Saturday, July 17, 2021

Capsule Reviews - July 17, 2021

9th Company (2005) – Based on a true story, 9th Company is set in the late 1980s, and follows a collection of Soviet soldiers from basic training through to their participation in one of the bloodiest battles of the Afghanistani war. Directed by Fedor Bondarchuk (who also appears in the film as the battle-weary Khokhol), 9th Company starts off strong, with training sequences that are both humorous and intense, then kicks the drama up to full blast once the recruits arrive in Afghanistan (a scene involving a troop transport plane is as poignant as it is shocking). It’s the film’s final sequence, however - a reenactment of the defense of Hill 3234, when 9th Company and a handful of others were surprised by hundreds of Mujahideen rebels - that you won’t soon forget. With carnage aplenty, this battle is as disturbing as they come, and puts an exclamation point on what had already been a riveting motion picture. Rating: 9 out of 10

All the Kind Strangers (1974) – This made-for-TV film has quite the cast! Stacy Keach stars as Jimmy, a photojournalist driving cross-country from New York to California. While in Tennessee, he offers to give young Gilbert (Tim Parkinson) a lift home, and once there is introduced to Gilbert’s family, including his older brothers Peter (John Savage) and John (Robby Benson), his mute sister Martha (Arlene Farber), and his other siblings. Jimmy is also introduced to “Ma” (Samantha Eggar), after which he begins to suspect that there’s something unusual about Gilbert’s family. But will he discover the truth before getting caught up in the kids’ twisted fantasy world? Featuring early roles for Savage and Benson (the latter of whom also performed the film’s title song), All the Kind Strangers is an engrossing thriller that teeters on the brink of horror (though it never really crosses over into that genre). From the moment Keach’s Jimmy arrived at Gilbert’s remote farmhouse, I was hooked. Things do get a bit repetitive in the last act, but not to the point that it took me out of the movie, and at only 74 minutes it’s an easy watch. Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Rain (1932) - Based on a popular play, which was itself based on a short story written by W. Somerset Maugham, Rain was first brought to the screen in 1928, a version that starred Gloria Swanson. Swanson (who had purchased the rights to the play in the hopes of turning it into a vehicle for herself) agreed to alter the story to placate head censor Will Hays, who originally refused to grant permission for her to film it. The resulting movie, Sadie Thomspon, was a successful, if watered-down adaptation of the original story. It wasn’t until 1932 that director Lewis Milestone would bring the meat of Maugham’s morality tale to the screen, this time featuring Joan Crawford in the lead role. Rain is the story of Sadie Thompson (Crawford), a prostitute who finds herself stranded on a South Seas Island in the company of overtly religious missionary Alfred Davidson (Walter Huston) and his wife (Beulah Bondi). In an effort to divert Sadie from her path of destruction, Davidson does everything in his power to turn her into a God-fearing woman, only to surrender to his own demons in the end. Initially declared an attack on religion by its critics, Rain is an extraordinary film, thanks in no small part to the outstanding, and quite erotic, performance turned in by Joan Crawford. With this film, Maugham’s story finally got the treatment it deserved. Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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