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719 reviews in total 
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0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Frank Capra, through the looking glass, 5 January 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Nothing in this movie's title (um, either title), in the casting, in the script, or in the direction suggests this movie is about a criminal moll. The most accurate title for this would be 'Lady Gangster.' The audience for it? Who knows? My head hurt after trying to figure out who the protagonist was ...after trying to figure out where the plot was going ...and after trying to figure out why characters would do the insane things they do so naturally in this movie. And it has the perennial problem of most 'Chick Noirs': What is the genre? It's a girl's aspirational movie... It's a revenge picture... It's a political corruption movie... It's a melodrama... it's a romance... etc. It's all over the place.

Not one line in the movie suggests how Rita (the eventual main character) transforms from gullible sap to mob Queenpin. Psychology? That's for suckers, pal. The only way this movie might have worked is if they had cast a pushy, contemptible, low-class, gum-smacking harlot in the lead role. Rita's behavior as written in the script? Predatory! Desperate! Rita's behavior as performed by Joan Woodbury? Sweetness and sunlight. Woodbury's Rita is waaaay too intelligent and polite (and cheerful, and well-adjusted) to be anywhere near this scenario.

I'm with everyone else who asked more than once during this goofy movie, 'Wait... what did she just do?'. But I think I'm in the minority in that I began to find its utter incompetence more than a little funny, and sort of charming. Rita's sociopath/crimespree made me laugh out loud. It's completely out of left field. Just put on a wig, go out to your own street corner, and look for someone to hold up! Oh yeah, she's a criminal mastermind. Or when Rita's sister sings a cut-rate song in a nightclub; then sits down to some smoothy telling her "You'll never have to worry in life" ha ha ha.

No two scenes in this movie are headed to the same destination. But it's still more entertaining than the inept noirs D.O.A., and 'The Man who Cheated Himself.'

Obtuse, screwy, unintentionally funny. Jack LaRue looks quite a bit like Tony Shaloub.

Slander (1957)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Drama in a test-tube, 17 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's 1957 and the moral ambiguity and artfulness of the Noir era has been almost completely eradicated in favor of Eisenhower-era conformity and blandness. The free-wheeling male identity of the post-war years is being neutered.

This movie has an interesting character or two, and presents an interesting dilemma or two, only to founder with a feeble 2nd act. Slandering someone, it turns out, is wrong because it might cause little Timmy to get hit by a car (huh ?!). Yeah... that's crap - a tiresome trope of the 50s that all conflicts must be tied to a desexualized, reproductive imperative, and be embodied in the wholesomeness of some squeaky-clean pipsqueak.

It feels like a Playhouse 90 production, but Van Johnson (frequently a miserable and/or cardboard actor) actually does a decent job, as does the actress playing his wife (Ann Blyth). They're both too good for the movie. Also good is Steve Cochrane as dashing scandal-hound Steve Manley. The resolution in which Mother Manley guns down her own son (in a brightly-lit drawing room - so un-Noir) for being too despicable is absurd. Viewers might have wanted more serious topics in movies indeed, as this producer posited, but heartfelt moral simplifications filmed cheaply just aren't nutritious enough. These events seem to be occurring in a Petri dish.

I continually get 'Slander' confused with 'Libel' (Dirk Bogarde).

1 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Master class, 8 December 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The whole show here is Jeremy Brett who must've known these were just so-so mysteries and average TV fodder. He rises way above the proceedings by conceiving Holmes as a flawed, quick-tempered bully, with a clear dislike for the poor. And it's all the more interesting for it. Brett's camping it up a bit, but you can't look away. Imagine how you'd read any line he's given, and what expression you should wear to appear sincere; and in that same time, 3 or more motives/reactions/revelations have flashed across Brett's face like lightening. One of the expressions is always contempt or superiority.

But Moriarty is a crappy nemesis. Plot lines in which a noisy, lower class character barges in on someone always turn out to be Holmes in disguise. This ruse was also feeble when lifted for the Wild Wild West TV show.

As with the Poirot mysteries, the plots are total boilerplate, and nothing can be solved by a viewer. If you had to choose between viewing one of the two, it's a toss-up. Brett's Holmes is a far-more interesting piece of acting, and only one dullard is underfoot (Watson is provided so Holmes can appear brilliant and give voice to his mental processes). Suchet nails Poirot, but Poirot is such a 1-dimensional martinet that there's no payoff. The additional penalty for choosing the Poirot series is you have endure TWO dullards (Japp, Hastings) because Agatha Christie knew zip about character. 3 or 4 of her plot lines/solutions are stunners though.

Intruders (2011/I)
0 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Spirit of the Beehive-Devils Backbone, 28 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie cross-cuts between two households troubled by "Hollowface," a supernatural villain of no special interest, who wears out his welcome quite soon, with his continually undelivered menace. Hollowface is more indifferent about reaching his goal than Hamlet. Over and over we hear 2 things: "Hollowface wants the girl's face." and "Hollowface crept closer and closer and closer" The threat of any character losing their face is (unsurprisingly) hollow, and rapidly becomes this movie's uninteresting holding pattern. You can see in half an hour that this movie will not arrive at an adequate ending.

Who is the audience for this schmaltz? The sex scene suggests an adult audience, but an adult movie would not resemble the jejune, self-involved, immature musings of an unimaginative 12 year old girl; who doen't have an ending to her story. Not since Topsy Krets stalked Jim Kerry (The Number 23) will a junky movie leave you so bewildered about how funding was actually attained. This movie is a perfect example of why so few movies movies are made for adolescent girls.

Hollowface crept closer, and closer, and closer, and closer, and closer, and closer... insipid.

Frantic (1988)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Ennui, 27 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I rented a different movie recently, and out popped this instead. I recalled the title from the 80s as being one of the most tedious slogs I had ever sat though. But here in 2012, 25 yrs later, you can view it with the added clarity that Polanski squandered his entire career.

Sure enough... I recalled it correctly. Frantic remains unadulterated boredom from start to finish. It isn't even redeemed by Polanski's technique as he offers none. It was clearly just a paycheck. He proceeds at a snail's pace, through an undisciplined, unstructured, unfocused morass; while Harrison Ford brings his deathly wooden acting along.

It takes some effort to make a movie this long, that doesn't have a single memorable scene. Who would admire, rent or even buy this movie? It's a pointless, never-ending tease of hyper-obvious movie clichés. It has nowhere to go, and takes it's sweet time getting there.

Long after I lost interest, there were still 17 DVD chapters left to endure! Excruciating.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
and certainly, not as a Viewer, 4 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

40 minutes into this movie I'm thinking, "this dud has got to be over soon." I look down and check the running time and I am horrified to see that somehow it's 2 hours and 20 minutes long. 40 mins and I'm thinking omg, where is this obvious, interminable melodrama going? 40 mins in, and I'm thinking this might be a good time to settle on a genre. And I'm wondering, why on earth would DeHaviland take this degrading, 1-dimensional ethnic role?

Why do they tease this out so laboriously? How did so much star power sign on to this undeveloped, inept movie? It must be this padded and pointless, to provide each of 5 or 6 major egos their own moment; all of them are wildly unrelated to the general flow of Mitchum's "big conflict" storyline, which is of no dramatic interest. What is the point? The only possible angle I can imagine for this movie is that it was a women's movie about men; and that female viewers in 1955 might imagine this oddity spoke to them, about their situations.

Along with the unusually low quality of the script, a viewer will spend all his/her time picking the corn kernels out of the ham. And every frame of this looks like it was filmed on the cheap. Completely squandered, expensive cast.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
None too subtle, 2 August 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I'd rather watch an old, high-aiming movie than just about anything, especially one I haven't seen before. And Britain's Kitchen Sink school intrigues me quite a bit. If the entirety of Room at the Top was as good/modern/shocking as three or four of its best scenes, it would be a remarkable movie, but unfortunately, normative conventions of the era end up burying the more original moments. It's far less subtle than the uniformly great reviews led me to expect.

It adopts a controversy-seeking position with its characters, but it also underscores every point, so you don't miss the morality of the film's viewpoint.

I find Signoret to be miscast. She's looking pretty long in the tooth, and worldly, to be so impressionable and go to pieces over a man. I don't buy her character or her situation for a minute. She's a tough cookie.

I pull this DVD out now and again, when I doubt my mediocre opinion of it. And I'm always disappointed to see again that there's too much dross, and too many melodramatic flourishes. Room at the Top is corny.

Prometheus (2012/I)
22 out of 35 people found the following review useful:
Incompetent as both story-telling and film-making, 11 June 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Alien was a game changer when it came out. The reason you would want the director of that movie to resume after 30 years, is that he would being his extremely high standards to what has become a pretty bad franchise. Aggravatingly, all we see on every front (score, narrative, structure, imagination) is the lowest of low standards. Prometheus is not a game-changer. It's even worse than the lesser Alien movies, which makes it something like "Attack of the Laser Squids from Planet Terror!!!"

The two good entries in the Alien series did thoughtful things with the form (Alien, Aliens). The others had no idea what to do, so they just threw things at the screen (Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, AvP, Alien goes to the Suburbs). Having abandoned the high quality of his youth, Ridley Scott now embraces half-assed scripts like those later titles. Scott cashed in - all his effort for Prometheus went into becoming a showman; working the pre-release ballyhoo to generate a big payday. The short vids that were made to promote this suggested something unusual. Instead it's desperately 'usual.' It's his George Lucas self-destruct moment. This hackneyed dreck was not even worth filming.

The title spaceship is not interesting. The threat here is not interesting. It has the most laughable aging make-up I've seen in 50 years. The characters are a complete slate of bellicose dopes. And the climax is the usual "We don't have a climax so why don't we just film nine rotten clichés in a row?" I can't believe Scott thinks viewers waited 33 years for answers this feeble. Geiger's alien was elegant / thoughtful. For the first time, when a movie finally showed the alien, it was awesomely horrible and did not disappoint. Here we're back to stupid aliens from 1950s throwaway drive-in date movies. The alien gestation makes no sense anymore (as with Alien 3). A snake, apparently issuing from drops of black oil will attack you and kill you, and then you grow larger, gain superhuman powers and become aggressive (!) . If you ingest a drop of the black oil you will become the host of an alien that bursts out your head (!!!). If you make love to a human who is symptomatic, you will get knocked up with an alien squid. That alien squid will grow into a tentacled dumb thing that has nine mouths on the underside, which in turn gives birth to sharkhead (!!!!!). There is no reason to spend any more time describing the lousy, cut-rate path this horrible movie takes. Every answer it provides is a dumb one.

Having no good ideas on where to take the series, Ridley Scott steals ideas from the X Files movie, Species, Splice, AVP and Contact. It's big idea, seen in countless movies since 2001, is now being thoroughly exhausted on the laughable TV show, Ancient Aliens. A father/daughter shocker is lifted straight from an Angela Lansbury movie from 1948 (State of the Union). The horny and dumb level of the proceedings is like watching "Temptation Island" the gutter level reality show. And Laurence of Arabia is included for no reason whatsoever.

Prometheus does not summon up the quality of Alien in any way. Instead it reminds a viewer mostly of two rotten pieces of low-grade schlock: Event Horizon (1997) and Super Nova (2000), movies that started by asking interesting questions, but then retreated into asinine developments, due to terrible writers looking for cop-outs.

Prometheus deserves to be as little known as those two clunkers. The test of whether this is a worthy product to associate with Scott's original alien film, lies in asking the question: On its own, could this movie have ever generated as much buzz/response as the original? The answer is a resounding No. This rotten, rotten movie will influence nothing. Put Scott out to pasture where he can graze on his greenbacks. The best thing you can say about this irritating, stupid movie is that it will be gone from theaters in 3 weeks.

3 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Average, 23 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The shift in this series from the early, fun but insubstantial trifles, to the more serious psychological explorations was not a bad idea. But while this is better than the atrocious Alfred Molina version, it is still completely uneven. The script is a scattershot affair that can never focus long enough to coherently run two scenes together. No motivation is developed,; all of that is jettisoned in favor of overt explanations. As with the Lumet version, the director loses interest in the middle bunch of the 12 interviews. The structure is just poor. Three or more characters just up and volunteer associations with the victim. The casting of a dwarfish, disfigured Ratchett is irritating and facile. At the 11th hour, Poirot improbably transforms into Jaggers; the truth-at-all-costs gadfly of Les Miserables. It's completely absurd. The positively asinine screed that Dragomiroff delivers bedside to her victim is a preposterous low-brow finger-wagging. I was embarrassed for the whole production at that point.

Poirot himself is NEVER interesting at any point in the series; in fact he's a barely developed irritant. His trademark ("little grey cells") are never actually seen being utilized (in either the books or the films), despite his endorsement of said. It's an undeveloped gimmick; and once again, a viewer can in no way solve this along with Poirot. So one watches the shows to wait around for the solutions. Suchet offering the best impersonation of the character is a mixed bag. There's not much to him. He is signified by at most 5 personality quirks. The character makes Dickens shallow pawns look like Hamlet. Among other bewildering decisions is having Poirot be OK with the killing of a woman in Istanbul over adultery. But Poirot is (outrageously) Catholic in this episode. Figure that combo out! At a certain point his morality is so poorly scripted, loud, and out of character that you just tune him out. Throughout the story, we are obviously not looking at Poirot's faith, but the faith of some resentfully pious director or writer, or both. It's an out of place hard-sell.

The appropriation of Patton's Oscar-nominated theme (an echoing, then fading fan fare) is likewise ill-advised.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Punch in the Gut, 7 May 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

During my first viewing of this movie, I was rolling my eyes, but it was not easy to shake off afterwards. And in fairness, it may be because the feelings presented are so tender, and the hurts so raw that I was made uncomfortable. The movie is meritorious just for exposing a trio that I had no idea were influencing each other. (Dali, deLorca, Bunuel)

This movie is almost to painful to watch as first Dali arrives at school, as a preening anxious fop and then as Delorca falls for Dali. You know it's going to end in pain and heartbreak. Even so, knowing as little about De Lorca that I do, I did not realize how much pain. If you know much about Dali's personal behavior, you already know he was a rather contemptible person. So when his despicable actions pile up in the story, it's being honest. The treachery of the insecure Bunuel is also not glossed over.

The direction is often very good, assembling a narrative of major scenes connected by little throwaway snippets that don't always take you from point A to point B; that suggest a richness of life and experience. There is good acting to see too, Pattison while getting a few things wrong, still manages to feel like a Spaniard, and the Irish guy playing Luis Bunuel does some interesting stuff.

I love any movie that suggests a rich, absurd vein runs throughout life. The movie manages to suggest beyond the gay love story, that Spain under Franco was a place where an urbane droll Spaniard could find a spot and ensconce himself; it may not be true but it's a nice place to occupy. I will have smart droll friends or I will have none.

Some standout moments include the opening where a fey but nonetheless strikingly beautiful young Dali is driven to University, and any scene underscored by the Spanish guitar music written for the film. Magda is that rare female role in a gay film that isn't wallpaper. She's very charming.

It reminds of Cabaret but the script is better. It makes me want to read about Garcia Lorca and go to Spain. Ultimately it has pants to say about art, but it says that very quickly. Try to sit through Modigliani, Klimt, Lust for Life, all of them equally trite on the subject, but with nothing else going on in those films.

Some of the poor reception of this film, is assuredly owed to neurotic hetero male reviewers who piled on, for making them consider that the love lives of homosexuals are worthy of consideration. That's all machismo-baggage. The worst moments are an amateurish montage of Dali in Paris. And while Robert Pattinson does a good job with the Dali character (who really was this confused, unbalanced jackass), he never quite finds his center. (Dali never did either.)

The movie is cast with pretty boys again, making the point that no one gay has ever been less than a male model (!?) I think what I really like about this movie is a touching, sensitive Spanish guitar score; that always strike the right tone (well, except for the cheery music under the end credits).

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