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15 reviews in total 
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2010 (1984)
27 out of 39 people found the following review useful:
A great film that needs no comparison with 2001..., 9 April 2003

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"2010: The Year We Make Contact" is compared- unfairly and unnecessarily- to "2001: A Space Odyssey" in almost every review posted here. To make my point, I will have to drag 2001 into this review as well. Let's look at these two films alone and ignore the novels on which they were based for the time being.

(Taking a deep breath as I prepare to offend everyone). I see 2001 as a product of American drug culture in the late 60's. Whether Kubrick intended it as such I don't know, but it is in essence a BORING film. I have only come to that conclusion recently; in my teens I was enchanted with it as everyone else. But on repeated viewings it's clear me that nothing much is going on except psychadelic special effects. The characters are cardboard, non-existent. It contains stunning visuals, true, but these are overdone. Is it really necessary to spend 5 to 10 minutes watching the Discovery's pod leave the ship, orient itself, and begin to move? Of course not. 10 to 20 seconds is all that is needed. This is only one example; nearly every sequence in the film is agonizingly drawn out, until you find yourself screaming "CUT!" over and over again at the screen. (Why does Kubrick do this so often in his films?)

I would hazard a guess that the film is much more enjoyable when you're high as a kite (I don't know, I've never been high). 2001 also brings out all the pseudo-intellectuals that praise it for its' open-endedness, and the fact that "everything is not spelled out". Now none of these statements makes 2001 a bad film; it's only the fact that 2010 is not an exact replica that seems to make everyone dislike it.

(SPOILERS AHEAD). 2010 is an accessible film. What's wrong with that? Curiousity is human nature: we WANT to know why HAL malfunctioned. We WANT to know what the monolith is. 2010 delivers. I think the explanation offered of why HAL malfunctioned is brilliant. Wouldn't it be typical of the American government to instruct a computer to lie, given its long history of concealing things from its populace?

2010 presents the monolith as an agent of an alien intelligence who, after tinkering with the mind of early man (in 2001), seeks to cultivate life further on Jupiter's moon Europa by transforming Jupiter into a second sun. (This also happens in the book 2010, and since Arthur C. Clarke is not just an author but a brilliant scientist, I assume that this theory of transformation is based in scientific fact. By the way, Clarke invented the communications satellite).

The special effects in 2010 are brilliant (supervised by Richard Edlund, whose resume includes the original Star Wars trilogy- enough said). I love the scene in which Curnow (played by John Lithgow) and Max (Elya Baskin) transfer from the Leonov to the Discovery, with the sulfur covered, volcanic surface of Io beneath them.

The dialog is smart and witty, and the acting is solid if not brilliant. Another favorite scene is when Heywood Floyd (played by Roy Scheider) receives a message from Dave Bowman aboard the Discovery. (Look behind you...) Absolutely chilling. Bowman's make-up could have been a little bit better, but oh well.


A few quirks to look for: Clarke and Kubrick, depicted on the cover of Time magazine as the American president and Russian premier, respectively. A brief view of some scenes from 2001 (of spaceships and the big wheel shaped space station) that appear in a commercial when Dave Bowman's widow is watching TV. Candice Bergen's voice cameo as the SAL 9000 computer.

One last note about the cold war aspects of 2010: Some reviewers criticize this theme (in hindsight of course) as unnecessary and dated. I don't think it particularly adds anything to the film, but in its defense, the cold war had been going on for more than 30 years at the time of the release of 2010. The general feeling of paranoia in the mid-80s made it difficult to see an end to the cold war.

Finally, if you haven't seen 2010, watch it for its own sake, and forget about 2001. Everything you need to know about that film is summarized at the beginning. I liked it a lot better that way...

Bus Stop (1956)
27 out of 43 people found the following review useful:
What was Marilyn thinking?, 11 January 2001

I watched this film with high hopes, for I had heard that it was one of Marilyn's best performances. I was deeply disappointed, and "Bus Stop" rates in my Bottom Ten Worst Films. Monroe went to the Actors Studio for a year to study, and then made this film. Why? Her character is one of the weakest, most shallow women ever portrayed on film. This role was even more anti-feminist than the gold digging bimbos that Marilyn played in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and "How To Marry A Millionaire." At least those women were smart.

I wonder if Marilyn made this film for a contractual obligation, or she actually chose the role. I do admit that she gave a good performance, and it helped to prove she was a real actress. However, her accent came and went, and was a bit overdone. I think a much better example of Marilyn in a serious role is the film "Niagra" with Joseph Cotten. Coincidentally, the screenplay for "Bus Stop" was written by George Axelrod, who also wrote "The Seven Year Itch" (in my opinion another extremely overrated film.)

I can't finish this without saying how much I hated Don Murray's character. From the moment he first appeared on screen, I wished someone would shoot him in the head. "Bo" has to be one of the stupidest, most irritating characters of all time. The story was weak, and I couldn't have cared less what happened to any of the players. About the only good thing I can say about this film is that Hope Lange was cute.

Don't stand in any lines for this "Bus"!

18 out of 21 people found the following review useful:
A classic Poirot story, and the debut of Polly Walker!, 6 January 2001

One of the very few well made TV movies produced in the last 10 years, Peril at End House features the wonderful David Suchet as Hercule Poirot, along with the other regulars from the A&E series (Hugh Fraser as Hastings, Philip Jackson as Inspector Japp, and Pauline Moran as Miss Lemon). This film also marks the debut of the divine Ms. Polly Walker (the most beautiful actress that almost nobody has heard of). She plays Nick Buckley, the owner of End House that someone is trying to murder!

I am a huge fan of the Poirot Series, and this two hour installment is truly a delight. It features beautiful scenery, a well paced and engaging story, and solid acting from almost every cast member. Suchet is THE perfect Poirot, even better than Peter Ustinov, whom I also love. There are several plot twists typical to a Christie story, but these will surprise a neophyte to her work.

Finally, how beautiful is Polly Walker! It's truly a shame that actresses like her and Helena Bonham Carter aren't in more mainstream movies. For Polly Walker fans this movie is a must see!

5 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Walter Matthau as Clint Eastwood? Nahhh..., 18 September 2000

Horrible. Simply one of the worst movies I've ever seen. I'm a big Walter Matthau fan, and I couldn't help feeling sorry for him as I watched him sleepwalking through this pointless, unengaging story. There is no better example of an actor being no better than his/her writing than Charley Varrick. The entire time he was on screen, he looked like he had just been beamed down from the Enterprise onto the planet of the cyclops. Matthau is not a Steve McQueen or Clint Eastwood type of actor that can carry a role with very little dialog. As a sarcastic New Yorker, Matthau seemed as out of place in the desert of New Mexico as Eastwood would in a Shakespearean play.

I really wanted to like the movie, especially after hearing a capsule summary on AMC. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the archetypal "bad 70s movie". Character development was non-existent; I couldn't have cared less what happened to any of the players. Also, Matthau, who was in his mid-fifties when this film was made, had all the grace and prowess of a three toed sloth. An action hero or anti-hero was simply beyond his means. The last straw was when he exchanged innuendoes with the secretary. I thought to myself, "If he gets in bed with her, I'll puke." Well, I did.

A bad story, with bad acting (by a good cast, overall) adds up to a bad movie. Avoid this one, and stick with Dirty Harry.

The Birds (1963)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A pleasant surprise that shows Hitchcock's versatility, 18 September 2000

A lot has been said about "The Birds" already, so I'll just throw in my quirky observations and be done with it. I had never seen it from start to finish, and having seen most of Hitchcock's other films, I was curious as to how it would stand up. I expected not to like it, but I wound up giving it a 7 in the voting booth.

I have to echo that the special effects were innovative for the time period. They weren't nearly as cheesy as I expected. The thing that annoys me about later Hitchcock films is his incessant use of backdrops. Hitch hated shooting on location, but after the 1950s the backdrop technique was badly outdated. He should have made the effort to do more location shooting. For example, in the scene in which Tippi Hedron is in the motorboat, we see a real live shot of her bringing it into shore and getting out of it. Why then, if she was actually there in the bay for that scene, did Hitch have to shoot the rest of the boat scene against a backdrop? Oh well.

I can't for the life of me see Hitch's attraction to Tippi Hedron. She's a mediocre actress at best, and I find her voice to be nasally and grating. I would have loved to see Ingrid Bergman in this role. Perhaps if she had been cast the writers would have re-written the story and actually made it interesting.

The second half of The Birds makes up for the boring, slow paced first half. I never thought of "Psycho" as a horror film- I saw it as more of a documentary, a psychological thriller. But "The Birds" was truly terrifying. As has been said before, the reasons for this are the lack of soundtrack, the use of "ordinary" creatures like birds as monsters, and the tension leading up to climactic moments. Nothing like "The Birds" had been done up to that time, and nothing has been done like it since. People were afraid of Martians before they saw "War of the Worlds", and they were afraid of sharks before they saw "Jaws." Not many people were afraid of seagulls before seeing "The Birds."

I thought the scene inside the cafe was hilarious. The doomsayer, the angry fisherman, and the elderly ornithologist had me cackling. I don't even know if this scene was meant to be funny, and not a single reviewer other than myself has mentioned it as being humorous. By contrast, I didn't laugh once when I saw "The Trouble With Harry", which was supposed to be a dark comedy. I think that what Hitch tried to do there, he got right here.

I loved the ending to "The Birds." I think its strength lies in its ambiguity. After such a surrealistic story, it was the only ending that was appropriate. "The Birds" is truly a unique film, both among Hitchcock's own body of work and cinema in general.

100 out of 153 people found the following review useful:
Hilarious comedy with a serious message, 10 September 2000

"Modern Times" is in my top 5 films, and #2 in my list of favorite comedies. Charles Chaplin is arguably the most talented human being, nevermind film maker, that ever lived. I first saw this treasure about 8 years ago, and I watched it again recently to make sure that it really WAS funny, and that I had not given it too much praise because it was simply a Chaplin film. "Modern Times" passed my test with flying colors. I laughed hysterically from start to finish. Each and every scene is innovative, well thought out, and executed with the genius that only Chaplin possessed. Among my favorite scenes are the "automatic worker-feeding machine"; the jail scene in the cafeteria when The Tramp accidentally sprinkles cocaine on his food, thinking it is salt; and the roller skating scene in the department store. No special effects or computer animation, just pure, simple, genius.

The storyline in "Modern Times" is purposefully naive, a trick Chaplin used time and again to bring a profound humanitarian quality to his films. Watching this film is comparable to watching a Warner Bros. cartoon, which coming from me is a sincere compliment. The level of physical comedy in "Modern Times" is on par with the masterful short films of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, and others.

Finally, as was the case with most of his later films, "Modern Times" is a serious social commentary. Its message is as relevant today as it was more than sixty years ago when it was released. In fact, it is arguably even more relevant today, and unless the world changes drastically in the future it will continue to be. "Modern Times" is essentially the story of a simple but extremely kind man caught in the traps of industrialized society. The opening scene, which compares a crowd of workers boarding the subway to a flock of sheep, is Chaplin's warning against standardization, mechanization, and other facets of life which rob men and women of their individuality. Chaplin always tried to speak for the downtrodden, because despite his enormous success and wealth, he never forgot where he came from. In the end, "Modern Times" is a reminder that no matter how bad things are, you can still smile. Charles Chaplin has made more people smile than almost any other, and his legacy of love and laughter lives on in his films. Its up to us to keep his legacy alive.

Rebecca (1940)
4 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderly...", 15 August 2000

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of Hitchcock's finest films, and in my top five of all time. What can I say about this movie? I'll start with Joan Fontaine- perfection. In her long career she never equaled her performance as the Second Mrs. De Winter. Incidentally, she was given an Oscar the following year for her role in Suspicion, a vastly inferior film. Obviously a make-up vote by the Academy. When I first saw Rebecca years ago I fell in love with Joan, and I remain so to this day. She proved everyone wrong, including Olivier himself (who incidentally wanted his fiancee Vivien Leigh to play the part) who said she couldn't handle the role. Could you imagine Leigh as the Second Mrs. De Winter? No, no one could have been better than Joan Fontaine.

I would like to address some comments made by other reviewers: First, the issue of lesbianism. After reading the novel by Daphne Du Maurier, I understood much better Mrs. Danvers obsessive devotion to Rebecca. Turns out she had been Rebecca's "maid", or "governess" since childhood. Strangely, we are not made aware of this in the film. Whether it was omitted deliberately to suggest that Danvers was a lesbian is anyone's guess. It's certainly suggestive, but it's hard to believe Rebecca would have returned any feelings to the loathsome Danvers, either for her looks or her personality. Danvers' obsession seems much more likely to stem from the fact that she had known and cared for Rebecca since childhood, and lived vicariously through her and her high social position.

Second, the issue of chemistry between Fontaine and Olivier. It's obvious Olivier is dissatisfied with his co-star, and it creates an interesting effect. I see Rebecca as a story about a man perhaps incapable of expressing love. From their on screen interactions, it's clear to me that De Winter cares deeply for his new bride, but just doesn't know how to show it. Or perhaps his spirit remains poisoned from Rebecca's cruelty. Fontaine's character, meanwhile, is the personification of love and devotion, and will do anything for her Maxim. This is also the feel I get from the novel about both characters. What we see on screen is two people in love, caught in a spider's web woven by the ghost of Rebecca. And there's nothing wrong with that. They don't smolder like Bogart and Bacall, but perhaps they will learn to after the shadow of Rebecca has been vanquished.

*spoiler alert* Another important difference from the novel is Rebecca's death. In the novel Maxim shoots her through the heart; on screen, he strikes her but she later stumbles and hits her head on a piece of ships tackle. This could have been changed because of the Motion Picture Code back then, which didn't allow for "villains" to go unpunished. If Maxim had killed her, he would have had to pay for it. Or, another interesting possibility is that Maxim lied about it. Maybe he really did kill her and made up the accident? Seems more Hitch's style. Intriguing, though unlikely. But, I digress.

The storyline in Rebecca flows smoothly with a steady, highly suspenseful pace. Little by little, we see through Fontaine's eyes and hear through her through ears as more and more of Rebecca's secrets are revealed. We watch her painful ordeal as she struggles to force her meek personality on the imposing domain of Manderly. And in the end, she succeeds.

The use of light and shadow in this film is unsurpassed in any black and white film I have seen. The presence of Manderly is constantly thrown on Fontaine's character through the ornate windows, casting their shadows on her. When Beatrice tells her in the study that "Mrs. Danvers simply adored Rebecca", we see a close-up of her profile in full lighting as she turns her head in shock and despair, and everything in the background fades to darkness. Hitchcock is showing us how heavily the specter of Rebecca weighs on her mind; she shuts everything and everyone else out.

I could go on well past 1000 words about Rebecca. I even loosely based one of the characters in a novel of mine on the Second Mrs. De Winter, and in describing her I quoted Olivier, saying she had that "funny, young lost look I loved." Rebecca should never be lost or forgotten. This film remains an ageless, timeless masterpiece by one of the greatest filmakers of all time.

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
I could watch this movie three times a day, forever, 25 July 2000

There's not much to say that hasn't already been said, so I'll keep it short. Perhaps the best film ever made. I lament that so few people have seen it. It's also too bad that movies like this aren't made for children. Not to categorize Baron Munchausen as a "kids' movie", but it's certainly suitable for all but the youngest. And it would do far more to cultivate their minds.

Watch this with your kids (and maybe send them to get more snacks when Uma Thurman emerges as Venus on the Halfshell.)

I was deeply disturbed after watching this film..., 15 July 2000

If you're feeling down, don't watch this movie! Blake Edwards, known to most for his great comedy films, takes us on a dark and terrifying journey into the life of two alcoholics. I have never seen a more realistic portrayal of the human condition on the silver screen.

Jack Lemmon plays Joe Clay, at once a likeable and dislikeable character. As the viewer, you sympathize with his plight, yet you realize he only has himself to blame for it. And his famous scenes inside the greenhouse and the detox tank were so realistic as to be painful. What I think is most remarkable about his acting in these scenes is he sounds like a boy- a lost, confused, enraged, helpless child.

This is a film that pulls you in so deeply that you feel drained by the time it ends. Not to give anything away, but I think the ambiguous ending is the only one that was acceptable here. All in all, a great film, and a masterful performance by one of the best, most well-rounded actors of all time. The role of Joe Clay is is one of those roles, along with Felix Ungar (no disrespect to Art Carney) that only Jack Lemmon could do so well. He is truly a treasure of American cinema.

Thirteen at Dinner (1985) (TV)
23 out of 24 people found the following review useful:
Well done made-for-TV adaptation of Poirot, 15 July 2000

"Thirteen at Dinner" is good, solid entertainment. I recently watched it on video, and apart from the obvious, dramatic commercial pauses, it was hard to tell I was watching a made-for-TV movie. Ustinov is my favorite Poirot, and he is his usual, boisterous self in this adaptation. I love David Suchet as well, and I was delighted to see him in the role of Inspector Japp. Is there a better voice actor than Suchet? If one were to listen to this movie with closed eyes, it would be very hard to tell that Japp was being played by Suchet, so convincing is his accent and manner of speech.

This production has a very British feel to it, but apparently it was an American venture. Surprising! Also, I had a bad feeling when I saw the opening scene- Poirot appearing on the David Frost talk show! But the filmakers and screenwriters did an excellent job of taking a novel written in the '30s and adapting it to the mid-'80s. They followed Christie's original plot faithfully, keeping all the essential elements which make it such a good whodunnit. It would have been nice to see a different actress play the part of Carlotta Adams (Faye Dunaway plays both her and Jane Wilkinson.) She did a commendable job though, as did the other supporting actors. I thought the interplay between Ustinov and Johnathan Cecil (who played Hastings) was hilarious. And I really wish that Ustinov had made more Poirot movies! Oh well. Check out "Death on the Nile" for another of Ustinov's best Poirot efforts. Hard core fans will want to see "Appointment With Death" as well, but that film ranks at the bottom of my Poirot list.

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