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9304 reviews in total 
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Effie Gray (2014)
stifled, 16 September 2017

Effie Gray (Dakota Fanning) is the eager teenage bride to prominent art academic John Ruskin (Greg Wise). On the other hand, he is cold to her affections. His unreasonably overprotective mother (Julie Walters) tells her to leave him alone to his work. He champions pre-Raphaelite paintings and John Everett Millais (Tom Sturridge) in particular. Sir Charles Eastlake is the president of the academy and his progressive wife (Emma Thompson) befriends Effie. Effie grows lonely in the stifling home and more attracted to Millais setting off a scandal in Victorian England.

The first half is dull like John Ruskin. There are snippets of goodness from Walters and Thompson. Fanning is captured by the costume drama. Sturridge starts to make himself known at the midpoint. The slow pacing really kills this. Society has imprisoned Effie and the narrative has imprisoned this movie. One way to empower Effie would be to make her more compelling and more capable in the artistic world. Is John Ruskin supposed to be closeted and can they make that part of the story? This movie needs something to energize it and spice it up.

Shakespearian, 15 September 2017

The title refers to the corrupting politics setting the stage for the final collapse of the Roman Empire far in the future. Marcus Aurelius (Alec Guinness) is the aging Roman Emperor. His closest supporters are the ethical general Gaius Livius (Stephen Boyd) and Greek former slave Timonides (James Mason). Livius is in love with Aurelius' daughter Lucilla (Sophia Loren). Aurelius wants to make Livius his heir instead of his son Commodus (Christopher Plummer). This sets off a series of dark events with consequences that will bring down an empire.

Although this is a sword and sandal epic, it has more in common with a Shakespearian play. There are some action battles and big set pieces. The settings are impressive. There are some big scenes with lots of extras. It is however more reliant on an epic of human drama. Some of the acting can be old fashion but that's par for the course. Loren comes off a little stiff while Plummer revels in some broader work. In a way, it fits the Shakespearian feel. This is a nice example of a lesser known Hollywood epic.

nice character work, 15 September 2017

Blinded since birth, Don Baker (Edward Albert) has a place in San Francisco. It's the first time he's living away from his overprotective mother (Eileen Heckart). His free-spirit neighbor Jill Tanner (Goldie Hawn) visits and is surprised by his blindness. She's a 19 year old aspiring actress divorcée. They get together and then his mother visits.

Goldie Hawn is the definition of free-spirit IT girl. It's a fine pairing that heightens when they are joined by Heckart. Her entry just elevates the humor to another level but it becomes more than a comedy. Goldie takes a turn that takes the story into good emotional drama. Heckart rides this roller-coaster role. This has a bit of characters-stuck-in-a-room feel from its source material as a play. Nevertheless, these are compelling characters.

needs a better kid, 15 September 2017

Navy sailor John Baggs Jr. (James Caan) is on a Cinderella Liberty pass when he picks up sexy Maggie Paul (Marsha Mason) hustling pool in the city. She's a prostitute with a son named Doug. His friend former sailor Forshay (Eli Wallach) is a doorman at a bar. Baggs' records are lost and he gets no pay & no orders. He is taken aback when the social worker lets slip Maggie's pregnancy from another guy earlier.

Mason got an Oscar nomination. When she got exposed by the social worker, she has a terrific moment of desperation and anger. It's an excellent acting overall. Same goes for Caan. It's a rambling plot but that's not a problem. The actual problem is the kid. Kid actors are often a hit or miss proposition. This one is mostly a miss. He doesn't really have any charisma. It makes it more difficult to develop chemistry with Baggs. This is quite fine and would be great with a better kid.

bad 80s teen movie, 15 September 2017

Radio station manager Doug Simpson (Tony Danza) gets into a fight and thrown out of the window. The cops interrogate him. The station is fading. He's a widower raising daughters Katie (Ami Dolenz) and Bonnie. Katie turns 15 and is adorkable. Richie is her equally dorky neighbor boyfriend. While Doug is out of town, she gets a makeover from his girlfriend Janet Pearson (Catherine Hicks). Suddenly, she's hot and every guy notices. Let the parade of guys begin. Doug seeks help from Dr. Herman Fishbinder (Wallace Shawn) and his book.

I imagine this would be the fate of 80s teen movies if John Hughes didn't exist. It's cheesy and father-knows-best is overwhelmed. Even the drag race and burger place hearkens back to the 50s in their styles. Danza is not able to get beyond his TV personality. It is unrelentingly unfunny. It takes no risks other than Katie's age. Dolenz is actually 19 as she plays the 15 year old. There is a Lolita factor in a bad way as she does the slow-motion Baywatch running. There is also a young Matthew Perry who comes in during the second half. It's all pretty bad. Nobody actually needs to see this.

The Racket (1951)
all the needed parts, 15 September 2017

The governor's crime commission fears a large criminal syndicate is moving into the city. The criminals are trying to elect Welsh as their own county judge. They recruit local gangster Nick Scanlon (Robert Ryan) but he's uncertain of their all-encompassing political ways. Corrupted officials are pushing the incorruptible police Captain Thomas McQuigg (Robert Mitchum) to the sideline. Then there is the nightclub singer Irene Hayes (Lizabeth Scott).

This should be a great hardcore crime noir. It has Mitchum. The story is simple good cop against bad criminals. It falters with the flat uninspired story. It should have started with Mitchum right off the bat. I have nothing against Ryan and his shaving scene is fun. There is nothing that memorable and Mitchum is wasted in the effort. His presence is still powerful enough to drive this crime action movie forward but this is definitely not upper level stuff.

echoes of the past, 14 September 2017

It's been 20 years. Mark 'Rent Boy' Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns from Amsterdam to find Edinburgh changed. He reconnects with Daniel 'Spud' Murphy (Ewen Bremner) and Simon 'Sick Boy' Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller) after giving them £4000 to make up for his betrayal. Simon has been pimping out his girlfriend Veronika and blackmailing her clients. When a client goes to the police, the guys seek help from former girlfriend Diane Coulston (Kelly Macdonald) who is now a solicitor. Spud has been struggling with heroine and daylight savings time. Meanwhile, Franco Begbie (Robert Carlyle) has been in prison all this time. He escapes and when he runs into Rent Boy, he intends to get his revenge.

There is an exuberant energy to Danny Boyle's original. The actors were so young and everything heightened. It is a desperate, devastating, memorable, and fun journey. There are unforgettable scenes. This one is an echo of that past. An echo can still be compelling. Many of the characters are back and we get a nice visit with them. They renew their relationships. It just doesn't have the same power. It is a few steps down. While the characters return, the sense of place and time is disconnected. In a way, the characters are out of place and time. The world has passed them by and they are collapsing on themselves. It's sad and fitting. They are fading and so is this sequel. It's definitely not as shocking or groundbreaking anymore.

FBI: Negotiator (2005) (TV)
struggles to be more, 14 September 2017

Laura Martin (Elisabeth Röhm) is a single mom and an FBI negotiator replacing the sexist angry veteran Agent Carlo. She's secretly dating her superior Frank Gerrard. Her daughter Taylor is best friends with sickly Annie Moss (Britt McKillip) and her mother Elizabeth (Chandra West). Annie is desperate for a transplant. Laura is sidelined after a difficult negotiation and then Elizabeth takes hostages at the hospital to get her daughter into an experimental trial.

This is a TV movie. It is awkwardly clunky at times. It can't exceed its TV essence. The leads are fine actors. It pushes the melodrama too hard. It struggles to be something more. None of it is anything exception.

Sholay (1975)
Bollywood western classic, 14 September 2017

On a personal vendetta, retired policeman Thakur Baldev Singh recruits lifelong thieves Veeru and Jai to capture bandit leader Gabbar Singh. Two years earlier, Thakur had captured the two thieves. While transporting them on a train, they are attacked by bandits. Thakur releases them to help fight off the bandits. He becomes severely wounded in the fight but the guys risk imprisonment to save his life after flipping a coin for the decision. Along the way, the boys befriend talkative village girl Basanti.

This is a blending of Bollywood and a spaghetti western. It definitely has elements of both and is able mix them well. There are lots of action although sometimes they fall short in terms of staging. There is also the song and dance element. There is broad comedy. I like Basanti but I'm less taken with the Hitler-stached jailer. He is way too broad. The main leads are charismatic and compelling. Overall, there is a solid Magnificent Seven feel and this is only a small step beneath that level of cinema.

religious recounting, 13 September 2017

This chronicles the rise of Islam led by the prophet Mohammad. Director Moustapha Akkad got the backing of Al-Azhar in Egypt and respecting Islamic tradition, Mohammad is not portrayed in the film. Anthony Quinn plays Mohammad's uncle Hamza. Irene Papas plays Hind, an enemy of the new religion.

There are issues of accuracy and religious propriety which are beyond my purview. I don't have anything to judge a large part of this movie. Quinn is the big name but he's only a supporting character. In fact, the leading character is not portrayed at all. This leads to an intriguing aspect of this movie. Without a lead, the movie is not a focused narrative. What it is is a fascinating recounting of a religious movement. There are big action scenes for the battles. The actors are experienced. I am reluctant to give this a rating since a lot of this is beyond me.

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