Watch Jack Brewer

Jack Brewer urges people to see through the Fake News lies like the Charlottesville hoax, and urges people to vote for criminal reform and school choice, by voting for President Trump this Nov. 3.

Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition

Jack Brewer, RNC

Jack Brewer, Democrat, debunks the Charlottesville Hoax, supports school choice and the First Step Act, etc.

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Topaz (1969)

Topaz trailer

Although a Cold War drama should still have impact, Alfred Hitchcock’s Topaz didn’t. Based on a novel by Leon Uris, Topaz plods along telling the story of a French spy André Devereaux who agrees to go to Cuba to get top secret documents outlining the transport of Russian missiles to Cuba. This mission was instigated based on intel from a Russian official who defects to America and spills the beans to a NATO official Mike Nordstrom, who tapped André to work for the US. André has a network of agents from New York to Havana who risk their lives to help him.

After nearly getting caught in an operation in New York, despite the pleas of his wife to mind his own business and not help the Americans — or to rendezvous with his Cuban lover Juanita, André flies to Havana. Juanita gets her servants to take pictures of the missiles while pretending to be on a picnic. The couple are arrested for espionage, but do manage to hide the film so that André can get it later.

After a couple love scenes with Juanita, who’s as pretty and as superficially developed as his wife, André obtains and hides the film. But before he leaves, his nemesis Parra, a Castro surrogate, storms into Juanita’s mansion. A fiery, jealous argument ensues, and Parra shoots Juanita to save her from inevitable torture, the sort that’s in store for her servants and that Parra no doubt employs regularly. André escapes back to DC where he meets Mike and the Russian defector.

Here he learns that the French government and intelligence office is full of corrupt officials who’re in bed with Russia. André also faces his wife who’s moved out and his grown daughter, who knows about the affair.

The plot moves to a climax where André and his son-in-law work to bring down and expose the French no-goodniks. The ending seen on the DVD is a whimper rather than a bang. The DVD included the two other endings and both, for my money, outperform the “Airport” ending. The fact that there are three endings indicates that the film’s production was troubled.

Indeed Topaz had three screenwriters and while Topaz was being shot the script was getting rewrites. That’s often the case and doesn’t always spell trouble, but in this instance it does.

At 127 minutes, the film plods along, It’s hard to believe but originally While there are some twists and turns, the characters seemed wooden and poorly developed. Everyone seemed to be wearing a mask and authentic reactions to betrayal, jealousy and infidelity were missing. Even an underlying emotion was missing.

Topaz isn’t one of Hitchcock’s greats and I recommend films like Rear Window, Vertigo or even Torn Curtain over it.

Le Doulos

A Four Star Noir

Ruined for Life: Phoenix Edition

Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1962 classic noir gangster film Le Doulous blew me away. Beinning simply with ex-con Maurice walking though a squalid neighborhood, it soon delivered its first of several completely surprising murders. Maurice visits his friend Gilbert, who gives him information and offers cash to tide him over with the promise of more. After Maurice asks Gilbert to borrow a gun, he turns the gun on his old friend. It’s the first of several betrayals and murders.

Maurice then grabs Gilbert’s cash and all the jewel’s he’s reworking and was going to fence. Before he’s out of the house, Maurice hears a car drive up and he scrambles to escape and stash the jewels and money. Nuttheccio and Armand, big time gangsters, were to get the jewels from Gilbert and when they see he’s dead. Maurice manages to flee and bury the loot.

Next thing we see is Maurice is at…

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Downhill

One of my big disappointments with the Sundance Film Festival was that I didn’t get to see Downhill with Julia Loius-Dreyfus and Will Farrell. I tried to get tickets every time it played but never was able to.

I finally saw the film on DVD and was quite disappointed. In spite of four star actors, It isn’t half as interesting Force Majuer, the Swedish film that Downhill is based on. While Downhill has a few changes so much of it follows the path of the original. The opening scenes, the eerie music, most of the plot are the same, but not carried off as well.

Downhill and Force Majuere show what happens to a married couple on a ski holiday with their two children when while eating lunch on a chalet deck, an avalanche erupts and heads towards the restaurant. Rather than protecting his family, Will Ferrell’s character Peter grabs his phone and runs to save his own hide. Luckily, the avalanche falls short of actually hitting the restaurant, but it is a close call. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Billie is completely shocked that her husband left the family to fend for themselves.

While the family had some minor fissures before, now Billie and Pete are at different poles. Billie waits for Pete to make a profound apology, but none comes. I guess he’s hoping that time will heal her wound. Fat chance. Billie finally erupts when she finds Pete lied about how Zach Pete’s younger colleague shows up at the same resort with his footloose and fancy free, hashtag loving girlfriend. Billie is furious to learn that Pete lied. It was his idea that Zach turn up. A huge argument ensues, but doesn’t help matters as Pete still asserts that Billie’s wrong about the avalanche.

Like the Swedish film, Downhill’s Billie’s distrust and disrespect for Pete snowballs. Some secondary characters appear as goofy, comic relief, but they aren’t that funny or well drawn. The two sons have little personality and spend much of their time watching movies while the parents go out for dinner and argue. These children were pawns in a weak story. I’d hoped for a lot more. I did enjoy the original and do like Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but can’t recommend Downhill.

The Killers (1964)

I had to watch the 1964 version of Ernest Hemingway’s The Killers. After all, it was in the same DVD set. I didn’t have great expectations, but this powerful film captivated me.

Starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson, with Ronald Reagan in a smaller role, The Killers begins at a school for the blind. Two hit men enter looking for Johnny North (John Cassavetes). The rough up the blind secretary and plow their way into North’s class for mechanics. They shoot North dead and make their escape. The contrast between a school for the blind and ruthless criminals is powerful.

After killing North, Charlie Storm (Marvin) and Lee (Clu Gulager) are on a training Charlie can’t help ruminating over why Johnny didn’t try to evade his murder. He completely accepted it. Johnny was so unlike every other victim. Why?

Another question is Who? Who paid Charlie and Lee $25K when they’d never been paid more than $10K for a hit. Again, why? Why so much?

killers 675

So Charlie and Lee switch trains in Chicago and go down to Miami and begin to find out all they can about Johnny North. They soon learn that Johnny was a race car driver, that he fell head over heels for Sheila (Dickinson), a beauty who loves racing and Johnny. She keeps her sugar daddy Micky Farmer. Wining and dining Sheila leaves Johnny ill prepared for the big race. Not only that Micky is in the stands and is not pleased with what he sees with his binoculars. Disaster strikes when Johnny loses control of his car and winds up losing.

It’s clear that Johnny should avoid Sheila at all costs, but he just can’t and she winds up entangling him in Micky’s plan to rob a mail truck that’s carrying a million bucks.

Though the story’s been told before and it’s all done in flashback, The Killer’s kept my attention. The characters are cold blooded, yet passionate. Not one is able to walk away from danger. They have to play the game out to the bloody end. This film has 1960’s cool and a gripping plot. I do recommend seeing both the 1946 and 1964 versions. While you’re at it check on the Tarkovsky short.

Fun Facts

  • The Killers (1964) was supposed to be a TV film, but it had too much violence and sex so it was released in theaters.
  • It was the only film with Ronald Reagan as a bad guy and he hated the film.
  • The director Don Siegel was supposed to direct the 1946 one.
  • Siegel wanted to call the film Johnny North, but the bean counters at Universal said no film with a direction like “North” ever made much money.
  • They shot the last scene first as was usual for a Universal film. Lee Marvin was dead drunk and came 5 hours late. Despite his state, he nailed the scene.
  • This version doesn’t contain a single line of dialog from the short story.