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Quoting Roger Ebert: "At least it's not boring."
Really, I wanted to stop watching this tremendously stupid show. Every single episode has several plot holes, blunders, logical laughers, and jarring moments of disbelief. And that doesn't even touch the pseudoscientific nonsense.
But I just couldn't. SURELY the people behind this show were in on the joke. Unfortunately, the cast, crew, directors, and music score seem to be totally straight-faced...in a way that doesn't lead to "Airplane!" type laughs, even though much of it takes place on an airplane.
To quite Roger Ebert regarding his screenplay for "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls"--"It may not be very good, but at least it's not boring."
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)
Takes a while to warm up to, but carries the day
It's hard to win if you're a sequel. Usually such movies fall into 2 categories: Too much like the first one so we've already seen it, and so different from the first one that it has the wrong feel. This particular sequel starts out like the latter, but works its way around to the first one...but in a good way. Frankly, the similarities pretty much save this from being a real stinker.
There are a few nitpicks; first movie featured one guy who had been a heavy metal rocker, a story line that is totally changed in this one, and there are several tunes in the first that are done again here. Also, the flashbacks to Donna's youth are so quickly intercut with Sophie's current day story that it gets confusing in places, especially for those of us old enough to vividly remember when Abba was THE pop band of the day.
Eventually, however, it found its groove and we warmed to it. There are even some really nice moments sprinkled here and there to help you hang on while it does so, which helps make up for approximately the same number of awkward and forced moments (such as Grandma's entrance). All in all, a nice date movie for the middle-aged, with some laughs and feels. It's overall above average, and because it picks up steam as it goes this will leave you thinking it's better than it is.
MAN do I hate to dislike this movie!
There are so many reasons I should love this little picture. It's peaceful, celebrates the dignity of work and relationships, and stars two of our most brilliant performers, Mr. Poitier & Ms. Wiest. And yet I simply found myself shaking my head time and again as the thing rolled on.
Start with the major plot device: A land developer is wanting to buy out Mr. Dearborn's land to build a shopping center. They are willing to pay FAR more than it's worth, up to $750,000! OK, fine, but WHY? Why in the world can these people not do better than this out-of-the-way, undeveloped farm land outside a small town that the developer's advance man himself refers to as "Mayberry RFD"? It makes no sense, yet the entire plot hangs on that. Not only is it never explained, it's never addressed.
And of course the advance man is snaky and, like every single character in the film, we have a full understanding of him from the moment we meet him; cardboard, two-dimensional characters abound, even the title character. Mr. Poitier does well with what he's given, but Mr. Dearborn is a riddle wrapped in an enigma etc., and one that's not very interesting or instructive. You'd figure an ageless man so well loved by so many would have something to recommend him other than his workaholic nature, but wow.
And that's another thing. The mixed messages abound in this film. The land developers are evil because they want to work his land in their way, and they will bring jobs to the small town, but that's evil; however, Mr. Dearborn's work, done with his hands and without electricity, is apparently what has given him such a long, healthy life...and yet he's been unable to touch anyone for decades. Hmm, doesn't sound so healthy after all.
Also, the advance man's name is Christian; Mr. Dearborn, his nemesis, is a carpenter. Huh?! This is all just too weird for words. I found it quite depressing. Another reviewer here commented it's a shame there aren't more movies like this and less that he/she found depressing, like "Fight Club," "American Beauty," and "A Simple Plan." While we agree about American Beauty, the other two are FAR from depressing and are MUCH better movies than this one. Apparently that other reviewer sees movies very superficially and doesn't ponder what's below the surface; when I do so, I find this odd mix of displaced hippie ideals to be thoroughly half-baked and unfocused. These people needed a new script.
For Beauty's Sake (1941)
Before Johnny B Goode, there was Jonny B Sweet
This rarely-seen comedy/mystery has recently turned up on a DVD from oldietv dot com, and I had just recently bought the poster online so felt compelled to pick up the DVD. As expected it's not exactly a Great Film, but is not at all disappointing within those expectations.
The remarkably wooden Ted North plays a cloistered stargazer who inherits his aunt's thriving beauty salon. Ditzy Marjorie Weaver meets him, becomes wildly infatuated, and pulls some strings behind his back to hire unscrupulous publicist Ned Sparks (as Jonathan B. Sweet) to ensure the shop becomes even more successful. As it turns out, not only hairstyles and makeovers are en vogue at the salon, and thereby hangs the tale, though it's rather clumsily told, befitting a rushed low-budget production.
Ned is in fine form, turning this completely B picture into something watchable, but he's not alone. The discovery for me is that his scene stealing is matched by that of Joan Davis, previously known to me only for her equally hilarious turn in 1938's John Barrymore comedy "Hold That Co-Ed," coincidentally also featuring Ms. Weaver.
The DVD cost me $15 plus shipping, but the scene of an oversedated Ned in drag (yes, you read that right) is by itself worth the cost of admission. Absolutely a must-see for fans of the original Squidward, of whom the animated version is of course a mere pale imitation.
The Guilty Generation (1931)
Underrated look behind the scenes of Prohibition's death throes
Having looked at a few of the other reviews here, some of which predictably say this is a "pale imitation of Warner Bros. gangster pictures," I have to chime in with a dissenting opinion. Those more famous films, such as "Little Caesar" and "Public Enemy," with their iconic Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney, respectively, are a whole different type of animal; you're comparing apples and oranges. Those are the seminal action films, bad guy as antihero, cautionary tales about the ultimate end of reckless lawlessness.
"The Guilty Generation" focuses instead on the offspring of two of the biggest crime families involved in bootlegging. While a gang war whirls around the shoulders of Robert Young & Constance Cummings's characters they are trying to get away from the business, while each has a brother who's trying to follow in father's footsteps. Apt comparisons to "Romeo & Juliet" are made, and the similarities extend to the fact that both began life as a play before being made into films.
And that's probably part of the problem movie purists have with TGG. While the aforementioned WB pics are more action-oriented, with lots of shootouts and chases, TGG is more about the internal and intergang politics and the romance. They are also more "talky," which some people have a real problem with. In this case it works, IMO.
Leo Carillo & Boris Karloff play the heads of the families; in keeping with the early '30s, their accents are not accurate (see Jimmy Stewart as a Hungarian in "The Little Shop on the Corner" for one of thousands of examples of worse casting in this regard), but they do well personality-wise in their roles.
Don't overlook the secondary characters, such as Ms. Cummings's excellent Italian grandma and her father's press agent, who provide terrific support and comic relief.
Maybe it's just the fact that this one took me completely by surprise, but I'd rather see it again than any of the aforementioned films or even the more-similar "Godfather" pictures. It avoids the bloody shootouts of the latter, yet has more to do with the human beings affected by the action than the former, and it ultimately shows a prime example of when it's most correct for children to rebel against their parents. An interesting story, well acted, perfectly paced, and with even a couple of nice plot twists. I think it holds up quite well.
Le jazz hot!
I came away with a different slant on this film than the other reviews I've seen here, so let me just say that for 1942 this terrific little love note to jazz is remarkably progressive for its day. While it's true that the plot ultimately leads to the white jazz stars of the early '40s, it is true to the roots of jazz and even includes a scene where an adult black musician calls an adult white musician "boy" and it's clear who's teaching who. This movie is as passionate about hot jazz music as were the people who created it, and it shows.
Also, the plot is not as thin as many such films. It has the production values of an "A" picture, and its three stars were not exactly "B" list talent. It sometimes stretches credulity, but no more so than any other musical, and in fact even less so, considering that the music is an inherent part of the story.
Here's hoping TCM shows this again soon; I'd love to record and keep it, as I doubt an official DVD release is in the offing.
Man Outside (1987)
"I hope you like music!"
I was living in northwest Arkansas at the time this was filmed there, working for a radio station called "Kisser 93," and you can hear one of our DJs briefly in the first couple of minutes of the film. A couple of other area TV/radio guys (Pat Porta & Tom Earnhart) give a good account of themselves in small roles.
I'm glad this is out on DVD. While I very much enjoyed looking back on that place in that time, this isn't exactly a classic. I found Bradford Dillman's work quite good, other than his final scene; he had made a career as a TV guest star playing the handsome but often undependable middle-class guy, and in this film with his bottle-cap glasses he totally got lost in the character. Kathleen Quinlan is always good too.
Other than those performances, however, the quality is very uneven. One of the supporting characters is a (to put it nicely) husky young nerdy college student played by Andrew Barach. It's easy to see why his career in movies was brief; his comedy relief isn't much, although he does have one GREAT scene toward the end that involves the line I chose for the title of this review.
I shouldn't single out Mr. Barach; there were plenty of amateurish performances to go around, and lead actor Robert Logan frequently shows all the expression of a block of wood, while former Band member and ex-Coal Miner's Daughter's dad Levon Helm shows that only Michael Apted could direct him into looking comfortable on camera. The script itself, about a man escaping his past while living alone (other than his dog) in the wild, isn't too badly written, but has a few "huh?" moments as well.
Still, for the level of production this was, the end product is watchable and entertaining enough for a rental. You can get it through Netflix; I did.
The Trouble with Larry (1993)
The worst of sitcom excess
I still remember seeing the premiere episode of this dreadful show. It was jaw-droppingly bad. Everything that could be done wrong WAS done wrong. Stiffly staged, WAY overacted, unfunny lines punched up to a ridiculous degree by a roaring laugh track that clearly didn't belong.
Remember the sitcom being made in Annie Hall? That was a work of art compared to this tripe. It shocks me to see others here posting positive comments, but I am heartened by the low rating users have overall given.
Bronson Pinchot deserved better. Heck, Pia Zadora would have deserved better.
The Case for a Creator (2006)
Condemned without a viewing
Lee Strobel presents a series of interviews with scientists and other scholars who convincingly demonstrate why the foundations of the theory of evolution would crumble, if only its adherents would confront the evidence honestly....including a remarkable comment made by Darwin himself as to what it would take to render his theory invalid.
As with the excellent "Fireproof," here we have another strong message in favor of the Christian faith that has been met with several immediate blind and ignorant "1" votes. The message boards for "Fireproof" make this clear, as do the polemic voting with a nearly equal number of "1" and "10" votes in each case.
There are evolutionists, atheists, and others who apparently don't have the courage of their convictions and will not confront the fallacy of their misguided beliefs. Theirs is a blind faith that does not stand up to investigation on its own terms. See the DVD or read the book.
Ignore the nattering nabobs of negativity
I am a born-again Christian. I am also somewhat of a film snob who counts movies among his favorites that are decidedly R rated (I have no problem with sin being presented in movies as long as it's not presented as something good), and some of my favorites are over 100 years old. Just to let you know where this review is coming from.
With "Fireproof" the Kendrick brothers have matured. Their first film, "Flywheel," was a wonderful story with almost no budget, and amateurishly done. Then came "Facing the Giants," which was pretty good but ultimately forgettable. "Fireproof" finally puts together solid production values, mostly topnotch acting, and a very nicely written script that includes some clever plot twists.
Yes, it is explicitly Christian in its message. Yes, it upholds the sanctity of marriage and celebrates a man fighting for all he's worth to win the love of a wife who's filing for divorce. Yes, there are two or three moments where the sentimentality goes just a bit over the top.
If any of these statements about "Fireproof" close your mind to it, that's your loss, but God bless you as you pass on this one to go see something lighter or edgier. But I promise you, I was very pleasantly surprised at just how good this film is.
Highly recommended for anyone old enough to appreciate the opposite sex.
Call Her Savage (1932)
I'm really at a loss to explain why some reviewers think of this film as anything worthwhile. While Ms. Bow struggles mightily to carry the day, and indeed is the only watchable element of this overwrought picture, ultimately I can recommend dozens of pre-code movies that are much, MUCH better than this, which ultimately comes off as little better than the level of "Reefer Madness" for sheer hysteria and unintentional hilarity.
First, the exposition in the film's first half-hour are remarkably clumsy and stiff. Second, the scenes with Native Americans are as racially nauseating as anything ever put on screen. Third, Ms. Bow's character gives birth one month after a scene in which she is clearly not showing any signs of pregnancy. These are just the jaw-dropping moments I can put into words; there are many in this little flick.
I know that many reviewers have written about the more shocking elements of this film, but if your only reason for seeing pre-code pictures is the revelation of what movies were like in that era, well, you'd be much better off sticking with the dozens of terrific pictures of that type such as "Flesh and the Devil" with Garbo, "The Passion of Joan of Arc," "Der Blaue Engel" with Marlene Dietrich, "Blonde Crazy" with Cagney, "A Free Soul" with Norma Shearer & Clark Gable, "Safe in Hell" with the forgotten Dorothy Mackaill, "Kept Husbands" with Joel McCrea & Ned Sparks, "Night Court" with Walter Huston, "Tarzan the Ape Man" and "Tarzan and his Mate" with Johnny Weissmuller & Maureen O'Sullivan, "Virtue" with Carole Lombard, "Baby Face" with Barbara Stanwyck, "Gold Diggers of 1933" with Dick Powell & Ruby Keeler, "Hold Your Man" with Jean Harlow & Clark Gable, "Queen Christina" with Garbo, and "Heat Lightning" with Aline McMahon, just to name a very few of my faves from that era.
I found "Call Her Savage" very disappointing when compared to these, or in fact when compared to almost anything I've seen. Laughably bad, and not in a pleasant way like some campfests.
Problem Girls (1953)
Campy fun in the Ed Wood tradition
Happened to catch this one on TCM today, and it's truly bad. So bad that it's kinda fun to watch. Hardly a moment goes by that the viewer's willing suspension of disbelief doesn't work at all. Picture an alleged schoolfor wayward girls of extremely rich families in the City of Angels. Imagine a faculty made up of castoffs and ne'er-do-wells desperate for work and willing to therefore place themselves under the thumb of an evil couple with a plot to steal the fortune of a billionaire oil man. Now imagine clumsy dialogue, wooden acting, melodramatics galore, and a few catfights between women in their 20s attempting to pass as teenagers. Loads of fun! Catch it if you can.
Colonel Effingham's Raid (1946)
Small-town "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"
At the time I post this only 56 other users have rated this little film and only one other user has posted comments, and it's rated an average of 6.2. It's a shame that so few people have seen this little gem, and it's sad that our times are so out of step with its sentiments.
This is the humorous and romantic story of a retired colonel who returns to the town he grew up in and finds that few of its citizens are involved in its care, noting that a very small percentage even bothers to vote and finding that they are afraid to get involved, not for any sinister reasons but simply because the mayor and his cronies have the town locked up pretty tight and can bluster their way out of anything. This town needs a focal point for change, and the Colonel is just the man for the job. His young second cousin and a society writer on the local paper join in, with satisfactory results and some poignant dialogue along the way. Nice film. 9/10. I'd give it a solid 10 if not for the unfortunate racial attitudes that come from a southern town still in love with its pre-Lincoln heritage, but even these are handled fairly delicately considering the movie's era.
The film was apparently just restored in 2005, so probably it's not been seen often for many years. Watch for it on TCM; just caught it today on their Joan Bennett day, so it'll turn up again sometime. Well worth its brief run time.
Walk Don't Run (1966)
Would be a complete loss without Cary
I never saw a Cary Grant movie that wasn't improved by his presence. This, his final film, would be a disaster without him; as is, it's merely a dull remake of an infinitely funnier and more romantic comedy, "The More the Merrier," starring Charles Coburn, Jean Arthur, & Joel McCrea. It's unfortunate that the Coburn version is remembered mainly as the better version of this story, but at least it's known that it IS the better version.
If you enjoyed "Walk Don't Run," hurry to see the original. Cary Grant isn't in it, but Coburn won an Oscar for his work and Arthur & McCrea are perfect together--so much better than Eggar & Hutton that I can't find a phrase to express it. Let's just say that there once was a TV version of "The African Queen" that starred Warren Oates & Mariette Hartley, and Bogey & Hepburn were as much better than Oates & Hartley as Arthur & McCrea were better than Eggar & Hutton.
Ransom Money (1970)
Ed Wood fans take note!
Recently discovered a nearly unknown gem that my fellow Ed Wood aficionados will appreciate. There's a 1970 made-for-TV flick starring Broderick Crawford called "Ransom Money" that is just as hilariously inept as anything the Woodster put out. HEAR one of the cheesiest theme songs in motion picture history! SEE the inexplicable moves the characters make! PONDER the ridiculous dialogue! LISTEN as inappropriately bouncy music accompanies scenes of supposed suspense! WATCH the awesome miscasting of Gordon Jump (Arthur Carlson of "WKRP in Cincinnati, and more recently a lonely Maytag repairman) as a tough homicide detective! Ya gotta love it!
"Ransom Money" is a public domain flick. Nobody has the copyright on it, apparently. You can get it for $3 on VHS on Amazon, but your best buy would be a 20-pack for under $10 at http://www.amazon.com/Suspense-20-Movie-Pack-Set/dp/B0007Z0OBI that also features some REALLY good suspense classics like "Detour," "He Walked By Night," "Scarlet Street," "The Stranger," and others, even including Wood's own cops 'n' robbers classic "Jail Bait." You can get a similar 50-movie pack for twice the price that apparently does not include "Ransom Money," so it's your call.
Postman's Knock (1962)
Caught this one on Turner Classic Movies late one night. They scheduled it to follow "Ossessione," the Italian version of "The Postman Always Rings Twice." Apparently some scheduling wonk thought it would be clever to follow that with "Postman's Knock." Since it stars Spike Milligan, whose British TV classic "Goon Show" is widely known to have been an inspiration for the Monty Python troupe, I figured it might be worth watching.
Wrong. It's basically an incompetent movie about an incompetent postman working for an incompetent postal service who is mistaken by an incompetent police force to be a member of an incompetent gang of criminals. It's a shame their lack of competence couldn't at least be a little bit funny now and then.
If you're looking for great British comedy from this era, check out Alec Guiness & Peter Sellers in "The Ladykillers" (not the foul-mouthed Tom Hanks remake) and stay far, far away from this thing.
The Unbelievable Truth (1989)
Hartley's style isn't for the casual viewer
Long Island auteur Hal Hartley writes, directs, and co-produces his first feature film. His second, "Trust," has more polish and a better reputation, but "The Unbelievable Truth" has plenty to recommend it. Hartley came onto the scene as kind of a Generation X independent film voice, and while the acting quality in this feature debut is more uneven than in subsequent efforts, his almost surreal approach to dialogue, situations, and characterization is intact right out of the gate.
The story is of a man who comes back to his hometown after years in prison, and the young girl he meets once he gets there. As in "Trust," Hartley uses coincidences to underline the intersecting lives and fates of his characters, and his characterization emphasizes the random way in which so many of us foolishly let our hearts lead us around rather than our heads...although ultimately the day belongs to those who are able to conquer this tendency.
While Hartley forcefully instructs his actors to play their lines totally deadpan as much as possible, the situations and character reactions lead to lots of uproarious laughs that will not be evident to many viewers if they're expecting sitcom-type humor, and the way his plots twist is a joy. For the sophisticated movie fan, Hartley's films are extremely interesting and a terrific exercise in watching a true original at work.