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  • 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.”

    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

  • June 16, 2013

    Best Movies by Farr: Dark Victory

    by John Farr

    John Farr discusses the first great melodrama starring Bette Davis, directed by Edmund Goulding.

    Dark Victory (1939)

    What It’s About: Headstrong Long Island heiress Judith Traherne (Bette Davis) lives life to the fullest, swilling stiff cocktails and chain-smoking as she flits from one party to another. But a bout of recurring headaches and fainting spells sends her to the doctor, where she learns she has a brain tumor. Following a successful operation, Judith falls in love with her surgeon, Dr. Frederick Steele (George Brent), but her high spirits are undercut by the news that the procedure has offered only a brief reprieve.

    Why I Love It:
    Based on Casey Robinson’s stage drama, which starred Tallulah Bankhead, this Oscar-nominated weepie about a dying socialite trying to find happiness in the remaining months of her life scored with audiences in 1939, and it’s not hard to see why. The luminous Davis is superb, convincingly transforming herself from a bossy, devil-may-care horse breeder into a down-to-earth, spiritually humble human being. Humphrey Bogart does a sprightly turn as an Irish stable hand (yes, it’s true), and also watch for Ronald Reagan, who’s terrific as Judith’s suitor, Alec Hamin. If you’re in the mood for a good cry, “Dark Victory” is your ticket to tearful bliss.

    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more great DVD recommendations.

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