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The Ring Thing (2017)
Beautiful Layered, Complex Love
As with love itself, The Ring Thing is a layered and complex work that moves like a memory piece but forward rather than back. My husband and I make a small appearance in this film by William Sullivan. We appear as ourselves and are subjects of Sarah Watson's (played by Sarah Wharton) documentary she uses as a means to explore her "to wed or not to wed" questions. After a clumsy, misunderstood moment involving a family wedding ring, Sarah and her live-in lover Kristen (played nicely by Nicole Pursell) stumble forward down their respective paths trying to determine if this would/could be the right step to take. Kristen is ready at first but Sarah has reservations and uses her creative life to help work out the question.
The beauty of the acting on all fronts and the ambiguity of the questions they wrestle with makes for a film that is alternately frustratingly confusing, romantic and uplifting much like LOVE itself. Each of these women take their turn seeking their happy ending. Wharton & Pursell have nice chemistry together especially in their more "sparky" moments. Wharton stands out particularly as she so brings to life all the love angst and joy while representing everything Pursell wants and simultaneously being the chief obstacle to that dream. Conversely Pursell represents what Wharton loves most but is also most terrified of for inexplicable reasons. The supporting cast gives both the ladies all the right tones, colors and acts as their sympathetic sounding boards as Wharton's Sarah works on her documentary about long term love and marriage.
All in all The Ring Thing is an adept exploration of all the pitfalls in this new age of same sex marriage.
You're Gonna Love It Here (1977)
Method Meets Merman
This unused Pilot was available for a brief time on YouTube and I saw it there. On the face of it, it sounded as though it would either be mundane or insane. A sitcom, seemed like a great idea for the great musical theatre queen Ethel Merman. She essentially played herself in the person of the show's Broadway star Lolly Rodgers. Lolly is left responsible for her grandson after his parents are jailed for tax evasion. Since she's about to go out on a national tour of MAME, she drops the kid off with her other child, a son named Harry, played by legendary New York actor, teacher, theatre director Austin Pendleton whose character is a theatre press agent used to a freewheeling New York bachelor lifestyle. The tot in the middle is ably played by The Bad News Bears star, Chris Barnes.
One would think that, at best, nothing but tired, sitcom tripe would be yielded, or at worst, a total disaster worth watching only to see it burst into flames was what the viewer had in store. However, the chemistry between La Merman, the best there ever was at the old Musical Comedy Park and Bark, "put on a show"isms and the quirky, all method in all moments work of Pendleton actually creates a chemistry that works and raises the bar of their material. As I watched I found myself laughing a good bit and marveling at how each of these 2 masters of their particular craft and personal instruments dug up diamonds together with a real mother son dynamic. It is a lesson in how the older and newer traditions of the acting world are not irreconcilable with each other and in fact they can complement and make fine art when blended by a deft hands. Bruce Paltrow knew what he was doing in casting here and handles his players with the subtle grace he became known for in his later television creations.
I am sad that YouTube has taken it down, but hope it will reappear somewhere it can be seen again.
Peaceful Warrior (2006)
As a long time fan and reader of Millman's Peaceful Warrior philosophies and writings, I was bound to hate this film. Any other treatment of this work HAD to fall short of my tremendous expectations... I could not have been more wrong. This film beautifully captured the spirit and message (and much of the story) from this amazing book. The cast were all well chosen and the performances gifted. Each time Amy Smart came on screen the only thing my partner and I could think was "JOY". So it was not just her character's name but her presence in the film - JOY! Nolte is to be commended for his powerful yet reserved take on old Socrates and Mechlowitz as Dan stands a-tip-toe next to his titan of a co-star. Salva's direction is simultaneously economical, dramatic and loving and gives his players and their story center stage and allows it all to unfold while beautifully framed and shot. Done on next to nothing money-wise, it is wonderful to see a story and character driven drama that uplifts the spirit - 10 out of 10. See it over and over again until your life is changed.
They Might Be Giants (1971)
And They WERE Giants
I saw this gem of a motion picture on television in the early 70's. I really was no more than a boy when I saw it and yet it touched me in a way that no other film had. For the first time I appreciated a piece of cinema for more than just idle distraction from dull small town Texas life. They Might Be Giants taught me that movies could be art and could elevate as much as they entertain. From that time to this, whenever I am asked what is my favourite film, I always point to this picture. It was done on a very low budget so the story, characters and amazing actors carry it along the streets of New York, creating a world of whimsical romance and serio-comic tension. The relationship between the mad Justin Playfair (a loony judge who thinks he's Sherlock Homes) and Dr. Mildred Watson (obviously destined to become the pschizo's unwilling side kick) builds into a romance that is funny, touching and, by the end, uplifting. It is available on DVD now and is a cherished piece of my extensive collection. 10 out of 10 all the way.
Sad Sad Sad
I saw this film in its premier week in 1975. I was 13 years old and at that time I found it adequate and somewhat fun. I then came to discover the WORLD of Doc Savage through the Bantam novels of the old pulp magazine stories. I had no idea before any of this of the realm of Doc, but I fast became one of the most avid Doc Savage fans you could ever meet. I read (and still own) all of the Bantam books, I started going to comic book cons (along with Star Trek and Doctor Who and all manner of geeky fat kid events) and had a wonderful time with each adventure I took with Doc and the ORIGINAL Fab 5. Philip Jose Farmer's Book - The Apocalyptic Life of Doc Savage became a bit of a bible for me and to this day I have very fond feelings regarding my Doc phase. In so saying I have to admit now years later that this film really missed the boat. It is a film that did not know what it wanted to be when it grew up. The screenplay was infantile and bore little resemblance to the pulp story. These stories from the 30's were short and if one looked at Lester Dent's (AKA Kenneth Robeson) outline for writing them, they broke down into PERFECT 3 act dramas that screamed for screen treatment. One would have thought that with George Pal and Michael Anderson at the helm, it would have turned out better. The spoof elements miss the target and the more serious moments almost get there, but then fall short. It is interesting to watch though in that they hired second-string character actors (guys that had really been only bit players and extras before this film) who all acquit themselves very well. Paul Gleason of course has gone on to be a fine utility player in all facets of entertainment and Bill Lucking is a television perennial. All the rest have fallen off the map sadly. I do wish to own a copy of this film as it is the only movie version of my hero, but I fear I will not watch it much as it is too painful. I would say 0 but I give it 2 out of 10 instead for some of the period art direction (Doc's answering machine at the end was a nice touch) and the cast of 3rd stingers getting a moment in the sun.
The Story of Us (1999)
Heart Felt and Funny - Just like Middle Class real Life
I was miffed the first time I saw this film. Miffed that I had allowed the opinions of others to steer me away from it until it came out on DVD. What a lovely bitter sweet/sweetly bitter film. After seeing The Story Of Us and talking to others about it, I came to the pejorative conclusion that the folk I spoke to just didn't get the film because they simply had not been there. I realized that no one I talked to at first had shared his or her lives with anyone for any more than a few years. This film deals with the daily wear and tear of ANY truly long-term relationship. It is an accurate, albeit theatrical, portrayal of the way high ups and devastating downs that can come to two people who love each other
hate each other
need each other
want each other desperately
hate each other some more and finally love each other again. I concluded that those who had never been to the end (and I mean the it's over and I am outta here end) of a relationship and still been able to pull away form the precipice and put things back together again, just didn't have a clue. So there my partner and I were after 16 years together truly touched by all that we saw, nodded our heads to, laughed at and balled our eyes out over and, in the end, really uplifted by in this gem of a film. Michelle Pfeiffer's final monologue alone would have been worth the price of a movie ticket just to watch All Actors should be made to watch her has she creates brilliant comedy by bursting into tears. It is a true lesson in comic artistry while still touching the heartstrings. I HATE THE KIRBYS TOO!!!!
Star Trek: New Voyages (2004)
My 2 Cents On New Voyages
I happened to have stumbled onto to STNV totally by accident. I am a long time Star Trek fan and pride myself on my following of all of the series from beginning to end. I watched TOS as a boy from start to finish and then over the years watched each episode many many times. I am one of those fans that, if you were just a smidge MORE of a fan than I, you would have a closet full of federation uniforms and be able to speak conversational Klingon. I did attend a few conventions and I had fun, but never dressed up or anything.
This is all by way of saying STNV really surprised me. I found the stories and scripts to be excellent. Very much on a par with TOS and in some ways it is superior. I was thrilled to see Bill Windom make a final bow as Decker and I marveled at what I saw to be some nice direction and computer graphic work. The two episodes I have watched were far superior to ANY fan film I have ever encountered. As Tim Allen said in Galaxy Quest, "It's usually just some cardboard sets in a garage".
I do need to say a word or two about the acting though. It is, for the most part, patently bad. Some raw talent here and there, but with the exception of the young lady playing Uhura (an NYU Tisch School of the Arts grad) there is not a spec of training amongst the regulars and, for the most part, they are blocks of wood. This is the area in which you see the amateur "FAN" side of this fan film. All other aspects are pretty first rate.
Bravo to all who take part. 7 out of 10
Heart and Souls (1993)
How Could Anyone not like this film?
I am most gratified to find so many folk in agreement with me about Heart and Souls. This is one of my top 5 guilty pleasure films of all time. Guilty pleasure?? Well, because I know that it grates a lot of cheese on my brain, but I STILL LOVE IT! I just recently bought the DVD and watched it again for the first time in a while. Downy is marvelous as the uptight yuppie fascist lawyer and makes the perfect "Topper-Like" foil to Sizemore, Grodin, Sedgwick and the great Alfre Woodard. My partner and I cry in all the right places and laugh at the jokes and then feel the warmth when it is all over. Shue's timing and frustration ads just the right comedic balance as the girl next door who's out of the loop about her boyfriend's strange behavior.
For anyone who actually has a soul, I highly recommend this film for a feel good experience.
Baby Boom (1988)
I AGREE **POSSIBLE IF OUT OF DATE SPOILERS**
I have to say that I am in total agreement with those that tout this overlooked series trial as fine Television. I watched every episode the season that it aired on NBC, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It was well-written, nice premise, well acted and did some interesting and innovative things with the standard sitcom format. I recall the episode where Jane Wyatt/Betty Anderson and Barbara Billingsley/June Cleaver visit Kate Jackson in a dream after she bemoans her inability to be the kind of mother she sees on television. The message was sweet, simple, touching and delivered by two pros. Another scene in which Kate, after subjecting her daughter to testing by and institute for child intelligence boosting, tells a shocked Paxton Whitehead that he and everything he stands for us utter horse#### was not only hilarious but a touch risky; with only a subtle bleep between the word and out families' ears (wink). All in all a fine series that was given short shrift.
A Broadway Musical filmed and broadcast on television as performed on stage is a dicey business with the best of material. I cite Sondheim's original production of "Into The Woods" or the equally enthralling production of his "Sweeny Todd". Both were produced very well for television with the latter receiving Emmy Noms and a win for George Hearn. The idea of transmitting Blake Edward's ill conceived and poorly executed stage version of his movie masterpiece "Victor Victoria", is so tragic as to be almost laughable. This smoking pile of dung, which landed on Broadway in the early 90s, served only to taint the memory of his finest film and to ruin the beautiful voice of one of our most beloved performers. The fact that it enjoyed nearly a year's run is a testament to the love that audiences still have for Julie Andrews and not due in any part to the "Quality" of the show. It was that love for Miss Andrews, and only that, which drew me to the theatre to see the show. I was so disappointed in the extreme with the entire debacle that, though I had received a free admission, I was tempted to go to the box office and demand a refund. When an established musical work comes to Broadway, it is required that no less than 8 new pieces of music be created in order for the show to be considered for the seasonal awards. Herein, the loss of Henry Mancini was blow from which the show obviously never recovered. Leslie Bricusse, the executer of Mancini's musical estate, took on the full responsibility of converting the pleasant score they had created for the film. This composer has had a long and well-respected career usually acting in the capacity of EITHER composer or lyricist. In taking on both, his work has suffered and this piece was a tragic example. The casting of Tony Roberts in the role created by Robert Preston was a mistake of mythic proportion (Where was Dick Van Dyke??) and with very little exception; Blake Edward's stage direction was flat and uninspired. The hotel Farce sequence with cast members diving under beds and through doorways and into closets was the only exception. Avoid it like the plague and rent Mr. Edward's and Ms. Andrew's finest hour - the original 1982 film.