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The Ruling Voice (1931)
Another marvelous Walter Huston performance
This is a very well-acted suspense/message film that holds you in its grip the entire way. Other reviews have described the plot so I won't go into that here. The other reviewers seemed to want more violent action in the film, but the film wasn't intended to be an action film but rather make you understand how the characters feel and you can do that through words. I really enjoyed this and was very moved by all of the main characters. I found the acting of everyone gripping and believable and there are a number of twists and turns that make you unsure of how it will end. A wonderful film that I think most Walter Huston fans will especially enjoy although Doris Kenyon also gives a fine performance as well as do the entire cast.
All American Chump (1936)
Really Fun Escapist Comedy
I thought this film was really enjoyable. This film isn't a message movie but rather just designed to provide some light entertainment to make people feel better in the midst of the Great Depression. I found the cast splendid with Stuart Erwin a delight to watch as the lead. He plays a country bumpkin who happens to excel at math so is used by corrupt carnival barkers (headed by Robert Armstrong) to make money by winning a bridge tournament. Yes, the story sounds a little far-fetched on paper, but the talented cast makes it work and I absolutely loved the ending which I won't give away. Edmund Gwenn is wonderful as the alcoholic associate of Robert Armstrong's character and Betty Furness is excellent as Edmund Gwenn's character's daughter. Edward Brophy and Dewey Robinson as a couple of gangsters are excellent as well! One area of improvement for the film would have been to have expanded the bridge-playing scenes with E.E. Clive as the opponent of Stuart Erwin. But otherwise this was a lot of fun!
Too Heavily Edited?
I noticed from the IMDB cast list of the film that Rita Johnson and Ruth Hussey's scenes are deleted from the film. Perhaps this explains why the movie seems to have no proper beginning that explains the characters' motivations. At the beginning of the print I saw, Myrna Loy's character is heartbroken over losing Walter Pidgeon's character to Rosalind Russell's. However, it's not clear why she likes Walter Pidgeon's character, though. For me, Franchot Tone's character comes off as much more likeable, but maybe that's Franchot Tone--who usually seemed charming in films. It's hard not to enjoy a film with such great actors as those in this film, but if this film was edited, it's hard to see why. The version I saw (not sure if there's another one) was only about 1 hour and ten minutes long so it couldn't have been too long unless it was meant to be a B-picture, but why make a B-picture with an A-list cast? Anyway, I think fans of Rosalind Russell and Franchot Tone will like it more than Myrna Loy or Walter Pidgeon fans will since both Myrna and Walter play rather dislikable characters, although both do a fine job of making them believable. But Rosalind Russell and Franchot Tone have less screen time, so even their fans may be disappointed in this film.
The Cockeyed Miracle (1946)
Underrated Comedy Fantasy
I really enjoyed this film. Frank Morgan is outstanding in the lead role and Richard Quine is delightfully funny as Frank Morgan's character's potential son-in-law. Gladys Cooper is superb as the wife of Frank Morgan's character. Cecil Kellaway and Audrey Totter provide fine support as well. The plot and mood is reminiscent of such fantasy films as "Heaven Can Wait, "A Christmas Carol", and "It's A Wonderful Life" and filmgoers who like that type of film will like this one. The one performance that I felt was disappointing was Keenan Wynn as Frank Morgan's father (and it wasn't really because of the age difference). It was a difficult part to play and I just didn't buy Keenan Wynn's performance in this film although he is a very good actor generally. However, it didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the film. The film has heart and is funny and those qualities along with a top-notch cast make for a fine and enjoyable film that I highly recommend and am a bit puzzled as to why it didn't succeed at the box office.
Zebra in the Kitchen (1965)
Well Acted Film With A Heart
I enjoyed this film very much. Jay North does a fine job as a child who has raised a mountain lion from birth but because he has to move with this family to the city, the mountain lion has to be put in a zoo that is poorly funded and with tiny cages. As a result, Jay North's character frees all the animals there 45 minutes into the film. The middle part then is more comedic as the animals enjoy their time away from the cages. Longtime character actor Andy Levine and Martin Milner are wonderful in their roles as the zoo caretaker and zoo director, respectively. Now zoos are more animal-friendly but when this film was made, many zoos were like jails with cramped cages and the rights of animals was an afterthought in zoos. This film enlightens the public in that regard and does so in an entertaining and heartfelt way.
Maisie Was a Lady (1941)
Maureen O' Sullivan's Performance is A Treasure!
There are already a number of well-written reviews that explain the movie very well so I'm not going to give a full-fledged review here. What I will point out is how much I loved Maureen O'Sullivan's performance as Abigail in this film. She plays a woman that is so kind, sweet, and thoughtful--not to mention pretty that you want to take her home to marry your son. However, there is also a torment to the character's life because she feels unloved due to circumstances that are apparent when you see the film. Ms. O'Sullivan gives such a dramatic depth to her characterization and is so appealing that she really deserves an award. You just want to watch her over and over again. A captivating and brilliant performance in an important role in the film. Ann Sothern, C. Aubrey Smith, and Lew Ayres are wonderful, too, but I just can't say enough about Maureen O'Sullivan in this film.
The one other comment I will make is the last scene was quite disappointing to me and detracted somewhat from my enjoyment of the film but to discuss why would risk others not wanting to see the film and Maureen O'Sullivan's performance is definitely worth seeing and appreciating.
As Relevant Today As When It Was Originally Released
Having just seen this movie, what stands out the most is the opening scene where ABC's Wide World of Sports is covering the play-by-play of a political assassination. When one thinks of how the news media operates today, it makes the scene even more funny and meaningful now and shows how perceptive Woody Allen is. However, there is not enough political satire in the film overall, unfortunately and Louise Lasser's character is underwritten. The film's length is shorter than most movies and might have benefited from an additional subplot. Still there are some hilarious lines and scenes that make this film worth watching (especially for Woody Allen and slapstick comedy fans) and Howard Cosell is great in his cameo.
The Last Shot (2004)
Top-Notch Cast Delivers in Comedy with Heart
Matthew Broderick is especially effective at this movie filled with warmth and a deep love for film-making. Yes, the script and many of the performances (notably Calista Flockhart and an unbilled Joan Cusack) poke fun at Hollywood, but what gets you glued to this film is that you really root for Matthew Broderick's character. He is one of the few male actors that I know of that isn't afraid to be sweet and gentle on screen. Without his ability to make his character so likable and believable, this film would not be nearly as good. I also think he as an exceptional ability to play a scene "straight" meaning serious while there is hilarity all around him. He is really believable in his part. There is some brusque language used that seems to be just thrown in and doesn't fit with the sweet nature of this film. Perhaps it is used so more people would come see it. But this is a minor flaw. I think that people who dream of being filmmakers themselves will especially enjoy this film.
Columbo: Murder by the Book (1971)
Truth Imitates Fiction?
To me, this episode of Columbo is more fascinating now then it was when it first aired. For instance, in this episode, Jack Cassidy's character says that his cigarette lighter is his security blanket. Of course, the official explanation of Jack Cassidy's death about five years later is that he died smoking in bed. You can see the irony there. Also, Jack Cassidy's character in this episode is that he loved drinking and gambling and is alternately charming and scary--not unlike his persona in real life. Add to this the fact that the pivotal piece of evidence--in the show--is a piece of paper that Jack Cassidy's character said was written five years before the murder takes place and you really start to wonder. Was Jack Cassidy's death an accident, was it suicide, or was it something else?
As to my review, if you're a fan of Jack Cassidy or Peter Falk, you'll like this episode as both are in top form. However, the climax is too short and is not as satisfying as other Columbo endings.
The Company (2003)
An Uninspiring Look at the Joffrey Ballet
I am not really into ballet and didn't plan to see this movie but while visiting the Sony Wonder Tech Lab in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, it was announced that free tickets for this film shown in the high-definition theater there would be given away in the lobby. Although I like Robert Altman as a director and a human being and respect Malcolm McDowell, I was really disappointed in this film. What irked me the most is that being about the ballet, I expected the point of this movie to be to create interest in the ballet and perhaps the arts in general. This movie, for me, did the opposite. The movie focuses on the artistic director of the Joffrey ballet, apparently based on one of the real life artistic directors. Malcolm McDowell plays him and he comes off as an egotistical, overbearing louse. Whenever he tries to be nice, he sounds really phony. Neve Campbell is very believable and likable but she is secondary in the story. So is the ballet and everybody else who isn't "Mr. A"--the Malcolm McDowell character. If the film were more about the dancers and the ballet itself or if "Mr. A" was more likable, it would be a more enjoyable film. I can definitely understand the reported reluctance of Mr. Altman to direct this film. If this film is truly representative of the ballet world and the artistic world in general, I want no part of it. Fortunately, in general, I doubt this is the case.
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
Edward Hermann steals this movie!
I saw this movie on an airplane so I don't remember the details too well and might have dozed off at brief moments but what I do remember is Edward Hermann (an actor who looks like a somewhat larger version of Mark Shields of CNN's "Capital Gang" political-talk show) was wonderful in his role--which isn't surprising because he has been a great-but under-appreciated-actor throughout his career. His character was so enjoyable to watch that you hope that the Coen brothers make a sequel to this movie with his character in the lead (as happens frequently in television). He's that great. Also, Billy Bob Thornton is hilarious in his too-brief appearance. The lead actors are fine but their characters are kind of bland and predictable.
Mister Ed (1958)
A great sitcom that is not as silly as the premise may seem
Mr. Ed has the reputation of being a silly sitcom that is mainly for children which is probably due to the story centering on a horse that speaks English. However, I consider myself a person with sophisticated tastes and I adore this sitcom and consider it one of the greatest sitcoms ever. The writing is sophisticated and witty. The interplay between all the characters is hilarious and the performances are uniformly marvelous. I think that Allan (Rocky) Lane (Mr. Ed's voice), and Larry Keating, are particularly underrated in this sitcom. Alan Young is also outstanding and his comic mannerisms are a sight to behold--he is very similar to John Ritter with his wonderful combination of slapstick comedic flair and appealing personality. The fights between Wilbur and his wife are especially well-written and performed. A truly special sitcom that has never received its due credit--especially for the writing.
The Wedding Planner (2001)
Jennifer Lopez is marvellous in this sweet romantic comedy
I enjoyed this film a great deal but would have liked it even more if the male romantic lead character, played by Matthew McConaughey, was more likable. He is not really believable as a doctor, but, in this type of film, he doesn't have to be. He does have to be likable though for the movie to succeed fully. Mr. McConaughey's character comes across as a smug, egotistical louse, while Ms. Lopez's character is sweet, charming, and extremely likable. Why she falls in love with Mr. McConaughey's is a mystery to me. The supporting cast is terrific and the movie's direction and look are classy. Jennifer Lopez is the reason to see this movie though. Her performance belongs in a class with the great Carole Lombard--and I'm not exaggerating.
Being John Malkovich (1999)
Unique and clever--mostly
This film reminded me of the old "Twilight Zone" tv show that Rod Serling created (especially the comic episodes). It has a bizarre premise, witty dialogue, interesting plot twists, and superb acting by top-notch actors. Unfortunately missing is Rod Serling, the key to the artistic success of the aforementioned tv show. There is a mean-spirited quality that overtakes the film once the premise is set up. It is still worth seeing for the uniqueness and fine acting, however. It was nice to see Orson Bean on screen again.
A terrific vehicle for Kirk Douglas
I have never seen Kirk Douglas act as well as he does in this film--stroke or no stroke. Lauren Bacall (who starred with Kirk Douglas previously in the 1950 film "Young Man With A Horn"), Dan Ackroyd, and Corbin Allred provide top-notch support, but this is mainly Kirk Douglas' showcase. The only criticism I can perhaps make is the sugar-coated way the film treats prostitution, however a cynical view of prostitution wouldn't fit in this movie. This is a movie that should appeal to all age groups.