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Klondike Annie (1936)
No Place Like Nome!
One interesting aspect that hasn't been touched upon is the fact that Mae's character of Rose actually shows some genuine affection for the real missionary named Annie before Annie's death- a rare thing for Mae to do for another woman in a movie. I wonder if perhaps, Annie may have even been slightly based on Mae's own deceased, supportive mother?
The movie plays like a more lighthearted version of 'Sadie Thompson' with Mae's character using religion rather than vice versa- and it's a good touch that the captain is actually far less of a pushover than many of Mae's other leading men. He actually tries to deny and fight his affection for her (rare indeed in a Mae West movie). But Victor McLaglin was too tough to have been believable as a pushover and it's a nice touch at the end that Rose admits he's 'no oil painting' but that he's 'an interesting monster' when admitting her affection for him.
Also, it needs to be noted that at no point does the action ever venture to the Klondike- despite the movie's title. I suppose they wanted to keep Rose near the ocean (and the captain) instead of having her venture into the interior- giving the captain no reason to stay around. Perhaps 'Nome Annie' didn't suit Mae (who, curiously referred to the movie as 'Klondike Lou' in her autobiography - in spite of there having been no character of that name appearing in the move).
Even Fools' Gold Doesn't Pan Out Here!
With nothing else on cable , I happened upon this one night and I thought would be a good ride from Disney like 'Swiss Family Robinson' or 'Light of the Forest'. Here was a movie that took place in what was one of the most dynamic times and settings in US History (so far)-California,1848 and what a premise: a kid wants to make things right for his debt-ridden family by striking it rich in Californie having just heard about Sutter's Mill but his family retainer doesn't want him to come to harm so he follows along. Of course, in the opening scenes when discussing the late grandpa's will, the film has the geezer's painted pic make faces and the soundtrack making clanging noises. Thinking this was just a one-time anomaly, I'm willing to shrug that off so I could get to the eventual payoff. Will the boy (and retainer) make it to Californie in on that ship having to sail all the way around South America? And what's to become of the kid's much older sis Arabella played by the always fetching Suzanne Pleshette?
Unfortunately, the Disney kiddie syndrome that starts with Grandpa's pic making faces intensifies as the picture gets more and more cartoonish. And the concept of the butler Griffin having an unspoken crush on Arabella that he's considering acting upon now that they're starting new lives in this very dynamic frontier city/world class port of San Francisco? Great idea but, unfortunately, Roddy McDowell's character just isn't able to muster believability in terms of being attracted to Arabella(paging Bob Newhart!). And what about the gold panning idea? It soon gets scuttled for some lame fighting deal the mouthy kid gets them into!
Unfortunately, the whole thing ends in a complete mess with nothing resolved as an incoherent montage of buildings representing San Francisco in the future literally annihilates the on-screen action while the corny song screams over the remaining dialogue! Does this mean that Griffin became a major player in the building of Frisco and he got Suzanne? If so, how? Who can tell?
So much potential could have been had with this movie but between miscasting McDowell and Disney kiddie stuff, it got totally ruined!
Walk the Line (2005)
Excellent Storytelling, Performances and Story
While I certainly can understand why Rosanne Cash and her sisters were uncomfortable seeing their mother Vivianne's marriage to their father Johnny meltdown on the big screen, Vivian's only 'failings' seemed to be that she simply wanted security for her family and didn't think a music career with Johnny on the road all the time was the way to achieve this, and she objected to his alcoholism, pill addiction and his flaunting groupies letters. Seems perfectly understandable to me. However; one can't deny that having witnessed their father's alcoholism, addiction and putting their lives very much on the back burner to his desire for performing- and seeing their parents have a physical altercation (if true) must have been a terrible price for these girls to have paid in their childhood! If anything, this movie made Johnny not Vivianne seem the worse parent and spouse.
It's a credit to the executive producer John Carter Cash that he was willing to have had his late father depicted this way- even to the extent of ending the movie before his OWN birth and childhood in which,by all accounts, he benefited from having, a much more attentive and present father than his older half-sisters had had in their childhoods. John Carter Cash didn't even have the end titles mention him by name but merely said that six months after the Ontario proposal, Johnny and June Carter were married and two years later had a son!
It's not just the vocal range and guitar playing skills that Phoenix did an amazing job with while playing Johnny but also the fact he was able to convey the often desperate nature he had of needing to perform to feel alive and how he considered the other performers and audience audience to be his family that he always loved yet argued with. Excellent idea to bookend the movie with highlights of his innovative Folsom Prison Live performance in which he bonded with the inmates as though he was a long lost brother. Not a false note in Phoenix's performance in relating in that bond!
Also,while Johnny rightly gave credit to June and her parents for rallying around him to help him deal with his addictions and put him back on steady ground. One must ask if one reason he accepted their help/intervention was due to him literally worshiping them from childhood onwards? No doubt Vivianne wanted to end these addictions and it's quite likely one or more groupies may have attempted to enact a 'salvation' fantasy by trying to get him quit- but Johnny didn't worship any of these women the way he had June!
Not surprising that Johnny would worship June as a boy(named J R) because he was told that the one means he was able to feel alive(his music) was 'nothing' by his father and,on the radio, he could hear on the radio a child close to his age being praised and venerated by ADULTS for the very thing his own father constantly dismissed. And Reese was very believable as someone who'd more than held her own from an early age in what was then unquestionably a male-dominated profession- yet never lost her femininity or compassion. Reese definitely has earned her Best Actress Nomination here for capturing June's intense spirit- yet keeping her human and not letting her be a two-dimensional stereotype.
Robert Patrick did an amazing job with a rather unlikable character of Ray Cash- and one can't help but wonder if the movie (and Johnny himself) may have toned down the REAL Ray Cash's hateful and belittling personality- though it must be said that even though Ray finally grudgingly admitted being envious of Johnny for being able to tell a story, he DID seem to be there for his granddaughters when their father wasn't.
This movie may not have every picayunish detail of Johnny's life depicted with flawless accuracy but I think it legitimately captured the essence of what made him tick as best as any movie could have.
Sky High (2005)
Not Oscar Worthy but Fun
It's been some time since I was in high school but I don't think any us of totally forget what it was like to have to deal with cliques- especially when the school encouraged them!
I won't repeat what others have said but I liked how Captain Stronghold and Jetstream played good Cleaver 'rents who expected a great deal from their son but were by no means total tyrants. Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston played the roles with just the right amount of broadness and heart. I thought it was funny how as soon Will told them that the unauthorized party wasn't his idea, they shrugged it off. And did anyone else laugh out loud at the fact that the 'cool' teens went to the trouble to commandeer the house behind parents' backs for a BIG party yet they didn't bring any refreshments stronger than soda?! ONLY in a Disney movie!
Also, I liked how they added interesting touches such as Warren being able to speak Chinese fluently (even though this had absolutely nothing to do with the main plot) . Or how when the 'civilian' couple saw a teen perform a feat of strength that would have taken Supe himself aback, it was the husband who fainted and wouldn't anyone else like to have the number of their roofer/house builder who constructed the house and roof sturdy enough to withstand thousands of extra tons in one spot?
Oh, and a shout out to Cloris Leachman for playing the school nurse who was SO much like my childhood pediatrician- right down to her white pigtails, candy and medical explanations!
Not rocket science or anything deep but it was fun and I was ready for the laughs!
Megablasts, Robots and A Chewie Cameo Do Not A Good Finale Make
Boom! Boom! Boom! Blast! Blast! Blast! Repeat a zillion times with lots of robots and spaceships obscuring the audience's view of the main performers seems to have been the formula here!
I've followed this series since the original 'Star Wars' (BEFORE, it was Episode Four) and can even remember when it had its original scroll so it's with some sadness that I can't look back on this too well. I mean, one of the highlights of the 'Star Wars' experience at the cinema is having the ENTIRE audience erupt into thunderous applause when the opening trumpets blare right before the scroll. That didn't not happen this time. I was the ONLY one clapping and hardly anyone joined me at the beginning as the story unfolded.
Okay, enough's been said by others about the annoying wheezy General Grievous, mushy dialog between Anakin and Padme that would have been considered hackneyed in 1935 ,Anakin's 'staunch principles' being about as resolute as a weather vane's,etc. so allow me to mention something else that wrecks this installment that no amount of sci-fi babble n' spin can explain away. Everything in this film short of the twins' birth seems to transpire in about a week- yet Padme goes from 'not showing' when she shares her news with Anakin (and seems surprised that Obi-Wan can tell she's pregnant) to only having a small lump during her final final scene with Anakin- yet somehow she's able to bear full-term twins what seems mere hours after Obi-Wan rescues her! It would have hurt NOTHING for Lucas to have had the birth take place six to seven months later with Anakin/Darth being in carbo-frozen suspended animation until his armour is ready at the same time his twins are born and Padme dies!
Yes, in ROJ, Luke does indeed ask Leia about her 'real' mother and Leia has images of her she could NOT have had from being held aloft at birth for two minutes before the woman's death but even that incongruity pales compared to Padme being able to have her twins somehow grow from first trimester to full-term in UNDER A DAY! I know it's sci-fi but the Amidalas and Skywalkers are HUMAN and it's impossible for human babies to develop THAT quickly in any galaxy via any technology! Oh, and what would it have killed to have had Padme give some attempt at explain WHY she named the twins Luke and Leia?! Names have power (e.g. Darth Vader='dark father' in German)and these twins are supposed to be pivotal to the survival of the galaxy yet Padme just seems to pick the names out of the air randomly as she dies. It would have been cool to have had Obi Wan, Yoda and Padme discuss the meanings and significance while she gave them. Even a trite scene baby name speculating scene (e.g.'If it's a boy we can name him Luke after Bo Duke's cousin but if it's a girl we can name her Leia after your grandmother' )earlier in the movie would have been better than her just randomly picking them with her last breaths!
Yoda, Ewan MacGregor and Christopher Lee all shine above the rest of the movie but one has to keep telling oneself about how THIS will complete the cycle. Unfortunately, the Force isn't so much with this movie as the movie is just . ..forced!
P.S. There was NO applause whatsoever at my cinema when the closing credits rolled unlike every other installment I've seen. Even I, one of the biggest fans from 1977, couldn't muster myself to do it.
Ordinary People (1980)
There's not a false note or performance here! It's quite extraordinary how this is played out.
It's quite amazing to see how Conrad keeps everything bottled up throughout most of the movie yet shows so much more under the surface even during these times than the most verbose speeches could have rendered. The thought that came to me about his attempted suicide after his brother Buck's drowning was that it wasn't just guilt that drove him to that but I believe he may have sensed that his mother wasn't willing to love him (her only surviving child) even after that so he may have done it as a last ditch attempt to win her love by doing what he believed she may have preferred all along. Timothy Hutton definitely earned his Oscar here and it was good of him to dedicate it to his late father Jim who became terminally ill with liver cancer during the film's shooting.
Mary Tyler Moore played Beth as far more complex and with more depth than she might have been played by a lesser actress. Even though Beth is quite hypocritical- saying and doing many selfish and heartless actions, there IS a humanity in her character so that even when she leaves without so much as mustering a goodbye to her still-fragile son, one can sense that she WILL be missed by both her husband and son even though both have had to come to conclusion that she never genuinely loved either of them. Her scenes with her parents, brother, neighbors and trick-or-treaters showed she WAS capable of having genuine affection for others but NOT for the most important people in her life. Perhaps, Beth feared getting too close to those who knew HER faults all too well.
One must ask though, how could Conrad have known that his mother had had to uproot and replace the bathroom sink and tile work because the blood from his suicide attempt proved indelible unless he overheard her or she outrightly TOLD him so?! And then,too, the scene at the golf course when Beth berates Calvin for having the temerity to wonder if the suicidal Conrad was okay and wanting to phone him after so many days alone (accusing Conrad of somehow manipulating his father's emotions for HIS sake ) was quite outrageous as was her chastising Calvin for tactfully imparting the news about Conrad's current therapy to a concerned neighbor saying that Conrad's problems had to stay within the family- yet having two VERY public outbursts about Conrad in front of total strangers! The scenes in which she was discomfited by Conrad's walking into Buck's room as though he had deliberately disturbed her worshiping at her personal shrine and when she utterly recoiled when Conrad hugged her and told her how happy he was to see her were quite chilling indeed. It would have been easy for Beth to been played as an utterly heartless, vindictive witch but, even during Beth's worst, Moore showed us Beth's humanity! It should be noted that Moore now admits that her relationship with her only child Ritchie Meeker was somewhat strained during his teen years. However; they DID reconcile and became close by the time she made this movie and he lived to be her escort for the premiere. The movie must have been quite cathartic for BOTH to see. However; Moore's comfort would prove tragically short-lived as Meeker would die from an accidental shooting at age 24 a few months after this premiered!
The late Donald Sutherland as Calvin was perhaps the most compelling of the main roles as he alone earnestly wanted everything to be alright for all members of his family to the degree that he refused to see Beth's flaws until almost too late. Sutherland made him quite believable without having Calvin become 'touchy feeling and overly sensitive'.
It should also be noted here that Dinah Manoff shined in her solitary scene as the one-time fellow patient Karen whose suicide would prompt Conrad to desperately seek out help to save himself from his own demons. Karen also faked being cured and happy but the viewer couldn't be fooled by this bravado thanks to Manoff's intensity! It's too bad Manoff has since opted for comedy instead of revisiting her dramatic heights.
This isn't a 'chick flick' but one of humanity in all its best and worst. However; the themes of suicide and parental rejection may be too upsetting for small children.
One of the Most Compelling Trainrides of Cinema
I'm no fan of either leads' politics and found it ironic that Miss Hellman actually disputed the movie depicting her having searched for Julia's baby- when in fact, virtually the entire plot was Miss Hellman's fiction. She'd never even met the 'real' Julia (one Dr. Muriel Gardiner) nor did 'Julia'/Dr. Gardiner have any baby in the 1930's but Miss Hellman undoubtedly admired the work Dr. Gardiner did and wished she could have been a part of that. This movie and the book Miss Hellman wrote that it was based on would be more of a wish-fullfillment than anything.
All that said,though, it was quite a great testament to the power of friendship (and that's ALL it was but that alone was strong enough) that saw Lillian seek out acceptance and accolades in the very society that she'd first been dazzled by via her girlhood visits with Julia- yet this aerified society was exactly what Julia herself would spend her entire life fleeing and trying to do right by the larger world. Strange that even in their girlhood, the cars and wardrobe was depicted as being no earlier than the 1920's- yet the movie makes it clear that at least 20 years had elapsed when everything came to a head c.1938!
So many unanswered questions raised here! Why were Julia's grandparents and mother so estranged from her that they refused to recognize her best friend or even acknowledge her death? Who was Mr. Johannes and what would he have done had Lillian not opted to volunteer for the mission- even with her obnoxious friends trying to tag along/talk her out of it? Quite fitting that they used one of the last steam engine locomotives from that time for that movie- the steam added to the sinister and mystery of the operation! What exactly did Lillian's train compartment companions know about the mission and Lillian herself? Was it more than just the importance of Lillian wearing the lambskin hat and using the fine chocolate bon-bons to divert the German Customs' attention? Who was it who removed the money from the lambskin hat while she and Julia were in the beer hall? The fact that these are fictional characters doesn't mean these questions aren't worth pondering!
What a remarkable reunion between the Lillian and Julia- as though they both knew they had so much to say to each other but too little time to say it yet still were able to communicate more in that single conversation than many friends who have a lifetime together! And an interesting touch that the single trainride and meeting of Mr. Johannes seemed to have impacted Lillian even more than all the years she'd survive Julia and Dashell yet would continue to dominate her life!
The only thing that brings it down any is Miss Hellman having pretended her remarkable story was fact.
Watch for Jimmy Durante!
Michael J. Fox, Ed Begley,Jr and the legendary Kirk Douglas are ALL likable performers- no question about it. Too bad they're stuck playing TOTALLY despicable and UNlikable characters in this movie! After being introduced to one greedy, scheming relative after another for the zillionth time, WE GET IT! The love of money is EVIL-DUH! Even those characters the audience is *supposed* to think are likable (Fox's too-loyal girlfriend and principled hippie dad)fail to be. The girlfriend keeps threatening to leave Fox if he doesn't walk away from this mess- again and again. After the zillionth empty threat instead of thinking he's risking losing a good girl (like the script would want us to believe), I got the idea she was JUST as unprincipled and manipulative as the rest as she definitely STAYS to the end. Oh, and his dad was portrayed too much like a utopian hippy to be believable.
I DO urge everyone who has the chance to watch the opening credits for the Late Jimmy Durante to sing his signature song of 'Inka Dinka Dinka Doo'! Durante definitely steals the show because he is the ONLY vaguely likable character in this whole movie! Yeah, Fox does a good imitation of Durante but is it worth going through the REST of the movie to see? I think not.
Watch the Opening Credits, Skip the Rest
Actually, the parts with Russell and Flynn are okay. The only actually good or inventive part of this flick is the Opening Credits in which a cartoon kid Dexter gets to live out what it'd be like to BE the Strongest Man in the World(catches King Kong after he falls from the Empire State Building, carries a large cruise ship,etc.). The rest of this is too cornily written with the lamest gags and SFX to bother with- even when one considers that it's a 70's Disney flick.
Sad to say, this proved to be Flynn's last film. He and Russell did the best any performer could have done with what they were given but that still doesn't make it worth looking for. Even for a time-filler after channel-surfing, it's ultimately not worth it.
The Patron Saint of Liars (1998)
GREAT Supporting Roles, Unsympathetic Lead- SPOILERZ
+ + Rose leaves her husband with no real explanation ever offered- and relocates to Kentucky! She meets the wonderfully sympathetic Sister Evangeline and the crotchety heart-of-gold spinster landowner along with some of the other pregnant women. The audience is geered to feel empathy for these mothers who are forced to relinquish custody of their babies- yet despite a few initial protests, Rose does nothing to challenge the dictatorial Mother Superior or change any of her dictums even after she herself becomes a mother! Oh, and for reasons never explained, she isolates herself from her daughter Cecilia ASAP as well her her bigamously wed 2nd husband Son. Cecilia grows into a remarkably well-adjusted teen without any evident boyfriends who cherishes her de facto mothers (Sister Evangeline and the late spinster landowner who left the house) and her de facto father Son but is understandably puzzled and bitter towards her own mother's cold behaviour. Beyond cooking together for the unwed mothers and teaching her how to drive, Rose sees to it they have as little interaction as possible and openly resents any queries into her past. Rose actually berates Cecilia for driving the seriously injured Son to the hospital when there was no other reliable means to safely reach the place as though Cecilia had taken a joyride! Eventually Rose's first husband finds the family shortly after Rose has taken off with only the tersest explanation but he seems perfectly willing to leave things be. At the end, after someone smashes her car back window, Rose has an epiphany and drives back home and while a long-dry spring gushes to life, Rose gushes about how she's now Cecilia's 'REAL mother!' while hugging her daughter and bigamous husband. Contrary to another reviewer, I don't think Cecilia had miraculously become totally accepting of Rose at that instant but just seemed willing to see if this New Rose was going to change! Usually Lifetime movies try to provide compelling motivations for the despicable behaviours of the leading characters but this one didn't even slightly bother! While Rose wasn't overtly cruel or sadistic, it's hard to remember a less sympathetic female character- and she owed everyone in her life major penance! I'd have preferred it if the movie had been focused on Sister Evangeline, the spinster or Son instead of Rose. Sada Thompson and Ellen Burstyn shined in their parts but even the great Dana Delaney couldn't make Rose believable or likable!