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Doesn't know what it is...and isn't saying anything anyway
17 July 2017
Warning: Spoilers
This film doesn't know what it wants to be, and it certainly isn't what it says it is.

First, it isn't about lying, as much as it is Gervais' opportunity to preach his gospel. Yes, this is an evangelical atheist film. And that fine, if that is what he wants it to be. But don't deceive people into saying it is a comedy about lying, then use that as an opportunity to harass, insult, and bully people who share a different belief system. Because that is what the film does for a majority of the time. And what is ironic is that toward the end of the film is a scene where a young boy with an ice cream cone is harassed by other boys--and the film points out everything that is wrong with this. But then the film in its essence is doing EXACTLY that to Christians.

Second, apparently lying is also tied to tact according to this film. People blurt out whatever they are thinking--even without being asked. That's not lying--that's tact. It one thing to tell the truth. It's another to simply tell everyone on the street the first thing that pops into your head.

Third, the film isn't very funny--and I like dry British wit. But as I said, this is about poking fun at people more than anything, and that isn't really that funny, at least not for long.

Finally, what is this film really about? The first act is about the only man in the world who has learned to lie, and how that helps him get ahead. Then act two is suddenly about poking fun at religion, as I said. Then act three is a romantic comedy (but very dark comedy) is about romance and the less desirable guy getting the hot girl.

As you can see, there is a lot of opportunity in this film, but the parts just didn't connect for me.
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Emergency!: The Most Deadly Passage (1978)
Season 7, Episode 2
More politics than action
22 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The initial pilot of "Emergency!" was full of the politics of creating the position of "paramedic." But in that case, it was essential to the plot.

In this made-for-TV movie, we get more of the same, but in this case it IS the plot. Over and over we see and hear "we don't do it that way in L.A." to which they get the response from the Seattle crew, "Then you need to change your laws." And after hearing how Seattle paramedics can do things in the field John and Roy can't do back home, we then see rescues that conveniently use those forbidden skills. It goes so far as to show the Seattle paramedics using a special medical tool the primary trauma doctor rigged together for them just that morning. "It worked in Vietnam," he says of the design. We even get to sit in on a meeting where we hear that congress has failed to pass national legislation on the paramedic program at which point Roy quips, "The cost of one ship out in that channel going up in flames would pay for the program for 10 years!" Yes, you guessed it--shortly a ship DOES go up in flames!

That ship fire is, in fact, the key point of the entire movie. But it takes forever to get to that point. The movie clocks in at roughly 90 minutes, and the fire doesn't even happen for the first hour of that time. Between the aforementioned "political" rescues, the rest of the first hour is taken up setting up several different story lines that culminate in everyone from each story line being on the same ship at the same time.

I truly like Emergency!, so much so that I bought the DVDs of this final set of TV movies so that I could say I have watched every episode. However, this one is not one of the better episodes.
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Dead Man's Folly (1986 TV Movie)
Horrible, horrible, horrible...
30 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I'm slowly working my way through every instance of Christie's Poirot that I can find on film. I've seen Suchet, Ustinov, Randall, Holm, Molina, even the silly versions in a John Cleese film and a skit in a British 1980's sketch comedy. But this film with its over-the-top, melodramatic performances is the worst Poirot film I've ever seen. I rate it even lower than Tony Randall playing Poirot in the 1960's "Alphabet Murders." But understand. It isn't Ustinov who made it bad. It was the direction. I swear a few times I could see Ustinov wince at the other actors performances thinking, "How did I get into this mess?!?!" All I could think while watching was that the actors were purposely doing a send-up of Poirot, yet they all seemed so earnest, that couldn't be it. I can only conclude it was the direction. These actors are better than this. Far better!!! The movie struck me as campy, except for Poirot. Even the amazing on location setting can't overcome the failures in the acting. The only thing this did was elevate so many of the other performances I've seen for Poirot. At,least after this, it is almost impossible for any other performance to be worse!
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Emergency!: 905-Wild (1975)
Season 4, Episode 22
Historically fascinating, but not much else
6 July 2016
Warning: Spoilers
I'm not much for reviews--I'm too busy watching to do much more than enter a rating--yet this episode is so unusual in the series, I can't help myself.

As other reviewers have said, it appears that this episode was intended as either A) a spin-off to a new series or B) a failed pilot that was re-cut with a few new scenes added and forced into an episode of Emergency! Either way, the result is less than stellar. The doctor's and paramedics of Emergency! wind up having only cameos in their own show. Toward the end of the episode, it appears the paramedics are kept around only for comic relief!

The first hint of something odd, at least on the playback I watched on Net**ix, is that after the standard opening credits for Emergency!, another theme song begins playing--one entirely different from the standard one--and a new set of credits roll.

Next is the lack of any "runs" coming in for Station 51. We never see the guys at the station, we never hear the standard alarms coming in, none of that. Instead, we follow the Animal Control characters. We don't even see a B-roll shot of Squad 51 at any time during the episode, only the Animal Control vehicle.

Most of the actors do a fair job with their parts, however the primary story-line involves a pet goat, and the little girl to whom the goat belongs...oh my, her delivery is poor. And the attempts to add tension simply don't work as well as the producers would have liked, I'm sure. We all know the goat is going to live, after all--this was the 70's, and an unhappy ending was not allowed! And I had to laugh when, after the entire surgical team performs open heart surgery on this little goat, the camera immediately cuts back to the goat waking up on the surgical table and practically jumping off. THAT was a quick recovery!

The one item that all the previous reviewers have mentioned is the appearance of a young Mark Harmon as one of the officers. To see him early in his career is interesting.

Two other things that fascinated me about the show. Early on, Harmon and his partner, "Officer Les," have to tranquilize a tiger. During the attempts to get a clear shot the tranquilizer gun passes from Les to Harmon's character, because only Harmon is where the tiger is. However, as soon as Officer Les shows back up, Harmon immediately hands him the gun, even though he appeared to be ready to shoot just a moment before. It was apparent that this was written in to emphasize which of the officers was the senior officer. Why did this fascinate me? Officer Les is played by a black actor, Albert Popwell. It was obvious that the producers intended to emphasize his character's seniority in the episode (and possible series), over Harmon's white officer, and in 1975 Hollywood, it is interesting to see how they did so in this case. It is just fascinating to get a glimpse of Hollywood reflecting the ongoing social change of that time.

The second item that also fascinates me also revolves around Popwell. While he appears to be just a couple of years older than Harmon, and significantly younger than actor David Huddleston, who plays the vet at the animal shelter, it is exactly the opposite. Popwell was in GREAT shape, and obviously took care of himself, as he was 25 years older than Harmon, and 4 years older than Huddleston. I would have never guessed that he was already 50 when the episode was shot--he looked to be in his late 20's at most--and Huddleston, who was only 45, looked to be in his mid-60s.

If you watch this episode, I believe you will end up focusing more on the format and divergence from the regular Emergency! story lines than on the story itself. In other words, the episode has more to offer from a historical aspect than for being great TV.
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Nixon's the One (2013– )
What the heck was the makeup person thinking???
25 September 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I have never done this before, but like Nixon's resignation there is a first time for everything.

I watched the entire series because it was a fascinating, well acted glimpse into history and a president I was too young to know or truly understand. And I will say that the format allowed the producers to pick-and-choose what was included, so do not go into this series thinking you will get a balanced view of Nixon. Still, if you watch this thinking either they were too easy on Nixon, or did a hatchet job on him with this series--it doesn't matter. These are the man's words, recorded for history, so he has no one to blame but himself if they choose those that made him look bad.

That said, NOTHING could make him look as bad as Harry Shearer's makeup. It was HORRIBLE! It was barely better than one of those Nixon Halloween masks that were once popular (and may still be for all I know). In most scenes it reminded me of the plastic look of Matt Frewer in his "Max Headroom" makeup. And once completely applied to several inches thick, Shearer looked like a bobble-head doll, his head far out of proportion to the rest of his body, and with the layers of putty adding enough weight it didn't look like he would be able to keep his head up through the entire episode. His hair would not move, the skin on his forehead would not move, the nose which--lets face it, Nixon had a prominent nose--still managed to look like a solid block of hardened plaster. The job with the actor portraying Kissinger was similarly bad. The effect was to detract from the amazing performance of Shearer, who nailed the mannerisms, voice, and tone of delivery of Nixon. I just wish he had had a bag over his head instead of that horrible makeup.

And so--as I said at the start--I'm doing something I have never done. I am taking a full 2, perhaps even 3 stars off my rating, simply due to this horrible makeup. If you can get past that, you'll learn quite a bit about Nixon and his presidency that went on behind the scenes.
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Killing Jesus (2015 TV Movie)
Unsatisfying for all...
23 June 2015
Warning: Spoilers
There are plenty of reviews focusing on one or another aspect of this film, and therein lies the problem. It has flashes of greatness weighted down by a lack of direction. By trying to be all things to all viewers, it ends up being unsatisfying to all.

I visited the accompanying website where you have the option to view the same events from three different points of view. That summarizes the problem with the film. On the web site you can choose an angle and stick with it. In the film you cannot, and the attempt to show all three points of view simultaneously leads to nothing but confusion.

The relatively high rating is for flashes of quality that will stick with me. The scourging of Jesus is extremely vivid, and will stay with me. The crucifixion likewise gave an image that I found very realistic--I walked away thinking I had better idea what crucifixion was really like. Seeing the character of Jesus show real struggles with his temper also put more of a face to the man--I had a better sense of the Biblical teaching of "fully human" really means. But these insights were few and far between and ultimately couldn't overcome the other problems with the film.
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Fame: A River to Cross (1986)
Season 5, Episode 12
One of the series best episodes
9 May 2015
Warning: Spoilers
By season 5, I found that many of Fame's episodes had gone flat. This is one of the exceptions, and what an exception! It revolves around the school doing a musical version of "Huck Finn" that ends up dividing the students between those that feel the story is racist and those that don't. With the school about to explode over race, the show is canceled, which brings up the issue of censorship. The show raised questions over stereotypes-- not all black students were for the play, and not all white students against it. It raised questions of education -- should anything that a person finds objectionable be cut from the curriculum. It raised questions of independent thinking -- what do you do when you don't agree with your racial group. It raised questions of loyalty -- do you stick with your friends when you disagree with them, and can you even still be friends. It even raised questions about freedom -- are.we willing to sacrifice our freedom to say something others may find uncomfortable when safety is on the line. I really didn't expect this episode, and it treated racism in a more balanced and honest way than many other shows or even documentaries I've seen. And when it was all over probably the most important message was that if we try to block out the past, even when that past was repugnant, we risk failing to grow.
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Kept Husbands (1931)
A Husband Who Won't Be Kept
25 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
As others have noted, though this is marketed at "Pre-Code" there is little here to suggest that the censors would have had an issue. A spoiled, rich girl sets her sights on a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and does whatever it takes to get him. And get him she does, but he eventually rebels and she finds she can't keep him with her money any longer, and must find another way.

I had hoped the ending would give the film more of a pre-code kick, but unfortunately it wasn't there. I found the first two-thirds or more of the film stronger than the last third. In that first section, Dorothy Mackaill as the rich girl, Joel McCrea as the boy, and Robert McWade as the girl's father were the outstanding performances. They had depth and ease in their characters. Most of the others were flatly written -- Mary Carr as the boy's mom was sugary sweet, Ned Sparks as the Carr's border was there for comic relief, and a pack of shrewish women led by Florence Roberts as the girl's mother were all painfully overplayed for me. "Just get them off the screen!" I kept thinking.

But as I said, even the strong performances didn't sustain themselves throughout the film, with the one exception of McWade as the girl's father. His character remained his believable self throughout the film, and though he participated in spoiling his daughter, you always felt he did so because he truly loved his daughter, rather than trying to win her affection through money. At the last, you truly felt that even without all his riches as the owner of a steel mill, he could walk away and there would still be something of the man left at the end. There was still something more to the man outside of what we saw in this film. The other characters never achieved that feeling.

This is a film I'm glad I saw, but one which I would not say I had to have in my collection.
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Unusual Format - Excellent Result
2 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
For fans of the Poirot series, this episode stands out. It adds to the typical, "Poirot has the answer when no one else does" format with two things -- a slower setup of the crime and a quicker resolution.

Usually the crime is revealed early in the episode and the Poirot's solution revealed with just moments to spare before the end credits roll. Not so this time. In this roughly 48 minute episode, the crime doesn't become apparent until 15 minutes into the show, and Poirot has revealed the culprit just 10 minutes later. With the wrongdoer identified I found myself wondering, "What will they do with the second half of the episode?" Not to worry.

Just because we know who committed the crime, doesn't mean the person has been apprehended--which takes further quick thinking and action on the part of Poirot, Hastings, and Inspector Japp. Then, once apprehended, Poirot must reveal both the clues, and his actions, that led to the person's capture. If you've watched a lot of the Poirot mysteries, this episode won't disappoint.

The writer framed this episode perfectly, and keeps you off balance throughout, wondering how everything will play out, even when you think you already know the ending.

You also get to see Poirot play a character outside of detective--matchmaker!
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Agatha Christie's Poirot: The Chocolate Box (1993)
Season 5, Episode 6
Best of the Best
26 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I rarely give a perfect rating to any movie, episode, or series. That said, I'm a huge fan of Poirot on TV and film. (Yes, I've seen the 1960's Tony Randall version -- YIKES!) So lets get to the bottom line. I told my wife she HAD to watch this episode with me. It is the best episode or movie of Poirot that I've seen. Suchet is at his best, managing to work both the younger version of Poirot against the more mature version of Poirot, and make them both convincing. The mystery is challenging and fascinating, and even the love story woven throughout the episode has a surprising ending. And for the big fans, watch closely--you'll see the lapel pin from this episode pop up in others as well. All in all, a great episode!
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Trader Hound (1931)
I just don't get it, and neither does this short
19 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I'll say up front, I don't get what was so funny about the Dogville shorts. But having watched all nine of them now, just for the historical film perspective, I have to say that "Trader Hound" is by far the worst. While some of the others provide a chuckle or two, this one wasn't funny in the least, and didn't seem to know what to do with itself. This short begins with narration (something the other eight never did), then goes to the dog characters for a bit before switching to a second narrated section about a wrestling match between a gorilla and a lion, played by two men dressed in ridiculously bad costumes. Where did the dogs of Dogville go? Oh wait, now they're back, and being chased now by a real alligator--which doesn't fit at all with the previous animals all being men in costume. Except of course, for the real monkeys thrown in for good measure during the jungle scenes. Does my review seem disjointed? Not a surprise, since the short is disjointed as well. The mix of narrated, non-narrated, dog, human costumed animals, and real animals keeps the short off balance and off story. So, can you tell I didn't like it???
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One of the better "Theater of Life" Shorts
19 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Of the "Theater of Life" shorts I've seen on TCM, this is one of the better pieces. Watching the LA Fire Department in action in 1948 and mentally comparing it to what the situation must be like at this time is mind-boggling. The statistics is what kept getting me, so much so that I shared them with my wife. Imagine: this short says the fire department responds to some sort of fire every 75 seconds--what must that stat be now? It quotes that the U.S. has 350,000 homes destroyed by fires each year--what must that stat be now? I believe they said the estimated annual cost of fires is $600 million--how many BILLIONS must that be now? I'd like to believe that some of these stats may have gone down with better education of the public and the introduction of fire suppression systems and smoke alarms, but who knows? And does it still hold that 30% of all fires are caused by smoking and matches?

Of course, there is some info that is dated, but isn't that the point? And I had to laugh at what must have seemed a clever line to the writer at that time, but hasn't done well with age: "A match has a head, but no brain. But a person has both." This is then used to emphasize that if we just think about it we can avoid most fires.
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Struck me as an odd film
18 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I'm a very sentimental person, as my wife would tell you, and typically enjoy an old-fashioned love story on film, but this film struck me as odd. During the intro to the film I was intrigued--three love stories woven together on a ship. I thought that we would see how the characters from each story interacted on the ship, and how that interaction was both influenced by the love stories that came before, and how that interaction affected the lives of the individuals going forward.

But that wasn't the case at all. The ship serves as nothing more than a vehicle for introducing the characters from each vignette, and the characters never meet or interact. And the vignettes are so disparate in concept that it makes the whole film seem uneven. Consider that the first story is about ballet and heart attacks, the second about witches and wishes, and the third about suicide and circus trapeze artists.

And within the stories there were issues that nagged me. James Mason was great in the first vignette, until the young lady begins dancing in his studio. Then his comments/critique of her dancing--"That's it, that's it, higher, higher..." seemed silly. It worked much better once he was just quiet and the dance became the focus. Otherwise, his comments broke the magic. And in the final segment on the trapeze, the American hiring circus acts goes from "How can I buy an act unless I see it EXACTLY as it is to be preformed for audiences?" to "I'll pay ANYTHING for this act!" in one short minute. Add to that that none of the American actors portraying french men and women in this vignette have a french accent (I suppose that is better than a bad accent) while the non-American actors do have accents, and it just comes across as odd. This accent issue is also amplified by the fact that the second vignette of the young boy who gets his wish to be a man has an underlying storyline about speaking french properly! So we go from one extreme to the other throughout the film.

I can't help but believe that this film was three story ideas none of which had enough depth or breadth to carry a film on their own, and the ship deck mechanism was invented in order to pull together some less than perfect film ideas.
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Mr. Piper (1960– )
Teletunes Availability
24 December 2006
I purchased a DVD collection from the company "DVD Megapacks" a few years ago entitled, "!00 Cartoon Classics." Disk 4 of that collection includes the following Teletunes: Ali Baba, The Magic Horn, Brave Molly, Hasty and the Princess, The Kindhearted Girl, The Three Sisters, and The Proud Princess.

As noted in other comments, the animation is crude but when accompanied by Mr. Crofoot's narration makes them interesting and introduced my children and me to several fairy tales I and they had never heard of. Tales such as "The Three Sisters" have character voicing with little or no narration and they do not fare as well.

If you have young children as I do, these are a decidedly different type of animation than the kids were used to, and generally enjoyable.
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Homecoming (1948)
M*A*S*H Written here? (spoilers)
26 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
I found the film quite engaging, but as a M*A*S*H fan, I couldn't help but notice how many times plot lines from this movie showed up in the series.

1) Hawkeye and Hotlips caught under fire trying to get back to their unit, and winding up in the clinches? Gable and Turner did it first. 2) Henry Blake dying suddenly on his return home? No return home, but an unexpected attack on a hospital unit leaves the commander dead. 3) BJ's first time in the unit, and how it made him sick? Gable's first day in the unit, and the wear and tear on him. 4) Hotlips? Snapshot. 5) BJ wanting to tell his wife about "straying", but talked out of it by Hawkeye? Gable DID tell his wife. 6) Hawkeye's buddy the writer, dying on the table in front of Hawkeye? Monk, Gable's delivery man from home, dying in front of him.

It's a good movie, and well written. And I think Gable and Turner were great. You can probably find more links to M*A*S*H than I did!
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Utopia (1951)
Hard to watch
25 March 2003
This movie was difficult for me to watch. Stan looked very old and ill compared to what I remembered, and Ollie was heavier than I ever recall in another film. Most difficult though were gaps in the script/production where I found myself wondering, "How did they get from here to there???" It took nearly half the film before I could deal with the dubbing of non-American actors -- that was also a distraction.

Although I miss great actors such as Laurel and Hardy -- will there ever be great actors like those of the old studio era??? -- this film helps me understand why actors sometimes "bow out" in their prime.
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"Landmarks" Alternate Version
15 February 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Possible spoilers!

Viewer/reviewer wmarrow59 gives an overview of this film in his comments, however the version captured on the DVD "Landmarks of Early Film -- Volume 1," released by Image Entertainment has been edited. Landmarks version contains 1) a "working dog"; 2) a beggar's dog; 3) a shepherd's dog; and 4) a milkman's dog. The other four segments described by wmarrow59 have been edited out -- and based on wmarrow59's comments, these are the segments that would be most objectionable to viewers.
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A Glimpse Into the Studio System
21 December 2000
WARNING: These comments may reveal portions of the film plot.

"Your New Producer" is an interesting study of how the old studio system kept their audiences interested in films and the people who made them. This short introduces "David O. Selznick," the new producer at the studio. Since Mr. Selznick himself has not appeared, comedic actor Robert Benchley gives you Mr. Selznick's background through shots of his previously produced films.

Selznick was as famous as many of the actors who would appear in the films he produced, his name becoming as recognisable as his stars, so that when he produced the classic, "Gone With the Wind," it would be billed as "David O. Selznick's 'Gone With the Wind' ".

For film historians, this short might prove interesting. For the everyday film watcher, it will likely be a bit of a yawn.
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Too funny not to enjoy
15 December 2000
WARNING: These comments may reveal portions of the film plot.

This is what I enjoy about classic films -- good writing, good directing, and a tongue-in-cheek attitude. It's a good laugh watching Clark Gable and Walter Pidgeon both try to woo Myrna Loy. Don't take the film too seriously, and you'll enjoy it too!

Acting: Gable, Pidgeon, and Loy all are great, although Loy doesn't quite carry off the "missing brother" pathos as well as she does the brave pilot parts.

Writing: Also good, with lots of silliness to go around, while creating a solid romantic comedy.

Direction: Jack Conway let the actors do their best, and they did it well.

Effects/Cinematography: Why did they always speed up the fight sequences in those old films? Anytime there is action, the film picks up speed. The good news is, that the actual flying sequences look pretty realistic, considering that at one point Gable climbs onto the wing of a plane to get a good shot of a ship at sea that is on fire!

Other: Makeup, music, soundtrack, etc. all are solid, but these were not a big focus for films in the 30's, so there is nothing that stands out.

OVERALL: Check it out. I'm finding myself more and more of a Gable fan all the time, and this is the kind of movie that helps that image.
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Interesting Storyline, Ahead of Its Time
9 December 2000
WARNING: These comments may reveal portions of the film plot.

"The Ace of Hearts" was a surprisingly interesting film. It had an interesting storyline and good acting. It also presented women in an organization that for 1921 was ahead of its time.

STORY: The story is very interesting. The idea of a group of people who try to kill "evil" businessmen because the businessmen care more about money than the world was not at all what I would expect from a 1921 film.

SETS/SPECIAL EFFECTS: Nothing special here. C'mon, it was 1921! On the other hand, the sets were reflected the setting -- Urban. And the final shot of the arm removed from the body was effectively done, again a surprise for 1921.

MUSIC/SOUNDTRACK: I had the opportunity to see the restored version of the film, with a new soundtrack by Vivek Maddala, who won a competition on TCM to create the track. The music was OUTSTANDING -- I can see how this 20-something won the competition. It set the tone, flowed with the action, and helped to increase the effect of the film.

MAKEUP/COSTUMES: Again, nothing special. One thing that did surprise me was that even though this was a silent, the actors didn't look "pasty" as they often did in early films.

ACTING/DIRECTING: Another surprise. Lon Chaney and all the cast did a good job, without resorting to the overacting so often seen in silents. The solemnity of the story was matched perfectly. The only time it goes over-the-top is when Chaney realizes he can never have the love of his life.

PARENTAL WARNING: None, with the exception of a dis-embodied arm at the end of the film, but there is no gore associated with the scene.

OVERALL: I liked this film. I found it memorable and surprising on many fronts, as already noted. I think the story was far ahead of its time, and would actually be an interesting setup for a remake today.
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Carrey's Makeup the Real Star
24 November 2000
WARNING: These comments may reveal portions of the film plot.

The big screen version of "The Grinch" works best when it sticks to the original story. While Ron Howard hasn't created a "great" film, it is still good, and most people will enjoy this diversion.

STORY/SCRIPT: Howard had to build on the original 25 minute cartoon, so many things have been added to the original story you probably remember from your childhood. This isn't bad, since you learn much about what made the grinch, "the Grinch." But it also makes for a more sinister character -- one that eats glass, for example.

SETS/SPECIAL EFFECTS: Wow!!! Whoville lives! You'll see the color combinations, the animated effects, all brought effectively to life. And everything is seamless enough that you'll probably find yourself forgetting it is special effects. This is one very effective part of the film.

MUSIC/SOUNDTRACK: Great fun. Especially effective is when the movie breaks into the classic, "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch..." You'll want to sing along. But all the music is fun. Could the little girl have been dubbed? Sure, but why? Little kids are cute, and that includes their very off key singing, and I think that is what Howard was going for here. I thought it was fun.

MAKEUP/COSTUMES: Here is where the movie excels. Carrey BECOMES the Grich. Not just a live version, but the actual cartoon version. When he smiles, it goes from ear-to-ear, just as in the animated version. And it works both as a sinister smile and a friendly smile. And the residents of Whoville likewise are impressive. Everyone builds on the characters in the book, makes them look real, yet lets the actors skills come through.

ACTING/DIRECTING: Carrey is the best here. I found myself thinking of the Grinch, not Jim Carrey as "The Grinch." He shines through all those layers of makeup. The poor part is that the Grinch is either really bad or really good, and in the film becomes downright sinister. Result: he doesn't have many levels to play, so he doesn't. It's a bit flat as a result. Likewise, the rest of Whoville. The characters there don't quite make it either.

PARENTAL WARNING: Parents, remember that this film is a bit meaner than the cartoon. This includes the acting, the story, and the directing. The littlest kids may be bothered by some of this.

OVERALL: This isn't a classic, but it's not as bad as many have said. As one who went to see it to remember the cartoon, I found I should have stuck to the cartoon. That's okay. You'll probably have fun, you just won't need to go back to the film over and over.
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Surprisingly Well Photographed
16 November 2000
John Wayne stars as trail guide turned sheriff out to bring law and order to a small town. The local troublemaker in the town has shot Wayne's father in the back, establishing Wayne's motivation to take the job of sheriff.

The film is short -- 54 minutes -- and has an average story line. There are no surprises here, and the acting...well, the acting is wooden in most cases, even Wayne. Of course, all he had to do was play himself. The one exception is Al Bridge, who plays the head of a gang of thieves who was once nursed back to health by Wayne and so feels that he owes him a debt -- even if it goes against his lawless nature. Bridge plays the part well, even a little tongue-in-cheek, seeming to be smirking just below the surface in every scene.

As stated, the story line is predictable so there is no standout here either. The one thing that did impress me was the filming of the obligatory "big shootout" that ends the film. It is several minutes long -- between 10 and 15 minutes -- and is shot at night. In the course of the shootout the saloon is set on fire which quickly jumps to several more buildings. Early films were not known for the quality of night photography, so to see how well this fire was depicted in the film, the quality of the scenes, the staging -- everything was done well in my opinion. Cinematographers Harry Neumann and Gus Peterson did an excellent job of shooting this finale. If you are a film buff, you'll want to check out the film simply for this alone. Others might want to watch one of Wayne's earlier work. Otherwise, the film is an average western.
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Great Writing, Great Film
11 November 2000
In this movie, the story is truly the star. The writing is absolutely outstanding, and deserving of the Oscar it received. And it is particularly appropriate since the film focuses on two (now famous) writer/journalists, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post.

This film creates a fascinating suspense story that feels like it punches you in the gut. You want to cheer Woodward and Bernstein on, but you also realize that the story is true, and when they succeed it will drag the country through one of the worst periods of our political history. You almost wish you had the ear of President Nixon at the time to say, "Don't do it!" As the story unfolds, no one will say anything, no one will go on the record, the answer to every question seems to ask ten more questions at the same time. There are a list of players in the story that is a mile long, and there are times you wish you had a scorecard to keep everyone straight.

The acting I found to be a bit disappointing. Dustin Hoffman (as Bernstein) is particularly frustrating to me, with a pattern to his speech that often makes it difficult to understand what he is saying. Robert Redford (as Woodward) does better, though neither of the two seem to provide the dramatics that the story does. I don't know what I was looking for, but it seems as if I wanted them to be as drawn into the situation as I was. When they are told by Deep Throat that their lives may be in danger they seem surprised, where I was thinking to myself, "Get a clue! Didn't you guys know that?!?!." But perhaps that is because they didn't expect the worst from the government, and it is only as a result of Watergate and what these two reporters discovered that I "DO" expect the worst! I don't believe that Jason Robards was onscreen enough to create a true persona for his character of Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee, so I am surprised that he won the Best Supporting Actor in 1977. He deserves an Oscar for his acting skills, but I don't believe this is the film that was the standout demanding that award.

Parents, be prepared for some language in the film, though not as much as many films as of the year 2000. One odd note on that point -- I watched the film on American Movie Classics and found it odd that they would edit out language such as "bull****", but left in the word "godd***", which is used repeatedly in the film. Just seemed an odd editing choice.
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Housewife (1934)
A Happy Ending from Nowhere
20 October 2000
WARNING: These comments may reveal portions of this film's plot.

This film takes you on a variety of "up's and down's" as you watch a young couple that is struggling during the depression make it big when the wife encourages her husband to strike out on his own in advertising. This portion of the film runs slow, and the entire film seems very melancholy, until the plan works and suddenly the couple is rich, pulling you up.

Then you are pulled back down when the now successful husband hires an old high-school flame onto his staff and starts an affair. The wife won't grant the husband a divorce, however, pulling the mood back down again. To throw a curve into the mix, (as if there weren't enough already), the couple's son is struck by a car. This changes both their minds about the divorce -- now she wants one, and the husband doesn't!

The film ends on another high note, with a happy ending that appears from no where. Up to this point, many portions of the film have run rather slow, just as the beginning of the film. This happy ending appears from no where -- the couple reconciles in the courtroom at their divorce.

Overall, the film surprised me. For a 1934 film to focus on the depression, adultery, and a child struck by a car doesn't seem to be much of the "happy-go-lucky" films of that era when people didn't want to be reminded of their problems -- or so I understood.

Parents, the kids won't like this one since it is a drama. They probably shouldn't see it anyway, considering the philandering of the husband and the car hitting the child. The big draw here is the "other woman," played by Bette Davis. If you can catch it on cable, you might want to check this one out.
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Part Travelog, Part Movie
14 October 2000
WARNING: These comments may reveal portions of the film's plot.

With David Niven as Phineas Fogg, you will find that this version of the Jules Verne story is almost as broad as the subject of the film -- "around the world."

As is often said, they don't make them like this anymore. According to the brief description in AMC's viewer guide, the film was shot on location in 13 countries with 75,000 costumes and 70,000 extras -- and it shows! Look at the list of credited and uncredited actors in the IMDB and you'll be hard pressed to find a film with more leading and character actors. Just spotting the faces of the classic actors in the film is a game in itself.

Another aspect that will show dramatically is that some sequences are incredibly camp -- they are obviously cut from travelog movies of the day. And in many cases where the footage was shot new, it still has that flair.

Where the film succeeds best is when it goes for the comedic bits. Watch the scene in the saloon out west, where Mr. Fogg's valet, Passepartout runs into Red Skelton as a drunk while listening to Frank Sinatra play the piano!

Overall, most will find the film a bit long. The many scenes that are shot from the point of view of the actors simply "watching the scenery go by" drag the film. Even some of the action scenes run long. When Passepartout must fight a bullfight early in the film, the fight goes on and on and on. Hang on for the funny bits in the film -- and the cameos -- and you can't go wrong. Enjoy the scenery!
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