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Molly's Game

Solid Sorkin
I've never seen anything written by Aaron Sorkin that wasn't good, and Molly's Game is no exception. Smart, compelling, and excellently acted top to bottom.

The Man Who Fell to Earth

So Disappointing After a Promising Start!
The first two thirds of this film was intriguing, and in-a-good-way weird. The story unfolded in an unconventional way, and it held my interest. Then, after a plot point I will not give away, the last third became unhinged and torturous to watch. I guess Nicholas Roeg let his desire to be "artsy" get the better of him. I'm the kind of person who will bail on a movie if I'm bored or annoyed in the first 30 minutes. In this case, the movie had built up enough good will with me that by the time it turned bad, I HAD to watch it to the end, unfortunately for me. It could not have gotten more boring and annoying!

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Saved by the Big Number
Though I'm a big fan of musicals, I only just saw SBFSB for the first time this past weekend. (I'm 52 years old.) I'd always wanted to see it since seeing excerpts of the big dance number in "That's Entertainment." It turns out the "Big Number" is almost worth the "price of admission" (which, in my case, was only about an hour and 45 minutes). If you like athletic, gymnastic dancing, you will *love* the Big Number! Just about everything else in this movie missed the mark for me. The story, the dialog, the frequent use of rear screen projection (despite some on-location footage), comes across as pretty corny. This just doesn't hold a candle to, say, "Oklahoma." Regarding the songs: The Johnny Mercer lyrics are fine, and sometimes satisfyingly clever. However, the melodies mostly sound as if they are deliberately trying to sound like Richard Rodgers, which they do, yet pale in comparison. My wife and I mostly fast-forwarded through the songs after getting a taste of each.

Annie Get Your Gun

Good Show Spoiled by Overacting Star
Please understand that I generally *like* movie musicals, especially those of Broadway shows. But AGYG is the worst movie musical of a Broadway show I've ever seen.

I'll start with the positives: Some (though not all) fine, memorable songs, such as "There's No Business Like Show Business," and some really wonderful costumes (and I'm not one to notice costumes!). But, my goodness, Betty Hutton delivered the most over-the-top performance I I've ever seen, not just in musical, but EVER! I mean that in the worst way possible.

I understand her character, Annie Oakley, is supposed to be bigger than life, but Hutton's portrayal is bigger than Mount Everest. Again, I mean that in the worst way possible. I cannot imagine what the director had in mind by directing/allowing her to speak and move in a film as if she were playing to the back row of Radio City Music Hall. She even overacts when she sings, time and again emphatically straightening her bent arms to indicate her enthusiasm.

This was a movie I tolerated rather than enjoyed.

Der Himmel über Berlin

I Want My 130 Minutes Back
Granted, there's some excellent cinematography, a few nice scenes here and there, and a wonderful performance by Peter Falk. But here's the thing: This is a story that could have been told in 30 minutes but instead runs more than four times that length.

While the premise, which takes a while to be revealed, is reasonably intriguing, I would have turned my rental video off after the first half hour if this film hadn't come to me so highly recommended and rated. I stuck with it, though, thinking "It's GOT to get better as it goes on." It never did, and became especially tedious during three performance sequences that seem to go on and on, yet add nothing to the story.

I'm truly mystified as to why this film seems to enthrall so many people out there.

The Palm Beach Story

Has Its Ups and Downs
Knowing that "The Palm Beach Story" was listed in AFI's top 100 Comedies, I had high hopes going in. Unfortunately, my expectations were not met. While the script, by director Preston Sturges, is sharp and amusing at times, it is often dragged down by schticky scenes that are overlong, unfunny and annoying to watch.

The performances are mostly spot-on, particularly the leads: Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor and, surprisingly the best, Rudy Vallée, who is remarkably natural and sympathetic.


However, the schtick really drags "The Palm Beach Story" down. The opening sequence, shown with the credits and presented in pantomime (reminiscent of the start of "The Philadephia Story"), is thoroughly confusing, yet is supposed to provide exposition. One could argue that all was explained at the end of the picture, but even upon reviewing the opening after watching the entire film, it still left me puzzled. (For a plausible explanation, see the Wikipedia article on "The Palm Beach Story.")

Early on, the schtick involving the Wienie King's poor hearing is tiresome and predictable, yet it continues on and on. Later, the raucousness of the Ale and Quail Hunting Club on the train is WAY over the top, unbelievable, unfunny, grating, and goes on for 10-15 minutes.


Were it not for the above annoyances, which unfortunately account for a significant portion of the movie, I would have rated "The Palm Beach Story" higher, as it does have its share of clever dialogue, an unusual premise, and gifted actors.

The Great American Dream Machine

I believe the memories mentioned by Dreamscapist and JorgeBlanco are a little off. The playing of the head like a bongo, the Geritol ad spoof ("My wife---I think I'll keep her"), and the cooking show spoof (Freedom Loaf, made with Kramp Easy Lube shortening) were all skits featured in the 1974 movie, "The Groove Tube." Understandable errors, as "The Groove Tube" starred Ken Shapiro (who also directed) and Chevy Chase, both of "Great American Dream Machine." However, Dream Machine *did* feature Chevy (and perhaps Shapiro?) in white face lip-syncing to a jazz instrumental (perhaps on more than one episode?).

ANYWAY . . .

Yes, GADM was a great show! I recall Marshal Efron doing an in-depth report on the FDA rules governing what size description you may assign to pickles! (And it was all true!)

Sherlock Jr.

Has Its Moments, But It's Not "The General"
Having recently enjoyed Keaton's "The General" for the first time, I was looking forward to "Sherlock, Jr.," which I understood to be another of his very best. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

One of the wonderful things about "The General" was the underlying logic behind everything that happened. In "Sherlock, Jr.," on the other hand, logic progression is only sporadically followed, often leaving the viewer with slapstick for slapstick's sake, and, in the case of the beginning of Keaton's dream in the movie, camera tricks for camera tricks' sake.

This is not to say that there aren't some very funny moments in this movie. There are some wonderful gags and sequences, especially the motorcycle sequence. However, to put "Sherlock, Jr." on the same level as "The General" is, in my opinion, to show a lack of discernment.

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

21st Century Cheech & Chong
I think Tommy Nelson's recent comments below sum it up very well. When this movie works, it works brilliantly, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments. However, there are spots where the attempts at humor fall flat. Nevertheless, there are more hits than misses. I rated this 7/10; had the movie been more consistently at the level of its better moments, I would have given it a 9. Definitely worth seeing either way. And to paraphrase the tag for "Up in Smoke," it's even better if you don't go straight to this movie. ;-)

Warning: If the idea of a movie's protagonists smoking pot and enjoying it without consequences bothers you, avoid this one.


Why So Popular?
Please understand that I write as someone who thoroughly enjoyed prior Pixar efforts: Toy Story, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, etc. However, as That_American_Chick wrote recently, the animation is the only exceptional quality of "Ratatouille." There's nothing particularly wrong with the movie; it's just lacking in anything particularly good. The story line and the attempts at humor are, by and large, very predictable. Considering some movie critics put "Ratatouille" in their Top Ten lists for 2007, I expected something more. Granted, you could do worse; there's nothing off-putting here, but when the movie ended, my wife and I looked at each other and said, "That's it? What's the big deal?"

Knocked Up

Good Heart Doesn't Save Shaky Plot
Please know that I'm rooting like crazy for Judd Apatow to be an enormous success after the way NBC mishandled his brilliant "Freaks and Geeks," and because I enjoyed "The 40-Year Old Virgin." However, "Knocked Up" misses the mark in several ways.

The main plot point, as others have mentioned, is a little too hard to swallow.

*SPOILER* (I wonder if scenes that illuminated why Heigl's character fell for Rogan's or how Rogan's character suddenly landed a job wound up on the cutting room floor.) *END OF SPOILER*

The depiction of Rogan and his roommates are a sort of comedic fantasy of what it's like to be four, crude, single guys sharing a house. That would be fine, but it just ain't that funny (for the most part). As likable an actor as Seth Rogan is, it was pretty hard for me to like him in this, despite that plot contortions to elicit the audience's sympathy.

What saves this film from failure is the provocative, original dialog in the more serious moments that explores relationship issues and gender differences. Plus, the acting is good all around.

Maybe this film is better if you go see it as stoned as some of its characters are. Still, it is a cut above your average raunchy comedy.

That's Entertainment! III

Not as Good as the Others, But Still Worthwhile
As others have commented, the strength of TE3 is the special, never-before-seen footage, which is very, very interesting. However, the standard MGM excerpts are often less than remarkable, and occasionally downright boring. It makes sense: The original TE used much of the very best numbers available. TE2 used what didn't fit into the original. By the time they got to TE3, they had to settle for some "also-rans." BARELY A SPOILER ***Fred Astaire had a nice way with a song, but when you see an entire number with him singing and *not* dancing, that's a sign that the pickings were slim.*** END OF "SPOILER" Still, there's enough good stuff in here for a very enjoyable viewing. And since you're not watching it in the theater, you can fast-forward to the next number if you're feeling a bit bored.

By the way, if you're a "That's Entertainment" fan, you *must* check out "That's Dancin'," which rises to the standard of the original TE.

Second Chorus

Fred's Worst
The only things that save Second Chorus from being a complete disaster are Astaire's dancing and Artie Shaw and his band's music.

The writing is horrendous, managing to make even Astaire's character dislikable, as he does truly nasty things to his "friend," the equally dislikably nasty Burgess Meredith.

Charles Butterworth, who is supposed to be the comic foil in this picture, is as lame an actor as I've seen.

Finally, the look of the film is awful, with harsh lighting and shadows. (I realize this may be because the surviving print of this film has deteriorated over the years.) Unfortunately, the music and dance numbers are few and far between. However, if you're a die hard Astaire and/or big band fan, it's worth fast-forwarding through the dialog to get to any scene where Fred's dancing or Artie and his band are playing.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

Not as Funny as I'd Heard, But Has Its Moments
My guess is that if you've never seen the Borat character before (on "Da Ali G Show" on HBO or DVD), you'll probably think "Borat" is hysterical. However, as one who was already familiar with the character, the movie was a bit of a letdown, especially considering the hype around it.

Yes, there were some very funny scenes, but there were also stretches of not-so-funny or I've-already-seen-this scenes. What really works is when Borat is interacting with "civilians" who *know* they're on camera and have *agreed* to be on camera. To me, that's always been the beauty of Cohen's comedy. What's much less amusing are innocent passers-by reacting to Borat imposing himself upon them. The staged scenes between Borat and the people of his village (including his producer "Azmarat") don't work as well, either. (A notable exception takes place in a hotel room, but I don't want to elaborate with a spoiler.) I rate this movie 7 out of 10. If you equate outrageousness with humor (as did, in my opinion, the people who *loved* "There's Something About Mary"), you'll like it more than I did. I, however, was raised on Monty Python, so while outrageousness can be part of the package (e.g. the Black Knight scene in "Holy Grail"), for me, there's got to be a little more behind it than simply shock value. Sometimes, "Borat" succeeds in this, but just as often, it doesn't.

The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fifth with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France

Worthwhile but Overrated
Olivier's conceit of beginning the performance as if performed in the Globe Theater in Shakespeare's time (even depicting the actors backstage), and gradually expanding out to the "real world" works both for and against the film. While it is interesting and educational to see what the experience might have been like for an Elizabethen audience and the performers, it is ultimately slow-paced and distracting from the real story.

The film becomes more engaging once we move out of the theater. However, even then, the general style of acting is too broad, and is more suited for the stage. That is why I'm surprised to see this version rated only a few tenths of a point lower than Kenneth Branagh's vastly superior 1989 production of Henry V.

History of the World: Part I

Hit and Miss; Mostly Miss
I write this as someone who ranks Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" in the top 5 all-time comedies, "The Producers" in the top 25, and "Young Frankenstein" in the top 50. "History of the World" is a big disappointment. I saw it in the theater when it was originally released. While it made me laugh once in a while, more often than not the jokes were either unfunny or, based on having seen other Brooks movies, predictable.

For example, if you saw "Silent Movie" and remember what happened when the studio execs reacted to the gorgeous starlet, then in "HOWT," the means of testing to see which man is not a eunuch is obvious long before the visual joke is played out.

Here and there throughout there are genuine laughs to be had, but "HOWT" falls far below the bar that Brooks' previous films set.


Mildly Fun
I must say, I was shocked by the extremely high ratings many other reviews have given Charade. While not an awful film (I'm rating it 6 out of 10), it's not at all in the same league as the other great films in IMDb's top 250! I appreciate dry humor, which Charade attempts throughout; however, the quality of the writing is such that the humor almost always fails to raise a chuckle. You can see the writer was trying VERY hard to be clever and urbane, but he just wasn't very successful.

Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant are their usual wonderful selves, but it's very hard to swallow Hepburn's character's choices, both in survival and in romance. Still, the cast is solid, and the manipulative plot, despite some logical holes mentioned in other reviews, does ultimately engage the viewer enough that boredom never sets in.

The Kentucky Fried Movie

Dated, but Hilarious if You're 40+
As others have pointed out, KFM is much like SNL in its parodies of commercials, TV shows and movies. I'm 44, and have watched KFM countless times. However, I realize that much of the fun of the parodies would be lost on those younger than me. If you don't remember the mid-1970s onslaught of disaster movies, for example, or the days of only three TV networks and no cable TV, a number of these sketches will probably make you go "Huh?" But for those of us who remember Wesson Oil's countless variations on the same stupid commercial ("What's our little skeptic doing now?" "She's frying bread in pure Wesson Oil!"), blaxploitation movies, or the Point/Counterpoint segment they used to do on "60 Minutes," this movie is an absolute riot.

Just be prepared for plenty of racy and un-PC humor in word, thought and deed.

The Pink Panther

Not What You Might Expect from a Clousseau Movie
I grew up on the "Return of the Pink Panther," filmed in the early 70's. Having finally seen the original, I was surprised at the very different tones of the two films.

While "Return" is mostly slapstick, and focuses on the Clousseau character as a bumbling, egotistical buffoon (to hilarious effect), the original "Pink Panther" spreads the attention equally among the five lead characters, and Clousseau is presented much more sympathetically as an intelligent sophisticate who happens to be physically clumsy. In fact, all the leads are sophisticated, but have their moments of physical ineptitude. The humor arises much more sporadically than in "Return," which means it caught me more off guard, and so was equally enjoyable.

The dialogue relects surprising intelligence. Most, if not all of the exterior action was beautifully shot on location.

The story is well constructed, with seemingly unconnected subplots weaving together as the plot progresses.

***SPOILERS*** Unfortunately, the intrigue and good fun fall apart in the last 30 minutes, beginning with the costume party involving multiple gorilla outfits leading to predictable and drawn-out mix-ups. There's also a slow stretch in the middle involving the old farcical cliché of people running in and out of doors and hiding under beds. ***END OF SPOILERS***

Were it not for these faults, I would have given the "Pink Panther" a 7 out of 10; as it is, I can only give it a 6. Certainly worth checking out, but don't expect constant laughs.

My Favorite Wife

Has some moments, but not a classic
By complete accident of circumstance, I have seen three (!) Cary Grant/Irene Dunn movies this year: Penny Serenade, The Awful Truth, and now My Favorite Wife.

While there is no denying the chemistry between Grant and Dunn, which is not so much sexual as affectionate, chemistry can not compensate for flawed scripts, which is why Penny Serenade (very maudlin) didn't work for me, and why My Favorite Wife only rates 5 out of 10 for me.

For a comedy that relies heavily, as this one does, on plot complications, the characters' actions need to make sense; they can't just be there for the sake of absurdity. Without going into spoilers, I'll just say that throughout this film, the characters behave in ways that make no sense apart from serving the "wacky" script. Moreover, Dunn's character does things that make her quite unlikable.

"The Awful Truth" is a vastly superior Grant/Dunn comedy which avoids the pitfalls I've listed above.

The Awful Truth

Wonderfully Crafted Comedy
I recently had the good fortune to see this movie for the first time in a Paris movie house. I'm surprised to read a recent post about the poor film quality on the DVD release, because this film showing in Paris was absolutely pristine! Anyway, I'd put The Awful Truth right up there with the best of the screwball comedies of the era. (I think it's much funnier than the overrated (IMHO) Bringing Up Baby (which also stars Grant).) Irene Dunne really busts out of her more ordinary characters and shines in this film with humor, intelligence and, in the wonderful final scene, even sexiness! Grant, plays a fairly unsympathetic character, yet remains charming as hell.

***SPOILER*** My one problem with the story is the fact that by the end, Grant never suffers the consequences for the affair he apparently returned from at the beginning of the film. ***END OF SPOILER*** Special kudos for skillfully incorporating the dog. In far too many films featuring animals, the action momentarily screeches to a halt to accommodate an inserted shot of the animal's "humorous" reaction; The Awful Truth avoids this trap, and the dog (Asta from the "Thin Man" series) contributes seamlessly to the humor and the plot.


Artsy Doesn't Mean Interesting
The ideas contained in "Pi" are rather interesting, but unless you're a huge fan of, say, David Lynch's "Eraserhead" or "Blue Velvet," which I am not, you're bound to find this promising film as tedious as I did.

Scenes that are meant only to convey the mood or state of mind of the protagonist seem to go on forever. It is only when the protagonist interacts with other people that "Pi" manages to hold my interest.

It's too bad, really, because I did appreciate the originality of the story being told, and the obvious homage to the surrealist film "Le Chien Andaluse (The Andalusian Dog)". (For example, there's a shot during one of the games of Go of a black stone held in the palm of a hand, which is extremely similar to "Le Chien's" shot of the hand with a hole in the palm with ants crawling out of it. Ants, by the way, also figure prominently in the visuals of "Pi.")


Writing Doesn't Rise to the Performances
The acting in "Ray" was, from top to bottom, outstanding. And yes, Jamie Foxx was as great as you heard he was. And the art direction and cinematography are excellent as well.

However, as often seems to be the problem with modern bio-pics, this film is overly long, clocking in at 2 hours, 45 minutes!). Yet, even at that length, plot points are left hanging.

***SPOILER*** What happened to the announcer guy who seemed to take over Ray's career in the 60's? We're never told. ***END SPOILER***

Still, "Ray" is certainly worth renting for the great music and acting performances.


Only for Die-Hard Woody Fans
I'm generally a big fan of Woody Allen's, but Bananas is definitely one of his weaker efforts, worth seeing only if you're also a big fan. It's extremely hit and miss. Like his other pre-Annie Hall films, Bananas is very episodic and full of "wacky" visual humor; he was probably heavily influenced by Charlie Chaplin. There are some genuine laughter (or at least chuckle) -inducing moments. However, a lot of the humor falls flat.

For the Woody fans, it's interesting to note the similarities in plot, and sometimes even dialog, between Bananas and the subsequent comedies, "Sleeper" and "Love and Death." You'll see political rebellions ("Rebels are We" is sung in both Bananas and Sleeper), silent sequences of Woody wooing women, Woody being unwillingly drafted into battle and leadership, and more.

3 Strikes

I'd rather run a cheese grater up and down my neck than watch this again
I would never have gone to see this movie, but the multiplex I was in got their films mixed up and started showing "3 Strikes" instead of the film I'd come to see, "Topsy Turvy" (which, BTW, I saw a few years later and found pretty boring). I lasted through about 20 minutes of this film before I walked out in disgust.

First of all, it simply isn't funny. But more importantly, I'll bet if this had been produced, written and direct by *white* men, there would have been massive protests against "3 Strikes" as representative of the worst kind of stereotyping of African-Americans. The Af-Am characters in this film are comprised of drug dealers, ex-cons, hookers and morons. I mean, I'm *white* and *I* was offended by the portrayals. Why the Al Sharptons and Jessie Jacksons of America didn't denounce this piece of cr*p is beyond me.

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