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Hot Dog (1970)
A standout among Saturday morning kid shows
"Hot Dog" was unlike all the other kids' fare on Saturday. No animation at all. The cast were asked to explain things like "How do they get toothpaste in the tube?" Woody Allen and Jonathan Winters of course came up with bizarre answers. Then we's see how it's really done - a filmed piece set to music , no narration, would take us through the process start to finish. The show was fun, interesting, original and different. Wish I could see it again. Apparently, it was on for just one season. As usual, anything different gets the ax right away. Does anyone know if it's available on DVD anywhere? I wonder if it would hold up after all this time.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Not horror, just horrible
I had high expectations for Sleepy Hollow because of Tim Burton's previous work and the intriguing trailer, which promised a very macabre, eerie take on the Washington Irving tale. The story supplies plenty of raw material for a director interested in examining fear, jealousy, superstition and the dark side of human nature. Instead, what I saw was just another effects-driven big-budget waste of time. Way too much emphasis was placed on creating the spooky atmosphere - how many shots of fog, storm clouds and bare trees do we need to see? OK, Tim, we get it - Sleepy Hollow is a gloomy place. Now would someone please light a lantern and get on with the story? The village is so damp and dreary I'm surprised everyone didn't die of pneumonia before the Headless Horseman ever showed up.
The screenplay seems to exist solely for the purpose of creating opportunities to spend more special effects dollars, but even the goriest scenes are not frightening. There's no mystery here. We know that before long Mr. Headless will show up again and lop the head off some character. His scenes reminded me of the knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
The dialogue is stilted and phony. And wasn't it odd that Miranda Richardson adopted a convincing American accent while other cast members, especially Johnny Depp, put on awful Brit accents? Depp was just plain bad. His Ichabod Crane is a campy, foppish twit. He looks silly pursing his lips with all the color drained from his face.
The screenwriters have tried to turn this into some sort of murder mystery, but the plot is so needlessly complicated that we don't know or care why people are being whacked. The tale would have been better served by writers who know how to craft a tight, suspenseful story. A big disappointment.
The Third Man (1949)
Welles as a cold-hearted Cold War villain
Orson Welles's performance as the charming but sinister Harry Lime is the best feature of this intelligent, atmospheric drama. His entrance is an unforgettable scene - the "late" Harry Lime is caught in a spotlight on a dark Viennese street. As we watch, his expression changes from jaunty arrogance to quivering fear. Later, as he rationalizes his crimes for Martens (Joseph Cotten) during a Ferris wheel ride, he is the epitome of post-war cynicism. The relationship between Welles's and Cotten's characters in this film reminded me of their roles in "Citizen Kane", where Cotten has to state the truth or remain loyal to a friend. Other images remain with me after viewing - the loud-mouthed little boy accusing Martens of murder, the old balloon seller appearing out of the night, and the eerie, hypnotic zither music forever in the background. Finally, the climactic chase scene through the sewers of Vienna is one of the most striking black-and-white sequences this side of "Potemkin."
Memorable and moving - truly glorious
Easily the best Civil War movie ever produced, and among the front rank of all war movies. Filled with memorable and moving scenes - the look of sheer defiance on Trip's (Denzel Washington) face as his already scarred back is whipped, the men of the 54th telling their stories around the campfire on the eve of battle, Shaw (Matthew Broderick) turning loose his horse on the beach before Ft. Wagner. History is brought to life more vividly in this film than in any big-budget all-star cast epic I can recall. Most often , those films only succeed in collapsing under their own weight and leaving audiences more turned off about history. Glory brings the issues of the time - slavery, freedom and sacrifice - down to human scale. We can understand why the men of the 54th were willing to take up arms, and how tragic it was that they had to sacrifice their lives in order to be considered men.
There's Something About Mary (1998)
Unfunny, amateurish, juvenile from start to finish. These jokes and gags would have been rejected by the Three Stooges as too lame. The cast is awful. Not a single comedic talent among Ben Stiller, Cameron Diaz and Matt Dillon. It seems the Farrelly brothers are the type of wits who think armpit noises are the height of comedy. No laugh is too cheap for these guys. Is it considered daring and original these days to ridicule the handicapped?
Screen Two: The Snapper (1993)
a rarity - a working-class movie
Sweet, touching but also bawdy tale of a working-class Irish family's reaction to their unmarried daughter's pregnancy. The father character is especially interesting. He takes great pride in his family, with all its imperfections. He tenderly cares for his daughter through her ordeal and holds his head high despite the neighbors' petty gossip. A real "family values" film depicting people of modest means trying to stick together.