Gideon58's Reviews

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A Wedding
A severely underrated and nearly forgotten gem from the resume of legendary director Robert Altman is a 1978 film called A Wedding, a simultaneously voyeuristic and bombastic look at an unconventional wedding and its repercussions, which adheres to Altman's accustomed free form style of direction, but it's really hard to tell, thanks to a spectacular ensemble cast.

The film opens during the wedding ceremony of young Muffin Brenner to Dino Corelli, Muffin is the daughter of a truck driving head of a large WASP family and Dino is the heir apparent of an equally large Italian family who are clearly mob connected. As the ceremony concludes, the story unfolds into a multitude of minidramas that are attempted to be kept under wraps in order to preserve the sanctity of the day. Of course, everything does bubble to the surface, with two particular stories taking center stage: Nettie Sloan, the elderly matriarch of the Corelli clan has passed away just as the reception begins and that the groom has gotten his sister-in-law, Buffy, pregnant.

As Altman fans would expect, this story, the brainchild of Altman and actor John Considine (who also appears as the Corelli head of security) is painted on a large canvas and it is pretty much impossible to track every single character that hits the screen, but it is made pretty clear which characters are part of the bride's family and which a part of the groom's and as the film progresses, that's pretty much all we need to know.

Altman's presentation of the story is a little more deliberate than a lot of his films and establishes an atmosphere of tension immediately as we see the ceremony begin and guests arriving and being seated. Our first clue to what we are about to witness is that no one arriving for this wedding seems to be particularly happy about this union and the audience is immediately wondering why. Other events contributing to the madness are the arrival of ex-suitors of the bride and groom who make it clear they still have feelings for them and a member of the Corelli wedding party declaring his love for Tulip Brenner, the mother of the bride.

As with a lot of Altman's work, a lot of the dialogue in the film is unscripted but the brilliant thing about that is that it is really difficult to tell. This was one of Altman's gifts a director though...making improvisation appear completely scripted.

A lot of this works because of the incredible cast Altman has assembled for this bizarre story including Carol Burnett as Tulip, Nina Van Pallandt as the alcoholic mother of the groom, Vittorio Gassmann as the father of the groom, Paul Dooley as the father of the bride, and Mia Farrow as the pregnant sister-in-law and as various other members of the wedding party, Dina Merrill, Peggy Ann Garner, Pat McCormick, Marta Heflin, Pam Dawber, and a standout turn from Howard Duff as the Corelli family physician, a role similar to Robert Preston's role in the Blake Edwards film S.O.B.. The film provides surprises right up until the closing credits and provides as many shocks as it does giggles.



Compromising Positions
1985's Compromising Positions is a black comedy that is told with perhaps a little too straight a face, but sporadic entertainment is provided thanks to solid direction and a winning cast.

A lecherous Long Island dentist named Bruce Fleckstein, who was having affairs with most of his female patients is found murdered. Judith Singer, a former investigative reporter turned bored housewife, who had just begun seeing Fleckstein as a patient, is fascinated by this murder and begins her own investigation, despite the strong objections of her sexist husband and a handsome police detective assigned to the case, who instead of keeping Judith out of the investigation decides to work with her and, of course, finds himself attracted to the woman.

The basic concept of Susan Isaac's screenplay, adapted from her own novel, is a strong one, but the black comedy premise that established in the opening scenes of the slimy dentist in action, eventually degenerate into a story that should have had more of a farcical feel to it, than the straight up murder mystery that materializes in front of the viewer. Judith Singer should have been the realistic center behind more over-the-top, almost cartoonish characters in the style of a Mel Brooks farce, instead of the grade Z Woody Allen sensibility that Isaacs attempts to establish.

Those opening scenes of Fleckstein are so much fun but as the film progresses, the only thing for the viewer to hang onto is the Judith Singer character, who provides the alleged black comedy the emotional center it deserves. The coming out of the Judith character as her life becomes recharged because of this murder is a joy to watch, something akin to the transition that the Joan Wilder character goes through in Romancing the Stone. We love the Judith character so much that we try to overlook the fact that no real police officer would actually involve a civilian in an actual murder investigation or that he wouldn't be taken off the case completely when his attraction to Judith comes to light.

Director Frank Perry (Mommie Dearest) provides some colorful directorial flourish to the proceedings, with a grand assist from a terrific cast. Oscar winner Susan Sarandon offers a deliciously layered performance as Judith Singer and she creates a genuine chemistry with the late Raul Julia as the sexy police detective. Edward Herrmann gives another of his slimy turns as Judith's nasty husband, the kind of role Herrmann had a patent on in the 70's and 80's. Deborah Rush, Josh Mostel, Anne deSalvo, and especially Judith Ivey also shine in supporting roles. And Joe Mantegna makes the most of his opening moments as the freaky Dr. Fleckstein. If the screenplay had been of a lighter tone and had been more of a farce than the standard murder mystery it becomes, this could have been more than passable entertainment, but Sarandon and company make it worth s look.



Thunder Force
Melissa McCarthy and hubby Ben Falcone have come up with their own twisted variation of the Marvel comic book movie with a big budget action adventure called Thunder Force, which despite McCarthy's proven ability to command the movie screen, still isn't what it could have been thanks to a sketchy screenplay and some questionable casting.

McCarthy plays Lydia, a fork lift operator and Chicago Cubs fan who is reunited with her childhood BFF, Emily (Oscar winner Octavia Spencer),a brilliant scientist who has been working forever on a formula to turn herself into a superhero in order to defeat a group of supervillains called The Miscreants, led by the King (Bobby Cannavale), who is running for the Mayor of Chicago. Lydia arrives at Emily's offices to persuade her to attend their high school reunion and stumbles into one of Emily's testing rooms, which begins injecting Lydia with superhuman strength, so Emily decides to begin treatments giving her the power of invisibility and together they become the title team, determined to bring down the mighty Miscreants.

Director and screenwriter Falcone has constructed an affectionate wink to the Marvel comic book genre that finds its nucleus in a childhood friendship. Falcone begins the film showing Lydia and Emily as children, establishing their relationship and initially it seems to go on a little too long, but before the credits roll, just about everything that was addressed during the scenes of the heroines as kids gets play later on in the story. Falcone also includes a clever recurring bit about how the gals costumes begin to get ripe, from being worn all the time, not to mention the ladies difficulty squeezing into their version of the Batmobile.

There were two main problems with this film that I couldn't get past. First of all, the superpowers possessed by these miscreants seemed ions ahead of Thunder Force and, realistically, there's no way these two women could have defeated the Miscreants armed with only super strength and invisibility. The other big problem here is the casting of Spencer as Emily...Spencer is a proven commodity on the screen, but her performance is a little one-note here, not in step with the farcical cartoonish villains presented and I never bought her as this "Wyle E Coyote, Super Genius" she was supposed to be.

As always, McCarthy delivers the laughs, especially in the training scenes as do Bobby Cannavale as the King and Jason Bateman as the crab. Oscar winner Melissa Leo is wasted as one of Emily's employees, she deserves better. Falcone applies first rate production values to the story, with a shot out to art direction, film editing, and visual effects, but they don't make up for the deficiencies and inconsistencies in the story.



Born to Dance (1936)
Dancing dynamo Eleanor Powell is center stage for 1936's Born to Dance, an early entertaining entry from MGM worth checking out because of Powell and a terrific Cole Porter score.

Powell plays Nora, an aspiring dancer who comes to New York looking for stardom on Broadway who falls instantly in love with a sailor she meets named Ted (James Stewart). The romance is disrupted when Ted meets a glamorous Broadway diva named Lucy James (Virginia Bruce) when he saves her dog. Lucy's agent thinks creating a romance between Ted and Lucy would be great publicity for her new show and Ted only agrees when he learns Nora has been hired as Lucy's new understudy.

Screenwriters Jack McGowan and Sid Silvers (plays Ted's pal Sacks) offer a classic musical comedy plot with a few adult touches I didn't see coming. We are almost immediately introduced to the character of Jenny (Una Merkel), who is raising a child she conceived with Sacks before he began his naval tour. Sacks' trials and tribulations trying to get Jenny back provide some of the movie's funniest moments.

The best musical moments are indeed provided by Powell, Buddy Ebsen, Frances Langford, and, believe it or not, James Stewart, who actually sings in one of his earliest film performances. The scene of him serenading Powell with "Easy to Love" would eventually be featured in 1974's That's Entertainment. There are vocal and dance interpretations provided to the film's most famous song, "I've Got You Under My Skin", which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Song of 1936. Long-legged Ebsen shows a very contrasting dance style to Powell's that reminded me of movie dance legend Ray Bolger. And the Busby Berkley-style finale to "Columbia Gem of the Ocean" is spectacular, highlighting the precise and breezy dance style of Powell, which makes her seem like a female counterpart to Fred Astaire.

Stewart is a charming leading man, even though he appears to be uncomfortable during any moment onscreen where he has to sing. Merkel's wisecracking Jenny and Silver's flustered Sacks are perfect comic relief. It's no Singin in the Rain, but Eleanor Powell is always worth watching.



The Little Things
Despite the presence of three Oscar winning actors in the starring roles, 2021's The Little Things is a pretentious and slightly confusing crime drama that isn't quite what it should be thanks to a fuzzy screenplay that leads to an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Denzel Washington stars as Deacon, a laid back Kern County Deputy Sheriff who is sent to Los Angeles to pick up some evidence for a case and, upon his arrival, finds himself assisting in the hunt for serial killer. The case finds him working with Jim Baxter, played by Rami Malek a buttoned-down, by the book police lieutenant who works strictly through the evidence and can't get behind Deacon's use of instinct and his focus on "the little things" that pop up during a case which, on the surface, might not seem important.

As the story progresses, this case in Los Angeles is very similar to a case that Deacon worked in Kern County that is still occupying a whole lot of space in his head and still has him wrapped in guilt. There's so much guilt there that Deacon sees the victims everywhere and sometimes they even talk to him, only strengthening his resolve to help Baxter with his case.

Director and screenwriter John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr Banks, The Blind Side) has stumbled into relatively unfamiliar waters here as a filmmaker, clearly evidenced in the spotty screenplay that never really gives any real details into the case from his past, except for the fact that somewhere along the way, Deacon may have not played by the rules and endangered his job as well as the job of a medical examiner. This is also another one of those murder mysteries where we know who the murderer is the second he comes onscreen (brilliant performance by Jared Leto) and we can't wait for him get what's coming to him and anything less feels like a cheat.

Hancock put a lot of sweat into this project, though I wish a little more attention had been put into production values...several scenes are poorly lit and the audio made it hard to hear what appeared to be some pertinent dialogue in more than one scene. Still, Denzil is solid , as always, and Malek appears to be so intimated by Washington that is performance is a little too affected. But Jared Leto commands the screen in his creepiest performance since Chapter 27. Loved the detail Leto put into the physicality of the character, watch the walk, it's so obvious that Leto developed this character starting with the walk and worked from there. Wish the rest of the film could have been as good as Leto.



The Little Things
Despite the presence of three Oscar winning actors in the starring roles, 2021's The Little Things is a pretentious and slightly confusing crime drama that isn't quite what it should be thanks to a fuzzy screenplay that leads to an unsatisfactory conclusion.

Denzel Washington stars as Deacon, a laid back Kern County Deputy Sheriff who is sent to Los Angeles to pick up some evidence for a case and, upon his arrival, finds himself assisting in the hunt for serial killer. The case finds him working with Jim Baxter, played by Rami Malek a buttoned-down, by the book police lieutenant who works strictly through the evidence and can't get behind Deacon's use of instinct and his focus on "the little things" that pop up during a case which, on the surface, might not seem important.

As the story progresses, this case in Los Angeles is very similar to a case that Deacon worked in Kern County that is still occupying a whole lot of space in his head and still has him wrapped in guilt. There's so much guilt there that Deacon sees the victims everywhere and sometimes they even talk to him, only strengthening his resolve to help Baxter with his case.

Director and screenwriter John Lee Hancock (Saving Mr Banks, The Blind Side) has stumbled into relatively unfamiliar waters here as a filmmaker, clearly evidenced in the spotty screenplay that never really gives any real details into the case from his past, except for the fact that somewhere along the way, Deacon may have not played by the rules and endangered his job as well as the job of a medical examiner. This is also another one of those murder mysteries where we know who the murderer is the second he comes onscreen (brilliant performance by Jared Leto) and we can't wait for him get what's coming to him and anything less feels like a cheat.

Hancock put a lot of sweat into this project, though I wish a little more attention had been put into production values...several scenes are poorly lit and the audio made it hard to hear what appeared to be some pertinent dialogue in more than one scene. Still, Denzil is solid , as always, and Malek appears to be so intimated by Washington that is performance is a little too affected. But Jared Leto commands the screen in his creepiest performance since Chapter 27. Loved the detail Leto put into the physicality of the character, watch the walk, it's so obvious that Leto developed this character starting with the walk and worked from there. Wish the rest of the film could have been as good as Leto.
i hope Rami Malek goes well as a villain on james bond no time to die
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https://youtu.be/vXD8y7MjaUo Wanda Maximoff - Scarlet Witch +The Vision WandaVision
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https://youtu.be/cwvGyR-CgPs Natasha Romanoff-Black Widow
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The Visitor (2007)
A veteran character actor was given his first leading role and knocked it out of the park in 2007's The Visitor, an unassuming and unique drama rich with warmth and originality that washed over this reviewer and found myself riveted and caring for the characters.

Richard Jenkins plays Walter Vale, a widowed writer and college professor who teaches in Connecticut and is sent to New York to attend a conference, his first trip to the city in 25 years. When he arrives at the apartment that he has kept in the city, he finds a young Syrian musician named Tarek and his Sengelese girlfriend living there. When they realize it really is Walter's apartment, they politely offer to leave immediately, but Walter doesn't have the heart to throw them out on the street in the middle of the night and offers to let them stay. Walter and Tarek form a bond over their mutual love of music and then one night on the subway, Terek is accused of jumping the turnstile and it is revealed that Terek is an illegal and is transported to a detention center in Queens for possible deportation.

Walter hires a lawyer to look into Tarek's situation while Tarek's mother arrives in town to find out what she can do about her son. This situation not only becomes an outlet for Walter's discontentment with his life, but develops a lovely relationship with Tarek's mother that the viewer doesn't really see coming.

Director and screenwriter Tom McCarthy, who won an Oscar for writing the 2015 Best Picture winner Spotlight again reveals an uncanny ability to weave an intimate story of human relations around a topical subject like the plight of the illegal alien. McCarthy takes his time in setting up what happens here by putting a lot of loving detail in the relationship that develops between Walter and Tarek, not only because Tarek gets to share his love of music and his gratitude to Walter for not kicking him out of his apartment, we also get to see Walter slowing coming out of the shell that he's been living in since the death of his wife.

Even more unexpected is the relationship between Walter and Tarek's mother, a lovely platonic romance that is so healthy for both of them. Watch Walter's gentlemanly approach to getting the mother to stay with him or when he takes her to see Phantom of the Opera. It's not just the joy in her excitement, but Walter's joy in seeing her excitement.

We fall in love with this Walter character immediately because the man's unhappiness with his life is not glossed over, but evident in everything Walter does. We love when that one Christian act of not throwing this couple on the street changes his life and the other change that occurs after Terek is detained...Walter takes responsibility for Terek even though he doesn't have to and McCarthy never sugarcoats the reality of the situation.

Richard Jenkins delivers a rich and deceptively complex performance in the starring role that , after over 20 years of making movies, earned the actor his first Oscar nomination for Lead Actor. The scene where Walter learns of Terek's fate might have earned Jenkins the Oscar nomination by itself. Haaz Sleiman lights up the screen as Terek and Hiam Abbass is luminous as his mother. Lovely Manhattan scenery and Jan A.P. Kaczmarek's music are the icing on the cake on this sensitive and often moving drama which offers a realistic resolution and a final scene that had me fighting tears.



The Rat Race (1960)
Despite some dated plot elements, 1960's The Rat Race is a gritty and engrossing romantic drama that is still watchable after all these years thanks to atmospheric direction and some eye-opening performances.

It's a hot and grimy summer in New York City where we find two people thrown together by circumstance and find themselves first needing each other and eventually wanting each other: Pete (Tony Curtis) is a jazz musician fresh off the bus from Milwaukee who finds himself sharing a cramped one room apartment with Peggy (Debbie Reynolds), an aspiring model who is currently supporting herself as a dance hall hostess who is in serious debt to Nellie (Don Rickles), her boss at the dance hall.

Garson Kanin adapted the unconventional screenplay from his own play that had a short run on Broadway approximately a decade prior to this film. Kanin's story effectively sets up the sweaty atmosphere of this concrete jungle and effectively represents the millions who did (and still do) come to New York City as the ultimate symbol of success and, more importantly, the trusting souls who trust the wrong people and find one disappointment after another.

Director Robert Mulligan provides a sensitive directorial hand to an on the surface, often unpleasant story centered around a romance that never really plays as a romance though the viewer finds themselves rooting for these two to realize that they love each other as much as they need other.

What really makes this movie worth watching is some of the performances, which are really out of the comfort zones of the actors. Tony Curtis, who usually plays the wisecracking romantic leading man, is surprisingly effective as the small town guy looking for fame and fortune in the Big Apple. The real eye opener here though is Reynolds, who has played more than her share of virginal characters, who, with a strong assist from Mulligan, delivers the performance of her career as the hard-nosed hustler who is willing to sell her virtue to keep her telephone turned on. Reynolds is a revelation in this film, unlike anything I've ever seen.

Mention should also be made of veteran Jack Oakie, who made his film debut in 1923, in his second to last to last film role as a kindly bartender and Kay Medford as a greedy landlady and even Rickles brings the sleaze to his role as well. Also loved Elmer Bernstein's music, who also makes an onscreen cameo. A nearly forgotten gem from the 60's that is appointment viewing for Debbie Reynolds fans.



Any Wednesday
The sparkling performances from the stars make a 1966 romantic comedy called Any Wednesday worth watching despite a rather contrived and predictable plot whose ending is telegraphed long before the final credits but the viewer's patience is sure tested waiting for it.

The always reliable Jason Robards stars as John Cleves, a married, womanizing business executive who takes every Wednesday off work in order to cheat on his wife. After chasing her for almost a year, John manages to convince a pretty art gallery employee named Ellen Gordon (Jane Fonda) to move into an elegant apartment belonging to his company so that they can be together every Wednesday. Things get complicated when Cass Henderson(Dean Jones), a business associate of John's, is given a key to the apartment so he can stay there until he and John can complete their deal and John's wife, Dorothy (Rosemary Murphy) leaves the Cleves country estate to surprise her husband in town.

Muriel Resnick's often deft screenplay is adapted from a play by Julius J. Epstein, which opened on Broadway in 1964 and ran for over 900 performances. Don Porter played John, Sandy Dennis starred as Ellen, Gene Hackman played Cass and Murphy played Dorothy, the only star from the play allowed to recreate her role in the movie. The movie starts off very amusingly with a detailed breakdown of John's pursuit of Ellen, which makes him look like the ultimate ladies man and makes Ellen look like a complete idiot and this is probably my main problem with the story. Ellen appears to have her head on straight as the story begins and avoids John for a long time because she knows he's married. But it all changes because he brings her home from the hospital one day and he has filled her apartment with balloons...seriously?

Ellen is then transformed into this ditzy fool whose brain gets removed and returned to her head several times throughout the story. There's a point where it's made clear to the viewer that John has Ellen convinced that he's really going to leave his wife, and even if Ellen believes it, we don't and Cass doesn't and we just know this has to be Ellen's way out of this mess, though the mess does take WAY too long to get untangled.

Director Robert Ellis Miller does provide some imaginative directorial touches to avoid the photographed stage play look, most notably, a very inventive use of the split screen technique that Michael Gordon originated in Pillow Talk that shove a bit against the 4th wall but never break it. He also gets terrific performances from his cast. Robards offers one of his slickest performances as Cleves and Jane Fonda finishes out the sex kitten phase of her career with the slightly pathetic Ellen, the girl who is really taken for a ride by Cleves, but we never stop wanting her to wake up. Jones is an absolute charmer in a non-Disney role and Murphy is quietly brilliant recreating her role as the wife who is not nearly as clueless as we're supposed to think. George Duning's music is a little much, but doesn't distract too much and even though we have to wait a little too long for it, the ending is a winner.



The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
Fans of the Bill Murray comedy Groundhog Day and the Andy Samberg comedy Palm Springs will have a head start with 2021's The Map of Tiny Perfect Things, another story of people stuck in a time warp and their completely different outlooks on what is happening to them.

Mark is a cocky small town teenager who has discovered that he is living in some sort of time loop where he keeps living the same day over and over again. He embraces what is happening and enjoys it in a way until he meets Margaret, who confesses that she is stuck in the same loop and decides to share with Mark all the cool things that she keeps seeing day after day. Mark and Margaret decide that while they have the chance, they need to document all the perfect things that happen in front of them on this ever ending day in a special map. Making this map does allow Mark and Margaret to bond to a point, but it is soon revealed that Margaret is not as anxious for the loop to end as Mark is.

Screenwriter Lev Grossman offers us an overly complex story that relies a lot on the continuity that Harold Ramis' screenplay to Groundhog Day did but, sadly, does not. The opening scenes of Mark as the happy go lucky kid who just seems to be trying to make the most out of his somewhat tedious life do not properly provide the exposition that a loopy story like this requires. Likewise, with the introduction of Margaret her complete defiance of what is happening is initially very confusing and the viewer just wants her to shut up and accept what Mark is trying to help her deal with. We eventually learn why Margaret isn't as anxious for the loop to end as Mark, but it takes a little longer than it should. When their first kiss doesn't work and when Margaret gets off the plane to Tokyo, we're pretty sure all bets are off, until Margaret's revelation, which leads to a finale not unlike an 80's John Hughes rom-com, completely out of step with what we've seen up to this point.

Director Ian Samuels does offer some beautiful photography and superb camera work (including excellent use of the tracking shot), but should have paid more attenton to the logistics and continuity of the story. Kyle Allen, who is also featured in Spielberg's upcoming remake of West Side Story and Kathryn Newton offer star-making performances in the leads, but they're fighting a story that doesn't deliver everything it promises.



The Ballad of Cable Hogue
The thinking man's western, 1970's The Ballad of Cable Hogue is a warm and winning combination of revenge, romance, and character study set against a western canvas that engages the viewer completely thanks to superb direction from a surprising source and a wonderful central character that the viewer falls in love with instantly.

Jason Robards stars as Cable Hogue, grizzled old prospector who is robbed and left to die in the desert by a couple of former partners-in-crime. After days of crawling around in the desert, Cable discovers an underground spring, which he digs up and decides to build a rest stop for stagecoach drivers with the assistance of Rev. Joshua (David Warner), a creepy clergyman whose carnal desires have probably kept him on the run before meeting Cable. Cable also finds romance with a brassy and beautiful prostitute named Hildy (Stella Stevens), who puts a real crimp in the new life that Hogue has built for himself.

What can I say, I LOVED this movie. Screenwriters John Crawford and Edmund Penney have constructed the kind of story that one would not normally expect in a western setting, but makes it seem perfectly natural there. The story is initially a look at this man, who we meet at death's door who pulls himself back from the brink to forge a friendship with a man who is not really worthy of it and a romance that has him thinking about giving up his new life for a woman who might not be ready for him to do so. And just when we think it's been forgotten about it, Hogue gets the opportunity to get back at the scumbags who left him to die in the desert.

Director Sam Peckinpah, who directed another classic western The Wild Bunch, and one of my favorite actions films, 1972's The Getaway, really scores here with a story that is definitely out of his comfort zone. Peckinpah, as always, choses to tell a lot of his story with his camera and his accustomed expertise with slow and fast motion photography. One of my favorite things he does here is every moment in the film where a character is observed running, the running is done in fast motion, almost like a cartoon character, which lightens the mood and allows the viewer not to take the story as seriously as they might. The detail he puts into the relationship between Hogue and Hildy conveys a sensitivity I've never seen from this director.

The relationship between Hogue and Hildy is so enchanting because so much of it is told through the camera and not dialogue. Loved how Peckinpah documents the first moment that Hogue lays eyes on Hildy...I don't think I've ever seen the concept of love at first sight so beautifully presented on film before. The scenes when they are reunited in the desert at Hogue's rest stop are lovely. We've seen scenes like this before where a couple seems to be settling into domesticity with a musical background. What I loved here was that the musical background this time was a song actually sung by Hogue and Hildy, a storytelling tool that spoke volumes about the relationship between these two characters. And the scene where Hildy tells Hogue she's leaving and she wants more than anything is for him to beg her to stay and he can't do it, is nothing short of heartbreaking.

The film also features gorgeous Oscar-worthy cinematography and a lyrical musical score with just the right western flavor. Jason Robards is absolutely extraordinary in the title role, a dazzling and beautifully layered performance that should have earned him an Oscar nomination. Stella Stevens also gives the performance of her career in the kind of role she pretty much invented in the 1960's...the hooker with the heart of gold. Warner was a perfect combination of creepy and funny as Rev. Joshua and Strother Martin, LQ Jones, and Slim Pickens make the most of supporting roles. This is the western for people, like myself, who hate westerns, that enchants thanks to the magic of Sam Peckinpah behind the camera and the iconic Robards in front.



Fatale
The director of Black and Blue is not quite as successful with 2020's Fatale, an overheated and convoluted Fatal Attraction rip-off that produces more unintentional giggles than erotic thrills or suspense.

Derrick Tyler is a handsome sports agent in a troubled marriage who goes to a bachelor party in Las Vegas and has a one night stand with an attractive stranger. After returning to his regular life, Derrick and his wife, Tracie are awakened one night by an intruder in the house who seriously assaults Derrick. Three guesses who the police detective is assigned to Derrick's case?

Director Deon Taylor attempts to dress this one up with fancy camerawork and an attractive cast. but the problem really lies in David Lougherty's silly screenplay that shamelessly rips off not only the 1987 Glenn Close Best Picture nominee, but some of his own earlier work. We actually see Derrick and the police detective get on a big freight elevator leading to her expansive loft, just like in Fatal Attraction, just a few scenes after they're in bed in Vegas and the detective makes it clear that she is not the least bit concerned that Derrick is married. There is even a direct ripoff of the scene where Michael Douglas walks into his apartment and finds Alex there with his wife, Beth. Unfortunately, the story gets truly messy when we learn that this detective has her own agenda outside of crazy monkey sex with Derrick.

Once the detective's agenda comes to light, we have to separate stories that never really connect as they should. There is too much going on here with too many suspects and figuring out exactly what was going on, which took all the drama out of the story and brought on the aforementioned unintentional giggles. The predictability story wasn't helped by the fact that this Derrick character was dumb as a box of rocks, making it difficult to stay invested in the proceedings.

Two time Oscar winner Hillary Swank does bring some flash to the story as Detective Val Quinlan, but truthfully, she deserves better than this. Michael Ealy is easy on the eyes as Derrick, but his performance is a little overbaked, though I did enjoy Mike Colter as Derek's business partner, but this one was pretty rough going.



Mr. Imperium
MGM ruled the 1940's and 50's where making musicals were concerned, but they had a serious misstep with an unremarkable piece of fluff from 1951 called Mr. Imperium, a star-crossed musical romance that doesn't really work because of the questionable casting of the leads.

Lana Turner, one of MGM's biggest stars though not known for musicals. plays Fredrika "Fredda" Barlow, a nightclub singer working in Italy who meets a European prince named Prince Alexis (Ezio Pinza), with whom she has a whirlwind romance that comes to an end when the Prince's father falls ill and the Prince must assume the throne. Twelve years later, Fredda, now a big movie star, is reunited with the King, who now calls himself Mr. Imperium,. at a Palm Springs resort.

The story is really not the problem. Director and co-screenwriter Don Hartman has brought us a predictable, but viable story that plays just like a lot of other musicals of the period, but the odd casting of the leads really make this one a rather labored musical journey. The sense I got as I watched this film is that this film was intended for stars that just weren't available at the time. For some reason, Lana Turner is cast in a musical comedy playing a singer, even though she can't sing (her singing is dubbed by Trudi Ervin) and her leading man, Pinza, freshly plucked from Broadway's production of South Pacific, where he originated the role of Emile DeBeque, is inexperience onscreen, not to mention that he is WAY too old to be a believable romantic interest for Turner. Watching these two onscreen reminded me of watching Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron in Daddy Long Legs...great dancers, but there was a real "ick" factor watching them together.

This film also suffers from another disease that plagued a lot of MGM musicals. They loved to set their stories in foreign countries like Italy and Paris, and even though there were a few establishing shots of Italy and Paris, it's glaringly obvious that this production never left the confines of an MGM soundstage.

Turner looks great but she appears to be as uncomfortable in this kind of role as she should be. Pinza has a gorgeous voice, but his hammy performance is only outdone by his lack of chemistry with Turner. Barry Sullivan is wasted in a small role as Lana's Hollywood boyfriend, but Marjorie Main and a very young Debbie Reynolds are fun as the resort manager and her nosy niece. Even the most devout musical fan might want to give this one a pass.