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THE GRASS IS GREENER
The stylish direction of Stanley Donen working with a dream cast makes the 1960 comedy The Grass is Greener more than worth the time of the real film buff.

Victor and Hillary Rhyall (Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr) are titled British aristocrats who live in a large English estate but are having some sort of financial difficulties that have forced them to allow tours of their palatial home. One of these tours produces an American millionaire named Charles Delacro (Robert Mitchum) who somehow gets separated from the tour and meet Hillary, with whom Charles instantly falls in love. Things get stickier with the arrival of Hattie Durant (Jean Simmons), an old friend of the Rhyalls who is more than willing to pick up the pieces with Victor when it seems like Hillary is falling for Charles.

This film is a loving homage to the drawing room comedy of Noel Coward (Coward even wrote a pair of songs featured in the film) where people run in and out of the wrong bedrooms at the most inappropriate times, the sanctity of marriage is briefly put in question but everything always seems to come out in the wash and that's where the primary pleasure in this comedy comes...Victor and Hillary are established as a solid couple at the beginning of the film, a pair who might take each other for granted, but are still deeply in love. We know from the start of this film that Victor and Hillary are going to be together when the credits roll but the journey to this foregone conclusion is such a pleasure.

The other thing that makes this movie work is a glorious cast, some working out of their comfort zone. Deborah Kerr, in particular, an actress with a penchant for melodrama, gets a chance to lighten up here and really seems to be enjoying herself and the fact that she is working with actors she was worked with before (she and Grant were in An Affair To Remember and she and Mitchum were in Heaven Knows Mr. Allison) is a big plus. This kind of sexy bedroom comedy was kind of new territory for Simmons as well but she completely invests in it, turning in an absolutely delicious performance.

The screenplay by Hugh Williams and Margaret Vyner is a little talky, but it is such intelligent and amusing talk that we don't really notice or care that we're getting a photographed stage play, but it is a richly entertaining one, thanks to Donen, a proven expert with star power and said power delivers in spades here. For lovers of classic cinema, this is a must-see.



THE MARTIAN
Director Ridley Scott, a proven commodity in the science fiction and action adventure genres, has taken elements of all of his strongest work and come up with his masterpiece, a 2015 epic called The Martian, an epic adventure upon which Scott employs some very human faces.

The film introduces us to a space mission on Mars that is disrupted by some sort of meteor storm during which one of the crew, Mark Watney (Matt Damon) gets struck by a large piece of debris and is assumed dead. The rest of the crew (Jessica Chastain, Michael Pena, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie) have no choice but to abort the mission and leave Mark's body on Mars. It is almost immediately revealed that Mark is alive and we are distressed as we watch Mark assess his situation, which includes how long it will take him to be rescued, how much food and water he has for survival and how he can cultivate more.

What initially appears to be an outer space re-thinking of Cast Away adds a couple of additional layers to the story that this reviewer did not see coming at all. First we have all those lovely folks at NASA, who initially treat Mark's "death" as taking one for the team and we hate that it's going to be left at that. But in a refreshing change of pace for a story like this, NASA learns early on that Mark is alive and want to do what they can to rescue him, but they also want to do it without it turning into a public relations nightmare. An additional layer to the story materializes as Mark's crew is initially kept in the dark about his being alive which NASA initially justifies by saying that they need to concentrate on their own mission to get home and not be clouded with guilt about Mark.

Ridley Scott's overly detailed approach to this edgy and compelling sci-fi adventure includes complete reverence to Drew Goddard's complex screenplay, rich with enough techno-babble to cross the viewer's eyes, but it explains what needs to be explained and through mere story structure, we understand the rest of what is going on, but what Goddard's screenplay does most effectively is present a brave, intelligent, but flawed central character who keeps his head in an impossible situation. We watch as he calmly assesses his situation and is always realistic about it...the man doesn't want to die and never gives up, but is completely realistic about the possibility. The complexity of Mark's situation makes for such compelling viewing because there is nothing predictable here...Scott and company make sure that there is nothing foregone about the conclusion of this story, having us on the edge of our seats as long as he wants. If I had one quibble about the screenplay, I had a little trouble swallowing the solution to sending Mark supplies came from some techno-geek (Donald Glover) who didn't even work at NASA.

Scott gets a real movie star performance from Matt Damon that earned him a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. Chastain and Pena provide solid support as do Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Eijefor, and Kristen Wiig as NASA personnel. Scott's attention to production is first rate, with Oscar nominated work in sound editing, sound mixing, production design, and visual effects. An epic adventure rich with human emotion and a central character you can't help but fall in love with.



JUNIOR
The stars and director of the 1988 comedy Twins reunited for a 1994 comedy called Junior, which does provide some laughs that test the viewer's patience because we are really forced to wait for them.

Dr. Alex Hesse (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Dr. Larry Arbogast (Danny DeVito) are doctors specializing in fertility research who have developed a drug to help with fertilization and avoid miscarriage but the FDA and the university where they have been working have shut them down from their next stage, which is injecting a woman with the drug. They decide to get around the FDA by injecting Alex with the drug, who continues to take it longer than instructed, causing major maternal instincts to kick in and the desire to carry the baby to term. Further complications materialize when Alex learns where the egg was implanted came from and from Larry's ex-wife (Pamela Reed), who is pregnant by the personal trainer for Aerosmith.

The idea of a pregnant man was previously explored in the 1978 Joan Rivers comedy Rabbit Test but with nowhere near the scientific detail that is on display here and therein lies the primary problem with this film. The screenplay by Kevin Wade and Chris Conrad is so intricate and concerned with scientific mumbo jumbo that viewer interest is hard to sustain for almost the first half of the film. Once Alex's desire to be a mom really kicks in, so do the laughs but the movie just takes too long to get there.

The cast is game for the bizarre goings on here and deliver for the most part. Arnold is a little stone-faced at the beginning of the film but does eventually warm into the role and you really want to see this guy have this baby. Danny DeVito delivers one of his most on target performances playing one of the smartest characters he has ever played. I was hot and cold with Emma Thompson as the research doctor whose involvement in the story goes further than a standard romantic interest. I have always found Thompson a little annoying when she's trying to be funny and she works overtime at trying to be funny here and it ultimately ended up being distracting. Never really bought her and Arnold as a couple either. Reed is very funny as is Frank Langella as the head of the university and the story's villain and there's a lovely appearance by singer Judy Collins as the head of a pregnancy resort where Alex has to hide out during the final act.

The film is beautifully photographed and I was able to forgive a slightly overbearing musical score (the moment when Alex first takes the drug is accompanied by music from another Reitman film Ghostbusters). Director Ivan Reitman provides the discipline the story requires but it just takes too long to get where it's going.



STARRING ADAM WEST
Not into documentaries as a rule, but 2013's Starring Adam West is a loving, touching, funny, and uplifting look at a show business icon who pretty much became an icon through one role and how he never allowed what this role did to his career to destroy the incredible human being he was.

Directed by West's son-in-law, James E. Tooley, the documentary is crafted on a clever hook that immediately has the viewer scratching his head. We meet West arriving at a radio station for an interview where one of the disc jockeys there has been obsessed with West since he was a child and he was outraged when he learns that West doesn't have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Throughout the rest of the documentary, we see the continuing efforts of this disc jockey, aided by West's two youngest children, to make Adam West's star a reality.

We are then treated to the standard look at West's humble beginnings as the son of a farmer and former opera singer, who had movie-star good looks but didn't really know what to do with them until it was suggested that he would make an excellent star of westerns and that they were doing a lot of westerns on television. West arrived in Hollywood and was signed at Warner Brothers the same year they signed Clint Eastwood, Roger Moore, and Steve McQueen. West was the only one of the four whose contract was dropped after a year.

The viewer then gets a look at the meteoric and heady success that came with his role as the Caped Crusader on the ABC series Batman came about. The success of this show and West's popularity in the role are similar to William Shatner and James T. Kirk. This was another show, like Star Trek, that made such a huge impact on television and pop culture in general that people tend to forget it only ran three seasons. It was also one of two prime television shows in the 60's (Peyton Place was the other) that was broadcast twice a week. Unfortunately, with the cancellation of the show, came the reality of West being typecast and not being able to work at all. By the 1970's Eastwood, Moore, and McQueen were all stars and West's career was dead in the water.

But there are two things that this documentary capture so effectively and made it worth the watch. First, was the love and respect that Adam West fans have for him. It was fascinating watching young children and graying grandmas at comic book conventions giggling with excitement as they talked to and posed for pictures with the always gracious actor. In comic book world, Adam West is a rock star and he always will be and it was fun watching even West being a little bamboozled by it all. Everywhere the guy made a personal appearance it was standing room only.

The other thing I loved that this documentary so beautiful captures is the warm, funny, intelligent, family-oriented man that Adam West was. This was a man who during the late 60's was chewed up and spit out by Hollywood and he could have been really bitter about it, but there is no sign of bitterness or resentment in the man regarding the cards Hollywood dealt him, outside of the financial difficulties it caused his family. The man was full of gratitude for his career as it was and held no resentments about anything that happened during his rocky career, evidenced in the joy as he put the earphones over his ears to go to work as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy.

It should be noted that the hook for the documentary did pay off and that West received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 6, 2012. I must also mention that it is nothing but bizarre coincidence that the evening before I watched this documentary, Adam West passed away at the age of 88. RIP.



SILK STOCKINGS
One of the most underrated gems from the golden years of MGM was Silk Stockings, a sparkling musical comedy that features some of the best of MGM's talent in front of and behind the camera proving, once again, that no one had the magic touch with musicals the way MGM did.

Fred Astaire plays Steve Canfield, a movie producer who has come to Paris to smooth the choppy waters created when a Russian composer Steve wants to do the music for his next movie has decided to defect and the Russian government has sent three agents (Peter Lorre, Jules Munshin, Joseph Buloff) to get the man to return to Russia but they, too, are seduced by the glamour of Paris, so another agent named Ninotchka Yoschenko (Cyd Charisse) is sent to Paris to complete the job. Steve falls for her instantly but Ninotchka is not so easily swayed by the City of Lights as her comrades. Throw into the mix Peggy Dayton (Janis Paige) a fictionalized Esther Williams who is set to star in the movie who Steve enlists to help the composer lighten up about his music.

The story is, of course, based on the 1939 Greta Garbo classic which was then turned into a Broadway musical in 1955 featuring some terrific songs by Cole Porter, that accentuate the story beautifully without ever getting in the way. There were few composers of this period who had a gift with lyrics the way Porter did and this score is one of his best examples: "All of You", "Satin and Silk", "Paris Loves Lovers", "Stereophonic Sound", "Fated to be Mated", "Siberia", "Without Love" and "It's a Chemical Reaction, that's all."

Astaire is charm personified as always and is reunited with his co-star from The Band Wagon, whose performance is a little wooden as the all business Russian agent, but when she starts to dance, anything else Charisse does onscreen is forgiven, whether it's an economic pas de deux with Astaire in her hotel room, the ballet where she discovers silk stockings and lingerie or the spectacular production number "I Got the Red Blues", Charisse' dancing makes you completely forget that she was no Meryl Streep.

Peter Lorre made a rare foray into the world of musical comedy here and pretty much stole every moment he had onscreen as did Munshin, in one of his last big roles. The choreography by Hermes Pan and Eugene Loring is jazzy and exciting. I especially loved Fred and Cyd's dance to "Fated to be Mated" and Fred's big finale "The Ritz Roll and Rock." Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse doing what they do best...what else do you need?



A nice bunch of movie reviews Thanks
__________________
Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.
Buddha



LINCOLN
Steven Spielberg's artistry as a director and an Oscar winning performance by Daniel Day Lewis are the primary selling points of 2012's Lincoln, a lavishly mounted historical drama that is not the biopic its title implies but provides a private look at one of our most popular presidential legends during one of his most public political battles.

This is not a look at Lincoln's life, but a particular period in the Lincoln administration and its effect on the man. The film opens in January of 1865, shortly into Lincoln's second presidential term to reveal the President working to get the 13th Amendment passed which would abolish slavery permanently. Apparently, the Emancipation Proclamation that Lincoln signed was little more than a piece of paper when all was said and done. Slavery was still a matter of state no matter what Washington DC had to say about it. This film chronicles Lincoln's efforts to get the 20 votes he needed from the House of Representatives in order for the amendment to pass. The quest for these votes reveal some on the surface unsavory methods from the administration in order to get what they wanted, methods that flew directly in the face of the legacy that is Abraham Lincoln.

The film also finds time to take a glimpse into Lincoln's personal life, starting with an extremely troubled marriage to the mentally unbalanced Mary, whose mental issues apparently stemmed from the death of their first son, Willie, who died in the war and it is revealed as part of this story that Lincoln's middle son Robert wants to quit law school and join the war effort. Mary is also not happy with her husband's dedication regarding the 13th Amendment, which she thinks will be a black mark on what was a very popular pair of terms in the White House.

Tony Kushner (Angels in America) did an admirable job of adapting Doris Kearns Goodwin's book that, though a little on the wordy side, does provide a well-rounded look at the title character, a deeply passionate man who, according to what was presented here, loved the opportunities that being POTUS provided for him to help, but was often disenchanted by the ugliness of politics and what it forced him to do sometimes. The man is painted as a real human being here...he is observed constantly speaking in folksy analogies that aggravated some, fascinated others, and for some, clarified exactly what he wanted.

Initially, Spielberg is not the first director I would have thought of for a project like this, but he does mount a compelling, if slightly overlong look, at a historical figure whom people think they know everything about and there is no doubt in my mind that anyone who sees this film will learn something about Abraham Lincoln that they never knew before, even if this wasn't a biopic in the truest sense, it does provide an insight into the man that was not uninteresting. And even though Spielberg is a director known primarily for action and CGI-dominated entertainment, provides spectacular production values for this story including including Oscar winning set designs.

Spielberg has assembled a first rate cast serving the story, especially Daniel Day Lewis in a quietly dignified performance that won him a Golden Globe and a third Oscar for Outstanding Lead Actor. No one really knows what Lincoln sounded like or how he moved, but the actor, with Spielberg's assistance, gives us the Lincoln we would hope existed. Sally Field is slightly unhinged enough to make her Mary Todd Lincoln a little squirm worthy, a performance that earned her a supporting actress nomination. Tommy Lee Jones was also nominated for his movie star turn as Thaddeus Stevens. The large supporting cast also included standout work from Joseph Gordon Levitt, David Straithairn, Hal Holbrook, Jackie Earle Haley, Bruce McGill, Peter McRobbie, and especially James Spader. It's a little on the talky side, but Spielberg's direction is solid and Daniel Day Lewis is sublime.



THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM
Despite some dated elements, the 1955 drama The Man with the Golden Arm still packs a wallop as an emotionally manipulative but still surprisingly powerful look at the effects of drug addiction.

Fresh off his Oscar win for From Here to Eternity, Frank Sinatra turns in the performance of his career as Frankie Machine, a heroin addict who has just been released from rehab and has returned home to try and start life over, determined to leave behind his former career as a professional card dealer as well as his addiction. Frankie wants to begin a new career as a musician but is having trouble getting it going, primarily due to his clingy and desperate wheelchair-bound wife, Zosh (Eleanor Parker) who wants Frankie's undivided attention and doesn't care whether or not he's addicted. There's another girl from his past living downstairs named Molly (Kim Novak) who has feelings for Frankie but can't abide his addiction.

Leave it to director Otto Preminger for blazing this virgin territory for 1955 moviegoers. This was some pretty bold stuff at the time and I'm pretty sure there were a lot of compromises to Walter Newman and Lewis Meltzer's screenplay that had to be made to get this story to the screen during the 1950's. The word "heroin" is never mentioned and neither is the word "rehab"...Frankie is always referred to as having "been away." But the surprisingly adult screenplay does broach some universal themes regarding addiction and does its best not to shy away from them, at least as far as 1950's censorship would allow.

The film does address basic material regarding drug rehabilitation that is still true today, primarily the fact that if someone is to recover from addiction, that they cannot hang with the same people and go to the same places they did when they were using. This is made clear here as Frankie makes no attempt to change his lifestyle so it is not surprising that the road to relapse is a quick one for him. Though it was a little hard to accept the way his dealer (Darren McGavin) kept chasing after Frankie to get him hooked...this disease is such a monster that dealers do not have to chase users the way Frankie gets chased here.

What works here is uncompromising direction from Preminger and some powerhouse performances that he obtains. Sinatra received an Outstanding Lead Actor nomination for what is the best performance of his that I've seen and he gets solid support from Eleanor Parker, who effectively chews the scenery as Zosh. Preminger even eeks some strong moments out of Kim Novak as Molly and McGavin had what was probably his best movie role as the heartless drug dealer. I found Elmer Bernstein's jazzy musical score a little overbearing, but other than that, this was a riveting screen drama that, despite some downplaying of the horrors of addiction, still drives the message home.



DIRTY GRANDPA
Dirty Grandpa is an overblown 2016 comic misadventure that has star power and provides laughs but the laughs are kind of cheap and easy.

The comedy stars Robert De Niro as Dick Kelly, a retired army colonel who lives in Georgia whose wife has just died and at the funeral he asks his grandson, Jason (Zac Efron) an uptight young attorney to drive him to Florida to a destination he allegedly planned to visit with the deceased and it is this road trip that defies cinematic convention at every turn.

The defiance of storytelling should come as to no surprise since the director, Dan Mazer, who also directed Borat and Bruno, two thoroughly unconventional film comedies and Mazer employs the same manic sledgehammer approach that he did to those Sasha Baron Cohen comedies, taking a razor thin story that doesn't really sustain interest and disguises the story deficiencies with profanity, comic violence, and unmotivated sex and nudity. It seemed whenever the story started to lag, either De Niro would start cursing or Efron's clothes would come off and believe it or not, both only worked up to a point and I found myself trying to scratch my way back to a story that was bubbling underneath but never fully rises to the surface.

De Niro just seems embarrassed spouting a lot of dialogue that just didn't make sense for a character his age and Efron is just miscast as the tight-ass attorney coming out of his shell, no matter how attractive that shell might be. I suspect Mazer was aware that Efron was miscast as well and maybe that's why he kept the guy out of his clothes for a healthy chunk of the running time thinking that we might not notice.

The movie does have its laughs, but they're just kind of easy and we don't have to work very hard for them. De Niro and Efron do have a funny supporting cast including Julianne Hough, in her most effective screenwork to date as Efron's bitchy fiancee, Jason Mantzoukas as a twisted drug dealer, Adam Pally as Efron's BFF and best of all, Aubrey Plaza as a bimbo who inexplicably spends the entire running time trying to have sex with De Niro's character. There's a lot of talent involved here and some money was definitely poured into this, but the whole thing never really engages the viewer and makes you care about these people.



I won't dance. Don't ask me...
THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM
Despite some dated elements, the 1955 drama The Man with the Golden Arm still packs a wallop as an emotionally manipulative but still surprisingly powerful look at the effects of drug addiction.

Fresh off his Oscar win for From Here to Eternity, Frank Sinatra turns in the performance of his career as Frankie Machine, a heroine addict who has just been released from rehab and has returned home to try and start life over, determined to leave behind his former career as a professional card dealer as well as his addiction. Frankie wants to begin a new career as a musician but is having trouble getting it going, primarily due to his clingy and desperate wheelchair-bound wife, Zosh (Eleanor Parker) who wants Frankie's undivided attention and doesn't care whether or not he's addicted. There's another girl from his past living downstairs named Molly (Kim Novak) who has feelings for Frankie but can't abide his addiction.

Leave it to director Otto Preminger for blazing this virgin territory for 1955 moviegoers. This was some pretty bold stuff at the time and I'm pretty sure there were a lot of compromises to Walter Newman and Lewis Meltzer's screenplay that had to be made to get this story to the screen during the 1950's. The word "heroine" is never mentioned and neither is the word "rehab"...Frankie is always referred to as having "been away." But the surprisingly adult screenplay does broach some universal themes regarding addiction and does its best not to shy away from them, at least as far as 1950's censorship would allow.

The film does address basic material regarding drug rehabilitation that is still true today, primarily the fact that if someone is to recover from addiction, that they cannot hang with the same people and go to the same places they did when they were using. This is made clear here as Frankie makes no attempt to change his lifestyle so it is not surprising that the road to relapse is a quick one for him. Though it was a little hard to accept the way his dealer (Darren McGavin) kept chasing after Frankie to get him hooked...this disease is such a monster that dealers do not have to chase users the way Frankie gets chased here.

What works here is uncompromising direction from Preminger and some powerhouse performances that he obtains. Sinatra received an Outstanding Lead Actor nomination for what is the best performance of his that I've seen and he gets solid support from Eleanor Parker, who effectively chews the scenery as Zosh. Preminger even eeks some strong moments out of Kim Novak as Molly and McGavin had what was probably his best movie role as the heartless drug dealer. I found Elmer Bernstein's jazzy musical score a little overbearing, but other than that, this was a riveting screen drama that, despite some downplaying of the horrors of addiction, still drives the message home.
I love this movie. I was shocked when I have seen it for the fit time. I have known Frank Sinatra from different emploi untill then. I discovered his "drama face" thanks to this film.



I love this movie. I was shocked when I have seen it for the fit time. I have known Frank Sinatra from different emploi untill then. I discovered his "drama face" thanks to this film.
Thanks for reading the review...yeah, this was the strongest Sinatra performance I have ever seen.



DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS
The recent passing of Glenne Headley prompted a re-watch of 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a sumptuously mounted look at the art of the con that works due to some solid directorial touches, impressive production values, and the unexpected chemistry between the stars.

The film is actually a remake of a 1964 comedy called Bedtime Story which starred David Niven, Marlon Brando, and Shirley Jones. In this update, Michael Caine inherits Niven's role, Lawrence Jamieson, a sophisticated con man who makes a handsome living on the French Riviera conning wealthy women out of their money and finds his livelihood threatened with the arrival of Freddy Benson (Steve Martin now in Brando's role), a less sophisticated but equally effective con man who Jamieson decides to get rid of by betting which one of them can squeeze $50,000 out of a wealthy American heiress (Headly, inheriting Shirley Jones' role).

Director Frank Oz stylishly crafts Dale Launer's screenplay into a sophisticated romp that gives the 1964 story a contemporary flavor while remaining loyal to its origins. The story is very clever because the characters of Lawrence and Freddy are both very good at what they do, though they have very different approaches to their work. We are initially intrigued at the idea of the two of them working together and perhaps becoming friends, but the story takes an unexpected turn at the end of the second act that we really don't see coming that makes these two working together virtually impossible. And even though we've spent a good chunk of the story wanting these two to work together, the story suddenly seems to make us want to choose sides and the side we choose changes from scene to scene until the conclusion.

The other thing that really works here is the surprising chemistry between Michael Caine and Steve Martin. Oz has found a way to have these actors do what they do best creating a balance of story spotlight that makes Caine and Martin a terrific team...Caine beautifully underplaying the sophisticated Brit that few actors do better and Martin balancing the movie clown to which we're accustomed with a slick and slightly smarmy rogue who can turn on the sensitive charm at the drop of a hat when needed. Props must also be awarded to Glenne Headley, an absolutely charming leading lady who never allows these two movie vets to blow her off the screen. Also enjoyed the stylish turns from Megan Fey, Frances Conroy, and the fabulous Barbara Harris as other marks of our leading men.

The film features handsome production values, including some exquisite French Riviera scenery, impressive art direction/set direction, some striking costume choices, and Miles Goodman's music is absolute perfection. A smooth and silky comic romp made watchable due to the professionalism on both sides of the camera which is that rarest of rarities...a remake that's better than the original. Over a decade later, it was actually turned into a Broadway musical with John Lithgow and Norbert Leo Butz playing Lawrence and Freddy.



CONTRABAND
Despite an overly complex screenplay that often stretches credibility, the 2012 action drama Contraband delivers enough of what action fans are looking for that they will be willing to overlook the storytelling flaws.

The film stars Mark Wahlberg as Chris Farraday, a former smuggler trying to get out of the business, who finds himself drawn back in when he agrees to help his young brother-in-law, who owes a huge amount of money to a demented drug lord, by boarding an offshore ship headed to Panama in order to retrieve a huge cache of counterfeit money.

Aaron Guzikowski, who also wrote the screenplay for Prisoners, adapted the story from an Icelandic film called Reykjavik-Rotterdam providing a story that takes a little too much time with exposition...a good 30 minutes of the film are spent explaining Chris' former profession to us and how he wants a new life. The film kicks into gear once he's on the ship, but then we are thrown one incredible plot twist after another that ask the viewer to swallow a lot, including the fact that our protagonist is absolutely oblivious to the revelations that come to the surface. The film also takes a really unpleasant turn when the drug lord decides to ensure Chris' cooperation by threatening his wife and children, who Chris has asked his pal Sebastian to look after while he's gone.

What the film does have going for it is a very likable central character, even though parts of his brain seem to have been removed in order to make certain plot twists work. I was amused by the opening scenes of Chris telling anyone who will listen that he wants a new life but once he's on that ship, he confesses to his brother-in-law that he loves this "but don't tell your sister."

Wahlberg is solid and there are a pair of effectively unhinged performances from Ben Foster as Sebastian and Giovanni Ribisi as the crazy drug lord. Kate Beckinsale is also strong as Chris' wife, who is really put through the wringer in this story. The film also features expert editing and a pulse-pounding music score and with a less convoluted screenplay, this could have been something really special.



THAT DARN CAT!(1965)
Disney Studios had one of their biggest live action hits with the 1965 classic That Darn Cat an elaborately mounted comic adventure that might have been a little too sophisticated for its intended demographic but still provides solid laughs for a film that's 52 years old.

The film follows a pair of bank robbers who use a bank teller as a shield to get out of the bank and continue to hold her hostage in their hideout. One of the robbers is followed home by a Siamese cat named DC, who is after the food the robber is carrying. DC gets into the hideout and while there, the hostage manages to slip her wristwatch around DC's neck with a partial message scratched on it. DC returns home to his owner, Patti Randall, a teenage drama queen with an overactive imagination. Patti actually figures out everything immediately and decides that she must report the watch to the FBI, where she decides a handsome young agent named Zeke Kelso is the man for the case, but getting the FBI to believe Patti's story and be on board with it is a lot more difficult than Patti thought but it is DC who actually convinces them that Patti's story might have some merit.

Director Robert Stevenson, fresh off his Oscar-nominated work directing Mary Poppins takes on an equally elaborate story here but with different challenges than his previous assignment provided. Instead of a lot of special effects and making us accept the mingling of live action and animation, Stevenson has the monumental task of making us believe a story where the smartest character in the movie is a Siamese cat, a cat whose primary mission is food but also knows where his bread his buttered and knows when people like him and when they don't. It's a little hard to believe that this cat has all these silly humans running around like chickens with their heads cut off, but that's exactly what he does and a lot of credit for this has to go to the director and the trainers in charge of making the several cats utilized in making the movie, a likable and believable movie hero who actually seems to understand whenever these silly humans are talking about him.

What did surprise me about this film was the surprisingly adult screenplay by Gordon and Dorothy Gordon, rich with sophisticated dialogue and some slightly edgy relationships for a 1965 Disney comedy. It is clear from the moment Patti and Kelso meet that Patti is attracted to the man, which seems a little icky on the surface since the character is clearly too old for Patti, but Patti's crush is never portrayed as unseemly and we never worry that anything inappropriate is going to happen between Patti and Kelso because Kelso knows it's wrong without making a fuss or slowing down the real story, though he does find himself attracted to Patti's older sister, Ingrid.

Stevenson has assembled a perfect cast for this comedy led by Hayley Mills, absolutely enchanting as Patti and the adorable Dean Jones as Kelso, whose work here is delicious and believable...Kelso is allergic to cats and I love the way Jones never forgets to have trouble breathing through his nose whenever Kelso and DC are in the same room. The terrific supporting cast includes Dorothy Provine as Ingrid and Roddy McDowall as her stuffy boyfriend. Frank Gorshin was very funny as one of the bank robbers as were William Demarest and Elsa Lanchester as neighbors who were clearly the inspiration for Abner and Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched. A winning Disney comedy that still provides major laughs after all these years.