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Why hasn't this women been given a Kennedy Center Honor Already?
10 November 2019
That's the question that'll be on your mind after viewing this splendid and loving docu-bio of Linda Ronstadt. Far more entertaining and informative than "Echo in the Canyon" which was about the southern California music scene, "The Sound of My Voice" offers more insight and a far more enjoyable song selection. And it's got Linda Ronstadt singing in all her multitude of styles. It's a great story, hr life, one that should inspire young women the world wide to chart their own paths and not let us guys push them around. Ronstadt herself is a refreshing change from the typical ego-centric, take-myself-oh-so-seriously pretentious rock and roll singer. It's hard to image she had so little confidence in herself when the world around her loved her singing. I wish they would have at least noted her frequent covering of songs by the late Warren Zevon (Carmelita, Poor Poor Pitiful Me, etc.) and that her long time manager Peter Asher was half of the delightful British Invasion duo Peter & Gordon. But overall, they produced a lovingly crafted biopic of what seems to have been a very wonderful person. The main thing I cannot understand is why Linda Ronstadt has not received a Kennedy Center honor? Most deserving.
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Terribly disappointing poor choice of songs and current covers
10 November 2019
They coulda done a whole lot better. The choice of songs was poor and the current day covers were generally pretty atrocious with one exception. That exception is the recording studio scene of powerfully-voice Jade and the thin-voice Jakob Dylan recording The Mamas and The Papas' (and Fifth Dimension which had the hit single) tune "Go Where You Wanna Go." She knocks it out of the park dispite the relatively weak musical tracks. While it's nice to see the music remembered, I think the selection of songs and the current day cover versions had to be a gross disappointment to anybody who was in high school or college in that era. They pale in comparison with the originals, in part because the current arrangements and musicians can't match the Wrecking Crew (the legendary studio musicians) which played the instruments on nearly all the original recordings. And the song selection - so disappointing. If you're going to include a song by The Association, at least include one that they wrote, not the painfully dreadful "Never My Love" in an even more painful acoustic version sung by Jakob Dylan and a female vocalist. Stripped of the orchestration, the song loses any reason to listen to it. Now if Jakob Dylan and the producers really knew the era, they would have included a cover of The Association's recording of Bob Dylan's "One to Many Mornings" which is the song that got The Association its recording contract. All in all, the film was a massive disappointment to this viewer who lived the era. Better to see the splendid and thoroughly engrossing documentary "Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice."
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What a waste
26 October 2019
My wife and I had moderately high hopes for this film. Those hopes were dashed within its first few minutes.

Rarely have I seen such a simply dreadful movie with such a monumental waste of talent. The film's narrative is close to incomprehensible; the acting frighteningly stilted; the editing a disaster. I'm not sure that this director should ever be allowed to direct again. I can enjoy a high quality ;interesting film that moves this slowly -- this lacked quality and interest. You'd better off reading about Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla at Wikipedia.

Supposedly the "Director's Cut" is supposed to be a better film than the original release two years ago. I cannot fathom how bad the original studio release must have been. Do not waste your time or money on this glossy piece of film making incompetence.
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A Shear Joy of a Movie: Loving, Funny, Moving, and Rockin'
21 August 2019
The trailer for "Blinded By the Light" blew me away and I figured the film couldn't possibly be as good as depicted in the trailer. I was wrong, dead wrong. And you don't have to be a Springsteen fan to enjoy this film. My wife tolerates Springsteen (as long as I don't play him too often) and she loved this movie.

It was even better than the trailer suggested. I shouldn't have been so surprised given its pedigree of being directed by the director of the similarly loving and sweet film "Bend It Like Beckham" that introduced filmgoers to the likes of Keira Knightly, Parminder Kaur Nagra (ER), Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Archie Penjabi (The Good Wife).

Tempting as it is to focus on the Springsteen theme and music, this film is more about finding oneself (without all the cliches most films of this genre mire themselves in) and your relationship with your family, esepcially your father. It also effectively addresses the racial bigotry toward Pakistanis in the 1980s U.K. (all too similar to the racial bigotry expressed toward African Americans throughout our U.S. history that's been stoked by Trump). In some senses it's a lot like "Field of Dreams" in terms of the father-son relationship (and yes, Cat Stevens' most beloved song, "Father & Son" would have fit in beautifully, but the film makers prudently avoided cluttering the flick with that gem).

You will be moved by the stories in this film. While I sported a huge grin during most of the film, a few scenes brought on tears among most of the audience.

And let us not foget the music -- or even more importantly the poetry and lyricism of Bruce Springsteen's songs. Using a savvy screen technique often showing the lyrics on screen (you see this in the trailer, so this isn't a spoiler), and listening to them, you cannot help but recognize that his poetic lyrics are every bit as worthy of a Nobel Prize as Bob Dylan's.

The directing warrants Oscar and BAFTA nomination's. The acting is superb throughout. And when a film as sweet as this also includes Marvel's Agent Carter in the cast as our protaganist's teacher, you just can't lose. The only thing that would have made this a better film would have been including the rarely heard Springsteen gem "Brothers Under the Bridges (83)" from his 3-CD "Tracks" collection, recorded in the mid-1980s but apparently never played in concert.

See this flim and bring the teenagers.
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Overhyped and underwhelming - and I usually love Tarrantino Filems
5 August 2019
While I generally love Tarantino films, "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" left me cold. I was expecting something great. Instead he gives us a bit of a mess filled with forced 1960s references, really forced, unlike "American Graffiti" which just melded them into the fabric of the film. Even the afterscene was forced and certainly not worth waiting for.

Yes the acting was generally pretty darned good. Yes, the camera work was dazzling. But the film just seemed superficial and artificial.

I realize there are plenty of folks who just adored the film and concluded it was innovative and clever beyond belief. I fear those conclusions are as superficial as this film.

So if you're a fan of Tarrantino films, this could go either way for you. If you don't buy into the hype, you very well may enjoy it. But iIf you're not a fan of his films, this one isn't likely to turn you into a fan. Better you should rent "Reservoir Dogs."
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Stan & Ollie (2018)
Totally disappear into their roles
28 July 2019
I never was a fan of Laurel and Hardy, but this sweet little film sure appealed to me and my wife. The film just exudes quality -- especially John C Reily as Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel. Their performances are not impresonations. Instead the two actors totally disappear into their characters. Both, but especially Reily who is totally unrecognizable as himself, deserve an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. I don't pretend this film is for everyone. But if you want to see two phenomental acting performances in one film, this is the flick to see.
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Poster Child for Mediocrity
27 March 2019
Warning: Spoilers
"I Am the Night" illustrates how difficult it is to produce a decent, interesting, coherent, and entertaining mini-series. It fails on all counts.

It starts out weak and never recovers. My wife and I kept watching (over her frequent objection) in the hope that it might find its feet. It never does. Poorly directed with a frighteningly bad script, it tries in vain to achieve a film noire atmosphere. The concluding episode turned into one of the more ludicrous hours of television we've ever seen. When Fauna Hodel finally confronts her dastardly father, the words that spew from her lips do not sound remotely like anything her character could ever say -- totally unbelievable. The final scene is a hoot -- only from the perspective of absurdity. Even if you really enjoy Chris Pine, even if you are intrigued by India Eisle's beauty, do not waste mroe than 7 hours watching this exercise in mediocre television. You will regret it.
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Roma (2018)
Beautifully filmed feature that only a critic can love
11 January 2019
There is no question that Roma is a beautifully filmed work of art. Every scene is beautifully photographed. But otherwise it is a film that only a critic can love. It is excruciatingly slow -- something critics just love to characterize as lovingly casual (and I've got no problem with slow films as long as there's a good payoff in the end). There is very little in the way of plot -- something that critics just love to characterize as atmospheric or free-form.

Sadly, it's hard to care about any of the characters as the movie meanders along.

But it is beautifully filmed. On a scale of 1 to 10, the cinematography is a 12. And while the film is technically well done, it lacks any soul, anything to really move the viewer. I'd venture that about 30 minutes are actually interesting or gripping. I would very much discourage anybody from seeing this opus unless they really love great cinematrography and technical expertise.
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Life of the Party (I) (2018)
One laugh in first 25 minutes
29 May 2018
Yes, my wife and I laughed once in the first 25 minutes of this dreadful, brainless, and frighteningly unfunny film (and that was when Melissa McCarthy's character gets blown across the lawn). I realize that this film appeals to the funny bones of some viewers, but objectively speaking it is a very sorry excuse for a comedy. We both like Melissa McCarthy. We really enjoyed her in "The Heat," "Bridesmaids," and "St Vincent" where she really got to act. She's been great on "Saturday Night Live." But in this film, she's got lousy material to work with and she sinks to its level. With one laugh in 25 minutes, we availed ourselves of the local theater's 30-minute satisfaction guarantee and walked out of the theater and received a refund of the ticket price. It's the first time we've done that since "Dennis the Menace" in 1993.
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La La Land (I) (2016)
Fun, But Doesn't Live Up to the Hype
8 January 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Unlike Bruce Springsteen in 1973 (and beyond), "La La Land" just doesn't live up to the hype. I love a good musical (and it's only fair to put this in perspective - subjectively speaking my favorite musicals include South Pacific (film and play), Singin' in the Rain (objectively best film musical), Miss Saigon, My Fair Lady (film), Little Shop of Horrors, Les Miz (play; the film was mediocre at best), and the musical scenes in Gremlins 2).

But while "La La Land" was generally fun, it lacked memorable tunes and outside of the two leads and J.K. Simmons, I'm having trouble remembering any of the other characters. While the "alternative universe" section near the end was very moving, the rest of the film just lacked soul.

I think it's so successful due, in part, to the hype and the mental depression more than half the voters are in following the monster's election Nov. 8. It's escapism that is badly needed. And its success also comes in part from the dumbing down of the American people (which accounts in large part for the results of Nov 8) most of whom wouldn't recognize a high quality musical.

I suspect the film will do well in the awards season, but if it garners the Oscar for "Best Picture," it will be another miscarriage of justice like "The Artist" winning over "Hugo" and "Gandhi" and "Chariots of Fire" winning at all.
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Not the Sort of Star Trek That Made Star Trek Great
24 July 2016
This ain't your daddy's Star Trek (and the 3D is so unnecessary that it is NOT worth the extra cost):

(1) The plot is close to incomprehensible (2) The directing is mediocre (okay, that is a characteristic in common with the original series) (3) The audience manipulation is palpable (4) The action is overblown (5) And did I mention the plot is close to incomprehensible?

Don't get me wrong. The film is generally fun. But it lacked the heart and soul present in all five television series (ain't counting no cartoons). The "Spock Prime" character is about as confusing as it gets. And while the homages to Leonard Nimoy were touching, they were a bit heavy handed.

But worst of all was the loss of any subtlety and heart. This reboot increasing seems to be solely about the money.

And the negative reaction to Zulu being gay -- which was handled with taste and, unlike the rest of the film, subtlety -- was just plain crazy. I would think that fans would have been a lot more upset about the Uhura-Spock romantic relationship given the nature of Vulcans, even half-human, half-Vulcan ones -- now that's moving away from the Roddenberry playbook far more than making Zulu gay.

All in all, Star Trek Beyond is a pleasant, but not very satisfying addition to the Star Trek compendium.
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Zootopia (2016)
Far more than just a cartoon
13 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
While Zootopia was a very entertaining and pleasant surprise, it is far more than just an animated police procedural.

I don't know how the Disney people did it, but Zootopia is a brilliant political allegory (and sadly I don't think I was able to satisfactorily define the term for my 7 year old grandson who just loved the sloths in the film). Somehow they anticipated today's politics with the government initiated outcasting of predator animals, losing their government jobs, being shifted to positions where they'd have no contact with the public. Somehow they anticipated a "new" politician ready, willing, and able to do to some animals pretty much what that monster Mr. Trump wishes to do to all Muslims. Somehow they anticipated the rampant stereotyping in which Mr. Trump engages.

The political allegory enables this film to transcend its genre and make it a pretty important film given the sorry state of American politics today -- a state made all the more sorry by the GOP's race baiting, stereotyping, and general hatred of anybody who disagrees with it.
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What a Waste
8 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Don't waste your time or money on this movie. Despite a stellar cast, "The Monuments Men" is a piece of cinematic dreck, unworthy of its cast and director. Mr. Clooney's directing and acting skills went AWOL in this poor excuse for a motion picture. It is a textbook study of how to make a fascinating story dull and boring. The directing, editing, bland acting, and dreadful script suck all interest out of the movie. The only way you know there is any tension or danger is the sound track -- otherwise the actors and director fail to wring any emotion out of the high school quality script. Scenes just suddenly end. SPOILER: There is simply no tension when Matt Damon is trapped on a land mine. And when the Russian army is descending on our heroes, you could cut the tension with a limp noodle because there just wasn't any.

I wish I could be more positive about this movie, given the pedigree of its cast and director. But sadly there's no escaping the undeniable mediocrity of what could, in the right hands, have been a film nearly as exciting as "The Great Escape." I know that is is not easy to make a good film -- and "The Monuments Men" is the poster child for a simply bad, unentertaining motion picture.
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Most Important -- and Perhaps Best - Film of 2013
4 February 2014
It's one thing to have studied slavery way back when in college and another thing to see it so accurately portrayed on the silver screen. "12 Years a Slave" was certainly the most important movie of 2013 and the most difficult to watch film in decades thanks to its spot-on depiction of the horrors of slavery in the American South. Unlike slavery in South America, it was illegal in the U.S. to teach slaves reading or writing, they could not marry, they could not gather in groups except for religious services, they could not own anything, and they were nothing more than chattel. Manumission was generally impossible. The brilliant acting, directly, and writing of "12 Years a Slave" brought this all to life. It is impossible to watch this film and not ask how we could allow the South back into the Union without executing its leaders for treason and how we cannot allow the flag of the rebels, the Confederacy to be flown within our borders. I can't think of any other nation on earth that was so forgiving to those who engaged in high treason and rebellion.

That said, the acting was simply top notch. And the script -- there are not adequate words to praise the script enough. I was amazed at how the actors spoke in the manner of the day and never slipped into current styles of speech. You don't see that very often. While I think the film deserves the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Screen writing, Best Director, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress, I strongly suspect that like "The Color Purple" before it, the Academy will shut it out because we Caucasian folk just cannot deal with this stain on our nation. It would be a shame because this is a film that all Americans should see, especially those radical right wingers who continue to deny the horrors of American slavery.
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About Time (I) (2013)
Just a Sheer Delight
24 October 2013
My wife and I saw "About Time" at a special preview at our local theater, knowing almost nothing about the film. Maybe that's one of the reasons it was so immensely enjoyable. The film is not predictable -- you never really know where it's going. There was something incredibly natural about the film. The acting, directing, writing -- they all felt natural, missing the usual phony contrivances so typical of Hollywood. This may have been Rachel McAdams' finest performance yet -- it didn't feel like she was acting and she certainly wasn't anything remotely like her role in "Midnight in Paris." The central family was relatively normal (pun intended) and not dysfunctional. The father and mother were real treats. The considerable humor was so, natural -- not forced, guttural, or contrived. And the occasional tears of sadness and joy that flowed in the viewers' eyes were natural as well -- not forced, not manipulated. I deliberately didn't want to give away anything about the plot and where the film goes, for the fresh path it takes is part of the joy of viewing this refreshing and very entertaining film.
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Actually pretty nonpartisan
15 October 2013
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich does an excellent job of cutting through all the b.s. perpetrated by the media about the economy to present factual information about how the economy has changed. While I have no doubt that those on the radical right will simply dismiss his film with the usual right-wing name calling, and those on the far left will say he doesn't go far enough, Reich really does explain how our economic policies have allowed the wealthiest amongst us to destroy the middle class so a small portion of the nation can amass incredible wealth. What is especially revealing is the factual information showing that vast wealth does not result in reinvestment in America -- it goes into savings and stocks since they can't possibly spend all that money. The film clearly shows, factually, how the reduction in the size and wealth of the middle class is killing our economy. It shows how salaries for the middle class have actually declined (in constant dollars) since the 1980s. It logically explains why and explains the three phenomena that have resulted. While the facts are very depressing, Reich maintains a self-deprecating sense of humor throughout. He'd make a great president, but he's just too short, insightful, analytical, and honest to have a chance.
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Simply a Gem of a Film
27 July 2013
There wasn't a dry eye in the house when we saw Unfinished Song tonight. It's a shame there were only about 50 people in the theater who got to see this gem of a film. Terrance Stamp and Vanessa Redgrave give Oscar caliber performances while Gemma Arterton just charms everybody (and she is incredibly beautiful without all the glamour make up that makes her look like every other starlet in her publicity photos posted here at IMDb). While the film certainly touches the heart of any baby boomer who sees it, I can't help but think that it will move anybody of any age who has a heart. I'm not going to suggest that it's one of the great films of the 21st Century, but it is a very entertaining and extremely moving film that is driven by its characters and story rather than mindless CGI etc. It's a welcome reprieve from a summer of lousy blockbusters. But bring some Kleenex because you'll need it, but in an ultimately happy way.
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Funny, Not
5 July 2013
I've enjoyed a slew of films Seth Rogan co-wrote or acted in, only to feel mislead, betrayed, and lied to by the critics who praised this tasteless and largely humorless (except to teenagers and those with teenage tastes)film so vociferously (yes, I'm addressing you Michael Phillips and you Richard Roeper -- you lied). While I found about 10 gags to be genuinely hilarious, most of it was repetitive, vulgar solely for the shock value of being vulgar, and largely incoherent. With the exception of Emma Watson's tongue-in-cheek (on the face, not on the butt where most of the jokes landed) performance, the acting was sub-par for a Seth Rogan flick. I can see how teens could like it, but don't call this a "good" film in any way. Adults of any age, beware.
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A Mixed Bag -- Great Songs and Singers, but Miscasting Abounds
31 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I really enjoyed the stage version of Les Miserables. And I love the CD I made of the most enjoyable 70 minutes of the music. But the film is a real mixed bag. I had forgotten that much of the music is simply terrible -- boring, unmemorable, and ponderous -- and overshadowed by the 70% of the music that is simply outstanding. This is quite a switch from great musicals of the past like "South Pacific" and "My Fair Lady" that had only a dud or two amongst their brilliant scores.

Some performances, though, were simply outstanding. Ann Hathaway and Samantha Barks, both sang with aplomb and really acted while they sang. They went beyond mere singing to give a clinic in how to perform a song in a musical production.

At the opposite end of the spectrum were the badly miscast Russell Crowe who not only sings poorly, but did not act. He was stiff as a board throughout. Even worse were Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as the villainous Thénardiers -- badly miscast and poorly sung. I can't understand why the producers didn't cast a pair of Thénardiers from the stage production. Nobody bought a ticket to the movie to see Cohen or Carter. In their hands, "Master of the House" lost all of its devilish charm. Their casting leaves me very apprehensive about the all-star casting of Tracy Lett's Steppenwolf Theater blockbuster "August: Osage County." My wife and I were privileged to see the original production at Steppenwolf in Chicago and we have great difficulty picturing Julia Roberts and even Meryl Streep (who will probably do quite well) in key roles in that play. When will producers realize that some stage actors really do own their roles and should be cast in the film? Director Tom Hooper really fouled up the entire film by shooting nearly all of it in close up. It didn't work. While his direction was generally fluid and professional, the close-up conceit he maintained throughout just got in the way of the scenes, detracting from them.

Equally troubling are many events in the story line. The way in which Cosette and Marius fall in deep love was simply absurd. And the way in which so many characters turned ill and quickly died was ridiculous. In the years since I saw the superb production of the play in Chicago I had forgotten some of the more absurd turns of events in Les Miserables. To really enjoy this movie, you've got to focus on the 70% of the music that made Les Miserables such a great theater-going experience.
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The Avengers (2012)
Terribly Disappointing Mindless Mess
28 May 2012
I really enjoyed Captain America, Thor, and the first Iron Man, but The Avengers is just a mostly boring, repetitive, excessively long mess of self-indulgence. You'd never know that the talented Joss Whedon directed -- the film has none of his trademark sly humor, cleverness or pacing.

Instead we get a needlessly long film short on everything but action. While Mark Ruffalo is excellent as Bruce Banner / The Hulk, the rest of the cast is pretty much cardboard. Frankly, it's just a dumb film and just because it's popular does not mean it's a good film.

So if you like lots of action, wooden dialog, dumb plots, and, well a lot of noise, you'll love this mess of a film. But if you expect to see a film that's better than the best episodes of Josh Whedon's "Buffy" or want more from a film, be prepared to be disappointed.
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Just a Joy to Watch
15 April 2012
Seriously, "Salmon Fishing in The Yemen" is simply a joy to watch. Not since "Hugo" have I seen a film with so much heart to it. What makes this such a joy is its impish sense of humor, irreverence toward the British government, the simply delightful acting of leads McGregor and Blunt (who has never looked so good as she does here), the appealing nature of so many characters, and, perhaps most of all, its unpredictability. The audience enjoyed an awful lot of laugh out loud moments, a few tears, and a bit of excitement and danger. The film had you rooting for its the Sheik and the two lead characters -- and unlike all too many films, you don't see where it's going. If you enjoy a whopping good time at the flicks, this is a film you should see on the big screen while you still can.
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Hugo (2011)
Not My Favorite, But Definitely the Best Flick of 2011
11 February 2012
Tonight I saw Hugo for the second time in 3-D. My wife dragged me to it the first time and I was thoroughly blown away and moved. But I really didn't need to see it again. She did. So with little reluctance, I saw it again and it was even better the second time. This time you could appreciate the art and lyricism of this film ever more than the first time. The second time you're just blown away by not only the beauty of the opening scene, but also by the structure and art of it as the breathtaking tracking shot focuses on nearly every major and minor character in the film. And then they show the opening credits! While Hugo isn't my favorite film of the year (that was Midnight In Paris, which I'd see for a third time in a flash), I am convinced it's the "best" film. I've seen "The Artist" and it's not even in the same league as "Hugo." "Hugo" has great direction, ensemble acting (seriously, why isn't there an Oscar for best acting ensemble?), cinematography, music, special effects, sound, use of 3-D, and heart of any film my wife and I have seen all year. It's an amazing homage to the early film makers without ever getting cloying or worshipful. It's a wonderful story on so many levels and it's impossible not to shed a tear or two among all the laughs and emotion. I realize Hugo isn't everybody's cup of tea, but taking into account its wonderful storytelling, direction, etc. it strikes me as the best of all the films nominated for "Best Picture."
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Best Reviewed Film of 1990
11 February 2002
Few people realize that Gremlins 2 was the best reviewed film of 1990 according to a compilation of film critic reviewed by Premiere Magazine -- it averaged 3 1/2 stars. And for good reason. Gremlins 2 offers wonderful homages to some of the most beloved films ever made, savagely satarizes Donald Trump and Ted Turner, and features Tony Randall in his finest film role as the Brainy Gremlin leading a magnificent Gremlin production of "New York, New York." I ran into director Joe Dante at a Chicago film festival program honoring his work 2 years ago and learned that he made Gremlins 2 as the sequel to end all sequels. And indeed, this is one time the sequel far excelled the original. It's too bad the the studio never knew how to market this gem to movie lovers of all ages. Where it was shown, it was loved. It ran for 3 months at our local theater in Oak Park. See it and just have fun with it. And watch out for the brilliantly directed scene with John Astin as a janitor on the phone while the Gremlins act out his phone conversation in the background.
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Surprise! Superbly written, well directed
9 December 1998
Some brothers finally grow up! I've tried to watch the Farley Brothers' other films, but turned them off after 20 minutes -- they just were not funny ("Dumb & Dumber" being the prime example).

But "There's Something About Mary" is a real eye opener. The script, acting, and directing are really top notch, especially the script. The brothers Farley have matured and produced a genuinely hilarious movie that I will admit I've seen 4 times and would see again, preferably in a theater. Outside of one or two superfluous scenes, nothing is wasted in the film. And the use of Jonathan Richmond as the "Cat Balloo" style singing narrator (okay, he ain't no Nat King Cole or Stubby Kaye) is inspired. Everything clicks, unlike the Farleys' earlier films which, as best I can tell, appealed only to the dumbest and dumberest (such words) among us.
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