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My Friend Irma (1949)
Overlong and predictable but harmless
Considered a vehicle for comedienne Marie Wilson at the time, "My Friend Irma" is mostly remembered today as the movie that launched the film careers of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Martin sings a couple of songs pleasingly, while Lewis introduces his idiotic overgrown-child persona; I found his antics singularly unfunny, but it's a matter of taste. Diana Lynn is beautiful and believable and grounds the film with genuine emotions; Wilson is eager but she cannot quite compare to Gracie Allen; and John Lund says "chicken" about a hundred times. It's all quite harmless, but overlong at 98 minutes. **1/2 out of 4.
The Show of Shows (1929)
For dedicated film buffs only
"Show Of Shows" is one of those films that separate the men from the boys, so to speak. The casual viewers will probably abandon it within the first 5 minutes, leaving the hardcore buffs trying to spot some recognizable faces (just because these people were stars in 1929 does not automatically mean that they all had much of a film career later, even in the 1930s). To be fair, some of the formations in the gigantic dance numbers are architecturally stunning, a color sequence with a young Myrna Loy livens things up a little, and the film ends with about ten minutes of mighty impressive (and frenetic) dancing. But most of the comedy does not come across, most of the singing is indecipherable (perhaps due to the primitive 1929 sound technology), and some parts (especially the monologues) are simply unendurable. Still, I'm glad the film survives - it's history preserved. ** out of 4.
Palmy Days (1931)
The first 15 minutes are fantastic
"Palmy Days" opens with a teasing, sexy music number set at an ideal bakery where all the employees are young, beautiful, athletic and barely dressed women! It's as pre-code as it gets (the song is called "Bend down, sister" - and they sure do!), and Busby Berkeley's magical, psychedelic choreography is magnificent. This is followed by a hilarious comic segment with Eddie Cantor as a fake medium's assistant, messing up a seance. At this point, I was already prepared to declare "Palmy Days" better than "Whoopee!", Cantor's previous (and first) movie vehicle. But the rest of the movie does not stay on that level. This time, Cantor's comedy misses about as often as it hits, like in his terrible blackface routine or his "quacking" (which should have been a single-scene gag). Fortunately, there is another great, crazy Berkeley number near the end. Charlotte Greenwood is an energetic and physical partner for Cantor, and the largely unknown Barbara Weeks is about as beautiful as any other famous actress of her day. **1/2 out of 4.
Lightning Strikes Twice (1934)
Static and unfunny
Unfunny and unsuspenseful, this comedy-mystery is an almost total dud. The "plot" is based on such a stupid misunderstanding that it could be resolved in about 5 seconds (and eventually does in as much). It has an unusually high-profile cast for such a quickie, low-budget production, but the only part maybe worth seeing is Pert Kelton's "fan dance"; Thelma Todd is wasted in a straight role. *1/2 out of 4.
Auspicious debuts for Busby Berkeley and Eddie Cantor
"Whoopee!" was the first film that Busby Berkeley did the choreography for; he would later surpass his work here, but his innovative, synchronized numbers are an indication of things to come. It was also the feature-length talkie screen debut for Eddie Cantor; one way to advertise him would be "all 4 Marx Brothers rolled into 1"! He has energy to spare. Of course his jokes often miss - but what comedian can claim a 100%, or anything close to it, success rate? His "recital" of "Making Whoopee" and "A Girlfriend of a Boyfriend of Mine" is inimitable. The film is loaded with sexual innuendo (some of it blatantly homoerotic) and hip (then) pop references (from Al Jolson to Ronald Colman); it's overlong, set-bound and dated in some aspects, but there is a lot to enjoy here. *** out of 4.
Lights of New York (1928)
A cinematic milestone; slow but watchable
This movie has an important place in the history of cinema (the first all-talkie, although it still carries over a trademark of the silent era: the title cards), but when you get past the novelty value it doesn't really have much artistic value. And even though it runs under an hour, it moves like molasses. But it's still watchable. Some of the actors were clearly not destined for a long career in the talkies (Eugene Palette is the only one you might recognize, especially if you are a Philo Vance fan), but actually Helene Costello and Wheeler Oakman are not bad at all - Oakman even manages a wry delivery with some of his lines, like "cops are my best friends!". **1/2 out of 4.,
WWE Night of Champions (2009)
It probably looked better on paper than it played out
The one thing that stands out in "Night Of Champions 2009" is the Philadelphia crowd. Seemingly indifferent to many of the matches, and in those they do get into, their reactions are so mixed that it's hard to tell the faces from the heels. Perhaps the only match that has a clear audience favorite is Rey Mysterio vs. Dolph Ziggler. Now, the other reviewers have gone into extensive detail about each match, so I won't bore you with that. I will say that the Triple Threat for the WWE title does not quite live up to its own hype, and although it might seem strange that they put Jeff Hardy vs. CM Punk as the main event, it actually is the better match of the two. Melina and Michelle McCool put in a decent little bout, but Mickie James fails to carry Maryse in their encounter and the result is embarrassing. And of course it goes without saying that there is nothing "E" about the ECW title match.
Jewel Robbery (1932)
Deliciously amoral and thoroughly pre-code
Liberal drug use, infidelity out in the open, and the life of a career jewel robber romanticized and celebrated: yes, we're firmly in pre-code territory here folks. The film is frank, sophisticated and deliciously amoral. Suave William Powell and chic-but-naughty Kay Francis are perfectly cast (in one of their many screen pairings). My favorite line: "Tonight is not the night to give you a name, but to forget mine". *** out of 4.
Follow Thru (1930)
Worth seeing for color and "I Wanna Be Bad"
The soft, dreamy early Technicolor (Nancy Carroll has the rosiest cheeks!), as well as some overhead camera angles at the golf course, make "Follow Thru" look like a more recent film than it is, and starting at the 54th minute there is a bizarre musical extravaganza, "I Wanna Be Bad", which, while no threat to Busby Berkeley, is quite imaginative. But the film goes on for 93 minutes although it has no story, and Jack Haley's comic shtick is dismally unfunny. **1/2 out of 4.
Madame Racketeer (1932)
A star vehicle if there ever was one
Alison Skipworth is chiefly remembered today as W.C.Fields' equal sidekick in a couple of comedies they made together, so "Madame Racketeer" offers a rare chance to see her as the sole comic force of a film. She has presence and personality to spare, and the role of a habitual con woman with a heart of gold is perfect for her, but the plot is thin and the writing is lackluster; I only counted one great line, which is "many a famous chambermaid began as an unknown actress!". There is also one great car/train stunt, which may have been lifted from somewhere else. **1/2 out of 4.