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Real Steel (2011)
This Bot Is One To Watch
We were fortunate to see an early premiere. I'm the Merchant Ivory, art house, history buff in the house and I want a good script and actors who know what to do with one when they get it. My son is the "long week at work Adventure and comedy don't make me think" aficionado, and my grandson is fine as long as it is loud, has crashes and someone speaks in Japanese. We ALL loved Real Steel. Look for your cynical film buff button and press "OFF!". Gather up everyone in the house whatever their age or gender and cart them all to the theater. Real Steel is your family feel good about being together, movie of the year.
Hugh Jackman gets to act up a storm in a movie that for once he doesn't have to haul up by its boot straps to make better just because he is in it. Shawn Levy has given him a vehicle he can ride all the way to the end showing what the actor you knew was there can do with a decent script and cast. Dakota Goyo is that young talent you keep hoping sticks around for the long haul who is now at the beginning of his career, and the supporting cast (special nod to Anthony Mackie) does what it is supposed to do: Provide the tension and get out of the way.
Real Steel may not be a movie for the ages, but in an era of too much over the top noise, empty characters saddled with poor writing, worse acting, and explosions instead of emotions, it is definitely the one movie you want to see this year, the one you will want to add to video collection, and the one that will make you stop for a few pleasurable moments to remember when flicking through the channels in years to come.
(slight spoiler sentence follows)
The rogue learns to be a good guy. The dejected but sharp kid gets a dad. The right robot comes out on top and while all of that is happening, you get to cheer, punch the air, and whoop or well up tears in all the appropriate places.
Flawed But Fun
There are a dozen places where I would like to shake the script writer who came up with "The Man From Snowy River" meets "A Town Like Alice" with a side trip to "Rabbit Proof Fence" for social conscience. This should have been an Australian Gone With The Wind and we get Left With The Breeze. Ignore the continuity and historical errors and wishing for more. The cattle, horses, and sweeping vistas make up for a lot of deficiencies. Jackman and Kidman are excellent and make the most of what they are given. The romance is heated and I would like to personally thank Mr. Jackman for the barrel of water over bare chest scene. This movie needed the help, and women everywhere are grateful. The scenery animal, human, and mineral is gorgeous. Ignore that you are disappointed because it could have been a great epic story and settle for an enjoyable experience that you can watch repeatedly purely for fun without feeling you have wasted your time.
The Highwayman (1951)
Alfred Noyes Poem as movie swashbuckler
I actually saw this movie in the theater at the age of seven. Now that's an impressionable age, but more than 50 years later I can still envision the mist on the moors, the clouds scudding across the sky and the haunting music as one of the classic poems is beautifully brought to life. The dashing Highwayman daring all for love of the beautiful Bess; the jealous, sneaky, and lustful ostler betraying him to the authorities; the raucous redcoats lustfully jeering as they imprison the innkeeper's daughter, the brave and beautiful Bess willing to sacrifice all for her lover; who could ask for anything more in an adventure movie. This is a movie for those who just can't resist romance with a touch of ghost story.
Tribute to JFK following Assassination
TW3 usually featured hilarious but biting satire. David Frost brought his very British view of happenings in the news from around the world. It was a combination of Saturday Night Live and the 6:00 o'clock news. This one date was a complete departure from the usual format except in the quality and creativity of the writing. Even though I haven't seen it in almost 45 years, I can clearly remember the impact of the show. On this one date, the program didn't play for laughs. It was a complete tribute. I've been looking for it for years and didn't realize it was available. The most interesting piece was a vignette that featured only the fingers of a hand being used as a puppet on a black background. It is impossible to describe, but it totally captured the horror, sadness, and respect felt by virtually everyone. Anyone who is at all interested in history, should have a copy of this show.
Ghost Whisperer (2005)
Afterlife better than Ghost Whisperer
Ghost Whisperer was fine for one season and then just got too predictable even when they went on the scary tangent. It has become a cross between Touched By An Angel and Alien and way to predictable. You have the feeling that any actor that gets a better contract offer will conveniently die in some dramatic plot. The new BBC series Afterlife is well acted with original stories involving the continuing characters. You really care about these people because they aren't just pretty, they really seem human, someone you are likely to meet at a local coffee shop. Ghost Whisperer exists as flat filler to limp from one detestable commercial to another. Afterlife is so well done, you don't mind watching the commercials to pay for it.
Lillian Russell (1940)
Bad Bio of a Fascinating Woman
The costumes and some musical numbers keep this movie from being a total flop, but you have to give the makers a hand, they really tried for awful and only missed by a little bit. Alice Faye is at her bland worst. The songs are well sung with all the life of overdone spaghetti.
Lillian Russell was a fascinating woman with an incredible life. Her fame within her lifetime was enormous. She had an early childhood that gave her independence and made her an early suffragette. Her four husbands, the long time affair with Diamond Jim Brady, her later career when her voice failed, her activities during WWI all add up to a movie that should be made in the future. Maybe someday a movie will do her justice. This one isn't it.