July 28, 2008
The Concorde...Airport '79 is a snooze fest with a ridiculously convoluted script and a stream of top-notch actors ( John Davidson, Charo, Alain Delon, Sylvia Kristol of Emmanuelle fame and the ubiquitous George Kenndey) that delve deeply into their own psyches to develop these multi-dimensional characters - NOT. It seems that the producers were attempting a throw back to the original film with elaborate back stories and situations but nothing ever seems to happen even when you can see something happening on screen with your own eyes. Skip it unless you're a film series completist or want to see Jimmie "J.J." Walker getting stoned.
July 27, 2008
Airport '77 doesn't have the sincerity of the original film or the camp value of the first sequel. In fact, the horrible plane catastrophe that is conducive to every Airport film is not even that exciting: the plane remains intact at the bottom of the Bermuda Triangle - big whoop! Brenda Vaccaro, Jack Lemmon, George Kennedy (3x the charm?), and especially Lee Grant are game but someone put the board away - and left the bored in.
July 26, 2008
A classic in the disaster film genre, Airport '75 is unwittingly funny and wickedly campy. The actors are trying so hard to make the script work but it is really Karen Black, Gloria Swanson and Myrna Loy who come out smelling like a bouqet of roses. Helen Reddy sings a ridiculous song she wrote to Linda Blair, Charlton Heston does his hero shtick, and George Kennedy returns for the second of four Airport films but no one (and nothing) makes this turkey unwatchable.
July 25, 2008
Airport is one of the last glossy soap operas made for the big screen, a throwback to the multi-character, multi-story films of the 50s, before television (and the mini-series launched in the 70s) became the place for this type of entertainment. It's a populist film so don't expect intellect but expect some excellent performances: Maureen Stapleton is heart-breaking, Jacqueline Bisset is stunning, Helen Hayes is wicked, and Dean Martin is just Dean Martin in a pilot's uniform. Fun all-around entertainment that has aged well and deserved the nods it received from the Academy,
July 23, 2008
The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald is a straight-ahead filming of a mock trial of the presidential assassin, performed in a courtroom setting, that stops dead (pun intended) two-thirds of the way through for five minutes as an interview about Cuba with the real Lee Harvey Oswald is played for evidence. Historically it might be nice to have this on record but cinematically we're not talking Citizen Kane. The film has no music or audio other than what the actors speak, and the judge literally looks at the camera when talking to the jury; Court TV it ain't but it was filmed in Dallas in 1963 in the weeks following the actual assassination so that's worth...um...something?
July 21, 2008
The Idolmaker is an excellent picture about the music business in the 60s that contains music with a decidedly 80s sound. That said, I love the music and this film with its emotionally raw performances (including Ray Sharkey in a career-maker and Tovah Feldshuh), exciting musical segments, and a sharp script that says something without being preachy. Pull out a hanky and then live your life as The Idolmaker does!
July 20, 2008
The now-infamous sheep pig and his master's wife head to the city to help save the economically ailing farm in Babe: A Pig in the City, the sequel to the surprise hit of 1995. Charming and whimsical, Babe ultimately wins out but not before encountering sundry animals jaded by a life in the urban jungle. The animal techtronics and human voiceovers are, if possible, better than those in BABE and help to add up to an engrossing fairy tale for children and their higher-ups.
July 19, 2008
Being John Malkovich is possibly the weirdest lesbian-themed, science fiction black comedy I have ever seen. Although a bit long, the premise (akin to using actor John Malkovich as a ride in Disneyland) is definitely intriguing and worth a look. The cast, including John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and the titular actor, is great in roles they have undoubtedly not inhabited before and never will again.
July 18, 2008
Hairspray is a near perfect filmization of a Broadway musicalization of a comedy film with era-specific dance music. John Travolta, Queen Latifah, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Nikki Blonsky, Michelle Pfeiffer and too many other cast members to list are wonderful; the songs are melodic, catchy, and literate, and the screenplay flows beautifully to its emotional burst of of an ending. For a few more than three lines on this film, see Truth, Lies, and the Poop on Hairspray.
July 16, 2008
A riveting, well-structured story, excellent camera work, and nice sound editing are just the tip of the El Orfanato (The Orphanage) iceberg. It's also an emotional histogram and a paranormal roller coaster as Belen Rueda (in a stunning performance) tries to find her son who has been missing for nine months. Capped by a surprise appearance from a Hollywood legend and presented lovingly by Guillermo del Toro (in the style of his classics Pan's Labrynth and Devil Inside), The Orphanage is unlike anything that's been spewn forth from Hollywood proper and thus is, unfortunately, ripe to be remade and ruined by the latter.
July 15, 2008
Best Man in Grass Creek is a quirky, low key comedy about a man who was dumped at the altar and his scramble to overcome it. Written and directed by, and starring, John Newcombe, this indy charmer has a wonderful cast, realistic dialogue, smart situations, and Megan Mullally in a small yet not pivotal role. Grace Phillips also deserves a shout out for her intelligence and poise in the starring role as the jilted groom's new girlfriend.
July 14, 2008
The West Side Waltz is a mediocre screenplay (taken from, what I understand to be, a mediocre play) with nice performances but, I ask you rhetorically, what good is a chick flick that doesn't make you cry? Shirley MacLaine, Liza Minnelli, and Kathy Bates do respectable jobs with inconsistent and poorly motivated characters but Jennifer Grey is flailing for air with her Brooklyn Jew - vacillating between Streisand mannerisms and stock poses is not pretty. This movie is for fans of the actresses only - all others will most probably fall asleep.
July 11, 2008
Xanadu has no charm, no humor, no wit, and no chemistry emanating between the romantic leads although it does have great music by Electric Light Orchestra, John Farrar and Olivia Newton-John, multicultural dancers, and some cheesy early 80s atmosphere. The viewing experience borders on dull but occasionally a scene explodes (like the 40s/80s mashup Dancin featuring Fee Waybill and The Tubes, and Gene Kelly rollerskating at the titular nightclub's opening) that made me soldier on to the end which climaxes with a thud as the big production number goes on far too long and attempts to break musical genres when all you want to do is hear the song. So I got the record.
July 10, 2008
Why do studios option mundane scripts and why do actors choose to make them into films? Let's assume Halle Berry and Bruce Willis were paid bucks for Perfect Stranger and let's hope the producers lost money (based on a US theatrical gross of $23 million) because maybe now they'll realize that making a good movie might be a better idea. It's not that it's a horrible film - the story is just not that interesting, and the twist ending is not the right ingredients at the right time; surprisingly though, the very last frame of the film adds a star.
July 9, 2008
Surprisingly touching, Georgia Rule is not the train wreck the pre-release press and post-release reviews might have lead one to believe. Jane Fonda is great as the feisty grandma on whom Felicity Huffman dumps her rebellious daughter, Lindsay Lohan - both actresses meeting the old-timer's acting challenge head-on (especially the latter in a role that seemingly mirrors her tabloid sensations). Other good actors walk in and out (Dermot Mulroney, Cary Elwes, Laurie Metcalf) adding nice support to an involving script that touches on some taboo subjects but resolves itself on a positive note and in a humorous way.
July 7, 2008
The Broadway Melody was the first talker to win the Academy Award for Best Picture and, although it might not be the best picture now, there are a few things worth watching. Bessie Love chews up the scenery in a much-heralded performance, the toe dancer is awesome, and the interstitial titles lend an air of pre-code riskiness. Ultimately though, it is decidedly OF its time and worth a look for historical purposes only.
July 6, 2008
Diane Keaton returned to the Woody Allen fold (during a particularly nasty time for the auteur) to act in Manhattan Murder Mystery, an amusing but slight mystery. The four leads (Allen, Keaton, Alan Alda, Angelica Huston) have nice chemistry, the titular story is not easily solved and, at times, tres amusent. Although the film is indelibly marred by it's historical context, it looks and feels like the film Allen needed to make during this time.
July 5, 2008
Nothing can be said about Absolutely Fabulous that has not already been said since it's premiere in 1992 but I'll try. The five J's (Jennifer Saunders, Joanna Lumley, Julia Sawalha, June Whitfield, Jane Horrocks) are immaculately cast as the women at the center of this broad situation comedy about two misfits that, despite its drug, alcohol and sex themes, is very close in spirit to I Love Lucy. The scripts in this first season (all written by Saunders) are tight, smart, funny, and surprising; you can't go wrong with this bit of classic television.
July 2, 2008
Death Sentence is a ridiculously bad revenge movie from James Wan, the director of Saw. Kevin Bacon is SuperAvenger, a vigilante who takes down everyone that had anything to do with the deaths of his family and miraculously never gets popped by the cops. There are so many flaws in this movie (including Aisha Tyler's horrendous portrayal of the lead detective) that you should skip it and watch Straw Dogs for an excellent revenge film.
July 1, 2008
Reservoir Dogs is an excellent movie in the Quentin Tarantino cannon of criminals and pop culture. The seven men involved in the heist (including turns by Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, and Mr. Tarantino himself) are believable and hysterical. And what happens after the crime is riveting but cover your eyes if blood is not your thing because this movie has it in buckets - enjoy!