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Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
Enjoyable story of how Mary Poppins joined the Disney Family
I just saw "Saving Mr. Banks" in the theater, and I was quite impressed with this film. The plot is simple: Walt Disney wants to turn the book, 'Mary Poppins', into a movie, but author P.L. Travers is too conditional and reluctant.
The cast was excellent: Tom Hanks was impressive as Walt Disney; Emma Thompson was believable as the annoyingly difficult Mrs. Travers; Colin Farrell did a great job portraying Travers' father during the flashback scenes to P.L. Travers' childhood in Australia.
This movie contained scenes that were amusing, such as when Mr. Disney's staff were creating and practicing the now-familiar songs for the film "Mary Poppins"; touching, such as when Walt Disney took Mrs. Travers for a tour of the Magic Kingdom in California; and even bittersweet, such as the tender moments between father and daughter during the flashback scenes to P.L. Travers' childhood in Australia.
I remember seeing "Mary Poppins" in the theater during my childhood in 1974, and it's always been my favorite live-action Disney movie. It was both interesting and entertaining to see the events that led up to the creation of this outstanding film. I highly recommend "Saving Mr. Banks".
Creative addition to the "Planet of the Apes" franchise
'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' is a very creative and thought-provoking addition to the "Apes" franchise.
James Franco's performance as Dr. Will Rodman is very convincing. Rodman takes home an infant chimpanzee who otherwise would have been "put down", and thereby saves the chimp's life. The chimpanzee, named Caesar, obtains unusual intelligence from experimental treatment for Alzheimer's disease, and soon becomes the leader in an ape revolt.
Veteran actor John Lithgow once again proves his acting skills as Charles, Will's father who is suffering from Alzheimer's's disease. Freida Pinto portrays Will's attractive companion, Caroline.
The special effects in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" are very impressive. This isn't Charleton Heston's 1968 "Planet of the Apes", with actors portraying simians via heavy prosthetic makeup. The apes in this 2011 saga are computer generated and are very realistic in appearance. More importantly, however, are the emotions the apes feel throughout the film. Their anger boils to the surface due to the ill treatment inflicted by their handlers.
There are several direct references made to the 1968 original film, "Planet of the Apes". First, Caesar's mother is called "Bright Eyes", which was the name Heston's character was called before the apes learned his actual name was Taylor. Second, in the 2011 film, a handler repeats Charleton Heston's infamous lines, "It's a madhouse!" and "Get your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!". Third, Caesar is ruthlessly hosed down while in his cage, in a scene reminiscent of Taylor's experience in the 1968 film. Furthermore, "Caesar" was the name of the offspring of Cornelius and Zira, two chimpanzee scientists in the 1968 film.
In my view, there are two main themes of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes". First, all creatures want to be treated with dignity and respect. Second, the unintended consequences of medical technology can be severe. I highly recommend this creative science fiction film.
Little House on the Prairie (1974)
Timeless TV Classic
"Little House on the Prairie", which originally aired on NBC from 1974 through 1983, depicts an American family's struggle to survive in pioneer America in the late 19th century. The television series was based on the books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
The series was largely written by, directed, and starred Michael Landon, who was a television veteran of the program 'Bonanza'.
In "Little House", Landon portrays Charles Ingalls. Along with his wife Caroline (Karen Grassle) and children Mary (Melissa Sue Anderson), Laura (Melissa Gilbert), and Carrie (Lindsay-Sidney Greenbush), the Ingalls family endures tremendous hardships in their daily lives, including life among American Indians, crop failures, disease, hunger, wild animals, rough weather, and their neighbors in Walnut Grove, Minnesota. The series is depicted from the perspective of Laura Ingalls.
My favorite character in the series is Harriet Oleson, portrayed by Katherine MacGregor. To prevent the story lines from becoming stale, it is crucial for every successful series to have a good villain. Along with her TV daughter Nellie, Harriet Oleson is without a doubt one of the most appealing villains in TV history. Week after week during the 1970s, Harriet Oleson (and her daughter Nellie) did everything possible to make the lives of the Ingalls family difficult.
At the end of each episode, however, it was the Ingalls family who inevitably endured and survived life's challenges due to their belief in God, community spirit, work ethic, and mutual love and devotion to one another.
My siblings and I watched "Little House on the Prairie" each and every Monday night while growing up in the 1970s. During my childhood, I recall that it was not considered "cool" to admit that you watched this program, although it was consistently a top-rated program during it's original run on NBC.
"Little House on the Prairie" is an American television classic that has endured the test of time. Belief in God, helping your fellow neighbor, a solid work ethic, and family values are all promoted by this outstanding program.
The Conspirator (2010)
Oscars should go to McAvoy, Wright, Kline, and Redford!
I just saw 'The Conspirator' in the theater, and as a huge history buff, I must say that I was quite impressed with this movie.
The movie begins in April 1865 with providing the viewer with a brief glimpse of life on the battlefield during the bloody American Civil War. President Lincoln is then assassinated by John Wilkes Booth.
The federal government soon determines that Booth plotted his murderous campaign in the boardinghouse of Mary Surratt. One of Booth's co-conspirators is John Surratt, son of Mary. Since John cannot be found by the feds, his mother Mary is soon arrested as a Booth accomplice. Her young lawyer is a former Union soldier, Frederic Aiken. At first, Aiken is reluctant to defend Mary, but soon becomes determined to ensure she receives a fair trial.
Robin Wright is excellent as Mary Surratt. Her demeanor, dialect, and body language are all quite convincing and perfectly balanced.
James McAvoy is superb as the young lawyer, Frederic Aiken. His tenacious defense of a woman who is deemed a traitor by the federal government that staged a virtual kangaroo court is very moving and impressive. Mr. McAvoy's American dialect was absolutely flawless.
Veteran actor Kevin Kline once again demonstrates his impeccable acting skills in his role as the heavy handed Secretary of War Edwin Stanton.
In my view, Mary Surratt was a Southern woman of her time. I believe she hated the Union, as well as it's leader, Abraham Lincoln. However, I do not believe she was an assassin. On the contrary, Mary Surratt was most likely a victim of a government and a nation eager to seek rapid justice for the ruthless murder of America's greatest president.
I believe an Oscar should go to Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Kevin Kline, and Robert Redford. I highly recommend this excellent historical film.
House of Saddam (2008)
Reign of Terror
In my view, this miniseries is an excellent portrayal of Saddam Hussein's reign of terror. The actors' performances were excellent.
However, in my view, the full extent of Uday's ruthlessness was not completely explored and portrayed in this miniseries.
For example, Uday was known to rape brides on their wedding day (one groom then shot himself that very day).
Also, Uday was known to rape girls as young as 12 years of age. If their fathers protested, Uday threatened their very lives. In addition, Uday was known to prowl Iraqi streets in search of women. When he saw a woman he liked, he would shoot her male companion, and then kidnap the female.
Furthermore, Uday was notorious for torturing Iraqi soccer players who lost games and anyone who he considered a foe. When he was a teen, Uday killed a teacher who had the audacity to reprimand the rambunctious firstborn son of the Iraqi dictator. Such atrocities should have been included in the miniseries.
After viewing this miniseries, it certainly puts things in proper perspective. The liberal media and "Bush haters" like to forget the mass graves and the countless innocents who were brutally raped and murdered by Hussein and his supporters. Judging by media outlets such as NBC and the New York Times, once would think a peaceful, contributing member of the world community was suddenly overthrown by a rogue nation. I choose NOT to forget the unfortunate souls who were brutalized under Hussein.
History will smile on President Bush's decision to liberate the Iraqi people from this ruthless murderer. This miniseries clearly demonstrates this assertion.
Nevertheless, HBO's "House of Saddam" was done quite well, and I enjoyed it very much.
The Carol Burnett Show (1967)
A Saturday night staple in the 1970s
If my siblings and I were good, my mother would allow us to stay up until 11pm to watch 'The Carol Burnett Show' each Saturday night in the 1970s.
To say Carol, along with her co-stars Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, and Vicki Lawrence, were talented and funny would be an understatement. Each Saturday at 10pm, Carol and the aforementioned regulars, along with some 'special guest stars' (such as Steve Lawrence, Betty White, Roddy McDowall, and Julie Andrews, to mention a few) would sing, dance, and perform the absolute funniest skits ever seen on American television.
Who could forget Carol's "Eunice" constantly being belittled and nagged by Vicki's "Momma"? Carol's "Mrs. Wh-Whiggins" was a riot, along with Tim's "Mr. Tudball", and perhaps the funniest segments were those with both Tim and Harvey. The audience never seemed to mind it when Harvey lost control and laughed out of character.
Today's Hollywood elitist performers could learn a lot from this classic TV show: Carol Burnett and her co-stars entertained us for ten years without foul language, tasteless humor, sexual innuendo, or inserting politics. On the contrary, Tim, Harvey, Vicki, and Carol conducted themselves as professionals.
This show is classic American comedy for all ages. I highly recommend this outstanding program.
Best "Apes" sequel of them all
After the 1968 "Planet of the Apes" movie, 4 sequels were made during the 1970s; "Escape from the Planet of the Apes", the third in the series, is, in my view, the best of the sequels.
Like any science fiction film, "Escape" is based on a huge flaw: The viewer must believe that the apes (who live in a primitive, non-technical society), were able to retrieve George Taylor's (Charlton Heston) spaceship from the ocean, repair it, and fly it via "time warp" two thousand years into the past (i.e., the same "time warp" that Taylor entered in the 1968 original film).
Nevertheless, this is an enjoyable science fiction film. Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter are brilliant as Cornelius and Zira. This film is essentially the flip side of the original 1968 film, although this time, the apes are caged, and the humans are in charge.
The magnitude of the level of paranoia of 1973 America is a little far fetched, to say the least. Wouldn't the U.S. authorities (i.e., politicians and scientists) want to discuss future events with scientists Cornelius (an archaeologist) and Zira (a psychologist)? In the first film, ape society is unaware that humans once ruled the earth and had the power of speech. However, in "Escape from the Planet of the Apes", Cornelius and Zira explain how apes became the pets and then the servants of mankind (after a virus killed off all cats and dogs). Once again, this is a huge inconsistency.
"Escape from the Planet of the Apes" is an enjoyable chapter in the Apes movies. When I first saw this film as a child in the 1970s, I did not notice the aforementioned flaws, of course. Turn off your brain, sit back, relax, and enjoy this segment of the apes series.
Love Is Never Silent (1985)
Excellent TV movie
"Love is Never Silent" is an emotional drama set in the 1930s and early 1940s. Unlike her parents, Margaret is not hearing impaired.
Therefore, young Margaret often finds herself acting as a buffer and an interpreter for her deaf parents in the hearing world. As a result, Margaret's youthful innocence is lost at a very young age and often does not inform her parents of the rude comments people say to her parents.
In addition, Margaret's parents, particularly her mother, become alarmed and angry when Margaret asserts her independence as she gets older.
Friendly neighbor Mr. Petrakis is one of the few who fully understands Margaret's difficult circumstances.
In the tradition of "It's a Wonderful Life", "Love is Never Silent" builds and sets the stage throughout the movie for the highly emotional scene towards the end of the film when Margaret finally stands up to her demanding parents.
Mare Winningham is brilliant as Margaret. Sid Ceaser is convincing as Mr. Petrakis. Cloris Leachman is great in this rare departure from comedy.
I highly recommend this emotional film.
One of the best TV movies ever made
I was only 9 years old when I saw 'The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman' on television in 1974, and I am still as impressed with this film as I was back then. While "Miss Jane" is a fictitious person, the historical context and experiences of this character are quite real.
This outstanding film was made prior to 'Roots', so it gave audiences a glimpse into a chapter of history rarely seen before. In my view, Cicely Tyson is one of the best and most underrated actresses in American entertainment history.
An old 110 year old former slave (outstanding performance by Cicely Tyson) tells a writer about her experiences as a slave, and throughout the late 19th and early 20th century. Thalmus Rasulala plays her "son", Ned. Viewers will notice that Ms. Tyson and Mr. Rasulala also portrayed Kunta Kinte's parents several years later in the miniseries, 'Roots'. Don't blink, or you will miss Katherine Helmond (of television's "Soap" and "Who's the boss?") in a rare dramatic role as a bitter Confederate widow.
'The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman' clearly expresses the progress in race relations accomplished since the days of antebellum America. It is an absolute tragedy that so many young Americans today squander the opportunities prior generations could not even dream about. Such people need to sit down and listen to Miss Jane, in this fabulous television movie.
Coal Miner's Daughter (1980)
Country Music's real-life 'Cinderella' story
This is a real-life rags to riches 'Cinderella' story.
Kentucky teenager Loretta Webb (impeccable performance by Sissy Spacek) meets "Doolite Lynn" (played by Tommy Lee Jones), a young man nearly 10 years her senior. They fall in love, get married, and raise a family. Impressed by his wife's natural singing skills, Doolittle coordinates reluctant Loretta's path to stardom in the Country Music business. Loretta's parents and "Patsy Cline" nearly steal the show.
Loretta succeeds in the the Country Music industry in spite of her appealing naiveté and lack of a formal education, and this fact is vividly portrayed in this 1980 movie classic.
Get out your handkerchief for the scene where Loretta learns of her friend's demise; it's one of the saddest I've ever seen in a movie.
The singing (by Sissy Spacek and Beverly D'Angelo) is quite impressive in this film.
I've read Loretta's book, "Still Woman Enough", which was written AFTER the death of her husband, Doolittle Lynn. While "Coal Miner's Daughter" is an excellent film, the movie (and the book) did not elaborate on the full extent of Loretta's abuse by her inconsiderate husband. Certain omissions were most likely intentional (in order to maintain harmony in the Lynn household). Loretta is a true classy lady.
"Coal Miner's Daughter" is an entertaining movie that depicts Loretta Lynn's impressive rise as one of Country Music's reigning female entertainers.
The Godfather (1972)
One of the finest American films ever made
'The Godfather' is perhaps the greatest American film ever made.
The cast is absolutely second to none: Marlon Brando, James Caan, Al Pacino, Talia Shire, and Diane Keaton are all very convincing in their roles as members of this crime family.
My favorite character in this film is Michael Corleone. In the beginning, Michael's intentions are honorable, and he does not intend to become involved "in the family business". However, the viewer soon learns that the apple does not fall far from the tree, and Michael inevitably follows in his father's footsteps, and becomes even more ruthless than his father, Don Vito Corleone.
This film vividly portrays the ruthlessness of criminal organizations, and the price participants pay for involvement in a business that plays by no rules and never forgives betrayal. Life is certainly not sacred with these people, and the ends justify the means in accordance with 'The family business'.
'The Godfather' is a timeless classic that you will enjoy watching repeatedly.
Alex Haley's Masterpiece
I was only 12 years old when I first saw Alex Haley's 'Roots' in 1977. It was perhaps the most profound history lesson I've ever had.
'Roots' was the first television program that dealt with the issue of American slavery. Roots vividly portrays the ruthless manner in which Africans (such as teenaged Kunta Kinte) were kidnapped, shackled, and brought to the new world, and completely stripped of their homes, names, families, culture, language, religion, identity, and freedom.
The first thing that caught my attention was the selection of beloved television stars to portray the ruthless slave owners and victimized slaves, such as Robert Reed (of 'The Brady Bunch'), John Amos (of 'Good Times'), Lorne Green (of 'Bonanza'), Caroline Jones (of 'The Addams Family'), Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (of 'Welcome Back, Kotter'), Ed Asner (of 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'), Ralph Waite (of 'The Waltons'), and Chuck Connors (of 'The Rifleman'). This was a very clever move that resulted in viewers (particularly those of 1977) immediately relating to the characters in this emotional drama.
The miniseries begins in the late 18th century on the West coast of Africa. Teenager Kunta Kinte is ruthlessly kidnapped and sold into slavery in colonial Virginia to plantation owner John Reynolds. The brutal treatment of Kunta Kinte and his descendants is difficult to watch.
There are some scenes in 'Roots' which display the black and white characters sharing lighthearted moments, and virtual friendships. Unfortunately, reality soon strikes and reminds the viewer that slavery was very much a part of the equation in antebellum America.
In my opinion, Bell (outstanding portrayal by Madge Sinclair) and Kizzy (exceptional performance by Leslie Uggams) have the best scenes and the most compelling lines in this miniseries. However, the entire cast of 'Roots' provide an impeccable view of the harsh life that black people endured under slavery.
I highly recommend Alex Haley's 'Roots' as a history lesson everyone should experience. This is television at it's finest; 'Roots' is a timeless television classic that viewers will appreciate for generations to come.
Sophie's Choice (1982)
An example of an excellent actress
"Sophie's Choice" is a vivid portrayal of the human side of World War II and the holocaust. The setting is post-World War II, late 1940s Brooklyn, New York.
Meryl Streep is Sophie Zawistowski, a Polish immigrant. This is the movie that caused all of us to fall in love with Ms. Streep. Her performance is impeccable. In some scenes, she is flawlessly dressed, and absolutely beautiful, while in others she is completely dehumanized at the hands of the Nazi Germans, and yet Meryl Streep is completely convincing throughout the film. Her accent sounds genuine, and you feel Sophie's pain throughout the movie.
Kevin Kline is Nathan Landau, Sophie's mentally unstable boyfriend who meets her in Brooklyn. Kline's performance as the 'Jekyl and Hyde' Nathan is ominously realistic. Peter MacNicol is Stingo, a naive young writer from the South who moves into the same building as Sophie and Nathan. Stingo soon learns the secrets Sophie and Nathan have been keeping from each other.
This movie will keep you on the edge of your seat. The acting is brilliant, especially by Meryl Streep. This movie contains one of the most haunting scenes ever depicted in film history.
"Sophie's Choice" is an excellent film that portrays the suffering many endured during World War II.
Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
'Driving Miss Daisy' is a gem
"Driving Miss Daisy" is a classic American movie. Jessica Tandy is Miss Daisy, an aging woman who can no longer drive on her own. Her son, Boolie Werthan (played by Dan Aykroyd), hires a chauffeur, Hoke (played by Morgan Freeman) on his mother's behalf.
In the beginning, Miss Daisy resents Hoke since he represents her inability to drive. However, as the years progress, their friendship becomes strong.
The racial references are critical to the era in which the story takes place. While the comments are politically incorrect by today's standards, censorship or the removal of specific elements would reduce the realism in this excellent movie. Furthermore, the portrayal of bigotry in this film demonstrates the progress American society has made since the early to mid twentieth century.
You will enjoy every detail in "Driving Miss Daisy", from the top notch acting, the antique automobiles, Miss Daisy's southern home (you can even call it a mansion), the comedy, and the drama. Don't miss this ride; an excellent movie you will enjoy watching over and over.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
American Christmas classic
"It's a Wonderful Life" is an American Christmas classic. James Stewart is believable as the reliable George Bailey. Donna Reed is the angelic beauty, Mary Hatch Bailey. Lionel Barrymore is "too good" as the heartless Mr. Potter.
I've read that doctors often have their depressed patients watch "It's a Wonderful Life" to help raise their spirits and bring things into perspective. This movie certainly has that effect on viewers.
By the end of this film, there will not be a dry eye in the room. It's not Christmas without Santa, Baby Jesus, and George Bailey. This is a definite 'must have' for your Christmas movie collection.
Christmas classic set in the Great Depression
I was only six years old when I first saw "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" in December 1971. This is a heartwarming Christmas story of a family waiting for the arrival of their patriarch, John Walton, during the early years of the Great Depression.
The values upon which this nation was built are alive and well in this movie and the highly successful CBS series that followed. While the Waltons are not financially wealthy, they have an abundance of love in their home and community.
Richard Thomas' character "John-Boy" is perhaps one of the best known characters in television history. Patricia Neal is excellent as the loving yet strict disciplinarian mother, Olivia Walton. Judy Norton's portrayal of teenager "Mary Ellen" is quite believable; one moment she seems mature and on the verge of womanhood, and the next moment she is whining and bickering with her siblings (typical teen). Ellen Corby is an excellent supporting actress in her role as Grandma.
In my view, "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" is one of the best Christmas movies of all time because it is not about Santa, a snowman, nor an abundance of gifts. On the contrary, the Waltons Christmas movie is about family, love, discipline, friendship, responsibility, and the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ, the reason for the season.
I've had this movie in my Christmas movie VHS/DVD collection since the early 1990s. "The Homecoming: A Christmas Story" is in the same category as "It's a Wonderful Life", and I highly recommend this film.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
1968 Planet of the Apes - best Scifi movie of all time
At the age of 8, I can still recall seeing 'Planet of the Apes' in the movies during the pre-cable TV and pre-VCR days of 1973.
While this movie has a bit of a slow start, it gets better as it progresses. Astronauts crash land on a planet where apes rule and humans drool (and groan).
Charlton Heston is the unwilling hero as Taylor. Kim Hunter is very convincing as the liberal Dr. Zira. Roddy McDowall redefines his acting career as chimpanzee archaeologist Cornelius. Maurice Evans is the orangutan you love to hate as Dr. Zaius.
The ending is one of the most memorable in Hollywood history. This one was the best 'apes' movies of them all.
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
'What's up, doc' is a brilliant comedy
I first saw 'What's up, doc' in the movies when I was 9 years old in 1974 (sorry, there were no VCRs or cable TV yet). I can still remember my brother and I laughing uncontrollably throughout the entire movie.
Ryan O'Neal is a great 'straight man' as the dull Howard Bannister. Barbara Streisand is very "Lucy-like" (yes, I mean Ricardo) as Judy Maxwell. The very underrated Madeline Kahn nearly steals the show as the "nails on the chalkboard" Eunice Burns.
This is a clean comedy that you can watch with your children without blushing, and I highly recommend 'What's up, doc'. Hollywood should provide audiences with more films like this one. In fact, 'What's up, doc' is a part of my personal VHS/DVD collection.
Imitation of Life (1959)
1959's Imitation of Life - a must see!
The 1959 version of "Imitation of Life" is an excellent tear jerker.
Lana Turner (as Lora Meredith) and Juanita Moore (as Annie Johnson) are excellent as two women who are friends, despite their racial differences. Their relationship is somewhat hybrid in nature: Annie is both a subservient housekeeper and a friend to "Miss Lora". Nevertheless, Annie and Lora are committed to their unique relationship.
Their daughters bring chaos to the household the two women share. Lana Turner lights up a room upon entering it. Juanita Moore should be considered for sainthood. Sara Jane needs a good slap, and Susie's perkiness is a little annoying. John Gavin's character is a bit of a stretch; he keeps waiting around for Lora (like Forrest Gump kept waiting around for Jenny). By the time Lora was a successful actress, Steve would have been married with several kids. Nevertheless, it makes for a nice segment of the story.
If your eyes are not teary by the end of the movie, you're not human.
A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
Must see movie
"A Raisin in the Sun" is one of the finest American films ever made. This film discusses many vital issues, such as racism, abortion, trust, family values, greed, and even atheism.
My favorite character in this film is matriarch Lena Younger, impeccably performed by Claudia McNeil. Mrs. Younger is a wise, loving mother and grandmother to her family. While she may not always agree with her children's decisions, she never stops loving them.
Sidney Poitier is brilliant as the defeated Walter Lee Younger. Walter is frustrated with his job as a chauffeur, and believes he has more to offer the world.
Ruby Dee is great as Walter's supportive and level headed wife.
The dialogue and issues that are discussed reinstate the values upon which America was built. I strongly recommend this excellent film.
North and South (1985)
North and South
The 1985 miniseries 'North and South' is a great depiction of the events leading up to the Civil War. 2 young men, Orry Main from South Carolina and George Hazard from Pennsylvania, meet at West Point and quickly become friends.
Each member of the Main and Hazard Families represent an actual viewpoint that was held during the turbulent political climate of antebellum America, such as the abolitionist Northerner, The Southern sympathizing Northerner, The sadistic Southern slave owner, The Southern Loyalist, just to list a few.
There are many differences between the miniseries and the 3 volume books by John Jakes (North and South, Love and War, and Heaven and Hell). Unlike their literary counterparts, the actors and actresses who portray these historic figures are all very good looking and bigger than life on screen. The dresses worn by the women are impeccable.
I highly recommend the "North and South" miniseries.