Director: Peter Duffell
Starring: Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliott, Jon Pertwee, Nyree Dawn Porter, Joss AcklandIn Brief: Quaint is the first word that comes to mind for this mild British horror film by Amicus Productions. To put it in perspective, this is a movie calling itself The House That Dripped Blood, in which we see nary a drop of the red stuff. It's a poky little horror anthology loosely — very loosely — tied to the namesake (albeit rather anemic) house. Fun in its peculiarly reticent way, but not exactly horrific.
Director: Robert Altman
Starring: Neve Campbell, Malcolm McDowell, James Franco, Barbara Robertson, William DickIn Brief: Robert Altman's penultimate feature, The Company, is a disappointment any way you slice it (thank goodness he went out with A Prairie Home Companion). It is, in fact, the only Altman film I've seen that came close to boring me. That it didn't is a testament to Altman as a filmmaker, because this dramatically neutral movie about a ballet company rarely escapes the sense of being a vanity project for Neve Campbell. If you're interested in ballet or Altman, it's worth a look, but don't set your expectations too high.
Genre: WWI Action Drama
Director: John Guillerman (Shaft in Africa)
Starring: George Peppard, Ursula Andress, James Mason, Jeremy Kemp, Karl Michael Vogler, Anton DiffringIn Brief: Lumbering, overlong WWI picture that boasts some truly stunning flying scenes and solid production values (only somewhat marred by process work). German fighter pilot George Peppard (the only person in the film with an American accent) tries to play social climber by winning the coveted military decoration of the film's title. The story thinks it's a lot more important than it is, and the two-and-a-half-hour running time doesn't help. But for WWI airplane enthusiasts, it's the berries.
Genre: Shakespearean Tragedy
Director: Laurence Olivier
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Eileen Herlie, Basil Sydney, Norman WoolandIn Brief: Time has not been especially kind to Laurence Olivier's Hamlet. When it first appeared in 1948, it was the last word in culture at the cinema. Today, a lot of it feels stilted, alarmingly middle-brow and occasionally rather silly. (Some of Olivier's expressions look more like a parody than a serious attempt at the role.) That said, it's still a very good looking film, and on occasion, it even lives up to its 1948 reputation.
Director: George Marshall (Murder, He Says)
Starring: Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Torin Thatcher, Angela ClarkeIn Brief: Colorful, almost entirely fictional Harry Houdini biopic that was mostly an excuse to team newlyweds Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh in a movie. It's harmless and reasonably entertaining — in a very 1950s way — but if you approach it as any kind of historical (or even perceptive) look at Houdini, you're watching the wrong movie. It's more like a compendium of biopic cliches, but there's no denying that Curtis and Leigh make a cute couple.
Director: Robert Benton (Kramer vs. Kramer)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, Wentworth MillerIn Brief: Critically reviled at the time of its release — especially for something that was clearly Oscar-bait — Robert Benton's The Human Stain (2003) isn't so much a bad movie as it's an underwhelming one. It's a film that never takes off due to Benton's decidedly old-fashioned filmmaking and its overbearing attempt to be Important. The story of an aged professor (Anthony Hopkins) discharged for racism (despite being secretly black himself) and his affair with a younger woman (Nicole Kidman) would have been better served by embracing its soapy underpinnings than by taking a high-toned literary approach.
Director: Frank Lloyd
Starring: Diana Wynyard, Clive Brook, Una O'Connor, Herbert MundinIn Brief: Frank Lloyd's 1933 film adaptation of Noel Coward's stage play won Oscars (best picture and best director) and was one of the big prestige pictures of its year. Today, the luster of this time-spanning (1899-1932) ode to the British character has dimmed considerably. It is, however, a worthy film that ought to be better known, and its restoration and Blu-ray incarnation is easily the best way to get acquainted (or re-acquainted) with the picture.
Genre: Adventure Romance
Director: Jean-Paul Rappeneau (Bon Voyage)
Starring: Juliette Binoche, Olivier Martinez, Pierre Arditi, François CluzetIn Brief: The Horseman on the Roof may have been made in 1995, but it feels like a film from a much earlier era — even with its outbursts of nudity and grisly images of a cholera plague. It's utterly romantic, but in an almost absurdly chaste manner. In fact its stars, Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez, have nothing that could be called a love scene. That may be a plus or a minus, depending on how you feel about these things. In essence, it's an adventure yarn about two people trying to travel through cholera-ridden France — she to get to her elderly husband, he to take funds home to Italy for a revolution against the Austrian occupation. Great? By no means, but it's good-looking and entertaining.
Director: Gene Kelly (Hello, Dolly!)
Starring: Gene Kelly, Fred AstaireIn Brief: Another two-hour commercial for MGM that continues the attempt to rewrite the history of movies as the history of MGM. The new footage by Gene Kelly is appallingly cheesy, and the clips are a mixed bag (kind of the movie equivalent of B-sides) that seem to have been edited with a meat cleaver. Strictly for star-gazers who are not terribly choosy. At least it's not Part III.
Genre: Would-be Romantic Thriller
Director: Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (The Lives of Others)
Starring: Johnny Depp, Angelina Jolie, Paul Bettany, Timothy Dalton, Steven Berkoff, Rufus SewellIn Brief: It has a critically acclaimed director (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), two big stars (Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie), glamorous locations — and yet almost nothing about The Tourist works. Inert and indifferent, The Tourist squanders an amazing amount of talent on a lame story that nobody seems to care about. Depp and Jolie have close to zero chemistry. This is a film in which the normally bland Timothy Dalton walks in at the last minute and effortlessly steals the movie from its powerhouse cast.
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