Murder on the Orient Express. Kenneth Branagh. 2017.
Oh, Branagh. Wherefort art thou no good any more.
I mean, we all loved him in the late 80s. Quirky entertaining movies and Henry V! Fun! But then the 90s happened and he never quite recovered. A major problem he had, of course, was that he took US money and had to use a bunch of famous American actors to hilariously disastrous effect, but he also just seemed to lose the fun of it all.
This movie certainly has the fun bit: The moustaches are magnificent. But other than that, it’s … so … standard. I mean, I love me some Standard Christie, and that’s what this is, but…
And, of course, this movie is plagued by big name actors hamming it up, too.
Oh, and then suddenly Poirot is an action here. Well, why not.
Behave Yourself!. George Beck. 1951.
Another public domain oldie.
Oh! Farley Granger! He was that guy in Rope. He’s better here in this broad, silly comedy.
Was he hot shit at the time? There’s this:
Which seems to imply that he was.
Shelley Winter’s great here, too.
And there’s a dog.
OK, you can’t have everything, but I found myself enjoying this quite a bit more than perhaps is strictly warranted. It’s a solid screwball comedy, and they don’t get much screwier than this.
Wild Guitar. Ray Dennis Steckler. 1962.
Hm… Ray Dennis Steckler… that name seems familiar. Is he the guy who made all those movies that MST3K makes fun of? Yup. But this isn’t one of those movies.
But it’s bad.
But it’s not, like, bad bad. It surprisingly well shot. It’s uneven, but there’s some nice-looking scenes in here. The dialogue is totally corny, of course, and it’s boring, but I’ve seen worse.
But half-way through I got so bored that I just ditched the movie.
Le sabotier du Val de Loire. Jaques Demy. 1956.
This short is an extra on the Jacquot de Nantes blu ray, and I guess that makes sense, since it’s a documentary-ish (presumably) about the same clog maker that’s featured in that movie.
This is not a good documentary. Demy ladles the bathos so thickly over his poor objects I mean subjects I mean objects that they’re rather smothered.
I mean, it’s probably not a documentary documentary, but we get to see how clogs are made. Beyond that, it’s difficult to say whether any of the rest bears any relationship to reality.
My guess is: No.
Jacquot de Nantes. Agnès Varda. 1991.
I just watched the super-nostalgic Radio Days… and here’s an even more nostalgic movie.
It’s about Jacques Demy, Varda’s husband. Demy is a director, too, but I haven’t seen a single one of his movies, I think? So I just bought a box set, because I thought I should fix that. I mean, if he was married to Varda, he’s probably pretty good. She’s got good taste.
Varda inserts what I guess to be clips from Demy’s movies illustrating how his childhood was reflected in his movies (I’m guessing!), and the cheekily does this by
blinking these hands
at us. It’s great!
I do feel that gets less interesting as time passes. It goes from being a really cute reminisce about childhood and stuff to being very specifically about Demy becoming a director, and that’s not as interesting. It goes from personal to private.
It half brilliant and half kinda boring.
Radio Days. Woody Allen. 1987.
Rewatching all these Woody Allen movies, I’ve generally felt somewhat disappointed: None of them were as good as I remembered from when I was a teenager.
This one I do remember not liking very much… but I don’t understand why now. It’s so cute! OK, the gags aren’t as absurd as in his 70s movies, but they’re funny.
And you can’t but help enjoy the vicarious nostalgia on display here. The actors are having a good time, the look is right, and it’s got the right digressive structure for this sort of thing.
It’s an unassuming little delight, I think.
Check and Double Check. Melville W. Brown. 1930.
Yet another movie from the public domain DVD box. So this is an Amos’n’Andy movie? The only thing I know about them is that bit from that Public Enemy song you know.
I guess I was surprised to see that the main characters are white actors in blackface? The other surprising thing is just how lame the humour is. The jokes are few and far between. And weak.
The director did not want to give audiences the impression that Ellington’s band was racially integrated, and was worried that two band members were too light skinned. So valve trombonist Juan Tizol, who was Puerto Rican, and clarinetist Barney Bigard, a Creole, wore stage makeup to appear as dark as Amos and Andy on film
Rock Rock Rock!. Will Price. 1956.
I thought I might as well continue to watch some more public domain DVDs. From the name of this I thought that it was going to be just a bunch of performances with some dopey kinda-sorta-like-a storyline between the performances…
… and it starts out that way.
It’s cornier than a field in Iowa, but who cares. It’s absolutely without pretension: It’s the equivalent of watching 90 minutes of MTV back in the 80s. It’s just some music videos strung together, and the music’s pretty fun.
And the way they’ve devised to bring in all these black performers into a movie about white teenagers is er uhm fun? Basically, the teenagers watch them on TV, and we watch along with them.
(They manage to turn it into skit, sort of, as the father who watches the show with the teenage girls gets more and more into the rock music they’re playing on the TV.)
In the second half, you get a lot of plot that’s… not… good. That bit rather drags. It’s all about banking and stuff.
This is kinda hard to rate. The music bits are great. The movie bits are really bad. It’s like two movies badly spliced together, and the people who made the bad bits probably thought they were saving the movie.
Royal Wedding. Stanley Donen. 1951.
How odd! This is a Stanley Donen movie starring:
How… have I not seen this before?
Royal Wedding is one of several MGM musicals that entered public domain because the studio failed to renew the copyright registration in the 28th year after its publication.
So MGM hasn’t found it worth it to push this movie because basically anybody can release it? My copy came from a box set of public domain movies and is by far the most lavish one there, I think.
But it looks horrible! I think it was probably mastered off of … Actually. I don’t know. It doesn’t really look NTSC. Perhaps it is from a film copy, bit… badly… uncorrected? At least the audio is good. But I really want to watch this in a restored 2K version.
But that doesn’t exist. *sigh* The Tragedy Of Not Being Able To Make Sufficient Amount Of Money Off Of Something strikes again. The US should really have some kind of institute that restores significant movies that are commercially iffy. The Brits and the Frenchies have.
This movie is like totes so delightful. Nothing that matters happens, and everything is just fun. Even the dance routines are more frothy than useful: The bit with Astaire dancing with a coat rack is pure gleeful genius.
Pure perfect escapism.
I should make a more concerted effort to see if there’s any more of these movies I’ve missed.
One thing that’s weird about this movie is how relentlessly white it is (for a musical of its time). I mean, there’s even a bit from Haiti that basically all other movies would have used as “the chance” to drop in some fabulous black dancers, but nope.
Burning Blue. D.M.W. Greer. 2013.
Man, this is really not a good movie. Yeah yeah, it’s a low budget indie movie, and some of the performances are pretty good (especially Trent Ford and Rob Mayes), and the integration between (what I assume to be) stock footage of the ships and the film footage is pretty well integrated, and the audio’s not awful.
It just looks so cheap. Most of the actors are awful. The lines are super dull. The characters aren’t even cardboard.
But one character does have an arc of sorts_ The obnoxious loud-mouthed guy has a really fun scene at the end of the second act. It’s like “yee-haw”.
Otherwise… man… it’s a depressing movie, and not in a good way.