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Larger, But Shorter, than "Hawaii"
When this came out in the theatres, I heard the reviews. So once again, I waited until it was on HBO before watching (even though it had Hugh Jackman). I was prepared to be irritated by a lengthy, bloated tale of Michener proportions. And naming the Australian ranch "Faraway" - so sadly reminiscent of that unfortunately lengthy "Far and Away" didn't help.

But I have to admit, Nicole put her all into it. She was going to make me believe in her character if it killed us both. Her landing in Australia and the drive to the station was predictable (so similar to "Mogambo", "King Solomon's Mines")... but from her arrival at Faraway station, the movie held my attention.

I'm not a big fan of movies where the protagonist miraculously has the wisdom and insight of today, while the rest of the cast staggers around with the ignorance/racism of the times. People don't do stupid things thinking they're stupid, wrong or racist; they do them with a firm conviction that they're doing exactly the right thing at the time. But the movie did attempt to depict the local attitude towards mission schooling of Indigenous Australians with some sensitivity - and less of the usual heavy hand.

And Hugh Jackman, never painful to look at, certainly threw himself into his character (and out of his shirt with satisfying regularity). Not a heel, just the usual highly attractive, can't commit chap - I challenge you to find a woman who isn't drawn to this type like white on rice.

It's always good to see Bryan Adams (does he make movies where he's not holding a bottle?) and Brandon Walters is quite a find. David Wenham makes a fine villain, especially since he doesn't get to be anything but a villain (no nuances required).

I thought the bombing of Darwin was dramatic enough without the landed Japanese raid (I'm not sure such an event actually occurred) - but certainly it pushed events to an exciting climax. Everyone got their just desserts. Life doesn't get much better.

I was pleasantly surprised. Not blown away, but pleasantly surprised.


No Show
I thought I had seen Showgirls before, and it hadn't seemed so bad. I would have given it a 5/10. Not even worth reviewing, really. Apparently that's because I saw it on edited broadcast television before, with all the Show edited out, leaving just the Girls. Now that I've seen it on HBO, I have to confirm it's simply dreadful.

First of all, it's tough to find a casino show (or shows, since for some reason this casino had a good 1+1/2 hours worth of dancing) quite that bad. Most shows after 11PM are topless (even the curtain pullers at the sea lion show). But I am hard pressed to think of a single show where the primary concern is whether the girls' nipples are erect. Yes, backstage is just a fountain of nudity, but up front? Gee whiz, can't say that the shows in Vegas are quite so detail oriented.

And I would be mighty peeved if I were in a casino and I had to pay $60, plus the pre-requisite $20 tip, to get into such an amazingly tawdry, OK, that's just a nice way to say "bad with tits" show. Even if we got comp'd, I'd be peeved.

I do have to give praise for coming up with the most amazing reason for massive amounts of breast exposure in a movie. There could have been more, but I don't know how.

Secondly, that television editing managed to pull out lots of lame scenes, like sex in the pool (wow, that Elizabeth is a workhorse, but I worry about her back) and even more lame lines (such as every single one prefaced with "dahrlin' and "I just had to have (a Ferrari)"). Shakespeare can rest easy.

Thirdly, the lesbian angle, sex, Kyle's hair, and violence never went anywhere. We had one lesbian kiss at the end (so?), the completely unconvincing sex in the pool (again, Elizabeth must have a standing appointment with a chiropractor) and one rape scene (which, if you have to have violence, is really the worst sort, but was completely unconvincing). We could have used a bit more of one of these - any of the above.

Amusing ramp up movie for the bachelor party and good for critiquing how movies designed to be deliberately commercial can go wrong - I really see no other redeeming feature.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Kill HIm Already
I'm all for an oater. Huge fan of John Wayne, John Ford, Gary Cooper. And I'm all for a movie on Jesse James. I've got family from Missouri and relatives inappropriately named for him during the reconstruction.

But movie gods, how long are we expected to watch one mentally unstable man wander around tormenting half wits? Here's how I think it's supposed to work: the movie is shorter than the book, and, when it comes to biographies and histories, the book is shorter than the actual event itself. And, since it's live action (this is the most important thing), we're supposed to be entertained. Compared to this, Lawrence of Arabia was a stroll, and Dr. Zhivago a short story. This movie was endless and DULLER than third-generation nylon stockings.

All credit to Brad Pitt for successfully making this character thoroughly unlikable, since we know from Devil's Own he can make the bad guys look somewhat charming with a bad accent. And James' character here is the closest to reality - best since The Long Riders (and that was the best until now, far better than some of the laughable depictions seen in The Outlaw and the like).

But with Jesse as one endlessly scary dude, I spent most of the movie waiting for the promised old west justice and wishing I had brought my own six shooter so I could put an end to my misery.

No nice daffodils or tulips, no sand dunes - nothing to distract me while I'm waiting. And waiting. And waiting. Oh, and since there was nothing to wax lyrical about, I admired everyone's full mouth of beautiful clean teeth (there's historical accuracy for you).

Since we all know what happened to Jesse, the only surprise is why I sat through the whole damn film.


End of Day for This Twilight
OK, read the book first. Clearly, mistake number one. Loved it. Looked forward to this movie for months (mistake number two). I loved the posters and the previews (mistake number three - those were the best part of the movie experience).

I'm not clear how you can take subject matter that two-thirds of the teenage English-speaking world, and a good portion of the rest, found riveting, and turn it into dreck, but it happened. I was actually so bored during the "let's run up the tree and share confidences (so confidential we need not involve the audience... we'll just have burgeoning music)" I nearly walked out. I didn't because I had built this thing up for my husband for months, and I refused to admit I didn't like it.

The make-up was dreadful. I expected something like Johnny Depp in Willy Wonka - I got John Waters. The dialog seemed non-existent, and inadequate at best. I liked the actors, but I'm sure I'm showing my age, when I say that I just didn't get why Edward had to have more hair in that odd cut than Wolverine. My husband hadn't read the books, and he didn't feel like there were gaps in the story (actually, he didn't feel there was much of a story) so maybe reading the book didn't make a huge difference...but that's the only reason why I stayed through the whole movie.

I think I'll hang on to my money when the next one comes out. If it's like this one, the original author, and my imagination, will be a lot better than the screen version.

The Prisoner of Second Avenue

Pertinent Prisoner
I've always thought of Neil Simon as being the one playwright consistently able to capture the genuine flavor of New York as a backdrop to the realistic personalities of his characters. Not being a New Yorker - Silicon Valley is about as far away as you can get - I'm afraid I have not been drawn to movies of his plays as strongly as to other comedies.

But Prisoner of Second Avenue is an exception. Maybe it's because I am indeed in Silicon Valley, where layoffs are something we all get to experience. But this movie captured so aptly the craziness of being laid off, staying home all day - seeing only the one you love (but starting to hate him/her too as an extension of your own self-hatred). Making petty grievances huge, and trying to pretend the truly huge issues no longer exist. And worrying about the bills, and the clothes, and how silly the family behaves when money gets involved. And how the bad luck seems to snowball. And how "therapy" sessions seem so futile.

The acting is superb - but I don't know of a movie where Jack Lemmon and Anne Bancroft have ever given us any less. Bancroft, in particular, when she makes the transition to anger, is perfect. Thankfully we're not handed any sop at the end either.

The subject is so realistic that I don't find it funny at all - but that's a failing of the times we live in, not the movie. A great flick.

Napoleon Dynamite

Just Like Algebra
I remember telling the math teacher that I just didn't "get" Advanced Algebra (which explains my issues with the finance department in each faceless corporation for which I've worked to this day) - and like Advanced Algebra, I just didn't get this movie.

I sat through it, in its entirety. After hearing that it was hysterically funny, I sat there waiting for at least one mildly humorous moment. Even "Catwoman," even "Howard the Duck" had a moment or two. I gave it a shot. And I'll never get that time back again.

I vividly remember high school. But high school didn't last as long as this movie. Pointless, endless, dragging, make it stop. There really does come a time when you're not the target.

Eight Below

Fetching Movie
I avoided watching this movie when it hit the premium channels, even though I find Paul Walker to be a competent actor, because I just didn't want to see another family/"call of the wild" movie. Not that those are bad, but you do have to be in the right frame of mind.

And I'm familiar with the story on which it's based - in 1958, the Japanese scientific expedition to the south pole had to leave all 15 of their dogs behind due to weather issues. All but two died, many of them in their chains. (Apparently the two survivors lived off a penguin diet.)

Stuck at home with a migraine and ready for something numbing, with a choice of this or Dr. Phil (people who lack common sense, or the lovely visuals of British Columbia?), I chose Alaskan malamutes & Siberian huskies. And a great choice it was.

Beautiful cinematography. Reasonable acting. Since I thought most of the dogs were doomed, I was ready for the worst (trust Disney to give the dogs cleaner coats, more food, and a palatable ending). I was so charmed by the movie that when it was over I immediately searched the web for Siberian Husky characteristics and puppy prices, but it turns out they don't cohabit well with other animals (like, say, obnoxious Siamese cats. Damn).

Nice family flick with beautiful scenery. There's a lot worse out there.

Bridge to Terabithia

Beautiful and Charming - No Magic Necessary
I've never read the book, and I'm home sick, so I thought I would finally just watch this imitation Narnia story now that it's on the premium channel - after all, I thought if it's too predictable or stupid, I could just sleep.

Well, the marketing for this movie was just silly, because the story was about as far afield from two kids in a mystical land (which was the marketing theme) as you could get. Instead, it's about two sensitive children who, like most of us at one time or another, are trying to find a place to fit in. In the course of finding each other, they create a very special place that can exist in the heart for as long as it is wanted.

There are many differences between the two children - Jess, the local boy, is a farmer's child. His stern father doesn't understand the artistic boy who can't do his chores well and doesn't acknowledge the hard life they lead - and so he points out Jess's flaws as often as fatherly hugs are given to Jess's youngest sister Maybelle. Leslie moves schools a lot, dresses differently, is small, has a vivid imagination, and does well at school. Neither are high in the school pecking order. But Leslie manages to wedge her way into Jess's closely-guarded affections and he suddenly realizes he has a friend.

The heartache in this story was dealt with in an authentic (and gut-wrenching) way, cutting a swathe of pain across what had been a story about growing and learning. (I already had Leslie and Jess fighting about staying best friends versus becoming boy/girl friend and finally going to the senior prom together.) And it leaves a message of hope with Jess and Maybelle, with comfort from Jess's dad, and new alliances at school.

I don't believe that the best stories have sorrow in them, but I do believe the best stories have moments that recall memories of our own. I can see why the book was so popular; the movie has something that touches everyone. I didn't need to see Terabithia - the story of Leslie and Jess was so beautiful.


Haircut 10, Movie 2
I was loving Keira's haircut in the trailers, loving the name, and quite happy to see this hit the premium channels. After seeing the movie, I can state with some comfort that the haircut and the name are easily the best things about the movie. Sitting through it is the worst.

For a while, I enjoyed hearing Keira curse - it is pretty damn funny hearing those curses come out the same nice clipped tones that have quoted Jane Austin so well and I'm sure hearing Domino Harvey curse had the same initial effect - but that wore off after the first 20 minutes. I gather the movie has some sort of plot; in fact, afterreading through the reviews, it seemed to have had several plots. None of them are even remotely intelligible; it's all muttered, like most of Mickey Rourke's lines.

The entire movie is shot in that irritating MTV style, which works great for a three-minute video but is a bit wearing to watch. I'm guessing that irritating camera work was worth it, because it seemed to fool some viewers into thinking the movie was a great way to pass the time. I used to sit at stare at MTV, too. Now I spend time sitting in meetings staring at people who like to hear themselves talk. I could spend the same amount of time watching the grass grow, and it would be time better spent.

Injecting the Beverly Hills 90210 cast members into the story is the type of thing that you find fall-off-the-chair funny when you're really, really drunk. Especially when you're writing a script that already improbably wends its way around two-thirds of Hollywood with a number of talented actors and no rational explanation. Since I don't see many movies falling down drunk (probably explains why I haven't liked many movies since college), I found that part of the Domino to be 9021-lame. Domino punching Donna's boyfriend was kind of fun, but not that fun.

And the endlessly blaring guitar was, I'm guessing, supposed to keep my emotions at a fever pitch but just reminded me I've got to set up a meeting about the web site at the office.

You'd think, with a true story on which to base it, there could have been a better story. Then we could omit the MTV video affair/soundtrack to cover up that lack of a story, and focus on the ACTING, which I can't even talk about, because it was just dreadful (yelling all your lines does not make you an actor. The Pets.com dog didn't last at his second job, did he?). I know everyone in the cast can and has done better.

Clearly, I'm not the right audience for this movie. I was hoping for real acting, an actual story, a good soundtrack, and a decent movie.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Talledega Slump
I have to disclose that I watched this on an airplane, and there may have been some absolutely gut-busting hilarity in the film that I missed because the sound was bad. I'm hoping there was, because otherwise the the best part of this movie was the outtakes.

I found Will Ferrell to be funny playing a supporting character in Old School. Although Elf seemed like the same joke over and over, I admired Ferrell's willingness to search so hard for new ways to act like an idiot. Anchorman Ron Burgundy had its brief moments - and Christina Applegate is very competent - but it went a bit downhill after the fight scene. Perhaps Will Ferrell reached his pinnacle with Bewitched, where he was joined by not one, but many extremely competent actors - I don't think Bewitched was that great, but compared to Ferrell's previous offerings, it was Shakespeare.

Talledega Nights put a similar character to Ron Burgundy behind the wheel of a race car in what should have been an enjoyable parody of Nascar. Since Nascar is a cultural event that offers so much to work with, I had high hopes for entertainment. The rise and fall of Nascar collectible plate prices alone could have kept the movie going for half an hour, and the name of Ferrell's character showed an awareness of the potential.

This film, though, seemed to follow the same pattern of your more recent Will Ferrell movies. In fact, they're so predictable I may start writing scripts for him in my spare time using the following formula: man has supercilious personality plus everything; man loses everything (here's where Will usually runs around in his BVDs) and is in depths of despair; at last, man is inspired, no longer supercilious, and rises to the occasion while learning a heart-warming yet gut-busting lesson.

For some reason, Nascar didn't offer enough to parody, and we had to add a homosexual relationship to the mix. If the attempt to parody Nascar wasn't offensive to true Nascar fans, I'm sure the French race driver kissing his male lover put the nail in the coffin. I'm disappointed the film stooped to this level of humor when there is so much available in the Bible Belt.

To haul out a quick soapbox, I am compelled to point out that the state of contemporary comedic film is beyond sorry. We've got literally thousands of stand-up comics throughout the country with immense skills. We have classic films as guidelines, ranging from gross-out to urbane, that are hysterically funny. And then Hollywood churns out a film like this one. This is the best we have to offer? When you think that these films are exported to the international market, it's no wonder other countries find us loud and annoying.

The outtakes indicated there was a lot of ad-libbing on the set, and I can only hope that the best lines were lost because the ones in the film were either tired, about three lines too long (oh, it's a joke. I get it), or just lame.

I'm sure that means there will be a sequel. Perhaps it, like this, will pass the time on an airplane. There wasn't much else to recommend Talledega Nights.

The Dukes of Hazzard

Who Stepped In That?
For once, I thank the film gods above that my husband is so picky about what he's willing to go see in a movie theatre. I sort of vaguely wanted to see this, what with all the buzz about Jessica Simpson and a movie evoking that simple small town life and roots of Nascar. But he wasn't willing to pay money to see this, so I had to wait for Starz.

And I could have happily waited in ignorance thinking "gee, it couldn't be THAT bad" because I found out, after seeing it on Starz, that yes, indeed it could. It was beyond bad. It was wretched. This thing stank worse than fresh dairy cow manure on a hot tar freeway. It was worse than 2004's Catwoman, which I think we can agree was made its own significant tick mark on the international measurement of bad.

Jessica Simpson's exposure was limited largely to her breasts (entire phrase now pun. sorry) and a few spoken lines, for which I am grateful, because she apparently was speaking English phonetically. It's just silly, then, to point out that she didn't seem to relate to any other character in the film and didn't project any dimension to her character other than her own personality. I heard from the trade rags she was great to work with, and as a result she's probably got a rosy near-naked future in films. I hope she's working on those acting lessons.

Unfortunately, we saw plenty of Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott. Far more than I wanted to, since their Duke boys were obnoxious, grubby, and astonishingly stupid. Maybe there was supposed to be some sort of animal magnetism going on there, but the only animal I was reminded of was the P*I*G pig. I'm having a hard time picturing any sorority girl falling for a Duke unless she was seriously drunk, camping in the backwoods, headed to a bush for a quick vomit, and one of them was lying in her path. In fact, I fail to understand why everyone was chasing the Dukes, when they were so thoroughly unwashed, lacking in charisma of any kind, and undesirable. Let them drink their moonshine and barf on themselves; it's obvious that's what they enjoy doing in their spare time.

When I think what Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson (I'm sure they couldn't stay far enough away) could have done with the roles, it's just sad. Britney Spears should be relieved. Maybe if she had played Daisy, the director would have been able to make up his mind as to whether this was supposed to be a parody of, or true to, the original series.

I gather Michael Roof was supposed to add some odd backwoods country idiot savant perspective in a tobacco-chewing, wart-picking crazy sort of way (if only his spitting sound was aligned with his spitting motion). My hometown lacked a Dil - if we had one, we'd arrest him - so I found his underwear-clad shooting of armadillos a bit repulsive, and the scene where the Dukes leave sorority girls with him downright creepy. I'm not sure why they weren't totin' guns - you'd think, as true country girls, they would have been packing, er, packin'.

I shouldn't have been surprised, with Willie Nelson in the mix, to see so many doors opening with unnamed clouds of smoke (wink, wink). I supposed that a little "medicinal weed," along with unpaved roads, no clothes dryers, the HeeHaw Honeys ("now in college!"), general stupidity of residents, and the unwashed masses in the bar, is what Hollywood supposes is part of country livin'. Hazzard County went so far backwards in time with this movie, I'm surprised they didn't have an ex-slave or two share cropping. The Dukes of Hazzard series was occasionally stupid - this was offensive.

It must have been the camaraderie on the set that made Burt Reynolds stick with this one. At least Burt (by playing a cartoon character), along with Michael Weston and the basset hound, stuck to the original characterizations from the series. In this derivative / parody / remake / whatever.

And, of the entire cast and film, the only actor I found interesting and charismatic was that basset hound. Although one dimensional, he played his part to perfection. Think what he could have done with a few lines.

North Country

It's Not Over Until The (Gender Neutral) Person Sings
Once again lying on the couch with a migraine, I decide this was the film to watch instead of that 1960's poorly filmed mishmash of "a funny thing happened to me on the way..." on TCM. I'm not sure which would have been easier on my headache.

Having recently worked for a high tech company, here in enlightened Silicon Valley, where the salesmen take down the nude pictures only if you suggest that a customer might be offended, I found the film moving, gripping, and very believable. I've also heard a female manager - in the past year - respond during personnel harassment training that "women just have no sense of humour anymore." So I found the conflicted feelings of the women involved understandable. The topic of the film was quite contemporary for me.

Had it not been, this would seriously reek of the Lifetype victim channel. We don't usually get to see actors of this caliber unless they're just starting out (poor Charlize just has to get herself all grimy to get taken seriously, and it is working - her talent is starting to glow through that mullet) on the movie of the week, or have such high production values (nice mine equipment), but this is the type of topic ("I married my rapist," "My lover died, leaving me with nothing" "my husband stalked me" "I was harassed at the office"....) on which that channel thrives.

And the story, as told, had some issues. Dad making that speech in front of the union - and the members suddenly turn supportive. That's real life for you. That handy moment when Woody Harrelson, in spite of the judge and opposing counsel, browbeats the truth out of Jeremy Renner's character. Handy way to tie up THAT important loose end quickly. Apparently it was all that we were going to see tied up, because we didn't get to see the victory (dance) or settlement.

And I'm not sure I feel that great about the "more importantly," preachy note at the tail end of the movie. Did every plaintiff in the class action feel they didn't need nice punitive damages and instead wanted the symbolic victory of a documented harassment policy? Some of those plaintiffs looked like they hadn't had a square meal in some time, and they had certainly put up with enough threats and downright attacks to earn some retribution.

So I didn't find the movie satisfying or completely on target. I did find it interesting and believable. And maybe I'll see it again on Lifetime soon.

Herbie Fully Loaded

Not Bitten by This Love Bug
So, back when Herbie made his first appearance, I was perfectly happy watching Dean Jones mug away. I only wanted to be entertained for a few hours and eat overly buttered popcorn. Now, unfortunately, I have expectations of a riveting/delightful story whenever I watch a movie, if I'm not on some sort of medication. And this is another good movie for the medicated. There are no major laughs, no complex plot lines, no difficult twists. Herbie Fully Loaded is great for the fully loaded.

This was the first time I had seen La Lohan on the screen since she swapped places with Jamie Lee Curtis (I thought she was excellent in that), and I can't say I was terribly impressed this time around. Aside from her constantly changing and distractingly unnatural hair color, she just didn't ring true as the kid next door who had spent a lifetime hanging around road racers. Her 'need for speed' wasn't portrayed consistently in the film - perhaps it was elsewhere - she looked older than her part, and seemed to always be looking for something (a party? designer togs? new place to spend money?) off set. I couldn't see any chemistry with Justin Long; that romance seemed obligatory at best. The only time Lindsay appeared engaged was when she was interacting with Matt Dillon, who I thought was appropriately over the top as Evil Bad Guy Trip Murphy.

It was great to see Herbie again, and I loved the movie intro with material from the old movies. If Disney had popped out with some Car 53 jewelry, I might have worn some just to be loyal. His new feature (?) was a little inconsistent (does he channel the thoughts of his driver? Does he now skateboard?) but whatever. We all knew how it was going to end, but I do wish he had ended up with someone a little less dopey than Maggie. And my head still hurts from that lesson Maggie and we viewers had hammered home.

What would have made the movie worthwhile? Have the old Herbie in a real story with a real plot - at the very least, Herbie's as good as Lassie - but clearly that's asking too much. Why is it that Disney always goes back to the same well as "Herbie Goes Bananas" and "the Computer That Wore Tennis Shoes" when it comes to innovation?

I'm sure this was a great movie for kids and those with no expectations. For the rest of us....it's for when you have the 'flu and just can't take the suspense of Rear Window.

The Mod Squad

The 1960's Aren't Mod Anymore
I was not old enough to really appreciate the original Mod Squad, but I knew everyone thought it was cool. I have some of the "books" that were written based on the series in my screen-to-print collection, and they're pretty light duty, so I didn't expect much from the movie. That's a good thing, because this movie was bad on a long leash.

I admire the risk in creating a movie that is so completely true to the 1960's hit. The movie audience, though, has gained sophistication in 30 years. At least, I think so. I certainly expect something more than an hour and a half of the original Mod Squad concept, with (now old) car chases, (now considered poor) camera work, (tinny sounding) soundtrack and (poor) script and all, on the big screen. In the 1960s, we didn't care as much because we had minimal expectations. An integrated police team of young people wearing something besides suits was enough. It was that, another thrilling episode of "Ironsides" or "Password."

Rating this "episode" against usual theatre releases, the story was...well, I'm not sure I should even say because I'm not sure there was one. Drugs are bad? Whatever. The script was silly. When the characters are exchanging dialog and advancing the plot with lines like "I overheard him say so on the phone," and "I think I got a plan," we really are in trouble. No wonder the acting was dreadful: no one knew how to say such idiotic lines.

If I were Claire Danes, I'd be going after my agent with a flame-thrower right now. (Actually, I think everyone in and watching the film has a right to seek retribution.)

And where was the Mod in that Squad? I realize these kids just got out of juvenile hall, but no one had a velvet suit? "Mod" only meant young and integrated? What happened to white go-go boots? Perhaps the costume department was going for gritty, but all they got was dirty and dingy.

Since the movie was completely true to the original series, and required special behavior from the actors, cameramen, stunt men, etc., we should appreciate it more. Unfortunately, I still don't like it. If I wanted to watch 60's crime drama, I'd buy DVDs. No thanks.

Clean House

Self Affirming Show
I loved this show. I could collect "treasures" (read "useless crap") until I die, and I would still look like nothing compared to the people that end up on this show. I can point to these people and my husband can't complain about me. I didn't used to like it very much. I found Niecy and Michael way too stereotypical for their market segments, as we say in silicon valley. But they, and all the cast, grew on me.

I watched them pry away, sometimes with a verbal crowbar, the quadrillions of treasures from neurotic collectors. They're all expert wheedlers, negotiators, and compromisers. Now I like them. Don't want to live with them, but I like them. Sometimes I admire them. They're willing to go into almost any neighborhood in Los Angeles to do what they have to do - and they confront interesting sanitation issues without completely freaking out.

I like Mark Brunetz best when it comes to designs, and Alan when it comes to yard sales, and the familiar Linda. Every once in a while, I notice Linda got a little snippy at the client - but then, having dealt with the homes of difficult relatives and being an obsessive organizer myself, I'm right there with her and have personally thought of physical violence as a possible option. The show does follow the same format every time, but predictability makes me happy.

The closest competitor, Clean Sweep, offers designs that look pretty cheesy compared to what Mark Brunetz is able to do, probably because Clean Sweep is building them on site (ah, the luxury/downfall of having a carpenter). Mark must spend more time with the clients than we see on screen, because he somehow takes amazingly disparate tastes and puts together rooms that look good, often even to me, and make people happy. Mark's designs also look practical from a usage point of view.

I sometimes have a little trouble with watching people on Clean House give up their "treasures" (yes, "useless crap," but to the owners, each and every piece of useless crap seems precious) to raise money - except that if something didn't come out of the house, there would be no room to move. And having been through losses myself, Niecy's sensitive support of the widow who didn't want to let go of physical reminders of her husband was effective.

We get Clean House on the Style Network, which regrettably must show the same damn commercials throughout. It's enough to drive you insane, and if anything would make me stop watching, that would do it. But it's unlikely, because this show gives me solid points for being such a good housekeeper and non-obsessive collector.

I have relatives and friends, though. If only they lived in the Los Angeles area.

I have to add, though, that I dislike the 2006 season version. Too much (OK, endless) product placement, too much canned behavior by Niecy. I don't like the way Trish treats clients; she seems abrasive and direct to the point of being rude with vulnerable collectors and buyers. And I don't like the endless supply of donations that they seem to have to work with on the one hand, with no money for stressed Mark on the other hand. I do like the out takes, but I wouldn't invite this new cast to work with my relatives and friends.

South Pacific

Singing a Slow Song in the Pacific
The Broadway version of South Pacific was an amazing breakthrough in confronting attitudes that today's politically correct culture would consider completely racist. According to Mary Martin and others, she received death threats and the play was picketed regularly, which is hard to believe now.

I have to hope the Broadway version moved along a bit faster than the movie version, or there would have been a massive exodus from the unforgiving New York crowd. I can only guess that Josh Logan was feeling the humid heat of those islands, because the pace of the film is not just temperate, it's downright slow. I know it's hard to fit in songs when you're not used to doing musicals, but it only got worse from here for him (Camelot and Paint Your Wagon were just dreadful). If we're trying to get across that the machine of the military moved inexplicably slow, I got it, but I don't think that's it. I think it's Josh.

The music, of course, is wonderful. And I loved Mitzi Gaynor. I think she's perfect as light-hearted, silly Nellie, who lives within boundaries she's never even thought about, but suddenly finds some strength of character when she realizes that she loves someone without reservation. I'm not a fan of choosing the actor and having him lip sync, but Rossano certainly did so with feeling. Ray Ralston played his usual belligerent/con artist character. And who knew Tom Laughlin could act like a human being instead of just Billy Jack? Nice appearance there.

The colored filters are unfortunate. Good thing all the other directors saw Josh's mistake and didn't head down that rainbow road.

And I still find the job that Oscar Hammerstein III did of condensing James Michener's collection of short stories into this socially relevant (at the time) play truly amazing.

I gave the movie a seven because musicals always get five from me, the concept of the movie/play is great (if it gives us a reminder of where we've been), and the acting solid. I have to think that, in the hands of a better director, this movie might be dated, but truly wonderful.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Extraordinary Mundane
Love the idea of comic books coming to the big screen. And loved the original concept of the league of combining literary characters into heroes. Didn't hate this movie, but sure didn't like it.

It started out with such great potential. We see Sean Connery at what I assume to be the Explorers Club in Africa, and he makes so many delightful throwaway comments first when declining to come to the aid of queen and country, then while he disposes of the enemy in his casual English (OK, Scottish) way. The enemy, as usual, has its guns set on "miss Quartermain, hit others." Charming. I'm ready to enjoy what is looking like a nice solid adventure flick.

But there's a foreshadowing of problems to come. With the building being large enough to hold an army division, but the bar itself (which one presumes, in that heat, would be the most important room) only the size of a third of that, what on earth was in the rest of the building? Dorm rooms? OK, I'll overlook that background issue, because so far the movie has been quite entertaining, thanks to Sean's character.

We go to London, where the invisible man shtick is a little annoying, especially since his make-up constantly changes (normally, I don't catch continuity issues, but this is ridiculous) - perhaps this will end soon. Then Tom Sawyer shows up. Don't need him, don't like him, find Shane West to be (sorry) a less than able actor here. Find him completely distracting from the story, since he was a boy in the Mark Twain stories and suddenly he's a "romantic" young man. I left him back whitewashing Aunt Polly's fence, so his character just doesn't work for me, always trotting about saying something in a lame way. They would have been better off if they used Shane West's namesake.

We see the submarine, and encounter some serious perspective issues there. Were we thinking it needed to be the size of Manhatten? How many rooms? Was it crewed by millions, or was it as narrow as a #2 pencil? Good grief.

Then Venice. Talk about dark, convoluted, and pointless. Is M going to blame some other country to bring the world closer to war? (Sorry, but once I latch on to the plot, I expect the movie to follow it with me.) OK, yes, after everyone ran through Venice like a bunch of chickens/bats with their heads cut off, Venice still exists, but I saw a lot of buildings fall down, so I'd say it's a tie between M and the league whether one succeeded over the other. Except there is a cornucopia of delight for some special effects team. It's just an endless pile of boulders and buildings flying for me as I wait (forever) for the story to pick up and move on.

And while I'm on the subject of the story: I realize that reading the LEG comics is not a pastime, it's a commitment, but the movie plot is just impractical. I could handle that M is really the bad guy (well documented from prior experience in comics), and that Dorian is on the wrong side (urbanity often leads you astray). But M isn't interesting enough as a character for me to really care about that whole blood collecting thing - I found him rather dull as villains go. (Except to wonder where his beard/hair went since only the mask was lying around on tables. Again: continuity!)

Then we're off to the frozen wasteland. As before, the scenery and backdrops are excellent - clearly no expense is spared. And the Arctic wear that just pops out of nowhere (apparently a full costume staff is available on board the enormous nautilus - starting to appreciate the extra rooms) are lovely. But now we're just going slap-happy with criminal minions (are armies of bad guys who look alike available at every corner? Is that who was using the extra Nautilus space?) and battles that seem to take place in every room ("miss main characters, hit bad guys and disposable nautilus crew").

Sean is great (I think if he was reading cook books aloud, I would be happy); Stuart Townsend and Peta Wilson are good, but much of the cast seem to be just flopping about like pale fish on land. Maybe the make-up makes it hard to breathe? I realize it's hard to find actors willing to put up with a lot of make-up and special effects, but I had higher hopes that a movie with Connery would be more palatable.

Speaking of the special effects, it's starting to be a treat to see real people fight like real people. I understand that Mina had special skills, and I'm fine with that. But I don't think Dorian Grey's clothing regenerated like his painting - after all, he does have to change his underwear (who does his cleaning?). And all that rifle stuff - was every character aiming to miss, or were we as competent at shooting rifles as we were at shooting the movie?

I would have been OK with this if the producers were trying to get started with a series, and work the kinks out. But killing off Quartermain, played by the only actor with any serious abilities, was the death knell. The concept for this movie had a lot of potential, but it just wasn't carried out.

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

Somebody Needs to Confess
Here's another one for my secondary category of movies: the movies you watch when you just had your teeth drilled so you can't laugh out loud or think too hard because of the Tylenol with codeine the dentist thankfully prescribed. Wait; even then, this movie would be stupid.

OK, credit to the writers taking the flip side to the nerd-in-the-new-school story. Lindsay Lohen, apparently applying herself to this one, manages to play the drama queen with flair, if not gusto (perhaps offering some insight into her personal psyche). Glenne Headly, who I'm ashamed to say I haven't noticed since Disney's overblown Dick Tracy, did a great job as the long-suffering, seen-it-all, mom, perfect for the movie. Allison Pill was great as Ella, although I'm not sure the character she played would have ever really stood up to Lola, regardless of circumstances. It was good to see Carol Kane on the screen - and Adam Garcia; up until HBO, I'm not sure we saw enough of him.

But even the cast members can't save this movie. The scenario is so very unlikely. Silly self-centered new girl changes name at school (really, how many high school teachers would cater to that whim?) and creates rivalry with reigning popular queen (like any new girl takes that first step. Even the biggest idiot on the planet professes undying love and Best Friends Forever with the most popular girl in school to get into the best parties). Meanwhile, artistic mommy continues to remain true to herself, selling enough pottery so each child can have a room in their home in the 'burbs (the suburbs are just riotous with successful potters). Daddy is a famous dog cartoonist, but apparently pays no alimony. Daughter pretends Daddy is dead instead of using Daddy's famous standing to gain in popularity (right, as if the normal new-to-town girl wouldn't be flashing the dog on day two).

Then, rock band leader meets silly spoiled girl (like that's going to happen) at the band's party (ditto) and, after a 15-minute drunken conversation, is persuaded to give up alcohol forever instead of swearing off teenage girls forever (the natural impulse after this movie). Current snobbish popularity queen is put in her place forever (OK, news flash: that NEVER happens in real life. Only with a great deal of luck will you see her at the 25-year reunion and hear that she has divorced the football quarterback and been stuck living with her parents in your backwater home town. Usually she's become a fitness instructor to the stars and is engaged to a fabulously wealthy stunt man while you've spent 10 years trying to get rid of stubborn belly fat) and our heroine is benevolent forever (she was a bit mercurial before, but I'm sure she'll have real focus now) from her new throne.

I thankfully watched this on one of the premium channels, so when the girls misplaced their tickets for The Concert, I could at least change the channel rather than endure their amazing stupidity further. If my nieces behaved this way, I would have to send them to a remedial school for elementary purse carrying.

Maybe this movie was great for teenage girls, but I found it to be silly set to a good soundtrack. (Just goes to show how close you can come to saving a really crummy flick with good music. John Belushi was right.) It was the soundtrack that kept me watching, not the acting or the storyline - the story was just embarrassing.

The Green Mile

Moving Mile
I came upon this movie on broadcast TV about close to the end of the broadcast. I normally wouldn't have watched it (I strongly dislike Stephen King movies - if I wanted to be scared, I would be a carnival groupie) and wouldn't have commented on it (didn't see enough of it) but I just had to. Wow.

I cried through the last half hour. This movie was stunning. No wonder we all love Tom Hanks. David Morse was amazing. I hated Sam Rockwell with a passion, he played his part so well. And Michael Clarke Duncan - wow. I've seen him in DEBS, on George Lopez, but in this part - so compelling, so touching. The actors made it possible to suspend any disbelief or cynicism and made the story very, very, believable. I've got to rent this movie so I can see it in total. Hopefully after I see the whole thing, I'll still say what I'm thinking now: I'm glad the studio made this movie. In this world of Sky High, Snakes In A Plane and The Whickerman, I don't think that very often.


Blowing in the Wind
This showed up on the history channel and with the husband once again off playing poker I thought, OK, time to ingest a little more history. Only to end up retching over yet another Nicholas Cage bad movie.

Now, I just recently saw Con Air for the first time on STARz, so the juxtaposition is unfortunate for his rating, but is he letting his lizard tattoo or Elvis visitations determine his movie selections? Are the script readings done by a psychic? Does he gravitate to stupid characters?

I thought I was going to see something that was about World War II, but actually I got to see a silly film filled with characters I've seen so often I could have written this script myself during a silicon valley traffic jam, and done a much better and far more historically accurate job. They all trotted around after the usual conflicted Sergeant - or is Nicolas Cage always conflicted (see fixations above)? - with a Navajo Indian (instead of a representative of some other ethnic group) thrown in to cause racial tension.

Let's see, we had the bullying racist, who then has his life saved by an Indian (gee, there's a surprise), the panicking recruit who can't take the pressure and trips the mine field (wow, didn't see that coming), the accepting comrade who (symbolically) blends an harmonica with the Indian's flute (but dies saving the Indian's life, ditto, ditto), the young boy who must grow up too soon (ah, the poignancy), the Army lieutenant that treats everyone like tools (not again!), the mystic wisdom that teaches us all a little something, the constantly breathy flute music (used with all cultural lessons) - have we endured this one before?

Not really, because we've never seen quite so many battles, with so many bodies (tossed so high in the air) before, or filmed in Utah while pretending to be Iwo Jima. Was John Woo trying to win some kind of battle-filming contest here? Well, I hope so, because he sure lost a battle with the script.

Of course, we had the added stress for poor battle-worn Nicolas Cage that he might have to shoot his code talker rather than have him fall into enemy hands. Quite the sophisticated plot twist, that! Oh no, will Nicolas get too close and feel bad if he has to shoot his young trustee? More conflict! More angst! Cage's specialty! Makes the story so much better, right?

Better, but not accurate. Reality: the code wasn't the language - it was a derivative, based on, the Navajo language. If someone was captured, the code would be changed. The prisoner might understand the base language, but not the code itself.

Oh, yeah, periodically the Indians, who I believe were the original inspiration for the movie, would get to talk back and forth in Navajo, and we would get to see the translation on the screen. They would say their position (not in actual code). Oh, and one time in the movie, the Japanese noticed the Americans weren't speaking English.

And another time, according to the movie, the Japanese attempted to capture an Indian who was just standing around the front line because somehow they knew he was a code talker. Right. They guessed in the middle of combat that he wasn't Hawaiian or Japanese American, he was an American Indian. And they also had somehow figured out that the language that wasn't English was a derivative of an American Indian dialect, and therefore this man must be a Code Talker. Right there in the middle of the battle. Alrighty then. (It must be similar wisdom that causes me to doubt the veracity of this incident.)

These incidents brought history alive for me, alright.

Reality: Code talkers were translating messages NON STOP throughout the taking of Iwo Jima. Which makes it difficult to understand how the Navajos would have been hacking and shooting away on the battlefield, or standing around the front lines, and going through that growing-up-too-soon stuff. Reality: They were able to communicate three times faster than previous codes had hustled along, but like any other job, the number of messages increased to fill the time available. Seems to be a bit of a discrepancy between busy busy real code talker life and Hollywood. Oh, sorry. That's a duh.

In addition to not understanding the difference between a language and a code (is this rocket science?) the soldiers in the film didn't even wear the right dog tags. Reality: I've got my dad's dog tags from WWII, and you can get a lovely facsimile at the Smithsonian gift store right now. Were they not stylish enough? Was it more exciting to use choke chain dog tags? Every time I saw a soldier I saw an anachronism. As in big fat mistake.

I do appreciate that at least we have a movie in these Politically Correct days where we had two sides to a war: good guys and bad guys. You don't see that very often any more, so points to John Woo for that one area.

But I'm getting away from what was really going on in the movie, which was all about battered, bruised, benighted and badgered Nicholas Cage, who talked to the Navajo like Clint Eastwood talked to the trees in Paint Your Wagon. Not to mention the usual angst-ridden and conflicted stuff he faces. I got very little wind talking, and an awful lot of wind blowing out of this movie.

All it did for the important role the Navajo (and Comanche in the European Theatre) Indians played during WWII was bring them up in conversation - too many inaccuracies to be of any other use.

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course

Better Him Than Me - And A Little Amusement Too
So, Steve Irwin. You have to admire a man who is not only willing to throw himself into a river that clearly is filled with crocs, snakes, lizards, tons of poop from the aforementioned reptiles, and mud, not only daily, but with enthusiasm. He was never able to make ME want to do it, but he managed to make his wife come close.

This movie does not fall into my parallel universe of film category - the films for people who just had their teeth drilled, have a migraine, or have no film experience and therefore like quiet mediocrity (currently well populated by Disney films). It's too noisy. Well, Steve is too noisy. He's just so happy all the time, and would cut right through the blasé' teenager (I can hear it now: "that movie was so STUPID") or the Tylenol with codeine. I'd say his enthusiasm is catching, but if it was, I would own a room full of snakes, and that hasn't happened yet. I agreed they're beauties, but I'm still not going to pet them.

Plot was indeed predictable. Bad guys were so bad, for a minute there I thought I was shopping at a consumer electronic superstore. But the movie was filled with animals, and Steve and Terri, which is why I watched it. That plot (if you could call it that) was really more of a reason to throw yet another croc in a truck. My expectations were low and stayed that way.

I was hoping, though, that there would be a bit of a sequel, where Steve and Terri (having worked on their acting skills) have a movie with a real plot and more animals with fur. I still can't believe we won't see Steve anymore. I hope that Terri and the children continue to be involved in the Australia Zoo and the discovery channel, at least. I can't imagine seeing a crocodile without having some member of the Irwin family telling me forcefully how wonderful that croc is. Crikey!

Johnny Guitar

Vienna Has The "Sausage"
I'm a big fan of film noir, and I loved Mildred Pierce. I also like westerns, and I'm not picky about how you classify them - as far as I'm concerned, if there's a horse, John Wayne or Gary Cooper (minus Patricia Neal) or it was shot in the Missouri Flats or by John Ford, it's a western (The Conqueror meets this category quite handily, by the way). So I was ready and willing to watch Johnny Guitar.

But then I saw Joan. Never seen make up like that, anywhere. Nice crop of eyebrows you got coming up this year, Farmer Joan. Not to mention the four alarm lipstick, which she seem to carry regardless of the venue (dancehall, hanging, whatever). Tears of a clown. Wow. Especially since she ran around with her eyes bugging out of her head for the entire movie (this must have been the movie Faye Dunaway watched the most). And the name "Vienna." That trips off the tongue. Most unfortunate product placement.

And how about that Mercedes. She kept herself spun up for the entire film schedule. Suitably bitter and dogmatic, with a little Mrs. Danvers thrown in. I'm not clear how one woman could whip a bunch of men into such a frenzy and keep them following her (although at times witless, I've noticed men are capable of independent thought and dislike abuse), especially since she was often wrong (and they never threw that in her face. That's true to life, suuuure), and when her personal jealousy was so...subtle.

And the "Dancing Kid." Wasn't there one of those in a Roy Rodgers short? Dear me. I can tell by the story we were supposed to take him seriously, but who named him that? The only name sillier would be the "Kissy Face Kid" but that's about as far as you can go.

Speaking of silly, so are the lines. If they're not silly, they're delivered so histrionically, they have a huge potential for staff meeting quotes. Every single line from Joan was delivered with enormous quivering feeling, eyes wide open, huge drama.

There were no nuances, no subtle delivery, no delicate relationships - it was all over the top. And Mercedes just hated, so no subtle acting there; her lines were shrieked and thrown at us. Ernest Bornine was guilty of the same single dimensional acting. The rest of the men - even Sterling Hayden and Ward Bond - with their carefully crafted characters, fade into the background.

I'm sure the book was groundbreaking, and I'm AOK with the women in typically male roles, shooting away, emasculating most of the men in town, irrationally hating each other, and getting caught up in real estate issues. I just couldn't take the one-dimensional characters seriously, or the over the top acting. This is a guilty pleasure cult flick, offering great lines for future amusement. An acting tour de force, it's not. But it's fun.

But the title song, presented ably by Peggy Lee as usual, is a tour de force. It's well worth watching the credits go by. Beautiful.

Sky High

Kurt Russell and Disney: Sky Mediocrity
There really should be a secondary category of movies: the movies you watch when you just had your teeth drilled so you can't laugh out loud or think too hard because of the Tylenol with codeine the dentist thankfully prescribed. If this movie was rated by that scale, and I had enough medication in my system, I MIGHT agree with my nieces that this was "the best movie ever." Or, at least, in that category somewhere. And there would be an explanation for why I continue to find "Bring It On" so oddly fascinating.

Since there isn't another category, since I didn't watch this under medication, and since I've already seen "Arsenic and Old Lace," "Animal House," "Holiday," "the Lady Eve," "Blazing Saddles," and a number of other classics (IMHO), I have some standards to measure "the best movie ever." This certainly doesn't meet them. Although the basic concept was cute, the slow moving story made each twist easier to spot than cell phone use in silicon valley. Come to think of it, this movie moved at about the same predictable pace as "The Computer That Wore Tennis Shoes" and "The Barefoot Executive," so maybe this is the pace that Kurt Russell requests when Disney rings his phone.

So yes, I found the movie dull - ideal for the disability crowd - with the only dip in the dance being Major Pain's heritage, and even that might not have been a surprise if I hadn't dozed off. The characters were likable but also dull (rather like the Disney board of directors ...interesting coincidence); even the villains weren't particularly memorable. Only Danielle Panabaker sticks with me, standing out as an environmentally conscious sidekick.

If I devoted any thought to this movie (which under pain medication I wouldn't, and then these details wouldn't bother me), I'd wonder how this superhero business was managed. With all these kids, the town had to be absolutely mobbed with parental superheroes like the Strongholds trotting around masquerading as pharmacists, postal workers, etc. How would you decide which superhero should save the world today? Lottery? Think of the chaos.

And if you went to high school together, wouldn't you know each other's secret identity? Would you get married as superheroes AND as mild mannered postal workers? How would you keep the villains from telling your secret identity (or, at the very least, blabbing your algebra score)?

And what about those amazingly solid costumes that Kurt and Kelly had to wear? They look distractingly like the original corvette fiberglass shell rather than a real superhero costume. Why don't they make nail polish out of that stuff? No wonder they could stop a speeding bullet. I bet I know a few high tech corporations who would like to use them at executive board meetings.

I forgot about the movie's key redeeming quality: it teaches us several important lessons - thank goodness there are movies to teach us - about compassion, the value of friends (even if they're not heroes)...wow. It was heavy. No, that's quite right. It was heavy handed. Pardon my sarcasm, which I must have learned from Billy Wilder.

I found "the Incredibles" far and away more entertaining, in part because of the creative and amusing things that can be done with animation (if only I could park my car the way they were allowed to park the camper) and in part because it showed family dynamics with far more depth and humor ("Bob, it's time to get engaged!") than in this movie. And questions like multiple superheroes in town were solved. No outstanding issues, thank you very much.

But I think "Sky High" was supposed to appeal to the demographic I described - the just had teeth drilled, or not thinking, or never seen a decent movie before.

Oh, it did have a good soundtrack - for the parents - with some songs from the Talking Heads, Cars, & They Might Be Giants. Importing the choir for the mighty fight scenes so they could "ahhhhh" away was a bit much though.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Death or Divorce - I Don't Care Which
I thought there might be something behind all the hype on this movie. I was terribly wrong.

I have no idea what Brad and Angelina do at home, because the only relationship that I saw click on the screen, oddly enough, was between Vince and Brad. That bouncing camera work (what is up with that?) just added to all those things that made me slightly nauseous when watching this film. Such as the storyline, which was so full of holes, I think someone from the Swiss Cheese Company Sales Department wrote it - as well as the hackneyed script. The only production "values" I saw went into that kitchen and tool shed, areas that just added to the potholes in the script.

Speaking of which...I have to point out it's really unlikely that the Mr. & Mrs. never noticed the other's stash of guns, cash, etc. Not to mention odd absences, inability to contact each other while traveling, etc... I mean, I don't cook, but I still trot through the kitchen and pull a few drawers open just for fun, and make my own coffee. And if my husband had hair-trigger reflexes, that would be such a difference from his usual stance of "beer me" that you can be sure I would notice. And I expect to be able to contact my husband by land line to mention there's a skunk in the backyard even if he's just out losing money at poker. The plot just didn't stand up to second thought, not to mention real scrutiny.

I didn't even get to see decent costumes - aside from that interesting (and no doubt squeaky) rubber corset, Angelina trotted around in either St. John's Bay or a close replica. There were no secret identity or special costumes to liven things up.

I gather there was supposed to be humor (black? dark? sarcasm? of any kind?) in this movie somewhere. I did see a few lines that were funny every time I saw a commercial for the movie. As usual, those were the ONLY lines I found funny in the entire movie (since I had already heard them 400 times, the hilarious thrill was gone for me). Which is too bad - you can get past a cheesy script or impracticalities if there's enough humour - and this concept had potential.

Sadly, I found Mr. & Mrs. Smith to be a waste of time. The personal lives of the players involved gave the movie far more attention than it deserved. And this trend of having big (paycheck) "stars" in bad movies is appalling. At least the old movies with big stars and silly scripts were funny. The fact that there's an audience out there that believes such dreck is actually worth paying to see twice is just pitiful.

I myself, because punishment seemed appropriate one day, agreed to watch this movie on HBO for a second time with an Angelina Jolie fan. He turned it off. What does that tell you?


Making a Musical Makes News
So, I'm reading the comments for Newsies, expecting to find some suitably pithy remarks since this movie was universally panned upon release. But apparently I've stumbled on Tiger Beat magazine's subscription base. Or, to be more forgiving, a group of musical fans that will do anything to see the genre return.

I'm glad so many people liked it, and I agree, Newsies wasn't terrible. It had singing and dancing, with Mencken at the lyrics, so we musical fans have to give it at least a five. And it's great to see men dancing - not that this rivaled West Side Story, but it offered the high energy dancing as only young men can do. And it was based on a real inspirational event (coming from Disney, it had to be that or a heartwarming children's classic). Christian Bale has incredible appeal, Max Casella is good, and David Moscow shows potential. Ann-Margaret, unfortunately, must have been forced to be in the film, because she played her part like she was under heavy doses of anti-depressant medication. Now that I think about it, she was very authentic for the times.

Music was great, especially the range offered. The other day my husband flipped to the Hallmark channel and I could tell he was watching a Disney movie just by the way the horns were played (turned out it was the "Ugly Daschound" - quite the classic). None of that here - the music was excellent.

No, Newsies wasn't terrible. But it certainly wasn't great. The production values were embarrassing. The sets looked only slightly better than Pollyanna's village. I can't believe Robert Duval allowed that cheesy piece of of "beard" to be pasted on his face every day - the closeups were OK, but the distance shots were clearly my faux rabbit coat. And only Disney would managed to find so many clean, well-dressed "poverty"-stricken kids in such tidy slums, toss in a crippled boy, add a romance and a hero nicknamed "Cowboy" and say the film is done. Not a single urchin. You couldn't call them ragamuffins - none of them wore rags. Please. No crooked teeth. Not even dirty hair. I think they even used hankies. And such clean streets! Times Square is dirtier now, after the renovation.

Concept and basic story were excellent, and I suppose I can't fault Disney for throwing in the romance and the poignant storyline. The writing (especially lyrics!) and music was beautiful and long missed from other movies. But the production itself could have been miles better. I hope they try another musical with a little more effort (but all their movies have the same look - Princess Diaries II). Disney's movie execs should be forced to watch Martin Scorsese movies for 48 hours before filming anything.

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