Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Tonight's Movie: 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS is the second film in the long-running Fast & Furious franchise. I reviewed the first film, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (2001), last July.

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS is a solo outing for Paul Walker as Brian O'Conner, with the only other cast member continuing from the first film being the likeable Thom Barry as Agent Bilkins.

When THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS left off, Brian had been working as an undercover cop. His feelings for Mia (Jordana Brewster) led him to let her brother Dom (Vin Diesel) escape arrest, despite criminal conduct.

Following that poor decision, Brian is now on the lam in Florida. He keeps food on the table by participating in the Miami street racing scene, where he's arrested after winning a race.

Agent Bilkins and federal customs agents offer Brian a deal: Help them bring down drug kingpin Carter Verone (Cole Hauser) and Brian's record will be wiped clean. The feds currently have an undercover agent (Eva Mendes) living with Verone, but they need a good driver as part of the setup to catch him.

Brian agrees, on the condition that his childhood friend Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), who's currently on parole, drive with him and receive the same deal.

I found 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS to be entertaining fun. The script is strictly a standard-issue crime film, with a funny line here and there, but Walker is an appealing actor, and the locations and the street racing culture give an otherwise ordinary story a unique spin.

The car chases make it particularly worthwhile; there's a beautifully staged scene where Brian and Roman shake those following them amidst a sea of colorful cars driven by their friends.

The movie requires quite a suspension of disbelief, such as a sequence involving an ejector seat or the climatic scene where a car lands on a boat; that said, according to my son, I ain't seen nothin' yet when it comes to the car craziness in these movies!

There's an enjoyable supporting cast, including Ludacris as a garage owner and Devon Aoki as Suki, an offbeat street racer. It was nice to see a woman behind the wheel of one of the cars; I learned that Aoki's father founded the Benihana restaurant chain.

The third film in the franchise, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT (2006) is a standalone film with new characters. It would be half a dozen years after 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS before Walker reunited with Vin Diesel and the L.A. crowd for FAST & FURIOUS (2009), at which point the series revved into high gear and began releasing films every other year. The series is currently projected to continue until at least 2021!

The movie was directed by John Singleton and filmed by Matthew F. Leonetti.

Parental Advisory: 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS is rated PG-13 for language, violence, and more. I thought it was just a bit edgier than the original film, but not by much. The movie was filmed in Florida, with studio work in California.

2 FAST 2 FURIOUS is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It can be streamed on Amazon Instant Video.

The trailer is on YouTube.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...This November Le of Critica Retro and Summer of Serendipitous Anachronisms are cohosting the "At the Circus" Blogathon. It's due to take place November 12th and 13th. I plan to contribute a post on THE BIG CIRCUS (1959), which has a terrific cast including Victor Mature, Rhonda Fleming, Vincent Price, Kathryn Grant, Gilbert Roland, Peter Lorre, David Nelson, Red Buttons, and Adele Mara.

...Coming even sooner is the "Things I Learned From the Movies" blogathon, hosted by Kristina of Speakeasy and Ruth of Silver Screenings. It's scheduled for October 14th through 17th.

...The Blonde at the Film has an interesting look at Esther Williams' pre-movie years as a swimmer.

...For those who aren't yet familiar with the blog Sweet Freedom, Todd does some terrific link roundups, and I'm most appreciative of being included. Here are his roundups for August 18th and 25th.

...Here's Leonard Maltin on encouraging efforts to keep 35mm screenings alive into the future.

...Fans of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee will want to bookmark the McCrea Ranch Facebook Page.

...Robert Taylor's 105th birthday was celebrated on August 19th and 20th in his hometown of Beatrice, Nebraska. Taylor biographers Linda Alexander and Charles Tranberg gave talks at the event.

...It's fall cookbook season, with upcoming new titles including Ina Garten's COOKING FOR JEFFREY: A BAREFOOT CONTESSA COOKBOOK, FRENCH COUNTRY COOKING: MEALS AND MOMENTS FROM A VILLAGE IN THE VINEYARDS by Mimi Thorisson, author of the gorgeous A KITCHEN IN FRANCE, and DORIE'S COOKIES by baking expert Dorie Greenspan.

...At Out of the Past, Raquel has posted a thorough review of her experience at Capitolfest.

...A musical based on the movie GROUNDHOG DAY (1993) is playing in London's West End, where it's received strong reviews.

...My friend Joel Williams wrote a wonderful tribute to Jean Arthur as a guest post at Once Upon a Screen.

...Toby has reviewed a new Region 2 Blu-ray of the wonderful Western CANYON PASSAGE (1946) at 50 Westerns From the 50s, and there's more info at DVD Beaver. CANYON PASSAGE has a deep cast which includes Dana Andrews, Susan Hayward, Brian Donlevy, Hoagy Carmichael, Patricia Roc, Andy Devine, and Ward Bond; it was directed by Jacques Tourneur. My 2013 review of the film is here.

...Congratulations to John Greco on the eighth anniversary of his blog Twenty Four Frames.

...Here's an interesting article on the life and career of Marta Kristen of the TV series LOST IN SPACE. She was also in the Disney film SAVAGE SAM (1963).

...LA LA LAND (2016) is a musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone which will be released on December 16th. Some of the artwork I've seen looks neat. Here's a trailer.

...Attention Southern Californians: The Montalban Theatre in Hollywood has a Rooftop Cinema Club. A series of films which inspired Broadway musicals starts on September 15th.

...Notable Passings: In my last roundup I noted the death of Dean Martin's son, Ricci. Ricci's mother, Jeanne, has now passed on as well, at the age of 89. The Martins had two other children together, Dean Paul (who died in a 1987 plane crash) and Gina. Jeanne also helped parent Martin's four children from a previous marriage, including Deana, who announced the death of her "sweet mommy" on her Twitter account...Director Arthur Hiller has died, age 92.

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Coming in October: The 2016 Lone Pine Film Festival

The 27th Lone Pine Film Festival is coming this October!

This is the third consecutive year I'll be heading to Lone Pine, California, for the festival. My coverage of the 2014 festival is here and 2015 is here.

This year's festival runs October 7th through 9th, plus there is an opening night buffet in the Museum of Western Film History on the 6th; the buffet will be followed by a presentation titled Riding the Rails! Trains in Western Films, hosted by movie train specialist Jim Clark.

The 2016 festival theme is "A Vision of the American West: A Tribute to the Western Directors."

The festival made a major announcement a few days ago: Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies will be the host for the Friday and Saturday evening "keynote" screenings. Those titles are yet to be announced.

Mankiewicz serving as the evening host is very big news, and I'm hopeful his participation will help raise the festival's profile nationally. It's a unique festival, taking place where hundreds of movies were filmed, but my sense is it needs to attract younger classic film fans if it is to continue years into the future. The TCM Film Festival has been highly successful luring fans in their 20s and 30s, and it would be wonderful to see more film lovers in that age range come to Lone Pine.

My husband and I particularly enjoy the tours given by longtime Los Angeles Times photographer Don Kelsen, and this year we're signed up for his DESERT PURSUIT (1952) and MYSTERY MAN (1944) tours. DESERT PURSUIT stars Wayne Morris and Virginia Grey; the recent Warner Archive release was reviewed by me last February. MYSTERY MAN is a Hopalong Cassidy film.

As in year's past, we'll be watching the tour movies in the high school auditorium on Friday and Saturday mornings at 7:30 a.m., then hopping on a bus immediately afterwards and heading to where the movies were filmed in the Alabama Hills. You simply can't beat the experience of seeing a movie and then standing where it was shot just a few minutes after it ends!

A complete list of this year's tours is on the festival website.

This year's movie lineup is still a work in progress, but I'm happy it includes THE ROUNDUP (1941), starring Richard Dix, Patricia Morison, and Preston Foster. THE ROUNDUP is a loose remake of the silent film THE ROUND-UP (1920), shown at last year's festival with live piano accompaniment.

Other announced films include 3 BAD MEN (1926), THE STOLEN RANCH (1926), 3 GODFATHERS (1948), RAWHIDE (1951), THE STRANGER WORE A GUN (1953), and HELL BENT FOR LEATHER (1960). There will be a total of four silent films, all shown with live piano music. More titles will be announced as October draws closer!

In anticipation of the coming festival, I thought I'd share a few photos I didn't include in last year's coverage.

One afternoon I took a tour of locations for GUNGA DIN (1939), a film I had seen at the 2014 festival, when it was hosted by special effects experts Ben Burtt and Craig Barron.

The GUNGA DIN temple stood here...

...and even today bits of plaster can be found on the ground where the temple once stood.

Something which made the experience extra-special was a volunteer actor recited the entire Kipling poem for us at the site.

There's a GUNGA DIN monument in the area which was dedicated by Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in 1992.

Tyrone Power's KING OF THE KHYBER RIFLES (1953) was filmed nearby.

The GUNGA DIN suspension bridge was filmed at another site...

...right where this motor home happened to be parked the day of our tour.

As the volunteer pointed out, the spots where the bridge was anchored to boulders...

...remain in place to this very day, close to eight decades later.

The next day we also took a tour of the sites for THE HIRED GUN (1957), starring Rory Calhoun and Anne Francis, hosted by Don Kelsen:

Don provides booklets with screen shots to help match up scenes in the movie with the locations in front of us. He does amazing detective work and knows the Alabama Hills as well as anyone could.

The Lone Pine Film Festival is a fun, fascinating, and educational event which should be experienced by every classic film fan if at all possible, especially fans of Westerns. It's an intimate small-town event which provides ample opportunity to chat with festival guests, who are there because they wish to be and are happy to talk with attendees.

Last year I fit in eight movies, three tours, a concert, and book signings, yet it's a more relaxed, less tiring pace than the also-wonderful TCM Classic Film Festival, where I typically see 15 or 16 movies. I highly recommend attending the Lone Pine Film Festival.

For more details on the Lone Pine Film Festival, regularly check the festival's website and Facebook page for the latest developments.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Unholy Partners (1941) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Edward G. Robinson stars as a tabloid publisher in business with a mobster in UNHOLY PARTNERS (1941), just released by the Warner Archive.

The mobster is played by Edward Arnold, who backs Robinson's newspaper venture as a silent partner. However, the men increasingly find themselves in conflict, ultimately leading to a violent showdown.

UNHOLY PARTNERS is a pretty good drama thanks to a strong cast and a brisk script, with the film running 94 minutes. With Robinson and Arnold headlining, the film is inevitably interesting to watch, and they're surrounded by a number of interesting faces.

Like BLACKMAIL (1939), reviewed here last week, UNHOLY PARTNERS was made by MGM and features some of that studio's notable players. Laraine Day plays Robinson's loyal Gal Friday, while one of her Dr. Kildare series costars, Walter Kingsford, plays the publisher of the paper Robinson initially comes home to after WWI. Frank Orth of the Kildare movies pops in even more briefly.

Marsha Hunt plays an aspiring singer who's spending time with Arnold -- possibly reluctantly -- while future TV producer William T. Orr is Robinson's righthand man. Hunt and Orr develop a cute relationship, and Hunt also gets the chance to sing "After You've Gone."

Miss Hunt will be 99 in October. I've been privileged to hear her speak a few times, and even better, I had the chance to sit at her table at a reception last fall. She is a simply lovely, positive person with a wealth of fascinating stories to share, beautiful inside and out.

Side note, the women's hair and clothing styles don't seem to fit the 1920s setting!

The cast also includes Don Beddoe, who is billed more prominently than usual and has a nice big part as one of Robinson's key employees. Charles Halton, Charles Dingle, Emory Parnell, and Frank Faylen round out the cast.

UNHOLY PARTNERS was directed by Mervyn LeRoy. It was filmed in black and white by George Barnes.

There is a noticeable streak in the picture in a couple of early scenes, but otherwise it's a good print. The DVD includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.

Disneyland: Summer Fun

A few days ago members of our family took the day off work and enjoyed a beautiful summer day at Disneyland. We arrived when the park opened and stayed until the fireworks had ended that evening!

Here are a few photos from a delightful day, beginning with this early morning view of the Rivers of America, close to the site of...

...Star Wars Land construction:

It was fun being able to photograph Fantasy Faire without anyone else there!

A closer look at the Rapunzel tower in the center of Fantasy Faire:

A quiet morning with Sleeping Beauty Castle hiding in the distance:

We went on one of my favorite rides, the Storybook Land Canal Boats.

This "quilt" seen on the Storybook Land ride was inspired by the Disney Silly Symphony LULLABYE LAND (1933), which coincidentally was released 83 years to the day before our visit. LULLABYE LAND may currently be seen on YouTube.

Another look at the quilt, with Cinderella's Castle and the Casey Jr. Circus Train in the background:

King Arthur's Carrousel awaits passengers:

This carrousel horse is Jingles, dedicated to Julie Andrews in appreciation for her work as the park's 50th anniversary ambassador.

A look at some of the details on Jingles. I attended the 2008 dedication of Jingles with Julie Andrews present; photos are here.

I took my first ride on the Autopia in a long time!

Snow White's Grotto is one of the prettiest spots in the park. The original marble statues were removed for safekeeping in 1982 and replaced with replicas; my photo of of the originals, displayed at the 2013 D23 Expo, may be seen here.

Pixie Hollow is one of the most beautifully landscaped spots in the park:

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Blazing Sixes (1937) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

I've been watching quite a bit of Johnny Mack Brown, Bill Elliott, Buck Jones, and George O'Brien in recent weeks, so tonight I returned to the Warner Archive's Dick Foran Western Collection.

I've previously seen half a dozen films from this 12-movie set and found them enjoyable entertainment. The Foran films aren't on the same level as O'Brien and Jones, in particular, whose films tend to have more compelling, energetic storytelling, but I've found them good standard-issue "B" Western entertainment. BLAZING SIXES was more of the same.

Foran is introduced at the end of the opening credits singing a few lines of "The Prairie is My Home," which I suppose could be considered his theme music, given how often the song appears in these films. It's a pleasing tune which shows off his fine voice to good effect, so I'm always happy to hear it again!

Foran plays Red Barton, who is working undercover with his partner, Peewee Jones (Glenn Strange), to discover who's behind a string of stagecoach robberies. It's a plot that's been done time and again, but the particular fun here is seeing perennial Western villain Strange on the side of justice for a change. Strange, incidentally, is billed as Glen rather than the usual Glenn in the opening credits.

There's a pretty gal named Barbara who's new in town, played by Helen Valkis, who was billed as Joan Valerie later in her career. Barbara likes Red but is concerned when the real villain, Jim (John Merton), suggests Red might be the bad guy. Barbara's aunt (Mira McKinney), meanwhile, seems to be sweet on Peewee.

Needless to say, all is resolved satisfactorily in the movie's brisk 54-minute running time.

BLAZING SIXES was directed by Noel M. Smith. It was filmed in black and white by Ted D. McCord.

Previous reviews of films from this set: MOONLIGHT ON THE PRAIRIE (1935), CALIFORNIA MAIL (1936), TRAILIN' WEST (1936), THE CHEROKEE STRIP (1937), GUNS OF THE PECOS (1937), and LAND BEYOND THE LAW (1937).

BLAZING SIXES is a good print, and the trailer is included.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop.