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Tag Archive: Ben Mankiewicz


Review by C.J. Bunce

This weekend one of the greatest American film classics celebrated its 30th anniversary across the U.S.  Thirty years later and Phil Alden Robinson′s Field of Dreams still holds up.  But thirty years is a long time, and my umpteenth viewing for Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies theatrical release for Father’s Day netted even more new thoughts about one of my all-time favorite movies.  I can’t think of a better Father’s Day movie, but if you missed it in the theater this weekend, you have one more day and two showings to catch it before it goes back in the vaults until its next anniversary.  Find out more about tomorrow’s two screenings and find your local participating theater at the Fathom Events website for the anniversary event here.  TCM host Ben Mankiewicz adds some film trivia before and after the screening–he’s a great host for these anniversary events.

Not even two minutes pass before Kevin Costner′s Ray Kinsella hears the ghostly words from afar that set the story into motion: If you build it, he will come.  From there, Robinson’s tightly written, major re-work of the W.P. Kinsella novel Shoeless Joe is non-stop magic (check out my retro review of the novel here at borg earlier this year where I compare it to the film).  It’s accompanied by James Horner′s sweeping, emotional score that will jerk you around from ghost story surprise to epic cross-country adventure and back to quiet, pastoral personal drama.  You can go back and scratch your head over the actual films that won Academy Awards over Field of Dreams for 1989–it was nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Score.  You’ll find Field of Dreams is the only film that stuck with audiences three decades later, airing almost weekly now on cable channels, confirming its place in the Library of Congress’s film recognition and at the top of the American Film Institute’s rankings more than once.

It’s the rare film like Field of Dreams that begs for there to be an Academy Award for best casting.  Margery Simkin, the casting director for films from Beverly Hills Cop to Top Gun to Star Trek Discovery deserves a salute for getting every role just right.  Kevin Costner never veers from pure immersion into this new farmer wanting to follow his gut instincts.  Amy Madigan plays the perfect supportive partner and wife to Ray.  Gaby Hoffman is smart for her age as Ray’s daughter and a true credit to the film.  Director/writer Phil Alden Robinson should share in the brilliant updating the novel character from real-life J.D. Salinger to the fictional Terence Mann–audiences know James Earl Jones so well from Star Wars, yet here we get the benefit of his powerfully emotional eyes and that broad smile and laugh.  I always look forward to Ray Liotta′s steely stare, his knowing calmness, and his snarky laugh-out-loud dismissal of Ty Cobb.  Keeping with the novel and my take from past viewings, Archie Graham brings the magic home as the crucial piece of the puzzle driving the story to its end, played young and eager in a 1920s mindset by the great Frank Whaley and in his later years as a wise small-town doctor by film legend Burt Lancaster.  The quaint beauty of Dubuque, Iowa, made for the perfect backdrop to film Graham’s hometown of Chisholm, Minnesota, for these scenes.

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The 80th anniversary of what has been called by film critics the greatest year of movies is here.  In 1939 audiences were first introduced to the landmark Western, John Ford’s Stagecoach, John Ford also released Young Mr. Lincoln, Frank Capra released his most patriotic film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Charles Laughton starred in The Hunchback of Notre DameDrums Along the Mohawk, The Little Princess, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Only Angels Have Wings, Gunga Din, Dark Victory, Son of Frankenstein, Golden Boy, Destry Rides Again–all premiered in 1939.  And then there was director Victor Fleming, who released not only the definitive historical romance, Gone With the Wind, but the celebrated greatest fantasy movie of all time, The Wizard of Oz.  To celebrate its 80th anniversary, Turner Classic Movies/TCM Big Screen Classics and Fathom Events have teamed up to show special screenings of The Wizard of Oz beginning Sunday, to appear at more than 700 theaters nationwide.

Starring Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, Frank Morgan, Billie Burke, and Terry as Toto, The Wizard of Oz, in a controversial and competitive year of Oscars, would take home the Academy Award for best song (Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg‘s “Over the Rainbow“) and Herbert Stothart‘s musical score (it was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, and Best Special Effects).

It’s the classic that would be celebrated by generations as one of the rare films re-broadcast on television year after year before the advent of home video, but hundreds of millions of fans have never seen it as it was meant to be seen.  Take the advice of author Elizabeth C. Bunce, who reviewed the movie for its 75th anniversary here at borg, if you have never seen it in the theater, do yourself a favor and grab everyone you care about, and get to the theater to see The Wizard of Oz.  

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If Turner Classic Movies says that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then the discussion is over finally, right?

It’s that time of year again and Turner Classic Movies is back showing some of the best Christmas movies from across the decades.  This year host Ben Mankiewicz is interviewing author Jeremy Arnold before and after the screening of movies Arnold has selected to feature in his new book, TCM: Christmas in the Movies–30 Classics to Celebrate the Season.  And yes, Arnold’s list includes Die Hard.  So as the British say, “end of.”  Most readers and movie fans will likely agree with at least twenty of the selections discussed in the book, and the rest are there ready for some good discussions with friends over some egg nog this holiday season.

It’s also likely this bucket list of movies has several films that even avid movie watchers may have missed.  I set up my DVR to pick up a few in the book I hadn’t seen yet and was surprised at how superb a selection Holiday Affair is.  It stars Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Wendell Corey, Henry Morgan, plus young Gordon Gebert in what must be the best-ever performance by a child actor in a Christmas movie.  This is exactly the kind of value you get with a book like Christmas in the Movies–this movie will now be added to my own favorite Christmas movie list.  For each entry Arnold discusses the actors, plot, audience reception and the impact of the film, and why it’s a good Christmas season film for audiences today.

Along with Die Hard, which is smartly defended by Arnold, you’ll find the usual suspects like Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, and Elf, plus some lesser known gems, like Remember the Night, the first of four films that would pair Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray, plus Ginger Rogers and Joseph Cotten in I’ll Be Seeing You, and Humphrey Bogart in We’re No AngelsArnold picks up genre films Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even a few Westerns, including 3 Godfathers starring John Wayne.

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Last week The Princess Bride turned 30 and it returned to theaters this week as part of the Fathom Events and Turner Classic Movies partnership (more classics are on their way to your local theater so keep an eye on the Fathom Events website for updates).  We’re big fans of The Princess Bride here at borg.com–more than five years ago it made 3 of our 4 lists of all-time favorite fantasy films.  This week’s screenings included Ben Mankiewicz interviewing director and producer Rob Reiner, and what shines through is Reiner’s enthusiasm for the film, three decades later.  He’s had several hits, from This is Spinal Tap to A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally, Misery, and The American President, and more, and now in theaters is his latest–LBJ.  But so few films are beloved like The Princess Bride.

Why does it work so well?  Part of the film’s success is due to its sincerity.  It’s true to its source material, William Goldman’s novel The Princess Bride–the favorite of the author’s works.  Reiner tells a story of the difficulty in getting novelist William Goldman to sign over the film rights.  After countless big names were denied, Reiner was successful by agreeing simply not to change the story.  Goldman, who won Oscars for his screenplays to All the President’s Men and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, also penned the film adaptation, further ensuring his original vision.  The story is bookended as only a fairy tale could be told (with a few interruptions) by Peter Falk’s Grandpa and Fred Savage’s Grandson, just having storytime.  The Grandson’s 1980s room provides plenty of nostalgia for kids from the period–a “Refrigerator” Perry poster, a Cubs pennant, Burger King The Empire Strikes Back drinking glass, He-Man action figures–this Chicago kid had a fun room.  But the family bonding is the thing–an old book keeping a story that bridges generations, inside the movie and out, told by an old man with glasses, gray hair, and a fedora.  And the story is sweet and about love–nothing in the movie is embarrassing or gross or disturbing–it’s safe territory to kick back and have a good time–for everyone.

Rob Reiner’s humor must also be a big component of the film’s success and appeal.  His choices, his casting, his own humor comes through, no doubt influenced by a lifetime in film thanks to his comedy dad Carl Reiner.  Carl belonged to that classic comedy school that also includes Mel Brooks.  It’s Brooks’ Young Frankenstein that The Princess Bride reminded me of the most in the theater.  What Young Frankenstein was to classic monster movies, The Princess Bride was for the fantasy film genre.  Is The Princess Bride a parody?  It doesn’t have those obvious, direct ties to specific classic scenes like Young Frankenstein, but it’s an homage to several–from Errol Flynn’s The Adventures of Robin Hood to Zorro and from Ivanhoe to Captain Blood and Sleeping Beauty.  The Pit of Despair, where Cary Elwes’s Dread Pirate Roberts is tortured, looks as if it could have been designed by the same crew as the laboratory set in Young Frankenstein (it didn’t but it did share its set designer–Richard Holland–with fantasy classics Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal).  But Rob Reiner’s humor is his own.  He never sits on a joke like the old masters of Hollywood comedy.  He leaves a laugh and keeps moving, which keeps in step with classic fantasyland storytelling.  You can laugh but the goal is the goal:  Rescue the Princess!

The classic archetypes are there: the Princess (Robin Wright), the Farmboy Hero (Elwes), the Three Woodsmen (Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Andre the Giant), a Wizard (Billy Crystal), a Crone (Carol Kane), an Albino (Mel Smith), and plenty of Villains including the Evil King (Chris Sarandon)–with a classic “rescue the Princess” plot.  But the movie is also unique.  What else has Rodents of Unusual Size?  The accents of Wallace Shawn as Vizzini and Peter Cook as the Impressive Clergyman?  An ad-libbing Billy Crystal partnered with a wonderfully badgering Carol Kane (Humperdinck! Humperdinck!)?  A real giant?  Two brave, swashbuckling heroes and two key villains (don’t forget Christopher Guest’s Count Rugen).  And the quotable lines!  It surely has as many big lines as Caddyshack: As you wish… My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my Father.  Prepare to die… Never get involved in a land war in Asia!…  Inconceivable!…  I do not think that word means what you think it means… Mawwiage! … And an endless litany of “boo”s.  The Pit of Despair!  The Cliffs of Insanity!

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Fans of the beloved Steven Spielberg film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial have only one more day to catch Steven Spielberg’s 1982 hit film in theaters.  As part of the TCM Big Screen Classics and Fathom Events celebration of the 35th anniversary of some of the greatest films of all time, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial will be in theaters for only one more day via two screenings in hundreds of theaters nationwide.

You can still get tickets for one of two screenings showing locally Wednesday, September 20, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.  For more information, to check theater availability, and to order tickets, check out the Fathom Events website here.

After unprecedented commercial success with Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg did the unthinkable, directing a fourth blockbuster that would outperform them all, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial saw the big screen breakout roles of Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas, and C. Thomas Howell.  Nominated for nine Academy Awards, it would take home four awards, for John Williams’ vibrant score, for sound, visual effects, and sound effects editing.  The film is the only movie from the 1980s that is among the top 50 all-time box office record-holders, currently holding its place at#15.

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After unprecedented commercial success with Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg did the unthinkable, directing a fourth blockbuster that would outperform them all, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.  And it happened over that magical Summer of 1982.  On its way to proving that 2017 may be the biggest year of returning classic films to the theater, Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events are partnering again as part of their TCM Big Screen Classics Series to bring E.T. back to the big screen.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial saw the big screen breakout roles of Drew Barrymore, Henry Thomas, and C. Thomas Howell.  Nominated for nine Academy Awards, it would take home four awards, for John Williams’ vibrant score, for sound, visual effects, and sound effects editing.  The film is the only movie from the 1980s that is among the top 50 all-time box office record-holders, currently holding its place at#15.

Phone Home.  Be good.  I’ll be right here.

The 35th anniversary screenings of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial will be the first nationwide re-release of the film in 15 years.  The original theatrical version will be presented at four screenings, which will include a special commentary by TCM Primetime Host Ben Mankiewicz.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment also celebrates the film’s anniversary with a special gift set, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 35th Anniversary Limited Edition on 4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray™+ Digital, available on September 12.

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Planet of the Apes movie poster

Those original “damned, dirty apes” that launched a nearly 50-year franchise that shows no signs of stopping are coming back to the big screen this summer for a limited screening release.  Fathom Events is partnering once again with Turner Classic Movies and Twentieth Century Fox to bring Planet of the Apes to your local theater.  Astronaut Taylor, played by Charlton Heston, and the best apes of the movie series, Roddy McDowell’s Cornelius and Kim Hunter’s Zira, will dazzle once again in what the American Film Institute has voted to their best sci-fi/fantasy Top 100 list as the #59 most thrilling movie of all time, with one of the top twelve film scores–by the master composer Jerry Goldsmith–of any genre, ever.

If you haven’t seen the original, be prepared for one of the best pay-offs in all of science fiction.  Oh, and that quote… although we think we hear Heston call ’em “damn, dirty apes” we appreciate the AFI correcting the grammar to “damned, dirty apes,” listing Heston’s line as the #66 most memorable movie quote of all time.

Old Planet of Apes 1968 poster

As usual, TCM host Ben Mankiewicz will provide a contextual introduction to the film.  Here are the dates, details, and how to get tickets for one of four local screenings:

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rear window fathom

It’s Alfred Hitchcock’s most suspenseful film, his most engaging and atmospheric, and it features top lead actors with stars Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly.  It’s his 1954 blockbuster Rear Window, and if you haven’t seen it on the big screen then you haven’t seen it at all.

Tomorrow, March 22, 2015, and Wednesday, March 25, 2015, as part of the Fathom Event series, theaters across the country will screen the restored cut of the film.  Presented by Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, the film will be introduced by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

It’s a steamy, sultry summer, and L.B. Jeffries (Jimmy Stewart) is a war photographer bedridden from an injury to his leg.  He’s being taken care of by nurse Stella, played by Thelma Ritter, and is constantly being prodded for his affections by the beautiful fashion model Lisa Fremont, played by Grace Kelly.  Jeffries’ apartment overlooks a courtyard and the back sides of other apartments, and as Jeffries gets more and more bored he begins following the goings-on out his rear window.  Newlyweds, a musician, an unhappy couple, an older couple, a dancer, a lonely woman.

Grace Kelly Jimmy Stewart

Is the heat getting to Jeffries, or could one of these tenants have committed a murder across the way?

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