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CHAPTER TWO

Chapter Two is a long and rambling film version of one of Neil Simon's best plays. Like Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues, this story is based on a part of Neil Simon's own life. James Caan plays George Schneider, a fictionalized Simon, a writer who has just returned from a trip around the world after the death of his wife. Sadly, George made the mistake of visiting all of the places he traveled with his late wife and it has apparently not aided his grieving process.

At the urging of his brother, Leo (well-played by Joseph Bologna), George agrees to go on a blind date with an attractive divorcée named Jennie McLaine (Marsha Mason). Their first date is actually over the phone but they do eventually come face to face and move into a whirlwind romance which leads to a quick engagement and marriage...perhaps too quick because shortly into his new marriage, George realizes he really hasn't finished grieving over his first wife and begins to push Jennie away.

Simon's first wife passed away and he eventually met and married Marsha Mason, so essentially, Mason is playing herself here and not surprisingly does it pretty effectively. However, in attempt to expand the play for the screen, it has become labored and way too long...the scenes of George and Jennie on their honeymoon go on way too long and bring the film to a dead halt.

Another problem is James Caan's wooden performance as George. Caan never seems to grasp the rhythm of Simon's writing and makes George a little too melancholy. Bologna is solid, as always, as is an anorexic looking Valerie Harper, who appears as Jennie's best friend, Faye. If you're a Marsha Mason fan, it's worth checking out, others beware.

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"Money won is twice as sweet as money earned."



CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is Tim Burton's dark adaptation of Roald Dahl's novel, which was turned into Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory back in 1971, with Gene Wilder in the title role.

The story is basically the same. Five children from around the world find golden tickets inside candy bars made by world famous candy maker Willie Wonka, which allow them a tour inside the never before open to the public factory, led by Wonka himself, in which the children learn some rather unsettling lessons about being a kid. It should be mentioned that this review comes from someone who never read the book but was a huge fan of the 1971 film. This film does have a solid fan base because the story is more closely connected to the book than the first film was, but that doesn't necessarily make it a better film.

I had a lot of problems with this film, the primary one being Burton and Johnny Depp's interpretation of the character of Willie Wonka, which clearly had to be a collaborative effort. As dark as the book might have been, I have always felt that this was supposed to be a children's story and that Wonka should be an appealing character to children. Depp works very hard at producing a completely unique interpretation of the character but this Wonka comes off as hating children, which I found troubling. There is a mean-spiritedness to this Wonka that was absent in Gene Wilder's characterization. He's not a nice person and why the children would be so enamored of him here makes no sense.

The children are nastier than they were in the original as well...Mike Teevee, in particular, is one of the nastiest children I have ever seen in a movie. I also found something rather unsettling about the fact that the Oompa Loompas were all played by a single actor (Deep Roy).

On the plus side, I thought Freddie Highmore was absolutely wonderful in the pivotal role of Charlie, the only good little boy in the bunch. Highmore makes Charlie the only really likable character in the movie and the only actor from this version I preferred from the 71 version.

Another thing I liked in this version is that we get to see the other four children leaving the factory after the tour, which we didn't in the '71 film. In the first film, you get the feeling that they might be dead...a lesson from Wonka which is also troubling. Mention should also be made of an impressive turn by the great Christopher Lee, playing Wonka's father...a character we never met in the '71 film but whose presence here does provide some insight into this Wonka's personality.

The songs are dark and dreary but the film does boast impressive art and set direction. A mixed bag to be sure, but you'll probably like it better if you never saw the '71 film.
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CHICAGO

The 2002 screen version of the Kander/Ebb/Fosse Broadway musical Chicago was a long time coming but well worth the wait.

This amazing musical became the first musical to win the Oscar for Best Picture since 1968 and helped to pave the way for the return of musicals to the big screen.

When the film rights were first purchased for this musical over 20 years ago, Goldie Hawn and Liza Minnelli had been announced to be the stars, which gives you a good idea as to how long this project stayed on the shelf. Thank God, Harvey Fierstein, Miramax, and the amazing Rob Marshall finally found a way to bring the project to fruition.

This dark and slightly jaundiced musical traces the tale of two ladies Roxie Hart (Renee Zellwegger) and Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who have committed murder and use their notoriety as murderesses to become stars. Richard Gere plays the slightly unscrupulous lawyer who is trying to keep both girls from being convicted of murder in order to collect his fat fee.

In the stage musical, the scenes are introduced as vaudeville acts and director Marshall cleverly legitimized this set-up for the film by making the entire film a dream of Roxie's by opening the film with a closeup of Zellweger's lovely blue eye which segues directly onto the stage of the Onyx, the nightclub where Zeta-Jones (in an electrifying performance that won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar)is seen washing the blood off her hands before going onstage to perform the show's signature song, "All that Jazz" while Roxie is seen murdering her scummy lover (Dominic West) and trying to get her husband (John C. Reilly) to cover for her.

This film is a feast for the eyes and ears and Marshall has definitely channeled Bob Fosse in his staging of the musical numbers. "Cell Block Tango", "They Both Reached for the Gun", "Roxie", "Razzle Dazzle", and "All I Care About" are just amazing.

The performances are uniformly first-rate, with special mention to Queen Latifah as Mama and John C. Reilly as Roxie's husband, Amos, who stops the show with "Mr. Cellophane." Five numbers from the original score have been cut but there was only one ("Class") that I really missed. Otherwise, this musical is a must-see. I think even people who don't like musicals might even enjoy this one. A joy from start to finish.
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CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a splashy and lushly mounted musical, based on a children's book by Ian Fleming (!)which the producers were hoping would strike the same gold as Mary Poppins but wasn't nearly as good.

Dick Van Dyke, four years after Mary Poppins, stars as Caractacus Potts, an eccentric inventor with two small children, who buys and restores an old car and through story he tells his children, becomes a magical car that can float on water and fly in the air. Just as he was in Mary Poppins, Van Dyke is the only American actor among an all-English cast (though he wisely doesn't attempt an accent this time) in this fluffy children's musical that children can still get pleasure from; however, for most of us who grew up on it, has not aged too well.

The lackluster songs are by Richard M.and Robert B. Sherman who also wrote the songs for Mary Poppins and the dances are choreographed by POPPINS choreographers Marc Breaux and DeeDee Wood.

Sally Ann Howes is a lovely leading lady with a Bond-girl-type character name, Truly Scrumptious. James Robertson Justice plays her father, a candy manufacturer, Benny Hill is a toymaker, Gerte Frobe(GOLDFINGER) plays an evil baron who loves to play with toys and Anna Quayle plays his children-hating baroness. There's also a delightful turn by Lionel Jeffries as Van Dyke's equally eccentric grandfather. Robert Helpmann is bone-chilling as the Child Catcher, a character who still gives me nightmares. A little too sappy for grown-ups now, but it might still keep unruly children still for a couple of hours.
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CLUELESS

Clueless is a breezy and entertaining teen comedy that follows a group of rich, spoiled California teenagers through their version of teen angst (we should all have had teen years this difficult).



Alicia Silverstone delivers a star-making performance as Cher, the spoiled and self-absorbed daughter of a Beverly Hills attorney who bought his daughter a jeep before she got a license. Stacey Dash, plays Cher's best friend, Dionne. As Cher explains, "This is my best friend, Dionne...we were both named after great singers of the past who now do infomercials." This is an endlessly entertaining film filled with great laughs that introduces an entire new facet of "teenspeak" which I won't spoil by getting into here.



A wonderful supporting cast of fresh-scrubbed faces, some of whom would become stars later includes Brittany Murphy, Donald Faison (SCRUBS), Breckin Meyer, Paul Rudd, and Jeremy Sisto. There are also expert comic turns from Dan Hedaya, in one of his sharpest performances as Cher's father, Wallace Shawn as a stuffed shirt debate teacher and screenwriter Twink Caplan, who is very funny as the fellow faculty member Shawn falls for, Miss Giest. A delight from start to finish filled with laughs, all accompanied by a rocking music score.
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COACH CARTER

Coach Carter is an inspiring and richly entertaining film, based on a true story. This is the story of Ken Carter, a man who returns to his high school alma mater to become the new basketball coach. Carter creates priorities for the guys on the team by presenting them with a contract that they must sign and honor if they are to play on the team. The contract states that they are to maintain a 2.3 GPA, go to their classes every day, sit in the front row of their classes,and wear a tie on game day. As much as Carter loves the game of basketball, he still feels their education should be the guys' number one priority. The team, which had a 4-22 record the preceding season, racks up 15 victories in a row until Carter learns that a couple of the team members are not keeping up their GPA. He then puts a lock on the gym door and cancels all games until the guys get their grades up. The furor this causes in the small town is understandable, since basketball scholarships are probably the only way these inner city kids are going to be able to go to college, but Carter is determined to send the message that there is life after basketball.

Samuel L. Jackson turns in a commanding performance, as always, in the title role, as the man who cares what happens to the guys after they hang up their sneakers. Jackson's performance and a screenplay that's a bit preachy but does offer surprises make this film more than worth your time.
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COLD TURKEY


Before he changed prime time television forever as the creator of shows like ALL IN THE FAMILY,MAUDE,THE JEFFERSON,GOOD TIMES,and ONE DAY AT A TIME, Norman Lear hit a bullseye as the director and co-writer of Cold Turkey, a savage black comedy which takes a wicked swipe at the tobacco industry, thanks to a razor sharp screenplay and a first rate comic cast.

This dark satire follows what happens when a tobacco company, so secure about the popularity of their product, decides to announce a nationwide contest where they agree to award $25,000,000 to any town where the entire population of the town can quit smoking for 30 days.



A small mid western hamlet called Eagle Rock,Iowa decides to take up the challenge, led by the town's energetic minister, Rev. Clayton Brooks (superbly played by Dick Van Dyke). Some citizens are quick to balk at Brooks' challenge because he doesn't smoke and therefore it is no sacrifice to him. Brooks, a former smoker, silences these nay-sayers by agreeing to start smoking again until the contest starts, getting re-addicted and therefore making the same sacrifice he's asking the citizens of Eagle Rock to make.

This lays the foundation for some outrageously funny scenes,including Brooks' efforts to get one citizen (Tom Poston) to participate who refuses not to mention how Brooks deals with finding a substitute for smoking after the contest starts.



The first rate supporting cast includes Pippa Scott as Mrs. Brooks, Vincent Gardenia as the Mayor, Edward Everett Horton as the head of the Tobacco company, Jean Stapleton as the mayor's wife, and memorable comic bits also contributed by Bob and Ray, Barnard Hughes, Barbara Cason, Graham Jarvis, Judith Lowry, and Paul Benedict. A smart and nearly forgotten comedy classic that still holds up, thanks to the genius that is Norman Lear.
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COMING TO AMERICA

Eddie Murphy had one of his biggest hits with Coming to America, an expensive and somewhat entertaining comedy which found Eddie playing the crown prince of a fictional African country who travels to Queens, New York to find himself a wife after deciding that he's tired of being waited on hand and foot and not thrilled about having no say in the wife that has been selected for him. Eddie's Prince Akeem and his manservant Semi (Arsenio Hall) arrive in Queens, pretending to be broke and get jobs at a fast food restaurant where Akeem falls for the owner's daughter (Shari Headley).

This film is lavishly produced and well cast (James Earl Jones and the late Madge Sinclair are perfect as Akeem's parents, the King and Queen)but there's a certain emptiness about the whole thing that doesn't sustain a film of such length and expense.

Murphy is charming as Prince Akeem and he also gets to shine in one fabulous scene in a barbershop where he and Hall play everyone in the scene, but the film does not sustain interest until the end.

Eddie later became involved in a lawsuit that claimed he stole the idea of the film from someone else which also casts a pall over the film which makes it hard to view all these years later, but it was one of Eddie's biggest hits and for his hardcore fans, there are laughs to be found, but personally, I think Eddie has done better work (Boomerang, The Distinguished Gentleman, Bowfinger, Beverly Hills Cop, Dreamgirls), but judge for yourself.
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CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS
Though most Woody-philes consider Annie Hall to be his masterpiece, I have to go with Crimes and Misdemeanors, the caustic and brilliant 1989 comedy drama about the ambiguity of the moral choices we, as humans, must make and the consequences of said choices.



This beautifully mounted film tells two different stories that initially seem to have nothing to do with each other, but Woody's genius as a writer does eventually bring the two stories together.

One story stars Martin Landau as a wealthy opthamologist who finds his comfortable life threatened when his mistress of two years (Anjelica Huston) begins making loud noises about going to his wife (the lovely Claire Bloom) about their affair and some financial misdeeds she also has knowledge of. Feeling he has no other choice, Landau turns to his mob-connected brother (the late Jerry Orbach) for assistance in handling the problem.


The other story finds Woody as a financially strapped documentary filmmaker who agrees to shoot a sort of "cinema verite'" about his brother-in-law, an obnoxious, egomaniacal television star/producer(Alan Alda, in one of his best performances) while, in the process, falls for one of Alda's producers (Mia Farrow). The story fascinates as we watch the effect the choices these characters make and how the consequences of said choices slap them in the face.

The only physical linking between the two stories is the character of a rabbi with failing eyesight, played by Sam Waterston, who is Woody's other brother-in-law and Landau's best friend and moral barometer.

Allen won Oscars for his screenplays for Annie Hall and Hannah and her SIsters, but I think his work here trumps both of those scripts...an incisive and funny story with smart and haunting dialogue. The performances are superb right down the line with standout work from Landau, who received a richly deserved Oscar nomination for his tortured Judah, the man haunted by his choices and Alda, playing one of the most unlikable characters I've seen in films in quite awhile. Anjelica Huston seems a little too mature and intelligent a presence for her role, but she somehow makes the character vulnerable and believable.

Mention should also be made of Joanna Gleason and Caroline Aaron who appear as Woody's wife and sister, respectively. In a word, a masterpiece that is a must for budding Woody-philes and for anyone studying the art of screen writing.
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Bright light. Bright light. Uh oh.
He wrote them at IMDb a few years ago, and now that he's joined here, we're getting them.
__________________
It's what you learn after you know it all that counts. - John Wooden
My IMDb page



Your writing seems really good, but what I would say, and I am sure others will agree with me, is that you should perhaps just add a little bit to the posts in terms of layout. At the moment its large blocks of texts, maybe just include a bold title of the film at the top and a poster from the wikipedia page or an image from the film, it's fairly simple but it allows people to distinguish between your posts and spot what films you're reviewing easily
__________________



CARRIE (1976)

Carrie is a slightly campy, but extremely effective thriller, based on the novel by Stephen King, which chronicles the adventures of Carrie White (Sissy Spacek), an introverted high school student who is completely ostracized by her schoolmates and antagonized at home by her psycho mom (Piper Laurie)until she discovers she has telekinesis...the power to move things with her mind and how, once she learns how to channel this power, exacts some horrifying revenge on everyone who has wronged her.

Spacek is a revelation in the role that officially made her a superstar and Laurie is equally as riveting as her mother. Both actresses received Oscar nominations for their performances. The film also features effective support from Nancy Allen, John Travolta, Betty Buckley, Sidney Lassick, William Katt and Amy Irving as others caught in Carrie's orbit of revenge. An instant classic upon release that still packs a wallop today.
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DAMN YANKEES


Gwen Verdon was a Broadway legend with long gorgeous legs and an undeniable stage and screen charisma. Her legendary stage career earned her four Tony Awards, thanks in no small part to her long time Svengali and ex-husband Bob Fosse. Sadly, the only time Verdon was allowed to bring a role she created on Broadway to the big screen was in Damn Yankees, the sparkling 1958 film adaptation of the Richard Ross-Jerry Adler musical about a middle-aged baseball fan named Joe Boyd (Robert Shafer)who sells his soul to the devil for his favorite team, the Washington Senators, to win the pennant.

The devil, apparently in desperate need of converts, appears in Joe's living room in the form of a Mr. Applegate (Ray Walston)and changes Joe Boyd into Joe Hardy (Tab Hunter), a young and unbeatable baseball player who helps lead the Senators to the pennant until he starts to get homesick and Applegate sends in his # 1 agent/witch named Lola (Verdon) to distract Joe.

The film is well-mounted by Broadway legend George Abbott and Verdon and Ralston effectively reprise their Tony-Award winning stage roles and Fosse is even showcased, dancing in a rare duet with wife Verdon on "Who's Got the Pain?" and trust and believe, seeing Fosse and Verdon dance together is worth the price of admission alone.



Other great songs in the score include "Whatever Lola Wants", "Heart","Those Were the Good Old Days", and "Shoeless Joe From Hannibal Mo". Not the greatest musical ever made, but Verdon, Ralston, and Fosse's brilliant choreography make it worth watching and re-watching.
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DATE MOVIE

Presumably from the people who brought you Scary Movie, Date Movie is a an amusing take-off on the genre of film-making most commonly referred to as the "Chick Flick." This film follows the romance between a former fatty named Julia Jones (Alyson Hannigan)and a young man named Grant Funkyordoter (Adam Campbell). As expected, this film takes pretty accurate pot-shots at films like [i]When Harry Met Sally, Notting Hill, Pretty Woman, Bridget Jones' Diary, and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Hannigan, a proven farceur thanks to her work in the American PIE movies and the CBS series HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, plays Julia with sincerity and energy and Adam Campbell, who looks like David Spade and sounds like Hugh Grant, perfectly inhabits the role of Adam. There are also funny bits contributed along the way by Eddie Griffin, Fred Willard, Jennifer Collidge (in a dead-on spoof of Streisand in Meet the Fockers), Sophie Monk, and Tony Cox. It's become fashionable to trash films of this ilk, but it held my attention and made me laugh and if you're looking for a film that will tickle the funny bone, laughs can be had here.
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DE-LOVELY

De-Lovely is a lush and sumptuously mounted musical biography of composer Cole Porter, light years away from the Cary Grant version called Night and Day.

This grandly entertaining musical features Kevin Kline, in the performance of his career, as the divinely decadent Cole Porter, who was as well known for his sexual shenanigans as he was for his amazing music. The film chronicles Cole's development as a composer and his marriage to Linda (Ashley Judd), a woman who married Cole despite his rumored bisexuality.

Apparently, Linda's love for Cole was more about what the name Mrs. Cole Porter would mean for her than an overwhelming desire to be the love of Cole's life. I later learned that, in real life, Linda was much older than Cole, which makes her acceptance of his lifestyle more understandable, but the casting of Judd as Linda makes this film more audience-friendly and that's OK. Kline and Judd light up the screen here and I have never found Judd more appealing on screen than she was in this movie.

No biography of Porter would be complete without the music and all of Porter's finest work is on display here, performed by a glittering array of guest performers including Elvis Costello, Cheryl Crow, Natalie Cole, and Alanis Morrisette. The imaginatively staged musical numbers include "Anything Goes", "Well, Did you Evah", "Begin the Beguine","Love for Sale", "Be a Clown", "Blow Gabriel Blow", "So in Love" and the title tune.

The film is directed with loving attention to period detail and features Oscar-worthy art direction and costume design. A feast for the eyes and ears, De-Lovely is a must for musical theater addicts, as well as fans of Kline and Cole Porter.
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DERAILED

Derailed is a valiant attempt at Hitchcockian suspense that succeeds about halfway through the film and then falls apart. Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston star as two strangers who meet on a commuter train and are immediately attracted to each other. They plan to cheat on their respective spouses and plan a clandestine meeting at a seedy downtown hotel to consummate their lust. They forget to put the chain on the door and are interrupted by a stranger (Vincent Cassell), who bursts into their room, robs and beats Owen and rapes Aniston and then leaves as mysteriously as he departs.

The film worked for me up until this point, but then degenerates into a silly tale of repeated blackmail and valiant attempts by Owen to keep his almost-affair a secret, which includes using the money he has saved for his daughter's diabetes treatment to insure Cassell's silence after he shows up at his home, a la Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction.

As Owen's #1 priority becomes keeping his own secret, the story just gets sillier and sillier and we have clearly lost interest by the end. The selfishness of Owen's characters sucks away any likability the character had and Owen's mannered performance seems to consist mainly of trying to cover up his English accent. Aniston makes a strong attempt at playing a Stanwyck-type femme fatale but never completely convinces and Cassell's acting is way over the top as well. For hardcore Owen and Aniston fans only.
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DICK TRACY (1990)

Bringing comic books to the screen is a rather recent trend in cinema but it looks like it is definitely here to stay and one of the best offerings of this genre was the 1990 version of Dick Tracy, Warren Beatty's colorful and smart re-thinking of the square-jawed comic book character. Beatty has mounted a beauty of a film here that is gorgeous to look at (the film won an Art Direction Oscar for its flawless and dazzling settings as well as for Costume Design).

Beatty has also wisely chosen to underplay and let his huge, all-star cast shine in their various roles and above them all is Al Pacino, who walks away with the film effortlessly with his completely over the top but totally watchable performance as Big Boy Caprice, I don't think Pacino has ever been funnier on film and even received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his efforts.


Madonna also leaves an impression as Breathless Mahoney (one of my all time favorite movie character names)as do Paul Sorvino as Lips Manlin, and Mandy Patinkin as 88 Keys among others.

Patinkin and Madonna give effective service to the songs by Broadway genius Stephen Sondheim (one of them, "Sooner or Later", also won an Oscar). Though fairly predictable, Dick Tracy is a colorful and entertaining ride through comic book land that is definitely worth a look. A treat for the eye and ear.
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DISAPPEARING ACTS

Disappearing Acts is the 2000 HBO TV movie, based on the novel by Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale)that examines the relationship that develops between an uneducated and unemployed contractor (Wesley Snipes) and a music teacher/aspiring song writer (Sanaa Lathan) that becomes extremely complicated when he gets her pregnant but is unable to support her.

Sadly, this movie is an excruciatingly real look at relationships between black couples in society today (and before anyone calls me a bigot, I am black)...two people drawn together by sexual heat and think that this enough to keep them together until the realities of a relationship begin to rear their ugly heads, such as the the woman becoming primary bread winner and supporting both her and her man, but not wanting to give up the sex either. Not to mention the fact that these people are from two completely different worlds...Lathan's circle of friends are all intelligent folk with jobs who feel Lathan is being dragged down by a relationship whose only glue is sex.

What happens between Snipes' Franklin and Lathan's Zora is not pretty, but it is undeniably real. It should also be mentioned that one unique aspect of McMillan's novel is that it is written in first person from Franklin and Zora's alternating points of view...one chapter is written by Franklin and the next by Zora, throughout the novel and this fresh perspective of looking at what happens to these people from both sides is lost in the film; however, Snipes and Lathan have never been sexier on screen and it is their chemistry that makes this movie watchable, even if you do end up taking sides, and, trust, you will end up taking sides.
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DOWN & OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS

Down and Out in Beverly Hills is a smart American remake of the French film Bondu Saved From Drowning updated to modern day Beverly Hills. In this version, a homeless man accidentally wanders onto the property of a wealthy Beverly Hills family and tries to drown himself in their pool. Upon rescue, the family takes pity on him and take him in but the bum gets a little too comfortable and begins biting the hand that feeds him (in more ways than one).

Nick Nolte gives a rock solid performance as Jerry, the homeless bum who ends up running the Whiteman home. Nolte has rarely been so convincing in a role...apparently he spent several weeks on the streets of LA pretending to be homeless in preparation for the role. Richard Dreyfuss plays Dave Whiteman, the wealthy owner of a hanger company who takes Jerry in and initially envies Jerry's freedom before Jerry goes too far. Bette Midler is very funny as Dave's social climbing wife Barbara and Tracy Nelson plays their snooty college student daughter. Evan Richards also has some funny moments as the Whiteman son, Max.

Paul Mazursky's spirited direction (Mazursky also cameos as one of Dave's fat-cat friends)and a clever screenplay help to make this one of the more entertaining comedy confections from the 80's. There is also a scene-stealing performance by a dog named Mike, who plays the Whiteman family pet, Matisse.
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