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Stage Fright (1950)
Lesser Hitchcock but still worth seeing
Jane Wyman plays Eve Gill. She's an actress living in England. A man she loves (Richard Todd) is accused of killing the husband of an actress he's romancing (Marlene Dietrich). He didn't do it but the police don't believe him. Eve helps him hide out while she tries to find evidence to clear his name. The wonderful Alastair Sim pops up as her father and the sadly underused Michael Wilding is a detective investigating the case.
It's a little too long and I could have lived without hearing Dietrich do THREE songs but still worth catching. There's many clever twists and turns in the plot and Wyman, Dietrich and Sim are excellent in their roles. Also it's beautifully directed (of course) with some great set pieces. Worth catching.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
In the early 1960s right after the Cold War started CIA agent Solo (Henry Cavill) and KGB agent Illya (Armie Hammer) have to work together to find a kidnapped scientist who can make a nuclear warhead. Helping them is the scientist's daughter Gaby (Alicia Vikander). They also get involved with the beautiful but deadly Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki).
Updating of a 1960s TV series which I never saw. It's well-done with some cool action sequences and fairly tame violence (except for the end). Cool use of split scenes during some of the action too. They capture the early 60s fashions, cars and architecture perfectly. This film is VERY colorful. The acting is mostly good. Cavill is suave and very fun as Solo. On the negative side the plot is overly convoluted--a LOT is thrown at you at the beginning. There are at least three endings also--two too many. Worst of all is Hammer--he's TERRIBLE in his role. Very wooden and unconvincing. Still I was never bored and enjoyed it. So I marginally recommend it.
The Gift (2015)
It's good but slow
Simon (Jason Bateman)and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) are a married couple who have just moved to California. While shopping they run into Gordo (Joel Edgerton) an old schoolmate of Simons. Gordo is socially awkward and strange but they invite him over for dinner. Then he starts to show up all the time at the house showering them with gifts. They tell him to leave them alone...but then things turn deadly.
This has been praised to the high heavens by critics. While it is a good thriller--sometimes a VERY good thriller--it's not that great. It's slow-moving and flatly directed by Edgerton. There are a lot of good twists and turns at the end and the acting is good all around but the slow pace makes this sometimes frustrating to watch. 10 minutes easily could have been removed from this. Also visually it's nothing special and the stereo soundtrack adds nothing to it either. No blood, gore or nudity either. This would play just as well on TV as up a theatre. So I slightly recommend it but don't pay full price.
Fist of Jesus (2012)
The Catholic Church will LOVE this one!
Very very very VERY gory Spanish short with English subtitles. Jesus helps Lazarus rise from the dead. Very good but Lazarus is now a flesh-eating zombie! Jesus screams like a girl and, with Judas following, runs to escape. However they're surrounded by Roman soldier zombies and cowboy (???) zombies. What follows is an incredibly gory (and incredibly funny) fight between Jesus and Judas and zombies! The Catholic Church will probably go crazy if it ever gets a look at this! It tears into Jesus and the Bible with glee with tons of gore and blood. The special effects are excellent and look very realistic. This is basically a must see for gore fans who aren't loyal Catholics. A 10 all the way.
Alice Adams (1935)
Well-done but unpleasant
Drama in which Katharine Hepburn plays a poor young woman who dreams of bigger and better things--but she's stuck with a pushy mother, an ill father and an obnoxious brother. At a dance a young rich man (Fred MacMurray!) meets and falls for her. She falls for him too but his family would never accept her and she can't get over the feeling that she's not good enough for him.
Well-done if incredibly dated drama. It's a very early Hepburn role and she's magnificent in it. She was justly nominated for an Academy Award for this (Bette Davis won for "Dangerous"). MacMurray is good too and it's fun to see both of them so young and full of life. The main problem though is Hepburn. She's TOO good for her role. You see her struggling to get ahead and it's heart-breaking. The dinner party sequence at the end is particularly hard to sit through. Also Hattie McDaniel plays a maid and is treated horribly but that is (sadly) a sign of its time. It also has a bunch of happy endings that I didn't buy for one second. Still this is well worth seeing.
Stupid, sexist and basically unfunny but the graphics are GREAT
NASA, in 1982, sends a bunch of video games into outer space. Years later aliens discover it and see it as a declaration of war (???). They send outsize versions of the video games to Earth to attack. It's up to the president (Kevin James) to get help. He hires his old friend (Adam Sandler) who used to be a whiz a video games to help battle the aliens. Along with some fellow gamers (Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage) they do battle. There's also the obligatory love interest (Michelle Monaghan).
Like all Sandler films this is full of sexist smutty humor--not one bit of it was funny. I think I chuckled once or twice but that was it. Also Sandler gives a terrible lifeless performance. The plot is full of HUGE loopholes that make little sense. And Josh Gad is fat, loud, ugly and as annoying as hell. Still there are good things here. It does move quickly; guest stars Sean Bean, Serena Williams and Jane Krakowski are amusing; James and Monaghan are great in their roles and there are some great 80s songs on the soundtrack. But the main reason to see the film is the video games graphics. They look GREAT and the battle scenes are lots of fun. Best of all is an all out attack at the end by the aliens where virtually every 80s video game character makes an appearance. It's worth seeing just once for that alone. Otherwise it's pretty stupid and pointless.
One of the best Bond movies ever.
**SPOILERS** James Bond (George Lazenby) battles the evil Blofeld (Telly Savalas) who has plans to sterilize the entire world (or something like that--the plot is kind of vague). He also falls in love with beautiful countess Tracy (Diana Rigg).
This is a VERY controversial Bond film. Some fans hate it simply because Sean Connery isn't in it and they find Lazenby bad. Others (like me) think it's one of the best of the series. If it's such a bad movie why was it such a huge hit at the box office? Also I think Lazenby is pretty good as Bond. He doesn't have the effortless charisma of Connery or the easy-going charm of Roger Moore but he's a hell of a lot better than the terrible Timothy Dalton. He's tall, handsome and excellent in the action sequences. Even better he plays off Rigg incredibly well in the romance scenes. The movie itself is great! As I said the plot is kind of vague (especially in the edited TV prints) and the first part is kind of slow. It's also way too long at 140 minutes. But when the action kicks into high gear during the last hour or so it's fantastic. There's car chases, ski chases, plenty of fist fights, a hair-raising bobsled fight...even an avalanche. Also this is the only film where Bond gets married. There's also beautiful locations, a great soundtrack and good acting. Rigg has got to be the best Bond girl ever (with Carey Lowell running a close second). The only real debit is Savalas badly miscast as Blofeld. Charles Grey and Donald Pleasance did a much better job with the character. All in all a great Bond movie. Recommended.
Thriller: The Purple Room (1960)
The first horror show for "Thriller"...and not a bad one.
The "Thriller" TV show started out primarily as a crime anthology but started to veer over to horror during its first season. This was their first horror show and it's not bad. An obnoxious guy named Duncan Corey (a ridiculously young Rip Torn) is left an old haunted house when his brother dies. He wants to sell it BUT must spend a year in it before he can do it. If he leaves or dies it goes to his cousins--Rachel and Oliver Judson (Patricia Barry and Richard Anderson). He agrees and it goes predictably at first with strange noises and unexplained events. However it changes gears halfway through, throws in a twist and ends on a satisfying note. Not really scary but creepy and well-acted...except for Torn. He is a wonderful actor but not here. He over OVER acts to an embarrassing degree and it gets tiresome. Still it's worth catching.
Magic Mike XXL (2015)
In some way better than the original
Takes place three years after the first. Mike (Channing Tatum) is out of the stripping business and owns his own (failing) company. He gets a call from his ex stripper buddies. They're going to a stripper convention and want him to join them for one last time. They go on a road trip to get there and, along the way, encounter many interesting women such as Zoe (Amber Heard), a former girlfriend of Mikes named Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Nancy (Andie MacDowell).
The original didn't need a sequel but who cares? We get to see a cast of attractive guys in GREAT shape stripping. The original seemed to go out of its way to NOT objectify the guys as sex objects. Not here! The camera gets up close and comfortable showing how pumped and attractive these guys are. Also the other strippers (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and Adam Rodriguez) barely had more than a few words in the original. Here they have fully fleshed out stories and characters. The acting is great (Smith especially was wonderful), the script sharp and the strip acts were incredible. The prime audience for this is women and gay men. As a gay guy I loved it! Recommended.
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
One of the first disaster films and still one of the best.
On New Years Eve a huge wall of water capsizes an ocean liner turning it upside down. A small group of people survive and have to work their way up to the bottom of the ship to survive. There's the lead a progressive priest (Gene Hackman), the bickering couple (Stella Stevens and Ernest Borgnine), the lonely guy (Red Buttons), the equally lonely girl (Carol Lynley), a ship steward (Roddy McDowell), an elderly couple (Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson) and a young brother and sister (Pamela Sue Martin and Eric Shea). And, in a dramatic role, Leslie Nielsen as the Captain.
The characters are predictable and the dialogue is terrible but it doesn't really matter. The boat capsizing happened fairly quick (30 minutes in) and then the action and adventure kicks in and there's never a let-up. The special effects are still impressive even by today's standards (the boat capsizing is VERY good). Also, despite the bad dialogue, the entire cast is excellent in their roles. Stevens and Borgnine are especially funny. An excellent movie well worth seeing. Ignore the dreadful remake named "Poseidon".