Friday, October 30, 2015

Horror Thoughts ‘15—Dracula Untold (2014) ***

PG-13, 94 min.
Director: Gary Shore
Writers: Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless, Bram Stoker (characters)
Starring: Luke Evans, Sarah Gadon, Dominic Cooper, Art Parkinson, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Paul Kaye, William Houston, Noah Huntley

“I’m so sick of origin stories.” That seems to be becoming a mantra from filmgoers in this age of the comic book movie where origin stories are everything. I’ve never been much of a mind to think that way. A story is a story, origin or otherwise. What people are sick of is the same superhero origin story over and over again. How many times have we seen the origin stories of Batman, Superman and Spider-Man? Now, Dracula… that’s one we haven’t seen before.

Of course, one of my big problems with so many of today’s vampire stories is that the storytellers have forgotten what the vampire mythology is all about. All too often vampires are turned into superheroes, which is just wrong. Unfortunately, this is just that type of vampire movie. It lacks all the classic themes of the vampire mythos. Considering that those tropes seem all but forgotten today, I’m willing to give into the fact that this is going to be a vampire superhero origin story. Once you give yourself up to that fact, it’s not such a bad movie. It ain’t scary, but it’s enjoyable.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Horror Thoughts ‘15—Manhunter (1986) ****

R, 124 min. (director's cut)
Director: Michael Mann
Writers: Michael Mann, Thomas Harris (novel “Red Dragon”)
Starring: William Petersen, Denis Farina, Tom Noonan, Kim Griest, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Stephen Lang, David Seaman, Benjamin Hendrickson

So, the best show to get canceled from television this year was “Hannibal”, which remarkably made it through three very dark and twisted seasons. Of all things Hannibal Lecter related, it is by far my favorite. But, Lecter has certainly made an impression before. In celebration of those three wonderful seasons, I decided to watch all five of the Hannibal franchise films for Horrorfest.

The police procedural aspect of most of these films generally places them outside of the horror genre in my mind, yet Hannibal Lecter is one of the greatest movie monsters ever created. So I wanted to look at them from a horror mindset. Certainly the television show is rooted solidly in horror, yet its creator, Bryan Fuller, intended to keep references to the novel storylines throughout the series. So, how much of that horror do the movie versions of these stories contain?

“Manhunter”, the first adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novel “Red Dragon” and first movie appearance of Hannibal Lector, retains the least amount of horror movie aspects of the bunch. Directed by Michael Mann in full 80’s gear, it retains the crisp “Miami Vice” feel to his imagery. Note that in this vision, the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane is depicted with entirely white walls and features. No colors of any kind. This is, of course, how Mann envisions the clinical, completely sanitized. It is 180 degrees removed from the grimy, dungeon-like depictions of the institution in “The Silence of the Lambs” and the later adaptation of the same story.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Crimson Peak / **½ (R)

Edith Cushing: Mia Wasikowska
Thomas Sharpe: Tom Hiddleston
Lucille Sharpe: Jessica Chastain
Dr. Alan McMichael: Charlie Hunnam
Carter Cushing: Jim Beaver

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Guillermo del Toro. Written by del Toro & Matthew Robbins. Running time: 119 min. Rated R (for bloody violence, some sexual content and brief strong language).

After “Pacific Rim”, which played as a minor improvement over a “Transformers” movie, I couldn’t wait for director/writer Guillermo del Toro to return to his horror fantasy roots with “Crimson Peak”, a gothic horror romance that has del Toro reminiscing about horror traditions of the past. Del Toro has a grand palette, especially in horror environments, making “Crimson Peak” a film that plays to his strengths as a director. The beautiful images are there, in a script that feels a little stilted, making this one a disappointment on some levels, but exactly what it should be on others.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Horror Thoughts ‘15—House (1977) ***½

NR, 88 min.
Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
Writers: Chiho Katsura, Chigumi Ôbayashi (original story)
Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba, Ai Matsubara, Mieko Satô, Eriko Tanaka, Masayo Miyako, Kiyohiko Ozaki, Saho Sasazawa, Asei Kobayashi

Have you ever seen one of those Japanese variety shows where you are wondering just what the heck is going on? Well, the 1977 cult horror film “House” comes from the same mindset. In it you will witness a floating head attack a friend, a piano eat its player, a girl who loves to clean killed by linens, a man turn into a pile of bananas, a woman taking a bath attacked by hair, an old woman who likes to hang out in the broken refrigerator, and a skeleton dancing in the background of many scenes without any explanation. But, even that list of absurdities fails to do the movie justice. It is one that must be witnessed to be believed.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Horror Thoughts ‘15—It Follows (2015) ****

R, 100 min.
Director/Writer: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Kier Gilchrist, Lili Sepe, Olivia Luccardi, Daniel Zovatto, Jake Weary

It’s always a bit of a cheat for a critic to come to a movie after both sides have had their chance at it. As is often the case with underground hits, after an initial wave of incredible praise for the project comes an almost equal wave of disparagement against it. With the indie horror flick “It Follows”, initial reviews hailed it as the most original work of horror in the past ten years or so. It has since been reduced to “meh” is many circles. The most public of the charges against it came from director Quentin Tarantino, who praised its originality, but accused writer/director David Robert Mitchell of breaking his own mythology. Perhaps the greatest praise I can give the movie is that while I watched it, all of these opinions from others dropped from my mind and I was immersed into a narrative that I never could have foreseen.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Horror Thoughts ‘15—Horns (2013) **

R, 120 min.
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writers: Keith Bunin, Joe Hill (novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Juno Temple, Kelli Garner, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, Heather Graham, David Morse

So, I seem to have gone for a Stephen King related start to my Horrorfest ’15. For those of you who aren’t aware Joe Hill, the author of the novel “Horns” upon which this movie is based, is the son of King. His writing is very similar to King’s. From what I’ve read of his, he might be even better than his father. I have not read “Horns”, however, so I came into this movie fresh. I’m a little shocked at how similarly this story is structured to some of his father’s work. It definitely shares some character structure with the stories of King’s “It” and “Dreamcatcher”. It also may share King’s curse of having horror maestros mishandle the material.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Horror Thoughts ‘15—Maximum Overdrive (1986) *

R, 97 min.
Director/Writer: Stephen King (also short story “Trucks”)
Starring: Emilio Esteves, Pat Hingle, Laura Harrington, Yeardley Smith, John Short, Ellen McElduff, J.C. Quinn, Christopher Murney, Holter Graham, Frankie Faison, Pat Miller, Jack Canon, Barry Bell, John Brasington, J. Don Ferguson, Leon Rippy, Bob Gooden, Giancarlo Esposito, Stephen King

It is well past time I began posting for this year’s Horrorfest, which I began over two weeks ago and already includes five titles (posts for each coming soon?). Anyway, I started this year’s Horrorfest off with a fizzle, for a change. I usually try to kick off each Horrorfest with one of the year’s better horror flicks. This year I said, “Screw that!” I literally did. I said, “Screw that. I’m going to kick this year’s festivities with a piece of crap.” And, there are few horror flicks that are as big a piece of crap as Stephen King’s directorial debut—and luckily only feature length directorial effort—“Maximum Overdrive”.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Everest / *** (PG-13)

Rob Hall: Jason Clarke
Beck Weathers: Josh Brolin
Scott Fischer: Jake Gyllenhaal
Jon Krakauer: Michael Kelly
Doug Hansen: John Hawkes
Helen Wilton: Emily Watson
Jan Arnold: Keira Knightley
Guy Cotter: Sam Worthington
Peach Weathers: Robin Wright
Caroline Mackenzie: Elizabeth Debicki
Andy ‘Harold’ Harris: Martin Henderson
Michael Groom: Thomas M. Wright
Yasuko Namba: Naoko Mori

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Baltasar Kormákur. Written by William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy. Running time: 121 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense peril and disturbing images).

There is a scene in the new mountaineering movie “Everest” when journalist Jon Krakauer asks two amateur climbers who have hired a guide to take them to the summit of Mt. Everest why they feel the need to climb such a mountain, one that has taken the lives of many professional climbers. They struggle to articulate their need to pursue a goal that they admit is filled mostly with pain. I might also struggle to articulate my own fascination with mountain climbing disaster pictures. I suppose watching an expedition/adventure that is bound to go bad is connected to our inability to turn away when witnessing the aftermath of a car accident. Our human need to empathize and understand what went wrong overrides any need we might have to keep a rosy outlook on the world. We need to examine adversity and tragedy as a mechanism to develop our own ability to deal with the inevitable reality of it in our own lives.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Black Mass / *** (R)

James ‘Whitey’ Bulger: Johnny Depp
John Connolly: Joel Edgerton
Billy Bulger: Benedict Cumberbatch
Steve Flemmi: Rory Cochrane
Kevin Weeks: Jesse Plemons
Marianne Connolly: Julianne Nicholson
John Morris: David Harbour
Lindsey Cyr: Dakota Johnson
John Martorano: W. Earl Brown
Charles McGuire: Kevin Bacon
Brian Halloran: Peter Sarsgaard
Robert Fitzpatrick: Adam Scott
Fred Wyshak: Corey Stoll

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Scott Cooper. Written by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth. Based on the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. Running time: 122 min. Rated R (for brutal violence, language throughout, some sexual references and brief drug use).

Johnny Depp delivers a speech about keeping secrets as notorious Boston gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger to an FBI agent with whom he’s in collusion in the new movie “Black Mass” during which he announces his performance as one of the great monsters of the screen. Immediately following that scene he has a conversation with another FBI agent’s wife that plays like a predator who captures his prey and instead of killing it, shows it just how much he can play with it instead. Scott Cooper’s crime film is an interesting study in this real life figure who surely couldn’t have achieved what he did without the help of the FBI, using their desire to control the Italian mafia in Boston to his advantage in becoming the biggest crime kingpin in South Boston.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Visit / ** (PG-13)

Becca: Olivia DeJong
Tyler: Ed Oxenbould
Nana: Deanna Dunagan
Pop Pop: Peter McRobbie
Mom: Kathryn Hahn

Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Running time: 94 min. Rated PG-13 (for disturbing thematic material including terror, violence and some nudity, and for brief language).

Let me start by pointing out that Kathryn Hahn is an excellent actress. She’s one of those actresses that you’ve seen in a bunch of films and television shows but have never quite caught her name. She often plays the girlfriend or sister who makes quips about the main characters. She’s played a few moms, like she does here. She seems like she must’ve come from someplace like Saturday Night Live, but she didn’t. She played Lily on six seasons of “Crossing Jordan”, a role that was created specifically for her. Mostly known for comedic roles, she has never been boxed in by them and finds her way into drama quite frequently. Although, her role here is small, it’s the emotional center of the story. Watch her work in the first scene, when she’s holding all her tension in her hands while trying to brush off her emotions with her words. It’s too bad she wasn’t used as effectively throughout.

I’d also like to add—before I get to the review proper—that I am pretty much done with the “found footage” format, especially for horror movies. Found Footage refers to the notion that a fictional movie was filmed as if it were a documentary that is capturing real events. Made popular by such movies as “The Blair Witch Project” and “Paranormal Activity”, it was an interesting gimmick for a while. It has unfortunately been done to death by new filmmakers trying to make names for themselves in the horror genre. It’s nice when it’s done well, but more often than not it isn’t. Even worse, it’s lazy. It creates an easy way for writers to inject exposition into their films and allows excuses for poorly shot sequences and ineloquent dialogue. M. Night Shyamalan—who was nominated for writing and directing Oscars for his brilliant “The Sixth Sense”—should be ashamed of himself for submitting to such a tired, overused and lazy filmmaking style. Of course, it allowed him to make the movie for $5 million, which might’ve saved his floundering career with its nearly guaranteed financial success.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Criterion Thoughts—12 Angry Men (1957) ****

Juror #1: Martin Balsam
Juror #2: John Fielder
Juror #3: Lee J. Cobb
Juror #4: E.G. Marshall
Juror #5: Jack Klugman
Juror #6: Edward Binns
Juror #7: Jack Warden
Juror #8: Henry Fonda
Juror #9: Joseph Sweeney
Juror #10: Ed Begley
Juror #11: George Voskovec
Juror #12: Robert Webber

United Artists presents a film directed by Sidney Lumet. Written by Reginald Rose. Running time: 96 min. Not Rated.

I was lucky enough to have performed in a stage production of Reginald Rose’s “12 Angry Men”. It’s hard to find a play that offers such a diverse set of characters that each inhabit the stage for a play’s entirety. It’s kind of an actor’s dream play. Even if you’re playing one of the smaller roles in terms of number of lines, you still get to flex your acting muscles throughout.

Not that line count was a problem for me, I was also lucky enough to land one of the primary roles of the production, that of Juror #3, the antagonist to Juror #8. I hadn’t seen the movie at that time, and as a purist, I didn’t seek it out in order to preserve my original interpretation of the character. I wish I had, though. For one, I’m not much like Lee J. Cobb, who played #3 in Sidney Lumet’s 1957 big screen adaptation. I couldn’t have stolen his mannerisms or instincts. The main reason I wish I’d seen the film, though, is because of a key mistake my young acting mind made in my interpretation. I judged him.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

No Escape / **½ (R)

Jack Dwyer: Owen Wilson
Annie Dwyer: Lake Bell
Lucy Dwyer: Sterling Jerins
Beeze Dwyer: Claire Geare
Hammond: Pierce Brosnan
Kenny Roger: Sahajak Boonthanakit

The Weinstein Company presents a movie directed by John Erick Dowdle. Written by John Erick Dowdle & Drew Dowdle. Running time: 103 min. Rated R (for strong violence including a sexual assault, and for language).

“No Escape” is somewhat of an anomaly in today’s movie market. It’s a throwback to the films of the 70s in the way it doesn’t adhere to the current politics about making movies. It’s an original story, a thriller that doesn’t draw from a “true story” about actual people who live through an actual harrowing world event. It involves a fairly big name Hollywood actor working well outside of the genre stereotypes and the niche he’s built for himself. And, it’s the first foray outside the horror genre by its writing/directing team, the Brothers Dowdle.

That’s not to say it’s above pandering to its audience with Hollywood cliché. In fact, the screenplay is the major drawback of this otherwise fairly well-made film. It doesn’t have the grit and grime of a 70s screenplay, even though it should. It handles its audience with kid gloves and its characters as archetypes, missing out on that real-life feel this story deserves. Yet, it’s still somewhat refreshing to see a movie that isn’t rooted in some sort of comic book or well-established film franchise after the Summer of the Sequel/Reboot that we all just endured. I wasn’t all that displeased with most of the franchise entries this summer, but there’s something of a relief that comes with watching a film that has all of its story and mythology contained within its individual running time.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Jurassic World / *** (PG-13)

Owen: Chris Pratt
Claire: Bryce Dallas Howard
Gray: Ty Simpkins
Zach: Nick Robinson
Hoskins: Vincent D’Onofrio
Simon Masrani: Irrfan Khan
Lowery: Jake Johnson
Vivian: Lauren Lapkus
Barry: Omar Sy
Dr. Henry Wu: B.D. Wong

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Colin Trevorrow. Written by Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connelly, Based on concepts created by Michael Crichton. Running time: 124 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of science fiction violence and peril).

The whole concept behind Hollywood sequel making is counter to the notion of criticism. While a critic tries to guide and educate an audience on what will entertain and enlighten them, the purpose of a sequel is generally to make money off of fulfilling an expectation of the exact same approach to the exact same effect as the previous—or best—film in a franchise. So it is left to the critic to merely report whether the filmmakers have achieved a repeated effect or have failed. When you get a tent pole film like “Jurassic Park” that is filled with spectacle and thoughts, it becomes problematic for the studios, which inexplicably feel the need to reproduce the spectacle but rarely the insight.

Spectacle minus the insight was certainly the problem with the previous two movies in the “Jurassic” franchise. In fact, “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” and “Jurassic Park III” were so lacking in any sort of science fiction themes and insight that the latest in the series—the long-awaited reboot “Jurassic World”—totally ignores the existence of the second and third films. In doing so it returns the story to the roots of its science fiction foundation. Once again the characters are dealing with the themes of the original film about the dangers of playing God with science, the impossibility of containing nature and even some new ideas about the need of some humans to push every scientific development toward weaponization.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Straight Outta Compton / *** (R)

O’Shea “Ice-Cube” Jackson: O’Shea Jackson, Jr.
Andre “Dr. Dre” Young: Corey Hawkins
Eric “Eazy-E” Wright: Jason Mitchell
Antoine “DJ Yella” Carraby: Neil Brown, Jr.
Lorenzo “MC Ren” Patterson: Aldis Hodge
Tracy “The D.O.C.” Curry: Marion Yates, Jr.
Suge Knight: R. Marcos Taylor
Tomica: Carra Patterson
Kim: Alexandra Shipp
Jerry Heller: Paul Giamatti

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by F. Gary Gray. Written by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff and S. Leigh Savidge & Alan Wenkus. Running time: 147 min. Rated R (for language throughout, strong sexuality/nudity, violence and drug use).

Despite the conservative political push of the 80’s lead by the Reagan White House, that decade was a particularly progressive time in which to grow up. As a child of the 80’s, I was heavily influenced by pop culture and heavily invested in the politics centered around it, more so than I even realized at the time. Tipper Gore’s heralding of the Parental Advisory label that was adopted by the recording industry seemed a tumultuous event in the eyes of a wide-eyed, music-obsessed prepubescent. Later, the banning of 2 Live Crew’s controversial “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” album was a neon sign of the times that most certainly were a-changin’ despite the wishes and desires of the conservative right. In the middle of all of this, heading the charge was a rap group from Compton, California that managed to bridge the gap between many of our diverse cultures in this country by introducing, not just the black community to gangsta rap, but the entire country with their debut album “Straight Outta Compton”.

Sadly, almost 30 years after N.W.A’s seminal album began the tide of change by exposing to the world what much of the black experience in America was like, we still find ourselves struggling with the same issues of misunderstanding the racial divide and dealing with the same issues of racism that were at the heart of what inspired those musicians at that time. Perhaps it is fitting then that now is the time that we finally get to see a movie chronicling the struggles of those musicians in a film that shares its name with their debut album. “Straight Outta Compton” brings to fruition many years of work by the two most successful members of that group, Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, to bring their story to the silver screen. As such, it doesn’t seem the harshest examination by the men it is mostly about, but it is an intriguing and entertaining document on one of the most influential bands in modern music.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Spy / ***½ (R)

Susan Cooper: Melissa McCarthy
Rayna Boyanov: Rose Byrne
Rick Ford: Jason Statham
Nancy B. Artingstall: Miranda Hart
Sergio De Luca: Bobby Cannavale
Aldo: Peter Serafinowicz
Karen Walker: Morena Baccarin
Elaine Crocker: Allison Janney
Bradley Fine: Jude Law

20th Century Fox presents a film written and directed by Paul Feig. Running time: 120 min. Rated R (for language throughout, violence, and some sexual content include brief graphic nudity).

Daniel Craig will have one more movie as James Bond left on his contract after the new Bond film “Spectre” is released this fall. After Bond 25, should Craig or the Bond producers decide to go in different directions, it will be time once again to consider a new Bond. Jude Law might very well be in the running, as I believe he was when Craig was cast in the role. He’s handsome, charming, has a dreamy smile, and yet he can be deftly serious and people are willing to let it slide when he uses a woman or two to get what he wants. These are all traits of his character, Bradley Fine, in the new movie “Spy”. The catch is that although Fine is a successful spy for the CIA, he is not the spy of which the title refers.

No, comedic character actress Melissa McCarthy plays the spy of the film’s title. You see the movie is a send up of a sort of spy flicks like the James Bond series. Even more so the movie is an overt criticism of the ideology and clichés of the spy genre and of Hollywood in general. McCarthy is plump and short and funny and everything that a serious action movie heroine is not. And yet, considering all of that, I would hesitate to call “Spy” a spoof of the super spy genre. The opening credit sequence and song could very well pass for an actual James Bond credit sequence. Director Paul Feig and McCarthy approach the movie with a sincerity that would make it an almost plausible spy action/comedy thriller if it weren’t so openly criticizing its own inspirations.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

San Andreas / *** (PG-13)

Ray: Dwayne Johnson
Emma: Carla Gugino
Blake: Alexandra Daddario
Lawrence: Paul Giamatti
Ben: Hugo Johnstone-Burt
Serena: Archie Panjabi
Ollie: Art Parkinson
Daniel: Ioan Gruffud

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by Brad Peyton. Written by Carlton Cuse and Andre Fabrizio & Jeremy Passmore. Running time: 114 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense disaster action and mayhem throughout, and brief strong language).

The disaster flick is a cinematic summer pastime that goes back even further than Spielberg’s supposed creation of the summer blockbuster with his movie “Jaws”. In fact, the 70s were known for a large number of Hollywood disaster pictures. We love disaster flicks. They’re usually bloated, overblown excuses for ridiculous action sequences populated by too many stars—including the ones that have been nominated for Best Picture Oscars—but we can’t stay away from them.

It’s been a few years since the last big budget disaster flick. No, “Sharknado” doesn’t count. I’m talking about theatrical releases and big budgets here. Roland Emmerich ruled the modern disaster flick with movies like “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow”, but he left a hole when he submitted his sworn last disaster flick “2012”, depicting the supposed end of the world predicted by the end of the Mayan calendar.  Director Brad Peyton (“Journey 2: Mysterious Island”) has filled that hole by placing a big giant hole in the middle of California in the new film “San Andreas”.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2 / *** (PG-13)

Beca: Anna Kendrick
Fat Amy: Rebel Wilson
Emily: Hailee Steinfeld
Chloe: Brittany Snow
Jesse: Skylar Astin
Bumper: Adam DeVine
Kommissar: Birgitte Hjort Sørensen
Pieter Krämer: Flula Borg
John: John Michael Higgins
Gail: Elizabeth Banks

Universal Pictures presents a film directed by Elizabeth Banks. Written by Kay Cannon. Running time: 115 min. Rated PG-13 (for innuendo and language).

So when “Pitch Perfect” was released in theaters in 2012, I’m guessing I wasn’t alone in thinking, “Yeah, a movie about a cappella singing competitions? I’ll catch it at home if it gets good reviews.” The movie only made a little over $5 million on its opening weekend. Not exactly breaking the box office. Then people started talking about it, and word of mouth was that it was worth the admission price. By the end of the year it had netted over $68 million at the U.S. box office and was a huge hit on home video formats. A $5 million opening weekend isn’t supposed to do that.

With its snappy dialogue, great musical numbers and the introduction of Rebel Wilson as a fresh face in comedy, a “Pitch Perfect” sequel became inevitable. So here it is three years later, the girls who make up the musical group The Bellas are three years older, and the audience gets pretty much the same treatment for their encore. That’s what we’re paying for, so that isn’t a complaint. As a critic, it leaves little to discuss beyond the plot, but I enjoyed myself, so I’ll give it another whirl too.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Poltergeist / ** (PG-13)

Eric Bowen: Sam Rockwell
Amy Bowen: Rosemarie DeWitt
Kendra Bowen: Saxon Sharbino
Griffin Bowen: Kyle Catlett
Madison Bowen: Kennedi Clements
Carrigan Burke: Jared Harris
Dr. Brooke Powell: Jane Adams
Boyd: Nicholas Braun
Sophie: Susan Heyward

20th Century Fox and MGM present a film directed by Gil Kenan. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire. Based on the 1982 screenplay by Steven Spielberg. Running time: 93 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense frightening images, brief suggestive material, and some language).

There are some who are calling the present period in cinematic history the Golden Age of Independent Horror. It is true that there have been a good deal of innovative horror films released over the past decade. We’ve seen the rise of Spanish and Korean horror masters, like Guillermo del Toro and Joon-ho Bong. “Saw” changed the horror landscape forever. The first “Paranormal Activity” was original and genuinely frightening. And even as recently as this year we’ve seen innovative horror films like “It Follows”. Perhaps, however, horror directors are getting a little full of themselves and are forgetting the basics of filmmaking as they apply to horror.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road / **** (R)

Max Rockatansky: Tom Hardy
Imperator Furiosa: Charlize Theron
Nux: Nicholas Hoult
Immortan Joe: Hugh Keays-Byrne
Slit: Josh Helman
Rictus Erectus: Nathan Jones
Toast the Knowing: Zoë Kravitz
The Splendid Angharad: Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a film directed by George Miller. Written by Miller and Brendan McCarthy and Nico Lathouris. Running time: 120 min. Rated R (for intense sequences of violence throughout, and for disturbing images).

They say it is a fine line between genius and madness. When I was in college, we had a professor that might’ve proved this adage. He was a brilliant teacher and director known for sometimes spectacular behavior to get what he wanted out of his casts. As a teacher he loved to ask his students each Monday which movies we had wasted our money that weekend. He chortled at the latest “artistic” cinema we’d consumed as some sort of deep commentary on society, but… get him talking about George Miller’s post-apocalyptic adventure “The Road Warrior” and you’d hear him extemporize about the genius of modern cinema.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron / *** (PG-13)

Tony Stark/Iron Man: Robert Downey, Jr.
Thor: Chris Hemsworth
Steve Rogers/Captain America: Chris Evans
Bruce Banner/Hulk: Mark Ruffalo
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow: Scarlett Johansson
Clint Barton/Hawkeye: Jeremy Renner
Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver: Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch: Elizabeth Olsen
Ultron (voice): James Spader
J.A.R.V.I.S./Vision: Paul Bettany
Nick Fury: Samuel L. Jackson

Walt Disney and Marvel Studios present a film written & directed by Joss Whedon. Based on the Marvel Comis characters created by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby. Running time: 141 min. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive comments).


These words typically associated with comic books could easily fill in for the sound effects in the opening sequence of “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, the second film in the “Avengers” franchise and eleventh overall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In fact, these and similar words could fill the soundtrack of almost the entire nearly 2 ½ hour running time of the movie. It is wall to wall to ceiling to floor action. It even has a little bit of the science fiction themes and soap operatic elements that sold so many of the children of the 80s on comic book culture.

For those who are doing their best to consume everything MCU they possibly can, the plot picks up the moment where this past week’s TV episode of “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” left off. I was disappointed not to see at least a brief cameo by Agent Coulson, however. For those of you who just want to kick off your summer with a balls-out smash blockbuster action spectacular, don’t worry, you don’t need to have seen one second of the television show to understand and enjoy what’s happening on the big screen.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Criterion Thoughts—The 39 Steps (1935) ***½

UR, 85 min.
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Writers: Charles Bennett, Ian Hay, John Buchan (novel)
Starring: Robert Donat, Madeleine Carroll, Lucie Mannheim, Godfrey Tearle, Peggy Ashcroft, John Laurie, Helen Haye, Frank Cellier, Wylie Watson

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” plays as a movie trying to break out of the constraints of its times. It is an example of how Hitchcock needed the power and scope of Hollywood to jump the cinematic art forward in just the way he did after his marriage with Tinsletown. It is a movie that bursts at its cinematic seams for greater production value and a leap forward in storytelling for the format.

As is often the case with Hitch, he unsettles his audience with his opening images. A man buys a ticket at a box office and the next few shots are those of feet. Even the purchase of the ticket fails to show us a face or even a torso of the man we are following into a theater. Without seeing any faces and with a sequence of feet walking this way and that, we are immediately placed into the mindset of a sort of chase going on. And yet, we have no notion of who is being chased, or why, or who is doing the chasing. The inside of the theater is a scene of a degree of chaos.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Ebert Thoughts ‘15—The Motel Life (2012) ***½

R, 85 min.
Directors: Alan Polsky, Gabriel Polsky
Writers: Micah Fitzerman-Blue, Noah Harpster, Willy Vlautin (novel)
Starring: Emile Hirsch, Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning, Joshua Leonard, Noah Harpster, Kris Kristofferson

Saturday is always the most surreal day of Ebertfest. I don’t know why. I wonder if they try to program the films in a way to produce an eerie sense of being adrift. It’s not a criticism. It just always seems that Saturday is the “lost” day of the festival, with characters trying to find their way through the morass of life. Saturday is the longest day of films and the atmosphere created by them makes it a sort of wonderful cinematic experience.

This year’s Saturday schedule included the films “Wild Tales”, “Ida”, “The Motel Life” and  “99 Homes”. I watched two of these this year and both have a distinct feel of despair about them. The first was “Ida”, with its black and white cinematography and somber subject matter; it certainly played into that atmosphere I described. “The Motel Life” is another strong fit for the Saturday feel.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ebert Thoughts ‘15—Ida (2014) ****

PG-13, 82 min.
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writers: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Starring: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, Dawid Ogrodnik, Jerzy TrelaAdam Szyszkowski, Halina Skoczynska

So, I’ve reviewed this film before. It’s easy to concentrate on the central character here, Anna, the nun who discovers she’s a Jew just before she takes her vows. This time I’d like to concentrate a little more on Wanda, her aunt. Wanda is a very interesting woman. This is the 1960s, and Wanda appears to be a fairly powerful woman as a state prosecutor. Wanda has as much of a journey to take as Anna here. It is Wanda who takes them on their search to find Anna’s parent’s graves. Of course, that journey leads to the revelation of a dark family secret, a secret Wanda must be very aware Anna will discover.

Ebert Thoughts ‘15—A Bronx Tale (1993) ***

R, 121 min.
Director: Robert De Niro
Writer: Chazz Palminteri (also play)
Starring: Lillo Brancato, Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Francis Capra, Taral Hicks, Katherine Narducci, Clem Casterta, Alfred Sauchelli Jr., Frank Pietrangolare, Joe Pesci

I got a different kind of story for my thoughts on the directorial debut of Robert De Niro and the break though of Chazz Palmiteri onto the cinematic scene. I’m not a huge fan of the film “A Bronx Tale”. I mean it’s good, but it isn’t as impressive as I feel it should’ve been. Palminteri’s writing might’ve worked better on stage than it does here. His primary message has to do with the two father figures for his central character with De Niro the real father and Palminteri a mobster surrogate, and how they both want the best for the kid, which is for him to stay away from the criminal life Palmiteri’s character has embraced. There are a lot of contradictions in Palminteri’s story and a great deal of social issues that are explored but never fully developed.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Ebert Thoughts ’15—The Son of the Sheik (1926) ***

UR, 68 min.
Director: Geo. Fitzmaurice
Writers: Frances Marion, Fred de Gresac, George Marion Jr., Edith Maude Hull (novel)
Starring: Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Banky, George Fawcett, Montague Love, Karl Dane, Bull Montana, Binunsky Hyman, Agnes Ayers

The biggest disappointment of missing Ebertfest each and every year is missing the Alloy Orchestra’s live accompaniment of the year’s silent feature. This year’s film is Rudolph Valentino’s “The Son of the Sheik”, a sequel to his film “The Sheik”, not that you have to see the first film to follow the second.

I love seeing the silent films. I don’t watch a lot of silent films, but Ebertfest ensures that I will watch at least one every year. I think that’s a good rule for any cineaste. You should watch at least one silent film a year. More would be better. It was such an innovative time in cinema. At Eberfest I’ve seen some of the best. More importantly, I’ve seen something from just about every silent legend.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Ebert Thoughts ‘15—Moving Midway (2007) ****

UR, 95 min.
Director/Writer: Godfrey Cheshire
Featuring: Charles Silver, Robert Hinton, Godfrey Cheshire, Dena Silver, Abraham Hinton

“Moving Midway” is exactly the type of movie that makes Ebertfest the unique cinematic experience that it is. Sure, Ebertfest screens movies with big name stars. They program incredible auteur works. But you’ll also find these little surprises here. “Moving Midway” is one of those rare masterpieces that becomes so through heart and passion that shines through without the flash and flare of budgets and known commodities. These cinematic treasures often come in the form of a documentary. This year, it is “Moving Midway” that wows and moves me with its simple premise that informs one of the most compelling and ambitious films of this year’s festival.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Ebert Thoughts ‘15—Goodbye To Language (2014) **

UR, 70 min.
Director/Writer: Jean-Luc Godard
Starring: Héloïse Godet, Kamel Abdeli, Richard Chevallier, Zoé Bruneau, Christian Gregori

I recently reviewed Jean-Luc Godard’s 1967 film “2 or 3 Things I Know About Her”. It’s easy to see with that film the track that had started in Godard’s career and would eventually lead him to a film like “Goodbye To Language”. While his less narrative, more documentary style worked well with the freer thinking of the late 60s, his cinematic philosophizing has become as confused as the world itself today. While there might be some value to be weighed into that notion, the consumption of it leaves something to be desired.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Ebertfest 2015

Tomorrow evening marks the launch of the 17th Annual Roger Ebert Film Festival. It has now been more years since I’ve been than I ever attended. I miss it. It must be the most joyful film festival of the year, because every film there is there because it strives for excellence. Every audience member is there because they love film with a passion.

More so than any other year, I will not be able to see many of the entries. Six of this year’s 12 films are either currently in select theaters—i.e. no where near the cultural black hole in which I reside—or haven’t even been released yet. The three in theaters are “Girlhood”, which is not a spinoff of last year’s excellent “Boyhood” but rather a film about a group four teenage girls who explore what friendship means and the protection it provides. It is the third film by director Céline Sciamma’s to examine what it is like to be a girl. “Wild Tales” was one of this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language film and was even considered a dark horse to steal the prize from eventual winner “Ida” (another of this year’s Ebertfest films). It is the rare multi-story feature that works well cohesively, prompting many critics to claim it as the best multi-story picture they’d ever seen. And finally, Ethan Hawke’s directorial debut “Seymour: An Introduction” is a documentary about the great classical pianist Seymour Bernstein. This film will close the festival in a slot that is traditionally reserved for a music-oriented film.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Home / ** (PG)

Featuring the voices of:
Oh: Jim Parsons
Gratuity ‘Tip’ Tucci: Rihanna
Captain Smek: Steve Martin
Lucy: Jennifer Lopez
Kyle: Matt Jones

DreamWorks Animation presents a film directed by Tim Johnson. Written by Tom J. Astle and Matt Ember. Based on the book “The True Meaning of Smekday” by Adam Rex. Running time: 94 min. Rated PG (for mild action and some rude humor).

“Home” is a perfectly entertaining movie for children of a certain age. It lacks—as more and more CGI animation efforts do these days—that vigor to press the animation boundaries once shattered by Pixar. I suppose DreamWorks Animation has always been the poor man’s Pixar, but its ambition seems to falter more with every successive effort. “Home” is just the most recent in the diminishing vibrancy of family centric CGI animation.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Penny Thoughts ‘15—Moneyball (2011) ****

PG-13, 133 min.
Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin, Stan Chervin, Michael Lewis (book “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”)
Starring: Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Robin Wright, Chris Pratt, Stephen Bishop, Reed Diamond, Brent Jennings, Ken Medlock, Tammy Blanchard, Jack McGee, Vyto Ruginis, Nick Searcy, Glenn Morshower, Casey Bond, Nick Porrazzo, Kerris Dorsey, Arliss Howard, Reed Thompson, Spike Jonze

The 2015 regular season of Major League Baseball began today. There was a time when I never would’ve known it was the first day of baseball. I wish I still did not. I hate baseball. I hated it when I played it as a child. My parents made me play. Despite my hatred of it, that was probably the right thing for them to do. It did help build my character. They only made me play for so long and once I was a certain age they let me decide. The last year I played was the first year my age group did our own pitching; and the coach wisely chose me to be a pitcher. For the first time ever I actually enjoyed playing the game. No more left field. But sure enough, when I had a choice the next year, I didn’t even flinch when my parents asked if I wanted to play again. Nope! I was done with baseball.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Television Thoughts—Cougar Town (2009-2015)

TV-14, 6 seasons, 102 22-min. episodes

Creators: Kevin Biegel, Bill Lawrence

Directors: John Putch, Michael McDonald, Courtney Cox, Bill Lawrence, Gail Mancuso, Bruce Leddy, Chris Koch, Michael Spiller, Josh Hopkins, Jamie Babbit, Lee Shallat Chemel, Phil Traill, Ken Wittingham, Millicent Shelton, Randall Winston, Sam Jones, Brian Van Holt, Busy Philipps, Courtney Rowe

Writers: Kevin Biegel, Bill Lawrence, Melody Derloshon, Blake McCormick, Peter Saji, Mary Fitzgerald, Jessica Goldstein, Chrissy Pietrosh, Sean Lavery, Ryan Koh, Sam Laybourne, Sanjay Shah, Kate Purdy, Brad Morris, Emily R. Wilson, Michael McDonald, Gregg Mettler, Linda Videtti Figueiredo, Mara Brock Akil, Rachel Specter, Audrey Wauchope, Michael Lisbe, Nate Reger, Aaron Ho, Austen Faggen, Justin Halpern, Patrick Schumacker, Jen D’Angelo, Eric Ernst

Starring: Courtney Cox, Christa Miller, Busy Philipps, Dan Byrd, Josh Hopkins, Ian Gomez, Brian Van Holt, Bob Clendenin

Guest starring: Carolyn Hennesy, Ken Jenkins, Lamarcus Tinker, Sawyer Ever, Ryan Devlin, Spencer Locke, Brad Morris, Barry Bostwick, Collette Wolfe, Briga Heelan, Edwin Hodge, Nicole Sullivan, Shawn Parihk, Nick Zano, Scott Foley, Sarah Chalke, Sheryl Crow, Maria Thayer, Ryan Biegel, Lou Diamond Phillips, Yasmin Deliz, Michael McDonald, Shirley Jones, David Arquette, Jennifer Aniston, Cindy Crawford, Rachel Harris, Beverly D’Angelo, Susan Blakely, Matthew Perry, Paula Newsome, Alan Ruck, Lisa Kudrow, Nia Vardalos, Ahmed Best, Michelle Williams

Last Tuesday I had to hold back tears. One of my most beloved television shows came to an end. I wasn’t brought to the edge of tears because of the emotionally jarring conclusions for the characters’ to their story, however. No, their story’s end was just as ridiculous as just about any episode’s worth. No, I was nearly brought to tears because there just isn’t any other television series like it out there. The closest to it might be “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, but that one probably has higher aspirations.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Spring / *** (UR)

Evan: Lou Taylor Pucci
Louise: Nadia Hilker

Drafthouse Films presents a film directed by Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead. Written by Benson. Running time: 109 min. Unrated (contains sexuality including graphic nudity, disturbing images, violence, and language).

After a winter like many on the East Coast experienced this year, people were ready to believe anything could be an improvement. Over the long months of storm after accumulating storm, the walls were beginning to move in on the psyche and many were ready to move someplace warmer. But, always comes the spring—a rebirth of nature and the spirit. Nature, however, holds many mysteries, and sometimes you might wish it had stayed in hibernation. Such are the discoveries of the hero in Justin Benson’s and Aaron Moorhead’s new horror/romance “Spring”, a moody nightmare that turns the tables on the expectations of the horror genre, giving way to another genre all together.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Criterion Thoughts—3 Women (1977) ***½

PG, 124 min.
Director/Writer: Robert Altman
Starring: Sissy Spacek, Shelley Duvall, Janice Rule, Robert Fortier, Ruth Nelson, John Cromwell, Sierra Pechuer, Craig Richard Nelson

Robert Altman’s “3 Women” has been referred to as his tribute to the films of Ingmar Bergman. It appropriates Bergman’s style of connecting two characters in the intimate webs of each other in the same way as films like “Persona”. Altman’s take is distinctly American, with its California desert location and its testosterone-driven male supporting characters. This meshing of geographical styles results in a David Lynchian feel to the material, along the lines of “Mulholland Dr.” It embraces trace horror elements that can also be found in both Bergman and Lynch’s works. It is one of the more unique films from this director/auteur that is a step away from his normal fare and yet somehow still distinctly Altman-esque.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Television Thoughts ‘15—Agent Carter (2015) ***

TV-PG, 8 43-min. episodes
Creators: Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely

Directors: Stephen Cragg, Louis D’Esposito, Peter Leto, Christopher Misiano, Vincent Misiano, Joe Russo, Stephen Williams, Scott Winant

Writers: Stan Lee (characters), Jack Kirby (characters), Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely, Eric Pearson, Lindsey Allen, Andi Bushell, Tara Butters, Chris Dingess, Brant Englestein, Michele Fazekas, Jose Molina

Starring: Hayley Atwell, James D’Arcy, Chad Michael Murray, Enver Gjokaj, Shea Whigham, Lyndsy Fonseca, Bridget Regan, Ralph Brown, Meagan Fay

Guest starring: Dominic Cooper, Kyle Bornheimer, Lesley Boone, Alexander Carroll, James Frain, James Landry Hébert, Devin Ratray, James Urbaniak, Kevin Cotteleer, Patrick Robert Smith, Neal McDonough, Leonard Roberts, GlennTaranto, Jack Conley, Rick Peters, John Prosky, Pawel Szajda, Ray Wise, Ashley Hinshaw, Toby Jones, John Glover, Andre Royo, Richard Short

So I read an interview with Richard Dreyfuss the other day in which he questioned the interviewer’s use of the term “the new golden age of television”, referring to the current renaissance happening on television today. (Read the Indiewire article here.) Dreyfuss claimed that the only Golden Age of television was in the early 50s when it was the new form of entertainment in everyone’s household. While I agree that perhaps a new term other than “Golden Age” might be in order to describe an era 70 years down the line, I’m not so sure Dreyfuss quite understands what the interviewer was talking about, because he went on to describe the current television market of consisting only of police procedurals, courtroom dramas and family sitcoms. I suddenly realized that Dreyfuss’ television provider only carries CBS, ion and Nick at Nite.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Chappie / **½ (R)

Chappie: Sharlto Copley
Deon Wilson: Dev Patel
Ninja: Ninja
Yolandi: Yo-Landi Visser
Yankie America: Jose Pablo Cantillo
Vincent Moore: Hugh Jackman
Michelle Bradley: Sigourney Weaver
Hippo: Brandon Auret

Columbia Pictures presents a film directed by Neill Blomkamp. Written by Blomkamp & Terri Tatchell. Running time: 120 min. Rated R (for violence, language and brief nudity).

I’ve always been of the belief that expectation is an enemy of art. It closes off the mind to possibilities the artist may have envisioned that the viewer may not if they’re anticipating something else. As such, I’ve become pretty good at turning off the grand expectations movie studios are so insistent on instilling in their audiences through trailers and the buzz movie media outlets provide before a movie’s release. It’s not that I don’t pay attention to these things, because I am a fan first and a critic second; but once I’m there in the dark awaiting the start of a movie I let it all go and simply take in the movie.

That being said, I’d like to talk about the expectations behind the new science fiction movie “Chappie” a little before I delve into my expectationless opinion of it. This is the third movie by South African sci-fi wunderkind Neill Blomkamp. His debut film “District 9” was a summer sleeper hit and a rare science fiction Best Picture Oscar nominee. His follow-up “Elysium” was not as special—although I felt it was enjoyable—and recently Blomkamp has revealed some disappointments he had with that project.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

Criterion Thoughts—2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967) ***

NR, 87 min.
Director: Jean-Luc Godard
Writers: Jean-Luc Godard, Catherine Vimenet (based on the articles “La Prostitution dans les grands ensembles”)
Starring: Marina Vlady, Roger Montsoret, Anny Duperey, Joseph Gehrard, Raoul Lévy, Jean Narboni

I’ll admit it. Even being the cineaste I am, there are some gaping holes in my cinematic experience. Jean-Luc Godard is one of them. I’m not completely unknowledgeable. I’ve seen “Breathless” and his strange and somewhat annoying version of science fiction “Alphaville”. I fear I reveal myself by declaring “Alphaville” annoying, but at times it is surely trying to be. So this will be a rather inexperienced look at a man who is seen as one of the masters of cinema.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Penny Thoughts ‘15—Dazed & Confused (1993) ****

R, 102 min.
Director/Writer: Richard Linklater
Starring: Jason London, Joey Lauren Adams, Milla Jovovich, Shawn Andrews, Rory Cochrane, Adam Goldberg, Anthony Rapp, Sasha Jenson, Marissa Ribisi, Deena Martin, Michelle Bruke, Cole Hauser, Christine Harnos, Wiley Wiggins, Mark Vandermuelen, Esteban Powell, Jeremy Fox, Ben Affleck, Jason O. Smith, Christin Hinojosa, Parker Posey, Matthew McConaughey, Catherine Morris, Nicky Katt, Parker Brooks, Rick Moser, Terry Mross, Richard Dillard, Fred Lerner, David Blackwell

I recently decided to start a vinyl record collection. It all came about from an article (that has since been lost in the vastness of the web) about collecting music. I was an avid music collector throughout high school and college. I collected cassettes and then reluctantly moved on to CDs as they were beginning to change the music soundscape. I remember the debates about analog and digital recording and mastering. Who remembers when CDs would sport a letter code of three letters consisting of ‘A’ and ‘D’ to distinguish which part of the production process was done analog or digitally? ADD, or DDD or different variations of such.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Criterion Thoughts—21 Days (1940) ***

NR, 72 min.
Director: Basil Dean
Writers: Basil Dean, Graham Greene, John Galsworthy (short story “First and the Last”)
Starring: Laurence Olivier, Leslie Banks, Vivian Leigh, Francis L. Sullivan, David Thorne, Hay Petrie

What does it mean that I can’t even figure out which collection the first film in my Criterion Thoughts series comes from? Criterion Thoughts will feature films from the premiere DVD and BluRay series of films released under the Criterion Collection banner. This first film comes from their films featured on Hulu Plus and certainly seems to fit well into the Criterion Collection. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you which collection you need to buy to get it. I’m guessing it was featured in one of their Eclipse Series.

“21 Days” was released in the U.S. as “21 Days Together” after sitting on the shelf for 2 years until star Vivian Leigh’s popularity exploded due to her success as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind”. It also features one of the earliest collaborations between the husband and wife acting team of Laurence Olivier and Leigh. In fact, this British film is filled with elite pedigree of the early British film scene. The film also stars the fine character actor Leslie Banks as the third lead. It was Basil Dean’s final directorial effort after 15 films beginning with 1929’s “The Return of Sherlock Holmes”. Dean would continue to produce films for another decade. Dean co-wrote the screenplay with Graham Greene, perhaps the greatest British crime writer of all time.