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 Cutting Edge (1992, Directed by Paul Michael Glaser) English 6

Starring D.B Sweeney, Moira Kelly, Roy Dotrice, Terry O’Quinn, Dwier Brown, Michael Hogan

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(6-Good Film)

Conventional. Appealing. Solid.

Doug Dorsey’s (Sweeney) once-promising dreams of being a professional hockey player are dashed after he suffers a hit that damages his vision. Not having much else to do with his life, a strange opportunity comes his way to partner with Kate Mosely (Kelly), a difficult figure-skater looking to compete in the pairs event at the upcoming Olympics. The two clash as naturally as they fall in love. It’s a romantic comedy. You either like them or you don’t. As far as romantic comedies go, The Cutting Edge is a pretty good one. The leads are appealing and their antagonistic dialogue is attractive.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(850)

The King and Four Queens (1956, Directed by Raoul Walsh) English 6

Starring Clark Gable, Eleanor Parker, Jean Willes, Jo Van Fleet, Barbara Nichols, Sarah Shane

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(6-Good Film)

Risqué. Alluring. Tame.

Scoundrel, Dan Kehoe (Gable), wanders into some random, dusty town in the American West and learns about a house full of women guarding an immense fortune that their deceased husbands stole years back. Attempting to worm his way into their house, their hearts, and their pockets proves more difficult than he expects. Not because of the four women themselves but the mother-in-law, Ma McCade (Van Fleet), a harsh, old bird who turns out to be the only one who actually knows where the money is. The setup is there for a fun, bawdy western, and nobody plays a better scoundrel than Gable, but ultimately The King and Four Queens plays it pretty safe and never manufactures much in the way of suspense. Instead, it’s satisfied to merely have Gable flirt with the beautiful ladies on screen. That’s enough to entertain but not to make the film essential.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-
(847)

Caught in the Draft (1941, Directed by David Butler) English 8

Starring Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Eddie Bracken, Lynne Overman, Clarence Kolb, Paul Hurst

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(8-Exceptional Film)

Farcical. Inspired. Winning.

It’s 1941, World War II looms, and fussy, self-serving Hollywood actor, Don Bolton (Hope), is wary of the possibility for a military draft. Attempting to get ahead of it and out of its way, he exploits a loophole that would excuse him. If he gets married, he’s exempt. The problem is, he needs to find a girl. Setting his sights on the beautiful Antoinette Fairbanks (Lamour) turns out to be a mistake since her father is a Colonel and once she figures out what he’s up to, she despises him. And by this time, Don’s fallen in love with her for real, so he has to prove that he’s not a coward to win her back. Eddie Bracken and Lynn Overman play Don’s friend and agent, respectively, and go with him down any insane scheme he comes up with. Inspired farce with one great scene after another, Caught in the Draft represents one of Hope’s best comedies.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(843)

A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish (2019, Directed by Michelle Johnston) English 5

Starring Laura Marano, Gregg Sulkin, Isabella Gomez, Barclay Hope, Johannah Newmarch, Chanelle Peloso

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(5-Okay Film)

Fine. Formulaic. Silly.

Kat Decker (Laura Marano), an aspiring singer, lives under the oppressive roof of her step-mother and two vapid step-sisters. While working her menial job as a Christmas elf to support her family, she meets Dominic Wintergarden (Gregg Sulkin), wealthy, handsome, and kind. Is there any way that he could actually be interested in her? This is a romantic comedy so, of course, there is. Let’s start with the positives: the actors are fine. That’s about it for me. It’s very straightforward, underwhelming fare with bad music thrown in.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(838)

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)