REEL 13

Read our Blog Posts

REEL 13 Blog
  • February 16, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Classic Clark Gable

    by John Farr

    There’s more to the star of this week’s Reel 13 Classic, Run Silent, Run Deep, than “Gone with the Wind.” John Farr lists three of The King of Hollywood’s best roles.


    It Happened One Night (1934)

    What It’s About:
    Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert), a mixed-up heiress, hits the road incognito to escape a loveless impending marriage and a chronically over-protective father (Connolly). Riding with the common folk on a bus, she meets reporter Peter Warne (Clark Gable), who grudgingly befriends this unusual creature, who appears curiously oblivious to the ways and customs of real life. When Peter discovers her true identity, he knows he’s got hold of the story of the century, but by this time, he’s also started to have feelings for Ellie. What’s a desperate, smitten newsman to do?

    Why I Love It:
    Frank Capra’s sublime romantic comedy swept the 1934 Oscars, and it’s still easy to understand why. Few seventy year old movies hold up like this one. Colbert makes a charming, deft comedienne (check out that hitch-hiking scene!), and Gable was never more appealing, winning his only Oscar for this role. The scene where Peter takes off his shirt and exposes his bare chest was a first, and reportedly, sounded a death knell for the undershirt industry. Hail to the walls of Jericho!


    Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

    What It’s About:
    In 18th century Great Britain, sadistic Captain Bligh (Charles Laughton) commands the HMS Bounty on a long voyage to Tahiti to collect food supplies. When his consistent cruelty towards his crew goes beyond reasonable limits, second-in-command Fletcher Christian (Clark Gable) faces the fateful decision of whether or not to seize control of the ship.

    Why I Love It:
    MGM’s adaptation of the famous Nordhoff/ Hall book is given top shelf treatment here, with the sneering Laughton the definitive Bligh, and the studio’s biggest star, Gable, playing Christian with gusto (and notably, without either a British accent or his trademark mustache). But never mind- this is grand, sweeping entertainment, suitable for the whole family.


    Command Decision (1949)

    What It’s About:
    During the Second World War, Air Force Brigadier General Casey Dennis (Clark Gable) decides to take advantage of fair weather by sending maximum sorties to decimate German factories where, unbeknownst to his airmen, a new, devastatingly superior jet is being manufactured. But after two days of extremely heavy losses, Dennis faces intense pressure from his senior officer, Major General Roland Kane (Walter Pidgeon), and image-conscious Congressmen, to pick easier targets- or be out of a job.

    Why I Love It:
    Based on William Wister Haines’s Broadway hit, this impeccably acted drama focuses on the politicking and senior-decision-making behind managing a war–and homeland morale. Gable is superb as the tough-minded general who must defend his top-secret, suicidal Operation Stitch to reluctant pilots and officers alike, while co-stars Pidgeon and Brian Donlevy shine as the supposedly more sensible generals. Charles Bickford has a nice turn, too, as an army reporter who thinks the privately aggrieved Dennis is a glory-hunting butcher, and watch for Edward Arnold as a Capitol Hill bigwig. Obey my “Command”–see this smart, gripping film.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more reviews of the best movies.

    • comments (0)
  • February 8, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Jack Nicholson – Best Actor Losses

    by John Farr

    Jack Nicholson was nominated thrice for Best Actor before finally winning for this week’s Reel 13 Classic One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. What were they? John Farr has the answers.


    Five Easy Pieces (1970)

    What It’s About:
    Disaffected, hard-drinking oil rigger Bobby Dupea (Jack Nicholson) is not what he appears at first sight: Born into a patrician clan from Puget Sound, Bobby has turned his back on bourgeois comforts and a promising career as a classical pianist for life on the road with dim-witted girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black). Bobby’s drawn back into the family fold, however, when he learns his father Nicholas (William Challee) is dying.

    Why I Love It:
    One of the definitive, highly acclaimed films of the early-70′s New American Cinema, Bob Rafelson’s edgy, deep character study features complex and courageous performances from both Nicholson and Black. As an existentially pained outcast of upper-middle-class breeding, Jack’s pent-up Bobby is especially absorbing to watch, as he denigrates Rayette’s crass singing efforts or spars with a waitress over the vagaries of a chicken-salad sandwich. A moody portrait of alienation and unresolved pain, Rafelson’s Oscar-nominated “Pieces” will stick with you.


    The Last Detail (1973)

    What It’s About:
    Hal Ashby’s seminal 70′s film has career sailors Buddusky (Jack Nicholson) and Mulhall (Otis Young) escorting a younger convicted enlistee named Meadows (Randy Quaid) from Virginia to New Hampshire for an eight year sentence in the stockade. Taking pity on the painfully naïve, benumbed young man, the two older men resolve to show Meadows a wild time en-route, to make his upcoming incarceration more bearable. But are they really doing it for Meadows, or is to ward off their own feelings of imprisonment?

    Why I Love It:
    Gritty, wildly profane movie is equal parts funny and tragic, a tricky balance director Ashby sustains throughout. The Academy Award – nominated Quaid is wonderfully dim and pathetic as perennial loser Meadows, but Nicholson’s performance as Buddusky is a revelation, easily up to his better-known work in “Carnal Knowledge” and “Chinatown” (it earned him his third Oscar nod in four years). This “Detail” is definitely worth enlisting for.


    Chinatown (1974)

    What It’s About:
    Hired by glamorous Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) to snap incriminating photos of her husband, private dick J.J. “Jake” Gittes (Jack Nicholson) thinks he’s on a routine investigation of spousal infidelity. It turns out Evelyn is actually the daughter of powerful baron Noah Cross (John Huston), and the seamy revelations only mount from there, drawing Jake deeper into a hornet’s nest of incest, betrayal, and corruption in seedy 1930′s Los Angeles.

    Why I Love It:
    Cynical, brooding, and knotted with mystery, Polanski’s “Chinatown” is an inspired update of the private eye picture that equals most anything Bogart did in the forties. The cast, of course, can’t be beat: Nicholson puts his own stamp on the familiar character of a private eye in over his head; Dunaway excels playing a dangerous woman that most men would walk off cliffs for, and Huston delivers a titanic performance as the arrogant Cross. Watch for Polanski himself as a knife-wielding thug with a grudge against nosy people. “Chinatown” earned eleven Oscar nods, but snagged only one win, for Robert Towne’s dense, twisty script. Viewed today, it’s all too clear: it should have won more.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more reviews of the best movies.

    • comments (0)
  • February 3, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Don’t Miss Dean Martin

    by John Farr

    Dean Martin, co-star of this week’s Reel 13 Classic, Ocean’s Eleven, achieved fame with his smooth singing and straight-man partnership with Jerry Lewis, but the reason he enjoyed a such an enduring career is that he could really act.


    The Young Lions (1958)

    What It’s About:
    During WWII, singer Michael Whiteacre (Dean Martin) and Jewish American Noah Ackerman (Montgomery Clift) enlist and strike up a close friendship. Meanwhile, in Germany idealistic Nazi supporter Christian Diestl (marlon Brando) joins Hitler’s army and becomes an officer in the Wehrmacht. Over the course of the war, each man falls in love and confronts unpleasant realities. Ackerman battles anti-semitism among his own countrymen; Whiteacre feels guilt for getting a cushy assignment far from the front lines, and Diestl becomes increasingly disillusioned with Nazi brutality. Thus director Dmytryk explores the gray areas to be found in war, and in all human conflict.

    Why I Love It:
    Based on Irving Shaw’s novel, Edward Dmytryk’s perceptive rumination on love, war, loyalty, and fate is notable for offering one of the first three-dimensional portrayals of a Nazi character, courtesy of Brando, in a surprisingly understated mode. Clift’s own turn as the proud, patriotic Jew is one of his shining moments on-screen, while Dino eased into his first serious screen role with assurance. Great support from Lee Van Cleef (as Clift’s racist superior), the superb Maximillian Schell (as a cynical Nazi), and Hope Lange, Barbara Rush, and May Britt (as love interests) keep these “Lions” roaring.


    Some Came Running (1958)

    What It’s About:
    Returning to his Midwest hometown after WWII, card-playing soldier and once-promising novelist Dave Hirsh (Frank Sinatra) is a perturbing presence to his older brother, Frank (Arthur Kennedy), a well-to-do businessman who feels Dave is more trouble than he’s worth. When local creative-writing instructor Gwen French (Martha Hyer) takes a liking to Dave, he cleans up his act, but his acquaintance with Chicago floozie Ginny (Shirley MacLaine) and card sharp Bama Dillert (Dean Martin) threatens to undermine their budding romance.

    Why I Love It:
    In the wake of “From Here to Eternity,” Warners adapted another James Jones novel for the big screen, pairing director Minnelli (best known for musicals) with Ol’ Blue Eyes, who puts in solid work here as a wayward writer with a troubled heart. On- and off-screen drinking pal Martin is aces, too, playing to his breezy, real-life persona, but the fellas leave the heavy work to Best Actress nominee MacLaine, whose heartrending turn as the self-sacrificing Ginny really burrows under your skin. If “Running” has a moral, it’s this: Messy lives can be as noble as carefully ordered ones.


    Rio Bravo (1959)

    What It’s About:
    Sheriff John T. Chance (John Wayne) is in a tight spot. He’s captured dangerous outlaw Joe Burdette (Claude Akins), and must hold him in jail until the territorial judge arrives. Problem is, Burdette has lots of confederates who’ll clearly attempt to break him out before the judge arrives. And all Chance has in his corner is Dude, his alcoholic deputy (Dean Martin) and Stumpy (Walter Brennan), a crippled old geezer. Can Chance hold out?

    Why I Love It:
    Hawks’s colorful, exciting western boasts an archetypal, larger-than-life turn from the Duke, and perhaps Martin’s finest acting job ever as Dude. Film neatly blends pathos, suspense, comedy, even songs to create top-notch entertainment. Look also for Ricky Nelson as Colorado (he and Dino get to croon together), and the leggy, alluring Angie Dickinson as Feathers, a young woman with her eye on Chance. Bravo indeed.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more reviews of the best movies.

    • comments (0)
  • January 27, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Have You Seen McQueen?

    by John Farr

    Steve McQueen, star of this week’s Reel 13 Classic “The Thomas Crown Affair” endures as an antihero thirty years after his premature death. John Farr will show you why.


    The Great Escape (1963)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
    During World War 2, a team of Allied prisoners in a high security German POW camp work together in a tireless attempt to facilitate a mass escape. Their daring plan is to dig a long underground tunnel which will take them all to the other side of the barbed wire and freedom. This painstaking job will take not only a highly coordinated effort, but a fair amount of time, with a constant risk of failure or exposure. Will these intrepid soldiers make it out of there?

    WHY I LOVE IT:
    This breathless war entry, based on a true story, may just be the finest escape movie ever filmed. Beautifully shot on locations in Europe, director John Sturges reunites several of the cast from his prior triumph, the testosterone-heavy “Magnificent Seven”- notably McQueen (now a much bigger star), James Coburn, and Charles Bronson (as the expert on tunnel digging), and adds in James Garner and Richard Attenborough for good measure. Though the film is long, trust me-you won’t be looking at your watch. If you love war movies, this is top-notch, star-studded entertainment. And check out Steve on that motorcycle!


    Bullitt (1968)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
    When hard-nosed Bay Area police detective Frank Bullitt (Steve McQueen) launches an inquiry into the murder of a Mob informant under his protection, he is stymied by aspiring politician Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn), head of the Senate subcommittee investigating Mafia corruption. Undaunted, Bullitt pursues the underworld killers with dogged determination.

    WHY I LOVE IT:
    A cop film which boasts one of the best car chases ever – an exhilarating, ten-minute romp through the streets of San Francisco that’s rarely been equalled – “Bullitt” is the ultimate McQueen movie (along with “The Great Escape”). The action sequences are taut and nerve-jangling, and the distinctive McQueen persona – reticent, self-reliant, cool under pressure – is fully formed and evoked. Of course, he had one undeniable advantage: he was the coolest movie star of his time, and so both he and “Bullitt” endure. (Note: a young Jacqueline Bisset also makes for a stunning diversion as Bullitt’s love interest.)


    Junior Bonner (1972)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
    Junior Bonner (Steve McQueen) is a fading rodeo star who re-visits his home turf to participate in the area’s annual event. There, he re-unites with his family: beloved dad Ace (Preston), a charming but irresponsible dreamer; mother Elvira (Lupino), his more grounded, long-suffering mother who (for the most part) is now estranged from Ace; and brother Curly (Baker), a born hustler who’s becoming rich. Junior must see if he still has the stuff to compete, while coming to terms with his tricky family situation.

    WHY I LOVE IT:
    Sam Peckinpah’s most subtle, gentle movie is a perfect showcase for the mellowing McQueen, who comfortably wears the part of Junior like a pair of old jeans. “Junior” also boasts fabulous late-career turns from Preston, who nearly steals the picture, and Lupino in a bittersweet turn as the resigned Elvira. Flavorful entry features great rodeo atmosphere and some exciting bucking bronco sequences. Given a mixed reception on release, this underrated gem holds up extremely well, and constitutes must-viewing , particularly for McQueen fans.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more reviews of the best movies.

    • comments (0)
  • January 19, 2012

    Best Movies by Farr: Cagney the Classic Bad Guy

    by John Farr

    In his day James Cagney became the quintessential movie bad guy. Here are three of his best baddies.


    The Public Enemy (1931)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
    This landmark film concerns Tom Powers (James Cagney), a wayward Irish youth from Chicago’s gritty South Side who becomes a big-time mobster during Prohibition, while his stable older brother Mike (Donald Cook) works a low-paying but honest job. As Tom’s dark star soars ever higher in the gangland hierarchy, he and childhood buddy Matt Doyle (Edward Woods) leave a trail of blood in their wake, but ultimately this life of crime exacts its toll on Tom.

    WHY I LOVE IT:
    Wellman’s “The Public Enemy” launched the film career of a pugnacious Irish-American from Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen who started out as a dancer, only to become the toughest tough guy of them all: Jimmy Cagney, never cockier than he is here. Since organized crime was a fairly new and frightening epidemic at the time, Wellman gives “Enemy” the stark feel of a purely cautionary tale. Both the famous grapefruit scene and Tom’s final homecoming still pack a wallop, and a stunning Jean Harlow injects plenty of sex appeal as Tom’s gal Gwen.


    Angels with Dirty Faces (1938)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
    Rocky Sullivan and Jerry Connolly, two young hooligans on the make, are caught stealing, and only Jerry gets away. As the years go by, the reform school-hardened Rocky (James Cagney) enters a life of crime, becoming a famous and feared gangster, while Jerry (Pat O’Brien) ultimately sees the light and enters the priesthood. While maintaining affection for each other, criminal and priest must compete for the souls of a new generation of hoodlums in the neighborhood, played by the Dead End Kids.

    WHY I LOVE IT:
    “Angels” represents the peak of the gangster picture genre which Warners developed and refined in the thirties, when the age of Capone was still fresh in people’s minds. Cagney, whose screen career had been launched seven years before in “The Public Enemy”, perfects his rendition of the crook with a heart of gold, and his close real-life friend Pat O’Brien counters him perfectly as the mellow, morally upright Father Connolly. Meanwhile Humphrey Bogart, in full villain mode, is deliciously slimy as Rocky’s “business partner”. Whatever you do, don’t miss that ending!


    White Heat (1949)

    WHAT IT’S ABOUT:
    Film follows twisted path of one Cody Jarrett (James Cagney) a hardened career criminal whose profound mental illness manifests itself in blinding headaches and an intense mother fixation. His psychosis doesn’t hold him back from an aggressive spree of robbing and killing, however. When Cody winds up in jail on a relatively minor charge, the authorities place undercover cop Hank Fallon (Edmond O’Brien) in his cell. Later, when the two are sprung, Hank joins the Jarrett gang, and from the inside, starts to accelerate Cody’s undoing.

    WHY I LOVE IT:
    Raoul Walsh’s dynamite gangster picture is so much more than a re-tread of the early thirties gangster classics that made Cagney a star. Here we are less concerned with the cat-and-mouse aspects of the story (though they are plenty diverting) and more focused on the progressive mental disintegration of the central character. Cagney is outstanding as Jarrett, a man whose own demons may consume him before the police finish the job. Electrifying stuff, and a Cagney peak.


    Visit Best Movies by Farr for more reviews of the best movies.

    • comments (0)
Page 12 of 58« First...1011121314...203040...Last »