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Fatal Pursuit (1995)
Hoping for something good, but.....
I actually watched this whole movie just to see how bad it could be. It was worse. Not totally without out redeeming value, there are two recommended scenes: Shannon Whirry's shower scene and the love scene at the end. Sadly, not even those can make anyone forget LP Brown's totally inept, lame, sadistically annoying presence and performance.
The story of a British investigator (Whirry) on the trail of hot diamonds mostly suffers from a from tendency to focus on the seedy drunken New Orleans PI (Brown) who can't afford his own car, but somehow manages to own a luxury cabin in Mammoth Lakes. Focusing on the story instead of the character may have helped this movie more, but jettisoning the lead actor, who was also a producer, may have proved too difficult.
A terrible waste of talent, Malcom McDowell, Larry Linville, and Charles Napier, even poor Shannon must have lost a bet to be forced to work in this film.
A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999)
Beautiful, if not necessarily faithful adaptation
Let me begin by saying that this is a beautifully acted, filmed and produced version of one of my two favorite Shakepespeare comedies. the other one being "Twelfth Night." That being said, however, I have to caution against anyone regarding this as a totally faithful adaptation. Having performed in and directed "A Midsummer Night's Dream," I think I am on fairly firm ground when I ask, "Where the Hell did Bottom's wife come from?" She is not in Shakespeare's script, and the inclusion of her only serves to make Bottom an even more pathetic character than he already is. Kevin Kline provides an tender, touching portrayal, but the character is not Shakespeare's.
I have seen other criticisms and comments and I must take issue with those. I know it is easy to denigrate Shakepeare's language saying it is antiquated, too old, but to replace Shakespeare with a modern translation would be to lose the beauty of his words, and the wonder of his symbolism. I suggest these critics and reviewers get a little more education. I enjoy clever plays with scenery or time. Transplanting the time of the story to near turn of the century 1900, was effective. Changing the setting from Greece to Italy was convenient for filming and didn't detract from the story, but didn't necessarily add anything either.
In conclusion, this is still an enjoyable film. But it is no more William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" than Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula" was Bram Stoker's.
Amanda & the Alien (1995)
If you don't expect much you'll have a good time
Very witty in places and, yes, the soundtrack is good, but get with it folks. Did anyone expect great art with a title like "Amanda and the Alien"? There are some very nice moments, like Alex Meneses in the shower, or her character trying to figure out how to dress.
And to clarify for one poster, it's paprika that is the spice of choice, not pepper. That's what makes it funny.
Lighten up. This is mindless entertainment and your less than 2 hours can be spent in far worse ways, like talking to your kids, or paying attention to your spouse, who probably doesn't look anything like Alex Meneses or Nicole Eggert. And, in case you are wondering, like this movie, my comments are done with tongue firmly implanted in my cheek. It makes it difficult to talk, but it is funny.
Inherit the Wind (1960)
One of the Truly Great Films of American Cinema
No special effects! No gun play! Only two of the greatest actors giving among their best performances in the timeless story of the true "Trial of the Century." I tend to disagree with many posters who denigrate the performance of Gene Kelly as E.K. Hornbeck. That he pales alongside Tracy and March is understandable. Who wouldn't? I find his portrayal to be understated and containing just the right touches of cynicism and a realism. His character is significantly expanded from the play. One example is the scene where Hornbeck tells Drummond that after he (Hornbeck) dies he won't be un-mourned. Dtrummond will be at the funeral, he says, because that's the kind of guy he is. This illustrates perfectly the differences between the journalist who writes of injustice, but mainly it seems for his own enjoyment, and the crusading lawyer who takes up unpopular causes because it is the right thing to do.
I have loved this play since I read it in high school, and the movie with it's great stars, does not disappoint.
The movie equivalent of Al Capone's Vault
I just finished watching Rent (the movie), and, despite what one hears from the ravings of the "Disciples of 'Rent'" this movie is the biggest entertainment disappointment I have experienced in the last ten years. I won't say it is the worst movie I have seen because I have seen some pretty bad ones and enjoyed them, but "Rent" is the first movie that bored me to the point of praying for the end to come swiftly.
It is not without any redeeming value. There are some individual numbers that are quite interesting, but overall, I just didn't think everything fit very well. The only thing distinctive about many of the longer group numbers was the individual voices of the performers (all very good by the way). Furthermore, it was derivative. The movie was like one great homage to the "touch-feely-preachy" musicals of the 70s and and early 80s. The song during Angel's funeral was the most repetitive thing I have heard since Godspell's "Day by Day." This movie contained everything that insured the end of the movie musical in the 60s. Singing and dancing down the street, on the subway, in a pub, cross country nearly anything that smacked of no realism. Some critics have mentioned that "Rent" seems dated. It does so in the same way that "West Side Story" doesn't translate well to today's audiences.
And could there have been any more clichéd scenes? Roger leaves for Santa Fe (singing all the way). Mark is in New York. As both sing about completing their goal (to write a song and edit a documentary respectively) we find Roger singing as he walks down the road, Mark as he walks angrily down the middle of a New York street, then after Mark, still singing goes to the roof of his building to continue singing his song, Roger has finally made it back to New York, by bus and singing, to complete the song with his friend on the roof. Please give me a break! Another example. Rosario Dawson collapses and the camera pans down the length of her arm. I turned to my wife and said, "her fingers will twitch" and then they did.
I can't fault the performances. They were energetic and characters were clearly delineated. They all sing well, but the songs all blend together and, ultimately, don't sound different. Everything is loud. There is no variety. The few attempts at ballads devolve into over-the-top, over-repetitive attempts at semi-harmonizing. Additionally, what dialog there is seems to be only a set-up for the next song which doesn't drive the plot so much as it illustrates that single scene.
As for characters - they seemed one-dimensional. There is a brooding musician, flirtatious bisexual, jealous lesbian, desperate-for-love junkie. It's a good thing Rent isn't touted as a romance. The only members of the cast to find true love are either stricken with AIDS, heroin addicts, homosexual, or a combination of the three. The understanding, good-guy heterosexual has no one. There's a message for you!
So whose fault is it? The buck stops at the director. I have not been unhappy with Chris Columbus in the past. I don't expect high art, but I get some fairly decent entertainment with a little imagination. If anything was lacking in this movie it was imagination from behind the lens. Instead of something new and different I got something old and hackneyed.
I was hoping for so much more from "Rent." Ultimately, I paid more for my ticket of admission than the characters were willing to pay for their living quarters. They were content to freeload because they were artists. But their art, in the final analysis, was not worth the money or the time I spent. It was the movie equivalent of Al Capone's vault. All hype and a lot of dust.
I give it a 2 only because the performers were interesting and worked so hard.
The April Fools (1969)
One of my Favorites
I have always loved this movie, and, in many ways, relate to the Howard Brubaker character. Is it a great movie? Absolutely not. But it is romantic, humorous, and touching in many ways. This was my first glimpse of Catherine Deneuve outside of a pilfered Playboy, and she was nearly enough to make me forget Diana Rigg. I have always thought that Jack Lemmon was great, and being an old movie buff, I was very happy to see Myrna Loy and Charles Boyer.
In many ways this film can be considered silly. Boyer's chasing of Lemmon, the total detachment of Sally Kellerman's character, the locker room style boasting of Brubaker's friends, and finally the hasty courtship and decision to flee made by Lemmon and Deneuve. But, somehow it works. The touching love of Boyer and Loy is the perfect counterpoint to the blossoming relationship of Lemmon and Deneuve. And the similar ways in which Catherine and Howard are objectified by their respective spouses (Brubaker's wife considers him a source of funding for her projects while Guenther thinks of his wife as his greatest acquisition) insures fertile ground for anything resembling true warmth and emotion.
Don't think of this as some throwaway romantic comedy. Think of this, instead, as an Everyman's Romantic Fantasy. In reality we think not only of sex at the drop of a hat (not present in this movie), but also of meeting a beautiful woman who immediately recognizes the real man within and is willing to drop all for the love of that man.
I love this movie.
I remember Rex Reed saying that this was a horrible mess and that Catherine Deneuve should never make anything without English subtitles. Well, Deneuve has gone on to become one of the world's respected actresses in any language, and Reed's greatest claim to fame was appearing in Myra Breckinridge.
Don't be afraid to give this movie a chance.
The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
I have seen the stage version and I am writing this after having just seen the movie. "Phantom of the Opera" is majestic. Yes, it has some flaws. Comments were made by my party (a group of community actors who just completed a long run of "Man of La Mancha") about the odd synchronization of actor to sound as being noticeable. The voices of the male leads were decidedly weaker than what one would expect, but there was true emotion behind the words even if the "pipes" weren't totally there.
This is a visually stunning piece. The graveyard scene was effective even if it did evoke some "Batman-like" images.
Several scenes stand out. Although there is this annoying vogue-like choreography to Masquerade, the scene is effective. For me the stand out scene was "Point of No Return". I have not been as visually moved, or as emotionally involved in a scene since "Cell Block Tango" from "Chicago." Finally, there are the women. Emmy Rossum is luminous; Minnie Driver exhibits a flair rarely shown before, and Miranda Richardson portrays the steady conscience of the film.
The film is an excellent adaptation of the stunning stage play. Yes, it is too long in coming, but while it is here, it must be enjoyed.
A Guilty Pleasure
Gee, what's not to like about this movie? The acting? It's serviceable enough considering this isn't a big budget film. Rutger Hauer's finest work is not demonstrated here, but still this is a Rutger Hauer film which means that it will be a bit different from the regular straight-to-video junk you see. The shootouts were laughable? Of course they were! Shootouts are always laughable in every movie in which a hero survives totally unscathed. The two notable exceptions are "Saving Private Ryan" and "Tombstone". There are a few others, but at least Hauer and Scio aren't sliding down glaciers on a car fender or something of that ilk.
Let's put things in proper perspective. When you have a movie that sounds good before it goes on paper, but doesn't look nearly as good after the ink has dried you find ways to make it not a complete waste of time. So you do the following:
1. Get Rutger Hauer
2. Buy lots of bullets (hero resistant, of course!)
3. Get a beautiful actress (and in this case
Yvonne Scio is a 10!)
4. Buy some more bullets
5. Show lots of skin (Nude female bodybuilders with
6. Have sex ...lots of it
7. Buy a few more bullets
8. Kill all the bad guys (but only after you reveal
that some good guys are bad and worse than the
bad guy you were originally after who turns out
to be easier to kill than expected)
9. Throw in convoluted ending (like my previous
10. Have more sex
For Pete's sake, people this is a cable channel movie. Enjoy it for the adrenaline and the visual pleasure. Don't get hung up on thinking about it. I'll watch this one again, if there isn't anything else on, or I need an Yvonne Scio fix.
Picky, Picky, Picky.....
It is difficult to understand how some criticize a movie because its title doesn't make sense (like most science fiction titles?), or because the acting was poor (look at the box and read the credits before buying). The title of "Slave Girls" should give you a hint that this is not to be taken seriously, but for what it was meant to be: a, hopefully, entertaining ninety minutes, or so, where you can enjoy beautiful women in and out of bikinis. Once again, if you are hoping for great cinema I suggest reading the box, or at least look at the picture before you rent this.
With that said, is it entertaining? I found this to be an enjoyable variation on the classic short story, "The Most Dangerous Game." It has humor, doesn't take itself seriously, and is certainly easy on the eyes.....and brain. No thinking is required for this move. Just enjoy it for what it is.
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Intelligent, poignant satire on the the meaning of heroism
Simply put, this is one of my all-time favorite movies. I can't possibly agree with the individual who wrote this was possibly James Garner's worst movie. The exact opposite is true. The character of Charlie is callous, and self-serving, but he has a dedication to the admiral that is logical and touching. It is the admiral, after all, who saved Charlie from the realities of war.
Listen to Charlie's speech about how he got there. He started off by going to war with all the ideals of any other Marine, but in the teeth of war he realized he wasn't the man he thought he was and "the glory" certainly wasn't worth it. Charlie is a coward, but not a deserter. He has priorities, which he lists to Emily.
Garner does a fine job in communicating the role of an outwardly selfish and uncaring man struggling hard to suppress his principles.
Julie Andrews' Emily is just the person to bring those principles out. And James Coburn is outstanding as the one person who actually takes the admiral's plan for a sailor to be the first casualty on Omaha Beach seriously.
Very good acting by all. Fine comic performances in a film that is easily overlooked by today's audiences because it isn't the type of humor that hits you over the head with a baseball bat to make its point. Instead, it uses characterization and intelligence.
How sad we are that we are no longer required to think about movies, since so many of them have no thought behind them other than making money.
"The Americanization of Emily" is definitely worth a look if you like smart, intelligent characters with something to say.