Dennis Potter

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Mesmer Review


Weak
Fantastic! The best movie I've ever seen! This portrayal of 1800s hypnotist Franz Anton Mesmer is killer! Alan Rickman is fantastic, whispering those lines with self-assured grace. He wasn't a wacko -- his strange energy experiments were legit! He got a bum rap! Costumes! Drama! It's... it's... it's incredible!

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The Singing Detective Review


OK
"I'm a prisoner inside my own skin." So says Dan Dark (Robert Downey Jr), hack novelist and lifelong sufferer of psoriatic arthropathy, a horrific disease that has left him with barely functioning limbs and an appalling welter of blisters and rashes over every inch of his body. Dark spews rage at everyone who comes near him, from his fed-up wife (Robin Wright Penn) to the gaggle of aloof doctors who occasionally drop by to put him on a different drug.

To get away from the misery of his day-to-day existence, Dark retreats into a 1950s film noir fantasy world straight from one of his books, where he's a handsome band singer who moonlights as a gumshoe. In the fantasy, he gets tangled up in a plot revolving around a dead blonde dame, the sinister Mark Binney (Jeremy Northam) who hires Dark to investigate her murder, and a couple of palookas in sharp suits (Adrien Brody and Jon Polito) who keep trying to bump Dark off. Unfortunately, the fantasy starts getting mixed up into Dark's real life - Chandler-esque gangsters showing up at his bedside, and hospital staff bursting into renditions of doo-wop hits that Dark's alter ego would have sung in an L.A. nightclub - and he has trouble keeping them separate.

Continue reading: The Singing Detective Review

Gorky Park Review


OK
America's obsession with all things Soviet gave us this movie, the inevitable mystery set in the snow-shrouded, fur-hatted land of Russia (though actually shot in Helsinki). With William Hurt and Lee Marvin in the lead roles, it's hard to see how this film could go wrong, and yet it does, quite horribly. Joanna Pacula is wooden in her first movie appearance, as a Russkie ingenue who basically knows everything about why there are three bodies in a Moscow park with their faces ripped off, though she isn't talking to the cops (led by Hurt). Ultimately a mystery is revealed, and boy is it a doozy: it involves fur coats! If I ever have to hear the phrase "the sables" again I think I'll shoot myself. Hopelessly dated and morose -- and much is lost from the bestselling novel.

Pennies From Heaven Review


Excellent
From the start of his career, Steve Martin was eager to kill his image as the man with the arrow through his head, the wild and crazy guy, the Jerk. But in 1981, when he took on the lead role in this quirky, somber and elegant musical set in Great Depression Chicago, both critics and audiences balked. After a decade of tough-guy '70s flicks, a sepia-toned melodrama with strange casting - Christopher Walken dances! -- wasn't anybody's idea of a good time. Two decades after its flop, though, it's worth discovering, or re-discovering - a charming first glimpse of the gravitas that Martin fought hard for as an actor.

Martin plays Arthur, a down-on-his luck sheet-music salesman worn out by his loveless marriage to Joan (Jessica Harper) - loveless, in part, because his life with Joan can't match the fantasies produced by the lyrics he sells. Hitting the road, he meets Eileen (Bernadette Peters), a mousy but sweet school teacher. Together, they fall in love, and express that love in dance and song. Sort of: They're actually lip-synching to songs of the '30s, riffing on old music the same way that Martin would riff on old films less successfully a few years later in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. After Arthur gets cold feet about the relationship - not before dancing quite well - Eileen falls into the dastardly clutches of Tom (Walken), a pimp. It's Walken's performance that makes the film - a dowdy but charming tap-dance striptease to Cole Porter's "Let's Misbehave." With a pencil-thin mustache and a lecherous leer, he has all the fearfulness he showed in The Deer Hunter with a sophistication he never showed off often enough.

Continue reading: Pennies From Heaven Review

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Dennis Potter Movies

The Singing Detective Movie Review

The Singing Detective Movie Review

"I'm a prisoner inside my own skin." So says Dan Dark (Robert Downey Jr), hack...

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Pennies from Heaven Movie Review

Pennies from Heaven Movie Review

From the start of his career, Steve Martin was eager to kill his image as...

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