Category Archives: Film of the Week

The 10 File — ‘Silence of the Lambs’

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LOGO Halloween is in the air this week, and after you have finished passing out goodies to all the ghosts, goblins, zombies, monsters, and superheroes that knock on your door, I suggest the best way to spend the rest of Halloween night is to make some popcorn, pour a drink of your choice, and curl up to watch a good, old-fashioned scary movie.

Now notice I said, “a good, old-fashioned scary movie.” I’m not talking about the modern thrillers that equate gallons of fake blood, graphic scenes of severed body parts, and segments of horrific mutilations with the way to elicit fear. My idea of a truly frightening film, however, is one that gets inside your head so much that you think about it long after it has ended.

I have dipped into the 10 File for my suggestion, and I consider this 1991 film the very epitome of the thriller genre. It is so good in fact that at the 1991 Academy Awards, it became only the third film in history to win Oscars for best film, best director, best actor, best actress, and best adapted screenplay. (The other two films to achieve this are 1934’s “It Happened One Night” and 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”) Without further ado, let’s have a look at “The Silence of the Lambs,” starring Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster and directed by Jonathan Demme.

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“The Silence of the Lambs,” based upon Thomas Harris’s novel of the same name, begins at the FBI training facility in Quantico, Va., where we find agent trainee Clarice Starling (Foster) doing a practice run on the obstacle course. Before Clarice can finish her workout, however, Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn), chief of the FBI’s psychological profiles for serial killers division, summons her to his office.

Crawford has a special assignment for Clarice: She must travel to a mental hospital/prison in Maryland, where Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins) has been sentenced to nine consecutive life terms for murders he has committed. Lecter, a genius in the field of forensic psychiatry, has earned the nickname Hannibal the Cannibal because of his propensity for eating parts of his victims’ bodies. Clarice’s assignment is to deliver a questionnaire to Lecter, but Crawford hopes Clarice will be able enlist his help in tracking down a serial killer known as Buffalo Bill. This wacko preys on women whom he skins before he dumps their bodies into rivers.

At first Clarice manages to establish a little rapport with Lecter, but the ploy with the questionnaire insults him and leads him to tell Clarice, “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” After revealing this little gem, Lecter dismisses Clarice, but on her way down the hallway one the other prisoners does something so grotesque to her that even Lecter is appalled. He calls her back and gives her a clue that may prove helpful in the hunt for Buffalo Bill.

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From this point on, the film evolves into an incredible blend of a mystery, a horror story, and a psychological thriller as Clarice manages to establish a strange relationship with Lecter in which he gives her clues about Buffalo Bill as long as she agrees to share with him things about her childhood that she has spent a lifetime trying to forget.

The acting in this film is absolutely brilliant. Foster successfully imbues Starling with a perfect combination of naïveté and determination, and as the film progresses, we watch her mature as she gains more and more confidence in herself. Starling’s first interview with Lecter is a showcase for Foster’s talent because her character is terrified of this legendary monster, but she must overcome her fear to carry out her assignment, and Foster conveys all of Starling’s conflicting emotions flawlessly. In an online interview, she offered some insight into her character.

“She’s an amazing heroine — this kind of archetypal heroic character who has to learn something about herself by going through this forced experience with these gnomes and demons and horrible monsters. To find a part like that with that real heroic basis was amazing to find in a female character.”

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As far as Hopkins is concerned, he has created one of the most frightening villains of all time in Lecter. His gaze is so chilling it could stop a clock, and his tone of voice is hypnotically mesmerizing. When we first see Lecter, he is imprisoned within a cell of glass unlike the other prisoners who are simply behind bars. And he is so dangerous that Clarice receives explicit instructions not get near the glass. Before the film is over, Lecter definitely lives up to his reputation.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only Mandatory Credit: Photo by Everett Collection / Rex Features ( 411879fv ) 'THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS' - Anthony Hopkins - 1991 VARIOUS

Now in most films of this genre there is only one heinous killer, but in this one we get two because remember that a nut named Buffalo Bill (Ted Levine) is the target of the FBI manhunt. Lecter is disturbingly demented, but Buffalo Bill is every bit as horrifying. Both his method of killing and his motive for doing it are as twisted, perverted, disgusting, gross, and all other forms of insane as you can get. And Levine is chillingly effective in the role

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In addition to the outstanding acting, this film also features exceptional sets, and Demme has succeeded beautifully in creating an atmosphere conducive to horror. Early on when Clarice visits Lecter, her trip to the bowels of the prison is incredibly eerie, and Buffalo Bill’s “home” will make your skin crawl.

“The Silence of the Lambs” is a true classic, and it’s a prime example of how a film can be outrageously suspenseful and frightening without resorting to gross gore for shock value. It is a definite 10 a and great movie to watch on that haunted night coming up. Happy Halloween!

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“Everest” Piques Curiosity About Motive

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LOGOI simply do not understand some things. For example, why would anyone in his or her right mind intentionally risk High Altitude Cerebral Edema, High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, frostbite, hypothermia, thrombosis, embolisms, sunburn, snow blindness, broken bones, and death? AND PAY BETWEEN $30,000 AND $100,000 FOR THE “PRIVILEGE”?

Yes, throughout the years approximately 4,000 people have laid out hard-earned cash for the fun (?) of attempting to climb to the top of Mt. Everest, which is 29,029 feet above sea level. (Incidentally this is the cruising altitude of a 747 passenger jet.) Although the statistics vary a bit, the most consistent ones list 660 successful attempts to reach the massive mountain’s summit, and more than 250 have perished on its deadly slopes.

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One of the worst disasters in Everest’s storied history occurred in 1996, when brutal snowstorm claimed the lives of eight climbers, and this tragedy is the subject of “Everest,” a chilling (intended) and heart-wrenching film directed by Baltasar Kormakur (“2 Guns”).

The story begins in March 1996 with the arrival some separate expeditions in Lukla, Nepal, in preparation for the climb. One of the guides for the Adventures Consultants group is Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), and among those going with him up the mountain are the following: Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), a guy who has had a lot of experience climbing; Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), a retired mailman who has always wanted to climb Everest; and Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori), an accomplished climber who hopes to be the oldest woman ever to conquer Everest.

Mountain Madness is the name of another expedition under the leadership of Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), and stationed at the Everest Base Camp is Helen Wilton (Emily Watson), who stays in constant walkie-talkie communication with the guides during the climb.

Bear Gylls and Jake Gyllenhaal in Iceland.

After introducing the main characters and giving a little background about their personal lives, the film concentrates on chronicling the climb. Interestingly enough Rob’s ascent on May 10 proceeded relatively smoothly with the exception of Beck, who experienced vision difficulty and some others who were delayed because there were so many additional climbers on the mountain.

Rob made it to the summit on schedule, and Yasuko also joined him there to fulfill her dream. The joy of the accomplishment was ephemeral, however, because during the descent a massive blizzard hit, and eight people died on the mountainside.

“Everest” definitely is a film worth seeing, but parts of it are very difficult to watch unless you’re into viewing people suffer and ultimately freeze to death. The cast is outstanding, and the acting is consistently excellent throughout the movie, but the performances take a back seat to the events, and the main star in the film is that ginormous mountain. As I watched the climbers battle the forces of nature, I continued to wonder why in the hell anyone could possibly want to be subjected to such dangerous misery. In the film’s production notes Kormakur pointed out that what motivates people to attempt the climb really is not an answerable question.

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“You might ask, ‘Why do you need to climb Everest?’ and nobody can really answer that. But you might also ask, ‘Why do you need to live life? Why do you need to have a career?’ Even people who have a lot of money, they still need to have careers. So it’s one of these questions that is hard to answer.”

The cinematography in this film is spectacular as it offers breathtaking shots of Everest from myriad angles. The sheer cliffs, the frozen the slopes, and the icy crags reinforced my wonderment that people want to tackle climbing this monster. In the production notes Gyllenhaal provided a thought-provoking answer to my question.

“My interest in this movie has always been about the people who climbed Everest on this expedition and their reasons for doing it. I think the simple idea of climbing Mt. Everest is exciting. But it’s each person’s reasoning for doing it that is truly fascinating. Everest begs the questions inside all of us: What do we want to accomplish in our lives? What gives our lives meaning? This mountain, literally or figuratively, asks that question to everyone. It’s a metaphor for so many things, and it is Mother Nature humbling us.

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“It’s not about getting to the top; it’s about community and the connection with the climbers around you. The summit is not always literal. It would seem to me that the real summit is the connection to the people with whom you are climbing. We don’t realize that we’ve summited already, in the relationships that we make. Sometimes, as in the case of this story, it’s too late before you realize that.”

Of course as the lead guide, Hall is one of the main characters in the film, and in the production notes Clarke explained his attachment to the story and talked about his character.

“Rob had a great love for the mountains and the wild places on Earth. It is one thing to want to do it yourself, but quite another to want to share it and take other people. From what I’ve learned, Rob truly loved to take people, and to help them see what he saw and achieve their goals.

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“I knew the story. I remember where I was when I heard it was happening, and because it unfolded over a number of days, it gave people time to think about it and imagine the full horror. The story is so affecting, and I had a real emotional connection to it.”

The fact that Everest is based upon the true events of the tragedy that occurred in 1996, automatically makes the film worth watching. Movies based upon factual occurrences are most often worthwhile because they are educational. I confess that I really didn’t know that much about the 1996 climb, and for that reason I’m very glad I saw the film. But I could never sit through it again because I really don’t enjoy see human suffering and death. I also happen to despise cold weather, and so enduring almost two hours of watching people slip and slide around in subzero temperatures is not among my favorite things to do.

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Because I always judge film’s appeal, greatness, and score, by whether or not I could sit through it again and again, “Everest” does not reach the peak of a 10. However, I do recommend it because it is fascinating to see what some people are willing to risk for achieving their goals. Thus, the film earns the final score of a very respectable eight, and it firmly cements my opinion that I’m a devout coward.

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“Public Morals” Is A Potential Winner

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LOGOCop shows seem to be everywhere on the television airwaves, but there’s a new one on TNT that has the potential to be a cut above all the others.

“Public Morals” is the brainchild of Ed Burns (“Saving Private Ryan”), who wrote, directed, and stars in the show as Terry Muldoon, a New York City police officer working in the rough Hell’s Kitchen section of the Big Apple. Muldoon is the head of the Public Morals Division of the NYPD comprising plainclothes officers. These guys have a very special task on the force as a veteran explains to a rookie early in the show: “Our job is to curb all kinds of vice. That includes prostitution, pornography, degeneracy and the blue laws. Nobody wants these laws enforced. We do what has been done for the last 100 years—we manage it for the city. Think of us as the landlords. And if you want to be in business, you have to pay your rent.”

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Pubic Morals
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In the first episode of the series we meet the officers under Muldoon’s supervision, and all of them have intriguing personal lives. Charlie Bullman (Michael Rapaport) is Muldoon’s partner, and he was happily married until his job made him cross paths with a beautiful prostitute.

Additional men in the division include the following: Vince Latucci (Wass Stevens), a longtime member who shares too much information about his job with his nagging wife; Sean O’Bannon (Austin Stowell), a hot-tempered womanizer who becomes involved with a journalism student named Deirdre (Lyndon Smith) and fails to realize how this relationship may jeopardize his career; and Petey “Mac” Mackenna (Patrick Murney), a younger cop who doesn’t take his job too seriously; and finally Jimmy Shea (newcomer Brian Wiles), a rookie who may be a lot more knowledgeable than he appears.

The word morals in the title of the series refers not only to the scumbags the division is trying to control, but it also applies to the cops themselves, who are not above accepting payoffs and favors in exchange for playing dumb and/or looking the other way occasionally. Watching guys who are supposed to be enforcing the law bend the rules to benefit themselves is a fascinating aspect of the show in that it adds an element of authenticity to the time period. In an interview with Donna Freydkin of USA Today, Burns explained what he did to make the show is real as possible.

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“I wanted New Yorkers to look at it and think, ‘That’s the way the city used to be and the way it used to sound.’ I tried to cast only born-and-bred New York actors. A New York accent is tricky to pull off. We have retired cops on the show. They have the walk, the cadence, and the delivery.”

Among the many problems facing Muldoon and his boys is the increasing tension between the two factions of the Irish-American Mafia. Muldoon fully realizes how dangerous Hell’s Kitchen has become, and because he lives there with his wife, Christine (Elizabeth Masucci), and their two sons, James (Cormac Cullinane) and Michael (Barth Sawyer), he takes his job of making the neighborhood safe quite seriously.

In addition to trying to keep a lid on the Irish-American conflict, Muldoon must also deal with the tension between the veteran cops and rookies. For example, after Shea has been introduced to the members of the division, one of the older guys expresses his feelings by saying, “He’s everything that’s wrong with too many of these young cops nowadays. The kid went to college, for chrissakes. He lives in the suburbs.”

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And Muldoon can’t even catch a break at peace when he goes home because James seems to be in constant trouble at school, and this is an ongoing source of tension between Muldoon and Christine. To say the guy has a lot on his plate is a gross understatement.

As you would expect, much of the pilot is devoted to introducing the main characters and setting up the elements of the plot and subplots. As the series progresses, it’s going to be quite interesting to see how these people develop. There’s not a weak link in the outstanding cast, and I already have been drawn into the characters’ respective lives.

In addition to the fine acting, the series captures the aura of the ‘60s beautifully with great costumes, sets, and props. I particularly love looking at those wonderful old automobiles. Those cars really had some style to them.

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As a native New Yorker and one who was raised among a family of cops, Burns admitted that some of the series is autobiographical in an interview with Ben Travers of Indiewire.

“The stuff in it that’s autobiographical is limited to the relationship between Terry Muldoon and his sons. The other story we’re seeing — the subplot in the pilot — is word-for-word me and my dad when I’m in the sixth grade. And there are other moments like that between my character, Terry, and his son James, that pull from what it was like to grow up with a father who was a police officer; what it was like to grow up in that culture and climate in a big cop family where a lot of your social life — weddings, funerals — were attended mostly by cops and their families. All the other stuff, the cops and the gangsters come from, probably 20 or 25 years of my obsessions. The movies I loved, the novels I tended to read, and the nonfiction that I was obsessed with; it always had to do with New York City, Hell’s Kitchen, gangsters, cops, the waterfront, Times Square, those kinds of things. I took all of those obsessions and put it into the show.”

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Based upon its pilot, I think “Public Morals” is going to be an outstanding series. Unlike many other cop dramas, it doesn’t shy away from realism by always portraying law-enforcement officers as knights in shining armor. Burns has done an outstanding job in creating the show, and the word he’s already at work on the second season.

In assigning a score to “Public Morals,” I give it an indecisive eight because I want to see more episodes before making a final judgment. Although the pilot was excellent, it did contain some segments that were a bit confusing, but I’m hoping future episodes will clear these up. In the meantime the show airs Tuesdays at 10 on TNT, and it’s definitely good enough to give it a try.

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The New “Mission” Is Impossibly Good

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LOGOGood day, dear reader. What follows is a review of a new movie playing in a theater near you. Your decision, should you decide to accept it, is to read the commentary and decide for yourself whether or not you want to go see the film. As always, if you or any of your friends disagree with my opinion, absolutely nothing will happen to you. This column will not self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, reader.

I’ve been a “Mission: Impossible” fan ever since I first heard the words, “Good morning, Mr. Phelps,” when the TV series made its debut all the way back in 1966. And I never missed an episode during the next seven years as Peter Graves, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus, Martin Landau, and Barbara Bain worked diligently each week to make the world a safer place.

Of course it was only a matter of time until the IMF made its way to the silver screen, and the first installment of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise made its debut in theaters nationwide in 1996. Then came “Mission: Impossible II” in 2000, Mission: Impossible III,” in 2006, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” in 2011, and now we have Mission Impossible – “Rogue Nation.” While all of the films in the series have been entertaining and exciting, this one may very well be the best of the lot.

STRICTLY EMBARGOED: 8:00am PST March 22, 2015 Tom Cruise in a scene from the motion picture

Tom Cruise returns to reprise his role as IMF point man Ethan Hunt, whom he portrayed in the first four films, and Hunt is better than ever here. In fact, the signature stunt in the film (Surely you’ve seen the trailers of Cruise hanging on the side of a gigantic airbus.) occurs only eight minutes into the movie, and Hunt manages to steal some nerve gas that was supposed to go terrorists.

After this incident, Hunt is on the trail of an international crime ring known as the “Syndicate,” and to this end he visits a record store in London to get his assignment. But this turns out to be a trap, and the Syndicate captures him and turns him over to a nasty dude named Janik “Bone Doctor” Vinter (Jens Hulten). Before this guy can do any major damage to him, however, Hunt manages to escape with the aid of a former MI6 agent and a not very faithful member of the Syndicate named Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson).

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While all this is transpiring, Alan Hunley (Alec Baldwin), director of the CIA, and IMF agent William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) are meeting with a Senate oversight committee. Hunley is not a fan of the IMF force and makes such a strong case against it that he manages to have it dissolved. This turns Hunt into a rogue agent, and he continues to pursue a single lead to the Syndicate while attempting at the same time to elude capture by the CIA.

After six months, Hunt still is searching for Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), a guy he believes is the leader of the Syndicate, but he finally summons help in the person of his former fellow IMF buddy, Benjy Dunn (Simon Pegg). Hunt sends Dunn to an opera in Vienna, where he thinks Lane will be and where an assassination attempt unfolds. From this point on the film chronicles Hunt’s frantic attempt to prove the existence of the Syndicate before the CIA finds him.

This installment of “Mission: Impossible” has it all – action, suspense, thrills, chills, chases, humor, fights, twists, double-crosses, and stunts. Cruise is in top form as Hunt, and it’s obvious from watching him that he absolutely revels in this role. In fact, he has made the character of Hunt so much his that I cannot imagine anyone else in the part. In the film’s production notes, Cruise offered some interesting insight into the movie.

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“Each time I think, ‘I’ve seen it all,’ and I’ve been through every action challenge a film can have, the next film introduces new challenges of every kind because we’re constantly pushing not only the action sequences, but the storytelling and characters. To me the ultimate ‘Mission’ movie is never just about action and suspense though we love innovating in that area. It’s really about the combination of action, intrigue, and humor with this very specific, breathless kind experience we create for the audience. It’s about giving audiences the greatest sense of adventure and scale — while keeping a classic sense of cinema. We do that more than ever in ‘Rogue Nation.’

“This installment is about the complications of friendship that happen when enormous pressure comes down on these guys. Whom do you trust, and whom should you not trust? Who is really going to be there for you when the chips are down? Who is going to keep their head under fire? And how can they work together to make things happen? I think ‘Rogue Nation’ is about finding that intimate aspect of true teamwork in the face of pure evil.”

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Cruise also commented on his character, whom some may view as a tortured soul.

“Ethan has evolved. He’s learning to listen to everyone else while still following his own instincts. I think he’s really progressed in terms of understanding people for who they are, including himself. I’ve always seen him as someone’s who’s highly skilled, who has a high level of athleticism, and who will be relentless in pursuing what he believes is right all the way to the end, but he’s not a superhero; he’s very human.”

Of course Cruise is known for doing his own stunts, but the one of the side of the airplane tops them all. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit explained how Cruise did it.

“Tom was in a full body harness, and he’s cabled and wired to the plane through its door. Inside the aircraft was an aluminum truss that was carefully bolted to the plane, which held the wires that went through the door, which held Tom. He was also wearing special contact lenses to protect his eyes. If anything hit him at those speeds, it could be really bad. They were very careful about cleaning the runway so there were no rocks. And we took off in certain weather conditions; there were no birds. And he’s sort of protected by the way the air moves over the wing.”

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In addition to Cruise’s electrifyingly physical performance, Swedish knockout Ferguson matches him almost stride for stride with some great action sequences of her own. And the sexual tension between their two characters crackles.

The movie also boasts an amazing motorcycle chase, an incredibly intense scene at the Vienna opera house (a la Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” and an indescribable water sequence. The cinematography in this movie will blow you away, and white knuckles are the order of the day.

Now reader, if you accepted the assignment and made your way through this review, thank you, and it should come as no surprise that “Rogue Nation” earns the final score of 10. Action films just don’t get any better than this. Bring on installment six!

 

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The 10 File: “The Paper Chase”

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LOGOI’m introducing a new feature here this week, and I would greatly appreciate any and all feedback about it. I call it The 10 File. Every so often instead of reviewing a current film or TV show, I will access this file and offer a commentary on a movie worthy of being called a classic and earning the score of an undisputed 10. My hope is to introduce such films to those who may have missed them when they first came out or to remind those who may have seen them that they are definitely worth watching more than just once. Without further ado let’s have at it.

Way back in 1973 one of the best legal dramas ever made hit the silver screen, and I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve watched it. “The Paper Chase,” based upon the novel of the same name by James Jay Osborn Jr., tells the story of James T. Hart (Timothy Bottoms), a first-year law student at Harvard University, and interestingly enough Osborn wrote the book while he was a law student at Harvard.

As the academic year begins, we watch a group of students filing into a large lecture hall, and after they are all seated, we see a seating chart, complete with student pictures, unfolded on the lectern. Then the legendary Professor Charles W. Kingsfield Jr. (John Houseman) points at a name on the chart, and in a booming voice says, “Mr. Hart, will you recite the facts of Hawkins vs. McGee?”

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Unfortunately Hart did not realize that the reading assignment for the first day of class had been posted in two places on campus, and therefore he had not read the case. In the ensuing few minutes, Kingsfield mercilessly embarrasses Hart in front of the class, and thus begins the relationship that’s the nucleus of this absolutely marvelous film.

Kingsfield, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has been teaching at his alma mater four 40 years, and his specialty is contract law. Kingsfield stories are rife on the campus, and some of them maintain that the professor has actually driven some of his students insane. In class he wastes little time before telling his students what they can expect.

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“The study of law is something new and unfamiliar to most of you unlike any schooling you’ve ever been through before. We used the Socratic method here. I call on you, ask you a question, and you answer it. Why don’t I just give you a lecture? Because through my questions you learn to teach yourselves. Through this method of questioning, answering, questioning, answering, we seek to develop in you the ability to analyze that vast complex of facts that constitute the relationships of members within a given society. Questioning and answering, at times you may feel that you have found the correct answer. I assure you this is a total delusion on your part. You will never find the correct, absolute, and final answer. In my classroom there’s always another question, another question to follow your answer. Yes, you’re on a treadmill. My little questions spin the tumblers of your mind. You’re on operating table. My little questions are the fingers probing your brain. We do brain surgery here. You teach yourselves a law, but I train your mind. You come in here with the skull full of mush, and you leave thinking like a lawyer.”

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On Hart’s first night in his dorm, a student from across hall knocks on the door, introduces himself as Franklin Ford III (Graham Beckel), and invites Hart to join his study group. The idea is for each student in the group to pick a particular course to outline, and then the members exchange them at exam time. Initially in addition to Hart and Ford, the group comprises Kevin Brooks (James Naughton), Thomas Craig Anderson (Edward Herrman), Willis Bell (Craig Richard Nelson), and O’Connor (Bob Lydiard).

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By combining the drama of the unbelievable pressure facing the first-year law students with some wry humor and even a bit of romance, “The Paper Chase” offers first-class entertainment from beginning to end. Watching how the study group members deal with the rigors of Harvard is fascinating. The acting is consistently excellent throughout, and Houseman even won an Oscar for his superb portrayal of Kingsfield. Although the scenes in which the students interact during the study group, in the dormitories, and at various other places are always interesting, the segments in Kingsfield’s classroom make the film what it is.

Complementing Houseman’s performance beautifully is Bottoms’ portrayal of the befuddled Hart, who must struggle to overcome the miserable first impression he made on Kingsfield. Bottoms really makes us feel Hart’s combination of trepidation and determination as he attempts to convince the unapproachable professor that he’s worthy of being a Harvard law student.

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All of the other young actors who portray Hart’s classmates are exceptionally good in their respective roles, and Lindsay Wagner also turns in a nice performance as Hart’s love interest, Susan Fields. The overall casting of the film could not have been any better.

If you have never seen “The Paper Chase,” you should treat yourself and share in the adventures of Hart and company as they pursue the grades at Harvard that will land them a job with a prestigious law firm after they earn their degrees. You will think about these students long after you have seen this outstanding movie. And I guarantee that you will never forget Kingsfield, one of filmdom’s most memorable characters.

Look for another film from The 10 File in the future, and please let me know your thoughts about this idea.

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“Ant-Man” Is Far Short Of Marvel-Ous

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LOGOI’ve been a fan of superheroes ever since I read my first Superman comic book, and the Man of Steel remains my favorite to this day, followed closely by Capt. Marvel and Batman, even though there are arguments that the latter is not a superhero in the truest sense of the word.

There’s something mystically exciting about watching Clark Kent duck into a phone booth or an alley and suddenly swoosh into the sky as his indestructible alter ego. I also always got a real charge (pun intended) of seeing Billy Batson say, “Shazam,” to summon that lightening bolt that transformed him into Capt. Marvel. And of course the bat signal glowing in the sky over Gotham City meant Bruce Wayne would soon be donning the cape and cowl to emerge from the Bat Cave as the Caped Crusader.

These guys rule the kingdom of superheroes for me, and perhaps that’s the reason I can’t become the least bit excited about a fellow who puts on a suit so that he can shrink to the size of an ant. In fact, as I sat through the agony of “Ant-Man,” the lyrics of my least favorite Frank Sinatra song kept running through my head: Just what makes that little old ant think he can move a rubber tree plant. Anyone knows an ant can’t move a rubber tree plant.

Ant-Man is another member of the Marvel stable of characters, and he first appeared in the comic book “Tales to Astonish” in January 1962, when he was originally the alter ego of Hank Pym, a scientist who created something that enabled him to shrink. Now Ant-Man has his own movie cleverly titled “Ant-Man,” and although I’m certain many will love it, I became quite antsy for it to be over. In fact, I found this film so insufferably boring that I hope you won’t fall asleep reading about it.

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As the film begins, cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has just been released from doing a stint in San Quentin. While he was inside, his wife left him, but all he really cares about is his young daughter. Luis (Michael Pena), Scott’s former cellmate, picks him up at the prison and immediately begins trying to recruit him for another job, but Scott doesn’t want to hear about it. He’s bent on going straight and earning some honest money so that he can help pay child support for his daughter. To this end he takes a job scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins (What dream job for an ant!), but when the owner of the shop learns of Scott’s criminal record, he fires him.

Because he’s now desperate for money, Scott agrees to help Luis pull off a heist, but when he cracks the safe in the target house, all he finds is a weird-looking suit complete with a helmet. After he gets home, he decides to try it on, and he immediately shrinks to the size of an ant. At this point I really longed for a huge can of Raid!

Marvel's Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014

Marvel’s Ant-Man..Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)..Photo Credit: Zade Rosenthal..? Marvel 2014

Now see if you can follow this convoluted plot. The suit Scott found belongs to scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who invented it while he was working for S.H.I.E.L.D. But Pym resigned from there back in 1989, when he found out some people were trying to copy his work. Now, however, his estranged daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and her lover, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who worked with Pym, have stolen his shrinking formula and developed a yellow jacket suit.

When Pym learns of this dastardly deed, he engineers the entire Scott heist so that Scott will find the ant suit. His motive is to recruit Scott as Ant-Man to steal Cross’s yellow jacket suit. And all this leads to a climactic insect battle aboard toy train. Choo! Choo! Woo! Woo!

5

“Ant-Man” is the 12th in a continuing series of Marvel movies to hit the silver screen, and it has no competition for being the worst. The plot is needlessly confusing in places, and a lot of the action is shot the dark or subdued lighting. I really doubt that youngsters will be able to follow the storyline in places, but it probably won’t make any difference because all they will care about is seeing Scott galloping around on the backs of various ants. In the film’s production notes director Peyton Reed makes his case for the film.

“‘Ant-Man’ is an incredibly powerful character. He can shrink down to a very tiny size and actually command these armies of different types of ants which on the face of it may seem like a silly power, but the great thing about the comics and the great thing about this story is you get to see what kinds of things a bunch of ants can get done and in what interesting ways they can help Scott.”

6

It’s a shame that somewhere in the movie Scott didn’t need to move a rubber tree plant.

Also in the production notes, Rudd offered a good clarification of the plot.

“In the beginning of the film, my character, Scott Lang, has just gotten out of prison. He doesn’t know anything about Ant-Man and has nothing to do with Hank Pym. On the other hand, Pym singled him out and, quite aware of his notoriety, has been watching him with ulterior motives. He sets up a scenario where Scott has to resort to his old ways. He breaks into Hank’s house to steal some money to help pay child support for his daughter, the only person he really cares about. Unbeknownst to Scott, Hank has orchestrated the entire scenario. This brings Scott into Pym’s world where he can potentially teach Scott how to use the suit properly and steal something Pym really needs.”

7

Of course the special effects are the one thing the film has to recommend it. Watching Ant-Man commanding armies of ants and running through the jungle-like carpeting fibers makes you realize how far technology in films has come. Be that as it may, however, I just can’t buy into an ant as a superhero, and so this film didn’t work for me. Halfway through it I was praying for the appearance of a giant anteater! I just hope it doesn’t spawn a slew of new characters like Flea-Man, Cicada-Man, Centipede-Man, Mosquito-Man, Inchworm-Man, or Roach-Man.

Let’s just give “Ant-Man” the final score of an uninspired four. And pass the Terro please.

 

 

 

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“Wentworth” One Of TV’s Finest Series

poster LOGONot since the outstanding “Breaking Bad” series have I been as intrigued, fascinated, riveted, mesmerized, addicted, and all other forms of blown away by a television show as I was with “Wentworth.” It’s quite simply one of the most superior dramatic series I’ve ever seen, and if you’ve never heard of the show, I’m going to keep you in suspense a bit longer. I discovered “Wentworth” completely by accident as I was browsing through Netflix on my computer, and after reading a description of it, I decided to have a look. I soon embarked on a binge-watch of the first three seasons, the last of which wrapped up in June. My only problem now is that I have to wait until next year for season four, and I don’t know that I can stand it. All right, you’ve been patient long enough. “Wentworth” is an Australian drama set in the Wentworth female prison, and it’s based upon the popular Australian soap opera titled “Prisoner,” which ran from 1979 to 1986. In the first episode we meet Bea Smith (Danielle Cormack), who has been sentenced to Wentworth for attempting to murder her scumbag of a husband Jake Ryan), who entertains himself by beating her on a regular basis. 1 Now before Bea was driven to strike back at her husband, she had never been in trouble with law, and she dotes on her teenage daughter, Debbie (Georgia Flood), whom she must now leave behind her. As you might expect, Bea is terrified when she enters Wentworth, and in an online interview, Cormack explained why. “It’s her first time inside. She has a pretty clean record. And then suddenly through circumstances and through her being a victim of domestic violence, she finds herself inside, and in a very foreign world, Very scary.” After being subjected to a humiliating strip search, Bea becomes part of the general prison population, and it doesn’t take her long to learn about the vicious rivalry between two inmates – Jacs Holt (Kris McQuade) and Franky Doyle (Nicole da Silva) – both of whom aspire to be “top dog” or the one who controls the other prisoners. 4 During the first season we meet the other inmates and the guards, and each and every one them is memorable. It’s consistently fascinating to watch the human dynamics among the inmates play out within the prison walls. Also in season one a dramatic event occurs that has a major effect on the prison, and the season finale will knock you out. I won’t reveal much more of the plot because each episode contains its own surprises. However, it is important to know that when the second season begins, Wentworth has a new governor, which is the equivalent of a warden in an American prison. Her name is Joan Ferguson (Pamela Rabe), and she is one of the most unforgettable characters you will ever encounter in either film or television. More about her is coming. All of the characters in series are fascinating, but there are far too many to mention here. Therefore, here’s a brief look at some of the most prominent ones: Vera Bennett (Kate Atkinson) is the deputy governor with a number of personal issues; Liz Birdsworth (Celia Ireland) is an alcoholic inmate overcome with guilt about deserting her two children; Doreen Anderson (Shareena Clanton) is an African-American inmate whose sentence is complicated by an unexpected event; Sue “Boomer” Jenkins (Katrina Milosevic) is a large and very tough inmate and a member of Franky’s army; and Will Jackson (Robbie Magasiva) and Matthew Fletcher (Aaron Jeffery) are the two main guards whose respective stories are every bit as interesting as those of the inmates. 2 Two previously mentioned characters warrant additional treatment here. Franky Doyle is incredibly tough, and she takes no lip from anyone. She’s also fearless, and da Silva is magnificent in portraying her. In an online interview, she offered some interesting insight into Franky. “She’s really vivacious. She goes about things and gets them done. She’s quite energetic, and I think that’s why she’s liked and why she’s popular with the girls. Her weakness is that she is actually trying to control it all, and I think that gets the better of her. I did have to change my physicality and my body. That’s one of the things that I had to focus on because I wanted her to be a physical presence. I wanted her to be able to hold herself in a certain way with all of her tattoos and stuff. And her working out is a way she controls her body, it’s the way she controls herself, and therefore, it’s the way she controls everyone else.” Then there’s Joan Ferguson, who is inarguably one of the most frightening villains ever created. This woman makes Hannibal Lecter look like Santa Claus. Rabe’s chilling portrayal of her is beyond brilliant, and in an online interview she analyzed her character. 10 “She is a no nonsense woman. She has been headhunted from another prison facility because of her consummate skill at fixing problems, and clearly there are a few problems at Wentworth. I think she would’ve known the place was in some disarray. I don’t think she was quite prepared for how quite out-of-control it was. I think she was headhunted from this previous prison in Queensland, where she was known as the fixer because that’s what she does well. For somebody who could get into one organization, shake it up, crack a whip, and get it to function efficiently. She’s a very astute person. She’s a very private person. She’s very controlling person. And she likes things to work the way she wants them to work and she wants everyone to want to please her. Ruthless.” “Wentworth” has received myriad drama nominations and awards in Australia, and in addition to superb acting, the series features great sets and costumes, and the writing is consistently brilliant. The depth of the character development is incredible, and you get to know the people so well that you would recognize them if you met them on the street. I also found myself thinking about them even when I wasn’t watching the show. 8 Now if you are a fan of “Orange Is The New Black” (I am one.), you may be wondering how “Wentworth” stacks up against it. Trust me when tell you they aren’t even in the same ballpark. In the first place, “OITNB” is a dramedy, but there isn’t much humor in “Wentworth.” Secondly, the acting, directing, writing, depth, and character development in “Wentworth” are all superior to the same elements in “OITNB.” Be forewarned, however, that the sex and profanity in the show are prevalent and graphic, but life in prison isn’t a fairytale. “Wentworth” is so good that I may just binge-watch all three seasons again. This show has absolutely no flaws, and thus it earns the final score of a 100 percent above perfect 10+. Unheard of! https://youtu.be/usljaBhrFRg

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