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Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
Hutton Gets Her Gun
We all are aware by now that Judy Garland was to star in the film and that she was replaced by Hutton after several days shooting. As great a musical star as Garland was, this may have been a good thing. Betty Hutton shines in the title role..brassy,emotional and full of life.
Howard Keel,fresh from his London success in "Oklahoma" is sheer perfection as Frank Butler, stealing scenes with such numbers as "My Defenses are Down" and "The Girl That I Marry".Benay Venuta also gets her share of scene stealing as Frank's flamboyant assistant Dolly Tate, and Keenan Wynn has just the right amount of huckster in him to make Charlie Davenort memorable.J. Carrol Nash as Sitting Bull has some of the films funniest moments, and Louis Calhern, stepping in for the late Frank Morgan, handles Buffalo Bill Cody with the skill of a great character actor.
other musical highlights are "Doing What Comes Naturally" belted with gusto by Hutton, "Col. Buffalo Bill" smartly sung by Wynn,Venuta & Keel, and the famous "No Business Like Show Business" featuring Wynn,Calhern & Keel.
This is truly one of the best stage to screen adaptations to come along.
Dorian Gray (2009)
An Edgy & ,New Dorian Gray
As an aficionado of Oscar Wilde, I approach each new adaptation of his work openly but cynically. I encountered a pleasant surprise when watching this film. Although it strays from the novel,as most versions do, the changes worked.The less veiled relationship between Dorian and Basil played nicely, as did the shades of humanity given to Lord Henry in the final half hour of the film.
I wasn't sure at first of the addition of a daughter for lord Henry worked or not. (The addition of a niece for Basil in the MGM film didn't hurt the story any but also added nothing), but in Te end having Lord Henry's open-minded and rebellious daughter fall for Dorina creates an extra layer of moral dilemma.
The film is captured brilliantly in it design and cinematography. the shadows and color greatly enhance the mood.
The performances are mostly excellent.Colin Firth gives a well rounded portrayal of Lord Henry, equally cynical,charming and careless..as mentioned before..Firth is allowed to show a more human side of Henry as well, a jealousy and a realization of his own hypocrisy, something denied the other screen Henrys. Firth is in my opinion one of the greatest and most versatile actors working today.
Ben Barnes gives an electric performance as Dorian,with facial features resembling Hurd Hatfield, the Dorina of the MGM version, his young aesthete is more dangerous and even more selfish that other portrayers of the role. equally, Ben Chaplin is a real and tortured Basil Hallward. Fiona Shaw's AUnt Agatha adds class and charm to the piece as does Emilia Fox's all too brief portrayal of Lady Wooten.
This is an under rated film, that taken as a whole is a wonderful experience.
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
Personally I prefer this film to the original. "Conan The Barbarian' was slow moving and,while James Earl Jones was excellent, Schwarzenegger was blatantly atrocious. Surrounded by the talent in this film you don't notice how bad he is as often.
High marks are scored by Olivia D'Abo as the impudent Princess Jehnna, Sarah Douglas as the sexy,evil queen, and Mako in a comic turn as the Wizard and the stories narrator. Add Tracy Walters and you have a fine supporting cast.Grace Jones and WIolt Chamberlain add nothing to the film except a bit of visual diversity, Jones sneers a lot and Wilt just isn't much of an actor,although he comes off better than Schwarzenegger.
The plot is nothing to speak of. Its been done before, but its fun,colorful and its not a bad way to pass 2 hours of your time.
The Kiss (1914)
fascinating look at WDT
The film itself is nothing special. a standard one reel melodrama of its time, running around 10- minutes in length.
The fascinating part of this motion picture however is the fact that its the only film in which I have been able to find a performance by the famous director William Desmond Taylor. I have been fascinated by the Taylor murder for many years and understood that all of his on screen films were considered lost. When this film showed up on You Tube however I was more than thrilled.
Taylor was indeed a charming and handsome man judging by his performance in this film.tall, suave and able to move well and use his face to show his charm.
Over all its a fascinating piece of history that should really be remastered just for the sake of it being the only known live action footage of Taylor.
Choose your weapons..red or white!
Brilliant direction from stage legend James Lapine highlights this delightful comedy of manners based on the romance of Chghopin and Sand.
The cast is all together perfect. Judy Davis, sexy,strong and dynamic as Sand, Hugh Grant very low key and real as Chopin, JUlian Sands, arrogant and proud as Franz Lizt, the always wonderful Bernadette Peters, charming and duplicitous as his mistress.
special mention must be made to Mandy Patinkin's scene stealing role of Alfred DeMussett. although on screen for probably no more than a half an hour total, Patinkin manages to steal the film as the cynical,alcoholic poet. Emma Thompson and the late Anton Rodgers provide delightful support as the Duke and Dutchess who invite the artists for the weekend and wind up the but of their jokes.
all in all 'Impromptu" is a real treat.
Arthur: King of the Britons (2002)
A Fascinating Documentary
The roots of Arthurian Legend are brilliantly explored in this documentary hosted by the late,great Richard Harris. Although Professional and Amateur Arthur Historians may find it a bit too short,it still presents the facts and possibilities in a thorough fashion. Historian Geoffrey Ashe is interviewed about the legend and the historical events that inspired it,while Harris (who played Arthur on stage and screen) narrates on location from some of the most beautiful sites in England's history.
The Black Hole (1979)
A Near Miss...But Full of Possibilities
I remember "The Black Hole" from my childhood very fondly,so when the Anniversary edition came out..I rushed to buy it. The nostalgia came rushing back in floods,however as an adult i noticed the flaws. Strong characters that were not developed further,a promising dark plot that did not go dark enough and a morality tale that could have had such possibilites. I recently re read the novelization by ALan Dean Foster and he was able to fill in many of the holes that Disney left open. I still enjoy the film but wish someone could remake this tale now.As far as the performances go, Anthony Perkins as Alex Durant,the leader of the expedition has a quite calm about him..his performance is one of the films best..balancing his quest for science and his boy like worship of Hans Reinhardt.Perkins was always perfecty at playing sympathetically, a flawed doomed character. Maximillian Schell as the deluded genius Hans Reinhardt plays the role close to the cuff...never overacting but adding just enough adreniline to fine tune his mad scientist and mark him as an unbalanced danger. The usually fine Erenest borgnine is miscast here...but to be fair the reporter role is the character that is most need of a rewrite. an ivestigativer reporter would never be such a coward. Bland performances are delivered by the wooden Robert Forester and Joseph Bottoms..and Yvette Mimuex's Kate Macrae was the most in need of some better writing to develop her sub plot concerning her father's disapearance.John Barry's score sets the mood with its creepy and driving tempos and the site of death droid Maximillan is still enough to send a chill up one's spine.
Overall the film is a Noble and facinating failure...but it holds a place in my heart.
Family Guy (1998)
One of the Funniest Shows Ever Launched.
"The Family Guy" was a rare show. It had the ability to make anyone laugh,regardless of race,religion,orientation or sex! It was politically incorrect,yet so funny no one could be offended! The highlight of the series was of course baby Stewie,the Griffin's infant son bent on word domination..voiced to perfection he was a cross between a sadistic Orson Welles and a maniacal Noel Coward! Seth McFarlane's show was the one thing guaranteed to make me laugh every week! Thank God they put it on DVD!
The Long Dark Hall (1951)
Harrison elevates The Film From Average To Enjoyable.
The plot is not original...Mistress is Murdered,Married Man accussed...Wife stands by him. But Sir Rex Harrison makes you believe in the story. Harrison gives an extremely fine and brilliant performance which raises the film from a typical pot boiler into the story of a regretful innocent man. Lily Palmer (at the time..Mrs. Harrison) is also in fine form as his on screen wife.
A Worthy Second Installment!
Two down and One to go...and so far Jackson's adaptation of the Ring trilogy shows no signs of diminishment. I won't go into heavy plot detail since others have covered it here quite well,but I did want to point out some high points. First off the film is smooth...it moves quite well with no lulls in plot,action or characterization. Some outstanding new performances come from Miranda Otto as Eowyn,Brad Douriff as the creeepy Grima Wormtounge and especially Bernard Hill as the conflicted King Theodin.Hill is by far one of the most welcome additions to the cast...always showing you a real human being beneath the crown.Hill's most moving moment is his "So it Begins" speech about the futility of war. Returning actors Sir Ian McKellen,Sean Astin,Hugo Weaving and Christopher Lee continue in their finely tuned portrayals and Orlando Blooms Legolas and John Rhys-Davies' Gimli are at last given more to do. Their relationship is well presented. The way Jackson presented the voice over speeches by Galadriel and Elrond was quite effective,and Blanchett sand Weaving use their wonderfully emotional speaking voices well. Here is looking forward to Return Of The King with great anticipation!
Brilliant Acting Highlights This Production.
Onstage John Osborne's adaptation of "Picture of Dorian Gray" is a fine tribute to Oscar Wilde's talents as both novelist and playwright.On screen with some editing it becomes a bit sloppy due to the cutting of 3 crucial scenes from the play (one being an important scene between Basil and Henry showing that time has passed.)The acting however is brilliant. Sir john Gielgud return's to his Wilde roots as lord Henry,and although about a decade too old for the role,he totally becomes the enigmatic,life loving cad and cynic that Wilde brought to life so meticulously in his novella. Jeremy Brett is also strong,offering a touching portrait of the anguished artist Basil Hallward.Peter Firth,while not originally my vision of Dorian, handles the role with style and grace...and later with a convincing strain of cruelty. The supporting cast is equally fine, Gielgud's former 'Importance Of Being Earnest" co-star Gwen Francon-Davies plays his philanthropic Aunt Agatha with dignity and Judi Bowker makes a touching Sybil Vane. The wit,pathos and tension of Wilde's work have been remarkably transferred to the screen. My only other qualm is with the hair styles. Many of them seemed out of place,looking more like 1970's versions of Victorian hairdos rather than the actual style. Overall however,the acting and writing elevates this production to a high level of small screen excellence.
A Masterpiece of musical Film!
"OLIVER!" stands out as one of a handful of musical films that successfully do their stage predecessors proud. Infact the film version has many moments superior to the play. The screenplay takes much more of a clue from Dickens actual writing,making it darker than its stage parent. The comic relief however is also handled brilliantly. Ron Moody was born to play Fagin,he recreates his original stage role with aplomb. Equally mesmerizing,comcal and pathetic. His reviewing the situation is the musical highlight of the film. Oliver Reed is a menacing Bill Sykes...never did a more fearsome perormance do justice to the role. the standout supporting portrayals come from the late great comic geniuses Sir Harry Secombe and Leonard Rossiter. Secombe make Bumble the strutting self important poppinjay he should be..and delivers a haunting rendition of "Boy For Sale"..unfortunately they cut his duet with Mrs. Corney,"I Shall Scream". Rossiter shines in his role of Mr. Sowerberry,the Workhouse Undertaker. An actor of unlimited skill all he need do is peer from the window and stretch a long finger to Bumble as he arrives with the boy and he hooks you. Again the producers decided to cut the "Thats Your Funeral" number which would have shown more of Rossiter's comic mastery.
Over all "Oliver!" works as a dramatic slice of life for the poor and oppressed of London and as a timeless musical classic.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
Another Film that Attempts The Impossible
I have always maintained that Midsummer Nights Dream is unfilmable.It is also in my opinion,unstageable. Thats not to say its a bad play,in fact its so fantastic and magical I have never been convinced the fairies are walking amongst us except in my head. The magic conjured up by the fairie folk, to me,cannot be translated convincingly on screen.
That said,this film is a good effort. It never succeeds in making the fairies magical,but really helps bring out the lover's plight and succeeds in reinventing the mechanicals.
The film starts off strong with likable performances by David Strathairn as Theseus,The Lovely Sophie Marceau as Hippolyta and the ever enjoyable Bernard Hill as Egeaus. As the Young lovers go Anna Friel is miles ahead of the others as Hermia.One of Britian's best kept secrets,the pretty and talented Miss Friel knows how to handle the characters romanticism as well as her toughness. Christian Bale and Domanic West are perfect as the young men,each handling the egotisim and romantic foppery well. The only young lover that does not measure up is Calista Flockhart's rather spastic and twitchy Helena.She is just too modern and quirky to fit the mold the other three have cast.
Kevin Kline makes a pompous and vain Bottom,in a rather unique twist on the role,while Bill Irwin and Roger Rees lend fine support as two of his theatrical co-horts. But the problem of the fairies still remains.This particular film tries to solve the problem by making them more human in look and nature,regretably this takes away much of their magical qualities and puts few barriers between the magical worls and the world of Theseus. Rupert Everett,Stanley Tucci and Michelle Pfieffer ar thus also regulated to the background as much as possible.
On Golden Pond (2001)
Not The Play,Not The Film...But Good In Its Own Right.
This live production of Ernest Thompson's classic "On Golden Pond" was a refreshing experience. Its good to see culture on network television again. That being said,I must say that although billed as a live version of the play,its not quite a correct statement to make. Act II features several changes in the material (I.E. Bill returning with Chelsea to the lake,an absurd altercation between Bill and Charlie).
The changes do not, for the most part, effect the plot all that greatly,however. The only exception(although the actor is talented) is the treatment of Charlie the mail man..he becomes too obsessed and less fun.
As performances go...Plummer leads the pack..he gives a completely sincere performance and stays clear of any hint of Fonda's famous screen portrayal. Andrews is also fine as Ethel,equally acerbic and loving...again,not a hint of Hepburn.
The only supporting actor I though weak was Glenn Headley as daughter Chelsea,she seemed to lack any sense of fire or assertiveness.She should be as the character says 'In Charge in Los Angeles" but feeling like the little fat girl at home...we only glimpse the fat girl..even with Bill.
Over all OGP was a strong production. Hopefully the Networks will show more live on stage productions of classic plays in the future.
Putting It Together (2000)
So Good It Leaves you Wanting More.
"Putting In Together" ,a tribute to the music and lyrics of the great Broadway writer Stephen Sondheim is so good,yet it only scratches the surface of his vast work. With the outstanding cast assembled for this review one wishes it could go on forever! It can't,but what we have are some wonderful actor/singers interpreting some of Sondheim's most brilliant songs.With a cast that includes Broadway Legend George Hearn, Comedianne Extrordaniare Carol Burnett and London's First Lady of The Musical Stage Ruthie Henshall you can miss. Hearn is dynamic and engaging,particularly in "Hello Little Girl","The Road You Didn't Take" and "Country house" (the latter sung and acted with Burnett). Burnett herself scores comedic high marks with "Could I Leave You" and "Ladies Who Lunch",in both of the songs she bring a unique blend of humor and pathos. The lovely,talented and sexy Ruthie Henshall sets the stage afire with "Sooner or Later" and her highly charged dance in the "Bang!" number. Bronson Pinchot and John Barrowman add their talented support as well. Sonheim's music works on so many levels..its introspective,touching,emotional and fun. This review is a great way to relive his work if you are a fan, or to get familiar with it if you are a newcomer. With a cast this good you can't go wrong!
An Amazing Group of Talent!
This Concert version of the Long-running hit "Les Miserables" has indeed asembled a most talented group of actor/singers from the various stagings of this well crafted show. Colm Wilkinson is,was,and ever will be the finest Jean Valjean. The emotional levels he reaches,particularly in "Who Am I" and "Bring Him Home" never cease to touch me. Ruthie Henshall is just about the finest young actress the musical theatre has today. She is talented,pretty and owns the most wonderfully developed singing voice. She,unlike many other young broadway stars today has a distinctivvoice all her own,and as Fantine she captures your emotions in its melodic embrace. Philip Quast is a driven and powerful Javert and Shakespearean actor Allun Armstrong does some show stopping work with the role of Thenardier. Over all this is a must see/must own musical event.
The Odd Couple (1970)
One of the All Time Greats!
As far as Sit Coms go "The Odd Couple" is number one on my list of favorites...edging out even "M.A.S.H." and "All In The Family".Randall and Klugman make this show great...both are perfectly attuned to their roles.Its one of the few times a Television show attained the high quality of its source material.
While Randall and Klugman's great chemistry and comic timing make the show there is strong support from the other cast members.In particular Al Molinaro's mystified Murry The Cop,Gary Walberg's Grouchy Speed and Brett Somer's cynical Blanche Madison. May the sun never set on "The Odd Couple"!
Li'l Abner (1959)
One of the Finest Stage To Screen Musical Adaptaions!
This delightful musical has it all...The colorful characters from Dogpatch U.S.A.,the great songs that made the Broadway show such a hit,funny and lively dances and colorful sets and costumes!his melodic film is led to victory by the late,great Stubby Kaye as Marryin Sam. While its Abner's story Kaye's Sam steals the picture. His 3 main numbers are all showstoppers especially the famous Jubilation T. Cornpone. Peter Palmer and Leslie Parrish are charming as Abner and Daisy Mae,while Howard St. John is a perfectly pompous General Bullmoose. My only regret is that they cut his brilliant "Progress Is The Root Of All Evil" number from the stage version.Stella Stevens is also well cast as Bullmoose's mistress Appasionata Von Climax. The songs are indeed some of the strongest ever written for a traditional musical comedy including the comedic satire on politic "The Country's in The Very Best Of Hands' and Daisy's and Sam's homage to growing older "Past My Prime".
In short 'Lil Abner' is sheer musical delight.
Private Lives (1931)
Good Adaptation In Spite Of Itself.
I cannot say I dislike the film version of Sir Noel Coward's greatest comedy.However, I cannot say I love it either. The gravest error was created by the studio. After Coward had sold the film rights to MGM,the studio proceeded to screen test actors. Coward himself along with Original co-star Gertrude Lawrence screen tested for their original roles...AND GOT TURNED DOWN! What we are left with are Robert Montgomery and Norma Shearer,two extremely likeable actors,playing Coward and Lawrence's legendary roles. Montgomery and Shearer are indeed charming,however the edge is missing from Coward's biting,witty humor. They just do not have that extra flair for high comedy that would turn the film from charming to a witty and biting masterpiece. Una Merkle and Reginald Denny actually fair better in their supporting roles...roles that are usually sounding boards for the leads. Overall its an enjoable film..but mediocre Coward.
The Molly Maguires (1970)
A Wonderfully Provocative Film.
Having been born and raised in the area this picture was filmed in,naturally I feel a bond to it. Add to that the fact that Richard Harris,one of my favorite actors stars in the film,and its a must see for me. Looking past that the film is riviting. Harris and Connery carry the film as the Cat and Mouse in this Coal town saga each playing to their professional strengths while adding a bit of their own to the roles. The supporting cast is just as strong,particularly the lovely and talented Samantha Eggar and the underused shakespearean actor Frank Finley.
On a personal note,two of my early mentors in theatre,J. Gerald Godwin and Jane Tomassetti have small roles in the film as the Paymaster and Miliner respectivley.
To sum it up..Molly McGuires is a film that you can sink your teeth into..and no matter which side of the conflict you find yourself on you can see what it was that drove men to do what they did.This film will not fail to keep you on the edge of your seat and make you think in the process.
Show Boat (1936)
A Classic Musical brought Brilliantly To Life!
James Whale's outstanding 1936 film version of "Show Boat" is indeed a musical film that others must aspire to.His slick direction brings out not only the pathos of the piece,but the humor and dramatic chemistry as well.As with most screen adaptations of Broadway musicals there are some missing songs.Most sorely missed is Ravanal's stirring 'Till Good Luck Comes My Way" and Queenie's haunting "Misery's Comin Around",but even with these omissions its a great film.
Hammerstein's script is full of meaning and power.The cast is up for the chalanging subject matter. Original broadway cast members Charles Winninger as Capn Andy and Helen Morgan as Julie along with the London Joe,the legendary Paul Robeson, win best of film honors. Winninger's Andy is full of comedic humor well balanced with quiet tenderness.Morgan as Julie,although past her prime still commands the stage emotionally as the tragic Julie, and Robeson gives us a well layered performance as the easy going,but wise Joe. His "Old Man River" still sends chills down one's spine.
The rest of the cast is no less polished. Allan Jones and Irene Dunne as the central figures,Ravanal and Nola create a wondeful bond. their chemistry,both vocal and emotional is right on the mark.Hattie McDaniel is a delightful Queenie and shines in her partnership with Robeson (particularly in their duet,'Ah Still Suits Me").
The themes of Hammersteins' script still are valid today,Racisim,Spousal abandonment,Bigotry and Financial Hardship. This is what makes this film a classic.It still has something to say in today's so called "advanced" society.
Paris - When It Sizzles (1964)
Charming and Honestly Funny!
Paris When It Sizzles is acharming and delightful little comedy showcasing the absurdist talents of Audrey Hepburn and William Holden. The plot concerns a hardened screenwriter and his young protogee as they rush to meet a deadline on a film script. The plot is indeed thin,but what hangs from it is a scenery chewing delight!The film covers various scenarios of the script each involving the electric Hepburn and Holden in the leads. The humor seems to be a precourser to such fims as Airplane,History Of The World and Naked Gun. In addition to Hepburn and Holden,Noel Coward turns in a very funny cameo as the head of the studio. Witty and elegant as ever,I would have liked to have seen more of him in the film.
Over all this film is an underrated delight!
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)
An Enchanting Film That Haunts Your Very Being.
I can't say much more than the others who adore this film,So I will keep it brief. Breakfast At Tiffany's never fails to enchant me. Audrey Hepburn is so lovely and charming.Her performance of Holly is a screen icon. her restless yearning,the cocked head and gracful laugh,the way she sexily exhales cigarette smoke from her extra long holder. Her charm and kookiness is well matched by the highly underated George Peppard as Paul. Strong support is given by Patricia Neal,Buddy Ebsen and ,yes, even Micky Rooney! Those who complained about the stereotyping are over sensitive. He was a comedic delight!
And of course there Is 'Moon River" enchantingly sung by the great Audrey. This is a film to watch over and over. Let it carry you away.
Reversal of Fortune (1990)
How Good Is This Film?..."You Have No Idea!"
Ever since the film premiered in 1990 Jeremy Iron's portrayal of the Aristocratic Claus Von Bulow has been etched in my memory. Iron's has without question created one of the most brilliantly layered historical characterizations to ever grace the screen.He gets to the heart of the haughty Von Bulow and brings us as close to liking the man as anyone ever could.His performance rightly won Him an Oscar for Best Actor. Just as engaging is Ron Silver's driven and hyper Alan Dershowitz. his performance of the great trail lawyer is facinatingly accurate. Having seen Dershowitz speak and meeting him afterwards it is very clear that Silver was able to capture even the smallest details of the man's movements,vocal inflections and dynamic rhetoric(Dersowitz himself claimed Silver used a tad too many hand gestures however!)
The supporting cast is equally strong. Glenn Close narrates the film as the comatose Sunny Von Bulow and appears in flashback during the events that lead to her coma. She captures Sunny's selfishness as well as her vulnerability. The great Uta Hagan appears as Sunny's maid and protector and give a performance worthy of her reputation.
Barbet Schroeder slickly directs the film,not as a linier plot but as a series of flashbacks,moments and current incidents. This is one of the few films that I cannot find a single flaw in.For direction,plot,characterization,writing..and Jeremy Iron's wonderful performance this film is an absolute 10!
I saw this film late at night on HBO. This was one of the most dreadful films I have seen! Even for a so-called parody this film is terrible. Extremely poor performances,a script as improbable and tactless as they come, and violence with no reason.Reese Witherspoon is so laughably bad,the accent,the mannerisims and her lack of emotin when a certain relative turns up dead all contributed to my annoyance. Sutherland,Plummer and Hedaya all give the worst performances of their careers as well. Skip this film and have a labotomy instead!