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Art Haarper is retired. He spends a lot of time falling asleep in his recliner while watching movies on AMC and TCM. Here are Art's recommendations for movies worth staying awake for, or worth renting if you can figure out how to operate your VCR.


The biography on film of the late great blind entertainer, Ray Charles. This movie is powerful stuff on several levels. It is an unflinching look at the travails of his early life and struggle to establish himself in the music business, warts and all. The effect of boyhood traumatic experiences including, but not limited to, his loss of sight affect his entire life for good or ill. The film details the on-tour musician's life: the back-biting, cheating, carousing, womanizing. and drug addiction. The courage required for a blind man to function in this environment surpasses understanding. The story follows Ray's climb from unknown honky-tonk performer to international star, and the many bumps along the way. The effects of his heroin addiction and cold turkey withdrawal are harrowingly shown. The recording business and how it affects careers is covered. All this plays out against the backdrop of segregationist-post-World-War-II America.

The wonderful sounds provide the highlight of the film as it chronicles Ray's musical growth. There is something here to please almost any musical taste. Even, or maybe especially, the taste of folks like the reviewer, whose music appreciation pretty much switched off after early rock and roll. Technically, the movie is well done and the performance of Jamie Foxx is outstanding. He IS Ray Charles. The rest of the large cast also provides excellent performances without false notes, especially the ladies in his life: his mother, wife, and mistresses.

This movie and Mr. Foxx's performance are definitely worthy of their Oscar nominations. Recommended for mature audiences, as they say. Powerful stuff indeed.

Finding Neverland

I liked this film very much, but am not sure why. It is the entertaining tale of playwright James Barrie and the creation of Peter Pan - an interesting mixture of drama and fantasy. The titles proclaim that it is "based" on fact; and if it isn't true, it ought to be. I believe it tries to make some points about the human condition, death and immortality, priorities in life, and maturity (pro and con); however, I think they mostly missed the target in my case. In any event, not enough deeper "meaning" to dampen the enjoyment. The photography and production are first rate. I did have trouble picking up some of the dialogue, possibly due to my senior hearing. The performances of co-stars Johnny Depp as Barrie, and Kate Winslet as the widow lady with four little boys (his inspiration) are outstanding. They are ably supported by Dustin Hoffman as his long suffering producer, Julie Christie and the entire ensemble, including the four unbelievably believable little boys.

As an aside, just think of the audacity required to present Peter Pan for the first time, to a Victorian audience. The movie has an intriguing take on how this was accomplished.

I had an enjoyable afternoon at the movies and left the theater feeling upbeat and happy. I don't know if this film deserves the Best Picture Oscar, but it would get my vote compared to the other two nominees (Sideways and The Aviator) viewed to date.


A tale of the California lifestyle (or get-a-lifestyle?).

The story follows the adventures of two old friends and former college roommates. Miles is a frustrated high school English teacher and unpublished would-be novelist, still pining for his divorced wife and capable of stealing money from his widowed mother. His friend Jack is a third-rate actor, currently doing commercial voice-overs for a living and about to marry into Beverly Hills wealth. The pair embark on a pre-nuptial, week-long bachelor party in the Santa Barbara wine country. After settling into a local motel, they visit wineries, play golf, pick up a couple of attractive local ladies, wine and dine, etc. This is a well-made film with good direction and acting. The gorgeous wine country scenery is beautifully photographed, featuring Chamber-of-Commerce-pleasing shots of the hamlets of Buellton, Solvang, and Los Olivos. The film shows one of the most enjoyable and lesser known regions of California to full advantage. There are many genuinely funny moments, and one tends to empathize with the two buddies. Yet, these are not nice people - weak, self-centered, untrustworthy, addicted to casual sex, and afflicted with alcoholism disguised as wine appreciation. In spite of a somewhat encouraging ending, one feels that Jack's marriage is doomed to failure, and that Miles will continue to muck-up his life.

An entertaining and at times ribaldly funny film ..... but who cares?

The Incredibles

INCREDIBLE!! or "I came to jeer and stayed to cheer" (I don't know whose quote that is, but I hope its not original). I invested a rainy January afternoon to discover why an animated family movie cartoon was getting such enthusiastic reviews and word-of-mouth, and was pleasantly surprised and entertained.

When our story opens super-heroes have become superfluous and are considered nuisances. The government has set up a sort of "witness protection" program for them. They are given new identities and told to fit into normal society. We meet the TV sitcom-ish family: Mr. Incredible, Dad, a big lovable oaf with super strength; Mrs. Incredible, Mom, AKA Elasti-Girl; and their three maladjusted super children. Mr. I is lured back into action and captured by an evil genius: the disaffected, revenge seeking former president of his fan club. This little nerd plans to eliminate Mr. I and the other super-heroes, destroy a large part of the city with his evil machine, and then become the replacement hero. Fortunately Mrs. I and the kids arrive in time to rescue Mr. I. and together they manage to save the day and foil the evil scheme. Along the way we learn that " the family that super-heroes together, stays together"; and why capes on super-hero costumes are a bad idea. The family accepts the general acclaim of the populace and apparently supers happily ever afterward. This film is a real hoot - funny, exciting, satiric, and recommended viewing for all ages (although some of the cartoon violence might be a little scary for very young children). The animation and production values are first class.

Go and enjoy! You can take your grandchildren for cover if you are ashamed to be seen buying a ticket to a cartoon.


The Aviator

Director Martin Scorsese's hugely entertaining version of the "Golden Age" of Hollywood and Aviation as personified by Howard Hughes. I can't vouch for the Hollywood part, but Scorsese should know to get it right. The aviation part is well done and largely accurate as far as the publicly known facts are concerned. The special effects are very well done and the crash sequence is amazing. Howard's impact on the development of aviation is exaggerated, as might be expected. However, he certainly did produce two of the most beautiful and advanced flying machines of that, or any other, era in his H-1 racer and the ill-fated XF-11 reconnaissance airplane and facilitated the development of the classic Lockheed Constellation airliner. His stupendous, misconceived, technology-challenged Hercules, AKA the Spruce Goose, flying boat remains one of the most awesome flying machines ever built. A viewing is worth the trip to its Oregon museum retirement home.

Hughes' amazing life - his brash genius, penchant for risk taking, womanizing, eccentricities, and the beginnings of his eventual descent into madness make for a fast-paced film which holds your interest throughout. Leonardo DiCaprio is excellent as Howard and almost, but not quite, shakes the "DiCaprio playing Hughes" feeling. The same could be said for the other cast members - Hollywood movie actors portraying Hollywood STARS.

Must viewing for movie or airplane buffs and an exciting afternoon at the movies even if you are neither.

The Bourne Supremacy

WHAM! BAM! ALLAKAZAM!!! Non-stop action and suspense - car chases, explosions, assassinations, hand-to-hand combat and more. Amnesiac ex-CIA super agent Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) just wants to be left alone - but "they" won't let him be. A big mistake on "their" part. He single-handedly triumphs over Evil (the CIA), Eviller (renegade CIA), and Evillest (Big Oil in the person of a Russian plutocrat). He even recovers his memory. The US needs to send this guy after Osama.

The film takes us on a whirlwind world tour from India to Moscow with stops in Rome, Munich, and Berlin. The thrills are incessant and the action so continuous that one never questions the improbability of some of the hero's solo exploits. James Bond without the tongue-in-cheek wink to the audience. One might also wonder how he can be so proficient at his craft while suffering from amnesia: the source of his funds and supply of weapons, passports, information, electronic gear, etc. Also his source of stamina - when does he sleep? Put such thoughts aside (they won't enter your mind until later anyway); sit back (if you can), believe in and enjoy this stunning thriller. The climactic car chase through the streets of Moscow is worth the admission price by itself. This is an outstanding example of action motion picture making and sets a new standard for "fast paced".

The Terminal

Steven Spielberg offers us an interesting, well constructed film on values and the human condition. The story concerns Victor, a visitor to the US from a fictional eastern European country. Tom Hanks plays this role in the outstanding professional manner we have come to expect. Victor arrives at JFK coincident with the overthrow of his native government by coup and subsequent civil war. His passport and visa are suddenly invalid - a man without a country. He is stuck in the terminal - unable either to enter or leave the US, at the mercy of the immigration bureaucracy. His initial bewilderment (his English is minimal at first) and eventual adaptation to residing in the terminal as days stretch into months, is the main theme of the film. His interaction with various employees and police at JFK is in the nature of an ode to multi-culturalism. Victor eventually triumphs over adversity, and with the aid of his new found friends, accomplishes his goal in NYC. The lovely Catherine Zeta-Jones has a pivotal (if somewhat small for a star of her magnitude) role as a flight attendant who befriends him. I think Mr. Spielberg was trying to say something deep about human nature and getting along with each other. Nevertheless, the film can be enjoyed as a somewhat unlikely, bittersweet comedy/drama with some nice Capraesque touches. Perhaps not the blockbuster intended, but certainly a very worthy effort. Well worth one's time and money.

The Clearing

This film is a well-acted suspense tale that seems to start slowly, but holds one's interest without benefit of car chases, gratuitous violence, or explosions. The cast is outstanding, especially the three leads. An aging business man (Robert Redford) is kidnapped for ransom by a disgruntled loser (Willem Dafoe). Helen Mirren is superb as Redford's wife and, in some ways, carries the picture. The film is as much or more about relationships (between Redford and Mirren and their family, and Redford and Dafoe) as about the kidnapping. The use of flashbacks and rapid cutting between action locales is a little confusing at times. Nevertheless, suspense builds throughout, until the film reaches what is probably its inevitable climax and resolution.

It's an excellent movie which I recommend highly, and yet I felt a little disappointed as I left the theater. I somehow expected more. I seem to remember a documentary in which that old master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, described what he called the "MacGuffin". A piece of business which is inserted to hold the audience's interest while misleading them as to actual outcome and/or plot twists. Perhaps, in some way, this entire film is a "MacGuffin". In any event, it is definitely worth viewing.

Spiderman 2

C'mon folks - it's a movie about a comic book super-hero - lighten up and enjoy! Fast paced and action packed, as they say in the movie ad blurbs. The special effects are great, and the story carries you along without being campy or taking itself too seriously. An example of the rare sequel that is better than the original.

We learn that it isn't easy being SPIDERMAN and life can be confusing for a super-hero. In any event, who could suspect/believe that nebbish Peter Parker is actually SPIDERMAN? Well, by film's end, a large part of the population of New York is in the know - including a subway car full of people, his girlfriend Mary Jane (the ever popular Kirsten Dunst), and also his unbalanced best friend (and apparent designated villain for SPIDERMAN 3). Otherwise, his identity remains a secret.

Our hero must save NYC from destruction due to an uncontrollable fusion process, the brain child of Dr. Octavius, a scientist whose calculations are slightly in error. The good doctor dons a group of tentacle-like metal arms which interface with his spine and nervous system as part of his process. Unfortunately the arms have a mind of their own and take over the good doctor's brain, resulting in the evil "Doc Oc" (for Octopus). "Doc Oc" , played by Alfred Molina, and his rampaging claw-like mechanical arms steal the show. A truly wondrous exercise in special effects movie making (What can you do when the police command - "Hands up - all of them!" ?).

Never fear! Our hero wins out in the end - NYC is saved - he wins the beautiful Mary Jane - and the movie-goers are well-entertained.

The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg

The general lack of any really interesting recent movies has kept me out of the multi-plexs and at home watching TV and reading. I was intrigued, therefore, when I read a review (4 stars out of 4) of this reissue playing at the local "art" theatre. Since I had never seen U of C, I thought that catching this classic on the big screen might be an easy and interesting way of restarting my movie going habit I decided to ignore the reviewer's "warning" that it was actually an opera and go.

Once I survived the initial shock, the fact that all the dialogue was sung almost seemed natural. There seemed to be a strange affinity between the music, the French lyrics and the English sub-titles. In any event, it worked extremely well and gave a sense of theatrical magic to lighten up what might have been a drab, depressing tale.

The plot is pretty basic:
Boy meets girl
Boy gets girl (in trouble)
Boy loses girl (the path of true love is not smooth)
Boy gets new girl (happy ever afterness)

The cast was excellent. Catherine Deneuve was beautiful (what else!) in the role which made her an international star and definitive commercial "pretty face". However, the real star of the film is the wonderful, romantic music of Michelle LeGrande. One might be tired of these themes and even dismiss them as "elevator music", but here in their intended setting, they can only be described as wonderful.

I found U of C to be a thoroughly enjoyable way of passing time on a Sunday afternoon. Don't pass up a chance to catch it if you haven't seen it or to refresh your memory if you have.

The Johnson Family Vacation

I thought a little light nonsensical entertainment might be a good way to pass a boring Sunday afternoon. Also, I had enjoyed some of Cedric the Entertainer's previous efforts. In spite of some truly funny moments, this saga of a trip from LA to Missouri, via SUV (Lincoln Navigator) for the annual family reunion only slightly entertained. Even slap-stick must be done with a certain flair to be memorable. It's possible that I'm just too seniorly or ethnically challenged to fully appreciate this film; other audience members seemed to enjoy much more than I. When is the next Three Stooges TV Marathon?

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

A movie of such inordinate length that they had to title it twice?

Having stalled as long as possible, driven by a sense of duty because of the Academy Awards, and since I had seen Parts I & II; I finally invested in a senior matinee ticket to this epic. As an epic, the film is outstanding and deserves its accolades. The special effects and natural scenery are spectacular. The acting and action sequences are first rate. The dragons screaming as they swooped from the skies spreading terror and destruction like the early siren-equipped Stuka dive bombers of the WW II Blitzkreig was especially evocative for me.

However, the story makes little sense, is completely unbelievable, and is hard to follow - impossible if you haven't seen the previous parts. (Please spare me any comments about deeper cosmic meanings, the conflict between good and evil, etc.) Perhaps one needs to be a Tolkien afficionado to appreciate it. I must admit that I tried to read him many years ago, only to quit about half way thru The Hobbit. I felt that, considering all the books in the world, my time could be better invested elsewhere.

This series of films is beyond doubt a directorial tour-de-force by Peter Jackson. But as the film moved thunderingly into its third hour, my kidneys began to alert me to its length. The happy endings seemed to go on forever and must certainly have set the record and new world standard for such activity, so that THE END was welcome indeed when it finally arrived. I spent even less time than usual with the interminable credits scroll.

If you are among the 15 or 20 people who have not yet seen this flick, by all means go! It is well worth the price of admission to see the special effects and a truly epic, if overlong and obtuse, tale. As with Parts I and II, I'm glad I went, was well-entertained, and have no desire to see it again.

Master and Commander

Wooden Ships and Iron Men -- Britannia Rules the Waves!! A stirring tale of life and death on the high seas in the days of Nelson, based on the novels by Patrick O'Brian. A small British warship, superbly commanded by Russell Crowe, is sent to intercept a French privateer bent on decimating the Pacific whaling fleet. HMS Surprise is alternately pursuing and pursued by its larger and better armed opponent. In this day of instant satellite communication, it is interesting to ponder that the captain of such a ship, acting on his own initiative without higher direction for months or even years, was absolute ruler of his little wooden empire. Enjoying a freedom of action a modern commander can only envy. I thought the directing, acting, and photography were first-rate. The claustrophobic life on a small sailing ship and the extreme violence of storms and battle at sea are graphically depicted. The characters of the captain, ship's doctor, officers, mid-shipmen (boys) and crew (boys to old men) are well developed and defined. However, a familiarity with the novels (I've read a couple) does help in understanding some of the relationships. A little familiarity with the history of the times and sailing navies also helps, but is not required, to follow the action. I do feel that the dialogue was unduly muffled at times, and I missed or had to guess at some important interchanges developing character and plot details. I realize that some of this was due to my "senior" hearing, but feel that a little more amplification would not unduly detract from realism. I recommend this movie highly as a good, old-fashioned, action-filled, straight-forward adventure story - superbly told. A view of a fascinating world and way of life which will never be again!


A pleasant piece of holiday fluff with some genuinely funny moments. A foundling crawls into Santa's bag while he is delivering gifts at the orphanage and is carried to the North Pole to be adopted and raised as an elf. He has more and more trouble fitting in as he grows up and finally learns that he is human. He then departs for NYC to find his father (who is unaware of his existence) and, as Radar used to announce in M*A*S*H, "hilarity ensues". Will Ferrell is funny as Buddy the Elf and the rest of the cast does a competent to outstanding job. An aging Bob Newhart, as Papa Elf, is the outstanding one. His intro on elves' career choices before the titles roll is truly hilarious. Why can't someone figure a way for us to enjoy this great comic talent more frequently? This film provides some mostly light-hearted holiday relief - though it doesn't make the Christmas classic list. After all, what can you really expect from a movie about Christmas which never once even alludes to the real meaning of the holiday, and then makes a sappy attempt at drawing a moral about Christmas spirit?

Kill Bill, Volume 1

I went to see this film in response to urging and against my better judgement. Director Tarantino is at least bordering on genius and many of the scenes and effects are truly memorable in this violent tale of martial arts and vengeance. However, one never really cares about the characters and the thin story line gets lost in a phantasmagoria of spewing blood and flying body parts. The director's fascination with violence, evisceration, and oceans of blood is sick and left this viewer with a sense of repugnance and a desire to get up and leave the theater. On a lighter note, I realize there is supposed to be a mystical thing to the whole martial arts / samurai slice and dice business, but one can't help but wonder why somebody doesn't just buy a gun. Even though this tale is "to be continued", I don't plan on seeing Vol. 2. I should have listened to my better judgement.

Mystic River

A dark, engrossing tale. An unsavory incident involving three small boys continues to effect their adult lives and, in combination with the criminal background of one of them, ultimately leads to the tragic consequences climaxing this film. The acting of the entire cast was outstanding though Sean Penn and Tim Robbins were a little too emotional at times, for my taste--though both characters certainly had enough to be overwrought about. I thought the direction by Clint Eastwood and the photography were very good and the Boston neighborhood seemed "right". Look for Eli Wallach in a cameo - too bad Lee Van Cleef is no longer available or Clint could have worked in a reunion cameo. However, it is probably a stretch to see Bacon, Penn, and Robbins as an urban version of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". Also, the commercials for Jack Daniels, Wild Turkey, etc. are becoming noticeable enough to be irritating. I cannot honestly say I enjoyed this movie, but I can honestly say that I consider it an afternoon well spent. It is a wonderful example of movie storytelling with fine acting by a great cast and should confirm Eastwood's directorial credentials. A Good Show!

Secondhand Lions

Frank Capra lives!! At last - an entertaining, funny, feel-good, morally acceptable, intelligent movie suitable for all ages. A small boy is marooned by his mother in the care of two eccentric uncles on a ramshackle Texas farm in the 1950's. The uncles appear to have a large supply of unexplained cash, coveted by the mother and other relatives and targeted by a covey of travelling salesmen (who are sometimes targeted by the uncles). There are numerous sight gags as the boy, assisted by a "used" lioness and other miscellaneous livestock, overcomes a huge culture shock to bond with the old coots. Robert Duvall and Michael Caine are outstanding as the two old "crazies" every boy would love to have for uncles. I liked this movie! Don't dismiss it based on what the critics may say or because it presents a moral - see it and enjoy!

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Confusing, obscure, unbelievable, and WAAAAY over the top with pointless violence - SICK! What a waste of money, time, and talent. An apparent attempt at a modern day western which manages to make even the "spaghetti westerns" look good by comparison. On the good side, there are some nice views of Mexico, and it must have provided gainful employment for a veritable army of stuntmen. Any merit of the actors' performances (a fairly impressive list including Antonio Banderas and Johnny Depp) is lost in the overall muddle. Better to stay home and watch "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" on the late show.

Open Range

Open Range or "Dances with Steers"? - A boy growing up in the 1940s could hardly avoid becoming a western movie fan. He would have spent countless hours at the local theaters watching Saturday matinee B oaters, B+ westerns starring the likes of Randolph Scott, and the epic productions of directors like Howard Hawks, Henry Hathaway, and the undisputed master, John Ford. Kevin Costner is no John Ford! This movie is over-long and drags badly at times. Costner seems to love his images too much and needs an editor with the authority to cut ruthlessly. Nevertheless, this film is a worthy effort and worth seeing. The scenery and photography leave little to be desired, though Costner seems to continue his obsession with water. The performances of Costner, Annette Bening, and the rest of the cast are excellent. Robert Duvall, as always, is outstanding. The action sequences are well done and perhaps a little too violent at times, with a huge body count The gang of bad guys must set a record for ineffectiveness in the climactic shoot-out. If you are a western movie fan - go see it and enjoy. If you are not a western fan - shame on you!

Johnny English

I had a weird experience viewing this movie. I am used to sparse "crowds" attending the late afternoon drive time matinee (most economical ticket price available). However, this was the first time I have had a theater entirely to myself. A private showing may be nice, but it is definitely not the best way to enjoy a comedy. This James Bond send-up appears to be dying for lack of interest, which is unfortunate as it is really a superior example of wry British humor and good old fashioned slapstick. The mis-adventures of the clueless British super-agent of the title, only saved from countless disasters by the intervention of his trusty assistant, Bob, and a beauteous foreign female spy, are very entertaining. John Malkovich is a hoot as the evil villain. The film is genuinely funny, though I regretted the unnecessary descent into potty humor at one point. A familiarity with early Bond films helps to sharpen appreciation of some of the gags. There are definitely worse ways to spend a summer afternoon.

Pirates of the Caribbean

This film has lots of exciting action and great special effects. Unfortunately, it also has wooden actors (although the pirate captains do have a few good hammy moments) and a plot that is way beyond silly. The director appears to be undecided if he is playing it straight or for laughs (didn't get many) with confusing results. One might be better advised to search cable TV for an old Errol Flynn or Tyrone Power pirate flick to appreciate how a "swash" should be "buckled."

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

The credits say this movie was based on a "graphic novel," i.e. comic book, I presume; and it shows. It will surely win the Oscar in the category--Silliest and Most Ridiculous Plot. The story enlists classic Victorian fictional heroes and villains in an alliance to save the world from an arch-fiend bent on introducing 20th Century technology of death and destruction. The special effects are outstanding, but after awhile one tends to get lost among all the explosions and bullets. The excess finally becomes boring. Sean Connery saves the day literally and figuratively. His commanding presence and authority fosters the illusion that this mess actually makes sense. He is one of the few acting today who can be considered a "movie star." I enjoyed this picture, in spite of myself; however, I can only give it one thumb up--or maybe two sideways.

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Having enjoyed this film innumerable times on TV, I couldn't pass up the chance to catch a showing of it as it was intended to be seen - a digitally enhanced 35mm print on the big screen at our neighborhood art theater. I thought it was hopelessly romanticised and a little hokey by todays standards; but thoroughly enjoyable - sort of a medieval English western. Errol Flynn, as Robin, sets the standard by which all other swashbucklers should be measured, while Olivia DeHavilland is a beautiful, if unbelievable, Maid Marian. Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone are wonderful bad guys. Rains especially seems to enjoy his evil ways. Alan Hale and Eugene Pallette are the definitive Little John and Friar Tuck. The Technicolor showcases the lavish costumes and settings, and it must have really wowed the late 1930s audiences used to seeing films in black and white. I can't imagine any better version of this tale, and in my opinion all subsequent efforts have been mainly ego trips of certain directors or stars and have fallen woefully short. A cartoon preceded the feature - Bugs Bunny in RABBIT HOOD - a nice 30s touch. Don't pass up a chance to enjoy this classic on a big screen, and see how the real movie makers did it. A good second choice would be a rental tape or just watch your late night TV movie listings, it'll be around.

The Italian Job

An outstanding example of the high-tech caper/chase film. In fact you actually get two capers and chases for your money. You do have to allow for a few logical lapses (i.e., why doesn't the Ukrainian mafia simply take everything from everybody?) and buy into the concept that all the high-tech gimmickry works as advertised, when needed. Also, at times you might almost think you were watching a travelogue for Venice and LA. The real stars of the movie are a gaggle of Mini-Coopers roaring through the most unlikely places like a pack of demented dachshunds. Suspend your disbelief, buy your ticket, and enjoy.

A Mighty Wind

This film is a send-up of the 1960s folk-singing craze, the plot involves the reuniting of several vintage folk music groups for a televised memorial concert for the recently deceased impresario who promoted/discovered them. Weird people who take themselves way too seriously. The humor is definitely quirky and maybe slightly malicious at times - hilarious, but maybe not often enough. I personally enjoyed this movie, but some folks might just say "Huh, what's funny about that?" They might be better served to search the late night TV listings for a vintage Marx brothers or Laurel & Hardy.

The Blob

TCM had a Steve McQueen film festival on the tube yesterday. I sat through The Blob for the first and last time. Every bit of the Dollar-Three- Eighty they spent on it shows. The special effects, screen play, and especially the acting were embarrassing. The main theme seemed to be: trust your local teenager, no matter how improbable his message. Also makes a good case for fighting Global Warming, since the Air Force marooned the Blob in the arctic - they could freeze it, but they couldn't kill it. We'll all be "blobbed" when the ice cap melts! I guess this fits the category - so bad, it's good. Interesting to see "Steven" McQueen, as he is billed. at the start of his career - before he learned how to be "Steve" McQueen.

Grand Hotel

Turner Classic Movies had a Gretta Garbo film festival yesterday, I watched Grand Hotel. It had been so many years since I last actually watched it that I didn't remember any of the plot details. It is interesting to see what was considered Hollywood's best (Best Picture - 1932) at the start of the Golden Age of Talking Pictures. It holds up amazingly well, though its age shows at times and film has certainly changed; not always for the better. A great cast - Garbo, Joan Crawford, John and Lionel Barrymore, Wallace Beery (one forgets what a good actor he could be), Lewis Stone, and Gene Hersholt. I didn't realize that Garbo's terrible signature line - "I want to be alone" - came from this flick. Lewis Stone has that great line at the end: "The Grand Hotel - people come, people go - nothing ever happens." I remember the first/last time I watched this show. It was on a Classic Film series on a local LA TV station sometime in the late 1950's. What I mainly remember is that the films in the series were introduced by Francis X. Bushman. He came out before the film in a tux and gave a short intro - very impressive gentleman (played Messala in the original Ben Hur). Enough nostalgia! Grand Hotel is worth sitting through, if you haven't seen or don't remember it.

Tears of the Sun

Saw Tears of the Sun yesterday - above average action flick. Lots of good and bad guys die. Bruce Willis gives a credible performance. The made-in-St.-Louis cavalry (two F-18s) arrives in the nick of time - even though they don't seem to be carrying the proper weapons load for the mayhem they inflict.

Gods and Generals

I saw Gods & Generals yesterday - extremely long. I thought it was great, but I doubt most young people would care for it. A person really needs to start with an interest in the Civil War to appreciate it - it really seems to evoke the times and conditions, and what it was probably like to be there. It is very sympathetic to the South and gives an idea of the way they thought. I think what the critics don't realize is that people of that time really did talk, think, believe, and write in the manner depicted (insofar as we can tell): even though it seems stilted and unreal to us. They used a lot of the same actors in the various supporting roles which will aid in continuity with Gettysburg, when they are viewed as a trilogy. I think Duvall makes a superior Lee, though Sheen's was alright. Ted Turner shows up as a non-speaking extra on Lee's staff in one scene.

Roxie Hart

While channel surfing, I stumbled across this 1942 film on Turner Classic Movies. The stars are Adolphe Menjou, Ginger Rogers, George Montgomery and the usual competent cast of supporting studio players. After a few minutes, I realized that I was watching a non-musical CHICAGO. No singing and dancing, unless you count one short tap number by Ginger to establish her Roxie character. Adolphe Menjou plays the smooth talking defense lawyer. The film is played as a broad courtroom farce and the plot is very similar to CHICAGO except that there is a more or less morally acceptable ending, as was required in those days. Roxie still beats the rap. While I wouldn't spend a lot of effort searching for it, this film was enjoyable in its own right and provides a very interesting comparison with the recent hit. I recommend it to anyone with an interest in movies, how they are made, and the recycling of plots. There are many worse ways to spend an hour or so in front of the tube.


Saw Chicago yesterday. Morally objectionable with absolutely no redeeming social value. However, I enjoyed it very much and highly recommend it.


Saw Adaptation yesterday. I think I enjoyed it, but it was kind of weird. I imagine it would be more interesting if you're a writer. Very convoluted with all the flashbacks and/or forwards. I thought the acting was first rate, even Cage's Gene Wilder impersonation.

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Saw Lords of the Rings Part II yesterday. Confusing, ridiculous, over-long ( I think part of it is a spoof of Macbeth or maybe Snow White), yet strangely compelling. The scenery and special effects are amazing. I suppose I am hooked and will probably go to Part III to see how it comes out. They even have a "dwarf throwing" to appeal to those folks who enjoy that sort of thing.

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