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A real movie
"Murder, She Wrote: South By Southwest," is a title that's an obvious homage to Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 classic suspenser, "North By Northwest," This is because while a great portion of the Hitchcock classic takes place aboard a train, so does this thriller - and a thriller, it is! I loved Angela's "Murder, She Wrote, series - but this is so much more competent; so much more professional - it's production so much more stylish; so much more like a motion picture.
I'm watching this for the first time right now as I type this because I was drawn to record a wonderfully positive review. On my on screen TV guide, some igno gave it one star...one lousy star! I'm sorry, but this is a full three-star mystery! This is one of the finest, if not the finest, Jessica Flether "murder, She Wrote" mysteries of them all!
Phantom Killer (1942)
It's Mantan not Rochester
This is directed to the guy who gives the kudos in "Phantom Killer" to Jack Benny's valet/chef/chauffeur/right-hand-man Eddie "Rochester" Anderson. You got it wrong, fellow. That was not Rochester playing Nicodemus, the janitor who sees a man talk who can't talk. Nope. It was the great Mantan Moreland.
BTW, this low budget Monogram 2-reeler is fun, especially if you're a fan of the dozens of Old Dark House mysteries that were produced in the 30s & 40s.
Mantan, who died in 1973 at age 71, is probably best remembered these days as Birmingham Brown, Charlie Chan's driver and cohort to Charlie's Numbers One, Two & Three sons in 14 Charlie Chan movies from 1944-1949.
Mantan also had solid roles in "King of the Zombies" (1941), "Dressed to Kill" (1941) with Lloyd Nolan as shamus Mike Shayne, "The Strange Case of Dr. RX" (1942) with another great, Lionel Atwill and many other fun films. He acted into the 1970s when he appeared in such TV series as "Love, American Style" and "Adam-12."
Mantan has deservedly been remembered in beloved fashion by many and needs to be recognized here.
Super 8 (2011)
A fun homage
I have no idea what director JJ Abrams style is. Why not? Because "Super 8" might very well have been directed by its producer, Steven Spielberg. This IS a Spielberg-style film - and that ain't bad.
Hectic family life; dysfunctional family life; families in crisis, Spielberg trademarks one and all are all here.
Overall, the film is an wonderful homage to 50s B movie drive-in "classics" albeit with $50 million worth of today's finest effects.
As others have written, it's "The Goonies"-meet-"ET"-meet-"Close Encounters." And let's not forget "Alien." Heck, there's even a fun tribute: an electric company guy doing his best "Close Encounters" Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, complete with identical yellow truck, yellow hardhat and sideburns.
But there's also touches of Spielberg's "War of the Worlds." Young heroes working to solve a mystery, a la the four 1939 Warner Bros. Nancy Drew mysteries with Bonita Granville & Frankie Thomas, as well as Disney's 1964 "Emil & The Detectives" have been around for decades and this is yet another fun addition.
The CG crashes are, as expected, too over-the-top (as they are in most blockbusters today), and the ending just doesn't come together in anything close to a satisfying fashion. And to be honest, there is a slight tendency to get frustrated waiting & waiting to finally see the mysterious "whatever." Face it, there are a lot of unanswered questions or unsatisfactory plot stuff, like the upside down folks, the cubes, the missing pooches, the tower and how it all comes together at the end (what was that?).
But it's still one hell of an entertaining old-style Spielberg popcorn flick! But the young cast is terrific, especially Riley Griffiths as amateur film director Charles. Riley made his film debut here, and as I type this it's the only film or TV work listed his his IMDb bio page. That should change.
Other young actors Joel Courtney (also making his film debut), Ryan Lee and Elle Fanning are each terrific! All the kids in the film are terrific.
I know that as soon as I complete this and send it on for approval I'll think of another dozen films that possibly/probably intentionally influenced portions of this highly entertaining movie.
A fun homage, 9 June 2011 Author: estabansmythe from Azusa, CA
Matchmaker Santa (2012)
I loved this!
The Hallmark Channel produced a dozen new made-for-TV Christmas movies for the 2012 holiday season. I've seen a few. They're alright.
However, when it comes to this one, "Matchmaker Santa," I am not the least bit shy about confessing that I loved it! Yes, it's not deep & it really has no antagonists nor any real conflict that's essential to most plots - but so what!
And yes, we all know very well who Lacey Chabert is going to end up with, but with all the rotten things facing us out there in real life, this is exactly what the doctor ordered!
This Christmas romance fits like a glove! It is quite wonderful! The Christmas atmosphere of the fictitious small town of Buford Falls (a possible nod to "It's a Wonderful Life's" Bedford Falls), courtesy of Art Director Vahn Armstrong & Set Decorator Linda Louise Sheets is so rich, so warm - so charming & wonderful.
And the supporting cast of veterans Florence Henderson & Lin Shaye as active local businesswomen; and John Ratzenberger as Budford Height's easy-going mechanic & town mayor; and Donovan Scott, who has made a fine career out of playing Santa, are all so friendly that before long it hits you that you'd love to have these folks for neighbors. In fact, you'd love to live in Bedford!
"Matchmaker Santa" is a marvelous, indeed, magical new Christmas movie, and this comes from a guy who loves the old classic holiday films and TV specials, but who has never been overly impressed with the new ones.
I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I always do whenever I see it.
Capra's take on The Prisoner of Zenda
I'm actually sort of surprised that no one has noted that the marvelous "Dave" is a remake of "The Prisoner of Zenda," about a commoner who impersonates his look-alike prince-crowned-king while falling in love with his princess to be. The only change in story is that while "Zenda's" hero lives happily ever after, alas, it's not with his princess.
Under Ivan Reitman's sure-handed blend of subtle comedy & drama, and backed by James Newton Howard's melodic score, Kevin Kline is aces as average guy/everyman Dave, who is plucked from Small Town, USA, to assume the position of the most powerful man on earth. Equally up to the task is Frank Langella as his evil, rotten, power- hungry Chief of Staff.
The co-stars, including Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Charles Grodin & Ben Kingsley,are each finely cast.
Three sound versions of "Zenda" were filmed: in 1937 with Ronald Coleman in the dual role & Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as his adversary; in 1952 with good guy Stewart Granger vs. baddie James Mason; and finally in 1979 - the least impressive version - with Peter Sellers, in his third to last role, fighting evil Stuart Wilson.
"Dave" matches up a lot closer with those earlier two versions than with the Seller's take. The shot of Dave heading back home over the hill, his job done, is a marvelous re-do of the Coleman version.
BTW, In 1968, Don Adams wrote a take-off on "Zenda" as well as its 2- part sequel in '69, but that's another story, so to speak.
The Best of the '50s Bif Dinosaur Monster Movies: it's great!
When I was a kid growing up in Inglewood, CA, a local Los Angeles TV station, KHJ-9 (now KCAL-9) aired its popular "Million Dollar Movie." This programming format gave viewers the chance to see one movie nine times in one week, seven nights a week at 7:30pm and again on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.
Among the movies on its schedule were "The Monster From Green Hell," about giant wasps in a valley in Africa; and this genuine classic '50s monster movie, "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms." My pals and I saw it all nine times. And I'm happy to report that it still holds up beautifully! It is the finest of all the '50s monster movies, putting to shame the likes of "Gorgo," "Konga," "Tarantula," and especially, the pitiful "The Giant Gila Monster" and "The Giant Claw." The only monster movie to rival it at the time was the original "Godzilla." Ray Harryhausen's skills were still being developed when he made this in 1953, but they were still certainly good enough to make his monster believable, and genuinely scary, be the viewer a kid or an adult.
If monster movies are your thing, "The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms" is one you don't want to miss.
The Last of Sheila (1973)
Perhaps my favorite whodunit: It'll have you playing along
"The Last of Sheila" is perhaps my favorite whodunit. It is definitely one of the most involving & intricate whodunits I've seen.
And to think it was all devised by old New York pals Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim - brilliant! Witty, sarcastic, sadistic, funny ... brilliant! And brought to the screen in such lively fashion by Broadway vet Herb Ross, who keeps it moving at a crackerjack pace.
The casting is terrific! Only Raquel Welch comes off as a tad superficial & unsure of herself. And my God, was James Coburn ever in his element as a fun-loving yet cutting & mean-spirited producer on a very serious mission.
I've been a fan of Coburn since I was a little kid.
As super agent Derek Flint in the two incredibly fun Flint movies, "Our Man Flint" in 1966 & "In Like Flint" in 1967, he was quite simply the coolest cat to ever breathe. In "The President's Analyst," also in '67, he scored big time once more, this time in one of the most enjoyable & wittiest satires ever produced. As a doctor in love with himself, and in lust with Eva Aulin in "Candy" the following year, 1968, he added yet another notch in his legend.
What a run he had from 1966-68, years that also saw him star in Blake Edward's rollicking "What Did You Do In The War, Daddy?" & the great fun Western, "Waterhole #3"! Coburn made a career from super-confident characters. But generally, deep at heart, they were nice guys. His Clinton in "The Last of Sheila" was far more cutting & sarcastic than any prior character he played, taking jabs at his Hollywood friends, none of whom are really his friends. They just want him for what he can do to their careers. Of course, he knows this - so,is his mean-spirited treatment of them justified? You decide.
The bottom line is this: if you enjoy whodunits, then "The Last of Sheila" should be on your list of must-see movies. You'll love it!
Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)
Still too much Jack Black in so-so film
A few things can definitely be recommended about "Kung Fu Panda 2" in 3D and none of them have anything to do with Jack Black. Overall, the film gets mixed grades.
The artwork, the visuals and computer graphics are simply stunning. The production team gets a tip o' the Dodgers cap. Seriously, it's the only reason to see the movie.
Having just raved about the visuals, it's got be be said that at least 10 minutes of the bombastic kung fu fight scenes could easily have been cut.
Why? Because it was nothing but ridiculous overkill, i.e., filler to flesh out a weak and mostly empty script so that the studio could deliver a 90-minute film & justify charging $10-15.
I read that star Jack Black is taking credit for re-writing much of his part. Ten-year-olds loved the results. I'm not sure that many over-10-ers did. Face it, the real Jack Black seems to be nothing more than a big overgrown 10-year-old, so it figures.
Not being a fan of his, a little Jack Black goes a very long way for me. I pretty much think that the guy is minimally talented & basically one of the luckiest, most fortunate people in Hollywood. I do not get his mega-fame.
BTW, John Powell & Hans Zimmer's score stands out in several places.
As for the rest of the big-name cast, octogenarian James Hong as Yoda and Gary Oldman as the chief Blue Meanie are darned good.
However, the rest just don't stand out at all. You could tell me that Jean-Claude Killy voiced Master Croc, not Jean-Claude Van Damme, and I wouldn't have known the difference.
The story & script: Since this is so obviously a kids flick, why did writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger get so deep into the philosophy of finding peace that was what the whole movie was about? This plot went nowhere with the kids I went with & talked to. It was way over their heads.
No, overall, "Kung Fu Panda 2" was a hodgepodge of good & bad. Good visuals, stunning even - and bad everything else.
Master of the World (1961)
A serious American International Pictures period adventure (and it's good!)
I remember seeing this escapist gem, "Master of the World" (1961)after Sunday School one morning when I was 10 or 11. I loved it! AIP's Big Gun, Vincent Price is a thoughtful & gentlemanly, I'll call him, anti-hero rather than bad guy or madman. This is because while he does indeed blow up ships, killing countless men, he's on a quest to end war and thus, the only people he kills are those who make war.
Thinking back, this film's presentation of its writer, Jules Verne's, anti-war philosophy may have made a rather large impression upon me as I started reading about our war in a far-off place called Vietnam, circa 1965 or 1965. Who knows? Anyway, this is a rare motion picture: a serious American International Picture (AIP) film with a serious message.
The film provides Charles Bronson with one of his earliest leading man/hero roles. He handles the role perfectly.
Director William Whitney, who began his career directing Republic cliffhanger serials; and legendary horror/sci-fi/fantasy writer/screenwriter Richard Matheson and their cast play it seriously - as it should be played, the exception coming via Vito Scotti's fun, harried cook. AIP's in-house music director Les Baxter's score is also appropriate for the action.
The special effects team (Tim Baar, Wah Chang, Pat Dinga,Gene Warren) do very nicely working within AIP's usual '60s budget constraints.
The movie flows, it entertains, it even makes you think. This is a good movie!
The Pink Panther (1963)
A brilliant stylish comedy classic
This original "Pink Panther" is unique. It's as stylish and sophisticated as it is slapstick.
From the first "ting, ting ting" of the triangle at the beginning of omposer Henry Mancini's suave, adult & sophisticated score to the classy, upscale locales, this is a classy film.
And amidst it all, we have Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau, a serious detective who is desperately, frustratingly in love with his wife, the ravishing Capucine. BTW, Capucine plays slapstick almost as well as Sellers, unique for such a strikingly beautiful actress.
The contrast between the incredible locations, the settings, the beautiful clothes and people, and the innocent bumbling and ineptitude of Clouseau is sheer brilliance.
This is one of the finest, most brilliant comedies of the past half-century! Too bad so many of its viewers can't grasp it's wonderful, inspired four-star classic brilliance.