Robert Wise

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Visions Of Light Review


Excellent
The novice's guide to film cinematography, Visions of Light is a brisk primer on what the D.P. of a movie does: Basically, make it look the way it looks. From Birth of a Nation to Citizen Kane to Raging Bull to Eraserhead, this trio of documentary filmmakers leads us through a fascinating (and dazzling) journey of some of the world's most beautiful and most innovatively photographed movies. The focus here is more on technique than on trickery (no mention of the flames held in front of Raging Bull's camera, to give it that hazy look), and that's just fine: This is a film about how the artistry of filmmaking was born and how it developed to where we are today. It's impossible to digest in one review -- more than 100 films are excerpted -- but fascinating to sit through.

The Battle Over Citizen Kane Review


Good
In case your cinematic history only extends as far as the first American Pie, you might be surprised to learn that Citizen Kane is based on the life and times of William Randolph Hearst. Of course, if you didn't know that, you wouldn't know who Hearst was anyway, so you might as well quit reading this, turn off your computer, and get back to your reality TV programming.

In this two-hour documentary, made for PBS and feeling a lot like... it was made for PBS, there's surprisingly little content germane to its title. Mostly, the film talks about the life of Hearst and the life of Orson Welles, separately. It isn't until the last half-hour when Citizen Kane is actually made and discussed, particularly as it relates to Hearst's hatred of it. And rightly so -- Welles was skewering the media magnate in the film; who could blame him for doing everything in his power to stop its release?

Continue reading: The Battle Over Citizen Kane Review

West Side Story Review


Excellent
It's hard to feel manly watching West Side Story. Really hard. And that's strange, because it's about two groups of murderous street gangs (one white, one Puerto Rican) in New York City. I guess it's the dancing, the pastel outfits, and the really tight pants that make it seem so frilly.

I kid, of course. Among movie musicals, West Side Story ranks in the top five in greatness, and it's arguably the most popular musical ever released. It may be awfully frou-frou -- and let's face it, the dance numbers are awfully similar -- but West Side Story has a tale as timeless as its source material (Romeo and Juliet) and countless songs that have become musical classics. "Maria," "America," "I Feel Pretty," "Tonight" -- you can probably hum these without even thinking about it.

Continue reading: West Side Story Review

The Sound Of Music Review


Excellent
The Sound of Music... well, what can I say? And why should I bother? If any movie were ever critic-proof, it's this one. In fact, famed critic Pauline Kael was fired for daring to write a bad review of it when it first came out. Julie Andrews sure worked her mojo on that one.

Funny thing is: The Sound of Music doesn't need protection from critics. Yes, it's schmaltzy, but it's not nearly as schmaltzy as, say, Titanic. Yes it has all those adorable kids and all those adorable songs and even a cute puppet show stuck right in the middle of it, but it also has grit, drama, and some harrowing moments. Hell, it's got Nazis racing around in big black cars! It is a total cinematic experience, and one that benefits greatly from technological advances that let you enjoy its lavish sights and sounds on a big TV screen with big surround speakers that make it feel like Julie Andrews is embracing your or the Nazis are sneaking up on you from behind.

Continue reading: The Sound Of Music Review

The Sand Pebbles Review


Good
A three hour epic about a U.S. patrol in 1926 China? Minghella and Bertolucci still make movies like this. Back in 1966 the auteur of the day was Robert Wise, who'd just come off of The Sound of Music. and this story of a ship headed upriver in revolution-torn China is as plodding as the engine on its gunboat. Much of the running time consists of engineer Steve McQueen working on the boat and trying to communicate with the local "slope heads," notably including a young Mako as a local co-worker. The last half of the movie has McQueen on the most protracted search and rescue mission imaginable. Wise has no handle on the out-of-control, yawn-inducing scenes, but McQueen helps to keep things generally interesting. Nominated for eight Oscars, The Sand Pebbles ultimately won none.

The Hindenburg Review


OK
Before there was Titanic (the movie, not the ship), there was The Hindenburg, an equally epic look at one of mankind's most notorious disasters -- this one, of course, caught on film, unlike that famed sunken ship. Robert Wise (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) tried to turn the disaster into part love story, part spy tale, part thriller, and part musical (really: there's a ditty about Hitler), with George C. Scott as a sympathetic Nazi trying to foil a bombing plot on the zeppelin (the disaster has since been pegged on static electricity). Incredibly long and awfully bad in its plotting and pacing, the film succeeds only as a curiosity: It shows us the guts of the ship as they really appeared. Who knew it was so fancy?

The Haunting (1963) Review


OK
Yeah, it's really rated G. Not particularly scary (anymore), this "bloodless" horror film is all in your head. Julie Harris disappoints as the nutty Eleanor, who screams and squeals a lot when she figures a haunted house is out to get her. Frankly, it put me to sleep -- and Harris's constant, nagging voice over makes you want to tape your ears shut.
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Robert Wise Movies

West Side Story Movie Review

West Side Story Movie Review

It's hard to feel manly watching West Side Story. Really hard. And that's...

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The Sound of Music Movie Review

The Sound of Music Movie Review

The Sound of Music... well, what can I say? And why should I bother? If...

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