Monday, December 31, 2007

The Most Popular Classic Film Ever Made

Casablanca has to be the most popular Classic film ever made, It is set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War 11. An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen consequences.

The film was directed by Michael Curtiz [an Hungarian Jewish emigre] and stars Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blaine and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund. It focuses on Rick's conflict between,love and virtue: he must choose between his love for Ilsa and doing the right thing, helping her and her Resistance leader husband escape from Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis.

The score was written by Max Steiner, who was best known for the musical score for Gone with the Wind.

World War II has engulfed Europe, reaching all the way to Rick Blaine’s Cafe Americain in French-held Morocco.This upscale nightclub and gambling den attracts a mixed clientele of Vichy French and Nazi officials, refugees and thieves. The Nazis have overrun France and are heading into its unoccupied possessions in Africa – and all kinds of people are trying to escape them by way of Casablanca. The plot revolves around “letters of transit” [Ugarte (Peter Lorre), a petty criminal, arrives in Rick's club with the letters of transit he obtained by killing two Germancouriers.} that will provide safe passage by air to Lisbon, and then to America, a rare and precious commodity indeed. The papers allow the bearer to travel freely around German controlled Europe.

Ugarte plans to make his fortune by selling them to the highest bidder, who is due to arrive at the club later that night. However, before the exchange can take place, Ugarte is arrested by the local police under the command of Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains), a corrupt Vichy official who accommodates the Nazis. Unbeknown to Renault and the Nazis, Ugarte had left the letters with Rick for safekeeping. because "...somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust."

In the meantime Blaines ex lover, Ilsa Luind[Inrdid Bergman] arrives with her husband VictorLaszio [Paul Henreid] to purchase the letters. When Ilsa first met and fell in love with Rick in Paris, she believed her husband had been killed in a concentration camp. Upon discovering that he had in fact escaped, she left Rick abruptly without explanation and returned to Laszlo. After the club closes, Ilsa returns to try to explain, but Rick is drunk and refuses to listen.

The next night Laszlo speaks with him privately, but Rick refuses to part with the letters, telling Laszlo to ask his wife for the reason. They are then interrupted when a group of Nazi officers, led by Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt), begins to sing "Die Wacht am Rhein", a German patriotic song. Infuriated, Laszlo orders the house band to play "La Marseillaise". When the band leader looks to Rick for guidance, he nods his head. Laszlo starts singing, alone at first, then long suppressed patriotic fervor grips the crowd and everyone joins in, drowning out the Germans. In retaliation, Strasser orders Renault to close the club.

Laszlo is arrested on a petty charge. Rick convinces Renault to release him, promising to set him up for a much more serious crime: possession of the letters. Rick then double crosses Renault, forcing him at gunpoint to assist in the escape. Then Rick makes Ilsa board the plane with her husband. Major Strasser drives up but he is shot by Rick. Renault saves Rick's life by telling them to "round up the usual suspects." He then recommends that he and Rick leave Casablanca. They disappear into the fog with one of the most memorable exit lines in movie history:"Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

Casablanca is now ranked among the greatest cinematic achievements of all time.I have never seen a film where the chemistry works so well among all of the actors. This is definitely the most popular classic film ever made.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Review Of The Movie National Treasure

National Treasure is a 2004 movie from Walt Disney Pictures written by Jim Kouf, Cormac Wibberley and Marianne Wibberley, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer,directed by Jon Turteltaub

Staring Nicolas Cage [Ben Gates],along with Diane Kruger [Dr. Abigail Chase],Justin Bartha[Riley Poole],Sean Bean [Ian Hokwe],Jon Voight [Patrick Gates],Harvey Keitel [Peter Sadusky]and Christopher Plummer [John Adams Gates]

It's a story about a treasure hunter is in hot pursuit of a mythical treasure that has been passed down for centuries, while his employer turned enemy is onto the same path that he's on.It is an adventure movie set in the USA that involves stealing the Declaration of Independence, which leads to a trail of clues and a back-story intertwined with the Knights Templar and the Free Masons.[Which is a fraternal organization that arose from obscure origins (theorized to be anywhere from the time of the building of King Solomon's Temple to the mid-1600s). Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, and has millions of members]

The story centers around Ben Gates, whose family believes in the legend of a treasure that consists of artifacts and gold that was hidden by the founding fathers and all but forgotten to all but a few.The first clue that the treasure does exit is when Gates and Riley Poole with the financial help of Ian Hokwe find the wreckage of a colonial ship and find an interesting clue about the whereabouts of the treasure. Ben figures out that the next clue is actually on the back of the Declaration Of Independence and tells Hokwe to forget about it, but Hokwe has other plans and tries to kill Gates and Poole, but fails.

Gates and Poole attempt to warn the F.B.I. and Homeland Security, but no one takes him seriously because of the vast security that surrounds that document.He then decides to visit the National Archives and tries to convince Doctor Abigail Chase about the perceived threat and gets no where again, so he decides to steal the Declaration Of Independence himself so that he can protect it."Somtimes you have to do the wrong thing to make things right", It just so happens that the same night that Gates decides to steal the document, Hokwe is also there trying to do the same thing.

From then on it is a game of cat and mouse between Gates,Dr. Chase,Patrick Chase,Poole,the F.B.I. and Howke. Watching this film is almost like playing a game of charades. Every time another clue is discovered, someone has to decipher it before moving on to the next clue, while at the same time, looking over each other shoulders, until the treasure is finally found and returned. It is a very spell binding movie that will not only keep you entertained, but it will also keep you guessing. National Treasure is a film that is definately worth watching.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Great Epic Car Chase Film

Going back over 35 years ago I remember watching two greatcar chases at the movies in less than a years time. The first one was Steve McQueen in Bullitt and the second one was from one of my favorite actors--Gene Hackman, staring in the French Connection.
This entertaining film was directed by William Friedkin and it was actually shot on the streets of New York. The film was adapted and fictionalized by Ernest Tidyman from the non-fiction book by Robin Moore. The French Connection tells the story of two New York City policemen who are trying to intercept a heroin shipment coming in from France. It is based on the actual, infamous "French Connection" trafficking scheme. It stars Gene Hackman,[Popeye Doyle],Roy Scheider [as his partner "Cloudy" Russo], and Fernando Rey. It also features Eddie Egan and Sonny "Cloudy" Grosso, the real-life police detectives on whom Hackman's and Scheider's characters were based.
The film revolves around the smuggling of narcotics between Marseilles, France and New York City. The film opens in Marseilles with a policeman staking out Alain Charnier, a French criminal who ostensibly works as a former stevedore-turned-shipping executive but is in fact involved in smuggling heroin from France to the United States. The French policeman is eventually assassinated by Charnier's henchman, Pierre Nicoli.
While Doyle and Russo are in a nightclub one night, Doyle becomes interested in two people and decides to trail the couple after they leave the club.Although the suspect, Sal Bocas,only runs a modest nightstand/dinner, Doyle observes that the suspect and his wife lead an ectravagent lifestyle and he decides that they have to involved in some sort of criminal activity.After establishing a connection between Bocas and a man named Weinstock,who has extensive connections with the narcotics underdworld, Doyle and Russo then roust an informent in another bar and he questions him about the appartent shortage of herion on the streets. Doyle finds out about an apparent shipement of heroin and convinces his boss to agree to a wiretap on Bocas's phones and then, by using several ploys, tries and obtains more information about their suspects.
This is where the action starts to pick up when Doyle starts to tail Charnier, who has tricked his friend Henri Devereaux into importing an automobile that is concealing drugs. But both detectives start having trouble with their own boss and also with a federal agent named Mulderig. After a failed attempt on Doyle's life by Charnier henchmen Nicoli, [this is where there is an epic car and train chase]Doyle eventually kills Nicoli after he catches up to him. He finds Devereaux's and has it impounded where after a few hours, they find drugs in the rocker panels. They put the car back together and return it to Devereaus. After following the car to a factory where the drug deal is going down, the police kill Boca in a shootout and Doyle shoots and kills Federal agent Mulderig by mistake.
It was the first R-rated movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and in 2005 the film was added to the list of films preserved in the United States National Film Registry. And it also containes one of the greatest car chase sequences in movie history. The chase involves Popeye securing a citizen's car (a 1971 Pontiac LeMans) and then obsessively chasing the out-of-control elevated train, on which a hitman is trying to escape. This car chase alone is reason enough to view this film more than once.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Greatest Movie Ever Made

Citizen Kane is a 1941 mystery/drama film. Released by RKO Pictures, it was the first feature film directed by Orson Welles. In 1997 the American Film Institute placed it at number one in its list of the 100 greatest U.S. movies of all time.

The film, budgeted at $800,000, received unanimous critical praise even at the time of its release, although it was not a commercial success until it was re-released after World War II, found well deserved recognition in Europe, and then played on television.

Orson Welles deserves all the credit that he receives from this movie. He was the leading character, producer and director. The major theme of this movie is one of power and wealth. How one man uses his position in life to obtain favors for his friends and family and advance his own political aspirations to become Governor.But in the end dies a lonely old man unable to replacet he emotional losses he had endured in his life.

The film sparked controversy before it premiered in New York City on May 1, 1941, because it appeared to fictionalize and caricatures certain events and individuals in the life of William Randolph Hearst, a powerful newspaper magnate and publisher. There were numerious efforts to stop this film by FBIinvestigations and a number of newspaper smears.The film was accused of drawing remarkable, unflattering, and uncomplimentary likeness's to real life.

This movie was loosely based on the life of William Randolph Hearst. The movie begins with the death of Charles Foster Kane, who was the editor of the New York Journal. He says the name rosebud and drops a crystal ball, which falls to the ground and shatters. News clips are shown about the different occurrences in Kane's life depicting how Kane acquired his fortune. Throughout the whole movie reporters are trying to figure out what the word rosebud meant and why it was the last word he said before he died. The reporters find people who knew Kane throughout his life trying to get information from them that would put some sense to Kane saying rosebud as his last word. Many of the stories told by the people interviewed show the audience a lot about his life through flashbacks.

I think everyone should see this movie at least once. In my opinion it is one of the greatest American movies of all time. This is one of the few films that I have seen more than twice.

Monday, December 17, 2007

One Of The Best Gangster Films Ever Made

Henry Hill and his friends work their way up through the mob hierarchy.If there was one word that I could use to describe Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas" it'd be priceless.And of all the "gangster" movies that I have reviewed I would say that "Goodfellas" is one of the best gangster films ever made.

Directed by Martin Scorsese and written by wiseguy Nicholas Pileggi,it is the the true story of mob informer Henry was released in the U.S. on September19TH, 1990. The film stars Ray Liotta as Henry Hill, Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway (based on Jimmy Burke), Joe Pesci,as the sociopath Tommy DeVito (based on Tommy DeSimone), Lorraine Bracco as Hill's wife (Karen Hill), and Paul Sorvino as Paulie Cicero (based on Paul Vario).

The blue-collar side of New York's Italian mafia is explored in this crime biopic of wiseguy Henry Hill. As he makes his way from strapping young petty criminal, to big-time thief, to middle-aged cocaine addict and dealer, the film explores in detail the rules and traditions of organized crime.
Although Henry had an Italian mother, because his father was Irish, he could never be made or inducted into the mob, desperate as he was for the opportunity. He grew up in the Brooklyn area dominated by Paul Vario’s enterprises, and eventually became a kind of second son to Vario. Through him, he came into contact with Burke, who also more or less adopted him, teaching him and showing him the finer points of criminal life. Hill repaid their generosity and affection by helping to send them both to jail.This film is based on a true story.

[Based on available figures,in the first ten months of 1967, there were forty-five major robberies at the airport of goods and cargo valued at $2.2 million and $2.5 million in nonnegotiable stocks were stolen within the perimeter. There is no recorded figure for the thefts that occurred outside the airport, which originated from inside the complex.]

Actually Henry comes off as a very likable person in this film. Maybe it has something to do with the fascination that Hollywood has created about gangsters, or the fact that the average person seems to enjoy the basic theme of this movie. But this is not your ordinary ganster movie. I think that a good script and directing, along with the great performances by these actors, make this one of the best gangster films ever made.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Clear And Present Danger--A Review

In one of his best performances onscreen he plays the part of CIA Analyst Jack Ryan is drawn into an illegal war fought by the US government against a Colombian drug cartel. It was a 1994 film directed by Phillip Noyce, based on the book of the same name by Tom Clancy and directed by Phillip Noyce.

President Bennett [Donald Moffat] wants to avenge the death of one of his friends.The murdered man, and his family,were found by the Coast Guard. He finds out that his friend had skimmed over $600 million dollars from the Cali Cartel. The President tells James Cutter[Harris Yulin], his National Security Adviser, that the Colombian drug cartels represent a clear and present danger to the U.S., indirectly giving Cutter unofficial permission to take down the men responsible for his friend's death.

Jack Ryan is appointed Deputy Director of Intelligence when his friend Admiral James Greer (James Earl Jones) is diagnosed with an aggressive case of pancreatic cancer, which eventually proves fatal. He goes before congress to ask for an increase in funding to support the war on drugs operations going on in Columbia. He gives his word that no U.S. troops would be used in this operation.

But it soon becomes clear that Ryan is kept out of the loop by Cutter who turns to CIA Deputy Director of Operations Robert Ritter [Henery Czerny], who secures a document giving him permission to do what he sees fit to take down the cartel.

Ritter then assembles a black-ops team with the help of John Clark (Willem Dafoe), a secret field operative. John and his team travel to Colombia and begin destroy-ing the various Cartel gangs, their equipment and hidden drug lab facilities.

The plot then thickins from here. The head of the F.B.I. is sent to Columbia and gets killed, along with most of his entourage. Ryan is the only one to escape the ambush.

From the aerial bombing of a villa where all of the Cartel's leaders are supposed to meet to discuss matters, to the point that the back-ops team are betrayed by the people who sent them there,to the final scene where Ryan angrily confronts the President Of The United States, who was indirectly responsible for all the carnage.The movie ends with Ryan testifying about everything that happened to Congress.

This movie seems so realistic with all of denials and back door deals, you might expect to actually see this in the headlines in your morning newspaper. The culmination of the right book,excellent directing and superb acting, made this movie one of the best liked movies of the nineties.

Monday, December 3, 2007

The Legendary Marilyn Monroe

There is and old saying that states: Imitation is the highest form of flattery. If this is true then Marilyn Monroe has to be the most remembered women in the history of films. Even today, after more than 45 years after her untimely death,her legendary likeness still appears on T.V.,in magazines and books.

I remember ,even back then, how women[and maybe a few men] would dress like her, walk like her, and even try and sound like her. They would constitutionally talk about her. They would try and outdo each other when the least bit of gossip would appear in one of those supermarket tabloids. I think that to really know her one must know the history of this unique individual. Her apparent vulnerability and innocence, in combination with an innate sensuality, has endeared her to the global consciousness.

She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, to Gladys Baker. As the identity of her father is undetermined, she was later baptized Norma Jeane Baker. Gladys had been a film cutter at RKO studios, but psychological problems prevented her from keeping the job and she was eventually committed to a mental institution.

On June 19, 1942 she wed her 21-year-old neighbor Jimmy Dougherty, whom she had been dating for six months. "She was a sweet, generous and religious girl," Jimmy said. After he shipped out to the merchant marines, Marilyn got a job on an assembly line and caught the eye of photographer David Conover. After only 2 years she was doing steady modeling jobs and also taking drama classes.

She started making a few films and in 1947 she appeared with Betty Davis in "All About Eve" but it was her performance in " Niagara' that delivered her to stardom. And who could ever forget "Gentlemen Perfer Blonds" Photoplay magazine voted Marilyn the Best New Actress of 1953, and at 27 years old she was undeniably the best-loved blonde bombshell in Hollywood. On January 14, 1954, Marilyn married baseball superstar Joe DiMaggio. It lasted only 9 months. Marilyn received further recognition for 1959's Some Like It Hot, winning a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy.

On June 29, 1956, Marilyn wed playwright Arthur Miller.Arthur wrote the part of Roslyn Taber in 1961's The Misfits especially for Marilyn. Unfortunately the marriage ended on Jan. 20th, 1961 The misfits was to be Marilyn's last completed film.

At the 1962 Golden Globes, Marilyn was named female World Film Favorite And if you were alive back then, you would surely remember her singing happy birthday to President John F. Kennedy. But sadly on the morning of August 5, 1962 the 36 year old Marilyn died in her sleep at her home in Brentwood California.

Marilyn's popularity has extended beyond star status to icon. Today, the name "Marilyn Monroe" is synonymous with beauty,and sensuality. The legendaryMarilyn Monroe will be remembered long after mostof us are no longer here.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The Hunt For Red October Fact or Fiction?

The is a fictitious Typhoon class submarine in the Tom Clancy novel The Hunt for Red October and the movie which followed.

When I first saw this film, written by Tom Clancy,I thought that an awful lot of research had gone into the making of this movie, but I often wondered where someone would come up with such a plot.Was this filam based on fact, or fiction in the writers mind. And if it was based on fact, where did Clancy get his information from.

The main theme of the story partially centers around the dual capabilities of this submarine. As a submarine of the Typhoon class, it carries many ballistic missiles armed with nuclear warheads. With a stealthy propulsion unit, it can no longer be detected by NATO naval vessels. As described in both the book and the film, these capabilities combine to create a horrific weapon, whereby the submarine could easily surface near a city, like New York,N.Y. fire its missiles, and destroy key targets before any government or miltary leaders could order a counterattack. One interpretation, as offered in the film and book, is that this submarine's existence is for one puropse: not as a deterrant to an Amerian attack on the Soviert Union, but solely as a weapon of first strike. The U.S.Government know that they have only two options forthis type of submarine. Either they capture it or they destroy it.

Marko Ramius,[Sean Connery] a Lithuanian who has risen to high levels of trust in the Soviet Navy, intends to defect to the United States with his officers and the experimental nuclear submarine Red October, a Typhoon class submarine equipped with a revolutionary stealth propulsion system.
Jack Ryan,[Alex Baldwin] a naval historian turned CIA analyst, deduces Ramius' plans. The U.S. high command agrees warily, while also planning for contingencies in case the Soviet Fleet has other intentions than their stated cover. As tensions rise between the U.S. and Soviet fleets, and the crew of a U.S. attack submarine stumble across the secret to detecting the Red October,

This film was one of the best movies of the 90's. It launched Clancy's successful career as a novelist and the suepurb acting abilities of a number of well known stares.

And yes this novel and movie were based on true facts concerning the defection of two Soviet navel officers.[1]In 1961, Soviet Navy submarine captain Jonas Pleškys sailed his vessel from Klaipėda to Gotland in Sweden.The Soviet authorities sentenced him in his absence to death by firing squad, but the CIA hid him, first in Guatemala and later in the United States.[2]On November 8, 1975, the Soviet Navy frigate Storozhevoy mutinied. At the time, the Western powers believed it was an attempt to defect from Latvia to the Swedish island of Gotland. The mutiny was led by the ship's Political Officer, Captain Valery Sablin. The mutiny was unsuccessful, and Sablin was captured, court-martialed, and executed.
So there you have it. So the next time you go view a "spy thriller"type of movie, you should always ask yourself! Fact Or Fiction?