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I also write for Influx Magazine--where many of my opinions and reviews are also posted.
The Thief (1952)
Not a film I loved, but I really appreciate the efforts.
"The Thief" is a most unusual film....so unusual that I am very surprised it was ever made...especially with a top-tier actor like Ray Milland. How is it so unusual? Well, the movie has no dialog whatsoever...none! This makes for a strange film and an interesting experimental film.
The story is about a nuclear physicist (Milland) and he is a traitor. He's copying top secret documents and passing them on to a vast network of spies. In addition to watching him, there are apparently counter-espionage agents watching him as well...just waiting to capture as many of these folks as they can.
So, without dialog, a lot has to be done with facial expressions and other non-verbal cues. There is some action, not a lot, so this really means a tough acting job by Milland.
Is it enjoyable? A bit. While I would not want a steady diet of such movies, it's a nice change of pace and I really respect the work put into making this most unusual story.
Tord och Tord (2010)
Bereft of energy.
"Tord och Tord" is a Swedish short film about neighbors with the same name which was posted on the Criterion Channel app. It's directed by Niki Lindroth von Bahr.
As I watched this short, I kept waiting for some energy...some meaning to all of it. But with the monotone narration, the very somber mood and two stop-motion characters that had no facial expressions, I never found any. I really wanted to like the film and hope that con Bahr does make more shorts...at least ones with more energy. Now I am not saying the films even need to be happy...just with some energy. As it is, it was tough to love.
Enjoyable but hard to believe.
I'd love to watch with a real computer expert.
Tech sure has changed physically breaking in to get computer info.
"Sneakers" is an enjoyable film but it also is like many films...you need to suspend disbelief in order to make it through the picture. This isn't so much a complaint...just an observation about the style film and the technologies used in it.
The story begins in 1969. Two college friends are hacking computers and one of them goes out for pizza. While he's gone, authorities visit and arrest the other friend.
Many years pass. The friend who got away, Bishop (Robert Redford),has organized a group who hack computer systems for the side of niceness....and not the government, as the film very much seems in line with Redford's views on big government and organizations like NSA, the FBI and CIA (see Redford's film "Three Days of the Condor" and you'll see what I mean).
Out of the blue, two agents who identify themselves as NSA agents visit Bishop...informing him they know of his and his group's actions. They threaten to send them all to jail unless they do one small 'favor'. What is this favor, who is REALLY behind it and where does it all go? See the film.
To me, this is a 'turn off your brain and just enjoy it' sort of picture. In other words, don't think too much and just accept the film as a nice time-passer...which it is. There's nothing particularly very good about the film nor is there much to dislike.
A Foreign Affair (1948)
Enjoyable but not among Billy Wilder's best.
"A Foreign Affair" is an enjoyable film, though I rather felt sorry for star Jean Arthur for being in the movie. After all, she plays a dowdy lady and many times the story makes light of this. By contrast, the film also talks about Marlene Dietrich as if she's a gorgeous goddess. When I read through the IMDB trivia, apparently Arthur was aware of this and very unhappy about it...at least during filming.
The story is set in post-war Berlin. A group of congress persons are visiting the city to see how the US military section is being run. Most of the congress people are pretty chill...but Congresswoman Frost (not exactly a subtle name for Arthur's character) is anti-fun and very, very tightly wound. Unlike her colleagues, she is alarmed at how widespread the fraternization is between the Army and the German women as well as the extensive blackmarket economy.
In the midst of this, a very bad American Captain (John Lund) is carrying on an affair with a notorious Nazi-lover, Erika Von Schluetow (Dietrich)...and it's made worse because he works for the Denazification Office (folks devoted to recreating a non-Fascist Germany). But when Frost is about to get wind of this inappropriate fraternization, the Captain instead tries to vamp Frost in order to distract her.
The film was enjoyable. I did not like the writing when it came to Frost. She seemed more like a caricature than a real woman and at times, this competent woman is also supposed to be really stupid (the scene where Von Schluetow calls for her lover, Johnny, comes to mind). I know that Charles Brackett and Wilder were an amazing writing team...but here the film isn't their best work. Had the congresswoman been more realistic and not so dopey, the movie would have been so much better. Still, as it is, it's enjoyable and fun...just slightly flawed.
Li'l Abner (1959)
I only watched this to get a look at Itchy McRabbit!
"Li'l Abner" is a film that clearly has lost its appeal over time. After all, back in 1959, Al Capp's comic strip, "Li'l Abner" was popular. But the strip is long gone and today plays very poorly. Folks who live in the Southern USA probably will see the stereotypes in the strip as pretty offensive and outdated. After all, these citizens of the town of Dogpatch make those in "The Beverly Hillbillies" seem like Harvard grads by comparison!!
So, if the film is horribly outdated, why would I bother with it? After all, I hate the strip and the awful view it gives of the Ozarks and the rest of the South! Well, it's because there is a strange cameo I really wanted to see. I have no idea how, but the producers of the film managed to get Jerry Lewis to appear as 'Itchy McRabbit'...a very minor character in the story. And, this was when Lewis was one of the most famous and powerful actors in Hollywood! I can only assume the filmmakers were holding one of Jerry's family members hostage...or perhaps they had some incriminating photos of the guy!
When the film began, I knew it would be tough going for me. Instead of being based just on the strip, it's apparently a filmed version of a popular Broadway musical from 1956. Yes, the strip was THAT popular that it spurred on this musical adaptation! The sets look like Broadway sets as well...very, very, very colorful and a bit comical and two-dimensional. While usually this is a deficit, it did seem to fit the production. But the songs....well, they pretty much lost me...as well as the characters, story and well, that's really pretty much everything but the sets!
So was it worth watching this saga about Earthquake McGoon trying to force pretty Daisy Mae to marry him and the US government threatening to blow up Dogpatch? Not really...at least not for the average viewer. There are many GLOWING reviews for it on IMDB, but I assume these are older viewers who don't represent the average viewer. After all, this is a self-selecting group of reviewers. And, I didn't enjoy it because the plan to blow up the town wasn't put into effect!! Sorry to reveal this spoiler...but if you hate the film, it doesn't offer a happy ending!
By the way, although I disliked the movie, I must admit that if you liked "Popeye" (1980), you'd likely love "Li'l Abner". Both really reproduced the look of a comic strip...but I can't see most folks wanting to see a live action version of most strips.
I give the film a 3. It's terrible...but I must admit they did a great job of bringing the awful characters and awful town to the screen! So, if they HAD to make a Li'l Abner film, at least they did a decent job of it.
Jack Reacher (2012)
Looking for the shooter instead of looking for the intended victim.
"Jack Reacher" is a film based on a book by Lee Childs. It stars Tom Cruise as the title character and is currently on the Paramount+ app.
When the story begins, a sniper casually guns down five people across from Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Oddly, the shooter was perfect in the execution...but left behind enough evidence to point to a disgruntled ex-military sniper. After he's quickly apprehended, he refuses to talk and writes the name 'Jack Reacher' on a note pad. Who is this Jack Reacher and why would an accused murderer want to see him?
What happens next is weird. Before the authorities can track him down, Reacher (Tom Cruise) appears in town. He's convinced the accused shooter did the killings...but agrees to look into the case for the accused man's lawyer. What follows is a long series of amazing fights, shootouts and more....all which are very exciting.
While I give this film an 8, I must point out one problem...and it's not that Tom Cruise isn't right for the part. I never read any of Child's books...so my expectations about the character weren't set. No, my problem is that Reacher is like a 'Larry Sue'...a male 'Mary Sue'. These are characters with zero flaws and are too perfect to be real. When you see the film, you'll see what I mean...especially when he shows preternatural powers, such as KNOWING exactly which auto supply store a suspects works in as well as seeing through the conspiracy just too quickly. Still, I could put all that aside and did enjoy the story...as I think most would if they gave the film a chance.
Deep Impact (1998)
"Deep Impact" or "Armageddon"...which ultimate disaster film is better?
Oddly, in 1998, two films with the same plot were released in theaters, Michael Bay's "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact". Both films were about a killer comet or meteor that is headed to Earth and which will probably destroy all life. And, in both, space crews are sent to try to destroy or deflect the comet and save the planet. Of the two, "Armageddon" has a slightly higher score on IMDB. Which of the two is the better movie?
I'll say it right up front.... I really did NOT like "Armageddon". I didn't buy the old geezer drillers saving the planet angle and the dialog was simply terrible. The special effects and polish of the film were its only major pluses.
"Deep Impact" is a different story for a few reasons. First, it's less about special effects and is a bit more about people...so the dialog is certainly better. Second, while both films have rather ridiculous premises, "Deep Impact" seems less like a big Hollywood spectacle and more like a story that MIGHT be believable. It has a quieter sort of style...something I appreciated. Now I am not saying it's a brilliant film...but clearly, to me, it's a lot better than "Armageddon"...which, by comparison, seems a bit brainless and improbable.
This is a film which seems a lot like the good parts of "Armageddon" with the classic 50s film "When Worlds Collide". While not perfect and quite a few logical errors exist in the film, it is engaging and worth your time.
Oh, and in the scene late in the film where cars are parked bumper-to-bumper and the roads are impassable....this is pretty typical of roads in that part of the USA (Richmond/Washington DC) every day! They could have saved money and just filmed an average work day!
don't see the film for Robert Duvall...see it because it's a good movie.
The only reason I watched "Hustle" was to see Robert Duvall. After all, he's an acting legend. Little did I know that he was only in the film for the first few minutes...that's all! But, despite this, I am very glad I saw "Hustle".
"Hustle" is one of the newest films featuring Adam Sandler, a guy whose recent track record has been VERY spotty. While he's made a few decent films in recent years, most of his movies are just okay...but I know he's capable of so much more. Here in "Hustle", Sandler is at his best...and shows he's actually sometimes better in dramas than in comedies. Don't believe me? Watch his "Reign Over Me"...and he shows his many non-comedic talents.
Stanley Sugarman (Sandler) is a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers. However, being on the road so much is draining...not just to him but his wife (Queen Latifah) and his daughter. An end to all this travel seems assured when the team's owner tells Stanley that because of his coaching skills and hard work, he's making him an assistant coach...no more world travel for prospects. However, unexpectedly, the owner dies...and his son is NOT particularly appreciative of Stanley's work...and puts him back on the road as a scout. But, when Stanley stumbles upon Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez), an unknown, he thinks that FINALLY he's going to find THE player who will assure him an assistant coaching job....somewhere.
In many ways, this film is predictable. But, this is not a bad thing and there are enough twists and exciting moments that the film really works...and that's saying something since I hate basketball!
Days of Thunder (1990)
Aside from the romance, a very good film.
I was surprised as I watched "Days of Thunder" that I was enjoying the film. After all, I don't really care much for auto racing nor am I a Tom Cruise fan. But still, it's a pretty good film and I was pleasantly surprised.
The first portion of the film is great. I enjoyed watching Cole (Cruise) rise from a talented but ROUGH rookie to his finally becoming a winner. Much of this is because, unlike his films like "Top Gun", Cruise's character isn't so cocky. He needs to learn a lot...and is willing to admit it. It's pretty exciting, too, as he battles his nemesis, Rowdy Burns (Michael Rooker).
Midway through the film, Cole and Rowdy are involved in a wreck and are briefly hospitalized. There, Cole becomes mesmerized by a sexy doctor (Nicole Kidman) and to me, this was a huge distraction from the plot. It didn't feel real and I wanted to see Cole back behind the wheel. Does it get better when he resumes racing? Find out for yourself.
It's funny, but as I watched I realized that the plot to "Talladega Nights" really is much like "Days of Thunder"...with dopey (and hilarious) comedy and a much, much dimmer leading man! In fact, seeing both would make for a nice double-feature...one good serious film about NASCAR and one insanely stupid one!
An odd case of art imitating life.
"Colors" is a film with a notorious backstory. It seems that during production, some extra took a photo of Sean Penn...and Penn lost it and slugged the guy. As a result, he was arrested and spend a little over a month in jail. It's ironic, as his character, Officer McGavin, plays a similar sort of hothead...a cop who loses his cool VERY quickly and would rather bust heads than make allies in the community.
The film begins with young McGavin being paired up with an older, experience cop, Hodges (Robert Duvall), in a special unit devoted to stopping street gang violence. The differences between the two become apparent, as Hodges works with folks versus McGavin seeing most folks as 'the enemy'. Again and again, McGavin's m.o. Seems to be police brutality and you wonder how long this will continue until something gives.
This is NOT a film to show your mother, kids or Father O'Malley if he stops by for a visit. It earns an R-rating for explicit nudity, violence and the frequent use of words I cannot use in my review, as IMDB doesn't allow it. Suffice to say, it's an adult film!
So is it any good? Yes, it's well made. It also makes you wonder if, at times, some cops can become as dangerous and violent as their gang counterparts...which makes you think. It also shows the emptiness of gang life. I also appreciate how the film ended...it came to me as a bit of a surprise...though it was, of course, rather depressing.
By the way, the older gangster-type guy, Frog (Trinidad Silva) only lived a year after the film debuted, as he was killed by a drunk driver while working on "UHF"! Such a waste.
True Confessions (1981)
Well acted...and quite nasty!
The fact that "True Confessions" has a lot of nasty characters shouldn't have surprised me. After all, most of Robert De Niro's films have nasty and unlikable characters, foul language and violence. But perhaps more than most, there really is no one likable in "True Confessions"...even the priests! I mention all this less as a criticism and more to let you know what to expect. In many ways, this film feels a lot like "L. A. Confidential"...a modern and nastier version of 1940s-50s film noir.
The story is about two brothers, one is a priest (Di Nero) and the other a detective (Robert Duvall). The cop, and every cop you see in the film is on the take, consorts with 'professional women' and are pretty sleazy. These same cops have the task of solving a very grisly murder...one obviously inspired by the famous Black Dahlia killing.
The story begins with a woman found who has literally been chopped in half. Detectives Spellacy and Crotty investigate and learn that the woman was a prostitute and porno film actress. The trail leads to some respected members of the community as well as the Catholic church...again, all of which are pretty sleazy characters in the film. What's next? See the film.
I think I'm not the best judge of films like "True Confessions". I don't particularly like violent films like this. I mostly watched it because I love Robert Duvall's acting and am trying to watch everything I can find with him in it. As for the acting, it's all very good and the only reason I didn't score it higher is that with zero redeeming characters in the movie, it seemed a bit unrealistic. Still, if you like modern noir, it's worth seeing.
The China Shop (1934)
Lovely animation...practically no story.
In the mid-1930s, the Walt Disney Company signed an exclusive contract with the Technicolor Company. Because of this, other company's cartoons were either black & white or used the much uglier 2-color process (made of blends of green and orange). Because of this, Disney's Silly Symphony series was simply gorgeous...and the fine quality animation sure was a big plus.
So, I wasn't surprised that "The China Shop" was a pretty film to watch...simply lovely. However, it also is incredibly dull...with practically no plot whatsoever.
The film consists of a lot of porcelain coming to life after the owner of the shop leaves. A green devil attacks a dancing couple...and he's dispatched. The end.
Singing, dancing and no plot. I cannot imagine most people enjoying this film and it proves that even the Disney folks aren't perfect.
Operation Secret (1952)
Based very loosely on a real French-American patriot.
I hate when I read about a film and learn that it was based LOOSELY on a real life person. This means you have no idea what's fact and what's fiction...and if the person's life is exciting enough to merit a film, why fictionalize it?! Apparently, this is what they did in "Operation Secret" as it's based loosely on the WWII exploits of Colonel Peter Julien Ortiz.
The story is told through a series of flashbacks at a hearing. Apparently, Peter Forrester (Cornel Wilde) is accused of murdering someone in the French underground during the war...and now that it's over, his loyalty is in some doubt. The story you see is about the French underground and Forrester's exploits....all of which are very exciting.
The movie is quite enjoyable and shows it's Cold War roots, as the film is not only anti-Fascist but anti-Communist as well. My only complaints are very minor...such as the overused of some archive footage. In one case, it also was used poorly, as you see an early model Me-163 rocket plane turn into a later model mid-flight....and the two planes are extremely dissimilar...so much so that non-airplane nuts would see the difference as well. But this is minor...and the film quite enjoyable and worth seeing.
Wernher von Braun (1960)
A bit of a whitewash.
"I Aim at the Stars" is a very problematic film. On one hand, Dr. Wernher von Braun was instrumental in the American space program. But on the other, his Nazi past was whitewashed and this film ignored the awful war crimes this man perpetrated during WWII. While head of the German rocket program, its leader, von Braun, was responsible for using slave laborers to build his research station at Peenemünde, Germany. And, in total, about 20,000-25,000 of these slave laborers were worked to death to make von Braun's dream come true! He also was NOT the apolitical guy you see in the story, but was a card-carrying and eager member of the National Socialist Party as well as a member of the SS! The man was a monster...and you get none of this in the movie which is intended to glorify his life. Now I am not saying they shouldn't have done a movie about him...but at least it should have been a more honest one.
The film begins well after WWII had begun. While it showed von Braun and his comrades working on the V-2 rocket, there isn't much apart from that and you learn little about the man's personal life. Then, as the war ended, von Braun and many of his fellow rocket scientists defected to the USA and the film then follows them to New Mexico and their work on the US space program. It ends with the first US satellite in space.
I think about 80-90% of the film is good. Jurgens is good as von Braun and the story is reasonably good despite its HUGE omissions. In other words, technically it's well made but also, as I mentioned above, it's pretty sad what is omitted. It's worth seeing but only if you read up on the man and don't take the entire film as a thorough biography of the man.
Geisha Girl (1952)
The plot to "Geisha Girl" seems much like one you'd see in an Abbott & Costello, Martin & Lewis or Three Stooges flick, though with the far less funny duo of handsome Steve Forrest and goofy Archer MacDonald. The pair are soldiers on leave from the Korean War and, like most soldiers on leave, head for R&R in occupied Japan. However, they don't want folks to know they are soldiers and decide to buy some civilian clothes. What they don't know is that some evil types have hidden some explosive pills in one of the jackets...and they spend much of the story trying to retrieve these explosive pills from the Americans.
So is this film any good? Well, it's not terrible! And, it gives you a nice look at post-war Japan. Overall, pleasant and undemanding...and a bit better than I expected.
By the way, if Archer MacDonald isn't familiar to you, it's because this striking looking actor committed suicide only two years after making this film. He was only 30 and supposedly was so despondent about his failed marriage that he took his life. Such a waste.
Eggs Mark the Spot (1935)
Mostly a lot of third-rate musical acts and not much story.
When "Eggs Mark the Spot" begins, it appears as if this Vitaphone short will have a plot involving a couple rubes joining the audiences at some radio shows. However, soon this plot just vanishes and nearly all the rest of the film involves showing various radio performers who aren't particularly famous and most are just not all that interesting. In fact, the film is pretty dull stuff...and quite unlike the typical Vitaphone production. Watch it if you want...or don't!
By the way, if you offend easily, don't watch this one as it features a white radio actress pretending to be a VERY stereotypical black woman.
Three Sailors and a Girl (1953)
Not among MGM's finest
MGM made a ton of musicals over the years and the studio was the best for the genre. Some of them were terrific...some, well, were far from it. I would put "Three Sailors and a Girl" in the latter category.
The USS Texas has arrived in New York for shore leave (a VERY long one apparently). Before leaving the ship, three buddies come up with an interesting idea...that ALL of the sailors aboard pool their money. Then, the three pals set out to find a good investment for their shipmates. They come upon a jerk named Joe Woods, who sells them on the notion of investing their money in his latest musical show. They decide to do this because his leading lady, Penny (Jane Powell), has a gorgeous voice (at least according to the film). However, the play ends up being a flop...mostly due to a ham of an actor who is in the lead. Fortunately, he quits...and so does the producer! Now, without them, one of the sailors (Gordon MacRae) decides to play the lead AND producer! What next?
I had a hard time with this movie compared to some viewers because I found Powell's voice painful to listen to...as it was VERY high pitched and operatic. Like Jeanette MacDonald, you either love that style of leading lady or you don't. Apart from her singing, the movie was decent and enjoyable...but that WAS a big part of the film.
Of Human Bondage (1964)
Read the IMDB trivia and then you'll see why you'll do best to just stick with the 1934 version.
If you read through the IMDB trivia section on this movie, it has all the marks of an utter disaster. First, the original director walked off the film. Second, the film sat for a long time before finally being released. Third, various folks associated with the movie apparently hated each other. Add to that something not mentioned there, that it's a remake of Bette Davis' most famous role, and you have a recipe for disaster...a film that lost a lot of money and certainly was hated by some of the folks who made it! Perhaps you'd just be better off watching the original 1934 version of the Somerset Maugham story.
Philip (Laurence Harvey) is a medical student whose future looks promising. However, after he meets a very common sort of woman working in a restaurant, he becomes incredibly smitten with Mildred (Kim Novak)...even though, apart from her beauty, she has nothing positive to offer him....and she often berates him and uses him. But Philip is a bit of a putz...and time and again, after she mistreats him and he leaves, he only comes back like a lost and needy puppy.
The original casting for the film back in 1934 was much better. It was more believable to have Leslie Howard play Philip, as Harvey is awfully pretty to behave the way he did. And, while I think Kim Novak is a lovely actress, here she simply isn't a match for Bette Davis...but who is?!
So despite all its deficiencies is the film any good? Well, yes, as the original story is interesting and even a mediocre remake is doing to be watchable. Plus, it was more adult and explicit (keeping closer to the original story) due to the prior film coming out just after the tough Production Code was enacted. Worth seeing...but I still prefer the older version.
Two Loves (1961)
Harvey is mesmerizingly bad in this one...though the rest of the film isn't so hot, either.
Okay...I'll admit it right up front. I did not finish "Two Loves". While I have a very high tolerance for bad films, the dialog and characters in this one were so bad I simply couldn't take it after a while. And, overall, I can't think of much I liked about "Two Loves".
The story is set in New Zealand and that could have been very interesting, as I've been there a few times and love the country and cultures. But here's a serious problem...the film obviously was NOT filmed in the country. Sure, you see a lot of neat Maori style carvings and decorations, but the extras area bout as Maori as Mantan Moreland or Keye Luke! Most appear Filipino and some are black Americans....and just don't look a bit like the Maori people. And, in many ways, these 'Maori' are portrayed almost as children...and the good teacher, a white savior of sorts. Now I am NOT the most politically correct person...but this even bothered me. And, don't even get me started about the horrid dialog and the character way overplayed by Laurence Harvey...uggh!!
The bottom line is that you'll learn nothing productive about the Maori and the romance is just stilted, weird and, well, horribly written. The film is probably Laurence Harvey's worst...and it's not exactly one of Shirley MacLaine's best, either. It's a tedious film...and woefully inadequate in showing the Maori as anything other than cartoon characters.
Dear Ruth (1947)
Instead of getting better with age, this one got creepier!
"Dear Ruth" is a nice movie. But it's plot clearly is one which took on a very different meaning in more recent years, due to the public's awareness of pedophilia...something that simply wasn't talked about in the 1940s. This is because the plot hasn't aged so well and it's easy to see folks today being a bit creeped out by it!
Miriam (Mona Freeman) is a very capricious teenager (she appears about 14 or so) during WWII. She does lots of things to help the war effort. But one of the things she does is VERY bad. She begins writing letters to a serviceman and over times, instead of just trying to cheer him up, she began writing romantic things! To make it worse, she has been signing her older sister's name...and even included photos of her adult sister!! The family learns about the ruse when the serviceman (William Holden) has a leave....and shows up to see Ruth!!
Normally, had something weird like this happened, the mistake would have been addressed right away and the man would have been told about Miriam's awful actions. But instead, Ruth (Joan Caulfield) tries to go along with it...going out with Lt. Seacroft and assuming that she'll soon let him down gently. This is REALLY important because Ruth already has a boyfriend, albeit a guy who is a bit of a putz. And, since this is a film, you know ultimately that Ruth and Seacroft will hit it off VERY well...so well that the film had a sequel, "Dear Wife"!
"Dear Ruth" is an enjoyable film that requires you turn off the nagging part of your brain that might question what you watch. In other words, some of the plot doesn't make a lot of sense but if you look past it you'll no doubt enjoy this silly farce.
Cooley High (1975)
Life in Chicago in 1964...warts and all.
Some have described "Cooley High" as a 'Black American Graffiti', as the style is similar and is set in Chicago in 1964 instead of California in 1962. I could see some similarities, especially the invasive pop soundtrack...something popularized in "American Graffiti". What I do not see, however, is how the film was supposedly reworked into the TV show "What's Happening!!"....they just seemed very, very different....with a different cast, a different style and vibe and more. Plus, this movie is far better than the TV program.
The choice of actors to star in the film is strange but not too unusual for American films. Glynn Turman is a REALLY good actor (aside from his film "JD's Revenge"...a film no actor could make any good) but he was also 28 years-old and playing someone about 17! Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (later, famous for "Welcome Back, Kotter") was a bit closer to the target age at 22. It really is odd how seldom teenagers are actually played by teenagers in movies!
So is it any good? Well, yes...it seems to try very hard to be realistic, though this means that the characters in the film are pretty much jerks! This is NOT a pretty or overly idealized view of black teens of the era. But the acting is good and the story represents a side of life seldom shown in movies of the day.
Miss Potter (2006)
What a sweet romance...even if you have no idea who Beatrix Potter was.
My guess is that "Miss Potter" probably played better in the UK, as Beatrix Potter is practically a goddess there and her novels adored. When I visited the Lake District, I was shocked that much of it was devoted to her and her books. So, because of this, I was surprised that the movie didn't use an English actress for the part. After all, she was English and there are lots of tremendous English actresses who could have tackled the role. Now this is NOT to say Renée Zellweger was bad in the film...she was actually quite good! And, despite the Potter-mania in the Lake District, the story is universal and can easily be enjoyed by anyone.
The first part of the story is about Beatrix Potter and her attempt to get her story of Peter Rabbit published. However, later in the film, the plot changes. While Potter was essentially an 'old maid' by this point in her life and resigned herself to a single life, she found love...and this portion of the movie is incredibly sweet...and is ample reason for you to see the story. Sadly, however, this portion of her life did not have a happy ending...but it is still a marvelous film...and it's not all gloom by the end! In other words, STICK WITH IT!!
The use of Potter's drawings and how they brought them to life was lovely, as was the acting, the nice direction and the look of the movie. But be prepared...you might just want to keep a few Kleenex handy as you watch.
Between Two Women (1937)
Read the review by bkoganbing!
I have read quite a few reviews by bkoganbing and have been pretty impressed by their insights. Before seeing "Between Two Women", I read their review and it seemed to really well sum up the picture...though I think I liked the picture a bit more.
The film is from MGM, the studio that began their Dr. Kildare series that same year and I saw quite a bit of similarities between this film and the Kildare ones. Both are about a very decent and competent surgeon and both have some soap opera elements as well. So, in other words, I'm saying that if you like one, you'll likely like the other!
Franchot Tone plays Dr. Allan Meighan...a dedicated and extremely competent surgeon at the General Hospital. One of his patients is a society girl, Patricia Sloan (Virginia Bruce), and she is simply gaga over him. Eventually, she proposes to him and he agrees provided she accept that he is still a surgeon and his job comes first. Well, despite this agreement, she proves herself to be a spoiled brat...and makes balancing his life very difficult.
The marital problems all comes to a head when Meighan is pulled into a particular case. It seems Dr. Walcott has a god complex and is planning on amputating the leg of a patient...the husband of a nurse who also happens to be infatuated with Meighan. Now the nurse is NOT inappropriate and keeps her feelings to herself...but she is beside herself. She insists to Walcott that he wait to operate in order to get a second opinion. Well, he refuses and starts hacking away...and in the midst of the surgery, Meighan enters the operating room and slugs Walcott...which he was more than justified in doing, as the butcher refused to give way and let Meighan examine the patient. It turns out that due to Walcott's incompetence, the patient dies! And, as a result, Walcott loses his license...something he amply earned. However, Meighan's wife inexplicably sides with Walcott...showing just how vicious she really is...and insists that the Doc essentially put his work aside to play with her. Dr. Meighan realizes his marriage was a sad mistake. Since this is a soapy film, there is far more to it....and it's all very exciting and what you might expect from such a film!
Overall, I really liked this one. The story, though soapy, was really enjoyable and kept my interest. Plus, the acting was really nice--especially Tone, Bruce and Maureen O'Sullivan as the nurse. Very well made...and well worth seeing.
Loving You (1957)
It's an early Elvis film...so I'm gonna watch it!
I used to think I didn't like Elvis Presley movies. I think this was because I'd only seen a few of his later films....and his earlier films are remarkably different. In the early movies, he usually had excellent supporting casts and Elvis took some risks with some of these roles. Later, the films simply became formulaic...with not much in the way of support because the movies were ALL about Elvis. In the later ones, he's like catnip to the women and the films offer him no chance to actually act...and he played essentially the same character in most of them. I chose to watch "Loving You" because it was only his second movie...and I have really enjoyed most of the movies he made in the 50s and very early 60s.
The story begins with some guy barnstorming Texas, as he's running for governor. On a lark, one of his assistants asks a local boy, Deke Rivers (Elvis), to sing before the man's speech. Well, Deke goes over so well that suddenly tons of young people being attending these rallies. They are so successful that soon Deke is touring on his own...and woman are going gaga over him. But things can't go perfectly...otherwise, it would be a very short film! So what is next? See the picture.
This film offers less of a stretch for Elvis than pictures like "Charro!" and "Flaming Star", but it is still a very enjoyable movie...with support from the likes of Lizabeth Scott, Wendell Corey and James Gleason. It also helps that Elvis sings some of his most iconic songs in the picture...such as "Teddy Bear" and "Mean Woman Blues". And finally, filming the movie in vivid color was a good choice. While many early Elvis flicks were black & white, this one snaps. Overall, a fun film...not his best but among his best.
Just Off Broadway (1942)
A knife is thrown across the courtroom and kills a witness...so, it's a pretty typical day after all!
In this Michael Shayne movie, it begins with Shayne serving on jury duty...something VERY unlikely for a private dick. Regardless, as a butler is testifying in court, an unseen person throws a knife and kills the butler! Instead of remaining with the jurors, however, Shayne steals the murder weapon and sneaks off to investigate the case.
This is one of the goofiest set-ups for any Shayne film, as having his investigate while on jury duty is a first...and likely to get him jailed if the judge finds out his actions. Still, it is enjoyable and provides the usual Michael Shayne excitement and twists.