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Sully (2016)
Sully cements Tom Hanks as a high quality serious actor, while telling an important story
1 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Just saw Sully, the depiction of how Chesley Sullenberger landed a plane that lost both engines due to bird strikes on the Hudson on Jan. 15th, 2009. Hanks continues a path that led from Bossom Buddies to high quality serious acting, and those behind the writing and direction (Clint Eastwood's name is on it; I doubt he did that much actual work) did good work also. True stories in general are the most compelling, but one's first thought may be, "how could they make a whole movie out of a 200 second incident". But they did pull it off. It didn't show as much of Sully's backstory as I would have thought; only a few short scenes as a fighter pilot and such. The drama comes from the recreation of the flight itself, how Sully handled the emergency, and the NTSB confrontational hearing on the case.

"Birds" is the first CVR indication of emergency when 8 pound migrating Canada geese flew into both engines (that are built to withstand only up to 4 pound ones). Both lost function right away and Sully's 42 years of flight experience came to the fore. The NTSB hearing was whether he could have safely landed back at LGA or Teterboro or not. As he says at the end, Sully was not a hero, just someone who did his job and had many others helping, including the 1st officer Jeff Skiles (Aaron Eckhart), the emergency responders, the coast guard, etc. Part of the film's subject was how Sully was subjected to this media blitz he didn't want. Bottom line is he did the only thing he could do: land in the Hudson. And of course this was NOT the 1st time in history a plane made a water landing. Discounting sea planes there have been numerous time through history when pilots have made successful emergency water landings (the latest being US Air in 1989 and China in 1993). However this 2009 incident was the highest profile.

My favorite flight films are Flight of the Phoenix (1965) and Spirit of St. Louis (1955) both with Jimmy Stewart as the pilot. The worst one I ever saw was Denzel Washington's ridiculous Flight (2012). This one ranks near the top.
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Nowhere Boy (2009)
6/10
The Pros and the Cons of Overdramatization
4 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I finally got around to seeing this John Lennon Biopic. The beginning gave me hope this would be a high quality accurate film, however it soon lapsed into what I feared it would become: an overdramatized and over the top take on John's relationship with Aunt Mimi and mother Julia.

The film promoters promoted this as the ONLY film EVER to depict John's childhood and the formation of the Beatles...I beg to differ. As a Beatles' buff I've seen MANY other biopics, most of them hit and miss like this one. I think the first part of the film was well done, and accurate in depicting John's homelife, and how he got exposed to Elvis, rock, Paul and George.

My big qualm again is how they wrote in the fictional dialogue based only loosely on the facts of John's family life. The dialogue soon lapsed into overblown unbelievable high drama, when we know John was MUCH less confrontational than that. So all that garbage with him confronting Julia and Mimi is obviously total fiction (with a few true facts thrown in for good measure).

It's unfortunate that they took that low road, since this had the potential to be a quintessential John Biopic, and many aspects WERE authentic, including wardrobe, location, and music. But they chose to make it into a soap-opera-ish version that John himself would have scoffed at. Overall worth seeing, but only if you skip over the high drama segments.

Finally passing grades on the acting, however most of he characters don't really remind one of the actual people; i.e. if you didn't KNOW they were supposed to be who they were you wouldn't be able to easily guess.
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10/10
A Classic and Spike Lee's Best!
17 December 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Do the Right Thing is Spike Lee's breakout classic film set in Brooklyn. Over his career many of his films are hit and miss, but this is by far his best. Set in Brooklyn on "the hottest day of the year", it has an all-star cast including the director himself, John Turturro, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Rosie Perez, John Savage, and many others. The film takes place in the universe of a Brooklyn neighborhood where the theme of race is played out with some great satire as well as depth. It definitely captured the moment of 1980s New York. Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn who passed away recently), was a great segue between scenes as he carries his 20 battery boom box through town. Fight the Power by Public Enemy was the apropos theme song (don't believe the hype; Elvis, contrary to the lyrics was NOT racist). But there is also some well orchestrated film background music to fill out the soundscape, as well as Samuel L. Jackson as Love Daddy, the local DJ. It's great how everyone in the neighborhood seems to know each other and it all comes together with the segue characters connecting Mookie (Lee) with his pizza delivery scenes.

Ossie Davis plays the "Mayor" and is the town drunk, but also the wise elder who ominously and understatedly tells Mookie to "always do the right thing" (reminds one of how George Kennedy whispers "cool hand Luke" in that great film). Radio Raheem has a classic "love and hate" scene which revamps the Robert Mitchum Night of the Hunter concept (in this case he has gold knuckles). John Savage has a cameo (I thought it was Tim Robbins at first) who is the European American being unwelcomed into the neighborhood, even though he was born there.

The opening has Rosie Perez who plays Mookie's girlfriend dancing to the theme song. The film centers around Sal's Famous Pizzeria owned by Sal (Aiello) and his sons' the racist Pino (Turturro) and Vito (Richard Edson from Stranger than Paradise). Another segue character is the stutterer who goes through town selling the photo of Malcolm X and MLK together (Spike would later go on to direct the great biopic Malcolm X with Denzel Washington). The racial tension builds throughout the day until it culminates in a confrontation with Radio Raheem and Sal. It ends up in a riot with the inevitable overreacting police (the more things change the more they stay the same). Spike Lee created a classic work of art here, but didn't rise to the challenge of becoming an "auteur", since none of his other films comes close to this (possible exception of "Malcolm X", but that was a much different genre).

I saw this in the theater in 1989 and it only grows on you with more viewings.
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Making a Murderer (2015– )
5/10
Steven is guilty as sin, but so is the county
15 May 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Making a Murderer is the 10 hour Netflix documentary that takes the stance that Steven is innocent. The first episode goes over the original incident. In 1985 Avery was falsely arrested for a crime he didn't commit and spent 18 years in prison for it. That part is undisputed. But then while a multimillion dollar lawsuit against the county was pending he was arrested again for murder.

This documentary gives us an in-depth look at the Avery family, and it ain't pretty. In the dictionary under "white trash" the Avery family photo should be shown. Steven was a criminal in the making who had as a kid set his cat on fire. He was then arrested for a rape that he didn't commit. He was exonerated 18 years later based on DNA evidence. The question is was he "made a murderer" in prison? My best guess is that he already had the predilection, but 18 years in prison for something he didn't do didn't help.

He's then arrested for the murder of a photographer and there is rock solid DNA evidence this time, but now he says it's a frame up. This documentary also gives an in-depth look at the county prosecutors and a photo of them should be in the dictionary under ineptness. They interrogate Steven's retarded nephew Brandan and get an illegitimate confession (he's a minor alone and is prompted to give one word responses). The case is made for an indictment of the system, but it does leave out much of the solid evidence against Steven. I'm pretty much positive that he's guilty in spite of the one-sidedness of the depiction here. And then near the end we get a glimpse of his new "girlfriend", some pathetic unattractive lady he never even met, but says he loves and wants to marry.

The show is well done, but does not give a fair representation of the other side, in part because there is no one of any integrity ON the other side. It really ends as an indictment of BOTH sides. I have no doubt that Steven is where he belongs; Brandan is much more ambiguous. 1. he's retarded, 2. his confession may be false, 3. he was a minor.
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9/10
Great ensemble acting; my kind of film!
6 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I finally got to see the whole film, "American Hustle" (as opposed to the first 1/2 hour on a flight), and thought it was the best new film I've seen in a long time. Based on the true story of the ABSCAM FBI sting of the '70s, the couple Irving (Christian Bale) and Sydney (Amy Adams) tear up the screen with great chemistry, dialogue, and style. 1970s music encompasses the soundtrack and there is some great sophisticated humor to the script.

It was well done how the beginning which is about a con-artist quickly expands into a major FBI operation. Yes, it gets convoluted and some less sharp viewers will definitely be lost, but those who can follow the whole thing will be rewarded. It's such an absurd scenario setting up the fake sheikh, etc. that it's hard to believe it actually happened, but it did. I remember how ABSCAM was on the news all the time, but I as a kid had no idea what it was. This film explains it pretty well, with of course some dramatization. The names are changed, but the characters are real (Irving was Mel Weinberg).

Only issue for me is that they had to do the usual casting cliché, i.e. Robert Deniro as the mobster. Also it's too bad they made Bale actually gain all that weight. Would have been better for him and the film had they not. And there was an issue with the women actors being mistreated and getting lower pay than the men. But that's Hollywood for ya. This didn't win any Academy Awards; I'm not sure who did that year, but don't really care.
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Law & Order: Memo from the Dark Side (2009)
Season 20, Episode 1
8/10
Important final season opener
3 January 2015
Warning: Spoilers
Just saw this final season opener where DA McCoy tries to prosecute the Bush Administration torturers. The case is put together based on the conspiracy created by Cheney, Rumsfeld, and company. Cutter isn't quite on-board, however does a good job in going after an administration Justice Dept. legal lowlife who happened to commit murder. Now that even the New York Times is called for Cheney's prosecution for war crimes related to torture, this episode stands out as one of the most significant, on the level of the Chilean one which is actually referenced by McCoy in this episode. The case is made that torture not only does not yield accurate information, but is a great recruiting tool for terrorists, and the other side argues the legalese loopholes. I couldn't take watching that smug killer with glasses leaving the courtroom without handcuffs.
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Law & Order: Vaya Con Dios (2000)
Season 10, Episode 24
10/10
Final Adam Schiff episode is also most important one!
1 November 2014
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen most of the original Law and Order episodes and just saw this one. I would say it's the most significant episode of the series, and also marks Steven Hill's (Adam Schiff's) final episode.

This seems to be based on the subject of the film, "Missing", which was based on the true story of how an American was killed in the CIA backed 1973 Chilean coup. Not sure if this was based on that or a similar story, or a synthesis thereof. Anyway, it takes on the most important subject there is: human life and when and if to draw a line in pursuit of justice for murder.

It begins with the usual discovery of a body, that turns out to be a man seeking the ones who killed his son in the coup. It leads to a Colonel who ends up on trial and goes all the way to the Supreme court, where McCoy (Waterston) gives the most important argument of his Law and Order run. Namely should murder be protected by diplomatic immunity, juridiction, etc. The court decision is wisely withheld from the viewer.

Marks the last episode containing all 3 of the best actors of the series: Waterston, Hill, and Orbach.

Note: only inaccuracy is when it mentions that Allende was killed by the Chilean military, but there is pretty solid evidence that he commit suicide.
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Flight (I) (2012)
1/10
Perfect Landing!
4 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Let's face it; this film has very little to do with being a pilot, flying, a plane crash, etc. It's mostly about a drunk and coke head who befriends a heroin addict.

This film has been done many times before of course, even the drunk pilot concept with Cliff Robertson in "The Pilot". The script writer was able to cram enough elements into this film to have something for everyone...that is except for those of us interested in well done original film-making. It's got a plane crash, sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, John Goodman as a coke dealer, a cancer victim, a heroine addict/hooker, a father-son thing, an all-star cast.

But the worst aspect of this aside from its trying to squeeze money out of a weak script by over-blowing it, is the unbelievability of the scenario. This is extremely unlikely to occur in a US commercial flight: a drunk coked-up pilot mixed with a catastrophic failure of the aircraft all at once. My final comment is that the actor playing the copilot's wife gave the the most ridiculous performance I've seen in a long time.

On one level though they came in for a perfect landing. The destination was the twin airports of BBD (big bucks made by dumbing it down) and ILD (injecting a lethal dose of Stupid into film junkies). They had a slight diversion to the city of BSC (big stars act like cartoon characters), but after connecting through the airport of OHC (overhype and crass), came in smoothly and landed on the tarmac of OPA (overpaid actors) and the final destination of OCM (overcharged moviegoers).

I recommend instead 1964's "Fate is the Hunter" starring Glenn Ford and Rod Taylor or my favorite flight film: "Flight of the Phoenix" (1965) with Jimmy Stewart, Richard Attenborough, and Hardy Kruger.
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1/10
You know how the real Taken was kind of ridiculous...well...
22 September 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I just saw this film on Lifetime. Not only is the title, but practically every single element of the original script of Taken is used in this one. I'm not saying it's without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. It's supposed to be set in Moscow, however the filming location is Sofia, Bulgaria, so if you're not familiar with that part of the world (I am) you probably won't notice the difference.

Where to begin. At the beginning of Sophie's trip to Moscow her mother Stevie asked if she has her passport. Actually for an American to go to Moscow you need more than a passport, you need a visa.

We get the relationship thingy between Stevie (Julie Benz), an FBI agent scared of commitment after her husband died (sound familiar?) and Devlin. Anyway, Sophie and her friend Janie, daughter of the US Ambassador to Russia, arrive and are restricted to the US Embassy, so sneak out for one night on the town, and...wait for it....they are taken. From there the script follows the original Taken pretty much verbatim, except it's Russia, not France, and it's Chechen Mafia (writers obviously threw in that due to the Boston bombing), not Albanian one.

So two women, Stevie, and fellow leather jacket wearing CIA agent find the spotter, Bobby, use cell phones to trace the two abductees, and zero dark thirty their way out of that hellhole. Sound familiar?

At the end it says 46,000 people have been victims of sex trafficking this year. I can guarantee you none of them were the daughter of the US Ambassador to Russia...or any other country for that matter. As with the original, and better but still ridiculous film Taken, abducting American girls on vacation in European countries is not just uncommon, but extremely unlikely, at least for daughters of FBI agents and US Ambassadors.

Finally I'd like to address the marketing strategy "Inspired by a true story". What has been pointed out already is this most likely refers to the fact that somewhere in the world as some time, someone was abducted by sex traffickers....unless they're referring to the Cleveland thing, but Julie Benz isn't quite Charles Ramsey, and definitely not Liam Neeson.

Anyway, it's not a total throw away, as it's worth watching on some level, if only to see a little bit of Sofia, Bulgaria (even though it's supposed to be Moscow). The only thing that would've made this good is if at the end Stevie would end with this line: "I feel like Liam Neeson in Taken".
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9/10
George's choice between Shelly Winters and Elizabeth Taylor
3 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
POSSIBLE SPOILERS

I think many people miss the whole point of this film, or at least the intent of the central character. Was George (Monty) an evil murderer? The answer is no; he was a normal male. He was faced with a choice--marry a pregnant Shelly Winters or marry a 19-year-old Elizabeth Taylor...hmmmm. We know that just before the accident (yes accident!) he reluctantly accepts the former.

Now as far as being a murderer, did he commit murder? NO, he didn't! He was convicted because the jury believed the prosecution's (Raymond Burr's) conjecture that he slammed Alice (Shelly) on the head with the paddle. However we see exactly what happened; it was an accident a la Chappaquiddick--an accident--one he tried to cover up yes-but 1st degree murder?

The main issue I have with this film is how he could have been attracted to Alice (Shelly) in the first place? I mean it's believable to be attracted to Liz, but Shirley? We know now Monty's orientation, but even so his scenes with Liz I think were believable, and with Shirley, not.

And at he end his acceptance of his fate and "guilt", which the priest prompts him to do, was a cop out ending I believe, because it was like he deserved the chair, when it's obvious to me he didn't--- jail time for trying to cover up the accident, maybe. SPOILERS AHEAD---

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "you're overlooking the fact that George plotted the murder at least in his mind and began to act on it". Yes, true to a certain extent. It's not, or at least should not, be illegal to contemplate anything. But exactly what did he do to act on it? He pretended to run out of gas, rented a boat (it's not his fault they didn't have life vests--the boat renter is responsible for that), and then after realizing he could NOT act on this half-baked notion, the accident occurred. That is the most half-hearted half-baked, half-a--ed murder plot in history. Yes, he gave a fake name to the renter...however he showed his face...unless he wanted to get caught and IDed, is that a murder plot? So to me he's guilty of covering up after the fact...nothing more.

And the question at the end is the ultimate copout. It's not against the law to fail to save someone, however the Priest used that as justification of capital punishment.

Overall a great film, though very widely misinterpreted.
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Star Trek: Requiem for Methuselah (1969)
Season 3, Episode 19
7/10
44th anniversary
17 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
We just passed the 44th anniversary of the airing of this episode, which aired on Feb. 14th, 1969. The writer Jerome Bixby, also known for writing Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life", died in 1998. Actor James Daly (Flint) in 1978, also known for his role in Twilight Zone episode, "A Stop in Willoughby" (and father of Tyne Daly). Actress Louise Sorel (Raina) is 72.

This episode has some strong points. If Flint was Brahms, DaVinci, and (implied) Shakespeare, it's disheartening to know that all those geniuses would end up trying to kill the crew of the Enterprise. Anyway it's the one episode where we get to see the 9" model in correct perspective. Actually Flint was about to freeze them for 1000 years, but Raina stopped him.

And the other issue is the same as in many other episodes; namely, how does Spock know so much about Earth history, even to the point of recognizing Brahms handwriting? How many musicologists would be able to do that? And he knows a lot more about our "Earth emotions" then anyone else, even predicting (spoiler) Raina's "death". The Vulcan mind-meld at the end was a bit too schmaltzy for me.
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Psycho (1960)
8/10
Great film making, but lets face it: this plot and dialogue are weak
14 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Psycho is so overpraised as the greatest horror film of all time that it's hard to break the trend, but here goes. One obvious weakness is the utter ridiculousness of Norman's insanity. I mean, come on! He becomes his mother after he kills her? That would be the only case in all of human history I believe. And the psychologist figures the whole thing out after like 10 minutes with him?

The other weaknesses concern the whole film prior to arrival at the Bates Motel. We get a mediocre beginning with Janet Leigh and that guy in the hotel room; I don't find her attractive--sorry. Why is it exactly they were keeping the affair secret? Who knows and who cares.

Then some rich Texan comes in, Hitch's non-actress daughter has the part and says "I declare!" He says "I don't, that's how I get to keep it." Cheap dialogue really. Then Leigh steals the money and drives away, then buys a new car which does nothing, but raise the suspicion of a cop and car dealer? This film would be completely forgettable if not for the great Anthony Perkins, the great film soundtrack, and a great director.

To drive my point home, imagine the film without the soundtrack and cutting out the Anthony Perkins scenes. What have you got left: mediocrity!
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The Beverly Hillbillies: The Giant Jackrabbit (1964)
Season 2, Episode 16
6/10
Yes, that's Sharon Tate!
30 September 2012
I'm not a BH fan, but happened to see this episode on Me TV and had to look up who the beautiful caterer Janet was. Yes, none other than Sharon Tate, who is now in heaven. I'm an aficionado of 1960s culture, but usually put BH at the bottom of my lists of TV shows from that era worth watching. There are 2 reasons for this: one is lowest common denominator humor and one is overexposure.

This is probably the most aired show of all time, but the quality definitely doesn't warrant it. In this episode Granny hunts a kangaroo in the yard (guffaw, guffaw). Only one reason to watch this episode and that was previously mentioned.
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8/10
Oswald Acted Alone
21 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
This is a well done documentary that came out in 1964, when the JFK assassination was still fresh in everyone's mind.

In any case the atmosphere of mourning is captured well and it's just like you are actually there in Dallas and DC. The whole world was grieving and LBJ rode the wave to pass unheard of civil rights legislation, but also get us into Vietnam at the behest of JFK's advisors.

We know know the Oswald acted alone and this film is about capturing the moment when the nation and world mourned a great leader at a crucial point in history.
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Hawaii Five-O: Trouble in Mind (1970)
Season 3, Episode 2
7/10
Nancy Wilson was great--Did Janis Joplin watch it?
27 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Jazz singer Nancy Wilson did a good job in this episode as a singer in need of a fix. This aired on Sept. 23rd, 1970 and (Spoiler) Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose on Oct. 4th. I wonder if she watched it.

And the dealer is well played by Milton Selzer. (Spoiler) One thing I'd say is a goof is the McGarrett licks the heroin he suspects of being contaminated with arsenic. Gotta love these late '60s TV shows, are I didn't bother to watch the remake of this great original series.

It's interesting how Wilson's piano player goes looking for a fix, knocks out Fong and gets away with it, then tries to stop a kid from popping, and pretends to be a junkie to protect Wilson. Overall good, one of many great Hawaii Five-Os. What other series has the title become part of the lexicon: we all know what "5-0" means.
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American Playhouse: Some Men Need Help (1985)
Season 4, Episode 10
6/10
Interesting two man play with theme of alcoholism
1 September 2008
I remember seeing this one on PBS in 1985 with Treat Williams playing Hud, a drunk whose wife just died, and Philip Bosco is the retired mobster friend who tries to help him kick the booze. Well done for what is was....a small production two man play that explores a personal story of addiction. I recall Bosco says Hud did a good job at the eulogy, but only because he was plastered. At one point Hud tries to get Bosco to shoot him, after chickening out himself. Anyone else remember this one? Originally aired on "America Playhouse", which Bosco went on to narrate. AP had a bunch of cutting edge themes back then, along with another PBS series, "Independent Focus".
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8/10
Sophisticated Sixties Sleeper very much of it's time
1 March 2008
Two for the Road is a 1967 comedy/drama about a marriage over a period of about 7 years (their first car has a Jan. 1960 sticker). The chronological juxtaposition is something reminiscent of "A Man and a Woman" as well as other French new wave films of the time. And the sophisticated take on marriage perhaps partially inspired by "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf". Audrey Hepburn gets to wear about 50 or so outfits mostly straight off the Carnaby Street racks. And it's interesting to see Albert Finney as the Alfie-type husband.

It's got some great comedy even if the recurring passport joke is too formulaic, and some highly sophisticated drama focusing on the problems of the marriage. And of course Henry Mancini's great score.
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10/10
1962 Poignant Classic and Frank Perry's Best
9 September 2007
David and Lisa, the film they used to show on the late late show in the '70s, at least on New York TV, remains a moving timeless classic and features outstanding performances by Keir Dullea as David, Janet Margolin as Lisa, and Howard Da Silva as Dr. Alan Swinford. Based on a real life case study from 1958 by Psychologist Theodore Isaac Rubin this black and white film follows David as he enters a school for "emotionally/mentally disturbed" teens. Here the shrink uses a humanistic approach, really the opposite of what mainstream psychiatry has become. For Alan the solution is to open up one's feelings as opposed to numbing one with psychotropic drugs as is the norm today. Anyway we find that David is very intelligent though he has some severe phobias: touch, death, etc. He meets Lisa, someone with multiple personality disorder (not schizophrenia). The film turns into a love story between the two as they in effect end up curing each other. Through it all the sixties feel shines through as well as the acting, directing, writing (Eleanor Perry), and cinematography talents. Da Silva does a great job with that distinctive voice of his, and a great comeback role from the blacklisting period (due to the bastard Robert Taylor). But again a rare excellence is attained by Dullea who went on to 2001 fame, and Janet Margolin. Shot in Philadelphia the final moving scene was done at the Art Museum there. Think I'll stop by there next time I'm there to see if it's the same all these years later. So if you're into great '60s cinema check this (one of my faves) out...but by any means necessary avoid the worthless Oprah version.
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5/10
Weak Soap-Operaish Followup to much better Original
10 August 2007
Godfather Part 2 is so hailed as the greatest film of all time it's time someone burst that overblown bubble and I've got the needle right here. So let's take a closer look at what should be considered a mediocre sequel to the classic film, The Godfather. First of all Marlon Brando is nowhere to be seen here. Instead we get random flashbacks to Robert Deniro as the young Vito. We get some good scenes of old Little Italy though there's a Keystone-cops feel to some of it, especially the comic relief of the slumlord scene.

Part 2 has a much bigger budget but a script with weakened plot lines and dialogue, basically trying to followup everything from Part 1 logically becoming formulaic and soap-operaish, and ending up falling flat.

The film begins with another celebration of some kind. A brother's betrayal aspires to be that of Hamlet, but without the depth or wit (or brevity). It's now the 1950s and Mike is in Nevada and is trying to buy a corrupt Senator. The Senator is I suppose the film producer element of the first, but with nothing creative like a horse head...just crass dialogue that doesn't ring true. We also get a Mafia hearing in Congress which should have ended up on the cutting room floor. We also get (the great?) Lee Strasberg as some old shirtless and feeble mobster. He may be a great teacher, but someone tell me why this is an Academy Award winning acting performance! Am I just dumb? Al Pacino is great as always, this performance following Serpico, but his dialogue doesn't ring true. When he begins, "If history has taught us anything.." I expect some deep wisdom to follow...needless to say it doesn't. Talia Shire's character is also weakened compared to the original's Connie. Here she just "needs money" and wants Mike to forgive Fredo because "he's so sweet". This mess of a sequel ends with a literal bloodbath, but following the formula of the first, and a final scene with the original cast (sans Brando) the actors of which were paid more than all their good work in the original. I'm not saying it isn't worth seeing, just that it's inferior to the original in many ways. But of course it isn't near as bad as Part 3. My final criticism is that all these mob films intentionally or not glorify criminals. Okay, now you can click "no".
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10/10
Sixties French Magic
18 November 2006
Most outstanding in this 1964 restored classic is the score, an outstanding '60s soundtrack by Michel Lagrand and dialogue by director Jacques Demy. Stars Catherine Deneuve as Geneviève, the story is about her and her boyfriend Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) who wants to marry her, but has been drafted in the Army to fight in Algeria.

All elements converge to create '60s French magic as much sweet sorrow's invoked.

Also here is great cinematography and it should be said this is not one of those schmaltzy Rogers and Hammerstein-type musicals...well just a bit of schmaltz, but the plot's got an edge, as does the style. You don't have to be into musicals to like/love this, just into great film and music.
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10/10
Cult film that gets to your subconscious
22 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I remember seeing this on TV in the 1970s and the final scene shot at Saltair in Salt Lake City is a classic of camp horror that seeps into your subconscious. With a motivation of nostalgia I attended the revived film festival screening in 1989.

"Carnival of Souls" has become a cult classic and the DVD release contains everything you could possibly want to know about the film and then some. How director Herk Harvey got the original idea based on the Saltair locale, and how John Clifford wrote the script. As a low budget film it succeeds on many levels, the story being a version of the '40s Mercury Theater episode "The Hitchhiker" and the '50s Twilight Zone treatment. Candace Hilligoss was a Lee Strasberg method actor when she got the offer to star in this film set in Lawrence, Kansas and Salt Lake City, Utah. She was paid $2000, the only member of cast or crew to see any real money from the original film.

The amateurishness of certain aspects of the film also are part of its charm. The beginning uses voice-overs that are completely out of sync and you can see the car is empty as it goes over the bridge, but when the lead character Mary comes up on shore after the car/bridge accident the otherworldly feel of the film starts to take over. The Gothic pipe organ building sets the atmosphere, and as she makes her way to Salt Lake City the ghoul (Herk Harvey) starts to appear. Also of interest is the in town scenes where we get a good glimpse of 1961 street scenes. One scene doesn't quite gel with the rest of the film, namely the scene where Mr. Berger (John Linden) brings Mary coffee in the morning. She is so bubbly with dialogue such as, "You're just what I needed this morning", that she seems a completely different character than that in the rest of the film. But as the ghoul keeps appearing and she keeps getting drawn to the carnival the scenes of mysteriousness that make this a great film get underway. The Saltair building scenes are classic, an abandoned dance hall and amusement park full of ghoulish ghosts. The fast-motion dancing ghouls and the end where they run past and jump up in front of the camera predate the same feel of Night of the Living Dead by 7 years. As Mary wanders through the abandoned park, the true atmospheric essence comes to the fore.

Much can be read into the theme of someone caught in a dimension between life and death, from the quantum theory of Schoedinger's Cat to the Many Worlds theory to ideas of purgatory, etc. However as the writer admits the deeper aspects were not considered by him. In the many world's theory we die in one dimension, but not in another. If the dimensions overlap the death dimension can influence and change the life one.

A few things to watch for: When Hilligoss is running from the ghouls at the end she is happily smiling the whole time. At the end you can see how the girls in the car, supposedly dead, are twitching (look for the middle one twitching her eyes)...then again they were in cold water. Its weird because in an outtake scene they are not moving. The priest fires Mary because her playing is "profane". Well the playing doesn't really sound profane to me, and either way it's not a convincing reason to fire someone. The DVD outtakes contain some good extra scenes of the ghouls in the bathhouse, and some extra footage of Mary wandering through Saltair. If you're into 1960s horror films with substance and atmosphere, this is at the top of the list.
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Before Sunset (2004)
8/10
Sequel worthy of the original
25 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Finally got around to seeing this, as I usually have an aversion to sequels. Where the original ended in Wien in 1994 this picks up in Paris 2003. Celine (Julie Delpy) still has the quirkiness, beauty, and naive honesty of nine years before as well as the non-stop articulate rapport and repartee with Jesse (Ethan Hawke).

Because of the depth of conversation there is no sense of soap opera about it. They still philosophize about life and circumstance. Jesse is back in Paris promoting a book about meeting Celine (a touch of post-modern self-consciousness), and has a few hours with her as she explains why she never showed up in Wien for the date. What bothers me about it is not simply that they didn't get each others' numbers in "Before Sunrise", but if she was that serious and couldn't make it she could have had a messenger or someone in Wien meet him or SOMETHING.

Anyway it starts out predictable, but quickly takes some interesting emotional turns. Though the ending is technically open, you can easily guess the rest.

I know they made a sequel to "A Man and a Woman" which I never saw, but no way could it live up to the original as this one does to its original.
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Nochnoy dozor (2004)
1/10
Ivan the Terrible
12 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The "Ivan" refers to "Night Watch" being Russian, the "terrible" refers to its quality. It's as if the scriptwriter and editor never saw a film before as the scenes seems to hit the screen in completely random ways. I tend to imagine a chimps sitting in the edit room. They obviously put a lot into the cinematography, but not into developing a coherent story. I hear that the occult is popular in Russia (as religion was suppressed all those years), but I don't see how this film could be the 2nd biggest of all time. Is this the same Russsia that brought us "Come and See" and all those Eisenstein films? True that was another era.

The question isn't how can you make head or tail of the story, the question is why would you want to bother to try?
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10/10
Classic 1960s French romance. Get the non-dubbed version
30 January 2006
This classic French '60s film directed by Claude Lelouche and starring Anouk Aimée and Jean-Louis Trintignant is a triumph. The '60s feel of the film is the most striking aspect. The dialogue and plot are deceptively simple while Francis Lai's (Love Story Theme) soundtrack rises to the atmosphere setting occasion.

It's understandable why some may find this slow moving, schmaltzy, Eurotrashy, etc., but one has to look behind what's apparent to glimpse some magic cinematic moments. Of course the other negative is the dubbed English. Someday I'll see the original version. On one level the film explores the synchronicity between Anne and Jean-Louis from their backstories to the on screen juxtaposing. Needless to say this towers over junk like "Serendipity". But it's the theme music that really brings it all together, especially with the great final scene at the train station. There's a feel of spontaneity to the film; it really captures 1966 France.

Jean-Louis first starred with Brigitte Bardot in 1956's "And God Created Woman".
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Munich (2005)
1/10
Poorly done remake
20 January 2006
Spielberg's film "Munich" is a remake of the 1986 film "Sword of Gideon" starring Michael York and Rod Steiger. The true story of the terrorist incident at the 1972 Olympics and the Israeli response. This film is grittier and more graphic than the original, though many scenes are taken verbatim from it.

One problem I have is the title. Kind of like "JFK" which wasn't really about JFK, "Munich" isn't about Munich. It does recreate the original incident, but better to see the 1999 documentary "One Day in September". The final scene with the World Trade Center photoshopped into the scene was effective, but the point that was to be made was too nebulus. What is it exactly Spielberg is trying to say there? Again if you see "Sword of Gideon" much of "Munich" is redundant, and in a sense a rip-off, especially as it isn't being marketed as a remake, trying to sweep that under the rug. The good points are the realism of the camera-work. I think Spielberg reaches too far by taken incidents and trying to extend them into universal themes. Schindler's list was not the quintessential Holocaust film as some believe, it was a specific story (War and Remembrance would be the quintessential one). And likewise this is so far from a quintessential film on terrorism, but it wants to be.
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