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The accumulated cast of characters is not even remotely close to being believable
I watched the show for about a year in its third or forth season and then stopped. I watched it again last night and all of the reasons why I quit watching it came back. The odds on assembling a similar group of misfits in real life have to be astronomical. What I find interesting about the cast of characters is the one who is closest to being "normal" is a trained Mossad assassin.
First, there is Gibbs who has the social skills of dirt. You may be able to get away with some of the things he pulls as a Marine but given the way the government currently deals with its employees Jethro wouldn't last a month. Not to mention the staff turnover Gibbs would have because no one would stand for being treated the way he treats the people on his team. There are probably a few poor souls watching the show who actually think the Gibbs approach is the way to lead a successful group.
Then there is Tony, the man child who hasn't quite graduated from college yet. I completely endorse having one helluva good time in college but there comes a time when you have to leave and become something that remotely resembles an adult. Tony has yet to reach that point. The writers often play on Tony's broad knowledge of movies. The only way he could have accumulated that knowledge is by watching old movies seven days a week, most likely alone because his Neanderthal approach to women is so successful. Tony was raised in what could only be referred to as the world's most dysfunctional family. He needs constant reinforcement.
Next we have McGee who hasn't developed a shred of self confidence or learned a thing about how to approach an investigation since he joined the team 5+ years ago. They did have something going with McGee that I enjoyed very much Tim the successful author. However, they dropped it I imagine because all of the money he was making as an author would have ultimately put him in a different financial class than the rest of the group.
And then there is Abby. Abby is a very capable scientist/technician who at times can only be described as spastic. Her lifestyle doesn't bother me as much as her approach to just about everything else. There were probably at least 5 or 6 situations during the year that I watched the show that she became so hysterical that in real life someone would have slapped her to bring her back to reality. There was no such situation last night but they were close.
Next, comes Dr. "Ducky" Mallard, one of the original men from UNCLE. Ducky's downfall is the breadth and depth of his knowledge. Whenever he opens his mouth the odds are better than 50/50 he will bore you to death. You do have to give him credit for carrying his 75 or 76 years very well.
Finally, there is Ziva, the trained Mossad assassin very skilled in marksmanship, the martial arts and everything else a highly trained Mossad agent would be trained in. When I watched NCIS I hoped Ziva would beat the crap out of Tony almost on a weekly basis but no such luck. Ziva does tend to "mother" Tony. As if he didn't have more than enough of that as a child.
Fast Company (1938)
The first and, in my humble opinion, the best of the three Joel & Garda Sloane mysteries. Others have compared the three "Fast" movies to The Thin Man series. Its only real similarity is the snappy exchanges between husband and wife. Joel is gainfully employed with his own rare books business and well known locally as an expert in the field. Garda works with him. Neither Nick or Nora did much other than live off of Nora's inheritance. I particularly enjoyed Florence Rice more in the Garda role than either Ann Sothern or Rosiland Russell. She is fairly rarely the butt of Joel's "jokes" like Nora is. Douglas and Rice are a little more "down to earth" than the other two couples.
If you are a mystery series fan this is well worth the hour and ten minutes and much better than most of the '30s and '40s mystery series. Don't expect to be culturally enriched but you will be entertained.
The Parent Trap (1998)
Much more enjoyable/believable than the original.
Technology has advanced to the point where the "twins" can easily be shown together (and much more often than the original) without the "overlay" being apparent which makes the film more believable than the original. Both Dennis Quaid and Natasha Richardson play "softer" characters than Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith which makes their love for their children more believable and Richardson has a natural smile that can only be described as infectious. Elaine Hendrix is the woman you love to hate as the "other woman" and I especially enjoyed how both Nick and Elizabeth's hired household help mirrored their lifestyles and personalities. And finally, Lindsay Lohan did an excellent job of playing two entirely different people at the beginning of the movie but as they become more familiar with each other their personalities merge to one as you would expect with twins.
In my opinion today's comedies are not that "funny" but the last 30 minutes of this movie after Nick and Elizabeth meet for the first time in 11 years is as funny as anything I have seen in quite some time. The hike to the campsite and the time they spend at the campsite was possibly funniest 5 to 7 minutes of a movie I have seen in the last 15 years. This is one of the few non-animated movies Disney has done in quite some time that they felt comfortable associating their name with as opposed slapping the Touchstone label on. However, this movie can also be both very touching and very hurtful at points if you are a divorced parent of a young child. You may want to think about letting your child see this because it could build their hopes up.
Crime Doctor (1943)
One of the Best of the 30s & 40s Mystery Series
With the exception of the Rathbone and Bruce Sherlock Holmes series, this is quite possibly the best of the 'mystery' series of the 30s and 40s. The series begins with this movie as Phil Morgan, master criminal, is double crossed by his gang, beaten and dumped along a roadside. As a result, he suffers from amnesia. This movie, the first of the series, establishes The Crime Doctor's background, explains how and why he became a doctor (a psychiatrist, actually), head of the parole board and helped many convicts find the 'straight and narrow'.
The element that makes this movie and the series in general unique is that it relies on psychiatry and the tendencies of the mentally ill. They often tease you by inserting an obviously unbalanced person and although the plot may lead one to believe that person is the "perp" they may or may not be the actual "perp". Because psychiatry was relatively new and often misunderstood, it provided general insight to the subject. In many ways, the series has yet to become dated although the psychological concepts may appear to be fairly basic nowadays.
A series of factors make this movie series much more enjoyable than others such as The Lone Wolf, Boston Blackie or Bulldog Drummond. The first is the consistency. The quality of the stories in all ten movies remains high throughout the series where the stories of other series tend to deteriorate into standard potboilers after the studio has captured the audience's interest. Second, the same actor plays the lead character in all of the movies. Third, the quality of the supporting cast is exceptional throughout the series. Some of the more recognizable supporting cast includes John Litel, Ray Collins, Harold Huber, Barton MacLane, Jerome Cowan, Reginald Denny, Eduardo Ciannelli, Nina Foch, George Zucco, Ben Weldon, Hillary Brooke, William Frawley, Ellen Drew and last, but far from least, a very young Lois Maxwell who played Miss Moneypenny in at least 15 James Bond films.
However, over the six years the series was shot, one can easily see Baxter's health deteriorating.
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Think What You May But Please Don't Miss THE Message
It really does not matter what one thinks of this film as long as they catch the underlying message. Anyone who has been involved in combat or survived a catastrophe can relate to it. Having no psychological training, I refer to it as the 'Why Me' syndrome. The first and last 5 minutes along with one line towards the end of the movie depict the message's fullest impact on a person relate to it. Having been in NYC when the World Trade Center was hit, I do not doubt many who survived that catastrophe have similar feelings. What is it? It is the guilt, the sense of embarrassment, the confusion, the internal turmoil and the many unanswered questions associated with surviving such an event when so many you consider better or more deserving than you did not. Private Ryan in his later years experiences this in its fullest during the first and last five minutes of the movie. Tom Hanks dying words 'Earn this.' were said for those who never experienced such events. Those who have do not have to be reminded. There are a great many other messages that the uninitiated could pick up.
If you ever wondered why your father, grandfather husband or more recently wife are the way they are or 'changed' after such an experience this is most likely why. When the World War II vets came home they were heroes. When the Korean War vets came home they came home. When the Vietnam vets came home
However, although how they were treated after they came home had an impact on their psyche, what they experienced while they were 'there' left an indelible mark they will never be able to erase. These experiences come to mind while daydreaming, they hit you like a punch when they pop into your mind when concentrating on something totally unrelated and regardless of how long ago it happened one can not control their dreams. All I ask is that regardless of what you think of our involvement in Iraq, those who were there did not make our foreign policy. Believe me, if they had their choice virtually all of them would have rather been somewhere else. Just try to remember what they have been through and that they will relive those experiences for the rest of their lives.
The Mark of the Whistler (1944)
Not Your Standard Mystery Series Fare
The series is unique in that although Richard Dix stars in the first seven movies in the series he does not play the same character. As a result, each film has to stand on its own merits. There is no opportunity to introduce the audience to a suave character in the first movie or two and then ride the series out with a group of sub-par films. The quality of the movies throughout the series very good. The only character common to each movie is "The Whistler" who "knows many things". In the first movie Dix plays the hero haunted by the death of his wife. In this offering, Dix plays the anti-hero who perpetrates a fraud to come into money that is not rightfully his. He is then pursued by the sons of a man sent to prison by the father of the person with a legitimate claim to the money. Many of The Whistler movies have a unique or surprising "twist" close to the end that significantly changes the expected outcome. This has possibly the best.
A Forgotten Jewel With a Tremendous Supporting Cast
I knew virtually nothing about this movie before I saw it. At one time I may have seen that Leonard Maltin thought highly of it but Leonard has thought highly of more than a few duds. However, this was anything but a yawner!! That I have always thought W. S. Van Dyke was unappreciated as a director may also be a factor in my opinion of the movie.
I found Penthouse to be thoroughly enjoyable. Although never a big Warner Baxter fan, he was very convincing as an ostracized `society lawyer'. Loy, who was directed by Van Dyke in three of her best pre-Nora movies, is what can only be described as a call girl. Loy as a call girl is not nearly as difficult to believe as the name of the character she plays, Gertie Waxted. Myrna never remotely looked like a Gertie Waxted, regardless of her occupation and any call girl with a name like Gertie Waxted would have changed it.
I would imagine this was released pre-code during 1933 because the innuendo between Baxter and Loy was anything but subtle especially the first night and morning after Loy spends in Baxter's apartment (in separate rooms). The exchange where Myrna tells Baxter she was disappointed she did not have to defend her honor the previous evening is classic. At the same time, one has the opinion she would not have put up much of a fight. The supporting cast of Butterworth, Clark, Nat Pendleton, one of my all-time favorites, and Gordon is excellent. Butterworth's deadpan `I hope this will teach Mr. Durant (Baxter) only to take murderers from the best families' line at the end of the movie is unforgettable.
The Plot Summary accurately describes the situation so there is no need to dwell on it here. The two aspects of the plot that carry the movie are Loy as a very believable call girl and Pendleton as a gangster who is devoted to Baxter for getting him off on the proverbial murder wrap. To most classic movie fans, Loy is Nora Charles, William Powell's wife or Milly Stephenson. Loy as a believable call girl is no easy feat. In post-code Manhattan Melodrama one had to read between the lines to see anything wrong with Myrna as Blackie's girl who moves over to William Powell. In Penthouse, Myrna as a call girl punches you in the face.
Black Sheep (1935)
Think Of It As An Episode From a Mystery Series With Much, Much More Polish
This is an excellent little film with two stars much better known for their supporting roles. A young Claire Trevor is more lovely than I have ever seen her. This may be one of her few `straight' roles. She is not the scheming woman in a film noir, a prostitute, saloon girl or a drunk. Edmund Lowe, a first line star during the silent era who never quite made it past supporting roles in the talkies, is a very believable gambler/con man.
Virtually the entire movie takes place on board a cruise ship so there are none of the car chases, gun fights, mid depression hard luck stories, etc. that tend to carry many mid '30s mysteries/dramas. The script contains a good deal of intrigue and suspense that is carried of well by Lowe and his `accomplice', Trevor. Adrienne Ames, who looks very much like Gail Patrick plays a character that was made for Patrick, the snooty, unlikable wealthy woman. Ames and Eugene Pallette support.
The Plot Outline for this movie accurately describes what occurs so there is no need to dwell there. The most enjoyable parts of the movie for me were the situations where Trevor is determining what kind of person Lowe is and whether or not he can be trusted, is honest, etc. Keep in mind Trevor and Lowe meet on the cruise ship. Lowe tells Trevor up front that he is a gambler and Trevor is not quite sure what to think as Lowe goes about `setting up' Pallette and Ames primarily through card games to get his son out of a jam and return the stolen jewels. This occurs in spite of the ship's detective and eventually everyone else involved knowing Lowe is a gambler.
The ending may be a bit too neat in today's terms but one must remember happy endings were important in the early and mid '30s.
The Lone Wolf Returns (1935)
What Vance Had In Mind When He Created the Character
When Louis Joseph Vance created the character The Lone Wolf he was a suave, ingenious jewel thief. Most of the films in the Lone Wolf series are `boiler plate' where Lanyard is a `run of the mill' reformed thief who the police are after regardless of how little evidence they have. In the Lone Wolf Returns, Douglas is a very credible Lone Wolf, suave, debonair, intelligent and everything else you would expect. There is sufficient intrigue to keep the viewer interested and a good deal of thought was put into the plot `twists' and the capture of the `bad guys'. Walburn is an excellent Jenkins, very subdued but also ingenious with a touch of larceny in his heart. Thurston Hall is an extremely capable Inspector Crane, crafty and fully aware of everything associated with the case as opposed to his bumbling Crane who needs no evidence at all in subsequent films in the series. One would think that after the Lone Wolf has been on the straight and narrow in seven or eight films and captures the actual `bad guys' in each Crane would finally get the message as he did in this film. I must admit I did have a little difficulty accepting Gail Patrick as the love interest if only because of the characters she played in My Man Godfrey, Stage Door and My Favorite Wife. She was much more acceptable the second time I saw the movie. If you are a fan of the mystery series of the '30s and '40s and do not expect to be culturally enriched by every movie you watch, this is a must see. Unfortunately, I am of the opinion that none of the films in the series made after The Lone Wolf Spy Hunt are worth either the time or the effort.
There are basically three types of mysteries/adventures:
1. The audience discovers who the villain is at the very end along with the "good guys". 2. Somewhere during the story the villain is found out and the remainder of the story is spent proving his or her guilt. 3. The audience knows who the villain is at the beginning and the entire story is spent watching the "good guys" try to find out who the villain is and then capture him or her.
The third is by far the least entertaining (with the possible exception of Columbo). The Adventures of Smilin' Jack falls into the third category. What is even worse is that the villain is not being chased but accompanies the `good guys' all over the Pacific while leaving behind a string of nefarious deeds.
Before viewing this serial I had visions of Dixie Lee (possibly the most alluring heroine ever to appear in a comic strip), Slickville and everything else that made Smilin' Jack a great comic strip. With Charlie Chan, Number One Son and Danny Thomas' future wife in the cast, my expectations where heightened all the more. Unfortunately, there was no Dixie Lee, no Slickville and very little plot. By the seventh episode I was both feeling extremely sorry for Jack because he was so dumb and bored to boot. Although there was `aerial action', so to speak, it involved planes catching fire and being shot out of the air by a Japanese submarine (if you can believe that). There were none of the aerial stunts and acrobatics that usually accompanies Jack's adventures and made the strip so interesting. Maybe they were not included because of the expense involved.
I am a fan of serials. I really enjoyed the classics like The Masked Marvel, The Phantom, Daredevils of the Red Circle, Captain Marvel, et. al. They were extremely entertaining and usually kept you guessing. Even though you knew who the villain was early in a few of the true classics they managed to hold your interest to the very end. The Adventures of Smilin' Jack can't hold a candle to the classics. It has difficulty holding up to the mediocre serials.