Favorite Films Set in the 1950s

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Below is a list of my favorite movies set in the decade of the 1950s:

 

FAVORITE FILMS SET IN THE 1950s

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1. L.A. Confidential (1997) – Curtis Hanson directed this outstanding adaptation of James Ellroy’s 1990 novel about three Los Angeles police detectives drawn into a case involving a diner massacre. Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pierce and Oscar winner Kim Basinger starred.

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2. “Grease” (1978) – John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John starred in this entertaining adaptation of the 1971 Broadway musical about a pair of teenage star-crossed lovers in the 1950s. Randal Kleiser directed.

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3. “The Godfather, Part II” (1974) – Francis Ford Coppola directed his Oscar winning sequel to the 1972 Oscar winning adaptation of Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel. Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert Duvall and Oscar winner Robert De Niro starred.

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4. “Quiz Show” (1994) – Robert Redford directed this intriguing adaptation of Richard Goodwin’s 1968 memoir, “Remembering America: A Voice From the Sixties”, about the game show scandals of the late 1950s. Ralph Fiennes, Rob Morrow and John Tuturro starred.

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5. “The Mirror Crack’d (1980) – Angela Landsbury starred as Miss Jane Marple in this adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1962 novel. Directed by Guy Hamilton, the movie also starred Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and Edward Fox.

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6. “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls” (2008) – Harrison Ford returned for the fourth time as Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones in this adventurous tale in which he is drawn into the search for artifacts known as the Crystal Skulls. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the movie was produced by him and George Lucas.

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7. “Champagne For One: A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2001)” – Timothy Hutton and Maury Chaykin starred as Archie Goodwin and Nero Wolfe in this television adaptation of Rex Stout’s 1958 novel. The two-part movie was part of A&E Channel’s “A NERO WOLFE MYSTERY” series.

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8. “Hollywoodland” (2006) – Adrien Brody, Diane Lane and Ben Affleck starred in this intriguing tale about a private detective’s investigation into the life and death of actor George Reeves. Allen Coulter.

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9. “My Week With Marilyn” (2011) – Oscar nominee Michelle Williams starred as Marilyn Monroe in this adaptation of Colin Clark’s two books about his brief relationship with the actress. Directed by Simon Curtis, the movie co-starred Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Redmayne as Clark.

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10. “Boycott” (2001) – Jeffrey Wright starred as Dr. Martin Luther King in this television adaptation of Stewart Burns’ book,“Daybreak of Freedom”, about the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. Directed by Clark Johnson, the movie co-starred Terrence Howard and C.C.H. Pounder.

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Honorable Mention: “Mulholland Falls” (1996) – Nick Nolte starred in this entertaining noir drama about a married Los Angeles Police detective investigating the murder of a high-priced prostitute, with whom he had an affair. The movie was directed by Lee Tamahori.

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“FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” (2010) Review

“FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” (2010) Review

On the heels of last year’s action hit, ”TAKEN”, producer/writer Pierre Morel released another action packer last month called ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE”. This movie centered around a pair of CIA operatives portrayed by John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers hunting for Islamic terrorists in Paris. 

Rhys-Meyers portrayed James Reece, an aide to the U.S. ambassador to France who also happened to be a low-level CIA operative with duties that include changing cars license plates for field operatives. His constant requests for a promotion to field agent finally led to a senior-level assignment as an escort for a visiting CIA agent named Charlie Wax sent to stop a possible terrorist attack. What started as a simply task of getting Charlie cleared by French Customs agents, eventually led to a series of dangerous and sometimes humorous adventures in the French underworld in search of Islamic extremists.

Unlike last year’s ”TAKEN”, producer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel presented a tale that relied more on comedy and less upon family angst. I must admit that Besson and co-writer Adi Hasak’s screenplay for ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” did not seem all that original. The movie seemed like your typical action flick filled with one-liners, hair-raising stunts and explosions. However, like ”TAKEN”, the movie did provide plenty of interesting views featuring the steamier side of Paris and some very hilarious moments between Travolta and Rhys-Meyers. I am also grateful that cinematographer Michel Abramowicz’s photography lacked the shaky camera work that has occasionally marred some action films over the past 5 ½ years.

I do have one major problem with this film. Aside from one character, all of its villains – minor or otherwise – came from France’s immigrant population. Wax and Reece encountered criminals of Asian, African and Arabic descent. And although the movie featured one French villain, the character happened to be a recent convert to Islam. At least”TAKEN” featured a corrupt French cop and an equally corrupt American diplomat. Not even ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” can claim this brand of diversity.

Another aspect of ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” proved to be the screen teaming of John Travolta and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Quite simply, they sizzled – much to my surprise. Travolta’s Charlie Wax bore a strong resemblance to some of his other over-the-top characters that he has portrayed over the years – including his performance in last year’s ”THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3”. However in ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE”, Travolta portrayed a protagonist. One of the good guys. Instead of being slightly overbearing, Travolta turned out to be funny as hell. But he was not the only one who provided humor in the movie. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers proved that he could match Travolta in the humor department, as his character James Reece reacted to Wax’s lunacy. And there were several scenes in which he also proved that he could be just as over-the-top as Travolta. Of course, this should not be a surprise. Rhys-Meyers has been portraying the extroverted King Henry VIII on Showtime’s ”THE TUDORS” for the past four seasons. My only quibble with his performance was that his American accent seemed ridiculously flat at times.

Would I be inclined to rent or purchase the DVD release of ”FROM PARIS WITH LOVE” in the near future? Sure. Why not? Granted, I found its portrayal of Paris’ immigrant population rather one-dimensional. And its plot seemed to lack any originality, whatsoever. But Besson and Hasak wrote a solid story with plenty of action, tension and humor. And Morel’s direction did justice to their screenplay. So, yes . . . I would consider buying the DVD version of the movie. After all, it is damn entertaining.

“THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3” (2009) Review

”THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3” (2009) Review

Tony Scott’s new version of John Godey’s 1973 novel, ”The Taking of Pelham One Two Three” marked the third time Hollywood released a version of the crime drama about the hijacking of a New York City subway train. The first version, directed by Joseph Sargent, featured Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw. Nineteen eighty-eight saw the release of a television version that starred Edward James Olmos and Vincent D’Onofrio. I barely remember the 1974 version and I have never seen the 1998 version. But since I recently saw this new version, I might as well give my two-cents on the movie.

In ”THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3” (2009) , Denzel Washington portrays a MTA dispatcher named Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), who is assigned to the Rail Control Center due to an ongoing investigation that he took a bribe to recommend a Japanese car manufacturer for the next subway car contract. It is Garber who ends up as the liaison between the New York Police Department/the Mayor’s Office and a man named “Ryder” (John Travolta) who has led three other men to board one of the MTA trains and hijack in exchange for $10 million dollars in ransom money. Also in the cast are John Turturro as Lieutenant Camonett of the NYPD Emergency Service Unit, who guides Garber into communicating with “Ryder”; Luis Guzmán as Phil Ramos (a.k.a. “Mr. Green”), one of the hijackers; and James Gandolfini as an unpopular mayor of New York City, who is under heavy pressure to address the hostage crisis.

Since my memories of the 1974 version is vague, I might as well express my view of the movie. In a nutshell, it was a solid and decent movie that had the good luck to possess a decent script written by Oscar winner, Brian Helgeland (”L.A. CONFIDENTIAL”). Yes, Helgeland made changes not only from the original novel, but also from the 1974 movie. That was to be expected . . . even though I have no idea what the changes are. Wait a minute. I am aware of one particular change. The Walter Garber character portrayed by Walter Matthau was a transit cop. Not that I care, since I have very vague memories of the movie. And for once, Tony Scott’s penchant for MTV style direction did not bother me. I thought it mixed well with the movie’s story. However . . . the sequence that featured the NYPD’s attempt to deliver the ransom money through the streets of Manhattan struck me as slightly ridiculous and over-the-top . . . especially with the number of car crashes that occurred this scene. As one character had put it – why not deliver the money via helicopter? The audience would have been spared that ridiculous scene. And one last scene annoyed me. It had to do with Garber’s attempts to track down and arrest “Ryder” and recover the ransom money. I thought it was a silly and contrived scene. But I must admit that I enjoyed how Scott captured the kinetic energy of Manhattan and kept the movie’s pace from moving too fast or two slow. ”THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3” struck me as a well-paced film.

At least four performances in the movie managed to catch my attention. I found James Gandolfini’s performance as an unpopular mayor rather sharp and funny, and a nice departure from his some of his heavier past roles – including Tony Soprano. Another amusing performance came from Luis Guzman as one of the hijackers, Phil Ramos. Whereas the other hijackers – including Travolta – projected an over-the-top menace, Guzman gave a restrained and funny performance. John Turturro’s performance as the police hostage negotiator was also restrained, subtle . . . and intelligent. And last, but not least, I was very impressed by Denzel Washington’s performance as the MTA dispatcher forced into dealing with an erratic and dangerous hijacker. Like Guzman and Turturro, he gave a very restrained performance and did an excellent job in keeping in character with an ordinary man, dragged into an extraordinary situation. Washington also gave the best performance in a scene that featured “Ryder” forcing Garber to confess to the charges of bribery, in order to save the life of one of the hostages. The one performance that troubled me happened to be that of John Travolta as “Ryder”, leader of the hijackers. Not only was it over-the-top, it was the kind of performance he had given several times in the past in movies like ”BROKEN ARROW” and ”FACE-OFF”. Back in the 90s, these flashy performances were fun and amusing. In 2009, I found it a little tiresome. At least he was convincing as an intelligent and dangerous man.

Judging from other comments and reviews I have read about this film, many seem quite willing to dismiss it as a crappy film. As far as I am concerned, ”THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3” is not crap. Granted, it is not the best action thriller I have seen, because I have seen better ones. But I do believe that it is a pretty solid and entertaining movie that should not be dismissed, because it is not exceptional. But I can see the writing on the wall. Chances are it will fail at the box office. Too bad. ”THE TAKING OF PELHAM 1-2-3” may not be a masterpiece, but I think that it is a hell of a lot better than a very mediocre movie like ”STAR TREK”, which managed to get rave reviews.