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Almost an Angel (1990)
Almost unbearably lame; only die-hard fans of Hogan should find it
Terry (Paul Hogan) is a petty thief who is just getting out of prison. Fellow inmates tease him that maybe he should take up bank robbery but he declares he is a new man. Yet, once out in the world, he dons a Willie Nelson disguise and ROBS A BANK. He gets away with it! Emboldened, he tries again as Rod Stewart the robber but is foiled. Rushing out of the lobby, he nevertheless sees a car coming straight at a small boy. Knocking the child out of the way, Terry is struck! Next thing he knows, Terry is in the clouds and God (Charlton Heston) tells him his last action may get him into heaven. BUT BUT BUT, WAIT! God is sending him back to earth to perform acts of kindness as an "angel apprentice". Then, its possible his life on earth may be extended. Landing back on the streets, Terry tries to fly without success. He asks for a sign and spies a truck of Moses the Movers. Hitching a ride, Terry lands in Northern California with a family who does need him. There's wheelchair bound Steve (Elias Koteas) and his sister, Rose (Linda Kozlowski) who are running a clubhouse for disturbed kids. Can Terry redeem himself among these two good people? Okay, I loved Crocodile Dundee and think Hogan has an understated humor that is charming. But, this is no CD my friend! Oh, having Heston as God is a stroke of genius and there are some amusing scenes where Terry tries to reason with a priest about his mission on earth. Koslowzki, too, does a fine turn as Rose. However, the funny spots are few and far between and the movie is a disjointed mess. The blame must fall on Hogan, who wrote it, and a very lame direction. Unless you will sit through anything or are a enthusiastic fan of Hogan, you would be well advised to skip it.
Diamond Men (2000)
Outstanding performance by Forster and a good one by Wahlberg make this thoughtful movie a jewel
Eddie (Robert Forster) is a top jewelry salesman for his Pennsylvania company. As he carries diamonds quietly to the small cities of the state, a great many mom-and-pop jewelry stores buy his wares. Until one fateful day, that is. Eddie has a heart attack and, although he recovers, his company wants to let him go because he is a liability for guarding the precious gems he carries with him. Begging for his job as a source of stability for this new widower, his firm finally relents. The catch? He must train a new, brash underling named Bobby (Donnie Wahlberg) in the ways of selling to smaller operations. Its a mismatch from day one. Eddie favors jazz, Bobby likes rock. Eddie is a reserved, quietly attractive man while Bobby, fairly cute, chases various woman while getting inebriated. But, when push comes to shove, Bobby breaks down and tells Eddie he needs this job desperately, so could they just "get along"? Slowly, a relationship builds. But, is Eddie only training Bobby as his eventual replacement? Will noble Ed still have a position? We shall see but in the meantime, several unexpected events occur. Do you like surprising endings? This slow moving, reflective film is a jewel, truly, for those who don't need non-stop thrills. Forster gives the performance of a lifetime as good guy Eddie, someone very admirable in a world of conniving jerks. Wahlberg, too, surprises with a strong, sensitive turn. Bess Armstrong and Jasmine Guy provide great support. Its an unusual treat to visit small cities in PA while the outstanding script and sure direction enchant the viewer. Truly, this film is a precious stone among many zircon-like movies.
The Glass Castle (2017)
Yes, the book is a great deal better; but, this is still a very worthy film about rising out of poverty
Jeannette (Brie Larson) is dressed to party in a Manhattan taxi cab when she looks out the window and inwardly screams. Nearby, rooting through a dumpster, is her homeless mother, Rose Mary (Naomi Watts). As Jeannette is with her likewise well-groomed fiancé, she doesn't relate her sighting. But, soon after, she calls her mother to invite her to lunch. Its there, watching her mother devour food and talk on as if nothing is unusual, that Jeannette begins to remember her childhood. Eccentric is almost too slight a word. Her artist mother and her brilliant but devious father Rex (Woody Harrelson) never hold steady jobs and wander around the Southwest USA, always trying to outrun the bill collectors. At a young age, Jeannette is allowed to cook hotdogs by herself, resulting in setting her clothes on fire and getting badly burned. After social workers question her parents strongly, its time for another "skedaddle" out of that town. She, her older sister Lori, brother Brian and younger sister Maureen, are often hungry. But, Dad insists when some of his brilliant ideas load them up with money, he will build them a special "glass castle" to live in. But, when, when? After another sad incident in northern Nevada, Rose Mary insists they move to West Virginia, where Rex grew up, so his folks can help them. What a mistake! Not only are the children's grandparents cold and mean, life goes downhill after they all move into another shack. Therefore, Jeannette tells the kids they are going "to work" themselves and save money to get the heck away from their reckless parents. They do, one by one. Back in the present day, Jen and her fiancé clash when meeting Rex and Rose Mary in their "squat" housing. Will Jeannette ever be able to break away from her folks? First, dear viewer, this film is a worthy look at pulling oneself up by bootstraps but, for a better story, read the book by Jeannette Walls herself. It is superb. Nevertheless, Larson, Harrelson, Watts and especially the child actors, are all very fine. Despite the grim premise, the movies is also funny as well, and the scenery from the West to the East if great. No, I didn't care for Larson's costumes while Watts looks great even in chaos. That's small potatoes. Don't miss the credits which show the REAL Walls family. Overall, this film is a incisive look at many issues while touching the heart. Can all movies say the same?
The Rock (1996)
Outstanding action movie, with great turns by Connery, Cage, and Harris
Near San Francisco, there is the abandoned island of Alcatraz, where once serious criminals were imprisoned. Oh, tourists can take a look at the cells and amenities but no one lives there. But, a disgruntled Marine, General Hummel (Ed Harris) takes over the island by force, with a group of loyal underlings. A mostly good soldier and man, Hummel is upset that those who died or were wounded in covert operations get no compensation. His ghastly plan is to launch fatal nerve gas over San Fran if a huge fee is not paid. When the President hears of this operation, he and his staff are greatly alarmed. But, they want to stop Hummel, not negotiate. First, they contact a FBI agent who specializes in biochemistry, Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage). They want him to defuse the poisonous bombs. Since Stan's fiancée has just told him she is pregnant, this man is under great strain. More importantly, how will the military land on the island secretly and get to the rooms where Hummel and company occupy? They need an EXPERT on the island's prison so they choose the only man who ever escaped Alcatraz. He's John Patrick Mason (Sean Connery), a British agent accused of treason. Even though he escaped, Mason was recaptured and has been locked up 30 years! The idea is to offer Mason freedom in exchange for helping with the mission. Brother, they don't have a clue how honked off Mason is until the negotiations begin! Mason demands a night in a hotel room, room service, and a posh haircut. That is just the start! Will Mason and Goodspeed be able to help thwart the destruction of San Francisco's large population? This outstanding action film has non-stop thrills and a great cast. Sophisticated Connery and wacky Cage are great foils while Harris makes his character sympathetic in spite of all. Naturally the scenery in the Bay area and on the island are exemplary while the script has humor amid the very serious plot elements. Do you want to view a film with breathless action amid twists, turns, and occasional laughs? This one will ROCK your world!
Brad's Status (2017)
Wonderful quirky film; almost a monologue with interludes
Brad (Ben Stiller) has lately been fretting about his "status" in the world of middle-agers. As he and his son Troy (Austin Abrams), a gifted musician and composer, are about to embark from Sacramento to a Boston tour of colleges, Bradley is in a funk. This is because he has been pondering the so-called more successful lives of his college pals. Jason (Luke Wilson) is a jet-setting, rich hedge-fund manager while Billy (Jemaine Clement) made a tech fortune and retired, at 40, on Maui. Worst of all, Craig (Michael Sheen) is a best-selling pundit on political issues and teaches at Harvard. What has he, Brad, done? For wife Melanie (Jenna Fischer) and himself, its strictly the mundane bourgeousie. Brad manages a non-profit that finds funds for other non-profits while Mel works for the California government. So, while Troy and his dad go to Harvard and Tufts for interviews, Brad upsets the apple cart by embarrassing Troy in front of friends and administrators. This is doubly so when Brad actually needs Craig's help to gain a 2nd interview with a dean! But, in truth, is Brad's status beyond lame? This wonderful, quirky film is almost a monologue as the viewer gets a running commentary by Brad of each and every situation. Yes, there are interludes of actual conversations and happenings and Abrams, Wilson, Clement, Sheen, Fischer and all of the rest do good work. But, its up to Stiller to carry the film with his wry, self- deprecating analysis of life and he does so beautifully. We bow to you, Ben! Scenery, costumes, illuminating script and deft direction all bring the film satisfying results. Most importantly, the movie truly gets it "right" on what makes a life well-lived. Go, go to Brad, film lovers! Hollywood rarely bestows gems like this anymore.
The Three Lives of Thomasina (1963)
As a cat lover, I always wanted to see this; finally did and its wonderful!
Mary McDuie (Karen Dotrice) is a young, motherless girl living in Scotland at the turn of the 20th century. Of course, she does have her father, veterinarian Dr. Andrew McDuie (Patrick McGoohan) but he's been cold and distant since her mother died. Therefore, her only real solace is her cat Thomasina, a beautiful orange tabby with personality. It does help that her housekeeper is quite nice and the children of the neighborhood are her dear friends. On the outskirts of the village lives a lady, Lori (Susan Hampshire) who the children think is a WITCH. She does have a yard full of rescued animals and a magic way about healing the creatures. Thomasina goes in and out Mary's bedroom window by the help of a tall tree and often goes out at night. Unhappily, Thomasina eats the wrong food, becomes sick and appears dead, even though Dr. Mac promised to save her. Mary is so upset she ignores everything her father says, hinting that he is "dead" to her. But, when the children take the box with Thomasina to the town's edge, planning to bury her and hold a funeral, the "witch" appears and scares them away. Only she notices that Thomasina is still alive and takes her home to nurse her. Will Thomasina survive? Will the village drive the "witch" away? This lovely story has the rarity of being about a cat, not a dog, and a clever, patient one at that. Dotrice is winning as the young girl who dresses her cat in clothes and takes him on buggy adventures. McGoohan is also fine as the stern father and Hampshire is sweet and lovely as Lori. Other cast members, scenery, costumes, script and direction are all nicely fitting. Beware, parents, that Thomasina appears to die and there are many tears that may fall. However, cat lovers, Disney fans, and family film friends will welcome this title as an oldie but goodie.
Totally implausible concept but it doesn't matter; Junior is fun and sweet
Dr Alex (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a button-downed scientist without a life away from the lab. He has joined forces with a leading LA gynecologist, Dr. Larry (Danny Devito) to develop a new and useful fertility drug. Its very promising. However, a heavy from the FDA (Frank Langella) refuses to give approval for experimentation on humans. What a disappointment! This leaves Larry with a lucrative practice but Alex is going to have to vacate his lab. That is, until Dr Diana (Emma Thompson) literally comes rolling into the same lab on top of a freezer holding her donor eggs. Falling on top of Alex, it is agreed they will share the nice space. Then, Larry gets an even zanier idea. Why not fertilize one of Diana's donor eggs with Alex's sperm and implant the embryo in Dr. Alex, all the while using their new pregnancy-enhancing drug? What, a pregnant male? Never mind that he doesn't have a womb, the baby will just grow in his abdomen for a little while. But, once Alex is pregnant, he starts having morning sickness, emotional swings, and a growing belly. Larry wants to end the pregnancy, as their drug has proved effective. But, hold on. Alex wants his baby! Also pregnant is Larry's ex wife (Pamela Reed), who demands Larry be her doctor. Then, too, Diana and Alex, both devoted scientists, end up falling in love with each other, while Alex tries to hide his ballooning frame. The FDA man comes snooping into the whole affair. Will Alex deliver a baby from the first ever male pregnancy? This sweet darling film is just the kind Hollywood doesn't deliver any more. Its a romcom with a twist as Alex becomes the first male to REALLY LEARN how pregnancy is a wonderful and difficult time. Schwarzenegger has never been more attractive and funny while Thompson, Devito, Langella, Reed, and all of the others do great work, too. The sets, costumes (you should see Arnold dressed up as a giantess to conceal his identity), script and direction combine for one comedic film. Listen, romantic comedy lovers. You may have to seek out films from long ago to satisfy your hunger for funny love tales. Hollywood has thrown the romcom into the X file.
Made almost 4 decades ago, its themes are from the era, but the tale is intriguing
Daryll (William Hurt) is a Vietnam vet with a somewhat menial janitor's job. His fellow janitor at the same office building, likewise a Vietnam vet, Aldo (James Woods) has bigger dreams for the two of them. Operating in tandem, Aldo wants to open their own business. But, Al has a darker past, being somewhat mentally off balance. One night, at the building, a successful Vietnamese business man is murdered. Poor Daryll finds the body. At once, this mild mannered man fears that Aldo was the shooter. But, Daryll's attention is soon drawn to the beautiful reporter who shows up to get a story. Its Tony Sokolow (Sigourney Weaver), the object of Daryll's dream affections. Instead of relating much about the discovery of the body, Daryll flirts shamelessly and Tony, who is already engaged to an Israeli bigshot, Joseph (Christopher Plummer), wants to end the conversation. It is then that Daryll pretends he knows more than he does and leads her into another meeting. Meanwhile, Joseph, who is a friend of the wealthy Sokolow family, is off to negotiate the release of more Jews from the Soviet Union to Israel. Unbeknownst to Tony, his travel companion is his "lady on the side". As the police detectives (Morgan Freeman and Steven Hill) try to find the murderer, they trail Daryll and Tony and search for Aldo, who is missing. But, was either janitor the real killer? Could it be someone totally unexpected? This film has some themes that appear foreign to today's population. First, the issue of Vietnam vets and their poor prospects upon return to the USA is examined with touching candor here. This is especially true of its look into the mental health problems of those who fought an unpopular and damaging war. Then, since The Soviet Union collapse, there has been little discussion of former attempts to get oppressed Russian Jews within the Union to Israel for a better life. The cast is great. Hurt displays a humor and gregariousness missing from a good deal of his works and Weaver compliments him. Plummer, always fine, displays a darker side while Freeman, Hill, Woods, Pamela Reed, Kenneth McMillan and the rest are wonderful. Yes, the sets and costumes are from the seventies, which are somewhat comical, but the script/direction is taut and intelligent. Did you miss Eyewitness long ago? You can still find copies so search for it if this summary sounds worthy to you.
Home Again (2017)
Sweet and mildly funny; great cast but not a must-see, unhappily; those who love romantic comedy will embrace it
Alice (Reese Witherspoon) is a the only daughter of a famous, philandering screenwriter and director. Her divorced mother, Lillian (Candice Bergen), once an actress, lives in California when Alice decides to move her newly split family to the same place. And, oh, what a place! Alice has inherited the beautiful home of her father, complete with a lush lawn, gardens and a summer house. Leaving behind their workaholic father, Austen (Michael Sheen), young daughters Isabel and Rosie are not sure they like going to new schools. The unspoken reason for the move is to decide on a divorce for the Mom and Dad. Meanwhile, Alice will concentrate on her new career in interior design. In the same city, a trio of young filmmakers, actor Teddy (Nat Wolff), writer George (Jon Rudnitsky) and director Harry (Pico Alexander) are struggling. Kicked out of their cheap apartment while awaiting news on their film projects, they run to the bar. Alice is there, with friends, celebrating her 40th birthday. All get very tipsy, while Alice and Harry lock lips. Somehow, everyone ends up back at Alice's. During intense hangovers and aghast, Lillian shows up with her granddaughters. The "guys" recognize Lillian as a former star and they all have a nice chat. It is THEN Lil invites them all to board in Alice's summer house while working on their next paychecks. Although NOTHING HAPPENED between them, Alice is scared about being so close to handsome Harry. But, she lets them stay. Soon the fellows are helping out with Alice's business and the girls with their problems. Love may be in the air. But, ho ho, soon Austen shows up! What possible brouhaha is brewing? This sweet film, mildly funny, will please romantic comedy fans. It will especially enchant those with who love decorating shows as Alice's home is a lovely place with great decor and charm. But, alas, although the cast is great, especially the beautiful Witherspoon, and works overtime, the film lags from time to time. Therefore, its not a must-see, unhappily. Yet, with Hollywood tossing out a romcom once in a blue moon, these days, my advice is to take a chance on it anyway, romance fans.
The Darwin Awards (2006)
Academy Award caliber, no; Giggle Award caliber, YES YES YES
Michael (Joseph Fiennes) has always been drawn to solving mysteries, since he was a boy. When he reaches adulthood, he becomes a criminal profiler for the San Fran police. He's good. Unfortunately, when he spies blood, our Mike faints straight away. Thus, when he does this at a wrong moment, allowing a perp to get away, he is let go. What other profession would be a good fit for his skills? Why, its insurance investigation. At first, a company leader (Kevin Dunn) tells Michael that there are no openings at present. But, after Mikey reveals all the man's secrets back to him, just by observing the boss and his surroundings, he is hired at once. Teaming up with a fellow investigator, Siri (Wynona Rider), they go on road trips to determine the settlement of claims. Siri instantly dislikes many of Michael's over cautious ways. But, after learning the correct happenstances of a man buried under a Coke machine (was it the machine manufacturer's fault or did the man trigger his own demise), Siri is impressed. Further trips uncover incredibly stupid folks. There's the man who claims his car was stolen but who is found to have accidentally let it sink while ice fishing. Then, there's the hilarious tale of the two morons in Nevada (one is played by David Arquette) who try for a speed record with a salvaged government rocket strapped to their car. When the duo finally ends up at the aftermath of a Metallica concert, where two imbeciles tried and failed to go over an extremely high wall to get in without tickets, Siri finally has her eyes on Michael. But, will it be love eternal? This dark, dark comedy has some objectionable language and scenes, on occasion, but is truly a laugh riot. Fiennes is adorable as the man who lives by the odds of accidents and Rider is cute as the somewhat jaded investigator. Arquette, Dunn, Tom Hollander, Lukas Haas, and all of the cameos, including Metallica itself, are a pleasure indeed. Then, too, the scenery is wonderful as it varies from snowy Minnesota to dry Nevada to lovely Oregon. Most importantly, the script is clever and funny while the direction never lags. Award yourself an evening of chuckles by finding the film soon.