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Lone Rider (2008)
What a disappointment. I like Lou Diamond Phillips, and he and some other actors try, but the script, direction, and editing are terrible.
All the characters are one dimensional. The villain is so totally mean and one dimensional that one cannot fathom that he was Phillip's character's best friend when they were younger.
I wonder if the script was longer and it was butchered to fit into a 2 hour time slot on TV? Or was the script so bad this was all the director had to work with? Or was the editor at fault in fitting the movie into a 2 hour time slot? A number of scenes come so rapid fire to establish continuity and move the plot along, but they are so short and jarring that I wondered what I was missing.
For example, Phillips's character gets a woman he is interested in for a picnic. Cut to his cousin getting waylaid, robbed, and beaten. Cut to Phillips returning from the picnic to learn the news his cousin was robbed and beaten and was now at the doctor's place. Cut to talk with his family at the doctor's place about what happened (with no interaction with the cousin). Cut to two of the villain's henchmen beating up a homesteader and tieing him to a tree. Phillip's character witnesses it from a distance. (wait a minute, why is Phillip's wandering the countryside when he should be concerned about his cousin and retribution?) Henchmen ride off. Phillip's rides in and cuts the homesteader loose. The next we know Phillip's speaks with the sheriff to learn the sheriff won't do anything because he says the homesteader won't press charges and Phillip's wasn't there to witness the beating.
All the above happens over the course of a few minutes. There is a lot that could be expanded in each scene to give the scene weight, but isn't. Therefore none of it has any emotional resonance and is almost a montage, or could have been done by talking to explain situations. The actual picnic scene should have been there to establish a relationship between Phillips and the woman. I'm not sure why Phillips is attracted to this woman - could she be the only single woman in town not working at the saloon? Speaking of the woman, from the movie she worked for another business woman, yet in trying to remember her character name, IMDb apparently lists her a "Saloon girl". No... in the movie she has a conversation with the saloon owner about not working for him.
The fight scenes are poorly shot and edited. Lots of closeups and quick edits. The gunfights are dumb and lame.
The villain's wife spends half her screen time running around in corsets and bloomers with a drink in her hand, but somehow the movie can't even make that have a hint of sexiness.
Bad, bad, bad.
Stupeur et tremblements (2003)
Stupor, trembling, dominance and submission
Last night at a local French film festival I saw this movie.
Ah, a comedy. That would be good for me right now. I should have expected as this was a foreign film - a French film - the comedy would be different than what I expected. But different can often be good. However this movie's comedy tone was sardonic. It also had a message and I think the message was more important to the filmmaker than the comedy.
I think the filmmaker was operating under "Give them enough rope and let them hang themselves" in regards as to portraying the Japanese. The Japanese way was dominant and superior in the Japanese eyes, but as much as Amelie, the Belgian woman, tried to fit in, her way was the Western way and considered inferior. While the Western approaches Amelie used for situations were wrong for this environment, the Japanese way often appeared to be cruel, rigid, nonsensical, mean, and pointless.
The more Amelie tried to fit in, become Japanese, or be submissive to Fubuki, her female work leader, the more Fubuki showed her dominance and cruelty. All the while Amelie in a voice over mocked the environment she wanted to fit into, even while swooning over Fubuki's looks, which gave a lesbian undertone to Amelie's attraction to Fubuki and desire to please her.
The film wasn't boring, the lead actresses were attractive, a few times situations in the film were mildly amusing, but the film's tone had a feel of smugness, condescension, and being superior from a feigned inferior stance.
Fubuki was a 6 foot tall Japanese woman, taller than most of the men in the movie. Usually all the strands of her hair were all in place. Her look was cold, clean, and severe in black business dress attire. She stood straight and tall. She had a look and demeanor of dominance.
Amelie on the other hand was disheveled. Her clothes were often rumpled and of a color palette out of sync with the others in the office. Her hair was always unruly. Her walk was her own. Her height appeared to be a little over 5 foot and she looked to be a mouse next to Fubuki's "cat". The more she tried to fit into the Japanese way, the more she sincerely - or insincerely - took on a submissive posture and tone.
The line between message and comedy is a hard thing for a movie comedy to achieve successfully. There was more of a message than true comedy in this movie. Even the message was muddled. Was the movie more about the cultural differences between the Japanese and the West? Or was it more of a story of Amelie and Fubuki's strange dominant/submissive relationship across a cultural divide? In the end the movie left me unfulfilled.
I noticed that "stupeur" from the original French title appeared to be translated to fear. Stupeur sounds like "stupor", which is not fear in English.
1. A state of reduced consciousness or sensibility
2. a state in which one has difficulty in thinking or using one's senses
I translated "fear" into French and got "peur". Okay...
Having watched the movie the correct title in English would be "Stupor and Trembling". The Japanese culture of work, mind numbing dull, senseless, repetitive and useless work mixed with cruel intimidation, seems to reduce a person to a stupor. I guess "Stupor and Trembling" wouldn't make an appealing English movie title. However, as the original French title uses the word stupor, that gives you an insight into the tone and reason of the movie.
Aces 'N' Eights (2008)
While it didn't always succeed, at times I admired the effort
The railroad is coming and not all people want to sell their ranch to make way for the new rail line. The local officials working for the railroad are violently encouraging the families to sell their ranches at the railroad's price. A railroad official from Chicago has come to help speed matters up, but in a non-violent manner.
Ernest Borgnine is one of the ranchers who are refusing to sell. Working for Ernest Borgnine is a former gunfighter (Luke Rivers / Casper Van Dien) who has tried to leave his violent past behind, and a teenage boy (Michael H. Barnett). Among those working for the railroad is a former gunfighter friend (D.C. Cracker / Bruce Boxleitner) of Luke River.
I generally liked this movie as I favor Westerns. I did feel the script needed more work. I thought there may be a connection between Luke Rivers and the teenage boy - and if there was - I missed the explanation.
Connections/relations/conflicts between other characters could have been developed more. I am uncertain if this is because of the script, the direction, or if the actors didn't have the 'heft' to pull it off. James Stewart, or other 1950s Western actors, had the gravitas to imply much with little.
Because a Mexican shawl is so reminiscent of Clint Eastwood in his 'Man With No Name' spaghetti westerns, Casper Van Dien looked 'wrong' when he took to wearing one late in the movie. Instead of enhancing his gunfighter status, it diminished him in my eyes as he could not compare to Eastwood.
The director has a different visual style. Occasionally his tilted camera angles was distracting. I disagree with his overuse of tight closeups - especially during fight/brawl scenes. I couldn't get involved in the fight/brawl when I only saw the person who threw the punch or the person who received it with no good establishing shots as to which person was fighting who.
I also felt the violent scenes of the railroad enforcers terrorizing the families were too many and went on too long. It was more than I expected from a TV movie. It says something when the credits lists as an actress: "Terrified Woman".
On the plus side, the movie did try to present people on both sides of the conflict being right and wrong, good and bad. You may be right but sometimes it is hard to stop progress. I believe the "Aces and Eights" referred to losing with a winning hand. Within the Western clichés the movie tried to be different, and while it didn't always succeed, at times I admired the effort.
À nous la liberté (1931)
More historical than entertaining
I wanted to like this movie more, especially knowing the movie's history and theme, but in the end I was often bored and frustrated. When compared to Chaplin's "Modern Times", even though it was made after this movie and apparently heavily influenced by this movie, I would say "Modern Times" is a better movie.
I was bored in part because the rhythm of many 1930s movies have a slower pace. Scenes go on long to ensure the 1930s audiences gets the point, but modern audiences are quick to catch on. Even allowing for, and expecting, a slower pace I was annoyed at times by the movie's pace.
I was frustrated with the lead character. He didn't stand out in a good way. While he was suppose to be a simple everyday guy the audience is to identify with, he seemed dumb, dim witted, and oblivious when it came to the woman he was infatuated with. I realize it was a movie style back then, but it grates if the actor doesn't have the charisma to pull this act off. It also doesn't help when this movie doesn't have a character say the few words that would clear up the confusion.
I liked the sets - they were typical 1930s art deco. Big rooms, tall doors, and clean lines. Even though it was obvious and heavy handed, I was fine with the theme that industrial work is like prison labor, while the guards and professors proclaimed that work means liberty.
This is shown by the following scene: Factory guards discover one of the escaped convicts lying in the grass outside the factory enjoying the day, and one guard says: "Not at work?! Don't you know that ...". Then the scene cuts to a classroom where a bearded professor tells his class: "Work is mandatory. Because work means liberty." The young children at their desks and writing in their notebooks then sing what the professor just told them.
Idiot's Delight (1939)
A few nights ago I watched this movie. It was released in 1939, the 'golden year' of Hollywood movies. This movie is nowhere near golden. It may almost be so bad that it is 'good'. It certainly is an odd movie. The movie originally was a play and at times the movie looks and it feels like it. Not a good thing for a movie.
Clark Gable plays Harry Van, a vaudeville actor with little talent who is going backwards in his career. Gable plays a variation of his typical 1930s roles, a charming, rough around the edges, doing it his way, type of guy.
In the beginning Norma Shearer plays Irene, an acrobat with dreams of love and fame. She later reappears as Irene, a fake Russian Countess traveling on the arm of a munitions manufacturer.
Shearer's character as a Russian Countess is so over the top one has to wonder if Shearer is a bad actress hamming it up, the part was poorly written, or a combination of both. Or maybe Shearer's character is an exaggeration based on a real life Russian refuge from the 1917 Russian Revolution?
For the following dialog imagine Norma Shearer wearing a long platinum blond wig, waving a cigarette in a long cigarette holder, talking with a thick Russian accent, and overacting as she talks.
Norma Shearer: "My father was old. The hardships of that terrible journey had broken his body. But his spirit was strong. His spirit that is... Russia.
He lay there in that little boat. And he looked up at me. -- Never can I forget his face. So thin. So white. So beautiful in the starlight.
And he said to me, 'Irena... little daughter'. And then... he died.
For four days I was alone with his body. Sailing through the storms of the Black Sea. I had no food. No water. I was in agony from the violent wounds of the Bolshevikii. I knew I must die.
And then.. an American cruiser rescued me. May Heaven bless those good men!"
Clark Gable: "Ahem. Excuse me Madame. But it seems to me that the last time you told me about your escape it was different."
Norma Shearer: "Well! I made several escapes."
The movie's time line starts at the end of WWI and goes to 1939 and the outbreak of WWII. The first half of the movie, where Gable and Shearer, down on their luck, meet in Omaha, Nebraska during a vaudeville show, has the typical screwball comedy charm of 1930s movies. Their later meeting at a hotel in the European Alps is where things get strange. The movie switches to a pre-WWII anti-war message that today seems odd as we now know the reason for WWII. From my University history classes I recognize that the movie's anti-war message is a reaction to WWI when the movie blames munition manufacturers for wars.
The movie's anti-war message was also harmed by Burgess Meredith's character's strident spouting of his peace message. Meredith's character seemed as if he burst in from another movie. It felt like we were getting a lecture and I was happy when he was hauled off. It didn't help that I was thinking "The Penguin" from the Batman TV show when I saw Meredith. Even if he was skinny back then, the voice remains the same.
Also odd was Clark Gable singing and dancing to the song "Putting on the Ritz". He did OK, but his body's proportions, or the suit he was wearing, made him look odd. He looked to have too short of legs for his body.
Norma Shearer: "You are a very bad dancer."
Clark Gable: "Hmmm... in Romania they thought I was pretty good."
The ending - or I should say "endings" - as there was a domestic and international ending - was surreal. By then I had surrendered to incomprehension as to the goal of the movie: romantic comedy or anti-war movie? Gable and Shearer were shouting and singing and playing piano, declaring their love, and making plans for their future against a phony backdrop of plane after plane outside the large windows dive bombing their hotel and the valley below.
The movie would have been helped by having a main villain to go against, a human to personify evil, instead of odd characters railing against "events" and faceless evildoers. It was confusing to see the soldiers lambasted by Burgess Meredith one minute and the next minute see the showgirls ("Les Blondes") girlishly fawn all over the soldiers.
You know, for such a bad movie, it sure made an impression on me. I think it is because of Clark Gable's charm. I also enjoyed the banter between Gable and Norma Shearer. When they meet again in Europe she pretends not to know him and he spends a lot of time trying to get her to admit they had met in Omaha.
Norma Shearer: "The temple of your memory must be so crowded."
Clark Gable: "Are you sure you've never been in Omaha, Madame?"
Norma Shearer: "Here we are, on a mountain peak in bedlam. Tonight war is breaking over the world. And all you worry about is whether I am a girl you once casually met in Oma - ha-ha-ha."
Clark Gable: "Ha-ha-ha. Did I say it was casual?"
I realize another reason why I am growing fond of this movie as the days pass. It may be because - as goofy as some of the dialog was - at least there was dialog. Today's movies are weak on dialog, and often the dialog these days is just an attempt for a character to toss off a one liner between action sequences.
"It's a pleasure to be entertaining, but you can't get away with it." -- Clark Gable
"Oh, 'Kak Stranna!' How strange!" -- Norma Shearer
The Kids Are Alright (1979)
I like the Who's music and think the band is under rated. I had seen this movie when it originally came out and have had fond memories of it.
I re-watched the movie last night and came away a little disappointed. The Who's musical performances were good and the clips covered their early years and on up to when the movie was made. What I wish was that the clips would have been organized better and placed into a context.
By the end of the movie I had the feeling I saw a few of the same songs being performed in another setting. Without letting the viewer know why this was done, one could get the incorrect perception The Who did not have any more songs worthy of being in the film and the director has to reuse another version of the song to fill out time.
People who are very familiar with the band probably will be satisfied, but for others wanting more than band's self depreciating, irreverent humor (over and over - I get the point) will be left wanting. The movie shows the image The Who wanted to present to the world at that time, so much so that the movie seems to be just a long commercial for the band.
It seems as if the director mainly relied on a few performance and a few TV show interview clips to make a movie. I would have liked to see more insight into the various personalities. The lack this insight may be because the band wanted to only portray their facade of "nothing matters". Perhaps the director was unable to get the band members to open up as to their true feelings. Maybe the band members are not all that deep as people, though I doubt that.
While there were clips of the band performing songs from 'Tommy', there was nothing connected to the movie "Tommy". No comments about that film and their thoughts and experiences with it. I find this odd.
The Ballad of Bering Strait (2003)
Wished for more depth and background
The documentary is not bad, but I wish it had more on the individual band members and their Russian background. What we get are the trials and tribulations of trying to record a country music album during upheavals in the country music industry with companies and recording contracts. For much of what happens this could be almost any band, American or non-American.
I had the feeling the documentary was made partly as a promotional device to advertise the band as they were stuck in a kind of limbo during much of the movie. That would explain the lack of film prior to their arrival in the U.S. What little was filmed in Russia appeared to be when band members went back to visit family.
This is not to say the band members are not good, they are. Their music mostly sounds like top 40 country music of the time - the early part of this decade. I enjoyed the one song they played in concert that showcased their Russian background.
I would have liked more on the individual band members. Probably part of this lack of depth is that these are teenagers after all. Add in that they are non-US people and not so used to self analysis and expressing their emotions to strangers. I don't think the filmmakers really ever got close to the band members.
There is such a thing as a "Russian soul" and a Russian characteristic of fatalism and accepting one's fate. I know as I have Russian ancestors. I saw a glimpse of that in several of the young men's comments after the fire and their frustration in not moving forward with their career. I would have like the filmmaker to spent more time on showing how being Russian affected the kids outlook and decisions, at least more so than being homesick and having to contend with Visa restrictions on work.
Unfortunately it appears the documentary ends before Bering Strait's success and eventual breakup. Wikipedia has some interesting info on the band and what the members are up to now. A positive thing about this documentary is that it got me interested in the band and their fate and I went searching for more info.
A Valentine Carol (2007)
Hasn't anyone ever thought of this for a movie before? I mean, making a version of "A Christmas Carol" but set against the backdrop of Valentine's Day with a look at the past, present, and future loves of a woman, who like Scrooge, is too caught up in material things to realize the importance of love.
Emma Caulfield is Ally Simms, a radio personality who gives advice on love & relationships. The years have coarsened her outlook on love and marriage to where her mantra is that only 5 things matter when choosing a man to marry. Money, looks, job/status, what kind of car he drives, and a fifth requirement which I forget. Love and compatibility do not figure in this list.
A few days before her wedding on Valentine's Day, Ally is visited by the ghost of Jackie, her former boss and radio personality who used to give advice on love and relationships. To earn the key to get into Heaven Jackie's mission is to show Ally - in a manner similar to the ghost in the Christmas Carol - the error of Ally's ways and cynical heart.
Jackie and Ally visit Valentine Days past to see how Ally's choices on that day led to breakups in her past engagements. They visit the present to show her more about her current boyfriend than she knew. The future where Ally learns her unpleasant fate and how her actions today will lead to unhappiness in a number of other people. But this is done in a funny way.
Now, if you don't care for the Christmas Carol, you probably won't care for this movie. While updated to present day Seattle, Washington, and starring women as the lead characters, this movie has the same structure and lessons as the Christmas Carol, though this movie is a comedy. This ghost doesn't come with rattling chains, she comes with dead flowers and a drink in her hand.
The movie worked for me. That is saying something as this is Valentine's week and I've watched more than my share of romance movies, and lots of bad ones. I didn't have high expectations for this TV movie, but I liked it.
The movie was well cast for the most part. I did have a quibble with her current boyfriend. I thought he was a nice guy, and the actor did fine in a limited role, but Ally looked to be in her mid 30s and he looked to be in his mid 20s. Nothing wrong with the older woman / younger man romance, but I think he made her look older than what she was suppose to be. I only noticed this about her when they has screen time together.
Otherwise I liked Emma Caulfield as Ally. The movie wisely cast a brunette for the role. This enabled her to be cold and hard in the beginning, but not so much so that the audience would not go with her on her journey. This allowed her to be rehabilitated and softened and likable by the movie's end. If the actress was a blonde or had dark hair the journey from cold and mean to nice and likable would be much more difficult to achieve. It also didn't hurt that Ally looked similar to the musician Sheryl Crow.
Emma Caulfield also was able to use her eyes to portray the good change in her character. I mention this because in a movie I saw recently I felt part of the reason why that actress failed is she needed to use her eyes to convey warmth and affection and I didn't see it.
The script moves along. It has some funny asides that are throwaway and won't hurt viewings years from now. For example, when Ally frets she may have a lesbian stalker she then quips when leaving that if anyone asks she will be watching "Ellen". One gets that quip today. 20 years from now, who knows?
Sealed with a Kiss (1999)
Light predictable comedy with little romance
John Stamos plays Bennett, a financial consultant for a large Boston firm who loses an oddball client for his firm due to an action out his control. Annabeth Gish is Robbie, a curator of the museum home of the poet Longfellow which is desperate for funding.
Robbie needs closure with a previous boyfriend who has dropped out of her life. She writes him a letter asking for closure. The letter, do to a mix-up, is delivered to Bennett's apartment where he and his fiancé read the letter. In returning the letter Bennett meets Robbie.
The movie is mainly about Stamos's character as he is the one who undergoes a transformation in the movie. After losing the client Bennett starts to question his life. He doesn't know what his life is about but he feels what he has is not what he wants. He also decides he wants a child.
Bennett is engaged to be married to Christina, a professional career woman on the verge of getting a great job for Deutsche Bank working in Germany. Bennett and Christina live together but her passion is only for her job, not their relationship or in having a family.
Christina and Robbie represent the two paths in life that Bennett has to decide to follow. Christina represents his career and the pursuit of money and appearances without knowing why. A soulless life.
Robbie represents the stay-at-home mom and a purposeful life. A single woman naturally can't sit around home waiting for her Prince Charming so in this movie she has a job of curator for the museum HOME of Longfellow.
Christina doesn't need Bennett as she is doing quite well without any help or input from him. Robbie, on the other hand, needs Bennett's help as the Park Service has the Longfellow home under review for closure due to lack of money and interest in the home. It would appear Robbie isn't doing an adequate job in manging the home. Bennett helps Robbie and puts a financial plan together for the Longfellow home in an effort to save it.
In working together Bennett and Robbie develop an attraction to one another. But he is engaged. For Bennett and Robbie to be together he would have to break off his engagement to Christina and leave his fancy lifestyle behind.
The movie is amiable, but has problems in areas that could persuade one to overlook its predictability. It has the career woman as being very harsh and passionateless. She is attractive but cold. We are rooting for Bennett to leave her, not because she is mean but because she is too focused on her career.
Gish seems miscast as Robbie. She didn't seem to know what to do with the role, or perhaps didn't believe in the role. She looked the part of an administrator or of a career woman, and certainly seemed good in berating Bennett when she mistook him for someone else, but she didn't seem to know how to portray a woman needing closure or a woman falling in love. Gish fails to provide gestures, or looks, or emotion in her eyes.
Bennett's and Robbie's romance is just as passionateless as his romance with Christina. It is a difficult role as Gish needed to convince the audience of her attraction to Bennett without appearing to be stealing him away from Christina. I thought of Bennett and Robbie more as good friends or brother & sister than I did of them as romantic partners. Stamos looked too young to be having a "mid-life" crisis and Gish looked too old for Stamos.
The movie even realized this problem as Robbie gives an odd "if this were a movie" speech at the end as a way to explain her feelings and thoughts on how their relationship should work.
The movie works better if one focuses on Bennett and his search for a more meaningful life. The movie was written and directed by men and they seemed more comfortable with the Bennett character than the romance. It may be also why the career woman was negative and the non-career woman was shown in a positive manner.
Another problem: references were made to this being in Boston, but I got no flavor of the city. Initially I thought the movie was set in Chicago or some Midwestern city.
I saw this movie on TV with the title of "Love Comes First". A bland title, but one that seems more appropriate than "Sealed With a Kiss". I can't remember anyone in this movie passionately kissing anyone else.
Montana Sky (2007)
Stone skipping on water
I haven't read the book, but other reviewers comments mentioning all that was left out and changed doesn't surprise me. With 4 relationships in the movie (3 male/female and the one amongst the sisters), running the ranch, and the several "bad guy" stories over a year's time, they don't leave much time for much else in a 2 hour (1:36 without commercials) TV movie.
This movie's story just skips along like a stone on water, touching the surface every so often to cause a small ripple that quickly disappears to no effect before finally sinking under the surface. Pretty to look at as it skips, but quickly forgotten when it is done.
I was disappointed in the story's lack of depth. Then again I thought of how I like romantic comedies from the 30s through the 60s and they aren't known for their depth. Why I am more ready to accept the lack of depth from these older movies? It may be because they are old and I am more ready to suspend belief and accept the story and characters because the movie is "from a simpler time".
Another reason I would overlook a shallow story would be if the actors were movie stars. In this movie the actors were good, but no one sizzled and was a star like Gary Grant, Rock Hudson or Doris Day. John Corbett comes closest to a movie star, but I am a guy so the bar for a male actor is higher and Corbett doesn't interest me. He is pretty but bland.
The female actors.... um, who were they again? The black haired, the blonde, and the brunette? The frightened, the Hollywood Californian, and the ranch 'chip-on-her-shoulder'. Three sisters who knew each other? Knew OF each other? More of their back story would have been nice instead of them just being stereotypes.
Another reason I would have trouble overlooking this shallow story and characters is the movie takes place in Montana. While I don't live in the Bozeman area of Montana, I live among the Montana mountain ranch way of life and people. This movie is the Hollywood version of the Montana image. The scriptwriters may have spent a little time in Montana in order to notice a few obvious things such as many Montanans dislike of Californians and their rich Hollywood ways. Unlike the sheriff in the movie, the typical Montana man, after spouting off to the Hollywood sister on Californians like he did, wouldn't immediately express interest in her unless it really was for the reason she thought it was for and not the type of relationship he wanted.
In other words... the Montana men depicted in the movie are not your typical Montana man. And this ranch and house were certainly NOT your typical Montana ranch!
The movie was predictable, but that is not always bad. Sometimes one wants a comfortable movie that conforms to ones beliefs and/or wishes. This movie is that. No rough edges. No major surprises. Reassures one's stereotypes and ends happily.
When characters disagreed, the writers were careful not to overdo the disagreements so as not to create a bad impression in the viewers mind that would be difficult for the character to overcome when the 'feuding' characters changed course and became friends (or friendlier *wink* *wink* as this is a romance movie).
Part of the problem with the lack of feeling is I am not sure why some of the characters didn't like one another to begin with other than the story called for this to be so. I am still puzzled why the 'ranch, chip-on-her-shoulder' sister didn't like John Corbett's character. Was it because he had flirted with other women in his past and was not a virgin? Consequently when they later liked one another it seemed arbitrary. What changed? I guess time passed and it was now or never for her, though if I were Corbett's character I would have moved on from her a long time ago as nothing she did or said impressed me. This is where a movie star charisma comes in handy - who cares why they now like one another, you just are happy they do.
When it came to the bad men in this movie, they were so one-note bad and evil that they were not believable. Watching them in their threatening scenes was like watching the villain at the end of a James Bond movie. The villain spouts off some crazy nonsense as to why he is acting this way and doing what he is doing, then the hero races around shooting until the villain is dead or captured. One puts their mind in neutral until the scene is over as it is so unbelievable. It was the same for this movie. Fortunately this movie was more on the romance side and only had the bad men as subplots to have some sort of dramatic tension in the movie. Just one skip of the stone.
Before anyone complains about my assessment of the bad men subplots, that "no, this was more realistic", I disagree. These guys had anger and impulse control issues and were not smart at all. No way do I believe they would act, then wait 6 months and do nothing over a Montana winter before completing their revenge plan. And there are other examples of their over-the-top behavior which I won't bother to mention.
I wasn't unhappy with the movie. I was fine with it. When I watched it, it was what I thought it may be, and wanted, a predictable romance TV movie. Kind of like watching a James Bond movie when one is in the mood for a mindless action movie.
Maybe the movie would have been better off as a four hour mini-series where it could have had some more depth.
The Souler Opposite (1998)
Offensive male comedian
Story of Barry, a middle-age, loser, want-a-be comedian who has issues with women, and Theo, a young, pottery, poetry, political activist who says she is emotionally unavailable.
Barry is rude, crude, and offensive to women both in his act and in his life. Barry's comedy act is so bad he can no longer get jobs on the L.A. comedy circuit.
One night, after getting beat up by a couple who found his comedy offensive, Barry meets Thea who was waitressing at the comedy club that evening and comes to his aid after he is knocked down. Unbelievably she finds him funny even though her friends tell her he is offensive to women and most people watching the movie would tell her the same thing.
Barry attempts to use humor in every part of his life to cover his insecurities. He also justifies his behavior to being deflowered by a prostitute his father hired for him on his 16th birthday. Apparently his humor is suppose to be like Woody Allen's humor. A New York style though Barry is in L.A. It fails miserably and Woody Allen should sue.
This probably the first time Barry was laid since he was 16. Of course he wants a relationship which she is ambivalent about. Thea apparently only wants him as a friend with "benefits". That's what she says! The rest of the movie is them trying to figure out their relationship and if they want one together. Well... not that interesting as I didn't want to continue describing the "boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy wants, needs, girl again" play-by-play.
Also in the movie is Barry's best friend with his marital situation, Barry's struggle on the comedy club scene and rivals, and talk of lesbians and their secret society and tattoos. Trust me.. it's not interesting.
After some talk about Thea being involved with women's issues in the first half of the movie, the second half of the movie has Thea become a political campaign worker for Jerry Brown for president in 1992, then shows footage from the Clintons' campaign. This campaign work serves as an impediment to their relationship, introduces a rival for Thea's affections, and also means to show the "good guys" as being Democrats and slip in a comment about Republicans. Then it is back to "let's have a relationship?"
Barry's character is so repulsive and offensive towards women that even when they soften him later and try to make him more sympathetic and a worthy romantic person for Thea, he still is identified as repulsive in most viewer's mind. The movie's writer did too good of a job making Barry offensive. I haven't seen the actor playing Barry in other roles so I am not sure if he has a natural knack at being offensive or is a really good actor. I see IMDb has him listed for the movie "Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" so he must have an affinity for this type of role.
I wouldn't want to meet any of the movie's characters in real life and I am sorry I wasted 1 hr 44 minutes on this film. I had to keep watching to see how in the world they would turn Barry from offensive to sympathetic. The answer: Barry went from being offensive to pathetic. That is how the movie tried to make Barry sympathetic. Now the question is.. do women like pathetic guys as much as they like offensive jerks?
Oh yeah... lastly - how could I forget?! - mocking. Mocking is a theme as Thea feels Barry mocks her and he assures her he is not. He is just trying to be funny.
Love Is a Four Letter Word (2007)
Earnest and quickly forgotten
*sigh* They don't make screwball romantic comedies today like they did back in the 1930s and 1940s. The characters today are too cynical, self-aware, and guarded. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised when the movie is titled: "Love is a Four-Letter Word". While a 1930s comedy would have the title be a wink and nod, or a double-entendre with charm, here love is indeed a four letter word to be overcome with effort.
The story is about two divorce lawyers representing opposing clients. He is a new lawyer in town and unfamiliar to her. She has a mother pushing her to meet a man. She is more cynical on love than the man even though she doesn't utter the common phrase "I don't need a man".
Yes, it very similar to "Laws of Attraction" with Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore. The difference being:
1. Brosnan was a lawyer equal to Moore, unlike here where Robert Mailhouse's character is not the equal to Teri Polo's character as a lawyer.
2. Brosnan has charm and a twinkle in his eye. Mailhouse is a decent, sincere, and boring, guy.
3. Moore was fun as a sputtering character whose life and routine was turned upside down by Brosnan. Polo's character is always in control and more cynical on love.
The cynical part is my problem with this film. While the characters probably are more realistic, and the situation and divorce they are handling are not as outrageous as in "Laws of Attraction", they are also not as fun. Polo's character is too cynical and guarded in the beginning and throughout much of the film. By the time she warms up to love it was too late. For me at least. I didn't care.
In the "boy pursues girl" phase of the "boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy pursues girl" situation I was thinking the Mailhouse character needed to get out more and meet people. While he was new to town, she wasn't the only person out there that he could date. She wasn't worth the trouble to pursue. She is too cold. I saw no spark of warmth under that cold exterior. Yes, I know, not a good thing to think when watching a romantic comedy.
The movie is not bad, it is earnest. Maybe too earnest as I am having trouble of thinking of something funny from the movie. Maybe my mistake was in thinking this movie was a romantic comedy when it is just a romance movie. I *think* there were scenes where they were trying to be funny, but they seemed kind of flat.
I liked that the couple were older as he at least admitted to be 40. The supporting characters, while not all were well developed, at least most seemed to be more than simplistically one-note.
I didn't feel like I had wasted my time watching the movie, but it will be quickly forgotten.
The Appaloosa (1966)
Reluctant 60s hero
This film seems to be caught between the 1950s western movies and the Spaghetti Westerns later in the 60s. While the 1950s hero drawn into conflict was 'minding his own business and wanted to be left alone', once crossed the bad guy found he woke a sleeping giant. Perhaps this style was how America saw itself after Pearl Harbor.
"The Appaloosa", on the other hand, has a different style. While Brando was minding his business before being drawn into conflict, the theft of his horse occurs while he is drunk and unable handle the situation, and he seems to be inept. It is a long scene and one that ends in humiliation for Brando's character. Even if a 1950s hero was caught off guard while being drunk, he wasn't humiliated. A 1950s hero would not appear inept, just that he had made a mistake that allowed the bad guy to get the upper hand.
There are other instances in the film where Brando's character doesn't act as a 1950s hero: his ridiculous Mexican accent, his initial plan at the gang's hideout to leave with his horse, his arm-wrestling scene, his reluctance to take revenge. Brando's character was more in style of the 60s make-the-hero-more-realistic and less larger-than-life. He doesn't win all the battles. There is nothing wrong with this, as long as you interested in watching this.
I was fine with it. I did like the final gun battle as it was different from the usual face-to-face shootout.
I had problems with Brando's mumbling. His character didn't seem laconic, but someone who couldn't express himself. While he did have some good lines, other times he seemed to ramble.
The "in disguise at the bar" scene should have been cut. The conversation left me confused and the fake Mexican accent was irritating. This scene only served to introduce one of the outlaw gang members and could have been done another way.
I enjoyed the scenery, that Brando's character was a religious man without it being central to the movie, his intelligence in the final gun battle, and the motivations being believable for the conflict: the bad guy's pride and standing before his gang, and Brando's need for this horse in his future plans.
Poor Shirley MacLaine. I have seen her in other movies (just today "Guarding Tess) so I know she can be good, but judging by her acting in this film one would think she is a bad actress. Here she plays another in a long line of eccentric characters. The problem is she is no longer in her 20s and can be cute and kooky as in "The Apartment", "What a Way to Go!", and "Sweet Charity".
Judging from the entire movie, the movie script fails her as the script is terrible. However Ms. MacLaine has been in the movie business since 1955 and has appeared in a number of excellent movies so she at least could have made her role good in this bad movie. Nope. Not in this movie. Take for instance the scene where she talks to the screen in the movie theater and then harangues the young usher who comes to ask her to be quiet. Dreadful performance in a dreadful scene. It is also an unnecessary scene as we already know MacLaine's character is embarrassing to her granddaughters.
Julia Stiles again plays a young uptight woman who needs to learn to loosen up. Ms. Stiles has acted since 1994, many years prior to this 2003 movie. She has experience playing this role before, i.e. in "10 Things I Hate About You" from 1999. Stiles also could have brought something interesting to her role here. She didn't.
The characters in this movie were all eccentric characters who were one dimensional and annoying, and not real at all.
Stiles played an uptight woman who never had more than three dates with one person. Her best friend is man (she has no women friends) who lives near her apartment. He writes romance novels under a fake name, has a crush on her, and she has no idea. Duh. As the best male friend in movies is often stereotypically a gay man, I initially thought he was gay. When he hired the gay housecleaning duo to clean her apartment, I was sure he was gay. Speaking of the gay house cleaners, talk about an offensive stereotype.
Anyway, her best friend is not gay, and although he claims to understand her well and can predict she will act a certain way - and tells her so, when she does act the way he knew she would, he gets upset. Huh? All a plot device to have "boy lose girl".
I don't think Stiles, MacLaine, or most any of the actors, cared for this movie. They must have been in it either because of an obligation or they needed the money.
Watching this movie is a waste of time, and I bet the actors wish they hadn't wasted their time making this movie.
Once More, with Feeling! (1960)
While Yul Brynner and Kay Kendall throw themselves admirably into their parts, their characters are annoying. Brynner's character, Victor Fabian, is a one-note, over-the-top egocentric and quickly becomes tiring.
Kay Kendall's character, Dolly Fabian, is the peacemaker counterweight to Victor Fabian's "bull in the china shop", and is the person who soothes the wealthy benefactors to Victor's orchestra.
The wealthy benefactors are the stereotypical dull and eccentric people with money who need to give it to poor, creative, artistic people.
As Victor Fabian grew quickly tiresome it fell to Dolly Fabian's character to pull me into the movie. She failed as she was a doormat.
Victor and his stereotypically lying and money hungry agent, Maxwell Archer (with an annoying and hard to understand Russian/Eastern European accent), lie and scheme to get Dolly back after she rightfully-so left Victor when he dallied with a young music student.
After leaving Victor, Dolly started a career as a teacher and is now engaged. Good for her as I could not see what she saw in Victor in the first place.
A wealthy elderly backer will not support Victor with the London orchestra unless Dolly is back with him. So Victor and his agent pursue and trick Dolly into returning. Not the most romantic of reasons. Still it could be comedic but it is not.
Dolly comes across as weak willed and a doormat. Her protests of not wanting to be with Victor again are ignored and steam rolled. Apparently the lady's "No!", does not mean no.
The movie's pretend divorce request to cover up for a pretend marriage is too dumb to be believed.
I Do (But I Don't) (2004)
Maybe I shouldn't comment on this movie as I couldn't finish watching it. It was that bad. I like romantic comedies; and I don't mind if the story is predictable as long as the leading characters have charisma. This movie had nothing going for it.
I am a guy and Denise Richards was unwatchable. She and her character seemed to be fake and shallow. Her character can't forgive her ex-husband for cheating on her but has no problem with a groom pursuing her, and seems to be flattered by his attention. It doesn't seem to matter he will be wed in a month's time in an upcoming wedding she is planning. I guess this is because they "met cute" and she is single and supposedly "not looking" and doesn't need a man. After realizing this is her character I gave up on the movie as I found her offensive. Denise Richards has no acting ability or charisma to allow me to overlook her character's hypocrisy.
Dean Cain was OK as his role was just to be the "perfect guy". His role was just to be eye candy to the women and gay men watching this movie. Just ignore that his character is pursuing Denise Richards when he is about to be married in a month to another woman.
Denise Richard's voice over describing her actions shows how bad this movie is. Rather than have us learn her character and motivations by her actions we can just listen to her drone on about what is happening. Who needs to watch the movie - just close your eyes and listen. The voice over is often the writer's lazy and/or incompetent way of writing and usually is a sign of a bad movie when they have to tell you what is going on.
If you are in the mood for a romantic comedy, watch a screwball comedy from the 1930s with either Jean Arthur, Myrna Loy, or Jean Harlow. These are smart, witty, funny women with charisma.
The Late George Apley (1947)
Well acted but irrelevant
I enjoyed the acting and felt the actors did an excellent job in roles that were written for them to illustrate an aspect of the story's theme.
The main theme was to illustrate how provincial, snobbish, and useless rich Bostonians were in the early 1900s. Okay... how is that relevant to me almost 100 years later? When the movie was over I thought, "Who cares?"
Other story aspects are dated. For example, the poet Emerson. He was used as an example how Bostonian attitudes had calcified. He was treated with reverence by Bostonians and considered a rebel by a non-Bostonian. That much I got as the movie said as much, but not being familiar with Emerson's history, this didn't resonate with me though I think the story expected me to know more about Emerson. The movie did not encourage me to learn more about Emerson.
Another example of how dated this movie is in its mention of Freud. Freud's theories today are generally discredited and ignored and the movie treats them, and his mention of s-e-x, as titillating and important. But remember the movie probably came out before the Kinsey Report.
What I Did for Love (2006)
This is the story of a big city doctor (Sadie) bringing her lawyer boyfriend (Travis) home to the ranch where she grew up to meet her family (widowed dad and brothers) for the first time.
The boyfriend wants to marry her. She wants to take it slower and for her father to meet him first, even though she is convinced her dad will love him. He is a city boy and wants to make a good impression, and the family is rural as they live on a ranch. Sadie has an ex-boyfriend back in the town she grew up in who really wants to reunite with her. Everything goes wrong for the boyfriend until everything goes right in time for a happy ending with life lessons learned.
A terrible movie, even for a TV movie. The actress playing Sadie is awful. At no time did I believe Sadie was a doctor, nor did I believe she grew up on a ranch. Sadie seemed to me to be a spoiled city girl with no clue. She was a totally unlikeable character. Now, I know the movie's plot called for the boyfriend to do some stupid things out of ignorance of ranching life, but I was thinking if she was my girlfriend, knowing I was ignorant and a fish-out-of-water, and didn't take a moment to explain some things, is she the right person for me?
The boyfriend, Travis, was hapless and pathetic. A lawyer, yes. A successful lawyer, no.
Sadie is an only daughter and supposedly the father is protective of his only daughter, but mainly he came across as crusty. At least the actor playing this character had a little charisma and tried to act in his limited role.
Sadie's brothers were throwaway characters.
Sally Struthers is an Aunt who wants Sadie to reunite with Sadie's ex-boyfriend. Why? Because the plot needs a reason for the obvious one-note loser of an ex-boyfriend to show up to be the story's bad guy. The Aunt also had a slight subplot which... who cares!
Throw in some mumbo-jumbo about environmentalists and grazing rights and wolves. The writer doesn't seem to understand the issues, and if she did, she didn't let that get in the way of the story. The writer seemed to not want to offend anyone and her solution of the environmentalists buying instead of taking the grazing rights, and then the ranchers buying grazing rights elsewhere had the problem that grazing rights are associated with land and they don't make new land or new leases. I shook my head in disbelief when the solution was to take the money and buy new grazing rights somewhere else. And where would that be?
So the grazing rights solution should tick off the ranchers watching the movie. The environmentalists should be ticked off as someone in the movie is threatened by a wolf and needs to be saved. I live in Montana where the government is re-establishing wolf packs in the area (Montana, Idaho, and Yellowstone Nat'l park). What wolf supporters are saying is that wolves don't attack people. Livestock, yes. People, no. This movie and its portrayal of wolves should upset the environmentalists.
I kept thinking the movie couldn't get any worse but then they wrapped it up with a 'can't we all just be friends' happy ending. The boyfriend at the last minute was able to save the day, win a fight, bake a fretata everyone adored, and win over everyone. Surprise.
Now, I can like a clichéd movie as much as the next guy, but to ignore the clichés one needs interesting actors. The dull actors in this movie couldn't overcome the heavy handed and terrible story. The only thing I liked about this movie was a couple scenes of a sunrise/sunset that was pretty.
Avoid this movie!
The Haunting (1963)
Psychological horror movie
Normally I don't care for horror movies as I don't care for the blood and gore. But a few horror movies are more a psychological horror movie, and encourage you to use your imagination, and this is one of them. Sometimes you wonder if the events are real or in one of the character's mind.
Modern audiences accustomed to today's gorefests and special effects may be bored by the movie as it conveys the horror through lighting, shadows, sound, camera angles, the odd and creepy house, and the character's reactions. I think it works. I enjoyed the movie.
Also interesting was the character subplot where Luke liked Theodora, who liked Eleanor, who liked Dr. Markway, who had a wife who shows up later in the movie to drive the story forward. These interactions usually were understated and complemented the haunted house spookiness. But one could pick up on the characters' interests towards one another from the dialogue; and once the characters realized who-liked-who in the movie their actions towards one another changed slightly.
Sometimes Dr. Markway's dialogue was heavy on the explaining of the supernatural. Still, I did not have one of those moments watching the movie where I thought, "Don't be an idiot, don't do that, or go in that room."
Tarkalyashti se kamani (1995)
Interesting to watch, if a tad inscrutable
I saw this film 10 years ago at a foreign film festival. Shown at 9 pm on a Sunday night after long weekend of non-stop films, this was the last film shown. Yet after all these years this film is one of the few I somewhat remember after seeing dozens and dozens of films over the various annual film festivals.
A friend and I were just reminiscing about films we had seen at the film festival over the years, and his comment was "as I recall it was interesting to watch, if a tad inscrutable". I would have to agree. After the movie was over a woman mentioned the significance of water and things made a *little* more sense. But after all these years I forgot what the significance was.
I would like to see this movie again though to see if my interest in the movie was due to when-and-where I had seen the movie.
Bells Are Ringing (1960)
Charming in an old dated way
For all the musicals I have watched in my life I didn't think there were many left to watch, or at least good ones to watch. I wouldn't say this was a great movie, but it is charming in an old dated way.
While the basic premise of the movie (one person helps other people unbeknownst to them) is timeless, the gimmick, a telephone answer service operator, is ancient. 1960 may be before answering machines were in use, but seeing Judy Holliday plug and unplug cables into a switchboard to answer phone calls seems so 1930s or 1940s. I guess we won't be seeing this movie remade by Hollywood.
I enjoyed the opening montage of why an phone answering service is needed. It was colorful, glamorous, brisk, and I enjoyed seeing the standard phone from that era in all the colors to match the various scenes. I still have a phone like that somewhere.
In one of his first movies without Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin looks uncertain - not that his character has much of a story. Judy Holliday is what makes this movie watchable. Her energy and comic talent and voices are a reason to watch the movie. Instead of acting in movies, I think she could have done well on TV and rivaled Lucille Ball.
At 2 hrs and 7 minutes this movie runs on too long. I, and I think most people, have less of a tolerance these days for musical numbers that stop the flow of a movie. Musical numbers must be outstanding to be worthwhile. A few songs in this movie had a familiar ring to them and were OK, but this movie certainly has some songs that should have been cut.
The story obviously came from a stage play and is constricted because of it. While there isn't a whole lot to this "girl meets/helps boy" story, more could have been done with Judy & Dean's interaction. The time spent at the switchboard should have been shortened. The bookie subplot should have been shortened or eliminated.
The women's gowns are colorful and glamorous, and I found the scene cute where Judy slowly takes off items from her dress in order to make it fit in with the style of dresses the other women are wearing at the party. I thought Judy's dress "before" and "after" both looked nice.
The scene where the men figure out 'the woman they know is the same woman' actually was interesting. What could have been a quick dull plot point to move the story along was jazzed up by women at the club swirling around the men as the men sang, and the men oblivious to the sexy women as they danced and drew on the men's faces.
So, an enjoyable movie when one is in the mood for a 50s/60s style of musical comedy. Watch the movie for Judy, the gowns, and that 1950s innocence. Oh yeah, and Frank Gorshin's Marlan Brando impersonation.
See Jane Date (2003)
Moved right along
After a pre-Valentine's weekend of watching a number of romance movies, this was the last one I saw. Although I am far from the target demographic for this movie (late 20s single white urban female), surprisingly it was my favorite movie of the bunch. It moved right along, had some wit, and a couple references to more than shopping, hot guys, and weddings. For example, an interesting reference to DeNiro and Taxi Driver, Richard Gere, and Dustin Hoffman.
Charisma Carpenter well... had charisma and I enjoyed watching her. She wasn't pencil thin and seemed to be a realistic woman.
I enjoyed the dating scenes. There weren't that many and they got the point across succinctly as to why it was a bad date. The guys were insensitive but not as a typically boorish male movie character. And not all guys were bad. For some of the bad dates, I was actually amused. The movie though is more about Jane's growth in herself and in her view of others.
I didn't believe Jane's work environment. Other than her boss, was anyone else over 30? Speaking of age, I thought most of the late 20s female characters looked and acted more like they were in their early-to-mid 20s.
A nice light movie for now. 10-20 years from now - probably will seem dated.
Rolling my eyes
Maybe because it is the weekend before Valentine's day and I have watched too many romantic comedies this weekend... but I was rolling my eyes throughout much of this movie as I watched it on the Lifetime channel today.
The story is about how a late 20s/early 30s adventurous world-traveling single woman puts her life on hold to edit a magazine her father owns after he becomes ill. This woman doesn't believe in settling down or getting married; and what is the magazine about? Wedding bells. Toss in some father issues, commitment issues, single friends getting married issues.
While the story had a promise of being a different take on a standard romantic comedy, it was weighed down with stereotypes that were predictable and quickly became boring. "Absent father, uptight rival at the magazine, helpful male gay assistant, danger the magazine will be closed or taken over, etc." Each stereotype was there, but not fully developed, nor the actors appealing enough to make you accept the stereotype.
The main male lead was far too good to be real: sensitive, helpful, caring, honest, patient, romantic. He was the ideal boyfriend. I don't remember his name but it should have been "Prince Charming". He was so good I wondered why he was interested in Heather Graham's character. I certainly wasn't interested in her as she seemed too neurotic and self centered. After each plot point would keep the two main characters apart, I thought (for the guy) "Good, you are better off. Go find someone else."
I appreciate that none of the men in the movie were the typical male movie jerks. But the movie went overboard in making everyone nice. The only tension was a result of misunderstandings.
And the ending? Give me a break.
I did like the music selections. However I really wished most of the soundtrack was quieter and in the background. A number of times I had trouble hearing what the lead characters were saying.
Net result, if you are going to watch it, see it with your 20s-something female friends. Leave your guy out of it or his tongue will be sore from biting it.