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Columbo: Old Fashioned Murder (1976)
I generally love "Columbo," but this is nowhere near the best. Joyce Van Patton is a prim and proper and old-fashioned villain, but she lacks excitement, and so does the show. No one wants to watch a boring villain. (I think of something Alfred Hitchcock once said: The better the villain, the better the movie.) There's an overall aura of blandness to the show. Celeste Holm and Jeannie Berlin add a bit of juice, but not much.
Also: I don't have a clue why the killer tries to pin the job on the particular person she does. And I could rattle off some plot holes that would qualify as "spoilers," so I won't.
"Columbo" fans will want to see it, but they'll likely be disappointed.
The Prince and the Pauper (1937)
I love "The Prince and the Pauper" and Billy and Bobby Mauch. When they laugh together, I can't help laughing, too.
I wanted to comment on their enunciation -- a charming idiosyncrasy.
They pronounce every "to" with unusual emphasis -- like Bette Davis, who was at Warner Brothers, too!
I was imagining -- sheer speculation -- that Bette Davis and the Mauch twins had the same vocal coach who encouraged them to over-articulate.
I also was amused when one of the twins pronounced his family "TU-TOR" instead of "Tudor."
Still --the movie is delightful.
Cry Wolf (1947)
Give "Cry Wolf" a try.
"Cry Wolf" isn't the greatest or the worst movie I've ever seen, but overall I enjoyed it. Despite what other viewers have said, I LIKED the ending. It was genuinely surprising, and when I thought it over, it all added up and was satisfying. I enjoyed Barbara Stanwyck's athletic performance -- especially when she pulled herself up and down a dumbwaiter! It was fun,too, to watch Errol Flynn play a sinister gentleman against type. In her debut film, Geraldine Brooks was awful but watchable doing a bad imitation of Ann Blyth in "Mildred Pierce." The talented Richard Basehart was awful, too -- but he later gave some classic performances, and it was fun to compare the difference. There are far worse ways to spend 83 minutes of your life, and I'm glad I watched this sleeper.
Our Town (2003)
A classic of a classic
I've seen and read "Our Town" so many times that I thought to myself, "Why bother with this one?" It turned out that this is by far the best version of "Our Town" I've ever seen. Paul Newman was a magnificent stage manager. Maggie Lacey and Ben Fox were superb as Emily and George; I doubt that anyone's ever played them better. The ending was so movingly staged and acted that I was reduced to a blubbering idiot with tears rolling down my face. This is as good as it gets for "Our Town," and at last I understand why it's a classic.
A Delicate Balance (1973)
Watching delicate paint dry.
I've seen the great Edward Albee play twice, and I've read it twice. This adaptation is agonizingly slow. The camera seems to be about 6 inches from the actors' faces, and I wanted to escape. I walked out of the theater after 45 minutes, before Lee Remick, Betsy Blair and Joseph Cotten showed up. See it at your own risk.
That Certain Woman (1937)
That certain abomination
First, I love Bette Davis. This movie is among the worst she ever made. Bette Davis wonderful at playing modern women, especially outspoken, bitchy or evil women. She showed little talent for playing mealy-mouthed, self-sacrificing women. I think most of her fans will be appalled by this film, especially by the ending, which will leave most modern audiences speechless. Thank God that the following year, Bette co-starred with Henry Fonda in a classic, "Jezebel," and got her career back on track.
We Were Soldiers (2002)
For fascists only
You'd think that after "The Deer Hunter," "Apocalypse Now," and "Platoon," Hollywood had outgrown Vietnam War movies such as "We Were Soldiers" -- which resembles John Wayne's "Green Berets" and other simplistic, warmongering movies.
"We Were Soldiers" shows a nearly all-white cast of soldiers who are the straightest group of patriots ever in a platoon; hardly anyone smokes, let along does drugs or questions authority.
Mel Gibson's heroic performance is preposterous. That this movie is based on a true story doesn't make him or it seem realistic. The women are overly made-up Barbie dolls. What a waste of the talent of Madeleine Stowe, who was so wonderful in "Short Cuts."
There's no hint that the war was one of greatest moral and political debacles in U.S. history. Instead, the mentality is "Let's kill more of the enemy."
The war scenes are predictably stirring, but the movie is one cliche after another. The movie is morally reprehensible and ludicrous. I give this movie one star. For fascists only.
Chelsea Walls (2001)
A small disappointment
This movie has all the makings of a good movie, and the cast is excellent. What a shame that, by the end, it adds up to very little. I wasn't bored, but I was curiously unmoved and uninvolved with the characters, who were undeveloped. Certain scenes have stayed in my mind several days later, and perhaps someday this movie will be rediscovered and proclaimed an underrated gem -- but I doubt it. I particularly liked Uma Thurman and Rosario Dawson.
An adventure in frustration
Pauline Kael and Dwight McDonald, two critics I respect, called this movie a masterpiece. I think it's merely boring after the first hour, and it's frustrating, too -- sort of a 1960 "Mulholland Drive." But it's WAY better than "Mulholland Drive." The movie looks gorgeous, its plot is intriguing for a while, it is set in fascinating locations, and it has a great musical score, but at 2 hours 25 minutes, it seems interminable after a while. Try it; you may like it, but I didn't.
The Old Maid (1939)
Not one of Bette's best
This is far from one of Bette's best -- she doesn't have much of a flair for mousiness, and she's best when she can let loose.
I'm always amused at how movie stars in the 1930s and 1940s aged in the movies. For the last half of the film, Bette is supposed to be portraying a woman who's about 45 years old. Her makeup makes her look about 80. It's fairly ridiculous.