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Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Painfully disappointing, but I understand why. **HUGE SPOILERS - DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO KNOW PERTINENT PARTS OF PLOT**
In comparison to other Jurassic Park movies, this one was awful. It was basically the exact same thing that has been done in every other installment, PLUS so many plot holes, the theater smelled of swiss cheese.

The first few minutes were pretty similar to the opening scene of the first Jurassic park ... but in the water. It was a good scene nonetheless, and did what it was intended to do, which is grab the viewer's attention much like a dog whistle does to dogs. These types of scenes are basically a prerequisite now for any action movie, especially if they then have to divert to more boring scenes right after as filler, or to give you some back story, etc. It is what happened here.

For the next couple of minutes we watched what would amount to all of Jeff Goldblum's cameo in the movie, which personally, I wish he had not been in, only because I prefer to have remembered him as the wise-cracking, Chaos-Theory spouting, flirty, strutting, young "rock star", and not the white-bearded old guy we saw.

After that, you have scenes which could literally be used in videos for the cure of insomnia, where we get to meet the guy we all know is going to be the bad guy. The only thing he was missing, was a handlebar mustachio, and not even Babe's friend, Farmer Arthur Hoggett (James Cromwell) could save those wasted minutes.

Cut to Owen and Claire's tear-jerking reunion (tear-jerking only because of its boredom), and we finally get to the barn door opening on one of the worst parts of the movie: the introduction to the tough as nails Latina and the nerdy black guy. Here, I have to honestly ask if it ever occurred to Claire (ahem), to get a nerdy computer guy who ISN'T afraid of his own shadow and isn't annoying as all heck? Like what did this guy have that any other computer guy who isn't as annoying and scared, not have, in order to solely qualify him as the guy you'd take to an island with KILLER DINOSAURS? For heavens sake. As for the Latina, well most of my friends are Latinas, and I can tell you that there is a far stretch from sassy to downright behetch. I'm not saying they should have gone for the sexpot stereotyped Latina, but did this one have to be so ... unlikable?

That's just the beginning of this un-epic ride and I have to admit that I kind of tuned out after that, or wasn't really wholly immersed. It was fairly entertaining for a while, although again, everything you see was already done in other JPs. Even the bad guys on the island were cast out of the bad guys on the island before, except that before, they were more believable. Case in point, while I REALLY believe that true evil exists in the world and some people are more demons than people, the evilness in the main evil guy was split between evil and cartoonishly bad. Which brings me to the "auction".

If ever there was a more hackneyed version of an illegal auction, it should be famous. This version was pretty bad. You have the bad guys in a dark, subterranean lair (WHY can't the auction be held with lights on? LOL), and they all look as if the stepped out of some comic book called 'Bad Guys in Bolero Ties and Leather'. The only thing that was missing, was a guy with a hook for a hand. When will Hollywood get that if you put together a convention of real bad guys from the dark web, they WON'T look like this.

The part that really, really, really, really, really, broke my heart though, was the scene where Owen and Claire are being held in a cell, and Claire asks Owen "Do you remember the first time you ever saw a dinosaur?" It was a clear indication, at least to me, that even the creators of this crappola knew this movie sucked big time, so they wanted to manipulate the audience into trying to feel those same emotions - the emotions we first felt when we saw that first dinosaur on the glorious screen of the original Jurassic Park. It backfired in that, oh yes, I remembered, and thought, man, we've sure gone downhill.

As for the big spoiler/reveal? The little girl is a clone. Now, it seems as if this was meant to mean something and to be part of the plot in some way that affects something else, but it isn't. If you had not guessed it before it's revealed, or even if you did, it makes not one iota of a difference to the movie. At all.

Which brings me to the last part of my review. I understand.

I understand that this movie was just filler in order to bring us certain things we need to know before the real blockbuster, without taking anything away from that movie. If I am right, and this is indeed the case, then as the good former engineer of the old Jurassic Park, John "Ray" Arnold (Samuel Jackson) said, "Hang on to your butt's", the next one is going to be a doozie.

Twin Peaks

Succeeds at Being Unbrilliant
Twin Peak's Season 3 return is one of the most intolerable and desperate wastes of - everything - I've seen in some time. In an effort to be original and offbeat, it simply ends up being hackneyed and plain stupid. I like films and programs with ideas, and while Twin Peaks has them, somewhere from the brain to the editing floor, they were lost in a jumbled mess of boring delirium. I have literally seen programs with more to them at my local student film festival.

There. I just saved you precious hours to do something meaningful like reading a book, watering the grass, pulling gray hairs from your head, yes watching paint dry, or how about writing a screenplay? Chances are it'll be a more entertaining than this program ever could be. For those that are awaiting some masterful revelation from it, please let the rest of us know how long exactly it takes to get there.

On the 2nd Day of Christmas

Gives Christmas movies a bad name
"On the 2nd Day of Christmas" is absolute torture. It is the cinematic equivalent of coal in your stocking. Here is a movie so unpleasant and manipulative that you will have to take a cold shower just to remove the swarminess.

I have never disliked a Christmas movie so much. It tries to shamelessly manipulate our feelings. This is the kind of movie that Roger Ebert would describe as "taking tears by liposuction". That's how desperate these filmmakers are to move us. Well, it moved me. Off the couch at the halfway point. I usually sit through an entire movie, no matter how bad. But an hour and 10 minutes of this tripe was more than I could bear.

With a more organized and thoughtful screenplay, this could have been a good movie. But this script has several fatal flaws. First, there are no sympathetic or likable characters. When by the twenty minute mark, you want to throw your female lead out the window, you know you're in trouble. Second, the film is overly predictable. We know what's going to happen and sure enough, I successfully predicted everything that happened after the opening ten minutes. Third, the performances feel by the numbers. There's no life or flavor, just routine unpleasantness.

Do yourself a favor. Instead of wasting two hours of your life, read a book, do a jigsaw puzzle, go out for a walk. Just don't watch this movie.

zero stars (out of four)

The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat

If you know me at all, you'll know that I was not a fan of Ralph Bakshi's FRITZ THE CAT. So imagine my horror when I found out there was a sequel! Well, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming to see THE NINE LIVES OF FRITZ THE CAT. By some stroke of good luck or divine intervention, it happens to be better than the original.

The film, made without Bakshi's involvement, (who was knee deep in the controversy stemming from COONSKIN) begins by finding our hero in a slum, living on welfare with a wife and child. The wife is pretty abusive (although she does have a point-you'll understand when you see the film. Fritz smokes pot to escape and imagines himself in nine other lives (hence the title)

It's actually a pretty good film. The film is less raunchy and vulgar than the first, but I know some people out there will still be offended. The film is a scathing look at society in the 70's and doesn't have the dated feel the first did. Drugs and street language are present, but it's used much more successfully here

There is one sequence that is some kind of masterpiece. A white military leader and a black militant are perched on two opposing mountains and they take turns attacking one another. Live action footage and stills run in the background. In just five minutes, they've managed to convey exactly what the racial unrest of the 70s was.

There are some flaws. The film doesn't have a very satisfying ending and the score is a little too upbeat for a film laden with such stinging social commentary. But I applaud THE NINE LIVES OF FRITZ THE CAT for taking chances; it could have been more of the same, but instead strives to be better. It's not a perfect film, but it's a good one.

*** out of four stars

Fritz the Cat

Ralph Bakshi's FRITZ THE CAT was one of the most controversial films of that last golden age of filmmaking, the 1970's. Based on Robert Crumb's groundbreaking underground comic, the film was the first of its' kind to receive an X rating from the MPAA. In those days, an X rating was NOT a kiss of death at the box office and audiences flocked, making this a smash hit. Watching this 30 years later, I can't imagine what the fuss was about.

Perhaps it is my handicap that I have read the comics. I cannot see this film in any other light. Bakshi has taken Fritz-an oversexed, cool and hip character-and transplanted him into a story so sour, dark, pointless and hopelessly dated that watching this film becomes a chore. There are some moments that suggest the spirit of Crumb, but they are over much too soon.

Bakshi tries to paint a portrait of 60's America and what was wrong with it. Some of it does hit home- particularly the unrest between African-Americans and the police. But Bakshi never settles on the right tone for his film. Is it a raunchy sex comedy or a biting political drama? It doesn't succeed on either level.

Certainly not as a raunchy sex comedy. For an X rated movie, this is very mild. If you are looking for any kind of raunchy, erotic experience, you might as well go on. Whatever sex scenes this movie has doesn't last long and is mostly disturbing and joyless. There is a plethora of street language and drug use in FRITZ THE CAT. I have nothing against strong language or drug use in a film. Films like REQUIEM FOR A DREAM, PULP FICTION, PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK and PERMANENT MIDNIGHT use it to give us insights into their characters. But in FRITZ, it is used to merely shock. That's not good enough.

A friend of mine on the DVD Verdict site said in his review that "I don't advise the use of narcotics, but I think I can safely say that FRITZ THE CAT probably works better if you're high on some kind of illegal drug" I certainly agree with that. I don't condone drug use either, but most certainly the only way any satisfaction can be gleaned from FRITZ THE CAT is from being stoned out of your mind.

*1/2 out of **** stars

Lost and Delirious

"Lost and Delirious" starts out well, but it eventually grinds to a halt and the movie never recovers.

This movie doesn't know what it wants to be. A forbidden love story? A satire about insanity along the lines of "The Ruling Class"? A film about personal discovery? It is all of these things, but it lacks two things: 1) a director who could pull off a multi-level film, like Robert Altman or Paul Thomas Anderson and 2)a well written script.

I'm not saying "Lost and Delirious" is a bad movie. In fact, despite my reservations, you should see it for one reason and one reason only: Piper Perabo.

Perabo is an actress who I think has great potential. She had a promising start in the indie flick "Whiteboyz". But Hollywood has squandered her talent in a bunch of dumb, undemanding roles such as "Coyote Ugly".

In "Lost and Delirious", Perabo has the role of her career as Paulie, a young woman on the verge of insanity after a romance with another girl fizzles. Perabo invests the character with warmth and sensitivity and you can't help but like her.

The film had some controversy for its' lesbian scenes, which are explicit without being sleazy. However, just because I said they are explicit doesn't mean it's a T&A fest; if that's what you want, rent Showgirls or Red Shoe Diaries.

Aside from Perabo's performance, there really isn't all that much that stands out. Graham Greene is wasted in what could have been a wonderful role as the genial caretaker. Aside from her rack getting substantial airtime, Jessica Pare isn't given much to do, which is a shame because she also has great potential (see "Stardom")as an actress. The story tries to be "The Ruling Class meets Nashville", but it doesn't have the satire of the former and the power of the latter to fully succeed. With a rewrite and a skilled director, this could have soared.

**1/2 out of 4 stars

Another Woman

Woody Allen's "Another Woman" is, upon rediscovery, a film of great power and feeling. Sadly, not many people will be open to rediscovery after the initial viewing.

Gena Rowlands stars as Marion Post, a 50ish philosophy professor whose life is in order. She rents an apartment to work on her latest book. By accident, she discovers that through the heating duct, she can hear all conversations from the psychiatrist located in said building. At first, she covers the duct with cushions to block the sound, but she decides to listen in after hearing, by accident, the testimony of a young pregnant woman. This sets in motion a chain of events that changes Marion forever.

Woody has said that he originally conceived the idea as a comedy and indeed, it could be played that way (on a smaller scale in "Everyone Says I Love You"). But here, Allen resists the temptation to play it for laughs. In fact, there is not one single moment of comedy relief in his film. I think that is a wise decision. I was so absorbed by Marion's journey that comedy would have broken the mood of the film. This film is another venture into Bergmanesque cinema and "Another Woman" can compare with the very best Bergman.

Gena Rowlands hasn't had a role this good since the films of her late husband John Cassavetes. This in fact, shows another side of Rowlands; a more restrained, mannered character than the fiery, passionate characters in the Cassavetes films. It just shows the different types of roles Rowlands can play so well. She deserved an Oscar nomination for this.

In fact, the whole film is well cast by Allen. Gene Hackman is great in a mellow part as Marion's ex-lover. Blythe Danner makes a return to form as Marion's best friend. It is great to see Danner do what she does best, especially following the horrible "Brighton Beach Memoirs" in which she was underused. Ian Holm is superb as Marion's husband, who as Roger Ebert puts it "must have a wife so he can cheat on her". In his final film, John Houseman allows himself to appear weak and frail; quite a change from the pillar of strength in "The Paper Chase" and a good cap to a great career.

I mentioned at the beginning that not many people will be open to rediscovering "Another Woman". I think that is correct. Here are my reasons why. First, the film is deliberately paced, even with a short running time of 81 minutes. Most viewers' attention spans won't be able to tolerate the long takes Allen is famous for. Second, the film doesn't offer any instant gratification or closure. Allen's story is one of those stories that just can't have a typical happy Hollywood ending. Third, there is T&A, even though adultery plays a large part in the story. So if you're looking for a fast paced film with T$A and guns and action and a happy ending, you might as well move on.

"Another Woman" is one of those films in which rediscovery is necessary. Allen packs so much into 81 minutes that multiple viewings are necessary to absorb it all. If you make the effort to see it again, you might find that "Another Woman" is a film of great power and feeling that works better every time you see it.

**** out of 4 stars

Phantom of the Paradise

Brian DePalma's "Phantom of the Paradise" is great fun, if you're in the right mood. It is bizarre, it is silly, it is campy. Yet somehow, this film works when it really shouldn't.

Bill Finley, who co-starred in DePalma's previous film "Sisters", this time stars as Winslow Leach (a play-on-words of DePalma's film teacher Wilford Leach), a budding songwriter whose songs catch the attention of Swan (Paul Williams, who's great). Swan proceeds to steal Leach's songs and send him to jail on a false dope charge. Leach escapes and is permanently scarred when he tries to destroy Swan's Death Records pressing plant. He then comes back as The Phantom of the Paradise, hell bent on destroying Swan. That is until Swan makes a deal with him..a costly deal.

That's all I want to say because I really don't want to spoil some of DePalma's nice surprises. What I will say is that on one level "Phantom of the Paradise" is a bad movie. But it's so skillfully made, funny and good-natured that you end up loving it in a very strange way.

The performances go a long way to making this work. Bill Finley has a gift for playing strange characters (among his DePalma credits include "Sisters", "The Fury", and the voice of Bobbi in "Dressed to Kill") and DePalma makes good use of it here; you feel sympathy for Leach/The Phantom and root for him all the way to the end. Paul Williams is surprisingly good as Swan, the villain of the film. He seems both benign and menacing; Williams is able to pull it off despite limited acting experience. He also wrote the songs for the film. You will want to own the soundtrack after seeing this. The film's funniest performance is by Gerrit Graham (another DePalma regular; "Greetings", "Home Movies" are among his credits) as Swan's discovery; a very strange singer named Beef.

"Phantom of the Paradise" is not one of the great DePalma films, but it is an entertaining diversion that you'll never forget long after the final frame has played out.

***1/2 out of 4 stars

The Owl and the Pussycat

BEST OF 1970 #10- a romantic comedy done right

#10- The Owl and the Pussycat

Herbert Ross' "The Owl and the Pussycat" is a prime of example of how to do a "Battle of the Sexes" romantic comedy right. Most modern romantic comedies are either drowning in their syrupy sentimentality ("Serendipity")or in crude hatred of one and/or both sexes ("Tomcats", "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood").

The film stars Barbra Streisand as Doris, a part-time hooker/actress who doesn't go anywhere without her TV. George Segal plays Felix Sherman, a would-be writer whose life consists of writer's block and rejection slips. One fateful evening, Felix complains to the landlord about the constant noise coming from Doris' apartment. He goes to bed and is awakened by a loud knock. It's Doris, who was evicted from her apartment and has several bones to pick with Felix. It's the beginning of a battle that lasts for most of the film's 97 minute running time.

What makes The Owl and the Pussycat such a standout film is the care that went into the production. Buck Henry has successfully transplanted Bill Manhoff's play from L.A. to New York and the film is better for it. New York is a much livelier town than L.A. and the city itself becomes a character that the others bounce off from. Herbert Ross proves he can handle comedy as well as he can handle musicals and choreography. His direction doesn't overwhelm the script and acting but compliments it in a way most people write off.

On paper, I suppose the Barbra Streisand-George Segal pairing doesn't look promising. But when you see the film, you will not think of more perfect casting. Streisand and Segal have good chemistry together and it makes some of the later events of the film more believable. Streisand has a gift for delivering brisk, snappy dialogue. Segal has a gift for being able to make his characters instantly likable.

The score is by Blood, Sweat and Tears. Made in between their second and third albums, the score doesn't feel like a time-filler throwaway. Dick Halligan's music fits the film like a well worn glove. I cannot imagine the movie without the music. It does like all good scores do, enhance the movie without giving it away. There is a mix-up in regards to the lyrics (credited to BS&T, but David Clayton-Thomas has said they were given to BS&T before the music was composed), but still, as sung by DC-T, the songs have a wonderful quality to them.

All people who even want to attempt a romantic comedy should watch "The Owl and the Pussycat". It shows how to make a movie like this without resorting to misogyny, chauvinism or drippy sentiment.

**** out of 4 stars

Brighton Beach Memoirs

"Brighton Beach Memoirs" is a very disappointing movie. How disappointing? Instead of leaving the theater with a smile on your face and a tear in your eye, you leave moody and depressed. This is not how one is supposed to feel after seeing a comedy.

This is the film version of one of Neil Simon's very best plays. On stage, it is full of energy, wit and spunk. On film, or at least this film, it's all very flat, like day old cola.

One major problem is the casting. Jonathan Silverman is all wrong as Eugene Jerome. He's too willing to play Eugene in Jerry Lewis style. There's nothing wrong with Jerry Lewis style; I happen to love that style of comedy. But that approach just doesn't work for this play. A better choice would have been Matthew Broderick (who played Eugene on stage and ironically was cast in Biloxi Blues)

As Eugene's mother, Blythe Danner is one-dimensional. WHAT????? Blythe Danner one-dimensional in a movie? God, I wish I was joking. There is nothing sadder than to see an actress who is capable of bringing so much passion to a maternal role (The Great Santini, Man Woman and Child, The Invisible Circus)struggling to find this character.

The only one who more or less gets the job done is Judith Ivey as Blanche. She plays it exactly the way it should be: subtle yet passionate. She goes all out in her performance. It's all for naught.

Do I blame Neil Simon? Not at all. The material was there to begin with and it's one of the best plays I've ever read and performed (in my acting class). Do I blame Gene Saks? Not completely. Saks is a very capable director with some good films behind his belt (Mame, The Odd Couple, Barefoot in the Park; the latter two being two of the best Neil Simon adaptations made so far). But here, his direction is lackluster; I don't know what happened, but he fails to make this material work as well as it did on Couple and Barefoot. Maybe studio interference? Just asking.

The photography is murky and dark. I know they were trying to recreate a long gone era, but sheesh, this isn't film noir. A little brightness can go a long way.

Forget about "Brighton Beach Memoirs". You'd be much better off watching a high school or community revival than seeing this cinematic travesty.

* (out of 4 stars)

Don't Drink the Water

Woody Allen's 1994 remake of "Don't Drink the Water" is an absolutely perfect comedy. This film was made 25 years after the awful 1969 original was made and watching both back to back, it is quite a revelation.

I really hated the previous film, which starred Jackie Gleason. It made the deadly mistake of taking the premise too seriously. Silly comedies are not supposed to be taken seriously! Also, the 1969 film added about 19 minutes of filler that wasn't in the original play.

Allen's film begins with the family already in the American embassy. The crime: Woody Allen takes a picture of a landmark in an Iron Curtain country and is mistaken for a spy. I won't reveal anymore of the story because it is so dependent on surprise.

Everything works in this version. Allen himself stars in the Gleason role and his neurotic personality is a much better fit for the character. Julie Kavner plays his wife and has a much better part than Estelle Parsons did in the first film. The wife is NOT an annoying airhead, but a strongwilled woman and that is welcome. Michael J. Fox is the politican who tries to save the family and he is wonderful in the role. Dom DeLuise is cast as a lunatic priest who wants to be a magician.

Allen's script is funny because it is tongue in cheek. It plays on the standard conventions of hostage picures. Also, Allen likes to play with the plot in interesting ways and take all sorts of unexpected twists and turns. In his best films ("Purple Rose of Cairo", "Sleeper", "Small Time Crooks", "Zelig" to name a few), that is why they're so good.

Now on video after a long battle over rights, "Don't Drink the Water" is everything the original wanted to be but wasn't: a hilarious comic masterpiece. Rent or buy this version now. The 1969 version isn't on video anymore and hopefully it will stay that way.

**** out of 4 stars

Don't Drink the Water

"Don't Drink the Water" is an unbelievably bad film. It's based on a 1966 Broadway play by Woody Allen. It stars Jackie Gleason, the comic genius behind "The Honeymooners". The director, Howard Morris, has appeared in several Mel Brooks comedies (Life Stinks, High Anxiety, Silent Movie)and has made a mark in animation (characters he has voiced include Gopher from "Pooh", Jughead (Archie)and Beetle Bailey) What went wrong?

I think the problem is that the premise is played out too seriously to work effectively. Allen's original play was tongue-in-cheek, which is why it worked on Broadway and in Allen's 1994 remake. The screenplay by R.S. Allen and Harvey Bullock beats the premise to death and makes too many changes from the original play. Making Gleason's wife an airhead in this version when she was a headstrong woman in the original is just one example of why this doesn't work.

The acting isn't much better. Gleason does the best he can with the material, but he can't save this. Gleason was a comic genius , but also a fine actor as he demonstrated in "The Hustler" and "Soldier in the Rain". His abrasive personality could have worked here, but the lousy script doesn't even give him a chance. Too bad. Estelle Parsons' airhead wife will drive you nuts after 20 minutes. See how soon it'll take for YOU to want to strangle her. That is also a shame because she is also a fine actress, having turned in two exceptional performances in "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Rachel, Rachel" None of the other actors do particularly well either.

Woody Allen hated this film so much that he remade the film in 1994 with himself and Julie Kavner (Marge Simpson) in the leads. They manage to hit all the right notes and the film itself is a comic masterpiece. It's finally on video after a long battle over rights. Do go out and find that version. All the 1969 original is good for is clearing out unwanted guests who overstay their welcome.

1/2* out of 4 stars

What's New Pussycat

Clive Donner's "What's New Pussycat" is a good comedy that should have been great. The screenplay is by Woody Allen, although he has often said that it was rewritten without his permission. That may be the clue as to why this isn't as funny as it should be.

There ARE great moments in this film, contributed mostly by Peter Sellers, fresh from his tour-de-force performances in "Dr. Strangelove" and Allen himself. But the film is a disappointment compared to later Allen masterworks such as "Take the Money and Run" and "Sleeper".

But still there is so much that's good in this movie, that we forgive its excesses and faults and go along for the ride. Peter O'Toole stars as a fashion magazine editor who is constantly attracted to women. He loves his steady girlfriend, so he makes the trip to Dr. Fritz Fassbender (Sellers). One problem: Sellers is an EVEN BIGGER sex fiend than O'Toole. Woody Allen plays O'Toole's friend Victor (this character also appears in Woody's 1972 film "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask"). Victor likes O'Toole's girlfriend, so he devises ways to try to kill O'Toole.

That premise is rich with comic potential and I'm sure Allen's original script realized that. The problem was this was Woody's first script and the producer, Charles K. Feldman, had more clout and constantly had the script rewritten (by others) to suit his last minute casting changes. As is, this is a funny film, but not the knockout it should have been had Feldman laid off the script.

Still, Sellers, O'Toole and Allen make the most of the rewrites and all give wonderful comic performances. The bigger surprise is O'Toole, since you mostly think of him in serious fare such as "Lawrence of Arabia". But he manages to be a funny straight man and his performance is a charmer. Sellers is great as usual as the crazy psychiatrist and Allen makes an engaging debut.

There are some great moments, such as Sellers and O'Toole doing a drunken serenade and Allen's murder attempts and the final 12 minutes have a manic energy that makes them work despite the fact that it's predictable. The film is long at 111 minutes, but it never bored me and it is briskly paced. "What's New Pussycat" may be no masterpiece, but it's miles better than "Don't Drink the Water" which was released 4 years later.

*** out of 4 stars

A Connecticut Rabbit in King Arthur's Court

"A Connecticut Rabbit in King Arthur's Court", which is retitled for home video as "Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court", is a real treat for all Looney Tunes fans. Chuck Jones takes the original Mark Twain novel and turns it upside down. This is not the novel, but a truly original reworking of it.

Bugs Bunny is the "Connecticut Yankee", which in itself is kind of odd because Bugs is from Brooklyn, NEW YORK, but never mind, we'll except the premise. Daffy Duck is King Arthur, Porky Pig is Sir Loin of Pork and Yosemite Sam is the Black Knight. The story is so well known that I won't bother retelling it here.

This short subject is smart, funny and original. This in itself is amazing since most animation is often uninspired, particularly when it comes from literature. But Chuck Jones, by planting the Looney Tunes characters into the plot and by making this 100% new footage, rather than most of the TV specials which are edited from the shorts, has made one of the most memorable TV specials ever.

**** out of 4 stars

Daffy Duck's Quackbusters

"Daffy Duck's Quackbusters" is the best of the Warner compliation films. It is a wacky spoof of horror films and "Ghostbusters" in particular that works extremely well.

The film opens with a new short "Night of the Living Duck" with Daffy Duck entertaining at a monster night club. It is funny and clever and a good start for the feature to come.

The film itself, features shorts shown in their entirety with no edits. A new one "The Duxorcist" is hilarious and four classics are includes: Hyde and Go Tweet" (Tweety transforms to a Hyde-bird combo), Transylvania 6-5000 (Bugs vs, a vampire), Punch Trunk (miniature elephant invades city) and Claws for Alarm (Porky Pig and Sylvester spend a night in a hotel invaded by murderous mice). All are hilarious and worth the price of a rental.

The new footage is really good here. The premise is built on the classic short where Daffy helps a dying millionaire laugh again. The man's ghost reappears whenever Daffy becomes greedy and takes money from Daffy's vault. Daffy decides to start a ghostbusting business to vanquish all monsters and spooks for good. It doesn't work as he plans it.

Like the previous films, kids and adults will both enjoy this film. The shorts are shown complete and uncut, not trimmed as in previous entries and there is a strong sense of humor in the bridging material. This is an exceptional film and the best of the compliation films. You owe it to yourself to see this.

**** out of 4 stars

Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island

"Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island" is Friz Freleng's third compliation film, following his previous two successes "Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie" and "Bugs Bunny's Third Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales". This third feature is a tremendous success in its' own right and it continues the winning formula Freleng introduced in his first film: he creates one humdinger of a story to place the footage in.

This time, Freleng spoofs the hit TV series "Fantasy Island" with Daffy Duck in the Ricardo Montalban role and Speedy Gonzales in the Tattoo role. It opens with a side splitting gag (Speedy tells Daffy: Ze Plane! Ze Plane!) and it never lets up for all of its 78 minute screen time. Freleng also uses the film to continue his Yosemite Sam/Bugs Bunny fight which occupies about 20 minutes of this feature.

Well, anyway, back to the story. The premise is that Daffy and Speedy are stranded on a deserted island which has a wishing well. Daffy, being the self described "greedy coward", decides to open a resort that can grant wishes. That's where the classic footage comes into play.

There are many highlights: Tweety, Sylvester and Spike in a pet hospital, Foghorn Leghorn and the womanizing rooster, Yosemite Sam will inherit several million pounds ONLY if he keeps his temper in check and Bugs is the executor of the will! And Daffy Duck is STUPOR DUCK!

As per the previous films, they work on two levels. For kids, as simple entertainment. For adults, savage satire. Most of the shorts here are shown in their entirety, although a few are trimmed for time. This is wonderful entertainment and a worthy addition to any video library.

**** out of 4 stars

Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie

Friz Freleng's "Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie" is an excellent followup to Chuck Jones' "Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie" which itself was a surprisingly good feature. This film follows the same formula as the 1979 film: classic shorts are combined with new bridging material to create a new feature.

Freleng's film is even better than the Jones film. The structure is actually very clever for a cartoon. Freleng divides his film into three parts. The first part showcases Freleng's classic Yosemite Sam/Bugs Bunny shorts. The story is that Sam makes a deal with the Devil to bring Bugs to hell. Included here is Sam vs Bugs in Rome (with the classic scene where Sam crosses the lions pit on stilts and Bugs tosses tools to the lions)and the unbearably funny short where Bugs impersonates Granny to save her fortune from a lecherous Sam. This segment is so well edited and timed that it could work as an episode of a Bugs Bunny sitcom.

Part Two showcases Freleng's Rocky shorts, the small gangster who Bugs tangles with. It's funny, but a comedown from the previous segment. Still, as a spoof of "The Untouchables" and "The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg" (with Daffy Duck as the goose), it scores.

Part Three is the best of them all. "The Oswald Awards" is a vicious satire of the Oscars. The ceremony, undeserved wins, the false glamour, it's all here. Included here are four of Freleng's all time best shorts: Birds Anonymous (the best Tweety/Sylvester cartoon), Three Little Bops (in its' entirety), High Diving Hare and Show Biz Bugs, the definitive Bugs/Daffy showdown with a memorable finale.

This is an enormously entertaining movie. Kids will love it because of the onscreen antics of Bugs Bunny and his cohorts. Adults will love the hidden injokes and innuendos that are laced in these cartoons. True, while it is better to view them as individual shorts, this works extremely well for a compliation and it is better to see them this way than to not see them at all.

**** out of 4 stars

The Bugs Bunny/Road-Runner Movie

"The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie" is a good example of the compliation film. It's one of those films that are a kind of Whitman's sampler that serves as a good introduction to a wide variety of short subjects. While it is true that these shorts are better seen in their original form, why trash these neat features? At least the Warners compliations are seamlessly edited and the bridging material is often above average.

It helps to know that this film was originally released as "The Great American Chase". In fact, that title is STILL in the film. It is in the opening 20 minute prologue that is engaging and original but irrelevant since the title was changed. Adults will forgive it, but from my own experiences (when I first saw the film 16 years ago on tape), kids will get restless.

But after that, we get to the good stuff. The film is a sampler of Chuck Jones' work, hence the title "Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie". Road Runner was Jones' creation as was Pepe Le Pew (both are featured in the film, but the Road Runner gets the bulk of the second half) and Jones reinvented Bugs Bunny in the 50s and 60s from his previous incarnations. There are many good shorts included in the film. Daffy Duck's battle with the animator and his brush. Bugs Bunny vs. Wile E. Coyote: Genius. Classic Road Runner/Wile E. footage. Bugs fights Marvin the Martian on Mars. I can't list them all, but you get the idea.

Most critics dislike these films because they cut the original shorts. But most of these shorts are edited by Cartoon Network for TV (for time and more recently, racial comments)and precious few are available on video. So we should be grateful that at least there is one way we can at least see these shorts in some format (very little is actually edited, most of the shorts are intact) We can see a lot worse these days.

**** out of 4 stars

The Rage: Carrie 2

"The Rage: Carrie 2" is your typically horrible retread of a brilliant original. The original was Brian DePalma's "Carrie", which remains, in my opinion, a dazzling thriller and an amazing character study. That's why it worked so well and the sequel plays it too safe.

The casting is one problem. The original cast Sissy Spacek as Carrie, who turned in an incredible performance. This sequel does not have any big names (Amy Irving does appear as the sole survivor of the first film) and while that strategy worked with the original film, it doesn't work this time. No one is particularly memorable and the Carrie knockoff this time (played by Emily Bergl, in a performance that killed her career before it even started) is far too normal for the story to pay off.

That brings me to problem # 2. The story is an absolute mess. DePalma and Stephen King, who wrote the original novel, had the courage to present unlikable and unstable characters in the original. Here, everyone is far too restrained for the film to work. ***SPOILER*** Here, supposedly Carrie's father had another family and that the telekenesis is a recessive trait (Most critics, particularly Roger Ebert, brought up the point that telekinesis should be a DOMINANT trait; but how many people will pick up on it? Sometimes it's such a curse to be so logical and sharp, but enough of that rant...)

The massacre sequence is decent, but not the knockout DePalma's was. The ending is particularly awful, considering the heart-in-throat approach of the 1976 original that worked so well. This film is such a mess that not even a genius like Brian DePalma could have fixed it. My advice is to see the DePalma film and read the original Stephen King novel. This film isn't even worth seeing for free.

1/2* out of 4 stars

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock

"Star Trek III: The Search for Spock" accomplishes the impossible: it is an excellent sequel that manages to easily top the first (well, let's face it, ANYTHING can top the first)and equal the second film.

The film picks up where II left off: Spock's coffin on Genesis. Don't accuse me of spoiling it for you. With a title like "The Search for Spock" you were expecting Spock to be alive? Anyway, The Starship Enterprise picks up a reading: there is life on Genesis! Kirk (William Shatner)and the rest of the crew go to investigate and find Spock's coffin is.....empty!

The rest I will leave you to discover. What surprised me about "Star Trek III" is that, like the previous entry, remembers what Star Trek is all about. Special effects are nice, but the human interactions are what makes it great.

The film was directed by Leonard Nimoy, who plays Spock. I think the connection helps as Nimoy is able to avoid the trouble that a non-regular could step into (to Nick Meyer's credit, he managed to avoid that as well)and his close relationship to the characters and story add another dimension to the finished film. A lot of the credit also belongs to Harve Bennett, the producer of the previous film and the writer/producer of this one. He could have made an ordinary money trip but he chooses to invest in the characters. The result is a sequel that is just as great as the second film.

I always mention my intense disappointment with the first film. Like I've said before, only fans will forgive the many excesses and see the good in that film. But the sequels are a special lot. They appeal to all moviegoers, not just the Trekkies/Trekkers. That doesn't mean that they're perfect, but that there is much to enjoy. "Star Trek III" was such a success that Nimoy was asked to make another film. The resultant film "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" which is the best of them all. More importantly, it opened the doors for other cast members (William Shatner, who directed V and Jonathan Frakes, who directed First Contact and Insurrection and is going to direct the tenth one) to direct entries. That's as it should be because who else knows about the series than its regulars?

**** out of 4 stars

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

"Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" is the film the first one should have been. It's exciting, funny, smart and emotionally gripping. What a relief it was to see that Star Trek was able to pull itself out of the death grip of the original.

William Shatner said that the first film became such a big hit because of the intense marketing. He is probably right because the first film is such a big bore that I can't believe non-Trekkies would even see it. However, "Star Trek II" is a film everyone can enjoy.

Part of the reason for the film's success is that Gene Roddenberry did not control the production, like he did with the first one. Roddenberry was a brilliant TV producer, but when it came to films, he was over his head.

But then again, the producer of this film (and the next three), Harve Bennett, also had extensive TV experience. But in Bennett's favor, he entered Star Trek as an outsider and his point of view was a shot in the arm after the first film. Bennett's decision to hire Nick Meyer as writer and director was inspired. Meyer and Bennett remember what made the Star Trek TV series so good: the human relationships take top priority over the special effects.

The film is a follow up to "Space Seed", one of the best episodes in the original series. That episode starred Ricardo Montalban as Khan, a man who tries to conquer space. Montalban returns in the movie and creates one of the most memorable villains in screen history. It is a great performance and he remembers the old line "A film is only as good as its villain". The original cast is back again and Shatner particularly stands out here. This is some of his best work ever and it shows the world that he is an excellent actor. Leonard Nimoy is also excellent as always in the Spock role, and this time, he manages to allow Spock's character to grow.

"Star Trek II" is not overwhelmed by its special effects. Instead, Meyer allows the story to take its time. The pace is fairly fast, considering the agony of the first film. The result is a very special film that will live on for years. Next year will be the 20th anniversary and I predict it will last for 20 more years.

**** out of 4 stars

Star Trek: The Motion Picture

"Star Trek: The Motion Picture" is for fans only. Only fans will tolerate the unbelievably slow pace and forgive the excesses this film has an abundance of. Even several of the key filmmakers dislike this film.

William Shatner describes the film as "molasses slow and yawn inducing" in his book "Star Trek: Movie Memories (which I highly recommend) Robert Wise, the director, has always felt that the film was ruined by rushed editing and poor special effects. Judging by the fact that Wise is preparing director's cut for theatrical release and DVD only confirms that viewpoint. Leonard Nimoy did not think much of the picture until the expanded version was released a year later on tape.(which is mentioned in the Shatner book and Nimoy's autobiography "I Am Spock" which I also highly recommend) Hell, even the president of Gulf and Western (which owned Paramount in these days)hated it.

As for myself, I look at it this way: it looks fabulous and for about 25 minutes in the beginning, it feels as if it's going to be great. Then it all falls apart in the middle before (finally) getting better in the final 45 minutes. This movie had me bored beyond belief in that whole middle section. In the longer version, some footage of Kirk, Spock and McCoy (improvised by Shatner, Nimoy and the late DeForest Kelley) was added back. In a way, it helps because it remembers what makes Star Trek so good: the human relationships take top priority on the effects. In another way, it only makes an already slow film even slower.

The technical credits are tops. Wise is an extremely competent director who has made many great films (The Day The Earth Stood Still is a sci-fi masterpiece)and he does the best he can with the weak, cerebral script. Richard H. Kline's Panavision photography is great to look at as are the effects (the bulk of which is handled by Douglas Trumbull, who did "2001" and "Blade Runner")are often stunning, although they are weak by the standards set by later entries.

The acting is variable. Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley and the regulars are all fine as usual. But Stephen Collins' Decker doesn't give him much to do and Persis Khambatta sets new standards for awful in all of her scenes (20 takes for just saying NO)The script by Harold Livingston and Gene Roddenberry is too cerebral and slow for its own good.

Despite being a disappointment, "Star Trek" is worth seeing. But you have to be a Trekkie/Trekker (like I am) to forgive its excesses and look at the good things in it. Ordinary viewers will hate this.

*** out of 4 stars (with reservations)


Brian DePalma's "Scarface" is a masterwork; a three hour epic about the drug scene in Miami. Most of the criticisms seem to be over the language and violence. Both are so potent that the MPAA gave the film an X rating. I thought that was a little extreme.

Perhaps it is because for some, this cuts a little too close to home. According to a book "The Cutting Room Floor", Miami cops testified that the film was very realistic. Oliver Stone wrote this film while kicking his cocaine habit, according to the biography "Stone". I believe that because the film is very harrowing to watch at times.

Stone's script is unusual because it is so many different things. It is a social commentary about the drug culture and immigration and the effects of both on society. It is also a strong character study. Roger Ebert says it best when he calls the film "a wonderful portrait of a real louse". Most Hollywood films would gloss Tony Montana over, but it is to the credit of DePalma, Stone and producer Martin Bregman that they show Montana as a louse, plain and simple.

But the strongest feature of "Scarface" is Al Pacino's performance as Tony Montana. Pacino has publicly said that Montana was his favorite performance and no wonder: Pacino has a field day chewing up the scenery. This performance came after his relatively subdued roles in "Cruising" and "Author! Author!", so he relished the opportunity to play such a larger than life character. He does it so well that we can sit throughout the lengthy running time (170 minutes plus intermission)and never be bored. It is quite a showcase for his talent and he deserved an Oscar for his efforts.

As usual, the technical credits are superb. John Alonzo's Panavision photography is astonishing. DePalma demands the impossible and gets it.

Giorgio Moroder's score also helps the film tremendously. It is quite different from the thriller scores, but effective in its' own way. The editing of the picture is exceptional and doesn't falter for all of its 170 minutes. DePalma's stylish direction is perfect in every way. He captures the violence, the humor and the pathos wonderfully. Another director wouldn't have done as good a job (well, maybe William Friedkin might have).

I must warn you. While "Scarface" has very little nudity, it does have excessive violence and a plethora of foul language (Pacino says f*** at least 300 times). It is not for young children to see. A more appropriate range would be older teenagers and adults. They will be able to appreciate the social commentary and exciting action that DePalma and Stone deliver on screen.

**** out of 4 stars

Home Movies

Brian DePalma's "Home Movies" is a genuinely strange film. It is hard to believe that DePalma made this. It doesn't have the superb technical credits that you come to expect from him. It doesn't have a logical story (for DePalma that is). And it doesn't have the big budgets DePalma's films are accustomed to ("Sisters" has a budget of 500,000 bucks; this film was made on a few thousand)

What it does have is a goofy charm that most Hollywood comedies lack these days. The story is nonsense, but that's a good thing in this case. And the low budget is appropriate because it suits the story. Most of the cast are from other DePalma films, of which I'll let you know.

The film stars Kirk Douglas ("The Fury")as The Maestro (the video title), a teacher who films his life constantly. He attempts to have his prize pupil Keith Gordon ("Dressed to Kill")do the same, but he has problems of his own. The object of his affection is Nancy Allen ("Dressed to Kill", "Carrie", "Blow Out"), a hooker who has too many vices for her own good. The problem? She is attached to Gordon's brother (wonderfully played by Gerrit Graham, who appeared in most of DePalma's early films and just about stole "Soup for One"), who is a nut.

All this is established within the first 25 minutes or so and the film's success depends on all of the surprises DePalma sets up, so I won't reveal any more. Some people might be turned off of "Home Movies" possibly due to the content, but more probably due to the visual style. Today's audiences are accustomed to gloss and if they don't get it, they protest. If you are one of those people, I just want to say three words: SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!!! How dare you criticize a film just because it doesn't look glossy like Hollywood product does? "Pi", a film I admired highly, had the same dilemma. Made on a shoestring budget, the film's grittiness helped it more than hurt it and the same goes for "Home Movies".

DePalma shoots on 16mm and makes the film look like someone's home movies, which is appropriate since the Kirk Douglas character is constantly filming his own life (and others). Also, give DePalma credit for helping his students get a first credit (the film was made as a class project for Sarah Lawrence College). Robby Benson did a similar thing in 1990 with "Modern Love" and was heavily criticized, despite the fact that it was a good, strong film. "Home Movies" isn't as strong as his more accomplished thrillers, but it is a very entertaining movie that had me smiling most of the way. And how can you hate any movie that casts Gerrit Graham as a slimeball?

*** out of 4 stars

High Society

"High Society" is a wonderful musical remake of "The Philadelphia Story" that very few people appreciate today. Most people start comparing it to the brilliant 1940 original and that is wrong. The original film was great, but this is a new film in a new style and that kind of comparison is just wrong.

Besides, how can you hate a movie that has Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong? Just seeing these pros sing these Cole Porter songs make this film a real delight.

Another complaint are some of the changes in the story, like making Crosby's singer sober for this film. Those who want to see Crosby play an alcoholic should see "The Country Girl", in which he turns in a brilliant performance. This is a light musical comedy and making Grace Kelly's character hate Crosby's style of music just makes sense in that context.

The acting is fine also. Crosby is so comfortable at this kind of film that he just sits back and has a good time. So does the audience. Sinatra is solid as usual as the reporter. Louis Armstrong is fun in his scenes with Crosby. A liability is Grace Kelly, who plays the role too realistically and as a result the fun drains away when she's on screen alone. I've never much cared for Kelly's acting as she pretty much gives the same performance in every picture.

You pretty much see "High Society" for Crosby, Sinatra, Armstrong and the music and you can forget about the rest.

***1/2 out of 4 stars

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