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luannjim

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25 reviews in total 
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The Thing (2011/I)
11 out of 48 people found the following review useful:
Prequel? No., 11 October 2011

First of all -- and my most important reason for writing this review -- let's get one thing straight. This is not a prequel. Repeat, it's not a prequel, and I don't know why they're saying it is.

What it is, simply, is a variation. A variation on John W. Campbell's original story "Who Goes There?", and as such it's not bad. The first half is the best; the director really captures some of the who's-human-and-who-isn't tension of Campbell's original story. Too soon, however, that tack is abandoned and the movie goes whole-hog for the animatronic/CGI stuff, and it becomes more ALIEN than the original story. Still not bad, but I do think they were on to something better in the first half.

John Carpenter's 1982 THE THING remains the most faithful retelling of Campbell's story (although Carpenter tweaked the ending, perhaps to leave room for a sequel), but just for the record I still think 1951's THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD, despite changing the story almost completely, is still the best movie (overall) made from "Who Goes There?" Still, this one's entertaining enough. Just don't expect it to be a prequel.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Lost No More!, 13 September 2010
6/10

I've got good news at least for the three (so far) commenters here, and perhaps for others as well: THE ANIMAL WORLD has survived intact, and is available from the Warner Archive.

I bought it, not surprisingly, for the dinosaur sequence; I too got those ViewMaster reels in 1956 and have wondered ever since what the movie was like. The movie as a whole is a pretty-good nature documentary, akin to (though not quite as good as) the Walt Disney True-Life Adventures of the 1940s and '50s. The O'Brien-Harryhausen animation scenes are justifiably the main draw here, and they alone are worth the price of the DVD.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Early Hollywood Lives Again!, 1 September 2010
10/10

I have nothing to add to all the appreciative comments here except to second them all: This is, hands down, the greatest documentary on Hollywood AND the second-greatest documentary series ever created for television -- second only to Ken Burns's THE CIVIL WAR, and that only because of the comparative triviality of the subject. What Kevin Brownlow and David Gill have done is nothing less than a noble service to posterity. (How I would love to see the uncut versions of ALL the interviews used in this series; I understand they're on deposit at the British Film Institute.)

A note to all those who plead for the series to be released on DVD: I join you in those sentiments, and so does Kevin Brownlow. Unfortunately, as he said in an interview a few years ago, any DVD release is being stymied by the monumental task of getting clearance for the hundreds of film clips used in the series; evidently some of the rights-holders are being quite obstinate about it. A shame.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Spectacularly inept, 26 October 2009
1/10

Despite my enormous affection and respect for George Pal's superlative 1953 update of H.G. Wells's 1898 novel, I've always wished that someone had produced a "period" version of the story, setting it in Victorian/Edwardian times, as Pal himself did when he filmed THE TIME MACHINE in 1960. Thus I was intrigued when I found this DVD in a friend's collection, boasting on its cover blurb of being "the first true adaptation" of Wells's story.

Well, it IS set around the turn of the 20th century. Otherwise, I feel sure Wells would be as appalled as I was, and would turn to me and ask, "I say, old bean, do you have a copy of that version where you Yanks placed the story in Southern California?" This movie, which runs a mind-numbing THREE HOURS, is...well, as I said in my headline, it's spectacularly inept. As others have mentioned, there are interminable shots of this character or that stumbling along some English country lane or other (actually the country outside Seattle). The CGI effects are less than bare-bones; they look like they were programmed on a Commodore 64 in 1982. Director Timothy Hines can't even match the simplest shots one to the next -- and since he is credited as editor and cinematographer as well as director, he's got no one to blame but himself. Acting can be charitably described as energetically amateurish (the best performance is from Susan Goforth as The Writer's Wife, but she gets points off for having collaborated on the plodding, lifeless script).

Poor acting, no action or suspense, super-cheap effects, truly ghastly cinematography -- this thing is a seminar in bad film-making. Avoid, avoid.

9 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
The best of the best, 9 February 2009
10/10

The commenter who called "Never Send a Boy King to Do a Man's Job" an homage to THE STING was on to something; I would add only that THE STING should have been half this good. This two-parter, taken as one feature-length episode, is quite simply the best single installment of the best private eye series in the history of television.

Jim Rockford was always at his best (from the viewpoint of the series' audience) when he was running a scam on someone ("There's One in Every Port" was another winner), and here he runs a game to end them all, helping his pal Richie Brockelman (Dennis Dugan) get half a million bucks from a cutthroat businessman who bilked it out of Richie's father (Harold Gould, the one cast member who was also in THE STING). A pox on anyone who spoils one word of this one; suffice it to say there are games within games, and it's a swell ride all the way.

Special kudos to writer Juanita Bartlett, too.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Classic hour of TV comedy, 17 October 2008
9/10

I saw this special once, when it was broadcast in February 1970, and I don't believe it has ever been seen from that day to this. Too bad, because it's one of the most brilliantly funny hours in the history of television. Two Adamses (Don and Edie) and two Dons (Adams and Rickles) starred in a series of wonderful parodies of classic movies, each one funnier than the last. All three of the stars (and if I recall correctly, they were the entire cast except for narrator Charlton Heston) were very gifted mimics, and they gave witty impressions of a roster of classic stars -- Edie did her famous Mae West, Don A. his equally famous William Powell. And Rickles and Edie did a dead-on spoof of Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in GONE WITH THE WIND.

This was an absolutely classic hour of TV comedy, and I dearly hope it still exists somewhere and will become available on video one of these days.

4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The definitive production, one for the ages, 25 June 2008
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Let me make one thing clear right off the bat: I yield to no one in my admiration for the 1936 version of SHOW BOAT. It's one of the great movie musicals, and in getting the unforgettable performances of Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan and Charles Winninger on film, producer Carl Laemmle Jr. and director James Whale did a service to posterity that future generations will be grateful for for centuries to come.

However, it was the nature of film-making in 1936, as in 1951 when MGM did their glossy remake, that the show had to be cut down to size to fit the medium. As much as I love the 1936 and like the 1951 versions, I never really understood what the big deal was about SHOW BOAT -- not until I saw this Paper Mill Playhouse production on Great Performances in 1989.

Here is SHOW BOAT restored to its lavishness of production and the epic sweep of its story. Like the original production, this one takes us through 40 years, from 1887 to the "present day" (i.e., 1927) -- from the post-Civil War South through the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and the dawn of the ragtime era to the Charleston-dancing Jazz Age. It gives us the changing face of show business seen through the lives of the people who work in it, and the effects of time (and "the times") on four marriages: Magnolia and Gaylord, Capt. Andy and Parthy, Steve and Julie, and Queenie and Joe.

Performances are uniformly excellent. Is P.L. Brown Paul Robeson, or Shelly Burch Helen Morgan? Well, no, of course not -- but who is? Still, their performances are first-rate, both vocally and dramatically. Eddie Bracken was born to play Capt. Andy; it's a pity, perhaps, that he didn't do it 20 years earlier, but here, at 74, he still has the presence and energy the part calls for. Rebecca Baxter has probably the most demanding role in the show, aging from her teens to her 50s (plus, in this production, playing Magnolia's grown daughter Kim), and she's truly affecting; I dare anyone to sit dry-eyed through the scene where Magnolia learns that Gay has run out on her. Richard White as Gaylord, Ellia English as Queenie, Lee Roy Reams as Frank, Lenora Nemetz as Ellie, Marsha Bagwell as Parthy -- all are wonderful and can hardly be improved upon. The same goes for the huge chorus, whose vocal power on such songs as "Ol' Man River" and "Can't Help Lovin' That Man" is often thrilling. Add to this the excitement of seeing them all performing live, without prerecording, before a large and enthusiastic audience.

SHOW BOAT is the greatest work in the history of the American musical, and while most productions don't do the show justice (the less said about Harold Prince's dismal revival the better), this one proves it. It really is a shame that this truly great performance has never been issued on video or DVD (it's not too late; how about it, Paper Mill and PBS?). But those of us who had the foresight to tape the broadcast in 1989 have a SHOW BOAT for the ages, one we can enjoy and cherish to the end of our days.

Simply the best, 6 December 2007
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I have little to add to the comments already here; this is simply a great movie and that's all there is to it. It is, in fact -- though it's seldom credited for this -- the best movie ever made from any work by Charles Dickens. Meaning no disrespect to David COPPERFIELD ('35), GREAT EXPECTATIONS ('46), or any other -- but this is the only film that actually IMPROVES on the original, with scenes that Dickens himself would surely have written if he hadn't been in such a hurry to get it published.

I will, however, boast that I was there before almost anybody: This has been my favorite version of the CAROL for 50 years, long before the general adulation kicked in (for example, it wasn't until the 1980s that Leonard Maltin's book bumped its rating from three stars to four).

One question I have (and this may be more appropriate for the message board, but I'm putting it here just in case someone can answer it and make the addition) is: Who played Martha Cratchit? She has a substantial part, yet for some reason she's not listed here. Anybody know? In any case, whoever she is, she's perfect, with her bright little heart-shaped face and chipper voice, and she deserves to be remembered (if she is still among us, will someone please relay to her the thanks of a grateful world for her contribution?).

I'll say it again: A great movie.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Did someone say there's a video?, 8 July 2007

I had never heard of this production until I looked up William Hutt after seeing his titanic performance in Season 3 of SLINGS AND ARROWS, in which he plays the dying actor cast as King Lear. I see that Martha Burns of SLINGS is in this production too, as Cathleen the maid.

LONG DAY'S JOURNEY is one of my favorite plays, and the 1962 production with Katharine Hepburn and Ralph Richardson is one of my favorite movies. The 1973 Laurence Olivier-Constance Cummings I found almost as good, the 1987 version with Jack Lemmon and Bethel Leslie rather less so, despite a first-rate cast. This production sounds like it might have been just about perfect, and I'd love to see it, but I can't find it on Amazon (US or Canada) or any other source. Does anyone know where it's available?

Hell Below (1933)
9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
First-Rate Early Submarine Drama, 2 June 2007
7/10

As I type these comments I'm watching a DVD of this movie that I just got from a mail-order dealer, and I'm finding that it holds up extremely well, with strong characterizations, believable situations, and well-staged action scenes.

It's been a good 45 years, maybe 50, since I saw HELL BELOW, but the one scene that made an extremely deep impression on me was Sterling Holloway's death scene, which several other commenters have mentioned here. I haven't gotten to that scene yet on this viewing, but I can vouch for what other comments have said: once you see Sterling Holloway's death scene in this movie, you will absolutely never, ever forget it. Judging from how strong the film so far is holding up, I fully expect that scene to live up to the memory of it -- as unquestionably one of the greatest death scenes in movie history. The movie's worth seeing for that moment alone, but even without it, it would be a first-rate early submarine drama.


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