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148 reviews in total 
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a big shrug!, 26 November 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

from a "Merlinian" of sorts:

OK, only because of my narrated Symphony no. 1 (Idylls of the King about King Arthur) on You Tube in which Merlin is a character.

Both Nic Cage and Jay Baruchel ham it up predictably with the latter in the Mickey Mouse role; See the broom sequence with its brief quotation from Paul Dukas' composition of the same name. (He doesn't really outact Mickey though!) Alfred Molina, an admirable man in real life is the effective baddie here.

The acting is mostly non-existent but what does anyone expect from a Disney film since the Disneys specialize in often very pretty teenagers of both genders who can't act. (The main heroine also is strictly generic.) The plot throughout is far-fetched but this is also expected under the same circumstances!

You will go out humming the special effects!

Lincoln (2012)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
history hollywoodized a la Spielberg, 18 July 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I recently saw this film on the tube and I have little doubt it would have been better on the large screen.

Yes, Daniel was all they say. He certainly did his research including getting the Lincoln voice just right (Those who insist that Abe should be portrayed as a booming bass-baritone ought to do their own research!) and completely inhabited the part. Sally Field, who has been criticized for being too histrionic in all her portrayals is here playing a histrionic part and could hardly have done it differently. And she too didn't just fly-in her part. (ow!)

I really, really liked her! (Sorry, couldn't resist!)

The other parts were all carefully cast.

Tony Kushner's script was properly inspirational and John Williams' score evoked every musical Americana cliché he could get his hands on especially Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait".

Mr. Spielberg and Mr. Kushner's script often falsified the facts at times in order to build the suspense for the13th Amendment voting scene. If I remember, one state voted yea in fact (Massachusetts?) but in this film they voted nay.

The final scene was rather perfunctory, even if necessary, but I won't say what it was in order to avoid giving the ending away.;-)

But, for me, the main interest of the film was the light it shed on present-day politics with a direct parallel between the machinations Lincoln had to go through to get the Amendment passed and the current administration has to go through to get anything done at all. And the same criticism being leveled against both presidents about their "exceeding their authority"!

0 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
beating a dead horse?, 21 March 2014

I wanted to like this new series based on the venerable old programs which are still quite hilarious both in the British and later American incarnations with Drew Carey.

Alas, Aisha Tyler doesn't yet fit in but she may never fit in. She overdoes her reactions and the men of the program, used to "giving it to the host" for instance Wayne Brady's mock sexual advances to Drew Carey are not duplicated so far on this incarnation. Nor are they ever likely to be, no doubt due to political correctness!

Sorry, the chemistry is not there. I don't understand why Aisha can't use her normal voice instead of that affected loud sing-song delivery she insists on. Maybe if she relaxed more she would do better.

Go to YouTube instead and watch the old clips which are the real thing.

often brilliant music performances but rather awful drama, 12 April 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The dramatic part of the film is really rather dismal. When you have the mother in the cast played by a woman (Marsha Hunt, a later victim of the Hollywood blacklist, still alive at 95!) who, in real life was younger than her "son" (William Prince), it strains credibility even with Miss Hunt's "old" makeup.

And the usual device of the hero's desire to play "modern"-music-rather-than-classical device is one that surely had whiskers even then! See "The Jazz Singer" for example. In this case, he wants to perform with the rather wooden singer, band leader and trumpeter Vaughn Monroe.

Mr. Prince's character, Tony Salerno finally gets his predicable "big chance" at the end of the film when he "conducts", "plays" his own composition with trumpeter Harry James. It isn't clear who really wrote the music from the listed credits but the anonymity of the author is quite understandable. (Charles Previn?) And none of the other composers suffers from the competition, I have to say.

However, the actual musical performances are as well done as possible with Rubenstein and Heifetz at somewhere near their peaks even with Rubenstein's inevitable Polonaise in Ab (Chopin). And their interactions with the actors is also very well done with, for example, Pinza's "prima donna" temper tantrum about his costume probably not exaggerated at all.

Walter Damrosch's association with the actual opening of Carnegie Hall at which Tchaikovsky also conducted is another welcome reminder of the authenticity of the film as well as the actual hall being used rather than a studio fake and that right after its 1940's renovation.

Though my last piano teacher, Nadia Reisenberg was also in the film in an ensemble, I turned it on too late to see her.

A unique film for the music even with the cringe-making back story!

very enjoyable but excessively long., 25 January 2013

Saw most of this again on TCM this evening after seeing it complete many years ago.

The cast was charming and carried off the clichés and cartoonish adventure with great aplomb. The villainous Mrs. Meers was played by the great comedienne, Bea Lillie and the rest of the cast especially the women (Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore and Carol Channing), were excellent as they continued to prove in their later careers.

Of course the two "orientals" were extremely racist caricatures (played by Jack Soo and Pat Morita) up there with Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffanys in that respect.

But much of it went on far too long and this was further drawn out by the endless "Intermission" with Julie doing the singing throughout, and the unbelievably endless closing credits.

When Bogie met Hoagy (and Betty), 7 September 2012

This almost seems like a study for the now iconic "Casablanca" but in truth it came two years later.

Yes, Bacall made a very stunning debut here and even did some singing. (No she wasn't dubbed by Andy Williams as in the legend!) But Bogie played essentially the same character as in the other film under another name of course.

Hoagy Carmichael essentially echoed the part of Sam as the house pianist in the earlier film but he could really play the piano unlike Dooley Wilson who was only a singer and whose piano playing had to be dubbed. And he played again and sang many times throughout the film, most memorably in "The Hong Kong Blues" which I remembered from seeing the film as a child.

I have to admit that I was thoroughly annoyed by Eddie ("Have you ever been stung by a dead bee?") the Walter Brennan part where he plays a "rummy" who keeps repeating this sentence ad nauseum.

The story is serviceable as a vehicle for these stars if not nearly as memorable as the story in Casablanca and Dan Seymour was good as the villainous fat man. (you know, the Sydney Greenstreet part!)

Hugo (2011)
6 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
review of (non-3D) DVD, 23 July 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It must be said from the outset that 3D is not absolutely necessary for the story but it would enhance it greatly, I imagine. But even in a "flat" version, you can easily imagine the 3D effects.

The acting and cinematography are all first-rate especially the acting of Asa Butterfield who plays the title role, Chloë Grace Moretz as Isabelle, Ben Kingsley as Georges, Helen McCrory as Mama Jeanne, Sacha Baron Cohen as the Inspector, and some nice shorter roles by Jude Law and Christopher Lee.

The station set and the huge clocks are impressive and Martin Scorcese's old film enthusiasms and knowledge are put to good use.

I think most people have missed the reference to Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last!" when Hugo is hanging from a clock. That particular film is also shown as one of the old film excerpts.

The story is, as others have pointed out, a pretty standard action-adventure quite comparable to Pearl White's "Perils of Pauline" and though actors playing Django Reinhardt, James Joyce and Salvador Dali appear briefly, the characters are not identified as they are in Woody Allen's name-dropping "Midnight in Paris". (They actually don't need to be!) A scene for Douglas Fairbank's version of "Thief of Bagdad" is also shown but the character of Hugo is closer to Sabu's in the second version, at least because of his age.

The DVD also includes a "making of Hugo" extra.

Is it a great film? Maybe, maybe not, but the answer is: only time will tell!

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A pretty good summation of Hammerstein's career., 10 June 2012

I have to say right off the bat that I'm not a big fan of Mr. Hammerstein, but he has certainly done some excellent things. From the classic "Show Boat" which he wrote with Jerome Kern in the 20's to his last work with Richard Rodgers there are many memorable moments but also moments of pure sentimentality, "The Sound of Music" being a case in point.

I could have done with some more extended excerpts in many instances and some mention of Rodgers' collaboration with Larry Hart might also have been mentioned, at least in passing, but I don't recall that it was.

I was very interested in Sondheim's remarks particularly in view of his major differences as a lyricist.

I could have done with a longer documentary but I suppose they wanted to leave time for their fund-raising.

mixed feelings but mainly irritation!, 13 April 2012

I've never been a fan of Woody and this is not going to make me one.

One of the problems, I think, is that all the characters are cardboard. Owen Wilson plays Woody and shows such great Romantic Enthusiasm that it wore me down after a while! (At least he didn't try to obviously imitate Woody's mannerisms as Kenneth Branagh did in "Celebrity"!) Rachel McAdams plays his "Crass Fiancée" and Michael Sheen plays "The Pedant".

Yes, we know Woody loves Paris but this too becomes oppressive in my opinion while becoming a near commercial for the city. And Woody has done the fantasy or time-travel shtick more than once before, most obviously in Zelig, Sleeper, and Purple Rose but these have all been done better by others.

And finally, all the celebrities Owen meets are pretty much top of the pops: Cole, Ernest, Gertrude, Alice, Pablo, Luis, Salvador, Scott and Zelda, Man Ray, Josephine, T.S., Toulouse-Lautrec, Gaughuin, Matisse, Degas: they are all here!

In short, a very superficial and obvious, if somewhat entertaining, film.

2 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
A camp non-classic, 17 March 2012

They played it again on TCM last night and, though I'd seen it before, I lasted about 30 minutes before giving up.

Clearly, the best thing about the film were the Harryhausen fake monsters, especially the Kraken.

The acting by all concerned was hilariously bad even if some of the biggest names in filmdom were involved. The scenes on Mt. Olympus looked like a public school pageant with line readings to match and Olivier as Zeus was clearly in it for the money as were all the others.

Burgess Meredith played an ancient Greek version of his mentor in the Rocky flicks. Bowker and Hamlin fulfilled their eye-candy functions but Harry made the mistake of opening his mouth and ruining the whole effect.

The script was awful and the actors responded in kind.

What is surprising is that this has become the basis for a remake and a sequel which apparently have made or will make even this look like an Oscar-winner.

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