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100 Centre Street (2001)
This was a series that ran something less than two full seasons. I'm not sure all the episodes listed actually ran.
It had an unusually large and diversified cast, headed by Academy Award winning actor Alan Arkin and the magnificent LaTanya Richardson as diametrically opposed, both judicially and politically, but sill close, New York City judges.
It seems to me producer Lumet sought to bring back some of the quality that occasionally surfaced in the early days of live TV drama. I think he succeeded brilliantly. While the series slightly lost focus in its' second season, due mainly to cast defections and resulting plot line changes, it was, IMHO, head and shoulders above most of what passes for dramatic TV these days.
It is always a joy to see artists the likes of Arkin, Richardson, et al, applying their craft in an obviously friendly environment.
So far as I know, this two season series is not available on DVD. It should be.
A Little Night Music (1977)
I think I know why this is so bad.
Could it be they wanted it to be this bad so they could somehow cash in on it ala Mel Brooks' "The Producers"? It's the only reason I can think of for this great big stinking road apple of a disaster to exist.
Absolutely the worst filming of a great musical ever. Wouldn't you think a red light would have gone on somewhere when they started talking about Elizabeth Taylor (whom I love) as Desiree? Wouldn't someone have said "Can we talk this over, please"? All the more unfortunate because there is precious little of Sondheim's work that has been preserved.
What a shame.
It's been a long time since I saw this, but I recall it being absolutely mesmerizing. I expected Sally Ann Howes to be good, and she didn't disappoint. But Regina Resnik was, again, as I recall, stupendous! I had it on VHS for a while, but it eventually disappeared in a move.
So far as I know, this was broadcast live, never repeated, and never released commercially on video. I seem to recall something about Sondheim not being willing to release video rights, and a lot of contractual hurdles with NYCO. But I might be wrong about that.
As these things tend to go, I wouldn't be surprised if it was long ago destroyed.
What a shame. I think it just might have been the definitive "A Little Night Music".
Circus World (1964)
We ain't talking "Citizen Kane" here.
Some sources claim Samuel Bronston's "Circus World" was filmed in Cinerama. It wasn't. It was filmed in Ultra-Panavision 70 and released in some venues in the single lens "Ultra-Cinerama" format, which optically expanded the image to fill the huge Cinerama screen. Regardless, the cinematography is outstanding, which, along with a haunting Main Title theme by composer Dimitri Tiomkin, is perhaps the best thing that can be said about this unfortunate production. That is, unless you consider the fact it contributed to the collapse of producer Samuel Bronston's short-lived film empire to be a good thing.
It, along with its' sister 1964 Bronston mega-production, "The Fall of The Roman Empire", served to sink the producer's four year Spanish production company and end his fairly short career as a film mogul. In those four years he produced, besides the two films already mentioned, "King of Kings", "55 Days at Peking", and "El Cid". No independent producer had ever attempted so ambitious an undertaking, which made Bronston's failure perhaps even more spectacular than the films he attempted.
Mother Knows Best (1997)
Not exactly Hitchcock
A plot that is dumb beyond belief. However, that said, it must be admitted the lead actors go at their roles as though it were Shakespeare. And that is as it should be. It isn't their fault the writer seems to be in a coma.
Hats off to what is really a very cunning performance by Joanna Kerns. She proves that just because it isn't on the page doesn't mean a role can't be seized and dug into. And she does so with gusto. Good for her.
Ditto to Christine Elise who is called upon to be little more than confused and weepy, but goes way beyond what is asked of her by the script.
And to Grant Show as well. A graduate of daytime and prime time soaps (Ryan's Hope, Melrose Place). He is always versatile and underrated. His primary drawback seems to be his impossible-to-ignore good looks. He is a sturdy, well grounded actor capable of much more than he is generally given the opportunity to do.
The rest of the cast is basically window dressing.
The direction is adequate and the script, as I alluded to, is fairly idiotic.
Watch this one to enjoy three good actors in the leads taking delight in performing some much needed scenery chewing. It's fun.
Why is it today that with all the technically advanced computer generated razzle-dazzle at the command of film-makers, their attempt to dabble in the historical epic genre of half a century ago comes off looking like, well, like a CGI generated video game, with high priced actors?
At least back in the "Ben-Hur", "Spartacus", "Cleopatra" days, whatever their individual shortcomings might be, you had the feeling that, somehow, what you were seeing on the screen might actually have been plausible.
Now, instead of "a cast of thousands", we get a "cast" of millions. And all of them are the result of the programmer's art, and they tend to look it. When I see a perfectly executed flyover shot of about a million warriors in the fiercest of battles, I don't think "gee, how did they film that" but, rather, "gee, great program".
And so it goes with "Troy". It isn't bad. Not at all. It just doesn't dazzle with the one thing the epic genre has going for it: the ability to impress with sheer size.
As for Brad Pitt, well, he's Brad Pitt. For his legion of fans, that's all that counts. Does he do a credible job? Yes. Does he impress? No. Does it matter? Not one bit.
As for the rest of the cast...who cares? This is a Brad Pitt Extravaganza", abs and all.
It's what the Saturday Afternoon Slurpy Set wants.