Niall Macginnis

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49th Parallel Review


Good
A contingent of Nazi naval officers are stranded on the Canadian mainland after their U-boat, on the prowl in Hudson Bay, is destroyed. They resolve to trek across Canada, then either cross the border to still-neutral U.S.A. or find passage on a non-Allied boat back to the Fatherland. Director Michael Powell stages their odyssey as a series of politically charged set-pieces as the disdainful Nazis find their beliefs tested by a cross-section of Canadian clichés, from French-Canadian trappers (among whom is Laurence Olivier attempting a dead-on imitation of Pepe Le Pew), Native Americans, and Eskimos to a WASP-y outdoorsman (Leslie Howard), ordinary Joe's, and the members of a religious commune. Leading the goose-steppers is Lieutenant Hirth (Eric Portman), maniacally loyal to his Führer and whose sneer can't be anything but villainous.

The title of Michael Powell's WWII propaganda actioner refers to the boundary separating the United States and Canada. A suitably righteous narrator tells us it's the world's only undefended national border and, as such, befits the values of peace and democracy shared by the two countries. 49th Parallel isn't a strident call to arms meant to guilt-trip Americans into re-thinking their neutrality, but rather a tribute to the Canadian (and to all free-thinking) people who were already involved in the anti-Nazi effort. By praising democratic values and warning of the Nazi threat looming over the free world, 49th Parallel was director Michael Powell's roundabout exhortation to the American people to join the good fight.

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Lust For Life Review


Good
Workmanlike and dutifully impressed with everything about Vincent Van Gogh, Vincente Minelli's Lust for Life is really more a Lust for Kirk Douglas, with Kirk trying his best to embody the tortured painter. Much is made of the whole ear-lopping incident along with Van Gogh's friendship with Gauguin, but Lust comes off too much like a linear history and less a movie full of character and mystique. It's all very pretty for a 1950s production, but little of it bears the energy it promises in its title.

The Edge Of The World Review


Good
Not to be confused with The Center of the World, this 1937 film will mainly be of interest to fans of director Michael Powell, whose Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes (among others) have become classics of the cinema.

The Edge of the World is one of Powell's early films, a stark story about life on an inhospitable island off the coast of Scotland. In fact, it's so inhospitable that half of the community feels it's time to leave altogether. To settle the matter, two of the young men who reside there decide to race to the top of the local cliff face -- the winner chooses whether they go or stay. Alas, tragedy ensues during the climb, and the clannish residents of the island become even more embittered than ever.

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Alexander The Great Review


Weak
God help Oliver Stone if his upcoming Alexander is really a remake of 1956's Alexander the Great, as this film's press notes state.

Put simply, Alexander the Great is a colossal bore. Directed by Robert Rossen (The Hustler, All the King's Men), this visit to the epic well comes off far worse than contemporaries Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. What's the problem? Well, the troubles are legion. Start with Richard Burton, engaging here in the lead role of the philosopher/warrior/conquerer, but given a series of brooding sermons to deliver for well over two hours. Burton doesn't carry the movie as he absolutely has to; the result is an experience not unlike attending a late night lecture. Then there's the warfare. Those of us spoiled on modern epics like Troy will find the playful skirmishes here on the laughable side. Sure, you can stage a battle with just a couple hundred men and no special effects if you shoot it carefully, but if your warriors look tired and on the verge of striking, you won't quite get the necessary effect. My little brother and I had more authentic swordfights when we were kids, using sticks in the backyard. Pretty sad considering Alexander conquered Europe and Asia.

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Jason And The Argonauts Review


Very Good
Ray Harryhausen's finest hour is a fun and classic romp through the classics, with our man Jason (Todd Armstrong) on the hunt for the Golden Fleece -- while dodging dozens of claymation monsters along the way. As a kid, stop-motion movies were the only kind we ever made, so Jason will always have a warm spot in my heart, even if you can't help but be amused by its production values today.
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Dev Patel Is A Lost Boy In Touching True Story Drama 'Lion'

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There's already an Oscars buzz surrounding this movie.

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