Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Black Magic (1949)

I got a chance to see the Orson Welles movie Black Magic over the weekend. The movie is basically a revenge film with some historical intrigue thrown in. Joseph Balsamo (Welles) is the son of gypsies traveling through the south of France. His mother is deemed a witch and executed along with his father by the Viscount de Montagne. Young Joseph is forced to watch his parents' hanging while he is whipped by de Montagne's men.

Years later, a grown up Joseph learns the secrets of hypnotism from a French doctor, changes his name to Count Cagliostro, and achieves fame throughout Europe by mixing hypnotism with mysticism and showmanship. As luck would have it, he stumbles across de Montagne who is hatching a plan to discredit Marie Antoinette and become ruler of France.

Cagliostro, of course, wants revenge on de Montagne. He starts of trying to help de Montagne achieve his goal, only to set him up to be captured and tried for treason. The courtroom scene at the end is a great showdown between Cagliostro and those who have influenced his life (both past and present). It shows Cagliostro's growing mania and the lengths he would go to to have the people of France love him. This sequence alone is worth the price of admission.

While Welles only acted in the movie, I could see some of his directorial flourishes in some of the early scenes. I took a quick look at Hello Americans, and Simon Callow mentions that Welles in fact did provide some input to director Gregory Ratoff. Count Cagliostro appears to be a role that Welles would've sunk his teeth into. He gets to play with a funny accent (like in The Lady from Shanghai) and a fake mustache. He also gets to show off a little of his magic skill in a couple scenes while talking to Akim Tamiroff (who later appears in many Welles films). But, he never seems to be fully engaged in the part. As Simon Callow notes in his Hello Americans, Welles was in the middle of editing Macbeth, so this seems to play into the idea.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Consent to Kill, by Vince Flynn

I haven't finished reading this one yet, but had to put out a couple observations. Vince Flynn is very consistent. Consent to Kill is yet another page-turner in the Mitch Rapp series. It's also the first real sequel that I can remember of the series.

A Saudi billionaire puts a price on Rapp's head after Rapp kills his son during the events of Memorial Day. On the home front, Rapp and crew have to deal with the newly created office of Director of National Intelligence, and Anna Riley (Rapp's wife) announces she's pregnant. Lots of the old characters are back: Mitch, Anna, Irene Kennedy, Scott Coleman, the President, etc. And some interesting new ones are added including the team of assassins sent to kill Rapp.

There's one stylistic thing I noticed about Flynn's writing that I hadn't picked up on before (that is if he did it in previous books). In a scene between character A and character B (happens with multiple characters in multiple scenes), he describes what character B is wearing. The next time we see character B, he describes again what the character is wearing. It's kind of the opposite of some writers who only describe characters when absolutely necessary. We always know what Flynn's characters are wearing!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

I recently watched this one again since it was on TCM and it was part of Quint's Movie A Day series on AICN. Director Alfred Hitchcock often said this was his favorite film, a sentiment shared by the movie's female lead Teresa Wright. It's a great movie, but not my favorite Hitch.

The story revolves around the Newton family. Charlie Oackley (Joseph Cotten) comes to visit the family and his niece Charlie (Wright). Through the course of the movie, Young Charlie begins to suspect her Uncle Charlie is a serial killer known as "The Merry Widow Murderer". The movie is chocked full of twists and turns and a great deal of suspense by the undisputed master of cinematic suspense.

Keep a close eye out for a young Hume Cronyn as Young Charlie's father's best friend.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Max Payne

Huge fan of the PC games. I'm currently replaying Max Payne 2. Here's the first trailer I've seen from the movie. Doesn't look half bad:


Monday, July 7, 2008

John Adams (2008)

I missed HBO's John Adams miniseries when it was first on, but I made sure to catch it during the mini-marathon on the Fourth of July. I'm glad I did. It's very well done, with great special effects, a great script, and no doubt hours and hours of painstaking research. Paul Giamatti shines in his portrayal of Adams, and Laura Linney proved a perfect foil for him as Abagail Adams.

The first two episodes, which I watched in real time, dealt with Adams's defense of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, his joining the revolution, and ended with the reading of the Declaration of Independence. I recorded the rest and watched three through five on Saturday, dealing with Adams's ambassadorship to France and Holland, his vice presidency, and ended with his taking the oath of office succeeding George Washington as President. I hope to watch at least one more tonight if not finish the entire series.

On another note, I love the makeup job on David Morse. He looks exactly the way we think Washington really looked.

Do yourself a favor and check the series out if HBO runs it again.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I Was Afraid This Would Happen

Hossa = gone. Malone = gone. Roberts = gone.

Penguins are leaving in droves. Brooks Orpik and Pascal Dupuis stay, though.

As much as I like Ryan Malone, there's no way in hell that he's worth $7M or $8M a year (since his contract for $31.5M over 7 years is front-loaded).

Next season is going to be interesting unless there's a big free agent signing or trade in the works.

Update 10:47PM: Looks like I spoke too soon! Penguins sign Rusty Fedotenko and Miroslov Satan!!! Not as good as Malone and Hossa, but not to shabby either.