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Contact Lenses and Wedding Rings
This is really one of the better written episodes of "The Lucy Show" combining the funniest elements of an earlier episode of "I Love Lucy" into a new context. The chemistry between Lucy and Vivian is as strong as it was in "Building a Bar-B-Q" (1957), where Lucy Ricardo is convinced she lost her wedding ring in wet cement, meaning Lucy and Ethel must dismantle the barbecue to search for it. Here, Lucy Carmichael and Vivian must destroy 15 chocolate cakes to search for a her missing contact lenses. The result is as just funny as it was in 1957. This is one of the best of the Lucy and Vivian collaborations before she left the show and Gale Gordon was forced to assume the second banana spot.
Aimer, boire et chanter (2014)
For Tomorrow We May
What struck me most about this film adaptation of Alan Ayckbourn's play is how meta it turned out to be in light of director Alain Resnais' death. Certainly not intending to make his final film (he was already adapting yet another Ayckbourn play for the screen), in retrospect the 'unseen' George Riley easily stands in for the director. Here he also manages to beautifully blend his love of theater, film, and static images into a poetic whole. He also surrounds himself with his actor friends, all a good ten years older than the characters ought to be. But this only reinforces the play's timeless themes of life and death. Having his cast surround Riley's coffin with a final image of a skull with wings is haunting. Ayckbourn's presence also looms large over the film with the cast rehearsing his first London hit "Relatively Speaking." Although the title goes unmentioned, the play script is clearly visible. Could the unseen but demanding play-within-the-play director Peggy be a stand-in for Ayckbourn's late agent, Peggy Ramsay? Unlike Resnais, "Riley" was thankfully not Ayckbourn's finale ultimo. To date he has penned five more major plays bringing his total to 79. Long may he thrive and live "the life of Riley."
Much Ado About Nothing (2012)
What I Did On My Summer Vacation - By Joss Whedon
Almost nothing works in Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing." It's hard to imagine how such an intriguing idea turned into such a lackluster film. Whedon's concept to set the story in modern day just doesn't work. Everyone is dressed similarly so its nearly impossible to tell the characters apart by their station - an important factor in the Shakespeare script. The use of black and white does nothing and actually robs the smart-looking production elements of any visual interest. Even when the characters venture into the back yard the film feels claustrophobic - like rainy day play-acting by a talented group of friends. Most of all, the 1600 story just doesn't ring true in the modern age. A previously rational father cries out that her daughter should die when she is accused of infidelity to her fiancé? In 2013? Whedon's attempt at physical comedy falls flat (pardon the pun). The parallel scenes of the men convincing Benedict that Beatrice loves him - and the ladies doing the same to Beatrice is clumsy and feels forced. After the first hour you start to realize Joss Whedon and his regulars are just amusing themselves - forgetting this is more than just a Whedon home movie. The only real reason to see this film is Amy Acker, who miraculously manages to find something in Beatrice that bridges the gap between the old Globe and Hollywood.
Any Day Now (2012)
I really wanted to like "Any Day Now" - but I was constantly distracted. Not by a noisy patron in the theater, but by the film's unfortunate flaws, which nearly sabotage what might be an otherwise quite enjoyable and enlightening movie. The film is set in the 70's where presumably everyone and everything is unattractive. Screamingly so. When the production design upstages the story, we've left the scenario for the studio. Hair was perhaps the most awful. Everyone seemed to be wigged and for a movie about a drag queen, the wigs are laughably bad. Why leading man Alan Cumming had to have distractingly long tresses is beyond me. Ditto his boyfriend who looked like a man wearing a toupee who is trying NOT to look like he's wearing a toupee. A black lawyer's Afro looked like a helmet. Apparently no one in the 70's knew what to do with wing collars, as all the shirts looked ill-fit and awkward. Okay, let us rise above the restrictions of the low budget indie. I'm sorry to say that Cumming's gutsy performance was marred by his broad Queens accent. Any attempt to remind us of "Torch Song Trilogy" is purely intentional. Why not a neutral American accent? Cumming seems miscast as a drag queen when put next to the amazingly fabulous Randy Roberts. Again, less would be more. Less hair, less accent - less. I far preferred the performance of Cummings' co-star Garret Dillahunt. To say nothing of the wonderful presence of Isaac Levya as the youth with Downs Syndrome who is the subject of this tug of war. But mostly, the script takes far too many shortcuts in character and plot development to avoid cliché and coincidence. Why, for example, does Cumming suddenly burst into an unrehearsed yet perfectly rendered song when asked to tell a bit about himself? Are we in a musical? It is all too much, too fast. There is even the cliché of the 'happiness montage' done on super 8 film. "Any Day Now"'s aims are valiant and the story is heartbreaking, but I'm afraid the script and direction weren't quite up to it's worthy subject.
And those perks would be...???
I'm not sure. I wanted to like this film, but I felt like I'd seen it all before elsewhere and better. The narrative is a little too crowded for it's own good - and no one gets full attention, though all deserve it. Unlike some, I think the script might have benefited from being set in a specific time and place (it is, 1990's Pittsburgh - but it is never stated). Like so much of this MTV book of the month selection, it tries to be universal instead of specific - even in it's characters. Joan Cussack is billed, but her role amounts to two scenes at the VERY end of the film, so (although she's no 'star' attraction) you spend most of the time thinking "I thought Joan Cussack was in this?" But I guess this film is meant for a generation who doesn't know Joan Cussack, is texting during the credits, and doesn't know Pittsburgh, and wasn't alive in 1990.
Wishful Drinking (2010)
Wishing Upon A Star
Carrie Fisher's one-woman Broadway show is a laid back treatise on life as a celebrity and a celebrity spawn. Fisher dishes on her famous parents but doesn't dig too deeply into her own battles with drugs, alcohol and celebrity. The highlight is a giant chalkboard of her famous family tree with which she tries to discern whether her daughter should date a man that may or may not be a relative. And yes, she dons the famous braids to remind us of the opportunity that allowed her to step out of her famous parents' shadow and into cultural iconography. All in all, Fisher is honest, blunt, and a bit too relaxed at times to add anything but kick-back giggles, but to ask more may be just wishful thinking.
Our Idiot Brother (2011)
OUR IDIOT BROTHER is a connect the dots comedy that races through plot and character development as if to say - 'you get this, right?'. The fine cast is given the responsibility to breathe life into what is a essentially a rough draft script devoid of funny dialogue and situations. They sometimes succeed, but mostly not. A hirsute Paul Rudd tries desperately not to make Ned into a blithering IDIOT, but therein lies the film's main problem... the main character's blatantly naive behavior is never justified in script or performance. The guy is a native New Yorker, after all! The film's tone shoots for warm and fuzzy (like Rudd) when it should be comic and zany, on the order of DUMB & DUMBER - but dumber. Without the right tone, the whole film seems idiotic, brother.
Snow Cake (2006)
sensitive and thoughtful film about a gentle ex-con (a sturdy but evenly tempered Alan Rickman) and his encounter with a high functioning woman with autism (Sigourney Weaver) in the Canadian suburbs. A bit contrived at points, but in the hands of these two the human drama shines through the contrivances. As always, for any actor playing someone with disabilities, it is hard to know whether Weaver's character is spot-on or over-played for the sake of camera. Remains more character/actor driven than involving for the audience, but still worth a watch. This film does not try to be more than what it is, which is a slice of 'life cake'.
The Help (2011)
Hard To Find
A truly wonderful film based in the pre-civil rights South. Impeccably filmed, written and acted. Features a stellar cast playing real, well-written characters and that imbues this narrative with passion, humor and generous dollops of Southern tear-inducing drama. Part "Driving Miss Daisy", part "The Color Purple" - this is possibly the best film of the year for me. Watch for the stage's first Miss Daisy, Dana Ivy in a cameo appearance very much like her role of Miss Millie, the mayor's wife ("Would you like to be my maid?", is her signature line in "The Color Purple". Here maids are still on her mind. The film is a great joy. And despite it all, I still crave chocolate pie.
Harry Potter and the Terribly Long Intermission
Loved the start of HP7II, but should have paid closer attention (or read the books) to truly appreciate the middle bit. Loved Maggie Smith stepping through the crowd to battle evil. Flanked by an all-star team of UK performers, most all of whom have at least one moment in a sea of appearances. The finale doesn't disappoint either. Didn't much care for the obligatory epilogue, but as it is from the book, Potterfiles would decry its exclusion. Shame that greed and length had to portion this film out in parts, as taken together they are remarkable; broken in two, slightly diminished in impact. Rather like taking a year long intermission at a wonderful play.