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Little Caesar (1931)
Movie bout the rise and fall of a gangster called Little Caesar (Edward G. Robinson) . It also follows his strong friendship with Joe Massara (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) who just wants to be a dancer.
This is considered to be a classic and made Robinson a star but I don't like it. It's slow, obvious and badly directed. With the sole exceptions of Robinson and Fairbanks the acting is terrible too--especially by Glenda Farrell. But Robinson and Fairbanks are great and there's a strong gay subtext to their friendship. But, as a whole, this doesn't work. See "Scarface" (1932) instead.
Slow but excellent lesbian love story
This is set in 1950s New York. Unhappily married Carol (Cate Blanchett) meets young Therese (Rooney Mara). They develop a friendship which slowly becomes a love affair. However Carol is divorcing her husband and involved in a nasty custody battle for their only child. If it's found out she's a lesbian she loses custody. What to do?
Slow but never dull. Beautifully directed by Todd Haynes with a great eye for how the 1950s looked. There's also a great script and two powerhouse performances by Mara and Blanchett. The one sex scene shown is explicit yet tastefully done. My only complaint is that it is slow. Still it's well worth seeing.
Back Street (1961)
Camp with a capital C!
Dress designer Rae Smith (Susan Hayward) meets tall handsome marine Paul Saxon (John Gavin) and immediately falls in love with him. They spend the night together...then she discovers he's married! She dumps him but can't forget him. Years later they meet by accident and find they still love each other...but he has an alcoholic wife (Vera Miles) and young kids. They decide to have an affair and keep it secret. Naturally everything goes wrong.
Lousy film with a wildly implausible plot and full of stupid dialogue. Hayward and Miles are great (despite their dialogue) and chew the scenery. Also Hayward has a slightly pained look on her face throughout. She's better than this and knows it. Poor Gavin has little to do but stand around grinning. The film LOOKS great with Hayward wearing some truly beautiful gowns. However this movie is only good for laughs. Well worth seeing as camp.
The Producers (1967)
Unfunny and stupid
Two failing Broadway producers (Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder) who hatch a scheme to get rich quick. They get rich old women to help them finance a play they know will bomb. Then they keep the money they got after it closes. They pick "Springtime for Hitler". It opens and things go wrong.
I know this is considered a comedy classic but I can't figure out why. The plot is ridiculous, the characters are unlikable and it isn't funny. I laughed exactly once! Even worse Mostel overacts to an embarrassing degree. Thankfully it's only 90 minutes long. Avoid.
Great Almodovar film
Movie about a woman (Penelope Cruz in an Oscar-nominated performance) in a loveless marriage with a teenage daughter. Cruz and her sister lost their mother in a fire years ago...or did they? Villagers claim to see her ghost roaming the streets at night. The the ghost appears to her two daughters saying she's come to set things right.
Strange film for Almodovar but fascinating. It has a complex story with many twists and turns and strong female characters (an Almodovar trademark). It's very colorful and all the acting is great. However Cruz is incredible. She's letter perfect in a very difficult role.
The Swarm (1978)
Stupid, muddled and boring
Dumb film about a bunch of African killer bees attack Texas killing people left and right. They also know how to make helicopters crash, derail trains and destroy nuclear power plants! Michael Caine and Katharine Ross lead an all star cast in trying to destroy the bees before they attack Houston.
The film is ridiculous. The plot is pointless, the dialogue terrible and the special effects basically suck. The bee attacks are more funny than scary. For some reason they're shot in slow motion! There's also a very tasteless scene where a bunch of young children are stung to death. Also they somehow got very talented actors in this. Aside from Caine and Ross we have Richard Widmark, Bradford Dillman, Henry Fonda, Ben Johnson, Olivia deHavilland, Fred MacMurray etc etc. These are respected actors. What are they doing in this?
Stupid, boring and pointless. Skip it.
Remember My Name (1978)
Boring and confusing
Drama about a seriously disturbed woman (Geraldine Chaplin) who has just been released from jail. She then proceeds to stalk and terrorize her ex-husband (Anthony Perkins) and his new wife (Berry Berenson--Perkins real life wife).
A familiar storyline that is done at a snails pace. Everything moves so slowly and all the actors appear drugged out. I had trouble staying awake! Even worse is a terrible music score that had me turning off the sound completely. It all leads to a thoroughly predictable conclusion that annoyed me. This gets three stars for good direction and good acting by the three leads despite the material.
Murphy's Romance (1985)
Utterly predictable but well-done
Emma (Sally Field) is a newly divorced mother with a son Jake (an unrecognizable Corey Haim). She moves to a small town in the midwest and tries to open a horse ranch. There she meets 60 year old Murphy (James Garner) who helps her. Despite their age difference they start to have feelings for each other. Then her no-good ex (Brian Kerwin) pops up and wants her back.
Thoroughly predictable. You know how this is going to end from frame 1. Still it's well-done and I was entertained. Garner and Field are great in their roles. In fact Garner was nominated for an Academy Award for this, Kerwin is good as her good for nothing ex. Haim is barely in this. This was pretty much ignored by audiences and dismissed by critics but it's very OK.
The Spectacle Maker (1934)
Gets a 7 for the Technicolor
Laughable fairy tale about a poor but honest spectacle maker (with a crippled son no less) who makes a magic pair of lenses which allow the viewer to see the true nature of what they're viewing. It all leads to predictable complications and to a happy ending which had me smirking and rolling my eyes.
Stupid story and some truly terrible acting make this a chore to watch. What kept me watching was the beautiful Technicolor cinematography. The sets and costumes are shot in rich bright color and are dazzling to look at. Each shot looks gorgeous. For cinema fans (like me) this is worth seeing. For others it might be tough going.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1966)
Worth seeing for a few cast members...but pretty bad
Ill-conceived pilot for a proposed TV series based on the classic movie musical. Story deals with a large family in 1904 St. Louis. It mostly focuses on teenage Esther (Shelley Fabares) and her boring love life. A ridiculously young Michael Blodgett plays her main attraction and Celeste Holm plays her ridiculously understanding mother. It's in color and looks good but has a terrible script with horrible "jokes". Even worse is the unbearable laugh track that pops up now and then. The only reason to see this is Fabares, Holm and Blodgett who are all great. That aside there's nothing here.
GREAT film about film critic Pauline Kael. it chronicles her whole life mostly concentration on her decades long time as the film critic for The New Yorker magazine. It contains interviews with other film critics, directors, studio executives and family members. Best of all it has film clips of TV interviews she did and ahs clips from movies she reviewed with voice overs of her reviews discussing them. I loved her writing when I started reading The New Yorker in 1980. Her movie reviews were beautifully written and to the point. She could be pretty vicious at times (she HATED David Leans' films) but was also very nice--she was one of the first critics to praise Brian DePalma. It skimps a little on her personal life (she was married but you hear nothing about her husband) but that's a small complaint. I was fascinated and entertained throughout.
Wrong Turn 3: Left for Dead (2009)
A bunch of vicious convicts (and one woman) are stuck in the woods one dark night miles away from civilization. They try to find a way out but are being stalked and killed by mutant cannibals.
I never saw the first "Wrong Turn" movies so I watched this cold. It's bad but not unwatchable. The acting is good, it's well-directed in a beautiful setting and there's plenty of graphic gore--it's unrated for good reason! The story was obvious but OK and I got a big kick out of all the British actors having their accents slip from time to time. For a horror film sequel it's about as good as you're going to get.
In Name Only (1939)
Great soap opera
Unhappily married Alec Walker (Cary Grant) meets widowed Julie Eden (Carole Lombard) and falls in love. His wife Maida (Kay Francis) only married him for his high social position and his money. He asks her for a divorce. She agrees but then tries everything to avoid it driving Grant crazy and tearing apart Lombard.
Great movie! It's beautifully done with complex characters and believable situations. The acting is wonderful. Francis is good but Grant and Lombard are incredible. It gets to be a little much at the end but I still loved it! An 8 all the way.
The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968)
This takes place in 1870. A pardoned sharp shooter (Barbara Rhodes) is hired as an agent to investigate a wagon train that's going west to find out who's selling guns to Indians. She needs a husband to join the wagon train so she marries a meek, mild dentist (Don Knotts) to marry her. "Hilarity" ensures.
Terrible comedy full of unfunny lines and sight gags. Knotts was a good actor and a funny comedian but even his considerable talents can't save this. Rhodes is great in her role but she has little to do. I considered to stop watching a few times but kept it on hoping it would get better. Unfortunately it didn't. Really young kids might like it. Skip it.
The Slumber Party Massacre (1982)
Didn't like it in 1982 and still don't like it now.
Silly by-the-numbers slasher film. Three teenage girls (all played by actresses obviously in their 20s) decide to have a slumber party. They are attacked by a maniac with a drill.
I saw this originally back in 1982 when I was 20. I know Rita Mae Brown wrote the screenplay as a parody of slasher films and thought it might be fun. It wasn't. What I saw was a boring and utterly predictable slasher film with dull nudity and bad gore effects. Atrocious acting didn't help. Seeing it now almost 40 years later my thoughts haven't changed. It gets a 2 for some intentionally funny lines but that's it. You can safely skip this one.
Night of Dark Shadows (1971)
Horrendous editing destroy what might have been a great film
Quentin Collins (David Selby) moves to live in Collinwood with his wife Tracy (Kate Jackson). While there past Collins family members who were witches try to possess Quentin and kill Tracy.
Originally this ran 129 minutes and was a good film. Then MGM ordered the makers to cut them film down to 90 minutes. They did and what was left is a slow-moving boring film. It LOOKS good and most of the acting is OK but it makes little sense and isn't even remotely scary. Even more surprising was Selby. He's a handsome man and a wonderful actor but he looks terrible here and looks miserable in his role.
Supposedly they found the lost footage and have "revoiced" it but it has yet to be added to the movie. Hopefully it will be added soon. As it stands this is a thoroughly forgettable horror film.
A Royal Christmas (2014)
Thoroughly predictable but I love it!
A prince (Stephen Hagan) falls in love with a lower-class woman (Lacey Chabert) while studying in the US. He brings her home for Christmas but his mother the queen (Jane Seymour) is horrified that he loves a commoner and sets out to stop the romance.
Utterly predictable but thoroughly charming. I knew from frame 1 how it was going to end but didn't care. The story was sweet, the movie moved quickly and the settings were beautiful. The acting was great too. Hagan was tall, VERY handsome and charming. Chabert was beautiful and sweet. Best of all was Seymour who's obviously having a whale of a time playing evil. An incredibly sweet enjoyable movie.
Le bonheur (1965)
Beautiful but troubling
French foreign language film. A handsome man is married to his beautiful wife and has two adorable children. He's in love with her and is happy. Then he meets another beautiful woman and starts sleeping with her. He tells his wife and she's not happy.
Visually this is an incredibly beautiful film. Full of bright vivid colors and full of people who look incredible. Also there's not one unlikable person in this. However I find it a little bit disturbing. His cheating on his wife is treated like it's OK. It all ends bittersweet but I don't like the fact that his treatment of his wife is treated so casually. The beautiful images kept me watching but I ended up feeling bad.
Very good but kind of slodw.
7 part documentary showing how Hollywood came into being and how a group of immigrant moguls developed the studios and ran them. It follows them from 1889 to 1969. However if you're looking for a documentary on the stars this isn't it. This focuses entirely on the moguls and their hold on the studios. if you're a movie fan (like me) you'll find nothing new here. Also at 7 hours it is rather long. Still it's well-done and beautifully narrated by Christopher Plummer. SO it's OK but nothing more'
East Side, West Side (1949)
Pretty obvious but not bad
Barbara Stanwyck plays a rich woman who's married to a man (James Mason) who cheats on her pretty openly. She knows but still loves him. He vows to stop until an ex-mistress (Ava Gardner) shows up in town to seduce Mason all over again.
Nothing new here but good acting and great production values put this one over. Also acting is good especially by Stanwyck. Also look for Cyd Chariisse, William Frawley, Nancy Davis (later Nancy Reagan), William Conrad and Gale Sondergaard in small roles. The only disappointment is Van Heflin in a main role. He tries but he's all wrong for the role. Still it's worth seeing for Stanwyck alone.
Pretty good musical
Film of a HUGE Broadway hit. King Arthur (Richard Harris) is married to the beautiful Guenevere (Vanessa Redgrave. Then she meets hunky Lancelot (Franco Nero) and starts an affair with him. Then Modred (David Hemmings) the half-son of Arthur pops up to steal the throne from him.
I never saw the musical on stage so I can't compare. It's a good musical with lavish sets and costumes (both Oscar winners). The songs are good and Harris and Redgrave can sing. Nero was obviously dubbed. All the acting was good but at 3 hours it was far too long. Also they take great liberties with the legend. Still it was entertaining and I liked it.
The Boys Next Door (1985)
Shocking but great thriller
Roy (Maxwell Caulfield) and Bo (Charlie Sheen) are two high school misfits. They just graduated and decide to take a road trip to Los Angeles. They start beating up people and stealing things. This soon leads to senseless violence and murder.
I originally saw this in 1985 when it came out. It hit me HARD. Back then teenage kids weren't killing or attacking people. Now 35 years later it sadly happens way too often. As a result the movie isn't as shocking as it was in 1985 but it's still a great if depressing thriller. The film really isn't that violent. There's some blood but no gore. In fact it's pretty tame compared to what we get today...but it's still upsetting. Caulfield and Sheen are great in their roles... Caulfield especially. It's beautifully directed by Penelope Spheeris. Tragic but compelling and unforgettable.
Ground-breaking drag queen drama/comedy.
Robin Turner (Craig Russell) is a female impersonator living with a schizophrenic woman (Hollis McLaren). She gets pregnant (she's not sure who the father is). They live in Toronto but he finds out he can make it big in NYC...but can he leave her alone?
Great comedy/drama made on next to no budget. Most of it landed on the shoulders of Russell who was a female impersonator in real life. In the movie you see him do Bette Davis, Barbra Streisand, Mae West, Carol Channing, Marlene Dietrich, Ethel Merman, Bette Midler and Judy Garland! He's great as all of them. This film was a huge hit playing for over a year at most art house cinemas. Dated but fascinating.
Victor Victoria (1982)
Stylish, sophisticated and frequetly hilarious
Wonderful movie set in 1934 Paris. A singer (Julie Andrews) can't find a job despite having a beautiful voice. She meets a gay unemployed singer (Robert Preston) who comes with a plan--if she disguises herself as a man and preforms in drag as a woman she could hit it big. Basically it's a woman disguising herself as a man pretending to be a woman. He is named Victor and is a smash. Then gangster King Marchand (James Garner) sees him preform. He falls for him...but is convinced he's a woman. He also has a beautiful but over excitable girlfriend (Lesley Ann Warren).
Beautifully written and directed by Blake Edwards. It has a clever and witty script put over by a great cast. Andrews, Garner, Preston and Warren are all in top form. There's also beautiful sets and some great musical numbers. "Le Jazz Hot" is iconic! A HUGE hit in its day and rightfully so. Don't miss this one!
Last of the Pagans (1935)
Corny but I loved it!
Wonderful island romance! Shot on location in Tahiti this deals with a village where handsome hunky Taro (Mala) falls in love with beautiful Lilleo (Lotus Long). He eventually wins her over but an evil ugly and powerful member of the village wants her for himself.
Shot in beautiful black and white this is a corny but charming little movie. It throws in every cliché you can think of (including a climatic hurricane) but it works! The scenery is beautiful and the two leads are certainly attractive with great bodies. Silly but sweet. Recommended.