Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Young and Innocent / The Girl Was Young (Movie Review)

Nine year before he directed the previously reviewed "Notorious", Alfred Hitchcock made a film in 1937 titled, Young and Innocent!

Title

You may have noticed I have titled this review "Young and Innocent / The Girl Was Young". This is because both are names for this same movie. Technically this started out as a British film titled Young and Innocent. However, when it came over to America, it was named The Girl Was Young. Why it was changed I'm not sure, but it is a nice piece of trivia. Of course, if you are looking to purchase a copy of this movie, I would search for Young and Innocent.


Plot

Basically, a woman is murdered by her jealous husband and one of the woman's boy friends, one Robert Tisdall, is framed for the crime. Determined to prove his innocence, Robert Tisdall (played here by Derrick De Marney) escapes police custody only to find himself with the Chief Constable's daughter.

My Review

I must say, this isn't one of Hitchcock's best films. It is a nice film and has some funny spots to it, but it isn't as great as say North by Northwest or other films Hitchcock would make later on. However, it does have some good spots to it.

It does host a nice romance between Erica Burgoyne (played by Nova Pilbeam) and Robert Tisdall (Derrick De Marney). Maybe its just me, but I'm not drawn into this couple as much as say Notorious. Perhaps its the fact that the characters are not as defined as the other films and therefore less concrete. I'm not sure. It could be the fact we don't see as many twists in the plot of this movie as we usually see in Hitchcock films.

I'm not sure. It just feels...I don't know...off to be a Hitchcock film. As a Hitchcock film, its really unremarkable. If it wasn't for the director, my expectations would not be so high. As a regular film, it's pretty good. There are a couple of funny lines which keeps the movie interesting. The cast is good. Admittedly, I have to say this has to be most of the actors biggest roles, which is a pity because Derrick De Marney is really quite charming. No Cary Grant, but charming nevertheless.

Even though the plot is unremarkable, I must admit we do get to see some Hitchcockian camera angles in this film which act as highlights in this film. There is a wonderful scene where the whole camera focus is one man's eyes. This adds drama to the scene and makes it enjoyable.

Conclusion
While not in the best Hitchcock film, Young and Innocent does show where he began. It is a playful romance with some nice scenes with this fugitive from justice. If you want to see every Alfred Hitchcock movie, then you should see this one. If you don't, I will say this a nice film some people could enjoy.

Quote
“Ha Ha! So I have won you over!"
--Derrick De Marney (as Robert Tisdall / Beachcroft Manningtree in Alfred Hitchcock’s Young and Innocent aka Girl Was Young 1937 General Film Distributors Ltd.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Novel Review)


 To start off the New Year’s book reviews, I thought I would give a review of a very amusing book. Written by Douglas Adams, this 1979 novel is called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!


Plot
What is this story about? When I told someone about having read this first book in the so called “Hitchhiker’s Trilogy”, I explained I couldn’t really tell what it was about exactly, which is why it took me a little bit to write this review. Basically, it is an EXTREMELY peculiar tale about Arthur Dent (a human from the newly destroyed Earth), Ford Prefect (an alien who had been stuck on Earth for 15 years), Zaphod Beeblebrox (the President of the Universe), Trillian (another human) and Marvin (a depressed robot). It contains the meaning of life and bad poetry.

Writing Style
Douglas Adams has a zany writing style unlike anything I have ever read and most likely I will ever read. Its meaning and message leave me with questions and honestly I don’t know if I really want the answers. In reading this, I did realize that it is not necessarily the answer you get that is important, but the questions you ask. Are you asking the right questions? Douglas Adams explores the unknown by presenting us with one of the strangest stories ever told and that is why his writing could be considered a classic. It is an easy read (it actually took less than a day to read), so it is a piece of cake to read; whether you completely understand it is another story…

The Meaning of Life, Universe and Everything!
I really don’t want to spoil anything (though anything I say won’t prepare you for Douglas’ language and universe…even though I watched the movie I did not expect the whacky story which appeared here). The meaning of life is a big subject when talking about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Most people would say the answer is, “42!” because that answer (provided in this book) is now part of pop culture. However, that is not necessarily the meaning of life. In fact (spoiler???) it is not even the question. Douglas not only boggles the mind with two headed, three armed politicians, but he questions humanity’s purpose as a whole. Are we just some science experiment to discover to the ultimate truth? Or is there something more? Douglas provides, but it leaves more questions than answers (in fact there are two questions and one answer…)

Conclusion
I really don’t know what to say about this book. This is a wonderful read and I recommend it. Even if you have watched the movie or see one of the many other adaptations, you can not match Douglas Adams. I am really interested and when I finish the book I am reading now (stay tuned on that btw), I will try to tackle the sequels, because this is just a pure fun novel. I don’t usually laugh out loud when reading a book, but this is a definitely one I can laugh with its strange characters and plot. Check it out!

Quote/Picture of Author
 "DON'T PANIC,"
--The Cover of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (which appeared in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams 1979)

Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (Movie Review)


 For the first movie review of the year, I thought I would go with a movie by one of my favorite directors. Alfred Hitchcock was a cinematic genius and an auteur. He was born in 1899 and directed over (according to one source) 66 movies, made 2 TV shows, and appeared several books. The first Hitchcock movie I will review here (the first of many I’m sure!) is the 1946 movie starring Cary Grant, Ingred Bergman, and Claud Rains titled Notorious!



Plot
Cary Grant’s character in this movie is a CIA agent by the name of T.R. Devlin. To quote Hitchcock from a radio interview on this movie, 
“his [Devlin’s] job is to get the girl in bed with the other man.” 
Essentially, the girl (aka Alicia Huberman played by Ingred Bergman) is supposed to sleep with Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains). Of course, Devlin and Alica actually love each other. So as Hitchock commented, “It’s an ironic thing, really.”

Cast
Cary Grant was in a total of four Hitchcock movies in his carrier (most famous of which is “North by Northwest”). I have actually talked about Grant before for his role in Arsenic and Old Lace. Devlin is very different from Mortimer Brewster in that Devlin is very serious. He does not show any emotion through his body. It is his actions which really shows how he feels about Alicia which really counts. Those Casablanca fans might recognize Ingred Bergman as the same actress who played llsa Lund. In contrast to Grant’s role, Bergman’s role as Alica Huberman shows her emotions through his words. Her lines are the most moving through the whole movie. Claude Rains is perhaps best known as the loony Invisible man and Senator Joseph Harrison Paine from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Interestingly, Claude Rains was also part of the cast of Casablanca. His role is very entertaining and I sort of feel sorry for him in the end (no spoilers…).

MacGuffin
You can’t talk about an Alfred Hitchcock Film without mentioning the MacGuffin of the film. What is a MacGuffin you ask? Well, lets quote the master himself on the subject,
“It might be a Scottish name, taken from a story about two men in a train. One man says "What's that package up there in the baggage rack?", and the other answers "Oh, that's a McGuffin". The first one asks "What's a McGuffin?". "Well", the other man says, "It's an apparatus for trapping lions in the Scottish Highlands". The first man says "But there are no lions in the Scottish Highlands", and the other one answers "Well, then that's no McGuffin!". So you see, a McGuffin is nothing at all.”
In other words, a MacGuffin is a "a plot element that catches the viewers' attention or drives the plot of a work of fiction" (to quote Wikipedia). This movies McGuffin (or MacGuffin…the spelling doesn’t matter) is uranium. Hitchcock’s timing could not be greater as a Atom Bomb had just been on Japan and of course uranium is a key element in the making of an Atom bomb—something the Nazis in real life would be interested in.

Cinematic Notes
Hitchcock is famous for his cinematic genius. At the very beginning of this film when Alica has a hangover, the camera twists and turns not unlike the human eye (thus giving you the impression of being in her shoes). Hitchcock also used a hanging camera (which he also used on Psycho) to give wonderful shots which you couldn’t get normally. There are so many wonderful cinematic notes when talking about Hitchcock I really just advice you to watch one and you can figure it out.

Conclusion
This is a wonderful movie. It cost 2 million to make but it collected over 8 million in profits, so I would say this is a successful movie. It is a wonderful love story if you are interested in that and is most definitely a classic. Check it out if you like Hitchcock!

Quote/Trailer
 
“There's nothing like a love song to give you a good laugh,”
--Ingrid Bergman (as Alicia Huberman in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious 1946 RKO Radio Pictures)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Reviewing the year's Reviews 2011

I thought as we are now in 2012 I would look back at the reviews!

Movies
I think my favorite movie I have reviewed for this blog is Finding Forrester for is message (and actor), followed by Arsenic and Old Lace, then Abbot & Costello, Patriot Games and then Seventh Seal.


Musicals
I think my favorite has to be a tie between How to succeed in business without really trying, Catch Me if you can, and Addams Family. Spider-Man comes in second place.

Novels
I think my favorite book I have reviewed for this blog would have to be Catch Me if You can. Followed by: Casino Royale, Patriot Games, King Solomon's Mines and then finally Cannery Row, though the order of the books is really hard...

Other Posts
Well, that's it! Done with 2011 reviews! check in soon for the first 2012 review! I hope to bring some interesting classics to the blog and ones which SHOULD have been classics...Here to the future! "Here's looking at ya'!"

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Finding Forrester (Movie Review)

This is the season to be with family and what better activity can you do than watch movies? Among the movies I watched with my family for the first time, I have decided to talk about on involving growing up and (my favorite) writing. This 2000 film stars the great Sean Connery and is called Finding Forrester! 


The Story
Basically, Jamal Wallace (played by Rob Brown) is an African American 16 year old who loves to write, but is growing up a basketball-oriented Harlem neighborhood. His life is changed when he is dared to break into a spooky apartment rumored to contain a murderer and he meets William Forrester (played by Sean Connery).

Name THAT Genre!
This is a really heart warming story. My cousins described this movie as a serious film, which is partly true. I would say it is a “Coming of Age” story mixed with a drama. Even having watched the film, I am not sure exactly what genre it is, but whatever it is was good.

Sir Sean Connery
I’ve said before that I love Sir Sean Connery (did you know he was a knight?). With his Scottish accent and quick wit, who would not love this great actor? This movie finds him playing a reclusive writer who wrote one novel and then was so disgusted with the literary critic world that didn’t write again. This role is just pure fun. In this movie, we got to see Connery as a more intellectual figure than the man of action we usually see from his previous roles. This movie also makes him a teacher, which would carry on into his next role as Alan Quatermain in “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”. There are just some amusing scenes in this movie, such as one with Sean Connery calmly riding a bicycle with cheerful music in the back ground. It just made me laugh. This movie also has him using modern words. For example, it has Sir Sean Connery saying, “You’re the man, dog!” If that does not sell you on this movie, I don’t know what will.

Other Notable Cast Members
There are several enjoyable people on the cast who make this movie really great. Rob Brown, who played Jamal Wallace, was good. He had a nice sense of humor and portrayed his character with lots of spirit. If you are an X-men or True Blood fan, you might recognize Jamal’s love interest because she (Claire Spence) is played by Anna Paquin, who played the X-men character Rogue and True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse.

The Movie’s Message
This movie has a wonderful message of hope. As I write this review, there is less than two hours before New Years, when the year will change from 2011 to 2012. This is the time of looking to the future and hoping for the best. This movie takes the hopes of one young man and shows what he can accomplish if he learns to be exuberant. If we were watching “Dead Poet’s Society”, then I would say that Jamal needs to "carpe diem" (or seize the day) and with them help of William Forrester, he does seize the day. As a writer and a person who does not know what the future holds I love the message of this movie.

Conclusion
This is a wonderful movie. It has a nice message and a great cast. I especially liked the Sherlock Holmes and Edgar Allen Poe references. I felt proud to know the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle they were referring to even before Jamal named him as young Stanford. I realize such things don’t mean much to some people, but it is cool to me. Any way, it’s a good movie and you should watch it. Well, that’s that. The last review of 2011. Boy, its been a swell year. Here’s to 2011 and the year we have yet to meet. I hope the Ponsonby Britt Report incites you to read or watch things you have never seen or heard of and I hope it also incites me to grow as a person and for me to watch some of the classics of literature and cinematography. Again, “Here’s looking at ya!”

Trailer/Quote

“The key to writing is to write not to think!”
--Sean Connery (as William Forrester in Finding Forrester 2000 ___)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Patriot Games (Movie Review)


 When a book is adapted into a movie, the adaption can go different ways. On one hand, adaptations can be loose (take for instance the newest Sherlock Holmes film series. It has similar characters, but there are several differences). On the other hand, adaptations can exactly the same. Two examples I can think of are Dan Brown’s book the Da Vinci Code and Stephen King’s short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Most people hope the movie is exactly the same as the book, so they can enjoy the thrills and chills by revisiting their favorite piece of literature. Yesterday, I watched an adaption of a book I had reviewed previously on this blog by Tom Clancy. The movie title, just like the book title, is Patriot Games!
 

The Story
When I reviewed the book I wrote a summary and I think I’ll quote it now as it still remains the same in the movie:
Patriot Games was a thriller about a former marine turned history teacher who has worked the CIA unofficially a few times. On a trip to London, he stops an attack upon the Prince of Wales and his wife by Irish terrorists. When he finally recovers from his injuries from his heroics, he believes this is the end of the excitement, but it is only the beginning.

Harrison Ford
There are a few major names in action movies, but few in my opinion come close to the talent of the great Harrison Ford. Perhaps best known for his role as Indiana Jones in all but the newest film (which is not as good in my opinion), Mr. Ford has this air of confidence which he seems to bring to the roles I have seen him in. I was delighted when I heard Harrison Ford played Jack Ryan (the main character of the story) and I must say I was not disappointed with his portrayal.

Other Notable Cast
This is a wonderful cast. For example, a forceful figure in the movie, Admiral James Greer, is played none other than James Earl Jones (you know Darth Vader’s voice among other wonderful roles). Also Sean Bean plays the role of Sean Miller (aka the main bad guy). I must say Sean as Sean Miller is wonderful and he really fits the role (although I have never seen him another role I must say he was good in this one). I must also give a shout out to the possibly youngest of the cast: that of Thora Birch who played Sally Ryan pretty well (even if she did seem older in this movie than she was in the book…). One interesting thing I found out afterwards in looking at some sites is that although this is a heavy irish character population in this story, only three actors (Richard Harris, Patrick Bergin and Jonathan Ryan) were actually irish. Weird.

Differences with the Novel
Although this is a good movie, I would say the book is better. It just seemed to me that they took out some important parts of the novel. I mean, I love Harrison Ford’s portrayal of his character as well as the rest of the cast involved, but there was just some things plot wise that I really missed. For example, in the novel all characters are important and have some sort of depth to them so you care for them when they are in trouble. However, when a British agent is killed its like, “ok. That’s nice.” When you read that scene in the book you had (at least I had) gotten attached to the character so it is sad when he is killed. Of course, movies can not give everything that books give in the way of details nor do they have the time to spend focusing on every little thing.

While I under the movie did have time constraints, I think it wasn’t as good without the presence of Buckingham Palace. I know the hero of the novel is American and this isn’t about the royalty figures, but I did miss seeing them. I mean, the way Clancy made Jack a knight and the fact they actually got to sleep at the Buckingham Palace were both really amusing, so I missed some bits of the story.

Conclusion
If you have not read the novel, then you will really enjoy this movie. They have a wonderful cast and the scenery was pretty. There are some details missing from this movie which fans of the book might miss, but it would still be a good movie.

Trailer/Quote

Here’s hoping you never get mad at me,”
-- Samuel L. Jackson (as Lt. Cmdr. Robby Jackson in Patriot Games 1992 Paramount Pictures)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Arsenic and Old Lace (Movie Review)

 As my friends and family know, I am a highly dramatic person. In fact, I am taking a drama class at school. We’ve done several monologues, but more recently we were assigned to do scenes with two or three people. My group was assigned a very funny scene from a play by Joseph Kesselring, so I did some research and found a movie adaptation for that same play (actually I found it randomly). This 1944 movie, staring several wonderful actors including Cary Grant, is called Arsenic and Old Lace!
 

The Story
The basic story is this: there are two little old ladies (played here by Josephine Hull and Jean Adair, who also were in the play this is based on). Everyone considers them the “nicest most caring people you ever did see”, but, like the rest of the family, they are crazy. Unbeknownst to everyone, they have been killing lonely old men as a sort of charity. When their nephew Mortimer (played by Cary Grant) discovers one of their 12 dead bodies in (of all places) the window seat, his life becomes even more insane.

Cary Grant
At the very mention of this actor, a whole nation of women cry out and swoon…or something like that. Supposedly, Mr. Grant considered this not one of his better roles, but I really think this a perfect role for him. His expressions (both vocally and physically) make the movie even more enjoyable. I also like it, because his role as Mortimer was helpful to me as I tried playing him in the scene in drama.

 Photo Caption: Cary Grant realizes this is a good performance...that or the body in the window seat...

Other actors
There are so many great actors, so let’s see if I can address at least some of them.
  • Peter Lorre appears in this film as the creepy and skittish Doctor Einstein. Lorre was this Austrian actor who was perfect for this role. Maybe it’s his accent that makes him creepy, but whatever the case he’s just really humorous and he works well as a straight man for Raymond Massey.
  • Raymond Massey was this Canadian actor probably well known for this role and his role in the 1955 film East of Eden. I’m not as crazy about Massey (though he did a good job) because I know someone who would have done a better job in the role Massey got, but I’ll mention him later.
  • A personal favorite of mine is Edward Everett Horton. He was the narrator for the Rocky and Bullwinkle segment “Fractured Fairytales”. I really loved seeing him in this live action movie. He’s funny live action as well!
  • The last person I’m going to mention is John Alexander. He (along with Josephine Hull and Jean Adair) had been in the stage play. He plays Teddy Roosevelt Brewster, who believes himself to be THE Teddy Roosevelt.  His role is just hilarious. Whether he is digging the panama canal in the basement (where they would put the bodies of the men the aunts kill) or running up the stairs shouting “charge!”, he was hilarious.

 Photo caption (left to right): Peter Lorre, John Alexander, and Raymond Massey

Boris Karloff
With all respect to Raymond Massey, the real person I can see in the role of Mortimer’s brother, Jonathan, is Boris Karloff. Jonathan is tall and grim fellow who escaped from prison and who had killed 12 people (the same number as the aunts). Dr. Einstein had given him plastic surgery while being drunk (and after watching a particular horror film), so Jonathan has scars on his face which always reminds people of a certain actor or monster. The writers seemed to have agreed with me because they give the actors all these jokes about how Jonathan looks similar the Frankenstein Monster and the actor who played that role. These jokes might also be caused by the fact that Boris Karloff played the role of Johnathan in the play, but when the creators of this movie tried to get him they couldn’t get him as the movie distributor he had contracts with forbid it. I still think the jokes would be funnier if the Frankenstein Monster would be in this movie.



Photo Caption: the Frankenstein Monster 

Conclusion
This is a hilarious film and should not be missed. The whole cast is wonderful (I wish I could mention them all in this blog, but that would take forever). I think I’m going to add this to my favorite comedy movies list, that is if I ever create such a list.

Trailer/Quote


Aunt Martha! Men don’t get into window seats and die!
--Cary Grant (as Mortimer Brewster, Arsenic and Old Lace 1944 Warner Brothers)