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jayraskin1

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319 reviews in total 
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Boulevard (1994)
Good on Atmosphere, Terrible on Character Development, 28 June 2014
3/10

There's some nice cinematography and atmosphere. The film makes you feel the cold of the Toronto streets where the prostitutes ply their trade. It has a nice streets of the city, Scorsese "Taxi Driver" atmosphere.

Unfortunately the characters, despite some nice acting by the cast, are pretty one dimensional. They are constantly doing things that are required by the script, but make no sense. For example, why does the lead character Jennifer stand freezing on a street after arriving in Toronto instead of getting help? Why does she go with a pimp (Lou Diamond Philips) who she has seen abusing women, including her best friend, Ola. Why does her best friend, Ola, befriend the prostitutes on the street, but not report the pimp to the police when he kills a prostitute? Why does the pimp kill the prostitute? Why does the cop threaten to kill the pimp whom he knows is a murderer, but does not arrest him? Why does a ticket seller for Greyhound tell a psychotic looking boyfriend which bus she has taken, when he can just say, "I don't remember." The answer is that they are following a script that makes them all look stupid at every turn.

The movie's solution to the prostitution problems it raises is simple. Prostitutes and abused girlfriends should get guns and kill their tormentors. Police should just turn a blind eye when this happens.

Three stars for the cinematography and acting. Zero for everything else.

A Shrunk Version of the Story, But It Does Have Jerry Lewis, 12 April 2014
7/10

This has a good cast, but they are forced to do the story in just 52 minutes for a one hour television show. It is really not enough time and they are only given a couple a short scenes each. Imagine any decent play, for example "Hamlet" or "A Doll's House being cut to 52 minutes and you understand the problem. There are only a few cheap sets and the story just barely pulls you in dramatically before it suddenly ends.

The center of the piece is Jerry Lewis. He certainly makes the story seem autobiographical with the script tailored to make him a comedian instead of the title Jazz Singer. Yet he puts a good deal of feeling into it, forsaking the more outrageous and juvenile slapstick that he is known for. He acts much closer to his sincere, heart on the sleeve, Muscular Dystrophy Telephon Host.

If you don't like Jerry Lewis, you will hate it. If you're a Jerry Lewis fan, you'll forgive the shortcomings and appreciate that this is one of the few dramatic roles he played at the peak of his career.

If you're Jewish add another star for an 8 out of 10. The conflict between the Rabbi father and the son who disappoints him by seeking a secular career instead of a religious touches a Jewish cord, although it has a universal aspect.

Great Second Season Episode, 7 March 2014
9/10

This is one of the best episodes of the second season. Abbott and Costello get to be judges of a Miss Mud-Turtle lodge contest. Mr. Fields wants his man-hungry niece to win and bribes Abbott by foregoing rent money. At the same time a gangster pays $100 for his girl friend to be picked. Unfortunately, Costello knows nothing about this and chooses sexy contestant #5. This brings the wrath of both Mr. Fields and the gangster.

There is a line in this episode which somehow made it past the censors that is hilarious. Contestant #5 gives Lou her phone number and says, "If a man answers, don't hang up. He's very broad-minded." The meaning is obvious -- she is a professional prostitute living with her pimp. How did the censors miss that?

A Nicely Acted Fairy Tale, 5 February 2014
8/10

While not great, this is a good episode. A daughter tries to save her father who is a failure as an alchemist.

The story has a nice fairy tale quality. The daughter has to use the same gold ingot over and over again to convince her father that he can make gold.

Monika Lovett gives a touching performance as the daughter who tries to save her father's life by convincing him that he has successfully made gold.

Gene Lockhart was a bit character actor, probably best known as the sheriff in "His Girl Friday," and the judge in "Miracle on 34th street. His career revived in early television where he did around 50 shows between 1950 and 1956. He was the real life father of actress June Lockhart ("Lassie" and "Lost in Space") He is fine as the father-frustrated gold-maker.

Good Acting and Writing Saves Depression Era Corruption Tale, 18 April 2013
8/10

When you see Monogram's opening logo, you can be pretty sure of two things: Production values are going to look like they cost $1.98 and the movie is probably going be just over an hour long. This movie doesn't surprise as the production values are pretty much a couple of desks and a few chairs in grey offices and it runs about 71 minutes.

However, it is a surprisingly interesting little melodrama and Sidney Blackmer and Martha Sleeper do a very nice job of making us care for their characters. John Hart (Blackmer) seems like a very nice guy at first. He's a bit dull, but with a kind face. He inadvertently helps to create the 1928 stock market crash by agreeing with newspaper man Phil Stuart's (Regis Toomey) observation that stocks are overvalued. He only goes along with Stuart because he loses a bet on a coin toss. The way Blackmer makes his important decisions with a coin toss probably paved the way for Carey Grant's brilliant work in "Mr. Lucky." His wayward character also tosses a coin for decisions in that movie. A coin toss gets Blackmer involved in a shady financial scheme. His involvement with criminal lawyers turns out to be a very surprising plot development in the film.

Also surprising is his relationship or non-relationship with heroine Marcia Harper (Martha Sleeper). Hart's shady deals causes the demise of Marcia's father. The rest of the film follows Marcia's relentless attempt to seek justice.

Martha plays the character with a deep and cold seriousness. It is really impressive. She had done 80 films over 10 years before this, mostly silent comedy shorts. Sadly, she only did three or four more films after this. It is surprising that nobody picked up on how good an actress she was from this film. She really looks like an outraged woman out to avenge her father's death.

The newspaperman Phil Stuart provides some nice comic relief. His specialty is alliterative newspaper headlines. For this movie, one of his headlines could have read, "Depression Double Dealing Dance Doesn't Disappoint"

For anybody who wants to see a perfectly good melodrama about the Great Depression made in 1935, I would recommend it.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The Best Post Apocalypse Movie I Have Ever Seen, 14 April 2013
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I am glad that 15 out of the last 20 reviewers over the last two years have given this movie 6 stars or above. As the wicked hatchet job the professional critics did on the movie when it first came out in 1997 gets forgotten, I believe more and more people will discover just how brilliant and classic this film is and 3/4ths of people who see it will enjoy it.

In the year 2013, after an apocalypse, only small bands of isolated, frightened humans are still alive in the western United States. Apparently all electricity and electrical communication is gone. People are suspicious of each other and live in fortress-like towns. Loner Costner discovers an old mail truck with a dead mailman inside. He takes the clothes of the mailman and carries his mailbag filled with mail. Desperately needing food, he approaches the guards at the gate of a nearby town and tells them that he is a postman appointed by the new President of the United States, Richard Starkey, from Minnesota to deliver mail. The people of the town believe his story and are excited that civilization is starting again. One of the town's young men demands that Costner tell him how he can become a postman like him. Costner appoints him the postman for the town. The town's sheriff discovers Costner's deception and kicks him out of town.

The following year, Costner returns again. He is astonished to find a fully functioning post office with dozens of new postmen and women delivering mail to different towns in the region. Costner gets welcomed back as a hero and nearly a God. Everyone now believes Costner's fable about the United States starting up again and the new president living in Minnesota. Costner's great lies about a new country starting are ironically actually causing a new country to be started.

Why did the movie get such bad reviews? It believe it was because of the movie's ideology. I think the extreme negative reaction was only because the movie presented the idea that total lies can be believed and start new movements. It is an offensive thought for many true believers. The hero, Kevin Costner, makes up a fabulous lie. It leads to a new cult centered around him.

The movie at one point makes the connection to Christian ideology transparent. Costner asks his companion Abbey why everybody believes the nonsense he made up. She answers, "You made Mrs. March feel like she could see again. You made Ford believe he was part of something. You give out hope like it was candy in your pocket." If you like Westerns or Science Fiction or just thoughtful movies, you'll probably enjoy this movie. I am sorry that I listened to the critics and did not see it for 15 years after it came out.

Red Lights (2012)
1 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Goes Way Off the Tracks After the First Hour, 13 April 2013
1/10

The first half of the movie, as other reviewers have noted, is fairly suspenseful and interesting. The second half just leaves you questioning almost every scene, "Why did that happen?" or "Why did he do that?" The WTF ending is so absurd that I felt like punching the director when the final "A Film by" credit came up.

One has to wonder why good actors like Deniro, Weaver and Joely Richardson are wasting their time with such trivial nonsense. Perhaps the script read better than the jumbled, poorly edited mess that it turned out to be. I would say that it does show some originality in the tired genre of films about the paranormal. Unfortunately it does not deliver any genuine scares or shocks, although there are a couple of disgusting, gross out scenes that should have been left on the cutting room floor. The film does not deliver on its promises, and I can't think of anybody, including fans of paranormal films, that might enjoy it.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
"Love is the Illusion that One Woman is Different From the Others, 17 March 2013
8/10

The Baron is an aging, cynical lady's man. He has a key-chain with about 50 keys to different women' apartments in Paris. He selects one at random to see who he will sleep with at night. His adversary is a young Parisian artist (the next Picasso), Victor. Victor believes in love and he's going to marry his girlfriend Claudette as soon as he sells his first painting. The Baron seduces Claudette, seemingly to teach Victor a lesson. However, as might be predicted, he soon falls in love with Claudette himself.

Lew Cody, who was married to Mabel Normand for three and 1/2 years (1926-1930) plays the Baron. Cody was 48 at the time and soon died two years later at 50. He looks older, which makes the Baron seem more lecherous as he searches for young women to hook up with. What saves him is that he is quite generous with the women he hires to have affairs with. He gives them expensive jewelry. At one point, when a woman wants to break up with him, he opens a book and notes that he has given her 460 thousand francs worth of jewelry. She offers to give them back. He rejects the offer and says that he expected to give her 1/2 million, so he gives her 40 thousand more francs as a going away gift. Cody is quite likable, suave and amusing, although a handsomer actor like Douglas Fairbanks would perhaps have been better.

Gilbert Roland is surprisingly weak as the artist Victor. He plays the film very straight. There is none of the glee that one might expect based on his other roles (for example, the Spanish Ambassador in Greta Garbo's "Queen Christina"). He genuinely seems to detest the Baron.

Marion Shilling is quite sophisticated and charming as Claudette, the object of both their affections. She is very good here. Her career ended four years later at the age of 26, after playing in a bunch of B Westerns.

The movie starts out very witty and naughty. It does a good job of capturing a Parisian atmosphere. It does drag a little bit. It is certainly worth watching for fans of sophisticated comedy and early cinema.

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
One of the Best Film Noirs, 9 March 2013
10/10

I just wanted to add my voice to the host of reviewers who have noted that this is a great film with a great last performance by John Garfield. The beautifully shot scenes by James Wong Howe of New York reminded me of "Dead End" and the many television series and movies shot in the 1950's and early 60's in New York. This film is evidence that the House Unamerican Activities Committee was a blight on the land that badly damaged cinematic art in this country. HUAC and the Hays Moral Code were the two worse catastrophes to hit Hollywood in the 20th Century. Excellent performances and solid Hollywood production values send it to the top of the must see Film Noir list.

Mickey (1918)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Comedy Works, Melodrama Less So, But With Mabel Who Cares?, 26 January 2013
9/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For almost an hour, Mabel Normand carries this film with delicious little bits of comedy. My two favorite scenes were Mabel getting a donkey to eat a strap, so her father doesn't beat her with it and her eating cherries off a cake and then denying it with her mouth full. We see why Mabel was called the Queen of comedy.

The last fifteen minutes slips into melodrama. Mabel did want desperately to be taken as a serious actress and so she was showing that she could do serious stuff too. Anybody who has seen her in D.W. Griffith's "Mender of Nets" knows that she was great at that too.

I found the transition from comedy to melodrama rather abrupt. I kept thinking of the irony that Lew Cody, the villain, in the film, turned out to be the man she married in real life. I have heard rumors that this was a marriage of convenience. Given the fact that their is so little chemistry between Cody and Mabel here, I now believe it. There is also unfortunately little chemistry between the lead actor and Mabel. She had far more chemistry with Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle as her leading men.

George Nichols is quite good as her fathers. Nichols directed four of Chaplin's earliest films at Keystone and Mabel directed at least three of them. Add Mack Sennett and you have the three people who are probably most responsible for Chaplin becoming a movie star.

This film is a must for any movie buff interested in silent cinema. Some other reviewer noted that it is the first feature comedy with a single star. Mabel beat Keaton "The Saphead" (1920), by two years, and Chaplin "The Kid" (1921) and Harold Lloyd "A Sailor Made Man" (1921) by three years to feature films. This film is one more reason we have to speak of the "five" great silent film clowns (and maybe six if we want to include Roscoe Arbuckle).


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