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Dogs should sue.
Dogville is a bomb simply because its really bad. The film strips everything down to a simple, almost non-set. With that in mind I will also strip my review down to a simple, almost non-review. This film is a poorly-made, poorly-written, poorly-directed, poorly-acted, boring, non-factual piece of crap intended for those who don't know anything of human nature or human history. This film panders to the ignorant and if you have an IQ in the triple digits you probably won't watch more than ten minutes. If you do watch more than ten minutes, well, you flunked the IQ test and the director has found his audience. A bomb by any standard. I'm required to have ten lines in any comment and this film doesn't deserve two.
Will Penny (1967)
Not just one of the best westerns, one of the best films
Will Penny is perhaps the most realistic western ever filled. From the aged clothing and weapons (antiques rented specifically for the film) to non-Hollywood plot devices and ending the film is unsurpassed for realism. I recommend the DVD over the VHS because it contains a short film on that subject (more on the DVD version later). Charlton Heston's performance as ageing cowboy Will Penny is one of cinemas best and at times appears to be the inspiration for Robert Duvall's performance in Lonesome Dove. Familiar western faces in the supporting roles include Joan Hackett and Lee Majors and a who's who of westerns character actors (Ben Johnson, Slim Pickens, Anthony Zerbe, Bruce Dern to name just a few). If there is one flaw it is the inappropriate desert caravan score (some disagree with me, maybe I'm missing something but it sure as heck sounds like a desert caravan score to me) and jarring closing credits song (here most people are in agreement with me, the lyrics stink and so does the lounge lizard delivery). Despite this consideration it is a definite must for western fans. One DVD complaint, though the behind-the-scenes short shows clips in widescreen, the so-called "widescreen version" of the film is condensed and clipped. Paramount has a reputation for the worst transfers of any major studio and here is a prime example why that reputation exists. One can forgive the less-than-sharp picture because we have no idea the condition of the print, but if they had a widescreen version to gather long clips why didn't they use it for the film itself. Perhaps they were culled from a promotional short and the entire film no longer exists in its original theatrical format, but why market the DVD as part of their "Widescreen Collection," as it is labeled right there on the top of the front cover, when it was not? Just plain sloppy, and dishonest.
The cutest actress who ever graced film.
Linnea Quigley is probably the cutest actress ever and has been one of my favorite actresses since Return of the Living Dead. I had seen her in earlier films like the Cheech & Chong movie, but she wasn't a name star at that time. I didn't start following her career until Return and have since watched every film before and after. I met her once at a film convention and we had an opportunity to chat prior to the opening. I was impressed how friendly and attentive she was to me as well as all her fans. She also came across as being very bright and very pleased with her life and career. I believe she said she was living with her parents at the time. I thought it was pretty cool that the family was still that important to her after fame. I think she would make a great motivational speaker because after we talked I felt like a million bucks.
Linnea Quigley stars mostly in horror films and horror-comedy films. I really don't like most of the movies, not my genre, and I like her better in comedies, but I do like Linnea Quigley and watch merely for that sake. Here she is pretty darn cute, dresses in cute clothes and does a cute topless scene. These are her hallmarks and here she does them as cute as ever. She isn't given that much to say or do and that is a shame. There are many more films which give her better roles and I urge you to seek them out. I still recommend this film because I really like her look in it which is more along the lines of her look in Vice Academy (though I didn't really like her character that much in that film) and she appears to be having a blast. If you want to see the cutest actress who every graced film SEXBOMB is the place.
The Stranger (1973)
Remake's cast, not plot, is for sci-fi buffs.
Remake of the much better produced theatrical film JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN from 1969 (available on DVD) about an astronaut who lands on a twin Earth on the other side of the sun. This TV film has a good B-film cast including such sci-fi buff favorites as Cameron Mitchell (FLIGHT TO MARS available on DVD), Lew Ayres (1971 TV film EARTH II as well as Dr. Kildare in a series of films from the forties), Dean Jagger (X THE UNKNOWN available on DVD), and Sally Field's mom, Margaret Field (MAN FROM PLANET X available on DVD) to name just a few. Credits go out to the casting but isn't as fun as any of the other films mentioned and tries to start a TV series in the vein of 60's TV show THE INVADERS. By the way if you liked THE INVADERS, star Roy Thinnes is the star of JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN. THE STRANGER is more for sci-fi buffs than sci-fi fans.
You Light Up My Life (1977)
Song 10, Movie 4
Soap-opera style story about one girl (Didi Conn) pushed into show business (stand-up comedy) by her stand-up comic father and trying to make it into show-biz (acting, singing, anything). There is romance and the title song 'You Light Up My Life.' The song is a major plot device much like Bette Midler's 'Wings Beneath My Wings' is for BEACHES. Debbie Boone's rendition of the song was second only to Bing Crosby's White Christmas as the most popular single in history due in part to listeners attaching a spiritual tone to the lyrics (led by Christian radio stations and the fact that Debbie Boone was part of the Pat Boone family). Debbie Boone was singing the song on every talk and variety show on TV, she was very attractive, very wholesome (once again, Pat Boone's daughter) and TV loved her. This helped bring people into the theaters to see the movie, in fact, was the only reason why people went to see the movie. Debbie Boone was not in the film, nor was her voice. This was very disappointing to most people. Didi Conn (mostly known at the time for wacky characters on TV sitcoms not unlike her GREASE character) didn't sing the song in the film (though she sort of sang in GREASE). If only they had cast Debbie Boone. The song is a classic, the film, alas, is not. WHITE CHRISTMAS (song: 10, movie: 10), BEACHES (song: 10, movie: 7), GREASE (song: 8, movie: 9), YOU LIGHT UP MY LIFE (song: 10, movie: 4).
The 10th Kingdom (2000)
Very tasty blend of comedy, drama, romance, terror, animation and special effects.
Just about everyone who has seen this film has positive things to say about it though it is a film that is just about impossible to describe. So much happens within the stretch of it's seven-hour running time (comedy, drama, romance, adventure, terror, animation, special effects, cameos) and enough twists and turns that it could have been a full blown series for at least two years. The actors are well chosen and do a very a good job making this an adult fairy tale. Though okay for all ages this is definitely geared for adults with references to sixties drug culture (the trolls roll a jumbo doobie and our heroes find themselves seduced by magic mushrooms), shocking violence (people are slaughtered in large groups), and sexual references (Wolf says to Virginia when he begins to have feelings for her "I feel hard and soft at the same time"). As a fairy tale it pulls no punches and borrows heavily from the Brothers Grimm and Lewis Carroll's Alice through the Looking Glass. The Tenth Kingdom is where all fairy tale characters live, grow old and eventually die (for the most part) including Cinderella, Snow White, Little Bo Peep and various Bavarian-style towns and villages. The weakest part of the film takes place in the first hour as it sets itself up and we struggle to accept the co-existence of fantasy and reality but stick with it and you will be in for a real treat.
Some fun trivia
Benji's real name was Higgins and got his start as a regular cast member of sixties TV sitcom Petticoat Junction. Though he was retired shortly after the end of Petticoat Junction, Higgins later came out of retirement to launch a career in movies as Benji, starring in the first two films of the series (his offspring have carried on the legacy in subsequent films). Frank Inn was his trainer throughout his lifetime and began as an assistant trainer for Lassie.
Eu Te Amo (1981)
Very good film about human relationships, loneliness, personal growth and love. At the core here is the importance of human contact to move one's life forward. The film defines love as something different than in a typical love story. In a typical love story lust for another sometimes runs against what is right for one's self. In Eu Te Amo, lust comes out of self-preservation, an instinct to provide for certain emotions, but with the respect for other people's wills. Sexuality and the need to be sexual with another person may not be the only way to achieve self-love, but this film shows that it is the way these two people are attempting to achieve it, and if they end up caring about each other, so much the better. This is an R-rated film and I don't think it is anything beyond that, certainly not X-rated. It is for adults wishing to examine adult situations or for those afraid to enter into a new relationship. Sonia Braga's nude scenes are very appropriate for the story-line, not raunchy, they are important to describe where she is emotionally in the story.
50's space-age theme.
Fans of rocket-age science fiction films will find interest in this wacky spoof. The early 1950's saw the start of the atomic age rocket ship film genre with ROCKET X-M and DESTINATION MOON in 1950 and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE and FLIGHT TO MARS in 1951. These movies were all hits and the trend lasted through the sixties with MAROONED and JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN in 1969 (one year after 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY).
In 1953 Abbott and Costello quickly updated their old vaudeville routines to capture a younger, modern audience and try their hand at this phenomena. They had success spoofing the horror genre with A&C MEETS FRANKENSTEIN and A&C MEETS THE INVISIBLE MAN a couple years earlier and the young audiences who had watched Universal's monster films were now watching rocket films and would soon be watching alien monsters devour entire cities. Though flights to Mars were now a typical plot device, A&C GO TO MARS was ahead of the game by going to Venus six years before FIRST SPACESHIP ON VENUS (1959)!
Abbott and Costello start off toward Mars but end up back on Earth during New Orleans Mardi Gras. They are fooled by fanciful costumes with giant masks and believe they are on Mars. Eventually they flee to Venus populated by beautiful women and all's well that ends well.
The production values were very good, considering that studios were rushing out poorly produced imitations of ROCKET X-M and DESTINATION MOON after their success. After the quick patter routines of the duo that serviced them well in the forties had become so familiar to the audience it was refreshing to have them do something else. Though certainly not a classic and not on the list of best A & C films, for those tiring of the same routines this film is visually exciting filled with space-age fun, beautiful models and hilarious gags. Kids love the film and older adults love the 50's space-age theme. Grab the popcorn.
Nanny and the Professor (1970)
Some facts about the show.
This show was a mid-season replacement in January of 1970 (15 episodes), picked up in the fall of 1970 for a complete run thru March 1971 (24 episodes) and picked up again in the fall of 1971 where it ran until December (15 episodes).
During those three seasons ABC had another wholesome entry in the magic sitcom genre (that already included Bewitched and The Flying Nun) this time inspired by the success of Mary Poppins whereas we find a magical nanny (think ESP to the max power) who comes to help a widower raise his children. Whereas shows like Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie frequently played on the romantic relationship or sexual tension between the two leads (there was even some sexual tension between The Flying Nun's novice nun Sister Bertrille and playboy Carlos Ramirez!), Nanny and the Professor had virtually no character development and the plots began to repeat themselves. Wheras Mary Poppins had a mother in the household the TV show wisely dealt with a father only. While this left the door open for romantic involvement and possible marriage (think Eight Is Enough), this simply was not to be.
Charming as the characters were, they just didn't grow as a family. Bewitched kept interest over the years first by watching the newlywed couple cope with their differences, having their first child, and eventually raising two children.. I Dream of Jeannie moved from sexual tension to engagement to marriage. The big dilemma that was built into Nanny was that the show had two young attractive adults living together under the same roof with young impressionable children. Any sign of sexual tension would have been taboo in 1970 (Jeannie at least lived in a bottle) so they kept the character of Phoebe "Nanny" Figalilly uninterested in Professor Harold Everett and kept a goofy look on the Professor as he got ready with dates uninvolved with the show or his character.
The show eventually played to its only audience that could care less in the social aspects of the plot, young children, when it finished off it's run as a Saturday morning TV cartoon in 1972 (original cast members providing the voices). When shows got canceled in those days that's where they went, funny as it may seem now. From Gilligan's Island to Welcome Back Kotter from Happy Days to Punky Brewster and even TV favorites Mr. T and Gary Coleman animation was the ghostly graveyard of sitcoms.
ESP Note: Juliet Mills wasn't the only actress from this show to play a role where the character has ESP. Six-year-old Kim Richards who played the young Prudence Everett had a long run in television as a child actress but is best known as Tia, the girl with ESP, in Disney's Escape to Witch Mountain (1975) and Return to Witch Mountain (1978). She also played a young woman with ESP in her self-produced film Escape (1990).
The classic film that started it all.
The Overland Stage Lines stagecoach is traveling from the frontier town of Tonto, Arizona to Lordsburg, New Mexico. Geronimo, the Apache chief, has just jumped the reservation and starts an uprising. Before leaving Tonto, the passengers are notified by the Calvary that they are now traveling at their own considerable risk but they will be escorted by the soldiers (here's a clue: don't believe it). Among the passengers are a prostitute being thrown out of town by a group of women with their noses so stuck up in the air you could fly flags off of them. She is joined by a drunken doctor, a gentlemen card shark, a meek whiskey salesman, a crooked banker, a pregnant woman on her way to meet her husband, and a young cowboy who just broke out of jail and out to revenge his family's murder. The coach driver and his shotgun complete the group.
It's all based on a short story called appropriately Stage to Lordsburg but also on a French story (Guy de Maupassant's Boule de Suif) with similar characters traveling in a coach during the Franco-Prussian War.
The basic structure of the plot is also familiar to fans of disaster films. Passengers are introduced, board a common conveyance and face a tremendous danger. The exciting adventure of who lives, who dies, will the stage make it to its destination, and what happens next is highlighted by perhaps the most famous stunts in film history by the most famous and respected stuntman of all Yakima Canutt. If one of the stunts looks familiar, Steven Speilberg recreated it for his first Indiana Jones film.
The film is also a lot more. Unlike other westerns up to its time which were mainly shoot-em-ups between the good guys in the white hats and the bad guys in the black hats, it examines very serious social issues and how different people look down at others differently. Besides prejudice, some of the characters are flawed with alcoholism, greed and revenge. We also see the good in bad people with respect for new life and ultimately redemption. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Interior Decoration, Best Film Editing, Best Supporting Actor (won) and Best Score (won), Stagecoach was John Ford's first sound Western and elevated the genre in both critical praise and popularity. The low camera angles in Monument Valley would become a John Ford trademark. Despite doing 70 films, this is the one that made Wayne a star and it's easy to see why. Many consider it his best performance; both subtle and clear he cares for the needs of the people around him and yearns for his own need for a home, a wife and a family. It is considered one of the great films in cinemas greatest year, 1939. Gone With the Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, The Wizard of Oz, Of Mice and Men and Ninotchka were all nominated for best picture alongside Stagecoach that year.
Regarding the political incorrectness of an Apache uprising, well, they happened. If you just happened to be in a stagecoach in the middle of the southwest during an Apache uprising chances are you would be killed. This story does not examine the reasons for the uprising only the effects on a group of travelers trying to travel through it.
Ugly, raunchy and stale.
Ugly, raunchy and stale. He's on late because his audience is made up of drunks ready to pass out, which also describes the state of his writers. Running gags include children drawings of perverted scenes involving Conan O'Brien (they're not really drawn by children, O'Brien just pretends they are, what a sicko, he should be thrown in jail) and a cigar-chomping, filthy-mouthed puppet-dog. The house band is the worse on television and the announcer Joel admits that he's interested in young boys. Andy Richter, a humorless tub of lard and the worse side-kick in the history of side-kicks even had sense to jump this ship of fools. Sincerely, Craig Kilborn.
The Invisible Man Returns (1940)
Great Classic Sequel
The Invisible Man (1933) stands alone as being the greatest adaptation of H.G. Wells' story because it follows the novel's storyline and captures the atmosphere of the original work. The film also has the ability to polish some of the scenes with humor. Like other Universal horror classics, it deserved and got sequels, and though the Invisible Man Returns was a lesser effort, it was far superior than any other attempt to remake the classic (the recently made Hollow Man was down right horrible and, yes, hollow.) The Invisible Man Returns begins by introducing us to the brother of the first film's invisible one who escapes prison using the formula his brother developed. This is a far-fetched and awkward way to create a sequel, but once it's out of the way the rest of the film again captures the formula, fun and atmosphere of the original. Followed with mixed results by The Invisible Woman (comedy), The Invisible Agent, The Invisible Man's Revenge and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (which features the Invisible One).
Just Married (2003)
The plot of this film has been tackled many times in good films and even great films. Perhaps it's too much to ask for an improvement on great, but why is it too much to ask for good? Just good, or how about even average? The reason is that if you have cash to make a film it doesn't matter if you don't have a good script. Your target audience does not know about the good versions (let alone the great versions), so all you need is a version, because they won't know the difference. Wanna bet? This film is not great. Not good. Darn, not even average. Just Married is a just a bad film. If you are reading this review you have access to every film ever made. Try searching for a good one, or spend a little time and search for a great one.
Manipulative film made while wearing blinders.
Manipulative, one-sided and not always truthful documentary on high school shootings in America. Meant to find an audience from the bottom-of-the-barrel blame-everybody-but-poor-victim-me I-see-the-glass-completely-empty group will certainly find its audience as did Michael Moore's film. As any viewer of the Jerry Springer show can tell you, you can find enough people to buy just about anything, and there is a small percentage that actually prefer looking at the world through gloom-colored glasses.
Though it worked for Moore, such an unoriginal film probably won't bring much interest outside of France. Sad-sackers tend to have short attention spans and the topic has pretty much played itself out. It would have been more interesting to compare the level of violence around the world to bring things into proper perspective. It would have been nice to find out what it would be like to go to school in third-world countries, in war-torn countries, in dictator-run countries, and the dangers posed to students there and the amount of deaths that occur each year.
The skill in these types of films, as is criticized with Moore's documentaries, is that the film-makers pick-and-choose the facts and wear blinders. I am reminded of a running gag on Late Night with Conan O'Brien where he shows a close-up of a picture and only after the camera pulls back completely can we see that the surrounding landscape puts everything into a completely different perspective. Such is the work of documentary film-makers who shelter us from scenes just beyond the camera that might shed sunlight onto a gloomy close-up. Unfortunately, they never pull back the camera. At least with Moore's films, his facts are so doctored, his techniques so tasteless, years from now we'll have fun laughing at his films in the same way we have fun laughing at Ed Wood. The biggest problem with ELEPHANT is not it's point of view, it is just too watered-down to really make any point at all.
Time will tell if Hollywood still shares a taste in this type of film. As far me, I have much more faith in life. There are wonderful things happening in the same schools and cities documented in ELEPHANT and pity those that choose not to recognize them or make documentaries about them. Even without documentation, for the majority of us, we are happy to be apart of it and experience it first hand.
Down with Love (2003)
Up with Love, Down with this picture! PHEWEEE!
Yes, this one stinks and is destined for early weekday morning telecast on Comedy Central. Retro when it should have been homage, blinding when it should have been bright, rushed when it should have been snappy, and dull when it should have been romantic, DOWN WITH LOVE was a good concept poorly executed. No one working on this film seemed to have a clue (or appreciation) for the type of film they were spoofing/remaking, and the main reason is that the producers failed to hire anyone (director, writer, cinematographer, craft services) that had anything remotely to do with the originals (or the sixties for that matter!). I know they are still around because I see them interviewed on television all the time. The director and writer's experience don't reach back much further than TV's THE NANNY, and every minute of the film looks it! Even the best things about the movie, the sets and costumes, look post-modern retro, not authentic. Any decorator can find lime green and purple fabrics, but it takes real love for those colors to make it work on screen.
Mel Brooks loved the old genres he spoofed (these were the films he grew up watching), but look at a film like YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN and there are scenes which are as much of the genre as the original. The set from the original FRANKENSTEIN was used to recreate the reanimation scene! Tony Randall's small role in DOWN WITH LOVE (and his modern-day counterpart David Hyde Pierce) helps a little, but doesn't help the rest of the film. The inspiration was in the costumes and sets, not in the script and not in the direction. Too bad the actors relied on the script and direction one hundred per cent. Let's hope THE ITALIAN JOB does a better job at remaking hip. Let's hope the writers go back to sitcoms where they belong.
Bob Roberts (1992)
Hollywood fake-believe plot is not about politics, its about acting.
Satire needs to be rooted in fact to be truly meaningful. An author knowing his subject is a must, or as the old saying goes, "write what you know." Responsibly, no one would read a book, especially a satire, without finding out a little about its author (at the very least there's usually a bio on the back sleeve). An author's political slant tells you what the story is about; his writing skills dress it up. What weight or importance we give the story is based on that author's intellectual, educational and professional credentials in the area of his subject. In other words, if the author was once the director of the CIA and writes a spy novel it seems pretty reasonable that the story would be plausible and the facts about the inner workings of the spy business pretty much on target. If the author was a waitress in a small mid-western town and writes a tale about the politics of small-town mid-western life it seems pretty reasonable that she would have a unique expertise in that area.
So now we have Bob Roberts, written, directed, and starring Tim Robbins an actor and former member of Los Angeles' Actors' Gang, an experimental ensemble that expressed radical political observations through the European avant-garde form of theater. Tim Robbins is a self-proclaimed left-wing political activist who has made no attempts personally or professionally to hide his disdain for American values (he prefers European values) and hatred for conservatives and nationalism (he prefers liberalism, socialism and internationalism). His story-line for Bob Roberts is campaigns and politics, a subject matter Tim Robbins the author has virtually no experience in professionally or intellectually (he was a drama major at UCLA), but alas, this is Hollywood where a drop-out like Martin Sheen can pretend he is President on screen and off. Why actually know your subject when you can just make it up as you go along? It sure as heck beats having to know the subject professionally or have any real insights.
If a story is built on the knowledge and expertise of the author then Bob Roberts is not really a story of politics or campaigns. It is on the surface a story of acting, Bob Roberts is an "actor," a "con man" who pretends to be one thing but is actually another. Tim Robbins, the "actor" had been acting professionally for about a decade when Bob Roberts came out so one has to give their own assessment for what constitutes experience in this department. The point I am making is that acting is his only experience so playing a con man can't be too much of a stretch. Given that his roles included an astronaut, a prisoner and a Viking, a con man is virtually home turf.
During his professional career Tim Robbins formed his political views which became what the story of Bob Roberts is about dressed up as political satire. If you are looking for substantial facts or any connection to the truth you won't find them here, but why would you? Consider the source of the information...or more precisely the lack of information. If you are interested in left-wing anti-American sentiment the libraries are filled with books by qualified individuals who studied decades of philosophical viewpoints, some even holding political power. You may disagree with their philosophies but at least they spell out the philosophy, perhaps offering examples lifted from experience and they don't re-write the philosophies of others. The points of view are left bare for people to either agree, partially agree or disagree based on their merits.
Bob Roberts is a dangerous film, and an inaccurate one, because it doesn't support its philosophy by spelling out what it believes. Instead it incorrectly describes other people's philosophies based on emotion, not facts. Like a spoiled brat the film can't find anything nice to say about itself or it's viewpoint, so it makes up something bad about others. This is Hollywood fake-believe. Don't expect it to be factual. Set your standards higher than a Tim Robbins film.
Project U.F.O. (1978)
Jack Webb's Close Encounters Project
Jack Webb's DRAGNET, ADAM 12 and EMERGENCY were such big hits that his Mark VII productions always had a few other series on the networks (mostly NBC) with various success. Project UFO was definately Jack Webb's baby and he was the one who did the talk show circuit to promote it. Besides his narration, the show followed Webb's trademark of stiff, unemotional acting that gave all his shows a semi-documentary look. His earlier shows introduced the day-to-day realities of police work, paramedics and emergency rooms long before Hill Street Blues and E.R. and without the soap opera scripts. Project U.F.O. was Webb's attempt to bring the then current hit film CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND to television via a straight forward telling of the real people who investigated UFO sightings (known as Project Bluebook, that title was eventually changed to PROJECT UFO because it sounded more interesting). A typical episode would open with a discovery of a burnt out portion of field where a UFO appeared to have landed and took off and the two investigators gathering evidence to support or dispute the premise that a UFO had actually landed. Sometimes the evidence pointed to fraud and sometimes there were no answers and sometimes it was left to the audience to come to their own conclusions. Since there wasn't an attempt to conclude that there actually were aliens the series was a bit dull, there was never any big payoffs. Think of M. Night Shyamalan's SIGNS if it had ended a half hour sooner and that would pretty much sum up Project UFO. Perhaps M. Night Shyamalan was a fan of the series and wanted to do a better version and that's where SIGNS came from.
Holmes thawed out...again.
Almost word-for-word animated remake of 1993's DEMOLITION MAN. That film had cop John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) brought into the future from cryo-sleep because he was the best man to catch his arch enemy Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) who had broken out of cryo-sleep to wreck havoc on the future. Future cop Lenina Huxley (Sandra Bullock) helps John Spartan to adjust and help catch the bad guy. Replace Stallone with Sherlock Holmes, Snipes with long-time Holmes enemy Moriarty, and Bullock with Inspector Lestrade (relative of Holmes' old acquaintance from Scotland Yard) and we now have a series that if nothing else is better than having Demolition Man the Animated Series. In fact, to be fair, the idea of having a female side-kick bringing back Sherlock Holmes from the ice box had already been introduced way back in 1987's THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES where Detective Jane Watson, relative of Dr. Watson and played by Margaret Colin inherits a frozen Holmes, thaws him, and greatly improves her detective business. In the unrelated 1993 film SHERLOCK HOLMES RETURNS we find Holmes once again awakening in the 20th century from a suspended animation device of his own creation. The 1999 animated series tries to capture the look of the recently animated Batman series and current comic book illustrations...in other words a little dark, a little anime (or Japanation if you prefer). The stories are not very interesting, the robots are silly (the robot Watson looks a lot like a relative of Rosie from The Jetsons), and much of the animation is just too ugly. In the very first episode, after just being reanimated three hundred years into the future, Holmes has a keen knowledge of the abilities of computers, flying cars and robots without an ounce of curiosity or wonder of the future city before him. Instead I recommend 1979's TIME AFTER TIME where H.G. Wells played by Malcolm McDowell chases Jack the Ripper played by David Warner into the 20th century via a Time Machine. In that film Wells is always in awe of what he sees in the future without losing his keen intellect. Perhaps the maker of Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century didn't see it (obviously more of a Stallone fan). Sherlock Holmes will survive. He always does.
English slapstick comedy spy caper definitely a must for fans of that genre. Director Robert Stevenson (Mary Poppins, The Love Bug) dresses up the scenery with nice old British cars, trucks and storefronts (watch for one called THE RELUCTANT DRAGON a tip of the hat to an old Disney animated classic) and his usual trademark special effects which includes a neat little stunt where a group of men stand on each other's shoulders to see above a fog filled street. Fans of Agatha Christie movies will note Peter Ustinov (who played Hercule Poirot) and Helen Hayes and Joan Hickson (who both played Miss Marple). A final note regarding some ill-placed, ill-thought out comments about Peter Ustinov's performance that was meant to be broad comedy. Ustinov (an Englishman) also portrayed a Belgium (Hercule Poirot), a Russian, and a Frenchman in other films without any comments about their appropriateness. From Peter Sellers who played a wickedly unflattering portrayal of a Frenchman in the Pink Panther series to Ben Kingsley's stately performance as Ghandai to Jews playing Christians (sometimes unflattering) what the heck...it's called acting. If you don't like the performance that's one thing, but to call it racist then all these performances should be called racist and ALL performances that require an actor to play someone not himself would be on some level bigoted. Don't you think? To those who would call Ustinov's performance racist you are wrong and you should sue your parents and teachers for raising an idiot. By the way. I am Chinese. If I do a good Texan accent no one would think me a racist. If I do a bad Texan accent all it means is that I do a bad Texan accent. Yee Haw!
The Country Bears (2002)
What's wrong and what's right about this movie.
The one problem with this movie is that there was not enough time spent to get the audience to believe in the main characters at the start of the film. The Country Bears is basically a combination of two movies: THE MUPPET MOVIE and THE BLUES BROTHERS. Like The Muppet Movie, the audience SHOULD have been introduced to the Bears in their natural habitat perhaps in an entirely Bear world with Bear audiences, Bear storekeepers, Bear families, and Bearhound buses to help make the puppets seem real. Once the audience believes in this fantasy world (think The Flintstones), have them venture out like Kermit from his pond to meet humans. Instead, we are thrust head-on into a world where a few bears live with people with all but one kid seeing that they are actually bears. The first scene is of the all-bear band playing for a stadium filled with screaming human teens. I couldn't help think why were they attending a Barney-type concert? Why were they watching grown men prance around in kiddie costumes? Only humans were in the audience so apparently this was not in a fantasy world where bears and humans co-exist. Also, the music, which was nice, wasn't something that would have brought this audience to it's feet. It was really difficult believing they were real bears at this point since we were not introduced to their fantasy world. Were talking bears common or were they unique and therefore that's why they were a big draw? The next scene is of a young bear who lives with a human family (think of the dynamics of the little mouse STUART LITTLE who lived with a human family). Dressed in an open short-sleeved shirt and jeans he looks a lot like Michael J. Fox in TEEN WOLF. At least that film took it's time to introduce the story. Like the Muppet Movie (and it's best sequel, A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL), The Country Bears tries to be hip balancing act between entertaining kids as well as adults. The film does a pretty good job of doing this but it seems an uphill battle. Since the audience is never given a chance to see the bears as more than merely guys in costumes the jokes require blocking out all the damage the first fifteen minutes of the film has brought. The first ten minutes of a film is crucial and here it is a death march. The rest of the film is basically a re-working of THE BLUES BROTHERS as we visit one small country town after another trying to gather up the band for a big reunion concert which will save the day. We get great music and great musical cameos to make this a long form music video more than a film (which is the nature of this genre and not a bad thing). These bits are entertaining for the music but the presence of men in large bear costumes does make it difficult. Kids under six won't mind, but if they were the only target, why the attempt at hip jokes, cameos only adults would know, etc... A better beginning would have made a better film. Perhaps on repeat viewings it wouldn't be so bad. Then again, there isn't enough here to get most adults to watch it again. If you want to see good country concert footage watch CMT or buy your favorite artist on video. If your kids like Barney they will like this film too.
The Emperor's Club (2002)
Another sensitive Kevin Kline film...in another dedicated Teacher film.
If you liked...make that really liked...Dead Poet's Society, Mr. Holland's Opus, and Pay It Forward you will probably like The Emperor's Club. Don't expect to see your favorite action hero dressed as a warrior swinging a weapon above his head resembling a giant turkey leg carved out of a tree stump for the Emperor's Club once again takes us down the road of dedicated teacher. The film is another episode of this genre series but doesn't break new ground, doesn't de-throne Dead Poet's Society as THE classic dedicated student film or Mr. Holland's Opus as THE classic dedicated teacher film (wait, that should go to Goodbye Mr. Chips...sorry Mr. Holland), Pay It Forward as THE classic weeper teacher film or To Sir With Love as the classic social statement film. If Mr. Chips is a cinematic giant and Sister Act II a troll, The Emperor's Club is just a normal Joe. The film will do more for those unfamiliar with those earlier films (young audiences) and much less for star Kevin Kline's fans. Robin Williams was really a supporting character in Dead Poet's Society, disappearing for a big portion of that film (his fans expecting a comedic romp ala Good Morning Vietnam were left unsatisfied) and in The Emperor's Club Kevin Kline's personality pretty much disappears for half the film and if you are expecting A Fish Called Wanda or Dave this is the inner Kevin of Life As A House. The story is very predictable in its premise. Hollywood loves to make films about their community but when it comes time to make a film about a Teacher versus a disruptive influence it just has to be a senator's son, not a famous actor's son (or better yet, just another regular joe with no preconceived baggage...the idea here is that we are suppose to hate all politicians and therefore automatically hate the student's upbringing...zzzzz). There are little things like this that make it look as though it were written by a "little brain" (to steal Albert Brooks line.) The film also tells us that sometimes the Teacher is student and the student is Teacher...well duh, the film makers think this is news?! It's just not a very smart film, and for a film about higher education that's a bad thing. The film does have a heart and good intentions, and if you like this sort of stuff Kevin Kline does it pretty well. Compared to other films in this genre I give this film a "D" but I will revise the grade based on a curve of current films (in true American education style!) and raise the grade to a "C". A grade worthy of passing but never wanting to see again.
The Scorpion King (2002)
The Four Musts
The four things movies MUST have to be a good film are strong heros, half-naked women, action and fun (see Rudolph Valentino as The Sheik, Maureen O'Sullivan as The Jane, Sean Connery as The Bond, and Harrison Ford as The Indy for references.) The Scorpion King has all four. The Rock (both the actor and the character he plays) is a strong hero. The women are beautiful and forced by their director to wear as little as possible (thank God some things in Hollywood don't change). The action is non-stop and the dialogue is fun. 'Nuf said, end of review.
Instant classic is a comedy-mystery Mork and Mindy.
MONK is a comedy-mystery that is fun to watch. Though the mysteries may not be as challenging as Agatha Christie, Adrian Monk is as entertaining as Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Solving mysteries are easy for TV detectives, they do it each week. Big deal. The fun here is watching Monk live his life. Think 70's TV show MORK AND MINDY as a mystery. Like Mork, Monk struggles to live in a world different from his own. He sees importance in every detail, and appreciates the role and order in things that have become so common in our lives we no longer pay attention to. Like Mork, Monk is documenting the world one brick at a time. Monk's assistant Sharona Fleming is his Mindy, and despite Monk's superhuman mental capabilities, Sharona is the adult in everything that is practical, with the emphasis of her being a parental figure. Monk could just as well been a newspaper reporter, a dentist, or TV talk show host and the show would still have worked. Being a detective just gives him a little more chance to show off.
The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)
Supporting cast highlight Tashlin spy spoof
Director Frank Tashlin tries to do for Doris Day what he did for Lucille Ball (Miss Grant Takes Richmond), Bob Hope (Son of Paleface), and Jerry Lewis (Who's Minding the Store, many others) casting her in a comedy full of cartoonish color, gadgets, and slapstick. Not surprisingly Tashlin started as a director of Warner Brothers cartoons, moved into live action as a gag writer and became one of the most stylish directors of comedies. In many of his films Tashlin's world is full of out-of-control vacuum cleaners, remote control appliances, and a struggle to cope with the fast pace of modern civilization. In The Glass Bottom Boat (the title is misleading, the Catalina Island attraction is around just for the opening number) Tashlin pokes fun at the spy genre (most notably The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which was a popular TV show at the time). Rod Taylor is Day's romantic interest and the intellectual and corporate head of an aerospace corporation. He lives in a dream house with resort-style guest rooms, a futuristic kitchen, and a foyer that seems to go on forever. Doris Day plays an employee at his company who is mistaken for a spy by everyone but Taylor. Actually she is a widow who lives with her dog (he has a Russian name which adds to the confusion of her being a spy), some fish, and mockingbirds. The mockingbirds are tied into the title song which is sung to the tune of "Mockingbird." (At least one professional critic missed the purpose of the Mockingbird song that's why I'm bringing it up.) Taylor and Day have pretty good chemistry but the story is more about the chase so we don't see much romance. Instead Tashlin prefers to tie the story together with slapstick scenes such as Hi-Fi installer Dom DeLuise and Day getting their feet stuck in a trash can, Day being chased by a robotic floor sweeper, and Day in a runaway (remote control) speed boat. These are signature pieces for Tashlin and he does a good job with them but Doris Day seems a bit out of place. Slapstick requires the actor to fill in the time with quick broad expressions and physicality. We think of a physical actress like Lucille Ball trapped in a glass shower filled with water and drawing laughs from her expressions and cries. In a similar scene with an automatic floor sweeper Doris Day just seems to be there letting the antics on stage play itself out. In another scene she's virtually hanging on in an out-of-control speed boat. We can imagine Jerry Lewis changing expressions every half second and flipping on his back every two. Tashlin's skill makes the scenes funny, but they are not as hilarious as when cast with a physical clown. Day does a lot better in the quieter romantic comedy scenes and is given incredible support by a never-ending list of character actors who steal each and every one of their scenes. Among the best are Paul Lynde as a security chief who dons poor disguises and Dick Martin as Rod Taylor's "good-time" partner. Paul Lynde is joined by fellow Bewitched alumni George Tobias and Alice Pearce, virtually replaying the neighbors of that TV show Mr. and Mrs. Kravitz, this time as Doris Day's neighbors, and watch for Robert Vaughn in a quick cameo as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. himself. Add to this a rare supporting role by Arthur Godrey (with his trademark ukulele) as Doris Day's dad (they sing a duet), 60's comedy "stuffy character" actors Edward Andrews and John McGiver, and a pre-Walton's Ellen Corby as Rod Taylor's maid. Most films from this era can look really outdated but the sets here still look retro-cool. For breezy 60's fun the film is worth a look and despite a slow start seems to get better and better all the way to the end as the supporting characters come together and start interacting with each other, not just with Day. If only the entire film had the energy of the finale there might have been some much needed belly laughs generated.