Review: Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946)

Love Laughs at Andy Hardy_MP

This French poster looks as it was started in 1909 and completed a few dozen years later.

“Well, I certainly wasn’t going to laugh…”  is what I immediately thought after viewing this tepid 1946 film on TCM a few evenings ago. To be fair, I’d seen a few Andy Hardy films in the past and found them to be drolly amusing light comedies and as fluffy as could ever be possible, especially the three with a young Judy Garland as Mickey Rooney‘s co-star. This effort, however just left me cold and in a few parts, rubbed me the wrong way save for one performance that steals the show.

The absolutely drop-dead gorgeous Dorothy Ford was actually 5′ 11″, but played her too brief part as Coffy Smith at well over six feet in heels and yes, steals the film from Mickey Rooney’s tired but competent shenanigans. She also turns out to be the “wisest” character in this film, offering up some sage relationship advice and dealing with having to dance with Rooney in a lively, but paradoxically strangely dull sequence where her height is the butt of a few jokes. Andy being about breast high being one none too subtle bit, but that’s actually funny for a few seconds.

 

 

Then again, the film very likely will be loved by the comfort flick crowd for a lot of the usual things the franchise was known for. You get that long Andy and Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) talk with morality and choices as the center, and yes, the family Hardy is as wholesome as Instant Ralston with Jam, and cream mixed in (ewww). There are some amusing moments like the homecoming sequence when Andy comes back from his service in WWII, and a few of the college scenes are cute and chuckle-worthy. Still, for me, the film was a chore to sit through because of the “Poor Andy Hardy” scent emanating from the plot.

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Random Film of the Week: Brainstorm (1983)

brainstorm_03

What you really want to see when the nurses come for you…

brainstorm_MP1A few years back, The second thing I thought of when Facebook snapped up “virtual reality” headset maker Oculus was this flawed but still incredible 1983 sci-fi film directed by Douglas Trumbull. Unfortunately, Brainstorm slipped into theaters under the dark cloud of Natalie Wood’s mysterious off-set death as a work that some at the time debated should have been scrapped entirely. At the time, I liked Trumbull’s technical mastery more than the cast’s straightforward performances. Upon seeing the film again recently, I liked it more, but I also think it’s one of the few films where a modern remake would fix a few things such as sofa-sized and room-sized computers and those super-bulky tapes and that huge headset helmet prototype. Then again, that old tech is kind of what makes the film so effective, as it sure looks like all that wiring and doodads do something.

Despite some workman-like performances from its cast, Trumbull’s direction and his blending standard 35mm camerawork and outstanding widescreen shots of real life vistas and indoor locales plus assorted visual effects that predated IMAX in its use of dynamic screen ratio changes. The often stunning widescreen sequences were shot in Super Panavision 70 with an aspect ratio of 2.2:1 are the real stars here. Still, there’s an air of gloom that hangs over the entire film thanks to one character’s on-screen fate that makes you wish the thought-capturing device in the film actually existed, but had a ‘rewind life’ function added. As dry as the pedestrian plot is, the imagery is at times, some breathtaking stuff that mixes in mundane to high flying activities as the assorted fantasy to nightmare sequences play out.

(thanks, BreadCrustCouncil!)

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Random Film of the Week: Topkapi

Topkapi_DVDHaving had items stolen from me in the past, I’m not at all a fan of thievery as a *proper* lifestyle choice (grrr!). That said, it’s hard to pass up a good (fake) crime caper and Jules Dassin’s  wonderful, amusing 1964 film Topkapi has been a favorite of mine for decades ever since I saw it as a kid. There’s just something magical about Dassin’s work here. It was his first color film and boy, does he blow the doors out right from the near seizure-inducing start (you’ll probably wince/squint a few times with all those color filters and such coming at you full tilt), and it’s also a film that gets you grinning from start to finish.

It’s more or less the flip the switch to comic tone version of Dassin’s bleak but brilliant 1955 film Rififi with a more varied cast and an even better lengthy heist scene. It’s also a film that’s since inspired a few directors to steal liberally from it (to varied effects), but that’s another discussion for another day. Here, you get Melina Mercouri, smoky voice and all as the lovely Elizabeth Lipp, who has the grand idea to steal a jeweled dagger from Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. She seeks out an ex-lover (Maximilian Schell) who just so happens to be a thief of some renown and the pair plan out their caper with the intent to use nothing but amateurs unknown to any authorities who come sniffing around after the crime has been committed.

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Debbie Reynolds: Dancing On That Smile Stage One Final Time

(thanks ozabbazo77!)
 

Ugh. No mas, 2016. This one’s both barrels, folks. If you’ve never seen Singin’ In The Rain, please do so ASAP as it’s not only a great introduction the classic movie musical, it’s probably going to lighten even the grimmest mood when all is said and done.

Back in a bit.

-GW

Random Film of the Week: The Pirate

The Pirate MPEvery movie fan (this writer included) has a case of “Hollywood Blinders” they slap on for certain films they love because without them, thinking of anything abnormal taking place behind the scenes ruins much or all of a particular movie’s strengths. This little review just so happens to be about one of those films some outright adore while others don’t take to it all that well.

While its comic book colors and highly exuberant performances make Vincente Minnelli’s 1948 musical The Pirate a mostly to extremely fun to watch slice of Hollywood entertainment, it’s the behind the scenes stuff that makes the film somewhat problematic as a classic one can fully enjoy unless you ignore certain elements. For this particular film, those Hollywood Blinders take the form of an eye patch (or bandanna or even a big felt pirate hat if you like watching your colorful, imperfect musicals with two working eyeballs).

The pairing of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland should have been a wonderful one and in fact is when the film hits most of its high marks. But thanks to the studio system’s lousy treatment of her from the beginning of her career, Garland’s star was far from shining bright during the troubled production. The results are amusing and impressive at times, but it’s also a somewhat flawed film with a too quick finale that pops in as if the cameras were running out of film and something needed to get shot or someone had to walk the plank.

(thanks, SuperVintageCinema!) 

Garland’s assorted troubles (including a nervous breakdown that kept her off set for an extended period) thankfully don’t show up in the finished product. But it’s clear that the wide-eyed gal next door who played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz less than ten years previously was a wider-eyed and far more troubled soul on a downward spiral to a much shorter life than she deserved. Toss in a fantastic Gene Kelly dance sequence with The Nicholas Brothers that seemingly got them pushed out of the movies (and Hollywood) for a few years too long and you end up with a film best seen with those Hollywood Blinders on. Nice and tight, now.  So, buckle your swash and slap on that eye patch, folks. There’s a storm a-brewin’ on the shooting stage and you’re getting shanghaied and strapped into your seats for a wild ride… Continue reading

Holding Patterns: While You Wait, Shall We Dance?


 

Well, today I’m working on some CES and other posts for the other site I’m writing for, GamerFitNation, but I don’t want to leave you all un-entertained here while I get stuff done elsewhere. Here’s a fun sequence from 1944’s The Canterville Ghost to watch and grin over. Just track down the complete film and watch it, as it’s a pretty amusing take on the old Oscar Wilde story you may or may not have read in grade school. Or seen on a small or large screen, as it’s been made into a few TV movies and films over the years. Alrighty, I’ll be back in a bit…

Movies I (Still) Need To See #1: The Power


 

As I watch a wee bit too much of TCM when I’m not doing anything constructive, I’ve ended up with a mighty long list of films I need to see before I shuffle off this mortal coil. Not all of these films are important or even good, mind you. But I feel it’s my civic duty to entertain myself as much as possible. Or, to quote The Police: “When the world is running down, you make the best of what’s still around”. Anyway, I figure I may as well kick of another series of articles about films I haven’t seen yet in the hope that some of you get the idea and start bucket-listing flicks you’d like to see. Anyway, kicking things off is The Power, the George Pal produced 1968 sci-fi thriller that I’ve only seen in the 1967 MGM Lionpower promo feature that pops up from time to time on TCM.

The Power (1968) MP 

That footage made me laugh because the film predates David Cronenberg’s 1981 classic horror/sci-fi hybrid Scanners by 13 years and almost comes off as an influence in a few ways. Granted, Cronenberg’s films stand up well enough on their own. But this oldie looks like it would make a nice companion piece to the newer film (and should certainly be better than the pair of non-Cronenberg directed Scanners sequels that sunk whatever franchise rights the first film had. Not that it needed a sequel in the first place, mind you. Anyway, that’s the first film I could think of, NOT the first one on my list of films. That’s just how I roll, people… randomly. Which, by the way, is a habit I’m trying to break. Back in a bit…

WATCH THIS: Nothing Lasts Forever… Unless It’s on TCM!

Nothing Lasts Forever MP 

Finally, one of the bucket list 80’s film for many folks my age is coming to TV legally and I couldn’t be happier. Well, I actually COULD be happier if TCM was showing Nothing Lasts Forever at a more sane hour. For a big premiere of a film many have desired seeing on the big screen, that 2am (EST) start time just made me say, “really?” out loud when I found out. Which was funny because I was at the library and when I said that, two guys who were talking next to me thought I was referring to the conversation they were having that I didn’t hear. Oops.

Okay, not that I’m not a complete night owl at times (all my candles have wicks on either end), but come on now. Still, this bodes well if the damn film also nets a DVD/Blu-Ray release at some point in the near future. Or at the very least, more and earlier showings on TCM. Here’s a fan-made trailer from a few years back just to pique your interest in case you’re wondering what I’m gushing about:

(thanks, mpjstreeter!)
 

I’m not sure if they track their ratings as obsessively as network stations do, but I’m betting a lot of people will be staying up later than usual to catch this. The other upside to all this is if you still happen to be awake and giddy afterwards, you can sit through John Carpenter’s 1981 classic, Escape From New York, which amusingly enough fits the theme of the previous film, albeit in a more comically violent manner. Anyway, I’ll put on some coffee as soon as I walk in the door, maybe do a few push-ups and jump into the shower to keep awake. I was up late into the morning today (see my previous post) and had forgotten the film was on later today, er, tomorrow morning. Fear not, dear readers – I’ll be awake to see it in its entirety. My Sunday may either be spent half asleep for the better part of the morning or wishing I could see the movie again because I missed something.

MGM had better come through with a home video release at some point. I’m betting a lot of people will be replacing bootlegs with a better version that will hopefully have some decent special features.

Random Film of the Week: The Big Parade

(thanks, SilentPianoNinja for making this spectacular modernized trailer!)
 

The Big Parade MPIf you know someone who’s straddling the silent movie fence or avoiding it entirely for some strange reason, The Big Parade is a great movie to get them into appreciating a great many important films they’re missing out on. Director King Vidor’s absolutely brilliant and hugely influential 1925 film benefits from stellar performances all around, and a half comedic/half dramatic structure that introduces its cast of characters with vigor and plenty of humor in that first half before pulling no punches in its latter half’s battle scenes.

The great and handsome as heck John Gilbert along with the beautiful Renée Adorée give what would have been Academy Award-winning performances had the Academy existed at that point in time and for me, this is one of the more stirring pre-sound epics worth rounding up friends and/or family to watch this classic with. You’ll need a kettle of popcorn, a barrel of root beer (that barrel will come in handy later) and perhaps a box of tissues to go ’round the room, as this is 141 minutes of fantastic film making that’s truly stood the test of time Continue reading

SDCC 2014: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Teaser Makes Me Feel A Bit Green…

The third part of Peter Jackson’s busy amusement park version of Middle-earth is on the way to theaters in December and as you can see from this teaser trailer, you’ll be getting pretty much what you expected if you liked the other two parts of this two part film expanded into three. I’m actually a film behind in this saga (I need to see The Desolation of Smaug at some point), so I’m not in a tearing hurry to rush out to a theater 11+ miles away and see this one. Heck, given the extended, special, collectors and other edition home video versions that are BOUND to surface in 2015 and onward, I may as well wait until the DEFINITIVE version of this trilogy rolls out just so I can see every bit of film as it was intended to be seen (er, as far as home versions go). I should probably just follow a friend’s advice and get a nice HD projector to make that one big white wall in the living room a mini movie palace, but we’ll see what happens financially over the next few months or so.

Oh, and you can actually WIN a nice trip to New Zealand to poke around some of the actual locations from the film (minus the green screen effects, of course). That video above will clue you into how to enter and such. Good Luck!