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On The Town Review


Excellent
In the 1949 musical On the Town, you'll find a lot of things that might seem familiar from other musicals - big set pieces and a whimsical, can-do attitude - but at least one or two that will seem completely foreign. Top of the list: Frank Sinatra himself playing a detail-oriented nerd of a guy more interested in seeing the sights than he is scoring with a big-city dame. Also up there: the women in the film are much brassier than just about any actresses you'd see on screen these days, but more on that later.

Starting with the beyond-iconic framing number "New York, New York," which blasts out with unalloyed gusto just as the film's three sailors come tumbling off their boat with a mere 24 hours' shore leave to take in all the sights and sounds of New York, the film is an unapologetically muscular toe-tapper of a show. This is most clearly due to Adolph Green and Betty Comden's script and songs that come piling out in quick succession, practically elbowing each other out of the way with the help of Leonard Bernstein's score. The intended effect is to convey the feel of a bustling American city during all its phases (from the quiet, just waking-up opener "I Feel Like I'm Not Out of Bed Yet" to the nightlife epic "On the Town"), and it's nearly perfectly conveyed.

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You Can't Take It With You Review


Essential
Jimmy Stewart's legendary career was just beginning when he co-starred in this Frank Capra classic, a warm, heart-tugging Best Picture Oscar winner. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway show by Kaufman and Hart, Capra's entry captures a wacky extended family living together in post-Depression USA, devoting all their efforts to their favorite pastimes with a smiling middle finger to societal expectations and demands.

The joy nearly leaps off the screen and begs you to join. In a charming introduction, family patriarch Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore, on crutches due to arthritis) meets a mousy accountant named Poppins (the appropriately named Donald Meek), a dreamer who'd rather make toys than punch meaningless numbers all day. With a simple tease of what could be, Vanderhof convinces his newfound friend to toss it all away and live with his family. And poof, as Poppins says, "the die is cast."

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Kiss Me Kate Review


Good
Broadway stars perform Taming of the Shrew onstage -- and live it for real offstage. The theatrical antics are a bit forced and the musical numbers aren't the best in the history of musical cinema, but this still stands as an "important" film of its era, albeit a minor and relatively forgettable one.

You Can't Take It With You Review


Good
Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur come together in Frank Capra's third and final Best Director effort, You Can't Take It With You, a movie which is amusing, but unfortunately ends up as one of his least enduring efforts. Overlong and underplotted, the film concerns two young lovers who finally endeavor to introduce their families to one another. As usual, Capra attempts to pillory big business, but the effort here is half-baked and overshadowed by slapstick antics between the two families. A Best Picture winner in 1938, the movie isn't aging well and can be suitably replaced by pretty much any of Capra's other works.

Stage Door Review


Extraordinary
Stage Door deserves its own solid gold time capsule. This is one for the ages, a hyperwitty comedy/drama written by the brilliant Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman who took their play from the Broadway stage to the RKO soundstage and put it in the capable hands of director Gregory La Cava and an all-star cast of the most dazzling leading ladies of the 1930s. No, they don't make 'em like this anymore.

Justifiably famous for a rapid-fire script jam-packed with barbed remarks and caustic retorts, the film makes you stifle your laughter so you don't miss the next oncoming zinger. At one point, an exasperated Terry Randall (Katharine Hepburn) says to the delightfully bitchy Jean Maitland (Ginger Rogers), "It'd be a terrific innovation if you could get your mind to stretch a little further than the next wisecrack." Indeed.

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Mulholland Drive Review


Good
[In the spirit of competition, we present a rare filmcritic.com double review on David Lynch's sure-to-be-controversial Mulholland Drive as well as a feature discussion about the film. For additional, alternate looks at films, check out our feature "Respectfully, Yours." -Ed.]

Christopher Null, not overly impressed

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Mulholland Drive Review


Good

I have only one complaint about the latest of David Lynch's B-movie noir flicks for cinema intellectuals, but it's a big one.

The first 90 minutes of "Mulholland Drive" give no hint where the story might be headed. Instead of sticking with his primary story -- about a pretty, fresh-off-the-bus actress getting mixed up in a dark, esoteric phantasm of a Hollywood mystery -- Lynch drags his feet by running several tangential subplots up the flagpole, then leaving them flapping in the wind.

The argument could be made that these episodes are for atmosphere. One dead-end thread unfolds in the ominous offices of a movie production company, where a cryptic, crippled, mobster midget (good ol' David Lynch!) manipulates the lives of susceptible industry denizens from inside a dark, velvet-flocked room. Another follows a cocky, arrogant young director (Justin Theroux) who is being forced by the midget's men to cast a particular blonde starlet in his next film. He crosses paths with our heroine, but only in a superficial way.

Continue reading: Mulholland Drive Review

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Stage Door Movie Review

Stage Door Movie Review

Stage Door deserves its own solid gold time capsule. This is one for the ages,...

Mulholland Drive Movie Review

Mulholland Drive Movie Review

[In the spirit of competition, we present a rare filmcritic.com double review on David Lynch's...

Mulholland Drive Movie Review

Mulholland Drive Movie Review

I have only one complaint about the latest of David Lynch's B-movie noir flicks for...

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