Gideon58's Reviews

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Owen Wilson's screen charisma is perfectly suited for You Me, & Dupree, in which Wilson plays Dupree, a goof ball of a man-child who apparently has no goals, dreams, or aspirations, who finds himself homeless and becomes house guest to his best friend Carl and his new bride, Molly.

This breezy yet predictable comedy does provide consistent laughs, thanks primarily to Owen Wilson's deft, yet understated performance as Dupree. Matt Dillon works hard in the role of Carl, which clearly appears to have been meant for Ben Stiller, who I guess was unavailable. Kate Hudson makes the most of the thankless role of Molly and Oscar winner Michael Douglas makes a smooth transition from leading man to character actor with his classy turn as Molly's dad and Carl's boss, whose contempt for Carl becomes clearer as the film progresses.

Wilson also served as co-producer on this film, which is not exactly steeped in originality, but does provide fun for the viewer along the way. 7/10
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What else can be said about this classic that hasn't already been said? 1974's Young Frankenstein is Mel Brooks' dead solid perfect parody of the Frankenstein films, Bride of Frankenstein in particular, in which we meet Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder)who is the grandson of the Frankenstein of folklore, who inherits his grandfather's castle and eventually becomes obsessed with his grandfather's dream of re-animating dead tissue.

Everything works here, partly because I think Brooks chose to stay behind the camera this time. I have found his work where he stays behind the camera is better. Brooks has assembled a perfect cast: Wilder is brilliant as the deranged doctor, Marty Feldman creates one of the great comic characters in cinema history with Igor ("It's pronounced "Eye-gore"), Peter Boyle makes a charming creature and Cloris Leachman brilliantly channels Judith Anderson in her Frau Blucher. Teri Garr is a lovely Inga and Madeline Kahn is memorable as Frederick's fiancée Elizabeth.

It's one gag after another here and almost all of them work. Personally, I think Kenneth Mars' Inspector Kemp is a bit over the top, but why carp? But above all, you have the classic Brooks/Wilder screenplay, which has become part of pop-culture folklore...I'm pretty sure anyone who has ever seen this film can quote at least two or three lines from it. A comedy classic that just gets better with age...like fine wine.

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Yours, Mine & Ours is the 1968 family classic based on a true story that, among other things, was an inspiration for the TV series The Brady Bunch

This warm and entertaining comedy stars Lucille Ball as Helen North, a widowed naval nurse, who is the mother of eight children who meets and falls in love with Frank Beardsley (Henry Fonda), a widowed naval officer, who is the father of ten children and the obvious complications that ensue when Helen and Frank decide to marry and blend their families.

There are no surprises here...the children obviously object to the union and still think of themselves as separate families despite Frank and Helen's efforts to bring them together, but everything does eventually iron itself out in true sitcom style.

Lucille Ball has one of her best film roles here, playing it relatively straight as Helen, but the Lucy we know and love does get to shine through in a couple of comic scenes...one at a crowded bar where she does battle with a slip and a fake eyelash and during a dinner at Frank's house where Frank's sons have spiked her drink and she gets very drunk. Fonda proves to have a surprising gift for light comedy and his chemistry with Ball is unexpectedly solid.

Van Johnson is very funny as the mutual friend who brings them together and Tom Bosley has some funny moments as the family doctor. There are several future stars featured in the film as the North/Beardsley children, including Tim Matheson, Gil Rogers, Morgan Brittany, Mitch Vogel, and Tracy Nelson. A true family classic that still makes me laugh out loud after almost 40 years.
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You've Got Mail is the most recent updating of a classic movie story about two lonely people who are antagonistic towards each other in life but have been secretly corresponding for years but have never met. We were first introduced to this story as THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER with James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan back in 1940, if memory serves. Then we got a musical version of the same story in '49 with Judy Garland and Van Johnson called IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME. Barbara Cook starred in a stage musical version of the story called SHE LOVES ME and now Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan play Joe Fox, manager of a large retail bookstore chain and Kathleen Kelly, the owner of a small children's bookstore called (surprise!)The Shop Around the Corner who become instant enemies when Joe's new store threatens to put Kathleen out of business. Unbeknownst to either of them, they have been e-mail lovers for the longest time but don't know it.

The classic tale is updated for the computer age but it's still timeless and engaging and my personal favorite of the three films Hanks and Ryan made together. They are magical here and are surrounded by a terrific supporting cast including Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Dave Chappelle, Dabney Coleman, Steve Zahn, and John Randolph. If you're a sucker for a good old fashioned love story, have your fill here. 8/10
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For those who never saw A Chorus Line onstage and their only exposure to the story was this film, this film is OK as movie musicals go, nothing special, just OK. I have seen the show on Broadway 4 times and even auditioned for a touring company of the show once and for someone who pretty much memorized the original production, the 1985 film version is so dreadful on so many levels that I don't even know where to begin.

First of all, for those who have never auditioned for a theatrical production, let me assure you that IRL when you audition for a play, the director, producer, and choreographer never ask personal questions and don't give a crap about why you wanted to become a performer. A real theatrical audition, whether it be for a play or a musical, rarely takes more than five minutes. If you're auditioning as a dancer, you get shown a 64-bar dance combination once, you do it, and then they decide immediately whether you're in or out.

Michael Bennett's original concept of the show was to flesh out the lives of dancers and introduce to the uninitiated the passion for performing and why so many sacrifice so much for so little. The play is about these dancers. First of all, director Richard Attenborogh took so much focus off the dancers by beefing up the Cassie/Zach relationship and by casting Michael Douglas as Zach. In the play, you NEVER see Zach...he is just a voice in the back of the theater and his relationship with Cassie is barely touched upon. Cassie shown in the cab in traffic trying to get to the audition and upstairs talking to Larry (a character who is not even in the play)was all added for the movie and took so much focus off what the story is about.

Major musical numbers were cut or rethought. The opening number in the play "I Hope I Get It" shows all of the dancers doing a jazz and ballet combination and then people get eliminated. In the movie they jam three hundred dancers onstage together and show them in closeup to disguise the fact that they have cast people in the film who can't dance (can you say "Audrey Landers"). "Goodbye 12, Goodbye 13, Hello Love", a brilliant vocal exploration of these dancers' childhood's jaundiced memories was reworked as "Surprise, Surprise" mainly a vehicle for the late Gregg Burge as Richie.

The show's most famous song, "What I Did for Love" which in the show was a touching allegory sung by the entire cast about what they give up to dance, becomes just another standard love song in the film, performed tiredly by a miscast Allyson Reed as Cassie.

Jeffrey Hornaday's choreography for the film is dull and unimaginative and doesn't hold a candle to Michael Bennett's original staging and when you're making a movie about dancers, the choreography has to be special.

There are a couple of good dancers in the film, the previously mentioned Gregg Burge as Richie, Michelle Johnston as Bebe, and Janet Jones as Judy, but they are hardly given the opportunity to show what they can do, yet Audrey Landers, who can barely walk and chew gum at the same time, is given one of the show's best numbers, "Dance 10, Looks 3."

I will admit that the finale, "One" is dazzling, but you have to wait almost two hours for that. I would say that if you never saw A Chorus Line onstage, this film might be worth a look, but if you are a devotee of the original Broadway musical...be afraid...be very afraid.
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The turgid screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's 1973 masterpiece A Little Night Music is probably in the top five of worst adaptations of Broadway musical to the motion picture screen. The musical, based on the Ingmar Bergman film Smiles of a Summer Night, follows the revolving lives of three couples who clearly at the beginning are mismatched and how they end up being with their soulmates by the end of the film.

Elizabeth Taylor, looking fat and tired, sleepwalks her way through the film and enough has been said about her singing so I won't even go there. Director Hal Prince did have the sense to hire Len Cariou and Laurence Guittard to repeat their stage roles Fredrich and the Count, who both think they are in love with Desiree, but even these two charismatic actors come off as stilted.

Lesley Ann-Downe is a lovely woman but she's way too old to be playing Fredrich's young wife, Anne, who in the original script, was 18. The only completely satisfying performance in the film is by Diana Rigg as the Countess, who brings so much more to the role than the screenplay allows and also surprisingly gives the film its loveliest musical moment with her rendition of "Every Day a Little Death."

Speaking of music, I found it interesting that Prince felt the need to completely overhaul one of the most beautiful musical scores ever written for the stage. Hermione Gingold's role as Desiree's mother is reduced to a glorified cameo since they chose to cut her song, "Liasons". The Count also has a gorgeous solo in the show called "In Praise of Women" which was also cut. The song "The Glamorous Life" was rethought and became a solo for Desiree's daughter, Fredrika, charmingly played by Chloe Franks. They also cut "The Miller's Son" a powerhouse of a song sung by Petra, the maid.

I could go on ad nauseum about what's wrong with this movie, but that would be pointless. I just cannot fathom how Hal Prince so horrifically screwed up the screen version of a musical HE directed on Broadway. In an eggshell, the only reason to see this film is if you live for Diana Rigg.
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The 1954 version of A Star is Born is the second of three versions of the classic Hollywood story, originally conceived by William Wellman about an up and coming star who falls in love with an alcoholic Hollywood legend whose best years are behind him.

Judy Garland delivered the performance of her career that should have won her an Oscar, as Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester the rising star who falls for her mentor, Norman Maine (James Mason), a Hollywood icon who can't get work anymore because of his drunken escapades. This film, produced by Judy's husband at the time, Sid Luft, was severely edited after initial release; however, a lot of that footage has been restored over the years with some stills inserted and the film now looks like the story Garland and Luft wanted to bring to the screen.

Judy's weight appears to fluctuate throughout the film; however, her voice is at its peak. Her performance of "The Man that Got Away" is chilling and the 15-minute "Born in a Trunk" sequence is regarded as a mini-classic in itself. Judy earned her first Oscar nomination for Outstanding lead actress for her performance in this film. Her win seemed to be such a lock in Hollywood that reporters and TV cameras invaded Garland's hospital room on Oscar night. She had just given birth to her son Joey. When the envelope was opened and Grace Kelly was announced the winner, the reporters and cameras were gone in about two minutes.

James Mason, also nominated for an Oscar,is tragic and heartbreaking as Norman Maine and there is solid support from Charles Bickford and Jack Carson (wonderful as an acid-tongued agent). Hollywood in the 1950's never looked s glamorous and appealing and Judy's last great musical is a cherished classic that is still worth watching after almost 50 years.
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An Oliver Stone film can be spotted in five minutes in and Any Given Sunday is no exception. Sadly, Stone has the ability to pick some really human and moving stories and blow them up into gargantuan proportions to the point where it becomes nearly impossible to care about anyone or anything that is going on in the movie.

Very few quality dramatic films have been done on the topic of professional football (BRIAN'S SONG and NUMBER ONE come to mind)and I don't why this is the case. It seems to me that the world of professional football would be rife with dramatic possibilities and it's nice that Stone recognized this; however, he attempts to tell this story on such a large scale that the film-goer just gets bored with trying to keep up with all the stories and all the characters.

I think if Stone and the screenwriter had chosen to be a little more economical with the screenplay and focused it on two or three of the stronger stories/characters, this film would have worked much better; however, as is, the film is too busy and there is just way too much going on. Al Pacino as the past-his-prime coach butting heads with new owner Cameron Diaz (badly miscast IMO)...Jamie Foxx as the up and coming quarterback who gets a swelled head...James Woods as the team doctor with the questionable code of ethics butting heads with his idealistic assistant Matthew Modine...Lawrence Taylor as the defensive player so obsessed with getting the yards he needs for endorsements he risks his life...Dennis Quaid as the quarterback coming face to face with the mortality of being a quarterback...Lauren Holly and Lela Rochon showing two different sides of being a football wife and it just goes on and on and on...Stone has assembled an impressive "Spot the Star" type cast but unfortunately has given them precious little to do.

Pacino has his moments, but his performance mostly consists of a lot of unmotivated screaming and yelling and over the top drunk scenes. Lawrence Taylor and LL Cool J seem to be competing for the "Which is Worse Award?"- Football player turned actor or Rapper turned actor.

Former NFL and movie legend Jim Brown adds a touch of class to the proceedings as the defensive coach and John C. McGinley (SCRUBS) has some genuinely funny moments as a sardonic sports columnist, but Jamie Foxx easily walks away with the film with his charismatic turn as Willie Beamen. Foxx completely invests in this character, who is not painted in shades of black and white, and makes you care about him nonetheless, a performance which was a definite precursor to Ray.

I think if Stone had economized his screenplay, re-thought some of his casting, and tightened the direction, this movie could have been something really special. Instead, it's a film that should have been something really special.
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The undeniable charm of its stars, at the peak of their popularity, is the only thing that makes Best Friends slightly watchable. This paper-thin story centers on a pair of Hollywood screen writers named Richard Babson (Burt Reynolds) and Paula McCullen (Goldie Haw), who after years of living together, decide to marry, though they both have always felt marriage would destroy their relationship.

There's nothing new or interesting here and the thrust of the film is when the pair make a trip to visit each other's parents. Jessica Tandy and Barnard Hughes are wonderful as Goldie's parents, Audra Lindley and Keenan Wynn also have their moments as Burt's parents, but the whole thing just plays like a hastily written sitcom. The film is driven purely on star power and has this whole "been there done that" air about it. I think Burt and Goldie must have needed the money. 5/10
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For those who have never seen Bye Bye Birdie onstage, this 1963 film version will be a lot more enjoyable than for those familiar with the stage show, as this musical was vastly overhauled in order for Warner Brothers to showcase their new up and coming star, Ann-Margret and as a vehicle to show her off, the film works, however, it is only a pale imitation of the original musical.

As a matter of fact, Dick Van Dyke, who played Albert Peterson on Broadway and won a Tony for his efforts, made the film during his hiatus from the first season of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW and upon returning to the TV show, asked his cast members not to see the film because it was "The Ann-Margret Show" not Bye Bye Birdie. The late Paul Lynde, who also appeared onstage and in the film as Kim's father was quoted as saying the film should be called "Hello Ann-Margret."

Everyone else in the film was reduced to supporting status in order to put Ann-Margret front and center for this story of the mania that sweeps over a small town called Sweet Apple, Ohio, when a famous rock and roll singer gets drafted (based on the mania when Elvis was drafted).

Despite the complete overhaul of the original show, it's still an entertaining film with Van Dyke in top form as Albert and Paul Lynde hysterically funny as Harry McAfee, Kim's father. Maureen Stapleton has some funny moments as Albert's mother; however, Janet Leigh was a rather bland replacement for spitfire Chita Rivera, who played Albert's girl Rosie on Broadway. Ann-Margret is charming as Kim and makes the most of this showcase of her talent though I do find myself giggling every time she purses her lips in an attempt to be sexy.

There are some great musical numbers though, expertly choreographed by Onna White, including "The Telephone Hour", "Sincere", and "Gotta Lotta Livin to Do". Only Jesse Pearson misses the boat as rock and roller Conrad Birdie. But if you like Ann-Margret and have never seen the show onstage, you will enjoy this energetic film version of Bye Bye Birdie.
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Between Friends
was an HBO-TV movie that brought together two show biz legends- Elizabeth Taylor and Carol Burnett, for the first time in this shallow but watchable film about two women who run into each other (literally) and become best friends in the blink of an eye. Burnett's character, if memory serves, is a divorced real estate agent with a daughter, currently having an affair with a married man and who, since her divorce has drifted from one man to another and that suits her fine because "nobody makes her cry" anymore. Elizabeth Taylor is a sheltered woman on the verge of a divorce who has no idea how to live by herself, meet a man, or act on a date.

Granted, it is fun watching these two show biz icons share the screen, but the script leaves a lot to be desired...these two women have absolutely nothing in common and their becoming best friends makes no sense and it is definitely stretching credibility to have Burnett playing the aging sex kitten who floats from affair to affair and Taylor as the woman who doesn't know how to even meet a man. But if you're a fan of the two actresses, it's worth a look. 6/10
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Cactus Flower was a delightful 1969 comedy based on a Neil Simon play about a dentist (Walter Matthau) having an affair with a young free spirited woman (Goldie Hawn), totally unaware that his devoted nurse/assistant(Ingrid Bergman)is in love with him. Matthau can play this kind of role in his sleep and he doesn't disappoint as the philandering dentist, Dr. Julian Winston, who is dating one woman but really has no clue that he's in love with another.

Goldie Hawn won an Oscar for her sparkling performance as Toni Simmons, the aging flower child who slowly comes to realize she is trapped in a dead end affair and is not as dim as she appears on the surface.

But the real pleasure for me in this film was the performance of the legendary Ingrid Bergman as Stephanie Dickinson, Dr. Winston's completely devoted assistant, who is willing to to bury her own happiness as long as Dr. Winston is happy with Toni. Bergman is luminous in this film, looking absolutely beautiful (though the camera has always loved her) and showing a long-buried knack for light comedy, which had not been utilized since INDISCREET.

Yes, the dialogue and the settings are slightly dated, but the story is timeless and the performances by the stars make it imminently watchable. 7.5/10
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I truly enjoyed the 1991 remake of Cape Fear, based on the 1962 classic with Roert Mitchum and Gregory Peck.

In this remake, Robert De Niro gives one of his most electrifying performances as Max Cady, an ex-con out to terrorize the lawyer (Nick Nolte) who sent him to jail, not to mention his wife and daughter (Jessica Lange, Juliette Lewis).

My review is based on the merit of this film alone as I have never seen the original; however, after seeing this, I wanted to. Nolte gives an equally strong performance as the milquetoast lawyer pushed to his limits by this madman. Lange and Lewis offer strong support as Nolte's family (Lewis received an Oscar nod for this, her first starring role).

I also thought it was nice of director Scorcese to salute the original film by casting original stars Mitchum and Peck in supporting roles. but above all, De Niro is worth the price of the rental here.
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1956's Carousel was definitely one of the stronger screen adaptations of a screen musical despite its troubled beginnings.

Frank Sinatra had originally been cast as Billy and walked because the film was being filmed using two different film techniques requiring everything to be done twice. Doris Day was the producers' first choice for Julie but she was having health problems at the time and was unavailable. These circumstances created the reunion of "Oklahoma" stars Gordon MacRae and Shirley Jones, who even though this film was made right after "Oklahoma" seem much more adult, mature, and sexy than they did in the previous film.

For the uninitiated, CAROUSEL is the story of Billy Bigelow, a carnival barker who offers Julie a free ride on his carousel one night and the attraction between the two is instantaneous...almost animal...they both get fired from their jobs as a result but they don't care. I love the relationship between Billy and Julie, as opposed to Curly and Laurey, because Billy and Julie's relationship is clearly sexual, evidenced in Julie's pregnancy.

There is violence and fantasy mixed with the romance here to produce one of the loveliest musicals ever filmed. MacRae and Jones shine alone and as a duo...the "If I loved You" scene is enchanting as are his "Soliloquy" and her "What's the Use of Wondrin?". Barbara Ruick is cute as Carrie, Julie's best friend, Robert Rounseville makes a robust Mr. Snow, Cameron Mitchell is amusing as Billy's shady pal Jigger and Claramae Turner's rendition of the show's most famous song "You'll Never Walk Alone" is breathtaking.

Filmed on beautiful Maine locations, director Henry King has brought us a lush and lovely musical that has everything a musical should offer, even if it is a tad overlong. Still worth the trip. [rating]4[rating]
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Chances are is a charming romantic fantasy about a woman (Cybill Shepherd) whose husband (Christopher McDonald) is killed shortly after learning she is pregnant. We then see the husband in heaven letting the powers that be know that he was taken too soon and that his wife needs him. He is told he can return to earth but not as himself.

Flashforward 19 years where we see Shepherd's daughter (Mary Stuart Masterson) preparing to graduate from college and encountering a young man (Robert Downey Jr.)who, it turns out is the reincarnation of her father.

The film is a little on the predictable side...the story goes all the places you expect it to, but it is so charmingly played by an energetic cast (especially Shepherd and Downey) that you can't help but get wrapped up in the fun. Shepherd has rarely been seen on screen to better advantage and she and Downey are backed by a talented group of character actors in supporting roles. A lovely and charming fantasy that will engulf and enchant you. 8/10
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Michael Keaton turned in the performance of his career in Clean and Sober, a somber, yet riveting 1988 drama which starred Keaton as Daryl Poynter, a go-getter real estate agent who is in complete denial about a serious problem he has with drugs and alcohol. A serious night of partying goes deadly wrong for Daryl and he finds himself a fugitive from the law and decides to hide out at a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, aware of their rules regarding confidentiality.

Daryl resists the program initially, still in denial, but eventually comes to realize that he is really an alcoholic and a drug addict and that he must deal with this realization if he ever wants to look at himself in the mirror again.

This movie is gritty and uncompromising in its realistic depiction of drug and alcohol addiction and where the addiction can take you. Daryl is depicted breaking into his office looking for money as well as calling his parents asking them them to apply for a second mortgage on their house so that they can lend him the money. These scenes are frighteningly realistic for those who have dealt with addiction or have a loved one caught in the grips of addiction.

Michael Keaton delivers a powerhouse performance, the best of his career, as Daryl, the big shot who sees his world crumbling around him and continues to deny what the root of the problem really is. Morgan Freeman gives his usual solid performance as the head counselor at the rehab center. Kathy Baker, Tate Donavan, and Claudia Christian also offer solid support as fellow rehab clients and M. Emmett Walsh plays Daryl's sponsor, a relationship Daryl accidentally stumbles into.

If you have ever had a problem with drugs or alcohol or care about someone who does, Clean and Sober is an important film to see and ponder. The film doesn't answer all the questions that may come to mind about the disease of addiction, but it clearly shows where denial can take someone suffering from the disease A riveting and powerful film that should not be missed.
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Other than WAYNE'S WORLD, this is the only film adaptation of an SNL skit that really worked for me. Coneheads was an inventive and smartly written 1993 comedy that expanded upon the original Saturday Night Live skits starring Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, and Lorraine Newman as Beldar, Prymatt, and Connie Conehead, the aliens who are trying to live as earthlings and tell the world that they are from France.

The movie starts before Connie is even born, showing why Beldar and Prymatt were sent to earth and how they ended up smack in the middle of suburbia. There are some moments of genuine warmth that you feel for the Coneheads as they have to stay on the run, as they are being pursued by a slimy Immigration agent (Michael McKean, in an on target performance) and his ass-kissing assistant (a hysterical David Spade).

The film has one hilarious moment after another. Jan Hooks appears as a student of Beldar (who is seen working briefly as a driving instructor)who lusts after Beldar and her silent encounter with Prymatt in a supermarket is hysterical. Chris Farley is very funny as Ronnie, Connie's boyfriend.

The role of Connie has been inherited by Michelle Burke for some reason, though Lorraine Newman can be spotted in a cameo near the end of the film. Jason Alexander and Lisa Jane Persky are very funny as Beldar and Prymatt's suburban neighbors. Sinbad has some funny moments as Beldar's first boss and Adam Sandler is funny in a brief scene as a guy who provides Beldar with a phony Social Security card and whole new identity.

There is so much to take in here and a lot of talented comedians are seen to good advantage, whether in starring or cameo roles. Coneheads is one of the most underrated comedies of the 90's which I don't think ever got the credit it deserved. If you've never seen it, give it a shot.
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After their triumph with All of Me, Steve Martin and Carl Reiner decided to try something very different with this clever detective movie spoof called Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, where Martin plays a 40's private eye named Rigby Reardon who is hired by a cool brunette to solve her father's murder.

The clever linchpin upon which this film hangs is that, through the magic of tricky editing and complicated photography, Steve Martin interacts with film clips from movies of the period with the actual stars of these films spliced into the scenes with Martin. Martin does scenes with Jimmy Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, Lana Turner, Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Vincent Price, Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edward Arnold, Veronica Lake, Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck and other great stars from Hollywood's golden era.

This film is a must for true film buffs who will immediately start scratching their heads trying to remember what movies these clips are from. In the case of some like Bogart, Turner, and Gardner, clips from two or three different films are used (Lana Turner is seen in THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE and JOHNNY EAGER, for instance).

This film is a lot of fun and Martin plays it straight for big laughs and gets solid support from Rachel Ward as his beautiful client, Juliet Forrest and from Reiner as the villain of the piece. Obviously, because of the clips utilized, it is filmed in glorious black and white but the inter-splicing of Martin with the clips is virtually seamless.

A must see for true film buffs as well as Martin fans. It should also be mentioned that this film was the final project for Hollywood's greatest costumer designer, Edith Head. The film is dedicated to her.
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Death to Smoochy was a continuation of director Danny DeVito's journey into the realm of "black comedy", a term I think DeVito,as a director, has definitely redefined (most notably War of the Roses)which tells an effectively mounted tale (and yes, there are parallels to the 1976 classic Network) about a kids TV host (Robin Williams) who gets fired after a scandal and is replaced by an idealistic young performer (Edward Norton) who, once, given complete creative control of the show, takes it in unexpected directions and is unable to be controlled by the network bigwigs and finds his idealism landing him in some legal trouble as well as danger.

Despite an amusing premise and cute title, there is very little pleasant or entertaining about this film, except for the endlessly charming performance by Edward Norton, an I actor I'm convinced could become the movie genre's new Jack Nicholson...an actor of such range and versatility that he can make mediocre dialogue shine and make a strained story watchable. Death to Smoochy is watchable only because of the endless on screen charm and charisma of Edward Norton. 7/10
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Divorce American Style was an offbeat and surprisingly adult (for 1967) comedy that starred Dick Van Dyke and Debbie Reynolds as Richard and Barbara Harmon, a wealthy California couple who divorce after 17 years of marriage and the adjustments both try to make being single once more. Smartly directed by Bud Yorkin and co-written by future TV icon Norman Lear, this biting satire died at the box office at the time of release, but is really a well-made and quite revealing comedy about the ins and outs of marriage, divorce, and all the little banalities that these subjects bring about.

Yorkin directs with a master hand here...I love the scene right after Richard and Barbara's dinner party where they undress for bed in total silence, getting in each other's way but not saying a word to each other, just "Bury you six feet under" looks. Or when Richard and his best friend (Joe Flynn)and Barbara and her best friend (Emmaline Henry) arrive at the bank at the same time to clean out their bank accounts and safety deposit box...another scene done with no dialogue but so smartly staged, with a serious of stills spliced together at lightning speed, dialogue is not needed. Yorkin places a lot of trust in his hand-picked cast and they deliver the goods, especially considering that a lot of the actors in this film are radically cast against type.

The supporting cast is first rate...Jason Robards is surprisingly funny as Nelson Downs, a divorce victim who tries to set Richard up with his ex (the lovely Jean Simmons) so that he doesn't have to pay alimony anymore. Lee Grant, Tom Bosley, Van Johnson, Eileen Brennan, Shelley Berman, and Dick Gautier also contribute funny bits. A very young Tim Matheson also appears as Richard and Barbara's eldest son.

This delicious and slightly twisted comic confection from the mind of Norman Lear is a delight from beginning to end and if you've never seen it, it's worth a look.
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