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fun show, typical of the times
Fun and surprisingly long-lasting series (8 years on the air), hanging in there despite all kinds of problems. Cast members became ill, or even died, but no problem--- the character would simply be played by someone else! It's amazing now to think of the show getting away with this to such an extent; even the male LEAD was played by two different actors.
"Bewitched" was the story of beautiful suburban housewife Samantha--- who just happens to be a witch with magic powers--- being married to Darrin, a hapless advertising-executive mortal. Although both Samatha and Darrin were white, this was the mixed marriage to end all mixed marriages. Her relatives (and there were a lot of them) all had magic powers, and most of them thought of themselves as being quite superior to Darrin, in fact, superior to all mere mortals. They also had a hilarious tendency to pop in---literally, appearing out of thin air--- on Samantha and Darrin at most inconvenient times.
It was understood by all the "witchy" characters (Samantha and her relatives) that, even though they mixed and mingled with ordinary humans, their magic powers were not--- for the most part--- supposed to be witnessed by the general public. Nobody believe in witchcraft, and the witches liked to keep it that way. This made for some of the series' funniest moments; on the occasions when it was simply unavoidable to display a magic act in public, great pains were taken to cover it up or confuse the witnesses so that they wouldn't quite believe what they'd just seen. Darrin was the only mortal who knew about all the magic going on.
Samantha was played by the beautiful and talented Elizabeth Montgomery. It's interesting to see how Montgomery's appearance, and her acting style in general, loosened up so much as the series went on. In the early episodes, she was very prim and proper, controlled, dressy/"elegant", her hair stiffly coiffed, you just knew she'd been to finishing school or something. She had "debutante" written all over her. But by the end of the series, she was much looser in style and action, often seen wearing jeans and stylin' sweaters, her hair long and straight.... she looked a lot younger (and better) at the end of the series than she had eight years earlier at the beginning!
Darrin was played by two actors, Dick York (from 1964 to 1969) and Dick Sargent (1969 to 1972). Thankfully they did vaguely resemble each other, both being tall, slender, dark-haired guys about the same age. Otherwise all credibility would have gone out the window.
Dick York was far more tense, nervous about his wife's witchcraft. When he got frustrated or exasperated, you could just about see his blood pressure rising! But he did seem to be warm and loving, and even funny underneath his neuroses.
Dick Sargent, the second Darrin, was more "cool and collected"--- and this seems to be why a lot of people didn't like him the part; I think he came off as being downright cold at times. He was more stiff-upper-lipped, and didn't seem to be quite as affectionate towards Samantha. I don't know..... both styles have their good points, and actually there were a few times when I thought Dick York's popped-eye anxiety and strangled-voice nervousness got a little bit over-the-top.
The chief supporting character, almost a third lead, was Samantha's mother Endora, played by the great Agnes Moorehead. She was heavily made-up and always looked just a bit exotic in her flowing, colorful robes and caftans. She wasn't really a mean, wicked witch, but she couldn't stand Darrin, and felt that he was FAR beneath her daughter. Endora had no hesitation about turning him into a frog or some such thing if he got in her way. She and Darrin were always at each other's throats, with often hilarious consequences, and with an exasperated Samantha always being caught square in the middle of it.
There was a long list of other supporting characters and recurring roles--- the nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz (played by two actresses) who knew there was SOMETHING fishy about Samantha, but who never quite figured out the "witch" angle; Darrin's parents; his boss Larry Tate; Larry's wife Louise (also played by two actresses); Samantha's father (Shakespearean actor Maurice Evans); Dr. Bombay (whose one-liners were hysterical, along with the fact that he bellowed with laughter at his own jokes); Samatha's wild, swingin'/60s cousin Serena (played by Elizabeth Montgomery--- Samantha herself--- in a clever dual role); befuddled but kindly Aunt Clara (Marion Lorne, who died during series production--- thankfully, at least HER character was not reprised by someone else); the flamboyant Uncle Arthur, played by the late Paul Lynde; and Samatha's well-meaning witch friend Esmerelda (Alice Ghostley), who wanted to please everybody but who always managed to screw things up.
"Bewitched" occasionally touched on serious issues of the day--- there was one rather heavy-handed episode about race relations--- and there were some genuinely touching moments (I think in one episode, Darrin had been transported back to the 1600s and was going to be tried--- and, it was implied, executed--- as a witch himself. But Samantha came to his rescue with an impassioned and clever plea on his behalf.) For the most part, though, this show was light-hearted escapism, and it worked.
The series faltered a bit towards the end, with several of the "Darrin"-related episodes (with Dick Sargent) being almost word-for-word remakes of earlier Dick York episodes. Maybe they thought the audience wouldn't remember! But still.... the acting and character interplay were always top-notch, and the series at its best WAS very funny.
By the way, in case you didn't notice, Serena--- always played by Elizabeth Montgomery--- was credited to "Pandora Spocks" ("Pandora's Box", get it?) in several episodes.
The Heat's On (1943)
The Heat was off in this one.
I'm a big fan of Mae West, and I waited for years to see this insignificant, forgettable little movie. Although I knew it had gotten bad reviews at the time of its release--- and West herself didn't like it any more than the critics did--- I thought there still might be something in it worth seeing, since it holds such an important place in her career: this was the final movie of her 1930s/1940s "movie star" period. After it was done, West returned to live stage work, recording sessions, and of course her famous nightclub act of the 1950s. She was not to make another film for 27 years (at which time she did the rather infamous "Myra Breckinredge" in 1970).
Seeing "The Heat's On" is an exercise in tedium. I had to literally struggle to stay awake during it. It's not that it's all that horrendously "bad"--- heck, even bad movies can be entertaining for the wrong reasons. This one is just....empty. Completely vapid and forgettable. It's easy to understand why Mae West practically disowned this movie.
The main thing wrong with it is that she isn't in it nearly enough. For the entire first hour, I swear that West had about 6 minutes of total screen time, scattered throughout in a series of VERY short "blink and you'll miss it" scenes. She's got more charisma and screen presence, by far, than anybody else in this thing--- when she's on, you can't take your eyes off her. But you hardly get to see her! Giving West more screen time would have improved this movie immensely, and it's a mystery to me why director Gregory Ratoff didn't understand that.
What makes her absence from the screen even more frustrating, if not downright puzzling, is that so much of this movie is a revue/type *musical* (in neon lights), the type of film that could have shown her at her absolute best. But instead you get one lame song after the other filling the screen; there are singers, dancers, production numbers, showgirls, Latin-flavored guitarists, even a boogie-woogie pianist/singer (blues and jazz great Hazel Scott, playing herself). They all come in, do their thing, leave, and it's on to the next song. With the singular exception of Scott, who is wonderful--- all of this is absolutely and completely forgettable. Most of the singers, the dancers, the songs, the movie itself: it's "B"-grade material at best. We aren't talking MGM-quality here, folks.
Watching this parade of musical mediocrities go by, all you can think of the entire time is "Where IS Mae West??! Why don't they bring her on?" But it never happens until the very end, at which time you'll be practically asleep if you've managed to sit through it all up to that point. It's hard to imagine who might be a fan of this picture.
For what it's worth, West does look pretty good. Always proud of her youthful appearance, she was 50 years old here, but she looks maybe 40-ish, and she's dressed in stylish, contemporary clothes for one of the very few times in her screen career. (Well, except for her very first musical number, in which--- amusingly--- she's in her trademark "gay 90s" garb, looking much like she did in her earlier films).
The story--- what flimsy plot there is of it--- has something to do with Broadway musical star Fay Lawrence (West) getting funding for her next show, and having producers fight over her. But the main point of this movie, and the most amount of screen time, is devoted to the endlessly boring musical numbers. Gentle, befuddled Victor Moore is the primary male lead; and a YOUNG Lloyd Bridges--- yes, he was young once!--- has a featured part as a soldier engaged to Moore's niece.
Not a bad movie, just a boring one, and it missed the boat all around. Mae West deserved better.
fun little 80s classic
This little movie was a fun combination of teen/kids' flick, sci/fi, and adventure movie. Ethan Hawke, who was around 14 years old at the time but looking and sounding *extremely* young, is the best of the three young leads--- all wide-eyed sincerity as the instigator of the kids' outer-space adventure.
I'm not going to comment much on the plot because other people have already done that. But one thing I will say: I *loved* the aliens. They were hilariously funny and completely absurd, yet I didn't think they destroyed the "feel" of the movie at all like some other people here did. It took the movie on a slightly different tangent, but it was totally entertaining and I thought it fit. In the midst of all the hilarity, they were also surprisingly touching when they talked about all the violence on earth, showing old films of laser beams and guns shooting down flying saucers. One of the aliens sadly said: "We know what you do to people like us down there." Hawke tries to convince them that not all earthlings are closed-minded bigots ready to kill outsiders in cold blood, but the aliens are (justifiably) a bit skeptical about that. There is a lesson to be learned in that brief segment.
Robert Picardo, by the way, in heavy makeup and costume that rendered him completely unrecognizable, played two of the three aliens-- plus a smaller part earlier in the movie--- and he was great. He stole the movie in the scenes he was in. I was not quite taken with River Phoenix in this early role--- Phoenix later proved to be quite a raw, instinctive actor, but this movie had him miscast as a nerdy geek type. It's hard to imagine him becoming the major star that he was from watching him in this. Amusingly, he looked quite round-faced, maybe even a bit chubby; quite a change from his later lean look.
Back to the aliens--- one of the best scenes had Robert Picardo, in green-faced alien makeup, complete with bug eyes and antennae, singing a great (if obscure) song by Little Richard that I never heard in my life other than in this film. While I was watching this movie on TV, my 80-year-old aunt came into the room at the precise moment when Picardo-the-alien was performing the song. She watched, puzzled, for a few moments, and then said "these rock and roll singers get weirder looking every year, don't they?!" I just roared.
Myra Breckinridge (1970)
not as bad as you've been led to believe.....
Somebody once said that Gore Vidal's novel "Myra Breckinridge" was un-filmable to begin with. That's probably true. One scene in the book--- a female-on-male rape, described in nauseating, horrific detail--- would have sent most movie directors scurrying in the opposite direction. There's no way that this story could have ever become a classic mainstream movie. But it's not all that bad, thanks mostly to some really clever casting (bringing Mae West into the film was a stroke of genius) and a wonderful, bitingly funny and dead-on performance by a young Raquel Welch.
The basic story is a *really* bizarre dark comedy involving a guy, Myron Breckinridge (Rex Reed), who has sex-change surgery--- or does he, really?--- to become his alter-ego Myra (Raquel Welch). As a female, Myra tries to shake down her uncle Buck Loner (John Huston) into giving her at least half of his popular acting school. There are a few side stories along the way, involving Mae West as a sex-mad Hollywood agent, Farrah Fawcett as a sunny-smiling dumb blonde, and Roger Herron as handsome young Rusty-the-Stud, who ends up being nothing much more than a boy-toy (both in the film and in real life. Was he *ever* heard from again after appearing in this movie?)
The theme of this movie is "Hollywood" in great big letters. A fascination with the movie industry runs through it. It's about everything we imagine Hollywood to be: actors, agents, Southern California, limousines, wild sex, drugs, nudity, the whole bit. There are references to, film clips of, and appearances by, classic Hollywood movies and stars. If you aren't interested in Hollywood and what it represents--- or used to represent--- forget this movie. You won't like it. That's what it's about.
The fun (and there is some) lies in the cynical mechanisms of nearly all the leading players. Well, all except Farrah Fawcett, that is; her wide smile and big teeth, years before "Charlie's Angels", is all happy sincerity; this girl doesn't have a cynical bone in her body. You can't help but like her).
Plopped directly into the middle of various scenes, often with no purpose whatsoever but to add "mood", are dozens of film clips from old 20th-Century-Fox movies. The inclusion of these off-the-wall clips give the whole movie a slightly off-center, psychedelic feel that must have felt self-knowingly hip in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Two big highlights in this movie: the performances of Raquel Welch and Mae West. West got top billing, but is actually seen in a *very* small role; maybe 10 minutes of total screen time. Her scenes are completely self-contained; they don't have much to do with the rest of the movie (except in mood and style), but they are great fun to watch. I'm really shocked by all of the negative comments about her by other reviewers. They aren't giving her enough credit, because West was *hilariously* funny at the mind-boggling age of 77 when she made this movie. Most of the time, she seems easily 30 years younger. (Only for one brief scene in the back seat of a limo--- where she looks quite weary--- does it seem even possible this woman might be on the far side of elderly).
West may have been in her late 70s here, but her character was definitely not. She's playing a hip, powerful, horny, dynamic, middle-aged foxy chick, and damn if she doesn't pull it off with aplomb and style. It would be an impossible role for any other woman of her age, but she did it so successfully that you don't realize what an accomplishment it was until you think about it. West alone is worth the price of admission--- or the price of the DVD, anyway.
Raquel Welch was also at the very top of her form here. An absolute knockout to look at, Welch was drop-dead gorgeous, and she gives a biting, sarcastic, and also hilariously funny performance as Myra. She, by the way, *is* the leading role, despite Mae West getting top billing. The two women did not get at all along during filming, by the way, and in their one scene together, it's obvious that they were never filmed at the same time; their dialogue consists entirely of close-ups of each lady separately.
This movie tried, maybe a little too hard, to be hip and "adult" at the time, and so it's got some needlessly raunchy language and situations in it (including the afore-mentioned female-on-male rape which, unfortunately, did make it into the movie. It's almost as horrific as reading about it in the book was, and you have to feel sorry for Roger Herron as Rusty, the object of Myra's ugly power fantasy.) It was awfully hard to even put a story like this on film in the first place, but Michael Sarne did try, and he succeeded more than failed. I think it's worth it. But know what you're in for when you watch it!
Gone with the Wind (1939)
A few flaws, but undeniably a massive achievement in film
One of the greatest achievements in film history. This is not only an eye-popping cinematic treat, but one of the greatest stories ever put on celluloid. The movie lasts nearly four hours--- it's longer than any other mainstream commercially successful film ever made. But the time goes by so quickly that you'll miss it when it's over.
Of course, we all know that this movie is set in the days of the Civil War in the 1860s. It's the story of Scarlett O'Hara, a plantation owner's daughter who is very beautiful and who seemingly MUST have her own way at all times. She's willing to scheme and manipulate everyone in her path until she gets it. When the movie opens, the country is on the verge of civil war--- North against South--- but Scarlett barely notices, and doesn't care in the least. Her biggest obsession is that she's in love with dreamy/poetic Ashley Wilkes, and she stays in love with him throughout 98 percent of the movie.
The only problem is....Ashley doesn't have any particular interest in her at all. In fact, he spends most of the movie being married to gentle Melanie Hamilton--- a fact that frustrates Scarlett to no end. Ashley remains the one object of her desire that she is never to obtain.
She would have been better off pining after Rhett Butler, a much more solid, rather dangerous man with a reputation as a no-good scoundrel. He is openly attracted to Scarlett, grows to love her (although he dare not let her know, or she'll use it against him), and it's obvious that he would make a lot better match for her than the drab Ashley. Very late in the movie, he finally does marry Scarlett. But it's probably too late for them to be happy by then, ironically--- and they never really are happy together.
The complicated and utterly fascinating relationship between Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley, and Melanie is the fuel that keeps the movie going. But there are dozens, if not hundreds, of little extra twists and turns that fill out the movie. The Civil War backdrop for one, the colorful supporting roles for another.
A great many reviewers here have seen Scarlett as purely a selfish, one-dimensional manipulative shrew. But she's far more than that! This is a complex, multi-dimensional young woman with lots of conflicting motives. Yes, she's selfish and manipulative. But she's also selfless: the extreme sacrifices that she makes on behalf of her family, and Melanie (keeping in mind that, other than her father, she doesn't even particularly like any of them) are nothing short of heroic. She is overwhelmingly protective of her loved ones. She's a ball of fire when work needs to be done, and she's fiercely courageous.
Despite her hardness, she does also grow as a person. To her great credit, she slowly comes to value Melanie's friendship and support. She genuinely loves and is proud of her daughter. And at the very end of the movie, she does finally realize how ill-suited she and Ashley have always been for each other, and how little passion ever actually existed there.
Some quick high points, and a few flaws: the supporting roles are superb in every way. Even the rather bland Ashley is given as much life as could be expected by actor Leslie Howard, and the other parts are vivid and fill out the movie. Two female parts in particular--- wise, funny, respected Mammy (Hattie McDaniel) and wistful, decent-at-heart prostitute Belle Watling (Ona Munson) are standouts.
The scenery and photography is possibly the most superb ever done in the history of film. Many scenes are just sumptuously lit and filmed. The gripping nighttime escape from Atlanta (the whole city seemingly in flames) is one of the most spectacular action sequences ever done. The sunsets are jaw-droppingly beautiful.
Much has been said about the supposed racism of this film. It's true that it does portray black slaves as being HAPPY to be slaves. But much more important, it's also true that the wisest person in the whole movie is Mammy. This black lady may be a slave--- later an employee--- but she is smart, funny, observant, and she's treated as an equal, if not a superior, throughout the movie. And it's made clear she deserves it. With no irony or rebuke whatever, she scornfully refers to certain low-lifes as "poor white trash", and we know (Mammy knows too) that if they get called that, they deserve it. She may be black, but she isn't inferior to them or anybody. And we root for her all the way.
A few minor flaws, and I do mean minor: 1) Most of the acting looks pretty modern, but there are a very few scenes where it seems a little old-style. Hey enjoy the movie and don't worry 'bout it. People didn't do today's "method" acting in the 1930s. 2) Some of the "raw" scenes still have a Hollywood gloss to them. Even when Scarlett is on the brink of starvation and probably hasn't had a good bath in weeks, she looks perfectly made up with only a few hairs out of place. Oh well. It *was* big-time Hollywood after all. 3) The second half of the movie is more "talky" and less action-oriented than the first. I would not say it's more boring, just less movement. I don't find it draggy, but some people do.
Still a heck of a good story, and a great film, so enjoy the ride!
Great movie, but iffy casting
It's hard to add a lot to what over a thousand people have said before, so I'll keep the comments short. This is a fantastic movie. The effort that James Cameron put into filming the sinking ship is mind-boggling. And it works. Well worth seeing. A love story, an action/adventure disaster movie, and a historical epic set on the high seas (accurate down to the smallest detail)--- all in one.
It's hard to imagine this movie ever becoming a classic of the "Gone With the Wind" type, though, because of the casting. Great classic films have great classic persona-creating performances, and this movie just doesn't have that. Leonardo DiCaprio in particular is a very talented, engaging young actor, and it's not his fault that an extremely ambitious epic movie like this was simply too heavy for him to carry. But unfortunately, that's the case. I can't say that he was too young for the part--- but the character of Jack was definitely too young for the movie. This film needed more substance than he could give it. DiCaprio is simply too close to being a teen idol (at least a 1912 version of one). Of course that's precisely why so many teen girls flocked to see this film multiple times, and is a big part of the movie's huge success.
Kate Winslet also is an endearing young actress, and you really felt for Rose in her bravery throughout all of her trials and tribulations. But even after the mega-success of this film, Winslet still doesn't have a clearly-defined persona. Maybe the problem is that we don't have old-school movie stars anymore. We have "actors" now, and most of them are better at acting than the classic movie stars ever were. But the old-style stars had personality plus, and THAT'S what this movie needed to make it a true classic.
Having said that, though, I really don't mean to be negative. This is a grand story, told extremely well--- and the sinking of the ship has the advantage of being a TRUE story as well. Never was this tragic event duplicated on screen so well, so accurately, or so effectively. By the way, the music was awesome.
Not a bad effort, but missed the boat.
There are two ways to approach this movie: #1, as a film in and of itself. Or #2, as a showcase for Mae West.
As a film, it is mildly amusing in a weird, campy 1970s way. It's got a made-for-television look about it, and appears to have been filmed on a pretty low budget. The plot has to do with a legendary American movie star (West) in London for her marriage and subsequent honeymoon with her current husband (Timothy Dalton). Oh, and this is her sixth marriage, by the way---hence the title of the film.
The story is basically that they are unable to consummate their marriage, because various other men--- including nearly all of her ex-husbands--- keep showing up unexpectedly. The sexual aspect of the story is handled very delicately; you know what the husband wants to do with his wife, but it is never put forth directly, but rather by sort of Victorian-era implication.
If it seems like rather a flimsy story, that's because it is. There isn't much to it; there is some low-key comedy in the guest appearances of the ex-husbands (plus assorted other men, including an entire "American athletic team" whose presence in London is never explained. Perhaps they're training for off-season Olympics). The whole thing is handled as a complete farce--- there isn't one shred of reality in this film, which makes it seem unique in the era in which it was made. It's like a cartoon for grownups, with live actors playing the parts.
The real intent of "Sextette" was to be a cinematic showcase for the legendary Mae West. A lot of people outdid themselves in other reviews to say outrageously nasty things about her (or, in a couple of instances, equally outrageous heaps of praise for her). Maybe the best way to write about her in this movie, is to be a little more realistic and objective.
First of all, it's true that Mae West *was* 85 years old at the time of filming this. I'm not saying that because she looks it (she doesn't). I'm saying it because the whole movie makes such extreme efforts to ignore her age. No, she ISN'T supposed to be 20-something--- come on, people, do the math! Her character was married six times, so she's got to be in her forties at least! But she's definitely not playing "elderly", and this seems to freak a lot of people out. She's playing a healthy, attractive "mature" woman whose sex drive is unabashedly strong. There is no hint in the dialogue, or in the reactions of other men TO the character, that this woman might be very, very old (as is the actress playing her).
Therein lies the problem. 85-year-old Mae West was simply not up to the demands of playing this part. She was aging too rapidly; no, she didn't quite look 85, but in some scenes she did look old for probably the first time in her public life. (Photographs taken throughout the 1970s show her looking remarkably young). Put it this way: just eight years earlier, in 1970, West had played a similar "sexy" part in the movie "Myra Breckinredge". She'd been 77 years old then, and she was in good enough health and spirits to carry it off big-time. West was THE highlight of that earlier film. She was stylish, hip, quick-moving, quick-thinking, and she truly did look around fifty or so.... she looked young enough to make the part believable.
But by the time of "Sextette", she just didn't have it any more. She tried very hard, but her physical and mental limitations strained believability too much. A few basic problems: First of all, her wardrobe and hairstyle (obviously a wig) were decades out-of-date. In "Myra Breckinredge", she had looked hip and stylin'. In "Sextette", she looked like a relic.
Then there was her speech difficulty: no longer able to remember dialogue, West wore an earpiece under her wig (this is true, it's not some tabloid made-up story) to have her lines read to her by the director offstage. She would then repeat the line to the camera. This made her acting seem stilted, unnatural-- and unfunny. When somebody asks her if she's seen Big Ben, and she replies "I don't know.... I never met the gentleman", this line could have gotten a big laugh in better times. But here she "reads" the line as if from a piece of paper (or like she's straining to hear it in her earpiece): I-ne-ver-met-the-gen-tle-man". It sounds robotic, lip-synched, dubbed.
Then there are various technical flaws: her songs, for instance, which WERE lip-synched, weren't lip-synched very well. In "Baby Face", you can clearly see her get off the soundtrack. And "After You've Gone" sounds like it was slightly sped up. The soundtrack is tinny, the photography is blurry (particularly West's scenes; she looks fuzzy and too bright in many instances).
The movie wasn't an entire diaster for her. She does have a few good scenes. When she tells Timothy Dalton "The night is still young", she looks genuinely young herself--- filtered camera lens though it may be--- and she makes the line believable. In the Alice Cooper sequence, she also looks surprisingly young; and when she stands behind Cooper with her hands on his shoulders (as he's playing piano), she seems to be clearly enjoying herself. And a few seconds later, when she stands in the doorway--- her back to the camera--- she gives one last hip-twitch (the final "Mae West" screen moment of her career), and you have to chuckle a bit in good-natured admiration. 85 she may have been, but she was still out there working, still entertaining people in the best way she knew how. There's even a bit of poignance in that moment.
But the problem is, this film was played so strongly as a British farce, it works completely against the premise and the style of the whole movie to be feeling any poignance, or anything but a sense of robust comedy for the actress playing the lead. If you are aware of her BEING a frail elderly woman at any time, then the movie isn't meeting its own agenda. And that's what happens too many times. Except for a few fleeting moments, Mae simply wasn't at her best here. For a much better, funnier look at Mae West in the "later years", see "Myra Breckinredge". She was a hilarious scream in that one.