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Reviews

It's a Wonderful Life
(1946)

A True Christmas Classic
I've seen It's A Wonderful Life more times than I could possible count and each time is still just as 'wonderful' as the first (including last Christmas Eve in the movie theater; do yourself a favor and which at least once in at the theater) . The film is an inspirational treasure trove to see how one man who doesn't believe he is worth anything comes to know that the people around him see him differently and genuinely cherish his friendship. One never knows just how much one impacts the life of those around us and this movie takes a classic premise in the vein of A Christmas Carol and adds new meaning.The story of 'everyman' George Bailey (James Stewart) presented in biographical format with the beautiful, heart felt religious tones presented in the story by Frank Capra, who incidentally was the king of pulling on heart strings, in his crowning achievement are inspiring. I myself, have over the years and countless times I've seen the film come to identify myself with George and his everyday struggles. The film delivers classic moments from beginning to end as he ages and the ups and downs we all face in our daily lives. I can always count on the title to inject a bit of fresh air when life gets a little stale in that no matter how bad one thinks life gets it is always better than what we believe and that with family and friends life is quite enjoyable. The romance between George and Mary (Donna Reed) paint the portrait of loving and caring marriage that epitomizes romance and tenderness. Their marriage has to count amongst one of the best cinematic marriages in history which goes a long way in detailing what a real (true and loving) marriage is in real life. A true masterpiece that ends with one of the best third acts in film history with a heart-felt, touching climax ("To my big brother George, the richest man in town") that brings tears to most viewers; it certainly does for me - every time I watch it, I can't help but tear up. It's A Wonderful Life is a Wonderful film and a Christmas tradition every year in my home.

NewsRadio
(1995)

Simply Put...The Single Greatest Show Ever Made!
The title to my review might seem like hyperbole but it's simply fact to anyone that has ever seen NewsRadio. I have been a fan of this series since it first aired and the only thing I can say to someone that has never seen this show is to give it a chance and you will not be disappointed. It's the prime example of both comedy and a sitcom (and yes, those are two separate categories) with an extremely talented cast and some of the best writing ever to grace the airwaves. Writing, that while absurdist at times (which only made you laugh harder) was comedic gold. The series' writing was also smart and clever; a prime example is how it could be funny in an in your face kind of way and yet at the same time make you laugh with subtly timed jokes. Some of the series jokes took a while to set up but you could be sure the payoff was going to be worth it (Just look at the "Complaint Box" episode; To quote Bill McNeil, "A complaint about the complaint box, delicious.") The series was indeed delicious and the cast made the writing sparkle. Dave Foley's Dave was the prototypical straight man with plenty of laugh out loud moments (like when he overhears his staff vent their frustrations with him from under his desk only to take the heat for being an eavesdropper) and his (secret) relationship with Lisa (Maura Tierney) which provides many of the series memorable moments early on (when they go buy Lisa's first TV, and the dating with a dorky hat from "Smoking", etc). The station's owner Jimmy James (portrayed by Stephen Root) was the best boss on television during the '90s and the most eccentric billionaire in history which only served to make you laugh harder (Look no further than "Super Karate Monkey Death Car" when he reads his autobiography which has been translated back into English from Japanese). The rest of the cast shines on their own merits, Joe (Joe Rogan) the prototypical man's man and a prime example of a dude, Beth, the secretary (played Vicki Lewis) and Matthew Brock (Andy Dick) provided some of the series most absurd moments while not appearing abrasive or tiresome as other zany characters typical do on other sitcoms. It was a shame that Khandi Alexander's Katherine Duke was underused because she was most certainly the series' most underrated character, a beautiful black woman that doled it out with expert levels of sass while simultaneously taking none of it from all those around her. Last, but certainly not least was the late great Phil Hartman's portrayal of bombastic Bill McNeil. The character had so many memorable lines and stories that they would be too many to name here. Some of the best moments included him trying to quit smoking and his subsequent OD on nicotine patches, buying Joe's homemade taser to ward of a stalker, and his constant obsession with well...Bill McNeal. By far though his best moments were inside the radio booth (Seriously take a look at the "Smoking" episode) as well as the "Rocket Fuel Malt Liquor" ads from "Office Feud" and the prerecorded tapes for his show "The Real Deal with Bill McNeal" from the episode "Real Deal" which he continued to magically produce much to the chagrin of Lisa. Classic in every sense of the word. Unfortunately, Hartman's death (which introduced Jon Lovitz's Max) coupled with the spite and lack of support from NBC doomed the series before a proper finale but luckily we will always have the series available for prosperity and many, many memorable laughs.

The Cars That Made America
(2017)

Another History Channel Inaccuracy
This past week History Channel held "Car Week". A week dedicated to history specials and shows about cars. At first I was excited to see an actual history program on the "History Channel" (instead of Pawn Stars, American Pickers, etc-which all deal loosely with history and since you know...the name should actually reflect what is on the network), however I was soon disappointed. (Side note: It's a shame that with all the real history related programming History Channel has in their library they failed to air any of it during an entire week. I could think of at least four or five car related episodes of "Modern marvels" alone. But I digress.) This mini-series, just as pointed out by reviewers, is riddled with inaccuracies and full of nothing but half truths that were written and arranged in a way to satisfy their (mostly liberal) narrative. Case in point, like mostly everyone else, the series goes out of it's way to show how Henry Ford 'invented' the assembly line. Utterly false since it was invented and patented by Ransom Olds (of Oldsmobile fame) in 1901 before Ford had even been removed from his second car company. Speaking of Ransom Olds; why was he only essentially mentioned in passing at a time when he had the largest American car company (if not the world)? Ford did adopt the assembly line and was able to improve it for greater efficiency and success but it is clearly misleading. Speaking of topics only mentioned in passing, how can a series called "The Cars That Made America" not feature more than a blurb about the ultimate American car: The Corvette? For that matter, it is beyond me how a series that features the (partial) biographies of some of the world's greatest car engineers and designers not mention the Corvette's creator (and ultimate concept car designer) Harley Earl even once. It looks like this series was commissioned by people with a serious agenda against some of the greatest American Classics ever (I didn't hear the word Thunderbird once either). Instead we got a devoted story line to the DeLorean, which wasn't even an American car. I know it was necessary to end the DeLorean story line, but that couldn't have been in passing and devote some time to the issues I listed above. All in all, if you are interested in early American car history you'd be better served by reading up on it or finding other programming that might be less flashy but more accurate. The series turned into nothing more than a failed attempt at history (or at least their revisionist version of history) and a prime example of how much the History Channel has changed (for the worse) in the past few years.

Gaslight
(1944)

Ingrid Bergman's Finest Work
I came across "Gaslight" while cruising through TCM's Video on Demand selection the other night. It was a title I had always wanted to see because it checked off two of my movie vices: Film-Noir and Ingrid Bergman (who I consider one of the greatest actress of all- time, if not the best). I sat down and prepared for what I was really hoping was going to be a good cinematic experience. The start of movie takes place a few years before the main story and leads to the introduction of the movie's main plot device (the jewels). I must confess I found the beginning of the movie (to about the Tower of London scene) to be rather boring and somewhat tedious. I persevered through, mainly because after reading other reviews and synopsis it felt like the ending was really going to pay off. Did it ever! Once I powered through the first half of the film or so, the story really picked up and as the story progressed Ingrid shown through more and more. Her performance was by far the most redeeming aspect of the film and through out the movie the story really keeps you guessing as to weather she was really disturbed or her husband (Charles Boyer) was driving her mad. The story in the second half really picks up (aided rather heavily by the detective which is strongly reminiscent of the John Williams detective character from "Dial M for Murder" in that he is a real know it all, when he shouldn't) and delivers with a tense, climactic ending which really nailed home Ingrid's win for Best Actress in the following Academy Awards. I must admit that after watching "Double Indemnity" multiple times I had always had trouble reconciling how Barbara Stanwyck didn't win the Oscar that year, but after seeing this film there is no doubt that Ingrid Bergman truly deserved it. A very, very strong film that highlights Ingrid Bergman's finest work and is a true (but underrated) classic.

Roundhouse
(1992)

Reprise the Themesong and Roll the Credits...at the Roundhouse
Nickelodeon's first foray into the variety series genre was "Roundhouse". Each episode of the series tackled a subject familiar to most kids and teens with originality and imagination. The multi- talented cast was stellar, ranging from their signing abilities (Shawn Daywalt and Crystal Lewis)to their hip-hop, dancing in the streets style of dance (Seymour Willis Green, Alfred Carr, Dominic Lucero, Micki Duran, Julene Renee, and lead choreographer Ivan Dudynsky), and the comedic talents (Jon Crane, Mark David, and David Sidoni) of the cast were superb. All the topics (some which would be considered taboo in the modern PC culture) were done in good taste topped with enough immaturity to make it appealing to younger kids. The series signature wit, timing, and elaborate use of the scarce sets and props (most of which was cardboard boxes made to look TVs, etc) showed why one point Nickelodeon was a cable leader. Sure the series looks dated complete with the grunge elements of the early 90's but the series doesn't loose its charm when you remove your nostalgia goggles. Roundhouse was truly one of the greatest shows on TV in the 1990's.

The Peanuts Movie
(2015)

An excellent movie for everyone
Released in time to celebrate the 65th anniversary of The Peanuts comic strip and the 50th anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Peanuts Movie is the first attempt at a Peanuts animated feature since the passing of Charles Schultz. The movie relives in bright and colorful detail the best Peanuts gags. Although it lacks a certain charm that hand drawn animation possess the CGI animators did an excellent job highlighting the characters looks and (in Snoopy's case) texture to the point where Snoopy's fur looked dare I say, realistic. The Peanuts Movie contains many memorable moments from laugh out loud funny to profoundly sweet and touching moments reminiscent of many of Schultz's TV specials. The moral of the story is also well done, teaching children that being honest and having integrity are more important than being cool and fitting in, though I would have liked to have seen a true meaning of Christmas speech (like Linus' speech in A Charlie Brown Christmas) included. Overall a wonderful movie that anyone of any age can truly enjoy and that I highly recommend. It is definitely my choice for movie of the year.

Drive
(2011)

One of the worst movies I'v ever seen
I honestly do not see why this movie has received so much hype. It was quite possibly one of the worst movie experiences I've ever had and I regret spending the money I did on renting it. The movie was long, tiresome, and dull. The cast was mediocre at best and the story was truly pointless. The only small exception were the few scenes in which there was actual driving involved (forgive me for thinking a movie titled "Drive" would actually have some driving in it). You see most of this movie is just Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan looking at one another without saying a word. I know women like Mr. Gosling, which leads me to believe they thought it would be a good idea if he just sat there looking 'cute.' The most entertaining thing you could do if your are going to watch this movie is to watch it with a stop watch. That way you can see how much time the characters spend not talking while they are on screen. Instead they just stare (rather longingly I might add) at one another in complete silence. The movie was cheesy, cheeky, and needlessly gory complete with a scene of excessive nudity that served no purpose. The soundtrack was straight out of the 1980's, or rather a 1980's soundtrack that couldn't afford the rights to popular music and thus had to create their own non-copyrighted music. Overall, this was a poor excuse of an 'action' movie that turned out to be an unwatchable love story. To sum it all up, it's a movie with no redeeming value whatsoever and easily one of the top 20 worst movies of all time.

Caught
(1949)

Skip it....
As a fan of film noir I was excited to find another movie to watch. Little did I know what I was in store for. The lead character was a prime example of a gold digger. I know that looking at a movie through the lens of the present day will distort the original work however I find it hard to believe that a normal woman in the 1940's could be that obsessed with 'bagging a rich one'. The main character spends the entire film whining about wanting to be rich all the while hating herself for being a gold digger (You can't have your cake and eat it too). I know they wanted to make her seem naive but it completely backfired. She is just a horrible woman and has no redeeming value whatsoever as a character. The performances seem dry and forced; absolutely no chemistry between Leonore and the doctor. There is even less chemistry between her and Smith. I find it hard to believe she could have ever fooled herself into loving him (as she claims in the film). Smith is also the prime example of a terrible man and is quite possible a worse human than her. Marrying her just to spite his doctor and then ruling her life at every turn. He is however more believable at being a cad then she is as a gold digger. In a movie full of garbage the most insulting thing to contemplate is that a 'happy ending' (complete with an uplifting score) is the woman's child being still born. After pleading with her husband not to take her baby away from him she is relieved to have the baby die so she can be free to marry the doctor she loves, a doctor (pediatrician) which is just as happy to have the baby and husband out of the picture so he can finally have his one true love. Mindless dribble at its finest. All in all the film is an early example of tawdry soap opera complete with terrible acting and a crummy plot.

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