Monthly Archives: January 2012

VERA CRUZ [Blu-ray]

Last week I reviewed Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly and this week I’m reviewing another Robert Aldrich film, Vera Cruz (1954). Burt Lancaster and Gary Cooper are at the top of their games. The supporting cast, Ernest Borgnine as Donegan, Charles Bronson as Pittsburgh, Jack Elam as Tex, James McCallion as Little-Bit, and Archie Savage as Ballad, make a great band of cut-throats. Cesar Romero delivers a strong performance as Marquis Henri de Labordere. The plot involves a Mexican Civil War that attracts adventurers and mercenaries. Lancaster, Cooper, and their band of ruffians are hired to guard a carriage carrying the Countess Marie Duvarre (played by Denise Darcel) to Vera Cruz. But there’s also $3 million in gold hidden in the carriage and everyone is double-crossing (and triple-crossing) each other to get the gold. The Mexican scenery is spectacular and this new Blu-ray version shows it off in crisp detail. Vera Cruz is a Top Ten western. GRADE: A


Margaret Thatcher said that the best book on business is The Tale of Ginger & Pickles. Ginger is a yellow tom-cat and Pickles is a terrier. Together they operate a small general store that all the animals use. However, Ginger and Pickles extend credit to the customers. Tabitha Twitchit, who owns the competing general store, does not provide credit. In just a few pages, Beatrix Potter captures the essence of business, the nature of competition and consumer behavior. That’s impressive for a kid’s book.


Gina Carano kicks some major butt in this tricky Steven Soderbergh thriller. Gina plays Mallory Kane, a covert contract agent for a private security firm. When a hostage rescue turns into Something Else, Mallory is on the run from her employer. But, the men in this movie ALWAYS underestimate Mallory and suffer the consequences. Michael Douglas plays a wild card character. Ewan McGregor plays Mallory’s boss. I enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot. And I’d like to see Gina Carano in a sequel or a clone of this action thriller. GRADE: B+

Diane read the newspaper review of One for the Money (one star) and worried that this long-awaited film would disappoint her and the legions of Stephenie Plum fans. So while I was watching Haywire, Diane and her friends went to One for the Money. Although Diane didn’t think Katherine Heigl fit her vision of Stephenie Plum, she pulled off a credible performance. Diane also thought that Sherri Shepherd was a very convincing Lula. One for the Money wasn’t as bad as Diane expected it to be. GRADE: C+


As you know by now, Michel Hazanavicius’s new movie, The Artist, is a silent movie. That’s the novelty that attracted so much attention to the film. But it’s the performances of Jean Dujardin as silent film actor George Valentin and the new “talkie” star Peppy Miller, played to perfection by Bérénice Bejo, that are the true attractions of this movie. The chemistry they have on-screen is terrific! Dujardin has been nominated for the Best Actor Oscar and Bejo is up for Best Supporting Actress. And The Artist is one of the nine movies nominated for Best Movie. Of course, The Artist is going to be a hard-sell to mass audiences who don’t like B&W films and can’t imagine a movie without dialogue. But for those of you who love classic movie-making, enjoy! GRADE: A-


Randy Johnson reviewed Tama of the Light Country and Tama, Princess of Mercury last month. You can read his take here. And Bill Lengeman also recommended the Tama books. Within the last month, I’ve posted FFB reviews of Michael Moorcock’s Kane of Mars series, Otis Adelbert Kline’s Mars novels. Ray Cummings’ Tama novels fit the same template. Both Tama tales were originally published in Argosy: Tama of the Light Country in 1930, Tama, Princess of Mercury in 1931. Take that into consideration if you decided to read these yarns. If you’re a fan of SF adventure novels, Cumming’s tales of the winged virgins of Mercury will entertain you.

FORGOTTEN MUSIC #21: SOME GIRLS: DELUXE EDITION [Remastered] By The Rolling Stones

Some Girls represents the last great Rolling Stones album. Many of the tracks that ended up on the Stones’ next two albums, Emotional Rescue and Tattoo You, were recorded during the Some Girls sessions. This new, remastered version of Some Girls was released just before Christmas so it may have been lost in the holiday frenzy. Not only does this new version of Some Girls sound great, but the Deluxe Edition includes additional tracks that are well worth listening to if you’re a Stones fan. GRADE: A
Disc 1
1 Miss You 4:48
2 When the Whip Comes Down 4:20
3 Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) 4:38
4 Some Girls 4:36
5 Lies 3:11
6 Far Away Eyes 4:23
7 Respectable 3:07
8 Before They Make Me Run 3:24
9 Beast of Burden 4:25
10 Shattered 3:46

Disc 2
1 Claudine previously unreleased / Bonus Track 3:42
2 So Young previously unreleased / Bonus Track 3:18
3 Do You Think I Really Care previously unreleased / Bonus Track 4:22
4 When You’re Gone previously unreleased / Bonus Track 3:51
5 No Spare Parts previously unreleased / Bonus Track 4:30
6 Don’t Be a Stranger previously unreleased / Bonus Track 4:06
7 We Had It All previously unreleased / Bonus Track 2:54
8 Tallahassee Lassie previously unreleased / Bonus Track 2:37
9 I Love You Too Much previously unreleased / Bonus Track 3:10
10 Keep Up Blues previously unreleased / Bonus Track 4:20
11 You Win Again previously unreleased / Bonus Track 3:00
12 Petrol Blues previously unreleased / Bonus Track 1:35


Belen Fernandez analyzes Thomas Friedman’s reporting and books in The Imperial Messenger. As the richest and most powerful journalist in the United States, Friedman’s wealth from his books and speaking fees are legendary. I’ve used Friedman’s books in my classes. But Fernandez exposes Friedman’s errors in reporting, lame predictions, and buffoonery. Friedman has been a cheerleader for globalization, but as we’ve found out with the European debt crisis, globalization can have some serious downsides for our economy. Friedman’s optimism is infectious, but occasionally misleading. Fernandez cites several examples of Friedman being wrong about events in the Middle East, from Iraq to Egypt. Sometimes Fernandez’s critique strays into unproductive areas: who cares that Friedman lives in an 11,400 square foot house (worth over $9 million). But the central focus on Friedman’s mistakes is fascinating…and disturbing. GRADE: B+

KISS ME DEADLY [Criterion Collection Blu-ray]

Director Robert Aldrich (What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? and The Dirty Dozen) captures the manic nature of Mickey Spillane’s novel in his version of Kiss Me Deadly (1955). Ralph Meeker stars as a cranky Mike Hammer. One lonely night, Meeker stops in the middle of a deserted highway to pick up a woman who’s escaped from a mental institution. Meeker barely survives that encounter. The rest of the movie is Meeker’s quest to figure out what the woman meant by the cryptic message: “Remember Me.” Kiss Me Deadly is both a film noir gem as well as an relic of Cold War paranoia. The conclusion of the film is the most scientifically ludicrous ending I have ever seen. Grade: B+


Michelle Williams should get an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the manic-depressive, drug-addled Marilyn Monroe. The story is set in the mid-Fifties. Marilyn is in England to shoot a movie called The Prince and the Showgirl. The movie is being directed by an exasperated Sir Laurence Olivier (deftly played by Kenneth Branagh). Marilyn’s diva performance of arriving late and leaving early drives the controlling Olivier to tantrums of his own. The story is based on the diaries of Colin Clark, a young man on the set that Marilyn took a liking to. Colin (ably played by Eddie Redmayne) witnesses up-close and personal Marilyn’s mood swings and her depression. Judi Dench, Emma Watson, and Julia Ormond fill out this talented cast. GRADE: B+