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The Smiling Ghost

Can't fall asleep? Watch this movie!
This ridiculous movie can't make up it's mind what it's about. An out of work nice guy takes a job posing as the fiancé of a woman whose fiances keep dieing before the wedding. I think the cause of the deaths was they read the script.

Willie Best does his usual great job playing the scared, funny Negro character, but I suggest you see him High Sierra.

I like good crap, but this flick is just plain crap.

Find my description vague & boring? Then you got what this movie is like & just saved 90 minutes of your life. Don't believe me. Fine! Waste the 90 minutes & see for yourself. Make sure your wearing your pajamas.


A Movie that was made for the Vietnam War Era
To fully understand this film you have to understand the time in which it was made. At the height of the Vietnam War, with million of Americans protesting against the war, and anti military feelings at the highest level in American history, this movie struck an unconscious cord in the America public. The Vietnam War had gone on 3 times longer than World War II, 3 times longer than the Korean War, with no end in sight. We wanted it to end. Then, along comes a movie that is a tribute to a warrior. Suddenly we realized that what we wanted in the pit of our soul was a General who would not listen to the politicians OR the public, but would fight and win before anyone could assess the situation. Even the anti-war crowd (I was among them) loved this movie.

This movie may not play as well today. Wars are different, and more popular among the public (at least they are supported). But the cinematography and acting was great then, and still is. The opening scene, with Patton ascending the stage from the rear, with a huge Americaqn flag behind him and delivering a rousing speech about killing the enemy is a classic scene. Even if you don't watch the whole movie, see this 5 minute scene, but know that if you do, you will probably not be able to stop watching.

This movie is about a General out of his time. WW II was highly political war. The press was watching. The world was watching. Concessions had to be made to the other allied armies fighting the Axis. Patton didn't care. He was a superb strategist, but what really drove him was fighting and winning. Slapping soldiers with PST and shouting "Why you're nothing but a coward? No problem. Chaffing at holding his position while the Russians advanced, and declaring that the American and British armies should advance through Germany and continue on into Russia? No problem. Patton knew his life was over when this war ended. There could never be another war like it.

See this movie! See a war from the perspective of a war lover, and the kind of war lover that we would love to have. Patton would kill everybody before we had a chance to protest that it was too much. We'd condemn him, but be secretly glad at what he had done.

In one of the great scenes of this movie a Russian general asks Patton, through an interpreter, to have a drink with him. Patton replies that he's not going to drink with "any Russian son of a bitch" When the interpreter tell the Russian General what Patton said he has the interpreter tells Patton the General says that he (Patton) is a son of a bitch. Patton replies, "I'll drink to that! One son of a bitch to another." GREAT STUFF!

Invaders from Mars

Scared the hell out of me when I was eight!
In this age of CGI Special effects, where real live dinosaurs leap out of the screen at you, this movie is a testament to how Hollywood can do a lot with a little. And it is a psychologically astute story that speaks to the deepest fears of children, that their world might be undone and they will be powerless to do anything about the threat, that their fate depends on the help and intervention of adults but the adults may not always be counted upon to give aid.

A ten year old boy witnesses a landing of an alien craft at a sandpit right near his home. People are sucked into the pit only to reappear altered and under the control of aliens. No one believes him. Then his parents become slaves of the aliens and try to silence him by implanting the dread controller into HIM! The police and other authorities are sucked into the vortex of alien control. Only two adults believe him, and are finally able to get the army mobilized against the Martian invaders.

In the end all is revealed to be a bad dream, but as he gazes out his window his nightmare begins to unfold again in reality.

Ignore the visible zippers on the alien's costumes and focus instead on the dread horror of the story. The reality of the story overcomes the unreality of the costumes and effects. This is classic horror - Sci-fi at it's best. The clunky effects actually make this original version better than the 1986 remake, whose storyline is remarkably faithful to the original but lacks the special qualities that make the original classic.

Demolition Man

A Much Better Than Average Stallone Actioner!
My tastes tend to run more toward serious movies, but this movie has much to say and says it with wry humor. The commentary on the phony-baloney niceness in a future world was prescient. The villain is more than villainous and the hero is suitably heroic. The supporting cast plays it straight (with the exception of Sandra Bullock, who is part of the joke which underlies this flick).

The movie is set in the near-future world where profanity is illegal, along with salt, meat, tobacco and anything that is "bad for you". Contrived nicety and encouragement is everywhere, but an underground exists that steals needed food and sprays anti-government graffiti on buildings that are self cleaning. There is no violence, so the police have no idea how to catch a viscous killer who escaped from prison (where prisoners are cryogenically frozen), so they must unfreeze Sylvester Stallone, a 20th century cop wrongly convicted for responsibility for some deaths. Stallone wants a cigarette (can't have one), a hamburger (can't have one), and he can't figure out how to wipe his ass in the future bathrooms that have no toilet paper. So he curses his way into a number of fines, as the fining machine spews out paper tickets. Ass wipe problem solved! If you like this sort of thing (I did) then you will thoroughly enjoy this movie.

Oh, did I mention action? There's plenty of that too.

The Maltese Falcon

This flick was a lot better than I expected
The 1941 version of The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart was actually the second remake of The Maltese Falcon. The first remake was Satan Met A Lady, (1936) starring Bette Davis. This film (The Maltese Falcon - 1931) was the original. It doesn't have the pizazz of the Humphrey Bogart version, and it is not a film noir version, but it is extremely faithful to the story, and much more explicit about the various adulterous affairs, out of wedlock sex, and homosexuality. Ricardo Cortez was a big star at the time.

Contrary to the many comments in user reviews, it is not a pre-code movie. The Movie Production Code (aka Hays Code) was instituted in 1930, but largely ignored by the studios. It wasn't enforced until 1934 when Joseph Breen took over as head of the Motion Picture Code. The story of the years 1930 - 1933 films which contained much more explicit material than was technically permitted by the code is well told in the TCM documentary "Forbidden Film".

Of the three versions of The Maltese Falcon, this is, in my opinion, the second best, with Bogart's version being the best. But this version is a close second, with much to recommend it. It is not more faithful to the novel than the 1941 version, but it is much clearer, especially concerning the sexual sub-plots of the film. It was an A movie in it's time, with top stars including Thelma Todd, Una Merkel, and Dwight Frye. If you like the Bogart version you will probably enjoy this antecedent. Film aficionados and lovers of film history should take special note of this gem.

Pawn Stars

If I ever go to Vegas, this is where I'll go!
I have been a long time collector and dealer in collectibles who has handled some amazing items - for example Nazi bubblegum cards from the Third Reich about the 1933 Nuremberg rally, (you could actually smell the bubblegum on the cards). But the stuff that comes into this pawn shop blows me away.

Watch this show and you will see amazing collectibles, historical documents, ephemera, and actual treasure. Get history lessons, trivia lessons, business lessons. and accurate appraisals of the value of collectibles. The people who run the pawnshop are interesting and likable. So too are the people who come in to pawn/sell valuables, and the experts who explain about, and put values on the items. But the real stars of Pawn Stars are the items themselves - rare guns, items minted or engraved by Paul Revere, sunken treasure, fine arts, old coins and paper money, company scripts, etc, etc, etc.

This show is one of the few reality TV shows worth watching, educational and interesting. If I'm ever in Vegas I'm heading straight to Rick's pawnshop. I'd rather spend my money there than give it to the casinos.

Hardcore Pawn

Most Boring Pawnshop on Television
One of this show's taglines is "expect the unexpected", so if you weren't expecting a worthless piece of crap they will have at least delivered on this tagline.

This ripoff of the much more interesting "Pawn Stars" is awful beyond words. You don't get to see interesting artifacts and collectibles, don't get appealing characters, don't get to see experts who explain the history of amazing items, don't get information about the pawn business. I could go on endlessly on what you don't get, but I'll stop and tell you what you do get.

You get 3 obnoxious family members who run a pawnshop in Detroit, who argue over the most trivial things, and run around screaming for no apparent reason. One angry customer shouts "You're dead", then peels out of the parking lot. The patriarch of the boring family then shouts "I could have gotten killed" (if only) and threatens to fire security staff. Since guns cannot be pawned in Detroit and people are interested in guns, the boring pawn family decides to get guns for their protection. But first they must argue about how unpleasant but necessary it is for them to have guns for their protection. Off they truck to a much more interesting establishment, a gun store, where they demonstrate their inability to shoot straight.

If you find this review excruciating to read, it's only because I have captured the mood of this show. In fact, TruTV owes me 2 hours of my time back. They better give me 5% per month interest on my time when they pay off.

That Hagen Girl

Very Likable movie - good acting
I really liked this movie. It's not one of the greats, but a great example of the many ordinary feature films of the 1940's.

If you think of Shirley Temple as just a child actor, or Ronald Reagan as a third rate actor who's popularity quickly waned, this film will disabuse you of these ideas.

The story is about a girl (Shirley Temple) growing up in a small town who is victimized by rumors of her being the illegitimate child of Ronald Reagan. This character study has strong characters and a thin story line, but the fine acting holds the movie together. The plot line, while not compelling in and of itself, still allows for a story that is interesting and keeps you wondering just what will happen and how things will turn out in the end. The supporting cast also does a fine job. The antagonists of the film are not so vile that you hate them, they are just unlikable, arrogant and pretentious.

The film is a good rendition of "the way things were" in an age when tongues wagged over sexual scandals, and where you came from predisposed people to think of other people in very stereotypical ways. Mary Hagen having been born out of wedlock (or so it is rumored), is presumed to be a "bad girl" whose every act is viewed with suspicion and seen in the worst possible light. The class structure of small American towns in the 1940's is accurately depicted. All in all, this is a good film, well worth watching. I recommend it highly. Not all movies can be great, but this film is well worth watching as a quality movie, an example of what Hollywood can do when it merely doing a good job. See it.

Play It Again, Sam

I waited my whole life to say it.
While not Woody's best film, it is still my favorite, perhaps because I like Bogart so much, and love "Casablanca".

This comic extravaganza is Woody's tribute to Bogart and Casablanca. It is filled with great comic lines and slapstick, but carries a serious undertone in it's reverence for Bogart and his movies, and particularly for Casablanca which this movie mimics in it's story of love between Woody and Diane Keaton, who is married to Tony Roberts. The essential plot of Play It Again, Sam is the plot of Casablanca set to the comedy genre.

Woody schleppy, nerdy character reveres old movies, and particularly Bogart's films. As he agonizes over his problems in life and in relationships, the "ghost" of Bogart appears to him to advise him. It's not really Bogart's ghost, but the persona of Bogart that Woody carries in his own mind. He aspires to be like Bogart, but fears this is impossible. Addressing this fear, Bogart's ghost assures him that there is little Bogart in all of us. This comment is addressed to the audience as much as it is to Woody.

The final scene is a hilarious takeoff on the final scene from Casablanca, and it is rendered even funnier by Woody playing it straight, until he remarks "It's from Casablanca. I've been waiting my whole life to say it." I've been waiting my whole life to say it too, but Woody has done it for me. And in doing so he made me feel that maybe, just maybe, I too could be like Bogart.

Ladies of the Jury

Silly AND Wonderful - Edna May Oliver fans, don't miss it!
It's too bad that real trials aren't like the one depicted in this film. The trial and jury deliberations shown in this film are completely unrealistic, but what does that have to do with good movie making? I love Edna May Oliver's rendition in the Hildegard Withers series, which this film is NOT part of. It is, however, a worthy precursor of her later sleuthing roles.

The film is something of a comic version of 12 Angry Men. A single juror votes not guilty, then, using appeals to the prejudices and passions of the other jurors more than reason, persuades other jurors to change their vote to "Not Guilty" until the final scene where the innocence of the accused is "proved". A fast wrap up has the jury declaring, in voice over on the end credit, that they find the defendant "Not Guilty".

You won't find realistic situations anywhere in this film. What you will find is an acting tour de force by Edna May Oliver, excellent characterizations by the rest of the cast, an excellent period piece of the early 1930's.

This is not a film for everyone. It is a film for true cinephiles. Not a classic, but a classic example of early talkies.

I'm sorry I could not explain it's appeal better, but it's appeal is ephemeral. Good acting, good humor, good story - good, good, good. Good enough to make it's flaws worth ignoring.

The Missing Juror

I wanted to like it - but ...
NOTE: Don't read the cast credit on IMDb or this movie won't even be a mystery for the first 15 minutes.

For the first 15 minutes I thought this movie was not bad (not good, but at least a reasonable example of the B mystery movie genre). The problem occurs in minute 16, or thereabout, when the movie starts to telegraph it's punch so clearly that only an idiot wouldn't see who the killer really is, and what the wrap up is going to be. After that you can turn the movie off, except that stopping is like ceasing to watch a bad accident that you know you shouldn't be looking at. Actually, a bad accident is a lot more interesting than this movie.

I won't give away the "surprise". Instead I'll let you participate in the contest to see if you can guess what I was able to figure out by the time of the fire in the mental hospital. It was so obvious that you would have be from Mars to not figure it out.

I like a good bad movie, but this isn't one of those. Try some other movie with "Juror" in the title - any other movie with "Juror" in the title.


True Political Drama - A Dramatic Work of Art
In an age of movies which are mostly eye candy this movie is a rare and special treat.

Based upon a successful stage play, this movie outlines a battle of wills, and a contest of minds in a way that attains high dramatic tension. Both the hero (Frost) and the anti-hero (Nixon) are made fully human, so the viewer becomes emotionally involved with both, each in different ways. Frost is the light-weight underdog, using words and strategy to trap the more experienced, cagey, but tragic character of Richard Nixon, a man who aspired to greatness, and actually did many great things, but was brought low by his own acts of conceit and arrogance. He is shown, despite his having attained the highest office in the US, as a tragic everyman, a person from the ordinary world of semi-poverty and a nondescript background who tried to enter the world of the elite, but never felt fully accepted.

But this movie is not just a wordy talk-a-thon. It is high drama of a cerebral kind. What will happen? Who will win? Will Tricky Dick slip out of the net cast by a light weight entertainer who is no reporter or interviewer? Will David Frost rise from low-level entertainer/moderator who interviews the Bee-Gees to become the man who got from Richard Nixon what no one else could get, an admission of culpability? Knowing history's final outcome does not detract from the drama of the events as they unfold.

If you love the art of cinema, then you will truly appreciate this film. It is a masterpiece, and a fine example of all that makes Hollywood great, and not just box office.

The Wolfman

What a Piece of Crap!
This remake of the 1941 classic is awful beyond words. Nothing made you really like the characters, or feel very sorry for their predicament. They should have gotten Sylvester Stalone for the part of Larry Talbot. He would have had more star quality than Benicio Del Toro, and his acting wouldn't have been as flat and unremarkable.

The original movie had nice guy Larry Talbot, without a dark past, bitten by a werewolf, and cursed to become a beast when the moon was full. His father was a likable chap, and the villagers were not a lynch mob. It is a classic of the Universal horror series. It had an all star cast of the period; Claude Rains, Ralph Bellamy, Warren Williams, Bela Lugosi, Maria Ouspenskaya, Evelyn Ankers and Lon Chaney Jr.

This remake has the title the Wolfman, the characters of the Talbots, (with the addition of a few extra Talbots for no apparent reason), a bad, long, drawn out story, and main characters who, when they are dead, you clap.

A pox on this remake. May it die a quicker death than the audience does if they watch the whole film.

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