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An often deeply moving movie
"Belfast" is a deeply moving film that recounts, often from a young boy's perspective, what it was like to live n Belfast in 1969 at the outbreak of that round of Protestant-Catholic violence. It held me riveted to my seat from almost start to finish. The acting was uniformly first rate. Some of the action was hard for me to understand because I don't know the history of that conflict well. Perhaps that could have been helped with more exposition?

My one real problem with segments of this movie was the accents. Just as the mother worries that, if they were to move to England to follow her husband's job, they would not be understood by half of the English, so I had real problems understanding some of the dialogue, because I am not used to hearing the Irish speak.

But this should not dissuade anyone from seeing the movie! Not at all. I mentioned this problem to the manager of the theater (Regal) after the show, and he told me that the theater could have supplied me, free of charge, with glasses that would have let me see the movie's evidently embedded closed captions.

So, if any of you go and get discouraged because you can't understand all the dialogue, ask if your movie theater has such spectacles. I wish I had known about them They would have saved me a certain amount of aggravation.

As it is, I will rent the movie when it comes out on dvd so that I can watch it with closed captions and see what I could not understand. It's definitely a movie that is worth a second viewing.

The Tunnel of Love

It gets one star because you can't leave zero stars on here
This movie is a dud from start to finish. The few jokes are dull, the script flat, the characters never developed, and mostly unlikable. The official trailer presents this as a laugh-a-minute comedy, which it is not, one that deals with taboo sexual issues - i.e., ones that weren't being discussed on television at the time - which is true but uninteresting.

My only question is: how different is this from the play of the same name on which it was based, and which ran for 417 performances on Broadway, where it was produced by the esteemed Theater Guild, no less? (The male lead was taken by Johnny Carson late in its run.) I suppose I could track down a copy of the play and find out, but I'd hate to put more time into this.

The Tallest Tree in Our Forest

An interesting documentary with serious technical problems
I am only the second person to review this documentary on here. I wonder why. I just saw it tonight - 27 Sept 2021 - on TCM, whom I thank for showing it.

I've admired Robeson as a singer for decades I"m not old enough to have seen him on the stage in "straight" shows, but he was evidently very impressive there as well. His phenomenal speaking voice, rich, low, with remarkable diction, suggests that he could have been formidable.

It's a shame that his few movies don't do him justice, but there just weren't good roles for Black male leads during his heyday.

This 90 minute movie is a mixed bag. There are certainly some interesting scenes and material in it. But the sound - at least on the copy TCM showed - varied from poor to inaudible, and the color was not much better. I gather that it was a very low-budget movie reproduced on inexpensive film stock that has not aged well - at least in the case of the copy TCM ran. This would seem to be producer/director Gil Noble's only movie, so I suspect it was a labor of love, the offshoot of a tv series he did devoted to Black affairs. The page here on IMDB devoted to it covers just the bare minimum and is, I suspect, recent.

In the end, readers of this review will want to know if it is worth their time to watch the movie. I would definitely say yes. If you know nothing about Robeson other than what you can find on Wikipedia, it's a good way to go further. Just be prepared for some bad sound and poor visuals.


Please remember that this is NOT a PBS documentary about Aretha Franklin
Most of the negative reviews done before mine (24 August 2021) complain because the movie left out some aspect/s of Franklin's life that they wanted to see included. That's pretty much inevitable with a biopic, but not a fair criticism. This is not, and does not pretend to be, a documentary. It is a feature picture about Franklin that draws on certain aspects of her life to tell a gripping dramatic story. It does that very well. The fact that it does not cover every element of her life is irrelevant.

As for what is here:

The best thing is the acting, which is uniformly good to very good indeed. Jennifer Hudson creates a vivid three-dimensional character for the lead. She holds your eye whenever she's on screen. But the others hold up their ends as well, including Skye Dakota Turner, who does a wonderful job as Franklin at 10.

There is also a lot of music well performed.

The script is the problem. There are wonderful, powerful scenes. But there are others that don't come across well for lack of explanation. In particular, for me, are some of the early scenes when Franklin is recording for Columbia. If you know Franklin's later, successful recordings, you can hear how those early ones were inappropriately produced: lush strings, etc. But if you don't know her best work, you won't hear where the problem is.

In that respect, this movie is similar to, but better than , Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Both singers struggle to find a recording producer who will set them up with musicians who can play in the style that best suits what they want to sing. But it's a joint venture. When Franklin finally starts recording in Mussel Shoals with musicians who *get her*, she also gets ideas from them. Those, to me, were some of the most interesting scenes in the movie, and I would have liked to see more of them. In the end, what made Franklin of interest was not her personal problems - a louse of a first husband, a domineering father, etc. It was how she went about creating a sound and style that captured her audiences and listeners.

One previous reviewer explains that they saw a *director's original cut* that ran over 3 hours. The general release, which I saw, still runs 2h20m. I suspect some of the necessary explanations ended up on the cutting room floor. That's unfortunate. It would have been better if the script had been much better edited down, so that the necessary scenes could have gotten what we needed to know across more succinctly.

Nonetheless, what remains is a still often very powerful and compelling movie about a very interesting character. Don't expect it to be a documentary that covers every detail of Franklin's life accurately. If you want that, read a book.

Agnes of God

One very powerful movie
This movie starts with a well-crafted script. It was given to three fine actresses who gave three first-rate performances, directed by someone who really knew what he was doing.

The result is a movie that is sometimes painfully difficult to watch, but never anything less than riveting. It's a murder mystery of sorts, but you know who the killer is from the start of the movie - despite occasional efforts to doubt what you know. The mystery therefore is not who did the killing, but why. In the course of finding out, we learn a lot about the three main characters, and much of it is not pretty.

Watch it for three absolutely first-rate performances.

I Married an Angel

A good movie of a weak musical
I can see why many of the previous 24 reviews are negative. Eddy and MacDonald had had a successful run of movie musicals based on older operettas by Victor Herbert, Sigmund Romberg, Rudolf Friml, etc., dating from the 1910s and 20s. They were clones - very good clones, but clones nonetheless - of Viennese operettas from the turn of the century. In other words, the Eddy/MacDonald audience was used to seeing them in what, by the 1930s, was a fairly antiquated genre that was high on sentimentality and nostalgia.

Why, given that, Louis B Mayer decided to put them in an adaptation of a much more modern musical by Rodgers and Hart I don't know, but it wasn't a good idea. The music isn't the same, nor is the story. The old E/MacD audience was bound to be disappointed.

That's really a shame, because there is a lot in this movie to like - apart from the music, which is third-rate. MacDonald's dance number with Binnie Barnes is a hoot, and there are some impressive production numbers - though, again, to undistinguished music. Rodgers and Hart gave us some great musicals and great songs, but this wasn't among them.

So, accept that 1) this isn't like their previous movies, or a Romberg operetta; 2) the music isn't interesting. Then perhaps you can appreciate what is good here.

The Wereth Eleven

Not what it claims to be
The tag for this movie is:

During World War II, 1.2 million African-Americans served in America's Armed Forces. Fully 125,000 served overseas. 708 were killed. Among these were The Wereth Eleven. Their story was lost to history. Until now.

Not really, though.

Near the end of World War II, the Army finally allowed some Black GIs to serve in combat units - still segregated from white combat units. (This was not done out of a sense of equality. We were short of men.) One such unit was the 333th Field Artillery Battalion, which served during the terrible Battle of the Bulge at the end of 1944 on the French-German border. From that unit eleven Black GIs were captured and held prisoner by a particularly sadistic group of German soldiers in a small farming community in Belgium, Wereth. Before killing them, the Germans evidently tortured them mercilessly and sadistically, and then left their mutilated bodies in a field, where they disappeared under the snow for the rest of the winter. That spring they were discovered, and American investigators were sent to record what happened. Nothing came of it, however; whether because they were Black or because the Army, under a great deal of pressure at that point, just lost the report this movie never tries to determine. (There appears to have been almost no real research behind the making of this movie, and that's one of its major problems.)

Though this movie is short - about 70 minutes - only two or three minutes are devoted to what happened at Wereth that night because, as you might guess, we don't know much. None of the eleven Black GIs survived their torture to tell us, and the movie makers do not seem to have made any effort to tract down the Germans who were there to get their version of what happened. By now, ten years later, when the German soldiers would have to be at least 95, the chances of finding them are probably close to non-existent.

So what is the take-away from this story, and this movie? That there were sadistic Germans in the SS? Yes, certainly. That comes as no surprise. The last part of the movie recounts some of their large massacres of civilians - Malmedy - to which Oradour sur glans and too many other sites could be added. Those mass killings dwarf the torture and slaughter of these eleven men, about whom we learn almost nothing. That is a problem, one that the book that came out several years later tries to remedy by devoting way too much time to reconstructing the lives of the eleven men.

This movie never figures out what it is trying to show, and that is a problem too.

Is it trying to show that the SS could be monsters? That's nothing new, of course, but I suppose it could have presented us with 70 minutes of their various massacres across Europe. I wouldn't/couldn't sit through it, but it might interest some viewers.

Is it trying to show that the SS could be racist? That's not new, either. The death camps across eastern Europe survive to remind us of that, as does every Holocaust memorial.

Is this movie trying to show us that the American Army didn't care as much about Black GIs as their white counterparts? We know that, too, but it's a point not taught in our schools and does bear repetition. In that case, however, research should have been done to explain why the Army seems to have forgotten about these eleven men when they commemorated the deaths of others who were killed, in combat or in torture, during the Battle of the Bulge. Were other Black GIs killed and commemorated? Or, if they were killed, were they forgotten too? This movie very desperately needed an analytical historian to think about WHY this story was worth telling - and I believe it was. But I believe this movie fails its story, badly.

But is the movie a total failure? No.

Far and away the best thing in this movie is George Schomo, a veteran of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion, who gives us some idea of what it was like for Black GIs to go through basic training in what was basically a Jim Crow segregated army and then serve during the Battle of the Bulge. He is thoroughly engaging. I wish the director/script writer/producer, Robert Child, a fat white man in a World War II uniform, had sacrificed all his screen time so that we could have heard more from Mr. Schomo.

After him, it is interesting to hear from the sons of two of the men who served in that unit and came back alive. Again, I would have liked to hear more from them.

What would I have liked to see less of?

1. Child 2. All the staged fake documentary footage. Give me a break, guy. Show what you've got that's real, and then fill us in on what happened. Don't try to pass off staged footage as real archival footage.

3. the shots of how pretty Wereth is in the summer. Our men were there in a terrible winter. Why do I need to see what it looks like on a beautiful summer day?

In sum: It's only 70 minutes long. Only about two of those minutes tell us what happened to the Wereth Eleven. Now maybe someone will do real research and find out why their story was Forgotten.

The Celluloid Closet

A wonderful pictorial history of gay and lesbian characters in Hollywood movies
I watched this movie for the first time in many years on TCM tonight, and really found it to be a first-rate documentary. Yes, some of the people interviewed are more informative than others - Gore Vidal's stories about the creation of *Ben Hur* are perhaps at the top, but others have interesting things to say as well. The range of movies from which the clips were taken is very impressive indeed, and is a tribute to Vito Russo's historical work on the topic, on which this movie was based.

My only objection is that no one and no movie is identified. Yes, they are all listed in the credits at the end. But I really would like to have learned, as I watched it, what movies some of those clips came from, and who some of the interviewees I did not recognize were. Perhaps on the dvd version that omission is rectified?

That notwithstanding, I recommend this movie without reservation for anyone who wants to see how gays and lesbians were portrayed in the first hundred years of American cinema. Yes, I'm sure there is some favorite movie of yours, or movie scene, that is left out. That's inevitable. You can't cover all the movies Russo mentions in one film. Yes, it's unfortunate that there is no sequel to cover Hollywood since 1988, or foreign movies, or tv shows. But those are not faults with what is here, which is very entertaining and informative.

A very well made movie.


A remarkable movie
This movie stars a very fine actor who looks remarkably like the comedian Kevin Hart. In fact, he looks so much like Hart that the producers have tried to pass him off as Hart - no doubt to capitalize on Hart's popularity. I don't think this actor has to worry about being sued by Hart for impersonation or anything like that, however. This actor is so good, gives such a powerful and often deeply moving performance, that Hart must be hoping that viewers believe it is actually Hart.

I myself spent much of this movie wondering if the person I saw on screen could possibly actually be Kevin Hart. Is that possible????

The actor, whoever he may be in real life, gets strong support from Alfre Woodard as the mother-in-law who cannot forgive him, a child actress who does not play cute, and a script that, more often than not, avoids the obvious and the cheap laugh, delivering instead a punch right in the emotional gut. This movie is not always easy to watch. But it is impossible to stop watching.

If you don't like Kevin Hart's previous movies - and I didn't care for some of them - watch this. You will be amazed. If you did like his previous movies, watch it as well. You will also be amazed. It's an amazing movie.

Angels in the Outfield

A somewhat disturbing remake of a much more interesting movie
The original *Angels in the Outfield*, with Paul Douglas and Janet Leigh, is not a children's movie. It deals with the problems of middle-aged men facing physical decline and isolation, and deals with those topics well. In a sense, it is like a more serious version of Bernie Mack's also very good *Mr. 3000*.

This movie is clearly directed at young children/boys, but that makes it rather disturbing.

To begin with, the child who sees the angels is a young boy, not a young girl as in the 1951 original. Indeed, there are no women of any age in this movie with any interest in or knowledge of baseball. The middle-aged woman who runs the temporary foster home doesn't want a ticket to a baseball game; she has no interest in it. In the original, however, the mother superior of the orphanage where the little girl lives is also a baseball expert, to the point that she amazes the Pirates' manager (Douglas). So, while the newer movie is more open racially - there are black and latino characters - it's definitely regressive in terms of its presentation of women. The one woman we see is always busy sewing or doing other 19th century women's tasks.

The apparent racial inclusiveness is also largely superficial. The latino players make fun of one of their group who is dumber than a doornail. It is the white boy, rather than the latino or the black one, who gets to see the angels. Etc. Glover's manager, though well acted, never reflects on the issues that will be posed by his adoption of the white boy, not just racial but because he is a single man. In the original, his equivalent, Douglas, is very concerned about such issues.

Then there is the issue of performance-enhancing drugs. Early on Glover's manager says that Danza's character messed up his career by taking too many drugs. Later we learn that, when they were both playing for Cincinnati, Glover's character had encouraged Danza's to take them. Still later we learn that Danza's character is going to die a young death because of chemical abuse. But he is not the only one. There are a few scenes in the Angels' locker room where the players are shirtless. I'm sure they were there in part to please the mothers in the audience. But those muscular physiques are way past what normal, in shape athletic men look like. They too, the movie seems to suggest, are on steroids.

Yes, the move clearly warns against their use with Danza's character's early death. But is that really an appropriate subject for a movie aimed at pre-teen boys?

The movie is also about the failure of early middle-aged men. Glover has failed to turn the Angels around. We learn from the *nice* announcer that the nasty announcer had failed as a manager as well. The white boy's father has failed as a father bigtime and abandons his son to the state. Danza's character has failed his teammates. The list goes on. What is this movie telling young boys?

And then there are the angels. In the original, no one but the little girl, who sees them, and the manager, who speaks with one of them, believes in them. Not even the mother superior wants to believe in them. But in this movie, by the end, thousands of people believe in them. I guess that's good if you're a fundamentalist, but what does it tell little boys about how to overcome their problems in life? In the original, the aging pitcher triumphs over fatigue and physical pain to pitch one last game for himself and his team, even though there are no angels helping him. He learns to believe in the ability of men to triumph over their weaknesses and bad breaks. The white boy learns something very different in the remake.

I could go on - I have with friends - but you get the idea. Yes, there are certainly some funny moments in the picture. But if you watch it with your young sons, ask them afterward what they got out of it. You might be surprised.

A Stranger in Town

More important than you may realize. Fighting for American values on the home front while our soldiers fight for them overseas
Previous reviewers of this movie are all over the map. Some really liked it, others were disappointed that Frank Morgan did not reprise his role in the Wizard of Oz. Most don't seem to appreciate the movie for what it had to offer movie goers in 1943. And that's a shame.

This movie was made during the early part of World War II. The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor in Dec 1941. We started to strike back in the Pacific, and in Nov 1942 we managed to invade and take control of North Africa (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia). That would allow us to prepare for an invasion of what Churchill called *the soft underbelly of Europe*, Italy and eventually southern France. By April of 1943, things were starting to look better for us, but D-Day, and our success there, were still a year and a half away. There were still many isolationists in the U. S. who felt we should not have gone to war in Europe. Others wondered if we would succeed against Germany. But FDR said that we had to defend *the four freedoms* around the world. American values, if you will, but FDR was not so close-minded as to depict them as just American.

That's what this movie is all about, encapsulated in Frank Morgan's speech before the court near the end of the movie. It is every American's duty to defend democratic (with a small d) values. That means fighting locally the sort of small-town corruption and dictatorship that tries to take self-government away from the people. (The romantic lead, who starts off as a weakling, will learn that in the course of the movie, as all Americans, especially isolationists, needed to do.) What the corrupt mayor of that small town was doing was just a smaller version of what dictators around the world were trying to do on a much larger scale. Americans needed to fight such dictators on the home front, just as we needed to fight them on a much greater level.

There are problems with this movie, sure.

The actor who plays the small-town lawyer who must learn to defend democracy, Richard Carlson, isn't up to the task of showing why he is weak to begin with and how he learns to fight with something in addition to - not other than - his fists to win the small-town war against fascism.

The depiction of small-town corruption, presented as unexceptional, suggests that there are worms gnawing away at our great democracy from inside. In the context of this movie, that is disquieting. It might have been more powerful if there had been some effort to link the small-town despots to their equivalent on the world stage.

This movie is never as bone-chilling as masterpieces of the genre like *Mr. Smith Goes to Washington* and *Mr. Deeds Goes to Town*, both of which deal with how corruption in our institutions threaten our democratic way of life. The corrupt small-town powers here hurt two men, but we are not made to feel their pain, or to imagine that their pain could one day be ours. That makes this movie less powerful.

But it's still a lot more than just another romantic comedy. It is another entry in the *Why we fight* series of movies that Hollywood put out during World War II, a series that produced some of the greatest movies ever made.

Freedom on My Mind

A remarkable movie that avoids the pitfalls of too many documentaries on social issues
I find it hard to believe that there are only five previous reviews of this documentary here on the IMDB. I don't find it hard to believe that they are all very positive. This is one remarkable movie.

I've watched a LOT of documentaries in my life. In fact, I've been making documentaries myself - on World War II - for some time now. So I have some definite views on what helps and hurts a documentary that deals with contemporary issues. (A documentary on France's King Louis XIV could be fascinating, of course, but that's a different animal.) These are the things that struck me as making this movie particularly powerful, in no particular order:

1. We see excerpts from interviews with a fair number of people who actually participated in the campaign for voter rights in Mississippi in the 1950s and 60s. They all speak with the authenticity of lived experience. We do NOT see talking heads, academics, or other scholars/"authorities" who have simply studied or reported on this era. While such individuals' books might be very interesting, they would make this documentary seem less immediate. Instead, it seems very immediate. You can't do that with a documentary about non-contemporary subjects, of course. But in this case, the talking heads approach would have been much less effective.

2. I was astounded/very impressed by the iconography. It's already great to have photos of the things being talked about. But very often, this movie uses archival film of the people and events being presented. Again, that makes it that much more immediate.

3. The principal interviewees are interviewed in natural settings, rather than in some studio. Again, that reinforces the realness of their stories.

My one suggestion: the people we see - and we see a LOT of people in this movie - should be identified with a caption every time we see them. It would be simple to add that to a new edition of this movie.

Kudos to everyone involved. This is one very impressive achievement that deserves to be much more widely seen.

Foreign Correspondent

A definitely must-not-miss film
Is this movie perfect? No.

Does it go on too long? Yes. Hitchcock was clearly having so much fun with his surprise revelations that he threw too many in.

Is the attack on the clipper over-the-top? Yes. Did he really have to resort to something so unbelievable?

But is this a thrilling movie? Oh yes, Most definitely.

And is Joel McCrea's final speech, delivered to a microphone in the dark as bombs fall around him moving? Very deeply so.

This movie is lots of things. Among others, it is a product of the years leading up to Pearl Harbor, when far too many American politicians, mostly Republican but not all, kept arguing for isolation and assuring the American pubic that we would never be attacked.

If you don't see the relevance to today, when far too many politicians argue that COVID is not a real threat, you must really have blinders on.

The only difference is that the German assault on our world was a conscious attack by a ruthless mind. COVID has no mind in any sense that we would recognize. But in both cases some Americans allowed some politicians to convince them that there was no real threat. And then came the attack.

The Prisoner of Zenda

An exciting movie from which so many have borrowed so much for later, well-known movies
This is one very exciting movie, as many of the previous reviewers have remarked.

But it is also the source of a lot of things that were reused, often very well, in other very popular action films.

First, though, in reaction to those who wrote that this was inspired, in part, by Edward VII's relinquishing the English throne to marry "the woman he loved." I don't see it. Here it is Princess Flavia who, in order to keep her love for Rassendyll, would have to give up the throne. She opts not to do that - in a rather over-written love scene near the end of the movie.

If you want to see a parallel with England at the time of this movie, ask instead about the obvious resemblance between the costumes of the king's brother, Black Michael, and the Gestapo. When Michael tries to take over the throne, were we meant to see that as a reference to the Germans' efforts to win over the abdicated Edward VII in the hopes of making England more amenable to a treaty with Germany? Rudolph Hess would not make his failed flight to England in an attempt to gain the sympathies of the abdicated Edward VII for the Nazi cause until 1941, but Edward's pro-German sympathies were evident well before that.

Then, look at the parallels and similarities with other movies that followed this one.

First, the idea of the look-alike for the ruling figure and the "king for a day" scenario, *The Prince and the Pauper*, was being done that same year (1937) over at Warner Brothers a well, with their swashbuckler, Eroll Flynn. It was released in May, this movie in September. Which one went into production first I don't know, but I'm sure that was not a coincidence.

Then, the magnificent sword fight between Rassendyll and Hentzau, up and down those castle steps, often with the two men's shadows behind them, would appear the next year in another Eroll Flynn classic, *The Adventures of Robin Hood*. Again, the parries would be seasoned with what one would have to call *rapier wit*. (Sorry, but that was too obvious to avoid.)

The spectacular receding camera shot as the King and Princess Flavia descend to the coronation ball would, of course, be imitated two years later in the hospital scene of *Gone with the Wind.* Whereas the first overwhelms us with glamor, the second overwhelms us with the hopelessness of the consequences of war.

There are many scenes I love in this movie, but perhaps the most endearing is the last between Rassendyll and Flavia. When he starts out saying that he lied to her about everything but his love, the language, and Colman's presentation of it, become true romantic poetry.

If you love adventure movies and do not expect things to blow up every 5 seconds, treat yourself to this. It's really a wonderful movie.


Not as good as it should have been with such a good cast
This movie has a great cast of comedians, but even they can't bring much life to a dead script.

Why the script is so dead is the real mystery here. It is based on a Broadway success by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly. But if you compare the two works, you see that this movie script was radically altered from the original play.

What we are left with is a lot of slapstick sight-gags, some of which are funny, some not, and a lot of really hairbrained events. No one comes of as even vaguely real.

So, in the end, a fine cast that could have done great things is left high and dry - unlike the characters, who often end up all wet.

St. Louis Blues

A mixed bag with a lot of very great musical performances
Some of the previous reviewers say kind things about the acting and script here. I can't see it.

Eartha Kitt not only sings well - VERY well - but does a great job acting her role as well. Juano Hernandez is good as Handy's very strict father, but it's a two-dimensional role. Nat King Cole isn't much of an actor here, in my opinion. But then, his singing is spectacular, so I'll deal with his acting as the price for enjoying, very much, his singing.

The script is strictly from hunger. As others have remarked, it's a reworking of the cliched plot in *The Jazz Singer*. And, as almost all the reviewers have pointed out, it bears little resemblance to the historical truth. The Aeolian Hall concert is pure fiction, for example, and seems to have been inspired by the real concert Paul Whiteman gave there in 1924 that introduced Gershwin's immortal *Rhapsody in Blue* - and a lot of now forgotten efforts by other composers. It was also evidently inspired by the scene in the 1945 movie *Rhapsody in Blue*, which, like *The Jazz Singer*, also deals with a conflict between popular and "serious" music.

It's also very pious, which I found strange in a movie about the birth of the blues. Whom did the producers imagine their audience to be? The reviewers seem to think this was aimed at Black audiences, but I doubt that. When we see Handy and Gogo singing in the nightclub, they play to a strictly white audience, one interested in jazz and the blues. I can only assume that the producers imagined a similar audience for this movie.

But enough of the negatives. The positives here - and they are VERY positive - are the musical performances. In how many movies can you dream of finding first-rate performances by:

Nate King Cole Eartha Kitt Mahalia Jackson Ella Fitzgerald and Pearl Bailey?

With the exception of Fitzgerald's number, these are not one-off isolated performances that are only incidental to the plot. The first three singers get several numbers each, all wonderful.

They alone make it worth your while to watch this movie. Ignore the pious plot.

Atlantic Crossing

World War II retold for women who love Downton Abbey and love stories
I've read that Shakespeare's Hamlet and Macbeth have little to do with the actual historical characters and events on which they are based. Still, I've never met anyone who cared about that in deciding whether they liked those plays.

The same approach should probably be taken to this series, which plays fast and loose with World War II history. But that's hard to do, because we're so much closer to the real events that this series rewrites than Shakespeare's audience was to minor figures in Medieval Scottish and Danish history. (Did they know anything about those fields at all?) It was very hard for me to sit through the depiction of the female lead, the Crown Princess of Norway, inspiring Lend-Lease, for example. I can imagine that Swedes don't particularly enjoy seeing their former king portrayed as a Nazi sympathizer. But if you don't know anything about World War II history, then I guess that wouldn't bother you. Just as I am not bothered, in reading Hamlet, by the discrepancies between the play and Medieval Danish history.

What we are left with is imitation Downton Abbey - lots of nice-looking aristocracy and their homes, not too much concern with unglamorous commoners.

Also a story to inspire timid women: a timid young princess - think Princess Diana - comes into her own and eventually grows a backbone. She even helps to save Western civilization. A story lots of timid women could relate to.

If you're a World War II history buff, or a guy, or a woman who does not need fantasy history to feel inspired to develop her potential, this will probably seem like a long-winded costume drama, which is what it actually is.

But if you're part of the intended audience, you might enjoy it. And so long as you don't mistake what happens for history, I don't know that there is any harm in that. George Washington didn't chop down that cherry tree, after all, yet Parson Weams' tale of how he did but then did not lie about it provided moral courage to countless young Americans of a previous era. If this series helps timid women develop moral strength, that wouldn't be a bad thing.


I just watched Episode 6. When FDR, having learned of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, goes first to see the Crown Princess to find courage to deliver an address - what becomes the *A day that shall live in infamy* address to the joint houses of Congress - I almost puked. The rest was pretty much the same thing. FDR turns out to be a lover who finds strength and inspiration in an initially timid Norwegian princess. It's sort of like bad old-fashioned Disney applied to World War II history. Bad imitation old-fashioned Disney.

Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal

The new type of documentary: with actors
This is an example of a new type of documentary, in which actors act out what supposedly happened in real life. I confess I don't like that approach to documentary making at all.

But there are other things to dislike here as well. There's a lot of supposing. There's a lot of drone shots of the various college campuses in question. (I went to two of them, so it was fun to see them from "up above.") In short, there's just a lot of filler.

The basic story, however, is fascinating: people with a lot of money are willing to buy their children entrance into elite institutions. Not to get them a better education - if the kids don't make the effort, they won't get a good education even at the best of schools. But rather, to get them prestige. The same sort of prestige you evidently get by driving a Mercedes, or wearing Gucci, or ....

What this movie never considers, but should have, is the "follow up": the number of wealthy parents who finance their children's cheating once they get into college. (Paying flunkies with Ph. D.s to write papers for them, etc.) Because remember: it's not enough to get into these places. Students do actually have to perform academically to stay there. So that takes more cheating, which requires more money.

I would have cut about half of this movie, and used the time to cover the follow-up: how wealthy parents keep their kids in these schools. Because remember what the guy who runs this scam says over and over through this movie: he has been operating this scam for 20+ years. So the students he helped to get into these schools must also, in many cases, have had paid help to stay there and graduate.

Several of the speeches by talking heads near the end of the movie are stupid. One says that you can get a good education at most any of the nation's 3000 colleges and universities. That's not true of all of them, but probably true of many of them. But the parents featured here don't give a damn about whether their kids get an education, so that's not an issue for them. The parents are buying the prestige/bragging rights of attendance at these elite schools. And no, most of the nation's 3000 colleges and universities will not provide that.

Whether anyone should care about that prestige is another issue, of course.

Two Girls and a Sailor

This is two movies, yes two movies in one. It's a completely uninteresting movie about two young women who are both more or less in love with Van Johnson and try to run a canteen for service men during World War II.

And it's a variety show, full of stars doing what they do well, if not always what they do best.

The first story goes on forever and is really uninteresting.

A lot of the variety show acts are good, but because this movie runs way too long, the variety numbers aren't as much fun as they might be. Near the end Lena Horne sings, very beautifully, *Paper Doll" - which is a strange number for a woman to sing. I would have enjoyed it more if I weren't hoping the movie would end soon. The same with José Iturbi and his sister playing the *Ritual Fire Dance*.

If you can watch this on DVD and skip from variety act to variety act, I'd definitely recommend it. If it's on TCM and you have to sit through all of it to see the good stuff, I'd have reservations.

That Hamilton Woman

Two movies, one very moving, the other very romantic
It's not surprising that this movie runs over two hours. It's actually two movies in one. And that's not necessarily a good thing.

The one movie contained here is very romantic, and very melodramatic. It tells the story of Horatio Nelson's extra-marital affair with the wife of the English ambassador to Naples, Lord Hamilton. I'm sure that was very shocking still in 1941, but it really isn't very interesting today, at least to me. Yes, Olivier and Leigh are both very beautiful, and very fine actors, but it's a weepy love story.

The other movie uses parts of Nelson's dealings with Napoleon to pronounce very clear warnings about how England's allies failed her in 1940 and attempts to use Nelson's triumph at Trafalgar as a hopeful indication that England will be able to resist a German invasion in 1941, the year this movie came out. These parts of the movie are often very moving, like Rick's speech to his glass of whisky in *Casablanca* about the lights being off all across America. For my money, more of that and less - much less - of Nelson's affair with Lady Hamilton would have made this a much more powerful movie. Like *Casablanca*.

The scene of Nelson's death is poorly staged, imo. I got the feeling they were trying to include as much historical text as possible. Unfortunately, too many of those lines come across as too artificial, and made the scene very stagy in a negative sense.

All this is nicely filmed, well acted, etc. But it's too much about "that Hamilton woman" and not enough about the parallels between Napoleon and Hitler.


Maybe if you watch this with the sound turned off, so you can focus on the cinematography....
Maybe then this would look like a good movie, because there are some wonderful b&w shots of Nebraska.

But that's about it.

It's the story of a pitiful, nasty old drunk who has failed his family badly. His one son takes him to the town where Dad grew up, so we can meet the relatives - mostly overweight, not very bright, and rather dishonest. If you think that that's what Nebraskans are really like and you want to laugh at such rubes, then you might find a lot to laugh at in this movie.

But it's really not funny. It's just some Hollywood or New York snob trying to make money from other such snobs by letting them feel, yet once again, how superior they are to all the rubes in the "fly-over" states between the two.

I guess the acting is good, if loveable old drunks are your idea of acting. Nothing that would hold a candle to James Stewart in *Harvey*, though. Not even a match.

It's just very condescending. And it really rubbed me the wrong way.

My Favorite Wife

A funny movie, but not kind to Bianca
This is certainly a funny movie, with yet another wonderful performance by Irene Dunne. Cary Grant is good as well, though far less natural and sympathetic.

Viewed today, however, some may find that the treatment of Gail Patrick's character, Bianca, is unfairly cruel. No, she is not a sympathetic or attractive character; she comes off as superficial and materialistic. But still, the fact that Grant's character keeps putting off telling her "the awful truth," while it is funny, is really unfair to her. It also makes Arden (Grant's character) come off as particularly spineless, leading us to wonder what Dunne's character could see in him.

Other than, of course, that he looks like Cary Grant.

Love, Guaranteed

No one watches a rom com for great acting, three-dimensional characters, innovative cinematography, etc. They want to know that by the end of the movie the couple will declare their love for each other and all will be well. To quote the last line of this movie: "Love guarantees that there will be a happy end forever after." If that's what you're looking for, again, you'll find it here.

But that's pretty much all you'll find here.

Damon Wayans Jr. Is thoroughly likable here, charming and decent and attractive. You want him to find happiness. His role doesn't require any acting, just charisma, and he has that in spades.

His costar, Rachael Leigh Cook, may be an equally charismatic person in real life, but here she is given a terrible part, something like a retread of the aggravating parts Meg Ryan played in the 1980s opposite Tom Hanks. The sort of role men dreaded having to sit through on a date in a movie theater - there was no Netflix back then - because, unlike with Netflix, there was no escape when you were stuck in the movie theater. She - Cook's character - is insecure, annoying, has a disagreeable speaking voice, etc. Any man will be baffled to figure out what Wayans' character could see in her.

The other characters are one-dimensional stereotypes recycled from tv sitcoms.

If you want a movie that guarantees a happy, romantic ending, you'll like this. If you want anything else, you'd be better off looking elsewhere.

P. S. The premise of this movie - that Wayans has gone on almost 1000 dates without finding love - turns out to be a real putdown of women, because each time we learn about one of those dates, we learn that the woman was a real loser. In that sense, the script of this movie - written by two women - reminds me of the sort of anti-woman scripts Nora Ephron used to write for Meg Ryan. I never understood what women saw in those, and I don't know why women would want to sit through this, which presents women as real losers.

The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender

Not a great documentary, no, but not as bad as some on here would have you think
There are certainly problems with this movie, though not necessary those complained about by some of the previous reviewers on here, who want it to be more complete and inclusive. This is a movie, folks. It can't go on for hours. If you want complete and inclusive, you need to read some books on the topic.

I thought the analysis of some of the scenes presented was convincing. Others, however, I found unconvincing. Your mileage will vary. The "Walter Brennan" type, for example, about which the movie talks at great length, does not have to be read as gay. Certainly that type didn't want to have anything to do with women, and wanted male company in an isolated world without women. His role in *Meet John Doe* is probably the clearest example of that. But there is, at least for me, NO erotic tension between Brennan and Cooper in that movie. It's not that Brennan's Colonel isn't interested in women - though he isn't. It's that he doesn't seem to be interested in romance or intimacy of any sort. He certainly wants male companionship, but that in itself does not a homosexual relationship make.

What bothered me the most about this movie was that too often we see clips from movies that are not identified. This could easily be corrected with captions.

I was also surprised by the low quality of a fair number of the clips.

This movie isn't boring, as some have said, nor is it a waste of time. But it's as often frustrating as informative.

The Last Vermeer

It would have been better to make a documentary about this subject
As a docudrama, this isn't very good. The characters are not well developed, verge too close on stereotypes, and are not interesting. (The acting and the cinematography are fine.) Had this been made as a documentary about the Dutch artist who forged all these paintings, I think it would have been more interesting.

As it is, the movie lacks focus. During much of it, the theme seems to be that value in art is determined arbitrarily by critics, who cannot see real talent half the time. But then at the end, the focus shifts to how we can judge those who lived through the war, and suggests that we cannot, so that it is better just to have sex with them.

Rather than sit through this, I'd recommend tracking down the book on which it is based and reading that instead. I still have no idea why the Dutch would have seen this man as a hero.

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