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The Mothman Prophecies (2002)
Not as good as some others of its genre
This movie is effectively creepy, but it drags a bit and as many others have pointed out, it leaves too many unanswered questions. The number one question of course is: who or what are the mothmen and what are they trying to do here? But I suppose since this film is "based on true events" and there's never been an answer to that question in real life, they couldn't create one for the movie (or at least they didn't have to.) Richard Gere is good, but the better performance comes from Laura Linney. Overall this is a decent supernatural/fantasy flick, but not on the same level as The Others, K-Pax, or even Dragonfly.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Not just for kids!
I recently rented this movie for my young son. I never imagined that I'd end up liking it more than he does. If you can get past the fact that most of the cast are muppets, this is actually a terrific version of A Christmas Carol. Michael Caine makes a fine Scrooge, one of the best I've ever seen in fact. I usually hate musicals, but all of the songs in this film are great (and the girl who plays Belle - this girl can SING!) The comedy is mostly provided by Gonzo, narrating as Charles Dickens, and his sidekick Rizzo the Rat. The humor is truly funny and appropriately placed (notice how a very good reason is created for Gonzo and Rizzo to exit during the serious Christmas Yet to Come portion .) This is truly one of those movies "for young and old alike", though it will probably go over the heads of very young children. But anyone who generally likes A Christmas Carol should like this version of it.
I like it
I saw this in a theater in 1997 and I thought I liked it. I just saw it again on DVD last night, and I now I know I do. What I can't figure out is why so many people think it's so horrible. After seeing JP III a few weeks ago, I still think The Lost World is better. Of course the original is the best, but The Lost World is packed with suspense, witty dialogue (especially Goldblum's), and of course, the usual great looking dinosaurs. There are a few things I don't like, the gymnastics routine towards the end being at the top of the list. But other than that and a few silly lines, this movie is almost as thrilling as the first. Personally, I don't care if the plot of this one is weak. I've never even really given that any thought. The first 100 minutes or so are loaded with excitement, then the finale with the T-Rex in the city is, if you ask me, played mostly for laughs. Yes it's like Godzilla, and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, but that's the point. It's like those movies but with 21st century (almost) special effects. And it's just plain fun to see this dinosaur stomping through the suburbs, drinking from a swimming pool and, wreaking havoc at gas station minimart. I think if you don't take the San Diego scenes too seriously, and look at it as Spielberg's way of paying homage to *and* poking fun at the Godzilla-type movies, you can appreciate this portion of the movie. Then to wrap it all up with Bernard Shaw from CNN, and an obvious open door to a sequel - what more could you ask for? Well, maybe a better plot as some people seem to be saying, but I think this is a great popcorn movie and it works for me.
Jurassic Park III (2001)
Good, but the weakest in the series
The latest Jurassic Park film is good, but not great. The second one wasn't great either, but it was better than this. JP III totally lacks the suspense of the first two (the first is one of the most edge-of-your-seat films ever), and very many elements of it are "borrowed" from other movies. Having just seen it about half an hour ago, I can recall one thing that came from the first JP, two things that came from the second, something out of Alien, and of course, a little Godzilla here and there. Now of course, the special effects are fabulous. Everything in JPIII looks great (with the possible exception of Tea Leoni's boring hairstyle.) Yet at the same time, I came home from the theater and looked up spinosaurus and pteranadon in the dictionary to make sure these were real animals that actually lived on earth once. They were, but somehow these things looked like something made up for a movie (not to mention the bit about the velociraptors being able to talk to each other and possibly be smarter than dolphins or even us.) These things may indeed be factual based on all current paleontological research, but I think it was safer to use average-intelligence velociraptors, and T-Rexes and other familiar species that don't appear quite so... mythological. Despite the great CGI effects, I somehow felt from time to time like I was watching a dinosaur movie from the 1960s. I appreciated all the actors; I'm glad Sam Neill was back, and I wish Laura Dern had had a bigger role. The newcomers did well (but heaven forbid that children young enough for Sesame Street should see this movie and witness Mr. Noodle getting mauled by a raptor!) There is also virtually no profanity, which is a definite plus. The absence of Jeff Goldblum makes this JP a lot less funny that the others, but there are a few very clever humorous moments. But the plot is rather uninspired, disjointed, and the movie is amazingly short. It's eye candy and excitement, but no real thrills, at least compared to the other two. And then there's that abrupt ending. It left me saying to myself, "Is that it?" This is not good for a movie with Jurassic Park in its title. Spielberg didn't direct this one, and I think it shows. Maybe III is simply enough, or maybe if there's a IV (which I'm sure there will be), we should hope that Spielberg directs it, and hope for a better story and two full hours to tell it.
Good film noir/mystery
This is a good movie with an interesting plot and good acting. Perhaps more sheer mystery than typical dark film noir, it has one major plot element that was a little hard for me to swallow, but I found it easy enough to just ignore that and enjoy the film. Basehart is fabulous as the timid man who decides he's mad as hell and he isn't gonna take it anymore. Audrey Totter is a forgotten actress who should be remembered (and not only for the fact that she looks like she could have been Carolyn Jones' twin.) She turns in a great performance here as the money-loving shrew bitch. Meanwhile, Rita Hayworth lookalike Cyd Charisse is the sympathetic good girl. And like Rita, she was as good an actress as she was a dancer. Barry Sullivan is the cop who may or may not be genuinely attracted to the woman he suspects of murder. This film will keep you guessing all the way to the end.
The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)
Never a dull moment
This is a highly suspenseful, almost Hitchcockian tale, with excellent performances from the stars. Barbara Stanwyck was always excellent in this kind of role; she's better here than in "Sorry, Wrong Number". And Bogart seems truly menacing as the psychotic artist. Also noteworthy is the performance of Ann Carter as Bogart's young daughter. She was a child actress with a very mature and sophisticated quality about her, in fact she reminded me very much of Patty McCormack, who would play the evil Rhoda in "The Bad Seed" several years later. There's never a dull moment in this 99 minute thriller.
Devil Dogs of the Air (1935)
It works for me
Personally I'm not with Maltin at all on this one. This is a comedy and a darn funny one. Cagney is as electrified as ever, and O'Brien and Lindsay play their parts to the hilt as well. Personally I was slightly bored by the flying scenes, but if you like that sort of thing, you've got that in this movie as well. On a scale of one to five, I give it three and a half.
We're No Angels (1955)
Great dialogue, great cast, great movie
Never let it be said that Bogart could only play hard-boiled detectives in film noir. He had a great comedic talent, and it's evident in this film. This is a very funny movie; not hilarious, but funny as well as charming. Though the plot gets a little far-fetched, particularly towards the end, the dialogue is great and the acting superb. It's set at Christmas too, so you can add it to your list of holiday movies.
The Dark Corner (1946)
Everything a film noir should be
This is a perfect little film noir, it's everything a film noir is supposed to be. Lucille Ball is great (I echo the sentiments of the person who said she should have done more of this type of film.) She's not a femme fatale, she's a completely innocent heroine; perhaps a little unusual in film noir, but it works. The use of light and dark, some terrific camera angles, and a somewhat confusing plot make this a superb example of this genre. One wonders why this film is not better known; it should be.
Young Man with a Horn (1950)
Kirk Douglas tops a great cast
I watched this film because I'm a fan of Lauren Bacall. While she is good, this movie belongs to Kirk Douglas. The title character spends his life devoted to his music. His friend Jo (Doris Day), says he's "married to" his trumpet. Eventually he marries Jo's friend, Amy (Bacall.) The couple are polar opposites; he devoted to the only thing in life that's ever mattered to him, she going from one career path to another desperately trying to find something she can stick with. The backdrop of the movie is, of course, jazz music. But even if you aren't fond of jazz (which I'm not particularly), it won't detract from your enjoyment of the story. And Doris Day sings superbly. Hoagy Carmichael is the narrator, taking you into this smoke-filled world of jazz and eventually back out. It's quite a trip.
A different kind of Cary Grant comedy
Not a "screwball" or "madcap" comedy, this one is witty and intelligent. Cary Grant and Myrna Loy are married with two daughters, and have been living in a small NYC apartment for 15 years. They decide to buy a house, then change their minds and have one built instead. We go with them every step of the way through the process. Grant's lawyer and "best friend" (Melvyn Douglas) is the doomsayer from step one; a constant flow of sarcastic comments comes from him, providing some of the funniest lines in the film. This is a must-see for Grant fans, or anyone who appreciates classic comedy.
Affectionately Yours (1941)
See this one for the actors
For me the brightest spots of this movie are Rita Hayworth and Dennis Morgan. The love triangle, which also includes Merle Oberon, is complicated by interference from Ralph Bellamy and others (at times it's difficult to be sure whose side Rita is on.) Standing by are Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen, who are rooting for Morgan all the way. The backdrop of the newspaper business - as well as the presence of Ralph Bellamy - reminds one slightly of "His Girl Friday." Not a terrifically funny comedy, but worthwhile, especially for fans of any of the cast members.
Holiday Affair (1949)
Comedy-drama with a definite holiday feel
This is a good holiday movie, though some of the messages it sends seem a bit questionable by today's standards. I would call this a comedy-drama; at some points there's much more emphasis on the drama. Personally I prefer movies with more emphasis on comedy, but this one is very well-written and well-acted. The best part is Janet Leigh, the worst part is the little boy (let's just say I've seen better child actors.) However, the character of Timmy is a good reminder of what Christmas meant to all of us as children. I liked the way it spanned from a few days before Christmas through New Year's Eve. I watched it on January 1st, which was a nice way to end the holiday season.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
More than just a romantic comedy
This is an excellent film. It is usually described as being about romantic pen pals who don't realize that they already know each other, but it's about so much more than that. It's about the place where the two people work. It's very much about the owner of the business. It's about people, co-workers, friends, and enemies. It's about feelings, self-esteem, and of course, it is about romance. It's 99 minutes that will have you glued to your seat. It's a romantic comedy-drama, and there's even a little suspense thrown in. It happens to be set at Christmas, but it's not a "Christmas movie", so see it at any time of year; please do see it whenever you get the chance.
Boy Meets Girl (1938)
Good cast and characters
I didn't find this to be a hilarious comedy, but it's entertaining and has some good performances. Cagney of course is excellent, and Marie Wilson is particularly charming as the naive mother of Happy, Hollywood's newborn sensation. The dialogue is extremely fast (for a challenge, try keeping up with it with your closed-captioning on.) The plot is perhaps a bit silly by today's standards, but good performances make this a worthwhile film. Look out for "in-jokes" about the movie industry, a future American president in a small role, and a lot of trumpets (or are they trombones?) Personally this film never made me laugh out loud, but it made me smile a lot.
An Affair to Remember (1957)
A Movie to Forget
I love Cary Grant, and this is the first Cary Grant movie I've seen that I don't like. I think primarily my reason for not liking it is because of the dialogue. Deborah's Kerr's especially sounds too much like, well, like it was written for a movie. Everything she says is too perfect, the words come too easily. There are too many unfinished sentences throughout the film, and in the final scene they're talking in riddles. Maybe it's just me, but I didn't "get" this movie. I didn't find either of the main characters to be believable, nor did I find their "true love" to be believable. The scene at his grandmother's house is nice, but it seems out of place. There isn't much humor in this film (not that there has to be in every film), but what humor there is I personally didn't think was funny. I would still recommend this movie to Grant or Kerr or romance fans, because I seem to be in a minority in not liking it. But for myself, An Affair to Remember is a movie to forget.
The Roaring Twenties (1939)
Good cast; great ending
I didn't enjoy this film as much as Cagney's first big gangster film, The Public Enemy, but it wasn't bad, and what an ending. The Roaring Twenties is a somewhat dull film saved by a good cast. Rather than being an action-packed gangster film, it's unusually psychological. The Bogart and Lynn characters never really change from beginning to end, while Cagney's character goes from good to bad to pitiful. His seemingly true love for Priscilla Lane's Jean is perhaps the most compelling part of the story. Then there's Gladys George as Panama, apparently in love with him. Underneath the gangster film lies a dual story of unrequited love. This is focused on in the last half hour or so of the film, and combined with the famous final scene, the end of the movie is the best part.
These Wilder Years (1956)
Better than expected
Maltin calls this a soap opera. That's what I expected it to be, but I feel that it's better than that, largely due to Cagney's performance. He's quite believable as a middle aged man who regrets the mistakes of his youth. Barbara Stanwyck is a woman struggling with an emotional and legal conflict. Throw in a good courtroom scene, and you've got a movie that holds your interest to the end. The final resolution is a bit sappy, but overall, the film is pretty good.
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
This is a wonderful fantasy love story. It's got romance, humor, good music, beautiful settings, just about everything that defines the word "classic." The plot is certainly supernatural, but you'd have to be extremely cynical not to appreciate this film anyway. There's not much else I can say about it except, see it whenever you get the chance!
Paris - When It Sizzles (1964)
A little too long
I adore Audrey Hepburn, but I was disappointed in this movie. Perhaps some of the "in jokes" went over my head, as many a reviewer has said they will if you don't understand the movie making process. But I felt that I was "getting" the jokes, I just didn't think most of them were particularly funny. Hepburn and William Holden were quite good in their roles though, and I did appreciate a bit of the humor throughout, but overall I felt that the film was more boring than it was funny. It's also a solid two hours; maybe I could have appreciated it more if it had been just a little shorter.
Not great, but good enough
This is not my favorite Cary Grant comedy, but it's certainly entertaining. While I feel that the plot was a bit far-fetched (two judges and an assistant district attorney force a man to date an underage girl for her own good... ), the movie was funny enough for that not to matter. Towards the end it gets particularly funny, and it has a very good final scene. Not the greatest 40s comedy, but good enough.
The Matchmaker (1958)
Charming and truly funny!
This movie is a truly funny comedy. I'm not sure why it isn't more well-known. The entire cast is great, particularly Shirley Booth and Anthony Perkins. The dialogue is hilarious, and it's interesting how the major players "break the fourth wall" throughout the film. The basic premise: Shirley Booth is a professional matchmaker who decides she wants to marry her latest client (Paul Ford) herself. Meanwhile, Anthony Perkins is interested in Shirley MacLaine, who is simply interested in getting married. The result is a lot of deception, but the characters are all so nice and likeable that you can't help but root for them all. The next time you're in the mood for a classic comedy, try this one.
Les diaboliques (1955)
The film that inspired Hitchcock!
The basic plot: The wife and mistress of a sadistic schoolmaster tire of his abuse and plot to murder him. They make his death look like an accident, then wait for the body to be discovered... but they are in for a surprise.
Diabolique is a great suspense film. It is a must-see for anybody who's a fan of Hitchcock, Psycho, or suspense films in general. One word of caution: this is most definitely a film that you DO NOT want to know the ending of ahead of time. Some people who talk about it tend to give a little too much away. So please be very careful when reading anything about it on the web. My advice is to just SEE it as soon as possible!
On a scale of 1-10 I give it a 9.
If Winter Comes (1947)
Dull despite a good cast
This was sort of two movies in one. It started out with Angela Lansbury as a self-centered woman who was fearful that her husband (Walter Pidgeon) would be drawn back to his old flame. Lansbury was quite good as the wife who had an interesting approach to this situation. But later, the movie turned into a story about a young woman (Janet Leigh, doing a good British accent), who turns to Pidgeon for help and inadvertently causes a host of problems for him. Deborah Kerr is also good as Pidgeon's old girlfriend, but even with the good cast, the movie overall is little more than a confused soap opera, and the ending doesn't make much sense. Not one I'd recommend, unless you're a particular fan of anybody in the cast.
Green Mansions (1959)
Appealing romance, at least
After reading reviews of this film I expected it to be pretty bad. I wanted to see it anyway because I love Audrey Hepburn, and I always have an interest in seeing Anthony Perkins films since I loved him in Psycho (though I must admit I still haven't seen him do anything as well as he did Norman Bates.) So I put the tape in the VCR and expected something visually stimulating, but with a dull story. What I got was something visually stimulating, and a story interesting enough to keep me entertained. The scenery is gorgeous (though I agree with a previous comment that some of it looks fake), and Hepburn and Perkins are equally attractive. The music is heady and romantic (Tony Perkins sings - and he does this well!) A few scenes of primitive tribal rituals are the only inelegant parts of the film. I do think that Audrey Hepburn was miscast as "the bird girl"; she seems a bit too sophisticated for this type of role (and dare I say just a wee bit too old - she was about 30 at the time, playing a character constantly referred to as "that child.") But it doesn't matter. She was a great actress so she did this role well. Anthony Perkins did well at least in the more romantic scenes. The chemistry between them worked for me. The whole movie worked for me, at least on a hedonistic level. Green Mansions isn't a "great movie", but it's an enjoyable one.