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Grumpy Old Men Review


Good
Grumpy Old Men, directed with general disinterest by Donald Petrie, is 100 minutes of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon pulling pranks, calling each other names, complaining and falling in love with Ann-Margret. I am suitably entertained by these things. Whether or not you are will be the deciding factor of what you think of what is ostensibly a geriatric Odd Couple.

Milking a 50-odd year rivalry, John Gustafson (Lemmon) and Max Goldman (Matthau), for reasons where logic dare not tread, live right next to each other in suburban Minnesota. Their lives hinge on very few things: Their kids, fishing, grandkids, fishing, evading tax collectors, fishing, and going to the bait shop to talk with Charlie (Ossie Davis) about fishing. That is when they aren't being a royal pain in each other's asses.

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Batman (1966) Review


Good
If you're old enough, you remember when Batman first became a cultural phenomenon. No, not when Tim Burton tagged then-comedian Michael Keaton and Oscar-winning warhorse Jack Nicholson to play the Caped Crusader and his joking nemesis, respectively. Forty years ago, every kid in America was glued to their living room TV set, awaiting the moment when the familiar Neal Hefti theme music would announce another amazing adventure with the crime fighter and the boy wonder Robin. So successful was the '60s version that at the height of its popularity it actually aired twice a week. Naturally, ABC wanted to maximize its prime time hit's potential, so in between seasons one and two, a full length motion picture was produced.

The storyline of 1966's Batman offers up the four main villains from the series -- The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), and Catwoman (Lee Meriwether, subbing for a previously committed Julie Newmar) -- uniting to bring down Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward) once and for all. Using a device known as a dehydrator, they kidnap the United World Security Council, determined to use their crime to dismantle the organization and take over the world. With the leaders now turned to dust, our bad-guy-busting duo must save the day, hopefully restoring the assembly before the planet devolves into chaos.

Continue reading: Batman (1966) Review

Rocky Review


Excellent
With Rocky, cinematographer Jimmy Crabe worked with director John G. Avildsen to rethink the look of the city of Philadelphia. Consisting of a scant few shots of the familiar monuments and parks, Crabe, who was later diagnosed with and succumbed to AIDS in 1989, turned the city into miles of sleet-swept streets, soiled corner stores and nausea-green gymnasiums where wannabe athletes spend their time until they make their way to any of the dozen cheap basement bars scattered throughout the terrain. If the star of Rocky is Sylvester Stallone, his co-star is the atmosphere of cold and piteous hope that cultivates around the titular amateur boxer.

In hindsight, the first chapter of the rigorous franchise has a healthy leg-up on the rest of the films and feels uniquely homegrown in tone. It's almost basic mythology at this point: Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone at the peak of his durability) works for a two-bit loan shark as freelance muscle while he trains to become a boxer and does amateur bouts for 40 bucks a pop. It's his nickname, The Italian Stallion, which catches the eye of heavyweight champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) when the champ is looking for a gimmick. Creed is more of an entrepreneur than an athlete: When someone calls the gimmick "American," he quips back, "No, it's smart."

Continue reading: Rocky Review

The Sentinel (1977) Review


Very Good
Next time you rent an apartment, you might check to make sure it's not the doorway to hell before you sign the lease. Alison (Cristina Raines, who vanished from the Hollywood scene in 1987) is a suicidal model who figures this old and roomy place will offer a respite from her rough life. When she complains about the weird and loud neighbors (including an unforgettable and deliciously nasty Beverly D'Angelo, who rubs her crotch to, er, completion when Alison is over for coffee), it turns out no one else lives there. Is it a hallucination or demons? Either way, this is one hell of a sick little horror flick. Watching for stars then and now to make their appearances can alone make the film worthwhile.

Magic Review


Very Good
The work of early Anthony Hopkins is always worth a gamble, and Magic is easily one of his quirkiest films. Hopkins plays a magician/puppeteer, and any time a ventriloquist's dummy makes it into a picture, trouble can't be far behind. The trouble here begins when, inexplicably, Corky (Hopkins) is about to hit the big time, but flees town when he's told he has to take a physical exam. He ends up shacking up with old girlfriend Peggy Ann (Ann-Margret), and then the body count starts rising as dummy "Fats" gets jealous. Script by William Goldman, direction by Richard Attenborough. Odd combo, but it's creepy and generally works. And to think, Attendborough's next film would be Gandhi.

The Sentinel Review


Very Good
Next time you rent an apartment, you might check to make sure it's not the doorway to hell before you sign the lease. Alison (Cristina Raines, who vanished from the Hollywood scene in 1987) is a suicidal model who figures this old and roomy place will offer a respite from her rough life. When she complains about the weird and loud neighbors (including an unforgettable and deliciously nasty Beverly D'Angelo, who rubs her crotch to, er, completion when Alison is over for coffee), it turns out no one else lives there. Is it a hallucination or demons? Either way, this is one hell of a sick little horror flick. Watching for stars then and now to make their appearances can alone make the film worthwhile.

The Story Of G.I. Joe Review


Good
While the little-seen The Story of G.I. Joe has long been heralded as a great among war flicks, it's tough to find anything all that original or particularly memorable in its story. Reminiscent of the last half of Full Metal Jacket, the movie traces a winning war journalist (Burgess Meredith) as he follows an infantry platoon through WWII. He bonds, they fight, many die. Heavily honored (the film was released while the war was actually still being fought), its staid manner is a little sleepy today.

The Hindenburg Review


OK
Before there was Titanic (the movie, not the ship), there was The Hindenburg, an equally epic look at one of mankind's most notorious disasters -- this one, of course, caught on film, unlike that famed sunken ship. Robert Wise (Star Trek: The Motion Picture) tried to turn the disaster into part love story, part spy tale, part thriller, and part musical (really: there's a ditty about Hitler), with George C. Scott as a sympathetic Nazi trying to foil a bombing plot on the zeppelin (the disaster has since been pegged on static electricity). Incredibly long and awfully bad in its plotting and pacing, the film succeeds only as a curiosity: It shows us the guts of the ship as they really appeared. Who knew it was so fancy?

Foul Play Review


Very Good
I've seen Foul Play more times than I'm willing to admit, but watching it again on DVD reveals just how brainless and silly the film really is. Not that that's a bad thing: With Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase in the leads, what more would you expect? But the movie, at last, is showing its age after all these years.

Hawn plays a San Francisco librarian who unwittingly gets wrapped up in a massive conspiracy revolving around the Catholic church and a host of bad guys, including an albino and a dwarf (possibly teaming up these two iconic movie evildoers for the first time in cinema). Chase, after appearing in one early scene, vanishes for the first 45 minutes, returning to reveal himself as a bumbling cop who protects her for the remainder of the film. Together they crack the case, one of the most absurd stories ever put on film.

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Advise And Consent Review


Extraordinary
Everybody loves Henry Fonda -- but what if he was a freakin' commie!?

Otto Preminger turned his eyes from the legal system (Anatomy of a Murder) to American politics in the underseen and tragically underappreciated Advise and Consent.

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