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Passengers (I) (2016)
I LOVED the first quarter of the movie
13 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I loved this movie up until the point that the Jennifer Lawrence character was awakened - which is a bit unexpected, as I usually find Lawrence attractive and talented. But as long as Chris Pratt was by himself, I found an hilarious comic sci-fi scenario - where he's trapped in an environment which couldn't be happening, because the software designers didn't anticipate it, and they know everything, right? I see myself dealing with this all the time.
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The Sopranos: Employee of the Month (2001)
Season 3, Episode 4
Jennifer's Choice
8 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
10+! (Spoilers ahoy).

I watched this show last night, and I can't get it out of my head. It's one of the major reasons I say some of the feature shows on HBO are not only better than most movies in the cinema, but FAR better. Jennifer Melfi's refusal to seek Tony's assistance made me forgive her all her questionable calls, such as continuing to see a rage-prone client sexually attracted to her just because she's intrigued by the lion-and-tamer interplay between them. In just about any movie you'd pay $10 for, Jennifer would have sobbed out the story of the rape to Tony, and of course he'd more than happy to take a grisly and extended revenge on the scumbag. We'd all cheer, go home, and forget the movie once we finished our post-cinema hamburgers. Instead we see what we rarely see in movies: a person making a correct moral choice when she has every reason in the world to get it wrong. And the correct personal choice too: we know, if Jennifer does not, that Tony's 'favors' always come at an extravagant price.

The seriousness of the episode counterpointed well with the preceding one involving Livia's death and funeral, which had almost rolling on the floor with laughter. Not that this show was all morality, either. Absent justice served on the rapist, I was grimly pleased to see Janice, Tony's New-Age-phony sister with more than a little of their mother in her, get roughed up for stealing Sventlana's artificial leg. We all know someone like Janice.
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Mondo Mod (1967)
Joint Review with "Hippie Revolt"
27 November 2008
Most of us who see this will watch the Something Weird presentation which pairs this with "Hippie Revolt."

"Mondo World" is the more miss-able of the two films. It has its moments of unintentional humor that we watch Something Weird films for, but they are few and far between. Probably the best moment is when a women is trying out a dress in a ill-lit boutique looks at the owner and says, "Could this be made any shorter?" The dress coming down to about a centimeter below her crotch. The film never defines "mod" but shows a collection of unrelated phenomena. Outside of the drug use, they might unnerve a grandmother in Kansas, but no one else. Guys with short hair on surfboards? Guys on dirtbikes? It's not a cultural revolt, it's people with a little spending money and leisure time, although the leering narrator seems to think differently. For the most part, this film seems to be the kind of second feature shown at drive-ins intended to bore people into putting away the speaker and leaving after fifteen minutes or so.

"Hippie Revolt" aka "Something's Happening" is a little more worthwhile; it at least works as a cultural document. Noteworthy in the running time: scenes of the Haight-Ashbury district of the time, which it is claimed had about one person every six square feet. I don't know if that was accurate, but the people did seem packed. The camera panned for a minute on a weekly community group seminar on how to avoid gangbangs, venereal disease, beatings and starvation, letting us know that not all was peace and consensual sex among these young, pad-crashing transients. Then the film moves to a commune called "Strawberry Fields," where it was revealed that the locals had problems with these hippies moving into the area. As no one seems to be doing anything productive, I might have problems myself. The property probably is still an outdoor slum thanks to these people. Mostly this part of the film lets us know that people zonked on drugs can sound really, really dumb. "The total presence of God and the total absence of God, it's like, the same thing," says a nubile young girl in a short dress, while a man nods in agreement; no doubt wondering how much more of this crap he will have to listen to before she will let him get into that dress.

Easily the best part of the disk is the extras. You get to see previews for sleazy, and I mean, sleazy, roughies like "Smoke and Flesh" and "The Dean's Wife." And deleted scenes from "Mondo Mod" showing nudity. (If and when you see a nice body in these extras, keep in mind: she's probably expecting her first great-grandchild right about now.) Best of all were the posters of drive-in movies shown while a voice-over used a drive-in in Greenville, SC plays. I found it amazing that two movies, "The Miracle of Birth" and "Birth of Triplets" were advertised here over and over. I didn't know 'birth films' were a genre? Either that, or obstetricians were a big part of the drive-in audience....
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Atlas (1961)
Sword-and-sandals snoozer
26 May 2008
Sometimes you see a movie and wonder if it was made just so the crew could enjoy a six-week vacation in a nice place. Unspoiled Greece in 1961 was probably a very pleasant locale indeed for Roger Corman and friends to take such a vacation.

The story is a familiar one: Buff, good-hearted but naive hero is tricked by a more worldly man into using his great strength for his benefit until the hero wises up. This is a plot used in the great sagas of Hercules, Sigfred, and Tom Cruise. Here the trusting hero, Atlas, is invited by a city-state tyrant, Praximedes, to be his champion in a fight to the death so that Praximedes can annex some defiant holdout city.

The problem with all of this is: the movie is boring. Very boring. The fight scenes lack drama; the battle scenes look like extras throwing sticks that are supposed to be spears at each other. Michael Forest as Atlas can't act - period. Barboura Morris is the sex interest of changeable loyalties; she isn't bad looking, but she doesn't take off near enough clothes. --Oh, don't tell me it was 1961. "Spartacus" was made a year before, and that had a bathing scene. Plus a reference to homosexuality. "Atlas" was never meant to be a big-budget epic. So no excuses, Roger. This kind of movie, you have to sex up if you don't do anything else.

Frank Wolff's Praximedes seems to be having a good time; but rather than coming across as a figurative tyrant (he makes no secret that he is a -literal- tyrant), he seems more like a glad-handing jerk, and a distinctly American one at that.

I hope the crew enjoyed their vacation. The rest of us, if we want a Greek vacation, should catch "Summer Lovers" or "Venus on Fire".
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If.... (1968)
"If..." I could have my two hours back. A bad '60s movie beloved by political dilettantes
5 November 2007
I just saw "If…" I can remember the advertisements for the movie from 1968, so I was interested in finally seeing it. It may be the perspective of an American who never went to a British public school and misses some of the social references, but I thought the movie was awful. For one thing, as others have pointed out, it takes almost the entire movie for the much ballyhooed-at-the-time revolt to break out. For another, whether the last scene is real or imagined, what occurs isn't a revolt, but a shooting rampage. There's quite a difference.

I know it may be bad form to judge a movie on subsequent events, but one cannot avoid doing it here. One person wrote a message board posting asking us not to compare the end of movie to the incidents at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. But if there's a scintilla of difference between Klebold, Harris and Cho on the one hand and Travis (Malcom McDowell) on the other, I simply can't see it. All four of them were under the delusion that their gunfire is going to purify a f___-ed up world that they arrogantly take no responsibility for.

Which brings me to: why the hell are Travis and his chums even in a school they so despise? They are adults, or close to it. They're not in a military prison, like the inmates in "The Hill," a much better British film from about the same time. No one is forcing them to go to College and take beatings from the the whips, except maybe ambitious parents in need of a wake-up about the nature of their sons. I had the opportunity in college to join a frat, except I couldn't stand to be given silly, cruel orders by delinquents claiming to be my prospective "brothers." I took the consequences of not having the "in" with the Establishment that frats provide, and I can't say I regretted it.

If Travis fancies himself the second coming of Lenin (whose unbearded picture hangs prominently in his room) he's free to go out and organize a fitter's union or work for Michael Foot in the next election. If he wants to be Jack Kerouac, then get on the road and start writing. What possible benefit is he giving the world in joyriding a motorcycle and getting drunk in his room?

Sometimes reviewers have to be like the person who responded to the scene in "Last Tango In Paris" where Brando mopes about having had to go on a date with cow manure on his shoes. In the real world, the person said, a listener would say "Why didn't you scrape it off? Change your shoes?" --Don't allow fictional characters to lay a self-pity trip on you because you don't dare point out an common-sense alternative course of action for them. So it is here.
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21 September 2007
I cannot believe the number of people who wrote favorable reviews of this movie. I rented it for Sophia, but even with her I barely staggered through to the end of what seemed to be an interminable movie. Nothing worked - there was no timing, no chemistry between the stars, and one wasn't happy at the end because the characters didn't seem happy. As others have noticed, Brando was terribly miscast. As great an actor as he could be, he never came across as just -likeable-, and this would have been needed to make the film work.

About the only enjoyable note was struck by the delightful Patrick Cargill as Brando's man Hudson. Of course, today we would have a better idea why the idea of marriage to the Loren character made him cringe so (hint: rhymes with "say.")

It was suggested by some other poster that this is a commentary on Puritan America. But it seems Chaplin, in making Natascha the stereotypical prostitute = miserable, exploited drab, had some of the Victorian puritan to him as well. Why does Natascha want to leave Hong Kong? Is she tired of dancing with sailors? -Why- is she doing so? A woman who looks like Loren, can make herself up as well as Natascha and who can flatter men, ought to be doing far better in terms of clientelle, even in Hong Kong. If she's dancing with sailors, they ought to have admiral's bars. Not only that, if Natascha had more of the joie de vivre of the Shirley MacLaine character from Irma La Douce, one would see the attraction of the Brando character as more than just horniness, and understand his willingness to throw his political career away.

What particularly stood out for me was the set design. Did anyone ever think to look at a real cruise ship? Even luxury suites on actual liners seem a little cramped by land standards. But Brando's stateroom was bigger than my high school auditorium. Nor did Chaplin think to tell any of the characters or the extras to use crouched, 'hug the walls' walk non-sailors use at sea.
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Lurid Melodrama reminiscent of a D.W. Griffith Film
2 August 2007
W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage is supposed to be a English language classic. If so, much must have been missing from the film version here. Phillip's (Leslie Howard) attraction to Mildred (Bette Davis) is so utterly inexplicable as to make the scenario seem like the post-breakup retelling of a relationship from the man's point of view. Being a family lawyer I've heard many such accounts; the man depicts himself as noble and always correct, and the woman is a hellion who has had no other objective than to exploit the man.

Indeed, unless one is willing to laugh at the social assumptions of the film maker, this is an uncomfortable movie to watch. Phillip even indulges Mildred when she brings over a baby of indeterminate paternity, but the real high point comes when Phillip allows Mildred - enraged and now of dubious sanity - the free run of his flat, with predictable results. Bette Davis was attractive for about five years of her life, but that period didn't occur here. In fact, by the end of the movie she looks a lot like the Baby Jane character she would play thirty years later.

I note how Howard's character is always impeccably dressed and groomed. It tells me that Phillip craves middle class respectability. Someone like that could not run from a woman with a course Cockney accent fast enough. Phillip is, for most of the movie, a student; such a person would have been more believable if he had been younger, and had the disheveled looks that bespeak the low income and the low self esteem that often accompanies student status - an English Raskolnikov, as it will. And balanced that by allowing Mildred a modicum of charm.
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Pagan Island (1961)
A bad movie to love and cherish
18 March 2007
This is a movie you can come up with a number of alternate titles, including "Welcome to Island Anthrax!" "Did you say she was going to be the bride of the sea -gull?-" and "Man, you worship one pig-ugly god!"

As you will surmise from the other reviews here, sailor Eddie Dew gets shipwrecked on an island which unfortunately has no listing on Expedia. Supposedly the all-female inhabitants are Polynesian, but both their skin color, figures and hair styles will make you think of early '60s co-ed cuties from someplace like USC - which indeed, the "actresses" probably were.

Almost immediately one of the girls show him to "his" hut (and he didn't even have to make reservations!). When the queen tells him that there is going to a festival tonight I am thinking: this guy's luck just doesn't quit.

However, the purpose of the festival seems to be to get their guest drunk, so they can hog tie him and prep him for execution the next night. Bummer. But what's this? Five other guys, apparently from the Negroes in Diapers Tribe (there's no other way to describe them), are paddling this way. The populace is terrified, so the queen lets prospective sacrificee Nani Maka cut Eddie down so he can grab his .38 and, in a bit of John Wayne marksmanship, drop all five at thirty paces without having to use the 'spare' bullet. He's a hero, and gets to have the run of the women there with the exception of the aforementioned Nani. Most guys would be content with that, but Eddie? Nooooo! So the Sea Gull - er, Sea God, is going to be angry. You have to wonder, why is it so many gods don't do -anything- except get angry?

One also wonders about these girls; if they didn't like Eddie because he was white, and don't like these black guys either, well who do they deign to couple with?

A lot of the reviews have laid into the girl who plays the queen, Trine Hovelsrud, some of whom didn't think much of her looks. Okay, she reads her lines off a cue card in a monotone, but with a name like that English was probably not her first language. And I disagree about her looks. She had a pretty Queen Next Door face, an appealing bob (there had to be a hair salon somewhere that we don't see) and the best legs on the island.

This, and "Fiend of Dope Island," make a peerless double bill for late Saturday night trash viewing and fodder for your internal Crow T. Robot. Rent them.
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Could we have a non-stereotypical Frenchman?
1 March 2007
This movie isn't terrible, really. Somebody commented that Mo is the type of American Europeans snicker at. But there are those, and not necessarily Anglo-Saxon yahoos, who do not care for Frenchmen; and the Xavier character isn't going to sway them.

Let's consider his stereotypical Frenchman attributes:

1). Cynical - very cynical. Check.

2). Reedy, underfed appearance, check, despite:

3). A great appreciation of cuisine. Check.

4). Lukewarm work ethic. Check. (Forget the fact he is supposedly a rich stockbroker, from watching him in the film he seems to put in ten hour workweeks.)

5). Beautiful wife, check. Despite that:

6). Loose interpretation of the marriage vows. Check.

7). Big sexual ego, which says an American girl owes you sex if you buy her dinner. Check.

Whether Mo is a hick or not, there's no reason for her to fall for this smug European twit other than the script dictates so.

On the other hand, as other male reviewers have, I did enjoy seeing Karen Allen's cute, petite body. I'll give the movie four stars; two of them are for that.
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A completely confusing muddle of a film
28 September 2006
Like the previous poster, I am from northern Vermont, and I was inclined to like this film. However, not since "Red Zone Cuba" have I seen such a confusing plot. The things the people sent to bootleg make no sense. Two of the gang paddle across the border send a second party across in a car. Uhm, why? Then they meet two others, and drive up at night in to the bad guy's hideout in a luxury Packard. --Wouldn't just two people in a flatbed truck make more sense? Then, parked outside the garage that holds the targeted hooch, the four fall asleep! When they waken in the morning and and start hauling the whiskey out, of course they're spotted and shot at, losing some of their precious cargo in the process. Then two of the smugglers put the whiskey in a boat and float it over the border. Again, why? I am told by someone whose great uncle really did smuggle in the area, all one needed was to drive a vehicle that could outrun than the U.S. Canada Border Patrol, which back then had a fraction of the resources it has now.

And don't get me started on the last half hour, which made no sense whatsoever.

The only good thing I can say about the film is that Kris Kristopherson has actually grown some charisma with the years.
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Flightplan (2005)
By the numbers Multiplex fodder
23 March 2006
Spoilers avast.

I never thought I'd say I wasted two hours watching Jodie Foster act, but last night I did. Foster, who once was very selective about scripts, seems to have lost her way in the past couple Hollywood takes. "Panic Room" was unexceptional, but worthwhile. This movie is almost a retread of "Panic Room," and an inferior one at that.

Jodie has lost none of her intensity; but unfortunately, she is starting to look her age in this movie. I mention this in particular as she looks out of place with a six year old daughter. To be believable, the child ought to have been twelve or older. But Hollywood believes audiences can't feel sympathy unless the victim is blonde, blue eyed, female, and eight or less. Call it the Dakota Fanning Syndrome.

Good production values can't make up for a villain who seems to be channeling John Malklovich (accept no substitutes!) and an ending so pedestrian it had me slapping my face.
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How this movie is different from "The Exorcist"
2 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
(Some spoilers ahead) This movie is different from "The Exorcist" in the same way "King Kong" is different from a movie that seriously postulates that giant apes and dinosaurs exist on a remote island. A movie that simply takes a horror scenario based on old legends and runs with it, is distinguishable than one that argues that the horror scenario can actually happen.

To this day I do not know if either William Blatty or William Freidkin are religious believers. I do know that they created a rattlin' good film back in 1972, one that you do not have to be a religious believer to enjoy. This movie, on the other hand, seems to have been written by a Mel Gibson type Catholic who believes that the Church is all that stands between a skeptical humanity and the unlimited resources of hell, which stand ready to very visibly put the smack down on the planet.

If this movie wanted to be taken seriously, it could address a few questions that any skeptic could compose. What, for instance, is the whole point of demonic possession? If Satan is, as the Bible describes him, a master of deceit, why would he ever want to come out in the open like that? And why on earth would he want to possess a simple, obscure farm girl? Why not take over, say, the President of the U.S.? Or the Pope? Now if I were the Prince of Darkness, that is who I would go for. Billions would be impressed. Some might believe the Pope is too saintly for that, well, so was Emily.

Two problems with courtroom procedure: first, the prosecutor shows a picture of the mutilated Emily in his opening argument. Erin should have objected. Opening statements are when the state tells the jury about the evidence - not when the evidence is actually presented. Erin's summation, too? She states "I know Fr. Moore, and he is not a bad man." She is testifying about the character of the defendant, and the state should have objected. (What she is really saying is, "You, the jury, can't convict a priest." I heavily disagree.)
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Petticoat Junction (1963–1970)
Let's get real here folks...
17 December 2005
Several people have stated, why don't they make shows like this anymore? After watching several episodes from a DVD purchased at a convenience store, I can say why: it's a dull show. Almost excruciatingly so. Perhaps an adequate time waster if one can't figure out something better to do and one doesn't care to watch what is on the other one or two networks, but that wouldn't cut it today when a show has to run against several dozen other choices, including the Internet.

The only thing noticeable was the implication from the credits that the three daughters regularly skinny-dipped in the water tank. Hot stuff in 1963 to a nine year old boy, but now I think: that water's unfiltered and unchlorinated, you really want to expose yourselves to that? Other than that, they are allowed to be about as sexy as mannequins. And Hooterville seems to run on an economic system somewhat less efficient than that of the Soviet Union. Everything can be paid for with dinners at the Shady Rest, and no one seems to mind that the only transportation around is a Civil War-era locomotive. I guess they all piled into it on Saturday nights and rode it to the drive-in.

"Green Acres" a couple years later did the right thing with the rural milieu: use it for absurdist humor that didn't con city dwellers with the idea that there American small towns are gentle paradises. And "The Beverly Hillbillies" at least had Buddy Epsen. This one? It will be completely forgotten in another couple decades.
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Not even a good bad movie
12 September 2005
Itinerant hand somehow flies down from space and strangles people; and people also become paranoid and violent. There is supposed to be a connection between the two phenomena, although I couldn't figure out what is was. The space program in the movie sent a man to the moon, he was killed, and the program just sent another without bothering to find out as to what happened to the first.

Oh yes, and a flowsy landlady carries around a large, cocked pistol with a hair-trigger, throws it down on table and somehow does -not- blow a hole in her wall. Overly long scenes with no point. Cute Swedish chick is included, as is a *very* poor man's version of James Dean in Steve Curan. Best acting is done by Jackson the Cat.

Please, if you have to watch one of these B-movie scholckfests, watch "The Brain that Wouldn't Die" instead. It isn't boring and there is a lot more potential for cuttup material. And that is why we watch these movies, isn't it?
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An interesting but flawed miniseries.
7 June 2005
My commentary: First and foremost, while the emphasis was on human error in the movie, the fact is war is a very fertile breeding ground for accidents on top of the deliberate carnage. "Saving Private Ryan" noted this with the mention of the glider that was fitted with armor plating - but no one thought to tell the pilot. So it crashes and six soldiers are killed needlessly. Accounts of war proliferate in tragic incidents such as that one. The Halifax Explosion must be the biggest war-related accident in history.

The Great War featured incomprehensibly vast usage of artillery shells, and artillery shells need TNT and other explosives. A lot of this had to be imported from the U.S., and by ships. Ships had to be gathered in ports. Ports will then see a lot of ships coming and going, and harbor masters are going to be pressed to keep all this traffic moving. The odds were considerable something like the incident of Dec. 6th, 1917 would happen someplace in Allied ports sooner or later.

Captain Le Medec probably wasn't the greatest or bravest mariner of all time. But how many ship captains who have seniority or pull are going to agree to captain a massive floating bomb at the height of the U-boat menace? Second, did anyone notice that the movie exonerates harbor pilot Mackie while making Le Medec and the Belgian captain look like total dolts at the helm; and has Mackie trying to avert disaster while the Frenchman funks off with his crew? Considering it is a Canadian and not a French production, what a surprise.

Then there is the almost defeatist speech Capt. Collins gives to the war rally in the church. Excuse me, an *officer* in HM forces blurting out like that? It simply wouldn't have happened at the time. Contrary to what he later tells Barbara, Germans weren't close to suing for peace at the time, and the war wasn't kept going only because the Allies wanted another year of war profits. Indeed, with the Western Front stalemated and Russia close to surrender, Ludendorff et al were convinced victory for Germany was just around the corner. And a lot of people on the Allied side feared the same thing.

On the plus side, I was impressed by what the production did with a limited CBC budget.
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The Incident (1967)
A grim movie based on a true incident
19 April 2005
(Spoilers) I have to side with those who found this movie less than great. For one thing, is any subway ride in New York this long? Transatlantic flights seem shorter.

For another, this film was obviously scripted after the 1964 Kitty Genovese incident, and it shows. At the time there was a lot of pop sociology that Ms. Genovese would have never been publicly murdered the way she was outside of cold NYC. Probably believing this, the script writer had character in the movie who finally takes effective action come from Oklahoma. However, I know of plenty of similar demonstrations of indifference to human life in rural U.S. --the horrible lynching extravaganzas of 1890 - 1930 for instance.

I'm not sure you can transfer the sorry reactions of 38 New Yorkers, who were each in their own space, to a subway car with a common space. The way other males simply cringed while one by one, they were verbally and physically assaulted - I just didn't believe it. (Edit 2015: the public reaction to the Kitty Genovese has had some revisionist history done in the past twenty years, the upshot being that the story of '38 New Yorkers watching a clear cut scene of murder and not reacting' has been found to be much exaggerated.)

And the one soldier (Robert Bannard), remaining seated while his injured buddy (Beau Bridges) belatedly takes action? Gees, with soldiers like that - maybe that's why we lost in Vietnam.

Last, the utterly depressing ending, with the survivors silently stepping over the prostrate bum and leaving? I sympathize with those who paid admission back in 1967. Mind you, "The Incident" is not a *terrible* movie (Sheen and Mustante were chillingly good), and I'm not addicted to sugary endings; but considering the heavy-handedness of the message, the theater experience had to feel like having to buy a ticket in order to be yelled at by your boss.

Recommended for: those who want to see President Bartlett in is young and wild years.
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Why does Oscar....
5 April 2005
...almost invariably do a miserable job picking the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar? This is exhibit "A", front and center. A man finally returns from Spain from decades of self-exile during the Franco years, and reunites with an old flame. Could have been good in the hands of a Mike Leigh, but with this script and director it was a snoozefest. Almost nothing happens. For some reason, "Das Boot," which had more drama in any given two minutes of its running time than "Volver a empezar" in its entirety, couldn't be nominated and then selected. Huh?

Oscar did it again this year (2005), when it again picked a dull Spanish movie few will ever see out of the best pool I can remember, with "Der Undergang" (Downfall), "Un long dimanche de fiançailles" (A Very Long Engagement), and "Shi mian mai fu" ("House of Flying Daggers). No, I do *not* need to see war explosions or airborne cutlery in all my foreign movies, but com'n, how elitist can you get?

Note that "Volver a empezar" is not readily available on VHS or DVD. The marketplace knew better than Oscar. And if you do find it be warned that, yes, it will kill any enjoyment you have of "Pachelbel's Canon."
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The Raid (1954)
Mediocre horse drama built around real life incident
11 March 2005
(Avast, slight spoilers ahead) I got this tape from my local library, which keeps a copy for obvious reasons.

I once went to the town of Matewan, West Virginia, and in a little museum there I saw the schedule for the town theatre citra May 1954. Movies would change at the theatre each day. As there would be no TV for another decade or so in those parts, this was much of the available entertainment in the town. "The Raid" seems to have been made for towns like Matewan in the 1950's. Although it wasn't listed for that month, I am sure showed there some Monday or Tuesday night for an audience which probably wasn't too demanding. The historical raid - daring and remarkably successful - didn't seem to have been very well researched, so the movie is full of Hollywood embellishments, including a loose cannon played by Lee Marvin. Marvin uses the opportunity to practice being Liberty Valance. And St. Albans seems to have had more Yankee soldiers coming and going through the town than Washington D.C. had.

What really made me snicker was when the raiders change into their Confederate uniforms. Only in tacky Civil War paintings do Rebel uniforms look so pristine. When Anne Bancroft's son catches Van Heflin in his uniform just before the raid, I expected the boy to think it was Halloween.

And then there's Anne Bancroft herself. While watching the movie I actually looked on the IMDb to see if there was a second Anne Bancroft. The then-studio contract actress looks nothing like in her later films, and has none of the presence she would later have in "The Miracle Worker," "Agnes of God," and of course "The Graduate."

Worth seeing if only 1). you live in St. Albans and 2). you have a couple hours to kill on a Hollywood fictionalization of your home town's biggest news story.
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Ruby and Oswald (1978 TV Movie)
Michael Lerner is right as rain as Ruby
6 March 2005
Don't buy the silly 1992 film that makes Ruby out to be some kind of Shakespearian hero, and shooting Oswald because it would bring some huge conspiracy to light (when in fact, the killing was largely responsible for appearing to make it a big mystery!).

This is the movie to see to know the real Jack Ruby, and Michael Lerner nails him exactly. In a way, Ruby was like a very low rent Frank Sinatra. Both were sensitive about their child-of-immigrants upbringing, which is possibly why they both liked John Kennedy so much. Both had a hot, impulsive temper. Both were also extremely fond of attractive women and capable of great generosity. And both considered mobsters unfairly persecuted good-time boys with money.

The movie depicts a couple things that would cast doubt on Ruby being part of a conspiracy. One was that when he went to see Oswald being brought out, he left his beloved dog sitting in his car. The other was that when Oswald was scheduled to be brought out, Ruby was not in the garage, but across the street wiring money to a stripper in need. He returned just in time for the fatal encounter.

A worthwhile 90 minutes for those obsessed with the events of Nov. 22, 1963
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Surprisingly affecting
5 December 2004
South Seas dramas down through the decades have involved a lovely woman with one layer of scanty clothing, and a man who is chiefly attired in bronzed muscles. Both are Rousseauian children, taking rapturous joy in carnality and in their sun-light surroundings. Invariably they run afoul of the hungry island gods, rapacious white man, or combination of both. It's a genre done in John Ford's "Hurricane" and other movies with Dorothy Lamour; "Bird of Paradise" with Debra Paget; the various "Blue Lagoon" movies; up to the 1980's little seen "Beyond the Reef."

This one has one thing distinguishing itself from the others - the cast is all actually Polynesian, or partly so (sorry Dorothy). It does bring in the common troubles of indigenous peoples: wanting to escape their stifling tribal atmosphere, they have a hard time coping with the outside world's currency economy and alcoholic drink. The movie eschews the Hollywood ending. Anne Chevalier is a treat, and a climatic moment late in the movie is directed for maximum shock.
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The 1940s House (2001– )
Wonder how many others could made it through?
9 September 2004
If you think that the discomfort of World War II was limited to that suffered by soldiers on the front lines, watch this for a moving and sometimes right amusing four hours.

The Hymers agree to spend several weeks living the life that home-island Britons had in the 1940s. They dig in their garden for the mass-issue Anderson shelter, they are limited to the food amounts given by rationing, they are berated by official letter for not following the blackout regulations at night.

I wonder how many contemporary Americans, not only permitted but encouraged by our economy to be profligate, could put up for two days with what the Hymers have to face. Example: Lyn Hymers accidentally drops a peach cobbler on the floor. She just scrapes it up and puts it back in the pan. If she didn't, the hungry family would go without some of their alloted calories at dinnertime. Behind the scenes, a board of simulators discuss what can be done to make things more realistic - ie., tougher - for the family.

In the British wartime economy, there was no place for cosmetics or high fashion. You get the impression sex went completely by the boards for Ben Hymers and the Mrs. (On the other hand, "Hope and Glory" and other accounts show that young, impetuous hormones were granted a big loosening of sexual mores.) Nonetheless, Lyn, in her indefegable way, tries to make hair dye from her Victory Garden. The results aren't bad.

When Ben goes away "to work at an aircraft plant up north," Kirstie and Lyn learn to make do so thoroughly that when he returns, he's more of an intruder into the house ecology than the husband. Little wonder soldiers on leave sometimes felt unwelcome and useless, and became impatient to get back to their outfits, where at least they knew they were needed.

On a grim note, the narrator notes that the home next door to the Hymers was bombed in 1940; and in a neighborhood house, a mother was killed by a fall when trying to respond to a baby in a blacked out house. Proof of something "Pvt. Ryan" alluded to - modern war does not only mean deliberate death as the two sides try to kill each other, but it is a fertile breeding ground for fatal accidents as well.

Definitely recommended watching.
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Judgment (2001)
This is where '80s TV stars go to die
23 July 2004
I rented this knowing it was going to Christian propaganda, and that it would offer some fun MST3k style. What I didn't know was just how jaw-droppingly crude and inept the writing would be.

Corbin Burnsen must have been way behind on house payments to agree to have done this movie. To go from a star of the highest rated show on TV ("L.A. Law") to this drek was a fall indeed. Even Mr. T seems to be slumming. Neither has to stretch, as the characters they have here are almost identical to Arnie Becker and B.A., respectively.

The courtroom procedure in this movie is sillier than in "Ally McBeal," and that's saying a lot. What is particularly amusing is the presentation of the One World Ruler. Whether it's books or films in this gender, he's pretty easy to spot - he's the only character whose name has a pronounced vowel at the end. But the people who take the stuff seriously must be slow on the uptake, so the producers also dress him in sinister suits, give him a decadent haircut, and give an office where he keeps a big picture of himself hanging behind the desk. He's really, *really* evil, get it? Ruling the world must leave one with more slack time than say, running your average restaurant, because he's on ready call to be a witness at the trial of the title.

Oh, there are prequels and sequels. Probably with other washed up actors, in addition to actors so obscure even they don't know their own names. I think I'll pass.
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Everything repellent about the '50s in one 10 minute film!
7 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
For those who think the '50s are something we should get back to, who don't like the concepts supposedly described in the shapeless term "political correctness," well here's a movie to love and cherish.

No one has yet noticed the racial aspects of this short. Let's talk about the Seminole - he doesn't apparently have a name, he is known as "Old Sourpuss" or worse, "his (Ross's) Seminole." Excuse me, "HIS SEMINOLE?" I guess the idea that possessing a person of another race is not admirable thing to do hadn't filtered down to southern Florida at the time. Anyway, Old Sourpuss goes around the swamp in his tribal costume, which to be honest looks more like a woman's dress than a Scottish kilt does. I suspect the Seminoles are aware of this, and save the outfit for ceremonial occasions. But the director probably said, "Hey, Sourpuss! Why don't you put on your traditional dress -er costume! That will really show our audience the white guy is in charge!"

Ross captures a cougar, and upon reaching his little facility puts it into a glass-sided box about the size of a cat carrier. "Home sweet home," the narrator says. Yes, I'm sure wild cougars feel so safe and comforted in a small box that smells of the last abducted animal that was thrown in there.

Then something else no one seems to have noticed. Ross is shown hauling away twin bear cubs, whose pitiful cries should have even the most animal-apathetic wanting to throw something large and heavy at Ross. May I be the one to ask the obvious question: WHERE IS THE MOTHER BEAR? And don't tell me the cubs were orphaned by a forest fire just before the movie. We must assume there is more to the incident that wasn't filmed, that *really* makes Ross look despicable and which even this thick as a brick filmmaker realized audiences would not enjoy watching.

And let's not mention the obviously staged escape attempt of one of the cubs.

Yes, brutality against wildlife and unmistakable assertions of a racial caste presented for light viewing. The '50s, you can keep them.
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Body Heat (1981)
Richard Crenna made this movie
1 December 2003
His part is small, but Richard Crenna made this movie for me - I don't think I ever saw him as good. Maddie may describe him as "small and mean and weak," but when you first see him you know that only the middle adjective is applicable. He is so clearly an alpha lion to Hurt's slick weasel that a sense of physical folly in Ned Racine's actions is added to the one of legal folly. This is climaxed when Edmund, to Maddie's surprise, takes a gun from the nightstand when he hears Ned downstairs. Should Maddie assist the man she's been using, or the one more likely to win a confrontation? She resolves this dilemma in a shocking sentence.

But if Ned hadn't wanted to believe Maddie's description of her husband, if he used the right organ to think with - we wouldn't have much of a movie, would we?
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The last scene is great
20 September 2003
Warning: Spoilers
(Spoilers) No matter what you think about the rest of the movie, the last scene was a real gem. The camera pans on mother Mary Steenburgen, listening with a smile on the house steps as her husband's pals trade vulgar stories with Ralphie in attendance. Her boy's been admitted to the man's club! Then she jumps up with a yelp and runs to pull him out when a story gets TOO raunchy. I loved it!
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