Gideon58's Reviews

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The Night of the Following Day
Sizzling performances by the stars are at the heart of 1969's The Night of the Following Day, a moody and economic crime thriller crafted in the form of a cinematic jigsaw puzzle where the viewers are assigned the duty of locating and filling in the missing pieces.

The film opens with a young woman getting off a plane in Paris and being met by two gentleman who escort her into a limousine. In a matter of minutes, it's revealed that these two men are kidnapping the woman, being aided by a woman the hostage recognized as a stewardess on her flight. The girl is taken to an isolated seaside cottage where it is revealed that a ransom will be demanded from her father and they have no intention of harming her. We then are privy to what happens when a meticulously planned crime starts to fall apart and that the kidnappers are not the cohesive unit they initially appear to be.

The screenplay, based on a novel called The Snatch by Lionel White, effectively establishes the fact that the kidnapping scheme unfolding before us has been planned down to the very last detail for a long time. We can see that said plan is being followed to the letter but we can also see unexpected complications arise that were not part of said plan. We're about 35 minutes into the running time before we learn exactly who the mastermind behind the scheme is. We see one of the men from the airport, who turns out to be the muscle of the plan, explain to the victim exactly what is going on and that no harm will come to her.

This is when we learn these kidnappers are not all on the same page where this crime is concerned. The fake stewardess only seems to be involved because of personal relationships to the mastermind and to the chauffeur. The aforementioned muscle has other agendas that eventually come to light, And on top of all this, every time our criminals make a move, they accidentally run into a police officer more than once, who senses wrongdoing, but has no motive to act on it. Just when we think we've got a handle on what's going on, the muscle appears to have more power in the scheme than we originally thought and attempts to turn the tables on the rest of the gang.

Director ad co-screenwriter does an expert job of establishing the creepy, almost other worldly atmosphere of the story, keeping the story completely in the external...a lot of stories let us inside the heads of the characters, but that never really happens here. The story on the surface is all we get to go on and what we get to go on is that the plan is not going as planned and that someone is going to pay for it, though we don't exactly know who.

Marlon Brando delivers a smoking and dangerous performance as Bud the chauffeur. This was probably the last of the "Stanley Kowalski" sexy roles Brando would do before succumbing to the eventual obesity he would live with through the rest of his career. Brando is seriously sexy here (with his hair dyed a very flattering blonde) with the accustomed ticking time bomb boiling beneath that sexual bravado. Richard Boone commends the screen in a rare movie role as Leer, the muscle, who shines in that monologue where he explains to the hostage what's going on. Rita Moreno offers one of her strongest performances as the fake stewardess/closet junkie (I believe she and Brando were romantically involved at the time and he was instrumental in her getting this role).

Pamela Franklin tries to make something out of the hostage role, which was the standout thing abut this movie. This was one of the few movies I've ever seen about a kidnapping that wasn't about the victim and that was what made this film so different and such an interesting watch, not to mention the magic that is Marlon Brando.



The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard
Strap yourself in, let your mind go blank, and drink in 2021's The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard, a big budget action adventure/spy spoof that trades logic and realism for non-stop action and a surprising amount of humor that we don't see coming and sustains itself through the final reel.

Ryan Reynolds plays Michael Bryce, a disgraced former bodyguard who has lost his license and is so lost without his life's work that it has driven him into therapy. Just as he begins his suggested "sabbatical" from being a bodyguard, he is approached by a voluptuous con artist named named Sonia Kincaid (Salma Hayek) for Michael's assistance in rescuing her husband, a veteran hitman named Darius Kincaid (Samuel L. Jackson) who has a long and colorful history with Bryce, so that she and Darius can have a baby. However, their rescue mission complicates an even further mission that they are forced to assist with...the prevention of a deadly virus being planted underground that could destroy the entire continent of Europe.

I didn't learn until after viewing this film, that is actually a sequel to a 2017 film called The Hitman's Bodyguard, which also starred Reynolds and Jackson. Now the fact that this film is a sequel and I didn't realize it might make one want to watch the first film before viewing this one. But I will say that, without knowing this film was a sequel, I never suspected that it was a sequel and never felt like I missed something or needed something explained, except possibly why Bryce lost his license, but as this film progressed, I found that why he lost his license was irrelevant.

The screenplay is surprisingly well-constructed, rich with inside jokes about the bodyguard and hitman businesses, and addresses a lot of action movie cliches directly and without apology. The story cleverly combines a world crisis that must be averted with three dimensional, flawed characters at the center, whose personal history gets worked throughout the film with some really clever use of flashbacks, something you don't see in a lot of action movies, but it works here. It's quite clever the way the writers keep the fact that Sonia wants a baby as a through line for the entire film. This is also the first film I have ever seen that references the Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell movie Overboard.

The movie moves at a lightning clip (at glamorous locations all around the world) until about the halfway point, where we find out heroes stranded in the middle of nowhere. Conveniently, they happen to be very close to where Bryce's father, a famous former bodyguard lives. The casting of this role is genius and the reunion between Bryce and his father is definitely one of the film's highlight.

Director Patrick Hughes puts careful consideration into production values, which include gorgeous worldwide photography, editing, art direction, and sound. Reynolds is a lot of fun, bringing the same loopy sensibility to Bryce that he did the Deadpool franchise. Salma Hayek lights up the screen as Sonia, the daredevil who is not above using her obvious physical assets to get what she wants. I have never enjoyed Hayek onscreen as much as I did here. Initially, Samuel L Jackson seems a little long in the tooth for this sort of action yarn, but he really seems to be enjoying himself and there are cleverly placed reminders of same from the bad guys that just tick Darius off. I have to admit I'm a little curious about the first film, but don't feel like I have to see the first film to appreciate this one. This movie was a whole lotta fun.



Cashback
The beginning and finale of a 2006 sexually charged British film called Cashback display endless imagination, style, and filmmaking technique, but a detour around the halfway point takes the viewer out of the unique and initially hard-to-swallow cinematic universe to which we have been invited.

Ben Willis is an aspiring artist who, after a very bitter breakup with his girlfriend, Suzy, develops insomnia, which motivates him to take a job on the night shift at a local supermarket. Ben finds his artistic imagination running wild with the ability to stop time anytime he wants to and makes any adjustments to current circumstance he likes, including his unrequited crush on a fellow employee named Sharon.

Just like the 2018 Jim Cummings film Thunder Road, this film was based on a short film that producer, director, and screenwriter Sean Ellis was granted the opportunity to expand into a feature film a few years later and he ran with it. This film takes a bold and unabashed look at the male libido and how so much of what motivates the male is rooted in sexual worship as well as sexual fantasy. The story begins looking at Ben's childhood, which features a Swedish exchange student who lived at his house and paraded around the house naked. It's not long before we see Ben freeze framing the activity at the supermarket, and allowing his sexual imagination to command his actions and bring us into his own sexual awakenings.

Ellis brings us into a sexually provocative world that includes a rarely seen homage to the female form, filmed with an artistic delicacy that I haven't seen. Unfortunately, just as we begin to become completely enveloped in this erotic fantasy, Ellis decides it's time to introduce us to Ben's co-workers, his boss, and their soccer team, wrenching the viewer out of this endlessly imaginative fantasy he has taken so much time bringing us into, and then abruptly bringing us back to the fantasy world we had just begun to accept using Ben's reunion with Suzy as the conduit, leading to a lovely finale.

Ellis' screenplay has an almost poetic quality, using just enough British slang that we recognize the country of origin, but we know exactly what everything means. The camera work is often breathtaking combining an unnerving use of freeze frame that brings an ethereal quality look to the nude female form that is often breathtaking. Sean Biggerstaff, who appeared in the first three Harry Potter movies as Oliver Wood, is warm and sensitive as Ben, but the real star of this film is Sean Ellis, who definitely is a director to watch.



Pig
Oscar winner Nicolas Cage seems to be relaxing into a new phase of his career, following his mute performance in Willy's Wonderland, with 2021's Pig, a moody and slightly pretentious character study wrapped around a crime drama, where a not-that-interesting story is almost forgiven thanks to some stylish direction and a terrific performance from the star.

Cage plays Robin, a man who lives in the forests of Portland, Oregon, where he survives working as a truffle-hunter with his own pig. Unfortunately, Robin's hermit-like existence is disrupted when his pig is stolen and he must confront his past in order to find her.

Director and co-screenwriter Michael Sarnoski attempts to provide this story with more attention than it deserves by pretentiously splitting up the story into three parts and giving them titles, like a Woody Allen film, but these titles become irrelevant pretty quickly. What is relevant and really well done is establishing the character of Robin without showing everything that happened to him that has brought him to be living in the woods of Portland with a pig. The character is beautifully provided foundation when Robin walks into a restaurant and asks for someone and is informed that the person died 10 years ago.

The story becomes more interesting as it is revealed that Robin was once a gourmet chef and that everywhere his investigation leads him, people remember him and his reputation precedes him, kind of like John Wick. There's an absolutely brilliant scene about halfway through the movie where Robin enters a fancy restaurant and questions the head chef there, who once worked for Robin as a sous chef and was fired after a couple of months. Watching Robin turn this guy to jelly was probably the best scene in the movie.

Sarnoski does display a genuine talent with the camera. Watch the deliberate and delicate movement of the camera during any moment where food is being prepared by human hands. Sarnoski really wants us to understand the artistry that goes into being a chef and by the time the credits roll, we do.

Cage's Robin isn't completely silent like his character in Willy's Wonderland, but the entertainment values of the performance comes from Cage completely losing himself inside this character and his embracing of Robin's physicality. Solid production values are also an asset, in a film that does tell a compelling story, but is not the masterpiece the director seems to think it is.



Mr. Saturday Night
Billy Crystal had his first vanity project as the star, producer, director, and co-screenwriter of 1992's Mr. Saturday Night, a big budget salute to the golden age of television that died at the box office, due to the subject matter's lack of appeal to the all important 18-34 demographic and a story that just tries to cover too much territory.

Crystal stars as Buddy Young Jr., a veteran stand up comedian who is trying to stay relevant in the 1990's, despite a career that dates back to vaudeville. The film vacillates between Buddy at the height of his career, where he abused everyone in his life, especially his brother, and the present, where he is in complete denial about the fact that his career is circling the drain.

Crystal, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel, who had just collaborated on City Slickers are meticulous in bringing back the infancy of television as well as the history of comedy in general, creating a stunningly accurate look at old time show biz that clearly involved a lot of research in its presentation of the origins of comedy. Unfortunately, a lot of what goes on this film meant nothing to 1992 movie audiences. This story would have worked if it had concentrated more on present day Buddy trying to revive his career. This part of the story worked a lot better than the sweetly nostalgic salute to Sid Ceasar's Show of Shows.

Crystal work very hard at making Buddy Young likable and never shies away from the negative aspects of the character. We've seen this kind of character before, including Crystal's most recent film Here Today...a show business legend with one foot in the past wanting a return to the spotlight on their own terms. Unlike his Here Today character, Buddy Young not only refuses to believe that he's finished, but turns his nose up at every opportunity a pretty young agent (Oscar winner Helen Hunt) tries to drum up for him. Not to mention the fact that Crystal was just a little too young to be convincing in this role that spans at least 50 years. It would be interesting to see Crystal do this movie today.

The one consistently entertaining aspect of the film is the relationship between Buddy and his brother, Stan...flawed, sweet, sad, and funny. Despite the myriad problems with the over elaborate story, Buddy and Stan make you want to stay with this and see how it ends.

Crystal works extremely hard in the title role, but his thunder is stolen by David Paymer as Stan, a lovely and engaging performance that earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Julie Garner was also a little too young to be convincing as Buddy's wife, but Jerry Orbach, Ron Silver, and Mary Mara score in supporting roles. Cameos by Jerry Lewis, Slappy White, and Carl Ballantine add authenticity to the canvas, but the story is just a little too grandiose and a little too outdated to provide the kind of entertainment that 1992 movie audiences were looking for.



Nobody
From the creator of the John Wick franchise comes Nobody, a blistering and bloody actioner that defies logic at every turn, but is executed with such cinematic pinache, this reviewer couldn't help but be riveted to the screen.

The 2021 film stars Emmy winner Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul) as Hutch Mansell, an everyday schlub, seemingly content in his mundane existence with his wife and kids. One night, a pair of crooks break into the house and Hutch chooses to protect his family in a manner that could be interpreted as cowardice, leading to ridicule from his co-workers and his son. This incident is the beginning of a snap inside Hutch which leads him to a ride on a city bus where he witnesses a group of thugs harassing a woman. Hutch beats the crap out of these guys, putting most of them in the hospital. It is then revealed that one of the guys Hutch crippled is the brother of a dangerous Russian mobster named Yulian Kuznetsov.

Derek Kolstad, who created John Wick, has crafted another intriguing hero who, like John Wick, appears indestructible but really shouldn't be. The story actually begins with a beautifully edited exposition providing a look at Hutch's life, to show how dull it is and why he really should be hating it. As we're watching this, we're wondering why so much detail is being put into this, but it becomes clear pretty quickly.

We learn that Hutch is a former FBI agent, but not just any agent...his position is what he refers to as an "auditor" and his explanation of what he does is beautifully written and does partially explain his ability to handle a whole lot of bad guys with machine guns at the same time. We don't really buy that this entire Russian organization is unable to take Hutch out, or that Hutch has been able to keep his former life from his family, but about halfway through the film, we don't care.

The film features spectacular camera work, including a terrific tracking shot, that reminded me of Scorsese's classic tracking shot in Goodfellas. The film editing is Oscar-worthy and the song score was well chosen with one exception..am I the only one tired of watching gun battles (or anything else for that matter) with Satcmo's "Its a Wonderful World" playing on the audio? If that song could be eliminated from film scores permanently, I could live with that. Odenkirk is beautifully understated in the starring role and is well matched by Aleksey Serebryakov as the Russian madman. Kudos as well to a terrific supporting turn by Christopher Lloyd as Hutch's dad. Cinema for the action purist at its finest.



Thunderbolt and Lightfoot
Solid production values, a rich screenplay, and breezy performances by the stars are the primary selling points of a minor classic from 1974 called Thunderbolt and Lightfoot that seamlessly combines two different movie genres, though it is a little longer than necessary.

This is the story of Thunderbolt (Clint Eastwood), a bank robber on the run for seven years after a botched robbery where the booty was never recovered, who meets a young hustler by the name of Lightfoot (Jeff Bridges), who also seems to be escaping a shady past. The guys run into two former members of Thunderbolt's crew who decide to let go of the past and work together on an even bigger and more elaborate heist.

Though produced by Eastwood's production company Malpaso, the creative force behind this film is Michael Cimino, who directed and wrote the screenplay. Five years later, Cimino would win two Oscars for producing and directing 1978's Best Picture, The Deer Hunter, but he effectively cut his teeth here, mounting a richly entertaining story which actually tells two different stories. Yes, we have an elaborate heist caper mounted in meticulous detail, but we also have a lovely bromance/buddy movie centered around the title characters which is really the heart of this film.

LOVED the way the characters meet...Thunderbolt is being chased by his shotgun toting former partner Red (the late George Kennedy) and is rescued by Lightfoot in a car he has just stolen. It's so much fun watching the hero worship in Lightfoot's eyes as he learns some of Thunderbolt's backstory, though we get no backstory about Lightfoot, which turns out to be OK. The relationship that develops between these guys has genuine affection, even a sliver of sexual tension, though I don't think the guys realize it. It's this relationship that keeps the viewer invested in everything that's going on.

We do get to see the new heist caper planned and executed and it's fun seeing if the execution comes off exactly as the plan, but it is over detailed and slows the story down around the halfway point, but regains its momentum during the final act, which includes a hairy chase sequence through a drive-in theater and a handful of surprise storyline moves we don't see coming at all.

Eastwood provides his usual understated cool as Thunderbolt, but the real star of this film is Jeff Bridges as Lightfoot, a dazzling and charismatic performance that earned the actor his second Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor (he lost the award to Robert De Niro for The Godfather Part II). Kennedy provides equal laughs and hisses as the greedy and dopey Red and frequent Eastwood co-star, the late Geoffrey Lewis, is a charmer as the wimpy Goody. Other familiar faces pop up along the way including Jack Dodson, Dub Taylor, Catherine Bach, Gary Busey, and Vic Tayback, but this film is all about Eastwood, Bridges, and the filmmaking skills of Michael Cimino. Incidentally, the only film I know of that features Jeff Bridges in drag.



Holler
Despite some interesting characters at the core of the story, the 2020 film Holler fails to engage the reviewer thanks to lethargic direction and less-than-stellar production values.

This is the story of an intelligent and streetwise girl named Ruth who spends her spare time with her older brother, Blaze, collecting cans and bottles for recycling to help pay for the college she was recently accepted into but can't afford. Ruth decides to take a similar route to more money by joining a scrap metal crew, which can earn her a lot more money, but is a lot more dangerous.

Just like the recent Cashback, this is yet another short film that impressed someone enough to give director/writer Nicole Riegel the budget to make a feature length film out of it, but this time the mystery investor should have held onto their money. The world of stealing scrap metal just didn't make for a riveting movie, despite a couple of interesting characters at the center of it.

The relationship between Ruth and her brother, Blaze was the most interesting aspect of the story. It becomes clear pretty quickly that Ruth has the brains to make something of herself, even if she is in denial about it. But Blaze is determined to see his sister go to college no matter the cost. Their relationship is given another interesting layer as we meet their mother, Rhonda, who is a drug addict in rehab, who doesn't seem to care anything about her children.

The rest of the movie is centered around the not-very-interesting world of stealing and selling scrap metal and this is where the less than stellar production values come in. Most of the scenes involved around this unique criminal enterprise were so poorly lit that it was often impossible to tell what was going on. There is one scene in the film where a character dies and it wasn't until the end of the scene where someone says that the character died, did I realize someone had died. The lighting and camerawork is so shoddy that I literally didn't see the character die. Jessica Barden, Gus Halper, and Pamela Adlon are terrific as Ruth, Blaze, and Rhonda, respectively, but I'm not sure if the rest of the film is worth wading through to appreciate their work.



A Boy Named Charlie Brown
My recent viewing of the Charles M Schultz documentary Who are You, Charlie Brown? reminded me that I had never watched 1969's A Boy Named Charlie Brown, the first feature length animated film featuring the legendary Peanuts characters, who come to the big screen four years after the television special A Charlie Brown Christmas premiered on CBS.

In this delightfully funny film, after being introduced to these classic characters, led by the ultimate schlub, Charlie Brown, our hero is encouraged by his best friend, the blanket-toting Linus, to enter the spelling bee that's taking place in his class. To everyone's surprise, Charlie Brown becomes the best speller in his class and in the school. The kids who have been ridiculing him his whole life suddenly have his back when he has to travel to New York for the National Spelling Bee.

It probably took some persuading to get Schultz to bring his characters to the big screen in a full-length film, since our only exposure to them up to this point had been half-hour television specials. Someone had the wisdom to allow Schultz to write the screenplay that would introduce his "babies" to the screen. The first third of the film is devoted to exposition, introducing the characters to the audience for the uninitiated, with a look at Charlie Brown's incompetent baseball team, the constant ridicule he takes from Lucy in the form of psychiatric sessions, his smart-ass dog, Snoopy, who cares about nothing but supper and defeating the red baron, and Charlie Brown's constant battles to get a kite in the air. The spelling bee story gets a terrific layer added to it when Linus decides to lend his blanket to Charlie Brown for luck when he leaves for New York, which turns out to be a huge mistake for Linus.

There's story here that gets sacrificed to include some overlong fantasy sequences that just slow the film down, especially Schroeder's Beethoven tribute and Snoopy's fantasy on ice at Rockefeller Center. When it sticks to the story, this movie provides more than its share of laughs, primarily with the treatment Charlie Brown gets from his hypocritical friends and the effects on Linus from giving his blanket to Charlie Brown.

The film does feature a terrific song score, which actually earned the film an Oscar nomination. Loved Rod McKuen's "A Boy Named Charlie", the mean girls teasing of Charlie Brown called "Failure Face", but my favorite was "I Before E", a delicious patter song with Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy studying spelling rules. For an animated film over 60 years old, this 60-plus reviewer found a lot of laughs here. These character are timeless.



Love and Monsters
2020's Love and Monsters is an often spellbinding blend of action, romance, suspense, humor, and genuine chills that has a lot going for it, including solid direction, first rate production values, and a tongue in cheek screenplay that goes a little over the top in the final act in a way we don't see coming.

As the film opens, we learn that, seven years ago, a "Monsterapocalypse" destroyed most of the world, sending survivors to live in underground bunkers. Joel Dawson is a sensitive, wanna-be artist who lost his parents in the attack and became separated from his girlfriend, Aimee, who survived but is living in a different bunker than Joel is. Despite warnings from his fellow bunker inhabitants, Joel decides to make the 85-mile journey to Aimee's bunker, accompanied by an amazing dog named Boy.

This film is anchored by a strong screenplay Brian Duffield and Matthew Robinson that never takes itself too seriously, evidenced in the terrific opening credits that actually provide exposition through a very funny narration of the story by Joel. And I have to admit that this one of the few films I've seen with a narration that is funny, never intrusive, and doesn't slow the film down. Joel only provides information on the audio when it's necessary, always knowing his primary place in the story as reluctant hero.

This was the other thing I liked about this story. I liked that Joel was no superhero, was deliciously flawed, and was actually allowed to show fear about his situation. I never really thought about it until seeing this film, but this is the first action story like this where I saw a character firing a weapon and his hands were actually shaking. So fun to see fear displayed in situations that warranted fear. Also LOVED the relationship between Joel and this dog. This dog was absolutely amazing and we almost believe that he understands everything Joel is saying to him and director Michael Matthews has to get a lot of credit for making a relationship between a man and a dog completely believable and the heart of this often heart stopping action adventure.

Matthews must also be credited with the concept of some of the most terrifying creatures I've seen in a monster movie. The final third of the film goes a little over the top, overshadowing the magic of the first two thirds, but our love of Joel and Boy keeps us invested. Matthews also gets a charismatic movie star performance out of Dylan O'Brien that makes us love Joel. A first rate action adventure epic with humor at the heart of it.



The Helen Morgan Story
A genuine movie star performance by Paul Newman, in only his fifth film, is the best thing about 1957's The Helen Morgan Story, an alleged biopic about the famous 1920's torch singer that comes off more as a sudsy melodrama than a biography of one of Broadway's earliest legends.

The film opens during the roaring 20's where we meet the struggling singer Helen (Ann Blyth) having an on again off again lover affair with a bootlegger and con man named Larry Maddux (Newman) which is further complicated by a married attorney named Russell Wade (Richard Carlson) who uses his wealth and position to buy Helen and her undying devotion. We then watch as this tragic love triangle leads Helen to alcoholism and the eventual destruction of the career Larry and Russell worked to build for her.

First of all, if you're looking for facts about the career of Helen Morgan, who created the role of Julie LaVerne in the original 1927 production of Show Boat, this is not the place to look for two reasons: When I googled the name Larry Maddux, the only thing that came up were stills of Paul Newman from this movie. Second, according to the IMDB, Helen Morgan was married three times and the character is never observed marrying anyone in this movie. The other problem here was a common affliction of show biz biographies made in the 1950s: The rise to stardom is too fast to be believable as is the alcoholic descent to the bottom. As a matter of fact, there is a scene near the end of the movie, where a drunk Helen is in a bar and hears her song come on the radio, that was duplicated, practically word for word, for Patty Duke's character in 1967's Valley of the Dolls.

The other big problem here is the casting of Blyth in the starring role. Blyth, who put herself on the map about a decade prior with her Oscar-nominated performance in Mildred Pierce just wasn't up for the demands of this meaty role, though she does a competent job lip-synching to Gogi Grant's voice. Fortunately, Paul Newman is so good as Larry Maddux that you almost don't notice how one-note Blyth's performance is. I learned that Doris Day was offered the role and turned it down. This film could have been something with Day in the role.

The film is handsomely mounted, featuring Oscar-worthy sets and costumes, though there were continuity issues that should have been addressed. Primarily, the fact that every time Helen is observed singing in this film, she is seated onstage atop a piano with nothing else onstage, though the soundtrack clearly features a full orchestra. Despite the problems with this film, Paul Newman made it worth sitting through and was already beginning to foreshadow his future as a film icon.
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Karen
The BET original film Karen is an overheated drama about racism that just doesn't work due to a juvenile story delivered with a sledgehammer and overripe performances.

The 2021 film is about a widowed mother of two named Karen Drexler who lives in an upper class neighborhood in Atlanta who makes it her singular mission to drive a young black couple named Malik and Imani out of the house next door to hers, but the young couple refuse to take the harassment sitting down.

An inexperienced filmmaker named Coke Daniels is the director and screenwriter of this mess and I'm guessing he was on coke when he wrote it, Daniels has given us a one-sided story that never really decides what side it wants us to be on as the alleged black hat of the story gets away with far too much for this story to be taken seriously. This might have worked if it were crafted in a more farcical manner but Daniels' story is done with way too a straight face to invest in.

We know we're in for something pretty silly from the opening scene where we see the title character throw a bucket of water on a "Black Lives Matter" message etched in chalk on the sidewalk and then mopping the sidewalk clean. At one point, this woman actually gets herself invited to the couple's housewarming party and actually ends up telling their guests that they need to go back to Africa? Seriously? What is this, 1965? The objects of Karen's rage aren't exactly the brightest bulbs on the row either. The husband Malik, actually allows Karen to catch him sitting in his car smoking weed. The whole point of the story went out the window for me when I realized that the black couple in the story were as dumb as Karen. The pretentious finale, in the form of a press conference, was unintentionally funny. They even dye Karen's hair jet black to help us remember that she's the villain.

Daniels' direction is over-the-top and unoriginal. Taryn Manning (Hustle & Flow) never really convinces as a 21st distaff Archie Bunker and neither do Carey Hardrict and Jasmine Burke as Malik and Imani. Daniels' intentions seem to be sincere, but this story is too silly to be believed.



Chilly Scenes of Winter
Joan Micklin Silver, the creative force behind films like Loverboy and Hester Street is also the director and co-screenwriter of 1979's Chilly Scenes of Winter, an offbeat comedy drama that provides entertainment value thanks to an edgy screenplay and a terrific ensemble cast.

The late John Heard plays Charles, a government employee who is lamenting about the loss of someone named Laura, as if she had died. It is soon revealed that Laura (Mary Beth Hurt) is a former co-worker of Charles, with whom he had an affair about a year ago for two months, before she returned to her husband and daughter. Having resisted the temptation for a year, Charles impulsively calls Laura and before we know it, the affair has begun allover again, or so it seems, as Laura's guilt about her marriage begins to develop as much as Charles' obsession with Laura.

The story begins cleverly because Charles is acting as if Laura died. But once we learn the real story of Charles and Laura, the story gives us a glimpse at the two months Charles and Laura were together before returning to this reunion, which Laura is fighting half-heartedly and Charles begins focusing his entire life around. Charles' obsession with Laura reminded me a lot of Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction, but without the danger or mental health issues that Alex had. We know that Charles is not going to hurt Laura, but we also know that there's no way he's going to let her get away this time, evidenced in his actually confrontation with Laura's husband.

Despite the Fatal Attraction feel to the development of the central character, the film actually has more of a Woody Allen sensibility to it, rich with humor and squirm worthy moments and some colorful supporting characters, including Charles' mentally ill mother, his lazy roommate, and the blind man who runs the newsstand outside his office.

This film sustains interest because we really don't know how it's going to end until it ends. John Heard gives the performance of his career in the starring role and creates solid chemistry with Hurt, who is utterly charming as Laura. The legendary Gloria Grahame also offers her accustomed flashy turn as Charles' mother, but it's the challenging story and strong performances from the leads that make this worth watching.



Chilly Scenes of Winter
This film sustains interest because we really don't know it's going to end until it ends. John Heard gives the performance of his career in the starring role and creates solid chemistry with Hurt, who is utterly charming as Laura. The legendary Gloria Grahame also offers her accustomed flashy turn as Charles' mother, but it's the challenging story and strong performances from the leads that make this worth watching.
Glad you watched this it's a underseen movie. I really liked it myself. Glad to see Gloria getting a mention too



Jungle Cruise
Take a large dose of The African Queen, mix in a little Raiders of the Lost Ark, and add a dash of Aliens, and you've got 2021's Jungle Cruise, Disney's big budget action adventure loosely based on a Disney World theme park ride.

Lily Houghton (Emily Blunt) is a professor who steals a valuable Indian arrowhead that is also being pursued by an insane Russian prince (Jesse Plemmons). We learn that Lily and her brother, MacGregor (Jake Whitehall) need this arrowhead to get their hands on an even more valuable prize called the Tears of the Moon. Lily hires rugged riverboat captain named Frank Wolff (Dwayne Johnson) to get her down the river to her destination.

This film features an overly complex screenplay from a surprising source. Two of the screenwriters, Glen Ficarra and John Riqua, are actually the creative forces behind the Emmy-winning NBC drama This is Us. They do have a talent for creating likable characters, which they have accomplished in spades...the sexual tension between Frank and Lily burns a hole through the screen and contrasts nicely with a sexist bent that simmers underneath the surface of the story. The characters remind us throughout that Lily is in over her head with her mission and everyone she meets are shocked that she's wearing pants. As a matter of fact, Frank calls Lily "Pants" throughout the movie.

Apparently, the Disney attraction that was the basis for this film that I have never been on, features a riverboat captain whose patter with the audience includes a lot of really terrible puns and provides an amusing introduction to the Frank character (though the fact that he's being played by Dwayne Johnson makes that kind of a non-issue anyway) and the film could have worked on the Frank/Lily tension alone, but around the middle of the second act, the story takes a real supernatural turn we don't see coming, though it is hinted at during the exposition, which initially didn't seem important. It's around this portion of the film, where the story becomes a little confusing, but it does wrap for an effective finale, which took a little longer than necessary.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows) deserves props for his control of the scope and size of this story. Disney spared no expense in bringing this magic to the screen, employing Oscar-worthy cinematography, set design, sound, visual effects and especially James Newton Howard's gorgeous music. As always, Dwayne Johnson is the very definition of charisma as Frank and is well-matched by Emily Blunt's rich performance as Lily, a perfect combination of starched intelligence and smoldering sexuality. Plemmons totally chews the scenery in his strongest performance as the villain of the piece and Whitehall perfectly channels Hugh Grant in his work as MacGregor. It's not quite a home run, but a lot of work went into this one and it's well worth a look.



Jungle Cruise
Take a large dose of The African Queen, mix in a little Raiders of the Lost Ark, and add a dash of Aliens, and you've got 2021's Jungle Cruise, Disney's big budget action adventure loosely based on a Disney World theme park ride.

This film, the first I believe based on an amusement park ride, features an overly complex screenplay from a surprising source. Two of the screenwriters, Glen Ficarra and John Riqua, are actually the creative forces behind the Emmy-winning NBC drama This is Us. They do have a talent for creating likable characters, which they have accomplished in spades...the sexual tension between Frank and Lily burns a hole through the screen and contrasts nicely with a sexist bent that simmers underneath the surface of the story. The characters remind us throughout that Lily is in over her head with her mission and everyone she meets are shocked that she's wearing pants. As a matter of fact, Frank calls Lily "Pants" throughout the movie.

I think Pirates of the Caribbean was also based on a ride at the Disney parks.
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