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.

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