Film Four & Film Four +1 25-06-08.
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The Whole Town's Talking
(1935) Arthur Jones becomes embroiled in a twisted soup of double-crossing and mistaken identities.A case of mistaken identity means there's a double helping of Edward G Robinson in John Ford's excellent comedy gangster flick. Co-starring Jean Arthur
When accountant Arthur Jones (Robinson) is arrested at the hardware company where he works, no one can believe it, least of all the man himself. A bashful creature of habit, Jonesy's about as likely to break the law as he is to pull a sickie, and that hasn't happened in eight years. At the police station all becomes clear. Arthur, it turns out, is the spit of Killer Mannion, a notorious gangster who's just escaped from the local prison. In order to prevent future confusion, the DA releases Jones with an official document proving his identity. It seems like a good idea at the time until the ID falls, inevitably, into Mannion's hands. Then all hell breaks loose.
John Ford rarely did out-and-out comedies but The Whole Town's Talking (adapted from a story by Little Caesar author WR Burnett) proves just how well he could. It has that wonderfully spunky tone of a Frank Capra classic and so it's no surprise to discover that it was written by two of Capra's most trusted scribes, Jo Swerling and Robert Riskin (who'd just won an Oscar for his work on It Happened One Night). Their gags are sublime, especially those delivered by Jean Arthur as Miss Clark (Arthur's sassy co-worker and secret crush) and character actor Etienne Girardot who shamelessly steals all his scenes as her flummoxed boss.
(1948) John Wayne stars as Tom Dunson, owner of a vast Texan cattle empire.A cattle baron and his adopted son try to drive their livestock from north from Texas to the Missouri railhead. Western drama starring John Wayne and Montgormery Clift
Red River This Hawks directed film teams 'Duke' Wayne with Montgomery Clift (excellent in his movie debut). They are the father and foster-son who, while on a make-or-break cattle drive, begin to question their relationship with each other as the former's work methods become steadily more tyrannical. With its observant and poignant script, stunning direction and breathtaking visuals (the action is set against some genuinely mind-boggling landscapes), this is epic film-making in the truest sense of the word, and a bold departure from the comedies with which Hawks is more commonly associated. Of Wayne's plethora of westerns, this stands out.
Cottage to Let
(1941) This fast-paced comedy-thriller stars Leslie Banks as a WWII inventor who becomes the target of a Fifth Column organisation.George Cole made his big screen debut alongside Alastair Sim, Leslie Banks and John Mills in this lively World War II spy thriller from Gainsborough Pictures
Made in 1941, Cottage To Let is the dramatic equivalent of war-time government posters warning the British public that 'Careless Talk Saves Lives', and 'Tittle Tattle Lost The Battle'. In the Scottish estate of boffin John Barrington (Banks) and his scatterbrained wife (De Casalis) someone's listening who shouldn't be. Barrington and his assistant, Trentley (Wilding), have developed a top-secret bomber-sighting device that promises to help the war effort no end. But Military Intelligence has discovered that the grounds have been infiltrated by a Glasgow-based Nazi spy-ring, leaving the normally tranquil locality a hive of intrigue. Who's the Hun in disguise, and where's he hiding? Ronald (Cole), an intrepid teenager evacuated from London's East End to stay with the Barringtons, takes it upon himself to find out.
Evidence leads the Sherlock Holmes fanatic to a cottage on the estate let by sinister lodger Charles Dimble (Alastair Sim). Part of the property is being used as a military hospital where Dr Truscott (Petrie) and the Barrington's daughter, Nurse Helen (Lehman), tend to the injuries of heroic spitfire pilot George Perry (Mills). Dimble seems the obvious culprit, but as events accelerate dangerously towards a thrilling climax, it becomes clear that Ronald's picked the wrong man.
Revenge of the Pink Panther
(1978) Peter Sellers' final appearance as Inspector Clouseau before the actor's untimely death.Yet more comedy with the inept Inspector Clouseau. Blake Edwards once more directs Peter Sellers in this tale of a French drug connection
Revenge Of The Pink Panther Although Revenge of the Pink Panther was only the sixth film in the series, Sellers, who had starred in all but one of the previous films, died before the release of the follow-up, 1982's Trail Of The Pink Panther (which was constructed using outtakes from the previous films for the Clouseau elements). Revenge Of The Pink Panther see director Edwards letting his star have free rein on the jokes rather than holding him into the narrative of a good comedy.
The world thinks Clouseau is dead, presumed murdered, but actually he has gone undercover to crack a secretive drug ring. There's a 'French connection' to Hong Kong, where Clouseau heads for the film's finale.
Most of the jokes revolve around funny voices, bad disguises (we see Clouseau dressing up as, among other things, Toulouse Lautrec and a Mafia don) and gags about how funny foreigners are. Kwouk (who has had his Cato role beefed up for this installment) and Lom (returning as Chief Inspector Dreyfus, whose mental health recovers when he hears Clouseau is dead) do their best with varying degrees of success. Meanwhile, Dyan Cannon does little more than sit on the sidelines mugging.
Big Momma's House
(2000) Martin Lawrence plays Malcolm Turner, an FBI agent assigned to protect Sherry Pierce and her son from her psychotic ex-boyfriend Lester.In which Martin Lawrence's FBI agent dons a fat suit and pretends to be an old lady
If you've seen Raging Bull , you'll know that Jake LaMotta had to throw a few fights to get a crack at the world middleweight title. One can but assume Paul Giamatti struck a similar Faustian pact. Why else would such a gifted actor agree to play a supporting role in a film as rancid as Big Momma's House if it wasn't to advance his future career? While the Sideways star has been well-rewarded for his sacrifice, leading man Martin Lawrence continues to star in films like this, the paucity of which is underlined by the presence of Raja Gosnell (Scooby-Doos number one and one and two) behind the camera.
Lawrence's failure to move on from this slapstick and prosthetic-heavy comedy seems born of laziness and limitation rather than misfortune. He's certainly been well compensated for his shortage of talent - he was paid $20 million for the status quo-threatening National Security.
The story of an undercover FBI agent who pulls on a wig and a fat suit to protect a federal witness - Long, who's got lost in the shuffle following her strong work in Boiler Room - this'll only appeal to lovers of Lawrence and those fascinating moviegoers who've an insatiable appetite for the Wayans family. On the bright side, those who love the film will find Big Momma's House 2 every bit as entertaining, what with it being even crasser.
The 51st State
(2001) Samuel L Jackson and Hong Kong director Ronny Yu bring Tarantino-style action and humour to Liverpool.Samuel L Jackson and Hong Kong director Ronny Yu bring Tarantino-style action and humour to Liverpool
51st State It's easy to see what attracted Samuel L Jackson to this project. Not only is his character, American master chemist and drug-manufacturer McElroy, often delivering Pulp Fiction-esque words of wisdom when he's not outwitting the bad guys and the cops, but he's a pretty cool dude, too Â* even if he does insist on wearing a kilt. Arriving in Liverpool to sell his wonder drug to highest bidder Durant (Tomlinson), McElroy is chauffered to the deal by petty criminal Felix De Souza (Carlyle), whose only interest in the operation is that Durant has promised to give the Liverpool FC fan a ticket to the upcoming Liverpool/Man Utd match if he delivers McElroy safely. Of course, it would be a pretty short film if that actually happened, and it's not long before the mismatched duo are on the run from bent coppers, rabid skinheads, annoyed LA dealer The Lizard (Meat Loaf) and the hit woman he has hired (Mortimer).
Snappily directed by Hong Kong diretor Yu (who will surely be offered better work in Hollywood than his previous US outing, The Bride Of Chucky, on the basis of this fast-paced adventure), The 51st State benefits from superb casting (Carlyle in his most humorous work to date, and Jackson the king of cool) that helps gloss over the fact that Pavlou's script is wannabe-Tarantino with a couple of over-the-top gross moments (skinheads and too many laxatives is all we'll tell you) added to make it seem novel.
(1980) In the 16th century, a thief under sentence of death is given a second chance due to his resemblance to a warlord.A thief is recruited to impersonate his double - a recently deceased, powerful warlord
Kurosawa's triumphant return to form and to costumed history evoked sighs of relief from those who had willed him back from the abyss of despair (he'd attempted suicide after the financial failure of his 1970 film Dodes'ka-den). Kagemusha was - at $6 million - the most expensive film made in Japan by 1980 (it was part-funded by Fox, via Coppola and Lucas, who co-executive produced) and awards followed, including the Palme d'Or at Cannes.
The story, told over an epic 179 minutes, concerns a robber (Nakadai) who is given a stay of execution by crucifixion to impersonate recently dead warlord Lord Shingen (also Nakadai) so as to maintain the continuity of his rule. The thief understandably hopes to milk the situation and enjoy the trappings of his role, but gradually he accepts its responsibilities in a moving comment on character and the notion of leadership.
The film, set in 16th-century feudal Japan, was based on an actual incident from the period, and the title translates as 'shadow warrior', the role assumed by the thief.