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A noble effort in many ways
This show was a real blast from the past with some terrific interviews, clips, and re-enactments. It not only brought back many childhood memories, but also added some very interesting back stories. It is not easy to compress a good 25 years of anything into 60 minutes, but even still, the omissions in this program were almost glaring at times. Chicago was pretty much overlooked with no mentions of Super Circus and Claude Kirshner, nor Kukla, Fran & Ollie. Chuck McCann was unquestionably the "dean" of NYC kids (and "kidult") shows and got a fine nod here, but Sandy Becker, Sonny Fox, and Soupy Sales were passed over. Then there was no mention of icon "Miss Francis" and Ding-Dong School. A very good effort in many ways, but oddly skewed away from 2 cities where kids' TV was really born. Let's hope Ken Burns or someone else revisits this subject in a 90 - 120 minute format.
The Lost Valentine (2011)
An absolute must see.
Here is a story that so could have easily gotten out of hand, but it didn't. It stayed quite believable from beginning to end, with solid direction, writing, cinematography, and production from music to costumes. All the actors gave solid performances, but Betty White is in her glory here. Capping a life time before the cameras playing every part from bubble-head wife, to game show staple, to man-chasing TV "Home Maker" to senior Nordic-American widow, we now have a consummate pro, the caliber of Tracey or Heburn in their latter days giving a performance that is total "Emmy" caliber all the way. If you some how missed this, catch a rebroadcast, or put it on your purchase or rental list when it appears on DVD or Blu-Ray disc. You will not be disappointed. One caveat: Have the box of tissue handy because Betty's gonna get you!
Up the River (1930)
Watching this tonight on TCM was like rubbernecking an auto accident between 2 clown-mobiles where no one got hurt. This film is bad on so many levels. It can't seem to decide if it wants to be a musical or a drama, with far too much (bad) music for a drama, and far too little (bad) music for a musical. The plot is almost non-existent, the dialog clumsy, and any sort of wrapping up of the story is left up to the viewer. Sound was still new, so I'll pass over the bad sound effects and some off-mic dialog, but the cinematography is terrible with the top of peoples' heads regularly cut off, and sometimes missing everything above their chins! There are some (bad) jokes, but Bogart & Tracey manage to give decent performances despite all of the above. Add to this nearly constant splices (from lost or damaged film) which resembles a Benny Hill sketch. This is definitely one to miss unless you're a hardcore early talkies film buff, or are a big fan of Tracey and/or Bogie and want to see the start of their careers... or you are stoned and looking for some off-beat and unintentional laughs.
Temple Grandin (2010)
An absolute must-see.
I just saw this movie for the first time and I'm still trying to catch my breath. The story is amazing, and so well laid out that it all makes so much sense about a long mystifying subject. Now add incredible performances, direction, screenplay, photography, music, and you've a riveting experience in store. I can not wait to see it again. Yes, there are some Emmy caliber performances here, but it is the story which captivates almost immediately. Doctors have long puzzled over the quandary of autism and this story illuminates but one type of the condition. Yet it is universal in helping us in the mainstream to see the underlying communicative difficulties of those whose brains are simply wired differently from our, and what they must overcome to live in a world that does not see, hear, or perceive the same way the rest of us do. Again, this is a must see, not only for the "medical" content, but from a film point of view. This is great movie making all around.
John Adams (2008)
Magnificent in every detail
The attention to detail in this mini-series only caps off the brilliant writing and acting, top to bottom. So refreshing to see this attention in simple things like seeing the cannons fire in the distance, THEN hearing the blasts several seconds later, as it is in real life... ditto thunder and lightning... brilliant. Even more importantly, seeing how our founding fathers (and mothers!) laid it all out on the line, risking life and property for ideas and ideals. This series should be mandatory watching in high school history classes from now on. It should also be mandatory viewing for our Congress, if only to remind them of what guts, personal conviction, and personal sacrifice in service to your COUNTRY is. Maybe today's leaders wouldn't be so quick to dismantle the Constitution if they see accurately what our ancestors went through to secure it in the first place. HBO, Tom Hanks, et al ... you are to be genuinely congratulated! And special thanks to David McCullough for the book, and the writers for their screenplays.
This work is really 2 movies in one: One for adults, and one for the kids, which is always a plus for "family" entertainment. The adult movie contains a good story, well-cast characters, and good, often campy performances. The rock that anchors it all is John Goodman who once again not only turns in a great performance, but also raises the quality of the material he's handed, aided by Delta Burke as Mrs. Claus. The second movie is loaded with references that kids can identify with... everything from computer games to electronic entertainment to fashion styles and comics, and populated by actors and performances that are very amusing indeed. Unfortunately, this is what will ultimately quickly date this movie. It's not one for the ages, but definitely one for the next few years, which is what lost it one star in my rating. The other star lost came from the repeated references to Dr. Laura throughout the movie. Cone on folks, couldn't you have picked someone a bit further to the left of Hitler? Otherwise, a fine evening's entertainment.
Disney: Hands off, please!
Mattress is a great show... for those 16 or older. Like most Warner "Looney Tunes" it was never intended for children! Now, if you take that very premise, and try to make it palatable for the Christain set between our 2 mountain ranges, you kill the very premise for the show in the first place! The original plot revolves around, and is propelled by a pre-marital pregnancy, an Oedipal relationship, a woman-chasing father, and typical court intrigue. These are now, essentially all gone and with them went the engine that drives the show. That said, the actors here were all fine, and generally well cast (although I'd have gone with Marcel Marceau or the brilliant Bill Irwin for the King, even though Tommy Smothers was still great) and all the leads made the very wise choice of going with their own strengths as opposed to trying to out do the originals. Tracey Ullman was great as her own Winnifred, and Burnett created her own Queen, knowing that, like her own Winnifred of 1959, Jane White's original Queen is absolutely not copyable! The "dated" musical sound of the original was marvelously updated for today. All of which underscored the terrible rewriting of the book, and the stodgy direction accompanying it. Why take 5 minutes of droopy dialog to establish what "Opening For A Princess" did musically in 2? Where did that useless dungeon scene come from? "The Queen Has Ordered Quiet" and "Very Soft Shoes"" would have fit much better in the same amount of time. "Mattress" is a fully loaded freight train racing down a steep mountain grade, barely staying on the tracks, whistle and bells going all the way. Anything less (like the recent Broadway revival too) just falls flat. I wish they'd either re-release the 1964 B&W version, or someone please do a shot-by-shot remake, as it was written! No, Hollywood, you don't know better than the original Broadway writers and, no Disney, you don't know real comedy. You know "cute, innocent and humorous," but that's a long way from comedy! Please stop remaking Broadway musical comedies. Let someone else do it, please!
Once Upon a Mattress (1964)
The First, and still the best!
I wish someone would re-release this first version, even though it's in B & W. It's still, by far, the best. The cast, mostly all from the original Broadway cast, are absolutely perfect, as is the "over-the-top" pacing, acting, and comedy bits. I gave a 9 instead of 10 because of the missing number "Happily Ever After" (which COULD be cut in from the 1972 color remake--- hint- hint). One look at this version (I happen to have a very bad copy of it, full of dropouts, but none-the-less still watchable) and the '72 remake fades a bit, and the 2005 "Disney" version absolutely falls flat. This is not a children's musical. It's an adult fantasy, and that's where all the fun comes from, fun that, sadly, got "sanitized" for middle America in its latest incarnation, thus making it boring for both children and adults. See THIS version if at all possible.