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A mixed bag of good and tedious scenes.
If they wanted to give moviegoers a sense of how painstaking and tedious soving a serial killer case can be, they succeeded. I really felt for the detectives (and civilians) wanting so badly to catch the murderer. But as an audience member, I had to sit through a lot of banter back and forth involving methodology, code-cracking, and leg work.

Maybe that is why films based entirely on fiction are more thrilling, they don't have to go out of their way to do justice to the lives of real living people who worked so hard. I can understand them wanting to show these men's lives outside of the work, but this made for a very long viewing experience without enough suspense or fleshed-out drama to make it top notch.

One thing for which I must praise Fincher is that he kept the violence to a minimum, as this movie was more about the investigation than the crimes themselves, and rightfully so--hence the higher grade than I might normally give. Totally worth seeing, but not a "you've gotta see it" movie.

How Stella Got Her Groove Back

Nice and lighthearted, but stay away from Jamaica.
It's typical of IMDb to have mindless action films earn an average of 7 or better, but for some reason a light film like this suffers from anti-romance, anti-female-lead bias that permeates this site. It is an enjoyable film with good music and the usual good acting from Angela Bassett. There are some good comedic moments, and good dialogue among the female friends in the movie. If you put aside the baggage of what happened with McMillan's real life marriage, you should like it.

Now that I've gotten my review out of the way, I have to say the one thing that bothered me about the film is that it makes Jamaica look like a great place to visit--when in fact it is an island guilty of gross human rights violations, where gay people live in fear for their lives and sexism is de rigeur. I cannot get past that simple injustice even when watching a movie, especially this one where a woman who could afford to go anywhere in the world chooses to give her travel dollars to the place that deserves them the least!

10 Attitudes

A cute, pleasant low-budget indie--nothing more, nothing less.
This is a good story about a man whose friend bets him that he will find love with one of the next ten men he meets. I don't think it's such a bad thing that throughout the film I completely forgot that a bet was made, and just enjoyed watching Jason Stuart's reactions to the strange men. Some of the dates are really hokey (David Faustino's), and some of them are pretty realistic (like the rage-aholic, an exaggeration of a type that really exists).

The majority of the scenes were improvised, but I honestly didn't notice--I found out after, watching the DVD extras. I think the main reason I liked it was because I went into it not expecting much of a movie at all. While it is certainly apparent that this is low budget, it doesn't take much to tell a good story and keep me interested. I found myself rooting for this "late thirties average looking" guy. I'm glad I checked it out.

To Love, Honor & Betray

Too predictable, but has a few good elements.
If this TV-movie keeps you guessing, then it's obviously the very first one of its kind you have ever seen, or you are in the single digit ages. Those are the only two explanations. One question: On what planet does Dee Wallace pass as the mother of a 37-38 year-old Crystal Bernard?? It is even established in the story that her character is exactly 50, so even if we are to believe Brolin married her right out of high school, it would require some major airbrushing on Bernard.

This might not have been so bad if it wasn't so predictable, and the acting was okay. Dee Wallace has always been a very likable actor, but she doesn't have as big of a part as I would have liked. Several of the supporting actors are pretty good in their roles. This is a time filler and not much else. I'm sure the real people whose story is being told weren't involved in the production much, if at all.


This film has not aged well at all.
I saw this in the theatre when it came out and found it mildly amusing. But watching it at home recently was a dreary bore. To make matters worse, our political climate has rendered it completely obsolete. Much of the dialogue revolves around anti-American sentiment, which has only risen since the film's release. The Spaniards who seemed so harshly critical a decade ago seem to have had their stereotypes about the U.S. government validated.

The two main characters who are supposed to be defending the U.S.'s reputation once seemed somewhat witty, now they come across as whiny, self-absorbed fools. "Ted" launches into a monologue in defense of hamburgers--of all things--as if they were what America was all about. Burgers even make an appearance later in the film, reminding us as viewers how superficial these people are.

A couple of plot changes propelled the film into an unbelievable direction, and by the time the story wrapped up I had more than had my fill of these characters.

The only thing that was of marginal interest was Mira Sorvino before her Oscar win made her well-known. She actually does come across as Spanish. Her character's not very likable either, but at least she's portrayed well. The script is really what's at fault, and having not liked "The Last Days of Disco", I am beginning to wonder if maybe it's not a bad thing writer/director Whit Stillman stopped making films after the 'nineties ended.

Diamond Head

Good script, direction almost overcome a miscast hammy Heston.
This film is much more stirring than "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," another racially charged drama that would come along four years later. And Yvette Mimieux is fare more captivating than the sugary Katharine Houghton from that film. The other actors all fare well in their performance, with one notable exception:

If the Razzie Award people ever gave an award for "Miscast the most times over the course of a career" it's Charlton Heston. There is way too much of an age difference between him and his supposed sister Yvette Mimieux, they should have made him play her uncle. (Although I can see how his name probably came up to play such an arrogant S.O.B.) Did he have it in his contract that in every one of his films he got to punch someone? His one-note performance sucks some of the juice out, but fortunately this is more of an ensemble piece.

This came on late at night, and I stayed up because I really wanted to find out what would happen. The story still resonates today. The themes are still around today: hypocrisy, prejudice, stereotypes, class, etc. But the thing that makes this just a good film and not a great one though is that unfortunate movie habit of the era: trying to tie everything up neatly at the end.

With all the dramatic events that had gone on prior to the conclusion, the last few scenes seem hurried, not fleshed-out enough. I might not recommend this film as much as the similarly-themed "Sayonara," but if you have the opportunity to watch it you will be intrigued. If you're not in the first ten minutes, then you'll know it's not for you.

Note to certain interested parties: There are several very hot-looking actors in this, both male and female!

School Ties

S-l-o-w moving but worth watching.
Maybe it was intentional for Robert Mandel to spend a good hour of the film with scene after scene of David Greene (Brendan Fraser) hiding his Jewish faith, so we would know what it feels like waiting for it to come out. But it sure felt l-o-n-g. We know from the start that his peers are going to find out, but we must wait and wait until someone finally lets it slip. Only THEN does all the confrontation seen in the previews unfold.

The movie does a good job showing how little remarks can make a difference. (Isn't it amazing how there are STILL people today using the word "jew" as a verb?) There's some good dialogue between Fraser and the cast members who play the character's who think they're well-meaning. This is the more interesting aspect of the film, as we already know how the evil classmates are going to react. This is probably a good film for younger viewers, given the school setting and the predictability. But it would have been better for them if it would have gotten down to the nitty-gritty sooner.

Taking Lives

Unpleasant and Predictable. What bet did Gena Rowlands lose?
This thriller is formulaic all the way. After the fifteen minutes when you figure out "whodunit," you can decide for yourself if you want to find out how it unfolds. Lets just say Clarice Starling has no competition to worry about at the FBI. Angelina Jolie's bears more resemblance to a brunette version of Daphne from Scooby Doo than the pro originated by Jodie Foster--especially when giddily staring into the eyes of "homme fatale" Ethan Hawke. There are very few moments that you won't see coming until the end, and by then the surprise or two they saved hardly seem worth it.

I have to add a note about how utterly annoying Olivier Martinez is as Jolie's colleague. I blame director D.J. Caruso for allowing both he and Hawke to over-emote to the point of nausea, but Martinez especially shows an acting range somewhere at the Keanu Reeves level. He's blown whatever career spike he got from the movie, Unfaithful. Maybe Gena Rowlands saw Caruso's far better film, The Salton Sea, and that's why she agreed to take part in this mess. There is a love scene connected with the plot, but the way it is filmed is a turnoff, especially for the gals (or gay guys).

Angelina Jolie's acting is wasted on the script. I would say if someone had never seen a thriller before, maybe it might hold some suspense, but otherwise there's no reason to sit through it. It seems that every time Ms. Jolie shows some skin, it's in a bad movie, and never enough to save it.

The Accidental Tourist

All the quirkiness, none of the charm.
This looked like the type of film I would enjoy, but I didn't. Frankly, it looks like it's trying too hard to exude quirky charm, and in no moment is this more evident than when we find Hurt's relatives alphabetizing their kitchen cupboards--a quirky cliché if there ever was one. (I distinctly remember this being touted on the video box as an example of how "funny" the film allegedly is.) Hurt's character comes off as a smug bore rather than a grieving parent who's shut down. I can understand why he chose to play Macon in such a manner, but it left me waiting for a part in the clouds that would never come. For a better take on this state of mind, see Juliette Binoche in Blue.

The fact that Geena Davis managed to breathe life into this at all is reason enough for her to have won the Academy Award, but Hurt's character doesn't deserve her. Her allergic-to-everything son is the only other interesting character in the film. I haven't read Anne Tyler's book, but it may have been a better idea to take these characters out of it and build a story for them alone.

For a much better tragicomic look at grief, may I suggest the wonderfully bittersweet 1990 film about grief, Men Don't Leave. In it, Jessica Lange and Arliss Howard exhibit more chemistry in their first meeting than Hurt and Davis do in this whole film.

Cactus Flower

A wonderful time warp.
This film has not exactly remained fresh in the minds of film buffs, and it's a crying shame. Its witty screenplay adaptation should have netted Oscar nominations for the great screenwriter I.A.L. Diamond's adaptation, and Ingrid Bergman's flawless performance. It must have been an honor for Goldie Hawn at such a young age to work with Bergman, looking more than a decade younger than her 54 years--fifty four! When she's on the screen, it positively twinkles.

This is a film which may appear dated at first, but it actually made me wish I was around during the swingin' 'sixties. Hawn's fashions are as tacky as Bergman's are chic. (That's one minor flaw--isn't her character a little too soignée for a gal who still lives with her sister? But then again, would we have Ingrid any other way?) And who wouldn't want to hang out at a nightclub called The Slipped Disc?

The best compliments I can pay to this film is that it somehow made me nostalgic for a decade that I never saw, and that it left me wanting more. Speaking of wanting more, I wonder what ever became of sexy supporting actor Rick Lenz? (He resembles Griffin Dunne in this film.) This was his film debut, and I don't see any other major roles in his filmography. As for Goldie Hawn, she's done so much since then it's easy to not be impressed, but I can't imagine any other actor in the role, either.

Since the movie is based on a play, the line delivery may seem a bit stage-y, but it did not inhibit my enjoyment at all. In fact, I am amazed at how funny it still is after over thirty-five years. Because this film represents a bygone era, it has unjustly slipped from the consciousness of film buffs. It is more linked to the era films that came before it than the ones that followed. But don't let that stop you from savoring the delights it has to offer. Grade: A

The First Wives Club

This film's user rating says more about IMDb users than itself.
I have often pointed out on message boards that there seems to be a gender bias, a generational bias, and a heterosexual bias on this site. This films rating proves all three of those factors to be true. The three stars are at the top of their game. So what if the script is a little light? They more than make up for it with their moxie and comic timing. Diane Keaton, the least zany of the three, anchors the film well with her narration, yet her character is the one who experiences the most change in attitude. Midler knows that she's working as a team, and reigns in her usual larger-than-life persona, but when she lets it loose a little, it's perfect. Hawn is basically playing herself as an actor who's tired of being passed over for parts because of her age while too-old male actors get a pass. Not a big stretch in Hollywood. The fact that not one of them stands out as the lead shows how excellent they are together.

I still suspect that most men do not like seeing women be too assertive or bold with their comedy. These women are not sex kittens, they are tigresses, and maybe that's a little off-putting, and they are biased against it. Don't think so? Then come up with a better reason why "Old School" has a higher rating than this film!

The Grifters

For the perfect neo-noir, look no further.
I saw this film in the theater because "Green Card" was sold out. As compensation, I got to see a top-notch thriller instead of a run-of-the-mill romantic comedy. I have since seen the film two or three times on video, and I my appreciation for it grows each and every time. First of all, this is the definitive Anjelica Huston performance (in a career full of great ones). Her take-no-prisoners approach as Lilly pulls out all the stops. If I were an Oscar voter in 1990, I would have had a horrible time deciding between her and Kathy Bates (for Misery). I think only the fact that she had won once already tipped the scale in favor of Kathy. Pity.

The fact that John Cusack stands out at all next to Huston is amazing, but he is perfectly cast as a small-time con artist. I, for one, admit that I could easily be taken in by his aw-shucks demeanor, which masks a bitter distrusting survivalist. In the fifteen years since, he has not had nearly as great a role (though "Being John Malkovich" and "High-Fideliy" were a great one-two punch about five years ago). As for Annette Bening, everyone knows that this is the role that put her on the map, and led to her fateful casting opposite Warren Beatty in "Bugsy". It still packs a wallop with every viewing (as does her wardrobe, a true sign of the end of the 'eighties).

I love introducing this film to people who haven't yet seen it. It is a great discussion stimulator--your head starts spinning with all kinds of alternative scenarios of what would have happened if the characters had made other choices. (There's also some faulty logic or math with regard to the racetrack betting scam, and an unresolved stash of money later in the film, but these are minor quibbles.) My friend summed it up in one word: INTENSE. From the bitterly comic moments to the truly squeamish ones, you're riveted from start to finish. Grade: A+

Enemies, A Love Story

40% Comedy + 60% Drama = 100% Great
When comedian Alan King passed away last year, I thought of his sweet performance in this should-be classic. One would not expect comedy to come from a story about Holocaust survivors, but this film takes the quirks of human behavior in the wake of tragedy and puts them on display, warts and all. I haven't read Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer's novel, but I can't imagine him not being pleased with Paul Mazursky's winning adaptation. Poor Ron Silver though, he finally gets a lead role, and almost every scene of his is stolen by one of his three outstanding female co-stars.

Lena Olin has the showiest part as a fiery concentration camp survivor. Full of passion, bitterness, and paranoia all at the same time, she puts sex back into an era normally depicted as colorless and empty. I don't want to say too much about Anjelica Huston's role for fear of spoiling the intrigue each revelation about her character brings. She pulls off several humorous moments as well. But the real revelation is Margaret Sophie Stein. As Silver's wife whom he married out of gratitude, she is not as naive as she seems, and her performance anchors the film.

This movie snuck in under the wire at the tail end of the 'eighties, and seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle of high caliber end-of-the-year movies all seeking Oscar consideration. Some feel that its Best Picture nomination was stolen by Dead Poets Society. I am one of those people. But keep in mind that this was the year that Do the Right Thing was ignored in favor of more sentimental fare like Field of Dreams. Olin and Huston were nominated for their roles, but they lost to Brenda Fricker's tour de force performance as Christy Brown's mother in My Left Foot.

It bothers me that this film doesn't have more votes. Rent it, people!!! (Or better yet, buy a copy. When you see it, you'll want to.) You'll love the characters, and it's a great film to watch after you've seen something like Life is Beautiful. It is an unusual tale, but one I am glad someone thought to tell.

Making Mr. Right

Orion Pictures mismarketed this quirky charmer.
If there were more genuine laugh-out-loud moments in this film, it could have achieved more commercial success. OR, if it hadn't been pitched to audiences as a straight comedy, it could have achieved later status over time as a cult film. This is the approach I think the producers should have taken. This would have made a great indie(rather than a mainstream release by the fledgling Orion Pictures) with Ann Magnuson still as the star. Have the actors play it straight as a character study and let the subtle natural comedy shine through. Laurie Metcalf's dingy character would have to be dismissed or toned down a bit, but otherwise this would work with the same quirky charm that made Mystic Pizza (released the following year) a success.

As it is, the film is sweet more than it is funny. And it works thanks to John Malkovich's great dual performances and Magnuson's ability to carry a film (the only time she's been allowed to do so before or since--pity). Believe it or not, this was the film in which I discovered them both, and they should still be proud of having it on their resumes, even with all they went on to accomplish.

I shouldn't be too hard on Orion, though. After all, they did put out "The Silence of the Lambs", but they also let "Blue Sky" sit on a shelf until they went belly-up and another studio had to release it four years after it was completed. The only flaw is not in this film itself, but in the way it was marketed and what I as an audience member expected going into it. This film deserves rediscovery--and if it gets it, there's the added bonus of '80s nostalgia in the fashions and some of the dialogue.

In the Realms of the Unreal

Interesting to contrast this film with "Ray."
I saw "Ray" in a second-run theater just before I saw this documentary about Herny Darger. It is interesting to think about these two men together. Ray had a handicap, but his mother made him learn to live and move independently. Darger was NOT handicapped, but was labeled treated as if he was mentally disabled. Ray became very wealthy, had a fruitful career, and eventually lived in a mansion. Darger never made more than minimum wage and could not even afford to have a dog. Ray's talent was celebrated the world over, Darger never left the Chicago area except when he was sent to an asylum. Many people have viewed the film "Ray" and it has renewed interest in its subject, while a mere fraction (1/20th at best) of people will see this film, many of whom had never heard of him before.

Yet both men are considered geniuses in their own way. The thing is, many people can accept the joyous genius of Charles's music more than they can celebrate the odd efforts of Henry Darger (who amazingly lived eight years longer than Ray). So here we are in 2004 with two movies about two vastly different men, one of whom got his kudos in life and one who did not. Only in death did anyone find out about his talent, yet they have both left their marks.

I found myself relating more to Darger's story, even though there are only a few people left walking this earth who've met him, and hardly any pictures of him exist. Maybe it's because more of us actually fit into the unknown, under-appreciated Darger category, than the category of those who received the accolades (albeit well-earned) that Charles did. Viewing this film, I was so glad to know that Darger existed, and that at least a few people were paying attention.

A Walk in the Clouds

Why was this the last screen appearance for Gregory Martin?
This is an enjoyable film without a lot of surprises. It is pleasant without being really suspenseful, and its sweetness may be a little too much for the small screen where on the big screen, you just go with it. Aitana Sánchez-Gijón is flawless as the female lead, which is a good thing considering her leading man is the almost always flaw-FUL Keanu Reeves, who has amazingly held onto his leading man status despite having only his great looks and minimal talent (the modern-day Rock Hudson). With a great supporting cast (including a pre-Six Feet Under Freddy Rodriguez and a post-original "Swept Away" Giancarlo Giannini), Reeves' shortcomings as an actor can't help but stand out. Amid all the good players and romantic tone, there's also some lovely scenery and good costuming.

But seeing this film on HBO nearly ten years after viewing it on the big screen begs the following questions: Why has Penelope Cruz been foisted on the American moviegoer when we could have had Aitana Sánchez-Gijón all along?! Why did it take Hollowood so long to rediscover Debra Messing after her bit part in this film? Why is Keanu Reeves a big star while the extremely sexy Gregory Martin (whom I still remember steaming up the small screen in the miniseries "Ellis Island") never appeared in a movie again? Man, he was hot! And although you wouldn't know it from his small role here, I'm sure he could act circles around you-know-who.

I may never get answers to these questions, but if your video store doesn't carry "Il Postino" and "Cinema Paradiso," you might want to check out this slightly inferior but nevertheless enjoyable film. The reason the story is timeless is because it is an English language remake of the 1942 film, "Quattro passi fra le nuvole," and it was a good idea on the part of the producers to resurrect it.

Finding Neverland

This is a very sweet film, and enjoyable. But for the life of me I do not know how it could have snagged a Best Picture and Best Actor nomination over KINSEY and its outstanding leading performance by Liam Neeson, who was totally robbed. Maybe from the general public, but the industry that votes on these awards should know better. Furthermore, it makes no sense that critics dismissed THE NOTEBOOK as "schmaltzy" while this film that milks the tearful eyes of Freddie Highmore for all they're worth was given a pass on the schmaltz-o-meter. Come on! The film doesn't pick up until the production of Peter Pan is underway. Up to that point, it drags, and there is little conflict to keep us interested other than what's bubbling beneath the surface in good performances by Radha Mitchell (as Mrs. Barrie) and a superbly surly Julie Christie.

Johnny Depp's performance is good, but not the phenomenon that he was in POTC. He's well cast. But is he better than Neeson, or the Oscar-snubbed Paul Giamatti, Kevin Kline (De-Lovely), Javier Bardem, or Tom Hanks (The Ladykillers)? Not this time, I'd say.

Yes, there are magical elements of the film that make it all worthwhile, but the way it is set up to unfold so predictably is a noticeable flaw that slightly dulls the shine of the wonderful parts.

Room for Two

Should've been given another shot.
Now that Patricia Heaton has gained fame on another show with an interfering mother, it's worth looking back at this show in which her character was the one whose mother had trouble holding back. Heaton is well suited for a show centered around her and not a husband. The mother/daughter dynamic is much more subtle the the over-the-top shenanigans that went on for six seasons of "The Nanny." How come that show lasted and this one didn't? Sure it needed some tweaking, but that was no reason to pull the plug. (Linda Lavin's character would have become grating over time.) Maybe baby boomers felt old seeing the star of "Alice" playing older, and the mother of one of their own. Who knows. I thought the idea of a TV producer producing a show featuring her mother was as original an idea as any, and even today it would be better than current dreck like "Two and a Half Men," "Yes Dear," and "According to Jim." Maybe now that sitcoms are being cancelled faster than postage stamps, the networks should take a look at what might have worked.

Perfect Crime

Don't waste your time, like I did.
Okay, so maybe the acting wasn't bad, but I am typing this review as a public service to prevent anyone else who happens upon the intriguing beginning of this telefilm from throwing away two hours of their life waiting for some plot development that will never come. The chief investigator has a gut feeling who did away with the missing marine officer (Guy), and few people other than uninvolved bystanders and the accusee seem to dispute her. So what is the point of staying with this drama? Beats the heck out of me. I kept thinking (or hoping) there would be some sort of plot twist or new revelation, but none was forthcoming. In summary, I cannot think of a single reason to sit and watch this pointless TV movie, based on a true story or not.

Lana's Rain

Small budget, great results.
This film is better and grittier than many dramas with ten times the budget, and there are plenty of suspenseful moments to keep even the most indie-phobic skeptic intrigued. Oksana Orlenko (who won an award in Milan for her performance) and Nickolai Stoilov are seamless as the charismatic leads, while Michael S. Ojeda's direction makes the best use of their talents and the skills of his cinematographer (Gennadi Balitski), as well as his own script.

I disagree with the one reviewer (out of ten so far) who didn't like the "execution" of this film. I think it is a perfect mix of action scenes that grab you, and intense character-driven dramatic moments that allow for time to take in all that has happened. Ojeda really captures the sense of peril one feels without a dime and no place to go. That gash in Lana's forehead on the film's poster gives an idea of how deep the film is, and the roller-coaster ride awaiting anyone who watches it. I wish I had seen it in the theater. Grade: A

Meet the Parents

Jay Roach has taken his Austin Powers cartoonism too far.
This is one of those films that was advertised so heavily, I felt like I'd seen it before I actually saw it. They used all the best gags in the ads (which isn't saying much) and the presence of De Niro dominated. Maybe it's just me, for I know this was a big hit, but I couldn't stand seeing a highly regarded actor like Robert De Niro mugging his way through this lowbrow flick like it were a 108-minute Saturday Night Live sketch--which is what it should have been. It is staggeringly annoying watching Ben Stiller endure thinly veiled threat after threat, and it's not even rewarding when he finally stands up for himself.

Judging by this films box-office take, I guess I'm not in the majority when I say I am sick of the whole "you're not good enough for my daughter" schtick in movies and TV (the dreck known as "8 Simple Rules" is another example). However, I would like to thank IMDb for this website which allows me to vent my extreme displeasure at this totally unoriginal and irritating trend. I found this "comedy" utterly awful.

P.S. If you agree with me, you might want to check out the Roach's previous film, Mystery Alaska. I wish it had been a hit, and Roach were making more subtle comedies like it today rather than succumbing to using easy gags and pandering to mainstream taste.

Marvin's Room

The screenplay is really the star of this film.
It's such a wonderful story, not at all as dreary as one would expect. The late Scott McPherson injected so much humor and heart into this film, it's hard not to just go along with it. Diane Keaton got the Oscar nomination, but Meryl Streep's character drives the film, as she works her way back into a family she turned her back on so she could have a life of her own. She was right to do so, as her sister (Keaton) has become consumed with caregiving for her father and aunt, taking absolutely no time out for herself. The film also features a nice departure for Robert De Niro from his typically heavy roles. That alone is worth seeing, and fans of his typical performances should be forced to watch this.

This quiet film may not have enough action for some, but it is far better than most films dealing with serious illness. The journey these sisters begin is something that has been explored in countless TV movies (think Lifetime), but what separates it is the humor and the character development that makes the viewer wish he/she could stay and watch the family long after the film ends. The film also benefits from the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio, who gives an unlikely nuanced performance as the older son who develops some character and helps his flighty mother grow along with him. The great thing about his presence in the film is that younger viewers (mostly female, probably) will be more likely to see this movie and get something out of it in the process.

Finally, a word about Gwen Verdon and Hume Cronyn. Their contributions to this film are immeasurable. And as already mentioned, it's great that younger viewers can watch this film and get a last look at them in these touching roles and see how charm never fades with age. Cronyn has little to do but lie ill in bed, yet somehow his character remains a focal point. And Verdon's comic relief pairing with the younger son is a real highlight. She also manages a poignant moment or two in a her scenes with Keaton. This truly is an ensemble piece, and it wouldn't have been without their talent. Why I don't yet own a copy of this sweet film is a mystery.

Meet the Fockers

Pretty good--from someone who totally hated the original.
Yes, I hated Meet the Parents. I was sick of De Niro's character after about five minutes. He works much better toned down in this film, but he's still annoying. But forget about him. This film works because of Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman sometimes takes it a little too far, but not as badly as De Niro did in the original. Streisand shows why she's still on the radar after an eight-year absence from the big screen, even a political conservative would have to admit it.

The humor is still a little too lowbrow for me, but this was still better than a typical Jim Carrey movie (like Bruce Almighty. I also tired of the characters pushing the limits of polite conversation on their first meeting. Just because the Fockers are liberated aging hippies, doesn't mean that the film should resort to playing out like an episode of Dharma & Greg. I can stay home and watch that in reruns for free.

I am sure a third installment will be made, maybe with Pam and Greg having a baby, and maybe De Niro will be toned down even more, but please let that be it! Note to the people of Jacksonville, Florida who were at my screening: Come on, was it really THAT funny? Didn't you see that blue dog in the commercial and trailers umpteen times? Oh well, if you enjoy a good guffaw simply for the sake of guffaw-ing, I won't rain on your parade.

Personally Yours

You'll see the ending coming before you turn on the TV...
...but that doesn't mean I wouldn't recommend it. After all, romantic comedy viewers have certain expectations. No one dies, and even the arguments aren't too serious. There are some humorous moments, and Valerie Bertinelli exhibits her usual charm. They don't call her the Julia Roberts of TV for nothing! One downside is that half the time the adults take a back seat to the boringly squeaky-clean kids, allowing pros like Valerie and Donnelly Rhodes (of "Soap"fame) to walk through this vehicle with their eyes closed. The other is that Alaska is touted as the setting for this movie, but you wouldn't know it to look at it. Anyone who's seen our most beautiful U.S. state--even just on television--could tell that it was shot elsewhere: Canada, as usual. (Rhodes and several of the other actors are Canadian.) Once you get past those two limitations, it's smooth sailing. I wouldn't go out of my way to see this, but if it happens to be airing, go ahead and watch it.

Life with Elizabeth

So wholesome, you'll barf.
With apologies to the two viewers here who liked the show, I just bought a bare-bones DVD with three episodes at a dollar store, and had the hardest time sitting through them.

Watching these vignettes, I came to have an even greater respect for terrific pioneering shows like "Our Miss Brooks" and especially "The Honeymooners". While the repartee in those shows was fresh and snappy (and still is), LWE's is as stiff and contrived as Betty White's 1950's hairdo. This show tried to portray the title character as a loose cannon, but in fact she didn't stray too far from the Happy Homemaker mold. Even "My Little Margie" was more edgy!

Betty White's appearance was so polished in every episode, I got the feeling her character would look the other way if Alice Kramden came walking past her on the street. (This was an era when as soon as you became a legal adult, you had to dress and act like you were forty.) With her sprayed on smile and oh-so-sweet lilting voice, thank goodness she broke out of it to play the conniving Sue Ann Nivens on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" twenty years later. Maybe at the time Betty wanted to appear as pure as possible, after having posed nude for a naughty deck of cards before her acting career took off. Del Moore played the husband, and even though he primarily worked as an announcer in his career, the show still felt the need to have another blandly handsome person introduce the scenes. Go figure.

There was hardly a full laugh in any of the three episodes I watched (#'s 4, 8, and 12), but I was glad I got to see them anyway. One thing I learned is that from the very beginning of her career, White's hair has never moved. It only cost me a buck to find that out.

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