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Profile for Peter Shelley > Reviews


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Reviews Written by
Peter Shelley "petershelley" RSS Feed (Sydney, New South Wales Australia)

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What Ever Happened to Mommie Dearest?
What Ever Happened to Mommie Dearest?
by John William Law
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.95
30 used & new from $10.93

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the title is misleading, December 19, 2012
Not sure why the author chose this title for his book, but I found some things here that I hadn't read anywhere else about Crawford. There tends to be more behind-the-scenes info than notes on the actual films and TV work so that may either put you off or please you, depending on what you are looking for. I was happy to see that the author had my book, Grande Dame Guignol Cinema, in his bibliography. As others have noted, there are some typos, but also some repetitions I could have done without. However overall the book was an interesting and quick read.

Gypsy (1989 New York Revival)
Gypsy (1989 New York Revival)
45 used & new from $0.01

6 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tyne Daly as Mama Rose, October 25, 2002
Tyne Daly was much maligned for her singing in this 1990 recording of the show's Broadway revival, however for me her vocal weakness makes her Mama Rose more interesting. As strident, even ugly as Ethel Merman was in the original cast recording, Merman's voice still yells star power. You may consider her brand of singing to be "yelling", but there is no denying that Merman's Mama Rose is someone that has too much charisma for the character to be believable as the never-was talent that allows for "Rose's Turn". However Daly's shortcomings, which include a strained horseness in "Some People" and "Small World" in particular, are more contextually appropriate. (I don't recall Daly's voice sounding this injured in the singing she did for her 1975 TVM The Entertainer though perhaps it is due to all that Cagney & Lacey policework). Daly actually adds a poignancy to "Small World" aided immeasurably by Jonathan Hadary as Herbie, that Merman does not, though Ethel doing pensive or romantic was always problematic.
I am yet to hear Angela Lansbury sing Mama Rose, but Daly also uses her considerable acting skill to make sense of the breakdown "mmm...mamma"'s in "Rose's Turn" that defeats both Merman and Bette Midler in the 1993 TVM. Plus Daly's concluding "for me" wails are an expression of the jealousy and self-hatred of someone who knows she is a never-will be.
Its hard not to be offended for Daly by the Midler TVM. Obviously the interest in a re-filming of the property after the generally lamentable 1962 Rosalind Russell feature was due to Daly's Tony-winning triumph. A new film version to star Barbra Streisand as Rose and Madonna as Louise/Gypsy was nixed by the book's author Arthur Laurents, who had written The Way We Were for Streisand, apparently because she wanted to direct. Perhaps Midler's casting in the TVM was seen as a kind of compensation for Merman losing the role to Russell, since Midler's acting and voice is more akin to Merman's, though I would rate Merman as having the better voice of the two. However since I regard Midler as Mama Rose to be frankly awful, Daly shouldn't feel too bad.
I have given this recording a medium score partly because I think the material is served better as a piece by the original cast recording. The songs by Jule Styne are brilliant, Mama Rose is a great role, but the brassiness and tackiness belongs to a time that it is hard to improve upon.

Gossip [VHS]
Gossip [VHS]
Offered by arenolimits
Price: $5.94
31 used & new from $0.01

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars rumour has it this movie sux, July 26, 2002
This review is from: Gossip [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Whilst I admit to not being a fan of post-modern cinema with narrative about teenagers, I was drawn to this title because of the presence of Kate Hudson, who is the only actor here who manages to maintain her dignity.
The screenplay by Gregory Poirier and Theresa Rebeck presents college students with a high school mentality, who are stereotypically shallow sex-obsessed alcoholics, with the line "That's not an answer" used twice, "She has a veracity problem" a notable howler, and a climactic struggle for the gun cliche. Director Davis Guggenheim doesn't help by using self-conscious camerawork, giving rich James Marsden a designer apartment, and laughable excuses for lectures by Eric Bogosian.
Hudson is as beautiful as her character is said to be, is seen lieing langerously on her bed in long shoot, and is the only person to express honest emotions. Poor Lena Headey suffers from being a Winona clone with bad teeth, Norman Reedus is the Bill Gates-style geek via James Dean, and Marsden's constant pacing seems to be him running away from his pretty boy woman-hater's obvious latent homosexuality. A conversation he has with Reedus possesses far more innuendo than any of his kissing of Headey.
The de rigeuer plot twists seem to match the accumulative use of rain, and the resolution is like a peak-a-boo piece of theatre.

Project:Shadowchaser [VHS]
Project:Shadowchaser [VHS]
Offered by Flaming Sox
Price: $13.99
25 used & new from $1.47

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Man and the perfect killing machine, November 12, 2001
This bubblegum action thriller directed by John Eyres is clearly inspired by films like Die Hard, where a building is held hostage by terrorists. The twist here is that the head terrorist is a cyborg, a "perfect synthetic warrior" produced by the American's ATR, Advanced Technical Research unit (whose project explains the title). What this kind of genre pic needs is a simple narrative but the screenplay by Stephen Lister juggles too many plot elements - the President's daughter as the main hostage, the staff hostages of the hospital location, the cyborg, the FBI's defence, the ATR, and the lone intruder played by Martin Kove - and Eyres gives them all an equal lack of weight, with things not helped by the one note copy of Danny Elfman's Batman theme as music score from Gary Pinder. We get mercilessly bogged down with the antagonism between FBI Paul Koslo and ATR Joss Ackland, when we just want to get back to the building, and Koslo in particular is all bad haircut and swearing machismo. It helps that Kove has a self-deprecating humour and although they aren't given the material, he and Meg Foster as the President's daughter have a funny rapport. Lister provides two laugh lines - 1 being the cyborg's expression of threatened "raining hostages", and Kove re the cyborg "His stairs don't reach the attic". The cyborg is played by Frank Zagarino as a perfect gay icon - no body hair, peroxided, suntan, and gladiator chest - which kind of deflates the idea of him having a girlfriend or the attempt at romantic tension between he and Foster, though ironically Foster's unique eyes are creepier than his robotic ones. To create tension Eyres cross-cuts madly, uses crowd panic for the initial invasion, sets up that one hostage is killed who later reappears with the others, includes some bad rear projection, and doesn't forget the cliches of slow motion for climactic confrontations. Lister provides a redemptive sci fi payoff for the conclusion.

Tulsa [VHS]
Tulsa [VHS]
Offered by J&S Merchandise
Price: $4.98
51 used & new from $0.01

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars firewater, November 11, 2001
This review is from: Tulsa [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Director Stuart Heisler must have liked Susan Hayward because he cast her in 3 films - Among the Living, Smash up - The Story of a Woman, and this one, so in a way he is responsible for elevating her to A level productions. This one hovers in between a B and an A, independently produced, and using a lot of rear projection. The material is interesting in it's view of the American Indian, here presented as land owners and cattle ranchers, with Heisler beginning with a montage of the different kinds of Indians, and Hayward being 3/4 Cherokee. Presumably this is want accounts for her "wildcat" quality.
The screenplay by Frank Nugent and Curtis Kenyon, suggested by a story by Richard Wormser, is a cautionary tale of the emergence of oil drillers in Oklahoma and the effect they had on the environment of the cattle ranchers. We begin with the accidental death of Hayward's father, as the opportunity to hear the anti-oil lobby. However Hayward's form of revenge seems a direct violation of the conservation stance of her descendants, as she enters the oil business to be more successful than her main competitor, the man she blames for her father's death! Robert Preston appears as a "rockhound" engineer who helps Hayward strike oil, and matters reach a climax when she must decide whether to drill the property of her father's Indian friend, Pedro Armendariz.
The notion of Armendariz as a "crazy Indian" is introduced when he refuses to have his land drilled, he is threatened with being declared "mentally incompetent", and Heisler provides an extended and laboured use of montage to suggest his mental breakdown as he drives through fields of oil drilling towers and starts a fire laughing maniacally. Armendariz' view however is seen as a minority as other Indians seem happy to sell as much oil from their property and overlook the "smaller short term profit".
Of course, it is this very issue that produces conflict between Hayward and Preston, with Hayward's ambition seen to be clouding her true nature.
Preston's romantic interest in Hayward is somewhat a surprise considering the way she humiliates him at their first meeting, though I suppose men had to be tougher than usual in the period, but what is more humiliating is the way Preston out-acts her. Here Hayward relies upon big smiles and profile turns for charm, though her yelling at Preston at one point is unexpectedly loud.
Heisler uses horizontal slides, mini-montages, the unbearably bucolic singing of Chill Wills, Freudian symbolism in Hayward drinking from a large glass of brandy in front of Preston, and African-American servants for when Hayward hosts a society party, where Armendariz is a guest in tuxedo. We never actually see a servant serve him, since perhaps the irony would be too much.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2008 2:46 PM PDT

Stranger in My Bed [VHS]
Stranger in My Bed [VHS]

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars cross at the traffic lights, November 7, 2001
This TVM directed by Larry Elikann isn't as exploitative as the title suggests. Based on the presumably true life story of Beverley Slater, it has a teleplay by Audrey Davis Lenin based on the book by Slater and Frances Spatz Leighton. Slater played by Lindsay Wagner here suffers brain damage with "permanent personality change" after being in a car accident, with Wagner's change being presented by a butch haircut and colorful wardrobe. The resulting amnesia effectively wipes the 15 year history of her marriage to Armand Assante and their 2 children. The treatment includes some positive aspects to the change by mentioning faults of Wagner's past life, and also Assante's resentment of Wagner's loss of memory as his problem. It's actually an interesting study of what it takes to prolong a long term relationship, to keep the other partner interested and not take them for granted. Lenin can be fogiven for the occasional cliche like "They marched into hell and back", there is a Hallmark touch when Wagner has to choose between two gorgeous men who both want her, though her being able to drive comes across as odd when otherwise she needs process cards to complete tasks. Elikann uses a beautiful music score by Laurence Rosenthal to add poetry, psychological depth and emotion to proceedings, as well as a clip from William Wellman's 1937 A Star is Born. In spite of his standard pigeon-macho acting, Assante is a model of patience and consideration, his yelling contextualised,and plenty of his beef on display. The scene where he strips for Wagner has a camp quality as we wait for her approval. Occasionally we are aware of how Wagner is lit - it seems she has a Dietrich key-light - but Elikann doesn't ask too much of her. Although she doesn't have the skill to flood her role with feeling or technique, her likeability helps her play someone in a reflective state.

Certain Fury [VHS]
Certain Fury [VHS]
32 used & new from $5.50

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars nothing's black or white when you're fighting for your life, November 6, 2001
This review is from: Certain Fury [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This film directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal is only interesting in that it presents two female protagonists, pre-empting his later preference for female actors, eg Barbara Hershey. There is enough rough housing - beatings, rape, fire, flood, rats, drugs, chase, guns - for action fans and the dramatic plot doesn't slow things down too much. However given that the main characters are female, screenwriter Michael Jacobs unfortunately subjects them both to extended humiliations.
The incident which sets Irene Cara and Tatum O'Neal on the lam is poorly if campily staged, a courtroom gunbattle where the police are exposed as clods, and the idea that they have no reason to run since they are not responsible for the gunfire is soon dubiously rationalised by the death of a pursuing policeman.
Jacobs idea of social commentary is having Moses Gunn as Cara's doctor father pontificating "I can go into an operating room, take out the bad part, and it's healed. How do you cut this off?". There is also a laugh line in response to his tale of Cara retreating to her room upon her mother's death with "You probably didn't realise how serious it was". Plus having two women trying to survive in the sleazy underworld, it's no surprise how many times they are referred to as "witch".
The inverted casting of O'Neal as a streetkid and Cara as a middle class student is unexpected, though O'Neal is hardly convincing, given her face and pedigree. Her slumming only extends to having dyed her hair red to go with her name Scarlett, and swearing. Cara is the stronger performer though has little material to shine with - the best she can do is sing the title song over the credits, which she co-wrote. Peter Fonda has one scene with O'Neal, where he calls her a "spoilt little girl", and which ends in disfigurement.
We aren't told about O'Neal's past, how long she has been on the street, and this then makes us question the glamour photo of her that appears in the newspaper. However Gyllenhaal creates an atmospheric candle-lit drug palace, even if we are told it's a place where guns are prohibited, and where someone who has molested one of the heroines and tried to kill the other is suddenly shown concern for a hot predicament.

The Wedding Party [VHS]
The Wedding Party [VHS]
Offered by mc-houston
Price: $9.97
16 used & new from $1.39

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars aka Thank God he met Lizzie, November 4, 2001
This review is from: The Wedding Party [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This Australian film is unusual since it is written and directed by women yet concerns the emotional state of a man. It centres on Guy (Richard Roxburgh) marrying Lizzie (Cate Blanchett) yet still haunted by his past relationship with Jenny (Frances O'Connor). O'Connor here displays her range. Her Jenny is funny and impulsive yet messy and ugly, and easily no comparsion with the haughty dull Blanchett, so it's little wonder Guy has trouble forgetting her. Director Cherie Nowlan intercuts the marriage ceremony with Guy's memories, and adds comic quips and hilarious turns by Celia Ireland and Lucy Bell in minor roles. Roxburgh is likeably sheepish and the best I can say about Blanchett is that looks lovely in her wedding gown. The anaemic lighting by Kathryn Millis also gives the modern scenes an interesting dated look. I like the sadness that overtakes the film, giving the end a resonance. Screenplay by Alexandra Long. See this one.

Now & Forever [VHS]
Now & Forever [VHS]
12 used & new from $2.44

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars was it rape or seduction?, November 3, 2001
This review is from: Now & Forever [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Even given that the screenplay by Richard Cassidy is based on a novel by Danielle Steel, director Adrian Carr creates the depth of a TV commercial. Made in the era when Australians thought they had to import American stars to give their product international appeal, Cheryl Ladd plays the American wife of novelist Robert Coleby. Coleby's English accent another form of throwback, where Australians spoke in English accents to show that they remain civilised in the primitive colony. The narrative focuses on Coleby being accused of the rape of Christine Amor. Carr establishes that Coleby is innocent, but he is convicted even when the prosecution only have circumstantial evidence. But whilst the trial is a farce, we know Coleby must suffer for betraying Ladd, who appears in a series of unflattering clothes. At least in her testimony, Amor conveys some real emotion, which is something one can hardly accuse Ladd or Coleby of. Coleby in particular is presented bare-chested a lot, presumably to give him a Robert Redford kind of appeal. The universe portrayed here is so conventional that we are supposed to find Coleby living as a writer as a "kept man" by Ladd's successful boutique Lady Jane "unconventional", though what is more unbelievable is the kind of prison he ends up in, with no cells and resembling a boy's camp. Carr provides a laughable montage of Coleby pre-trial writing in various hardbourside locations, and has him and Ladd talking over each other to show their breakdown in communications. Ladd's drunk scene isn't bad enough to be self-parody and the level of her risk taking is making her character a smoker.

Fonda on Fonda [VHS]
Fonda on Fonda [VHS]
Price: $7.95
4 used & new from $4.00

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars farmboy from the Midwest, November 3, 2001
This review is from: Fonda on Fonda [VHS] (VHS Tape)
My lack of total enthusiasm for this edition of the Ted Turner series is probably based on my opinion of Henry Fonda as a movie star. Although honoured for the truthfulness of his acting, for me there is an element of dullness that makes him less of a presence. The proof here is in the clips from Mister Roberts with James Cagney, and even On Golden Pond with his daughter, Jane. In both cases, Fonda gets upstaged in terms of screen charisma. His appearances also reveal his lack of range, with only the bad guy in Sergio Leone's Once upon a time in the West as varying from his farmboy from the Midwest typecasting. His efforts at comedy here represented by The Lady Eve with his deadpan and slapstick, rely heavily on Barbara Stanwyck's abuse of him.
Hosted by Jane unusually filmed on location, this doco written by Joan Kramer and director David Heeley includes interviews with Peter and Shirlee Fonda, James Stewart and Sidney Lumet. It includes color home movies of black and white films, his regular return to the theatre to perform, 12 Angry Men as the only film he produced, 1974 TV footage of his stage Clarence Darrow, and examples of his watercolours that look more exciting than his acting. It also mentions the death of Frances Fonda, the mother of Jane and Peter, without stating that she was a suicide.
This stance is logical since such an act demands an explaination, and also because of Jane's emotionalism, particularly at the end, since this program was made not long after Fonda had died.

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