A Note on Spoilers

I decided it might be a good idea to make what’s known as a “sticky post” here on the front page for those coming in who might be concerned about spoilers. In these posts I’m going to be talking about varying aspects of movies that I’ve been watching, This may include writing about things that some would consider spoilers, including, at times, the endings of these movies. Those who are particularly spoiler averse may want to avoid reading these posts if they are planning to watch the movie in question. In certain circumstances where I will be discussing events towards the end of the movie, including the ending in at least a vague way, or when a movie contains a particular plot twist that might be considered major, I will try to post a more specific spoiler warning, because I do recognize that even though I may be writing about a movie that is decades old, it’s still going to be new to some people. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Old Time Radio Thursdays – #039: Escape (1947-1954) – Part One

 

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

escLast week in writing about the long-running CBS series Suspense, I mentioned that in its later years the show often reused scripts from its “sister show”, Escape, so it only seems appropriate to follow that post with a couple devoted to that show. So, much like I did with Suspense, this first post will simply be a sampler of some of the shows from the series, and I’ll be back next week with more info and more shows.

So, if you’re “Tired of the everyday grind? Ever dream of a life of romantic adventure? Want to get away from it all? We offer you… Escape!

Enjoy!

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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Top 250 Tuesday #070 – Blade Runner (1982)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #070 on the list, Ridley Scotts Blade Runner. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

br1Is Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner the best science fiction film ever? Hmm… I don’t think I’m going to go quite that far.

Is it my favorite science fiction film ever? I don’t even know that I’m going to go that far.

What I will say is this: if I were stuck on a desert island and could only have one science fiction film with me, it is definitely the one that I would choose.

Why? Simply put, because this is one of those movies that I can watch over and over again and not only never lose interest, but seemingly always find something new to enjoy about it.

I actually first encountered this movie during its first theatrical run, back before it became such a controversial movie because of the changes made to it by the studio. Or at least before we (and by we, I mean most of us movie-goers who at the time just showed up at the cinema to take in whatever was out without knowing all the behind-the-scenes information that id today so readily available because of this here thang-a-mabob called the interwebs) found out about it all because of the so-called “Director’s Cut” (which it seems really wasn’t) that was released to home video in  1992.

Actually, according to Wikipedia, there have been seven different cuts of this movie made available over the years since its first release.

br2But that’s really not the point of this little essay, and I’m not going to go into all of the differences and minutiae of the changes that have been made over the years. Nor am I going to go into any kind of detailed plot synopsis. Information on all of that, is available readily elsewhere, including the Wikipedia article that I noted above, which has a nicely detailed outline of the different cuts and releases that have seen the light of day since that initial release.

Instead, I’m simply going to say this: this is a movie that I fell in love with upon that first theatrical viewing in 1982. and one that I have remained enchanted by and enamored of ever since.

br4It is, in my eyes, perhaps the most perfect blending of science fiction and film noir tropes that we have seen on the screen yet, and that we are ever likely to see.

Plus, you have a standout performance by Harrison Ford who, despite being such a fresh face in Star Wars only five years prior, does a wonderful job of translating the world-weariness of his bounty-hunter character Rick Deckard (a role originally written and envisioned for the much older Robert Mitchum), you have William Sanderson, who practically steals every scene he’s in as the reclusive inventor J.F. Sebastian, and you have a quite young and relatively at the time unknown Sean Young as the femme fatale Rachael. Even the supporting cast is filled with familiar faces and outstanding character actors such as Daryl Hannah, M.Emmet Walsh, Brion James (whose performance as Leon at the opening of the film perfectly sets the tone for what is to come), Edward James Olmos, and others, all of whom seem to bring everything they have to the movie and in some cases step up their game in ways we had not seen from them before as if inspired by Scott and his vision to really shine in their roles.

br3

And then you also have Rutger Hauer. Actually, what I suppose I should say there is: And then you have Rutger Hauer and the “Tears in rain” soliloquy. There’s a reason this is one of the most noted and most quoted scenes in all of science fiction, and that reason is Rutger Hauer. Hauer’s casting as the replicant Roy Batty is one of the most perfect choices ever made.

Obviously, this is a movie I absolutely love, would recommend to anyone who is a fan of either the sci-fi or film noir genres (and especially those who are fans of both), and which I think definitely deserves its high ranking on this list. If you’ve never seen it, I’d say you owe it to yourself to give it a watch. And if you have seen it, or at least some version of it, I’d say you should give it yet another go.

And, of course, if you ever find yourself stranded on that proverbial desert island… well, I suppose you’d have a few other concerns first, but once you’ve gotten them worked out (and once you’ve managed, like the professor on Gilligan’s Island, to figure out how to make a Blu-ray player and flat-screen TV out of bamboo and coconuts and devised a way to power it, you might just want to make sure that you have this flick on hand. Because until the rescue ship comes along, you’ve got a lot of time to pass, and there are not many better ways you could be doing it.

Here’s the original trailer:

So what are your thoughts on Bade Runner? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Also, I’m curious about what you think about my argument that some movies simply have to be seen on the big screen before one can even really judge them. And if you agree with it, what films you would put into that category. Let me know in the comments below.

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Saturday Double Feature: Heaven Is For Real (2014) and…

Saturday on the blog means Saturday Double Feature, right? Remember, the basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.

For some reason it seems that God is a big-time presence in the multiplexes this year, from films like God Is Not Dead and Son of God to Noah (which, okay, substitutes “The Creator” for “God”, but still… And this week, just in time for Easter, we get Heaven Is For Real.

It’s kind of beyond the range of this feature to really comment on whether I agree with any of these films varying takes on heaven amd/or God, so I won’t. Instead, I’ll simply note that according to this 1976 Warren Beatty feature, whatever the case may be, Heaven Can Wait.

So what do you think? Are you looking forward to or have you already seen Heaven is fir Real? Do you have any other ideas for pairing films with it? If so, let me know below. And also let me know of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.

Until next time, Happy Viewing!

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Old Time Radio Thursdays – #038: Suspense (1942-1962) – Part Two

 

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

sus1Last week I provided you with just a sampling of the 900 episodes known to still exist of the 945 that were produced for the long running CBS radio show Suspense. This week I thought I’d go into a bit more of the show’s origins and history.

Suspense actually got its start on the CBS program Forceast, which was designed as a tryout show which provided a place for pilots of ideas that the network was considering giving their own slot. The pilot for Suspense, which aired on July 22, 1940, featured an adaptation of Marie Belloc Lowndes’ story “The Lodger”, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Herbert Marshall, Edmund Gwenn, and Lurene Tuttle. Hitchcock had already filmed the story in England in 126, so he was already familiar with it, and this was his American radio-directing premier. Interestingly, in a very audacious move, Hitchcock holds back the actual ending of the story from the radio audience, thus compounding and confounding the promised emotion. I’ve provided this Forecast audition/pilot as the first item below.

Over its twenty year run the program went through, as would be expected, a number of various iterations and sponsors. Beginning as a sustained program in 1952, it wasn’t until two years later that it picked up its first advertiser, Roma Wines. Eventually, during what most consider the heyday of the program, it was sponsored by Autolite spark plugs.

sus3As indicated by the title, the main focus of the show was mystery/thriller stories, though in later years it did tend to present more horror/science fiction tales along with the mysteries.

One of the more interesting aspects of the program, and perhaps one of the reasons not only for its longevity but also for its popularity, was that it wasn’t afraid to re-present stories that proved popular with its audience. These were not actual re-runs, however, but actual new productions of the same script, sometimes with the participation of the original cast, and sometimes without. For instance, Suspense presented Lucille Fletcher’s story “Sorry, Wrong Number” eight different times during its run, first on May 25, 1943, and for the final time on February 14, 1960. Amazingly, every one of these presentations featured the great Agnes Moorehead in the lead role!

Suspense also, especially in its later years, was known for re-using scripts from other popular CBS programs, most notably what some consider to have been in a way its sister show, Escape, and The Mysterious Traveler. (Both of which, btw, I’ll be featuring in upcoming OTR Thursday posts.)

sus4At its height, Suspense was able to draw a number of great Hollywood stars to its microphones, including Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Henry Fonda, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, Ronald Colman, Marlene Dietrich, Eve McVeagh, Lena Horne, and Cary Grant.

One final note: the date of Suspense’s last broadcast, September 30, 1962, is often cited as “the day the golden age of radio died”. Though that may not be literally true – obviously there were other broadcasts and shows that continued beyond that point, it is a significant milestone and turning point for the radio drama format, and for lovers of these great radio shows.

But let’s not dwell upon that today. Instead let’s sit back and simply be entertained by one of the truly all-time great radio programs and more tales calculated to keep you in…

SUSPENSE!

Enjoy!

Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!

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Streaming On Netflix: Twenty Feet From Stardom (2013)

I don’t usually do this, but Twenty Feet From Stardom was absolutely one of my favorite documentaries from last year, and just in case you missed getting to see it in the theater, it’s now streaming on Netflix, and I highly recommend giving it a watch.

Plus, trust me, after you watch it, you’ll never be able to listen to the Stone’s “Gimme Shelter” the same way again.

Here’s the trailer:

And here’s the link to it on Netflix:

http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/20_Feet_from_Stardom/70267838

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Do You Want Plot Or Do You Want A Lot Of X-Men? How About Both? – Here’s The Final X-Men: Days Of Future Past Trailer

x1I really enjoyed X-Men: First Class more than I thought I would, and it’s the film that finally brought my younger daughter around to the side of the mutants, (she’d previously enjoyed most of the Marvel movies, but just hadn’t gotten into the X-Men) so it’s pretty safe to say that we’re both looking forward to the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past.

I do have to admit, however, that I found the last trailer something of a mess. For some reason it just didn’t quite “click” with me. This new one, however, does a much better job finding a good balance between giving a good sense of both the plot of the film and showing off the huge ensemble cast of both heroes and villains that have been gathered for this new outing. Now let’s just hope that the film itself can find that same kind of balance. I suspect it’s gonna be a kind of tightrope walk, but I do think it can be done.

Anyway, here’s the new trailer. See what you think:

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Top 250 Tuesday #066 – Wild Strawberries (1957)

Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #066 on the list, Ingmar Bergmans Wild Strawberries. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.

ws5Like any truly great road movie, Ingmar Bergman’s 1957 film Wild Strawberries works on two different levels, and only one of them is really about the destination.

The film opens with Professor Isak Borg (portrayed by legendary Swedish actor Victor Sjöström in what would prove to be his final role) , our narrator and protagonist introducing himself as he finishes a journal entry explaining that the next day he is to attend a ceremony celebrating his 50th year as a doctor at the Lund University from which he first received his doctorate.. He then goes off to sleep and has a nightmarish dream during the course of which he encounters the image of himself in a casket, which reaches out, takes his hand, and draws him ever closer, until the professor finally awakens. He then informs his live-in housekeeper, Agda (Jullan Kindahl) that rather than fly to the ceremony, he is going to drive. At first, Agda objects, but finally realizing that there is no changing his mind, she tells him that he can drive if he wants, but she will ot be going with him. His daughter-in law Mairianne (the gorgeous Ingrid Thulin) does, however, ask if she can ride with him. She is returning to attempt to reconcile with her husband, the professor’s son Evald from whom she has been estranged for reasons that shall be made clear through the course of the film.

Thus, the stage is set, and the road trip begins.

ws4I stated above that this is a film which works on two very distinct levels. The first, of course, is the actual trip from the professor’s home to the university. Of course, this trip, which seems as the pair sets out, as though it will be a fairly leisurely drive, since they have plenty of time to arrive at their destination, is not without its hazard, nor is it one without tension. It quickly becomes apparent that although there is a measure of affection between Dr. Borg and Marianne, there is also quite a bit of tension, and also, it becomes clear that – as we have already seen to some degree in his interaction with Agda – the doctor, though on the surface at times quite likable, is a haunted and withdrawn man, who, while he may crave more affection and interpersonal relationships, is simply not very good at showing that or at relating to others at all.

ws2Along the way, the professor decides to make a side trip to his childhood home, a decision which will prove fateful in two ways. First, it causes him to reflect on his younger days and his childhood love. Secondly, it leads him into a meeting with a young girl named Sara – also the name of that former love, and both of them portrayed by the alluring and vivacious Bibi Andersson – and her two traveling companions who are hitchhiking and whom Borg agrees to take along with them. They also encounter a very antagonistic married couple when the two almost crash into the professor’s car, and they also wind up riding for a while with the professor and his group.

Eventually, after another stop for Borg to visit his aged mother, the group arrive in Lund in time for the ceremony, which actually turns out to be a lot of pomp without any real meaning for the professor, and is actually given only a couple of minutes of the film’s time. Indeed, on this level it is much more the journey than the destination which is important.

ws3The second level, however, the inner emotional journey that Borg is also taken on, is actually the one which is more important, and in this case, it is one where the final destination actually does seem to have some consequence. And it is this factor which raises Wild Strawberries from being simply a good movie to one of the greats.

Throughout the series of encounters that occur along the physical journey from one place to another, Dr. Borg is forced to confront a number of truths about himself, and this is accomplished in two ways, both through his own memories about his childhood, and through a series of dreams and imaginings which Bergman manages to pull off in ways that, while on the surface are quite surreal still manage to speak to the inner turmoil going on with is protagonist and never stray so far into the void that they lose sight of what the film maker is trying to communicate with his audience. Unlike some of Bergman’s other films, it truly seems as though he is in complete control of every image that appears on the screen and that each of them has something to say about the evolving emotional state of his characters.

ws1Bergman also takes advantage of all of the nuance that black and white, as opposed to color, film can bring to bear to create not just a series of very striking images, but an atmosphere that varies depending upon what he is trying to evoke at the time, whether it is the garish whiteness of the first dream sequence or the more lush tones which accompany the latter parts of the film.

In the end,  Wild Strawberries pays off in a way that is very satisfying, and it is a journey that the audience, as well as Dr. Borg, is well rewarded for having taken.

Here are two very different trailers for the film, the first of which emphasizes the more surreal aspects of the film, while the second provides more images of the actual journey of the characters.

So what are your thoughts on Wild Strawberries? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Also, I’m curious about what you think about my argument that some movies simply have to be seen on the big screen before one can even really judge them. And if you agree with it, what films you would put into that category. Let me know in the comments below.

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