Film Review Round-up – COWBOYS & ALIENS (2011); THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985) and REBECCA (1940)

10531351-1322658704-826498Cowboys & Aliens (2011; USA; DeLuxe; 119m) ∗∗∗  d. Jon Favreau; w. Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, Damon Lindelof, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby; ph. Matthew Libatique; m. Harry Gregson-Williams.  Cast: Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Abigail Spencer, Buck Taylor, Matthew Taylor, Cooper Taylor, Clancy Brown, Paul Dano, Chris Browning, Adam Beach, Sam Rockwell, Ana de la Reguera, Noah Ringer, Brian Duffy, Keith Carradine, Walton Goggins. A spaceship arrives in Arizona, 1873, to take over the Earth, starting with the Wild West region. A posse of cowboys and natives are all that stand in their way. Starts out well but quickly descends into formula. Technical aspects are strong and Ford and Craig add much needed weight to an otherwise uninspired story.  Based on the comic book by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg. Extended version runs to 135m. [12]

41WAWC1EV0LPurple Rose of Cairo, The (1985; USA; DuArt; 82m) ∗∗∗½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Dick Hyman.  Cast: Mia Farrow, Jeff Daniels, Danny Aiello, Van Johnson, Alexander H. Cohen, Dianne Wiest, Zoe Caldwell, John Wood, Milo O’Shea, Deborah Rush, Edward Herrmann, Karen Akers, Michael Tucker, Glenn Headly. In 1930s New Jersey, a movie character walks off the screen and into the real world. Clever fantasy comedy with sharp observations about the importance of escapism in the cinema during the depression era and wry observations about the Hollywood machine. [PG]

3003_frontRebecca (1940; USA; B&W; 130m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Alfred Hitchcock; w. Robert E. Sherwood, Joan Harrison, Philip MacDonald, Michael Hogan; ph. George Barnes; m. Franz Waxman.  Cast: Laurence Olivier, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders, Judith Anderson, Nigel Bruce, Reginald Denny, C. Aubrey Smith, Gladys Cooper. A self-conscious bride is tormented by the memory of her husband’s dead first wife. Absorbing and atmospheric mystery drama brilliantly acted and directed with evocative cinematography. Winner of Oscars for Best Picture and Best Cinematography, and received nominations for nine additional Oscars. Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier. [PG]

Film Review – THE WRONG MAN (1956)

THE WRONG MAN (1956, Warner Bros., USA, 105 mins, B&W, 1.66:1, Mono, Cert: PG, Crime Drama) ∗∗∗∗
      Starring: Henry Fonda (Manny Balestrero), Vera Miles (Rose Balestrero), Anthony Quayle (Frank D. O’Connor), Harold J. Stone (Det. Lt. Bowers), Charles Cooper (Det. Matthews), John Heldabrand (Tomasini), Esther Minciotti (Mama Balestrero), Doreen Lang (Ann James), Laurinda Barrett (Constance Willis), Norma Connolly (Betty Todd), Nehemiah Persoff (Gene Conforti), Lola D’Annunzio (Olga Conforti), Kippy Campbell (Robert Balestrero), Robert Essen (Gregory Balestrero), Richard Robbins (Daniel), Dayton Lummis (Judge Groat), Peggy Webber (Miss Dennerly).
      Producer: Alfred Hitchcock; Director: Alfred Hitchcock; Writer: Maxwell Anderson, Angus MacPhail (from a story by Anderson); Director of Photography: Robert Burks; Music: Bernard Herrmann; Film Editor: George Tomasini; Art Director: Paul Sylbert; Set Decorator: William L. Kuehl.

2mpakhfHitchcock himself introduces this intriguing adaptation of a true story of Manny Balestrero (Henry Fonda), who makes little money as a musician. When his wife (Vera Miles) needs some dental work, Manny attempts to cash in on her insurance policy. Unfortunately, he resembles an armed robber who held up the office twice before, so the police are called and Manny is placed under arrest.

Where the film scores is in the unfolding psychological drama. As Manny retains a certain calmness as he attempts to prove his innocence, his wife Rose becomes increasingly strained mentally leading her to an eventual breakdown. Fonda and Miles capture the essence of their characters very well as the story unfolds in a matter-of-fact fashion. Herrmann also contributes another evocative score that conveys the increasing desperation of the couples’ situation. Hitchcock also uses the New York locations (including the city’s Stork Club) effectively, which are captured moodily through Burks’ camera work. The director deliberately steers away from any visual tricks and lets the story speak for itself. As such it is one of his most straightforward films.

Balestrero’s story had previously been dramatised on Robert Montgomery Presents in an episode entitled “A Case of Identity,” which aired on 11 Jan 1954 on the NBC network based on the Life magazine article bearing the same title.