Gideon58's Reviews

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I don't know if Marsha Hunt's character was misunderstood...she admitted near the end of the movie that she did have feelings for Ken, but she never actually acted on them. she was only misunderstood by Angie.
Yeah that's what I meant. Angie thought Marsha Hunt's character was having an affair but it wasn't true. Even her husband didn't know his secretary's true feelings for him.



The trick is not minding
Another good alcoholism film with Susan Hayward is I'll Cry Tomorrow I just seen it a few days ago. I'm on a Susan Hayward kick
Heard of it, Iíll have to look into that one.
Itís interesting to read that the story is allegedly based off of Bing Crosbyís ex wife Dixie Lee



Heard of it, Iíll have to look into that one.
Itís interesting to read that the story is allegedly based off of Bing Crosbyís ex wife Dixie Lee
It bookmarks well with Smash Up. There's another Susan Hayward film where she's hooked on pills. Poor lady was always playing the down & out parts...but she did it with gusto!



E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
Steven Spielberg created the ultimate cinematic fairy tale with 1982's E.T.: The Terrestrial, a magical and mysterious story of childhood, imagination, and friendship that that begins in a somewhat realistic vein but smoothly morphs into the most enchanting melding of science fiction and children's entertainment ever.

The very simple story follows a little boy named Elliott who meets a friendly alien in the woods and after befriending him, makes it his mission sure this alien gets back to wherever he came from. And it's not this very simple story, but the way this very simple story is unfolds before the viewer.

I've taken a lot of flack over the years for never having seen this film and, honestly, I was actually glad that there have been a few decades between this film's release and the first time I actually watched it. The immense hype behind this film notwithstanding, I still found myself completely enraptured with this film, experiencing every emotion there is. Melissa Mathieson's Oscar-nominated screenplay is a simple story told on a grand scale made completely relatable to viewers of all ages. And with cinema's greatest storyteller providing the visuals, there's no way this story could not be the incredible influence on moviemaking that it has become.

It's the little moments in the story that resonated with me...Elliott luring ET home with Reese's Pieces, Gertie's reaction to meeting ET for the first time, ET washed up on the rocks struggling to breathe, and the physiological connection between Elliott and ET. Love when ET drinks a Coors and Elliott gets drunk. Loved that ET only connected with children and all of the adults in the story were the bad guys, even Elliott's mom. The final act is a bit confusing when all those nasty adults show up and quarantine Elliott's house in order to save the creature, but I just wanted all these mean scientists to just leave Elliott and ET alone. I loved learning in the 2019 documentary Spielberg that it was his parents' divorce that inspired this magical movie.

This film won four richly deserved Oscars for visual effects, sound, sound effects editing, and John Williams' lush music, but I think Spielberg was seriously robbed of the Best Director Oscar. I used to think Close Encounters was his masterpiece, but I might be wrong. Dee Wallace brings an effectively ditzy quality to the mom and Henry Thomas lights up the screen as Elliott. For once, a cinema classic that absolutely lived up to its hype. I honestly wanted to find something wrong with this movie, but I couldn't.



There's a handful of Spielberg films I prefer over this one, but I still like this one quite a bit and I'd definitely put this near/at the top of his second tier films. Nice write-up of it!



A Walk Among the Tombstones
An intriguing title and Liam Neesom as the star were the original draws for 2014's A Walk Among the Tombstones, a moody and layered action thriller anchored in a surprisingly meaty story that sustains viewer interest despite a pretentious finale that goes on a little longer than necessary.

Matthew Scudder is an ex-cop turned private detective, who has been sober for eight years, who gets hired by a wealthy drug kingpin named Kenny Kristo to the find the two guys who kidnapped and murdered his wife. As Scudder reluctantly begins his investigation, the scope of the case unexpectedly widens as a connection is revealed between Kenny's case, a murder/kidnapping that occurred when Scudder was still drinking, and another kidnapping involving a business associate of Kristo's.

Director and screenwriter Scott Frank (Minority Report, Out of Sight) has taken Lawrence Block's novel and fashioned it into a multi-layered murder mystery that is told out of sequence requiring complete attention from the viewer. The story seems to spend a little too much time setting up the fact that Scudder is an alcoholic, but as the other puzzle pieces come into focus, we see why. The set-up of the story is clearly inspired by Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-winning screenplay for Pulp Fiction, which is clearly no coincidence since this film was produced by three of that film's producers, including Danny DeVito.

Frank's direction is as solid as his screenplay, featuring a lot of artsy camerawork that creates a lot of memorable cinematic pictures. There's a scene of Scudder's young associate, TJ, being beaten by some thugs that instead of closing in on the action, is shot from overhead. The tracking shot is used to maximum effect every time we see someone shadowing Scudder. Loved the way Scudder could always sense when he was being followed without looking behind him.

The film also has a nice period feel, even though the film is set in the year 1999. There are several scenes of people talking on pay phones throughout the film, something I had forgotten are a thing of the past. There's actually a scene with Scudder on a pay phone where the call is interrupted by an operator asking for more money! There is also a scene in a library where Scudder is actually observed researching the case utilizing microfiche. I hadn't seen that in so long that it took me a minute to think of the word microfiche.

Liam Neesom brings the same quiet intensity to Matthew Scudder that he did to Bryan Mills in the Taken franchise, even if Scudder is a little more old school than Mills. Solid support is provided by Dan Stevens as Kenny Kristo, Boyd Holbrook as his junkie younger brother, and David Harbour, in one of his slimiest turns as one of the kidnappers. The screenplay could have been tightened a little and the finale, which is narrated by a female voice reading the twelve steps of AA is a little pretentious, but it's a solid little action thriller.



Louis CK 2017
As usual, Louis CK had me doubled over with laughter with another brilliantly written evening of stand-up called Louis CK 2017, a live performance from Washington DC.

Louis covers a myriad of topics here, a few of which are well-worn stand-up territory and other topics I have never heard broached in stand-up. The well-worn topics have a freshness because of Louis' writing. Listening closely to the material, it's obvious that Louis is an expert wordsmith whose skill with a story begins with the composing of every story and every routine that ends up in front of an audience. Once the words are in place, it is then and only then that Louis applies his acting technique and comic timing to the words so that everything he's doing appears to be completely spontaneous.

His opening diatribe on abortion appears spontaneous because he cleverly begins the routine in the middle of a sentence. The spontaneous quality of what he's talking about easily fools the audience because he takes an edgy topic like abortion and, instead of taking sides, presents both sides of the issue evenly and equally as funny. He doesn't take a stand, he doesn't force his audience to either, and still gets the laughs that he is looking for. He also as innate sense of when it's time to rein in one routine and move onto another.

His transitions are a little abrupt at time because he makes sure his audience is with him before he moves on. He also has a keen sense of things that he's going to say that will spark a vocal reaction from the audience or applause and, to everyone's surprise, will put a kibosh on it, because he knows that they may not like what's coming behind it. He scores here when he begins a routine about the noble profession of teaching which goes nowhere expected.

Louis is also known for taking on some forms of technology in his shows and in this one, we get a brilliant little routine about the difference between a text fight and an email fight, which was frighteningly accurate. Like most comics, Louis talks about his kids, but it leads into another unexpected story of what happened when he decided to get his kids a dog.

The strongest parts of the show were the story of an elderly couple named Richard and Rose and Louis' surprising cosmic connection to the movie Magic Mike, featuring a very funny impression of Matthew McConaughey that Louis admits to being very proud of. Another roll-on-the-floor funny evening of stand-up from one of its brightest lights.



Come Fill the Cup
Alcoholism is not an uncommon subject for films, but so many of them send inaccurate messages about the disease or sacrifice the realities of the disease in favor of entertainment. A powerhouse melodrama from 1951 called Come Fill the Cup is a superior look at the disease, thanks to a solid screenplay based in the realities of alcoholism and a pair of 100-megawatt performances from James Cagney and Gig Young.

Cagney plays Lew March, a newspaper reporter who lost his job after a five day bender but eventually gets sober. After six years of sobriety, March is tapped by his boss, John Ives (Raymond Massey) to help Ives' nephew, Boyd (Young), a talented musician, get sober.

If the truth be told, the real star of this film is a near brilliant screenplay by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts that nails a lot of the realities of alcoholism that films like The Lost Weekend, Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, and even Days of Wine and Roses don't. Primarily, the fact that an alcoholic is not going to stop drinking until he hits a bottom, which is different for each drinker. And more importantly, that there is no cure for alcoholism. Just because someone stops drinking, he doesn't stop being an alcoholic. This screenplay also makes it clear that one drunk cannot stop another drunk from drinking, but on the flip side of that coin, the best way for a sober drunk to stay sober is to help another drunk through sharing his own experience. All the myths regarding the disease are represented through the John Ives character, who is clueless about how to help his nephew, thinking he can throw money at the problem.

The screenplay begins with one of the most perfectly executed pieces of exposition I've seen in a movie on the subject. We see March return to his job after his bender to find his desk cleaned off and then decide to drown his sorrows, then flashing back to his first visit to the same bar. Most movie exposition goes on too long or is inefficient, but the screentime devoted to exposition here is on the money.

The film is shot on a shoestring budget in simple black and white and other minimal production values. However, as what often occurs in a story this powerful, the minimal attention to production enhances the power of the story. James Cagney's performance is effectively reined in and Gig Young's flashy performance as Boyd earned him the first of his three Oscar nominations for Best Supporting Actor (he would have to wait 19 years to actually nab the statuette for They Shoot Horses Don't They). James Gleason is wonderful as Lew's sponsor Charley and there are brief appearances from Sheldon Leonard doing his patented gangster turn and Kathleen Freeman as a switchboard operator. This film seemed to get lost in the cinematic shuffle because it was released during what was probably the second most important year in movie history, but it definitely deserves more attention than it's received.



Set It Up
2018's Set it Up is an overly cute and predictable romantic comedy that tests viewer patience primarily because the secondary leads are a lot more interesting than the primary ones.

Harper (Zoey Deutch) and Charlie (Glen Powell) both work as personal assistants to high-powered executives in Manhattan. After their initial meet cute, they decide the way to relieve a lot of the stress in their jobs would be to set their bosses up with each other, since they work in the same building. As their elaborate plan to get Charlie's boss, Rick (Taye Diggs) and Harper's boss Kirsten (Lucy Liu) slowly comes to fruition, Charlie and Harper don't even see themselves falling for each other.

Katie Silberman's screenplay does take some accurate potshots at New Millenium yuppie-dom, but there are just a few too many players on this rom-com chessboard that pull focus from the primary story. Not only do Charlie and Harper have their own romances to extricate themselves from, but Rick has an ex-wife who he still has unresolved feeling for. There's a scene near the beginning of the film where it looks like Charlie and his girlfriend are breaking up, but twenty minutes later, the girlfriend is still clinging onto Charlie and we're wondering if Harper is ever going to fit in.

The other problem here is this film , on the surface, supposed to be about the romance between Charlie and Harper, but we never really buy Charlie and Harper as a star-crossed romance. On the other hand, the manufactured romance between Rick and Kirsten is so much fun; unfortunately, they only have half the screentime that Charlie and Harper have. This film would have been a lot more fun if it had been about Rick and Kirsten, but the point of the story is that the romance is manipulated by their assistants who fall in love, but we never really care about the relationship between the assistants.

Director Claire Scanlon, whose primary directing experience has been in television, doesn't put a lot of imagination into the presentation other than effective on-location photography in Manhattan. Glen Powell, who has been doing supporting roles for awhile, including his memorable John Glenn in Hidden Figures is terrific as Charlie but has zero chemistry with Deutch, who seems to be trying to channel Jennifer Aniston in her interpretation of Harper. I did LOVE Taye DIggs and Lucy Liu and this film could have been great if it had been centered around their characters. Pete Davidson is wasted in a small thankless role as Charlie's gay roommate. The film gives us two romances, but only one really works and the rushing-to-the-airport finale that we saw in every 19890's rom-com was the cinematic straw that broke the camel's back.



Running with Scissors
Ryan Murphy took on musical teen angst on the FOX series Glee, the AIDS crisis in the HBO movie The Normal Heart, and the legendary rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in Feud. Murphy really took a lot of risks that don't always pay off when he decided to tackle family dysfunction and mental health with 2006's Running with Scissors, a cinematic acid trip that, despite its all-over-the-place screenplay, still riveted this reviewer to the screen thanks to kinetic direction and some dazzling performances by a wonderful ensemble cast.

It's 1972 when we are introduced to Deirdre Burroughs (Annette Bening), a mentally unstable writer whose manipulative therapist, Dr. Finch (Brian Cox) convinces her that the answer to her problems is to divorce her husband, Norman (Alec Baldwin) and to allow her teenage son Augustin (Joseph Cross) to move into his home with his wife, Agnes (the late Jill Clayburgh), a human vegetable who watches Dark Shadows and eats dog food; his sexually repressed daughter, Hope (Gwyneth Paltrow) and his bitchy younger daughter, Natalie (Evan Rachel Wood). There's also a schizophrenic homosexual patient of his named Bookman (Joseph Feinnes) who falls in love with Augustin and a young lesbian (Gabrielle Union) who Dr. Finch forces on Deirdre.

Honestly, the beginning of this film totally works, establishing the very special relationship between Deirdre and Augustin. We see Deirdre calling the school so Augustin doesn't have to go, but he is telling her what to say. A perfect springboard for an unconventional look at a mother and son relationship and we are distressed when these two are ripped apart. The story then suddenly stops being about this mother and son, and suddenly becomes about the evil Dr. Finch and his complete control over his family and his patients and just as we becomes repulsed by his personal and professional demeanors, the story suddenly becomes about Deirdre and her son again. Murphy seems to be torn between two different stories he wants to tell.

The characterizations and events that occur during the course of the story will definitely ring familiar with fans of Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee, but the story goes in so many bizarre directions that the viewer thinks they have no choice but to wait for an "And then I woke up" scene, which actually does come, but disappears as quickly as it comes, returning back to the acid trip we've been treated to thus far. Murphy's in your face direction, Byron Smith's editing and the terrific 1970's song score demand viewer attention, though the 70's setting pretty becomes irrelevant as the movie rolls across the screen.

Annette Bening does a brilliantly theatrical, Oscar-worthy turn as the nut case Deirdre, losing herself in a cinematic melding of Blanche Dubois and Martha in Virginia Woolf and gets first rate support from Joseph Cross as Augustin, Joseph Feinnes, and the luminous Evan Rachel Wood as Natalie, another role where her huge soulful eyes totally work to her advantage. If Murphy had reined in his screenplay a little bit, this really could have worked, but I couldn't take my eyes off the screen and never checked my watch.



Million Dollar Mermaid
MGM poured big money into their 1952 biopic of Annette Kellerman called Million Dollar Mermaid, but it's still one of the lesser Esther Williams aquatic spectacles due to lackluster performance from the leading lady and lethargic direction that makes the movie move at a snail's pace.

Annette Kellerman was born right before the turn of the century and overcame polio as a child to become a world renowned swimming champion, even though her father wanted her to become a ballet dancer (at least according to this film). She eventually becomes the star of her own water ballets at the famed vaudeville theater, the Hippodrome. Before that she caused an international sensation as the first woman to wear a one-piece bathing suit that actually exposed her legs (horrors!).

Built around the sketchy facts of Kellerman's life is a fictional romance built around Kellerman, a circus owner named Jimmy Sullivan (Victor Mature), who adored Annette but couldn't stand it when she became a bigger star than he did and Alfred Harper (David Brian), the owner of the Hippodrome who loved Annette madly but was in denial regarding the fact that she was still in love with Jimmy and always would be.

Kellerman's real life was basically used as a blueprint to mount another huge musical for Esther Williams, featuring a melodramatic screenplay by Everett Freeman that clearly plays fast and loose with the real Kellerman's life. Kellerman's life just became the framework for another over-the-top Esther Williams aquatic spectacle and there's no arguing that the water ballets in the film are nothing less than dazzling, thanks to Busby Berkley at the helm. Film purists will find it ridiculous that these huge water spectaculars could actually be mounted on a proscenium stage which the director gives away more than once, showing the water shooting all over the edge of the audience and making it clear that there's no possible way these ballets could have fit on the stage of this hippodrome.

And speaking of the director, Mervyn LeRoy, who also directed the 1962 musical Gypsy really weighs this film down with heavy handed direction that makes a one hour and 50 minute film seem five hours long. This movie moved at a snail's pace, especially during the dry-docked scenes. When Busby Berkley's water ballets weren't commanding the screen, this movie became very labored and sustaining interest was a lot of work.

Esther Williams also gives one of her weaker performances, which is kind of sad since she is portraying a real person. Further aggravation was provided by the screenplay constantly reminding us that Kellerman was Australian and neither Williams nor Walter Pidgeon, who played her father, make any attempt at sounding Australian. Victor Mature and David Brian were terrific leading men, and Jesse White was also very funny as Jimmy's sidekick. A little research on Kellerman revealed that she is a subject worthy of a real biopic, but for lovers of MGM musicals, it's passable entertainment, nothing more.



Dogville
Previous reviews I have written on film adaptations of stage plays have mentioned the phrase "photographed stage play" and how this is something that filmmakers need to avoid. Director and screenwriter Lars von Trier (Breaking the Waves) has taken the concept of the photographed stage play and turned it on its ear with a strikingly original work from 2003 called Dogville, an engrossing morality tale that builds slowly to a shocking and jaw-dropping climax; unfortunately, the build up takes way too long.

The story is relatively simple on the surface. Grace is a woman on the run from the mob and finds herself in a small Colorado community called Dogville, who are initially reluctant to have her around due to the danger she might bring to their sheltered existence. They do eventually come to a meeting of the minds with Marian agreeing to be a laborer in return for the town's protection. However, things become strained when the town begins to take uncalled advantage of Marian and vice versa.

The story is not really the thing here, but the way the story is presented. This film is actually presented in the form of a stage play, on a large proscenium stage with the homes and businesses of the characters delineated through outlines on the floor of the stage and minimal props and scenery. I actually loved the way the film opened...the opening shot of the film looks like a blueprint or a stage design for a theatrical production and as the camera begins to move, we realize it is an aerial shot from above the stage and we think we're seeing movement, which turns out to be the individual characters moving about their homes and businesses.

I loved the way all the characters are onstage during the entire film and the camera follows certain characters when it needs to. I loved the actors pretending opening and closing doors and I also loved that the only automobiles in the story involved belonged to characters who were not Dogville citizens. The concept of all the characters always onscreen gave the story an intimacy that it might not have otherwise that was initially unsettling, but the viewer is able to settle into it eventually.

The story takes a little too long setting up what is happening here and, if the truth be known, the time used for exposition is necessary, but the rest of the story could have had a little more forward movement because the wait between the middle of the story and the powerhouse climax was just way too long. This film ran close to three hours and I don't think it was necessary. It was hard to tell what period the film was set in, though the costumes and setting suggested the 1930's and the very pretentious narration by John Hurt was off-putting, trying to give the story an importance it really didn't deserve.

The cast is first rate though...Nicole Kidman's quietly understated performance as Grace is riveting. Paul Bettany (so great as the villain in Firewall), Lauren Bacall, Ben Gazzara, Blair Brown, Patricia Clarkson, James Caan, Phillip Baker Hall, and Zeljko Ivanek also make the most of their screentime. von Trier gets a little full of himself around the halfway point but the finale almost redeems everything we've seen up to that point.



The Boys in the Band (2020)
Netflix scores with their remake of The Boys in the Band, a funny and emotionally charged filming of the 2018 Broadway revival of the Mart Crowley theatrical classic that has been lovingly updated for 2020, but not in the way I expected. The minimal updating respects the original piece without deleting any of its power.

For those who never saw the 1970 film. the setting is 1968 Manhattan, where we are introduced to seven gay men who are getting ready to gather at Michael's apartment, who is throwing a birthday celebration for his friend, Harold. The party is disrupted by the arrival of Michael's college roommate, Alan, who is straight and believes Michael is straight. It is Michael's troubled reunion with Alan, coupled with a vicious party game Michael has planned, that set the groundwork for an evening where long buried feelings and resentments among the men that bubble to the surface.

Mart Crowley's play premiered off-Broadway and first came to the screen in 1970, directed by Williams Friedkin, who would win an Oscar the following year for directing The French Connection. This piece originally shocked and repelled audiences back in the 70's because it was the first film where most of the characters were gay and many were portrayed by gay actors. It was an in your face look at homosexuality that had never been seen at the movies. As memorable as this film was, there were dated elements to the screenplay and this is why this is one of the few films that I have always wanted to see remade and updated for the 21st century, with an updating of some of the dialogue. There was an initial disappointment when it turned out that this remake still takes place in 1968 with 1968 settings and costumes, and after reconciling myself to that, I still found myself completely caught up in the motion of the piece.

I love the piece because it reminds people that gays are people too who come in all shapes and sizes and they are not all flaming queens. One of the more interesting aspects of the story is Hank and Larry. Larry was married and left his wife and children to be with Hank, a guy who is repulsed by the idea of monogomy, The telephone game is a bit dated and I have to admit I wondered how different this game would have played in today's world of cell phones, but the bitchiness of this game still rings completely true and brings out the truly disgusting aspect of our host, Michael.

Joe Mantello, who directed the HBO film The Normal Heart uses a beautifully sensitive camera eye to keep this story intimate and riveting. Jim Parsons works very hard at making the role of Michael his own, though I have to admit I kept picturing Matt Bomer in the role, who brings a lot more to the thankless role of Donald than is in the script. Andrew Rannells and Tuc Watkins were terrific as Hank and Larry, respectively and Robin deJesus stole every scene he had as the flamboyant Emory, as did Zachary Quinto, deliciously bitchy as the guest of honor Harold. Brian Hutchison was appropriately naive as Alan and I couldn't help but notice his uncanny resemblance to Peter White, who played Alan in the 1970 film.
Mantello has accomplished what I didn't think was possible...bringing a contemporary flavor to this story from the 1960's with minimal changes to the source material. Though I would only recommend it to fans of the original film.



After Hours (1985)
Martin Scorsese does a bizarre and completely different take on the midnight to dawn atmosphere her created in Taxi Driver with a 1985 cinematic nightmare called After Hours that has gained minor cult status over the years thanks to some striking directorial touches and a terrific ensemble cast.

Paul Hackett is a mild mannered computer typist who meets a flaky woman named Marcy at a coffee shop who gives him her phone number. He calls her about 11:30 PM and she invites him to her loft in Soho. This is the beginning of a bizarre adventure that by the halfway point finds Marcy dead and half the population of Soho wanting Paul's blood, while all Paul wants is to get back to his own apartment on East 91st Street.

Joseph Minion's screenplay is one of those logic-defying stories rich with eccentric characters that is easy to go along with as long as the viewer doesn't think about it too much. Sympathy is quickly established for Paul, but it's difficult to sustain because Paul makes a lot of dumb moves in this episodic nightmare. As each little episode in Paul's nightmare ends, he always seems to go back to the previous episode, which only gets him in deeper trouble and the silliest part is that he goes through all of this because he can't get subway money to get back home. If this reviewer had been Paul, he would have been walking back uptown.

Scorsese's view of midnight to dawn is a little more antiseptic than the one he established in Taxi Driver, but what the midnight to dawn concept makes very clear here is that the crazies come out at night. Scorsese brings the point home with some odd camerawork, that is often off putting...there's a scene where Paul is on the phone and the camera actually stops on the receiver pressed against his ear...why?

The cast does keep the viewer invested in what's happening. Griffin Dunne creates a perfect everyman in Paul Hackett. The ensemble cast that makes up Paul's nightmare, including Rosanna Arquette, John Heard, Linda Fiorentino, Teri Garr, Dick Miller, Cheech and Chong, and Catherine O'Hara is on the money. If you don't blink, you'll also catch brief appearances from Bronson Pinchot and the director. Not for all tastes, but there is entertainment value if you don't think about it too much.



Seven Pounds
The director and star of The Pursuit of Happyness followed that triumph with another winner called Seven Pounds, an ethereal and emotionally-charged cinematic examination of self-loathing, guilt, and redemption that rivets the viewer thanks to a beautifully constructed screenplay, sensitive direction, and a powerhouse performance from the star. Will do my best to review this very special film without spoilers.

The 2008 melodrama stars Will Smith as Ben, who as he is introduced in the opening scene, is calling the police to report that he is about to commit suicide. The backstory that has brought Ben to this point is meticulously crafted as it is eventually revealed that several years ago, Ben caused a tragedy resulting in the death of seven people. The all-consuming guilt that has eaten him alive ever since has brought him to this phone call to the police, but not before completing a very special journey of redemption involving seven strangers that he has decided he must complete in order to rest in peace.

The anchor of this unique motion picture experience is an Oscar-worthy screenplay by a television writer named Grant Nieporte, that mounts this out of sequence story with such ease of craftsmanship that the viewer is initially very confused, but simultaneously motivated to know exactly what's going on here. The screenplay is like a giant jigsaw puzzle where pieces are revealed in such varied forms and with such precise pacing, that the entire picture of what's going on here doesn't come clear to the viewer until about ten minutes before the closing credits. This is definitely one of those films that requires complete attention and if you miss five minutes of the film, confusion is guaranteed, but the reward for the attention pays off in spades.

This anchor is beautifully brought to fruition by director Gabrielle Muccino, who provides loving detail to the unfolding of this remarkable story, sometimes testing viewer patience, but never challenging it. Every detail his directorial eye provides serves this remarkable story and, again, proves that with the right director guiding him, Will Smith is able to play someone other than Will Smith. Smith completely disappears inside this role, even more so than he did in The Pursuit of Happyness.

The viewer is fascinated by the intensity and seriousness he brings to this mission, a mission that might be compromised by romantic feelings for one of the seven strangers, a woman dying of heart failure. Ben never takes his eye off the prize, but ramifications of what he's doing and his awareness of same do come to light in one particularly brilliant scene where Ben is confronted by his brother, whose job has been compromised by what Ben is doing and it's heartbreaking when, for the first time in the story, we watch Ben turn into a ten year old caught in the cookie jar. He's caught and he knows what he did was wrong, but is not deterred in his all-consuming mission. I have never enjoyed Will Smith onscreen more, an Oscar-worthy performance that punches the viewer in the gut.

Smith gets solid support from Rosario Dawson, in the performance of her career as the dying woman, Woody Harrelson as a blind musician, Michael Ealy as Ben's brother, and Barry Pepper as his BFF. The film is exquisitely mounted featuring Oscar-worthy cinematography, film editing, and sound. Loved the offbeat music and song score too, including a sensational cover of the Anthony Newley-Leslie Bricusse song "Feeling Good" by Muse. This is a one of a kind motion picture experience that leaves the viewer emotionally spent and completely satisfied.



The First Traveling Saleslady
A sparkling performance by Ginger Rogers in the title role makes a 1956 comedy called The First Traveling Saleslady worth a look, despite its cliched characters and predictable battle of the sexes plot.

This turn of the century comedy finds Rogers playing Rose Gillray, a businesswoman who is forced to give up her business selling corsets and sent by the barbed wire vendor who supplied wire for her corsets, to travel to Texas and start selling barbed wire. Rose's journey to corner the barbed wire business is provided serious interference from her former vendor, a wealthy Texas cattle baron named Joe Kingdom, and a charming young man named Charlie Masters who is journeying to California to sell the world on the first horseless carriage.

The screenplay by Devery Freeman and Stephen Longstreet is an almost equal combination of ahead of its time feminism leanings and dated themes about the roles of men and women in the world. From her opening scenes, this Rose Gillray is established as a woman who wants to change the history of women, even if she's not completely sure of how to do it. She is aware that she has to do it by living in a man's world and having to compete on their level. On the flip side, all the men in the story are sexist pigs who think a woman's place in the home and have no intention doing actual business with a woman. I was amused .during an early scene where Charlie Masters looks flabbergasted when Rose asks him if she could drive his horseless carriage.

Of course, the story sets up Rose as the smartest character in the movie, making her every hard to dislike but simultaneously wanting to wake her up to the fact that these three men would walk through fire for her...well two really, because Charlie sees what Rose really wants but still manages to make her somehow come after him. The big trial regarding the virtues of barbed wire at the end of the film is kind of silly, but the film does provide a surprising amount of chuckles up until then.

Ginger Rogers once again proves what a gifted screen comedienne she was and a young Barry Nelson holds his own opposite her as the rakish Charlie Masters. James Arness is surprisingly effective in a rare film role as Joel Kingdom, before he settled into his TV role of Matt Dillon. Future Broadway legend Carol Channing is a scene-stealer as Rose's girlfriend Molly and stops the show with a musical number called "A Corset Does a Lot for a Lady." There's also a brief appearance by a tall, gangly actor named Clint Eastwood who plays Molly's love interest. It's predictable and often downright silly, but Rogers definitely makes it worth checking out.



John Wick 3 Parabellum
Keanu Reeves returns as the hitman who won't die in John Wick 3 Parabellum, another bloody and thunderous action adventure that finds our hero in danger at every turn, providing the violent and eye-popping action that we have come to expect from the franchise, but a slightly confusing detour into sci-fi fantasy during the final third of the film makes an unnecessary detour from the realism we have come to expect from this film series.

As the 2019 adventure opens, Wick is once again on the run after killing a member of the International Assassins' Guild, an act that has put a $14 million dollar contract on his life, which motivates killers from all over the globe to get a piece of this sizable booty.

Screenwriters Derek Kolstad and Shay Hatten have crafted a richly complex screenplay that respects the intelligence of the viewer by assuming that the viewer has seen the first two films and doesn't spend time rehashing the events of those films, while still weaving elements of those films into this story. The reviewer was immediately impressed with the way the story opened, addressing something that's been discussed in dozens of movies but never addressed in such detail. Many films have featured characters who have had contracts put out on their life, but this is the first film this reviewer has witnessed that exposes exactly what that entails. The scenes of the contract headquarters, that resembled the New York Stock exchange, were fascinating as the countdown to Wick going "incommunicado" had every hitman in the world on edge. The film actually begins twenty minutes before the witching hour and Wick, being totally aware of it as he's running through Times Square accompanied by his dog.

The story also respects the reputation of John Wick that was established in the first two films. Every character in this film knows who John Wick is and even though his reputation might make them wary of messing with him, they are not wary enough to turn their back on $14 million dollars, which before the halfway point of the film, becomes $15 million. The final third of the film strays a little too far into the sci-fi realm finding John suddenly involved in a mission that involves retrieving memories of his wife, a a Bond-type villainess called The Abjudicator and deadly assassin named Zero who just seems to be toying with Wick for most his screentime.

Director Chad Stahelski does an amazing job at mounting this international tale of contract murder and revenge that keeps our hero in constant danger, finding foes where he should find friends, and finding there is no safety. Even a reunion with a mysterious woman from his past named Sofia (Oscar winner Halle Berry) leads him to an incredibly staged battle involving some vicious attack dogs that brought the action to an all new level. Stahelski's pacing of the action is like lightning and never allows the viewer a chance to breathe. I was also shocked that the ending actually sets up a fourth movie.

The film features stunning production values, with special nods to cinematography (those shots of Wick in the desert were breathtaking), film editing, visual effects, and sound. Reeves brings the same excitement to Wick that he did in the first two films and Ian McShane, Anjelica Huston Lance Reddick, and especially Mark Decascos as Zero provide rock solid support. A solid third entry in the franchise and I can't wait to see the fourth.