The movies selected for review are the choice of the reviewer. Depending on your source for DVDs, they may or may not be available that particular week, so you may want to clip the SOFA CINEMA column for future reference. Suggestions for DVD titles are welcome. Enjoy the movies.
"Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"
Harrison Ford is a trooper. In his performance in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," he makes jokes about his age, is willing to share the screen with teen sensation Shia LeBeouf and he even leaps from one death-defying scene to the next without blinking an eye. The problem is that even though Ford is up to the task, the scriptwriter, David Koepp, can't even come close to the excitement generated from the original outing of Indiana Jones written by Lawrence Kasden more than 25 years ago.
Cate Blanchett is splendid as the villainess and it's great to see Karen Allen back on screen as Jones' love interest. "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is filled with virtually endless chase scenes. And if you're into special effects, this film is loaded.
Sequels rarely measure up to the original and this one is no exception. On the other hand, if it's a rainy night and you want to lounge on the couch, you won't be disappointed passing the time with Harrison.
Bumping up successful television shows to the big screen is becoming a tradition in Hollywood. Logic dictates that there already will be an audience of curious adults in the seats and, if promoted properly, the younger generation (X, Y, or whatever) will become enamored and buy tickets. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't,
It works with "Get Smart." Don Adams starred as the original bumbling agent Maxwell Smart on television and Steve Carell slips comfortably into the film role with a similar deadpan delivery. Barbara Feldon's replacement Ann Hathaway is more feisty than cute as Agent 99 and Maxwell can't help but be smitten by her. The supporting cast is very impressive as well. As Agent 23, Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson handles his comedic role with a straight face. "The Chief" Alan Arkin barks out commands and Terrance Stamp as Siegfried may or may not have been bested by Smart and his agency, CONTROL, at film's end. Can you spell "sequel?"
"Get Smart" is smartly directed by Peter Segal. If you remember the TV series, you may find yourself anticipating some of Maxwell Smart's retorts. "Would you believe" the movie doesn't miss any opportunity to inject familiar retorts?
"Get Smart" is silly fun.
Barbara Stanwyck was fearless in her career. While other actors played it safe, she took chances playing bad girls and underdogs. By 1933, she had made a name for herself in the movie business and although not the stereotypical beauty, there was a quality about her that the camera loved.
As Lily Powers in "Baby Face," Stanwyck pulled out all the stops as a young woman from the wrong side of the tracks determined to get more out of life whatever the cost. Lily, at age 14 had enough of tending bar for her abusive father and decided to climb the corporate ladder - one body at a time. When first released, five minutes of (scandalous?) material was excised from "Baby Face" before it was theatrically screened. Luckily, an unedited, uncensored print was found in 2004 in the vaults of the Library of Congress. Both versions should be available on a restored DVD.
Given the liberties taken on film in the 21st century with violence and sex, you might be hard pressed to see what the fuss was all about, but it does lend perspective on the mores of the time. All that aside, "Baby Face" is fun to watch. Stanwyck's performance is impeccable. Be sure to view the original.
Rebecca Redshaw worked in the film industry in Los Angeles for 25 years. A novelist and playwright, she has published in numerous magazines and newspapers in addition to teaching fiction. She is the Arts & Entertainment critic for the international entertainment Web site NotesFromHollywood.com. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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