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Message Packaged Poorly
The message -- that divorce should never be an option and marriages should be saved -- is a great one. Unfortunately, it was presented in a poorly written, badly acted, low production budget fashion. There were three different characters (Caleb's dad, a co-worker of Caleb's, and a nurse at the hospital where Caleb's wife worked) who preached every time they were on screen. Why did it take three characters to represent the same Christian theme, when one would have been enough? Whenever I saw them, I sighed and thought, "Here comes the sermon." I had little sympathy for the couple, Caleb and Catherine. The husband was a spoiled, inconsiderate brat, and his wife was a wimp who put up with way too much off of him. The Wayne character, designated as comic relief, was annoying, not funny. I'm a Christian, and I appreciate that a church made this film. However, the "beating people over the head with a Bible" approach doesn't work any better on film than it does from over-zealous people witnessing to people on the street. There are good films that have Christian themes, but unfortunately, this is not one of them.
Samantha and Darren's Boss Kiss!
Great episode featuring future "Bewitched" cast members Elizabeth Montgomery and David White. Ms. Montgomery stars as a Southern belle who meets a gangster and his lawyer at a party. When the bodyguard of the gangster insults her for getting too close, she fashions a plan of revenge. Turning her charms on the lawyer, she has the bodyguard killed. She learns of a power struggle between the gangster and Al Capone's empire, and decides to use it for her own personal gain. She involves Elliot Ness (Robert Stack) in her scheme, under the guise of wanting to help the Untouchables fight crime. There are good scenes between her and Stack, as she tries to use her feminine wiles on him. Mr. White is good here, too, as a love-struck fool who realizes too late that he's taken up time with the wrong woman. Both Ms. Montgomery and Mr. White were very good at playing underhanded, tricky characters during their careers.
This was a TV movie special, shot on videotape. The plot was about a teenaged girl struggling to make it in life. I remember that she had a goal she was going for. Don't remember exactly what her aim was, but she was saving money and hiding it in her room. She was being raised by her grandmother. Her mother was gone, and her dad was in prison. Lawrence Fishburne was thirteen or fourteen when this was made. He played a street-wise friend of the main character. His character did not get along with her oldest brother, who was a neer-do-well. One day, the brother finds his sister's hiding place and steals her money. Fishburne witnesses this, and follows the guy. He catches up with him in an alley. The guy is laid out drunk, and it's easy for Fishburne to beat him up and take what's left of the money. Fishburne returns the money to the main character. The movie felt more like a stage play in it's pacing and look.
TV Movie Disguised As Theatrical Film
This film has the feel of a TV movie, and it should have been shown there instead of in the theaters. Terribly dated plot, with dialogue that made me wince more than once. Patty Duke is a good actress and so was Jane Greer. It was jarring to see them in this fluffy film. If you look closely during the track and field scenes, it is obvious that Ms. Duke is not doing the stunts. Instead, it looks like an actor in a bad wig. The "beat" explanation for the title character's running prowess was typical teen B-movie silliness. The musical numbers were out of place. Honestly, would mid-1960's teenagers been belting out quasi-Broadway tunes? Would have been more believable if the songs were pop and/or rock. Someone thought that Ms. Duke's appeal to teens during that time would sell records, so they had her sing, which was a huge mistake. I admit that the scenes between Jim Backus and Greer were nice, as were some of the serious scenes between him and Ms. Duke. The script and storyline could have been better, though.
Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
Stark and Realistic
A sad, heartbreaking, and somewhat disturbing story. Quinn is totally believable as Mountain Rivera, a boxer who, perhaps, has been in the game too long and finds himself forced out. While his world-weary cut man (Rooney) is protective of him to an extent, his manager (Gleason) only views Rivera as a paycheck. An unemployment agency staff person (Miller) sees something in Rivera that prompts him to go above and beyond the call of duty to help him get a job. All of the leads are extremely good. It appears that most of the film takes place in the dark, highlighting the seamy side of boxing. The only daytime scene is when Rivera visits the unemployment office, and even then, it appears that the place has no windows to see outside. The office is just as closed up and restricted as Rivera's limited choices after his career ends. The actress who portrayed the underworld figure that Rivera's manager has a connection to was appropriately evil and creepy. The very last scene, filled with a sense of finality and resignation, is powerful.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Worth More Than A Million
Excellent, excellent. One of the aspects of this film I appreciate the most is that Eastwood and Freeman portray old men as they are. Not stereotypical, not for laughs (even though there are some amusing moments), but as real flesh-and-blood men with opinions as well as regrets. Being an amateur boxer myself, I could totally relate to the love of the sport that Swank's character had. The interactions between the three main characters are letter perfect. Never has Eastwood played such an emotional character, and Freeman is great as his closest friend and Greek chorus for the story. Swank has the right amount of toughness and vulnerability. There are a lot of moments where the characters are filmed in shadows, to emphasize the isolation they often feel. It also emphasizes their isolation from the world at large; the three are part of a sport that is seldom given any time in the press. Swank's character is further on the outs because she is a female trying to gain respect in a male-dominated sport. Eastwood and Swank's father/daughter relationship is the glue that pushes this film along.
Men's "Sex In The City"
Well done show from the UK! It draws some comparisons to HBO's "Sex In The City", but it goes deeper than that. The men show their hopes, fears, and quirks more than most other male characters I have seen on TV. They aren't goofs, they aren't losers. They are middle-aged men who have figured some of life out, but like most people, still are finding out there are a lot of things to learn about life. Their takes on women are funny as well as insightful. One of the best episodes had the guys partying with a confirmed playboy all night. They begin the night impressed with the guy's lifestyle, but as the evening goes on, they like less and less of what they see in him--and themselves. When a tragedy ends the fun, they all learn sobering lessons. More shows like this should be produced for TV.
Open House (1989)
This was a spin-off of "Duet", which was a much better show. The focus was on Linda, a former witchy Hollywood studio executive who lost her power job. She switched careers and went into real estate. Linda had a new foil in a male real estate agent; they traded insults and tried to undermine each other. Ellen DeGeneres had an early role as the receptionist in the office. Would have been a lot better if it had not been set up as a continuation of "Duet". Some characters from "Duet", like Linda's husband, Richard, and her friend, Laura, were carried over into the new show. Richard's character was gone after a few episodes, and Laura appeared sporadically. Not a very funny show.
Two Couples In Relationships
This was a decent show that ended too soon. I believe it was one of the earliest sitcoms on the FOX Network back in the late 1980's. The main couple had their share of drama. There was a storyline where Ben asked his girlfriend to move in with him, but she refused, which caused a problem in their relationship. It was also revealed during this storyline that the girlfriend had a drinking problem which she took up again due to relationship pressures. The girlfriend had a goofy, but loveable sister (shades of "Rhoda"). The secondary couple on this show were a lot of fun--a self-absorbed Hollywood studio executive and her husband who sold patio furniture until he quit to follow his passion, playing piano. Unfortunately, a sequel was made spotlighting the Hollywood exec (she had lost her job and went into real estate) that didn't go over as well.
J.D.'s Revenge (1976)
Watch Out For The Razor!
Some of the best scenes in this movie take place after Ike (Glynn Turman) has been totally taken over by the late hustler, J.D. Walker. The scene when he walks into a New Orleans club dressed in a 1940's hat and suit, spats on his feet, and his conked hair has to be seen to be believed. Turman does a remarkable job switching back and forth between struggling law student Ike, and J.D., the razor-toting dead hustler out to revenge the death of his younger sister. Overall, this is not a bad film, but some aspects of the plot are muddy. A moment when Ike plays the numbers (what we know as the lottery today), suggests that he may have had a criminal past, but it's not explored further. We learn from flashbacks that Elijah Bliss (Lou Gossett, Jr.) was a hustler, and are given hints in the present story that his current job as a preacher may be a scam. Judging from his sermons, Elijah may have been a boxer too, but that is not fleshed out, either. The conclusion of the film leaves some unanswered questions, as well. Despite of some weak plot points, and misogynistic attitudes, this is still an enjoyable movie.
Laws of Attraction (2004)
You Know How It Goes
Ms. Moore and Mr. Brosnan made for a likeable pair in this movie. However, when you break it down, it's still the same old tired romantic comedy plot that's been done to death. Boy meets girl, there's some initial dislike and/or rivalry between them, and the world is alright for them at the end. Even the usual tricks that come with this type of plot are tired--although there is bit involving a pair of panties that was very amusing. I absolutely loved Francis Farmer in this film. Besides looking fabulous, she was a hoot as Moore's fast-living, but wise mom. Whenever Ms. Farmer was onscreen, the movie became lively for too brief moments. Parker Posey had some good moments, as well. This is not a boring movie, but you leave the theater knowing you have seen this before.
The Death of Richie (1977)
There were many anti-drug made for TV movies in the 1970s. This is probably the best one of the lot (outside of "Go Ask Alice"). Robbie Benson was excellent in the role of a troubled teen who is caught up in drug addiction. There was a scene where he was in his room, crying after a particularly bad day at high school. Benson did an exemplary job of showing the kid's isolation and loneliness. Ben Gazarra was also excellent in the role of the father who ultimately has to made a hard decision concerning his son. I remember being outraged at the ending, but looking back on it, I understand why it had to come to that conclusion. I have noticed that some made for TV films have been released on video and DVD. This one should be released as well.
She Cried Murder (1973)
I saw this made for TV movie when I was in grade school. It was a suspenseful cat-and-mouse story, and Savalas was very scary as the bad guy. I'm still trying to figure out why no one else in that busy subway station saw Savalas push that woman onto the tracks other than Ms. George. The murder that sets the story off is mean and horrific, even by today's standards. The fun is in watching Ms. George become more and more desperate as Savalas closes in on her. The final chase scene is a nail biter! As far as made for TV suspense flicks from the seventies go, this was one of the good ones. I wonder what ever happened to Lynda Day George? She was all over TV back in the day.
The Ladykillers (2004)
I never saw the original version of the film, so I can't compare the two. However, this version did grow on me a few days after seeing it. No, it is not knock down funny, but it is amusing. Unfortunately, the members of the gang, other than Hanks' haughty professor character, didn't have much depth to them. I liked how Hall and Hanks played off of each other. Her character was naive, but not dumb. I liked George Wallace as the small town sheriff. Then came Wayans, playing the typical thugged out character that has been seen in too many films and needs to be put to rest. However, seldom have I seen a movie where the music comments on the characters and the actions perfectly.
The Righteous Apples (1980)
Music and Messages
This comedy drama ran on PBS stations during the early 1980's. Elizabeth Daily (the voice of Buttercup on "The Powerpuff Girls") was one of the members of a multi-cultural teenage pop band who dealt with and attempted to solve social problems. One episode had the band expose a racist doctor who was sterilizing the African-American women who came to his office without their knowledge. I believe Ms. Daily stayed on this short-lived show to the end, but their were cast changes among the other band members. This wasn't a bad show, just a little heavy handed sometimes in driving their messages across. I do remember that some of the songs they did were not originals. However, Ms. Daily did have a nice singing voice. PBS seemed to run quite a few shows similar to this during the late 1970s and early 1980s ("Up and Coming" and "Watch Your Mouth!" were two of the others), with youthful casts. I wish some of these obscure shows were appear somewhere on video or DVD.
This Saturday morning live action show took place in Africa, and animals figured prominently in it. Unlike similar shows like "Daktari", "Flipper", "Gentle Ben", etc., this show wasn't all that interesting. It was more like watching a kid's version of "Wild Kingdom", but without much action. I also disliked this show because it ran opposite of reruns of "The Monkees" on CBS, and every once in awhile, my younger sister would make my mother force me to let her watch "Jambo".
Not Every Rap Star Can Carry A Series
I watched the premiere episode partially because a) I do like Eve as a rap artist, b) UPN hyped it so much, and c) I had to have something to do until "Girlfriends" came on. The fact that there were so few laughs, and the premise has been done to death in one variation or another throughout TV history, will not make me want to tune in again. There isn't much chemistry between Eve and Jason George's characters. Ali Landry as a former super model with issues? How many times have we seen that? George's street-wise best male pal? A tired stereotype that needed to be retired a long time ago. Eve herself has a likeable presence, but her character needs more spark.
All of Us (2003)
Old Plot, Decent Laughs
Unfortunately, the situation that Dwayne Martin's character is in--dealing with his soon-to-be ex-wife with whom he has a child, and keeping up a relationship with his new love--is too commonplace these days. The catty exchanges between Elise Neal ("The Hughleys") and Lisa Raye ("The Players Club") are amusing, and they feel very true to life. However, for this show to survive, it has to rely on other plot devices other than the two women sniping at each other every week. The little boy who plays Martin and Raye's son is very cute; hopefully, a good portion of the episodes will also deal with the son's adjustment to his parents' broken relationship.
McKeever and the Colonel (1962)
Comedy In The Corps
I was very small when this show was on, and only remember bits and pieces of plots. I do remember that McKeever was in military school-- he was not a bad kid. However, the boy stayed in trouble because of plans he made that went wrong. One of the military personnel who worked at the school was sympathetic to McKeever. The other old soldier who ran the school was not, and that's where the comedy came out of. It was a pleasant show.
The Partners (1971)
Wacky One Season
The Partners was a parody of cop shows. It lasted one wacky season on NBC. Don Adams was fresh off of "Get Smart", which had been canceled the season before. Once again, Adams played a bumbling guy who always managed to save the day, despite of himself. Rupert Cross, a fine comic actor in his own right, was his partner. The rest of the cast were populated with good comic actors. Unfortunately, TV tastes were changing--"All In The Family" began that season, too. Audiences were ready for more harder edged fare, and lighter, goofy humor was falling out of favor. There is a made-for-TV movie of this series, mainly consisting of episodes of the show cobbled together.
Half & Half (2002)
Not Really Half Funny
A mediocre sitcom who's only saving grace are the actresses who play the moms of the half-sisters. They liven up the show whenever they appear on screen with their catty remarks towards each other. Their father seems to be an interesting character, but he only appears every once in awhile. The male friend of Mona is bland and predictable. If the show goes on any longer, they'll probably make him a love interest of Mona. I like that one of the half-sisters is bi-racial, and they are not typical finger-poppin', jive-talking, sassy, neck-rolling Sapphires like some African-American female characters on other TV shows. However, the show is not that funny.
Up and Coming (1979)
Little Known, But Good
This was a family drama that ran on PBS stations in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The focus was on a middle class African-American family. The dad owned a small construction business, and his wife held a management position at a bank. They had two teenage kids, a girl and a boy. Also in the cast was a teenage girl who was a cousin to the kids. I remember that most of the episodes focused on challenges that the teens faced, such as interracial dating, drugs, peer pressure, etc. Other issues dealt with on the show included poverty, broken family relationships, and racism. The show didn't run for a long time, but it stood out as an good early attempt at an African-American dramatic TV series.
Slice of Life In Chicago
Ice Cube seems to get better and better with each film he appears in. In "Barbershop", the rapper is the owner of a financially troubled barbershop who realizes he's made a mistake after selling it to a local loan shark. Cedric The Entertainer steals every scene he's in, and Keith David does a good job as the oily loan shark. Anthony Andrews plays another put upon man, this time, a clueless criminal involved the robbery of an ATM. There's a lot of good laughs, as well as some poignant moments. Overall, a good slice of life about an aspect of African-American life.
Revealing Stories In Texas
This is a documentary about what went into making the films, "The Last Picture Show" and its sequel, "Texasville". There are comments from the townspeople, some of whom seem like direct inspirations for the characters in "The Last Picture Show". Peter Bogdanovich and the actors who appeared in the films talk about their participation in the films, and how the experiences affected their lives. There are some things revealed here, esp. from Timothy Bottoms, that are surprising as well as poignant. It's on video, and well worth the time.
The Gift of Love (1978)
Very Sweet and Romantic
Marie Osmond plays a rich girl being raised by her uncle and aunt (June Lockhart). Her guardians encourage a courtship and possible marriage to a nice but boring guy (James Woods). Osmond does not want to spend the rest of her life as pampered wife who does nothing but give society parties. She meets an immigrant, played by Timothy Bottoms, and they fall in love. However, her guardians disapprove of the match because Osmond's late mother allegedly threw her life away by falling in love with a poor man. Bottoms has his own problems--he's only supposed to stay in America long enough to make a little money, then go back home and enter into an arranged marriage.
This movie is based on an O. Henry story called, "The Gift of the Magi". It's a very sweet and romantic tale with a Christmas theme. Osmond and Bottoms are very believable as the young couple.