Charles Durning

Charles Durning

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The Golden Boys Review


Terrible
Daniel Adams' The Golden Boys has nothing to do with the Emmy-winning sitcom The Golden Girls (sorry, mom). In no way is it a masculine spin-off that replaces sassy-talking Bea Arthur, Betty White, and Rue McClanahan with Rip Torn, David Carradine, and Bruce Dern.

Yet there are similarities worth mentioning. Both rest on characters tolerating their "golden" years. And both offer television-sized entertainment.

Continue reading: The Golden Boys Review

Deal (2008) Review


Grim
Poker-themed movies are -- finally -- hitting the sunset of their lives. When Burt Reynolds gets in on the game, you know the jig is just about up.

Reynolds actually acquits himself amicably in Deal, a harmless but unmemorable little movie about playin' cards: The young buck, the grizzled mentor, and the prostitute... they're all here. Reynolds is Tommy Vinson, the vet who hasn't played poker in 20 years but was a mastermind of the game back in the day. (Hard times, bad string of luck... you know how it goes.) Vinson spots genius Alex (Bret Harrison) on a televised poker tournament and, just like that, figures he can take the talented but undisciplined little puke and teach him a thing or two. Namely, Vinson's secret is all about spotting tells in other players, which he can miraculously do in a matter of seconds and from across the room -- nay, from outside the room, really. Why anyone would let Vinson hang around to spy on them remains one of the film's biggest mysteries.

Continue reading: Deal (2008) Review

Deal Review


Grim
Poker-themed movies are -- finally -- hitting the sunset of their lives. When Burt Reynolds gets in on the game, you know the jig is just about up.

Reynolds actually acquits himself amicably in Deal, a harmless but unmemorable little movie about playin' cards: The young buck, the grizzled mentor, and the prostitute... they're all here. Reynolds is Tommy Vinson, the vet who hasn't played poker in 20 years but was a mastermind of the game back in the day. (Hard times, bad string of luck... you know how it goes.) Vinson spots genius Alex (Bret Harrison) on a televised poker tournament and, just like that, figures he can take the talented but undisciplined little puke and teach him a thing or two. Namely, Vinson's secret is all about spotting tells in other players, which he can miraculously do in a matter of seconds and from across the room -- nay, from outside the room, really. Why anyone would let Vinson hang around to spy on them remains one of the film's biggest mysteries.

Continue reading: Deal Review

Picture - Joe Mantegna and Charles Durning Los Angeles, California, Thursday 31st July 2008

Joe Mantegna, Charles Durning, Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame and Walk Of Fame - Joe Mantegna and Charles Durning Los Angeles, California - Actor Charles Durning is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday 31st July 2008

Picture - Lee Purcell, Charles Durning and... Los Angeles, California, Thursday 31st July 2008

Lee Purcell, Charles Durning, Anita Gregory, Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame and Walk Of Fame - Lee Purcell, Charles Durning and Anita Gregory Los Angeles, California - Actor Charles Durning is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday 31st July 2008

Picture - Charlotte Rae, Charles Durning and... Los Angeles, California, Thursday 31st July 2008

Charlotte Rae, Charles Durning, Doris Roberts, Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame and Walk Of Fame - Charlotte Rae, Charles Durning and Doris Roberts Los Angeles, California - Actor Charles Durning is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday 31st July 2008

Charlotte Rae, Charles Durning, Doris Roberts, Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame and Walk Of Fame

Picture - Charles Durning and Doris Roberts Los Angeles, California, Thursday 31st July 2008

Charles Durning, Doris Roberts, Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame and Walk Of Fame - Charles Durning and Doris Roberts Los Angeles, California - Actor Charles Durning is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday 31st July 2008

Picture - Actor Charles Durning Los Angeles, California, Thursday 31st July 2008

Charles Durning, Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame and Walk Of Fame - Actor Charles Durning Los Angeles, California - is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday 31st July 2008

Charles Durning, Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame and Walk Of Fame
Charles Durning, Star On The Hollywood Walk Of Fame and Walk Of Fame

Rescue Me: Season Three Review


Grim
In the first couple of seasons, Denis Leary's FDNY fire opera Rescue Me flung itself through windows and played out in traffic. It busted jaws, opened old wounds just for spite and made grand sport of the whole ungodly train wreck of it all. It was almost as though co-creators Leary and Peter Tolan (The Larry Sanders Show) felt they were going to get canceled any second and so chucked all caution to the wind. In between sitting around the firehouse and indulging in some of the more profane dialogue ever to grace the TV screen (even on basic cable), the characters were subjected to just about any disaster Leary and Tolan could come up with, anything to push these emotionally stunted mugs to the wall and see what devastation they would mete out in response.

But somehow, the pissy little export from the land of the five boroughs -- and rarely has a show so viscerally captured the city's day-to-day, boiling-over, rat-in-a-cage anger -- survived. And this is after sending the wife of the Chief (Jack McGee) into a debilitating Alzheimer's nightmare and not only devastating Tommy Gavin's (Leary) family with the long-term and low-intensity emotional warfare of a never-ending divorce but then, near the end of the second season, having a drunk driver kill Tommy's little boy. That tragedy was then capped off by a nothing-to-lose Uncle Teddy (Lenny Clarke) gunning down the driver in full view of the cops, since a life behind bars seemed preferable to anything else he had going.

Continue reading: Rescue Me: Season Three Review

When a Stranger Calls (1979) Review


Weak
There's this urban legend chestnut about a babysitter getting menacing phone calls from an escaped lunatic or hook handed psycho or drug-addled sociopath or whatever you like. The caller tells her to "check on the kids." And if you've grown up in the United States you know the rest. It's the punch line that matters and it's always, the killer's in the house! He's calling from upstairs! And it's usually followed - around campfires - by screams.

The story is about as old as babysitting and it is always scary, even in it's countless variations. Today, with the advent of cell phones and the internet it's taken on new life in the innumerable post-post-modern slasher films of the last decade.

Continue reading: When a Stranger Calls (1979) Review

The Sting Review


Extraordinary
It's one of cinema's most beloved heist movies, and for good reason: The Sting is balls-out fun from start to finish, a showstopper work for both Robert Redford and Paul Newman, and alternately funny and thrilling.

The plot must have been devilishly complex at the time. In more recent years we've had films like House of Games and The Spanish Prisoner that make The Sting's intricacies look like a story in a first-grader's textbook. It's the Depression, and Johnny Hooker (Redford) makes a living running quickie cons on the street. When he scams several thousand dollars off of a mob guy, the heat comes down from both the mafiosos looking for their money and the crooked cops, culminating in Hooker's partner getting killed and Hooker escaping the city for hopefully better climes.

Continue reading: The Sting Review

To Be or Not to Be (1983) Review


OK
Over a decade after Mel Brooks envisioned a Nazi musical in The Producers, he got his chance to make one for real, in the remake of Ernst Lubitsch's 1942 film To Be or Not to Be. The movie itself is kind of a dud (Polish actor makes do during the Nazi invasion, impersonates the Germans to get out of trouble), but listen for the dirge theme, which was stolen e-x-a-c-t-l-y from the ominous tune periodically underlying Raiders of the Lost Ark. Listen for yourself!

The L.A. Riot Spectacular Review


Grim
A film that works overtime to offend each and every ethnic group and economic class that makes up the smoggy purgatory of Los Angeles while simultaneously patting itself on the back for being so putatively daring, The L.A. Riot Spectacular is a cynical exercise in erstwhile satire that's all the more frustrating for the wasted opportunity it represents.

Like a series of linked MAD TV skits done without regard to network censors - the humor is about that intelligent - the film presents the 1992 Rodney King beating and subsequent riots as a grand comic opera of greed and stupidity, going after everybody involved with equal vigor. One can get a feel for how writer/director Marc Klasfeld intends to approach his subject a few minutes in, when the car chase and police beating of King (T.K. Carter) is done as a jokey game, with a police helicopter pilot serving as the announcer ("and they're off!"), while the cops themselves, having pulled King over, place beats over the ethnicity of the guy inside. Then Snoop Dogg shows up - serving, appropriately enough, as the film's narrator and chorus - to introduce the film proper, while fireworks go off behind him.

Continue reading: The L.A. Riot Spectacular Review

Rescue Me: Season Two Review


OK
Roughly midway through the second season of FX's Rescue Me, New York firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) is called by his dead cousin's widow to give a lecture to her teenaged son, who has just expressed an interest in becoming a firefighter; having lost her husband in the World Trade Center, she's not interested in having another smoke-eater in the family. Tommy is most of the way through his lecture, giving the kid the full business about the horrific side of the job, people found without faces or melted to their beds, but then he turns it around and starts in on how at the end of the day, he knows that no matter what, he made a difference. It all brings a smile to the face of his cousin, standing behind his son. You see, Tommy's cousin might have passed away, but being dead doesn't keep you from the cast of Rescue Me -- it just means you're not necessarily in every episode.

The first season of the show was a rollicking explosion of male-bonding, sadistic humor, and whiskey tears spiked with that FX Channel-brand of almost-HBO boundary-pushing. Gavin was a weekly train wreck of rage, bouncing from his mistress to booze to his failing marriage to booze to tempting death on the job with FDNY Engine 62 to booze again. Along the way, Tommy also held long and in-depth conversations with the ghost of his dead cousin, before deciding to shack up with and impregnate his cousin's equally messed up widow, Sheila (Callie Thorne) in the aftermath of his wife running off with the kids. Season Two opens with everything in disrepair, to say the least, as the firefighters keep pushing through the emotional wreckage of 9/11 long after the country has moved on.

Continue reading: Rescue Me: Season Two Review

Dog Day Afternoon Review


Extraordinary
Attica! Attica!

I'd say they don't make 'em like Dog Day Afternoon anymore, but, you know, they sure do try to. Bank robbers under fire, hostage negotiations, panic in the streets. Why, moviedom is littered with films like Heat, Mad City, The Negotiator... some good, some bad.

Continue reading: Dog Day Afternoon Review

Charles Durning

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