Easter Parade (1948, Directed by Charles Walters) English 7

Starring Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Peter Lawford, Ann Miller

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(7-Very Good Film)

Colorful. Exuberant. Superficial.

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.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(331)

Anything Goes (1956, Directed by Robert Lewis) English 5

Starring Bing Crosby, Donald O’Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Zizi Jeanmaire, Phil Harris

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(5-Okay Film)

Appealing. Undramatic. Modest.

Young and old join forces when Bill Benson (Crosby) and Ted Adams (O’Connor) team up for an upcoming show. Everything is going well until both men cast their own girl as the leading lady. Ted finds french performer, Gaby, and Bill discovers American singer, Patsy. One of the women will have to go, but the matter is complicated when both men fall for the other’s girl. The plot’s not complicated enough, however, for my taste. There’s very little dramatic tension between the women or the men. I’d prefer there to be more antagonism between the core characters. The actors are all terrific performers. That goes without saying, so the film does have its moments of inspiration, including a dance sequence where O’Connor plays among a children’s daycare. With no buildup though, there’s no payoff in the end.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(315)

A Song is Born (1948, Directed by Howard Hawks) English 6

Starring Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Benny Goodman, Buck and Bubbles, Lionel Hampton, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, Mel Powell

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(6-Good Film)

Exuberant. Entertaining. Lush.

Howard Hawks remakes one of his own films, Ball of Fire, this time around featuring Danny Kaye as the square professor and Virginia Mayo as the conniving nightclub singer working him over. She needs to hide out for a few days while her boyfriend, gangster Tony Crow, flees from the cops, eventually finding her way to a house of music professors. Originally written by Billy Wilder, Ball of Fire is superior, but Kaye and Mayo make for a good time. Hawks reins in Kaye’s performance a bit, and it works well for the film. The best part about A Song is Born is the bevvy of cameos from music’s biggest stars of the day: Louis Armstrong, the Dorsey brothers, Benny Carter, Lionel Hampton, and others.

-Walter Tyrone Howard

(303)

Us and Them (2018, Directed by Rene Liu) Mandarin 6

Starring Jing Boran, Zhou Dongyu, Qu Zheming, Tian Zhuangzhaung

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(6-Good Film)

Romantic. Authentic. Absorbing.

Us and Them alternates between color and black and white, past and present, following a pair of friends turned lovers as they flow in and out of each other’s lives, but never out of love. Their romance is modest and realistic, and the film’s all the more effective because of it. Ultimately, their story is disappointing and, at times, difficult to watch, not due to any weakness on the part of the movie, but because of its aim to accurately portray the joy and pain of this relationship. I believe Us and Them is successful in what it’s trying to accomplish, despite its conclusion feeling dragged out, and certain moments becoming overly maudlin, but most of all, I happen to love romantic comedies, and be indifferent to romantic dramas, such as this film.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(302)

Just Go With It (2011, Directed by Dennis Dugan) English 6

Starring Adam Sandler, Jennifer Aniston, Nicole Kidman, Brooklyn Decker, Nick Swardson, Kevin Nealon

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(6-Good Film)

Childish. Entertaining. Amusing.

Puerile remake of Cactus Flower (1969) it may be, Just Go With It nevertheless entertains as a light romantic comedy. Daniel Maccabee (Sandler), a wealthy plastic surgeon, is a middle aged player. He tells his conquests that he’s married as a ploy, but it comes back to bite him when he falls in love with the young, stunning Palmer (Decker). He responds with a half-baked idea involving his devoted assistant, Katherine Murphy (Aniston), her two kids, his best friend, Eddie (Swardson), and a trip to Hawaii. The hallmarks of an Adam Sandler movie have been consistent for twenty years now: affable leads, sweet and cutesy moments, absurd silliness. He hasn’t made an outright hilarious movie in a long time. Every once and a while, he can still make an enjoyable film like Just Go With It, that benefits from its two stars chemistry (something that was missing from Cactus Flower despite that film’s superior quality), and the appealing location.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(282)

Hitch (2005, Directed by Andy Tennant) English 7

Starring Will Smith, Kevin James, Eva Mendes, Amber Valletta, Michael Rapaport, Adam Arkin, Jeffrey Donovan

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(7-Very Good Film)

Light. Charming. Fun.

Alex Hitchens (Smith), a dating consultant, attempts his boldest job yet: setting the clumsy, overweight Albert Brennaman (James) up with dream girl, model, entrepreneur, Allegra Cole (Valletta). At the same time, all of his smooth tactics seem to fail him in his own pursuit of beautiful gossip reporter, Sara (Mendes). Will Smith had the Midas touch at the time. His charisma and star presence, as well as his chemistry with James, elevate this standard romantic comedy to a fun diversion that warrants repeat viewings if you need something pleasant to watch.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(237)

Notorious (1946, Directed by Alfred Hitchcock) English 6

Starring Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains, Leopoldine Konstantin, Louis Calhern

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(6-Good Film)

Austere. Lean. Impressive.

One of the great Hitchcock’s more revered pictures, Notorious, in my opinion, is far from his best. It’s the kind of film that is more interesting than entertaining, which critics tend to love because there’s so much to write about or theorize. That’s not to say that Notorious doesn’t have much to admire. Every aspect of the filmmaking is admirably done. Ingrid Bergman is luminous as Alicia, a notorious woman (which reading between the lines means she’s a call-girl) in love with an agent, Devlin (Grant in a rare humorless role is excellent), who’s seemingly only interested in using her to get close to fugitive Nazi, Alexander Sebastian (Rains). With very few side characters and a slim plot for an espionage film, Notorious is really about a sort of warped love triangle. As such, it’s impeccably made and acted by the three leads, with a number of memorable directorial flourishes from the master of suspense.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

(146)