Wednesday, August 31, 2016

TCM in September: Highlights

It's almost time to say goodbye to summer, but happily for all of us, there's a great September schedule on Turner Classic Movies!

"Ouch! A Salute to Slapstick" will take place every Tuesday and Wednesday night in September. TCM is also sponsoring a free online film course on the subject, taught by Professor Richard Edwards, who also headed up the very successful 2015 course "Into the Darkness: Investigating Film Noir." Please visit TCM's special microsite, which includes the schedule, as well as the class website.

Gene Hackman is the September Star of the Month. His films will be shown on Friday nights beginning September 2nd. There will not be a separate Star of the Month post for September.

Here's a rundown of just some of the most interesting titles airing on TCM this month. Click any hyperlinked title to read my corresponding film review.

...September kicks off with a bang with an evening of half a dozen Preston Sturges films on September 1st, including THE LADY EVE (1941), THE GREAT MCGINTY (1940), and more. And earlier in the day, fans of romantic comedies should check out Rosalind Russell and Lee Bowman in the fun SHE WOULDN'T SAY YES (1945).

...Friday, September 2nd, make a date with the Falcon! TCM is showing 11 of the 13 RKO Falcon films, which initially starred George Sanders, who later handed the reins over to his very capable brother, Tom Conway. Conway's last couple films are omitted, but most of the series is here, and my reviews of every film shown Friday can be found at the end of the review of THE FALCON IN SAN FRANCISCO (1945).

...Jeanne Crain has long been one of my favorite actresses, and I'm delighted she will receive a prime time double feature tribute this Sunday night, September 4th, during the Labor Day holiday weekend. Hopefully lots of viewers will tune in to PEOPLE WILL TALK (1951) a unique and very interesting film she made with Cary Grant, and the TCM premiere of her first starring film, HOME IN INDIANA (1944). HOME IN INDIANA costars Lon McAllister, June Haver, Walter Brennan, and Charlotte Greenwood, and it's solid family entertainment.

...It's time for Leonard Maltin to host another evening of Treasures from the Disney Vault on September 8th! The schedule includes Brian Keith and Vera Miles in THOSE CALLOWAYS (1965), Bobby Driscoll in TREASURE ISLAND (1950), and DISNEYLAND AROUND THE SEASONS (1966), with Walt Disney showing off the park at different times of the year. The evening's cartoons are BOAT BUILDERS (1938) and TUGBOAT MICKEY (1940).

...TCM offers a September 9th birthday tribute to MGM musical producer Arthur Freed with some of his lesser-known films, including LADY BE GOOD (1941) and YOLANDA AND THE THIEF (1945).

...The AFI Tribute to John Williams will air September 12th.

...September 13th there's a wonderful six-film birthday tribute to Claudette Colbert. I've seen all but one of the films, and entertainment is guaranteed. I particularly recommend that fans take a look at one of the more minor titles airing that day, THE SECRET HEART (1946), as Colbert and Walter Pidgeon are so loose and engaging together. They're charming.

...One of the fun themes this month is "Fredric March Gets Political" on September 15th. The movies in which he's politically involved include I MARRIED A WITCH (1942) and SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964).

...THE UNFAITHFUL (1947) was one of the opening night films at the 2015 Noir City Festival. Ann Sheridan, Zachary Scott, Lew Ayres, and Eve Arden star. It airs on the 17th.

...Olivia de Havilland won her first Oscar for TO EACH HIS OWN (1946), costarring John Lund and directed by Mitchell Leisen. It airs on September 18th.

...A day of WWII spy stories on September 20th includes a rare showing of THE YELLOW CANARY (1943) starring Anna Neagle and Richard Greene.

...GIRL MISSING (1933), airing on the 21st, is a zippy 70-minute comedy-mystery starring Glenda Farrell, Ben Lyon, Peggy Shannon, Lyle Talbot, and Mary Brian. Watch for Walter Brennan as a garage attendant! Recommended viewing.

...I love the theming on September 22nd, starting with ONE CROWDED NIGHT (1940), then TWO SMART PEOPLE (1946), THREE DARING DAUGHTERS (1948), FOUR GIRLS IN WHITE (1939), and so on. Lots of fun titles scheduled that day, check it out!

...The well-written JUNE BRIDE (1948), starring Bette Davis and Robert Montgomery, airs September 23rd. Incidentally, the Charlotte Observer just ran an interesting profile of Betty Lynn, who plays Boo, and it mentions advice Davis gave her young friend Lynn.

...We all miss Robert Osborne's presence on TCM, but I'm glad to see "Robert Osborne's Picks" have been continuing, even though he hasn't been introducing them. I'm especially delighted to see that he picked one of my favorite films of the '40s to showcase in September: TONIGHT AND EVERY NIGHT (1945), starring Rita Hayworth, Lee Bowman, Janet Blair, and Marc Platt. It's a film which means a great deal to me, as I describe in my review, and it's also quite underrated. I'm delighted that more people will get to know it on September 26th.

...Husband and wife Dick Powell and June Allyson are the focus on September 27th, with four Powell films followed by four Allyson titles. I especially like Powell's noir Western STATION WEST (1948) with Jane Greer and Burl Ives.

...LIGHTNING STRIKES TWICE (1951) is an enjoyable romantic mystery starring Ruth Roman and Richard Todd, airing on September 28th. It's not a perfect film yet I found it good viewing.

...TCM has announced that the previously scheduled prime time films on September 29th will be replaced by a tribute to the late Gene Wilder, who passed away on Monday. The evening's schedule is here.

For those who are interested, my friend Joel Williams has tabulated the September schedule by movie decade, and the results can be seen in his Tweet. 87% of the September schedule was released in the 1960s or earlier, with 13% from the 1970s through present day. (Note that I'm not sure his tally takes into account the September 29th schedule change.) (Update: Joel confirms the tally does not incorporate the schedule change.)

The titles above are but the tip of the iceberg for a really wonderful month of viewing. For much more on TCM in September, please visit the complete schedule.

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 climactic 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! (October Update: THE STRANGER WORE A GUN has been deleted from the list, with the 1956 film STRANGER AT MY DOOR added. Sounds great either way!)

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.

October 5th Update: Off to Lone Pine!

Update: The 27th Lone Pine Film Festival. Links for this year's coverage will be added to that post as the posts go up.

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!

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