Gideon58's Reviews

→ in

Which Way is Up?
Richard Pryor works very hard, playing three different roles, to make the 1977 farce Which Way is Up? seem a lot better than it really is.

Pryor plays Leroy Jones, a California orange picker who ends up accidentally joining a union and being linked to its crooked leader, which motivates him employers to send him out of town. He travels to Los Angeles where he meets a Union activist (Lonette McKee) who falls for him, despite the fact that he's married and makes him promise to never have sex with any other woman.

Leroy returns to his hometown and is given an important position at a union-owned company where he gets jobs for his old orange picking buddies but his job eventually forces him to betray them. His life is further complicated when he learns his wife (Margaret Avery) is pregnant after an affair with a sleazy married preacher (also Pryor). So he decides to exact revenge on the preacher by having sex with his wife (Marilyn Coleman).

This comedy is allegedly a re-working of a Lina Wertmuller film called The Seduction of Mimi, who actually co-wrote the screenplay for this film, along with Carl Gottlieb which has effectively been tailored to suit the talents of the star and takes full advantage of them, including the very adult language and situations that we expect from Pryor. In addition to playing Leroy and Preacher Thomas, Pryor also plays Leroy's father and this character just might be Pryor's strongest work in the film. The Leroy Jones character is a sexist jerk but Pryor keeps him likable for the majority of the running time.

The story is a little complex and hard to follow at times, but Pryor's effortless screen charisma and his knack for physical comedy help keep the viewer invested in the proceedings. McKee is an attractive and intelligent leading lady and Coleman is a riot as the Preacher's wife. Mention should also be made of Morgan Woodward as a very hissable bad guy. Pryor has definitely done better work, but his hardcore fans will definitely find the funny here.

BUtterfield 8
Illogical plotting, cheesy dialogue, and some really bad acting from the leads makes 1960's BUtterfield 8, second only to Valley of the Dolls, one of the funniest movies ever made that wasn't supposed to be funny. Not to mention a performance from its leading lady that is probably the worst performance in cinema history to actually win an Oscar.

After three previous Oscar-nominated performances, Taylor chews up the scenery beyond recognition as Gloria Wandrous, a glamorous fashion model who finds herself having a torrid affair with a wealthy businessman named Weston Liggett (Laurence Harvey), with whom she has spent the last six days, running to her childhood BFF Steve (Eddie Fisher) and complaining to him about the way Liggett has been treating her. Needless to say, the affair with Liggett has Gloria thinking it's all about herself and no thoughts of Liggett's wife (Dina Merrill) or Steve's girlfriend (Susan Oliver).

This overheated melodrama is based on a John O'Hara, the author of From the Terrace, which came to the screen the same year and has been sloppily adapted to the screen by Charles Schnee and John Michael Hayes, rich with some of the cheesiest dialogue I've ever heard in a movie, that actually provided consistent unintentional laughs for the majority of the running time. I absolutely loved when Weston says to is wife, "I can't continue being a disappointment to you.", to which she replies, "Oh darling, couldn't you try?" and trust and believe, that this was the just the tip of the corny dialogue iceberg. Schnee and Hayes attempt to clean up O'Hara's novel, which was probably a lot steamier and probably shocked 1960 movie audiences utilizing the word "slut", which I'm surprised got past censors at the time.

There's just one funny scene after another here. I could not stop laughing during a scene in a restaurant where Liggett gets rough with Gloria and grabs her arm and won't let go while Gloria is digging her high heel into his foot at the same time. The final car chase between the two central characters was beyond silly. And why is this sophisticated high fashion model still living with her mother?

It's important to understand what was going on behind the scenes where the production of this hot mess was concerned. Elizabeth Taylor was heavily campaigning at the time to play Cleopatra at 20th Century Fox and was not thinking about anything else. Unfortunately, she had one more film under her contract at MGM (this one) and MGM would not release her from the contract so the only way Taylor could be available to play Cleopatra was to make BUtterfield 8. Taylor was miserable during the filming and has often referred to this film as "a piece of s**t." After three previous Best Actress nominations, Hollywood wasn't really surprised by her nomination for this film, but no one thought she would actually win until Elizabeth got deathly ill and had to have an emergency tracheotomy a couple of weeks before the Oscars and was literally on her death bed before a magical ecovery. Shirley MacLaine, who was nominated that year (and should have won IMO) for The Apartment, was SO certain that Taylor was going to win, she did not fly in from Japan for the ceremony and asked Taylor to pick up the Oscar for her if she did win. Taylor gratefully accepted an Oscar she knew she didn't deserve proudly displaying her tracheotomy scar.

All the blame for this film can't be put on Taylor...Daniel Mann's over the top direction and Bronislau Kaper's horrible music were distracting as well. Laurence Harvey's performance as Weston Liggett can best be described as uneven, and Eddie Fisher, who already proved he couldn't act with first wife Debbie Reynolds in Bundle of Joy proved that he hadn't taken any acting lessons in preparation for working with second wife Taylor. Somehow, Dina Merrill and Susan Oliver manage to keep their dignity here and Kay Medford steals a couple of scenes as a hotel manager, but this one's for hardcore Taylor fans only.

Romance on the High Seas
The 1948 musical Romance on the High Seas is an energetic little musical comedy that has a footnote in cinema history as the film debut of the legendary Doris Day and she makes the most of her big break.

The story revolves around a couple named Michael and Elvira Kent (Don DeFore, Janis Paige) who suspect each other of infidelity and after Michael cancels on the cruise that Elvira has arranged for their third anniversary, decides to set a trap for her husband: Elvira doesn't go on a cruise but hires a band a singer named Georgia Garrett (Day) to go on the cruise under name so that her husband might left his guard down thinking Elvira is away. Meanwhile, Michael still thinks Elvira is cheating on him, so he hires a private eye named Peter Virgil (Jack Carson) to go on the cruise and keep an eye on his wife, and of course, Peter gets one look and falls hard for Georgia but must hide his feelings for who he believes is the very married Mrs. Kent. Oh and don't forget Oscar (Oscar Levant), Georgia's BFF who is also madly in love with her.

This is classic movie musical comedy at its best. People pretending to be people they're not in order to hide feelings or expose feelings or bad behavior and somehow it all comes out in the wash in a little over 90 minutes. Julius and Phillip Epstein, fresh off bringing Arsenic and Old Lace to the screen, have come up with an amusing story with just enough complications to keep the viewer occupied with musical numbers, numbers that actually seem to come out of the story and don't just seem to be padding running time.

The best thing about this movie is the energetic and vivacious performance that Doris Day gives in the starring role. Day seems so comfortable and self-assured onscreen one would NEVER know that this was her very first movie. Day understands Georgia Garrett and the predicament she is in and, with the aid of directors Michael Curtiz and Busby Berkeley, puts us behind the girl from start and hoping that everything works out for her. It's obvious after seeing this film why, in a few short years, Day was the busiest actress on the Warner Brothers lot, sometimes making two or three films a year during the 1950's.

The film features a tuneful score by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn that includes "I'm in Love", "It's You or No One", "The Tourist Trade", "Run, Run, Run" and the incomparable "It's Magic", which received a Best Song Oscar nomination.

As wonderful as Day is, she always works with her first rate supporting cast and allows them to serve the story as she does. Janis Paige is bold and brassy as the real Mrs. Kent and made the most of her limited screentime. A few years later, Paige would become a Broadway star courtesy of The Pajama Game, which came to the big screen in 1957 with...Doris Day. Jack Carson is quite charming as Peter the detective and that really is him singing on "Run, Rin, Run". Oscar Levant's stone-faced delivery as Oscar garnered big laughs and Don DeFore was fun as Michael Kent. Eric Blore, who provided support in several Astaire/Rogers musicals, also has a funny cameo here as a ship's doctor. Big Bouquet to Milo Anderson, who provided some stunning costumes for Day and Paige. A lot of Hollywood film debuts are pretty unmemorable, but Day scores here and shows why she became the Hollywood icon that she did.

A pair of Oscar-winning acting pros in the starring roles help to keep 1988's Colors, an overblown and bloody epic looking at the effects of gang-related violence Los Angeles, and more importantly, the seemingly futility of the war against it, watchable, despite over-indulgent direction and a cliche-ridden screenplay

Robert Duvall plays Bob Hodges, an LAPD by the book veteran of the streets who gets a new partner in the form of Danny McGavin (Sean Penn), a hothead rookie not really concerned about "the book", but with cleaning up these ugly streets anyway he can and his rogue methods cause heat on both sides of the fence for him, including more than one gang putting out an actual contract on his life.

Screenwriter Michael Schiff provides us with an over the top look at LA gang violence that sometimes comes off as a writer who has just seen West Side Story too many times. Schiff's concept of gang sensibility is simultaneously frightening and silly and there are actual moments of unintentional humor sprinkled throughout, which seems really inappropriate considering the subject matter. There was actually one scene where we watch a gang do a drive-by on the funeral of another gang-banger...seriously? These guys' complete nonchalance regarding shooting police officers just seemed a little hard to believe to me, but the written prologue opening the film documenting the actual numbers that make up these gangs has to include one or two guys along the way who don't give a damn about murdering a cop.

The story about these two police officers learning how to work with each other smacked of cliche as well; however, it was a lot easier to watch because Robert Duvall and Sean Penn are playing the officers. The relationship has the bumps that we expect but these guys are such good actors they make the mundane watchable. There's one terrific scene where McBride tries to apologize to Hodges for his actions and instead of accepting the apology, he offers a story to McBride which is a perfect analogy of their working relationship.

The late Dennis Hopper was in the director's chair on this one, his fourth film as a director. He displayed the ability to mount viable action, including one spectacular car chase near the beginning of the film that was definitely one of the film's highlights. Also impressed by a faraway camera shot that eventually moves in on one the gangs moving in for a final confrontation, but it's hard to keep track of everything that's going on here and who's with what gang, which was taxing to the viewer and made a two hour movie seem like four. A couple of future stars can be glimpsed in the supporting cast, including Don Cheadle and Damon Wayans, but it was Penn and the incredible Robert Duvall that made this one worth the investment.

White Men Can't Jump
After his triumph with Bull Durham, writer/director Ron Shelton scored with another sports oriented comedy from 1992 called White Men Can't Jump which features some stylish directorial flourishes, colorful dialogue, and a surprising chemistry between the stars that keep this one on sizzle.

In Venice, California we meet Billy Hoyle (Woody Harrelson) and his wife, Gloria (Rose Perez) who are temporarily camped in California because they are on the run from some shady people they owe a lot of money. Billy is a basketball hustler and Gloria's lifelong dream is to appear on Jeopardy. Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes) is the king of the Venice street ball courts but the rest of his life is on shaky ground. He has a wife and a baby and wifey is pressuring him into buying a house he really can't afford. Circumstances bring Billy and Sidney together as hustlers on the street basketball court but their expected road to riches isn't as smooth as they anticipated.

Ron Shelton has mounted an incisive and very clever look at the art of the hustle and a lot of the psychological warfare that's behind it. Being an effective hustler is not only about being better than your opponent, but about getting into your opponent's head and figuring out what their achilles heel is so that it can be exploited and Shelton's screenplay nails this. It was especially smart that before we saw Billy and Sidney get into their opponents' heads, we see them get into each other's head and discover weaknesses they can exploit in each other in an attempt to get an upper hand on each other. The scene where Billy takes Sidney home and Sidney comments on how attractive Gloria is was a master move of Sidney getting into Billy's head that he could have used to his advantage, but in a refreshing change of pace, chose not to. Shelton's writing could have used some tightening...a lot of the stuff involving the thugs chasing the Hoyles and Gloria's inevitable appearance on Jeopardy could have been trimmed and kept this moving from being two hours long, but anyone who has seen Tin Cup knows that over-indulgence is a Shelton thing.

Shelton is one of the few director/writers out there whose direction is just as effective as his writing. Shelton's camera work in documenting these street basketball games is a thing of beauty with the aid of a crackerjack editing team and flawless use of slow motion, gives the athleticism of what is going on here an almost ballet-like sensibility that was truly a pleasure to witness. The reason Shelton's eye with the camera is so effective is that it makes what these actors are doing look SO easy and it's just not. The camera work also pretty much documents that the stars are pretty much doing just about everything we're seeing here, with the possible exception of the five point basket shots near at the beginning of the film.

Despite Shelton's expertise behind the camera, what really keeps this movie is the magical and totally unexpected chemistry between Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson which lights up the screen and makes it a lot easier to sit still for the entire two hour running time. Rosie Perez is also a lot of fun as the not-as-smart-as-she-thinks-she-is Gloria and it was a lot of fun watching her on Jeopardy. Harrelson and Snipes were so special here that they were reunited three years later in Money Train, but it wasn't anywhere near as slick and smooth as what they create here. With the aid of a first rate writer and director, Harrelson and Snipes make this overlong ride a fun one.

The Cobweb
Vincente Minnelli's flair for melodrama and some stylish performances make 1955's The Cobweb worth checking out. This one gives new meaning to the phrase "the inmates are running the asylum."

This hyperactive soap opera takes place within the walls of an exclusive psychiatric clinic where we learn that the clinic is getting ready to acquire new drapes and that apparently everyone in the clinic wants in on the project, even though the original idea was that it was to be a project for the patients.

The principal players in this soap include the acting head of the clinic, Dr. Stewart McIver (Richard Widmark), who is married to the very neurotic Karen (Gloria Grahame); the widowed art teacher Mrs. Rinehart (Lauren Bacall); a suicidal patient who loves to paint named Stevie (John Kerr); the greasy clinic administrator (Charles Boyer); the tightly wound clinic business manager, Miss Inch (Lillian Gish); and Sue (Susan Strasberg), a phobic young patient who is afraid to leave the grounds of the clinic.

Screenwriter John Paxton has crafted a classic melodrama on a pretty original canvas. In all my years of watching soap operas, on the big and small screen, I don't think I've ever seen a drama mounted around the concept of new drapes. It was clever hook to the classic soap opera elements that we look for in the genre and watch them quietly bubble to the surface. It's hard to believe that arguments over drapes actually lead the viewer to infidelity, divorce, death, secrets, corporate conflict...all the things that we melodrama lovers clamor for.

Minnelli has gathered a really interesting group of actors together to pull this story off and they all seem fully committed to the director's vision. The chemistry between Richard Widmark and Lauren Bacall burns a hole through the screen and Charles Boyer's greasy administrator does provide what might be unintended comic relief. Screen legend Lillian Gish is a solid as Miss Inch and there's a wonderful glorified cameo by Oscar Levant as one of the patients. Screen vet Mabel Albertson makes a cameo as does movie icon Fay Wray as Boyer's devoted wife. Towering above them all and making this movie worth the price of admission all by herself is the incomparable Gloria Grahame, who easily walks off with this movie as hot mess Karen McIver, Grahame pulls out all the stops here, presenting a character that is equal doses of fragility and ferociousness that that keeps this movie on sizzle. Even though it's a little longer than it needs to be, Grahame and Minnelli make it worth the ride.

The Cobweb

Towering above them all and making this movie worth the price of admission all by herself is the incomparable Gloria Grahame, who easily walks off with this movie as hot mess Karen McIver, Grahame pulls out all the stops here, presenting a character that is equal doses of fragility and ferociousness that that keeps this movie on sizzle.
You're my hero! Great review and so glad you enjoyed Gloria's performance. I must have went back and rewatched the scene where she angrily kicks off her shoes in the that scene. She's priceless in this and looked great with dark hair too.

I was just about PM you to thank you for the recommendation. The movie was great and, as usual, Gloria stole the show. I really enjoyed it, thanks again.

Did you know the role of the painter was to be played by James Dean? If he had made that movie, I'm sure The Cobweb would be much more known than it is. BTW have you seen Dean's 3 feature films that he starred in?

Did you know the role of the painter was to be played by James Dean? If he had made that movie, I'm sure The Cobweb would be much more known than it is. BTW have you seen Dean's 3 feature films that he starred in?
So funny that you mention that because John Kerr was definitely the film's weakest link and while I was watching I actually said to myself, "James Dean would have been amazing in this part." I have never seen East of Eden.

So funny that you mention that because John Kerr was definitely the film's weakest link and while I was watching I actually said to myself, "James Dean would have been amazing in this part." I have never seen East of Eden.
I think you'd like East of Eden, it's like a sophisticated soap opera style movie. It's my favorite Dean movie, though the other two are great as well.

Synecdoche, New York
Charlie Kaufman, the clearly off-center creative force behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich crafts a confusing and riveting piece of cinema from 2008 called Synedoche, New York that, despite a confusing and long-winded screenplay, rivets the viewer to the screen with colorful characters and vivid performances by a brilliant ensemble cast.

The late Phillip Seymour Hoffman delivers another of his accustomed brilliantly unhinged performances that we came to expect from him playing Caden Cotard, a theater director obsessed with death and plagued with health issues in Schenectady who has just completed directing a revival of Death of a Salesman where he has cast young actors to play Willy and Linda Loman. It is during the run of this show that Caden receives a large grant to do his own theater piece. Caden invests some of the money into the leasing of a giant warehouse where he plans to produce a play that he's written himself.

Large portions of the story are told through the various women who float in and out of Caden''s life, whom Caden has carefully kept at arm's length: His ex-wife, Adele (Catherine Keener) is an artist who has been offered a show in Berlin and takes Caden's daughter, Olive with her. Claire (Michelle Williams) is the actress who played Caden's Linda Loman who eventually becomes his second wife; Hazel (Samantha Morton) was Caden's box office manager for Salesman, who has always been love with Caden and has made no secret of it to the clueless director; Madeline Gravis (Hope Davis) is Caden's completely self-absorbed psychiatrist who is also attracted to the man, but not so much that she still has time to convince him that her book is the answer to all his problems, for which she charges him $45.00.

Charlie Kaufman is definitely an acquired taste, but the fact that he directed this film as well really worked in his favor here, having only written the above mentioned films. This is another one of those stories that demands undivided attention from the viewer, but to be perfectly honest, it's really not going to help because Kaufman's story is long-winded and confusing...the story flashes forward and backward, makes giant leaps from fantasy to reality, and doesn't allow the viewer anytime to figure out what events go where in the story. There were large chunks of this movie that had me scratching my head as we had actors playing younger and older versions of characters, actors playing characters we have already met and actors playing those actors. We never really get a sense of what Caden's new work becomes, except for its enormity. The separate sets of actors playing the same characters reminded me of the Woody Allen movie Deconstructing Harry and if you're a fan of that movie, you will have a head start here, but the only way to keep up with everything going on here is to take notes.

And as confused as I found myself during large portions of this story, I was never bored, never looked at my watch, and could not take my eyes off the screen. This Caden Cotard character was enigmatic and humorous. This guy appeared to keep everyone in his life at arm's length until they disappeared from his life. Watching the opening scenes with his daughter Olive, his relationship with her seemed so detached, that I didn't think she was his biological child. His emotional abuse of Hazel was exhausting but she gave as good as she got so it sort of worked.

Kaufman's direction is better than his screenplay, creating some arresting visuals and drawing some superior performances from a clearly hand-picked cast. Hoffman was splendid, as always, and there is also standout work from Keener, Williams, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Keener's bisexual BFF, and especially Morton, in the performance of her career as the larger than life Rachel. Not for all tastes, but there are rewards here for those who seek challenge in their movie viewing. There is a sense that this film becomes more comprehensible with repeated viewings.

Blue Skies
Four years after starring together in Holiday Inn, Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby were reunited for the colorful and tuneful musical confection Blue Skies, whose other big selling point was its memorable score by Irving Berlin.

Paramount Pictures went the MGM route in this 1946 piece of cotton candy which stars Astaire as Jed Potter, A Broadway hoofer who is crazy about Mary (Joan Caulfield), one of the chorus girls in his show. Mary is kind to Jed but keeps him at arms length though we're not sure why. Jed then makes the mistake of taking Mary to a nightclub owned by Jed's former vaudeville partner, Johnny Adams (Crosby) who likes to open clubs for a couple of months, sell them, and move somewhere else and open another one. Mary falls in love with Johnny at first sight, leaving Jed in the dust, though life with Johnny isn't exactly what she had hoped.

I guess Astaire and Crosby proved themselves in Holiday Inn because they were afforded a much bigger budget here (including glorious technicolor) and production values that rival some of MGM's strongest offerings. Take away the gloss and what you have is a standard romantic triangle that is made to look more important than it is but the musical numbers come at such a quick pace that we almost don't notice the way this Mary uses and abuses these two guys through the entire running time. I did like the fact that in Holiday Inn Fred stole the girl from Bing but in this movie, Bing stole the girl from Fred.

The musical numbers are quite entertaining for the most part. The highlights for me were Astaire and Crosby's duet "A Couple of Song and Dance Men", "All by Myself", a duet with Bing and Joan Caulfield (her singing is dubbed by Betty Russell); "A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody", "You Keep Coming Back Like a Song", Bing's dreamy crooning of the title tune and the elaborate finale to the tune of "Heat Wave". Though the musical highlight was definitely Astaire's take on "Puttin on the Ritz", which found Fred tapping in front of a whole chorus of Astaire duplicates that is superbly choreographed by Astaire and Hermes Pan.

Director Stuart Heisler keeps things moving at a nice pace and makes the leading men look good. Ginger Rogers look-alike Caulfield is lovely, if a rather bland leading lady. Billy De Wolfe is a little annoying though, he is given this 10-minute skit near the end of the second act where he plays a woman visiting a nightclub for the first time that brings the film to a dead halt, but Carmen Miranda wanna-be Olga San Juan holds her own in numbers with both Crosby and Astaire. A colorful and fun musical romp that, despite the occasional slow spot, provides solid musical entertainment.

Street Smart
Atmospheric direction and an interesting story that takes an unexpected path make a gritty urban drama from 1987 called Street Smart, not to mention some solid performances.

The late Christopher Reeve plays Jonathan Fisher, an investigative reporter who pitches the editor at New York Magazine the idea of a story about 24 hours in the life of a pimp. Fisher hits Times Square but can't get any pimps or hookers to talk to him so he fabricates a story and submits it to the editor, who puts it on the cover of the magazine. Almost simultaneously, a pimp named Fast Black has been indicted for murder and Black's attorney is worried because Fisher's story seems to be a perfect mock-up of Black's life. Things get stickier when Fisher's editor wants to meet Black and when the DA pressures Fisher for his notes on the article in order to aid in Black's murder prosecution.

Screenwriter David Freeman is to be credited for a story that initially comes off as laughable but becomes deadly serious pretty quickly. It's kind of funny that this completely fabricated story about a pimp written by a white reporter could completely fool his editor into thinking that Fisher has some great insight into street life. but instead of trying to move away from it, Jonathan dives in further and actually makes contact with Fast Black, bringing him to an important party at the bequest of his editor, maybe the best scene in the movie. Fisher also involves a hooker named Punchy and puts her, his own girlfriend, and himself in a lot of danger.

Initially it seems a little patronizing that a white guy could write such a convincing story about the life of a pimp, but it's clear that the writer knew what he was doing when the DA wanted to see the notes that led to the article, Fast Black's attorney wanted to see them, and eventually Fast Black wants the guy to fabricate notes that we know don't exist.

Director Jerry Schatzberg effectively creates the midnight to dawn atmosphere of Times Square, making the whole movie seem like it takes place at 2:30 in the morning. Reeve is smooth and understated as Fisher and Morgan Freeman's powerhouse turn as Fast Black earned him his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Kathy Baker is also a perfect combination of strength and vulnerability as Punchy. I also have to give a shout out to Andre Gregory, who was very funny as Fisher's gullible editor. An atmospheric urban drama that brings the seamy atmosphere of Times Square vividly to life.

An Actor Prepares
Despite Oscar winner Jeremy Irons inhabiting the starring role, the pompously titled An Actor Prepares from 2018 is a snore inducing road trip comedy that runs slightly over an hour and a half, but seemed like it was four hours long and just has a serious air of "been there done that" wavering over it.

First of all, let's make it clear that this film has nothing to do with the famous acting text written by Constantin Stanislavski that was part of the curriculum at Lee Strasberg's Actor's Studio. This tiresome nonsense finds Irons playing Atticus Smith, a drinking, drugging, womanizing actor who suffers a heart attack and has to schedule surgery to save his life. However, before the surgery, he has to travel to the East coast for his daughter Annabelle's wedding and it is left up to his son, Adam, a documentary filmmaker, to get his father across the country, clean and sober, so that he can attend the wedding and have surgery immediately after.

Director and co-screenwriter Steve Clark has crafted a simplistic and silly comedy that borrows ideas and an entire scenes from over a half of dozen much better movies. There's nothing wrong with borrowing stuff from one movie to make another movie, but if you're going to borrow something from another movie, you either have to bring something new to it or acknowledge the fact that you're borrowing it and if you don't do either, instead of watching the new scene, the viewer is immediately transported to the movie that was ripped off and thinks, "Oh yeah, they did it so much better."

This movie borrows from just about any buddy movie or father and son movie you can think of, including Bullet Proof, Memories of Me, Beginners, The Judge, Dad, and Nothing in Common, but doesn't really do anything to adapt what he borrows from these films to fit the movie being made here with the actors cast here, who weren't in any of the above mentioned films This movie redefines the term predictable and we are privy to every possible scene you would expect from such a well worn premise, from the actor encountering an ex-lover, the son bonding with his dad after being arrested, and every scene is punctuated with a fan recognizing Atticus from one his movies and that gets really old very quickly. And speaking of old, the sight of Irons' wrinkled ass was something I could have gone to grave without seeing.

Irons is charismatic and tries to keep this one watchable but Jack Huston is cringe worthy as the tightly wound Adam. As expected, with a cross-country trip as the canvas of the story, there is some beautiful photography throughout, but basically this movie was one hour and thirty seven minutes of my life I'll never get back.

The Ambushers
Dean Martin returns for round three as Matt Helm in the 1967 spy spoof The Ambushers, which delivers everything expected from a Matt Helm film but is the still the weakest entry in the franchise, thanks primarily to a confusing story that makes it hard to keep track of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.

Criminal mastermind Jose Ortega has built a laser beam that allowed him to hijack an experimental government flying saucer and upon its capture, he he rapes the pilot, a secret agent named Sheila Summers. Helm is brought onto the case when it is revealed that Sheila has amnesia but remembers Helm from working together on another case. Matt and Sheila are sent to Acapulco, under the guise of being man and wife, in order to retrieve the saucer because Sheila is the only one who knows how to fly the thing.

Based on a novel by Donald Hamilton, the screenplay is stupid with the accustomed sexual double entendres and dated puns that we have come to expect from the franchise, but he story around them is too hard to follow and not terribly interesting. We get another Helm staple here where he and a beautiful girl have to spend the night together, which prompted one of the film's most outrageous set pieces...a huge, inflatable house hidden in the trunk of a car. And needless to say, that setting a large portion of the action inside a beer factory probably provided laughs for Martin fans at the time, but just seems pointless now.

The Matt Helm character is introduced in the middle of training female recruits but eventually Matt is reduced to a pair of leading ladies and they are actually the strongest leading ladies I have seen in a Matt Helm adventure. Actually, Janice Rule, one of the best actresses of the 1960's is the best thing about this movie with her slick performance as Sheila Summers and sexy Senta Berger is almost as effective as the evil Francesca. Beverly Adams also shines briefly as Matt's secretary with the James Bond character name, Lovey Kravesit.

Despite all the female and Mexican scenery, this one is pretty snore-inducing even with flashy turns from Kurt Kaznar and Albert Salmi as bad guys. As for our hero, even Dean Martin appears to be phoning it in and just like Murderers' Row, TPTB make no attempt to disguise the fact that Martin is not doing any of his stunt work. The very 60's theme song is performed by one of the 60's biggest pop duos, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who wrote a lot of music for the Monkees, but this one really had me checking my watch. Janice Rule's performance is the only thing worth investing in here.

I seen The Ambusher's but hardly can remember it...and it hasn't been that long ago. I liked the first one the best. The one with Sharon Tate is pretty good too and one of her few movies where she got a substantial role. Have you seen that one?

Leaving Neverland
Michael Jackson was a music icon who changed music forever and for decades was the most famous person on the planet. Michael Jackson was also a pedophile. There are devoted fans of the King of Pop who continue to deny this but evidence has surfaced to document this that can no longer be denied. Michael was a sick person who destroyed not only lives of the children he abused, but their families as well. Anyone who has ever gone to a Jackson 5 concert, anyone who has ever danced to one of his records, anyone who watched him play the Scarecrow in the 1978 musical The Wiz, anyone who considers themselves a fan of the late music idol needs to watch a shocking and heartbreaking 2019 documentary called Leaving Neverland which documents how Michael Jackson permanently damaged the lives of two young boys in particular who are now damaged adults.

This documentary introduces us to two young boys named Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, who worshiped the King of Pop before they even started going to school. They followed his career and learned how to duplicate every single dance step Michael ever performed. Both eventually attended Jackson concerts and were invited onstage to dance with Jackson. Both were eventually invited to spend time with Michael at the Neverland Ranch and were graciously welcomed there, along with their entire families. While their families were housed in elegant suites on the other side of the estate, Wade and Jimmy would sleep with Michael in his bedroom. But there was a lot more going on in Michael's bedroom than sleep.

Director Dan Reed carefully and methodically breaks down for us the mental and emotional seduction that Michael Jackson performed on these boys, which eventually led to the boys being sexually abused and not even being aware of it. Reed's camera beautifully illustrates the pain in the eyes of these two guys and how what they went through with Michael Jackson has permanently and irreparably damaged their lives beyond recognition. There are still people out there who continue to proclaim Jackson's innocence, but even they will be unable to deny what this man was and what he did after watching this documentary. An adult Wade and Jimmy describe their sexual encounters with the pop icon in separate interviews and the details of what happened behind closed doors were practically identical, identical to the point that it is impossible not to believe what's being revealed.

It was sad watching these two guys admit that they both felt they were in love with the man and that they would be together forever. They also both reveal that Michael warned them never to tell anyone and for decades they never did. They denied anything improper to authorities as well as to their own families. They also both admitted to feeling brushed aside by Michael when Macauley Culkin came into his life. This was maybe the most heartbreaking part of this film was watching the effect what happened to this guys had on their families, their mothers in particular. It's initially unsettling when it's revealed that neither of their mothers really knew what was going on, but were devastated when they finally learned the truth, which was after Michael was arrested in 2005 and Wade perjured himself saying nothing ever happened between himself. It was most telling when the mothers revealed their separate reactions to Michael's death.

This documentary includes tons of personal footage belonging to these guys, including their dancing onstage with their idol amd a lot of archival footage of the news coverage revolving around Michael's legal battles regarding his behavior that Wade and Jimmy were still denying to anyone who would listen. Trying not to get on a soapbox about the subject matter here was not easy and this documentary was not an easy watch, but it's important to remember that this film is not about Michael Jackson, the tragic and misunderstood pop idol, it's about Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck, two young boys whose lives will never be normal or comfortable or complete because of their encounters with the King of Pop. The documentary is a bit of a time commitment, four hours, but it is well worth it and bravo to HBO for having the cajones to broadcast this story, warts and all. Yeah, this one got to stomach's still in knots.

Life Stinks
Rather than taking on history or classic movie genres, Mel Brooks decided to take on a timely and contemporary topic, but his 1991 comedy Life Stinks doesn't really work due to some cliched writing and Brooks' confusion on the way this story should be told.

Brooks plays Goddard Bolt, a wealthy LA businessman who has just purchased half of a large parcel of land in the city, much of which is rundown and populated by the homeless. The other half of the property is owned by a long time business rival named Vance Crasswell (Jeffrey Tambor) who makes Bolt a bet that if he can survive on the streets for 30 days without money or any kind of assistance, Crasswell will sell his half of the property to Bolt.

The basic concept of this movie is a decent one, but this is not the kind of movie that we expect from Mel Brooks. Brooks is the undisputed king of satire. He knows how to take a particular movie genre or concept and twist into a cinematic pretzel that always brings the funny. Mel made fun of westerns in Blazing Saddles and monster movies in Young Frankenstein, but I'm not sure that the plight of the homeless is something to be made fun of and that's what I think Mel is trying to do here. In an attempt to be topical, Mel attempts to craft some kind of a satire out of something that he really doesn't know anything about, but this satire is told with a straight face that often borders on the offensive.

Mel's idea of the homeless is pretty over the top and proves the man's ignorance on the subject. The homeless population is portrayed as insane here and even though there are mental health issues are out there, it is not the only contributing factor to homelessness. There is a scene between Brooks and a homeless guy who thinks he's J. Paul Getty, played by long time Brooks collaborator Rudy DeLuca, that is a complete waste of screen time. There is questionable behavior throughout. When homeless Molly drives a couple of guys away from her spot, they retaliate by setting everything she owns on fire and they just get away with it. Yeah, real funny Mel.

On the positive side, Brooks still has a strong eye for sight gags and an equally strong ear for funny dialogue. His Goddard Bolt actually reminded me of one of his funniest characters...the king inHistory of the World Part I, especially in the opening scenes. Lesley Ann Warren was an offbeat choice of leading lady as the outrageous Molly and Tambor was a fine comic villain, but this story just wasn't Mel Brooks' cup of tea. His attempt to do something different didn't really work for me.