Carl Foreman

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The Bridge on the River Kwai Review


Extraordinary
Oddly enough, it's hardly about a bridge at all. And though the building of a magnificent wooden bridge -- by British and other Allied soldiers being held by the Japanese as prisoners of war -- has a supporting role, Alec Guinness won his only non-honorary Oscar for this film (did you know he'd be nominated for writing the following year?), and boy is it deserved. As the British colonel who protects his troops against overwhelming oppression by the Japanese -- then happily agrees to build them a monumental bridge, oblivious to the fact that it will greatly aid the Japanese war machine. His look of horror and sudden understanding, when the bridge comes crashing down, courtesy of Allied commandos, is worth the little statuette alone.

The Men Review


Good
The death of Marlon Brando in July 2004 sent film fans scurrying to the video store to check out early Brando performances they may have missed. It's a worthwhile exercise. If you go all the way back to the beginning, you'll find The Men, Brando's 1950 screen debut, a dated oddity that's nevertheless a must-see for anyone curious about Brando's artistic trajectory.

Always the Method actor, Brando was rumored to have spent a month in a veteran's hospital to prepare for the role of Ken Wilcheck, a World War II vet paralyzed from the waist down by a gunshot wound. But before we get to meet Ken, we have to sit through an amazing lecture by the stern yet concerned Dr. Brock (Everett Sloan), who addresses a roomful of mothers and wives of paraplegic vets about the grim realities of paraplegia. After listening to long explanations about bowel and bladder control (it can be achieved) and the possibility of a paraplegic starting a family (not bloody likely), the women, who regard the doctor as a god, tentatively ask questions to which the doctor basically responds, "You're screwed. Accept it and move on." Then he lights a cigarette.

Continue reading: The Men Review

High Noon (1952) Review


OK
Sure, it's a classic, but High Noon has never been a favorite Western of mine. Its pace is too slow -- though some scenes of Gary Cooper's marshal in desperate search of a posse before the black hats arrive in town can be tense. The scene where Cooper waits for the conveniently-timed train to arrive at the station is also quite stylish. Alas, Grace Kelly or no, High Noon just doesn't have the depth of character for my tastes. No flawed hero, no injustice to be avenged. Just a good guy, a bad guy, and a clean-cut ending that leaves you shrugging the whole thing off.

Young Man with a Horn Review


Good
Kirk Douglas always loved playing self-destructive artists. Here he's a musical virtuoso who discovers an uncanny ability to play piano on sight, then picks up a trumpet in a pawn shop and falls in love with it right away.

As a grown man, Douglas's Rick Martin (loosely based on a musician named Bix Beiderbecke) finds himself itching to play jazz but stifled by the constraints of playing in a dance band. His love life fares even worse, as his eventual wife Amy North (Lauren Bacall) runs hot and cold. Throughout it all, his mentor Smoke Willoughby (Hoagy Carmichael) and singer pal Jo (Doris Day) stand by his side while Rick tries to hit an elusive high note that no one else has ever played.

Continue reading: Young Man with a Horn Review

The Guns of Navarone Review


Excellent
A former-day Saving Private Ryan, Gregory Peck and David Niven burn in this war epic, about a gang of neo-mercenaries sent to destroy the titular German guns. Will they save the day? Use your postwar patriotism of 1961 to make a guess.

High Noon (2000) Review


Terrible
If there is a universal law in cinema, it is this: Make a western for cable TV, and Tom Skerritt will come a-running. Doesn't matter if the movie's any good or not, Skerritt is your man.

High Noon, a remake of the 1952 film starring Gary Cooper, puts Skerritt in the role of the now-immortal cop on the eve of his retirement. Newly married, our sheriff hero finds that his arch-enemy (Michael Madsen) has been pardoned by the governer, and he's on his way to the town to exact his revenge. The train arrives at noon... will he stay and fight or run away like the rest of the town?

Continue reading: High Noon (2000) Review

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