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Max Rose (2013)
Interesting Film Hurt By Ending
Until the last five minutes, I thought this movie was a very well done examination not of age, or loss, or regret, but of infidelity.
Infidelity is a subject rarely seriously approached in film, and the idea of a film about dealing with that pain for the first time at the twilight of life made for very thought-provoking material.
At the end, though, this film makes a fatal error with the twist conclusion that Max Rose's wife never did actually cheat on him.
This is not only illogical (Why did she never claim this? Her attitude toward him in flashback is almost taunting) but disqualifies the story as relative for those who have experienced the pain of betrayal, something much more common than a faithful marriage of 65-years.
Really heavy material is thrown away at the last moment, with a brisk summary of "He never should have worried about it." There's a loose message in conclusion that love is all that really matters, but it does not seem Max Rose would have felt that way if there had been admission of a sexual indiscretion.
Jerry Lewis is quite good, but again, his final confrontation with Dean Stockwell's character is mishandled with his inexplicably low-key attitude, especially considering Stockwell's open hostility at first. It just doesn't fit with all we've seen beforehand.
At just over 80 minutes long, Max Brooks feels like a film that had another act in it, but a decision was made to cut that short and take the easy path home.
Not a waste to watch, the cast alone makes it worth a look, but certainly a missed opportunity.
The Climax (1944)
Great Looking, Karloff is Good, Just an OK Movie
The Climax is a gorgeous film due to the breathtaking Technicolor, and Boris Karloff himself is more elegantly presented than in any film he made.
However, the story is lightweight melodrama, and the film as a whole is a weak attempt to recreate the success of Phantom of the Opera. Turhan Bay as the male lead is a poor replacement for Nelson Eddy, and the rest of the cast is just acceptable.
Karloff is always good, but he's not that engaged with the material as this film was part of a one-year contract he took at Universal to cash in before the second horror boom faded away.
Those looking to see The Climax will enjoy it much more if they keep their expectations low.
Fascinatingly Weird, and With Music Too!
This was the first Bollywood movie I've ever seen, and I have read that by Bollywood standards it's considered bad, but I got a tremendous kick out of this movie.
I rented it due to the Nightmare on Elm Street link, but I was amazed just how blatant the rip-offs are. The first half of the movie follows the original film almost exactly, even in small details. The soundtrack is a light variation of the original, but there were many scenes where it sounded like not one note had been changed.
In terms of popcorn enjoyment, this movie is delightful. There's literally something for everyone: horror, music, goofy comedy, tawdry drama. There's a little bit of gore; the only missing ingredient is nudity. The murderer is at times goofy, but he has no dialog, so the horror scenes are rarely spoiled.
Most surprising of all, Mahakaal actually has a few moments where it's genuinely good. A murder involving real cobras is very creepy, and the fact that it rips of NOES' effective soundtrack helps at times to enhance the horror. There's also a very effective musical sequence in a Disco Bar that actually helps the plot, using an interesting visual technique along with catchy music.
While no classic, Mahakaal is a must for cult movie enthusiasts. Hopefully, it's release on DVD will lead to a rediscovery.
Great Performances: The Seagull (1975)
Effective but Underwhelming
I have never read Chekov's original play, but I was quickly carried away by the depth and provocative language of this story; it's the kind of play that makes you fall in love with words and the power they can have.
The story itself is very simplistic, with most of the really important moments actually happening off camera. Because of that, this can't really be recommended for everyone; uninterested viewers will probably find little to cling to.
This interpretation is weakened by the broad ranges in performances. Blythe Danner was certainly the highlight; her breakdown scene toward the end is emotionally draining just to watch, it must have been torment to experience. Lee Grant is also captivating as a past-her-prime stage actress.
The men, however, are not as effective. Frank Langella is at his best when playing powerful characters, so as the tortured playwright Konstantin he sometimes comes across as hammy and too self-pitying to feel real empathy with. Kevin McCarthy is effective, but at 60, seems too old for the role of Trigorin. His romantic scenes with the much-younger Danner are uncomfortable to watch, but perhaps that was the intention.
This version will pacify fans of the play, but is unlikely to convert any new ones.
Great Documentary, Inadequate Packaging
This DVD presents itself as a straight-forward presentation of matches, but when I started watching it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is actually a full fledged documentary on The Undertaker's 15 year WWE career, as well as featuring unedited matches (including entrances!).
However, while the segment before the '91 Hogan match is very detailed, after that the documentary features just sort of skim over what happened in between each match or reuse promo footage, even forgetting to mention certain highlights of UT's career (like the '96 Phantom mask or his Hardcore Championship reign). But at least it does have more than just the matches.
And as for the matches selected, no complaints here. While not every single bout is a classic, they are all essential in that they either show important moments or document eras in The Phenom's career (except that John Cena match, what's that doing there?) The pixalation over the 'WWF' can be an eyesore, but there's nothing that can be done about that.
The extras are, except for a couple of pretty good matches, inadequate. Instead of interviews, which mostly feature the incredibly irritating Paul Bearer, it would have been better to have the promo films for all of the matches instead, kind of like HHH's 'That Damn Good' DVD. Then maybe the documentary could have been a little more focused.
The only thing that's truly disappointing about this set is the lack of involvement from The Undertaker himself. I can only assume the WWE is trying to maintain the integrity of The Undertaker's silent Deadman character; as the real Mark Calaway takes a great deal of pride in his career and accomplishments, I'm sure he would have participated if asked.
The DVD case is pretty silly with the single box, stack-the-DVDs-on-each-other set up. And the cover is really dumb looking, it looks like he's walking under the sea.
The crux of the biscuit is that even though this is a rushed and somewhat badly produced tribute, it's still by a mile the greatest Undertaker compilation ever and, as he is one of the WWE's immortals, one of the all time best wrestling DVDs. I greatly enjoyed it.
Great showcase for Raul Julia, despite miscasting
The death of Raul Julia closed the door to a career still peaking. This film provides one of his great showcases, and fans will savor his powerhouse performance.
Taken as a Citizen Kane-type film about a self-made Greek billionaire, this is very entertaining and would be an excellent story. However, as a biography of Aristotle Onassis it falls flat.
For starters, Julia looks nothing like Onassis. He's the wrong height, build, nationality, and is certainly much handsomer. Though great to watch, he never is able to convince you that he is Onassis. But since Julia was usually cast in showy supporting roles, admirers will appreciate this film for his wealth of dialogue and emotion.
Supporting cast is unimpressive. Elias Koteas is awkward in his first-act showcase as young Aristotle, and I can't see how Jane Seymour received an Emmy for her overblown performance, while Julia was not even nominated. Francisca Annis fairs better as Jackie Kennedy, but the presentation of Jackie is too quaint for it's own good, all information provided can be found in an encyclopedia entry.
Oddly enough, Anthony Quinn as Julia's father looks significantly more like Onassis than Julia, but his hammy appearance indicates why he would not have served well in the main role.
Recommended strongly for fans of Raul Julia, everyone else would probably not be interested.
Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
Much Better Than Its Reputation
Alright, putting Dracula in a 70s setting is a silly idea, particularly to Stoker purists (Christopher Lee included).
However, this is an outrageously entertaining movie. Unlike every other Hammer Dracula, except for the first, this one zips along; these movies are notorious for their snail-like pace.
It helps that the film is visually beautiful, especially when compared to the low-budget Scars of Dracula and the badly photographed Satanic Rites. The return of Peter Cushing in itself takes the film to a higher level than the previous sequels, thanks to his inimitably credible style of acting. And I, for one, love the overblown 70's soundtrack.
Christopher Lee is quick to disown this movie, but he felt that way about all the sequels, some of which are much more highly regarded than this one. In this film he returns to that animal-like nature that makes his Dracula stand out, unlike the more muted performances in Scars and Taste The Blood of Dracula. His screen time is limited, but more effective than any of the sequels.
This is not a great vampire or horror movie, but it's a great popcorn flick and just fun to watch during an evening at home.
A Lot of Missed Chances
This is a nicely dark movie after the blandness of the first two, but I thought there were a lot of ways it could have been improved.
1) The legendary Christopher Lee is tragically underused, being killed off within 10 minutes of the movie. I realized that it was necessary to the plot for Anakin to replace Count Dooku, but the character could have been kept around for at least the first half of the movie. With the mostly stale acting, Lee's strong presence could have greatly helped.
2) General Grievous is nicely built up as a villain, but his final demise seems anti-climactic.
3) You got James Earl Jones, give him some REAL DIALOGUE! Considering the hype of this movie is completely built around the return of Darth Vader (in essence, Jones), his whiny lines are a letdown.
4) The movie is too long. Not a lot of stuff is expendable, but that which was should definitely have been taken out.
The good did outweigh the bad, but this could have been a real classic rather than just an interesting continuation.