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523 reviews in total 
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Mickey and Judy Great but Film a Bit Too Much!, 21 July 2015

"Strike Up the Band" is another teaming of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland who are of course put in the position of putting on a show to save a band, a school program for children, a school from closing, etc. You name it. It could be any of those things. Of all the movie musicals that were made in their heyday, these were the most bizarre, meaning while enjoyable and with good music still somewhat beyond belief. They always seemed to defy the odds, getting what they want, albeit with some obstacles along the way. This outing though is not quite as good as others, due to some of the supporting actors' not so subtle acting. Less is more is not an adage used here. In fact, there's nothing subtle here. Ann Shoemaker does give good support as his mother, with a nice speech about being a great man. But the length, its feeling of self-importance, and some awkward moments of corniness hurt its effectiveness. It is very enjoyable with great musical numbers for Mickey and Judy; but there's just so much of everything here, making it two whole hours, including a over-the-top tongue-in-cheek save-the-damsel production in the middle of the movie, lasting 15 minutes itself. I'm sure you'll enjoy it for what it is, but afterwards, you'll feel like you had a workout.

Welles' Idea into a Chaplin Masterpiece, 14 July 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Charlie Chaplin loses his tramp personality but still keeps some qualities in this dark broad comedy of murders, "Monsieur Verdoux." It concerns a gentleman who had worked for years in the banking business until the crash of the late 1920s and then he went into a life of crime to make ends meet, for his wife and son. The film fades in on his tombstone. His narration tells us all this information and tells us the following story is history. It's hard to give an unbiased review of a film I have seen more times than I can count. It costars Martha Raye in an unforgettable role, Isobel Elsom in one of her best movie roles, and the gifted William Frawley. But all of the supporting cast are excellent, especially Marilyn Nash as a young lady he helps and Almira Sessions, who is part of a family trying to find their doomed sister Thelma Varney, who fell victim to Chaplin's mercenary plans. Thelma is never seen. Chaplin has a wife or lover in every province or region of France, and when he needs immediate ready cash, it's off to another victim. We see Lydia as one. I could go on and on about the social significance and symbolism of this film, but it's too much to get into right now. Suffice it to say, that Chaplin was like Welles (who sold him the idea, inspired by a true criminal), Hitchcock and other directors of his time. Everything you see on the screen was deliberately planned down to the minutest details. He wrote and directed this all by himself, just like all of his other films. The pace, shadows, the tone of voice, the editing, the music which he composed – all these come together to form a suspenseful and very funny film, which was banned and panned at the time, even making him more of an outcast than he already was. He had already been considered anti-American for his political views. Despite the off-putting, and some say anti-God, content, most viewers will have to admit this is a masterpiece in every way possible. I get more out of it every time I see it. If you've never seen Charlie Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux," then this should be a real treat. Expect nothing like "The Circus" and his other silent films and this will blow your mind. As they say, there's nothing like discovering a great film for the first time. I wish I was discovering this for the first time. But I keep finding more layers and meanings in each viewing I have of Chaplin's masterpiece, "Monsieur Verdoux."

Three (1969/I)
Three Young People Maturing in Europe, 7 July 2015

Based on an Irwin Shaw story, this film revolves around college pals Sam Waterston and Robie Porter on their summer trip through Europe. In their travels they meet Charlotte Rampling, who they invite to come with them, but on condition she pays her own way. Also, the guys have a pact that they will not let her come between their friendship. From landmarks to landscapes on their trek, we see them laugh, reminisce, and contemplate their own lives. We see chapels and beaches, as their summer comes to life. "Three" is a very natural, relaxing, and, I don't think I've described a film this way before, sexy. The exotic locales made me think of "A Little Romance" with Laurence Olivier." This is the sort of film that stays with you in a very haunting sort of way. Its stillness and romanticism is of an another era, a yesteryear. But it's also very real. You'd swear they weren't acting at all. A very interesting turn of events transpires, as their trip comes to an end, the kind of ending that makes you want to see it again. It makes you wonder if you've actually been paying attention. Its aloofness, a feeling it's short of reaching keeps you interested in the three lives. I had never seen Robie Porter in a film before this. He looks like a cross between George Segal and Dennis Quaid. For a very mature and memorable trip through Europe, take time with these "Three" as they learn about themselves, while taking in a little of the world.

"Fresno" (1986)
The Kensington Family - The Haves, and You Don't!, 7 July 2015

The spoof of all spoofs, the parody of all parodies – is "Fresno." Inspired by the characters and outrageousness of "Dynasty,' "Falcon Crest," and "Dallas," "Fresno" is a tale of murder, deception, lust infused with comedy. Carol Burnett, Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr, Gregory Harrison and Charles Grodin are the main cast of this hilarious showcase. There's so much involved in this story, I don't know where to begin. Carol Burnett is Charlotte Kensington and is rich, and is in the raisin business. They have a novel idea, a secret weapon, but her enemy Dabney Coleman wants to destroy her. Part of the back story is the mysterious death of Carol's husband, Yancey which happened years ago. Charles Grodin's character, her son, Kane, is obviously a takeoff of J.R. Ewing and Charles is absolutely great in his role. He almost steals the show from everyone else, but everyone is given equal time to shine. Unfortunately they don't really do much with Tallon, played by Teri Garr and is Charles's wife. There's a gay son and also an adopted daughter, played especially well by Valerie Mahaffey. Bill Paxton and Teresa Ganzel are simple country folk and married, she a maid in the family's household but who has dreams of being a country singer. As you can see, it's practically a virtual who's who of 1980s TV. And, Gregory owns a shirt, which he carries over his shoulder. But he's shirtless throughout most of the time, even in places you wouldn't expect. He shows up with an agenda of his own. I am barely scratching the surface with all this, but I can't really describe the experience of seeing all the bizarre goofiness of "Fresno." You can see this on Youtube, so find "Fresno" and enjoy the twisted characters in all their wonderful glory.

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Very Long Musical with Show-Stopping Streisand Numbers, 24 June 2015

Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford star in this film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical story of matchmaker Dolly Levi. Dolly makes a friend wherever she goes. Everyone who knows her loves her. She is in the business of being in everyone else's business. Want your own business? Wanna learn to dance? She has the connections for you and she wants to hook up with someone she knows. She may even get hooked up with someone by film's end. This is a very upbeat and lively film with great musical numbers. In fact, I think Streisand was hired more for her lungs than her being a true representative of Dolly Levi. I think I read some felt she was miscast. But she sure can sing. In fact her singing and some of the humorous lines are the best things about the film. While the film won some Oscars, it feels rather tiresome by the end of the picture. I think what hurts the most are too many dancing numbers that don't add much punch and also the fact that some of the supporting characters are rather bland and not that interesting. You would think this is an essential to movie musicals, but this could have been better and shorter. An added plus is the presence of Louis Armstrong singing "Hello, Dolly." If you love musicals, you'll want to see this; but you may be worn out afterwards.

Vince and Owen Score!, 22 June 2015

Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are wedding crashers. They crash weddings to score with women. They crash and keep crashing. It's down to a science with rules and everything - what to do and and what not to do. They attend the wedding of Christopher Walken and Jane Seymour's daughter. What they don't count on is Owen getting caught by the love bug with another daughter, played by Rachel McAdams or Vince meeting another daughter who's a "needy clinger/psycho," played by Isla Fisher. And, Vince has bad luck in getting hurt throughout the film, courtesy of Bradley Cooper, who is engaged to Rachel! A foul-mouthed grandma, a gay son, and a tough-as-nails butler are all part of this kooky family, and Jane has the hots for Owen. The film is more like a roller-coaster ride with highs and lows than big laughs, though. The second half sags with more talking than outrageousness. This film really belongs to Vince Vaughn, as he's really good and Will Ferrell has a bit near the end to pick up the pace. All in all, it's raunchy adult fun that is good, but not as fulfilling as "The Forty-Year-Old Virgin."

The Big O in Laughs, 22 June 2015

Steve Carrell is a middle-aged man who works in the stockroom in an electronic store, who rides a bike to work, and who has never had sex with a woman. It just never happened. He probably only half-heartedly tried, but was always awkward with women and never felt secure enough to really be the aggressive type. So I gather from his disposition. Then he meets Catherine Keener, who has an eBay store, to sell your items online! Is she the one? I am reviewing this movie, despite the already numerous reviews, to add my two cents and to encourage people to see this really funny movie, which started the raunchy film craze such as "Superbad, "Knocked Up," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," and "I Love You, Man." (Not counting the "American Pie" film series.) "Wedding Crashers" was made around the same time as "Virgin," I believe. But while these other films may have their defenders and fans, none of them can claim to have the heart this film does, and the presence of the disarmingly funny Steve Carrell helps. Granted I did like "I Love You, Man," too, but this film just has everything right with not a single false note, and the performances by Catherine Keener, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Jane Lynch and Elizabeth Banks were right on track and made the whole film complete. I don't mean to repeat myself, but this film is just so genuinely funny. Some may be turned off by its unChristianlike language, but other attempts to replicate this success of the film really failed in my opinion. I give it a 10 for the best time you can find in movies where the adults are behaving badly.

Taut Film with Ida Lupino at the Helm!, 11 June 2015

Edmond O'Brien and Frank Lovejoy star in this taut little thriller about a couple of guys on a fishing trip, when they pick up a hitchhiker, despite the fact there's a escaped inmate loose. We know it, when it happens by the shadows, the music score, the sharp instincts of director Ida Lupino. In fact, despite the fact Ms. Ida Lupino directed several other films, this is considered to her best. This has everything a film noir should have: strong characters, pace, the great use of black and white cinematography, suspense, and a scary bad guy. A femme fatale is good, but not necessarily needed, as there is not one in sight here. But who has time to think about that! With a guy in the back seat ready to slit your throat, this delivers a wallop of intense emotions and activity. Sure, there's a lot of talking between the three men, but you're never bored. The only critique is that the climax happens so quickly and rather matter-of-factly. Then it's over, the end. You'll be entertained by this little but loud film, directed by actress Ida Lupino.

Act of Violence (1979) (TV)
Another Great Performance by Elizabeth Montgmery, 11 June 2015

Elizabeth Montgomery, trying to shed her "Samantha Stevens" image, stars in this story of a journalist in New York City who judges rape/assault victims for bringing it on themselves, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, by perhaps wearing provocative clothes. She may not say it in so many words, but it's in her whole manner and attitude. Coworkers tell her she's a hard person, being raised with a privileged and easy childhood. Fast forward to her getting out of her cab late one night, fumbling for her keys at the door of her poorly lit apartment building. She is jumped from behind, as soon as she's in, and beaten mercilessly by a group of two or three black boys, though only one did most of the beating. Through her depression and recovery, she becomes prejudiced of all blacks. When a news reporter gets an interview from her, her new views are aired on TV, getting her in hot water. Though this TV movie may seem to be biting off more than it can chew and most of the supporting players are fair to middling in their range, the whole treatment of the subject matter was good and of course Ms. Montgomery gives a very courageous and thoughtful performance. Her presence gives this otherwise predictable TV movie an added boost, keeping the viewers' interest with her down-to-earth disposition. Will she and her son leave NYC? Will she learn there's a bully behind every corner and in all walks of life? "Act of Violence" is an ambitious and earnest look at life in NYC that's still pertinent today as it was in the late 1970s.

Woody's Homage to Hollywood, 9 June 2015

Mia Farrow lives in the world of make-believe, the world of old Hollywood. Her neglectful husband, played by Danny Aiello, doesn't help at all. She watches movies every chance she gets, even watching the same film over and over. The images blend, the thin line thins. In yet another viewing of an old musical/adventure tale, one of the characters, played by Jeff Daniels, turns to her and starts talking to her, even coming out of the celluloid projection. He has come to life. What's so extraordinary is that others see this, too! It's not like only Mia can see him. Jeff's real existence creates havoc. People want their money back. The movie moguls in Hollywood get wind of it, hoping against hope for no lawsuit. But most importantly, the cast left behind has nothing to do because they can't go to the next scene without him. But Jeff Daniels doesn't want to go back in the film. He is having too good a time with Mia. Jeff Daniels plays two roles in this Woody Allen film. Don't get confused. The character who jumped out of the movie screen and the actor who played him, who is asked to go this town to get him to go back into the film. Even if "The Purple Rose of Cairo" contains flaws and is not perfect, it proves one thing – Woody Allen can really tell a tale, can really wrap you into a world of fantasy. He is a master of his craft, as he spins a web of tall tales come to life with zany results. Van Johnson has a role in the film's film that goes on and on. This has much ingenuity and charm, and Jeff Daniels may have his best movie role/roles of his career with this experience. But what becomes of the movie character Jeff? More importantly,what becomes of Mia! Is she destined to a part of the theater's atmosphere, to live there, to breathe there? Does she get a chance to live, to branch out, to be her real self? Sometimes what we want can be detriment to (or be in direct opposite to) what we need. The real world vs. fantasy! Only the purple rose knows….

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