Blu-Ray Review: A Letter to Three Wives

Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Screenplay: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Vera Caspary
Based on a Novel by: John Klempner
Starring: Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern, Kirk Douglas, Paul Douglas
Country: USA
Running Time: 103 min
Year: 1949
BBFC Certificate: U

The romantic drama A Letter to Three Wives isn’t the usual sort of film I’d volunteer to review. However, I’m a big fan of All About Eve, which is also written and directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, so I was intrigued and anything released as part of Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series is worth a watch.

A Letter to Three Wives has quite a simple premise. Three friends, Deborah (Jeanne Crain), Lora Mae (Linda Darnell) and Rita (Ann Sothern) get a letter from a fourth ‘friend’ (the three are always bitching about her), Addie Ross, stating that she has run away with one of their husbands. She doesn’t say which one however and, as the three are away at a children’s picnic, they are left to grow increasingly more anxious about whether their husbands will be at home waiting for them. The rest of the film is largely made up of flashbacks, telling the wives’ stories. All of them have suspicions about their husbands, who all had their own interests in Addie, and all three relationships are growing strained in different ways.

It’s an interesting concept which is simple to describe, but paves the way for a rich and involving look at love and marriage. It’s refreshing to see an adult drama surrounding women. It’s well documented that films these days are far too male-centric. OK, so the stories here are about relationships with men so it might not pass the Bechdel test, but it makes a change from the typical damsel in distress or arm-candy roles too regularly dumped on women.

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Wet Hot American Summer: First Day at Camp [trailer]

I never saw the original film from 2001, but apparently it’s pretty funny. Funny enough that Netflix is releasing an 8-part mini-series that is a prequel to the original. The fact that it stars basically the same cast but they’re all 15 years older is part of the gag I guess.

Anyway, here’s the trailer if you’re into this sort of thing. Some bits work in here pretty well, others don’t. I quite like the “what?”, “nothing.”, “what?” banter at the end with Bradley Cooper and Michael Ian Black.

The cast is stacked: Elizabeth Banks, H. Jon Benjamin, Michael Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Janeane Garofalo, Nina Hellman, David Hyde Pierce, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, AD Miles, Marguerite Moreau, Christopher Meloni, Zak Orth, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Marisa Ryan, David Wain, Molly Shannon, Michael Showalter, Jordan Peele, Kristen Wiig, and introducing Jon Hamm.


Review: Ted 2

Director: Seth MacFarlane (A Million Ways to Die in the West, )
Writers: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild
Producers: Jason Clark, John Jacobs, Seth MacFarlane, Scott Stuber
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi, Morgan Freeman, Sam J. Jones and a shit-ton of cameos
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 115 min.



My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd.


When you’re the highest-grossing R-rated original comedy of all-time, there’s no question that you’re going to get a sequel as quick as the studio can get you to push it out, regardless of how little sense it makes to forge a franchise out of your initial product. As a result, here we are now, living in a world where Ted 2 exists. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Seth MacFarlane’s follow-up to his bromance tale of two best friends, one a dim lug played by Mark Wahlberg and the other a magically brought to life teddy bear voiced by MacFarlane, is more of the same and so your mileage for this sequel is entirely dependent on how much you were able to tolerate that first picture, and MacFarlane’s brand in general. While Ted 2 never reaches the turgid lows of A Million Ways to Die in the West, the writer/director’s misguided western spoof from last year, it also demonstrates yet again that his brand of comedy is far more suited for the half-hour television format of his series like Family Guy and American Dad than it is for a two-hour picture that requires more narrative heft and character development.

Those two things are nowhere to be found in Ted 2, despite the oddly topical storyline centered around the concept of Ted (MacFarlane) and John (Wahlberg) fighting for the bear’s civil rights when it turns out that he somehow slipped by the legal system all these years and is now suddenly deemed property in the eyes of the law, as opposed to a human being. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds and only looks more so whenever MacFarlane actually makes some sort of attempt to play straight this ludicrous premise. Ted 2’s story is filled with holes, but obviously that’s not what’s going to draw anyone to this kind of movie and so MacFarlane wisely makes a concerted effort to up the laugh ratio here from what we saw in the first film. While that earlier effort focused heavily on the flat romance between John and Mila Kunis’ Lori (whose absence here is surprisingly explained with solid reasoning and not at all distracting), Ted 2 is more about MacFarlane’s trademark blend of pop-culture riffs, nonsequiturs and general juvenile humor that is sure to be gobbled up by his key demographic (young men), but won’t convert anyone on the fence.

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Review: Magic Mike XXL

Director: Gregory Jacobs (Windchill, Criminal)
Writer: Reid Carolin
Producers: Reid Carolin, Gregory Jacobs, Channing Tatum, Nick Wechsler
Starring: Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez, Gabriel Iglesias, Amber Heard, Donald Glover, Andie MacDowell, Elizabeth Banks, Jada Pinkett Smith
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 115 min.



My original posting of this review can be found on LetterBoxd.


WThree years ago, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike surprised many viewers (including this one) by not only being a good film, but by taking a dark look into the dangers of the intoxicating lifestyle of the male stripper. Centered as much on the rise and fall of Alex Pettyfer’s ingenue character as it was on Channing Tatum’s eponymous figure, Magic Mike showed viewers the allure of this life before hitting them with the harsh realities that lurked within. This narrative shift was an unexpected turn from a movie that was marketed, and began, as a lurid piece of sensationalism loaded with scantily clad men gyrating on eager women. Some walked away disappointed that the movie didn’t live up to the night of unfiltered debauchery it perceived itself as. Those who were have had their complaints answered and then some with Magic Mike XXL, the unlikely sequel to the surprise hit which more than fills up the quota for intense and highly erotic male dancing that the first eventually veered away from.

Magic Mike XXL opens up with a look at Tatum’s Mike Lane living in his quiet dream of running his own custom furniture business, the one he spent much of the first film dreaming about realizing. Things could be better, as he only has one employee and finances are so pinched he can’t even provide him with health care, but he’s out of the stripper game and away from the seedier aspects that took hold of his protege three years ago. Then, Mike gets a call from old friend and co-stripper Tarzan (Kevin Nash), letting him know that his whole former gang is going to be swinging by his area on their way to a stripper convention in Myrtle Beach and it’s not long before he’s on the road ready to bust out some new moves. As the sequel formula tends to go, Magic Mike XXL promises to be bigger and better than ever before and it makes sure to earn every crumpled dollar bill the audience tosses on the stage for it.

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Terracotta Classic Kung Fu Collection

Being a martial arts movie fan in the UK is tough. When I first really got into the genre at the turn of the millennium, when I was at uni, a DVD label called Hong Kong Legends appeared and it was like mana from heaven. They released 101 classic martial arts films in total, largely from the Golden Harvest vaults. Through their beautifully remastered DVD’s, usually packed with features, I was able to work my way through the early films of Jackie Chan, discover the joy of Sammo Hung’s master works and uncover a wealth of classic action movies from Hong Kong. Unfortunately, as the decade moved on, key members of the Hong Kong Legends team left to work for Dragon Dynasty in the US and the label’s output dwindled and eventually it folded completely. The Cine Asia label formed during this time, bringing out a number of modern Asian action films and even eventually re-releasing most of the big name Hong Kong Legends releases. They never delved deeper into the wealth of old school kung fu available in East Asia though and eventually they too fell by the wayside.

The biggest martial arts gap in UK home entertainment is the lack of Shaw Brothers films. Momentum Pictures started bringing out a few, but gave up before they really got going. Momentum have disappeared now too (although they were bought up by eOne), so these days fans of old school kung-fu are left with that one bunch of Hong Kong Legends releases, floating around in various formats, and little else to quench their hunger for retro kung-fu violence.

Praise the high-kicking Lord then for Terracotta distribution. Just when all hope was lost, they have introduced their very own ‘Classic Kung Fu Collection’. Since the end of last year, Terracotta have been gradually treating UK fans to some rare old school kung fu classics. They’ve only got four out so far, but as my brief reviews of them all below will attest, they’re well worth a watch and, fingers crossed, hopefully we’ll be seeing more in the future.

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