Muppet Treasure Island (1996, Directed by Brian Henson) English 6

Starring Tim Curry, Jennifer Saunders, Billy Connolly, Frank Oz, Steve Whitmire, Kevin Bishop

Muppet Treasure Island (1996) - Titlovi.com

(6-Good Film)

Irreverant. Vibrant. Enjoyable.

Rizzo: He died? And this is supposed to be a kids’ movie

Legendary creator, Jim Henson, had already been dead for several years but The Muppets were in good hands with his son Brian Henson. Muppet Treasure Island is a fun romp and musical mixed in with Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel. A young boy, Jim Hawkins (Bishop), sets sail on an adventure to find a long lost treasure with the help of his newly acquired map. The problem is, when there’s treasure involved, it’s hard to know whom you can trust. Along for the voyage are Long John Silver (Curry) and the crew he recommended. Kermit the Frog plays the ship’s captain. It’s all a lot of fun. If you love the characters of both the Muppets and Treasure Island as I do, then Muppet Treasure Island is a slam dunk. Not to be outdone, Tim Curry never holds back no matter how ridiculous the material.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(914)

State Fair (1945, Directed by Walter Lang) English 5

Starring Jeanne Crain, Dana Andrews, Dick Haymes, Vivian Blaine, Fay Bainter, Charles Winninger

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(5-Okay Film)

Idyllic. Sweet. Slight.

A small piece of Americana set to the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein obviously has its appeal. State Fair follows the kindly Frake family as they prepare for the annual Iowa State Fair. The patriarch, Abel (Winninger), makes a wager with a neighbor that his prize pig will take top prize. His wife, “Ma” (Bainter), competes in the pickle and mincemeat competition. Their son, Wayne (Haymes), falls in love with a singer that seems to be giving him the runaround, and their daughter, Margy (Crain), has love problems of her own with a slick reporter named Pat (Andrews). It’s slice-of-life meets Hollywood fairy tale and as such, it’s suitably corny. That doesn’t bother me so much. I did feel, however, that State Fair is sweet but unspectacular.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(883)

Summer Stock (1950, Directed by Charles Walters) English 7

Starring Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Eddie Bracken, Gloria DeHaven, Marjorie Main, Phil Silvers, Ray Collins

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(7-Very Good Film)

Familiar. Cozy. Joyful.

Judy Garland is a hardworking farm girl named Jane Falbury. One day, her vain, inconsiderate sister shows up with an acting troupe, unannounced, to rehearse and Jane reluctantly agrees to let them stay if they carry their weight on the farm. Jane meets Joe Ross (Kelly), her sister’s fiancée and the troupe’s director, and over the next several days, inconvenient as it is, the two fall in love. As with all classic MGM musicals, it’s not about being surprising as much as it is being spectacular. Summer Stock showcases two ultra-talented stars in Kelly and Garland with a handful of good numbers and a picturesque setting.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(859)

Call Me Madam (1953, Directed by Walter Lang) English 6

Starring Ethel Merman, Donald O’Connor, George Sanders, Vera-Ellen, Billy De Wolfe, Walter Slezak, Steven Geray

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(6-Good Film)

Enjoyable. Witty. Stagey.

Brash, wealthy socialite, Sally Adams (Merman), is appointed America’s ambassador to the tiny, fictional country of Lichtenburg. She takes with her an amiable, recently fired journalist, Kenneth Gibson (O’Connor), as her press attaché, and the two, while managing the political responsibilities of her job, both fall in love during their time in Lichtenburg-Sally with the country’s general, Cosmo (Sanders), and Kenneth with the Princess, Maria (Vera-Ellen). Based on a stage musical, the transfer to film still feels stagey much of the time, but the small cast of characters are strong and the dialogue is excellent. The main attraction, though, is O’Connor’s inspired dance numbers, particularly his drunken, balloon-popping number.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(855)

The Little Drummer Boy (1968, Directed by Arthur Rankin Jr and Jules Bass) English 7

Voices of José Ferrer, Greer Garson, June Foray, Teddy Eccles, Paul Frees

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(7-Very Good Film)

Nostalgic. Striking. Memorable.

One of Rankin and Bass’ Christmas classics told in their indelible stop-motion style, The Little Drummer Boy adapts the popular Christmas song of the same name and provides a little background. A young Jewish boy named Aaron lives only to play his drum. Swindled into joining a talentless traveling troupe leads Aaron ultimately to Bethlehem where he humbly plays his drum for the newborn baby Jesus. Like all of their specials, Rankin and Bass’ The Little Drummer Boy is one part creepy and two parts sweet, nostalgic, memorable, and a testament to their creativity. One of their best.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(841)

Donkey Skin (1970, Directed by Jacques Demy) French 7

Starring Catherine Deneuve, Jean Marais, Delphine Seyrig, Jacques Perrin, Micheline Presle

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(7-Very Good Film)

Campy. Imaginative. Distinct.

Donkey Skin, as adapted by Jacques Demy, is a genuinely bizarre fairy tale. Based on a story by Charles Perrault (who also wrote Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty), I was unfamiliar with this one. A king (Marais) loses his wife (Deneuve) but promises just before her death to only remarry if the girl is more beautiful than her. Finding no one that qualifies for so long, the king eventually notices his daughter, the Princess (also Deneuve), has blossomed into the most beautiful girl in all the kingdom. Determined to produce a male heir, he demands his daughter’s hand in marriage. She responds by consulting a kind but mischievous witch, The Lilac Fairy (Seyrig), who has her wear the carcass of a magical donkey in order to escape a life as her father’s bride. Yes, it’s a strange tale told with relish. It’s a beautiful film to look at with Deneuve at its center in the most spectacular dresses, and like Demy’s other musicals, the soundtrack is lovely. There’s horror, beauty, humor, romance, fantastic creatures, lessons to be learned, songs to be sung. All expressed with Jacques Demy’s abundant imagination and a profusion of style, though, unlike some of Perrault’s other stories, Donkey Skin seems to lack any true depth.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(825)

Peter Pan (1953, Directed by Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske) English 6

Voices of Bobby Driscoll, Hans Conreid, Kathryn Beaumont, Bill Thompson, Heather Angel

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(6-Good Film)

Inventive. Spirited. Winsome.

A flying boy, with the help of his loyal friend and fairy, Tinker Bell, takes a trio of couped-up children to the magical, adventure-filled world of Neverland, where nobody ages. Peter Pan is an extraordinary story (by J.M Barrie) that has never translated into an extraordinary film. As nostalgic as Spielberg’s Hook is or as wonderfully animated as this, Disney’s 1953 version is, they lack the depth and the magic of Barrie’s original. Disney instead goes for pure adventure and succeeds on its terms. The animation is impressive, exciting, what-have-you. The designs of each character, especially Pan and Tinker Bell, are iconic. The story, however, loses something with very little time given to character development. It’s more about personalities than characters.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(810)