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YET ANOTHER ECLECTIC BAGFUL OF RANDOM REVIEWS

year: 1983 rating: ****
MY FAVORITE YEAR: During the eighties, epic dramatic actor Peter O'Toole, best known for LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, starred in a string of quirky comedy films including CREATOR, CLUB PARADISE and HIGH SPIRITS...

Set far apart from those is MY FAVORITE YEAR, garnering O'Toole yet another Oscar nomination and one of the best ensemble comedies involving behind-the-scene antics of a television show where the characters run around frantically, and everything's on the verge of disaster... The mayhem caused by an aging acting-legend of swashbuckling programmers (ala Error Flynn) played by a rascally O'Toole and set during the 1950's, when live TV broadcasts reigned...

Buried lead Mark Linn Baker stars as young writer Benjy Stone, who must wrangle O'Toole's Alan Swann from booze and women in order to succeed on the telecast, but ends up learning a lesson in life, love and adventure. And beyond the two stars are a terrific ensemble cast including Joseph Bolonga as an egotistical actor in charge, Jessica Harper as the brainy ingenue and Cameron Mitchell as a gun-toting heavy.

year: 1981 rating: **1/2
PENNIES FROM  HEAVEN: Chock this up as one of the weirdest films ever made, and possibly the bravest: to have the characters lip sync to old songs during the course of the linear story: that of a song salesman, Steve Martin, travelling away from home and a chilly wife to a Noirish city full of shadows and innocent-turned-sultry Bernedette Peters.

Realizing all the quirky song and dance numbers (one provided by Christopher Walken) are daydreams gives merit to a somewhat involving melodrama with ironical humor thrown in for good measure.

"I want to live in a world where the songs come true," Martin says at one point. "There must be someplace where the songs are for real." For better or worse, he found just the place.

year: 1984 rating: ***1/2
SECRET ADMIRER: A terrific ensemble sex comedy that equally involves the energetic teens and their frustrated parents as a secret admirer's love letter tangles them all together.

C. Thomas Howell is good as the central character, in lust with sexy Kelly Preston and surreptitiously fawned-over by RAD and FULL HOUSE starlet Lori Loughlin, whose performance as the woeful every-girl steals the show: after all, the film's named after her central character, the most sympathetic throughout.

Cliff DeYoung, Dee Wallace, Leigh Taylor-Young and Fred Ward are cast perfectly as the convoluted peeps, making this curio, that fell through the cracks of 80's pop culture, a thoroughly entertaining little flick. 

year: 1986 rating: **1/2
LABYRINTH: For a rock star, David Bowie is a capable actor. But having his character... the king of Goblins ruling a fantasy world where a castle lays in the center of a mazy labyrinth... continuously sing songs not only takes the viewer out of the fantasy element, but the tunes are dated and forgettable.

It's the outlandishly gorgeous Jennifer Connely who shines as the main character, a selfish young girl who wishes her crying infant to the goblins. And when her wish takes her up on it, she must figure a way through the maze to the castle: a suspenseful, creative adventure that works well... as long as there's no singing involved.

The late great director Jim Henson's puppets, still far superior than CGI, are terrific, but this is to Henson's brilliant THE DARK CRYSTAL what RETURN OF THE JEDI was to STAR WARS: a little too silly for its own good, but still pretty good nonetheless.

year: 2010 rating: **1/2
COP OUT: One-liners are usually Kevin Smith's strong-point, but in this buddy team-up cop comedy written by someone else, as director and editor he glides the action scenes nicely yet some of the wacky dialogue muddles the pace.

Certain aspects do mirror Smith's forte: for instance, the way Bruce Willis, as a seasoned cop, cherishes a prized baseball card which, after stolen, turns out to be the centerpiece aka McGuffin of the film...  And how his comedic sidekick Tracy Morgan fears his wife's infidelity, driving him to neurosis... All fitting within the grunge-era filmmaker's niche, ranging from nostalgia to bad relationships...  Not to forget the addition of Seann William Scott as the frantic wild card (think Joe Pesci from LETHAL WEAPON combined with JACKASS Johnny Knoxville).

Even when things get semi-serious... Willis needing to pay for his daughter's wedding and Morgan reeling about his wife... it becomes a much better movie than the reviews suggest. And a retro score by Harold Faltermeyer (a cross of BEVERLY HILLS COP and FLETCH) adds nicely to the overall mix: more homage than parody and surprisingly decent overall.

year: 2009 rating: *
OLD DOGS: One of the worst family films ever created, providing that always-jaunty Disney soundtrack as Robin Williams and John Travolta raise two kids Williams had with Kelly Preston: that he was completely unaware of.

Both men are successful sports agents... Travolta a meandering playboy and Williams a stuffed shirt. If Travolta was the character forced into fatherhood perhaps we might have something, but Williams is so comfortably readymade for this new task, his character's arc, and revelation that he loves his kids more than his occupation, means nothing.

The constantly forced wacky situations, horrible chemistry of the two leads, embarrassing misuse of CGI and uninteresting side-characters makes DOGS a completely forgettable howler.
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