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The Lonely Profession (1969)
Nicely Made Detective Story But Copied Later
I saw this television mystery film years ago and remember being impressed by it. Underrated actor Harry Guardino plays a trench coat wearing San Francisco detective who gets involved with a case that leads him to the inner circle of shadowy millionaire Dominic Savarona. The story had some nice twists and an interesting ending, so it fulfills the requirements of the detective story well. It uses some pretty Bay Area locations and the theme song is a version of the pop standard "San Francisco" that was well performed by actress Barbara McNair. It was produced by Universal Television and originally aired on NBC. The only downside here is that if you are familiar with the productions Universal TV churned out during the late 1960's to mid 1970's (McCloud, Name Of The Game), you probably already know the basic look and style of the production. Elements of this production were probably incorporated into later Universal TV investigator characters like Columbo and James Rockford. If you want to know a little about the birth of those characters, view this movie.
Absolute Beginners (1986)
Totally Gear and a Real Giggle
When I saw the video for the Janet Jackson song "When I Think of You", it was shot using a series of very elaborate moving camera or "tracking" shots. When I saw the video, I thought that it looked just like this movie. This is no coincidence because both projects were directed by Julian Temple. That memory brings up a complaint about this project. The main complaint when this film came out was that it was too much like a music video, more interest was paid to visual spectacle and not enough on character development. True, the characters are drawn broadly but I think the approach works because it is a musical. I had no trouble understanding the basic action, I could easily tell one character from another and I even understood the basic motives of everyone involved. I also love a lot of the British slang used in the project, even though I didn't quite get some of it at the time. I have no idea if this is now a "cult film" or not but it ought to be. It is enjoyable and tells compelling story which is based on a novel that was written after an actual "colour riot" happened in London in the summer of 1958. I think this film was a little ahead of its time and deserves to be rediscovered just they did with "Blade Runner" directed by fellow Brit, Ridley Scott. Let's hope that happens soon. I'd like to see Temple make more films.
Lighthearted, Joyous Musical
I saw this movie when it was originally released in America in the early 1980's. I enjoyed the film quite a bit and eventually bought the soundtrack. I just rented the film on video and it still holds up for me after all these years. It is still simple, quirky, vibrant and lively just as I remembered it. The characters are well drawn and very unique and the dance numbers are just as quirky as the rest of the movie. The "Body and Soul" number in the pub literally gets everyone in on the act and it is a highlight of the film for me. I read where director Gillian Armstrong said the reason she made the film after scoring with a period piece like "My Brilliant Career" is because she wanted to do something unusual and little unexpected. She (and all involved) very much succeed. The soundtrack has 1980's style new wave influenced pop. Whether you enjoy the rest of the movie will probably depend on whether you enjoy that style of music. If you do, give this movie a look, if you do not, then pass on it.
Wholly Moses! (1980)
Took Turns Sleeping Through It...
True Story: One of my older brothers moved into a new apartment in suburban Denver and one day, he invited a few of us family members and a couple of friends over to his new place. He invited us to watch this movie because it just happened to be debuting on cable TV that week. One of my brother's friends said he was looking forward to watching John Ritter's cameo. We gathered around the TV and when the movie started, we found it to be so unfunny, we took turns sleeping through it. After the movie was over, the friend asked if John Ritter was even in the movie. I pointed out that Ritter was in the movie but since he had slept through his one scene, he missed Ritter entirely. I have nothing more to add.
Date Squad (2001)
I was channel surfing and I found this short film from Warner Bros. on one of my cable channels. I watched it because I recalled Sandra Oh was in it from her credit list here on the IMDB. It is basically a comedy about a group of agents known as a "date squad" that help people through an awkward first date. Amanda Peet was very funny in the lead and Oh is also quite funny as a member of the squad. Imagine a makeover reality series combined with a "Charlie's Angels" movie and you get the idea here. Although the ending was funny, I have to admit I saw it coming. Check the film out if you get a chance, you'll have a laugh or two.
Very Frank, Very Violent, Very Entertaining
I saw a screening of this film last night. Early word on the film was that it was brilliant and Val Kilmer gives an award worthy performance as porn star John Holmes. I can't quite call this film a masterpiece, but it is very good. It will not be for everyone because the film has very little linear narrative, it moves from impression to impression very quickly. Val Kilmer does give an outstanding performance because he has most of the screen time. Many fine performers in the cast (Christina Applegate, Janeane Garofalo) have so little screen time, they do not get the chance to make much of an impression. I'd say next to Kilmer, the best work was by Kate Bosworth as Dawn, Holmes underage girlfriend. The technical work on the film, the sound editing, the photography were incredible; several times, I jumped in the my seat as if I was watching a horror film because of the sound and images. This story inspired the earlier film "Boogie Nights" and if I had to compare the two, I'd say this film is much more raw, whereas "Boogie Nights" had much more character development and you came away with much more sympathy for and empathy with the characters in the earlier film. This film is what it is and makes no attempts to be more accessible. Overall, it was very frank, very violent but very entertaining.
Searching for Debra Winger (2002)
Good But Rambling
I really looked forward to seeing this documentary in a theater ever since I first read about being it shown at Cannes a while back. Rosanna Arquette called it "Searching For Debra Winger" because Winger quit film acting due to the struggles she experienced as an actress and Arquette was close to doing the same. Arquette felt she was not being hired the way she was before because she had reached a certain age. She felt talking to other actresses, including Winger, would help her. While I wished the film made its points a little more concisely and it would have been nice to hear from a director or studio executive whose job it is to hire actresses, I still found this a revealing portrait of what many go through in the business. This film does not provide any answers to how these actresses can find work, it just shows how one actress struggled to figure out what was happening. I hope the film gives these women what Martha Plimpton asks for in the film: options, the same options good male actors get when they age. Some who posted here believe that these actresses don't suffer. If that is true, if you think actresses are just whining needlessly, then ask yourself why wasn't this film given a theatrical release. I saw it on the Showtime cable channel, no offense to Showtime but this should have been shown in a theater first. It is about movies after all. I think there is something to the charges of age discrimination the actresses mention. I love the lipstick signatures at the end, it was nice touch.
State of Grace (2001)
I Miss It!
I miss this series. When the show debuted, it was on the Fox Family cable channel. I found the series to be very well written and well acted. I looked forward to seeing the young characters getting older and dealing with the issues in the 1960's. After the show was renewed for a second season, Fox sold the network to Disney. I knew the show would not last beyond season two and it did not. It was canceled. How did I know it would be canceled? Disney likes to put its own programming all of its channels and the show was not a Disney property. The official reason it gave for canceling the show was that it did not attract enough adult viewers. So, children are not enough to make a "family network" a success anymore? I don't buy that reason. Anyway, it did remind me of the "Wonder Years" but as I recall, "Wonder Years" was added to the ABC schedule after "Stand By Me" was a hit in theaters. If, as some posters here have suggested, this show is a "ripoff" of "Years", is "Years" a ripoff of "Stand By Me"? The bottom line is "State of Grace" deserved more of a chance than it was given and every time I watch the episodes I recorded, I'll miss it even more.
Frank's Place (1987)
Victim of CBS
This show was a victim of CBS. As other posters here have so adroitly put it, this was a wonderful, well done show about a New Orleans restaurant. The setting, the characters, the little touches throughout were positively intoxicating. The episodes I remember are "The Bum Out Front" and "Dueling Voodoo". The "Voodoo" episode was especially memorable because the lead character literally had to use magic powder to undo a curse. I remember when the show aired, it did have low ratings, but I thought they would renew it and give it another shot, because the show was of such high quality. I thought CBS would do what NBC did when it renewed the low rated but high quality "Cheers" and "Hill St. Blues" and gave them the time to find their audience. It was canceled by CBS and I have never forgotten how disappointed I was at that decision. Part of the reason it was taken off of the air, was so that the leads actors in the series, Tim Reid and his wife Daphne Maxwell Reid could do a forgettable hour long detective show called "Snoops". "Frank's Place" truly was a victim of CBS, I'd love to see the series on DVD or on Nick at Night again.
Lady on a Train (1945)
This marks the first film I've seen by Ms. Durbin from beginning to end and I must say I found it to be a lot of fun. This film is without a doubt a star vehicle for Ms. Durbin; I think I counted 7 costume changes, at least 5 different blond hairstyles over the course of the picture and it was well directed by her husband Charles David. There was also the (I think) required scene where she got to speak to someone on a white telephone. The plot of the picture is that Ms. Durbin sees a murder from her train window and enlists the aid of a mystery writer to solve the crime. I am a fan of film noir and this film is sort of a combination film noir (good mystery plot, chases in dark alleys), musical (Durbin singing "Silent Night" and "Night and Day" among others)and comedy (many slapstick scenes involving Ms. Durbin as an amateur detective). You might even call this picture screwball noir. Ms. Durbin was probably the most popular star under contract to Universal until Abbott and Costello arrived and this film marked one of the few change of pace roles she was given and she literally shines in the part. The only negative comment I have is that there are a few dated racial stereotypes that I wish had been eliminated. Other than that, I found it to be stylish entertainment.
Barrier Device (2002)
Funny and Original
The premise of this UCLA student film is quite original. The wonderful Sandra Oh (HBO's "Arliss", "Dancing At The Blue Iguana") plays Audrey, a researcher who is gathering volunteers for a study on the barrier device, which is a female condom. She has to maintain distance with her subjects or the study will not be taken seriously due to charges of conflict of interest. Into her study walks Serena (Suzy Nakamura), an actress who innocently reveals that she has a definite connection with Audrey and through Serena, Audrey realizes she can learn a few things about herself. From there, Audrey has to walk a tightrope, does she pursue her connection with Serena or maintain the distance she needs for her study? From there, the film develops into a painful, funny and quite touching story of two Asian-American women. It is no wonder the film has won so many awards and been shown at over two dozen film festivals. Writer/Director Grace Lee has made both fiction and non-fiction films in the past and she appears to have a bright future behind the camera.
Times Square (1980)
Could Have Been Better
I just saw the movie for the first time on DVD and after watching it, I turned on the commentary by the director Allan Moyle and star Robin Johnson. Their words point out some of the mistakes made with the project. The director said that he hinted that there was a lesbian attraction in the story but that after he turned in his cut, all references were edited out. This could have added some depth to the film. Between the scene where the two leads escape from the hospital and end up on the subway, there was a scene that showed them dyeing and cutting their hair. Since that scene was cut, there is no explanation as to why their hair suddenly changes color and style between the two sequences. I wish the relationship between the father and daughter was more clearly presented. I did not believe the father was allowed to show the pain he must of felt after his daughter ran away. I also did not believe any radio station would allow a known runaway to perform on the air live and then come and go without alerting the authorities.
What I liked about the movie were the performances of the two leads, they really seemed to have some chemistry together. Some of the antics they got involved were pretty funny. I liked some of the music as well. It shows how funky Times Square was in 1980's. That area is totally different now because the changes promised in the film actually took place. This film almost by accident captures a moment in time.
Dear Diary (1996)
I was able to see a screening of this film at an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences screening of short film winners and nominees a while back. This started out as a pilot for a DreamWorks comedy series, so when the network rejected it, it made the rounds and eventually won an Oscar for Best Short Film. Bebe Neuwirth stars as a New Yorker and the film was basically a day in the life of her character. It was filmed on location and it seemed like a cross between "Seinfeld" and "Days and Nights of Molly Dodd". There is a lot of voiceover, a jazz score and the plot is about the little things that happen to Neuwirth's character and how she dealt with them. It seemed to bounce from one mood to another very quickly. Overall, I thought it was funny and smart. It says something about the state of network television when something that is deemed not good enough to broadcast goes on to win an Oscar.
Unusual Film Noir Short
This extremely well photographed black and white short film is about a young woman who is a compulsive thief. She does not steal money or jewels or clothes, she takes peppermills, you know, the little devices in fine restaurants that grinds peppers into food seasoning. This was the first thing I saw Kate Walsh act in and she is very appealing as the quirky woman who just can't help herself. The real star here, however, is director of photography Adam Beckman. He makes the contemporary film look like a classic old movie. Not quite sure what the point of the film was but it sure looked good.
Back to the Future (1985)
Imagine this: it is the summer of 1985 and the film that is the biggest hit and getting all the attention is "Rambo: First Blood Part II." You hear buzz about a new comedy produced by Steven Spielberg and written by the same people who wrote "1941" and "Used Cars". You get a chance to see a screening and you do not know what to expect. You come out of the film knowing that this film will soon replace "Rambo" as the film everyone talks about. That is exactly what happened to me on this film. When I first saw it, it reminded me of a classic Hollywood movie, the kind Frank Capra or Preston Sturges would have made if they had access the effects available in the 1980's. I'll go you one better, the twist of the main character meeting his mother when she was in high school and the mother hitting on him is a perverse touch worthy of Billy Wilder! Bob Gale, one of the film's Oscar-nominated screenwriters said that when audiences saw the opening of the film, they were wondering why the dysfunctional McFly family was being shown; but when Marty goes back in time, the gags payoff one by one and the audience gets it right away. That is exactly what happens. If you have not seen it, please do. They almost never make them like this anymore!
Female Jungle (1956)
More Bad Than Good
Even allowing for the fact that it was a low budget, quickly made picture (like many film noirs were), this picture for me was more bad than good. First the bad, the film suffers from some stilted acting by the supporting players and so-so dialog. The film even manages a couple of moments of unintentional humor. It is about a murder that takes place outside a bar where an off duty cop is drinking heavily. The cop is played here by Lawrence Tierney (who looks more like his younger brother, Scott Brady, than he has in any other role of his I've seen). The cops on duty browbeat Tierney into helping out with the investigation. I did not understand why they expected Tierney's character to help, he was off duty after all. Now for the good, after a few false leads and dead ends, the killer is revealed. I must admit, the killer's identity was unexpected. I was fooled. The leading performers here are competent but the one person that really stands out, literally, is a young temptress played by Jayne Mansfield. It is easy to see why she ended up with a Hollywood career playing Marilyn Monroe type parts. This film was released as the second half of a double feature. That is where it belongs. The western it was released with, Oklahoma Woman, is a much better film.
The Good Girl (2002)
The Good Movie
After watching director Arteta's last two films, "Star Maps" and "Chuck & Buck", I was surprised to find a film this gentle. The movie unfolds at a slow pace, but I didn't find it boring because the clever script finds just enough humor and drama to hold interest. The best way to describe it is as a character study. All the acting is first rate, especially Jennifer Aniston. This film is about what happens when a bored Texas housewife, played by Aniston, embarks on an affair with a young co-worker.
Even though she is the "good girl" of the title, she lies, she cheats and she eventually hurts people. I think the title is appropriate because at times, she acts more like a girl than a woman. The film charts how she grows through her mistakes. It is exactly the kind of small scale character drama that major Hollywood studios have practically given up making. In a film like this, either you care about what is going on or you don't and I cared. Overall, it is a good movie.
The Oklahoma Woman (1956)
Good Low Budget Western
In the 1950's, when Roger Corman began his career as a producer-director, he made four westerns. As of this writing, this is the only one of those westerns that never made it to a home video or a DVD release. I was able to see a print of the film from a private collection. The unique thing here is that the title character is the femme fatale, the one the citizens want to run out of town. The plot concerns how the various characters fight for control of that town. Richard Denning literally wanders into the middle of the fight after a stint in prison. Mike Connors, billed here as Touch Connors, makes an effective heavy. Cathy Downs makes a good impression here as an heroic good girl. She actually fistfights the title character at the climax of the film to get what she needs to save the Denning character. Overall, a very good low budget western from Corman and company.
I saw this film while voting for the Independent Spirit Awards and I must say it had many of my favorite performers. William Hurt, Amy Madigan, Sean Penn (whose company helped make the movie), Joanna Cassidy, Paul Dooley and Jennifer Rubin is like a dream cast to me. I couldn't wait for them to be put to good use. Sadly, they were given almost nothing interesting to do. It has a good setup, it is about the damage that happens in abusive relationships, specifically what people are willing to endure in order to feel loved. The project was not structured or developed very well, however. I think the script needed a few more drafts because the situations needed more urgency or more weight. Most good independent films take you on an emotional or spiritual journey and this film just did not do that.
The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)
Another Guilty Pleasure
The main reason this movie was even made was that they wanted it to be in theaters at around the same time as the film "Conan the Barbarian" in 1982. Believe it or not, both films were even released by the same studio! If the films had been made thirty years earlier, they would have been released as a double feature. They were part of a wave of sword fight pictures that included "Excalibur" and "Dragonslayer." Without a lot of fanfare, "Sword and the Sorcerer" managed to become a minor hit. One of the cast members was on a talk show and confessed that the success of the film was a surprise because that person thought it was not very good.
I enjoyed the action scenes and some of the humor. It has some good one-liners. The second half also has generates a fair amount of tension concerning the whereabouts of the sorcerer mentioned in the title. I also liked how the forces came together randomly for the climatic battle scenes. True, the film has many flaws, but it still works for me as an enjoyable adventure. It is the kind of thing I watch on a Friday night to ease me into the weekend.
Add me to the list of those disappointed that the sequel promised in the closing credits was never made.
The Rockford Files (1974)
Although this series may look like just another private eye series from the 1970's, it is so much more. The show has great one liners, interesting cases, maybe one or two too many car chases, but above all, the show has some great characters. Every episode has interesting, unusual, complex characters running through it. Jim Rockford himself is a private detective but also a former con man and he is not above pretending to be another person or pulling a con in order to help solve his cases. The writing and acting were always top notch and it is no wonder that alumni from this show went on to do such projects as "Magnum, P.I.", "Wiseguy," and "The Sopranos." Enjoy, you will laugh, you will be surprised and you will be impressed.
Smokey and the Bandit (1977)
A Lot Of Fun
I think there is very little I can add here to what has been already been written about this film but I will try. I first saw this film when it opened in Colorado where I was born and raised. I saw it in a theater with a teenage buddy of mine from junior high. We really enjoyed this movie because, even at that age, we realized it was nothing more than harmless fun. The perfect 1970's Saturday night or Sunday afternoon good-time down-home movie.
Both Sally Field and Burt Reynolds were on the Bravo series "Inside The Actor's Studio" in separate episodes and they both had interesting comments about the making of this movie twenty plus years later. Sally Field said that they were forced to improvise a lot of their lines because they had "no script." Reynolds said that Alfred Hitchock had the movie screened over and over. Reynolds said he spoke to Pat, the great director's daughter about this and she said Hitch loved the movie because he could see the people making it loved each other and that they were having the time of their lives.
This film has its roots in the type of low-budget movies being made in the 1970's. With the success of films like "Easy Rider," "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Bullitt" in the late 1960's, Hollywood was eager to make chase movies that featured "anti-heroes." Characters that were either breaking the law or enforcing the law outside of established procedures but you still rooted for them anyway. Couple this with the popularity of CB radios and truck driving slang and you have movies like "Vanishing Point," "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot," "Convoy," "Dirty Mary and Crazy Larry," "Sugarland Express," "Breaker, Breaker" and this one. I still marvel at how I know practically every funny scene in the movie but I still laugh like I was a Colorado teenager all over again. Maybe I see some of the qualities Hitchcock saw in it.
Little Darlings (1980)
I Have Never Forgotten This Movie!
I still remember the first time I saw this movie. It was a sneak preview with Steven Spielberg's occasionally funny comedy "1941." I still remember filling out my preview card rating Tatum O'Neal and Matt Dillon as "Very Good" but rating Kristy McNichol as "Excellent." At the time, I thought I would see the movie once and forget about it. I have seen the movie many, many times and I have never forgotten it. The late Gene Siskel said in his TV review of the movie that it was really two movies, a broad "Animal House" type comedy with food fights and condom jokes (which it is) and a very good coming of age story (which it is). When Matt Dillon was recently on the Bravo series "Inside the Actor's Studio," Dillon heard so many students say they liked this film, he actually said they ought to do a sequel. I hope they don't. I think he was really surprised to hear people praise this movie twenty years later. Some films stay with you and this is one of them. Interesting to see Cynthia Nixon on the HBO series "Sex And The City" after doing this project.
Any Which Way You Can (1980)
This movie is one my guilty pleasures. I enjoy it a lot, but I know deep down that I shouldn't. I guess the reason I like it is because it has a unique gallery of characters. You've got bare knuckle fighters, a bald biker gang, underworld crime figures, a befuddled couple on their second honeymoon, corrupt state troopers and not one, not two, but three perverted motel managers. On top of all them, the best character in the movie is an orangutan named Clyde! I also like the exciting fight scenes, particularly the climatic fight, well staged in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It is the rare sequel that is far superior to the original. For many, that is not saying much but it is enough for me.
A Fine Western Ahead Of Its Time
Although a few notches below classic Wayne westerns like "Stagecoach" and "Rio Bravo," this film was a masterful return to form for Wayne. This was the first film Wayne did after gaining weight and donning an eye-patch for his work on "True Grit." In this film, Wayne plays an honest, straight talking man of action, not too different from the type character on which he built his career. The supporting characters are very well drawn and the villains resourceful enough to keep the action moving. In a way, this character, though based on an actual rancher, is similar to the character of Dunson in the superior "Red River." Both characters gambled on a long cattle drive from Texas and although "Red River" is about the drive itself, "Chisum" is about what happens to a similar character twenty years after the drive succeeds. At the time the film was released, at least one critic commented on how improbable it was for John Wayne, at the climax of the movie, to have done that much riding, fighting and falling all within the same sequence. As far as I am concerned, that sequence helped prepare me for later action sequences of 1980's action stars like Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and action directors like James Cameron and John Woo. The film is no "Red River" but it is fine western nonetheless.