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The Bickering Critics – Anita and George

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Jonny Lee Miller is Sherlock Holmes in “Elementary”, Season Three, Episodes 7, 8 (2014), and 9 (2015) – reviewed by George

Episode 7: The Adventure of the Nutmeg Concoction
Kim Holder (Kate Arrington) comes to Joan (Lucy Liu) for help. She needs a detective to find her sister Jessica – missing for 5 years. Joan asks about police reports, and Kim says, “Police, FBI..” And Joan asks abut the FBI. Kim tells about an FBI agent in the NYC office, Blake Tanner (Peter Benson), who thinks Jess was abducted by a serial criminal. Kim says the night Jess disappeared, her roommate came home and smelled nutmeg – and over the years five other women have gone missing, and each time the place they disappeared from had the same smell – nutmeg. Tanner calls the perp “Pumpkin”.
Sherlock, the bastard, is bored, so he sends Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond) to see if Joan’s new case is interesting, and then he takes over.
But then I like him again as the three leave Tanner’s office and Sherlock dissects him beautifully: a petty tyrant and a bully, who has concocted a connection where none exists. Except the no connection is wrong. Sherlock finds 7 separate crimes in Tanner’s files (great bit about how he gets the files after Tanner has refused to share), “I’ll solve the cases, then the nutmeg puzzle, and then expose Blake Tanner to the world.”
Sherlock calls in The Nose (John Horton), who visits the latest scene and detects of course nutmeg, which he says has been used to mask the other odors, which are bleach, something metallic, and sodium hydroxide, adding up to a solution for melting bodies. So, says Sherl, the murders are not connected by a common killer, but by a common cleaner. And now to find him (which they do).
Written by Peter Ocko, Directed by Christine Moore.

Episode 8: End of Watch
First a shot of a nighttime street with a dead policeman lying in front of his patrol car. Then Sherlock giving out with the wisdom words at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting and afterwards a man comes up to him and asks if “BrainAttic” is his. “It sure sounds like you.” And as the man leaves Sherlock’s cell phone pings. It’s Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) telling him about the shooting, and saying that the victim is Alex Flynn. When Holmes arrives at the scene Gregson fills him in on Flynn’s career and says the dashboard cam shows a masked man coming up behind Flynn and firing. “He never had a chance to draw his weapon.” Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill) finds a fresh footprint – size 12 work boots. And then Sherlock finds that Flynn’s weapon is a toy gun that fires air-gun pellets. So drawing his weapon would have made no difference.
As the case continues another policeman is shot and killed in his patrol car, and the armory in New Jersey is robbed. It all ties together and the actual plan of the perps is revealed as very clever. Luckily Holmes was in time with his deductions, although he was just in time, thanks to being distracted by BrainAttic, which contains uncredited quotes from Holmes made at various NA meetings, and Sherlock wants the site taken down. Sherlock’s reasons for being upset are okay, but if you say it in public, it’s like it’s out there in the zeitgeist anyway, and it’s helping people, so be pleased and flattered and shut up.
Written by Robert Hewitt Wolfe, Directed by Ron Fortunato.

Episode 9: The Eternity Injection
This episode involves a drug that is supposed to dilate time; in other words, make anyone who takes it experience many weeks in just a few days. It is being tried out in an illegal test – illegal because it is being done without normal safeguards, etc. Different doses are being tried, and almost all are too high, causing brain damage.
Actually, it could have been done legally, but getting through the approval process would’ve taken too much time.Time for what, you’re thinking. But I can’t summarize more than this without compromising the plot.
Some of the cast: Dakin Matthews, Brian Lee Huynh, Lawrence Gilliard Jr., Julienne Hazelka Kim, Carrie Patterson, and Ato Essandoh, who returns as Sherlock’s sober buddy Alfredo.
Written by Craig Sweeny, Directed by Larry Teng.

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Clara Bow in “Black Oxen” (1923) – reviewed by George

“The years like great black oxen tread the world and God the Herdsman goads them on behind.” W.B. Yeats
This is a mystery story: who exactly is Mary Ogden? At the theater one night two men who are attending together are Lee Clavering (Conway Tearle) and Charles Dinwiddie (Thomas Ricketts). Lee, a brilliant critic and budding playwright, looks either unhappy or dyspeptic. Don’t let the cast see that review! Charles is a member of New York’s exclusive set and is affectionately referred to a “A gossipy old dear”. Charles looks unhappy too, until he spots a young woman (Corinne Griffith) standing up and looking around through opera glasses. Charles dismisses her as Eoropean. Then she lowers the glasses and both men do a take. She’s gorgeous. Charles stands and leaves the theater with a concerned Lee right behind him. Once out of the auditorium, Charles asks for a drink and says he’s just seen a ghost. Lee produces a flask and after Charles has had a good swig he says that thirty years ago any member of “our set” would have sworn that was Mary Ogden. The beauty of her day (and a flame of Charles’s), she was as brilliant as she was charming. But she left New York, married Count Zattiany, an Austrian, and became a power in European politics. They had no children, and “The last time I saw her, she was a widow, old and feeble.”
Lee, thoroughly smitten, vows to meet her. When she leaves with Judge Trent (Thomas Guise), Mary’s former legal adviser, Charles follows and is told that she is Mary’s niece, come from Vienna to seek the judge’s advice on her Aunt’s estate.
Charles is unsatisfied and tells Lee that they will visit Jane Oglethorpe, Mary’s girlhood friend. Jane (Kate Lester) is Society’s Ruler, brutally frank and feared by all. Before the men arrive, Jane is blasting her son James (Harry Mestayer) for not controlling his daughter, who according to Grandmother is “going to hell as fast as she can fox-trot, the wretched little flapper!”
And Janet Oglethorpe (Clara Bow, without the baby fat of “Down to the Sea in Ships,” and looking great) slips in and sneaks upstairs.
When Lee and Charles arrive, Jane is put out. She says Trent was lying – Mary had no niece, and “I shall have the woman investigated!”
Janet is in love with Lee, and hearing his voice, comes back downstairs. She is clingy with Lee and rude to everybody else, so Lee threatens her with a spanking if she doesn’t show her grandmother more respect, and Janet replies, “Can I depend on that?” But she curtseys prettily and turns to go upstairs, then turns back and addresses her grandmother and father, “Goodnight, Tombstones.” I love this kid.
So: is Mary an imposter? a secret daughter? a niece? Or what? Jane holds our for Mary’s daughter. James says that Zattiany has no children of record. And Jane says, I didn’t say his daughter; I said Mary’s daughter – remember that rumored affair with Prince Rohenhaur (Alan Hale)!
So is one of these the answer? Or is it something we haven’t thought of yet?
From the Novel by Gertrude Atherton, Screen Adaptation by Mary O’Hara, Titles by Walter Anthony, Directed by Frank Lloyd.

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Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996) – reviewed by George

Fantastic! What a charmer! Lots of action and lots of humor, and some more great songs: a total winner!
A ruggedly sinister man approaches Agrabah with a bunch of camels carrying large jugs of oil. Uh Oh! That’s not oil -it’s the Forty Thieves! Cut to the gate and an old man asking the guard why the streets are so crowded today. “Our princess is to wed.” The old man says, “NO WAY!” and reveals himself as Genie (Robin Williams). He then leads the city, one neighborhood at a time, in the song “There’s a Party Here in Agrabah.” And even the thieves sing.
Genie does a very funny “Lifestyles of the Rich and Magical”. But as the wedding begins, the thieves send a wild elephant into the pavilion leaving a trail of destruction, and rob the guests as they flee. The King of Thieves, Cassim (John Rhys-Davies, sung by Merwin Foard), is interested in only one thing, and Aladdin (Scott Weinger, sung by Brad Kane) succeeds in keeping him from getting it. In the wreckage of the wedding pavilion Aladdin shows Jasmine (Linda Larkin, sung by Liz Callaway) and the Sultan (Val Bettin) the item he kept from the King. It is an Oracle: one question, one answer. Using the Oracle (CCH Pounder) Aladdin learns that his father is still alive and sees what he looks like – a handsome guy, gray at the temples. But he didn’t have to ask a question to get this info, so now he asks, “Where is my father?” And the Oracle says to follow the Forty Thieves because: “Your father is trapped in their world.” Jasmine insists that he must go, and so Genie stays to rebuild the pavilion while Aladdin, Abu (Frank Welker), and Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) ride the Carpet on the quest.
The thieves have a song about how their life is so good, with a great line – “There’s nothing up  our eighty sleeves.” And one thief is a really horrible villain, Sa’luk (Jerry Orbach). The rest of the film is action-adventure with lots more super songs.
And there are many references to other Disney films. Such fun!
“Party in Agrabah” and “Out of Thin Air”: Words and Music by David Friedman.
“Welcome to the Forty Thieves”, “Are You In or Out”, and “Father and Son”: Words and Music by Randy Peterson and Kevin Quinn.
“Arabian Nights Reprise”: Music by Alan Menken and Lyrics by Howard Ashman.
Screenplay by Mark McCorkle & Robert Schooley, Directed by Tad Stones.

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The Return of Jafar (1994) – reviewed by George

This television movie and first sequel begins with the forty thieves arriving at their cave and fighting over the loot. Then Aladdin, Abu, and the flying carpet appear and snatch the very best items, and to Abu’s screams of “No!” Aladdin distributes them to the poor of Agrabah.
Aladdin (Scott Weinger, singing voice Brad Kane) is now the Grand Vizier in Training and the heir to the throne after he and Jasmine (Linda Larkin, singing voice Liz Callaway) are married. But Jafar (Jonathan Freeman) manages to escape and returns to destroy Aladdin and the Royal Family, and to rule Agrabah. The Genie (Dan Castellaneta) has gone off to travel, but is expected back soon.
With Jafar supposedly stuck in the lamp, Iago (Gilbert Gottfried) is leaning toward an attempt to reform, since he needs people, rich people, and might as well live in the palace. And Iago really is the central character. The Sultan (Val Bettin) is not fond of him, but puts up with him for the young couple. And the leader of the forty thieves, Abis Mal (Jason Alexander) has a large role.
So: the animation is great, the pace is fast, and the plot is fun. And there’s a song that really impressed me – “Forget About Love” sung by Iago and Jasmine, as he tries to get her to drop Aladdin, and she tells him why she’s not listening.
As a television film (probably for the Disney Channel) it’s only 1:06 (without commercials)
and it’s time well-spent. I really enjoyed this.
Story Written by Duane Capizzi and Douglas Langdale & Mark McCorkle & Robert Schooley & Tad Stones. Script by Kevin Campbell and Mirith JS Colao and Bill Motz and Steve Roberts and Dev Ross & Bob Roth & Jan Strnad & Brian Swenlin. Directed by Toby Shelton and Tad Stones and Alan Zaslove.

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Aladdin (1992) – reviewed by George

After watching Disney’s new live action/CGI version I decided to take a look at the first Disney version, this animated movie. I’m glad I did – this is one of the greatest animated films I’ve ever seen. The effects are superb, the performances are pretty incredible, and the songs are wonderful. And thanks to captioning, you get to sing along. Plus there’s a Special Feature about “Aladdin” on Broadway which I know you’ll find interesting. The big problems for the stage were the genie and his schtick, and the carpet, which has a lot of personality, and in the film uses two corner tassels as hands and the other two as feet. See the solutions for yourself. And get a load of the Genie tap-dancing!
It should be declared that this presentation of the film is the Diamond Edition, which came out (obviously) after the Broadway show had opened. So if you want to see this as reviewed, now you know what to look for.
The soundtrack for this animated film includes these voices: Robin Williams as the Genie, Scott Weinger as Aladdin, Linda Larkin as Jasmine, Jonathan Freeman as Jafar (also played the part on Broadway), Frank Welker as Abu, Gilbert Gottfried as Iago, Douglas Seale as the Sultan, and Aaron Blaise as Rajah, Jasmine’s tiger.
Written by Ron Clements & John Musker and Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, Directed by Ron Clements & John Musker. A real classic.

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Aladdin (2019) – reviewed by George

This is the second live action/CGI translation of a Disney animated classic that I’ve seen. You may know that I was unimpressed with “Dumbo”, feeling that the essential childlike sweetness of the original was thrown under the truck.
This is a completely different situation, because here we have an action picture combined with a love story, and the cast and crew have produced many, many wonderful moments, some uproarious, some touching. This is my definition of an instant classic.
A mariner (Will Smith) and his two children, Omar and Lian (Jordan Nash and Taliyah Blair) are fishing from their efficient but rather humble boat, and the children are greatly admiring an expensive ship sailing nearby. Dad says it’s time I told you the story of Aladdin, the princess, and the lamp. And he sings “Another Arabian Night”.
The story centers around a street thief, Aladdin (Mena Massoud) and his monkey Abu. They know all the recesses of the city to slip into after committing a theft, and are successful – until Aladdin steals from the Sultan’s daughter, Jasmine (Naomi Scott).
The story continues with familiar characters, such as The Sultan (Navid Negahban), his adviser Jafar (Marwan Kenzari) who has a parrot Iago (voice of Alan Tudyk) and a henchman Hakim (Numan Acar), Jasmine’s servant Dalia (Nasim Pedrad), and of course it doesn’t take long to introduce the Genie (Will Smith).
All the performances are perfection, Will Smith is outstanding, and the film is delightful. Now I have a very good reason to see more of these remakes.
Written by John August and Guy Ritchie, Directed by Guy Ritchie.

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Burton and Taylor (2013) – reviewed by George

This movie, made for the BBC, begins in New York in 1983 with a press conference announcing that Elizabeth Taylor (Helena Bonham Carter) and Richard Burton (Dominic West) are soon to open in Noel Coward’s “Private Lives”, a play dealing with two former lovers who, with their new mates, happen to rent next door suites in a holiday hotel. They first see each other on the adjoining balconies, and there is confusion, reignited passion, etc. The play is to be produced by Elizabeth’s company, and it doesn’t take long to realize that she hopes the play will slop over into reality, despite the fact that Richard has a girlfriend he is crazy about, Sally (Cassie Raine). Innocently, Richard has insisted the run be limited: he is to return to London to play King Lear.
However, at the press conference Richard is blindsided by the publicity, which he has not seen before. It indicates that the two of them are getting back together, and he is very unhappy about it. He doesn’t want Sally’s feelings hurt, plus it’s simply not true.
At one point in rehearsals Elizabeth says “The stage is not my world.” Actually the stage is not even in her solar system. She wants someone else to read her off-stage lines – “If I’m offstage they can’t see me. Can’t someone else do it?” And she keeps playing Pitiful Pearl around Richard. She must have driven the other professionals around her into befuddled fits.
On opening night a traffic jam makes her late (she made no attempt to arrive early), and the curtain is announced as held several times, yet on her first entrance she gets a standing ovation. She plays to the crowd outrageously, and reads her lines with a small smirk as if Richard’s wife in the play, named Sybil, is the real Sybil Burton he divorced for Liz.
Being on stage with someone like that can be very difficult, but if you can do similar things yourself, you may be able to give them some sense of what working with them is like. Of course it’s unprofessional, but it is SO soul-satisfying.
At one point Elizabeth wanted time off, and the sold-out run was simply postponed. During that period Richard and Sally got married. Ha!
After the run ended Richard and Sally flew to Geneva, and he died there nine months later. He never played Lear.
So: see it or not? It’s good. It’s well made and well acted. I think you have to decide based on your tolerance for selfish shenanigans and manipulation. I was very happy to see Lenora Crichlow as Chen Sam, Elizabeth’s confidante and companion, and Sarah Hadland as Kathryn Walker, Elizabeth’s stand-in. Favorites both.
Written by William Ivory, Directed by Richard Laxton.

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Jonny Lee Miller is Sherlock Holmes in “Elementary”. Season 3, Episodes 4, 5, and 6 (2014) – reviewed by George

Episode 4: Bella
Kitty (Ophelia Lovibond) refuses to take Clyde the turtle to his regular weekend with Joan (Lucy Liu) in Chelsea, and Holmes says she agreed to do quotidian tasks when he was busy – he has applied leeches to a cut and is studying the process. Kitty is disgusted. And Edwin Borstein (Michael Chernus) comes to call.
Borstein has a big problem. a copy of Bella, a program his company has been working on for some time, was stolen last night. A camera specially programmed took a picture of the thief, but he (or she) was wearing a full-face mask. And Bella is, claims Borstein, the most intelligent program ever created. He and Sherlock argue about AI, but Sherlock agrees to examine the  program. At Borstein’s office Sherlock finds the program has been wired into a doll, so you have to talk to the doll instead of typing on a keyboard. Bella is very exasperating, frequently saying, “I don’t understand the question. Could you tell me more?”
Kitty has been standing outside Bella’s room looking through the glass, and she calls Joan in Europe for help. Joan has some sage (and funny) advice.
Much later Sherlock awakens Kitty and tells her to call Borstein and tell him that he’s gone to get some sleep, but that he will take the case – free of charge.  And after some sleep, he hires Mason (Robert Capron), a college student, for scut work.
Bella kills Borstein, and there are many complications, and the story is a good one.
Written by Craig Sweeny, Directed by Guy Ferland.

Episode 5: Rip Off
A woman walking while talking on her cell inadvertently steps off a corner into a somewhat deep puddle. She is upset, but becomes more so when she realizes the puddle is about 40% blood and that a man’s hand is just under the surface. Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill) is working the scene when Sherlock and Kitty appear. Sherlock looks around making deductions and then leads the way to the body. Clever. And later the ME’s office tells Bell that it’s a homicide. The case involves blood diamonds, rivals in the chain of sale, and a weightlifter, Dana Kazmir (Michael DeMello), who is dared to compete in arm wrestling with Sherlock.
Watson is still in Denmark, and Captain Gregson (Aidan Quinn) is involved in a kerfuffle with a patrolman who is his daughter’s partner.
Written by Jason Tracey, Directed by John Polson.

Episode 6: Terra Pericolosa
Joan has returned from Denmark and Kitty wants her help with her current lesson. She has been sent alone to a library from which old maps have been stolen. The night guard is missing and is suspected of the theft. Kitty, on her own, looks around and walks straight to the place where the night guard’s body is hidden. Then Sherlock arrives and looks around and announces that most of the maps taken were blinds; that only the map from this tray was the target. The curator, Raphael (K. Todd Freeman), responds by showing Holmes a high-res scan of the map in question (and explains that all the maps in the collection have received this for preservation purposes), and the title is “The County of King James,Virginia, 1794”.
The case involves map forgery and an Indian casino. Sherlock and the women also meet Margaret Bray (Mamie Gummer) whose family actually owns the map, which has been on loan to the library for many years, and Liv Rooth (Sharon Tavener).
Note: “Terra Pericolosa” means Dangerous Land and is a notation to keep travelers away from areas where they might be robbed and/or killed.
Story by Bob Goodman & Jeffrey Paul King, Teleplay by Bob Goodman, Directed by Aaron Lipstadt.

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Clara Bow in “Down to the Sea in Ships” (1922) – reviewed by George

Interestingly, this tale of whaling was filmed in New Bedford, Massachusetts by The Whaling Film Corporation. The title comes from Psalm 107.
“Great credit is due the photographers who, in small boats, stood by the cameras at the risk of their lives to photograph the fighting whales. Photographers on Whaling Cruise: A.G. Penrod and Paul H. Allen.”
The film then begins with a quote from “Moby Dick” (abridged here). “In Noah’s flood he despised the Ark, and if the world is again to be flooded, then the eternal whale will still survive, and spout his frothed defiance to the skies.” I certainly hope so.
Charles W. Morgan (William Walcott), austere and proud and a strict Quaker, is the dominant figure on the New Bedford waterfront. Sunday always brings him consolation for the son he has lost. He also lost a daughter-in-law, but that doesn’t seem to have made much impression. He does love his granddaughter Dot (16-year-old Clara Bow, cute and chubby), who was found floating on a raft of vegetation after the shipwreck, but not as much as he loves his daughter Patience (Marguerite Courtot). Patience’s old childhood friend, Thomas Allan Dexter (Raymond McKee) whose family is all dead, has just returned to town, having graduated college, with plans to installl new machinery in his mill and to open the old homestead.
However, recently Samuel Siggs (J. Thornton Baston), a con man, has come to town with designs on Morgan’s gold and his daughter (in order to control the whole shebang). He has come in Quaker garb with a forged recommendation for Charles, so Charles thinks him eminently suitable for Patience, who takes one look at that face and says, “Oh, no.” However, her need to keep her daddy happy prevails – at least until she finds out Allan has returned. Samuel’s gopher (who seems to think them equals) is Jake Finner (Patrick Hartigan), described in the title cards as fearless and godless.
So the basic plot: Get Allan out of the way by dragooning him onto the whaler just before it sails, where, unknown to everybody, he is joined by Dot, dressed like a boy and upset with Father for not allowing her to see the ship’s sailing, and hey, also for fun and adventure with her best friend Jimmy (James Turfler), the cabin boy, who hides her and brings her food.
Since Allan and Dot disappear at the same time, the rumor mill says they left together for the Oregon Trail. Which puts Patience totally at the mercy of her father’s mad whims. Lately he has been looking at his son’s baby bed, and has become determined to see another baby sleeping there.
This is a good picture, with the whaling scenes looking like the actors are in as much danger as the photographers, but their scenes were probably filmed separately. Allan harpoons his whale (a test to prove a man is a whaler), but the whale overturns the boat in shark-infested waters. Working together the men right the boat, get in, and bail like hell. With a new boat they find Allan’s line, and he harpoons the whale. The whale weighs ninety tons and fills the hold with oil. So, huge triumph, but I felt sorry for the whale.
Sailing home in a huge storm Allan is unaware that Patience and Samuel are in the same storm on their way to the Meeting House to be married. Interesting line: when Patience shows off her wedding dress to her father, his reply is, “The fringe is a bit gay.”
Scenario by John L.E. Pell,  Directed by Elmer Clifton.

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Victor Victoria on Broadway (Taped in 1995, Copyright in 2000) – reviewed by George

This was shot for television during a performance, complete with audience reaction, though for camera angles some of it looks shot with no audience.
Julie Andrews makes a lovely speech about returning to Broadway after a number of years,  the audience is shown arriving, and the play begins.
For the opening number Toddy (Tony Roberts) sings “Paris by Night” with a memorable line, “She’s at her best from 2 to 6 A.M.” And the show roughly follows the movie, but with some new songs, and everybody sings, not just Victoria, Toddy, and Norma.
Henry Mancini wrote the music for the film, with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse, but Mancini died the year before this show opened , so additional musical material is by Frank Wildhorn.
The story is fun, the musical numbers are well-done, and the players are all exceptional. They include (of course) Julie Andrews as Victor and Victoria, Tony Roberts as Toddy, Michael Nouri as King Marchan, Rachel York as Norma Cassidy, Adam Heller as the nightclub owner Henri Labisse, Richard B. Schull as impresario Andre Cassel, Michael Cripe as Toddy’s ex Richard, and Gregory Jbara in a wonderful turn as Squash Bernstein, Marchan’s valet and companion.
Of course there are huge differences between a movie and a stage show, but clever staging and great choreography make the divide much, much narrower. I think you’ll like this – I did. And there’s a great set showing two side by side hotel suites, each one having two floors.
Book by Blake Edwards, Directed for the Stage by Blake Edwards, Directed for Television by Matthew Diamond and Goro Kobayashi.

 

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