Lori S

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Reviews

It's Always Fair Weather
(1955)

Interesting, despite its flaws
I was fortunate enough to see this film on the huge screen at the restored deco Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD (now part of the AFI), so I took full advantage of the Technicolor & Cinemascope (especially the 2-3 scenes where the camera pans back to show off the huge city set). The visual quality after almost 50 years is still pretty good, but the soundtrack was "wobbly." The film needs some restoration.

As others have said, the highlights of this film are the clever dance numbers, specifically:

the garbage can lid dance by the 3 soldiers (they also hop, crawl and dance around a stopped taxi, but nobody has mentioned that one),

the wonderful roller skating sequence by Kelly (since I'm tired to death of seeing the "Singing in the Rain" puddle dance, this is a refreshing change and an excellent sample of his skills!) He even parodies his "Rain" dance when he hops off & on the curb with his skates (folks, those are metal-wheeled skates - nowhere as smooth & speedy as the polyurethane ones of today) Somebody mentioned that the skating set features a big piece of the "Rain" set, but I don't agree - we're talking films set 30 years apart & I didn't see any similarities in the "Fair Weather" set

Dolores Gray's bizarre number "Thanks but no Thanks" where she rewards the tuxedoed men bearing jewels and affection (who literally vault, flip and tumble around her) with bullets, dynamite and finally a huge trap door where they all slide away

and Cyd Charisse's gym number "Baby You Knock Me Out"

(these last 2 numbers were featured on "That's Entertainment III")

It's interesting to see Michael Kidd, mostly known for his wonderful film choreography, dance onscreen. Wish there was more of it.

And Dan Dailey I hardly know, except for the film "There's No Business Like Show Business." He's the only actor of the 3 to let himself "age" in the ensuing 10 years, and it works. He does a very good job in the acting department too.

You can see why the film is not a lasting classic in league with "On the Town" and "Singing in the Rain" - it contains elements of bitterness & disillusionment between the 3 guys. They seem to get along best when they're either drunk or fighting bad guys. And the film - this is a sign of the times - glamorizes smoking (including by Dan Dailey's character, who says he won't drink or eat heavily b/c of his health, yet he "lights up" often), fixed boxing matches, gambling and drunken sprees.

Still, it makes an excellent "sequel" of sorts for "On the Town" and they should be paired together on TV or at film fests.

Also, Previn's tunes are not really memorable - they're OK.

The film also pokes fun at early TV - Delores Gray's show is a mix btw a variety show & something like "Queen for a Day" or "This is Your Life." Sponsors (in this case, laundry detergent)were a huge deal back then. Oddly, she's not paired with one of the guys as a romantic interest. Her diva act gets a bit tiresome however.

Cyd only gets 1 dance number, and there's no dance between her & Gene. Wish there were. They sparked a HUGE amount of chemistry in their dance number in "Rain."

Look out for familiar actors in small supporting roles, like Madge Blake (she was a radio gossip at the movie premiere in "Singin in the Rain" but most of you would know her as dotty Aunt Harriett in the Batman TV series), and the actor who plays the sports columnist at the gym is a character actor who has appeared in dozens of TV shows from the 1950s & 60s, besides movie appearances. And that's June Foray's uncredited voice in the animated Kleenzrite commercial - she did the voice of Rocky Squirrel, among many other voiceovers.

Still, I do recommend it, considering it is not shown very much, let alone in the letterbox format which is necessary for the integrity of the movie. Darn that pesky pan & scan! The ahead-of-its-time plot & the clever dance numbers make this film worth your while.

Forever Fever
(1998)

Cute, and better than you'd expect
I checked this out from the library - I figured, what the heck, it's free, and I'll get a campy laugh from it. But the movie is in fact sweet & affectionate. OK so the guy playing Travolta who walks off the screen looks nothing like him & is actually doing a slightly Southern accent. The lead actor (playing Hock) looks a lot like Bruce Lee and turns out to be a good dancer as well as great at kung fu. Nobody has yet mentioned a minor subplot, of the idolized older brother - a med student who needs money for a sex-change operation. The father disavows the med student son in anger. The 70s costumes are good fun and I like the kid sister character who's hooked on romance novels. It reminded me in a way of "Strictly Ballroom" (a much better Baz Lehrman film than "Moulin Rouge" BTW!) And everybody's speaking quite good English - no terrible dubbing! So check this one out & enjoy.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
(1987)

"Give me the girl, or I will hurt people." OUCH!
As weak & as lame as "Superman III" was, it at least had a few redeeming qualities. The ONLY one I can think of for this embarrassment is the scene where Clark has to entertain Lacy, & Superman has to entertain Lois at exactly the same time in 2 different places/rooms. I squirmed as I sat through this - how low the Superman movie franchise had sunk in 10 years! "Superman I" sparkled with suspense, humor, drama and romantic chemistry. "Supe IV" has a California surfer blonde Nuclear Man who talks in Incredible Hulk-speak and manages to carry Mariel Hemingway into space where she continues to breathe normally! This piece of dreck is a low point in the careers of Sam Wanamaker (father of actress Zoe Wanamaker, BTW), Gene Hackman & Jackie Cooper. Chris Reeve tries but the writers and director failed this one. Poor Margot Kidder looks haggard in this too. Skip it, skip it, skip it & just watch "Superman I" & "II."

Superman III
(1983)

A disappointment that makes you squirm
There are some redeeming qualities which saves this movie from being as awful as "Superman IV": the Rube Goldberg-esque sequence in the beginning of the film (where one mishap causes another & things get worse); the charming courtship between Lana & Clark (for a change, Lana really likes Clark but doesn't care much for Superman); and when Superman's evil twin starts doing naughty things like flick peanuts at windows to break them, or straighten the Tower of Pisa, I think he even comes on to Lana! But it's not enough to save the entire movie from being an embarrassment: the writers & director have overemphasized the comedy, casting not only a lame Richard Pryor (who lost his sharp wit after he almost torched himself), but also a typical blonde bimbo as the villain's mistress, and the guy who plays Lana's drunk ex-husband. And Lana's kid is such a pain you wanna slap him! The production values are cheaper, due to a slashed budget. Reeve and Annette O'Toole as Lana give nice performances, but the film is quite average, a far cry from "Superman I" and "II". Too bad

Little Women
(1970)

Long, but not bad
This runs 3-4 hours and feels like it. Produced by the BBC, there are very few exterior scenes, unfortunately. They would have tweaked the pace. There is a big blooper which incredibly evaded the editor: when Amy is in some European city (Florence? Paris?) with Aunt March, they quickly show stock aerial footage of some bustling city. The footage is obviously too modern, from the 1950s probably, and you can see cars zooming along the roads. Not good when "Little Women' takes place during the 1860s!

The 4 actresses playing the roles are too old, and some have better American accents than others. That said, pretty good performances are given by Jo, Meg, Beth & Marmee. Although the costumes are good, the wigs are terrible. You're better off renting the video/DVD to the 1994 version with Wynona Rider, although BBC or Alcott fans will enjoy this.

Antony and Cleopatra
(1984)

Disappointing
Although there are good performances by Lynn Redgrave, Timothy Dalton, Barrie Ingham & Earl Boen, on the other hand you have Anthony Geary (Luke Spencer from "General Hospital") dreadful as Caesar & Walter Koenig (Chekhov from "Star Trek") mangling Pompey the pirate. And the blonde bimbo playing Octavia is bland & unemotional. They don't belong in a Shakespeare play & should keep their day jobs! Nichelle Nichols does OK as Charmian. Costumes are adequate, but camera editing is not very smooth. Also missing is some strong passion or chemistry between the 2 leads. Saw this tonight on public TV. This is a play that Kenneth Branagh should consider directing for the big screen & casting himself as Antony...

American Playhouse: Working
(1982)
Episode 14, Season 1

Wish they had done a better job...
This was produced by PBS/WGBH/Great Performances/American Playhouse. But I wish they had cast some of the roles better. People like Barry Bostwick, Charles Haid, Rita Moreno & Barbara Hershey were very good, but I had to wince at Beth Howland's (from the "Alice" CBS sitcom) attempt at "Just a Housewife." Ugh. Didi Conn was annoying as the secretary, and Barbara Barrie was boring as The Schoolteacher, a song she did not sing well. Studs Terkel introduces the show, and in back of him are matted on the wall HUGE portraits of the actors in the show. Ick. Ploddingly directed - too bad for a wonderful musical that is not performed enough...

The Diary of Anne Frank
(1980)

It's by Melissa Gilbert's production co., so of course she gets the lead
Same thing happened with the 1979 TV adaptation of "The Miracle Worker" - the too-tall, too-old Gilbert got to play Helen in that very sunny, CA adaptation funded by her production company (Hint: see the superior 1962 film instead). For this one, Gilbert is too perky & too American as Anne. Also annoying - Doris Roberts as Mrs. van Damm. Clive Reville I had not seen since on the screen he played Fagin in the 1968 film "Oliver." Joan Plowright & Maximillian Schell are the best of the cast, but this adaptation is still too bright & sunny. Better to stick with the 1959 film version.

Caddie Woodlawn
(1989)

Not bad, but Wonderworks has produced better
This was made a few years after Wonderworks' presentation of the Canadian Broadcast Company's terrific "Anne of Green Gables," and "Caddie" just doesn't compare. Based on a classic children's novel of a tomboy in 1865 Wisconsin who helps avert an Indian massacre, the book is not as well-known as the "Little House" series, the first of which, "Little House in the Big Woods" also takes place in Wisconsin, in 1860. The production design of "Caddie" is too bright and clean for what should be a scraggly, woodsy primitive home in a remote area of the American wilderness. Lawns are trimmed and fenced, house interiors are too bright for oil lamps, and everyone has clean, starched clothes. But the worst thing is the synthesized music score! The best performance in the cast is not the girl playing Caddie, but the actor James Stephens playing her father John Woodlawn. Stephens gives a gentle, understated performance as her patient, understanding Dad. Also good is the Native American actor playing the local Dakota chief. Former "Hardy Boy" Parker Stevenson is just adequate as Caddie's uncle, and the screenwriter had to stretch to give Season Hubley (as Caddie's mom) enough to do. To sum it up, an OK production with a terrible, synthesized soundtrack. You're better off seeing Wonderworks' productions of "Anne of Green Gables" or "Girl of the Limberlost."

The Black Stallion
(1979)

This classic movie holds up, even 20 years later
I re-viewed the movie, on video, after not having seen it for many years. The cinematography is fantastic, and I believe it won an Oscar - and deservedly so. The lovely score fills in a script of few words. Even Mickey Rooney, who's had his ups and downs in his acting career, gives a wonderful performance as the former jockey who trains Alec. Treat your kids to a showing of this great film, then give them the book to read...

The Sixth Sense
(1999)

Like a "Night Gallery" episode
Or like that "Twilight Zone" where an elderly woman won't open the door because she expects the angel of death any moment? And when he does come, he's a handsome & sweet Robert Redford & she finally realizes she's dead now. Well, this has better acting, from the disturbed kid & even Bruce Willis, whose cockiness in past movies & his TV shows has annoyed me to no end. Glad to see him restrained for the part. But the ending will not be such a shocker - you do see it coming!

Neco z Alenky
(1988)

Visually stunning - and intense. Not for little kiddies!
A mix of live action and stop-action, this arthouse flick is intriguing but bizarre. But if I was a little kid I'd be scared out of my wits by The White Rabbit with bulging glass eyeballs & long, hamster-like fangs. Socks become wood-eating worms, Alice starts eating marmalade full of tacks, a tiny mouse lands on her head, punctures it & starts a fire, the rabbit hole she falls down starts as a desk drawer that grabs her & draws her in. The Alice doll she becomes when she's shrunk is sweet but sad. I have to admit it's fascinating and 180 degrees from the saccharine sweetness of the Disney film. See it on video to experience something completely different, and probably more towards the way Lewis Carroll intended the story to be...

Gallipoli
(1981)

Very sad but very well done
Just try to keep your eyes from brimming with tears as Mel Gibson runs thru "no-man's land" in slow motion as Albonini's Adagio is played over the soundtrack. Reminiscent of the scene in "Platoon" while Barber's Adagio for Strings plays.

An early Peter Weir film, I recommend this one much more than his later ones like "Dead Poets' Society" & especially over "Truman Show."

Most movie-goers are not aware of the horrible realities of WWI, of the widespread massacres in the trenches, of the many, many young lives that were lost so senselessly. This movie will teach you and will move you.

I highly recommend this film. It will not disappoint

Tess
(1979)

Beautiful, beautiful
A proud part of my video library. Gorgeous adaptation, and atho it is close to 3 hours, it does not drag at all!

Wonderful score which is unfortunately out-of-print. I'm lucky to find it used on vinyl, but please re-release it on CD!

I slogged thru the novel in HS, and if you didn't care much for the book, don't give up on this. It's terrific!

Picnic at Hanging Rock
(1975)

Wonderful, one of Peter Weir's very best
I've just finished reading the original novel; out-of-print, I ordered it thru the Internet from a used book shop in Australia! I'm also pondering directing a stage adaptation of the novel, written by Laura Shamas. The movie is lyrical and atmospheric. I first saw it back in college and am so glad it's on video after many years of being withheld from release. Get it! It's worth seeing. And find the novel, if you can. Very well written

Hamlet, Prinz von Dänemark
(1960)

Recently ripped apart on "Mystery Science Theater 3000" !!
Yes folks that WAS Ricardo Montalban dubbing for Claudius, and his voice, his reading was quite good! That didn't stop the comedian-hosts of MST3K" from making cracks about Cordoba car commercials & "Fantasy Island." I'd say the worst thing about this thing is the cheapness of production (lost of black background, very few set pieces, very simple pieces) and the god-awful dubbing! Maximillian Schell, an excellent actor, is not half-bad as Hammie, but my favorite thing was listening to Ricardo Montalban. "Smiles, everyone, smiles!"

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
(1996)

Terrific acting, intense story
This is the final novel from the lesser-known of the 3 Bronte sisters. Based partially upon the experiences of their brother Branwell, who abused liquor and opium in his adult life. It brought great shame and stress upon the family until Branwell's death at 31. This movie should be seen for anyone interested in the Brontes, but it's excellent viewing just for the acting & story - just how horrible alcoholism can be...

Alice in Wonderland
(1985)

ICK! EMBARASSING
Lame songs. Annoying bratty Alice with an awful blonde wig. A cast full of actors that by 1985 were approaching "has-been" status. I guess this was their only sizeable, paid work that year: Telly Savalas, Steve Allen, Anne Jillian, Scott Baio, Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, etc.

Do yourself a BIG favor & see if the 1972 British version starring Fiona Fullerton is on video anywhere. Or rent the 1999 NBC version. Skip this!!!

The Sweet Hereafter
(1997)

Haunting & lyrical
Ian Holm is terrific in this. The whole movie, by relatively inexperienced director Atom Ergoyan, is moving & haunting. Got 1-2 Oscar nominations, but Ian Holm should have been one of them. See this & be moved.

The Railway Children
(1970)

Charming, simply charming
So why can't we buy the video in the US??? A lovely film, I remember seeing this on TV when I was a little girl. Filmed in Yorkshire, with 1-2 scenes in the front yard of the home of the Brontes in Haworth. Read the book at least since you can't buy the video here!

Jane Eyre
(1996)

WHERE'S ALAN RICKMAN WHEN YOU NEED HIM ?
Everything about this adaptation is quite good except for the terrible miscasting of Mr Method Acting himself, William Hurt. There is little chemistry between he & Charlotte G. How I cried out to see Alan Rickman, who would give an OUTSTANDING performance as Rochester! Anna Paquin is wonderful as little Jane, and Amanda Root from "Persuasion" gives us a warm Miss Temple at Lowood. Also good jobs by Geraldine Chaplin & Billie Whitelaw in small roles. This is worth renting out but not purchasing...

Photographing Fairies
(1997)

Haunting, eerie and worth seeing
When my husband called from the video store asking if we should rent this movie, I thought it was the recent film "Fairy Tale" but the title had been changed. But I am very glad we saw this movie anyway. Whereas "Fairy Tale" had a very short run in the US, this movie did not and I've never heard or seen any of the actors before except Ben Kingsley & Edward Hardwicke (son of actor Cedric Hardwicke). While it's true the photographer in this story specializes in mounting photographed "heads" of recently-killed soldiers on the body of a "model" posing with the grieving parents, it was a fascinating & haunting story that took you beyond WWI. The fairies, who are not just nubile young women, were beautifully created, and it was so sad to see some burn up later in the film. It makes you wonder, were the fairies a result of hallucinogenic edible flowers, or the vivid imagination of 2 lonely girls? Some people believe what they really WANT to believe.. Very good acting throughout, interesting story, wonderful scenery. Definitely worth seeing. Now I want to rent out "Fairy Tale," which I skipped at the theaters...

A Little Princess
(1995)

Departs from the original novel, but well-directed & cast
PLEASE NOTE: In the original 1880 short story "Sarah Crewe, or What Happened at Miss Minchin's" and the 1905 novel "A Little Princess," , THE STORY IS SET ENTIRELY IN INDIA AND LONDON, ENGLAND IN THE 1880S, EVERYONE IS BRITISH EXCEPT RAM DASS & BECKY IS WHITE AND COCKNEY, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, CAPTAIN CREWE DIES OF A LETHAL JUNGLE FEVER AND HIS "DEAR FRIEND" EVENTUALLY FINDS SARAH AFTER A LONG SEARCH AND ADOPTS HER.

That duly noted, this movie version is well-directed by the director of the beautiful "Like Water for Chocolate", and it is beautifully filmed. Very good performances by Liesel Matthews, Liam Cunningham and the actress playing Becky the scullery maid. Evocative soundtrack too, by Patrick Doyle. Worth buying both the video and especially the soundtrack on cd.

P.S. The Shirley Temple 1935 version gets the story wrong too...

Peter's Friends
(1992)

SHOOT THE SCREENPLAY WRITERS!!!!!
They've ruined the film that was ably directed and populated by a group of very good British actors. "Peter's Friends" is so melodramatic, so full of whining and crying and complaining and "I'm sorry!" The plot set-up is manipulative and the ending gets too pat.

At the start, as "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" plays on the soundtrack and as important 1980s events are shown on the screen, 10 years are passing for a group of two-bit actors. But nothing really important has happened to them to equate to the world events showing on screen, so why are they showing them?

2 of them have married, and just lost a twin to crib-death; thus the wife cannot have bear to have sex with her husband anymore. Suffice it to say, by the end of the film, they are having sex. Emma Thompson's character is single & desperately looking for a man that weekend to impregnate her. Suffice it to say, she gets one. Branagh's & Rudner's characters have a very unhappy marriage, and she is difficult to live with. Suffice it to say, she leaves Branagh & the film, the marriage is ending. One character is sleeping with a married man. He cries and runs back home later. She cries and gets upbraided by her friends. And the poor martyr Peter has, gasp, AIDS. Everybody cries when he tells them, Peter asks them to help him celebrate life, and then they all act like some cure will heal him.

Too much cutting down a person behind their back, then having them overhear, then having the critic cry & apologize. A VERY disappointing effort from a group of actors who can do and have done a LOT better, in such films as "Much Ado About Nothing," "Sense and Sensibility" and others.

"Peter's Friends" is not really worth your time.

A Little Princess
(1986)

True to the novel, even the end
Take heart, fans of this very true-to-the-novel movie version, the new American channel Pax TV shows this movie sometimes, but unfortunately has cut about 50 minutes from it, making it about an hour and 45 minutes long. Still, it is heartening that this detailed version is faithful to the novel's setting of 1880s London, and the premise that Sarah's father has truly died, altho his "dear friend" finally finds the long-lost Sarah in the end. I would have liked more exterior scenes, but good acting by all.

An interesting note - the novel started as a short story called "Sarah Crewe, or What Happened at Miss Minchin's" in the 1880s, serialized for a magazine. Response was so positive, that after the author Frances Burnett had adapted it for the stage at the turn of the century and called it "A Little Princess," she re-wrote the book version, adding length and detail, and calling it "Little Princess" as well. The latter is what most know about and what you will find in the bookstores, but both versions are available on the internet to compare texts.

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