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733 reviews in total 
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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
fascinating, even though it can't quite dig itself out of its own hole, 12 January 2015

Sometimes you come across a creative work that has an absolutely brilliant premise that at some point becomes wobbly. It's understandable. You start with the great idea, you work it as long as you can, and then you realize that you've got to end this thing some way, and you manage as best you can.

That's the situation with this movie. The concept is brilliant (I'll follow the tradition of others and not say anything about that concept even though I don't think it would really ruin the movie to give a hint), it's done with a good deal of ingenuity and humor and offers a fairly unique way of looking at relationship difficulties.

As long as that concept is an unexplained mystery, things go very well. But at some point the filmmakers had to decide whether to end with no explanation, which would be unsatisfying, or do what they did, which is to offer a Twilight Zone-ish explanation that feels out of keeping with the film as a whole.

The result isn't completely satisfying but strikes me as good enough, and I can't say that I could have thought of anything better. And the movie overall is absolutely fascinating and well worth watching, with solid performances from its TV-star cast.

dull, 8 January 2015

There's not a lot to this movie, which details the relationship of a young woman who sets her cap for a much older man. Not a lot happens, and while the actors are skilled, they are given little to work with. Rita Tushingham seems a bit dim, and Peter Finch is given a series of world- weary lines that are too stylized to fit with the movie's naturalistic pretensions. Those looking for something akin to a story will be disappointed.

As a middle-aged man, I see the movie mainly as a warning against dating young women. The girl's conflicted emotions and crazy family are exactly the sort of things a middle-aged man shouldn't have to deal with. I'd be curious to know what moral a young woman would take from the movie though.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Terrifically fun, 28 December 2014

Having seen most of the recent movies in the "marvel universe" series, or which this is purported to be a part, I was surprised by how little it has to do with Captain America or Iron Man. It is actually a very different movie, something as though you made a movie about Hans Solo before he got involved with all that good guy stuff, and then set it at a lightning pace reminiscent of animated films like The Incredibles.

The performances are terrific, especially the lead, who is a revelation for those who only knew him for his amusingly shaggy TV role. The movie is incredibly funny, yet occasionally slows down just enough to offer a moment of character insight that prevents it from falling into the noisy-special-effects trap of a lot of big-budget action flicks.

While I rarely read comic books, and thus am not familiar with the source material, I would have expected this wacky story and structure to come from some weird indie graphic novel rather than a big publisher like Marvel. I like some of the other Marvel movies, but this one, which stands on its own little island far away from Samuel Jackson, is the best of the bunch.

Great musical numbers, pretty pathetic story, 28 December 2014

There are some terrific songs in Holiday Inn, and some wonderful dance numbers. So good, in fact, that it's easy to just ignore how terrible the story is.

The truth is, Astaire and Crosby play remarkably unsavory characters. While supposedly friends, Astaire thinks nothing of stealing Crosby's fiancé at the beginning of the play, and later tries to take his subsequent girlfriend. Meanwhile Crosby shows his love through a series of tricks and manipulations designed to make sure his girl will never experience any success outside of what he bestows on her.

While you can argue, as some do, that the black-face sequences didn't seem nearly as creepy then as now, even Crosby's girl objects to his behavior during the film, and I don't think there was really any time when it was considered okay to steal someone's fiancé.

To make it weirder, there is little indication that either of them were more than mildly attached to either girl. Crosby's response to being jilted is a simple "oh well," and he seems to forgive Astaire quite promptly. Astaire seems to go after Crosby's women less because he likes them than because they're there.

Really, these are terrible, terrible people. And if there terribleness wasn't commented on at the time, it was not because it was considered acceptable behavior, but because the lead's personal charm and talent and Irving Berlin's classic songs seemed far more important than a typically inconsequential musical plot.

Anastasia (1997)
Disneyfied Russian History Minus the Disney, 28 December 2014

This movie by Don Bluth is very similar in style to Disney films of the period. It is a very fanciful take on the Russian Revolution, which happened not because of discontented people and bad rulers but because swell rulers were magically undone by a villain who without explanation hates them passionately. This magic follows the amnesiac Anastasia as she teams up with a couple of likable grifters.

At times the movie is quite enjoyable, although I always felt like it was falling a little short. The comparisons with Disney are hard to avoid, and while it does some things a bit better than Disney did in this period, Disney still tends to do more things better.

One strength of Anastasia is its princess, who has more personality than Snow White or Sleeping Beauty. In her spunky determination she is more akin to the princesses Disney has pumped out in more recent years, making her ahead of her time. But while she has some personality, I would say she has a lot. The love interest is also likable but fails to be memorable.

Still, the likability of the leads makes the plight of the protagonists more affecting than many Disney films of that period, and there are moments when the movie is downright touching.

On the other hand, Bluth is not nearly as good at villains. Rasputin is evil, and his first appearance beyond the grave is amusingly perverse, but he's not remotely scary, never come close to someone like Malificent.

The animation is quite good, and there are moments when it is really quite lovely, but again, it lacks the memorable scenes that distinguish Disney's better (and sometimes even lesser) films.

There is something off about the basic structure of the film. Rasputin's pet bat seems shoe-horned into the film just because they wanted him, and he's never essential nor particularly amusing.

Still one of my favorite Christmas movies, 15 December 2014

I guess this isn't exactly a Christmas movie but rather a general light religious one, but I've always wound up watching it in December so I think of it as holiday fare.

I like this movie a lot. More than anything else, this is because of Elsa Lanchester's performance as a jittery artist. Even though it's not a huge part, whenever I think of the movie I think of her.

This movie does a solid job of being religious without being insufferably so (as opposed to twaddle like Song of Bernadette). The movie is light and breezy, trading on the charming site of two nuns steamrolling mobsters and doing whatever it takes to reach their goal.

The movie is light and fun and has a lot of charm to it. It has its issues - that long, slow song you're forced to listen to twice, the fact that there appears to be zero need for the hospital the nuns want to build - but it's so pleasantly amusing that you can't be too bothered by that.

All the same, I'm glad neither young nor Holmes won an Oscar, because they are quite unexceptional. Lanchester might have deserved one, but I haven't seen the winner so who knows?

Lovely and Magical, 15 December 2014

This is just a lovely, lovely, movie, visually sumptuous and with a positive message. Sarah is a lovely character who keeps a good attitude regardless and is both charming and kind. The movie is full of beautiful moments.

My primary complaints about the film are probably due to its short running time. While I generally support keeping things short, there are times when things are simply unexplained. For example, the movie really needed to show us what the lawyer said to Miss Minchin, because without that explanation, it came across as a highly improbably turn in the narrative put there entirely to propel the story, as opposed to something that is likely to have happened (the book, from what I've read on wikipedia, makes more sense in this regard). Likewise Minchin's final moments are satisfying but highly unrealistic.

But I'm okay with that, because the movie has a magical, mythic quality that makes it thoroughly enjoyable.

A fun follow-up, 13 December 2014

Of the many Marvel superhero movies that have come out in the past few years, the first Captain America was my favorite. While this sequel lacks the Indiana Jones-ish vibe of the first one, it still has that human-scaled quality that is missing from the other movies, which often emphasize spectacle over quiet, human moments.

This is not to say the movie doesn't have some absolutely terrific action sequences, but rather to say that, unlike something like The Avengers, this movie takes time to breathe, let's us get to know the characters, and seems more like a movie than a special effects sizzle reel.

There are some issues. Sometimes the bad guys don't do things in the most logical way. More notably, they are a level of evil that comes across as cartoonish and ludicrous. But it's a silly movie no matter which way you slice it, so you can't complain too much about the particular quality of the silliness.

The cast is quite good, it has a solid number of jaw-dropping moments, and while I might not like it quite so much as the first one I do like it better than the non-Captain America films in this series.

Begins wretchedly, 3 December 2014

After tracking down and watching the wonderfully entertaining Gracie Allen Murder Case I learned that Gracie had starred in yet another comedy mystery, so I tracked that down as well. 20 minutes in, I stopped watching. 20 minutes isn't that long (although it seemed it) but the movie is only a little over an hour, so it seems long enough to comment on.

Everything about that 20 minutes was awful. While The Gracie Allen Murder Case was simply Gracie doing her shtick with a mystery around the edges, this movie attempts to make her an actual character whose actions relate to the story. This means she can't be quite as goofy and has to spend more time on practical dialogue. So she's not as funny.

She is, however, as stupid, and that, combined with a complete lack of chemistry with the actor playing her husband, is a huge problem, because you can't figure out why he would marry her, or why he wouldn't have divorced her since. George Burns always managed to walk that fine line between annoyance and bemusement, but this guy can't do it. If they weren't going to use Burns (which they should have) then they needed a comedic actor on Gracie's level rather than some B-movie stiff.

The direction is awful. Pacing and performances are inert. The script is also quite poor, with weak dialogue. I have read in other user reviews here that the mystery itself might be interesting, but I don't see how it could be enough to make up for the movie's flawed presentation.

Honolulu (1939)
Cute, dumb movie, 3 December 2014

There's a lot of talent in this movie, which stars the brilliant Eleanor Powell and the wonderful Burns and Allen. Also Robert Young, who is fine but the least interesting and most prevalent part of the movie.

This is a riff on the Prince and the Pauper theme, with a movie star trading places with a plantation owner (so more like the Prince and the Duke). Since the plantation owner has a fiancé, the ensuing complications are pretty predictable to everyone except Robert Young.

Eleanor Powell has several big numbers, but none I loved. The jump- roping number is cute but perhaps a bit too tricky, the Hulu number is okay but unmemorable, and the best number, a tribute to Bill Robinson, is a little creepy if you're put off by minstrel-show makeup (one of a number of examples of casual racism in the film that I find harder to ignore now than I did when I was first watching these old movies as a teenager).

Gracie Allen is charming and funny, but weirdly kept separate from George Burns for most of the movie. Burns is also good though.

The small role of Cecilia is played by Rita Johnson, and she's really good. I feel like she should have been a bigger star based on her ten minutes of screen time.

I enjoyed this movie, but not as much as I hoped to. It's a little too dumb and the high points are not quite as high as they could be. But it's certainly watchable.

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