David Knights' Weblog

January 17, 2019

Movie review: The Thin Man Goes Home (1945)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 3:47 pm
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This is the fifth of the sixth Thin Man movies and the first that doesn’t take place mainly in NYC or San Francisco.  The fourth film was filmed in 1941, before America’s entry into WWII.  This film was originally slated to begin production in 1942, but Myrna Loy declined the job and instead she moved to NYC to marry the heir to the Hertz car rental fortune and to work in the Red Cross in New York.  Like many celebrities of the time, she threw herself into war related activities and did not return to film until shooting this film in mid and late 1944.  The film premiered in early 1945.

Though Nick and Nora have a child, he does not appear in this film.  It is explained in dialogue that Nicky is in kindergarten and they didn’t want to take him out of school.  If my guess about Nicky’s age in the fourth film is correct, that would mean that though 3-4 years have passed between production of the last film and this one, in the film world’s time, this film follows closely on the heels of the last one.

Though this movie was made while the US was deeply involved in WWII, there is no direct reference to the war in the film, though there are many oblique references to it.  The opening scene where Nick and Nora are traveling on a train to go to Nick’s old home town show plenty of men in uniform and the train traveling conditions are extremely crowded as was the case in the wartime USA.  In addition, a character is referred to as having returned from “the South Seas” and is waiting for his discharge from the Army.  The victim is shot with a Japanese Nambu light machine gun, though it is called a sniper rifle in the movie.  Finally, it turns out the reason for the murder is a plot to steal propeller plans for “a foreign power”.

While several years in real time have passed, neither Powell or Loy have lost any of their spark.  Their interplay is as good as in any of the films, and the writing really sparkles.  In fact, this may be the funniest film since the first one, with Loy stealing several scenes, including the climactic reveal of the killer, where she lampshades the entire process in a running commentary to Nick’s father.

I really enjoyed this one.  5 stars.

 

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January 9, 2019

Movie review: Shadow of the Thin Man (1941)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 12:28 pm
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This is the fourth entry in the Thin Man series and the weakest of the four so far.  Not that its bad, it isn’t.  It just doesn’t have as much of the interplay between Nick and Nora, which is the heart of these films.  This may be, in part, due to the presence of Nick and Nora’s child, Nicky, who was a baby in the last film, but who appears to be about 5 in this film.  The film also stars famed acting teacher Stella Adler in one of her only 3 or 4 film roles.  Also, a very young Donna Reed, plays a key role.  This is several years before her breakout in It’s A Wonderful Life and decades before her sitcom.

For this film we are back in San Francisco.  Nick and Nora and their son Nicky are ensconced in the hotel St. Cloud.  This is interesting, as we established previously, Nick and Nora have (had) a home in San Francisco, which they returned to at the beginning of the second film of the series.  Have they sold it?  Is it just a continuity gaff? We don’t know.  When the last film (released in 1939) ended, Nick and Nora were celebrating Nicky’s first birthday.  As this film opens, Nick and Nicky are walking in the park together and Nicky appears to be about 5, which would put the events of the film occurring about 4 years after the end of the last film.  Young Nicky’s play outfit is a soldier’s uniform, and it serves as a reminder that the film was shot in August 1941 as Europe was at war and the US was gearing up it’s military.  The film was released in November 1941, only a few weeks before Pearl Harbor.

The film features a scene of the, at the time, brand new San Francisco-Oakland bay bridge.  It also features a scene at a wrestling match, giving the viewer a view of the early years of the development of professional wrestling.  As usual, the film ends with Nick gathering all the suspects together and figuring out who the killer is.  In the climactic scene, Nora gets to play the hero, wrestling Nick’s gun away from the revealed killer as he was about to shoot Nick.  It turns out the gun was unloaded, but of course Nora didn’t know that.

In the course of watching these films, I did learn two interesting things. 1. The original Thin Man film was nominated for an Academy Award.  2. Though they starred in 14 films together, including the 6 Thin Man films, and had fantastic screen chemistry, Powell and Loy were never romantically involved in real life, unlike a lot of screen couples of the time. (i.e. Bogart and Bacall, Gable and Lombard, etc.)

I’d give this film, 4 out of 5 stars.

January 5, 2019

Movie review: After the Thin Man (1936)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 11:35 pm
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The second of the Thin Man films, and some argue the best story, picks up three days after the first film ends, with Nick and Nora returning to San Francisco from their New York adventure in the first film.  This film flips the first one on its head.  In the first film, we meet all of Nick’s friends and acquaintances many of whom are of questionable character.  In this film, we meet Nora’s Knob Hill family who are as upper crust as possible and very disapproving of lower class Nick.  Clearly part of Nick’s charm to Nora is that he irritates her upper crust family.

We knew from the first film that Nora was an upper crust socialite, and here we learn she is a Knob Hill San Francisco socialite.  As in the previous film, Nick wants to simply live the life of leisure enjoying his wife’s money, while Nora enjoys the excitement of the detective life.  Additionally, Nora wants to have Nick prove the innocence of her cousin Selma.

As before, the chemistry between Powell and Loy is amazing.  Additionally we get to see a pre-WWII Jimmy Stewart staring as the bad guy, a role he rarely played.  5 years after this film he’d be a B-24 pilot in Europe.

As with all these films, I highly recommend it.  5 stars.

January 3, 2019

Movie review: 2036 Origin Unknown (2018)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 12:00 pm
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Do not see this movie.  It is awful. You will never get that 94 minutes of your life back.  I made this mistake. Learn from it.

I am not sure I can tell you what the movie is about. It is a sci-fi movie and has something to do with artificial intelligence, but there is not a coherent story.  I think this was a vanity project of the director/producer, who, by the way, has seen way too much of the last 20 minutes of 2001.  I am a fan of Katee Sackhoff, and this was on Netflix, so I thought I’d give it a go.  While Ms. Sackhoff does a great job trying to keep this turd afloat, everything around her; the writing, the directing, the special effects are just awful.  Having lost 94 minutes to this monstrosity, I don’t want to spend any more of my life thinking about it further.  Just head my warning.  Skip this. 0 stars.

December 31, 2018

Movie review: The Thin Man (1934)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 3:37 pm
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Shot in only 16 or 18 days (depending on your source) The Thin Man was the first of 6 movies over a 13 year period starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles.  Adapted from a Dashiell Hammett novel, the movie was a surprise hit, mainly due to the chemistry of its stars.  Powell and Loy had an easy grace on screen and man, Myrna Loy was a looker.  Not a bombshell, but easy on the eyes in a wholly different way.  Over the years, the cultural idea of feminine beauty ebbs and flows between thinner and more curvy women.  At this point in the mid 30s, the thinner look was in an Myrna Loy embodied the look.  In fact, if you notice all the “good” women in the film are thinner and more petite while the “bad” girls are bigger and curvier.

The plot is that Nick Charles is a former detective (it is unclear from the movie if he was a private detective or a police detective) who married the rich socialite Nora and they now spend their time drinking and socializing.  Nick is clearly enjoying his new life of leisure.  Part of what seems to attract Nora to Nick is the sense of adventure he brings and she clearly loves being around all of the former lowlifes Nick knows from his former life.  She also encourages him to get involved in solving murders that happen in their social circle.  The plot is ok, but it is the wordplay and chemistry of the stars that makes the movie a pleasure to watch.

If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to watch it.

December 17, 2018

Movie review: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 10:19 pm
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I never saw this film when it came out, which is a bit of a surprise.  It should have been right up my alley.  Sci Fi, check. British comedy, check. Zooey Deschanel, super check. Martin Freeman, check.  Yet I didn’t ever see it until I recently found out it was on Netflix.  So, I took the time to watch it.   Surprisingly, it was just so-so.  I am sure that part of the problem was that the book was very hard to adapt into a movie,, given its odd nature. All the actors did a good job, but nothing stood out as great.  I didn’t regret the time I spent with the movie, but by the same token, I wouldn’t have wanted have paid to see it in a theater.  5 out of 10 stars.

November 20, 2018

Widows

Filed under: General — dknights @ 4:09 pm
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Sonny Bunch has an interesting review of the new movie Widows.  It makes me want to see it.

June 17, 2018

RIP Matt “Guitar” Murphy

Filed under: General — dknights @ 11:07 pm
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Sad news.  I hope he an John Belushi are having a great time together.

January 1, 2018

Movie review: Suicide Squad (2016)

Filed under: General — dknights @ 8:30 pm
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I’d wanted to see this in the theatre.  Unfortunately with two small kids, that just wasn’t possible, and boy am I glad it wasn’t.  I’d be so pissed if I’d paid $12 for a ticket to see this unholy mess.  In fact I’m mad that I paid $3.99 for the DVD at Walmart.  This movie isn’t just so-so.  It is actively bad. It is incoherent.  This was a big budget movie and I just don’t understand how you can spend this kind of money making a movie and coming out with something that doesn’t even make sense.  Avoid at all costs.

September 21, 2017

Movies

Filed under: General — dknights @ 12:04 am
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This is the most true thing written in a long time.

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