Gideon58's Reviews

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Vice (2018)
A breathtaking performance by Christian Bale in the starring role notwithstanding, Vice is a rambling and long-winded docudrama centering on George W. Bush's VP, Dick Cheney that could have used a little less "docu" and a lot more drama.

Dick Cheney was a strong and unassuming man dedicated to public service and was apparently lured into politics by Donald Rumsfeld, who was apparently instrumental in George W.'s choice of Cheney as a running mate. Even the most unassuming man knows that the Vice President is the most thankless job on the planet but apparently George W. appealed to the former beer-drinking rowdy in Cheney that George could relate to. The film reveals how Cheney, probably more than any other Vice President in history, did whatever he could to make the job less thankless.

Adam McKay, who won an Oscar for writing another film that lost me (The Big Short) has crafted another confusing screenplay that attempts a couple of different methods of storytelling and is not really sure which one he really wants to employ. The screenplay is an unsettling combination of biographical facts and cinematic analogies that make consistent investment in what's going on difficult. First of all, we are confused by Cheney's story being narrated by someone named Kurt (Jesse Plemons) whose connection to Cheney is revealed WAY too late and introduces us to his interpretation of a lot of Cheney's actions. The whole comparison of setting up the VP's administration to the Parker Brothers board game Risk was genius as was the ordering of military strategy as if they were items on a dinner menu with perfect descriptions of each item choice from a waiter (Alfred Molina in a terrific cameo).

This movie could have been amazing if McKay had taken a little more of a jaundiced view the way he did with the board game and the restaurant scene; unfortunately, a lot of the story gets bogged down in archival news footage where it was often hard to establish its connection to Cheney's story. A little more emphasis on life at home might have helped too, since the movie makes no bones about the influence that wife Lynne and his daughters had on him.

As troublesome as I found a lot of what was going on, I was absolutely riveted to the screen for one reason...the amazing performance by Christian Bale as Dick Cheney that just won him a Golden Globe and has him in strong contention for a second Oscar. The physical transformation that Bale went through for this role is incredible and confirms his spot as one of cinema's best chameleons right now. I read that Bale put on 45 pounds and shaved his head and eyebrows in order to be completely unrecognizable in this role, which he completely loses himself in. Not since Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada have I seen an actor command the screen barely speaking above a stage whisper, just stunning work. Oscar winner Sam Rockwell made a fantastic George W. and Amy Adams was solid, as always, as Lynne. Film editing and sound were also big assets, I just wish McKay hadn't let this one get away from him because there are parts of an amazing movie in here, though it's still worth seeing for the incredible performance by Christian Bale, which should be studied by acting students.

Come Blow Your Horn
A breezy performance by Frank Sinatra is the best thing about a rather tired adaptation of a Neil Simon play called Come Blow Your Horn.

The 1963 comedy finds Sinatra playing Alan Baker, a carefree and irresponsible bachelor who works for his father but as the story opens, he has missed the last three days of work. Alan's younger brother, Buddy, who also works for dad, shows up on Alan's doorstep, tired of life at home. Alan is thrilled to have little brother exert a little independence until Buddy starts to cramp his lifestyle with the three ladies in his life that he is currently juggling: Peggy is a vivacious bimbo without a brain in her head, Mrs. Eckman is a married temptress, and Connie is the girl who Alan really loves, but is in denial about it. While trying to hold onto is job and his three ladies, Alan finds Buddy taking over his bachelor pad.

One of Neil Simon's lesser works, it premiered on Broadway in 1961 and actually ran for over 600 performances. I don't know if it's Simon's original story or Norman Lear's adaptation of the screenplay, but this comedy just doesn't provide the rapid, non-stop laughs that we're accustomed to from Neil Simon. If it wasn't actually documented, I never would have known that this came from Simon because it doesn't produce the laughs that The Odd Couple or Barefoot in the Park produce.

Other than Sinatra, the performances are nothing to write home about either. I guess comedy was foreign territory for him, but Lee J. Cobb's one-note blustering as the angry father really grated on the nerves as did Tony Bill's twitching as Buddy. It's evident here why Bill eventually gave up acting and became an Oscar-winning movie producer and director. Jill St. John is gorgeous but cannot act. The only ones who rise above the muck are Barbara Rush as Connie and Molly Picon as the brothers' mother. Picon has one very funny scene where she is trying to take messages for Alan. There's also a brief appearance by Dan Blocker, who was a star of the # 2 rated television show at the time, Bonanza.

The film actually received an Oscar nomination for art direction/set direction, which was richly deserved, Alan's apartment is stunning, but this one is really for hardcore Sinatra fans only.

Director Herbert Ross first brought ballet to mainstream movie audiences back in 1977 with The Turning Point, which was a box office smash that earned 11 Oscar nominations. A decade later, Ross brought us another look at the art of ballet called Dancers that was just a hot mess.

In this 1987 film, the American Ballet Theater is planning to make a movie of the ballet "Giselle" in London with lead dancer Tony (Mikhail Baryshnikov) planning to dance for the final time. Tony finds himself drawn to Lisa (Julie Kent), a young dancer who was a last minute substitute for a dancer who was injured. His attraction to Lisa is complicating his relationship with the dancer doing Giselle (Alessandra Ferri) and his ex, Nadine (Leslie Browne), who has recently had a baby and is getting back into her toe shoes for the first time since becoming a mom.

God, I don't know where to start here...first of all, I do need to applaud Herbert Ross for his intentions here. An up close and personal look at ballet dancers and what drives them, kind of a ballet version of A Chorus Line is a nice idea, but Sarah Kernochan's screenplay is nothing more than a contrived and boring soap opera en pointe that never really engages the viewer because Kernochan's attempts at sophistication and wit are lost on this cast.

And I think that's the real problem with this film. Historically, great dancers are notoriously bad actors and this point is driven home with a sledgehammer here. The dancers are actually given the occasionally funny piece of dialogue here but it all falls flat because there is a lot of dialogue provided for the actors that I genuinely believe they don't understand and it's even worse with Baryshnikov because he's not American and I honestly believe there were jokes in the screenplay that he didn't understand what he was saying and Ross has to take the blame for this. Baryshnikov and Browne were both featured in The Turning Point and inexplicably received Oscar nominations for their dreadful performances and I would have thought that Ross would have worked a little harder on their acting and let the dancing take care of itself. The only glint of any acting talent in this cast comes from Ferri when she's dancing Giselle.

This melodramatic story is just so silly and fails to hold the viewer's attention on so many levels. There's a point in the story where Lisa is so distraught because she realizes Tony really loves Giselle, that she walks out in the middle of a rehearsal and we're supposed to believe that she has left to kill herself...seriously? I understand Ross' desire for mainstream audiences to find a love for ballet and I think he would have done the world of cinema better service if he had just filmed "Giselle" with some actual backstage/rehearsal footage sprinkled throughout instead of this silly soap opera performed by a bunch of self-centered dancers who can't act.

From the "Style over Substance" school of film making comes Flashdance, a sizzling musical drama that was the surprise box office smash of 1983, redefined movie and fashion trends, but most importantly, established Adrian Lyne as a director to watch.

The story, such as it is, follows Alex (Jennifer Beals), a girl who works as a welder by day and dances in a club at night in downtown Pittsburgh, though she has never had any formal dance training. One night at the club, her day job boss, Nick (Michael Nouri) catches her act and decides he wants to start dating her, which turns out to be a lot more complicated than he expected. Despite her lack of training, Alex also yearns to audition for an elite dance repertory company and keeps coming up with excuses not to.

Yes, this is my first viewing of this film and as for why I waited this long to watch it, it just seemed like a silly idea for a movie and never really interested me. What did appeal to me and pop off the screen for me as I watched was the undeniably stylish direction by Adrian Lyne, the man who directed Fatal Attraction, Unfaithful, and 91/2 Weeks. Lyne not only has an unerring eye for creating striking cinematic images but there are few directors out there with a better eye for erotic cinematic imagery...the undoing of her bra under the sweatshirt, the removing of her dinner jacket to reveal the front of a tuxedo shirt without the rest of the shirt, and best of all, how does anyone not get hot watching Jennifer Beals eat lobster in this movie? Speaking of sweatshirts, this was also the movie where the off-shoulder, ripped sweatshirt look was born and became the only way for dancers in the 80's to appear in public.

On the other hand, the swiss cheese screenplay did provide several questions that nagged at me throughout the film. Number one, this woman dreams of being a dancer but has never taken any classes? WHY THE HELL NOT? If you want to be a dancer, you have to take class. And if she's never taken classes or danced professionally, what the hell did she put on that 20 page application for the rep company? And most important of all, Nick couldn't have forgotten how difficult it was to get Alex to go out with him. Why would he think she would be OK with him making a phone call to the arts council on her behalf? And who is Alex to drag her BFF out of a strip club because it's not "real dancing"?

The film does feature some terrific dancing though, even if Beals isn't doing all of it, to a fantastic song score. Her opening number with the famous water-dunking, filmed almost exclusively in silhouette, is smoking hot. The scene to the tune of "Maniac" was interesting, though I didn't get the appeal of watching Alex's wet and sweaty hair flying all over the place. And the final audition piece danced to the Oscar winning title tune, might have been a lot more effective with a real dancer performing it...I've heard over the years that four different dancers were utilized in this scene and, unfortunately, it's pretty obvious. Mention should also be made of Cynthia Rhodes, who would later heat up the screen with Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, and has an electrifying number here, mounted to the tune of "Man Hunt." Jeffrey Hornaday's choreography is razor sharp, far superior to his work in the film version of A Chorus Line.

Jennifer Beals is a pretty girl, but so much of her performance comes from other people, it's hard to accurately gauge her as an actress, but when was the last time you saw her in a movie? The prosecution rests. Bouquets to the film editing as well, but more than anything this film is a testament to the dazzling cinematic eye of Adrian Lyne.

White Boy Rick
2018's White Boy Rick is a dark and muddled docudrama that suffers due to a little too much similarity to great crime dramas of the past and a general air of "been there done that" which pervades the proceedings.

This is the true story of Rick Wershe Jr., the teenage son of a weapons dealer who becomes a major player with a drug ring and an informant for the FBI at the same time, which eventually gets hims sentenced to life imprisonment. We learn during the epilogue that Rick served thirty three years of the sentence and was finally released in 2017.

The story opens in 1984 Detroit where we observe Rick and his dad purchasing guns at a show and Rick turning around and selling most of them to the biggest drug dealer in town. Ricky finds himself living the high life of a player until the FBI swoop in and inform Rick that if he wants to avoid jail time, he must become an informant. He agrees to do so, but never really stops working for the drug dealers which eventually gets him in a very tangled web from which he is unable to escape.

Even though Rick's story is real, this film reminded me a lot of fictional crime films that follow a similar path and therein lies the problem. Andy Weiss and Logan Miller's screenplay is supposed to recreate what happened to a real teenager named Rick Wershe, a real life figure and should feel unique, but the only feelings I got here were confusion and slight boredom because I felt like I was seeing something I had seen a million times, though there were some plot points that didn't really make sense. Once the FBI has Rick start making buys for them, they turn around and hand him a $4000 brick of cocaine so that he can make money off it? And when Rick finally does go down, the FBI just throws the guy under the bus.

The relationship between Rick Jr. and Rick Sr. was perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story. It was a little unsettling watch a man coach his teenage son on the art of buying guns and then chastising him 30 minutes later for selling drugs. Though, unlike the FBI, Rick Sr. stands by his son and watching the healing of this relationship made the final act of this film tolerable. The relationship between Rick Jr. and his junkie sister, Dawn also provided some compelling moments.

Yann Demange's direction is unimaginative but Matthew McConaughey is terrific as Rick Sr. Richie Merrit's performance as Rick Jr. was a little one note and made a lot of this movie rough going. Everything about this movie was sadly mediocre and I was surprised I actually sat through the entire thing.

The Man with Two Brains
Steve Martin and Carl Reiner collaborated for the third time as star and director for 1983's The Man with Two Brains, a zany sci-fi spoof that, after all these years, had me laughing out loud for the majority of its running time.

Martin plays Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr, a world famous brain surgeon who has just perfected a new form of cranial brain surgery that just requires the surgeon to screw off the top of the patient's head. While still grieving over the death of first wife, Rebecca, Michael meets a venomous black widow named Delores Benedict (Kathleen Turner) who he accidentally hits with his car. He saves her life with his surgery and falls in love with her. They eventually get married but Delores refuses to consummate the marriage. Michael has to go to Europe for a convention where his meeting with a fellow surgeon (David Warner) leads to a confrontation with the Elevator Killer and Michael's falling in love with a disembodied brain in a jar.

Martin, Reiner, and George Gipe have crafted a very funny screenplay that almost has a Mel Brooks sensibility to it, in that it is a spoof of movies like Donavan's Brain, which we learn is Michael's favorite movie and a lot of the jokes that come at a breakneck pace are not always rooted in realism. Two of the biggest laughs in the film come from two separate scenes of Michael carrying his bride over the thresh hold. The scene on the rowboat where Martin takes the brain out for their first date is can't help but chuckle when he puts the hat and the plastic lips on the jar. And believe it or not, the running joke regarding the pronunciation of Michael's last name never gets tired. I also love the cheesy special effects like Michael licking his palms so they stick to the side of the condo or the apartment with the interior of a gothic castle.

The other thing that makes this movie work is the on-target casting of actors, and not comics, in the principal roles. I don't think a comedienne would have been nearly as effective as Kathleen Turner was, because a comedienne would have been playing the role for laughs and constantly mining for them and it would have distracted from the story. Turner's rich performance works because she plays this role with deadly seriousness and the humor and the hissable qualities in the character come out. It's clear from jump that Turner's character is the villain of the piece, beautifully established in her opening scenes with her dying millionaire first husband (George Furth) and Turner invests in this nasty character and makes her a joy to watch.

Martin and Turner actually create a viable chemistry onscreen that produces laughs throughout and it was nice to see David Warner lighten up in a role that is sort of a satire of his usual onscreen persona. The reveal of who the Elevator Killer is was hysterical and for those who don't recognize the voice, that is the voice of Oscar winner Sissy Spacek as the voice of the brain Dr. Michael falls in love with. There are flashes of comic brilliance and non-stop laughs in one of Martin's best and nearly forgotten comedies.

The Man with Two Brains
Steve Martin and Carl Reiner collaborated for the third time as star and director for 1983's The Man with Two Brains, a zany sci-fi spoof that, after all these years, had me laughing out loud for the majority of its running time.

Good to see that movie get some appreciation. It never gets talked about. I've only seen it once, and that was first run at the theater, but...I've never forgotten it. Your review has me wanting to revisit it now.

It won nine Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for the legendary Vincente Minnelli, but after my first viewing of the 1958 classic Gigi, I'm really scratching my head trying to figure out why.

Based on a novel by Collette, this is the story of a rich French playboy named Gaston Lachaille (Louis Jourdan), bored with his playboy lifestyle and only finds escape in the form of his friendship with a pretty young tomboy named Gigi (Leslie Caron) who is in the midst of being trained to be a Courtesan for a wealthy man by her grandmother (Hermione Gingold), a former paramour of his charming uncle (Maurice Chevalier). When Gaston's relationship with the glamorous Liane (Eva Gabor) falls apart, he jets off to Monte Carlo, where he realizes that his feelings for Gigi are more romantic than he imagined.

Don't get me wrong...this film is a feast for the eyes and ears, exquisitely mounted with incredible on-location photography in Paris, incredible settings, and drop dead gorgeous costumes, but all of this glamour and tinsel is really disguising what is a rather unsavory story, though it is cleverly camouflaged through Alan Jay Lerner's Oscar winning screenplay, filled with wit and double entendres, but when you strip away all the gloss, what you have here is a story about a young girl being trained to be a prostitute and a playboy who breaks up with a girl who immediately commits suicide and his reaction is to throw one party after another.

I'm pretty sure a lot of the appeal of this story also lies with the enchanting score by Lerner and Lowe, the team behind My Fair Lady and Camelot. The lilting score includes "Thank heavens for Little Girls", "The Night They Invented Champagne", "The Parisians", "She is Not Thinking of Me", "I Remember it Well", "It's a Bore", "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" and the Oscar winning title tune. It should be noted that, with the exception of Maurice Chevalier, none of the leads do their own singing.

Some of the Oscars the film won like set design and Cecil Beaton's breathtaking costumes were richly deserved, but Best Picture? Was this really a better film than The Defiant Ones, Auntie Mame or Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which were all nominated that year? And this might be a bit of a nitpick, but how are you going to mount this humongous musical, cast Leslie Caron in the title role, and not have her do a single dance step?

Caron is well cast in the title role and I've never enjoyed Louis Jourdan onscreen more. Needless to say, Maurice Chevalier steals every scene he's in and I must also give a shout out to Isabel Jeans as Aunt Alicia, but I have to believe Vincente Minnelli's Oscar was more of a sentiment/body of work thing, because this film, as competent as it is a technical achievement, did not live up to its reputation.

Instant Family
Despite a somewhat hackneyed plot, the 2018 comedy Instant Family provides pretty consistent laughs and a fair amount of surprises for what appeared to be a standard story on the surface.

Pete and Ellie Wagner (Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne) are a couple who are trying to fill the void in their lives by renovating and flipping houses. After some serious soul searching, they find themselves enrolled in a foster parenting class and eventually meet a hardened young teenage named Lizzy. Partly fueled by their guilt about the fact that prospective parents don't want to adopt teenagers, Pete and Ellie agree to meet Lizzy but are thrown when they learn she has a brother named Juan and a sister Lita and that they are a package deal. Juan is a klutz who apologizes a lot and Lita doesn't eat anything but potato chips.

This latest offering from director and co-screenwriter Sean Anders, the man behind the two Daddy's Home movies, deserves credit for opening my eyes to a couple of things I didn't know about the foster care system. I found it a little unsettling that the foster care people actually throw outdoor "fairs" where prospective parents can actually come and "shop" for possible children to adopt. I was also very disturbed by a term I had never heard before called "aging out" which refers to children who are not adopted by the time they're 18 and if this is true, I am disgusted by this.

Anders actually provides a pretty balanced look at all sides of this story, which is maybe why the movie is a little longer than it really needs to be. I found a scene right after Pete and Ellie take the kids in and are reunited with other prospective parents who were in the class with them who seemed to be waiting for Pete and Ellie to fail a little unsettling. Of course, the expected scene where the kids' birth mom returns and wants her kids back was fraught with a tension that made it one of the best scenes in the film. Anders paints a pretty realistic picture of foster parenting here that turns out be a lot richer than an extended episode of The Brady Bunch.

Anders seems to enjoy working with Wahlberg and gets a nicely modulated performance from him here and even Byrne is less annoying than usual. I also enjoyed Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro as the parenting class teachers, Julie Hagerty and Michael O'Keefe as Ellie's parents, and the fabulous Margo Martindale as Pete's mother. There's also a cute cameo at the film's climax by Joan Cusack that deserves mention. It's slightly overlong, but there are enough surprises offered along the way to sustain viewer interest.

the visuals are arresting and despite an unappealing lead character, this film is a lot of fun and has great re-watch appeal. 7.5/10
I have this on blu ray and just re-watched it. It really does look amazing. Seeing Prince take himself so seriously as a sex machine though - kind of ruins a lot of the experience for me, especially since I've talked with women who actually think he's god's gift to women..I'm not's more that I just cannot believe it. It seems absurd. I mean..keep that behind closed doors..that nostril flared sensuality that is bottom framed by a thin moustache. Ewww

I guess what I am trying to say is that Prince is basically parading around like a woman with a total pig mentality..his expressions are that of a self obsessed female model..and his attitude is that of a typical jerk who somehow ruins life for future boyfriends of the abused women who seem to gobble the abuse up with a spoon..all because he wants the best of both worlds and treats ppl like garbage...yeah...kind of a turn off imo

Rally Round the Flag Boys
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward made their second film appearance together in a muddled but somewhat entertaining comedy called Rally Round the Flag Boys that suffers due to sluggish direction and an overly indulgent script, but a really terrific cast greatly aids in sustaining interest.

Set in the fictional suburban town of Putnam Landing, the Newmans play Harry and Grace Bannerman, a couple with two small boys who find their marriage challenged on two different fronts: Harry is spending a lot of time fending off the advances of an amorous neighbor named Angela Hoffa (Joan Collins) while Harry and Grace are placed on opposite sides of a town-wide battle that ensues when the army purchases a large parcel of property in town in order to build a missile base there, but are trying to keep what they're doing a secret.

Director and co-screenwriter Leo McCarey has an overly complex screenplay that possibly could have made two different movies. There are two separate stories being told here and both were entertaining and somewhat topical, but for some reason McCarey's leaden pacing makes a movie that's a little over 90 minutes seem about twice as long. I will admit I was more engaged in the story of Harry and Grace dealing with man trap Angela than I was with the story of the army secretly trying to take over this suburban community, a plan which accidentally involved poor Harry actually having to join the Navy to get to the bottom of things.

What did make this film worth watching was watching Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward in a welcome change of pace. These were actors unaccustomed to mining for laughs but they are pretty successful because they're not trying too hard...their performances serve the often logic-defying story and laughs are born from there. They get to display a rarely seen gift for physical comedy...Newman's drunken charade with Collins is a lot of fun and the Thanksgiving pageant finale defies description. Collins is alluring and fun without being bitchy for a change and Gale Gordon and Jack Carson provide solid support as military personnel.

The film also features the first teaming of Dwayne Hickman and Tuesday Weld as a pair of Putnam Landing teenagers. Hickman and Weld would reunite a year later on television on Dobie Gillis and one of the Bannerman's sons is played by Stanley Livingston, who would later play Chip Douglas on My Three Sons. Not a great film, but the Newmans definitely make it worth watching.

Isn't She Great
The larger than life performance from Bette Midler in the starring role almost makes Isn't She Great, the 2000 biopic of author Jacqueline Susann worth sitting through...almost.

Susann, the author of Valley of the Dolls, The Love Machine, and Once is Not Enough, is profiled in this film as a woman who, more than anything, wanted to be famous and didn't really seem to care about how it happened. The film reveals that Susann was originally an actress but was in denial about the fact that she couldn't act. Enter Irving Mansfield (Nathan Lane), a second rate press agent who, inexplicably, believes in Susann and promises to make her famous. After getting her in a commercial and a one day job as a celebrity panelist on a game show, Irving hits on the idea that Jacqueline should become a writer and Valley of the Dolls was born.

This movie just had my head spinning because it just blew every memory and concept I had about Jacqueline Susann out of the water. I've seen Susann in interviews and her cameo in the film version of Valley of the Dolls and I just don't buy that she was this flamboyant, Auntie Mame, life of the party girl that is depicted here. There were things about her revealed here that I never knew, like the fact that she birth birth to an autistic son who would eventually be institutionalized and that at the same time she was writing Valley of the Dolls, she was also diagnosed with breast cancer, a battle she lost in 1974. It's a shame that 26 years after her death, a more proper tribute to the best selling authoress couldn't be mounted.

The film version of Valley of the Dolls is # 1 on my favorite guilty pleasures list and I was secretly hoping I could add this film to that list, but that's just not happening. There is one silly scene after another here... are we really supposed to believe that this woman actually made regular jaunts to a tree in Central Park so that she could talk to God? The scene of her first meeting with her editor (David Hyde Pierce) where she kept changing clothes was a ridiculous waste of screentime. I was pleased by the brief scene of Susann and Irving at the premiere of the Valley of the Dolls movie and she turns to Irving and tells him that they ruined her book.

Bette Midler works very hard to command the screen here, but I never really bought her as Jacqueline Susann, at least the Susann I remember and Nathan Lane just appears to be embarrassed to be involved in this debacle. The only laughs here come from David Hyde Pierce as the tight-assed editor and the incomparable Stockard Channing as Jackie's flamboyant actress BFF. Even Burt Bacherach's music sounded like something out of a 70's sitcom. What a mess.

Sex and the Single Girl
Sex and the Single Girl is a silly 1964 comedy that is allegedly based on the best selling book of the title, but seems to borrow more inspiration from comedies of the past, not to mention the fact that it goes on forever.

The book of the title was written by Dr. Helen Gurley Brown, an actress, writer, and therapist who would go on to be editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine, and eventually passed away in 2012. In this film, Natalie Wood, plays Brown, whose success with her book has been seriously affected by a scathing article in fictional "Stop" magazine by one of its editors, Bob Weston (Tony Curtis), who has promised his boss a personal interview with Brown, but she refuses. In order to get the interview, Bob pretends to be his emasculated married neighbor Frank (Henry Fonda) in order to get close to Dr. Brown.

This movie aggravates from jump mainly because we're watching an actress play a real life person based on a book that the person wrote and the story presented here makes movie Dr. Brown look like kind of a moron. Not to mention the fact that the whole pretending to be someone else for romance was done much more effectively five years earlier in a movie called Pillow Talk. As I watched I couldn't help think how there was no way that the real Helen Gurley Brown was presented here and that the makers of this film had to face lawsuits from Brown, not to mention Stanley Shapiro, the screenwriter of Pillow Talk, a screenplay that won an Oscar, but this pale, smarmy copy wasn't going to be winning anything, a silly story of sexual double entendres and mistaken identity that concludes with a ridiculous car chase that's about 15 minutes too long. The story even has Curtis' character referencing one of Curtis' biggest hits, Some Like it Hot.

Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood are attractive and work hard, but director Richard Quine needed to rein them in a bit as they begin to grate on the nerves about halfway through. The work of Henry Fonda as Frank and Lauren Bacall as his wife, Sylvia somehow manages to rise above the rest of this muck. I'm mostly just scratching my head trying to figure out why the real Helen Gurley Brown allowed this mess to actually get to the screen.

Gable and Lombard
The ill-fated love affair between two of the biggest movie stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood is lovingly documented in 1976's Gable and Lombard, a lavishly mounted look at the love affair between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard that really wasn't as bad as it's reputed to be.

It's early 1930's Hollywood and Clark Gable has just begun his career while Carole Lombard is the biggest star in Hollywood. According to this screenplay, the stars met cute at a party where Lombard was responsible for wrecking Gable's car, which led to their making a movie together and a mutual attraction which Louis B. Mayer and MGM immediately tried to quash because Gable was still married at the time and Mayer was afraid that the news of a married actor having an affair would destroy both of their careers, though he really seemed more concerned about Gable than Lombard. We then watch the pair do what they have to in order to be together.

Barry Sandler's screenplay was a little fuzzy about exactly when this affair began. There's an early scene showing Gable having just completed China Seas, which was released in 1935, which means he had already won the Oscar for It Happened One Night but the beginning of this story treats him like he's still a total unknown while Lombard was the queen of Hollywood. But No Man of her Own, the only film the pair made together, was released in 1932. With all these inaccuracies in the timeline, it's really kind of difficult to accept anything that goes on here.

Despite the issues of historical accuracy, the film does paint a solid portrait of the two stars. Gable is portrayed as a stoic, chauvinistic, and commitment-phobe who referred to women as "dames" and was incapable of saying "I love you." Lombard comes off as a party gal with an incredible sense of humor, but seriously passionate about Gable and really didn't seem to care if it destroyed her career or not. What this film brings to the table is that Gable and Lombard loved each other and didn't really care who knew it, it was MGM that was keeping them apart, fiercely protective of their investment and convinced the public would turn their back on the stars if they knew the truth.

The love story works, but with all the historical inaccuracies, the film comes off as a rather uneven experience. I did enjoy the scene of Lombard sneaking onto the set of Gone With the Wind dressed as a soldier and the following scene of Gable hiding in the rafters of the set of her movie because he heard she was doing a bathtub scene.

The film does feature first rate production values, with shout outs to Hal Gausman's set decoration, Edith Head's stunning costumes, and Michel Legrand's lush music. James Brolin works hard, but never convinces as Clark Gable, but Jill Clayburgh is just dazzling as Lombard. Granted, I don't know a lot about Gable and Lombard...I have only seen three Gable movies and I have never seen a Lombard film, so my feelings about Brolin and Clayburgh's performance were based on pure entertainment value, not authenticity. The film is not as bad as it's been documented to be, but the late Jill Clayburgh's performance definitely makes it worth a look.

Isn't She Great
Bette Midler as Jacqueline Susann
I got to see this! I've been watching documentaries about Jacqueline Susann in the last week, so this movie would be perfect. Not sure if I can buy Bette Midler as Susann, I'd like to seen a younger Michele Lee play the queen of Valley of the Dolls.

The 2018 thriller Hereditary does provide sporadic "boos" along the way but the story takes way too long to come together, trying this reviewer's patience.

The film opens with the death of an elderly woman and as we see her daughter, Annie (Toni Collette) delivering her eulogy, we realize this woman had more than her share of secrets. It's not long before the death of Annie's mother sends her family on a terrifying spiral, leading to some frightening reveals regarding Annie's ancestry.

This thriller reminded me of a 2016 thriller called Hush because, like that film, director and screenwriter Ari Aster seems to be more adept at providing the temporary "boo" than he does at providing a well-rounded story. There were way too many unanswered questions in Hush that led to an unsatisfactory conclusion. Here, most of the questions get answered but it takes way too much time and the viewer has lost interest way before intended.

A little more attention to technical aspects of the story also hurt the proceedings. There's a car accident where Annie's daughter is decapitated and the way the impact is filmed was completely incorrect and made it a little hard to accept anything else that went on in the story. The story initially appears to suggest that the elderly woman wanted her family to join her in death, but it was so much more than that, but Ari Aster's pacing of the story is just too deliberate to sustain interest and about 2/3 of the way through the film, I found myself checking my watch.

The one thing the film does have going for it is an absolutely superb performance by Toni Collette that effortlessly anchors the proceedings. This is no surprise since Collette is incapable of giving a bad performance, it's just too bad that she didn't have a vehicle more worthy of her talent here. Alex Wolff also scores as her son, Peter and there are some startling visual effects, but Aster's lackluster direction and swiss cheese screenplay just weigh the whole thing down.

Disney struck gold and created a merchandising empire with 1992's Aladdin, a delicious musical adventure that features what is probably the funniest animated character in cinema history.

Set in the fictional Arabian city of Agrubah, we are introduced to the evil Jafar (voiced by Jonathan Freeman) trying to retrieve a magical lamp from the Cave of Wonders but learns that only certain people are allowed entrance to the cave, which also contains millions in gold and silver, but Jafar only wants the lamp so that he can become the new Sultan. It turns out that one person allowed entrance into the Cave of Wonders is a mischievous street urchin named Aladdin (voiced by Scott Weinger; sung by Brad Kane) who steals food from the marketplace aided by his pet monkey Abu. Aladdin is instantly smitten with Princess Jasmine (voiced by Linda Larken; sung by Lea Solonga) who has run away from the Palace because she is being forced to marry Jafar. Aladdin finds the lamp and while trying to clean it off, releases a magical, maniacal genie who offers the young lad three wishes.

Disney creative forces have crafted a classic good VS evil story but have given the story a contemporary facelift with the Genie character (brilliantly voiced by the late Robin Williams), a character who because of who he is, is able to defy logic and realism and morph into anything the story requires him to be. It's difficult to tell who is leading who here, whether the writers are leading Williams or Williams is leading the writers, but whatever is going on here has result in the funniest animated character ever created. On my list of favorite voice performances in animated films, Robin Williams' gene was #1. Williams work is so on target here that he was actually awarded a special Golden Globe for this performance.

As always with Disney films, comic relief is always provided in the form of animals, but even they have to take a backseat to Genie/Williams here. Gilbert Gottfried is terrific as the voice of Iago, Jafar's pet parrot and though they didn't really have any dialogue, I loved Aladdin's monkey turned elephant named Abu and Jasmine's pet tiger Raja. I also loved the magic carpet who provided a romantic ride for Aladdin and Jasmine and got our hero out of a lot of close calls during the course of the story.

The tuneful musical score by Howard Ashman, Alan Mencken and Tim Rice includes "Arabian Nights", "One Jump Ahead", "To Be Free", "On a Dark Night", Williams' showstopping "Friend Like Me" and the Oscar winning "A Whole New World." Everything works here, but if the truth be told, the only thing you go away from this movie remembering is the incredible Robin Williams, RIP.

Chris Rock was the co-producer and co-screenwriter of 1993's CB4, a sadly unfunny parody of the gangsta rap wars and groups like Run DMC, which pretty much ruled radio airwaves during the 1990's.

Rock attempts to go the way of This is Spinal Tap in this story of a guy named Albert (Rock) who, along with his friends Euripides (Allen Payne) and Otis (Deezer) decide to form a rap group: Euripides becomes Dead Mike and Otis becomes Stab Master Orson. Unfortunately, Albert makes the mistake of naming himself MC Gusto, a name he stole from a local gangster who wants payback.

This is subject matter that is rife for parody, but Rock and company only supply sporadic laughs that don't sustain throughout the running time, which is actually a little under 90 minutes. I'm not exactly sure what the problem is here, but the problem with most films starts with the screenplay and that's probably where the problem starts here. This is another one of those comedies that isn't sure if it wants to tell the story with a straight face or treat it more as a Mel Brooks-type spoof. I think the latter was the intention and the film seems to start off that way, but once the film flashes back to to the group getting together, the proceedings become a little antiseptic and lose the edge that the opening scenes create.

The film opens with a white filmmaker (Chris Elliott) showing the group the rough cut of a documentary that he has done on the group with the filmmaker shadowing MC Gusto in order to get a finish for the film that he needs. The film bills itself as a "rapumentary" but that's not what it is, because the story flashes back and becomes a straight up narrative, with a plot line and characters. CB4 (The CB stands for Cell Block, BTW) are not interviewed the way David, Nigel, and Derek are in Spinal Tap and I think that's where this film suffers. A documentary implies that real-life events are being documented and even documentary spoofs like Spinal Tap have an authenticity that brings you inside the lives of the characters, but that feelings is never accomplished here.

And as racist as it might sound, the fact that this film was directed by Tamra Davis, a white woman, surely didn't help. Davis directed Adam Sandler in Billy Madison but I don't know what made Rock think she was qualified to handle this project because it just comes off as a look at a black world through Caucasian eyes and things that were supposed to be funny just ended up being stupid. The best thing about the movie are the songs, with "Sweat from my Balls" a standout.

Rock works very hard at being funny here, but he seems very stifled here, but then again, the film career of Chris Rock has always been a bit of an enigma and movies like this one might be exactly why. Allen Payne, so memorable as G Money in New Jack City is very funny as Euripides as is Eddie Murphy's big brother, Charlie, as Gusto. There are cameos from Ice T, Halle Berry, Easy E, Shaquille O'Neill, and Ice Cube but parts are better than the whole here...pretty small parts.

April in Paris
Sparkling performances by Doris Day and Ray Bolger make the 1952 musical April in Paris worth checking out.

Ray Bolger plays Winthrop "Sam" Putnam, a government employee who has been put in charge of a Fine Arts Festival in Paris. He was supposed to send an invitation to Ethel Barrymore to attend the festival representing American theater, but the invitation is accidentally sent to a bubbly chorus girl named Ethel "Dynamite" Jackson (Guess who). Putnam flies from DC to New York to inform Ethel of the mistake but upon returning to DC, learns that his boss thinks inviting a chorus girl was a great idea so he returns to New York and has to beg Dynamite to come to Paris.

As Dynamite and the other Americans sail to Paris on a cruise ship, the government agents do their best to refine Dynamite into a proper representative of the States, but Sam likes her just the way she is. He likes her so much that he and Dynamite get married by the ship's captain, even though Sam is engaged to his boss' daughter (Eve Miller). Then it's revealed that the ship's captain wasn't really the captain and Sam and Dynamite aren't really married.

Director David Butler has mounted a breezy, if unremarkable little musical comedy that earns its credentials through some offbeat casting, though definite influence from other films can be noted here. A year after the success of An American in Paris, it's not a big surprise that Warners would bring their #1 musical star to the City of Lights, despite the fact that it's glaringly obvious that this movie never left the Warner sound stages. We don't care though because Doris Day is center stage and anytime with Day is well spent and this was when Day was the busiest actress on the Warner lot.

Warner Brothers and Butler really gambled with their choice of leading man for Doris and it really paid off. Ray Bolger initially seems like an odd choice for this role, but he fully commits to this role and about halfway through the movie, we are loving these two as a couple and want them together. Loved the scene on the ship where the pair kept bouncing back and forth between each other's cabins and, of course, any chance to see Bolger dance is worth your time. Bolger always puts that rubbery form of his to such effective use...he always does this thing while dancing where he always looks like he's about to land flat on his ass but he never does. The tap number called "The State of the State" where he dances with two images of himself dressed as Washington and Lincoln, was definitely a highlight. They also score with the casting of Claude Dauphin as a slick nightclub singer who serves as our host for the story, Warners own variation on Maurice Chevalier.

Other musical highlights included Day's opening number, "It Must Be Good", the production number in the kitchen of the ship called "I'm Going to Rock the Boat", "I'm Going to Ring the bell tonight", "The Place You Had in My Heart", and that classic title tune. There are definitely better musicals out there, but Day and Bolger make a surprisingly engaging pair and kept me from checking my watch.