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Entertaining western led by its lead performances
'Barquero', released in 1970, is an original, highly entertaining western that manages to find new elements of an, by then, over-used genre. The naval aspect of the story seems unique, but the actual core is basically a re-write of all the classic spaghetti westerns. In fact, it seem that this is the most Spaghetti-like American western of its time. But the rip-off isn't too dramatic, it works quite fine. Special notice should go to the oil-painting opening credits - interesting, good choice.

The film's well-cast, led by Lee Van Cleef and Warren Oates as the opposing characters. Van Cleef is always watchable although he seems a little uneasy at playing a character that is neither the classic bad guy he was so good at nor a typical good hero. In the hands of another actor, it may have looked bland, but not with Van Cleef.

The film is daring enough to grant equal screen time to its main villain, played by Warren Oates who gets one of his very first cinematic leading roles here. Oates is the multi-layered Jake Remy, colourful bad guy and arguably better-characterized by the script than the ferryman Van Cleef. Oates delights in his role, in what seems like planned hamminess (good thing, because the role calls for it) coupled with authentic danger and ferocity.

Mariette Hartley is beautiful but unnecessary. The climax hurts the film. There's a good chance at the end to choose from two original endings (both dying, or both getting away) but the screenplay takes the cliché way and lets Van Cleef shoot Oates in a spiritless, thankless two-second duel. Pity.

To sum it up: very entertaining, good western with a great villain performance by Oates and a good-enough lead by Van Cleef.

Joseph Andrews

Entertaining costume drama with great actors
History has forgotten this film, it's never talked about, almost never shown. Why? It's certainly not a quality problem. Richardson was of course trying desperately to get back to the level of success Tom Jones had a decade before. The fact that he's trying to copy himself gets the film some minus points.

The story is simple, a little too dependent on coincidences and unrealistic twists. The costumes are great, as are the wonderful settings. You certainly feel like you really are there in the 17th Century.

Firth and Ogle as the young loving couple are attractive but bland. They fail to live up to the comedic demands of Fielding's story. The rest of the cast does a very good job on the other hand. Special mention should go to Michael Hordern and Beryl Reid, two of Britain's finest actors.

Nevertheless the best acting in the film comes not from one of the British theater and character actors but instead from the only American in the cast: Ann-Margret. She was rightfully nominated for a Golden Globe but would have deserved an Oscar non too. It's a brilliant satiric performance full of subtlety and vulgarity at the same time, comic timing that's never off, she dominates the film. Considering the talent that is working alongside her, that's quite a feat. Her accent is perfect too, something that rarely happens and could so easily destroy such a film. In the worst possible scenario she could have been an anachronistic sex kitten from the 60s stuck in a costume drama: Those fears never come true, she's great. The thick make-up (that fits the role perfectly) prevents us from seeing hernatural beauty but she's still quite a sight. Why American producersdidn't see the film and immediately give her a comic lead role in anHollywood A film, seems like a brutal shame.

Overall, a fun little history story of love, romance and adventure.

Viva Las Vegas

The King and his Queen
'Viva Las Vegas' is not a good film. It is however a great musical, and a very entertaining film. This entertainment value should be the only reason to see this. Granted, there is no other reason to watch any Elvis movie, with the possible exception of 'King Creole'. Alongside the magnificent and early-fire film 'Jailhouse Rock' you won't find a more entertaining film starring the King.

Clearly, that has nothing to do with the screenplay, by Sally Benson, which best line would have to be Ann-Margret's entrance 'My car whistles' and Elvis' reply 'Can't blame it'. If that is the 'wittiest' line of your movie, you've got a problem. There's no originality, no wit, no character development (or even creation, to start with), no story.

THE SONGS: One of the most consistent soundtracks for ELvis films, mostly hits, next to none misses. Highlight is the title song which hasn't lost one ounce of its excitement in the last 40 years. The duet 'The Lady Loves Me' with Ann-Margret isn't far behind. Elvis didn't duet often, and this is his best one. Actually the lyrics of the song seem far more clever and funny than the whole screenplay. Ann-Margret's a good singer, underrated certainly, and her solo numbers 'Appreciation' suffers from bad composing, not from bad singing. Elvis is on high form on the rocker 'C'mom everybody'.

THE DANCING: The University of Nevada bit is the centerpiece here as far as dancing goes and it's a joy to watch. Good choreography and Elvis is seen with the excitement and pleasure he had in the fifties, and seemingly lost. Ann-Margret arguably out-dances and up-stages him here, which shouldn't be seen as disrespectful to him but merely as a compliment to her.

THE ACTING: Without fleshed out characters written, you can't have them acted. Elvis was not a bad actor, and even if he did appear unnatural and stiff in other films, he seems quite energetic and talented here. Ann-Margret's a better actress, natural and talented.

THE DIRECTION: Sidney knows how to film musicals, he was one of the best of the genre, so no complaints here at all. I like the race at the end which may even be called 'exciting' at times.

THE CO-STAR: Without any doubt this is the reason for the film's success, both in entertainment and financially. Ann-Margret in her fourth movie is, quite simply put, great. She can sing, dance, act, and I guess there's no explanation needed on how she looks. In her prime, and she's in it here, she was Hollywood's most attractive actress - face and body-wise, but with enough talent to move way beyond starlet-status. Her costumes are great (take special notice of her black-tights-red-sweater wear in the Nevada university number). There's a typical amount of bad 60s makeup (in the otherwise great 'What'd I say' routine) and hairdo, but that's not too much of a problem.

THE CHEMISTRY: Another point that sets Viva Las Vegas apart from, for example, Speedway with Nancy Sinatra, is the on-screen chemistry between Elvis and Ann-M. Love affair or not, these are simply two attractive people liking each other and making the romance in the film really believable. They both seem like they had one hell of a good time.

THE STORY: What story? Race car driver wants to win both the race and the girl. He succeeds in both. Wow.

TO SUM IT UP: Of all Elvis movies of the 1960s this is the best. The soundtrack is unbeatable, the King himself never again seemed to have so much fun, and in Ann-Margret there's not only his most attractive but also best co-star.

Out of the Rain

Quite a pleasant surprise: atmospheric, well-acted thriller
This 1991 film seems to have been completely forgotten, and I've never even heard it mentioned when people talk about Fonda's filmography. The fact that it's so unknown shouldn't be understood as lack of quality.

Director Winick presents a vivid, moody, more-dimensional portrait of a lifeless city, with fleshed-out characters played by very talented actors. The film is quiet, and takes a long time before slowly opening up the mystery behind it all. Naturally the story itself isn't new or original (man finds brother dead, returns to hometown, doesn't believe in suicide). While the actual resolution of this story isn't a masterstroke, the characterization of the sadistic police officer seemed original and compelling in comparison.

O'Keefe is more than capable to carry a picture as a lead. Fonda is an even better actress: I could advice you to watch, for example, Cameron Crowe's SINGLES from around this time, and compare the two performances. She's really versatile. Not to mention the fact that Fonda at 27 (and beyond) must have been one of the most beautiful Hollywood actresses of the last twenty years. Imagine that: a famous name, heart-breaker looks and talent.

If it's on: watch it. An interesting nicely filmed thriller with a lot of atmosphere, melancholia and good acting.

Seinfeld: Good News, Bad News
Episode 1, Season 1

A very good first episode
Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld's script for this Seinfeld pilot episode is good, often very funny, although not quite up to what the world would see in future episodes like "The Pen", "The Bubble Boy" or "The Outing". What it lacks though is an interesting plot: the storyline of Laura, the woman from Michigan, is actually quite uninteresting and the actress playing her is not a big deal either. The other female character, the waitress, is funny on the other hand and her conversations with Jerry and George are good. Still, we needed Elaine to really set things going.

The characters themselves are already established. George is a bit more confident and self-assured than later, but you definitely can see the future George Costanza in him. Kramer, or Kessler, is already funny and Michael Richards's great. It is indeed quite unusual to see him knock on the door before entering, have a dog that miraculously disappeared and have a normal hairstyle. Of course Jerry never really changed at all.

What really carries this, and the early episodes is the dialog. Quite frankly, Seinfeld is the show in television history with the best and funniest dialog. David and Seinfeld are writing on an high level right from the beginning. Prominently featured is Seinfeld's stand-up routine. The opening speech is quite unfunny but he gets much better later on. He really has the time for longer stories in the early episodes, and not just a quick joke like it would be in the future.

It's Seinfeld, it's great, Watch it!

It Could Happen to You

This is how a modern romantic comedy should look like
If you judge "It Could Happen to you" by its amount of realistic situations and characters, you'll probably give it a 4 out of 10. But, who cares about realism here? It's like a modern fairy tale, Frank Capra transported into the 90s. There's a wonderful storyline (Cop gives waitress a 2 million dollar tip), which apparently is even based on real-life events. Nicolas Cage plays the most honest cop imaginable, and he proves he can play a romantic lead role just as well as a dramatic action/thriller one. His character is not exactly 100 percent realistic, but that's not a problem, this is Hollywood for heaven's sake.

Even better than Cage is his female leading lady: the fascinating Bridget Fonda. Fonda is a wonderful actress who can play both a cute character like her waitress Yvonne here and more challenging roles like the LadyMacBeth-similar one in "A Simple Plan". Unfortunately she never had the career of a Julia Roberts but she is in fact more talented and better looking. Throughout the whole movie she gives a good performance and looks gorgeous. If I had the choice of giving a waitress the lottery money or not and the woman looked like Fonda I might even give it to her. Of course there aren't so many waitresses out there that look (and behave) as charming as her and chances are low I'll ever win two millions in the lottery.

Also notable is the wonderful chemistry between Cage and Fonda. As for the supporting roles special mention has to go to Perez. Although you wonder why Cage married her in the first place, she gives a humorous and entertaining performance. Of course there's kitsch but that's not necessarily bad. Good kitsch can be wonderful and this film, that has an absolutely great happy ending, serves as a perfect example of how a romantic comedy should be filmed. It's better than "Pretty Woman".

A Simple Plan

Money Money Money
I rarely find modern movies so fascinating like this one, that certainly remains Raimi's best movie. The Minnesota atmosphere, quite like Fargo, is melancholic and sad but nevertheless endlessly watchable. In its depiction of the win of money and greed over friendship and law is flawlessly filmed. The screenplay by the novel's author Smith is wonderful, with great characterizations and fine dialog scenes. Every character is in fact interesting, the three men who find the money and Hanks's wife most of course.

The acting might have been the movie's high point. Billy Bob Thornton has many great scenes and he certainly should have gotten an Oscar for his performance. Bill Paxton is not any less great. Watch his face when he has to use violence for the first time: he's great. And Bridget Fonda, an actress by the way I always thought of being just as talented as all other Fondas, should not be forgotten either. Her performance of a woman with a pure and attractive appearance who shows her real self when the chance for the big money arrives, is equally effective.

The film is depressing but in showing the development of people who only see greed and money is almost as good as Peckinpah's Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia. Watch the film, it's one of the best thinking men's thrillers of the last years.

Cheers: Simon Says
Episode 21, Season 5

One of the greatest Cheers episodes of all time
John Cleese from Monty Python plays Dr. Simon Finch-Royce in this episode and his acting performance plus Peter Casey and David Lee's wonderful script make this one delight to watch, even almost twenty years after the original broadcast and after repeated viewings. Finch-Royce is a marriage consultant and as Sam and Diane plan to marry they want to hear his opinion first. The results differ from what they expected....

Both Ted Danson and Shelley Long are quite simply brilliant in this episode and the script is one of the best in the whole show. In the final scenes Finch-Royce gets very angry about Sam and Diane because they keep disturbing him at his hotel room and don't allow him either peaceful dinner or sleep. Because John Cleese is such a fine actor, the results are endlessly funny. "Sam and Diane are officially the most perfect couple that ever existed on this planet". He was rightfully awarded a best guest star Emmy for his performance and it remains of the best guest performances I've seen in an American sitcom.

Isn't it a pity all those great shows like Cheers or Seinfeld are not on the air any more? Anyway, this is one episode of Cheers you really should see, even if you're not a fan of the show, or simply to see the brilliant John Cleese.

Mr. Klein

A very good film with a serious topic and a stunning Alain Delon
The French don't like talking about what happened in France in the Second World War when they are blamed of collaborating with the Nazis. This particular movie does not try to make history seem nicer than it was. Hats off to the producers, one of them Alain Delon himself, for bringing this serious topic to the screen.

Apart from the historical background this is also a very suspenseful, well-written thriller with barely any lost minutes or boring scenes. There's no need to go through the content exactly again now, but it sure is an unusual and interesting one. The fight for your own identity. Mr Klein, an antiques seller who profits from sales of Jews who are in danger and want of money, finds out there's someone in Paris who's also called Robert Klein. As this Mr Klein is, as he suspects, a Jew he tries everything to find the one who steals his "safe identity".

The director, Joseph Losey, presents us a very atmospheric picture of Paris 1942. The actors are all good, but the star is of course Alain Delon. Delon gives what is probably among his greatest character roles ever and he completely disappears into the demanding role. The screenplay is consistently fine and never has any missteps, including a dramatic and very touching final. A French film gem from the Seventies, watch it now!

The Cincinnati Kid

A poker classic with suspense, realistic characters and a stunning cast
Steve McQueen, who was deservedly called Mister Cool, plays the young upcoming poker player, already said to be among the best in the business. But there is one he hasn't played against, The Man, Lancey Howard, played by the great Edward G. Robinson. With the help of his friend Shooter they set up the big fight. While having a high suspense factor in the poker scenes, the non-poker ones might get a bit boring at times, especially in the love story between the Kid and his girlfriend Christian. But when it comes to playing this gets almost perfect. McQueen has the ideal poker face, and so has Robinson, and they both play their parts realistically and brilliantly. McQueen was said not to be a real actor, just a poser, they said he didn't act he only looked, but he proves it wrong here. His facial expressions are perfect, and he plays the young hotshot player convincingly.

Needless to say the cast is the really stunning cast. Next to the afro-mentioned McQueen and Robinson, there's the always reliable Karl Malden, as Shooter. Malden has the most developed character in the picture, and he does a great job. And the women, oh my god, two stunning young ladies are here in all their glory. Ann-Margret plays the cheater, the femme fatal, the sexy beast, who's married to Shooter but wants the Kid. Surely one of the most attractive actresses of her time, actually all time, Ann is presented here in all her glory and beauty and sex appeal. Her seduction of McQueen early in the film, is incredibly sexy, and played brilliantly. They say Ann learned to act during Carnal Knowledge in '71. but that's not true, she already was a versatile and talented actress here. Watch her face during the cockfight scenes, or her cheating while doing a jigsaw puzzle, she acts naturally, and does a great job. And those tight dresses she wears with lots of cleavage are eye candy in its best form. One of the sexiest performances ever. Definitely shows you can be looking divine, and having acting talent at the same time.

Tuesday Weld plays the good girl, the girl from the country, Christian, and while not as pretty as Ann, she's quite a looker too, and she's also a talented and natural actress. The supporting cast is rounded out by Joane Blondell, Rip Torn, Cab Calloway and Jack Weston, all great actors who all do a fine job. Music score by Lalo Schifrin is good too, and so is the title track sung by legendary Ray Charles.

As for the often-mentioned, often-criticized last hand, it's Hollywood, only Hollywood, not a poker documentary. The film needs a strong climax, and gets it. Norman Jewison is a fine director, and especially the poker scenes and head-shots are well directed. Not much action, not much character development but it's not much of a problem. If only Peckinpah had directed, now that could have been something, Jewison is a great substitute, but I like the thought Peckinpah could have even improved it.

The Train Robbers

The old Western was dead in 1973
The 'classic' western, or better: the 'John Wayne Western' was, by 1973, dead. Sergio Leone had made some great things in the sixties, and Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch and maybe even Butch Cassidy were great inventions. All that made a return to the classic storytelling you'd expect from a Wayne western totally unnecessary.

Kennedy tries to be old-fashioned. The problem - if you want old western you watch old westerns, and after you've seen 'Once upon a time in the west' and the 'The Wild Bunch', THE TRAIN ROBBERS is quite uninteresting. Wayne does a fine acting job, and so does the rest of his supporters, but what's it all worth when the story lacks thrill? The cinematography is awesome, I dig the bombastic score and there's a great little twist at the end, plus a funny line or two. That's it. Most of the time they're riding. Long boring ever-recurring riding. Beautiful. But still boring.

Then of course there is Ann-Margret, who is one of the most beautiful women in movie history, but is not really presented in the way she deserves. Somehow she appears, thanks to bad hairdo and bad makeup, less attractive than in some other things she did around this time (the French-American thriller The Outside Man for example). It was a bad career move I'd say - after Carnal Knowledge she had everything an actress in Hollywood needs - beauty, talent and success, and what did she do? - A supporting role in an average John Wayne- western. I'd like to know why.

To sum it up - good music, good cinematography and fine acting. Ann-Margret's nevertheless a plus to the film. It's a simple plot, no thrill, no innovation. It's not terrible though, mind you. It's just a neat little western entertainment, nothing more.

6 1/2 out of 10

Made in Paris

The quintessential American beauty in an average film
'Made in Paris' was just another flop (film-critical wise) in Ann-Margret's film career, which had started off extremely successful with 'Bye Bye Birdie' and Elvis' most entertaining movie 'Viva Las Vegas' and then kind of took a wrong turn with 'Kitten with a Whip', which she, or better her managers, took instead of 'Cat Ballou'. It was a good movie but a critical disaster. One could say the only really good movie of her early career was 'The Cincinnati Kid', although her presence makes everyone of her films quite a pleasure to watch, even 'The Swinger'.

Yes, this 'romantic comedy' here is not bad. Unfortunately I would have to lie to say it was good. You'll not be harmed by watching it but don't expect The Godfather, though. Despite being a "comedy" the film is not very funny, except maybe for Richard Crenna, who gives the best acting performance here and has the best lines (relatively speaking, this is not Woody Allen quality). Jourdan does his usual French sophisticated charm routine and he and the other supporting players are all quite good.

Of course the simple romantic story was nothing spectacular. The highlight is, as you probably expected, the No. 1 sex kitten of the Sixties, a woman I can easily call the quintessential American beauty and sex symbol of her time and perhaps even all: Ann's sexy dance numbers are energetic, she's a fine dancer and the outfits are well-chosen, showing just enough of cleavage and legs. And that's about it. No surprise: She looks absolutely stunning here and if you happen to be unmoved by her looks, you should NEVER watch it. If you're an Ann-Margret fan, you should definitely give this one a try. Her acting is quite fine (although there's not enough character in the screenplay that could allow a great performance), and her unbelievable charisma and screen presence make this a very watchable movie in the end. Watch it for her and nothing else.

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