100 Word Review – The Addams Family (1991)

Margaret: Where’s your costume?

Wednesday: This is my costume. I’m a homicidal maniac. They look just like everybody else.

Adapted from The New Yorker satirical comic strip of the 1940s and the TV series of the 1960s and 1970s, this time the inversion of the ideal American family are hitting the silver screen.

After going missing in the Bermuda Triangle for 25 years, Uncle Fester (Christopher Lloyd) is reunited with Gomez (Raul Julia), Morticia (Angelica Huston), Wednesday (Christina Ricci), Pugsley (Jimmy Workman) and Lurch (Carel Struycken). But is everything as it appears.

Family-friendly fun, albeit with a morbid sense of humour.

100 Word Review – Some Like It Hot (1959)

Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon star in this classic 1950s Oscar-winning romantic comedy. 

When Joe (Curtis) and Jerry (Lemmon) accidentally witness the 1929 St Valentines Day Massacre, they join a women-only band to escape the mob who want them silenced.

This is a very, very silly film.

That said, it is also clever, funny and brilliantly directed by the hugely talented Billy Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment). It is dramatic, engaging and speaks volumes about the strict gender roles of the time. It’s currently number 112 on IMDb’s Top 250 films and has the single greatest last line of any movie.

Paris When It Sizzles (1964)

Believe it or not, this film is a sophisticated satire. Although you would be forgiven for not realising it. 

Starring Audrey Hepburn and William Holden, with cameos from Noel Coward, Tony Curtis and Marlene Dietrich, it plays like a romantic farce.

Gabrielle Simpson (Hepburn) is a typist sent to the hotel room of acclaimed screenwriter Richard Benson (Holden) to type up the pages of his latest masterpiece. The problem is that he hasn’t started writing it yet and only has three days to get it written and delivered to the producer.

George Axelrod (Breakfast At Tiffany’s, The Seven Year Itch, The Manchurian Candidate) penned the screenplay and it was directed by Richard Quine (Sex And The Single Girl, How To Murder Your Wife).

The key to understanding the genius of this film, comes with understanding the changes Hollywood was going through at the time. So here is a brief history of the Classical Hollywood era.

When Hollywood started making films, the rating system that we are all familiar with did not exist. There was censorship or sense of filtering audiences by a film’s content. By the end of the 1920s, Hollywood was getting a reputation as a hotbed of sin and debauchery. Extra-marital affairs were rife and well recorded in the national and international press and there were even a couple of high profile rapes and murders.

In an attempt to restore the at least the appearance of a moral code, the studios hired Presbyterian Elder William Hays who, in 1930, brought out the Motion Picture Production Code (MPPC also known as the Hays Code). The MPPC laid out a series of rule that filmmakers had to abide by, including banning the “use of profanity”, “ridicule of the clergy” and “sex relationships between white and black races”, and cautioning “special care” around “sympathy for criminals”, “men and women in bed together” and “the institution of marriage”. These rules applied to all American filmmaking until 1968 when the Motion Picture Association of America film rating system was put in place, however from the 1950s onwards American filmmakers pushed back against these restrictions.

By the end of 1950s a new style of filmmaking was coming out of Europe, christened French New Wave. Directors such as Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and Agnes Varda took a free-form approach to filmmaking, seeing it as a form of artistic expression rather than commercial storytelling. This flew very much in the face of Hollywood’s ethos, which was (and still is) very much the movie “Business”.

This is the period of change that Axelrod was writing in, and that he tapped into when writing this clever little film. His characters write a screenplay that not only jumps from genre to genre but pushes and pulls at the MPPC as well as poking fun at French New Wave.

In a scene within the fictitious film that takes place in the bedroom, Benson comments on the risqué nature of the scene. Miss Simpson responds “You might take that view, but I believe they are playing Parcheesi”, gently prodding the MPPC’s allowances of insinuation. Also within the film within a film, Gaby gets caught up with a French New Wave actor (played by Tony Curtis) who’s involved in a fictitious film about Bastille Day called No Dancing In The Streets because “in this version it, like, rains”.

So watch this film, but when you do, look beyond the farcical romantic comedy and try to see the brilliantly executed satire that lies beneath.

100 Word Review – Shutter Island (2010)

Another wonderful example of Martin Scorsese’s (The Departed, Goodfellas) attention to detail.

Set in 1954, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is partnered up with Chuck (Mark Ruffalo) and sent to Shutter Island, a hospital for the criminally insane, to investigate a patient’s escape.

Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), this crime thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end. Emily Mortimer, Michelle Williams, Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson all co-star, each contributing brilliantly to the sense of dread and suspense present throughout. It currently sits at 194 in IMDb’s Top 250 list.

100 Word Review – Animal Farm (1954)

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.

Based on the communist fable from George Orwell in which farmyard animals overthrow their human oppressors and attempt to forge their own path.

Not suitable for children. This isn’t DisneyThe animation from Batchelor and Halas is simultaneously dated and timeless, creating an eerie sense of a warning being shouted across the ages.

It was funded to a large extent by the CIA as anti-communist propaganda. This film is so steeped in history it’s impossible to ignore, and is probably best enjoyed with a generous side of Wiki.

100 Word Review – Bang Bang Baby (2014)

Definitely more Rocky Horror than Mamma Mia, with ample helpings of Bye Bye Birdie, and something of the Hammer Horror about it, this film defies accurate description.

Stepphy (Jane Levy) is a small-town girl with hopes of becoming a singer. But when her dad burns her acceptance letter to a national singing competition her dreams of meeting heart-throb Bobby Shore (Justin Chatwin) are dashed. Or are they? And what’s this about a leak at the local chemical plant?

There is nothing more I can say about this film except that it will be nothing like anything you’ve ever seen before.


100 Word Review – Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Considered part of the Hollywood vs. McCarthyism debate, this film is best enjoyed on a much more basic level.

A doctor returns from a trip to find that the people in his small-town are being replaced by emotionless pod people.

When I say pod people, I mean it. They literally burst out of pods. It’s brilliant.

There’s a lot of the “women are need a man to help them” trope, but despite this it is still a remarkably watchable movie. I have watched this on my TV and on the big screen and it only gets better with every viewing.