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Waltzes from Vienna (1934) - ***
In 1933 Hitchcock found himself without a picture to direct and signed on for this unlikely choice of a musical just so he could keep working. That being the case, it probably helps explain why it doesn't seem to have a Hitchcock feel to it or any of the elements you might otherwise expect from the master of suspense. I don't think his heart was really in it. The term musical is a little loosely used as really there are only the Strauss's waltzes for music as there was no money in the budget for any other music. So no one breaks out into song for no reason in this picture. Other than the fact it doesn't seem like a Hitchcock movie, it's a nice little story about the younger Strauss struggling for the respect of his father with a nice bit of romance and jealousy thrown in on the side. The most amusing scene for me was when the younger Strauss was coming up with the music for his waltz at the bakery. I also enjoyed the opening scene of the fire brigade racing to a fire and the "rescue" of the damsel. Apparently there wasn't much of a budget for special effects, because we never actually see the fire. A pleasant enough film, just not very Hitchcockian.
Rank: #5 in 1934, #34 Hitchcock Film

The Way of the Gun (2000) - **1/2
A decent, but not great, kidnapping movie. The script is a bit too unbelievable and they try to keep you guessing. It's held together by some decent star power...James Caan, Benicio Del Toro, Juliette Lewis. I did have a bit of a problem believing Taye Diggs and Nicky Katt as two hardcore professional bodyguards. Ryan Phillippe played his part well, but it was still a little hard to picture him as a badass. There's an extreme amount of violence and not for the faint of heart. If you can take it, it's not a bad diversion on for a Sunday evening.

We Were Soldiers (2002) - ***1/2
This is an excellent, realistic depiction of the first major U.S. battle in Vietnam. Though it's more than that. This movie had two big things that I hadn't seen in a movie in about the Vietnam war before. First was the deep loyalty of the American soldiers for each other, and secondly, what the wives of these soldiers went through back home. These are both things common in WWII movies, but this is the first time I've really seen it in a Vietnam war movie. During this battle, it also was sure to show the Vietnam point of view as well. It showed how the battle played out like a chess game, colonels on both sides predicted each others moves. Mel Gibson's portrayal of Lt Colonel Hal Moore and Sam Elliot as Sergeant Major Plumley were both excellent. I think this was probably Greg Kinnear's finest performance ever as Major Crandall, the lead helicopter pilot. Madeleine Stowe as Julie Moore back home was very touching. And all of the supporting cast really turned in great performances, making for a very realistic movie. The battle scenes were incredible, but gut-wrenching to watch. I would call this movie anti-war, but pro-soldier.
Rank: #7 in
2002

What's Cooking? (2000) - ***
Experience Thanksgiving with four different families (Jewish, Vietnamese, Hispanic, African American) in a Los Angeles neighborhood. It has a lot of the typical holiday family issues and few not so typical. I think basically it's showing that even though the cultures are very different, the way people react to the holidays is pretty universal. It has a nice blend of humor mixed with the stress of holiday and makes for enjoyable feast. As a side note, it has a reference to my alma mater, UCSB...which, to set the record straight, does not have a business school.
Rank: #3
Thanksgiving Movie

White Line Fever (1975) - **1/2
I hadn't seen this movie in about 20 years before catching it on the Action Network yesterday. While it's not a great movie, I am glad to see it again as I had forgotten much of the movie over the years. The movie is really violent and a little unrealistic in parts, but it's good 70's action where the good guy doesn't put up with the corrupt company and takes matters into his own hands. And this movie remains a strong addition to the Trucker genre.
Rank: #5
Trucker Movie

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