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All Star Golf

Childhood memories
As a boy of about 10 I watched this show. I still remember the players - Sammy Snead, Arnold Palmer etc. My personal favorited was Dr. Cary Middlecoff. We lived in an apartment building in Queens. Behind the building there was a driveway with a row of garages. This was the 50's and people lived on a very regular schedule. The men used the cars to get to work in the morning. If their wives had cars they parked them in the street. So the driveway wasn't used much during the day. I set up a golf course in the driveway that ran from 203rd to 204th street. Their were covered drains on each end of the driveway. These served as the holes. For a year golf was big. The boys played it when we didn't have school. There was no course membership fees. (I should have thought of that). Oddly enough after my brief career I never played golf again.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Visual Masterpiece.
I know this film is not to everyone's taste but I regard it as a masterpiece. Nevertheless I understand why many critics panned the movie. Some found the cameo appearances of major stars in small roles as disturbing. John Wayne's part as the Centurion at the crucifixion was particularly criticized. The pace was regarded as too slow. The casting of Scandinavian star Max von Sydow as the Semetic Jesus was also criticized, as was the use of spectacular locations from the American West instead of the more drab authentic Middle East. I am more taken by the visual nature of the film. George Stephens was clearly trying to emulate the great tradition of Western Art surrounding the Gospels, and I believe he succeeded. The framing, the color, and lighting were among the most beautiful in movie history. Many scenes left an unmatched impression as if we were walking through a moving fine arts museum. As the film grows older the star cameos will be less disturbing. (They never bothered me). Younger movie goers won't recognize many of the stars of my era anyway. I thought von Sydow was excellent even though he wasn't wasn't the right ethnic type. I found the overall treatment appropriate to the sacred theme. I prefer it Nicholas Ray's more popular King of Kings with equally blue eyed Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus. But I realize it's not everyone's cup of tea. So while I loved it I would recommend it particularly to someone prepared to enjoy a slower film of great artistic beauty.

The Naked City

Location in Post WWII NYC
On seeing it again I have come to the conclusion that this film is an underrated masterpiece. The location shooting is marvelous. Post WWII New York is not merely the backdrop for the movie it is the principle character. I mean by that that for instance the Lower East Side with its crowded streets and colorful residents, the austere gun metal majesty of the Williamsburg Bridge, children playing now forgotten street games, the various tradesmen, icemen, street sweepers, old Essex Street Market, the row houses of Jackson Heights, etc., all lend a character and authenticity to the story of two brutal murders connected to a jewelry theft ring. The location shooting has an archeological quality. The film was made around the time of my birth, I can remember the last of the vendors with the horse drawn wagons and the other incidents of City life from that era, many of them now gone. Barry Fitzgerald's performance as the wise old Lieutenant in charge of a homicide squad whose experience has given him a melancholy and even sympathetic understanding of the foibles of the human character. The memorable performance by the parents as they come to identify their dead daughter. The mother in particular is a brilliantly drawn character. A number of walk-ons went on to greater success. Look for James Gregory, who went on to have important parts in The Manchurian Candidate,and the TV police/comedy series Barney Miller and countless other roles, as the beat cop in Long Island City, Paul Ford detective, later the Colonel in the Phil Silvers Sgt. Bilko series, the great character actor Arthur O'Connell (Anatomy of a Murder, Picnic, Bus Stop) in a part so brief you might not even notice him. Nehemiah Person whom I did not even see. All with uncredited parts. The young co-star Don Taylor as Detective Halloran went on to become a director, you might remember him as Elizabeth Taylor's fiancee Buckley in Father of the Bride. There are even two Janes form the Tarzan series, Enid Markey from the silents, and Dorothy Hart the female lead who would co-star with Lex Barker. In my mind just a great film.


A pack of lies.
If you are not a baseball fan or if you are familiar only with the legends surrounding Ty Cobb you may enjoy this film. As a film I found it tiresome. I felt that Tommy Lee Jones, a great actor, was over the top playing an admittedly outlandish character.But the real problem with the film is it just isn't true. It's really not the director's or script writer's fault. The problem lies with the source material. Mr Stump spent aome time with Cobb but a lot of his work written after Cobb died is a pack of lies. Ty Cobb was a tough perhaps over the top competitor and a lot of his contemporaries resented that. Also he was jealous of some of his rivals particularly Babe Ruth who changed the game from the style which Cobb had excelled in, but he was not nearly the racist that he appeared in the film. He stated that talented black athletes should be allowed to compete with whites. He greatly admired Willie Mays and Roy Campanella. Before integration he frequently went to Negro League games and occasionally threw out the first ball. Stump had a bad reputation among other writers for plagiarism, historical inaccuracy, and was even accused of forging or stealing Ty Cobb memorabilia. Much of his work was discredited in a much better book that came out recently "Ty Cobb, A Terrible Beauty" by Charles Leershen. Cobb was no saint. He was certainly a "wild child" from Georgia. But he wasn't the monster depicted in this film.


Fair but overrated
I believe this film, while not without merit, was highly overrated. The acting was good. The direction was competent. The episodic development of the story was OK but hardly unique. The same treatment was used to much better effect in the Brazilian film, "City of God".

I think that the reason this film received the Academy Award was that it appealed to a certain group of the Hollywood elite. It was not particularly popular in the African American community which it purports to depict. Not nearly as much as "Fences" which in my view was the much better film. The reason for that lack of popularity is clear. This story of the romance between two male drug dealers puts forth a misguided view of an "industry" that is deeply wounding many black neighborhoods, and which is much resented by most members of those communities. It is finally an effort to assuage White Guilt, by sentimentalizing a very squalid situation. The reason that the Academy Awards are becoming increasingly irrelevant is that an effete view now prevails in the Academy which insists on awarding "niche" films such as "Birdman", "Moonlight", and the never to be forgotten "English Patient", while passing over superior films such as "American Sniper", "The Revelent" and "Hell and High Water" which also have the effrontery to be popular as well. Despite its win this "Moonlight" was the least worthy of the films nominated last year for best picture.

Hell or High Water

An insightful look at West Texas.
Wonderful film. The locale and time frame of this modern crime film/western is similar to "No Country for Old Men", but, despite the fact that I admire the work of the Coen Brothers and Cormac McCarthy, I think it is a much better movie. It is less contrived and Jeff Bridges is allowed to remain true to his character. Although actually filmed in nearby Eastern New Mexico it presents a moving portrait of the realities of West Texas. The poor white working class, which never heard of "white privilege", the predatory lending practices of local banks, the resentment of the descendants of the Comanches "lords of the plains",and the ethos of the Texas Rangers. At the same time it manages to spin an excellent action adventure yarn without drowning the movie in car chases and gunfights. Jeff Bridges is excellent as the old Texas Ranger, as is his partner a half Mexican half Comanche played by Alberto Parker. Chris Power and Ben Foster are terrific as the two brothers one desperate, the other crazy who come up with a pretty smart but very risky plot to right an old wrong. Two cameos by a couple of tough waitresses are wonderful. The script is understated, witty, and deals with a panoply of social issues without being wordy or preachy. The direction is crisp and focused. The cinematography make great use of the spare dry Southwestern landscape. I believe you will enjoy this exciting and moving film.

The Big Short

A missing detail
By way of movie criticism I have little to add. The film is well acted, edited and directed. The script does its best to explain complicated stock market transactions to the average intelligent viewer. I am hardly an expert in the field, but there is one item not emphasized enough in the film. I am a resident of Bronx Count, New York. My job led me to dealt with mortgage foreclosure in the Bronx. The typical victims were somewhat naive people who were first home buyers. (Not all some were just crooks). Unscrupulous mortgage brokers who talk people into over mortgaging their new homes. A strong force encouraging this was the Federal Government. With the goal of increasing "minority" (word "minority" has little meaning in the Bronx where the white population is about 10%). home ownership. FANNYMAE other federally controlled financing vehicles encouraged the banks and mortgage financiers to make very risky loans. In one case I handled a broker got a mortgage for an individual for $200,000.00, which was barely covered by the equity in the home. When the owner had trouble making payments the broker obtained a mortgage for 350.000.00. Wiping out the previous mortgage debt. When that loan was in trouble, he obtained a mortgage for $450,000.00. These loans were actually bought by two major banks and financing was assisted by the Feds. They were bundled by them into a toxic security package. Finally the bubble burst and the loan went into foreclosure, The home turned out to be worth the initial $200,000.00. The point is that the Feds weren't just asleep at the switch, as the movie shows. They actively made the problem worse through their "good intentions".

It Always Rains on Sunday

Little Known Classic
Wonderful little film from post WW2 Britain. After the World War Europe and America were exhausted, It became the era of the "little film". In the US there was "film noir", in Italy "neo realism", France and Britain shared in the movement. Beyond the crime pictures there were the slice of life films that focused on the lives and problems of ordinary people. "It Always Rains on Sunday" combines both themes. There is the criminal element and there is the focus on day to day living in a mixed industrial/ residential neighborhood, the East End of London, reminiscent of neighborhoods in post war New York. It manages to tell a story involving inter related lives. Every character is treated sympathetically but the film is by no means sentimental. Even the ostensible villain, Tony Snow becomes a sympathetic character. Amoral, but ultimately more sinned against than sinning, only at the end do we see the depths of his desperation. We come to understand and empathize with all the characters as we view them trying to deal with problems of existence in a tough unforgiving world. The two leads in particular give wonderful performances. that can be overwhelming. A must see for film lovers.

Matrimonio all'italiana

comedy with serious implications
This is a great film. With deeper content then is first evident. The Neapolitan atmosphere adds charm and humor to the treatment. The beautiful Neapolitan songs are delightful to listen to. Unless you're Italian from the post war era or grew up in a first generation Italian American home, as I did, you may not understand the reference to the post WW2 classic Neapoitan song "Munasterio Santa Chiara" a sad and beautiful tune that deals with the changes that afflicted Neapolitan society after the War. However, the theme of the movie, the exploitation of the poor especially poor women by the wealthier, specifically in prostitution and the keeping of a mistresses could and does occur in every society. Loren plays Filomena a poor girl who chooses to use her beauty to escape crushing poverty. The Neapolitan background adds a specific texture to the film. Her Catholic background leads her to hide from her lover the fact that she was pregnant with his child. The reason being that he would then pressure her into an abortion which would violate her whole being. Her desire for respectability leads her to not to disclose to any of her three sons that she is their mother. But Naples is more than just a background for the film. It serves to humanize the characters Mastroiani is not simply a cad. He really loves Loren though he is reluctant to admit it. The tacit acceptance of unconventional circumstance with an underlying tolerance and humor is a hallmark of the Neapolitan character. and gives added credibility to the ending. In the hands of say Ingmar Bergman the film could be a stark tragedy. DeSica, Loren, and Mastroianni turn it into a comic masterpiece.

Period of Adjustment

A different side of a great play write.
I was totally charmed by this film particularly by the performances of Jane Fonda and Lois Nettleton. Then I thought the style sounded familiar and I saw that it really was a Tennessee Williams play. It was not anything like his great dark masterpieces "Glass Menagerie", "Streetcar Named Desire" etc., and yet i saw a theme consistent with his other works. Although Williams' sexual orientation was famously opposite, he never ceased to explore the power of heterosexuality and its strength as the source of creation. Even in "Streetcar" it is apparent that Stanley Kowalski and Stella really love each other. In the play (but not the movie) they are eventually reconciled as the baby asserts it's presence. Submission to that strong urge is really the theme of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof". The performances are top notch. Tony Franciosa from my old Italian neighborhood of East Harlem was quite adept at playing Southerners as was my fellow Fordham University alumnus John MciIver. Serious issues are confronted and us poor males, trying to live up to the demands of machismo are shown sympathy by the truly admirable young women characters who reveal that love and understanding are what they truly expect.

The Hurricane

I liked the movie. I thought Denzel Washington was excellent until I shut it off in disgust in the middle. Why? Because the film makers lied in the middle of the movie. They purport to show that Hurricane Carter was robbed of the middleweight title by racist judges. The problem is I saw the fight. It was against a tough Italian American boxer from Philadelphia - Joey Giardello, the reigning champ. There was a head butt, probably unintentional, in one of the early rounds. It opened up a cut over Giardello's eye. Nevertheless, for the rest of the fight Giardello gave Carter a boxing lesson. The decision in favor of Giardello was clearly correct and not controversial at the time. I have no gripe against Carter, when asked about the fight he said without hesitation that Giardello won the fight. I believe that the producers had to make a settlement in Giardello's favor. Why does liberal Hollywood not just stick to the facts when recounting recent history. They are obsessed with racism whether real or imagined, I lost all respect for the producer, director and all parties involved except for Carter who remained true to the code of the athlete and gave proper credit to his opponent.


A Tale of Two Cities
I believe this is a great film, one of Don Siegle's best. Some reviewers did not appreciate the two plots. They thought the Henry Fonda story line was soapy. Actually the contrast between the two plots was the central theme of the movie. The first shot is of the old New York Central train (now Metro North) emerging from the underground to the elevated tracks. It sets the tone. You're still on Park Avenue but you're leaving the wealthy Upper East Side and entering East Harlem which in those days was a tough Italian American neighborhood (my old neighborhood) now known as Spanish Harlem. Fonda, once a street cop is now Police Commissioner his world is among the elites of the City. Widmark and Harry Guardino are two hard nosed detectives who were embarrassed by a psycho who took their guns and then killed another officer. Now they have to track him down. The difference between the two worlds and the different types of decisions that have to be made is what the film is about. The cast is excellent Fonda, scrupulously by the book, Widmark who throws the book away to do what's required of him James Whitmore. the more human Chief of Department, Guardino and the luminous Inger Stevens, the brilliantly filmed final gunfight all make for an unforgettable film.

The Grey

dark dark grey
I respect those who view this as a dark existential tale about the savagery of the world and the inevitability of death. Nevertheless the film left me cold (no pun intended). A group of men are stranded in a frozen wilderness and eventually succumb to the cold and a ravenous pack of wolves. So what? The story is unexceptional in the sense that this is what would normally happen. Yes, the performances are strong. Liam Neeson is as usual excellent, but what's the point? Yes, people are often quite brave in the face of death even when they do not survive. Believe me I've seen it. But the film is unnecessarily negative. We do sometimes triumph over evil. I'm thinking of the excellent biography of Lou Zamperini "Unbroken", which shows how much an individual can endure and still prevail. Especially in these troubled times this is what we must tell ourselves, because, ultimately that's the truth.

The Face of Eve

Not as good as it could have been
This movie could have been much better,but I don't agree with the critic who called it a bomb. Celeste Yarnall was the best "jungle Girl" since Irish McCalla as the 1st TV Sheena, and Robert Walker Jr. was a nice choice to play the young male lead. Herbert Lom could have made an excellent villain if they had let him ham it up more. but Christopher Lee was more or less wasted as her grandfather. THe cast was good and the basic plot had been used before to good effect. The problem was that the middle of the movie was a waste of time. Odd because based on the ending they had obviously planned a sequel. Some good scenes and Ms Yarnall was far superior to Tanya Roberts in the big budget "Sheena", but if you aren't a fan of this kind of thing maybe you should pass it by.

Jungle Gents

It made laugh.
Since I've reviewed a couple of Grade B Jungle Movies I'll try my hand at this one. I liked it a lot. The Gorceys and Huntz Hall always cracked me up. I regard this as one of their better late outings. Leo Gorcey's malaprops are there in all their glory. My favorite, "Africa, the dark condiment". Louie Dombrowski (Leo's dad Bernard in real life) from the sweet shop bringing his luggage on safari, jungle girl Laurette Luez' ridiculous fight with the stuffed lion to save Satch, most of all the wonderful chemistry between Slip Mahoney (Leo) and Satch(Hall). The thing moves. It doesn't let you think. They paid attention to little things, particularly casting. Laurette Luez is a vision as the Jungle Girl Onata and Clint Walker's cameo as a Tarzan type is priceless. Too bad they didn't make a real Tarzan movie with those two in the lead. Also look for the great Woody Strode as one of the native bearers. Apparently not all of the reviewers were crazy about the flick. It's a matter of taste, but it certainly works for me for me.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Fair but not great.
I must say I was a bit disappointed with this film. It is a decent film, but I don't think it is worthy of the high ratings it has gotten. First the good points. The acting is fine, particularly Art Rooney's grand daughter Rooney Mara. I would say it was competently directed with good atmospherics. However, I view it as a fairly standard mad killer movie which substitutes new clichés for old. We have Daniel Craig taking on the Lois Lane role of the intrepid but ultimately powerless reporter rescued by the cynical conflicted hero or in this case heroine. There are the now familiar Nazi villains but since Nazis are getting pretty old we have a son of the old Nazi taking up where his father left off. And we know that the villain is really evil because he quotes from the biblical book (gasp!) of Leviticus. Of course there's steamy modern takes on sex, bisexuality, rape and bondage, and the sadistic sexually abusive alpha males, etc. This would be okay but the movie, in my opinion doesn't deliver the thrills of a great mystery/suspense film. Worth seeing, sure, but a great film-not.

Nurse Jackie: Handle Your Scandal
Episode 10, Season 4

Dopey ending.
I do not understand the implied attack on the Catholic Schools that culminated in this episode. I realize that "edginess" is a hallmark of the series, but an attack on things Catholic is more of a liberal cliché than a truly daring statement. As a factual matter Catholic Schools in urban areas have been doing a better job of preparing the children of the poor and working class for higher education and life in general than do the much more highly funded Public Schools. I know because my Catholic School education allowed me to get into the Harvard Law School despite my working class roots Also, barging into a classroom and taking out a child is illegal even for a parent. Of course, it is consistent with Jackie's character. I guess I just found the whole idea to be stupid, and it ruined the entire episode for me.

Panther Girl of the Kongo

Phyllis Coates of the Kongo
Most criticisms of this serial are valid. The pace in the middle episodes slows down to a crawl. It relies on cheap special effects and stock footage, and it's padded with "flashbacks" to previous episodes. So why did I give it 7 out of 10 stars? Two words: Phyllis Coates. She is to my mind one of the sexiest Jungle Girls ever in her tailored buckskin leopard belted mini dress (an exact duplicate of Frances Gifford's outfit in "Jungle Girl")It's not a matter of looks alone. The Panther Girl is a different kind of Jungle Girl, not a mysterious goddess of some lost world or a waif growing up in the wilds.She is a career woman with a real job. She is a cinematographer of wild animals. A feisty, hard nosed business woman. Absolutely fearless, she can swing through the trees like Tarzan, swim like a fish, run like a gazelle, and dispatch dangerous predators with gun or knife. And you know at the end she will make a well deserved profit selling her footage of the "Claw Monsters". And why not? She is an example of capitalism at its best. She risks her life to save the jungle from the dastardly villains and is entitled to a profit. She is a prototype of the modern woman but feminine enough to accept the help of her stalwart friend played by WW2 vet Myron Healy. If they do develop a romantic relationship you know it would be as equals. A few caveats. I would not try to watch it straight through. A couple of episodes a night might be best, and have the fast forward button ready for some of the middle episodes.


Forgotten but very good.
This is an excellent PI film of the late 60's. George Peppard is perfect in the lead as the classic Private Eye, world weary but basically honest. A Korean War vet who describes that conflict as World War II&1/2. He takes on a job for a ruthless tycoon played by Raymond Burr to protect his truly gorgeous mistress, the ravishing Gayle Hunnicutt, and of course the plot thickens. Great scenes of the old somewhat seedy New York that I grew up in. I loved the description of Red Hook, "by the river, in the river if you're not careful" Nice contrast with the Caribbean locales later on. Well cast with a tight yet witty script and no nonsense direction. I'm surprised that there were no sequels or TV spinoffs. Maybe not so good as the classic " Maddigan" , which deals with New York around the same time, but well worth a look.


Old wine in new bottle
This film is admired by many and it certainly has its good points. Scorsese did his usual skilled job. DeNiro played a very different sort of character. Sharon Stone is excellent and Joe Pesci is, well, Joe Pesci. Like "Goodfellas" it is based on a true story. This time, the Chicago mob in Las Vegas. It has a number of effective scenes: Sharon's Stone's breakdown, the scene involving the two card cheats, and the brutal though richly deserved death of Joe Pesci and his brother. But the film left me cold. It could have been called "Goodfellas Go to Las Vegas". Scorsese, screen writer Nick Pileggi, and Pesci basically recreated what they did in the earlier film. Not a bad film by any means, but more like a warmed over meal that was great the first time but only good the second.

Daughter of the Jungle

Average Republic "B" movie
I don't know why this movie made the list of the 100 worst movies of all time. It's an average or slightly above average B movie. You don't have to do much in a jungle girl film. You need a pretty actress to play the lead who is also reasonably athletic , and Lois Hall fits the bill nicely. Her costume is a brief but modest mini dress, an exact copy of the one worn by Frances Gifford in the entertaining serial " Jungle Girl", and she fills it very well. This allows Republic to use the excellent stunt work from the earlier serial to good effect. They will do the same in the 1954 serial "Panther Girl of the Kongo" with Phyllis Coates. The plot moves reasonably well with Ms.Hall taking turns rescuing and being rescued by the stalwart hero, a truly modern relationship. Frank Lackteen, from the original cast of" Jungle Girl", does his usual competent job of playing the menacing Witch Doctor,and Sheldon Leonard is fun to watch as the racketeer with the New York wise guy accent who shares the villainous duties with Lackteen. The film ends somewhat abruptly with the requisite happy ending. They may simply have run out of money. All in all, if you enjoy the sub genre of cheapo distaff Tarzan movies not a bad job, and if you don't why are you reading this review?

From Here to Eternity

Perfect Casting
One of the great achievements of this film is its recreation of Army barracks life. It hadn't changed much when I was in basic training in 1969. The orderly sterility, the lack of color, and of course the regimentation. This was all largely necessary and the traditions were not without an austere beauty, the bugle calls for instance, but the demands of the organization, the rigid bureaucratic hierarchy had to predominate. The film is actually less cynical than the novel but the casting was pitch perfect, Lancaster, Clift, Sinatra, Deborah Kerr and Donna Reed and then the little gem of Ernest Borgnine's "Fatso Judson". Borgnine spent 10 years in the Navy, but the other thing that helped him was that being an Italian American he had a good ear for the bigotry that Italians faced in pre WWII America, and so he could create the truly frightening performance of the sadistic stockade Sergeant.

Color would have helped the film. It would have emphasized the lushness of Hawaii in contrast to the drabness of the Schofield Barracks. But Zinneman's direction was excellent as was the screenplay. A wonderful job.

The Angel Wore Red

Spiritual and worldly love during the Spanish Civil War
Despite some obvious flaws I regard this film as a major achievement. The first obvious problem is the dubbing. Vittorio De Sica, a great actor is dubbed in English by a run of the mill voice over technician. The film suffers from being a joint Anglo/American- Italian production.

But it is one of the most mature treatments of a political historical theme that I have ever seen. Neither the loyalists nor the Franco led rebels are spared. Both are essentially brutal totalitarians. The Catholic Church is not spared either. Churchmen are showed to be so out of touch with their flock as to be almost comical, and yet when finally knocked off their pedestal they recover their Christianity. Dirk Bogard gives a subtle and brilliant performance as the tortured young priest. Ava Gardner is perfect as the cynical and yet innocent prostitute. It is actually to her advantage that she played this role at 37 rather than ten years earlier. She would simply been too overpoweringly beautiful to have been fully creditable in the part. Aldo Frabrizzi's part may be too reminiscent of his role in Open City especially at the end. Vittorio De Sica seems to have been doing an imitation of Claude Raines in Casablanca. It would have been good to have heard those two great actors in their native Italian. Joseph Cotton as the one eyed jaded reporter gives a broad yet compelling interpretation. The films failings pale in comparison to its overriding importance.

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