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6/10
Miscasting And Irregular Writing Hinder This Musical Comedy
18 June 2019
Directed by George Cukor, "Let's Make Love" feels, oddly, like portions were directed by about five directors, then shuffled together. There is a feeling of unevenness that undermines any continuity in the story.

The story concerns a French billionaire playboy who, through a case of mistaken identity, portrays himself in a small-time musical theater production. Yves Montand plays the billionaire and Marilyn Monroe plays the sexy, committed actress who catches the playboy's eye. Monroe is near the end of her career, but her performance still shows flashes of brilliance. Montand is miscast, though it is difficult to determine exactly what is missing in his performance. Let's just say that another actor---like William Powell-would be delightful in this role.

The highlight of the film is the surrounding cast, including a trio of experts (Berle, Bing and Kelly) who play themselves and advise the Frenchman in the ways of entertainment.

Tony Randall, who can play straight man ("The Odd Couple") or comic ("Pillow Talk") is largely wasted in his small, inconsequential role.

Watch for funnyman Joe Besser, who is so adept at comedy as with The Three Stooges or as a regular in "The Joey Bishop Show", in a brief role as an irate writer.

The best performance is by singer/actor Frankie Vaughan, who is the most dynamic person in the film. Frankie sings the songs within the show with an energy that flags as soon as his numbers end.

This film would have benefited from some serious editing and a more consistent voice. Uncredited revisions to the script by Marilyn's husband, Arthur Miller, may be responsible for the muddled final screenplay.
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The Society (2019– )
8/10
A Teen-centric Sci-Fi Mystery Worth Watching
12 June 2019
Let me start by saying I am looking forward to season two. That alone makes this series a success in the most effective way. At its core, this show is a mystery, and the suspense generated by that mystery has been intriguing.

Like many great sci-fi stories, we start with a "what if" situation. We have seen "what if a plane crash lands on an island and the survivors lose communication with the outside world?"; we have seen "what if a mysterious dome suddenly surrounds a town, isolating them from the rest of the world?"; we have seen "what if some people find themselves isolated in a town they cannot escape, surrounded by a mysterious, functioning society?" ; and now we have "what if the teens of a town went on a field trip and returned only to find that they were the only people in town and there was no evidence that life existed beyond the town's borders?"

Some have compared this series to "Lord of the Flies" because it is, similarly, a social experiment. The secondary mystery revolves around how this new teenage society will function. Will it be formalized or will it be anarchy? Will the survivors make choices based upon the teachings of their elders, or will they create a new societal order, or maybe just indulge in teenage fantasies of freedom and fun?

I think the writers have done a good job of providing a realistic (enough) explanation of how the teens of West Ham have behaved and interacted.

One of the central themes has to do with the possibility of supernatural forces at play. Some happenings suggest that this new reality operates outside the laws of physics that they all experienced in their "former lives".

Some might see this show as a treatise on the validity of certain political systems. Inject your own critiques if that is how to choose to view it. But such an approach is not required. And if you are seeking entertainment, that approach is superfluous to the psychological drama and the core mysteries.

The acting is solid. Angst is abundant, as one would expect in a teen drama where all the rules of existence have been suspended or ended. In this microcosm, we see a spectrum of personality types, just as we would expect.

I will admit there is one question central to the main mystery that was on my mind throughout the first season, which they finally addressed in episode ten. I can suspend disbelief enough to accommodate that one annoyance, because the rest of the story is engaging.

The season one cliffhanger promises that season two will expand the storyline exponentially, further challenging viewers' imaginations. You can't ask for more than that.
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8/10
Classic Hudson And Day
11 June 2019
After the success of the first pairing of Doris Day and Rock Hudson, there was a rush to bring this second pairing to the big screen. Fortunately, it was even better than the first, in part due to the script, which is clever but not emotionally complex, allowing viewers to enjoy the "fluffy" lightheartedness that typifies a Day/Hudson rom-com.

The two stars play advertising agents who butt heads while pursuing the same account. Carol Templeton (Day) is upset that she spent so much time on a presentation but was not even allowed to present it. Also, she is galled by the tactics used by her rival, Jerry Webster (Hudson), including the overt sexiness of a club dancer, Rebel Davis (Edie Adams). Jerry mixes work and pleasure unscrupulously, with confidence and precision. Carol determines to have Jerry's professional scalp or, failing that, to snatch one of Jerry's top prospects from under his nose.

Like the other two Day/Hudson collaborations, Tony Randall is onboard, this time playing Pete Ramsey, the earnest but inexperienced owner of the ad agency where Jerry works. Randall is comedy gold, especially in his first scene where he turns on a dime in portraying the duality of Pete, who longs to be commander in chief, but realizes his shortcomings as a boss. His insecurity motivates him to assert himself, resulting in a mistake that drives most of the film's action.

This film reflects the mainstream values of American life, American cinema, and relations between men and women in the early sixties. The country was on the brink of a sexual revolution, still coping with the female empowerment that began during World War II. By the standards of the day, this film was considered titillating, but it still maintained its wholesomeness by observing written and unwritten standards of decency and decorum.

For anyone who appreciates visiting the culture of the early sixties, this film is must-see viewing. Later, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan would assume the mantle of sweet rom-com stars in the nineties.
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Novitiate (2017)
8/10
A Strongly Acted Drama
8 June 2019
People sometimes ask what the difference is between a religion and a cult. Defining the difference is not always easy. But this is a film that lends itself to such an analysis. An abundance of ritualism certainly might be a hallmark of a cult. Also, strong dogma and strict rules. Certainly a strong personality at the head of the hierarchy may be an indicator, which is often why we hear the term "cult of personality".

"Novitiate" follows a group of novice nuns, newly devoted to the monastic life, as they struggle to adapt to the spartan regimen. At the head of this house is the Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo), a woman dedicated to traditions that may no longer be Vatican-approved. She rules with absolute authority over her novices and seems to relish the harsher aspects of the lifestyle.

The camera focuses on Sister Cathleen (Margaret Qualley, daughter of Andie MacDowell. You may also see her in "Fosse/Verdon".) Her role may remind some of Audrey Hepburn's role in "The Nun's Story", but "Novitiate" has a harder edge, mostly due to the Reverend Mother.

The acting is strong and believable. Even if you have no particular interest in Catholic doctrine, it is easy to identify with the young women who choose to undergo such radical changes in their lives. The illusion that they forgo ownership of free will, is just that-an illusion. But at some point, willful subservience to authority comes very close to a loss of free will. And this creates a struggle for some of the novitiates. This is central to the drama of the film. Likewise, it asks us to consider the mental health aspects of the willful sacrifice of one's ego and freedom.
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Tacoma FD: Old Flame (2019)
Season 1, Episode 7
8/10
Flirty And Fun With A Side Of Mayo
30 May 2019
Gotta love the clever reference to "Blade Runner"!
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6/10
Some Excellent Performances In Dated Vehicles
24 May 2019
When Gus Van Sant directed a remake of Alfred Hitchcock's classic "Psycho", line for line, edit for edit, it was widely panned, and achieved an IMDb rating of 4.6 versus the original's 8.5. How could that be, given that they were nearly identical? Clearly, Van Sant saw his remake as a tribute to Hitchcock's mastery and an exercise in painstaking recreation that would focus attention on Hitch's artistic choices. Still, many viewers thought it was insulting; others saw it as a waste of time.

The recreations of episodes from "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons" do contains some artistic choices, but they are few. The scripts are word for word exactly the same as when broadcast so many years before. Some of the lead actors have tried to recreate exact copies of the voices, the gestures, and the delivery of the lines. Yet, the IMDb score for this live television special is 7.9---exactly the average of the scores given to the two original television series. Why is that?

For one thing, live performances are a different animal. The recent spate of live television recreations of hit films and plays has been entertaining and interesting. Part of the interest comes from the immediacy of live television. But this is a tribute to producer Norman Lear, so some viewers might be registering their admiration for the man. And others might be signaling approval of the scripts.

If these recreations were actual series in today's markets, they would fail miserably. Though some have maintained they are just as relevant today as when they first aired, they are dated. And the artful recreation of Archie Bunker still lacks the authenticity of Carrol O'Connor's performance.

One of the best things about these series was that they showed equally the racial and class biases of both Archie Bunker and George Jefferson. But they featured hamfisted humor lacking nuance. Their simplified versions of complex issues served to dumb down topics of conversation that could have been more useful. As such, they perpetuated stereotypes as much as they sought to abolish them.

The highlight of this special was Jennifer Hudson's performance of the theme song from "The Jeffersons". The uncanny performances of Jamie Foxx, Woody Harrelson, and especially Marisa Tomei are also worthy of mention.
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7/10
Cinematic Fun And Games
22 May 2019
Lorenzo Charlton (Tony Randall) is an IRS agent from the city (Baltimore) who does things by the book. He is sent to audit a farmer known as Pop Larkin (Paul Douglas), who has never filed a tax return. Charlton, who is dubbed "Charlie" by the affable Larkin clan, should be impervious to the good-natured disposition of his target, but the Larkins have a secret weapon---their wholesome daughter, Mariette (Debbie Reynolds).

Randall's Charlie is cut from the same cloth as Felix Unger, but he's less neurotic. His life is governed by rules and laws and orderliness. But he is no match for the charms of Mariette, or the Larkin family as a whole, who live a life of gentle harmony with nature and their neighbors. Their only rule is the Golden Rule. And they have little use for money or taxes, since they use barter in most transactions. This is a challenge for Charlie, who tries to monetize their bartering history.

"The Mating Game" belongs to the same romantic comedy genre as the Doris Day/Rock Hudson films, which also featured Tony Randall. This is pure entertainment. The odd coupling of Randall and Reynolds works well, which should be no surprise. This film is fashioned from fluff and slapstick, and they are two of the best comedic actors of their time and are very adept at physical humor.
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9/10
The Warrin' Warriners
19 May 2019
Cary Grant reportedly had little faith in this film, and wanted to quit the project, but it came to garner six Oscar nominations and earned the Best Director statuette for director Leo McCarey.

Thanks to McCarey, "The Awful Truth" is a comedy gem. With a running time of only 1.5 hours, it is packed with funniness. This is due in large part to McCarey's sense of comedy, his ability to retain control over the editing process, and the way he improved the script throughout filming. Also, it certainly didn't hurt that he had worked with Laurel and Hardy, whose physical style of humor translates well on Cary Grant. For another example of his comedy chops, check out "Ruggles of Red Gap".

Grant plays Jerry Warriner, husband to Lucy Warriner (Irene Dunne). They have a breezy, free-wheeling marriage that heads for divorce when they suspect each other of indiscretions. They go to court to determine custody of the dog, Mr. Smith (Skippy, who most viewers will recognize as Asta in "The Thin Man") then go their separate ways. Except they somehow keep bumping into each other.

Despite Grant's misgivings about the production, he is his usual, charming self. Dunne is delightful in return. In one scene, she pretends to be Jerry's uncultured sister as a means of embarrassing him before a genteel assemblage. Watching the two of them together is like watching a master class in comedy---under the expert tutelage of Mr. McCarey, of course.

Ralph Bellamy plays an Oklahoma oilman and rancher who has the expressive personality of a cowboy in a drawing room. Alexander D'Arcy plays Armand, Lucy's suggestively suave vocal instructor. And Cecil Cunningham is Lucys' Aunt Patsy, who tries to help the couple steer a sensible course through the stormy waters of matrimonial disunion. Bellamy and Dunne received Oscar nominations.
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10/10
A Teen Classic By John Hughes
13 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
It has been opined that "The Breakfast Club" is the best of John Hughes' teen flicks. The others---"Sixteen Candles", "Pretty in Pink", "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", and "Some Kind of Wonderful"---deal with similar themes, but they follow more conventional story arcs.

In "The Breakfast Club" five students spend eight hours together in the high school library for an all-day detention. On Saturday. During that time, they are forced, by proximity, to interact and to better understand each other.

When they first enter the library, they are strangers. Though they attend the same school, they are separated by cliques and class. Hughes uses various methods in his wonderful script to make them or allow them to see beyond the boundaries of peer pressure and group conformity.

When we first meet them, we think we know them, based upon outward appearances and our own personal experiences. When I attended high school, there was a girl who was athletic, attractive and who always had a smile on her face. She was a cheerleader, which contributed to her popularity. Years after high school, I had the opportunity to get to know her personally and I discovered that she had a home life that was far from idyllic, it not dysfunctional. She dealt with stresses that belied her confident, seemingly happy, behavior.

In this film, director and writer Hughes shows us the realities behind the facades. He uses a number of techniques in the process. First, the students are united in their opposition to the adult authority figure that is Mr. Vernon (Paul Gleason), who is charged with maintaining order. He is an obnoxious martinet, so it is easy for the kids to form a bond through their dislike of him. Eventually, they become complicit in defying his authority.

The main way Hughes moves the story, creates tension, and reveals (and bonds) the students is through the character of John Bender (Judd Nelson), the sarcastic, anti-establishment rebel who likes to shock. Seemingly, he brings no lunch for the day. Nelson handles this central role with aplomb. Surprisingly, we find that he is probably the most intelligent person in the group. In later life he might become an artist, always offering a critical eye, challenging conventions. But for now he exhorts raw emotions and pushes the exposition of the story. At one point, he sacrifices himself for the group, further bonding them.

Other methods used in the script to bond the five are one-on-one conversations, whistling in unison, music and dance (used as catharsis), smoking marijuana, exploring the contents of purses and wallets, and, eventually, group conversations.

Claire (Molly Ringwald) is the well-connected social butterfly. She is popular and virginal. She brings sushi for lunch in a bento box.

Andrew (Emilio Estevez) is the jock. Like a white knight, he is a winner who stands up for principles. He and Claire can socialize, because they dwell in the upper strata of school society. He's a wrestler, and his large lunch is an abundance of calories

Allison (Ally Sheedy) is the most mysterious of the group. An anti-social loner who rarely speaks, she seems to exist in her own inner world. Her lunch is obviously self-made, consisting of a sugar sandwich she constructs from Pixy Stix and Cap'n Crunch.

Brian (Michael Anthony Hall) is the nerd, the straight A student, the college-bound square with no game. He has a fake ID so he can vote. For lunch, he has a thermos of soup, a PB&J sandwich and apple juice.

We also meet Carl, the custodian, who upsets expectations by demonstrating that he is observant, philosophical, and capable of social commentary. He says he is the "eyes and ears of this institution."

As the hours go by, we learn that Bender has an abusive home life, Claire has parents who don't care about her or each other, Andrew is bullied by his father to achieve athletic goals, and Brian brought a gun to school due to academic pressures. Most pathetic of all, Allison is spending her Saturday in detention because she had nothing better to do. She is also a compulsive liar and a kleptomaniac.

Each of the students, like all adolescents, is struggling for self-identification. And an understanding of sexual roles and mores. And how to deal with the pressures of conformity. In the end, they realize that peer pressure will continue to affect them when they return to school on Monday. But they wonder will their new-found friendships continue.

One of the best scenes is when Allison, transformed by a makeover from Claire, presents herself without her face being covered by her untamed hair, and becomes vulnerable. Though she is fearful of their responses to her new face, she is hopeful. On Monday, will she remain that way?

There is never a group hug, but bonds are formed and we see, in various ways, that promises are made. We are left wondering what the new week will bring for the five who found that "We're all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it."

Hughes weaves a complex tale of discovery that rings true and will not go out of fashion for a long time.
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8/10
Another John Hughes Classic
13 May 2019
"Some Kind of Wonderful" might best be described as a feel-good romance. Written by John Hughes, it follows his teen genre triumvirate---"Sixteen Candles", "The Breakfast Club" and "Pretty in Pink"---as well as the teen cult favorite "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". I remember attending its first release and being surprised that there were few viewers. Perhaps if Molly Ringwald had agreed to star, it would have found more success. Nevertheless, it has a loyal fan base

Mary Stuart Masterson ("Benny & Joon") plays the part of Watts, a tomboy with an unrequited love for her best friend, Keith, played by Eric Stoltz ("Mask"). But Keith only has eyes for Amanda Jones, played by Lea Thompson ("Howard the Duck"). Most of John Hughes' teen films are about romance and class distinctions, and this film is no exception. He places peer pressure, cultural norms and class expectations in opposition to the feelings and desires of individuals, who yearn to break free to express their inner desires.

An excellent cast and generous contemporary music tracks help to make this film very enjoyable. Its ending feels like vindication. Hughes wanted to "correct" the ending of "Pretty in Pink".

Watts is the nexus of the action and the center of conflict. She says "...this is 1987. Girls can be whatever they want to be." At the same time, what she wants most is to be loved and seen as a romantic ideal. Keith is an artist, so he sees love in tender, romantic terms. In a memorable scene, he unveils his portrait of Amanda. As seen through his eyes, she is a wistful, pensive woman. Through his love, she is transformed into a better version of herself.

The film is an exposition on romantic love that both teens and adults can identify with. Though set in the superficial world of adolescents searching for acceptance, it champions eternal values that everyone can recognize.
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The Orville: The Road Not Taken (2019)
Season 2, Episode 14
10/10
A Wonderful Gift
7 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The last episode left us with a clue that the timeline had changed due to the time travel of Kelly 2. When she walked onscreen in this episode, it brought a huge smile to my face, I know. It's like someone promises to fulfill you greatest wish for a birthday gift and you want to believe...and then there it is, But this is even better because the gift (the plot) is a surprise.

The timeline of Kelly 2 is different from the preceding episodes of "The Orville". We find it's a bold departure with galactic consequences. The only way to "correct" the Kelly 2 timeline is to travel through time again. The time travel paradoxes and riddles that come with this episode are numerous and forbidding, so it's best to ride the narrative wave and enjoy. They can be puzzled over later.

This is one of my favorite episodes ever, for any series, if only for the chutzpah it takes to subvert the conventions of the series' narrative. If they want to amaze me even more, they can use the existence of this alternate narrative in a future episode, even if it's something small. Like maybe Kelly's memory wipe left her with one fragment of a memory that results in a change in the original timeline, even if it's insignificant. Even more impressive would be a substantial memory that has greater consequences.
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Nobody's Fool (1994)
9/10
Newman Leaves Me Wanting A Sequel That Can Never Be
6 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
A film starring Paul Newman and Jessica Tandy sounds like a sure bet, but I found the early sections of this film unsatisfying. They told the story of an unfocused, meritless individual (Paul Newman as Sully) who lives in a dirty little town that prosperity has passed over. The other characters of the town seem to live similarly disordered lives. The town of Bath feels like a dysfunctional congregation of eccentric misfits living quotidian, if quirky, lives.

But this slice-of-life film gradually morphs into a story of redemption and tenderness. The first pivotal scene is the poker game, where Sully surprisingly sits quite comfortably with characters he is at odds with, or even feuding with. Something deeper is at play.

Sully steals the snow blower of Carl Roebuck (Bruce Willis)-his part-time employer who may owe him back wages, and whom he is suing for a knee injury. Carl steals it back. They talk about it in passing. This is a good-natured game between them, not a war. Sully enters Carl's house unannounced, like he does the other houses in town. The entire village has a tacit understanding that they are all family and, though they might squabble like family members, they care.

When Sully's son returns to town for the holidays, Sully is forced to focus on his admitted failures as a parent-abandonment and neglect. It is hard going when he tries to forge tentative relationships with the estranged son and his grandson.

As in "It's a Wonderful Life" and "A Christmas Carol", Sully is shown what his existence means to those around him. Instead of an intervention by an angel, on Christmas he is confined to the jail. When he is released a few days later, he finds that his absence has negatively affected others. He then understands he does have a functional family and the obligations of a parent. And he realizes that his caring for them fulfills a need in him. (Even as Phil Connors finds his role as caregiver in "Groundhog Day".)

The ultimate test of Sully's dedication to his newly-recognized responsibilities is the temptation of Toby (Melanie Griffith), Carl's neglected wife, who comes to him with a plan for escape to a tropical paradise of sunshine and sexual fantasy. Sully, the habitual dreamer who has always waited for the day his trifecta would come in, finds he cannot leave those who depend on him. By the end of the film, Sully has transformed and has come to accept his place in the order of things. The final scenes are touching.

Also recommended is the miniseries "Empire Falls", also adapted from a novel by Richard Russo and featuring Paul Newman.
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8/10
Circumstantial Providence
2 May 2019
Warning: Spoilers
With a script that Hitchcock could sink his teeth into, "Cause for Alarm!" is a black and white drama that starts calmly, then escalates to hysterics---all on a neat residential street, where neighbors share recipes and middle class dreams.

In a voice-over, housewife Ellen Jones (Loretta Young) tells us that this will be the worst day of her life. So we have been forewarned. And she contributes voice-over after voice-over throughout the film---something Hitch would not have allowed, and the single glaring error in this otherwise tightly wrapped suburban tale.

Ellen's husband, George (Barry Sullivan) is confined to bed with a heart ailment. She is solicitous to his every need. A flashback explains how they met and how his best friend became his physician. The doctor is worried about a sudden darkness in George's frame of mind. Actually, George's mental condition has deteriorated into a delusional paranoia.

The story is populated with small-town shlubs and All American prototypes, like the next door neighbor who tends to her yard and the kid on the tricycle who wears a holster and a cowboy hat, like all boys did. And there is the know-it-all aunt and the postman who always complains. When Ellen becomes entangled in a stressful and seemingly unsolvable situation, these other characters become potential witnesses, and they assume menacing proportions.

The tension is ratcheted up very effectively in the final scenes. Hitchcock might have added a ticking clock, but it is not necessary, as the viewer can really feel the frantic focus of Ellen's mind, thanks to excellent acting by Loretta Young. She is the linchpin of the entire story and she gives a solid performance. We can all understand her exasperation with the red tape of bureaucracy, so her frustration draws us into her emotional meltdown.

The viewer still retains some objectivity, so we also feel some frustration because Ellen, caught up in her personal nightmare, fails to see that she could stop her cascading chain of horrible events by using honesty. The final scene is reminiscent of the surprise ending of "War of the Worlds", an inventive twist.
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9/10
A Great Script That Entertains
30 April 2019
Warning: Spoilers
A displacement in time and space transports a younger iteration of Kelly to the Orville. The effect seems irreversible. As a result, the crew and the younger Kelly (K') are presented with a number of problems. Ed decides to withhold nothing from K', even telling her about the history of his relationship with Kelly during the last seven years.

This is an excellent script, exploring questions of morality and psychology through a sci-fi lens. My first thought was: would both Kellys learn from each other? They do, and the contrast between the two Kellys helps Ed gain a wiser perspective on his past and aging.

Maybe younger viewers don't appreciate the technical achievement of seamlessly presenting two Kellys on screen simultaneously, but I really enjoyed the way they played with that. And I enjoyed watching Adrianne Palicki create a second character through nuanced acting.

Near the end of the episode, a solution is devised which reveals an intertemporal timeline that had existed from the beginning. The "petty pace" of quotidian living has been hijacked.

The final scene points to an unexpected development that should have ramifications----even if only minor---for later episodes. I hope the writers use this opportunity to surprise us with another inspired story.
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7/10
Revenge Is Never A Straight Line
28 April 2019
Quentin Tarantino is certainly a cinephile's director. Many of the reviews that gut this film laud his abilities and his other works. An undeniably distinctive auteur, Tarantino is often criticized for self-indulgence, but that is what makes each of his works feel like a monument to a vision.

"Kill Bill" feels like a schoolboy's dream about an unstoppable protagonist who faces impossible odds. Take Bruce Lee's "Enter the Dragon", infuse it with the stylistic sensibilities of anime, and accent it with pop culture references, especially some strong musical numbers. The result is a personal saga that is the stuff of mythology.

Uma Thurman is the nameless protagonist who virtually rises from the dead to seek a vengeance of desolation and mutilation. A perfect blade is fashioned for her mission, and it amplifies her lethality. Thurman gives a multi-leveled performance full of emotion and cold determination. She faces some strong adversaries and their minions, and she suffers through the terrible toll of her quest.

Stylistically, KB plays with slo-mo, bold colors, silhouettes, and "Crouching Tiger" physics. Tarantino uses angles and viewpoints effortlessly.

In one of the film's best moments, Thurman faces off against Lucy Liu, circling to the strains of Santa Esmerelda's introduction to "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"---one of the greatest dance tracks of all time. In a less subtle scene, she takes to the dance floor in a break-dance killing frenzy to "Nobody But Me" by the Human Beinz.

A major question for each viewer is: how much gore is too much? Tarantino never shies from depicting carnage and dismemberment. In fact, he glorifies it in this film which, for my sensibilities, is an unnecessary distraction and a tasteless extravagance. In one scene he creates a literal bloodbath (bath of blood). Consequently, this film is not for everyone.
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8/10
Gather Ye Rosebuds
28 April 2019
Two patriarchs are contrasted. One is a pillar of society and president of a bank. The other lives in relative poverty and spends his life creating moments of personal happiness. This film unnecessarily places the two men in opposition, but it's an expected construct given the common belief that the two viewpoints are mutually exclusive and constantly at battle.

Edward Arnold is banker Anthony P. Kirby. He plays Kirby with a veneer of gruffness that allows viewers to see the man beneath. His performance is a kindness that adds nuance and complexity to the man whose world is about to be challenged. Lionel Barrymore is Martin Venderhof, a man who has assembled an enclave of artists and dreamers around himself because he believes that love is the greatest currency. Barrymore's performance is also nuanced. The script allows both men to occupy their universes without an excess of speechmaking or exaggerating.

Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur are the star-crossed lovers at the nexus of the two disparate families. They truly seem to be in love and they keep the focus on their relationship. Though the script may be a little sloppy at times, the story itself is the driving force in this film, not to be overshadowed by any one character.

Capra directs with an eye to magnifying the common man and, once again, accomplishes his task. It would be difficult to argue against the film's Oscar wins for Best Picture and Best Director in 1938.
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9/10
Thanos Is Coming
25 April 2019
I have not seen all 21 films in the story arc that serves as the background for this penultimate episode in the MCU series that will soon culminate in "Avengers: Endgame". Seeing those films could only help, but it is not necessary. A general knowledge of the Marvel characters is probably enough to enjoy this wonderful spectacle.

A complex villain named Thanos is determined to collect all six of the infinity stones, which would give him nearly infinite power. An extraordinarily large cast of Marvel superheroes combines forces to stop him. CGI is used in abundance to create a non-stop display of environments and conflicts.

Like other Marvel films, the production relies on three major cornerstones to create an enjoyable experience:

1. Comedy is used to offset the heavy emotional elements of the film. Sometimes this is achieved by juxtaposing grandiose speech with commonplace speech, often employing pop culture references.

2. Suspension of disbelief is required in large doses to allow the writers to manipulate the epic elements of the story for conflict and dramatic effect.

3. Larger-than-life environments are used for their wow factor.

"Infinity War" has these three elements in spades. The plot requires our heroes to overcome nearly impossible odds, say 1 in 14,000,605. Disparate factions of the Marvel superheroes collection are introduced to each other in an all out battle. The film ends with the ultimate cliffhanger, especially considering that Marvel promises a grand conclusion that will reset Marvel's future forever.
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Fosse/Verdon (2019)
9/10
A Complex Collaboration Deconstructed
18 April 2019
Partly due to the non-linear timeline of this series, I think it helps if the viewer is familiar with the work of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon. My introduction came during the Broadway run of "Dancin' ", the amazing dance revue that inspired my love of Broadway, musical theater, and the style of Bob Fosse.

After watching the first two episodes, I am pleasantly surprised, due especially to the performance by Michelle Williams (Verdon). She seems to embody Verdon, even to the point that any issues I have with her representation of the dancing are merely quibbles. She conveys the nuances of the Fosse dance mannerisms and the subtleties of a woman who led a confused life under the influence of the infuriating Fosse.

Sam Rockwell delivers a convincing depiction of Fosse. I prefer it to the Roy Scheider portrayal in "All That Jazz". Rockwell's Fosse is meticulous, quiet, emotionally distant and possessing a ruthless honesty that manages to betray him when personal relationships get tough.

The show demonstrates the unique language of dance and style that Verdon and Fosse shared. Fosse had an addictive personality, so it is no surprise that their relationship revolved around the muse-meal ticket disjunction. Other productions have focused on a woman's love for a flawed man. "Fosse/Verdon" tells the same story and is quite believable. She clearly loves him more than he loves himself.

As with the TV show "Smash", I love the behind the scenes look at the creative processes and the personality conflicts.

Watch for Paul Reiser as Cy Feuer. In upcoming episodes, I am looking forward to the portrayal of Ann Reinking, among others.
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Million Dollar Mile (2019– )
6/10
Lacking Suspense
17 April 2019
At its core, this is a competition between two athletes, with one getting a two minute head start. Given the disparity in the quality of the athletes, probably few will get past the first obstacle.

I would like to celebrate those who dedicate themselves to superior fitness and performance, but I think this show needs more suspense. Maybe if they gave them a four minute lead? Or more?
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Tacoma FD (2019– )
6/10
It's On Like Michelle Kwan!
9 April 2019
This comedy series is built on "guy humor", which means you can expect to see guys behaving like boys and guys behaving unlike women, though that description is very generalizing. I appreciate the fact that an "explicit" version is offered; it more closely resembles reality even though some of the humor is over the top.

This is not a serious depiction of firefighting or law enforcement. A fire department setting allows for a boys club atmosphere that is ripe for comedy. If you like "Home Improvement"---another show about guys being guys---you may like this show, too.
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7/10
A Colorful Gem
8 April 2019
Keats famously wrote, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty" but that relationship between truth and beauty is not the one explored here.

A maker of eyewear is commissioned to create a lens with magical properties. It is purchased by the Grand Duke for his personal amusement. Later, the craftsman creates another lens which allows one to see a completely different view of the world-a view that is contrary to the first lens'. This is a morality tale that packs few surprises. In fact, it is heavy-handed in making its point, but this is still a gem due to the film's color format and its fresh naivete.

A sequence simulating harpistry serves as a brief distraction, but overall this is an enjoyable watch for children and adults.

The plot of this 21 minute film would make a good episode of "The Twilight Zone".
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Growing Up Chrisley (2019– )
6/10
Go West Young Chrisley
6 April 2019
If you hate "Chrisley Knows Best", then avoid this show. It is more of the same. But if you enjoy CKB, you will probably enjoy further escapades punctuated by the acerbic Chrisley wit. This new incarnation features the two millennial siblings, accompanies by their Nanny Fay.

The disparity between the prototypical southern POV and the prototypical California viewpoint could offer opportunities for humor.
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Father Knows Best: The Good Prospect (1956)
Season 3, Episode 14
10/10
One Of The Best
1 April 2019
One of the best episodes of this series, it features excellent acting and a nuanced storyline that comes at true love from an original angle. The actors who play the older husband and wife feel like they have been married for decades.
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The Magicians: All That Hard, Glossy Armor (2019)
Season 4, Episode 10
9/10
Beautiful Dreamer
29 March 2019
As I write this, this episode is rated 8.6---and deservedly so. Adding music is just plain fun and it scratches the itch from the earlier Bowie bit.
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The Orville: Lasting Impressions (2019)
Season 2, Episode 11
10/10
MacFarlane Addresses A Classic Theme With Fresh Eyes
25 March 2019
You can tell this episode was written by Seth, himself. It is based upon the film "Laura" (1943) starring Dana Andrews. Like the film, this episode is about a character falling in love with a woman he has never met, as he investigates her life. When the crew finds a time capsule from 2015, Gordon creates a hologram program utilizing the contents of a cell phone that was owned by a young woman named Laura Huggins (cf. Laura Hunt in the film). Virtual reality becomes Gordon's reality as the episode explores the differences, if any, between objective truth, subjective truth, and virtual truth.

What a joy to watch a story that is intelligent and challenging. And romantic! In the end, Gordon must decide which truth he will embrace, leading to a beautiful denoument. Those who enjoy this episode should check out the classic film and another film that plays with the same theme, "Sharkey's Machine" starring Burt Reynolds.
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