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After the US Civil War, hard-working Oprah Winfrey (as Sethe) lives in
the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. During flashbacks, we will see her
house is haunted by a restless spirit who likes to shake up the set. An
uncommon woman, Ms. Winfrey demonstrates supernatural powers of her own
when she heals the family dog. Another flashback provides information
about the incident which shaped Winfrey's "Sethe" and her life her
sadistic ex-master tried to take her back to the plantation, resulting
in Winfrey taking drastic measures to save her children from slavery...
Presently, Winfrey lives with her teenage daughter Kimberly Elise (as Denver). Soon, they are joined by another ex-slave from the "Sweet Home" plantation Danny Glover (as Paul D). The trio becomes a quartet following a fun visit to the carnival and a look at Winfrey squatting to urinate. Winfrey decides to take in weird, but well-dressed waif Thandie Newton (as Beloved, after an insect attack. Introducing herself like the girl from "The Exorcist" (1973), Ms. Newton turns out to be more like a baby in a woman's body. She may also hold the key to Winfrey's soul...
Trying to turn Toni Morrison's deservedly acclaimed novel "Beloved" (1987) into a worthy film is an admirable task...
The production looks classy, with some beautiful photographed (by Tak Fujimoto) segments; dusty smoke is piped in so some scenes don't look too pretty. "Academy Award" favorite Colleen Atwood was nominated for her costume design. Lisa Gay Hamilton is well cast as a younger Winfrey, but her characterization suffers from the non-linear editing. The strongest, most consistent performer is relative newcomer Kimberly Elise. Granted, she has a less emotionally wrought role to play, but she also plays her "Denver" beautifully and is harder to catch acting than most...
This attempt was piloted by Winfrey, a major talk-show host and part-time actress who has since become an unimaginably wealthy media guru. When celebrities sin, they can be forgiven by apologizing to "Oprah" in a face-to-face interview. Winfrey the actress passes muster, here; that the film wasn't perfect shouldn't negate her opening herself up to act more often, and take criticism. What really doesn't work are the supernatural elements; they look better in the book. It might have been interesting to leave out the overtly supernatural and make "Beloved" a straight drama.
****** Beloved (10/8/98) Jonathan Demme ~ Oprah Winfrey, Kimberly Elise, Danny Glover, Thandie Newton
We begin in 1934, with bloody foreshadowing. Anyone familiar with the
story of outlaws "Bonnie and Clyde" will know how this all ends. After
the brief flash-forward, handsome saxophonist Emile Hirsch (as Clyde
Barrow) introduced himself as narrator. When he was nine-year-old
Gabriel Suttle (as Little Clyde), the future killer was gifted with
"second sight" in the guise of a bout with fever. Among other things,
this enables the little boy to envision sexy adult Holliday Grainger
(as Bonnie Parker) giving him come hither looks in slow-motion.
Impersonating Bonnie's mama, Holly Hunter (as Emma) might make you miss
Julie Harris. The pivotal point in Bonnie's past appears to be her
dismissal as an actress by Columbia Pictures. She receives a rejection
letter and suffers a severely dramatic panic attack, which could have
earned her a contract at a bigger studio. As fate dictates, Bonnie and
Clyde team-up and paint the town red see the concluding half of this
***** Bonnie & Clyde, pt. 1 (12/8/13) Bruce Beresford ~ Emile Hirsch, Holliday Grainger, Elizabeth Reaser, Holly Hunter
In the second half of this TV adaptation, we see more of Clyde's older
brother Lane Garrison (as Marvin "Buck" Barrow) and his wife Sarah
Hyland (as Blanche). Unhappy the Depression-era duo has become as
popular as "Garbo and Gable," thickly-accented lawman William Hurt (as
Frank Hamer) endeavors to catch Bonnie and Clyde. While unwelcome as a
story element, Clyde's "second sight" segments are highlights. Also
noteworthy is a brief scene shot as a "hand-colored" postcard. Director
Bruce Beresford and his crew artfully handle flying bullets, feathers
and snowflakes. This successful TV adaptation was telecast over two
evenings, 8 and 9 December 2103, on no less than three US networks -
A&E, Lifetime and The History Channel. Airing it on the latter station
should have come with a larger than usual disclaimer. It plays fast and
loose with the facts. Almost depicted as a feminist heroine, Bonnie
Parker more or less rules the roost.
***** Bonnie & Clyde, pt. 2 (12/9/13) Bruce Beresford ~ Emile Hirsch, Holliday Grainger, William Hurt, Lane Garrison
Seasoned bounty hunter Randolph Scott (as Ben Brigade) catches killer
James Best (as Billy John) in the old west but it's a trap. Outlaws
in the hills have their weapons aimed at Mr. Scott. Though surrounded,
Scott smoothly talks his way out of the situation. On their way to
Santa Cruz, the premeditating men pick up perceptive Pernell Roberts
(as Sam Boone) and his sidekick James Coburn (as Wid). This was the
first feature film role for Mr. Coburn, then primarily a TV actor.
While Scott and Mr. Roberts vie for biggest gun in the group, director
Budd Boetticher drops a sex bomb into the picture with pointed blonde
Karen Steele (as Carrie). The "big guns" contest ends right there. Now,
the contest becomes who is the sneakiest...
The smart money is on Scott...
"Ride Lonesome" is another fine western from director Boetticher and his frequent collaborators, producer Harry Joe Brown and writer Burt Kennedy. For this one, cameraman Charles Lawton Jr. contributes outstanding color photography. A "wide screen" without thousands of extras made several otherwise accomplished directors look momentarily lost in the 1950s, but Boetticher does extraordinarily well, here. For landscape and imagery, this is probably the best of his Randolph Scott pictures. A close second (a least) is "Comanche Station" (1960). Also notable is the fine soundtrack by Heinz Roemheld, even if it does occasionally sound distractingly like somebody is going to start singing "All 'er Nothing'" (from "Oklahoma!").
********* Ride Lonesome (2/15/59) Budd Boetticher ~ Randolph Scott, Pernell Roberts, James Best, James Coburn
Mysterious westerner Randolph Scott (as Jefferson Cody) arrives in
Comanche Territory (in or around Texas) to exchange goods for beautiful
brunette Nancy Gates (as Nancy Lowe), who was abducted and turned into
a White squaw (sex partner) for someone in the tribe. Her husband is
offering $5,000 for Ms. Gates' return. She and Mr. Scott quickly become
involved in a Comanche attack on fellow bounty hunter Claude Akins (as
Ben Lane) and his two young guns, Richard Rust (as Dobie) and Skip
Homeier (as Frank). Successful in warding off the Native Americans, the
men decide to travel together for extra protection. However, it soon
becomes clear Mr. Akins plans to violently take out Scott and collect
the $5,000 reward for himself...
"Comanche Territory" was the last of several fine westerns from director Budd Boetticher and his team. The formula usually involves Scott taking an uncommonly beautiful woman somewhere alongside a potentially hazardous rival and some younger actors. This time, the most unknown actor in the cast makes the biggest impression as Mr. Rust's reluctant gunslinger (deemed "too gentle" by mentor Atkins) rides off with the film. It is through this character moving the story along writer Burt Kennedy succeeds in making us forget Scott should have settled with Atkins after 20 minutes; even with the Comanche around, he'd have had a safer trip. Although we sometimes lose track of Scott's story, a powerful ending brings it all back home.
******** Comanche Station (3/1/60) Budd Boetticher ~ Randolph Scott, Nancy Gates, Richard Rust, Claude Akins
Losing his horse in a bet at "The Tall T" ranch, grizzled cowboy
Randolph Scott (as Patrick "Pat" Brennan) hitches a ride on the trail
with coach driver Arthur Hunnicutt (as Ed Rintoon). Inside the coach
are newlywed heiress Maureen O'Sullivan (as Doretta) and her cowardly
husband John Hubbard (as Willard Mims). They are quickly abducted by
ruthless Richard Boone (as Frank Usher) and his two young guns,
uneducated Skip Homeier (as Billy Jack) and slouching Henry Silva (as
Chink). They want $50,000 in exchange for Ms. O'Sullivan, who has a
wealthy father. This was the second of Mr. Scott's successful series of
westerns directed by Budd Boetticher, which feature several other
personnel duplications. This one is notable for the characterizations,
especially the hero-villain banter between Scott and Mr. Boone. Also,
watch for three memorable last scenes featuring the outlaws, especially
the one coming after a thwarted rape.
******* The Tall T (4/1/57) Budd Boetticher ~ Randolph Scott, Richard Boone, Maureen O'Sullivan, Skip Homeier
Messenger service men Harold Lloyd (as Luke) and Harry 'Snub' Pollard
are caught hiding from duty by their boss. Oddly considered to be two
of the finest messengers on the job, they are given some important
assignments. After these deliveries go wrong, the pair must take
several packages to the "Orange Blossom Seminary School" for girls,
where Mr. Lloyd is distracted by Bebe Daniels and other young women.
The messengers spend most of the time in physical comedy situations
with rotund Bud Jamison and other men who happen to be working on the
premises. In the end, Lloyd receives a surprising new assignment from
his boss. One of the last episodes with Lloyd as Luke, "Messenger" gets
by on fast-paced stunts.
***** Lonesome Luke, Messenger (8/5/17) Hal Roach ~ Harold Lloyd, 'Snub' Pollard, Bud Jamison, Bebe Daniels
On her European tour, pop singing diva Vanessa Williams (as Eboneeza
"Ebony" Scrooge) lashes out at everyone in sight. Returning to New York
City, Ms. Williams proceeds with her plans for a Christmas charity
concert but she intends to keep the $1 million-plus take. Williams is
wealthy, beautiful and wicked. She treats former lover and browbeaten
manager Brian McNamara (as Bob Cratchett) like dirt. But Williams might
be nice, deep down. Her father was abusive. After complaining about a
sandy spinach salad, Williams begins seeing things. She is visited by
the spirits of Christmases "Past" (comedienne Kathy Griffin), "Present"
(bassist John Taylor of Duran Duran) and "Future" (in a VH1 "Behind the
Music" special). They are introduced by Williams' childhood friend and
pal from their disbanded trio "Desire" (Chili of TLC)...
This TV Movie re-make of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" works surprisingly well. Writer-director Richard Schenkman has some astute observations on the subject matter. Some of the realism has been left out or toned down, which is wise; the film would have been bogged down with too much emphasis on the more sordid trappings of fame and fortune. A real weakness is the successful incorporation of so much comedy into the classic Dickens story. One-liners fly during even the most dramatic situations, occasionally throwing the story off center. Still, they are funny. While the pacing between the two could have been better, this adaptation works as both a comedy and a drama. Williams and the music are terrific.
******* A Diva's Christmas Carol (12/13/00) Richard Schenkman ~ Vanessa Williams, Brian McNamara, Chilli, Kathy Griffin
Petite blonde public relations expert Kristin Chenoweth (as Emma Jane
"E.J." Baxter) catches her boyfriend in the bathroom stall with her
boss. Deciding to give them both more space, Ms. Chenoweth leaves the
hustle-bustle of New York City and moves to a smallish-looking town in
Montana. She doesn't become a dental floss tycoon; that's already been
invented. Instead, she works for the mayor. Chenoweth becomes
acquainted with the volunteer men of the search and rescue squad. They
have a lot of fund-raisers and do good work like rescuing petite
blonde mountain climbers. Chenoweth decides to contribute by creating a
calendar featuring "12 Men of Christmas" and sell it for the holidays.
The problem becomes how to get the local men to take off their shirts
for sexy poses. Somebody must be pulling our legs because a few of the
coy, well-built men look shaved, waxed, plucked and/or ready for
action. One of the many handsome men in this movie, Josh Hopkins (as
Will Albrecht), gives Chenoweth an especially hard time. Photography by
Peter Benison is an asset.
**** 12 Men of Christmas (12/5/09) Arlene Sanford ~ Kristin Chenoweth, Josh Hopkins, Anna Chlumsky, Jefferson Brown
Private detective James Stewart (as Guy Johnson) tries to prove a boozy
New York millionaire client is not guilty of murder, but finds himself
implicated. While serving time for harboring a fugitive, Mr. Stewart
happens upon a clue to the real killer's identity. Stewart escapes and
kidnaps lady poet Claudette Colbert (as Edwina Corday). She begins to
wonder if Stewart could be telling the truth about his attempt to solve
the crime. They form an unlikely partnership and Ms. Colbert begins to
consider Stewart a romantic prospect. Stewart the sleuth does well
posing as a chauffeur, spectacled Boy Scout and actor who wavers from
English to "African". Colbert is charming, as usual; possibly, she
takes advantage of director W.S. Van Dyke's "one take" reputation by
skipping the make-up session which would have given her the bruised
face mentioned in the script (by Ben Hecht). Nat Pendleton is very
funny as a likable sergeant who can't seem to keep Stewart under
arrest, and the dependable Guy Kibbee is fine as Stewart's detective
****** It's a Wonderful World (5/19/39) W.S. Van Dyke ~ James Stewart, Claudette Colbert, Guy Kibbee, Nat Pendleton
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