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The Bickering Critics – Anita and George

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The Omega Man (1971) – reviewed by George

Alpha to Omega – The Last Man. Only he isn’t – not quite.
The film begins with Neville (Charlton Heston) motoring around a big deserted city in a convertible, just enjoying the sun and the breeze. At least it’s good until he sees a street littered with broken stuff and pieces of a bed. He stops, looks up, and sees the silhouette of a man in hat and coat. He whips out his machine gun and opens fire. No further signs, so he drives away, once again enjoying the day. He whips around a corner and there’s a wreck too far back from the intersection to have seen and too close to avoid. He roars over the curb and destroys one of his tires.
So he collects a gas can (can’t leave that behind) and starts walking (yes. he remembers the gun). He comes to a used car dealership and steps through a broken window. He sees a wall calendar marked March 1975 (so just four years in the future for the original audiences in movie houses). He selects a white convertible and drives through the rest of the window to reach the street.
He stops at a movie theater advertising “Woodstock” and sarcastically says, “Great show – held over for a third year.” He goes in,.and upstairs in the projection room he starts the projector, then goes back down to sit in the 5th or 6th row and watch the movie. When he comes out it’s dangerous;ty close to dark and he says, “They’ll be coming out soon.”
He jumps in the white car and speeds away. At his apartment, protected as well as it can be, there are already people waiting. They are dressed in black garments reminiscent of a priest’s cassock and are wearing black head coverings that jut out protecting the sides of the face. From what? From light. And they are screaming, “Die, Neville, die!”
They set off previously spilled gasoline, but his garage door works on a remote, so he opens it and speeds on through. AND he has the machine gun. But now he’s inside and only one of them has lived to report back to their leader Matthias (Anthony Zerbe).
These folks really hate him, and he just asks, “Why can’t they leave me alone?”
Well, they’re just about the last people alive in California, after a world-wide pandemic which was the result of biological weapons being used in a war between China and Russia. And the great majority of the world’s population has been wiped out.
So that’s the setup: isolated scientist and doctor hated and hunted by sick people who can’t stand light. And they’re still contagious.
Neville does find a small group of well people who are living up in the mountains outside of town. Their leaders are Lisa (Rosalind Cash) and Dutch (Paul Koslo). Well, one of them is sick: Lisa’s little brother Richie (Eric Laneuville)
So Neville starts working on a serum.
With the horde of black-cloaked sickies (both physical and mental), this is a real suspense film. But it still has that pandemic framework around it. And it is Recommended.
Based on the Novel “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson, Screenplay by John William and Joyce H. Corrington, Directed by Boris Sagal.

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Outbreak (1995) – reviewed by George

If you know someone who can’t be bothered with a mask, show him or her this movie. And be sure they see the quote at the beginning.
“The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is the virus.” — Joshua Lederberg, Ph.D and Nobel laureate.
July 1967: Two groups of uniformed soldiers are fighting with guns and grenades.They are in the Motaba Valley in Zaire. A helicopter lands two medical guys in Haz-Mat suits, who quickly go to the camp’s hospital to collect blood samples from the sick.
Then they are shown the covered dead, whose skin looks ravaged. They leave and discuss the pros and cons of what’s about to happen.
Their helicopter departs and a regular Army plane appears in the sky. Those still healthy gather outside and wave happily. But the plane doesn’t land; it drops a small atomic bomb, sterilizing the camp and killing all those in it, sick or well.
Present Day: At the U.S. Armed Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID), Fort Detrick, Maryland, we get a lesson by touring the different types of work places there.
BIOSAFETY LEVEL 1: Minimal Biohazard, Study of low-risk infectious agents: Pneumococcus, Salmonella.
BIOSAFETY LEVEL 2: Moderate Biohazard, Infectious Agents: Hepatitis, LYME Disease, Influenza.
BIOSAFETY LEVEL 3: High Biohazard, Multiple Vaccinations Required, Infectious Agents: Anthrax, Typhus, H.I.V.
BIOSAFETY LEVEL 4: Extreme Biohazard, Maximum Security, Infectious Agents: Ebola, Lassa, Hanta Viruses. Highly virulent. No known cures or vaccinations.
And the film begins.
Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) is being sent to Zaire and General Ford (Morgan Freeman) tells him, “Get in, get out.” Sam goes into the cargo area of the plane and joins Major Salt (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and Casey Schuler (Kevin Spacey). The three are being coptered into Zaire in Haz-Mat gear, and despite being briefed are surprised by the number of bodies, wrapped and lying on the ground in rows.
And when they leave, the virus is with them, being carried by a stowaway monkey, which through a series of events ends up in a small town in California. The virus has mutated and is even more virulent, and Major General McClintock (Donald Sutherland) is certainly nuts enough to send in the bomb.
Well, we doubt that will happen since Sam’s wife (Rene Russo) has the virus and is super sick and confined to a hospital in the town. So the film moves from being afraid of the virus to being afraid of the General.
But the film reads differently today because of Covid-19 and we’re more leary of routes of infection than of a crazy General. And the ease of transmission is scary, and how people just don’t do what they need to do to protect their loved ones is scary, and maybe this film could change some minds. So it is Recommended.
Written by Laurence Dworet & Robert Roy Pool, Directed by Wolfgang Petersen.

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All Is True (2018) – reviewed by George

This is a wonderful movie. I wanted to review it right after completing Upstart Crow, and here it is. Now, the big surprise for me was that this film was, like Upstart Crow, written by the incredibly talented Ben Elton, Though this is not a comedy; it’s like the reflections back on a life with both satisfaction and grief, and in that sense is the life we all live.
It begins like this:
In London, June 29, 1613, a performance of Shakespeare’s “Henry the VIII” was given at the Globe Theatre. It was advertised under its alternative title: All Is True. During Act 1, Scene 4 of the performance, a prop cannon misfired, starting a blaze. The Globe burnt entirely to the ground. William Shakespeare never wrote another play.

The film then becomes live with Will’s retirement to Stratford-upon-Avon and his picking up the threads of his relationships with his family. The resentments that have built up around his frequent absences are both somewhat unexpected and very sad. Fact I did not know: Judith and Hamnet were twins. The film has three big stars: Kenneth Branagh as Will, Judi Dench as his wife Anne, and Ian McKellen as the Earl of Southampton. McKellen has a wonderful scene with Branagh, talking about Will’s accomplishments which Will thinks are oversold, while the Earl thinks them quite literally divine. Such scenes are rarely evocative since usually the writing is of regret and years gone, but here the feeling is one of support and love. Oh, it doesn’t start out that way, but just wait.
And Judi Dench moves from resentment to acceptance and even appreciation (a little bit).
Both daughters married and the movie ends as it began with more written information.
William Shakespeare died on the 23rd of April, 1616, in the town where he was born. It was his birthday. Anne died 9 years later. Judith had three sons. All died young. Elizabeth Hall, Susanna’s only child, married twice. She died at 61, the last of Will’s line.

This is an exceptional film, so very different in tone from the Crow scripts that it’s almost startling. I really admired everyone’s work and Recommend the film very highly.
Written by Ben Elton, Directed by Kenneth Branagh.

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Pan Am, Episode 2, “We’ll Always Have Paris” (2011) – reviewed by George

Last week London and this week the Clipper flies to Paris with all the regular crew. However, one unexpected passenger is aboard: the Cameron girls’ mother (Miriam Silverman), who wants to talk to Laura (Margot Robbie) about ditching her own wedding. Mom is PO’d. So naturally Laura wants to avoid her.
But before seeing Mom the girls are amused by Maggie’s (Christina Ricci) small victory over the mean Miss Havemeyer (Veanna Cox). The stew who is a worried spy gets a new assignment: deliver this box and get the code exactly right before the pass.
And pilot Dean (Mike Vogel) is still concerned about Bridget (Annabelle Wallis), who disappeared in London last trip.
Back to Mrs. Cameron. Neither of her daughters wants to serve her, but one will have to. Well, Laura was strong enough to walk away from her own wedding, but she’s not strong enough to face Mom about it and try to explain, so Kate (Kelli Garner) has to face her and try to play peacemaker.
The layover in Paris takes up most of the episode and Dean does find Bridget. A good episode, well directed and acted. Recommended (especially if you want to know Bridget’s story).
Written by Mike Daniels and Jack Orman, Directed by Christopher Misiano.

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2* out of 5* Lady Chatterley’s Lover 1981 – reviewed by Anita

Valentine’s Day is upon us. Even with this crazy time of lock down and social distancing we still want to celebrate. A great date night for this holiday dedicated to love and romance is dinner and a movie. With lock down that is pizza and a video. Let me save you the trouble of making a bad choice. BBQ chicken on pizza bad choice. Lady Chatterley’s Lover (this version anyway) equally as bad. Both are guaranteed to give you indigestion. LCL is based on a novel by D.H. Lawrence (1928). I know the novel has a reputation of being a bit risqué (when it was published). Based on the concept, as well as the vivid writing I’m sure it was to 1928 what 50 Shades of Grey is to the 2015 crowd. Director Just Jaeckin just didn’t bring it home for me. Sylvia Kristel (Lady Chatterley) is lovely. And Nicholas Clay (Oliver Mellor, her lover) is hot. And there ya go. I guess what I didn’t like about it IS the concept. In a nutshell, his Lordship (Shans Briant) comes home from the Great War with a crippling injury leaving him impotent. Her Ladyship is torn between love of her husband and her physical desires. Clifford (Lord Chatterley), wanting to be a good husband, an understanding husband, even a progressive husband, encourages Connie (Lady Chatterley) to find a lover. She does in the gamekeeper Mellor (Nicholas Clay). As to be expected there is a lot of coupling, secret meetings, sizzling moments of sexual tension and deceit, as well as lots of nudity. Subplots that didn’t really hold my interest. And a huge unveiling with drama. OK: here is the drama: Crippled Lord Chatterley drags himself upstairs to find his wife’s bed empty confirming his suspicious of her affair with the gamekeeper. Then blah, blah, blah Connie ends up pregnant. Big surprise, Lord Chatterley is not down with a bastard of lower class being heir to his estate. We all saw that coming. As for Mellor, he annoyed me over his ongoing need for validation. Over and over again he whined Connie only wanted to have sex with him; she didn’t see him as a man. Whatever… I think my favorite part of the movie is the fact that it is a British film with a French movie poster.

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Eddie Cantor in “Kid Millions” (1934) – reviewed by George

Dot Clark (Ethel Merman) is singing “Who Could Ever Be Blue” with a chorus of cuties at the Body Shop (Don’t ask. I don’t know), and when the number ends she is angry to see that Louie the Lug (Warren Hymer) has walked in. “I told you to never come here when I’m workin’!”
But she calms down fast when he tells her the news: Professor Edward Grant Wilson has died in Egypt after discovering a tomb worth millions. And he shows her a photo of the Professor (Eddie in side whiskers). Then Louie asks if Dot knows who gets all that dough. “Nobody! That’s you!”
“It’s the law. The law says if a guy meets a dame walking around in Atlantic City, and introduces her as his wife, she IS his wife.”
“Yeah… What kinda law is that?”
“Common law. That’s what you are. His common law wife! And that entitles you to 77 million bucks!”
Cut to Benton, Loring, and Slade , Attorneys at Law, where one partner announces that he’s dug up Professor Grant’s heir, his son Eddie. He’s living on an old barge in Brooklyn with a stevedore and his sons. He’s been living with them ever since his father disappeared 23 years ago.
Okay, it’s true that Eddie lives with the stevedore and his family of ruffians, but he spends all his time on the next barge with a really sweet girl, Nora (Doris Davenport) and a bunch of kids he’s training as an orchestra.
Slade still finds him, but by then the ruffians know about the money and everyone wants to be Eddie’s best friend. If they get any friendlier they’ll kill him.
An old Southern gentleman, Colonel Larrabee (Burton Churchill) is traveling aboard the SS Luxor when he receives a cablegram from the Professor’s assistant Gerald Lane (George Murphy) saying that Wilson’s son has been found, and Lane will board the Luxor at Gibraltar. The Colonel is traveling with his niece Joan (Ann Sothern).
So the plot is heavy with characters who want the money, and that includes Sheik Mulhulla (Paul Harvey) and his daughter Princess Tanya (Eva Sully). Well, Tanya really wants just Eddie, and she steals every scene she’s in.
Eddie is on the Luxor too (talk about contrived!), as are Dot and Louie. Dot wants to get Eddie to sign away his claim, and Louie just wants to throw him overboard.
Well, the movie is only 1:30, so at 0:37 I thought we were safe, only to have a scene where Joan and Gerald are rehearsing their number for the ship’s Minstrel Night!
So here I take a break, except to comment that one portion of M.N. is devoted to the utterly marvelous Nicholas Brothers, who steal the program completely, even from the 1934 Goldwyn Girls (and there must be 40 or 50 of them – I tried but couldn’t get an accurate count). Back in a few minutes.
Back! Did you miss me? The Luxor docks in Alexandria, and Eva Sully pretty much owns the rest of the picture, and there’s a happy ending with the last 7 minutes in color as Eddie and Nora open a free ice cream shop for kids.
Original Story and Screen Play by Arthur Sheekman and Nat Perrin and Nunnally Johnson, Music and Lyrics by Walter Donaldson and Gus Kahn & Burton Lane and Harold Adamson, The Song “Mandy” by Irving Berlin, Directed by Roy Del Ruth.

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HI! I’m back, Commentary by Anita, 2-13-2021

Hello! I’ve missed you all and have missed being able to share with you what I’ve been watching. Mostly I miss your input and thoughts. This virus is hell. In California we have been on lockdown, and not having internet at my home has made being online harder then one would expect. I’m very thankful to Talent and Partner George for keeping us going while I’ve been working on getting internet. Still have a bug or two to work out, but we are on the right track. Thank you so much George for your dedication and hard work. Thanks fans and followers and contributors for hanging in there and for all your support over the year. Glad to be back!

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Art Reflecting Life : Commentary by Anita

This lock down thing is all-out depressing. I don’t have cable and had no internet so it was pretty easy to be in the dumps. Mind-rotting. Then I remembered art reflecting life and decided to have a movie moment in my home town. All I needed was the opportunity to present itself and it did!

“Meet Me in St. Louis” is one of my all time favorite movies. Both George and I have blogged it. My sisters and I annually get together to watch this film. Before we had Zoom, the three of us would watch it and be on the phone together because we live so far apart. Needless to say this is a classic childhood favorite. Know every song by heart. In my small Northern California town they have introduced Trolleys you can ride all over town for free. Main Street in my town is a Victorian city-scape so the trolleys are just the right mode to take downtown. Small shops, antiques everywhere, side walk café. Awesome art on the buildings that date back over 100 years. We even have tunnels that connect the buildings together used by the Chinese immigrants who loaded and unloaded the ships that came up and down the Sacramento River. All very quaint. You have got to see where I’m going with this (Ha! Ha! Ha!). Yep! My sister, my mom and I all got gussied up for an afternoon on the Trolleys. We sang “Ding ding ding”, had on big hats, and the best part: my mom’s name is Esther! I played Rose; my sister played all the other gals. Mostly I felt she was Tootie for sure.

My reason for sharing this with you is I want you to do the same thing! Act out one of your favorite moments from one of your favorite movies. And feel silly. This virus has taken all the fun out of us. Take it back. You had to see three grown women (mom 74, me 54, sister 53) two with walkers, me with cane, sing on the trolley. Folks took pics as we were dressed up (mask included). And they sang along too. Can’t wait to hear about your art reflecting life movie moment, please, just as soon as you have recreated it!
OH! And watch “Meet Me in St. Louis”! 5 STARS!

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William Powell and Myrna Loy are Nick and Nora Charles in “After the Thin Man” and Asta is Asta (1936) – reviewed by George

Gee, what a great start to a comedy-mystery! Nick, Nora, and Asta are on the Sunset Limited from NYC to San Francisco and are only five minutes out. Nick is trying to shave and Nora is trying to pack.
Nora: “How they can expect a woman to still have any mystery left for a man after being in a place like this for three days, I don’t know.”
Nick: “You don’t need mystery. You’ve got something better and more alluring.”
Nora: “What?”
Nick: “Me.”
As soon as they’re off the train they start running into people who know Nick – a bevy of women (Asta hates navigating through a forest of legs), their California chauffer Harold who has brought the car to pick them up, Fingers the purse snatcher, and a horde of street boys – Nick must have lived here for a long time; it seems that all San Francisco knows him. As they motor away from the last group, a very well-dressed couple in another convertible recognizes Nora and they exchange greetings while driving.
Nick: “Who are they?”
Nora: “You wouldn’t know them, darling. They’re respectable.”
Their home is beautiful. No wonder they’re so happy to get there, and just in time for New Year’s Eve. As they approach the front door, Nick removes Asta’s leash, and Asta charges around to the kennel to see Mrs. Asta and all the little Astas, and he gets a surprise he doesn’t like. And then Nick and Nora get a surprise that they aren’t thrilled about – their house is full of people partying.
As they enter, a man rushes up to welcome them and take their coats (Harold has the luggage). “It’s a Welcome Home party for Nick and Nora! Better get some Napoleon Brandy; it’s going fast!”
And it’s not just him. No one recognizes them except the staff who are all in the kitchen worn down by the influx. And they think everyone was invited.
Suicide seems a viable option, but then Nora’s cousin Selma (Elissa Landi) calls insisting that they accept Aunt Katherine’s (Jessie Ralph) invitation and come over there for New Year’s Eve.
Naturally there’s a murder and while I was hoping it would be Aunt Battle-ax, it was Selma’s husband Robert (Alan Marshall). Selma quickly becomes the subject of the police investigation, since she knew Robert was cheating with Polly (Dorothy McNulty), a singer at a local night spot. Selma’s former boyfriend David (James Stewart) is also under suspicion because it’s not a secret that he still loves Selma.There are more murders, and Polly’s employers, “Dancer” and Lum Kee (Joseph Calleia and William Law) have motives (the same one). And other household members are suspected: Polly’s brother Phil (Paul Fix) and her physician, Doctor Kammer (George Zucco).
A good solid mystery with comedy, and Asta. And I hope you figure it out because I sure did not. Recommended (love that dog).
From the Story by Dashiell Hammett, Screen Play by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, Directed bt W.S. Van Dyke.

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Donovan’s Brain (1953) – reviewed by George

Doctors Patrick and Jan Cory (Lew Ayres and Nancy Davis) are heading to their isolated mountain lab with a new lab monkey and Jan is afraid it’s cold so she moves it into her lap, where it does seem calmer. Their partner Dr. Frank Schratt (Gene Evans) is a corneal surgeon and an alcoholic, which explains why he works away from towns.
Jan brings in the monkey, and Pat helps Frank sober up. Jan expresses second thoughts about using the monkey, and Pat dismisses them with a fairly clever comparison.
Now in lab coats, he and Frank go to work. Both men are hopeful of a good outcome, snd then we learn what that means when Pat says, “In 30 minutes we’ll have a monkey brain – alive.”
And this time they’re successful and happy – even Jan. But then an emergency call and Pat and Frank have to leave. A plane has crashed and three men are dead, one severely injured. Upon examining him, Pat tells the men who made the call that the injured man will never make it to the hospital, and one of the men suggests the doctors’s place, “It’s a lot closer.”
So the man is taken there, snd though Pat is unimpressed, he learns that the man is Ward H. Donovan and is worth 100 million dollars. “The sky’s the limit on your fee.”
But as Pat says, “Money can’t help him now.”
Donovan dies, and the three doctors are discussing moving the body out of the lab and into the garage when Pat gets his bright idea. And you’re ahead of him and already know what he’s thinking.
The brain is still alive (his chest was crushed) and so they take the brain and install it in the nutrient fluid and wire it up.
As you’ve guessed, Donovan is so strong-willed that he takes over Patrick and controls him, manifesting himself clearly, and Pat becomes, not rude, but abrupt and demanding with a very short temper. And then he becomes rude.
Can this film have a happy ending, or will getting rid of Donovan get rid of Pat too?
Unusual because the horror is somehow distant, not seeming likely to hurt Jan or Frank. After all they’re back at the lab while Pat/Ward is pulling shady deals (and engineering punishments) in the city.
Different and recommended. From the Novel “Donovan’s Brain” by Curt Siodmak, Adapted by Hugh Brooke, Screenplay by Felix Feist, Directed by Felix Feist.

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