Now With More Than 3600 Reviews! Go Nuts - Read 'Em All!!

WELCOME! Use the search engines on this site (or your own off-site engine of choice) to gain easy access to the complete MAKSQUIBS Archive; over 3600 posts and counting. (New posts added every day or so.)

You can check on all our titles by typing the Title, Director, Actor or 'Keyword' of your choice in the Search Engine of your choice (include the phrase MAKSQUIBS) or just use the BLOGGER Search Box at the top left corner of the page.

Feel free to place comments directly on any of the film posts and to test your film knowledge with the CONTESTS scattered here & there. (Hey! No Googling allowed. They're pretty easy.)

Send E-mails to MAKSQUIBS@yahoo.com . (Let us know if the TRANSLATE WIDGET works!) Or use the Profile Page or Comments link for contact.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, June 18, 2018

CHANCES (1931)

WWI romantic triangle, and awfully familiar even for 1931. When playboy type Douglas Fairbanks Jr. (sans usual mustache) and brother Anthony Bushell, a shy one-true-love sort, get called to The Front right in the middle of their mother’s big War Fund Drive at her lavish estate, heightened emotions lead lovely Rose Hobart to quickly accept Bushell’s spur-of-the-moment proposal. Only problem: she’s just fallen hard for Fairbanks. If she only knew Fairbanks had finally stopped playing the field after blindly bumping into her during a London BlackOut, when he was unaware of his brother’s feelings. Naturally, The War intervenes to reset everything, but not before mix-ups, renunciation, denunciation & ultimate sacrifice/ultimate forgiveness. The British reserve is frightfully stoked, along with more verbal ‘pip-pips,’ ‘cheerios,’ ‘old chums,’ and ‘rippings’ than any single film should allow. Workhorse helmer Allan Dwan was given a surprisingly luxe production, especially on-and-off the French battlefields (trenches; troops; horses; munitions) with largely fresh shot footage and portrait-worthy lighting from lenser Ernest Haller; the big sequences exceptionally well-staged, the more intimate stuff still Early Talkies stiff.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: It’s never really been explained why Dwan, a superb technician over his 50 year career, quickly slid into B-pics after scores of major silents and strong early sound work. Perhaps Dwan wouldn’t fight for the breadth & depth some stories call for. Compare this film’s 72 minute running time with Howard Hawks’ DAWN PATROL/’30 (also with Fairbanks), at 108 minutes. Maybe Dwan's ‘go along’ attitude wound up shortchanging his films & downgrading his position.

DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned, Hawks' DAWN PATROL. That’s the 1930 version. The 1938 version (Errol Flynn/David Niven/dir. Edmund Goulding) is also good, but less comparable.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

VICTORIA & ABDUL (2017)

No doubt the law-of-diminishing-returns is coming down on these posh Anglophilic dramas on Queens Elizabeth I, Victoria & Elizabeth II. Stephen Frears/Peter Morgan/ Helen Mirren’s THE QUEEN/’06 now looking like the best of the fact-inspired bunch.* Yet here’s director Frears finding one more variation for Victoria as she runs thru another unlikely passion late in her lonely life when a young Indian clerk gets plucked from obscurity, largely for his height, and shipped off to England to present a commemorative coin to Her Majesty as part of the Golden Jubilee celebration. Finding him dashing, knowledgeable & exotic, Victoria develops a late interest in Indian culture while Abdul shows few qualms over his inappropriate ‘forward’ behavior. The first half of the film, largely comic in tone, works best (he’s really a bit of a cheeky bore, which is part of the joke), but as friendship deepens, holes in his story/presentation open him to attack from tradition-minded ministers at a jealous court, particularly Victoria’s testy son Bertie, later King Edward, and the film has trouble sustaining balance & believability. Still, much fun most of the way, with spot on perfs from . . . well, from just about everyone other than Simon Callow, an embarrassment as opera composer Giacomo Puccini.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID/DOUBLE-BILL: A last film for Tim Pigott-Smith who came to our attention in another India-themed drama, the superb Granada mini-series THE JEWEL IN THE CROWN/’84.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Yet there are on-going/acclaimed ‘Event Series’ right now on Eliz II and Victoria, while movies, for the moment, have run out of Victoria’s unlikely enthusiasms. This one, something of a follow up to MRS. BROWN/’97, and her special relation with Disraeli has been seen from the P.M.’s side, the Queen’s side, even off-to-the-side (THE MUDLARK/’50). So, what unknown enthusiasms are left to dramatize? A program of four-hand piano duets with Felix Mendelssohn?

Saturday, June 16, 2018

THE SHIP FROM SHANGHAI (1930)

Leo the Lion had yet to acquire a roar in this early M-G-M Talkie (shot ‘29/released ‘30). But in other ways, this film takes chances with the new technology, shooting much of the action out at sea, not on a soundstage; part of what makes this largely inadequate drama more interesting than it has any right to be. Director Charles Brabin was on his way out of the business*, and you’ll see why in many a static two-shot. But here and there: in a well-handled sea squall or a shipboard attack from behind featuring startling camera movement & lens choice, somebody’s paying attention. (Second-unit?) The unsavory tale of class conflict & penny-ante mutiny is set up when five wealthy snobs (Brits & American) decide to ‘yacht’ their way home from Shanghai on a boat where Louis Wolheim’s nasty, insubordinate steward is barely able to be civil toward passengers or crew. Tension comes to a head when a devastating typhoon lets him take over. And from then on, it’s something between THE ADMIRABLE CRICHTON and LORD OF THE FLIES as the boat drifts, provisions wane and tempers flare. Power unhinges him, or reveals character, and soon Wolheim finds he’s open to attack from both his rich ‘betters’ above and a crew of ‘lessers’ below. A delicious idea, but often painful to sit thru with that affected early Talkie style of acting (straight off the proscenium stage) as well as Wolheim’s oddly garbled British accent. Strangely compelling all the same. (Never more so than when Wolheim makes a big, unwanted forward pass at leading lady Kay Johnson.)

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID/DOUBLE-BILL: Wolheim, only 50 when he died the following year, figured out sound acting in his very next film, ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT/’30. But this role is still worth a look as a close approximation of what he must have been like on B’way in Eugene O’Neill’s THE HAIRY APE back in 1922. (Same idea holds for Walter Huston who used his characterization in O’Neill’s DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS in the similarly plotted A HOUSE DIVIDED/’31.)

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *Charles Brabin was one of three major names whose career never recovered from M-G-M’s aborted first try to shoot BEN-HUR in Rome, along with leading man George Walsh and Hollywood’s most powerful woman, scenarist/producer June Mathis who died (only 40) two years after M-G-M pulled the plug in Italy and brought up Fred Niblo (along with Ramon Novarro as a new Ben-Hur) to start afresh in Hollywood.

Friday, June 15, 2018

LONDON RIVER (2009)

Simple and effective, French-Algerian(?) writer/director Rachid Bouchareb downsizes from past efforts for this heartfelt look at two parents from different cultures, each searching for a missing child in the wake of a London terrorist bombing. Shot in gritty ‘80s style on 16mm stock, the film gains authenticity not only thru its physical look and out-of-the-way London locations, but also from the opposing acting techniques of Brenda Blethyn, single-mother to a missing daughter from a small isolated farm on Guernsey; and Sotigui Kouyat√©’s father, an African long living & working in France with scant knowledge of his missing son. She: showing every emotion. He: showing nothing. Yet each, in their own way, totally readable. Their connection: a growing awareness that their children were involved, having an affair, living together, going to mosque for language lessons, and (horrifyingly) possible terrorists. Something neither parent dares to articulate, yet pulling them reluctantly together. (Blethyn especially bewildered and upset at what she sees as her daughter’s cultural/religious drift.) The last act holds three big revelations, but since each is a SPOILER, let’s merely note that one of the three is something of a cheat. Everything else, very fine.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: A last film for actor Sotigui Kouyat√©, a gaunt, but riveting screen presence who might have been the model for Alberto Giacometti’s ‘Walking Man.’

Thursday, June 14, 2018

LIZZIE (1957)

Hoping to ride backdraft on Joanne Woodward’s Oscar’d THREE FACES OF EVE/’57*, this bargain basement Multiple Personality Disorder copycat opened a mere two months later. Eleanor Parker does triple-duty, flipping nimbly between subservient Elizabeth, slutty Lizzie & well-balanced Beth; Richard Boone her hypnotizing shrink; Joan Blondell an unsupportive Aunt; and actor/director Hugo Haas sympathetic ethnic neighbor/comic relief. (An eccentric minor-league director, Haas has some interesting oddities on his C.V., but this is hopelessly anodyne.) A few fun moments stick out: Lizzie’s comeback line to her aunt: ‘Look like a slut! I AM a slut!’ A bizarre ‘50s electric washing machine that might be mistaken for a small iron lung. And a young Johnny Mathis playing piano & singing (very loudly) at a dive bar, looking like a ripe, lush plum.

DOUBLE-BILL/ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *THREE FACES is an obvious choice, but that film has aged something awful. Instead, Alfred Hitchcock’s much debated, psychologically simplistic/thematically compelling MARNIE/’64, which LIZZIE prefigures in many ways. Especially so in its Bad Man childhood memory climax with an actor made up to look strikingly like Kirk Douglas who Exec-Produced this under his BRYNA shingle.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

PADDINGTON 2 (2017)

There’s good fun and sweet-natured sentiment in this sequel to the generally delightful PADDINGTON/’14, about a well-behaved young bear taken in by a nice upper-middleclass family in London. Though it does occasionally feel like everyone’s trying too hard. Writer/director Paul King loads up on busy design elements and overdoses on whimsy, but also finds enough goodwill to pull thru. Even when he does drop the ball, Hugh Grant shows up (in one disguise or another) as the film’s hammy villain, merging the wavelengths of Peter Sellers & Vincent Price to hilarious effect. And where MARY POPPINS (film, not book) served as the first film’s template (see below), this one goes back to GOING MY WAY, with genial bear in for genial priest, improving every life he touches and ending with a surprise visit from a much missed relative. With narrative drive supplied by Grant’s quest for a Pop-Up London Picture book that holds secret clues to a hidden fortune, a book Paddington innocently wants for his aunt. The way it all plays out is a little too much, but you won’t mind.

DOUBLE-BILL: ‘2' works much better if you’ve seen the original PADDINGTON.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Such a remarkably rich cast! It makes you wonder if young relatives begged their mom, dad, uncle or aunt to sign up for even a small role.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

KIKI (1926)

Mirroring those famous Gish girls (Dorothy & Lillian), silent screen star Constance Talmadge kept largely to comedy while older sister Norma Talmadge stuck mostly to drama.* But not here. Only 32, yet starting to look matronly, Norma took a sob-sister break between GRAUSTARK/’25 and CAMILLE/’26 for this boulevard farce. And while no great shakes in the comedy department, at least she doesn’t come across as slumming. Looking a decade too old, she’s Kiki, a Parisian street hustler who worms her way into a music revue, promptly screwing up the big finale. (Funny, as she looks a bit like the real Fanny Brice and this bit is so like Barbra Streisand’s screw-up Ziegfeld production number in FUNNY GIRL/’68.) The rest of the film, kept on the move by director Clarence Brown, is a series of set pieces: Kiki makes a scene at a fancy restaurant; Kiki refuses to leave her boss’s apartment; Kiki gets drunk; Kiki pretends to be catatonic. Falling somewhere between modestly amusing and overstaying its welcome, you do get a shot at Ronald Colman in his dashing silent days as well as a very tall, rather funny rival in Gertrude Astor. Oh, and that little newsboy in the early scenes is Frankie Darro, best known for leading William Wellman’s WILD BOYS OF THE ROAD/’33.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: *Middle-sister Natalie Talmadge stayed mostly off-screen and married Buster Keaton. Ironically, she’s now the best known since Buster cajoled her into co-starring in his irresistible early masterpiece OUR HOSPITALITY/’23.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Mary Pickford’s last two starring vehicles were Norma Talmadge remakes: KIKI, an all-round 1931 disaster with Mary overdoing everything; then finally figuring how these newfangled Talkies might work for her in SECRETS/’33, with help from director Frank Borzage who’d done the Talmadge version in 1924. All for nought as it opened alongside FDR’s 1933 Bank Holiday. The banks survived, Mary did not.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

THE PLUNDERERS (1960)

Intriguing little Western improves as it goes along . . . just not enough. In a late role, Jeff Chandler (dead next year at 42) has to come to grips with the useless right arm & defeatist attitude he got in the Civil War when four cowpokes turned cocky cowpunks show up and roll over his sad-sack little town. Turns out, the town’s ripe for terrorizing and the young drifters take advantage, demanding free booze, free room & board and free merch while all the ‘good’ citizens cower. Especially after their easygoing sheriff, pushed past his limit, pays the price. Trying to keep his distance, the violence ultimately tips Chandler into action. But how much can a crippled man do against four young bucks? One strategy remains: Divide and Conquer. Journeyman helmer Joseph Pevney & tv lenser Gene (son of Sol) Polito do some good honest work with this THE WILD ONE meets BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK mash-up*, but lack style and can’t pull off the slow-burn suspense they’re aiming at. (Where’s Don Siegel when you need him?) On a more positive side, the film fights its way past the compressed grey-scale of its early scenes and looks more Feature Film than TV Show in the second half. Plus, John Saxon, with Latino shading (convincing) & accent (less so), shows considerable screen presence & sexual threat as one of the baddies. Oddly, the film’s most despicable character, a two-faced town drunk, gets off scot-free. Maybe the budget ran out.

DOUBLE-BILL: *As mentioned above, BD@BR. (Marlon Brando’s response to ‘Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against?,’ with ‘Whadda you got?’ is famous, but THE WILD ONE is one lousy pic.)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

KIMI NO NA WA / YOUR NAME (2016)

Immensely popular anime (record-breaking in Japan), writer/director Makoto Shinkai’s time-shifting/ teenage transference romance (think SOMEWHERE IN TIME/'80 meets FREAKY FRIDAY) makes his earlier work look like warmup exercises. Any training wheels are off in this gamechanger about metaphysically linked High School teens, big-city boy/small-town girl, experiencing unexplained personality swaps which strike like dreams, but able to communicate back-and-forth via text messaging. Then, about halfway in, the situation really gets complicated thanks to a time continuum element. (Shinkai must like pulling the rug out in the middle of things since his last, CHILDREN WHO CHASE LOST VOICES/’11, uses a similar gambit.) A past master of landscape, architecture & transport (trains, cars & subways a specialty), Shinkai’s characterizations finally hold their own against his elegant & propulsive backgrounds. Inevitably, if inaccurately, he’s being called the new Hayao Miyazaki. Better to celebrate him finding his own voice.

DOUBLE-BILL: Within its abstract manner, the final episode of Shinkai’s multi-part 5 CENTIMETERS PER SECOND/’07 offers his early best.

ATTENTION MUST BE PAID: Bonus points here on the super ‘Pop’ score from propulsive Japanese rock band RadWimps, sounding quite a bit like the music in DEAR EVAN HANSEN.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: NAME brought in over a third of a billion WorldWide, but only a meager 5 mill Stateside. Instead, a Hollywood remake is rumored. I’m depressed already.