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Scary Movie (2000)
As has been mentioned in other reviews it's a rather curious idea to make fun of movies that are parodies themselves. All the film makers can do is be more extreme in every way. A couple of laughs here and there but most of the time the movie is just gross and dumb, a bunch of good looking young people running around and doing stupid things, what more is there to say? Even with it's short running time the film outstays it's welcome.
The Lost Continent (1968)
Oddly endearing cinematic mess.
THE LOST CONTINENT is from a novel by Dennis Wheatley, a prolific writer whose books were a compilation of badly written prose, cardboard characters and often inaccurate details. They also happened to be enormous best sellers.
The movie captures his style. We are introduced to characters whose personalities change during the movie for apparent reason and plot threads that start promisingly then go nowhere.
Ben Carruthers is an almost cartoon-like sleazeball and good actors like Eric Porter, Jimmy Hanley and Hildegarde Kneff somehow manage to keep straight faces throughout.
The music is weird; from the opening crooning of a completely inappropriate title song it seems throughout to have been written for a different movie, having no connection with the mood of the scenes.
With it's painted sets and general air of cheapness it should have been a complete disaster but somehow in the end it all becomes strangely likeable.
One for those yahoo evenings with beer and popcorn.
Talent shows through in this weird film
It's difficult to know how to react to oddball films like this.They're not funny enough to be called black comedies and not clever enough to be termed satires. Obviously the director wants us to be shocked and disgusted and just as obviously wants us to keep on watching, in this I think he succeeds in all directions. No matter what the reactions I think very few people will not see it through to the end for the pacing is just right with action scenes coming at just the right moments.
There's a somewhat cheap look to the production, photography is sometimes poor but there are a few nicely composed scenes. The acting is excellent with Vincent Gallo a standout as Sister Gomez.
See it by all means but you have been warned.
Long, technically poor, would be epic.
I know it's useless complaining about inaccuracies in these historical movies, nobody really cares and if the end results are entertaining all is forgiven. Let's just say, as many others have pointed out, in battles Roman legions just did not fight as depicted here.
Technically the movie is poor. Ridley Scott has used his old trick of using muted colors and shooting in murky light to cover the fact that the effects are not very good. It worked in BLADE RUNNER but here it doesn't work at all, and the computerized scenes are very obvious.
As always seems to be the case in these historical films the British and Irish garner the acting honors. Derek Jacobi, Richard Harris and Oliver Reed are fine in their roles but Joaquin Phoenix doesn't register in his at all. Connie Nielsen is attractive but doesn't have too much to do.
I have never been able to understand the appeal of Russell Crowe. I find his acting range very limited and with his squat physique, pudgy face and shifty eyes he hardly suggests an heroic figure. Useless to say any of that to women however they just do their (smiling slightly) routine. It must be his muscles and deep voice.
Some blood and gore in the arena scenes for those that like that sort of thing and no doubt the movie will do a blockbuster rental business but I found it all rather a bore.
Easy Living (1937)
Glossy comedy, typical of the 1930's.
Although EASY LIVING makes no claim to realism it does somehow capture the flavor of New York in the thirties.
Directed by Mitchell Leisen from a screenplay by Preston Sturges it has all the hallmarks of Leisen's style, the gleaming, high style sets, the magnificent cathedral ceilinged apartments and also, unfortunately the tendency to allow scenes to run on just a little too long. The slapstick scene in the automat is a prime example, just a few pratfalls too many. If Sturges directed as well as written the film might not have been as sumptuous looking bit I think it would have been tighter.
Minor details however, the film is a delight, especially Jean Arthur and a very capable supporting cast giving it their professional all.
The Mummy (1999)
Tongue in cheek desert adventure.
If you expect any similarities to the famous Boris Karloff movie of the same name you will be very disappointed, this more is more in line with "Raiders of the Lost Ark" or one of the "Lost Cities" serials of the thirties. There are all the stock characters, two fisted (and multi weaponed) All American hero, "silly ass" Englishman, his beautiful librarian sister and some funny foreigners (in this case Egyptians). There are no spooky moments but lots of action scenes and some spectacular special effects.
It's all good fun with a fast moving, often funny script and a professional cast that milks the situations for all they're worth. Rachel Weisz makes a breathtakingly beautiful heroine and her acting strikes just the right note.
I did get rather lost with some of the supernatural logic but that's a minor quibble. It's all great entertainment.
The Patriot (2000)
Dumb Historical Epic
Criticism of this movie is probably pointless, lots of people will go and see it and no doubt it will make a great deal of money but believe me it is not very good, not as history or as an example of movie making. There is some great Carolina scenery and some effective (and gory) action but there are also some long dull patches and some pretty bad acting. Mel Gibson's facial expressions when emoting are often more comic than dramatic and Heath Ledger seems completely bored by the whole thing although the girls will undoubtedly go for his beach boy good looks. The women in the cast (surprisingly well groomed for rural, colonial housewives) just simper prettily in the background as their men go to war. The British come off best in the acting department even in the small roles, probably because villains are notoriously easier (and more fun) to play than the saintly types.
I have heard some mothers say that they are going to rent the video as a history lesson for their kids. Be careful. The historical inaccuracies have been well documented by now and there's some very bloody moments. All you may be teaching, as you see Mel Gibson training his sons to kill, is that kids can look pretty cool with guns.
I give it three out of ten.
Oscar Wilde (1960)
Cheap sets and great acting.
Whatever money was spent on this movie certainly didn't go on the sets, the furniture looks as though it was assembled by a local handyman and the trial scenes, which make up the largest part of the film, seem to be taking place in a converted church hall or school gymnasium with hastily constructed props. However this happens to be a very good film indeed, the superb acting carries the film and makes it far better than the more lavish Peter Finch version which was released about the same time.
I've always thought of Robert Morley as just a comic character playing himself but here he really becomes Oscar Wilde. You can imagine Wilde talking and behaving as he does in this movie . The verbal exchanges between Morley as Wilde and Ralph Richardson as the prosecutor are magnificent. Wilde enjoying the limelight, plays to the gallery and wins every one of the exchanges until he gets too confident, makes one fatal error and then the prosecutor starts to chip away at his defense.
The minor characters are uniformly well acted with Phyllis Calvert as Wilde's wife, Dennis Price as his loyal friend and Edward Chapman as the boorish Marquis of Queensbury . John Neville is probably a little too old to play Sir Alfred Douglas but his skilful acting makes it work . The final scenes between Wilde and his family are very touching.
Well worth seeing.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
The key word for this movie is elegance. The cast move through sumptuous sets with the males dressed in immaculately tailored dress suits and the women exquisitely gowned. It seems that all the aristocrats lived in homes the size of Buckingham palace with high ceilinged rooms and magnificent staircases. They exchange Oscar Wilde epigrams in the cultured tones of the British upper classes.
Some great performances. Hurd Hatfield, an extremely handsome actor with a limited range ,gives the best one of his career as does George Sanders as the cynical Lord Henry Wotton, and a young Angela Lansbury is very moving (especially when she sings "The Little Yellow Bird").
One (very small) criticism. The color shots of the Dorian Gray portrait showing his degradation don't match the high standards of the rest of the design, they look more like pages from a horror comic. I think the producer's, with their obviously high budget, could have used a more imaginative artist.
As I say a small criticism. This a great film of psychological horror.
Criss Cross (1949)
Atmospheric but shakily plotted Noir
As usual in a movie directed by Robert Siodmark there are striking compositions and some really tense moments in this sombre tale of cross, double-cross and revenge in a botched armored car robbery.Some convincing location scenes give us an authentic look at 1940's Los Angeles.
Burt Lancaster more or less reprises his role in THE KILLERS as an honest guy led astray by a beautiful woman. Yvonne DeCarlo doesn't quite hack it as the femme fatale but Siodmark makes the most of her looks and there is a well edited sequence of her dancing in a night club. (An un-billed Tony Curtis is her partner).Minor characters, the hoods, bartenders etc are well cast and there are good performances by those two stalwarts of 1940's movies Stephen Mcnally and Dan Duryea.
The story line is rather ragged and there are a few plot loop holes but the action when it comes is well handled.
Doesn't rank with THE KILLERS but it's an interesting look at a heist movie before they became cliches. You can see harbingers of future similar movies like THE ASPHALT JUNGLE, THE KILLING, RIFIFI etc.
You'll Never Get Rich (1941)
Delightful Astaire/Hayworth musical
There is the usual silly (even by musical comedy standards) plot but it doesn't get in the way of some funny situations and pleasing dance numbers.
Highlights are the beauty of Rita Hayworth (with a dubbed singing voice), vaudevillian Cliff Nazarro with his famous *double talk* routines and one standout musical number " So near and yet so far"
Many familiar faces in the supporting cast do their stuff expertly.
Remando al viento (1988)
A jumbled mess
Although the story of how Mary Shelley came to write her famous horror story FRANKENSTEIN is a familiar one that has been touched on in quite a few movies, there is always room for a different viewpoint and probably there is the germ of a good idea here but something went horribly wrong. It could be a case of too many cooks which often happens in these international co-productions. It has obviously been heavily cut but I don't think the edited scenes would have helped any, we would have just been bored for longer that's all. The acting is generally poor and the actors are miscast especially Hugh Grant as Lord Byron who has none of the brooding qualities one associates with the poet and who also looks downright ridiculous in some of the costumes even they may be historically accurate. There are one or two rather pretty scenic shots but that's about it.
The whole thing ends up as so boring I would suggest it as a cure for insomnia but the music is so inapt and irritating is would probably have the opposite effect.
One to avoid.
This classic British comedy leaves a warm, cheerful glow.
No point in giving too many plot details here, just take the basic premise of an all girls school being assigned to an all boys school by mistake, add that on the same day the girl's headmistress has to show a group of visiting parents around while the boy's headmaster (who is due to be promoted to a senior position at a new college) has to show his new employers around and I think you'll get the picture.
This fifty year old comedy wears well. The pace is frantic, like a French farce with doors opening and closing and much dashing along corridors with split second timing as the two groups try to avoid each other. Magaret Rutherford and Alistair Sim ham it up superbly and there are many familiar faces in the supporting cast, all of whom react with great professionalism. At ninety minutes the film doesn't out stay it's welcome, and there's even time for a little romance that doesn't slow up the action one bit. Incidentally I had forgotten how sexy the gym outfits of English schoolgirls of that period were. It bought back memories.
Dangerous Moonlight (1941)
War time morale booster is dated now but music survives
This romantic story of a Polish concert pianist/fighter pilot was never really very good. The dialog is often less than sparkling, the sets tend to look cheap and the few outdoor shots are often just painted backgrounds. There is an impressive shot of Spitfires taking off to do battle but the climatic dog fight is rather poorly choreographed. The script is rather lumbering with a couple of non too subtle nudges at American, Irish neutrality.
Anton Wallbrook as the pianist is his usual suave self, only sometimes he is not too convincing when he is supposed to be playing the piano, also I am sure that no refined European gentleman would have a conversation with a lady (especially one as beautiful as Sally Gray) with a cigarette dangling from his lips. That was probably the director's fault.
What makes this film memorable of course is the music. One of the most famous movie scores in history. Even now "The Warsaw Concerto" is a standard item on pop-classical concerts.
Just a few words about Sally Gray. She was one of the most beautiful and seductive actresses in British movies during the forties who was generally wasted in her roles. Perhaps it was her personal choice but I was surprised that she was never snapped up by Hollywood. I always thought what a great Hitchcock heroine she would have made. Alas, it never happened.
You'll either love it or hate it.
This movie pops up regularly on TV or at revue cinemas and I'm always surprised at how many youngsters are familiar with it.
Olsen and Johnson never had the following of Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello but they were capable vaudeville comics who made a few movies, Hellzapoppin and Crazy House are the best remembered. Hellzapoppin is the a much sanitized film version of Nat Perrin's famous stage revue.
The jokes come fast and furious, some of them are very dated now and some were never very funny to begin with, but you don't have time to analyze, you're into the next before you know it. There are some familiar faces Misha Auer, who had a long career playing the same character (a Russian aristocrat with dubious credentials), the loud and brassy Martha Raye and the very funny Hugh Herbert with his "yoo-hoo's" and mumbled asides the audience. The special effects were innovative for their time.
As brief respites from the madness there are a number of variety acts, synchronized swimming, crazy diving, a few pleasant songs with the corny lyrics typical of the period and the fantastic dancing of the Harlem Congeroo Dancers which even today is greeted by gasps of amazement and applause.
Well you can't say the maker's of this movie weren't trying to entertain.
A Murder of Crows (1998)
Good performance by Berenger and some nice locations.
This is one of those gimmicky plotted,elegantly produced movies that can be fun to watch if you go with the flow and don't dwell too much on the implausibilities.
Cuba Gooding is a lawyer who has a fit of conscientiousness and promptly gets disbarred. He travels to Key West and becomes friends with a retired Englishman who gives him the manuscript of a novel and asks for an opinion. The Englishman is found dead. Gooding decides to publish the novel as his own and then the fun begins.
Gooding has an engaging personality but his acting leaves something to be desired, his name is on the credits as producer (which in Hollywood can either mean a lot or nothing at all) so we would assume that he had read the script, but it doesn't always seem that way. He sometimes seems to be acting from off stage cues with his mannerisms at variance with the mood of the scene. In one scene, for no reason at all, he looks down at floor then shuffles his feet to another position as though he has just been told he is standing in the wrong spot.
The plot takes some not always credible twists and turns and we get that hackneyed scene where for no plausible reason the protagonist makes a run for it. In this case Gooding makes a surprisingly easy escape from a house swarming with cops, then of course we get the chance to visit some nicely photographed locations and to meet some quirky characters.
Tom Berenger does best in the acting department as a surly cop. He also has some of the best lines. He refuses a drink at one point with a terse "I never drink. It makes me feel happy."
Mainly for Berenger's performance and some nifty locations I give it 7 out of 10.
Meandering plot obscures the issues in this story of a racing scam.
This movie starts well with a phone conversation between a disheveled Nick Nolte and a suave Jeff Bridges, obviously there is a link between them that should be interesting. Unfortunately the film soon goes downhill as we learn the details of a racing scam in the past.
The script is from a play and the stage origins are obvious, scenes tend to look like set pieces and the dialogue tends towards the theatrical. However, to open it up, there are some nice location shots of Kentucky and some photogenic horses.
Albert Finney probably comes off best in the acting department as a corrupt racing official, making an unpleasant character almost likeable and Sharon Stone does well in a small part.
As the plot unfolds and details of the scam are exposed we get more confused as to whom we should feel sympathy. If anyone. I think at the end the audience in general will have a "So what?" feeling.
I give it four out of ten.
They don't make 'em like this any more.
I saw this a few days ago after a gap of many years and it's still fun to watch. There was a whole spate of these highly colored Arabian Nights adventures in the 1940's and audiences lapped them up. The fun now is in the apparent seriousness with which they were made and the earnestness of not very good actors and actresses spouting there quasi poetic dialog.
These films were bonanzas for the exotic looking performers of the period, Turhan Bey, Jon Hall and Maria Montez (one of the lust objects of my adolescence). She would often wear quite revealing see-through dresses and there was always at least one scene where she emerged from a bath or swimming pool, quickly being discretely covered by large towels borne by hand-maidens.
Extras were cheap in those days and so there is a cast of thousands but most of the time the director does no more than fill the screen with bodies. Look at the battle scenes and you will see most of the participants are just waving their scimitars in the air aimlessly.
Ali Baba has wicked caliphs and valiant freedom fighters battling it out in the Hollywood desert. The ridiculousness of the All American Andy Devine as an Arab. Fairy tale cardboard castles. All makes for colorful entertainment.
I give it 8 out 10.
Stir of Echoes (1999)
Well acted supernatural thriller.
I have a feeling that this film may have been over shadowed by "The Sixth Sense" which has a similar theme. A pity because "Stir Of Echoes" is a pretty good supernatural thriller.
As a joke Kevin Bacon is hypnotized at a party then afterwards suffers from recurring nightmares and precognitions, he comes to realize that they are linked to the mysterious disappearance of a girl in the past.
There are a few rather irritating directorial flourishes, jarring flash cuts and overlapping dialogue and the scenes of Bacon's gradual breakdown and the digging in the cellar part come dangerously close to unintentional comedy. I could also have done without the rape scene.
On the whole though the script is a good one and for most of the time the acting is right on the mark especially by Bacon, his wife (Kathryn Erbe) and his young son (Zachary David Cope). It is also refreshing to see characters in a well realized working class background.
I give it 8 out of 10.
The Hurricane (1937)
Classic South Sea Island adventure.
There is a great cast in this superb piece of Hollywood hokum. Jon Hall and Dorothy Lamour are in there physical prime, Raymond Massey brings dignity and his considerable acting skill to his role as the harsh Island governor, the wonderfully photogenic C. Aubrey Smith (was he ever young I wonder) is the priest and Thomas Mitchell plays his usual drunken Irishman (even though he's supposed to be French). The corn ball plot moves swiftly and is played sincerely and the climatic hurricane scenes are still awe inspiring
For sheer entertainment I give it 9 out of ten.
The Comancheros (1961)
Big budget western is no more than adequate.
This was the last film of director Michael Curtiz and it has a rather tired, disjointed look about it. The Indian attacks are rather poorly choreographed and some of the acting leaves much to be desired. Stuart Whitman over acts badly as gambler Paul Regret and Ina Balin is miscast and looks completely out of place as a Comanchero woman.
Wayne is good as the Texas Ranger who goes undercover to smoke out a gang smuggling guns to the Comanches (although that's a stupid looking hat he has to wear as part of his disguise)and Lee Marvin does well in a small part. There is some grand Texas scenery and a rousing musical score by Elmer Bernstein.
I would rate it 7 out of ten.
Rip roaring, hard riding, gun twirling Western
Westerns are hard to come by these days so make the most of this; it's a good one. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a spoof but it certainly doesn't take itself too seriously,best not to worry about trying to follow the plot just go along with the roller coaster ride. There's lots of hard riding, fancy shooting and athleticism by our worthy heroes as they face off with the usually overweight and constantly smiling villains who don't quite twirl their moustaches but come close. The heroine is rather insipid but this is an action picture and the romance doesn't get in the way too much. It all goes on a little too long but there's lots of fun to be had along the way.
Barbary Coast (1935)
"I've got this title boys now go and write me a movie."
Apparently Sam Goldwyn picked the words Barbary Coast as a title then called in his writers and told them to write a story. That was the way they did things at Hollywood studios in the thirties.
This is actually a pretty entertaining movie that catches some of the anything goes atmosphere of San Francisco in gold rush days.Edward G. Robinson is miscast (and has to wear some peculiar costumes) in his role as a bad guy but he gives it everything he's got and some of his scenes are quite effective. Miriam Hopkins is very good as a gold digger of the non mining kind and Joel Mcrea as her hearts desire spouts some poetic dialogue quite eloquently.
Good drama of the typically Hollywood kind.
Star quality and classy production make for good entertainment.
I have to admit that I have a weakness for caper movies and this one has all the requirements for holding the interest. Big stars, Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, and a lavish budget with international locations. The plot follows the usual pattern, old hand trains the novice and then we get the, who is double crossing who twists.The robbery scenes are tense and exciting but I must admit to getting lost with some of the technical details. The stars can carry this kind of thing off but credibility is strained a bit because of the age difference. The truth is that Connery is started to look and sound his age. You can imagine him passing along his knowledge but to actually go on the assignments with all the athletic requirements required strains logic (even James Bond has to get old). Catherine Zeta-Jones is a feast for the eyes and some of her contortions during the training sequences are quite delightful. She does what she has to do in the acting department and to my ears her American accent is quite convincing.
As is often the case these days the movie tries too hard to give us a "surprise" ending so the final scenes have too much explaining to do and tend to drag a little.
Notting Hill (1999)
A nice try that doesn't quite come off.
This one of those glossy, no expense spared Anglo-American productions made for the international market. It isn't quiet as sharp and funny as it sets out to be but it's entertaining enough and even has one or two rather touching moments.
The acting is generally good. Grant's rather jerky mannerisms are irritating at first but he improves as the film progresses. Rhys Ifans is great as Hugh Grant's daffy Welsh room mate but the eccentricities of some of the minor characters are played rather too broadly. Julia Roberts is stunning and makes the most of her rather cliched role of a film star yearning for a simpler life.
There are some nice montages of beautifully photographed London locations with a great sound track. It's rather over long for it's subject matter but generally it all adds up to a pleasant evening's entertainment.