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Bogus Hip Hop Musical Becomes Bogus Film.
Were they really going to release this abomination to theaters? It's 2hrs40mins long with intermission but, I gave up after 40 minutes! The staging and choreography resemble a high school production; it's relentlessly busy and completely empty. It's a filmed record of an over-hyped, over-priced Broadway musical featuring an undistinguished score in which all the songs sound alike and are equally trite. Hamilton played to sold out audiences and garnered a lot of a media attention yet it didn't produce a single notable song. The costumes are authentic enough and some of the voices are good but, posturing replaces acting and the result is instantly forgettable. As Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda is just adequate; he is weak in both voice and stage presence. Hamilton is not worth your time. Time will be kinder to our founding fathers than to Hamilton, which will not be revived decade after decade like West Side Story, Chicago, Cabaret, The Sound of Music and Gypsy. The streamed version which has sparked outrage is a recording of 3 stage performances edited together and is only nominally a movie.
Da 5 Bloods (2020)
What D....is going on!?
Middle class, armchair revolutionary Spike Lee has made a didactic, bombastic and ultimately frustrating film that like Summer of Sam, Bamboozled and Chi-Raq feels out of control. Do the Right Thing had a strong directorial vision, She's Gotta Have It was an enjoyable and accomplished low budget film and after a cliched start, Malcolm X took hold but, many of his subsequent films suggest that he's a one-trick pony and his talent falls short of his ambition. Da... is scattered, and discursive and seems less directed than thrown together. It's main characters, constantly in conflict with one other, become tiresome making the 2.5 hour running time feel punishing. Chaotic and unfocused, this film resembles the current BLM movement.
Once upon a Time in Hollywoke
Despite a running time of almost 6 hours, this series feels rushed. Events involving careers, relationships and significant social change occur with lightening speed. It mashes together almost every cliche about Hollywood that you've ever seen or heard and right from the start the dialog features such standards as " a dime a dozen" and "just another pretty face". Hollywood relentlessly hammers home the same points over and over where transactional sex is just a matter of routine and alcohol use is non stop.. There is little sense of real or reel life here. Holland Taylor, Joe Mantello and Michelle Krusiec (Anna May Wong) manage to suggest actual human beings, but most of the cast is rather dull and unmemorable. The ostensible lead David Corenswet was more effective in a smaller role in The Politician, and Jack Castello as Rock Hudson maintains the same expression throughout. The portrayals of Hudson, Tallulah Bankhead, Vivien Leigh and Noel Coward are unconvincing and insulting to their memories. Though watchable, Hollywood never approaches the level of it's so bad it's good or even rises to the level of entertaining camp though Jim Parsons tries hard with his dance of the 7 veils. The scattered script, breathless pace and character overload makes it hard to sort it all out or really care. And what's up with the appearance of Eleanor Roosevelt?
Long Shot (2019)
45 going on 15
A premise that sounds promising for a reasonably sophisticated romantic comedy lacks the wit and attractive people necessary and soon becomes an inferior, less humorous less self-aware There's Something about Mary clone. Rogan and Theron are to be blamed for agreeing to appear in this movie, but the screenplay cheapens everyone and everything it touches without a trace of originality or charm to say nothing of logic or character development. Long Shot is shockingly just another tasteless comedy of, for, by and about adults with arrested development and is no better ultimately than the dreadful, pointless, unfunny comedies starring unfunny, unattractive SNL alumni that I wouldn't waste more than 5 minutes watching on HBO!
After a while, this well acted, directed and photographed low key thriller becomes so frustratingly illogical that I had to restrain myself from yelling at the screen: "Call the police already!" To say, "It's only a movie" doesn't help here. The plot strands involving Frances' (Moretz) roommate, her father, the detective he hires as well the police and Frances' co workers at the restaurant never mesh the way they should leaving the characters on the screen stranded in individual and collective stupidity. The film becomes limited in it's scope and finally rather dull and uninteresting. Like Bird Box, A Quiet Place and Velvet Buzzsaw, you'll probably stick around to see how it all ends while enumerating all of the things that are simply unbelievable or never explained making you feel superior to what unreels. Not the best way to view a movie. Isabel Huppert would be memorable if only the screenplay were better and had characters who were less negligible and ineffectual especially Steve Rhea's detective and Frances herself. On a viewing scale, Greta is less odious and tedious than "It" or "Hereditary", but it is not by any means a must see.
The Other Side of the Wind (2018)
The maker of the estimable The Magnificent Ambersoms, Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil and Falstaff has made a rambling, self-indulgent student film sans interesting dialog, characterization, conflict, momentum or purpose. The film is disorienting and uninviting from the start and it never really becomes a film; it feels like an assemblage of outtakes, and tedium sets in after 30mins. Except for John Huston's familiar persona, none of the actors or non actors register; they seem cramped and uncertain. Oja Kodar, Welles'
attractive companion, and Bob Random are uninteresting in the barren film within a film also titled The Other Side of the Wind which appears to be
a critique of European art films especially Antonnioni and Zabriskie Point, but it's less interesting and more pretentious than what it parodies. Watch They'll Love Me When I'm Dead instead; it has more to say about Welles and filmmaking than The Other Side of the Wind and a better title to boot!
A Star Is Born (2018)
Overrated, underwhelming and unnecessary!
The film peaks in the first twenty minutes and then becomes trite, perfunctory, uninvolving. Everyone seems to be just going through the motions in this under-imaginative 4th version of the material with mostly acceptable performances but, there is nothing to recommend this film. The conflict between the 2 leads becomes predictable and tiresome and though less repellent than the 1976 version with Barbra Strident, it's actually less vivid. Cooper's direction is thoroughly undistinguished; it's overlong and the second half really drags.
One of the worst films that...
I ever sat through in a theater. Borrowing elements from The Witch, The Conjuring and Paranormal Activity to name just a few, Hereditary is excruciatingly slow, and obvious from the start. The film is largely limited to 2 settings: a modern rustic home where no one ever bothers to turn on a light, and a classroom complete with a teacher droning in the background and disinterested teenagers. There are no supporting characters, save for one, of any note or consequence. The acting is one-note and grating, and Gabriel Byrne's character is annoyingly and unbelievably feckless. What it all means is never explained, and the ending comes as a relief. Judy Collins singing Both Sides Now during the credits provokes snarky laughter; the feeling the whole film is just a big joke.
Risky Business (1983)
Compared to The Graduate in several reviews, Risky Business is an initially enjoyable, cynical teenage fantasy that is ultimately disappointing as it quickly runs out of original ideas and becomes highly, and frustratingly, improbable with everything working out too perfectly in the end. Tom Cruise has never been more appealing, and the famous scene where he dances in his underwear is still a highlight, but his character becomes exasperating especially when he leaves the hooker alone in his parents house not once, but twice the easier for her to rob him blind. De Mornay's hooker is pretty, but unlikable and she and Cruise have no real chemistry; their sex scenes have no heat and
I wish Joel hadn't rescued her from her pimp: they deserve one another. After a while you wonder why he doesn't call the police to get rid of her and her friend and Guido the pimp. And wouldn't the police show up during the wild house party with cars jamming the street and a truck delivering a bed in the middle of the night! This in the same affluent Chicago suburb that was the setting of Ordinary People. The film has an unearned reputation as some sort of classic, but even with superior production values for this genre Risky Business is only a better than average teen comedy which is saying very little.
Carnal Knowledge (1971)
Despite it's subject matter, Carnal Knowledge directed by Mike Nichols from a script by cartoonist Jules Feiffer is a dud without a single likable or really interesting character. Nicholson's grating, Bergen lame and simpering, Ann-Margret more tiresome than the role calls for and non-actor Art Garfunkal keeps his head above water more or less. In support, a worn looking Rita Moreno has a good bit as a prostitute, Carol Kane cast for her freakish appearance says nothing and Cynthia O'Neal is repellently smug. Nichols' film is a series of cartoon panels with no sense of any life surrounding the characters. Nichols appears to have been influenced by the films of Bergman and Antonioni though he lacks their brilliance. The result is a dim view of human relationships that is unpleasant and pointless.
Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele has made a smoothly entertaining and smart thriller out of material familiar from The Stepford Wives, Seconds, Night of the Living Dead and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The film doesn't have an original bone in its body, but it's lively, funny and discomfiting nonetheless and it provides a few pleasurable jolts while nimble direction and an able cast compensate for the plot's predictability. In Get Out the buildup is ultimately more satisfying and memorable than the payoff and the revelations feel rushed and somewhat murky. And though the finale is done with admirable restraint in the gore department, Get Out cries out for a better, more original and thought-provoking conclusion. A good, but somewhat disappointing film considering all the hype and though it's superior to Don't Breathe and Split, it isn't original or distinctive enough to be a classic, but just good enough to warrant a viewing or two.
The Boys from Brazil (1978)
The Bores from Brazil
Expensively produced adaptation of Ira Levin's novel is a combination of Marathon Man and The Omen. The Boys from Brazil should have been intense and gripping, but it's weighed down by a convoluted plot spanning the globe with too many characters whose function is to provide exposition. Franklin J. Schaffner who often helmed large scale productions: Patton, Pappilion, The Planet of the Apes, Nicholas and Alexandria is a plodding director and this material needs a visionary. The film is watchable with some effective scenes and performances, and a sweeping score to carry it, but the sluggish pace makes it a long 2 hours. Jeremy Black is amusing as the boys from Brazil, Uta Hagen is memorably intense, and Olivier in role that provided him with his final Oscar nomination is basically repeating his Marathon Man performance. And though I enjoyed Peck playing the bad guy, George C. Scott who was originally cast might have provided a terrifying powerhouse of a villain that would have ignited this film.
4 mosche di velluto grigio (1971)
2 stars for 4 Flies
Four Flies on Grey Velvet like most of Dario Argento's films has striking music, editing, and cinematography, but it is confusing, talky, aimless and slow moving. The main character played by a dull Michael Brandon responds to the situation he's got himself into with only mild concern and considerable stupidity. The actions of various supporting characters make little sense as well, and except for a few well-done Hitchcock-inspired scenes, the film is not gripping and you don't really care about the fate of its characters. It's rather unpleasant and pointless like the repeated shot of a beheading that foreshadows the film's arbitrary ending. The film contains a number of Argento's trademarks, but it lacks pace, and the plot lacks shape and cohesiveness. Like DePalma at his worst, Argento spends most of his energy on a few set pieces.
The World of Suzie Wrong!
Dated, pointless and dull with one particularly fatal flaw; the leads have no chemistry. Jennifer Jones and William Holden are usually attractive and appealing, but they have no characters to play and their scenes together are dull, awkward and unpersuasive. The romance never ignites despite the ever present title tune. The dialog is too explanatory, the word Eurasian is used as insistently as the theme song and the supporting characters are waxworks. Jones and Holden keep going around and around the issue of their relationship with a great deal of running up to the hilltop and looking across the harbor. Filmed on location, the setting never really shapes or has any real effect on the story itself. Shockingly this banal film was nominated for 8 Oscars including Best Picture with film's score and song both winning. Films like this are made to promote understanding, but Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing is more likely to promote a good night's sleep.
What Ever Happened to Pacing and Suspense?
Despite an interesting premise and some enjoyable black comedy, What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? is a tepid thriller that holds the attention thanks to Page and Gordon whose cat-and-mouse game could be memorable were it not for slack pacing, uninspired writing and a weak, poorly staged finale involving warm milk, a sculpture, and a wheelchair that is more laughable than scary. The supporting cast made up of vaguely familiar faces is flat, and they serve no purpose other than to provide tired exposition. At an hour and 41 minutes the material feels stretched-out and the production values of the film, largely confined to one setting, give it a made-for-TV feel. Page's hammy performance is fun and a rather restrained Gordon is immensely likable. Still, the film disappoints. Not as memorable as Baby Jane, but less tedious than Die! Die! My Darling!
Nothing to be Proud Of
Director J Lee Thompson is a long way from Tiger Bay, The Guns of Navarone and Cape Fear with this cheap looking, lurid, would be thriller that could be described as an ABC Movie of the Week channeling soft core porn. Even the reincarnation theme is redolent of those Movies of the Week as is the flat dialog, lack of atmosphere and perfunctory performances by a bland Jennifer O'Neil, a charmless Michael Sarrazin who looks bad or is badly photographed and Cornelia Sharpe who struggles unsuccessfully to make two consecutive syllables sound persuasive. Unpersuasive too is Margot Kidder's make-up. She plays O'Neil's mother and has a scene masturbating in a bathtub that would be at home in any porn film.
The Chalk Garden (1964)
Disney's The Chalk Garden
The names associated with this production are British, but Enid Bagnold's drama has been given the Hollywood treatment with lavish production values courtesy of producer Ross Hunter. Known for Imitation of Life (1959), Madame X (1966), Airport (1970) and the disastrous musical remake of Lost Horizon (1973), Hunter originally had Sandra Dee in mind for the part of Laurel, and Hayley Mills' comes across as wholesome if slightly more troubled than the mischievous Mary Clancy she played in The Trouble with Angels. The film presents flattened out versions of the various odd and eccentric characters that inhabited the play with the result being closer to Disney than Bagnold. Adequate performances from all with Kerr managing to create an air of mystery and complexity that makes the film watchable.
A House Is Not a Home (1964)
A House is not a film
Despite its source, A House Is Not a Home, based on the life of notorious madam Polly Adler, is devoid of insight, conflict, character, pacing or atmosphere. Russell Rouse who directed the camp classic The Oscar is defeated by the script and low budget; there is no sense of period and virtually no exterior scenes. Polly's girls and their clients are the usual assortment of junkies, cops, politicians and gangsters familiar from hundreds of films and television series. The film's theme song by Burt Bacharach and Hal David remains a standard while the film itself is strictly sub standard. It's Raquel Welch's film debut, but she, like Edy Williams, is most visible in the stills that accompany the titles. The unsinkable Winters appeared in a variety of films during the 60s including Lolita, Alfie, A Patch of Blue, Wild in the Streets, The Mad Room, The Balcony, The Scalphunters, Let No Man Write My Epitaph and The Chapman Report, and though she is unconvincing as young Polly, she gives this lackluster film some energy.
Awful, pointless drivel concerning a docile lion let loose in a hotel. Fluffy the lion seems downright bored; he never roars, but rather understandably yawns. Dstributed by Universal on a double bill with That Funny Feeling, Fluffy is a waste of time guaranteed to bore the entire family. Both the title character and the film are devoid of personality, interest and charm. With a cast made up of familiar faces from television it feels like a pilot for a failed sitcom. The favorable user reviews are examples of nostalgia not critical judgment. Fluffy is inferior to other mid 60s family films such as Island of the Blue Dolphins (1964), A High Wind in Jamaica (1964), The Incredible Mr. Limpet(1964), A Boy Ten Feet Tall (1963) and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken(1965) for they were reasonably entertaining, had some semblance of a plot and were tolerable for adults as well. Fluffy was clearly made cheaply and quickly.
The Americanization of Emily (1964)
Thoroughly Endless Emily
Released the same year as Dr. Strangelove, Seven Days in May, Fail Safe and The Best Man, The Americanization of Emily must have seemed dull and conventional even in its day. Arthur Hiller who directed Love Story, Silver Streak, Making Love and The In-Laws is no Kubrick or Frankenheimer; he's an unimaginative, pedestrian director who fared better with The Hospital(1971)also scripted by Paddy Chayefsky which was funny and featured a spectacular performance from George C. Scott. Emily is seemingly endless, wavers in tone, and the two stars are dull together; their love scenes lack genuine passion. Garner is blank and Andrews' clipped speech leaves one chilled. A few interesting ideas and scenes are overwhelmed by a talky script and inert filmmaking. As a whole, the film doesn't compel or hold together.
Victor Victoria (1982)
Victor/Victoria does drag.
Victor/Victoria is a reasonably entertaining film that unfortunately lacks pacing and originality, and preaches to the audience. The cast all have their moments with Warren and Preston being standouts. And like Blake Edwards' The Great Race (1965) it relies too heavily on over-extended slapstick with everything in sight being smashed which becomes tiresome and repetitive. The sets remain sets, and all of the actors except for Andrews are and remain American. Europe in the 30s is not convincingly evoked. The film is too talky and does come off as homosexual propaganda with Andrews lecturing James Garner as well as the audience. Overall, the film feels more like a comedy from the early 60s which was the most prolific period for Edwards, Andrews and Garner. The musical numbers are fine and there is fun to be had, but it's somewhat overrated, overlong and rather forgettable. The film became a Broadway musical directed by Edwards and starring Andrews and it worked better on stage than it does on film.
Ultimo tango a Parigi (1972)
Pass the butter and pass on this film.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this film is the review it elicited from Pauline Kael in the New Yorker. A review which leads one to ask that old question, Did we see the same film? The sex is certainly not erotic. The first encounter, a record-breaking quickie between Paul and Jeanne, is performed fully clothed and can be best described as Wham! Bam! Thank you, M'am. Why Jeanne would find this grieving, middle aged expatriate so compelling and/or attractive must be taken on faith rather than on anything we see or hear. And though Brando's improvised monologues are profane and occasionally funny, at least to the audience, is this how a young Parisian chick preparing to be wed would choose to spend her afternoons, listening to talk about pig farts and vomit? And if so, why? It's like listening to a depressed drunk in a bar. Last Tango is ultimately dreary, tedious and pretentious with artful photography and a bleating jazz score and 2 main characters who are insufficiently explored and who are not interesting apart from one another. The film remains a curiosity, a chance to see a world famous actor and talent exposed though I much prefer Brando in John Huston's Reflections in a Golden Eye. And the ending where Jeanne shoots Paul rather than simply walking away is just as pointless and unconvincing as everything that has come before. And though I put a spoiler alert on this review, I'd say it's Kael's review that spoils the film. What could possibly live up to her description?
The Idol (1966)
Long considered "lost", The Idol is a dreary melodrama starring Michael Parks at his dullest and most charmless, and Jennifer Jones who like Parks seems miscast. Jones replaced Kim Stanley who might have provided some needed intensity. Daniel Petrie who directed Raisin in the Sun (1961) seems unsure of what to do with this flimsy story and its threadbare characters, but picking up the pace would help considerably as would better sound recording. Right from the start the film fails to engage; the characters, situation and setting remain nondescript. One wonders who thought there would be an audience for what feels like standard TV fare. "Lost" or buried? Jones' 1969 cult film Angel, Angel Down We Go aka Cult of the Damned, is wilder, more entertaining and worth discovering.
The Impossible Years (1968)
Just get to "IT"
Perhaps the smuttiest "G"-rated film ever, The Impossible Years is a tiresome, unfunny series of innuendos centering around a father's determination to find out who deflowered his not-yet-18 year old daughter. The girl's idiotic parents cannot conceive that their daughter "may no longer qualify as a spinster" let alone utter words like pregnancy or virginity. This dilemma is treated like a 60s Doris Day movie i.e. a big screen sitcom complete with Ozzie Nelson as an unprofessional medical doctor, a typical Darlene Carr as the kid sister, Medical Center's Chad Everett, and Lola Albright as Donna Reed. Talented Albright has never been worse, just watch Lord, Love a Duck (66), Joy House (63) or A Cold Wind in August (61) to see how misused she is. David Niven playing a psychiatrist who seems in need of counseling cannot make his character's actions palatable. Direction, pacing and purpose don't exist here. And though Christina Ferrare is a decidedly mature and attractive late teen, The Impossible Years is a decidedly immature and unattractive film.
Overly long, pointless, standard issue biopic that doesn't seem to know what to make of Frances Farmer who never was a big film star, but who was apparently a big train wreck, and so is the film. She's portrayed as a victim of the press, the law, the studio, the medical profession and her mother. Hollywood and the world in general appear to exist for the sole purpose of making her life hell. And the sole purpose of the film seems to be to earn an Oscar for Lange playing the victim. Frances is sent to a mental hospital, subjected to shock therapy and Lange is given a series of show downs that has her shrieking at and physically assaulting any and everyone, and though Lange does indeed resemble Farmer, she's largely shrill and one-note making Farmer look like an obnoxious, self righteous, self appointed martyr; a Lindsay Lohan with delusions of grandeur. The film is a dud and Sam Shephard plays a fabricated character who wanders in and out of the proceedings in an attempt to provide an unfocused script with a sense of structure. It's a mess, and the scenes set in the mental institution recall similar scenes in such camp classics as The Caretakers(1963) and Valley of the Dolls (1967). Kim Stanley who plays Frances' mother gave a powerful performance in The Goddess (1958) as a lonely, unloved, unwanted girl who sought fame as a way to escape her emptiness, but discovered Hollywood was not a cure nor as the film had it the cause of her unhappiness. Frances lacks that insight and observation.