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On the Town (1949)
a disgrace to the memory of Leonard Berrnstein
Regardless of the estimable performances of the leads here, and irrespective of the virtues of the film on its own merits, I have to pan this movie as a total misrepresentation of the musical of the same name written by Adolph Green and Betty Comden, with music by Leonard Bernstein. It's probably true that whoever bought the rights for the movie version bought the right to alter it (i.e., butcher it) for the screen. Anyone who has had the good fortune to see the recent brilliant Broadway revival of the original show knows that the screen version has little to do with the original, except the bones of the story line. Very little of Bernstein's original score makes it to celluloid, doubtless because the producers in their wisdom thought the complexity and originality of Bernstein's score too much for the average moviegoer. What little remains of the original music was abbreviated and watered down. Evidently Bernstein resented Comden's and Green's participation in the movie production, which is odd because evidently he served as a consultant as well. If you see this flick, whether you enjoy it or not, just know you are not seeing "On The Town."
Rio Lobo (1970)
I'm as big of a John Wayne fan as anyone but this has to be one of the worst films I have ever seen in which he starred. I have seen conflicting information in this space about what Hawks thought about his last effort, but it's difficult to believe that the same man who directed The Big Sleep, His Girl Friday, To Have and Have Not, Twentieth Century and Red River turned out this dog. The main problem is the level of the acting. Wayne turns in the only decent performance in the film. The quality of each and every one of the supporting cast is universally abysmal, excepting David Huddleston. Not only that the plot line seems to get bogged down about halfway through. The script is pretty tacky as well. I managed to get about halfway through before I couldn't take anymore.
a mixed bag
"Niagara" is truly problematic film, with many pros and cons.
First the pros. The cinematography is truly spectacular. The falls themselves are really the star of the movie, which looks like it was subsidized by the Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce. The plot is an intriguing one - wife and lover plot to kill wife's husband, who winds up killing the lover instead. Joseph Cotten's presence benefits any movie he stars in. Many of the scenes are shot with a compositional style reminiscent of Hitchcock.
Then the cons. Max Showalter, as other users have said, has got to be one of the most irritating screen presences ever. He simply cannot act, and that phony plastic smile makes you grit your teeth. Monroe is nothing to write home about either; she was never a good actress, except in cartoonish farces like "Some Like it Hot." Then are the plot turns that defy believability. Toward the start Cotten's character barges into a noisy party, grabs a record off a phonograph, cuts his hand in breaking it, and then storms off. Jean Peter's character goes for a first aid kit and follows him into his room to tend to his hand. Would anyone in their right mind follow someone into his room after such a display of uncontrollable violence? So it's a mixed bag. Worth a see despite its shortcomings.
Mr. Turner (2014)
I really loved Mike Leigh's "Topsy Turvy." In regard to that movie, I am an avid Gilbert and Sullivan fan, so Leigh's exposition of how both Gilbert and Sullivan worked together creatively was to me both instructive and enjoyable. In addition, his evocation of Victorian London in that movie is fascinatingly evocative ("The Great Train Robbery," to my mind is the only other movie that comes close in this regard). Therefore I had high expectations for "Mr.Turner," Leigh's treatment of a painter I admire. Those expectations were dashed. I cannot understand the critical acclaim that greeted this movie. I learned nothing about Turner's creative process. I read somewhere that Timothy Spall spent a year learning how to paint in preparation for this role. He should not have wasted his time, as nothing instructive about Turner's creativity comes through here. As far as the script, as others have commented Turner's endless grunting becomes not just tiresome but annoying. The sex scene with his maid is gratuitous and revolting. There is no discernible plot line, as the action jumps forward disconnectedly for what seems an eternity. Watching this I don't feel I learned anything about Turner. After "Topsy Turvy," this dog is a huge letdown.
Red Corner (1997)
This is a really, really outstanding movie, and I am surprised that I had never heard of it. I stumbled across it on cable, and having an interest in modern day China, watched it on my DVR. The movie works on many levels - as an action movie, as an excellent portrayal of the Chinese court system, and as the story of a relationship between two individuals disparate in race and culture. I count Richard Gere as a fine actor, and knowing his work on behalf of the oppressed Tibetans, I am not surprised that he would be eager to be part of a movie that exposes the injustices of the Chinese "justice" system. It also shows well the corruption of the Chinese bureaucracy, and the backroom dealings foreign businessmen must engage in to get a foothold in the country. The portrayals of the sufferings of Gere's character while incarcerated are chilling, and to my knowledge accurate The action sequences are well done. The inevitable parting at the end of the 2 central characters ranks right up there with Casablanca and Witness. My only quibble is with some of the proceedings in the climax of the People's Court trail, proceedings which are hard to imagine actually happening. However, they do serve to move the story along. I would call this flick a sleeper.
Assignment to Kill (1968)
I have to be the skunk at the garden party here. I disagree with the consensus that this is an "overlooked gem" of any kind. The movie is simply interminable, with a rambling, labyrinthine plot line that never quite sorts itself out. When it ends there is a general feeling of "just what the hell was that all about?" There is a plethora of endless, leaden dialogue, especially between O'Neal's and Hackett's characters. There is also surprisingly little real action, and the climactic fight scene between Cutting (O'Neal) and The Big Man (Leon Greene) is simply ridiculous. The only good things about the movie are the wonderful old Technicolor cinematography, and the Swiss scenery. Acting-wise, O'Neal is OK (that voice!) but Joan Hackett's Dominique is annoyingly cutesy/cool. Peter vanEyck's appearance is all too brief. Herbert Lom carries his usual aura of suavely subtle danger, and Oscar Homulka is always fun to watch. The only reason I watched it is that I desperately needed to fill a couple of empty hours. You probably have better things to do.
The Great Bank Hoax (1978)
not top-notch, but worth watching
This is by no means a comedy on the level of "The Ladykillers," "Young Frankenstein," or "The Odd Couple," but it definitely has its charms. It is true that, as other viewers have said, it unwinds at a pace that could kindly be called "relaxed" but I find that one of its charms. It is enjoyable to see how, ever so gradually, the characters start digging their holes deeper and deeper. Interest is also maintained by the continual revelation of new interrelationships between the characters, until one is never quite sure who is hoodwinking who. Another plus is the fine cast, of which Burgess Meredith is the standout. His portrayal of the crustily beguiling Stutz almost carries the movie. Basehart plays against type as a highly nervous milquetoast type, and Ned Beatty is good as the befuddled controller. Arthur Godfrey's minimal contribution was purely for the marquee. The movie is also blessed with the presence of two highly delectable female leads whose pulchritude is generously displayed. Finally, the production values are excellent, especially regarding color (they don't use techniques like this anymore because of the expense), and the movie is a joy to watch.
What a wonderful movie!!!! They simply don't make them like this anymore. Start with the most mundane matters, the production values. The glorious wide screen aspect ratio is a delight, as is the wonderful Technicolor process, which gives us a vividness that is sorely lacking from movies nowadays. The great Alfred Newman wrote the score. Then consider the acting - first rate on all fronts. Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergmann play beautifully off each other, and Akim Tamiroff shines in the type of role he excelled in, the sweaty, seedy, slightly comic con artist. Martita Hunt is wonderful as the slightly loony lady in waiting. Helen Hayes is off the charts as the Empress Dowager, in what was evidently a comeback role for her. To watch her display her ambivalent emotions as she deals with what could be her long-lost granddaughter are a revelation. Finally, the script; it impishly refuses to engage the central question - was Anna Anderson really Anastasia, or an impostor? By the end, the question doesn't seem to matter, so beautifully has the script dealt with things like lost hopes, wishful thinking, doubt, deceit, treachery, nostalgia for a lost world, romance, and amnesia. Don't miss this great story, beautifully told in a lavish production.
Meet the Applegates (1990)
a real gem
This flick is not available on Netflix nor on Amazon streaming, and I don't know why, because it is truly hilarious. The negative comments here are incomprehensible to me. The comic premise of giant bugs disguising themselves as humans is no more difficult to accept here than it was in "Men in Black," except this is a much better movie. The predictable left wing environmental theme is here, but is by no means overpowering enough to detract from the riotously funny look at middle class suburban life, with all its pretensions, facades, commercialism, and sexual foibles that this movie supplies. All the cast do their jobs wonderfully, Stockard Channing and Ed Begley Jr. in particular. Dabney Coleman does a great job in what could be called a cameo role. The script is just wonderful. I was able to catch this on one of the cable channels and I'm glad I was able to do so. It provided a wonderful hour and a half of comedic entertainment.
A Bullet for Joey (1955)
this is NOT film noir
I was drawn to this one, as many viewers were, by the presence of the great Edward G. Robinson and the legendary George Raft. However, not even their presence can salvage this stinker.
First off, one thing must be made clear: there seems to be, in reviews of this flick, the idea that any crime drama in black & white is "film noir," a phrase which is widely overused. This movie follows none of the conventions of film noir and cannot be called noir by any stretch of the imagination. Actually it seems to have the appearance of a made-for-TV drama.
Secondly, the script is simply atrocious. It is loaded with so many clichés, overripe formulations and contrived dialogue that it feels like it was written by Ed Wood. A leaden phrase like "Women are what make life a pleasure for men," comes to mind. What a howler!
Thirdly, anyone with any knowledge of espionage knows that, historically, neither the Nazis nor the Communists employed elements of the criminal underworld; such cannot be relied on.
Fourthly, this is as great an assemblage of lousy actors as I have ever seen in one flick. The level of acting is simply terrible, and that includes Robinson, who, as noted elsewhere here, phones in his performance. This is probably to be expected, with such a lousy script. Why he signed on to this effort is beyond me; he must have needed the money badly. And this flick also shows that Raft, despite his reputation, was no great actor. Audrey Totter is a familiar face, but she's nothing to write home about either.
Lastly, the concluding scene aboard the ship is so contrived, patched together and full of improbabilities as to defy belief.
To summarize in two words, skip it.