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4285 reviews in total 
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Doug and Steve's Adequate Adventure, 23 December 2014

Los Angeles-area brothers Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell (as Doug and Steve Butabi) have a serious case of arrested development. The adult men share a bedroom in their parents' home and dress like idiots. They dream of someday opening their own disco, but neither Mr. Kattan nor Mr. Ferrell seem smarter than a fifth grader. One of their greatest skills is bopping their heads, in unison, to Haddaway's "What Is Love?" They love the nightlife and wanna boogie, but can't even gain admittance to the popular "Roxbury" nightclub. One evening, the brothers are lucky enough to get into a fender-bender with Richard Grieco. To avoid blame, the "21 Jump Street" star gets Kattan and Ferrell into the club. They score with attractive women and lose their virginity...

All good skits from the late-night TV series "Saturday Night Live" seem to falter around 30 seconds before they end. Curiously, many go on to become feature-length films. Kattan and Ferrell (as the Butabi Brothers) follow this progression. On television, they were sometimes joined by Jim Carrey; here, he does not appear. We do get to see old favorites Loni Anderson ("WKRP") and Dwayne Hickman ("Dobie Gillis "), although the word "old" will likely never accurately describe Ms. Anderson. She would have no trouble being admitted to the Roxbury and finding a dance partner. The cast and crew do a nice job and the script seems logical, but the motion picture never seems to stretch. That's okay, because an average movie is certainly better than a dud.

***** A Night at the Roxbury (10/1/98) John Fortenberry ~ Chris Kattan, Will Ferrell, Dan Hedaya, Molly Shannon

The Worst Happens, 21 December 2014

Sophisticated thief Martin Lawrence (as Kevin Caffery) attends an auction, looking for prospective victims. He finds something more desirable in beautiful Carmen Ejogo (as Amber Belhaven). Bringing her a landscape painting she had to auction off gets the previously reluctant Ms. Ejogo into bed fairly quickly. After copulating, she gives Mr. Lawrence a lucky ring. He wears the ring while robbing wealthy businessman Danny DeVito (as Max Fairbanks). Lawrence gets caught and Mr. DeVito claims the ring was stolen. Police make Lawrence give the ring to DeVito. DeVito begins to think the ring is lucky, also. The men fight over the ring for the rest of the movie...

The teaming of Martin Lawrence and Danny DeVito may look inviting and funny, but don't expect much from this duo. Although DeVito's draw had diminished somewhat, both were dependable "box office" stars. Here, they are self-assured and unappealing (a toxic combination). "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" features good production values, with nice photography by Anastas Michos. Sam Weisman may have had a difficult time directing his leading men, but some of the other scenes work. Larry Miller (as Earl) and the old lady in the elevator wielding pepper spray (Michelle Youell) are able to evoke a chuckle, but a bad film brings down everyone's best efforts.

** What's the Worst That Could Happen? (6/1/01) Sam Weisman ~ Martin Lawrence, Danny DeVito, Carmen Ejogo, John Leguizamo

Shore in the Sand, 20 December 2014

Fired from his job and in a Glendale, California electronics store, slacker clerk Pauly Shore (as Bones Conway) is broke and desperate. His similarly long-haired side-kick Andy Dick (as Jack Kaufman) is also canned. They think the US Amy Reserves is going to be easy, but Mr. Shore and Mr. Dick have to cut their long hair and undergo rigorous basic training with loud-mouthed drill sergeant Lynn Whitfield. They thought they were going to work in a cushy water purification unit, but Shore and Dick are in for a surprise. Buffed in his green briefs, Shore is about to have sex when the call to war arrives. Shore and Dick try to get out by pretending they're gay, but they are unable to kiss...

And so, it's off to war they go...

Accompanying the pair are two supporting soldiers, gun-ho female Lori Petty (as Christine Jones) and reluctantly funny David Alan Grier (as Fred Ostroff). Shore clashes with handsome Esai Morales and sees some unexpected action in Africa. Director Daniel Petrie Jr. and the crew seem to be just filling time during a long, unfunny dessert sequence. However, we do get to see Shore kiss Dick. If you remember, Shore could not kiss Dick earlier, so he must have been serious about digging his derriere. More seriously, Shore prefers Ms. Petty. Her break-out scene is a highlight. Funniest man in the army is Mr. Grier. He has good timing and delivery. And, the camel performs admirably.

*** In the Army Now (8/12/94) Daniel Petrie Jr. ~ Pauly Shore, Andy Dick, Lori Petty, David Alan Grier

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Men Are Beasts, 20 December 2014

After escaping an attack from her abusive man, attractive Susan Lynch (as Dorothy) decides to leave him. While waiting on a bus to London from Glasgow, Ms. Lynch witnesses another abusive man. He is attacking beautiful blonde Rachel Weisz (as Petula). Lynch takes a long metal bat and swings at the attacker. It's a solid hit and Ms. Weisz' abuser is knocked out of the park. The women drag him home and put him in the bathtub, with comfortable quilt. While not funny, the bathtub scene does suggest "Beautiful Creatures" is a comedy. Lynch and Weisz get high and bond. Lynch is attracted to Weisz' platinum blonde locks and plays hairdresser...

The women team-up and agree about how to dispose of one lover. The other, businessman Iain Glen (as Tony), causes problems. He's a real mean junkie who plays an awful trick on the dog Lynch's dog "Pluto". In return, Pluto plays a magic trick with Mr. Glen's ring finger...

Later, Weisz gets to take a swing at Lynch's husband; here and there, director Bill Eagles provides a lot of synchronicity. He and editor Jon Gregory try not bore the viewer. Best performance honors go to lecherous police detective Alex Norton (as George Hepburn), with an honorable mention to Maurice Roeves. Sexiest moment is when Weisz removes her stockings to relax during some violence. She doesn't need nudity to be sexy. The real heroes and/or heroines are not the two leading women, strangely. They are the dog Pluto and, possibly, the guy at the window (Robin Laing) with the dirty magazines. It should have been the women.

**** Beautiful Creatures (8/23/00) Bill Eagles ~ Rachel Weisz, Susan Lynch, Alex Norton, Iain Glen

Mothman (2010) (TV)
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Seeing Red, 20 December 2014

Swimming in a West Virginia river, six mature-looking teenagers tease (Jared's) younger brother Alex Hardee (as Jamie). They tell him the scary story of the legendary "Mothman" monster. During a strange water game, the cast pulls each other's legs down in the water. Somebody suffers a mishap and the swimmers, led by Jewel Staite (as Katharine Grant), decide to make the death seem like an accident. It already was an accident, and their repeated head-bashing only makes it look worse. However, nobody seems to notice. The kid's not dead, either; you can see him breathing. Maybe that's why the resuscitation attempt was so half-hearted...

Ten years later, Ms. Staite returns to town. A Washington DC reporter, she has been assigned to write a story on the legendary "Mothman" monster of Point Pleasant...

Staite meets the old gang after almost killing one of them in another accident. Quickly, supernatural stuff begins to happen. Probably, the monster is out to punish the cast for making an accidental drowning look like an accident. There is also a parallel incident involving blind resident Jerry Leggio (as Frank Waverly). The leading man is Connor Fox (as Derek Carpenter). The cast is attractive and the special effects are serviceable. Director Sheldon Wilson uses the red eye symbolism well and keeps the cameras steady. Unfortunately, as we get more of the Mothman and the murders, it looks sillier. The story never really makes any sense.

*** Mothman (4/24/10) ~ Sheldon Wilson ~ Jewel Staite, Connor Fox, Matty Ferraro, Jerry Leggio

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The Americanization of Acting, 17 December 2014

In 1908 Paris, loyal British valet Charles Laughton (as Marmaduke "Bill" Ruggles) is horrified to learn he's been lost in a poker game. While visions of wild Native American Indians occupy his thoughts, Mr. Laughton services are transferred to socially self-conscious Mary Boland and her crass husband Charlie Ruggles (as Effie and Egbert Floud). After using him to dress Mr. Ruggles in a proper suit, the millionaire couple take Laughton to their mansion in the small western town of Red Gap, Washington. There, due to a misunderstanding, Laughton is mistaken for a noble British colonel. He finds romance with widow ZaSu Pitts (as Prunella Judson) and catches the spirit of America...

Laughton is wonderful in this (the best) version of Harry Leon Wilson's story. Paramount's "Ruggles of Red Gap" very likely asserted Laughton was more aligned with Hollywood for the bulk of his acting career. It was a wise film choice. Laughton's performance was considered among the year's best, alongside other 1935 roles. While not honored, Ms. Boland and Mr. Ruggles (unrelated to the titular character) are worthy of "supporting" awards...

Director Leo McCarey and the great cast very effectively contrast the American and British cultures. It is a distinctly American film, but you do see some pointed jabs at US culture as well as the obvious class-restrictive society mandated by the UK. For example, consider the moment when Laughton meets his American counterparts; happy Black and Asian servants do not have the same opportunity as Laughton, yet. The brief scene makes a startling point. Much less subtle, but especially memorable is Laughton's reciting of President Abraham Lincoln "Gettysburg Address" (1863). It's not a perfect speech, film or country; nevertheless, there is much to celebrate in near-perfection.

********* Ruggles of Red Gap (2/19/35) Leo McCarey ~ Charles Laughton, Mary Boland, Charlie Ruggles, ZaSu Pitts

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Tony Curtis & The Exorcist in Outer Space?, 17 December 2014

San Francisco psychic Tony Curtis (as Harry Erskine) receives startling news from his girlfriend Susan Strasberg (as Karen Tandy). She has a strange, fast-growing lump on her back. Comparing the bump to a fetus, doctor, writer and associate producer Jon Cedar (as Jack Hughes) is unable to operate. We suspect, from the opening credits, it's "The Manitou" (something to do with ancient Native Americans). Ms. Strasberg says strange things in her sleep and Mr. Curtis' wealthy tarot card clients start to freak out. Curtis goes to beautifully tanned Stella Stevens (as Amelia "Amy" Crusoe) for help. She taught him how to use his psychic powers and read the tarot cards (although he seems to be a phony, for the most part). The cast gets good help from hospitable anthropologist Burgess Meredith (as Ernest Snow). He leads them to modern-day "Indian" medicine man Michael Ansara (as John Singing Rock)...

This is presented like a Native American Indian version of "The Exorcist" (1973), with some interesting differences. In a few ways, it's better. Producer-director William Girdler and his crew do a fine job coordinating the effects and characters, and the threat seems like it's going to be more realistic. However, the story is weak in that the "villain" results from some confusing hocus-pocus that really doesn't add up. It certainly must have made more sense in the original novel, by Graham Masterson. Here, the evil forces are impressive, but not frightening. And, the ending just looks like everyone decided to do "Star Wars" instead of "The Exorcist". With eyelash enhancement and extra-tight clothing, Curtis often appears befuddled. That's understandable. "The Manitou" was the last film from Mr. Girdler, who died in a helicopter crash at age 30, sadly. He undoubtedly had not reached his peak in filmmaking.

***** The Manitou (4/15/78) William Girdler ~ Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Michael Ansara, Burgess Meredith

Manhandling Marion, 13 December 2014

Fun-loving 18-year-old flapper Marion Davies (as Ethel Hoyt) is so enchanting, at least six Harvard seniors are in love with her at once. She thinks she's a modern day Cleopatra. Her mother compares Davies to the Queen of Sheba. The pretty teenager keeps company with three handsome young men, who are particularly devoted. They follow Ms. Davies around and appear willing to share. Inspired by Shakespeare's "Taming of the Shrew", Davies' wealthy father Tom Lewis (as William "Will" Hoyt) decides to show his egotistical daughter that all men don't fall in love with her. He hires actor Forrest Stanley (as Ernest "Ernie" Eddison) to romance Davies, then become disinterested. Problems arise when true love takes over...

"Enchantment" is a very well-produced silent. The available print looks great. Thanks to restoration producer Edward Lorusso for helping bring the film to light. Director Robert G. Vignola and Ira H. Morgan give it an appropriately boxed-in look. They frame the richly detailed sets well. The film outwears its welcome by the time everything stops for a longish performance of "The Sleeping Beauty", but it helps (artistically). Contributing nicely are title cards by Grace Waller and a new musical score, by Donald Sosin, which captures the film and era perfectly. Davies is appealing and performs amusingly as the young teenage flapper. The art/set direction by Joseph Urban is lovely and, of course, Marion is even lovelier.

******* Enchantment (10/30/21) Robert G. Vignola ~ Marion Davies, Forrest Stanley, Tom Lewis, Edith Shayne

The Most Fun You'll Ever Have at the Opera, 13 December 2014

Wise-cracking con-man Groucho Marx (as Otis B. Driftwood) wants matronly Margaret Dumont (as Mrs. Claypool) to invest a fortune in the opera. Already involved in musical theater are Italian manager Chico Marx (as Fiorello) and mute dresser Harpo Marx (as Tomasso). They team up to represent handsome opera singer Allan Jones (as Riccardo Baroni). As usual, the plot is secondary to the Marx Brothers' antics. In this case, the story compliments the comedy team very well. Moving to upscale MGM, the brothers and producer Irving Thalberg wisely hired Marx regulars George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind to sweeten, then write the screenplay. They were the gold standard Marx Brothers writers and this film contains some of the team's most memorable scenes and routines...

"A Night at the Opera" begins a more polished, less crazed, Marx era. More dependent on wit and one-liners, Groucho's shtick made the transition better than his brothers. Still, everything essential to the formula is preserved, including unfairly criticized non-comic brother Zeppo, who left the group after their previous "Duck Soup". Zeppo's shoes are nicely filled by Mr. Jones. Likewise maligned, the musical interludes serve to break up the comedy and pace the skits in a feature film. It's great to see "To Tell the Truth" game panelist Kitty Carlisle as the young ingénue. Walter Woolf King is a splendid villain. Regulars Sig Ruman and Ms. Dumont round out perfect support. In this case, listening to opera music with the Marx Brothers is the most fun you're ever going to have at the opera.

********** A Night at the Opera (11/8/35) Sam Wood ~ Groucho Marx, Chico Marx, Harpo Marx, Allan Jones

Annie, Get Your Fun, 13 December 2014

World's greatest sharpshooter Howard Keel (as Frank Butler) arrives in Cincinnati, with his troupe, to put on a show for the locals. The late 1880s crowd is excited. Dressed in ragged clothing, local "hillbilly" Betty Hutton (as Annie Oakley) is smitten with the handsome playboy, but Mr. Keel likes women in satin and frills. Keel is seen with a coach fill of them and ducks into a hotel with one pretty, well-dressed woman. Although she's also a sharpshooter, Ms. Hutton realizes "you can't get a man with a gun." Hutton must change her style to attract Keel. She enters a sharpshooting contest against Keel, but may lose him if she wins...

A book could be written about the problems occurring during the production of "Annie Get Your Gun", with the most obvious being the dispensing of original star Judy Garland, who was taking too long to bounce back from her increasingly health-threatening ingestions. The show was a huge Broadway hit with Ethel Merman and most of the Irving Berlin songs were already popular. Casting Betty Hutton in the lead seemed like an excellent decision. However, it doesn't work. Hutton is energetic and appealing, but her "Annie" is strained and manic. And, producer Arthur Freed's film crew throws it up on the screen in huge close-ups...

Editing is an occasional concern. Observe the change in Hutton's gaping mouth when she begins "You Can't Get a Man with a Gun". Her most physically impressive number should have been opened with more care. Later, she's thrown to the ground under a heavy necklace, dragged around, and seems annoyed (or angry) while performing the humorless "I'm an Indian Too". There is not enough humor in this version of the play. TV sitcom writers spent years making sexism, hillbillies and Indians funny, but there isn't much wit in the script or performances. This material needs to be more playful, and fun. The film simply doesn't add up.

**** Annie Get Your Gun (5/17/50) George Sidney ~ Betty Hutton, Howard Keel, Louis Calhern, J. Carrol Naish

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