Gideon58's Reviews

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The Hate U Give
The 2018 drama The Hate U Give is an emotionally charged motion picture experience that made me so angry that I actually had to pause the movie and step away from it in an attempt to maintain my objectivity about what was unfolding before me as well as judging the film for its entertainment value and not allowing my personal feelings about the story to cloud my judgment.

Starr Carter is a 16 year old back girl who lives in a black neighborhood called Garden Heights but attends a predominately white high school where her mother has sent her and her half-brother because she feels the school in Garden Heights is too dangerous. One night she leaves a party in Garden Heights with a childhood friend she has just reconnected with. They are stopped by a cop because the guy forgot to signal when changing lanes, and when he reaches inside the car to get a hairbrush, the cop shoots and kills him, right in front of Starr.

The story begins to gather layers as it is revealed that Khalil, the young man who was shot, worked for the local drug kingpin, who also used to employ Starr's father. The community of Garden Heights is up in arms when all that happens to the cop is that he's put on paid administrative leave, awaiting a grand jury hearing. King, the drug kingpin, is afraid that Starr might say something to the police about what Khalil was doing and suddenly Starr finds herself in so much danger that her mother wants to move. On the other side of this intense racial coin, Starr does whatever she can to keep what has happened from her white friends while simultaneously appearing on television and telling everyone what happened that night (they blur her face on television), but her white boyfriend, Chris, figures out exactly what's going on on prom night.

Audrey Wells screenplay, adapted from a novel by Angie Thomas, provides a story taut with racial tension that initially got me extremely angry. I think the last time a movie ignited such anger in me was 2013's Compliance, but, as a black man, it was very difficult to remain objective as I saw a white cop shoot and kill an unarmed black kid and receive not much more than a slap on the wrist for it. I was also angered by the fact that Starr was in danger because she really didn't do anything. Everyone in Garden Heights seemed to be aware that Khalil was working for King, but he was still in business, so why was he so threatened by Starr? On the other hand, it was hard to get behind Starr's belief that this cop should go to jail when she couldn't even be honest with all of her friends at the white high school about what had happened. And with her drastic change in behavior at school, why was no one but Chris able to figure out that Starr was the witness?

It's a messy and disturbing story that is told with surprising balance and director George Tillman Jr., whose resume prior to this film is less than impressive, is to be credited for the care and sensitivity he employed in the mounting of this story. Amandla Stenberg lights up the screen in an Oscar-worthy performance as Starr and I also loved Regina Hall as her mom and especially Russell Hornsby as her dad. The film features first rate production values and is perfectly framed by Dustin O'Halloran's music. A story of racial tension that definitely had my blood boiling.

The Muppets Take Manhattan
If you're looking for a musical comedy that has all the gloss of an MGM musical but is still deeply steeped in realism, you need look no further than the 1984 classic The Muppets Take Manhattan.

This serious piece of film making is about a frog who, along with his other animal friends, including a pig, a bear, and a dog, have just graduated from a fictional college called Danhurst College and have decided that the musical, written by the frog and called "Manhattan Melodies" is good enough to bring to Broadway. The frog, whose name is Kermit, piles all of his friends on a bus, and arrive in Manhattan where they all move into lockers at Grand Central Station. Being unable to sell the show after a few days, most of the animals go home except Kermit and a pig named Miss Piggy who's in love with Kermit. Kermit eventually meets Ronny Crawford, the son of an important Broadway producer who decides he wants to produce "Manhattan Melodies" but then Kermit gets hit by a cab and develops amnesia.

Yes, this stark and grim musical comedy is just the kind of movie that all kinds of audiences can enjoy as long as you're willing to accept a few things: If you can accept that a frog is capable of writing a musical and if you can accept them finding a restaurant where the waitstaff consists of a girl named Jenny and a rat named Rizzo and if you can accept that Pete, the owner of the restaurant actually sent telegrams to all the animals instructing them to return to New York and if you can accept that five minutes after being released from the hospital with amnesia, the frog gets a job at an advertising agency run by three other frogs, then this musical will be right up your alley.

Needless to say, if you're looking for something realistic, just keep in mind that the principal characters here are felt puppets who sing, dance, compose music, run veterinary clinics, and appear in water spectacle shows. And for those of you who are true fans of the Muppets, the primary storyline that you expect from a Muppet movie is center stage as always: Miss Piggy is trying to get Kermit down the aisle but this evil girl named Jenny seems to be in the way. Miss Piggy also garners major laughs while chasing a purse snatcher and I also loved when Kermit learns from the doctor that he is really Mr. Ernest Tortellini of Passaic, New Jersey and five minutes later, becomes the Manhattan version of Darren Stephens.

Ralph Burns' breezy song score includes songs like "Together Again", "Right Where I Belong", "Saying Goodbye", "He'll Make Me Happy", and "You Can't Take No for an Answer."

Like most Muppet movies, the film features a plethora of cameos from people like Dabney Coleman, Art Carney, Joan Rivers, Linda Lavin, Gregory Hines, Elliott Gould, Liza Minnelli, Brooke Shields, former New York mayor Ed Koch, and director John Landis. Also appearing briefly as Mr. Winesop's receptionist is Frances Bergen, widow of Edgar and mother of Candice. No matter how hard you may resist, there is something about the Muppets that will always bring a smile to the face of even the grumpiest Gus and I won't lie, this movie still had me laughing throughout. The Muppets are always fun and always worth watching.

The Do-Over
Adam Sandler and David Spade unite for an overblown comic adventure called The Do-Over, which does provide sporadic laughs, but the often logic defying story does prove that Sandler and Spade are a little long in the tooth for these kind of cinema hi-jinks.

The 2016 comedy stars Adam Sandler as Max, a coroner pretending to be an FBI agent, who runs into his high school BFF, Charlie (Spade) at their high school reunion. Charlie works as the manager of a bank inside a supermarket, still drives the same car he drove in high school, is married to a cheating whore and is constantly disrespected by his obnoxious twin stepsons. Seeing how miserable Charlie is and tired of denying his own misery, Max steals Charlie away for a weekend of partying, during which Max reveals to Charlie that he has faked their deaths and that they have now assumed the identities of two corpses that Max encountered named Richard and Butch. A chance to start over is initially quite thrilling for our boys until it is revealed that the men whose lives they have decided to steal are still in some very serious trouble with some very dangerous people.

Steven Brill, who directed one of my favorite Adam Sandler comedies, Mr. Deeds, has mounted a highly improbable and very expensive action comedy that doesn't go anywhere the viewer expects it to. We are initially pleasantly diverted by the guys' discovery of a key on (or should I say Inside) one of the corpses leads to an obscene amount of money and a lavish hideaway in Puerto Rico and the film initially might make anyone who is unhappy with their life that the solution is faking their death. Of course, the guys learn they're in danger and the thrill is gone, but what was hard to swallow was the eventual relationship between the two dead men and what they were working on at the time they were murdered.

Brill works very hard at making sense out of the hard to believe screenplay and provides plenty of opportunities for the stars to provide the kind of laughs that were accustomed to from them, but a lot of the elaborate physical comedy that populates this film is just beyond the stars' capabilities. A lot of it seems to have been inserted as a method of disguising some of the gaping holes in the screenplay that make up for some pretty sluggish moments in the second act, though it does bounce back for a pretty credible finale...I absolutely loved the finale physical confrontation between two female characters, filmed entirely in slow motion and set to the track of Madonna's "Crazy for You." An initially jarring image that just got funnier as it progressed and the stars just stood there and watched them.

Sandler is no stranger to this nutso kind of character and Spade is surprisingly effective in a role that I kept picturing Rick Moranis in. The film is gorgeously photographed and features outstanding set direction and film editing, but the overly confusing story takes too long to come into focus.

Elaine Stritch: At Liberty
Decades before she began playing Alec Baldwin's mother on 30 Rock, Elaine Stritch had an extraordinary career that started in the 1940's and included movies, television, and most importantly, theater that she lays out before a standing room only crowd in a dazzling one-woman performance, that not only chronicles her amazing career, but her fascinating personal life which includes a battle with addiction she did conquer before her passing in 2014.

This show originally opened at the Neil Simon Theater in New York where Stritch did 69 performances but the production I saw was from the Old Vic Theater in 2004 and would eventually win Stritch a Tony and an Emmy.

Strutting onstage in her traditional rehearsal togs, a pink button-down shirt over a leotard and tights and having a stool as her only props and/or scenery, Stritch chronicles her miraculous career, which involves some fall-on-the-floor backstage stories that are so incredible they just have to be true. Her story about being cast as Ethel Merman's understudy in Call Me Madam and then being cast in Pal Joey and how she managed to keep both jobs simultaneously was positively joyous. She sprinkles these stories with stories about some of the famous men in her life, from Marlon Brando to Noel Coward to Ben Gazzara and the undeniable crush she had on Rock Hudson when they made a movie together. Her impression of Noel Coward was so funny...I loved the way he always called her "Stritchie."

Honestly, this show is not for everyone. This show is for theater geeks like myself, who not only adore Stritch, but adore everything that is involved with life in the "theatah." Stritch uses a lot of theatrical terms in her stories that might not be familiar to non-theater geeks and might make some of her stories hard to understand and appreciate, but theater lovers will will be on the floor for just about everything she offers here and it is so easy to see why Stritch stole so many scenes from so many actors for so many years.

Of course, Stritch offers some of her most famous musical numbers, like "Broadway Baby", "I'm Still Here", and "The Ladies Who Lunch." She also offers her take on "Zip", which is, of course part of her Call Me Madam/Pal Joey story. And even though I've heard Stritch sing some of these songs dozens of times, each time Stritch takes the stage with any of these songs, it is a singularly unique one-act play that is never performed the same way twice. She also does a song from her first musical and proudly proclaims before the song that she is doing the original choreography. This is a one-of-a-kind musical comedy performance from a one-of-a-kind performer. RIP, Elaine.

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool
Another look at a Hollywood star at the end of her career is provided in 2017's [i]Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool/I],a somber and sentimental look at the final two years in the life of legendary actress Gloria Grahame that is worth watching because of a dazzling, Oscar-worthy performance by Annette Bening in the title role that anchors this film and makes it seem a lot better than it is.

This film is based on a book written on the leading male character here, a Peter Turner, a struggling actor living in Liverpool who meets the actress when she moves into a local boarding house. It is not long before Peter begins an affair with the actress, long before he actually learns who she is. Needless to say, learning about Grahame only fuels his interest in the actress, but the fact that Peter is decades younger than Grahame and the fact that Grahame is silently suffering from breast cancer spell eventual doom for this May/December romance.

Since the character of Peter is a real person, it's pretty hard to dispute the facts presented here, otherwise the film never would have been made, but credit must be given to screenwriter Matt Greehalgh and director Paul McGuigan for their imaginative mounting of what is essentially, kind of an ordinary story, given more credibility that it deserves because the central characters are real people and one of them is a movie star. As has been the trend with a lot of recent films, the story is told out of sequence and attention is required so that the viewer stays abreast of where we are in the story and that's where McGuigan's imagination kicks in...sometime the moves from present to past aren't realistic, but they are extremely effective. There's one terrific cinematic move where we are in the present where Peter leaves the present by opening a door and we're in the past at the beginning of his relationship with Grahame.

But what really makes this film worth investing in is the post graduate acting course offered by Annette Bening in bringing the tragic Grahame to the screen. A look at this legendary star was long overdue and, of course, I would have liked to seen a little more about the height of her career, but because this is Peter's story and not Grahame's, that wasn't possible but I'll take what I can get. Bening pulls out all the acting stops here, presenting a Gloria Grahame who might have had more going on than breast cancer. Her jarring switches in behavior suggest bipolar disorder but that is only what this reviewer's eyes saw because if there were mental health issues with the actress, they are not addressed here. Bening is extraordinary here...I love the scene near the end where Peter takes her to an empty theater and they sit in folding chairs onstage and read the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet...Peter is reading the lines but, of course, Gloria has the scene memorized. I also loved that Gloria's final departure from England was juxtaposed with footage of her winning the 1952 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Bad and the Beautiful

Jamie Bell proves to be an actor of substance, holding his own against an acting powerhouse like Bening with his sweet and sincere Peter. Bell is also reunited with his Billy Elliott co-star, Julie Walters, who is terrific as Peter's mother. There's also a classy cameo by Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave as Gloria's mom. The film features handsome production values, but this is Bening's show and she owns this movie, almost making the viewer forget that anything is wrong.

Trouble with a capital "T"
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool

...As has been the trend with a lot of recent films, the story is told out of sequence and attention is required so that the viewer stays abreast of where we are in the story and that's where McGuigan's imagination kicks in...sometime the moves from present to past aren't realistic, but they are extremely effective.

There's one terrific cinematic move where we are in the present where Peter leaves the present by opening a door and we're in the past at the beginning of his relationship with Grahame....
I'm hating how so many modern films have to be shown out of sequence. It's become an annoying trend. I blame Nolan's Mememento for that. Though, I'm sure there's plenty of other older films that did out-of-sequence too.

I did love the edit with Peter leaves the present by opening a door and we're now in the past. That was the films high light.

But mostly I thought the film was a wash. I didn't connect to it, or care much for the people in it. Which is odd as I've seen just about every Gloria Grahame film that she was ever in. Gloria was all kinds of great, but Annette Bening as Gloria Grahame...not so much great.

I had a feeling you weren't going to like it, Citizen, because I know of your serious love for Grahame...she was a singularly unique screen presence that no one could duplicate, but I thought Bening was wonderful. And as I mentioned in my review, I loved when Peter walked through the door into the past too.

Trouble with a capital "T"
...And as I mentioned in my review, I loved when Peter walked through the door into the past too.
I know, I read that in your review and liked what you said about the door scene. It was neat scene.

Guess what? your review sparked me to watch another Gloria Grahame movie. Well she only has a little tiny role, but it was a really good movie: Chilly Scenes of Winter (1979) - IMDb Have you seen that one?

No, I want to look at some more of Grahame's work, but there are other things I want to see first...after seeing this film, I really want to see In a Lonely Place.

Trouble with a capital "T"
No, I want to look at some more of Grahame's work, but there are other things I want to see first...after seeing this film, I really want to see In a Lonely Place.
In a Lonely Place is one of the best films I've seen.

Life of the Party
Melissa McCarthy once again commands the screen with 2018's Life of the Party, a rowdy comedy that is made to look a lot funnier than it really is because McCarthy is center stage.

McCarthy plays Deanna, who has just driven her daughter to get her settled in at college. Before they even leave the campus, her husband (Matt Walsh) tells her that he is in love with another woman, he wants a divorce, and that he's selling the house, forcing Deanna to have to find somewhere else to live. Having dropped out of college before getting her degree because she became pregnant, Deanna decides to go back to college with her daughter and get her degree.

McCarthy and hubby Ben Falcone (who does a cameo as an Uber driver) have mounted a comedy that, on the surface, appears to be a distaff version of the Rodney Dangerfield comedy Back to School, but it really isn't. The only reason Dangerfield's Thornton Mellon goes back to school is to be closer to his son and that is not the case here. Deanna has always secretly regretted the fact that she had to drop out of college and had a true passion for her major, which was archaeology. It's great that Deanna makes it clear to daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon) that she has no resentment toward her but what she's doing is about her.

I also liked the fact that, unlike Keith Gordon's character in Back to School, Maddie quickly embraces what her mother is trying to do and supports her completely. There's this lovely scene where Deanna and Maddie go to a party and Maddie drags her mother into a bathroom and fixes her up so she looks younger and prettier and for the first time in a Melissa McCarthy movie, you can't help but notice what a beautiful woman McCarthy is, with some killer eyes and a most disarming smile. Apparently, Falcone finally wanted the rest of us to see what he's been seeing for years.

Falcone never forgets his wife is funny though and provides plenty of opportunity for the lady to do what she does so well. I loved the mediation for the divorce where she and scummy hubby meet with his new fiancee (Julie Bowen) and when she can't keep her hands off a hunky sophomore (Luke Benward) in the library. A fight with a couple of mean girls also brings the funny as does Deanna's first oral presentation for her archaeology class. McCarthy not only makes these scenes very funny, but she also makes them come off as appearing to be totally improvised. The story also provides a couple of familial connections in the story that we don't see coming.

McCarthy does receive solid support from Maya Rudolph as her BFF who likes having sex in public places, Heidi Gardner as Deanna's creepy roommate who never leaves the room, and Stephen Root and Jacki Weaver as Deanna's parents. There's also a cameo from Christina Aguilera. It's not as good as Spy or The Boss, but there are definite laughs here.

Sudden Fear
Some interesting directorial touches and a larger than life performance from Joan Crawford make the taut 1952 melodrama Sudden Fear worth checking out.

Crawford plays Myra Hudson, a wealthy playwright who keeps an actor named Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) from getting the lead in her latest play because she doesn't think he's pretty enough to be a leading man. A few weeks later, they meet on a train from New York to San Francisco, which is the springboard for a whirlwind romance between the two which climaxes with their marriage. Myra is blissfully happy until she learns that Lester and his former girlfriend (Gloria Grahame) are planning to murder her for her money.

Director David Miller deserves the lion's share of the credit for what works in this film. Miller creates a very noir-ish atmosphere throughout this story particularly in the way the film is much of the story is shot in shadows that initially frustrate because we think we're missing a lot, but we're really not, the shadowy photography brings an added layer of tension to the story that just makes us want to pay attention so that we don't miss anything.

The film is a little longer than it needs to be and I must confess to a moment or two that, for me, produced unintentional giggles...I loved the scene where Myra learns what her husband and his mistress are planning, but the fantasy sequence that immediately follows where Myra starts imagining how her husband might be planning to murder her just made me laugh and I don't think it was supposed to. The film spends a little too much time on close-ups of Crawford standing in shadows, sweating, and lips quivering that I think were intended to build suspense but often just try viewer patience. And I don't know if this was intentional, but every time a phone rang in the movie, the sound of the phone ringing was nothing short of deafening.

Don't get me wrong...Crawford makes this worth watching with a flamboyant performance that earned her a Best Actress Oscar nomination. Palance's chilling turn earned him a Supporting Actor nomination as well, even though the role is clearly a lead. My guess is TPTB behind the movie thought he had a better chance of winning in the supporting category and I LOVED Gloria Grahame as his conniving girlfriend. The film also features a young actor named Touch Connors, who would later change his name to Mike Connors and find fame on TV in the 60's as Mannix. The bloom has worn off this one a bit, but Crawford still makes it worth checking out.

Trouble with a capital "T"
Cool that you watched Sudden Fear. We had similar reactions, I also thought it went a bit too long and I'm almost never a fan of dream sequences in a movie. Did you notice Miss Crawford wore this massive jeweled necklace? She did the same thing in another of her films, I Saw What You Did (1965) a good film too.

In a Lonely Place
A classic from 1950, In a Lonely Place is a sizzling psychological melodrama that rivets the viewer to the screen thanks to a rich story, colorful characters, and the off-the-charts chemistry between the stars.

Humphrey Bogart stars as Dixon Steele, a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who has been given the chance to revive his career by turning a new book into a viable screenplay. Steele meets a young hat check girl who has just read the book and instead of reading the book himself, he invites her back to his apartment to tell him about the book. After they finish, Steele gives the girl cab fare and tells her there's a cab stand around the corner. A few hours later, a cop friend of Steele's shows up at his door and informs him that the girl has just been found brutally murdered.

While trying to convince the police that he had nothing to do with this murder, Steele begins his new screenplay with the assistance of his attractive upstairs neighbor, Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame) who agrees to do the typing for him. Steele and Laurel fall hard for each other but Laurel finds it hard to stay loyal to Steele as he comes into focus as the prime suspect in this murder, due to the reveal of Steele's past, which includes a propensity for violent behavior, and it's not all in the past either.

Director Nicholas Ray and screenwriter Andrew Solt really score here, mounting a story that creates doubt on the screen for our tortured protagonist for the viewer. The story makes it pretty clear that Steele is innocent, but things start occurring during the course of the story that this reviewer actually began to doubt whether or not Steele is actually innocent, which I'm pretty sure was the intent here...the scene where Steele goes to dinner at his cop buddy's house and forces him and his wife to act out how he thinks the murder happened was undeniably creepy and was an effective red herring provided by Solt to remind the viewer that all may not be as it seems.

The casting of Bogart in the role of Steele was also inspired because Bogey's stone-face hides so much here...we're never sure exactly what this guy is thinking and trying to predict what he was going to do next became impossible. There's a scene where Steele beats a guy to a pulp after a minor traffic infraction that I didn't see coming at all. Scenes like this made it very understandable when even Laurel began doubting Steele's innocence.

Ray must also be credited with the rich performance he gets from Bogey and the positively steamy chemistry created between him and leading lady Grahame, whose performance as Laurel is electric sex on legs. Frank Lovejoy was effective as Steele's cop buddy as was Robert Warwick as a boozy alcoholic actor-buddy of Steele's. The film also deserves a shout out for George Anthiel's quirky music. A severely underrated winner from a very good year for the movies that defines "film noir.'

Trouble with a capital "T"
In a Lonely Place
A classic from 1950, In a Lonely Place is a sizzling psychological melodrama that rivets the viewer to the screen thanks to a rich story, colorful characters, and the off-the-charts chemistry between the stars.

Director Nicholas Ray and screenwriter Andrew Solt really score here, mounting a story that creates doubt on the screen for our tortured protagonist for the viewer...A severely underrated winner from a very good year for the movies that defines "film noir.'
Well said! I agree with your entire review and it was a good read too. Another scorcher film noir with Gloria Grahame is 1953's The Big Heat

Have you seen that one?