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Less is More, Sometimes
I was contacted by director Ian Clay to review "Tempus" some time ago, and just now saw it. While I appreciated its message, I still have mixed feelings about it. I liked the score very much and the ultimate touching of hands and the bird flying away was very dramatic and symbolic. But somehow the use of the solitary chair and the haphazard running with arms all over the place seemed a little forced. While I do get the urgency of getting to her right away, I didn't feel completely moved by the actor's motivations. Maybe less is more, and more inward struggle to get there would have been more effective. But I think I am the lone criticizer of this. A beautiful thought executed a little too strongly. Maybe.
The Chisholms (1979)
The Chisholms - A Part of Our History
The 1979 TV miniseries "The Chisholms" features Robert Preston as the patriarch of a family that moves west from Virginia in 1844 to make a fresh start. Rosemary Harris is the mother, who at first is against picking up roots, but finally acquiesces. From there, they have a trek ahead of them. On the whole, I'm not a big fan of western or frontier films etc. except for the real classics (Shane, Lonesome Dove) but am a big fan of Robert Preston and something about the epic feel of the story drew me to this. The viewer is drawn in immediately and it soon became so real to me. I was very impressed with its respect of the people, their ethics, and their way of life. Ben Murphy, Brian Kerwin, and Charles Frank are some of the actors seen here, but the whole production was first rate, and I am glad I discovered it. I was unaware at the time of seeing this, though that this was not the full story. "The Chisholms" is out on DVD, but my review is for Season 1 only, which is Disk 1 only, out of three. Due to the success of the first run, they made a Part 2/Season 2, which recast several parts, due to the unavailability of actors, I would presume. Delta Burke is featured in the later part, but is not seen here. In my reading up on all this, I found some reviews that said that Part 2 was not half as good as the original and to stay away from it. I will heed that, so as to not taint this experience, and I hope you do too. If by chance, you buy the DVD of both seasons, watch only disk 1. "The Chisholms" is among the best of the television miniseries genre and deserves to be remembered, just as much as "The Thorn Birds" and "Roots."
Far from the Madding Crowd (2015)
The Best Film of 2015 I've Seen!
Carey Mulligan stars in this retelling of the Thomas Hardy novel, Far from the Madding Crowd. She has inherited land and is intent on maintaining a tight ship. But even more than that, she is her own person, who needs no one and is hesitant to ask for help, even from those who have no ulterior motive but only to love her. She tries to hold her own, almost stubbornly so. But Gabriel Oak, a shepherd, is always there when he's needed, that is until he feels he's not being appreciated. He has his own problems, when his dog herding the sheep freaks out. Then, Bathsheba meets Sergeant Francis Troy.
One is always so afraid of Hollywood mindlessly rehashing, reworking and/or ruining classic stories, therefore tainting the viewers' experience of it for the previous film adaptations or the novels themselves. But this treatment is exquisite and faithful to the heart and style of Thomas Hardy. This was one of my favorite books in college and Hardy was my favorite novelist. (I have read 90% of his work.) And, I have to say that I could watch this over and over. The film welcomes you into their resplendent world of landscapes and fields and the hard work and toil in them. The actor who is Gabriel Oak I know not, but he is excellent. His nods, his eyes, his expressions with no words all reflect what's on his mind. And, having Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba was simply unbelievable, and a joy to watch - her simple ways of emoting, everything about her. Michael Sheen was astounding as Mr. Boldwood, and Tom Sturridge WAS Troy. You are there. You understand and really feel for these three-dimensional people and the script moves very quickly, quicker than the original film with Julie Christie, which I loved and rated as a '10.' But I may have to give it a '9' now, as I can't give this a '12.' This is in fact even more moving and is a lot more dramatic than its predecessor, which had a more subdued feel to it. If you love classic novels, and especially Thomas Hardy, you will fall in love with this. This couldn't have been made by Hollywood. Our Hollywood! This feels like Hollywood of days gone by, and that's the best compliment you can give a film today.
It Happened in Hollywood (1937)
A Little Film that Will Live in Your Memory of It
The film opens on young children watching a silent film, as it ends, and they applaud and the young boys say they want to be just like the cowboy when they grow up. One boy in particular, who is sick and laid up, takes it all to heart and hopes to meet the actor someday, who is Richard Dix. But Richard's world will be toppled, when he is asked to be a gangster in a film robbing a bank and killing innocent people. He has an image to uphold to his fans. The studio tells him it's this or nothing. He starts the film, but he can't stomach this brutality and quits. Such is his predicament, dignity but no money, and soon the boy will appear at his door. What ensues is a very thoughtful and moving experience about our idols and how they are only human and how we try to be what people expect of us. Though the ending is rather abrupt, I enjoyed this unique little film which also boasts a lot of lookalikes of celebrities of the time. Discover "Once a Hero" today and see for yourself how a hero, although human, is always a hero.
Disney, Leave Cinderella Alone!!
Cate Blanchett is the mean stepmother in this new "Cinderella." In fact, she is the best thing. I thought just about everything Disney touched turned to gold, but this was a major disappointment in all departments. The leads for Cinderella and particularly Prince Charming were perfectly dreadful with no screen presence or chemistry together and their characters were extremely dull. You never are brought to care about them, despite the fact Cinderella's father and mother are gone soon after the movie begins. I was very disappointed in this and I am surprised to see it so popular on here. Or am I? I do see that some people have trashed it. I usually don't read other reviews, but, when I don't like a movie, I look to see if others feel the same. Some say that even their children didn't like it very discerning and wise people they will be. If you want to see Cinderella, there are several versions to pick from, the original animated one, the Julie Andrews film, the Lesley Ann Warren film, and "The Slipper and the Rose." There are probably more, but none can top those four EVER. Don't watch this one! You've been warned. (2/10 for Cate, though.)
The Sea Chase (1955)
Lana and the Duke - A Tale of Love on the Run
John Wayne is a German freighter captain who is trying to get his crew back to his homeland, but has to take in a spy on the run, who happens to be Lana Turner, who was about to marry Britisher David Farrar for her country to gain information, but Wayne intervened and messed up her plans. If you forget about Wayne's image and his western career, this film can stand on its own as thoughtful and engrossing entertainment. But if you can't get past the odd casting of him in this film, then you probably won't like it. They do make quite a very good pair; despite the fact he wants nothing to do with her in the beginning and she him, you know what is going to happen. As an added bonus is the presence of Tab Hunter and TV veterans James Arness, Claude Akins, and Alan Hale as part of the crew. Lyle Bettger is very memorable as a disgustingly repulsive cad, who hates his captain with a vengeance. The cast aside, this is a very moody and romantic film, with beautiful scenery and the high seas as the backdrop. I have always liked the ambiguous ending very much: the feeling, the image, the voice of David Farrar narrating. What the film may lack in fast-paced action and in other departments, I feel it makes up for in the romantic scenes between Lana and the Duke, who find love in the unlikeliest place of all.
Cass Timberlane (1947)
Tracy/Turner Teaming Good, But Could Have Been Better
Spencer Tracy is judge Cass Timberlane, in this film adaptation of the Sinclair Lewis novel. He has carved out a nice little niche for himself and settled into a nice community with a steady girl, played by Margaret Lindsay and has some high society friends. But perhaps he gotten too used to his surroundings. Maybe he isn't as happy as he thinks (he is.) His cases have gotten a little monotonous, when a witness to an elderly lady falling on a city sidewalk is artist/designer Lana Turner, who lives outside of his social circle. She piques his interest with her looks, her youthful perspective on life, and her pictures of him. They form a friendship that leads to marriage, surprising his society friends who were expecting him to marry Chris (Margaret.) Attorney and friend Zachary Scott takes an instant liking to her as well. When she grows tired of trying to fit in and exasperated with her situation, arguing about it with Spencer, she winds up going to New York with Zachary. I don't how faithful this is to the book, but this is an example of how Hollywood would write themselves into a corner or a bad situation and then slap a pat or forced happy ending on it. People argue, can't get along and want their way until the final reel, where they say "we're so happy, let's live happily ever after." The viewers have to be placed in their situation and allowed for the natural feelings to be evolved and addressed for some final good closure. We do have this to a point, but just the same the scene with Lillian (Josephine Hutchinson) talking to Lana and the scene of Spencer and Lana's final confrontation feels a little bit like an afterthought. Being a Lana Turner fan, I may be kinder to this than a lot of others; I have always liked this film on the whole, but also felt the pat ending was a major flaw. Granted, we want them to be together but it somehow rings a little false.
No Refunds - Satisfaction Guaranteed!
"The Moneychangers" is the story of a bank and its corporate members. When a senior executive dies and another is set to retire (Ralph Bellamy,) the power and responsibility is then shifted to one of two parties vying for the top position, Kirk Douglas and Christopher Plummer. Yeah, but which one, you ask. That is the question and the primal concern throughout the television movie. Christopher Plummer had approved an astronomical loan to a company, a decision which may come back to haunt him. And, I think the dramatic impact of his last scene really helped his Emmy win, along with the fact he was very good. A subplot concerns bank teller Timothy Bottoms who has stolen money from the bank and was trying to implicate another teller by taking it out of her cash drawer, but she came forward about the missing money. Timothy Bottoms doesn't usually emote much and doesn't seem to endear himself in films, at least not to me, but here I practically find myself caring about his character and what happens to him. There are too many character actors here to name, as you can find them on the cast list, but Joan Collins makes a memorable appearance. And, the black actor who played the head of security almost stole the film with his in-your-face and forceful energy. I was into this very credible and fast-paced TV movie. By the end, I was wiped out and thinking that was really good! The film's realistic yet broad (or flashy/soapy) treatment of the material will sweep you up in the dramatics of money, position, and betrayal. Who will be the CEO? Who really wants it? Sometimes it comes at a cost. Are you willing to pay to see "The Moneychangers?"
Top of the Hill (1980)
Good Production Values with Real People, Mainly
Wayne Rogers is a company executive who has been getting tired of it, for a long while now and has been car racing on the side for the thrill of the race, the danger, for the high of living on the edge and taking risks. What's life you don't take chances? That's what he tells his wife, Adrienne Barbeau. They have not been getting along lately, and she goes off to restart her singing career, when talking to him about his obsession becomes monotonous. After Wayne has to fire a long-time employee, he finally quits and decides to go to Lake Placid to enter the U. S. Olympics bobsled race. Apparently, he lived there before, as he meets Paula Prentiss, who he went with in their much younger days, and Gary Lockwood who is now married to her. Elke Sommer is manager of the ski lodge, along with husband Mel Ferrer, who is very sickly. Sonny Bono has a supporting role, and, frankly, once he follows Wayne to Lake Placid, his predicament of needing a job but having to be a ski instructor when he's never been on a pair of skis is ridiculous, like an episode of "Three's Company." That is my biggest complaint, that his subplot was unrealistic, the irony of him being in this movie notwithstanding. Aside from that, this production, based on an Irwin Shaw story, was excellent with a great study of the human element. The people here, particularly Wayne, Adrienne, Paula and Gary Lockwood were very real. One could relate and empathize with all of them. They had dreams, regrets, passion. The highlight of the TV movie for me was when Paula told Wayne she had wasted her life continuing to love him, after he had left her. And, also a little later when she told Gary she never loved him, NEVER loved him, despite the fact he had always loved her. She had always loved Wayne. In fact, Wayne seemed to be a magnet for women; they love him. Even Mel Ferrer's character was incredibly real, and he usually comes across a little wooden in productions. Elke Sommer was good, but her character was not as three-dimensional as others. But Paula Prentiss seemed to steal all the scenes she was in. What an actress! All in all, I was very impressed with the writing and depth of this TV movie, despite the corny Sonny Bono plot. I guess that was for levity. And Rae Dawn Chong has a small part in this. She sings, and she's really good. I looked for this, because I had memories! of seeing this when I was almost 10 in 1980. Unfortunately TV movies like this are not on TV anymore. So, it's unlikely you're ever going to see this, unless you try some dvr website. If you do, "Top of the Hill" certainly makes for an entertaining time and a satisfying drama, on the whole.
Required Joanne Woodward Viewing
Joanne Woodward is an eccentric mother to two daughters in this film about a dysfunctional family. Her real-life daughter, Nell Potts, plays her youngest daughter and is the one concerned with the environment and the effect of gamma rays on marigolds. Joanne has been deserted by her husband and has had to fend for herself and her children. We see, as the film opens that she is far from the sweet doting mother type. In fact, she is so flip and sarcastically blasé in her way that I laughed almost nonstop in the first 30 minutes due to her blunt matter-of-fact delivery of her lines. She also had a meanness to them, which was caused by the bitterness she felt towards her husband. I thought was going to be a very serious film, but this had an very odd sense of humor to it, as she is critical of things and people while at the same time being funny. She also doesn't accept responsibility for her actions and blames others for her situation and lot in life. While I say it was funny in the beginning, it does become tragically somber in tone, due to the reality we see that she has to come to terms with, whether she decides to or not. The ending is surprisingly ambiguous and a little abrupt. This definitely requires another viewing and frankly Joanne Woodward's performance blew me away. Director/actor Paul Newman said he thought this was her best performance of her career and I agree. This is required viewing for Joanne Woodward fans. Period.