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lawprof

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360 reviews in total 
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13 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Here It Is: The Ultimate, Weird Exploitation Flick, 4 July 2004
4/10

Director Harry L. Fraser, who gave us the unforgettable "I Accuse My Parents," went over the top with Hollywood's first (and, I suspect, lone) drama of the travails of two women who truly were, both in the film and in real life, inseparable.

Teen actresses and major merchandising mavens Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen have been described as joined at the hip. That was the reality for former vaudevillians Violet and Daisy Hilton, the Siamese twins starring in this crime film. Violet is Vivian and Daisy is Dorothy, not that it matters much.

The twins, a bit long in the tooth when the movie was made, reprise their old hoofer routine in a show that includes a master marksman and his gal, a beautiful on-stage assistant. Having Vivian get married is a publicity idea which she accepts enthusiastically, her close sibling less so. But she comes around hoping for her sister's connubial joy. The intended groom is the show's Dead Eye Dick. His motive: money to go through with the wedding.

Complications arise including the refusal of a number of states to issue marriage licenses on the tenuous, indeed unsustainable, grounds that a marriage by one of the twins would constitute bigamy. Nonsense. In fact Siamese twins in the nineteenth century, never mind later, got married in the U.S. Vivian is jilted on her wedding night so we don't get to see any conjugal maneuvering (not that we would have seen much in a 1951 feature).

Vivian and Dorothy watch the marksman do his act and Dorothy casually shoots the guy dead. The film begins with a judge asking, from his desk, for help from moviegoers in deciding whether to find the homicidal woman guilty, the sentence then either requiring that the other also be executed or, if a lesser charge was sustained, both would go to the slammer. I imagine conversations going on long into the night by folks who viewed the film and couldn't stop talking about the jurist's dilemma. This is a film with a question about justice-unfortunately it's too arcane for any serious discussion.

Court scenes alternate with recounting of the tale. The courtroom is as fake as the plot. And the Alpha Video DVD cover's posters from the original release promise licentious tidbits that never come close to surfacing. "Joined Together How Can They Make Love?" "What Happens in Their Intimate Moments?" That's what I wanted to know and why I forked out $4.99 for the disc. Phooey.

4/10 (for its curiosity value)

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Clear Windows Distort Reality, 4 July 2004
9/10

Director Ferzan Ozpetek's engrossing and ultimately moving "Facing Windows" (sub-titled) owes a small debt to past movies that build a life story around seemingly innocuous voyeurism. "Rear Window" comes to mind. This tale, set in Rome, is a sensitive examination of lives in conflict, largely through unanticipated meetings and the endless possibilities for personal growth.

Giovanna (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) is a young married woman with two adorable kids, the daughter charmingly precocious. She works as an inspector in a chicken factory with her wise-cracking portly friend and all-around co-conspirator, Ermine (played with wry panache by Serra Yilmaz). Giovanna, who has abandoned her dream of being a first-class pastry chef (too old to apprentice at 29, she laments), is married to Filippo (Filippo Nigor). Married for nine years, they've been together even longer. Their relationship, largely revolving around the kids they both pamper and adore, is conventionally stale.

A loving devoted dad who pulls his share of childcare responsibilities, Filippo's ambition probably miscarried in his teen years if it ever existed. He pumps gas on the night shift and seems to accept whatever life dishes out. He can't understand and is angered and disturbed by Giovanna's routine demands that he seek a better job. Notwithstanding the simmering marital discord, he's deeply in love - still - with his beautiful, sharp-tongued wife. Fortunately, they have a great flat and its kitchen window plays a central role in the story.

Out shopping Filippo and Giovanna encounter a well-dressed but disoriented elderly man who gives "Simone" as his name. Simone, later revealed to be actually named Davide, is subtly but powerfully played by Massimo Girotti. He is amnesiac, possibly suffering from Alzheimer's or some other organic brain syndrome. Kindhearted (he really is a good fellow) Filippo brings him home over Giovanna's initial objections. Simone becomes the contemporary Italian Man Who Came to Dinner (and like the original, he stays for much more more than a repast). Helping the confused gent to undress, Giovanna finds the tattooed numbers on his arm that reveal he probably is Jewish and that he survived hell.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, Giovanna steals glances when she can at a very handsome young man whose apartment faces hers. This is bank manager Lorenzo (Raoul Bova) and in a series of misadventures involving the peripatetic but delusional Simone, he helps Giovanna. And falls for her. She's already got the hots for him, having spied on his romantic life and figuring it's better than hers.

Two stories develop. One is about Simone/Davide recalling the horror of a dark October 1943 day when the Nazis, with more than enthusiastic aid from Italian collaborators, rounded up for murder as many of the Eternal City's Jews as could be found (the Vatican closed for business that day, so averting any personal observation of a terror its functionaries knew was happening). Davide's part in saving some fellow Jews, with a motive to a certain degree unusual and original, unrolls slowly with affecting detail. As does why he, in his mental confusion, adopted a different name.

The second line is Giovanna's flirtation with Lorenzo and her steady maturation, her recognition that some wants in life may be attained with sacrifice and some sacrifices are ultimately too much to endure or, more importantly, to inflict on others.

Giovanna Mezzogiorno gives a deep, thoughtful and very believable portrayal of a young woman who through fortuitous circumstances must painfully re-examine what she wants out of life and how much she'll pay for change. Only a few feet of air separates her apartment from Lorenzo's but Giovanna's obsessive gazing through glass masks how little can really be known about another person and more importantly about oneself through mere, actually sterile, viewing.

Warning: about three-quarters of the way through "Facing Windows," moviegoers will be struck by sharp hunger pangs. Have confection on hand as a temporary antidote.

Andrea Guerra's score is a bit intrusive but it's nice music.

9/10.

16 out of 16 people found the following review useful:
A Thirties Second Feature That Makes It to "B+", 2 July 2004
6/10

"House of Secrets" was a second feature when it came out before World War II. Directed by Roland D. Reed, whose major career in film was as an editor and a producer, this is a mystery with many unnecessarily improbable twists Good acting and occasional crisp dialog make the movie enjoyable.

Leslie Fenton, who made a lot of forgettable and forgotten flicks, is Barry, an American who on the channel ferry to Dover rescues very pretty Julie, Muriel Evans, from the clutches of a cad. A violent one at that. Instantly smitten, he defers returning to the states so as to find Julie in London. Despite being rescued by this gallant, she refused to give him her name, address or measurements.

Fortuitously, Barry is called to a solicitor's office where he is told that an unknown and eccentric uncle bequeathed an ancient manor house to him. But on arriving to take possession he's driven off by dogs, the butler and a gun-wielding older guy. Coincidence of coincidences, Julie is residing at this manor. Only happens in the movies.

What follows is a combination of typical thirties crime genre topped by a mysterious house, possible mad doctor caper. Always the gentleman, Barry pursues Julie who endlessly tells him to stay away from HIS house. Scotland Yard and even the Home Secretary is entangled in the story as Barry remains passionately persistent in trying to see Julie at HIS house from which he's repeatedly barred.

Not the most convincing of plots but some nice lines - including a back and forth between Barry and his solicitor as they attempt to translate Anglo-American slang for each other to facilitate understanding.

Yep, it's a "B+." Alpha has this super bargain DVD out as part of its very large release of old, pre-war flicks (I paid $4.99).

So try and catch it.

6/10.

De-Lovely (2004)
73 out of 87 people found the following review useful:
Delightfully, Deliciously, Delectably De-lovely, 2 July 2004
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Director Irwin Winkler's "De-lovely" isn't any more a determined attempt at accuracy - a biopic with integrity - than was its 1946 romantic predecessor, "Night and Day," a star vehicle for Cary Grant. "De-lovely" is a truly lovely retelling with much liberty taken of the life of the great song writer, Cole Porter, and the woman he loved - and who loved him intensely, Linda, his only wife.

In real life Porter was probably exclusively gay and Linda, a wealthy divorcee bearing sharp-edged, hurting psychical scars from the brutalization she experienced in her first marriage, was happy to settle into deeply rewarding platonic matrimony with the brilliant, witty Cole. Porter here is marginally bisexual and the two are shown chastely but lovingly entwined in bed. Cole and Linda, from reasonably informed accounts, probably never had sex.

What makes this film work are the imagined, powerful performances of Ashley Judd as Linda and Kevin Kline as Porter. The rest of the cast is fine and many songs are bellowed by famous singers but this is Judd and Kline's inspired genius from beginning to end. Winkler drew ecstatically engaging portrayals from these gifted actors. I can't imagine who could have played these roles as Judd and Kline do.

The film begins with an aged Porter watching and commenting on rehearsals of a new production that will showcase his wonderful songs. Is Porter actually alive? The director tells him that his shouted comments can't be heard by the actors. The film goes back and forth to this rehearsal which affects Porter increasingly as the main story follows the couple's life together.

Linda, rich, independent and very smart (as well as glamorous) knew she wanted Porter from their first encounter. When he delicately indicates his attraction to men she responds that she doesn't care-he simply likes men more than she does.

Kline's Porter is a genius but also he's somewhat immature and, as his fame spreads and his wealth grows, innocently insensitive to how his activities create a wall of estrangement between himself and the woman he totally adores. Petty lies replace the earlier openness as Porter is attracted to a homosexual sub-culture.

Judd - certainly one of the most intelligent women acting today - is grippingly compelling as she progresses from divorcee to globe-trotting wife to indispensable muse to a premature death when she's racked by a progressively fatal malady. Folks were crying in the theater today.

Perhaps in wry acknowledgment that he's messed about with the facts, Winkler has the befuddled Cole and Linda watch a private studio preview of "Night and Day" which leaves Porter commenting that it can't be so bad to be played by Cary Grant. But both quietly recognize that their lives have been captured and transformed by Hollywood, reality playing second place to the whims of powerful vulgarians like Louis B. Mayer (who is parodied nicely).

But seminally and for all time Cole Porter was and is about his songs and shows and "De-lovely" offers an almost unending performance of tunes both familiar and not (today's audience, by the way, largely remembered Porter). Both Kline and Judd sing-Kline sounds remarkably like Porter and Judd gives it the good old Phi Beta Kappa try (she's a member). In any event what a "De-lovely" treat to see this extraordinary actress unleashed from her recent past of portraying women victimized by homicidal misogynists.

At the least this film will probably garner the Oscar for costumes. Armani designed the wardrobe and Kline and Judd seem to change for every scene. The whole cast is attired in perfect garb, suggesting the magic of Porter's circle.

Rarely do I leave a theater determined to immediately get a film soundtrack but today I rushed from the Loew's Lincoln Square Theater across to Tower where I scoffed up the disc-I've played it twice already.

Don't miss this drama/musical which shows that Hollywood can still bring beautiful and timeless songs to the movie houses. And do it wonderfully.

The DVD release will have (I hope) many extra and terrific features but even if it doesn't, "De-lovely" deserves repeated viewings.

10/10

13 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Dated, Not Bad, Certainly Not Great, 30 June 2004
5/10

Alpha Video which continues to serve serious movie lovers, especially those who want to explore the past through films that will never make it to TV, has an interesting item in 1933's "The Phantom Broadcast." The plot is simple: a much beleaguered by adoring female fans crooner is a first class fraud. Actually "his" voice is that of his crippled accompanist and manager, referred to as "the hunchback."

Singer and manager both pursue the beautiful, innocent girl. The singer is also beset with the affections of a discarded mistress who won't take "no" or "get lost" for a permanent disposition of a tired relationship. Exit singer through a bullet wound.

The sweet, decent gal is a suspect but the old hunchback tries to attract the law's heat to protect her. Such nobility.

Nothing novel about the plot but the acting is, largely, not bad.

For $4.99, which is what I paid, this was 73 minutes of entertainment. Now who do I palm the DVD off to?

7 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
"Squeeze Me": That's About as Erotic as it Gets, 30 June 2004
5/10

Another Alpha Video $4.99 DVD bringing a forgotten pre-WWII second (or third?) matinee feature to the DVD player.

A young couple sits in a faux Central Park late at night contemplating their marriage the next day. Fortunately the lad has saved $260 towards their life together. But a real nasty bad guy overhears them and holds them up taking every dime.

But...the almost groom recognizes the creep as a guy who hangs out in the building where he's a super's schlepper (that's NYC talk). So he and fiancee attempt to regain the money by armed robbery and blow it. They're captured by the gang.

The gang, which does high values burglaries and robberies, is headed by a suave guy, Gene Foreman, played actually with some insight by Lowell Sherman who was at the tail end of his acting career. Perhaps he knew that: he seems genuinely sad throughout the film.

Foreman eschews violence-he's a dapper dan in tails who gets leads to promising heists through wining and dining the rich. Foreman sort of adopts the young couple and the girl really likes him. Her boyfriend worries about losing this gem who intones "squeeze me" whenever she's scared, needs affectionate reassurance or both.

The really nasty dude, Rocky, is murdered and the couple are the suspects. Foreman magnificently rises to the occasion, his acting transcending the limitations of predictable plot, sets less realistic than those on "The Honeymooners" and a supporting cast of deservedly unknowns.

Fun flick from the past.

5/10

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Strident, Powerful, On Message With a Vengeance, 27 June 2004
10/10

"I'm not fair" proclaimed "Fahrenheit 9/11" director and writer Michael Moore recently on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." Moore, the infant terrible of documentarians told host Jon Stewart that he had an agenda (moviegoers never would have guessed) and that his facts are clear with their interpretation an open field.

Moore probably believes this but many of his facts in this powerful but flawed documentary aren't so crystal clear and neither are they necessarily proven. Moore wants to see Bush defeated in November and as a documentarian with a cause he follows in a fairly long line of film-makers who, subtly or otherwise, have an agenda dear to their hearts. No one will ever denounce Moore for subtlety.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" may be one of the only films I've ever seen where the audience - most of them - began prolonged cheering when the director's name appeared in the OPENING sign boards. That reflected, of course, the political leaning of an affluent Westchester audience that was all-white and which filled surrounding parking lots with SUVs and luxury cars (my Honda Civic a small disgrace).

Moore opens the film with a creative look at the Twin Towers tragedy. Rather than showing yet again the planes knifing into the buildings and their tortuous collapse, he uses sounds from Ground Zero with a blank screen which then segues to the horrified and occasionally hysterical visages of people on the street. We don't have to see the collapse-Moore correctly knows that what he's done is to rip loose indelible, horrific memories that supply what isn't on the screen.

From there he goes to THE election as seen from both Florida and later in a joint congressional section where black representatives, one after the other, forlornly or bitterly demand the investigation into Florida fraud that can only take place with at least one's senator's acquiescence. No senator gives his or her signature and the scene bespeaks yet another betrayal of minorities, here at a crucial time in a hallowed place.

Much of what follows is a demonstration of what even many Bush supporters can't avoid admitting - he's a mental lightweight, a fool and a clown but a man who through family contacts (especially 41's) with both American industry and the Saudi Arabian oligarchy is one rich fool. And his family's involvement with Saudi Arabian magnates who have invested billions in the U.S. is well presented and will be hard to refute.

Many scenes that follow are readily familiar-Bush the very experienced and dedicated vacationer, Bush reading a children's book in a Florida school on 9/11 for seven long minutes after an aide whispered in his ear that the second tower had been hit and America was under attack. Apologists will trot out the usual vapid excuses for Bush's indifferent attitude and lackadaisical unrolling of short (and occasionally unintelligible) sound bites while the nation desperately needed real leadership both after 9/11 and during a war that seems to offer no likelihood of victory and even less of disengagement.

The war in Iraq gets much play with combat scenes and footage of grisly dead and wounded, some from Al Jazeera with a few shots also prominent in the currently running "Control Room."

Soldiers and family members are interviewed. Some troops are troubled by the war, others are repelled morally and politically. For other soldiers the war is an adventure, a chance to prove their mettle and the value of their training (these troops haven't been wounded yet). Family members are either arch-patriotic and supportive or they are riven with tears as they recount the loss of a loved one. A broken mother's account of learning of her son's death in combat by telephone from the Defense Department is heartbreaking: audience members were crying. (What happened to the claim that all such notifications are done in person by uniformed personnel? An economy taken as the casualty list increases?).

While Moore makes the argument that the war's true purpose is to advance American business interests (Halliburton comes in for some well-deserved hits) and the military, especially its young members, are fodder for the plutocrats, the case isn't well advanced by showing scenes regularly screened in news reports and specials. It's Hidden Agenda Analysis Lite.

What is both surprising and unexpected is the degree to which Moore, the sole interviewer, is unusually invisible, his typical attention-grabbing shenanigans at a minimum. In one episode he commandeers a Mister Frostie truck to drive around the Capitol reading the USA Patriot Act to members of Congress over the loudspeaker, some of whom admit on screen that they don't read the bills they vote for. This isn't news but when it's in reference to the very troubling, hastily put together and deeply flawed USA Patriot Act it's a reminder of how much power this administration sought and received with little careful legislative scrutiny. Almost none, in fact.

Sillier and very irrelevant is vintage Moore waylaying members of Congress and offering recruiting literature while urging them to have their kids enlist. Enlisting or not is a personal decision-in our time it's no longer reasonable to arraign any parent on the charge that he/she has forsaken a patriotic duty to urge military service to their kids. TV coverage of Vietnam started to put paid to that. I'm reminded of that grand World War II patriotic song, "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Bomb."

Moore isn't just putting out a documentary-he's urging involvement by sympathetic viewers to defeat Bush and he has a website and a scheduled online Town Meeting to advance his goal. That's his privilege. Make no doubt about it: despite what some hysterical anti-Moore people are saying "Fahrenheit 911" is very much in the tradition of film, documentary or feature, aimed at motivating viewers to demand or make change.

I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11"at the Jacob Burns Film Center dead set in the center of a constellation of very well-off Westchester, NY communities. Tomorrow I'll be back in Manhattan and I want to see the film in a less anti-Bush neighborhood (yeah, I'd prefer a second viewing in the South or rural Midwest but I can't find the time to fly around just to see Moore's movie again).

Moore's movie is very important because his deep passion goes beyond the self-promotion central to his previous films. He's a zealot with regard to Bush and Iraq. That makes him both a fierce documentarian and a lightning rod for attack. How or if "Fahrenheit 9/11" will sway voters, especially those not committed to one side or the other, remains to be seen. What is certain is that Moore's fevered creation is a political milestone in documentary films.

10/10

1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Strident, Powerful, On Message With a Vengeance, 26 June 2004
10/10

"I'm not fair" proclaimed "Fahrenheit 9/11" director and writer Michael Moore last night on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show." Moore, the infant terrible of documentarians told host Jon Stewart that he had an agenda (moviegoers never would have guessed) and that his facts are clear with their interpretation an open field.

Moore probably believes this but many of his facts in this powerful but flawed documentary aren't so crystal clear and neither are they necessarily proven. Moore wants to see Bush defeated in November and as a documentarian with a cause he follows in a fairly long line of film-makers who, subtly or otherwise, have an agenda dear to their hearts. No one will ever denounce Moore for subtlety.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" may be one of the only films I've ever seen where the audience - most of them - began prolonged cheering when the director's name appeared in the OPENING sign boards. That reflected, of course, the political leaning of an affluent Westchester audience that was all-white and which filled surrounding parking lots with SUVs and luxury cars (my Honda Civic a small disgrace).

Moore opens the film with a creative look at the Twin Towers tragedy. Rather than showing yet again the planes knifing into the buildings and their tortuous collapse, he uses sounds from Ground Zero with a blank screen which then segues to the horrified and occasionally hysterical visages of people on the street. We don't have to see the collapse-Moore correctly knows that what he's done is to rip loose indelible, horrific memories that supply what isn't on the screen.

From there he goes to THE election as seen from both Florida and later in a joint congressional section where black representatives, one after the other, forlornly or bitterly demand the investigation into Florida fraud that can only take place with at least one's senator's acquiescence. No senator gives his or her signature and the scene bespeaks yet another betrayal of minorities, here at a crucial time in a hallowed place.

Much of what follows is a demonstration of what even many Bush supporters can't avoid admitting - he's a mental lightweight, a fool and a clown but a man who through family contacts (especially 41's) with both American industry and the Saudi Arabian oligarchy is one rich fool. And his family's involvement with Saudi Arabian magnates who have invested billions in the U.S. is well presented and will be hard to refute.

Many scenes that follow are readily familiar-Bush the very experienced and dedicated vacationer, Bush reading a children's book in a Florida school on 9/11 for seven long minutes after an aide whispered in his ear that the second tower had been hit and America was under attack. Apologists will trot out the usual vapid excuses for Bush's indifferent attitude and lackadaisical unrolling of short (and occasionally unintelligible) sound bites while the nation desperately needed real leadership both after 9/11 and during a war that seems to offer no likelihood of victory and even less of disengagement.

The war in Iraq gets much play with combat scenes and footage of grisly dead and wounded, some from Al Jazeera with a few shots also prominent in the currently running "Control Room."

Soldiers and family members are interviewed. Some troops are troubled by the war, others are repelled morally and politically. For other soldiers the war is an adventure, a chance to prove their mettle and the value of their training (these troops haven't been wounded yet). Family members are either arch-patriotic and supportive or they are riven with tears as they recount the loss of a loved one. A broken mother's account of learning of her son's death in combat by telephone from the Defense Department is heartbreaking: audience members were crying. (What happened to the claim that all such notifications are done in person by uniformed personnel? An economy taken as the casualty list increases?).

While Moore makes the argument that the war's true purpose is to advance American business interests (Halliburton comes in for some well-deserved hits) and the military, especially its young members, are fodder for the plutocrats, the case isn't well advanced by showing scenes regularly screened in news reports and specials. It's Hidden Agenda Analysis Lite.

What is both surprising and unexpected is the degree to which Moore, the sole interviewer, is unusually invisible, his typical attention-grabbing shenanigans at a minimum. In one episode he commandeers a Mister Frostie truck to drive around the Capitol reading the USA Patriot Act to members of Congress over the loudspeaker, some of whom admit on screen that they don't read the bills they vote for. This isn't news but when it's in reference to the very troubling, hastily put together and deeply flawed USA Patriot Act it's a reminder of how much power this administration sought and received with little careful legislative scrutiny. Almost none, in fact.

Sillier and very irrelevant is vintage Moore waylaying members of Congress and offering recruiting literature while urging them to have their kids enlist. Enlisting or not is a personal decision-in our time it's no longer reasonable to arraign any parent on the charge that he/she has forsaken a patriotic duty to urge military service to their kids. TV coverage of Vietnam started to put paid to that. I'm reminded of that grand World War II patriotic song, "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Bomb."

Moore isn't just putting out a documentary-he's urging involvement by sympathetic viewers to defeat Bush and he has a website and a scheduled online Town Meeting to advance his goal. That's his privilege. Make no doubt about it: despite what some hysterical anti-Moore people are saying "Fahrenheit 911" is very much in the tradition of film, documentary or feature, aimed at motivating viewers to demand or make change.

I saw "Fahrenheit 9/11"at the Jacob Burns Film Center dead set in the center of a constellation of very well-off Westchester, NY communities. Tomorrow I'll be back in Manhattan and I want to see the film in a less anti-Bush neighborhood (yeah, I'd prefer a second viewing in the South or rural Midwest but I can't find the time to fly around just to see Moore's movie again).

Moore's movie is very important because his deep passion goes beyond the self-promotion central to his previous films. He's a zealot with regard to Bush and Iraq. That makes him both a fierce documentarian and a lightning rod for attack. How or if "Fahrenheit 9/11" will sway voters, especially those not committed to one side or the other, remains to be seen. What is certain is that Moore's fevered creation is a political milestone in documentary films.

10/10

Dodgeball? Actually, Goofball, 23 June 2004
6/10

"Dodgeball" is going great guns at the box office as moviegoers with time on their hands in the summer and not enough first-rate flicks to see seek harmless, amusing entertainment that leaves little impression when the lights go on.

Ben Stiller is an evil gym owner with a high tech operation who covets neighboring Average Joe's place, owned by a kind but incompetent businessman named...Joe. That's Vince Vaughn. Stiller's wife in real life, Christine Taylor, shows up-she's a bank attorney checking out Joe's messed up or really non-existent financial records.

Average Joe's will be seized for non-payment of a mortgage and snarling, pumped up, hyper Stiller wants the place for a parking lot. $50,000 will save the day and just by coincidence that's the prize purse at the national dodgeball championship to be held in Las Vegas.

You know the rest. Average Joe puts together a team of first-class nudnicks to win the prize money while the Global Gym creep confidently plans to snag the championship with his menacing crew. Of course Kate the lawyer winds up on Average Joe's team having rejected the slimy advances of his rival. It's a nice role for Taylor who has appeared mostly in B- minus films despite her highly respected and too little known breakthrough performance in 1996's "Cat Swallows Parakeet and Speaks."

The best role is that of wheelchair-bound once great dodgeball champ Patches O'Houlihan, played with vulgar gusto by the aging but still fine Rip Torn.

Director Rawson Marshall Tucker knew how to make a box office hit-whether he can do anything seriously engrossing is another question. Actually it isn't.

Does girl (lawyer) get boy (Average Joe morphing into a hunk)? You didn't think a low brow comedy like this would skip the inevitable romance, did you? Well the ending surprised - and clearly upset (ha ha) - some of the parents in the theater.

Lance Armstrong and Chuck Norris do cameos with Armstrong flatly recounting his medical history. He can ride but he can't act.

Amusing, slight madcap sports film with some funny lines and some good physical comedy-that's all.

6/10.

51 out of 64 people found the following review useful:
A Milestone in Film-making, 20 June 2004
10/10

The DVD release of "The Producers" sends me every viewing back to 1968 when I first saw this brilliant, barrier-smashing comedy. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder were the perfect pair to bring to life the adventures of a Broadway faded impresario, now a con man, and his neurotic, hyper, accountant accomplice.

Together they fleece old ladies, something Mostel's Max Bialystock was doing before the auditor, Max Bloom, came by to check the books. Mostel's seduction of the old, the awful and the ugly has no equal in movie physical comedy.

The scheme: put on the worst flop imaginable and when it closes virtually after opening night the two scammers snare riches: the investments they don't have to return. But if the show is a hit...

The producers' vehicle, "Springtime for Hitler," both brought audiences to a new level of appreciation for the malleable, creative power of film and...it made some viewers genuinely nervous, even upset.

Following Steve Allen's observation that a formula for comedy based on history is Tragedy+Time, director Mel Brooks brought to the screen, less than a quarter century after World War II ended, Dick Shawn as a campy fuehrer surrounded by the Nazi counterpart of the Rockettes. And Max and Leo are clearly Jewish in character if not so openly identified.

Kenneth Mars grabs laughs as the author of "Springtime for Hitler," an unreconstructed, Hitler-adoring flake who raises pigeons on the roof of a Manhattan tenement while accoutered in the odd leftovers of Wehrmacht uniforms.

When I fitted in seeing "The Producers" in its opening week I sat in the middle of an audience that was, to a certain extent, as befuddled as the film's playgoers watching the first part of the intended-to-outrage musical comedy about the Third Reich. Not only were SS uniforms, swastikas and photos of Hitler on the "stage" but the movie theater audience also digested, perhaps for the first time, a send-up of an uproarious gay couple, two real queens. One is effeminate to the core, the other is a cross-dresser (and a faultlessly garish one at that). This kind of stuff hadn't been done before in a Hollywood flick.

1968's audience had many who well-remembered World War II and some had fought in the conflict. I knew people who admitted feeling that the horrific global battle against Hitler had been trivialized by Brooks and his extroverted cast - until they could no longer hold back guffaws that segued rapidly into uncontrolled laughter.

That "The Producers" is also now a runaway Broadway hit is no surprise and I'd love to see a DVD release with Lane and Broderick. However fine they would be, it's the original that broke barriers.

The DVD has a number of worthwhile features including a fascinating "Making of..." segment. Peter Seller's short, famous encomium is read and there are the usual other additions. An outtake presenting an alternative blow-up of the "Springtime for Hitler" theater is interesting, largely because it shows how perceptive Brooks was in scrapping it for the shorter scene actually used.

"The Producers" is, in some ways, a subversive movie. Without stridently proclaiming a new aesthetic, it is exactly that and so it's a timeless classic. This is not satire about Nazism, Hitler and the Third Reich. It's treating as suitable material for slapstick and quick gags the detritus of an evil time.

But it's also a bit dated, no subject is taboo today for comedic treatment, and many who see it for the first time (as my teenage son did tonight) will enjoy the movie without getting the full impact of its assault on conventionality.

Is there any historical topic that will not, in the passage of time, be employed for pure comedy? Is it possible that the next generation will laugh at a comedy parodying Auschwitz? I hope not but I also can't be sure.

Many years ago I refused to watch "Hogan's Heroes" on TV because I personally knew former U.S. POWs. But that show, with Werner Klemperer as Colonel Klink, was very popular. "Hogan's Heroes" was to TV what "The Producers" was, and is, to film. And both made a mark that will be emulated as future generations go beyond satire to humorous treatment of matters most today consider beyond the pale of acceptability as a vehicle for laughs.

10/10


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