The Fab Four Films

In 1964 the United States developed a love affair with four young men from Liverpool, England known as The Beatles.  I’m sure you’ve heard of them.  By the time they reached the United States they had already been popular in England for two years and had been contracted to film their first movie A Hard Day’s Night.  That was soon followed by their second Film Help!  Then came two semi psychedelic films Yellow Submarine and Magical Mystery Tour.   If you haven’t seen them they are worth a look, if only for the history of both the music and the band. Read more »

Atomic Café


In the early 60’s I remember going through atomic bomb drills in school.  We were dutifully herded by our teachers down to the depths of Roger’s Elementary school here in Bloomington, past the furnaces, and seemingly below the floors to the area in which we were to remain until the radiation levels dropped enough for us to come out.  I can still remember the big storage cans of water stacked along the walls and under stairwells marked with the Civil Defense emblem.  I assume, though I can’t really remember seeing them, that there were food rations that were available for us to eat as well.  Along with the television advertisements for cereal, candy and toys we saw public service announcements with “Burt the Turtle” teaching us how to “duck and cover” if we should ever see the flash of an atomic bomb.   How naïve these advertisements and steps seem today when more accurate information about atomic blasts and radiation is common knowledge.   We know for example that we can’t survive an atomic blast by hiding inside of a refrigerator. Read more »

Monuments Men


It’s not often that a World War II film comes my way that stirs my soul.  It’s even rarer that what stirs my soul is not the personal story of an individual or a small group  of people standing up for what is right against the Nazi’s or an escape from a German internment camp despite impossible odds.  It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good war film, but most war films have the same basic features, Read more »

Adjustment Bureau


The Adjustment Bureau (2011) stars Matt Damon as Senate candidate David Norris.  He has been tapped by an unseen group to win a seat in the Senate . . . just not this election year.  If you were to read the basic plot of the movie it would sound like a typical political thriller.  An unseen group is grooming its candidate for a high office.  Suddenly this candidate becomes enthralled with a woman who they believe will be detrimental to his career and the group’s agenda.  This unknown organization begins to exert every effort to keep their candidate away from the woman and focused on the job at hand.  As the candidate continues to try to find the woman he loves he begins to find out more about this hidden organization and begins to fight against their control and seek his own way. Read more »

The Shootist


A while ago I wrote about one of my favorite John Wayne Movies, The Quiet Man.  The Quiet Man was a romance and a departure from the War and Western films that John Wayne was most well known for.   My second favorite John Wayne film, The Shootist is also a departure from his usual role even though it is a western, it is the story of an older gunfighter now battling a greater battle; cancer. Seeking a place to spend his last days, he takes up residence in a boarding house run by a widow who is against everything the gunfighter’s life represents while her teenage son harbors a secret desires to be just like the old shootist .

The cast for The Shootist is among the best.  Besides “The Duke” as the shootist J.B. Books, the film features Lauren Bacall as boarding house owner Bond Rodgers and Ron Howard as her son Gillom.   Despite the film’s title you won’t find a lot of shoot outs in the film.  It’s the story a dying man, who wants to die with dignity and perhaps regain a little taste of the life he could have had if his life had not taken the violent turn it did.  Yes, John Wayne is still the tough guy, but his view is now tempered as he faces his cancer and the knowledge that there is nothing he can do to win his battle against it.  Each character must in the end examine themselves as they are faced with Books’ mortality and eventual death. 

The Quiet Man


John Wayne is one of the most famous and beloved actors of all time.  He had an acting style that was uniquely his own.  While he is best known for his westerns and war films, my favorite John Wayne film, The Quiet Man, falls in neither category.  John Wayne plays boxer Sean Thornton returning to his Irish boyhood home from America after retiring from the ring and from fighting altogether after one of his opponents dies from the blows he suffered in their fight.  His desire is to return to the simple life he knew as a boy and the town he grew up in.  It doesn’t take long before he finds love with Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’hara), but it is this love that is going to make his life far from simple. Read more »

The Majestic


Set during the McCarthy hearings of the late 50’s The Majestic tells the story of a blacklisted screen writer named Peter Appleton (Jim Carrey) who, after freeing himself from a car wreck, finds himself in a small town devoid of his memory.  He encounters an older man who mistakenly believes Peter is his long lost son.   Peter,  having no reason to doubt the man, believes this must be who he is and so settles himself down in the town Read more »

Cocoanuts and the Marx Brothers


Cocoanuts was the first feature film starring the four Marx Brothers: Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo.  It may also have the distinction of being the first true movie musical, that is, a movie where the musical numbers were meant to be part of the story telling process rather than a performance for audience within the movie. It wasn’t that the studio didn’t plan to have a band playing with the musical scenes.  A “band” was hired for the first day of shooting.  Apparently they were to follow the actors around ready to play whenever someone was tempted to burst into song, but the director soon realized there was no reason to have them around and that they would distract from the plot of the movie; something that the Marx Brothers were already managing to do pretty well on their own. Read more »

Safety Not Guaranteed


“Wanted:  Someone to go back in time with me.  This is not a joke.  You’ll get paid after we get back.  Must bring your own weapons.  I have only done this once before.  SAFTEY NOT GUARANTEED.” 

The above classified advertisement along with a contact PO Box address that appeared in a local paper near Seattle Washington sets the stage for Safety Not Guaranteed.  The ad intrigues a reporter for a Seattle based magazine. Is the man who placed it crazy, disturbed or legit? For reasons of his own he sells his editor on the idea of checking it out as a human interest story.   He takes along two interns: one of whom, Darius, ends up applying for the position in order to get the story behind the ad. Read more »

Robin Williams 1951 - 2014

Robin WilliamsLast night I read that we had lost one of the greats; Robin Williams was no longer with us.  When we think of him we most often think of his almost manic comedy.  He was one of the best, and perhaps one of the few that could go one on one with the late great Johnathan Winters in comedy improvisation.   We know however that Robin Williams was also a great actor.  Like many comedians his view of life gave him great insight into the human condition and he was able to bring this to his more serious roles.  He will be missed.  

          Books and Films by Robin Williams

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