Gideon58's Reviews

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Director David Fincher (Fight Club)has achieved the zenith of his career with The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a sweeping and majestic fable that spans almost an entire century.

This moving and eloquent story follows the life of a boy named Benjamin, who was born as a baby in his late 80's and ages in reverse. His mother died in childbirth and his father was so horrified at the sight of him that he left him on an anonymous doorstep, where he was taken in by a kindly black owner of a boarding house in post WWI New Orleans.

We become completely enveloped in Benjamin's tale as we watch him calmly accept the extraordinary hand that God has dealt him while others do the same or run in terror. We watch the kindly adopted mother who accepts him as he is, though does take him to a faith healer thinking she can "save" him; we also watch his biological father track him down and regret his decision of giving the boy up while he maintains a life long friendship with Daisy, the little girl who he meets as an old manchild, whose lives meet in the middle as she grows into a vain beauty who can't accept the fact that Benjamin grows younger as she grows older.

The film is visually arresting and bold in its cinematic scope as Fincher's meticulous direction brings you a story that haunts and fascinates.

Brad Pitt received his second Oscar nomination for his performance in the title role, a role which many feel was all visual effects and makeup; however, Benjamin has a mind and a soul and a voice that Pitt brings to this extraordinary character with a quiet and understated dignity. Cate Blanchett is luminous as Daisy, the love of Benjamin's life who can't quite accept Benjamin's life for what it is and there is strong support from Taraji P. Henson as Benjamin's adoptive mother and Jason Flemyng as his biological father.

Fincher breathes an extraordinary life into this story which could have been buried in visual effects and makeup but has a life of its own and the final act as Daisy becomes an older woman while Benjamin regresses to infancy, is absolutely heartbreaking. A one of kind cinematic experience.
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I was afraid that The Dark Knight would not live up to the hype and to everything I had heard about the film, but the film not only lived up to the hype but effortlessly surpassed it.

This epic sequel to Batman Begins(a film which put me to sleep, BTW)is a directorial triumph for Christopher Nolan (robbed of a Best Director nomination), who has mounted the ultimate comic book fantasy on an epic scale and has produced a mesmerizing epic that dazzles from start to finish as Nolan takes us back to Gotham City where we find the Caped Crusader battling mobsters, his own conscience, and of course, the Joker.

Nolan's intricate screenplay never fails to hold interest, bringing us a variety of new and beloved characters and balancing their time on the screen with effortless grace. Nolan's attention to production values is to be applauded with particularly impressive cinematography and art direction and he evokes performances from his cast that are uniformly superb right down the line with standout work from Christian Bale, who brings even more of a tortured intensity to the enigmatic Bruce Wayne/Batman than he did in the previous film and Aaron Eckhart who turns in the performance of his career as good guy turned bad Harvey Dent aka Two Face.

And what can be said regarding the performance of the late Heath Ledger that has not already been said? I didn't think Ledger could possibly be as good as everyone kept telling me he was but I was wrong. This is a performance that stands alone and should be studied by acting classes. Dead or alive, Ledger richly deserved the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for one of the most mesmerizing performances of the decade, that even made Nicholson's Joker in the 1989 Tim Burton film pale in comparison. This performance is electrifying and gutsy and more than anything, it's tragically and beautifully human...Ledger doesn't allow the Joker to just be a cartoon, he fleshes the character out as a three dimensional human being whose tragic flaw is simply wanting to be loved. Ledger doesn't make a false or unbelievable move in this's a deliciously thrilling performance that is to be savored repeatedly, just like the rest of this comic book masterpiece.
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Martin Scorsese finally snagged a Best Director Oscar for The Departed and though there are some (myself included) who do not feel this was his best work, the film is more than worthy of the Director Oscar it finally nailed for Scorsese as well as the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year that it also received.

This exquisitely mounted epic looks at the war between the police and the mob in South Boston, supposedly during the 70's and 80's, centering primarily on three characters. Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio)is a young cop with a shady family legacy, who is sent deep undercover to get the goods on renowned Boston mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

Matt Damon plays Colin Sullivan, a young man who grew up working for Costello,a la Ray Liotta's character in Goodfellas, but also becomes a police officer. A two-way cat and mouse game ensues as Costello tries to learn which member of his organization is a cop while the police try to figure out which one of their officers is a stooge to Costello. The race to learn which rat is where advances to the point where Sullivan is actually assigned to, in so many words, rat out himself.

Scor\sese offers one of the greatest examples I have seen in years of storytelling on screen with a meticulous and detailed screenplay that requires complete attention, not to mention multiple viewings to fully appreciated the multi-layered story presented here. Scorsese's direction is crisp and in-your-face, as always, and surprises are offered around every corner of the story told here. Every time you think you've figure it out, the story takes another detour and if you miss anything, you will be confused.

DiCaprio offers the best performance of his career as the tortured Costigan and he might have won the Oscar if he had been nominated for this instead of Blood Diamond. Matt Damon's richly complex portrayal of Collin Sullivan hits the bullseye as does Nicholson's expectedly ruthless mafioso. Mark Wahlberg received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his razor sharp performance as DiCaprio and Damon's 2nd commanding officer who allows matters to get personal. Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, and Anthony Anderson also register in strong supporting roles, but it is primarily the compelling story, masterful direction by Scorsese and the three electrifying lead performances that make this film an instant classic not to be missed.
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The Devil Wears Prada is an uneven but entertaining comedy that chronicles the adventures of one Andy Sachs, an aspiring young writer/Plain Jane who inexplicably gets a job as the assistant to the assistant of the editor-in-chief of "Runway"- a chic, fictionalized New York fashion magazine and how what Andy initially considered to be nothing more than a way to pay the rent ends up becoming her entire life as she becomes immersed in the world of international fashion and the blood-sucking sophisticates and anorexic models who inhabit it.

Despite the beautiful packaging of this movie that flawlessly displays the perks of being on the inside of the fashion industry, the screenplay is not terribly original and won't stand up to intense scrutiny. There are plot holes you can drive a truck through...most importantly, Andy is moments away from losing her job after several screw-ups, gets a fashion makeover from one of the designers, and then becomes the perfect assistant?

But the movie does have its assets, including effective use of NYC locations, stunning fashions, and a pair of delicious supporting performances from Emily Blunt and the always reliable Stanley Tucci as Andy's less than sympathetic co-workers. Anne Hathaway works hard in the role of Andy...she's a clothes horse and the camera loves her, but something about her performance comes off as forced and affected.

But what this film has above everything else, making it worthy of my three and ahalf popcorn rating is the extraordinary, 100-megawatt, dazzler of a starring performance by the amazing Meryl Streep, in the role of a lifetime as editor-in-chief/dragon lady Miranda Priestley. Never in all my years of filmgoing have I seen an actress so completely dominate a movie without ever raising her voice above a stage whisper...Streep is a one woman acting workshop as she effortlessly breathes life into this larger than life character without ever resorting to scenery chewing or any other cheap theatrics that could have creeped their way into this kind of characterization. Streep provides a master class in the art of underplay as she perfectly internalizes the power of Miranda, making every move and sound Miranda makes completely riveting.

The fascinating combination of fear and respect Streep fuses into Miranda is the heart of this movie and what makes you not want to miss a minute of what's going on. She makes Miranda funny, terrifying, and tragic from one scene to another with seemingly little effort and just when you think the character is a totally heartless shrew, Streep rips your guts out in one brief scene where Miranda confesses to Andy that her husband wants a divorce. Streep creates one of the mostly richly complex and entertaining characters of her career which, no surprise, earned her an unprecedented 13th Oscar nomination. It is the performance of the divine Meryl Streep that transports The Devil Wears Prada from fluffy to fabulous.
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Though it laid a big fat egg at the box office, The Distinguished Gentleman is still one of Eddie Murphy's smartest and most entertaining films. Eddie plays a career con man who decides there is real money to be made in the political arena and using the name of his state's recently deceased incumbent, runs for Congress and is actually elected on the strength of his predecessor's name.

Upon his arrival in Washington, he finds himself courted by many special lobbyists and finds him squaring off against one semi-crooked congressman (the late Lane Smith), whose personal agendas outweigh his duties to the people he represents and it is through his dealings with this guy and learning that politics is more than the big dodge he thought it was going to be, our hero learns to be a better person.

This clever comedy takes the expected pot-shots at Washington, DC and politics in general, but also presents a fun good vs evil story surrounded by some elaborate trappings that make for a sophisticated comic romp.

Murphy has rarely been better and he has surrounded himself with a superb supporting cast including Kevin McCarthy, Joe Don Baker, Charles S. Dutton, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Noble Willingham, and Grant Shaud. There is also a very funny cameo by James Garner as the congressman who Murphy succeeds. The movie is about 20 minutes too long, but for the most part, it is a very entertaining ride. It's not the kind of film hard-core Eddie-philes expect from him, but for those looking for something a little original and very funny...have your fill here.
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One of their later screen teamings, The Facts of Life was a 1960 comedy, rather adult for its time, where Bob Hope and Lucille Ball play two friends, married to others, who usually participate in a group vacation together and through some freak circumstances , end up on the vacation alone this year and grow so close they actually drift into an affair and consider leaving their spouses.

I have to admit that this movie was surprising to me when I first saw it a few months ago, so I'm sure it raised a few eyebrows in the 1960's...infidelity was most likely a bold subject for a movie comedy and I doubt if it was something Bob or Lucy had done prior to this. but for this day and age, this was a very adult movie comedy that probably didn't do the business it deserved in 1960 because of its "controversial" storyline. Though it would hardly be considered controversial today, this film was probably quite the departure for its stars and as a curio of cinema history, it is definitely worth a look.
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The Family Stone is a well-cast and somewhat moving family drama that got a bad rap due to some inconsistent writing, fuzzy characterizations, and bad marketing. Trying to pass itself off as a warm and fuzzy holiday comedy, this film is really a rather intense look at a fiercely protective family looking out for one of their own as a young businessman brings home his new girlfriend for Christmas to meet his family, who believe this woman is all wrong for him and, therefore, treat her like crap the second she walks in the door.

This movie angered me the first time I saw it because I couldn't figure out why the Stones were so mean to Meredith, but upon repeat viewings it became clear that Everett and Meredith were a wrong fit from jump and the family saw this and in their own twisted way are trying to keep Everett from making a tragic mistake.

A solid cast has been assembled who, for the most part, help cope with the unpleasantness of this story. Dermot Mulroney, in the best performance of his career, gives a tragic dignity to Elliott who can't understand why his family has turned on the woman he thinks he loves and Sarah Jessica Parker, in a role light years from Carrie Bradshaw, is effective as the tightly wound girlfriend who finds no help in connecting with Everett's family.

Diane Keaton's masterful performance as Everett's mom Sybil is fascinating and Craig T. Nelson is charming as Kelly, Everett's dad. Rachel McAdams makes a strong impression as Amy, Everett's sister who is totally nasty to Meredith and Luke Wilson is fun as Ben, the only family member who really makes an attempt to be gracious to Meredith. Claire Danes makes the most of an oddly written role as Meredith's sister, who joins Meredith because Meredith wants her support but, unlike Meredith,is welcomed with open arms and inexplicably, makes Everett forget how he feels about of several plot points that are kind of hard to swallow. Others include why Meredith doesn't offer to sleep on the couch when she won't sleep with Everett in his room or why she incurs Sybil's wrath at the dinner table, making pointed remarks about homosexuality, despite the presence of Sybil's gay, deaf son and his lover or why a woman who is supposed to be this highly intelligent business woman would yell every time she tries to speak to the deaf son. It's also hard to tell whether or not the deaf son reads lips or not. In some scenes it seems like he does and other scenes it seems like he doesn't but he knows when Meredith is yelling.
Despite these problems in story, characterization, and continuity, I found this film oddly riveting the second time I watched it and by the fourth time, there were moments that made me cry. The Family Stone is an emotional family drama for the patient and open-minded.
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The First Wives Club is a sparkling all-star comedy that hits all the right notes and makes you want to cheer out loud while you're watching. This is the story of three former college girlfriends (Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Bette Midler) who are reunited after many years due to the suicide of a mutual friend (Stockard Channing) and all learn that they have been dumped by their husbands for younger women. They bond and not only plan revenge on their husbands but take their revenge to another unexpected level that is curiously refreshing for a comedy of this type.

Elyse (Goldie Hawn) is an actress whose career has provided a comfortable living for herself and her ex (Victor Garber), but he wants to dump Elyse when he meets a younger model (Elizabeth Berkley). Annie (Diane Keaton) has been married to Aaron forever and they have a daughter together but that doesn't stop Aaron from having an affair with Annie's therapist (Marcia Gay Harden). Brenda loves Morty (Dan Hedaya) who owns his own business, obtained through shady means, who doesn't hesitate to drop Brenda when something younger and prettier comes along.

Keaton, Hawn, and Midler are marvelous as the women out for their ex-husbands' blood. Collins, Garber, and Hedaya are all on the mark as the scummy ex-husbands. There are funny bits contributed along the way by Rob Reiner as Hawn's plastic surgeon, Sarah Jessica Parker as Hedaya's mistress, Maggie Smith as a wealthy divorcée, Bronson Pinchot as a faux designer, and Eileen Heckart as Keaton's mother

A wonderful script is smartly mounted by director Hugh Wilson with an energetic cast to produce a terrific film comedy which can easily be watched several times and discover new pleasures on each viewing.

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Another film I never get tired of re-watching, The Four Seasons is an entertaining, albeit predictable comedy-drama about three affluent couples who vacation together, whose perfect circle of friendship is forever altered when one couple decides to divorce and the man tries to bring his new girlfriend into the circle.

There is a lot of funny stuff that goes on here and a lot of unpleasant stuff as well, especially the way the circle treats the new girlfriend, but most of it rings true and the emotions expressed among these friends about losing the wife who was rejected for a younger woman, are quite real.

My only problem with this film is that all the characters talk like Alan Alda. Yes, Alda wrote and directed the film, but he should have given the characters their own personalities, not his. Alda and Carol Burnett make a very believable long-married couple, Jack and Kate as do Jack Weston and Rita Moreno as Danny and Claudia. Len Cariou makes the most of an unpleasant role as Nick, the husband who divorces his wife (Sandy Dennis, in a lovely and heartbreaking performance)and tries to bring his new girlfriend (Bess Armstrong) into the circle.

There is slapstick and sentiment and pathos and I have to admit to cheering the first time I saw the scene where Armstrong tells the group off for treating her like an outsider. It's not Chekhov, but it is a charming film with likable characters, realistic situations, beautiful scenery and a lovely musical score. If you hate Alan Alda, beware.
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1977's The Goodbye Girl is probably the best comedy that Neil Simon wrote directly for the screen, filled with his usual razor sharp dialogue and his quirky characters brought vividly to life by a wonderful cast.

Richard Dreyfuss walked off with the Best Actor Oscar for his brilliant comic turn here as Elliott Garfield, a small town actor who moves to New York to star in a revival of RICHARD III and, upon arrival at the apartment he has sublet from an old friend, learns the apartment is still occupied by said friend's girlfriend, Paula McFadden (Marsha Mason) and her daughter Lucy (Quinn Cummings)who were not informed that the worm sublet the apartment after ditching them to make a movie in Italy. Naturally, the three end up sharing the apartment and though you can pretty much guess the outcome, the journey is quite enjoyable, especially Dreyfuss' hysterical take on the character of Richard III and his encounter with some muggers who steal Paula's purse.

This movie is a delight from start to finish thanks primarily to the genius that is Neil Simon and the winning performances from Dreyfuss and Mason.

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The Holiday was one of the biggest surprises I've had at the movies in years. This fresh and funny comedy stars Cameron Diaz as Amanda, the owner of a company that makes movie trailers, who has just dumped her cheating boyfriend (Edward Burns)and decides she needs to get out of LA for awhile. She goes to a real estate website and chats with Iris (Kate Winslet), a lonely publishing employee who lives in England, who has just learned the man she's in love with is engaged. Amanda and Iris agree to exchange homes over the Christmas holiday.

Iris arrives in LA and strikes up a friendship with Amanda's neighbor, a retired screenwriter (Eli Wallach) and Amanda's ex's best friend (Jack Black ). Amanda lands in London and finds herself in a whirlwind romance with Iris' bother (Jude Law), a sexy charmer with baggage.

As silly and predictable as this film appears on the surface, it is just the opposite...cleverly written and performed with exuberance and sincerity. Diaz' performance is kind of all over the place and kind of hard to latch onto but Law has rarely been more appealing on screen and Jack Black shows solid leading man potential without losing that goofiness that we love about him, but it is the luminous performance of Kate Winslet that raises the bar on this one...Winslet's Iris is a delicious combination of vulnerability, sweetness, and silliness that makes this film well worth sitting through. Wallach is also a delight as the old gentleman brought out of his shell by Iris. A delight from start to finish.
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The 1956 film version of The King & I was one of the most lavish and enchanting film versions of a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical ever made. Based on a book by Margaret Landon and a 1946 film starring Rex Harrison and Irene Dunne, this is the story of a widowed schoolteacher during 1860's who accepts the position of teacher to a tyrannical King in primitive Siam that leads to the ultimate culture clash/battle of the sexes, set to some really lovely music.

Yul Brynner recreates his original Broadway role as the King in an electrifying, Oscar-winning performance that made Brynner an instant film icon who will forever be associated with the role and the gold standard to which all other actors who tackle the role aspire to. Deborah Kerr makes a lovely Anna Leonowens who, even though her singing is dubbed by Marni Nixon, still delivers a charismatic performance as the strong-willed Anna that also earned her an Oscar nomination. The chemistry between Brynner and Kerr is immediate and obvious and they absolutely light up the screen together in the most romantic non-romantic relationship ever portrayed on screen.

A young Rita Moreno also makes a strong impression as the slave girl, Tuptim, whose best song, "My Lord and Master", has been cut from most versions of this film. But we still have "Whistle a Happy Tune:. "Hello Young Lovers", "We Kiss in a Shadow", "Getting to Know You", "A Puzzlement", and "March of the Siamese Children." There is also an extraordinary ballet entitled "The Small House of Uncle Thomas" which merits attention.

Lavish scenery and Oscar-winning costumes are icing on the cake in one the most emotion-charged and moving screen adaptations of a Broadway musical to the movie screen. They don't make 'em like this anymore
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The Late Shift was an interesting made for HBO movie that took a detailed look at the power struggle that ensued between David Letterman and Jay Leno when Johnny Carson announced his retirement and both wanted to replace him.

This struggle is now part of Hollywood folklore, but for those who don't know the story and are aware of where Letterman is now, it might be interesting to learn that David Letterman wanted to replace Johnny Carson as host of THE TONIGHT SHOW more than anything in the world, but Letterman found his dreams being derailed as frequent guest host Leno had one of Hollywood's most powerful agents, Helen Kushnick, in his corner and working tirelessly to get her client the job.

It's not often that we get to see behind the scenes Hollywood machinations recreated for entertainment value, but for fans of these two late night superstars, this movie provided a fascinating look at a very turbulent period in late night television.

According to this movie, Letterman was practically promised the job by Carson himself while NBC had promised the job to Leno and that's where Helen Kushnick came in. The movie presents Leno as sort of a milquetoast who allowed his career to be manipulated by Kushnick and feigned ignorance to some of Helen's strong-willed manipulations of some of NBC's biggest power players and it presents Letterman as this smart and savvy businessman who, despite having Carson's support, was railroaded by NBC and Kushnick.

John Michael Higgins and Daniel Roebuck credibly recreate Letterman and Leno, respectively, but it is the razor-sharp performance of Oscar winner Kathy Bates as Helen Kushnick that keeps this movie bubbling. Bates commands the screen in one of her best, if not so well-known performances as the venomous Hollywood agent who eats television studio executives for breakfast. There is also a wonderful turn by impressionist Rich Little as Johnny Carson, but it is primarily a fascinating story and the powerhouse performance by Bates that make this one worth checking out.
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The late Elizabeth Montgomery was robbed of a second Emmy (the first time was when her performance in A Case of Rape lost to Cicely Tyson)for an absolutely chilling performance in The Legend of Lizzie Borden, a well-written and effectively directed ABC TV movie that cleverly blends fact and speculation to present one version of how this famous ax-murderer may have actually murdered her father and stepmother.

Montgomery completely immerses herself in this character to the point where every time I even think about this movie, the hair on the back of my neck stands up. She was that good,as were Fritz Weaver as her father and Katherine Helmond, as her doubting sister. Another landmark television event that if it is not available on video, it should be.
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Probably my favorite movie of 1991, Thelma and Louise was an exciting, gripping, and deeply moving comedy/drama/adventure about girlfriends (Susan Sarandon, Geena Davis)who plan an innocent weekend away from their hum drum lives and the scummy men in their lives and due to some unforeseen circumstances, find themselves suddenly on the run from the law.

This was the first female buddy movie that completely worked for me...everything clicks here, a smart story and characters you can feel for and relate to. Although most of the supporting characters are drawn as unsympathetic bad guys, it seemed necessary in order for us to sympathize with the two lead characters and the terrible trouble they are in.

The leads are superb, Sarandon in particular, gives the performance of her career that should have won her the Oscar, but I think the fact that Davis was also nominated kind of canceled her out. Khalli Couri's outstanding screenplay did win an Oscar and Ridley Scott's direction is equally compelling.

There is also a memorable bit by Brad Pitt, in one of his first major roles, who makes a strong impression as a shady drifter the girls pick up on their journey. A beautifully constructed story of friendship and adventure that demands multiple viewings.
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A Case of Rape is the landmark NBC TV movie that changed the genre forever and initiated a new career and more sophisticated image for the late Elizabeth Montgomery.

This television classic starred Montgomery (in a performance that should have won her an Emmy)as a housewife who gets raped twice by the same man. She does not report the 1st rape but she does report the second and the film shows the indignities this woman suffers from the courts and the insensitivity and mistrust she experiences from her husband (Ronny Cox) and her best friend (Patricia Smith). There is actually a horrific scene where Montgomery meets with best friend Smith, who actually wants details about what happened and implies that her friend might have enjoyed it.

This movie pulls no punches, makes no compromises or apologies, and promises no happy endings. It was reported that when the script was first submitted to network executives, they wanted to cut the second rape. A long time friend of Ms. Montgomery stated that she responded by submitting a list of names of other actresses who might be interested in appearing in the film because she would quit if they changed the script.

This is a mature, disturbing, adult movie that is so well-crafted, it merited theatrical release and I find it amazing that this movie is not available on video. An intelligent script, uncompromising direction by Boris Sagal, and solid supporting performances by Cox, Rosemary Murphy and Williams Daniels as the attorneys involved, and Cliff Potts as the unapologetic rapist, made this film an instant classic and it's truly criminal if this film is not available on video. All serious students and connoisseurs of great drama and superb acting should see this important and disturbing movie.
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Burt Reynolds officially became a superstar with 1974's The Longest Yard, one of the greatest feel-good football comedy-dramas ever made.

Reynolds plays Paul Crewe, a disgraced ex-pro football player who is sent to prison for destroying his girlfriend's car (one of the great chase scenes in cinema history). Upon his arrival at a Florida prison, Crewe is coerced by the Warden (Eddie Albert), who has a semi-pro football team comprised of prison guards, to put together a team of convicts to play his guards and that's where the fun begins.

Reynolds turns in a 100-megawatt movie star performance in this film as Paul has to draft players, train them, lead them, betray them, and win back their trust before the final whistle blows on the game. The recruiting and training scenes are smart and funny.

Reynolds gets solid support here from Albert, in a slick performance as the slimy warden, James Hampton as best pal Caretaker and Michael Conrad as Nate Scarborough, another ex-footballer who has been jailed and agrees to help Crewe coach the team. The prison drama takes second place to one of the greatest movie football games ever filmed, with some striking split screen images between the game and the various elements of its audience, from the people in the stands to the prisoners laid up in the infirmary. The recent remake by Adam Sandler doesn't diminish in anyway the entertaining joy that this instant classic provides and continues to do so no matter how many times I watch it.
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I was initially very wary of seeing the remake of The Longest Yard. The original film is a classic and one of my absolute favorite films in the world and there is no way I thought Adam Sandler or anyone else could do it justice, but I have to admit that this remake was a pleasant surprise.

I found this 2005 remake of the 1974 classic to be a respectful and affectionate valentine to the original film with very few changes in the original story. As a matter of fact, executive producer Sandler had the screenplay tightened up from the original so that the audience is brought to the main story in a more direct manner than we were with the original. Crewe gets his order to organize the team from the warden during their first meeting in this film, which happens later in the first film.

If you can accept Sandler as a pro football player then accepting the rest of this breezy and entertaining remake is no problem. Sandler delivers a nicely modulated performance that worked for me and Chris Rock, as always, steals every scene he's in as Caretaker. James Cromwell is acceptable as the slimy Warden, though he wasn't anywhere near as slimy as the late Eddie Albert was in the original.

Sandler also pays homage to the 1974 film by casting its original star, Burt Reynolds, as Nate Scarborough, the role played by Michael Conrad in the original and even beefs the part up a little and Reynolds makes every moment on screen count.

Sandler cleverly cast former pro football players and WWF wrestlers as various guards and convicts including Michael Irvin, Kevin Hall, Stone Cold Steve Austin, and Goldberg. Hip hopper Nelly also shines as a barefoot running back. All in all, a respectful remake that doesn't diminish the gloss of the original but manages to stand on its own as solid entertainment.
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The Man in the Moon is a warm and moving coming of age drama centering around a farming family in the 1950's. The main story follows a 14-year old girl (Reese Witherspoon) who develops a crush on a 17-year old neighbor (Jason London) who ends up falling for her older sister (Emily Warfield) and how an unexpected tragedy alters this family's dynamics forever. The 1950's are lovingly evoked here and the screenplay gives you characters you come to care about almost immediately. Witherspoon already begins to show the Oscar-winning talent she would develop in this early role and London makes a charming leading man. Warfield lends a quiet maturity to the role of the older sister that is effective as well. Kudos to Sam Waterston and Tess Harper who play the girls' parents and Gail Strickland, who plays London's mom. I was unexpectedly moved by this quiet and affecting drama that stirs up strong emotions and gives deeper meaning to the phrase "family ties."
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I have been pleasantly surprised to learn that the "Death To Barbra Streisand" Knell that seems to pervade Hollywood seems to be limited to just Hollywood and there are people out there who keep an open mind regarding Streisand and her work.

Streisand mounts one of her most entertaining and romantic films with The Mirror has two Faces, a beguiling story about a romance between two lonely college professors that ends up turning into a platonic marriage.

Yes, you can see how this is going to end thirty minutes into it, but the journey to that ending is such a pleasure. Yes, despite Rose Morgan's Plain Jane demeanor, this is a bit of vanity piece for Streisand, but not so much as YENTL was. It's a very "Barbra" film with very "Barbra" themes and messages that we expect from her and for those of us who love Barbra, that's OK.

Streisand has surrounded herself with a superb supporting cast. Lauren Bacall was robbed of an Oscar for her performance as Rose's vain, insensitive mother and Mimi Rogers was amusing as Rose's vain, insensitive sister. I loved the scene at Rogers' wedding where she threatens to have her mother's birth certificate blown into a birthday card and Bacall dryly replies, "I should never have encouraged you to speak."

Pierce Brosnan and Brenda Vaccarro also offer some strong moments. But the most pleasant surprise for me in this film is the performance by Jeff Bridges as the slightly nerdy calculus professor, Gregory Larkin. Bridges makes this character so likable and injects him with a perfect combination of nerdiness and sexiness at the same time. Very few actors can pull that combo off, but Bridges does it so effortlessly. You just want to take Gregory in your arms and say, "It's OK, baby, it's OK..." Streisand has directed this film with a surprising amount of quiet sensibility and has given us an albeit predictable, totally winning romantic comedy.

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