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Lost in America (1985)
stinks on ice
I have to join the very vocal minority here who are dumbfounded at the encomia of praise for this lifeless and confused effort at comedy. There does seem to be a distinctive Brooks comedic style, and frankly it leaves me cold, nor do I find it very comedic. Vast stretches of dialogue obviously intended to be funny leave me not laughing but scratching my head. The only bit that comes close is the one where he tries to convince the casino manager to return the money.
The scene where he berates his wife for losing the nest egg is actually painful to watch. This is a genuinely and legitimately furious man, and there is nothing funny at all in his rage. There also has to be some credibility even to comedy, and gambling away one's life savings is divorce material; no way they would continue traveling together and even - supposedly - have sex.
As for those who laud this as a satire on materialist values, they have it exactly backward. What the movie is satirizing is the desire to "escape" itself, as seen by the many satiric references to Easy Rider. After all, how does the movie end? They return to the rat race they so foolishly gave up.
I had watched this movie when it came out 35 years ago and was not impressed then. I saw it on TCM recently and thought I would give it another shot. It's worse than I remembered.
Madame X (1966)
stunningly, staggeringly, stupefyingly atrocious
It is extremely difficult for me to comprehend how such a steaming pile of manure as this gets a user rating of 7, and still more difficult to understand the plethora of glowing and rhapsodic user reviews. Allow me to be the skunk at the garden party: this is one of the most shamelessly maudlin and contrived exercises in cheap emotional manipulation that I have ever seen on celluloid.
The story is a textbook example of the kind of over-the-top plot machinations that were so common in 19th century literature. The script is a showcase of the kind of overripe and contrived dialogue that was characteristic of Victorian melodrama. How any actor can intone lines like "The moments of love are the only ones that matter; the moments of love illuminate, and then are gone." with a straight face is simply beyond me. As far as the final death scene goes, Oscar Wilde's line comes to mind: "One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing."
Having said all that, the production values are great, which is like complimenting the undertaker on the appearance of a corpse.
This one to me belongs with "Plan 9 from Outer Space," the 1973 version of "Lost Horizon" and other such pieces of cinematic dreck.
Jeremiah Johnson (1972)
great story, great cinematography, great acting
This a really superb "western," if that is what it should be called. The story of Jeremiah Johnson, a Civil War veteran who wants to be left alone and aspires to be a "mountain man." keeps you involved throughout. The struggles he goes through make a terrific saga. This is basically a tragic story, but there is plenty of earthy humor throughout. Considered a liberal-leaning movie in 1974, today I wonder how long before our modern Jacobins get this movie cancelled, as I lost count of the number of politically incorrect lines in the script. Outstanding performances from Redford, Will Geer, Stefan Gierasch, and Allyn McLerie, who doesn't say much but portrays the most convincing mad woman I've ever seen. Caveat: you'll have to ignore the wretched song at the outset, later reprised within the movie, but it's a small price to pay for a great flick.
Honeymoon for Three (1941)
a delightfully witty romp
I was drawn to watch this by the presence of Charlie Ruggles in the cast. Ruggles has always been, to me, a superb - and underrated - comic actor. It was interesting to see him here in his younger years, and he did not disappoint. But to me the big surprise was George Brent's marvelous comic skills. As others have noted, he is known mostly for straight romantic roles, in which he is rather wooden. His comedy skills are a revelation, and one wishes he had done more in that line. Also adding to the fun is the sparklingly witty script, a marvel of farcical whimsy. The script is a mere wisp of comic thread, but the fun is in the great comic acting and the great script. Altogether a totally delightful seventy-five minutes.
The Horse Soldiers (1959)
gets better with repeated viewings
I liked this movie when I first saw it on TCM years ago, and I keep coming back to it. After watching it yet again I have to say that I now regard it as one of John Ford's best, and it's better - I think - than "She Wore a Yellow Ribbon" and "Fort Apache." First of all, the color cinematography is superb, ranking with that of "The Quiet Man." Second, William Holden's presence juices up any movie he's in. Third, the obscure Civil War operation, Grierson's Raid, on which the film is based, is an excellent hook on which to portray many aspects of the Civil War. Although movie portrayals of the medical horrors of war have become more graphic since 1959, this is very effective for its time. The conflict between Wayne's and Holden's character is well acted by each. Two negatives are Constance Towers, who can't maintain her faux Southern drawl, and Willis Bouchey, who ridiculously overplays Col. Secord's ebullient political ambitions. Aside from that it's a good story, well written, well acted, and beautifully photographed, and well-paced from start to end.
House of Bamboo (1955)
a great start that falls flat
I was induced to watch this movie, hitherto unknown to me, by the presence of Robert Ryan and Sessue Hayakawa in the cast. In the opening scenes I was captivated: a murderous train robbery in the midst of the U.S. occupation, and the wide screen photography and the color processing were splendid. This is going to be great, I thought. Alas the promise of an exciting movie expired quickly. There is no central plot line to sustain our interest, and the movie gets distracted by the director's obvious fascination with Japanese culture. The plot is sacrificed to a travelogue. Also not helping is the presence of Robert Stack. Let's face it; he's a lousy actor. It was either Siskel or Ebert that said the sign of a good movie is when you care about what happens to the characters. I ceased caring when Stack's character was eating his breakfast in the tub with chopsticks; that's when I switched off. Production values: A+; everything else: F. If you know the ending, don't bother calling me because I don't care.
Wild River (1960)
more great work from a great director
Did Elia Kazan ever make a bad movie? Having seen Network (my #1 favorite of his), Hospital, Splendor in the Grass, Baby Doll, A Face in the Crowd, On the Waterfront, and Man on a Tightrope, I had become accustomed to his magic hand with film. What a joy to see now Wild River, another gem from the master (and what would we all do without Turner Classic Movies?). A great story, a great script, great acting. I particularly appreciate the movie's complexity and ambiguity. Unlike so many "here-comes-the-evil-developer" flicks, this movie takes a balanced view between respect for the old ways and the need for progress. A rich cinematic experience all around.
I had watched this movie years ago as a young man and recalled only that it was a portrait of an extremely repellant young man. Having a chance to watch it again on TMC - now as an old man - I am astonished at the depth and sweep I had missed in my earlier viewing. (BTW, Larry McMurtry, who wrote "Horseman Pass By," on which the movies is based, did NOT write "Brokeback Mountain," as a previous viewer wrote; that author was Annie Proulx). The lonely sweep of the Texas landscape is perfectly captured, and thank goodness for the decision to film in black & white. The script grittily portrays the conflicts among the 4 central chracters. The acting is superb all around, especially Melvyn Douglas as the death-haunted patriarch and Patricia Neal as the beaten-down housekeeper.The story can't be called a tragedy, as the central character is not brought down by his own flaws, but it is certainly a powerfully moving morality tale that deserves all the accolqdes it has earned.
The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)
It seems that the quasi-mystical combination of Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet is enough to drive people to encomiums of acclamation. I will have to join the minority of reviewers who are calling attention to the emperor's paucity of attire. The movie is clearly seeking to invoke the atmosphere of noir set in exotic locales, and there's enough of that here to wallow in, if that's what you're looking for. However, some of us require some semblance of plot with our atmosphere, and here the word "convoluted" is an understatement. The succession of flash backs and blind alleys is so damn confusing that after a while one just loses interest. I switched it off at the point I ceased to care about the resolution.
just what to make of this?
I last saw Frenzy years and years ago and found the strangling scene truly repellant. The movie was on cable recently and I had a chance to give it another go. What a perplexing film. The strangling scene is still revolting, even in this age of sexual license. It is truly pornographic, but it's a pornography primarily of violence rather than of sex. The scene in the potato truck seems to be an attempt at black humor; it is indeed black, but beyond the limits of anything one could find humorous. The attempts at humor with the inspector's wife's cooking to me seem ham-handed and fall flat. And I'm still confused about the nature of Blaney's relationship with the Porters, something that evidently wound up on the cutting room floor. And I am puzzled that, after giving us such a grotesquely close view of the first strangulation, we are shielded from seeing the second murder (probably due Hitchcock's desire to show off his finesse in creating suspense). Having said all that, the movie does indeed draw you in from the beginning and maintains your interest in the story and the characters. But you could also say it's like a train wreck; it's horrible but you can't stop watching. Either way, it's a tribute to Hitchcocks' masterfulness as a director.
a great popcorn-burner
To those who complain about the many holes in the plot and the overall senselessness of the action, I say, just shut off your brain, sit back and enjoy the ride. John Frankenheimer is a great director and here he has put together a just terrific action movie. A fun exercise would be to try to count the number of cars destroyed in the car chase sequences, in which he was clealy trying to surpass the standard he himself had set in The French Connection. There is no question that for sheer entertainment value and edge-of-your-seat fun, this fick is right up there. What's in the cae? Who cares? The case is a classic example of what Hitchcock called "the Mcguffin," something necessary to the plot and to characters' motivations, but insignificant in itself. In fact, Frankenheimer, may have had his tongue in his cheek and having abit of fun in trying to create the McGuffin of all McGuffins. Sit back and enjoy!!!
leaden pace + lousy score + rotten ending = a cinematic lemon
I dislike Kevin Kostner, but was drawn to this movie by the presence of the great Anthony Quinn. This movie was made 10 years before his death. My opinion of Kostner's work remains unchanged. As far as the movie itself, fuggedaboutit.
The plot itself, though formulaic, offers the opportunity to build a good film: man shtoops the wife of his wealthy and powerful friend, friend pays them back, and the man comes back for revenge.
However, every opportunity to drive the action forward is stifled. To appropriate Shakespeare, the movie "creeps in this petty pace from scene to scene." I can't put my finger on exactly what it is about the script that makes the movie stall, but there is no forward motion at all.
I can, however, put my finger on a major source of the problem: the musical score. The elements of suspense, intrigue, betrayal, and danger are entirely absent from the music. I don't there's a diminished or even minor chord in the whole score.
I will echo other viewers who have commented on the plethora of implausible extraneous characters who appear out of nowhere to assist the protagonist toward his goal. It feels weird.
And then there's the totally implausible - and worse, unsatisfactory - denouement, which I will not reveal. One suffers through two hours - and it feels longer, believe me - waiting for the result which has been set up, only to crash and burn.
On the plus side, the film has good production values and looks great.
Avoid this and watch Quinn (and Anna Magnani) in "The Secret of Santa Vittoria" instead.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
skillfully executed leftist screed
I was intrigued by catching a few amusing glimpses as I channel surfed, so I recorded it and watched it later.
I was drawn in at first by the tongue-in-cheek tone of the film, which seemed to promise a lot of fun with the moth-eaten Lone Ranger / Tonto shtick. And fun there was, with so many over-the-top special effects and deus-ex-machinas as to provide a lot of amusement, along with lots of wittily snappy dialog.
However, as many, many viewers have said, the film can't make up its mind what it wants to be. We seesaw from moments of hilarious parody to scenes seemingly being played straight for suspense and terror. I would have opted for playing the humor flat out.
Also largely unmentioned in the reviews I have read is that the whole flick is a cleverly and amusingly packaged compendium of all the au courant leftist agenda items. Anti-capitalist: check. Anti-development: check. Evil white oppressors: check. Noble savage: check. Greedy railroad barons: check. The not very subtle giveaway to all this is when, at the prospective moment of victory of all the nasty, top-hatted industrialists, the Star-Spangled Banner is played.
I will give credit to the filmakers for, especially in the culminating scenes, coming up with a string of the funniest, most enjoyably ridiculous and over-the-top adventure sequences I gave seen on celluloid. But as a whole the movie is an incoherent grab bag of humor, suspense and progressive propoganda.
The Isle (2018)
I caught a moment of this flick on cable and was intrigued. After checking out the positive reviews here I recorded it on my DVR to watch in its entirety later.
The movie does draw you in at the beginning, with the standard "sailors beached on a desolate isle." They soon realize that strange things are afoot here, and we are given to understand that supernatural events are transpiring.
However, the movie then loses its forward motion. You can only have so many ghostly appearances, frightening nighttime walks in the woods, and otherworldy voices singing before your attention starts to flag. The movie lacks the arc of suspenseful tension that you find in Hitchcock's movies. By the long-hoped-for end one is yawning.
Skip it and watch reruns of Gilligan's Island.
These Wilder Years (1956)
surprisingly effective and touching
I was drawn to this, as I so often am with many TCM movies, by the cast, and was very impressed with the film as a whole. Dealing with the issue of adoption, it centers on an unmarried tycoon who seeks out his son, the daughter of the girl he abandoned in his youth. It is an intelligent script which deal sensitively with the competing rights and needs of adopted children and of biological parents. Cagney is wonderful as the tycoon, reminding us that he was a better actor than just his gangster roles would lead us to believe. Walter Pigeon is marvelous as the lawyer, and though I've never been a fan of Barbara Stanwyck, she and Cagney play beautifully against each other here. As some have said the plot is a bit contrived, but all stories are contrived to some extent. In this the relationships play out convincingly, and I found the ending genuinely touching. This overlooked gem is well worth watching.
The Cars That Ate Paris (1974)
great takeoff that crashes and burns
I saw this movie on TCM's monthly schedule and was intrigued, especially as it was directed by Peter Weir, who did "Witness" and so many other fine films. First of all it is highly misleading that IMDb has "comedy" as one of the film's categories. From TCM's description I was expecting comedy but rest assured that it is conspicuous by its complete absence here. I was drawn in by the movie at the start, as the picture gradually revealed the horrible secret of this backwoods Australian town, a secret all is citizens are complicit in. Also, the production values are very high. But the movie never resolves itself satisfactorily. The viewer wants to know the "why," the reason behind the town's secret, and it is never revealed. Also we are give no explanation for the rift between the town's two conflicting camps. The movie ends in a highly unsatisfactory battle scene that leaves the viewer hanging. Having been drawn in by the story I felt cheated. Also, as one reviewer noted, considering the town's treatment of other "accident" victims, there is no satisfactory explanation for why Arthur, the main character, is left conspicuously unhurt. The flick is a waste of time.
from a different era (sigh)
I've known of this film for years and finally decided to watch it, expecting the usual corny/glitzy rom-com. I was pleasantly surprised, and enthralled. Formulaic? Yes. Predictable? Certainly. Sentimental? Without doubt. But the story has a tenderness and charm that draws you in. Divorced-father-reconnects-with-kids a well-worn theme, but the script and acting here carry you along. The children are all good in their parts (despite the naysayers here) and of course Grant and Loren shine. The movie appeals to all the sadly outdated bourgeois values of postwar America, i.e. the era in which I grew up. And the cinematography and wide-screen aspect is wonderful. I feel a bit sad for the progressive Bolshies who find the movie offensive (check the one star reviews).
The Young Doctors (1961)
a fine, overlooked movie
I was drawn to this on TCM by the presence of Fredric March, Ben Gazzara and Eddie Albert, all among my favorite actors. I had expected a pro-forma medical flick but was surprised to find a movie with depth, grit, emotion and intellectual meat. As other reviewers have mentioned the title is misleading, and might more accurately have been called "The Old Pathologist," as Fredric March's role is central, and carries the movie. He plays a once-idealistic but now burnt out chief pathologist, who comes into conflict with a young tyro brought in by the hospital board to reinvigorate the pathology department. The conflict is handled intelligently with an excellent script. The romantic interest ties in smoothly with the medical issues. One is kept in thrall throughout, and March's performance is a stunner. Despite his crustiness in the end he is a sympathetic figure. As far as Dick Clark, after seeing this you'll know why he went with American Bandstand rather than pursue an acting career. The B&W cinematography to me enhances, rather than diminishes, the movie. An overlooked gem well worth a see.
Little Pink House (2017)
despotism right here in America
This is somewhat of a depressing film to watch, as we all know the ending, and it's not a happy one. The highest court in the land basically said it was fine for government to seize the private property of Party A and give it to Party B if the net result was more revenue for the government doing the seizing. Stalin, Mao, Mussollini and Hitler would have hailed the decision. The film itself is a bit understated and there are no top tier actors involved, but the story is told well and everyone acquits himself well here. It is worth noting that, in the final Supreme Court decision it was those nasty and mean-spirited right-wing conservatives - O'Connor, Rehnquist, Thomas and Scalia - who sided with Ms. Kelo, while all the liberal champions of the poor and downtrodden - Souter, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kennedy and Stevens - said it was fine for the government to seize working people's private property.
The North Star (1943)
unadulterated Communist propoganda
It's true that this movie was produced at a time when we were allied with the Soviet Union against Hitler. But, as Churchill said, when asked about the morality of allying with such a murderous, totalitarian regime, "I would have made a pact with the devil to defeat the Nazis." It was Hollywood's job to laud our allies, and to do so they enlisted Lillian Hellman, longtime Communist dupe and staunch defender of Stalin, right into the 50's. For the score they enlisted Aaron Copland, a fine composer whose Communist sympathies were none the less well known. The result is a love letter to the glories of the Worker's Paradise and the joys of life on the collective farm. No mention here of gulags, the KGB, political murders or food shortages. This film is Exhibit A in defense of those who were concerned about Communist propoganda in the film industry.
I know what you're thinking....
You're thinking something along the lines of "a schmaltzy movie about a talking parrot. Puh-leeeeeez!" I had somewhat the same reaction when I came across this on cable. Then I looked at the cast and said to myself, gee, how bad can a script be when Gena Rowlands and Tony Shaloub sign on? And my gosh, there's Buddy Hacket, in his last full length studio movie. To cut to the chase, this is the kind of movie the Disney Studios used to make; a charming, witty, sentimental movie with appeal for the whole family, and a few life lessons thrown in for good measure. I was totally enchanted (and I'm 72!) and the movie made me forget my cynicism. Is it a "feel good" movie? For sure. And can't we do with a few more feel-good movies, as opposed to movies that, after seeing them, you either feel like taking a shower or hanging yourself (or both, in that order)?
only the scenery is worth watching
I wonder if either Michael Caine or Harvey Keitel regrets having made this movie? One wonders what they thought of the project when proposed, and what they thought after seeing the result. I don't know about Keitel, but Caine certainly doesn't need the money, so one wonders why he signed on to such a pretentious, artsy-fartsy piece of balderdash. Unless, as I say, the project sounded different when presented. First of all, there is no coherent story line. Oh there' s plenty of family acrimony between father and daughter, and some confict between a pair of lovers splitting up, and a scenery-chewing scene between two elderly, separated show business types reaching the end sof their lives and careers. And of course the reference to homsexuality that is de rigeur nowadays. But they are presented as isolated threads with no unifying theme to draw them together. Then we have the pretentiousness. A plethora of cryptic and obscure scenes with weird stagings oddly shot, reminiscent of Fellini, are scattered throughout the film, like trash over a landscape, and make the viewer wonder just what the hell is going on at that particular moment. It wasn't quite bad enough to make me stop the film in the middle, but that is only because of the gorgeous cinematography of the Swiss landscape. Still, I wish, as they say, that I could have my two hours back.
better late than never....
Better late than never that the true story of the Chappaquidick coverup gets major attention. For the Kennedys, laws and rules were always for the little people. I'm of a generation old enough to remember Chappaquidick. It's good that the younger crowd gets to see how the Kennedys operate. Disgusting how Ted, backed by his army of fixers and p.r. hacks, portrays himself and his family as victims, when he was responsible for a young girl's death. My only complaint about the movie is that it's too kind to him, leaning on the "dad made me do it" and the myth of Kennedy family devotion to "public service." As a resident of Massachusetts I am ashamed that after this miscarriage of justice the voters of this state re-elected this execrable miscreant. By the way it's been reported that "powerful people" tried to stop the release of this movie.
Man Without a Star (1955)
excellent, little-known western
I found this one on TCM. I had never heard of this particular western, but because of the presence of Kirk Douglas, put it on my DVR, not expecting anything more than a run-of-the-mill western. What a surprise! This is simply top-notch in all respects, acting, writing, direction, cinemaography. The main asset is Kirk Douglas, whose tour-de-force performance here reminds us of just what a truly great actor he was. He plays the role for drama, but there ae touches of comedy as well. The theme of the movie - the conflict between open-range grazing and fenced spreads - is historically significant and well realized here. At no point does the dramatic tension lag; the movie keeps you involved from beginning to end. My only complaint is the execrable habit of westerns of this period incorporating the infamous solo song over the opening and closing credits. If you can make it through listening to Frankie Valli, the movie is well worth watching.
The Man from Laramie (1955)
I came across this recently on TCM and watched it, soon realizing that I had seen it before previously. It definitely sustained a repeat viewing. For some reason, only with the second viewing did I realize what a superb movie this is, ranking right up there with "My Darling Clementine," "Red River," "The Shootist," and others. Anthony Mann of course had a great reputation as a director of Westerns and this is Exhibit A. Part of it is the superb screenplay, a richly textured, multi-levelled story involving family tension, jealousy, revenge, and rivalry. And of course the casting; anything with Jimmy Stewart, Donald Crisp, and Arthur Kennedy can't be bad. Then there is the superb cinematography of the Western expanses, among the best in any western I've seen. Altogether a richly gripping, expansive story.