larrysmile1

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Reviews

He's Just Not That Into You
(2009)

Many actors got jobs - but the story was lacking.
While I understand that Drew Barrymore's Production Company, Flower Films, gave many jobs to actors in this film with a choppy story-line, the film lacked the really "deep" impact about an in-depth relationship between two people.

When it comes to a love story, I prefer a story having only two principals - the male and the female - such as Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca." In "...not that into you" we have Sniglets of scenes with such major stars as Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connolly, and Ginnifer Goodwin - with similar impact for the male stars.

While I do enjoy seeing these stars on film, I believe that, aside from giving actors income at union scale or otherwise, these major female actors deserve to be in a film story that they are the exclusive female star acting opposite a single male co-star as their love interest.

The written dialog contained too many "one-liners" being bantered back and forth. Such dialog does not challenge an actor's talents and does not rise to the level that talented actors deserve in the dialog that they speak in the story. It is not enough to make the audience "infer" emotion between two actors in a scene just by a "look or a glance." A good story must be told in words spoken as the film progresses. If the words don't entice a person's mind to mentally engage in the story the writer and director run the risk of boring the audience and putting them to sleep.

Likewise, when scenes are so choppy that a scene is not developed longer than 30 seconds to a minute in length we have the effect of "looking at snapshots in someone's photo album! An expensively made motion picture is not a music video where every 3 seconds or so the scene has to change. Good scenes should be before the audience's eyes and ears long enough to impart meaning in the viewer's brain.

The story-line would have been more engaging if the five females were actually sisters from the same family - with more involvement with their father, Kris Kristofferson - in the story-line as a father who is trying to guide his five daughters into deciding on whether their boyfriends are indeed good candidates for marriage with his daughters. Kris Kristofferson deserved a better part, more involved and expanded as the story progressed. There are so many things wrong with the story-line that a complete rewrite is needed.

I thoroughly enjoy the acting of Drew Barrymore and Scarlett Johansson, for example, when they are the primary stars of a film. It seems that this story-line is just an expanded version of an episode of "Friends." And, if that is what the intent was by the writers, director, and production company, so be it.

"He's Just Not That Into You" lacks the staying power of "Never Been Kissed" or "Ever After - A Cinderella Story." OK, Josie Geller/Danielle De Barbarac?

Larry in Illinois

Valkyrie
(2008)

Movie Disappoints
I am sorry to say that this movie disappoints.

Now, the actual historical story has been done before on a documentary shown on the History Channel in the past. In fact, I have seen it more than once. So, the story is known and therefore being based on a true story the movie had a lot to prove.

For a few reasons it did not live up to its challenge.

First, while Tom Cruise is a well-known actor, his almost whispering delivery throughout the film made him come off as an actor with a monotone. There was little drama in his acting and it appeared that he was content and the director was content to allowing Mr. Cruise to simply look good in a German uniform and give glaring eye contact throughout most of the movie.

Second, with all the detail and expense of dressing almost the entire cast in German uniforms the general lighting scheme of the movie did little to enhance the costuming design. Very dim lit scenes inside rooms and offices was apparent and did not help the visual effect. Even in the era of the 1940s people had better lighting inside their homes and offices. The lighting did not have to have the "overall orange effect" with faces in "half-shadow." Why Hollywood people think this is a good effect is beyond me. It is boring when seen in the movie theater when the screen is so darkened and it makes one want to fall asleep watching such scenes!

Thirdly, having actors who pronounce their English words with British accents while pretending to be a German is laughable. To make such a film realistic requires (and with all respect to the fine acting staff, however) actors who are real Germans and can speak the English language yet retaining their German pronunciation of English words. This should have been a movie with all German actors and actresses who had English speaking lines.

Future movie makers should consider my suggestions and recommendations to really make a fine WWII motion picture.

Larry from Illinois

Aida
(1953)

A poor quality Italian made film
I suppose that today this film has relevance because it was an early Sofia Loren film. She was 19 years old when the film was made in 1953.

I viewed this film because I wanted to see some of Sofia Loren's early work. I was surprised when she came on camera having had her skin bronzed over in brown makeup to resemble an Ethiopian princess. Surely, today, this would have been viewed as a slur and to be avoided in movie making. It actually became annoying watching Ms. Loren in skin color paint throughout the film.

Yes, this film would have been better made if the real opera singers had made this movie. Then, the singing and the actual facial gestures of the real artists would have been apparent. I discount the comments by others about whether the real opera singers are older and heavier in weight.

As beautiful as Ms. Loren was at age 19 and still is today, the film would have been better received as though it were being performed on the stage. After all, we don't see beautiful young people on stage with "old opera singers" back stage singing from behind the curtain! Do not discount the success of using heavy-weight opera singers. One only has to refer to the most artistically produced television commercial for the J. G. Wentworth Company with the opera singers on stage singing so professionally the praises of the company's product. This is one of the best and entertaining TV commercials produced to date.

The quality of the movie print also makes this production of a somewhat lesser quality. The color ink has faded much and that can not be helped.

To improve this film on DVD the production company should add English language subtitles so that we, who do not speak Italian, can know what the lyrics are saying. It would help the story and teach it more than the narrator giving 30 seconds of introduction to the scenes.

Watch this film not because of the story of Aida nor the fact that this is an opera. Aside from Ms. Sofia Loren none of her co-actors are known nor remembered by this writer. Instead, watch this movie if you are a fan of Ms. Loren and wish to see her at age 19 -- no matter what the production is.

Larry from Illinois

The Dark Knight
(2008)

Needs Great Improvement
As I was driving north to Chicago to visit my sons, I heard rave comments on talk radio about this movie. On opening night people were lined up at theaters to see the show.

So, I decided to treat my son and grandson to this event. We went to the 11:45 p.m. show and had to wait in a line for 1 hour after buying our tickets.

Now, almost right away, I became bored with the movie storyline and the layout of the presentation of the scenes. Why?

#1. The scenes were choppy. Not enough time was spend focused on the actor's faces to develop good audience rapport with the characters.

#2. The actor's dialogue was limited. I felt that there were too many one-liners which do not lend themselves to stretching the talent of the actors.

#3. While I recognize that the storyline was about a dark side of Batman and unlike the more campy versions before it with Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, and Kim Basinger, I felt that I was wishing that the movie story could be more like the prior Batman films. At least the director of the previous Batman story treated us to good images of the characters and allowed adequate face time of the stars so that you could identify with them. The Dark Knight was much lacking in this regard.

#4. For waiting in line for 1 hour until permitted to enter the auditorium and being subjected to at least 30 minutes of movie previews and advertising, I felt that this also tended to tire out the audience in addition to the 2 hour and 45 minute movie on top of the waiting!

#5. And, the romance angle was lacking to say the least!

So, if you liked this movie, fine. My 11 year old grandson liked it because there was lots of noise and explosions. And, seeing the streets of Chicago allowed me to identify with places that I have been to in that city. I, however, would have preferred a much better acted movie. I found myself dozing off in the auditorium seat. I do hope you liked the film. I did not enjoy it all that much. Any Academy Awards for this film would be ill advised.

Larry from Illinois

The Nanny Diaries
(2007)

Yet Another New York Story
Scarlett Johansson is beautiful and always a pleasure to watch regardless of the movie she is cast in. It is time to give Scarlett a real romantic role with love, conflict in love, and happily ever after love. She needs a powerful role such as Michelle Pfeiffer in "Frankie and Johnny" with a strong male star like Al Pacino or the type of role Drew Barrymore played in "Ever After."

The story of the Nanny Diaries is what it is. I guess one can call it a "trek" in the days of a college graduate who doesn't know if she is ready for the adult work world. The story could be improved, however. There were a few characters in the movie that I would have deleted as unnecessary to tell the story. Then, I could have taken that screen time and expanded it for more romance scenes for Scarlett.

Specifically, I would have eliminated the Grandmother role of the "X" family as an unnecessary robber of precious screen time. There was little compelling reason for her character other than to give a few days pay to a fellow actress. Also, I would have eliminated the role of Alicia Keys' live-in boyfriend. While it also gave the actor a payday, his part in the story only robbed more time from the relationship between the two best friends, Scarlett and Alicia.

The movie goer only needs to focus on the most principal characters in the story otherwise it detracts when the viewer is trying to identify with a character who is on screen for only 10 second scenes and trying to guess how they fit into the rest of the story.

But, overall, the story was unique in its concept and takes its place as "yet another of the pretentious New York stories" where the residents think that the world rises and sets on their beloved city. {I am allowed to criticize New York because I once lived there.) If that is how people act when they are rich I am glad that I am no-so-rich!

Watch it because Scarlett Johansson is beautiful and remember to see her in "The Girl With the Pearl Earring."

Larry from Illinois

Buffalo '66
(1998)

A Surprisingly Outstanding Story and Film
"Buffalo '66" is a different kind of low budget film. It is the kind of film that most high budget films should attempt to emulate!

Tons of congratulations to Vincent Gallo. He wrote the story and screen play, directed the film, and was the main star. People are always told to write what they know something about. It is true. Vincent wrote about Buffalo, New York, where he was born and raised. He even used the same house he grew up in as well as local places in Buffalo for his scenic backgrounds. I hear that the budget for this film was only $1.5 million dollars. It proves that a good story with good writing and actors who are intensely dedicated to their craft can surpass even the most expensive movie that is lacking in telling a meaningful story.

I won't retell the story as enough has already been written about it. Vincent Gallo did a great job in his role as Billy Brown. Christina Ricci plays a wonderful low-keyed costarring role as Layla. I was pleasantly surprised to see Rosanna Arquette appear in a small role as Billy Brown's school heartthrob, Wendy Balsam. Look for her to appear in the scene at Denny's Restaurant. Anjelica Huston was wonderful as the disinterested mother, Jan Brown, who seems to have spent her life adoring the Buffalo Bills football team instead of being a loving mother. Ben Gazzara played his mean and overbearing father, Jimmy Brown.

One actor who should have received film credit is Billy's only friend, Rocky the Goon played by Kevin Corrigan. Kevin was excellent in his role. Other notable surprises in this film are appearances by Mickey Rourke, Jan-Michael Vincent, Kevin Pollak, and Alex Karras. A number of small role performers seem to be local Buffalo citizens doing small one-liner parts as the film progresses around the City of Buffalo. A good move on director Vincent Gallo's part because using local citizens in speaking roles assures that the script is believable and natural.

Regardless of the comments Vincent Gallo made about himself in his trivia section of his Internet Movie Database I think he deserves credit for bringing this film to the attention of the movie world. I would hope that Roger Ebert selects this film for one of his Overlooked Film Festival viewings. The film is that good.

Inside Dish with Rachael Ray
(2004)

It's a good filler show for filling out weak spots in the show lineups
"Inside Dish With Rachael Ray" was a good idea that needed to be tried. Contact those celebrities that are known to "cook" at home and invite yourself into their kitchen to learn some of their favorite recipes and secret techniques on cooking.

At the same time, it is sort of a "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" where you get to see their homes and chit chat with the celebrity.

So far, since the series start in 2004, 19 episodes have been made. The problem for this 64 year old fan of Rachael Ray is that I have only heard of 8 of the celebrities whom she has interviewed. The rest of the celebrities are from a generation where I have little concern about who they are and what contribution they have made to the entertainment world.

However, the series probably were low cost to produce and made Rachael a nice bonus salary. In addition, the Food Network can run them as fillers whenever they are in a tight programming schedule. After all, they are not dated and can run for years.

I guess this type of show appeals to viewers that are interested in the private lives of the celebrities who cook at home. Sort of like a supermarket tabloid magazine article -- just it's on television.

I give Rachael Ray lots of credit for developing four food shows at her age when others barely manage to keep one show on the air.

People don't have to "like" Rachael Ray (I do) but they should respect her business acumen and achievements. Not everybody HAS to go to college or to "chef" schools. And, not everybody who goes to college actually works in the field that they majored in, for that matter. So, Rachael Ray is a good example of the American dream whereby a person "pulls themselves up by their bootstraps" and becomes a financial success in life. And, if one doesn't think that Rachael Ray's earning of $6 million dollars is successful then I say, think again!

Congratulations, Rachael Ray

The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
(2006)

The Santa Clause I, II, III -- Three Winners in a Row!
The Santa Clause – the 3-quel – is a delightful continuation of the "The Santa Clause" storyline. Congratulations to Walt Disney and Tim Allen for making a G-rated movie that a family can take the children to see.

The original Santa Clause film was released in 1994 and it's second storyline in 2002. Now, four years later, the choice of the storyline with Jack Frost trying to usurp Santa and take over the Jolly Old Man's enjoyment at making toys for the world's children is well conceived and developed. In fact, Martin Short goes so far as to steal the show with his characterization of the devious "Jack Frost." Martin Short's musical number, which is a spoof of "New York, New York", was well performed. Martin can "make it anywhere" whether in NY or the North Pole! Kudos, Martin.

I am delighted that Walt Disney has been able to return the main players through the original film, the sequel, and 3-quel. I would have liked to see "Bernard the Head Elf" back in Santa Clause 3. However, David Krumholtz, being older, was able to make the character of the Santa's head elf more believable. Additionally, he also had a comedic side with his "controlling" humor. And, sadly, the character of Judy the Elf, in the persona of actress Paige Tamada, is sorely missed since the original story. If she were available for this current production she would be 20 – 21 years of age and indeed ready for a solid supporting role. She seems to have vanished from performing since 1999. However, the addition of Ann-Margret and Alan Arkin as new supporting players gave the movie a nice new touch.

The entire production team is to be praised for the wonderful Santa Village set that was constructed. Bright, colorful, and interesting the setting makes an ideal Santa's Workshop and North Pole community! I especially liked seeing all the young performers in ensemble roles going about their workshop lives helping Santa fulfill his annual mission. Their costuming was well done.

There is one aspect of the film that I felt should have been left out. This was the playing of goofs and outtakes at the end of the film during credits roll. As the viewer gets engrossed into this film and is won over at the very end believing that Santa, again using his magical powers, has saved the day, the needless inserting of actor's goofs and giggles shatters this vision almost immediately. In a film of this type, the patron should depart the theater with a feeling of magic, goodwill, and a feeling for the holiday. This feeling is lost before the patron gets up from his/her seat by seeing the silliness of the production goofs. Not every film requires this too often used technique to make the film likable. The Santa Clause 3 is good enough to stand on it's own merits without the outtakes. Every comedy film producer and director should consider abandoning this practice of showing that well-known actors often can't get their lines and scenes correct. I want to see a perfect motion picture and don't want to know the ends and means it took to get there!

Most people would advise to stop with three films on the same topic. Walt Disney and Tim Allen and crew are fortunate to have produced three direct hits. However, if a fourth film seems apparent, especially since most of the principal players are at the one-half century age mark then the only interesting storyline would be how Scott Calvin's son, Charlie, who didn't have much of a storyline in this film, takes over the family business from his father and becomes the new Santa Claus. Eric Lloyd is currently 20 years old and could be believable as a young Santa by the year 2010!

Aside from the minor criticism of this film, I do recommend this third production as well as the original and sequel film for all families to make this film into an annual classical Santa marathon.

Cast a Giant Shadow
(1966)

Vehicle Faux Pas spotted in this film
I just saw the film "Cast a Giant Shadow" released in 1966 with Kirk Douglas and Senta Berger in a scene where they are both riding in a white American convertible together on a road in Israel as Senta Berger is playing her character Magda Simon and Kirk Douglas is the passenger as US Army Colonel Marcus as she drives and shows him Israel for the first time.

What is wrong with this? The car is a 1954 Pontiac convertible being driven in a movie time frame that was 1947 - 1948 before Israel declared it's independence as a nation state.

How do I recognize that it is a 1954 Pontiac? Because it is the exact same convertible model that I owned when I was a 17 year old teenager.

One can excuse the military tanks and jeeps and trucks as passable movie copies for military vehicles, but, to put a car that was not even made yet into a dated historically based film is a real Hollywood faux pas.

If you ever see this fine film watch for the white American convertible with the "Indian Chief" hood ornament. If you didn't know: there is a light inside the Indian Chief's orange plastic head which lights up when you turn on the headlights. I always like this touch and thought it gave the car a "cool" look at night!

$40 a Day
(2002)

Rachael Ray is a delightful entertainer who brings humor and food together
$40 Dollars a Day with Rachael Ray has become my favorite television program. Compared to the standard theatrical offerings on the other cable channels and broadcast channels, Rachael Ray beings a vibrant form of entertainment to television.

Even though her persona comes to the audience in the form of her flagship cooking show, "30 Minute Meals," Rachael Ray brings "fresh" entertainment with each show. Her meals that she and her staff work on may be simple and not haute cuisine, but, what average person wants to cook expensive high end restaurant meals in their own home? So, Rachael relies on using lots of store prepared ingredients that the usual home shopper can find in their supermarket. She advises to save time by purchasing salad greens in prepared bags. The usual veggies she chops or slices are onions, herbs, and garlic! But, the key ingredient is the entertainment Rachael offers as she talks to the audience as if she were talking to her high school classmates. Very informal and loaded with comedy, facial gestures, hand movements, and her own brand of culinary vocabulary called "Rachael-speak" or "Rachaelisms." Probably her most used expressions are "E.V.O.O." (for extra virgin olive oil) and "Yumm-O"(her expression for delicious). A regular viewer can accumulate a count of up to 30 Rachaelisms in no time! One of the difficulties in copying some of her recipes is the cost that one incurs in purchasing ingredients at the local supermarket. As an example, I made two pan pizzas with my grandson teaching him how to do it the Rachael method. When we went to the supermarket to purchase the needed food stuffs the bill came to $16 for the ingredients. So, the cost is almost the same as a commercially bought item. The benefit was showing the child how to make the pizza.

Rachael brings her upbeat personality to all of the four shows of which she is the host. In "$40 Dollars a Day" Rachael usually makes her budget because she carefully selects the ratio of her funds to allocate across three or four meal purchases (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack). It seems that she saves lots of money by not ordering soft drinks with her meal purchases. Her "usual" request is for free ice water with lemon. Thus, you can add up the cost of four soft drinks a day to be up to $8 more not including tax if she where to purchase these. Then, the show would have to be called "$50 Dollars a Day" and the number 40 seems to sit better than 50!

One can rationalize that Rachael diverts the cost of drinks into providing a tip for the waitpersons. Often she gets criticized for tipping too low. However, in one early episode she remarked that as a waitress herself she knows the value of a tip. While most diners attempt to justify an appropriate tip by using a formula of say, 10, 12, 15, 18, or 20 percent of the total bill, the key to remember is what the term T.I.P.S. was supposed to mean - To Insure Prompt Service. Realistically, the author considers a flat gratuity based upon the dollar value, usually, one dollar up to $5, two dollars from $5 - $15, three dollars from $15 - $25, for the single dinner and two dollars a person for small families. In evaluating a tip one must consider whether the wait-staff first brings a glass of water to the table. Many restaurants do not do this service, a necessary safety measure to insure that should a diner begin to choke on the food there is water at the table for that emergency. Further, does the wait-staff return to the table to help along the meal or is the dinning party abandoned until the bill/check is presented? A tip needs to be determined on the involvement of the wait-staff with the dining party.

While Rachael's show serves to provide nationwide free advertising exposure for the restaurants she selects to highlight on her show, maybe, the tip she leaves is adequate, considering! Rachael Ray's television shows are a great way for those persons who "don't now how to cook" to learn about food and get entertained at the same time. Hopefully, Rachael Ray will have many more seasons on television and continue to be as entertaining as she is at the present time.

If you don't think this show earns a grade of "excellent" than at least award her a "9."

Cold Comfort Farm
(1995)

Unhappy People Living an Unhappy Life
This movie is listed as a comedy genre. However, aside from the old matriarch beating everybody with a newspaper, I did not find one funny scene to laugh at.

I won't criticize the acting because the performers do a fine job in their acting abilities. But, the story is unbelievable by American contemporary standards. I can't conceive of any American family which would relegate themselves to such constant misery by living on a farm what is falling apart. The characters would have left the farm for the city long ago and "Robert Poste's child" would have showed up to a half-empty farm. Likewise, the characters are too dirty living. Unwashed faces, dirty clothes never cleaned all make for an interesting scene if it were a war movie with the people in the mud in combat. But, for day to day living it seems that even in the 1920s people cleaned their bodies and clothes.

Well, as Flora Poste flies off into the sunset in an open cockpit plane, "All's well that ends well."

I think this "story" would turn out better if it were a stage play rather than a movie. It has stage possibilities! The characters' personalities lend themselves to providing a good stage casting.

Larry from Illinois

Somewhere I'll Find You
(1942)

They used the term, The Seven Year Itch!
I don't know what to say good about this movie. Sure, Clark Gable and Lana Turner are big stars. Too bad they were not given a "big script" to act with.

Two brothers seeking the attention of the same girl - unbeknownst to each brother - is not a believable story plot.

Lana Turner's role in immediately flirting with Clark Gable whom she remembers but he is left to guess while she in behind the bedroom door in a bathroom getting "ready" is silly and speaks to the fact that her character has little character. She is at the point where Gable's brother has confessed to Clark that he wants to marry the girl and yet, she is ready, willing, and able to let Clark kiss her on the side of the face and smell her perfume close up.

I found the movie boring and uninteresting. For a film with Gable and Turner, the studio should have given them a dramatic story. This one seems hastened and geared for viewers who follow magazine romance stories.

It seems that the real reason for making this film is to serve as propaganda to bolster American morale immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. For the story is of the two brothers, Clark Gable and Robert Sterling, both war correspondents, and Lana Turner globe trotting over Asia and the Pacific war islands to rev-up morale for the war effort. In the end, Gable dictates a newspaper story to Turner while under enemy fire following the fall of Batan leaving the impression that America is "not licked yet, and we have just begun to fight!"

Well, at least the movie served it's purpose to sell WWII war bonds!

Larry de Illinois

Da hong deng long gao gao gua
(1991)

Still Remains in my Memory!
"Raise the Red Lantern," as the English title is called, still remains in my memory. This is a wonderful film. It's no matter that it is subtitled. You can follow the story through the emotions and acting ability of its cast. There is no doubt that this is a "10" film!

The story, while not traditional to Western culture, works well to keep the viewer guessing at what will come next in the story. Clearly, Li Gong shines in her beauty, her acting ability, and her magnetic appeal on the silver screen. The cast is well assembled and each perform their character roles with perfection. The set and scenery is opulent in design and yet suggestive as to how a rich man of the 1920s might live during those times.

You should try to rent this film from a video store or purchase a copy of a VCR or DVD, if available.

Folks who like foreign films must make this outstanding film a viewing priority. If you are just wanting to experience a foreign film of Asian vintage than this is one to consider. It is not your standard martial arts fantasy film. "Raise the Red Lantern" has a real story and real acting to match.

I really like this film!

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
(1921)

Classic Silent Film Movie
One must remember that this movie is a silent film and approach the acting and overall directing and movie making from this perspective.

While I found the presentation worth while, there are some aspects that caused the film to drag and could have been improved.

The film is overly long running 2 hours and 14 minutes approximately. I found it getting "long" when the 90 minute marked the clock.

Additionally, the usage of the premonition of the four men on horses to represent the "Four Horsemen" was campy. Likewise was the "dragon beast' which was also quite unnecessary.

While reading title pages is not objectionable, I would have wished that Hollywood back in the silent film days would have actually had the actors mouthing real dialogue which would "match" the words on the story line frames. If the actors actually spoke those words, then, their lips would have been in synchronization and the scenes would have made better sense.

Overall, the film is a good one and maybe someone will take the film and have real voice over actors speak the lines of the scenes and convert the movie into s pseudo-talking film.

I did enjoy the Turner Classic Movies presentation in it's color tinted form. By giving some color to the scenes it helps to dramatize the action and also lessons the boredom.

I rate the film an 8 out of 10.

Big Fish
(2003)

You can count on Tim Burton to tell you a "tall tale."
How many of us have met someone who always tells us "tall tales?" Are they true stories or are they mostly exaggerated? As you watch this film your mind may well be asking that question: Is Albert Finney's life as Ed Bloom, a mere figment of his imagination or did he actually live all those "adventures." Such is the theme of this fine Tim Burton film from 2003.

What I like about Tim Burton's films is that I can NOT "second guess" the story as it progresses. That keeps to a surprise what's coming around the corner in the next five minutes as the scenes progress.

The film is well served by the acting talents of Albert Finney, Ewan McGregor, and Billy Crudup in the two main character roles with Ewan McGregor playing the young man Ed Bloom and Albert Finney playing the senior Ed Bloom.

Another delightful surprise is how Tim Burton casts some well known actors to play small but significant supporting roles. I would say that these well known faces had no more than 15 minutes of screen time throughout the film but they were instrumental to the total performance: Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter (Tim's main love in real life), Robert Guillaume, and Danny DeVito. If you have watched HBO's "The Sopranos" then you will also enjoy Steve Buscemi's (Tony Soprano's cousin Tony Blundetto) performance as Norther Winslow (although he has been in 89 films since 1984!). Identical twins, Ada Tai and Arlene Tai are uniquely cast in the scene as entertainers of the Chinese Army! See how Buton uses these twins in the story!

Am I hearing the same "twinkle" music in the background like I heard in "Edward Scissorhands" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas?" Effective in creating the almost fairy tale image.

I'm not going to tell about this film, scene for scene, nor offer insight into how it ends. Rather, you need to tune your cable box to when this feature will be shown in your area or check the local video store.

It's all about the "process" of story telling.

"Once upon a time, there was this man who dreamed he was really a fish....a fish out of water!"

Les Misérables
(1998)

Most Excellent Movie of Victor Hugo's Classic
This month, I had the opportunity to see the Broadway Traveling Show Musical Production of Les Miserables. Now, while I liked the presentation on stage, there, seated in a sports arena of 50,000 seats of which at least 3,000 were in attendance for a Saturday matinée, I had problems understanding the story. Yes, the stage production was well done. However, I could not see the faces of the actors based on the stadium seating distance from the stage. And, without seeing their faces, it was difficult at times to know which performer was singing and which performer's character was on stage. No, I didn't "know" the whole story even though it has been performed for the last 20 years +.

But, this 1998 movie with Liam Nesson, Geoffrey Rush, Uma Thurman, and Claire Danes, as principle characters afforded me the continuity of the story, the depth of the character's role because of the movie closeups the actors received.

I highly recommend this movie version even if people love the musical. I never had time to read Victor Hugo's mega-volume novel of Les Miserables. So, this film version was so well done that the dramatic acting bypassed the highly touted Broadway Traveling Show.

High praise for the actors in this film version. I now truly understand the story and can appreciate the musical stage play better -- even if I couldn't see anyone's faces on the stage.

Death of a Salesman
(1966)

A MOST Outstanding Play
Clearly, "Death of a Salesman" is the best play that Arthur Miller has written. It is almost as if he wrote it with Lee J. Cobb in mind to play salesman Willy Loman. Lee J. Cobb (then 38 years old) had performed this role on Broadway starring in the original cast. The play ran for 742 performances from February 10, 1949 thru November 18, 1950.

I saw the television movie which ran on CBS television when it was broadcast in 1966. Back then we only had a black and white TV. Thirty-nine years later I purchased the DVD and marveled in seeing "Death of a Salesman" in color.

Sixteen years later a now 55 year old Cobb reprises his Broadway stage role for the television cameras and was emotionally and dramatically perfect. Cobb plays road salesman Willy Loman so well that the viewer can see him having an emotional breakdown as the play progresses to it's conclusion.

Part of the beauty of this television production is how it was video taped on a stage to resemble how an audience would see "Death of a Salesman" if it were being performed on the Broadway stage. The sets resembled those of a stage play. The only major difference is that, unseen by the viewers, the cameras were positioned to afford many dramatic angles and facial shots that could not be realized on a stage with a live audience.

The television movie co-stars Mildren Dunnock as Willy's wife Linda Loman. Ms. Dunnock was also in the original Broadway cast. Her dramatic and long suffering role as Willy's wife is played with emotion and genuine love for her salesman husband. I can never forget when she is scolding her adult sons for their lack of compassion to their father when she says, "....So attention must be paid. He's not to be allowed to fall into his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must be paid to such a person."

George Segal turns in an excellent performance as Willy's son, Biff Loman, a son whom Willy had such dreams for Biff to be a college football star only to have a riff happen between Biff and his father. When Biff and Willy physically attack each other one can relate to real life when love covered over by hatred exists in real life families.

James Farentino plays the playboy son, Happy Loman who is a disappointment to Willy's dreams and his mother's respect for him. Farentino is well matched as Biff's brother and at times the two brothers reflect upon their youthful years when they were still in high school and the pride of their father's eye.

Gene Wilder (of Willy Wonka and Young Frankenstein fame) turns in a surprise performance at age 33 years old as Bernard the smart son of Willy's neighbor, Charley.

Veteran character actor Edward Andrews gives a fine performance as Charley. Maybe Charley is Willy's only true friend. Throughout the play, Charley tries shows genuine concern for Willy's predicament and tries to help him, to no avail, because Willy will not listen to Charley's wise counsel.

Albert Dekker plays Willy's older brother Ben. Ben is played as an hallucination. Ben's appears in Willy's mind dressed as a successful man who went away to make his fortune. Willy speaks to his brother as Hamlet spoke to his dead father and asks for Ben's advice on whether Willy has done right by his sons. Brother Ben's apparent success torments the mind of Willy.

Bernie Kopell plays Howard Wagner the heir and president of the Wagner Company that Willy has worked at for many years. Bernie Kopell went on to become well known as Dr. Adam Bricker in the TV series "The Love Boat" as well as being cast in many movies and TV series.

Character actor Stanley Adams has a small role as a waiter when Biff, Happy, and Willy meet for dinner. Up until his death in 1977 Stanley Adams appeared in roles in 65 motion pictures. Supporting roles were played by June Foray, Joan Patrick, Marge Redmond, and Karen Steele. At 88 years of age in 2005, June Foray continues to work in films doing cartoon voices. She is the voice of Rocky the Squirrel, Tweety Bird's Granny, and other various voices in 158 movie roles.

The dialogue written by Arthur Miller in Death of a Salesman is quite lengthy and difficult to perform by it's scope. Some passages delivered by Willy Loman comprise a whole page of dialogue. Biff, Happy, and Linda, likewise have dialogue segments of large paragraphs of speech.

I followed the TV play using the play script and did notice that some lines from the play script were omitted during the television production. Some lines were combined and rearranged for the benefit of keeping the camera on the speaker for continuity. Yet, in no way did this detract from the movement of the play.

Everyone who is a lover of good drama should find this DVD and enjoy what used to be the standard fare on television drama during the 1960s when great literary writings were presented to an appreciative audience much different than today's fast paced TV, remote control clicking audiences are now.

Death of a Salesman will keep you glued to your seat and you won't even think of going to the refrigerator for snacks. See this movie. It is a "10."

Frankie and Johnny
(1991)

Almost a perfect romance movie!
I don't think I have spoiled the story in comparing the stage play with the movie.

This film is almost perfect. Terrence McNally wrote both the stage play and the screen play. Clearly, he wrote the screen play better than the stage play. In the stage play, there are only two actors, Frankie and Johnny, and all the scenes take place in Frankie's apartment. And, in the stage play there is so much indiscriminate banter back and forth between the two that the story line seems to get confused at times.

But, in the movie, McNally really develops a smooth story about how both Frankie and Johnny became who they are, and, merges them both together into a possible love duo. By introducing other characters in the restaurant where they both work and in the apartment building where Frankie lives, McNally helps show the life-style being led by Frankie and her vulnerabilities, which Johnny is there to assure her that he will always be there for Frankie.

Both Michelle Pheiffer and Al Pacino are the perfect couple to act these roles. Michelle is a dreamboat whom any man could fall in love with. Frankie is defensive and seeks protection from life's bad turns. Michelle's "emotional breakdown" when she finally shares her past life experiences with Johnny is so well acted that one hangs on her every word.

Johnny has fallen head over heals in love with Frankie and is blunt about telling her. Al Pacino is fast paced and typifies a person with a New York way of life. The conflict between the two characters is strong and makes for an interesting movie which will glue the viewer to their seat.

I watch this movie whenever it comes on cable and I also have the video and play book. Clearly, I prefer the movie to the play in spite of the great reviews the play receives when it is performed on the stage.

The play has much more cursing than the movie. Somehow, I don't think that the soft and subtle character of Frankie is right for her to curse so much in the play. In the movie, her cursing is minimal and gets the point across to Johnny.

Garry Marshall captured the romance in directing this outstanding movie. It is destined to hold a place in romance movies parallel with Romeo and Juliet and You've Got Mail. Watch this movie with a date by your side!

Crossing Delancey
(1988)

How to Find a Mate in New York City
Very nice ethnic movie about two people who seem to have problems finding a mate. The movie stereotypes Jewish romantic life in New York City. A matchmaker gets involved in matching up young people. The girl works in a book store. The boy works in a pickle store. He has always noticed here from afar. But, now it's time to put them together for life. Nicely acted movie. It does not seem to reflect how people really find each other in America and as such tends to play on an older 18th century concept of matchmaking for people to find their mates. This is more of a movie for a woman's fantasy than a man's concept of mate finding. But, what I like most about the actual story is that it's not about a rich man who finds a poor girl as in Pretty Woman! Here, both the boy and girl are representative of a similar upper low middle income and life style. Such makes it a believable story. Well acted by all cast members.

Larry de Illinois

L'amant
(1992)

Jane March's first movie is becoming!
Jane March has not made many movies in her 31 years of life. Only 8 films, I believe. L' Amant was her first movie in 1992. She was a very young and sexy 19 years old. I liked this movie and it bordered on being considered, in my opinion, "clean erotica." Jane's character falls in love with a wealthy Asian in Vietnam. Of course, he is betrothed to someone else. But, he takes an apartment in which he meets with Jane March's character and they make love in the afternoon. Jane is only referred to as the Young Girl in the movie. I think that folks will like this movie if they have an open mind and consider that the morality of the story is based upon the morals of the characters of the time. Too bad that Jane has not been offered more films to make, or, maybe she just doesn't want to make them. See this film and enjoy it.

Larry de Illinois

The Death Collector
(1976)

MOB CONTRACTS ENFORCED
Very good 1970s movie about mob operations in New Jersey. When a "maverick" gangster doesn't play by the rules of the neighborhood, sooner or later, it's time for elimination.

Joe Pesci was true to his character -- smooth and funny. He only gets better with age. His face and present day fame should not have been used on the DVD cover to sell this "B" grade movie as he was only the third billed star.

Dated 1970's printed wide lapel shirts and lesser quality background music make for a distraction. Nice to see the 1970's big cars.

However, the acting is good.

Nakedness on the part of Anne Johns was not needed to make this mob story work. And, she does not show up in the database as every acting again in any film other than this one. Too bad; she did a good job!

Moral of the story: Don't get your "Don" upset with you.

If you are wanting to see something different when you wake up in the middle of the night then check out this DVD. It was part of a three-movie-on-one DVD $5.88 special at the local discount store.

House of Love
(2000)

Kira Reed Does It Again!
This was a different kind of mature adult movie. The story was different and interesting. It did not fit into any usual "sex formula."

I liked the extreme facial closeups of the stars being "interviewed." Seeing a person's facial gestures lets the viewer come to perceive the emotion the actor is trying to express.

And, to pick out a favorite, Ms. Kira Reed has done it again! She portrayed a range of emotions. Her almost to tears segments were believable. What is amazing is that this young lady has accumulated 49 film projects in just 10 years that she has been an actress. She is a natural woman and a pleasure to spend the time watching on the TV screen.

This film was rated too low by the viewers whom commented. I, personally, felt that the acting was smooth and on-track. The story was tastefully done. Of course, I would wonder what was in the extra minutes that were shown in the Australian version that were cut from the American version. Must have been the difference between getting an "R" rating as opposed to an "X" rating! Well, it was not necessary to have too much sex in the film. What was there was enough to move the story along.

I certainly gave this film more than a "2." The story was produced well and combined with the acting, cinematography, and narration, I felt that within it's special category it deserved an "8."

Shall we dansu?
(1996)

What a Charming and Delightful Film Highlighting Traditional Japanese Societal Norms
I just saw this delightful Japanese feature film at the 5th Annual Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival in the historic Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois.

Although this film, subtitled in English, has ballroom dancing as its heart, the film actually shows the world outside of Japan how the rigid structures of family, employment (salaryman), and recreation still exist in Modern day Japan.

Writer/director Suo Masauki [I follow Japanese custom of presenting the family name (last name) first and the given name (last)] uses the not so very popular theme of ballroom dancing to show the societal structure of Japan.

[Also, I shall not use the movie character names when world readers may not be familiar with Japanese formal names which may confuse. I will refer to the

actors by their professional acting name as listed in the Internet Data Movie Base.]

He enlists the aid of his real-life wife, professional ballet dancer Kusakari Tamiyo in her first and, so far, only motion picture. She is a dance teacher at her father's dance studio. Yet, her real ambition is to compete once more in an International Dance Competition which she was disqualified from in the past. No, I won't say "why." See the movie.

Salaryman Yakusyo Koji is the main star of the film. A veteran of about 25 films since 1979, he gives a sterling performance of a 40's something companyman

who has a lovely wife, teenage daughter, and just purchased the house of his

longing.

And, yet, something is missing from his own inner happiness. See this film to learn how he becomes "involved" with ballroom dancing and secretly goes to

lessons. Most of the dancing characters are liberated from the traditional

Japanese hierarchy of social structure. They are friendly and warm and inviting. Of course, this is in sharp contrast to how Japanese society is structured with it's "place for everyone and everyone in its place" philosophy.

The movie has so many funny moments. The almost 1,500 theater goers broke

into spontaneous laughter during many of the comedic moments. This proves

that comedy has no foreign language.

Veteran actor Takenaka Naoto is funny and brilliant as well as Watanabe Eriko. They are two funny character actors.

One could purchase and read a college text book regarding the structure of life in Japan, or, you could watch this fine film and begin to understand how the

people of Japan grow up in a fairly rigid societal structure. Watching the movie "Shall we Dansu?" is a quick immersion into further study and viewing other

Japanese films.

I recommend this film to all. It's funny, it's charming, it will make you cry a little, and it will warm your heart.

What's Cooking?
(2000)

What a Delightful Thanksgiving Movie
I just saw this movie for the first time at the Roger Ebert Fifth Annual Overlooked Film Festival at the historic 1,500 seat Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois.

What a delightful and unexpected movie story!

The story highlights the lives of four families who are celebrating their version of a traditional Thanksgiving.

This is unlike no other Thanksgiving movie you have ever seen. Almost 1,500 theatre goers laughed and were awed by this performance.

You have to see it to believe it. The story is full of surprises -- some pleasant and some unpleasant.

The entire acting ensemble was perfectly selected and fitted their roles well.

I would like to see more movies of this quality made.

Three Cheers for director Gurinda Chadha who also co-wrote this is screenplay with her husband, Paul Mayeda Berges.

See this movie and recommend it to your friends and family.

Barbershop
(2002)

A Wonderful Movie in a "unique" and new setting.
I saw Barbershop in downtown Chicago while visiting my son. I had heard many comments about it, both positive and negative, on talk-radio over a popular Chicago 50,000 watt radio station.

Frankly, all the negative comments, including those publicly issued by Rev. Jesse Jackson, in my opinion, are without merit.

This is a great movie. Every actor played his/her role with professionalism, skill, and verve.

The setting around the "going on's" in a black-owned barbershop, if really accurate, made for a new, different, and funny story. This was not the same story/play one usually sees repeated over and over again. Barbershop is a fresh new movie.

All critics should be "happy" to see this new movie. Not tear it down. I laughed at the funny situations along with other members of the audience.

Don't let others make up your mind for you. Go see this fine screen play. If you enjoy it... then great. If you don't...well, at least you experienced if for yourself and didn't stay away because "someone else saw it and tried to deny you your right to see it."

Everyone has a right to make any movie they can get financial backing for and actors to play the roles. If you don't like a movie after you see it, then fine.

But, don't be like some who take offense that a company of black actors are making their living acting in this fine motion picture. Aside from a few well placed "f-words" this movie is tops. And, today, if you haven't heard the "f-word" then you are living in a cave.

Go see this fine motion picture. Cheers and other "thumbs up" to the entire cast and crew.

Oh yes, the movie also has a positive moral!

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