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Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
One of my favourite movies of all time
If you haven't seen it, you are in for a treat. Don't read any spoilers, just see it. I've seen it several times and it never gets old. It is a fabulous movie and I don't want to ruin it by saying anything. I give it my highest rating which means it could not be improved.
Perfect casting, acting, plot, suspense, comedy, drama, music. Stunningly good. There are so many bland, offensive, or unwatchable comedies out there. This is not one of those. This is a masterpiece. It has tremendous heart.
X Company (2015)
I care about this subject matter because my father was involved in similar work in WW II. This is edge of your seat tension and drama and it brings WW II back so vividly, in a way that makes you feel for these characters and the peril the whole world was in at that time. I started with season 3 (my cable on demand only had that much) and am dismayed to hear that it was cancelled and there will be no season 4. Good news is that seasons 1 and 2 are out on DVD. Season 3 will surely follow in time (the finale was just last week). I can't recommend this highly enough. Previously my best series of all time was the Sopranos. This one moved me far more and is just as excellent as far as acting, scripts, sets, everything. Just watch any episode and you will be hooked and have to find out what happens. When I saw the very first episode after watching season 3, all my questions were answered about the way these five people were recruited. The way it introduces them is sublime. And yet you don't even need to start at the beginning to love this series. Jump in anywhere and you can follow along.
Absolutely ten out of ten stars because there's nothing better on TV.
Scent of a Woman (1992)
Unfairly downgraded with the passing of time. It still holds up.
Al Pacino deserved his Oscar for this role. Right on this page is a link to an article about Oscars that were "mistakes"and that includes this one. I just saw this again for the first time since I saw it in the theatre in 1992. It still moved me. This was not a sympathy Oscar. It was fully deserved. Pacino was brilliant and I am so fed up when I come across this kind of reassessment which implies that the entire Academy voted in some temporary trance. No. I am so tired of people saying this movie is only known for the "hu-ah." Hardly. How about actually watching it to the end. It's about morality and the human spirit. A blind, broken vet finding a common humanity and bonding with a young student who is hired to look after him. They both have something vital to offer to each other through the course of the few days they spend together. No, it's not a shoot-em-up western or a violent mafia bloodbath or a sci-fi CGI blockbuster. It's an old style human drama and you can't help loving the characters. If nothing else will make you want to watch it, you might enjoy seeing the very young Todd Louiso (High Fidelity) and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
The Perfect Roommate (2011)
The unbelievably bad acting and plot make it semi-fascinating
I just got the W movie channel and this is what they showed tonight. The listings said Contact with Jodie Foster was on. Instead, they showed this derivative, hackneyed, poorly acted and amateurishly written made-for-TV movie. Someone is clearly asleep at the channel, but I gave it a chance. It does have a plot that seems to be leading up to a violent encounter a la Single White Female. There is tension - who is going to get hurt or killed? Everything that is going to happen is telegraphed and obvious. I won't put any spoilers here, but it was watchable purely because of the hilariously bad (like a high school play) acting and the unbelievably overdone plot - haven't we seen a story like this about 1,000 times only without the plot fizzling out? PS I found out the name of it by typing in the keyword "roommate" in IMDb.
The Bourne Identity (1988)
surprisingly touching and excellent adaptation
I didn't expect too much from a TV mini-series based on an adventure novel, which was later made into a big budget action film.
I had not enjoyed the 2002 version of The Bourne Identity with Matt Damon, but this one was gripping from the first frame. I read a lot of the reviews and posts here as I always do to compare reactions, and found people were praising some elements, and criticizing others. Here is how it affected me.
Primarily it was a story about a man's search for his identity, and Chamberlain, never known as the greatest actor in the world, was very believable and effective. Jaclyn Smith was just adequate in her role and she is definitely one of the worst actresses they could have chosen, but one can't have everything. She makes good eye candy. The movie's other characters played pivotal roles and delivered excellent characterizations. Notably Denholm Elliott as the doctor.
The story was a fast moving adventure, which was almost Hitchcockian, the story of one bewildered man with villains trying to kill him, and a random pretty girl he abducts to help him (also echoes of the Redford movie Three Days of the Condor), and the extensive scenery of Paris was beautiful. Except for the obvious pauses where commercials used to be, this looks like a real movie and not a TV series. It doesn't look cheaply made. They obviously took pride in this production.
But to me the most surprising thing of all was the human element, the complex emotions in the amnesiac's story. Richard Chamberlain delivered them far above what one would expect from him, or from a TV movie. Yet this movie is all but forgotten since the theatre versions were made. I think that Hitchcock, if he had been alive to make this picture, would himself have chosen Chamberlain as he was very much like the James Stewart "everyman" who raced against time to solve the mystery of his amnesia.
There are a few places where key scenes from the past are shown briefly and never explained (apparently a sequel was planned, which would explain them), and yet I was able to fill in a likely explanation, from my own imagination. This is the mark of good film making.
There were no fantastic special effects or avant garde techniques. It was straightforward story telling.
I am easily bored, highly critical, and so because I loved this, I am very surprised and had to post about it, in case it might help someone decide to go ahead and see it. Yes, it is well worth it and highly enjoyable. It hails from another era (where the story was more important than the chases and effects).
I am glad it is still available in video, and if I find it in DVD I will buy it because it was a movie I would like to see again. I still think about it - and went to the library to get the book the next day - and that rarely happens with an action movie of this type.
Thirteen at Dinner (1985)
For a TV movie this is surprisingly well done. Many twists and turns in the plot. Good characterizations by all the players.
I disagree with the negative comments here. The movie held my attention throughout and was a delight to watch. Faye Dunaway's portrayal of the dual roles was over the top but that was the nature of the two women she played. The actress Jane Wilkinson is clearly based on some of the mannerisms of Marilyn Monroe and Faye does this convincingly.
I didn't initially think Peter Ustinov would make a good Poirot, but he captures the detective's droll and determined persona and is quite convincing.
I wish they would make more movies like this. Though Peter and Faye are clearly the lead actors in it, there's an ensemble cast that works together to lead us on a merry chase of suspects. The locations are magnificent. All in all this is definitely worth watching even if it lacks the big budget of the ones Ustinov made for theatrical release.
Das Leben der Anderen (2006)
my highest rating
I used to rate every movie I saw from one to four stars, and I was very strict; four stars was the highest and it meant that: It surprised me more than once (it was not predictable); it had a wonderfully rich story; no plot holes or annoying gimmicks; good acting; no flaws; gripping; held my attention throughout, and I cried at the end, because it moved me so much. With this strictness, you can see that other "great movies" would not get 4 stars from me.
Well, I am not going to write any spoilers or any reasons why I loved this movie. Let me just say that I don't care that much about rating movies anymore and most of them disappoint me either totally or in part and would get, say, 2 and a half stars even for quite a good movie.
But this movie, it shocked me - for once the critics weren't wrong: it is great.
It fulfilled my strictest criteria, and I have given it my highest rating.
I am especially pleased at the many extras on the DVD which add to the richness of the presentation of this story.
Wonderful - wonderful movie.
Bachelor in Paradise (1961)
almost a documentary on 1961 housing in California
Bob Hope was 58 and Lana Turner was 40 when they made this movie. They have no chemistry whatsoever so a romance is not believable. Perhaps with softened makeup and hair she would have been appealing. Anyway the story is beside the point now, 45 years later.
The movie is all about the huge, spacious, tract developments in undeveloped parts of California in 1961. I lived in one, so this movie takes me back there. Watching it takes me back to those days when Kennedy was the new president, when there were brand new houses in pale pink, light green, and yellow; each house divided from its neighbour by a row of cacti. Families moved to them from the older, two-story traditional houses. It was supposed to be a great thing to have no stairs; to live in a sprawling "rancher." Just looking at the houses with the huge kitchens and wall phones brings nostalgia, as only the very rich can afford space now; back then it was taken for granted.
A major "comedic" event in this film is Bob putting too much detergent in the washer, and the ensuing crisis when soap suds flood the entire house.
The houses were spacious and everything was inexpensive - such houses were $20,000 new. Nowadays any surviving houses from that era have been remodeled and no longer have the orange built-in bars, the gold appliances, or wood grained walls.
This is my parents' world, post-war - 16 years after the end of WW II. This is an era where everything is available, where the kitchen is the size of a restaurant, but there is no happiness whatsoever.
A scene in the supermarket is jarring when a little girl who had been left in the car by her mother is talking to Bob Hope and her mother comes along and just leaves her with him as she goes about her shopping. That would never happen now and reminds us of a more innocent and trusting time.
The development is called Paradise. It's more like Paradise Lost, or Discarded. There's a dark subplot of an unhappy marriage, a couple that is "practically divorced" and the wife (Janis Paige) is throwing herself at Bob Hope. But he's secretly a gentleman who only has eyes for the stiff, unmarried Lana Turner, and when he finally gets her, there is the obligatory panning across the floor showing their discarded clothing and then we hear her giggles. Just like a Rock Hudson/Doris Day ending.
Then the movie ends and I guess maybe we are meant to think they will have a real life together. They're too old to start having kids to populate the housing tract and be ignored and spoiled, so maybe they will write and think and discuss real things and have a happy life together.
The sixties are gone - but here in this movie we have the remnants of what it started out to be, if people could only have held on to it and preserved something for the future.
Who knew a fluff piece like this would be so thought provoking 40 years later.
I thank Turner Classics for realizing these are valuable period pieces that give us insight on a bygone age. An age where people lost the values they had in the 30s and 40s. After the war, people wanted comfort and ease, and wanted their kids to enjoy a carefree life without the privation of the depression and the war. Unfortunately it only shows that comfort and ease do not bring happiness.
A comic book come to life
This is the last episode of season 4 so I sadly wait for seasons 5 and 6 to be released and then there are no more that will be "new".
First of all this one has good colour and film quality unlike many of the previous colour episodes (except for the grainy and scratched stock footage of the naval ships inserted at various points in the story).
The plot is absurd yet it's possible to get into it simply because they all play it straight. Jimmy and Lois, in peril again, tied up and blindfolded, only this time Clark Kent is among them. It's a comedy but it's not very funny - just surreal. Leonard Mudie is one of the main pirates - he was Brockhurst in the most frightening and memorable episode, A Ghost For Scotland Yard. Here he plays a slapstick role in elaborate Shakespearean style.
The problems that keep this just a comic book episode are in continuity and plot holes. We see several pretty young women and there is no explanation where they came from. If the pirates are part of a family descended from other pirates who landed 300 years ago, where are the older women who would be the mothers of these girls? And inexplicably, one of the young women makes eyes at Jimmy Olsen even though they were never introduced. I suppose several scenes were trimmed out since there is so much going on.
Superman has to pretend to be tied up and captive until no one is around and he can change into Superman, which provides some tension, but since we know it's a matter of time till he saves the day, there's really no fear. The story falls apart as the pirates and the two criminals meander around doing random things. The criminals have a vague plan to steal the plane and escape with some of the jewels but they dither around and it never happens.
Superman finally gets to rush to the naval ship and tell them not to shoot, but they think he has gone insane when he tells them there are pirates living on the island. So he has to go back and bring proof: a photo he makes Jimmy take, and develops into a negative using his x-ray vision. Yet he never delivers the negative to the ship; it's too late as they start bombing and he has to stop each bomb and blow it up in mid air. We aren't able to see this because there would be no possible special effect - so various characters talk about what he is doing. These are some of the problems with the story. Too many things going on and it doesn't all flow together or end with proper resolution. Why have the whole picture taking scene unless the photo is going to be delivered in time to stop the bombing? I still think it's a fun episode, but it kind of plays like a comic book fantasy. Despite that, our heroes remain in character and give it their all.
Another absurd premise
This is probably more implausible than any of the other outrageous scripts in this season. First of all, if Superman is frozen solid and chalky white, putting on Lois Lane's makeup (all over his face, neck, hands and hair!) would not make Clark look that natural. There would have to be some plausible reason why it would fool them. But this could only happen in a cartoon or a comic book. I just felt sorry for all of them having to act in this terrible story. This is not the real Superman series - the first two seasons are. Having said that, I still enjoyed the action and the danger. It's just that there is such a lack of subtlety or craftsmanship in these later episodes.