Films

Brilliant…The Last of Sheila

Last_Of_Sheila_(movie)I’d forgotten the sheer brilliance of The Last of Sheila (1973). Or rather, I think when I watched it last, as an early teen, I didn’t appreciate it. Or maybe, it was just that on the Super 8 reels my parents used to own, the sound wasn’t clear and I missed half the dialogue. Irrelevant…what’s important is now…how excellent it is. And how wonderful it is to re-watch after soooo many years…and only remembering who did it at the moment the culprit is revealed (again).

The opening scene, set by that perfect, almost stereotypical mystery music, has Sheila running from a party to be hit (and run) by an out-of-control car not a few minutes later. Fast forward a year to 6 guests, invited by Clinton (Sheila’s husband, played by James Coburn), onto his yacht for a few days of time out and with a mystery game. These 6 guests were all present at the party the night Sheila was killed. And Clinton’s game isn’t really a game…it hits all too close with those supposedly random secrets he allocates to each person (at his insistence that it is just fun). When things go wrong, as they usually do, the whole thing unravels…or, comes together.

the-last-of-sheila1973-lobby-card-3I must say, to come up with such a clever story requires close on genius. Every action, every line of dialogue is critical to the story. You won’t notice many of the things on first viewing but on round two (or more), you’ll discover just how it all fits perfectly right in front of your eyes…with you barely noticing. Ultimately you’ll have it spelt out for you and you’ll go “ah, of course” or “duh, so obvious”. Followed by Clinton’s response to “I like any game where you don’t have to move” of “Well, you don’t have to for this one…if you’re smart enough”…little do you realise just how true it is. It is all right there in front of you…if you’re smart enough.

Now, I won’t go into many more details because this is one you just have to watch. At least twice. I’d hate to spoil anything upfront because anything I say will give it away.

Directed by Oscar nominee Herbert Ross, and written by Oscar winner Stephen Sondheim and nominee Anthony Perkins…the stars are of course James Coburn with Raquel Welch, James Mason, Ian McShane, Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon and Joan Hackett as his 6 suspects friends…well, probably not suspects as I think he knows all along who the killer is.

Here’s the trailer:

 

Enjoy!

And for some more mysteries…head on over to Pop Culture Reverie (here) for the Mystery Mania Blogathon.

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Awesome Piece of Music – from the Slow West Trailer

So…how cool is this piece of music I stumbled over last night while giving the trailer of one of my favourite westerns, Slow West (2015), a watch…

Have a listen here –  this song (Come Alive by Hanni El Khatib) just rocks! It works so nicely in the trailer (further down).

If you haven’t seen this one, oh boy, give it a go…

Ahhh, what a movie. Refreshing. Brilliant. I was glued from beginning to end. Acting, cinematography, music…everything just right. Once again, a moderate-paced western (seems to be the trend these days) but not for a moment did Slow West ever feel slow. Jay Cavendish (Kodi Smit-McPhee) comes to America from Scotland to find his true love. Having managed on his own so far yet still “wet behind the ears” he comes across Silas Selleck (Michael Fassbender) (or, maybe it is Silas who comes across Jay), an outlaw, who so kindly offers to guide him across the dangerous country (naturally there are ulterior motives). Well, they encounter some interesting characters and things are, obviously, not what the seem. I did not see the ending of this one coming. Definitely one for the collection. Here’s the trailer to give you an idea…Michael Fassbender brilliant as ever. As is Ben Mendelsohn.

Northmen: A Viking Saga…a saga so bad that it’s not bad at all…

Northmen…yep, you read that right. What? Yes…many of you might think that it is such a saga to watch the first few minutes of this movie. I think it isn’t that bad. Don’t you have one of those movies that is actually not brilliant but somehow it just hits a spot…that weak spot?

Coming in at 34% Audience Score and no Tomatometer or Critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, it at least gets a 5.4/10 on IMDB. In my personal rating system…I’ll bump it up to 6.5, maybe even a 7.

Basically, we have a group of Vikings who get stranded on the South African Scottish coast, behind enemy lines, and need to make their way to the closest Viking settlement. However, they pick up a valuable hostage and so the chase begins by German/Swiss some mercenaries.

I mean, let’s be honest…the story isn’t that great but somehow I got smitten by Inghean (Charlie Murphy) jumping out her captive wagon to attack some brutish (not really) Vikings…lead by Asbjorn (Tom Hopper) who can’t even hide his smile in the serious moment. In general, the acting is quite stiff and sometimes the story not quite as smooth as it could be. But you know what? Who cares? If you can fill in the gaps yourself…the story half-way works.

Northmen3Conall (Ryan Kwanten) comes across uncomfortable in his role swinging some mean stick to take out a band of thugs. As for the enemies…boy does the Scottish King send one huge army and waste one massive amount of arrows on a few little Vikings. Somewhere along the line, Inghean and Asbjorn fall in love even though it is never properly shown (oh what a pity)…but, my romantic fix is fulfilled.

Northmen2So…is it bad? Yes. Is it good? Yes. I skip through parts of it but regularly find myself watching it. If only for the “You came back for me?” line by Inghean to Asbjorn. And that bit where she patches up his wounded arm with a herb that just happens to be growing at the exact spot where he crumbles in pain. And the cheesy (or offensive) compliment he makes her while waiting out the enemy.

Bring on the stunning, yet obviously South African (Cape Town) scenery pretending to be Scotland…and well…what more do I need to say?

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So…that’s my bad entry into the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room. For more of these entries…head on over here.

 

My (slightly different) favourite meet-cutes…

…well, if you’re expecting the typical romance genre meet-cutes, sorry. Not going to happen. I have a weakness for romance in those movies deemed anything but romance (the main genre that is). Nothing better than watching two people fall in love when you don’t expect it on first viewing. So…without further ado…here are my personal favourites (in no particular order):

(Beware…spoilers…)

Centurion

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I absolutely love the interaction between Centurion Quintus Dias and Arianne during their first encounter:

“It’s ok. It’s ok”

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“We don’t want to hurt you”

“Who are you? What do you want here”

Little do they know at this stage that it is more than purely food and shelter and refuge from the Picts he will find.

The Last of the Mohicans

How could my favourite movie not make it onto this list? The moment Uncas and Alice meet…you can just see it in their look:

No words needed to express this scene. In fact, their relationship is almost entirely shown and not spoken.

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Cora and Hawkeye have their meet-cute somewhere too but they are just not the couple to show it.

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I think this is deemed the meet-cute. Oh how I love the way “Stretch” and “Mike” meet and find their love:

“We’ve just come in across the sink. We need water…bad.”

“There’s a spring here. But you’ll never make it”

“You just point it out. We’ll make it”

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Plunkett & Macleane

How could another of my favourites not make my list?

“You are not a gentleman.”

“I’m sorry?”

“No gentleman would stare at a lady like that in public.”

“I do beg your pardon. Captain James Macleane. At your service.”

“Oh, so you are a gentleman.”

“Yes?”

“What a shame.”

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But I consider the “real” meet-cute, during the highway robbery:

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Robin Hood

Ah, another one I just love, especially seeing the Marian is such a strong woman who holds her own against Robin. Here they meet for the first time:

“Girl.”

“Girl?”

Pause.

“Either you’re going blind. Or you’re looking for charity”

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So there you go…my favourite meet-cutes.

For some more post on this topic, head on over to Phyllis Loves Classic Movies for The First Annual Valentine’s Day “Meet-Cute” Blogathon. Happy reading.

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To Catch a Thief (1955)…

To_Catch_a_ThiefI’m really (gosh…I’m embarrassed to admit) a newbie when it comes to things Hitchcock, so, any excuse will do to increase my repertoire…this time…Grace Kelly. Ah, I absolutely love her performances. Hence To Catch a Thief for Maddy’s Blogathon.

She’s Frances, who, together with her rich widow mother, is holidaying on the French Riviera where a jewel thief is at work. Here too we find, supposedly “former” or “retired”, jewel thief John Robie aka The Cat (Cary Grant). Naturally, suspicion falls on him. Even his former gang believe he is back in full swing of things ruby and such. However, John really is “clean” and sets out to find out the copycat Cat (ha ha, that wasn’t intended). Along the way he, or is it the other way, Frances, fall(s) in love…with each other, of course. And…yes, the identity of the roof-top-sneaking-burglar is revealed.

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But, it isn’t only the actors that count here. The story is, as usual, so clever. Tied up with some great cinematography and a perfectly fitting score (I think there’s a distinctive sound to Hitchcock soundtracks), the resulting movie is worth a watch. Having a weakness for romance (in non-romance genre movies), I quite enjoyed this who-dunnit. Even though I started having my own suspicions as to who was who…

This was to be the last of Grace Kelly‘s movies with Hitchcock and sadly, one of the last few movies she made at all.

Now, I guess it is about time I tackle the famous Psycho or The Birds…I suspect there is no romance there…

Maddy, thanks for hosting this Blogathon (more entries here) and getting me to watch more of these wonderful oldies.

I still like Spellbound the best (here). My thoughts on Notorious can be found here. And I’ll always have a special place for Grace Kelly as Amy Fowler Kane in the brilliant High Noon (here).

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Fonda…the bad guy…

fondathon-2-text1Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), one of my favourite Westerns. And the perfect entry to focus on Henry Fonda for The Fondathon, hosted by Sat in your Lap.

Fonda is Frank. Totally ruthless. What more proof do you need when his “introductory” scene is one of gunning down a whole family…even the little boy frozen to the spot who you’d hope would be saved? But no…not Frank.

He’s got his orders. The family that he’s just disposed of…well, the land is in prime railway territory and business is business. Railroad baron business. Problem is…there is a young widow around. And she’s on her way to the exact piece of land. The killings are pinned on outlaw Cheyenne (Jason Robards) who befriends widow Jill McBain (Claudia Cardinale). Together with Harmonica (Charles Bronson), he sets out to find the real killers. Of course, there’s more to this than meets the eye…Harmonica has his own motive…

Henry Fonda is just excellent. He has this perfectly calm coldness to him. Accentuated by the eyes. Especially in the close-ups. And there are plenty of those. Sergio Leone presents us with such wonderful visuals in this one. In fact, I believe those eyes are what the director really wanted to stand out. To be recognisable. As Fonda. From what I’ve read, Fonda arrived on set with a fake moustache and brown contact lenses…and that didn’t fly with Leone.

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“People scare better when they’re dyin'”…what a ruthless character. And once again…he’s so casual around the unexpected business events. Things he didn’t plan on. And Fonda is absolutely, totally convincing. The real, nasty bad guy.

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What I hadn’t realised until now (my lack of Henry Fonda knowledge) was that this role didn’t fit in with what he was typically cast as. He was always the good guy. And here’s something interesting I found on IMDB: Henry Fonda originally turned down the role of Frank. Director Sergio Leone flew to the United States and met with Fonda, who asked why he was wanted for the film. Leone replied, “Picture this: the camera shows a gunman from the waist down pulling his gun and shooting a running child. The camera pans up to the gunman’s face and…it’s Henry Fonda” (until then, with one exception, Fonda had only been cast in “good guy” roles. Leone wanted the audience to be shocked).

But, not knowing this in the first place, I was still shocked at how ruthless a man can be. Fonda or not. I guess…at the end of the day, the actor totally managed to convince me . What sheer acting brilliance.

So, this being my first Fonda film, to me, he’ll always be the bad guy stereotype and I’ve yet to discover him as the nice guy. I’m sure I’ll be shocked…

For my other thoughts on this one…head on over here…here.

Now…head on over to Sat in your Lap for the other Fondathon entries here.

In a Nutshell: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018)

the_guernsey_literary_and_potato_peel_pie_societyI’m often amazed at how single events or encounters can change so much. In The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a “simple” letter inquiring after a book changes Juliet Ashton’s (the wonderful Lily James) life altogether taking her from a comfortable (but unfulfilled) London to Guernsey. All because of the resulting letter exchanges.

In Guernsey she meets the people in the titular society and is drawn into their lives. Intending to write about them (she’s a successful writer) and their experiences under former German occupation in World War II, she doesn’t only find these people, but also herself. Sounds cliché, yes, but it really is a lovely movie and not as soppy as you’d think. Heartbreaking at times but also uplifting in terms of the will of humans and what they do to survive. Or the ultimate sacrifices made to make a small difference to someone else. But…not heavy either.

Absolutely well worth the watch. It stars Michiel Huisman, Matthew Goode, Katherine Parkinson, Jessica Brown Findlay, Tom Courtenay, Glen Powell and Penelope Wilton. You’ll even be treated to Bronagh Gallagher we all remember from The Commitments.

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