Reviews written by registered user
|56 reviews in total|
A warm, intimate view of a subject that has become, by the documentary's definition, less controversial over the years: single parenting. In fact, the term "single parent" is even less toxic than the old moniker, "unwed mother," which gets used less and less in our society. The documentary does not bore you with statistics or sweeping generalizations. Rather, it sees the issue through the personal lens of the documentarian, a single mother herself, who was also the offspring of a single mother. The doc does not shy away from presenting the views of people who hold firm religious beliefs on the issue. But since the people can be found within the families of the individuals being portrayed, their views are presented very sincerely and without presenting them as comic fodder. "Sunshine" does not present a political agenda, but I will raise one. I thought as I watched this about Dan Quayle running for office with George H.W. Bush and how during their 1992 campaign, one of the silly issues was the TV character Murphy Brown's single mother status and how Quayle objected to that televised presentation. Fast forward to the McCain-Palin campaign of 2008... and the pregnant unmarried daughter of the vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was the televised presentation. Same political party. How times change.
Fascinating, straightforward look at members of the religious right.
Filmmaker seemed to have had unfettered access to places like Bob Jones
University in Greenville, South Carolina. And rather than poke fun at
them or goad them into arguments, he simply allowed them to unpack
their theology and show you how they practice their faith. Depending on
your own religious framework, you may laugh, nod your head in
agreement, or be appalled by them. It is not unlike documentaries like
"Jesus Camp," which came much later, but it does one seem to be very
objective and lives up to its subtitle of "fundamentalisms observed."
BJU practices what the narrator calls "separatist fundamentalism" even
separating themselves from more well-known evangelical figures like
Billy Graham and Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell. Their
differences with the culture on hot button issues like abortion, the
teaching of evolution, and the role of women are well articulated.
More activist fundamentalists like Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry and Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries, are interviewed and shown in action, but the documentary seems less successful in regard to them. The film does not go behind the scenes with them and allow them nearly enough screen time to truly help the viewer understand where they're coming from. All in all, though, it is highly worth a look for those interested in the subject.
Early in the film, Anthony Hopkins' character makes a reference to
having seen "Grand Hotel." It apparently is also a reference to
director Emilio Estevez having seen the movie as well. Like that 1930's
Oscar winner, "Bobby" is stuffed with stars of the day, each telling
minor little melodramatic stories woven together by the slightest
threads. This movie was ultimately disappointing because it seemed it
could have been a great movie in more capable hands. Kennedy is
definitely a great subject, but his life, candidacy, and even his
assassination are poorly handled here.
The decision to have Bobby Kennedy appear only through grainy stock footage of the period (and not have him portrayed by an actor) truly hurts the film in the ending scenes. It's like a documentary is being played alongside the soap opera you've been watching. The two films don't go together. In fact, when it comes to movies where actors are interacting with the title character, "Roger Rabbit" seemed more realistic.
Many viewers are obviously touched by the words of RFK, which are spoken in unabridged form at the end of the film. But I was reminded of Pauline Kael's criticism of Sir Richard Attenborough's "Gandhi." She remarked something to the effect that the movie might have been better if Attenborough had not directed it on his knees. There is such reverence and "idol worship" attached to the project that the viewer doesn't get a fully-rounded portrait of the subject. I say that not to argue the greatness of Bobby Kennedy but to wish that his name had not been invoked as the title of this one. He deserves much better.
I'm only writing because of my disagreement with one of the other reviewers. Carol Burnett shines in this rather uninspired remake of the Broadway musical. Having once seen her play Princess Winifred, it is a pleasure to see her take the older role of Queen Aggravaine. She always has a way of taking an ordinary line reading and making it funny with her unique delivery. She should garner a supporting actress nod from someone, (Emmies, Golden Globes, anyone?) Tommy Smothers was great as the mute king, and Matthew Morrison and Zoey Deschanel were serviceable in their roles. Mixed reviews, however, for the two leads. A younger Tracey Ullman would have been great in this role, but she does seem a little old for it now. All in all, she gave it her best shot; and she does have her moments. But I would have preferred to see Sarah Jessica Parker's take on it, and I would have much preferred if Disney had left the stage musical intact instead of omitting roles and songs. Now that this has aired, would someone please release the 1964 TV version that gave Carol Burnett to the world? I haven't seen it since childhood, and I would love for my own children to experience this musical as it should be experienced...not this bland Disney remix.
The lavish production values that you generally find in a Merchant/Ivory film are all here, but this is an exceedingly dull take on what could have been a very lively affair. I agree with an earlier poster that it makes no sense for the story to be unfolding through the eyes of an African American family and yet their own ancestor, Sally Hemmings, has barely a role to play in the proceedings. There is not much clarity to be found in helping the audience understand the motivations of any of these historical figures. And I was very bothered by the accents of a number of the characters. Nancy Marchand sounded very British for what one assumes is a French nun. And both Gwyneth Paltrow and Greta Scacchi seemed to be trying out different accents in various scenes. In fact, Gwyneth is very poorly served in this biopic. Her role as Thomas Jefferson's daughter, Martha, is written in such a manner that we never get a handle on who she really is. One moment she is slapping a slave, and another moment, she's deploring the whole system of slavery. Nick Nolte performs the role well enough but doesn't ever make us truly care for Jefferson or any of his exploits. Very disappointing all in all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Having watched the mildly amusing antics of the first Topper movie and vaguely remembering an enjoyment of the Leo G. Carroll television series, I was unprepared for how terrible this episode of the long-running ghost story was. Joan Blondell as the ghost is constantly making wisecracks, none of which can be regarded as witty. Eddie "Rochester" Anderson is thoroughly wasted in a role that is overtly racist. Falling down a well not once, not twice but three times only to be inexplicably clubbed by a seal, has to be one of the low points of his comic career. The murder mystery angle is worthy of a bad Scooby Doo episode. And the whole thing seems only barely tolerable as fodder for the Mystery Science Theatre treatment.
Richard Burton dials down the angst quotient from his previous year's role as a defrocked priest in "Night of the Iguana", and Elizabeth Taylor begins warming up for her later role as Kate in "Taming of the Shrew". The music and the scenery make the film compelling enough to watch, but the psychological and theological ramblings are strictly for the soap lover. Eva Marie Saint, as the hurt wife, has a few good scenes but not nearly enough to salvage the drama. And it's fun to see a young Charles Bronson in a beatnik role. The whole effort ranks several notches above "The VIP's" and other Burton-Taylor vehicles but all in all, "The Sandpiper" is a long boring day at the beach.
"HEALTH" never comes near the brilliance of Robert Altman's earlier political satire, "Nashville"; but it has its moments. I found it interesting because of the good characterizations from all of the participants, but bringing it all together into a unifying theme seems to be absent from this Altman effort. The movie starts out promising but seems to lose steam before its hour and 45 minute running time is over. The ending disappoints because the outcome is so obvious from the first few frames. Still the viewer can have fun along the way: Lauren Bacall lifting her hand for purity and then sometimes inexplicably dropping off into oblivion; Paul Dooley lying at the bottom of the swimming pool as a campaign stunt; Dick Cavett relaxing in his hotel room watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Granted you would have to be a certain age to appreciate that last joke. Still, one wonders what was in Altman's mind in creating this film. Since it was made in 1980, I would think it would be a veiled criticism of Ronald Reagan's ascension to the presidency. But it never stretches itself far enough to really make that point. So I may be reading more into it than is intended.
I was very disappointed in this movie and surprised to see it so highly rated by IMDb viewers. I think you have to want to like this film a great deal in order to find much joy in it. I can see why Chaplin's own story would tip some folks toward giving it the sympathy vote, but face it, if this were, heaven forbid, the only Chaplin film you had ever seen, wouldn't you come away from this wondering why he was regarded as such a comic genius? It has intermittent moments of satirical insight and a broad range of targets in its send-up of 1950's American culture. But Chaplin did it with so much more balance between entertainment and enlightenment in films like "The Great Dictator" and "Modern Times" that this one suffers greatly by comparison. Cheap-looking sets, relatively no-name actors, and a rather rushed pace in far too many scenes keep this "King" off my list of royal Chaplin experiences.
I add a comment because I think so many comments on this movie miss the mark. Watching this again after Katharine Hepburn's death, I was struck with how far ahead of its time this star vehicle was. Not only does it capture who she was, but it expresses a truth about women's equality that is not always fully evident in her body of work. Pat turns the tables on Mike. She owns him. She made him. And where would he be without her? There are instances in many of Hepburn's works where even her feminist leanings cave in to the conventions of the times. But in this one, she stays strong. She no doubt falls in love with the man of her dreams, but she doesn't do so at the expense of sacrificing any of her other dreams. Great fun flick from Tracy-Hepburn and one of my all-time favorites.
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