Movie of the Day: THE LION IN WINTER (1968)


Eleanor: I adored you. I still do.
Henry II: Of all the lies you’ve told, that is the most terrible.
Eleanor: I know. That’s why I’ve saved it up until now.

—LION IN WINTER, 1968

 

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These lines from 1968’s THE LION IN WINTER, delivered by two of the greatest actors of all time, at the height of their powers, Katherine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole… is a small sampling of why this remains arguably one of the best films of all time… and without argument, one of my favorite films. Here closing in on the 50th anniversary of this film, I thought the time was right to revisit it.

Written by James Goldman, the older Brother of legendary writer William Goldman, THE LION IN WINTER would be James Goldman’s first produced work, and incontrovertibly his best.

James would never match the scope or longevity or popularity or prolific nature of his Brother’s career and output. William’s BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID, ALL THE PRESIDENTS MEN, MARATHON MAN, A BRIDGE TOO FAR, MAGIC, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, THE GHOST AND THE DARKNESS all films deserving of their acclaim, and films any lover of cinema should watch often and repeatedly, and in comparison James Goldman only lasting mark, would be the first thing he ever did… THE LION IN WINTER.

I call it a draw.

That’s how brilliant a script, and brilliant a film, that single film, THE LION IN WINTER, would be, and is. A theatrical sensation, that would go on to birth a film, even greater than the play.

It is an example of all the stars aligning, to create this marvel of a movie.

In 1969 the film would garner three Academy Awards, and sweep the Golden Globes nabbing the 4 most coveted awards. All in all it would win awards for Actress, screenplay, score, actor, director, and picture. It was a filmic juggernaut, and here in 2016, looking at the almost 50 years of best picture films awarded since, I’m hard pressed to think of a single one that is as good as TLIW, and none come to mind, that better it.

But perhaps there is a cost for such perfection, some alchemic cost, that would have to be paid in the careers of the makers of the film.

 

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A great script, arguably it is the best script ever written in the English language, by a first time screenwriter, James Goldman, who would do only a few other feature screenplays after it, and none nearing the impact and import of TLIW. The script was so great he earned an Academy Award for it, for what amounted to his first time at bat.  A staggering achievement. Which makes his virtual disappearance from the scene… curious. Did he say everything he had in him to say? it’s possible, it happens. Or for some reason was work simply not offered to him, post TLIW.

A young, brash new director (and largely untested, making the jump from acclaimed editor, to the Director’s chair), Anthony Harvey, itching to push the width and breadth of cinema. He did a MASTERFUL job on this film, was nominated for an Academy Award for it, in what was only his 2nd film as director. But like James Goldman would be unable to leverage that Academy Award spotlight, into future opportunities.

He would go on to do only  a handful of features after this, and none of them would posses the scope or brilliance or lasting accolades as THE LION IN WINTER. It would overshadow the rest of his career. Which sometimes is the price of creating something truly great.

That said cinematographer Douglas Slocombe, editor John Bloom, and composer  John Barry , as well as the principal actors would all go on to have stellar careers. Though without argument from me, you want to see the best performances of Peter OToole, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins, John Castle, Timothy Dalton or Jane Merrow (exquisite as Alais) you’ll find them in this film.

They rise to the language. We all do.

If you haven’t seen THE LION IN WINTER, you haven’t seen cinema, as it can be… when all the gods are kind. And if you have seen it, it is a film that rewards, and like a missed relative, engenders revisits.

See it via DVD here (with wonderful and essential Director’s commentary):

The Lion in Winter

And hopefully there will be a Blu-Ray Disc on the horizon in the next year or two, to commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary!

 

 

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Director, a cast of veterans and young hungry unknowns who ALL would end up doing the best work of their lives, in this film, score, editing…. all aligning to produce one of the best films of all time.

It is essential viewing.

There is seldom a day in the years since first seeing that movie, probably 15 or 20 years ago, that some line from that film doesn’t pass through my head. Like the best of all writing, it indelibly marks us and shapes us, and leaves its impression on us.

It has done so with me.

Prince Richard: [the sons – in the dungeon – think they hear Henry approach] He’s here. He’ll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn’t going to see me beg.

Prince Geoffrey: My you chivalric fool… as if the way one fell down mattered.

Prince Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters.

—THE LION IN WINTER, a script that would make even Shakespeare envious.

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Best current TV Show : BBC One’s and Hulu’s MUSKETEERS!!

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MUSKETEERS courtesy OF BBC One and currently available on Hulu is far and away my current favorite show. From series creator and main-writer Adrian Hodges comes this wonderful reworking of Alexandre Dumas perennial classic, THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Perhaps outside of Shakespeare and the Bible, the work of Alexandre Dumas (the son of the Black Giant, The Black Devil, Napolean’s greatest general, Thomas Alexandre Dumas) has been the most adapted into film of any body of work.

Napolean’s Greatest General

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–Olivier Pichat’s portrait of Alexandre the Elder

And with good reason, its themes of heroism and villainy, liberty and tyranny, corruption and honor, love and lust, are timeless, and its characters… iconic, and its swashbuckling action lends itself to the cinematic.

I’ve seen many of the films, and a few different TV shows, seeking to adapt the work of this most brilliant of France’s writers (a writer whose work was infused with a pride in his father, and his heroic exploits) and unfortunately none of the adaptions, none of them, ever refect the rich Haitian, and Black, and African, and Moorish nature not just of the writer, nor of the inspiration for these stories… his father, but of a France and Spain and an Europe that was teeming with a melting pot of a people… a rich vibrant stew of exslaves, freemen, and emissaries from distant lands.

So adaptions have always felt for me lacking, due to this sense of a fiction, less rich than the facts, this lack of any characters of color. Which is no great plot, it is infact an extension of Dumas himself writing for a mainstream audience, so the grestest mass of france could see themselves in his writing.

And so finally 172 years after Alexandre Dumas first wrote of his d” Artagnan and the Three Musketeers (serialized in the Parisian paper Le Siecle) in Adrian Hodges MUSKETEERS we finally get a Black Musketeer, played awesomely by Howard Charles. And on top of that you get a multicultural France, sprinkled with people of color.

In many ways I find the BBC One Adaption superior, because it takes risks in terms of ethnicity and politics that are, if not completely absent, dialed down, in at least the English translation of Dumas THREE MUSKETEERS. But the current adaption appeals to a 21st century audience, the original had to appeal to a 19th century audience, and be published.

“In those times panics were common, and few days passed without some city or other registering in its archives an event of this kind. There were nobles, who made war against each other; there was the king, who made war against the cardinal; there was Spain, which made war against the King. Then, in addition to these concealed or public, secret or open wars, there were robbers, mendicants, Huguenots, wolves, and scoundrels, who made war upon everybody.”
—THE THREE MUSKETEERS by Alexandre Dumas

I really think the series, wonderfully speaks to a little bit of the ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ lives of the Alexandres. The wonder of their lives, the height of their challenges, the magnificence of their victories. You get just a smidgen of this in the new series, but its enough… to finally allow me to completely embrace this show.

That and the fact the writing in the series is great, the direction is great, the performances are great, and the action is fun and swashbuckling. I love this show.

The third season has wrapped up, BBC says it is the last season. Hopefully Netflix will pick this up for a fourth season. But whether or not they do, for my money they have left us with the definitive version of Alexandre Dumas’ MUSKETEERS. (At least until Carl Franklin releases his version of the THREE MUSKETEERS, with multiple musketeers of color 🙂 )

I am going to buy all three seasons, because this is a series, (much like the 80s ROBIN OF SHERWOOD that is also the definitive treatment of that property) that deserves to be always readily available; whether or not you have an internet connection.

Highly Recommended!

 

 

 

Musketeers, The (BD) [Blu-ray]

Musketeers, The: Season 2 (Blu-ray)

Musketeers, The: Season 3 [Blu-ray]

Movie and TV Shows to Binge Watch Before they Leave Netflix in Feb 2016!

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Every month movies and TV shows leave Netflix as their contracts expire. It’s one of the reasons Streaming is no replacement for having a hardcopy (DVD or Blu-Ray) of a movie or TV series you love, and want to have readily available.

So disappearing content is an unavoidable reality of Streaming. However this month is an especially impactful month for Netflix in terms of what is going away.

Among the notables are:

  • 18 Classic seasons of Doctor Who are leaving.
  • All 8 seasons of the modern Doctor Who are leaving. So last chance to enjoy the best of 50 years of Doctor Who.
  • You’re losing 4 seasons of the great JUSTICE LEAGUE animated series, helmed by the late, great Dwayne McDuffie.
  • YOUNG JUSTICE Season 1 of the Animated Series, One of the best Animated Shows since JUSTICE LEAGUE is departing

So that, is a bit chunk of quality programming leaving, so view it while you can.

 

Or do what I did and purchase the seasons worth having:

Doctor Who: Season 8 [Blu-ray]

Doctor Who – Season 3 [Blu-ray]

Doctor Who – Season 4 [Blu-ray]

Doctor Who: Genesis of the Daleks (Story 78)

Doctor Who: Complete Series 9 [Blu-ray]

Young Justice: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

Justice League Unlimited: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]

Netflix Movie of the Day: BEYOND THE LIGHTS

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What we watch in cinema, if you ask a thousand people, you may get a thousand answers. But what we want from cinema? I think that answer is simpler.

We want cinema even at its most fantastic to tell us something true. To tell us something about ourself, and how we can aspire to be better than ourself. And that is what the best cinema does, for the fleeting time we share our attention with it, whether in a darkened theater or a light lit living room, we want to aspire to more than we are, to be better than we are.

Whether inspired to, if only in our dreams, be nicer, or more caring, or more concerned, or more heroic, or more… humane. That’s a rare gift, in a dire age, for cinema for a fleeting moment to have us believe in being better.

That is what BEYOND THE LIGHTS does. With a stellar cast of new faces and seasoned pros, Gina Prince-Bythewood of LOVE AND BASKETBALL and THE SECRET LIVES OF BEES here with her third feature film, creates inarguably her best film, and one that will become a perennial classic in households everywhere. But particularly households of color, in an America that increasingly is more ethnically diverse, our cinema and media is, doggedly and obstinately it would seem, ever more dismissive and marginalizing and denigrating, to characters of color or stories of color, that do not fit into narrow, nonthreatening, and tired stereotypes.

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That’s why Gina Prince-Bythewood as writer and director is so important, and BEYOND THE LIGHTS should be so heralded. In an America where Urban Love is often defined for young people in terms of players and hos, or in terms of its absence, it is so rewarding and refreshing to see a movie with intelligent Black Characters (ie more than one or two token characters) and healthy Black relationships, between Black Men and Black women, that does not fall into tired rhetoric, or bashing, or talk show idiocy.

 

Korean media and cinema is filled with such loving positive interplay, as is Japanese, or Thai, or Russian, or Dutch, or Indian, or Spanish. But somehow when it comes to the broad and diverse ethnic group called Black (African-American being a marginalizing appellation, misapplied and removed from the inclusive, unifying bridge it was meant, but failed to be. Defining an ethnic group, using a nationalistic descriptor being the height of stupidity), positive loving images are in drastic shortage.

As Black Men are increasingly invisible or the sexless , funny sidekick or cross dressing Enuchs in mass media, and Black women increasingly the hor, or the pining 2nd choice for the White Knight of American mass media. Or they are self-hating thugs, raised and bedded on ignorance.

With such a table, and such rotten food to feed young and old alike on, when someone brings to the table a fine steak or beautiful trout, you realize just how empty you had been, and for how long.

BEYOND THE LIGHTS is a great film, that makes you feel better for having seen it. Makes you feel better. What a concept.

Hopefully we can look forward to more such filmmakers and more such films. Highly Recommended!

Try it for free on Netflix, but only long enough to realize you really want to own this film in Blu-Ray. Get your copy here:

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Beyond the Lights [Blu-ray]

Movie Poster of the Day! FURIOUS7

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This is a great image, and makes for a striking, if minimalist, poster. 

And while I’m no particular fan of the FAST AND FURIOUS franchise, I thought the 6th one by director justin lin was a lot of fun, and with James Wan (of INSIDIOUS, THE CONJURING, DEAD SILENCE, SAW fame) in the director’s chair for this latest film, I’m intrigued and enthused to see what he can bring to the table.

It’s been a busy 2015, and I haven’t been excited or interested enough to see much in the theaters.

FURIOUS7 I will see in the theaters. And if you intend to as well, shoot me a line with your thoughts on the film, and I’ll likewise post after seeing it.

AND FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE FANS OF THE SERIES, THERE IS A GREAT BLURAY DEAL ON ALL SIX MOVIES. STREAMING IS OKAY FOR SAMPLING THINGS, BUT FOR REWATCHING AND HAVING AND SEEING BELOVED FILMS IN THE BEST QUALITY, THERE’S NO REPLACEMENT FOR A GREAT BLURAY BOXSET. ESPECIALLY WHEN IT IS PRICED RIGHT.

CHECK OUT OUR AMAZON DEAL OF THE DAY HERE:Fast & Furious 6-Movie Collection (Blu-ray + DIGITAL HD with UltraViolet)

 

“Not many people realize this, but I’m a really squeamish guy. When I watch other horror films that are really over-the-top with their blood and guts, I cannot watch it. So if my threshold to something on-screen is at that level, you can imagine how my threshold is to all the pain and suffering that is happening in the real world.” – James Wan

Movie Original vs Remake : THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN

THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976) VS THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (2014)

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I recently watched the original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN FROM 1976 and to my surprise rather than a simple exploitation film, I found a compelling, harrowing, and somehow (despite it’s matter of fact “pseudo documentary” style) eminently watchable film. An unexpected examination into the American heart of darkness that manages to linger and haunt long after the credits role.

I really had no interest in the 2014 ‘remake’, largely because I saw it incapable of transcending that original film’s “of its time” power. Thankfully the filmmakers had the same respect for the original and rather than attempting to remake it, they created an unexpected sequel to it that manages to speak to a 21st century audience, while invoking the unyielding ghost of that 20th century nightmare.

However, the true saving grace and the the true validation of this sequel lies in its director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, who creates one of the most stylish and inventively directed thrillers of recent years.

And even though the film falters a bit at the end (you get the feeling the scriptwriters didn’t really know how to end the film, as the reveal and conclusion stumble a bit, in a way the original film didn’t), still the momentum that Alfonso delivers is enough to leave you impressed and satisfied.

Final Grade: Both films are available for streaming [The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2014)] and both are worthy of owning, but the one that I am personally excited about adding to my Blu-Ray collection (when it hopefully quickly becomes available) is the Alfonso Gomez-Rejon version, simply because of some of the superlative direction and cinematography involved. It is the calling card of a filmmaker to watch.

Scratch that. Having seen the specs on the Shout! Factory Blu-ray version of the original THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN, and its load of special features, I now proudly proclaim it as a must own Blu-Ray. For all the dazzle that the newer film offers, there are moments of pure horror in the first film that it does not come close to touching. One attack in particular, in the original film, will stick with you, about a woman and a cornfield and its unbelievable outcome, that is simply jaw dropping in its true life power, and makes pale in comparison some of the cinematic histrionics of the newer film. Decide for yourself here: The Town That Dreaded Sundown (BluRay/DVD Combo) [Blu-ray]

Now Watching: NIGHTSCAPE (2012) via Roku Streaming VOD Channel VIEWSTER

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Part the lyricism of BAD LANDS, part the body horror of John Carpenter’s THE THING, part the fetishism of the American car experience ala King’s CHRISTINE, and part something all its own… NIGHTSCAPE is a flawed horror film, it’s too long, too plodding, at times too indecipherable, but for all its flaws its ambitions and strengths and shear devotion to its own myth-building keeps you watching and keeps you compelled.

Like quite a few films you can’t go by its IMDB rating, generally because most people rating on IMDB don’t know how to do it. Given ‘1’ to anything they don’t like. The more accurate grade for this film would be ‘6’ going into ‘7’.

Cult I find is a term tossed out too often, sometimes just an excuse for bad, however not in this case. NIGHTSCAPE is a singular vision, and for all its homages, Writer/Director David W. Edwards has crafted something uniquely his own and uniquely compelling. Grade: Recommended to fans of films such as THE THING and CHRISTINE (I’m not saying its on that level, I’m saying its of that ilk. And if you enjoy those movies you’ll find things to enjoy here). Would love to see a DVD or BluRay of this complete with director and or cast commentary, because would like to hear more about the backstop of this film. Based on this first effort David W. Edwards is a filmmaker to watch.