Gideon58's Reviews

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O Brother Where Art Thou?
Once again, Joel and Ethan Cohen knock it out of the park with 2000's O Brother Where Art Thou?, a rowdy, but sweet natured black comedy that provides consistent laughs and grins throughout thanks to an extremely clever screenplay that almost goes a little too far at the climax and some knockout performances from a lot of familiar members of the Cohen rep company.

The setting is the deep south during the 1930's where we meet Everett, Pete, and Delmar, three convicts at a prison work farm who manage to escape, who have been clued into a possible treasure that could bring them untold riches, sending them on an episodic adventure that provides unexpected comedy and drama for the trio.

Technically, the film was produced by Ethan and directed by Joel, but they are both credited with the Oscar-nominated screenplay, which is actually credited to be inspired by Homer's The Odyssey links three people together who seem to be willing to do anything to find this treasure except betray each other. There is actually a point in the story where one of the trio gets recaptured and is returned to the work farm but eventually gets sprung by his buddies. The opening of their adventure was unpredictably fun which found the trio stopping at a recording studio in the middle of nowhere and making a record, that actually becomes a smash hit, but our boys are unable to be located in order to receive their accolades. Love the way this part of the story seems to be forgotten about initially but does eventually tie into the finale.

Also loved the boys' encounter with Baby Face Nelson, who is portrayed here as straight up insane. An encounter with some beautiful women, who seem to be a contemporary thinking of the classic sirens who lured sailors into the sea, who have Delmar thinking Pete has been turned into a toad, was also a lot of fun. Their encounter with a phony traveling salesman, who beats and robs them was troubling because the viewer can see immediately that this guy is trouble but for some reason, our guys are completely taken in by them.

The film is also provided a lovely background, courtesy of some lovely southern gospel music, supervised by T Bone Burnett, that provides a warm and inviting under pinning to the story. As a matter of fact, the soundtrack for this movie became a bestseller and was on the billboard charts for over a year. Even though the stars don't do their own singing, the
musical sequences bring as much to the story as everything else.

As always, the Cohens employ first rate production values to their story, with a special shout out to Roger Deakins' stunning, Oscar-nominated cinematography. George Clooney offers one of his breeziest performances as Everett and John Turturro is all kinds of fun as Pete. Michael Badalucco and John Goodman also appropriately chew the scenery as Baby Face Nelson and the phony salesman, respectively, but Tim Blake Nelson pretty much steals the show as the delightfully naive Delmar. There are couple of unnecessary endings tacked on the end, but this movie is joyous, raucous fun from beginning to end.

John Wick Chapter 4
The return of Hollywood's most durable action hero in 2023's John Wick Chapter 4 is not the least bit concerned with realism, but as pure non-think action entertainment, it hits the same bullseye that the first three films did.

In this latest installment, John (Keanu Reeves) may have finally found a way out of his obligations to the mysterious High Table via a one on one showdown with a mysterious enemy from Paris known as the Marquis, but our hero must take out a whole lot of people in order to get to the Marquis, who are just as interested in getting their hands on the continually escalating bounty on John's head.

The screenplay for this film is, at times, headache-inducing as, with the possible exception of the Marquis, it's really difficult to decipher who John's friends and enemies are. On the other hand, the connections to John in this film feel a lot more personal than they did in the first three films. In the first film, there were a lot of moments of people meeting John for the first time but being aware of his reputation. In this film, everyone who John encounters seems to have an actual past with John and find themselves conflicted regarding their relationship with him and its importance compared to their own self-preservation. Of course, the story doesn't forget one of its most amusing layers...the continued monitoring of the price of the contract on John's life, which has increased to a staggering $40 million, finding a lot of longtime friends willing to sacrifice their relationship with John for this huge payoff. And true buffs will notice affectionate winks to West Side Story and the 1979 Walter Hill film The Warriors.

Director Chad Stahleski has chosen not to tamper with the winning formula that he established in the first three films and gives John Wick fans what they've come to expect from this franchise. There are some unintentional giggles here and there as Stahleski has pretty much abandoned the concept of realism in presenting this originally tortured super hero into a virtually indestructable killing machine who dispatches hundreds of killers with nothing more than a pistol. We do get a dash of variety here where we see a terrific one on one battle with nun chucks, not to mention a hair-raising car chase around the Arc de Triumphe where we see our hero actually get struck by five different vehicles and just get up and keep coming. Most impressive was that the final battle was a duel...yes, an actual duel with pistols and paces that crackles with tension.

Stahleski uses his huge budget to maximum effect with lavish around the world locales, breathtaking cinematography, and I don't think I've ever said this about an action film before, but loved the costumes. The costumes for most of the villains were awesome. The film also features some impressive technical gadgetry and set pieces,,,loved the glass or plastic cards utilized to choose the weapons for the duel and the gun that shoots bullets that burst into flames upon impact. Reeves' stone-faced interpretation of this character still serves it properly and loved Bill Skarsgaard as the Marquise. It's exhausting and lets realism fall to the wayside, but as entertainment, a worthy implied finale to the franchise.

Ocean's Eleven (1960)
Long before anyone even knew who George Clooney or Brad Pitt were, Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack were the first ones to bring a breezy crime caper called Ocean's Eleven to the big screen way back in 1960.

Frank Sinatra plays Danny Ocean, a gambler and womanizer who brings together a group of his old WWII army buddies together in order to pull off the ultimate crime. Danny plans to simultaneously rob five Las Vegas casinos on New Year's Eve.

The screenplay efficiently divides the story into three parts. The first third of the film centers on Danny contacting and gathering his buddies for the job and then instructing them on exactly what they're going to do. The middle third of the film is the crime itself and the final third finds Las Vegas law enforcement and a lot of other people trying to figure out exactly what happened on New Year's Eve.

Loved the way the first third of the film not only introduces us to the central characters, but provides peeks into their personal lives, such as Danny's struggle to keep his marriage intact and Jimmy's determination to no longer be a mama's boy dependent on his mother's money to keep him happy. Director Lewis Milestone's skills really kick in during the execution of the crime where we don't exactly see what everyone's individual job is, but we do see it going off without a hitch. The pursuit for justice that occurs in the final third of the film takes a little longer than it should and exactly what happens is a bit on the ambiguous side, but it gave the story a little mystery that we don't see coming.

Of course, with the Rat Pack as the stars, there are going to be a few musical highlights thrown in. Dean Martin gets to perform one of the biggest hits of his career "Ain't It a Kick in the Head" and Sammy Davis Jr knocks it out of the park with his bluesy take on "EO Eleven". There is a scene with a stripper where, if you listen closely, you'll recognize the song she's stripping to is the theme song from Sinatra's 1955 film The Tender Trap.

Sinatra is all business as Danny Ocean and it goes without saying that he plays off Dean Martin and Peter Lawford perfectly. The film is packed with stars including Richard Conte, Akim Tamiroff, Norman Fell, Ceasar Romero, Angie Dickinson, Henry Silva, and Buddy Lester. There are also fun cameos from Red Skelton, George Raft, and hysterically funny as a drunk floozy, Shirley MacLaine. It's not high art, but it's a lot of fun. Of course, the film was remade in 2001 with Clooney and Pitt and that film was followed by two dreadful sequels, but fans of that franchise might want to check this out.

Ocean's Eleven (1960)
...Sinatra is all business as Danny Ocean and it goes without saying that he plays off Dean Martin and Peter Lawford perfectly. The film is packed with stars including Richard Conte, Akim Tamiroff, Norman Fell, Ceasar Romero, Angie Dickinson, Henry Silva, and Buddy Lester. There are also fun cameos from Red Skelton, George Raft, and hysterically funny as a drunk floozy, Shirley MacLaine...
I've seen that a couple of times, last time was like a year ago. I should love that film with the Rat Pack in it, but it didn't do much for me. Still a fun watch though and Shirley MacLaine was great in it.

The Good Nurse
The superb performances by Oscar winners Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne keep the 2022 docudrama The Good Nurse compelling entertainment despite a predictable screenplay and melodramatic direction.

Chastain plays Amy Lougheran, an ICU nurse and single mother of two with a serious heart condition for which she can't get proper treatment because she doesn't have medical insurance. She will be eligible for help with the treatment in four months as long as she continues working. Things start to look up for Amy when a sensitive male nurse named Charlie Cullen (Redmayne) begins working with her in the ICU. He and Amy bond instantly and he agrees to help her with anything she needs to get her benefits and helping her care for her kids. Unfortunately, a couple of mysterious deaths occur at the hospital and Charlie is being singled out as the prime suspect, initiating an investigation that Charlie may have had a hand in hundreds of patient deaths in hospitals all over the country.

Enjoyed the way the story unfolded slowly in a way that we weren't exactly sure what this movie was going to be about for at least the first twenty minutes of the running time. With all the short cuts that Amy was taking in order to take care of herself and her children, we originally think that we're going to get a story about a woman taking on Big Pharma and insurance companies in order to get the health insurance they need, which would have been a wonderful story all by itself and Chastain would have been well equipped for such a story. What we do get is a crime story, a horrific crime for which we are sadly offered little information, with some strange detours along the way. Primarily, I didn't understand why the hospital where Amy and Charlie did not want to cooperate with the police investigation. Yet, quietly without informing anyone, they turn around and fire Charlie for a trumped up reason.

What I did like about this movie is these two central characters, separately and the way they connected. I loved that Amy was this independent woman who is drowning in health and financial issues and wants to handle them her own way. Charlie is almost a guardian angel to Amy when he first appears, almost too good be true, which he was. The Charlie character initially reminded my of Jerry Lundergaard in Fargo, a baby-faced everyman doing smarmy things but always with a smile on his face, but by the beginning of the final third of the film, he has degenerated into straight up Norman Bates. LOVED the scene right after Amy learns the truth about Charlie and comes homes and finds him playing with her daughters. It reminded me of Michael Douglas coming home in Fatal Attraction avend finding Glenn Close sitting in his house chatting with Anne Archer. Also loved the "controlled meet" scene where Amy pushes Charlie a little too hard to get him to confess and we think he might be onto what's happening but we're never really sure. Charlie's transition from sensitive nurse to unhinged psycho could have been a little more subtle than it was.

Tobias Lindholm's direction is heavy-handed and pretentious, making the film a little longer than it needed to be, but I have to give a shout out to sound and sound editing, which was a real standout here. Chastain takes the conventional damsel in distress to a much more sophisticated level and there are times Redmayne's Charlie made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. These two pros make this movie more than watchable.

The Comic (1969)
A couple of years after they ended production on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Van Dyke and Carl Reiner tried to bring their television success to the big screen as the star, director, and co-screenwriter of an affectionate look at old Hollywood called The Comic that, despite some dated elements, still tells a relevant show business story, aided by a terrific performance by the star.

Van Dyke has a field day in the role of Billy Bright, a silent movie star whose talent for making movies is eventually dwarfed by his womanizing, his drinking, his ego, and his selfishness as we watch him go from the biggest silent movie star in Hollywood to an old has been reduced to making TV commercials and fending off young starlets who want him for the money they think he has.

Reiner and co-screenwriter Aaron Ruben are to be applauded for the respect and authenticity they put into researching the way silent films were made and their recreations of silent films are a joy to watch. It's also impressive that they weren't interested in preserving Van Dyke's image as Rob Petrie by giving him a character who has pretty much no redeeming qualities whatsoever. The gimmick of dead Billy narrating the story gets tiresome after awhile but it was kind of fun watching this Billy guy destroying his career, his marriage, and pretty much his entire life and trying to blame everyone else for what happens to him.

The role of Billy Bright is loosely based on the life of Buster Keaton, but Van Dyke's physical approach to the role is much more akin to Stan Laurel, who was always a cinematic hero of his. This role is an actor's dream and Van Dyke pulls out all the stops in his tour de force performance. Especially loved the scenes where an angry Billy drives a car into his former home to confront his ex-wife (Michele Lee) and that scene with his wife in the car where he refuses to confess to his infidelity. And that scene of an older Billy appearing on Steve Allen's talk show was a heartbreaker.

The film is handsomely photographed and Van Dyke is surrounded by people like MIckey Rooney, Cornel Wilde, Gavin MacLeod, and Ed Peck in thankless supporting roles. There's even a cameo from The Jefferson's Isabel Sanford, but this is Van Dyke's show and for fans of the show business legend, this is a must.

What we do get is a crime story, a horrific crime for which we are sadly offered little information, with some strange detours along the way. Primarily, I didn't understand why the hospital where Amy and Charlie did not want to cooperate with the police investigation. Yet, quietly without informing anyone, they turn around and fire Charlie for a trumped up reason.
So I read the book (by Charles Graeber, who co-wrote the screenplay here) and the real facts are pretty incredible.

Cullen had multiple hospitals where staff and patients suspected that he'd caused or contributed to deaths, but to avoid liability or bad press, they let Cullen go with a promise of a good referral. Madness. There were times he was directly caught--by co-workers or by patients' families--giving mysterious injections or messing with IVs. All of it brushed under the table.

I don't know how much the movie went into it, but he spent years working in a burn ward and was obsessed with covering the patients in this greasy cream stuff. He was a messed up guy, and he "lucked" into working in a system where profit and reputation was more important to institutions than protecting their patients.

I'd highly recommend the book, but it is very disturbing and will make you very angry.

Marlowe (2022)
Neil Jordan, the director and writer of The Crying Game is the creative force behind Marlowe, a 2022 reincarnation of one of Raymond Chandler's most famous characters that, despite handsome production values, fails to engage viewers thanks to a dull and cliche-ridden screenplay that fails to engage the viewer in its attempt to salute 1930's film.

The setting is 1939 Bay City, California where private detective Phillip Marlowe is hired by a glamorous heiress named Claire Cavendish to locate her lover, a guy named Nico Peterson. Very early into his investigation, Marlowe is led to believe that Peterson is dead and when he returns to Ms. Cavendish to inform her of this, she swears that she just recently spotted Peterson , alive and kicking.

I've never seen The Crying Game, but I've heard nothing but good things about it, so imagine my surprise how dull and unimaginative I found this film. According to the IMDB, this is the twelfth screen appearance of this classic detective character, some of the more famous versions being The Big Sleep with Humphrey Bogart, Murder My Sweet with Dick Powell, and The Long Goodbye with Elliott Gould, so maybe this is just an example of going to the well once too often.

Jordan's dialogue comes off more as a spoof of film noir rather than homage, producing several unintentional giggles. He actually employs the phrase "femme fatale"? Seriously? The Claire Cavendish character reminded me of Evelyn Mulray, Faye Dunaway's character in Chinatown. I never believed a word that came out of this character's mouth every time she appeared onscreen and her already limited appeal became even less so with the reveal of her rivalry with her wealthy mother (beautifully played by two time Oscar winner Jessica Lange). We were supposed to be shocked when it's revealed that mother and daughter have always competed for the same man. Peterson and Marlowe, included, and their battle to win over Marlowe made them look like a couple sixth graders.

Once we learn that Claire is right and that Peterson is probably alive, this is where the movie begins to lose some serious steam as various bad guys come out of the woodwork looking for Peterson and the unsettling thing is that all seem to be looking for him for a different reason and are also willing to pay Marlowe for his assistance, who remains loyal to his original employer. It was kind of annoying the way Claire kept implying that she wanted to sleep with Marlowe, no matter how many times he told her no. The movie is crammed with so many characters looking for Nico Peterson for various reasons that they never actually verbalize, that by the halfway point of the film, I didn't give a damn whether or not Nico Peterson was dead or alive.

On the positive side, the film is beautifully mounted, featuring the best recreation of 1930's Hollywood since Chinatown, featuring spectacular production design, art direction, and costumes, but the movie was not pretty enough to keep this reviewer from the occasional yawn. Liam Neeson sleepwalks through the title role in the most unappealing, one note performance I have seen from him. As the character tells us about halfway through the film, he just might be too old for this. Diane Kruger is a lovely but icy Claire Cavendish and Danny Houston and Alan Cumming also make the most of their roles, but truthfully, the film only comes alive when Lange is onscreen and her role is, sadly, very minor. Neil Jordan put a lot of work into this, but this reviewer actually had difficulty keeping his eyes open.

The stuff about the burn ward never came up in this movie.
Really?! Wow. That was a foundational part of the book, and honestly pretty creepy because it was a time in his career where he most had access to children.

Real shame about Marlowe, I've read nothing positive about it.

Airport '77
The third film in the classic franchise, Airport '77 is an overblown, airborne soap opera that, more than anything, provided this reviewer with a lot of unintentional laughs.

In this film, a billionaire art dealer named Philip Stevens (James Stewart) is having a showing of some his latest acquisitions at his palatial home and has decided to fly a select group of people to his home for a presentation of his new pieces in his own state of the art private airliner. A commercial pilot named Don Gallagher (Jack Lemmon) has been commissioned to fly the plane. A group of art thieves have managed to board the plane with the plan of stealing the art, crashing the plane in the Bermuda Triangle, and fleeing to South America. Unfortunately, their plan falls apart when the plane accidentally clips a cargo ship which malfunctions the plane and lands it at the bottom of the ocean.

Arthur Hailey, who wrote the best selling novel upon which the first film was based, is actually given screen credit for inspiring this melodramatic mess which not only provides the above mentioned primary plot, but attempts to layer that story with several mini-dramas centered around the allegedly doomed passengers. The most interesting of these stories revolves around an unhappy alcoholic named Karen Wallace (Lee Grant), trapped in a miserable marriage to an unscrupulous businessman (Christopher Lee) and having an affair with his assistant (Gil Gerard).

Anyone familiar with the first two films knows that one of the requirements of an Airport movie is that the pilot has to be having an affair with the head flight attendant (of course back in '77, I think it was still OK to say "stewardess") and she is trying to get him to put a ring on it. In the original film, it was Dean Martin and Jacqueline Bisset and in Airport 1975, it was Charlton Heston and Karen Black. In this film, it's Lemmon and Brenda Vaccaro, who have no chemistry, but mercifully, the time spent on this alleged romance is brief.

Though not the intention, there were a lot of things in this movie that had me laughing out loud and director Jerry Jameson has to take credit for most of them. I lost it when the thieves started pumping gas into the plane and the passengers started passing out...Joseph Cotten passing out right in the middle of pouring a glass of champagne had me on the floor. There also seemed to be a lot of confusion with the actors, especially some veterans who had been off the screen for years, where they didn't know exactly how they should be playing certain scenes. Cotten and two time Oscar winner Olivia de Havilland looked particularly confused throughout the film. Stewart also looked confused every moment he was onscreen. A physical altercation between Grant and Vaccaro was very funny. I also lost it when Lemmon's character, who went through hell to get off that plane and get help, ended up back inside the plane with Vaccaro five minutes before it was to sink to the ocean floor forever

Jameson seemed more concerned with the technical aspects of the story, but that didn't stop him from cramming the screen with a lot of once and future stars like Darrin McGavin, Robert Foxworth, Pamela Bellwood, M Emmett Walsh, Kathleen Quinlan, Robert Hooks, Monte Markham, Maidie Norman. and in his obligatory appearance in each film in the franchise, George Kennedy as Joe Patroni. If the truth be told, the only thing that made this movie worth watching was the flashy performance by Lee Grant.

The Pale Blue Eye
A standard murder mystery turns out to be anything but in 2022's The Pale Blue Eye, a handsomely mounted murder mystery rich with story elements we don't see coming, executed by a strong cast.

The setting is West Point in the year 1830 where we meet Augustus Landor (Oscar winner Christian Bale), a detective struggling with his personal demons, who is dispatched by the famed military academy to look into the death of a young cadet. We learn immediately that the cadet hung himself, but the body was tampered with after his death. Finding a blue wall of silence for the most part, Landor does find what seems to be willing assistance in unraveling this mystery from a young cadet and poet named Poe...Edgar Allan Poe.

Director and co-screenwriter Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace)) has constructed a compelling story that has several original elements that give the story an added richness. It was interesting to see a murder mystery set in the early 1800's, which allowed Cooper an often breathtaking canvas upon which the story unfolds. With a renowned poet and author like Edgar Allan Poe, it shouldn't have been a surprise that the story eventually reveals a supernatural element. Cooper and Louis Bayard's screenplay drops discreetly-placed red herrings throughout the story, possibly contributing to the film's slight overlength, but some of them are extremely effective. We immediately know is all is not as it seems when Landor meets with the doctor who examined the body and, during his examination, and the doctor did not find a crucial piece of evidence, but we're not sure whether or not it was on purpose. I was also impressed that the screenplay wasn't peppered with a lot of adult language in order to make the story attractive to younger viewers.

Fictional stories featuring real life figures are almost always risky, but the risk is minimal here because there's not a lot that we as viewers really know about Poe, making it a little easier to accept what happens here. The relationship that is established between Landor and Poe is fun to watch and I liked the fact that Poe spent a lot of time providing clues to Landor and leading him in the proper direction rather than telling him exactly what he needed to know. Landor's personal demons, centered mostly around the death of his daughter initially seem to pad running time, but they are beautifully addressed during the final act, when we think the film is about to end, but it doesn't.

The film is technically glorious, featuring breathtaking cinematography, production design, art direction, costumes, and Howard Shore's gorgeous music. Christian Bale adds another beautifully controlled and enigmatic performance to his character as Landor. Just has he did when he played Dick Cheney in Vice, Bale manages to command the screen rarely speaking above a stage whisper. Harry Melling's flashy performance as Edgar Allen Poe was fun as well. Toby Jones, as always, brings just the right of smarm to the incompetent doctor and Simon McBurney, Timothy Spall, and the legendary Robert Duvall make the most of underwritten roles. It's a tad longer than it needed to be, but Scott's direction and his wonderful cast make it worth a look.

My Blue Heaven (1950)
One of five films they made together, Betty Grable and Dan Dailey star in 1950's My Blue Heaven, a big budget Fox musical that centers on some rather mature subject matter for a 50's musical, providing about two thirds of a really great movie.

Jack and Kitty Moran are the stars of their own radio program who want more than anything to have a baby. After suffering through a miscarriage and a failed attempt at adoption, the Morans are finally blessed with a baby, which motivates Kitty to give up her career just as she and Jack have begun their own television show. The Morans' happiness is threatened by a bubbly chorus girl named Gloria, who has had a crush on Jack for years.

The screenplay for this movie plays more like a melodrama than a musical as we watch Jack and Kitty struggle with one disappointment after another in an effort to start a family. Even though they go through a lot of emotional upheaval in order to have a baby, the Morans devotion to each other remains solid, despite the presence of the flirty Gloria. It was a nice comic touch that for most of the film, Kitty is aware of Gloria's crush but doesn't really take it seriously. The story here is strong for a musical, so strong that it could have played without most of the musical numbers, which don't really do anything to advance story or define characters.

The musical sequences are well-staged and Grable and Dailey have a real Astaire/Rogers quality when they hit the screen together. Dailey, in particular, is so light on his feet and I've never understood why he never had an Astaire-calibre career because he was that good a dancer. Most of the musical numbers are pretty much filler, with one terrific exception. "Live Hard, Work Hard, Love Hard" is a clever musical fantasy which begins with Dailey and Mitzi Gaynor as Gloria performing on television together, while Grable's Kitty is home with the baby and the trio communicate musically through the television screen, easily the musical highlight of the film.

Director Henry Koster provides an energetic pacing to the story and makes a sincere effort to make the musical numbers a viable part of the story, even though they aren't for the most part. Grable and Dailey are terrific together as they always were and young Mitzi Gaynor's effervescent performance as Gloria definitely shows why she would eventually become the star she did. David Wayne, Jane Wyatt, and Una Merkel provide solid support, but it's Grable and Dailey's show, a show that might have worked a lot better without most of the musical numbers, but entertainment value can be gleaned here.

Love to Love You Donna Summer
Eleven years after her death, HBO has brought us a slightly pretentious, but ultimately empty look at the Queen of Disco called Love to Love You Donna Summer, that does a competent overview of the singer's brief and brilliant career, but offers little insight into who this diva was.

Directed by Roger Ross Williams and Donna's daughter, Brooklyn Sudano, the film surprisingly opens at the height of her career in 1975, when she has just recorded the controversial 1975 chart topper "Love to Love You Baby." For those too young to remember this record, I'm going to suggest that you go to You Tube and listen to it. Summer is observed explaining her inspiration behind the song and how it secretly haunted her for the rest of her life.

The film then recounts Donna's childhood, being raised by God-fearing parents who were convinced their baby was going to grow up and be a Gospel singer. It was a little unsettling when revealed that Donna's two biggest musical influences growing up were Mahalia Jackson and Janis Joplin, two artists who couldn't have been more opposite and how their influence was the genesis of the Queen of Disco is still a mystery.

There were a few things about Summer I learned via this documentary, most notably that she actually wrote the majority of her records (of course she didn't write "MacArthur Park). Unfortunately, like when we get a celebrity documentary about a film actor, we usually get information on how the film was inspired and how it was eventually conceived into the final product, but we get very little of that here. We do learn where the inspiration for the "Toot toot beep beep" at the beginning of "Bad Girls" came from. Was really hoping for some behind the scenes dirt on her duet with Barbra Streisand "Enough is Enough", but it's barely mentioned.

Through narration mostly provided by family members, we learn that there was a certain arrogance to Summer from the very beginning and that she always knew she was going to be a star. On the other hand, while watching the tons of archival concert footage of the singer performing live, she never looks truly happy and that this wasn't the original route that she wanted her career to take. And far as her live singing is concerned, it's quite noticeable the difference between her singing live and the recordings we all remember, which apparently were heavily enhanced in the studio before release.

There is screentime devoted to the many relationships Summer had with men and I was a bit taken aback to discover that Summer was almost exclusively involved with white men, though that is never really addressed. And maybe because it was so long after her death, but I felt the same way after watching this as I did when I watched the Jennifer Lopez documentary Halftime...there's a real wall constructed here between the viewer and the subject that kept me from enjoying it as much as I should have.

My Foolish Heart
An effervescent performance by Susan Hayward anchors a sweet-natured romantic melodrama from 1949 called My Foolish Heart, which seems like a much better movie than it is because of Hayward's performance.

Hayward plays Eloise Winters, a miserable alcoholic housewife married to a stuffed shirt named Lew and is mother to an adorable little girl named Ramona. As the film opens, Eloise has a reunion with Mary Jane, her old college roommate and former girlfriend of Lew and this reunion triggers the real story here: the star-crossed romance between Eloise and a charming young soldier named Walt Dreiser (Dana Andrews).

Julius J and Philip G Epstein adapted the screenplay from a novel by JD Salinger called Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut and according to the IMDB, is the only work of Salinger's ever to be transferred to the screen. Apparently, his unhappiness with the finished product prompted Salinger to forbid any of his other work to be made into a movie, especially Catcher in the Rye. Granted, I haven't read Salinger's novel, but I don't know what he was so upset about. There are some dated elements to the story, but this is a classic star-crossed wartime romance that was all the rage during the 1940's and because of the flashback setup, we kind of know where everything is going, but the romance of Eloise and Walt is so completely engaging that we want to see what happens.

Despite the dated elements, I was surprised that there were some actual laugh out loud moments along the way. I thought it was adorable that Eloise was suspended from school because she was caught kissing Walt in the elevator by the Dean and the polar opposite reactions of her father and mother were also very funny. I also liked the way the film opened with a drunk and miserable Eloise, the way we're accustomed to seeing Hayward and then the story flashes back to a buttoned up girl very concerned about being considered a proper young lady but dying to burst out of it. Also loved the way Eloise became a little more manipulative as the story progressed, The two scenes where she tried to get Walt to say he loves her and to get him to propose to her were superbly performed by Hayward, who took these scenes off the page and made them sing.

Hayward proves why she was one of the great queens of melodrama with a dazzling performance that earned her a second Oscar nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress. Andrews is charming as Walt and I loved Robert Keith as Eloise's father and the fabulous Jessie Royce Landis, in only her third film appearance sand steals every scene she had as Eloise's mother. Kent Smith and Lois Wheeler were a little vanilla in the key roles of Lew and Mary Jane, taking a little sting out of the material, but Hayward is so good here we are able to forgive most of what is wrong.

Creed III
Michael B Jordan makes a surprisingly effective debut in the director's chair as the past of Adonis Creed catches up to him in the emotionally charged Creed III that not only is a worthy third entry in this franchise, but actually hearkens the spirit of the original 1976 Sylvester Stallone Best Picture Oscar winner as well.

As the 2023 film opens, Adonis has just retired from the ring after a final victory when he is reunited with Damian Anderson, his childhood running partner with whom he was involved in an incident many years ago from which Adonis escaped but landed Damian in jail for 18 years. Adonis is thrown when Damian is not just looking for a handout but wants Adonis' assistance in getting him a title shot with the new champion, Felix Chavez. Damian easily dispatches Chavez of his title, but it is only then when Damian's true agenda is revealed: revenge against the childhood friend who he thinks turned his rich and famous back on him.

Ryan Coogler, the creative force behind Black Panther is one of the screenwriters for this story that not only creates a story from Creed's past, a story of friendship and loyalty that initially seems inspired by the original Rocky as Damian wants Adonis' assistance in getting the same kind of shot at Chavez that Rocky Balboa got frim Apollo Creed back in '76. The initial reunion between these two guys cleverly sets up the fact that all Damian wants is Adonis' help in getting the shot, making the viewer think that the story will have Adonis passing on the torch to his childhood BFF, but this isn't what happens at all,

Jordan's direction is very focused on this story that doesn't really try to cover too much territory the way the second film did. He puts a lot of care into the scenes with Adonis' hearing-impaired daughter and his conflict about training her to fight when she gets in trouble at school for punching another student. His connection to his mother is also addressed in an economic matter, even if what happens is telegraphed, but Jordan's direction easily allows us to overlook that. As always with these films, the training sequences are on the money, which actually include a shot of Adonis dragging an airplane attached to his back Jordan is also to be applauded for his complete exit from reality in the final climactic showdown which we don't see coming at all.

Jordan makes effective use of the obvious huge budget he was afforded here, with special shout outs to editing, costumes, sound, and music. Despite his presence in the director's chair, Jordan still commands the screen in the title role and Jonathan Majors is a very effective black hat as Damian. An extremely entertaining third entry in the franchise that doesn't set up a fourth film, but doesn't shut down the possibility either.

The Candidate (1972)
Jeremy Larner's Oscar-winning screenplay and Robert Redford's charismatic performance in the title role are the stars of 1972's The Candidate, a caustic and unapologetic look at the political machine and its intricacies that one particular politician wants no part of.

Redford plays Bill McKay, an idealistic California lawyer who has a political legacy that he is trying to distance himself from (his father is the governor of California). Crocker Jarman, the tight-assed republican running for re-election of his senatorial seat seams unbeatable and even if the democrats don't have a solution for the election, do know they need to do something new and different in order to give Jarman a run for his money. McKay is approached to run against Jarman for the senate seat, but his handlers don't find it easy working with McKay as his handlers discover that McKay refuses to be handled.

Larner's screenplay is a dead on look at the political machinations that have had our nation in such a vice grip for so long that a lot of people out there have just stopped voting. What makes Larner story so interesting is not just the fact that McKay refuses to be a puppet for the democrats, but he admits to not having all the answers as well. It was so refreshing that during his very first television appearance where he announces his candidacy, he is asked about his position on a topic and he actually says "I don't know.

Director Michael Ritchie is no stranger to films about competition with movies like Smile, Semi-Tough, The Bad News Bears, and Wildcats under his belt and he brings the same unvarnished look at what some people will do in the name of winning that he did in those films. With this film, however, as much as our hero wants to win, he wants to win on his own terms and doesn't want to offer solutions that he really doesn't have. Richie not only shows the travails of trying to train McKay to be a politician, but he also does a more than credible job showing us how this new McKay political machine works by actually giving camera time to the voters and showing us who they are getting through to, who they're not getting through, and most importantly, those who don't care or don't get it.

For a film so early in his career, Redford has rarely commanded the screen the way he does here. Peter Boyle, Allen Garfield, and Michael Lerner offer solid support as the guys who try to handle McKay, and there is a slick glorified cameo by Melvyn Douglas as McKay's father, who does his best to downplay his estranged relationship with his son. There's also a blink and you miss it cameo from two time Redford leading lady Natalie Wood. It's a little on the talky side, but all of the talk is very smart.

Spinning Gold
The 2023 film Spinning Gold is an overlong and overblown biopic allegedly providing the viewer a look into the life of Neil Bogart, the co-founder of Casablanca Records, who took credit for the success of some of music's biggest stars, including the rock group KISS and the disco queen Donna Summer.

This film introduces Bogart as a slick show business hustler who went through several occupations and name changes before finally finding his calling at Casablanca Records, where his handling KISS, Summer, George Clinton, the Isley Brothers, and other artists falters due to his true lack of experience in the business and his blaming his mistakes on everyone he works for, refusing to be accountable for anything that happens, including driving the label $6,000,000 into the red.

Incredibly, this film was written and directed by Bogart's son, Timothy Scott Bogart, who doesn't paint his father in a favorable light at all. This might have been due to the logistics of bringing this story to the screen, that were probably pretty complicated considering that a lot of the artists are still with us, probably causing Timothy to make a lot of concessions to get the film made that really take away from the authenticity of what we see here. None of the actors playing any of the artists even begin to resemble the people they are portraying and no original recordings were used for the musical segments centered on said artists, making what we're being told here a little hard to believe.

It doesn't help that Bogart's screenplay follows the typical biopic route that we've seen in a million other movies, featuring every show business cliche we've ever seen. The initial romance where he tells the woman he loves of his big dreams, the rocket-speed trip to financial success and living to the excess, turning to the mob for financial assistance, infidelity and drugs also make their expected appearances in the story. The story also insists that Bogart is responsible for most of the artists biggest hits. The scene depicting Neil helping Donna Summer create her controversial 1976 hit "Love to Love You Baby" bordered on laughable. Ditto Bogart's narration, a lot of it done directly to the camera.

Bogart was clearly afforded a huge budget to bring this story to the screen, but it doesn't appear to have been evenly spread out. The hedonistic 1970's are recreated realistically, though some production values were definitely lacking here, sound in particular...there are several scenes, mostly the ones between Bogart and his wife, Beth, where it was impossible to hear exactly what the characters were saying. It was so bad that I actually had turn on the closed captioning to catch a lot of dialogue.

The performances are a matter of taste. Jeremy Jordan's performance as Bogart was a little overripe for my tastes. Michelle Monaghan tries to make her thankless role of Beth worth investing in. There is strong work from Lyndsey Fonseca as KISS' manager who has an affair with Bogart and Jay Pharoah and Dan Fogler as other Casablanca employees, but this film is an overlong and sometimes dull film experience that didn't endear me to the subject at all.