Attempting to find time between work and vacation time while in Key West, I managed to sneak a few films in to my schedule. I even scratched a couple of films off my list that had been there for years, namely Senso, Luchino Visconti’s operatic classic, held in high regard by many (Scorsese for one). Besides these movies, I saw Annabelle: Creation and Logan Lucky in theaters.

Opening Night 92% on Rotten Tomatoes                  6   (Youtube)

Image result for opening night 1977

Starring Gena Rowlands, John Cassavetes, Ben Gazzarra, Joan Blondell

Plot Summary-Myrtle Gordon, a star of the theater world, is on a downward spiral, exacerbated by the sudden, violent death of a young fan before her eyes.

My Take-Elusive theater drama with hints of the supernatural, this, my first Cassavetes film, was too confounding to be truly engaging. The main draw, the thing talked about most when Cassavetes is brought up, is the acting. Gena Rowlands, his wife and star, is exceptional. She has a broken down glamour in this picture that serves the story and makes her character haunting. I was less interested in the picture within a picture element to this film. The stage performance which the plot revolves around takes up close to half of the 2 and half hour running time.

-Directed by John Cassavetes, 1977

Pretty Woman 61% on Rotten Tomatoes              7  (VHS)

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Starring Julia Roberts, Richard Gere, Jason Alexander, Ralph Bellamy, Hector Elizondo

Plot Summary-A cold-hearted business man and a Hollywood hooker with a heart of gold meet through a chance encounter and make a deal. She will pretend to be his girlfriend for a week as he closes a multimillion dollar deal. The two gradually fall in love.

My Take-The premise is pure Hollywood fantasy. Contrived, sure. The stars gorgeous. It’s unnecessary to comment on how unrealistic the film is, and yet I find it important to preface my review with that disclaimer. I like Pretty Woman. It’s not great. Despite it’s superficial grit, it’s a fairy tale. Julia Roberts and Richard Gere have that chemistry that’s essential for romantic comedies to work.

-Directed by Gary Marshall, 1990

An American Tail: Fievel Goes West  45% on Rotten Tomatoes           7 (Netflix)

Image result for an american tail fievel goes west

Voices of Dom Deluise, Amy Irving, John Cleese, James Stewart

Plot Summary-Fievel and his family return, this time moving west thanks to a scheming gang of cats. Fievel, overhearing their plot, attempts to find help and thwart the evil cats.

My Take-Don Bluth’s productions have always suffered from uneven storytelling. His animation and artistry, however, is incredible. The story is just engaging enough, and the voice work is top notch. This was James Stewart’s last role.

-Directed by Phil Nibbelink and Simon Wells, 1991

Cool Runnings 75% on Rotten Tomatoes                          7 (Netflix)

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Starring Leon, Doug E. Doug, John Candy, Malik Yoba, Rawle D. Lewis

Plot Summary-After his chances at running in the Olympics are dashed, Derice Bannock sees potential in bobsledding as his ticket. He enlists a disgraced former champion (Candy) living on the island to help train him and the Jamaican team.

My Take-Disney consistently finds gold when they mix the familiar sports genre with colorful cultural settings (Queen of Katwe, McFarland U.S.A, Million Dollar Arm). Well acted, though light. Winning.

-Directed by Jon Turteltaub, 1993

Senso       85% on Rotten Tomatoes                      6   (Filmstruck)

Image result for senso 1954

Starring Alida Valli, Farley Granger, Heinz Moog

Plot Summary-Set in Italy during Austrian occupation, a married Italian Countess strikes up an affair with the Austrian officer responsible for her cousin’s exile.

My Take-Viewed as one of Luchino Visconti’s best, I remain mostly indifferent to his work though I love the individual parts. The imagery is gorgeous. The acting, in the context of a melodrama, is very good. The setting and story are intriguing, and yet this picture never grabbed me. Like the few other films by Visconti that I’ve seen, there’s a character at the center of Senso that’s completely deplorable, making for a difficult watch.

-Directed by Luchino Visconti, 1954

-Walter Howard-





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