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Lady Luck (1946)
cute, 16 April 2014
6/10

Two actors who went on to make names for themselves in television, Robert Young and Barbara Hale, star in "Lady Luck," a 1946 film with a cast that includes Frank Morgan, Lloyd Corrigan, and James Gleason.

Hale is Mary Audrey, who comes from a long line of gamblers and hates the pastime. When she meets and falls in love with gambler Larry Scott (Young), he swears off gambling in order to win her. The two marry and go to a hotel in...Las Vegas.

While Mary is off buying a negligee for her wedding night, Larry wanders into the casino, gives a gambler wrong advice, and the man loses his money. Larry becomes determined to win it back for him. Mary sees him in the casino and is devastated. She's so devastated that when she meets an attorney at the hotel, she files for divorce and gets another room in the hotel.

This is a pleasant comedy with two affable stars and a fine roster of character actors. Young of course was a television star par excellence, with both Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby during his 60-year career, and Barbara Hale spent the most memorable part of her career as Perry Mason's secretary Della Street in the Perry Mason series. At 92, she's still with us.

Two charming actors in a a pleasant film.

lots of hate for this, 16 April 2014
7/10

I admit I'm not familiar with the story of Spider-Man or the Spider-Man genre. Part of Spider-Man 3 filmed here, and it is amazing how many hundreds and hundreds of people are involved in filming a scene, and we did see how car crashes were accomplished.

That aside, I wasn't aware that there were two Spider-Man franchises, Spider-Man and the Amazing Spider-Man. It seems that The Amazing Spider-Man is loathed by people on this board.

Andrew Garfield stars here as Peter Parker. He's a quiet kid, not a nerd, just a shy kid with a crush on Gwen (Emma Stone), but one who goes about his business. His aunt and uncle are played by Sally Field and Martin Sheen, both excellent. Peter's father (Campbell Scott) and mother leave the boy with the relatives while they disappear. We don't really know what happened to them, despite a newspaper story that says they were killed in a plane crash.

Peter is remarkably intelligent and, after finding his father's old research notes, meets his father's ex-partner, Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans). While nosing around Dr. Connors' lab, Peter becomes Spider-Man when he's bitten by a spider and turns his powers to vigilantism. While experimenting on himself, Dr. Connors goes a bit overboard and turns into a supermutant Lizard. He starts terrorizing New York. It's only a matter of time before Spider-Man and Connors meet.

I guess one franchise, comic books, and a Broadway show aren't enough for Spideyd -- there has to be a second franchise as well. The effects are fantastic, as one would expect, and the cast is good. Besides those mentioned above, Dennis Leary is on hand as the police chief and Gwen's father.

For what it was, it was entertaining. I'd be interested to see some of the Spider-Man franchise to compare the two.

Mildred and her grease, 9 April 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Classic film fans know well the 1945 "Mildred Pierce" that won an Oscar for its star, Joan Crawford, providing her the comeback vehicle after being fired by MGM.

Due to censorship restrictions, the film's story deviated somewhat from the book and, because Crawford was the star, the focus was kept on her, rather than enlarging the story to include Veda's career. Also, several of the characters were combined or omitted.

This version, starring Kate Winslet, Guy Pearce, Melissa Leo, Mare Winningham, Brian O'Byrne, and Evan Rachel Ward sticks to the James Cain novel, with dialogue actually lifted from it.

The five-part drama still tells the story of Mildred and her obsession with her class-conscious, cold, spoiled, brat daughter Veda and the destruction this obsession costs the hard-working Mildred.

As is usual with HBO, the production values are fantastic, perfect in setting the atmosphere of the '40s and the mood of the story. The top-notch acting adds to it, and while there may not have been enough story for the time allotted, it's still excellent, particularly if you have read the novel and/or seen the film.

I can't imagine two actresses more different from one another than Kate Winslet and Joan Crawford, and the differences are highlighted here to interesting effect. Crawford played Mildred as strong yet vulnerable; it's an overt performance, as were all of her performances. Her Mildred lets Veda and Monty get away with taking advantage of her. Winslet's Mildred is more insecure, and her strength is inner in that she's a survivor. Her Mildred doesn't seem to realize that Veda and Monty are taking her for a ride, and she comes off like a sap. A sympathetic sap, but a sap nonetheless. In a way, it makes her reaction (taken from the book) when she does realize it all the more powerful.

Guy Pearce sounds like Zachary Scott in the film, and he's marvelous with just the right touch of sleaze. As Bert, Mildred's ex-husband, Brian O'Byrne, who was the star of Doubt on Broadway, is excellent. Both Evan Rachel Wood and Morgan Turner (Veda as a child) were wonderful showing Veda's detached, frosty personality. It was episode 3 before I realized that Ida was played the remarkable Mare Winningham, who brightens every film she does. Melissa Leo was wasted as Lucy, but good nonetheless. And a special nod to Leslie Lyles, who played the woman in the employment office - she was a perfect '40s character.

The rest of this review is for people interested in the singing in the film.

Since James Cain was an aspiring opera singer at one time and the son of an opera singer, opera sometimes enters into his stories, as it does here. Some of the operatic selections for Veda here fit the story, particularly Der Holle Rache (mother-daughter), the Bell Song (luring men with one's voice), and the Casta Diva from Norma. As in the book, she's a coloratura soprano, which her teacher tells Mildred is rare. Not really. The rarest voices in opera are the bass, the heldentenor, and true dramatic sopranos and true dramatic mezzos. I say "true" because often their roles are sung by spintos or even big lyrics.

In the book, Veda has an odd repertoire which includes La Mamma Morta, a lyric spinto or dramatic soprano aria -- chosen because it fits Veda's feelings and personality. For instance, the aria contains the line "Porto sventura a chi bene mi vuole! (Evil to those who love me well!) Truer words were never sung. In her concert at the Hollywood Bowl, she sings from Barber of Seville, today sung by a mezzo, but probably back then, a coloratura, and her radio aria is Je Suis Titania, also a coloratura aria.

The vocal experts for the 2011 version did not want Veda singing Casta Diva since it is an incorrect choice for a) a young singer and b) her voice, but due to the fact that it's about a love triangle, it was chosen. Sumi Jo, whose recordings dubbed Turner, obviously had never sung Casta Diva, so a recording by Edita Guberova was used instead.

Evan Rachel Wood was criticized for lacking correct expression and being too concerned with the lip-synching. I'd like to see the person who made that comment lip synch in Italian and German.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
excellent story of Atlantic City during prohibition, 8 April 2014
8/10

"Boardwalk Empire" is an exquisitely produced HBO series starring Steve Buscemi, Kelly Macdonald, Michael Shannon, Shea Whigham, Michael Stuhlberg, Steven Graham, Gretchen Mol, Michael Pitt, and Jack Huston.

The series takes us back to the old days of Atlantic City, immaculately and lavishly recreated. Most interesting to me were the incubator stores, which I had to look up. Indeed, there were actual storefronts were one could see babies in incubators.

Steve Buscemi is Nucky Thompson, a major politician/bootlegger whose brother Eli (Whigham) is the sheriff. Nucky's protégé is a young man who's just returned from the war, Jimmy Darmody (Pitt), who brings with him Richard (Huston), who's had half of his face blown off and wears the equivalent of a Phantom of the Opera mask on one side of his face.

Darmody starts out in the business meeting a young Al Capone (Graham) who then is a driver. Gradually we meet all the big players in Prohibition, some real, some not: Meyer Lansky, Lucky Luciano, Arnold Rothstein, and the fictional Gyp Rosetti; along with personalities of the day, including Eddie Cantor (Stephen DeRosa) and Jack Dempsey (Devin Harjes). The mix between real and fictional is seamless.

I have a few problems with this show. The first one is that HBO likes to fill in time with graphic sex which includes frontal nudity from only the women, of course. I'm sure I sound like a big prude. It's not that I mind it (though I prefer romance with sex), but it's too much. There's also a scene of incest that you can see coming from a mile away, and the ubiquitous lesbian scenes. Why the lesbian scenes and female frontal nudity? Easy. This is produced and written by men pandering to the male viewers.

The violence is extremely graphic which is sickening, but it goes with the story. The swearing isn't as much as I've heard. However, it's incorrect for the time period. Gangsters, even today, pride themselves on having class - I've heard thugs with the open shirts and the malocchia necklaces talking about how classy they are. Swearing back then was a sign of low class.

All but a couple of the characters are particularly likable, so it's hard to relate to anyone. One can pity Capone and his deaf son, Richard's half face and loneliness, and appreciate that Nucky mourns his dead wife and adores his stepchildren. But the bottom line is, they're all cold-blooded killers. Like Tony in The Sopranos, Nucky gets meaner as he goes along, too. Buscemi is giving a bravura performance.

The cast, as you might expect, is mainly men, but there are some marvelous women. The lovely Kelly MacDonald is Margaret Schroeder, a young woman being abused by her husband in the first episodes; she becomes a major character. Gretchen Mol plays Jimmy's young mother, and the beautiful Aleksa Palladino plays Jimmy's wife Angela, one of the few sympathetic characters.

All in all, Boardwalk Empire is a magnificent undertaking, with wonderful acting and the feeling and atmosphere of the period. It has slow sections like any series, as well as incredible action. If you can put up with the nudity, the sex, the violence, and the language, you'll enjoy it.

not good, 7 April 2014
5/10

Halle Berry stars with Bruce Willis and Giovanni Ribisi in "Perfect Stranger," a 2007 film directed by James Foley.

Berry plays Rowena Price, a writer who goes by the name of David Shane and finds salacious stories for her newspaper. When a particularly hot story is quashed by her boss, she quits. On her way home, she runs into a childhood friend, Grace (Nicki Aycox), whom she's not too happy to see. Grace gives her a bunch of emails from Harrison Hill, a famous, powerful ad executive, married to money. Grace has been in a chat room with him; they finally met and had a hot time together. Grace takes the emails but seems annoyed by the whole encounter.

When Grace winds up dead, Rowena gets a temp job in Hill's office and, with the help of a friend from her old job, Miles (Ribisi), she starts investigating Hill, whom she believes killed Grace.

Other than the fact that Berry is a knockout, one would walk away from this film asking how she won an Oscar and who wrote and directed this thing. The script is all over the place (for good reason - it turns out there were three different endings) and it's badly directed. For some reason, it also has a cheap feel to it.

Kathleen Chalfont plays Grace's mother - she's a well respected, brilliant stage actress who has about one minute of screen time, and it was fun to see Patti D'Arbanville again as someone who works for Hill.

Bruce Willis and Berry exhibited no real chemistry. Willis in this film is 52; Berry is around 41 but could pass for early thirties. She seems a little young for him.

We really don't get to know much about these characters -- we pick up pieces of Rowena's past, but we don't learn enough about anyone else to make us care. Actually we don't really care all that much about Rowena except to see her next outfit.

Disappointing. Given the talent involved, this should have been better.

Dial 1119 (1950)
the one about the emotionally disturbed hostage-taker, 3 April 2014
6/10

It's 1950, and familiar TV faces abound in "Dial 1119": Marshall Thompson (Daktari), Sam Levene, Keefe Brasselle, William Conrad and Virginia Field. Thompson plays Gunther Wyckoff, a deeply disturbed man who, after shooting a bus driver with his own gun, walks into a bar and takes the patrons hostage.

The police have to figure out how to capture Wyckoff and free the hostages without any other people getting hurt. They send in the doctor (Levene) whose testimony saved his life during a murder trial three years earlier.

It's post-war, so there's some psychoanalyzing of Wyckoff along the way.

The bar has a giant television, which is great to see, and the bartender controls it from what looks like a radio below. The block of Terminal City where the bar is located is an obvious set, but somehow, it sets the just the right atmosphere.

Virginia Field plays one of the bar patrons, Freddy, and she's unrecognizable as the ingénue from Fox films such as "Lloyds of London," and the Mr. Moto and Charlie Chan films. With the exception of Levene, the original Nathan Detroit in "Guys and Dolls," who continued doing film, most of the other actors enjoyed good careers in television.

Pretty good.

"Chancer" (1990)
Clive Owen, 1 April 2014
7/10

For me, and some others, all you need to see in a cast is the name Clive Owen and you're sold. That being the case, I rented "Chancer" from Netflix.

It's my understanding that this series was a hit but that Owen left it when he hit the big time.

Owen plays a young man who loses his job due to insider trading and turns to using his skills to help out an ailing company. He becomes involved with the family, their business associates, and ultimately it affects his personal life and decisions he makes.

One problem I had with this is -- everyone raves about the music. The music is great except if you watch it the way I did, which is a bunch of episodes at a time. You get so sick of that piano theme you're ready to vomit. It's played every two seconds.

Owen is fabulous, very young here (26), and he's everything - romantic, cagey, duplicitous, heroic, a heel, a con man, capable of love and tears. And did I mention he's gorgeous.

He's surrounded by an unbelievable cast, which includes Leslie Phillips, Peter Vaughan, Susannah Harker, Louise Lombard, Simon Shepherd, Michael Kitchen, and Caroline Langrishe.

Very moody series, dark, with an '80s feels to it. Someone who saw it 20 years ago stated it's probably very dated now. Not really. There are still greedy bankers, failing businesses, and wheeler-dealers. And thankfully, there's still Clive Owen.

The Lineup (1958)
narcotics, Wait Until Dark style, 31 March 2014
6/10

Don Siegel was a fine director, and here he has made a film based on a TV show, The Lineup, which ran on CBS for six years, and using its stars, Warner Anderson and Marshall Reed as Lt. Ben Guthrie and Inspector Fred Ascher. The show was similar to "Dragnet," meaning that it had a lot of police procedural work, which Siegel didn't want in the film. He lost that argument with Colombia.

Robert Keith and Eli Wallach are gangsters employed to retrieve narcotics that are hidden in items coming into the country -- unknown to the people who actually purchased them. This means either finessing the items from them on some excuse, breaking into their homes, or whatever needed to be done. The Wallach character elects to kill as he goes. When he gets to a woman (Mary LaRoche) and her daughter, the heroin is is supposed to be inside a doll, except it isn't. Now they have to tell the big boss what happened.

If you're from San Francisco, this is the film for you, as it uses San Francisco locations circa 1958, which you will find fascinating. The city gives the film a great atmosphere, too.

Pretty good film noir, with a dramatic, wild ending.

an exhausting ride through a snake pit, 30 March 2014
5/10

I admire Sam Fuller, a real rogue director who wasn't afraid to tackle tough subjects. However, Shock Corridor, as loud, frenzied, and crazy as it was, just didn't hold my interest.

This is a low-budget film and certainly not one of Fuller's best efforts. Johnny is played by Peter Breck, better known for his work on television. He plays a newspaper reporter who wants to win a Pulitzer by going undercover in an insane asylum and solving a murder. He convinces his girlfriend (Constance Towers, a Fuller favorite) to help him be committed by saying that she's his sister and that he tried to rape her.

It seems that people run rampant in this asylum, unmedicated, hallucinating, beating each other up, and it all serves to unnerve Johnny and, as time goes on, he has trouble separating his own sanity from their insanity. To tell you the truth, I was practically crazy by the time this was over.

Breck does a good job, and Towers gets to show off a gorgeous figure in a showgirl outfit - in fact, today, 50 years later, she's still beautiful with a gorgeous figure.

I can't say I found it disturbing because I found it hard to relate to Johnny or the other characters, or get too involved in the story, which was pretty thin. Sam Fuller wasn't afraid to experiment, and I give him credit for that. It's just that sometimes, experiments fail.

5 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
disappointing, 29 March 2014
4/10

I asked IMDb to show male versus female reviewers, and it seemed, though I can't say I studied it with a magnifying glass, it seemed to me that men in general liked this film and women hated it.

I'm a woman, and I hated it.

Here's why. It's too long. I don't think packing a film full of nudity, sex, and foul language make a film important. Let me say right up front, I don't have a problem with any of it in a film, but to me, this film wasn't much else. And if I can be blunt, Martin Scorsese's presence doesn't make a film important either. He has done some films that are magnificent and some that leave me cold. This leaves me cold.

Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the finest actors of his generation, and I love him in everything, including in this as Jordan Belfort, a high living stock broker and con artist. He gives a fabulous performance. All the performances are good, and the cast is top notch. It includes Matthew McConaughey, Jonah Hill, Rob Reiner, Kyle Chandler, and Joanna Lumley, to name a few.

I loved a few things in this movie, though it did not hold my interest for three hours. The scenes trying to get the money into Switzerland were priceless, the infomercial was fabulous, the scene in the boat during the bad weather, fantastic. Scorsese builds a lot of humor into this and views the chicanery of these jerks through a lens where they look like buffoons.

This is based on a true story, so Jordan Belfort keeps on making money. Guess he has the Midas touch, and he can count Scorsese as his latest con.


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