I Saw That!

One woman's opinions about popular entertainment.

My Photo
Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Amateur boxing coach, Christian (but not so heavenly-minded that I'm no earthly good) singer, writer, self-defense advocate, childfree. feminist www.smartwomenboxingtraining.org

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

A Raisin In The Sun (1961)

Lorraine Hansberry's play was brought alive onscreen with Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Diana Sands and Claudia MacNeil. The Younger family is a working poor African-American family living in Chicago. The whole family is waiting on insurance money left to them by their late patriarch. It is hoped that the money will elevate them out of their circumstances. Walter (Poitier) is a driver with big dreams. He has been talking with friends about opening up a liquor store, an idea that neither his wife Ruth (Dee) nor his mother Lena (MacNeil) is keen on. Beneatha (Sands), Walter's sister, flits from one thing to the other, but has dreams of being educated. She's dating a snob named George (Louis Gossett Jr.), but is intrigued by an African named Agasi (Ivan Dixon) who makes her think.

The money arrives, but Walter makes a bad decision with his portion. Lena's decision to take some of the money and put a down payment on a house in a predominately white neighborhood seems just as bad. The family finds themselves caught in the middle of going backwards or moving forward.

The movie is pretty faithful to the Broadway play. All of the actors do a fine job, including the late John Fiedler, who portrays a character who puts an offer to the family that may break them. Viewers used to seeing Louis Gossett Jr. bald, may be surprised to see the Oscar winner sporting hair in this film, as he also did in the film The Landlord (1970). Claudia MacNeil was in several films including Black Girl (1972) and The Last Angry Man (1959). Ivan Dixon was one of the prisoners on "Hogan's Heroes" (1966-1971), and he was featured in Car Wash (1976). Diana Sands was a good actress who was in The Landlord and a TV-movie "The Living End" (1972) alongside Mr. Gossett. She died too soon from cancer in 1973.

Labels: , , , , ,

The Good Son (1993)

Along the vein of films such as The Bad Seed (1956), the plot follows Mark (Elijah Wood), who is left in the care of his aunt and uncle while his widowed dad (David Morse) goes on a business trip. Mark hangs out with his cousin Henry (Macaulay Culkin), and soon figures out his cousin is as evil as hell. Of course, Henry's parents and other adults don't figure this out. Henry does all kinds of out-of-pocket stuff including causing major vehicle accidents and attempting to kill his little sister Connie (Quinn Culkin). There is also a hint that Henry may have killed his brother years before. Mark has got to put a stop to Henry's madness, but he has to watch his step, lest his cousin arranges for him to meet a bad end. Plus, Mark is being blamed for all the other little mishaps that Henry has caused.

Culkin is good as the brat who deserves more than a good spanking to straighten him up. The movie has an overall creepiness to it, which is not unusual for stories dealing with psychotic kids.

Macauley Culkin's biggest success was in Home Alone (1990). Elijah Wood has appeared in several films including The War (1994) and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001). David Morse had a short-lived TV series, "Hack" (2002-2003), and appeared in many films including The Green Mile (1999).

High Anxiety (1977)

Dr. Richard Thorndyke (Mel Brooks) takes over as head administrator of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, Very Nervous. After he discovers that suspicious activities are going on, he is framed for murder by Nurse Diesel (Cloris Leachman) and Dr. Montague (Harvey Korman). Thorndyke not only has to clear himself of the charge, but get over his own anxiety problems in the process.

Numerous references to Alfred Hitchcock classics such as Vertigo and Psycho are sprinkled throughout this comedy. One of my favorite scenes involves Thorndyke being called on to sing in a lounge. He protests at first, then tells the pianist what key he wants the song "High Anxiety" played in. Judging by the success of the Broadway hit, The Producers, based on the Brooks' movie of the same name, one gets the feeling that Mr. Brooks is a frustrated song-and-dance man.

Brooks is responsible for several nutty movies including Blazing Saddles (1974) and Silent Movie (1976). Harvey Korman, a fine character actor, was a regular on "The Carol Burnett Show" (1967-1977). Cloris Leachman is a great actress who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Last Picture Show (1971). She is also the only actress to have won Emmy Awards in five different categories. The late Madeline Kahn starred in another Brooks film, Young Frankenstein (1974). Barry Levinson, who directed Good Morning, Vietnam (1987) and Rainman (1988), shows up as a frustrated bellboy. Jack Riley, who was one of Dr. Hartley's most memorable clients, Mr. Carlin, on "The Bob Newhart Show" (1972-1978), appears as a desk clerk. Dick Van Patton, who was the affable patriarch on "Eight Is Enough" (1977-1981), plays a character who dies an unusual death. Murphy Dunne portrays a piano player. He was also a musician in the movie "The Blues Brothers" (1980).

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, September 25, 2006

Victor/Victoria (1987)

Funny Blake Edwards directed comedy about a down-on-her-luck singer named Victoria Grant(Julie Andrews) in 1930's France. She can't get a job, and she is about to be kicked out of her apartment. She meets Caroll "Toddy" Todd (Robert Preston), a gay man who befriends her and takes her in. He comes up with a great idea: why doesn't Victoria pass herself off as a female impersonator? Victoria is not sure she can do it, but with Toddy's coaching, she becomes Victor, an instant hit.

One of her (his?) club performances is King Marchand (James Garner), a Chicago-based gangster who is laying low in France. He has his bimbo girlfriend, Norma (Leslie Anne Warren) and his bodyguard Squash (Alex Karras) in tow. King is attracted to Victoria, who at the end of her act, pulls off a wig to reveal her short cut hair, pretending that she is actually a man. Victoria is attracted to him, but she continues with her deception. In the meantime, there are people out to prove that Victor is indeed a fake, and a private detective is sent to investigate. Things get out of hand, and Victoria begins to have a hard time living a double life.

Garner and Andrews worked together in another movie, The Americanization of Emily (1964), and their good chemistry is also on display in Victor/Victoria. In real life, Andrews is married to director Edwards. The late Robert Preston was also a song and dance man back in the day: he was in The Music Man (1963) with Shirley Jones. Alex Karras was a former professional football player. He once punched a horse--in the movie Blazing Saddles (1974).

Labels: , , , , ,

Drunken Master (1978)

Wong (Jackie Chan) is a mischevious young man who is seriously in need of discipline. Early on in the film, he steals a kiss and sneakily gropes a young woman. When her mother protests, he insults her and gets into a fight with the older woman. Then he beats down--however rightfully--a street tough who refuses to pay an old man for merchandise.

Wong comes home to find his father has company: the young girl he groped earlier is his cousin, and the mature woman (Linda Li) he had a fight with is his aunt. Right after that, the dad of the street tough arrives, carrying his son with him. Wong left the guy badly broken up with a cracked skull. Wong's father is outraged at his son's behavior. He sends him away to be trained and humbled by his uncle, a legendary fighter. Wong resists, even running away from his uncle, but eventually learns to respect him. His uncle has a special style of fighting that involves drinking a lot of wine. Wong finds he'll need to use every aspect of that style when an assassin comes looking for his dad.

This film reminds me of another Chan film entitled Dragons Forever, where it seemed a fight jumped off every five minutes. The action is good, and as usual, mixed in with Chan's style of humor.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

In & Out (1997)

High school teacher Howard Brackett (Kevin Kline) is going along fine. His students like him, and he is engaged to be married to Emily Montgomery (Joan Cusack). Then a former student of his, Cameron Drake (Matt Dillion), drops a bomb during his acceptance speech after winning an Oscar. He mentions that Howard is gay. Howard denies that Drake's comment is true, but then begins to question his sexuality. Peter Malloy (Tom Selleck), an openly gay TV reporter, arrives to cover the story, and soon, the whole town is caught up in a media circus.

This amusing comedy has a good cast, and the story is supposedly based on a comment Tom Hanks made about a former teacher of his during an acceptance speech. Joan Cusack is delightful as the fiancee who is caught up in the confusion surrounding her beau. Selleck, an actor known for macho roles such as on the series "Magnum, P.I." plays his gay character with ease and a bit of mischeviousness. Bob Newhart is the nervous school principal.

Kline was part of the ensemble cast of the classic film, The Big Chill (1983), and the wild comedy A Fish Called Wanda (1988). Joan Cusack and her brother John are from the Midwest, where they were trained in acting, along with Jeremy Piven, in Piven's parents' school. Tom Selleck was billed as "Stud" in a 1970 Mae West movie called Myra Breckenridge. Newhart started as a standup comic who moved into TV ("The Bob Newhart Show") and movies.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, September 15, 2006

Flightplan (2005)

The story opens on a somber beginning: Kyle (Jodie Foster) and her daughter Julia (Marlene Lawston) prepare to fly home from Europe. Kyle's husband is dead, apparently from suicide. His body will be flown back, as well. Kyle and Julia are the first ones to board the plane.

After the plane is in the air, Kyle drifts off to sleep. When she awakes, Julia is not sitting next to her. When Kyle investigates, the flight crew claims they have not seen her. Kyle becomes frantic after a check of the passenger list reveals that Julia was never listed. The crew and the other passengers believe that Kyle is quite mad. The crew even has more reason to be suspicious when they learn that Kyle is very knowledgable about the plane's design--she is an engineer.

I thought this film was a psychological thriller from the way it was initially set up. It was very easy to believe that a widow's grief would lead her to think that she had a child who was non-existent. As Kyle's fear and determination grows, hints begin to surface that she may not be delusional after all. Little by little, the audience is moved to cheer on Kyle as she works to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Jodie Foster is an actress who has always taken on smart roles, even when she was a little girl. The fierce mother's instinct of her character was very well done by her. Erika Christensen (Swimfan) is one of the flight attendants who tries to deal with Kyle being upset. Sean Beam, who was Boromir in The Lord of The Rings movies, is the airplane captain.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Woman Of Straw (1964)

Sean Connery played a bad dude in this suspense story. Ailing rich tycoon Charles Richmond (Ralph Richardson) become fond of his Italian nurse, Maria Marcello (Gina Lollobrigda). They fall for each other and get married. Enter Charles' scheming nephew, Anthony Richmond, who intends to take over the old man's fortune. Charles makes a play for Maria, and everyone notices. When the old man dies quickly, Maria is placed under suspicion. She then has to be quick of mind to avoid Charles, who needs her out of the way to get his hands on the money, as well.

This movie used to be shown on TV regularly when I was a small kid, but it is seldom shown today. Connery is all charm with a dangerous uncurrent. Those who are only familiar with him as James Bond or the other tough but honest guys in movies such as The Rock (1996) and The Untouchables (1987), will be surprised by how nasty the man gets in this film. Sir Ralph Richardson's credits included the epic Exodus (1960) and Long Day's Journey Into Night (1962). In addition to acting, Ms. Lollobridgda is known as a good photographer.

Labels: ,

Harold and Maude (1971)

Harold (Bud Cort) is a morose young man who comes from an upscale family. His dad is deceased. Harold spends a lot of his time attempting suicide--attempts that his mother (Vivian Pickles) ignores because he does them so often. One day, he's engaged in conversation by an unconventional elderly woman named Maude (Ruth Gordon). He resists her efforts at friendship in the beginning, but she presses on, and he finds a kindred soul. Maude is spry and full of life. Harold falls in love with her, to the dismay of society in general.

This totally quirky story with its dark elements is ultimately life affirming. Ruth Gordon is utterly charming as Maude, a woman who seems to have always lived life on her own terms. Outside of being an actress, Ms. Gordon was also a writer. Ellen Geer, who would later appear on TV's "The Waltons" has a role, and Tom Skerritt who starred on "Picket Fences" is in this movie, too.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Funny Girl (1968)

Fanny Brice is a poor Jewish girl living with her mother (Kay Medford) in New York. Her mother and her mother's friends don't take her show business dreams seriously. They point out that she's not a beauty queen, but Fanny is determined to make it. She makes it into a Ziegfeld show, then deviates from the script. Scheduled to sing a song about being a beautiful bride, Fanny steals the show by coming out with a pillow under her dress, pretending she's pregnant. Ziegfeld (Walter Pidgeon) is not happy, but when he sees the audience's pleased reaction, he decides to keep her in the show.

After one of her performances, she meets Nick Arnstein (Omar Sharif), a gambler with ties to underworld crime. After a brief separation, they meet again, fall for each other, and end up married. Fanny's star goes up, but Nick's fortunes dwindle. She attempts to help her husband out, but his male pride causes resentment on his part. Soon, their marriage is in trouble. When Arnstein is caught up in an illegal scheme, Fanny is faced with some hard decisions to make.

There's only one song I'm not crazy about on the soundtrack, and that's "The Swan", a comedic number. Other than that, the music is excellent, even though, it does disappear for a long stretch in the latter half of the movie. I liked the "plain and homely girl makes good" theme, which some could say applies to Ms. Streisand's career, as well. She certainly has no problem singing a line from "Sadie, Sadie" that goes, "The groom was prettier than the bride!"

Ms. Streisand is a bonafide diva with a beautiful voice who can also act. Her non-musical role have included Nuts (1987) and The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996). One of Mr. Sharif's biggest roles before Funny Girl was in the epic Dr. Zhivago (1965). He is also a world-class bridge player. Anne Francis, who also appears in this film, made history as TV's first female detective in the series "Honey West" (1965). She also starred in a Jerry Lewis film called Hook, Line and Sinker (1969). Walter Pidgeon was a respected actor who appeared in numerous films, including the war time classic Mrs. Miniver (1942).

Fanny Brice was a real person. She was a performer with the Zigfeld Follies, and continued her career in radio and movies. Her most famous character was a mischievous child named Baby Snooks.

Labels: , , , ,

Out Of The Past (1947)

Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum), a guy who owns a gas station in a small town, finds he couldn't run far enough from his past. He's ordered to a meeting with an underhanded gambler named Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas). Whit wants Jeff to track down Kathie (Jane Greer), a woman who shot Whit and ran off with $40,000. Jeff was once a private detective, and uses his skills to track Kathie to Acapulco. Kathie claims that she was being victimized by Whit. Jeff suspects things aren't what they seem, despite of being caught up in Kathie's charms. Soon, Jeff finds himself deeper into a web with seemingly no way out.

This film is a great example of the film noir genre, where people find themselves entangled in messy, dangerous situations, and the outcomes are seldom happy. One of my all time favorite movie lines is when Kathie cries to Jeff that she doesn't want to die. He replies, "Neither do I baby, but if I have to, I'm gonna be last." Whit also gets off a good one: "My feelings? About ten years ago, I hid them and haven't been able to find them." All the elements of the genre are in place--shadowy places, scheming people, tough talk, double and triple crosses.

Ms. Greer, who played a sympathetic ex-con in The Company She Keeps (1951), is perfect as the sneaky Kathie, who has her own agenda. Robert Mitchum was the perfect tough guy actor, and Kirk Douglas shows off his talent at playing weasels (he also wear some sharp suits!). Rhonda Fleming also appears in the film; her credits include The Spiral Staircase (1946) and Cry Danger (1951).

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"The Crocodile Hunter" (1996-2006)

God bless the late, great Steve Irwin, a fearless, loveable lug who brought nature into living rooms weekly. He had caught his first crocodile in his native Australia at age nine, and had been doing it ever since. His love of animals was extremely evident, even though, he was often in dangerous situations to get close to them.

Irwin and his American wife Teri, chronicled their adventures of saving animals around the world. Together, they ran a wildlife refuge. Irwin's popularity grew worldwide due to his antics. He'd get bit, scratched and scraped, all in the name of saving the animals he encountered. Once he had put his hand too close to a pool where a crocodile was hovering. The croc leaped up, grabbed hold of his hand, and would not let go. Irwin was not fazed; he walked alongside the pool until the crocodile let go. Irwin showed his punctured hand to the camera, exclaiming how deep the croc's teeth had gone. Another episode found him and his crew thrashing around in water in the middle of the night to catch an endangered croc.

In later episodes, the Irwin's oldest daughter, Bindi Sue, then a baby, would appear. Irwin was wrestling with another crocodile as little Bindi looked on. She seemed to be a bit concerned that "Daddy" might get hurt, but judging by the promos for the show, the little girl shared her father's lack of fear. Bindi would perch on the top of a huge crocodile while her proud parents looked on.

Underneath what seemed to be crazy, and at times, comic situations, it was clear that Irwin was very serious about his passion and mission for animals. He was fascinated by each and every animal he came in contact with. He had the enthusiasm of a kid who had just found a new toy.