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William Wyler weaves a tapestry of nefarious enchantment, 21 June 2017

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If ever a more insidious, arrogant, pathetic set of siblings came into the world of fiction it would be hard to beat the Hubbard family in William Wyler's "The Little Foxes." Their greed knows no bounds. Their hearts know no love. In reality they have nothing but each other and it's a sad end to it all.

It is also a movie of reactions. I found myself watching the rest of the cast when someone was speaking. How did they react? Herbert Marshall (Horace) as Regina's (Davis) husband has plenty to react to. Whether it is coming to a home where there is no love or listening to the plans of his family's greed he is wonderful in showing his annoyance and disgust. His only light is his daughter Alexandra (Teresa Wright.) Everyone on the fringe of this triad from hell is poisoned by their greed. Whether it is brother Oscar's wife Birdy, a sweet and lonely soul who softens her life with a drink or their own son Leo (Dan Duryea) who is so the product of the family that his mother can't stand him. Nobody wins. Until the last. The one who does win is, oddly enough, Alexandra. When all the back stabbing and wheeling and dealing is over she is the only one who can stand up to Regina. That is only because she wants nothing that her mother can give her. On the night her father dies she leaves her mother and is free of it all. She is the only one free of it all.

Very good performances all around. The only drawback for me is Teresa Wright. She is playing a part that seems to be quite a bit younger then she is. She parades around the whole movie with a big bow in her hair and a pair of Buster Brown shoes. Duryea is good as the young not very bright son. Near the end when he gets slapped by Alexandra's young man it is given more like a man to an insolent child. It is not one good one but a quick series of slaps that ring more of disgust than anger.

They all had it coming.

Not everything always turns out ducky..., 17 June 2017

... not even in the 80s, not even in a teen movie in the 80s.

This is a cult favorite starring Molly Ringwald as Andie, a high school senior of limited means. She gets persistently bullied by the rich crowd at school. Her mom ran out on her and her dad, and as a result dad is chronically unemployed and likes to drink, but he's not a mean drunk. Molly also has to deal with Duckie (Jon Cryer), an amiable goofball who is madly in love with her.

Andie is surprised when wealthy Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) casts an eye in her direction. However, their dating is causing tensions among his elite circle. Or should I say elitist circle? They have all the charm of the French aristocracy before they were guillotined. Blaine asks Andie to the prom, but when he comes up against brick wall opposition from all of his friends he wilts and pulls away from Andie, making lame excuses about having already asked somebody else to the prom. She sees right through him. Meanwhile Andie's dad has managed to buy a pink dress at a thrift shop, and she decides to fix it up as a prom dress and go to the prom anyways.

How will this all turn out? Watch and find out. Let me single out James Spader as doing a great turn as Blaine's snobby friend Steff. He is the one who convinces Blaine that Andie is nothing special. Plus there is a scene I will never forget. At the high school, as Andie passes Steff at a distance, he gives her a look like she is something he scraped off of his shoe. It is creepy and it is real. Kudos to Mr. Spader for such a great early performance.

The excellent supporting cast includes Harry Dean Stanton as Molly's dad, James Spader perfecting his rich jerk persona, Annie Potts as Andie's kooky co-worker at a record store who thinks she is a relic because she is mid 30s, Kate Vernon, Gina Gershon, Kristy Swanson, Margaret Colin, Dweezil Zappa, and Andrew "Dice" Clay. The script by John Hughes mostly works, and the good New Wave songs on the soundtrack add to the film's charm. I'm not exactly the target audience for teen romance films, even thirty years ago when it was released, but even I enjoyed it, so if it's your kind of thing, you should love it.

Just one more thing...Jon Cryer grew up and filled out nicely. Who would have thought in 1986 that 25 years later Cryer would be the hunk and Charlie Sheen would have the appearance of a death mask. Go for depth girls, you don't know what the geeky guy in high school will look like when he matures.

Not exactly Bonanza as far as togetherness goes, 17 June 2017

This is a western starring Spencer Tracy as the patriarch rancher Matt Devereaux who has four sons. The three sons from Spencer's first marriage are Ben (Richard Widmark), Mike (Hugh O'Brian) and Denny (Earl Holliman). When his first wife dies, Matt marries Katy Jurado, a Native American. They have a twenty five year marriage including Matt's youngest son, Joe (Robert Wagner).

The three older sons are a disappointment to Matt, and the eldest, Ben, hates his father and youngest brother. Matt rules his ranch with a iron fist, and he uses a whip with authority. Many cattle on the ranch have died because the creek water was poisoned by a copper mine. As a result, Matt rides out to the mine with all four of his sons, and together they destroy the mining equipment, injuring some of the miners in the process.

The law comes down hard on Matt for this, and somebody will have to serve jail time. Joe knows that his father would die in prison, so he serves the three year prison term. Ben refuses to go on principle, and Mike and Denny are just plain sniveling weaklings. Joe is released, and there are still problems on the home front. Ben is angry and defiant saying he worked sixteen hours a day since he was ten years old, and Matt suffers a stroke after a nasty fight with him. As a result of his incapacity, Matt signs over a piece of the ranch to each of his sons, and you know that share and share alike is just going to cause more trouble among this incongruent group.

Did I mention there is oil on the land? Who will sell out, and how will this all work out? Watch and find out. Spencer is excellent as Matt Devereaux, and his scenes with Richard Widmark are especially well done. Their arguments as father and eldest son are convincing.

This was the first film Spencer did after leaving MGM and the film is available free to AMAZON PRIME members. I'm bumping this from a 7 to a 6 because for those famililar with Fox classic films you'll probably recognize the plot as a loose western remake of a well known 40s Fox noir. That tended to reduce the suspense for me quite a bit.

Did this great noir with a meaningless title inspire Dirty Harry?, 17 June 2017

Dana Andrews plays New York City police detective Mark Dixon. Dixon is in trouble with his superior because he beats up the hoods he encounters. The problem is Dixon's father was a hood himself and got the current big cheese in the underworld, Tommy Scalise (Gary Merrill), his start in crime. Mr. Merrill looks about as Italian as a Cro-Magnon man, in fact he actually resembles Cro-Magnon man, but that's another story. So Dixon really sees his much hated but long departed dad in all of these rats he collars, thus the attitude. Dixon's superior says one more complaint about his rough stuff and he's off the force.

Then a murder at a private game set up by Scalise to take an out of town hayseed. You see, the hayseed started winning - 19K to be exact - and then wanted to leave. Scalise and his mob disagreed.

When Dixon and his partner get the call, the rich Texan is lying dead with a knife in his heart, Scalise says he was losing not winning when he died, and the guy (Craig Stevens as Ken Payne) who got into a fight with him over a girl (Gene Tierney as Morgan Taylor) is long gone, as well as the girl. Dixon and his partner split up, with Dixon going to Ken's place to see what he has to say.

Now apparently all Ken did - and all the audience saw - was Ken knock the Texan cold. Ken has no idea that he has been set up to take the fall for a murder. So when Dixon shows up at Ken's place a fight breaks out when Dixon tries to arrest him. Ken throws a punch at Dixon, Dixon hit back, and Ken lands on the floor dead. Then a phone call from Dixon's partner. When asked if he found Ken, Dixon says no. The partner warns him not to get rough with the guy because, besides being a first class scum bag, he was a war hero and has a steel plate in his head due to war wounds. Thus the one punch death.

Nobody is going to believe the truth given his reputation, so Dixon has to come up with a clever plan to get rid of the body and make the timeline look like he could never have been the killer. He succeeds too well. Then he begins to fall for Ken's widow, Morgan. And Dixon did a very good job of throwing suspicion off, because it lands on Morgan's dad who is booked for Ken's murder once the body is found. So Dixon has the possibility of making the woman he loves both a widow and an orphan. How can he make this right and get to keep Morgan, or can he? Watch and find out.

Andrews' acting is subtle, mainly all facial expressions, since he can't talk out the dilemma he is in with anybody. The entire cast is superb. You've even got Karl Malden in a minor role as the new supervisor of detectives, and Tom Tully as Jiggs Taylor, Morgan's cab driving dad whose loud voice and big stories help get him into the legal jam he finds himself. That mousy little petty criminal who manages to have a small part all through the film that you've seen a hundred times in similar roles? Wrong. That was Don Appell in his only screen appearance. Finally there is Ruth Donnelly adding some great atmosphere as the hash slinging mom figure to Dixon. The only characterization that made me go "huh?" was Gene Tierney playing the daughter of a cab driver like she is a Park Avenue debutante.

I'd give it a nine if not for the ending. Darn that production code. Watch and find out what I mean.

56 out of 64 people found the following review useful:
Not what you'd expect, 16 June 2017

Director Oliver Stone travels about with Vladimir Putin and produces four hours of "interview" time. It's not really an interview, as it shows Stone doing some interviewing and also accompanying Putin as he plays a hockey game - something he said he learned just three years before this was filmed (2015) - and as he does some judo - he holds a black belt.

The thing is, Vladimir Putin comes across as an eloquent and thoughtful guy, not like the fat little dictator of North Korea who is well fed and always tries to dress "cool" but as a result just looks ridiculous. Every time Stone tries to bring up something unpleasant about either Russia past or present, Putin has an answer. Stone brings up Stalin, what a monster he was, and yet there are still statues to him. Putin brings up Napoleon and how France admits that what he did was a disgrace yet there are still statues to him. He mentions England's Oliver Cromwell and how he became a dictator and that yet there are statues to him in his home country. When questioned about gay rights in Russia, he even has a compassionate liberal answer for that. He is well versed in history and politics past and present of both the West and Russia, and never loses his cool. And remember, this guy was in the KGB from 1975 to 1990.

Stone asks Putin if he has ever seen "Dr. Strangelove". Putin admits he has not. So Putin stops and takes the time to watch the movie with Stone, although from his expression - and it doesn't change much EVER - you can tell he is probably humoring him. In spite of that, at the end, Putin makes some well thought out remarks about the film that could have been forged into a superior review.

The point is - this is not the guy I was expecting. Plus, you can tell he somewhat charmed Oliver Stone. If this is the same Putin that Donald Trump met, who apparently knows how to shift his presentation to his company, Trump could have easily been putty in his hands.

Watch it - all four hours if you have the time - I think it will be a revelation.

Man's propensity for self deception is unquenchable, 15 June 2017

This is a very well done French-Canadian film about eight friends meeting for a dinner party out in the country. Three middle-aged men and a one young man are already at the manor where the dinner will take place, preparing the meal and discussing their sex lives. The remaining party guests, three middle-aged women and one young woman, are spending the day at the gym, exercising and discussing their sex lives.

Eventually they meet up at the country manor for dinner, and the conversation continues. While this may sound like not much happens, the film is never boring, and the direction by Denys Arcand keeps the viewer visually interested. I'm also keeping the character descriptions purposely vague, as their relationships to one another are revealed slowly as the film progresses. The dialogue is frank, funny and sharp, and all eight characters are fully-drawn human beings. I especially like the notion that these eight characters who seem to speak non-stop and at times overshare in the extreme, can't seem to honestly communicate when it matters most in their lives.

The title refers to a historical adage that when members of a given society begin to think about their own individual happiness above every other concern, that society is doomed. The characters' romantic navel-gazing and at times destructive pursuit of happiness seems to signal our own societal sunset. But don't let that heavy thought steer you away from the film, as it's brilliantly acted and well worth a look.

The sequel, "The Barbarian Invasions", made 17 years later, is also very worthwhile.

a guilty pleasure of mine..., 11 June 2017

... but WHY do I feel guilty? Maybe it is because such terrible things go on behind bars - rape, gangs that dish out death based on race, bad food, corrupt guards, etc. and all of that is treated comically in this film. BUT, really nothing that you would expect given the set up of the film actually happens to the degree that it could, and in the end it turns out to have some very clever twists. It is just not all stupidity and it is very non-violent considering what could happen.

The setup is that a career non-violent criminal, John Lyshitski (Dax Shepard) is constantly getting caught and sent to prison by Judge Nelson Biedermann. But Lyshitski blames all of his incarcerations on the judge, not on his own bad choices, and he spends so much time in prison he knows everybody by name. So John decides to carry out a plan of revenge on the judge, except the judge dies right before he gets out of jail. So John changes his plan to avenge himself on the dead judge's son, Nelson Biedermann IV, by tampering with his inhaler and making him temporarily high. In this state Ned trashes a store and attacks the store owners, all caught on the store security camera. Did I mention that Ned IV is an insufferable preppy jerk? So Ned demands that the Biedermann foundation help get him out, BUT the foundation decides they would like to be rid of this stupid jerk and defend him themselves and throw the case. Ned goes to prison for 3-5 years.

Meanwhile, John is not feeling the glee he thought he would at Ned going to prison. After all, he figures, he won't be there to see Ned get what is certainly going to be coming to a soft preppy rich kid with no street smarts. So this time, John gets caught on purpose, gets sent to prison for 3-5 just like Ned, and manages his prison connections so he is Ned's cellmate. At first things go like you think they would, but then a twist of fate for both Ned and John change things in a way that was inconceivable to John when he started this whole thing. From there you will have to watch yourself and find out what happens. If you have a distaste for violence, don't worry, this is not Shawshank Redemption on any possible level.

Oh, and kudos to Chi McBride who becomes the unlikely means for Ned to give the foundation that dumped him their comeuppance. This film is probably a 6.5 as a comedy, but I rounded it up to 7 for originality, especially during the last half.

Great cheesy fun with good special effects for its time, 10 June 2017

This Island, Earth (the comma is really in the original title) a goofy, albeit colorful, dollop of space opera, is a classic example of what you get when a studio decides to make a science fiction film for no reason other, or better, than their wanting to make a science fiction film. The end product makes no dramatic sense, there's no coherent, compelling story being told, and the only memorable thing about it is the big, bug-eyed "mutant" menacing pretty little Faith Domergue. Universal Studios was, and always has been, in the business of making bad-to-mediocre films (it was always something of a minor miracle when a film of genuine merit sneaked through) and, here they obviously achieved their goals with this spectacular mediocrity. Yet it is chocked full of nostalgia for those of us who stayed up late at night and watched these on TV before infomercials existed.

This thing scared the living daylights out of me years ago!, 10 June 2017

Tales from the Crypt was an HBO show that was a sort of spin off of the 1972 film of the same name. They also had at least one subplot in common. But by and large the episodes were original ones, and this one scared me to death when I saw it, so much so that I remember the entire plot.

So you can probably see what is coming, it is in the actual playing out of the plot that comes the reward and the chills and in this case, even some laughs. The setting is an island in the Caribbean. Logan Andrews is trying to develop real estate on some land when the news comes that the land is a swamp and he is ruined once word gets out. Logan sees an opportunity in the beautiful heiress Margaret Richardson to get some bucks out of her, but she is cold as ice to Logan an is completely disinterested in him.

But Logan is determined. He goes to his old lover, a voodoo priestess he threw over because of the differences in their class and race that he figured would not suit the upscale lifestyle he was going for. He asks for a love potion to make Margaret love him so he can marry her and raid her trust fund and get him out of the financial trouble he is in. But never tick off a voodoo priestess and then ask for a favor, because more than likely her potion has a loophole big enough to hang you or worse. I'll let you see how this all plays out, but I will tell you it is terribly horrifying.

For an Elvis film, this film actually had a somewhat dark story line., 10 June 2017

Sure, Elvis isn't the best actor in the world, but his persona works well here.

The plot involves Elvis, a young man who fights a drunk man in a bar and inadvertently kills him. The man had been accosting a young woman in the bar and Elvis didn't like it and punched him, which led to the brawl. Anyway, Elvis ends up being convicted of manslaughter and is sentenced to 1-10 years in jail. While in jail, he meets Mickey Shaughnessy, a has-been country singer who seems to have been in the clink for a while. Shaughnessy hears Elvis sing and promises to teach him how to play the guitar. He later convinces Elvis to perform in an upcoming inmate variety show which is also televised. After the appearance, Elvis receives gobs of fan letters. Jealous, Shaughnessy arranges to make sure Elvis doesn't receive his fan letters. He then convinces Elvis to sign a "contract" promising to cut him in for 50% of the profits if Elvis becomes a star.

After almost two years, Elvis is released from jail, he gets a job at a nightclub where he meets a beautiful young woman, Judy Tyler. Tyler's story is tragic. Just days after completing production on this film, her first big role, she and her husband were killed in a gruesome car accident. She was only 24. I really liked her in this film. She also had a beautiful speaking voice. I think she would have made something of herself in the movie business had fate not intervened. Anyway, after hearing Elvis sing onstage (during an impromptu performance), she convinces him to record a demo for a local record studio. Elvis' song ends up being stolen by another artist and he and Tyler form their own record label to produce his music. Elvis' career takes off and so does his ego.

Elvis' character seems to be a bit quick tempered as he hits people frequently throughout the film. I thought that Tyler's character somewhat evened out Elvis' character. If he had a tendency toward being impulsive, she was more level headed and rational. Shaughnessy's character was also interesting as he was a bit of a sleaze but you also felt bad for him as well.

The songs in the film were good too, my favorite though being "Jailhouse Rock", which is part of a prison-themed performance planned for the television special that Elvis is to appear in and shows Elvis in all of his glory.

Certainly less formulaic than the 60's Elvis films, I really enjoyed this one.

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