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6 reviews in total 
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"Impact" (2009)
64 out of 80 people found the following review useful:
cute kids, cool grandpa, lousy science and writing., 29 June 2009

Hey, did anyone else notice that the patch on the general's sleeve was for the First Cavalry? What!?! Cavalry? Couldn't they at least have invented some bogus "Joint Astrospace Defence Command" patch?

I must admit, I didn't watch the movie intently: my wife was watching, and I would sit with her until the bogusness got too bad, then I'd go clean my closet or something. But I must also admit that I'm biased by my own history. I worked for NASA for 37 years, then taught high school for six, so the stunning level of bad science really grated on my sensibility. As someone noted, couldn't the writers have at least talked an amateur astronomer into critiquing the script. Maybe he could have explained the law of the conservation of momentum, and if the writers were quick studies, they might have progressed to complex topics like basic orbital mechanics.

There were redeeming features, of course. The little girl proved herself a fine young actress with her expressive face in that video conversation with her dad, and the grandpa was splendid, just as he was in "Babe". (I'd like to look for more of his movies to rent: I enjoy his work.) And, of course, all us old-timers know that all female space scientists are blonde, slender, very attractive, 30 to 35 years old, and possessed of big boobs. So they did get that part right.

Seriously, there should be no excuse for such bad science fiction on TV. Too much of the US population is nearly illiterate in science. And I am not talking about the kids in school now. This movie was shown in prime time, so was presumably intended for adult audiences. But this is the population who agree, in the majority, with the statement "early humans often had to defend their caves against marauding dinosaurs." And let's not forget there are politicians that claim to not believe the theory that is actually the fundamental guiding principle of contemporary biology. With a little more effort, some of the major flaws in the story could have been corrected and the audience might have gone away with a little better understanding of the underlying science. Yes, it's science FICTION, but fiction still needs internal self-consistency and a clear understanding of its own premises and their consequences. (Think "Jurassic Park" as a good example.)

Some of us have worked hard to educate this country in science, and seeing this movie is so discouraging, as if taunting us by saying we are never going to win.

7th Heaven (1927)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The only word for Janet Gaynor is "luminous", 16 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This could easily have become a mundane, mediocre movie. Instead, Janet Gaynor took the lead and made it one of the great performances of all time. One of the haunting scenes was Gaynor leaning against the tire of the old, decrepit taxicab (not against a lamp post as another post suggested) in a state of abject despair. She had just been beaten mercilessly by her sister because she (Gaynor) had stood up in a moment of courage and honesty and refused to lie to her wealthy uncle. Chico had just saved her from being choked to death by her sister, but in speaking to his friends, he refers to her as less than nothing. Why did he save her, he asks, when she would have been as well off dead. Diane/Gaynor is the image of despair, totally passive, awaiting her fate as they talk about her. I'm reminded of the scene in "My Fair Lady" in which Pickering and Higgins are talking about Eliza, and Higgins is speaking of her as if she is nothing more than a sheep at auction, even though she is sitting right in front of them. When Diane tries to kill her self, everything changes. In the aftermath, both Chico and Diane come across as totally guileless as she offers to play his wife, and he wants her assurance that she won't try to take advantage of him. It is a sweet, delightful moment, and the audience at the SF silent film festival laughed heartily at the implications. Watch her scenes where she confronts her fear of heights, first pulling back from the window and then later challenging her fears for the first time in her life. (I happen to be badly acrophobic, and these scenes brought on a very familiar clutch in my chest, as if I were really there, on that seventh floor.)

Others have commented on the movie, and I agree, generally. I might note some points that weren't remarked on.

When the Franch army is mobilizing and marching away, the same band passes by three times. The whole French army seems to be passing by in that tight little street, over and over. Couldn't the scene looking out the window have been handled better, with little effort, to show more variation? When the taxis were taking the troops to the front, they moved up the same road in precise spacing and perfect order. Twice, or three times, the same scene repeats. Would it have been too much trouble to make it a little more chaotic. Hey, these were taxi drivers! (I believe the use of the Paris taxis to take the troops to the front was true, though I haven't checked that.)

Plaudits for the representation of World War I trench warfare. This was too horrifying, I have come to feel, to portray with any sort of realism even now, but it is done here as well as could be expected.

The colonel's advances to Diane were quite restrained. What if he had pressured her a bit more, perhaps one more scene of attempted seduction? Would it have heightened the tension and challenged her more, or would it have just taken the movie back 15 years to the era of more evil, vile, villains? What if we had seen her faith in Chico and their 11 o'clock hour waver a bit more before their final test in the climactic scene?

I agree wholeheartedly that the ending was too short. Please, just a minute or two more denouement to bring us back down?

I liked the humor introduced by such sidebars as Boul and his taxi. Some of the best drama includes bits of humor, just as life does.

The names Chico and Diane did not strike either me or my wife as French, so did not add to the scene. We wondered where these came from.

This is not a movie in which the ending is in question. We desperately needed the lovers to find their happy ending, even when it seems to be all over, all lost, in that last few minutes. But what a glorious job Janet Gaynor did in leading us there! The lighting and the camera work complement her perfectly. And at the San Francisco silent film festival,the organ accompaniment was splendid. Oh, my, what a great movie! What a great actress!

17 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
It's an awful, awful, awful, awful movie, except for one performer..., 3 February 2005

When I saw this movie at the time it first appeared, I thought it was riotously funny. But then I grew up. I saw it again recently and found it astoundingly bad. Astoundingly! It is full of good comedians, but the timing is awful, and I no longer find it funny to watch a service station being trashed in endless detail, nor to be subjected to an endless mother-in-law shtick. Good God, why didn't they just give her six minutes screen time and pay her off? If they had cut all the extraneous, overdone trash, it could have made a good 75 minute movie. HOWEVER, HOWever, however, there were a couple of uncredited performers who combined to lift it all the way to a 2-star level in my estimation. Their performance and timing were perfect! And she set my hormones flowing the first time they turned the camera on her! I'm referring, of course, to the twin-Beech, Model 18, and her pilot, Frank Tallman. Regrettably, I could never read her number, so I couldn't send a fan letter, and Tallman died shortly after, so there won't be a performance to match this one, ever. I did not appreciate, the first time through, how good the flying was, but I've flown enough since to appreciate their performance. Skip the first half of this tedious piece of rubbish, and after they get that sweet Beechcraft down, hit rewind and put on something else.

Well, there was one other redeeming feature. I always thought Dorothy Provine was cute.

Our Town (2003) (TV)
6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Paul Newman in a role written for him!, 7 October 2003

I've seen 'Our Town' on stage several times, dating back 50-some years to my small high school. I've seen it once on the small screen with Hal Holbrook, and including (I believe) John Houseman. But this is the best I have seen, and Paul Newman deserves a majority of the credit for this. He's about my age and I have watched him turn from the handsome, virile, often rebellious leading man to an old character actor. But this time he owns the stage. In live stage, I have never seen facial expression used really effectively: I've always been too far away from the actors. I don't recall Holbrook doing much in this area: I recall a rather straight narrative style that time. Newman is extraordinary. The expressions and the timing added a quality I don't ever recall seeing. The camera closed in appropriately and effectively. And for the first time I saw the Stage Manager turn from the simple travelogue narrator he appears at the opening to an identity at the closing moments I had never recognized before.

(I'm trying to be cautious and not spoil the end. Is it possible to spoil it? Hasn't everyone who enjoys American stage already seen 'Our Town', like me, enough times they can almost speak the dialogue of that final scene along with the characters?)

The play is so familiar that the sparse set comes naturally. This production actually used an item or two that I don't recall from earlier ones, but it still seems right. I was much impressed by the lighting, pulling the action up out of the overall darkness. Some things worked less well, I thought. George and Emily aged, and this was harder to do when the camera could zoom in and show their faces. With no makeup changes, they were left with dialogue and voice to convince the viewer, as I didn't feel movements showed the aging effectively. The same applied to the two sets of parents. Nonetheless, when Emily held the stage in the last scene, she still made it one of the most moving moments in theater.

I am intrigued by the critical response to 'Our Town'. Early reviews seem to be enthusiastic, but some critics since seem to consider it too light, too trivial, to be listed among the great ones like Williams's and Miller's works. But aren't we talking here about the universal themes of life? Isn't that serious enough?

Find a copy of it if you can. It's one of Paul Newman's great moments.

Midway (1976)
7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
An astoundingly bad movie!, 4 October 2003

Astoundingly bad! They took one of the pivotal battles of history and turned it into an absurd little vehicle for Heston and Wagner. How could it turn out so bad? Wagner and Heston's characters were not in the actual story at all. Someone must have owed a favor to the over-the-hill-Charleton to put this God-awful schlock into it, where it must have consumed 25% of the screen time. It would have rated about minus-3-stars except that the outstanding performances by Hal Holbrook and Toshiro Mifune made their characters real, fleshing them out as I have never envisioned them before. There was also some good footage borrowed from "Tora,Tora,Tora", but when they brought in their period footage for the battle scenes, they committed another of their astounding mistakes: They needed torpedo planes, a type called TBD's. Apparently they could find no footage of TBD's, so they dropped in some shots of SB2U's. Yes, there were SB2U's at Midway, and they took part in one of the truly heroic roles of World War 2. But the cretins making this travesty never even alluded to the heroic but futile ride of Major Lofton Henderson's USMarine SB2U's. Good God, they could have put in TBF's for torpedo planes, and it would have been closer to right, showing another heroic but futile part of the battle, but they completely, inexcuseably screwed it up. Shame, shame on these people for so dishonoring the memory of the men who actually fought at Midway. If you want to see old footage of 1942 aircraft and battles, find a source for "Victory at Sea", the "Midway is East" episode. If you want to learn about the battle of Midway, read one of several good books. If you want a good enactment of the events of the first six months of World War 2, find "Tora, Tora, Tora". And if you want to see a haunting memoir of this battle, track down Robert Ballard's search for the sunken ships of Midway, and see the Yorktown as it now rests on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. This is a story for the ages, not one to be handed to the hacks and has-beens that populate this pathetic travesty.

Thirteen (2003)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A 16 year-old co-writes and co-stars in a roughly-done but valuable film., 28 September 2003

"Thirteen" is a challenging film. I am still pondering it days after I saw it, wondering how these people got to this place and what might become of them in the future. Good art ought to cause people to think, whether it's print, film, or 'fine art'. It seems a little bold to suggest that a 16-year old could produce serious art, but I'll venture just that.

The writing is rough, though: it could have used some polishing. Transitions are sometimes abrupt, and left me momentarily forgetting the present scene to try to recall how we got here. There is one very brief flashback. I found that disconcerting because it usually takes me a second or two to shift time and shift viewpoint from the film's general "third person" to "first person". I personally thought the camera work a little too "creative" at times, but it was effective in evoking the intense feelings and the moments of stress. I had more of a problem with the age/grade level portrayed. It was set at a middle school, but for the grade 6-7-8 MS's I'm accustomed to, both the action and some of the boys hanging out around the school seemed a little too old. If you begin with the assumption that it is a grade 7-8-9 setting, it may work better. Nonetheless, Nikki Reed is a very talented writer and with a little time and practice I hope she will become someone I'll see again.

The acting was exceptional. Holly Hunter portrays a single mom extraordinarily well, and both the high point where she sees an old boyfriend again, and the later low points are very real. Anyone who has raised a kid or two through the teen-age years is likely to see themselves here. Wood, as Tracy, gives a performance that people will at least remember at Oscar time. There is a moment of palpable anger that lasts perhaps ten seconds but conveys more emotion than many actors can manage in an hour on camera. And Nikkie Reed (Evie) plays a villain who I sometimes found myself surprisingly sympathetic to. Here are two remarkable young actresses who deliver complex and often subtle performances.

Should everyone with a 13 year-old take her to see this movie? Maybe, but ONLY if you will talk about it afterward. It's a strong piece of work that left me with questions, and if you can't talk about what might have gone on in these lives before the film began, why people made the decisions they did, what may come after the close, and how things might have been different, a suggestible young person could be left with some very undesirable ideas. There are some pretty harsh and atypical experiences portrayed, but over time you may very well encounter people who have been just where these people go. You may understand them better after seeing this film. That's more than enough to make this a very fine work.