Starring Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Peter Lawford, Ann Miller
Two song and dance greats, Astaire and Garland, pair together and make an entertaining if not quite essential film musical. Astaire plays Don Hewes, a successful performer part of a winning duo with Nadine Hale (Miller), his dance partner and romantic flame. The two fall apart, however, when he discovers she’s in love with his best friend, and he vows he can take any girl to replace her, and be as successful, part of a pygmalion type wager he makes while drunk. As part of his bet, he takes on Hannah Brown (Garland), a dancer at some local dive. The Hewes-Brown partnership doesn’t take off until he lets her be herself instead of trying to emulate Nadine. The conflict and antagonism between Astaire and Garland’s character is tame to the point of being non-existent. I would have preferred some more push and pull before they end up together inevitably. Set just in New York just a few years before the first World War, the period costumes set design, along with the sparkling technicolor are spectacular. The songs and dance numbers, while being middle of the pack for Astaire and Garland and Irving Berlin (who wrote the music), are still head and shoulders above most musical numbers. And the age difference between the two stars doesn’t detract as much as it would under different circumstances, as she’s playing basically the lovestruck pupil.
Starring Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Bernie Mac, John Ritter, Lauren Graham
Darkly hilarious Christmas story about two thieves who pose as a mall Santa/elf team in order to survey and ultimately rob the store. Billy Bob Thornton plays Willie, the self-destructive Santa half of the team, who finds himself having a change of heart after spending time with portly child loser, Thurman Merman (his name alone brings me joy). The actors are very good here, the comedy not only gets laughs, but gets under your skin making each scene memorable. Considering that the premise could have easily yielded a one-joke comedy with a few easy laughs, kudos to those involved for making a bona fide cult classic.
Starring Gunn Wållgren, Jarle Kulle, Mona Malm, Ewa Fröling, Jan Malmsjö, Allan Edwall, Stina Ekblad, Lena Olin
It seems a weird thought that this film, one that runs over five hours, should be the legendary Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman’s, most accessible, but I think it is. One of the few major works he did in color, Bergman’s epic slowly develops an odd ghost story in the midst of a young boy, Alexander’s, painful coming of age tale. After Alexander’s father dies, his mother remarries a Bishop, who gradually reveals himself to be a sadistic bully and hypocrite. Ultimately, Alexander goes to supernatural lengths to free himself and his family from the Bishop’s reach. Every single actor from the top down is of the first order, and the script, aided by its massive runtime, gives each actor their moments.
Starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Tim Curry, Rob Schneider, Brenda Fricker, Eddie Bracken, Catherine O’Hara
Basically a complete retread of the first Home Alone, only set in New York rather than Chicago. Kevin McCalister is once again left by his negligent family. He again lives it up by himself before realizing that he loves them. He again fortifies an entire house in less than 3 hours. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern return to be terrorized by a ten year old. Kevin becomes friends with a seemingly terrifying stranger (this time a bird lady played by Oscar winner-Brenda Fricker). It’s all a recycling, and I have no problem with that. It’s a very entertaining formula. It warranted two films.
Starring Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott, Stephen Tobolowsky, Brian Doyle-Murray
As my father’s favorite film, I sat through this comedy a countless number of times before falling in love with it myself. Bill Murray (a jerk), through some unexplained magic, relives the same day over and over again before becoming a better person. Though Murray had previously played a modern day scrooge, it is this performance that ranks as my top film Scrooge portrayal. Andie MacDowell plays the love interest, and shows great chemistry with Murray.