Although the great Burt Lancaster has been dead for over twenty six years his movies hold a special place in my heart as one of the true film legends of the screen, an iconic presence, cheeky smile and steely eyes that could melt or pierce a heart at a thousand paces : starting his career back in the late 40s in Robert Siodmak’s fantastic noir film The Killers Burt Lancaster went on to have a glorious movie career acting with Hollywood legends such as Kirk Douglas, Gary Cooper, Deborah Kerr, Lee Marvin, Claudia Cardinale and so many more : my absolute top four is a small sample in the excellence of his work and in truth I could name so many more movie gems that I consider bonafide classics, films such as The Professionals with the great Lee Marvin, 1968’s The Swimmer, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral alongside Kirk Douglas, Sweet Smell of Success with Tony Curtis, Sydney Pollack’s wonderful Castle Keep and John Frankenheimer’s The Train : my absolute favorite and it’s a Burt Lancaster film I’ve watched more than any other is 1960’s Elmer Gantry directed by Richard Brooks, the film went on to win 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Burt taking home the Best Actor that year : so if you’ve not seen many of his movies and fancy a trip back to time when acting legends were truly that then take a peek at some of the films mentioned : Hope you enjoyed another of my Absolute Top Four till the next one….
An historical film directed by Steve McQueen, about the Mangrove restaurant in west London and the 1970s trial of The Mangrove Nine : I recently watched MANGROVE which is the first part of Mcqueen’s ambitious Small Axe, a collection of five movies that tell individual stories about the lives of West Indian immigrants in London around the 60s & 70s : at the heart of Mangrove is it’s powerful and riveting storytelling that revolves around a restaurant in the Notting Hill area and as the movie touches upon became known as the place for the community to eat, drink and discuss local issues, the Mangrove was run by the main character in the movie Frank Crichlow played by the amazing Shaun Parkes : in all honesty I didn’t know a great deal about this particular story and was facinated from the get-go, the march scenes and clashes with the local police were harrowing, the constant police harassment was diabolical and in the second half of the movie which was mostly about the trial I found the emotion delivered by it’s cast phenomenal, those closing arguements were tough to watch and when the jury were delivering their verdict, through gritted teeth a smile lit my face : Mangrove also manages to capture the film’s time & place, it’s authenticity is top draw with the streets of Notting Hill, the surrounding area and the costume design utterly fantastic : all credit to the likes of Steve McQueen for bringing these important stories to our screen, giving them voice and reminding us all of the many atrocities that took place ★★★★½
The Mangrove Nine are Frank Crichlow, Darcus Howe, Altheia Jones-LeCointe, Barbara Beese, Rupert Boyce, Rhodan Gordon, Anthony Innis, Rothwell Kentish & Godfrey Millett
Number 13 of My Top 31 Horror Movies : A secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother. : PSYCHO the grand daddy of all Hitchcock movies… how can you not be overcome with terror at Bernard Herrmann’s intrusive, iconic stringed score, gasp with wonder at the beauty of Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane but most of all shudder with genuine fear when the curtain is pulled back on Norman Bates personality disorder : as far as my favorite scenes in Psycho go there are just too many to mention, but obviously the shower scene & it’s aftermath are the most memorable, with Anthony Perkins in terrifying form, the effectiveness of John L. Russell’s black-and-white photography leaves you speechless at times with the opening shots of Marion lying of the bed in the hotel room, the atmospheric road trip and our first glimpse of the Bates Motel being fine examples, all of which are breathtaking, one of my favorite moments in the film is the scene when Arbogast gets stabbed on the stairs, the camera work of him falling backwards and then getting attacked again is something else, Martin Balsam who plays the private detective is superb : Psycho was shot at Revue Studios with a budget of around $800,000 and was released in 1960 becoming a box office smash for Alfred Hitchcock and receiving Four Oscar Nominations, with it’s star Janet Leigh winning a Golden Globe for her performance (trivia: the official theatrical trailer for the movie back in 1960 was over six minutes long) : if Rear Window, Vertigo and North by Northwest didn’t cement Hitchcock’s filmmaking legacy then Psycho certainly did, giving us an early taste of the slasher movie with two great performances and a haunting Herrmann score ★★★★★
Back in the late 90’s Ritchie was one of the most exciting new filmmaker’s to hit our screens, from his witty, violent debut Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels followed by the equally brilliant Snatch these film’s were packed with his trademark visual stamp of quick, witty storytelling with a side helping of brutality and colorful if not likeable characters, he was a filmmaker on top of his game but then things got complicated, Ritchie met and married Madonna and in my opinion his focus went, 2002’s Swept Away was a shocker and in 2005 and 2008 respectively came two average and somewhat lackluster efforts in Revolver and Rock’n’Rolla both movies written & directed by Ritchie with both failing to ignite the passion of old – then in 2009 after his marriage to Madonna was over the unthinkable happened, Hollywood came calling and Ritchie sold his soul to the devil, churning out two big screen, big budget Sherlock Holmes movies that sadly added nothing new to the genre and did very little to bring Ritchie out of his career spiraling doldrums – yes OK the movies did good business at the box office but in fairness these two films that starred Robert Downey Jr could have been directed by any action movie director, it seemed that Ritchie’s originality had vanished and was replaced by an imposter….
Four Years later…. and Guy Ritchie brings us yet another big budget, Hollywood action movie but before you * sigh and say really? * this one unlike the Holmes movies has a special ingredient, from start to finish Guy was totally involved in the writing process – so here’s what I thought….
MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E is super stylish, quick witted and contains some of the slickest action scenes I’ve seen in the cinema this year – keeping the setting of the movie in the 60s was a master stroke, the magic of the music, the gorgeous locations & dare I say it the striking beauty of its cast enhanced my overall enjoyment of the film – the relationship between Cavill’s Napoleon Solo and Hammer’s Illya Kuryakin is the real gut of the movie, as actors they oozed chemistry both delivering their finest screen work to date, Cavill looking more at ease playing a super spy rather than Superman and showing me that he is easily the front runner to replace Craig as the next Bond, it’s easily his best screen role to date – Ritchie’s witty screenplay allows each of their characters to come to the fore, Solo’s wisecracking and Kuryakin’s anger issues make for a delicious cocktail of respect & bad ass rivalry allowing us the viewer to have so much fun watching it all play out !! ★★★★½
Here’s two new images from movies that already have my film juices flowing – the top still is from Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. yep that one! based on the popular 1960s TV series and stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki and Jared Harris – and the bottom image is from EVEREST starring Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes and Jake Gyllenhaal and is directed by Baltasar Kormákur – Enjoy !!