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Christmas in Angel Falls (2017 TV Movie)
4/10
It had potential
7 December 2019
My best friend and I have a saying we use while shopping for clothes. We'll hold up a garment that just missed being cute and say, "This had potential." I know I use that phrase to describe a lot of movies, but bear with me as I say it again: Christmas in Angel Falls had potential.

I absolutely love Beau Bridges and will watch anything he's in, so when I caught him on a Hallmark Christmas movie, I was pretty excited. He plays a guardian angel who mentors another guardian angel, Rachel Boston. Rachel tends to get too involved when she helps people, and Beau stresses the importance of free will. Then, during her next assignment, she gets too involved again and learns what it feels like to fall in love. If this weren't a Hallmark Christmas movie, it probably would have gone a better direction. Without spoiling anything, I'll just remind you that at Hallmark, a Christmas romance is literally the most important thing in the world.

You're going to have to be in a certain mood to pop in this movie and enjoy it. If you're not up for grumpy people getting cured with a nice smile, decades of hurt being healed by tiny apology, and the spirit of Christmas making everyone forget about their serious problems, you'll probably get a cavity from this movie. I've already made an appointment with my dentist. I got my first cavity when the Beau and Rachel's characters were introduced as Michael D'Angelo and Gabby Messenger. Then again, it's Beau Bridges, so you're guaranteed one good part of the movie.
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A Shoe Addict's Christmas (2018 TV Movie)
6/10
Great concept
7 December 2019
I loved the concept of Hallmark's A Shoe Addict's Christmas, but it's not one I'm going to add to my yearly collection. Candace Cameron Bure is such a doll, and every year I watch her in Journey Back to Christmas and Switched for Christmas; it's no stretch to say she was the best part of this movie. She stars as a woman who likes shoes better than Christmas and while decorating in the department store where she works, accidentally gets stuck overnight. Then, Jean Smart pops up as her guardian angel and takes her through the classic past, present, and future-but get this: she does it by having Candace step inside different pairs of shoes that take her to different visions. Pretty cool, huh?

Again, it was a great concept, but it's just not Hallmark's finest. Since I've seen the finest (and everything else in between) I've got the knowledge to be picky. Go ahead and rent this one if you like Candace, it won't hurt you, but don't expect miracles. If that's what you're looking for-yes, pun intended-then check out Journey Back to Christmas.
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7/10
Beautiful songs
7 December 2019
There's no comparison to Laurel and Hardy's March of the Wooden Soldiers, but I do love watching the animated kids' musical Babes in Toyland every year. The songs are really beautiful, and you might recognize a couple of voices! Siblings Jack and Jill come to Toyland to live with their uncle, but he turns out to be Barnaby, the crookedest man in town. Voiced by Christopher Plummer, he gives off some hilarious one-liners that make you want to root for him. He also gets a very funny song describing why he hates Christmas. You've got to hand it to someone who doesn't sing a single note but manages to be so entertaining, you don't even notice he's not singing.

Meanwhile, the toy factory is run by Cathy Cavadini, who's being courted by Raphael Sbarge; they share some beautiful love songs that you'll want to listen to over and over. And in case you recognize the sweet voice of little Jill during her songs, it's Lacey Chabert! You'll also hear Charles Nelson Reilly sing "Toyland" in the beginning as the kids get welcomed to town.

Unfortunately, this movie doesn't end as well as it starts. The first half hour or so is just perfect, but once Christopher Plummer goes to Bogieland, everything goes downhill. It had the potential, given the lyrics to his song, to end a different way. I won't ruin anything for you, but just take the ending with a grain of salt and appreciate the first half of the movie, like I do.

DLM Warning: If you suffer from vertigo or dizzy spells, like my mom does, this movie might not be your friend. There are a couple of scene transitions filmed in canted angles, and that will make you sick. In other words, "Don't Look, Mom!"
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Saving Santa (2013 Video)
8/10
Cute and clever
7 December 2019
Did you know Martin Freeman can sing? However you think of him, as Bilbo in The Hobbit or Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes or Mandy Moore's husband in Swinging with the Finkels, you probably don't associate him with the cute Christmas cartoon, Saving Santa. Check this movie out; it'll be so much better than you think.

Yes, it's a cartoon, but it's not geared towards young kids. There are romantic jokes that will go right over their heads, quick comic timing that they'll most likely tune out, and a plot so fast-paced they'll get confused. This one's for the teenagers or grown-ups in the audience. Martin voices an elf who works in the reindeer stables in the North Pole who's unhappy with his station in life. He's an inventor, but his presentations never go over well with the other elves. When he finds himself the only one who can save Santa from the evil bad guy, voiced by Tim Curry, he enters a very entertaining rabbit hole. It turns out, Santa uses a time machine to deliver all his toys in one night, and in order to stop Tim from finding and stealing the secret, Martin uses the time machine himself!

This is such a fun movie, with tons of layers you wouldn't expect. You'll see the same scenes played over and over again, from different points of view, and with different time-travelled people making a difference. It's very clever, and the musician in me loves when the songs turn into duets with past- and future-versions of Martin! I know you think it'll be silly, but trust me and give it a shot. I've sat through more than my fair share of lousy Christmas movies, and this one isn't lousy at all. It's great from start to finish. I've watched it three years in a row now!

DLM Warning: If you suffer from vertigo or dizzy spells, like my mom does, this movie might not be your friend. In pretty much every scene, the camera either tilts or swirls, and it will make you sick. In other words, "Don't Look, Mom!"
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The Nine Lives of Christmas (2014 TV Movie)
7/10
Pretty cute, and it's got kitties!
6 December 2019
If you're a cat person, check out the Hallmark sweet movie, The Nine Lives of Christmas. If you're a dog person, check out The Search for Santa Paws. My fellow feline lovers will adore this one about cat playing cupid with an unlikely pair. Okay, that's not exactly the premise, but it does happen.

Handsome firefighter Brandon Routh gets adopted by a stray orange marmalade kitty when he wanders into his house and refuses to leave. Brandon doesn't have the ideal lifestyle for a pet, but he can't help himself and the kitty quickly becomes the station's mascot. Meanwhile, Kimberley Sustad is struggling to afford her tuition and keep her job at a pet store, and also to keep her landlord from finding out she has a cat in her apartment. They meet buying cat food, and even though one wants commitment and one doesn't, they just might fall in love. No, it's not the best movie out there, but since there are cats in it, we tend to cut it some slack. And it's Christmas!
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7/10
Warn the kiddies
6 December 2019
As fun as The Search for Santa Paws is to watch every few years, it's certainly not a kids' movie. It's supposed to be, but there's so much in it that will result in tearful children boo-hoo-ing into their hankies. If you're going to watch this with your kids, tell them exactly what happens beforehand so they won't be upset.

Up in Santa's workshop, Santa gets a present of a stuffed dog who comes to life with a magical crystal. The dog becomes Santa Paws, his right-hand-dog in charge of making sure animals have a merry Christmas. In America, a childless couple, Bonnie Summerville and John Ducey, inherit a toy shop, and while they want to sell it, Bill Cobbs warns them that after a season, they might change their minds and stay. Santa Claus and Santa Paws come to the city and accidentally gets hit by a taxi cab and gets amnesia. He and Santa Paws are separated and no one knows where he is or how to get him back to the North Pole. Do you believe this? How many kiddies want to watch Santa get run over by a taxi for Christmas entertainment?

Meanwhile, in a nearby orphanage, a sweet little girl, Kaitlyn Maher finds the little dog and smuggles him in so the other girls can have some enjoyment out of life. In the tradition of orphanages, the headmistress is incredibly mean and likes destroying the kids' toys in the incinerator. You can guess what she might want to the dog if she ever finds it. Again, this is not entertainment for children.

If you're a dog person and want to see a fun musical about Santa and his furry friend getting reunited, check this one out. Just be sure to tell your kids what's going to happen so they stop crying. The songs are pretty cute, and the production values are good, so you won't be gritting your teeth through a "family friendly" flick, like some others out there.

Kiddy Warning: Obviously, you have control over your own children. However, due to upsetting scenes involving children, I'd warn my kids before letting them watch it.
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9/10
Love this one, mature and heartwarming
6 December 2019
Andy Hardy is going to college! If you've never seen any of the Andy Hardy movies, this isn't a good one to start with, for the sole reason that it's a bit different from the other movies. Usually, Mickey Rooney is a goofy teenager, his older sister Cecilia Parker gets into boy trouble, his mother Fay Holden is ditzy and harmless, and his father Lewis Stone fixes everyone's problems. You've got to watch a few movies to get used to the family before checking this one out, and when you do, you'll be in for a wonderful, heartwarming treat. This installment ends at Thanksgiving, so feel free to check this out with your family at the start of the holiday season.

This is a fantastic addition to the Andy Hardy collection. Mickey is more mature as he leaves for college for the first time. If you're sick of seeing him as an open-mouthed lunatic, you'll love seeing the new side of him. Yes, he has to juggle a set of beautiful twins who make him jump through a couple of hoops, but he grows up immensely. The beautiful twins are Lyn and Lee Wilde, and the fact that Mickey is more interested in the mature Bonita Granville shows his own maturity. Bonita is perfectly cast, a former child star herself who shows the audience a new, calm version as well. She's extremely mature and classy without being snobby, and Mickey is given a great role model of how he should behave during college. Can you imagine how silly he could have become with hazing and fraternity games? Instead, he's introduced to Bonita on the train before school starts and we get to see the positive results.

Also on the train is Herbert Marshall, this volume's guest star. He has a bit of a mysterious persona, so rather than ruin his purpose in the movie, I'll simply give this recommendation: If you liked him in Girls' Dormitory, you'll like him in this.

Don't be surprised if you tear up during the classic man-to-man talks; since they're separated across the miles, Lewis Stone and Mickey Rooney give voice overs to their thoughts, imagining what the other would say. This is a great movie showing how a young person goes to college to prove him or herself independent, but then wishes Mom and Dad were there to help. It's scary going out on your own, and in some ways, this doesn't really feel like an Andy Hardy movie at all. It's very solemn, ending in a somewhat cliffhanger, and picking right up the next movie where it left off. WWII interrupted the series a bit, and it's sobering to know that Mickey joined the army and fought for his country after this movie.
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3/10
Silly when it didn't have to be
6 December 2019
Andy Hardy's Private Secretary is just another silly Andy Hardy movie with nothing noteworthy besides introducing Kathryn Grayson to the world of motion pictures. Both she and her onscreen brother Todd Karns enjoyed a screen debut, though neither got an introducing credit in the beginning. Mickey Rooney is up to his usual antics, so if you don't find his goofy teenage persona endearing, you won't like this one.

Since this is the movie that shows Andy's high school graduation, it had the potential to be very poignant and moving. If you're looking for a moving moment with the Hardy family, rent Love Laughs at Andy Hardy instead, after both Mickey Rooney and his onscreen counterpart returned from the war. This one's just silly, with his endless bickering with his longtime sweetie pie, Ann Rutherford, and a very thin plot covering Kathryn's presence. Of course she sings a few songs, but why was she in this movie rather than an actual musical? Then again, why was Lana Turner in Love Finds Andy Hardy before she'd gotten her Hollywood makeover?
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3/10
Cute concept, terrible songs
6 December 2019
The first ten minutes of Journey Back to Oz are really cute. Young Dorothy is shown back on her aunt and uncle's farm as they're preparing for another twister. She's thinking of her old friends back in the land of Oz and how she'd wish she could go back and visit them. She sings a pretty song and then gets to go back! Liza Minnelli does a really good job impersonating her mother, especially when she sings. Margaret Hamilton gives voice to Auntie Em, and the credits promise Mickey Rooney as the scarecrow and Ethel Merman as the evil witch. Then the rest of the movie turns really bad.

I know it's tempting to rent this, but trust me, just watch it until she gets to Oz. I love Ethel Merman even more than the next person, but her songs-and everyone else's for that matter-are terrible, and her stampeding elephant army gets old and irritating fast. Mickey Rooney has a very tiny part, but Milton Berle's Cowardly Lion and Danny Thomas's Tin Man have even smaller parts. It was a very cute concept, but the end result is very disappointing.

DLM warning: If you suffer from vertigo or dizzy spells, like my mom does, this movie might not be your friend. There are several scenes with a bumpy camera, like when Toto chases a cat or anytime the elephants thunder into town, and that will make you sick. In other words, "Don't Look, Mom!"
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7/10
Great special effects
6 December 2019
When you watch a Kenneth Branagh Shakespearian movie, one of the trademarks you'll see is the chance for actors you'd never imagine reciting those lines getting a chance to act in a new genre. I don't know if he got the idea from the 1935 classic, but A Midsummer Night's Dream put together a bunch of Warner Brothers studio actors to prance around and talk in poetry. Can you imagine a non-gangster James Cagney? How about Dick Powell without his dancing shoes? Mickey Rooney, Frank McHugh, and Joe E. Brown? Believe it or not, all those actors were given the opportunity to recite Shakespeare, alongside Olivia de Havilland, Ian Hunter, and Verree Teasdale, Ross Alexander, and Jean Muir.

If you don't know the original story, and you're anything like me, check out a CliffsNotes version so you can understand what's happening. I'd read a comic book for kids and seen the 1999 remake, but if I hadn't, I probably would have gotten lost. Those who aren't used to old movies might find themselves incredibly bored, but I urge them to take a few things into consideration: This was Olivia de Havilland's screen debut, so if it seems like her gestures popped up out of a silent movie, cut her some slack. This is a stylized fantasy; what do you expect her to do? Mickey Rooney, as we know now, was put on all sorts of pills to keep his energy up during his movies when he was a youth. He was told to act like a troublemaking fairy and giggle incessantly, so that's exactly what he did. And finally, keep in mind this movie was made in 1935. There weren't special effects back then, so when you watch the dance of the fairies, and double-exposure, the flying, and the excessive use of glitter, have fun with it! Don't criticize it and think how fake it looks; get involved in the fantasy. There will be plenty of times to zone out, especially during Joe E. Brown's scenes-during which you can compare who's wearing more eye makeup, James Cagney or Olivia-but during the fun parts, appreciate them.
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10/10
A perfect Christmas classic
6 December 2019
Is there anyone who hasn't seen Santa Claus is Comin' to Town? There are other origin stories out there, but there's none more endearing or more classic than the Rankin & Bass stop-action movie from the 1970s. Mickey Rooney voices Kris Kringle, and Fred Astaire narrates the delightful story as a friendly postman delivering letters to Santa. Just between you and me, I didn't know those actors were real people when I was a kid. When I finally saw Fred Astaire in a regular movie, I thought, "Gee, that guy looks like the cartoon!" Keenan Wynn costars as the Winter Warlock, Robie Lester is the love interest, and Paul Frees lends his many talents to several villainous voices.

The story itself is interesting enough, but the voices and the songs are what really make this a Christmas classic. As Fred opens letters and reads them aloud, he answers common questions from children. How did Santa Claus get his name? Why does he come down the chimney? How do reindeer fly? By answering the questions, he tells the story of an orphaned baby discovered by little toymaking elves who live in the snow. Fred's voice is so gentle and soothing, it makes you want to ask him every question you've ever had. You won't get to see him dance in this movie, but the cartoon version of him does a couple of twirls, and he serenades you with the beautiful romantic song, "What Better Way to Tell You." That song is one of the reasons I love the snow and flocked Christmas trees so much!

Mickey Rooney, whose husky, cheerful voice truly personifies Santa, is so perfect, you'll think twice before naming Edmund Gwenn as your favorite Santa. For me, Mickey, Teddy, and Jim Broadbent are in a three-way tie. When Mickey looks over his list and chuckles, "I guess they've all been pretty good," it's like you're eavesdropping at the North Pole. He's funny and sweet, with a really good heart and enough backbone to break the rules if it means a sick kid can hug a toy on Christmas morning.

Chances are you've seen this movie when you were a kid, but if it's been a few years since you've seen it, rent it again this holiday season. If you can't sing "Be Prepared to Pay" or "Put One Foot in Front of the Other" at the drop of a hat, it's been too long. This is such a delightful movie, and the good news is there's a sequel so you can hear Mickey Rooney voicing Santa again! There's no more Fred in The Year Without a Santa Claus but there is the best Mrs. Claus voice ever: Shirley Booth!
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3/10
Not very compelling
26 November 2019
A bunch of convicts are given a government pardon and sent into the US army to complete a dangerous mission in the thick of WWII. Stewart Granger is in command, and he has no patience for the ruffians' behavior. He'd rather be in charge of a better bunch, and with such a dangerous mission, he can only hope everyone pulls together and serves their country. Raf Vallone, Mickey Rooney, Henry Silva, Edd Byrnes, and Peter Coe are the convicts, and as they're sent to Italy, they meet up with Mia Massini, a widow with a newborn baby.

I've seen lots of 1960s WWII movies, and this one wasn't really that great. There's a fair amount of suspense and violence, but it's just not particularly compelling. None of the characters are very likable, and when you're dealing with a group of people who have nothing to lose, it's better if the audience hopes they don't lose it. Unless you really love the cast, you might want to try something else, or better yet, a WWII movie that was made at the time. Those are the best, since they were made with the frightening feeling of uncertainty. Check out They Were Expendable for a movie about people in a hopeless situation.
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3/10
Not very good quality
25 November 2019
Ah, yes, another film about a mysterious stranger who comes into town with an ulterior motive, and everyone he meets makes him feel unwelcome and tries to cover up a big secret. If you like those movies, you might have heard of Platinum High School, starring Mickey Rooney and Dan Duryea. Mickey is the unwelcome stranger, and he comes to a private military high school to find out what happened to his son. Elisha Cook, Jr., a diner owner, Dan Duryea, the head of the school, and a bunch of cadets try to get Mickey to leave, but he's determined to get to the bottom of things.

The first part of the movie is entertaining, as these movies tend to be, but it gets pretty silly as time wears on. For example, Yvette Mimieux prances around in an extremely skimpy bikinis, while surrounded by love-starved cadets, and her only protector is her deaf-mute father. Terry Moore is Dan Duryea's secretary, and while it makes sense that they're having an affair, it doesn't make sense that she suddenly switches teams and completely joins Mickey's side. Poor Mickey tries to give a good performance, but it's such a silly script, it's hard to take anyone seriously. At least you get to see Dan looking handsome in a uniform, but really, girls, if that's all this movie has going for it, just pick another of his movies.
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7/10
Fun for the whole family
25 November 2019
What a fun premise! And what a great movie to take your kids to over Christmas break. If you missed it in 2006, or your kids weren't born yet, you can still rent it and stick your kids in front of the digital babysitter when they're on school vacation. Be careful, though, you'll probably wind up sitting through the whole movie with them.

Ben Stiller stars as a man who takes a job as a night watchman for the Museum of Natural History. You'll love the beginning when he gets the job, since he's welcomed in by three old-timers, Dick Van Dyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs, who show him around and warn him to keep on his toes. Just when he thought he was in for a boring, easy job, he finds out the secret to the museum: everything comes to life at night! With a hilarious host of cameos, you'll get to see the different historical displays burst with life and interact with someone from today's world. Robin Williams is Teddy Roosevelt, Owen Wilson is a cowboy from the Wild West, Steve Coogan is a Roman emperor, and a pre-discovered Rami Malek is an Egyptian pharaoh. You'll see cavemen, Pocahontas, Attila the Hun, and Vikings, as well as countless wild animals and skeletons that come to life.

This is a really fun flick, so make sure you rent it with the whole family. Grandparents will like seeing the old-timers, parents will appreciate the historical replicas, and the kids will only have eyes for the animals. They've made a couple of sequels, but I haven't rented them yet.
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3/10
Very silly
25 November 2019
Before you think Babes on Broadway is a sequel to Babes in Arms, know that it isn't. Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland star, and Busby Berkeley directs, but one hasn't anything to do with the other. Mickey is one of a trio in a small-time song and dance act, alongside Ray McDonald and Richard Quine, and they get discovered by famous Broadway producer Fay Bainter. Fay gets the idea of putting on a show with hopes that the crusty theater owner James Gleason will like it and help put it up on Broadway.

It's pretty silly, though not as silly as Babes in Arms, and masquerades as a movie when it's really a glorified talent show of children, with Richard Hall playing a piano concerto, Margaret O'Brien delivering, "Please don't send my brother to the chair!" after her mother hoists her on top of James Gleason's desk, and Ray McDonald tap dancing. It does know it's silly, and almost makes fun of itself. "Here we are, almost as if we planned it," Mickey and Judy grin awkwardly as they sit together at a piano bench before Judy breaks into "How About You?" As scene change music, the same Schubert theme used in The Wizard of Oz is played. Don't watch this movie as a how-to of getting your show on Broadway. Dress rehearsals are performed before fundraising and final cast lists. Costume changes take five seconds, and producers will actually drop everything and watch a bunch of kids sing lousy songs. Just like the unrelated 1939 flick, the movie ends with a gigantic production number in blackface, and you'll also see Mickey crossdressing and giving a Carmen Miranda impersonation. If you know anything about his personal life, you might remember the story that he met his future first wife Ava Gardner on the MGM lot while dressed in that particular costume.

Keep your eyes peeled for a young, pre-discovered Donna Reed. You'll recognize her; you'll see a beautiful young woman as Fay's secretary, and you'll think to yourself, "She looks like Donna Reed!" You'll also see Donald Meek as a backer on Mickey's side, Virginia Weidler, and Sidney Miller as part of the cast of the children's show.

The only part of the film that's not ridiculously silly or cringeworthy is when Judy Garland sings "Chin Up, Cheerio, Carry On," to a group of visiting English children. As the rousing song inspires the troops to our neighbors across the pond-this movie was released in December 1941-and to the Americans who were enlisting or getting ready to, the English children are shown with tears streaming down their faces. It was a chilling reminder that although the children were having fun singing and dancing, the adults had to fight an extremely scary war.

One fun part of the movie is seeing Mickey perform "Yankee Doodle Dandy" as George M. Cohan. James Cagney played the full biopic the following year, but since both had famously infectious and intense energy, it's cute. I hope Mickey wasn't disappointed he didn't get the bigger part in 1942. If you want to see that one minute without sitting through the other two hours, check out the clip on YouTube.

DLM Warning: If you suffer from vertigo or dizzy spells, like my mom does, this movie might not be your friend. This is a Busby Berkeley movie, and in the final production number there are a couple of spinning camera movements that will make you sick. In other words, "Don't Look, Mom!"
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The Muppets (2011)
10/10
Pretty much perfect
25 November 2019
It's easy to call old movies classic, but once in a while a modern movie comes along that's practically perfect in every way. Whether you've been an ardent Muppet fan since their first days on television, you only watch them at Christmastime when they frolic with Michael Caine, or you've never seen them but the name seems vaguely familiar, you'll love this movie. It's exquisitely charming and manages to make even the most grown-up adult in the audience believe that the little critters are real and human. It introduces the beloved puppets to a new generation in a beautiful premise: in this movie, the Muppets are scattered across the world, estranged and lonely, believing their television audiences have all forgotten them.

Two brothers, one a man and one a Muppet, grow up inseparable and completely enjoying each other's company. The human brother, Jason Segel, has a longtime sweetheart, Amy Adams, but because he's so happy with his Muppet brother, voiced by Peter Linz, he doesn't even think about proposing marriage. Instead, his idea of a romantic getaway is to bundle everyone into the car and take his brother on a tour of the Muppet Studios in Hollywood. Once there, they go on a quest to reunite the Muppets and bring them back to television.

The songs in The Muppets are so cute! You'd think nothing would be able to hold a candle to "The Rainbow Connection," but these are really adorable. Amy Adams gets to have a "Me Party" when Jason stands her up for their date. The entire town joins in the first number as Jason and his Muppet brother skip through the streets and teach the audience, "Life's a happy song when there's someone by your side to sing along." Chris Cooper, the melodramatic villain, gets to rap his way through a follow-the-bouncing-ball song. I can only imagine how much fun he had filming his scenes; he's so drippingly silly and overdramatic, it's hilarious!

As is the fare for Muppet flicks, you'll see a host of cameos. A bored Alan Arkin leads the tour of the Muppet Studios, Rashida Jones is the harsh television executive who tells the Muppets they're not relevant to kids today, and Emily Blunt is a rude secretary. You'll see Whoopi Goldberg, Jack Black, Neil Patrick Harris, Judd Hirsch, Sarah Silverman, James Carville, Kristen Schaal, Ken Jeong, Donald Glover, Selena Gomez, Rico Rodriguez, Jim Parsons, John Krasinski, Zach Galifianakis, and in the cutest cameo of all, Mickey Rooney. You'll only see him for a few seconds, but those few seconds will warm your heart.

You've got to rent this movie, even if you were avoiding it during its release because you thought it would be too silly. It's incredibly silly, but that's part of the fun. Kermit the Frog refuses to start a Muppet reunion, and Amy Adams deadpans, "Wow, this is gonna be a really short movie." The bad guys describe their evil plan, and one of them quips that it sounded like an important plot point and that audiences should pay attention. Little gags, involving the audience, make the film even more endearing. Once you're a part of the jokes, you're invested in the plot, and you're guaranteed to like the rest of the movie! Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller have created a charming, clever, sweet script that manages to make audiences double over in laughter and also dab their eyes. Trust me; you've got to rent this movie.
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10/10
My favorite Andy Hardy movie
25 November 2019
The Courtship of Andy Hardy might be my absolute favorite in the entire Andy Hardy series. It's not silly, but instead offers serious lessons to the audience as Judge Hardy tries to do good both in the courtroom and within the entire town. In this one, Lewis Stone asks his son Mickey Rooney to date young Donna Reed to give her some happiness while her parents are involved in a difficult divorce case, but as you might suspect-because Andy Hardy is hormone-crazed and because Donna is very beautiful-what starts out as a fake romance turns into real feelings. At the end of their first date, during which Mickey has to literally pay other fellas to dance with her, she tells him how wonderful a time she's had. Her face lights up, she smiles, she looks like Kiera Knightley, and you can actually see Mickey fall in love with her in the seconds before he kisses her.

Meanwhile, Marian-aka Cecilia Parker-returns from New York sophisticated and modern, and she shocks her family with her new makeup and clothing. She wears a nightgown as a dress, and everyone gives their own little quips as to how improper it is. The judge says it's "dizzy", Mama Hardy claims she thought her daughter was only joking, Aunt Millie quotes philosophy, and Andy rattles off everything from "Is that your stomach staring at me?" to "I can see right through you, old girl." Yes, she has her hair dolled up and quotes the got-it-flaunt-it mantra, but doesn't anyone remember her party dress five years earlier in You're Only Young Once? It was a very revealing, practically see-through number, and Lewis Stone told her she looked beautiful. Their revenge is hilarious: when Marian's fancy gentleman caller comes to dinner, everyone dresses in their nightclothes. "Hot diggity dog!" Fay Holden grins after rattling off a slew of modern slang.

The theme of this movie seems to be the generational clash, and during one of their man-to-man talks, Mickey and Lewis compare slang. "You can say that again," Mickey mutters, and immediately Lewis bristles. "Why should I say it again? I just said it!" The clash within the Hardy family reflects the clash between Donna's parents, and anyone else in the audience whose home might be or about to become broken. Rather than being outwardly comical, The Courtship of Andy Hardy is witty and clever, with somber lessons and wise words from Judge Hardy. Plus, it introduces Donna Reed to Hollywood audiences! If you've never seen an Andy Hardy movie, you'll love this one-but it'll probably spoil you for the rest of them.
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Stablemates (1938)
2/10
Doesn't translate to modern standards
24 November 2019
If you're a Wallace Beery fan, chances are you've seen him in quite a few movies where his grizzly exterior gets softened by an endearing little kid. If you want to see him get softened up by Mickey Rooney, check out Stablemates. Stablemates is one of the precursors to how cute it was when Mickey Rooney acted in National Velvet and later in The Black Stallion. This is the second flick in which he loves horses and ends up being a jockey. If you like him in this one, next up, rent Thoroughbreds Don't Cry.

Mickey starts off as a mere stableboy who loves an injured horse. To save the horse's life, he buys him from the owner with all his savings, and he recruits the crusty, alcoholic Wallace Beery to operate and save the horse's leg and life. Wallace isn't very good at hiding his past, and it turns out he used to be a great veterinarian until a horse took a fatal fall and sent him into hiding. Their relationship is a little creepy by modern standards, with a teenaged Mickey Rooney glomming onto a total stranger and suggesting they adopt each other and live together as father and son. Yes, they bonded over Mickey's injured horse, but their instant, goofy affection for one another doesn't translate in today's world. As the movie progresses, they do bond and you can't help but root for their friendship. Just as you're talking yourself into it, Wallace has to ruin it by saying tearfully as they're about to be parted, "I guess it would seem kinda sissy, wouldn't it, for two grown men like us to kiss?" Mickey, equally as sniffly, says if they kiss on the cheek it would be alright.

The best part of the movie is when Margaret Hamilton comes in as a love interest for Wallace Beery. She's a no-nonsense dame on a farm who appreciates his hard work. Can't imagine either of them in a romance? You might want to check this out, but don't expect to like the rest of it.
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3/10
Not the best one to start with
24 November 2019
Judge Hardy and Son is a weird juxtaposition of extremely sad and extremely silly. Mickey Rooney is up to his old tricks, looking out for a quick buck and an easy girl. He chases every girl in town, only sobering up when there's a crisis at home. It's about time someone in the Hardy family got sick, isn't it? Mama Hardy's number gets called, and Fay Holden becomes bedridden with pneumonia. Henry Hull guest stars as the family doctor, and he's very comforting and sympathetic to the family.

Lewis Stone gets a chance to show off his acting chops in a different way. He's already shown audiences he can be a family man, a devoted husband, and a wise, patient father, but now he faces losing the most important person in his life. If you've seen him in The Girl from Missouri, when he's so distraught over financial ruin he commits suicide, you know how depressed he can get.

This volume isn't that great, since it's either too silly or too worrisome. At the time, I'm sure it was a nail biter whether Mama Hardy would come out of it or not, but since modern audiences know there were seven more movies in the series, it's not very suspenseful. I'd check out a different one if you're new to the series.
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9/10
A very fitting and emotional end
24 November 2019
Love Laughs at Andy Hardy has a silly sounding title, but it's an extremely important movie, and for many reasons. It was the first movie Mickey Rooney made after returning home from his time in the army, the last Andy Hardy movie for twelve years, and the last movie to include Lewis Stone. In the final movie of the series, Lewis had already passed away, and it's rather sad to see the family without him. For all intents and purposes, this one is the last in the series, since the series started out centered on the judge and how he fixes his family's problems.

The movie starts with Lewis Stone and Fay Holden preparing for Mickey's return to the house. He's sent a telegram that his military service is over, but Fay doesn't understand the wording and worries that he's eloped. Lewis has to calm her down, but Fay doesn't stop worrying throughout the movie. After all, he's her little boy, and he's made it home safe and sound from the army! Mickey's been given a wonderful welcome back scene, both to his onscreen family and to the people in the audience. It's very touching, and everyone's very emotional, perhaps realizing that there was always the possibility that Mickey Rooney would sacrifice himself for his country and this movie would never have been made.

Upon his return home from the army, Mickey is a little distracted. He's not his usual hormone-crazed teenager, and much to Fay's dismay, he's been seen looking at bassinets and wedding tuxedos in shop windows. Turns out, he's fallen in love with Bonita Granville from college-whom you might remember from the previous movie-and is hoping to propose marriage now that he's back from the war. She might not reciprocate his feelings, and not every war hero has a woman waiting for him with open arms. Love may laugh at Andy Hardy, but nobody else will. This is a very serious volume of the Andy Hardy series, and a very fitting end to all fourteen consecutive stories. You can rent the very final one if you want to, but I'm happy with this one.
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Lord Jeff (1938)
5/10
Not the best boys' school movie
24 November 2019
If you don't want to see Freddie Bartholomew as a bad guy, stay away from Lord Jeff. He plays a small-time grifter who gets sent to the merchant marines to reform his character. He's snobby and insulting, and has a bad attitude. I prefer him when he's sweeter, but I stuck with this movie for the supporting cast.

In the batch of boys arriving with Freddie to the merchant marine training school are Terry Kilburn and a very young Peter Lawford in his second movie! Terry has the cutest character in the movie, with a missing tooth (before it gets fixed, a Cockney accent, and a hopelessly optimistic and loyal personality. Mickey Rooney also takes on an accent-Irish-as he's the experienced student who helps show everyone the ropes. Charles Coburn is the no-nonsense head of the school, and Herbert Mundin is his second-in-command. Keep an eye out for Monty Woolley and Gale Sondergaard, but don't expect too much from anyone. No one's really given very much to do, and besides Terry, no one really succeeds in making the audience like him. You're better off with Boys Town or A Yank at Eton.
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2/10
Unlikable characters
19 November 2019
The main problem with The Bold and the Brave is that the main character isn't likable. Don Taylor, whom you probably know as Buckley in Father of the Bride, stars as a righteous, pious soldier stationed in Italy. The other featured soldiers are Wendell Corey and Mickey Rooney, but when they get together to play a prank on their pal, it gets out of hand. They pay an Italian prostitute, Nicole Maurey, to act innocent and seduce Don.

There are some steamy scenes between the two, but since there are other 1950s movies that also have steamy scenes, you don't have to rent this one. It's not that great of a war movie, and the characters aren't compelling. Mickey is obsessed with gambling, chasing women, and talking big to impress Wendell, whom he thinks is a top dog. Wendell isn't really a top dog, and inconsistently disrespects then defends Nicole. Don is the worst of all. He's rude, stubborn, and righteous, and when he finds out he's been betrayed, he's unforgivably unforgiving. I'm not sure if he's supposed to be a sympathetic character or not, but since he's the lead, it's not very much fun to watch him when he never redeems himself.
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8/10
Such a cute flick
19 November 2019
If you're considering skipping A Yank at Eton, don't. It's extremely cute, and amidst the turmoil of the United States entering WWII, it came out at the perfect time. Providing a united front with our brothers across the pond, it shows that cultural differences don't matter, as long as we become friends in the end.

Mickey Rooney's mother marries the English Ian Hunter, and right in the middle of his high school heyday on the football field, Mickey and his sister are yanked-no pun intended-out of their world and forced to live in England with their new stepfather. Mickey has to go to Eton, and he doesn't like it. He doesn't appreciate the strings Ian had to pull to get him enrolled, and he doesn't appreciate the amount of rules headmaster Edmund Gwenn insists he abide by. In America, Mickey was the top dog, but at Eton, he's an underling who has a curfew, shares a room, and has to do little errands for upperclassmen, no questions asked. If you recognize one of the upperclassmen with the distinctive accent, you'll see the very young face of Peter Lawford!

Six years earlier, Mickey Rooney and Freddie Bartholomew starred in The Devil Is a Sissy together. Freddie played the newbie who didn't fit in, and Mickey was older and wiser who befriended him. Now in A Yank at Eton, Mickey is the newbie who doesn't fit in, and an older, taller, lower-voiced Freddie plays a student who tries to help him adjust. It's really too bad that Freddie's career petered out, since when he grew up, there was nothing wrong with his talent.

As much as Freddie threatens to steal the show, as much as Mickey threatens to steal the show, and as much as Edmund Gwenn threatens to steal the show, it's little Raymond Severn who succeeds. You might not know his name, but you'll recognize those big eyes on him and his seven siblings who acted in movies in the 1940s. He's an absolute doll. He idolizes Mickey Rooney, standing by him when no one else does, and his positive attitude just can't be doused. He gets bossed around by the upperclassmen and teased, and he takes it all with a smile. When he tries to catch on to American slang, it's too cute for words.

The end gets a bit silly, but keep in mind when it was made. The overwhelming theme of the movie is camaraderie, and the Americans and the English needed to become fast friends to fight the Germans. Rent this cute movie. If you like classic boys' school stories and would prefer one on the lighter side, you'll love it.
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The Strip (1951)
7/10
The many talents of Mickey Rooney
19 November 2019
At first, The Strip seems like an ordinary mid-fifties mystery, and while technically it is, there are a few elements in it that make it stand out from the rest of the pack. The song "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" was introduced in this movie, and you'll get to hear it sung three times. First, William Demarest and Mickey Rooney sing it at the piano, then Kay Brown uses it as an audition piece, and finally Louis Armstrong performs it at a nightclub. If you like that song, you'll be pretty happy.

Next up is Mickey Rooney, who not only gives a good acting performance, but also gets to show off his impressive drum skills. If you missed Strike Up the Band, you'll get to see him drumming himself into even more of a frenzy in this one. Mickey stars as a guy who gets pushed around and falls into a bad situation because he's chasing the wrong girl. He falls for Sally Forrest, an aspiring entertainer, but as she strings Mickey along, she also makes eyes at his boss, the powerful and dangerous James Craig. Sally gets a couple of killer dance numbers to show off her talent, appeal, and figure. If you like Lee Remick, you'll think Sally is a doll. It's no wonder she gets both Mickey and James crazy about her! Poor Mickey, Sally prefers James because she thinks he'll help her break into show business. When she breaks a date with Mickey for James, Mickey wears a wonderful expression on his face as he says, "I don't like that." You can see the defeat in his eyes, as if he already knows it's a lost cause. He's trying to come across as authoritative and possessive in a macho way, but he knows it's only coming across as pathetic and out-of-control. It's a nondescript line and a very brief scene, but he makes it memorable.

You might think this is just a thin plot stringing together a bunch of song and dance numbers, but give it a chance. If you've never seen Mickey Rooney as an adult, you'll be very pleasantly surprised at what he can do when he doesn't have manic energy. Next up, rent Killer McCoy to see him pull out all the stops! And if you watch this movie and root for James Craig to get the girl, rent Lost Angel to see him in a really cute role.
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6/10
"Let's put on a show!"
19 November 2019
It's another "let's put on a show!" movies starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland! I saw Strike Up the Band before Babes in Arms, and while I thought it was silly at the time, compared to the earlier flick, it's as epic as Gone With the Wind.

Mickey takes the lead as a high school student far more interested in his drum set than preparing to become a lawyer to fulfill his mother's dream. Judy's in love with him, but he doesn't care about girls, only music. A lowerclassman, Larry Nunn, is in love with Judy, and when June Preisser shows up batting her eyelashes at Mickey, it stars an extremely uninteresting love quadrangle. Mickey isn't really interested in June; he's just getting into the show's rehearsals. Judy isn't interested in Larry, even though he's clearly the better choice. Larry proposes marriage and promises to never go out with other girls, the same evening that Mickey's stood Judy up to go out with June. Larry's only thirteen and offers to wait until she's ready, and when she turns him down, it's heartbreaking to see his face. Why doesn't she just tell him to wait? By the time she's gotten Mickey out of her system, Larry will probably have grown up and gotten over his crush. No heartbreak necessary. Plus, compared to the disinterested, unreliable, pushover Mickey, Larry's a dream!

If you're going to watch this one, it's either because you love the silly Mickey-Judy movies or because you want to see another Busby Berkeley musical. Busby Berkeley movies have such a special feeling to them, that even though they're dated and the music isn't always great, you're going to see someone who put a lot of thought into his craft instead of just "Let's put on a show!" like the people in his movies. You'll get to see his classic angles and beautifully framed shots, but you might not like the rest of the movie. Both leads are in their super-hyper phases, and since we know what we know about how old Hollywood fed the kids drugs to give them pep, it's not really too much fun to see them bouncing off the walls. "Who's been feeding you vitamins?" Judy jokes when Mickey approaches her with particularly intense energy. It's just not funny to hear her say that, since everyone knows they weren't really vitamins. There's just so much energy a person can put into the conga line before someone notices he's not really normal.
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