April 30, 2008

...The Stand (1994)

I kept watching The Stand, an excruciatingly long television mini-series that attempts to act as a treatise on good and evil but fails miserably, in the hopes that it might get better but, because the underlying post-apocalyptic tale seems a separate film from the morality tale (between Mother Abigail and Randall Flagg), the whole series was just disjointed and uninteresting. Although it seems a precursor to the current crop of multiple story line television series' (like Lost and Jericho), the performances, script and production values of the latter are more intriguing and expensive than those in the former. And if that doesn't cap it all in a top hat, the banal ending was poor manipulation; if you're gonna manipulate my emotions, do it right.

April 29, 2008

...The New Adventures of Old Christine, Season 1 (2005)

Despite the fact that Julia Louis-Dreyfuss in The New Adventures of Old Christine beat out Lisa Kudrow in The Comeback for the Emmy, this show is charmingly fresh and funny. Louis Dreyfuss, Clark Gregg and Hamish Linklater, a delightfully droll Wanda Sykes, and the rest of the cast are wonderful, and the scripts are fast and furious. Now that I've seen Season 1 en toto, I can agree that Louis Dreyfuss deservingly won her Emmy (although Kudrow should've won also.)

April 27, 2008

...Sunshine (2007)

Sunshine starts out with a story line that is eerily similar to Alien and ends up tired and out-of-steam. The bulk of the script relies on the time-proven method of moving a plot forward by having some one scream, "I made a mistake. OK? I'm sorry." I've liked a number of Danny Boyle films (28 Days Later and Trainspotting) but this one was very disappointing; even seeing Cillian Murphy again couldn't raise my spirits.

April 25, 2008

...American Gigolo (1980)

American Gigolo is a trite piece of fluff that is not an honest emotional portrait of it's title character (as played by Richard Gere) nor, for that matter, does it honestly characterize the lead female role (as played by Lauren Hutton) either. In fact, the best thing about American Gigolo is Call Me, the theme song which, as recorded by Blondie, became a huge hit, honestly characterizing the idiom: you can take the song out of the movie but you can't take the movie out of the song. On the other hand, you do see his peepee in it.

April 24, 2008

...Superman Returns (2006)

Superman Returns is none-too intelligently plotted and excruciatingly long; in fact, Superman returns so many times that it seems like he never leaves. Brandon Routh as Superman is a clone of Christopher Reeve, and Kate Bosworth is miscast (and seems hopelessly lost) as Lois Lane; if only Parker Posey, who plays Kevin Spacey's villanous sidekick, had been hired for that role! That said, I must admit, there were times towards the end when the bombasticisms of the soaring Superman theme and the simplicity of the plot came together allowing me one or two teary-eyed moments - but it was a hell of a time getting there.

April 23, 2008

...The I Love Lucy Movie (2007)

The I Love Lucy Movie is the recently discovered film consisting of three first-season episodes of the classic television series I Love Lucy, edited together into one story: The Benefit, Breaking the Lease and The Ballet. New scenes were filmed to keep continuity in this pot of gold for Lucy fans and anyone who relishes classic moments of entertainment. Only available on the complete series box set, The I Love Lucy Movie is well worth the $150 cost.

April 22, 2008

...Skyjacked (1972)

There are so many missteps in Skyjacked, a tensionless thriller about the hijacking of a passenger jetliner to Moscow, that I am listing a few:

  1. The passengers are told they are being hijacked because of a bomb and they just sit - no screams, no cries

  2. Yvette Mimieux as head stewardess makes a comment about it just being a bomb

  3. The voice of character actor John Fiedler, very well-known for his high-pitch, is dubbed by someone with a lower range

  4. Mariette Hartley gives birth naturally on the plane with no pain killers and, again, no screams

  5. James Brolin's use of the word nigger twice and Rosey Grier's acceptance of it

Sure, this list might be considered more than three lines (even though I opted to use no periods - which grammatically you can do) but I wanted to make clear that this self-titled Cult Camp Classic is neither classic nor campy nor surrounded by cultish viewers; it's just bad.

April 20, 2008

...Chicago 10 (2007)

Even at about 90 minutes, Chicago 10 still seems too long. The story of the trial of the Chicago 7 (and Bobby Seale) as told using trial transcripts, archival footage and animation may be innovative but becomes old when characterization and emotion are woefully neglected. And, although I assume the two lawyers make up the difference between the Chicago 8 and the titular 10, it's a might pretentious of the filmmakers to not point this out in the movie.

April 19, 2008

...Capote (2005)

Beautiful panoramas, wonderful performances, and a tightly-written script highlight Capote, the story of the writer's relationship with the murderers and townspeople he wrote about in his tome, In Cold Blood. It's also a time capsule of images from the late 50s/early 60s and a seemingly honest portrayal of all involved. Philip Seymour Hoffman as Truman Capote, an Oscar winner for this performance, and Catherine Keener as Harper Lee (author of To Kill A Mockingbird) have a special chemistry that envelopes the production in honesty and sincerity.

...Creepshow (1982)

How do you rate a movie that is comprised of five different stories, directed by one George A. Romero and written by another Stephen King? If it's Creepshow with its vacillating quality, none too highly. The creepiest story is Something To Tide You Over with Ted Danson and Leslie Nielson and the showiest is The Crate with Hal Holbrook and Adrienne Barbeau so it would behoove you to fast-forward to these sections.

April 14, 2008

...Baby Face (1933) - 6 Lines about 2 Versions

Baby Face is a rather shocking (even today) look at Lily Power's climb out of the sewer in which she was born; rather than using a ladder and manhole though she uses a bed. Barbara Stanwyck is wonderful as the femme and shows much courage to have even agreed to take the part (as does a heavily made-up John Wayne in a small yet pivotal role). Nothing is left to the imagination (in the pre-release version) when Stanwyck eyes a man up and down and closes the door to a room. The honesty is compelling, forthright and, frankly, refreshing - although the ending does seem out-of-character. The theatrical version is less of everything: shock, courage, and interest. Stanwyck's sex-capades are watered down (scenes are cut after the couple eye each other, Baby Face does not berate her father for turning her into a whore at 14) and an additional feel-real-good ending has been tacked on - all to appease the Motion Picture Code so certainly, watch the film as the filmmakers intended.

April 13, 2008

Starstruck (1982)

An absolute delight of a film, Starstruck is Gillian Armstrong's second following her breakthrough My Brilliant Career. Starring Jo Kennedy as a young Aussie attempting a career in music, this musical follows a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney mentality as a real-life Australian band, The Swingers (with Ms. Kennedy as lead singer), follows a Dick Clark-esque television personality, begging for a chance to perform on his television show. The film is tuneful with wonderful new wave songs, colorful, sweet, funny, quirky, nicely-written, excellently acted, and beautifully directed; a piece of sugar candy to let dissolve in your mouth that will do nothing bad to your teeth.

April 11, 2008

...Robocop (1987)

This comic book of a movie (if, in fact, it was based on one) is simple-minded and emotionally dry. Peter Weller and Nancy Allen dive into the 80s look for this fight against good and evil that ends with a whimper. It's not extreme, thrilling, or even worth the three days it took to finish but it gets one star for being a movie.

April 9, 2008

With a Song in My Heart (1952)

With A Song in My Heart is a bunch of musical numbers tied together by the spot-on performance and lip-synching chops of Susan Hayward, a rightful Academy Award nominee, and, what can only be described as, a non-script. Don't expect deep theorizing on, or a three-dimensional portrait of, the film's subject, singer Jane Froman (who is portrayed too good-naturedly - as represented in Tea for Two when Froman sings a boy for you and the soldier recants a girl for me : he gets both kids and she's a doormat.) There are, though, great classic songs performed by Ms. Froman (the title tune, Embraceable You, Get Happy, It's A Good Day, Blue Moon, I'll Walk Alone, the riveting United States medley finale) and visualized by Ms. Hayward (as the singing virgin) that make it palatable.

April 8, 2008

...The Good Girl (2002)

Jennifer Aniston plays The Good Girl in this low-key film about the choices the titular character has. Aniston got a lot of press for her performance which, together with Jake Gyllenhaal, works out nicely but, the movie plods along to the good girl ending, and is a bit of a downer. Although relatively interesting, it's slow-moving and ultimately nothing about which I would rave.

April 7, 2008

...Ugly Betty, Season 1 (2006)

About two-thirds of the way through Season 1, Ugly Betty, a smart and funny television series about the fashion industry and the people who work in it started with a story line or two with unbelievable plot twists that were reminiscent of daytime soap operas. Although this ridiculous aspect of the series was oft-putting, the acting is very good and the scripts are funny and well-written. Mainly though, the characters are complex people (with each having good and bad characteristics) that I really cared about - and you will too.

April 6, 2008

...Volver (2006)

Volver is a warped three-hanky movie which harkens back to the dark, earthy Italian film dramas of the 1950s. It takes a while to get into gear but when it does it is riveting. Penelope Cruz is just one of a marvelous cast that brings Almodovar's tale of mothers and daughters to life.

April 5, 2008

...Hellboy (2004)

Hellboy, based on the comic book of the same name, would be a good movie if it weren't for the rail-thin premise on which director Guillermo del Toro hangs the good acting and great special effects. At times the story bears on the ridiculous and the much-touted humor - espoused in a vacuum by Ron Perlman (as the titular freak) - is predictable and none too funny. I was more tuned in by the end when the story was more about good and evil (with a little love) but I could never get away from the inane Nazi theme.

April 3, 2008

...Gwoemul AKA The Host (2006)

Gwoemul aka The Host is an excellent movie with great monster effects and wonderful performances from the South Korean cast. It is humorous and scary with an ending that was surprising and real. Don't miss this one - even if you're not interested in monster movies.

April 1, 2008

...Show Business: The Road to Broadway (2007)

Show Business: The Road To Broadway is an excellent documentary about the creation of four Broadway shows (Wicked, Avenue Q, Taboo, and Caroline, Or Change) from inception to Tony Awards. The excellent interviews (by the likes of Idina Menzel, Boy George, Rosie O'Donnell, William Goldman, and Jeffrey Marx) are funny, human and enlightening. And, if you watch the DVD of this must-see film for anyone with an interest in theatre, it contains many extra features including more interviews and clips - for the musical diva in you.