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2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
It's a Wonderful Film!, 30 December 2011

"Each man's life touches so many other lives." ~ Clarence Oddbody, AS2

I believe "It's a Wonderful Life" is a favorite of many. It is certainly a favorite of mine. James Stewart's portrayal of George Bailey is, well, wonderful, and one of his very best performances. Lionel Barrymore is perfection as Mr. Potter, the richest and meanest man in town. Donna Reed is darling as George Bailey's beloved wife, Mary. And Henry Travers is charming and adorable as Clarence Oddbody, AS2 (Angel Second Class).

In the spirit of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol", this is the story of a man who gets a rare glimpse of what the world would be like if he never existed. Through the magic of Frank Capra, we take a glorious ride with Clarence, a guardian angel who has yet to earn his wings. In answer to many prayers from the folks of Bedford Falls, Clarence is assigned to help George Bailey, the town's hero, in his darkest hour.

George Bailey is a man who has positively impacted many people's lives by putting the needs of others ahead of his own; but still, he has regrets. After giving up his own career aspirations, he steps into his late father's role of running the small Building and Loan business in order to continue his father's good work to help the folks of Bedford Falls and keep it out of Potter's greedy hands. He settles down and marries his childhood sweetheart and raises a family in the same small town despite his dream to travel the world and become an architect.

Mr. Potter, the heartless villain in the story, tries everything in his power to take down George Bailey and the rinky-dink Building and Loan Company. George manages to keep the company afloat, even using his own money at times, and continues to be loyal to the people of Bedford Falls - who depend on him for a chance to own their own homes. But one fateful day, $8,000 accidentally goes missing from the Building and Loan and George fears the scandal will take them down after all. Distraught and defeated, George contemplates suicide, believing he is worth more dead than alive. Enter Clarence, the gentle and child-like guardian angel, who shows George the way.

The sentiment in this movie is overwhelming and if it does not tug at your heart, you are not human. In classic Capra style, this film offers lessons in patience and perseverance, selflessness and self-respect, loyalty and compassion and faith and forgiveness. This movie is a magical journey of pure love.

Even though I have seen this film many times over, I still watch it every Christmas. It is one of my essentials.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Funny, Funny. not miss the fun!, 22 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In a screwball comedy film, you can't get much better than the genius of a Steve Martin and John Candy combo. This comic duo plays traveling businessmen who accidentally bump into each other during a crazy trip home for the holidays. Steve Martin plays Neal Page - a smug, successful businessman with a wife and three kids who he leaves alone most of the time in their big, suburban house in Chicago while he works too much on the road. John Candy plays Del Griffith, a shower curtain ring salesman who plays the clown on the outside but we know that inside, he is in some kind of pain. He talks too much, is sloppy and carries this giant trunk everywhere he goes; but there is something warm and kind about him; even though he is obnoxious, we cannot help but like him. The two are an unlikely pair; but their paths cross over and over again when Neal Page is trying to get home to his family for Thanksgiving. And just like the characters in this movie, we are in for the ride of our lives!

As you might guess, everything goes wrong for these two. From Del stealing a cab from Neal - and then Neal being bumped from first class on the plane only to be seated next to blabbermouth Del - to further flight delays, and unsuccessful car rentals - this Laurel and Hardy pair eventually end up on the road together and ultimately in the same hotel room...and the same bed. This hotel scene is absolutely sidesplitting.

In another classic scene in which Neal (Martin) tries to get a rental car at the airport, he is so tired and angry, he totally abuses the woman at the car-rental counter. In this scene, the word "f***ing" is uttered more times than you can count and it is so hilarious - your ribs will hurt from laughing.

This movie has some of the funniest scenes in comedy history and if you don't laugh until you cry, there is something seriously wonky with your sense of humor. "You're going the wrong way!" is a line that will forever be associated with this film and if you have not ever seen it, please, please put it on your list.

In the midst of the flawlessly funny exchanges between Martin and Candy, there are some very touching moments in this film that remind us what the holidays are all about: family and friendship; peace, love and goodwill toward others. This movie manages to get that message across loud and clear even though you are laughing your ass off through most of it.

Boy, do I miss John Candy so much. Thank Goodness his movies live on so we can get a glimpse of this brilliantly funny man in action again and again.

The Other (1972)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
"It is best to avoid the beginnings of evil." ~ Henry David Thoreau, 29 October 2011

I watched this 1972 gem of a movie tonight. I had forgotten about this brilliant psychological thriller until I saw it was on TCM tonight. I immediately turned it on.

The story takes place on a Connecticut farm that actually looks like it is in California but who cares; this film has so much to offer. It is an intriguing and extremely disturbing story of good and evil twins- Niles and Holland Perry - and it is one bone-chilling movie. There is no blood and gore but the images in this film are eerie and scary and downright wicked.

The twins have an unusual relationship with their grandmother who teaches them how to play the "game". In this game, they are taught to have out-of-body experiences and transport themselves where they can "see" and "feel" things that no one else can see or feel. There are quite a few unexplained horrible deaths in this story and we are led to believe that the 'evil' twin, Holland, is causing people to die. Meanwhile, Niles, the 'good' twin is trying to figure it all out. Things get out of hand and the grandmother feels responsible for the twins' behavior.

There are some unexpected twists and turns in this film and the ending is a pure shocker that leaves your blood cold. The acting in this film is outstanding and it is skillfully directed by Robert Mulligan of "To Kill a Mockingbird" fame. The story is based on the book by Tom Tyron, who also happened to write the screenplay. There is a nod to "The Bad Seed"- another terrific evil child story.

This may not be a well-known film in the horror genre but it should be. It is incredibly terrifying. An absolute must-see if you get the chance.

12 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
Classic, genuine and spooky with a top-notch cast, 23 October 2011

I will take you places you've never been. I will show you things that you have never seen and I will see the life run out of you. ~ Eva, in the film Ghost Story

The movie centers on a group of elderly men who have formed an exclusive story-telling group called The Chowder Society. The men meet regularly, sit around a fire in a dark room and share their best ghost stories. Under the surface, however, lies a ghastly secret they all share - a real life, true ghost story of their own that they dare not speak of.

When one of The Chowder Society member's twin sons dies in a very strange and inexplicable accident, the other twin returns home to mourn with his father. That is when a series of horrifying events begin to unfold, forcing the men of the Chowder Society to come to terms with the shocking and dreadful event that has haunted them for the past 50 years.

I personally love these types of stories. They do not feature masked- maniacs hunting down unsuspecting teenagers and hacking them to death. (Although there are a few good ones in that category!) What this story does provide is a genuine chill-running-down-your-spine sensation that brings you to a terrifying place without ever forcing you to close your eyes.

A star-studded cast includes Fred Astaire, Melvyn Douglas, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., John Houseman and Patricia Neal, Jacqueline Brookes, Craig Wasson and Alice Krige. Having a cast with such experienced and talented actors creates a believable and authentic film making it a worthwhile, scary little gem of a movie.

If you like genuine ghost stories, watch this movie. Based on the novel by the gifted Peter Straub and skillfully directed by John Irvin, this film is a top pick for me.

Audition (1999)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"A particularly beautiful woman is a source of terror…" ~ Carl Jung, 23 October 2011

This is one of the creepiest films I have ever seen. It begins with this man - Shigeharu Aoyama (played by Ryo Ishibashi) - weeping by his dying wife's bedside. After she dies, he becomes a reclusive, lonely widower with a small son.

Fast forward to the future, and his son, Shighiko, (played by Tetsu Sawaki) is all grown up and ready to leave the nest but worries that his dad will be alone for the rest of his life. With the son's influence, the dad's best friend decides to help him find a new wife. The two hold "auditions" to find the right bride for Shigeharu, bringing the women in under false pretenses, promising them a movie role if they pass the audition.

One woman after another auditions and Shigeharu is not interested in any of them. But then, one audition stands out from the rest. Asami Yamazaki (played by Eihi Shiina) is a quiet, reserved beauty. Shigeharu is not only intrigued, he eventually becomes obsessed with her. They begin an intimate relationship and it becomes very intense – and very strange.

We, the audience know that something is very odd about this woman although we cannot be sure what it is. She is definitely not who she appears to be. Suspense builds. Little by little we find out some very unnerving things about this woman but still, we are not sure what she is all about.

The story may move a little slow for some looking for a lot of action and thrills throughout the film. It is not your run-of-mill American slasher-horror film with a bunch of meaningless gore, but is an intelligent, subtle and eerie story. It pulls you in because you want to find out what this woman is hiding – what she is all about. When you finally realize what she is up to, well…. be prepared for a very shocking and disturbing finale. It is pure, raw terror at its best.

Japanese director, Takashi Miike, does an excellent job of building uncertainty and anticipation slowly and masterfully in this evocative, intellectual thriller. His staggering images will haunt you long after the closing credits.

A must-see for serious horror fans!

Halloween (1978)
2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Great, Classic, Scary Fun!, 23 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Halloween – 1978

"It's Halloween, everyone's entitled to good scare" ~ quote by Sheriff Leigh Brackett, Halloween

What can I say? "Halloween" is in the best of the best group in the horror-film genre. It has all the right ingredients to scare the crap out of you. It's campy enough to be almost laughable at times and scary enough to make you jump out of your seat. When it was first released in 1978 by a young John Carpenter as a little Indie film with a budget of about $300,000, movie-goers were in for a real Halloween treat.

Following in her mother's footsteps as a scream-queen, Jamie Lee Curtis (in her first movie role) was picture-perfect as Laurie Strode - the nerdy, goody-two-shoes babysitter who ends up in a tête-à-tête with the infamous, maniacal killer - Michael Myers.

It starts out on Halloween night (of course!) in 1963, in the small town of Haddonfield, Illinois, where trick-or-treaters are wandering the happy, suburban streets, clad in costumes and masks. Jack-O-Lanterns are on every porch. Young Michael Myers, in his plastic, child's Halloween mask (and seemingly in some sort of trance), enters his house, climbs the stairs to a bedroom above and stabs his older sister to death for no apparent reason.

So, there's a scary start. Love it!

The story jumps forward in time to fifteen years later in 1978 and once again it is… yes – you guessed it – Halloween - and the grown-up Michael Myers (played by Nick Castle and by far the best Michael Myers) is in a mental institution, apparently in a catatonic state, having been devoid of emotions for the past 15 years. Donald Pleasence is marvelous as the intense and driven Dr. Loomis, the psychiatrist in charge of Michael's medical care and who has deemed him unfit for release into society – ever. To Dr. Loomis, Michael Myers is far more dangerous than a sociopath or a psychopath; Michael Myers is evil incarnate. He is a monster.

But, as is predictable in this story, Michael Myers escapes from the mental institution, steals a car and heads back to his home town of Haddonfield – the site of the grisly murder of his sister. How he has learned to drive a car and how he even knows how to get to Haddonfield after being locked up in an institution since he was a 6 year-old boy, is something we ignore.

Laurie Strode is unnerved when she first spots the very creepy Michael, who now dons a very creepy Halloween mask, standing outside her classroom window while she is at school. For some reason, he seems to be fixated on her. (There's a back story here but we don't find out all the details until the 1981 sequel, Halloween II, is released. But no matter, one does not need to know the back story to appreciate this film; on its own, this film is enough to make your heart jump out of your chest). Later, when she is walking home from school with her rather insensitive and obnoxious gal pals, she spots the masked-Michael once again, staring her down from behind a hedge. He disappears from sight before her girlfriends see him. Oh, geez, he is one terrifying dude.

Later, Laurie and her friend Annie are both babysitting some neighborhood kids. Annie is the local Sheriff's daughter and she is a spoiled, wise-cracking bad girl who would rather spend time making out with her boyfriend than babysitting; so she unloads her babysitting responsibility on Laurie, who agrees to take care of little Lindsey in addition Tommy Doyle, for whom she is already babysitting.

There are some heart-thumping, skin-crawling scenes of Michael Myers' ghost-like image appearing in the shadows, tilting his head to the side (just that gesture alone will make you wet your pants!) as he watches Annie in the laundry room, washing her blouse, and later, during her fatal encounter with him in her car.

Another teenage couple shows up at the house where Annie is supposed to be babysitting but no one is at home. They soon discover that Annie has dumped the kid with Laurie so they decide to stay and fool around. From here on in, there is non-stop terror while Michael Myers runs amok. Meanwhile, Dr. Loomis is frantically trying to track down his patient, knowing for sure that Michael is on a quest to return to his hometown and get revenge. He joins forces with the local police to hunt for the deranged Michael Myers before he kills again.

In the end, Laurie Strode must protect herself and the children in her charge. She must take on the evil -and seemingly indestructible Michael Myers - all on her own. You go, girl!

"Was it the bogeyman?"

Thrills and chills and a good amount of gruesome gore abound in this "mother" of the modern slasher-flick. John Carpenter's direction and his unforgettable, spine-chilling music score make this an all-time favorite for horror movie fans.

It just wouldn't be Halloween without watching "Halloween".