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gripping but puzzling
I saw this movie years ago upon its initial release. I had a chance to see it again when TCM programmed it. I have to admit that I am as puzzled and ambivalent about it as when I first saw it, and I find myself unable to give it a rating.
First off, as many have mentioned, the production values are out of this world. The photography of the wilderness environment and the whitewater scenes is impressively stunning. The acting, too, is excellent, although one indeed can imagine the ambivalence Ned Beatty must have felt on accepting the part, considering what happens to him. And it is indeed compelling, gripping and very creepy. The viewer is sucked into the vortex as a weekend adventure turns slowly and inexorably into a nightmare.
My problem is with the film's meaning. Many issues are considered here - wilderness vs. civilization, rural vs. urban life, nature vs. technology, morality, justice, law. However I cannot see a clear viewpoint on any of these on the part of the author and the film maker. Maybe Dickey is proposing the fundamental bestiality of man, who knows? In my mind the most prescient words are when the taxi driver taking Ed to the lodge says "soon all of this will be under water. Best thing that ever happened to this town."
In any case, you shouldn't miss this compelling and disturbing movie.
Oliver Stone would be proud
As I watched this film I became confused. It seemed to be being played as the standard comedy lampooning rednecks. However, there were moments of genuine emotion that didn't fit in a comedy. I was going to categorize it as one those movies that can't make up its mind what it wants to be until I watched the final credits and learned that it was based on a true story! It didn't take too much online research to learn that the filmmakers, apparently led by director Linklater, had completely slanted the facts of the case for the purposes of the movie. Although no one disputes the fact that Bernie shot Mrs. Nugent in the back, the movie portrays him as a saintly do-gooder who killed in a moment of justifiable weakness. The Nugent family is devastated by Maclaine's caricaturish portrayal of Mrs. Nugent. D.A. Buck, who was fulfilling his legal duties, is portrayed as an overweening publicity hound. Nugent family members are portrayed as grasping ingrates. This is the sort of distortion and outright lying that Oliver Stone does so well. I also find it astounding that the filmmakers maintained the actual names of all the characters involved in this tawdry tale. Why there weren't multiple lawsuits I don't know. Other annoying things about the movie are the standard sneering and patronizing Hollywood attitude toward Christianity and small town southern life. All the townies are rubes and Christian belief is treated as a joke. Also, no one wants to see homosexuals pilloried, but the opposite tack - lampooning those who don't approve of homosexuality - is of a piece with the movie's prejudices. I would have given the movie low marks anyway for its ambivalence, but learning of the film's mendacity makes me urge avoidance - seeing it will only encourage them.
The Age of Adaline (2015)
a real stinker
This is quite possibly the stupidest movie I have seen in a long time, if not ever. It is also among the most tediously boring I have seen. I was attracted to it for two reasons: the plot premise - a woman who never ages - was rife with possibilities, and it had Harrison Ford, one of my favorites. As far as the possibilities of the plot premise, fuggedaboutit. We might have had some considerations of the meaning of mortality, but no. What we wind up with is a warmed over soap opera plot centering on mundane romantic issues. Vast stretches of the movie are taken up with vacuous and empty dialogue. I have never seen Blake Lively before and I certainly in future will avoid any movie starring her; her acting, as Dorothy Parker said, "runs the emotional gamut from A to B." Then we have the portentous voice-over explaining the Deus ex machina events that bookmark the story. As someone once said, if you need a voice-over, your script is inadequate. As far as those two "miraculous" events, we might have accepted the first one if there had been some serious content in the movie. As it is, with all the vapidity we have seen, the second "miraculous event" seems simply ridiculous. This is a pretentious and boring movie on which you should not waste your time. For a far superior - and riotously comedic - take on the issue of mortality, watch "Death Becomes Her." At least you'll have a few laughs, unlike this dog, which leaves you with nothing,
Black Sea (2014)
doesn't cut it
This movie looks like it's trying to be an aquatic version of Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in its attempt to show us the corrupting effects of greed. However, there's no way this effort comes close to edging out John Huston's masterpiece. Considered purely as an action flick it has its good points, but there are too many contrivances along the way that strain credibility. First off is the idea that a dozen of so guys, half of whom don't speak or read Russian, can commandeer a rusted out Russian sub and effortlessly operate it is dubious at best, And in a subsequent scene, the idea that three guys can enter a sunken sub, remove its "driveshaft" and bring it back to replace the damaged one in their own sub is just beyond the pale. "We may have to machine it a little," says one. Yeah, sure. The other annoyance is the repetitious interjection of the income inequality theme, i.e. the rich bosses always get theirs and screw us so now it's our turn. The usual quasi-Marxist claptrap. The action is pretty good, and it has to be said the the acting is OK, especially Jude Law's performance, but that's not enough to redeem the movie.
Home for the Holidays (1995)
This effort from director Jodie Foster is more disastrous than the family gathering it portrays. The premise - a Thanksgiving get together of a family which is 'dysfunctional' in all the clichéd Hollywood ways - holds ample opportunity for natural comedy, but in this movie every ounce of humor is contrived and forced. And half of it misses the mark because the characters involved are either so pitiful or so unpleasant that we feel no desire to laugh (laughter in the showing my wife and I saw was decidedly spare).
The movie goes on and on. My wife caught a much-needed nap in the middle; I thought my watch had broken. "Lawrence of Arabia", at four hours, passes faster than this dog at two.
Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning, Bancroft especially, put in heroic efforts and come closest to rising above the material (but not quite).
If you're looking for a funny movie about family get togethers, rent National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation". Yes, the humor in that movie is contrived, but it never pretends to be anything else, unlike Foster's effort which aspires toward 'realistic' humor and ends up being more contrived than the Griswold family.
An unquestioned flop.
Intolerable Cruelty (2003)
I have to put in a good word for this flick amongst all the negative comments contained here. I thought this was an excellent comedy with a very witty script and some bitingly incisive and off-beat humor (e.g. the decrepit head of Miles' law firm). I have not seen Clooney in a lot of things, but was impressed with his work in "A Beautiful Mind" and was therefore surprised to find how effective he was in this comic role. Actors that can do both comedy and drama well are a rarity. Catherine Zeta-Jones was okay, but who's looking at her acting? The comic interplay between the gold digger and the pick-the-bones-clean divorce lawyer was wonderful.
My only criticism was the closing. The comic romp ended rather abruptly and unconvincingly. Then again, we don't expect realism in a film such as this, and the weak finish is a small price to pay for the comic romp that precedes it.
The Professionals (1966)
classic popcorn burner
An excellent flick for the escapist with an IQ above 70. You can't imagine a better cast - Lancaster, Marvin, Ryan, Strode Bellamy, Palance. The cinematography of the western vistas is absolutely stunning, shot in the sadly extinct Technicolor process. The score is by perhaps the greatest film composer of the 20th century, Maurice Jarre (who scored Lawrence of Arabia, The Train, Dr. Zhivago, Witness, among so many others). The script is extremely intelligent and skillfully develops the interplay between the characters and their various backgrounds. But there are lots of explosions and shoot-em-ups along the way, as well as plenty of plot surprises. An intelligent and enjoyable way to burn 2 hours of your leisure time.
Wild Horses (2015)
What a disappointment this movie is, on so many levels. Even though the story line carries through from beginning to end, the transitions between scenes are so disjointed that we are never sure of just what is happening at any moment. As far as Luciana Pedraza, I'm sure that, as his wife, Duvall loves her very much. However this does not change the fact that she cannot act worth a damn, and forget what viewers have said about her flat and colorless performance being "in character." As far as Duvall himself, the glory days of Godfather, Wrestling Ernest Hemingway (his finest effort), True Confessions and so many others appear to be over. He seems to have become content settling into playing the same crotchety old redneck with the same mannerisms over and over, as in Get Low, Jayne Mansfield's Car, A Night in Old Mexico and The Judge (though the latter is rather a good flick). The story itself is clearly supposed to be a moving one about tragic self-awareness, but the emotionless execution left me very dry-eyed. There is some beautiful cinematography of the midwestern vistas, but that's not enough to redeem the movie. Don't waste your time.
top-notch / first-rate / outstanding
What a great piece of film making. Some critics have called Gypsy the greatest musical ever produced, and I think I see why they say so. I've never seen a staged performance so I can't compare, but I don't see how this movie version could be any better than it is. Everything is at the highest level - casting, script, acting, direction, cinematography. The story is gripping, as one watches how a driven, obsessed, controlling woman warps the lives of those around her. Evidently Ethel Merman was furious that Russell was chosen for the part Merman created on Broadway, but Russell's performance is powerful. Karl Malden is just great as poor Herbie. Natalie Wood is flawless as Jean. The moment near the end when she looks at herself in the mirror before going onstage for her stripping debut, and suddenly recognizes her own femininity ("I'm a pretty girl, mama") is heartbreaking. The script never lets up on the dramatic tension, and the cinematography - in beautiful, extinct Technicolor - is a feast for the eyes. Evidently Russell couldn't sing and had to be dubbed. I've heard that Merman kept the outtakes of Russell's singing as a vicious memento (I'd kill to hear them). At any rate this is one of the all time greats, not to be missed.
Night and the City (1950)
I was looking for something to watch and grabbed this one from my shelves (I had recorded it years ago). I had only vague recollections of it from my previous viewing, but was spellbound this time, and am mystified why my first viewing had left me so noncommittal. This is truly a superb movie and a classic example of noir at its finest. The story line is taught and gripping. The cinematography, especially the lighting design, is the best of what noir has to offer. The script is excellent, with no wasted words and no excesses. Richard Widmark's performance is a reminder of what a truly great actor he was. Francis Sullivan's Nosseros is superb, and Gene Tierney and Hugh Marlowe put in good turns. Not seen too often, and if you get chance to see it, go for it.