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Message in a Bottle (1999)
Let it float by
This movie is l o n g, too long, and insulting. Robin Wright is wonderful; Kevin Costner is Kevin Costner; Paul Newman is to be complimented for evolving into a character actor.
Any resemblance to a worthwhile experience ends there. In its defense, this movie must have had to end the way it did; it's the adaptation of a book. Thank God it is not another, "The Scarlett Letter" adaptation that makes its own ending! The ending is laughable. I could not believe that the guy would not come wandering out of the waves. Plus...this flick had so many endings, it reminded me of Lord of the Rings, the Return of the King. It just kept going on and on with various endings. It was like a high Roman Catholic wedding mass to a Baptist; you think it's over, gather up your things, and it keeps going! The difference is that such a mass is beautiful; this movie is unbelievably boring.
MIAB is actually a character study; best suited to no more than one hour. I think it is just poorly written; there are too many loose ends. Plus, it is HOKEY beyond belief! Anyone, including myself, who would sit through this turkey deserves better! I believe the production company went over its deadline and someone pulled the plug.
Well, that's one more good thing...it could still be running.
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
Why not go overland?
Has there ever been a more elegant movie? The cinematography, music, set and fashion design, and most of all, the quality of acting, is unsurpassed. Albert Finney should have received the Academy Award for his performance.
The premise is tragic; not the stuff of classy movies. But, since the bad guy gets his, every thing turns out all right. Each actor simply "is" his or her part; but then, each was the best in his or her field at the time.
Tony Perkins was too typecast. He is excellent, but the role is distractingly familiar. It is a shame Perkins was forever cast into the "Psycho" stereotype.
Even so, the only casting I would rather see changed is Lauren Bacall; she does not have the underlying substance to fill out the character she plays; she has always been, in her roles and admittedly, in her private life (via her autobiography) exactly like the person she portrayed as "Harriet Hubbard". I would have rather seen a deeper and more substantive actress for the part; Ingrid Bergman would have brought much more depth, for instance. Bacall just didn't make a believable transition to, "The Greatest American Dramatic Actress of Her Day." She has always played somewhat of a shallow floozie, and the image fits her. I loved her clothes though.
This is indeed an escapist film. Sidney Lumet was a great director and several of these stars indicated they would not have made this film, were he not in that role. Indeed, Agatha Christie would not have allowed it to be made.
This is a wonderful visual and intellectual experience.
The Bodyguard (1992)
The problem with this film is the total lack of chemistry between the two lead characters; or rather, between the actors who play them. That attraction is supposed to fuel the movie and drive it forward, but it's water in the gas tank; this clunker only rolls a few feet.
Whitney Houston is so talented and beautiful, but exudes no sex appeal. In that respect she is like Julie Andrews of old; very talented, lovely, but, as one critic wrote of Andrews, "Has all the sex appeal of a very efficient dietitian." I would rather have seen, oh...Halle Berry or some actress with real dynamism (and dubbed voice) getting mixed up with Kevin Costner.
Kevin Costner is a fine actor who was absolutely doing his best Steve McQueen impression. Women love to see a powerful, internally sensual man succumb to a woman so sensual or otherwise desirable that the poor guy's helpless. Costner is a powerful actor and few female actresses have that presence...Angelina Joli? Costner even was too powerful for Susan Sarandan in Bull Durham.
I agree that, second to the flat interaction of the main characters, the story made little sense. If Frank Farmer had such a fragile ego that he could not come to terms with a tragic event he had nothing to do with, he would not have been selected by the Secret Service in the first place.
And what was the plan with taking the entourage to the lake? Were they going to live there indefinitely? Papa Walton, by the way, was miscast as Frank's father. He seemed to be ready to break into a smile at any moment; or perhaps the corners of his mouth got caught on his dentures.
The sister and son were very good. I liked the acting ability of both; Fletcher was very subtle and sensitive in a film that wasn't.
The Oscar scenes were funny. Anyone who saw Naked Gun 33 1/3 keeps expecting Mary Lou Retton to come flipping and bouncing down the aisle. Rachel's (joking) reason for risking her life in attending was ludicrous...you gotta cheer when Frank's stoic chastity appropriately caved; if she was a Darwin award candidate, her days were numbered anyway, so why not?
Actually, I thought Whitney Houston's acting was fine; she downplayed the role, seemed rather shy, and perhaps if there were more chemistry with the male lead, she would have received less criticism. I would like to have seen Diana Ross and Steve McQueen; they were equally matched dynamic folks.
Oh well, there are worse movies. Just because this one lacked chemistry, motivation, and sense, doesn't make it half as bad as the remake of Lost Horizon...my overall standard of rotten films.
And hey, I thought Frank's haircut was sexy.
Funny Farm (1988)
An Acher of Fun
I like this movie a lot, and I do not like Chevy Chase, who cannot manage attempting to be "funny" in any of his movies without animal abuse. NOT FUNNY, Chevy! Madolyn Smith is wonderful. I agree with others that she is an underrated actress; she seems very natural and most likable.
The chemistry between the two main actors is great. You buy that Andy Farmer is a couple of bubbles off center and that Elizabeth is along for the ride; she loves him but keeps her head amid the chaos of crushed expectations.
One of my favorite parts is Elizabeth's predicament in having to read Andy's novel when she intended a different evening. Wives everywhere will identify with her hands-over-face tears when she is trapped between her support for her mate and the awfulness of his writing.
Andy Farmer is a big lumbering Labrador Retriever of a character. He is all bounds and tale wagging and happy panting; until he meets the town folk who don't see themselves as dog toys. The citizens of Redbud just live their lives, lives grown odd through generations of isolation, no doubt, and they see no reason to change just because a happy puppy romps among them.
I love the whole Christmas scenario...and the fact that smarter heads than Chase's opted to not let the ducks get shot out of the sky and drop at his feet. I'm sure that's what he would have suggested, like the cat in Christmas Vacation. George Roy Hill had much more depth than Chase and knew not to play this flick for sadistic cheap laughs; except, I just remembered, the scalded bird. Again, NOT FUNNY, Chevy!
This movie would have been good with anyone in Chase's role; Smith carries the movie and several good male actors come to mind who could have handled the part of Andy Farmer well...with no mistreatment of animals at all!
Frasier: Look Before You Leap (1996)
Among the Funniest!
This hilarious episode spotlights each main character at his or her best. Nothing is so funny as tragedy in a fine comedian's hands, and this episode proves it.
Each event extends the theme personality of the character to the point of disaster; each terrible outcome is tailored to their specific hopes and dreams. Roz is humiliated in her eternal quest for love; Daphne for self improvement; Martin, for adventure outside his chair and remote control; Niles in his quest to rekindle Maris; and Frasier, in his always bumbling desire to be shown superior through his advice to loved ones.
The combined fury of the recipients of his conceit finally place Frasier on center stage in the spotlight's glare, dancing and mumbling ad libbing lyrics to "Buttons and Bows"; a perfect tune for live broadcast humiliation.
I think the outbursts of laughter from Daphne and Martin as they watch Frasier's fiasco must have been genuine; tears were running down my face as well. They were probably filmed actually seeing this performance for the first time.
This episode is a perfect jewel of writing, and acting.
Muppets Treasure Island (1996)
Love brought us here
I think that sums this wonderful movie best; the irony that is the Muppet's trademark; the inside jokes that only those over 21 get, ("If you had crabs on your bottom, you'd be grouchy too!"); the color, the just plain wit of the thing. This is a delightful film.
The Jewish cruise group is hilarious-the concept to start with, then their comments along the way, the "asides" on the main story..."These South Sea floor shows are great" (or something to that effect);"What's with the wine! You're washing the paint off the shuffleboard game!"
My favorite song is "I have cabin fever". It is hilarious.
Of course, Tim Curry is wonderful, as always. He has hewn for himself a unique place in movies; always odd, yet always likable and funny. He is really a fine actor; I would like to see him in a serious role some day.
My favorite scene is when poor Kermit and Ms. Piggy dangle over certain death on the rocks below singing, "Love Brought Us Here." Amen.
By far the best,of many good, Muppet movies. Thanks, all you Muppet guys!
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Something to Celebrate!
What a refreshing movie! The contrast between the WASP lifestyle and the Greek was very well done. I agree that most of us WASPs lead boring lives; certainly compared to the cultures that celebrate togetherness. To the Greeks, apparently, cohesion is more important than conformity. It fascinated me that, although these Greek characters were so connected,they were so distinctively unique.
Ian was lost in this exuberance, but in love enough to be open to it; and to always fall for "Nico's" verbal jokes. Ian and Toula were different culturally, but their essence was the same; they were gentle people awash in worlds of too much isolation from feelings and too overwhelming in feelings. They both felt themselves odd balls in those worlds, and were magnetized to one another instantly.
Of course, the most hilarious scene was when Ian tried to flirt outside Toula's office window and got "an old lady ass kicking" for his trouble. That, being followed by the scene where, in her entrancement with her new found soul mate, Toula flattens herself backwards! Those touches in the film that remind us of our own silly experiences are what made this movie so great for me. I loved the warmth of a culture so very different from my own; the realistic opposition that the father shows; the astonishment, but acceptance, by the "toast" parents of the groom.
One of my favorite escape films.
You go girl
Mara Wilson is beyond superb. What a prefect performance! I will have to see the remake of "Miracle on 34th Street" if she is in it.
I watch this film frequently. Frankly, I identify with Matilda, as unfortunately many bright females no doubt do. When a child is put down for being bright or creative or talented by their own parents and siblings, the spirit and self image suffers.
But not Matilda's. She is able to see that she is, "somewhat different from her family," and thus has perspective about worth. Wouldn't that be nice? Here is a little girl who discovers adults can be just as "bad" as children, and hence, should pay the consequences. Here is a little girl who does not take the flaws of lousy parents onto her own shoulders, and instead whips out that ol' peroxide bottle.
I like that Danny Devito is also the narrator. It softens his on-screen character and enhances the movie.
The only criticism I have is that "Miss Honey" should occasionally speak above a whisper. After a while it gets irritating.
And definitely, the scene of "kicking the cat" should not have been made; there are other ways to convey someone's meanness without trivializing an act of cruelty; in pretense or not.
In conclusion: please, Mara, come back to film. You are wonderful.
Topper Returns (1941)
So bad it's kinda fun
I like ghost movies and such, and I do watch "Topper Returns" when I am in the mood. BUT it is getting more difficult, as the rampant racism is increasingly tough to stomach. "Rochester" was a pleasant memory from my youth; a valued cohort of Jack Benny. I didn't like to see him denigrated in this film. I tell myself that all of these fine actors did their best in denigrating roles, but Rochester more so than the others.
And Joan Blondell! How irritating can one person get? I know this was the age of the "give as good as she got" female, but she utters not one humorous thing and grates on one's nerves.
This movie is a waste of fine talent. It does, however, have redeeming virtues. The black and white photography is perfect for the effects it wishes to create. I think the scene of the "spirit" leaving the mansion to find Topper, is spectacular. The light and motion of the scene is better than I have ever seen in movies.
I couldn't get into the ghost's still having a "body" capable of climbing into bed with Topper, getting drunk, getting her toe stepped on, etc.
Carol Landis was beautiful and somehow managed to get through this turkey. Another waste of talent- and beauty.
If you haven't seen this flick, you must do so if only to experience the eye movements of the doctor- the Boris Karloff wannabe. It is a queasy-creating performance...eee gads.
But my dissatisfaction boils down to this: did the studio run out of money, or what? The end drops you off a cliff; so what was the whole scheme and how were the assorted nuts in the castle involved, and did Dennis O'Keef ever get his $26 dollars, and why in the heck do I care? Well, I don't, so I'm going to make some coffee.
Watch Mary Poppins Instead
Well, as far as the "unChristian" debate; it's pointless. History is history. Exploiting people and land is an activity of all religions (except the ones that emphasize spirit and not structure...like Buddism). So, Hawaii depicts the essence of what happened in Hawaii, like it or not.
My question is, why on earth did they cast Julie Andrews to play Jerusala? I know she was popular at the time, but was completely inappropriate for the part, beginning with the English accent. She is a lightweight actress, as sexually appealing as a "very efficient dietitian" (as one reviewer of another film described her). That whaler dude would hardly have pined across time and oceans to win her hand (or most certainly anything else).
I don't have much problem with Max; then again, I haven't seen him in anything else. He appeared to be a wooden actor performing as a wooden man. Unlike Jerusala, I didn't keep expecting him to grab an umbrella, break out in song and skip off a cliff. Believe me, I wish she had.
The Hawaiian cast was excellent. I can't help but feel their talents were wasted, as was the culture they represented in the new order brought by Whites. Those actors made the tale much more believable.
Of course the photography was incredible. Hawaii is incredible. The book was much better, as is always the case in movies, but in my opinion, far too long. Michner liked to hear himself write.
That's about it. This is good escapist stuff, but badly miscast. Alas, they should have learned from My Fair Lady and picked Audrey Hepburn. That would have also been miscasting, but she didn't have the off screen persona that Andrews reportedly has- the ability to cuss like one of those whalers.
And, I am sure the lovely Ms. Hepburn, being a truly fine actress, would have made us regret her character's passing. Instead, when that sad moment came (or, actually, didn't come- they skipped over that part, probably because it didn't fit either Julie's image or acting ability; they showed her looking kinda tired, then cut to her tombstone), anyway, when I caught on to that quick transition, I breathed my own simple little prayer; "Thank God."