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I Love You Phillip Morris (2009)
Ewan McGregor has one or two effective scenes in this film, but the film nevertheless is awful with Carrey giving perhaps his worst performance. The film doesn't know what it wants to be - even though it is allegedly based on a true story of a con man de luxe and his love affair. The opening scenes seem to indicate a move towards satire/farce and a typical Carrey characterization. But here he goes far far too far, and his acting stint is painful. The film then swerves back and forth from slapstick to melodrama and back to slapstick. It doesn't work at all. Both actors play gay characters - Carrey camps it all the way to high amperage while McGregor plays it simply and is able to get both laughs and sympathy. Was this film ever rally released??? If so, why??
For Pete's Sake (1974)
Michael at his most enjoyable.....but Barbra grabbed the spotlight
FOR PETE'S SAKE should have been almost as good, goofy, and enjoyable as WHAT'S UP DOC?', but the rather unpleasant backstory eventually irritates despite the comedic potential. Barbra is as bright and spunky as she had been in 'DOC', but the uneven script places her in situations that, potentially hysterical, somehow leave a bad taste for several reasons - the methods by which innocent Barbra tries to get the money her hubby, Pete, needs for 'porkbellies'. The Brooklyn setting is real and fits the story well...but it is Michael Sarrazin that really carries the pleasant and charming center of the story. Far away from his strong and dynamic performance in THEY SHOOT HORSES..., he, here, is a delightful leading man with a fine sense of timing, expressive light comedic style (a/la Rod Taylor). He is entirely convincing. The surprising negative factors include the appearance of Molly Picon as a peculiar and supposedly charming madame-underworld character. The part should have been a superb moment for her, but her dialogue and actions become uncomfortable for this formidable star. Nonetheless. the Steisand-Sarrazin teaming looks and feels right...and the love scenes are satirically delicious.
An indie that indicates fine futures for all
Wow... What a nice surprise this film is. Watched it one evening and thought it was going to be just another minor league chiller. Instead, I found a thriller-chiller-mystery that is remarkably made on what may be a small budget... It doesn't look like a small budget, because everything is done with striking ability. One does know the genre at once, but one can enjoy the swirling 'who-what-where-how' for its entire length. The two actors show enormous potential and do absolutely super work. I want to see more of them...and more of the director of this indie. When you mix 'Outward Bound' with a contemporary appearance and then zap the audience with nicely executed twist, you have a fine piece of cinema. Congrats to all.
A underseas' phantom...and a phantom school/plot/dialogue
There are some films, with tiny budgets, that can pass for a light smile. This film leaves you gaping at the stupidity in everything concerned. The Oceangraphic School, at which this takes place, seems to have no building at all...and there are no signs of any human beings save for the actors. The dialogue is awful, and the beginning of the film indicates just how bad it will be. A actor, in a gill suit, is underwater...and preying on anything. Oh, what to do??!! Kent Taylor, the 'hero' of the piece never changes expression ('Just let me out of here'). Cathy Downs does try...but has nothing tangible to do. She is still attractive, but that beauty of 'My Darling Clementine' and 'The Dark Corner' is strained. Still, she is the only thing worth looking at in the film. No school, no students, no apparent staff, a lab from an Ed Wood movie. Sad sad sad film. The one alleged professor has created a new scientific study that has gotten out of hand. Uranium apparently is at the bottom of this stretch of see...and it multiplies leading to the creation of an actor dressed in a gill suit but still looking like an actor in a gill suit ( makes you admire The Creature from the Black Lagoon even more.) The gill man's first victim, to us, is a man whose row boat is overturned. The gill man gets him...and seems to fondle him as he kills him (watch the scene, if you dare!). No students on the beach...no one else...until a bleached blond (of .maybe, a spy ring) entices the professor's dart=carrying assistant to 'get the secret'. You don't need to know any more.
The Band Wagon (1953)
The Very Best of the Very Best?
I sit on the fence, a little, when naming my favorite musical of all time. 'West Side Story' really does stand alone, but it is not the usual Hollywood musical. For that, I am always torn between 'Singin' in the Rain' and 'Band Wagon'...Two giant testaments to what musicals could do when written with wit and charm, played exquisitely, sung and danced with originality, spunk,and whirlwind teamwork. Band Wagon is a monumental achievement by looking so relaxed and easy, and following a story line that spells of REALITY. Yes, a potential Broadway flop is like it is in the depiction of this pre-Broadway tryout Brilliant storytelling - a has been Hollywood star, a dancer trying a first time Broadway showcase, a supposed 'genius; of the theater world, etc. And the music - wow! - including the new 'That's Entertainment'!! 'Triplets' is a howl, and the Astaire-Charisse 'Dancing in the Dark' is flawless without being flamboyant. This one is a treasure trove of what was best in the Hollywood of yore. But still torn between this one and 'Singin' in the Rain', with a special spot eternally reserved for 'West Side Story'. Of course, now I think of adding 'An American in Paris' - it, too, is in the pantheon. And just below them is a half-forgotten masterpiece from Columbia -- The fantastic Betty Garrett, the lovely and lithe Janet Leigh, the superb Jack Lemmon...and the brilliant work of Bob Fosse and Tommy Rall - the dance in the alleyway behind the burlesque theater - the musical version of My Sister Eileen. The studio had wanted to film the same story as done on Broadway - Wonderful Town - but rights somehow got involved. But this film, with a new score, is lyrical and comedic dynamite!
I Am Number Four (2011)
It's well done fun....nicely executed
I really didn't have the highest of hopes when turning this film on while the rain poured outside. BUT I was more than pleasantly surprised by the ease with which the action-packed film zipped along. Yes, it is a story of a 'loner' in search of his place in the universe (he is an alien in the US), but that internal conflict carries the story aloft with good acting (not played for Flash Gordon camp). Timothy Olyphant is a scene steal-er and a fine actor...and the younger performers are quite relaxed as they confront sci-fi trickeries at every corner.A big smile occurred with the reappearance, at the end (not really a spoiler). Don't avoid this film...it will give you a couple of enjoyable hours...and, yes, i do kinda hope that the series continues...I still want to know about the BOX!!
A Major Achievement Again for Scorsese
What an amazing experience! Scorsese's ability to capture widely different cinematic experiences is underscored by this beautiful, haunting and ultimately inspiring achievement as it follows a young boy as he inadvertently opens a long-closed door into cinematic history. But there's so much more...brilliant 3D work that will be equally as good without glasses. A cinematic wonderland of sterling scenic splendors of Paris, a train station, and Hugo's curiosity that leads to a superb blend of intriguing characters and awe-inspiring discoveries, both for Hugo and the movie audience. If there is any drawback at all it may be Sasha Cohen who sometimes seems to demand too much screen hysterics..But that is not ruinous, and it ends well. To think that Scorsese can do gangster epics...then a masterwork of thrills like 'Shutter Island'...and this gift of charm ... is a movie-going adventure into skill and dexterity. I loved every minute.
Shutter Island (2010)
An underrated masterwork from a Director scaling new heights
The combined skills of a brilliant contingent of filmmakers takes us through a myriad of skillfully constructed turns and wrong turns in this memorable psychological thriller. The construction of this film is deliberately and superbly filled with questions, leaps back and forth in time and dimension. The viewer is trapped on Shutter Island in Boston Harbor...difficult to reach and seemingly impossible to leave. Leonardo DiCaprio's character is challenged by withheld information, by mysterious and dark hallways,by warnings of dangerous elements around him. This is modern noir at its trickiest and most thrilling --- all put together by Martin Scorsese in a splendid shift of cinematic focus. DiCaprio's excellence is matched by a fine cast - notably Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max VonSydow, and the ever-remarkable Patricia Clarkson. Its questions and solution(?) leave you exhausted from the suspense...and, at the same time, leaving you with a final conclusion that rattles your whole conception. Brilliant film all the way.
Where Is It?
Ingmar directed this film, in an eagerly anticipated American debut. I remember it in bits and pieces, but it was superb in every way. I do remember Mary Ann Mobley in an intense scene of hysteria and crying. (I believe she was a mistress). I cannot believe that this one-time masterwork by one of the great directors of all time has vanished. Where is it? I do not recall any other Bergman production created directly for American audiences. Certainly, ANY of his works, even the lesser-received ones, are part of a pantheon of important works by a master. If we can find old material from the same era and reproduce it, however non-perfect, we should be able to study this one. Let's find it.
The Conjuring (2013)
Poltergeist meets Exorcism
The Conjuring is a surprise, and I watched it when I saw a recommendation from the NY Times...Well, it is one of the best of its kind--certainly the finest scare-fest since Poltergeist, but without humor to offset the horror. I actually had a moment or two when I tingled...That experience hasn't happened quite like that since 'The Haunting' (original). True, the middle of the film is shivery delight at its best... But the rest is excellent...even the unexpected new feel for the exorcism scene. 'The Uninvited' and 'The Haunting' may still lead the best in the genre, but this, on second viewing, may seem even better.