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  • August 11, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: The Parallax View

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses one of his favorite Warren Beatty films, directed by Alan J. Pakula.

    The Parallax View (1974)

    What It’s About: Reporter Joe Frady (Warren Beatty) is onto a terrifying, wide-ranging conspiracy in the wake of a prominent senator’s assassination. He must substantiate his theory to editor Bill Rintels (Hume Cronyn), who has reason to doubt him thanks to past irresponsible behaviors. Frady does indeed have a tiger by the tail, and the burning question becomes: will he manage to live long enough to get his scoop?

    Why I Love It:
    One of our top political paranoia thrillers, director Pakula uses this story to stir up close-to-the-surface fears and doubts about hidden machinations deeply embedded in our country’s recent past. The result is eerily compelling. Direction, script and acting are uniformly excellent, and the film’s climax is particularly intense. This subtle, intelligent thriller ranks among our favorite Beatty outings, with a jittery Prentiss and nicely seasoned Cronyn providing first-rate support among a stellar cast. Michael Small’s memorable music score also adds to the tension. View this!

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  • July 13, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: The Taking of Pelham One Two Three

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses a clever suspense film that showcases Walter Matthau’s versatility, directed by Joseph Sargent.

    The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

    What It’s About: The responsibilities of the New York City Transit police are considerable, especially when a group of criminals takes a subway train hostage between stations. Then the whole crazy town gets into the act. Luckily laconic Lieutenant Zach “Z” Garber (Walter Matthau) is the man on the scene, and he’s determined to flush out his clever quarry before gang ringleader Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw) fulfills his promise of killing the passengers one-by-one.

    Why I Love It:
    Joseph Sargent’s pulsating cat-and-mouse thriller gives off a potent seventies flavor, a time when the Big Apple was in fiscal crisis. Salty New York characters are in abundance, and dog-faced Matthau fits right in, effortlessly assuming the jaded, rumpled contours of veteran Manhattan cop. As Z’s chief nemesis, Shaw’s Mr. Blue is a study in contrasts: cold, sharp, organized, and ruthless. In a city already coming apart at the seams, can overextended authorities prevail over these audacious criminals?

    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • July 7, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses Norman Jewison’s hilarious cold war comedy co-starring Carl Reiner.

    The Russians Are Coming (1966)

    What It’s About: When an off-course submarine runs aground just off the coast of New England, Soviet commander Lt. Rozanov (Alan Arkin) and two English-speaking crewmen try to finagle a boat with enough juice to free them. Unfortunately, their attempt to impersonate Norwegians doesn’t fly in town, and Sheriff Link Mattocks (Brian Keith) spreads word that the communists are finally invading.

    Why I Love It:
    One of the nuttiest Cold War comedies of the 1960s, Norman Jewison’s box-office hit “The Russians Are Coming” has a broad, frantic quality that will resonate with kids, past and present. Oscar nominee Arkin stands out as the desperate Russian commander trying to avoid an international incident, and Jonathan Winters is a howl as an unhinged deputy sheriff mobilizing the nearby village. Note: a short advance briefing on the dynamics of the Cold War will likely increase your kids’ enjoyment of this movie.

    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • June 30, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: Pulp Fiction (1994)

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses John Travolta’s big comeback film, directed by Quentin Tarantino.

    Pulp Fiction (1994)

    What It’s About: Ground-breaking film tracks various Los Angeles lowlifes-including two hit men, Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winfield (Samuel L. Jackson)-whose fates are entwined with fading boxer Butch (Bruce Willis), underworld boss Marsellus (Ving Rhames), and his wife Mia ( Uma Thurman), a gorgeous moll with a nose for trouble.

    Why I Love It:
    A genre-twisting, savagely funny tour de force, with vignettes of bantering hit-men, crooked boxers, petty thieves, and an alluring gangster’s wife, all cutting back and forth in time. With its exhilarating, entertaining stew of pop-culture references courtesy of director/screenwriter Tarantino and co-writer Roger Avary, “Pulp” earns its status as one of the most influential films of the ’90s. For those able to tolerate its blend of pitch-black comedy and brutal violence (it’s not for everyone), it’s a must-see film. Famous as John Travolta’s comeback vehicle.

    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • June 23, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: Sudden Fear (1952)

    by John Farr

    Never marry an actor! John Farr discusses one of Joan Crawford’s best later films, directed by David Miller.

    Sudden Fear (1952)

    What It’s About: After he’s rejected from afar for a big role by playwright Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford) owing to his sinister looks, actor Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) meets and romances the middle-aged writer on a train ride back to San Francisco. She falls head over heels, and they soon marry. It seems like a match made in heaven. Only Myra doesn’t realize that Lester is not in love with her, and is actually plotting to kill her with his ex-girlfriend Irene (Gloria Grahame).

    Why I Love It:
    Miller’s Oscar-nominated “Sudden Fear” pairs queen of melodrama Crawford with virile villain Palance, to strong effect. Meanwhile scene stealer Grahame sizzles as Jack’s greedy, scheming mistress. With its atmospheric lighting and stark cinematography, the film is exemplary of noir thrillers of the time, but screenwriter Lenore Coffee gives the plot a gratifying twist as the intended victim turns the tables on the man who wants her dead. The resulting game of cat and mouse, which ends with a climactic nighttime chase, is the heart-pounding fun of “Fear.”

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