H. Bala | Carson - hey, we have an IKEA store! - CA USA | 10/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've always liked Paul Newman. He was blessed with matinee idol looks and twinkling blue eyes and could've fully relied on those attributes to carry his film career. Instead, he went his own way and pretty early on established himself as a maverick personality, with an independent mindset and a determination to make it in La-La Land based on his acting, not his looks. Back in those days, when the Hollywood studios were still more in control of things, that streak of gumption could've spelled doom for an actor establishing himself. But, the thing of it is, Paul Newman can also act - and act exceedingly well. So he was given license to be a real actor, instead of a Hollywood puppet. He fought for the meaty roles he ended up with, when he could've made a solid living coasting in cinematic romances. So, yeah, I like Paul Newman.
For me, there are two utter gems in this collection: SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME and THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS. These are the first two Paul Newman films I saw, so they have special resonance for me. HARPER is almost as memorable, with its sequel THE DROWNING POOL and THE MACKINTOSH MAN being decent enough. Even POCKET MONEY and THE LEFT-HANDED GUN, two kinda bizarre films, have some justification for existing as motion pictures, because even at his least capable, Paul Newman still exuded style and swagger, that unmistakable Hollywood presence that made him a top cinematic leading man in his heyday.
Here's the cool thing: all the films in this collection are being released in dvd format for the first time. Now, the special features are listed by Amazon so there's no need to go into details. I will say that the extra feature I'm most looking forward to accessing is the audio commentary by Paul Newman, Robert Wise, and Martin Scorcese on SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME. I already own the individual films on VHS but the decider for my having pre-ordered this collection is the above-mentioned audio commentary. Three Hollywood legends chit-chatting about one of my favorite boxing movies? It was a no-brainer for me.
The seven films featured here vary from excellent to decent to Geez-it's-a-good-thing-I-like-you-Paul-Newman. SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME is truly excellent, with HARPER just a notch below. THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS, which is in my top two favorites here (due to sentimental reasons) is a highly diverting soap opera-type of film. THE MACKINTOSH MAN is a pretty entertaining spy thriller. THE DROWNING POOL is so-so; I enjoyed it mostly on the strength of it being a sequel to HARPER. THE LEFT-HANDED GUN and POCKET MONEY are my two least favorites here, even though both films have their own merit. So, obviously, for Newman connoisseurs, his best films aren't in this collection. Off the top of my head, I'm talking about classics like THE LONG HOT SUMMER, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, HUD, COOL HAND LUKE, THE HUSTLER, BUTCH CASSIDY & THE SUNDANCE KID, THE STING, THE VERDICT, THE COLOR OF MONEY...heck, even SLAPSHOT is a fine sports film. But, see, all those are already out in dvd. This collection is for the Newman completist, as well as for those who haven't yet had a chance to view his lesser known work. I can't, in good conscience, rate this collection as 5 stars overall, because some of the movies themselves aren't 5-star films. But it does get a very healthy 4 stars, as well as a semi-exasperated "Well, finally!" Man, I've been waiting for years for the dvd versions!
HARPER (1966) is based on Ross MacDonald's classic detective Lew Archer and is an engrossing mystery film. Newman is simply great as the cool and unflappable Lew Harper as he attempts to ferret out a missing millionaire but ends up, as usual with these types of mysteries, digging up more than he bargained for.
THE DROWNING POOL (1975) is the sequel to HARPER and is decidedly a lesser effort. This time out, Harper goes to Louisiana to get to the bottom of a blackmailing plot and ends up meeting eccentrics. A slow mystery, and, in a way, more of a slice of life type of film. But, if you've seen and enjoyed HARPER, you almost have to see this. Plus, it features a very young Melanie Griffith.
Paul Newman got to portray middleweight boxer Rocky Graziano when James Dean (who had been originally signed) tragically died. SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME (1956) chronicles Rocky's wild, law-breaking youth and his evolution from an unpolished street fighter to an unpolished prize fighter. Highly entertaining stuff, with a very rootable protagonist. Pier Angeli, as his future wife Norma Graziano, is unassumingly charming. But, make no mistake, Newman's nuanced performance carries the day and is what made Hollywood sit up and really pay attention.
THE MACKINTOSH MAN (1973) is a pseudo-Hitchcockian cold war thriller starring Newman as Joseph Rearden, a supposedly convicted criminal who escapes from prison in the company of a spy. Then, things get more murky and complicated. Not a bad gritty flick directed by John Huston.
THE LEFT-HANDED GUN (1958) is a sympathetic take on William Bonney, aka Billy the Kid. As westerns go, it's...not bad, though it is a bit loopy at times, with regards to Newman's off-the-beaten-path take on the famous outlaw. This time, the troubled Billy the Kid is portrayed as, more or less, on the side of the angels who seeks justice when his friend and mentor is murdered by a dastardly lawman and his peeps. This is actually one of my least favorite Paul Newman flicks.
POCKET MONEY (1972) is an offbeat modern western-comedy starring Paul Newman and Lee Marvin as two cowboys who get bilked in a cattle smuggling scheme by a two-faced rancher played by Strother Martin. This movie has its own leisurely sense of pace and takes a while to get into, as its not afraid to go off on its own tangents. This is ultimately a character study revolving around Newman's gullible Jim Kane and Marvin's dim-bulb Leonard. In fact, their performances are the saving grace of this film. For those who enjoy contemplative, off-kilter films without lots of action, this one's for you.
THE YOUNG PHILADELPHIANS (1959) offers up some very good performances, with Newman doing the heavy lifting, acting-wise. It's basically a soap opera tale elevated to the big screen and given a Hollywood sheen. Newman plays a young, gifted lawyer from the poor side of town attempting to scale Philadelphia's elite social ladder. Jilted romances and courtroom dramas abound. Personally, I really dig this film.
Very happy with this set.
J. Kenney | 11/16/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Warners has been doing stand-up service; this is reasonably priced the extras are fine, the transfers are excellent, and even the weakest movie in this set (MACKINTOSH MAN) is an efficient genre picture with some offbeat locations, so I'll return to it even if it isn't a masterpiece. While the set may be short on Newman classics (a la THE HUSTLER, THE VERDICT, etc.), all the film are highly watchable; THE LEFT-HANDED GUN, an Arthur Penn film, is quite underrated, and POCKET MONEY is a funny change-of-pace. HARPER and DROWNING POOL are well-made old-school detective flicks; I actually like DROWNING POOL a bit better than HARPER, due to its New Orleans locations and Walter Hill's script, but HARPER is a classic of sorts. If you think you'll like it, you will."
A sample of (lesser known) Newman
mrliteral | 05/13/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Paul Newman is one of the all-time great movie actors with a career that now spans six decades. Among his biggest movies are The Hustler, Hud, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Sting, Cool Hand Luke The Verdict, The Color of Money (for which he won the Oscar) and even Cars. None of these movies are in the Paul Newman Collection, which features seven of his second-tier efforts. That does not mean they are bad movies, merely not as big.
In chronological order, the first movie in the set is Somebody Up There Likes Me, a biopic of boxer Rocky Graziano. Directed by Robert Wise (who had previously made one of the best boxing movies ever, The Set-Up), this is an entertaining film of a man successfully wrestling his inner demons to become a success. In one of his earliest roles, Newman is already showing why he a cinema immortal.
The next movie is The Left-Handed Gun, a decent, if unspectacular, version of the Billy the Kid story (the best version of this story is Sam Peckinpah's Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid). Newman, as the title character, plays Billy similarly to his Rocky: a self-destructive outlaw. Unlike Graziano, however, Billy never finds redemption through family and friends.
The Young Philadelphians has a more easy-going Newman playing the ambitious Anthony Lawrence who climbs the social and business ladder, often with more than a little ruthlessness. When his best friend is accused of murder, his efforts towards acquittal threaten both his happiness and reputation. This is an entertaining melodrama. A little bonus is seeing a pre-Batman Adam West as a man who is very briefly married to Anthony's mother.
Harper is the first of two Newman movie adaptations of Ross MacDonald's Lew Archer novels (the name was changed to continue Newman's string of "H" movies: Hud, Hustler, etc.). This fun private eye story is a real all-star flick: it also stars Janet Leigh, Lauren Bacall, Robert Wagner and Shelly Winters. The plot deals with Harper's attempts to find a missing - apparently kidnapped - man; in his search, he unearths all kinds of family scandal. The sequel (and last movie, chronologically) is The Drowning Pool, which transports Harper to New Orleans to help an old flame with a blackmailer. Like most sequels, this is a pale shadow of its predecessor, but it has its moments. It also has Melanie Griffith in one of her earliest roles.
Pocket Money is probably the weakest in the set, an amiable but meandering movie with Newman as a modern day cowboy hired to buy and transport some cattle for a shady businessman. Lee Marvin co-stars as his friend and partner. It's a movie in which the parts just don't seem to fit together all that well.
Finally, there is the Mackintosh Man, a spy flick with Newman as a British agent out to stop a Soviet network inside England that specializes in smuggling people out of the country. While this is an interesting movie, Newman's foray into James Bond territory is a little too serious to be fully enjoyed. From an acting standpoint, this is probably his least compelling role in the set.
There are lots of bonuses with the set, including commentaries on the first four movies; the best of these is William Goldman's amusing and biting track for Harper. On the Amazon rating system, Pocket Money is a low-three stars, The Left Handed Gun, The Mackintosh Man and the Drowning Pool a straight three, and the remainder four stars. As is my practice with boxed sets, I average this out to a high-three stars or low-four, but the extras push it up to a comfortable four stars. You don't get the best or most well-known Newman with this set, but you do get a good sampling of his talent and range. "
Paul Newman is good in any role
C. D. Simmons | Fayetteville, AR United States | 06/11/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""The Drowning Pool" the re-creation of the novel by RossMacDonald, who wrote the classic mystery tale of all time, "The List Adrian Messenger" gets its due reward on the silver screen fromm performances by Paul Newman and his wife,Joanne Woodward.
A very youngMelany Griffith place the enfant terrible' in this film, not bad for a kid breaking into the movie game. But the chief action focuses on Newman and he does not disappoint. Cool, vulnerable, tough, resourceful, caring and himself as Harper, a role he dons and plays, in my opinion, as well as anybody living or dead could have done it."
Yummy Paul - who was handsomer?
Regina Scruggs | Houston, TX | 12/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Seven lesser-known movies from Newman's heyday, all released on DVD for the first time. The most familiar is probably Harper, based on author Ross MacDonald's famous Lew Archer detective (Newman had the name changed to "Lew Harper" to fit in with his other hit movies - like Hud - which began with the letter H.) He reprised the character nine years later in The Drowning Pool. Other standouts in the set include Newman's breakthrough role as boxer Rocky Graziano in Somebody Up There, which was supposed to be James Dean's next role after Giant. My personal favorite is The Young Philadelphians, high-gloss soap opera with Newman as an ambitious lawyer from the wrong side of the tracks. Among the many people he's expected to please: his fiancée (Barbara Rush), his mother (Diane Brewster, who was 6 years younger than Newman in real life), the family friend (Brian Keith), his mentor's wife (Alexis Smith), and his Princeton pal (Robert Vaughn in an Oscar-nominated performance). What's hotter than that bedroom scene with Alexis? Look fast for Adam West! As for the set's extras, most of the films come with commentary from someone connected with the production, but it's too bad that Newman, 82 next month, didn't really participate. You hear him for only 10 minutes - on speakerphone! - talking to director Robert Wise about playing Graziano. Otherwise there are the standard trailers, and one featurette."