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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.
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.
Family Guy (1999)
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!
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!