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|32 reviews in total|
In recent years, most Disney films have sacrificed heart and human emotion
for "look, no hands, ma!" animated virtuosity, manic "comedy" performances
by the likes of Robin Williams, and sloshy musical numbers with one eye on a
Best Song Oscar and the other on a #1 Hot 100 chart position.
Thankfully, "Monsters, Inc." rectifies the situation by being smart, witty, and cracking good fun--WITH a heart. Produced in association with Pixar, the visuals are stunning; you are actually tricked into thinking you're watching live action and certain points.
But savvy effects a good film does not make. Enter John Goodman and Billy Crystal, who give voice to the film's unlikely heroes: Sully, a teddy bear-ish, blue-and-purple monster who is the good natured "#1 Scarer" at Monsters, Inc.; and Mike, Sully's wisecracking, one-eyed best buddy and colleague. Goodman and Crystal are pitch-perfect together, making their characters' comfortable, affectionate banter sound easy and natural.
When Sully and Mike's lives are turned upside down by a "child security breach"--Sully accidentally lets a 4-year-old tyke into the monster world--the gags and action never stop. What's most effective, however, is the growing bond between Sully and "Boo," the nickname he gives to the toddler. It is sentimental and sweet without being manipulative or cloying, and offset by Mike's reactionary, seething resentment.
This movie has it all: lovable characters for the kids; witty visual and verbal gags aplenty for the adults; and a rollicking good story for everyone. Plus, the ending ranks among the best I've seen all year: I defy you not to be touched!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
To say that David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive" is one of the quirkier films
2001 would be a masterpiece of understatement. A more imperfect example of
linear storytelling probably cannot be found, yet it remains compelling
fascinating. By the film's end, however, the resolution to the
surreal visions we have witnessed seems contrived and something of a
Beginning with what seems to be a scene from a completely different film (wholesome teenagers doing the jitterbug), "Mulholland Drive" establishes its clarity-be-damned style from the get-go. We are then introduced to a sultry brunette riding in the back seat of a stretch limousine. The ride abruptly ends when the gun-toting chauffeur seems about to perform a "hit"...but those plans are foiled by a head-on collision with joy-riding teens.
Escaping with a nasty gash on her head, the brunette staggers her way to Sunset Blvd., hooks up with perky blonde Betty (an aspiring actress) and attempts to unravel the mystery of her amnesia. Taking the name Rita from a movie poster of Rita Hayworth as "Gilda," the mystery brunette gives us a not-so-subtle clue that she just might be a femme fatale. Along the way, we are treated to a dizzying array of images and seemingly disconnected scenes--all of which make sense once you see the denouement.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!
Although the ending tied up most of the loose ends, that's precisely why it strikes such a false note: for 90% of the film, Lynch creates a world of beautiful, baffling images...to have them tidily explained away is akin to being told there is no Santa Claus. Leaving us dangling would have been deliciously frustrating; instead, the ending left me incredibly dissatisfied.
That aside, the first 2 hours of the film are worth the ticket price. The cast of unknowns is excellent, particularly Naomi Watts, who has a radiant screen presence and the ability to change moods on a dime. She may emerge as an underdog Oscar nominee, an honor she would most definitely deserve.
Laura Harring is sexy beyond belief, although her line readings are stiff and halting; OK, so she's playing an amnesia victim--she still could have injected a little more life into her character. Still, she is undeniably photogenic. Justin Theroux is dry, funny and thoroughly engaging as a likably self-absorped film director whose sudden plunge into a nightmarish dreamscape of strange mobsters, double-crossing wives and philosophical cowboys may or may not be connected to the Betty/Rita plotline.
There are also wonderfully weird cameos by the likes of Ann Miller, Lee Grant, Chad Everett and Billy Ray Cyrus, adding to the carnival-like atmosphere. The haunting score by Angelo Badalamenti (who also cameos as a hypnotic, sinister-yet-sexy performance artist) is complimented by two 60's kitsch classics (Connie Stevens' "16 Reasons" and Linda Scott's "I've Told Every Little Star" never sounded so subversive) and a stunning, a cappella version of "Crying," delivered in Spanish by Rebekah Del Rio. This performance is one of the high points of the film.
"Mulholland Drive" was originally intended as a TV series, along the same lines as the (in)famous "Twin Peaks." It's perhaps a pity that those plans didn't develop; wrapping up all these wonderful twists and turns in a neat, 2 1/2 hour package just doesn't seem fitting.
The title alone conjures up images of So-Bad-it's-Good hilarity, but
this is actually a well-made little thriller; at times, it approaches the
There are actually some chills--minor, to be sure, by today's
standards, but a few scenes really got my pulse racing. And
speaking of setting hearts aflutter, Julia Adams is a raven-haired
beauty who gives Esther Williams more than a run for her money
in the bathing suit department, while Richard Carlson and Richard
Denning display surprisingly lean, fat-free physiques in their own
But, of course, the real star is the Creature. The fantastic makeup
job is quite spectacular, given the time period. Even on land, the
costume maintains its scariness; I particularly like the eerie shots
of the caged Creature staring up from his cell through the bars.
The plot, as such, is ridiculous, of course--but we're thankfully
spared much of the ponderous "scientific explanations" that
hamper other sci-fi B flicks, and damage the very credibility that
such long-winded speeches are (supposedly) meant to establish.
Not too much time is spent pontificating on HOW this creature
came to be, or how he's survived, or why no one's seen him
before--the main goal is to keep from being the next victim of its
The DVD edition comes with a pristine print, a fun "Back at the
Black Lagoon" documentary, and the always-fun theatrical trailers.
Definitely worth a look, and the epitome of 50's fun.
"Family" movies usually make me cringe. Saccharine plots, cloying kiddie
actors, goopy dialogue...no, thank you! But "The Parent Trap" succeeds
admirably as both children-friendly fare and reasonably witty, sophisticated
The high-class production values don't hurt, and neither does the superb cast, right down to the character roles. The ever-dependable Una Merkel is a gem as the smart-talking maid, having lost none of her streetwise timing since her brassy blonde days in the 1930's. Charlie Ruggles is extraordinarily lovable as the grandfather, and Cathleen Nesbitt plays wonderfully against type as the domineering grandmother. Leo G. Carroll once again benefits a film simply by his appearance, and even Nancy "Miss Hathaway" Kulp is on board as a butch camp counselor (quite a stretch).
Of course, at the heart of it all, is the bravura performance of Hayley Mills as twins Susan and Sharon. She's never revoltingly sweet--there's a winning streak of spice in her personality that separates her from all other child stars. Plus, her kicky pre-Beatles British accent and snub-nosed beauty lend her a more worldly air than her contemporaries.
The ravishing Maureen O'Hara, in one of her last major roles as the twins' mother, Maggie, begins the film as a nondescript cipher, but her glamorous metamorphosis in the latter half of the film shows just how funny and sexy she can be. Mitch, the twins' father, is played by the ruggedly handsome Brian Keith, who generates the right mixture of roughneck toughness and paternal warmth.
And the criminally-overlooked Joanna Barnes plays Vicki, the predatory golddigger looking to sink her claws into Mitch. Vicki's verbal duels with Maggie and the twins are surprisingly catty for a children's film, and delivered with perfect villainy.
The very 1961 flourishes are priceless: the hopelessly tone-deaf Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello "singing" the theme song; the "formal" dance, with the girls all decked out in crinolines and laces; Susan plastering her bungalow wall with pictures of her favorite pin up boys (Rick Nelson!); and, my personal favorites, Sharon and Susan showing each other their parents' photos: hyper-posed, glamorous Hollywood 8x10 glossies!
The plot actually plays like a highly sanitized Rock Hudson/Doris Day bedroom farce, except that Susan and Sharon direct the course of action. You know what the ending will be even before you watch the movie, but it doesn't really matter. This is a delicious bon-bon of a flick, as irresistible to adults as to their children.
Madonna in "Shanghai Surprise." The Village People in "Can't Stop the
Music." Pia Zadora in "The Lonely Lady." And, now, Mariah Carey joins the
exalted ranks of Singers Who Should Never Step Onto a Soundstage, with the
Anyone who has seen Ms. Carey's pop music videos might have guessed that her thespian skills are largely confined to throwing her arms up in the air (preferably while on a rollercoaster, or emerging from underwater) and accurately portraying an exhibitionist whose micro miniskirts are an open invitation for the world to be her gynecologist.
That having been said, anyone who expresses outrage at having spent money to see "Glitter" have only themselves to blame. Instead, one should either a) avoid it like the plague, or b) go with a group of scathingly brilliant friends and dish every ludicrous line of dialogue, every inept piece of direction, and every ridiculous costume. In fact, providing that one is in the proper frame of mind, "Glitter" may well be your most enjoyable night out at the movies in many a moon.
...Perhaps not. But for nearly 2 1/2 hours in "Funny Girl," Barbra Streisand
at least makes a convincing case for herself.
Forget about the television airings you've seen. Throw away your old video cassette copy. Instead, see the restored, widescreen, road show version now in limited theatrical release. It is the ONLY way to truly appreciate the talents of Ms. Streisand and, more notably, the film's brilliant director, William Wyler.
Movies today no longer look like movies. The highest compliment one can pay "Funny Girl" is that it is a grand, glorious MOVIE in the truest sense. Wyler's brilliance is never more evident than in his glorious treatment of the "Don't Rain on My Parade" sequence, the stunning camerawork of "The Swan," and the incredibly effective set-up of the "My Man" finale.
Ms. Streisand doesn't really give a performance; she simply is Barbra. Every "Barbra-ism" that we have come to know, love and hate over the years is already crystallized at this point. Her brashness can be off-putting, but by the end of the movie, one is completely won over by the sheer enormity of her talent and presence. Yes, you can see the beginnings of the blind egomania that has marred her performances for the last 20-odd years (to be generous); but you cannot deny her brilliance, either. And to see her extraordinary face in full-screen close up is breathtaking. Kudos to the director, lighting director, and make-up artist for making Streisand appear so wonderful in this.
From the sweepingly orchestrated titles to the high-drama impact of the showstopping finale, this is Entertainment with a capital E. About 20 minutes could have been trimmed, and exactly why Omar Sharif was cast remains a mystery; but at the end of the picture, these quibbles are trivial. Did I laugh? Yes. Did I cry? Yes. Was I thrilled, excited, entertained? You betcha.
This is near-blasphemy, but I would love "Singin' in the Rain" even more
than I do if it were a non-musical, or, more to the point, a musical with
different music. Gene Kelly's talent is incontrovertible, and sequences
as the lengthy "Broadway Rhythm" number underscore his (and Stanley
remarkable vision and talent.
They also hold up this snappy, bright, FUNNY comedy.
Which is not to say that all of the musical portions are not entertaining adjuncts to the film; the "Beautiful Girls" fashion show is hysterically camp, and of course, Kelly's solo "Singin' in the Rain" is charming, romantic and joyous. However, the screenplay is so solid on its own, the lesser moments ("Good Morning," "You Were Meant for Me") seem to drag on forever.
Kelly is movie star handsome here, befitting his role as silent screen lover, Don Lockwood. Donald O'Connor is fine as the ubiquitous funny man sidekick, while Debbie Reynolds displays a nice, sassy touch, especially in her first scene. "Here we are, Sunset and Camden," she trills, having just deflated the ego of one of Hollywood's most notorious wolves. She's a much more interesting romantic foil than most of the colorless ingenues which grace male-dominated musicals.
But the real scene-stealer is the extraordinary Jean Hagen, as shrill-voiced screen queen Lina LaMont. It is such a bravura performance, she simply blows the competition off the screen. Never once does she break character. Her slow burns and takes as she reacts to other characters' comments and actions are almost as funny as her (numerous) quotable lines. "I...can...SEEWWWW." "People?! I ain't PEOPLE! I'm a...'shining, shimmering star in the Hollywood firmament.' See? Sez so, right there!" "I CAN'T make LOVE to a BUSH!" "Gee, this wig weighs a ton! What kinda dope would wear a thing like this?" And, her ultimate manifesto: "We're so thrilled you enjoyed 'The Dancing Cavalier,' our first musi-cale picture, togither. If we bring a little joy inta ya humdrum lives, it makes us feel all our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'."
There are countless comic gems in this film: gossip monger Dora Bailey's breathless account of a movie premiere; Lina's hopeless voice lessons; Lina attempting to "sing"; Don and Lina fighting as they act out a tender, silent movie love scene; and, most famously, the disastrous sneak preview of Don and Lina's first talking picture.
This is one musical that can stand on its own merits as a fine example of Hollywood comedy at its best.
The producers of "Mommie Dearest" clearly took copious notes
from the real-life Crawford canon; traces of everything from
"Mildred Pierce" to "Harriet Craig" to "Strait-Jacket" show up in that
biopic-from-hell, but the film it most closely resembles is the 1955
cult classic, "Queen Bee."
Scenes of an imperious Crawford being served coffee in bed;
destroying a bedroom with a riding crop (wire hanger?); and her
children crying out in the dark are lifted directly from this movie;
and Crawford's stunning appearances in various Jean Louis
gowns--descending a grand staircase, posing in a doorway,
preening in front of a mirror--are a harbinger of the demented
fashion show Faye Dunaway would put on in her Crawford
Like her rival, Bette Davis, Crawford is best-known for villanous
roles like this, although neither she nor Davis often played bitches;
but the times they did, the performances were so over-the-top, it's
what we remember them for. "Queen Bee" is the ultimate
late-period Crawford vehicle; she dominates every scene, even
when she doesn't directly appear in it, and her elegant bitchery is a
marvel to behold. No one, but simply no one, could throw a fur
stole over her shoulder like Joan Crawford, and certainly no one
could top her as an obsessive-compulsive, castrating shrew.
Crawford herself was happier playing heroines (like the "young"
widow of "Female on the Beach," or the brilliant playwright in
"Sudden Fear"), but she clearly was even more compelling in
full-on bitch mode. As cruel, evil and thoughtless as her character
may be, Crawford handles it with such glamour and panache, you
secretly find yourself rooting for her.
I distinctly remember seeing "Muppets Take Manhattan" in the movie theater
when I was 8 years old--following the film, I immediately demanded that my
parents purchase the soundtrack LP (yes, on vinyl!). I loved this movie
then; I love it still.
Actually, it's my favorite among the first three, classic Muppet films; "Muppet Movie" is great but overlong, while "Great Muppet Caper" is terrific, but seems a bit dated now. "Muppets Take Manhattan," on the other hand, never fails to entertain me, still makes me laugh out loud (the purse-snatching scene; Kermit in his Bert Convy 'fro), and even tugs at my heartstrings.
What's particularly nice about this adventure is that it's an affectionate love letter to Hollywood musicals of yore, without being overly parodying. The musical comedy cliches are presented in a matter-of-fact manner; just as we were expected to suspend our disbelief when Ruby Keeler went out onstage a nobody but "came back a star!", we suspend our disbelief to encompass a group of talking animals putting together a big budget Broadway musical in 2 weeks. These kind of hoary plot devices are presented straight-faced, without any self-conscious "winking" or irony.
The songs are all pretty darn terrific; the show-stopping "Together Again" finale is as good as any contemporary musical number of the last 20 years or so, while "It's Time for Saying Goodbye" always puts a lump in my throat: it's sentimental without being maudlin. The finale, "He/She Makes Me Happy" goes from being sweet to comically over-the-top in less than 3 minutes, and it's a joy.
The expected parade of cameos work well within the structure, without being intrusive. My particular favorites are Liza Minnelli's (the whole Sardi's scene is wonderful), Linda Lavin's (another terrific comedy moment: "YOU are Mr. Enrico Tortellini of Passaic, New Jersey!"), and Joan Rivers' (another gem). The Muppet performers are their usual, endearing selves: lovable, warm, likable. The "love triangle" between Kermit, Piggy and the human Jenny plays surprisingly well, and Piggy's jealous reactions are hysterical.
These days, "family entertainment" usually means disgustingly white-washed pap that anyone over 10 or 11 would find either sedating or inane. (Disney's live action "101 Dalmations" and its sequel spring to mind.) The Muppet movies proved that a G-rated film could be intelligent, witty, funny and entertaining for all ages. It's a formula that has yet to be improved upon, and "The Muppets Take Manhattan" just might be the best example of it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"How to Marry a Millionaire" (1953) set the template--get three
beautiful gals, throw 'em together in one impossibly huge
apartment, and let the husband-hunting begin! But dated as
"Millionaire" is today, it benefits from good casting, a reasonably
witty script and solid comic performances. Its direct descendant,
"Three Coins in the Fountain," camped the story up, and began a
whole sub-genre of trashy flicks: Three Gals Lookin' for
You know what you're in for as soon as Frank Sinatra, the studio orchestra, and a chorus of thousands begin blasting the swoony theme song, as the CinemaScope camera pans on countless smoochin' couples all around Rome.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS...The three girls in question are Dorothy McGuire (the sensible spinster), Jean Peters (the working girl), and Maggie McNamara (the perky one). Actually, only Maggie technically qualifies as a "girl," but this is 1954, and all women were "girls," doncha know. The ridiculous plot has each of them meeting their future hubbies in various picturesque settings; the weirdest and creepiest union has to be McGuire and ancient, effete Clifton Webb. That's one honeymoon that I wouldn't want to be privy to.
Considerably more eye-catching are Peters' and McNamara's beaux, the hunky Rosanno Brazzi and impossibly beautiful Louis Jourdan. Actually, these two slabs of Franco-Italo beefcake are better looking than the rather pedestrian female cast, and kinda make you wish that Peters and McNamara had been replaced by, say, John Gavin and Jeffrey Hunter. But I digress--
Anyway, a few melodramatic turns are provided by the fact that Webb is suffering from some Fatal Movie Disease, and Peters and Brazzi become persona non grata at the office they work at because of their lustful union. But all's well that ends well, and like every single women, er, GIRL, wanted in 1954, all three wind up married. This despite the fact that two gals will almost certainly wind up divorcees, and one will be a widow in what looks to be about 6 months at most. But hey--you wanted a happy, marriage-minded, 1954 ending, right?
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