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Blame It on Rio (1984)
Michelle Johnson -- we hardly got to know you!!
I should rate this higher than I did. The mainstream critics have bashed it like it was written and directed by the devil himself. The main idea of an 18 year old daughter seducing her Dad's best friend (practically in front of HIS daughter) while on a family vacation, is clearly creepy. But it is written as pure comedy and played for laughs. That takes some of the sting out of it. And........the scenery, and I mean all the scenery, is fabulous. Caine and Bologna (an acquired taste) stumble and stammer thru some funny dialog, and no one was injured during the filming of this movie. Well, possibly the insanely gorgeous Michelle Johnson's career. She was in her 1st film and asked to display her assets early and often. And she looks GREAT!! As pretty an 18 year old as you will ever see on film. But she had no acting skills and came off as such an amateur that I would "Blame I On" the director. It may have been hard to do retakes to get it right, or he would have killed Michael Caine in the process.
If you don't mind tasteful nudity of a tasteless situation, a typically grating cameo by Valerie Harper and the most colorful and lush view of Rio ever, take a watch. On edited TV its a 3, on cable it's a 6 or 7!!
The Town (2010)
/taut, well acted and edited -- see it!
The Ben Affleck saga is well chronicled in these reviews. Pretty boy hunk, to blockbuster star, to paparazzi darling, to yearly "razzie" nominee. I'm not sure the "razzies" were warranted, by his movie choices got decidedly weaker as his star was falling. Eventually he took some strong supporting roles to get back on track and now has grabbed the director reins with both hands.
"The Town" is placed in and about my loved Boston. "Ahh, ahh, Boston you're my home". By choosing Charlestown (now a yuppier "Chuckville") as its base, the North End for a car chase and the bowels of old (1912) Fenway for the climactic "last job", he is at home in his surrounding. Anyone who has walked thru the North End, stopped for a "slice" and checked out the streets knows that's the last place you'd ever expect a high speed car chase. Ben's camera work and editing makes it a thrilling, crash filled event. Pity the poor stunt drivers who has to careen around those corners!
So, lots of reviews tell the plot points. I'm just writing to voice my opinion on the entertainment value and that is very high. Though its over two hours, it never drags. Ben gives each of his excellent cast a very strong scene or two. Chris Cooper gets 5 minutes of screen time and is excellent. Rebecca Hall, the prettiest average looking person you'll see, is terrific. Jeremy Renner is calm and explosive, at the same time. Jon Hamm gets to look cool, be cool and stay cool. He is a different FBI than we are used to. Smart, but with a meaner edge. And, for me, last but not least, Blake Lively. I hear she's a glamor girl on TV and red carpets, but here she absorbs the role of broken, damaged and desperate, with a glob of mascara in each eye. One review I read said "she's no Amy Ryan" (see:"Gone Baby Gone"). Maybe not, but that's pretty unfair and she is well up to the task here.
So, action, anti-heroes to "root" for and Fenway Park (a diamond on the outside, pretty scruffy underneath)!! What's not to like? But I've got to nit-pick one thing. Does everyone in the world have a 3 day beard??? FBI guys go to the office unshaven for days? Ben even has some uneven moments where he goes from 2 to 1 to 3 day beards in the same caper! Hey, what can you do, its not one big long shoot, but it was a lot of stubble!
Deemed as great, I'll go with ....very good!
This film has been heralded as Hitchcock's greatest masterpiece, his most personal thriller and a major classic. Its even ranked in the IMDb top 50. That's all very impressive and while I can't say I don't like the movie, I'm not willing to get quite that giddy with praise. I just watched it again, the magnificently restored version, in Hi Def. That's also very impressive.
So where does it fall short of its lofty historic ranking for me, hard to say without sounding awfully nit-picky. Maybe it is nit-picky. The lush San Fransico background is amazing. The artwork, the flowers, the surrounding architecture are dazzling. The award winning music score is perfect for 1958 and sets the movie's mood, which changes several times, in lush, often rousing tones. But........ the story, the pacing and even some of the casting has always left me cold. Hitchcock can play a scene for a long time, almost leisurely, to get a MOOD. In "VERTIGO" they are maddenly leisurely. And the premise of the possessed wife, the concerned husband, the off kilter damaged cop, the insurance con is downright goofy! Especially the race to leap off the building for a dramatic suicide. The part 1 love story can be bought (the con and all!), and well played by the two stars, but the part 2 love story is so dark and possessive that it has always smacked of mean spirited to me.
Now the casting. Jimmy Stewart has never taken a false step, but at age 50, despite his perfectly coiffed toupee and heavy makeup still looks it. Kim Novak, despite the worst eyebrows in cinema history, is a ravishing early 20's and looks it. The fake and then real attraction to Stewart is hard to imagine. Especially when the apparently lonely (how could she be) and distraught Novak, who really loved Jimmy, has heaps of humiliation piled on her by the dark and damaged Stewart. It threw my "suspension of belief" off a bit. And the surprisingly attractive Barbara Del Geddes (pre-Dallas Matron) is supposed to be Stewart's old college chum!! He must have been post, post grad and she was Freshman. Hey, I said it was nit-picky!!
I've read that the movie was actually poorly received and attended during its initial release. And that was at the height of Stewart's and Hitchcock's powers. The supreme inventive director of his day, he used interesting angles and zooming in and out cameras to get all his desired affects of vertigo. If there was better entertainment around in '58, with more star power, I'd be surprised, so why not a hit?? Were people nit-picky then too??
No End in Sight (2007)
A checklist of bad decision making, but WHY those decisions???
This is an important documentary, that deserves a wide spread viewing by all Americans. It is an informative history lesson of the POST WAR missteps that sadly have our soldiers AND the IRAQI nation leading a frightening existence. The interviews with Iraqi citizens, their heartfelt loss of country pride and loss of any liveable civilization were heartbreaking to me.
The director's take here is as on balance as it can get, knowing where we now stand. History is on his side. He has assembled the "usual suspects" of culpable parties - Rumsfeld, Cheney, the always distant George Bush and their dispatched diplomats. He chronicles the mind bogging, bad decisions, decisions made by woefully under qualified participants. The interviews of replaced diplomats are naturally the most damning, but do not seem like their agenda are misguided. The "Usual Suspects", as expected, refused to be interviewed.
Many reviews here, and by major critics, depict those decisions and their devastating consequences. I will not rehash them here, and hope you watch this powerful movie.
But, I have one nagging question. The "ousted" participants interviewed here seem to have had a good grasp on what needed to be done. Working against all odds (looted buildings, collapsed intrastucture, poor planning prior to their arrival) they speak about their slow but sure steps to reconstruction. Rumsford, Cheney et al picked them and put them in place!! What happened to shift them out of the picture so quickly?? Why did the administration feel the need to remove Jay Gardner (retired General with experience and in place) with an elitist, ex-CEO, armed with 2 devastatingly bad edicts??? I would have liked a bit more back story on how the change from humanitarian organization to the CPA came to be. With 200 hours of footage (I read somewhere), maybe that info can be addressed!?
All in all, a must see. It is also a very valuable reminder that we have to pick our future leaders much better than this self serving mess of an administration!
Couples Retreat (2009)
What a wasted opportunity! They take 2 of our finest comedians, a beautiful cast of hard working actresses, and a great tropical setting and it comes out a stale, lifeless. laugh-free mess. Man, this was painful to watch. Vince fired off a few smile inducing one liners in the start-up domestic setting, and that was the last smile they got out of me. Once the cast was moved to the tropics, everything went wrong. Male on male embarrassment was overused -- about 5 times. Vince tried a few off the wall diatribes that fell flat. Young women swoon over Jon Favereau (huh?!?!) and he ignores the fabulous Kristen Davis?! The pratfalls to marriage are glossed over and play out badly. Every scene seems to last about 5 beats too long. Favereau gets not one, but two masturbation scenes. What??! Neither comes even close to delivering any humor. All 4 couples have shaky or totally damaged relationships and then in a 10 minute whirlwind finale, all solve their problems in a totally superficial way. And I couldn't possibly have cared less about the "Guitar Hero" duel. Yikes!!
I guess I blame the writing for being witless, shallow and lazy. The actors take that material and lay an egg with it. And a 1st time director (the legendary "Ralphie" of "Christmas Story" fame) either couldn't see it or was over-matched by having the writers and producers in front of the camera.
A huge disappointment for me, and shocking that this dribble can gross over $100M at the box office. Any evening of bad TV sitcoms would be just as "enjoyable", and $9 cheaper.
A Swingin' Summer (1965)
They don't make 'em like this anymore!!
The person who gave this movie a 10 was having some fun. Hey, fair enough! But really, it would be considered bad by 1964 standards and the Frankie Avalon, Fabian surf/beach movies of the day. Now its 45 years later and it does have Raquel's 1st credited role (even gets the "introducing" credit!!) so why not have some fun with it.
James Stacey is top billed and he had a long, but tragic-event type career. Nobody else of the cast will register, but there was Raquel. The old horn rim glasses, hair in a bun trick, til she decided to give a stunned James Stacy an eyeful on stage (like her bikini scenes didn't get his attention --- right!?!?!). She's hot, the movie is bad, but finishes with the Righteous Brothers doing there only real rock song, "Lucille" (they were good even before they got righteous!).
The funniest bit in the movie is that Gary Lewis, geekest rock star ever, and his Playboys, don't get to sing. They managed 4 or 5 pretty big hits, but at this stage only got to do backup playing and instrumentals (which include an accordion - I'm serious!!).
Don't you have to watch this after that build up? You might catch it on AMC, I think I found it on VOD. Hey, it's about an 1 and 15 minutes, and if you can fast forward thru some fight and robbery scenes (don't ask!), you'll be done in under an hour. Go for it!
Revolutionary Road (2008)
Well performed downer! Insightful...........?
This movie has elicited many "10s" and lots of "2s" from our trusty IMDb readers. That is always interesting to me. A performance is called "bad community theater" stuff by one viewer, others hail the movie's performances as "great".
I'm guessing that the depressing nature of watching a suburban couple bemoan their seemingly OK life, and the internal strife of that conflict, is insightful for most, painful for some and irritating for a few.
I generally watch movies to be enlightened, entertained or educated. I'd be hard pressed to say this movie did any of those. But, I was enthralled by the performances, which I considered to be as good as they get. A scene of the corporate "clones" departing the 'burbs for their corporate jobs was sensationally filmed, stunning in is scope and set the tone for the "robotic" view of suburban life the author/director chose to hang their story on. But this point of view is not enlightening. Kate and Leo, as the struggling suburban couple, argue with the intent to injure, but after reflection, seem to still have the core of affection that originally brought them together. They fight hard, re-group, create a plan to break away and then deteriorate again as the plan slips away.
It's not much of a plan. Quit their present life and head to Paris. She'll work, he'll find himself! Other than they are not the "special" people Kate envisioned they would be, there isn't much to escape from. Is Leo droning out a living? Sure, who didn't! It was post-war USA. But then he's offered a promotion that seems a bit exciting to him, so maybe things are looking up. Kate can't even verbalize what makes them "special" and why they should escape their "trapped" life, other than they just should.
I felt the movies' "big cheat", was the role of Kathy Bates' son. An accomplished mathematician, he is deemed different, institutionalized and apparently brutalized. He has had 64 shock treatments for a condition that doesn't appear to warrant such drastic treatment. But, that's life in the 50's. Offbeat is insane. But, he is presented as the person with the real insight! Is it the author's point that 64 shock treatments help see life more clearly. The character gives us the key insightful line in the movie when he proclaims that many admit to the emptiness of suburban life, but that "it takes real guts to see the hopelessness." In his only other scene he makes a proclamation to Kate that seals the movie's final fate. Perhaps his unfiltered take on life makes the character viable, but I thought it was too extreme, too convenient. And the use of ex-marital activity by both was intriguing. In both cases it was to feel something, anything!
But, I'm babbling. The movie was a well performed downer. We watch a painful slice of life. In fact, if you get the DVD make sure to watch the deleted scenes. The director may have left an Academy Award nomination for DeCaprio on the cutting floor. He has two incredible (i.e. -- not "community player") scenes that were left out.
The Neighbor (2007)
Standard "romantic" comedy, with an interesting twist!
This is on a par with 100's of made for TV, or straight to video romantic comedies. Usually the couple "meets cute", has a whirlwind romance, encounters a misunderstanding that causes a break-up and then thru some plot manipulation --- all's well that ends well. Or, the couple begins as advisaries, finds a common ground, fall off the common ground due to a misunderstanding, then.......live happily ever after. This formula has worked or failed lots of time. The good ones have likable leads, quality supporting players, witty scripts and tight direction.
Here we have scenerio #2. Everything happens as advertised, by here's the little twist. The leads are played by an aging Matthew Modine, about 50 these days, and a French import, making her English language debut, who's also almost 50 (according to IMDb). They look like they would or should be attracted to each other. They handle the rather blandly written script pretty well. As written, they should both be unlikable dolts, and the actors made them worth watching. The supporting cast is given nothing much to do (Richard Kind in a 3 minute, non-funny cameo????), the dialog and plot points not especially witty, but they get us from point A to the end. Again, the age appropriate actors, who are aging nicely by the way, showed some spark, and made it an OK hour and a half on Showtime. Just don't set your expectations real high.
Ghost Image (2007)
How about a little something for the effort!!
Several other "reviewers" have mentioned how badly acted this movie was!? What?? Elisabeth Rohm, who has always been pretty stoic, and stunningly beautiful, really gives it a fabulous effort. She did 2 years of "Angel" and 5 years of "Law and Order" with basically a raised eyebrow and a blink of those incredible eyes. Here she makes up for lost time with as emotional a performance as you will ever see. She must have been an emotional wreck thru out the whole shooting of this. Watch it and you will know what I mean.
The movie itself and the other performances are OK. Psychological thrillers require a "suspension of belief", and the attempt at that and a kind of procedural police investigation, do not make for thrilling pacing. Slow, but well plotted (if you do the "suspension" thing), it makes for good viewing and a chance to see the "new", improved Elisabeth Rohm.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Funny, hip and a big part of the Downey legacy!
There are 29 pages of people recapping this hilarious, violent, sexy, smarty-pants comedy/"noir" mystery. Whew! It really is, in part, all those things. The glue for success of all the parts is probably the script and direction of Shane Black. But on the screen we see the genius of Robert Downey Jr. and fabulous support from Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan. Val is a fading star, Michelle a shooting star and Downey at the start of his comeback story of the ages. The three of them are all terrific and create quite a ride. I laughed out loud @ Downey's narrative and plight as a Hollywood newbie. Cringed and was shocked by some over-the-top violence, and glued to the screen trying to follow the goofy, but clever plot twists. A big tip of the hat to all parties involved. A terrific, unique piece of entertainment.