When rating a film I ask myself these three questions: What is the director’s goal or purpose? How does the director try to achieve it? Is the director successful? Hence a big box office hit may get a “5” while a Eurosleaze sexploitation flick gets a “7”. My rating system in a nutshell:

10 = Brilliant!
9 = Exceptional
8 = Very Good
7 = Good
6 = Average
5 = Forgettable
4 = Bad
3 = Dismal
2 = Dog Barf
1 = Beyond Awful


~ ~ ~ ~


Father Goose (USA 1964) (6): Despite garnering an Oscar for best screenplay, Ralph Nelson’s jungle comedy of manners featuring two mismatched adults and a troop of precocious kids turns out to be not much more than a mildly amusing and wholly predictable romp in a Walt Disney vein. In the middle of WWII irascible American opportunist Walter Eckland (Cary Grant) is reluctantly inducted by the Australian Navy to serve as a civilian “spotter” on an uninhabited South Pacific island. With nothing but primitive amenities (including a case of his beloved whisky) and a short wave radio, his job is to report on any Japanese activity in the area. Already at odds with the commander who shanghaied him into “volunteering’ for this position as well as his effeminate aide (Trevor Howard, Jack Good), Eckland’s frayed nerves are further stretched when he suddenly has to share the island with a teetotaling teacher (Leslie Caron) and her seven impressionable schoolgirls who were abandoned when their pilot was called away to assist with military duties. Now, no longer able to drink, swear, or walk around in his underwear, and with the chances of rescue becoming unlikely as the war heats up, it’s only a matter of time before Eckland and the professor come to verbal blows. Meanwhile, the Japanese fleet is practically knocking at their backdoor… Grant’s hard-drinking, amoral charmer is the film’s only highlight thanks to his star power and several good lines of script but he shares no screen chemistry whatsoever with Caron whose prim and proper professor quickly becomes tedious—and those bratty moppets grate on you almost from the very first scene. Of course he cools down, she warms up, and the girls become more adorable with every Japanese fly-by while Howard’s pragmatic, slightly acerbic radio presence gives the entire production its only adult voice. Not exactly “fun for the whole family” but at least it won’t shock the grandparents.

The American Friend
(West Germany 1977) (5): Less pretentious than Wings of Desire but just as meandering, Wim Wenders’ stab at “noir lite” is a road movie without a map, a buddy flick without any friends, and a gangster film with no good guys in sight. German picture framer Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz in his first big role) is peripherally involved with an art forgery ring that stretches from Hamburg to New York City. He is also dying from an unnamed blood disorder and fears that he will leave his wife and child destitute. Enter American friend and ringleader Tom Ripley (a wooden Dennis Hopper) who inadvertently lands Jonathan a lucrative job as a hitman for a French mobster. Initially horrified at the prospect of killing another human being, a desperate and increasingly fatalistic Jonathan eventually warms up to the task—albeit with some degree of ineptitude—causing Ripley to become both his mentor and guardian angel. Nicely lit and tinted (apparently Wenders and cinematographer Robby Müller were inspired by American painter Edward Hopper) The American Friend is definitely appealing to the eye and aside from Dennis Hopper’s mechanical performance everyone else puts on a good show including a host of fellow directors playing bad guys (Samuel Fuller?!). But if there is any point to the film it is obscured by arty detours, abrupt edits (which city are we in now?), and pacing that slows to a crawl except for two memorable scenes: one in a Paris metro station where Zimmerman stalks his first victim and the other on a speeding train. What motivates Zimmerman is made clear—he wants the money. But Wenders’ attempts to expound on the psychological fallout from his actions make for some frustratingly murky cinema full of U-turns and dead ends.

Jackie Brown
(USA 1997) (9): Quentin Tarantino’s screen adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s novel is a fast and furious salute to both his own Pulp Fiction and those low-budget blaxploitation flicks of the 70s. Pam Grier—still sexy, still fierce—reboots her career as the titular heroine, a 44-year old stewardess working for a crummy Mexican airline who pads her meagre paycheques by smuggling cash between Cabo and L.A. for Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson), a mid-level arms dealer and one of the meanest mofos to come out of Compton. But when Jackie gets arrested with a purse full of Ordell’s money she finds herself between a rock and a bigger rock—for refusing to cooperate with the Feds will translate into a prison term she can ill afford and turning state evidence will have Robbie eager to shut her up…permanently. Fortunately Jackie possesses brains as well as nerve and it doesn’t take long for her to concoct an ingenious plan that will either have her living the high life or not living at all. Filmed with Tarantino’s typical penchant for highly kinetic pans and acidic comedy—although this time around he keeps the violence mostly off camera—Jackie Brown is one crazy-ass heist caper full of double-crosses, crossed purposes, and a whole lot of “N” and “F” bombs (much to the chagrin of Spike Lee who couldn’t see past the satire). As the ghetto-mouthed ponytailed Robbie, Jackson is a volatile mixture of paranoia and coldblooded intent that provides the perfect balance to Grier’s keen sense of self-preservation while an impressive supporting cast picks up the slack including Robert De Niro as a befuddled ex-con hired by Robbie, Michael Keaton as a not-quite-clueless ATF agent, Bridget Fonda as Robbie’s drug-addled token white chick, and Robert Forster’s Oscar-nominated performance as a sympathetic bondsman. With a script sharper than nails and action that shifts from hilarious bullshit sessions to cool suspense, it’s that glorious Motown soundtrack that winds up staying in your head. It’s like discovering The Delfonics for the very first time.

The Naked Spur
(USA 1953) (8): Despite its treacly Hollywood ending, Anthony Mann’s four-handed oater is a surprisingly effective little morality play set in the rugged Colorado Rockies. Determined bounty hunter Howard Kemp (James Stewart) is on the trail of wanted murderer Ben Vandergroat (Robert Ryan) when he is forced to form an uneasy alliance with a grizzled prospector and a disgraced Union soldier (Millard Mitchell, Ralph Meeker). But landing his quarry is the least of Kemp’s problems for as the four men slowly make their way back to Texas they will have to weather treacherous terrain, unfriendly natives, and their own flawed characters—for Ben’s head carries a hefty reward that speaks to each man’s greed and his female companion (Janet Leigh sporting a very resilient perm) speaks to something baser. The men’s inner struggles are reflected in the natural world with imposing mountains and raging rapids dwarfed by Technicolor skies of impossible blue while Ryan’s character proves to be the snake in this primitive Eden as he quietly exploits each man’s personal weakness. Beautifully scenery supported by an Oscar-nominated screenplay and near flawless performances give what could have been a simple cowboy flick an unexpected psychological edge.

The Robe
(USA 1953) (3): According to Christian mythology, as Jesus lay dying on the cross the Roman guards assigned to carry out his crucifixion gambled with dice to see who would get to keep his homespun robe. According to director Henry Koster’s bloated religious spectacle the leader of those soldiers is Tribune Marcellus Gallio, a loyal Roman who had only recently arrived in Judea accompanied by his Greek manservant Demetrius. Winning the robe just as Christ takes his last breath, Marcellus is suddenly consumed by a crippling sense of guilt which follows him all the way back to Rome where his troubled conscience and incipient belief eventually put him on a collision course with newly crowned emperor Caligula—a man slightly mad and vehemently opposed to the growing cult of Christianity… In a film so uniformly awful it’s difficult to know where to begin a critical post mortem. Could it be the cheesy matte backgrounds? The blaring soundtrack of trumpets, screeching violins, and angelic alleluias? The strained sense of religious ecstasy that has characters staring dreamy-eyed into the heavens as if they just took a hit off a big ol’ Catholic bong? For me it was the abysmal performances which delivered the final nail (pun intended). As Marcellus Gallio, Richard Burton displays the emotional range of a wooden marionette while Victor Mature as the born again Demetrius reads his lines as if he were reciting stats from the back of a bubblegum card. Then there’s Michael Rennie as the apostle Peter revising his role from The Day the Earth Stood Still sans spacesuit; Jean Simmons fussing and mewling as Marcellus’ girlfriend Diana; and Jay Robinson stealing every scene as Caligula, a cartoon villain skulking across the faux classical sets hissing and spitting like a wet cat. One expects a certain amount of dramatic hyperbole from these faith-based “epics” but Koster uses up his quota within the first fifteen minutes leaving the remaining two hours looking like a gaudy Christian infomercial (oh that final scene!) while the metaphor of the eponymous robe itself—changing lives as it changes hands—is pretty much lost amid the overblown pageantry. And this Cinemascope gobbler actually won two Oscars and was nominated for three more including “Best Picture” and “Best Actor” for Burton?!?!

The Imitation Game
(UK 2014) (8): Despite some historical inaccuracies Morten Tyldum’s biopic of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who helped win WWII while also laying the groundwork for the study of artificial intelligence, remains a moving testimony not only to the man himself but to the vicious homophobia which was so ingrained in British law for centuries. Throughout WWII Germany had been using an astronomically complicated code, nicknamed “Enigma”, in order to radio commands to its military divisions. With all possible alphabetical permutations numbering in the millions of millions the Enigma cypher was considered unbreakable—yet cracking it was crucial to any Allied victory. Thus, gathering some of the country’s most brilliant minds including young mathematics professor Turing (Oscar nominated Benedict Cumberbatch), British Intelligence set out to solve the unsolvable. But despite leading his team of prodigies—among them lone woman Joan Clarke (Keira Knightley, also nominated)—to its crucial breakthrough, Turing was ill-prepared for both the moral ramifications of covert warfare and the ignominy thrust upon him when his homosexuality (highly illegal at the time) became public knowledge several years later. Told mainly in flashback as an incarcerated Turing confesses all to a police inspector, Tyldum’s film moves back and forth through time from Turing’s childhood crush on a fellow classmate in the 1920’s until shortly before his death in the early 50’s. Cumberbatch gives one of his most intense performances playing the complicated genius: a man obsessed with analyzing everything around him, devoid of any sense of humour, and quite possibly an undiagnosed case of Asperger’s Syndrome. Knightley adds a touch of nascent feminism as a woman whose brilliance is overshadowed by her lipstick and unmarried status, and Alex Lawther has you reaching for the kleenex playing the young, painfully withdrawn Alan whose first taste of boyhood love ends in tragedy. With the classified military documents referring to Turing’s codebreaking team sealed for decades, his contribution to the war effort (and his unconscionable conviction of “gross indecency” afterwards) wasn’t fully appreciated until recently prompting Elizabeth herself to grant him a posthumous royal pardon in 2013.

Diamonds Are Forever
(UK 1971) (4): Someone is amassing a fortune in smuggled diamonds and it’s up to James Bond (an annoyingly cocksure Sean Connery) to not only discover how, but why. Following a trail of corpses that stretches from Amsterdam to Los Angeles to Las Vegas Bond eventually comes face to face with the brilliant madman whose megalomania will soon have the world’s superpowers at his mercy. I admit to running hot and cold when it comes to these 007 escapades but this particular exercise in swashbuckling overkill left me pretty much frozen. For those so inclined there are the expected sexual conquests (a disco-coiffed Jill St. John gets her crack at being the first American “Bond Girl”) only this time around they’re rendered slightly more palatable by racy innuendo which must have been mildly shocking for the time—“I’m Plenty!” says the buxom brunette shortly before her bra comes off, “Plenty O’Toole.” “You must be named after your father…” shoots back Bond. Gasp!! Testosterone-laced sexism aside however, it was the non-stop onslaught of ridiculous plot twists and miracle escapes (a moon buggy?!) that finally did me in. After being subjected to two hours’ worth of Playboy ninjas, psychopathic gay hitmen, and cartoonish special effects which looked as if they were drawn by hand I finally gave up even though my inner cine-masochist kept me watching until the mercifully short final credits. I do understand the adolescent fantasy factor so integral to these films but one’s intelligence can only be insulted so many times before the mind turns off. Austin Powers couldn’t have been much sillier but at least Mike Myers was in on the joke. Nice views of retro Las Vegas, and Shirley Bassey belts out the title song like a pro.

Julius Caesar
(USA 1953) (7): A cast of big name stars from both sides of the pond turn Shakespeare’s tale of jealousy and ambition in ancient Rome into a Hollywood epic. With several military victories under his belt, Julius Caesar (Louis Calhern) is basking in the adoration of his people. But a small clique of senators find his increasing popularity a threat to both themselves and to the Republic itself. Led by Cassius and Brutus (John Gielgud, James Mason) they plot Casesar’s death—but one person stands in the way of their bloody plans, Caesar’s right-hand man Mark Antony (Marlon Brando method acting his heart out). Eschewing Technicolor extravagance for the gritty realism of B&W, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s soundstage production is an effective mix of plywood props (borrowed from the set of Quo Vadis) and painted backdrops with wind machines, lightning effects, and a thousand toga-wearing extras. Everyone delivers their lines with classical flourish despite mismatched accents which range from Gielgud’s clipped British staccato to Brando’s lisping mumble, and a seasoned supporting cast round out the story especially Greer Garson as Caesar’s concerned wife Calpurnia and Edmond O’Brien as fellow conspirator Casca.

Everybody Wants Some!!
(USA 2016) (7): Yet another bit of nostalgia aimed at the tail end of the Boomer generation, Richard Linklater’s entertaining booze ’n boobs college caper revels in authentic period details (the hair! the clothes!) and a dream soundtrack of classic rock anthems. It’s 1980 and freshman Jake is eager to start training with the baseball team at his nondescript Texas college. With just three days before classes start and an entire house to themselves, Jake and his horned up teammates are determined to party as hard as they can with beer, bongs, and a bevy of buxom coeds seemingly at their beck and call. Linklater clearly remembers the carefree tackiness of the 80s as the guys—sporting porn moustaches, shag cuts and tight jeans—go from discos to cowboy bars to punk rock clubs on a never-ending hunt for sex and stimulation while Blondie, Hot Chocolate, and The Cars blare from every radio. Juvenile entertainment to be sure with a boys-meet-girls plot thinner than a polyester shirt, but Linklater’s savvy script reminds us of what it felt like to be young, awkward, and horny and his cast of nice looking dudes play their respective roles (jock, stoner, Lothario, Geek, redneck…) convincingly without becoming total clichés. Not as sentimental as American Graffiti and certainly less crass than Animal House, this is still a likeable little distraction for those of us old enough to hum along with the soundtrack.

The Turin Horse
(Hungary 2011) (9): In 1889, while on holiday in Italy, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche came to the aid of a horse which was being cruelly abused by its owner. The entire incident so affected him that he went mad and spent the rest of his life unable to speak or care for himself. Or so the story goes. But whatever became of the horse? In this nihilistic masterpiece writer/director Béla Tarr attempts to answer that question and in so doing fashions an existential parable on the “heaviness of existence”. The aging horse belongs to a farmer and his daughter who are barely managing to survive in their dry, sunless valley where a constant windstorm shakes the walls and pries shingles from the roof. Spending their days doing ritualized chores—she fetches water, he tries to dress himself despite a paralyzed arm, they each have a boiled potato for dinner—they are all too aware of both the desolation raging outside their front door and of their own tenuous mortality. There is a mechanical malaise to their actions, a malaise ultimately reflected in the dulled eyes of the horse which refuses to either work or eat… Tarr has envisioned a world where God has fled taking moral order with him, humanity has failed to fill the resultant gap, and the Earth itself seems to be crawling towards some entropic death of its own. Filmed in minimalist B&W, a series of long, beautifully composed tracking shots and static tableaux (father stares out the window while daughter resigns herself to a shadowy corner) combine with a sparse funereal score sounding like a Phillip Glass dirge to produce a work that is at once aesthetically moving and quietly disturbing. Sure to strike a chord with Christian fundamentalists and secular revolutionaries alike (though for understandably different reasons) Tarr’s final film is a Nietzschean Affirmation gone terribly wrong, where goodness has been leached from the landscape and salvation has been replaced by an encroaching darkness.

Whiplash
(USA 2014) (8): Promising drummer Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller) enrols in a prestigious New York conservatory where he comes under the tutelage of sadistic, foul-mouthed jazz conductor Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons earning his Oscar) whose methods of inducing greatness in his students-cum-victims include humiliation and physical violence. But as a tense adversarial relationship develops between teacher and pupil the distinction between mentor and rival becomes increasingly problematic—is there any line Fletcher won’t cross in order to goad Andrew onwards and upwards? And how much of the older man’s cruelty can one eighteen-year old bear? With raucous musical interludes punctuated by Simmons’ explosive rants and Teller’s focused meltdowns (he hammers out drum solos until his hands are raw and bloody), writer/director Damien Chazelle’s high-pressured indie feature turns one young man’s single-minded passion into a psychological battlefield. Forsaking love and family for his art, Neiman is at first cowed by the devil screaming in his face—he even begins to emulate Fletcher’s arrogant disregard for everything outside the studio—but every man has his limits and how far is too far? Paul Reiser co-stars as Andrew’s father, a man who’s own compromised dreams of becoming a writer jar against his son’s reckless ambition to succeed no matter what. Greatness always comes at a cost and Chazelle leaves his audience wondering whether or not that price is too high.

Paddington
(UK 2014) (7): First created by author Michael Bond in the late 50’s, marmalade-loving Paddington Bear and his misadventures have gone on to become a British icon. Now director Paul King brings the beloved teddy bear to CGI life in this live action comedy and the results truly look like a bedtime story. Having journeyed from the forests of “darkest Peru” to the hustle of London in search of a new home to call his own, our diminutive ursine hero finds himself stranded at Paddington Station—from whence he eventually gets his “English” name—with nothing but a battered valise and ragged red hat. Eventually brought home by the Brown family the well-meaning Paddington proceeds to turn the household upside-down thanks to his unfamiliarity with everything from indoor plumbing to scotch tape (kids, never clean your ears with a toothbrush!). Now, with his welcome wearing thin and dark forces on his tail in the form of a sadistic museum curator who thinks the talking bear would look fabulous stuffed and mounted (Nicole Kidman doing a Cruella De Vil imitation), Paddington and his newfound family are in for their biggest adventure yet. A nice mix of warm fuzzies and sheer ridiculousness (Kidman’s character really is too much) with more than a touch of magical whimsy as wallpaper comes to life, a movie screen becomes a doorway, and the Brown residence morphs into an antique dollhouse. The CGI mayhem is impeccable—a police chase through the suburbs is a triumph of fancy vs reality—and that little bear with his duffel coat and proper English accent is just so gosh darn huggable you’ll want to run out to the nearest toy store before the end credits finish rolling. Michael Bond himself makes a cameo playing a tea shop patron who raises a cup as Paddington’s cab whizzes by.

Tristana
(Spain 1970) (7): Stalled for years by the ultra-right alliance of Franco and the Catholic church, Luis Buñuel’s sociopolitical satire ironically went on to become Spain’s contender for the 1971 Foreign Language Oscar. After well-to-do Don Lope (a blustering Fernando Rey) is named guardian of orphaned waif Tristana (a virginal Catherine Deneuve) his fatherly concerns take on a carnal edge when the young woman begins to blossom causing him to assume the duties of ersatz husband as well. With her innocence thus betrayed Tristana undergoes a gradual sea change—both mental and physical—from bewildered ward to vengeful woman, and woe to the lovestruck old fool who crossed her. Bourgeois hypocrisy and the empty promises of faith have always shaped Buñuel’s work and Tristana is no exception. Rey is perfectly cast as the arrogant socialist who drones on about the exploitation of the weak and the evils of money yet is not above bedding his foster daughter or trying to solicit funds from his wealthier sister—and all that rhetoric about liberty and free love goes out the window when Tristana begins exploring the world outside his four walls. Deneuve, twenty-seven years old at the time, also puts in a marvelous performance (despite the Spanish dubbing) playing the cloistered naif who becomes an agent of not-quite-divine retribution. And of course Buñuel never misses an opportunity to mock the upper crust or cast a withering glance at the trappings of religion—Tristana’s garden chat with the local padre is poker-faced satire at its most understated. This is certainly one of Buñuel’s more accessible films, but even though the usual barbs are downplayed somewhat his wit remains as sharp as ever.

The Sword of Doom
(Japan 1966) (6): Beautifully filmed in B&W, Kihachi Okamoto’s tale of madness and possession in 19th century Japan takes on a quasi-expressionistic sheen with swirling snowstorms, misty forests, and labyrinthine interiors full of shifting screens and shadows. Set during a time of political and social upheaval as the old shogunate system gave way to the new Empire, it tells the story of master swordsman Ryunosuke Tsukue, a ruthless and amoral man whose unconscionable acts eventually lead to his downfall. Mentally unhinged and quite possibly under demonic control, Tsukue hires himself out as a valuable mercenary, but as the body count goes up so too does the number of personal vendettas against him… Impeccable acting all around especially Tatsuya Nakadai’s stone-faced performance as the unearthly samurai and Michiyo Aratama as the vengeful wife of one of his victims who ends up reluctantly sharing his bed. The real star of Okamoto’s epic however is cinematographer Hiroshi Murai who adds a touch of magical realism to all the bloodletting whether it be a group of assassins flitting past a snowy cemetery or a surreal fight sequence filled with fire and illusory ghosts. Unfortunately much of the historical background is lost on western audiences and an abrupt ending leaves too many dangling storylines and unexplained twists—apparently this was meant to be the first instalment of a trilogy that was never completed hence the overall feel of something left unfinished.

The Collector
(UK 1965) (9): Ever since he came into some money, twenty-something Freddie Clegg (a chilling Terence Stamp) has indulged his passion for butterfly collecting so that now one entire room of his isolated country house is filled with trophy cases displaying the beautiful dead insects. But Freddie has another passion in the form of Miranda Grey, the London art student whom he’s been stalking for years (Best Actress nominee Samantha Eggar)—and when you’re a morbidly introverted sociopath the leap from collecting butterflies to collecting pretty young girls is a very small one indeed… Based on the novel by John Fowles, director William Wyler’s dark tale of obsession and paranoia easily bypasses all those “damsel in distress” clichés to deliver a truly unsettling psychodrama with Stamp and Eggar perfectly matched as childlike madman and the terrified focus of his sickness—his single-minded mania to possess her finding counterbalance in her frantic desire to escape even if it means playing his game. Already sporting a gothic edge thanks to the crumbling opulence of Clegg’s 16th century manor house, Wyler juxtaposes funereal organ chords with a recurring melody which is disarmingly wistful—the resulting disparity between sight and sound not only ramping up the overall sense of dread, but adding an undercurrent of melancholy as well. Highly controversial for its day (apparently it was accidentally passed uncut for British audiences because the chief censor nodded off during one particularly contentious scene) Wyler’s Collector is an effective blending of Hitchcock’s suspense, Haneke’s clinical observation, and just a touch of Von Trier’s taste for emotional cruelty.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
(UK 2011) (7): An assortment of proper British retirees heed the siren call of a colourful brochure, pack all their possessions, and head to Jaipur India where the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful” promises to fill the golden years of foreign pensioners with peace and adventure. Upon arriving however they discover that the crumbling establishment bears little resemblance to the heavily photoshopped pamphlet and it’s up to the hotel’s young and harried proprietor (Dev Patel) to convince them otherwise. An ensuing series of culture shocks provide some meat to an otherwise mawkish West End-style comedy as a crusty old harridan (Maggie Smith) is called out on her racist ways, a timid doormat (Judi Dench) finds some backbone, a tightly wound housewife (Penelope Wilton) threatens to come undone, and the other characters strive to fulfill their own desires though not in quite the ways they expected. An A-list cast including Tom Wilkinson and Celia Imrie keep the sentimentality to an acceptable level and Ben Davis’ lush cinematography presents a nicely sanitized vision of modern India where teeming squalor is reduced to a quaint backdrop against which our lovable seniors cavort, ruminate, and otherwise find themselves. Definitely one of those feel-good warm and fuzzy films made by westerners for western audiences—even a subplot involving mismatched Indian lovers plays out like a happier Romeo & Juliet. But for all that, director John Madden’s screen adaptation of Deborah Moggach’s novel is a guilty delight given some weight by a gentle voiceover as Dench’s character reads from her online blog, her growing sense of self-reliance providing the movie with a much needed anchor.

Dr. No
(UK 1962) (8): British Intelligence teams up with the CIA to try and discover who is sabotaging the American space program. But when one of their operatives goes missing in the Caribbean, special agent James Bond (Sean Connery with toupee) is sent to Jamaica to find out what happened—a trip that will bring him face to face with diabolical super villain Dr. No! It’s easy to forgive and enjoy this first instalment in the 007 canon since Connery’s smug machismo (men get pummelled, women turn to jelly) was still fresh and all those ridiculous narrow escapes hadn’t yet become predictably cliché. Free of the high-tech gadgetry which would later define the series, there’s a cartoonish appeal to this production with its high-speed rear projection car chases, impressive stable of buxom airheads waiting to get “Bonded”—including Ursula Andress in a pair of seashells—and one fantastical underwater laboratory run by the eponymous doctor—Canadian actor Joseph Wiseman as a passable Asian. It’s all adolescent nonsense of course, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing when presented with so much exuberance and flair. Apparently author Ian Fleming hated it. C’est la vie I guess.

Red (Switzerland 1994) (8): This third instalment in director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colours Trilogy, based on the colours of the French flag, presents an interesting take on the notion of Brotherhood (“fraternité”). When Geneva fashion model Valentine (Juliette Binoche lookalike Irène Jacob) accidentally runs over a dog she sparks a chain of events which ultimately affect a young lawyer, his girlfriend, and a retired judge with a fetish for eavesdropping on other people’s lives. Taking artistic delight in the various ways we try to connect, Kieslowski here uses cellphones and electronic bugging devices to replace face-to-face communication while conveying one of the film’s life lessons by way of a garish billboard. Everyone, it seems, is a voyeur of one stripe or another and while some try to assuage their loneliness by living vicariously through answering machines and headphones others try to simply run away from it. As in the previous two films, White and Blue, Kieslowski saturates the screen with the titular colour—red intrudes into every scene whether it be a ticket jacket or painted walls—and he mines it for every metaphor he can for even though red is the colour of love, it can also signal danger. A gentle though slightly chilled look at humans in flux which ends with a sly wink to his fans. Sadly, it was also his swan song.

The King and I (USA 1956) (8): Based on the writings of Anna Leonowen who taught school in the royal court of Siam (Thailand) circa 1860s, Walter Lang's screen adaptation of the popular stage play stars Deborah Kerr and Yul Brenner. When widowed teacher Anna (Kerr) is hired to educate the children of Siamese King Mongkut (Brenner giving his Academy Award performance) her arrival in Bangkok triggers an immediate culture clash after her proper British sensibilities come up against the King's sense of supreme entitlement. Several song and dance segments later—including an Asian take on "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and the now famous pas de deux between Anna and the King—the two forge an understanding bordering on romance. But whether or not you like this multiple Oscar winner will depend on how you approach it. As a gushing musical it's a winning combination of lush hand-painted sets, exotic costumes, and a barrage of familiar tunes by Rogers & Hammerstein. When it comes to historical accuracy however Leonowens memoirs are hopelessly skewed and, according to some people including the Thai government which banned the film, patently disrespectful. But if you were able to overlook the lie behind The Sound of Music you'll probably like this one too. I did!

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (USA 1944) (9): Preston Sturges' manic screwball comedy, terribly risqué for the time, manages to poke fun at everything from sexist double standards and puritanical zeal to political opportunism when a young small-town girl has trouble remembering how she got pregnant. It all starts out with the "Farewell Soldiers" dance she attended against her ultra-conservative father's wishes. Several spiked lemonades and an accidental bonk on the head ensue and when Trudy Kockenlocker (Betty Hutton) comes to the next morning she has a bun in the oven and only vague memories of having married some GI with a "Z" in his name. The laughs and innuendo then come fast and furious once dad catches wind of her plight but ultimately it's Eddie Bracken, playing the mother-to-be's perpetually bewildered wannabe boyfriend Norval Jones, who ends up garnering the biggest laughs. With the town fathers scandalized and Norval treading hot water, only a miracle is going to save the day—and it arrives in the form of a ludicrous "deus ex machina" if ever there was one. The fact that Sturges' film was originally condemned by the ironically named "Catholic League of Decency" is just icing on the cake.