.  C.J. Adams is perfect as Timothy and Odeya Rush did a wonderful job as Joni. The rest of the cast was terrific with a stand-out performance by Dianne Weist as the curmudgeonly, matron of the local Pencil Museum.

The film, written and directed by Peter Hedges, is available at Amazon, your local Red-Box and Netflix.

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HITCHCOCK

11 Apr

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“Although he never won an Academy Award, in 1979 the American film Institute awarded him their life time achievement award.”

SYNOPSIS: HITCHCOCK is a love story about one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Alfred Hitchcock and his wife and partner Alma Reville. The film takes place during the making of Hitchcock’s seminal movie Psycho.

CAST
Anthony Hopkins……………………..Alfred Hitchcock
Helen Mirren………………………………Alma Reville
Scarlett Johansson……………………………Janet Leigh
Toni Collette………………………………………Peggy
Danny Huston……………………..……..Whitfield Cook
Jessica Biel……………………………………Vera Miles
Michael Stuhlbarg………………………Lew Wasserman
James D’Arcy……………………………Anthony Perkins
Michael Wincott………………………………….Ed Gein
Kurtwood Smith……………………….Geoffrey Shurlock
Richard Portnow…………………………Barney Balaban

Review: Directed by Sacha Gervasi; written by John J. McLaughlin, and based on the book “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho” by Stephen Rebello, the film is a biopic that takes place during the filming of Hitchcock’s Psycho.
The story opens with Hitchcock narrating the events surrounding the arrest of Ed Gein, a real serial killer whom the book Psycho is written. When Hitchcock’s newest picture “North by Northwest” is released it becomes a major success for Paramount studios. Hitchcock is obligated to make one more film for Paramount, Hitchcock wants it to be Psycho. Barney Balaban head of Paramount protests as does Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville. From here on in the story surrounds itself with Hitchcock’s obsessions. The film looks at his loving yet sexless marriage with Alma, realistically played by Helen Mirren. She is delightful and droll and in life is also his writing partner. Alma puts up with Hitchcock’s obsessions with getting Psycho made, and his obsessions with the beautiful blonde leading ladies he has procured over the years as a filmmaker.

Anthony Hopkins is an interesting choice to play “Hitch”. It is easy for an actor to cross the line and make Hitchcock a cartoon; Hopkins captures the essence of Hitchcock’s public persona without going over the line into caricature. Hopkins navigates Hitchcock’s obsession such as his obsession with his blonde leading ladies, his almost paranoid suspicion about his wife Alma’s friendship with writer, Whitfield Cook, and the delusions he has of serial killer Ed Gein as he dreams day and night that Gein is controlling his every action. All his delusions come to a head when he is filming the famous shower scene with Janet Leigh. Hitch berates the stand-in for not stabbing Leigh in a realistic manner; her reactions are superficial not real. As the cameras are rolling, Hitch takes the knife and in a terrifying manner goes after Leigh. She is genuinely terrified as he goes at her with the knife. Hitch is having mental delusions about his wife cheating on him, his obsession with Vera Miles, and the dead bodies found in Ed Gein’s home before his arrest. When Hitch snaps out of it, he prints the take and everything is back to normal. Also quite amazing is a scene at the theater where Psycho premiers. Hitch is under enormous pressure for the film to be a success, he stands to lose everything. Hitch arranged with theater owners around the country not to let anyone in the theater after the movie starts and not to give away the ending. As the now famous eee,eee,eee, shower music is playing, Hitch is standing outside in the lobby conducting the screams he hears, like an orchestra conductor. Needless to say the movie was a huge success.

Helen Mirren plays Alma Reville, Hitch’s wife and writing partner. Alma both loves and reviles Hitch and his obsessions. She becomes close with the writer Whitfield Cook and agrees to help him write a screenplay based on a story he wrote. Hitch keeps ignoring Alma as she asks Hitch to read the story and make a movie out of it. As Alma and Whit get closer, Hitch obsesses with the notion that his wife has taken a lover, after all they sleep in separate beds, have a sexless marriage, and Alma to tune him out wears a mask over her eyes when she goes to bed. As time goes on Hitch becomes more paranoid about the relationship and eats and drinks obsessively. Mirron plays the part with patience, tolerance and understanding.

Scarlett Johansson takes on Janet Leigh. Although physically she is no Janet Leigh, Johansson captures Leigh in subtle ways, the way she walks, the way she speaks, her charm etc. Leigh and Vera Miles become friendly on the set, Miles warns Leigh about the falling out she had with Hitch. Alma is worried that Hitch will obsess about Leigh, Leigh proves her wrong and Alma appreciates Leigh’s professional behavior.

Danny Huston plays the writer Whitfield “Whit” Cook, he befriends Alma, and hopes she will help his career by having Hitch make a movie from a story he wrote. Hitch will have none of it, although Hitch at times tries to placate Alma. Whit in truth is a scoundrel and although he flirts with Alma, she manages to keep him at bay. Their friendship ends when she catches Whit, who is married, fooling around with a young lady when he was supposed to be working on the script. Alma would retreat into working with Whit as an escape from Hitch. Huston does a good job although he has little to do.

James D’Arcy brings Anthony Perkins to life with all his nuance and neurosis. Although the role is small D’Arcy’s Perkins is right on the money.

There are many homage’s to Hitch, such as the device of him narrating the story like he did on his television show, or at the end when he tells us he looking for his next film to direct, a big black crow, ala The Birds, lands on his shoulders. The film was well done with a great cast. Ivan (Animal House) Reitman produced, so you know there was a little tongue in cheek throughout.

The movie is available on Netflix, Amazon and Redbox

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Anna Karenina (Blu-ray) DVD

7 Apr

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Synopsis: Director Joe Wright and writer Tom Stoppard’s visually  stunning telling of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Featuring Keira Knightley as Anna and Jude Law as Karenin, the story speaks of love, infidelity and consequences in the Imperial age of Russia in the late 1900’s.

Cast

Keira Knightley …………………………………………Anna Karenina

 Jude Law………………………………………………………………Karenin

Aaron Taylor-Johnson…..…………………………………….Vronsky

Kelly Macdonald………….……………….…………………………..Dolly

 Matthew Macfadyen………………………………………………Oblonsky

Domhnall Gleeson………………………………..…………………….Levin

Ruth Wilson Princess Betsy…….……………..………………Tverskoy

Alicia Vikander………………………………..………………………….Kitty

 Olivia Williams……………………….…………………Countess Vronsky

 Emily Watson…………………………..…………………….Countess Lydia

Review: Directed by Joe Wright and written by Tom Stoppard, this version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is both lavish and well acted. Here within lies the conundrum, the film makers can’t seem to decide whether this is an experiment in cinema or an experiment in filmed theatrics.

The story unfolds inside a large theater that through a variety of both synchronized choreography and camera movement becomes Russia in the Imperial era of the mid 1900s.. For example the stage has lavish stage backdrops that depict various landscapes and cities, trains literally go in and out of the theater as it is transformed into a lavish looking train station, then like magic it transforms through rapid set changes into a seat of government or the home of Anna Karenina and her husband Karenin. It seems as each character appears and goes through a stage door some new set is waiting behind it. This experiment in cinema is very distracting when you are trying to understand who each new character is and how they are related to each other.

The time is 1874. Vibrant and beautiful, Anna Karenina has what any of her contemporaries would aspire to; she is the wife of Karenin a high-ranking government official to whom she has borne a son, and her social standing in St. Petersburg could scarcely be higher. She journeys to Moscow after a letter from her philandering brother Oblonsky arrives, asking for Anna to come and help save his marriage to Dolly (Kelly Macdonald). En route, Anna makes the acquaintance of Countess Vronsky, who is then met at the train station by her son, the dashing cavalry officer Vronsky. When Anna is introduced to Vronsky, there is a mutual spark of instant attraction that cannot – and will not – be ignored.

The Moscow household is also visited by Oblonsky’s best friend Levin, an overly sensitive and compassionate landowner. Levin is in love with Dolly’s younger sister Kitty. Inopportunely, he proposes to Kitty but she is infatuated with Vronsky. Devastated, Levin returns to his Pokrovskoe estate and throws himself into farm work. Kitty herself is heartbroken when, at a grand ball, Vronsky only has eyes for Anna and the married woman reciprocates the younger man’s interest.

Anna struggles to regain her equilibrium by rushing home to St. Petersburg, where Vronsky follows her. She attempts to resume her familial routine, but is consumed by thoughts of Vronsky. A passionate affair ensues, which scandalizes St. Petersburg society. Karenin is placed in an untenable position and is forced to give his wife an ultimatum. In attempting to attain happiness, the decisions Anna makes pierce the veneer of an image-obsessed society, reverberating with romantic and tragic consequences that dramatically change her and the lives of all around her.

Tolstoy wrote about Russian society, I think most people want Gone with the Wind romance. But why this was so deeply clever was that it cut to the real story which is NOT about a fallen woman, or love. It’s about how lust almost incidentally is the backdrop for the question between whether what is right is good, and in those days that meant religion and society. Keira being so exquisitely beautiful, all the more perfect for the imperfect eye teeth, brought a brittle doll like quality which, just like the sparten but beautiful set, underscored that this is NOT a story about a deep love and sensuality. It’s a story about right and wrong, spirituality, the soul and the meaning of life! Anna feels that lust is the answer to an existentially empty life, but she needs the theatre of society. The battle for her is the social v. lust. We can’t help but understand her plight. Brittle Keira makes the social dominate at the beginning and shatter like a china doll.

It is the acting that in fact redeems this movie. Jude law is steadfast as he battles with God’s law and the laws that society demand of him. He is never angry but never at real peace. There are a few familiar faces in the cast such as Emily Watson of Downton Abbey who plays Countess Lydia, and Domhnall Gleeson as Levin, who you may remember as Bill Weasley in the Potter movies.

Stoppard’s screenplay covers all the bases of Tolstoy’s vision of love, hate, sacrifice and remorse. What was missing for me in all the eye candy, was a real depth of emotion. Was this a masterpiece of cinema risk taking leaving behind the language of cinema story telling or was this a filmed theatrical with over the top melodrama? Don’t get me wrong there are genuine moments of brilliant acting and emotion, the problem is that the design and grandeur of the sets soon become a distraction.

The Blu-ray format enhances a textural movie such as this, the lush seems more luxurious, the colors are so vivid you feel you there watching the story unfold before your eyes.  Available on Netflix, Amazon and at the Red Box.

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The Intouchables (Gamount) (DVD)

3 Apr

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“Every so often a film is written that pulls at your heartstrings and brings both a smile and tears to your eyes as we watch the human condition unfold.”

Synopsis:  The Intouchables’ tells the true story of a wealthy, physically disabled risk taker, Phillipe, the picture of established French nobility, who lost his wife in an accident and whose world is turned upside down when he hires a young, good-humored, black Muslim ex-con, Driss as his caretaker. Their bond proves the power and omniscience that love and friendship can hold over all social and economic differences. The Intouchables depicts an unlikely camaraderie rooted in honesty and humor between two individuals who, on the surface, would seem to have nothing in common.

CAST

Francois Cluzet………………………………………Phillipe

Omar Sy……………………………………………………Driss

Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi…………………………..Elisa

Audrey Fleurot……………………………………..Magalie

Clotilde Mollet……………………………………….Marcelle

Cyril Mendy…………………………………………….Adama

Anna Le Ny……………………………………………..Yvonne

Alba Gaïa Kraghede Bellugi……………………………..Elisa

Christian Ameri………………………………………… Albert

Grégoire Oestermann…………………………………Antoine

Marie-Laure Descoureaux……………………………Chantal

Absa Dialou Toure……………………………………….. Mina

Salimata Kamate………………………………………….Fatou

Review: Released in the U.K. as Untouchable, the film since its’ initial release has become one of the highest grossing films ever in France. Written and directed by, Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano the film tells the true story of  two people whose lives intertwine in an unlikely way.

The story  told entirely in flashback, starts At night in Paris, Driss is driving Philippe’s Maserati Quattroporte at high speed. They are soon chased by the police: when they are caught, Driss, unfazed, doubles his bet with Philippe, convinced they can get an escort. In order to get away with his speeding, Driss claims the quadriplegic Philippe must be urgently driven to the emergency room; Philippe pretends to have a stroke and the fooled police officers eventually escort them to the hospital. As the police leave them at the hospital, Philippe asks what will they do now, to which Driss answers: “Now let me take care of it.” as they drive off.

Through friendship, humor and respect the two, Phillipe a French millionaire, quadriplegic, who through tragic circumstances loses his wife. and Driss, black, Muslim,  ex-con, form a life-long bond. Phillipe, with the help of his assistant Magalie, looking for a  live-in caretaker, meets Driss, a candidate, has no ambitions to get hired. He is just there to get a signature showing he was interviewed and rejected in order to continue to receive his welfare benefits. He is extremely casual and shamelessly flirts with Magalie. He is told to come back the next morning to get his signed letter. Driss goes back to the tiny flat that he shares with his extended family in a bleak Parisian suburb. His aunt, exasperated from not hearing from him for six months, orders him to leave the flat. when Driss comes back to the next day Phillipe for his paper, he finds he has been hired on a trial basis.

He learns the extent of Philippe’s disability and then accompanies Philippe in every moment of his life, discovering with astonishment a completely different lifestyle. A friend of Philippe’s reveals Driss’s criminal record which includes six months in jail for robbery. Philippe states he does not care about Driss’s past because he is the only one that does not treat him with pity or compassion, but as an equal. He says he will not fire him as long as he does his current job properly.

Over time, Driss and Philippe become closer. Driss dutifully takes care of his boss, who frequently suffers from phantom pain. Philippe discloses to Driss that he became disabled following a paragliding accident and that his wife died without bearing children. Gradually, Philippe is led by Driss to put some order in his private life, including being more strict with his adopted daughter Elisa, who behaves like a spoiled child with the staff. Driss discovers art, opera, and even takes up painting. For Philippe’s birthday, a private concert of classical music is performed in his living room. At first very reluctant, Driss is led by Philippe to listen more carefully to the music and opens up to Philippe’s music. Driss then plays the music he likes to Philippe (Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind & Fire), which opens up everybody in the room to dance.

Driss discovers that Philippe has a purely letter writting relationship with a woman called Eléonore, who lives in Dunkirk. Driss encourages him to meet her but Philippe fears her reaction when she discovers his disability. Driss eventually convinces Philippe to talk to Eléonore on the phone. Philippe agrees with Driss to send a photo of him in a wheelchair to her, but he hesitates and asks his aide, Yvonne, to send a picture of him as he was before his accident. A date between Eléonore and Philippe is agreed. At the last minute Philippe is too scared to meet Eléonore and leaves with Yvonne before Eléonore arrives. Philippe then calls Driss and invites him to travel with him in his private jet for a paragliding weekend. Philippe gives Driss an envelope containing 11,000 euros, the amount he was able to get for Driss’s painting, which he sold to one of his friends by saying it was from an up-and-coming artist.

Adama, Driss’s younger cousin, who is in trouble with a gang, takes refuge in Philippe’s mansion. Driss opens up to Philippe about his family and his past in Senegal, where his then-childless aunt and uncle adopted him from his real parents, and brought him back to France. His adoptive parents later began having children of their own, his uncle died and his aunt bore still more children. Philippe recognizes Driss’s need to be supportive to his family and releases him from his job, suggesting he “may not want to push a wheelchair all his life”.

Driss returns to his suburbs, joining his friends, and manages to help his younger cousin. Due to his new professional experience, he lands a job in a transport company. In the meantime Philippe has hired caregivers to replace Driss, but he isn’t happy with any of them. His morale is very low and he stops taking care of himself. Yvonne becomes worried and contacts Driss, who arrives and decides to drive Philippe in the Maserati, which brings the story back to the first scene of the film, the police chase. After they have eluded the police, Driss takes Philippe straight to the seaside. Upon shaving and dressing elegantly, Philippe and Driss arrive at a Cabourg, restaurant with a great ocean view. Driss suddenly leaves the table and says good luck to Philippe for his lunch date. Philippe does not understand, but a few seconds later, Eléonore arrives. Emotionally touched, Philippe looks through the window and sees Driss outside, smiling at him. Driss bids Philippe farewell and walks away.

Every so often a film is written that pulls at your heartstrings and brings both a smile and tears to your eyes as we watch the human condition unfold. This is such a film. The performances by Francois Cluzet and Omar Sy register in their faces the love and respect they have for each other. Cluzet can only emote through his face due to his character’s condition, for any actor this is difficult enough, Cluzet is brilliant. Omar Sy gives us a sense of humanity through his humor and light touch, you become drawn to these two likeable characters and get taken along for the ride.

There are some who feel that there is in fact an American Buddy Movie formula going on here, I didn’t feel that as the film progressed. Some have compared the racial differences to Driving Miss Daisy , I find in both cases this is not the case. You can become too critical at times and not just enjoy the story which is based on real events. The film is uplifting and soars with human connection.  The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2012.

The film is available on DVD, at Netflix, Amazon and Red-Box.

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Life of PI (Blu-ray) 3D in Theaters

31 Mar

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Synopsis: Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, Ang Lee directs a magical adventure story centering on Pi Patel, the precocious son of a zoo keeper. Dwellers in Pondicherry, India, the family decides to move to Canada, hitching a ride on a huge freighter. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift in the Pacific Ocean on a 26-foot lifeboat with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan and a 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, all fighting for survival.

CAST:

Suraj Sharma……………………………………….Pi Patel

Irrfan Kahn………………………………..Adult Pi-Patel

Adil Hussein………………………………..Santosh Patel

Tabu……………………………………………….Gita Patel

Rafe Spall……………………………………………..Writer

Gerard Depardieu………………………………………Cook

Review: Ang Lee brings us a spiritual journey that is breathtaking in its’ imagery.  The use of 3D enhances the time, place and literally brings you along into Pi’s journey, the same way Avatar’s use of visuals brought you into it’s world.

The spiritual adventure centers around the then teenage boy Pi Patel, who is on board an ocean liner with his family. They are on their way from India to Canada, with them is the animals from their Zoo, which they are selling to to a Zoo keeper in Canada.

After an altercation with a bigoted cook on the ship who refuses to cook for “Curry Eaters”, the boat sinks in a storm and only Pi, a tiger named Richard Parker, Orange the Orangutang and a Hyena survive. They are all crowded into a life boat. The journey begins here as the Hyena first kills Orange, then the Tiger Kills the Hyena. This leaves Pi alone on the boat with a hungry tiger. They will be adrift for 227 days and the two must learn to co-exist with each other. Pi has visions of the lord watching over him and protecting him. Pi’s determined fight for survival and to tame the beast is the magic behind the mystical connection they have.

The story is told in flash back by the adult Pi Patel to a Canadian writer who had heard Pi had a great story to tell. Indeed he had and the animals are actually metaphors that replaced the actual people in Pi’s head as he fights to survive being adrift.

The amazing images include an aerial shot of a whale under Pi’s boat, the water is transparent as the whale hovers underneath. At night the water becomes translucent and blue, jelly fish turn on their nocturnal lights and surround the boat like angels. The whale then breeches in front of the boat leaving Pi in awe of it’s majesty. The movie is loaded with moments like this.

There is an amazing sequence of flying fish that fly over and onto the boat. Pi must keep the Tiger at bay to be able to catch the fish for both of them to eat. It is a constant struggle for food and water. There are many amazing adventures that follow showing how Pi tames the beast and survives. His inner struggle with God and spirituality vs his reality is palpable and thought provoking.

The movie has two endings, one is Pi’s fantastic story of animals and survival, the other of people the animal’s represent, it is up to you to decide which tale rings true.

The Blu-Ray disc has lot’s of interesting extras including interviews with Ang Lee, a making of documentary and a documentary explaining all the CGI Imagery.  This is a masterful film and a story well told.

Recommended: camera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-iconcamera-film-icon

Desert Sand PT 2: The Ten Commandments (1956) (Blu-Ray DVD)

30 Mar

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Synopsis: Cecil B. Demille’ epic remake of the film The Ten Commandments. Charlton Heston plays Moses in this sweeping telling of the freeing of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt from the Pharaoh Ramses. This lavish production was Demille’s last and has become a classic. The all-star cast includes Edward G. Robinson, Yul Brenner, Charlton Heston, Vincent Price, John Carridine, Anne Baxter and Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Yvonne De Carlo.

Cast

Charlton Heston……..Moses/Voice of the God of Abraham

Yul Brenner…………………………………Pharaoh Rameses II

Sir Cedric Hardwicke…………………………….Pharaoh Seti I

Nina Foch……………………………………Bithiah, Seti’s Sister

Anne Baxter……………………………………………….Nefretiri

Edward G. Robinson……………………………………….Dathan

Yvonne De Carlo………………………………………….Sephora

Debra Paget………………………………………………………Lilia

John Derek……………………………………………………Joshua

Martha Scott……………………………………………….Yoshabel

Judith Anderson…………………………………………..Memnet

Vincent Price……………………………………………………Baka

John Carradine…………………………………………………Aaron

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Review: The Egyptian Pharaoh fearing one day the Hebrew slaves may rise against him orders the death of all firstborn Hebrew males. Yoshebel, a Hebrew Woman, sets her infant son adrift on the Nile in order to save him. The infant is rescued from the Nile by an Egyptian princess Bithiah, (Nina Foch), who decides to adopt the boy even though her servant Memnet, (Judith Anderson), recognizes that the child is Hebrew and protests.

As a young man, Moses becomes a successful general, claiming victory in a war with the Nubians of Ethiopia and then entering Egypt into an alliance with them. Moses loves Nefretiri,(Anne Baxter) who is the “throne princess” and must marry the next Pharaoh. An incident occurs when an elderly woman, who is greasing the ground for the pillar of stone to move easier, is almost crushed to death when her scarf gets caught under the slab of stone, prompting Moses to scold overseer Baka, (Vincent Price). Moses frees the elderly woman from her dangerous chore, not realizing that the elderly woman was his natural mother Yoshebel. While working on the building of a treasure city for Seti’s, (Sir Cedric Hardwicke) Jubilee, Moses meets the stone-cutter Joshua, who tells him of the Hebrew God.

Moses institutes numerous reforms concerning the treatment of the slaves on the project, and eventually Rameses, (Yule Brenner) charges Moses with planning an insurrection, pointing out that the slaves are calling Moses the “Deliverer” of prophecy. Moses defends himself against the charges, arguing that he is simply making his workers more productive by making them stronger and happier and proves his point with the impressive progress he is making. During this time, Rameses has been charged by his father with finding out whether there really is a Hebrew fitting the description of the Deliverer.

Nefretiri learns from the servant Memnet that Moses is the son of Hebrew slaves. Nefretiri kills Memnet and reveals the story to Moses, who goes to Bithiah to learn the truth. Bithiah evades his questions, but Moses follows her to the home of Yoshebel and thus learns the truth.

Moses spends time working amongst the slaves to learn more of their lives. During this time the master builder Baka steals Liliah, who is engaged to the stone-cutter Joshua. Joshua rescues Liliah but is captured himself; Moses frees Joshua but strangles Baka. Moses confesses to Joshua that he too is Hebrew; the confession is witnessed by the ambitious Hebrew overseer Dathan, (Edward G. Robinson). Dathan uses the information to bargain with Rameses for Baka’s house, a post as Governor of Goshen, and the ownership of the slave Liliah, (Debra Paget).

Based on Dathan’s information, Moses is arrested and brought before Seti. Moses tells Seti that he is not the Deliverer, but would free the slaves if he could. Bithiah tells her brother Seti the truth about Moses, and Seti orders his name stricken from all records and monuments. Moses is banished to the desert, but not before, he receives the word that Yoshebel had died before she delivered the piece of a Levite cloth, and Rameses is declared the next Pharaoh.

Moses makes his way across the desert, nearly dying of hunger and thirst before he comes to a well in the land of Midian. At the well, he defends seven sisters from Amalekites who try to push them away from the water. Moses finds a home in Midian with the girls’ father Jethro, a Bedouin sheik, who reveals that he is a follower of “He who has no name,” whom Moses recognizes as the God of Abraham. Moses impresses Jethro and the other sheiks with his wise and just trading, and marries Jethro’s eldest daughter (“Sephora”, the Greek form of her name used in the film).

While herding sheep in the desert Moses finds Joshua, who has escaped from the copper mines that he was sent to after the death of Baka. Moses sees the Burning Bush on the summit of Mount Sinai and hears the voice of God (Heston, who was not credited for this secondary role). God charges Moses to return to Egypt and free His chosen people. In Egypt, Seti dies and Rameses succeeds him as Pharaoh.

At Pharaoh’s court, Moses comes before Rameses to win the slaves’ freedom, turning his staff into a snake to show Rameses the power of God. Rameses decrees that the Hebrews be given no straw to make their bricks, but to make the same tally as before on pain of death. As the Hebrews prepare to stone Moses in anger, Nefretiri’s retinue rescues him; however when she attempts to resume their relationship he spurns her, reminding her that not only is he on a mission he is also married.

As Moses continues to challenge Pharaoh’s hold over his people, Egypt is beset by divine plagues. Moses warns him that the next plague to fall upon Egypt will be summoned by Pharaoh himself. Enraged at the plagues and Moses’ continuous demands, as well as his generals and advisers telling him to give in, Rameses orders all first-born Hebrews to die. Nefretiri warns Sephora to escape with her son Gershom on a passing caravan to Midian, and Moses tells the Queen that it is her own son who will die. In an eerily quiet scene, the Angel of Death creeps into Egyptian streets in a glowing green cloud, killing all the firstborn of Egypt, including the adult son of Pharaoh’s top general, and Pharaoh’s own child. The Hebrews who have marked their doorposts and lintels with lamb’s blood are eating a hasty meal and preparing to depart. Broken and despondent, Pharaoh orders Moses to take his people, and cattle, and go. The Hebrews begin their exodus from Egypt.

Nefretiri goads Pharaoh into a rage so that he arms himself and pursues the former slaves to the shore of the Red Sea. Held back by a pillar of fire, the Egyptian forces watch as Moses parts the waters. As the Hebrews race over the seabed, the pillar of fire dies down and the army rides in hot pursuit. The Hebrews make it to the far shore as the waters close on the Egyptian army, drowning every man and horse. Rameses looks on in despair. All he can do is return to Nefretiri, confessing to her, “His god is God.”

The former slaves camp at the foot of Sinai and wait as Moses again ascends the mountain. During his absence, the Hebrews lose faith and, urged on by the evil Dathan, build a golden calf as an idol to bear before them back to Egypt, hoping to win Rameses’ forgiveness. They force Aaron to help fashion the gold plating. The people indulge their most wanton desires in an orgy of sinfulness.

High atop the mountain, Moses witnesses God’s creation of the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments. When he finally climbs down, Moses beholds his people’s iniquity and hurls the tablets at the idol in a rage. The idol explodes, and Dathan and his followers are killed. After God forces them to endure forty years’ exile in the desert wandering lost, to kill off the rebellious generation, the Hebrews are about to arrive in the land of Canaan. An elderly Moses, who, however, is not allowed to enter the promised land, because he disobeyed the lord at the waters of strife, not shown in the film, then appoints Joshua to succeed him as leader, says a final good bye to Sephora, and goes forth to his destiny.

The performances are solid, Demille’s imagery is grandiose and the film is a classic becoming the 8th highest grossing film in cinema history.  The Blu-Ray restoration is brilliant and you can see the grandeur in every frame. Demille understood the importance of the work and instilled this in every actor and all the crew that worked on the film. the film literally had thousands of extras. The Blu-Ray disc bonus features include rare interviews with cast members, reminiscing from Demille’s granddaughter who was on the set and a making of documentary.

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Desert Sand Pt 1: Lawrence of Arabia (Blu-ray)

30 Mar

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Synopsis: Directed by David Lean, the film takes on an epic journey by telling us the story of complex man, Thomas Edward Lawrence. Lawrence has been labeled everything from hero, to charlatan, to sadist,  blazed his way to glory in the Arabian desert, then sought anonymity as a common soldier under an assumed name. The story opens with the death of Lawrence in a motorcycle accident at the age of 46, then flashbacks to recount his adventures.  As a young intelligence officer in Cairo in 1916, he is given leave to investigate the progress of the Arab revolt against the Turks in World War I. In the desert, he organizes a guerrilla army and–for two years–leads the Arabs in harassing the Turks with desert raids, train-wrecking and camel attacks. Eventually, he leads his army northward and helps a British General destroy the power of the Ottoman Empire.

Cast:

Peter O’Toole………………………………………….Major T.E. Lawrence

Alec Guinness……………………………………………………Prince Faisal

Claude Raines……………………………Arab Bureau Chief-Mr. Dryden

Donald Wolfit………………………………………………..General Murray

Omar Sherif…………………………………………………………..Sherif Ali

Anthony Quayle…………………………………………..Colonel Brighton

Anthony Quinn……………………………………………….Auda abu Tayi

Jack Hawkins………………………………………………..General Allenby

Arthur Kennedy…………..US war Correspondent – Jackson Bentley

Jose Ferrer…………………………………………………………Turkish Bey

 

Review: Originally filmed in Super Panavision  70, the film was meant to be seen in a theater. Thanks to blue-ray, you can now appreciate every sweeping image in detail, beautifully restored to its’ original splendor. For starters the filmed garnered 7 Academy Awards in 1962, including best picture and is considered one of the most influential films of all time.

Peter O’Toole coming from the British Shakespearean stage, makes his film debut as T.E. Lawrence a misfit British Army lieutenant, who is assigned by Mr. Dryden (Claude Raines) of the Arab Bureau, during World War I, to asses the prospects of Arab Prince Faisal’s revolt against the Turks. Although Lawrence’s commanding  General Murray (Wolfit) objects Lawrence is sent straight away.

It is important to note that Lean’s use of sweeping desert imagery, makes the landscape a major player in the film. The desert becomes a supporting character as the very nature nature of the heat and sand brings out the survival instincts of every major character, strengthens their belief in God and even kills the unsuspecting.

Lawrence wins the trust of Faisal and his band of warriors as they win battle after battle against the Turks. he becomes a legend among the people who refer to him as L…Awrence. As a symbol of the trust, Sherif Ali (Omar Sharif) gives Lawrence the white robes of a prophet and a gold handled dagger. When he puts them on, he walks around a sand dune and looks at his shadow as he realizes the role he must play. In essence as he studies his reflection in the dagger, he feels he is pure and must lead the people for he is been chosen by God to do so.  A similar image is used later in the film as Lawrence bloodied and no longer pure looks at his reflection in disgust. It is a brilliant device that immediately let’s us understand who Lawrence really is. The dagger reflection was purely O’Toole, improvising at Lean’s direction when he was asked, “What would a young man do first with his new found leadership and dressed in the prophet robes?”  O’Toole first looked at his shadow in the desert sand then took out the dagger and looked at himself in it. Lean’s only comment to O’Toole was “Good Boy” and used the dagger again as described above.

Anthony Quinn as Adu abu Tayi, finds Lawrence admiring himself and through Lawrence s audacity gets in Tayi’s good graces. Sherif Ali and Tayi distrust each other but through Lawrence’s logic and intelligence convinces them to join forces in the battle against the Turks.

As things progress US war Correspondent, Jackson Bentley arrives on the scene and interviews Prince Faisal to get an idea where to find Lawrence. He follows Lawrence on his campaigns and makes Lawrence a living legend in the media.

It isn’t until Lawrence is brought to The Turkish Bey played by Jose Ferrer, that he understands his own humanity and mortality. Ferrer manhandles Lawrence, strips him,prods him and pokes him, obviously the Turkish Bey would sexually abuse Lawrence if he could. Lawrence strikes Ferrer and is flogged and thrown into the streets for this. Lawrence is humiliated and feels defeated.

Eventually Lawrence completes his mission for the British Army and is sent home as Major Lawrence. The film is a powerhouse of imagery and complex characterizations all navigated by brilliant actors at the peak of their craft. This film has become a modern classic and well worth your time. Running time is 216 minutes. The original restoration of the film was spearheaded by Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.

Extras on the Blu-Ray include an interview with Peter O’ Toole who reminisces about the amazing adventure the film was and the role he played in it. His anecdotes are thoughtful and humorous. There is also an interview with Steven Spielberg, and a multi-part making of documentary.

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