FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Frank Capra |||
Frank Capra

It goes without saying that Capra is one of the greatest and most beloved directors of all time, especially renowned for his madcap romantic comedies. He is one of the few directors who ever managed to balance whimsy with meaningfulness without loosing the ability to entertain.

Only Frank Capra, with his light hand and good sense of allowing the actors to be their roles, could carry off this tale of a naive average American used by an unscrupulous politician through a nationwide goodwill drive. No one was ever better at having strong yet vulnerable women not only aid, but often come to the rescue, of the leading man.

Frank Capra's final film is a hilarious translation of a Damon Runyon tale set in 1930s New York, as gangster Glenn Ford repays street peddler Bette Davis for her "good luck" apples by passing her off as a well-to-do society lady for her visiting daughter (Ann-Margret in her film debut). This excellent and thoroughly enjoyable remake of his own 1933 "Lady for a Day" is a beautiful swan song to a master storyteller. Widescreen!

In this black comedy about two sweet old ladies whose basement holds a murderously funny secret, Capra utilizes star Cary Grant to his zany, patented “double take” best. Capra’s brilliance in comic casting is demonstrated with such reliable character actors as Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre and Jack Carson who manage to play their parts to the hilt without chewing up the scenery.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Derailed (BrianOrndorf)

By BrianOrndorf

November 11th, 2005

“Derailed” has initial promise to be one of those sexy, exciting adult thrillers that just aren’t made much anymore. Good performances by Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston lead the way, but the film just can’t leave well enough alone. Soon dissolving into twists and multiple endings, “Derailed” had a good thing going, but fails to maintain it.


Facing a life filled with draining family and work commitments, Charles (Clive Owen) is starting to wear out. On a commuter train, Charles meets Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston), an attractive businesswoman who takes an immediately liking to him. The attraction is intense, with Charles considering infidelity to release his frustrations. Electing for a seedy motel, the two rent a room for their tryst, and as the evening progresses, a petty criminal (Vincent Cassel, “Ocean’s Twelve”) bursts in, beating Charles to a pulp and raping Lucinda. Consumed with guilt, Charles is confronted with even more hell when the thug begins to terrorize him, demanding large sums of money or he’ll reveal Charles’s moment of indiscretion to all.

“Derailed” is a modest thriller experience from a bygone era of cinema, spiced up to fit in with today’s “every moment is a con” aesthetic. When it sits there and plays straight, the picture clicks, and benefits from simplicity; yet, the studio (the debut film for The Weinstein Company) couldn’t leave well enough alone, making the title a little too appropriate for the film.

If there’s anything that director Mikael Hafstrom gets absolutely right it’s the claustrophobia in Charles’s life. Dealing with a sick child, a preoccupied wife (Melissa George, “The Amityville Horror”), and a job he’s too smart for, Charles isn’t looking for trouble, but when Lucinda enters his life, the desire for attraction and connection is sold with crystal clarity. Through Owen’s durable performance, the audience feels Charles inching toward that critical decision of unfaithfulness, slowly but surely. Charles pursues Lucinda in highly cinematic ways, but the actors’ chemistry quickly takes over, making that big leap with palpable connection and crucial sexual urgency.

Eventually, “Derailed” swerves over into thriller mode. With Dan’s mistake slowly haunting his every move, Hafstrom keeps the story (based on a novel) briskly moving, covering the plot holes and coincidental whoppers well with sharp direction and good performances. Vincent Cassel makes for an exceptionally wonderful villain; sliming his way around the frame, creating a memorable representation of a threat, Cassell is fun, even when he gets a bit too operatic with the role. With the heat on Charles and Lucinda, “Derailed” heads to many familiar places, but is reliably engaging.

The troubles of “Derailed” only sink in during the film’s final act, when the tale begins to twist in ways that are unnecessary and deal a critical blow to the swift pace. Hafstrom likes to weave in complications for Charles throughout the film with various murders and lies, but the payoff is a little too bombastic for what’s preceded it. “Derailed” eventually becomes a film that never ends, trotting out about three different conclusions, each with the hope of riling up the audience into applause. Instead, the multiple endings just drag the film out way past its expiration, and damage the experience. “Derailed” is swift entertainment, but its greediness poisons the punch.

My rating: C+