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Good job, mostly, 14 September 2017

I didn't see all of this movie. The listings said it started at 1:30 (and it wasn't this movie that was listed) and that's when the recording started. But there was already a movie going on. I could wait until I see it all, if it airs in the near future, but I might forget the details. So I'll give my evaluation now.

I did see enough to know these details. The film takes place in a beach community, and I saw signs that the town was called Venice. One of these signs is an actual sign saying Venice. Another is canals running beside houses. Alex is the boring, responsible and cute sister, and Lily is the adventurous rebel who looks like she works at a truck stop. Both are likable in their own way.Their father Roger is showing early signs of what could be Alzheimer's, but he is also appearing in a community theater production of a play which he may have written. I say may have written because there were a couple of details I missed and these may have been at the beginning of the movie, but from the way he was talking, I think he wrote it. 

Alex works for an organization that protects the environment. She has interviewed people who have shown her evidence that a marsh is being affected by work already done by Frank's company to develop the area into a resort. Frank argues that the people would rather have jobs and improve their status, but Alex is fighting his efforts, hoping the resort can be built in a different location.  . 

Alex's husband George wasn't happy and he has left. They have a young son Dakota, and George is making every effort to be a good father. Alex isn't quite happy with her life and Lily gives her advice, which is not really the type of advice the fine upstanding citizens should be following. But this is a movie so reckless behavior is acceptable.  

So will Alex find happiness? Will the marsh be saved? Can Roger get through his play, and how sick is he?

This isn't funny enough to be a comedy but there are some laughs.

I know Mary Elizabeth Winstead from her role in the quirky comedy "BrainDead" and there are similarities between her character here and the one in that show. I liked her there and, although I didn't see her name until the closing credits and didn't know why she looked familiar, I liked her here. She has several scenes where she is just looking at something, and somehow that's enough. One scene where she is high on drugs is effectively done. The scene really communicates how weird things are, between her wild performance and the lack of audio other than music which appears to be for our benefit, not music they are hearing. And while Winstead does quite well as proper and responsible, she does have to recover from that one crazy night and achieves that.  She also has to cry too, which is surprising, but it works.

Katie Nehra has her own style and a lot of enthusiasm. I like her too, as she shows Dakota a good time when he's supposed to be in school. I don't know what she does for a living, though that may have been part of what I missed, but I'm guessing it's nothing substantial, or perhaps she goes from job to job. In any case, she's never shown working in the part I saw. And I know how to describe her appearance. I got confused once when I realized there was an environmental problem and wondered if I might be seeing "Erin Brockovich". But she didn't look enough like Julia Roberts, and she never was the one fighting for justice.

I liked Skylar Gaertner as Dakota as well.

Derek Luke is quite charming as the developer when not being challenged, but he believes he is right and won't back down. 

I did recognize Don Johnson, but only in the sense that I thought Roger looked like Don Johnson, but not enough like Don Johnson to be Don Johnson. I haven't had a lot of experience with this actor, but I saw him in several movies and in a WB TV series about a flawed lawyer. His best scene is in the play, but he does well elsewhere too., particularly where Roger seems to be losing his mind. 

And regarding the play, it was just rehearsal, but at first I wasn't sure whether they were performing or the actors were being themselves just talking. That seems like good acting to me. 

An interesting technique in the courtroom: Alex faces the judge and looks at her opponents. I don't think we ever see the judge.

The presence of Dakota shouldn't give anyone the impression kids should be watching. There is sex talk which is a little naughty for TV, but let's face it. Most prime-time shows have gotten this bad. But just in case you see it uncensored, for me the sound went out a lot. 

It's certainly worth seeing.

Good job, mostly funny but also inspiring, 29 August 2017

Truman High is a charter high school in southwest Los Angeles. Its students come from neighborhoods that they would like to be able to leave, and some students will succeed and likely make it in life. The teachers seem committed to making this happen, but many of the students don't seem to care.

English teacher and soccer coach Mitch Carter is Teacher of the Year for California. Many of the students like him. But he has a chance at a high-paying job which will involve a lot of travel, and even though he loves teaching, it has its problems. And he has a wife who doesn't like her advertising job, which allows her to work from home a lot, and an adorable daughter and another baby on the way.

The movie is a documentary, though it's obvious early that it is too silly to be real, and we see there are actors playing cast members. But almost the entire movie is the documentary, and while we may forget the cameras are there, there are often signs that these people are being followed around, and sometimes they want what they say to be private. The person making the documentary actually speaks a number of times but is not seen.

Also, the documentary has a lot more than just Mitch's story. It almost seems to be about the school, its teachers, and the problem students.

Parents come in when their children have done something wrong. Some care, some think their kids can do no wrong, some don't understand why their kids are being criticized.

One teacher is falsely accused of an offense by a student and nearly fired. I won't say how his situation turns out, but the plot does show what a good man Mitch is.

Will Mitch leave the school? I can't answer that question because, for one thing, I'm not sure the question ever gets answered.

Be sure to stay around after the words "The End", which come prematurely. There are lots of outtakes, and the last few are bloopers.

Matt Lescher does a good job. Most of the actors here do.

Keegan-Michael Key is Principal Douche. The name is Dutch and not pronounced like one would expect. Except by just about every student and anyone who is mad at him. Douche tries too hard to be cool and is not respected by anyone. And if he tries to discipline students, they just don't listen. I am reminded of Barney Fife yelling and waving his hands, and Sheriff Taylor actually getting the job done. There is a vice-principal who hands out detention to nearly every student he sees, at least in the finished film, but people don't seem to take him much more seriously. I question if anyone is in charge at this place.

Jason and Randy Sklar are the Hammer brothers who are the school's college counselors. I wouldn't recommend taking advice from either one of them. They are very strange.

I'm not absolutely certain, but I think Jamie Kaler is the robotics teacher. He is serious about getting his students to do well, but he has an attitude problem. He is jealous of Mitch's success and doesn't think much of second place. And in one scene he is just plain cruel to his students. But don't be too concerned. They seem a lot happier at the end when the same scene gets messed up in one of the bloopers.

Caitlin Carmichael is so cute as Mitch's young daughter. I like his wife too.

Shari Belafonte also stands out but has only a few lines.

This movie is not for the kids. One teacher uses the proper language when describing sex. But I'm not sure kids are ready for that. They're not ready for a lot of the humor here. Another teacher makes a tasteless Helen Keller joke, but the kids seem to respond to her style.

Do I recommend the film? Of course. It has a good mix of humor, inspiring stories, and moral dilemmas.

Excellent teen friend relationship comedy-drama, 27 July 2017

I already liked Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore, so I knew I would like her in this. And Lena was basically Rory, sweet and quiet, but with three best friends her own age, not a best friend for a mother. And blue collar grandparents who were good people if somewhat traditional and strict, rather than grandparents who would consider Lena's grandparents to be worthy only to do all the work they didn't want to do. The Romeo and Juliet romance was enjoyable and I liked Lena's boyfriend.

America Ferrera made this movie before we all fell in love with Ugly Betty. And like so many of her characters, Carmen made us like her with a nice personality and a beautiful smile, and in this case a temper which was justified. I had forgotten how fat she used to be before she lost weight, but it didn't really matter. Until it became important the plot, and that was such a shame. I did like how she eventually resolved the problem.

Amber Tamblyn had an edge that took some getting used to. I seem to recall her having a TV series I didn't watch. Later in the movie, she seems much more caring than she did to begin with.

Blake Lively probably showed talent, but mostly she just looked amazing. That long blonde hair and all those scenes where she wasn't wearing a lot.

I expected Ferrera to be the standout actor, but young Jenna Boyd was amazing. And what she did for Amber Tamblyn's character.

Bradley Whitford I have seen in a number of roles. He was good here. A loving but clueless father who really tried.

I know Nancy Travis mainly as the patient wife of Mike Baxter. She is nice here, but kind of shallow.

It's quite an interesting set of stories linked by these miracle jeans.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Disturbing, violent, 17 July 2017

South Greenwich, Rhode Island was an industrial town, but most of the industry is gone. Emily lives in the nice section of town, but to get home, she must deal with bullies. The good news, for Emily at least, is that Tony, one of the bullies, dies in a horrible incident involving his mother's cheating on her husband, which results in several deaths. And getting back to Emily, you have to wonder how she can live in such a nice house, since her mother mainly lies in bed and drinks or thinks about how to improve her appearance. Later it is revealed that her father isn't around much, so somehow he is paying for everything.

Emily narrates the movie, and we soon learn how Emily and Jackson became friends. Jackson moved to town with his family, although I'm not quite clear on why. I thought it was job-related and maybe it was. The important thing is that Jackson is the new weird kid at school. Emily also being a weird kid, she makes friends with Jackson. But we don't see much of their early years. We keep going back and forth from the past to the present, and then we don't see the early years of Emily and Jackson any more, until a flashback. The flashback involves their visit to the grave of Mercy Brown, a girl who went through a horrific experience nearly 100 years earlier and even after her death, her body is defiled. It's not pleasant. This is where the movie's title comes from.

What we know in the present, almost from the movie's start, is that there has been a massacre, and the news media are speculating about how such a thing could have happened.

We jump forward in time. Emily is a brooding teenager reading Sylvia Plath and "The Road". Jackson is on the football team but is still being treated like an outcast. And he has to come home and help take care of his paralyzed father who is angry with the world and drinks, smokes and does other stuff you'd rather not know about in his wheelchair, and having seizures or whatever you call it. And Jackson's getting quite tired of all of it. The coach is trying to help Emily straighten out her life, but she doesn't seem too interested.

Then both Jackson and Emily each have their own terrible experience that changes everything. For Jackson, it means the end of school. For Emily, it means the start of a struggle with drugs and alcohol which leads to an incident in which the principal considers his precious football players more important than Emily.

You think you will know what is going to happen. Most likely, you will be wrong.

I hope I have established by now that this is not appropriate for family viewing. In fact, it is about as far from appropriate for the whole family as you can get on broadcast TV. I can only describe what I saw, but I have reason to believe I didn't see everything. The sound went out a lot, and when this happened while we saw a character talking, the character's mouth was blurred. This happened a lot with Emily. She had a mouth on her.

But that's not the worst thing. You can clean up language. I think some of the violence may have been cleaned up too. Two characters listed in the credits were not shown, or at least I didn't see faces. I could see at least one body. And lots of blood. In another scene there was a curious edit that made it obvious the violence had been cut. Other violence I saw was only implied but it was still quite disturbing. And the aftermath in several scenes was also quite graphic.

If I haven't said enough, one couple (the man is married but not to the woman) is into S & M. Why in the world was there not an S in the V- chip rating? We already saw way too much violence and I don't think this counts as violence.

Oh, yes, and let's not forget the men who are into child porn. This is only suggested, but we know it's happening.

A few scenes had music. One scene had good classical music, though that was kind of depressing even if it was upbeat. A couple of other scenes had pleasant music. Several others had depressing folk music which was at least soft. But throughout most of the movie, "music" was the often loud garbage that people who wear all black enjoy (is that the right word? They hate everything).

Okay, now for the positives. There aren't nearly enough of these scenes but Emily and Jackson have a generally pleasant relationship. I like the scenes where they are just being friends. I mentioned the coach trying to help Emily, and that's a good scene too, with a good performance by the actor Kane Hodder.

The suspense builds as the movie progresses. You know what's going to happen, or believe you do, and it gets exciting.

And if I try to think of what is positive about the movie, Danielle Guldin's superior performance comes to mind. No, there's a lot negative about what she is going through and doing. But she's a pleasure to watch anyway.

Do I recommend this movie? If you like seeing villains get what's coming to them in the most graphic way possible, perhaps.

Well, I liked it, 13 June 2017

It's interesting that the week after I saw a movie where male actors play female characters, I saw another movie where the same thing happens, only the male actors are playing male character pretending to be female. So the difference is that in the movie I saw earlier, the audience is supposed to believe the characters are female. In this one, only the other characters are supposed to believe this.

I believe I have seen one, if not two, Big Momma movies. I was getting this mixed up with Madea, But I like both franchises.

The disguises work really well. I would have believed these were women, more so than in the other movie. Malcolm makes a really good house mother as "she" deals with basically good but rebellious teens at a girls' arts school. Trent, his stepson, is not quite as convincing when he tries to talk, and his attraction to women is clear, and quite funny, at least to me. But one wonders in those situations how Trent can pass for a girl except for the fact that Charmaine COULD be a lesbian. And while no one mentions Charmaine's obvious appreciation for the female body, perhaps that would have worked.

Wait until you see Big Momma get nekkid for art class. No, with her fat suit, she can't really do that, but she comes quite close. The fat suit is really convincing.

Trent's reckless behavior in the face of danger is a constant presence. Malcolm's hardest job is keeping his stepson safe as Trent takes risks in order to be with the beautiful Haley. Actually, his hardest job may be fighting off the advances of the overweight security guard Kurtis Kool, who is strangely attracted to Big Momma. But Kurtis may be the key to finding the important flash drive that will solve the case for the FBI, and save him and his stepson from being killed by the bad guys. And even Charmaine has the opportunity to ask the right questions of the other girls.

While the other movie is clearly superior, I thought this one was pretty good and quite entertaining. Martin Lawrence gives a good performance (I mean for this material) both as Malcolm and even better as Big Momma. No one will win Oscars here, but several of the performances are equally good or better.

Jessica Lucas is quite appealing as an actress and a talented singer and pianist (I assume she is the one playing). Her romance with Trent is bumpy but somewhat appealing, and does have some positive results. Though I think you can predict what will happen later. The question is how.

Faizon Love is very entertaining as well. I wasn't crazy about him but I believe he will appeal to others.

Brandon Jackson is better when trying to be Charmaine than he is as Trent, but he is also a good rapper, if there is such a thing. Seriously, I do like old school in some cases. Speaking of which, there is a nice moment as Trent and Malcolm try to mix The Temptations with rap.

Ken Jeong has a sort of humorous cameo as a mailman being attacked by Malcolm, who has no right to do what he did to a postal worker, even if he is FBI. I think both professions should have been shown more respect than this scene gave. But Malcolm was desperate to learn if his son got into Duke. If you can forget about the ethical issues, just enjoy it.

I'm sorry to say that, while this movie has a Heather like the other movie did, the nasty anorexic ballet dancer only manages a few genuinely funny lines and turns out not to be nearly as bad as we first thought.

Luckily for our heroes, the bad guys are bumbling idiots, but still quite dangerous.

If you immediately hate the idea of watching either Big Momma or Madea, don't bother. But if you find this sort of thing appealing, this just may be for you.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Good family film, but not for the little ones, 13 June 2017

In Kingdom County, Vermont in 1956, Austin arrives on the train. His grandfather, also named Austin, picks him up in an old truck. It is never made quite clear why young Austin is there, but his grandfather doesn't seem very nice, at first. He describes himself as the meanest (bleep) in Kingdom County. The word is actually used one time but bleeped the rest of the time the expression is used, with the character's mouth blurred. Austin Sr. can actually be quite loving.

Austin's grandmother Abiah is there when they arrive at the house, and she seems nicer. But there are times when she will be the meaner of the two. The house has a phone but no electricity, and Abiah will not have it in her house even though she always having to deal with flies and electricity would make that easier. Austin Sr. is quite conservative as well, so one would think he's the one who doesn't want electricity. But he has a sawmill to run, in addition to his many farm-related duties, so if the power company wants to run a line there, he is all for it regardless of what his wife thinks. He has maple trees for sap, and Gram has an apple orchard. There are also cows and chickens. There's lots of work, and young Austin is expected to do chores even though he doesn't like them. Austin Sr. also expects Austin to go hunting with him, but again Austin doesn't like the idea.

Now why did I say Abiah has an apple orchard? The two are living together but that's about it. They have been in the same house for 50 years and had three children (one wonders how), but young Austin figures out if he wasn't there neither one would say a word to the other. It turns out Austin Sr. was married (not legally, but they considered themselves married) to an Inuit nicknamed Mira because that was short for the English translation of her name. Austin Sr. never got over her death and settled for Abiah. Abiah is obsessed with Egypt, calling Austin "Tut" because he looks like the boy king, and the daughters Nefertiti and Cleopatra have careers Austin Sr. doesn't approve of (but the rest of the world would consider them a success).

Austin Sr. doesn't approve of education because he thinks it will take away from work. He doesn't approve of his son's career as a teacher. Austin's father comes up for visits occasionally, but young Austin stays for a long time and even goes to school, because despite Austin Sr.'s attitude, children have to go to school. There, Austin meets Theresa, whose family is poor, though Theresa seems happy. Austin Sr. doesn't seem to approve of helping the poor, blames the Dubois family for being poor because they're French, and does not see anything good about Adlai Stevenson. Still, he's not as mean as he seems. There's also the bully Hettie.

Later, the grandparents enter the maple festival's syrup contest, competing against each other.

Austin learns a lot about life and family, and responsibility. There are occasional laughs and some tragedy.

This is a family film, if not one appropriate for younger children. It could have easily been a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, because it reminds me a lot of those films. I don't recall any bad language except for that one word that keeps getting repeated and bleeped. There is some minor violence, and a death, and some difficult topics, but it's a film older children could watch. And maybe even some tough younger children.

Bruce Dern gives an Oscar-caliber performance, though I imagine this film didn't get noticed and there could just have been too many equally good performances.

Genevieve Bujold also does quite a good job.

Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick is good too.

Because of the logo at the beginning and credits that go on for days with the type information movie credits wouldn't normally have, I believe this was an independent film. That usually means quality, and that's certainly true in this case. I've never seen a film with so much participation by colleges.

It's a worthy effort.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Insanely hilarious but also meaningful, 6 June 2017

It is like, so totally the 80s. If you can't tell from the movies, celebrities and TV characters mentioned, or the girls in one scene wearing "Flashdance" outfits, certainly you can tell that a viral video of an embarrassing event meant for blackmail is not captured and sent using a phone, but collected as a series of still photos using a technology where you watch the photo appear on a white square that ejects after the photo is taken.

Cassie's mom has lost her job and returned with her teenage daughter to the town where they used to live. Cassie is the new kid at school, but this does not bother her. As she writes in her diary, narrating for us, she is very confident and feels very good about herself. Not that she has reason to: she looks and talks like an overweight drag queen. From the first word she speaks, you know a male actor is playing the part. But this is only a problem for narrow-minded people. She is a typical teenage girl, with clothes and bedroom décor that suggest early hot pink trailer trash. Cassie believes she will easily make friends with the popular kids and become popular herself.

This is not going to happen. Heather and Heather are the popular girls, and Dirk and Brett are their boyfriends. The guys seem nice but must do everything their girlfriends say. Dirk must take off his shirt whenever he has done something wrong, for example. Heather and Heather are unbelievably cruel, even going so far to state in class that all uggos and fatties need to make themselves look good or go away, so we can all be happy.

But Cassie isn't bothered. She meets Maggie, who is a lot like her. Well, not quite. Maggie also has a very masculine look and voice, but she is definitely a girl (at least that's what we're supposed to believe, even though we know for certain that's really a guy). However, Maggie seems happy but is very insecure and gullible, and easily persuaded to change her mind.

Why is a man teaching female anatomy? Even worse, he is about as sensitive and politically correct as Donald Trump. Maggie is asked to leave since the class is for girls. Maggie insists she is one. "For how long?" the insensitive teacher asks. Heather and Heather state their outrageous opinions while another girl speaks for the other side. The girls watch a film which starts out like those corny films every school child supposedly watched in the 50s, but it turns into a hilarious and bizarre mess that even includes Dracula. A separate Dracula, according to the credits, appears in one of Maggie's fantasies.

Despite the way they are being treated, Cassie and Maggie are determined to be popular. There is a talent show later in the week, and Maggie is quite a good rapper, even holding her own in a contest against John, who is African-American. Maggie is a little concerned that when white people do it, it's racist, but this does not seem to be a problem. Cassie doesn't really have a talent but she doesn't let that stop her. Plus she is determined to get everyone to come to her Sweet Sixteen, also later in the week.

Heather and Heather show signs of coming around to a kinder attitude, but you can almost be certain that when they are nice, they are plotting something (especially Heather). Dirk and Brett really are nice, and they end up dating the "freaks" after their girlfriends have supposedly broken up with them. I'm not really sure. Both guys are kind of dense. By the way, there are hints both guys might be bi and attracted to each other.

Cassie and Maggie endure ups and downs as they continue their quest to no longer be freaks. Both girls end up in embarrassing situations before an ending that is satisfying.

This is not your typical formula teen mean-girl movie, although after a while it does seem remarkably normal. Most of the leading actors do a really good job, and the two guys playing the female leads are among the best. At no time do they convince us that they are female, but that doesn't seem necessary. It does require imagination.

Cassandra Peterson, best known as Elvira, is so unbelievably nice and quite pretty as Cassie's mom. Mostly nice, anyway.

By the end of the movie, we have heard positive messages that give this movie some significance beyond being just silly, and we learn a lot about what made certain characters the way they are.

At first I was going to say that college students who need a safe place because they are easily offended should stay far away from this movie. But the Sue Sylvester level of cruelty doesn't last that long, and as I said before, later in the movie it's just the ordinary mean girl stuff. And most of the characters have the right attitude, at least by that time. Early in the movie, the combination of unbelievable confidence in the absence of a reason and unthinkable nastiness gives us hilarious results. The movie can't keep up that level of hilarity and it's just not funny at times later, but doesn't have to be. The seriousness is appropriate and needs to be.

Overall, it's wildly insane and certainly worth seeing.

Mostly pleasant and inspiring family film, 30 May 2017

A man who looks like Merlin is being chased through the woods by a bearded man in a black robe who reminds me of a Harry Potter villain. They are being watched by a dog.

We see the same dog as Bobby, who is about to turn 5, is playing catch with his father Jack who is not home much because he is about to become salesman of the year at his company.

One night Jack is driving home and he is disoriented by bright lights. The next thing we know, a man who turns out to be a psychiatrist is talking to Bobby, along with teaching him magic. The psychiatrist explains that Bobby's problems are the result of losing his father.

The dog keeps showing up, and eventually Bobby names him Oswald or "Ozzy" and persuades his mother that they should keep him. The villain from the woods shows up claiming the dog is his, but something isn't quite right and his mom calls the cops. Eventually, Ozzy is trained to be Bobby's service dog.

Seven years later, Bobby is an expert on magic and while that helps make him popular at school, bullies make fun of him for having a service dog. Bobby's mother has lost her job and they may lose their nice house. And Tiny, a huge man who runs a diner, doesn't care what Bobby is allowed to do. That dog stays out! However, Tiny has a boss who disagrees, and later, Tiny regrets his actions. It's really funny.

One day Bobby goes in a bookstore and a mysterious book appears. Bobby is curious and it turns out he has just enough money to buy it. The wizard from the woods shows up and explains to Bobby that he is responsible for taking care of the book. And bizarre things start happening. Bobby has the ability to do magic, not just fool people the way contestants on Penn & Teller's show do. And one more thing: Ozzy can TALK! And he has lots of advice for Bobby, as he explains that he was sent to Bobby and has been protecting him for years.

Bobby figures out that his newfound abilities will help save him and his mother from being kicked out of their home. Meanwhile, there are plenty of obstacles in his way, including the fact that the villain from the woods shows up in a movie Bobby is watching (actually, it looks very much like the opening scene of this movie), and as one of the other people in the theater describes it, the 3-D effects in that movie are spectacular.

After going through a very difficult process that includes several disappointments and failures, and plenty of laughs for us, Bobby gets his happy ending. It may not be the one you would expect, but it is quite satisfying.

This is a mostly pleasant family movie, one appropriate for the entire family, though a few parents may be concerned about some minor details. It is kind of scary at times, and there is the loss of a parent (which is handled about as gently as it could be) but there is nothing particularly harmful.

Will Spencer is quite good as 12-year-old Bobby and while there is sort of a formula here, this movie offers plenty of surprises.

Jacob Whitkin does an impressive job as both the psychiatrist and the man who looks like Merlin.

Numerous annoying inspirational songs from different genres show up from time to time. There was one song even I could like. I would describe the style as somewhere between Karen Carpenter and Feist.

The visual effects are pretty impressive but not groundbreaking.

It's pretty obvious more than one dog is used for Ozzy, and that some of the dogs may not be real. In fact, Ozzy generally looked kind of weird and unrealistic. Just use your imagination.

It's a good family film with nothing really harmful.

Dirty Dancing (2017) (TV)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Entertaining, deals with issues not well known in 1963, 26 May 2017

It has been so many years I don't remember much about the original movie. I remember Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze on their knees and that's about it. I don't remember having feelings for either of them.

Abigail Breslin was different. Here, it took a while for me to see it but she gave us a fine performance and a character I could really like. She can sing and dance quite well. While not as pretty as her sister, and kind of a loser if you are one of the "cool kids", this Baby is sweet and kind as well as strong and intelligent. She stands up for what's right even if her morals are a little questionable. In 1963, her behavior would have been shocking, though probably not that unusual and more likely to be hidden. But she's basically a good girl.

I know Sarah Hyland mostly as a gorgeous, sometimes bubbleheaded, spoiled and slightly naughty teen and later college student. She's quite similar here and the personality of the other character still shows to some degree, but she's not quite as naughty as one might think and somewhat smarter, though not a brain like her sister. She's likable too, and quite talented as a singer.

Colt Prattes has to follow Patrick Swayze in what may have been a career-defining role. I don't recall liking Swayze's Johnny but I liked this one. It took a while, since he's kind of a bad boy. But Prattes is great as a bad boy and even better at being not as bad as he seems. And he can certainly dance and sing.

Debra Messing stands out more than I expected. I have no memory of the original Marjorie but she went on to be an uptight but somewhat likable rich mom to the "Gilmore Girls". So I have a hard time imagining that the character started out like this. Thanks to a newspaper article I read, I suspect that isn't the case. For 45, Marjorie is gorgeous and we can see where Lisa got her looks. Messing is even older. And she gives us a strong and determined wife who wants more out of her life than to be June Cleaver to the successful Ward in 1963. And yes, she wants sex. And she can sing!

Bruce Greenwood is uptight but loving, and Dr. Houseman has a warm bedside manner when called on for medical advice in the middle of his vacation.

Nicole Scherzinger stands out as Johnny's dance partner and gives us a wide range. She seems Latina even with that name. She has that tough New York City quality about her (with some vulnerability) that reminds me of Jennifer Lopez, who I believe could have easily played this role years ago. She can dance as well as act.

Another standout performer is Katey Sagal. Who knew she could sing like that? And not since she ended her famous relationship with Sarah's grandpa has she been such a bad girl. She makes a good bad girl, plus she's gorgeous for her age.

Quinton Johnson does quite well as Marco, a musician who is black and has a potential romance with a white girl. Uncle Tito does not approve--at first.

Speaking of Tito, Billy Dee Williams does quite a good job. I didn't know who he was, but while he seems kind of subservient at first, he is his own man. Tito's music is great, and I'll get to that. I have no idea if Williams contributed to that in any way.

Unlike most of the TV musicals in recent years, this one has only a few major dance numbers with lots of dancers, but of course these are great. Most of the dancing is done by two people at a time. And a lot of that is Breslin and Prattes. They are quite special together.

The newspaper article I read said this version would deal with controversial topics more so than the original. We have abortion, which is never mentioned but it's quite obvious what happened. We have interracial romance or at least the potential for it. And we have married (or formerly married) people who are no longer as romantic as they once were, and two drastically different ways of handling it.

And what about the music? A lot of it was great. I'm not referring to the evil rock and roll, though if that's your taste it was quite well done too. And some of the music in the middle between the two extremes gets played on radio stations I like these days (and the "good music" stations generally have to be online since few can be found). It was surprising to see uptight parents in 1963 enjoying "Big Girls Don't Cry", though that wouldn't be surprising today. Most of the "good music" is performed by Tito's orchestra. On the other hand, there are three songs from the 1980s (from the original movie) which have no business in a movie set in 1963 (my opinion). There's no attempt to make them fit. It's obvious the instrumentals don't come from the 1960s unless you count little green men that we were concerned about back then. The vocals from THE song come from the people you would expect, and from a couple of vocalists who might surprise you. They're quite well done, even if the instrumentals are faithful to the original version and couldn't have been around in 1963.

It's an entertaining effort with lots of important messages.

Funny and meaningful, at least when it is good, 18 May 2017

I've enjoyed many of Eddie Murphy's movies over the years, and most of them are quite funny. He continues to show talent, but somehow I felt something was missing, even though Jack's attempts to communicate were hilarious. Ultimately, while this isn't as special as many of his earlier efforts, Murphy is pretty good here.

I didn't recognize Kerry Washington, and maybe it's just as well. Considering that she is currently regarded as one of the best actresses on TV, I didn't see anything here to support that idea.

As Jack's poor assistant Aaron, Clark Duke's performance varies. It may be just me, but I didn't care much for him at first. But he is hilarious trying to act "street" with professional people thinking that's how Jack would talk, and failing miserably at impressing them. And later Aaron is quite good at helping Jack deal with his problems.

This is mostly a comedy, but toward the end it has a deeper meaning and an important lesson, making it more than just the silly mess it started out to be.

I want to point out two more acting performances, one brief and one more significant. John Witherspoon is wonderful as the father of the President of the United States in "The First Family", and while he is only on screen for a few seconds as a blind man trying to cross the street, he shows just as much talent as on his TV series, in a scene that is one of the movie's funniest.

And Ruby Dee as Jack's mother who is losing her memory gives the movie's standout performance. She doesn't say much early on, but later she has a brilliant scene. It's not so much that she is losing her mind. She seems quite normal and intelligent except for the fact she can't comprehend that the man in the room with her is not her husband.

I was also impressed by a couple of scenes which I didn't quite understand. Either Jack's young son has gotten older and is telling his father he misses him, or Jack is seeing his younger self. The boy in the scene does quite well.

It's not a bad movie, really. Just don't expect anything like Murphy's past successes.

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