Gideon58's Reviews

→ in
Tools    





Gilda
Rita Hayworth had a long and distinguished career as the queen of Columbia, but found her signature role in the 1946 melodrama Gilda, a steamy romantic triangle co-mingled with a mob drama that doesn't entirely sustain interest until the end, but the alluring Hayworth makes it worth the watch.

Glenn Ford stars as Johnny Farrell, a penniless professional gambler who arrives in Argentina and has his life saved one night by a wealthy casino owner named Ballin Mudson (George Macready), who hires Johnny at the casino as his right hand man. Everything is going well for Johnny until Mudson returns from a business trip with a new bride, an icy seductress named Gilda (guess who) who is immediately attracted to Johnny and vice versa, though both fight it as hard as they can.

Marion Parsonnet's screenplay is surprisingly adult for 1946...the dialogue between Johnny and Gilda is rich with sexual double entendres and I loved the fact that in the parts of the story centered around the triangle, none of the three characters ever say exactly what they mean. I also love the way the word "hate" is substituted for the word "love" when Johnny and Gilda get honest about their feelings for each other. If I had one quibble with the screenplay, we could have done without Johnny's narration...it was unnecessary and added nothing to the story.

What does work here is Rita Hayworth in a role that seems to have been written for her and the white hot chemistry between her and Ford, which ignite the screen through the sensitive and intense direction by Charles Vidor. The second Gilda and Johnny lay eyes on each other, the attraction is there with a sexual tension you can cut with a knife. I love when Gilda is dancing with another man and the whole time she's dancing with this guy, her eyes never leave Johnny sitting at the table...that's Hayworth and Vidor establishing the story pretty much in one scene. The third part of the triangle is not given short shrift either...Vidor makes it clear that Mudson sees the attraction and all the insecurities he has about his marriage come bubbling to the service. I love after their first meeting the way he tries to convince both Johnny and Gilda that they "hate" each other.

The final third of the film which concentrates on the mob part of the story doesn't work as well, but it does contain a scene that's become part of movie pop culture. Hayworth's sexy and brassy interpretation of "Put the Blame on Mame" is something that has to be experienced (her singing is dubbed by Anita Ellis). This scene alone is probably a big reason why Rita Hayworth will always be remembered as Gilda. And nobody does a hair toss like Rita.

The chemistry that Hayworth creates with Ford is no accident. since this was the second of five films they made together. Macready was overly mannered as Mudson, but it seemed to fit the character and I also enjoyed Steven Geray as Uncle Pio, the philosophical bartender. Kudos to the art direction/set direction and to Hayworth's stunning wardrobe by Jean Louis. It's not a home run. but Hayworth definitely makes this classic worth investing in.



That was the best written review of Gilda that I've ever read...You understand the dynamics of the film and the love triangle, way better than I did. I enjoyed reading your review



The Straight Story
The Straight Story is a warm and engaging fact-based story that chronicles an unbelievable journey that works thanks to an amazing performance from the leading man sensitively guided by an unexpected source in the director's chair.

The 1999 film introduces us to Alvin Straight (the late Richard Farnsworth) who learns that his brother, Lyle, has had a stroke and decides to journey from Laurens, Iowa to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin. in order to mend fences with his brother before it's too late. Everyone in his life is thrown, including his mentally-challenged daughter (Sissy Spacek), when Alvin decides to make the journey on a riding lawn more with a small trailer attached.

John Roach and Mary Sweeney's efficient screenplay provides just enough exposition and backstory that we need before this remarkable journey begins. We learn that Alvin's health is in a serious decline , that he can't drive because he has no license, and wants to make this journey alone. It was fascinating that at two different points in the film, he is offered a ride to his brother's and he politely refuses the offer.

Director David Lynch (The Elephant Man, Mulholland Drive) has mounted a beautifully photographed travelogue in the form of little vignettes that make up Alvin's journey, some are the expected adventures we would expect from such a journey. It was particularly amusing when he has a run in with a hysterical motorist who has just hit a deer with her car and, of course, the expected breakdown of the mower where we are led to believe that this mower will never make it to Mt. Zion. Lynch manages to keep an on the surface mundane story riveting by sensitively framing of this wonderful central character, a guy who is angry, but not in denial, about being old, but vividly remembers every detail in a scene where he is reminiscing about his time in the military.

Very impressive that an extremely theatrical director like David Lynch could provide such loving and simplistic direction to this quiet story that actually does provide a couple of detours we don't see coming, even though, for some reason, from the minute the film begins, we never doubt that Alvin is going to get to see his brother. Richard Farnsworth's achingly real performance as Alvin earned him an Outstanding Lead Actor nomination, the oldest actor in Academy history to receive a nomination in the lead category and Spacek's work as his daughter is equally splendid. The actress takes a slightly different tack at playing a mentally challenged character that was wonderfully refreshing, but it's David Lynch's simple and sensitive mounting of this story that really makes it work.



Irresistible
Comedian and political satirist Jon Stewart impresses with his second full length feature as writer and director called Irresistible, a scorching black comedy of political machinations that had my blood boiling until the plot twist to end all plot twists.

The 2020 film opens shortly after the election of Donald Trump where we are introduced to Gary Zimmer (Steve Carell), a slick talking Democratic political strategist/spin doctor, still stinging from Hillary's defeat, who sees a you tube video of Colonel Jack Hastings (Oscar winner Chris Cooper), a retired military man turned farmer giving an impassioned speech at a town meeting in a tiny hamlet called Deeraken, Wisconsin. Zimmer is moved enough by the man's enthusiasm that he decides to travel to Deerlaken and convince Hastings to run for mayor as a Democrat, even though, on paper, Hastings is a repubican.

As Gary tirelessly works to jump start a campaign for Hastings and it appears he might make it a real race, Trump's Republican strategist/spin doctor and long time rival of Gary's, Faith Brewster (Rose Byrne), also arrives in Deerlaken putting her support behind the incumbent Republican mayor. Gary and Rose's love/hate relationship fuels both of them to bring in reinforcements in order to raise some serious money for both campaigns.

Stewart actually starts this story off quite cleverly, starting out with a story of DC politics affecting small town sensibilities that has a very folksy, almost Capra-esque quality to it. Loved when Gary leaves his hotel room the day after his arrival in Deerlaken and everyone on the street already knows who he is and we are led to believe this is because this one of those towns where everybody knows everybody else's business. We're a little uncomfortable with Gary's gentle bullying of Col Hastings, but it's just the beginning. Gary's condescending, smart-ass way of communicating with these small town folk is rather squirm worthy.

Once the republicans arrive on the scene the story seems to get uglier and uglier until an inspired plot twist that no one will see coming. As brilliant as the plot twist is, it should have come sooner because the movie was getting way too close to losing me until it happened. The ugliness level of this story is brilliantly illustrated in the two campaign commercials that Gary films for the Colonel and the vast difference between them. Stewart takes us to the very edge of the cliff and almost lets us fall off, pulling us to safety at the last second.

Stewart's direction is solid and he gets some terrific performances from his cast. Carell has flashes of brilliance as Gary and Cooper gives the Colonel the perfect folksy quality the character requires. Brent Sexton is terrific as Mayor Braun, but I couldn't get past my disdain for Rose Byrne to find her convincing as a political shark. Jon Stewart does impress as a film maker without losing his political conscience, even if he lets it go a tad too far. Be sure to stay tuned through the closing credits.



Mother's Boys
Overheated direction and a messy screenplay notwithstanding, the 1993 psychological thriller Mother's Boys is still worth a look thanks to an icy performance from Jamie Lee Curtis in the starring role.

Jude Madigan left her husband and three sons three years ago with no explanation. She has now returned and has decided she wants her family back, despite the fact that Jude's husband, Robert , is now engaged to Callie, the assistant principal at the boys' school. When her obvious attempts to get rid of Callie fail, Jude decides the only way to get her family back is through her oldest son, Kes, who is in deep denial about his mother's leaving and seriously confused about her return.

The basic premise of this movie is solid, but Barry Schneider's screenplay, based on a novel by Bernard Taylor, takes a sledgehammer approach, spoon-feeding the viewer with everything that happens. We get our first hint that all is not right with Jude when she visits her mother and tells mom that "she feels good." We get serious mixed signals from Robert who claims he no longer has feelings for Jude, but his initial encounters with her upon her return say otherwise. My biggest problem with the story is when Jude decides a weekend alone with oldest son, Kes is the answer and the fact that it actually seems to bring Kes to her side makes no sense whatsoever. Not to mention the fact that the new fiancee is dumb as a box of rocks, which just seemed a little convenient.

Yves Simeoneau's manic direction doesn't help either...his camerawork is often headache inducing and inject a whole lot of overbaked and unmotivated "boos" to the story that come from nowhere but the director's imagination and take the viewer out of the reality of what's going on. The camera revolving around Callie in one scene where she gets a phone call about Robert gave me a serious headache.

The one thing that really works here is an expertly underplayed performance by Jamie Lee Curtis as Jude. On the surface this character seems to be a re-thinking of Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction, but this character is more subtly drawn than Alex; unfortunately the screenplay plays most of its cards way too quickly, diluting the power of Curtis' work.

Peter Gallagher works hard at keeping the husband believable, but Joanne Whalley's wooden performance only reinforces how stupid the character is. Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave impresses in a glorified cameo as Jude's mother. The film features some excellent cinematography and editing, but this one is really for hardcore fans of Jamie Lee Curtis only.



The Natural
Meticulous direction by Barry Levinson, the limitless charisma of Robert Redford, an impeccable supporting cast, and outstanding production values work together to make 1984's The Natural, a sports-oriented fairy tale that provides consistent entertainment for most of its slightly overlong running time.

Redford plays Roy Hobbs, who we are introduced to as a child, who has God-given talent and passion for the sport of baseball but doesn't get onto a major league team called the New York Knights until he's at the age that most ballplayers retire. Of course, he turns the team around after winning over the crusty team manager, but things start to turn sour for Roy when he becomes involved with the girlfriend of a crooked bookie and his hometown girlfriend re-enters his life.

There are a couple of reasons why I refer to this film as a fairy tale. First of all, this Roy Hobbs character is imbued with something almost not of this world. This is the first movie baseball player I have seen who carries his own bat around in a case like a pool cue, a bat he carved out of a tree struck with lightening. One might think the lightening might have affected this bat in some way and in first game, he literally destroys the baseball he hit on his first time at bat. All the characters surrounding Roy in this story seem to represent classic fairy tale archetypes...the crusty manager is like the old wizard, the hometown girlfriend is like the princess, the bookie is the fire-breathing dragon, and the bookie's girlfriend is the evil queen. The film sets up an immediate air of mystery because Roy refuses to talk to anyone about his past and the final big game actually puts his life in danger and the lives of other characters in serious jeopardy, jeopardy that only Roy can vanquish.

There are even a couple of magic spells like the girlfriend standing up so Roy can see her and hit a home run. Yes, by the time we get to the climactic game, there isn't a whole lot of suspense there...there's no way Levinson and screenwriter Roger Towne would take on this incredible journey with Roy Hobbs and not have him slay that dragon. When Roy's past finally comes to light, it is a little anti-climactic, but it's a necessary reveal that sets up a lot of the dragon slaying that Roy must do before the credits roll.

The film features handsome production values including Oscar-nominated cinematography, art direction/set direction , and Randy Newman's lush music. Redford is backed by some real pros here. As always, Robert Duvall steals every scene he's in as a hard-nosed sports writer and Wilford Brimley is terrific as the team manager. Darren McGavin was appropriately greasy as the bookie as was Robert Prosky as the team owner. Glenn Close received her third Best Supporting actress nomination in a row as the hometown girlfriend. Mention should also be made of a young Michael Madsen as an obnoxious ballplayer named Bump Bailey and a terrific cameo by Joe Don Baker as a baseball legend clearly patterned after Babe Ruth. The fairy tale provides a few unexpected bumps and an air of predictability, and goes on a little longer than it should, but the fairy tale delivers the requisite happy ending.



Registered User
Thank you for writing a very detailed review. I will find and watch this movie.



Hamilton
A big bouquet to Disney streaming services for thinking of those of us who live outside the tri-state area, making it pretty much impossible for us to experience the sparkling and highly stylized Broadway experience Hamilton, which opened on Broadway in the summer of 2015, won 11 Tony Awards and was still running when the Co-Vid virus caused the closing of the production in March of 2020.

This 2020 film version of the musical is actually a filmed performance of the Broadway musical that was filmed in 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theater. The musical focuses on Hamilton's arrival in New York where he meets with Aaron Burr, the Marquis de Lafayette, John Laurens, and Hercules Mulligan, who strategize about how they are going to bring their own skills to winning the revolutionary war, much to the chagrin of a panicked King George. We also watch Hamilton's fairy tale romance with Eliza Schuyler, which is complicated by Hamilton's unresolved feelings for Eliza's sister Angelica.

It's not long before Hamilton finds himself George Washington's right hand man in battling in the British, which actually ends up getting Hamilton appointed America's first Secretary of the Treasury, a position that severely affects his relationship with Aaron Burr, as well as future presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, not to mention his son Phillip, who is determined to make the most of his father's legacy, though it is never to be.

Even hardcore fans of the genre known as the Broadway musical will find themselves wading into virgin territory here, because this piece is unlike anything we've seen from Broadway before. The only Broadway composer whose work might rival Lin-Manuel Miranda in his style is Stephen Sondheim, though Miranda's music has the pulse of the 21st century...the majority of the libretto for this musical is done as a rap, accentuated with full musical numbers. What Miranda has done here is created the first rap opera. Miranda has taken a classic historical figure and broken down his story in a way that might be more accessible for general consumption, the same thing Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice did when they turned the last seven days in the life of Jesus into Jesus Christ Superstar.

I would be lying if I didn't say that this musical reminded me a lot of Jesus Christ Superstar in terms of the journey that this central character makes. He starts off as sort of a messiah of the 18th century who begins to believe his own press and before we realize it, the masses that have been worshiping him have morphed into a mob who decide he must be stopped. Hamilton is portrayed as a fearless rebel not the least bit intimidated by the likes of George Washington or anybody else, quietly working his way into Washington's graces, not concerned about who to step over to accomplish his mission. Is this what the real Alexander Hamilton was like? Who knows, but it makes for one hell of an entertaining musical.

I love the fact that director Thomas Kail filmed a stage performance of this piece, because this work is too stylized to work as a real movie, but it allows a lot more people to experience this musical who otherwise would have never had the opportunity. Lin-Manuel Miranda's funky and melodious score is the real star of the piece as it should be...not since West Side Story, have I seen the finger snap be such an integral part of a musical's orchestrations. Musical highlights include "My Shot", "A Winter's Ball", "Right Hand Man", "Ten Duel Commandments" and "Aaron Burr sir". This musical requires complete attention to the lyrics as there is no dialogue, and even though you won't catch everything, it's never uninteresting.

Miranda is wonderful in the title role and mention should also be made of Renee Elise Goldsberry as Angelica, Lamar Odom, Jr as Burr, Jonathan Groff as the madcap King George, and especially Daveed Diggs, who is absolutely dazzling in the dual role of Lafayette and Thomas Jefferson. It's not for all tastes, especially people who hate musicals. but for musical lovers who like a dash of the offbeat, treasure will be found here.



The Mating Season
A sparkling, Oscar-nominated performance by the irrepressible Thelma Ritter is the centerpiece of a lovely comedy called The Mating Season, a delicious combination of mistaken identity and romance that provides solid entertainment.

The 1951 comedy stars Ritter as Ellen McNulty, a wisecracking widow who loses her hamburger joint in Jersey City and decides to visit her son, Val (John Lund), who has just married a wealthy socialite named Maggie Carleton (Gene Tierney). Upon Ellen's arrival, Maggie is preparing for a dinner party and mistakes Ellen for a cook she ordered from an employment agency. Val attempts to clear up the mistaken identity until he sees how much Maggie likes and depends on Ellen.

Ellen decides to stick around when she learns that Val's boss' son (John Lorimer) still has the hots for Maggie and when Maggie's bitchy mother (Miriam Hopkins) arrives from Europe for a visit, hating Ellen and Val on sight.

Really liked the screenplay for this comedy because it doesn't go in the directions that one might expect from the basic premise. Ellen does what she can to have her son's back without ever directly interfering with his marriage and Maggie reads Val the riot act when she learns who Ellen really is. Also enjoyed the further complication that develops when Maggie's mother thinks Val is having an affair with his own mother. The story even provides an unexpected romance for Ellen.

Mitchell Liesen, whose directorial resume mostly consists of melodrama, lends a deliciously light hand to the proceedings here, never allowing it to get too manic, providing the right touch of sophistication that the screenplay deserves.

Ritter received a supporting actress nomination for her terrific work here, losing to Kim Hunter for A Streetcar Named Desire, which is understandable but I also have to wonder if the role of Ellen was lead and not supporting. Gene Tierney displays a surprising flair for light comedy, as my only exposure to her work had been dramatic up to this point. I've always found John Lund kind of vanilla as an actor, but this is the strongest performance of his I've seen and his chemistry with both Ritter and Tierney is tangible. Miriam Hopkins'
flashy and theatrical turn as Maggie's mom was also roll-on-the-floor funny. And if you look closely, Ellen's two horse gambling buddies are played by Ellen Corby and Billie Bird. This delightful comedy is further documentation why Thelma Ritter's six career Oscar nominations were no fluke.



Dangerous Liaisons
Nominated for seven Academy awards including Best Picture of 1988, Dangerous Liasions is a fascinating and emotionally charged costume drama about seduction, manipulation, lust, and sexual empowerment that fascinates from opening to closing credits thanks to a beautifully crafted screenplay, meticulously detailed direction, and some powerhouse performances.

The setting is 18th century France where the Marquis de Merteuil (Glenn Close) plots revenge against her ex-lover Valmont (John Malkovich), who has come to her because he supposedly wants to resume their relationship. Merteuil agrees to reunite with Valmont for an evening of passion if he will seduce her beautiful young niece (Uma Thurman) destroying her relationship with a handsome musician (Keanu Reeves) and produce evidence in writing that he has done the deed. Valmont agrees to do this despite the fact that he is in the middle of his own seduction of the very married Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose husband is away.

Though I refer to this film in the opening paragraph as a costume drama, peeling away all the costumes, the Elizabethan-styled dialogue and all the elegant trappings, what you have here is a good old fashioned soap opera, which began as a novel before becoming a stage play. We have an angry bitter woman plotting revenge on the man who wronged her and not caring a bit about all the other lives she ends up destroying in the process. We are given a clue to what a sexual deviant Valmont just by the fact that Valmont agrees to this sexual swordplay. It's confirmed for us when Valmont is observed writing a letter to one of the women he's seducing, using the backside of a naked woman as his desk.

We almost don't notice the simplicity of the story thanks to Christopher Hampton's Oscar-winning adaptation of his own play, rich with Shakespearean dialogue that is easily translated for those paying attention. This dialogue, where most characters rarely say what they actually mean, coupled with Stephen Frear's delicate direction where most of the emotion and power of the story comes through in looks and body language that supply what the screenplay does not.

It goes without saying that production values are without peer, including Oscar-winning art direction/set direction and costumes. Glenn Close's richly layered Merteuil earned her a lead Actress nomination and Pfeiffer's insecure Madame de Tourvel earned her a supporting actress nomination. For my money though, the acting honors here have to go to John Malkovoch, who has never been so smooth, slick, and sexy onscreen playing a guy devoid of a moral barometer oblivious of the bodies he leaves in his wake. I have never enjoyed Malkovich onscreen more and how he didn't get a nomination as well is a mystery. For those who like an old fashioned soap opera where just as many people get what's coming to them as the people who get hurt, have your fill here. The final five minutes of the film are spectacular. The story returned to the screen two years later as Valmont and was also re-thought in 1999 with teenage leads as Cruel Intentions.



The Others
Director/screenwriter Alejandro Amenábar displays impressive skill as a cinematic storyteller with 2001's The Others, a consistently suspenseful tale of the supernatural that unfolds so delicately and provides just enough red herrings that the viewer is consistently scratching his head trying to figure out exactly what's going on while being unable to keep their eyes off the screen.

The setting is 1945 in the Channel Islands, where the viewer meets Grace, a woman who lives in large mansion, devoid of any creature comforts, with her son and daughter, awaiting for her husband to return from the war. It is immediately revealed that the children are photosensitive and cannot be exposed to bright light as a trio of servants for whom Grace advertised, arrive to work at the mansion. A series of bizarre phenomena find Grace slowly coming to believe that this mansion might be haunted.

Amenabar's story displays influence from horror classics from the 60's like The Innocents and The Haunting, but puts his own stamp on the story through the very methodical unfolding of the story through the use of subtle plot elements, some of which offer major clues to what's going and others that are thrown in to throw the viewer off the scent. It is immediately established that Grace is a devoutly religious woman and how important it is to her that all the doors in the house be kept closed. The first real clue for this reviewer was when it was revealed that servants who arrive to help came on their own because Grace's advertisement was never published. Of course, this was only the tip of the iceberg that everything was not as it seemed here.

The unfolding of this story is so effective because it provides an uncanny combination of suspense and instaneous "boos" without giving away exactly what was going on. This film had me riveted to the screeen, while making my head spin trying to figure out exactly what was going on here, demanding my undivided attention that Amenabar obtained complete control of until the ingenious climax.

The film is rich with inventive camerawork, which forces the viewer's focus to dart about with a surprising lack of discipline because we're made so impatient to get to the bottom of the suspense. Amenabar even composed the appropriately creepy music that frames the story. The performances serve the story, especially Nicole Kidman's icy performance as Grace and Finnoula Flanagan as the housekeeper, Mrs. Mills, but the real star of this film is its director and writer, who shows unparalleled skill at spinning a truly gothic tale that keeps the viewer on the edge, physically and mentally.



Greased Lightning
A terrific performance by Richard Pryor makes Greased Lightning, a by-the-numbers biopic about the first black NASCAR driver, worth a look.

The 1977 film traces Scott's humble beginnings as he returns from WWII and buys his own taxi, so that he can save enough money to buy his own garage, even though driving race cars has always been at the back of his mind. He marries a sweet and sexy girl named Mary (Pam Grier) and gets her pregnant. As a way of earning enough money to support his new family, his best friend Pee Wee (Cleavon Little) gets him a job bootlegging, which eventually lands him in jail, but also opens the door for his first opportunity to drive a race car.

Yes, Wendell Scott is a real person, but this film is so cliched and predictable that this film could have been about "the first black" anything because is movie follows the same path of just about every other biopic we've seen, including the corny opening scene of the subject as a child that is supposed to establish the subject's applicable passion. And of course, because the subject is black, we are also beaten over the head with the racism that Scott had to face, not only with the blatant overuse of the "N" word, but scenes of racing spectators being separated in the stands by color and the scene in the white restaurant that refuses to serve blacks, which we've seen done many times before and much more effectively.

Michael Schulz, who also directed Pryor in Car Wash, Which Way is Up?, and Bustin Loose, seems more concerned about making his star look good than providing an insightful look at Wendell Scott. The film seems to have been filmed on a shoestring and the spotty screenplay has some oddly placed focus. His romance of Mary is relegated to ten minutes of screentime and another ten is spent on her objecting to him being a race car driver. I would have preferred more time had been spent on Wendell's relationship with Mary than a redneck sheriff who spends the first half of the film trying to put Scott in jail and the second half trying to get Scott to endorse him in his political campaign. The whole thing comes off as condensed and spotty, probably a concession Schulz and the TPTB had to make to get the film made. Without Pryor's name attached, this film probably never would have been green lighted and I suspect that research on the real Wendell Scott would reveal nothing resembling this movie.

What this movie does have going for it is a rock solid performance by Pryor, in a definite change of pace for him. Leaving behind the slapstick clown we're accustomed to, Pryor creates a likable and realistic character that we support from jump. Grier makes the most of her thankless leading lady role, as does Little as Pee Wee. I was also impressed with R&B guitarist Richie Havens, in his second feature film appearance as Scott's mechanic. Pryor's rich performance is definitely worth experiencing, but if you're really curious about Wendell Scott, I would suggest going to the internet.



All About Eve is a good one from Ms.Davis.



Kalifornia
A frighteningly unhinged performance from Brad Pitt is the primary attraction of 1993's Kalifornia, an ugly and unapologetic psychological thriller that simultaneously repels and fascinates, despite an often logic-defying story that leaves a lot of bodies in its wake.

Brian (David Duchovny) is a writer with a fascination for serial killers who convinces his photographer girlfriend, Carrie (Michelle Forbes) to accompany him on a cross country trip to California where they will make several stops on the way to visit the sites of several famous murders. They advertise for a couple to share the driving and expenses and the only response they receive is from Early (Pitt) and his girlfriend, Adele (Juliette Lewis) who, on the surface, appear to be common trash. What Brian and Carrie don't know is that Brian is a dangerous criminal who murdered his landlord an hour before meeting Brian and Carrie.

Tim Metcalfe's screenplay is a no-holds barred examination into the psyche of a killer that has an air of pretension, which first surfaces through Brian's pompous and unnecessary narration that seems to imply that he is an expert on the subject rather than a student. Exposition is surprisingly economic but once the quartet hits the road, this story goes to a lot of squirm-worthy places. An undeniable sexual tension is established almost immediately between Early and Carrie, which Brian and Adele are, of course, oblivious to. It's also made clear that Adele has been physically and mentally abused by Early to the point where he is in complete control of her life, of which it seems Adele is blissfully unaware. After a bar fight that should have sent Brian running, he seems to become more fascinated with Early and thinks he's found his own personal case study on his obsession.

Director Dominic Sena (Swordfish, Gone in 60 Seconds) displays a keen director's eye, with the aid of film editor Martin Hunter, not only presenting some ferociously unforgiving cinematic violence ( a lot aimed at innocent bystanders), but the ability to look inside the heads of these characters, especially Early, to let us know what's going on in there. Sena is the one who really allows to see that Early has no morals, scruples, conscience, or sense of decorum and it's not so much in his crimes but in his quieter moments. Watch that moment early on in the film where he catches a half-naked Carrie in her hotel room and just stares at her...this scene speaks volumes about what a psychopath Early is.

David Duchovny brings a dignity and a surprising strength to Brian that we have to wait for and Michelle Forbes' crisp performance as Carrie has a smoldering quality underneath it that endears the outwardly cold character to the viewer. Juliette Lewis makes Adele's pathetic factor as important as her irritation factor, but it is Brad Pitt who completely commands the screen in an explosive performance that cinched the fact, this early in his career, that he was more than a pretty face and, if the truth be told, his performance is worth the price of admission alone.



One of my favorites from my early childhood.
Crictime


Mine too!



Palm Springs
Fans of the Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day will have a head start with 2020's Palm Springs, a loopy comedy from the creative forces behind Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, featuring a deft but slightly complex story that will initially aggravate but some inventive direction and engaging performances will keep the viewer invested in the extremely bumpy road to a happy ending.

Nyles attends a wedding with his self-absorbed girlfriend who is one of the bridesmaids and has a chance encounter with the maid of honor, Sarah, who is also the bride's sister, that leads to Nyles and Sarah being caught in some kind of time warp that finds them stuck in the day of the wedding which keeps repeating and can't figure out how to escape. Going to try and review this movie without spoilers, which could be problematic.

Andy Siara has written a complex yet entertaining story that is an engaging combination of fantasy and reality that takes an up close look at relationships. destiny, choices, regrets, and hope that takes the concept of Bill Murray's comedy a step further, primarily because we find two people stuck in this time warp instead of one.

With strong assists from Siara and the editing team, director Max Barbakow does an impressive job of keeping everything that happens in this story in the same day, even though they are different parts of the day. Barbakow's attention to the continuity required to pull off such a story is impressive...each time the day ends and re-starts it returns to the exact same shot of Sarah's one eye waking up while her head is on the pillow while in the background, we hear the father of the bride talking in the distance about what a great wedding day it's going to be. We also see Nyles waking up and going to straight to Sarah's bedroom, a girl he doesn't even know, followed closely by his girlfriend cheating on him.

With each restart of the day, we sense that Nyles knows a lot more about what's going on, or more specifically, how to end it, and that's where the core of this unique story lies...has Nyles just accepted what is going on or does he have the power to end it?

The story is well-served by Andy Samburg, whose rich performance as Niles makes the viewer want to know what's going to happen. Cristin Milioti is initially a little brusque, but eventually brings a likability to Sarah that makes us understand her connection to Miles. Oscar winner JK Simmons makes the most of a key supporting role, but it is the direction, screenplay and Samberg that are the main attractions here.



Mrs. Winterbourne
There are some dangling plot points and it's about as corny and predictable as a movie can be, but a winning cast makes a 1996 Cinderella story called Mrs. Winterbourne worth a look.

Connie Doyle is an 18 year old girl who gets pregnant by her sleazy boyfriend, who wants nothing to do with being a dad and kicks her out. By chance, Connie ends up on a train bound for Boston, where she is befriended by a charming guy named Hugh Winterbourne who is headed home with his new bride, Patricia, who is also pregnant. There is a terrible train wreck where Hugh and Patricia lose their lives. Somehow, when Connie wakes up in the hospital, everyone thinks she's Patricia and she and her newborn are whisked away to the mansion of Hugh's mother, Grace, who lives there with Hugh's twin brother, Bill.

Connie tries to explain to Grace and Bill who she really is, but Grace is not listening. Bill is suspicious but decides to let it go because Grace is so happy. Bill does find out who Connie really is, but falls in her love with her and chooses to keep her secret. Connie is about to wrap a ribbon around her new life when the sleazy boyfriend tracks her down and wants his slice of the Winterbourne pie.

We really don't expect the Cinderella story we're going to get when the film opens with Grace Winterbourne confessing to a murder, but that is what we have here. Connie is blessed with the ultimate Cinderella story, in way too convenient a fashion, but unlike Vivian in Pretty Woman, Connie fights what's happening to her and does make sincere efforts to come clean which prove fruitless. The basic premise that brings about this new life for Connie is troublesome though...it's hard to believe that after a major train wreck, medical and police authorities would mistake Connie for Patricia...Patricia's body wasn't found? No tests were run on Connie during her hospital that might expose who she really was?

It's also a bit hard to swallow that Grace accepts Connie unconditionally...I would think that most women with the kind of money Grace has would have at least had DNA testing done on the baby before adding him to her will. I also found it a little hard to believe that Grace would actually confess to murder to protect Connie, but by this time, the reality ship had sailed on this one.

Richard Benjamin's direction is a little pedestrian, except for the terrific performances he gets from his cast. Ricki Lake works hard to overcome some cliched writing to keep Connie likable and Shirley MacLaine is smooth and understated as Grace. Brendan Fraser is charming as Bill though I never really bought Loren Dean as the sleazy Steve. A couple of other familiar faces pop up, including Peter Geraghty, Jane Krakowski, Debra Monk, and a glorious cameo by Benjamin's wife, Paula Prentiss. It's an effective time killer as long as you don't think about it too much.



Blindspotting
Daveed Diggs, who won a Tony Award for his charismatic performance in the Broadway smash Hamilton impressed someone enough to get his own vision on the screen as producer, co-screenwriter, and star of Blindspotting, a stylized contemporary slice of life look at friendship, rehabilitation, and racial tension that provides a lot of power, but degenerates into over the top melodramatics during its climax.

Diggs pays Collin, a young man who has been working for a moving company with his best friend Miles, a year after getting out of prison. The story begins three days before Collin's probation is supposed to end and he is able to move out of the halfway house where he is living with an 11:00 PM curfew. On the first of the three nights, Collin witnesses a cop murder an unarmed man and can't get what he saw out of his head. During his second day, a stranger reveals why Collin was in jail and on the third day, an incident with Miles and Miles' young daughter has Collin re-evaluating his entire friendship with Miles.

The screenplay has a real meandering quality as the film opens, seeming to be nothing more than an excuse to display Diggs' talent as a rapper, which anyone who has seen Hamiltion can already attest. Collin does seem sincere about beginning a new life, evidenced by his panic when he learns the homie that he's hanging with has six handguns in his car. The story doesn't begin to come into focus until we learn why Collin went to jail and when Collin begins to realize what a loose cannon Miles is.

The story also takes a rather prickly approach to racism, looking at it from a point of view that I haven't seen addressed since the Spike Lee film Bamboozled. Like Michael Rappaport's character in that movie, the character of Miles seems to think he's black or wishes he was black and really relishes the fact that Collin often addresses him with the "N" word and evidence begins to mount that the "N" word might be more applicable to Miles than Collin, even though Collin still feels he has more to fear from the police than Miles does.

The murder that Collin witnesses also seems initially irrelevant until the emotionally charged climax, which loses a lot of its power when Diggs chooses to substitute rap for a genuine encounter. Under the stylish direction of Carlos López Estrada, Diggs gives a charismatic performance in the title role as does Rafael Casal as Miles. The film builds quite nicely to a pretentious and melodramatic climax, but it's never boring.