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Handsy hosts add odd tone to show
Of all the experts on Antiques Roadshow, why were Leigh and Leslie Keno picked up to host their own show?
They talk over each other (and often over their visiting experts) -- plus they have an odd habit of apparently needing to run their hands over the antiques they're looking at, which in some cases is a bad idea.
In one episode for example, they admit they don't know much about collectible posters, then proceed to touch, rub, and poke at a set of old ski lodge posters for about five minutes. If possible, paper collectibles shouldn't be touched by bare hands; the human hand has all kinds of bacteria and oil that damages paper. If they can't keep their hands off, they should at least wear gloves -- and these "experts" don't know that?
The hosts also gesture broadly and distractingly with their hands when they talk -- making the show seem almost like a Saturday Night Live parody.
The idea for this show is great -- the opposite of Antiques Roadshow; experts come to people's homes and businesses to appraise antiques and provide historical information. It just needs better hosts.
The Story of Us (1999)
Unrealistic dialog from the mouths of not-too-likable characters
Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer are great actors; there's no denying that. But even the best actors in the world can't breathe believable life into dialog that is overly flowery and complex. And this script is full of tongue-twisting speeches that Pfeiffer and Willis just can't overcome.
In a way, the writing is actually pretty beautiful -- certainly it's far better than the tripe in most movies (and it's the only thing that elevates this much above a "Lifetime, made-for TV" flick). But it simply isn't the way that people talk. The dialog -- especially Pfeiffer's mouth- full-of-a-monologue at the end of the film -- is filled with unnecessarily big and non- conversational words and long, complex sentences that don't exactly trip of the tongue. Overall, that final scene was pretty touching, and the meaning of what Katie is saying is deep and important -- and ultimately, it's the only thing that makes the movie worth sitting through. But nobody talks like that. And then there are the scenes where the Ben and Katie talk to the camera, narrating the story. Again, if it was writing in a book -- "prose" as opposed to "dialog" -- I'd consider it quite good writing. But clunkers like "...maybe it was the stuff of life..." (that separated us) are so distracting that they ruin the flow of the movie.
The ultimate point of Katie's final speech, and I guess of the whole movie, is that you should choose to be with someone because of the quality of his or her character. Amen. But neither of these people really exhibited a depth of character to make them endearing to viewers or to each other. And even if someone has a sterling character, would you want to waste your life with a person who can't stop yelling at you?
Though the movie doesn't take sides, I personally found Katie far more annoying than Ben -- and her rigidity, coldness, and inability to really communicate made it pretty unbelievable that Ben would want to stay with her. Life is too short to stay with someone you bicker that much with, in my opinion. It's true that sometimes you can find yourself in love with someone who really pushes your buttons. But there was never really a sense of these characters being in love, so I certainly didn't find myself rooting for them to work things out.
One might make the point that parents should stay together "for the children," but as the child of parents who argued a lot when I was young, and who now (divorced) say they stayed together for the kids, I strongly believe that parents don't do their children favors by doing that. I'll admit that maybe watching this sort of story was upsetting for me to endure because of that personal history. But from reading other readers' comments, it seems that not many people found this an enjoyable film to watch. (I'm not saying that every movie should make you laugh out loud, or feel better, or whatever ... but a movie like this is such a downer that it makes you want your two hours back.)
I absolutely can't recommend this film if you have any other alternatives. If it's a choice between this and a rerun of "Full House," I guess you could give this a try. But if there's some way you can just watch the last 10 or 15 minutes, that's about the only part worth watching.
How do movies like this get made?!?
Movies like Bewitched make me a little sad: Such a waste of talent, on all levels -- from the cast to the crew -- not to mention a waste of time and money. There are wonderful scripts that never get made, and a piece of trash like this script does make it to the big screen and gets promoted as something worth watching... (There should be a law against trailers that make a dreadful movie look good.)
The thing I really don't understand is, how come hundreds of movie-goers can all agree about how awful this movie is -- yet, nobody who had the power to make it better (director, producers, other studio folks....) noticed how bad it was? I've just scanned through the IMDb viewer comments, and in more than 300 reviews, there's only a tiny handful of people who think it's a good movie...and most of them say things like "it's not AS BAD as I'd heard it is." (i.e., it's bad, just not "that bad.") So, could there have been people behind the scenes who thought it was good? Maybe one of these days, studio execs will realize they should hire some die-hard movie fans to give them advice about what's wrong with their movies.
There are some really great actors in this movie, including Shirley Maclaine, one of my all- time favorites; and Kristin Chenoweth, one of the best stage actors of her generation -- but those two amazing ladies are given practically nothing to do.
When I first heard the concept of this film -- that it would be about a group of actors remaking Bewitched, instead of an actual remake -- I thought that sounded inventive and interesting. But in actual execution, it's so poorly handled by the director and writers that it's just a confusing distraction. Is Iris/Endora really a witch?? Is there a reason that Isablle's REAL aunt is the same character as the Aunt Clara from the original Bewitched?? What was the deal with Paul Lynde/Uncle Arthur near the end?? Is he supposed to be the same Uncle Arthur from the original show? Because if he is, couldn't they have tried to find someone who actually in some even obscure way looks or sounds like Paul Lynde?? I'll admit that I was so bored by this movie that I stopped paying much attention, so maybe I would have found the answers to some of these questions if I'd been more engaged, but I sort of doubt it.
Nicole Kidman has chosen some amazingly good movies -- I think The Hours and Moulin Rouge will both be shown on some classic movie channel 50 years from now. But she has also picked two of the worst scripts in recent memory -- this one and The Stepford Wives, neither of which will be remembered for anything but their utter awfulness.
There are some movies that are so bad, I actually recommend that you watch them either for unintended laughs or as an example of what script-writers and directors should NOT do. But Bewitched is so terrible that I can't think of any reason to subject yourself to it. If you have a couple of hours to kill, you'd be more entertained by watching paint dry. Or even better, find one of Shirley Maclaine's GOOD movies, like The Apartment or Postcards from the Edge. Just don't waste your time on Bewitched!
War of the Worlds (2005)
Like being trapped with a bad-mannered, screaming child!
Wow...did this movie NOT live up to the hype! It's not only one of the worst movies of 2005, it's one of the top ten worst movies I've ever forced myself to sit through. At its core is a thoroughly unlikable family unit, and any "horror" movie that doesn't contain characters you care about simply can't succeed. I've truly enjoyed the performances of young Dakota Fanning in her previous movies, but I have to say, not even her charm could save this mess of a movie. In fact, I know she was just doing what she was told to do, but the fact that she shrieked and whined her way through the film absolutely drove me nuts; watching this movie was like being stuck in a very small airplane with a screeching, bad-mannered child. I also found it difficult to watch Tom Cruise's performance and not be reminded of his bizarre behavior as he promoted this film. I know it shouldn't impact a viewer's enjoyment of the work...but for me at least, it certainly did. He has become so creepy and unlikable off-screen that I have no desire to watch him in anything -- or to add another penny to his bank account. Many other things made me dislike this film -- including a lot of really bad plot holes (were battery-operated machines all frozen, or not??) and aliens who looked like rejects from the old TV show The Outer Limits -- so I could go on, but I feel I've already wasted too much of my time, just watching the movie.
Blueberry scene one of the most disappointing....
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has a few interesting visual moments, but overall it's one of the biggest disappointments of 2005. It seems to me that Tim Burton did a lot of things in this movie because he could -- not necessarily because it was it made the overall film better. One particular scene sums up what I found most unlikable: Violet's transformation into a giant blueberry. Just because CGI technology made it possible to make Violet swell to gigantic proportions, that's no reason to do it. In the original Willy Wonka film, it was clear that even as Violet grew, she was still portrayed by a real little girl (Denise Nickerson). In this version, within moments after the transformation begins, we're looking at a cartoon character -- and not a particularly convincing one at that. The original film had scary moments, because even if you disliked the naughty children, you likely felt some compassion when they were in peril. In this version, I didn't care whether the cartoonish kids were in danger or not. The whole film suffers from this problem -- it has no heart. (Another example is the emotionless, unattractive Oompa Loompas. Bleh. And the creepy back story about Willy's dentist father...those flashbacks only served to pull us out of the factory and certainly didn't make Wonka any more likable.) I thought Tim Burton had hit an all-time career low when he mangled Planet of the Apes. But his work on CATCF is even worse. Most of his original work, like Edward Scissorhands, is great, but I hope he keeps his hands off any more classic films.
The Dying Gaul (2005)
Terrific movie -- greatly improved since the preview and festival versions!
Please don't let comments from confused viewers stop you from seeing this amazing film! It's been fixed! :)
Spoilers follow...but nothing that will ruin your enjoyment of the film, I promise. :)
Like a number of the people who have offered comments here, I saw a very early "preview" version of this film, and was left scratching my head a little bit. I enjoyed it, but was a wee bit confused about how exactly Elaine knew so many of Robert's secrets -- enabling her to convince him she was the ghost of Robert's dead lover. But tonight in New York City I attended the film's official premier (complete with spotlights and movie stars... very exciting!) -- and some small but very important changes have clarified the plot.
Craig Lucas' film directing debut is a revelation. He has created a very grown-up, intriguing, complex, fascinating story and coaxed spectacular performances out of some of the best actors on the scene today. (Lucas has directed stage productions before -- and done an artful, deeply moving job -- so he's not a totally-brand-new director.) He has done spectacular work on stage over the years, and now he is beginning to apply his genius to film work. I believe we're going to see much more amazing work from him. (He has written some terrific movies in the past -- such as Secret Lives of Dentists -- but he is relatively new to directing.)
The three lead actors here are amazing. Each of them can communicate more without speaking than a lot of actors can achieve with hours of dialog. I've loved Campbell Scott ever since "Longtime Companion," and his mature performance here fulfills the promise he showed in that film (also written by Lucas) over a decade ago. Peter Sarrsgaard veers from sweet to evil, from happy-go-lucky to seductive, with great ease, creating a likable character who does some very unlikable things -- like many real, flawed human beings. And Patricia Clarkson is entirely believable throughout the movie. That may seem like a simple thing, but not many actors can consistently carry it off. I believed what she was saying and doing at every moment. Without her steady performance, the movie could have really stumbled -- especially at a point where the viewer has to buy into a slightly implausible situation. She pulls it off. Robin Bartlett has a small role as a wise-cracking, cynical nanny, and is quite amusing in it -- much like her short but funny turn in another of my favorites, "Postcards From the Edge."
"The Dying Gaul" isn't the type of movie that does well in wide release, for a number of reasons. It's perhaps too much of an "art film" to be widely viewed by casual movie fans.
(And that title, while totally appropriate once you see the film, is a little too "high-brow" to do the movie any good. At least the filmmakers have the self-deprecating sense to make a couple of jokes about that, during the film -- Jeffry says no one will see a movie with that title.... But unfortunately, he's right.)
So, unless you live in a major city (or unless it gets the Oscar attention it richly deserves) you may not see it in a theater. But thankfully we live in an age when great movies can find an audience on home video -- and I predict that's what will happen here.
The Bob Cummings Show (1955)
Historic TV that's worth a look
Bob Cummings was a pioneer in the early days of sitcoms, making this show worth viewing if you're interested in the history of television programming. There's a certain "live on tape" feel to some episodes, when actors accidentally step on each others' lines, which also makes the atmosphere a little more natural than today's highly polished (tightly edited) sitcoms.
It's a treat to see a young Ann B. Davis, best remembered today as "The Brady Bunch"'s housekeeper, Alice. In the 50s, she was considered a fairly major TV star, and she was an undeniably inventive comic actress. In many episodes of "The Bob Cummings Show," she has a pretty substantial amount of screen time -- far more than she usually got in the Brady household.
Another classic sitcom star is on hand: Before Nancy Kulp played Miss Jane Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies, she honed her TV skills in "The Bob Cummings Show." Her character, a snooty, sexually aggressive bird-watching enthusiast has much in common with Miss Jane. In fact, in many ways they're practically identical. In later years, Kulp came out of the closet and lived as an openly gay woman. Her character in "The Bob Cummings Show," while aggressively pursuing Bob, certainly has a lesbian vibe. In the episode "Bob Goes Bird Watching," for example, when Kulp enters the episode, she's clad in a very masculine suit, with a "butch" hairstyle, but throughout the scene she's trying to persuade Bob abandon his swimsuit-clad models and join her at Griffith Park, to check out some "tit mouse" birds -- no double entendres were wasted in this show...
Dwayne Hickman is also in the cast, perfecting his Dobbie Gillis character. Like Kulp, he carried this character's basic traits into another show -- so it's interesting to watch him learning his craft here.
Like many shows of this time period, "The Bob Cummings Show" was performed at a pace most viewers now find stunningly slow. But many of the scripts hold up fairly well, and the acting, though a bit stagey at times, is naturalistic and enjoyable. If you want lightening- quick repartee, tune into "Will and Grace," but if you're ready for some relaxing old-time humor performed by some of the best actors from TV's early days, check out "The Bob Cummings Show."
The Horror of Frankenstein (1970)
Frankenstein en route to a gay bar....Darth Vader Lives!
Yes, there was life before Darth Vader. Dave Prowse, these days relegated to autograph shows (his signature: "Dave Prowse IS Darth Vader"), plays the oddly sexual Frankenstein monster in this rather cheesy flick. His Frankie springs forth with a shapely (and clean- shaven), buff chest, defined abs, and tree-trunk thigh and biceps. From the neck up, he's pretty unappealing, but from chin down, he'd be a big hit at a gay disco, barely clad in what look like boxer briefs.
Also of note and flashing some skin: Kate O'Mara plays a buxom housekeeper. Kate has played the devilish sister of two of the greatest characters ever to grace the small screen: Dynasty's Alexis Carrington and Absolutely Fabulous' Patsy Stone. Here she has a fairy substantial role (in a less-than-substantial film) as Victor Frankenstein's housekeeper and concubine.
Victor inherits her, along with the house, and keeps her around even though she can't cook. He does explain why, indirectly: When seeing her for the first time in a while, he comments, appreciatively, that she's put on some weight "in a couple of places." If her costume in this scene had been cut any lower, we'd see her belly button....
This one certainly wasn't ever in the running for an Oscar, but for what it is, it's not exactly unwatchable. It's a modern retelling of a classic tale -- updated to of course include plenty of sex and gore. Like most Hammer films, it's beautifully produced and the sets are pretty convincing (mostly) -- though I found the castle (and the film in general) to be too well-lit to be very spooky.
I was struck by one interesting little tidbit: This film was released by MGM about the same time the studio distributed Dan Curtis's House of Dark Shadows, which has a bit of a Hammer feel to it; and the lovely blonde actress featured in Horror of Frankenstein (Veronica Carlson as Elizabeth) bears a striking resemblance to Nancy Barrett, similarly featured in HODS as sexy vampire Carolyn Stoddard. I'm sure it's a coincidence, but their makeup and hairstyles are slightly similar, and they simply reminded me of each other.
Phantoms, Inc. (1945)
Campy short warns of dangerous "confidence men"
A rarely seen dramatic performance by matronly Ann Shoemaker, who played dozens of "mother" roles in the '40s and beyond, adds some interest to this otherwise run-of-the-mill MGM short. The cautionary tale shows how a team of "confidence men" (and a couple little old ladies, inexplicably) interviewed neighbors and pored over newspaper archives to help their ringleader con an unwitting, grieving mother (Shoemaker) out of her life savings. (In a dramatic moment, after confessing her sins to her mousy husband, she steps in front of a car, ending her own sad existence). TCM occasionally airs this as one of its One Reel Wonders. It's worth catching, for camp value, if you get a chance.
Loose Women (1999)
Surprised by other comments; I like it! :)
I'm very surprised to read the only comments posted about this show are quite negative. I guess I'm not the typical target audience of the show: I'm a male New Yorker in my late 30s. I spent part of the summer of '04 in Ireland, and I really enjoyed getting a chance to sample the local programming, and this show was actually one of my favorites. It's sort of the British version of our "The View," which I don't particularly like.
(On "The View," the ladies are constantly trying to outshout each other; they fawn over some guests like giddy high school girls; and last year Star Jones went so overboard talking about her upcoming wedding you'd think she was the first person to ever get married.)
BUT, we're talking about "Loose Women" here, and I found it to be almost completely opposite of "The View." The main host kept things on track and helped the panel stay focused. She and her cohosts were witty, opinionated, and intelligent (mostly -- a slightly ditsy blonde showed up for a few of the episodes I caught). Even though a lot of the current events they were talking about were unfamiliar to me, they put an interesting spin on it all -- so it felt a little bit like eavesdropping on a smart group of ladies sitting at the next table in a foreign restaurant.
While the women did talk a bit about their personal lives, Ms. Jones and company could learn something about how to keep that in perspective. The format of the show (looking more "newsy" than not, with the ladies sitting at a traditional-style news desk, rather than in a faux living room) lends itself more to keeping things semi-professional.
Overall, I felt like I got an interesting glimpse at how a specific group of women felt about their lives, national current events, and the culture they live in. Maybe if I'd been watching for longer than a month, I would have gotten tired of it, but as it was I didn't, and I plan to tune in again next time I'm able. I wish an American cable system would pick this up -- or at least that highlights could be presented on DVD here. (Oxygen or Lifetime would get a much- needed does of international flavor -- replacing just an hour or two of exploitive content, like "Bliss" with this.)
A Perfect Murder (1998)
Definite Spoilers Ahead. Please don't read if you haven't seen the film yet and want to be surprised.
My biggest question -- why do directors/producers think viewers are stupid? Maybe most people just sit back and enjoy the ride...but why spend so much time and money to make a beautiful-looking movie like this, populated with some fairly good actors, and based on a good, classic story, if you don't care enough about the story to employ a thoughtful writer or two?
Anyway...this movie has too many plot holes to count, but here are the most glaring, in my opinion.
Why would Emily leave a comfortable, hot bath to answer the phone? In such a lushly appointed apartment, it's hard to believe it doesn't have an answering system or built-in voice mail. And even if it doen't, there's been no sign that it's going to ring an annoyingly long time when Emily starts moving to answer it.
Why was Steven so easily dismissed as a suspect -- just because he was "on the phone" during the attack? Of course he didn't commit the attack -- the attacker is DEAD. His having an alibi for the time of the attack does not clear him of arranging it. If he was even considered for a moment, he wasn't a suspect for committing the attack, but for planning it...and his "alibi" doesn't clear him of that.
Steven was so careful about so many parts of his "perfect murder plan" -- why would he so sloppily toss the cell phone out of his car, on his way from the poker game? If it were found (which it never was, apparently) the fact that it was on his return route would be pretty incriminating. There are plenty of places, like the East River, to toss something.
It's obvious the dead man lived in a very scary neighborhood (Emily visits and it's pretty dangerous looking) -- so we're supposed to believe the killer only used one key and had one lock on his door? I live in a nice part of New York and there are four locks between the apartment and the outside world -- but Emily was able to get into that apartment with just one key. Doubtful.
When Steven confronts Emily, it becomes a complication that there's something at the artist's loft connecting him to them: her wedding ring. Steven says he'll go get it. WHY does it matter if that connection exists? There are obviously many others they can't do anything about -- like the negatives to the photos he's just shown her; money that he's confessed to paying the artist; at least one of her friends who knows about the affair. And, he's supposedly a blackmailer, so wouldn't one assume he has some hidden "proof"? Why does it matter that the ring is in the loft? Surely, no matter what, Steven and Emily don't think they're going to be able to pretend Emily never had an affair with David!?
When Steve hands over money in Washington Square Park, David tells him the tape is a "commemerative copy" -- there's been no guarantee (that we've heard, at least) that there's no other copy of the tape. Who would assume that was the only copy??? And of course, we soon learn it wasn't.
If your husband tried to have you killed, and you had the proof (the tape), would you confront him (even with a gun in your pocket) or get the heck out and go to the police?
Of course David was recording the murder plot, when Steven laid it out at his own apartment. Why wouldn't he? If Steven was such a good planner, why would he not "shake down" David to make sure he didn't have a tape recorder? It would be in character not to trust him.
Argh! I want back the time I wasted watching this thing....
The Ex-Mrs. Bradford (1936)
The Thin Man .... with the wrong (ex) wife!
This movie was made the same year as the first Thin Man film, and it's another stylish black-and-white murder mystery starring the same leading man (William Powell), so comparisons are inevitable. Its script isn't nearly as strong as the best of the Thin Man flicks, but if you're a big TM fan, this film can ALMOST feel like an extra entry in the series -- except that the fabulous Myrna Loy is nowhere in sight.
Powell is just as polished here as he is in the Thin Man movies (though seeing him perform a chaste autopsy reminds you that he's playing a doctor, not Nick Charles), and he's well paired with Jean Arthur playing the titular ex-wife, who's bucking for a reconciliation with her reluctant former hubby. Her Paula comes across as a slightly smarter Gracie Allen in an endless stream of gorgeous designer gowns, sparkling diamonds, and perky hats. (In fact, if you're paying close attention, you'll notice that she switches costumes at a couple of slightly inexplicable moments.)
The couple bickers well (but not at the break-neck pace of Powell and Loy), and there is a little bit of simmering sexual tension (but again, not in the same league as P&L).
A typical exchange: Paula: She was wearing a cocktail dress. Bradford: What's a cocktail dress? Paula: (with a kooky smile) Something to spill cocktails on! Bradford: (deadpan) That sounds reasonable.
It feels like the writer couldn't quite decide if he wanted to present a relationship-driven comedy or a thrilling drama, and the undeniably talented actors seem equally confused at times. Still, it's ultimately an enjoyable film of its type (though what "type" that exactly is, is open to debate), and if you enjoy golden oldies -- and especially if you're fond of the two leads -- you won't be disappointed.
Kentucky Kernels (1934)
Interesting Time Capsule of a Film With a Little Rascal
If you only know the little bruiser Spanky McFarland from his Litlte Rascals, this movie casts some light on why he was considered one of the best child actors of his generation. As an adorable little tyke with a penchant for breaking glass, he drives the movie's Kentucky feud storyline. He even signs a love song "One Little Kiss," to his best pal -- a cute dog, and one of the male leads sings a few lines to a donkey (It's that kind of movie).
Kentucky Kernels is notable for showing what was considered funny -- and in some cases, socially acceptable -- in 1934. An actor credited as "Sleep n Eat" (actually Willie Best) shuffles his way through the film as a stereotypical wide-eyed, scared-of-his-shadow servant. And a gay subtext between the two male leads is watered down by some forced and unconvincing romance with a typical blonde Southern belle, but lots of the movie's humor is derived from the male/male "romance." In their first scene, for example, Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey are the picture of domestic bliss -- bickering as one sits at the dinner table while the other does dishes and complains about his dishpan hands. Though they mince their ways through the rest of the movie, even holding hands at times, the characters are presented as heterosexual. At another point, they're shown sleeping in the same bed -- in a plantation mansion that surely had plenty of bedrooms.
The plot, with the boys finding themselves in the middle of a Hatfileds and McCoys-style Kentucy feud, is a bit contrived. Lines like "You dance exactly like a heifer -- I mean a zephyr!" seem lifted from the Marx Brothers, and in fact one of the supporting players is best known for her appearances as the straight woman in some Marx classics. Margaret Dumont plays the manager of an adoption agency that places young Spanky, indirectly, in the care of the vaudeville performers played by Wheeler and Woolsey. It's a shame Dumont wasn't given a more substantial part; she would have been terrific as a befuddled Southern matriarch later in the film.
The paper-thin plot won't really hold your attention, but viewed as a "film history" lesson, it's worth watching. Director George Stevens went on to much bigger and better things (including the enormous classic, Giant, also set in the South), so it's interesting to see how he handled this dull script.
Wanted! Jane Turner (1936)
Not as bad as one-star rating would make you think
This 1936, hour-long B-movie has a rating of only one star in the film guide that pops up on the digital cable system I subscribe to -- which implies it's one of the worst films ever made. While it's slow paced and not terribly exciting, it includes some fun glimpses of a couple actresses we know from very different work. Leading lady Gloria Stuart had only been working a few years when she got star billing in this film -- and of course it would be 60 years before she was nominated for an Oscar in one of the great "comeback" stories in Hollywood history, playing "Old Rose" in the 1997 megahit "Titanic." Stuart does well with a mediocre script here, though she's not on screen as much as her billing would lead you to hope for. She plays a glamorous postal inspector, with stylish hairdos and daringly low cut dresses that showcase a sexy side that will surprise viewers who only know her as "Old Rose."
Stuart's love interest is played by Lee Tracy, who starred in an impressive slew of movies in the 1930s. There's no chemistry between him and Stuart making the predictable (and unnecessary) love story seem especially contrived.
An amusing subplot features game vaudeville comedienne Irene Franklin in a small role as a flinty blonde involved in a mail-order bride con game. She has a fun scene when one of her intended husbands corners her at the General Delivery window at the L.A. post office: Seeing the mustached, heavy-set sheep farmer, she cries out, "I'd just as soon marry a buffalo!" She tells a postal inspector, "I didn't intend any fraud, but I simply can't marry a sheep herder!" Her tune changes when she discovers just how many sheep he herds, and how much those future lamb chops are worth. It's one of those cases where it's a pity someone didn't realize the subplot could have been expanded into a better movie than the main story turned out to be.
The other actress worth watching for is Barbara Pepper, who has a small but flashy supporting role as Marge, a sizzling blonde bad girl, who also deserves a bigger part in the movie. Pepper is best remembered as the hefty, slovenly adoptive mother of a pig on the '60s sitcom "Green Acres" but here she's thin and gorgeous, and dripping in diamonds.
"Wanted! Jane Turner" contains some well-shot vintage exterior footage of Los Angeles, which adds some interest. And lots of the small roles like a crooked dog catcher are filled by studio contract players instantly familiar to movie lovers. Overall, it's certainly not one of the worst movies ever made, but it's more notable for what might have been than what actually made it on the screen.
The Glass Menagerie (1987)
Perfect cast in a classic story
I first noticed James Naughton when he starred in the cheesy 1970s TV version of the Planet of the Apes, and later learned that he has had an amazing stage career over the years. It's a shame he may be more widely remembered for his work in that series than for his theater endeavors, which by nature aren't usually recorded. Fortunately, his heart-breaking performance as Jim O'Connor was saved for posterity. He's perfectly cast here as the charming former high school golden boy who comes to the Wingfield home for dinner, offering a ray of hope for a happy future for painfully shy Laura (Karen Allen in a well-acted stretch from her most famous role as the spitfire lover of Indiana Jones in Raidres of the Lost Ark).
Joanne Woodward shines in a multi-layered, brilliant turn as one of the most interesting characters in modern literature, Amanda Wingfieid. She gives just the right touch to small moments that give the viewer an enlightening peek at the desperate condition of the fading southern belle -- such as a moment on the telephone, coaxing someone to renew their newspaper subscription so she can scrape off her small commission.
John Malkovich also turns in a terrific performance, making the aftermath of the dinner party compelling, though painful, to watch. Malkovich has evolved into an actor whose quirkiness can sometimes overpower his character. In this relatively early work, his brooding sexiness gives an endearing depth to the story's narrator, a character who, in the wrong hands, can be utterly dislikable.
My only real quibble with this film is has to do with the technical direction. Paul Newman drew out such great work from his cast that it's unfortunate that distracting camera work takes attention away from them at times when it shouldn't. One can see that he was trying to make the stagy story more "movie like" and intimate with close-ups and quick cuts from camera angle to camera angle. For example, when Jim accidentally breaks one of Amanda's favorite glass animals, we don't really need to see a quick, tight close-up of the unicorn and his broken horn; that momentarily breaks the momentum of the scene. It's more than enough to hear the sad young woman's touching twist of the situation-- comforting Jim for causing the break by saying she'll imagine that her treasured unicorn has had an operation to make him look like a regular horse, and will be happy now that he's not a freak. The camera work certainly does not render the film unwatchable, and I think it shouldn't be missed.
Watchers II (1990)
Who Watches the Watchers? Only those too lazy to find the remote....
Though this film adheres a LITTLE more closely to Dean Koontz's classic horror novel than the first Watchers film, it's still not very watchable.
Tracy Scoggins, once deliciously campy on the old 80s soap The Colbys, appears as a "temp" animal psychologist whose "expert" abilities include such as displaying letters of the alphabet on a computer screen and sighing, "Z. This is Z." Wonder if the character needed a college degree.... (She must be smart though, because she sports big glasses and a frumpy hairdo through most of the movie.)
Marc Singer, as Paul, displays some of his Beastmaster-like love of animals bonding with the beautiful canine star -- but unfortunately he and the mutt have more chemistry than Singer and Scoggins. At least a moment in tightie-whities gives Singer a chance to show he's in even better shape than he was in his Beastmaster days. Of course, the sex appeal in that scene is toned down a bit by his pulled-up knee socks, and the director doesn't bother to try to generate even a little sexual tension between Paul and his ex-wife.) That's just one of many missed opportunities for interesting twists. And several scenes that might be a little suspenseful fall flat because we don't know enough about the threatened characters to care whether they live or die.
Early on, Paul's ex-wife mutters," Paul, you're not making sense," at a moment when he's actually making as much sense as he ever does. Maybe she was just making a comment on the overall script. (She does quickly follow with one of the film's only fairly good lines: "If you're thirsty, the toilet's open, OK?" -- delivered to the dog, and probably intended for her estranged hubby as well.)
The "monster," which we see much too clearly, much too soon, looks like a reject from an old episode of The Outer Limits. And its potentially layered relationship with its creator is watered down by the creator character's bored delivery of exposition.
Spoiling any kind of dark tone, the dog's abilities are played for laughs in moments more fit for an old Disney flick -- like when he drives Paul's convertible. Then again, a numbingly slow scene in which the pup taps away at a computer keyboard does give a clue who might be ultimately responsible for the clunky script.
If you're a fan of the book, you might enjoy seeing a few key moments transferred to the screen (thankfully, without Corey Haim, star of the first Watchers film). But amazingly bad dialog, silly writing, cheesy special effects, wooden acting, and poor lighting combine to make this a pretty big waste of time.
Based on excellent source material, this could have been camp, or scary, or at least interesting. Unfortunately, it scores on none of these fronts.
Another Man's Poison (1951)
Bette in "Eve" mode; great setting; fun movie!
Okay, it's not an Oscar-winner, but this movie is a lot of fun, especially if you're a Bette Davis fan. The setting, a spooky, isolated British mansion, is strongly portrayed; by the end, you really feel like you've spent time some time within the oak-paneled walls. Bette looks just like she did in "All About Eve" -- same hairstyle and similar wardrobe, so it's easy to imagine that this could have been a Margo Channing movie. And of course her costar is Garry Merrill, with whom she also starred in "Eve." This was adapted from a stage play, so I think it's interesting to pay attention to the structure and limited changes of location, which are an indicator of its stage pedigree. This one shows up on TCM once in a while; sit back and enjoy.