"What Women Want" (Paramount, 2000)
A wretched romantic comedy in which Mel Gibson can suddenly hear women's thoughts, and changes from a big sexist jerk into a cuddly, sensitive sweetie-pie. It's not so much the premise that sucks, but rather the script and its muddled, uninspired execution. It's actually kind of surprising that a female-led film production could have taken such a simplistic, one-dimensional view of the subject. But, gosh, isn't Mel adorable with those cute baby blues? Well, no... not really.
"Island Of Lost Souls" (Universal, 1933)
Genuinely horrifying old horror film. And what fun to see Charles Laughton pioneer the role of Dr. Evil!
"Escape From The Planet Of The Apes" (20th Century Fox, 1971)
Blah blah blah blah... can't they all stop talking so much!? This exposition-heavy installment of the famous Ape series is a bit of drag, if the truth be told... If you're doing the whole series, then, yeah, you have to check this one out, but it is a bit dull.
"Mauvaise Graine" (1933)
The great German-born director, Billy Vilder, on his vay from Deutschland to Hollywood, stopped off in Paris to make this early car chase classic. A young French dandy, suddenly down on his luck, falls in with a slick gang of car thieves who run a phony auto shop, and who take him in and teach him the ropes in their cynical racket. He also falls in love, and attempts to break away from his criminal pals in order to live a clean life with his gal. Pretty cool presentation of French life in the interwar era, and of the growing fascination with the newly blooming car culture. Great crosscountry chase sequence at the end; fun stuff throughout. Recommended!
"The Miracle Of Morgan's Creek" (Paramount, 1944)
Probably Betty Hutton's best straight dramatic role (even though this is ostensibly a comedy...) In this surprisingly frank wartime romance, she plays a young, restless smalltown hottie who goes gallivanting off to USO dance (in order to help "boost morale") and winds up, inconveniently enough, pregnant with an unknown soldier's child. Eddie Bracken plays the hangdog hometown schnook who offers to marry her and help cove things up, even though he knows she doesn't feel the same way for him as he does about her (especially since he's 4F and unable to join the fight abroad). As usual, director Preston Sturges embues his characters with a touching balance of human frailty, worldliness and moral resolve... This is one of his best films, and an unusually rich part for Hutton as well.
"Kiss Me Kate" (Warner, 1953)
The tail end of my Bob Fosse kick brought me to this fun musical...
"Waikiki Wedding" (Paramount, 1937)
Fun film -- one of the best early Bing Crosby comedies. It's a fluffy romantic comedy about beachcomber Bing wooing the unwilling "pineapple queen" who's been recruited as part of a fruit company's big promotional campaign. Naturally, Bing is pals with the natives, although midway they seem to turn on him and kidnap him and threaten to sacrifice him and his pals to their angry volcano god. Nobody's taking any of this too seriously, and that's part of what makes it great -- the tone of the film matches Crosby's lighthearted persona. The musical numbers are fun, too, especially early on when he scats along in the "uk-uk-uk" Hawaiian vocal style. Plus, this is Crosby at his cutest, no doubt about it -- he even gets shot in soft focus, to make him seem more babilicious. The only real sour note is the backlash-y (and extremely repetitive) gag about Martha Raye being so ugly no man would want her... some of those lines are really wa-a-a-a-ay over the top, and don't read well with a modern day audience. At least not with me. Still, I'd recommend this flick for anyone curious about Crosby's multimedia appeal. And check out a babyfaced Anthony Quinn as the Polynesian chieftan!
"Broadway Bill" (Columbia, 1934)
A once-lost Frank Capra film, with a plot revolving around a long-shot champion racehouse that everyone had written off as a nag. Great chemistry between Myrna Loy and Warner Baxter, who had a Clark Gable-ish charm as the fast-talking rogue who gets Bill his big break. Cast notes: Clarence Muse is cool as Baxter's sidekick, in a surprisingly strong role for an African-American actor at the time; Margaret Hamilton (aka the Wicked Witch of the West) plays "vinegar puss", the spinsterish landlady of one of Baxter's ne'er-do-well pals. Capra remade this film in 1952, with Bing Crosby in the lead role; I far prefer Baxter. This is a good classic film; the ending will slay you.
"My Sister Eileen" (Columbia, 1955)
An absolutely delightful musical comedy, starring Betty Garrett as a smart smalltown girl determined to make it in New York City. She moves there with her with her glamourous, ditzy sister Eileen, whose good looks open more doors than do Garrett's brains and moxie. A nice film about struggling to get ahead in the Big Apple, with a script that takes its time and several exuberently goofy dance numbers, gleefully choreographed by a young Bob Fosse, who also plays one of the sister's avid suitors. The penultimate dance scene is side-splittingly hilarious, featuring a swarm of recently disembarked Cuban sailors on the prowl for American women, who form an inexhaustable conga line that snakes chaotically through the gal's tiny apartment. Thoroughly entertaining... a great, lighthearted film with some fabulous acting and bright, winning performances by all involved.
"American Madness" (Columbia, 1932)
Frank Capra's fast-paced Depression-era drama stars Walter Huston as a bank manager facing a financial panic that leads to a run on his bank. Easy to see this early talkie as a dry run for It's A Wonderful Life, but it also stands on its own as a fine film, shot with a nice noir-ish feel. The desperation and panic of the time is painfully palpable throughout this film, and the indiscriminate hysteria of the opening sequences ratchets up into individualized, personal agony as Huston steels himself to lose all that he's ever worked for. Tense and anxiety-provoking; worth checking out!
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