Gideon58's Reviews

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You can't make a rainbow without a little rain.
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.

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.

I loved Austin Abrams as Dash in "Dash & Lily", so I might watch this just to see him in it.
If I answer a game thread correctly, just skip my turn and continue with the game.

The Fugitive Kind
Though definitely a lesser work of its director and its screenwriter, 1960's The Fugitive Kind is still appointment viewing thanks to the three extraordinary performances by Oscar winners in the starring roles, more than making up for the film's minor deficiencies.

Marlon Brando, once again, commands the screen as Valentine Xavier, AKA "Snakeskin", a guitar player and drifter who always seems to be followed by some kind of trouble, gets out of jail and tries to start over in a sleepy southern town, but finds that nearly impossible thanks to the sexual heat he creates with three very different women with their own individual baggage. Vee Talbot (Maureen Stapleton) is a lonely housewife willing to look past Snakeskin's sexual bravado; Carol (Joanne Woodward) is the town tramp who throws herself at Snakeskin to no avail; Lady Torrance (Anna Magnani) is a hot-blooded Italian shopkeeper trapped in an unhappy marriage to an abusive and seriously ill psycho.

This film is based on a lesser work by Tennessee Williams called Orpheus Descending that had a very brief Broadway run featuring Cliff Robertson as Snakeskin, Stapleton as Lady Torrance, and Lois Smith as Carol. It's curious that after a mere 68 performances on Broadway that it got fast-tracked to the screen. It's definitely one of Williams' more talky pieces, but talky is a Williams staple that is easy to forgive. It's the adult themes pervading this film that makes one wonder how it got to the screen so quickly and what concessions did Williams have to make for it happen. His screen adaptation with Meade Roberts could have been more economic, but there's a lot of stuff that got onscreen here that surprised me. Hollywood apparently had come a long way since A Streetcar Named Desire, the last film filled with such sexual heat and gritty intensity.

One of my favorite directors, Sidney Lumet, does an admirable job of establishing the sweaty, sexy atmosphere but could have given the story a little more forward motion. What he does give us in is three indescribable, Oscar-worthy lead performances that gave this piece what was missing on Broadway. Once again, Brando delivers another electric sex performance in a character very reminiscent of his Johnny in The Wild One, but in this film we see the man's effect on three different women in different ways. Stapleton's Vee doesn't really see her attraction to the man; Woodward's Carol becomes obsessed to no avail and Magnani's Lady fights it until she can't fight it anymore.

Joanne Woodward, in a serious case of casting against type, chews the scenery as the town tramp unlike anything I have ever seen from her. Her performance completely overpowers the cliched aspects of her character and demands viewer attention. Mention should also be mentioned of a bone chilling turn from Victor Jory as Lady's nutso husband, but if the truth be told, it's Magnani who really keeps this film on sizzle. Magnani won the Oscar for Best Actress five years earlier for The Rose Tattoo and after watching her here, I really want to see The Rose Tattoo now...Magnani is all smoldering sensuality and angry intensity here, in a performance that just might rival Vivien Leigh in Streetcar, a performance of robust strength and fragility that seam perfectly.

Boris Kaufman's stunning black and white cinematography and Richard Sylbert's art direction deserve shout outs too, but this movie is owned by Brando, Woodward, and the one and only Anna Magnani. Bravo. The movie was remade in 2010 for TV as "Orpheus Descending" with Kevin Anderson as Snakeskin and Vanessa Redgrave as Lady.

Nick Kroll: Little Big Boy
Nick Kroll is a talented actor who has been making me laugh for years on the big and small screens. Naturally, I was curious about his 2022 Netflix comedy special Nick Kroll: Little Big Boy, which got off to a slow start, but did eventually end up delivering some big laughs.

Kroll's first story about the first boy/girl party he attended as a teenager and a story about his bodily functions once made a mess of his karate uniform totally fell flat, despite clearly edited laughs that made the storiy appear the funniest ever. The special was performed live from Washington DC, which seemed an odd place to shoot a fledgling comedy concert until I learned that Kroll is a graduate of Georgetown University.

Once we got off a very uncomfortable opening 10 minutes, Kroll found his groove as he started talking about a girl with whom he got stuck in "the friends zone" and his analysis of exactly what the friends zone is was perfect, as was his story about taking a girlfriend to a wedding, which eventually led to her dumping him. His bit about learning to quit smoking via hypnosis was hilarious, climaxed by him asking the audience if they believed it was a true story and then offering evidence.

Kroll is surprisingly self-assured onstage, displaying not only a knack for physical comedy but being a gifted wordsmith as well,,,he's a little Jerry Lewis and a little Jerry Seinfeld and has a slight tendency to talk above his audience now and then, but he never completely loses them. And I have to admit he had me on the floor with a perfect impression of Vincent D'Onofrio in Men in Black.

It was when he offered his personal breakdown on the differences between being the oldest child, the middle child, the youngest child, and an only child was when he really got the crowd on his side and they stayed with him the rest of the evening. Once he talked about why we all hate our mothers, he had the audience in his pocket and his impression of all of us receiving a phone call from our mother was brilliant. A slow start, but Kroll eventually has the audience right where he wants them.

Daddy (2015)
2015's Daddy is an overheated soap opera, written and directed by its stars, that thinks it's disguising the fact that it's a soap opera because the central characters are gay, but they're not doing anything here more interesting than what Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins were doing back in the 40's or what they're still doing weekdays on The Young and the Restless.

Collin McCormack is a gracefully aging gay television host who, though he's still BFF's with his college buddy, the equally gay Stewart Wisnieski, still likes to party and has an eye for younger guys. Stewart prefers to hang out at home with Colin watching basketball and has given up on romance. Colin and Stewart's friendship is threatened when Colin finds himself drifting into an affair with Tee, a sexy, 21-year old intern in Colin's office. It's not long before it's revealed that Tee is harboring some sort of secret that could destroy Colin.

Gerard McCullough, who plays Colin, also directed the film and Tom Via, who plays Stewart, wrote the screenplay. The affection that these two have for each other leaps off the screen; unfortunately, it doesn't disguise the fact this story is about as predictable as they come, leading to a reveal that won't be a shock to anyone who has ever watched a daytime or primetime soap opera.

Personally, I thought the initial story presented, the one of Tee coming between Colin and Stewart, was a lot more interesting than the story we were finally subjected to. The scenes of Tee and Stewart competing for Colin's attention were vividly real and the most interesting aspect of the story. It was kind of lame writing the way Tee's secret was revealed and though it wasn't what I expected, it was still classic soap opera and this is where the movie lost me as it magically tried to fix Colin and Tee and fabricate a romance out of nowhere for Stewart.

McCullough and Via both show some promise as filmmakers, but this story was just a little contrived to be completely convincing. Both also possess some acting talent, making us care about these characters, though I did find Jamie Cepero's Tee a little hard to take at times. BTW, the actor playing Stewart's new boyfriend near the end of the movie is Mackenzie Astin, brother of Sean Astin, and younger son of John Astin and the late Patty Duke. It's passable entertainment, not much more.

Don't Worry Darling
Female empowerment both in front of and behind the camera give a dash of originality and style to 2022's Don't Worry Darling, a bizarre but inventively mounted thriller that seems to be an updating of The Stepford Wives, but goes much deeper than the 1975 classic, though it doesn't really answer all of the questions it poses.

Alice is a 1950's housewife who is living with her husband in an Utopian community called Victory, where all the wives quietly serve their husbands, while their husbands all go to work every day as part of something called The Victory Project. Alice begins to suspect there is something not right about her idyllic existence in Victory and when she begins to voice her suspicions, she finds her herself in danger.

The screenplay by Katie Silberman (Set it Up) starts out with effective, if somewhat predictable exposition showing how perfect life is in Victory, but as cinematic clues begin to surface that all is not as it appears, the story becomes more and more confusing. We understand that Victory is not what it appears, but Alice's path to this discovery manifests itself in a lot memory flashes and artsy symbolism that doesn't really get explained, particularly recurring images of Busby Berkley kaleidoscope-style dance numbers.

Olivia Wilde, who plays Alice's BFF Bunny, is also in the director's chair and she really scores here. Her direction is rich with disturbing images, dizzying camerawork, and a chilling intensity that keeps the viewer interested even though the viewer is often not really sure what is happening. We're with Wilde and Silberman until Alice is captured for causing too much trouble and is strapped to a table for what appears to be a lobotomy and that's where we really get lost, because a lot of what leads to the climactic chase should have been revealed earlier.

Florence Pugh, who pretty much stole Greta Gerwig's remake of Little Women is superb as Alice though and works well with pop sensation Harry Stiles as her hubby Jack. Chris Pine, Nick Kroll, KiKi Layne, Timothy Simons, and Wilde also make the most of their screentime. Bouquets to cinematography, sound, costumes, and music as well, I just wish the story had led to somewhere a little more plausible.

The Nightmare Before Christmas
Though technically not in the director's chair, ghoul master Tim Burton was definitely the creative force and passion behind the 1993 animated musical masterpiece The Nightmare Before Christmas, a creepy and funny animated fantasy that looks at one holiday through the eyes of another.

Jack Skellington is the leading citizen of Halloween Town, who is in charge of producing Halloween every year. Getting bored with Halloween, Jack is looking for something different to do and while wandering through the forest, he discovers a place called Christmas Town and is so enchanted by it, that he decides to bring it back to Halloween Town and make it his own. His plan includes asking a trio of trick or treaters named Lock, Stock, and Barrel to kidnap Santa Claus and asking the local mad scientist to create reindeer for his sleigh. Though the citizens of Halloween Town have difficulty grasping and executing the meaning of Christmas, Jack plans to make Christmas his own, despite warnings from girlfriend Sally that what he's doing is a terrible mistake.

Burton scores a direct bullseye here, creating his own twisted version of a holiday so steeped in their own traditions that they innocently destroy Christmas without intention or any true malice, bringing an unexpected fright to Christmas that no one can explain, including Jack, whose intentions are actually absent of any malice, except for a desire to make Christmas his holiday because he yearns for something different after being the master of fright for so long.

Director Henry Selick (James and the Giant Peach) has mounted this tale of comic horror on a perfect animated canvas, with the aid of a crack animation team that applies meticulous detail to every single thing that appears on the screen here. The tiniest details are given exquisite attention, from the looks of the characters to the outrageous set pieces that serve the story perfectly.

Danny Elfman's brilliant musical score seems influenced by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Kurt Weill, and Rodgers and Hammerstein. Highlights include "This is Halloween", "Kidnap the Sandy Claus", "Oogy Boogie Song", "Making Christmas", and the incredible "What's This?" Elfman also provides a perfect singing voice for Jack Skellington that makes these songs come vividly to life.

There is also strong voice work by Chris Sarandon as Jack's speaking voice, Catherine O'Hara as Sally, William Hickey as Dr. Finklestein, Glenn Shadix as the Mayor, and Ken Page as Oogie Boogie. What can I say? Everything works here, simply a triumph. If you loved Beetlejuice...

Ticket to Paradise (2022)
Despite some gorgeous scenery and the star power of Oscar winners George Clooney and Julia Roberts in the starring roles, 2022's Ticket to Paradise is a lackluster comedy that only provides sporadic laughs due to an overly cute screenplay that goes some strange places.

David (Clooney) and Georgia (Roberts) are the bitterly divorced parents of a recent law school graduate named Lily who has met the man of her dreams while vacationing in Bali and when she accepts the man's marriage proposal, David and Georgia decide to fly to Bali to try and stop the wedding, with Georgia's decade younger fiancee, Paul, hot on their trail.

Director and co-screenwriter Ol Parker (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel spends way too much time on exposition, or more specifically, showing us how nasty David and Georgia's divorce was. It starts when they won't sit next to each other on the plane to Bali, but then every time they run into each other, Parker has David and Georgia making these obnoxious scenes centered around how they can't be in the same room together and these scenes go on way longer than they need to.

The romance between Lily and island guy is sweet, but the Lily character is kind of unlikable, wanting her parents' blessing for this marriage and wanting them to be in complete sync about it, which the story has already established is never going to happen. Her reaction to the news of her mother's engagement sucked all the likability out of the character for this reviewer. The ice between David and Georgia and their daughter and her fiancee begins to melt during the movie's funniest scene, where the parents challenge the kids to a game of beer pong. It is a funny scene, but beer pong? This scene was more suited for a 1980's frat comedy a la animal house.

The so-called romance between Georgia and her devoted fiancee also slowed things down too. It's obvious from their first moment onscreen together that Georgia doesn't really love this guy and we're not the least bit surprised during the scene where he proposes to her that she doesn't give him an answer. Now most men would take this as a sign to maybe give up, but this guy actually proposes a second time? Seriously?

On the positive side, the on location filming is breathtaking and the gracefully aging Clooney and Roberts look great and still generate the chemistry they did a couple of decades ago in the Ocean franchise, but getting through this very labored comedy took a little more effort than it should have.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
Woody Allen had one of his stronger comic romps with 2001's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, that featured Woody's usual clever story and dialogue, but was slightly hampered by a really unlikable leading lady.

Woody plays CW Briggs, an insurance investigator in 1940 Manhattan who has a hate/hate relationship with the company's efficiency expert, Betty Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt). CW and Betty are brought onstage at a nightclub by a hypnotist named Voltan (David Ogden Stiers) who puts them under with post hypnotic suggestions where they think they are in love. It turns out that Voltan is a jewel thief in addition to a hypnotist and uses the post hypnotic suggestions to make CW and Betty break into fancy homes and steal jewelry for him.

Setting this tale in the year 1940 was an inspired move by Allen because his style of writing seems more suited for the 40's than for the New Millenium. The screenplay is rich with dialogue that one would normally find in a Humphrey Bogart mystery or a Howard Hawks comedy. The story moves like a Howard Hawks comedy. Just enough exposition to introduce the characters and the story efficiently shifts into gear. The story leaves what appears to be a dangling plot point but was surprisingly picked up during the final third of the fil

The Betty Fitzgerald character was the only fly in this cinematic ointment. She is set up as immediately unlikable and Briggs' attraction to her doesn't really make sense, even though it is initially hidden under a lot of obvious hostility. Betty never gives CW a break, thanks to the previously mentioned dangling plot point, but once it's picked up, Betty becomes a little more human. Even having her in a dead end affair with the married president of the company (Dan Aykroyd) fails to imbue the character with the sympathy it should. Admittedly, as the film progressed, the possibility came about that the problem might have been a lack of chemistry between Allen and Hunt, not CW and Betty.

As always, Woody's attention to production values is wonderful, with special shout outs to art direction, costumes, and Woody's flawless ear for music. Though Woody Allen and Helen Hunt never really gel as a couple, Dan Aykroyd brought the proper smarm to the boss, making him totally hissable. Also loved Stiers as the hypnotist, Wallace Shawn as one of CW's co-workers and Charlize Theron as an authentic 40's femme fatale. Not as good as Bullets Over Broadway, but a pretty sharp Allen period piece.

Pearl (2022)
Fans of the Brian De Palma classic Carrie will have a head start with Pearl, Ti West's follow-up to his earlier release this year X that provides the same grisly atmosphere that X did, as it attempts to provide a backstory for one of the characters in that film, actually producing a much more compelling film than the first one.

Pearl is a teenager in 1918 trapped on an isolated farm house being brow beaten by her miserable harridan of a mother who starts speaking German when she's really angry and being the primary caretaker for her father, a virtual vegetable in a wheelchair. Pearl seeks stardom, any kind of stardom in any facet of show business, anything that will get her away from this farm and when a national dance company comes to town to hold auditions, Pearl sees this as her way out.

Ti West's 28th film as a director is so delicately crafted and mounted with such love of moviemaking. This film appears to have been made back to back with X because I'm pretty sure the farmhouse where this movie is the same farmhouse used in X. The stylish opening credits immediately clue us into the fact that we're about to see something very special here, something along the lines of a child's fantasy guaranteed to make us smile. Less than five minutes later, we see Pearl stab a goose with a pitchfork and feed it to an alligator.

It's the ugly relationship between Pearl and her cold-blooded mother that is the true anchor of this film, that really brought me back to the relationship of Carrie and Margaret White in Carrie. There's a begrudging respect that Pearl has for her mother, but she also blames
her mother for her miserable life and she knows that everything would be better if her mother would just die. And that's the other troubling part of this story...Pearl's wrath extends far beyond her parents and several people suffer at the hands of Pearl that really don't deserve it.

This Pearl character is such an enigma that we can't help but envy her, pity her, and be terrified of her and the character is so much more three-dimensional than she was in X. West and his cinematic muse Mia Goth must share credit for the creation of this character that is so beautifully mounted that it made me think about re-watching X, something that hadn't crossed my mind until I saw this film that I liked a lot more than X. Gorgeous cinematography and film editing (West also did the editing) deserve props as well. This is another one of those "traffic accident" just don't want to look, but you can't look away either.

While You Were Sleeping
A lovely performance by Sandra Bullock anchors 1995's While You Were Sleeping, a sweet-natured romantic comedy with a fuzzy screenplay but Bullock and a terrific supporting cast make it quite an enjoyable cinematic ride.

Bullock plays Lucy, a lonely, Chicago subway token attendant who has been crushing on Peter Callaghan (Peter Gallagher), a businessman who buys a token from Lucy every day who she has never spoken to. On Christmas Day, Peter falls off the subway platform and Lucy saves Peter from being hit by a train. Lucy follows Peter to the hospital where he falls into a coma and is mistaken for Peter's fiancee by his family. Things get stickier when Peter's brother, Jack (Bill Pullman) comes home for Christmas and he and Lucy fall in love with each other almost instantly.

The story created by Daniel G. Sullivan and Fredric Lebow is basically a good one, but there's a little more going on here than necessary, making the story more complex than it really needed to be. It starts with Lucy's useless narration about her childhood and moves to the goofy landlord's son who is crushing on Lucy. Once Jack arrives on the scene. it seems like he is onto Lucy, but about the halfway point of the film, all of a sudden it seems like he's not. The reveal that Peter really has a fiancee wasn't really necessary and when Peter awakens from his coma, he just accepts that Lucy is who his family tells him she is and starts battling his brother for Lucy's affections.

It's easy to overlook these minor screenplay problems because of this wonderful character at the center of the story. Though she starts off as bit of sad sack, we learn that she is a principled young woman. Love the scene where she goes to Peter's room for the first time after meeting his family and explains to Peter exactly what's going on, even though he's still in a coma. Director Jon Turtletaub (National Treasure) has to be credited for the chemistry he creates between Lucy and Jack, that has us rooting for these two to get together from the minute they meet.

Bullock's luminous performance in the starring role is one of the reasons this movie was one of her biggest hits. She manages to create chemistry with both Pullman and Gallagher and I must say I have rarely enjoyed Pullman onscreen this much, a severely underrated actor who has never gotten the acclaim he deserves. Also loved Peter Boyle and Nicole Mercurio as Peter and Jack's parents, Jack Warden as Peter and Jack's godfather, and Glynis Johns as their dotty grandmother. Appointment viewing for Bullock fans.

Oprah Winfrey is the producer of 2022's Sidney, an emotionally charged and inspiring celebrity documentary about the first African American Actor to win the Oscar for Outstanding Lead Actor...the iconic Sidney Poitier.

The film documents Poitier's amazing life from his dirt poor childhood in the Bahamas to his arrival in New York where a job as a dishwasher eventually lead to his joining a Negro Theater group that cemented his never before realized vision of becoming an actor.

The documentary apparently began its journey to fruition years before its release because it features a lot of footage of Poitier, in loving closeup, talking about a childhood devoid of electricity and running water, as well as the profound impact his parents had on his life and the way he conducted it. We are reminded several times throughout the documentary that every single move Poitier made regarding his life and career somehow was traced back to something instilled in him by his parents.

A healthy chunk of the film is devoted to his lifelong friendship with another black show business veteran, Harry Belafonte. Poitier shares a lovely story about the first play they did together where Belafonte was the lead and Poitier was his understudy and why Poitier ended up going on for him one night. It's also revealed that there was no lack of turbulence in their relationship as well. It was fascinating hearing the story of when Martin Luther King was assassinated and they sharply disagreed regarding the best way to honor the slain civil rights leader.

The examination of Poitier's acting career was a little more sparse than I hoped, but it does make clear that Poitier was the first true black movie star who did things onscreen that black actors hadn't done before. In the 30's and 40's black actors were mostly comic relief, but along came Poitier in 1950 playing a doctor in his film debut No Way Out. Black movies audiences were just as shocked as white audiences when they saw him sticking by Tony Curtis in The Defiant Ones, slapping that white guy in In the Heat of the Night or romance Katherine Hepburn's real life niece in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?. We also learned that one of his lesser known films that I really liked called Paris Blues played a key part in the end of his first marriage. I also loved that one of his daughters thought his character in To Sir With Love was the closest thing to her father she ever saw on screen

In addition to Winfrey, incredible commentary is offered by Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Louis Gossett Jr, Barbra Streisand, Lulu, Andrew Young, Nelson George, Katharine Houghton, Poitier's first wife, Juanita and last wife, actress Joanna Shimkus, and his six daughters. This documentary was not only an insightful look into a great artist's career, but a moving blueprint for any young black kid out there with what they think will be an unrealized dream.

The Glass Slipper
MGM provided their own lavish vision to a classic fairytale with 1955's The Glass Slipper, a lushly mounted version of an oft told story, that humanizes the story a bit, but still provides grand entertainment, anchored by an enchanting performance from its leading lady.

Fresh off her Oscar-nominated performance in Lili and once again directed by Charles Walters, Caron plays Ella, the dirty-faced tomboy who spends her life attending to her evil stepmother and stepsisters and dreaming of living at the palace someday. One day while getting away at her secret place, she accidently meets Prince Charles (Michael Wilding), who is shopping for a princess, but he tells Ella that he is the son of the palace royal cook.

Screenwriter Helen Deutsch (Lili; The Unsinkable Molly Brown) has crafted a very clever version of this legendary fairytale where she humanizes some story elements while adding fantasy elements in unexpected places. For example, Ella's fairy godmother, played by the legendary Estelle Winwood, does not possess magical powers, but knows where to get everything Ella needs in order to attend the ball. Deutsch also smartly fixes a plot point in this story that has always annoyed me: Cinderella's stepfamily never actually lay eyes on her at the ball. This way, we don't have to suspend disbelief by accepting that they don't recognize her just because her face is clean and she's wearing an evening gown instead of tattered rags.

The film also features a pair of spectacular dream ballets that allow Caron to display her exquisite dance skills, choreographed by Roland Petit, who was married to another 50's ballerina, ZiZi Jeanmaire. The first ballet finds Ella and the Prince in the royal kitchen, climaxing with Caron dancing atop a giant wedding cake. The second is after the ball when Ella thinks the Prince is going to marry someone else that reminded me of the dream ballet in Oklahoma!.

The MGM gloss is in serious over drive here. The film features elaborate production values, with special nods to art direction and Oscar-worthy costumes. Caron and Wilding are lovely together and Winwood is the perfect Fairy Godmother. Also enjoyed Keenan Wynn as the Prince's BFF, Elsa Lanchester as the evil stepmommy, and Gunsmoke's Amanda Blake as one of the stepsisters. It takes a little bit to get going, but this is a smooth retelling of a classic story that provides solid entertainment.

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
From the creative force of TV shows like New Girl and Brooklyn Nine Nine comes the definitive parody biopic about the definitive creator of musical parody. 2022's Weird: The Al Yankovic Story is a star-studded movie parody of the movie biopic which is just the kind of thing we would expect from Weird Al...nothing in terms of reality, but providing solid comic entertainment for the majority of its running time.

This film is an alleged look at the famed song parody guru from his humble beginnings as the son of a factory worker to his creation of song parodies from already famous songs, which, as they appear in this film, seem to come from his head almost instantly, when we know this can't be further from the truth. Al's twisted rise to fame also includes a wild and passionate affair with Madonna and the murder of Pablo Escobar.

First of all, let's get this out of the way immediately. If you're looking for an actual look into the life of Weird Al, you've come to the wrong movie. As one would and should expect from the king of musical parody, this is a dead-on satire of the movie biopic, much in the tradition of Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. In this instance, the star is a real person upon which a fictional and very funny story has been crafted. The underlying theme here, like in a lot of movie biopics, is the central character's troubled relationship with his father (nicely played by Toby Huss) that is the driving motivation behind everything that Al does in the movie.

The screenplay for this film did contain one brilliant plot twist that I didn't see coming at all. At the time that Al writes "Eat it", he claims that the song was not a parody and that he wrote the music and the lyrics. We then learn that Michael Jackson released a song called "Beat it" that he stole from Weird Al. Between this, the so-called passionate affair with Madonna (beautifully played by Evan Rachel Wood), who begs Al to do a parody of one her songs, and the varied atmospheres where Al's songs are created, there is so much clever stuff going on here.

Loved the variety in the presentation of the musical numbers as well: From "My Bologna" in his apartment with his roommates and eventual band members, to the supposed instant creation of "Another One Rides the Bus" at a party, to the onstage rendition of "Like a Surgeon", the musical sequences provide equal laughs. It should be noted that Daniel Radcliffe performed the songs as they were shooting the film, but Al's real voice was eventually dubbed in.

Radcliffe's energetic and passionate performance as Weird Al keeps the viewer invested in this story completely and he works very well with Wood as Madonna and Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento. Star gazers will have a ball as this film features appearances from Will Forte, Jack Black, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Conan O'Brien, Quinta Brunson, Michael McKean, Patton Oswalt, and Weird Al himself as a record producer. And that's Diedrich Bader as the Sam Elliott-fashioned narrator. It's not big on facts and the beginning of the final act sags a bit, but this movie was deliciously entertaining entertainment that kept me laughing out loud.

The Killing (1956)
Legendary director Stanley Kubrick directed only 16 films during his amazing career, but most of them were pretty memorable. One of his earliest triumphs was a taut and economic crime drama from 1956 called The Killing.

Johnny Clay has been sprung from prison after five years and has put together a plan to rob $2,000,000 from a racetrack. Each member of the team has a specific task and two of the five men are actually employees of the racetrack. They plan to split the money five ways except for two outside "contractors" who have been hired for specific tasks at which they are considered expert, for a flat fee. In addition to watching the planning and execution of the crime, we also learn why these men are doing this.

Based on a novel called Clean Break, Kubrick and co-screenwriters Jim Thompson and Lionel White have constructed an intimate and detailed oriented story that requires full attention from the viewer as the players involved are introduced in a random fashion, as well as their reasons for getting involved in this complex screen. The most intriguing story for this reviewer was the story of George Petty, a racetrack employee who wanted in on the scheme so that he could smother his wife, Sherry in diamonds and furs, totally unaware that sharing is not only cheating on him with a guy named Val, but apparently has a past with Johnny as well.

Anyone who has seen Tarantino's The Usual Suspects or Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven franchise will see this film's influence on these future films. The gathering of the team and reviewing of their assignments reminded me a lot of Tarantino's and the execution of the crime, reminded me of the Ocean films, in that the execution seems to go off flawlessly, but there are unexpected bumps that Johnny doesn't see coming.

Kubrick creates a chilling atmosphere here as we know there's just no way this plan is going to come off as planned, but we don't know exactly how. The black and white photography is gorgeous, intensifying the atmosphere even further, s does Gerald Fried's jazzy music score. Sterling Hayden is beautifully understated as Johnny, but the film is easily stolen by the underrated Elisha Cook Jr. as the pathetic George and the fabulous Marie Windsor as the trampy Sherry. And yes, that is TV's future Ben Casey, playing Val. Despite some slightly dated elements, this one still packs a wallop.

The Glass Slipper
MGM provided their own lavish vision to a classic fairytale with 1955's The Glass Slipper, a lushly mounted version of an oft told story, that humanizes the story a bit, but still provides grand entertainment, anchored by an enchanting performance from its leading lady.
Good review, that sounds like a neat movie. I haven't seen much with Leslie Caron but what I have seen of her I like. I'll have to watch this sometime.

The Killing (1956)
Legendary director Stanley Kubrick directed only 16 films during his amazing career, but most of them were pretty memorable. One of his earliest triumphs was a taut and economic crime drama from 1956 called The Killing.
I like The Killing, I'm surprised you watched a noir. Are you watching all of Kubrick's films?

See How They Run
Fans of the 2019 film Knives Out will definitely have a head start with 2022's See How They Run, a big budget black comedy wrapped inside a classic whodunnit that works for the most part thanks to a surprisingly intricate screenplay and a terrific cast, many of whom are playing against type.

It's London in 1953 and a revival of the Agatha Christie play The Mousetrap starring Richard Attenborough (who, according this film likes to be called "Dickie") has just celebrated its 100th performance. A movie director named Leo Kopernick (Oscar winner Adrien Brody) has arrived in London because he has been hired to helm the film version of this production. Plans to turn the play into a movie come to a halt when Kopernick is murdered at a party for the 100th performance. An investigation is initiated with hard drinking Inspector Stoppard (Oscar winner Sam Rockwell) and a rookie constable named Stalker (Saoirse Ronan) on the case.

Screenwriter Mark Chappell has mounted a clever homage to film noir and backstage comedy that keeps the audience on its toes at all times. Kopernick's Bogey-styled narration is a lot of fun, though it is halted when the character turns up dead, which seemed kind of odd. Why have the film's narrator murdered ten minutes into the story? It is fun though that after Kopernick's death that the story pulls back revealing what a slimebucket Kopernick was, providing motives for several characters in the story, including the producer, actors, and the owner of the theater

The relationship that develops between Stoppard and Stalker has an air of predictability to it, but the offbeat quality of Stalker was a lot of fun to watch. This is one of those rookie police characters who really wants to be a detective and often tries a little too hard, irking Stoppard to no end. The Sam Spade quality that Rockwell brings to Stoppard was equally entertaining, but the expected chemistry between them never quite comes to fruition.

It was also interesting watching a lot of American actors in the film playing British characters and doing quite credible British accents. David Oyelowo, who played Martin Luther King in Selma and Ruth Wilson, who starred on the SHOWTIME series The Affair do particularly impressive accents. Didn't really understand why Ronan's character was Irish, when the rest of the characters were British, but a minor quibble.

Director Tom George mounted this comedy on a gorgeous English canvas, featuring some on location filming, making the setting very inviting. Special nods to cinematography and spectacular art direction/set direction as well...the theater and and the pub where Stoppard gets drunk were breathtaking. Brody really brings the smarm to Leo Kopernick and Rockwell is charismatic as always. Also enjoyed Reese Shearsmith as Woolf, the movie producer, Charlie Cooper as Dennis, Harris Dickinson as Richard Attenborough and a terrific cameo by Shirley Henderson as Agatha Christie. Not as good as Knives Out, but there is definite entertainment value here.