Robert Stephens

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Afraid Of The Dark Review


Grim
Sure, I guess blind people can be scary to a little kid, but this baffling attempt at using that setup as the premise for a horror film goes utterly nowhere. The problems begin with frame one, with a kid (Ben Keyworth) who lives with cop dad (James Fox) and blind mom (Fanny Ardant), who teaches at a school for the blind. There's some kind of serial killer on the loose (preying on blind people), and it ends up being Lucas -- a budding voyeur -- to try to solve the case. Er, sort of. Wandering and overly symbolic, this is one mess of a film that ends up making little sense at any point along the way.

Romeo and Juliet (1968) Review


Good
Franco Zeffirelli's rendition of Shakespeare's classic tragic love story gets off to a slow and rocky start but eventually takes hold once its titular leads take over. The introduction of musical numbers isn't bad, though it severely dates this production to the '60s, however faithful it otherwise is as a period piece. Olivia Hussey's Juliet is the show stealer and would go on to modest success as an actress; Leonard Whiting (as Romeo), however, would quickly fade into obscurity in the following years. Winner of two Oscars and a Best Picture nominee.

Cleopatra (1963) Review


Weak
It is virtually impossible to separate Cleopatra the movie from Cleopatra the spectacle -- and that's because they are truly and rarely intertwined.

A legend of Hollywood, the 1963 production of Cleopatra has so much curiosity surrounding it I hardly know where to start. It was budgeted at $2 million and eventually cost (up to) $44 million to produce -- close to $300 million in today's dollars. Liz Taylor almost died during the filming and was given a tracheotomy to keep her alive. The production was forced to move from Rome to London and back to Rome again. Two of its stars fell in love (Taylor and Burton) on the set, ruining both of their marriages. 20th Century Fox essentially went bankrupt, leading to the ousting of its chief. The first director was fired after burning $7 million with nothing to show for it. The second director (Mankiewicz) was fired during editing, only to be rehired when no one else could finish the picture. Taylor threw up the first time she saw the finished product. Producer Walter Wanger never worked in Hollywood again. And the original six-hour epic was cut to a little over three.

Continue reading: Cleopatra (1963) Review

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Review


Good
Miss Jean Brodie (Maggie Smith) doesn't much care for the provencial attitudes of pre-WWII Edinburgh. She doesn't much care for traditional teaching methods, instead schooling the girls in her charge about art, love, passion, and so on. A primitive Dead Poets Society, Brodie encourages less-than-ladylike behavior, and not just because she's smooching guys in the classrooms when she thinks no one is looking. Smith is excellent -- and won an Oscar for the role -- helping to elevate the film above what can often be a somewhat stuffy character study.
Robert Stephens

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