Movies I’ve recently seen: They Were Expendable ֍ The French Dispatch ֍ Laura ֍ Eyes Wide Shut

In my last “recenty seen” post, I noticed that new movies seemed to be better than old ones. Not this time.

A- They Were Expendable (1945)

The Navy very much wanted to make this film, and especially have it made by Captain John Ford USNR (yes, that John Ford). Much as I like the picture, I don’t understand why the Navy thought it would be such a great recruitment tool. Death stalks everywhere. Most of the sailors are left behind to be captured or killed by the Japanese. Yes, there’s fun high jinx, comradeship, and even a romance with a nurse who’s all-business when working (Donna Reed in a remarkable performance). Robert Montgomery and John Wayne play the officers trying the usefulness of small, wooden boats at war.

B The French Dispatch (2021)

It feels so good to see a broad comedy in a theater again, even though Wes Anderson doesn’t quite succeed in creating the magic of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Telling us several stories while cutting back and forth between color and black-and-white, the Dispatch provides enough laughs for the price of admission. An international magazine published in the little-known French town called Ennui connects the several tales. It’s all very silly, as it should be, and even sillier because of the French setting. The cast of famous people includes Benicio Del Toro, Frances McDormand, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Jeffrey Wright, Elisabeth Moss (wasted), Léa Seydoux, and Timothée Chalamet as a rebellious student named Zeffirelli.

B Laura (1944)

Here’s a whodunit made when film noir was just coming into bloom. Dana Andrews stars as the very noir-like police detective; he’s the sort of ’40s cop who drinks on duty. In fact, he drinks with the suspects while trying to unravel the mystery of the title character’s murder. The suspects are the two men who loved her: the snooty, wealthy newspaper columnist (Clifton Webb) and the not-so-rich fiancée (Vincent Price before mustache or horror movies). Gene Tierney plays Laura in flashbacks and…I really can’t tell you anymore.

D+ Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Stanley Kubrick’s last film is one of his worst. It starts well, when an attractive and wealthy couple (Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman – a real-life couple back then) flirt with others at a party. Back at home, the couple discuss their adulterous sexual fantasies – mostly hers. But then the movie goes off the rails. The husband wanders through New York late at night with hundreds of dollars in cash. And that’s not the only stupid thing he does throughout the night. The famous orgy scene is so stupid that I was tempted to do some MST3K-like riffing. A bad ending of a great career.

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