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It's Always Fair Weather (1955)
Interesting, despite its flaws
I was fortunate enough to see this film on the huge screen at the restored deco Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD (now part of the AFI), so I took full advantage of the Technicolor & Cinemascope (especially the 2-3 scenes where the camera pans back to show off the huge city set). The visual quality after almost 50 years is still pretty good, but the soundtrack was "wobbly." The film needs some restoration.
As others have said, the highlights of this film are the clever dance numbers, specifically:
the garbage can lid dance by the 3 soldiers (they also hop, crawl and dance around a stopped taxi, but nobody has mentioned that one),
the wonderful roller skating sequence by Kelly (since I'm tired to death of seeing the "Singing in the Rain" puddle dance, this is a refreshing change and an excellent sample of his skills!) He even parodies his "Rain" dance when he hops off & on the curb with his skates (folks, those are metal-wheeled skates - nowhere as smooth & speedy as the polyurethane ones of today) Somebody mentioned that the skating set features a big piece of the "Rain" set, but I don't agree - we're talking films set 30 years apart & I didn't see any similarities in the "Fair Weather" set
Dolores Gray's bizarre number "Thanks but no Thanks" where she rewards the tuxedoed men bearing jewels and affection (who literally vault, flip and tumble around her) with bullets, dynamite and finally a huge trap door where they all slide away
and Cyd Charisse's gym number "Baby You Knock Me Out"
(these last 2 numbers were featured on "That's Entertainment III")
It's interesting to see Michael Kidd, mostly known for his wonderful film choreography, dance onscreen. Wish there was more of it.
And Dan Dailey I hardly know, except for the film "There's No Business Like Show Business." He's the only actor of the 3 to let himself "age" in the ensuing 10 years, and it works. He does a very good job in the acting department too.
You can see why the film is not a lasting classic in league with "On the Town" and "Singing in the Rain" - it contains elements of bitterness & disillusionment between the 3 guys. They seem to get along best when they're either drunk or fighting bad guys. And the film - this is a sign of the times - glamorizes smoking (including by Dan Dailey's character, who says he won't drink or eat heavily b/c of his health, yet he "lights up" often), fixed boxing matches, gambling and drunken sprees.
Still, it makes an excellent "sequel" of sorts for "On the Town" and they should be paired together on TV or at film fests.
Also, Previn's tunes are not really memorable - they're OK.
The film also pokes fun at early TV - Delores Gray's show is a mix btw a variety show & something like "Queen for a Day" or "This is Your Life." Sponsors (in this case, laundry detergent)were a huge deal back then. Oddly, she's not paired with one of the guys as a romantic interest. Her diva act gets a bit tiresome however.
Cyd only gets 1 dance number, and there's no dance between her & Gene. Wish there were. They sparked a HUGE amount of chemistry in their dance number in "Rain."
Look out for familiar actors in small supporting roles, like Madge Blake (she was a radio gossip at the movie premiere in "Singin in the Rain" but most of you would know her as dotty Aunt Harriett in the Batman TV series), and the actor who plays the sports columnist at the gym is a character actor who has appeared in dozens of TV shows from the 1950s & 60s, besides movie appearances. And that's June Foray's uncredited voice in the animated Kleenzrite commercial - she did the voice of Rocky Squirrel, among many other voiceovers.
Still, I do recommend it, considering it is not shown very much, let alone in the letterbox format which is necessary for the integrity of the movie. Darn that pesky pan & scan! The ahead-of-its-time plot & the clever dance numbers make this film worth your while.
Forever Fever (1998)
Cute, and better than you'd expect
I checked this out from the library - I figured, what the heck, it's free, and I'll get a campy laugh from it. But the movie is in fact sweet & affectionate. OK so the guy playing Travolta who walks off the screen looks nothing like him & is actually doing a slightly Southern accent. The lead actor (playing Hock) looks a lot like Bruce Lee and turns out to be a good dancer as well as great at kung fu. Nobody has yet mentioned a minor subplot, of the idolized older brother - a med student who needs money for a sex-change operation. The father disavows the med student son in anger. The 70s costumes are good fun and I like the kid sister character who's hooked on romance novels. It reminded me in a way of "Strictly Ballroom" (a much better Baz Lehrman film than "Moulin Rouge" BTW!) And everybody's speaking quite good English - no terrible dubbing! So check this one out & enjoy.
Superman III (1983)
A disappointment that makes you squirm
There are some redeeming qualities which saves this movie from being as awful as "Superman IV": the Rube Goldberg-esque sequence in the beginning of the film (where one mishap causes another & things get worse); the charming courtship between Lana & Clark (for a change, Lana really likes Clark but doesn't care much for Superman); and when Superman's evil twin starts doing naughty things like flick peanuts at windows to break them, or straighten the Tower of Pisa, I think he even comes on to Lana! But it's not enough to save the entire movie from being an embarrassment: the writers & director have overemphasized the comedy, casting not only a lame Richard Pryor (who lost his sharp wit after he almost torched himself), but also a typical blonde bimbo as the villain's mistress, and the guy who plays Lana's drunk ex-husband. And Lana's kid is such a pain you wanna slap him! The production values are cheaper, due to a slashed budget. Reeve and Annette O'Toole as Lana give nice performances, but the film is quite average, a far cry from "Superman I" and "II". Too bad
"Give me the girl, or I will hurt people." OUCH!
As weak & as lame as "Superman III" was, it at least had a few redeeming qualities. The ONLY one I can think of for this embarrassment is the scene where Clark has to entertain Lacy, & Superman has to entertain Lois at exactly the same time in 2 different places/rooms. I squirmed as I sat through this - how low the Superman movie franchise had sunk in 10 years! "Superman I" sparkled with suspense, humor, drama and romantic chemistry. "Supe IV" has a California surfer blonde Nuclear Man who talks in Incredible Hulk-speak and manages to carry Mariel Hemingway into space where she continues to breathe normally! This piece of dreck is a low point in the careers of Sam Wanamaker (father of actress Zoe Wanamaker, BTW), Gene Hackman & Jackie Cooper. Chris Reeve tries but the writers and director failed this one. Poor Margot Kidder looks haggard in this too. Skip it, skip it, skip it & just watch "Superman I" & "II."
Little Women (1970)
Long, but not bad
This runs 3-4 hours and feels like it. Produced by the BBC, there are very few exterior scenes, unfortunately. They would have tweaked the pace. There is a big blooper which incredibly evaded the editor: when Amy is in some European city (Florence? Paris?) with Aunt March, they quickly show stock aerial footage of some bustling city. The footage is obviously too modern, from the 1950s probably, and you can see cars zooming along the roads. Not good when "Little Women' takes place during the 1860s!
The 4 actresses playing the roles are too old, and some have better American accents than others. That said, pretty good performances are given by Jo, Meg, Beth & Marmee. Although the costumes are good, the wigs are terrible. You're better off renting the video/DVD to the 1994 version with Wynona Rider, although BBC or Alcott fans will enjoy this.
Antony and Cleopatra (1984)
Although there are good performances by Lynn Redgrave, Timothy Dalton, Barrie Ingham & Earl Boen, on the other hand you have Anthony Geary (Luke Spencer from "General Hospital") dreadful as Caesar & Walter Koenig (Chekhov from "Star Trek") mangling Pompey the pirate. And the blonde bimbo playing Octavia is bland & unemotional. They don't belong in a Shakespeare play & should keep their day jobs! Nichelle Nichols does OK as Charmian. Costumes are adequate, but camera editing is not very smooth. Also missing is some strong passion or chemistry between the 2 leads. Saw this tonight on public TV. This is a play that Kenneth Branagh should consider directing for the big screen & casting himself as Antony...
The Diary of Anne Frank (1980)
It's by Melissa Gilbert's production co., so of course she gets the lead
Same thing happened with the 1979 TV adaptation of "The Miracle Worker" - the too-tall, too-old Gilbert got to play Helen in that very sunny, CA adaptation funded by her production company (Hint: see the superior 1962 film instead). For this one, Gilbert is too perky & too American as Anne. Also annoying - Doris Roberts as Mrs. van Damm. Clive Reville I had not seen since on the screen he played Fagin in the 1968 film "Oliver." Joan Plowright & Maximillian Schell are the best of the cast, but this adaptation is still too bright & sunny. Better to stick with the 1959 film version.
American Playhouse: Working (1982)
Wish they had done a better job...
This was produced by PBS/WGBH/Great Performances/American Playhouse. But I wish they had cast some of the roles better. People like Barry Bostwick, Charles Haid, Rita Moreno & Barbara Hershey were very good, but I had to wince at Beth Howland's (from the "Alice" CBS sitcom) attempt at "Just a Housewife." Ugh. Didi Conn was annoying as the secretary, and Barbara Barrie was boring as The Schoolteacher, a song she did not sing well. Studs Terkel introduces the show, and in back of him are matted on the wall HUGE portraits of the actors in the show. Ick. Ploddingly directed - too bad for a wonderful musical that is not performed enough...
The Black Stallion (1979)
This classic movie holds up, even 20 years later
I re-viewed the movie, on video, after not having seen it for many years. The cinematography is fantastic, and I believe it won an Oscar - and deservedly so. The lovely score fills in a script of few words. Even Mickey Rooney, who's had his ups and downs in his acting career, gives a wonderful performance as the former jockey who trains Alec. Treat your kids to a showing of this great film, then give them the book to read...
Caddie Woodlawn (1989)
Not bad, but Wonderworks has produced better
This was made a few years after Wonderworks' presentation of the Canadian Broadcast Company's terrific "Anne of Green Gables," and "Caddie" just doesn't compare. Based on a classic children's novel of a tomboy in 1865 Wisconsin who helps avert an Indian massacre, the book is not as well-known as the "Little House" series, the first of which, "Little House in the Big Woods" also takes place in Wisconsin, in 1860. The production design of "Caddie" is too bright and clean for what should be a scraggly, woodsy primitive home in a remote area of the American wilderness. Lawns are trimmed and fenced, house interiors are too bright for oil lamps, and everyone has clean, starched clothes. But the worst thing is the synthesized music score! The best performance in the cast is not the girl playing Caddie, but the actor James Stephens playing her father John Woodlawn. Stephens gives a gentle, understated performance as her patient, understanding Dad. Also good is the Native American actor playing the local Dakota chief. Former "Hardy Boy" Parker Stevenson is just adequate as Caddie's uncle, and the screenwriter had to stretch to give Season Hubley (as Caddie's mom) enough to do. To sum it up, an OK production with a terrible, synthesized soundtrack. You're better off seeing Wonderworks' productions of "Anne of Green Gables" or "Girl of the Limberlost."