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A vast improvement, 30 March 2015

Dr. Benjamin McKenna (James Stewart), his wife Josephine McKenna (Doris Day) and their son Hank from Indianapolis are vacationing in Morocco. Frenchman Louis Bernard befriends the family on the bus ride but Jo is suspicious of the inquisitive stranger. Ben dismisses her. They run into Bernard again. This time he's in the streets chased by the police, disguised as an Arab, stabbed in the back and tells Ben with his dying breath that a statesman is about to be assassinated in London and warns him about Ambrose Chappell. Hank is kidnapped by Edward and Lucy Drayton who pretended to be friendly fellow vacationers. Ben receives a threatening phone call. In London, Scotland Yard Inspector Buchanan (Ralph Truman) confirms that Bernard was actually an agent tracking an unknown couple who turned out to be the Draytons.

Alfred Hitchcock simply makes an improved film over his first attempt. Stewart is the superior everyman lead actor. Doris Day is actually a good actress-turn-Midwestern-housewife. It's fascinating that he forced her to take a Valium before telling her that their son was kidnapped. It says a lot about their characters. The Morocco section is exotic. The second half is improved. Everything is better.

The Double (2013)
great surrealism, 30 March 2015

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) is a timid office drone. He is in love with Hannah (Mia Wasikowska) but is too flustered to tell her. Co-worker Harris (Noah Taylor) is friendly. Melanie (Yasmin Paige) is his boss Mr. Papadopoulos (Wallace Shawn)'s daughter and she's downright hostile. New employee James Simon looks exactly like him. Only James is much more confident and people actually like him. James tries to guide Simon in dating Hannah but she actually wants to date James. So James switch places with Simon but it doesn't work out. James continue to rise on the work done by Simon.

The style is a bit of Terry Gilliam's Brazil. The doppleganger switcharoo reminds me of 'Dead Ringers'. The problem is that Jesse's fast-talking twitchy mannerisms sometime overshadow the differences in the two roles. It takes a split second especially since they both dress the same. The story is Kafkaesque but it relies too much on the characters being completely clueless. They're not threatening but rather idiotic. There is a lack of humanity and humanness in these characters. Hannah also bugs me a little with her final ill treatment of Simon. I also don't like James and Simon's connectivity. If they're not connected, then it would be a more compelling ending of Simon killing James to take his place or James killing Simon as a final act to erase him. Quite frankly, I don't get why Simon survives at the end in this movie. This is a great idea but it seems to have some little problems as it closes in on the ending.

good chemistry and good locations, 30 March 2015

Governor of Hawaii creates a task force headed by Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin). Steve is ex-naval intelligence and navy SEAL. She offers him wide leeway to catch his father's killer. His father mentored and supported detective Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) even as he was accused of impropriety. Danny Williams (Scott Caan) moved from Newark to stay close to his daughter and investigating the murder of Steve's father. Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) is Chin Ho Kelly's cousin. They and others form the task force known as Five-O.

They've amped up this reboot. I'm not so enamored with the militarization and the hyped up personal melodrama. I tune out every time the show goes to a personal villain from the past. None of the villains are compelling. I do like the exotic location. Quite frankly, I'm happy for something different on TV and the Hawaiian locations are a big sales point for me. The banter between Steve and Danno is fun. They have good chemistry. The overall team has some good family chemistry. The police procedural is functional but the show struggles from time to time.

intriguing Asimov concept told flatly by Columbus, 30 March 2015

In the not too distant future, Richard Martin (Sam Neill) buys a robot for his home. His wife (Wendy Crewson) isn't so sure. His daughter Grace tells the younger sister Amanda that it's an android. Amanda can't quite say the word Android and instead says Andrew. From then on, the robot is named Andrew (Robin Williams). Grace commands Andrew to jump out of the window and Richard tells the children to treat Andrew as a person from then on. Richard notices signs of individual creativity in Andrew and brings it back to the company. Dennis Mansky (Stephen Root) wants to disassembles Andrew but Richard refuses. The Martins go on a lifelong journey to nurture Andrew's individuality as he/it becomes more human. Adult Amanda (Embeth Davidtz) pushes to treat Andrew as a person and even granting him his freedom. Andrew discovers inventor Rupert Burns (Oliver Platt) who's father was the original designer.

There are some bad attempts at humor. There are also some better ones. There is a knock-knock sequence that is reminiscent of Abbott and Costello. However that is more of an exception in this movie. Mostly the movie feels overly sentimental and cheesy. It simply lacks tension and drama for the most part. Isaac Asimov stories don't usually have the cinematic feel. They are more about ideas than a thrill ride. This movie attempts to make an Asimov story that spans two centuries into a compelling drama. It is probably too high of a hurdle. Quite frankly, I don't think Chris Columbus has the edge to do it or the artistry to make it unique. I keep thinking that there are more compelling stories in the 200 years but Columbus could never find them. It becomes a rather flat telling of a story that has an intriguing big-time concept at its core.

Interiors (1978)
Woody does Bergman, 30 March 2015

Corporate attorney Arthur (E. G. Marshall) wants to separate from his wife Eve (Geraldine Page). They have three children as the news hit the family members differently. Eve was an interior decorator who supported her husband's early career. However her state deteriorates and the separation puts her over the edge. Joey (Mary Beth Hurt) is with her boyfriend Mike (Sam Waterston) and struggles for a direction. Successful poet Renata (Diane Keaton) is struggling at her work and her marriage to Frederick. Flyn (Kristin Griffith) is the absentee daughter with a B-movie career. The three sisters clash and their father returns from Greece with new girlfriend Pearl (Maureen Stapleton).

Woody Allen is doing Ingmar Bergman in an artistic family drama. It is quiet with little or no music. It's considered his first major drama. There are nice performances as each character shows his/her damaged interiors. It's an interesting exercise that Woody Allen is doing but it would be better if he finds his own voice rather than copying somebody else's. The muted tones keep the movie from truly exploding. It is still compelling to watch.

Funny buddy cop duo, 30 March 2015

Danny Costanzo (Billy Crystal) and Ray Hughes (Gregory Hines) are streetwise Chicago cops. They are surprised to see drug dealer Julio Gonzales (Jimmy Smits) out on the streets so soon after sending him to prison. They catch his associate Snake (Joe Pantoliano). They use Snake in a sting on Julio who seems to have new cash and trying to be the new Al Capone. It's a trap. Snake is killed and the guys are almost killed when Julio's associates turn out to be undercover cops. They manage to capture Julio but Captain Logan (Dan Hedaya) orders the guys to go on vacation for their sloppy work. They are enchanted by their Key West vacation and plan to open a bar there. They give their 30 day notice but Julio manages to get bail. They vow to get Julio before their time is up but Danny starts to be careful. The captain thinks the guys are short timers running scared and make them teach those undercover cops the ropes. Julio kidnaps Danny's beloved ex-wife Anna Costanzo (Darlanne Fluegel).

I love the duo of Hines and Crystal. Their banter is hilarious and I love the 22 muggers scene. They've got great chemistry and I wish they could have made a sequel. At least, they should have made another buddy comedy. There is a great car chase onto the train tracks. I must admit that I didn't get the title when I was young. I kept thinking it's the bad guys who are running scared.

so cheesy and a horrible name, 30 March 2015

The year is 41. In a dystopian future, water is scarce and the Protectorate controls everything. Legend says that the Bohdai will come from space to liberate the people and the water. Orphanage 43 borders on the wasteland. A game that is both lacrosse and roller derby is played. Jason (Jason Patric) leads his rag tag group Solarbabies that includes Terra (Jami Gertz), Tug ( Peter DeLuise), Rabbit (Claude Brooks), Metron (James LeGros) and deaf boy Daniel (Lukas Haas). Strictor Grock (Richard Jordan) runs the lead group Scorpions and gives them all the privileges. The Warden (Charles Durning) is more practical and would rather not run the camp as a prison. Shandray (Sarah Douglas) is one of the teacher. Daniel finds a glowing orb in a cave which fixes his hearing. The orb communicates with Daniel calling itself Bohdai.

It's a young adult dystopian movie before it became a trend. The problem is the overwhelming sense of cheesiness. It starts with the stupid name Solarbabies. I don't know where it comes from but it needed to stay there. The game is reminiscent of all the silly movie 'Roller' games that was so popular in 70s B-movie. This movie is full of bad smelly cheese. It's only salvation is the cast of good young actors and the bare bones of a better story underneath. It could probably be remade after a lot of rewrites.

Raw Deal (1986)
Schwarzenegger does a little acting, 29 March 2015

Mark Kaminski (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a small town sheriff. His wife Amy is tired of small town life after 5 years. Mark had roughed up a bad guy and Marvin Baxter threatened to prosecute him unless he resigned from the FBI. Baxter is now after mobster Luigi Patrovita and his muscle Paulo Rocca. Mark's old boss Harry Shannon lost his son to Patrovita's men when they hit a witness under their protection. There is a mole in the FBI. Harry wants to send Mark undercover into Patrovita's organization without anybody else's knowledge and holding out the possibility of reinstatement. Mark fakes his death and takes on a new identity as he bulldoze the organization.

I don't know why he has to blow up an oil facility to fake his death. The explosion does look cool. I also don't know what kind of cop could simply gun down suspected bad guys for no reason. So this movie has no subtlety and can't be taken realistically. Director John Irvin has stuffed a lot of action and explosions to cover up the non-sense. Schwarzenegger shows himself to be more than just a sword swinger or a killing machine. He stretches his acting to show a little bit of range which he puts to better use in his other movies. It's not mindless action but the story is not written well enough to be taken seriously.

one unbelievable turn in good children sci-fi fantasy, 29 March 2015

It's 1978 Florida. 12 year old David Freeman (Joey Cramer)'s parents are Helen (Veronica Cartwright) and Bill (Cliff De Young). He falls down a ravine in the woods behind his house and hits his head. He wakes up to find 8 years have passed but he hasn't aged a single day. His little brother Jeff (Matt Adler) is now 16. Meanwhile Dr. Louis Faraday (Howard Hesseman) is investigating a crashed UFO. David seems to have a connection to the ship. Faraday convinces the family to allow David to go with him by his lonesome. Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a low level worker at the secret facility who befriends David.

There is a moment where this movie goes off the tracks a little. Faraday is able to convince David and his family to allow him to go off to a secret base with strangers all by himself. It's crazy unbelievable. No parents would ever do that without guns pointed at their heads especially for a 12 year old who's been missing for 8 years and presumed dead. I get the appeal of having the kid by himself in a strange environment. It raises the tension but does it in an unreasonable way. The core of the movie is a fascinating children's sci-fi fantasy. Joey Cramer is an endearing child actor. There are a lot to like in this movie but that turn keeps bugging me.

Norman Bates is Bergman's number one fan, 29 March 2015

Paula Tessier (Ingrid Bergman) is a 40 year old successful decorator in Paris. She is dating Roger Demarest (Yves Montand) but he's not willing to get married again. He's got a wandering eye. She insists that she doesn't want to try marriage again either but that's a white lie. Philip Van der Besh (Anthony Perkins) is a 25 year old carefree lawyer. His mother hires Paula to redecorate her lavish apartment. The young man flirts and flirts until Paula relents and they start dating.

It's very odd to have this as Anthony Perkins' next movie after Psycho. I keep wondering if he's got a crazy interior monologue going. It's also hard to see any good chemistry between Perkins and Bergman. It would make more sense if this movie turns dark and Perkins becomes a creepy stalker. He's playing it so immaturely and weirdly. It's not really youthful exuberance. His flirting is actually quite scary. He's more like either desperately pretending to be childish or Bergman's most obsessive fan. Also it's Psycho. I just can't get that out of my mind.

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