Gideon58's Reviews

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Q&A
Sidney Lumet, who had an affinity for gritty New York crime dramas like Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, and Prince of the City was slightly less effective with 1990's Q&A, the kind of story that we expect from Lumet, but the overly complex screenplay makes it way longer than it needs to be, despite a fantastic cast working at the top of their game.

Nick Nolte plays Detective Mike Brennan, a dirty New York cop who thinks he's going to get away with murder until an idealistic young ADA named Al Riley (Oscar winner Timothy Hutton) is assigned to the case. Riley begins the case with an open mind and notebook until a single lead leads him down a dangerous path to the inevitable showdown with Brennan,

Lumet also co-wrote the screenplay, which plays out Columbo style...we see the crime committed at the beginning of the movie and the fun for the viewer is supposed to be watching the white hats figure out while the black hats try and cover their tracks. We do get that, but it is blown up to such elephantine scope that viewer patience is definitely challenged. It is a little scary watching all the people Brennan has in his pocket, not to mention the people who threatens to take down with him if he goes.

The introduction of the Mike Brennan character that the NYPD knows is extremely effective. He's outside the office waiting to be questioned about the murder, putting his fellow officers in stitches telling an off color story about an old case, keeping his fellow officers in stitches. Unfortunately, it's not long after this scene that we see Brennan threatening or intimidating most of the officers who were listening to that story.

Nick Nolte's powerhouse work here should have earned him an Oscar nomination. This character is so explosive and unpredictable, never knowing what he's going to do until he actually does it. Especially loved the scene where he threatens a fellow officer played by Luiz Guzman, in front of his son. His cornering of the only eye witness to his crime and his final confrontation with Hutton's character also sizzle.

Hutton effectively underplays as Al Riley, but never allows Nolte to blow him off the screen. The rest of the rock solid supporting cast includes Charles S Dutton, Patrick O'Neal, Armand Assante, Paul Calderon, Dominic Chianese, John Capodice, and Jenny Lumet, the director's daughter. As always, Lumet creates a moody and chilling atmosphere for a compelling story, though I did find myself checking my watch.



Meet Cute
Fans of the films Palm Springs and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind will have a head start with 2022's Meet Cute, a black comedy that explores the legitimacy of trying to alter destiny that initially confuses the viewer, taking him to the cliff, but ultimately copping out.

Sheila (Kaley Cuoco) is a suicidal young woman who walks into a bar one night and makes an uncanny connection with a young man named Gary (Pete Davidson). A connection that is so frighteningly on target that it initially scares the hell out of Gary. Though Gary doesn't believe, we are led to believe that Sheila has been travelling through time in a tanning bed in a nail salon, going back to important events in Gary's and altering said events just enough to turn Gary into the kind of man she wants...or is she doing it for another reason?

The screenplay by Noga Pnueli tries to live up to the film's title as we think we see a couple who seem to be destined to be together. They talk the same, they have the same favorite drink, but what starts off as a overly cute rom com becomes something else that we really don't see coming. Like Gary, the viewer is unsure of what Sheila is telling him, but we see this one evening (and the story does take place in one evening), we see the events of the day alter before we actually see Sheila visiting Gary's past and just when we and Gary begin to believe Sheila, the story shifts back to the opening scene, leading to a change in Gary that doesn't go where it's supposed to go. Why doesn't Gary's acceptance of what Sheila is saying take him back to similar places where Sheila goes?

It's not until the final act that it comes to light that Sheila's motives are very selfish, sucking the little bit of likability out of the character that we've been able to muster because of her almost bullying of Gary. Unfortunately, when Gary finally figures out what's going on, the viewer is deprived of what he learned, making the ending a bit of a cheat.

Alex Lehman's direction does show some imagination and he gets a solid assist from his film editor, but the story never really delivers what it hints at throughout. Pete Davidson and Kaley Cuoco give strong performances, making the disappointment with the story sting even more, because we want a resolution that doesn't really happen.



The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer
A minor classic from Hollywood's golden age, 1947's The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer is a breezy adult comedy that provides solid entertainment thanks to a sophisticated screenplay and sparkling performances from the stars.

The comedy stars Myrna Loy as Margaret Turner, a serious but fair judge who encounters an artist/playboy named Dick Nugent (Cary Grant) in her courtroom who has been charged with starting a brawl in a nightclub, but with no solid evidence, she lets him off with a slap on the wrist. The next day, Nugent gives a lecture at the local high school where Margaret's kid sister, Susan (Shirley Temple), falls in love with him the second she lays eyes on him. She later sneaks into Dick's apartment and when she's found there, Dick is promptly arrested but that does nothing to erase Susan's feelings about the guy. Margaret agrees to have Dick's charges dismissed if he dates Susan under Margaret's supervision, thinking if Susan spends more time with Dick, she'll realize on her own that Dick is inappropriate for her. Of course, Margaret is hiding her attraction to Dick, but it has caught the eye of ADA Chamberlain (Rudy Vallee), who has been harboring his own crush on Margaret.

Sidney Sheldon, who wrote the screenplays for Easter Parade, Annie Get Your Gun, and created the sitcom I Dream of Jeannie won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for this witty story that goes some pretty adult places for 1947. Though if this story were to come to the screen today, there would be a definite "ick" factor that would be hard to ignore. In addition to Margaret and the viewer, Dick also knows that this "relationship" with Susan is inappropriate, but he really doesn't work too hard at discouraging Susan. Margaret's reasoning for pushing them together didn't really ring true either, especially since her attraction to Nugent does quietly surface, though she does a superb job of hiding it. The "ick" factor nagged at me slightly, but it did fade as the story progressed.

It faded because the movie was rich with interesting characters, clever dialogue, and hilarious physical comedy. Margaret and Dick's initial meeting in her courtroom had a sexual tension that couldn't be denied. Loved the convoluted romantic triangle that developed between Dick, Susan, and Susan's boyfriend Jerry too. It reminded me of Birdie, Kim, and Hugo in Bye Bye Birdie. The athletic competition at the fair was a perfect showcase for Grant's often forgotten affinity for physical comedy.

Director Irivng Reis keeps the movie moving at a nice clip and gets terrific performances from his stars. Cary Grant seems to be having a ball in a tailor made role, exuding mad sex apipeal. Myrna Loy gives us a crisp and passionate Judge, willing to forsake her own happiness for the sake of her kid sister. Shirley Temple shines in what was probably the best of her teen roles, at 17, her career was beginning to slip. She would only make six more movies after this one, but she is an absolute delight here, as is Vallee, channeling Ralph Bellamy as the guy who never gets the girl. A delight from start to finish. Grant and Loy were such an engaging screen team they were reunited the following year for Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.



Bullet Train
The director of John Wick scores with 2022's Bullet Train, a thunderous and eye popping melange of violence and black comedy that often defies logic and requires complete attention, but said attention does pay off for the most part.

The setting is contemporary Tokyo aboard a fast moving commuter train where it's revealed that five professional assassins are aboard with what they think are individual missions, but their missions are connected in myriad ways. The primary players are Prince, a female badass who looks like a teenager and uses that look when it's handy; a pair of British brothers named Lemon and Tangerine; Wolf is an intense Mexican looking to avenge his bride's death and Ladybug is a laid back American who has actually been sent to replace another agent who was unavailable. It's also revealed that Ladybug has a past with all the other assassins. Eventually, we learn that this common mission is connected to a briefcase containing 10 million dollars and a villain known as White Death.

David Leitch does an impressive job of deciphering the complex screenplay by Zak Olkewicz that presents a contemporary thriller where exposition is provided throughout the story through the utilization of elaborate flashback sequences that aren't just filler, but connect to all of our players to the story at hand, which moves at a lightning clip and, outside of these flashback sequences, doesn't explain much, especially how all the action takes place aboard this train and for the most of the running time, doesn't disturb the train or the additional passengers/bystanders, though they eventually fade deep into the background without any real explanation and that's OK.

Leitch also manages to brings us an action film of such scope and beauty that never leaves the interior of the train. He also never allows us to forget we're watching a movie, as characters' names are splattered across the screen and stylish camera techniques that provide winks to Guy Richie and Sam Peckinpah that never allow us to look away.

Brad Pitt's deliciously breezy performance as Ladybug quietly anchors the proceedings. His reluctant hero reminded me of Kurt Russell's character in Big Trouble in Little China. Standout work is also provided by Brian Tyree Henry as Lemon, Michael Shannon as White Death, and if you're paying attention you'll catch a roll on the floor funny cameo from Channing Tatum. Exhausting, non-stop action fun that will require multiple viewings.



The Ritz
Despite a veteran in the director's chair and a winning cast, 1976's The Ritz, a silly and somewhat raunchy film version of a play by Terrance McNally, seems stuck in a cinematic purgatory now. It was risky material that 1970's audiences weren't really ready for and it feels terribly dated today.

At the request of his mob boss father, Carmine Vespucci (Jerry Stiller) puts a contract out on his brother-in-law, Gaetono Proclo (Jack Weston). Obviously fearing for his life, Gaetano jumps in a cab and asks the driver to take him someplace where he is guaranteed not to be found by anyone. The cab driver takes him to the title establishment, which is really a gay bathhouse. Carmine learns where Gaetano is and sends a private detective with a very high voice (Treat Williams) to the bathhouse but he doesn't recognize Gaetano because he's wearing a hideous black wig. Among the supporting players involved in the story are a second rate singer named Googie Gomez (Rita Moreno) and a flamboyant queen named Chris (F. Murray Abraham).

The stage version of this opened on Broadway in January of 1975 and ran for almost a year, with Stiller, Weston, Moreno, and Abraham originating the roles they play in the movie. This film has been on my watchlist for decades because I love Rita Moreno and I remember her winning a Tony Award for the stage version. Imagine my surprise as I viewed this film and found her character to be peripheral to the primary action. There's a running joke throughout the film that everyone thinks she's a drag queen and the thick accent Moreno employs for the role seems to be in direct conflict with the kind of roles she fought tooth and nail not to play when she first came to Hollywood.

Of course, the material is dated because the gay bathhouse is a thing of the past. If you're really curious, google it, but the bathhouse depicted in this film is pretty cleaned up and hardly realistic, but I'm sure director Richard Lester was forced to clean up the show as much as possible to get it made. The film is rich with offensive gay and Italian stereotypes that would never make it to the screen today. And I don't if it was Lester or McNally, but the Michael Brick character with the high voice...did not find that funny, just kind of distracting.

Lester does display a definite affinity for slapstick and gets winning performances from the cast, most of whom came from the stage version. Jerry Stiller and Jack Weston are funny as hell and Kaye Ballard makes the most of her thankless role as Gaetano's wife. Moreno stopped the show with her take on "Everything's Coming Up Roses", but truthfully, it's future Oscar winner F Murray Abraham who walks off with this movie as the flashy fairy Chris. Fans of Amadeus might want to check this one out.

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Blonde
Possibly the most controversial film of 2022, Blonde is a pretentious, overblown, confusing, and often ugly look at the iconic Marilyn Monroe that attempts to document her life and career, look at her inner demons, and re-imagine her life, but doesn't succeed at any of it.

The film starts off, as expected with a look at her troubled childhood with her mentally ill mother, but then illogical jumps back and forth through various events in her life trying to provide a peek into the ambition that drove her, the insecurities that stifled her and then creates entirely fictional aspects of her life with no discernible motive, except to possibly provide some insight into the inner demons that eventually destroyed the actress.

It's important to know that the screenplay for this film is actually based on a novel by Joyce Carol Oates, which I guess is supposed to legitimize some of the outrageous places that this film goes. It's like Oates wanted to create a fictional character based on Marilyn, but that's not what she does here. She and director and co-screenwriter Andrew Dominick have inserted fictional elements into Marilyn's life that allegedly are supposed to make us understand the tragic cinematic idol. but most of these elements just shock, repel and confuse the viewer.

The underlying theme of the screenplay seems to be based on two things: the father that she never met and her inability to have a baby. The story drives this home with a creepy narration by Marilyn's father that implies he plans to see Marilyn someday while simultaneously implying that he is watching everything she does. This is further evidenced in her referring to both Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller as "Daddy." The images of genuine fetuses floating in and out of her subconscious melded with images of Marilyn in an operating room with her legs in stirrups where we can't tell if she's delivering a baby or having an abortion. And an imaginary romance with the sons of Charles Chaplin and Edward G. Robinson comes out of nowhere and adds nothing to the stry.

For some reason, Dominick and Oates felt the need to provide anonymity for some the characters in the story. DiMaggio is billed as "The Ex-Athlete" , Miller as "The Playwright", and JFK as "The President". Yet, after the scene showing Marilyn's first date with Miller, we're shown a big movie card stating "Arthur Miller and Marilyn Monroe to Marry." And the only word that I can use to describe Marilyn's encounter with JFK is disgusting, clearly a piece of fiction created by Oates and Dominick.

There were a couple of moments in the film that actually seemed to come from Marilyn's life that I really enjoyed. There's a brief but brilliant little scene with Marilyn on the phone with her agent discussing the terms of her accepting Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and I LOVED the recreation of the original theatrical trailer for Niagara as well. I wish the care put into these scenes had been put into the entire film.

Director Andrew Dominick (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) puts flawless attention into the look of the film, employing first rate production values, though the jarring switches from color to B&W photography didn't really make sense. Ana De Armas offers the strongest performance of her career as Marilyn and I also loved Oscar winner Adrien Brody as Arthur Miller. Mention should also be made of an Oscar-worthy turn from Julianne Nicholson as Marilyn's mother, Gladys, but this film is just too ugly to work as fiction and as a tribute to its subject, it just seems to spit in her face.



The Girl Can't Help it
A few years after he appeared with Marilyn Monroe in the classic The Seven Year Itch, Tom Ewell was paired with another blonde bombshell named Jayne Mansfield in a silly but enjoyable 1956 comedy called The Girl Can't Help it, whose plot bears more than a passing resemblance to another 50's classic starring yet another 1950's blonde bombshell.

Ewell plays Tom Miller, an out of work press agent who is hired by a former gangster named named Fats Murdock (Oscar winner Edmund O'Brien) to turn his ditzy mistress into a singing star, despite the fact that she has no desire for a career in show business.

This film is my first exposure to Mansfield, who was being groomed to be the next Marilyn Monroe, though she never reached the level of fame that Monroe did and watching this film offers some clues. Mansfield looked just as incredible spread across a 40 foot screen as Monroe did, but she really didn't have any kind of real gift at acting nor did she seem to care. Marilyn had the desire to do serious work on the screen, but watching Mansfield in this completely thankless role, Mansfield wasn't really interested in doing anything with any substance because this role is completely devoid of same.

The screenplay is co-authored by the director Frank Tashlin and Herbert Baker and is based on a novel by Garson Kanin, who authored the 1950 Judy Holliday comedy Born Yesterday. Once again, we have a gangster forcing someone else to turn his girlfriend into something he can live with, whether the guy wants to do it or and finds himself falling for the girl in the process. The predictability factor of the story is almost overshadowed by Mansfield's obvious physical assets.

There's also a lot of screentime devoted to some of the top musical acts of 1956. The film features "Be-Bop-a-Lula" by Gene Vincent, "Rock Around the Rock Pile" by Ray Anthony, "Cry Me a River" by Julie London (who is featured in a terrific fantasy sequence), "Blue Monday" by Fats Domino, and "She's Got it" by Little Richard. Several of the songs featured in the score were written by Bobby Troup, who was married to London.

Mansfield works very hard at making this pointless role worth caring about but Ewell is just as much fun here as he was in The Seven Year Itch. O'Brien grates on the nerves, but there's enough fun going on here to let it slide.



The Girl Can't Help it
This film is my first exposure to Mansfield...
Count me as a Jayne Mansfield fan. I've seen a lot of her movies and sometimes they are uneven and she's stuck in the faux Marilyn Monroe role, but not always. I loved The Girl Can't Help for it's fun and music! OMG that was the best 50s pop music movie I've seen. I read The Beatles use to watch this movie over and over just for the songs.

Was that the first Jayne Mansfield movie you've saw? I highly recommend The Burglar (1957) for a role where Mansfield shows that she can act and it's a fine movie too, with one of my favorite actors Dan Duryea.



That was my first Jayne Mansfield movie....I'm also looking forward to watching something called Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? is a good one, very creative title credits. Tony Randall is great in it.



Mike Epps: Indiana Mike
Netflix followed Mike Epps back to his hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana for a 2022 comedy special called Indiana Mike that was the longest 58 minutes of my life.

Something that happens with just about every standup comedian is, at some point, they make a point of returning to their hometown so they can pretend to show how much they haven't changed, when in reality, they are just back to gloat about what big stars they have become and, sadly that's what happens here.

Sharply dressed in a rust colored leather suit and black shirt, Epps hit the stage and spent a good fifteen minutes introducing people in the audience, including the Mayor of Indianapolis and the attorney who got Epps out of jail in 1992. This was probably a lot of fun for the locals than it was for those of us who don't happen to live in Indianapolis. There was so much material, and I use that word loosely, based on people and places very specific to Indianapolis that had this audience rolling in the aisles but just had me stifling yawns.

There were scattered moments here and there where he allowed us to actually forget about Indianapolis for a minute. I did enjoy the routine about owing money to a drug dealer and he does do the most on target impression of an elderly black woman that I have ever seen a standup do. He took some potshots at Bill Cosby that definitely got a mixed reaction from the audience but his impression of Cosby dancing during the opening credits of his sitcom was on the money.

Don't get me wrong, Mike Epps is a funny guy, evidenced in the last two specials I saw of his years ago and his appearances in the Friday movies, but he just completely leans on the fact that he's back in his hometown as an excuse for the laziness of this material. And don't even get me started when during the closing credits, we learn that the Mayor declared it Mike Epps Day and a street in the city was named after him. Longest 58 minutes of my life.



Li'l Abner
Al Capp's classic comic strip characters come vividly to life in 1959's Li'l Abner, the colorful and exuberant film version of the Broadway show based on the comic strip that works thanks to a colorful supporting cast, a terrific score from the composers of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and some outstanding production numbers.

The ladies of Dogpatch are excited because the annual Sadie Hawkins race is approaching. This is when the female citizens literally chase the men around town and whoever they actually catch, they get to marry. The men have the option of running for their lives or letting themselves be caught. Marryin' Sam (Stubby Kaye), the local wedding maker who charges different prices for different weddings can't wait but is distressed when Li'l Abner (Peter Palmer) is now undecided about whether he wants to be caught on purpose by longtime girlfriend Daisy Mae (Leslie Parrish).

Before the race actually begins, the citizens of Dogpatch learn that the government plans to drop a bomb on their town unless the town is deemed necessary. Abner saves the day with a potion that he and his mother, Mammy Yokum (Billie Hayes) concoct that makes men big and strong like him. Abner and Marryin Sam travel to Washington where an unscrupulous politician (Howard St John) and his buxom, dim-witted mistress (Stella Stevens) scheme to take Abner's potion away from.

The Broadway musical that this film is based on opened in July of 1957 and ran a little over a year, with Palmer, Kaye, Joe E Marks, William Lanteau, and Julie Newmar originating the roles they reprise in this film. This is classic musical comedy at its best, thanks primarily to a terrific song score by Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul, which includes "A Typical Day", "Unneccessary Town", "The Country's in the Best of Hands", "Namely You", and "Put em Back".

There are two spectacular dance numbers, "Jubilation T Cornpone" and the Sadie Hawkins Ballet, where Michael Kidd's athletic Broadway choreography has been faithfully retained to the screen by Dee Dee Wood, who would later co-choreograph Mary Poppins. I say "faithully" because anyone who has seen his work in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers will recognize his style. There's even a supporting character named Lonesome Polecat.

Though he has a gorgeous voice and blue eyes you could get lost in, Palmer is kind of one note as Abner, as is Parrish as Daisy, who has replaced Broadway Daisy Edie Adams (Her singing is dubbed by Imogene Lynn). Stubby Kaye, though best know for Guys and Dolls, gets a much bigger showcase for his talent here and Billie Hayes is a lot of fun as Mammy Yokum, showing a glimpse of the character she is most famous for...Witchiepoo on HR Pufnstuf. Stella Stevens steals every scene she's in and the "Put em Back" number features two future television stars: the late Valerie Harper (Rhoda) and Beth Howland (Alice). Didn't really get Julie Newmar's role as Stupefyin' Jones though. The final act takes a little too long to wrap up, but this musical was a lot more fun than expected.



The Good House
A superb performance from three time Oscar nominee Sigourney Weaver makes a somewhat cliched character study/melodrama from 2021 called The Good House worth a look.

Weaver plays Hildy Good, a divorced, alcoholic real estate agent with grown daughters, who resides in a quaint New England seaside community. Between her failing business and her struggle to stay sober, Hildy is headed toward a cliff that not even a reconnection with an ex (Oscar winner Kevin Kline) can prevent.

Three writers contributed to the screenplay that starts off with a storytelling technique that really didn't fit the story that comes to light. As the film begins, Hildy is not only serving as her story's narrator, but is speaking directly to the camera. This is a storytelling technique that seems more suited to comedy, like Ferris Bueller's Day Off, but confuses the viewer, thinking we're going to get a much lighter story than we do. A little past the halfway point of the film, Hildy stops talking to the camera, which made the rest of the story a little easier to bear for some reason. It was odd when Hildy interrupts an intervention by her family to talk to the audience.

The story does have an element of predictability due to the amount of screentime spent in establishing the fact that Hildy is an alcoholic. Unfortunately, as the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Hildy's battle with sobriety is a losing one and we're just waiting to see how it's going to manifest itself for this particular movie alcoholic, who makes it clear from the beginning that she doesn't think she has a problem. But what made this movie watchable was the vivid and delicious performance from Weaver that entertains with minimum scenery chewing that makes the viewer care about what happens to the character.

The film features lovely New England scenery and other solid production values, but it's the performances that keep the viewer interested. Weaver receives solid support from Kline, who brings more to the role than the screenplay does and from David Rasche as her ex-husband, Molly Brown and Rebecca Henderson as her daughters, and Kathryn Erbe as a rival real estate agent. There are mixed messages about alcoholism and it gets overly melodramatic in the third act, but Weaver makes it a pretty smooth ride.



Going in Style (1979)
Six years before putting himself on the map officially by directing Beverly Hills Cop, Martin Brest scored writing and directing a gem from 1979 called Going in Style, a clever and bittersweet comedy that offers three terrific lead performances and a story that takes some moves that we definitely don't see coming.

Joe (George Burns), Al (Art Carney), and Willie (Lee Strasberg) are three senior citizens who live together to save money, not only struggling to survive, but bored with their humdrum existence. One day. Joe suggests to his buddies that they rob a bank. Al and Willie are initially hesitant until Joe explains that if they get away with it, they will be set for life and if they don't, they'll be getting free room and board in jail.

Brest took a real risk here centering a comedy around three characters who are well into their 70's, an idea that Brest probably had to shop around to a few studios before finding a studio to take a chance on it. The chance paid off in spades with this terrific crime comedy that is also a timely look at the aging population in this country and how they are treated. It's interesting that this unlikely trio takes this leap since they are not starving or in danger of losing their home. The main reason they are doing this seems to be out of boredom.

Brest's screenplay nicely details the way Joe and his buddies plan this crime, with Joe taking the lead, thinking not only of what they need and how to execute, but what to do if any part of their plan goes wrong. It was also fun watching Willie's initial reluctance to do this at all but as Joe and Al continue to plan, he finally starts to come around. America's treatment of the elderly comes into the story when our trio walks into the bank for the first time and the reaction they get from everyone present.

Brest's direction and screenplay work seamlessly, giving this story a real heart and making us really care about these three guys. There is initial confusion when the actual robbery takes place before the halfway point in the film and the viewer can't help but wonder where the film is going to go from there. The film does sag a bit near the halfway point but bounces back for a solid finale, including an arrest scene, brilliantly staged by Brest, that added half a bag of popcorn to my rating. Also loved the scene where the guys were trying to match their guns to the bullets. Too funny.

Art Carney had just stolen an Oscar from Al Pacino and George Burns had just stolen one from Brad Dourif, so there casting here was no surprise, with Burns offering the strongest performances of his career, easily trumping his work in The Sunshine Boys, but for this reviewer, the real scene stealer was veteran acting teacher Lee Strasberg as Willie. Strasberg could say more with a look than a lot of actors could with five pages of dialogue. Loved the scene where he tells Carney about the dream he had the night before the robbery. This comedy works thanks to the professionalism in front of and behind the camera. The film was remade in 2017 with Michael Caine, Alan Arkin, and Morgan Freeman.



The Greatest Beer Run Ever
From the director of the Oscar winning Green Book comes 2022's The Greatest Beer Run Ever, another one of those outrageous and unbelievable stories that it has to have actually happened. And don't be fooled by the title which implies a raunchy college comedy...this is an often funny, often deeply moving look at one of the most turbulent and ugly periods in American history.

It's 1967 in an upper New York neighborhood called Inwood where we meet Chickie Donaghue, an aimless drifter who hasn't done much since being rejected by the police academy except drinking with his buddies all night and sleeping every day until three in the afternoon. Chickie is very disillusioned by the Vietnam war but he is a loyal American who supports the war and one night, during a drunken stupor at the local watering hole, he announces to everybody that he is going to travel to Vietnam and bring all of his childhood buddies who are fighting over there a beer, even one friend who has just been announced MIA.

Oscar winning director and co-screenwriter Peter Ferrelly proves that his work on Green Book was not a one trick pony. He provides us another look at the 1960's that was just as, if not more disturbing than his look at racism in Green Book. The screenplay is filled with balanced passion about the senselessness and necessity of this war and the blind support from both camps. Although Chickie regrets his announcement an hour after he makes it, it's all over town in minutes and he has no choice but to go. Was also impressed that Chickie's greatest danger in the story didn't come from Vietnam, but from the CIA. Chickie's growth as a man is the best thing about this story.

Ferrelly's look at this world-changing war was eye-opening and often quite uncompromising. Love one of the first places we see Chickie enter is an elegant bar that, though Chickie is assured that it's not far from the front lines, it is safe. It's a little hard to believe that Chickie actually does locate most of his buddies or that he could throw a case of beer in a gym bag and get it all the way to Vietnam no questions asked anywhere. I was impressed that when he had his individual reunions with his childhood buddies, none of them played out exactly the same, though they all assured Chickie that he was crazy to do this and was advised to go home immediately.

Ferrelly creates some startling cinematic pictures on the Vietnamese landscape. That shot of Chickie boarding a plane where bodies were being taken off and that Vietnamese prisoner of war meeting his death while the Association's "Cherish" played in the background are burned in my memory forever. Zac Efron may have finally succeeded in burying his pretty boy image with his rich performance as Chickie that I wouldn't be surprised if it gained him some Oscar buzz. Russell Crowe has settled comfortably into this second phase of his career playing a journalist instrumental in helping Chickie get home. Also liked Jake Picking as Duggan, Matt Cook as Lt Habershaw, Will Ropp as Kevin McLoone, and Kevin K. Tran as Oklahoma. Bill Murray also makes the most of a glorified cameo as a bartender named The Colonel. It might be slightly longer than it needed to be, but then again, so was the Vietnam war.



Hocus Pocus
With Halloween approaching and a sequel hitting the theaters, I thought it was time to check out the original 1993 Hocus Pocus, a big budget Disney Halloween spectacle that failed to engage this reviewer thanks to a paper thin screenplay rampant with predictability and overbaked direction from the man behind the High School Musical franchise.

It's 1993 in Salem Massachusetts where we meet Max, an unhappy teen who has just moved to Salem, who lights a magic candle in an abandoned house and releases the spirits of three witches who were executed some 300 years ago and the only way they can stay alive is by killing all of the children in Salem before the sun comes up.

The screenplay by Neil Cuthbert (Mystery Men) is about as corny and cliched as they come. The opening exposition introducing the viewer to Max will be all too familiar to anyone who has seen The Karate Kid, fortunately, it doesn't go on too long. Sadly, there were other things that this reviewer had a hard time letting slide. OK, we're in Salem, Mass , where the history of witches is legend, but 300 years later, Max, his little sister, and his would be girlfriend are able to walk into a house where three witches lived without a key or a secret combination or something, no lock on the front gate, nothing? Seriously? And once the witches reveal themselves and their mission, what made Max think that stealing their book of magic spells with a creepy eye on the front was a good idea? And when head witch Winifred finally has the attention of most of the population at a Halloween dance, the logical move is a musical number?

In addition to the story, the characters are weakly developed as well. Winifred is given some substance in the story, but her sisters, Sarah and Mary, are given none and serve as nothing but silly comic relief. Mary can smell children and Sarah just seems to be some witchly version of a pedophile who don't have a brain between them. And the witches' pursuit of these kids something akin to one of those roadrunner cartoons where Wyle E Coyote gets within a hair's breath of capturing the roadrunner before running into a brick wall or going off a cliff. It was hard to accept that three alleged witches had so much trouble dispatching of three children and don't even get me started on the Children of the Corn finale.

Kenny Ortega's direction is manic and undisciplined, requiring a little more attention to production values, especially the often cheesy visual effects, which, with this kind of story, should have been flawless. Bette Midler is quite entertaining as Winifred and Omri Katz, whose biggest credit prior to this film was playing Larry Hagman and Linda Gray's son on Dallas, does bring some charm to Max, but this film is forgettable and what would prompt a sequel 29 years later is beyond comprehension.



Clerks III
In this current trend of bringing long dormant movie franchises back to life, Kevin Smith and his zany rep company return after 18 years for Clerks III, a look at Dante and Randal, still running the Quick Stop convenience store after all these years. And I can't believe I'm saying this, but this film is actually the strongest of the three.

In this film Randal (Jeff Anderson) has a heart attack, which forces him to re-examine his life, motivating him to write and direct a movie about his life, which turns out to be the first movie in the franchise. Unfortunately, Randal's ego gets completely out of control, driving everyone crazy, especially his best friend and co-worker, Dante (Brian O'Halloran).

It should be noted that this review is coming from someone who barely tolerated the first film and found the second one to be passable entertainment. These films were so forgettable to me that I never reviewed them, which makes it all the stranger that I had any interest in watching this film and enjoy it as much as I did? Really didn't see that coming.

Rest assured that Kevin Smith has not been sitting on his hands for the last 18 years, but this is the second official sequel to Clerks and I liked the fact that Smith's screenplay sort of breaks the 4th wall and eventually brings us back to the first film. The other thing I loved about Smith's screenplay that a lot of these other recently revived franchises didn't address is the fact that these characters are 18 years older and still doing the exact same thing they were doing 18 years ago.

The idea of these two guys making a movie who know nothing about making a movie went all the ways we expect it to, but Smith manages to bring his own brand of money to the proceedings. Randal's insistence that it was his movie but Dante had to find the financing was a bit that never got old. Loved the auditions for the movie, which included cameos by Ben Affleck, Ethan Supplee, Danny Trejo, Fred Armisen, Melissa Benoist, and Anthony Michael Hall. Of course, the auditions become moot to prepare for the finished movie and we get a couple of unexpected surprises before that reveal that were unexpected. Also LOVED a breaking of the 4th wall I didn't see coming as Kevin Smith finally gave Silent Bob a voice.

Smith provides some interesting camerawork and the film is backed by a wonderful song score that frames the movie perfectly. Anderson and O'Halloran are still a well-oiled machine as are Smith and Jason Mewes as Silent Bob and the maniacal Jay. Shout outs to Amy Sedaris as Randal's doctor and Justin Long as a male nurse as well. Rosario Dawson is even allowed to appear as the ghost of her character in the second film. Fans of the franchise will find a lot to laugh at here.



Wait for Your Laugh
She is perhaps best known for her role as Sally Rogers on The Dick Van Dyke Show, but Rose Marie had an amazing show business career that started in the 1920's and lasted close to 90 years. The comedy icon is lovingly showcased in a 2017 documentary called Wait for Your Laugh, where I learned more about the subject that I didn't know than any other celebrity documentary I've ever seen.

Narrated by Peter Marshall of The Hollywood Squares, the documentary opens introducing the viewer to "Baby Rose Marie", who began her vaudeville career at the age of 4. belting out tunes with pipes comparable to Judy Garland, with twice the stage presence of Shirley Temple. Before she entered her teenage years, she was the opening act at movie theaters all over the country. We are treated to shots of actual movie marquees where, right under the title of the movie, a stage show was advertised starring Rose Marie.

Much to my surprise, the star reveals that a lot of her career was sponsored by well known gangsters like Al Capone, Joe Fishcetti. and Bugsy Siegel. One of her earliest stage appearances found her pulled onstage by Evelyn Nesbit, who was one of the subjects of the 1981 Milo Foreman film Ragtime. Marie is also revealed to be one of the first performers booked in Las Vegas, when the famous strip consisted of only four casinos.

This film is an interesting melange of several documentary techniques. In addition to detailed narration from the star herself, we are treated to actual footage of her performing on vaudeville and Vegas stages, her stories being acted out by actors playing Capone and Nesbit, backstage color footage of her in rehearsals for The Dick Van Dyke Show and her long marriage to a trumpet player named Bobby Guy, who was a BFF of Jerry Lewis and played in Bing Crosby's orchestra. Despite a rough start, she and Guy were married in 1946 and remained together until his death in 1964.

For a woman well into her 90's, Rose Marie's memory of her amazing career was quite clear (she died shortly after the release of this film) and there is an air of arrogance as she discusses her career, which should have gone the way of Garland and Temple, but didn't for some reason. It's also revealed that she was the first female hired to host a game show, but the quiz show scandal around 21 killed that. The only real resentments about her career seem to be centered around a Broadway show and movie she did with Phil Silvers called Top Banana and her role on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Apparently, she thought her role on the show was going to be what Tina Louise thought her role on Gilligan's Island was going to be. Commentary is also provided by Dick Van Dyke, Carl Reiner, Tim Conway, television writer Dan Harmon, and Rose Marie's daughter, Georgiana. A one of a kind documentary on a one of a kind performer.



Keeper of the Flame
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn followed up their smash first film together, Woman of the Year with Keeper of the Flame, an overheated 1942 melodrama centered around politics and patriotism that fails to engage due to a somewhat predictable story that moves at a snail's pace, despite being extremely well-acted by an interesting cast.

As the story opens, an international war hero named Robert Forrest has died after driving his car off a bridge. Reporters from all over the country come to the Forrest estate to find out what happened, including Steven O'Malley (Tracy), an acclaimed war correspondent who has returned from Germany to learn the truth about what happened to a man he was in awe of. O'Malley decides the only way to learn the truth is by talking to Forrest's widow, Christine (Hepburn), who initially balks at the idea of talking to a reporter about her husband, but is persuaded that it's something she must do.

The screenplay by Oscar winner Donald Ogden Stewart (The Philadelphia Story) is based on a novel by IAR Wiley, that succeeds at keeping the Robert Forrest character at the center of the story, but is not quite as effective in setting up suspense regarding the possibility that Forrest is not the man the world thought him to be. It becomes obvious pretty early on here what's going on and Stewart attempts to throw the viewer off the scent by setting us up with one red herring after another, all conveniently popping up whenever it feels like the truth is bubbling to the cinematic surface too quickly.

I've now seen eight of the nine films Tracy and Hepburn made together, this is easily the weakest of the ones I've seen, even with a proven guiding force like George Cukor in the director's chair. After the breezy and magical romantic chemistry Tracy and Hepburn created in Woman of the Year, this just wasn't what movie audiences wanted from Tracy and Hepburn...opponents in the cover-up of a political conspiracy. Long before Doris Day and Rock Hudson perfected it in Pillow Talk, Tracy and Hepburn were the original purveyors of the "will they or won't thing" screen romance where the leads are fighting the romantic sparks for the entire running time. MGM spent a lot of time producing musicals that were a nod to the war effort and this seemed to be a dramatic nod to same that, despite good intentions, did not show off Tracy and Hepburn to their best advantage.

Tracy and especially Hepburn do solid work here, but the story is not worthy of them. Richard Whorf, Forrest Tucker, and Stephen McNally make the most of their supporting roles though. And there is some welcome comic relief from Audrey Christie as a reporter with the hots for Tracy and Percy Kilbride as a philosophical cab driver. Kilbride would have his fifteen minutes about a decade later creating the role of Pa Kettle. Even hardcore Hepburn fans will have trouble getting through this one.



Do Revenge
Netflix provided a serious budget for 2022's Do Revenge, a lavishly mounted, well acted, and edgy black comedy that is basically Mean Girls meets Strangers on a Train, with just a dash of Clueless that had this reviewer going until a third act plot twist that made no sense.

Drea is a bitchy campus queen bee who's junior year is ruined when her self-absorbed boyfriend, Max, leaks a sex tape starring her. Eleanor is a lonely lesbian social outcast who is destroyed when a girl named Carissa, who she was crushing on, tells the whole school that Eleanor came on to her. Of course, Drea and Eleanor cross paths, share stories, decide revenge is the answer and the only way to assure that they get away with it is that Eleanor go after Max and Drea go after Carissa.

Director and screenwriter Jennifer Kaytin Robsinson has provided a story that is hardly original, so she decides to disguise its lack of imagination with a lot of overly clever dialogue, stylish camera work, and some truly impressive production values that almost make the viewer forget that everything that goes on here actually came from other better movies.

The setting is another one of those glitzy California high schools where kids are never observed studying or going to class but by the end of the movie, they have all gotten acceptance letters from Ivy League schools. As a matter of fact, the climax of the film actually takes place at what is called an admissions party where to get in, you have to turn in your cell phone and show your Ivy League school acceptance letter. There is some entertainment value in watching Drea and Eleanor's plan play out, but a surprise plot twist at the beginning of the final act took me out of the story, not to mention this plan produced a lot more collateral damage than it should have.

Robinson does get some first rate performances from a largely unknown cast, with standout work from Camila Mendes as Drea, Austin Abrams as the smarmy Max, and especially Maya Hawke as the complex Eleanor. There's also an impressive unbilled turn from Sarah Michelle Gellar as the school's headmaster. It's a little longer than it needed to be and the climactic plot twist doesn't really work, but there is some entertainment value here.