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Jezebel (1938)
GWTW without Rhett
13 July 2006
Warning: Spoilers
is one way of thinking about this film, which is an adaption of a play. The first act must end at the bedroom scene where Ashley/Pres forgets he came up the steps to cane his lady. The second ends with the conclusion to the ball scene. The third concluding act is announced with the title "One Year Later."

Like many plays it begins slowly, almost too slowly, as Wyler gives the viewer exposition: Buck Cantrell and friends, including Pres' brother, talking at the bar, the end result being arrangements for a duel the next day, The story moves to a party at Julie's house, where the host is notably absent. When she does appear on a fractious colt, bantering lightly with Our Gang's Stymie, and then her guests, her character is drawn and limned deeper by a trip to Pres' bank, where she interrupts an important meeting. All of these scenes are more or less padding, allowing Wyler to ring up the curtain on the Ball and the red dress. From that point, melodrama breaks out, holding the viewer to the fitting climax where Julie/Scarlett and Amy/Melanie almost switch roles.

What is important to remember is that Wyler and Warners were not doing a send-up of the yet to be released GWTW, but rather using Owen Davis' 'old and often produced play.' And what a job they did, working in the customary Warners' Black and White style. Maybe Davis would be stronger and more southern had it been in color, but the ball scene, and the dinner scenes at Halcyon would not have the impact they do here. The credits scroll over moonlit moss-covered trees, and bear a similarity to those used two years later in the Wyler/Davis masterpiece, The Letter. Both films were scored by Max Steiner, but in Jezebel, Steiner uses an old ballad of the period to underplay Julie's preparations for her reunion with Pres, and it is pure genius, something years ahead of its time. It begins low and slow but as Julie gets more frenetic, it becomes louder and faster.

Watch too as Julie/Davis uses the same nervous mannerisms with the cut flowers as she did as Leslie Crosbie and her needle work in The Letter. In fact the two films make a perfect Bette Davis doubleheader.
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Raggedy Man (1981)
Return of Boo Radley
22 November 2005
Sissy Spacek has this kind of part down pat, so praise comes too matter-of-fact. I liked the 'Aw Shucks" charm of Eric Roberts as the sailor who receives a 'Dear John" telephone call, and once he disappeared from the film, a lot of its life fizzled away. It's a small film with limited exposition, so that the dinner scene with the boys substituting their long lost father for the departed Teddy seemed to come from almost nowhere. Then despite all of their wailing, they gladly fall in with Mom's desire to move to San Antonio. Then it is headlong into a scene that is part To Kill A Mockingbird and part Straw Dogs.

The problem with the script, and I suspect the screenwriter realized this, is that the Raggedy Man sails too close to Boo Radley, and so the plot must steer away from devices like having the boys be afraid of him. Yet he cannot disappear, so we have shots of him lurking about, or shots of his shop, lest we forget he is part of the story.

I think the film would have worked without him even being part of it, a small tale of a thwarted four day liberty if told from the sailor's point of view, or better, simply a tale of a four day honeymoon for the divorced women. But heaven forbid, there would have been little action. Somehow the ending violence robbed me of my memory of Sissy dancing with her broom while the Andrews Sisters sang.
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The Letter (1940)
A fine wine that has aged well
3 November 2005
From the opening scene down on the old rubber plantation to the final triumph of the inscrutable orient, this film keeps us in our seat. Wyler,the screenwriters, and Leslie Crosbie manage to wreck three lives in an amazing 98 minutes. Hammond was dead a few frames into the film, but lawyer Stephenson will never be able to practice his trade with the same suave surety again, and husband Marshall is unlikely to ever recover from the kick in the gut as Leslie/Bette Davis tells him she still loves the man she killed.

Maugham's tight little melodrama comes off better in the hands of master Wyler than Forster's Passage to India, another tale of colonial life brought to the screen by David Lean. Made in 1940, and written long before that, Maugham's and the film's characters did not have to include an Edward Fox giving an apologia for his fellow white men, and so we are able to concentrate on the pure melodrama of the story of a woman who shot her lover.

Stephenson is wonderful; as we watch we wonder what price he will ask Davis to pay for his breaking of the rules. He never speaks to her without a pause, as if to say 'what I am telling you is not all that is on my mind' and there is a certainty that he does not know what she will do with this information in the future.

Davis was probably the only actress of that time to be able to carry off her role, but the comment of another reviewer that she is not colonial enough is very well taken. We are used to seeing weak men playing opposite her, but Marshall provides more dignity than that as the noble cuckold.

My only fear is that someone will try to remake it today.
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The Birds (1963)
Better with every viewing
1 November 2005
When it first came out, the public was disappointed. It wasn't Psycho and seemed to pale in comparison to Norman's story, but I liked it better than Psycho then and still do today. Along with Shadow of a Doubt and 39 Steps, it is my favorite Hitchcock.

I watched it again last night, Halloween, on a VHS tape from several years ago. Today I came to this board; I notice there are 22 pages of comments, so I doubt I can add anything new, but here are some thoughts in general that may engender more discussion on boards:

1. The final scene will always stick with you; 2. How many times does Hitch let his heroines enter a room that they should not? This plot device goes back to Mary Roberts Rinehart, but it works every time. 3. Get the wide screen DVD; there is one scene in my 'fit to your screen' tape where Mitch is talking to Melanie walking back to the house, but he is not on the screen. 4. Tippi is gorgeous, but there are times you can hear daughter Melanie's helium voice bursting out. 5. I wonder about the necessity of the scene in the restaurant with the end of the world man, the old lady who studies birds, the mother and kids eating lunch and the fisherman. It is borrowed from many 50's SCI-FI pictures. The purpose, of course, is to give a pause until the next attack, but all the dialog sounds so trite. 6. Is Annie the only teacher in that school? 7. And what did Mitch's father do for a living when they resided in Bodega Bay? Today such a place would be overrun by tourists. 8. I cannot get over the confidence of Hitchcock, to set that first gull attack on Melanie without music. I keep trying to think what Jaws would be like without the pounding score. 9. Then again, sharks do not caw or coo. There were over 100 starlings and blackbirds on my lawn and in the trees this morning, making what sounded like a hideous racket. Yesterday the noise would not have bothered me, but today? 10. Can we make a pact to shoot the first producer or director who announces he or she wants to remake the film?
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"Let's remake The Fugitive"
1 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
"but we can't because Richard Kimball solved the mystery of who killed his wife." "I wasn't thinking of Harrison Ford; Tommy Lee Jones was the real star of that movie. The follow-up, US Marshalls did not do bad either." "So maybe we have him after another runaway fugitive, sort of like a nicer Dog, The Bounty Hunter. He can sprinkle some corn pone charm like when he is the DA in The Client, but we won't have him be so important, some lesser job." "And we will make the fugitive a woman this time, like if Thelma survived driving off the rim." "Yea, and she can be married to a real SOB, but she doesn't know he is a SOB. He can end up dead, maybe his mistress kills her." "Better yet, let him fake his death but her be held for it while he goes off with her best friend or something like that. Wife is put in jail, escapes and goes to find him because she suspects he is alive." "We'll give her a daughter, no make it a young son; they are cuter. Little boy can mention seeing Daddy when friend brings him to visit Mom. Only problem, can't see a women's jail break without outside help....maybe we put her on parole and make Jones her probation officer, and she skips to find hubby." "Throw in some photogenic locales, some atmosphere and make Jones craggier than last romance between them but all else is game....make her like Thelma, or is it Louise." "Well, let's run with it."
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If you really want to cringe,
22 August 2005
pop it in your DVD and turn on English subtitles. Using them is the only way to understand Hanks, who speaks his dialog so softly and into his lapels, that you have to read it. Oh, you could turn up the sound, but then you'd have Wayans screaming MF at the top of his lungs, or Irma Hall doing her Safire Stevens' mother bit at full vibrato. In print Wayans' language looks more puerile than it sounds.

I watched this with my in-laws; he needs the subtitles, but for her, the foul mouths and tasteless gags were too much after forty minutes or so. We were there as company, and every minute sister-in-law was grating her teeth, realizing she could have come to our house to see the final episode of 6 Feet Under. I knew it was going to be a long evening when the dog died introducing one character. How funny those Coens are! I knew the plot, having seen Guinness pull the same robbery, and without tons of character introduction, or needless scenes like the gospel singing in the church after which the minister explains 'smite, smote,' stealing some 70's Black Comedian's shtick about the use of the verb 'to be' and rephrasing it. I kept expecting those master thieves, the Coens, to have Robert Duvall walk in and start preaching.

How smarmy the Coen's have become! They just have to show us how hip they are with their choice of musical interludes. In 'Brother' it was white down home songs; here they prove to be equal opportunity hipsters. And these are the same people who brought Nathan Arizona to the screen. How low can they sink? We went home, turned on Turner Classic and caught "Hunchback" until ready for sleep. I had this horrible thought that perhaps the Coen's would turn their attention to it for a remake, with maybe Anthony Hopkins playing two or three roles. I kept waking up with nightmares. Avoid this disaster at all costs.
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It's in the writing
5 August 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Reading the comments, I find few viewers seemed to have read James Ellroy's LA Trilogy, on which LA Confidential is based. The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz comprise the Dudley Smith story; Smith is the only constant in all three. None of the heroes are in Nowhere, Buzz Meeks being gunned down by Dudley while trying to escape, having hidden the heroin. Buzz White survives Confidential along with Exley, and White does go off to Arizona, but Smith still lives and rides high. In Jazz, Ed Exley~~Guy Pearce~~and Smith do battle for the soul of David Klein, who in the end brings down Smith. Of the three, Confidential is surely the most complicated since with the heroin out there somewhere, many more players are involved.

Hanson's genius is to shorten the story, eliminating Nowhere entirely, and bringing Dudley his retribution without Dave Klein being involved. He eliminates so many back stories: Exley's father is alive in the book, and a powerful politico to boot and this is just one difference, but in clarifying and making the story shorter, he almost makes it better. The murder of Vincennes is a brilliant touch, along with the code name Rollo Tomassi.

Both the books and the film are pulse pounders, intense to the core. My late wife, who could never sit through any film without getting up for a cigarette, was immobilized, and by the end was screaming "Kill him" as Exley watched Smith depart. If I had one slight criticism, it would be the cleaning up of some of the language about the original suspects in the Nite Owl killings, but make no mistake about it, this is the film for the 90's, and the only 1997 Oscar nominee worth watching. Hurrah for Curtis Hanson.
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It's not The Third Man
1 August 2005
but it's worth watching for Boyer, Lorre and Paxinou. Greene's entertainments that were filmed during the war either required transplanting to American shores, as in This Gun for Hire, or the use of American actors in roles where they did not fit. Bacall fits that part here. I kept waiting for her to whistle and bring Bogie to life; her tone of voice is simply all wrong for an upper class Englishwoman. But listen to the dialogue! No, people don't talk that way except in books, but Greene was sending a message about an England that needed to wake up to the dangers of the world. One other positive note: Greene's range of characters were kept whole. While Mr. Mukerjee resembled more a Brahamin, at least his nationality was kept, and his final conversation with Paxinou is priceless.
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I have this vision
26 July 2005
of Benjy Stone and company sitting around and writing this screenplay, but there is no King Kaiser to tell them it smells, so each of them gets to put in their little story, with the result that when the film seems like it is about to end, it still has 45 minutes to go. Benjy, the lover of Alan Swan movies, insists it needs the big business intrigue, which could have been dispensed with a lot easier, and with two or three less characters to clutter the landscape. Cy wants to punch it up with a sex scene, and has the idea to shoot it so that with a few added cameras, it can qualify for late nights on Cinemax as a half-hour feature. Silent Herb has the right idea: why can't Death just come for this big wig and leave it at that. Maybe he can choke on a gristly piece of lamb and get the picture over in 90 minutes.

Thirteen years ago my friend D___ dropped dead at 62 on a Long Island golf course. He had piles of money, loving kids, a wonderful second wife and many friends. He was lucky; he told me once that was how he wanted to go. If he'd waited, this film would have killed him.
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Emmett's Mark (2002)
I wanted to like it
18 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
It was made in Philly, my hometown, and having Gabriel Byrne plus Tim Roth probably assured some decent acting, but as luck had it, Pam figured out the mistaken diagnosis before the film was 15 minutes old. Thus as I watched the rest of the film develop, I kept thinking in the back of my mind, 'does the Police Health & Welfare Plan rule out second opinions?' Man is told he is going to die soon from an illness, and he doesn't see if the doctor could be mistaken.

I read the other reviews where some praise and some damn the film's open end style. In this case I think the writer(s) may simply have run out of inspiration or ideas. Do we want Emmett to go back to his girlfriend, or get involved with his co-worker? Who knows? We will let the viewers decide. What does it mean when Roth can't pull the trigger? Is this some sort of comment on his whole sexual life, or is he granting life in place of the one he took previously? The pose seems almost out of Michaelangelo's Creation on the ceiling at the Sistine. Is failed detective Roth giving the spark of life to the man he just wounded? The questions keep piling up. The serial rapist drives an SUV; so does Emmett? Coincidence? I have played solve the crime board games that were more enlightened than this series of questions.

Pam, and another reviewer, commented on the phone conversation between Emmett and Roth. I'd driven past this intersection on April 4th of this year. The camera actually dresses up the area, and while there is a union hiring hall nearby, and the area is less than a mile from police headquarters, the site of two white men standing on that corner meant that it was either just after daylight or an optical illusion. In fact, I found the views of neighborhoods during foot chases eliminated any of the demographics of Philadelphia. The only Black people we see seem to be policemen.
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Bobby & Sean play Ollie and Stan
5 July 2005
Once we are past the opening scenes set in what seems to be a coal mine doubling as a prison, this film can be enjoyed as a fable. Many films should be prefaced with the phrase 'once upon a time' and this one is no exception. Producer DeNiro could not get Stan and Ollie so he put himself in the latter role, and chose Penn for the part of Laurel. We keep expecting to see Penn break out into Laurelish tears at any moment, and it is only the sound of the water that prevents us from hearing DeNiro shouting "whooaaaaaaa" as he slides down the falls. And there are so many times I expected Ollie to swat Stanley, but it never happens.

Left to their mugging, my rating might be higher, but somehow inserting Demi into the mix spoils something. If the time were 1930, the little girl who plays a key role would have had a much older looking mother, or at least one who looked more bedraggled by her life in that wilderness.

Then the storyline takes a disastrous violent turn just after the statute seems to have produced another miracle. Such a scene worked in Some Like It Hot when the killer jumped out of the cake. Here it ruins the mood that is being set. Surely there was another way to get the girl into the water.

I have no problem, however, watching it again.
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Things Change (1988)
Nowhere to go
5 July 2005
This is a quiet, enjoyable film with Mantegna playing Mantegna, the nervy, edgy man who thinks he is smarter than everyone else but needs to go back to school for a few more lessons. He is saved by Ameche, a little man who plays a fool to get by in a dangerous world, never letting anyone know if it is an act or real. He lets the cat out of the bag in the bath house scene, when he opens his mouth and out comes this magnificent version of "Return to me" but in Italian.

The film has one problem once the pair arrive in Tahoe, Mantegna passing the gentle shoe shine man off as a Capo. It's quite funny to watch everyone bow and scrape in those scenes from the arrival at the airport until they settle into their suite, but after that Mamet has a problem. Where do he go from here? The ending is predictable, but any other would have chased patrons out of the theater in anger.
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Does the book justice
15 June 2005
Without Turow's best seller I wonder if we would have Grisham et al. It restored the court room drama to its place as part of the mystery canon. The film changes very little from the book.

The moral of both film and book is that everyone has some degree of guilt: Rusty his affair, DA Horgan his dalliance with the victim and his run for cover when the ship hits the span, Rusty's wife, and even our honorable judge. Even Rusty's friendly detective friend is in reality suppressing evidence. Only Sandy Stern is beyond reproach, or so we think.

Ford does anguish well, but it is very difficult to believe that he would succumb to Ms. Polhemus in the first place. This is not the fault of the filmmaker but of the book. Raul Julia has the easy role which he acquits well. Bonnie Bedelia is a mystery, as she is supposed to be.

My original criticism of the story was that for a whodunit, as opposed to a procedural, we are left at the end with only one possible person to be the killer and so it is. In addition, there is one large hole in the plot; it would seem impossible that the police would not search Rusty's home for the murder weapon.

There is a great deal of resemblance between this tale and the Richard Gere/Diane Lane vehicle "Unfaithful".
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Thunder and Lightning
7 June 2005
Warning: Spoilers
made my dog start hyperventilating and gave her enough adrenalin to lope up the steep staircase to the bedroom, where we were watching this Wesley Snipes/Diane Lane mystery. Stroking and petting the canine helped me accept some of the implausibility of the story, and I watched it to the end.

When it seemed that the First Son was the killer, I tossed out the opinion that maybe it was the First Lady, reasoning that some clever screenwriter stole the idea from Presumed Innocent. Pam guessed Alan Alda, but I thought that there were too many cold eye characters to settle on one. It was when Ronny Cox, Alda and a bunch of military types tried to decide whether to drop a few bombs on North Korea and start a war that my focus became clear. The writers were not channeling Absolute Power, but rather Seven Days in May. Kirk, Burt and Freddie March did it better, but they didn't have this DC Detective backstory to gum up the works. You know something is wrong with the writing when the running joke about eviction goes nowhere.

Despite these problems, Snipes held my interest, the dog settled down, the rain let up and it finished in time to let me see the last three minutes of the Pistons-Heat game.
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Empire Falls (2005)
Where Have I seen this
31 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I was a bit scared when HBO scheduled this for Memorial Day weekend, the time when television viewing drops off to a minimum, but with the children and grandchildren having gone home, Pam and I sat entranced watching both parts last night on HBO2. She spent her summers on a farm next Baxter State Forest and recognized many of the locales. I simply like Russo, one of our few writers of the human condition in the northeast who avoids New York City.

Yet as I watched the doings of Miles and company wrestling for controls of their souls with the lady in the big house, memory took me back to 9th grade, I think it was, and another lady in a large house, Miss Havisham, and I kept expecting Martita Hunt to come walking into the room. I wish Russo were here so I could ask him politely if Dickens' seminal work influenced him? Maybe this could be a topic for some high school English class essay: rather than Pip being sent for, it is Mrs. Gargery because she broke up the intended marriage. Joanne Woodward seemed a bit too nice for the part, too well fed as it were.

Ed Harris was wonderful as the man who finds one of those puzzles in his closet, the type where you look into the telescope and maneuver the lens to put it together. He is on the receiving end when his father shouts back the accusation that the boy Miles did not tell HIM about Charley and his mother, and later when Charley informs the boy Miles that is was the child who prevented the couple from finding happiness.

The hidden love from the past angle is well done, but despite the excellent work of William Fichtner as the man who stayed in Empire Falls, the idea of Miles as the town failure, the butt of jokes, does not come off. There is too much of an awareness that a saint is walking among them, a saint named Miles, to make Jimmy Minty more than someone dragged in from a George Higgins crime novel.

Is it just me, or does anyone else think the Columbine scene to be a handy device to wrap up loose ends? Finally, when Helen Hunt finds out her intended was born in 1943 and will be 60 soon, or already is, it is very funny though her tipoff should be that few people 50 or younger even remember Petty Como. Yet then we have an epilogue telling us that Empire Falls has become gentrified, and now the natives cannot afford the new houses, but how could all this happen between 2003 and the present?
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The Stepsister (1997 TV Movie)
At least it is short
23 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I thought I was watching Days of our Lives or one of the other afternoon soap operas. When the camera panned the evil stepsister from the toes up, I knew my patience would be tried, but after I surfed and found no Columbo episodes on, I tried to lock in to this 'mystery' where any chance of playing detective was spoiled when little Miss Evil woke Joanie from a deep slumber to urge her to up the dosage. Now it became strictly a thriller, with the requisite scene of plucky young woman entering the killer's house, without police backup as the plot turned out. I could almost hear Mary Roberts Rinehart typing the script.

Little inconsistencies: On that occasion the killer, who is in the clear according to the police, calls the law to protect herself. Yet when she spots a burglar in her house later, she confronts the invader herself. Oh, some mental midget will tell us she could not call the law because she knew the crook was into her supply of digoxin and she would be found out, but that is a crock. Her whole modus was thinking she had everyone wrapped around her finger.

Then there are all the scenes when the heroine looks from the window of the guest house and sees what is going on in her father's house, AFTER turning on a light in her room. Try to gaze out the window into the dark when there is a bright light burning behind you. You will see nothing.

Another experiment I must try is looking at another car thru the side mirror of mine. In the scene where Ms. Evil drove Dad to work, she appears to get back in a car with right hand drive. My co-watcher says this because we see the scene in the side mirror of the heroine's car, but even in a mirror right is right and left is left.

The actress who played the stepsister was awful. The black widow spider is supposed to have some charm to attract the victims; this one set off waves telling one and all to run the other way. Except for her cat fights with the heroine, it was impossible to believe in her. Tuesday Weld set the standard for these type parts in Pretty Poison; this particular actress is Thursday, and she has far to go.

As the climax neared in the operating room, I had this horrible thought that I had seen the film before for I predicted that the needle held water, not poison. Seeing the villain trying to seduce the prison doctor as the screen faded, I was hoping this was not a set up for a sequel.
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The 39 Steps (1935)
Many Levels
20 May 2005
This wonderful film works on so many levels: spies, suspense, the chase and as a romance of a man and woman poles apart. In addition to these standard elements of film, it is also a capsule of a time and place: England in the mid-thirties, showing us the average music hall and then the London Palladium on "Crazy Night." I am not English, nor was I alive then, but this IS what a music hall must have looked like with its hecklers, drinkers and smokers filling the air with their haze.

Then we have the two intrepid traveling salesmen on the train, going to Aberdeen to flog their wares. Hitch used Wayne and Radford to great effect in 'Lady Vanishes', but here I love their topical remarks about the BBC of the time.

And whatever is that contraption used by the police in Scotland to hunt from the air. Did King Wesley lend them his auto-gyro from "One Night?"

Donat and Carroll are another of those wonderful couples: Bogart and Hepburn, Finney and the other Hepburn, and Gable and Colbert,whose American comedy hit the screen the year before. Their night together compares favorably to G & C's in the motor camp in "One Night" but they have no 'wall of Jericho' between them.

Hitch's goal was to unite the bickering twosome, but he frames the story with a chase of an innocent man, and within the hunt are smaller chases that bring out so many wonderful touches. There is the dining car steward so anxious to sit Donat for tea as the police chase him through the train. A few seconds earlier there was that gasp of amazement from us as Carroll denounces her seeming 'husband' embraced about her in her train compartment, which sends Donat out the door in a hurry.

But none compare to the five to ten minutes after Donat breaks away from the police in Scotland. Seeing police everywhere, he takes up with the temperance band, marching to some meeting, but he leaves them to duck inside a door only to find himself thought to be a speaker at a political rally. Oh, how wonderful he is, thinking on his feet up on that stage, transposing the name of the candidate into McCrocodile and earning the cheers of the audience. Sometimes when you watch a film, you wonder if another writer/director borrowed an idea from the present. How similar that meeting is to the one in Third Man when Holly is dragged off to the literary soirée.

39 Steps was the best film of 1935, and while the sound is poor in parts and in parts the print grainy, I will never throw my copy away, especially when it opens by telling me that the movie met the approval of the Board of Censors of Great Britain and the Irish Free State.
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This looks real
19 May 2005
Having cringed through the false sentiments of "A Time to Kill" and the obvious obnoxious message sending of "Runaway Jury" I was ready for another exercise in frustration when I caught this on AMC last night. This must be a pretty good film if I could sit through endless commercials for Enzyte, the male enhancer, and some kind of Charles Bronson film festival to be showing soon, and come back to the film, which as with most movies on AMC did not take up quite where it left off.

Travolta was made to play a negligence lawyer. He reminded me of Ricky S, a man who shared my offices back in the '80s and who followed the Travolta dictum to the max. All of Ricky's cases were settled on the telephone. I liked the way he talked before he thought; he exuded that confidence that such men have to have to do their jobs, and when he realized what he missed in the spilling of the glass of water, he took it as a new learning experience to add to his arsenal.

Duvall was his customary excellent self; we have seen him play this role so many times, but it could have been filled by Gene Hackman also. I think Duvall can mail these parts in. I am not being negative either.

I did not realize that William Macy's character's LAST name was Gordon. I liked the way the storyteller did not cut to scene's showing Travolta's associates doubts about what he was doing, but let us draw our own conclusions, and I cheered when the writers and directors did not tack on a "The Natural" ending by having Travolta hit a home run in the courtroom.

Then there was Gandolfini: he could have been sitting down with AJ, Meadow and Carmella at the dinner table. Same facial expressions, same little tics, same inflections in his voice, yet he was real.

One little inaccuracy came when Travolta sat down with Pollack in the Harvard Club. Pollack asks, "Well, what do you want" and Travolta pulls out what seems to be a settlement offer. Pollack admonishes him that business is not done in the club......but later in his office, when essentially Pollack asks the same 'what do you want' question, Travolta fires back that he does not want to negotiate against himself, the correct tactic. So why was he going to put his cards on the table earlier? Good film, worth a night of AMC
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Mr Wilder from Vienna
18 May 2005
As I remember it, Wilder was born before WWI in Vienna, the home of Artur Schnitzler, whose plays reflect the byways of the road to love. "La Ronde" is probably our one exposure to these stories of turn-of-century Vienna, but Wilder drew upon the cynical mood at times....has any film that won an Oscar been more cynical than The Apartment? 'Love in the Afternoon' is a total reversal of tone, perhaps because we see the story from point of view of Ariane, the young woman first setting out to find love. What a beautiful film, not only for its 'glorious' black and white photography, its wonderful music and its luminous portrayal of Hepburn, but also because it tames the playboy, the bounder and cad. Yes, Grant could have played the part but in some ways, I doubt he had the vulnerability of Cooper in that wonderful scene where Coop listens to the Dictaphone as Ariane recites her list of lovers. Grant would have been Grant. He would have mugged, sputtered 'a BULLFIGHTER', and been angry. Cooper is a man growing old and realizing he needs something in his life. He is wooden at times, and he does look old, but how vulnerable he seems. And Cooper is better than Grant when alone and in thought.

Watch the way Wilder uses the gypsy musicians and the servants of the hotel as a Greek chorus to comment on the progress of love. The great cradle robber did the same in 'Mighty Aphrodite' but without the subtlety of Wilder.

Chevalier and Hepburn make a lovely father/daughter. The hair washing scene where Detective Papa questions Daughter is priceless. Chevalier's deductions are worthy of the great Sherlock....blister on the palm, sleeping on the stomach.

Not every film of Wilder's is top-notch, but this surely is in his top five.
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I tried, I really tried
12 May 2005
Of the books in the Martin Beck series, this and Roseanna are the best at describing a lengthy police investigation, one in which it seems as if no progress is being made. As I recall, the killer was an important businessman trying to cover up the long ago, extremely brutal murder of a young woman. The cop who was killed on the bus had taken up the case in what today we call 'a cold case file.' This version repeats a bit of this,but from there it veers off into San Francisco, homosexuals, a laughing Bruce Dern ~~in the book, 'The Laughing Policeman' is the title of an ancient phonograph record~~, and the bonding between two detectives, a theme worn to death in later movies.

Matthau is properly rumpled, grumpy and unsmiling, but he is not Beck, who is one of the finest characters created in modern detective fiction. As one reviewer notes, the film is a pale "Bullitt' and it is McQueen who could have given us the definitive Beck.

The solving of the case in the book was large part teamwork, which we don't see here, and a small part luck. The case hinged on the misidentification of a car....this would be too dull unless it were done on Law and Order....and the work it took to track down the owner years later.

The film is gritty and makes us work to connect the dots, but it does not hold a candle to the book. Oddly James Ellroy used the same massacre idea in LA Confidential and when time came to make the film version, Curtis Hanson got it right.
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It wasn't just me
5 May 2005
When Pam can't sit through a Meg Ryan romantic comedy I know something is wrong; it tells me something that she had to tell me that the old man and Meg have switched souls. Is that really how old men act? Since we only met the character for an instant, we don't know, but he sure is more interesting than Alec and Meg. For that matter, her parents should have had more screen time. Yes, I realize the plot did not call for that, but they were funny. Meg and Alec weren't, and then again maybe I am missing the point: maybe they're not supposed to be funny.

From the moment Alec began doing voice-overs, I knew we were in for a long night. If the acting doesn't explain what is going on, and if exposition would run the film too long, then something is wrong with the story.

There is another basic problem: Meg, for all her charm and spunk....I hear Lou Grant saying 'I hate spunk'....cannot convince me that she is the ditz of a bartender in the first part. The role was created 15-20 years too late and needs someone like the young Goldie Hawn, a more physical actress.

To summarise, BIG is better.
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4 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
The little things in this wonderful movie send the messages we need to hear. The idiotic King Richard destroying the castle for a worthless piece of stone, and then like any King, ordering the messengers, Robin and John, to be executed.

This folly repeats itself at the end, when Robin takes the Sheriff and his aides at their word that their duel will decide the day, but with Nottingham dead and Robin mortally wounded, we see Robin's peasants being chased and slaughtered.

Lester is one of the few directors that shows how exhausting fighting with swords can be. Here the final duel to death bears resemblance to that between Michael York and Christopher Lee in 4 Musketeers.

Lester and the camera catch the crow's feet in Marian's eyes as she rekindles the flame. This is so touching. And he does the impossible by letting us have a certain sympathy and respect for Nottingham, a man with a pompous idiot for a king.

Who else but Goldman would have Little John lamenting that it is always Robin that gets the girl. His scene with Marian when she tries to convince him to stop Robin from the final fight is almost as painful as the last meeting of Marian and Robin, and how Little John defends the two. What a boon friend he is.

Everyone has noted that Goldman also wrote Lion in Winter, but all fans of "Robin" should find his "They Might Be Giants", which is another look at a legend,Sherlock Holmes, and mature love.

Critics don't always get it right. I recall Newsweek's rewriting his review of Bonnie and Clyde, and I wonder if she were alive today if Pauline Kael would do this same for this wonderful film.
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I care about these people
4 May 2005
and that is because of the script and the persona. Their exchanges are the bridges that shift time so well, and bring us back to the present, but we are never sure what is the present. Someone on the board criticized the use of "they are married people' as bland but it helps us see where they've been and where they are going.

Director Donen is famous for his light touch, but in some ways he overdoes the lost passport gag, and his fast speed scenes are almost an embarrassment. The horrid couple come from some other movie; it is not like we are contrasting their 'bad seed' with their own daughter. I suspect their scenes could be cut without any harm to the story.

It is forbidden to say a bad word about St. Audrey, and I won't, but I think most of us lose the wonderful performance of Finney, working next to a legend. His voice resonates across time. What a magnificent instrument it is.

With all my quibbles, I love this movie.
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The Dead (1987)
Shall I
4 May 2005
make my comments like so many I read. Why this film has my absolute favorite, Donal McCann and Angelica is always great, though she was better in Addams Family Values. I mean here's this film about people eating dinner and just gassing the night away and nothing happens. No one breaks wind to get a laugh, or vomits into their plates and then they have this music that puts me to sleep. I kept waiting for someone to break in and machine gun a few of them so some action would break out. I caught it the other night on cable, but I was really lucky: Police Academy 4 was on another channel. I'd missed the first two-thirds so I was a little peeved. It ended too soon. They were still talking when I came back to this channel.
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A dark masterpiece
3 May 2005
What a great film from a great book! Higgins was the master of writing pages of dialogue, stuff that could be boring if the speech wasn't true. Yates preserves much of the oral tone of the book, but he lets it breathe with wonderful exterior and interior shots. And when the characters talk, they speak to each other and not to the screen. They mumble, chop ends off words so that entire phrases are thrown into the sounds of the crowd at the hockey game, or into traffic. It's like listening to a distant radio station on a car radio late at night.

I can see the Sean Penn of today playing Mitchum's part but few others. In fact this is the film that Mystic River should have been, the parallels are there but the latter lets sentiment and friendship creep into the picture. Eddie Coyle takes us all the way and when done, it just reconcilement, just a walk off across the square after a story about pigeons.
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