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24 reviews in total 
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"Queenie" (1987)
14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Melodramatic, but quite entertaining, 27 May 2003

Based on Michael Korda's bestselling interpretation of the life of legendary movie star (and his aunt) Merle Oberon, this 1987 mini-series chronicles the life of a young Eurasian woman (Mia Sara) who flees India to England, where she hides the truth of her past (including her role in the accidental death of an important British official back in India) to become a famous movie star. The script for "Queenie" is extremely melodramatic, and the time frame doesn't seem quite accurate (in part II, Queenie returns to India to make a movie that one character describes as "more expensive than Gone with the Wind"--meaning she and a large British-American entourage are trapsing across the globe to make a movie at the height of World War II!!!), but the show is quite lavish and, thanks to an energetic cast--especially the lovely Miss Sara--quite entertaining. There's also a fine score by Georges Delarue. Worth seeing if you come across it on television--I'd love to have it on DVD.

19 out of 25 people found the following review useful:
A marvelous family film, 2 November 2002

A sentimental, heart-tugging family film set in England of the 1920s. A young Elizabeth Taylor wins a horse in a raffle and decides to enter him in the Grand National; fortunately, ex-jockey Mickey Rooney is around to give Liz some help. Director Clarence Brown displays some remarkable control with material that could've been excessively maudlin in someone else's hands. He and screenwriters Helen Deutsch and Theodore Reeves take great care in establishing genuine characterizations and developing the story naturally. True, there are one or two scenes that seem a bit forced, but overall it's quite affecting, and gorgeously filmed in Technicolor. The race itself is quite thrilling, and like so many great classics, there's a marvelous, three-hankie fade-out at the end. Liz proves that she was a real trooper right from the start, and Rooney--who I usually find rather annoying--is surprisingly subdued and really very good. Donald Crisp is terrif as Liz's gruff father and Angela Lansbury is a delight as her older, boy-crazy sister. Most of the acting kudos, however, belong to Anne Revere, who won a richly deserved Supporting Actress Oscar playing Liz's wise and caring mother.

Subway (1985)
22 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Really a lot of fun., 2 November 2002

It would be difficult to describe "Subway." Fortunately, I threw it into the DVD player knowing only who directed it, who starred in it, and that it was set in the Paris Metro. Maybe that was a plus for me, since I had no idea where the serpentine, if occasionally silly, plot was going. Suffice it to say that Christophe Lambert is chased into the Paris Metro, clutching some files that Isabelle Adjani is desperate to get her hands on. Of course, there's a romance with them, and a number of supporting characters--a roller skating purse snatcher, a smart cop, a dumb cop, a philosophical flower vendor, etc. Like many Luc Besson films, this one is over the top from the get-go, a crazy ride to nowhere, surreal, perhaps, but a bit obtuse at times with its eye-rolling symbolism. But it's fun, especially the excessive 80s look of the costumes and hairstyles, and Eric Serra's synth-and-bass-heavy soundtrack. Between Lambert and Adjani, I have to reserve all the praise for the lady, who deliciously scores with superb comic timing.

Below (2002)
92 out of 106 people found the following review useful:
A smart, chilling "B" picture., 20 October 2002

Below (*****) I know what you're thinking. A "B" picture about a haunted submarine? And I think it's the best flick I've seen so far this year? Well, when a "B" picture is this smart, this intricate, this well-made, this damned entertaining, then, yeah, it's the best movie I've seen so far this year.

Here's the set-up: it's 1943 in the North Atlantic, and the U.S.S. Tiger Shark picks up three survivors from a British hospital ship that was torpedoed two days earlier; the discovery that one of the survivors is a German leads to violence; and, then, really weird things start happening, all the while a German cruiser is chasing the sub down. Is a ghost trying to destroy the sub and its crew, or are they just imagining things through convenient coincidences?

Below was written by Lucas Sussman, Darren Aronofsky and the film's director, David N. Twohy; Aronofsky is the smart filmmaker behind the art-house hit Requiem for a Dream, and Twohy has consistently specialized in sophisticated "B" pictures like The Arrival and Pitch Black. Below offers up an intricate storyline that keeps both the characters and the audience guessing--when they and we aren't jumping out of our skins in terror. Twohy's direction is an example of economic brilliance--the flick charges forward, piling on the twists and scares methodically, but never gratuitously--thankfully, this is a horror flick that's more about mood than about gore--indeed, it's less in tune with modern splatterfests than it is an homage to the cerebral Val Lewton thrillers of the 1940s (like The Seventh Victim or Isle of the Dead).

And what mood this movie creates! Ian Wilson's cinematography is vibrant and chilling, and the magnificent special effects never overwhelm the story--except for a final, hauntingly beautiful shot that will linger in your memory for quite awhile.

An added bonus is the cast of smart players: Bruce Greenwood as the sub commander trying to hold his crew and himself together; Matt Davis as the wet-behind-the-ears officer not really accepted by the crew; Olivia Williams as an English nurse who is both suspect and suspicious; and Holt McCallaney as a gruff officer.

It appears that Below is being dumped by its studio, Dimension, with little advertising or fanfare; a shame, really, since it's one of the most sophisticated and highest quality pictures I've seen in quite awhile. [Rated R: Violence, language, brief nudity.]

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
An underrated, though flawed, delight., 29 September 2002

Sweet Home Alabama may well turn out to be the most underrated movie of the year. Is it a classic? Hardly. But is it deserving of some of the most viscous, nasty reviews I've seen this year? Hardly.

It's true that Sweet Home Alabama has many flaws. It's not a smooth comedy, it bumps from scene to scene, with not a few moments that seem tacked-on rather than flowing from genuine characterizations. Director Andy Tennant telegraphs almost all the important plot developments rather transparently.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie, and am chagrined that it has been treated with so much superior disgust by many critics. Many reviewers accuse the flick of being "sitcom", an appellation that is a mark of laziness and needs to be retired immediately. The truth is that the plot of Sweet Home Alabama--an ambitious woman (Reese Witherspoon) must choose between an urban sophisticate (Patrick Dempsey) or a redneck stud (Josh Lucas)--is more or less a Southern-fried variation of the plots in The Awful Truth and His Girl Friday, films that have provided much inspiration for many sitcom writers over the years. Now, Sweet Home Alabama lacks the style, wit and pinache of those Leo McCarey and Howard Hawks efforts, but it still has charms worthy of respect. It's genuinely funny most of the time, is a fine showcase for a talented cast, and is filled with a marvelous sense of place, even if that place is something of a fantasy (incidentally, the movie was filmed in Georgia and Florida, not Alabama!).

That sense of place is another aspect that critics are grinding against. There are accusations of stereotyping of Southern people and heritage in the film. These are many of the same arguments thrown against My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with its "stereotyping" of immigrant Greek culture. I can only surmise about that, and I've heard from real Greek immigrants disparaging Greek Wedding's portrayals. But I know Southern culture: I grew up in a small Southern town and still live in the South. While Sweet Home Alabama doesn't acknowledge the modern, suburban South, with its populations of many minorities (not just Black, but Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, etc.), I nevertheless nodded my head in recognition throughout the film. I know the honky-tonks like the one Jean Smart's character owns. I know the double-wides like the one in which Fred Ward and Mary Kay Place live. Heck, my dad once had a truck just like the one Lucas drives around. Sweet Home Alabama, to me, was a warm-hearted spin on Southern culture (and much more digestable than another 2002 release, the hurl-inducing Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood). Perhaps it could have managed a bit more edge or bite to its comedy--not wanting to deal with the darker aspects of Southern history (slavery, racism, religious fundamentalism), it's more Ma and Pa Kettle than A Face in the Crowd--but I felt I was laughing WITH these Southerners rather than laughing AT them.

Too, here's a great cast obviously enjoying themselves. Reese Witherspoon doesn't get to showcase her comedic abilities as much as she did in, say, Election or Legally Blonde, especially considering how strident her character is (not nearly as strident as Candice Bergen's NYC mayor, a harpy Hilary Clintonesqe Democrat, probably a sop to Southern Republicans); still, Reese's charm is primarily evident and she's mostly a pleasure to watch. For me, it was the supporting cast that shined in Sweet Home Alabama. Josh Lucas was charisma defined, matching Witherspoon quip for quip--it's a great verbal dance between them. Patrick Dempsey is a prince--we know all along who Reese is gonna choose, but Dempsey's charming turn makes her final decision more moving then it could've been. Mary Kay Place and Fred Ward offer stoic shadings to their character that are well-appreciated. Best of all is Ethan Embry, playing a neurotic redneck outed by Witherspoon during a drunken pool game; Embry's comic timing is a joy to watch, his pop-eyed reactions worth the price of admission alone.

C. Jay Cox's script never delves deeply into this or other issues, which is frustrating. So, I could understand a casual dismissal of Sweet Home Alabama, but to denigrate it as some kind of inept disaster is inappropriate. I know I've seen far worse films this year, many of which others have wildly overpraised. And, I wouldn't be surprised if Sweet Home Alabama ends up being more fondly recalled by moviegoers than some of those other films ever will be.

14 out of 22 people found the following review useful:
Astonishing imagery, 8 August 2002

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is an astonishing and spectacular film. I agree with most of the other comments, that this film is definitely a must-see, though I have reservations about some unevenness in the plotting. But the spectacle, the fire-and-brimstone imagery, and the excellent star-making performance by Valentino more than compensate. In many ways, it DOES tower above 99 percent of what Hollywood throws up today.

56 out of 130 people found the following review useful:
Massively overrated., 5 August 2002

I continually fail to understand why The Godfather is hailed as "The Greatest Movie of All Time". I've seen it twice--a second time just to make sure--and I have to tell you that I sat there in a stupor, bored out of my mind. And I'm not a teenager raised on MTV; I'm in my 30s and am absolutely devoted to movies--I've seen as many classics (American & foreign) that I can get my hands on. But, for me, The Godfather ranks alongside Singin' in the Rain as the most overrated films of all time.

Singin' in the Rain, at least, I get (it's just my intense dislike for Donald O'Connor that makes me dislike this film). But The Godfather? It's just a bland epic about a bunch of moronic gangsters, with Marlon Brando giving a campy performance, and riddled with repulsive violence. Give me a break. The fact that this movie is so "beloved" has had the direct result that nowadays we got absurdly worse and worse films every year, created by clueless filmmakers.

22 out of 28 people found the following review useful:
An Outstanding Cast in an Unforgettable True Story, 16 June 2002

"Voyage of the Damned" is the true story of a shipload of German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution in 1939 by seeking refuge in Cuba; the Cuban government waffles and won't let them in; sadly, neither will the United States; and the ship is forced to return to Europe.

Knowing that the voyage of the St. Louis actually happened deepens the impact of the film; while the movie itself is rather perfunctorily directed, the incredible all-star cast keeps the film very human and touching.

Lee Grant received the only Oscar nomination of the cast--her hair-cutting scene was obvious Oscar-bait if there ever was one--but she still conveys considerable pathos. Nevertheless, I was considerably more moved by the performances of Max von Sydow and Oskar Werner. Von Sydow portrays the captain of the St. Louis, attempting to keep the calm in an undeniably tense situation, growing ever more subtly aghast as the events unfold around him. Werner is his counterpoint among the passengers, an esteemed Jewish doctor and educator, seemingly serene in the face of such horror, but methodically determining what to do. Faye Dunaway plays Werner's embittered wife and her commanding charisma and beauty are at full wattage. Malcolm McDowell is rather endearingly miscast as a ship's steward who has a romance with Grant's daughter. Katharine Ross turns up briefly and gives one of the best performances of her career.

"Voyage of the Damned" may not be brilliant cinema, but it is an unforgettable story filled with an amazing cast and I highly recommend it.

Topkapi (1964)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
A joyously fun caper comedy, 11 May 2002

I don't know how anybody couldn't like this movie! Rarely have I had such a fun time watching a flick. This joyously fun caper comedy is the one that started them all and while it lacks the techno whiz of all the modern imitators (like Soderbergh's leaden Ocean's 11), it makes up for that with wit, style, and panache. Topkapi is alternately gripping and hilarious, cast to perfection with Melina, Peter, Maximilian, et al, just having a ball! And that last scene--wow, what a great way to end the movie! Sit back, relax and have fun!!!

Camelot (1967)
20 out of 26 people found the following review useful:
Begging for a remake, but..., 7 April 2002

Now that movie musicals are in vogue again, maybe somebody at Warner Brothers will give the green light to remake this Lerner & Loewe spectacle that was poorly filmed in 1967.

This version is really a shame, considering how beloved the original 1960 Broadway musical is. Lerner & Loewe wrote some of their best songs for this show: "If Ever I Would Leave You", "Camelot", "What do the Simple Folk Do?" and "Fie on Goodness". But when making the film, producer Jack Warner chose tone-deaf actors, one of the worst directors in the medium, and had Alan J. Lerner rewrite his script, stressing the drama over the comedy (to the narrative's detriment) as well as throwing out half the score (including, sob, the show-stopping "Fie on Goodness"). Richard Harris and Vanessa Redgrave ARE great actors, and in their dramatic scenes, they are quite effective, but they most certainly are NOT singers, especially poor Ms. Redgrave (although, her orgasmic rendition of "The Lusty Month of May" has to be seen to be believed). Franco Nero, a beautiful, beautiful man, has a great opening with "C'est Moi", but then goes downhill from there. David Hemmings manages to bring some mirth to the film, but he's only in the last third, and by that time it's nearly too late (plus, they cut his only song!).

On the plus side, the film DID deserve the 3 Oscars it won: Best Scoring (if you take the voices out, the music sounds magnificent), Best Art Direction/Set Decoration, and Best Costume Design (the flick IS sumptuous). And the cinematography is rather breathtaking at times. (If you do watch it, try to see it on DVD, where it's letterboxed.)

So, if anybody from Warner Brothers, or any other studio for that matter, is reading this, give it another go: go back to T.H. White's original source novel and Lerner's original B'way script, keep ALL the songs intact, and hire actors who are proven singers, say, Ewan McGregor (he demonstrated his pipes in Moulin Rouge!) as Arthur, Kate Winslet (who scored a British top 10 hit last year) as Guinevere, and Hugh Jackman (who got his start in a West End production of Oklahoma!) as Lancelot. Please....

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