J. Edgar is a character study of J. Edgar Hoover, the founder and director of the FBI for over 50 years. Leonardo DiCaprio gets under the skin of this enigmatic man. The most outstanding feature of this movie is the overall view of J. Edgar. His secret life; his strange, strong attachment to his mother; his intimate relationship with another man; his lust for admiration are balanced by his achievements. He raised the bar of crime solving, using innovative scientific procedures like universal file for fingerprinting. Often misguided and ruthless, J. Edgar was more than the sum of his parts. This movie made me want to read more about him. Incidentally, the supporting cast is outstanding and the makeup is pure artistry.
This comedy is just pure fun, something to chase away the blahs. Jumping the Broom is about traditional wedding customs in the rural south. It is often a time-honored custom in modern marriages as well. And so the fun begins, a modern bride with her own ideas and a future mother-in-law from hell, determined to keep her son from his unworthy bride. It's a bumpy ride to the altar. Enjoy the ride.
In The Gunfighter, Gregory Peck demonstrates that being the best gunfighter is not all it's cracked up to be; you just can't quit. Jimmy Ringo rides into his hometown, hoping to find his wife and child. He is tired and wants to settle down. Wherever he goes, some young buck challenges him. His hometown is no different. Of the three westerns I watched, this movie is the most realistic. The Old West loses its glossy Hollywood veneer. Check out The New York Times review of the film. Here are three movies set in the west, each with different and distinctive theme (see reviews of The Big Country and Duel in the Sun). Peck is said to play most of the scenes without a double. He claims he could do a running mount. I’m impressed.
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.
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.
This old Lana Turner and Van Heflin movie was worth a second peek. I vaguely remembered being entranced with it in grammar school. The plot, the settings, the costumes and the characters of Green Street Dolphin represent an old Hollywood, not necessarily realistic but very entertaining. Lana Turner as the brave, headstrong and sometimes nasty heroine, faces childbirth, earthquakes, tidal waves, and Maori uprisings with true grit. A ways into her marriage she discovers her husband had really meant to marry her sister. And there we are. What now?
We take so much for granted these days. Heart surgery? In and out in three days. Fifty years ago the heart was the sacred cow of medicine. No one operated on the heart. In Something the Lord Made, we discover the dramatic true story of the evolution of heart surgery. There is not a dull moment as two men collaborate their efforts to save the life of a" blue baby." This groundbreaking operation is where research started. There is a kicker, one of the men is an eminent white doctor, head of surgery at Johns Hopkins; his talented technician is a black man without any degree. There you have it. Two stories forever intertwined in a single struggle. Anyone who read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks would definitely appreciate this movie. It is a standalone winner in all ways.
Although The Reivers stars Steve McQueen as Boon, a foxy hired hand, it is really the story of the boss’s 12-year-old grandson, Lucius. Boon desires to “borrow” his boss’s shiny yellow 1905 “horseless carriage” for a whirlwind jaunt to Memphis to take in the sights, particularly the sights of his girlfriend who lives in a bawdy house. Poor Lucius abandons his principles and joins Boon, along with the stable hand, Ned. To say Lucius receives a liberal education is the truth. However, even in the middle of mind boggling moments, Lucius keeps his character. There is a spellbinding horse race to crown the adventure. Based on the story of the same name by William Faulkner, The Reivers is worth a watch.
The opening scenes set up a fuzzy, smoky atmosphere. The viewer wonders "what's really happening here?" And this questions persists as the plot develops, investing you in the outcome of the story. The spy story grimly unwinds. There are a series of flashbacks that reveal hints and just add to the puzzle. This dying genre is brought to life with mystery and mastery. Academy Award nominee Gary Oldman as George Smiley just cannot be beat. Based on the book by John Le Carre. Find Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on DVD.
The Duchess of Duke Street, a BBC production of Edwardian England, is plain old fun to watch. Gemma Jones, who plays the duchess, immediately engages us by her super strong performance of a servant girl who becomes a notorious chef who also catches the eye of the Prince of Wales. Many times she is a victim of Victorian strictures, but meets these challenges head on with verve and style. The story is offbeat but keeps you thoroughly entertained. After watching season 1, I immediately looked for season 2.