Reviews

507 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
7/10
Not a great movie, but a VERY sexy one
13 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I hadn't seen this movie is years when I decided to watch it again tonight. Frankly, it wasn't as good as I remember. It starts and stops and then starts again, especially after the lead couple murders Nick. (The movie goes on a LONG time after the couple murder Nick.) There are lots of things that don't make any real sense, either, such as the public defender's reasons for acting the way he does.

What is good, though, indeed very good, is the presentation of Lana Turner's character. Few women have been presented as sexier while wearing their clothes. From the very moment we see her, it is clear that she is willing to seduce any good looking guy, even if that gets him in trouble. She appears to have no morals.

John Garfield's character is more ambiguous, but then the whole movie is supposedly his confession to a priest, so it would stand to reason that he might try to paint himself in a better light and shift the blame for their behavior to Turner's character.

Watch this for Turner, and the chemistry between her and Garfield. The less attention you pay to the plot, the less its weaknesses will bother you.
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6/10
Why we would have to fight
10 December 2017
During World War II, the U. S. government made a series of propaganda movies entitled *Why We Fight* that were first shown to American troops before being released in American movie theaters.

This movie, which dates from 1940, over a year before we entered World War II, might have been subtitled *Why We Will Have to Fight*. It is not subtle, and it is often difficult to watch because it gives you a terrible sense of what it must have been like to live in Germany after Hitler came to power. When we see first Frank Morgan, who the year before had been the lovable Wizard of Oz, and then Margaret Sullavan killed by Nazis, and James Stewart hounded out of his homeland, we see that Germany must be a terrible place, a threat to the American way of life.

We see that, if they attack us, we will have to stop this way of life.

The acting here is all fine. The script is nothing great, because it never lets us understand how so many people could have been won over to Hitler's propaganda. Movie-goers in 1940 were probably surprised to see the female lead killed rather than escaping with Stewart to live happily in Austria - at least until Hitler annexed that.

This is propaganda, but for a good cause. It's not a great movie, but there's nothing wrong with it. It's no *Casablanca*, surely, but then what other movie is?
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Remember? (1939)
1/10
They don't make movies like this anymore - thank God!
1 December 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I sat through this whole movie - it was late, and my eyes were too tired to read - wondering: How could MGM's bosses have signed off on this script???? It is flatter than flat, and features two main characters who are very unsympathetic. The minor characters are uninteresting, ditto the plot.

The direction, by Norman Z. McLeod, is also completely flat - though I'm not sure what even the best of directors could have done with this script, other than to refuse to direct it.

There are a lot of talented people involved in this movie, but their talent goes unused here.

Some of the other reviewers on here appear to have enjoyed this movie. I wanted to like it, since I am a big fan of Greer Garson. To me, however, this is a real turkey with no redeeming qualities.
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1/10
HOW was this movie nominated for a Best Writing Oscar????
26 November 2017
This movie has two charming lead actors and some pretty scenery. Other than that, it has about the worst script and supporting roles of any movie I have ever suffered through. HOW was this movie nominated for a Best Writing Oscar???? The dialogues are not even vaguely clever.

And, equally confounding to me, WHO went to the theater and actually paid to see this movie??? It's not funny, it's not really romantic. And it is certainly very aggravating, especially when we have to deal with the second couple.

This movie confounds me, but not in any interesting way.
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Our Betters (1933)
3/10
I wonder how this played in the bottom of the Depression?
19 November 2017
I wonder how this played in 1933, when it opened, the bottom of the Depression? It's not clever. It's just a lot of very spoiled aristocrats or American nouveaux-riches pretending to be aristocrats, filling up their days with empty chatter and not much else. Occasionally one is hurtful, but not cleverly so. You could never mistake this for good Oscar Wilde. (I wonder if the original play, which had a success on Broadway, is any more interesting?) It reminds me of nothing so much as the sort of English drawing-room drama spoofed in *Auntie Mame* (I think it was called *Midsummer Madness* there.)

Constance Bennett is very beautiful, but that's about all I can find to recommend here.
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Wonder (I) (2017)
7/10
A well-made movie, but really more for children than adults
18 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I went to see this movie this morning on the basis of a very positive review in the local paper. (I'm 66, so without such a review I would have assumed it was best left to children and their parents.) It is a well-made movie. Jacob Tremblay, who plays the cruelly-disfigured boy, is indeed wonderful, and Julia Roberts, who has filmed such a wide variety of roles so well, is not far behind him. Everyone in the movie does a fine job. Owen Wilson's portrayal of the father reminded me of the child dad in the comic strip *Sally Forth*. If that's the modern dad, I can only say we've come a long ways since I was a child.

I can't look at this movie as a fifth-grader would; it's been too long for me to remember what it felt like to be 10 years old, and I suspect today's 10 year olds look at things very differently than I and my friends did 55 years ago. If you were ever made fun of at that age because of something that made you different, I suspect that this movie will awaken some of the pain you felt back then, however, no matter how long ago it has been. Most of the children are very cruel, at least until the not very believable end.

Children do not have the defense mechanisms that adults learn to shield themselves from others' cruelty, so it really hurts. Part of learning to deflect such cruelty is to hide its effect on us, as Auggie tries to do. I suspect that just buries it somewhere in our subconscious memories so that it can pop out at odd moments for the rest of our lives. A sequel showing Auggie as an adult who has undergone yet more facial surgery and now has a "normal" face but still the internal, hidden scars could make for an interesting follow up.

This story takes place in the world of the very privileged, the wealthy in New York City who can afford to send their children to expensive prep schools. That adds a dimension to the meanness. These children must all have well-educated parents and come from homes that afford them the best that material life has to offer. (As we see in the case of Miranda, material comfort does not guarantee happiness.) That they are still so mean to Auggie speaks volumes about what a college education does not necessarily provide.

We see that especially when we have the misfortune to meet Julian's parents. As cruel as he is to Auggie, we can dismiss it as the actions of a child. When we see that his parents are equally hateful, we cannot dismiss it at all, and can only wonder that Julian is anything less than a monster. (His "I"m sorry" in his last scene does not ring at all true.) It was clever casting to make his father so handsome. All that more striking to see that someone so ugly inside can be hiding behind such an attractive exterior.

This left me wondering how much worse life would have been for a child like Auggie who attended a public school in a less-than- prosperous neighborhood. That would have made for a very different movie, I suspect, and one that would have been far more painful to watch.

There are all sorts of nits one could pick with the script. The children sometimes speak very maturely for 10 year olds. Miranda's "backstory" tries to redeem her, but does not really explain why she goes from being Via's best friend to completely ignoring her. The sudden turn-around of the rest of the student body is also left unexplained.

Certainly this is a good movie to take children, who will not worry about such issues, to see. It teaches important lessons. Will they be learned by every child who sees it? That will all depend on the world in which he/she lives after leaving the theater. No movie can make up for prejudice inculcated at home and on the playground.
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3/10
lovely to look at, but as empty as a soufflé
17 November 2017
I have never seen Norma Shearer look more beautiful than she does in this picture - and that's saying a lot. Nor is she as mannered as in some of her better-known pictures, like *The Women*. Melvyn Douglas, one of my favorite actors, also looks great here.

Unfortunately, there isn't anything to the script. They and the rest of the cast, some of them very fine actors, are left with nothing to work with.

There is no pacing here either. We just go from one scene to the next with no sense of forward motion. Compare it to *The Women*, for example, which builds to the great final scene where all the women come together and destroy Joan Crawford's character. Or better yet, compare it to another film directed by Robert Z. Leonard just two years before, *Pride and Prejudice*, which is one of the most perfectly paced movies I have ever seen.

Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that this 95 minute movie was based on a one-act play, and had to be padded.

Perhaps the play on which is it based, Noel Coward's one-acter of the same name, just isn't very good. The best of Coward is fun when done well by any cast, but I've encountered some Coward plays, like *Conversation Piece*, that only seem to work when he's in them. He was a very good actor in his own way, and could make uninteresting dialogue sound very clever just by the way he delivered it. Coward premiered this play with himself and Gertrude Lawrence, one of his great partners, in the leads in both London and New York. Their way of working with dialogue together may well have had a lot to do with the play's initial success, more than the play itself.

I wasn't bored. Shearer was so beautiful, I spent much of the time just looking at her face. The lead characters have no real depth, so it took no great acting to portray them. Nor are they particularly interesting or attractive. They are leaches who live off the nouveau riche, whom they disdain, so they really aren't particularly likable. You can imagine some of the dialogue appealing to New York theater goers in the 1930s when it was still fashionable to make fun of people simply because they came from Des Moines or Buffalo or Ashtabula or ..... I can't imagine this movie having a lot of success outside a few big cities, though. It's sophistication is pretty thin.
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2/10
Pretty bad
17 November 2017
I watched this movie because I'm very interested in opera, and in seeing how opera has been portrayed in film. I also enjoy a lot of Irene Dunne's movies.

I was suspicious, though, when I saw that Adolphe Menjou was the romantic lead. He's fine in supporting roles, and even in non- romantic leads. He was, after all, nominated for a leading-man Oscar that same year for his role in *The Front Page*. But I have never been able to see how any woman could have found him even remotely attractive sexually, even back in 1923 when he starred in Chaplin's *A Woman of Paris*.

In this 1931 feature he was 41 years old, and looked every bit of it. That is not to suggest that men 41 and even much older cannot look sexually attractive. We have lots of examples to prove the contrary.

Nor does the age difference between Menjou and Dunne - only 8 years, though it appears greater - bother me. I had no problems with Audrey Hepburn appearing with male leads considerably older than she at the beginning of her career, such as Cary Grant (25 years older) in *Charade*, Gary Cooper (28 years older) in *Love in the Afternoon*, or even Fred Astaire (30 years older) in *Funny Face*.

But, to me, Menjou as a romantic lead looks slimy. It was impossible for me to believe that he had attractive women chasing after him, which he does in this movie. And if you can't buy that, the movie pretty much falls apart, as you can imagine with the title *The Great Lover*.

Dunne is fine as the not-too-scrupulous American soprano who, just back from two years of study in Italy, is hoping to break into opera in New York City and is willing to play with Menjou's expectations in the hope of landing an audition. We get to hear her sing a little, but not nearly enough to make it worth sitting through this picture. A shame. She had a good voice, and it would have been nice to hear what she could have done with some lyric soprano pieces.

The rest of the cast consists of the standard clichés about (Italian) opera singers, conductors, etc. They are all self-centered divas. Nothing new or interesting there.

We get very little in the way of staged opera. No production numbers such as Jeanette MacDonald or Grace Moore got in some of their pictures.

In sum, there really isn't anything here to justify sitting through even the short 71 minute run-time of this picture.

This movie is based on a play that ran 245 performances on Broadway in 1915-16 and then was revived in 1932. There must have been something more to it than this movie suggests, but I can't guess what.
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2/10
An empty extravaganza
16 November 2017
This movie starts out with two lavish production numbers, including attractive, skimpily-clad young women and elaborate dance routines. One could be forgiven for mistaking it for the beginning of one of Paramount's first big Marx Brothers movies, except that the songs are completely forgettable. Yet some of these songs were written by Rodgers and Hart!

The movie goes downhill from there, except for a pleasant if not great color animation sequence with Mickey Mouse that was contributed by Walt Disney.

Others loved the sequence with Laurel and Hardy and Lupe Velez. It didn't make me laugh. In fact, almost nothing in this movie did.

It's just stale humor, not even really trying to make us laugh.

I sat through this movie - it's only 68 minutes - because I had a head cold and wasn't up to anything else, stuck on the sofa with a box of Kleenex. If you have anything better to do, I'd advise you do it rather than watch this waste of time and money.
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3/10
A very disappointing movie
15 November 2017
I stuck with this movie because I have a head cold and didn't have the energy to do much of anything else. But if I had had the energy, I hope I would have given up on it early on, when Stewart's character becomes thoroughly disagreeable.

This is the story, often told, of an artist who becomes a success and then is led astray by a woman who promises to bring out his "potential." But the script is not well-written. None of the changes are prepared in advance. We don't ever really see why/how Amanda can seduce Stewart away from Rosalind Russell.

And then there are all sorts of gratuitous slams at the Black maid, played by Louise Beavers.

In short, this movie did nothing for me. I can't imagine that S.N. Behrman's play, on which it was based, could have been this uninvolving.
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