This 1933 film focuses on life in a huge department store from the vantage point of the employees, whose lives are made miserable by a heartless, amoral manager (Warren William). As an attack on ruthless capitalism, it goes a lot further than more recent efforts such as Wall Street, and it’s amazing how much plot and character are gracefully shoehorned into 75 minutes. Adapted by Robert Presnell from a play by David Boehm, and directed by the reliable Roy Del Ruth; with Loretta Young, Wallace Ford, Alice White, and Allen Jenkins. To be screened as part of a zippy double feature with Baby Face, which launches a series of Warner double and triple features–two dozen movies in all–that demonstrates how much you could expect from a night at the movies in the early 30s. Music Box, Friday, September 23.
A 21-year friendship between a lifer (Morgan Freeman) and a New England banker convicted of murder (Tim Robbins) is the focus of this gripping 1994 prison drama, capably directed and adapted by Frank Darabont from Stephen King’s short novel Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. A passing reference to The Count of Monte Cristo offers a partial clue to what makes this movie compelling: though its events occur between the late 40s and late 60s, the film’s 19th-century storytelling mode shows how lives, personalities, and personal agendas develop over years, and how various individuals cope with the dynamics of prison life and totalitarian systems in general. Robbins and Freeman both shine; with Bob Gunton, William Sadler, Clancy Brown, Gil Bellows, and James Whitmore. R, 142 min. (JR)
In an effort to save their marriage, a couple (Meryl Streep and David Strathairn) leave with their son on a white-water raft trip and encounter trouble from a pair of strangers (Kevin Bacon and John C. Reilly). Curtis Hanson (The Hand That Rocks the Cradle) directed this 1994 thriller effectively from a fairly routine script by Denis O’Neill; what really makes this movie worth seeing are the stunning Oregon and Montana locations (filmed in ‘Scope), as well as Streep’s sexy pluck in playing the most capable and resourceful character around. (JR)
A rather unfunny pseudodocumentary in the manner of This is Spinal Tap, Bob Roberts, and Fear of a Black Hat about two American independents setting out to make a big-budget biblical spectacular. If you haven’t seen as many movies of this ilk as I have, it’s possible you might be amused. Directed by Arthur Borman from a script he wrote with Chicagoan Mark Borman, Gregory S. Malins, and Michael Curtis; with Michael Riley and Stephen Rappaport, as well as cameos by Lou Ferrigno, Eve Plumb, and, in the part of Moses, Soupy Sales. (JR)