Put simply, Alexander the Great is a colossal bore. Directed by Robert Rossen (The Hustler, All the King's Men), this visit to the epic well comes off far worse than contemporaries Ben-Hur and Cleopatra. What's the problem? Well, the troubles are legion. Start with Richard Burton, engaging here in the lead role of the philosopher/warrior/conquerer, but given a series of brooding sermons to deliver for well over two hours. Burton doesn't carry the movie as he absolutely has to; the result is an experience not unlike attending a late night lecture. Then there's the warfare. Those of us spoiled on modern epics like Troy will find the playful skirmishes here on the laughable side. Sure, you can stage a battle with just a couple hundred men and no special effects if you shoot it carefully, but if your warriors look tired and on the verge of striking, you won't quite get the necessary effect. My little brother and I had more authentic swordfights when we were kids, using sticks in the backyard. Pretty sad considering Alexander conquered Europe and Asia.
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The Hustler has always stood out as not just a great movie about the con game, but as a great movie, period. Paul Newman's study of a pool hustler who goes through the highest highs and the lowest lows is so dazzling that an hour will go by before you look at the clock and realize... I'm watching a movie about pool.
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Thus read the ads for the original 1946 release of the classic, under-appreciated film noir The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and although the tagline refers to the character, the name that the title brings to mind is that of star Barbara Stanwyck. As Martha, Stanwyck plays a woman with a secret, living in the kind of anywhere-in-America town that film noir sketched so indelibly on the big screen, a town where everything would seem peaceful to a stranger, but the locals know that intrigue simmers just out of sight. If you have to talk about Martha - a woman who's not only notorious but powerful as well - it probably is best to lower your voice. In a town this size, word gets around.
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