Eddie Darrow, played by Tony Curtis, is sent to Macao, which borders China, to bring back to the U.S. a gangster’s ex-wife (Joanne Dru) because of the money she possesses. There are prodigious difficulties, though, because 1) the ex-wife (Christine by name) is Eddie’s old flame and 2) she is now the fiancee of Justin, a Macao casino owner. And here we have Rudolph Mate‘s Forbidden, from 1953.
This is a very likable movie, but I wish fewer entertainment films strained credulity, as Forbidden does quite often. (Aw shucks, Christine overheard Eddie’s cock-and-bull story to an American gangster [a story the gangster was prepared to believe] about how he planned to deceive her.) But when it doesn’t strain credulity, William Sackheim’s screenplay is gratifying. The film is robust—if not, I’m afraid, a masterpiece of acting. Curtis is mediocre. Dru gives a merely routine performance although, along with being beautiful, she is as classy-looking as a human being can get. Lyle Bettger, as Justin, knows how to be debonair—and memorable.
The 2018 Mission: Impossible—Fallout is another top-notch action picture in the long-lived saga. Near the end there are the unkillable bodies of the good people (especially Tom Cruise‘s Ethan Hunt) amid mountains in Kashmir, which is fine. But the film is probably more satisfying when it is set in France and duly doubles down on The French Connection—the car chase, I mean. And, to me, it was pleasing to see Ethan, perplexed about how to save a struck-down policewoman’s life, pull out a simple handgun and shoot every single man disposed to commit murder.
The cast isn’t great, it’s perfect. Perfect for an MI movie. Henry Cavill does not disappoint as a nefarious double agent, and Vanessa Kirby, very good-looking, is seductively adroit as The White Widow. Unlike Cavill, she gets to keep her British accent.
Written and directed (without in-your-face obtrusiveness) by Christopher McQuarrie.
Charley Chase was an acclaimed movie comedian of decades past. The star of numerous two-reelers, in the silent 22-minute Be Your Age (1926), he plays a bashful nobody (or “nobody”) who, darn it, just has to resign himself to his boss’s, an attorney’s, objectionable plan. He pays for his passivity, and it’s all richly amusing, a modest winner with an agreeable cast (especially Chase), with Oliver Hardy, not yet great, in a supporting role.
Even better is Chase’s sound film, the 18-minute The Grand Hooter (1937), wherein the amiable gent is, alas, a ninny of a husband. His wife’s complaint that he spends too much time at the Hoot Owl Lodge and not enough with her prompts the two to go off together to a hotel, but Charley’s ninnyism won’t quit. The piece is uproariously funny, suitably paced by director Del Lord, giving genuine proof that Chase was able to make a smooth transition from silent film to talkies. And it was chivalrous to keep Charley’s wife (Peggy Stratford) from being mistakenly kicked in the rear end by a hotel detective.
Both movies are available on YouTube.
The American version of Gabriele Muccino’s Italian film, The Last Kiss, directed by Tony Goldwyn, is as dandy as the original. Neither flick is great, but both are vivacious dramatic grabbers.
Goldwyn’s film (2006) is, as critic Ella Taylor opined, an “admirably understated handling,” albeit she adds that it’s a handling of “dispiritingly slender material.” Not to me. Slender material, yes, but not dispiritingly slender. The movie is a partly comic roundelay of absolute chemistry between guys and gals and of turmoil and bitterness. It’s simple but electric.
More, it’s an actor’s triumph. Well, not for Casey Affleck, neither interesting nor deep enough, but Jacinda Barrett is entirely convincing in sweet calm and in fury. Zach Braff and Rachel Bilson, though they never surprise us, are never false. Blythe Danner is commanding in nuance, and Michael Weston is all earthy appeal. It is, finally, proper that Goldwyn’s Last Kiss is sexier than Muccino’s original—that it is spicy and somewhat candid since the first version has the advantage of being the first version.
Cover of The Last Kiss (Widescreen Edition)
Life is hard enough without subjecting yourself to your own stupidity. The store owner played by the peerless W.C. Fields in It’s A Gift (1934) could attest to this if he wasn’t wearing blinders. Comic misery grows as Fields allows himself to be flatly cheated at the same time he is victimized by a shrewish wife and a contrary daughter. The movie exists for its extended sight-gag situations, well enough directed by Norman McLeod, notwithstanding it all starts weakening in the last 15 minutes. One remembers the down-to-earth farce, though.
It’s a Gift (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Miranda Otto, as 20-year-old misfit Dimity in Love Serenade (1996), gets it right: Dimity’s loneliness, shyness, quirkiness, and naive impulsiveness. And, like her fellow players Rebecca Firth and George Shevtsov, she succeeds as a comic actor, indispensable for shaping Shirley Barrett‘s Australian film into a funny curio. But a curio, according to dictionary.com, is “valued as a curiosity.” Love Serenade ought to be valued as that and more—as a startling look at isolation, at the abovementioned loneliness. This isn’t done, however, without the film getting (amusingly) weirder as it goes along.
Barrett—director and sole writer here—is good at seeing scenes and makes competent use of space. The dialogue she has written for her characters is wildly clever. She is patently talented, and LS should be seen several times.