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William Sommerwerck "grizzled geezer" RSS Feed (Renton, WA USA)
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The Horn Blows at Midnight
The Horn Blows at Midnight
DVD ~ Jack Benny
Price: $21.99
20 used & new from $14.49

4.0 out of 5 stars Not the disaster Benny liked to claim it was..., July 24, 2014
This review is from: The Horn Blows at Midnight (DVD)
Jack Benny made a mini-career out of poking fun at this box-office bomb. But it isn't a bad film, by any means.

Unlike Bob Hope, who had a long and generally successful screen career, Benny made few films, and not many were successful. This was probably because there was no way Benny could be construed as a romantic lead. "Horn"'s failure isn't due to an unfunny script or poor production values (some of the sets are lavish), but probably the fact that we know right from the start that Benny's character is dreaming. As the Earth /isn't/ going to be destroyed, the audience has no reason for emotional investment in the characters or their situation.

"Horn" unavoidably anticipates "Wings of Desire". There's a scene in which Benny -- who has no experience as a mortal -- enters a delicatessen and orders all sorts of food, to learn what food tastes like.

There's a scene in which an angel takes a picture of Benny with an "instant-picture" view camera -- two years /before/ Edwin Land demonstrated practical instant photography to the American Optical Society. Land showed "Horn" at Polaroid's 1945 Christmas party, and when this scene came on, told his employees "That's what we're going to do."

"Horn" originally appeared on a two-disk LaserDisc set with "George Washington Slept Here" (a better film that anticipates "Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House" and "The Money Pit"). It's unfortunate both films aren't available in a two-disk DVD set at a budget price -- they're both worth seeing once.


Wings of Desire (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Wings of Desire (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Bruno Ganz
Price: $24.99
30 used & new from $19.00

5.0 out of 5 stars definitely a unique experience, July 24, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I first saw this film several years ago, then decided to watch it again the other day. My initial reaction had been one of amazement. I'd never seen anything like it. I sat there mesmerized.

The second viewing was not so overwhelming. I got the feeling my first reaction was due mostly to the film's strangeness. Much of the story is told through the characters' inner thoughts, which strike me as too-often overly complex or unduly "philosophical". They might not come across that way in German, but they seem that way in English. It's only at the end when the trapeze artist and the ex-angel meet, and she says she's tired of accidents and coincidence, and wants a relationship that has innate meaning, that I felt deeply moved.

Whether this is a truly "great" film I leave up to the viewer -- but it's a film you must see.

This is a review of the MGM DVD. Visually, it does not impress. The sepia sequences have a blotchy, sometimes smeary look to them. The color sequences are okay, but don't create a strong contrast with the sepia. (This is difficult to judge, as I have no idea what Wenders had in mind.) I suspect that a proper Blu-ray transfer would more-accurately depict the film as it was intended.


The Quick and the Dead [Blu-ray]
The Quick and the Dead [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Sharon Stone
Price: $10.20
60 used & new from $2.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The reason so many people don't "get" this film is that it's actually a comedy., July 24, 2014
Many of Sam Raimi's films are comic, on some level. Though written and acted as a "serious" film, "The Quick and the Dead" is actually a send-up of Western gun-fight clichés, with the good guy who rides into town to straighten out things now a good //gal//. How else do you explain a bullet hole in someone's chest that lets a beam of light pass through?

The high points of this intentional silliness come with Russel Crowe taking out multiple bad guys by shooting with two rifles //over his shoulders//, and a series of "Vertigo" dolly zooms that run so long and cover such an extreme zoom range that you can't help laughing out loud.

All of this in an otherwise straight-faced film completely devoid of campiness or self-awareness. It's anchored by Gene Hackman's patented Lex-Luthor-psycho performance, which is wholly convincing.

The cinematography is gorgeous, and the cast surprising, with such people as Pat Hingle, Woody Strode, Lance Henriksen, and Roberts Blossom.

Though gory and just plain nasty, this is a perfect party film. And that's a compliment.


InSinkErator Evolution Excel 1.0 HP Household Garbage Disposer
InSinkErator Evolution Excel 1.0 HP Household Garbage Disposer
Price: $314.99
46 used & new from $274.04

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a truly fine product, July 14, 2014
Some years back, the cheapo GE waste disposer that came with my condo "went south". It would run for ten seconds, then cut out. (I had to press its circuit breaker to get it to run again.) I put up with this for about a year, then started shopping for a replacement.

The place I worked had an InSinkErator disposer in its break room, and I noticed how quiet it was. Assuming InSinkErator's claims were valid, I bought the "Evolution" for a good price at a well-known hardware store.

Not wanting to pay a plumber, I decided to install it myself. The problem -- if you live by yourself -- is that you need at least three arms to simultaneously hold the disposer at the right height and properly center it. After some tsuris, I go it into place.

I've never regretted the purchase. It isn't /perfectly/ quiet -- how could any waste disposer be? -- but it's quiet enough that I can play chamber music in the adjacent living room without the "Evolution" drowning it out. And I can run it in the middle of the night without worrying about waking the neighbors. (The GE sounded as if it been manufactured by GE's jet-engine division.) The "Evolution" is notable for its lack of "rattling" sounds.

Two related features stand out. If the "Evolution" jams, it will stop and automatically reverse. Similarly, it reverses direction every time it starts up. I sometimes stop it, pause, then start it again to grind the waste from a different direction.

The low price suggests that InSinkErator will be discontinuing the "Evolution" (though I don't know that as a fact). It's hard to see how a replacement could be significantly better. I have absolutely no hesitation recommending it.

PS: I completely forgot. There is no industry standard for the location of a disposer's inlet and outlet. Therefore... If you are replacing an existing disposer (regardless of brand), you might need to rearrange the plumbing so the new disposer (regardless of brand) will fit. This isn't difficult. All you need is some ABS pipe and a can of cement. Note that people tend to throw the plastic plumbing pieces into the wrong bin, so the exact piece you're looking for might be hard to find.


Rustlers' Rhapsody
Rustlers' Rhapsody
DVD ~ Thomas Abbott
Offered by Zugar
Price: $6.26
59 used & new from $1.40

2.0 out of 5 stars This was written by Hugh Wilson?, June 30, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Rustlers' Rhapsody (DVD)
Readers should know that the version I'm reviewing runs 88 minutes, the same time given on IMDb. But it does seem to be "missing something", and I'm inclined to believe those reviewers who think scenes have been removed (for TV, perhaps?). It really doesn't matter, because "RR" quickly sinks beneath the waves five minutes after it starts.

Hugh Wilson is best known as the producer of "WKRP in Cincinnati", a classic sitcom. (When I watched re-runs a year ago, I was pleasantly surprised that it was even better than I remembered.) He's been associated with other excellent shows, and created the outstanding "Frank's Place". But his movie record is decidedly checkered. Most of his films have been critically panned comedies.

"RR" tries to spoof classic B Westerns by transplanting one of their greatest stars -- Rex O'Herlihan -- into a modern color+widescreen Western. Wilson doesn't seem to know that a good story requires some sort of conflict to drive it. In this case, the most-obvious conflict would be to treat the story as a //double// fish-out-of-water tale -- Rex doesn't understand the modern-sensibilities Western he finds himself in, while that story's characters can't comprehend a singing "good-guy" cowboy dressed in ridiculous clothing.

In the right hands, this could be very funny, with Western-movie clichés (both old and recent) naturally colliding to great comic effect. Instead, Wilson trots out each cliché, throws it in the audience's face, then //explains// it. It never works. The low point is G W Bailey (an unappealing actor taking Jack Elam's role in "Support Your Local Sheriff!") screwing up a classic gag line, then //explaining// it to the audience. You've got to be kidding, Mr Wilson. (Would that he were.)

The story builds to what is a terrific comic idea -- that to be a true "good guy", you have to be not merely a heterosexual, but a //confident// heterosexual. It never occurs to Wilson that Rex -- coming from an era of asexual cowpokes -- might not know what "heterosexual" means. (Throughout the film, he says he knows everything that's going to happen (in a general sort of way). How do you get humor out of that?) Nor do we see him finally gaining his "confidence" with the virgin hooker. (This appears to be the missing scene.)

The climax -- in which all the bad guys kill each other -- is probably intended as a spoof of "The Wild Bunch". But it fails to provoke even the faintest snicker.

Wilson's dialog is lame, labored, and logorrheic. Despite "RR"'s relatively short running time, I found myself nodding off at several points. It's not merely tedious, but actively boring.

The PG rating is absurd. The talk about sex and sexuality easily pushes "RR" into PG-13 territory.

A terrible "comedy", with perhaps two (count 'em -- two) solid jokes. Not recommended -- unless you want an object lesson in how not to make a good movie.


Mrs. Doubtfire [Blu-ray]
Mrs. Doubtfire [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Robin Williams
Offered by Media Favorites
Price: $11.99
49 used & new from $4.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Tootsie" lite, June 11, 2014
This review is from: Mrs. Doubtfire [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
"Mrs Doubtfire" is a watered-down version of "Tootsie" -- an actor has professional problems (he's "too serious" about his work, alienating people), and disguises himself as a woman to obtain employment. In the process of pretending to be someone he isn't, the actor develops a better understanding of himself and his relationship with other people.

"Tootsie" is rightly considered a classic (it was one of the films analyzed in my screenwriting class), primarily because it's built around the millennia-old issue of how men and women relate to each other, and we accept the preposterous situation, because it is not, per se, the story's focus, "Mrs Doubtfire" is about the less-universal concern of the place of the wife and husband in a marriage, and how it affects their children. The initial situation is realistic, but the events growing out of are contrived.

"Mrs Doubtfire" can't decide whether it's a drama about divorce, or a cross-dressing farce. It succeeds almost perfectly at the latter (despite too many scenes of Williams switching his costume), but largely fails at the former. Both Daniel and Miranda need to make attitude adjustments -- he recognizing that he can be an adult with his children (and they'll still love him), she acknowledging that she has largely abandoned her children for her career, and has no right to complain that he's giving the kids the attention they crave. Daniel's change is well-dramatized (eg, when Mrs D tosses the TV remote in the fishtank and insists the kids do their homework), but Miranda's is not. Sally Field's character wavers between firmness and sentimentality, without any plausible conflict. (I ascribe this to Chris Columbus's weak directing. A better director (and possibly a better script) would have found a better balance between the drama and the comedy.)

Robin Williams' makeup is nothing short of startling, rightly winning the Makeup Oscar. Nevertheless, we're expected to believe that, like Clark Kent, his disguise is invisible. Williams' voice is instantly recognizable (even when doing impressions), and Mrs Doubtfire is so obviously Williams-in-drag that one wonders how his wife and children could be fooled for more than a few seconds.

There are two major technical errors. The dialog for an animated film is recorded //before// the drawings are made. Cosmetic appliances (especially ones as complex as Daniel's) usually take hours to apply, and are normally thrown away after a single use.

The PG-13 rating is for vulgar and sexually suggestive language that's appropriate for the story. This is not really a film for pre-teens.

The Blu-ray image is grainless and creamy-smooth. If there's a loss of sharpness and detail, it isn't obvious or bothersome. There's a lot of supplemental material, including multiple takes of Williams ad-libbing.

I have no problem recommending "Mrs Doubtfire" for a single viewing. But (for me) it's not one of those "annual viewing required" films.


Four Weddings & A Funeral [Blu-ray]
Four Weddings & A Funeral [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Grant
Price: $10.26
31 used & new from $5.25

4.0 out of 5 stars only the Gareth/Matthew relationship rings true, May 30, 2014
This film seems to have been 15 years ahead of time. Given the current belief that same-sex marriage is actually //promoting// other-sex marriage, it deserves a re-evaluation.

Love at first sight (for reasons //other// than sexual) does occur (it's happened to me), when you know in a moment //that person// is the one you've been looking for. This is virtually impossible to dramatize, because the audience needs to know //why// the attraction occurs -- and that requires understanding the people before they meet.

This is where the film falls down, particularly with regard to Charles (Hugh Grant). He's winsome/winning (in a clumsy sort of way), and it's obvious the women who like him aren't attracted //solely// for sexual reasons. But what are those reasons? Are they fond of puppies?

The attraction among the heterosexual characters seems almost taken for granted, as if "that's the way things are". They might be, but we still wonder why. It's particularly annoying that we don't really know why Carrie passed over Charles for Hamish, or why they broke up. It seems to be a convenient plot twist to throw Charles for a loop. (I often watch "Frasier". The series had 11 years to develop its characters, and by the end we have a pretty good idea who they are how they will react in a given situation. This is difficult to do in a two-hour film.)

Only Gareth and Matthew's relationship is convincing. Gareth (played by the gay-in-real-life Simon Callow) is a sweet/loud/vulgar person who could easily attract friends of either sex. We have no trouble understanding what Matthew sees in him -- in part because male/male friendships are more-comprehensible than male/female. When Matthew delivers the funeral eulogy, we are genuinely touched, in a way that doesn't occur when the hetero couples get married.

Ultimately, the film has little new to say about relationships and marriage. Perhaps it isn't supposed to, but that doesn't make it any less disappointing.


Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete Series
Jeeves & Wooster: The Complete Series
DVD ~ Hugh Laurie
Price: $30.82
43 used & new from $21.77

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars tedious silliness, May 10, 2014
P G Wodehouse is considered one of the great comic writers of the 20th century. Watching these adaptations of his Jeeves novels makes you wonder on what his popularity is based. They just aren't that funny.

I browsed several stories. The scripts are well-adapted by Clive Exton, and often borrow large chunks of dialog. The direction and production values are first-rate, close to theatrical quality. But what's amusing on paper seems rather tedious on the screen. The problem might be that Wooster narrates the stories, giving them some immediacy and vitality, whereas the video Wooster is a largely reactive character who rarely initiates any action. Stephen Fry -- another fine comic actor -- is similarly saddled with a character whose raison d'etre is to react, rather than act. It doesn't help that neither the stories nor the TV show takes a hard jab at the empty lives of the wealthy idiots it chronicles. The satire seems to be implied, rather than explicit.

The one thing worth seeing is Hugh Laurie's performance. Wooster's face is in constant motion, and Laurie shifts from expression to expression as rapidly as an electron jumps between quantum levels.

The complaint that the video transfer isn't so good seems plausible. The first two disks look as if everything was shot through a light fog filter. I assumed this was intended to suggest a bygone era, but it later disappeared.

It appears I've been spoiled by "Frasier" and "The Black Adder". "Jeeves and Wooster" just isn't my cuppa tea.


To Catch a Thief [Blu-ray]
To Catch a Thief [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Georgette Anys
Price: $14.99
32 used & new from $7.24

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Do you want a leg or a thigh?", May 4, 2014
Little need be said about the film itself, arguably Hitch's sexiest confection. Though I've seen it a half-dozen times, this was the first time I paid attention to Grace Kelly's black-and-white beach costume. Though exposing little more than her shoulders, it is //obscene//. (Why didn't the producer notice? Well, Hitchcock was the producer.)

Until now, the only versions of "To Catch a Thief" I've viewed have been from 35mm reduction prints. This one is from the VistaVision negative, and there's no comparison. It's a different film. This is particularly noticeable in the ball sequence, where VistaVision's brilliant detail displays the jewelry and costumes in their opulent glory.

The Lyn Murray score is //the best// of any of Hitch's non-Herrmann scores. Murray admired Herrmann ("he does more with fewer notes than anyone else"), and the influence is sometimes heard as a modest imitation of Herrmann, but more often in knowing exactly the sort of music required and where to put it.

"To Catch a Thief" has risen in esteem over the years, and this Blu-ray edition shows why it's the best of his comic films.


Five Star Zipper Binder Plus Multi Access File, 2-Inch Capacity, 13.75 x 12.12 x 3.5 Inches, Black (72186)
Five Star Zipper Binder Plus Multi Access File, 2-Inch Capacity, 13.75 x 12.12 x 3.5 Inches, Black (72186)

5.0 out of 5 stars a mini-office, April 28, 2014
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a "portmanteau" product -- a binder (with a 2" ring that holds 500+ 15# sheets), a six-section file, and a storage area for pens and miscellaneous junk. If you're the sort (as I am) who refuses to leave anything at home, this would be a good bet.

In case you're wondering... there doesn't seem to be room for even a small computer. It's likely to be marred by the rings.

Construction seems sturdy, and there's a one-year guarantee.

Recommended.


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