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Victor Victoria (1982)
Stylish, sophisticated and frequetly hilarious
Wonderful movie set in 1934 Paris. An singer (Julie Andrews) can't find a job despite having a beautiful. 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 aa 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.
From Hell It Came (1957)
Lousy horror film. It starts off OK with a prince of a south seas island being unjustly accused of conspiring against his people with the white guys who are on the island to help them fight the black plague. Before he is killed the prince places a curse on all the people who set him up. Shortly after his burial a tree grows from his grave. It turns into a large true stump that awkwardly walks around and kills the people that wronged him.
Easily one of the stupidest monster movies of the 1950s. The monster itself looks ridiculous and moves VERY slowly. The script is boring and full of exposition that leads to nothing. Also the monster doesn't show up until 50 minutes in which is not good in a movie that runs only 71 minutes. Also all the male cast members are lousy. The female members of the cast save this film from being unwatchable. Linda Watkins has some good moments as Mrs. Kilgore and Tina Carver is excellent as Dr. Terry Mason. Still this is pretty terrible.
Baby Face Harrington (1935)
Pleasant but forgettable
30s B picture with Charles Butterworth playing a meek and mild man who through ridiculous circumstances gets involved with a vicious gangster. Una Merkel plays his wife who loves him no matter what. Pleasant enough movie. It's not particularly good or that funny but I enjoyed watching it.
Good acting helps. Butterworth is great in the lead role. His dead pan line readings match the material beautifully. Also Merkel was excellent as his long-suffering wife. She's beautiful and plays her role perfectly. Every time she's on screen the film lights up. The supporting cast is full of great character actors that 1930s film fans will recognize instantly. The only real debits are a so-so script and some tired slapstick gags.
Cry of the City (1948)
Good film noir
Lt. Candella (Victor Mature) is a straight arrow policeman has to deal with childhood buddy Martin Rome (Richard Conte) who has just killed a cop. Martin is also leading his brother to a life of crime like him. Can Mature save the kid before it's too late?
Good film noir. It moves quickly, has lots of suspenseful scenes and was shot on location in NYC. Also it has a very young Debra Paget and Shelley Winters in small roles. My only complaint is the two leads. They were great actors but I find them totally miscast here. Conte seems way too nice to be a cop killer and Mature way to mean to be a saint-like police officer. Still it was well-made and I was entertained. I give it a 7.
Freier Fall (2013)
Well-done gay love story
German film about Marc (Hanno Koffler) who is studying to be a police officer and is living with his pregnant girlfriend. Then he meets Kay (Max Riemelt) and starts to fall in love with him. Kay loves Marc but Marc has a girlfriend. What will he do?
Well-done and acted with two attractive leads. The script is good and moves quickly enough. However this movie has a big old tragic ending which I could have lived without. Can't we have a gay male love story with a happy ending? I'm giving it a 7 because it was well-done but I hate the ending.
Frankie and Johnny (1966)
Pleasant but unremarkable
Takes place in the 1890s. Elvis Presley plays Johnny a riverboat performer who has a weakness for gambling much to the disgust of his girlfriend Frankie (Donna Douglas). Then a phony gypsy tells him a red-headed woman will be his good luck charm. Soon Nellie Bly (Nancy Kovak) joins the riverboat...and is a beautiful red head AND the ex of Johnny's boss. Complications ensure.
Pleasant enough. It's shot in BRIGHT color, the cast is attractive and Presley sings a few good songs. The comedy is OK (seeing Harry Morgan so young is fun) and it's perfect family viewing. Not Presleys best but not his worst.
Child of Divorce (1946)
Sad but compelling
An 8 year old girl (Sharyn Moffett) has to deal with her parents divorcing and finding other partners.
A great little B picture. It's well-acted (Moffett was incredible) and realistic without getting too sentimental. Things are presented in a very matter of fact way. What's refreshing is that none of the parents are demonized. They both love their little girl completely and try to get her to accept their new partners. One scene where her mother tries to get the girl to accept that she loves her is almost too painful to watch. It all leads to a painful but realistic ending. Highly recommended.
Depressing but interesting
A young girl named Insiang lives in the Philippines in dire poverty with her mother who treats her like dirt. Then her mother invites her lover Dado to live with them...but Dado only has eyes for Insiang.
Interesting and well-acted but VERY depressing. With the sole exception of the title character there's not one likable character in the entire film and the conditions that the characters live in is shocking. It is historically important as the first Filipino film to play at the Cannes Film Festival back in 1978 but it's so bleak.
Imitation of Life (1959)
Wonderful if tear-jerking film
A famous widowed actress (Lana Turner) is bringing up her daughter (Sandra Dee) but unknowingly ignores her. She's helped by a kind black woman (Juanita Moore) who's bringing up her own daughter (Susan Kohner).Kohner is very light-skinned and tells everyone she's white and hates her dark-skinned mom. It all ends tragically.
Fantastic if sad film. Beautifully filmed in color and widescreen. Never boring despite running over 2 hours. The main theme of being ashamed of who you are really works here--especially if you're a gay man. The acting is mostly good. Turner and Dee are OK but Moore and Kohner are brilliant and were Oscar-nominated. The only bad acting is by John Gavin as Turners boyfriend. ..but he's hardly in it. Well worth seeing but have plenty of tissues handy--you're gonna need it by the end!
Chopping Mall (1986)
Cheap and stupid but not without merit
Eight brainless but good-looking kids decide to party in a mall after closing. It's also policed by three small robots. An electrical storm causes the robots to malfunction and they end up trying to kill the kids.
The acting is bad, characters do incredibly stupid things, the editing and direction are atrocious and it's basically bad...but I sort of liked it. There are fun cameos (I caught Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov and Dick Miller), there's one REALLY good gory kill, the cast is attractive and there are a lot of little film references flying around. Also since malls are closing down rapidly it's kind of cool to see a movie that takes place in one. Not a good movie at all but enjoyable for horror movie fans.
Call me crazy but I sort of liked it!
I HATED the musical on stage when I saw it in 1980. There was little plot, most of the songs sucked and I was bored. The movie has some of these issues but I ended up sort of liking it. The makeup on the people wasn't that bad and everybody could sing, act and dance. Also there was some startling set designs--it certainly LOOKED great! I almost did walk out about 30 minutes in when a number with singing mice and tap-dancing cockroaches (I'm not kidding) started up but I stayed. It got much better after that. Most of the songs were unmemorable but I loved "Mr. Mistoffelees" and (of course) "Memory". Also Jennifer Hudson was superb in her role. She sang "Memory" so beautifully I started crying. So it's not a great movie but it's certainly not the bomb people are saying it is.
The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
Too depressing to work as a comedy
This takes place during the Depression in New Jersey. Mia Farrow plays Cecilia, a waitress in a diner married to a loutish man (Danny Aiello) who doesn't work and treats her badly. She escapes by seeing movies at a local theatre. Then suddenly at one point a character in the movie (played by Jeff Daniels) walks out of the screen, becomes "real" and proceeds to romance her. Then the actor who plays the character (Daniels again) rushes from Hollywood to Jersey to convince his character to get back into the movie.
For a while this really works. Farrow and Daniels are great and his interactions with the real world are amusing. Also at 82 minutes it's nice and short. However the scenes with Aiello are very unpleasant and it has an absolutely heart-breaking ending which is beyond depressing. If the ending had been different I would have liked it a lot more but the grim ending really destroys the movie as a whole, I can only give it a 3.
This Could Be the Night (1957)
Fun little romantic comedy drama
Jean Simmons plays Annie Leeds an innocent teacher who takes a part time jo in a nightclub for the money. She has two bosses--gruff but nice Rocco (Paul Douglas) who likes her and obnoxious Tony (Anthony Franciosa) who can't stand her and sleeps with any woman he can get. Guess who she falls in love with.
Utterly predictable but pleasant and well-done. You know exactly where this is going but I was entertained. It's also kind of fun the way they dance around the fact that Simmons' character is a virgin. Back in 1957 you still couldn't say "virgin" on the screen so you had to make it clear other ways. The film does succeed but it seems funny today. The acting varies. Simmons is good and Douglas is obviously having a whale of a time in his role. Oddly Franciosa is pretty bad but it was his first film.
Pleasant little movie.
Knives Out (2019)
Good comedic murder mystery
A rich elderly writer (Christopher Plummer) commits suicide and his combative family (including Jamie Lee Curtis, Don Johnson and Chris Evans) line up to see who gets what. But was it really suicide...or murder? Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) starts investigating.
Good mystery. It's full of twists and turns and has some funny moments. Also there's some stunning production design--LOVE the house Plummer lives in. There's also a large great cast giving good performances. No one is bad but Craig, Curtis and Evans are excellent. Still I didn't love it. It's a little too long and gets needlessly convoluted at the end. Also a lot of the humor fell flat and some of these characters are really vicious. Still it's worth seeing at least once for the cast alone.
Dated, long, static and frankly boring with mostly terrible acting
Movie follows a married couple--Yancey (Richard Dix) and Sabra (Irene Dunne)--when they move to Oklahoma in 1889. It follows them up to 1930. They love each other but Yancey keeps going away to follow his "wanderlust" leaving Sabra to ring up their two kids.
Best Picture winner of 1931 was a huge hit in its day but it (sadly) just doesn't hold up. It's VERY dated full of racism against Indians, sexism and a storyline that hops all over the place. It has big beautiful sets and costumes but a lousy script with bad dialogue. The acting doesn't help. Dix is tall and handsome with a big booming voice and overacts to an embarrassing degree. I was actually laughing at him during a trial sequence at the end! Dunne on the other hand was great. Strong, intelligent and attractive--she anchors the film completely.
So this was a great film in its day but sadly doesn't hold up.
Has its moments
Just saw the 1973 cult classic "Coffy". It has Pam Grier playing a nurse. She secretly sets out to kill all the drug pushers in the city when her sister and ex-boyfriend fall victim to drugs and/or the pushers.
I saw this originally in the 1990s when it was reissued to great acclaim. I remember liking it. Seeing it now over 20 years later I'm not impressed. It has plenty of action, is well-directed by Jack Hill, has tons of female nudity and a powerhouse performance by Grier. It also moves slowly (even at only 90 minutes) and gets bogged down in the drug pusher segments with tons of bad acting. Still--it's worth seeing for Grier. She's just great!
A real mixed bag
Supposedly factual account of Judy Garland's last concerts in the UK in 1968. By that time she was flat broke and ravaged by drugs and alcohol. It shows how she struggled to keep it together and met her last husband Mickey Deans (well played by Finn Wittrock). It also has flashbacks to when she did "Wizard of Oz' and was forced to take drugs.
On one hand I loved this film. Zellweger looks and sounds nothing like Garland but she sings well enough and gives out a good performance. On the other it's dark. slow-moving and depressing. Also I question how factual it really is. Also--again--Zellweger looks nothing like Garland and having her sing Garland's songs was not a good idea. So I liked it but didn't also.
The Banana Splits Movie (2019)
Nine year old Harley is celebrating his birthday. He's going to a taping of the Banana Splits TV show with his mom, stepdad, older brother and friend Zoe. The Banana Splits are actually robots under their costumes. Then, during the course of the show, they find out they're going to be canceled. They malfunction, go crazy and start attacking and killing people. Can Harley and his family escape?
It's basically a one-joke film. The premise is great but they don't let totally loose with it. It was never funny or scary enough to totally succeed. There's plenty of graphic gore and they (thankfully) use practical effects. With one exception the acting is good even by the kids. Only Steve Lund disappoints as the stepdad. He has this I-don't-want-to-be-here look on his face throughout And yes--there's room for a sequel. So not a total washout but no great movie either.
The Woman on the Beach (1947)
Looks great but way too muddled
Coast Guardsman Scott (Robert Ryan) is suffering from severe PTS. He keeps seeing a ship torpedoed with him on it and then meeting a beautiful ghost (Joan Bennett) down in the ocean. He also patrols the beach every day and is engaged to sweet lovable Eve (Nan Leslie). Then one day on the beach he meets beautiful Peggy (Bennett) and falls for her. However she's married to blind painter Tod (Charles Bickford) who won't let her go.
A real frustrating movie. It has a lot going for it but just doesn't work. It has beautiful cinematography and it is short--1 hour 17 minutes. Also Bickford and Bennett are great in their roles. However Ryan (a GREAT actor) is surprisingly terrible and Leslie is seriously underused. Also there are plot loopholes galore and a resolution that makes no sense. What's so annoying about this is that it might have been a great movie. A preview audience HATED the movie and director Jean Renoir tried to "fix" it by chopping it down, reshooting scenes and mixing things up. The result is a very compromised movie that shows signs of a great movie. I recommend it with strong reservations.
Dr. No (1962)
The first Bond film...and not that good
James Bond (Sean Connery) sets out to find a missing agent and discovers Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) who is trying to sabotage the American space program...or something (The movie is kind of vague on it). He also gets involved with gorgeous Honey Ryder (Ursula Andress).
The first Bond film. It has its moments. It has some good action sequences, it looks great and Connery is great. But the bad outnumbers the good. It's slow-moving, confusing and incredibly sexist. Also Andress is a beautiful woman but no actress. On the whole I was bored silly. Still it was a huge hit and started the Bond series. For that I give it a 6.
Both fascinating and frustrating
A faded actor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double (Brad Pitt) try to make it in 1969 Hollywood. Somehow Sharon Tate (Margot Robie) is mixed into all this. Charles Manson too.
OK--in some ways this film is brilliant. Wonderful direction by Quentin Tarantino, great acting by the entire cast and 2/3rds of it is superb. However the first section is deadly dull with a LONG sequence showing DiCaprio acting in a 1969 TV western. I hate westerns and this did nothing to change my mind. It drones on endlessly and I was fighting to stay awake. After that it was fantastic. There's one sequence with Pitt at the Spahm Ranch which is downright chilling. It all ends with some VERY extreme blood and gore. Recommended with reservations.
Great romantic horror comedy
Sam (Patrick Swayze) loves Molly (Demi Moore). They're mugged one night and Sam is accidentally killed. However his spirit is still around but no one can see or hear him. Then he meets Oda Mae Brown (Whoppi Goldberg) who can hear him but not see him. Then he discovers his killing was a set-up and Molly might be in danger.
Swayze and Moore are just OK in their roles but Goldberg is great and won an Oscar here. Also the story is tight, complex and full of humor and action. Also great special effects. A HUGE hit when it came out. Also the ending--happy as it is--always has me crying. A must-see.
Thriller: The Grim Reaper (1961)
The best Thriller episode ever.
Eerie story about an eccentric mystery writer (Natalie Schafer) who purchases a painting the Grim Reaper. It has a curse too--everyone who owns it has died a violent death. Her cousin (William Shatner) visits her and pleads her to get rid of it...but she refuses. Then death and murders start happening.
Downright frightening episode. The painting itself is horrific and the story moves at a quick pace. The acting especially y Schafer and Elizabeth Allen is great and there's a neat twist at the end. Well-directed too. The only debit--Shatner is TERRIBLE in his role. Still it's well worth seeing.
Thriller: Pigeons from Hell (1961)
Great atmosphere but that's it.
Episode from the TV horror show "Thriller". Two brothers are driving through a swamp. Their car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. They find an old abandoned plantation and decide to spend the night. One of them is brutally killed and the local sheriff thinks the other brother is responsible. They go to the plantation to investigate and strange things begin to happen.
I heard this was the best episode from "Thriller". It's not. It has tons of atmosphere and the opening section works...but then it falls apart. It gets boring and the ultimate resolution was more laughable than scary. The acting is OK. It's too bad. With a tighter script and a better ending this could have worked.