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Transit (I) (2018)
******** Artsy
8 April 2019
Are you looking for a French Underground movie, with spies and suspense and tension and Nazi arrests and beatings, etc.? Well this ain't it. This is more of an 'art film', with hidden meanings, metaphors and allegories, and it is your job to decipher the whole melange.

I was thrown off by the anachronisms; It is supposed to be 1944 or 45, and the Nazis in Paris are jailing French dissidents and resistance members. Our hero, Georg, is a fugitive who ends up in Marseilles, but in one scene there is a modern 10-deck cruise ship, and the cars are all modern makes. Then there is a Muslim family occupying an apartment he was using.

Long story short,I am not so good at judging or evaluating art films, but this one was extremely interesting and I would recommend it to anyone who appreciates interesting movies; and, as I say, this one is extremely interesting. Needless to say, it was not made in Hollywood.

8/10 - Website no longer prints my star ratings
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Good Remake
3 April 2019
"Lovely To Look At" is an updated version of "Roberta", produced in 1935 with Astaire/ Rogers at the height of their fame, and with Irene Dunne getting all the best songs. The title is one of the songs written by Jerome Kern for the show. In order to fit the talents involved in the remake the settings and motives for some songs were changed, and, in sum, it depends on your preference. There is really nothing wrong with "Lovely To Look At" - unless you saw the original. New material was added to accommodate the addition of Red Skelton, who is very funny. Marge and Gower Champion replace Astaire/ Rogers, and it all works fine. But, let's be honest. The reason you tune in is to hear the beautiful Kern score. It's all here. And in Technicolor.
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Good Ginger
2 April 2019
An entertaining 30's comedy which shows Ginger Rogers at her appealing best. Always a looker, here she is beautiful as she plays a 'substitute' mother for an orphan baby. The picture contains one of those annoying 30's twists in which the hero (or heroine, in this case) can't extract herself from the predicament for which she is entirely innocent. In "Bachelor Mother" everyone thinks she is the real mother, and nothing she says can change minds. Maybe funny at the time, it quickly becomes exasperating, at least for me.

Anyway, it's funny and light-hearted in its own way, and the supporting cast as supplied by RKO is marvelous as expected. It contains David Niven, Charles Coburn and E.E. Clive and adds credence and professionalism to the film. It is an all-around good show, and watch it and enjoy - and don't use my own comedy preference as a guide.
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******* Teen Movie
18 March 2019
Young teens, that is. I wonder if young people read anymore, and if the ones that do ever read Nancy Drew books. Hard to tell if this movie will appeal to a large teen audience after "Captain Marvel" and numerous Batman films, but the story is good enough to hold the attention of kids who are not waiting for something to blow up.

Nutshell; Nancy is drawn into a mystery of a haunted house, owned by Linda Lavin. Aided by her 2 friends and a 'mean girl' they solve the problem, with a few object lessons about mean friends along the way. If you are over 21 the script is hard to endure but sufficient to hold the interest of a young audience. Nancy Drew as played by Sophia Lillis is adorable and appealing. I would recommend it to teens who are tired of superheroes, but with a caveat - it's not Fortnite.

7/10 - The website no longer prints my star rating.
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Semi-Documentary
4 March 2019
"The Invisibles" is a sanitized version of what could have been an important film about Jews in Berlin who stayed behind and blended in with the rest of the Berliners during WWII. We are told approx. 7,000 Jews evaded capture but that only 1,500 survived to the end of the war. This picture is handsomely produced but is a bloodless rendition of what must have been the case at the time. No violent encounters, no shootings and no sense of the scope of the matter.

The semi-documentary style is distracting, as the actors portray some of the survivors, who are interspersed with the story. Continuity is the casualty as the narrative is repeatedly interrupted to interview those survivors again and again. Well done film that needed some Hollywood 'punch' and some added tension to avoid onscreen blandness.
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Too Screwball
20 February 2019
I always find that with 'screwball' comedies, a little goes a long way. I think it's a generational thing; what moviegoers put up with a generation ago becomes insufferable with the passage of time. "Vivacious Lady" is a case in point. I find it exasperating that an easily resolved situation can be dragged out to feature-length simply because the principals don't have the nerve to confront the obstacle. But then that would make it a film short, I guess.

Nutshell: Professor Peter (Stewart) marries Night Club singer Francie (Rogers) and can't bring himself to tell his father (Coburn), the college president who would be horrified upon learning the news. For 90 minutes they go round and round evading the topic until I could barely muster a rating of six for it - despite a terrific cast including Jack Carson, Beulah Bondi, and, of course, Willie Best. There are some genuinely funny moments showing some creativity and cleverness, but this 90" film became a chore after about 45 minutes.

****** - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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******** Scary Art
4 February 2019
"Velvet Buzzsaw" is not so much about art but about art critics and art galleries - and one artist in particular, who is not seen onscreen. Rene Russo is the title character and plays a ruthless art gallery owner, which is how she got her nickname. But the star of the film is Jake Gylenhaal as a prissy art critic and gives his best performance to date, of his films that this viewer has seen.

Nutshell; This art world is a cutthroat one, as artists, critics and gallery owners try to outdo each other to make tons of money. A gallery assistant, played by exciting newcomer Zawe Ashton, comes across a collection of paintings by a neighbor who has died intestate. She confiscates his work which seems to have a curse on it, with disastrous results for all concerned.

The snobby, chi-chi art scene may not be the best mise en scene for general audiences, which may be why it's only in one theater in NYC. But this is not your ordinary indie. "Velvet Buzzsaw" shows professional accomplishment on several levels, not the least of which is the calibre of the actors. John Malkovich has a small part as an artist suffering from 'artists block' for lack of a better term. This is one of the better films I have seen in the last year.
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******* Letdown
1 February 2019
A well done and imaginative story that stumbles toward a conclusion. Robert Newton is always fascinating to watch, even though his chew-the-scenery masterwork was a few years off. Who could forget his very enjoyable interpretation of Long John Silver in "Treasure Island"? Here he is a genteel Doctor who is tired of being cuckolded and wants to do something about it. The scheme is ingenious and the movie proceeds before derailing itself toward the end.

I was hoping for a more satisfying resolution, especially with Dmytryk directing. I also thought the give and take between Newton and the victim was too calculated and deliberate, extremely polite and 'by the rulebook'. Much too much dialogue. Sally Gray as Newton's faithless wife was lovely and played it well. It was billed as a crime/thriller movie but midway it lapsed into a potboiler/drama.

6/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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******** Great Sea Saga
29 January 2019
Rousing story of the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Hollywood got the right director for this picture, as Raoul Walsh is an old hand at action pictures of this type. It centers around Hornblower's attempt to deliver arms to a Spanish outpost on the Pacific coast of South America to thwart the French navy in that part of the world. Turns out there is more than meets the eye to such a straightforward mission, and it leads to an exciting story, the kind that used to make moviegoing so rewarding.

Was never a fan of Gregory Peck but here he plays Hornblower as depicted in the book by C.S. Forester and does a very capable job. Virginia Mayo is the love interest and is very glamorous but with little else to do. A good supporting cast of mostly British actors round out the cast and put the picture over in good fashion. Good action scenes help Forester's story come alive and makes an ardent filmgoer wonder how the wheels came off for Hollywood since the days when they made action pictures that entertained us so much.
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****** Almost Good
15 January 2019
Lots of energy and colorful musical numbers here, along with some comic relief. I tried hard to like it and I thought it was pretty good, but there are chances missed for a higher rating. As usual for a Cole Porter show, it has been stripped of most of his risque songs and new forgettable ones inserted. The story is slightly goofy and Red Skelton handles most of the comedy scenes and gives it a try. Some scenes are semi-humorous at best. Lucille Ball is the hypotenuse in the love triangle with Gene Kelly, who has very few chances to dance. But 'A' for effort all around.

"DuBarry" misfires despite its glossy look and lofty production values. I didn't see the original show but it may have been better with Porter's original score. Also, here it is overproduced in typical Hollywood fashion and the story needed to be 'punched up' and with waste material trimmed out, along with some unneeded characters. Maybe it was just better on the Broadway stage.

6/10 - Website no longer prints my star ratings.
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Cold War (2018)
******* Wild Thing
11 January 2019
"Cold War" is just another example of why European filmmaking is leaving Hollywood in the dust; if you want to see motion picture achievement, watch an imported film. Problem is they're not available in very many theaters, and "Cold War" is another casualty. In New York City it is being shown in two theaters, which a loss for moviegoers looking for something special in movies.

Zula is an ambitious peasant girl with a restless spirit but is trapped behind the Iron Curtain. It 's 1949 in Poland and she comes to tryout for a Polish national musical troupe. She falls in love with its director who is looking for an excuse to defect to the west. He tries to take her with him but she is unable to follow. Years pass and they meet now and then on Tour stops. It is the saddest love story I have ever seen.

Director Pawlikowski has captured the texture and feel of the post-war era behind and in front of the Iron Curtain - at least to my satisfaction, not having been there. Joanna Kulig is excellent as the beleagured Zula, a girl and then a woman tossed along in the rapids that is her life. The overriding feel is of separation and emptiness which is accentuated by the black and white cinematography. It is definitely worth your time if, like myself, you feel unfulfilled by current Hollywood fare.

7/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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***** B Hokum
8 January 2019
"The Mysterious Doctor" has a good cast and starts off OK but disintegrates into a British flag waver hampered by an implausible script. A gentleman on a walking tour of Wales comes across a mining town which is haunted by a headless ghost. He stops at a local inn for lodging and is greeted at the front door by a man wearing an executioner's hood (turns out his face was disfigured in a fire). He is the owner and bartender, and inside there are a host of locals who view the visitor suspiciously. In walks John Loder as the towns richest man, and after a promising beginning the plot takes a hackneyed turn with predictable storyline.

I began to think it was a British 'quota quickie', but it was produced at the Warner Bros. lot so I relegated it to B picture status, a program filler that lacks imagination despite a good start. The cast tries mightily but too much dialogue and a cliched deus ex machina does the film in.

5/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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****** Pesky Corpse
30 November 2018
Megan works the 'graveyard' shift in the morgue at a Boston hospital. Naturally, all customers are dead, except one. Actually, it is dead, but it's not. It's the body of a possessed girl who died - but didn't. Following? In this picture it's hard to sort out logic from fantasy, but don't bother - it's a horror film, so you just go with it.

Granted, it's tough going at times, and nowadays I'm almost immune to jump scares, and there are some here. But the movie is not as bad as some early reviewers have related and it's pretty easy to follow. I would put it in the middle of the horror genre ("Halloween" at the top), fair to middling. You may like it, and it killed an afternoon for me. I thought it was worth the time spent.

6/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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******* Nice Picture
28 November 2018
Contrary to many reviews there is much to like in "Something To Sing About", a minor Cagney movie produced by Grand National Productions (Cagney was in the midst of a dispute with Warner Bros. at the time). There are equal measures of comedy, music and romance blended together to create what must have been one of 1937's most underrated films. Cagney sings, dances and, counter to type, has some tender love scenes with Evelyn Daw, who is pretty and petite and has a lovely singing voice.

Nutshell; song and dance man Cagney gets an offer from Hollywood. He succeeds, and is bound to secrecy regarding his marriage to Daw, the 'band canary' in the same band. Complications arise as a result, with some alternately funny and tender scenes. On hand are William Frawley as the studio's publicity man, Gene Lockhart the studio head and Mona Barrie the studio prima donna. Victor Schertzinger directed and wrote the songs, the best of which are the title song and "Out Of The Blue". Unfortunately, all the songs are long-forgotten.

"Something To Sing About" is one of those forgotten gems which show up on TCM from time to time. Do yourself a favor and catch it next time it's on.

7/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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New Moon (1940)
******* Lovely Score
13 November 2018
Music is the thing in this 1940 version of "New Moon" with Sigmund Romberg's beautiful music score and words by Oscar Hammerstein II. As sung by Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy it just doesn't get any better, especially if you are a fan of operettas. They have gone out of fashion but the gorgeous songs remain.

The story starts with a hint of intrigue, with Eddy as a nobleman wanted for sedition stows away on a French packet as a prisoner. On the same ship is McDonald as a traveler to the new world. Contrivance and coincidence abound as an unlikely plot is woven around the many songs, but no matter. All ends well and the music is a rare treat, especially nowadays. If you appreciate operettas do yourself a favor.
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Hunter Killer (2018)
******** Escapist Actioner
2 November 2018
"Hunter Killer" starts off slowly while laying the groundwork for the plot, but after a half-hour it really picks up and from that point on there is non-stop action and suspense. I can't remember when I've seen a more enjoyable movie. Whether or not the story is believable or possible, I don't know. But this is the best Submarine picture since "Run Silent, Run Deep", and I'm including "The Hunt For Red October". Gerard Butler is perfect as the stalwart and stoic commander assigned to, briefly, rescue the Russian President and 4 Seals sent to reconnoiter a Russian Sub base (I'm not going to recap the plot because I haven't completely figure it out).

This picture is festooned with PC - political correctness. The General in the war room is the rapper Common, who was terrible and could have scuttled the movie if given more screen time. Second in command in the war room is an unnamed female actor, and there is even a female radar screener on the sub. But I almost left when it came to Madame President, who was an old hen who struggled to make decisions.

But the tense action scenes won the day, and made it one of the best pictures to come along in some time.

8/10 - Website no longer prints my star ratings.
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****** Peculiar Genre
25 October 2018
So, how to classify this picture. In the second scene Bogart the gangster, true to form, kills a detective, and from there the picture settles down to a mix of comedy/musical - or a romance/comedy, take your pick. All in all, it is as bizarre and offbeat a plot as you will see on the silver screen.

I'll take a whack at a summation; Night club owner Bogart is 'on the lam', as the saying goes, and decides to hide out in his piano player's (Jeffrey Lynn's) mother's boarding house. Ann Sheridan is her niece, who also lives there. Both men fall for her, and before long someone comes up with the notion of turning the boarding house into a night club! There are some turns and dead ends in the plot, all of which add to the utter strangeness of the story; It adds weight to the term "escapist entertainment". Helping out are Una O'Connor, Zasu Pitts and Felix Bressart. I think part of the enjoyment is to try to figure out the meaning of the title.

6/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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****** Shirley Vehicle
25 October 2018
Was there ever such a talented little kid as Shirley Temple? She could act, sing, dance and steal scenes with the best of them. Singlehandedly, she saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy during the 30's and made ordinary potboilers box office successes, such as "The Littlest Rebel". Submitting to such scene larceny here are John Boles, Jack Holt and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who gave her competition in several dance sequences.

This picture is set in Civil War South, and steps lightly through the minefield of the racism of slavery. Not sure if this picture could be made today, as racial tensions have been stewing since the Civil Rights Act of 1965, but this was 1935, and audiences had a better historical sense than is found nowadays. Just watch and enjoy the entertainment phenomenon that was Shirley Temple, Hollywood's all-time greatest scene-stealer.

6/10 - Website no longer prints my star ratings.
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The Guilty (2018)
****** Nice Twist
22 October 2018
"The Guilty" is a very unusual picture in that the entire film takes on one set, and the main actor is onscreen - in closeup - for 95% of the film. Ordinarily, this would be a recipe for disaster, or at least viewer claustrophobia, but the screenplay is such that the viewer is not conscious of any boredom. It is an excellent story, and as I mentioned in my heading, one with a very surprising twist. The picture is driven forward by a very compelling plot.

It involves a 911 operator who gets a phone call and is sucked into developments. It involves a woman kidnapped by her husband, and that's all you will get from me. The actor is excellent and is a Swedish actor unfamiliar to American audiences, but pulls off the picture in good form. It is a riveting picture worth your time.

6/10 - website no longer prints the star rating.
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******* Surprise!
11 October 2018
Do you like mysterious mysteries? I don't mean mysteries where the murderer is tipped off right away, and then it becomes a cat-and-mouse game with a detective, I mean the ones in which you can't guess the murderer. Well, here is one of the latter, and it was, as I said in my title, a surprise.

This is a very old picture, and the nuts and bolts of the plot have been done to death; people in a scary old castle, dying off one by one due to a curse, and several servants under varying degrees of suspicion. All been done before. Gloria Stuart is lovely and sings a tuneful song, Lionel Atwill is sinister, Edward Arnold is an upstanding Police Commisioner. Just fill in the blanks for plot details. But the ending will really get your attention, which accounts for my rating of seven.

7/10 - website no longer prints my star rating.
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***** That's Cheating
19 September 2018
By that I mean it's not fair to insert the murderer in the last 10 minutes of a film. Up to that point it was a fairly tense murder mystery, with Spencer Tracy in the title role of the reporter who covers all the murders for a big city newspaper, and known as the Murder Man. Many contributors have related the plot, so I won't. Enough to say he is the witness who has the evidence to put the murderer behind bars.

The end of the picture is one of the most contrived endings I had seen in some time, and none of it rang true. It wasn't a surprise ending, it was a phony ending. Tracy shines in a role in which he plays against type as a dissipated drunk, not the upstanding figure he became in subsequent films. Lionel Atwill is miscast as a Police Chief and Robert Barrat is unconvincing as the paper's editor. Virginia Bruce is her ethereal self and look for James Stewart as a cub reporter. And boos and hisses to the screenwriter who didn't know how to end this movie.

5/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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Diplomaniacs (1933)
****** Funny Guys
18 September 2018
"Diplomaniacs" is not one of their best movies, but it still has one of the best comedy teams of early Hollywood. As always, the plot is not the main focus of the film; just wait for the boys to throw off one-liners and to work out some wacky situations.

Now, this was 1933 and some of their gags and jokes are old and have been done over and over, but it's special for their fans when it comes from these two. And some of the material would have to be reworked for modern audiences. Some would find some of the situations dated or offensive, this being 2018. But fans of Wheeler and Woolsey will not be disappointed - they're still funny.

6/10 - Website no longer prints my star ratings.
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Roadblock (1951)
******* Good Noir
10 September 2018
All-around good noir film starring tough guy Charles McGraw as a good/bad guy (or a bad/good guy) who falls for Joan Dixon, a gold digger looking for a 'mark'. As noted by several contributors, she finds McGraw, who would normally be an unlikely target. One thing leads to another and soon, McGraw is up to his hips in trouble.

It is an interesting, engrossing story which gets better. Often, writers have an idea and can't think of an ending, but not here. Well done in all areas and with some exciting, impactful final scenes. Well worth your time, especially if your a noir fan - or even if you're not. Don't know Joan Dixon but she was a perfect femme fatale. Should have made some big budget movies, just off this performance. Do yourself a favor if you haven't seen this one. Worth your time.

7/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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******* Not Bogey
4 September 2018
Paul Henreid was stalwart and in earnest, but, let's face it. He's not Humphrey Bogart, despite his efforts to be a tough leading man and willingness to face danger unafraid. The rest of the cast is excellent, with several familiar faces in Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, and Hedy Lamarr is gorgeous. In fact, the story is a good one, as has been reiterated by other contributors. There is some tension and suspense at the end of the film, as they try to uncover the traitor in their midst. But Bogey's not there, with his signature snarling inflections and scowling face. Still, it's entertaining on it's own terms and holds the interest throughout.

7/10 - Website no longer prints my star rating.
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Voltaire (1933)
******** The Thespian
4 September 2018
When I was little I didn't care for Arliss' movies, since there was no action and he wasn't funny. My parents would watch him and marvel at his movies and his acting skills, all of which were lost on me. Now I am grown up and I appreciate him more than I could ever have imagined. He is the consummate actor who got to Hollywood almost too late - he was very old, even his early pictures - and must have been a treat to watch on the stage, which was his first home. Now I watch all his facial expressions, hand movements, body language and vocal inflection and I am glad we can get to see and hear this top rate actor while he was still able to act. "Voltaire" is a good vehicle for him, the story is fine. A good part of it is probably fiction. Just enjoy him and marvel at his skill.
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