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An Underrated film - Crawford at her best, 28 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When Joan Crawford's best films are the subject of any discussion, the list always includes the film she won the Oscar for - "Mildred Pierce" and for good reason - its a fine film with an outstanding cast and even today, holds up pretty well.

But what seems to get lost in the shuffle is a film she made four years earlier, which in many ways equals and in some ways surpasses "Mildred Pierce" -- the 1941 film "A Woman's Face" is a much underrated film which showcases one of Crawford's best roles.

An intriguing story of a woman who has lived as an outcast because of facial scars suffered in a fire since childhood and now lives among unscrupulous scheming blackmailers, herself becoming the most skilled of their group - when a plastic surgeon decides to fix the deformity that has made her a bitter and distrustful woman, she is introduced to the possibility of living a normal life, one where she can as she says in the film - when the world looks at her - "she can look back" without hiding.

The film is a well-blended mix of dark characters and and some very quirky humorous ones too, directed by one of MGM's A-team directors George Cukor. The story is told in a series of flashbacks ie..each witnesses testimony before a Swiss court for a woman who is accused of murder.

Conrad Veight in a role that could be considered almost a precursor of his famous role of Maj. Strasser in Casablanca, particularly stands out - his villainous, cynical dialogue carries the darker scenes very effectively. However two parts are weak - Melvyn Douglas, who can usually be depended on for an admirable performance, comes across as very bland and predictable and Osa Massen - her scenes are painful to watch, overacted to the point that it makes you wince - but these parts are fortunately overshadowed by the other supporting roles that are made up of a quirky assortment of characters that include Reginald Owen, Marjorie Main and Donald Meek that bring an off-the-wall humor but in a subtle way - Meek is particularly good in his part.

The photography and the sets are beautifully done. The film offers a good use of close-ups and shadows that in some ways resembles the techniques heavily used in the "film noir" films of the late 40's and early 50's - and in a time when films were rarely shot on location "A Woman's Face" has some of the most beautifully crafted sets that remind me a little of the "Magnificent Ambersons" they really stand out.

But the star of the movie is without a doubt - Joan Crawford - her performance draws you in even more so than her role in "Mildred Pierce" and she has probably never looked more naturally beautiful.

If you're a Joan Crawford fan or not - check this one out - its good

14 out of 30 people found the following review useful:
Marvel Shines Again - Captain America First Avenger - First Rate, 23 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Captain America the First Avenger is an excellent adaption of the super hero who originated back in the 1940's. The film not only captures the flavor and essence of the time period and its characters, but an exciting good versus evil element in its most fundamental form. Chris Evan plays the part of Steve Rogers perfectly - a young man who wants to serve his country in its most perilous time. What we see is a "good man" who transforms into a hero that is not only needed in his own time but possibly one to set an example for future generations too. Tony Stark as Iron Man has his inner demons, Thor has his arrogance and his family nobility to live up to, the Hulk has his anger issues - but with Captain America, you know you have a man, true and devoted to a code, who will always, no matter where or what, will do the right thing.

The action scenes are excellent, fast-paced and exciting. The supporting characters are especially well done - Hugo Weaving as Red Skull, Tobey Jones as Arnim Zola, Tommy Lee Jones as Col. Phillips, Stanley Tucci as Abraham Erskine, Hayley Atwell as Peggy Carter, Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark and Sebastian Shaw as Bucky, all round out a good cast of characters; each having a vital part in the story, yet also blend and develop and carry the story along with Cap in a smooth and uncomplicated way.

*Note: In a series of films that are leading up to possibly one of the most anticipated of the super hero series - "The Avengers" each individual entry has and is tied to each other and has a direct effect on the one film that will bring them all together. If this series of films, which is essentially the combined ingredients to the one film, is successful - it may prove to be one of the most successful film series pulled off in cinema history.

Iron Man, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk all stand alone very well - I think each one has been adapted to the big screen in a positive way, staying true to the real source from the comic books and each has a good dose of excitement, action and likable characters with surprisingly good depth - and I hope we will see more of their adventures individually. But for some reason, I can't help but feel that in some way that Captain America was a measuring stick in the series to determine whether the genre lives. If Cap was a failure, I think Marvel would be second-guessing whether to proceed with other films - if one of their most popular characters were to crash and burn then we may not see anymore after the Avengers. But - happy to say, I heard a resounding stamp of approval at the ending credits of this film and an even more intense reception at the short preview clip of the Avengers in the post credits. Not only does Captain America, Iron Man, Thor and the others pave the way for the Avengers but possibly future film treatments from the Marvel Universe. I'm sure that Marvel is banking on the success of these films to determine whether they have the green light to consider bringing other Marvel characters such as Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Namor, Vision, Hawkeye and perhaps a better version of the Silver Surfer and Fantastic Four and Daredevil too, into the mix.

After seeing Captain America, it without a doubt, stands as one the pillars of the series.

Can't wait to see Cap in the Avengers.

Iron Man 2 (2010)
3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Good Action - but overall - very lacking, 8 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Everything that made the first Iron Man film so good is attempted in this sequel but for the most part, falls short - the film looks lazy - as if it is simply living off the first film's success.

Despite this the film still has merit. I particularly liked the part of the story that included the Howard Stark flashback and that tie-in to the story. Robert Downey Jr. is still good in most of his scenes - especially the quiet, calm moments where he is in a way being re-introduced to his late father - these scenes are good - but the scene where he is intoxicated and entertaining a bunch of party animals is ridiculous and no doubt, rolled several pairs of eyes in the cinema, including mine. Anyone who read the Iron Man stories, knows full well that Tony Stark had his inner-demons and had a drinking problem for a while but this part of the character could have been handled in a much more effective way in the film. The Pepper Potts character is already getting stale. Nick Fury scenes are intriguing but pretty much just set up material for the up-coming Avengers movie and though the post credits cameo of a certain thunder god's hammer found in the NM desert tantalizes the Marvelites, so many of the performances simply looked uninspired.

The film is still entertaining and the action scenes do not disappoint - especially the scene at the race track involving Whiplash and the final scene where Iron Man and War Machine are facing off against the deadly drones. Scarlett Johannson did a commendable job as Black Widow her scenes are good but they are rushed - hope to see more of this character's development in The Avengers movie. The Justin Hammer character brought a few laughs as well as Happy Hogan, but if there is to be another Iron Man film - they need to inject it with the same elements that made the first film such a hit and then take it to the next level as we saw in X-Men 2.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Overall - good X-Men prequel, 8 July 2011

I'm glad to see that the X-Men series has rebounded after the very disappointing "X-Men Origins - Wolverine" movie.

"X-Men - First Class" benefits by a much better script and the brilliant pairing of James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as the younger Professor X and Magneto. The film is carried by the two actor's excellent chemistry and personally I don't think they could have cast better performers for both parts.

Jennifer Lawrence and Nicholas Hoult stood out as well and bring good depth to their characters Mystique and Beast.

However there are notable flaws from my view that have to be mentioned - Though I like Rose Byrne as Moira - I'm disappointed in the other X-Men they chose to include in this entry and how they portrayed them - Angel Salvadore a girl who is essentially an over-sized tinker bell - please! I kept waiting for her to whip out her magic wand and pixie dust - Havok and Banshee - poor but tolerable - but what about the character Darwin - boring - and not only that, he just shows up and then they kill him off - why have him in the movie in the first place? - and Azazel and Riptide - come on - when you have so many other better characters from the X-Men roster to choose from? I'm no X-Men historian but wasn't Iceman one of the original founding members?

Kevin Bacon was OK as the villain and the character Emma Frost seemed a bit wasted and fades quickly from the plot but a good solid story and certainly the makings of a good series - overall - well done.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
not spectacular - but fun entertainment, 7 July 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

A weak script and very thin plot make this super hero movie pale in comparison to the others that have come out lately but the special effects and action scenes were enjoyable.

The whole story felt very rushed which makes the characters come off one-dimensional - I must say that despite Ryan Reynolds essentially playing...well...Ryan Reynolds, its tough not to like him - he's just fun to watch on screen. Mark Strong as Sinestro is one of the highlights in the film - and the finale leaves no doubt that he will be back but possibly as one of the bad guys. Peter Sarsgaard's character Hammond was just hammy - his character really became annoying by the end of the movie.

I especially enjoyed the scenes on the far away planet and the Green Lantern Corp. characters - however, if there is another film - hope they will do a better job with getting a more interesting villain.

The moral of the story that someone can face their fears and embrace their destiny is as we all can figure out by now - the main formula in many of the super hero movies and this included but this film only gives us a speedy checkout line version - The Green Lantern doesn't compare with Iron Man or Thor but offers good fun entertainment for a Saturday afternoon.

0 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Unbelievable!, 11 June 2011

Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" brought a much deserved return of the Caped Crusader that the cinema audiences wanted - true to the material and portraying Batman/Bruce Wayne in the fashion that makes this iconic character so fascinating.

The sequel "The Dark Knight" delves even deeper and the finished product on the screen is - a masterpiece.

The script is outstanding and the action never lets up. Christian Bale proves once again, as Batman, why this series is so good. He brings intensity magnetism and depth to both Bruce Wayne and Batman, and when in the suit, he commands the screen.

In this film we find the criminal underworld still fighting for the reins of Gotham City but this time, from out of the smoke of spitting automatic rifles and greasy, unscrupulous mobsters, comes what will prove to be Gotham's true nightmare.

Heath Ledger as the Joker is unforgettable - his performance is absolutely mesmerizing - he is hilarious and blood-chilling at the same time - I kept saying to myself - "Its not possible that it is Ledger under that make-up." his performance is one of most impressive I have ever seen on screen. I can't imagine what it was like to be one of the other actors and playing a scene on the same set - all the Joker's scenes are incredible - you can't take your eyes off him.

Underneath the primary plot of a story are two determined forces pitted against one another, we are treated to a brilliant illustration of two characters that walk a fine line of being almost the very same product - both created out of some deep-rooted tragic circumstance from a dark past, two tormented souls driven by both power and pain. In the end only one will walk away - but at what cost?

The rest of the cast, notably Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman and Aaron Eckhart - all bring symbolic elements to the story - wisdom, loyalty, dedication, honor and justice - coupled with their own individual, personal drives.

This film is so well done you forget you are watching a comic book super hero flick - this is one of the best movies I have ever seen.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Best Batman film to date, 11 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Finally a film about Batman that treats the material in the way that it should. Director Christopher Nolan presents the title character in a way that makes all the other film treatments obsolete as far as I'm concerned. An outstanding cast lead by Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman and supported by an incredible A-Team of performers - Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, Cillian Murphy, Rutger Hauer and Tom Wilkinson.

Nolan combines a clever story that embodies all the mystery and circumstances that make up the origins of Batman and the events that lead the Gotham millionaire to become the Caped Crusader. None of the ridiculous camp of the other films - its a well done story that tells of one man's search for answers and his confrontation with his destiny as well as all the action you expect from Batman.

The audience is introduce to Wayne traveling to the mountains of the Himilayas to learn from a mysterious man named Ra's al Ghul where he learns the ways to fight crime - then returns home to the seedy streets and denizens of Gotham City and takes on the powers that have corrupted the city his father crusaded so hard to save.

Its particularly enjoyable seeing how Wayne invents all the gadgets and weapons that make up his arsenal and how he develops the famous suit - but the most fun part was the early version of the Batmobile called the "Tumbler" - an amazing vehicle which is something between a Hummer and a tank - these scenes rumbling down the streets of Gotham and launching into the Batcave are awesome.

Everything that went wrong in the other Batman films are all done wonderfully right in this one - Batman Lives Again!

Iron Man (2008)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of the best yet from Marvel, 11 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

With the success of the X-Men and Spiderman, it was inevitable that Marvel would eventually bring Iron Man to the big screen. At first, I envisioned a number of other top flight actors in mind for the part of Tony Stark but Robert Downey Jr. was not only the right choice but proved to be the main reason the film is such a huge hit.

The action scenes are outstanding and the Iron Man suit is very impressive, making all the scenes in the suit worth the price of admission but the script and the performances are the real assets of this film - top rate. The witty and split-second dialogue are perfect for Downey Jr. and he plays it brilliantly - he and Jeff Bridges scenes are especially enjoyable and Bridges holds his own with the humor as well.

*Spolier Alert: The scene where Tony is in his lab, first trying out his technology that will eventually become his suit - is hilarious - his charming relationship with his clumsy but loyal home-built robot assistant is particularly good but the part where, testing the suits thrust boosters, Tony slightly miscalculates and goes flying into the wall gets a laugh from me every time. The rest of the cast is good - Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Clark Gregg as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Coulson all give good performances and director Jon Favreau deserves credit for direction, balancing excellent actions sequences with clever humor. This movie rates as one of top entries in the Marvel films - and don't leave until you see the scene after the credits.

Iron Man in the upcoming Avengers movie should be a real treat.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Big Green Guy done right this time, 11 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

When I discovered a new take on the Hulk was coming out, after being painfully disappointed with the Ang Lee version, I hoped for a redeeming treatment of the material. The Hulk is one of Marvels' most enjoyable characters. This version exceeds the other by far. Its much more like the characters and story I remember from the comic book and doesn't take the story in a direction that leaves you scratching your head.

This version is closely tied to the TV series back in the 70's and doesn't try to hide it - the same gamma-ray experiment gone wrong and the same honorable Bruce Banner, forever on the move because he is a danger to all, especially the one's he loves. Edward Norton was very convincing in the role of Banner and just seems to come off more like the character I remember from the comic book. He is certainly more likable and more easily identifiable.

There's no wasted minutes explaining the entire back-story - the opening credits depicted in a montage of clips essentially take care of that detail and much is assumed that the audience is at least somewhat familiar with the character or the TV series. The action scenes are very well done and the final fight scene where the Hulk squares off against the monstrosity known as the "Abomination" is very exciting.

The supporting cast does a commendable job - William Hurt as Gen. Ross and Liv Tyler as Betty do their characters justice - Tim Roth always brings intensity to his roles and this one is no exception, his character Blonsky is supplied by General Ross with an amped-up steroid cocktail known as "super soldier serum" and from then on - the intensity is taken up a few notches to say the least - its definitely there as evidenced by one of his lines - after he has confronted and battled the Hulk twice he is asked by the General - how he feels after recuperating from an almost fatal rumble with the green behemoth "How do you feel?" Blonsky answers "Pissed off...and ready for round three."

I'm personally disappointed that Edward Norton will not return to reprise his role in the upcoming "Avengers" after handling the role so well in this movie, but I'm guessing that we'll be seeing much more screen time with the Big Green Guy in that film anyway. It will be interesting to see how the Hulk character will be involved in that project.

Thor (2011)
2 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
Another Marvel gem - THOR a thunderous hit, 6 May 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Yes - it is worthy

After seeing the other Marvel entries, I agreed with many that THOR would be the most difficult to adapt to the big screen and I was hopeful when I heard Kenneth Branagh would be directing, having enjoyed his Shakespeare films in the past and the possibility of lending his classic twist to a popular tale, and now after seeing this film, I am pleased to offer my congrats to Branagh and Marvel for bringing one of my favorite super hero characters to life.

I was anxious and ready for the grand scope of special effects that would carry me across the rainbow bridge to Asgard and to see the Mighty Thor and his warrior companions in action, but I was very pleasantly surprised with the depth of the characters and the impressive performances from the cast.

Aside from Anthony Hopkins and Natalie Portman, the main players are relatively unknown and yet it is these performances that impressed me most. Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston may not be big names now but after this film that could quickly change. Hemsworth and Hiddleston are worth the price of admission alone, the classic sibling rivalry between Thor and Loki is made obvious but not overdone; especially in dialogue but rather skillfully played through body language and facial gestures (always been a firm believer that sometimes the best dialogue is NO dialogue) The action scenes are fantastic but again not overdone - only enough is offered to where you want to see them again.

*SPOILER ALERT - One of the scenes that particularly stood out was - after being cast out of Asgard and banished to Earth, Thor fights off a squad of highly trained G-Men to claim his weapon but when he realizes that he can no longer lift his enchanted hammer he is devastated and the scene hits you full force - Hemsworth nails the scene perfectly and Branagh slam dunks this part of the story most of all, adding a great deal of depth to the lead character - Thor's face reveals the squandered opportunity to prove himself as rightful heir to the Asgardian throne and at the same time a son's inevitable desire for his father's blessing now being forever denied him. I was surprised to see this element so well done in a film of this sort. THOR is good entertainment with a good ensemble of characters and wonderfully brought to life with a good cast.

I look forward to Thor's return.


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