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Jackie Gleason and Art Carney are rolling in their graves
15 October 2006
While I was never a huge fan of the original television series, I found myself growing more and more nostalgic for it with each frame of this wretched remake. Having been a fan of Cedric the Entertainer in some of his other venues, I was terribly disappointed that his Ralph Kramden never seemed to have the spark of the original. Gleason, to his credit, always seemed to have the slow burn and the eventual eruption down to a science. The Ed Norton character always seemed the sweetly naive friend with the droll sense of humor-- all of which fails miserably in this remake. I wonder if this film would have been more successful if the studio just jettisoned the original characters and gave us a fresh batch. There was just too much baggage from the original series. (On her worst day, Gabrielle Union would be no match for the sarcastic put-downs of Audrey Meadows.) Watch the original on DVD instead. You'll thank me later.
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For the love of God, don't waste your time!
14 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit that this is one of the worst films of the 21st century. Insipid plotting and dialog and inefficient acting even from seasoned pros like Talia Shire and Burt Young. This was advertised as a feel-good romantic comedy. If this is a feel-good comedy, then "War and Peace" must've been a laugh riot.

Granted, this film garnered an 'R' rating for good reasons. There are scenes of drug use and gratuitous nudity which, frankly, did not advance the plot one whit. The entire film seemed to flirt with borderline porn in both the editing and the directing and the music on the soundtrack seemed to be for a different movie altogether.

Please do not waste your time on this movie. It will be ninety minutes of your life you can never get back!
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The Johnny Cash Show (1969–1971)
One of the best music shows ever
1 August 2006
This would be a great addition to any music lover's DVD collection if the shows would be released in that format. My memories recall some very early appearances by Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Young, and Kris Kristofferson. This show began as a summer replacement for "The Hollywood Palace" (!) and was successful enough to be brought back the following winter after another fall debacle at then-hapless ABC. According to Cash biographers, network interference was the reason the show was canceled after its second full year. When you consider much of the junk that existed in the ABC schedule, that's a horrifying testimony to just how mismanaged the network was at the time. It would be great to see this show again.
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The High Chaparral: The Guns of Johnny Rondo (1970)
Season 3, Episode 18
a vivid childhood memory
25 June 2006
Of all the episodes of "High Chaparral" I recall watching when I was a kid, and believe me I think I saw all of them, this particular episode still lives in my memory. There was a great ballad of the Johnny Rondo character sung throughout the episode reminding western fans of the elegiac songs from movie westerns of the 50s. I had forgotten Steve Forrest was the actor who portrayed Johnny Rondo, but I always thought this was one of the best individual western episodes I'd seen. The series itself was one of my all-time favorite westerns and it galls me to have it lumped into the "Bonanza" knockoff criticisms, especially when the same folks produced this show. I actually liked this show better than "Bonanza" because the conflict in the family often made you believe (and this was back when few characters were ever killed off in a TV show) there was serious jeopardy involved in every episode. The theme song may have well been one of the last great theatrical-sounding television themes and is surely a classic of its type.
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Walk the Line (2005)
The best film of the year (so far)
25 November 2005
Warning: Spoilers
As biographical films go, this is one of the best ones I've ever seen. Being very familiar with both Johnny and June, I was amazed at the transfiguration of two actors into country legends. You forget Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon are not actually singers. Not only that, the unknown actors playing peripheral legends are outstanding. The actor playing Jerry Lee Lewis is great as is the actor playing Elvis. Having Shooter Jennings play his dad was a nice touch as well.

Of course, you have to compress a lot of stuff into a 2 hour+ movie. I would've liked to see the scene where Johnny leaves Sam Phillips due to the fact he wanted to make a gospel album. (Hinted at from the beginning, but according to "Cash" the reason he left Sun Records.) Also the folk festival Johnny played where he actually met Bob Dylan (seen in archival footage of the recent PBS documentary on Dylan.) They probably could've got Jakob to play his dad-- but I guess I'm directing another movie.

One sore spot: "Ring of Fire" was released in 1963. I know this. I was three years old and I cajoled my father into buying the 45 for me. (Maybe it was the mariachi horns.) The movie makes you think it was written three years later-- and that June wrote the entire song by herself. Actually, she had to have some help because it was such a hard song for her to write.

And now a word about two criticisms I've read and I couldn't believe the shoddy knowledge of the facts...

Why didn't they have "A Boy Named Sue"? Because the movie stops at 1968. This song was recorded live at San Quentin in 1969. (Seen on the documentary currently running on CMT ad infinitum.)

Why wasn't Kris Kristofferson included? Because the movie stops at 1968. "Sunday Morning Coming Down" wasn't released until Johnny had his variety show on ABC. (1969-1971). I guess they could've shown him as a custodian at Columbia, but that would be a bit of a stretch...

All in all, an entertaining and well-acted movie. Johnny said he wanted the filmmakers to show the truth warts and all-- and I think they succeeded.
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A classic that will endure
13 December 2004
Ignore the folks who are paid to review movies and know that this Christmas classic will undoubtedly become an enduring favorite for many years to come.

The animation is a wonderful achievement and this is truly a movie where the story comes to life on screen. I was totally unfamiliar with the book, so I read my granddaughter's copy after the movie and realized the movie resonated with me moreso than someone of my granddaughter's age. This movie speaks to those who no longer can hear the sound of the Christmas bell. In many ways, there is something of a peculiar kinship with "It's A Wonderful Life" in the use of the bell for the spirit of Christmas as opposed to the sound of a bell for an angel getting their wings. Kudos to Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks for a brilliantly conceived vision. Haven't seen the IMAX version, but I can only imagine how much more harrowing certain parts of this movie might be in that format. The instrumental music is very interesting. Nearly a supernatural theme rather than a wistful one, but it works in this movie wonderfully. The individual songs may not be hummable as you leave the theater, but they work well in the context of the film.
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The original paranormal investigator.
12 June 2002
In January 1972, "The Sixth Sense" began as a midseason replacement series on ABC and was a 60 minute episode per Saturday evening. (ABC had quickly dispatched most of their new shows that had begun earlier in September of '71.) While not a runaway hit by any stretch of the imagination,especially when your main audience would've been watching "Mission: Impossible" on CBS, the show was picked up for the following fall (in the same killer time slot)and was a distant memory by winter. While not nearly as subversive as "Kolchak" or even "The X Files," the series had a distinct flair for creepiness for early 1970s standards. Having seen some of the cut and paste jobs done in the syndication package, I can say without doubt that the show was much more interesting at its full 60 minute length. One hopes that with the new interest in old TV shows on DVD, Universal might dust off the sixty minute episodes for those of us who often championed shows without a prayer on ABC.
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