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chuck-reilly

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260 reviews in total 
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"Fighting Father Dunne" based on real-life character, 5 December 2014
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Pat O'Brien, a Warner Brothers contract player for years, had long left that studio when he made this film for RKO Studios in 1948. It was a role that O'Brien could do in his sleep for he had played countless Catholic priests in the past. This movie, based on the career of real-life character Father Peter Dunne, is a minor-league version of the highly-acclaimed "Boys Town" made a decade or so earlier. Dunne started an orphanage for homeless youths (mainly newspaper boys) in St. Louis near the turn of the last century in 1905. That kind of plot could never be made today considering all the trouble the Catholic Church has had in recent years with molestation scandals. In 1948, however, no one would ever question the intentions of the no-nonsense Father Dunne as played by the sturdy O'Brien. Along for the ride in this film are the great character actors, Una O'Connor and Arthur Shields. It almost sounds like a St. Patrick's Day celebration with this group of Irish folks. Dwayne Hickman, in his early teens, plays Dunne's main juvenile delinquent orphan and, unlike Mickey Rooney in "Boys Town," his end is tragic. This film was made "on the cheap," even for RKO standards, but the players make it effective entertainment. O'Brien, Shields, and the young Hickman were all first-rate actors and their performances carry the film. "Fighting Father Dunne" didn't win any awards and is hardly remembered at all today. That's too bad because it's a fine film with a heartfelt message that can still resonate with modern-day audiences.

1935's "The Bride of Frankenstein" is classic in many ways, 24 October 2014
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

1935's "The Bride of Frankenstein, director James Whale's sequel to his earlier smash hit "Frankenstein," is considered not only one of the great horror films of the ages, but indeed, a classic movie in any genre. Bordering on "camp" at some points, but always on "message," "The Bride.." features several holdovers from the earlier film. Colin Clive, as stiff an actor as you'll ever find, returns as the Monster's creator, Dr. Henry Frankenstein. Boris Karloff, of course, reprises his role as the Monster, but this time learns how to speak with the help of O.P. Heggie as the blind hermit. Their relationship in this film has been the subject of debate for years due to Whale's own sexual preference. Karloff's "Monster" has a rough go of it throughout the proceedings and the mad scientist (even madder than Dr. Frankenstein) Dr. Pretorius doesn't improve matters for him one bit. Pretorius (Ernest Thesiger) is portrayed as perverted, cynical and unscrupulous (and possibly Jewish) and his own experiments have to be seen to be believed. His chief goal is for Dr. Frankenstein to assist him in making a mate for Karloff so that they can create their own "race." That sounds like a great idea on paper, but doesn't translate as well in the laboratory. The mate turns out to be the most frightening and distinctively weird female image in the history of cinema. At first glance, she and Karloff look somewhat close to a match made in heaven, but their "relationship" goes to hell in a hand-basket faster than you can say "I do." It seems she doesn't like his "appearance." She obviously hasn't looked in the mirror herself lately. Before this love match takes place, Karloff is subjected to one abuse after another from the townsfolk, from the police, and from a few shots from John Carradine's rifle. In one scene, an angry mob drapes Karloff over a cross and director Whale exhibits him as almost a Christ-like figure. Between that scene and a host of others, there's enough implied imagery and symbolism in this film to keep a team of psychoanalysts busy. As for the rest of the cast, Valerie Hobson plays Henry's wife Elizabeth, replacing Mae Clarke from the first film. She's better looking but not much of an improvement in the acting category. Veteran Una O'Connor provides some much-needed comic relief as the idiotic "Minnie." It's a role she could do in her sleep. Dwight Frye (the lunatic Renfield in 1931's "Dracula") has a small but effective part as a gravedigger. Lastly, Elsa Lanchester is the "Bride" of the title and also appears as author Mary Shelley in the film's brief prologue. According to her associates, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, little Mary has a lot of explaining to do. With some minor prodding, she soon gets the film rolling as she begins her "sequel" to the story. Without grading her on a curve, Ms. Shelley definitely deserves an A+ for originality.

"Nobody's Fool" is unconventional comedy and love story, 19 August 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Nobody's Fool" (1984), not to be confused with the later film starring Paul Newman, is an unconventional comedy with a few serious overtones. Rosanna Arquette is perfectly cast by director Evelyn Purcell in the lead role of Cassie. Living in a small Southwestern Arizona town, Cassie is lonely and depressed and bordering on madness after the break-up of her relationship with her longtime boyfriend (a very conceited Jim Youngs). She tries several comical attempts at suicide but they all come to naught. Her distracted mother (Louise Fletcher) doesn't seem to have a clue to her predicament. To make matters more complicated, Cassie was pregnant at the time of her break-up. She has the baby but puts it up for adoption. Now stuck in a dead-end job with a sympathetic co-worker (Mare Winningham), Cassie's life seems destined for the junk heap---until a Summer Stock company comes to town. She soon falls for the main technician for the troupe, Riley (Eric Roberts), but it takes her a while to admit the truth to herself. Her ex-boyfriend is beginning to show up at unexpected moments, and Cassie's heartstrings begin to pull in two different directions. Complicating the story further is that Riley doesn't seem any more stable than Cassie is. He's carrying a lot of serious baggage himself. In the meantime, Cassie decides to take on some acting classes and shines on stage in the film's penultimate moment when she performs one of Juliet's soliloquies from Shakespeare's famous play. At that point, Cassie realizes that she's come full-cycle in her formerly messed-up existence. It doesn't take her long to decide to follow Riley to Los Angeles and begin a new life. To quote the Bard, "after suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," Cassie's story has a mostly happy ending.

"Nobody's Fool" was tailor-made for the talents of star Rosanna Arquette. Alas, her career had few high points after this picture. That's probably because this film was not anything close to a box-office success. That's too bad because all the performances were excellent and the story-line had a definite 1980s feel to it. Molly Ringwald may have been the teen queen of that era, but Ms. Arquette certainly cornered the market for the twenty-somethings back then. She is at least well-remembered for that and for the band Toto's song in her honor.

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"Platinum Blonde" features the great Robert Williams, 2 May 2014
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

1931's "Platinum Blonde" was an early Frank Capra "talkie" and one where he was still in the development stage of his eventual brilliant career as an iconic Hollywood director. Sadly, the film is now more noted for the outstanding work of lead actor Robert Williams who died only days after the premier of the movie from appendicitis. His natural and free-flowing performance in this film was decades ahead of any actor on the scene back then and he was sure to have become a great star if he had lived. The plot revolves are Williams' character, a fast-talking and brilliant reporter, who ends up marrying rich heiress Jean Harlow (the "Platinum Blonde" of the title) even though he's quite in denial of his true love, one of his junior colleagues, the absolutely gorgeous Loretta Young. Director Capra keeps the pace moving at breakneck speed and the dialog is well-suited for Williams' talents. Ms. Harlow's wooden personality and stilted delivery actually fits her character's shallow traits. She loosens up in several bedroom scenes with Williams and the movie served her well in what was considered her "breakout" performance. But there's no one else on the planet like the 18-year-old Loretta Young. She is a goddess in this movie and she doesn't need to dye her hair "Platinum Blonde." The great Reginald Owen has a nice role as the head butler in Harlow's huge mansion. He provides Williams with an excellent foil and their scenes together are priceless. It's all handled in the soon-to-be-famous Capra style. "Platinum Blonde" isn't a classic film, but Williams' performance makes up for any deficiencies.

Morgan! (1966)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
"Morgan!" is dated film with "Swinging London" backdrop, 7 February 2014
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Offbeat director Karel Reisz was behind the camera for some noteworthy films in his day including "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" and "The French Lieutenant's Woman." Unfortunately, his 1966 movie "Morgan!" isn't one of them. Its threadbare one-joke plot runs thin after a half hour and all that's left is some surrealism regarding the Marxists and a British fellow with a gorilla fixation. A young David Warner plays the title character. He's a fragile "artist" ready for a strait-jacket who's attempting to win back his ex-wife (Vanessa Redgrave before she became a communist) by acting like the lunatic he is. The highlight of the film is when he crashes her wedding ceremony (dressed up like a gorilla) to stiff-upper-lip Robert Stephens while their party guests have a collective fit. He then hops onto a motorbike while his costume's on fire and drives himself straight into the Thames. From there, the film quickly becomes a baffling amalgam of some Leninist babble coupled with a nonsensical and very staged mock execution. We then see Morgan led away and reappearing in an asylum for the insane tending to his "hammer and sickle" garden. His ex-wife also shows up (and pregnant) but it all may be just a figment of his lively imagination. How Ms. Redgrave secured an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress with this performance is a great Hollywood mystery that will never be solved. As for David Warner, he went on to a solid career, mostly as a character actor, and has carried on admirably in his profession despite this role. Needless to say, "Morgan!" did not make him an international star. Irene Handl is also in the cast as Morgan's mixed-up leftist/communist mother. With her parental guidance, it's no wonder he goes off the deep end. Maybe the point was that you have to be really crazy to be a communist. Viewers will find that you also have to be half-mad to sit through this entire movie. As for the "Swinging London" backdrop, it's about as exciting as Fresno on a bad day. "Morgan!" is a dated embarrassment to be seen by the curious only.

"Young Mr. Lincoln" is classic film from John Ford, 28 January 2014
10/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

1939 was a banner year for John Ford. He directed "Stagecoach," "Drums Along the Mohawk," and this excellent movie. All three films are now considered classics and worthy of in-depth analysis and study. "Young Mr. Lincoln" doesn't have the action sequences of the other two films mentioned, but it makes up for that with its atmosphere and an undercurrent of the coming Civil War. Despite the quaint rural setting, there seems to be a foreboding of doom just around the corner and the film is loaded with symbolism. On the outside, Lincoln, as played by Henry Fonda, can be easily mistaken for a good-natured country boy with little ambition. Inside, his character is far more complex and torn between which path to take in his life. Director Ford injects as much local flavor into the proceedings as he can with a county fair scene that's loaded with humor and coupled with a firm nod to history. The veterans of two wars pass by in a parade to remind viewers just how far the new country had progressed in a short period of time. The pie-eating contest with Lincoln doing the judging and a tug-of-war between locals are also highlights. The film eventually centers itself on a court case where the inexperienced Lincoln must defend two young farmers accused of murder. Using all the intelligence, wit and perseverance he can muster, Lincoln is able to win the day by exposing the real guilty party. It's his sharp eye for identifying the truth that saves him and his clients from disaster. Along the way, there are omens of the future dropped in from time to time. The last scene where Lincoln is walking alone near the top of a hill during a driving rain storm is symbolic of the rocky road that's ahead of him. All this would be nothing more than a brief trip down history in the hands of a less competent director than John Ford. Instead, this great film-maker is able to project a multi-faceted Lincoln who disguises his intelligence with jokes and stories, but can lower the boom on an opponent at a moment's notice. There's a lot going on in young Mr. Lincoln's head, and Ford makes sure his audience understands that. The rest of the cast includes Alice Brady as the mother of the two accused murderers, Donald Meek as the prosecuting attorney, and Ward Bond playing a duplicitous character named J. Palmer Cass. What Lincoln does with that fellow's name during a cross examination is hilarious. For true film buffs, look for Milburn Stone (Doc from TV's "Gunsmoke") in a small role as Stephen Douglas, Lincoln's nemesis and future political opponent. Also, the director's older brother, Francis Ford, appears in a brief but pivotal scene as a drunken juror named Sam Boone. As usual, the rest of John Ford's "Stock Company" of players are all featured.

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"Eyes Wide Shut" is disappointing final film for Kubrick, 8 November 2013
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Stanley Kubrick made some great movies in his day---but this is not one of them. Simply put, "Eyes Wide Shut" meanders all over the place and the director himself never seems to know exactly what kind of film he's making. Is it a murder mystery? Is it an exploitative shocker? Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, the two totally baffled leads in this clunker, never really grasp any tangible idea that's being presented and act like they don't know if they're coming or going. Kubrick, being the iron-fisted controlling director that he was, completely stifles the couple and it shows. Both of them give the appearance that they'd rather be anywhere else but on the set. Ms. Kidman is only on-screen about half the time compared to her soon-to-be ex-husband Cruise. She's the lucky one. Cruise's character (a Manhattan doctor) is vapid, indecisive, confused and disillusioned---and that's just from him reading Kubrick's script. Harvey Keitel and Jennifer Jason Leigh were enlightened enough to have jumped out of appearing in this movie before the first morning rushes. Instead, Sydney Pollack does his best with the weak writing and nonsensical story as does poor Leelee Sobieski. As for the movie itself, the sex scenes fall flat as a pancake, the plot is irrelevant, and the actors look like they all want to hang themselves. Luckily for the public-at-large, only a few of them went to see this bomb. It's a shame because Kubrick was one of the great directors of his day. At least one can always rent "Lolita," or "Dr. Strangelove," or "Paths of Glory," etc. All of those films are far superior in every way than this woeful concoction. The only thing you can ask yourself if you happen to sit through this abomination is "What was Stanley thinking?" There is no answer. According to many sources, Kubrick himself was very disappointed that this movie was a dud and that he wasted fifteen months of his life making it. He wasn't the only one.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
"A Very Moral Theft" is dour and sad entry in Hitchcock series, 1 November 2013
8/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In the tragic "A Very Moral Theft," Betty Field plays a woman rapidly approaching Middle Age who has fallen for a seemingly indifferent fellow (Walter Matthau) much to the dismay of her brother (Karl Swenson). Swenson is about to be married and the only thing on his mind is what to do about his sister and the house they both share. In the meantime, Matthau's lumber yard business is failing and he needs a quick loan of $8000 to pay off a creditor or else he's bankrupted. To aid his cause, Betty floats a check at her real estate office and hands the cash equivalent over to Matthau after he promises her that he'll pay her back within a few days. He tells her he has another "deal" pending and that it's worth at least $8000. Of course, if he isn't good on his word, she stands to be indicted for embezzlement. Well, wouldn't you know it, Matthau "deal" doesn't materialize and now Betty is left holding the bag. Her brother isn't happy when he hears the news either. They'll have to sell the house just to keep her out of jail. But miraculously, old Walter turns up with $8000 after all, and hands it over to his grateful and very relieved girlfriend. Then the story takes a very dark turn. Matthau goes missing and no one seems to know what happened to him. After about a week, in desperation for some news, Ms. Field returns to a restaurant that she and Walter use to frequent, but is given the proverbial "cold shoulder" by the proprietor (Sal Ponti). After much prodding, the truth is told. Walter is a dead man. He borrowed the money from the Mob so that his girlfriend wouldn't suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, he did the suffering for her. The distraught expression of total loss on Ms. Field's face when she learns of his fate is worth the price of admission. She quietly takes a seat, her face turned away from the camera, and the episode fades out. Excellent performances highlight this dour entry into the Hitchcock series with both Matthau and Field outstanding in their roles. Throughout the proceedings, Matthau's blasé attitude towards poor Betty is a cover for his true feelings and it completely throws viewers off regarding his intentions. He loves her, but he just can't bring himself to tell her. Tragically, she finds out too late for both of them. The episode was directed by Norman Lloyd, the associate producer of the show and a longtime Hitchcock collaborator. Walter Matthau, almost a regular on this series, went on to an Academy Award-winning career in some of the best loved movies of his generation. Betty Field received a late career boost in "Coogan's Bluff" (1968) playing Don Stroud's boozy mother, Ellen Ringerman. Her scenes with Clint Eastwood are classic.

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"I Can Take Care of Myself" goes dark quickly, 23 October 2013
6/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Veteran actor Myron McCormick and young Linda Lawson play a piano player and a chanteuse in a popular nightclub owned by a guy named Joey (Will Kuluva). Unfortunately for the duo, a "regular customer" is a local mobster named Little Dandy (Frankie Darro) who shows up with his henchmen and immediately begins to hit on Ms. Lawson---and he doesn't take "no" for an answer. After withstanding all his unpleasant advances, Little Dandy finally grabs her roughly while she's walking towards the stage and she ends up dumping her drink on his head. A brawl ensues with McCormick jumping in to aid his singer. The two entertainers have a sort-of father-daughter relationship and he does his best to keep her safe from hoodlums like Little Dandy. But then the story takes a very bleak detour. Ms. Lawson is beaten to death a few days later by an unknown assailant and McCormick is warned by a detective that he may be next to get "hit." An "Insurance Salesman" (Pat Harrington Jr. from "One Day at a Time" fame) also appears at the bar and threatens McCormick with bodily harm. In the end, this dour and violent tale has nowhere to go except to kill off McCormick. Without his lovely singer, he didn't have much to live for anyway. This episode was directed by the competent Alan Crosland Jr. but there isn't much he can do with the limited script. Ms. Lawson had a long and productive career as did Mr. McCormick. Of course, Pat Harrington's "Schneider" on "One Day at a Time" is one of television's more memorable comic roles. This is one of those few Hitchcock entries that totally lacks suspense. The "surprise" ending is anything but, and the plot itself is weak and pointless. Two nice people get killed for nothing more than defending themselves. End of story.

"Hitch Hike" has interesting view on youth culture of the time, 17 October 2013
7/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Despite his dour British demeanor and obvious distaste for some things "American," Alfred Hitchcock had somewhat of a soft spot for the teen generation---at least before everybody became a hippie. In "Hitch Hike," John McIntire plays a local politician who begins the story by admonishing his niece (a lovely and very young Suzanne Pleshette) for having to appear before a juvenile court. Her parents are dead and he's the stern voice-of-reason guardian. During a brief stop as he's taking her back home for more tongue-lashings, their car horn goes off by accident and before you can say "juvenile delinquent," an agitated teenager (Robert Morse with his quirky mannerisms in full display) opens the hood, pulls a wire out and stops all the noise. He's then able to bum a ride with McIntire and Pleshette to the next city. Along the way, he befriends good-looking Suzanne and beings to irritate the heck out of the straight-as-an-arrow McIntire with his views on the generation gap. Morse soon reveals that he was recently held in a "youth farm" for wayward boys to the excitement of Ms. Pleshette but to the utter displeasure of Mr. McIntire. Morse continues rapping on about one of his "friends" at the facility who has cut some throats when they didn't "dig" where he was coming from. "You get the picture, daddio?" says Morse. It doesn't take much to convince McIntire that Morse himself may be the throat-cutter. He speeds up the car to over 100 MPH in the hopes that a policeman will stop him so he can get rid of this murder-minded kid. His wish is granted and it's not long before he's pulled to the side of the road by a motorcycle cop, but that's when the fun begins. McIntire can't get in a word edgewise while the cop lambastes him and writes him up for speeding well over the limit. You might say he's getting a "taste of his own medicine." When Mac finally is able to explain why he had the pedal to the metal, Morse is dutifully searched for the knife he supposedly has hidden, but no weapon is found. His only possession is one small comb. Then old John is informed that reckless speeders like himself usually get 10 days in jail from the local judge. It's enough to ruin his lily-white reputation and McIntire is now fit to be tied as the officer drives away. But all's well that ends well because the ever-resourceful Morse has pick-pocketed the cop and stolen his book of traffic tickets. He makes a final offer to McIntire: you can have the ticket and tear it up OR...you can take it back to the station and then throw yourself on the mercy of the court. Civic-minded John immediately realizes that the kid has offered him an easy way out to save his precious reputation. The three newfound friends drive off into the night as the shredded ticket flies out of the car and into the wind.

This neat little morality tale was directed by the great Paul Henreid. John McIntire of "Wagon Train" fame could play "stuffed shirt" characters with the best of them and he does fine work here with a role he could do in his sleep. Suzanne Pleshette doesn't get the opportunity to show off her acting skills too much in this episode. Her job is mainly to look beautiful and unhappy (until Morse enters the picture). She does very good at both. The exceptionally talented Ms. Pleshette passed away a few years ago and she is truly missed by all. Watching Robert Morse here play against type as a brainy hoodlum makes one wonder how far he would have gone if he hadn't just been cast in light comedies and musicals. He had far more depth of character than he was ever given credit for. Luckily for us, he's still a working actor today ("Mad Men").


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