Gideon58's Reviews

→ in
Tools    





The Little Foxes
A bone-chilling, Oscar-nominated performance by Bette Davis is the centerpiece of the 1941 film version of Lillian Hellman's most famous play The Little Foxes, a sizzling family drama that invented a lot of the entertainment genre that has come to be known as the soap opera and its influence on the genre lives on today.

Davis stars as Regina Giddens, a wealthy matriarch in turn of the century deep south who is anxious to participate in an important business deal with her brothers Oscar (Carl Benton Reid) and Ben (Charles Dingle). Regina is unable to participate without her husband, Horace (Herbert Marshall) who still controls the purse strings. Horace, however, is in a hospital in Baltimore being treated for a terminal heart condition. Regina sends her daughter, Alexandra (Teresa Wright) to Baltimore to bring her father home, but Horace is not so easily swayed and though Regina asks for more time to persuade him, Oscar and Ben have figured out a way to close the deal and cut Regina out, thanks to Oscar's wimpy son, Leo (Dan Herlihy).

Other pertinent players in this potent melodrama include Birdie (Patricia Collinge), Oscar's flighty, chatterbox of a wife, William Marshall (Russell Hicks), the man who initiates this all-important business deal, and David Hewitt (Richard Carlson), the handsome aspiring writer who is in love with Alexandra and would love to free her from Regina's tentacles.

Hellman's play premiered on Broadway in February of 1939 and ran for over 400 performances with Dingle, Reid, Herhily, and Collinge originating the roles they play in this film. Fortunately, director William Wyler probably took a calculated risk replacing the legendary Tallulah Bankhead with Bette Davis, but this was a risk that totally paid off. Anyone who follows my review thread knows that I have seen a healthy chunk of Davis' work and I have never found Davis more chilling onscreen. There was a moment where Ben is questioning Regina's next move in persuading Horace and she turns to him and says "I know what I'm doing" and I swear a chill went down my back. The look on her face when Horace drops his medication and her reaction to Horace trying to climb the stairs to get to his medication are images that are burned into my memory forever. After seeing this film, I am of the opinion that this film should have won Davis a third Oscar and is probably her finest performance.

I was also very impressed with Teresa Wright as Alexandra and loved the substance she brought to this seemingly simplistic character. The chemistry she created with Carlson was charming and she actually holds her own opposite Davis, which I think was enough to earn her a Best Supporting Actress nomination, but this movie is the Bette Davis Show all the way and anyone who has ever doubted the power of this actress need look no further than this classic that defines the soap opera genre. Just about anything ever seen on Peyton Place, Dallas, or Dynasty owes something to The Little Foxes.



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



Tower Heist
The director of Rush Hour ventures into Ocean's Eleven territory with an overblown and hard to believe heist comedy called Tower Heist which features some serious star power, but suffers due to some very odd detours in the story that make the story a lot longer than it needs to be.

Arthur Shaw (Alan Alda) is a billionaire financial whiz who lives in the penthouse of an elegant hotel where Josh Kovacks (Ben Stiller) is the Building Manager. It is revealed that Shaw is actually a crook who has been arrested for insider trading as well as stealing the pensions of the hotel employees which Josh asked Shaw to invest for him. When Shaw appears to show no remorse for what he's done, Josh enlists the aid of the concierge (Casey Affleck), the elevator operator (Michael Pena), a hotel squatter (Matthew Broderick), a housekeeper (Gaborey Sidibe) and a childhood acquaintance who is now a thief (Eddie Murphy) to help him break into a safe in Shaw's penthouse which Josh believes contains $20 million dollars.

There's really nothing wrong with the basic premise of this movie, but the screenplay is overly detailed and takes way too long to get to the matter at hand. Director Brett Ratner's pacing of the story is too deliberate and consistently challenges viewer patience for most of the running time. The exposition introducing the characters took too long, the scene where Murphy forces the guys to shoplift to prove they're worthy criminals was totally unnecessary. I was also troubled by the fact that Affleck's character was originally part of the crime and then turns around and takes Stiller's job from him. And it might be a bit of a nitpick, but why would a state of the art hi-rise hotel smack dab in the middle of Manhattan allow a squatter? And why would Stiller's character trust virtual stranger Murphy to help him with his mission?

Still, the film definitely provides plenty of action and humor...every moment Stiller and Murphy share onscreen was comic gold and Alda was brilliant in another of his smarmy villains that have made up a lot of his post-Hawkeye career. Affleck and Pena are always watchable and this film is no exception, though I had a hard time buying Tea Leoni as an FBI agent. This was a good idea on paper, but as a complete film experience, it doesn't quite come together as it should.



The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969)
An 18-year old Kurt Russell made one of his first serious impressions on movie audiences in a silly 1969 Disney comedy called The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes that still provides a chuckle here and there, but is definitely creaking around the edges.

This was the first of three Disney comedies that starred Russell as Dexter Riley, a student at fictional Medfield College. In this film, Dexter gets accidentally electrocuted while messing around with the college's new computer and instead of dying, the shock turns Dexter into a human computer with complete knowledge of everything. Of course, his new brain makes him an instant worldwide celebrity and said celebrity does initially go to the kid's head. Unfortunately, when Dexter got zapped, his brain also picked up information already in the computer regarding the shady business dealings of a gangster named AJ Arno (Ceasar Romero).

There's so much silliness going on here that it's hard to believe that kids in 1969 (myself included) went nuts for this and made it a box office sensation. The opening scenes were amusing with Dean Higgins (Joe Flynn) trying to weasel out of buying a computer for the school. This was a time when computers were still those huge mainframes with those huge reel-to-reel tapes but now in a day and age where computers are hand-held, this all looks pretty silly now. Not to mention the fact that all the people in the movie over the age of 19 are made to look like idiots. Hard to believe when the kids come to Arno's hideout to find a kidnapped Dexter that Arno's stooge actually buys the story that they're painters, despite the fact that they're painting the house four different colors. I also wasn't sure how having a computer brain gave Dexter the ability to pick horses or know how to cut a diamond.

Kurt Russell does offer a glimpse of the actor he would become when he grew up. I love him in the scene at the college quiz show when his computer brain is starting to malfunction and he is barely able to spit out the answers. Russell does infuse a real likability and intelligence into Dexter that actually legitimizes the character being revisited in two more films. Flynn and Romero are both very funny as are Richard Bakalayan as Arno's
stooge and Alan Hewitt as the Dean of another college who wants to steal Dexter for his school. Pat Harrington is seen in an early role as the quiz show moderator and Jon Provost of Lassie fame has a small role as one of Dexter's buddies. Vets like William Schallert and Fritz Feld can also bee glimpsed here. And if you look closely, you might recognize a very young Ed Begley Jr. as one of the opposing students on the quiz show.

Dexter Riley was featured in two more Disney comedies, Now You See Him, Now You Don't and The Strongest Man in the World. This film was also remade for television in 1995 with Kirk Cameron playing Dexter Riley, though looking at this film today, I can't imagine why anyone would think a remake was a good idea.



Murder Mystery
Netflix poured a lot of money into Murder Mystery,but money doesn't always translate into quality. This lavish comic mystery tries to rely on the leads to cover up some sluggish direction, an overly complex screenplay, and some questionable casting in key supporting roles.

Reunited onscreen for the first time since 2011's Just Go With It, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston star as Nick and Audrey Spitz, an NYPD officer and his hairdresser wife who meet a titled aristocrat named Charles Cavendish who invites the Spitzes to his Uncle's yacht to hear the reading of his uncle's will and find themselves in a lot of trouble when bodies around them start dropping like flies.

Actually, this movie was a lot better when Woody Allen did it and entitled it Manhattan Murder Mystery which found a couple neck deep in a mystery where the wife is intrigued by what's happening and the husband thinks they should mind their own business. That part of this movie works...it's fun watching Audrey become amused and fascinated by the going-on because they remind her of the murder mysteries she loves to read while Nick just wants to sleep and eat gourmet shrimp, but when a pattern begins bubbling to the surface that Audrey predicted, it wakes up Nick and the couple become a detective unit.

Where this movie loses us is in a very messy and over-complicated screenplay by James Vanderbilt that makes the viewer wait forever to find out exactly who did it and Kyle Newacheck's sluggish direction doesn't help either. The movie runs a little over 90 minutes but feels twice that long. I was also troubled by the use of a lot of unknown actors in the principal roles of the family on the yacht. I think this story would have been much more effectively served by comic actors we know and love using phony European accents. The film also had at least three too many endings...almost turned the movie off twice because I thought it was over and it wasn't.

Sandler and Aniston are always watchable and were very believable as a couple married for 15 years. Luke Evans was also charm and sophistication personified as Charles Cavendish. Mention should also be made of the classy cameo by Terrence Stamp as Malcolm Quince, the billionaire whose murder kicks off all this insanity. I have to admit I was also amused by Gemma Arterton as the arrogant actress who likes to call out her own name during sex. .

As mentioned, there was a big budget employed for this production...it's filmed on location in Monaco and is just gorgeous to look at, featuring some breathtaking art direction/set direction, but it's not enough to make up for what's lacking in direction, story, and casting.



Tab Hunter Confidential
Homosexuality was taboo in 1950's Hollywood and any aspiring actor during the 50's who was gay and wanted to have a movie career was forced inside the closet. It wasn't until the 1980's that we learned that Rock Hudson was one of these actors, and it has also recently come to light that Tab Hunter was another, chronicled in a 2015 documentary entitled Tab Hunter Confidential, a detailed and somewhat poignant look at the life of the tortured former matinee idol that revealed a lot about the star that was news to me, other than his sexuality.

Based on the autobiography Hunter co-wrote with Eddie Muller, I loved the way this documentary opened...Hunter tells us about being arrested at a Hollywood party in 1950 where everyone at the party was arrested for apparently no other reason than being homosexual, the same year Hunter made his film debut. The documentary then shifts to the traditional route as we are introduced to a young man who was born Arthur Gelien, who, along with his older brother, was raised by his independent single mother after walking out on Arthur's father. By the time Arthur was in high school, girls were chasing him down school hallways but he wanted nothing to do with it, though he wasn't really sure why.

Hunter talks frankly about his unspectacular film debut in a forgotten melodrama called Island of Desire where he had his first onscreen kiss with the smoky Linda Darnell. His first significant role in the film Battle Cry was completely orchestrated by agent Henry Wilson (who also handled Rock Hudson) and Warner Brothers chief Jack Warner. We also learned that he was actually fired and re-hired from one of his biggest hits, Damn Yankees because he didn't get along with co-director George Abbott at all.

This film revealed other areas of the business that Hunter dabbled in that were news to me...did you know that Hunter was a championship-worthy figure skater and that his first relationship with a man was with another figure skater? This relationship was the only thing in the film that Hunter seemed a little reluctant to discuss. Hunter also had a brief albeit serious recording career, which included the original recording of the song "Young Love". I had always though that his singing in Damn Yankees was dubbed but apparently not.

The most shocking reveal for me in the film was the revelation of Hunter's long and stormy affair with Anthony Perkins. Of course, it became very complex in order to protect both their careers but it was their careers that put an end to it as well. The beginning of the end of the relationship was when Hunter played Jimmy Pearsall in Fear Strikes Out on television but the movie version went to Perkins, earning Perkins his only Oscar nomination.

In addition to frank narration from Hunter, commentary is also provided along the way from Robert Wagner, Lainie Kazan, John Waters (who directed Hunter in Polyester and Lust in the Dust), Debbie Reynolds, Connie Stevens, Terry Moore, Noah Wylie, and a woman who won a date with Hunter in a contest when she was a teenager. We are also introduced to a FOX movie executive named Allan Glaser who helped get Lust in the Dust greenlighted, which evolved into a relationship with Hunter that lasted over 30 years.

This documentary reminded a lot of the one that I saw about Adam West in that it revealed Hunter as a man who was always realistic about his career and where it took him, but holds no ill will about the downward spiral his career eventually took. Mr. Hunter passed away on July 8, 2018 at the tender age of 86. RIP.



Rudy
From the Rocky school of film making comes 1993's Rudy, a fact-based sports melodrama that is slightly corny and manipulative, but the manipulation works...sort of. So does the charismatic performance from the actor in the title role.

Rudy Reuttiger is part of a large family in a steel mining town in Indiana who has dreamed of playing football for Notre Dame pretty much from the time he could crawl. His passion for football is unparalleled, unfortunately, his grades are less than spectacular and he is about half the size of the average football player. But Rudy has drive and determination and works harder at his dream than any guy on the team. Rudy has a long uphill battle ahead of him including a year of school at a different school before he can even glimpse his dream at the end of the tunnel.

Not really sure what all the fuss is regarding this film, which I have heard for years has brought grown men to tears. If the truth be told, it doesn't take a lot for a movie to make me cry. This movie really didn't do anything to ignite my tear ducts and it might be the fact that the movie is basically Rocky, transferred to an Indiana town, a college campus, and a football stadium. We have the pushed around underdog established from the beginning with a dream that is beginning to evaporate finally get a chance at said dream, but the journey to that shot is a very long one.

Angelo Pizzo's screenplay is too overly detailed, taking way too much time with exposition. As a matter of fact, it felt like so much time was taken with exposition and backstory that the most important parts of the story end up getting short shrift. We're halfway through the film before Rudy even gets the letter that says he's been accepted to Notre Dame, a moment in the film that I felt was severely underplayed. He reads the letter, gets a little choked up and takes it straight to his father. I think it should have been played with the same exuberance as the moment when Rudy learned that he actually made the team. And when he reconsiders and returns to the team after quitting, his return is actually greeted with the slow motion clap? Seriously? I thought the team all turning in their jerseys so Rudy could play was a bit much, but I LOVED when Rudy ran out of that tunnel for the first time.

Sean Astin does light up the screen in the title role and makes up for a lot of the predictable screenplay and David Anspach's manipulative direction. Future stars like Jon Favreau, Vince Vaughn, and Lili Taylor do pop up in small roles. The film is handsomely mounted with outstanding cinematography, loved that shot of the Notre Dame football stadium covered in snow and Jerry Goldsmith's music was superb, but this one did not quite live up to its reputation in this reviewer's opinion.



Anything Else
Woody Allen provided a real hit-and-miss tale with 2003's Anything Else, a pretentious and nonsensical comedy that provides some very superficial laughs, but never quite becomes what it should be thanks to some really unlikable and not very bright characters doing some ridiculous things.

Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs) is a comedy writer and bundle of neuroses who is the only client of a third rate agent named Harvey Wexler (Danny DeVito). Jerry becomes fast friends with a much older comedy writer named David Dobel (Allen), a cynical, tightly wound gun nut and closet survivalist who becomes Jerry's adviser in all aspects of his life, particularly, his maddening relationship with Amanda (Christina Ricci), a self-absorbed drama queen who redefines the term "high maintenance."

Woody hasn't done anything this strange since Melinda and Melinda, I'm just not sure what he was trying to do here. The story initially appear to be about Jerry's relationship with Dobel, which really doesn't make sense anyway because Dobel is 30 years older than Jerry. These two guys have nothing in common but their profession. Every time they have a conversation, Dobel manages to work a word into their conversation that no one ever uses and the way that Jerry and David refer to each other by their surnames was pretentious and maddening. I've never known anyone in my entire life that I only referred to them by their surname.

The real problem with this story is this character Amanda and all the crap she puts Jerry through. She is a flighty and full of herself chain smoker who thinks she wants to be an actress and embraces any opportunity she can to get Jerry to spend money on her. She also hasn't had sex with Jerry in six months but seems to have no problem having sex with other men and justifies it by telling Jerry to sleep with other women. She also does nothing to stop her equally self-absorbed mother (Stockard Channing) from moving in with them so that she can work on her new nightclub act. It's not only everything Amanda does, but, as a viewer, we scratch our heads wondering why Jerry puts up with this crap.


Allen still has an ear for funny dialogue, though this screenplay seems to be talking above his audience more than usual, but these mostly unappealing characters and the stupid stuff they do here make the sporadic laughs kind of empty and unmotivated from anything genuine.

As unappealing as the character was, Christina Ricci delivers a blistering performance as the toxic Amanda, one the most fascinating performances I have ever seen from her. Jason Biggs works hard as Jerry, who serves as or narrator for the story and speaks directly to the camera, but I never really buy him as a comedy writer because there was nothing funny about this guy. Channing and DeVito also make the most of their screen time, but becoming completely engaged in this bizarre little comedy was impossible.



Life (2015)
I have complained in other reviews about alleged biopics of famous stars that focus on the star at the end of their career. The 2015 independent production Life actually focuses on a movie icon at the beginning of his career, but other problems eventually wear this one down as well.

This docudrama is about the 1955 photo essay "Moody New Star" focused on the not-yet-famous James Dean and shot by a freelance photographer named Dennis Stock who has managed to sell the idea of the essay to Life Magazine and now has to sell the idea to the enigmatic Dean. The events here occurred after Dean has finished filming East of Eden but it hasn't been released yet and he's still waiting to hear whether or not he's going to get the lead in Rebel Without a Cause.

The story begins with Stock and Dean meeting at a part at Nicholas Ray's house where Stock initial pitches the idea to Dean then has to get his boss, John Morris, to get Life magazine on board. With Dean still an unknown quantity, Morris wants to know why they should be doing this and Stock offers that he sees something special in the young actor and is convinced that someday this photo shoot is going to make him very famous.

Luke Davis' screenplay is wordy and attempts to be sophisticated in its approach to this story and the theory it presents that one freelance photographer could spot a future star that no one else could. The film implies that Dean was troublesome on the set of East of Eden and that Dean wasn't even sure if the film was any good. Nicholas Ray has to chase him around at his own party in order to introduce Dean to important people which didn't concern Dean at ll. Jack Warner has already labeled the guy a troublemaker and tries to get him in line. The story told here is that, despite all of this, Dean was going to be worth the trouble and this unknown freelance photographer saw it before anyone else did.

I did like the relationship that develops between Stock and Dean, which was a lot more interesting than the relationship between Stock and his ex-wife, or Dean's ill-fated romance with Pier Angeli. Enjoyed the scenes where Dean took Stock back to his hometown and the farm where Dean grew up. I loved the way Stock was rarely seen without his camera and found myself anticipating when the next picture would pop into his head. It was a like a musician who always has his instrument under his arm.

Robert Pattinson gives a performance of such richness that I kind of wished he had been playing Dean because Dane DeHaan was rather one-note as James Dean. DeHaan never really captures the essence of the Dean I've seen onscreen. Was also impressed with a classy cameo by Ben Kingsley as Jack Warner and the insertion of the actual photo shoot into the closing credits, but I really would have liked to have seen what a major studio and a real budget could have done with this story. And could they have used a little more imagination in coming up with a title? Do you know how many movies have been made with this title? It really doesn't fit this film at all.They should have used the title of the actual photo essay, "Moody New Star."



The Three Faces of Eve
A powerhouse performance from Joanne Woodward that won her an Oscar and a Golden Globe anchors the 1957 docudrama The Three Faces of Eve, an emotionally-charged look at a special kind of mental illness that features some hard-to-swallow and logic defying plot elements, but Woodward's performance allows the viewer to forgive most of what's wrong with the story.

The story actually begins with a lengthy introduction to the story by Alistair Cooke, speaking directly to the camera, explaining exactly what we are about to see. We are then transported to six years before this film's release, where we are introduced to Eve White, a timid housewife and mother whose bizarre behavior, including elaborate shopping sprees and wrapping a curtain cord around her daughter's neck have Eva and her husband looking for answers. While meeting with a sensitive psychiatrist named Dr. Luther, we learn that Mrs. White has an alternate personality named Eve Black, a hard-drinking party girl who is aware of Mrs. White, but Mrs. White knows nothing about her, which motivates Dr. Luther to have Ralph, Eve White's husband, commit her to treatment, which actually reveals a third personality who decides to call herself Jane.

This was unexplored territory for writer and director Nunnally Johnson and for moviegoers as well. The introduction of the Eve Black character is alternately funny and heartbreaking, as we watch a side of Eve that she really seems to enjoy, but has husband Ralph completely bamboozled. Once Eve is committed is where problems start occurring in the story...it seemed unbelievable that Eve White had no knowledge or control of Eve Black, yet Dr. Luther was able to talk to whichever personality he wanted simply by asking to speak to them. We never really get a sense of exactly what kind of treatment Eve is receiving for her disorder, save the occasional session of hypnosis. The appearance of the Jane personality also seems to come from nowhere, despite the fact that she is aware of both Eves. Multiple personalities are usually the result of a childhood trauma and the reveal of the trauma was a bit of a letdown but transitions to a satisfactory conclusion.

The real joy here was watching the gifted Joanne Woodward create three separate and distinct characters in Eve White, Eve Black, and Jane. These three women actually care very much about each other, even if they are denial about it and Woodward conveys this beautifully. Woodward nailed the ultimate acting challenge during the scene in which Eve Black pretends to be Eve White in order to seduce Ralph, even though she stated in her initial appearance that she hates Ralph. This was another minor plot point that initially nagged at me, but Woodward is so fascinating to watch in the scene that I was able to let it slide.

Joanne Woodward has done a lot of incredible work in her long and distinguished career, but this is still her finest and most complex performance, which earned her a richly deserved Oscar and Globe. Lee J. Cobb is beautifully understated as Dr. Luther and David Wayne offers the performance of his career as well as the perplexed Ralph White. Future stars Vince Edwards and Nancy Kulp can also be glanced in small roles, but Joanne Woodward is the one you come away from this one remembering, with a slight chill going down your spine while you do.



American Pie
The teen comedies that dominated the 1980's entered a new phase of sophistication without losing the slightly raunchy humor of teen angst with the funny and engaging American Pie, that took a lot of what we saw in the 80's and turned it on its ear, still providing consistent laughs thanks to an intelligent screenplay and a terrific ensemble cast.

The 1999 comedy centers on four high school seniors who have made a pact to have sex before the senior prom: Jim (Jason Biggs) is a sexually obsessed virgin who has a close encounter with a foreign exchange student (Shannon Elizabeth) before actually finding the girl of his dreams in a band geek named Michelle (Alyson Hannigan); Oz (Chris Klein) is a hunky jock who finds himself drawn to a girl in jazz choir (Mena Suvari); Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas) has been going out with Vicky (Tara Reid) forever, but they just haven't been able to make that crucial move to the next level; Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) attempts to spread rumors about himself to get a prom date but an embarrassing incident limits his chances of getting a date. And let's not forget Stifler (Seann William Scott), the spiritual leader and crassly insensitive stud who also serves as our boys' cheerleader/whipping boy.

Screenwriter Adam Herz has crafted a clever and believable story centered around high school boys that perfectly captures the teenage male psyche the same way Mean Girls did with the teenage female psyche. The guys in this story have nothing but sex on their minds and though most of them aren't getting it, spend a lot of time pretending that they are. It's not surprising when Jim gets his chance with the foreign exchange student and it ends up broadcast on the internet that every teenage boy in town is tuned in, externally offering their opinion how Jim should be doing better than he is, but secretly seething with jealousy because Jim has been given an opportunity that they might never have.

The story not only offers varied looks at teenage male obsession with sex, but at the high school class system as well. The characters are all carefully placed in those annoying cliques that we all had to struggle with in high school. We get to see the jocks make fun of the jazz choir, as well as everyone making fun of the band, even though we later become privy to the nonstop sexual depravity that happens at band camp. Though if the truth be known, my favorite scenes in the film involve Jim and his father, beautifully played by Eugene Levy, as dad, after catching Jim trying to watch porn, decides it's time to deal with his son regarding the facts of life.

The performances are pretty much on the mark, featuring star-making performances from Biggs, Scott, and Klein (whatever happened to him?). A special nod to Eddie Kaye Thomas as Finch, the teen who tries to hard to be an adult but probably makes the biggest score out of all the guys on prom night. It was also interesting seeing Suvari playing a role the polar opposite of the one she played the same year in American Beauty. This film was also my first exposure to Jennifer Coolidge, who lights the screen on fire playing cinema's first "MILF" and if you look closely, you'll catch a very young John Cho in a small role. The movie is over 20 years old, but it still brings the funny.



Forget Paris
Billy Crystal produced, directed, co-wrote and starred in Forget Paris, a richly entertaining romantic comedy from 1995, which borrows from past romantic comedies but Crystal definitely puts his own stamp on the proceedings, providing what moviegoers expect from a romantic comedy.

Crystal plays Mickey, an NBA referee who travels to Paris to bury his father and meets a vivacious airline executive named Ellen (Debra Winger), when the airline loses Micky's father's body. Sparks fly after a romantic week in Paris but Mickey's work forces him to return to LA, though he can't stop thinking about Ellen. Ellen impulsively quits her job in Paris and moves back to LA and agrees to marry Micky but the road to happiness is a very bumpy one for the couple. Most of the bumps come from their careers and their attempts to have children.

Crystal provides a very clever Woody Allen-ish type hook upon which the story unfolds. Mickey's best friend, Andy (Joe Mantegna) is getting married and he and his fiancee (Cynthia Stevenson) meet at a restaurant with other married friends of Mickey (Richard Masure, Julie Kavner, John Spencer, Cathy Moriarty) where they take turns telling Mickey and Ellen's story to Andy's fiancee while waiting for Mickey and Ellen to join the party.

The screenplay by Crystal, Lowell Ganz, and Babaloo Mandel, who also collaborated on the Crystal comedy City Slickers and its sequel, have crafted a sweet and funny story that is rich with Crystal's humor...the dialogue often moves at breakneck speed and doesn't allow the viewer to finish one laugh before another one approaches, and despite some obvious inspiration from films like Annie Hall and another Crystal classic When Harry Met Sally, this story stands on its own as a singular Crystal creation.

Crystal lets a couple of story elements get away from him...the story spends a little more time than necessary setting up Mickey's occupation, which I think was just a way to allow Crystal to spend more time onscreen with his NBA idols. There are a couple of scenes with Ellen's senile father (William Hickey) that bring the film to a halt. The story also gets a little one-sided...there are certain points in the story where the story sets up Ellen as the villain of the piece, but both characters equally contribute bumps to this relationship, but it's Crystal's movie...I did love the way Crystal worked the title of the movie into the screenplay three separate times in three separate contexts.

The most pleasant surprise about this movie was the chemistry between Billy Crystal and Debra Winger, which is hard to imagine just seeing their names together on a marquee, but the relationship totally works. It actually rivals his work with Meg Ryan and Winger gives one of her loveliest and most engaging performances here. Mantegna, Stevenson, Masur, and Kavner are a lot of fun as our narrators and, thanks to Mickey's profession, we get cameos from Kareem Abdul Jabar, Charles Barkley, Marv Albert, Bill Walton, Patrick Ewing, and Reggie Miller. A bouquet for the lovely location shooting in the City of Lights too. For all the hats Crystal was wearing for this production, this works surprisingly well.



"""" Hulk Smashhhh."""
Good work as always. This thread deserves more attention.
__________________
Optimus Reviews
LATEST REVIEW // Justice League // Shawshank Redemtion
My Top 50 Favourites

"Banshee is the greatest thing ever. "



Always Be My Maybe
Perhaps the success of last year's surprise hit Crazy Rich Asians inspired Netflix to team the co-stars of two ABC sitcoms in Always Be My Maybe, a by-the-numbers romantic comedy that is a basic rehash of several better romantic comedies, but thinks it's fooling us into thinking it's something original because the leads are Asian.

Marcus (Randall Park) and Sasha (Ali Wong) are BFF's who grew up together living next door to each other in 1990's San Francisco. Everything was fine until their senior year of high school when they finally gave in to pent up passion and had sex for the first time in the back seat of Marcus' Toyota Corolla. A wall went up between them and they eventually went their separate ways. In the interim, Sasha has become a wealthy and famous gourmet chef with her own restaurant chain while Marcus has remained in San Francisco, still living and working with his father and heading his garage band in dingy downtown clubs. Fate does eventually reunite Marcus and Sasha but they different people in different places now and work very hard at trying to deny the feelings they've buried for each other.

Don't get me wrong, I have enjoyed Randall Park's work as the dad on Fresh off the Boat and Ali Wong steals every scene she has on American Housewife, but two actors of the same ethnicity is not a guarantee of chemistry and it's not really the actor's fault, it's just that Park and Wong are very two different kind of actors. Randall is a strong romantic leading man, but Wong is not a leading lady..in the great tradition of actresses like Eve Arden and Thelma Ritter, Wong is the wisecracking best friend and her onscreen persona is just not suited to being the next Meg Ryan.

Park and Wong are also hampered by a long-winded screenplay co-written by the stars and Golamco that tries to play to the stars strengths, but I think it just tries a little bit too hard. The dialogue just seems to be working overtime to be hip and cool and reverent and therefore just comes off as affected and phony. The exposition setting up Marcus and Sasha's relationship was way too long and the over-plotting to bring them back together took too long as well. We know what's going to happen here 15 minutes in, why prolong it and bring viewer patience to the boiling point?

I have never seen two actors work harder at making a movie work than Park and Wong, but this just wasn't the vehicle. If the truth be known, the funniest thing in the movie was a glorified cameo by Keanu Reeves, playing himself, popping up halfway through the story as a romantic interest for Wong. This seems to be another one of those projects looked better on paper; unfortunately, TPTB @ Netflix didn't have the foresight to see that.



Adam Sandler movies aren't really that bad. I saw I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Grown Ups a while back and both had some interesting things to say and some good jokes. Grown Ups, whether your a dad or not, is an extremely relatable movie because it really gets down to who we are as men and women in this world.



State Fair (1945)
Warner Brothers poured a lot of money into their 1945 remake of State Fair, a colorful mounting of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that still provides nostalgic family entertainment.

This is the story of Abel and Melissa Frake who are preparing to travel to the state fair with their daughter Margy and their son Wayne. Abel (Charles Winninger) is looking forward to entering his prize boar, Blue Boy, in the boar competition; Melissa (Oscar winner Fay Bainter) has prepared pickles and mincemeat for the domestic arts contest, using alcohol in her mincemeat recipe for the first time; Margy (Jeanne Crain) is looking for excitement beyond her dull as dishwasher fiancee Harry and Wayne (Dick Haymes) is crushed because his girlfriend can't come to the fair.

While Abel and Melissa nervously await the results of the varied contests that they have entered, Margy actually finds herself falling for a handsome stranger she meets on the roller coaster (Dana Andrews). Wayne also finds romance with a glamorous singer at the fair (Vivian Blaine), who has some serious baggage she is trying to keep secret.

This is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's most family-friendly musicals, which first came to the screen in 1933. It's rich with colorful and fun characters involved in many of the classic musical comedy misunderstandings that we musical lovers have grown accustomed. I was surprised to find there were still some actual laugh out loud moments in this musical that is over 70 years old. The three judges who were tasting the pickle and mincemeat had me on the floor and Jeanne Crain was cute as a button being terrified on the roller coaster.

Dick and Oscar crafted one of their most lilting and melodic scores for this movie including "It's a Grand Night for Singing" "That's for Me", "Isn't it Kinda Fun", "I Owe Ioway", and, of course, "It Might As Well Be Spring", which won the Oscar for Best Song of 1945.

The chemistry between Jeanne Crain and Dana Andrews was off the charts (though their singing is dubbed) and would be revisited in three other films. He's not much of an actor, but Dick Haymes' velvety voice forgives just about anything. A couple of familiar faces do pop during the proceedings including Percy Kilbride as the Frakes' back home neighbor, Harry Morgan as a carnival barker, and John Dehner as the hog contest announcer. Warners put a lot of money into this musical and it all shows on the screen, providing charming family entertainment.



Twilight (1998)
A proven cinematic storyteller behind the camera and a healthy dose of star power are the primary attractions for a nearly forgotten salute to film noir from 1998 called Twilight that is so entertaining that the viewer almost doesn't notice how convoluted the story is.

Paul Newman lights up the screen as Harry Ross, a retired cop and private detective who lives with a wealthy actor dying of cancer named Jack Ames (Gene Hackman) and his actress wife, Catherine (Susan Sarandon). Jack asks Harry to deliver an envelope of money to a woman named Gloria Lamar and it is this simple chore that plunges Harry waist deep into a sordid case of murder and blackmail unlike anything he or the viewer have seen,

Oscar winning writer and director Robert Benton re-visits territory he explored back in 1977 with a sleeper called The Late Show in this contemporary film noir that provides just about everything we expect from the genre, including the slightly cliched narration we get from the central character. Considering the three stars headlining the story, a romantic triangle is expected and is delivered but this story has a lot more layers to it than that, as a matter of fact, maybe a few too many layers, but that was the fun of this story...every time we think we've figured out exactly what's going on, we're wrong. This is one of those squirm-worthy stories where innocent people are punished and the truly guilty walk away scott free.

Benton wisely distracts us from the confusion of the screenplay by dazzling the viewer with some unbelievable star power. A decade before his death, Paul Newman delivers a dazzling performance that was just as charismatic as when he played Brick Pollitt and Eddie Felson. He is matched scene for scene by the incredible Hackman, who once again reminds us why he is so sadly missed in Hollywood. We are even treated to a brief moment where Hackman is watching himself on TV in Downhill Racer. Sarandon brings an icy elegance to her character that earns the protection the screenplay provides for her character.

The stars receive wonderful support from Stockard Channing as a hard boiled police detective, Margo Martindale as the brassy Gloria Lamar, Liev Schreiber as her dim-witted partner in crime, Giancarlo Esposito as Newman's leg man and an undeniably classy turn from the iconic James Garner as a former security expert and old pal of Harry's. There's also a brief appearance from future Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon playing Hackman's daughter. David Bomba's art direction and Elmer Bernstein's music deserve mention as well, but it's the skill of Robert Benton and an amazing cast that are the ticket.



Footlight Parade
In the tradition of films like 42nd Street and Golddiggers of 1933 comes Footlight Parade, another dazzling backstage musical from Warner Brothers that owes a large portion of its appeal to the ridiculously imaginative Busby Berkeley and his uncanny ability to continue reinventing the art of presenting dance onscreen.

The musical stars James Cagney, once again displaying his underrated skills as a song and dance man, as Chester Kent, a director of stage musicals who learns with the advent of sound movies, that he might be out of work permanently. After his materialistic wife demands a divorce, Chester may have found a way to continue is work by staging something called prologues, which are like mini-musicals staged to be shown before a movie.

With the help of his loyal assistant, Nan (Joan Blondell), Chester becomes the king of prologues until rival directors begin stealing his ideas. Given a mammoth assignment of multiple prologues and suspecting there might be a spy within his company, Chester gets the idea to lock the company in the theater until the show opens. Chester also finds his romantic life being complicated by Nan's best friend, Vivian and the reappearance of his ex-wife, and not even noticing that the devoted Nan only has eyes for him.

This one takes a minute to get going, but once it does, director Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley and their very talented cast really deliver. Bacon is to be applauded for the offbeat casting of Cagney as this Broadway director since this was nine years before he won an Oscar for playing George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy. As a matter of fact, this was the first film ever where Cagney danced onscreen and, as he always did, knocked it out of the park. As I watched Cagney in this film, I couldn't help think how good he might have been playing Julian Marsh in 42nd Street. He is beautifully complimented by the scene-stealing Blondell, who doesn't make a false move onscreen as the devoted assistant obviously madly in love with her boss, but always putting his happiness and the good of the show over her personal happiness. Blondell's performance in this film is what musical comedy is all about.

Harry Warren, Al Dubin, Sammy Fain, and Irving Kahal are among the composers who contributed to the score for this musical comedy feast with songs like "Sitting on a Back Yard Fence", which featured Ruby Keeler dressed as a cat; "Anchors Aweigh", "One Step Ahead of My Shadow", and three incredible Busby Berkeley-staged creations that absolutely defy description and belie the fact that these numbers are supposedly taking place in a movie theater. "Honeymoon Hotel" is an elaborate mini-musical that covers the courtship of Ruby and Dick Powell through their check in at a fancy hotel where we meet the staff and their family. "By a Waterfall" is an indescribable water fantasy that was probably the inspiration for Esther Williams' entire film career and "Shanghai Lil" found Cagney and Keeler tapping their way into our hearts as a sailor and an Asian good time gal, accompanied by about two hundred tap-dancing sailors. These three numbers alone added a half bag of popcorn to my rating. This celebration of everything that is movie musical comedy has to be seen to be believed.



Jerry Before Seinfeld
It should come as no surprise that Netflix was there when Jerry Seinfeld returned to his standup roots in the 2017 special Jerry Before Seinfeld, which provides the laughs we expect from Jerry that might be more carefully orchestrated than they were in the beginning of his career, but there really isn't a better wordsmith in the world of comedy right now.

This special finds Seinfeld returning to The Comic Strip., the New York comedy club where Jerry got his start and this actually becomes the underlying theme of the entire concert as Jerry, in his own inimitable style, tells how he got from there to here. Talking about his upbringing in Brooklyn and Long Island allowed him to transition into a very funny routine about living "in" Brooklyn but living "on" Long Island" and the difference between getting "in" a train and getting "on" a train.

The actual standup is periodically interrupted with home movies of Jerry growing up "in" Brooklyn and "on" Long Island, informing us that being a standup comedian was the only thing he ever wanted to be. He talks about how different being a child of the 60's was to being a child today and actually chastises the young members of his audience for having the nerve to be young. Jerry and I are around the same age so I found it very easy to relate to a lot of his childhood memories. His observation about his social life consisting purely of whatever his parents were doing was on the money. His bits about going with his parents to the bank and the wallpaper store were very funny. At one point offstage, Jerry introduces us to some of the comic influences he grew up, sitting on his front porch. One of the items in this scene was the George Carlin album Class Clown, which I grew up with and had memorized at one point.

There were a couple of things that did gnaw at me. Ever since his classic NBC sitcom left the air, Jerry has done whatever he can to distance himself from that show. He never talks about it, he never mentions it, he has expressed no interest in a reunion special or a reboot. So imagine my surprise when he actually pulled material from the sitcom and used it here, still, never mentioning the sitcom. I was also disappointed by Jerry's joke about when cops arrest someone that they brutally handcuff and headlock them but are so careful to make sure that they don't hit they head when they get in the patrol car...is there any comic in the last 50 years who hasn't told that joke?

Jerry also shocked me at one point...Seinfeld has always impressed me as one of the few standups in the history of standup who never worked blue, so imagine my shock when the phrase "God damn" came out of his mouth during this concert. For the most part though, a funny and engaging special from a guy who still knows how to keep a live audience in stitches.



Long Shot (2019)
The surprising chemistry between the stars is a big asset to the 2019 comedy Long Shot, but its predictability and fatal over-length keep this film from matching its intentions.

The romantic comedy stars Seth Rogen as Fred Flarsky (terrible character name), a recently unemployed writer who has been hired by his former babysitter, Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron), who is now the Secretary of State and planning to run for POTUS, to be her new speechwriter as she hits the presidential campaign trail.

The basic premise of this movie is decent, if a little predictable. Dan Sterling and Liz Hannah's screenplay offers a pair of protagonists who have nothing in common and no business being together, but we know from jump that the film's intention is to bring these two people together. Unfortunately, the screenplay is so long-winded providing way too many roadblocks for the star-crossed romance that the viewer begins to demand. Because Charlotte is the Secretary of State, it is assumed almost immediately that Charlotte's career is going to affect her relationship with Fred, so why do we have to wait so long for it actually happen? I also have to admit to being very amused by the bit of the current POTUS being a former actor who played the POTUS on a TV show and now wants to leave the Presidency so he can go back to acting.

On the other hand, I did enjoy the very slow burn of Charlotte and Fred's relationship...I love that Fred is even hesitant to accept the job at the beginning and that the possible romantic relationship between Charlotte and Fred isn't even addressed until their lives are actually in danger. The scene where they share their first kiss is absolutely maddening, so maddening that we almost believe there isn't gong to be another one...almost. I also loved later on when trouble began to rear its head for the couple that Fred agreed to be "Marilyn" to "Charlotte's "JFK."

I also was pleasantly surprised by how much chemistry there was between Rogen and Theron. My initial reaction to seeing their names together on a movie poster was "seriously"? but they work hard at making this onscreen relationship believable. It was nice to see Rogen combine his goofy charm and affinity for physical comedy with a strong dash of romantic leading man. I also LOVED seeing Charlize Theron embrace her glamor again. She's played way too many "deglammed" characters lately and it was incredible seeing her outer sexy onscreen again.

Mention should also be made of June Diane Raphael as Diane's bitchy assistant who hates Fred from jump, O'Shea Jackson Jr., who played his father in Straight Outta Compton, as Fred's BFF, Andy Serkis as a greasy political fatcat, and Bob Odenkirk as POTUS. Production values are first rate, but because we know exactly what's supposed to happen, this movie had no business being as long as it was.