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The Way to Dusty Death

Not as bad as all that...
This is an extended soap opera, but it isn't atrocious. Not much appears to be left from the original novel, but it is worth watching if you like this sort of thing. If you were expecting James Bond, you'll be disappointed, but there's still a nice mystery underneath, and the acting is okay. Fans of Alistair McLean will find little to recognize here; the action scenes are subdued, the bad guys aren't particularly menacing, and there isn't any sexual tension among the players, except maybe a little between Désirée Nosbusch and Linda Hamilton, which never really comes to fruition. Still, it was significantly better than I was led to believe by one of the other reviews in this forum, and the whole thing tightens up admirably in the last half hour.

Two Weeks to Live

A Delight to Hear, If Not to See
Production values on this bit of nostalgia aren't terribly high, and many of the supporting characters aren't very believable, but this little movie is a joy to listen to. Lum and Abner are just as funny as they are on the radio.

It's very clear that later shows owed a debt to these two great comedians; where would the Beverly Hillbillies and Andy Griffith been without them? Lum and Abner did a lot to bring rural America into focus, and to pioneer the "country-bumpkin-does-well-despite-himself" genre.

This is one of several movies starring the denizens of Pine Ridge, Ark. I haven't seen the others yet, but I'll be looking for them.


Well-written, fun cast
I love this movie; it's hard to believe it's almost twenty years old now. I won't compare it to Cyrano, except to say that it doesn't have the depth and the tragedy of the original, but it has a charm all its own. Martin was a writer before he was a big star, and the screenplay here demonstrates how good writing can really go a long way, even in a romantic comedy.

Martin plays C. D. Bales with such a great sense of style...he's offbeat, even quirky, but he's also the epitome of 'cool.' He's clearly a man who, in terms of depth of character and intellect, is miles above his fellow townspeople, and yet he cares about them and serves them with a genuine passion. He handles every crisis with panache except his own crisis: his awkwardness about his appearance.

Daryl Hannah does well as Roxanne, an astronomer who catches the eye of most of the men in the small Colorado town in which the movie is set. It was also nice to see Shelley Duvall in this, along with a very funny supporting cast. The landscapes also merit comment: director Fred Schepisi makes good use of the hilly backdrop. All in all, this is a wonderful romp, worth watching again and again.

The Da Vinci Code

Maybe not Oscar material, but I enjoyed it.
From reading the reviews so far, it seems to me that the most scathing reviews are from people who also didn't like the book. Fair enough, though I have to say I don't understand why you'd go see a movie based on a book you didn't like.

I thought this movie was well-cast and well-played. The direction was good, and the cinematography was excellent. I think the film's drawbacks are directly related to the difficulties inherent in adapting a novel to a screenplay, and particularly a novel that is as didactic as this one. There was a lot of explanation in the book, and it would have been impossible to include it all in the film version. I think they did the best they could to balance the need to explain what's going on and the need to keep the film under three hours.

There are those, of course, who are offended at the premise of the original novel, and they should not be expected to like the film. There are also those who didn't like the movie on its merits as a film. They're certainly entitled to their opinion. For my part, I don't see how anyone could have done much better bringing this particular book to the big screen.

The Terminal

No film is for everyone, but this one was for me.
A fair number of reviewers in this forum have trashed this movie, including one who insists that its high score must be the result of blatant vote-loading. Everyone's entitled to an opinion, but its always a mistake to believe one speaks for "most people." If you didn't like the movie, it's fine to say so, but it isn't nice to disrespect people who did.

Tom Hanks is brilliant in this movie; even where the plot doesn't hang together well, Hanks makes it work. He is utterly believable as an eastern European immigrant, and never steps out of character. Catherine Zeta-Jones' character isn't terribly bright, but she is quite believable. Stanley Tucci plays the pseudo-villain with deadpan panache. I've known all these people, and I recognize them here.

I don't expect films to make perfect sense, not to depict reality in every sense; I can stay home and experience reality. I do expect to be entertained, touched, moved, excited, impressed and/or amused, and this film delivered for me. I loved it!

White Christmas

It touches.
Plenty has been written about this movie. For the record, I disagree with those who say that Danny Kaye's performance was a disappointment. It's a little understated, for him, but it's the right foil for Bing. Rosemary's a knockout. Vera's amazing. And Bing was at his Basset Hound best.

When Vera and Danny dance, you can tell they were having fun with it. Sure, it's a corny flick, but it works because it touches people at an emotional level; it's easy to overlook the few noticeable gaffes. As cheesy as it is, it's perfectly easy to suspend disbelief and go with it; we get caught up in the story, and we like the people in the film. It amazes me how little Mary Wickes changed between this film and "Sister Act," nearly forty years later. All in all, it's great fun, and hundreds of thousands of American families have made this film an essential part of celebrating Christmas.

Sister Act

A Great Movie, for a very different reason...
This is, indeed, a comedy. It is mostly funny, though it won't have anybody rolling in the aisles. This movie is terrific, but not because of the acting or directing...what this movie does is demonstrate the possibility of positive change. If you allow yourself to suspend disbelief about certain aspects of the plot, you'll discover that you can relate to and understand the struggles the sisters go through. They are universal--every human being has been in some dysfunctional, stuck or dying organization. Everybody knows what it feels like, and everybody wishes that they could do something about it.

I think every member of every church, synagogue, mosque, house of worship, civic organization, school, committee, and/or organization of any kind should be tied to a chair and made to watch this movie. It's a paean to possibility, and a wonderful encouragement to those who believe that life could be better than it is.

Something the Lord Made

I wasn't expecting a story this powerful.
It's gratifying to know that I'm not the only one who was surprisingly moved by this story. I had known only a tiny part of the story before the movie: that a white surgeon and a black technician developed the process that could save "blue babies." That's a huge accomplishment, but only a portion of the story.

Alan Rickman does a splendid job portraying Dr. Blalock. There are a few moments when his southern accent slips and a little British comes through, but in terms of portrayal of the character, he is convincing. Blalock is ambitious, and in fact so focused on his professional and medical goals that sometimes he's clueless as to what others are going through to get him what he wants. He's also at turns arrogant and compassionate...exactly what one would have to be to do what he did. One thing the movie communicates very effectively is just how much of a revolution this surgery was: not merely operating on a baby heart, Dr. Blalock opened the gate to surgery on *any* human heart. Rickman doesn't overdo it, but he gets the character across.

Mos Def steals the show, however, in his subtle portrayal of Vivien Thomas. There's no grandstanding in this performance; he makes us believe that we know Thomas, and that to know him is to love him. He plays a man who had more character in his little finger than most people find in their whole lives, and he does it with zero ham. It isn't just that he gives an understated performance...he becomes this man who feels deeply even though he doesn't express it loudly. You see it in his eyes, in his pauses, in his voice. It's hard to describe, except to say that beneath the calm, quiet, even deferential exterior there is, undeniably, a whole person, a fully human, noble, wise, mature, gracious character.

A previous commentator asks if the presentation, near the end of the story, of an honorary degree was supposed to be an apotheosis of sorts. Perhaps. I suspect, however, that it isn't the conferring of a degree but the unveiling of the portrait, that actually vindicates Thomas and lifts him to his place in the medical pantheon of Johns-Hopkins' larger-than-life wonder-workers. At the end of the film, Vivien is sitting in the lobby, looking at his own portrait next to that of Blalock's when he's paged as "Dr. Thomas." He has to wipe the tears from his eyes to respond to the page. Maybe it's the degree and the portrait together.

The same commentator asked whether the film omitted mention of Thomas's eventual title. Actually, there's a scene immediately after their arrival in Baltimore in which the Director of Laboratories gives Vivien some money and tells him to bring coffee and a donut. At the end of the film, when Blalock calls Vivien's office, we see Vivien's title on the office door: Director of Laboratories. The irony is sweet.

This is a compelling, touching film, with wonderful performances all around.


The first Bond movie I saw in a theater...
I've always appreciated Roger Moore's dashing portrayal of Bond, even thought he didn't have the authority of Connery. This particular story is a favorite, combining all the features I've come to expect from 007--goofy gags, wonderful gadgets, along with a bit of action and suspense. Only ten years after Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, the space scenes are period-accurate, though not altogether realistic. It's a romp through old technology...and one more reason that the list of things evil megalomaniacs should avoid grew as long as it did. I enjoyed the return of Richard Kiel as Jaws...hardly makes a sound, but makes his presence known nonetheless. The no-gravity scene at the space station near the end is a little cheesy, with "space marines" going after the bad guys with weapons we haven't seen even twenty-five years later.

It's a James Bond movie, for crying out loud...not the best one, but I think one of the good ones.

Dudley Do-Right

Not a spectacular movie, but I had fun
Here's the thing: I remember the cartoon series from when I was a kid. The movie does a fair job of reproducing the goofy humor that Jay Ward invested in the original. It was Silly with a capital "S", and the movie is just the same. I wish they'd bleached Brendan Fraser's hair to make him look a little more Do-Right-ish, but the main thing is that, if you are familiar with the original cartoon, the movie shouldn't be too much of a disappointment for you. Alfred Molina isn't bad as Snidely Whiplash, and Sarah Jessica Parker is a pretty good Nell Fenwick. It's goofy, to be sure, but that's what one should expect from anything with Jay Ward ancestry.

The Emperor's New Groove

Creative casting makes this work
Emperor Kusko is inconvenienced when his advisor turns him into a llama, and he needs a villager and his family to help him return to power. It'd be easier for the villager if the emperor weren't planning to raze the village to make room for a summer home.

I don't know what David Spade is like in real life, but voicing the character of Kusko seems to flow very naturally for him. There's good chemistry between him and John Goodman (Pacha), though at points neither seems terribly involved emotionally. Whoever thought of casting Eartha Kitt as Yzma was inspired...her voice is absolutely perfect for the evil chemist. Patrick Warburton also deserves a mention as Yzma's minion, Kronk, one of the most lovable bad guys I've seen in a while. I liked this movie; perhaps not Disney's best, but I thought it was pretty good.

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