The Filmatist

movie reviews, insight, posters and collectibles

17 Again (Burr Steers, 2009) review

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I don’t think it should be any surprise that this movie is merely a quick vehicle to get Zac Ephron in a movie and making money as fast as possible before, god forbid, he becomes a flash in the pan. If you have seen a trailer for the film then you’ve pretty darn near seen the film aside from the juicy bits that all the tween girls in America are frothing to see.

Basically this is about a guy named Mike O’Donnell (Mathew Perry) who is having a rough time in his life. His wife is wanting a divorce, his kids are remote at best, he didn’t get the big office promotion and let’s just say his life has been going down the drain since his life at 17 when he was the big basketball star. And, let’s cue the body swap movie.

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In order to get us, the audience, where we need to be which is watching Zac play out this 17 again life while maintaining his middle aged knowledge, Mike (Perry) falls into a Twilight Zone type of vortex where the switch happens. Switch? Instead of being 17 again he should have asked to go back in time 20 years. Think of movies like Big (in reverse) or Freaky Friday, only in a good way. Perhaps Like Father, Like Son comes to mind. Maybe even a dash of It’s A Wonderful Life is even thrown in.

Whatever movies you think of, and there are plenty to think of here, writer Jason FIlardi is responsible for the premiss being rammed down our throat. I use the word writer loosely as do I also the word responsible. Filardi has brought us Drum and Bringing Down The House. As for responsible, well that should go to the executives that were determined on creating a Zac Efron project rather than looking for a project for Zac Efron.

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The real question was why I was even attending a screening of this movie. Well, I have a just turned teen daughter who had to see this trifle so when the passes came up I had to take them. In attendance was also another 100 teenage girls sans boyfriends. Just as contrived as the movie itself is shirtless Zac, who when he took off his T-shirt, my hearing failed from the squeals that only teenage girls can make. And why does he have to play basketball again!!

I can tell you that this is harmless entertainment. We’ve seen actors stoop much lower than this though I can’t tell you how we ended up with Matthew Perry cast as adult Efrom. I also can’t tell you why we need to have Brian Doyle Murray as the janitor that just happens to have the magical ability to make vortexes appear at his whim. Seems like he could do better than the janitor gig.

Overall, I didn’t throw up. I actually found a couple of the scenes funny and fresh. There was a lot that I didn’t like that with a little work could have been made much better, but Hollywood is lazy that way and if they don’t have to do the work, they won’t. *

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Just so-so; use some discretion.

* I actually like the poster. I think that what they had to work with that it’s pretty clever and at least it is not just another headshot poster that we’ve grown so tired of seeing as of late.

April 17, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema, Movie Review | Leave a comment

Wall Street (Oliver Stone, 1987) review

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“Greed is good.” Gordon Gecko proudly offers that idea or perhaps way of life lived by the elite of the stock market. Gecko explains it best when he talks about making nothing except wealth. Gecko signifies for many what they believe New York and the financial markets to be which is one big sham. The movie is not a burning question or even a quest for the truth as much as a hypothesis and then argument for the truth of excess. Right from the beginning of the movie Oliver Stone shows what he thinks of the tainted system and the superficial people in it.

The story follows Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen), a young, struggling stock trader, looking for shortcuts in the market and ways to get rich quick. He works the phones, trying to find new clients who have the money and the where with all to make him wealthy without getting old in the process. Gordon Gecko is the man in this world of make believe and money. Gecko has it all and more importantly has it all to offer.

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Gecko teaches Bud Fox just how the world works, how people like him gobble up entire companies. He provides Fox with a tall, blonde girlfriend by way of Daryl Hannah and even manages to make him balance his best friend (James Spader) by way of his slight of hand business dealings. The most prominent theme throughout Oliver Stone’s film is greed and it is what binds everyone in the film.

Charlie Sheen carries the movie along with veteran Michael Douglas. Douglas won Best Actor for his portrayal. There are some very corny scenes that involve Martin Sheen but thankfully they are lost in the body of the film. Generally the film holds up under scrutiny and is very easy to understand which is something that can’t always be said of stock market pictures and stories. The world of high finance is always easy to follow since everyone knows what greed is and that is always the way the film is framed.

I confess it took a couple of viewings of the film to come around to my good side. Stone manages to put the entire financial system on trial rather than just those manipulating the system. He shows the system for what it is and how the corrupt few at the top keep getting richer on the backs of those at the bottom. *

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Certainly worth seeing.

* The poster is not very creative which is very unlike Stone himself. The poster is just so reminicient of all those blue shirts of the world and looks like a hundred other films. When will Hollywood start offering an award for poster design so that decent films like this will be better represented.

March 27, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema, Movie Review | Leave a comment

I Love You, Man (John Hamburg, 2009) review

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Everyone would like to have a best friend or best man like Sydney Fife (Jason Segel). Peter (Paul Rudd) is engaged to the girl of his dreams and faced with an upcoming wedding realizes he has no male friends and certainly none close enough to be his best man. That is where Sydney comes into play. This movie strikes at the heart of all men who have either had their own version of a Sydney or are still looking for one. Sydney is a charming guy, he’s personable, and opinionated, and before long he and Peter have become inseparable. Of course none of this is what Peter’s fiancé has in mind.

While there are some laughs to be had, and I think you see where I’m going with this, this is your basic romantic-comedy which means that it is very formula based. The movie is like a dozen other films with just a little bit of new stuff thrown on top. Paul Rudd is good, as always, and give his standard nice guy act. It was also great to see Lou Ferigno without green paint though he still could not escape the Hulk reference and probably never will. Jason Segel provides one of the better performances in the film, but he has plenty of models to refer to in other films in order to get it right.

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Certainly the movie can only be credited with all the great actors in the film. Rudd is joined by J.K. Simmons and Jane Curtain as dad and mom and little brother is Andy Samberg. It is always good seeing Jon Favreau on screen and he’s paired up with Jaime Pressly. John Hamburg makes his leap from directing television with I Love You, Man and some great scripts.

The film has to get in line with a lot of other very similar movies but that doesn’t make it too much less funny. The film would do a lot better to have relied on its original material rather than the heavily formulated script. Given Hamburg’s ability to turn out a decent script it is too bad that he could not save an entirely new script for himself to direct here. *

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Just so-so; use some discretion.

* The poster is rather like the film and just plain. There is some humor but great ready for some dullness to get there.

March 26, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema, Movie Review | Leave a comment

Nosferatu (1922, F.W. Murnau) review

Nosferatu is one of our earliest films and certainly one of our most entertaining of earliest films. The film is shown in virtually every film history class throughout universities around the globe. It has been picked apart from every angle of meaning from that of pure expressionism to political nuance. The film did not win any awards after all the Oscars were still 5 more years away from creation.

The film is German and actually titled Nosferatu, Eine Symphonie des Grauens which translates to Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror. The film was instantly paired down to just Nosferatu. Directed by F.W. Murnau and staring Max Schreck as the vampire, the film was shot in 1921 and released in 1922. The story is an adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula but the names and details were changed in the movie because the studio was unable to buy the rights to the novel. Items like “vampire” became “Nosferatu” and “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlok.”

We’re lucky to have this film at all. Nosferatu was the first and only production of Prana Film company which was founded in 1921 by Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau. Albin Grau was an artist and specialized in the occult. Due to lawsuits by the Stoker estate the film company had to declare bankruptcy and evades the lawsuits altogether. Grau had the idea to shoot a vampire film during his wartime experiences. During the winter in 1916 a Serbian farmer told Grau that his father was a vampire and an Undead. Of course this gave Grau several ideas for movies. On Nosferatu he was not only the producer but he was also the production designer and responsible for how the entire film and characters look.

 

Henrik Galeen was sought after and wrote the screenplay for the film. He was especially experienced in dark romanticism and had worked on other screenplays. He set the story in a fictional North German harbor town named Wisborg. It was also his idea for the vampire to bring a plague to Wisborg when rats follow Nosferatu off the ship from which he lands in the harbor. It was his decision to leave out the character of Van Helsing, the vampire hunter.

The film is very engaging for 1922. The establishment of the alternate vampire that came to be known as “Dracula-type” this more rat-like depiction is very believable. This adaptation of Dracula is as positively hailed as the original Dracula itself. The movie is in public domain and because of that most of the copies of this film are of poor quality though it is easy to find the film. There are some very nice quality of film in release and it is well worth it to view one that is high quality so as not to miss any of the fine details of the film.

The film was remade in 1979 by German director Werner Herzog. Like all remakes that film is a film unto itself and should not necessarily be compared though it is also worth time to be viewed. Nosferatu is a part of film history but aside from what grade history may give, the film is scary and well made. It is a wonderful film and Max Schreck as Count Orlok is terrific to watch.*

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Excellent – A Must See Film.

*Of course the poster is quite a collector item and there is only one known, true, original copy in existance. It is worth a fortune and very cool.

March 23, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema, Movie Posters, Movie Review | Leave a comment

Best 1950s Movies Ever – UPDATED

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Films of the 1950s came in a wide variety. Television was the new mass communication and studios found themselves trying to coax audiences back into the theaters. The 1950s ushered in the use of widescreen, Cinemascope, VistaVision, and Cinerama. Gimmicks like the 3-D film and big production were widely used. There were lots of epic films like The Robe (1953), The Ten Commandments (1956), Ben Hur (1959).

The 1950s were full of Cold War paranoia which hand in hand let to interest in the atomic bomb which led to interest in outer space and science fiction. Some say that the 1950s is the golden age of the sci-fi films with the likes of such films as The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), The War of the Worlds (1953), It Came from Outer Space (1953), Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954), Them! (1954), This Island Earth (1955), Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956), and Forbidden Planet (1956).

The decade was just as full of realistic films that could bring the audience back to earth. This time saw the rise of such actors as James Stewart, John Wayne, and Marlon Brando. Movies like The Searchers (1956) helps to revitalize the Western genre. Meanwhile Brando was establishing a new way of acting that would shape actors and their craft for generations. Brando made such classics as A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), The Wild One (1954), Julius Caesar (1953), On the Waterfront (1954), Guys and Dolls (1955), The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956), and Sayonara (1957).

Director Alfred Hitchcock was also a driving force of movies in the 1950s. Hitchcock was at the peak of his craft with films such as Strangers on a Train (1951), Dial M for Murder (1954), Rear Window (1954), To Catch a Thief (1955), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), Vertigo (1958), and North by Northwest (1959) with Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly starring in three each.

The 1950s saw other forces at work in the way of writers and directors. The decade of film would be molded in some wonderful ways. The best way to find out your favorite is to follow my list of the best films of the 1950s.

  1. All About Eve (1950)
  2. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
  3. Harvey (1950)
  4. The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
  5. Rashomon (1950)
  6. The Thing (From Another World) (1951)
  7. The African Queen (1951)
  8. A Christmas Carol (1951)
  9. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
  10. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
  11. Strangers on a Train (1951)
  12. Singing in the Rain (1952)
  13. The Quiet Man (1952)
  14. High Noon (1952)
  15. From Here to Eternity (1953)
  16. The War of the Worlds (1953)
  17. Stalag 17 (1953)
  18. Shane (1953)
  19. The Wild One (1954)
  20. The Caine Mutiny (1954)
  21. Rear Window (1954)
  22. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
  23. On the Waterfront (1954)
  24. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
  25. The Searchers (1956)
  26. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  27. Forbidden Planet (1956)
  28. Twelve Angry Men (1957)
  29. Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  30. Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
  31. Touch of Evil (1958)
  32. Vertigo (1958)
  33. Ben Hur (1959)
  34. The 400 Blows (1959)
  35. Some Like It Hot (1959)

The following is a list of 1950s Academy Awards:

1950
Best Picture: All About Eve
Best Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve

1951
Best Picture: An American In Paris
Best Director: George Stevens, A Place in the Sun

1952
Best Picture: The Greatest Show On Earth
Best Director: John Ford, The Quiet Man

1953
Best Picture: From Here to Eternity
Best Director: Fred Zinnemann, From Here to Eternity

1954
Best Picture: On the Waterfront
Best Director: Elia Kazan, On the Waterfront

1955
Best Picture: Marty
Best Director: Delbert Mann, Marty

1956
Best Picture: Around the World in 80 Days
Best Director: George Stevens, Giant

1957
Best Picture: The Bridge on the River Kwai
Best Director: David Lean, The Bridge on the River Kwai

1958
Best Picture: Gigi
Best Director: Vincente Minnelli, Gigi

1959
Best Picture: Ben-Hur
Best Director: William Wyler, Ben-Hur

March 23, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema | Leave a comment

This Film Is Not Yet Rated (2006) review

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Since I have always been a film nut and everything about the movies has drawn my attention, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) is one of those things that has fascinated me even though I didn’t understand it. Movies like Jaws received PG rating. I remember Clockwork Orange being rated X; it was always a mystery what those ratings board guys were thinking. Kirby Dick’s film This Film Is Not Yet Rated tries to explore how the ratings were figured in the past and how the MPAA is working in today’s film world.

The documentary is about the once corrupt MPAA and also and education on the procedures or rules that are applied to movies in order to obtain a rating for them. Director Kirby Dick apparently figures that he is teaching a classroom or making a 16mm how to film instead of making a documentary film for adults and film enthusiasts. Unfortunately his directing style is just too juvenile for such a savvy audience and had he stuck to just a boring talking head style documentary the film would have been better for it.

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This film takes on a lot of complaints against the MPAA board and tries to explain them rather than taking on definitions of the MPAA and its purpose head on. The members of the MPAA are anonymous as to keep feature filmmakers from appealing to them directly. Originally the ratings was the way to keep government from censoring the movies and Hollywood, but at least the government would have created solid rules to follow rather than the random and often conflicting way the early MPAA handled the film industry. The MPAA insists that it applies its rules evenly but the procedures are secret so nobody can tell what they are. If something is not allowed it is simply against the invisible rules.

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There is some good work in the film. Not a lot of history and not a lot of making sense of the nonsense, but some good work. There is Matt Stone from Southpark, Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry), Wayne Kramer (The Cooler), Allison Anders (Grace of My Heart), John Waters (Hairspray). While there is interest, especially to film geeks everywhere, the storytelling needs some censoring of its own. There is also a bit of one-sidedness the the film which is to be expected from any documentary except when that one side needs the other to hold the attention of the audience.

After watching This Film is Not Yet Rated you’ll no doubt be mulling the questions of censorship, government involvement in the Hollywood machine, how power can be misused and all that big machine power sort of stuff. Or you may more likely be wondering why this movie wasn’t any better with such a topic to be trounced. *

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Just so-so; use some discretion.

* The poster holds my attention and not because of the naked model. In some, if not all, the postings of this advertisement the butt has had to be censored by a black box. Sometimes the irony does make its way through.

March 20, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema, Movie Posters, Movie Review | , , | Leave a comment

Knowing (2009) review

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From the trailers of Knowing you’d be convinced that you’re going to watch a cheesy, try to save the world picture with a wound tight Nicolas Cage at the center gritting his teeth and ducking his way to the perfect ending. Well, you’d be partially correct. Cage is definitely giving his wound tight hero routine that he’s worked so hard to develop over the last half dozen films. As for the cheese factor, that’s where you’ll be surprised. Director Alex Proyas manages to deliver a rather decent sci-fi flick that has plenty of suspense and intelligence.

The plot turns around John Koestler (Nicolas Cage), an MIT astrophysics nerd turned Indiana Jones when a time capsule is discovered at his young son Caleb’s (Chandler Canterbury) school. Inside are drawings from students in 1959 predicting what things would be like in 2009 some 50 years later. The drawing that Caleb comes home with isn’t a drawing at all but a series of seemingly random numbers. Koestler becomes obsessed with the numbers and their meaning or what they seem to mean. The whole thing shakes him to his scientific core and a quest has begun.

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The film is very lucky to have director Alex Proyas from films such as Dark City which is his true geek film and critical acclaim as well as I, Robot and Garage Days. The visual and special effects are outstanding. It was surprising how much suspense was in the script (Ryan Douglas Pearson and Juliet Snowden) which gave the film a real thriller atmosphere which continues to build in tone as the mystery is unravelled.

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I admit I went into this film expecting a rehash of National Treasure on a more global scale. The sci-fi aspect of the premise is very well thought out and told. The acting by co-stars (Chandler Canterbury, Rose Byrne and Lara Robinson) are solid performances and stand in complementary contrast to that of the tightly wound Nicolas Cage. The geek factor of Knowing is rather high with lots of number configurations and what-if scenarios which is great for the sci-fi fans. At times your brain may have to turn on in order to follow the film, but that is what made Knowing such a pleasant surprise to me.*

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Certainly worth seeing.

* I take real issue with the posters of this film. There are so many chances to illustrate this film through the poster that are just clearly thrown away. Instead what we are left with is the typical giant head of Nicolas Cage and then the boring shot of the Earth with something bad about to happen. The earth shot might have been okay ten years ago but The War of the Worlds, Tom Cruise flick poster was more imaginative that this one. Poster choices here are very disappointing.

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema, Movie Posters, Movie Review | , , , | Leave a comment

Rolling (2007) review

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Rolling is perhaps what you might be able to gather by looking at this poster. This documentary-style film is about the L.A. Ecstasy-riddled underground party scene. What attracts me to the film is that the location does not have to be CA, it could be any U.S. city. Rolling takes as entertaining a look as one can of this odd drug phenomenon.

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Here’s the downer. This film would have been so much better had director Billy Samoa Saleebey attempted a genuine documentary of the subject matter. There is certainly enough in the film to draw the interest of the audience, but the hokey script and low budget 16mm just doesn’t hold the attention for feature length.*

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Just so-so; use some discretion.

* I like the pill popping poster a lot. There is also a more elusive poster of a young girl with a lollipop. Either poster is desirable as there just aren’t enough drug induced posters of the 21st century as of yet. When I find the B style poster, I’ll post it.

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema, Movie Posters, Movie Review | , , , | Leave a comment

The Godfather (1972) review

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The Godfather is quite simply one of the best American films of the 20th century. The film has spawned iconic phrases and actions that spurred a generation and genre of filmmaking. The performances are tight, precise and on point and stand as examples of character building in the film world. When playing, The Godfather makes us an offer we can’t refuse and we must watch.

Based on the book by Mario Puzo who also wrote the script with director Francis Ford Coppola, the film has several plot lines that all focus inward to the godfather. However, unlike the book the focus in the film ends up on Michael Corleone. His growth from sidelines to indignation to ultimate embrace is a fascinating journey to watch. The ways in which the family interact and the levels of trust are riveting writing techniques. The script for the film is brilliant and over the years since the film’s release has become a teaching tool in filmmaking schools.

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Though the story has many nuances, it is basically about an Italian American family whose business is something other than completely legal. There is a head of the family who is referred to as Godfather. In the immediate family there are four boys and one girl. On the day of the daughter’s wedding we learn that on this day the father cannot refuse any request made of him. The Godfather is played by Marlon Brando who gives an iconic character performance that has come to be imitated all over the world. Brando was already a big star and his performance was easy to secure, even though it earned him an Academy Award. The breakout performance is that by Al Pacino who plays Michael. Michael is somewhat floundering in his life after coming back from his duty in the Marines. He has fallen for Kay (Diane Keaton) and the two of them are contemplating marriage. The conflict comes as the transfer of family power becomes inevitable.

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The rest of the cast rounds out a power house of player. The performances given are superbly played by a cast at the hight of their game. The Godfather movie runs long by some three hours and yet the story just seems to be unfolding much like it would in a real family telling. The story is rich with characters such as Clemenza, the family lieutenant (Richard Castellano); Jack Woltz, the movie czar (John Marley); Luca Brasi, the loyal professional killer; McCluskey, the crooked cop; and the list continues.

Coppola has created a piece of artwork with a unique visual style and character studies that are layered as deeply as flesh allows. The Godfather is a rare film. The movie is born from a best selling novel and from there it has taken on a life of its own. The visual style of the film which is shot in late 1940s period was necessary to the success. Had the film been shot through a modern day lens, failure would have been forthcoming. By taking a sort of snapshot of this family within their own time the piece is rich with visual elements that extends far beyond the postwar fedoras and sleek Cadillac limos. Cinematographer Gordon Willis has taken the film back into that 1940s look with deep color and sets that relax into the time as though he filmed it all those years ago.

The Godfather has slipped into the American film culture as though it had always been there. We’re immediately comfortable with the characters and the story, while complex, is awash with familiarity. Coppola pulls you into this three hour saga and there is no hurry to leave. Don Corleone is calling the shots and all you can do is take his offer to watch because there is just no way you can refuse.

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Excellent – A Must See Film.

* The poster might be surprising to a lot of people as I know it is to a lot of first time collectors. The poster is boring and just black and white, nothing like the colorful film that has become so iconic in today’s pop culture. In 1972 the poster was about what you might expect from this Puzo novel that may or may not work as a movie. The poster is highly collectible as are the Italian versions.

March 19, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema, Movie Review | Leave a comment

The Caine Mutiny (1954) review

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This film is one of the great 1950s movies about a WWII naval ship with numerous conflicts onboard. The very independent officers of the Caine also have some issues with the Captain (Humphrey Bogart) which culminate with a court martial trial. The film is reminiscent of other great naval court-martial films such as Mutiny on the Bounty (1935), Sea Wolf (1941) and Treasure Island (1950).

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Based on the best selling, 1951 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Caine Mutiny was originally adapted for the Broadway stage (by producer Charles Laughton). The story follows young Willie Keith, junior officer, who has come aboard the worn out ship, The Caine, which is a less than stellar ship when it comes to reputation and discipline. The Captain of the ship is replaced during an assignment by another Captain by the name of Queeg. Queeg has had an illustrious career and is determined to bring the tired old mine sweeper back into Navy regulation. The officers on the Caine don’t give Queeg any slack and not much favor and quickly he loses the respect of the crew. After a crucial mission the Caine and the rest of the fleet is caught in a hurricane which results in Queeg losing command and a trial of two of the officers one of whom is Keith.

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Even though Keith (Robert Francis) is considered a main character the two characters that end up with the screen time are Lt. Commander Philip Francis Queeg (Humphrey Bogart) and Lt. Steve Maryk (Van Johnson) with a nod going to Lt. Barney Greenwald (José Ferrer). There is just no way that meek little Francis can hold his own against Bogart. On the screen Bogart has such presence that the audience is forced to root for him no matter what is incapacity seems to be. The court scenes which take up the last act or 1/3rd of the film are almost a toe to toe faceoff between Bogart and Ferrer with both of them winning. The acting is thick in the picture’s technicolor backdrop.

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To think that The Caine Mutiny could have such star power and have the good graces of the Navy when the ship and the officers are portrayed as sub par is unbelievable and must rest on the shoulders of Bogart. Director Edward Dmytryk doesn’t seem a likely candidate to get the Navy’s approval given that he is one of the original blacklisted “Hollywood Ten.” The direction is great as is the acting. This was Bogart’s last great role (he died three years later). The film was nominated for 7 Oscars but could not take any. *

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Excellent – A Must See Film.

* The insert poster is the better poster when compared with the usual one sheet. The insert also lists Robert Francis and May Wynn. I also like the way the insert poster pictures the Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The one sheet tend to look a little too heavy handed, which of course is the nature of the film. Both posters are worthy of any collection.

March 17, 2009 Posted by | Movie & Cinema, Movie Posters, Movie Review | , , , , | Leave a comment

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