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Black Sheep Squadron: A Little Bit of England (1978)
Season 2, Episode 13
6/10
Frampton
29 May 2008
Peter Frampton supposedly offered to cut his trademark long hair -- at the time a major aspect of his persona -- to appear in this episode. The producers supposedly told him he could keep it long because his character, a coast watcher, would have been in the jungle for a long time and, presumably, unable to get a haircut. But he looked pretty clean and shaved otherwise, and had his own camp and all. They probably should have let him cut his hair. He looks pretty good now with it short. Overall, though, I think his presence makes this one of the series' more memorable episodes. He certainly made a wiser choice with this role than with "Sgt. Pepper."
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8/10
re: intense
25 May 2006
This is a really intense, seldom-seen film. Andy Griffith is very powerful in this film. If you've only seen him in Mayberry, you don't know what a really strong and underrated dramatic actor he is. He has a lot to work with here, courtesy of a writer whose work is always powerful. I do think this is a pretty heavy film and has to be viewed that way. It's not light entertainment. It makes you concentrate. I recently heard Merrill Reese, the longtime play-by-play announcer for the Philadelphia Eagles, say that this is his favorite film, and that he has interns at the radio station where he works watch it. It probably does them a lot of good if they watch it seriously.
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6/10
re: OK
24 May 2006
I saw this after seeing "Stage Door Canteen," and while this film, for obvious reasons, seems to have more star-power in it as far as traditional Hollywood goes, I found "Stage Door" more compelling, both in the acting of the principal characters and the touching nature of the story. I also thought the actual set looked more realistic on "Stage Door." This one looked more contrived. Finally, I found the Roy Rogers bit with Trigger a little bit of a reach. That was a little too "Hollywood." And they really dragged out "Don't Fence Me In." Still, this is worth seeing for all the stars who are in it. These films are worth their weight for that reason alone.
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8/10
re: silent is golden
30 January 2006
I haven't seen the sound version of this story, with Glenn Ford, but I understand it is updated to World War II, which I understand from a business point of view, but I think this story works better with World War I. Granted, World War II was more destructive in terms of casualties and damage, but psychologically, World War I was such a catastrophe in Europe, that I think it fits better with this story. As far as the film itself is concerned, it's quite riveting and different than a lot of silents. I actually forgot, while watching it, that I was watching Valentino. And how about a young Alan Hale (the skipper's father), in one of the early roles in his great career?
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re: don't get it
17 November 2005
Sometimes there's a cultural institution about which you just don't see the big fuss, and for me, it's this film. I got dragged to it at least twice as an 8-year-old, didn't really like it then, and still don't get it. I don't think the lyrics come close to some of the Oscar Hammerstein classics, the score is not among Rodgers' best, to me at least, and having said all that, I think from what I've heard, the Broadway score is better. The film score is much heavier, less folksy. I particularly don't like the opening, the booming, over-orchestrated film version of the title song, compared to the understated stage version of the same song. I much prefer Julie Andrews overall in "Mary Poppins," and vocally, by far, in "My Fair Lady." If Christopher Plummer hated being in this movie, I think it shows. Having said all that, millions of people -- including my late mother, who rarely went to any movies, yet saw this at least three times, I think -- adore the film. So I guess I'm in the minority, but still, I have no desire to ever see this again.
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7/10
re: fascinating
19 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of World War II-era movies out there that deal with the same theme as this one, but there was something special about this one. Having seen snippets of it on TCM, I found it at Wal-Mart in the $1 pile and picked it up. It's long, more than two hours, and a lot of the celebrity performances seem to get in the way of the story, but they're worth it both for their entertainment value and for their historical importance. In fact, one of the reasons I got the DVD was that I wanted to see Kay Kyser in action. The sheer volume of performers showing up washing dishes, dancing with "troops," and so on, is fascinating. And they're so young! I'd never seen some of them with dark hair before. Anyway, the story itself, at first, seems so simple, but for some reason it clicked with me. I think it was the fact that the film allowed these characters to develop around all the entertainment acts. You actually saw Eileen grow from being somewhat self-centered, to achieving a goal for herself, and then realizing that what she truly wanted was something else. And though it was formulaic, you saw Dakota go from the guy who's sworn off women "for the duration" to a romantic. The scene on the rooftop may have been hokey, but the actors pulled it off. They may have been "B" actors, but they got an "A" for this one. You can't live in the past, and the days portrayed in this movie are long gone. And let us remember that the world was at war. But still, maybe someday, after all of us are gone, the world will go back to the kind of entertainment, at least, that this movie represents. It might be considered a step back by some, but I think it just might represent a form of progress.
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6/10
re: realism
22 April 2005
There's nothing wrong with taking the elements of a true story and using them to build a film. It happens all the time. In this case, Frankenheimer and the screenwriters essentially took a true story and fashioned what is essentially another story out of it. I hope they weren't out to make a Robert Stroud documentary. If that was the case, they shouldn't have cast Burt Lancaster, who looks NOTHING like Stroud and also usually played Burt Lancaster playing (fill in the blanks) whenever he did a film. Lancaster is fine in this film. In fact, the film could hardly go wrong with 3 really fine actors -- Lancaster, Karl Malden and Neville Brand -- in varying degrees of characters. None of us really knew Stroud, I assume. At least some people who did know him (ex-guards, people who lived as children on Alcatraz), say he was a horrible, evil dirtbag who deserved all his time in prison. I don't think anybody who watches this film should start preaching how wonderful Stroud was, or how much he might have done for society had he been released. This is a movie, folks, and for the most part, you make judgments about real people based on movies at the peril of looking pretty foolish.
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7/10
re: fascinating but slightly overrated
11 April 2005
If you've spent even a day at law school, you'll find this movie fascinating. (I know there's at least one Contracts professor out there who is the polar opposite of Kingsfield, though.) However, I think this movie betrays its early 1970s roots by going a little too overboard on certain things, particularly Hart's relationship with the Lindsay Wagner character, and I particularly found the ending goofy, a little too "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" for me. However, words can't express how deserving John Houseman was of his Oscar for this performance (I didn't see much of the TV series), and all the commercial gigs that his performance in this movie later spawned.
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Mary Poppins (1964)
9/10
re: one of those magic things
23 December 2004
It's hard for me to explain the connection I feel with this film ... I was 7 when it came out, saw it twice in the theaters at the time, and of course have seen it over and over since then. I'm going to get the 40th anniversary DVD soon. You can argue about Dick Van Dyke playing an Englishman, about Julie Andrews being too sweet and young compared to the character in literature, about the fact that the whole thing was obviously shot on a soundstage. But just imagine being 7 or 8 or 9 or 10 or anywhere near there, and not getting out of your small town in the rust belt of the U.S. except maybe a few times a year on holidays, and you can imagine what seeing this magical, albeit Disneyfied, look at another world must have been like. Every time I see it, I think back to the beautiful old movie theater in which I saw it (a block away from the Catholic school I then attended, no less), to getting my mother to buy a certain box of cereal so I could get the Mary Poppins prize inside, to gathering on weekends with cousins to listen to the soundtrack and try to dance like Bert. I've been to London many times since then, but funny enough, as much as the great city has to offer, I've never been able to find that magical place I saw 40 years ago.
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not the book
12 May 2004
This film, which pops up so often these days on cable, is pretty good, but the book is my favorite book of all time, so the film, in my opinion, could not match up. If you haven't read the book, it's almost impossible to explain how Tom Wolfe's writing style could not really be translated into film adequately (e.g. Bonfire of the Vanities). Wolfe's chapter introducing Yeager is a work of art unto itself and it simply can't be translated properly into any other medium. The movie does some things with Yeager that are puzzling -- but since Yeager himself was STANDING RIGHT THERE, it's hard to complain too much about that. Yeager's punching out and nearly being fried on his way down get the simplistic cinematic treatment -- read Wolfe's description for brilliant writing about this event. Also, Wolfe touches upon a lot of the other test pilots who were involved in the early years of the space program, many of whom -- Pete Conrad in particular -- didn't make the Mercury 7, but went on to be successful Gemini and Apollo astronauts. Even the ending of the film, describing Gordon Cooper's flight, is given short-shrift -- Wolfe describes how he had a hairy re-entry, but nailed in perfectly and therefore perfectly completed the circle with Yeager and the brotherhood of airline pilots who now talk like Yeager and Cooper when things "stack up a little." The film makes it look as if Cooper flew off into space and had a great flight and that was that. His return was at least as tricky as Glenn's.
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That Championship Season (1999 TV Movie)
better
12 April 2004
To someone who was born and/or spent any time in Scranton, Pa., "That Championship Season" is sort of what "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" is to someone from Savannah, Ga. -- even though it isn't literally based on fact, as the latter is, it is sort of the "hometown" play, in that we all know characters like those in Jason Miller's play. I don't live in Scranton anymore, but I was there when the 1982 movie was made, and there was an incredible amount of hoopla surrounding it. Again, everybody either was at one of the film sites, or was actually in the film, or knows somebody in it. Some of my relatives actually befriended one of the cast members to the extent that they still keep in touch. The 1982 film's first half-hour or so are eerie to me in that they amazingly captured the look and feel of Scranton at that time, which were depressing, to say the least. A lot has changed -- for the better; it couldn't have gotten much worse -- since that movie was filmed, so they did capture a slice of history. All things considered, though, I give a slight nod to the newer, TV version. Sorvino -- a link to the original Broadway production -- is a little bit below Mitchum as the coach. But the 4 members of the TV cast have it over the 4 in the film. In fact, I thought Sorvino was the only one in the film to nail his part. In the TV version, Gary Sinese blows away Martin Sheen in the part of the drunk, Tom Daley. By the end of the film, Sheen was so obviously acting it was pathetic ... Sinese, who never gives a bad performance, clicked with the role much better and longer, I thought. The rest of the TV cast did a little bit better as an ensemble and with theatrical material than did Dern, Keach, etc. Dern's performance deteriorated as the film went on, too. Shahoub held it together better.
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Gallipoli (1981)
wonderful
12 April 2004
Peter Weir is just a fantastic director. And this is just an incredible film. To be honest, if you want to think about war in Iraq or anywhere else, watch this film and you'll see elements of all the arguments for and against, that's how well this film captures the entire spectrum of war. I've never seen a film that better captures the sense of honor and duty, even in the face of stupidity and disregard for life on the part of military and civilian leadership, than does this one -- and it does so without preaching. Before you get on a soapbox for or against conflict in Iraq or anywhere else, you should watch the final 20 minutes of this film. There are many great war films ... this is one of them, and at some levels, it's among the top 2 or 3 of all time.
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60s
16 March 2004
I saw this again on TV the other night, and the sad fact is that it's a very dated, formula-driven 1960s comedy that would deservedly be forgotten except for three things:

1) If you're interested in the Olympics, it offers one of the few looks at Tokyo during the 1964 games. I'm not sure if any other films use the Tokyo games as a setting. Also, it offers a glimpse at 1960s Tokyo, which apparently no longer exists.

2) He was old and graying and his material was awful, but in many ways, this film displays the magic of the great Cary Grant. He rose above lame material one more time, and without him, this would have been unwatchable.

3) I will never forget the closing line from the original TV ads for this film: "Run, don't walk to see 'Walk, Don't Run.' " They don't make them like that anymore.
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high school
23 February 2004
I saw this movie when I was in high school myself. I had no idea what it was -- it was just playing at one of the local downtown theaters -- a real theater, too, an old Vaudeville house, not a cineplex -- and it was just something to do. But it didn't take long to figure out there was something special about it. We had no idea so many stars were going to come out of the movie -- we knew Ron Howard from The Andy Griffith Show and that was about it. But the way the story was just so familiar to a high school kid, and the soundtrack that just pumped out oldie after oldie, you could tell it was something special. The first 2 seasons of "Happy Days" kind of captured the same spirit, then that, as they say, jumped the shark. But this movie, in addition to providing the nostalgia for the early 60s that my older brother and sister lived through, helps me remember the time when it first hit the screens, my own teenage years.
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great
9 February 2004
This is just a masterpiece. It is probably the prime example of how the film industry did such a better job with movies of this genre 30 and 40 years ago. I was comparing and contrasting this with the original "The Manchurian Candidate," both films dealing with assassination, but taking totally different paths -- one with a brainwashed assassin, the other with a coolly professional one. But in comparing this film with more-modern films -- including the remake of this one -- it's amazing how everyone involved 30 or 40 years ago used dialog, character development, fantastic cinematography and other such tools to craft an incredibly complex and tense work. You might have trouble remembering one actor from this film, but you can't forget their characterizations. Nowadays, it's nothing but special effects. Everyone got a lot more for their money in the era when this film was made.
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Spartacus (1960)
worth it
28 January 2004
For some reason, this was the one of the great 1950s-60s classics I had never seen, not to mention the one Kubrick classic I'd missed. But I finally watched it (letterbox, of course) on DVD and have to say, I see why it's considered a classic. From what I've heard and read of the true story of Spartacus, it strays a bit, and some of the stars (Douglas, Curtis) stay a little too well-groomed throughout the movie, but overall, it is an incredible film. It is more David Lean than Kubrick, but there are some excellent touches that remind you it is Kubrick (the snail-oyster thing, of course). And, as with any film in which I've ever seen him, Charles Laughton is just a bulbous, but overwhelming presence. He is in charge of virtually every scene he's in.
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MASH (1970)
better, not great
15 January 2004
The best way to get the MASH experience, I have found, is to READ THE BOOK. The book deftly handles the paradox of the 4077th -- that these very young doctors, nurses, etc., "too young to be doing what they were doing," were put into a medical situation that was, in essence, beyond any medical professional's real capacity. As a result, when they got out of what was essentially a butcher's shop of an operating room, they went a bit wild. But in the end, they were what they were: Americans, professionals, essentially of the tail end of the "greatest generation." Nothing more, nothing less. The film turned them ever-so-slightly into 1960s types, and after the first few years of comedy, the TV show turned them into 1970s anti-war, anti-military, anti-government, anti-capitalist whiners. All sense of comedy, irony, satire went by the board in order to preach at us, culminating with the vastly inferior "Goodbye, Farewell, Amen." I like the first few years of the TV show, and I like the book. The movie, which was a sensation when it came out, is very clever for much of its cinematography, its effects, quite a bit of its dialogue, and some really impressive fresh acting by a cast whose members, for the most part, eventually didn't live up to the promise they showed here. Oh, and the football uniforms were 1970s vintage, not early 1950s. The face masks and molded plastic helmets are a no-no.
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Happy Days (1974–1984)
soup to nuts
8 January 2004
I was in high school when this series started -- I vividly recall the "Love, American Style" episode that began it, and also remember seeing "American Graffiti" in the movies around that time. So even though it took place in the 1950s, it hit home for me and a lot of teenagers. Like many people, I think the early years were excellent, and then things went down the dumper to the point where the final years were nothing but a self-parody. Everybody who was alive at the time has thoughts about the series, but here are some of mine:

1) Didn't they realize how stupid some of the characters looked from about 1976 on, walking around with blow-dried 70s hairstyles when it was supposed to be, at the latest, the 1960s?

2) Who ever, ever, ever came to the conclusion that Anson Williams could sing? He may have been the WORST vocalist ever to attempt a tune on television. He makes you long for one of Bill Shatner's albums.

3) The first Chuck was my preference over the second one. Alas, the true story of Chuck's demise will probably never be known. Somebody ought to make a movie about what happened to Chuck (and send me some royalties if you do).
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Holiday Inn (1942)
still fun
25 December 2003
I don't think this is a great movie, but it is a classic, to an extent. I cringe when people gush over the movie "White Christmas" and downplay this one. One is a clean, well-shot black & white movie with Crosby & Astaire, while the other is a staged, technicolor blob with the vastly overrrated Danny Kaye instead of Astaire. That's just not a fair fight. Is this a great Astaire movie? No, it's not in the same league as the great ones with Ginger Rogers, especially, in my opinion "Swing Time." The Fourth of July dance routine is in that league, however. Is this Crosby at his best? Maybe not. But the simple staging of the song "White Christmas" in this movie stands in stark contrast to the sappy finale of the movie by that name. It makes me cringe that people think the song was introduced in THAT movie ... grrr. Anyway, "Holiday Inn" has its blackface number, that is what it is from a different time, and the same can be said for the saber-rattling in the Fourth of July sequence. We wouldn't do that in films today, and they wouldn't have made "Die Hard" in 1942 ... as Fred might say, let's call the whole thing off ...
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Hawaii (1966)
ok
18 November 2003
I caught this again on TCM the other night ... of course, with a film such as this, seeing it on TV is really slumming it. I do recall when this film came out in the 1960s, the marquee at the theater at which it premiered in my hometown was all decked out like a Hawaiian outrigger boat, with all sorts of decorations and a huge placard over the marquee. They don't do things like that anymore at the multiplexes. This film is beautifully filmed and scored, but in watching it again, I found it slow and somewhat overacted, I think, particularly by Von Sydow. His performance comes close to caricature. Julie Andrews and Gene Hackman did a better job, I think. And I had forgotten Carroll O'Connor as a 19th century New Englander ... sheesh!!!!
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Raging Bull (1980)
amazing
17 November 2003
I saw this movie when it came out and was amazed by it. But what makes it fascinating for me to see it again these days is that a couple of years later, I got to spend some time with Jake LaMotta, and that certainly affects my viewing of the movie. I met with LaMotta at a small Italian restaurant/bar in Pennsylvania, and my memories of that are 1) the fact that he blew smoke in my face, and everybody's face, constantly; 2) the way the people who ran the place treated him as if he was a god -- I must have heard the word "Champ" a hundred times that night; and 3) the fact that LaMotta, for all his bluster, actually was pretty honest about his life and the movie. He didn't duck anything to do with the movie -- he claimed his real life was even more violent and wild, but he might just have been bragging or, pardon the pun, blowing smoke. And, despite the fact that everyone else felt the need to play Ed McMahon all night when "Champ" was spitting out his one-liners, I can tell you first-hand that his jokes really, really, really are not in the least bit funny.
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re: great Weir
13 November 2003
As a young journalist who was fascinated with all things Asian, I was floored by this movie when it came out 20 years ago. I still find it one of the truly incredible films of the past several decades. From it's highly unusual setting -- how many films are set in Indonesia? -- to tremendous performances -- I'm not a huge Mel Gibson fan, but he's great in this, as is just about everybody -- I can't say enough about this film. It's still one of my Top 20 of all time ... and I'm looking forward to Peter Weir's latest film (Master and Commander) because I have a feeling it might just capture the same sort of magic this one did.
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The Flying Nun (1967–1970)
Still fun
4 November 2003
This series was cute and funny during its original run -- but I was a kid going to Catholic school and maybe I was biased. But watching it now on TVLand, it's amazing that it still works. I think it's very nicely photographed, the music is wonderful, and probably the main thing is, that while it doesn't present a realistic portrayal of most of Latin America, it really doesn't talk down to or stereotype the characters either. So what if they all speak such magnificent English????
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Times change
4 November 2003
I was a very young Catholic school student when this movie came out (see my comments about the TV show "The Flying Nun"). At the time, it was STRONGLY suggested by the sisters teaching us that we go to see this movie. It was playing right down the street. At the time, it seemed so light and breezy, and the music was so in tune with what we were being taught. Of course, since then, A LOT has happened, and the true-life story of the real "Singing Nun" took such a bizarre turn and ended in such weird fashion, that I think I'd have a hard time watching this version now.
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Dan August (1970–1971)
music
22 October 2003
I seem to recall that "Dan August" had a really good theme song ... most of the Quinn Martin shows did, but I remember this one being really up tempo and it fit the character Reynolds played ... the show was all right, but it's hard to imagine Norman Fell playing a cop ... lol
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