Reviews written by registered user
|112 reviews in total|
You've got the dream pairing of two of the classiest and most charming stars ever to grace the screen, a suspense thriller that IS worthy of Hitchcock, despite what other reviewers would ahve you think, a very witty script by Broadway librettist Peter Stone, some hilarious comedy, sexy romance, direction 'with flair" by Stanley Donen, a wonderful supporting cast, and music that (As in just about any Henry Mancini film score) is almost as entertaining as the film. From the psychedelic opening credits set to Mancini's Bond-esque theme music, you know "Charade"'s going to be an entertaing movie, and it is! Cary Grant is delightful and suave as ever, audrey was probably never sexier or more chic, (Though some individual "bits" of her acting are unconvincing at times, overall she is great), and Walter Matthau (In an unconventional role for him), James Coburn, George Kennedy, and Ned Glass (The one who was allergic to Hepburn's husband) couldn't be better. The two stars have delightful chemistry and a wonderful repartee going, and the funeral sequence, among others, is truly hilarious. There IS plenty of suspense, too, as you never really are sure whom to trust and who not to, and the climatic chase sequence is almost as exciting as anything Hitch ever came up with. Pardon the cliche, but they really don't make 'em like this any more.
I have not seen any of Martin Scorsese or Robert De Niro's other, grittier films, but I definitly enjoyed their work in this under-rated 1977 musical drama. Scorsese certainly came up with a brilliant idea - Contrasting the glitz and glamour of the 1940s and 1950s movie musicals and jazz nightclubs with a harsly realistic story about a can't-live-with, can't-live-without relationship between a charming but abusive jazz saxophonist and a vulnerable but strong singer - and in many ways it pays off. De Niro gave a great performance; he can go from likeable to dispicable in a breath. Really fascinating to watch, and I can certainly see why so many people consider him brillian. Liza Minnelli, as his wife, is also great. Of course, her singing is incredible - in standards like "The Man I Love," the delightful "You Brought A New Kind Of Love To Me," which in true Hollywood fashion she launches into out of nowhere and performs so well (Backed up by De Niro on sax) that they both land a job at a club, and "You Are My Lucky Star" and new songs written for the film by Kander and Ebb like "But the 'World GOes Round" and, of course, the title tune - and her acting is also subtle, shaded, and sympathetic. Not to mention how fetching (And eerily like her mother, Judy Garland) she looks in Theordora Van Runkle's period costumes. She is just as good as, and perhaps even better at times, than she was in her more famous performance in "Cabaret." SHe and De Niro really should have been Oscar-nominated for their powerful performances here, and Scorsese really should've gotten a nod as well. But the film flopped, so the Academy didn't notice. Which is really too bad, because this movie definitly deserves another look, especially in its restored version which includes a fantastic production number cut from the original print, "Happy Endings," performed by Minnelli and Larry Kert, Tony in the original Broadway production of "West Side Story," that does a great job of reiterating the movie's themes. True, the film is a little too long and slow at times, and there's more than a little unneccessary footage that didn't really need to be there, but all in all it's a very interesting, under-rated gem. It certainly has gotten me interested in Scorsese and De Niro's other films...
Except for "Star!", (Which another reviewer understandably considers a
"companion piece" to this film), Julie Andrews never starred in a film that
was more ideally structured specifically for her many talents than "Darling
Lilli." She gets to sing, act, look lovely, even let her hair down and do a
striptease in her continuing efforts to get away from her Mary Poppins/Maria
Von Trapp image, and much more. Lilli is certainly one of the most
interesting characters she ever played; you're never quite sure whether
you're supposed to root for or despise this half-English, half-German who is
a London music-hall entertainer but also acting as a spy for the Fatherland
in World War I and is sent to, um, extract military secrets from American
Major William Larabee but falls in love with him and tries to clear both
their names for the suspicious French government.
And like "Star!", "Darling Lilli" was released at the wrong time. It had enough "performance numbers" to count as a movie musical, even though it also had elements of drama, comedy, and spy intrigue, and both movie musicals and Julie Andrews were not what critics and audiences were anxious to see in the late 1960s and early 70s, when both films were released. So both bombed at the box office. "Darling Lilli" in particular, judging by the "director's cut" that director Blake Edwards prepared several years later, did not really deserve this fate. While flawed, it is still highly entertaining, and Miss Andrews is utterly radiant, whether acting, stripping, or singing some vintage WW I tunes or some lovely songs written for the film by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer. The film should be seen if for no other reason than for the hauntingly beautiful "Whistling Away the Dark" and Julie's tender, achingly vulnerable performance of it.
But as I said, the film itself is not too great. The description of Lilli's character alone is confusing enough, and often it's hard to figure out what is going on. (Perhaps some footage that could've cleared up this confusion is in the original version of the film?) In addition to the rather muddled string of events, Rock Hudson is pretty stiff as Larabee, and the various German, French, and English accents of the supporting characters come and go. The authentic WW I aircraft is cool, but the air sequences, appaarently the ones that took the longest time out of the film's very long shooting period, are the least interesting in the film. And another reviewer also noted the film's uneasy yo-yoing between genres: the "director's cut" is probably the most serious film Edwards (Who happened to have just married Miss Andrews before they started filming this) ever directed, but he can't resist putting in some of his trademark cheap laughs, although several of them are admittenly funny. And all in all, the film is very entertaining, whether as a drama, comedy, musical, or spy thriller, and whenever Julie Andrews is onscreen, all the film's faults seem like quibbles. Obviously, Mr. Edwards is in love with his wife; can you blame him?
Okay, there's the bad stuff. Of course, it can't even begin to touch "Mary Poppins" as a musical, as a film, or as whatever else. And there are all sorts of other litle problems, from the logic of Dick Van Dyke having English kids and an English FATHER but talking in an American accent to the clumsy transistion into the fantasy sequence (Much better handled in "Poppins" and "Bedknobs and Broomsticks") to the overlength to the many irrelevant songs ("Me Ol' Bamboo," "Chu-Chi Face," and the just plain stupid "Posh!").
But still, the film is likeable and enjoyable escapism. Van Dyke has a few more attempts to display his talents at slapstick and physical comedy than he did in "Poppins," and he also proves a fine singer and a decent actor. He recieves great support from the lovely (In looks and voice) Sally Ann Howes, and such British-film veterans as Benny Hill, Gert Frobe, Anna Quayle and Robert Helpmann. The story is delightfully quirky. (Of course; it was based on books by the guy who came up with James Bond, and Roald Dahl collaborated on the screenplay!) As with all the Sherman brothers' post-"Poppins" scores, the songs are not particularly memorable but still pleasent, and there is the irresistably catchy title tune and a couple other charming numbers ("Truly Scrumptious," the lovely 'Hushabye Mountain," and "Lovely Lonely Man," and I actually enjoyed "Me Ol' Bamboo," or "Step In Time II"). And even though the "story-within-the-story" bogs the film down and is clumsily handled, if you want to search for something deep, you can find a parallel between the Vulgarian anti-children prejudices and the Holocuast. Think about it-this madman (The Baron--Hitler) hates a group of people simply because of their "race" and will stop at nothing to exterminate them. He sends out a henchman (The Child-Catcher--Nazis) to capture them and imprison them in an isolated area where they are malnourished and badly treated (The palace dungeon--concentration camps). A few kind souls (The Toymaker, and his real-life counterparts) hide some of these people in "secret annexes" (Remember Anne Frank?) at the risk of their lives if they are caught. This goes on for many years until a group of people (Potts and company--the Allies) "liberate" the children/Jews and overthrow the madman. Interesting parallel, isn't it? But that's probably getting just a little too analytical for such a lighthearted, delightful children's fantasy film. The kids will probably love it and won't (and shouldn't) have to make those kinds of comparisons.
Not exactly brilliant, but semi-enjoyable comedy about a black wannabe comedian who dies too early and gets temporarily reincarnated in the body of a rich, middle-aged, balding, fat white guy. I have not seen the original versions of this story, and I haven't seen Chris Rock in anything else. (Sorry, his show is on WAY past my bedtime) but I had a few laughs. I guess the full force of Rock's usual material has been toned down, if the film has a PG-13 rating, but some of his observations about the stupidness of the racial divide in America were funny and did hit home. But, even though we see Rock as he sees himself throughout the movie, most of the humor from the actual story comes from knowing that other people see him as this balding, chubby, rich white guy who, once a coldhearted "asshole" who mindlessly closes down hospitals, now suddenly taken to spotting "homeboy" catchphrases and bumping and grinding to gangsta rap, and the moments (too few and far between) when we actually see this white guy, as the rest of the people in the film see him, doing all these things are the laugh-out-loud funniest in the film, even if they are cheap and even if we still hear Rock's voice despite the angels telling him that other people see AND hear the white guy in his own voice. (If we heard his voice, it would probably be even funnier.) I am surprised only one other reviewer mentioned Wanda Sykes' performance as the billionaire's maid who mutters obsceneties about her employer behind his back. Aside from Rock and the billionaire himself, she is the best thing about the film. Although she is a more foul-mouthed throwback to the Hattie McDaniel era (Is that intentional?), like McDaniel, she steals every scene she's in regardless of the stereotype. The rest of the cast, except for Chazz Palementari as the head honcho (aside from the Big G, of course) in Heaven, is embarrassing. The romance with Regina King is unneccasary and totally unbeleiveable. We see ROck in all their scenes, of course, but in the back of my head, I kept thinking, "Rich, old white guy, rich, old white guy." So there's something about his eyes; would she really look at him twice? And Rock is not good enough an actual ACTOR to help much. Jennifer Coolidge is embarrassing as the millionaire's trophy wife, but she can't be blamed with the inane stuff she has to do. Nobody else makes any impression. Still, it is amusing to see a Heaven that looks more like Studio 54 (complete with velvet rope that only admits "certain" people) than our usual perceptions of it, and again Rock has some good moments. At least, at less than 90 minutes, it doesn't overstay its welcome, which is more than can be said for a lot of "comedies" these days.
Why wasn't this film more successful, and why isn't it more well known than it was and is? It is an utterly delightful and original take on the Cinderella story in which almost every element is just right. Leslie Caron is completely enchanting as Ella. True, she may not be an amazingly gorgeous beauty in her ball gown, but she is radiant nevertheless. Especially those eyes. Oh, those expressive eyes! They show you the true beauty beneath her outward plainness. She is a wonderful actress and phenomenal ballet dancer, as demonstrated in the wonderful dream ballet sequences in which she dances with the Roland Petit ballet company. These sequences may seem unnecceasry at first, but they turn out to do exactly what the ballet dances in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals do: They express the character's emotions in ways that not even dialogue and music can. They are indeed a vital part of the film. Estelle Winwood is charming as Ella's eccentric "fairy godmother." Walter Pidgeon's uncredited narration is pithy and wise. True, Michael Wilding is indeed a bit bland as Prince Charming/Charles (though not really all that bad) and this is one of Kennan Wynn's weakest appearences (except for his reaction when he sees Ella at the ball), but all in all these are tiny flaws in one underrated gem of a film.
Okay, so the film is almost totally witless, crude, vulgar, and silly, and
heavy-handed in its treatment of the homosexual subplot. The script
could've done better justice to these stars, but the stars, or at least
of them, generally execute the professionalism we have come to admire so
much in them. And they do have fun spoofing their reputations and public
personas... Debbie Reynolds, in particular, seems to be having the time of
her life making fun of her eternally perky, virginal persona. I am not
familiar with Joan Collins' other work, but though she looks great 'cause
all those fac... uh, never mind, and can toss off a good bitchy line or
three, and the sight of her Italian digs is one of the only funny moments
the film, she really doesn't seem to be that good an actress. Elizabeth
Taylor's cameo is generally embarrassing (What was with that accent?), but
even she has a good moment, dishing with Reynolds about the husband she
stole from her. Is it a coincidence that Shirley Maclaine, who looks
embalmed compared to her costars (Or at least doesn't mind not trying to
naturally-in preparation for her next life, perhaps) gives the only truly
genuine performance in the film? The USA Today review mentioned that it's
weird that, of the three stars of the cult hit movie musical "Boy Crazy,"
Reynolds is really the only one of these stars to have truly made a name
herself in the real-life golden age of movie musicals, and then usually in
supporting roles, (Maclaine made a few movie musicals near the end of this
golden age which are forgotten today,anyway, and Collins never made a
musical and was never a "movie star" in any case, finding her greatest
success on TV). This perhaps accounts for why we don't see that much
singing and dancing, except in several quick glimpses of rehearsals, until
the "grand finale," if it can be called that. And then there's the sight
Reynolds and Collins singing (Well, Reynolds singing and Collins
to sing) "Get Happy" in the gay dance club. It's cheap and debasing, and
guaranteed to find its way into the Great Camp Movie Moments some day
I hope that was intentional. But all in all, these ladies go out there
give their all, or attempt to as long as they can, which is really all we
can ask for in such a sorry showcase as this.
Perhaps the most telling sequence in the film is the first run-through of the special that salutes "Boy Crazy," with the network brass and the sponsers watching. The ladies' dance steps are off, their dubbed-in singing goes out of sync, a load of fake snow gets dumped on them, and all the boys, real and cardboard, fly everywhere. But they keep going and attempting to do something with it, until they're finally exhausted and overwhelmed by all the snow getting in their eyes and throats. Maclaine even huffs out a "Yeah!" at the end before collapsing. That is exactly what this movie is about... eventually even these, uh, dames can't get past this mess of a script and finally resort to petty bitchiness because they have no other way out, it seems. But through it all they attempt, professionally, to make something out of this, (Maclaine most of all) and for that they must be commended.
The last line of the film is Taylor's: "Get off your asses for these old broads!" Crude, natch, but the point is certainly taken. They deserve it.
And oh, yeah, Liz really did steal Debbie's husband. "Freddie Hunter's real name was Eddie Fisher, the father (with Debbie) of Carrie Fisher, alias Princess Leia, who was partially responsible for this script. Carrie also wrote a fictionalized memoir, "Postcards From the Edge," (Please God it was better than this!) and in the film version of that, Maclaine played the character based on Reynolds. Collins was one of the actresses considered for the role of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile, before Liz got that one and began her legendary love affair with Richard Burton... while she was still married to Eddie Fisher! ANd then Liz and Collins both played the same role, Pearl Slaghoople, in, respectively, "The Flintstones" movie and its sequel, "Viva Rock Vegas." See, it's a lot more fun to ponder the various connections these ladies have had to each other over the years than to wonder why, despite their valient attempts to make something of it, they decided to do this.
After years of being withheld because of legal complications, this delightful film has finally been rereleased in a gorgeously restored video and DVD. I bet it will make its longtime fans very happy, and it will make new converts, like me, very grateful to finally get to see what all the fuss is about. Remarkably, none of the infamous production woes this film suffered (If you don't know what I'm talking about, read the other comments) show in the exuberant, highly entertaning final product, which is a generally faithful recreation of the classic Broadway show and features that unbeatable Irving Berlin score in beautfiul and Oscar-winning orchestrations, gorgeous and Oscar-nominated cinemetography and design, and wonderful performances from the entire cast. Betty Hutton is perfectly cast as sharp-shootin' Annie Oakely, combining amazing physical energy, a powerhouse though somewhat odd singing voice, and genuine warmth and even vulnerability in what just might be her best film role. Howard Keel, in what I think is his film debut as her on and offstage partner, Frank Butler, is perfectly comfortable in front of the camera, genial as ever and possessing that robust baritone that would be shown to great advantage in other classic MGM musicals of the 1950s. The rest of the cast is all first-rate, and they all perform the wonderful score extremely well. Yes, the depictions of Native Americans and some of the demeaning things Annie has to go through are not polically correct, but this comes from another era, and as others have noted, the sheer joy in every frame of the film can easily make you forget all that. There truly is no buisiness like show buisiness, and there's no movie like this movie!
AFter years of being withheld because of legal complications, this delightful film has been rereleased at last in a gorgeously restored print on video and DVD. I bet it will make its longtime fans very happy, and it will porbably make other new converts, like me, grateful that we can have this generally faithful recreation of the classic Broadway show, with an unbeatable Irving Berlin score, gorgeous sets and cinemetography, and great performances from the entire cast, available in our homes. Remarkably, none of the infamous production problems this film suffered (If you don't know what I'm talking about, read the other comments) shows in the exuberant and highly entertaining final product. Betty Hutton is wonderful as sharp-shootin' Annie Oakley, combining amazing physical energy, a powerhouse though somewhat odd singing voice, and genuine warmth and even vulnerability in what just might be her best film role. Howard Keel, in what I think is his film debut as her on and offstage partner, Frank Butler, is very comfortable before the camera, genial as ever, and still possessing that robust baritone that was shown to great advantage in other classic MGM musicals during the 50s. The rest of the cast is all first rate, and they all perform the classic songs ("Doin' What Comes Natur'ly," "You Can't Get a Man With a Gun," "They Say It's Wonderful," "Sun in the Morning," "Anything You Can Do," and of course, "There's No Buisiness Like Show Buisiness") extremely well. Yes, the depiction of Native Americans and some of the demeaning things Annie is forced to go through are not politically correct today, but this came from another era, and as others have noted, the sheer joy in every frame of the film is enough to easily overcome these weaknesses. There truly is no buisiness like show buisiness, and there's no movie like this movie!
Marilyn needs no introduction. Suffice it to say that she is perfect in
what is probably the best of her "dumb blonde gold digger" roles, looks
great, (As if it were possible for her to look less), has plenty of great
and funny quotes, and sings the most famous of the Jule Styne-Leo Robin
songs wonderfully. But let's not forget the brunette in the picture, Jane
Russell, who has plenty of talent, comic timing, and yes, sex appeal
herself. Her performance has a great sense of irony, she makes a great foil
for Marilyn (Although it certainly is obvious that she really likes the
girl), and gets ample oppurtunity to show off her own vocal chops in such
songs as the low-key, showstopping duet "When Love Goes Wrong" and the
somewhat kitschy "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love," sung while she wanders
through a sea of Olympic atheletes wearing nothing but flesh-colored
swimming trunks as they lift weights, etc., and then finishes off with a
dunk in the pool that wasn't planned but was kept in the film upon viewing
the rushes of the sequence. She herself is really great in both. And just
how she manages to do a dead-on impersonation of Marilyn in a hilarious
courtroom scene, then launch into a take-no-prisoners reprise of "Diamonds
Are A Girl's Best Friend" while still keeping her blond wig and hat squarely
on her head, I'll never know.
With such as these to hold out attention, the rest of the film doesn't seem like much, with the usual humdrum romantic plotline, the uninteresting supporting cast, and everything. But it's still a great musical comedy, based on the Broadway show that was in turn based on the famous Anita Loos novel. Howard Hawks' direction, while not as inspired as his "Bringing Up Baby" or "His Girl Friday" work, is lively, the costumes are great, the songs (Those that were retained from Broadway and those added for the film) are all great, and the script, while probably not including much of the wicked satire that the novel is praised for, (Unless I missed it), is funny enough. I should also mention the many classic shots of Marilyn and Jane walking side by side. What a contrast! Marilyn gives it all she's got, and Jane is so low-key about the whole thing she's reviting. What a great team these two ladies were! And, all things considered, what a great movie!
|Page 1 of 12:||          |