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Planet of the Apes (2001)
It depends on how you expect it to be...
I enjoyed this movie about ten times more that I thought I would. I guess that when you expect a movie to be kinda dumb and pale in comparison to its original version, then the good qualities of the new version can catch you by surprise and provide a lot of fun when you least expect it.
I had been disappointed by Burton's "Mars Attacks!" (It could've been a classic considering that amazing cast), so I let some friends drag me to "Planet" with more than a little trepidation.
In one of the earliest scenes, the lights of the space station all go dark, and I heard probably half a dozen people around me whispering various versions of "what, no emergency lighting?!", so I thought "Here we go; more Hollywood dumbness unleashed upon the screen..." but within the next few minutes things started picking up...and from then on I was completely along for the ride.
My favorite part of this movie has got to be Danny Elfman's propulsive score; I can't wait to buy this soundtrack. It's great! My second favorite aspect of this film is Tim Roth's wild portrayal of Thade; he delivers quite an inventive homage to great SF villains, all the way back to Ming the Merciless! There are some scenes in which his character is so malevolent that it's spine-tingling.
As for the ending (NO SPOILER) - I think it's all intended in fun, with a nod and a wink, not to mention unleashing a spectacular pun upon humanity! (Anyone who's already seen it should get it.)
So come on folks, lighten up - this one is pure entertainment. Thanks for the good time, Mr. B!!
Against the Grain (1993)
The best TV series ever canceled so fast.
In my experience, this is the best television series that was ever canceled so quickly.
The premise is that John Terry's character, Ed Clemons, returns home from the hospital at the beginning of the first episode, after recovering from major, life-threatening injuries he'd suffered in a car accident. After surviving such a painful brush with death, Ed finds that his perspective on life has changed dramatically, so he quits his regular job (at a car dealership, if I remember correctly) and searches for more meaningful pursuits. He finds that there is a job opening for the head football coach at his son's high school, and he applies for the job, not knowing what to expect, because it has been years since he last played football himself.
From there the series explored interesting relationships among many characters from various walks of life. There was such potential for a classic series here that I couldn't believe it when NBC replaced this consistently superior and challenging show with "VIPER"!! There are no words currently in existence to describe my chagrin on that day!!!
I remember that near the end of a couple of episodes of "Against the Grain", when I began to feel that the script might have been getting a bit corny or overly sentimental, the writers always shifted gears just in time and accomplished episode endings that were excellent and unexpected, and left you feeling that you had just experienced classic, thoroughly satisfying entertainment (which is becoming somewhat of a rare feeling in this current era of "reality" programming.)
This series was amazing, and it almost seemed too good to be true.....which it turned out to be, I guess. I miss this show a lot, but with the limited number of episodes broadcast (I think it was only eight or nine) I suppose this one will never be released in any home video formats. That is a pity, because more people need to see just how well-balanced between comedy and drama a family series can be, especially one that never abandons its mature, intellectually and emotionally rewarding themes.
Live Shot (1995)
Impressive effort from a fledgling net...
I agree with earlier reviewers about this show; it was fast moving and a blast to watch. I particularly remember the sideline business that the studio crew was running using the station's on-location equipment - selling wild amateur videos of bikini-clad babes firing off automatic weapons! (Which were inspired by a security video from a convenience store robbery.) Intelligent and (otherwise) topical, the scripts where worthy of much higher ratings than this program ever received. I was hoping it would catch on, but in the hyperchanging cyclone of TV programming, this memorable series was here and gone in the veritable blink of a eye...
For Pete's Sake (1966)
There is a certain nostalgia factor here...
Okay, why did I watch this movie? I happened to be surfing thru the channels one night and my attention was arrested by the fresh, Breck Girl beauty of Pippa Scott. She and her character's husband are in a scene bantering a bit about their plans for married life, and she really looks great. The film seemed to express a typical 60s-era family-oriented TV series sensibility, so I stuck with it for awhile, mainly for nostalgia's sake. Pretty soon, tragedy strikes some of the characters, and it becomes obvious that this is a religious-oriented film, but hold on, it's actually kind of likable, and not too heavy-handed.....an enthusiastic Sam Groom plays the minister, who's almost a spitting image of Ben Affleck. In addition, a couple of the more dramatic scenes about characters dealing with loss are appropriately grim and not soft-peddled, and the outdoor location scenes are filled with vintage cars tooling around (metal eye candy), since one of the main characters is a mechanic.
The casting coup of this film has got to be Teri Garr portraying one of the wayward teens; I think she's supposed to be a bit of a bad girl here (or a least a searching soul), as signified by the dark eyeliner she wears (it still looks good on her, though!) If you're a Teri Garr fan, she is especially cute near the end of the movie, when she's shown smiling as she rides with her boyfriend through the city streets.
After one of the worst jump cuts I've ever seen, we find ourselves watching the characters holding an informal motorcycle race. An inadvertently funny scene occurs when the young kids are sitting around the picnic blanket listening to the sound of their friend's motorcycle engine on the other side of the hill, when it suddenly stops. The kids laugh and say, "Oh, well, I guess he must've crashed or something!" and they laugh again.....without lifting a finger to go see if he's ok!!
One major plus is the song that Al Freeman Jr. sings in the garage near the end of the movie; it's an excellent song (that I'd never heard before) in an expressive 60s-era folk style; I wish I had recorded it to play again. (It was groovy!)
This is the second Billy Graham movie that I've watched and enjoyed more than I expected to, and I'm not a particularly religious person. The pleasures of films like these are admittedly simple, but they do exist nonetheless.
The Heart Is a Rebel (1958)
Better than you might think...
As a strictly non-religious moviegoer, when I saw this movie starting on late-night cable TV I merely intended to view it for whatever entertainment value (and potential kitsch quality) it might provide. I was very surprised at the solid competency that is apparent throughout, especially in both scriptwriting and acting (in spite of sometimes obvious budget constraints.) Believe it or not, the main characters are pretty well delineated and easy to identify with as everyday working people. The script doesn't really hit you over the head with too much Christian dogma; in fact the general public's discomfort with such religious themes is portrayed realistically a few times, most notably when the main character asks the bartender (in the later bar scene) not to switch the TV away from Billy Graham's televised sermon (out of curiosity), but a few moments later he gives in after the bartender complains that the program is making the other patrons uncomfortable.
The main character is well-played by John Milford, and I found his work to be quite moving at times as the struggling family provider who is being pulled in many directions simultaneously (career, family, self-fulfillment, religious faith?); I think the high point of his work in this film may be the scenes in the hospital during which his character rudely yells at the 'saintly' doctor, primarily due to his character's extreme worry and frustration over his son's serious medical condition; his portrayal of unrestrained grief that follows is almost shocking in its vulnerability. This actor does a fine job, and his dark, 1950s-era good looks even add a bit of brooding depth to his character's difficult emotional journey.
I also found Georgia Lee's work in this film to be quite effective and rewarding; her pert, glowing, red-haired sweetness only adds to the attractive combination of sincerity and intelligence that allows her urban housewife character to be seen as particularly well-grounded. I especially was struck by the emotional truth she expresses during the party scene, when she is called upon to defend her budding religious beliefs against the cynical remarks of the 'callous urban sophisticates' (much to the chagrin of her husband, who's trying to score a few integrity points with the boss and his new business client.) Ms. Lee expresses her character's nervous hesitation perfectly during these moments; you can practically feel the adrenaline coursing through her body as she faces potential ridicule from these "important" strangers, all the while knowing that she is garnering certain disfavor in the eyes of her husband.
As an appreciation of deft acting and solid character portrayal, I feel that this movie excels far more often than it disappoints. The scenes depicting Graham's vintage sermons at Madison Square Garden are relatively short, and are therefore not too intrusive into the main storyline.
Although I was left unaffected by this film's religious overtones, the grief and fear expressed by the main characters as they struggle to deal with the serious illness of their young son actually haunted me for a few days afterward, and I still remember certain scenes fondly for their commendably effective theatrical construction. Ethel Waters is quite an enjoyable presence throughout this movie, both for her heartfelt renditions of some gospel standards (most notably "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"), and for her cheerful portrayal of the ideal nurse/nanny character who watches over the sick little child. The young actor playing the sick boy is surprisingly restrained in his role, too; there is often a tendency to overplay such a focus of parental worry in stories such as this one, but this actor is fairly upbeat without being cloying.
I certainly want to find out who directed this movie; I suspect that its consistent high quality in the areas that matter most when working with a small budget, plus its gentle, non-threatening (& refreshingly non-hysterical) thematic nature, are also due in large part to the talents behind the camera.
An added draw for fans of 1960s TV series will be enjoying a bit of supporting work from the likes of a youthful and endearingly quirky Alvy Moore (Hank Kimball on "Green Acres" (1965)). Also appearing is Madge Blake (Aunt Harriet Cooper on "Batman" (1966/II)), who seems to be giving us a sneak preview of Aunt Harriet, appearing in a mink coat and diamonds...
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
fine camera work
Check out the great camera shot that takes us from the snowy outdoor winter scene right through the windowpane into the glowing warmth of the Christmas dance; it's just one of the many cinematic pleasures of this great movie.
(In addition, the set design of the house is very evocative of the desired time period, and even Marjorie Main excels in a role that is more subdued than her usual assignments)
The Louisiana Hussy (1959)
Fast Movin' Trash
I had to rate this movie a 7/10, because it is a highly entertaining bayou trash romp. The intermittent sex scenes are especially humorous, thanks to the director's and cast's attempts to push the censors' envelope of acceptability to the limit for '59. In fact, the characters' intertwined shadows sometimes get away with more than the characters themselves do! Then there's lots of fightin' and fussin' to keep you interested between the romantic interludes.
We saw this on public TV's One Star Theatre a few years ago, and had a blast watching it. The lead "hussy" is completely unscrupulous and immoral, and she's played against nice, sweet Betty Lynn ('Thelma Lou' of Mayberry fame) to great effect. Enjoy this one for all it's worth, if you can find it!!
The Lively Set (1964)
it's all about the cars!
The main reason I love this movie is because it shows off the Chrysler Turbine Car to great effect. The scene where the camera zooms in on the exposed turbine engine during the road race still gives me goosebumps when I see it. Back in the sixties that was like saying, "Here's the Future, folks; get a close-up look at it in action!"
The rest of the movie is admittedly a bit stilted and obvious, but Darren and McClure are earnest and believable, and the race scenes are well staged and filmed. Seeing the actual race drivers in their younger days is kind of fun, too.
I was shocked upon a recent viewing because when I saw this film as a kid I remember believing that the evening desert scenes were actually filmed outdoors! Now the studio lighting and backdrops are painfully obvious to adult eyes.
I always wondered why such a Chrysler-oriented movie would have so many Mercurys hanging around (Pam's convertible Comet, most notably.) Were there some hard feelings between the studio and Chrysler, for some reason, which may have caused the director to populate the sets with competitor's cars? I would much rather have seen Furys and 300 Letter cars in this instance. However, those two great Engel Imperials are worth the price of admission for me.
Devil's Doorway (1950)
one of the best
wow - I'm not normally a big fan of westerns, but this one seems to excel in all departments. At first I was wondering if I would buy Robert Taylor as a full-blooded Native American character, but it's a testament to the depth and range of his talent that he had me convinced within the first minute of his screen time, without even a momentary falter throughout the rest of the film. The cinematography is nothing short of spectacular, sometimes even haunting; certain outdoor scenes are as memorable as masterpiece landscape paintings (and we're talking black & white here!)
The dramatic storyline is excellent and never misses a beat; character motivations may be surprising at times, yet they remain dramatically valid and consistent throughout the film. Even when the main character makes certain decisions with which you may not agree, you'll still understand why he does what he does.
The ending is one of the best that I know of; the final dialogue is as prophetic as it is unforgettable. I watched this movie on TCM knowing very little about it before I sat down in front of the tube, and I'm thrilled to say that I thoroughly enjoyed watching an actual 10/10. I'm really looking forward to seeing it again!
Hello Down There (1969)
future tech fun
We loved this movie when we saw it at the theatre during its original release; I still have fond memories of the pet dolphins cavorting in the living room pool, and of the space-age push-button underwater conveniences (such as that neat pop-up refrigerator). I can even remember the lyrics to "Hey Little Goldfish" and "Glub, Glub"!! As kids we sang those songs for years. I can't wait to rent this one and rock out again with Dreyfuss and the gang! I hope he doesn't mind too much, 'cause I think this movie is a great sixties artifact, with a fun cast and very creative sets.