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I sat there with my jaw practically hanging open as I watched this awful movie. I am one of the few people who really appreciated the 1965 mod goof-fest "What's New Pussycat?" As dumb as that film is, it has a stellar cast of comic actors, including the divine Peter O'Toole, the wacko Paula Pretiss, freak genius Peter Sellers, and the lovely Romy Schneider and other-worldly-gorgeous Ursula Andress; they do a great job with the silly, campy script. But what that movie (of five full years earlier) didn't call for is a sequel (or whatever this junky thing is). It is sleazy, creepy and pointless. Worst of all, just not funny. A true ripoff. For a much better movie with Ian McShane as a hairy-chested Lothario, see "If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium". It's also very silly and sexist and dated, but at least you won't feel like you have to take a shower after you see it.
The Squid and the Whale (2005)
That tennis game and the cat and Hey You.
The thing I found really amazing about this movie is that probably less than two minutes into this film and all the characters were drawn for you. Extremely good direction. The conflict between the parents, the "sides" the brothers took, the class structure at work.
I loved the addition of the cat to the story line. No one ever cuddled with it or talked to it or anything, but it was so central to the conflict with this family.
I laughed out loud when his parents ask him whether he wrote that song. This film was supposed to have taken place in 1986, and Pink Floyd The Wall was still pretty huge (The album came out in 1979 and the movie in 1982, and the song was all over classic rock radio). It is hilarious out of touch and provincial the academic family is that they have no clue about "Hey You."
A Town Like Alice (1981)
A good effort
I raced to the library to check out this miniseries after having just finished listening to the marvelous "talking books" unabridged version of the book. The first half of this TV version is really very good, but it stumbles quite a bit in the second half. The relationship with the trustee is overplayed and conflicts are inserted between Jean and Joe that don't exist in Shute's story, unwisely in my opinion, as they greatly diminish the power of their love story. I was disappointed to find that the wonderful Bryan Brown's Joe seemed a lot cockier and much less appealing than the man in the book, but Helen Morse's Jean was really quite good. I think they would have had to make this a 10-hour miniseries to develop the outback story properly. But all that said, I did watch whole thing in more or less one go and did appreciate its merits, all the while wishing that someone would do a less soapy remake.
Inside the Actors Studio (1994)
Fun look inside the business
I've been watching this series for several years. When it's good, it's really good, and when it is bad, it is still usually interesting. The best shows, in my opinion, are those from very experienced top-dog actors and directors, but "lesser" actors usually have interesting things to say too. My favorite shows were those that featured Stanley Donen, Norman Jewison, Mike Nichols, Spike Lee, Ron Howard, Anthony Hopkins, Matt Dillon, Meryl Streep and Gary Sinise. These interviewees really let you into their working process and career history without a lot of bloated self-importance. When the interviewees don't say much: "Duh, I don't know," act too cool, or start waxing philosophical about dumb movies, then it can be pretty dull. Worse is when guests like Robin Williams agree to be on the show and then don't cooperate with the format, turning it into an opportunity to show off. It doesn't happen often, but it grates when it does. James Lipton is ideal as the very knowledgeable but groveling sycophantic host, and he seems to relish playing the part. At least he is consistent in his praise (over overpraise) of every guest equally, whether they have had a 10 year or 60 year career. He doesn't focus on flops or bad reviews, so the guests aren't defensive, and on balance, that's probably the best way to do it. It's clear that he just loves the business. My favorite part is when he reads some question from his stack of blue cards that shows he has REALLY done is his research, often stunning and amusing the interviewee. I've heard more than one person say, "Where did you get THAT?" or "Have you been speaking to my mother/therapist?" I usually turn it off when the students get up to ask their questions because often they are too fawning and embarrassing.
Summer of My German Soldier (1978)
One of the last great TV movies
This is an incredibly moving story, based on Bette Greene's teen novel. The entire cast is wonderful - Kristy MacNichol, Bruce Davison, Esther Rolle. Just brilliant. I saw this when I was about 12, and read the book and the sequel. Have managed to catch it on TV a couple of times since. Such a heart-wrenching story, the kind they don't know how to make any more. More's the pity.
Sooner or Later (1979)
Doesn't seem so long ago
Man, you know time flies when people talk about period detail with stuff you remember as not terribly long ago! I saw this in junior high, and fell madly in love with Rex Smith. Shame he never had much of a movie career. He was terrific in this and in Joe Papp's Pirates of Penzance. I remember thinking this was a really good movie (not just because of the cute star) when I saw it when it was first aired. Would love to see it again, but I don't think it is available on video. It's a shame. Decent teen love story for a gentler, more thoughtful time. Nice, diverting story if you can catch it on one of the cable channels.
The Jewel in the Crown (1984)
Complex and moving
I really loved this series. I think I've seen the whole series about 7 or 8 times, and I see something new each time.
The Jewel in the Crown tells the story of individual people trying to live their lives in a world in the process of changing beyond recognition. The acting quality and execution of the entire production has never been equaled. You really believe that these people lived in this extraordinary time, the beginning of the end of the British Empire. Some are able to move forward into the new world, some are destroyed, and all are changed forever.
I actually think that the series is better than the sum of the books, but nothing beats the first book in the series (The Jewel in the Crown) as a stand-alone novel. It's all about human perspective. Similar to the film Rashomon (or Courage Under Fire), the novel Jewel in the Crown tells a story from every point of view except one. You have to think about what that means. The series captures this effect differently, but it does so beautifully.
Blue in the Face (1995)
Love it or hate it
I can see why people might dislike this movie, but I love it. It's a set of improvised scenes and interviews patched together to form a sort of a story. Definitely not an ordinary movie.
It takes place in and around the cigar store at the center of the film Smoke. The only character from Smoke is Auggie, the cigar store manager, played by Harvey Keitel. Past that, it has nothing to do with the storyline of Smoke.
It is really a love letter to the Park Slope neighborhood in Brooklyn, celebrating all the characters who live there. There are so many great standout hilarious scenes in this film. My favorites are the interviews with musician Lou Reed and indie director Jim Jarmusch, as well as the film about the guy who spends his spare time taking plastic shopping bags out of the trees in Prospect Park. Lots of other funny cameos too - Madonna, Mira Sorvino, Giancarlo Esposito, Michael J. Fox, Roseanne and Malik Yoba. And Auggie's hot mama Puerto Rican girlfriend, played by Mel Gorham, is a riot.
I think it is very well executed and should be viewed as a bold, light-hearted experiment. It just looks like the actors are having so much fun, it is hard to resist. Give it a try, preferably as a double-feature with Smoke.