Ernest Lehman

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Sabrina Review


OK
I'm afraid your opinion of Billy Wilder's 1954 romantic comedy classic Sabrina depends on your opinion of Audrey Hepburn. And even if you find her enchanting, a delicate flower, you may have a tough road to hoe.

Hepburn plays the title character, a shy girl who's desperately in love with David Larrabee (William Holden), a rakish Long Island playboy whose too busy chasing skirts and getting married to notice the wispy chauffeur's daughter. Nearly suicidal over David's lack of attention, she reluctantly goes to cooking school in Paris for a couple of years. It's time well spent. She meets a wealthy baron, gets a great new wardrobe, and secures some self-confidence. "I've learned how to live of the world and in the world," she writes her father before leaving Paris.

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Hello, Dolly! Review


Weak
Come back, Carol Channing! All is forgiven! The epic screen version of the charming musical Hello, Dolly! hasn't aged well, but then again, it wasn't so great when it was new, either. An overstuffed extravaganza populated by thousands of extras gallivanting in period costumes, the movie is hamstrung by the miscasting of Miss Barbra Streisand in the lead role. Babs can sing, of course, but the fact that she is 30 years too young to play Dolly Levi derails the entire enterprise. The producers made a seemingly logical choice to cash in on Streisand's immense star power, but all the glorious hats in the world can't disguise the fact that Dolly is supposed to be at least 57, not 27.

We're transported back to turn-of-the-20th-century New York, where widowed matchmaker Dolly Levi is flouncing around meeting people, being charming, and trying to make matches. She journeys up to Yonkers to meet the "well-known unmarried half-a-millionaire" Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau) and to bring him and a couple of his employees, a hatmaker (there are lots of hats in this movie) and her assistant, back to New York so they can all romantically entangle with each other. Dolly's goal is to wind up with Vandergelder herself, but it won't be easy. Why? Because he's Walther Matthau, and that means he's perpetually cranky and cynical.

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Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Review


Excellent
One of the great directorial debuts in film history came from Mike Nichols, in this 1966 firestorm of emotion, a faithful adaptation of Edward Albee's famous play. Two college professors (Richard Burton and George Segal) meet for drinks with their wives (Liz Taylor and Sandy Dennis). Over the course of the evening, secrets come out and scandals erupt. The real-life husband and wife team of Burton and Taylor own this show, but Dennis also won an Oscar (one of 5 wins) in what has become a watershed film that broke down walls of profanity and vitriol.

Somebody Up There Likes Me Review


Good
Rocky Graziano was more of a brawler than a boxer, and this film (based on his autobiography) dutifully chronicles his development from street hood to army scofflaw to amateur boxer to mob target. Whew! Graziano is single-dimensionally played by an underwhelming Paul Newman in one of his first film roles, here lacking the nuance he'd give to tough guys in films like Hud and Cool Hand Luke, both of which run rings around this straightforward and simplistic biopic.

The King And I Review


Essential
The popular pick for the best Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is probably The Sound of Music, but I'm throwing in for The King and I. Yul Brynner is not the kind of character you usually think of when you look at R&H musicals. Usually the hero is some country bumpkin with an all-American face and a plaid shirt. Brenner doesn't wear plaid here. He doesn't wear a shirt at all, in fact. The story is a timeless classic: An English teacher (Deborah Kerr, equally stellar) takes a job in Siam, teaching to the King's (Brynner) many many children. Naturally, she teaches the King a thing or two, as well, who immediately takes a liking to her use of the phrase "et cetera, et cetera, et cetera," which becomes the film's best running joke.

In addition to witty, rat-a-tat dialogue and a fun plot that also touches on social issues of the day, the film is a visual spectacle, too. The songs are of course classic, and the sequence wherein a Siamese version of Uncle Tom's Cabin is presented as a play is an amazing work of art. Though it runs well into two hours long, the film is never tiresome, even when Kerr threatens to leave Siam for the umpteenth time. It's funny and touching, an altogether classic movie of the first rank.

Continue reading: The King And I Review

Somebody Up There Likes Me Review


Good
Rocky Graziano was more of a brawler than a boxer, and this film (based on his autobiography) dutifully chronicles his development from street hood to army scofflaw to amateur boxer to mob target. Whew! Graziano is single-dimensionally played by an underwhelming Paul Newman in one of his first film roles, here lacking the nuance he'd give to tough guys in films like Hud and Cool Hand Luke, both of which run rings around this straightforward and simplistic biopic.

West Side Story Review


Excellent
It's hard to feel manly watching West Side Story. Really hard. And that's strange, because it's about two groups of murderous street gangs (one white, one Puerto Rican) in New York City. I guess it's the dancing, the pastel outfits, and the really tight pants that make it seem so frilly.

I kid, of course. Among movie musicals, West Side Story ranks in the top five in greatness, and it's arguably the most popular musical ever released. It may be awfully frou-frou -- and let's face it, the dance numbers are awfully similar -- but West Side Story has a tale as timeless as its source material (Romeo and Juliet) and countless songs that have become musical classics. "Maria," "America," "I Feel Pretty," "Tonight" -- you can probably hum these without even thinking about it.

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Black Sunday (1977) Review


Excellent
If the plot of Black Sunday seems familiar, that's probably because you're remembering the wholesale rip-off it was given by The Sum of All Fears just a year ago. But Sunday is immensely better. If you've seen the latter but not the original, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

The story has since been done to death: terrorist group plans to cause massive carnage, this time at the Super Bowl by blowing up the Good Year Blimp overhead. But Black Sunday is distinguished by its unique focus not on the hero but on the villain: Bruce Dern as an angry Vietnam vet, pilot, and former prisoner of war. He holds a grudge against the U.S. like you wouldn't believe (brainwashed? shellshocked?): Enough to convince him to join forces with a Palestinian militant group called Black September. It doesn't help that he's just plain crazy. Even the Black September operatives are a little afraid of what he might do.

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North By Northwest Review


Excellent
It was with slight disappointment and definite surprise that I found, after years of intending to see it, Hitchcock's North by Northwest coming in just under the top tier of his films. Watching Cary Grant hustle through a cross-country wrongly-accused thriller isn't a bore, of course, but I felt the curious sensation of reacting to the film through a series of comparisons, trying to figure out where it fits on the Hitchcock scale: It's not as disturbing as Psycho, not as suspenseful as Rear Window, not as mind-boggling as Vertigo. Then again, Cary Grant's Roger Thornhill (who has the misfortune to share his name with a made-up spy) is an ad exec who goes on the lamb with improvised gusto, even picking up a mystery woman as he hides on a cross-country train -- so it is, at least, a lot manlier than To Catch a Thief.

It's a lot more than that, too. I don't mean to speak ill of the film -- in fact, North by Northwest is a epitome of craft and style. When a critic wistfully refers to a movie like The Fugitive or The Bourne Identity as "good old-fashioned entertainment," there's a good chance that this is the movie they recall. It has Cold War intrigue without gadgets or jargon; it has romance that blends in with that intrigue, rather than jogging alongside it.

Continue reading: North By Northwest Review

The Sound Of Music Review


Excellent
The Sound of Music... well, what can I say? And why should I bother? If any movie were ever critic-proof, it's this one. In fact, famed critic Pauline Kael was fired for daring to write a bad review of it when it first came out. Julie Andrews sure worked her mojo on that one.

Funny thing is: The Sound of Music doesn't need protection from critics. Yes, it's schmaltzy, but it's not nearly as schmaltzy as, say, Titanic. Yes it has all those adorable kids and all those adorable songs and even a cute puppet show stuck right in the middle of it, but it also has grit, drama, and some harrowing moments. Hell, it's got Nazis racing around in big black cars! It is a total cinematic experience, and one that benefits greatly from technological advances that let you enjoy its lavish sights and sounds on a big TV screen with big surround speakers that make it feel like Julie Andrews is embracing your or the Nazis are sneaking up on you from behind.

Continue reading: The Sound Of Music Review

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Ernest Lehman Movies

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West Side Story Movie Review

West Side Story Movie Review

It's hard to feel manly watching West Side Story. Really hard. And that's...

North By Northwest Movie Review

North By Northwest Movie Review

It was with slight disappointment and definite surprise that I found, after years of intending...

The Sound of Music Movie Review

The Sound of Music Movie Review

The Sound of Music... well, what can I say? And why should I bother? If...

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