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35 reviews in total 
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Morgan! (1966)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Nearly 100% unfunny, 5 May 2012

Four stars because even though I remember the '60s, I definitely was there. Morgan! was a hot ticket back then, said to be one of the most brilliant wacky satires ever filmed.

The reason: stylish and quirky direction, elegant and very fashionable Vanessa Redgrave, energetic David Warner, the exact opposite in looks and behavior of the Hollywood leading man.

Unfortunately, that isn't enough to make a decent movie, though millions wanted to believe it was. The alleged humor isn't "over-the-top," it's forced and artificial. There is nothing engaging about the title character: he really is insane and potentially dangerous. His wife's love-hate relationship with him (make that "amusement-hate") is not only inexplicable by reason, it doesn't even contribute to the plot (such as it is). It's just a circumstance that wants to wow you but doesn't. The Trotskyite-Stalinist feud between Morgan and his mom seems like another pointless gimmick, though I suppose making an English Communist the main character near the height of the Cold War was calculated to give the movie some kind of edgy, transgressive feel. Like most everything else here, however, it becomes tedious and annoying after the first fifteen minutes.

If you can possibly stay awake, it probably means you're loving it. I doubt there's a middle ground.

A few months after the premier of "Morgan" came the American "Lord Love a Duck." It's got some serious flaws too, but if irreverent '60s, pre-hippie, madcap comedy-satire is what you want, I'd try that one. At least part of the time it's crazy fun.

Anonymous (2011/I)
8 out of 18 people found the following review useful:
Bard thou never wert, 8 April 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It's just possible that this movie takes fewer liberties with English history than did William Shakespeare in his history plays. (That's "possible," not "likely.") But here's the difference: the history plays were written by William Shakespeare, and this movie was written by John Orloff.

If you really believe that the Earl of Oxford was the "real" Shakespeare, I have a bridge in San Francisco Bay you might want to buy from me. But that's for later. Meanwhile, "Anonymous" has as much to do with a serious presentation of the "case for Oxford" as it has for the "case for alien abduction." In Orloff's version, Oxford can't help but write one brilliant play after another because he hears voices in his head. Now there's a premise for another movie, maybe with Shakespeare hearing voices, etc., etc., but nothing comes of it here. It's just, you know, voices in his head. Also, he's somehow squandered most of his family's wealth, though it's not explained how. Quills, ink, and paper seem to be his only expenses.

Since Oxford is a noble, he's not "allowed" to write plays. So to get his creations in front of the public, he tries to get Ben Jonson to front for him. Jonson thinks the plays just aren't him, so when the drunken, obnoxious, illiterate, whoring, egotistical, sleazy-looking ham actor Shakespeare offers to take on the job, Ben agrees.

Oxford makes sure that every play he writes has a political message, and that message is usually to subvert Lord Cecil, Oxford's father-in-law and the real brains behind the throne now that Elizabeth is half senile. Why? Why, to keep King James of Scotland from inheriting the realm as Liz wishes. But what's wrong with that? Who knows! Not John Orloff! All he knows is that Oxford wants the Queen's lover, Essex, on the throne. Why Essex? Beats me. Would Essex make a better king? The movie doesn't say, so I guess the answer is obviously yes.

SPOILER: for no reason at all except to make you go "Whoa! Dude!" Oxford turns out to be Liz's bastard son. As well as her other lover! Whoa!! Dude!! Have you ever seen a Shakespeare movie like this? I doubt it! After this revelation, and after Essex has his head removed by the Royal Executioner after the theater audience has stormed the palace waving pitchforks (which they must have brought with them to the show), Oxford dies for no particular reason. But Ben saves the plays. And King James loves them! (Lucky for us all, Ben was the only rioter in the front line to survive bullets and cannon balls fired point blank.) Expressive acting by Derek Jacobi as the Prologue (a device cleverly borrowed from "Henry V") shows up everybody else as just pretty good. Fine costumes and sets - when you can see them on the unusually dark screen. No rap or grunge in the soundtrack.

I hear you saying, "Hey, jerkface, it's just entertainment!" So very true if you're entertained by a pretentious plot that makes little sense on it own terms and that wildly distorts history without making it any more interesting. (The mammoth stampede down the ramp of the Great Pyramid in director Emmerich's "10,000 BC" was one of the great all-time movie scenes, in my opinion.) What's a little bit creepy is that "Anonymous" is openly devoted to showing the real William Shakespeare as a contemptible idiot and Elizabeth I as lacking all notable qualities except lifelong horniness. I guess there's a demand for films that depict history's greats as "really" having been corrupt, disgusting louts. Why is that?

Best scenes: Oxford recites or composes a sonnet while Liz gives him oral sex. Later, Shakespeare (murderer of Christopher Marlowe) secretly tails Oxford disguised in a fake beard-and-nose on a stick, and hides behind a chicken so he won't be seen.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Passion Dale - in more ways than one, 29 November 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Here's what you'll need to believe - for starters - in order to enjoy this movie:

1. A Canadian soldier gets a medal - promptly - simply for bayoneting a German in the head.

2. Though badly wounded, he deserts, is caught, and somehow winds up back in Canada even though he's being threatened with execution as a deserter.

3. On top of that, all three of his brothers have already been killed (as in "Saving Private Ryan"), and when he's reported missing his mother "dies of a broken heart." And that's just the first fifteen minutes! (I left out the part where a geeky blue-collar kid has sex with the gorgeous daughter of Calgary's leading physician on a table in the newspaper office where he works - in super-prudish, pre-Pill 1917. And the daughter wears a see-through blouse to a formal dinner party. The word "passion" is prominently mentioned a couple of times.) There's an evil, cowardly English officer, who is a worse villain than any German. There's the hero's nurse sweetie who, in one night, kicks morphine cold-turkey with his help. And there's the fact that all four main characters wind up together at Passchendaele.

Whether or not you've seen "The Passion (get it?) of the Christ," you won't be ready for the explosion that magically blows the geeky guy out of a German trench into an upright, barbed-wire-and-wooden-plank crucifixion. Honest! Then the hero crosses 200 yards of swampy No Man's Land under fire from a hundred German guns - unhurt except for blood across his forehead. Then he hauls the cross, with his pal still writhing, back to Canadian lines. A bloody miracle! You get two Christs instead of one! A German officer nods his head in sadness and approval.

The evil Englishman has already been blown up by a different magic shell that leaves the half-dozen Canadians around him unfazed and untouched. He's just uttered the cowardly words, "If the enemy breaks through, we'll be in DANGER!" The final scene of endless crosses is ripped off from the moving finale of "Oh What a Lovely War!" (1969).

There's more foolishness that I won't even mention.

The battle scenes are effective. But there *is* that crucifixion thing.

And you won't learn much about Passchendaele, except that it was awful. A postscript tells us that the Germans retook the ground a few months later, so the effort was futile. That's as close as this movie gets to being informative.

The postscript doesn't mention, though, that Allied soldiers won the war, and as a result Germany became a democracy for a number of years - until Hitler showed up.

This is bad soap opera. No more, no less. And girls - you get to see a guy's ass close up while he's having sex!

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
Great Trash Sequel to Heart of Darkness, 22 October 2010

Hollywood used to turn out some great bad movies, and "White Cargo" is one of the greatest and baddest. People who complain that it's unrealistic are missing the boat. Except for the jungle heat, the isolation of the white guys, and location shots of what looks like a rubber plantation, this movie doesn't even pretend to be real. It's pulp fiction of the old school. You watch it to forget your troubles, and if you're like me (a guy), Hedy Lamar will make 'em vanish like bubbles. Because it combines shameless sensationalism and with solid melodramatic performances (especially from Lamar, Pidgeon, and Wizard-of-Oz Frank Morgan), even my wife liked it.

OK, Hollywood and America were a lot more racist in 1942 than now. We get it. But this movie isn't about race, imperialism, natural resources, or any of those other trendy topics, it's about the sensual power of Tondelayo.

Goofy makeup and all, it would have been tough to find any actress of any ethnicity who could top Hedy Lamar in the leading role. Tondie, an incarnation of Eve like you wouldn't believe, unites all misogynist female stereotypes into one purring package: she's mysterious, wild, stupid, primitive, insincere, manipulative, beautiful, evil, greedy, relentless, sadomasochistic, homicidal, and did I mention sexy? That all adds up to "irresitible" in the logic of this movie. The fact that she's the only woman within a hundred miles is certainly part of her charm.

And yes, as she drives Richard Carlson batty, Hedy Lamar really communicates all those things with her movements, her delivery, and, toughest to do, her glances. Her eyes alone reveal her mind switching from evil to stupid to greedy in rapid succession.

"White Cargo" is a demented fantasy sequel to Conrad's great story "Heart of Darkness," or an academic poindexter could argue that it is. But ignore that. Blatant junk movies today are pretentious, gory, and tedious. But not "White Cargo." It isn't as complicated or ingenious as "Gilda," but it comes close enough on the Meter of Marvelous Trash. Great fun if you love the ridiculous!

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
A Great American War Movie, 30 August 2010

What makes a great movie? Script, performances, direction, pace, credibility (watching it makes you *believe,* even if it's sf). An important theme, like the readjusment of wounded combat vets, doesn't hurt.

"Pride of the Marines" has all these things. Star John Garfield, who specialized (mostly) in blue-collar roles, turns in possibly his finest performance; the rest of the cast is also excellent. Albert Maltz's screenplay deservedly got an Oscar nomination. The brief combat scenes are absolutely believable and the story never slows down - a tribute to Delmer Daves' directorial talents. "The Best Years of Our Lives" is far better known as a moving drama of returning WWII veterans, but "Pride of the Marines" was released almost three months earlier and is every bit as dramatic.

There's nothing phony about this great movie, including the heroism - for which the real Al Schmid, LeRoy Diamond, and Johnny Rivers (KIA) were all awarded the Navy Cross.

"Pride of the Marines" finally came out on DVD in 2009. I haven't viewed that product, but you owe it to yourself to see this movie at least once.

Moby Dick (1956)
1 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Incomparable adaptation, 5 July 2010

Of course the critics panned "Moby Dick" in 1956, just over a century after the book's appearance: they weren't ready for so adept a distillation of Melville's ruminative, free-associational quasi-novel. What they seem to have expected, even wanted, was a two-fisted sea saga with native girls in leis.

Not that Huston's film lacks action. There's plenty. But there's at least as much philosophical complexity, which means heavy-duty talk (all of it thought-provoking even if not entirely sensible) and a lot of significant throwaway lines that you'll overlook if you're unfamiliar with Melville (Ex.: "If God were a fish, he'd be a whale!") I first saw this movie on ABC-TV in 1966, and I watch it every time it comes on. In comparison with the original, which I once got to see in a theater, TCM's print needs big-time restoration. The original colors were somewhat muted to give the images an "antique" feel, but as shown on TV today (tonight, in fact) they are washed out at best and just weird at worst.

A short review can't do justice to this magnificent film, which includes one of Orson Welles's best later performances and one of Gregory Peck's best, period (no matter what he said later). The early scenes ashore, shot at Mystic Seaport, Conn. (the name is coincidentally perfect), are loaded with period atmosphere. Getting in the proper frame of mind may be a challenge for fans who haven't passed American Lit 201, but the right frame of mind and the ability to use more than just the ocular parts of your head truly is key.

The film's approach and intellectuality can be summed up by two quotes. First, the one above. The second (possibly the greatest line screenwriter Ray Bradbury ever wrote) comes when crazy Captain Ahab points to his charts and says, "Moby Dick will surface here!" His finger goes directly to Bikini Atoll, site of the first test of a hydrogen bomb. Not in the book, but completely in line with Melville's dark vision of humanity and the universe.

One of the best-crafted movies ever made, IMHO. Time for the gurus to quit raving about, say, "Grand Illusion," and take another look at a real masterpiece.

9 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
I Walked Out. Forty Years Later I Walked Out Again., 14 August 2009

Simply and absolutely one of the most boring and self-important films ever made. When it came out in 1967, director Richard Lester made no secret of his conviction that he'd produced the greatest antiwar statement since 1930's All Quiet on the Western Front. In reality, it's one of the worst films of any kind since 1930.

Here's Lester's antiwar strategy. Take a small number of British soldiers in a wear against Hitler and Nazism and show them to be a bunch of fools, cowards, and lunatics. Show that their mission - to build a cricket-pitch in enemy territory - is absurd. Show John Lennon's idiot minor character bloodily killed.

That's it. Doesn't it make you hate war? Doesn't it prove that soldiers are suckers? Doesn't it make you want to protest Vietnam? Well, maybe all Richard Lester really wanted to do was make an amusing service comedy. Maybe his self-promoting comments were just trying to cash in on the antiwar feelings of the day.

In that case he still failed. There are more laughs in five minutes of "Sgt. Bilko" than in this entire movie.

I remember vividly being unable to stay awake watching this turkey in the theater forty years ago. I walked out, even though I'd paid good money. (Only two other movies in my entire life have had such a sleep-inducing effect on me, and "How I Won the War" may well be the worst of three.) A few years back somebody gave me the video. With access to coffee I managed to stay awake a just little longer. When I snapped awake I shut the thing off.

Way back in 1967 I actually read Patrick Ryan's comic novel that was the basis of this film. It was funny in an aimless kind of way.

This movie is unfunny in each and every way.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
You don't gotta believe it. You do gotta like it., 12 August 2009

Clark Gable plays a really sweet, caring guy who just happens to be a top mobster and cold-blooded killer. William Powell, less than month before his first appearance as wealthy gumshoe Nick Charles in "The Thin Man," is the uncorruptible Manhattan DA who saved Gable's life when they were kids. And Myrna Loy, less than a month before she first appeared as wealthy gumshoe-ette Nora Charles, is the Woman Who Loves Them Both.

Gable finds himself in a quandary: should he let old buddy Powell lose the big election over a dirty lie? Or should he risk the chair to help him?

Decisions, decisions.

How times have changed: a chiseler who's borrowed a bundle from Gable pleads, "I thought I could pay, Blackie! But I ain't got the dough! Please lemme have just a little more time! A couple more days!"

Gable snarls, "I'll give you more time! You got two months! You'll pay then...or else!"

Wow! Two months with no penalty! You can't a get a deal like that from your own bank! That's the kind of movie this is.

So how can it be as good as it is? Gable, Loy, and Powell. Like so many old-time stars, G and P learned early on how to play just one character each (let's call them Rhett and Nick) and they played them to perfection till they quit making movies. Loy was a little more flexible (check out The Best Years of Our Lives), but here she is, Nora Charles before "Nora" was even born.

Nat Pendleton plays one of his trademark goons, and in a small role the Harlowesque Muriel Evans shines, almost literally, as Tootsie.

The Seventh Stream (2001) (TV)
4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Outstanding, low-key Irish legend, 9 August 2009

"The Seventh Stream" is beautifully filmed with a deeply romantic score and a story comes from the same vein of Irish folklore that inspired 1994's "Secret of Roan Inish," another good family movie but not, I think, quite as atmospheric or nearly as moving as "The Seventh Stream." Both films are based on the legend of the selkies - gray seals who sometimes take human form, come ashore and interact with humans. The production values are very superior for a made-for-cable flick.

Saffron Burrows is nothing short of remarkable as the seal-woman. Viewers drugged by the over-the-top acting styles of so many movies may find her performance too subdued, too quiet, but that's their problem. Some kind of emotion is constantly flickering across her face, which is amazingly expressive. She's by turns mysterious, cold, curious, sultry, beautiful, vulnerable, weird - everything you'd expect to see in a seal-girl.

In a less fascinating role, Scott Glenn too is convincing and sympathetic as the hardscrabble middle-aged fisherman to whom the selkie turns for help. There's a lot of talk about the human heart, none of it sappy. Aside from one or two minor cultural goofs that few will care about, the film depicts pretty plausibly life in an Irish fishing village a hundred years ago.

There are also one or two minor directorial lapses. When fate deals unkindly with one of the characters, he cries out "Nooooooooooooooo!" in ultra slow-mo. Just like in The Simpsons and elsewhere. But the embarrassing moments take up about two minutes in total, and none is as bad as that.The rest of the film could hardly be improved on as a serious fairy tale for the whole family, unless your family is deeply into pro wrestling and stuff like that.

One of the most moving fantasy films I've seen, definitely not sugary or maudlin, and not oozing with CGI.

Check it out! I bet they were going to call it originally "The Seventh Seal," but found out that title was taken.

MASH (1970)
16 out of 31 people found the following review useful:
Anti-war? Gimme a break!, 9 August 2009

I thought Altman's "Nashville" was brilliant. "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" was a solidly "different" western. MASH, on the other hand, manages to bore and rankle at the same time.

What's right with MASH: ingenious innovations in technique, like a loudspeaker within the movie helping to announce the final credits and a comic eating scene shot to resemble the layout of Da Vinci's "Last Supper." Clever! Yawn. (These bits neither advance the plot, contribute to characterization or ambiance, or do anything except exist. Some viewers will laugh at the moment of recognition, but playful directing doesn't make a good film all by itself.) Another possible innovation is the use of a Simon&Garfunkly theme ("Suicide is Painless") that has no bearing on the movie or much else in the world. If Altman thought this bit up all by himself, it's clever. Yawn.

The cast does the best they can with so little of interest to work with.

I didn't find MASH funny, for reasons that many others have mentioned. Its worst sin against humor, to my mind, is that the "fun" here is based entirely on a the antics of a few angry and arrogant narcissists. I'd have called them "psychos," but that would make them sound too interesting. The fact that they're also brilliant surgeons doesn't outweigh their mental-health issues, unless you get a lump in the throat just watching SOB's save lives.

"All Quiet on the Western Front" is anti-war. "Paths of Glory" is anti-war. You don't need to be told that because they show war itself as cruel and dehumanizing, right up on the big screen.

"MASH" is not antiwar, and would be pretty poor even it were, because most of the dehumanizing is done by the protagonists themselves. It was *marketed* as antiwar (something quite different) because being antiwar *sold* in 1970. The posters that showed a peace sign morphing into a leggy babe had nothing to do with the movie except to convince people that it was "anti-war" and therefore great, sexy, hilarious, and more than worth the price of admission. In fact, MASH is none of these things.

Hawkeye, Trapper John, and their buddies are not against war or even *the* war. They do and say nothing about any war. All they do and say is whatever they feel like, tormenting female nurses, outsmarting superior officers, taking their petty vengeance and unmotivated peevishness out on everyone around them. Sound funny? Wrong. The Marx Bros. might have been able to pull it off, but not this crew.

MASH is anti-authority, but that's a whole lot different from being anti-war. MASH is also anti-military, but in a motiveless way (unless raking in the bucks was a motive). All the army ever did to these distinguished surgeons was to replace, temporarily of course, their zillion-dollar a year civilian careers with the opportunity to play golf, football, and crude practical jokes while occasionally saving of patients whom they obviously do not give a **** about personally.

The primary "anti-war" message here is that surgical operations involve lots of blood squirting around. That's it. Why not say MASH was is "anti-surgery" or "anti-medical profession" movie? Because that would nail the picture for the fraud it really is.

(Note: I know that medical students can be krazy kut-ups, especially when it comes to spare cadavers. MASH is a lot less funny.)

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