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Weakest POTC Yet
Depp and McShane are always entertaining, but this movie isn't even close. Cruz is like Puss In Boots from "Shrek" in human female form. Keith Richard is ridiculous, as usual. This might be about two hours but feels like two years. Rush is possibly the best thing in the movie, but he's really underused. The plot concerns the Fountain of Youth and somehow all these characters chase each other around with occasional sword fight to relieve the tedium. The battles are well staged, but the story is incoherent and silly. Depp gives his usual performance, giving more to the role than it deserves, the same is true for Rush and McShane, Cruz is blah. Worst one yet, but surely there's another coming along.
One Of My Favorite Episodes
This is a classic TMFU episode. It has crafty and merciless villains, daring escapes, clever plots and counter plots and the ever perky Judy Carne as the "innocent" accomplice. It also has comedy and whimsy, Ilya is a blonde South American who sings, strums and whistles "Hava Negila" (!)and gets arrested to get incarcerated in a prison camp that's a Thrush cover for an installation housing "The Ultimate Computer". Napoleon uses "marriage" to the idealistic prison reformer Salty Oliver (Judy) to get in the area from the other side. The great Charlie Ruggles is a sexy senior citizen who plays strip poker with his nurses while babysitting the computer and Roger Carmel is the slippery Capt Cervantes, commandant of the camp. Solo and Ilya eventually complete their mission after Ilya rescues Salty and Solo from the bad guys. The last act ends with a bang and Charlie gets the last laugh, although it's sort of ironic. A very fine episode.
Jesse Stone: Thin Ice (2009)
Weakest entry in the series
A fair mystery and secondary plot, but this one doesn't measure up to the previous episodes in the series. Changing Molly to Rose is inexplicable, the town council is larger than the police force and Sidney Greenstreet(!) are just a few of the irritants. Tom Selleck is terrific as usual, Cathy Baker does a fine job as Rose and William Devane is sarcastic and entertaining but the plot with the town council just doesn't seem believable or logical.With the force down to three people with one on light duty, it seems counterproductive to threaten Chief Stone over such petty matters. Oh well, what can you expect from politicians? We hope there are more movies coming. My wife and I really like the Jesse Stone movies, but this one is not as good as the rest, not really bad, just not on par with the rest.
Lilies of the Field (1963)
A Simple Story, Beautifully Told and Acted
"Lillies of the Field" should be required viewing for everyone who wants to see what true faith is. The great Sidney Poitier gives one of his greatest performances as a handyman roped into building a chapel for a group of German nuns. He's matched line for line by the great Austrian actress Lillia Skala, who uses just about every trick in the book to convince a Baptist to build a Roman Catholic chapel and to keep him on the job. On the side he teaches the sisters English. Both he and the nuns grow to like and even love one another. There is very little embellishment to the story and it moves rapidly. It's crisp pacing, fine acting and loving message make it well worthwhile. All people of faith should see it and take its message to heart.
C'era una volta il West (1968)
Great Movie, Acting, Direction and Music
"Once Upon a Time in the West" has been recently released in a special 2 disc set, and it's about time. The movie gets better every time you watch it. Sergio Leone's directing is incredible, the pacing and suspense are unparalleled. He squeezes every speck out of every scene without dragging them out. His choice of Henry Fonda as the bad guy and his sales pitch to get him are well worth it. At the time, nobody could imagine Fonda as a bad guy. Charles Bronson is perfect as the enigmatic "Harmonica", bringing his craggy face, economical delivery and a sense of decency to the role that's hard to imagine anyone else could bring. Jason Robards portrays Cheyenne with dash and layers of larceny, chivalry, humor and ruthlessness that bring this complicated character to life. Claudia Cardinale is, of course, beautiful, and gives Jill McBain different aspects, former lady of the night, apparent gold-digger, disappointed and too soon widow, clever seeker of the truth of her husband's dream, used and abused woman and finally friendly hostess for Cheyenne and the railroad workers. The supporting cast is terrific. Paolo Stoppa is sarcastic, crusty but also concerned for Jill when they find her new family murdered. Lionel Stander is great as a saloon keeper who engages Jill in conversation, and when it's interrupted, picks up as if only seconds had elapsed rather than several tense minutes. Jack Elam and Woody Strode are cold eyed killers. Keenan Wynn has a nice cameo as the sheriff and auctioneer. The score is majestic, gritty and perfect, the individual themes convey more than dialogue could. The final showdown resolves a mystery surrounding "Harmonica" and Frank. The final scene as Cheyenne dies and Jill brings water to the rail gangs is a neat summation of the West that will never be the same again. Harmonica's observation that man is a vanishing race being replaced by soulless machines and corporations is an apt eulogy for the men living on the edge of the law. Just about a perfect movie.
Epic entertainment, if not exactly historically accurate
"Braveheart is a very good movie, combining all the elements of a great epic and if it comes up just a bit short of greatness, it's still an entertaining three hours. The movie has everything, evil villains, brave heroes, exciting battles, romance, humor and a message. If the message is somewhat unclear in today's context, freedom is still the goal f William Wallace and his followers, the desire to rule themselves rather than to submit to outsiders. Visually, this is an exceptional picture, from the colorful costumes to some breathtaking scenery. The battles are brutal and filmed with an eye for the spectacular, flights of arrows, the heavy horse charge, the bloody hand to hand fighting and the desperation of the fighters are well filmed. One complaint is that there's no bridge to be seen in the battle of Stirling Bridge. The romance between Wallace and his village bride is well done, and her execution is heart breaking. His faithfulness is doubted in the movie as he sleeps with the Princess Isabella which is extremely unlikely. The climactic scene of Wallace screaming for "Freedom" rather than mercy from his executioners is as powerful as anything put on the screen in the last decade at least. "Braveheart" is an epic in the old sense and is an very good film.
Walk the Line (2005)
Very good biopic
"Walk The Line" is a fine biopic, detailing the rise, rough times and redemption of American music icon, Johnny Cash, and his pursuit and eventual winning of June Carter. Both leads are phenomenal in their roles. Joaquin Phoenix portrays Johnny as he grows from wide eyed country music novice through the early days of recording and touring to his melt down on stage in Las Vegas to his arrest on drug related charges to his his marriage to June, without missing a beat (to use a musical cliché). Reese Witherspoon is a revelation to those of us who've only seen her in bubbly comedy roles, doing an incredible job as June. Also featured in the film are some of the greats of the 50's rock and roll revolution, Elvis, Roy Orbison and Jerry Lee Lewis, who toured with June and Johnny. The concert scenes make you feel like a witness to the performances. This movie is a must see for Johnny Cash/early rock and roll fans. It's a faithful retelling of June and Johnny's courtship. 9 stars.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
A Hilarious Odyssey
"Planes, Trains and Automobiles" is a hilarious ode to getting there is half the fun, an advertising slogan from 50+ years ago. It stars Steve Martin and John Candy at the peak of their careers, sadly John died, but Steve is still around, but I, for one don't think he's been in anything this good. The "joys" of travel during Thanksgiving are the setting for this comedy. Probably one of the most famous and funny scenes is the "pillow Scene" when Neal and Del sleep in the same bed in a less than 4 star motel. The rent-a-car exchange with Neal and bubbly Edie McClurg is a classic. Almost non-stop laughs and a sentimental finish make this a must-see.
Brian's Song (1971)
Probably the best ever made for TV movie, remake proves it couldn't be made today
"Brian's Song", the 1971 version was the rarest of things, an excellent TV movie. Great cast of stars on their way up such as Billy Dee Williams, James Caan and Shelley Fabares, augmented by Jack Warden, Bernie Casey and David Huddleston, with several actual Chicago Bears. This movie is full of actual conversations between the players, who are real people with prejudices and human weaknesses. Yes, those are racial stereotypes and epithets, just like were used in that time, not the sanitized, soulless P C drivel of this day. The story is powerful, the friendship that builds between two men about as different as Americans can be. James Caan is Brian Piccolo, the overachieving, loudmouthed Italian boy. Billy Dee Williams is Gale Sayers, a gifted, shy African-American All-American, high profile running back who is pestered and ridiculed by Brian in the early stages of the story, but who becomes the ideal friend. Jack Warden portrays coach George Halas. Bernie Casey is the savvy and practical veteran player, J. C. Caroline, one of the Bears who mentors young Black players in the NFL/Bears way. As Brian and Gale help each other through training camp, injuries and ultimately death, the actors mesh perfectly, conveying the joy, excitement,camaraderie, practical jokes, triumphs and tragedies of life in the spotlight. Don't miss this movie, it has humor, sports, romance, dedication, vintage football clips and an inspiring message. Don't confuse this 1971 version with the weak remake. An unquestionable 10 that will be enjoyed by just about everyone, football fan or not. An added bonus is the great score. Buzz Kulik did a great job directing this movie, getting fine performances out of not only the real actors, but also the real Bears players and coaches.
The American President (1995)
New genre, political romantic comedy?
This movie is entertaining enough, fills in enough political insider stuff, has a nice romantic storyline and one of Michael J. Fox's best acting jobs. Martin Sheen does some prep for his "West Wing" turn as chief of staff very handily. Michael Douglas handles the President/single parent role competently. The real star is, of course, Annette Benning, who steals just about every scene. Richard Dreyfuss really hams it up as the loyal(?) opposition candidate. The plot follows young, handsome, charismatic President Andrew Shepherd as he wines and dines lovely lobbyist Ellen Wade, while trying to run the country, improve his popularity and electability, navigate political minefields and raise his teenage daughter. The film is well directed by Rob Reiner, who always seems to get that extra something out of his actors. My wife liked it a lot more than I did, but it's still an entertaining, if fluffy political/romantic comedy/drama.