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Message Packaged Poorly
The message -- that divorce should never be an option and marriages should be saved -- is a great one. Unfortunately, it was presented in a poorly written, badly acted, low production budget fashion. There were three different characters (Caleb's dad, a co-worker of Caleb's, and a nurse at the hospital where Caleb's wife worked) who preached every time they were on screen. Why did it take three characters to represent the same Christian theme, when one would have been enough? Whenever I saw them, I sighed and thought, "Here comes the sermon." I had little sympathy for the couple, Caleb and Catherine. The husband was a spoiled, inconsiderate brat, and his wife was a wimp who put up with way too much off of him. The Wayne character, designated as comic relief, was annoying, not funny. I'm a Christian, and I appreciate that a church made this film. However, the "beating people over the head with a Bible" approach doesn't work any better on film than it does from over-zealous people witnessing to people on the street. There are good films that have Christian themes, but unfortunately, this is not one of them.
Samantha and Darren's Boss Kiss!
Great episode featuring future "Bewitched" cast members Elizabeth Montgomery and David White. Ms. Montgomery stars as a Southern belle who meets a gangster and his lawyer at a party. When the bodyguard of the gangster insults her for getting too close, she fashions a plan of revenge. Turning her charms on the lawyer, she has the bodyguard killed. She learns of a power struggle between the gangster and Al Capone's empire, and decides to use it for her own personal gain. She involves Elliot Ness (Robert Stack) in her scheme, under the guise of wanting to help the Untouchables fight crime. There are good scenes between her and Stack, as she tries to use her feminine wiles on him. Mr. White is good here, too, as a love-struck fool who realizes too late that he's taken up time with the wrong woman. Both Ms. Montgomery and Mr. White were very good at playing underhanded, tricky characters during their careers.
This was a TV movie special, shot on videotape. The plot was about a teenaged girl struggling to make it in life. I remember that she had a goal she was going for. Don't remember exactly what her aim was, but she was saving money and hiding it in her room. She was being raised by her grandmother. Her mother was gone, and her dad was in prison. Lawrence Fishburne was thirteen or fourteen when this was made. He played a street-wise friend of the main character. His character did not get along with her oldest brother, who was a neer-do-well. One day, the brother finds his sister's hiding place and steals her money. Fishburne witnesses this, and follows the guy. He catches up with him in an alley. The guy is laid out drunk, and it's easy for Fishburne to beat him up and take what's left of the money. Fishburne returns the money to the main character. The movie felt more like a stage play in it's pacing and look.
TV Movie Disguised As Theatrical Film
This film has the feel of a TV movie, and it should have been shown there instead of in the theaters. Terribly dated plot, with dialogue that made me wince more than once. Patty Duke is a good actress and so was Jane Greer. It was jarring to see them in this fluffy film. If you look closely during the track and field scenes, it is obvious that Ms. Duke is not doing the stunts. Instead, it looks like an actor in a bad wig. The "beat" explanation for the title character's running prowess was typical teen B-movie silliness. The musical numbers were out of place. Honestly, would mid-1960's teenagers been belting out quasi-Broadway tunes? Would have been more believable if the songs were pop and/or rock. Someone thought that Ms. Duke's appeal to teens during that time would sell records, so they had her sing, which was a huge mistake. I admit that the scenes between Jim Backus and Greer were nice, as were some of the serious scenes between him and Ms. Duke. The script and storyline could have been better, though.
Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
Stark and Realistic
A sad, heartbreaking, and somewhat disturbing story. Quinn is totally believable as Mountain Rivera, a boxer who, perhaps, has been in the game too long and finds himself forced out. While his world-weary cut man (Rooney) is protective of him to an extent, his manager (Gleason) only views Rivera as a paycheck. An unemployment agency staff person (Miller) sees something in Rivera that prompts him to go above and beyond the call of duty to help him get a job. All of the leads are extremely good. It appears that most of the film takes place in the dark, highlighting the seamy side of boxing. The only daytime scene is when Rivera visits the unemployment office, and even then, it appears that the place has no windows to see outside. The office is just as closed up and restricted as Rivera's limited choices after his career ends. The actress who portrayed the underworld figure that Rivera's manager has a connection to was appropriately evil and creepy. The very last scene, filled with a sense of finality and resignation, is powerful.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Worth More Than A Million
Excellent, excellent. One of the aspects of this film I appreciate the most is that Eastwood and Freeman portray old men as they are. Not stereotypical, not for laughs (even though there are some amusing moments), but as real flesh-and-blood men with opinions as well as regrets. Being an amateur boxer myself, I could totally relate to the love of the sport that Swank's character had. The interactions between the three main characters are letter perfect. Never has Eastwood played such an emotional character, and Freeman is great as his closest friend and Greek chorus for the story. Swank has the right amount of toughness and vulnerability. There are a lot of moments where the characters are filmed in shadows, to emphasize the isolation they often feel. It also emphasizes their isolation from the world at large; the three are part of a sport that is seldom given any time in the press. Swank's character is further on the outs because she is a female trying to gain respect in a male-dominated sport. Eastwood and Swank's father/daughter relationship is the glue that pushes this film along.
Two Couples In Relationships
This was a decent show that ended too soon. I believe it was one of the earliest sitcoms on the FOX Network back in the late 1980's. The main couple had their share of drama. There was a storyline where Ben asked his girlfriend to move in with him, but she refused, which caused a problem in their relationship. It was also revealed during this storyline that the girlfriend had a drinking problem which she took up again due to relationship pressures. The girlfriend had a goofy, but loveable sister (shades of "Rhoda"). The secondary couple on this show were a lot of fun--a self-absorbed Hollywood studio executive and her husband who sold patio furniture until he quit to follow his passion, playing piano. Unfortunately, a sequel was made spotlighting the Hollywood exec (she had lost her job and went into real estate) that didn't go over as well.
Open House (1989)
This was a spin-off of "Duet", which was a much better show. The focus was on Linda, a former witchy Hollywood studio executive who lost her power job. She switched careers and went into real estate. Linda had a new foil in a male real estate agent; they traded insults and tried to undermine each other. Ellen DeGeneres had an early role as the receptionist in the office. Would have been a lot better if it had not been set up as a continuation of "Duet". Some characters from "Duet", like Linda's husband, Richard, and her friend, Laura, were carried over into the new show. Richard's character was gone after a few episodes, and Laura appeared sporadically. Not a very funny show.
Men's "Sex In The City"
Well done show from the UK! It draws some comparisons to HBO's "Sex In The City", but it goes deeper than that. The men show their hopes, fears, and quirks more than most other male characters I have seen on TV. They aren't goofs, they aren't losers. They are middle-aged men who have figured some of life out, but like most people, still are finding out there are a lot of things to learn about life. Their takes on women are funny as well as insightful. One of the best episodes had the guys partying with a confirmed playboy all night. They begin the night impressed with the guy's lifestyle, but as the evening goes on, they like less and less of what they see in him--and themselves. When a tragedy ends the fun, they all learn sobering lessons. More shows like this should be produced for TV.
J.D.'s Revenge (1976)
Watch Out For The Razor!
Some of the best scenes in this movie take place after Ike (Glynn Turman) has been totally taken over by the late hustler, J.D. Walker. The scene when he walks into a New Orleans club dressed in a 1940's hat and suit, spats on his feet, and his conked hair has to be seen to be believed. Turman does a remarkable job switching back and forth between struggling law student Ike, and J.D., the razor-toting dead hustler out to revenge the death of his younger sister. Overall, this is not a bad film, but some aspects of the plot are muddy. A moment when Ike plays the numbers (what we know as the lottery today), suggests that he may have had a criminal past, but it's not explored further. We learn from flashbacks that Elijah Bliss (Lou Gossett, Jr.) was a hustler, and are given hints in the present story that his current job as a preacher may be a scam. Judging from his sermons, Elijah may have been a boxer too, but that is not fleshed out, either. The conclusion of the film leaves some unanswered questions, as well. Despite of some weak plot points, and misogynistic attitudes, this is still an enjoyable movie.