Things I Saw in January


1. Mudbound (2017) A wonderfully shot, heartbreaking period saga of two families in 1940s Mississippi, one white, one black. The film plays out like a novel more than any film I’ve seen this year, and I was riveted. One of the best ensembles of 2017. 4 stars out of 4

2. Okja (2017) South Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s quirky film about a girl and her super pig. Probably the most effective film ever made on why people should turn vegetarian. This film is off the wall starting off as an “E.T.” like fable, to a social commentary on animal cruelty, but it always remains interesting and entertaining. 3.5 stars out of 4

3. Personal Shopper (2017) A supernatural film dealing with death, isolation, and alienation featuring a wonderful performance by Kirsten Stewart. Great film 4 stars out of 4

4. A Ghost Story (2017) Another unique supernatural film. Casey Affleck plays a man who dies and becomes a ghost in a sheet. As he haunts his former house and girlfriend, he is trapped with time passing over him. This is one of the saddest films I’ve ever seen. 4 stars out of 4

5. All the Money in the World (2017) Director Ridley Scott’s account of the  infamous kidnapping incident involving John Paul Getty the III and his stingy Grandfather who refused to pay the ransom. Scott brings some great storytelling to this, one of his best films. At the center is this great characterization of a real life Ebeneezer Scrooge John Paul Getty played magnificently by Christopher Plummer. 3.5 stars out of 4

6. Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Widely entertaining mystery yarn from director Kenneth Brannagh with an all star cast feels like a throwback to when these types of movies were made all the time. Brannagh is having fun here as is most of the cast, a very good time. 3.5 stars out of 4

7. The Post (2017) Steven Spielberg’s hugely entertaining and fast paced account of the publishing of the Pentagon Papers by the Washington Post. Great performances by stars Tom Hanks and especially Meryl Streep along with a strong supporting cast lead by Bob Odenkirk. Spielberg again shows why he is such a master story-teller. 4 stars out of 4

8. Ken Burns: The Civil War (1990) A famous nine part documentary series about the Civil War is largely dense and informative, but always compelling. Kens Burns has a certain style to his films and this is probably his greatest calling card. 4 stars out of 4

9. Bullets or Ballots (1936) Edward G. Robinson stars in this gangster film of a police detective who goes undercover to fight racketeers. Great old fashioned entertainment, featuring Humphrey Bogart as a bad guy. 3 stars out of 4

10. City for Conquest (1940) Blistering melodrama with James Cagney as a man who goes into boxing to help out his artist brother and win the heart of the woman he loves. A little corny, but Cagney and cast are great. 3 stars out of 4

11. Each Dawn I Die (1939) Fine prison drama with James Cagney as a reporter who is framed for murder and is sent to a prison. George Raft plays a gangster he befriends. Cagney gives a great performance, the film isn’t as hard as it could be. 3 stars out of 4

12. G-Men (1935) Cagney plays a guy who joins the government agency for fighting the gangsters. Again Cagney is at his A-game and this film is an exciting gangster story. 3 stars out of 4

13. A Slight Case of Murder (1938) One of the best comedies I’ve seen in quite some time. A send up of gangster films stars Edward G. Robinson as a bootlegger who wants to go straight after prohibition has ended. The film turns into a wonderful farce with one incident coming after another with wonderful comic performances particularly by Robinson and the wonderful Ruth Donnelly as his wife. 4 stars out of 4

14. Black Legion (1937) A totally relevant and timely film made in the thirties. Humphrey Bogart plays a man who loses his job to a foreigner. Bitter and resentful he joins a group called the Black Legion who wear black hoods and commit crimes to undesirable foreigners in America. This is a scathing indictment of anti-Semitism, and racism at the time with the Black Legion being a not too subtle not to the KKK. This film holds nothing back and I was shocked at what was being said in this film can still be heard today. This was Humphrey Bogart’s first starring role. 4 stars out of 4

15. Brother Orchid (1940) Another gangster send-up with Edward G. Robinson. This time he’s another gangster who wants to go straight but loses all his money. After he is double crossed by his former gang, he hides out with a bunch of monks. This film is good but doesn’t hold a candle to “A Slight Case of Murder”. Ann Sothern is a stand-out as Robinson’s girlfriend and Ralph Bellamy is pretty funny as the rich cowboy who’s sweet on her. 3 stars out of 4

16. Lady Killer (1933) A comedy crime film has James Cagney starting off as a con man but then finds himself as a movie star. Cagney is one of the strongest actors ever and he makes this impossible plot work. It is nice to see him reunited with his “Public Enemy” co-star Mae Clarke. 3 stars out of 4

17. Picture Snatcher (1933) Cagney is an ex-con who gets crime photos for a tabloid newspaper. Interesting premise and the film doesn’t skimp on it’s sensationalism, it’s tightly paced and exciting. Ralph Bellamy adds great support as Cagney’s boss and friend. 3.5 stars out of 4

18. Smart Money (1931) The only film to co-star both Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney. Filmed soon after Robinson’s career defining role in “Little Caesar” and right before Cagney broke out with “Public Enemy”. It’s neat watching them share the screen together. Robinson is a barber who starts a gambling racket, Cagney is his best friend who helps him out. Great performances, even if the plot is a bit of a carbon copy. 3.5 stars out of 4

19. The Mayor of Hell (1933) Cagney is a gangster who becomes in charge of a reform school for boys. This is really good for a very long time until the end which wraps everything up a little too neatly. Still worth watching for Cagney’s magnetic performance. 3 stars out of 4


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