Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Sleeper (1972)

I'd rather sleep than watch Sleeper again.

This early Woody Allen film is more annoying than funny. The good news for movie-goers forced to watch this film is it just runs 89 minutes. For this, we give thanks.

Miles Monroe (Allen) is revived in 2173 after being frozen for 200 years following a botched ulcer operation. That just doesn't seem fair for a guy who ran his own health food store in New York City.

America is no longer the home of the free. Instead, there's an oppressive government that's clamping down on all dissidents. Doctors associated with the freedom movement are counting on Monroe, who said tyrannical rulers have no knowledge of, to bring freedom to the nation.

Monroe posses as a domestic robot to escape security forces. He's assigned to serve Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton), a poet whose work is better left unread. He reveals his identity to Luna. She turns him in before having a change of heart.

Miles fights the good fight for the resistance and ends up face-to-nose with the country's dictator. Little hilarity ensues.

Monroe and Schlosser fight. A lot. It gets tiring to listen to them.

Sleeper offers up many chase scenes accompanied by a lively jazz score. Some are funny. Monroe squares off with an opponent in a giant vegetable patch. They both keep slipping on a really big banana peel. That's cute. Too often there's little laugh payoff. Sigh.

Woody delivers some solid lines. He's surprised all his friends are dead ("But they all ate organic rice.") and describes how a wimp like him wouldn't help the resistance very much ("I was beaten up by Quakers."). Many of the jokes fall flat when he's asked to describe persons associated with the early 1970s, including disgraced American president Richard Nixon and sports broadcaster Howard Cosell.

Woody, you've made some fine films. Sleeper is definitely not one of them.

RATING: 4/10

FUN FACTS: Jessica Rains is the daughter of movie great Claude Rains. Her credits run from 1971 to 1984.

Sleeper marks the debut of Spencer Milligan. He may be best known as Park Ranger Rick Marshall in television's Land of the Lost.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

You're in the Navy Now (1951)

This comedy isn't quite ship-shape.

That's too bad because look at the talent associated with this 1951 release - director Henry Hathaway (Call Northside 777, True Grit) and actors Gary Cooper (high noon, Meet John Doe), Eddie Albert (The Longest Day) and, in his film debut, Charles Bronson.

You're in the Navy Now is based on a true story from the Second World War. The United States Navy experimented with a steam engine that would boost the speed of a sub chaser by 10 knots. Project XP11204 is pretty neat, a slice of WWII history this history buff didn't know about.

Said engine never seems to work for long, prompting numerous replacements and returns to sea to make it right. Dubbed the Tea Kettle, the boat and its crew becomes the joke of the navy. Morale is poor. Skipper Lt. John Harkness (Gary Cooper) is flustered. He's an engineer who was quickly educated in the ways of the military and pressed into service. Almost all of the crew is also new to the navy too, save George Larrabee (Millard Mitchell), an old salt who wonders what he's done to get his latest assignment. He calls his comrades "a lot of misfits."

There are numerous problems with this film. Let's start with Harkness' wife, Ellie (Jane Greer). She's way too young for him. Cooper would have been about 50 when he made this film. Greer was half her age. I complained about a wide age difference last week with The Pink Panther. The same argument stands here. It's hard to believe these two are a couple. There's no chemistry. I'd suggest not offering this line to your better half, "You smell better than an engine room."

Some of the acting is just plain bad. I'm a big fan of Mitchell, who I first discovered in the excellent war film twelve o'clock high. But there's a scene in this film where he reacts with laughter that makes him look like he's making his debut in a high school drama production. My beef isn't just with Mitchell. There are other scenes in this film that look like they involve a bunch of amateurs, not a major studio effort from 20th Century Fox and a decent talent like Hathaway.

Here's another complaint which isn't really fair since this movie was made in 1951. But I think viewers will definitely notice. The funniest scene in the film involves the Tea Kettle racing along at an unstoppable speech. Numerous collisions appear imminent. But, to a viewer in 2013, it's so obvious scenes of other ships, or structures, are cut in. Sigh. But I do love how the brass react to the bumpy ride along the way.

And, how about the top secret angle associated with the project. Doesn't that make things hush-hush? Yet everyone and his brother on the naval base knows what's going on with the Tea Kettle. New steam engines are loaded on in broad daylight. Loose lips sink ships. Wouldn't the Germans and Japanese figured out what the Americans were up to with all that chit chat?

There are funny moments in the film. Efforts to move the ship from its berth with an impatient port commander (Ed Begley) are quite well-done.

But You're in the Navy Now comes close to being a shipwreck.

RATING: 5/10

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Movie Review: The Pink Panther (1963) | The Ace Black Blog

A fellow blogger expresses the same sentiments about this film.

Movie Review: The Pink Panther (1963) | The Ace Black Blog

The Pink Panther (1963)

It's a mystery to me what this film is doing in America's National Film Registry.

The first in a series of Pink Panther films moves so very slow. This kitty has arthritic paws.

There are some very funny moments, but viewers need nine lives of their own to sit through an almost two-hour film. Cinephiles, have some Fancy Feast to keep you going during this long film.

It's creepy to see David Niven, then 54, cast as a playboy making moves on the drop-dead gorgeous, and much younger, Princess Dahla (Claudia Cardinale). She would have been in her mid-twenties when this film by American director Blake Edwards was made. There's a lengthy, like a lot of scenes in this film, seduction effort by Niven's Sir Charles Litton on Dahla. This couple may be pitching woo by a fireplace, but there's precious little heat generated by this pair. Yikes.

The best things in this film are Henry Mancini's fine score - he earned the film's lone Oscar nomination - and a young Robert Wagner's work as the loutish nephew of Sir Charles. He has an eye for the ladies too, but is nowhere near as slick as Uncle Chuck.

Niven and Wagner are both interested in Mrs. Clouseau (Capucine). Another one of this film's extended scenes has the two of them hiding out in Clouseau's suite when the bumbling Inspector (Peter Sellers) returns unexpectedly. If The Pink Panther was like a good sex farce on stage, there'd be howls aplenty. Doesn't happen here. Give the filmmakers credit for setting up this scene, but the big laughs just can't be found.

The film's big chase finale, involving several cars, participants from a masquerade party and a jewel theft, has its moments of absurdity. But Edwards just keeps extending the scene. Yawn.

What a disappointment.

RATING: 4/10