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J. Spurlin

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267 reviews in total 
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An exceptional scene with Billy Miller and Elizabeth Hendrickson highlights a conspicuously down-to-earth episode, 18 July 2011

The launch for the new Jabot line begins well as Jack and Lauren field questions from the press, and Michael supports his wife. Jill is an old pro at the launch even as she grieves for her son losing the custody battle. Abby decides to come after all. Sofia arrives fashionably late. George Kotsiopoulos, Shiva Rose and Christina McLarty are in attendance. Meanwhile, Billy attempts to see Delia, but Chloe refuses to allow it. Victoria tries to call her mother at rehab, not realizing how late it is. Tucker is released from the hospital, but Ashley tries to talk him out of making an appearance at the launch.

No one watching the show for the first time would guess from this episode that, like all current soap operas, it is clotted with silliness. Recently the series has been sloppy enough to have two back-from-the-dead story-lines going on simultaneously. The story involving Cane Ashby is by far the worse of the two because - unlike the one with Sharon Newman, in which we were let in from the beginning on the secret that she was still alive - it tries to take back what can't be plausibly taken back. An exceptionally stupid, tedious explanation involving an evil twin makes us wonder if the soaps shouldn't have died back in the radio days.

But here are down-to-earth matters. It's all pretty good until we get to the confrontation between the crumbling Billy (Billy Miller) and a steadfast but heartsick Chloe (Elizabeth Hendrickson), which is exceptionally well written and well played. It's the kind of thing this show used to do well and which most soaps used to do well; but now the bizarre plots involving amnesia, evil twins, resurrections, doubles created through plastic surgery and such that used to add spice are the whole meal on most shows, while scenes like this are scraps fallen from the table.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Somewhat static episode still has intelligent dialogue and tense scenes, 26 May 2011

An 11-year-old boy (Tommy Nolan) neglected by his father (Frank Overton) gets so caught up in his fantasy world that he takes a real rifle to hunt down his made-up enemy, the evil Black Bart.

This early episode, which according to the other reviews is atypical of the series, is probably a bit too static. Much of the screen time is given over to the mother (Bethel Leslie) and father having a domestic quarrel in their summer cabin. As a magazine writer, his job takes him mentally and often physically away from his family, and the wife yearns for him even while asking him for a separation. Still, I couldn't help but enjoy the heightened, intelligent dialogue of a kind that is only heard in the old TV dramas of the day.

The director (Arthur Hill) and writer (Robert Dozier) do a pretty good job of punctuating the talk with tense scenes of the boy putting himself, and eventually a poor fisherman he mistakes for his quarry, in danger.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Fabulous nonsense, superior to all the previous Roger Moore Bonds, with an unforgettable villain, 12 August 2010
7/10

James Bond (Roger Moore) teams with a sexy Russian agent (Barbara Bach) to stop a web-fingered megalomaniac (Curd Jürgens) from destroying the world and rebuilding it as a new Atlantis.

"The Spy Who Loved Me" is fabulous nonsense, superior to all the previous Roger Moore Bonds, even with the obvious model shots, process shots and the occasionally corny background music by Marvin Hamlisch, who also wrote the music for the theme song, "Nobody Does It Better." (It's popular, but you can have it.) The gadgets, sets, stunts and one-liners are more outrageous than ever. Jürgens makes a good villain, and so does the shark he unleashes on traitors; but the bad guy everyone remembers is Jaws—not another shark, but a metal-mouthed giant played by Richard Kiel. He is Jürgens's best henchman—not good enough to outmatch Bond, but enough to survive for the next Bond adventure.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A marriage falls apart in Ingmar Bergman's intimate portrait of two people who love and hate each other; a rich experience, 1 August 2010
9/10

Ingmar Bergman provides us with a very intimate portrait of two people in a marriage that dissolves into bitterness and hatred; and yet ultimately they both love each other and come to understand each other in a way they might never have done were it not for the divorce. Liv Ullmann, an extraordinarily captivating presence, plays a woman who can be irritatingly passive at times; but I was mainly on her side, even though it becomes clear eventually that her passivity masks her aggressive manipulation. Erland Josephson, with his rodent-like features, is harder to like, especially since his character is vain and petty. He's the one who leaves her for another, younger woman. I spent much of the movie hating and despising him, but by the end, I came to understand him and understand that Ullmann was as much responsible for the dissolution of the marriage as he.

"Scenes from a Marriage" is a very, very rich experience in its original form as a 299-minute miniseries. I've yet to see the 168-minute theatrical version.

Graceful photography and strong acting make for a fine film; the 2001 score is nice at first but too repetitive, 30 July 2010
7/10

In 17th-century England, the outlaw Doone clan kidnaps a young girl, who grows up among them. The farm boy who met her just before the kidnapping eventually rescues her, and they fall in love.

I wasn't familiar with this story, having neither read the novel nor seen the various movie and TV adaptations. The bare bones of this boy-meets-girl tale are, of course, familiar to anyone; but (in this version, at least) it is fleshed out in a particularly engaging way. The graceful photography of Henry Sharp, under Maurice Tourneur's direction, is the movie's main asset. Both leads (Madge Bellamy in the title role and John Bowers as the hero) are strong. Frank Keenan, as the elderly leader of the outlaw clan and Lorna's protector, gives a fascinatingly florid performance (an improvement over his equally striking, but ridiculously slow-motion, acting in "The Coward" from 1915). Charles Hatton, who plays the hero as a boy, has a strong screen presence: it's disappointing to see from his IMDb filmography that he only made a few films and then disappeared.

The 2001 presentations of this film has a lovely background music by Mari Iijima; but unfortunately, Iijima didn't exactly score the film so much as write a few pieces for it, which are repeated without variation throughout the movie. The repetitiveness is a defect.

The Cell (2000)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The heavy stamp of self-seriousness can't obscure the virtues of this unpleasant, but surprisingly compassionate, thriller, 29 July 2010
6/10

An FBI agent (Vince Vaughn) persuades a social worker (Jennifer Lopez), who is adept with a new experimental technology, to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer (Vincent D'Onofrio) in order to learn where he has hidden his latest kidnap victim.

The director, Tarsem Singh, presides over a movie whose raison d'être is a series of garish but arresting dream sequences, which make use of a wide variety of old and new cinematic techniques. Sickening images, both in and out of the dreams, make the movie unpleasant; while the heavy stamp of self-seriousness makes it occasionally silly. But I really liked Jennifer Lopez, who is touchingly sincere; and I liked the movie's relative lack of cynicism. The grotesquerie has a point. We're challenged to have compassion for a man we might expect to hate comfortably; but in order to play fair, the movie has to show us just how sick he is.

Heat Wave (1954)
2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
James M. Cain rip-off is more engaging than most of the films in VCI's "Hammer Noir" collection, 29 July 2010
4/10

An American writer (Alex Nicol), down on his luck, meets his rich neighbors who also live by the lake. He befriends the ailing husband (Sid James) and falls in love with the duplicitous wife (Hillary Brooke).

Ken Hughes directed "The House Across the Lake" (with the irrelevant American title of "Heat Wave") from his own screenplay based on his own novel. I guess he is the only one to blame for the story's blatant rip-off of James M. Cain (particularly "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and "Double Indemnity"). But at least he rips off the best, which means this crime thriller is more engaging than most of the films included in VCI's "Hammer Noir" DVD collection.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Typically weak attempt by the Hammer studio to replicate American crime films; climax is mildly exciting, 28 July 2010
4/10

A social-climbing American (Dane Clark) with a business in illegal gambling falls in love with a blue blood (Naomi Chance), but gangsters and a jealous ex-girlfriend (Kathleen Byron) stand in the way of happiness.

"The Gambler and the Lady" is a typically weak attempt by the Hammer studio to replicate American crime films. A mildly exciting climax (part of which is shown at the beginning) is the only thing that livens up this dull affair. I would have liked to see more of Percy Marmont, who was so good as Col. Burgoyne in Alfred Hitchcock's "Young and Innocent." Here he only gets a brief part as Chance's father.

Dillinger (1945)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Monogram Pictures manages to crank out a tough, exciting action picture which strains at its tiny budget but provides good entertainment, 19 July 2010
7/10

The bargain-basement movie studio, Monogram Pictures, managed to crank out a tough, exciting action picture based (very loosely) on the life of John Dillinger and made a sensation out of its star, Laurence Tierney, who at one point turns to the audience and fires his gun (shades of the 1903 shocker, "The Great Train Robbery"). Looking into Tierney's cold, cruel eyes, we don't doubt he could have done it to us for real. "Dillinger" strains hard against its tiny budget, taking a lot of obvious short-cuts, including the liberal use of stock footage, but we nevertheless get a well-told story with plenty of action and violence. 1945 movies couldn't be as explicit as today's, but lots of horrible things take place just off camera. Meanwhile, good things take place on camera. Anne Jeffreys, as the blonde femme fatale, did a lot of low-budget stuff, but she's very good. Dillinger's gang includes the top-notch character actors, Edmund Lowe, Elisha Cook Jr., Eduardo Ciannelli and Marc Lawrence.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The slightly elliptical nature of this material is more annoying than fascinating, but it still has three great roles, 18 July 2010
7/10

In Connecticut, Agnes and Tobias (Katharine Hepburn and Paul Scofield) are an upper-class married couple whose relationship has been uneasy for many years, since at least the time their son died; but they've managed to find a certain comfortable pattern of uneasiness. Agnes's sister, Claire (Kate Reid), lives with them and insists that her perpetual drinking is not alcoholism but willfulness. Their daughter, Julia (Lee Remick), poised to have her fourth divorce, has come back home. Unexpectedly, her room has been taken over by Harry and Edna (Joseph Cotten and Betsy Blair), best friends of Tobias and Agnes. Seized by a nameless terror that propelled them out of their own house, Harry and Edna have decided to stay.

The slightly elliptical nature of this material is more annoying than fascinating, but there's still plenty of interest and plenty of opportunity for a team of terrific actors to do their thing. Yet another great Katharine Hepburn performance preserved on film is yet another reason for us to be grateful, but Paul Scofield and Kate Reid have left fewer of their performances for posterity; and so it's nice we have this film, which gives each a fully realized character to play.

"A Delicate Balance" is a play by Edward Albee, produced by the American Film Theatre with no alterations and no foolish attempts to open it up. Alfred Hitchcock proved several times that a limited space can be an asset to a movie; and while the film making here is not at his level, Tony Richardson does a nice job at directing our eye and staying out of the play's way.


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