Peter Ustinov

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The Sundowners Review


OK
Deborah Kerr as Ida Carmody, an indomitable stick in the Australian outback, makes an impassioned plea for women living a nomadic existence in that spare country down under to the unhappy Jean Halstead (Dina Merrill), "This is good country for sheep and it's not bad for men. But it's hard on us women. The men come here because of the sheep and we come here because of the men and most of us finish up looking like the sheep -- wrinkled faces, knotty hair, not even much of our own minds." Jean replies, "I think you'll always have a mind of your own, Mrs. Carmody." She ain't kidding. Ida has to hold her own against her beer- and gambling-loving husband Paddy (Robert Mitchum), who as a sheep drover in 1920s Australia, keeps his family -- Ida and their teenage son Sean (Michael Anderson Jr.) -- moving with the sheep. Paddy is happy not being tied down, but Ida and Sean want a place to settle down and convince Paddy to take a job as a sheep-shearer in order to make a down payment on a farm. Paddy doesn't realize it though, and the struggle between Paddy, who wants to be free, and Ida, who wants a home, is the slender thread that ties Fred Zinnemann's The Sundowners together.

The Sundowners is a pleasant and happy film, marked by wonderful set pieces (a tremendous brush fire sequence, a sheep-shearing contest, a gambling scene, a tavern brawl) all set to a jaunty Dimitri Tiomkin score.

Continue reading: The Sundowners Review

The Great Muppet Caper Review


Good
"Great?" I'm not sure about that, but this minor kiddie classic is reasonably entertaining, if only for the chance to see Charles Grodin falling in love for a stuffed pig.

The film opens with amazing promise: Immediately dazzling us with a plethora of Hollywood in-jokes (the poking of fun begins with Kermit and Fozzie mocking the opening credits). A musical number ensures us of the myriad thrills and chills that will soon arrive.

Continue reading: The Great Muppet Caper Review

The Great Muppet Caper Review


Good
"Great?" I'm not sure about that, but this minor kiddie classic is reasonably entertaining, if only for the chance to see Charles Grodin falling in love for a stuffed pig.

The film opens with amazing promise: Immediately dazzling us with a plethora of Hollywood in-jokes (the poking of fun begins with Kermit and Fozzie mocking the opening credits). A musical number ensures us of the myriad thrills and chills that will soon arrive.

Continue reading: The Great Muppet Caper Review

Luther Review


OK
Historical dramas that take liberties with the source material and add fictional elements often do better as exciting cinema. Witness Gladiator, a movie that created its own hero while fitting his exploits into the framework of classic Roman history. Not so Luther, whose narrative elements don't dare go beyond canonical bounds of Martin Luther (not King, the original 1500s Martin Luther).

The first frames of this account suggest how the reformation of the church got started. In this initial sequence, bolts of lightning reveal a man running in a field in the darkness of night as though they were aimed at him. He splashes down into the mud and cries out, "Save me, St. Anne," vowing that, if she does him this small favor, he'll become a monk and devote his life to the church. Thus we are introduced to Martin Luther (Joseph Fiennes) as well as to the imagined landscape of his mind.

Continue reading: Luther Review

Spartacus Review


OK
The original movie about gladiators, with Kirk Douglas taking the starring role in Stanley Kubrick's muddy epic (over three hours long) about slaves vs. Romans in the heyday of the Empire. Director Stanley Kubrick was obviously just collecting a paycheck for this one, though he stages some intricate battle scenes. Too bad he obviously couldn't have cared less about the lame love story and political machinations behind the scenes. Kubrick reported disowned this film, the only movie in his repertoire to earn such a fate.

Animal Farm (1999) Review


Good
The dark side of Babe. Impressive attempt at recreating Orwell's classic book for TV, but it's lacking a few components, and has a really abrupt and unfulfilling ending. Keeps your attention for the full two hours, though, and worth a look, especially for Orwell fans who don't mind a little bastardization. Check out also the reissued 1954 version of the film.

Topkapi Review


Excellent
This exceptional heist film (pity the title) has influenced dozens of others, most notably Tom Cruise's dangling scene in Mission: Impossible. Peter Ustinov (who won an Oscar here) owns the show as a low-grade con man who gets caught up in a plan to steal a jeweled dagger from Istanbul's Topkapi museum. Cops on one side, masterminds (Melina Mercouri and Maximilian Schell) on the other, and one intricately planned burglary in between. A minor classic of the genre.

Logan's Run Review


Weak
In the future, it's gonna look a lot like the '70s. We'll wear monochrome jumpsuits, there will be glitter everywhere, and of course we'll have to live under plastic domes on account of the nukes. Oh, and escalators everywhere. Logan's Run has a compelling idea (forced suicide at 30 years old... but some become "runners" as they try to escape to "Sanctuary," where you can grow old in peace) but it's ruined by some of the worst special effects in the history of movies. Still, it's a watershed piece of bad cinema.

The Bachelor Review


Grim

You know something is just not right about a movie when even the most insignificant supporting characters have more charisma and personality than the leads.

Such is the case with "The Bachelor," a comedy about an heir to a $100 million fortune who has 24 hours to get married or be cut off without a dime.

Chris O'Donnell (Robin in the recent "Batman" movies) is said heir, a commitment-o-phobe from central casting named Jimmy whose persnickety, cantankerous grandfather (Peter Ustinov) kicks the bucket and reveals in his videotaped will that -- surprise! -- he's a millionaire. But grandpa is also obsessed with begetting a family legacy and decrees that Jimmy, his soul heir, gets zip unless he's married by his 30th birthday. Unfortunately grandpa has the bad timing to die two days before the deadline.

Continue reading: The Bachelor Review

Peter Ustinov

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