Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
There was much more to James Garner than Bret Maverick and Jim Rockford. Here are ten movies roles which he should be remembered for, as well.

For a certain generation, he will always be the quick-witted, adroit cardshark Bret Maverick in Maverick. His slick, snide persona left a major impact, even after he walked at the end of the third season (the show ran for another two years).


For others, he remains the laid back beach bum private dick Jim Rockford, a problem-plagued PI whose questionable abilities were quelled by his flashy (?) fashion sense, beachside mobile home office/residence, street savvy, and complicated backstory (he served time in prison on a wrongful conviction). Audiences loved this Maverick-like update (co-producer Roy Huggins was responsible for both shows) and it set a standard for which actor James Garner would be both grateful and a bit glum.


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Monday, Jul 21, 2014
Michel Gondry goes all out here, bringing both the fanciful wonders and dire circumstances of our couple's doomed affair to breathtaking, eye-popping life.

It’s been a while since we’ve seen filmmaker Michel Gondry in what we’d call “full Gondry” mode. After his amazing breakthrough, the endearing romantic tragicomedy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, he’s made attempts at cult/commercial appeal (Be Kind, Rewind), mainstream blockbusting (the grossly underrated Green Hornet) and a few reasonable reminders of his eccentric penchant (The Science of Sleep,The We and the I).


There have even been a few fascinating documentaries (The Thorn in the Heart, Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?) thrown in for good measure. Now, the undeniable visualist is back with an adaptation of Boris Vian’s highly experimental 1947 novel Froth of the Daydream (here retitled Mood Indigo). Telling a simplistic tale in a highly surrealistic manner, it would seem right up Gondry’s style over substance alley. And it is. Magnificently so.


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Friday, Jul 18, 2014
A long time ago, Disney wanted to bring a bit of excitement into a kid's entertainment world. Planes: Fire and Rescue revisits that idea, and succeeds.

There was a time, at least 50 years ago, when Disney took as much care with its live action films as its did with its animation. While these titles could never live up to the breathtaking artistic breakthroughs being made by their pen and ink masterworks, Disney still managed to craft family entertainment without resorting to ridiculous contrivances or obvious audience pandering. It all began with an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic Treasure Island, and flourished with efforts like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Swiss Family Robertson. There was even some unheralded excellence buried among the goofball comedies (The Shaggy Dog) and oddball entries (Greyfriar’s Bobby? Seriously).


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Thursday, Jul 17, 2014
In Experiment Perilous and Berlin Express, Tourneur is interested in desires and ideals—the optimistic as well as the dark.

Jacques Tourneur, son of the great silent pictorialist Maurice Tourneur, spent some of his career in France, but most of it on Hollywood B-films. He’s most famous for directing Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie for producer Val Lewton, and also the noir film Out of the Past. I think his greatest achievement is possibly Stars in My Crown, a foreigner’s point of view on sentimental Americana, and to my knowledge the only American film between The Birth of a Nation and Storm Warning to feature the Ku Klux Klan; the underseen Way of a Gaucho also demands attention. With the help of an excellent, sensitive, well-researched appreciation, Chris Fujiwara’s Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall, I’m better able to “see” this director’s work, including two RKO productions now available on demand from Warner Archives: Experiment Perilous and Berlin Express.


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Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014
The plot holes in Marion Parsonnet's script suggest that this film, too, is living dangerously.

Jane (Nancy Coleman) is a beautiful spy for the British war effort. In New York, she’s kidnapped by German agents and lands in the hospital after a car accident gives her temporary amnesia—or does it? Her doctor, Michael Lewis (John Garfield), alternates patronising her and hitting on her when she tries to explain the situation, but soon they’re both prisoners in a mansion with a man (Moroni Olsen) who claims to be her father. Running the scheme is the distinguished psychiatrist Dr. Ingersoll (Raymond Massey), proving Hollywood’s then-popular thesis that you can’t trust head doctors.


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