Gideon58's Reviews

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28 days...6 hours...42 minutes...12 seconds
Re: Halloween.

I'm not sure if you know this but this is a direct sequel to the original movie only, disregarding every other film in the series. So whatever character building they did with Halloween 2 and H20 is ignored. Have you seen Resurrection? She dies in that one. As a Halloween film, this is one of the better entries, has solid style (that one-take of him entering houses was nice) and subversion of females in danger help elevate this film for me.

Re: The Game.

The often forgotten about Fincher movie. Maybe because his other films are so highly regarding, but this one always falls through the cracks for people. It's really well executed and showcases Fincher's early talents. I feel like a lot of people like/dislike this movie based on how they feel about the ending, which is the marking of a good film in my eyes.
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Suspect's Reviews



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



Re: Halloween.

I'm not sure if you know this but this is a direct sequel to the original movie only, disregarding every other film in the series. So whatever character building they did with Halloween 2 and H20 is ignored. Have you seen Resurrection? She dies in that one. As a Halloween film, this is one of the better entries, has solid style (that one-take of him entering houses was nice) and subversion of females in danger help elevate this film for me.

Re: The Game.

The often forgotten about Fincher movie. Maybe because his other films are so highly regarding, but this one always falls through the cracks for people. It's really well executed and showcases Fincher's early talents. I feel like a lot of people like/dislike this movie based on how they feel about the ending, which is the marking of a good film in my eyes.
I learned everything you said about Halloween before watching it. None of that changes my opinion of the film. As for The Game, I found the ending troublesome too, but the movie totally works until then.



The Singing Detective
Even a hardcore Robert Downey Jr fan like myself found it extremely difficult staying invested in a 2003 cinematic acid trip called The Singing Detective that scores some originality points but loses just as many for its confusing approach to a rather simple premise.

Robert Downey Jr. plays Dan Dark, a writer who is suffering from a very serious skin disease that has him looking like a burn victim. The author is re-working the first book he ever wrote in his head, a 1950's detective tale centered around a murdered prostitute. As Dark lies in his hospital bed, he begins to hallucinate about his disease, the book, his childhood, and his marriage. These hallucinations manifest themselves in the form of elaborate musical numbers, characters from the book visiting Dark in his hospital room, and intimate looks at how his childhood and marriage are connected to this book, which he is trying to work into a screenplay, which apparently has gone missing.

The screenplay is based on a BBC television series created by Dennis Potter, who was also the screenwriter for the 1981 Steve Martin musical Pennies from Heaven, where the actors lip-synched to original 1930's recordings and the same gimmick is employed here with some great music from the 1950's, but Potter really let this one get away from him, with Downey's character jumping from hospital bed to nightclub stage to becoming the central character in his novel at an absolutely exhausting pace. The supporting characters are also moving from the hospital to the novel to the middle of Dan Dark's brain. What we have here is an author trying to decipher the meaning of his life, an outrageous variation on films like 8 1/2 and All that Jazz that utilize extreme theatricality in order to glam up the kind of story we've seen many times before.

It was no surprise to learn that this film was directed by actor Keith Gordon, who played teenage Joe Gideon in All that Jazz. Clearly, Gordon was paying attention to what Bob Fosse was doing on the set of that film because there's a real Fosse influence in the look of the film and the staging of the musical numbers which are seamlessly woven into the narrative. Unfortunately, keeping track of said narrative gets tiresome pretty quickly.

Robert Downey Jr's unhinged performance in the starring role is a big plus and he does have a strong cast behind him including Robin Wright as his wife, Jeremy Northam, Adrien Brody and Jon Polito as characters from the book, and Saul Rubinek, Alfre Woodard and an unrecognizable Mel Gibson as hospital personnel, but the frantic direction and exhausting story eventually weigh this one down.



The Taking of Pehlam One Two Three (1974)
Joseph Sargent, a director known primarily for his work in television, scored a big screen triumph with a dandy nail-biter from 1974 called The Taking of Pelham One Two Three that takes a pretty unlikely premise and turns it into a first rate tale of unbearable tension and suspense that rivets the viewer to the screen.

This is the story of four men who walk onto a New York subway car and hijack it, with 18 hostages and inform the transit authority that they have one hour to deliver $1,000,000 to the train or they will kill a hostage for every minute they are late with delivery. The head bad guy (Robert Shaw) communicates demands and instructions to a world weary transit cop (Walter Matthau) who is doing whatever he can to keep the hostages alive and get these guys at the same time.

Sargent gets a big assist from Peter Stone's screenplay, adapted from a novel by John Godow, that offers us an effectively layered story rich with New York atmosphere and colorful characters and pointed observations from all angles of this horrific situation. It turns out transit can't promise anything without consent from the mayor. There is a brilliantly written scene with Matthau's character and the mayor with his posse where they actually take a vote as to whether or not they should pay the ransom. The other thing I loved about the story is that the four criminals hijacking the train weren't exactly lifelong buddies or a cohesive unit. We actually watch as they learn their stories from each other during down time in the crisis. We also see how one of the guys is very uncomfortable with the idea of killing hostages while another one can't wait.

The story is also injected with very human touches to the characters and situations, providing just enough humor to offset the unbearable tension that the story creates. I loved that one of the henchman had a really bad cold and that at the time of the incident, the mayor is also sick in bed. The opening scenes of Matthau providing a tour of the transit offices to some Asian businessmen was a perfect lighthearted prelude to the story that follows.

Sargent's direction is fluid and focused and keeps the story moving at a nice clip. We aren't given a lot of time to breathe once the hijakers take the train and we don't really require it. Matthau is surprisingly effective cast against type and Shaw is chilling as Mr. Blue. Martin Balsam was terrific as the criminal with the cold and LOVED Hector Elizondo as the trigger happy Mr. Gray. Other familiar faces pop up along the way, including Dick O'Neill, Jerry Stiller, James Broderick, Kenneth McMillan, and Lee Wallace, in a perfect Ed Koch mockup as the mayor. This film had me on the edge of my seat for most of the running time.

The film has been remade twice...it was remade for television in 1998 with Edward James Omos and Vincent D'Onofrio in the Matthau and Shaw roles. It also had a theatrical remake in 2009 with Denzel Washington and John Travolta, but something tells me either of these versions would be hard pressed to be better than the original.



I saw the 2009 remake back in 2010 and even though I like Travolta and Washington, I thought it sucked.
I had heard the same thing about the remake but felt it was wrong to watch it without seeing the original and now I'm pretty sure that a remake will disappoint...if you've never seen the original, please treat yourself.



Just when my coil's reachin' the green line!
I had heard the same thing about the remake but felt it was wrong to watch it without seeing the original and now I'm pretty sure that a remake will disappoint...if you've never seen the original, please treat yourself.
After wondering for eight and a half years if the original was any better, I saw it for the first time a few months ago and having seen both, I can say that if you want my honest opinion, it handily advances on the remake. The biggest problem with the remake is what Michael Reuben mentions in his review of the original film's first Blu-ray release and that comes down to the script that has Travolta keep talking and drop cluster F-bomb after cluster F-bomb until he talks all the menace out of the character and as Reuben says, "until all the tension was talked out of the film." For a more positive take on the remake, you can read Martin Liebman's review here just to have both sides of it. Judging by the first paragraph, Liebman seems to also think highly of the original, so I guess that's probably worth considering when evaluating whether or not the remake is your kind of movie.
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Scarecrow (1973)
If the idea of watching two of the industry's greatest actors near the beginning of their careers delivering Oscar-worthy performances in a movie nobody saw, then you might want to take a look at Scarecrow, an evocative blending of buddy movie and character study from 1973 that took this reviewer through a myriad of emotions, not to mention a master class in screen acting that riveted this reviewer to the screen.

Gene Hackman stars as Max, an ex-con who loves to fight and is fresh out of jail after six years, who is hitchhiking to Pittsburgh to get his hands on a large amount of money he has stashed there which he plans to use to open his own car wash. Al Pacino stars as Lion, an ex-sailor who is hitchhiking to Detroit to deliver a gift to a child that he has never met. A chance meeting leads these two drifters to become fast friends and eventual business partners who embark on an incredible episodic cross country odyssey.

I'm at a loss as to why this movie was such a box office bomb because it was made at a time where both of the stars were really coming into their own as box office champions. Hackman had just won his first Oscar for The French Connection and Pacino had just earned his first nomination for The Godfather, so one would think this film would have been box office gold but it laid a big fat egg art the box office and I don't know why. Hackman and Pacino not only create a magical chemistry onscreen but two distinct and fascinating characters who create their own backstory through their performances and the focused and sensitive direction from Jerry Schatzberg (Tha Panic in Needle Park).

I love the way the story opens...Max and Lion are hitchhiking on opposite sides of the same road competing for a ride while trying to feel each other out to determine if the other can really be trusted. I loved that the breaking point of the impasse turned out to be Max being unable to light his cigar because his zippo was dead and Lion offering him his last match.

Garry Michael White's screenplay is more focused on establishing who Max and Lion are than the somewhat ordinary buddy story that is the canvas here. The story has us falling in love with these two guys and completely behind their journey until the halfway point where they are pulled apart and the story takes some very dark detours that we really don't see coming. Fans of the 1969 Best Picture winner Midnight Cowboy will definitely have a head start here.

Gene Hackman, giving a performance he claims is his favorite, is a glorious combination of unhinged and unaffected, a dazzling performance where he is never caught "acting" and Pacino is loopy and explosive, lighting up the screen at every turn. Mention should be made of performances by Dorothy Tristan and the fabulous Ann Wedgeworth as a pair of good time girls and a brief appearance by Eileen Brennan. A big bouquet to Vilmos Zsigmond's cinematography as well. An unsung hero in the resumes of Hackman and Pacino and probably the best movie of 1973 that nobody saw.



Captain Ron
A breezy, sex-on-legs performance by Kurt Russell in the title role is the best thing about 1992's Captain Ron, a lavishly mounted comic adventure that starts off promisingly but eventually gets weighed down by an over complicated screenplay that gets silly and makes the final third of the film very tiresome.

Martin Short plays Martin Harvey, a Chicago businessman who inherits a broken down boat from his deceased uncle. Unfortunately, the boat is docked near a Caribbean Island and the only way for Harvey to get the boat back to Miami where he can sell it is to fly down to the Caribbean with his family where he has to hire an experienced boat navigator with questionable credentials named Captain Ron to sail the boat for them.

This film gets off to a strong start by establishing comic credentials immediately with the casting of Russell in the comic role and Short in an unaccustomed role for him as the straight man. The movie is very funny as we watch Captain Ron charm Martin's wife (Mary Kay Place) and his two kids, similar to the spell Bill Murray puts on Richard Dreyfuss' family in What About Bob?, but John Dwyer's screenplay gets away from him with the addition of some Latin American soldiers who become guests on the boat as well as some actual pirates who want to take the Harveys' boat from them. By the time the pirates show up, we begin checking our watches.

One refreshing thing I did find in the story is that when Captain Ron begins charming Martin's family, he doesn't concentrate his charms on Martin's horny teenager daughter but on Martin's wife, who seems blissfully unaware of what's going on. What happens between Captain Ron and the Harvey family was enough to make this story work, but so much happens that Captain Ron eventually gets temporarily shoved off the canvas and when he's not onscreen, the film comes to a screeching halt.

This film works as long as Kurt Russell remains center stage, completely investing in this slightly smarmy, but utterly charming character who actually has a conscience. Short works hard to be a convincing straight man and Mary Kay Place makes the most of the most significant role of her career as Martin's wife, but the screenwriter really lets this one get away from him.



The Night of the Hunter (1955)
A compelling and layered story, atmospheric direction by actor Charles Laughton and a chilling performance by Robert Mitchum in the starring role make the 1955 thriller The Night of the Hunter appointment viewing.

Set during the Depression, the story introduces Ben Harper (Peter Graves) a man who has just robbed $10,000 from a bank and killed two people in the process. Before being arrested, he hides the money inside his daughter Pearl's doll and swears Pearl and his son, John to secrecy. While in jail, Ben encounters Harry Powell (Mitchum), a phony preacher who is really a con man who has murdered six widows for their money. He talks about what he did but Harry is unable to find out exactly where Ben hid the money. Ben is found guilty of murder and executed and, upon his release from jail, Harry decides the way to the money is through Ben's God fearing, simple-minded widow, Willa (Shelley Winters).

James Agee has crafted an edgy and adult screenplay (based on a novel by Davis Grubb) that takes a noir-ish thriller and mounts it atop a squirm-worthy canvas of seriously religious overtones that pervade the story. Though it doesn't always paint religious zealotry in the most flattering light, it does provide an uneasy and challenging basis for this often stomach-churning cinematic ride.

The central character of Harry Powell is a cinematic enigma who scratches at the viewer's gut while commanding complete attention, thanks to Laughton's presentation of the character. On more than one occasion, the character enters a scene in complete silhouette singing a hymn, giving the character a creepiness that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. We cringe as we watch a con man spitting out religious platitudes while abusing poor Willa and threatening her children with dismemberment.

Laughton's dark direction gives this film an almost Hitchcock-like quality...many of the scenes are bathed in rich shadows and Laughton takes some memorable cinematic snapshots throughout. The image of Harry coming over that mountainside on that horse singing that hymn or the kids on the boat floating over that spider web or kindly old Mrs. Cooper, sitting on the porch, again in silhouette, rocking in her chair and holding a shotgun. These are images that will be burned in my memory for some time to come. I also loved Laughton's utilization of music throughout the film in all kinds of form as ways of creating atmosphere as well as advancing story.

Robert Mitchum does Oscar-worthy work as Harry Powell, undeniably chilling in its power and Shelley Winters once again shows why she was one of 1950's most popular cinematic doormats as the pathetic Willa. Lillian Gish was lovely as Mrs. Cooper as was James Gleason as a hard-drinking boat repairman. I also have to commend young Billy Chapin, who delivers a star-making performance as young John Harper. There were some minor story moves, or lack thereof, that I found puzzling, but for the most part I found this film to be a riveting experience. The film was remade for television in 1991 with Richard Chamberlain as Harry and Diana Scarwid as Willa.



A Perfect Murder
Some solid performances notwithstanding, 1998's A Perfect Murder is an overheated and overdirected re-thinking of Hitchcock's Dial M For Murder that provides a lot for the viewer to stay invested in, but interest wanes due to sledgehammer direction that takes away any pretense of what Hitchcock was a master at...suspense.

Michael Douglas stars as Steven Taylor, a wealthy Wall Street wizard who, on the surface has a perfect life, including a glamorous trophy wife named Emily (Gwyneth Paltrow), a trust fund baby who works for the UN. When it comes to light that Emily is having an affair with an artist named David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen), instead of eliminating his rival, Taylor persuades David to murder his duplicitous wife, dangling the carrot of her huge trust fund in front of him, but the murder does not goes as planned and Steven's is not the only plan that begins to unravel.

Director Andrew Davis, who fared much better five years earlier directing Harrison Ford in The Fugitive, mounts this story with such obvious and labored direction that offers no suspense or imagination. Davis leaves nothing to chance in this story, crafting in often annoying detail every single aspect of this story, employing such a sledgehammer approach to the story that no surprises are found along the journey and no work is required from the viewer at all. Even the detective arriving at the scene of the murder seems to have figured out the entire thing the first moment we see him. The only thing Davis makes us do is tolerate the deadly pacing employed in his direction that makes an hour and 45 minute movie seem four hours long.

Davis does know how to create an appealing cinematic package. The film is beautifully photographed and first rate production values are employed, though a couple to the film's detriment. James Newton Howard's overbearing and headache-inducing music grated on the nerves as one of Davis' most essential tools in his spoon feeding of this story.

On the plus side, I found Michael Douglas' effectively underplayed Steven Gold quite entertaining and Viggo Mortensen was properly smarmy as the artist/lover/blackmailer. Gwyneth Paltrow fails to convince as the adulterous wife, but my personal feelings about Paltrow as an actress may have colored my feelings about her work. There's nothing wrong with the idea of remaking Dial M For Murder, but I had to wonder if even Frederick Knott would have recognized what was going on here.



Miss Meadows
Katie Holmes is given the opportunity to prove that she is in possession of some acting chops and succeeds for the most part as the star of a quirky black comedy from 2014 called Miss Meadows that starts off promisingly, but loses its footing as the screenplay becomes a muddle of different genres but doesn't commit to any of them fully to make a truly engaging movie experience.

Holmes loses herself in the title role, a very prim and proper young schoolteacher who reads poetry and wears tap shoes and has taken it upon herself to be a vigilante, righting wrongs where she can because she thinks nobody else will. Before the halfway point, we see Miss Meadows murder a lecherous truck driver who tries to pick her up and a psycho who has just killed three people in a fast food restaurant. A handsome sheriff is assigned to the case but falls instantly in love with Miss Meadows, though he is fully aware of her guilt and in complete denial about it.

Director/screenwriter Karen Leigh Hopkins, who wrote the 1988 melodrama Stepmom is to be applauded for not only attempting to craft a black comedy around a unique central character and risking the project on an actress whose talent has never really stretched beyond her wholesome good looks. The story gets off to a dandy start as we watch this sweet girl, dressed like Dorothy Gale, tap dancing down the streets and reading poetry, but by the time we see the second murder, the comedy in the story begins to drain away. We then think we're going to get a thoughtful character study about what made Miss Meadows who she is. We then get a sketchy backstory which includes the death of her mother, whom we've already seen Miss Meadows have two phone conversations with, so at this point we're just scratching our heads.

Hopkins' direction does have a certain style to it and definitely trumps her writing here...her camera work is often inventive and with the aid of film editor Joan Sobel, creates some startling images that are hard to erase from the mind. Unfortunately, the jarring changes in the storytelling style eventual dwarf the imaginative directing concepts and what we are left with is a central character of whom the screenplay is way too protective. Miss Meadows gets off too easy here and the ending was a little ambiguous for my tastes.

I have never been a fan of Katie Holmes and I can't believe I'm saying this, but it is her performance in the title role that kept me engaged in this bizarre little film. Holmes is cast against type and turns in a gutsy performance that actually commands the screen. It's too bad the story wasn't worthy of her performance. She is well matched by Heath Ledger-look-alike James Badge Dale as Miss Meadows' loving sheriff and Jean Smart is terrific as Mom, but the appeal of this one depends on how much you love Katie Holmes. Fans of the Nicole Kidman film To Die For will have a head start here.



Youth (2015)
Despite solid acting and production values, the 2015 independent feature Youth is the cinematic equivalent of a beautifully gift-wrapped box with absolutely nothing inside.

The film takes place at a large elegant hotel located at the base of the Swiss Alps where we are introduced to some of its more important guests, three of whom are various forms of artists. Fred Ballinger (Oscar winner Michael Caine) is a composer and orchestra conductor who is vacationing with his daughter (Oscar winner Rachel Weisz). He has just been approached to perform for Queen Elizabeth, conducting a series of pieces he wrote many years ago that have become his legacy. Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) is a film director who is meeting with the screenwriters for his latest movie to finalize the screenplay and to nail down actress Brenda Morel (Oscar winner Jane Fonda) as his leading lady. Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) is a bitter young actor whose show business success has been predicated on a film in which he played a robot and now is beginning to make a film in which he would portray Hitler.

Paolo Sorrentino, who directed the odd Sean Penn drama This Must Be the Place is also the creative force behind this dreamy and quirky film that confuses and perplexes the viewer from scene to scene, starting with its unusual setting: The screenplay informs us that the setting of the film is a hotel, but there are scenes sprinkled throughout featuring large groups of senior citizens being led through various activities making it look like a retirement community but then Dano's character appears and seems so angry about being there, that we think this might actually be a rehab facility. Then just when we think it might be e rehab facility, the current Miss Universe checks in as one of the guests.

Sorrentino's directorial eye is in serious overdrive here, drowning the viewer in dark and romantic imagery, unsettling fantasy sequences, and a lot of talk about people torn apart by trying to dissect who they are as opposed to what they do and how this emotional journey has apparently led them to this very expensive hotel in Switzerland, which appears to be on the outskirts of civilization and hard for the rest of the world to make contact with. I was totally confused by all the scenes of the senior citizens making it look like a retirement community which it clearly wasn't, giving the entire story a kind of sinister undertone that I don't think was the intention. I do think fans of director Wes Anderson will have a head start here.

Sorrentino spared no expense in bringing this fantastical story to the screen...the hotel where the story unfolds is unlike anything I have ever seen. Luca Bigazzi's cinematography is breathtaking and David Lang's odd music was appropriate for this very odd story. Caine, Keitel, Dano, and Fonda do some of the strongest work of their respective careers, but the whole thing just seems pointless, not answering the questions it poses and it goes on forever.



The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie
Second only to Disney, no other Hollywood studio had the influence on the art of animation than Warner Brothers did when they introduced The Looney Tunes, which brought us the iconic Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Yosemite Sam among so many others. Back in the late 70's someone at Warners got the idea that compilation films of these classic cartoons would be some quick and easy box office revenue and 1981's The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie was the second film in this series.

This compilation of classic Warner Brothers cartoons actually concentrates on the work of animator Friz Freleng, who started his career working for Walt Disney but later found his niche at Warner Brothers. The new material linking the classic is set up as an awards ceremony honoring classic Looney Tunes characters. it should be noted that during the narration, Bugs mentions that Freleng won five Oscars, but in reality, he won one Oscar and one Emmy, and neither were for his work at Warner Brothers.

The tribute is divided into three parts: Part I finds Yosemite Sam bargaining with the Devil who is willing to exchabge Sam's soul for Bugs Bunny; Part II salutes 1950's television with Bugs playing Elegant Mess, a private eye squaring off with popular Looney villain Mugsy and Part III is a spoof of the Oscars which finds Bugs and Daffy Duck competing for applause.

I can't lie, it was an absolute joy watching some of these cartoons again, some of which I haven't seen since I was a child. I can't believe this stuff still makes me laugh loud. These cartoons have not aged a bit in 50 odd years. I wish the same could be said about the new linking material, which is rather clumsily edited into the classic toons in a rather haphazard manner but the classic stuff is so funny you really don't care.

The competitive relationship between Bugs and Daffy still works as does the foe-vs-for relationship between Bugs and Yosemite Sam. Also loved when Sylvester joined BA (Birds Anonymous) and how can you not love those three pigs who are now a jazz combo? This stuff just doesn't get old.



Don't Say a Word
Despite solid production values and some interesting performances, the 2001 psychological thriller is eventually weighed down by a convoluted story that takes too long to come together and some heavy-handed direction.

The film stars Michael Douglas as Dr. Nathan Conrad, a psychiatrist who is making breakfast for his bedridden wife on Thanksgiving morning and learns that his 8 year old daughter has been kidnapped. When the expected ransom call comes, the ransom can hardly be considered expected: Conrad is given approximately eight hours to get inside the head of a catatonic mental patient named Elizabeth (the late Brittany Murphy) to retrieve a six digit number that is locked somewhere inside Elizabeth's conscience somewhere.

Anthony Peckham's screenplay, based on a novel by Andrew Klavan, aggravates from jump because it starts with a bank robbery and then skips ten whole years before we meet Dr. Conrad and Elizabeth and we really have no clue what these two people, who seem to have brought together by fate, have to do with the bank robbery that opened the film. They do come together eventually but the connection takes forever to materialize.

There are some silly things that happen during the course of this story that definitely had this reviewer scratching his head, primarily the reveal that hostage was being held in the same held in the same building where she lived? Why would you go to all the trouble of kidnapping someone and then just hold them a couple of floors up in the same building? I was also troubled by exactly how serious Elizabeth's condition was...the intensity of her illness seemed to change from scene to scene and even the slightest possibility that this girl might be faking sucked a lot of the credibility out of this story.

Gary Fleder's overheated direction telegraphs a lot of stuff before it happens and methodically spoonfeeds us the story making the moving a very long-winded journey. Douglas is solid and Murphy seems to be having a ball playing the nutty Elizabeth, but it's the confusing story that eventually does this one in.



The Muppet Movie
It's wonderful to report that even with all the advances in the field of children's entertainment in the past 40 years, that the genius of Jim Henson can still provide viable screen entertainment with his 1979 winner The Muppet Movie.

Three years after the enormously successful syndicated variety show The Muppet Show, premiered, the big screen beckoned and we were treated to this delightful comic road adventure that, just like the TV series, found the muppets in the middle of a story interacting with actual human actors and the effects can have the viewer rolling on the floor one minute and discovering a lump in the throat the next.

The story is pretty straightforward...Kermit is contently sitting on a lily pad singing about rainbows when a vacationing Hollywood agent (Don DeLuise) informs Kermit that he should attend a big audition in Hollywood soon for frogs offering "the standard rich and famous contract." En route to Hollywood, just like in The Wizard of Oz, Kermit meets Fozzie Bear, Rowlf the Dog, The Great Gonzo, a rock band called Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, and, of course, the flighty and self-absorbed Miss Piggy, who all decide they want to be Hollywood stars as well. Their journey is complicated by Doc Hopper (Charles Durning), the owner of a string of french fried frog leg restaurants who wants Kermit to be his new national spokesperson.

Jack Burns, one of the creates of the Muppets TV series, along with Jerry Juhl have constructed a clever screenplay that takes all of the characters that were part of the television series and given each character their own backstory that allows each character to take their own place in Kermit's very special journey to Hollywood. The screenplay, under the guidance of direction James Frawley, allows dozens of muppet characters and dozens of human actors a chance to shine where muppets and human form a delicately balanced cinematic world that provides pretty consistent laughs for the young and young at heart.

The melodic score is provided by Paul Williams (who also appears in the film) and Kenny Ascher, who had just finished working with Barbara Streisand on her remake of A Star is Born. The score includes "Can You Picture That?", Never Before and Never Again", "Movin Right Along", "I'm Going Back", and, of course, the Oscar-nominated "The Rainbow Connection."

If you pay attention, along the way you can also catch Bob Hope playing an ice cream vendor, Richard Pryor as a balloon salesman, Elliott Gould as a beauty contest MC, Madeline Kahn as bar patron, James Coburn as a nightclub owner, Mel Brooks as a mad scientist, and Orson Welles as a movie studio head. It was a little sad to note how many of the human actors featured here are no longer with us, but it didn't do too much to deter from the show this winning comic romp still provides.



It: Chapter 2
Imaginative direction, superb production values, and solid performances notwithstanding, It: Chapter 2 starts off promising, but eventually falters due to the fatal disease of "Sequel-itis", the dreaded cinematic disease where the creators of the first film work tirelessly to bring us something bigger and better, but the overly complex screenplay which attempts to blend previous backstory with new backstory, weighs the film down and makes it go on forever.

The 2019 thriller finds the Losers Club from Derry reunited as Mike, the only member who remained in Derry for the 27 years since the events of the first film, sees a connection between some current Derry tragedies involving children and what happened to the club members all those years ago. As Mike contacts the other members, we are reminded of the pact they made at the end of the first film and the story seems to become a look at the consequences when one member of the club chooses to commit suicide rather than return to Derry as promised.

Stephen Kings original novel has been re-imagined beyond recognition by screenwriter Gary Dauberman who has decided it was not only necessary to rehash events from the first film, but to not only rehash backstory that was covered in the first film, but to create new backstory that is supposed to allegedly provide more insight into why this Pennywise was torturing these children in the first place, but because one of the members of the club commits suicide, it all seems to be irrelevant since the point of the first film was the fact that he group's safety was contingent upon them being together, staying together, and returning whenever "it" did, rendering a lot of what goes on here pointless.

Despite the way the screenplay destroys a lot of the point of the story, director Andy Muschietti is to be applauded for the endless invention he brings to this story, including some startling visuals and unparalleled special effects that found this reviewer spending the majority of the screentime with clenched butt cheeks and jumping from my chair. I did love the methodical set up of the story...watching Mike make the calls and watching the group's reaction to what they remembered and what they didn't was interesting. That first reunion of the group reunited in that Chinese restaurant was something that will be burned in my memory forever because its breezy beginning takes a turn we don't see coming.

The performances are first rate, with standout work from Jessica Chastain as Beverly, James McAvoy as Bill, Jay Ryan as Ben, and especially Bill Hader as Richie (there's even a cameo from Stephen King), but the story's endlessly winded screenplay makes it hard for the viewer to stay completely invested in the overlong and ultimately silly finale, which pretty much spits in the face of everything we've already seen.



One Two Three
The artistry of Billy Wilder again behind the camera and a sparkling performance from legendary James Cagney in his final starring role make a winning combination in a deliciously entertaining 1961 comedy called One Two Three that takes a simple romantic comedy/generation gap comedy and sets it on a political canvas that probablt ruffled some feathers back in '61.

Cagney plays CR McNamara, an executive for Coca-Cola who is working in East Berlin but is trying to get transferred to London as head of all European production when he gets a call from his boss asking him to take in his horny teenage daughter, Scarlett (Pamela Tiffin) for a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks turn into a couple of months and one morning wild child Scarlett shows up at McNamara's office announcing that she has married an East German communist named Otto Ludwig Piffl (Horst Buccholtz), who is basically an east German hippie. McNamara initially tries to get him out of Scarlett's life but when circumstances make that impossible, McNamara decides to do what he can to turn the young radical into son-in-law material.

Once again, Billy Wilder and longtime collaborator IAL Diamond have come up with another slightly complex comedy with a political conscience that never allows the politics to get in the way of the comedy...sort of a theatrical and a lot more intelligent Hogan's Heroes. The story doesn't paint Germans in the most flattering light, but the tongue is so effectively tucked into the cheek here that we don't take it too seriously. Fortunately, this look at American VS European and East Germany VS West Germany never gets in the way of what is a pretty conventional family comedy that looks a little more important than it is because of its setting on turbulent foreign soil.

Sometimes the political jabbing gets to be a bit much, but we never really notice because of the razor sharp performance by Jams Cagney in the title role. Even at this very late stage of his career, Cagney demands complete attention in his creation of this smart, fast-thinking, ambitious central character, clearly a collaboration of the actor and the director. And it goes without saying that the occasional moments that Cagney is offscreen the film screeches to a brief halt, but fortunately those moments are few.

Cagney gets solid support from the lovely Arlene Francis as his long suffering wife and there is a funny supporting turn from Leon Askin, the actor who actually got his 15 minutes a few years later playing General Burkhalter on the above referenced Hogan's Heroes. Tiffin initially grates on the nerves but relaxes into the role but Buccholtz' one-note performance is pretty annoying. There's also a brief appearance from Oscar winner Red Buttons, but it is the magic of Billy Wilder and James Cagney that make this one sparkle. Cagney disappeared from the screen for awhile after this, resurfacing 20 years later for a small role in the 1981 film Ragtime.



One Night at McCool's
A winning cast who seem to be enjoying themselves makes the 2001 comedy One Night at McCool's worth a look despite a convoluted screenplay and some hard to swallow plot contrivances.

McCool's is the name of a seedy bar where a sexy hustler named Jewell (Liv Tyler) forever changes the lives of three men who all meet her at the bar on the same night. Matt Dillon plays Randy, the romantically challenged bartender who lives in his mother's run down house; Carl (Paul Reiser) is Randy's cousin, a married lawyer with kids who witnesses Randy saving Jewell from her alleged abusive boyfriend, Utah (Andrew Dice Clay, billed here under his real name Andrew Silverstein). John Goodman plays Detective Dehling, the police officer who is assigned to the case when Randy agrees to take the rap for Utah's murder, who also finds himself infatuated with Jewell.

There's a whole lot in Stan Seidel's screenplay that the viewer is asked to swallow here. The story initially sets up this Jewell character as dumb as a box of rocks and therefore somewhat sympathetic, which makes her instantaneous manipulation of the Randy character a little hard to swallow, but if that's possible, manipulating a lawyer and a police detective couldn't be too much of a stretch.

Director Harold Zwart, who also directed Agent Cody Banks does show a semblance of style in presenting this twisted black comedy. The initial set up of the story with Randy going to see a hitman (Michael Douglas), Carl seeing a shrink (Reba McIntire), and Dehling seeing a priest (Richard Jenkins) to talk about their addiction to this toxic woman is well executed and I also liked each time the three guys see Jewell for the first time, we get a slo-mo closeup of Jewell and the same music playing behind her, but somewhere around the halfway point, he loses control of what he's doing and interest begins to wane before the spectacular finale, a bloody gun battle with the Village People's "YMCA" blasting on the audio.

Zwart has assembled a terrific cast to pull off this improbable tale who appear completely committed to the nuttiness. Dillon is a charmer as Randy and Reiser is a lot of fun as the arrogant Carol and John Goodman, as he always does, steals every scene he's in. Liv Tyler is properly pouty as Jewell and Michael Douglas makes the most of a thankless role, but this movie never completely comes together and staying with it requires a lot of work from the viewer.



Paris Blues
Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward definitely tried something a little different for their fourth onscreen pairing. 1961's Paris Blues is a dark musical melodrama that quietly examines the passion inside musicians and how nothing or no one can ever become between a real musician and his music.

Ram Bowen (Paul Newman) is a trombone player and sax player Eddie Cook (Sidney Poitier) are American musicians who are living in Paris, convinced this is the only place where they can play the kind of music they want to and make a living at it as well. The guys heads are turned with the arrival a pair of American tourists named Lillian Corning (Joanne Woodward) and Connie Lampson (Diahann Carroll) who are initially drawn to our heroes because of their musical passion, but make the fatal mistake off trying to manipulate the guys into being what they want them to be.

This on the surface simplistic story takes on an air of originality thanks to the inventive atmosphere that director Martin Ritt drape the story in. Ritt creates an intoxicating setting for this story, setting it in the most romantic city in the world and using the inspired decision to film in black and white, which actually makes the City of Lights look just as appealing as Gene Kelly made it look in An American in Paris. The other primary contributor to the atmosphere is some of the most glorious jazz and blues music I have ever heard, under the skillful direction of Duke Ellington, the music, as it did in the 1977 musical New York New York, almost becomes another character on the canvas.

Jack Sher and Irene Kamp's screenplay is an effective look at the delicate ego of the musician and how they clamor for the love and respect for their work and wont accept anything else. The through line of this story comes into focus pretty quickly and never strays...that is the fact that nothing can come between a true musician and his music, not even a woman. These themes are effectively illustrated when an important music publisher asks to see Ram after hearing some of his music and Ram can't accept the fact that the guy doesn't immediately proclaim him a musical genius. Of course, the casting of Poitier and Carroll allows the story to touch on racism, even if the touch is light. We even get a glimpse at a jazz guitarist and good friend of Ram's who seems to be destroying his career because of his addiction to cocaine.

Ritt also gets solid performances from his stars. Newman lights up the screen in a slightly altered version of Hud or Eddie Felson, except that this guy plays trombone (Newman's trombone solos were performed by Murray McEachern) and Woodward, as she always does, brings a texture to the role of Lillian that is not in the screenplay. Poitier's sensitive yet explosive Eddie Cook is an acting class in itself (his sax solos were performed by Paul Gonsalves) and he creates a nice chemistry with Carroll as the slightly manipulative Connie. It's not extraordinary filmmaking but Ritt, his star quartet, and the great music made this one worth investing in.