A Movie A Day #103: Mobsters (1991, directed by Michael Karbelnikoff)


The place is New York City.  The time is the prohibition era.  The rackets are controlled by powerful but out of touch gangsters like Arnold Rothstein (F. Murray Abraham), Joe Masseria (Anthony Quinn), and Salvatore Faranzano (Michael Gambon).  However, four young gangsters — Lucky Luciano (Christian Slater), Meyer Lansky (Patrick Dempsey), Frank Costello (Costas Mandylor), and Bugsy Siegel (Richard Greico) — have an ambitious plan.  They want to form a commission that will bring together all of the Mafia families as a national force.  To do it, they will have to push aside and eliminate the old-fashioned mob bosses and take over the rackets themselves.  When Masseria and Faranzano go to war over who will be the new Boss of all Bosses, Luciano and Lansky seen their opportunity to strike.

I love a good gangster movie, which is one reason that I have never cared much for Mobsters. Mobsters was made in the wake of the success of Young Guns and, like that film, it attempted to breathe new life into an old genre by casting teen heartthrobs in the lead roles.  There was nothing inherently wrong with that because Luciano, Lansky, and Seigel were all still young men, in their 20s and early 30s, when they took over the Mafia.  (Costello was 39 but Mobsters presents him as being the same age as they other three.)  The problem was that none of the four main actors were in the least bit convincing as 1920s mobsters.  Christian Slater was the least convincing Sicilian since Alex Cord in The Brotherhood.  As for the supporting cast, actors like Chris Penn and F. Murray Abraham did the best that they could with the material but Anthony Quinn’s performance in Mobsters was the worst of his long and distinguished career.

Fans of Twin Peaks will note that Lara Flynn Boyle had a small role in Mobsters.  She played Luciano’s girlfriend.  Unfortunately, other than looking pretty and dying tragically, she was not given much to do in this disappointing gangster film.

Val’s Movie Roundup #23: Hallmark Edition


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Just Desserts (2004) – It’s not every day that I get four decent Hallmark movies. This one I actually enjoyed quite a bit. It’s about a baker whose family bakery is falling on hard financial times. There is a cooking contest going on and he decides to enter. Apparently, his family has some baking secrets. Our main character Marco Poloni (Costas Mandylor) knows his stuff and even some of the bigwigs in the industry, but got slighted along the way and decided to kind of remain in obscurity. However, with the bakery in trouble and a contest that could help draw crowds, he decides to step out of the shadows. Problem is he needs a partner. That’s not an issue though. During a conversation at a fancy restaurant where he is having a discussion on the bakery being bought out, he tries a dessert and it’s almost right according to him. He has a partner! It’s pretty funny, because he comes back to the restaurant and just barges right into her kitchen to ask her to help him with the contest.

The rest is exactly what you expect. What makes it work is largely Costas Mandylor’s performance. Lauren Holly does a good job too. Amazingly, this movie was directed by Kevin Connor who brought us the epic disaster Strawberry Summer. The only problem I can think of here is that I was disappointed that they didn’t have Poloni make a reference Nicolas Cage’s character in Moonstruck (1987). Seriously, you see him walk in front of ovens in a white undershirt and you want him to yell, “I lost my hand! I lost my bride! Johnny has his hand! Johnny has his bride!”

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I definitely recommend this one.

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Before You Say ‘I Do’ (2009) – This one you really have to judge in two separate parts. This movie is about a guy (David Sutcliffe) who proposes to a girl (Jennifer Westfeldt), only to have her change her mind because she was burned by a bad marriage 10 years prior. So while going through a yellow light, he makes a wish that something could be done about what happened to her 10 years before. He is then hit by a car and now he’s in 1999.

The first part of this movie works. The two actors and Lauren Holly do a good job. He immediately goes to where she was working in 1999 believing that they will fall in love at first sight, but it doesn’t happen. So, he warms up to her friend played by Lauren Holly and works to make his way into her life while also trying to talk her out of the upcoming disastrous marriage. This stuff works well enough to enjoy the film. I liked David Sutcliffe and Lauren Holly. Jennifer Westfeldt is good enough. Kind of looks like Phoebe from Friends though. This part really is okay.

But there’s the second part. That’s the time travel. It’s not broken per se, but it’s like they didn’t even try. Really, the only honest attempt I saw to make it look like 1999 was that they had all the computer screens be CRTs. Jennifer Westfeldt looks exactly the same as she did in 2009. They didn’t even bother to change her hair. They also leave it up to you to figure out that he hasn’t gone back in time Back To The Future style, but Quantum Leap style. That is, instead of physically traveling there and thus, there being two of him, he has become unstuck in time and slipped back into his 1999 self. Also, if you went back in time to 1999, we all know it would come up at least once. But nope, he never mentions 9/11. They could have fixed that issue completely by just having him go back 7 years instead. It’s a stupid mistake that is just one more thing that should have been fixed if they were going to put in any effort to the time travel part of the story.

Still, throwing aside that the time travel stuff is a bit of a mess, the romantic comedy works well enough. Not a seek out, but you’ll be okay if this happens to be on.

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Taking A Chance On Love (2009) – It’s weird, but unintentionally I am working backwards through The Note trilogy. This one is definitely better than the third one. It’s still forgettable, but better. This time Peyton McGruder (Genie Francis), the advice columnist, has a woman come up to her and say I love your column, but your advice on taking a chance on love is idiotic. Then she just walks away. It’s rather humorous.

In this one McGruder is not married to Kingston Danville (Ted McGinley). Also, we get to meet the girl that McGruder gave up for adoption many years prior. I think near the end of the film we find out McGruder tried to kill herself while she was pregnant with her. Since that didn’t pan out, she gave birth and put her up for adoption. It seems the girl’s parents went out of the picture and McGruder came back into her life. I’m sure all this information is in the first film. Unfortunately, this movie kind of leaves you in the dark for about 30 minutes. You will think that it’s impossible to watch this one without having seen that one. But that’s not true. You reach 30 minutes and there’s enough exposition that you can follow the movie. Till then it’s a little rough.

Basically, there are four things going on here. The lady who came up to McGruder and insults her needs help resolving a very old incident involving two guys and baby that happened many years ago. McGruder needs to get over her hesitancy and just marry King. McGruder’s daughter needs to stop drinking and not feel she’s in any danger if McGruder gets married. Finally, King and his son need to both get on the same page about the son wanting to be a photographer. That’s it. Just like Signed, Sealed, Delivered, it’s very character driven, not plot driven. It’s not as good as Signed, Sealed, Delivered though.

For those of you who remember when I reviewed the third one, yes, McGinley does have an assholery moment that happens for a minute without really any lead up or anything to follow it. I really want to see the first one just to see if that one has a similar scene. I’m not sure why that’s a thing with these movies, but it seems to be true.

Also, because this is Hallmark, it should be no surprise that two actors from Degrassi: TNG make an appearance. John Bregar who played Dylan is King’s son and Raymond Ablack makes a brief appearance.

Married With Children meets Degrassi: TNG

Married With Children meets Degrassi: TNG

Oh, and unless I missed something or the plot summary on IMDb is wrong, that’s not a California license plate.

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This one is fine, but I get the feeling that The Note trilogy is like the first five Friday the 13th movies. Individually, there not so good, but taken together, then you have something. I’ll find out eventually. Just as all streams lead to the toilet in computer science, it seems that all Hallmark movies eventually come to me. I swear that’s a saying I read in a computer science textbook many years ago.

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Growing The Big One (2010) – Nope, you’d think there was, but according to IMDb there’s only a serious of porn films called Chasing The Big Ones. Not sure how Hallmark lucked out on this title, but good for them.

Now let’s talk about the movie. This is probably my favorite of the four films here. I like Shannen Doherty. She’s never going to win any major awards for acting, but I always seem to enjoy her performances. Kavan Smith is good too. I enjoyed him on Eureka. He is actually pretty interesting because of the way he looks. He can easily come across as a really kind and nice man, but all he has to do is make the most subtle adjustment to his facial expression, and it’s oh my God, he’s a psychopath. For some reason I really like that about him.

Doherty plays a radio show host from Seattle whose grandfather dies so she goes to the country to see this pumpkin farm she has inherited. Suddenly, her job back home disappears when she hears someone else on the radio in her slot. Well, not disappear, she’s reassigned. They want her on this plant show because everyone is going green these days. It’s stupid and Doherty calls them on it, but once her boss hears she now has a farm in the country, her fate is sealed. Thus, Doherty now lives in the country where she broadcasts and livestreams via webcams about a subject she is totally ignorant about.

Enter Kavan Smith! If he was in the film before this, I don’t care, nor do I remember because I want to believe this was the first time we see him. In the middle of the night he tries to break into her house and Doherty nearly maces him. He claims he was fixing the lock because he was friends with her grandfather, but we know he was there to steal the pumpkin seeds. Her grandfather was well known for growing the biggest pumpkins because of his secret method and special seeds. Is there a contest for growing the biggest pumpkin that will make the show a hit, carry the rest of the film, and bring Smith and Doherty together? Of course there is!

This is a movie that works because the two actors are just so enjoyable to watch. I didn’t really think they had any chemistry together, but I didn’t care. I enjoyed it.

One other thing to mention. There is a guy in town who sells manure. His mascot is a superhero character. He even dresses as this superhero at one point. They never say it, but that means his mascot is Shitman.