Monthly Archives: May 2014

Scavenger Hunt (1979)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: Mad dash for money.

When rich toy inventor Milton Parker (Vincent Price) dies all of his relatives gather for a reading of his will hoping to get a giant share of his 200 million dollar estate. There’s his greedy sister Mildred (Cloris Leachman) along with her child-like grown son Georgie (Richard Masur) and shyster lawyer Stuart (Richard Benjamin) his servants (Cleavon Little, Roddy McDowell, James Coco, Stephanie Faracy) a dimwitted cab driver (Richard Mulligan), his nephews Kenny (Dirk Benedict) and Jeff (Willie Aames) as well as his son-in-law Henry (Tony Randall) and his four children.  At the reading they are given a list of items each having a certain point total and told that whoever can collect the most items by the end of the day will be given the inheritance. Everyone then splits off into five teams and scours the city of San Diego looking to collect everything from a fat person, to a toilet and even an ostrich.

The natural inclination would be to write this movie off as being lame right from the beginning as the characterizations are quite broad, the action very cartoonish and the humor at an almost kiddie level, but farce/slapstick is a legitimate movie genre, so lambasting it simply for being silly isn’t really fair. Yes, you will have to park your intellect at the door to enjoy this one, but I found myself laughing more than I thought and it is great mindless escapism for the whole family without ever being crude or offensive. It also has Cloris Leachman who adds to her already legendary and eclectic resume by playing another extreme character and flying with it.

The film has a few hilarious bits including the servants stealing a toilet inside the bathroom of a post hotel and then later on while in a science lab getting attacked by a ‘giant soufflé’. Benjamin’s confrontation with an angry gang of bikers led by Meat Loaf is pretty good and the wild car chase that ensues at the end isn’t bad either. The film successfully interweaves moments of cynical humor as well, which helps make it more agreeable to older teens and adults.

There are also a myriad of famous faces in bit parts that are funnier than the main cast. I loved Ruth Gordon as a tough talking old lady and Robert Morley as the lawyer heading the estate whose facial expression when Leachman hugs him is a gem. Henry Polic II appears as a motorcycle cop who comes into contact with laughing gas and then loses his uniform and there is Arnold Schwarzenegger as an overzealous fitness instructor. I also really liked Scatman Crothers who appears for a while as Mulligan’s partner and then disappears only to come back in a pivotal part at the very end and even sings over the closing credits.

The only thing that really got on my nerves was Richard Masur as the overgrown man-child named Georgie. Acting wise he does it pretty well, but there is never any explanation why a grown man would be acting so infantile. Was he mentally challenged, or just mentally ill? It is never explained, but comes off more as creepy than funny. I also didn’t like Faracy initially as the dumb French maid, but she grew on me and eventually I came to adore her especially when she tells off Coco. Randall, as a beleaguered father is pretty much wasted, but I did like Julie Ann Haddock as his oldest daughter who later went on to play Cindy Webster on the first three seasons of ‘Facts of Life’.

African American director Michael Schultz shows quite the flair for variety. He started his career doing black-themed films like the classic Cooley High and Car Wash only to turn around and direct the Bee Gees in Sergeant. Pepper’s Lonely Club Hearts Band and then this one, which is in every way diametrically different from his earlier work, but still an accomplishment for his ability to take on such varying works and genuinely be successful at them.

Filmed entirely on-location in San Diego this film can be great fun for kids of all ages even those that are over 40.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: December 21, 1979

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Michael Schultz

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Available: VHS, YouTube

The V.I.P.s (1963)

the vips2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 3 out of 10

4-Word Review: Drama at the airport.

Several diverse characters come together at London’s Heathrow Airport. All have urgent needs that require them to board a certain flight that they hope will take off as soon as possible. Frances (Elizabeth Taylor) is the wife of rich tycoon Paul (Richard Burton) and is secretly having an affair with gambler/playboy Marc (Louis Jourdan). She has left him a ‘dear John’ letter at home and hopes to be well on her way to New York before he reads it. Les (Rod Taylor) is a businessman who also hopes to get to the Big Apple quickly to avoid the hostile takeover of his company. Max (Orson Welles) is a famous movie director traveling with his vapid starlet Gloria (Elsa Martinelli) and hoping to leave England before he is forced to pay an enormous tax penalty. Unfortunately for them a fog rolls in, which delays the flight and sends everyone’s plans into disarray.

The drama has some potential at the beginning, but the 2-hour runtime is much too long for this type of material. Whatever compelling elements the threads may have had when it started become lodged in endless talk and boredom. The scene where Burton smashes Liz’s hand against a mirror is the only time there is any action and Terence Rattigan’s soap opera script is too clichéd. Director Anthony Asquith’s direction shows no visual flair and fails to capture the airport in any type of interesting way. The background sets look like they were built on a soundstage and the fog effects are quite tacky.

Margaret Rutherford won the supporting Oscar for her portrayal of an aging Duchess. She adds some much needed humor particularly in the segment where she has difficulty getting her hat box into the plane’s luggage compartment. However, like with the story thread concerning the Orson Welles character she is seen to briefly and their scenes are spread so far apart that you almost forget all about them.

Spoiler Warning!

There is also another segment where a complete stranger played by actress Maggie Smith approaches the Burton character and asks him for a hundred and fifty three thousand pounds and he gives it to her in the form of a blank check, which had me floored. Men like him don’t become rich by handing out a lot of money to anyone who asks especially people they don’t know. Some may argue that because the character was considering suicide that he didn’t care anymore, but it still seemed too much of a stretch and for me sent this already stale drama into the realm of the absurd and ridiculous.

End of Spoiler Warning

Every story thread gets a nice, convenient happy ending that gives the whole thing a TV-sitcom quality and barely worth the effort to sit through. The production has some glossy aspects and certainly big-name stars, but ends up being a buildup to nothing.

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My Rating: 3 out of 10

Released: September 19, 1963

Runtime: 1Hour 59Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Anthony Asquith

Studio: MGM

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Shoot the Moon (1982)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: A look at divorce.

After fifteen years the marriage between George and Faith Dunlap (Albert Finney, Diane Keaton) finally dissolves. He has been carrying on an affair with another woman (Karen Allen) and so he is forced to move out of their house and away from their four daughters. Sherry (Dana Hill) the oldest is angry at him and refuses to speak or even spend time with him when he has custody of the children, which starts to create major friction. Faith begins a relationship with Frank (Peter Heller) a handyman who has come over to build a tennis court in their backyard and when George finds out about this his simmering temper eventually boils over in an uncontrolled and frightening way.

If there is one thing you take away from this film it is in the luscious photography of the San Francisco bay area. The large, isolated two-story house looks almost like a dream location and was specifically built for the picture and filmed in Nicasio, California. The scenes showing George writing at his typewriter next to a window exposing crashing waves of the ocean and well as his pondering things in a small rowboat all alone in a still lake have the same dream-like quality and an ambience that allows for a rush to the senses.

The film also has an interesting music score because there is no composer credited for it even though it has pieces of simple piano interludes played throughout, which effectively reflects the mood of the film and characters and proves once again that less truly is more.

The family life scenes are on-target with everything from the perpetually chaotic atmosphere of four kids running around with endless energy to the always cluttered rooms and the mother seen picking up their discarded toys and clothes. The children are portrayed as being realistically perceptive and ask some pointed questions and not as naïve as most adults may like to believe. Hill is a real standout and her final meeting with her father late at night on a dock beside a lake is touching. Although she was 18 at the time because of her severe diabetes that stunted her growth she looks very much like the 13-year-old that she was portraying.

There are some memorable scenes including the amusing moments inside and outside a courtroom as well as Faith and George having a shouting match inside a fancy restaurant that ends up involving another couple sitting next to them. George’s angry tirade at the end in which he destroys the brand new tennis court with his car is exhilarating.

The only liability is with Finney himself. Normally he is a superior actor, but he is miscast here. For one thing there was too much of an age difference between him and Keaton and at times he almost looks more like her father. Weller who plays her boyfriend seems much more like her type and he would have been a better choice as the husband. Finney’s character borders on being unlikable and comes off at times as being a prick of the highest order. His blowups at Faith for seeing another man and at Sherry for not talking to him seem unreasonable especially since he started it all by having an affair. I did like the part though were he helps Timmy the young son of his new girlfriend late at night when he gets sick and the comment that his new girlfriend makes to him when he comes back to bed with her is a gem.

The film gives a great overall look at the emotional side of divorce, but it fails to dig any deeper.  We gain no real insight to these characters or what caused the marriage to go bad in the first place, which ultimately makes this otherwise slick production rather shallow and placid.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: January 22, 1982

Runtime: 2Hour 4Minutes

Rated R

Director: Alan Parker

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD, YouTube 

FM (1978)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: No static at all!

Q-SKY is the number one radio station in Los Angeles and this is mainly due to program director Jeff Dugan (Michael Brandon) who has lined up a good rock playlist as well as an eclectic bunch of on-air personalities. However, Regis Lamar (Tom Tarpey) the sales manager wants to play some army recruitment commercials, which Jeff refuses to do and when he gets into a fight with management over it he quits. The rest of the staff decides to come to his rescue by staging an on-air sit-in where they lock themselves inside the station and refuse to play any commercials until management agrees to hire Jeff back, which soon attracts the attention of hundreds of listeners that pack the streets of L.A. until it becomes a mob scene.

If this movie succeeds at anything it is in its ability at bringing the ‘70s back to life. In fact if you ever wanted to get into a time machine and travel back to that decade to see what things were really like this film does it better than just about any other from that era. The sights, sounds and attitudes from that crazy decade literally ooze from every frame until you feel like you are living it yourself.

The film also manages to recreate the behind-the-scenes life at a radio station in a realistic way. Back in the ‘90s I worked in radio and even had my own weekend overnight show called ‘After Hours’ at a FM station in Chicago and the atmosphere shown here is on-target and enough to make me long to go back to it if it just paid more.

The characterizations are fun. Eileen Brennan takes a rare dramatic turn and does quite well playing an older D.J. named Mother who is burnt out from the business and wants to quit, but can’t quite pull herself completely away from it. Martin Mull is amusing as the narcissist Eric Swan who considers his on-air persona to be an ‘art form’ and he even traps himself inside the radio booth when he breaks up with his girlfriend and refuses to leave until one of his many female listeners agrees to take her place. Ironically both Mull and Cleavon Little who plays Prince the overnight jock also played D.J.’s in two other movies. Mull was in Jingle All the Way while Little was in Vanishing Point.

The film also has a strong ‘70s soundtrack. Not only does it open with a great stereo version of Steely Dan’s title hit, but just about every rock hit from 1978 can be heard playing in the background at some point. There is also excellent concert footage of Jimmy Buffet as well as Linda Ronstadt who does live versions of ‘Tumbling Dice’, ‘Poor, Poor Pitiful Me’, and ‘Love Me Tender’.

The film unfortunately falls apart at the end with a sit-in segment that proves unrealistic and exaggerated. Radio personal are hired and fired every day. It’s the nature of the business and one knows that going in and prepares for it. It is highly unlikely that any of the other employees would stage a sit-in like the one shown here simply because it would put not only their job, but careers in complete jeopardy. Dugan with his strong resume could easily find himself a job at another station pretty quickly, so their efforts seemed unnecessary. The idea that hundreds of people would come out onto the street to protest and even overturn cars is ridiculous and what’s worse is that the crowd scenes were clearly done on an inside soundstage making the entire segment look staged and fake.

I loved the first half and had it stayed on that slice-of-life level this could’ve been an interesting time capsule. In some ways it still is, but the ending gets so stupid that it pretty much ruins the whole thing.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: April 20, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 44Minutes

Rated PG

Director: John A. Alonzo

Studio: Universal Pictures

Available: VHS

Something Wild (1961)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: Rape and its aftermath.

Mary Ann (Carroll Baker) is raped one night while she is walking home from school. For whatever reason she decides not to go to the police and instead keeps the whole incident to herself, but living with her domineering mother (Mildred Dunnock becomes too much and she decides to run away. She finds herself a cheap apartment in a seedy part of the city and a job at a five and dime store. However, the emotional effects of the rape begin to gnaw at her psychologically. She no longer wants to get close to anyone, which alienates her from those around her. She considers suicide, but at the last minute is saved by Mike (Ralph Meeker) who takes her back to his modest basement apartment. There he imprisons her and refuses to let her leave until she falls in love with him.

In some ways this film was ahead-of-its-time. The dazzling opening credit sequence by Saul Bass is eye popping. Director Jack Garfein who at the time was married to Baker and just off of his success of The Strange One continues his push of exploring ideas with dark psychological undertones. The rape scene for its time is surprisingly graphic and the film doesn’t have a single line of dialogue uttered for the first fifteen minutes. New York gets captured in a cinema vertite style reminding me of the influential ‘Naked City’ TV-series that was out at the same time. The black and white photography helps accentuate the story’s grittiness and the surreal dream sequence that Mary Ann has towards the middle of the film is visually creepy and impressive.

Although not the strongest of actresses Baker still manages to give a compelling performance and although she was already pushing 30 she still looked very much like she was 18 or even younger. Meeker an outstanding actor who unfortunately isn’t very well known is solid. The film also offers a great chance to see young stars in the making including Diane Ladd in her film debut as well as Jean Stapelton as Mary Ann’s nosy neighbor and Doris Roberts as a petulant co-worker. There is even Clifton James with a full head of hair.

Unfortunately the film ultimately misses-the-mark and part of the problem is Mary Ann’s decision of not going to the police after she is attacked, which is never explained. This could have been because of the stigma placed on rape victims at the time, but it still comes off as frustrating and even off-putting to the viewer. Mike’s apartment is just a little too bare-bones looking almost like a prison cell instead. Maybe this was the director’s attempt at symbolizing how ‘imprisoned’ Mike and Mary Ann were, but if that was the case it was much too obvious. Realistically someone usually enlivens and personalizes the place where they live by at least putting up a few pictures on the walls. Also, Mary Ann’s doesn’t seem to put up much of an attempt at escaping. Mike locks the door from the inside and then passes out drunk and she could have just gone through his pockets to get the key. She is also left alone for several hours a day while he goes to work, which would have been enough time to cut through the bars on the windows, broken through the door, or even yelled for help out the open window.

Cinematically it has its moments particularly during the first hour, but the story itself seems dated and the character’s motivations confusing and unclear ultimately making it an experimental misfire.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: December 23, 1961

Runtime: 1Hour 52Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Jack Garfein

Studio: United Artists

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video

Night of the Juggler (1980)

night of the juggler 2

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 4 out of 10

4-Word Review: A father’s relentless search.

Sean Boyd (James Brolin) is a divorced man and retired cop now working as a truck driver and raising his twelve-year-old daughter Kathy (played by Abby Bluestone who now works as a talent agent) in the not-so-nice section of New York City. Gus Soltic (Cliff Gorman) lives in a rundown building slated for destruction and kidnaps Kathy mistakenly thinking she is the daughter of a rich man who can pay him a high ransom. Instead he now must contend with Sean who will stop at nothing to get her back and stalks Gus with a relentless determination to find her.

The film is based on the William P. McGivern novel who was a noted mystery writer who brought an extra degree of realism to his stories. Director Robert Butler nicely keys in on this by not having a loud, pounding music score and instead relying on the natural ambience to create the tension. The film has an incredible amount of action that almost seems non-stop. The car chase that goes through park pathways and even crowded city sidewalks is amazing. The climatic foot chase in the catacombs of the underground city tunnels is atmospheric as is the foot chase through abandoned properties where Sean not only pursues Gus, but must also fight off a Hispanic street gang that are right on his heels. The scene where Dan Hedaya seemingly destroys every display window in the city with his automatic rifle aimed at Sean’s head is both effective and amusing.

Despite its strong gritty nature the film does manage to have a few amusing scenes including Sean stealing a street preacher’s car with the preacher still in it as he pursues Gus.  I also liked the scene where Lieutenant Tonelli (Richard S. Catellano) is enjoying a dish of yogurt until the vendor tells him how it gets made. Unfortunately there are a few moments that end up being funny in an unintentional way including Sean’s intense confrontation with strippers (played by famous 70’s/80’s porn stars Serena and Sharon Mitchell) while inside an adult peep show.

Brolin physically looks perfect for the role especially with his black beard and mustache that gives him a Charles Manson-like quality, but overall he is a bit sterile. Gorman is effective as the psycho and even has a few moments of unexpected tenderness. Castellano comes off best as the tubby, but stoic detective.

The film has its share of flaws including having Gus grab the girl in broad daylight in the middle of a park with dozens of other people around, but no one except for her father does anything to try and stop him. I realize that the city was still under the stigma at the time of the Kitty Genovese case in which a woman was raped and murdered and many witnesses either saw or heard it and did nothing to help, but this scene  is still a bit unrealistic. Also, Gus kidnaps the wrong girl because both girls were wearing blue overalls, but the chances of two pre-teen girls living in a cosmopolitan city wearing overalls especially when one of them is from a rich and snooty area seems slim-to-none.

Overall despite all the action the film still comes off as jarring and jumbled and strangely uninvolving. The incessant focus of showing New York as bleak and apocalyptic becomes one-dimensional. The story itself is run-of-the-mill and forgettable.

My Rating: 4 out of 10

Released: June 6, 1980

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Butler

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS

The Hireling (1973)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review: His love isn’t reciprocated.

Based on the L.P. Hartley novel the film examines the unusual relationship between a rich English widow named Lady Franklin (Sarah Miles) and her chauffeur Steven Ledbetter (Robert Shaw). The setting is just after the First World War and Lady Franklin has suffered a nervous breakdown after the untimely death of her husband. Steven drives her from place-to-place and helps her out of her depression while also forming a strong attachment to her. Once she recuperates she no longer calls upon his services as much, which hurts him. She then forms a relationship with the much younger Hugh Cantrip (Peter Egan). His personality is the complete opposite of Steven’s and when Steven finds out that Hugh is still seeing another woman on the side it angers him. When he goes to Lady Franklin to inform her of this as well as profess his love for her things do not go well and soon spirals out-of-control.

The film is exquisitely photographed by director Alan Bridges with a haunting score by Marc Wilkinson that is excellent. The period atmosphere is perfect and the slow pace not only reflects that era, but the book to which it is based. Some may be put off by the pace as it is for the most part quite talky although the last half-hour has more action and final showdown is quite intense. The element I really liked about the film are the brief cutaways showing people listening in to other’s conversations and people always being careful what they say and great concern with always playing their ‘proper role’ in society. It really helps build a cloistered feeling for the viewer and gives them a better understanding to the meltdown that occurs at the end.

Miles gives another great performance and she essentially plays two characters here with the fragile, wide-eyed woman at the beginning and the more confident, emotionally distant person that she turns into at the end. Shaw is excellent as always. It is almost amazing to see how someone with such a strong personality as his could get hidden underneath the rather bland and proper character that he portrays at the beginning, but he comes through full-force at the end, which is chilling and terrifying.

The film makes some great statements about the inequities of a rigid social caste system as well as the unrealistic, rigid demands that were placed on people especially in past eras that did not completely take into account the human being underneath or their natural emotions. It is also a great testament to the loneliness of unrequited love, which is sadly a perennial element of the human experience. Although the film stays faithful to the novel the ending has been changed, which may or may not go over well with some viewers.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: June 10, 1973

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Alan Bridges

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: DVD (Region 1 & 2)

The Passenger (1975)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: He steals someone’s identity.

This is a low key drama detailing a world-weary reporter named David (Jack Nicholson) who comes upon a dead man in a hotel room. David is unhappy with his existence and since they closely resemble one another he decides to switch identities with the dead man. He believes that this man lives a jet setting lifestyle, but soon finds that may not be true and that everyone is trying to escape from something.

This film has the artsy flair that is typical of all Michelangelo Antonioni’s films. It tends to be quite evasive as it brings up certain points and then seems to muddle them. It’s made to make you ponder, but has a decidedly downbeat tone. There is no music until the very end, which was a mistake as it gets too quiet at points and one’s mind will eventually wander especially with the lack of strong dramatic interaction. Having some music blended in would certainly have helped the momentum and avoided the rather flat feeling you get when it is all over.

The film is not without its good points and can best be described as a kind of Easy Rider, but more from a world perspective. Like with that film it describes characters trying to escape from a world that will not let them go. I loved the wide variety of exotic locales, which in any other film would symbolize excitement and adventure yet here they become part of the imprisonment. The film though does not take full advantage of its outlets and the sense of detachment that it has eventually rubs off on the viewer.

Nicholson gives a surprisingly non-dynamic performance. Maybe he was just trying to get into his transparent character, but either way it is not riveting. Maria Schneider is interesting only because she has the face of a young girl but the sensibilities of a much older woman.

There are some interesting shots. One features the camera looking out of a barred window from inside a room. Then without taking a single cut the camera moves through the bars, makes a complete turn, and then looks back through the window from the outside. There is also footage of an actual execution of a political prisoner. This certainly will interest the morbid, but it also seems to be a bit sick and disrespectful especially when the camera stays locked onto limp, bullet-riddled body.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: April 9, 1975

Runtime: 2Hours 6Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Studio: MGM

Available: VHS, DVD

The Sure Thing (1985)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Love blossoms between opposites.

Walter Gibson (John Cusack) becomes smitten with Alison (Daphne Zuniga). He is a slacker while she is a very studious student. Both attend the same college English class and he uses the ruse of needing help with his studies as a ploy to get closer to her, but it doesn’t work and she ends up hating him. Then his friend Lance (Anthony Edwards) invites him out to California where he has a really hot girl (Nicollette Sheridan) waiting for him and promises that she is a ‘sure thing’. So Walter takes a ride with a couple (Tim Robbins, Mary Jane Persky) that is also going out there only to find that Alison is riding with them as she wants to visit her boyfriend.  Needless to say it is a rocky ride, but after several misadventures love finally begins to blossom between the two.

On a purely romantic level this film scores big time. It nicely recaptures the period in one’s life where everything is still new and exciting and before such things as marital discord, ugly divorces, child custody battles and all that other crap. Instead it emphasizes the rush one feels at being in the presence of someone they are really crazy about and learning to know them through layers. It’s the magical innocence of young love that makes it so endearing and engaging.

Zuniga is beautiful but fortunately not in an overdone, glamorous type of way. My favorite scene with her is when she tries to drink a beer for the first time ‘shotgun style’ and becomes a bit overwhelmed by it. Cusack shows his usual charm, but his social graces seem severely lacking at points near the beginning and I wouldn’t have been surprised if every girl would have found him to be an annoying geek.

In support Edwards is good as his friend and I especially liked his room that is lined with empty bottles of every different brand of beer that he has drunk. Viveca Lindfors is sexy and appealing in her own way as the English teacher and George Memmoli in his last film role has an engaging bit as an overweight man that Walter meets and befriends at a bar in a scene that I wished had been more extended.

The film though does have a few problems. One scene has Walter accusing Alison of being ‘repressed’ and so to prove him wrong she strips off her shirt and bra and then flashes some other cars that they are passing, which to me seemed like too much of an extreme shift in behavior and not realist for that type of character. There is another scene where the two are stranded in the middle of nowhere during a rainstorm and with no money since Alison forgot it at their last hotel stop only to find out that she has a credit card. The film then cuts to showing them eating at a fancy restaurant, which was too much of a jump as a credit card isn’t going to get them from an empty field by itself and the scene needed to show more of a connection on how or who got them out of there.

The biggest problem though is that we have this stunning beautiful, bikini clad blonde in the form of Nicollette Sheridan who apparently can’t get a guy on her own and needs to be ‘set-up’ on a date, which makes no sense. The scenes showing her walking around all alone at a party are absurd because in reality just about every guy in the room would be showing her some attention and she would have no reason to waiting around for an average guy like Cusack to come by to date here. This is the one segment in the movie were it goes dangerously close from being this pleasing slice-of-life romance to a crazy 80’s teen fantasy.

Despite the issues listed above I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It should appeal to the romantic in all of us and nicely balances the old-fashioned love story formula with modern day sensibilities.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: March 1, 1985

Runtime: 1Hour 40Minutes

Rated PG-13

Director: Rob Reiner

Studio: Embassy Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray

Goodbye, Columbus (1969)

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By Richard Winters

My Rating: 8 out of 10

4-Word Review: Dating a rich girl.

One day while at a pool party Neil (Richard Benjamin) becomes infatuated with beautiful Brenda (Ali MacGraw) and proceeds to begin a relationship with her. He has just recently graduated from college and still not quite sure what direction he wants to take in life. He doesn’t want to fully ‘drop-out’, but isn’t so excited about diving in to the corporate business world where making a lot of money is the only focus. Brenda on the other hand is from a rich Jewish family who enjoys her privileged lifestyle, but not always the pretension that comes with it.  She continues to date Neil simply out of spite to her mother (Nan Martin) who doesn’t approve, but as things progress their differences and values become more pronounced and sends the relationship teetering on the brink.

Director Larry Peerce did some high quality films during the sixties and it is unfortunate that by the seventies his output dropped off. I think overall this is his most complete work and a wonderful compliment to the Philip Roth novella from which it is based. The location shooting is outstanding and one of the main things that gives the film a personality. The giant suburban house in which Brenda’s family lives makes one of the biggest impressions not only with its large exterior, but interior as well where every room is wallpapered with its own distinct color and design. The library where Neil works is also visually impressive especially with its large marble columns and painted cathedral ceilings.

The film is filled with a lot of memorable and amusing scenes. Neil’s interactions with Brenda’s ten-year-old younger sister Julie (Lori Shelle) is entertaining not only with a game of hoops that the play, but most especially their ping pong contest that they play later. Neil’s attempted conversation with a deaf man while inside the library is funny as is seeing Neil sneaking into Brenda’s bedroom each night when the parents are asleep. You also got to love Neil’s shocked response when he finds out Brenda has not been taking the pill and the scenes at the wedding reception of Brenda’s brother is filled with a lot of keen observations. If you look closely you will be able to spot Bette Midler, Michael Nouri, Jacklyn Smith and Susan Lucci as wedding guests.

MacGraw has never looked more beautiful and Peerce spends several minutes lovingly photographing her swimming in the pool, which isn’t bad. Her performance as a spoiled rich girl going through fits of rebellion, but not quite ready to completely break from her soft lifestyle is on-target and proves that she is not just a pretty face, but an excellent actress as well. Although already 30 at the time she plays a 20-year-old quite convincingly.

Michael Meyers as Brenda’s older brother Ron is a scene stealer not only with his empty ‘discussions’ with Neil, but also with the way he orders around the other workers as a supervisor at a job he wouldn’t have had, had he not been the owner’s son. This proved to be his one and only movie appearance. He eventually became a physician in real-life and wrote an autobiography entitled ‘Goodbye Columbus, Hello Medicine’.

In some ways I saw a lot of similarities to this film and The Graduate and consider it to be just as much of a classic. I enjoyed the way the film explores the different stages of the relationship and the final argument the two have is quite revealing.

My Rating: 8 out of 10

Released: April 3, 1969

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated R

Director: Larry Peerce

Studio: Paramount

Available: VHS, DVD, Laser disc, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube