Wednesday, May 31, 2017

TCM in June: Highlights

It's hard to believe it's almost summer! Time to take a look at the June schedule on Turner Classic Movies.

Audrey Hepburn is the June Star of the Month.

Hepburn movies will screen every Monday evening beginning June 5th. There will not be a separate Star of the Month post for June.

The latest installment of Treasures From the Disney Vault airs Friday, June 2nd. The remaining four Fridays in June have a "European Vacation" theme.

Here's a look at just a few highlights for what promises to be a great month on TCM! Click on any hyperlinked title for the related review.

...Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell charm as a prince and princess playing detective in TROUBLE FOR TWO (1936) on June 1st. They were a great team in several films, and this is one of my favorites.

...Leonard Maltin hosts the latest quarterly installment of Treasures From the Disney Vault on June 2nd. The evening includes the TCM premiere of SUMMER MAGIC (1963) with Hayley Mills and Dorothy McGuire, followed by the return of Mills in the evergreen POLLYANNA (1960). The rest of the evening consists of "horse" themed cartoons and films, all TCM premieres, starting with the cartoon MICKEY'S POLO TEAM (1936).

...Saturday evening, June 3rd, features Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Joan Blondell in UNION DEPOT (1932), one of the films I just read about in the new book FROM THE HEADLINES TO HOLLYWOOD: THE BIRTH AND BOOM OF WARNER BROS. by Chris Yogerst. Kristina also just wrote about the movie at Speakeasy.

...Eddie Muller kicks off this month's Noir Alley films with the classic OUT OF THE PAST (1947) on Sunday morning, June 4th. I invite interested viewers to visit my 2010 and 2014 photo posts on the film's locations in Bridgeport, California. The spot where Jeff (Robert Mitchum) and Ann (Virginia Huston) fish at the start of the movie is seen at the left, photographed in 2014.

...As far as I know there isn't a "TCM Jr." or "TCM Movie Camp" on Sunday nights this summer, but many of the Sunday night titles are nonetheless excellent viewing for young people, starting with A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN (1945) on June 4th. Peggy Ann Garner, Dorothy McGuire, and Joan Blondell star.

...Audrey Hepburn's Star of the Month tribute being on June 5th with five films, including a pair of favorites, ROMAN HOLIDAY (1953) and LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON (1957) (the latter film was also reviewed here). They're followed by GREEN MANSIONS (1959), WE GO TO MONTE CARLO (1953), and LAUGHTER IN PARADISE (1951).

...There's a terrific prime time tribute to director Edgar G. Ulmer on Tuesday, June 6th. Seven films are featured, including DETOUR (1945) and the marvelous HER SISTER'S SECRET (1946). The latter film was screened at the TCM Classic Film Festival in 2014 and at UCLA in 2015; it's a very well-made movie which, somewhat unusually for the mid '40s, deals with a single woman's unplanned pregnancy. Nancy Coleman and Margaret Lindsay star.

...Alexis Smith is honored with a 10-film birthday tribute on June 8th. Technically, the tenth film, NIGHT AND DAY (1946), is part of the evening's Spotlight series, but there's an overlap with her tribute as she stars in it. I especially recommend SPLIT SECOND (1953), which I just saw at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs..

...A delightful MGM musical, SUMMER STOCK (1950), starring Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, airs on Thursday, June 8th. Director Charles Walters, a great favorite of mine, is one of numerous filmmakers who are part of this month's Thursday night Spotlight series on Gay Hollywood.

...Bette Davis, Margaret Lindsay, and Donald Woods star in the fun little crime film FOG OVER FRISCO (1934) on Friday, June 9th.

...There's another great Noir Alley movie on tap on June 11th: PHANTOM LADY (1944), starring the wonderful Ella Raines.

...Another great Sunday evening movie to share with the entire family, on June 11th: James Stewart in Anthony Mann's BEND OF THE RIVER (1952), a film I love more every time I see it. Julie Adams, Arthur Kennedy, and Rock Hudson costar.

...The second Audrey Hepburn night on June 12th features BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961), MY FAIR LADY (1964), THE NUN'S STORY (1959), and THE CHILDREN'S HOUR (1961).

...Five films directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger are featured in prime time on June 14th. They include a film which is a huge favorite of mine, I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! (1945), and one I just saw as part of last year's "10 Classics" list, A CANTERBURY TALE (1944). I especially recommend setting the DVR for I KNOW WHERE I'M GOING! which I've enjoyed multiple times. Wendy Hiller and Roger Livesey star.

...I love that TCM celebrates Powell & Pressburger one day, and a couple days later, on June 16th, they have an eight-film tribute to "B" director Lew Landers. I've seen several of the movies airing that day and especially recommend DOUBLE DANGER (1938), in which Preston Foster is a charmer as a jewel thief; CRASHING HOLLYWOOD (1938), a very good Lee Tracy comedy which has stood up to a second viewing; and DYNAMITE PASS (1950), a Tim Holt Western I saw in Lone Pine, immediately followed by a tour of the locations in the Alabama Hills!

...The Noir Alley title for Sunday, June 18th is HE RAN ALL THE WAY (1951), starring John Garfield and Shelley Winters. I saw this for the first time at last year's TCM Classic Film Festival, with costar Norman Lloyd in the audience!

...Family films celebrating Father's Day on June 18th include William Powell in LIFE WITH FATHER (1948) and Spencer Tracy in FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950).

...The June 19th Audrey Hepburn films are HOW TO STEAL A MILLION (1966), WAIT UNTIL DARK (1967), THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (1952), and THE SECRET PEOPLE (1952).

...The daytime theme on June 21st is "Vincente Minnelli in Color." You can't go wrong with any musicals he directed airing that day, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (1951), THE BAND WAGON (1953), and BRIGADOON (1954). The first is an Oscar-winning classic, the second is one of the best musicals ever made, and the third is an underrated personal favorite.

...The final Noir Alley film of the month, on June 25th, is the underrated HIGH WALL (1947), starring Robert Taylor as a brain-injured amnesiac veteran arrested for murdering his wife (Dorothy Patrick). Audrey Totter and Herbert Marshall costar; Curtis Bernhardt directed. It's a good one!

...Talented actor-director Mark Stevens is a name which should be better known. He receives a two-film salute on Sunday evening, June 25th, with the TCM premiere of the 20th Century-Fox film THE STREET WITH NO NAME (1948), followed by THE SNAKE PIT (1948).

...The month's salute to Audrey Hepburn concludes on June 26th with PARIS WHEN IT SIZZLES (1963), FUNNY FACE (1957), ALWAYS (1989), WAR AND PEACE (1956), and ROBIN AND MARIAN (1976).

...A "restaurant" theme on June 26th has a very diverse lineup including Margot Grahame starring in NIGHT WAITRESS (1936), directed by Lew Landers; THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946); and the great musical THE HARVEY GIRLS (1946).

...I've been watching lots of Richard Dix films this year, and there's one I haven't seen yet on the 29th: NO MARRIAGE TIES (1933), costarring Elizabeth Allan.

For more on TCM in June, please visit the complete online June schedule.

Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948) in Nitrate at UCLA

The latest film to screen in the Archive Treasures series at UCLA is NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948).

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES screens in a 35mm nitrate print at UCLA's Billy Wilder Theater on Sunday, June 11th. The movie stars Edward G. Robinson, Gail Russell, and John Lund. It was directed by John Farrow and filmed by John F. Seitz.

I first reviewed this unique film in 2011, and four years ago I was fortunate to see a beautiful brand-new 35mm print during the Noir City Hollywood festival.

I plan to be at UCLA to see NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES again in nitrate! It will be my fifth nitrate screening in the past few months, following CASABLANCA (1942), ROAD HOUSE (1948), THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (1934), and LAURA (1944). We're very fortunate to have two venues now regularly screening nitrate prints in the L.A. area.

NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES will be preceded by a nitrate 35mm color cartoon, LITTLE BROWN JUG (1948).

Update: Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948): A Photo Gallery.

August 2021 Update: NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber Studio Classics in November 2021.

January 2022 Update: My review of the Blu-ray release is here.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Book Review: From the Headlines to Hollywood: The Birth and Boom of Warner Bros.

FROM THE HEADLINES TO HOLLYWOOD: THE BIRTH AND BOOM OF WARNER BROS. is a detailed history of the studio's early years written by my friend Chris Yogerst.

Yogerst is an assistant professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin Colleges.

The majority of books on Warner Bros. in my collection happen to date from the '70s or early '80s, including titles such as Ted Sennett's WARNER BROS. PRESENTS, James R. Silke's HERE'S LOOKING AT YOU, KID, Clive Hirschhorn's THE WARNER BROS. STORY, and William R. Meyer's WARNER BROTHERS DIRECTORS.

It was thus a particular pleasure to read a fresh history from a recent perspective. FROM THE HEADLINES TO HOLLYWOOD is exhaustively researched; Yogerst made great use of varied resources, including the Warner Bros. Archives at the University of Southern California, where the materials accessed included not only production records but speeches by Harry and Jack Warner. He also looked at newspapers and trade publications of the time period to explore contemporaneous reporting on the studio.

Since the book's focus is on the studio's early years, I particularly appreciated that roughly half the book covers the pre-Code era, which earlier film historians sometimes hurried past, perhaps because of relative lack of access to the movies in previous decades.

The author explores the studio's technological innovations with sound films -- the pioneering talkie THE JAZZ SINGER (1927) was a Warner Bros. film -- and especially its "ripped from the headlines" style, with its finger on the public pulse. Warner Bros. sought not simply to entertain but to educate, spark debate, and move the needle of public opinion on key issues of the day, including WWII.

I found it especially interesting reading and considering Warner Bros.' engagement in current issues in the context of our polarized modern-day culture; it helps illustrate the adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same, especially when it comes to popular entertainment trying to influence public opinion.

A related aspect I found interesting was that the book brought Harry Warner into sharper focus for me. I've read a great deal about Jack Warner but fairly little about Harry, so I was interested to learn more about Harry's role in shaping the company's projects and later confronting the rise of the Nazis, on screen and off. With America officially neutral regarding the war and the studio releasing films such as CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (1939) and UNDERGROUND (1941), Harry found himself testifying in front of a Senate subcommittee on motion picture propaganda in the fall of 1941. Needless to say, within weeks that was a moot issue.

Yogerst explores how Warner Bros. accomplished their studio style by taking a look at the production histories of a number of films. Along with examining source material, production background, and censorship battles, he also presents the historical context in which various films were made and released, which I felt made the book particularly engaging.

A few of the key titles he explores are THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931), UNION DEPOT (1932), TAXI! (1932), GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933), HEROES FOR SALE (1933), BLACK LEGION (1936), THEY WON'T FORGET (1937), and CONFESSIONS OF A NAZI SPY (1939).

For more on the book, please visit an author interview with Kristina at Speakeasy.

Yogerst plans a second volume on Warner Bros., which is great news for both film history and those of us who love to read it.

FROM THE HEADLINES TO HOLLYWOOD is 226 pages including index, footnotes, and bibliography; the index and reference source pages take over 40 pages, an indicator of the deep research behind the book. I caught a rare typo on the leading man's name for THE PURCHASE PRICE (1932), but that stood out simply as on the whole the book is very well edited and produced.

The book is lightly illustrated with posters and other advertising materials printed directly on the book's non-glossy pages; given that, the reproduction quality of the illustrations is good.

FROM THE HEADLINES TO HOLLYWOOD: THE BIRTH AND BOOM OF WARNER BROS. is an excellent piece of film scholarship; while it will be particularly enjoyed by those interested in Warner Bros. and the studio system, it's essential reading for anyone who wants to understand Hollywood of the 1930s and the significant ways one studio impacted U.S. popular culture and history.

Thanks to Chris Yogerst and Rowman and Littlefield for providing a review copy of this book.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Tonight's Movie: 20,000 Men a Year (1939)

20,000 MEN A YEAR (1939) stars Randolph Scott and Preston Foster in a 20th Century-Fox release about an aviation training school.

In the late '30s the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA) began a program to train thousands of college students to be civilian pilots -- 20,000 men a year, as the title says.

The film's opening narration cards emphasize that these are civilian pilots, but with WWII raging in Europe, it seems clear in retrospect that it was also important for military preparedness.

In 20,000 MEN A YEAR, Randolph Scott plays Brad Reynolds, an airline pilot who quits his job after disobeying an order he (sensibly) thinks is dangerous. Preston Foster plays Jim Howell, a government employee who suspends Brad.

Brad opens a flying school, but business is hard to come by. He's thinking of closing up shop when he's able to start training young men from the local university to be pilots as part of the new government program.

Brad romances Ann (Margaret Lindsay), who is fearful of her brother Skip (George Ernest) learning to fly. Ultimately Skip uses his flying skills in an attempt to save Brad, along with Jim's brother Tommy (Robert Shaw), following an accident.

For a movie with Scott and Foster, two actors I really like, plus an aviation theme, it's a surprisingly dull 84 minutes. The action picks up a little due to the rescue sequence at the end of the film, but much of the film feels rambling and disjointed, with Foster's character disappearing for a long stretch of the movie.

I found it more interesting to learn about the pilot training program after watching the movie. For instance, I read in a Wikipedia article that thanks to the inclusion of historically black universities in the training program, doors were opened to African-American military pilots. (While there were no blacks portrayed in the film, Victor Sen Yung plays a Chinese-American pilot.) I appreciated that while the movie wasn't especially interesting, it did lead me to learn some wartime aviation history.

The screenplay by Lou Breslow and Owen Francis was based on a story by aviation specialist Frank "Spig" Wead. Alfred E. Green directed, with cinematography by Ernest Palmer. The flight sequences were filmed at Monrovia Airport.

20,000 MEN A YEAR is not available on DVD or VHS.

Tonight's Movie: The Indian Fighter (1955) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Kirk Douglas stars in the title role as THE INDIAN FIGHTER (1955), recently released on a beautiful Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

Douglas plays Johnny Hawks, a wagon train scout who has a friendly relationship with Chief Red Cloud (Eduard Franz).

Although Johnny does fight an Indian early in the film, to save the life of the unworthy Wes Todd (Walter Matthau), Johnny is really more of an Indian lover, as is commented in the film.

Johnny is uninterested in settling down as a farmer and husband, despite the overt attempts of widowed Susan Rogers (Diana Douglas, Kirk's ex-wife) to tame him, and he also regrets the frontier being opened to settlers, though he knows he can't stop it. He risks his life to broker peace between Indians and settlers, and when last seen has chosen to make what one assumes is a less "conventional" life with the Indian maiden Onahti (Elsa Martinelli).

THE INDIAN FIGHTER is a solid Western, though I wasn't especially taken with it. I think my reticence mostly has to do with personal preferences rather than the film's quality. I'm just not a Kirk Douglas fan; I keep trying more of his movies, hoping I'll find "the one" which is the key to interesting me in his career, but his personality simply holds little appeal for me. I suspect if this had been a Western starring, say, Robert Mitchum, I would have loved it.

Given my feelings on Douglas, his character's aggressive, even violent pursuit of Onahti was particularly problematic for me. As is noted in the commentary, some of that wouldn't be filmed today!

I'm also not much of a Matthau fan, though I really liked his film CHARLEY VARRICK (1973) earlier this month and was hoping to find this film similarly appealing; with him playing a pretty hardhearted villain here, that left me cold as well.

Those who are fans of the two lead actors shouldn't hesitate to check out the film, which is handsomely produced and has a fine supporting cast.

The film's best attribute, and it's a big one, is the gorgeous scenery; the widescreen movie was filmed entirely on location in Oregon by Wilfrid M. Cline, and it's worth seeing the film purely for the beautiful visuals.

The movie has a solid supporting cast, including a trio of "juniors": Alan Hale Jr., Lon Chaney Jr., and Elisha Cook Jr.

Amusingly, Hank Worden and Harry Landers play multiple roles, as both Indians and military men; I didn't notice until I listened to the commentary track, so they pulled that off successfully. Also in the film are familiar faces like Walter Abel, Ray Teal, Frank Cady, and Michael Winkelman.

Diana Douglas (HOUSE OF STRANGERS) was an intriguing bit of casting, given that she and Kirk had parted ways a few years earlier and he was remarried to Anne, who remains his wife to this day. Diana Douglas has one of the most interesting roles in the movie, as a forthright woman who likes what she sees in Johnny and pursues him, despite his protestations that he's not the marrying kind. In the end it seems she's likely to end up with Hale's apple farmer; they're both seen in the photo at the left.

I found the score by Franz Waxman a bit ostentatious at times, while pleasing in other moments. The screenplay of this 88-minute film was by Ben Hecht and Frank Davis.

The movie was directed by Andre De Toth, a fine director who made good films such as the Joel McCrea Western RAMROD (1947), the Dick Powell film noir PITFALL (1948), and CRIME WAVE (1954), a Sterling Hayden movie which easily makes my list of all-time favorite film noir titles.

The Blu-ray extras consist of a gallery of five trailers, including one for THE INDIAN FIGHTER, plus a commentary track by Toby Roan. Roan, a good friend of this blog, also recently did a track for Kino's superb Roy Rogers release, SUNSET IN THE WEST (1950).

Roan's commentary is typically interesting, filling viewers in on actors' backgrounds, the history of the real Chief Red Cloud, the selection of the movie's Oregon location and construction of the fort, and fun little anecdotes such as horse-hating Matthau being given to cursing his horse in Yiddish. I enjoyed my second time through the movie with the commentary more than my first viewing!

As a supplement to his commentary, photos of the location shooting may be seen at Toby's blog, 50 Westerns From the 50s, here and here.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray is a quality presentation, with a beautiful print and a very nice bonus in the commentary track. Western fans who appreciate Douglas more than I do will definitely want to see it.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

On Memorial Day

Thinking today with deepest gratitude of the brave men and women who have given their all for our nation and our freedom.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Keep Your Powder Dry (1945) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

Each year I like to watch at least one movie about the military during Memorial Day Weekend. This year I chose KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY (1945), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

This story about three new members of the Women's Army Corps (WAC), released just as World War II was coming to an end, is a very entertaining film designed as a wartime morale booster.

Laraine Day plays Leigh, an "army brat" who's a know-it-all, intimidating her fellow WACs. She has a particularly difficult relationship with Val (Lana Turner), a flighty socialite who initially signs up for the WACs to impress trustees to turn loose of her trust fund. Instead Val finds that the WACs are the making of her, giving her discipline and purpose.

Sweet Susan Peters plays Ann, who joins the WACs to do her part to help speed the homecoming of her soldier husband (Michael Kirby). She often finds herself playing peacemaker between her battling friends.

I first saw this film eight years ago, and I might have enjoyed it even more the second time around. It's a well-done film which is also interesting as a reflection of its time, and with that trio of lead actresses it can't help but be entertaining.

According to Cheryl Crane's book on her mother Lana, she and Laraine Day really didn't get along when the movie was made; years later, however, they became friends.

Sadly this was Peters' last film before the hunting accident which left her crippled; the accident occurred on New Year's Day 1945, just ahead of this film's April 1945 release. She would make only one more feature film, THE SIGN OF THE RAM (1948), with her wheelchair written into the story. She passed away in 1952.

Agnes Moorehead is particularly good as the women's commanding officer. Also in the cast are Lee Patrick, June Lockhart, Natalie Schafer, and Henry O'Neill.

KEEP YOUR POWDER DRY was directed by Edward Buzzell. It was filmed in black and white by Ray June. The running time is 93 minutes.

The Warner Archive DVD is a very nice-looking print. The disc includes the trailer.

Recommended, especially for MGM fans and those interested in the films of WWII.

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 Amazon or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.

A Visit to Desert Memorial Park

During our recent visit to Palm Springs for the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival we made a visit to Desert Memorial Park.

The memorial park is technically in Cathedral City, where it's maintained by the Palm Springs Cemetery District.

It's a relatively small cemetery, and we came across all of the gravestones seen below in a short walk.

I found it especially moving to pay my respects at the final resting place of Frank Sinatra, given how important his music has been to me throughout my life.

William Powell, an all-time favorite actor, is also buried here, along with his wife, Diana Lewis Powell, nicknamed "Mousie."

The Powells had a 27-year age difference between them but were blessed with a happy marriage for 44 years, until William Powell's death at the age of 91.

The desert sun, wind, and heat have all taken a significant toll on many gravestones at this cemetery; indeed, some can no longer be read. This is the gravesite of the great choreographer Busby Berkeley:

Andrea Leeds, who was Oscar nominated for the marvelous STAGE DOOR (1937):

Composer James Van Heusen, whose gravestone reads "Swinging on a Star":

And Frederick Loewe, whose marker alludes to his score for GIGI (1958), saying "Thank Heaven for Frederick Loewe":

TV composer Earle Hagen:

Brad Dexter of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960):

Cameron Mitchell, especially appreciated by me as Uncle Buck on TV's THE HIGH CHAPARRAL:

The marker for Marjorie Rambeau is quite faded:

Betty Hutton:

Marian Marsh, a delightful actress in pre-Codes such as BEAUTY AND THE BOSS (1932):

It was a lovely setting to reflect on how each of these talented people have enriched our lives, and they'll continue to do so as long as movies and music exist.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Tonight's Movies: 2 Guns (2013), Die Hard 2 (1990), and Jurassic Park (1993), plus Burn Notice TV Pilot (2007)

Our daughter is visiting for the holiday weekend, and we decided to follow up last summer's holiday weekend action movie marathon with a sequel.

Here are thumbnail reviews of today's action movies:

...2 GUNS (2013) teams Mark Wahlberg, a favorite of mine, with Denzel Washington. They play a pair of hoods who decide to rob a bank to make off with money stashed by a Mexican drug lord (Edward James Olmos). Unbeknownst to each other, they actually work for separate government agencies...and they're both about to be burned by their employers.

As the film began, I commented to my daughter that the small town bank was reminiscent of CHARLEY VARRICK (1973), which I just saw for the first time a couple of weeks ago. And then I noticed the name of the bank: Tres Cruces Savings and Loan. This tickled me enormously, as Tres Cruces is part of the name of the bank in CHARLEY VARRICK! The filmmakers were obviously fans.

There are even more homages to CHARLEY VARRICK in what is essentially a partial "reboot" of the earlier film, including the staging of the bank robbery (right down to a masked robber jumping a counter) and Bill Paxton's hit man paying obvious tribute to Joe Don Baker's Molly from CHARLEY VARRICK.

There's also some nice interplay and buddy humor with Wahlberg and Washington. I enjoyed the movie quite well except for the excessive violence.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated R. The film's biggest drawback, besides the movie's copious bad language, is the aforementioned gratuitous violence. There were four separate incidents which I thought were just too much. It would have been a better and more enjoyable movie if they'd dialed it down a bit. There are a number of good elements, including the VARRICK tribute, and I wished they'd had more faith in their material and not felt a need to go so dark at times.

The movie was directed by Baltasar Kormakur (CONTRABAND) and filmed by Oliver Wood. The supporting cast includes Fred Ward, James Marsden, and Paula Patton.

TWO GUNS is available on DVD, Blu-ray, or via Amazon Instant Video.

...DIE HARD 2 (1990) is a very enjoyable mashup of the original DIE HARD (1988) with AIRPORT-style movies.

Cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) just can't seem to catch a break at Christmastime. Whereas in the previous film he saved a group of people held hostage at an L.A. office Christmas party, this time around his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) is about to arrive home for Christmas at an East Coast airport, but a terrorist takeover prevents her plane from landing.

All the expected set pieces ensue, from McClane fighting it out with a couple bad guys amidst baggage conveyor belts to ejecting from a parked plane to having a helicopter lower him to a plane's wing so he can jam the flaps.

There are all sorts of gaps in logic in the film, so after a while I gave up trying to figure out why certain decisions were made and just sat back to enjoy the ride. My husband described DIE HARD 2 as "completely ridiculous but really well done," and I agree. That's actually my favorite kind of action film, something that's a fun if slightly silly ride; THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (2017) is a good recent example.

DIE HARD 2 was directed by Renny Harlin. Like 2 GUNS, it was filmed by Oliver Wood. The running time is 124 minutes. The supporting cast includes Fred Thompson (always a welcome screen presence for me), John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, Tom Bower, William Atherton, and Franco Nero. Reginald VelJohnson of the original film returns for a sequence as Sgt. Al Powell of the LAPD.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated R. Most of the violence is cartoony, but a couple scenes aren't for the squeamish. There's also plentiful bad language.

DIE HARD 2 is available on DVD and Blu-ray. It's also available for rental from Amazon Instant Video.

I'm looking forward to more films in the DIE HARD series.

...I had very young children when JURASSIC PARK (1993) came out and rarely saw films in theaters in that time period, so it came and went without my seeing it. In the years since, I've never felt motivated to catch it, despite it being one of my children's favorite films. I decided to finally give it a whirl today.

Perhaps if this movie had caught me back in my teen days of Steven Spielberg "thrill ride" productions like RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981), E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL (1982), and POLTERGEIST (1982) I would have enjoyed it more. Instead it struck me as a well-done film which just wasn't my thing.

I liked Sam Neill and the John Williams score, and I also appreciated the "practical" special effects, but two hours and seven minutes of man-eating dinosaurs chasing (and sometimes eating) humans, including children, was exhausting.

Michael Crichton and David Koepp's screenplay was based on Crichton's novel. Spielberg directed, with cinematography by Dean Cundey. The cast includes Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough, Samuel L. Jackson, and B.D. Wong. Fave Richard Kiley provided the "Jurassic Park Tour Voice."

Parental Advisory: JURASSIC PARK is rated PG-13 for "intense science fiction terror." It's not bloody but it's plenty scary for those who immerse themselves in the story. For my part, I sort of held the movie at a distance, observing it but not willing to become emotionally involved.

JURASSIC PARK is available in multiple DVD and Blu-ray editions.

...We also watched the pilot for the TV series BURN NOTICE (2007-2013). Jeffrey Donovan stars as U.S. government spy Michael Westen, who finds himself stranded and broke in Miami when he suddenly and inexplicably gets a "burn notice," spy lingo for being fired and cut off from all resources and contacts.

BURN NOTICE had the jaunty feel of a Universal detective show of the '70s or '80s like THE ROCKFORD FILES or MAGNUM, P.I., right down to the jocular MAGNUM-like narration, the balmy beachfront setting, and the presence of longtime Universal contract actress Sharon Gless playing Westen's hypochondriac mother. Bruce Campbell and Gabrielle Anwar costar.

I enjoyed the pilot very much and plan to continue watching the series. BURN NOTICE ran for seven seasons.

Season 1 of BURN NOTICE is available on DVD from Amazon for a low price. Season 1 can also be rented for streaming from Amazon Instant Video.

It was a fun lazy day enjoying movies together! Of the above titles, my favorites were DIE HARD 2 and BURN NOTICE, with 2 GUNS conditionally recommended to fans of the stars and CHARLEY VARRICK.

Classic film reviews will be coming later in the weekend!

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