The Man Who Knew Too Much Review

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The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) movie posterSynopsis
While Ben (James Stewart), his wife Jo (Doris Day) and son Hank (Christopher Olsen) are vacationing in Marrakesh, they get entangled in an international assassination plot.

Review
My journey so far through my Alfred Hitchcock collection has been full of excitement and surprises. I guess it was only a matter of time before I found one that wasn’t as exciting to me. The Man Who Knew Too Much is very Hitchcockian but there is just something about it that didn’t tickle my fancy. The two leads, James Stewart and Doris Day, are fantastic. Stewart, a staple of Hitchcock films at this point, captures the every man character so well. I was surprised by Doris Day. I recognize her primarily as a singer but her acting here was incredible. The mystery it built was intriguing and the climax was exciting, especially in the backdrop of the Royal Albert Hall and with the score having such a prominent presence. However, I didn’t find it as thrilling or suspenseful as Hitchcock’s previous films. The plot of the characters traveling from place to place, learning more about a secret plot at each stop reminded me of a similar format in Saboteur. Maybe it was because I wasn’t absorbed by this film but it felt like it ran too long. Several of the stops made by Ben (James Stewart) and Jo (Doris Day) could have been taken out and it probably wouldn’t have affected the plot too much.

I thought The Man Who Knew Too Much was OK 😐 This has all the hallmark staples of a film by Alfred Hitchcock but there is just something about it that didn’t capture my attention. I never found myself on the edge of my seat like other Hitchcock films. I know this sounds like blasphemy but I don’t see myself revisiting this particular Hitchcock film any time soon, not when there are several other movies of his that do the plot better.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
John Michael Hayes – Screenplay
Bernard Herrmann – Composer

James Stewart – Dr. Benjamin McKenna
Doris Day – Josephine Conway McKenna
Christopher Olsen – Hank McKenna
Brenda de Banzie – Lucy Drayton
Bernard Miles – Edward Drayton
Ralph Truman – Inspector Buchanan
Daniel Gelin – Louis Bernard
Reggie Nalder – French Marksman

The Trouble With Harry Review

The Trouble With Harry movie posterSynopsis
The trouble with Harry is that he is dead and, while no one really minds, everyone feels responsible. After Harry’s body is found in the woods, several locals must determine not only how and why he was killed but what to do with the body. (via IMDb)

Review
The Trouble With Harry is Alfred Hitchcock’s attempt to try something outside of what is expected of him. I didn’t know this was a romantic comedy going into the film so when the characters started cracking jokes, it took me by surprise. It was a pleasant surprise but a surprise nonetheless. However, if there was a non-horror story that Hitchcock was going to tell, this is very fitting of him. In true English fashion, the humor is very macabre and dark. The movie’s sense of humor might not be for all audiences but I enjoyed it; it reminded me of Weekend at Bernie’s in a way (which might not be the best movie for comparison but whatever). Even with the premise, no matter what happened, Hitchcock always managed to keep the film light and witty, never leaning too far into the dark humor that it becomes uncomfortable. The romantic pieces that were intertwined with the black humor made for an… interesting combination. Thankfully, the couple pairings of Edmund Gwenn with Mildred Natwick and John Forsythe with Shirley MacLaine were able to provide a levity to the film. Each pair was cute together and played well off each other. I’ve come to the conclusion that not only was Hitchcock a master storyteller but a master caster as well.

I thought The Trouble With Harry was GOOD πŸ™‚ It was good for what it was but definitely doesn’t compare to his other films that I have seen. The macabre humor was fitting for a Hitchcock film, regardless of genre, and I enjoyed it but it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. I like to see directors try things outside their normal cadence and while The Trouble With Harry might not be one of Hitchcock’s best films, it is entertaining all the same.

Favorite Quote
Sam Marlowe: When I saw him, he was dead.
Jennifer Rogers: He looked exactly the same when he was alive, only he was vertical.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
John Michael Hayes – Screenplay
Bernard Herrmann – Composer

Edmund Gwenn – Capt. Albert Wiles
Mildred Natwick – Miss Ivy Gravely
John Forsythe – Sam Maarlowe
Shirley MacLaine – Jennifer Rogers
Jerry – Arnie Rogers
Mildred Dunnock – Mrs. Wiggs
Royal Dano – Deputy Sheriff Calvin Wiggs

Cruella Review

Cruella movie posterSynopsis
Estella (Emma Stone) is an up-and-coming fashion designer. She gets her big break when The Baroness (Emma Thompson) recognizes her talent. However, to rise in the fashion world, Estella will have to go through The Baroness.

Review
I’ll be honest, when it was announced that Emma Stone was going to play Cruella de Vil, I couldn’t see her playing the young villainess. However, being the Emma Stone fan that I am, I was all in. I don’t know why I had any doubts because Stone was brilliant and well worth the price of admission alone.

While Cruella does follow in the footsteps of films like Maleficent and tell the origin of its villainess, it breaks away by not making her a sympathetic character like what happens to Maleficent in her film. Cruella is a villain through and through and this film doesn’t try to convince you otherwise. Cruella is all about Estalla embracing her madness and her transformation into the villain we see in 101 Dalmatians. I’m really glad Disney took this approach because someone who wants to skin puppies does not need to be sympathetic in any capacity. Sometimes a villain can be bad for bad’s sake. This movie adds layers to Cruella without taking away from her character in the other films.

As I said before, I am a big fan of Emma Stone and she absolutely slays in this film. Her turn into the villainous Cruella is one of her best transformations to date. I normally associate Stone with the more β€œgood” characters but after this film, I can see her taking up more antagonistic roles in the future, and I’m all for it! Across from Stone was the other Emma of the movie, Emma Thompson, who might have just stolen the film from Stone (which is saying something given how fantastic Stone was). Being a bigger bad than Cruella de Vil is a tough task but Thompson tackles that task with ease. Thompson is another actress that I don’t usually associate with being an antagonist and that just goes to show her acting ability to pick up any type of role and make it absolutely brilliant.

Cruella clocks a run time of over two hours but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. It has a kinetic energy about it that keeps the film always moving and never really slowing down. Despite this, it never feels disjointed or jarring. Each scene flows into the next, carrying the energy from the scene before. The progression of of Estella’s decent to her Cruella persona feels smooth as the film progresses as well.

Now, for what may be my favorite part of the film: the costume design. Holy smokes is the costume design fantastic! I guess that should be no surprise given that Cruella is all about a fashion designer. So many of Cruella’s outfits are simply gorgeous and look amazing. Not to be outdone, The Baroness and Artie (John McCrea) have wonderful costumes as well. I don’t often comment on costume design so this movie definitely deserves recognition at the next Academy Awards.

I thought Cruella was GOOD πŸ™‚ As far as the recent slate of Disney’s live-action films go, this is definitely up there as one of the better ones. Even though it is a prequel, it doesn’t force much into the story just to align the characters to where they need to be. Instead it tells its own story that still fits within the larger canon. Emma Stone and Emma Thompson carry the film with their amazing villainous turns. The supporting cast of Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, and John McCrea hold their own with the two leading ladies. Topped off with an engaging story, as well as dazzling and lavish costume design, Cruella delivers on creating a compelling story for one of Disney’s most vile villains.

Favorite Quote
Artie: I like to say that β€˜normal’ is the cruelest insult of them all, and at least I never get that.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Craig Gillespie – Director
Dana Fox – Screenplay
Tony McNamara – Screenplay
Aline Brosh McKenna – Story
Kelly Marcel – Story
Steve Zissis – Story
Nicholas Britell – Composer

Emma Stone – Estella / Cruella
Emma Thompson– The Baroness
Joel Fry – Jasper
Paul Walter Hauser – Horace
John McCrea – Artie
Mark Strong – The Valet
Kayvan Novak – Roger
Kirby Howell-Baptiste – Anita Darling
Emily Beecham – Catherine / Maid
Ed Birch – Baroness Head of Security

Rear Window Review

Rear Window movie posterSynopsis
Wheelchair-bound photographer LB β€œJeff” Jefferies (James Stewart) watches his neighbors through the rear window of his apartment. One night, he believes he witnesses one of his neighbors commit a murder.

Review
As soon as the opening credits started with an upbeat and jazzy score, I knew Rear Window was going to have a different vibe than the other Hitchcock films I have watched up until this point. This film has a brighter feel than films like Shadow of a Doubt or Rope. While a suspicion of murder is at the core of the story, the movie tells the story in a much more pleasant way, if that makes sense. Because of this overall difference in tone, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat with suspense like some of Hitchcock’s other films. However, I still felt drawn in to the mystery and suspense of trying solve it along with Jefferies (James Stewart).

Hitchcock’s films have contained great casts and this one is no exception. Stewart brought the multiple facets of his character to life, from Jefferies’ strong belief in what he thought he witnessed, to his internal conflict about settling down and getting married. Grace Kelly is one of Hollywood’s most stunning actresses and she shows she has the talent to go with her looks, too! My unexpected favorite was Thelma Ritter as Jefferies’ nurse Stella. Ritter’s comedic timing and sass had me laughing every time she was on the screen.

As great as the cast was, what really sets this film apart is what Alfred Hitchcock was able to do with everything around the actors and actresses. First, there is the magnificent set design. All the buildings surrounding the central courtyard were each as unique as the residents within them, adding to their stories. Second, Hitchcock was able to tell multiple different stories of the residents in those other apartments without them even saying a word. Rear Window never leaves Jefferies’ apartment, so everything we know and see is through Jefferies’ point-of-view. Yet the audience is able to learn so much about Jefferies’ neighbors just by what Hichcock decides to show us.

Which leads me to my last point: this movie is a masterclass in visual storytelling and audience manipulation. From the get-go, we have an understanding of what happened to Jefferies that caused him to be in a wheelchair. And not a single word is spoken about it. Then, as stated above, Hitchcock only revealed what he wanted us (and Jefferies) to see about Jefferies’ neighbors, especially around Mr. Thorwold (Raymand Burr). This manipulation lets us learn about the characters by observation only but this also allows Hitchcock to throw in some twists about them towards the end of the film, revealing that there is more to those around us than meets the eye. Hitchcock also does a fantastic job of both reinforcing and contradicting Jefferies’ belief in Mr. Thorwold involvement in his wife’s disappearance. A true spectacle about what can be accomplished with a well-written script.

I thought Rear Window was GREAT πŸ˜€ At first I wasn’t sure where it landed on my ranking of Hitchcock’s films but after some thought and consideration, it lands pretty high for me. While not as dark of a suspense film as the previous films, the film’s mystery kept me engaged from start to finish. Hichcock has proven himself a master of suspense but with Rear Window, he also demonstrated himself to be a master of manipulation.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Alfred Hitchcock – Director
John Michael Hayes – Screenplay

James Stewart – LB β€œJeff” Jefferies
Grace Kelly – Lisa Carol Fremont
Wendell Corey – Det. Lt. Thomas J Doyle
Thelma Ritter – Stella
Raymond Burr – Lars Thorwald
Irene Winston – Mrs. Emma Thorwald
Judith Evelyn – Miss Lonelyhearts
Ross Bagdasarian – Songwriter
Georgine Darcy – Miss Torso
Sara Berner – Woman on Fire Escape
Frank Cady – Man on Fire Escape
Rand Harper – Newlywed
Havis Davenport – Newlywed

Mortal Kombat (2021) Review

Mortal Kombat (2021) movie posterSynopsis
Cole Young (Lewis Tan) finds himself embroiled in a multi-dimensional tournament known as Mortal Kombat, fighting for the fate of Earth.

Review
Adapting a movie from a game franchise has had notoriously poor results. Some have fared okay while most have been disastrous. Thankfully, the latest adaptation of the popular fighting game of the same name finds itself on the better side as far as video game adaptations go. Mortal Kombat is by no means a thought-provoking or life-changing movie, but it does provide a good two hours worth of popcorn entertainment. The film opens with a brutal scene set in seventeenths century Japan, setting up that this film will be just as violent as the game series it is adapting. This movie actually does a good job of balancing the action scenes with character scenes. Unfortunately, because the film does provide a lot of time for character development, there are pacing issues towards the latter portion of the film when the movie finally gets to, and rushes through, the β€œtournament.”

The Mortal Kombat games have been around for nearly 30 years and has a roster consisting of dozens of characters that the film can pull from. Thankfully, it only uses a handful of these characters as to not overwhelm the story with trying to fit as many characters as possible. There are bound to be fan favorites left out but if they’re lucky, they’ll see their favorite characters in any potential sequels. There are also many easter eggs and homages throughout Mortal Kombat that audiences are sure to pick up, whether they are casual or hardcore fans of the games. Some of these call outs did feel forced but overall their inclusions were a nice touch.

I thought Mortal Kombat was GOOD πŸ™‚ If you are a fan of the game franchise, there is going to be a lot here that you’re going to enjoy. The focused cast, stylishly violent action sequences, and plenty of humor from Josh Lawson combine for a fierce and entertaining ride from start to finish.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Simon McQuoid – Director
Greg Russo – Screenplay / Story
Dave Callaham – Screenplay
Oren Uziel – Story
Benjamin Wallfisch – Composer

Lewis Tan – Cole Young
Jessica McNamee – Sonya Blade
Mehcad Brooks – Jax
Josh Lawson – Kano
Ludi Lin – Liu Kang
Max Huang – Kung Lao
Tabanobu Asano – Lord Raiden
Hiroyuki Sanada – Hanzo Hasashi / Scorpion
Laura Bent – Allison
Matilda Kimber – Emily
Jose Taslim – Bi-Han / Sub-Zero
Chin Han – Shang Tsung
Sisi Stringer – Mileena
Mel Jarnson – Nitara
Nathan Jones – Reiko
Daniel Nelson – Kabal
Ian Streetz – Ramirez

Rope Review

Rope movie poster

Synopsis
Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) host a dinner party after murdering a classmate.

Review
As I make my way through my Alfred Hitchock collection, I’m starting to get a feel for his directorial style and why he came to be known as the β€œMaster of Suspense.” Rope is the next stop on my journey and while it doesn’t overtake the previous film, Shadow of a Doubt, as my favorite, it does have merit to come close.

Hitchcock shows the audience immediately the murder committed by Brandon (John Dall) and Phillip (Farley Granger) as well as the pair hiding the body in a chest in their apartment. Because this act is literally the first scene of the film, there is no doubt about the character of Brandon and Phillip and what they are capable of. We also get a sense of their personalities and relationship from this early scene. So as the film goes on, the suspense continuously builds as their guests seemingly come closer and closer to discovering the hidden body. The tension kicks into high gear once Rupert (James Steward) becomes suspicious of the two boys. Once again, this film is suspenseful but in a different way than Hitchcock’s previous films I have seen so far, truly demonstrating his mastery over the genre.

What really adds to the suspense is the acting from Dall, Granger, and Stewart. All three of these actors did superbly in their parts. You get the sense that the dynamic between the two murderers is more than simple friendship and Dall and Granger sold that relationship. Dall brings a sense of superiority over everyone around him to his character. This brings him to verbally spar with his mentor, Stewart’s character. Stewart brings a calm demeanor that dovetails well with the snideness of Dall and the nervousness of Granger. When these three were together, particularly towards the end of the film, is when Rope excelled.

One of my favorite things Hitchcock did in this film was make it appear to be one continuous shot. Rope was adapted from the play by the same name and it feels like watching a play when watching this movie. The one-continuous-shot style has rarely been used over the decades but Rope was the first to make use of the technique, making Hitchcock a pioneer yet again. He was limited to 10 minute shots due to limitations of 35mm film at the time and it is easy to see where several of the transitions occurred but it doesn’t take away from the experience too much.

I don’t know how much of the dialogue was adopted from the original play but I found the dialogue of Rope to be very witty. Multiple innuendos were sprinkled throughout the film. It’s a small touch but it added a little bit of humor to an otherwise dark and serious film.

I thought Rope was GREAT πŸ˜€ As I watch more and more of Hitchcock’s films, I am learning that β€œsuspense” can be implemented in multiple ways. The suspense of Rope is different than the suspense in the previous Hitchcock films I have watched, which also have different types of suspense from each other. The trio of John Dall, Farley Granger, and James Stewart were fantastic, bringing the snappy dialogue to life. The quality from Hitchcock has been astounding and I cannot wait to see what happens next in my on my journey through my Hitchcock collection.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Director – Alfred Hitchcock
Hume Cronyn – Writer
Arthur Laurents – Screenplay
David Buttolph – Composer

John Dall – Brandon
Farley Granger – Phillip
Edith Evanson – Mrs. Wilson
Douglas Dick – Kenneth
Joan Chandler – Janet
Cedric Hardwicke – Mr. Kentley
Constance Collier – Mrs. Atwater
James Stewart – Rupert Cadell
Dick Hogan – David Kentley