Spent most of my July 4th weekend, and actually just most of this week watching long movies. Fortunately, though I’m still working on the Taiwanese epic Yi Yi (2000), the ones that I have finished have been long and worth it. I show a couple of classic films to my siblings, and got to the movie theater once for this week’s blockbuster, Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Top Hat 100% on Rotten Tomatoes 10 (VHS)
Starring Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Eric Blore
Plot Summary-Though American tap dancer sensation, Jerry Travers (Astaire), falls instantly in love with Dale Tremont (Rogers), and she can’t help falling for him, things become very complicated when she mistakenly believes him to the husband of her close friend.
My Take- Astaire and Rogers are charm personified. Whether dancing are feuding, they give the impression that there is no one in the world they’d rather be with. The supporting cast, who are semi-regulars in Astaire and Rogers’ films, are fantastic. Horton as the self-important fool, Eric Blore as the seemingly always insulted servant, and Helen Broderick as the eye-rolling wife. The dance numbers are eternal aided by some of Irving Berlin’s best music. “Cheek to cheek” is pure joy captured in film. The best of Astaire and Rogers.
-Directed by Mark Sandrich, 1935
Grand Prix 100% on Rotten Tomatoes 8 (DVD)
Starring James Garner, Eva Marie Saint, Yves Montand, Francoise Hardy, Brian Bedford, Jessica Walter, Toshiro Mifune
Plot Summary-Follows the lives of four Formula One drivers through the 1966 racing season as they compete to be world champions. There’s Pete Aron (Garner). A stoic, but somewhat reckless American driver who’s blamed for his teammate’s wreck. Sarti (Montand), a Frenchman. The best in the sport, but starting to grow weary of it. He starts an affair with an American journalist (Saint). Scott Stoddard (Bedford), an Englishman recovering from a major wreck and his wife leaving him. And Barlini (Sabato), an arrogant and carefree Italian racer.
My Take-The women, though certainly beautiful, are completely short-changed in this picture. As a result, the surrounding drama around the stunning race sequences do not measure up. Yves Montand’s character is the only one with any real depth. That being said, the racing scenes truly are special. John Frankenheimer is an amazing craftsmen, and the film’s nearly three hour running time flew by thanks to his vision.
-Directed by John Frankenheimer, 1966
The Wind and the Lion 75% on Rotten Tomatoes 7 (DVD)
Starring Sean Connery, Candice Bergen, Brian Keith, John Huston
Plot Summary- An American widow and her two children are kidnapped and held for ransom by a brigand named Raisuli (Connery) in early 20th century Morocco. President Teddy Roosevelt gets involved in saving the widow, just as she begins to form some respect for her captor.
My Take-Okay, so Sean Connery is playing a Muslim leader. Right away, that’s pretty ridiculous. The crazy thing is that, though he makes no discernible effort to be convincing as a Berber, he’s still pretty compelling in this role. My main problem with the film is that at 2 hours (so not a short film), it still felt like it wanted to be much longer. Splitting time between President Roosevelt and Raisuli with the American family didn’t allow enough time with either. I did love the old-fashioned spirit of the movie; soaring score, epic battle scenes, romanticized characters. Overall, it’s a good film.
-Directed by John Milius, 1975
The Secret Life of Pets 74% on Rotten Tomatoes 6 (Netflix)
Voices of Louis C.K, Eric Stonestreet, Jenny Slate, Kevin Hart, Hannibal Burress, Steve Coogan, Lake Bell, Ellie Kemper, Albert Brooks
Plot Summary-Beloved, spoiled dog Max has a rude awakening when his owner brings home, Duke, a monstrous dog that he’s asked to see as his brother. The two don’t get along, and this leads to them being lost in New York City for a crazy ninety minute adventure.
My Take-Animation studio, Illumination, certainly don’t over-exert themselves. On the positive side they consistently deliver movies that are generally pleasing with enough jokes to pass the time and a whole lot of mass appeal. On the other hand, they’re not aspiring for much. The voice work is super solid. The animation is bright and appealing. There’s just nothing special about this movie.
-Directed by Chris Renaud, 2016
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington 94% on Rotten Tomatoes 10 (DVD)
Starring James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Thomas Howard, Claude Rains, Edward Arnold
Plot Summary-After the death of one of the Senators in an unnamed state, it falls to the governor to pick a replacement. But it’s a corrupt state of affairs, and the governor takes orders from Jim Taylor a man who has his hands in everything. They want a dummy in the Senate. Someone who will look pretty and say nothing. They pick Jefferson Smith (Stewart), and the young idealist proves them wrong, taking on all political corruption in the fight if his life.
My Take-Classic Capra combination of ideals mixed with comedy and tears. Wonderful movie. James Stewart is in his best role here, and Jean Arthur is the perfect romantic foil as the cynical, intelligent Saunders. The supporting cast is great from the top down.
-Directed by Frank Capra, 1939