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54 reviews in total 
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Desperate Lives (1982) (TV)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Not nearly that bad..., 12 May 2005

This was Diana's first movie after Mommie Dearest, and it was fairly brave, at the time, for a TV movie. Yes, it's a bit of a mess, but it certainly deals with a messy subject -- one that can be dealt with any number of ways. When the students at an assembly, and Diana Scarwid goes around to their lockers with a shopping cart, it is an absolute scream. When she finally confronts the students, she is foaming with righteous anger and chews up the scenery like no other actress before her. When they burn all the contraband and the students begin to add their own stashes to the bonfire, Scarwid is victorious. GREAT performance in a campy movie...

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Delicious and Dreadful, all at once, 5 March 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Movies like *Peyton Place*, *Imitation of Life*, and *Written On The Wind*, define the term "potboiler." This one, right up there with them, is oozing with angst over both young love and adultery, and features incredibly racy dialogue and plot contrivances for its time – as they all did. It has to do with a family – Helen and Ken Jorgenson, played by Constance Ford and Richard Egan, and their bubbly yet repressed daughter Molly, played by the maniacally cute Sandra Dee – who pay an unexpected call to the Maine resort at which the now-affluent Ken used to be a lifeguard. Ken's wife, Helen, is mysteriously anxious to appear oh-so-proper, and we quickly learn that Helen is a scheming, frigid, malignant wife given to phobias and obsessions. Constance Ford is marvelously chilling as the demented Helen – a character that should be voted into the Camp Hall of Fame. Richard Egan is the kind of actor they don't make much anymore – he plays Ken as the craggy, understanding, Uncle Bill-ish kind of father, who can be sensitive and still remain butch. The family that owns the resort whom they impose them selves upon, consists of Sylvia and Bart Hunter, played by Dorothy McGuire and Arthur Kennedy, and their wooden twit of a son, Johnny, played by Troy Donahue. Donahue, known in the business as "the *other* white meat", is hopelessly inept, and recalls the rueful words from *A Chorus Line*, which lament "If Troy Donahue can be a movie star, then I can be a movie star." McGuire plays her usual sort of character – cool exterior with passions that run deep, while Arthur Kennedy is virtually unrecognizable as Bart, the drunken dilettante whose family now lives in reduced circumstances and must now take in boarders. Young Johnny and Molly fall in love the first time their binoculars meet, and we become aware very quickly that Ken and Sylvia, both married to other people, have been around the block together before. Ken and Sylvia rekindle their love affair, making love in the boathouse, while Johnny woos Molly with such tripe as "We're all alone on this earth." Bart goes on drinking and Helen goes berserk. When Johnny and Molly survive the sinking of their boat, and spend the night on a deserted beach, Helen orders Molly to undergo an examination to see if she was still a virgin. Things go from bad to worse, and recriminations and name-calling abound. Helen brings the whole soupy mess to a boil by shrilly referring to Sylvia as Johnny's "harlot of a mother," while Bart calls Sylvia "common slut," and divorce decrees are served all around. Johnny and Molly are sent off to faraway schools, as the ugly divorces mysteriously dominate the headlines all over the Northeast. The children arrange a tryst over Christmas break, after which Helen and Molly get into it, and Helen slaps Molly into the Christmas tree, doubtlessly inspiring John Waters' (*Female Trouble*). After a suitable amount of time, Ken and Sylvia get married and acquire a swank new *moderne deluxe* split-level ranch home, but they miss the love of their Molly and Johnny, who, though separated, blame Ken and Sylvia for the unhappiness. Distressed at the estrangement, Ken refers to "the loneliness, hunger, impatience and waste" of unrequited young lust – just like he himself had – and tells Sylvia, "I want them to come to us when they need us." Molly and Johnny agree to meet up at the newlyweds' home, where, predictably, Molly gets "in trouble." There's lots of talk about "being good" and "being bad," and he plot is riddled with scenes of inclement weather that brings about lurid situations – like when they go to his drunken dad for help, who tells them "Sinners pay, one way or another" and "They need to be put in juvenile hall to cool off." Fortunately, the troubled teens fine love and acceptance at the home of the Original Sinners themselves, Ken and Sylvia, and, of course, everything works out wonderfully in the end. It is turgid and tawdry, and enhanced by Max Steiner's famous score – you know: deet deet deet deet deet deet… – but campy and hysterical. "If you liked this title, we recommend…" an ice pick and a shot of whiskey to dull the pain.

25 out of 41 people found the following review useful:
"I loved it – every awful moment of it, I loved!", 31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"She's catnip to every cat in town," a bartender says of Gloria Wandrous, call girl and Party Girl #1, who is boozing it up, surrounded by a dozen men. Waking up in Wes Liggett's (Harvey) Fifth Avenue penthouse, she discovers he's left her a wad of money and a note saying, "Is $250 enough?" She hurls the money away, scrawling "No Sale" on the mirror with her lipstick. But she seems to forget that she is a call girl, and call girls accept money for services rendered. Unfortunately, Gloria is in love with Liggett, her "john", but he is married to someone else – a society matron poorly played by the cold, patrician beauty, Dina Merrill. As Gloria is leaving, she steals Ligget's wife's $7000 fur coat and starts all kinds of trouble. It certainly would have caused trouble today – the entire film is a PETA nightmare, as Gloria can be clocked wearing suede, lynx, coyote, mink, sable, beaver, and something that looks like skunk. The whole movie has Liz in her last fading bloom of youth, girded-to-the-gills and at the peak of her "eyebrows-of-death" period. Her Gloria-ously voluptuous figure is beginning to bulge and sag, but she is decked out to the nines in drop-dead stylish early-60s glamour. At the time, Liz and Jackie Kennedy were neck-and-neck in the glamour department, and the Jackie look is unmistakably present in Liz's styling. Though Jackie's never would be, Liz's cleavage is on abundant display. Cleavage was such a powerful metaphor for sex, then – a set-piece whose effectiveness would be impossible now (you practically have to show actors rutting on the floor to satisfy the modern taste). Liz was also at the peak of her Eddie Fisher period - playing a harlot on screen after stealing Fisher away from his real-life wife, Debbie Reynolds, only added to Liz's plummeting reputation. Fisher plays Gloria's friend who loves her but is not taken seriously by her. He's such a drip on screen, that you can't help wondering how in real life this guy managed to attract one of the most glamorous women in the world. The suave and very continental Harvey is equally dull, especially as he commandeers that last 20 minutes of the film. The part of Gloria won an Oscar for Liz Taylor – mysteriously, since the work is far inferior to many of Liz's previous films. Liz has proclaimed that this is the least favorite film she ever made – she was simply fulfilling the requirements of her contract. But when Liz is good, she's very, very good, but when she's bad, she gives it all she's got. Director Daniel Mann definitely had a way with leading-ladies. In addition to guiding Liz towards her Oscar, he did the same for Shirley Booth in *Come Back, Little Sheba* and Anna Magnani in *The Rose Tattoo*. Also directing Susan Hayward in *I'll Cry Tomorrow*, Mann certainly excels in these heavy-handed soapers. Based on the racy John O'Hara novel, the dialogue is dreadful. At one point Gloria tells her shrink, "I don't need you any more. I have no problems. I'm in love," as well as, "Someday Wes is going to find himself, and I want to be there." The script was so bad we veered off into a conversation about the yogurt shop murders, and missed a scene full of lots of drinking, ultimatums and arched eyebrows, but we were riveted to the screen as Gloria is screaming, "Mama, face it! I was the slut of all time!" But even when shrieking, Liz is irresistible. And like Gloria says in the movie, "I loved it – every awful moment of it, I loved!"

Intern (2000)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Fun for fashionistas, 31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bad reviews abound for this straight-to-video feature – lot's of ugly sniping about the fashion business, gay stereotypes, superficiality, etc. But, please, let's get real here. Not every movie has to have deep subtext and meaning – especially not movies about the fashion business. Written and executive produced by Jill Kopelman, (daughter of the owner of the House of Chanel) and Caroline Doyle, the inside jokes and cameos run rampant in a movie that just misses being very clever. With a dreary romantic comedy subplot, Dominique Swain, most notable for *Lolita*, plays Jocelyn, an intern at *Skirt* magazine, who becomes involved in fashion espionage. A very thin premise, to be sure, with a John Waters-ish feel to it, but with a breathless E! TV approach to fashion and comedy. Also like a John Waters film, *Intern* depends heavily on on screen slapstick and cameo performances– though since it's not John Waters, of course, we miss seeing Patty Hearst. Peggy Lipton is a pleasant surprise as Fashion Editor, Roxanne Rochet, a typical fashion victim, given to such statements as "Forget the herbal wrap – I want a Himalayan rejuvenation lichen-berry acid peel." She and her staff are complete caricatures of fashionistas (they are devoting nine pages of their current issue to making wheelchairs the chic accessory), but they are right on the money – especially Leilani Bishop as the vacuous, self-absorbed supermodel, and David Deblinger as the queeny art director. Paulina Porizkova, Anna Thompson, and comedienne Kathy Griffin are a little one-dimensional, but funny as well. Joan Rivers is Joan Rivers, and that's all we need to say about that. As stated earlier, it's not a particularly deep movie, but to paraphrase Karl Lagerfeld, fashion is not the same thing as feeding the hungry and curing the ill.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
The unmentionable script problem..., 31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

As Jim Williams, the rakish, nouveau riche antiques dealer whose homosexual proclivities include a fondness for rough trade, Kevin Spacey is smooth as lacquered satin and irresistibly sexy in a movie that has its good points, but otherwise falls flat. It's distinctly one of those "Read the book"-type movies where the lovely storytelling got lost in the translation. In the book, there was much more of a story than in the movie – the evocative descriptions lushly accented what was basically a courtroom drama. But perhaps it was too lengthy of a story to be told on film. The fact of the matter is that there really isn't that much of a story at all. While the colorful characters come alive on the page, in the movie, they camouflage a threadbare script. Perhaps it was just a poor choice for Eastwood's directorial abilities, or perhaps it was a poor choice for a screenplay – there are many flaws that nag and distract throughout. What does not distract is the art direction, which is one of the stars of the film. The interiors and exteriors, in their natural setting of Savannah, are glimmering jewels (so lovingly created in the book), and they, too, help hide the unmentionable script problem. So lovely are they that one wishes to see more of them, and might be just as happy with a travelogue where all that messy plot stuff doesn't interfere. John Cusak is an amiable enough actor, playing the role of the reporter John Kelso, who is assigned by *Town & Country* magazine to cover one of Jim Williams' legendary Christmas parties. Right off the bat, the story's famous characters start making their appearances, and they are all well-cast. In fact, the entire movie is well-cast, with a minor exception of Jude Law who is a fish out of water as the rough trade bad-boy (and Williams' erstwhile lover), Billy Hanson. Law is talented, but was not rough enough looking for the small role, and never, ever approached believability as the hard-drinking, small-time drug-dealing boho Southern "trade." The use of Savannah locals, sometimes playing themselves, is clever and entertaining. Lady Chablis, a local drag entertainer, has her moment in the sun playing herself – a screamingly funny pre-op transsexual whose relation to the actual story is very slim. She does, however, manage to get a large share of screen time, including the funniest scene in the movie when she crashes the cotillion for black debutantes. Jack Thompson makes us utterly forget his Aussie background as he brilliantly recreates the role of attorney Sonny Seiler. The cleverest casting twist was using the *real* Sonny Seiler to play the judge. Irma P. Hall, as voodoo practitioner Minerva, makes the most of her role as the manager of the spirits of the dead, even if the role is one of the most troublesome, scriptwise, in the whole movie. But an excellent cast cannot make up for a fatally flawed script, even if the movie does have a certain charm.

Flashdance (1983)
6 out of 12 people found the following review useful:
What a feeling. What an icky, sticky feeling..., 31 January 2005

*Flashdance* -- what a feeling. What an icky, sticky feeling, like cotton candy that you can't get off your fingers -- total Eighties swill that has failed to congeal over time. So many funny, and so many dreadful moments that peck at the memory like a relentless chicken: Jennifer Beals dancing frenetically in place to the unbearable "Maniac", removing her bra without removing her sweatshirt, digging her foot into the guys crotch under the table…and the fashion statement – it is one of those rare movies that has a huge impact on fashion. Who among us wasn't ripping our sweatshirts to shreds and wearing legwarmers? Well, maybe not all of us, true…but she was certainly the most stylish welder to come down the pike in quite awhile. But *Flashdance* is not anything so much as a two hour music video about achieving your dream. Winning Oscars, Golden Globes and Grammys, the soundtrack was a huge success. Selling 700,000 copies in two weeks, not only for the title track, but for the regrettably aforementioned "Maniac" by Michael Sembello, "Romeo" by Donna Summer, and "He's A Dream" by Shandi, the soundtrack, along with the look, still haunts aerobics studios today. "When you let go of your dream, you die." But he's wrong – when you listen to dialogue like that, you die.

The Birds (1963)
57 out of 104 people found the following review useful:
Brilliant and frightening, 31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie scared me to death when I was five. My parents had dumped the four of us at a theatre for the afternoon and two hours later, I was a swollen, puffy mess, still sobbing from the horror I had witnessed. That was 35 years ago, but you'd think it happened yesterday, the way my sister still sadistically laughs at me for being so frightened. I no longer react with fear upon seeing the movie – but it is with a wizened eye that I now look at the scenes that had such impact: and they're still some of the scariest scenes put on film. Done entirely without music, the scenes unreel with alarming suspense. The theme of nature-run-amok has been made into mincemeat in the decades since, but seldom with such a deft touch. Much is made about the outdated special effects, but they are mild compared to the overusage in modern films. Tippi Hedren, whom Hitchcock spotted in a diet drink commercial and became his latest obsession, makes her debut as the cool and soignee Melanie Daniels, socialite-at-large. Hedren, who named her daughter Melanie (Griffith) after her character, subsequently had a less-than-stellar career, starring in such classics as *Teresa's Tattoo* and *Return to Green Acres*. The plot line involving Daniels and her pursuit of attorney Mitch Brenner definitely has problems, but seems necessary to create the atmosphere and set the stage for the real stars of the movie – the birds. There are so many birds in this movie, billing and cooing with an innocence that belies their malevolence, that the nightmare unfolding on the screen must have been rivaled by the nightmare on the set. Tales of tranquilizing the birds and wiring them in place surely would cause distress among animal-rights activists today. Jessica Tandy is chill and formidable as Mitch's mother, Lydia, and Suzanne Pleshette, as schoolteacher Annie Hayworth, is one of the most interesting characters in the movie. And her final scene is most memorable, as she is found facedown in front of her home, pecked to death.

The climactic attack that takes place at Mitch's home is sheer brilliance. As the birds are pecking through the door and gathering in the attack, there is a sense of madness unleashed that is breathtaking. The ambiguity of the ending has been roundly criticized – but it is most successful in leaving behind a sense that the story is not quite over. Of course, it wasn't quite over – it had to be insulted with a sequel, *The Birds II*. The film has acquired a certain campiness over the years that allows the sophisticated viewer to look past the obvious plot devices, and find an arch humor in the classic scenes. From Melanie getting clocked on the forehead by a seagull, to the crotchety ornithologist at the café, to the scene with the guy whose eyes have pecked out, to the amassing of the birds at the schoolhouse, where the children are singing what is surely the longest children's song ever written, the scenes are imprinted indelibly on our memories. So much so, that Tippi has become a popular Halloween costume – just pin a bird in your wig, and you're instantly Melanie Daniels. It's easy to laugh at something that used to be scary, but is there anyone that doesn't think of *The Birds* whenever they see more than a dozen of them get together?

3 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Shearer uses ALL THREE of her facial expressions, 31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Absolutely abysmal – too long and dull as dishwater. One IMDb comment says, "They don't make them like this anymore…" and thank God they don't. A vanity production to end all vanity productions, it is a project that Irving Thalberg was working on when he died – a paean to his wife Norma Shearer. Shearer is just dreadful as France's tragic queen – she is way, way too old, to begin with, just like when she made a travesty of *Romeo and Juliet*. When they show her as a young teenage girl hearing about her impending betrothal to the dauphin of France, she is already so adult and maturely developed, that they evidently have her mother walking on stilts to make Shearer appear smaller. It is a ridiculous device that sets the tone for a great deal more ridiculousness to come. Shearer mysteriously received her sixth (!) Oscar nomination for this performance – though it was undoubtedly a sympathy nomination. As the Dauphine of France, she is neglected by her husband, the future Louis XVI (Morely), a bumbling, immature ruler who is the only character in the movie to attract any sympathy. She gives herself over to a life of pleasure-seeking wantonness, but comes off as wanton as apple pie. John Barrymore's turn as Louis XV is too short, and he and his mistress, Mme. Du Barry (Gladys George), provide the only relief in this otherwise plodding script. Shearer plays Marie as if she just a loving wife and mother who got a bum rap. She is always so stilted and mannered that she must have had it written into her contract that she was allowed to get teary-eyed at least a dozen times in each movie – and also be allowed to speak in that annoying tremulous voice while the tears are glistening in her eyes. Worse yet, she always seems at a loss as to what to do with her hands, and resorts to silent-movie techniques that were long out-of-date in 1938. Joseph Schildkraut, as the Duke of Orleans, is fabulous – wicked and arch, and with more makeup than any lady at court. It is his maneuvering that introduces the young Dauphine to the pleasures of Parisian high society, and sets off the chain of tragic events that ends with her beheading. As the story waves goodbye to historical accuracy, we see Shearer utilize all three of her expressions – the are the same ones she used in everything from *Her Cardboard Lover* to *The Women*. But her limited range of expressions is almost, but not quite, overshadowed by her voluminous, cloud-like hairstyles. From beginning to end, her wigs are awe-inspiring creations – even when she's on death row. She's obviously the only prisoner in history who was allowed to have her hairdresser in every morning – surely the director is not having us believe Marie created those enormous coifs herself. But when they try and make her look weary and ready for the guillotine, we do not get to see the Queen with her head shorn – instead, we get Shearer in a ratty wig, looking more like Cloris Leachman than Marie Antoinette. The gowns by Adrian are so magnificently over-the-top, and he has a field day costuming both Marie and, in contrast, Mme. Du Barry – at their big showdown, Du Barry is exquisite in black velvet dripping with jewels, while Marie wears what can only be described as Symphony in White Tulle. The production values are the stars of this movie – Hollywood magic at its finest – but watching Norma Shearer as Marie Antoinette is like ordering a bottle of fine wine in a restaurant, and getting a pitcher of Kool-Aid instead.

13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Save it for a lazy day, 31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Creaking with metaphors, it is a lovely story to watch, with a knockout cast well-skilled in ensemble acting. But it plods along, documenting the making of a wedding quilt that incorporates the lives of each person who contributes to it. Finn Dodd (what a hideous name), played by Ryder, at her tentative and mysterious best, is spending the summer with her aunts, while finishing her thesis. She is also engaged to Sam (Mulroney), who seems to get needier, as Finn seems to be getting coldfeet. The quilt is a gift for Finn's wedding, and is a labor of love among a group of women whose lives are intertwined in the northern California wine country, each of them sewing a panel that expresses the theme, "Where love resides." But love resides in many different places among these women – from sisters Glady Jo and Hy, entertainingly played by Bancroft and Burstyn, who are exactly the kinds of aunts anyone would like to have in their family, to the prickly Em (Simmons), and the unconventional Constance (Nelligan). So many different stories, as interpreted in quilting panels, do not always make a pretty quilt, and much negotiating and compromise is the very nature of putting the quilt together, as it is in life. Not Ryder's best work, but Burstyn and Bancroft are delightful as the pot-smoking aunts, rockin' out to Neil Diamond's "Cherry, Cherry." Simmons is a pleasure to see – with quite a lengthy career behind her, she doesn't appear often. Samantha Mathis is always charming – it would be nice if things would really *click* for her career. Kate Nelligan is fabulous – I was never able to abide her work, presuming her to be like the kind of tight-assed, judgmental characters that she portrayed. But I unexpectedly caught her in "Frankie and Johnny" (with Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer), and could not believe I was watching the woman I had scorned for so long. Now I look forward to seeing her every time she appears. In spite of many fascinating and multi-faceted characterizations, this vehicle does not serve any of these actresses well. One expects Greatness out of such an enormous and worthy cast, but the Entertain-o-meter stops short of Just Okay, and one wishes that such talent had been applied to a script that utilized their collective talent better. The concept of the story revolving around this group-effort is a fine concept, but director, Moorhouse, has to work hard to keep the story from fragmenting into oblivion. Though not weighing in as a heavyweight, the multitude of fine performances ensures that it is fine entertainment on a lazy day.

1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:
The classic 30s comedy, 31 January 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

One of the finest examples of 1930s comedy, and an excellent adaptation of a story that has been told many times, *His Girl Friday* is Hollywood at its best. Perfectly pairing Grant and Russell with an excellent script by Charles Lederer, based on Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur's 1931 play, *The Front Page*, it is the kind of studio magic that could occur when the powers-that-be assigned the best work to the best candidates. Grant, whom I found arrogant and repellant later in his career – not to mention redundant – is at his suave-and-smooth best here as Walter Burns, newspaper editor,, with the perfect foil in Rosiland Russell. As Hildy Johnson, Burns' ex-wife, Russell plays was in the process of cutting her teeth developing characters like this. Hildy is the archetype that gave Russell her reputation as a fast-talking dame, with machine gun delivery, and a smart-mouthed answer for everything. Hildy is off to marry Bruce, played by Bellamy, but her ex, Walter, still needs her to be his star reporter and cover the execution of a convicted killer. Every early journalistic stereotype is in full force – from reporters who would stop at nothing to get their story, to the city editor with a visor and sleeve-garters. Gene Lockhart, Ernest Truex and Clarence Kolb are all in fine form, but even the finest supporting performances pale against Grant and Russell. They are both delightful in this stylish slapstick farce that had previously been filmed as *The Front Page* (and later, again as *The Front Page* in 1974, and as *Switching Channels*). It also spawned a slew of imitators, not the least of which was TV's *Moonlighting*. Screenwriter Lederer's scripts have a freshness even today – 1995 saw a remake of his script *Kiss Of Death* and 2001 brings us *Ocean's Eleven*, which Lederer wrote the script for in 1960.

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