July 2019 movie capsules

The Heiress (1949, William Wyler)
★★★★
Outstanding period drama about unmarried heiress Olivia de Havilland’s courtship by charming but poor Montgomery Clift and the repercussions for de Havilland’s relationship with her father, Ralph Richardson. Small story grandly told; Ruth and Augustus Goetz adapted their own play (which was adapted from Henry James’s Washington Square). Fantastic performances from everyone involved, stellar direction from Wyler.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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Wonder Boys (2000, Curtis Hanson)
★★★½
Beautifully directed “man in [madcap] crisis” movie with writing professor Michael Douglas dealing with his wife leaving him, his girlfriend getting pregnant, his agent snooping for his overdue and overlong new novel, one student trying to seduce him, and another student killing his boss’s dog. All those threads overlap too. It’s a bit of a plotting mess, but well written and wonderfully acted. Hanson and his talented crew make a sublime picture.
DVD, Streaming.
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Hello Down There (1969, Jack Arnold)
ⓏⒺⓇⓄ
Atrocious “family” “comedy” about Tony Randall dragging his family into his experimental underwater house of the future to prove the validity of the project to boss Jim Backus. Janet Leigh plays Randall’s wife (she could’ve done a lot better); she’s terrified of water. Their kids are in a band. The band comes along (including very young Richard Dreyfuss). Dumb script, some awful performances, lousy music (and a lot of it). Leigh’s okay, the rest is very bad.
DVD, Streaming.
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Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019, Jon Watts)
★★½
Fun, funny sequel has Spider-Man Tom Holland touring Europe on a class trip (leaving his Spidey suit at home) and trying to recover from AVENGERS: ENDGAME. He’s also wooing crush Zendaya and avoiding Sam Jackson’s pleas for help in battling giant monsters. Great anchoring performance from Holland. Loads of other good stuff… just not the big third act action finale. The two additional endings are way too essential not to be in the film proper.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Charlotte and Her Lover (1960, Jean-Luc Godard)
Not Recommended
Tedious thirteen minute short has Jean-Paul Belmondo monologuing a misogynist rant against silent ex-lover Anne Collette all to get to a predictable twist ending. Director Godard (poorly) dubs in himself for Belmondo. Blah.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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Greta (2018, Neil Jordan)
★★
Effective (rather than good) thriller about a young woman, Chloë Grace Moretz, discovering her new best friend (Isabelle Huppert) is a possibly dangerous stalker. Lots of suspenseful set pieces; they just don’t add up to a successful film. It almost gives Huppert a great movie villain role, only not to have any idea what to do with her once she’s primed. Good acting, fine direction, and very efficient storytelling. A little too efficient storytelling.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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The Best of Enemies (2019, Robin Bissell)
★★
Could be worse, but should be a lot better based on a true story about a 1971 North Carolina school desegregation crisis. Sam Rockwell is the Klan leader, Taraji P. Henson is the (Black) community organizer. Will they somehow work together to make the world a better place? Henson and Rockwell have real thin parts–courtesy director Bissell’s script–but they do a lot with them (for basically no reward). Bissell can’t hack it as director or writer.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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The Reckless Moment (1949, Max Ophüls)
★★★
Rather strong character study masquerading as a thriller about wealthy housewife Joan Bennett contending with a rebellious teenage daughter (Geraldine Brooks, in the film’s only weak-ish performance), the daughter’s skeezy older lover (Shepperd Strudwick), and the blackmailer who finds out about the illicit affair (James Mason)–all while getting the house ready for Christmas. Bennett’s phenomenal, Mason’s good, Ophüls’s direction is excellent.
Blu-ray (Region B).
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Body Heat (1981, Lawrence Kasdan)
★★★★
Singular, sweaty modern noir about charismatic, hunky, and dim lawyer William Hurt having an affair with trophy wife Kathleen Turner much to the detriment of his career and relationship with closest friends, D.A. Ted Danson and cop J.A. Preston. It gets even more complicated after Hurt meets her husband–a perfectly icky Richard Crenna–and working on revising his will. Great dialogue, great direction, great photography, editing, all of it. It’s awesome.

DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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The Swindlers (2017, Jang Chang-won)
★★½
Well-paced, emphasis on fun fun con movie with corrupt DA Yu Ji-tae and his team of blackmailed con artists trying to take down the perpetrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme in South Korean history. Everyone’s got their own agendas, their own secrets, which complicates the already arduous task. Especially newest team member Bin Hyun, who thinks he’s too smart for Yu. Writer-director Jang concentrates on the fun of the reveal and his likable cast.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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nullNarc (2002, Joe Carnahan)
★★★
Hyper-gritty cop movie about ex-undercover officer Jason Patric returning to the force to solve the murder of a fellow undercover cop (they didn’t know each other, but the NARC bond is apparently strong). Once back, Patric enlists the aid of bull in china shop tough cop (an awesomely bloated and belligerent Ray Liotta). The filmmaking’s gorgeous; in addition to flipping when it should flop, director Carnahan’s script hampers an otherwise strong Patric.
DVD, Streaming.
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In a Lonely Place (1950, Nicholas Ray)
★★½
Overall disappointing noir about down-on-his-luck screenwriter Humphrey Bogart getting his mojo back thanks to fetching neighbor Gloria Grahame taking an interest. Unfortunately they’ve just met because Bogart’s a murder suspect and, despite falling for him, Grahame isn’t exactly sure he didn’t do it. The leads are far better than the script, just never at the same time. Ray’s uneven direction doesn’t help. Bogart’s mostly just okay, but Grahame’s fantastic.
DVD, Blu-ray, Streaming.
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Le coup du berger (1956, Jacques Rivette)
Not Recommended
Obvious short about unfaithful wife Virginie Vitry’s attempts to con husband Jacques Doniol-Valcroze into unknowingly giving her the fur coat her lover (Jean-Claude Brialy) bought her. Middling writing and directing leads to middling acting.
DVD, Blu-ray.
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