THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS (2018)

It's not just that son of Jim Henson Brian Henson crapped on his father's MUPPET SHOW legacy by making a crude comedy where crude puppets are actually part of the human world... It's the fact that making puppets into quasi-people deletes the magic of what puppets are in the first place, and what they aren't are cartoons, hence the WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT  theme with fictional beings existing with real ones and making no sense in THE HAPPYTIME MURDERS, where puppetry looks more CGI within a modern-time Noir Narrating-Gumshoe has a crass private eye puppet going from scene to scene swearing (from Jesus's name to...you name it) or beating people up, partnered reluctantly with former partner/human cop Melissa McCarthy, who also swears and fights and... While the stout actress has gotten the most blame for this train-wreck, and her casting does take away from what Henson obviously intended to be a different kind of puppet movie instead of a the same kind of different kind of McCarthy movie (it's basically THE HEAT), the script's to blame here: each scene is overlong and ponderous while the body count plot... puppets from a former popular TV series are being picked off one-by-one... runs out of steam, and long before murder one Rating: *

LIVE CREAM (ALBUM)

LIVE CREAM is the best live Cream album, covering songs from the first LP Fresh Cream and Jack Bruce, Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker (bass/lead vocals, guitar/vocals and drums) are able to not only expand upon those relatively unknown tunes but to turn them into extended blues/jazz jams...

When you listen to and get to know this album inside and out (which includes a studio ditty Lawdy Mama, which is Strange Brew with more blue-oriented/less psychedelic-oriented lyrics), and then crank up Fresh Cream, it's a lot like hearing some of the 1970's Grateful Dead albums wherein their studio work is simply a means to a live performance end... And Cream's second live album VOL 2. (both came out after the band broke up) is more catered to mainstream audiences or mega Eric Clapton fans, mostly covering the band's popular "hits" like Sunshine of your Love and White Room... but LIVE CREAM is the album-experience that proves who the original JAM BAND really was. And still IS... all you need to do is listen. And keep listening.

THE LAST ACTION HERO (1993)

The problem with THE LAST ACTION HERO is not the film itself, but the film-within-a-film it's poking fun at, named after the super-cop character JACK SLATER, which in itself is a lame title for a franchise that seems very made-up. So basically THE LAST ACTION HERO is bagging on an Action Movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, which would be like Jerry Lewis looking down on lovable klutzes or Rod Serling sneering at a twist ending...

The main problem is, Arnold did this movie way too soon. After TERMINATOR 2 he was at the peak of his powers, and he winds up showing audiences how stupid those kind of movies are. The funny thing is, Arnold's most popular "Action" films are really Science-Fiction... Not just TERMINATOR 1 and 2 but TOTAL RECALL, THE RUNNING MAN and PREDATOR... plus the CONAN films which are sci-fi's sibling, Fantasy...

Many of the cliches through the JACK SLATER universe do NOT exist in actual action movies... In those they're part but here they are glaring stereotypes that serve no purpose at all. Especially unfitting is the CARTOON CAT that shows up as a working cop in the police station. No Arnold or Sly Stallone or Bruce Willis movie has EVER had a cartoon mix in with humans (and the central kid actor is a bore)...

The only two good things are the tall/lanky, totally scary-looking Tom Noonan as an ax-killer who should have been the ONLY MAIN villain instead of Charles Dance making fun of Charles Dance.. And F. Murray Abraham as Jack's fictional cop partner turned backstabber could have had more merit than two quick scenes, so the fact is, the film-within-the-film is treated with no respect, and it's simply not entertaining (like Arnold's following years' comeback, a real action movie, TRUE LIES): For instance, JACK SLATER IV opens with a five-minute scene between two very old men having a conversation (Tony Quinn and Art Carney), which would bore the daylights out of any kid watching on opening night. And, after all the nonsense, by the time the fictional characters do a TIME AFTER TIME meets THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO and enter real life, the audience is exhausted. A shame since THAT movie was far better than the other. SCORE: **


 

MIRACLE OF THE ORIGINAL 'GHOSTBUSTERS'

Dan Aykroyd wrote a totally farfetched film that would not have worked had Bill Murray not dissembled all the serious attributes along the way. His dry wit in not believing the things that happen right in front of his face made the original movie great, and made Dan Aykroyd funny despite playing the straightest of straight man roles. In that, any sequel (including THE HORRIBLE second movie) doesn't work because Murray's character is no longer a cynical and hilarious non-believer of the story itself. And Murray is the kind of presence that just cannot be replaced… not by female SNL stars (the infamous reboot) and not by children either (AFTERLIFE). Not even by Murray himself, who was completely lost in the second movie… and who never wanted to be in a third movie BECAUSE OF how bad the second movie was... 

Basically, the original GHOSTBUSTERS was a shocking success that no one saw coming (including all those who were THERE on opening night). Had John Belushi starred alongside Akyroyd as intended, it probably would have not worked since Belushi, as great as he was and always the craziest guy in the proverbial crazy train, didn't have the subtle skill of undoing all the work done by others. Murray was there all along to say, "This story is silly and I don't know why I'm here" which was needed given the insane premise and, without him OR Harold Ramis to make Dan's character that much more serious-minded about all the mind-boggling, fantastical science, there's simply no use of trying to trap the same lighting in the same bottle… which, as noted several times, wasn't even possible in 1989 for an unnecessary sequel attempting to tread the same ground that was miraculously successful to begin with.

SHADOWS AND FOG (WOODY ALLEN)


While SHADOWS AND FOG is a pretty good movie, and uses the titular elements that channel old British mystery novels, German Expressionism and American Film Noir, it's the second Woody Allen comedy after RADIO DAYS where the characters and dialogue, while fast-paced and clever as usual, are just a second... or perhaps a mere moment... off. And in that, since Woody only narrated DAYS, it's the first where the man himself seems a few years too old to play the same "nebbish" character... It's like he's doing an imitation of himself, and kind of peters out in the process (after all it takes a lot of youthful energy to be so doomed and neurotic)...

His films usually have no empty spaces wherein one forgots what they're watching. Even his best work, from ANNIE HALL to CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS, leave the viewer exhausted, if only from laughing or smiling (or thinking) too much.... FOG however sporadically loses touch within its own story and at times the actors seem directionless. And as strong and infectious Woody is a writer, sometimes his "guest stars" here seem to be desperately improvising (especially Johns Cusack and Malkovich... although they're also doing Woody impressions); on the other hand, the fact it's not as downright hilarious as his 1970's films also means it's that much more laid-back and subtle. Not a bad thing. Despite being about a killer on the loose, it's one of his most relaxing features. And Mia Farrow steals the show by not seeming like she's acting at all.

THE GHOST OF PETER SELLERS

Year Film: 1974 Doc: 2018 Rating: **1/2 

Watching THE GHOST OF PETER SELLERS it feels like Spike Milligan, not Peter Sellers, is at fault for the Peter Medak's doomed pirate movie GHOST IN THE NOONDAY SUN being so bad since it was Spike who talked his former Goon, Sellers, into doing a movie that he hardly even had developed on the page.

In one reflection, Medak, who also directs this very documentary, says that both he AND Sellers cried on the phone together after having read what there was to read of the script. Then, when Sellers becomes a pain to the director on set, Spike shows up to write the last half of the script, and acts like the hero for bringing Sellers back to the set when in reality, it was a set that should have never been built because the script wasn't even finished from the very beginning. A screenplay is the most important "set" of a movie. It's everything. Seeing parts of the movie, that is, the ACTUAL movie of NOONDAY SUN, it doesn't seem all Sellers fault despite Sellers being absolutely horrible in it. The direction looks like test shots for rehearsals or casting auditions, so this supposedly brilliant young director wasn't really directing but rather just pointing his camera and filming. So perhaps the fault isn't just on Peter Sellers here. And at the very end of the doc, when Medak is sitting next to Spike Milligan's statue, praising him after defecating on Sellers for two hours, it makes very little sense.

I'LL NEVER FORGET WHAT'S'ISNAME (1967)

Beware fans of (latter) Orson Welles and (young) Oliver Reed, and even director Michael Winner in his pre-Bronson prime, but this one's no winner nor does it READ well on the screen...

The plot has Oliver as an ad man quitting before we the audience know how good he is, or about what exactly he's quitting. It feels like the movie starts 20 minutes in, even 40.

And being a 1960's counter-culture flick it's one of those Drop-Out themes, but Reed still has wealth and girls (including gorgeous, underrated Carol White) so there's not much of a void there to be filled, or that he's filling. And Reed is usually so amped into roles (especially he and Winner's first and best THE SYSTEM) but here he sleepwalks, and doesn't utter a complete sentence until about fifteen minutes in. At least not one that matters. And herein, not much does. Rating: **

BORN AGAIN (1978)

Part Watergate political-historical biopic but mostly Christian propaganda that includes veteran actor (and our personal favorite) Dana Andrews quoting C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity to a somewhat selfish, partially greedy and supposedly only-coincidentally guilty Richard Nixon lawyer Chuck Coulson thrown into jail; and that's where the good stuff occurs, especially thanks to the always-intense blaxploitation ace Raymond St. Jacques, the tough guy in the federal prison...

Who initially bullies and then protects Coulsin, played by Dean Jones, usually cast in Disney flicks as their then-modern-day Jimmy Stewart; thus that kind of man-next-door quality keeps this character-study down-home and intriguing albeit one-sided and self-promoting yet never boring but not altogether great either but, for what can be called a 2-hour cinematic Alter Call (resembling a Television Movie-of-the-Week), BORN AGAIN fits both the title and purpose, nicely enough to pass the time since these kind of preachy melodramas can often feel like eternity. Rates: ***/12

A KILLER IN THE FAMILY (TV MOVIE)

Year: 1983 Cast: Robert Mitchum, James Spader, Lance Kerwin, Eric Stoltz rates: **

Google a picture of the real life sons after they were arrested... Look at their hard, calloused faces, edgy, mean, deadly... Then watch as little-dipper eyed Lance Kerwin and docile Eric Stolz play the whining, kindhearted, manipulated, vulnerable, blue-eyed sons of the father they broke out of the jail... A father who kills an entire family including a small child...

Anyhow, if KILLER IN THE FAMILY were meaner and colder, like the real life Tison family, who were rampaging white trash serial killers throughout Arizona, unlike especially the law student son played by James Spader, supposedly wanting to kill his father while on the road, then it'd be more realistic and more an exploitation piece instead of a TV-movie that's not sure who exactly the bad guys are... 

Much of the blame is laid on the dad's convict friend. Sadly, this road movie could have been really good, but Robert Mitchum was far too old to play a man with sons that could be his grandchildren... With a melting face, he has one of those ballooned stomachs that looks hard as steel from drinking and he can hardly move his old bones... Miscast, to say the least... Again, Google the real Gary Tison and see the empty shell of a human being, around forty-years old and dead to life, dead to the world...

The lawyers of his sons/crime-spree partners must have made this TV-movie to keep them from spending too much time there, despite winding up on Death Row (before given life sentences instead, because of their age). They never seem to have anything to do with the murders or anything else, pretty much, short of the opening breakout, which seemed more daring than anything else. 

Either way, while not terrible and sometimes entertaining, this was a missed opportunity... Reminds one of the horrible Death of a Centerfold TV-movie, that was soon trumped by the incredible theatrical Star 80... Too bad nothing came out to straighten out this crooked mess... There's a Straight-to-Video job starring Robert Patrick from 2017, but... The best thing to come out of this was the Warner Archives DVD with the original blue outlined cover; a collector's edition but, sadly, what's inside there is merely a forgotten curio, for good reason.

DETOUR (1945)

Year: 1945 Rating: **

Ann Savage's famous femme fatale would be the kind of classic Noir character had she entered the picture earlier on... 

Instead, during Tom Neal's story as he, a low-rent piano player, hitchhikes from New York to L.A. to see his girl who's trying to make it big in Hollywood, Savage's Phoenix AZ con-artist babbler simply kills the self-narrated road movie buzz that'd belonged more comfortably to the far more subtle and intriguing Neal... 

Her incessant bickering is annoying while their collected con (that HE'S bickered into) is so far-fetched you'll wish poor Tom did what he initially promised: Instead of thumbing the ride that'd changed his life and given Savage the chance to blackmail him, to make the whole trip across country all alone, by himself, on a pogo-stick.

 

OKLAHOMA CRUDE

year: 1973 rating: **

Yet another Depression era movie where the corporations are worse than Nazis. Along with Emperor of the North, Boxcar Bertha, The Grapes of Wrath, the bad guys depicted are just a little... actually, a lot... overboard in their villainy, to the point that, what's unrealistic is the fact if they were this bad, why would they hold back enough to be defeated?

As for a movie, this one's all over the place: Great actors turn in pretty good performances, but Faye Dunaway and George C. Scott (she owns a coveted yet dilapidated oil well and reluctantly hires him for employment/protection) are one-dimensional, maybe even more so than heavy Jack Palance, who at least smiles around his guard dog. It's another one of those pretty decent movies that simply gets too heavyhanded with the haves and have-nots. Probably the best character is William Lucking, caught between both.

ROOM AT THE TOP (1959)

Oh these one-dimensional class envy melodramas about rich people who are one-dimensional snobs while the poor ones are one-and-a-half-dimensional... the half being that they are able to fall into the thing called Love, in which... because of the rich snobs who haven't any feelings at all... they're doomed because of it.

This was only a little better than the overrated A Place in the Sun being that the torrid affair between the young climber (Laurence Harvey) and the old married woman is realistic wherein the love affair between Monty Clift and Liz Taylor is rushed, and something from a preteen girl's reverie.

The acting is good here, usual for England, and oh boy is that Heather Sears a cutie-pie... but the story can only go as far as all the class envy cliches allow, and that's not very far. Because right when you catch onto something passing as intrigue, that agenda rears up and stops it... both the audience and the main characters. Rates: **

THE GLASS BEAD GAME (BOOK)

THE GLASS BEAD GAME i.e. Magister Ludi by Hermann Hesse can be a companion piece to the existential author's most famous work, Siddhartha, or even a sequel, only set far in the future where Zen Buddhist-types call Life a Glass Bead Game and learn to appreciate it more than figure it out by learning, becoming, being.

The main character learns to meditate in a cave and has no women in his life. He's basically Buddhist. Doesn't take a "Magister" to figure that one out. And it's a great book, very hypnotic, and like The Game itself... never completely makes sense, which is what's so mesmerizing, enigmatic and addictive...

The first part starts like an intentionally vague philosophy course, and then turns into a biography of a great man...

Sometimes particular avenues are mentioned, teased... like spending a weekend in the real world with the non-believer our man debates... only to be quickly rejected, making one wish it wasn't brought up at all since the narrative (a kind of serious satire of historical biographies) does get a bit claustrophobic, and often seems like several possible adventures are abandoned... But Monks (and Priests, for that matter, although this book is very anti-Catholic) are "cloistered", aren't they?

OLIVER'S STORY

year: 1978 rating: ***

Poor Ryan O'Neal couldn't catch a break. Even two films now considered classics didn't make money in the 1970's upon release. His daughter Tatum's BAD NEWS BEARS beat the pants off both Stanley Kubrick's BARRY LYNDON and Walter Hill's THE DRIVER. And OLIVER'S STORY did even worse; ironic being the sequel to one of the highest grossing films of the previous decade, LOVE STORY, and yet Ryan himself had a reason/theory of why it failed: Intellectual thinking man's ingenue Nicola Pagett (resembling cult starlet Pamela Franklin) was supposed to be the girl he winds up...

Early on they share one blind date which is more interesting and has far more chemistry than any of O'Neal's scenes with wooden rich girl Candace Bergen, who, being the studio's choice of perfect and pretty, made it so Nicola's third act return was left on the cutting room floor. And while OLIVER'S STORY is not a horrible picture, and has relaxing moments within the mahogany-hued classy-to-poor New York City where Oliver, a lawyer, fights a slum lord with fellow idealist employees, there's simply no inner peace or contentment for the titular character or his titular story.
Nicola Pagett as Joanna Stone in Oliver's Story

Nicola Pagett as Joanna Stone in Oliver's Story

Nicola Pagett with Ryan O'Neal in Oliver's Story
Ann Risley & Deborah Rush are two bar girls in Oliver's Story

ROAD TO PERDITION

title: ROAD TO PERDITION
year: 2002 rating: **

At the very end, the 12-year old son of a hit man, who had spent six weeks on the road with his father, on the run, narrates that he lived a lifetime on that particular journey. And while it feels a lifetime length-wise, hardly anything really happens to make the viewer agree that it was quite a ride. But that's not without some anticipation along the way. Like Hanks' Michael Sullivan, a former "enforcer" for Paul Newman's 1930's-era gangster chief John Rooney, having to rob a string of banks and to teach his son to be a getaway driver in the process. But what follows is a quick, much-too-easily-pulled-off montage. If this were made twenty-years earlier, those scores would have to provide thrills, action, suspense, but here it's superfluous filler. Only Jude Law as a menacing, photo-snapping creep on Hanks' trail is memorable... and we're simply supposed to hate him for wanting to kill the endearing mainstream star who always wins.  

Meanwhile, unlike its obvious cinematic muse, MILLER'S CROSSING, the mob boss and his supposed best friend/hit man never seem all that close to begin with, unlike Albert Finney and Gabriel Byrne, who are like inseparable father and son. One scene where Newman and Hanks play the same song on the same piano may as well have been danced on a giant floorboard-keyboard and their friendship would have felt more, well... BIG or something... so that the inevitable betrayal (involving Newman's trigger-happy son, a pre-Bond Daniel Craig) would actually mean something when things turn sour. But all there is is the praised dark-room GODFATHER style cinematography, but set in the rain-soaked East Coast Great Depression: For that, just watch MILLER'S CROSSING and it's all there... With something actually inside above and beyond this coming-of-age, violent revenge picture that isn't innocent/moving enough or intense/thrilling enough to successfully blend both. 

THE L WORD: LIGHT MY FIRE EPISODE

Season 3 Episode 4 2006

You gotta love THE L WORD for the surprisingly few times it takes on then-President George W. Bush for not allowing anyone to bash him, when in fact he was the most bashed President in history (until now... Trump) and didn't care one bit, unlike Obama... say something about him you're a racist...

It's just funny how the Left wants to be the underdog and the overlord both, and this preachy episode as Mrs. Bette Goes to Washington is made up for by a delicious seduction by Dana Delaney as a supporter of Gays... And even John Kerry is mentioned as a supporter of her support, which was timely as Kerry had run against the man who gets bashed on a show that says he never allows it... Too funny, huh?

ANATOMY OF A SEDUCTION

year: 1979
rating: ***1/2

Susan Flannery is the perfect fit here. She looks older than her age, which is forty, but she looks incredible. Such a beautiful shaped face and a terrific figure...

Jameson Parker on the other hand, as a college student half her age, in real life is only eight years younger, and it shows. They don't look that far apart in age in this female-fantasy television-movie just like they aren't in real life, so this May/November romance is more March/June, and no big deal, really: Just two great looking people hooking up, and the suspense of her best friend Rita Moreno finding out she's with her son, or her son finding out she's with a guy not much older than him, isn't as effective on paper as the actors try their best to keep reminding the audience: a taboo romance this isn't being so perfect for each other and their chemistry is just too relaxed for even that aspect, when it's just the two alone and in love, making love, to matter. But it's nice seeing Susan Flannery in all her middle aged beauty. She's prettier than most college girls try hard to be.

MINORITY REPORT

year: 2002
rating: *1/2

Looking as if filmed with a lens splattered with icky green goo, MINORITY REPORT takes us into yet another Philip K. Dick future where the government does what seems the best for society (preventing murder) but is actually... no good at all...

The entire set-up is preposterous: Like MACBETH had three witches igniting the plot, there's a trio of half-naked bald people (one a hot chick) in a large tub of liquid within a formidable police station, projecting images of murders that haven't yet happened while Tom Cruise arrests the semi-guiltys and is soon enough... like the Film Noir/Wrong Man movies that inspired Steven Spielberg to try replicating (pun intended) the Neo Noir magic of BLADE RUNNER... framed for almost-murder and chased down like the criminals he used to... chase down: But the over abundance of now dated CGI, and the fact no characters have any chemistry with each other or the altered-reality world in which they reluctantly and awkwardly exist, makes MINORITY REPORT a tedious, tiresome waste of noisy bedlam.

LILITH (1964)

title: LILITH
score: *1/2

Now if this movie were really good, or great, or somewhat daring, they'd have cast an actress who wasn't a perfect 10 (like Jean Seberg) to play a young woman who seems to "mysteriously" enchant all the males (and one sultry female) in the mental home where rich crazy people live, and sporadically, annoyingly cackle in random group sessions, and where Warren Beatty works, and of course being so handsome, falls for the titular enchantress who's as beautiful as he is: Why on Earth else would this movie matter? And yet it doesn't matter really at all... And if this insanely gorgeous girl were hanging out at a rat hole bus stop in downtown Toledo she'd "enchant" just the same: only there wouldn't be such artistic depth to rely on: But in a movie, be it art-house or mainstream, characters need to be genuinely interested to be interesting. Not even a young Gene Hackman doing an off-kilter Andy Griffith impression leaves much an impression... But he and Warren would work together again... Here, though, both seem like guests at someone else's funeral...

SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)

When much-too-wordy-for-a-dead-guy narrator William Holden tells us about the dark ominous mansion he's happened upon, the direction and atmosphere doesn't match up. He could be walking up to a local tavern and it'd be equally as suspenseful...

The best thing about SUNSET BOULEVARD is it's really a monster movie/creature feature and in that, a terrifyingly creepy Gloria Swanson makes up for a bland and overly glib Holden who, outside the main location, has a flirtatious affair with super-cute Nancy Olson as part of a soapy Hollywood-satire melodrama that simply isn't thrilling enough to be called a thriller...

And it's definitely not a Film Noir: If anything, SUNSET is a satire on Hollywood created and adored by Hollywood with built-in gripes that aren't very universal: a lot like another show biz satire (considered a classic as well) decades later, also starring William Holden, called Network: Both are vastly overrated. But Gloria Swanson's tour-de-force is far less forced than Peter Finch, and she's impossible to not be intrigued with. It just seems the audience has more interest than her smug leading man. GRADE: B

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (1995)

John Carpenter attempted a horribly hokey science-fiction tale, and in that, succeeded. The cast includes actors known for franchise films: Christopher "Superman" Reeves, Mark "Star Wars" Hamill, Kirstie "Look Who's Talking" Alley, Michael "Eddie and the Cruisers" Pare, and Linda "Croc Dundee" Kozlowski as residents of a town hit by a blackout that mysteriously impregnates the women, nine months later giving birth on the same night to alien children who, a few years later, become albino megaminds.

But despite the good adult cast, most of the acting is subpar, especially Mark Hamill who, as a preacher, delivers lines as if he too were possessed. The children, on the other hand, perform decently enough, but are held back by cheesy FX as their eyes radiate, taking away any real threat they might've had otherwise.

STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE (1979)

Having dismissed this famously maligned movie aka the spectacular late-seventies STAR TREK THE MOTION PICTURE so long for the more action-packed, mainstream, fan-adored sequels, it's become a personal favorite, experiencing the majestic visuals along with the crew, who all kind of sit around stunned, mesmerized as the gorgeous, multi-layered, formidable foe unfolds outside and well... how can you blame them?

THE LONER (1965-1966)

Could have been a cool show, especially with Rod Serling as the writer. But he's wearing politics on his sleeve, and while many Twilight Zone episodes are cautionary tales, they relate universally.

This show, fitfully titled THE LONER, about a former soldier on an endless road happening upon various human varmints who love the thought of war without having been through it... or without having learned from what they did experience while in it... takes away from what each story could have given the viewer other than a message, which overrides each plot-line and buries the theme: to where our wandering hero seems more like a brooding know-it-all than someone making the perfect pawn upon each eclectic adventure. In other words, he has so much to teach he never actually learns anything...

And worse yet, he never seems in danger so there's little to no urgency in his would-be, world-weary travels. He simply winds up lecturing everyone not as enlightened as he is...

A lot like the political side of Hollywood, which Rod Serling was much, much better and deeper than. But he had more of a sermon to tell her than a story. See the early Gunsmoke episodes for how a great Western series should be. GRADE: C

A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951)

Charles Chaplin said this is the best film about (not set in, but about) America, and with all the one-dimensional class envy stereotypes, it makes sense since old Charlie didn't care much for America. Just like the movie. 

Film centers on the dreary nephew (raised on the evils of Christianity) of a rich and powerful businessman. The kid falls in love with beautiful Elizabeth Taylor, who plays a beautiful society girl. But before that he (eventually learns he) knocked-up a working girl even more cliché than the rude-rich snobs being she's so pitifully somber, discontented, shabby and neurotic.

As for the gorgeous-looking couple the audience is supposed to care about: Literally within ten minutes of knowing each other, Taylor tells Montgomery Clift she's fallen in love with him, and while love happens fast in old movies, this was a record-breaker, and in that, a shark-jumper. Followed by the semi-intriguing Film Noir style murder plot/morality tale that's too little too late in this highly-regarded "classic" that not only doesn't stand the test of time, it lays down and falls asleep in the process. GRADE: D+

SUPERMAN RETURNS (2007)

You got to give credit to X-MEN director Bryan Singer for, in 2007, trying to make his SUPERMAN RETURNS literally that: returning from the 1978 original (with the same opening credit look) and starting out after the fantastic sequel SUPERMAN II, basically Brandon Routh is really, literally supposed to be Christopher Reeve and not just Superman who's Clark Kent up front...

If there's any one thing Reeve did best in the title role is playing Kent in an endearing underdog manner. Something Routh just can't pull off: Instead of clumsy for the part he seems awkward in the role, and while on paper Kevin Spacey's the dream Lex Luther, he seems like he doesn't want to be there, and with the same exact world-damning land-deal goal as Gene Hackman's Luthor, it makes the arch villain feel even more bland, unoriginal, familiar and basically a frustrating afterthought...

Meanwhile, an otherwise witty (in Christopher Guest movies) Parker Posey is perhaps the weakest moll in film history... But worse yet is Lois Lane... Played by a much too young Kate Bosworth, not only is she too inexperienced an actress but the character lacks Margot Kidder's charm, screen presence and, in having been in her thirties, and while looking older than Reeve, Margot really did seem like what she played: a reporter who's been in the game and knows more in the area of reporting and taking risks: The latter giving Kent turned Superman a reason to protect her, constantly...

But the biggest shame here is James Marsden's throwaway role as Lois's seemingly too-perfect boyfriend, trying too hard to be "dad" to a horrible child actor who's really Kent's Superboy. And come to think of it, Marsden, under Singer's direction as Cyclops in X-MEN, would have made a much better Superman: Being the right age he seemed more in tune with the natural fit Reeve had in the part, and he's great looking, has a properly muscular build, and to play the clumsy Kent, he's a good actor... How could Singer not know what/who was staring him in the face? GRADE: F+

BOOK CLUB (2018)

Old age is handled funny in movies. These people have had children and grandchildren, and in this case, the generation that was all about sex during their Sexual Revolution, wind up acting like silly old folks who seem to be discovering sex, and, even though the movie is intentionally showing that they are in fact rediscovering it, they sound like 13-year-olds who've never had it at all...

In that, BOOK CLUB is not a bad film. That is, it's not completely unwatchable. It's an older persons' date flick that uses the niche of its four stars: Bergen a kind of strong lioness who is insecure deep down; Jane Fonda is basically the same thing but slightly more confident and experience up-front, and prettier now than Bergen, who looks her age the most here; Keaton's her usual quirky neurotic that Woody Allen invented for ANNIE HALL; and Mary Steenburgen is the least well-known and not an iconic actress like the others, and also, like Fonda, has aged nicely (and tap dances to rock music like MELVIN & HOWARD)...

Their men are paper mache and the book being read, Fifty Shades of Grey, is promoted in what seems like a 2-hour commercial masquerading as a rom-com.

But this propaganda fades out after the first act when the usual problems arise. Followed by a pat Hollywood ending. Either way, this is vapidly enjoyable viewing for those who aren't expecting anything actually good or solid. Let's call it, passable time-filling emptiness. Or as Woody Allen said (while married to Keaton) in LOVE AND DEATH: an empty void. MAINSTREAM GRADE CURVE: C

IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT (1967)

Rod Steiger is a personal favorite thanks to Al Capone, Doctor Zhivago, and The Sergeant. This is considered his best movie but is more of an actor's workshop. He chews gum like someone without gum jacked-up on crystal meth. It's not only distracting, it reeks of performance. In the business, this is called an "activity" and it's simply too... active.

Sidney Poitier on the other hand is good, takes his time, and doesn't need to distract the audience from believing in his character. The opposite of overacting. And the best aspects of the movie have him not only surprising the narrow-minded locals that he's a good investigator because of his color, but the audience because of his young age: In his cadence there's a sort of edgy experience, but the film fails to back this up and seems, in a directorial sense, far too aware of itself (and its timely importance) while stretching a 48-minute story into two hours, and has dated elements that needed about five years to really hit home... in a realistic, non-forced, and at this point, less dated approach. GRADE: C+

THE BOSTON STRANGLER

year: 1968
rating: **

Director Richard Fleischer's Police Procedural biopic, using the multi-screen effect, only works until Tony Curtis is revealed as the real life killer, Albert DeSalvo, who, at the time this movie was made, was thought of as having multiple personalities...

When filming started DeSalvo had slyly escaped from the mental institution where he was to spend, most likely, the rest of his life. What's truly insane is the authorities thought a husband with two children and a full-time job would kill eleven women without knowing exactly what he was doing, and how or why he was doing it: The most effective scenes occur within each crime, sans the culprit. Meanwhile, Henry Fonda makes a literally weak/passive lead protagonist, replacing comparably effective and edgy, every-man detective George Kennedy, who started out on the killers' trail: one that eventually hits a prolonged dead end, and, progressive in the worst ways, THE BOSTON STRANGLER makes a psychic seem logical, a psychologist completely infallible, and this particular madman a victim. And an uninteresting one at that. 

CITY BENEATH THE SEA (1953)

cast: Robert Ryan, Anthony Quinn, Suzan Ball, Mala Powers
rating: **

What a complete letdown, and this coming from a viewer who loves movies about treasure hunters...

Unfortunately, the main character, played by a stiff Robert Ryan, is so uptight, not only does he NOT go along with more energetic and assertive partner Anthony Quinn, to find gold on a sunken ship in a literal CITY BENEATH THE SEA from a volcano explosion hundreds of years ago, but he moves in to snake the booty first, just to teach his partner a lesson. That lesson is also taught to the audience, who must weather this bland fine-feathered friend who's also an extremely weak central hero, keeping this movie from being edgy, or entertaining...

And the two lovely ingenues are both gorgeous, and initially tough, independent and assertive, making their characters mean more than just looks and providing a built-in feeling of suspense within the anticipated romance. One is the captain of a small boat (Mala Powers) and the other a calypso singer (Suzan Ball). But without Ryan or Quinn having to do much at all, both ladies melt to their touch in such a pathetic way. The singer actually asks Quinn, "What are you thinking?" after they'd known each other ten minutes.

This is a b-movie, so the low budget is deliberate, and mostly works... including scenes of the boys trudging in heavy "Diver Dan" style underwater gear with matte painted backgrounds. The technicolor is great looking, and otherwise these are capable actors and actresses. But this oceanic thriller is devoid of thrills, and pretty much... sinks upon impact.

WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION

year: 1957
rating: **1/2

Another extremely overrated classic, and this one always compared to Otto Preminger's Anatomy Of A Murder, and Billy Wilder's stagey direction of an Agatha Christie stage-play mystery of Witness for the Prosecution couldn't be more different if it centered on purple unicorns traipsing through Iceland: The first is an existential courtroom drama about a man who's entirely guilty of murder, and here it's obvious someone's not telling the truth. Either a horribly aged once-perfect-looking Tyrone Power (with a gorgeous trophy in the wings played by Ruta Lee, pictured below): he's accused of killing a rich old lady befriended for need of a loan on an egg-beating invention, or the title character in Marlene Dietrich, who gives the best performance overall, especially having to do with a twist that really only works in repose...

Meanwhile, the always great acting team of Charles Laughton, as the flawed defense consul of the English Court, and real life wife-beard Elsa Lanchester, are only pretty good here, going back and forth more like another kind of stage play. Comedy, perhaps. Which simply doesn't fit here, and with everything mounting to the last five minutes, like mysteries do, this isn't one for rewatching: another major difference between Anatomy Of A Murder, a true classic that really needs a divorce from this otherwise semi-decent courtroom melodrama.

BARRY LYNDON (STANLEY KUBRICK)

article: Hating Barry Lyndon
year: 1975 rating: ****1/2 

Given how many takes the infamously picky and in some cases reportedly sadistic filmmaker Stanley Kubrick put his actors through — in watching any of his films, you're not only seeing what he's directed but what he's selected...

Any and every scene or moment was by his choice to fit within the, in this particular case, gorgeous landscape of a period piece/costume drama that is actually the antithesis of an Epic feature film: bordering on what feels like, after numerous viewings, a kind of subliminal parody on what would usually be a fulfilling fictional (adapted from classic-era literature) biopic on a person that, to spend hours on their existence, would eventually lead to a significant purpose...

But keep in mind when watching BARRY LYNDON it's a motion picture that takes the epic form and intentionally throws it both out the door and in the viewer's face...

Famously renown as merely an aesthetic masterpiece, filmed with natural lighting and a region dotted with castles only dreamed up beyond even a picture book's rendition...

The real twist is the revelation of a truly despicable man, played wonderfully selfish by Ryan O'Neal, who cunningly antagonized otherwise good people long before he became the chief antagonist against, basically, everyone: despite starting out as a sympathetic hero simply because he's the main/title character being centered on.

GYPSY (NETFLIX SERIES)

Year: 2017
Rates: ****1/2

This original Netflix series has had very negative comments and reviews and is now dead as dishwater, with no second season to continue GYPSY, which was falsely promoted as a kind of thriller, or something...

But it's actually the sexiest and in that, most lustfully suspenseful show that ever dealt with bisexual women... Or what some refer to as "lipstick lesbians." Because that's really all this is about, and everything else is merely background... wallpaper...

While Naomi Watts is a pretty older woman, Sophie Cookson is perhaps THE most beautiful young actress that ever lived... and there have been quite a few... living and dead...

The basic premise is that Watts, a married shrink, goes behind her patients' backs, tooling around with the people in their lives they'd shared about in private AND legal confidentiality. And yet, what everything really boils down to is when Watts and Cookson (the wild ex of melancholy young male patient) will eventually connect i.e. hook up. When they do, it's unfathomably awesome. But is nothing compared to the repressed longing that occurs for the first five episodes to reach that point, so, if you're into this kind of thing... GYPSY, although no longer a series, can now be referred to as an extremely sexy and genuinely sensual 10-hour older-younger lesbian movie. 

OUT OF THE PAST

year: 1947
rating: **

Jacques Tourneur is a personal favorite director, but not because of OUT OF THE PAST, considered his very best work for those who didn't pay close attention to the unique, intricate details of CAT PEOPLE, THE LEOPARD MAN, CANYON PASSAGE or CURSE OF THE DEMON...

Those movies had tiers to climb, and obstacles to cross. This movie, like Robert Mitchum's character, sleepwalks from scene to scene where everything is just too easy: Find the pretty girl who stole Kirk Douglas's money. No problem. She's in Mexico and in a matter of scenes she's found, and quickly swept off her feet. After all, Mitchum is handsome and Jane Greer's really pretty. But this is a hollow, mannequin romance, and there have been more intriguing, risque affairs on daytime soaps. Not even Tourneur's direction rises above the dull script, so full of contrived, forced-quotable one-liners, there's hardly a complete sentence uttered: it's a random collection of snapshots that aren't even postcards.

THE WALKING DEAD: STRADIVARIUS

Worst episode of Season Nine, 2018: Centers on the title violin and a dog, and only one survives. THE WALKING DEAD sans Rick Grimes is THE LOVE BOAT slashed by an iceberg...

Usually there are conversations about what happened yesterday, or last week, but now the dialogue centers on six years ago. Meanwhile, these new characters are very dull, and hilariously they cover the entire PC spectrum: a black kid; a deaf woman; a white woman; a nerdy white guy. All of them rambling on and on, and even with an annoying device of subtitled sign language there's too much dialogue. For god's sake, at this point, this show's propaganda machine, THE TALKING DEAD, should either switch titles or share one since there's far more talking than walking, or any dead. PS One-note Daryl Dixon's dog can act circles around him. Rating is One Star. And hardly even that.

KEY LARGO

title: KEY LARGO
cast: Humphrey Bogart
year: 1948 rates: **

Locked inside a Florida Keys ocean-front hotel during a hurricane, war vet Humphrey Bogart, ingenue Lauren Bacall and her endearing crippled father spend so much time running-down and chewing out, lecturing and even heckling mobster Edward G. Robinson, he hardly has time to steal a picture that desperately needs stealing... HIS way...

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