Gideon58's Reviews

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Firestarter (2022)
Pretty sure the world would have continued to rotate without 2022's Firestarter, a confusing and melodramatic remake of the 1984 thriller based on a novel by Stephen King that featured a six year old Drew Barrymore. It should be noted that this review is coming from someone who never read the novel or saw the 1984 film.

This is the story of a little girl named Charley who seems to be very confused about a power that she has to set things on fire with her mind and how she is supposed to use it. She attempts to find answers from her parents, who have powers of their own, but their primary concern is protecting Charley by keeping her powers a secret, but there is only so much protection that they can provide as eventually Charley must use her powers to save herself and her father.

Even though King co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Teems, who wrote Halloween Kills, I found myself very confused about exactly what was going on here. Some questions might have been clarified in King's novel, but what I saw here was a story about a little girl who had magical powers that she was just as confused about as the viewer is. Charley spends the majority of the story waffling between being terrified of this power and wanting to be rid of it, but willing to use it in the name of self-preservation or revenge, the same way Carrie White used telekinesis. She understands the danger and understands why her parents are so protective of her and why they have to live their lives on the run, but her constant conflict about her abilities got pretty tiresome at around the halfway point. Then we learn that there is some mystery organization who knows about Charley and want to capture her because we learn from some crazy in a mental hospital that she has the ability to cause a nuclear explosion.

The film is also very confusing about her parents' so-called powers as well. Her mother is very uncomfortable with her powers even though it's never made clear exactly what they are. All we know about Dad's powers is that when he cracks his neck his eyes bleed and whatever he wants to happen happens. And even though we see him overpower an innocent old man, he is completely helpless when some sort of assassin comes after him and Charley. There was a scene early on at Charley's school where she goes into the bathroom and causes an explosion in one of the stalls but comes out unscathed. A scene where she forces a trio of bullies to give up a bike and a sandwich that reminded me of Arnold's first scene in The Terminator seemed unintentionally funny.

The film features some decent special effects and there is some imaginative camerawork, but director Keith Thomas' direction is too melodramatic and spoon-feeds us a story that just doesn't answer the questions it poses. The performances can best be described as overripe though Zac Efron maintains his dignity as the dad. There were a couple of effective immediate "boos" here and there, but this was a very long hour and thirty-four minutes.

The Pumpkin Eater
Despite small holes in the screenplay 1964's The Pumpkin Eater is a crisp and emotionally charged romantic melodrama focusing on a severely broken marriage whose minor flaws in the screenplay fall to the wayside thanks to meticulous direction and brilliant performances from the leads.

Anne Bancroft stars as Jo, a vivacious mother of five, seemingly content in her second marriage, who is introduced to a seemingly charming screenwriter named Jake (Peter Finch) by her husband and in the very next scene, we learn that Jo has left her second husband to marry Jake. It's not long before Jake is revealed to be less than ideal husband material, whose behavior sends Jo to the brink of insanity.

The intricately crafted screenplay by Harold Pinter and Penelope Mortimer is mounted in the fashion of a lot of contemporary films, as the story is told out of sequence and leaps back and forth in time, requiring complete attention from the viewer. Initial frustration is established when we see Jo and Jake meeting for the first time and everything that led to her leaving her second husband and romance with Jake leading to their marriage is abruptly skipped. It does become irrelevant though as we learn that Jake's wandering eye and his discomfort with becoming an instant stepfather are among the contributing factors to his mental and emotional abuse of Jo, which sends the woman into a very deliberate descent into madness. The film even establishes in the opening minutes, without a word of dialogue, that Jo has been released from a mental hospital and is experiencing ambivalence about doing so.

Director Jack Clayton (The Innocents) never shies away from this adult and, at times. shocking look at the destruction of a marriage and the mental shredding of a woman that paints certain aspects of the story in a very basic black. The Jake character shows no accountability or remorse for the way he treats Jo and we want to scream as watch Jo sit back and take it up to a point. There are scenes of unexpected power here that don't start out that way. One scene that initially seems like filler, stopped this reviewer cold when Jo is confronted in a beauty parlor by a stranger whose life seems to mirror her own. The violent confrontation between Jo and Jake after a betrayal she can longer sit back and accept is frighteningly unapologetic. The ending of the story is also intriguing as it offers possible hope for Jo and Jake, but doesn't guarantee it

The film is shot in gorgeous black and white, featuring impressive editing and a lovely music score. Anne Bancroft is nothing short of breathtaking as Jo, a performance so powerfully heartbreaking that it earned Bancroft an Oscar nomination for Best Actress (she lost to Julie Andrews for Mary Poppins), the only nomination the film received. Finch, who 12 years later would win the Academy's first posthumous acting Oscar for Network, is Oscar-worthy as the slimy Jake. Mention should also be made of James Mason as an unwilling participant in the destruction of this marriage and an early appearance from future Oscar winner Maggie Smith as a houseguest of Jo and Jake. An uncomfortable and often squirm-worthy drama anchored by bold direction and stunning performances.

Up the Sandbox
1972's Up the Sandbox is a pretentious and loopy black comedy that starts off as some sort of feminist manifesto rooted in Women's Lib but morphs into a confusing mish mash of domestic melodrama and bizarre fantasy sequences that make for unintentional laughs, occasional boredom, and predictable confusion.

The film stars Barbra Streisand as Margaret Reynolds, the wife of a writer who is the mother of two children and at the beginning of the film, learns that she is expecting a third. Shortly after learning this news, she learns that her husband is having an affair with a colleague, which sends Margaret into her own personal retreat into an unfathomable world of fantasies that are supposed to provide an escape for Margaret from her humdrum existence.

This film was one of the first productions of a motion picture production company called First Artists that was formed in 1969 by Streisand, Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier, and Dustin Hoffman in an attempt to turn the world of moviemaking on its ear. Unfortunately, the company closed its doors in 1980 and I have a feeling that a lot of problems with the company had to do with backing films like this one.

Streisand was one of the biggest movie stars on the planet at the time. She had a monster hit the same year with the Peter Bogdanovich classic What's Up, Doc?, but Barbra hated every minute of making that movie and was anxious to spread her wings as a filmmaker and not just as a musical comedy actress.

I've written a lot of reviews where I've described the central female character as "screaming on the inside" and this is definitely one of those characters. Her unhappiness with her life is evident from jump, but these supposed fantasies that are supposed to provide escape for her just seem to provide more unhappiness and danger for her. I've always thought that fantasies were a concept based around making a person happier than they are and the fantasies that Margaret has in this film not only put her in danger but she seems just as confused about them as we are. A bizarre encounter with Fidel Castro, her pregnancy magically blowing up at a cocktail party, and an encounter with an African tribe filled with half naked women are among the nutty journeys Margaret takes. Our confusion about why Margaret doesn't tell anyone about her pregnancy at the beginning of the film is addressed during the final reel in one of the most bizarre finales to a movie I have ever seen.

Streisand's performance can best be described as uneven, but I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that I don't think even she understood what's going on here. David Selby is terrific as her husband as is Arielle Heller as her really annoying mother, but this movie is a hot mess. Even die hard Streisand fans will have a hard time wading through this one.

Luckiest Girl Alive
Despite some stylish direction and strong performances, 2022's Luckiest Girl Alive is a talky and slightly confusing psychological drama with feminist leanings centered around a woman who is allowing her past to impede her present and future.

Mila Kunis stars as Ani Fanelli, an upwardly mobile New Yorker who is living the dream. She is a writer for a women's magazine who is in the running for a job with the New York Times and is engaged to marry the wealthy man of her dreams. Ani's world begins to unravel though when she is approached by a documentary filmmaker who wants to make a movie where she will talk about being one of the survivors of a shooting at the fancy prep school she attended as a teenager. Dean, another survivor of the shooting who is now confined to a wheelchair, has appeared in a film and written a book about his experience that has him living high off the hog. A connection between Ani and Dean revolving around an even uglier crime than the shooting reveals itself and Ani feels she can't move on with her life until she gets some closure with Dean.

According to the IMDB, Reese Witherspoon's production company purchased the film rights to the novel by Jessica Knoll upon which this film was released before it even hit the bookstores. This implies there is probably some basis in fact in this story, which has a very personal, very intimate feel to it. It first comes through in Ani's onscreen narration of the events, that doesn't seem to be so concerned with documenting the events of what happened but more about how she feels about them.

It was interesting watching the way this film progressed because Ani seems to have everything a girl could want at the beginning of the film and, as the story progresses, finds everything slipping away from her. It's extremely disturbing watching the way the events that occur quietly eat away at her life especially with her sensitive and caring fiancee Luke, who knows some of what happened but feels Ani has already worked through it because that's what Ani wants him to believe.

Director Mike Barker (The Handmaid's Tale) has put a lot of care into the presentation of the story. I liked that he had one actress playing present day Ani and another playing teen Ani and his subtle transitions from the present to the past. Unfortunately, the events comprising Ani's troubled past are presented in such a jumbled manner that it's hard for the viewer to track what's going on. Ani's friends and enemies in the story, even ones who are related to her, are hard to track. Allegiances change at the drop of the hat, not an uncommon thing with teenagers, but it made it very difficult to keep track of what happened to Ani and who was on her side.

Kunis does deliver the strongest performance of her career in the starring role and I loved Chiara Aurelia as the teenage Ani as well. Finn Wittrock, who was so good as Mickey Deans in the Judy Garland biopic Judy, is an effective blend of strength and sensitivity as Luke and a very gracefully aging Jennifer Beals, 40 years after Flashdance is a lot of fun as Ani's boss as was Connie Britton as Ani's self-absorbed mother, I just wish the story had been a little easier to follow.

The Four Poster
The institution of marriage is examined in 1952's The Four Poster an enchanting and effervescent look at a fifty-year marriage starting at the turn of the century that charmed this reviewer thanks to some stylish direction and the splendid performances from the leads, who are the only actors who appear on the screen.

The film opens at the turn of the century on the wedding night of John Edwards and his nervous young bride, Abby and provides selected scenes from this marriage in the form of vignettes that are linked through animated segments that sometimes fill in what we need to know that happens between the scenes and sometimes just sets the mood for us.

This the film version of a play that opened on Broadway on October 24, 1951 and ran for over 600 performances with real life acting legends Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in the roles. For the screen version, the roles of John and Abby were awarded to Rex Harrison and his real life spouse at the time, Lilli Palmer, whose love for each other comes through in every frame of this film and what makes this alternately witty and heartbreaking look at a marriage so richly entertaining.

Watching the progression of this relationship from the wedding night where Abby looks terrified of the four poster bed and makes John turn around every time she removes an article of clothing, through John's alleged infidelity, the death of their son and the marriage of their daughter, to the bittersweet finale with just the right touch of fantasy, we are fascinated by this look at a romance and relationship that matures through the years while weathering multiple storms.

Since it was the title of the film, I was a little surprised that the bed became less important as the film progressed, but I was impressed that John and Abby were the only characters who appeared onscreen. There might be a tendency not to pay attention to the linking animated sequences but that would be a mistake. There is also a scene where Abby is going through her son's old toys that has a real Hitchcock feel to it, that we don't see coming at all.

Director Irvin Reis (The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer) lends a sensitive and imaginative directorial hand to the proceedings. Harrison and Palmer work beautifully together, crafting one of the most enchanting onscreen marriages I have ever seen. Fourteen years later, this story was turned into a Broadway musical called I Do I Do with Robert Preston and Mary Martin.

The Honeymoon
You Me and Dupree meets Honeymoon in Vegas in 2022's The Honeymoon, a dreadfully unfunny comedy that gets dumber and dumber as it progresses, resulting in the longest one hour and thirty five minutes of my life.

Adam and Sarah have just gotten married, much to the dismay of Adam's best man and childhood BFF, Bav. Bav is so upset by his buddy's marriage that he has Adam thinking that he's suicidal and to keep him from doing harm to himself, Adam actually invites Bav to join him and Sarah on their honeymoon in Venice. The situation is barely tolerable for Adam and Sarah until Bav gets them up to their necks in trouble with a charming art dealer/drug dealer named Giorgio.

This alleged comedy is another hot mess from director and screenwriter Dean Craig, who was also the creative force behind a ridiculous comedy from earlier in the year called The Estate. If the truth be told, the initial premise of this film is kind of funny. even if it is virtually impossible to accept that anyone would actually invite their best friend to join them on their honeymoon. This plot concept does provide some initial laughs and had potential for more, but once Adam, Sarah, and Bav become involved with the evil Giorgio, the film begins to fall apart.

There is a clever directorial touch here and there. I liked the way Craig decided to document Adam and Bav's relationship through still photographs during the opening credits, like the opening credits of The Break Up, in order to make the audience understand why Adam would actually invite this guy to share his honeymoon. It's not just the fact that Adam would invite Bav on his honeymoon, but that Bav would actually accept the invitation. There's a moment where the three of them are on a gondola and Adam has his arm around Sarah and Bav takes Adam's other arm and places it around himself. That was the beginning of the end for me. Adam and Bav's mission to deliver some cocaine while Sarah was Giorgio's hostage was beyond silly, and if the truth be told, there's no way Adam. Bav, and Sarah should have come out of this thing alive.

For a British independent feature, this film had a pretty big budget, evidenced in actual Venice locations, but pretty scenery doesn't do much to help us accept a really dumb story. Pico Alexander shows some real leading man potential as Adam and Maria Bakalova, who was nominated for an Oscar for Borat Subsequent Moviefilm, works very hard to make us like Sarah, but Asim Choudry is the real scene stealer as Bav, though scene stealing from this silly comedy is no major accomplishment.

The Notorious Landlady
The stars and directors of the classic Bell Book and Candle reunited a few years later for The Notorious Landlady, an uneven mixture of black comedy and murder mystery whose over complicated screenplay makes the movie a very long and labored journey.

The 1962 film stars Jack Lemmon as Bill Gridley, a junior American diplomat who is beginning a new position in London. He persuades a beautiful young woman named Carly Hardwicke (Kim Novak) to rent him the apartment above hers. He is immediately attracted to her and takes her out to dinner that night. The next day when he reports to work, Bill learns from his boss, Franklyn Armbruster (Fred Astaire) that he was followed on his date last night because Mrs. Hardwicke has been accused of murdering her husband and Scotland Yard wants Bill's assistance in helping them prove it.

The screenplay by Blake Edwards and Larry Gelbart, based on a novel by Margery Sharp, does an efficient job of establishing the premise, but then bombards the viewer with one red herring after another making the story very difficult to stay invested in and making the movie a lot longer than it needs to be. It's clear from the moment we meet her that Carly has secrets but we're not sure if one of them is the fact that she murdered her husband. Then we have the Armbruster character, whose agenda changes from scene to scene, not to mention surprises witness and even a couple of extra corpses work themselves into a story that about two thirds of the way becomes a little exhausting.

Director Richard Quine offers a breeziness and an unbridled nervous energy to the proceedings that makes the audience wonder if they should be giggling or shaking in their boots. Believe it or not, as I watched this, the same thing flashed through my mind that did when I was watching Bell Book and Candle: Hitchcock should have directed this This loopy story is the kind that Hitchcock could deliver in his sleep.

Lemmon works very hard in a role that is part Cary Grant and part Jerry Lewis, but Kim Novak never really convinces as the merry murderess. I did enjoy Astaire make the most of a complex character who changes sides throughout the story. It's a labored cinematic journey, but I think Hitchcock could have made it a lot less so. In addition to her role as Carly, Novak also designed her own costumes.

Jesus Revolution
2023's Jesus Revolution is a well-intentioned docudrama about the birth of an important religious movement that features some strong performances, but a screenplay that definitely could have used some tightening and too many lapses into melodrama weigh it down a bit.

The story opens in 1968 California, where events that happened in San Francisco and Haight Ashbury became the genesis for a religious movement among hippies who weren't finding the spiritual fulfillment they thought they could find in drugs and bucking the establishment and seek what they are looking for through a search for spirituality/

The story is told through the eyes of a handful of characters, who it turns out were mostly based on real people. Greg Laurie is a military school dropout who had a troubled childhood and may have found his answer in Christ. Chuck Smith is a pastor whose church is on life support until he embraces the hippies who invade his church, via his daughter, and turn his church into a Billy Graham-type empire. Lonnie Frisbee is an idealistic hippie and spiritual leader who bonds with Chuck until he begins to believe his own press. Cathe is a hippie in training who is rudely awakened by her sister's overdosing, who may have found what she's looking for in this religious movement and in Greg.

The real Greg Laurie was one of the screenwriters, which would explain the rambling quality to the story and a lack of focus on the story at hand. The story spends way too much time focusing on Greg's troubled relationship with his trampy, alcoholic mother and the father who abandoned them as a child. I could see one flashback, but continually going back to Greg's past with his mother kept bringing this film to a halt. The scene where he literally drags his mom out of a bar and then asks her when his dad is coming home bordered on laughable. The scene where Greg first asks Cathe for a date didn't work because it began with Greg warning Cathe to never get in the way of him and his God...seriously?

The slow burn bonding between Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee's hippie friends was a joy to watch though. Loved when we first glimpse Chuck watching the hippies on TV and admitting to not understanding them, but wanting to help them and he actually does. There's an amazing scene where see a bunch of barefoot hippies in line to attend Chuck's church and Chuck is revealed to be washing the congregant's feet before they enter the church. This scene left a definite lump in the throat.

Maybe budget restrictions had something to do with it, but it would have been nice to have a few more A-listers in the cast. Though Joel Courtney works very hard to make his character Greg work, throughout the film I kept picturing Timothee Chalamet in this role. Kelsey Grammer is beautifully understated as Rev. Chuck, but the real scene stealer here was Jonathan Roumie as the charismatic Lonnie Frisbee. A true story that gets a little soapy in spots, but a couple of important messages do get through.

Sorrowful Jones
Bob Hope's gift with one-liners is center stage for a funny and warm comedy from 1949 called Sorrowful Jones, the second of four versions of this story that first came to the screen in 1934.

Hope plays the title character, a slick-talking bookie and notorious tightwad who latest scheme that involves doping a horse, gets endlessly complicated when a poor schlub who doesn't have the money to make a sure bet, leaves his young daughter with Sorrowful as collateral. Unfortunately, dad disappears and Sorrowful now has to play surrogate father, with help from his ex-girlfriend, a nightclub singer named Gladys.

Based on characters created by Damon Runyan (Guys & Dolls), the screenplay seems tailored to fit the talents Hope, since one of the screenwriters is Melville Shavelson, who also wrote the screenplay for one f Hope's best films, The Seven Little Foys. It seems that the little girl is supposed to be the focus of the story but with Hope on board for the project, I'm sure changes were made to make Hope happy. This is evidenced in the other three versions of the this story being named after the little girl but this version is named after the Sorrowful character.

The bonding that eventually happens between Sorrowful and the little girl is on the predictable side, but it's still a lot of fun. Loved the scene where the little girl has to spend the night at Sorrowful's place and she makes herself at home in bed. Lucille Ball is a whole lot of funas Gladys, bringing a lot more to the role than is in the screenplay. Ball imbues Gladys with an independent spirit that makes it clear that this is a woman who is not owned by any man. Ball's singing is dubbed by Annette Warren, who two years later, would sing for Ava Gardner in the 1951 version of Show Boat.nd

As expected, Hope and Ball are a joy in their roles and little Mary Jane Saunders is adorable as little Martha Jane. This story first came to the screen in 1934 with Adolph Menjou as Sorrowful and Shirley Temple as the little girl. It was reincarnated as 40 Pounds of Trouble in 1962 with Tony Curtis as Sorrowful nd went back to its original title Little Miss Marker in 1980 with Walter Matthau as Sorrowful, but I've always heard that this film is the strongest of the four films and I found no reason to refute that.

The Son (2022)
From the folks who brought us the uniquely crafted The Father comes The Son, a turgid, overheated, and snore-inducing melodrama about a broken family and the teenager who thinks he has the power to fix it.

This 2022 potboiler stars Hugh Jackman as Peter, a high-powered attorney who has just had a baby with his girlfriend, Beth (Vanessa Kirby) whose new life gets thrown into a tailspin when he learns from his ex-wife, Kate (Oscar winner Laura Dern) that his teenage son, Nicholas, has been ditching school for the last month. Peter is concerned but can't get any straight answers from Nicholas, who is under the impression that the solution to his problems is to move in with Peter, Beth, and his new baby brother.

My mind was blown when I learned that Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton, who won an Original Screenplay Oscar for The Father were the culprits behind this dull and predictable melodrama that actually found this reviewer trying to keep his eyes open in order to invest in this snail-paced drama, rich with scenes we've seen in a million other movies and done much better than they are here.

The most annoying part of this story is this kid, Nicholas, who is seriously grating on the nerves about 20 minutes into the movie. The guy has never accepted his parents; divorce and has taken it upon himself to remedy that. He refuses to talk to his mother at all and threatens to talk to his father, before retreating into a private world that implies suicidal tendencies. One particularly aggravating scene finds Nicholas interrupting Peter and Beth when they are fooling around on the sofa and pretending to be apologetic about it. The story confuses because it initially appears to be about the adults in the story, but when the focus turns out to be about the whiny Nicholas, interest definitely begins to wane.

Zeller's direction is heavy-handed and self-indulgent, making the film a lot longer than it needs to be. Jackman, Kirby, and Dern make the most of thankless, underwritten roles and the lack of sympathy for Nicholas definitely affects Zen McGrath's appeal in the role. Mention should be made of a glorious cameo by Anthony Hopkins as Jackman's father that was the best scene in the whole film but had close to nothing to do with it. Considering the talent behind the camera, this was a huge disappointment.

About Last Night (1986)
The concept of the one night stand as a conduit to actual romance seems to be the underlying theme to an overlong and superficial romantic comedy called About Last Night whose primary appeal lies in the sex appeal of the stars.

It's 1986 contemporary Chicago where Danny (Rob Lowe) meets Debbie (Demi Moore) at a baseball game and by the time the day is over, they are in bed together. It's not long before the pair try to build a relationship based on the physical and are actually shocked when they realize it's not working. It doesn't help that their BFF's Bernie and Joan (Jim Belushi, Elizabeth Perkins) are doing everything in their power to break them up.

If the truth be told, watching this movie was like stepping into a time capsule. Do you remember a time when Rob Lowe and Demi Moore were two of the biggest stars in Hollywood? Well, there was a time and this film brought it all back for me. This was a time when Lowe and Moore were considered "graduates" of "The Brat Pack" and had just appeared together in St. Elmo's Fire and were pretty much able to write their own ticket in Hollywood. And this allegedly contemporary battle of the sexes seemed to be a perfect vehicle for them.

This vehicle was actually adapted from a play by David Mamet and effectively translated to the screen so it doesn't look like a play onscreen, but the storyline is so predictable the viewer can practically recite the lines with the actors. The screenplay takes every relationship/romance cliche you can think of and throws it up on the screen to see what sticks. What the story boils down to is the fact that Debbie is falling in love with Danny but Danny just isn't there yet. There was one very smart piece of writing that surprised me though...after the first time Debbie says I love you to Danny, we see Bernie ask Danny who said it first and Danny lies to him and says he did. The only real surprise in the whole story.

Director Edward Zwick (Legends of the Fall) attempts to provide some substance to the relationship by providing a lot of montage scenes with Lowe and Moore looking deep in thought but there isn't a clue as to exactly what their thinking on their faces, so all these scenes do is pad the running time.

Hardcore fans of Lowe and Moore will love this because this film was definitely conceived on the concept that Lowe and Moore were the two sexiest people on the plant...Lowe spends about two thirds of the film half-naked. Belishi and Perkins provide some substance in their supporting roles, but this film is just pretty people with pretty problems. The film was remade in 2014 with Michael Ealy, Joy Bryant, Kevin Hart, and Regina Hall in the leads.

The Outfit (2022)
2022's The Outfit is a clever and claustrophobic crime drama, with just a dash of character study, that keeps the viewer on their toes, thanks to a smart screenplay that doesn't play all of its cards at once, but consistently intrigues with some jarring false starts and a rare dose of multiple endings that actually works.

It's 1956 Chicago where we meet Leonard (Oscar winner Mark Rylance), a transplanted British tailor whose shop is some sort of front for mob activity, but said activity reaches a fever pitch when a very valuable audio tape and a murdered mob prince put Leonard in serious danger for the first time during his apparent lengthy association with these people.

Director and co-screenwriter Graham Moore, who won an Oscar for writing The Imitation Game, scores with an intricate story that initially appears to have a lot of holes in it, but as the story progresses, we realize this is no accident. We're given no clues as to how the relationship between this tailor and these wiseguys came about...are they paying him for the use of his shop? Is he indebted to them in some way? We're never really told how this relationship came about but it does becomes irrelevant as the backstory isn't really important. What is established immediately is that the wiseguys trust this tailor to keep their secrets. I was also impressed by the narration where Leonard talks about the art of making a suit and how said narration connects to the events that transpire.

Loved this central character so beautifully realized by Moore and the actor portraying him. With the aid of the narration and William Goldenberg's editing the skill and passion for what this man does. It becomes apparent pretty quickly that Leonard is the smartest character in the movie. We have to admire and respect any movie character who witnesses more than one murder in the story and walks away from it. The character is also at the root of the aforementioned multiple endings. Multiple endings are usually annoying and just pad running time, but here they totally work.

Moore's direction is crisp and intense, bring more suspense than gore to a story of this ilk. Mark Rylance, another actor I've become convinced is incapable of giving a bad performance, is beautifully understated here playing a character who stays on the edge of destruction but never breaks a sweat. He gets solid support from Simon Russell Beale as Roy, Dylan O'Brien as Richie, and especially Johnny Flynn as Francis. If you're looking for a mob drama with mad style, belly up and enjoy.

Cinderella Liberty (1973)
The film has problems in terms of plotting and characterization, but 1973's Cinderella Liberty does consistently engage the viewer thanks to the steamy chemistry between the stars.

James Caan, fresh off his Oscar-nominated performance in The Godfather, stars a s John Baggs Jr., a sailor about to begin weekend liberty in Seattle who learns because of medical issues and lost records, must remain in Seattle on extended leave and cannot return to his ship. One night in a bar, Baggs meets a fiery prostitute named Maggie (Marsha Mason), who lives in a dingy little apartment with an empty refrigerator and her angry 11 year old Mulatto son, who sleeps with a switchblade.

Screenwriter Darryl Poniscan (The Last Detail, School Ties) has constructed one of those classic lover stories centered on two people who have no business being together, eventually find romantic common ground, and then the rest of the movie is spent tearing them apart. As much as we love Baggs and Maggie together, there is also an almost immediate sense that the relationship is doomed.

There are some characterization issues that plagued me throughout. I never bought the surrogate father thing that happens between Baggs and Maggie's son because his feelings about Baggs changed from scene to scene with no feasible explanation. I also didn't like the way the Navy kept getting in the way of what was happening between Baggs and Maggie.

What I did love about this movie was the white hot chemistry between James Caan and Marsha Mason in the starring roles. Mason, in particular lights up the screen, in only her second feature film appearance, though it did sound a little phony every time the character used the word "ain't." Mason was the talk of Hollywood after this performance but Caan is no less effective as Baggs, offering one of his most sensitive performances.

Mark Rydell's direction has a real gritty quality to it and even though Paul Williams saccharine music score sounded like what he composed for The Muppet Movie, it wasn't too distracting. And if you don't blink, buffs will notice Burt Young, Bruno Kirby Jr, Eli Wallach, and Dabney Coleman in supporting roles, but this is Caan and Mason's show, who were reunited on screen six years later to lesser effect in Neil Simon's Chapter Two, but they make this cinematic ride quite smooth.

Marlon Wayans: God Loves Me
After years of working in films and television, Marlon Wayans returns to the stand-up mike in a 2023 concert called Marlon Wayans: God Loves Me, a comedy set that establishes an unprecedented premise for a special like this, unfortunately, the premise eventually runs out of gas.

Broadcast on HBOMAX live from Atlantic GA, Wayans does something that I have never seen in a comedy special before. Wayans begins the show talking about his cosmic connection with Chris Rock, which began when Marlon lost a role in I'm Gonna Git You Sucka to Rock, which leads Marlon to talk about the Oscar night where Rock got slapped by Will Smith and we're actually a little thrown that Wayans builds his entire concert around the events of that night. It should also be mentioned that Wayans' material features a dead on impression of Chris Rock, who I've never heard anyone do an impression of before.

Wayans does provide some context for the feelings expressed here and we understand his resentment of Rock and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, but there's a point about halfway through the concert where it stops being funny and starts being offensive and we just want Wayans to talk about something else, anything else. There's a funny bit about the concept of the gay best friend that garners major laughs and we think Wayans is finally going somewhere else with this, but eventually all roads lead back to Chris, Will, and Jada and for this reviewer, it became tiresome.

Have to admit there were a couple of very effective moments where Wayans looks at that night through other eyes than his own. His impression of stars talking about the event at the post Oscars parties and his impression of white folks and black folks watching what happened on TV were hysterically funny and I wish a little more of the concert had been done from a more objective place, but Wayans lets this get a little personal providing the evening with a little more venom than genuine humor. There are laughs here but they definitely come and go.

The Man Called Flintstone
Back in the 60's, ABC and Hanna Barbera Productions made history with the first prime time animated series called The Flintstones which ran for six seasons. During the final season, it was decided to bring the show to the big screen in a feature length animated adventure called The Man Called Flintstone.

The year was 1966 and the James Bond craze was in high gear so it was decided that this film should be a Bond spoof. As the film opens, we are introduced to a secret agent named Rock Slag, who is a dead ringer for Fred Flintstone, who is being chased by a pair of boobs named Ali and Bobo. During the chase, Slag is seriously injured and appears to be incapable of completing his mission of stopping a missile from being launched by a villain known as the Green Goose. Slag's boss, Chief Boulder, accidentally runs into Fred, who is preparing for a camping trip with BFF Barney Rubble, their wives, Wilma and Betty, and their children, Pebbles and Bamm Bamm. Boulder offers Fred an all-expenses paid trip to Paris for him and his family if he will complete Slag's mission for him.

It should be noted that if you've been living under a rock for the last 60 years and have no idea who the Flintstones are, you should give this film a hard pass. The screenplay assumes that the viewer is already acquainted with the Flintstones and the Rubbles and offers nothing in terms of backstory. That said, we are offered a typical Fred and Barney adventure where our two best friends have gotten themselves in a situation well above their paygrade and don't really have a clue how to get out of it.

Like the television series, the movie features all the stone age technology that made the series so funny, including elevators operated by dinosaurs and cameras and tape recorders that are actually operated by birds. These are the primary elements that made the TV show so funny, which were practically ignored when the 1994 live action version of the show was produced in 1994. In keeping with the Bond theme, the Rock Slag character is known by every glamorous female criminal in the world, who all seem to have some kind of past with Slag and can't tell the difference between him and Fred.

In addition to all the female scenery, the Bond tradition also comes alive in some clever chase scenes, especially the one that opens the film with Slag being pursued and one through an abandoned amusement park during the final act. The film does feature a handful of lame songs that really do nothing but slow the plot and pad running time. Even toddlers Pebbles and Bamm Bamm are given their own musical number.

Alan Reed and Mel Blanc still provide the voices of Fred and Barney as they did in the series. Henry Corden, who provided Fred's singing voice, would take over voicing the character after Reed's death. Slag's boss, Chief Boulder, is voiced by Harvey Korman,who also provided the voice of the Great Gazoo on the series. There are laughs here and there, but in this age of CGI entertainment, this is pretty tame stuff.

Pretty Baby Brooke Shields
Brooke Shields is the subject of a 2023 documentary called Pretty Baby Brooke Shields that not only provided a lot of information I didn't know about the actress' life, but found this reviewer looking at the actress in an entirely different light.

Shields has had one of Hollywood's most unique careers, thanks to films like Pretty Baby and The Blue Lagoon, that not only made her an instant superstar, but also carved an image for her as a sexual creature from which it was nearly impossible for her to escape from for decades. Much has been written about the beginning of her career and how so much of it was manipulated by her mother, Teri, who was often accused of exploiting her daughter for her own selfish purposes. There weren't a lot of mothers out there in the 70's who were allowing their 11 year old daughters to appear nude on the silver screen, but apparently Teri Shields didn't have a problem with it and this is what I expected this documentary to be about, but it wasn't.

Actually, the documentary begins long after the initial stardom that Pretty Baby and The Blue Lagoon brought Brooke. It wasn't long before Brooke's onscreen image brought her career to a standstill, at which time she decided to go to college. Her onscreen image had become so much a part of her persona that people came to assume that this was who she was, which actually resulted in a young Brooke being sexually assaulted by a virtual stranger, an experience that she shares about with surprising frankness.

One thing I expected here and did not get was a lot of whining about her mother and the way she was exploited as a child by her. This documentary reveals that the actress holds no ill will regarding her mother and the way she treated her. Shields' eyes actually begin to well up as she talks about her mother's descent into dementia and her eventual death.

Her romantic life is documented here, as well, which, unknown to me, actually started with former TV Superman Dean Cain, followed by her stormy marriage to tennis superstar Andre Agassi and her current husband Chris Henchy. She also talks about her brief and overhyped relationship with Michael Jackson. Her private battle with post partum depression and her feud with Tom Cruise over same are also touched upon. My favorite part of the film was watching Brooke having a meal with her teenage daughters and discussing why they haven't seen Pretty Baby or The Blue Lagoon

Commentary is provided by Drew Barrymore, Laura Linney, Brooke's husband Chris, Alexandra Wentworth, Lionel Richie, Judd Nelson, who co-starred on Suddenly Susan with Brooke and writer Jean Kilbourne. An intimate and eye opening look at one of Hollywood's most misunderstood icons.

Tall Story
1960's Tall Story is a sweet-natured, if slightly dated, comedy that has a proven commodity in the director's chair and provides sporadic laughs but is mostly remembered because it features the film debut of future movie icon Jane Fonda.

Fonda plays June Ryder, a pretty young college student who has just transferred to a new college for a very specific purpose: She wants to marry Ray Blent (Anthony Perkins), a sensitive and intelligent basketball star who does eventually succumb to June's charms, but this is just the beginning of Ray's problems, which includes an important basketball game against a Russian team and the bribe he has been offered to throw the game.

The screenplay by Julius J Epstein (Casablanca) is actually based on a play by Howard Lindsey and Russell Crouse, which is impressively opened up for the screen, even it's a little more complex than it really needs to be. The romance between June and Roy would have been enough story to engage the audience by itself, especially since this is a rare case of classic romantic comedy where the female character is doing the chasing. June is not the least bit subtle in her pursuit of Ray and his initial cluelessness about it is a little hard to swallow and just as Ray catches on, his life as a basketball star begins to take priority, bringing additional layers to a traditional romantic comedy.

Veteran director Joshua Logan (Picnic), Mister Roberts) displays a real gift here for light comedy through his sometimes not-so-subtle way of getting actors to serve the story. He does a particularly impressive job with Fonda, who works the sex kitten angle in her character to maximum effect. Watch Fonda in that scene on the sofa when she and Perkins are babysitting. Fonda's presentation of teenage lust is crystal clear and this is clearly a collaborative effort between the novice actress and the director. And even though this movie actually came out the same year that Anthony Perkins made cinema history playing Norman Bates in Psycho, his performance here is kind of difficult to latch onto because Perkins plays the role a little too twitchy and a little too straight-faced, as if someone forgot to tell Perkins that the movie was a comedy. Fonda is so good though we're able to forgive the twitchy Perkins.

There is solid support by the brilliant Ray Walston as an eccentric college professor, Anne Jackson as his wife, and Murray Hamilton as a maniacal basketball coach. There's also an early film appearance by Tom Laughlin, who would find screen immortality years later as Billy Jack. And even though I couldn't spot him, supposedly Robert Redford appears in the film as a basketball player. A pleasant, if unremarkable comedy, made watchable thanks to Logan and Fonda, very impressive in her film debut.

Maybe I Do
The performances by a quartet of Hollywood veterans make a 2023 family comedy called Maybe I Do worth a look.

Michelle (Emma Roberts) and her boyfriend, Allen (Luke Bracey) have just had a big fight because Michelle wants to get married and Allen does not. They temporarily move out of the apartment they share and into their parents' home for support and counsel regarding what they should do next. Unbeknownst to Michelle and Allen, Michelle's father, Howard (Richard Gere) has been having an affair with Allen's mother, Monica (Susan Sarandon) for four months and the night before they all plan to have dinner together, Michelle's mom, Grace (Diane Keaton) spent the night in a hotel with Allen's dad, Sam (William H Macy), though they did not have sex.

This film is the brainchild of Michael Jacobs, whose primary work in Hollywood has been as a television writer on shows like Boys Meet World and Charles in Charge. the film is based on a play that Jacobs wrote that he was actually allowed not only to fashion the screenplay out of his own play, but allowed to direct as well. Jacobs' inexperience in film does show here, giving us a talky and overly sophisticated theater piece that never really escapes its theater origins. There's a whole lot of talking in the opening scenes where we meet these three couples as if they are the stars of three different movies; unfortunately, this reviewer was able to get the gist of what was going on about seven minutes into the running time.

One aspect of the story that I did find fresh and unexpected was the difference between the status of the relationships between the parents. It was rather clever having Howard and Monica having been together for four months and Howard quietly trying to end it, while Grace and Sam meet for the first time the same time we do. Of course, this leads to some hysterical moments when they all meet for dinner. Was also impressed with the civility and sophistication with which the parents handled this squirm-worthy situation, always putting the welfare of the kids above their own stupid mistakes. This was pretty much the only surprise involved in the story that plays out as expected.

The film is handsomely mounted and the performances that Jacobs elicits from Diane Keaton, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, and William H Macy make the movie worth sitting through. This is the first time Gere and Sarandon have worked together since 2004's Shall We Dance and Gere and Keaton are reunited onscreen for the first time since 1977's Looking for Mr Goodbar. It's pleasant, but ultimately, kind of empty entertainment.

Yolanda and the Thief
Despite the presence of Vincente Minnelli in the director's chair and Fred Astaire in front of the camera, 1945's musical fantasy Yolanda and the Thief is definitely lower-tier MGM thanks to a silly storyline that plays its cards too quickly and a less than charismatic leading lady.

Set in an imaginary kingdom called Patria, this is the story of Yolanda, a naive young teenager who has just graduated from a convent school and has learned that she has just inherited her family's estate, worth approximately $72,000,000. Discomfort about running a business empire motivates Yolanda to pray to a statue of the archangel Michael for help. Yolanda's prayer is accidentally overheard by a con man named Johnny Riggs and his partner, Victor. Johnny decides to befriend Yolanda, telling her that he is the angel she prayed to and tells her he will assuage her business worries if she just signs over her power of attorney to her.

The screenplay does have an air of familiarity about it, most notably the Meredith Wilson musical The Music Man, where Harold Hill is trying to bilk an entire town of out of their money. Here, Astaire's Johnny has a single target; unfortunately, his guilt about what he is doing to this young woman is apparent about twenty minutes into the running time, taking a lot of the suspense out of the story and allowing the viewer's mind to wander. To be honest, when Johnny calls Yolanda on the phone saying he's her guardian angel and she actually believes an angel called her on the phone, I almost checked out.

Vincente Minnelli was just off a career high at the time he made this, having just completed the smash Meet Me in St Louis and research revealed that Minnelli wanted his then wife, Judy Garland to play Yolanda. Sadly, Garland was already committed to make The Harvey Girls and was unavailable. Minnelli was forced to turn to Lucille Bremer to take on the role of Yolanda. This is one of the main problems with this film. Even though Bremer had just finished playing Garland's older sister in Meet Me in St Louis, this film revealed that, despite being a wonderful dancer, Bremer was a terrible actress and really weighed this film down.

The score by Harry Warren and Arthur Freed is nothing to write home about either. Astaire and Bremer dance together in a lavish production number at the end of the film called "Coffee Time", but for the life of me, I couldn't figure out why the song was called "Coffee Time" because it really had nothing to do with coffee. I also enjoyed an intricate dream ballet during the first act called "Will You Marry Me?", the song sung by Yolanda (Bremer's singing was dubbed Trudi Ervin. The stylish choreography is by Eugene Loring.

As expected with Minnelli in the driver's seat, the MGM gloss is even glossier than usual, featuring elaborate settings and breathtaking costumes. Astaire works very hard to be a convincing con man and his dancing is first rate as always. Shout outs as well to Mildred Natwick as Yolanda's flighty Aunt and Frank Morgan as Johnny's partner, Victor. It's watchable, but not memorable. Astaire and Minnelli would have much better luck about eight years later on The Band Wagon.

A Thousand and One
Precious meets Moonlight in 2023's A Thousand and One, an allegedly gritty urban drama that, despite solid performances, suffers due to a cliche-ridden screenplay and an eventual descent into melodrama that makes the movie seem a lot longer than it is.

The setting is New York City, circa 1994, where we meet Inez, a streetwise single mom, fresh out of Rikers, who literally kidnaps her son, Terry, out of a foster care facility and is determined to start her life with her son all over again, but as Terry grows up and real life begins to interfere, including the return of a former boyfriend of Inez, things begin to methodically fall apart for this mother and son.

Director and screenwriter A V Rockwell really deserves an "A" for effort here, as the story presented starts off quite promisingly as we watch this woman willing to do just about anything to make a new life for her son and the first third of the film focusing on Inez and her little boy was completely riveting and could have made a great movie all by itself. Sadly, we are disappointed as Inez' ex enters the picture and seems to still love her but has no interest in being a stepfather, even though this is what Terry needs more than anything as he enters his teens. The story also reveals young Terry to be a really smart kid who is given the chance to attend an advanced high school and fights the opportunity with every fiber of his being. It seems like the older the character gets, the dumber he gets. And just when we think we've had it with this, an 11th hour reveal about Inez rears its ugly head, but the sympathy boat for both characters has sailed by then.

I do like the fact that Rockwell chose to have three different actors play Terry, the same way Barry Jenkins used three different actors to play Little in Moonlight, but it didn't make sense that as the character got older, he got dumber and lazier and completely unmotivated to do anything with his life, despite all the sacrifices we see Inez make at the beginning of the film. As ridiculous as certain elements of this story became, the film never becomes completely unrealistic. There are things that happen to Inez and Terry during the course of the story that will have relatability to some viewers, but it moves at a snail's pace and during the final act, when the story begins crapping all over Inez and Terry, we are very tempted to check out before the credits roll.

If Rockwell had economized her screenplay and given her direction more pacing, this film didn't have to be almost two hours long and seem like four. There are some terrific performances though, especially Teyona Taylor as Inez, Josiah Cross as 17 year old Terry, and William Catlett as Inez' man, Lucky, but the film just takes too long to get where it goes. And a gold star to anyone who can explain the title.