Paul Newman: The Tribute Collection (17 Discs) (With Book) product details page

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Paul Newman: The Tribute Collection (17 Discs) (With Book)

Carlena GowerCarol McEvoyRichard Beymer

Director: Otto PremingerJohn GuillerminSidney Lumet

rated: NR

released: September 22, 2009

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
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Though not as dark as the contemporary Dr. Strangelove, the premise of What a Way to Go is surprisingly black for a Hollywood comedy, especially one with an extraordinarily lavish budget. That budget is well used -- Shirley MacLaine gets to wear 72 mostly fabulous outfits, including a dress that is essentially one long pearl necklace and that must be seen to be believed. The rest of the physical production, including sets and decoration, is impressive, and the cast is stellar. Unfortunately, the excessive production seems to have overwhelmed screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green a bit. There are some good lines scattered throughout, but on the whole the writers don't rise to the bait offered by the premise. The movie ultimately is too soft and safe, and the atmosphere tends toward the frenetic and hysterical, indicating that the material itself can't sustain a more relaxed approach. Although the idea of telling the stories of each husband in a different style is clever, it wears thin after a while. The cast is always watchable, with Paul Newman turning in one of his most easygoing performances, and Dick Van Dyke is very funny. Gene Kelly's self-parody is perhaps the best realized performance. MacLaine is fine, although she does resort to mannerisms and mugging too often. What a Way offers delights, but it's a shame that it settles for being good rather than special. Craig Butler, All Movie Guide

The most popular and critically lauded of the cookie-cutter disaster movies of 1970s, The Towering Inferno set the high-water mark for the genre. Though the film's eight Academy Award nominations may seem laughable today, there's no denying Inferno's strength at tapping the era's sense of morbid paranoia. Irwin Allen produced the film -- as well as directed the major action set pieces -- and he delivers the lavish production design, star-studded cast, melodramatic subplots, and life-and-death dilemmas audiences had come to expect in the wake of Airport and The Poseidon Adventure. Inferno stands out from the crowd mainly for its audacious sets and high-quality performances. The cast list is staggering; Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway, William Holden, and Fred Astaire are among the luminaries. Spurred on by the overwhelming success of The Towering Inferno, the disaster genre went into high-gear for the rest of the decade, with mostly disastrous results. John Williams did the excellent score. Brendon Hanley, All Movie Guide

Released the same year as The Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid covered similar territory about the end of Western myths, but it expressed its revisionism with tongue firmly in cheek rather than with the brutal violence of Sam Peckinpah's offering. Butch and Sundance never lose their gift for one-liners, even when they have to jump off that gorge; George Roy Hill and screenwriter William Goldman send up the image of outlaws heading south of the border with bank robberies conducted in broken Spanish from crib notes. Still, violence impinges on Butch's and Sundance's world, intimating the fate that modernity held for charming bandits who cannot master a horse-replacing bicycle. The jocularly clear-eyed approach to the pair's exploits, combined with the chemistry between Paul Newman and relative newcomer Robert Redford, vastly appealed to audiences; Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid became the most popular film of 1969 and won several Oscars, including one for Goldman's script. Like Bonnie and Clyde in 1967, glamorous outlaws Butch and Sundance were in tune with the late-'60s counterculture, but the movie's humor -- and its Oscar-winning Burt Bacharach/Hal David song "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" -- softened the revisionist blows amid impending tragedy. Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide

In its attempt to expose the marrow of the novel on which it is based, this film fails to penetrate the surface of its characters and the complexity of events motivating them. Jerking helter-skelter from one character to the next, or from one situation to the next, it tries to capture too much of the plot of the Leon Uris book and ends up with a bramble of episodes and flimsy character development. The acting is generally strong, however. Sal Mineo, in particular, is superb as 15-year-old Dov Landau, a fiery Jewish patriot and Auschwitz survivor who joins a group of extremist freedom fighters. Lee J. Cobb (portraying political conservative Barak Ben Canaan) and Jill Haworth (portraying Landau's girlfriend, Karen) also play their roles adeptly. Although Paul Newman performs well enough as Jewish leader Ari Ben Canaan (Barak's son), his physical attributes -- notably the blue eyes and light hair -- rob him of a small measure of credibility. Other important aspects of the film -- including the cinematography, the action sequences, and the Oscar-winning music -- are well worth the cost of renting the video and investing the three-and-a-half hours required to watch it. As a history lesson, Exodus comes up a little short in its occasional deviation from factual accounts about the birth of Israel, although it still presents enough of the real story to educate viewers about the basic facts. Mike Cummings, All Movie Guide

Exploring thematic terrain similar to Nashville (1975), Robert Altman and co-writer Alan Rudolph turn Arthur Kopit's play Indians into a blunt indictment of contemporary pop culture and the fallacies of western pop history. The star may perpetuate lies to sell tickets, but the audience buys those tickets and worships the star's "heroic" image, guaranteeing that the lies, and their legacy of Native American abuse, will endure. Altman denies a similar star- worshipping satisfaction to his movie audience, obscuring his own star with facial hair and few close shots (as he did with Warren Beatty in McCabe and Mrs. Miller), even as Paul Newman's presence also lends Buffalo Bill "star quality." Audiences and critics did not look kindly on Altman's schematic critique, ensuring that Buffalo Bill and the Indians' ironic view of American history-making was little seen in its Bicentennial year release. Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide

Another gritty urban drama from Sydney Lumet, the rich, entertaining courtroom thriller The Verdict combines the director's typically realistic, brooding atmosphere with a stunning lead performance from Paul Newman. Written by David Mamet, the picture follows a fairly standard legal movie premise -- a downtrodden lawyer finds redemption fighting the good fight -- but Lumet gives the proceedings a starkly solemn air, focussing the audience's attention on Newman's subtle performance. It's some of his best work of the actor's career; he's supported by the similarly stellar James Mason, in one of his last noteworthy performances. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Brendon Hanley, All Movie Guide

An episodic and uneven film, Adventures of a Young Man emerges on the whole as a moderately successful adaptation of several of Ernest Hemingway's excellent Nick Adams stories. There are a number of factors which keep it from being a better film, one being that stringing together stories in this way can easily lead to a feeling that that is exactly what one has done -- simply strung them together. Neither screenwriter A.E. Hotchner nor director Martin Ritt has found a way around this problem, and so the viewer sometimes feels as if he were watching isolated incidents rather than segments of a cohesive plot. In addition, the tone of these segments sometimes varies widely. But the bigger problem is that the thread that runs through the sections -- the character of Nick Adams -- is rendered uninteresting and uninvolving due to the wooden performance of Richard Beymer. Fortunately, much of the cast surrounding Beymer does solid work, helping to keep both Beymer and the film afloat. Special mention should go to Paul Newman, Dan Dailey, Fred Clark, Jessica Tandy and Arthur Kennedy, who all turn in especially fine work. Susan Strasberg and Diane Baker do the best they can with what they're given, but the former is given far too little of substance and the latter far too little - period. Ritt doesn't bring a cohesive feel to the work, but when he's on, the results are impressive, and the technical aspects of the film are all fine. Craig Butler, All Movie Guide

After emerging from the Hollywood blacklist, actor-director Martin Ritt found a friend in his former pupil, Paul Newman. The leading man would appear in six of Ritt's pictures, and, though their collaboration reached its peak with the nihilistic drama Hud (1963), the 1967 revisionist western Hombre was just as compelling. The film was one of a spate of late-1960s/early-1970s movies about the end of the Old West, including The Wild Bunch, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. Hombre actually owes quite a bit to older Westerns: it borrows the metaphor of the stagecoach as a microcosm of society from John Ford's Stagecoach (1939); and it shares the revisionist racial concerns of Ford's The Searchers (1956). As in Arthur Penn's influential Left-Handed Gun (1958), Newman's polished good looks infuse the raw spirit of the West with a more modern sense of the existential. His man-against-the-world act would earn him his fourth Academy Award nomination that same year, for Cool Hand Luke. Brendon Hanley, All Movie Guide

The Long, Hot Summer is best remembered for Paul Newman's stellar performance as the incendiary Ben Quick, and for the seamless way in which writers Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr. combined several William Faulkner stories into one compelling screenplay. It's great fun to watch the top-notch cast work together, particularly in the scenes that feature Newman and Orson Welles. Familiar faces dot the supporting cast, from Angela Lansbury to Lee Remick. It takes a while for the film to gain its footing, but, once it does, the energy level builds to a walloping climax. For much of the 1950s, director Martin Ritt was a victim of Hollywood's blacklist, and Summer helped re-establish his career, sparking a series of successful collaborations with Newman. This was also the first film to co-star Newman and wife Joanne Woodward. Though it received no Oscar nominations, Summer fared better in Europe, where Newman won Best Actor honors at the Cannes Film Festival. Richard Gilliam, All Movie Guide

The Hustler combines elements of film noir, Westerns, sports films, and a heavy dose of existentialism. Some have suggested that the film has a Biblical aspect: the ever-darkened pool halls are each man's Hell, with the parasitic Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) as the Satanic figure who lures Eddie with his own brand of apple. Others point to the film as a parable for the conflict between art and commerce, utilitarianism and metaphysics. Regardless of interpretation, The Hustler is a crackling good morality tale, with a series of top-notch performances, appropriately moody black-and-white cinematography, and a master and prodigy conflict as old as the ages. Paul Newman's performance is a raw-nerved, twitchy wonder, while Jackie Gleason, Scott, and Piper Laurie provide supporting performances of rare depth. Director Robert Rossen allows the complex relationships of the film's key figures plenty of time to evolve, while his careful work establishes a tangibly musty and seedy sense of the film's pool hall setting. Fast Eddie's ultimate redemption, which comes at a terrible price, gives the film a melancholy and bittersweet conclusion that is wholly fitting. Dan Jardine, All Movie Guide

The ****** combines elements of film noir, Westerns, sports films, and a heavy dose of existentialism. Some have suggested that the film has a Biblical aspect: the ever-darkened pool halls are each man's Hell, with the parasitic Bert Gordon (George C. Scott) as the Satanic figure who lures Eddie with his own brand of apple. Others point to the film as a parable for the conflict between art and commerce, utilitarianism and metaphysics. Regardless of interpretation, The ****** is a crackling good morality tale, with a series of top-notch performances, appropriately moody black-and-white cinematography, and a master and prodigy conflict as old as the ages. Paul Newman's performance is a raw-nerved, twitchy wonder, while Jackie Gleason, Scott, and Piper Laurie provide supporting performances of rare depth. Director Robert Rossen allows the complex relationships of the film's key figures plenty of time to evolve, while his careful work establishes a tangibly musty and seedy sense of the film's pool hall setting. Fast Eddie's ultimate redemption, which comes at a terrible price, gives the film a melancholy and bittersweet conclusion that is wholly fitting. Dan Jardine, All Movie Guide

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