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mikwalen

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7 reviews in total 
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Superman (1978)
One of the greatest of Hollywood's achievements, 24 June 2003

SUPERMAN is a perfect translation of the classic comic book story to the big screen. The cinematography, direction, costuming, casting, musical scoring - all flawless. As far as special effects go, I'd much rather watch the effects in SUPERMAN, 70's style, than today's quickly-whipped-up CG effects.

Starting with baby Kal-El's (later Superman/Clark) escape from the dying planet Krypton, the film follows Clark as he grows into a teen and then an adult, realizes his true identity, and moves to Metropolis to fight evil. And evil he does find, in the person of insane Lex Luthor.

Chris Reeve - what a find for Supie! He plays the role absolutely straight, without a trace of comic-book campiness. In his hands, Superman/Clark is a real person, not a comic book caricature. He shows a very kind, caring soul as Supie, but pulls no punches when dealing with the baddies. He is tenderness and justice personified. His Clark is the total opposite - bumbling, ill at ease, gawky. Reeve should have been Oscar-nominated - seriously. Lois Lane was played perfectly by Margot Kidder - sassy, funny, highly energetic, strong, yet with a certain sweetness. Interestingly enough, Lesley Ann Warren, Susan Blakely, Stockard Channing, and Anne Archer were also considered. You can see their screen tests on the DVD. Lex was played with relish by Gene Hackman - a villain worthy of Jame Bond. In the best comic book tradition, he also had comic-relief sidekicks Ned Beatty and Valerie Perrine to abuse. Marlon Brando is a compassionate Jor-El (Supie's biological father), and Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter are the warm, loving Kents that adopt the alien baby and give him strong morals and values.

An excellent film all around. Watch the DVD if at all possible!

10 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Funny, uplifting film, 11 October 2002

I saw this in the movies back in 1968, when it was first released (I was about 5), and I've loved it since. Helen North (Lucy) is a widow with 8 kids, and Frank Beardsley (Fonda)is a navy captain with 10. They fall in love, and of course, bedlam ensues as they try to unite two families. Oh boy!!! Battling step-siblings, arguments over who gets which bedroom, resentments toward the new step-parents, etc. It ends happily, though, with the family pulling together to welcome the new baby (#19!) and learning to love and live together as a happy family.

Lucy plays her role with wonderful, motherly warmth. You can actually see the love she has for each of those children, and her deep desire to have her new step-children love her. However - she does treat us to some delightful "Lucy"-ish antics. The scene in a crowded bar involving a wandering false eyelash and an uncooperative dress are absolutely classic - exactly the kind of comedy Lucy can do like no one else. And yet, these antics DO NOT dominate her performance or the film. They are just little "treats" thrown in every so often. Watch her expression, in the next to last scene, when Fonda's children tell her that she has been "adopted-as our mother, for life". Henry Fonda brings a nice, crisp authority to his role - it would have been easy to have made this man a caricature. A scene towards the end, where Lucy's oldest daughter turns to him for comfort and advice after dumping her oily boyfriend is lovely. Van Johnson has some good lines as Fonda's best friend. The kids are all very well cast, and included some "stars to be" - Tim Matheson, Tracy Nelson (she's one of the very youngest kids), Morgan Brittany (billed as Suzanne Cupito) and Eric Shea, better known as the "Robin" in POSEIDON ADVENTURE.

In all, a heartwarming film, with a strong emphasis on life, second chances, and a very positive spin on beauty and bond of family love.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of my favorites!, 7 May 2002

I loved this show so much when I was a kid in the mid-late seventies, and I still do! I must admit that I really treasured the World War II episodes over the present-day (meaning the late 70's) episodes. When the show moved to the 1977 era and CBS, I felt that it lost its fairy-tale-ish charm and innocence, and became a bit hardened - almost like a "Starsky and Hutch" type of attitude. However, it will always have a special place in my heart. My favorite tricks were "bullets and bracelets", in which WW would deflect the baddies' bullets off of her special "Feminum" bracelets, and the costume change trick, in which Diana would whirl around and in a flash of light, become WW. Lynda Carter did a wonderful job in the role, playing the role with an Pollyanna-ish innocent sweetness in the WWII episodes and a cooler, more "wary" edge in the 1977-79 episodes - an interesting transition, as though her outlook changed once she was living in the cynical 70's as opposed to the relatively innocent 40's. It's to her credit that she imbued the comic book character with a full range of emotions - I mean, Wonder Woman is not exactly Lady Macbeth - and she was completely credible in a way that few others might have been.

Cleopatra (1963)
4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Beautiful to look at, 2 May 2002

1963's Cleopatra is CERTAINLY a wonderful example of classic Hollywood: A huge, colorful, majestic spectacle. It reminds me very much of BEN HUR or TEN COMMANDMENTS. Every cent of the budget shows on screen.

Even though the film becomes very slow at times (I find it best to watch it as "two-parter"), it does entertain. It gets quite campy at times - I often laugh at some of the line readings - but that adds to the fun. My favorite piece of acting in the film is Rex Harrison's Julius Caesar. He tosses off wry observations and dry comments left and right (as to Cleo, as she angrily bursts into a room where he is having a private meeting: "I see you've broken out of your nursery and have come to annoy the adults!").

In all - a perfect visual example of the Hollywood epic spectacular, late 50s-early 60's style. I still prefer this kind of film-making over "computer-generated" crowd scenes any day!

5 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Dazzling British Musical, 2 May 2002

I "accidentally" discovered HALF A SIXPENCE during 1979 on the late movie on NYC's Channel 5. I turned it on just before the "Half a Sixpence" number between Tommy Steele and Julia Foster. I didn't get to see it all, but years later it was shown on the Disney Channel. What a great movie! Great choreography (Gillian Lynne of CATS fame), charming actors playing the leads, and all that beautiful on-location photography in England! Tommy Steele sets the screen on fire when he lets loose in a dance number, and his star turn in the role of a simple lad who gets too rich too quickly and ends up miserable is believable and touching. Julia Foster is by turns sweet, vulnerable, AND feisty as his love interest, Ann.

The film (based on the London/Bdwy stage show and directed by movie-musical veteran George Sidney) has the look and feel of an old-fashioned MGM musical, which is probably why I loved it so. It seems to be more widely known in the UK - I believe it was more popular there than in the States at the time of its release, and perhaps it gets more TV airings in the UK? It's just too bad that it's not seen more often and appreciated as it deserves.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Wonderful, Wonderful movie, 30 April 2002

I first saw CHITTY as a 5 year old in the summer of '69 in the theater. Ever since, this movie has been like an old friend and has tremendous sentimental value for me. At first, as a child, I was mainly intrigued by the car and its many magical talents. As I got older and became active in musical theater, I came to deeply appreciate the choreography and music. Check out that "Old Bamboo" number! I think that the Sherman Brothers score for this film is indeed up there with MARY POPPINS, despite some critical opinions. The film is beautifully photographed in England, France, and Germany, and the costumes are lovely to look at.

True - it's strange that Mr. Van Dyke makes no attempt at a British accent, but this is minor. His star performance and his singing/dancing/comic abilities more than carry the film. He has a great moment where he chokes up in the middle of a song, while he is trying to console a gathering of captive children in a dungeon. Sally Ann Howes is an charming leading lady - her big solo moment, "Lovely Lonely Man" is filmed with Ms Howes whirling around the sun-drenched garden of an English manor, enraptured by her at-long-last discovery of true love. The gorgeous orchestration of the song and its staging never fails to affect me no matter how many times I see it, and it's one of my favorite moments in musical films. The kids are cute without being child-star precocious. Lionel Jeffries as the dotty Grandpa, Gert Frobe as the hateful Baron Bomburst, and Anna Quayle as the delightfully campy, vain Baroness are all first rate in their roles. Robert Helpmann as the Child-Catcher may genuinely frighten smaller children, sort of like a male version of the Witch of the West.

All in all - there's not a thing wrong with this film. It's a happy, fun-filled, colorful movie that the whole family can enjoy - and we could use more of these. The fact that it is still highly viewed today (it's one of MGM/UA's best selling home videos), and was just turned into a wildly successful stage version in London attests to its staying power. Just enjoy!

6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Rollicking good show!, 30 April 2002

Yeah, yeah, I know all about the Streisand-as-Dolly controversy, and the overblown-production complaints, and the light-as-air-plot grievances. You know what? ... this is an excellent film! Beautiful to look at and listen to and laugh with. I think that by 1969, the press was tired of the frequent flow of big budget musicals, and Streisand's casting gave them additional ammunition. Granted, on paper, the idea of 26 year old Babs playing Dolly - a role that was usually cast as middle-aged - was unusual. But watch her in the part. Dolly is supposed to be larger than life, elegant, confounding, bubbly, charming, flamboyant, and vivacious. Streisand hits all those marks. True, some of her line readings were a bit Fanny Brice-ish. This probably should have been avoided, but it really is not a rehash of Fanny. She does manage to come across as far more mature than 26. Look especially at her scene in the park - her young friends have gone off, and she is alone. She takes out a locket and starts saying a little prayer to her deceased husband Ephraim. Here, she drops the fast-talking, jolly facade and lets you see the pain and loneliness that Dolly has been living with since Ephraim passed away. It's a very touching moment, and she pulls it off in spades.

The choreography is dazzling - watch those waiters go in the WAITER'S GALLOP! Union Square turns into a whirl of color as dancers cavort in "Look, I'm Dancing", and the famous "Dolly" number is electric.

Gene Kelly's direction is wonderfully reminiscent of those grand old MGM musicals. Awesome sets and costumes round out the production.

Even though folks are fond of saying DOLLY bombed, it eventually did make back its cost and then some. I think this film is a testament to what the Hollywood musical was capable of when top-notch, first-class talent was involved.