All posts by jennifera

Duel in the Sun (1946)

Welcome to round two of Gregory Peck westerns (did you see last month’s review of The Big Country?): “A la Hollywood,” this steamy western stars Peck as the spoiled son of a land baron and Joseph Cotten as the educated, ethical other son the same land baron.

Along comes Jennifer Jones as the orphan, Pearl (hardly a child), sent to ranch by her father (recently hung) to live with the land baron’s wife, who was his first love. How’s that for a situation?

We have the ultimate triangle, but bold, brazen, bad boy Peck lights a passion in Pearl that will ultimately consume them. The casting, the acting, the scenery, makes this tempestuous love story irresistible. Gregory Peck is a hunk. Who would have thought “the man in the grey flannel suit” could be so appealing. Run, don’t walk, to the library to check out Duel in the Sun!

And don’t forget to return next month for the third in the trio of Gregory Peck westerns.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Starring Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is listed as one of the top ten sci-fi films of all time by the American Film Institute. It is probably my personal favorite sci-fi film and far superior to the subsequent remakes. And this is despite the fact that the special effects are very limited and there is very little action.

So what makes this film so special? It’s the story, the acting, the musical score, and
perhaps the cinematography. And it contains maybe one of the scariest scenes you’ll ever see in a film that does not involve a monster, a slashing knife, or something that jumps out at you.

And a word of warning, you may have trouble sleeping after you see this film, but if
you haven’t seen this film, you should. Also, just before you do go to bed, you might
want to check your basement, under your bed, in your car, and any other place in or
around your home where a body might be waiting.

The Descendants (2011) R

Basically we humans want life to be simple, but for Matt King (George Clooney) it has become anything but! With his wife Elizabeth on life support after a boating accident, his two daughters in need of his attention, and the responsibility of a family land trust, he finds himself in the most difficult of situations.

The Descendants, with the atmosphere of its Hawaiian setting (including the native music), was surprising, moving, and frequently very funny, but the best part is how well it all works.

True Blood. Seasons 1 and 2 (2008-2009)

Vampires have always existed in the shadows of Bon Temps, Louisiana, but with the invention of the artificial blood product “True Blood,” vampires have come out into the open. Some residents welcome them, like heroine Sookie Stackhouse (Anna Paquin), but others need a little persuading.

As so often happens when vampires are around, other supernatural creatures make appearances as well. Be prepared for great characters, violence, gratuitous nudity, goofy humor, and a touching love story in seasons 1 and 2 of True Blood. Seasons 3 and 4 are also available on DVD. Based on the novels by Charlaine Harris.

The Big Country (1958)

To kick off my trio of westerns starring Gregory Peck, I selected The Big Country at random. I was hooked. In this 1958 old Hollywood Western, Gregory Peck moves west to marry and become a rancher. He finds himself in the middle of a vendetta war over the use of cattle watering rights.

Everything about this movie is big, the scenery, the cast, and Gregory Peck. Burl Ives won an Oscar for Best Support Actor as the head of the opposing clan. The scene where Ives interrupts a fancy dinner is outstanding. Peck faces a dilemma. He must choose between his fiance or his conscience.

Check back next month for the second western in the Gregory Peck series.

We’re No Angels (1955)

Looking to spend this Christmas in a nice warm tropical place? OK! How about Devil’s Island circa 1895? Join Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, and Peter Ustinov as three escaped convicts at Christmas in the hilarious comedy We’re No Angels.

They plan to rob a shopkeeper and use the money to leave the island. Their plans begin to change when they meet Felix and Amelie Ducotel and their daughter. Felix manages, or rather mismanages, a small department store.

The convicts decide to spend Christmas with the Ducotel family. They decorate the house and prepare and serve the dinner. Just when everything is going so well, Felix’s cousin Andre and Andre’s nephew Paul arrive unexpectedly.

Andre is nasty bit of goods who owns the store managed by Felix. He plans to audit the books and if the store is not profitable, he will fire Felix and put him and his family into the street. Andre is just the sort of man the convicts are looking for.

Join this trio of rogues at Christmastime. There are some very funny scenes, some charming songs, and a great cast. It’s a good way to enjoy part of this Christmas and/or any Christmas season.

Check out this TCM article for a behind-the-scenes look at the film. And for other Christmas films at the library, browse our lists of Christmas Movies and Family Christmas Movies.

Spotlight: Edward Norton

One actor whose films I’m always anxious to watch is Edward Norton. He is so gifted and versatile. The characters he plays are often intense and/or troubled, and always captivating and true-to-life. My favorite films are American History X (1998) and Primal Fear (1996), although I’ve also enjoyed many others. Here’s a selection of some of his movies that are available at IPPL:

The Magdalene Sisters (2002) R

This very powerful movie tells the story of four Irish girls who were sent to the Magdalene Asylums for various reasons. Some were pregnant, some too beautiful, some mentally ill, others just not wanted by their families. The asylum ran a laundry and the girls were virtual prisoners and slaves. There were many young women who never left the institution but spent the entire lives behind the walls. The Magdalene Sisters is a very moving look at Irish history and the Catholic Church.

Revenge: The Complete First Season (2011)

This new dark drama takes getting even to the next level. The show centers on the beautiful Emily Thorne who rents a beach house in the Hamptons for summer. It is revealed through flashbacks that Emily is not there to soak up the sun, but instead to exact revenge for the people responsible for her father’s wrongful imprisonment. Her cold and calculating plan ensures that everyone involved in the plot to frame will suffer, especially the powerful Grayson family. Revenge is a deliciously wicked show that shows how far someone will go for justice.