Film Four & Film Four +1 27-05-08.
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The Vicious Circle
(1957) John Mills is tricked by an alleged film producer into meeting a film star at the airport, only to find her dead on his floor the next day...John Mills stars as a Harley Street doctor framed for murder in this British thriller directed by Gerald Thomas
There's a somewhat different role for John Mills in this low-budget thriller, made in between his better known turns in Above Us The Waves (1955) and Ice Cold In Alex (1958). Scripted by Francis Durbridge, the prolific novelist, playwright, and TV and radio scriptwriter, The Vicious Circle uses the device frequently exploited by Hitchcock of an innocent man caught up in a convoluted crime plot and trying to prove his innocence.
That man is Howard Latimer (Mills), a specialist doctor with a Harley Street practice. When he receives a phone call that's apparently from a friend, Howard doesn't question the request for a favour. That favour is to pick up a German actress, Frieda Veldon (Daniely), from the airport and give her a lift to her hotel. He's accompanied by a journalist Windsor (Jeffries) who he only recently met. After fulfilling his obligation, Howard joins his fiancée (Middleton) and friends at the opera.
Returning to his flat later on, Howard is understandably shocked to find Frieda's corpse on his floor. Being a good, law-abiding middle-class chap, Howard reports the murder to Scotland Yard. Detective Inspector Dane (Culver) starts to suspect our hero, however, when friends and patients confound his alibi. Worse still, the murder weapon is found in the boot of Howard's car.
(1952) Director Howard Hawks and Cary Grant reunited for this screwball comedy.Some 12 years after Grant and Hawks worked together on Bringing Up The Baby, they returned to screwball comedy, with Grant playing a bespectacled, absent-minded professor again. Here he discovers a rejuvenation serum that causes him, his wife Rogers and his boss Coburn to recede to adolescence and then childhood. Th rather strained, juvenile high jinks do have their funny lines and situations, plus Monroe as an incompetent stenographer.
A Letter to Three Wives
(1949) A witty and mordant comedy-drama which won Oscars for both direction and screenplay for Joseph L Mankiewicz.Three wives in up-market suburbia along the Hudson River are about to leave their comfortable homes for a day out. A commentary (by the wonderful Holm) in the form of a letter to each states that the sender has run off with the husband of one of them. Cue anguish, an examination of their marriages and the dreadful realization that it could be any of them. Mankiewicz received an Oscar and went on to fame and fortune. Over written as always in his case, but the superb cast relish the lines and it becomes a true ensemble piece of smart entertainment.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
(1954) Richard Fleischer's classic adaptation of Jules Verne's novel stars James Mason as Captain Nemo.
(2005) Charlotte 'Charlie' Cantilini lives on Venice Beach, works as a temp and is lucky enough to be engaged to the handsome Dr Kevin Fields.Jane Fonda returns to the big screen after a 15 year break for this romantic comedy about a controlling mother-in-law trying to alienate her son's girlfriend, played by Jennifer Lopez
Monster-In-Law At the beginning of Monster-In-Law, Jane Fonda's freshly-fired news anchorwoman Viola berates a young blonde interviewee for being "insipid" - an adjective that starts to become increasingly appropriate for the film itself. While showing initial signs of intelligence (she also scolds the girl for not being politically aware), Fonda's character shifts into cartoon dragon mould, acting nonsensically for supposed comic effect. When she discovers her son Kevin (an underwhelming, rarely-seen Vartan, One Hour Photo) plans to marry polite, mild-mannered Charlie (Lopez), she takes an inexplicable dislike to the notion (the idea that she wants her son all to herself just doesn't wash). Launching into action, she fakes mental illness and moves in with Charlie while Kevin is away, insisting on interfering with the wedding and annoying Charlie as much as possible.
There are potential laughs in some of Viola's schemes, such as giving Charlie a dress one size too small (cue Jennifer Lopez bum jokes), but they're poorly executed. And despite her strong on-screen presence Fonda doesn't use her comic ability to best effect. Lopez, too, suffers from a lack of comic talent and feels miscast once again as the poor little girl. Peripheral characters such as Charlie's gay friend Remy (Scott) and Viola's assistant Ruby (stand-up comedienne Sykes) have a mere handful of one-liners to offer.
Without a strong comic thrust, it's left to the plot to entertain, but there's no tension in this one-note story. The jerky editing gives little sense of timing or urgency ("I can't believe I'm getting married in a week," Charlie suddenly informs us) and there's rarely any sense of a real threat from Viola (why should we care, anyway, when Charlie's such an unsympathetic character?). Charlie's decision to turn the tables brings a spark of interest, but the opportunity for revenge is under-used, making this a pale imitation of successful wedding/family-themed comedies such as Meet The Parents.
The Motorcycle Diaries
(2003) In 1950s Argentina, Ernesto Che Guevara and his friend Alberto Granado tour South America on a clapped-out motorbike.Gael García Bernal and Rodrigo De La Serna star in Walter Salles adaptation of Che Guevara's journals written while travelling in South America in 1952
Uniquely, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara stands as an icon of both politics and pop, that ubiquitous headshot by Alberto Korda a symbol of dissent from Camden Town to Caracas. Indeed, so much mythical baggage surrounds Che-the-revolutionary that Ernesto-the-man has almost vanished. Walter Salles' magnificent adaptation of Guevara's 'The Motorcycle Diaries', and his travelling companion Alberto Granado's memoir 'Travelling With Che Guevara', vividly humanizes the legend while honouring the life - or at least a version of it. Part road-movie, part rite of passage, this is a film that avoids noisy rabble-rousing in favour of a funny, subtle and poignant tribute to friendship and burgeoning idealism.
It begins in Buenos Aires in 1952 as 29-year-old biochemist Alberto Granado (De La Serna) and asthma-stricken 23-year-old medical student Ernesto Guevara De La Serna (Bernal) prepare to embark on a mammoth road trip through Latin America. The objective: girls, beer and self-discovery. The means: a 1939 Norton motorbike nicknamed, with some irony, 'The Mighty One'. "The method," says Ernesto, "improvisation."
Sex, Lies and Videotape
(1989) Steven Soderbergh's feature wittily and perceptively examines the inhibitions and erotic impulses which control the lives of four people.Steven Soderbergh's feature debut concerns the shifting sexual attitudes and power structures of a group of four Americans, including James Spader and Andie MacDowell
Sex, Lies And Videotape Steven Soderbergh's feature debut Sex, Lies And Videotape took only eight days to write, cost less than $2 million to shoot, was the first big hit to come out of the Sundance Festival and features a career-making performance from Andie MacDowell. MacDowell's porcelain-faced restraint was ideal for the role of a frigid wife, Ann Millaney, whose yuppie husband, John (Gallagher), is shagging her insatiable sister, Cynthia (San Giacomo).
The arrival of John's old college friend Graham Dalton (Spader) unbalances the status quo. Graham's impotent and shy, which should mean that he's harmless. But Soderbergh's script is subtler than that, allowing Graham to get his kicks instead from watching the videos he's made of women's sexual confessions.
It's through these videos, made by Cynthia and eventually Ann, that the riveting drama unfolds, as emerging revelations shift the balance of power among the quartet.