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Beetle Bailey (1963)
The Best Part of this Cartoon Series Was The Theme Song
Painfully unfunny entry from King Features Syndicate. The same kind of very funny and striking observations from the Mort Walker strip we see everyday, at this writing from the newspaper, is greatly lacking in this blistering, shrieking and boring cartoon.
Beetle is portrayed as a moron, not a rebellious soul. Sergeant Snorkel as a fascist tyrant, not an upholder of the proud traditions of the army. The characters Killer, Plato and Zero are neither fleshed out, or even bothered with. Captain Scabbard, Lieutenant Fuzz or even the beloved Chaplain are simply just nonentities to be recognized here.
The cartoon artwork seems to come from some sweatshop in Shri Lanka, not from anywhere the near the type of "Termite Terrace," that's for sure. Pretty embarrassing stuff for those those involved.
It's terribly ironic that for a theme song that boasts: "...From the General, Colonel, Major and the Captain; The Lieutenant, Sergeant and the Corporal...they would tell you with a shout, they would gladly live without, a certain Private by the name of Beetle Bailey..." They would all take a break and go to the mess hall.
And, dear reader, a "mess" is what this cartoon series is.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
A Piece of American Western Heritage which happens to be Gay
CAUTION TO THE READER-SPOILERS AHEAD: Director Ang Lee's film BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN delves deeply into the American psyche. A psyche of puritanical, almost rabid, reverence for the cowboy myths and legend. They were truly the U.S. version of "The Nobility of the Sword." They entered hostile and unknown lands, making a slow path for the rest of immigrant and established America to follow westward. Some of it is bona fide American history, much of it sketchy legend.
Then, we flash forward to the early 1960's where the last bastion of independent cowboy employment is reaching its finale, of sorts. They are lone cowboys not belonging or working for any particular ranch. Against this backdrop is where we meet the main characters of BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN. Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar, two drifters looking for work in Wyoming.
The work is hard and the pay was low, however these were men who needed money. We, as viewers, take this journey with them and discover an indirect affection between them. As this affection evolves into the physical act of love, we find both characters struggling with their perceptions built upon their life up to now, and their emotions.
For individual reasons and reasoning, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar keep their love, yet lose their happiness, much due to the mores and times in which they live. One of these men find life away from Wyoming, and moves to Texas. His life takes a path where he doesn't want it to go, yet makes his way with success in a chameleon-like existence. He is bold and visionary, and not afraid of life's chances, if only the man he loves would dare to jump for the brass ring of happiness. He is not interested in a solo act, it has to be a team effort. Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger are simply great. A standout performance is delivered by Michelle Williams as Alma, and Anne Hathaway as Lureen. Graham Beckel and Randy Quaid provide solid, entertaining support. Peter McRobbie and Roberta Maxwell are terrific, as Jack's parents.
The viewer cannot help but get involved into the lives of these men. The fluidity of the screenplay, thanks to Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana the screenwriters, keep your interest in the raw emotions, subtle tenderness and warm humor of the plight of these two men. It illustrates the anguish that such relationships with men or women can be wrought when true honesty is absent. The screenplay succeeds most of the time in its intent.
Unfortunately, it tends to falter near the critical juncture of its conclusion. No one is saying these two should hold hands and go skipping off into the sunset. That certainly would not have been a realistic ending, considering the travails of Ennis and Jack. A tender, yet long overdue understanding and acceptance of each other would have sufficed. However, the oldest cliché in Hollywood history was dusted off, and presented as the dessert, after a spectacular five course meal. I'll let you ponder a guess. Question: In Hollywood film production, when two star-crossed lovers meet and pursue romance, you can almost bet your last check that one of them will...? a) Win the lottery. b) Move to The Netherlands where it's not illegal. or c) Get whacked or murdered. It is a strong critique of an otherwise brilliant movie.
Therefore, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN is certainly well above average, and worthy of your consideration for emotional and intellectually stimulating entertainment. You will not be disappointed in the least. The almost 2.5 hour run flows effortlessly by, due in large thanks to the pacing by director Lee. Highly Recommended.
50 First Dates (2004)
ROM-COM WITH GOOD HUMOR, BUT DOES WEAR THIN AT TIMES
*WARNING--Possible spoilers*: Nice romantic comedy with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore in the leads. There are some serious laugh out loud moments, mostly due to Rob Schneider's character, "ULA." It centers around an outdoor theme park vet who falls for a sweet lady in a restaurant, in Hawaii. The main problem with 50FD is that how does one overcome the repetitive, proverbial "One Trick Pony" joke that surrounds Barrymore's character? Well, outlandish attempts on Sandler's part to keep continually wooing her helps. However, it tends to make the pic drag here and there, and sometimes this gets more than slightly tedious. The chemistry is better than average between them, and it shows. Unfortunately 50FD also commits a droll sin of introducing animals for cutesy, quasi-humorous moments, and tries to play that for laughs, too. Nice try, but doesn't get Nanna a new pair of shoes. Dan Aykroyd is painfully dull as the physician who's treating Barrymore's character, which doesn't help the film one iota. Throw in a few zany locals, and several earnest attempts at poignancy; and you've scored about a mixed bag. There's some crude humor, so early Sandler fans won't be disappointed. The ending was very sweet, yet was a welcome sight, as 50FD also runs pretty long in the tooth at 99 minutes. It certainly wasn't awful, that's for sure. In fact, 50FD would be a pretty smart date movie or a couple of chuckles on a rainy afternoon. In lieu of this benefit, I recommend it. RECOMMENDED.
Van Helsing (2004)
Van Help Me, This Was Not Very Good
The star of this film, known to many of us, as CGG (Computer Generated Graphics) does well, despite its overuse and obvious animation. This is a rehash of many a horror film, and when one is retooling it for an updated modern version (as they will in the future for this popular genre), the screenwriters and director need to add an essential, original point that will make people stand up and take notice. VH has no such originality, nor zing. Hugh Jackman delivers such a wooden performance, one is terribly tempted to call Geppetto to see if he was missing one of his puppets. The chemistry between his character and Ms. Beckinsale's character is so poor; I was assuming he was gay. Not that there's anything wrong about that, and it would have been a cool and groundbreaking route to go with this venerated character of horror movie lore. Once again, I digress to hint of any originality which could spice up a deadly dull flick like this one. Kate Beckinsale does sparkle in her role, exuding sexuality and vim, which saved this writer from having to rate this whole escapade as a bomb/turkey/junk/pond water, etc. Also, Richard Roxburgh, who literally and figuratively chews upon the scenery like an Atkins diet drop out on a loaf of fresh baked pumpernickel. Richard had a good time with this role, and it shows, as his relish is strong. Aside from these, the film get stodgy, dull and CGC happy for most of its cruel, crushing 132 minutes. The Hyde character, conveniently borrowed from another turkey (League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen...*yawn*) doesn't perk up the production a flip. A lot more backfires than starts, in what should have been a fun romp around the macabre side. Instead, VAN HELSING tries to dazzle us with poor animation and script, as well. As I stopped yawning, pondering this picture, I regain the senses enough to type out the following words: NOT RECOMMENDED.
Die, Mommie, Die! (2003)
TOUR DE FORCE for 60's Hollywood Send Up
Very humorous, always campy tale of aging star whose parade has long since skipped off down the road. (Yes, shades of SUNSET BOULEVARD, to be sure). Charles Busch brings his stage drama/comedy/what have you to the big screen, and it's a pretty enjoyable romp, at that. Throw in some great performances by Jason Priestley, in his stingy brim hat, shorts and occasional penny loafers; looking like a rich Tab Hunter, or a poor Peter Lawford, you choose, between snickers. Philip Baker Hall (a great dramatic actor, with a superb nose for comedy), is a standout. Natasha Lyonne as Edith, the daughter and Stark Sands as the sexually confused (or is HE?) son, and you've got the makings for some nostalgic, and yet irreverent fun. Frances Conroy is also a standout for her folksy, Southern, religious demeanor, as the maid, Bootsy. Without ruining it for you, essentially DIE, MOMMIE, DIE! is a tip of the hat to the late sixties movies where happy mom's were popping valium, terms like "baby" punctuated every third word in a sentence, and the thought of having a gigolo on the side didn't seem so remote. Of course, this doesn't take place in Nebraska, naturally it's Tinseltown. People there were so desperate to be hip (have times changed too much? Hmmmm.) and nobody dared to be square. You'll find others nods, winks and tips of the hat throughout, if you're a film buff, and if not, you'll still have a great time. Busch, who wrote the original stage play and this screenplay, stars in the lead, and does it with relish. This is a labor of love, and it shows. An enjoyable little indie, indeed. Recommended.
The Reagans (2003)
TAUT DRAMA OF FAMOUS PRESIDENT AND HIS LADY
*May Contain Spoilers, Cookies* Stirring biopic of the 40th President and his relationship with his wife, family, friends and the nation. James Brolin and Judy Davis, as Ronald and Nancy Reagan give four star performances, and each worthy of an Emmy nod. It traces their special relationship throughout their heydays in Hollywood, Ron's eventual capitulation to the ideology of the GOP, and the political bug they develop. Also, their sometimes stormy relationships within the family, friends and the political cohorts they attract. One can feel nothing but admiration for Nancy (Davis) Reagan, who defends and protects her husband from some of the murkier characters in the political circle. Donald Regan is portrayed as an absolute fiend, the father of the hair-brained and highly illegal Iran-Contra mess. The actors who portray Ed Meece, James Baker, et al, as Al Haig refers disparagingly as "The Troika," are exceptional and show political cronyism at its best (or worst). Michael Deaver is showed in a sensitive light, despite his legal troubles for lobbying on behalf of Canada and South Korean interests after he left government service. Zoie Palmer, who portrays Patty Reagan, does an incredible job as the misunderstood and oft-ignored daughter. Maureen Reagan's character was tastefully and tactfully created, and Shad Hart gets major kudos for his turn as Ron, Jr. The big bouquets go to James Brolin, who gives his best performance in years, as Ronald Reagan and Judy Davis as Nancy. Brolin embodies the character with fervor and not caricature. We don't get the massive head bobbing and "aw-shucksism" we've grown to be tortured with by bad impersonators. He is a man with a mission, and a kindly fellow at that. We may highly disagree with where he's going, but we've no doubt the man actually believes in the direction he's chugging. Judy Davis fleshes out the character of Nancy Reagan so well, it can make one shudder. She strong as steel, tender as fresh grown flowers and everything else within the mix. The point of mockery at the Washington Press Club, where Ronnie describes it as: "The nicest lynching we've ever attended..." Shows Nancy at her finest, where she meets adversity with an equal hand and a fine sense of humor, to boot. THE REAGANS offers an intimate, though not always complimentary view into the lives of the fortieth President and his lady. It's certainly a fine motion picture, and truly not deserving of the awful, heavy handed attempt at censorship by the Corporate and political power mongers. This kind of disgusting muting of creative thinking hasn't been pulled out of the moth-ridden closet, since America's flirtation with fascism in the McCarthy era. Don't let the stiff armed salute givers or those who wish to build their political empires on the Gipper's legacy give/tell you a bum steer. Watch this stimulating movie, and decide for yourself. After all, it's democracy. We know this might bother some, who are busying themselves with the sanctimonious deification of the man. Yet, we should never fall short of the sight, that he was indeed a man, after all. Roses all around for this movie.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
SEE THIS MOVIE
*perchance might contain spoilers* Yes, see this movie, if anything to tweek off the armor chestplated, shrieking and spasmodic GOP types, who declare Hades and damnation upon all whose eyes fall upon this motion picture. Michael Moore has hewed together an interesting, spell binding and slam bang salute to democracy with this heavy fall out documentary. If IL' daddy, the 41st President (papa of the current Bush) had to shimmy down the pole from the ivory tower to personally attack Moore, calling him: "...A slimeball...", then you know, this is a must see of a pic. If he had just blown it off with the wave of a hand, then most of us "proles" (i.e. dirty blue collared types) wouldn't have bothered, I think. Moore mixes together in montage and audio a deeply probing relationship between the Bush clan, American defense and intelligence communities and those happy-go-lucky Saudi folks, for whom lots o' cash has been passed around. Moore's wry (and I do mean as wry as a Saharin desert) commentary, combine with words captured straight from the horses mouth, after a fashion, make for an informative and compelling saga from start to finish. I think you'll laugh (as I did), get uneasy over the moribund foreign affairs (as I did) and take a long, long second look at our current President (as I know I sure did and will do with my vote come next ballot can collecting). This is heavy stuff, and will make you think long and hard. Yes, you might even shed a tear or two, yet the choice is clearly up to your own mind. Yes, you can dismiss this as Anti-American pap or you can shake the pom-poms of democracy; either way, you are thinking for yourself (hopefully), without some obnoxious soundbite doing it for you. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
House of Sand and Fog (2003)
DRAMA AT ITS BEST
*Might Contain Spoilers* Exceptional drama of mores, cultures, happenstance and just plain human beings. Vadim Perelman's direction and screenplay (from the Andre Dubus III novel) is top notch, in the story of a house and the dreams of its current and former occupants. Jennifer Connelly, Sir Ben Kingsley, the dear Shohreh Aghdashloo and company offer Oscar caliber performances in this outstanding movie. Kingsley offers his best since the wildly entertaining stand he did in SEXY BEAST. An acute study in humanity and indeed, human nature, guides this story of one losing a home, and the other seeing it of salvation. The tenderness and loss of each character can be seen in mirrored fashion within the other. Connelly as the weak, stymied and paralyzed emotional wreck. Kingsley as the proud, dignified man, for whom reality and want of lost recognition are not separate roads. Throw in the passion and misguided help of Ron Eldard's character, and you have the ingredients for a first rate motion picture that explores all avenues of its characters, and fleshes them out nicely. HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG is a fine motion picture, that will stay with you for a good while. ABOVE AVERAGE and highly recommended.
Survival Island (2002)
THE COST WAS $6.00, WHICH EXCEEDED THE BUDGET OF THIS FILM
*CAUTION*POTENTIAL SPOILERS* Tepid, bottom of the barrel horror flick with a tissue thin plot, and enough bad performances to embarrass both actor AND viewer. Once again, as is a must in these films, a pack of drunken, horny college kids skip off to some exotic locale. Naturally, they end up as luncheon meat for some creature, toothless redneck or psychotic. Well friends, when it's done right, the film is entertaining and often clever enough to offer a subtle nuance or wink to the audience. Some films offer this as a way of somewhat saying; it's okay, have some fun and don't sweat it too much. There are others, done so well and so suspenseful, they truly succeed in scaring the freckles off of us. DEMON ISLAND or PINATA: SURVIVAL ISLAND, or whatever they're changing the title to this week, is in neither camp. The film is not suspenseful, clever, well acted or scary, unless bad CGI images send shivers down your spine. The dialogue is so insipid, I'd have found more interest listening to a toilet backing up. The actors and actresses, in between looking scared, screaming or bored; the range isn't exactly challenging nor met. They try in fits and starts, but to little avail. Whatever possessed dear Garret Wang, a serious and good actor, to appear in this bit of fluff left me scratching my head in confusion.
You should recommend this terrible film to someone you do not like; other than that, avoid this turkey. NOT RECOMMENDED.
The Gathering Storm (2002)
Biographies Rarely Get This Good
Finney adds yet another stupendous role to his acting credits. He plays Churchill warts and all, wisdom and all. Vanessa Redgrave is stunning as Mrs. Churchill. Finney and Redgrave, between the two, portray an interesting, intimate and wholly plausible complexity of their marriage and homelife. This, adding a major league cast of the Best of Britain, Jim Broadbent, Tom Wilkerson, Linus Roache, Derek Jacobi and on and on. If Nigel Hawthorne (God Rest him) was still among us, he would have been here. Richard Loncraine, the director, keeps the pace moving without compromising the performances. Finney deserves a special mention for his attempt to sound like WSC, without resorting to parody. A fine film, worthy of roses all around. A sumptuous screenplay that even Labour could support. Highly recommended.
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
GOOD DAY FOR MOVIE GOERS
Fine, well crafted script from Don McGuire, weaves interesting story of one armed stranger in tiny midwest USA town. Spencer Tracy leads a fine ensemble cast, with some catchy performances, particularly from Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. It eventually boils down to a morality play, of survival for Tracy's character versus the silence of people with blood on their hands. That message of morality, still speaks as relevant today, as it did in 1955. A good film, and well recommended.
ROMANCE & REVOLUTION: WHO COULD ASK FOR MORE?
Interesting biopic of idealistic and Socialist writer John Reed, and his experiences, fulminating to his book, THE TEN DAYS THAT SHOOK THE WORLD. Reed is a fascinating and unlikely subject for a Hollywood movie, mostly because he is extremely complicated and doesn't say "gee whiz" a lot. Beatty (winning Best Director Oscar) really pulls out the stops to paint a serious portrait, in this movie.
Yes, to a certain extent, it is sympathetic towards Socialism. However, one can't deny that it was particularly gutsy to make a film of this nature in 1981. Also undeniable, was the utter human misery and suffering of 95% of the Russian people during this period under Czarist rule. The question probably wasn't so much when a revolution would occur, but a question of what took them so long?
Politics aside, REDS is a well made film, with much going for it. The script tends to run on in parts, yet tells a compelling story. The performances are simply super, with Maureen Stapleton a standout (with a well-deserved Oscar nod). Just be warned, REDS tends to run very long and gets a bit dry in patches. The viewer is rewarded though, with some knockout performances.
From Hell (2001)
Pretty standard costumer with a mystery motif, and tons o' gore to keep the adolescents enthralled. Directed by the Hughes Brothers, FROM HELL has much going for it, however the writing tended to be poor and the plot really held no surprises.
Johnny Depp rose above the material more than once, and he usually does. Robbie Coltrane was wasted as not much more than a flunky for Depp. Anyone who has seen Coltrane in the British series CRACKER knows this man can act. Heather Graham did a great job, and was wholly believable. Those "oh so terrible" British actors, naturally play the baddies. Ian Holm, a mesmerizing actor, takes center stage here and clearly relishes the role.
The script really sinks the ship. The unsustained and at times, complete lack of suspense brings FROM HELL down to the level of a "game show," in terms of tension. Gratuitous violence never takes the place of suspense, but that doesn't stop screenwriters and directors from trying. Nice try...no cookie. Yes, the crimes of Jack the Ripper were indeed grotesque, however more was spent on faithfully rendering these scenes out, than the effort to peel away the layers of the story and where it was going.
The conclusion bordered on the silly and camp (HM Queen Victoria makes a couple of cameos...good grief!), making the preceding time spent not really worth the while. My conclusion is that FROM HELL is a good costumer, but the overall effect is razzle-dazzle to disguise a stilted and clumsy script.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
THIS ROYAL EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES
Episodic, overly narrated and highly over-rated feature from director Wes Anderson. The film is burdened down with, among other things, too many loose plot ends, characters who simply enter and leave (prolonged "extras" roles, perhaps?), plot motivations that really come to nothing, a script that seems to go on and on and on, and a tedium level that made me think this film was a royal bore, as well.
There are a few pleasant moments, however to call this a comedy, is a bit of a stretch (and more than a little misleading). The coarse amount of self-indulgence displayed by almost every character, echoed dsyfunction, not humor. A movie should have more to offer, than a "nifty" (expect more sales) soundtrack.
Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, et al, make some attempts, yet can't overcome the turgid, poorly written script. Half the supporting cast looked as if they were sleepwalking. I came to envy them about three quarters through this film.
Frankly, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS reminded me of bad and endless "LOVE, AMERICAN STYLE", retooled up for the new millenium. For rabid fans of Hackman only.
The Crew (2000)
GRUMPY OLD MEN JOIN THE MOB
*Warning* Possible spoilers ahead* In the vein of aging boomer comedies, affording more opportunities for older actors to star in mainstream movies, THE CREW is part of this trend. Seeing Hollywood do this about face is good, even if their interest lies purely in the commercial potential.
The story brings us to a gaggle of aging mobsters, spending out their last days in some sweaty, ramshackle hotel in Florida. Naturally, there are going to be literally tons of old age maladies, used as fodder for humor. Anything from prostrate problems, hair loss, erectile dysfunction, etc. etc. Some of it works, and some of it takes a nap.
The pacing of the film keeps it slow, even plodding, and the subplots became way too many, to keep this film focused. Love interests, improbable situations, trying too hard to make the protagonists look like lovable and cutesy curmudgeons, long lost daughters, on and on, ties this film to a short tether.
THE CREW floats about midstream at average, and has a few good moments. The rest of the time we wait for something to happen.
RECOMMENDED, for fans of the leads (Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds or Dan Hedaya).
Little Voice (1998)
SUPERB DARK GEM
I'll be the first to agree. Don't be fooled by the cutesy cover art, the heart of this story lies in some pretty dark places. What it fulminates into is, a first rate movie that runs the cinematic gauntlet from pathos to comedy to drama like an Olympic athlete.
LITTLE VOICE shows the hopes, dreams and struggles, and the devastating effect they can have when fame and fortune fall asunder. Kudos to the top notch cast, for putting out exacting performances. Jim Broadbent, as Mr. Boo, was phenomenal. Michael Caine is perfectly sleazy, and wonderful, all at the same time. Brenda Blethyn (in a well deserved Oscar nominated role) is desperate, bitchy and longing for anything to come her way. Jane Horrocks is great as the introverted, almost autistic daughter. Her singing talent is incredible.
There will be those who don't appreciate a peek into the rather seamy side of life. Those that do, will be more than rewarded with this fine motion picture. If you're looking for THE WALTONS, look someplace else. Roses all around for those involved.
Unintentionally funny, directionless, poorly scripted and poorly acted movie. The title character, portrayed by Joe Don Baker, is simply odious, and he's supposed to be the "hero." The attempt to turn Joe Don into an international sex symbol seems to have failed here.
MITCHELL goes downhill from there, and never stops its deep, agonizing, downward spiral, even as the ending credits roll. Despite the presence of a Hoyt Axton song or two, nothing works...including MITCHELL, the protagonist himself.
MST3K does give it the treatment, and makes it a memorable motion picture event, though. Hands down, definitely opt for this version.
Recommend the straight, non-Mystery Science Theater 3000, version to someone you loathe.
Weekend Pass (1984)
TORTURE: THY NAME IS "WEEKEND PASS"
Torture isn't pretty. It hurts, and frankly, I wouldn't recommend it. So, in the same thought, I wouldn't recommend WEEKEND PASS. Four young, nubile sailors set out on a (dare I say?) weekend pass. The aftermath: 88 minutes of sheer, mindless, pathetic, depressing boredom.
How this inescapably bad film ever received theatrical release, is beyond the wisdom of Solomon. Whoever was the studio exec that approved this, has probably moved on to a new line of work.
The acting is appalling. The script seems as if it were written by some fifteen year old students, who really thought they were being clever. I'd rather watch someone tripping on bad acid. Just AWFUL. Gentle viewer, you have been warned.
The Majestic (2001)
MESSAGES WERE GREAT, DELIVERY WAS SO-SO
THE MAJESTIC starts off well enough, but tends to get too melodramatic for its own good, in parts. Jim Carrey plays it straight, and does a good job pulling it off. He's got some strong support here from a group of Hollywood vets like James Whitmore and Martin Landau. A nice cameo from Hal Holbrook was appreciated by this writer.
In fact, the cast is fine, the script seems to be the problem here. Sometimes, it felt very heavy handed in its messages, and how it got from point A to B. I mean, yes, THE MAJESTIC is schmaltzy....actually a lot. There was more than a little CAPRA-esque feeling or "CAPRA-corn", as it was sometimes referred to. Personally, I didn't feel the bad guys were portrayed as menacingly as they should have been.
Subtlety is really important sometimes, and by gum, THE MAJESTIC is in short supply of it. This was bothersome, as it detracted from the seriousness of the film. The change of hearts, the winning of minds; their plausibility is questionable with such a lack of sufficient and reasonable timing and dialogue.
Yet, it's so likeable, it made it over the hump to be recommended.
Pink Motel (1982)
THIS MOTEL SHOULD HAVE BEEN CONDEMNED
Dismal, unfunny "comedy" about the goings on at a flea bag, by-the-hour hotel. HOT_L BALTIMORE it ain't.
Starring Slim Pickens and Phyllis Diller, who seem ashamed to be part of the proceedings. Sadly, this was Slim's last movie.
Whether you want to seriously waste 90 minutes of your life on this mess, or perhaps are having trouble to sleep; you run the risk of needing therapy afterwards. Tom Bodett will not leave the light on for you at this place. You have been warned.
Isn't She Great (2000)
ISN'T SHE SELF-ABSORBED?
Sleepy Midler-Lane vehicle about life of trash novelist Jacqueline Susann. Predictable and unfunny, even attempts at poignancy either get drowned out with self-absorbed dialogue or shtick.
Bette Midler, known to put some life in films, seems totally tranquilized out. Nathan Lane's character seems almost robotic; only programmed to dote and serve. Flunkies are fun, but after awhile, they get dull. Especially the ones that try to live their life vicariously through yours. The only saving grace here was Stockard Channing, who always seems to churn out a good performance, even if the flick is lame, which brings me back to ISN'T SHE GREAT.
The screenplay and the vapid absence of direction really hurt the film, as well. There's no verbal intercourse between the main protagonists. The lines seem to be uttered lines, and pretty hokey ones at that. The direction seems as if, the crew placed the camera on a stack of boxes and broke for lunch.
It's not unwatchable. There's a couple of moments of enjoyment. However, when taking into consideration the amount of talent involved here, the fluff factor is pretty disappointing. Not recommended.
"WE MUST NOT ALLOW A MINE SHAFT GAP!!!"
Pitch black comedy that finds humor in the unimaginable, due to its outstanding direction, great performances and tight, witty script. This is director Stanley Kubrick, at his best. The use of tight angles, eerie B&W photography and great pacing are key assets. The menacing aspect of such a situation, treated with such over the top style by Kubrick, will solidify this film as "one to watch" for generations to come.
The performances are super, with Scott and Sellers leading the way. The script is a stellar piece of brilliance by Kubrick, Terry Southern and Peter George (who wrote the original novel). The balance of subtlety and mind-zinging absurdity empowers a raw, distinctive genius to the screenplay.
Those who don't pay much attention to the dialogue, will be crinkling their noses and mumbling, "What's so funny?" The intensity of this farce lies as much with the spoken word, as it does the physical. The humor pokes fun at bureaucracy, blind patriotic zeal, hypocrisy and human nature.
DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB was courageous, landmark film making for it's time. The USAF was going to cooperate with the making, until the brass read the script. It was simply too much for sterile defense department types, which alone should let you know, it's a great movie. A definite classic, worth ringing up the boss to call in sick for.
The House of the Spirits (1993)
WELL MEANING, PONDEROUS AND ULTIMATELY DULL
There's enough star power in THE HOUSE OF SPIRITS to create another galaxy, yet the final product is pretty debatable. The film and its messages are very noble, and I think perhaps most would agree with them. (Liberal Democracy good, violent fascist regime bad; open-mindedness good, racism bad, etc). Unfortunately, we're battered from head to toe with these, and as much subtlety is used as I've described them.
Ultimately, we are left watching very noble people without any flaws squaring off with nasty cretins who have no redeeming qualities. It radiates with all the suspense of a badly orchestrated "pro" wrestling match.
Jeremy Irons plays the patron, a man of many contradictions. Meryl Streep as his gifted bride and Glenn Close, as her sister in law. When the camera stays with these folks, the movie tends to move, and is quite enjoyable. Unfortunately, THE HOUSE OF SPIRITS engages with simply way too many subplots, and characters pop up and out of the picture like shooting gallery targets. We don't get to know them, hence we don't get to care for them. The result is boredom.
If Bille August, the director and screenwriter (from Isabel Allende's book) had either lengthened the film or snipped a few characters, this film might have worked completely. As it stands, it was a nice try, with nice messages, and a bonecrushing yawnfest.
Jeepers Creepers (2001)
A FEW GOOD SCARES BUT DISTASTEFULLY GROTESQUE
Scary is scary, but gross is not scary, just grotesque, if you follow my meaning. There's always a thin line, when it comes to creating a horror flick. JEEPERS CREEPERS crosses that line more than a few times, to its own detriment.
There are some genuinely very tense moments, where the scare factor is great. This film does deliver there, but everything else runs typical of a movie of this genre. The character development is barely past the "Hi, good to know ya" stage. Why on earth the killer does what he does, was about as satisfactorily explained as it's relationship to the old, popular song from where this movie gets its title. Basically nada, zip, zilch...but it is a cool title, nonetheless.
If you like your scares on the gross side, and aren't too picky on details or motivations, then this movie might hit your mark. Don't hold your breath too long in waiting for a sequel, as popular horror films are serious franchise potential. Recommended, but just barely and enough already.
Likeable, but long, quasi drama, quasi musical with a little comedy thrown in about intrigues of a family of an Indian Raj. This won't be everybody's cup, but if you stay with it, the story delivers a satisfying conclusion.
The actors are attractive and enjoyable, the battle scenes were enhanced by NOT using CGG. By keeping shots local, on real actors, as opposed to long distance pans of computer generated people, it simply looked better. CGG, as shown in the movie THE PATRIOT; looked phony and to a viewers intuition, felt phony. Kudos to the producers for keeping it real.
My only beef was the time length of the film, and just a few too many melodramatic moments of pathos. This kind of going for the heart-strings style of screenwriting can backfire, if one goes to the well too often.
The music and dance numbers were pretty terrific, albeit through my western eyes. Their tempos were sweetly romantic, or heartfelt in their display of sadness, depending on the case. All were artistic, interesting and entertaining.
ASOKA, the biography of an Indian Prince, is recommended.