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Breathless (1960)
5/10
"I shouldn't be thinking of her, but I can't help it."
6 September 2018
Warning: Spoilers
If I had any idea ahead of time how many times Michel Poiccard (Jean-Paul Belmondo) was going to ask Patricia Franchini (Jean Seberg) to sleep with him, I would have kept count. That's all the movie seemed to be about, aside from the fact that Michel was wanted by French authorities for killing a motorcycle cop, and he didn't seem to be concerned about it all that much. You can say all you want about director Jean-Luc Godard's New Wave breakthrough that occurred with this film, but today, watching it is an exercise in extreme patience if not outright futility. I was going to mention how the editing was disjointed with all the abrupt jump cuts, but more knowledgeable viewers on this board stated that they were actually done on purpose. I can only marvel.

I would have spent more time on this review if I had the initiative, but after reading the comments posted by 'Lechuguilla', (on the IMDb main page for this film as I write this), I would direct you those observations because they pretty much echo my own feelings about the picture. I know, it's a cheap way out, but Godard just wore me out. My definition of 'breathless' would have required a little bit more in the way of suspense, tension, and excitement, and this movie doesn't approach any of those criteria.
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7/10
"I want everybody to know, I am the Greatest!"
15 October 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Having lived through the era, the value of this film for me was in bringing back my youthful memories of the young Cassius Clay on the way up the hierarchy of the boxing world and becoming Heavyweight Champion with that stunning victory over Sonny Liston. Who could ever forget Clay's colorful rhyming pronouncements of when he'd take down the next challenger, or his declaration that "I'm the prettiest thing in the ring today...". Narrated by Richard Kiley, this documentary style film offers up a handful of Clay's earliest boxing matches and his affiliation with the Black Muslim movement and it's leader Elijah Muhammad. Brash and bombastic, and now known as Muhammad Ali, the champion was indicted for draft evasion and held true to his religious principles while defying the government. Stripped of his title, Ali became a prime symbol of the rebellious era of the Sixties. Personally, I was conflicted as a follower of Ali during this period, but felt that he had the courage of his convictions when faced with losing everything he had in the way of money and status. The picture closes with Kiley's speculation on where Ali's future might take him, so watching the story today is almost a moot point for anyone who followed Ali's career up until his passing earlier this year on June 3rd, 2016.
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Zootopia (2016)
8/10
"I don't know when to quit!"
16 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Well, I'll tell you what. I'm not a big fan of animated features but this one was a blast and a half. Just when I thought Flash the Sloth at the Zootown DMV couldn't be topped, we wind up meeting Mr. Big doing the Marlon Brando "Godfather" bit. I thought both were hilarious, but Flash was inspired - who hasn't run into someone with no sense of urgency clogging up your day like that? I couldn't stop laughing.

I also got a kick out of assistant mayor Bellwether, very reminiscent of Shari Lewis's Lambchop from her TV show during the early Sixties, which goes to show you how long this reviewer has been around. Too bad she had to go rogue and hit Nick Wilde with the savage pill.

As for the larger story, there are some good messages here for the kiddies, like 'being all you can be' and chasing your dreams no matter what the detractors might say. I'll concede the messaging at times got a bit too political and can understand some of the reviewer backlash on this board. But still, the more meaningful theme that comes out of the story is best expressed by a line in that Lady Gazelle song - "I want to try even though I could fail...". It's a good one for kids who are tentative about trying something new and fear embarrassment if they don't measure up. A responsible adult could go a long way to help foster that message.
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Zookeeper (2011)
5/10
"Any time we talk to humans, it always ends badly,"
24 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I feel like I want to be kind to the kiddies, but I'm not sure if this movie would appeal even to the youngster crowd. In a totally non-scientific, non-binding survey, my four year old granddaughter said she didn't like it, confirming my suspicion that there was just something missing with the formula. I can't remember which animal uttered the line in my summary, I think it was Joe the Lion, but I think he nailed it. And who names a lion Joe anyway? The stereotypical Leo would have done just fine. Maybe the picture would have had more of an appeal if the animals actually appeared to be talking instead of just hearing their voices. It was all rather disorienting and didn't seem to be that funny. In fact, Maya Rudolph's giraffe and Judd Apatow's elephant were downright annoying. At least Kevin James got the right girl at the end of the story. The alternative would have been un-bear-able.
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4/10
"Are you people positive you know what you're doing?"
26 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Interplanetary hitchhiker Zontar sets his sights on Earth, communicating with scientist Keith Ritchie (Tony Houston) via a home made radio set up that's actually more impressive looking than all the room size computer equipment at the "Installation". Houston resembles Jerry Seinfeld with a hard edge, so watching the film today makes his performance doubly amusing. I just love hearing the pseudo scientific explanations offered for all the mumbo jumbo in these grade 'Z' sci-fi flicks, and "Zontar" doesn't let you down. Starting with a brief mention of hyperspace hypnotism, the film is on it's way with tales of injector pods and biological implants.

The film is at it's most surreal though when John Agar trades in his cavalry mount for a bicycle, tooling around town in a business suit. His character is Dr. Curt Taylor, who gives it his all in trying to prevent Zontar's domination of earth, eight people at a time. But do you think he really had to kill his wife when she became a Zontar zombie? Gee, maybe he could have figured something else out before the picture ended.

It's amazing how sequestered every small town is in these types of flicks, the outside world is never heard from so it can lend a hand. At least The General (Neil Fletcher) makes mention of a Communist conspiracy to remind today's viewer of what was on a lot of people's minds back in the '50's and '60's. Can you believe that was so long ago?

Give Zontar credit though. He combines vacation plans with thoughts of global domination, preferring a locale noted for it's hot springs, with a bit of spelunking thrown in as well in the underground caves. Seems to me though he could have been more consistent with turning mechanical devices on and off at will. I guess he just didn't see that sting gun with the plutonium ruby crystal coming - too bad.

Hey, don't blink. Right in the middle of all the fun is a quick flash of a woman in a bikini for no apparent reason. It's one of the endearing scenes that make Zontar a blast, even if you don't believe in hyperspace hypnotism.
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Zombieland (2009)
7/10
"Fasten your seatbelts, it's gonna be a bumpy ride" - Rule #4
10 April 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Uh-oh. In a highly unprecedented move I've actually watched two zombie flicks in a row. This coming from someone who's only other foray into the genre was "Night of the Living Dead", and that was over a decade ago. Nor was this a planned occurrence, I simply managed to catch "Shaun of the Dead" and this one on different cable channels and it just worked out that way. I don't want to attach any undo meaning to it, it's not likely my next picture will be a zombie film.

I think I liked 'Shaun' just a bit better, it started out with some nuance and Simon Pegg's early cluelessness about the approaching zombie horde was done cleverly. The principals here, along with the viewer, find themselves in the midst of a zombie apocalypse right from the get go, and things proceed at a pretty rapid pace. The 'rules for zombies' was an entertaining plot element, and most of them made a lot of sense, although Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) probably got some of his priorities mixed up as the story proceeded. I thought #22 - 'When in doubt, know your way out' was more advantageous than #7 - 'Travel light'. But each to his own I guess.

One advantage I find with pictures like this is that I don't have to think too hard about writing something scholarly in the way of a review. When you're dealing with mindless entertainment all you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride. That's what it looked like Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) was doing, so if it was good enough for him, it's good enough for me. And now that I've learned my 'two zombie flicks in a row' lesson, I'll be back in another ten years.
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Zodiac (2007)
8/10
"This is the Zodiac speaking."
24 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Even living completely across the country in New York during the late Sixties/early Seventies, the Zodiac killer's crimes were front page headline stuff for a time. Quite honestly, I couldn't remember if the Zodiac was ever found, convicted, and sentenced for his murders. This film is a well paced if overlong study of the investigation into that string of murders, as well as one man's obsession with discovering the Zodiac's identity. The investigation turns up increasingly positive clues as well as frustrating dead ends on the part of police detectives working on the case, and if anything, one gains a certain appreciation for the kind of persistence and dedication they bring to their work. Because the legwork is so meticulous and exhaustive, it's frustrating to see how certain evidence winds up inadmissible, or how the input of a handwriting expert like Sherwood Morrill (Philip Baker Hall) is considered the final word on the subject to the exclusion of alternate considerations. As the picture progresses, Jake Gyllenhall takes center stage as the principal player obsessed with discovering the identity of the Zodiac, after months and years go by with leads exhausted and intermittent, circumstantial periods of time with no contact from the man claiming to be the killer. The viewers' own ideas about the case will either be hardened or rendered totally inconclusive once the picture is over, just as it was for the principal players in this daunting mystery which at this point will probably never be solved.
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8/10
"For the last time..., David Bowie".
12 January 2016
Warning: Spoilers
They say that past is prologue. As I write this, David Bowie died two days ago, succumbing to a cancer diagnosed eighteen months earlier. In one of those instances of cosmic serendipity that quite often manages to surprise me, this film aired last week on one of the cable channels and I decided to record it. It captures David Bowie's final concert in the persona of Ziggy Stardust, one of many that the talented singer brought to the fore over the course of his long and varied career. It was recorded on July 3rd, 1973 at the Hammersmith Odeon in London, an array of seventeen tunes both familiar and unfamiliar (at least to me). From today's vantage point, his eerie 'My Death Waits' would seem to be oddly prophetic, but after all, this was over forty years ago so I don't want to assign any undo meaning to it. Accompanied by Mick Ronson on guitar, the band rocks it splendidly, as mostly teenage girls in the crowd swoon over Bowie's characterization. In many respects, he WAS the Wild Eyed Boy of Freecloud, and I'll miss him. Rest in Peace, David Bowie.
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The X-Files: Zero Sum (1997)
Season 4, Episode 21
8/10
"A man digs a hole, he risks falling into it."
28 June 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The dynamic between Skinner (Mitch Pileggi) and the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) really intensifies in this episode, and the story line explores just how far the Smoking Man will go to blackmail the Assistant Director in pursuit of his agenda and that of the Syndicate. Skinner always gets just that close to the edge with the shadowy figure before backing off, this time because Scully's life is on the line with her cancer treatment and Smoking Man presumably has the means to save her. We shall see.

I also enjoy seeing the Smoking Man called on the carpet by the head honcho of the Syndicate, called the First Elder in the cast credits, even though I've never heard that term used in connection with the character. One begins to wonder how Smoking Man is allowed to continue operating in his capacity through various blunders that have occurred during the series run. If the First Elder had been as heartless as Smoking Man himself, the Smoking Man would have been a goner by now.

One nit-pick I'll have to allow myself in the story has to do with those killer bees. They're actually yellow jackets, and though they closely enough resemble bees and are often called by that name, they're actually wasps. If you've ever had the misfortune of getting stung by one you'll know it immediately. I like to describe their sting as liquid fire, as that's what immediately crosses my mind when getting bit by one. Can you imagine getting stung by an entire swarm like the teacher in the story? It would feel like your entire body is in flames before you passed out and died. A nasty way to go.

A major reveal in the story takes place near the end when Marita Covarrubias (Laurie Holden) shows up and manages to put Skinner in the hot seat as well, much like the Syndicate with Smoking Man. Skinner shows he's adept at keeping his lies straight in order to pacify Mulder and maintain his loyalty to Scully's cause, but the kicker here is the relationship we discover between Covarrubias and the Smoking Man. If there's any stand alone episode of the X-Files that comes to a conclusion looking like it should have been a two-parter, this is the one.
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8/10
"In the end, everybody breaks Bro. It's biology."
30 April 2017
Warning: Spoilers
While watching, I began to form the opinion that the character of Maya wasn't a single, specific person who might have 'broken' the case of finding Usama bin Laden. The FAQ board for the film here on IMDb answers that question. Maya, portrayed by Jessica Chastain, was a composite character of several female CIA agents who worked on the bin Laden case, both before and after 9/11. I don't know if knowing that before seeing the picture helps or not.

I thought the picture effectively demonstrated the excruciating detail and frustration of gathering evidence to pin down a shadowy figure like bin Laden. Additional viewings of the picture would probably help in keeping up with the myriad of characters involved on the Muslim side. This is highlighted by the fact that the first Abu Ahmed turned out to be a false lead. A sit up and take notice moment occurred for me when a particular negotiation for information rested on a deal for a Lamborghini.

The most impressive scenes for this viewer involved the storming of the compound in Abbotobad. The harrowing tension one feels while watching the Navy SEALs is juxtaposed by their own relatively calm demeanor in fulfilling their mission. That's probably what was most impressive about the SEAL team performance, composure under duress, even after one of the choppers went down before the mission even started.

I held off watching the film until now because I thought there was more of a political agenda attached to it. One might possibly argue that point with the torture scenes or the seeming incapacity of the upper echelon personnel in the CIA to make a decision, but I perceived the picture almost as if it were a documentary about the planning and execution of a complex mission to take out the world's most notorious terrorist at the time. On that level, I think the film makers did a good job.
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Zardoz (1974)
5/10
"Would you like to see immortality at work?"
27 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Zardoz - sounds like something you might take for insomnia - 'For a restful, good night's sleep - Take Zardoz! And that about sums it up, the movie does play out like a cure for insomnia. For the life of me, I can't imagine why Sean Connery bothered to have anything to do with this monstrosity, particularly since it was sandwiched in between "Diamonds are Forever" and "Murder on the Orient Express"; I'm pretty sure he didn't need the money. I'd like to know what he thinks about the flick today.

As innovative and unique as the picture was starting out, I couldn't stay engaged much past the one hour mark as it became quite tedious. That huge, floating monolithic stone head was just the cheesiest looking thing going, and as the picture wore on, it seemed to devolve into an endless stream of inanities like "I am everywhere and nowhere", and "He who fights too long against dragons becomes a dragon himself." Probably the best was "The voice of the turtle is heard in the land", but what the heck does that mean? Darn if I know.

Not much to recommend here unless you like discombobulated sci-fi with a good smattering of gobbledy-gook. That, and an early preview of Princess Leia's hair style when the Eternal Avalow (Sally Anne Newton) makes the scene, you have to dig those cinnamon bun swirls on the side of her head. As for the character of Zardoz, he was played by a guy named Niall Buggy. Somehow that only seems appropriate.
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Yojimbo (1961)
7/10
"Everyone in this town is crazy. But you're even crazier."
18 November 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The term 'yojimbo' means a bouncer or a bodyguard. Sanjuro Kuwabatake (Toshiro Mifune) arrives at a small Japanese village with two warring factions looking for a means to thoroughly defeat the opposition once and for all. Seeing an opportunity to turn his samurai talent into cash, Sanjuro seeks out the leaders of both factions in an attempt to up the stakes with each one. In that regard, Sanjuro has no particular loyalty, and can be swayed by the highest bidder. Or can he?

I had to laugh the first time the clans of Seibei and Ushitora first opposed each other in the street. Both sides proved equally cowardly in their failure to engage the enemy, it bordered on the comical. I was impressed though by the size of Kannuki the Giant, the guy was massive. He reminded me a bit of Japanese wrestler Shohei Baba, better known in this country as Baba the Giant, active around the time this film came out in the early Sixties.

There was a bit of a disconnect in the story for me when the opposing clans felt they had to break from their fighting when the inspector from Edo came to the village. My question was 'why'? What kind of penalty was the inspector going to impose if clan members wound up killing each other? There's really no satisfactory answer to that, that I can think of, and there was none offered in the story. It just seemed irrational to me.

I think what I might have to do here is revisit this film once again later on as I did with Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai", which I didn't find that compelling the first time around but gained a greater appreciation for it with a second look. I did like Toshiro Mifune in this one though, consistently going back and forth between the warring leaders to constantly confound them by contradicting his prior intentions. Had the opposition leaders had any smarts at all, they would have gotten together to take him out first.
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Yuma (1971 TV Movie)
7/10
"From what I hear, I'm gonna have to kill you."
20 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Here's a neat little TV Western that gets interesting following a fairly standard set up. A new Marshal arrives in town just in time to confront a pair of rowdy brothers and winds up killing one in self defense. Then he hears about how he'll have to pay once big brother hits town along with all of his trail hands. The hotel clerk (Kathryn Hays) even asks for her ten dollar room rent in advance, knowing that the life expectancy of a Yuma town marshal isn't all that great.

What made the story interesting for me was how a number of innovative elements were used that I haven't seen in a Western before. Like Marshal Dave Harmon (Clint Walker) using ketchup to fake a gunshot wound to a murder suspect from earlier in the story, when the perpetrator is already dead! The ruse is used to smoke out the partner who's still at large. And how about Harmon shooting the gun right out of Sanders' holster when he's slow to cooperate in answering the marshal's questions? The best is probably when the real villain masterminding the cattle resale scheme is uncovered by Harmon; how many times do you get to see Edgar Buchanan as the bad guy?!

Here's another one, and I thought I was hearing things, but when Harmon is surprised and surrounded by the Indian tribe the first time, the chief calls him 'Star Man' in deference to his marshal's badge. That just made perfect sense.

All in all, a quickly paced story with a good supporting cast including Barry Sullivan (bad guy), Morgan Woodward (bad guy), Robert Phillips (bad guy), and Peter Mark Richman as an Army major (thought he'd be a bad guy, but another twist to prevent the clichéd outcome). I'll also give the picture credit for not stereotyping the expected romantic angle to play out between Harmon and Julie Williams. There was a hint of that at the finale, but you can draw your own conclusions.
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Yukon Flight (1940)
5/10
"Don't look now but the law just rolled in."
30 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I can't believe this is the fifth James Newill/Sgt. Renfrew flick I've seen already. "Renfrew of the Royal Mounted" kicked off the eight picture series in 1937 and the stories ranged from passable to downright hokey. This one comes down on the hokey side, with a whole slew of unbelievable elements that begin right with the opening scene. How is it, one might ask, that a one-seater plane can be rigged to crash with a pilot bound and immobile at the controls? The picture answers the story later, but the explanation takes it on faith that you can simply rev up a plane's engine and let it go to take off on it's own. Are you buying that?

Or how about when Sgt. Renfrew takes on the pair of thugs in the cabin early in the picture and they make their getaway through the main door. Not a couple of seconds later, Miss Louise Howard (Louise Stanley) enters the cabin by the same entrance, but she never saw the bad guys getting away? But the best has to do with the earlier plane crash. Initially, we see it go down directly into a large tree, but when the Mounties, Renfrew and Constable Kelly (Dave O'Brien) investigate the scene, the tree is gone, and there's no body!!! Just a pile of rubble.

So notwithstanding earlier comments on this picture by other reviewers, this programmer has little to offer fans looking for a solid story with a murder mystery at it's center. There are a couple of light spots with a character named Whispering Smith (Jack Clifford) doing a hard of hearing gimmick, but it gets a bit over done. The Mounties get their men in convincing fashion at the finale as Renfrew shoots villains Raymond (Karl Hackett) and Yuke Gradeau (William Pawley) out of the sky, but if you stay attentive, you'll note that it's a toy airplane that winds up crashing into the ground below. With everything else that happened, it seemed pretty logical to me.
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Thriller: Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper (1961)
Season 1, Episode 28
8/10
"The Ripper will come. He has to."
5 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The legend of Jack the Ripper gets a modern updating in this tale from the Thriller series. Set in New York City of 1961, the story recasts the legend with an unusual twist - Ripper expert Sir Guy (John Williams) theorizes that the infamous killer has received a boon of eternal youth in exchange for ritual killings involving blood sacrifice. In other words, Jack is still alive, and performs his grisly mission on a rhythmic cycle every three years and eight months. In addition, the locations of each murder wind up forming a sign that might provide a hint as to where the Ripper might strike next.

I have to admit, the idea of a ninety year old Jack the Ripper seems quite intriguing given the premise presented by Sir Guy. With tension mounting and authorities on high alert, it appears that the killer might finally be caught in the act. Ah, but there's a twist here, and astute observers will probably be able to narrow down their guess. In order to strike again and fulfill his latest cycle of murder, Jack the Ripper actually has to stray from his usual game plan. Purists might say that the ending was a bit of a cheat, but you'd have to admit, it wound up being a thriller.
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7/10
"Brace yourselves. Here comes the entertainment."
12 August 2015
Warning: Spoilers
As is so often the case with these biopics, I usually learn more about the subject of the movie by reading other comments on this site than from the actual film itself. I didn't know anything about the life of Hank Williams, so if you're inclined, I'd suggest reading some of the other reviews here as a starting point if you'd like to learn more.

One thing I appreciate in pictures like this is the occasional reference to time and place so one can gain some perspective on what else was happening during the same era. The only time you got that here was when Hank Williams (George Hamilton) called his wife Audrey (Susan Oliver) 'Miss Biggity of 1952' in their mansion following the broken back episode. And the New Years Day Concert scheduled for 1953 of course, but by then Williams' life and career were coming to a close.

But it was instructive to learn at least a little bit of Hank Williams' back story, depending on how much stock you can put in the telling. Peddling Gold Bottle Tonic for twenty bucks a week was certainly a step up from eighty five cents a day shining shoes, and with the way things are today, one can come away with an appreciation for how far we've advanced over the decades.

Still, the story has it's somber side, one in which a simple country boy rises to the top of the musical world, only to lose himself to fame, fortune and the extravagant life style that out-paces one's ability to come to terms with it.

As others here have mentioned, I too would like to see a modern day and certainly more accurate representation of the life of Hank Williams on film. There was 2012's "The Last Ride" with Henry Thomas in the lead role, but as I wrote in my review of that one - "If you don't know a whole lot about Hank Williams' career, this film isn't going to help". It has no back story on Williams' life to speak of and turns into a real downer of a picture by the time it's over. All of which means is, I guess we'll just have to wait.
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The X-Files: Young at Heart (1994)
Season 1, Episode 16
7/10
"Man, I'm everywhere you are. Everywhere."
16 May 2017
Warning: Spoilers
The 1989 flashback opening of the story blows by pretty quickly, and if you leave it at that, the story proceeds with some element of credibility. But think about it - if John Barnett survived his operation by Dr. Ridley (Robin Mossley), who was the guy who was cremated in his place after Barnett was pronounced dead? How would Ridley have made a switch with another dead inmate, if in fact there even was another dead inmate at the same time? Maybe we're not supposed to think about it.

Another problem I had with the story was how easily Agent Reggie Purdue (Dick Anthony Williams) was subdued and killed by Burnett in his bed at home. Really? A trained FBI agent who would have had some defensive hand to hand training early in his career? I didn't find that very credible, it didn't even look like Purdue put up a good fight.

Well it sounds like I'm putting a pretty big knock on this story but it wasn't all that bad. The progeria angle was an interesting concept to explore with one of the story's villains attempting to discover a fountain of youth by experimenting with genetic material from his victims. I had to chuckle though whenever they showed the partially shadowed face of Barnett speaking to Mulder by phone. The angle of shadow and light made him appear to me to look like Bart Simpson. Go back and check it out for yourself.

There's a redemptive moment of sorts at the finale when Mulder takes his shot at Barnett during another hostage situation. It does make you consider what pressure real life agents must be under during similar type situations, especially when the bad guy has no other recourse. Good shot there, Mulder.
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The Twilight Zone: Young Man's Fancy (1962)
Season 3, Episode 34
7/10
"Go away lady, we don't need you anymore".
14 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This might be the first Twilight Zone episode where Rod Serling actually starts things off with his soliloquy before any of the action has started. Serling often used the 'You Can't Go Home Again' theme, but this time out, instead of striking a healthy note of nostalgia for things past, the story takes a creepy one eighty and delves into one man's (Alex Nicol) obsession with a childhood he's unwilling to let go. A fine time to think about it too, right on the eve of his honeymoon to the new Mrs. Walker (Phyllis Thaxter). For her part, Virginia Lane Walker probably should have seen it coming. Unlike the grandmother in Season II's 'Long Distance Call', Henrietta Walker (Helen Brown) was one deceased relative who wasn't willing to let go. In that regard, she was talked into it by dear old son Alex, unlike the aforementioned story in which a father sought a second chance for his own son against the wishes of the grandmother who passed on.

This is another of those TZ episodes that I had to watch right up until the finale to realize that yes, I had actually seen it before. It's those quirky endings that one's subconscious mind buries away for all the years since first seen, and grapples to remember as an unfamiliar story unfolds. Most of the time though, one comes away with a sense of wonder at the way the picture plays out. This one however left me feeling disappointed with the principal characters, each coming away a victim instead of starting out on the road to a new life.
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Young Guns II (1990)
7/10
"I never stole a horse from someone I didn't like."
19 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Across a span of decades, the character of Billy the Kid has been portrayed in film by quite the eclectic group of well known actors - Roy Rogers, Robert Taylor, Bob Steele, Buster Crabbe and even Paul Newman in an early film role, "The Left Handed Gun". I'm repeating myself from other reviews I've written when I say that for my money, Emilio Estevez does the best job of bringing Billy the Kid to life on the big screen. He just has this ego-maniacal way of portraying The Kid's malice, but with a charisma that's kind of appealing when he's taking it to his enemies.

"Young Guns II" isn't a great picture, but it's generally a fine follow up to the original "Young Guns", seeing as how a sequel was going to be made to capitalize on the first. I liked the idea of book-ending the story with the Brushy Bill Roberts appearance to add a bit of a mystique to the legend. I'll have to read up some more about that whole piece of history, since it's not that well known. I only came to learn about it when I saw this picture the first time back in the Nineties. I guess it's an interesting controversy to get wrapped up in, but I'm not that invested in the idea to get all worked up about it.

What I liked about the story was the way it brought in some of the historical nuance to the legend of Billy. The Kid made it a point to say that the Lincoln County War was a merchant war, not a range war. It had all to do with commerce and the awarding of government contracts to supply beef to the Army. There was also the mention of the other names Billy used throughout his life. William Henry McCarty, was Billy's birth name, and he used the name of a step-father, William Antrim as well, though not often. In fact, Billy used a number of aliases throughout his outlaw career, presumably to conceal his true identity while on the run; William H. Bonney is the name that survives history the most memorably.

Returning for the sequel in notable support roles are Kiefer Sutherland as 'Doc' Spurlock, and Lou Diamond Phillips as the Mexican-Indian Chavez. I wasn't particularly fond of William Petersen's casting as Sheriff Pat Garret, he didn't seem gritty enough in the role to take on the assignment from the Governor. Lew Wallace by the way, in real life was also the author of 'Ben-Hur', an interesting bit of trivia that totally astounded me when I found out he had a history with Billy The Kid as governor of New Mexico.

As with most of these Hollywood treatments based on history, purists will take issue with the fictional elements thrown in to make the story engaging for a modern audience. If you can get beyond that, this one is entertaining enough for Western fans with some catchy dialog and skilled cinematography. As an added bonus, you have James Coburn in a neat cameo, and Jane Wright with that slinky Lady Godiva bit as she mounts up and heads out of White Oaks. I hope it wasn't too cold that day.
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Young Guns (1988)
8/10
"Get ready for hell!"
14 October 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I've always enjoyed watching this movie, and with my most recent viewing I followed up with the episode of 'Billy The Kid' from the three disc 'Gunfighters' DVD collection from Nonfiction Films (1998, listed as 'Gunfighters of the West' in the IMDb database). It was pretty surprising to see how closely the film followed real events in the life of The Kid, born Henry McCarty in New York City's Lower East Side in 1859. All the business with John Tunstall (Terence Stamp) and Alex McSween (Terry O'Quinn) is based in fact, although the real name of the Jack Palance character was Jimmy Dolan. He was a real life businessman (read that town boss of Lincoln County) who was challenged by Tunstall for rights to government contracts at Fort Stanton in the New Mexico Territory. Dolan headquartered his 'Company' at an establishment named the House of Murphy, hence the name Lawrence G. Murphy used in the picture. The ensuing Lincoln County Wars, often depicted as a range war, was in fact a mercantile war fought essentially over the right of one faction to make more money than the other.

I've often wondered whether the real life Billy would have been as maniacal as the way he was portrayed by Emilio Estevez. I would almost think so, but with the kind of charisma that made him entirely likable as a person to those who knew him well and called him friend. Estevez, along with his brat pack buddies have an engaging chemistry on screen, even if most of it is spent dispatching members of Murphy's thugs. If not for Estevez's pacing of the character, the tone of the film would have been entirely different, as most of the men gunned down in the course of the story were simply murdered to avenge the death of Tunstall.

My favorite scene had to do with the gunslinger in the saloon who Billy mocked into a gun-down. I'd consider that one of the fictional elements thrown into the story to highlight just how duplicitous the real life Kid could be. Did you notice how the gang reacted instinctively to back up their leader just in case?

I'm not as familiar with the sequel to "Young Guns" as the original. Both were written by John Fusco, so I'd expect that the continuity relative to historical accuracy is similarly maintained. Over forty films have been made about the legend of Billy the Kid, along with the blatantly contrived two season TV Western "The Tall Man" from the early 1960's. Your best bet apart from the documentary mentioned earlier, while maintaining an element of entertainment, would be tuning into "Young Guns".
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10/10
"My grandfather's work, was doo-doo!"
11 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I was all set to turn in last night when I saw "Young Frankenstein" in the TV listings for the Fox Movie Channel without commercial interruption. Can the movie really be over thirty years old? This flick is as refreshingly funny as when it first came out, and a wonderful showcase for the comedic talents of everyone involved.

Even though the entire film is hilarious, I'm sure most viewers have their favorite bits. I bust a gut whenever I hear Igor's (Marty Feldman) 'take the bag response'. And for sheer genius, the 'Puttin' on the Ritz' number has me rolling each time.

Not only does director Mel Brooks send up the original 1931 classic, but also it's offshoots, 1935's "Bride of Frankenstein" and 1939's "Son of Frankenstein". Horror fans will recognize the references, done to exaggerated but laugh out loud effect. It's a blast that Brooks was able to locate the lab equipment props from the original film to use in his spoof, how much more authentic can you get?

There's not a single reason anyone should miss this flick. This is the standard by which all film parodies should be measured, with respect and a bushel full of laughs - Blucha!!!!
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6/10
"Sounds like trouble alright."
29 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
You would think that a film with the title "Young Buffalo Bill" would have something to do with it's title character hunting bison on the open plains, or at least doing some scout work and tracking for the Army like the historical Bill Cody did. Instead, this picture's Buffalo Bill (Roy Rogers) teams with sidekick Gabby Hayes to do survey work in the New Mexico Territory. Their assignment is to verify the boundaries of some old Spanish land grants while assigned to Colonel Joseph Calhoun's (Wade Boteler) cavalry unit.

All Roy Rogers films have a villain or two to deal with, and this time it's a pair of half brothers, Comanche Chief Akuna (Chief Thundercloud) and Emilio Montez (Trevoe Bardette). Akuna knows the location of a secret gold mine located in the northern section of Don Regas' (Hugh Sothern) huge rancho, so Montez uses blackmail to force the Colonel's son to tamper with the survey of the Regas spread. Roy, that is, Buffalo Bill and Gabby ride to the rescue amid an Indian attack to save the day for Don Regas and his pretty daughter Tonia (Pauline Moore) with the Cavalry joining in to lend a hand.

Apparently, Republic Pictures found a winning formula with it's star Roy Rogers portraying historical characters because they produced quite a few of them. 1938's "Billy the Kid Returns" got the ball rolling followed by "Days of Jesse James" a year later. Then there was "Young Bill Hickok" in 1940, and another take on the famous outlaw in "Jesse James at Bay" in 1941. Like you have here, these other pictures had just the most tenuous connection to the real life characters, but they sounded cool, and gave matinée fans another reason to catch Roy and Gabby in action.
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7/10
"When you look up to somebody, you expect them to do the right thing".
1 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
'Old Ben Kane' might have been the better title for this Western flick. Just like his namesake from "High Noon", First Deputy Ben Kane (Robert Mitchum) refuses to leave town when he knows the bad guys are coming just for him. Young Billy Young (Robert Walker Jr.) valiantly intends to help out, even after Kane cold-cocked him once when he snuck up on his campfire in the middle of the night. For his trouble, Kane knocks him out again so he doesn't interfere with one man's mission to go up against a dozen outlaws. You might wonder how rational Kane himself was under the circumstances.

There's a good reason Angie Dickinson used to show up in these Westerns with folks like Mitchum and Dean Martin, one look at her opening dance hall number will clue you in. As the sometime lady pal of Gaslight Saloon owner John Behan (Jack Kelly), Lily Beloit recalls her association with Kane back in Dodge City, and the reason Kane is all fired up to go against Frank Boone (John Anderson), who actually doesn't show up until the last part of the story. With Dave Carradine in the role of Jesse Boone, I was once again reminded how much the Carradine Brothers resembled John Anderson, who could have played their father, and actually did in the same year's "Heaven With a Gun" in which he and David portrayed a father and son.

Except for the name of John Behan in the story, I would never have guessed this was based on a novel titled "Who Rides With Wyatt". There's really no other connection I can decipher among the principals being based on Wyatt Earp or his contemporaries, so I guess one has to take the film maker's word for it. Although Kane using his weapon to pistol whip Billy a couple of times came pretty close to resembling Wyatt Earp's style.

See if you can catch a really weird error in that confrontation between Kane and Frank Boone. Riding atop Charlie's (Paul Fix) stagecoach, Kane shoots Boone and there's a quick cut to Boone lying on the ground. When the camera comes back to the coach, Kane is sitting next to Charlie, but after another quick cutaway, Kane is back on top of the coach! Talk about lightning fast, he did that almost as quick as hauling Lily off to get married!
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5/10
"Looks like it was a pretty good fight while it lasted."
1 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"Young Bill Hickok" freely uses the names of historical figures to tell a formulaic story of adventure in the closing days of the Civil War. Roy Rogers portrays Wild Bill, earning his name after he wards off a band of Morrell's Overland Raiders singlehandedly. The central story involves the shipment of gold to help finance the Union's war effort, while foreign agent Nicholas Tower (John Miljan) attempts to disrupt the enterprise, enlisting the aid of seedy John Morrell (Wally Wales as Hal Taliaferro). On the side of the good guys are crusty Gabby Whitaker (George "Gabby" Hayes) and Calamity Jane Canary (Sally Payne). Jacqueline Wells provides the love interest for Hickok, and her presence sets up some tension in the film, first as a Southern lady and Confederate sympathizer, and also as Hickok's bride to be who must take a back seat to his duty to help the Union cause.

Before the film is over, the Civil War has ended with Lee's surrender, and the news of Lincoln's assassination arrives. Tower's association with John Wilkes Booth was established midway through the film as Hickok discovers a letter signed by Booth in Tower's office. The inclusion of these historical snippets adds some interest to the proceedings, but ultimately have no affect on the main story itself.

Generally Roy Rogers portrayed himself or a character named Roy Rogers in his films, but as in this movie, he occasionally was cast as a legendary Westerner. For more of this type of fare, try "Billy the Kid Returns", "Young Buffalo Bill", or "Jesse James at Bay".
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7/10
"As you see, I'm about to inaugurate a little war."
11 December 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"You Only Live Twice" takes it's cue from the very first picture in the James Bond series of films in that it returns to a story about the American space program. However unlike it's predecessor "Dr. No", it's the malevolent head of SPECTRE who plans to step into the vacuum created by America and Russia annihilating each other over the disappearance of an American space capsule. This time out, perennial Bond villain Ernst Stavro Blofeld is portrayed by Donald Pleasence in a spirited performance that would provide the inspiration for Dr. Evil in "The Spy Who Shagged Me", courtesy of Mike Myers. Some of the antics in this picture are pretty ridiculous, like Little Nellie with Bond at the controls taking out four attack helicopters, and James Bond (Sean Connery) himself becoming a Ninja master after three days of training! He really could have used a whole week, but I guess time was of the essence. I have to admit though, the camouflaged volcano gimmick was a pretty good one, and Bond's sidekick throughout most of the story was a very eye appealing Akiko Wakabayashi, who also saw duty as a Japanese Princess in "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster". So between the two pictures she's got quite the resume. With your requisite pyrotechnics and massive explosions, the flick ends on a successful note with Bond saving the world once again, while cozying up to his pretty assistant Aki for that late honeymoon rendezvous.
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