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What the heck was the makeup person thinking???, 25 September 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have never done this before, but like Nixon's resignation there is a first time for everything.

I watched the entire series because it was a fascinating, well acted glimpse into history and a president I was too young to know or truly understand. And I will say that the format allowed the producers to pick-and-choose what was included, so do not go into this series thinking you will get a balanced view of Nixon. Still, if you watch this thinking either they were too easy on Nixon, or did a hatchet job on him with this series--it doesn't matter. These are the man's words, recorded for history, so he has no one to blame but himself if they choose those that made him look bad.

That said, NOTHING could make him look as bad as Harry Shearer's makeup. It was HORRIBLE! It was barely better than one of those Nixon Halloween masks that were once popular (and may still be for all I know). In most scenes it reminded me of the plastic look of Matt Frewer in his "Max Headroom" makeup. And once completely applied to several inches thick, Shearer looked like a bobble-head doll, his head far out of proportion to the rest of his body, and with the layers of putty adding enough weight it didn't look like he would be able to keep his head up through the entire episode. His hair would not move, the skin on his forehead would not move, the nose which--lets face it, Nixon had a prominent nose--still managed to look like a solid block of hardened plaster. The job with the actor portraying Kissinger was similarly bad. The effect was to detract from the amazing performance of Shearer, who nailed the mannerisms, voice, and tone of delivery of Nixon. I just wish he had had a bag over his head instead of that horrible makeup.

And so--as I said at the start--I'm doing something I have never done. I am taking a full 2, perhaps even 3 stars off my rating, simply due to this horrible makeup. If you can get past that, you'll learn quite a bit about Nixon and his presidency that went on behind the scenes.

Killing Jesus (2015) (TV)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Unsatisfying for all..., 23 June 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There are plenty of reviews focusing on one or another aspect of this film, and therein lies the problem. It has flashes of greatness weighted down by a lack of direction. By trying to be all things to all viewers, it ends up being unsatisfying to all.

I visited the accompanying website where you have the option to view the same events from three different points of view. That summarizes the problem with the film. On the web site you can choose an angle and stick with it. In the film you cannot, and the attempt to show all three points of view simultaneously leads to nothing but confusion.

The relatively high rating is for flashes of quality that will stick with me. The scourging of Jesus is extremely vivid, and will stay with me. The crucifixion likewise gave an image that I found very realistic--I walked away thinking I had better idea what crucifixion was really like. Seeing the character of Jesus show real struggles with his temper also put more of a face to the man--I had a better sense of the Biblical teaching of "fully human" really means. But these insights were few and far between and ultimately couldn't overcome the other problems with the film.

One of the series best episodes, 9 May 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

By season 5, I found that many of Fame's episodes had gone flat. This is one of the exceptions, and what an exception! It revolves around the school doing a musical version of "Huck Finn" that ends up dividing the students between those that feel the story is racist and those that don't. With the school about to explode over race, the show is canceled, which brings up the issue of censorship. The show raised questions over stereotypes-- not all black students were for the play, and not all white students against it. It raised questions of education -- should anything that a person finds objectionable be cut from the curriculum. It raised questions of independent thinking -- what do you do when you don't agree with your racial group. It raised questions of loyalty -- do you stick with your friends when you disagree with them, and can you even still be friends. It even raised questions about freedom -- are.we willing to sacrifice our freedom to say something others may find uncomfortable when safety is on the line. I really didn't expect this episode, and it treated racism in a more balanced and honest way than many other shows or even documentaries I've seen. And when it was all over probably the most important message was that if we try to block out the past, even when that past was repugnant, we risk failing to grow.

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
A Husband Who Won't Be Kept, 25 October 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As others have noted, though this is marketed at "Pre-Code" there is little here to suggest that the censors would have had an issue. A spoiled, rich girl sets her sights on a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and does whatever it takes to get him. And get him she does, but he eventually rebels and she finds she can't keep him with her money any longer, and must find another way.

I had hoped the ending would give the film more of a pre-code kick, but unfortunately it wasn't there. I found the first two-thirds or more of the film stronger than the last third. In that first section, Dorothy Mackaill as the rich girl, Joel McCrea as the boy, and Robert McWade as the girl's father were the outstanding performances. They had depth and ease in their characters. Most of the others were flatly written -- Mary Carr as the boy's mom was sugary sweet, Ned Sparks as the Carr's border was there for comic relief, and a pack of shrewish women led by Florence Roberts as the girl's mother were all painfully overplayed for me. "Just get them off the screen!" I kept thinking.

But as I said, even the strong performances didn't sustain themselves throughout the film, with the one exception of McWade as the girl's father. His character remained his believable self throughout the film, and though he participated in spoiling his daughter, you always felt he did so because he truly loved his daughter, rather than trying to win her affection through money. At the last, you truly felt that even without all his riches as the owner of a steel mill, he could walk away and there would still be something of the man left at the end. There was still something more to the man outside of what we saw in this film. The other characters never achieved that feeling.

This is a film I'm glad I saw, but one which I would not say I had to have in my collection.

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Unusual Format - Excellent Result, 2 August 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For fans of the Poirot series, this episode stands out. It adds to the typical, "Poirot has the answer when no one else does" format with two things -- a slower setup of the crime and a quicker resolution.

Usually the crime is revealed early in the episode and the Poirot's solution revealed with just moments to spare before the end credits roll. Not so this time. In this roughly 48 minute episode, the crime doesn't become apparent until 15 minutes into the show, and Poirot has revealed the culprit just 10 minutes later. With the wrongdoer identified I found myself wondering, "What will they do with the second half of the episode?" Not to worry.

Just because we know who committed the crime, doesn't mean the person has been apprehended--which takes further quick thinking and action on the part of Poirot, Hastings, and Inspector Japp. Then, once apprehended, Poirot must reveal both the clues, and his actions, that led to the person's capture. If you've watched a lot of the Poirot mysteries, this episode won't disappoint.

The writer framed this episode perfectly, and keeps you off balance throughout, wondering how everything will play out, even when you think you already know the ending.

You also get to see Poirot play a character outside of detective--matchmaker!

11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Best of the Best, 26 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I rarely give a perfect rating to any movie, episode, or series. That said, I'm a huge fan of Poirot on TV and film. (Yes, I've seen the 1960's Tony Randall version -- YIKES!) So lets get to the bottom line. I told my wife she HAD to watch this episode with me. It is the best episode or movie of Poirot that I've seen. Suchet is at his best, managing to work both the younger version of Poirot against the more mature version of Poirot, and make them both convincing. The mystery is challenging and fascinating, and even the love story woven throughout the episode has a surprising ending. And for the big fans, watch closely--you'll see the lapel pin from this episode pop up in others as well. All in all, a great episode!

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
I just don't get it, and neither does this short, 19 November 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'll say up front, I don't get what was so funny about the Dogville shorts. But having watched all nine of them now, just for the historical film perspective, I have to say that "Trader Hound" is by far the worst. While some of the others provide a chuckle or two, this one wasn't funny in the least, and didn't seem to know what to do with itself. This short begins with narration (something the other eight never did), then goes to the dog characters for a bit before switching to a second narrated section about a wrestling match between a gorilla and a lion, played by two men dressed in ridiculously bad costumes. Where did the dogs of Dogville go? Oh wait, now they're back, and being chased now by a real alligator--which doesn't fit at all with the previous animals all being men in costume. Except of course, for the real monkeys thrown in for good measure during the jungle scenes. Does my review seem disjointed? Not a surprise, since the short is disjointed as well. The mix of narrated, non-narrated, dog, human costumed animals, and real animals keeps the short off balance and off story. So, can you tell I didn't like it???

One of the better "Theater of Life" Shorts, 19 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Of the "Theater of Life" shorts I've seen on TCM, this is one of the better pieces. Watching the LA Fire Department in action in 1948 and mentally comparing it to what the situation must be like at this time is mind-boggling. The statistics is what kept getting me, so much so that I shared them with my wife. Imagine: this short says the fire department responds to some sort of fire every 75 seconds--what must that stat be now? It quotes that the U.S. has 350,000 homes destroyed by fires each year--what must that stat be now? I believe they said the estimated annual cost of fires is $600 million--how many BILLIONS must that be now? I'd like to believe that some of these stats may have gone down with better education of the public and the introduction of fire suppression systems and smoke alarms, but who knows? And does it still hold that 30% of all fires are caused by smoking and matches?

Of course, there is some info that is dated, but isn't that the point? And I had to laugh at what must have seemed a clever line to the writer at that time, but hasn't done well with age: "A match has a head, but no brain. But a person has both." This is then used to emphasize that if we just think about it we can avoid most fires.

5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Struck me as an odd film, 18 June 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'm a very sentimental person, as my wife would tell you, and typically enjoy an old-fashioned love story on film, but this film struck me as odd. During the intro to the film I was intrigued--three love stories woven together on a ship. I thought that we would see how the characters from each story interacted on the ship, and how that interaction was both influenced by the love stories that came before, and how that interaction affected the lives of the individuals going forward.

But that wasn't the case at all. The ship serves as nothing more than a vehicle for introducing the characters from each vignette, and the characters never meet or interact. And the vignettes are so disparate in concept that it makes the whole film seem uneven. Consider that the first story is about ballet and heart attacks, the second about witches and wishes, and the third about suicide and circus trapeze artists.

And within the stories there were issues that nagged me. James Mason was great in the first vignette, until the young lady begins dancing in his studio. Then his comments/critique of her dancing--"That's it, that's it, higher, higher..." seemed silly. It worked much better once he was just quiet and the dance became the focus. Otherwise, his comments broke the magic. And in the final segment on the trapeze, the American hiring circus acts goes from "How can I buy an act unless I see it EXACTLY as it is to be preformed for audiences?" to "I'll pay ANYTHING for this act!" in one short minute. Add to that that none of the American actors portraying french men and women in this vignette have a french accent (I suppose that is better than a bad accent) while the non-American actors do have accents, and it just comes across as odd. This accent issue is also amplified by the fact that the second vignette of the young boy who gets his wish to be a man has an underlying storyline about speaking french properly! So we go from one extreme to the other throughout the film.

I can't help but believe that this film was three story ideas none of which had enough depth or breadth to carry a film on their own, and the ship deck mechanism was invented in order to pull together some less than perfect film ideas.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Teletunes Availability, 24 December 2006

I purchased a DVD collection from the company "DVD Megapacks" a few years ago entitled, "!00 Cartoon Classics." Disk 4 of that collection includes the following Teletunes: Ali Baba, The Magic Horn, Brave Molly, Hasty and the Princess, The Kindhearted Girl, The Three Sisters, and The Proud Princess.

As noted in other comments, the animation is crude but when accompanied by Mr. Crofoot's narration makes them interesting and introduced my children and me to several fairy tales I and they had never heard of. Tales such as "The Three Sisters" have character voicing with little or no narration and they do not fare as well.

If you have young children as I do, these are a decidedly different type of animation than the kids were used to, and generally enjoyable.

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