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DOWN WITH LOVE

Down with Love is a lavish, cleverly-written tribute to the comedies made by Doris Day and Rock Hudson during the late 50's and early 60's, most specifically, a nod to their first outing Pillow Talk, the film which redefined Doris' career and earned her first and only Oscar nomination.

In this smart lampoon of that movie, Renee Zellweger shines as Barbara Novak, a small town girl who writes a best selling book, comes to Manhattan to promote it and gets involved with a playboy writer named Catcher Block (Ewan MacGregor) who keeps avoiding her until he sees her and then pretends to be someone else to romance her. Anyone who has ever seen Pillow Talk will recognize this plot line and this story is a perfect send up of it. The director here even utilizes the split screen technique introduced in Pillow Talk to put Barbara and Catcher in even more compromising positions than Rock and Doris shared.

David Hyde Pierce channels Tony Randall brilliantly and Sarah Poulson is no Thelma Ritter, but she does provide some grins as Barbara's gal pal.

The film is beautifully mounted with Oscar-worthy sets and costumes. The costumes especially were robbed of an Oscar. A delightful romantic comedy that recalls a wonderful time gone by in cinema history. If you liked Pillow Talk, you'll love Down with Love.

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DREAMGIRLS

Dreamgirls is the dazzling 2006 film version of the Broadway musical that traces the meteoric rise of a girls singing trio throughout the 60's and 70's which most people believe is a thinly disguised version of the story of Diana Ross and the Supremes.

This glittering film version is the story of Deena, Effie, and Laurelle, a trio known as the Dreamettes who are discovered at a talent contest by a slick music promoter-wanna-be named Curtis Taylor Jr. Curtis gets the Dreamettes a job as backup singers for a singer named James "Thunder" Early, a lounge lizard whose talent seems to be outweighed by his ego, womanizing and partying. Early and the Dreamettes achieve a modicum of success when Curtis makes the key decision to make the girls their own act , change their name to the Dreams, and having Deena sing the lead instead of Effie because, even though Effie is the one with the amazing pipes, Deena is thin and beautiful and will look better on album covers and it is this critical move that changes the lives of all the characters involved forever.

The Broadway musical made a star out of Jennifer Holliday, who originated the role of Effie on Broadway and it has now done the same for American IDOL-cast-off Jennifer Hudson, who dominates the screen as Effie, in one of the most electrifying film debuts ever captured on film.

Hudson is a revelation in this role and completely dominates the proceedings with her powerhouse performance that rivets you to the screen in the musical and non-musical sequences. Hudson is, of course, a powerhouse vocalist and her performance of the show's best song, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" is, arguably, the greatest musical number ever presented in a movie. I was in tears halfway through it and when I saw the film, the audience applauded at the end of the number, something you don't see in movie theaters very often. Hudson's astonishing film debut won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Eddie Murphy also received his first Oscar nomination for his performance as James Early, a bombastic and hard-driving performer, who seems to be patterned after the late James Brown. Murphy seems to be having a ball here, creating a character who is alternately endearing and tragic. Murphy also proves to be an accomplished vocalist, making his musical numbers come vividly to life here.

Jamie Foxx scores in the unsympathetic role of Curtis, the slimy promoter who never is completely honest about his third rate status in this business and never doubts any of the lousy, life-altering decisions he makes for James and the girls.

The only weak spot in the film for me is the performance by Beyonce in the pivotal role of Deena, the reluctant star who turns self-assured Diva as the years pass by. In a role clearly patterned after Diana Ross, Beyonce definitely looks the part. The camera loves her and she looks stunning spread across a 40-foot screen, but the girl is no actress. This film features Oscar worthy art and costume design. The costumes in particular are stunning, perfectly recalling the look of 60's Motown and the score wonderfully recalls the Motown sound.

Surprisingly, the weakest musical moments are two songs that were written especially for the movie, "Patience" is a lame duet sung by Jimmy and Laurelle (Anoka Noni Rose) that just slows the movie down and "Listen" seems to have been inserted just to give Beyonce's character a solo. These are minor infractions though...Dreamgirlsis a rock solid adaptation of a Broadway musical that will have you laughing, cheering, crying, singing, and looking forward to seeing it again.
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EASTER PARADE


Easter Parade is one of my very favorite films to come out of the MGM stables during the 40's and 50's, but I can't help but imagine if the film had come to fruition as originally planned. Gene Kelly was originally signed to play Don Hewes, but due to an injury (one story said he broke his ankle during a dance rehearsal and another said it was during a softball game), Fred Astaire, who had announced his retirement the previous year, agreed to replace him for the opportunity to work with Garland.



Vincente Minnelli had originally been pegged to direct the film, but Garland's therapist advised that it was not a good idea for her and her then husband to work together as they were having a lot of problems during this time. Garland was also at the height of her drug addiction during this film and her frighteningly frail appearance in this film cannot hide that, but Garland manages to turn in a charming performance as Hannah Brown, the chorus girl groomed for stardom by Astaire's Don Hewes after his bitchy partner, Nadine Hale (Ann Miller) dumps him to sign with the Ziegfeld Follies as a solo act. Peter Lawford is also thrown into the mix as a wealthy playboy and friend of Don's who falls madly in love with Hannah, who only has eyes for Don.

I am forever grateful that this film brought Astaire out of retirement because he is at the top of his form here, from the opening number "Drum Crazy" to the spectacular "Steppin Out With My Baby". Garland is wonderful especially the classic duet with Astaire "A Couple of Swells" and a heartbreaking ballad called "Better Luck Next Time."



This film was so successful that MGM made two more attempts to pair Garland and Astaire. Garland became very ill when she was signed to star with Astaire in The Barkleys of Broadway which paved the way for the final teaming of Astaire with Ginger Rogers. They again tried to team them for Royal Wedding when June Allyson became pregnant; however Garland was constantly late to the set or wasn't showing up at all and Astaire was not having that so she was replaced by Jane Powell. So Easter Parade was the only time we got to see these two legends perform together.
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ENCHANTED
The 2007 film Enchanted is a deft and imaginative musical/comedy/fantasy that breaks several cinematic rules in its execution of a richly entertaining story that intrigues and delights the viewer.

The film opens as an animated fairy tale where we meet Giselle, a princess who, shortly before her marriage to Prince Edward, is magically transported to modern day Manhattan, thanks to Edward's mother, the requisite Evil Queen, where she is befriended by an attractive attorney and single dad.

Giselle's fish out of water experiences in Manhattan blend seamlessly with the arrival of Prince Edward, the queen's henchmen, and the Evil Queen herself, who also arrive in New York to return Giselle to the kingdom of Andulasia.

The story takes most of the turns it's expected to, but the journey there is the fun here, as the cinematic chestnut known as the fish out of water, is dusted off and refashioned into a contemporary fantasy filled with child-like imagination and adult sensibility.

Amy Adams is perfection as Giselle, the princess transported to modern times who believes that love is everything, animals clean house, and pigeons deliver flowers. Adams' wide eyed sincerity and clear as a bell singing voice help to make this performance the flawless marriage of actress and character. Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden are attractive as the single dad who Giselle falls for and her fairy tale prince who wants her back. Timothy Spall provides some funny moments as the Queen's henchman and there is a brief, but fabulous scenery-chewing turn by Susan Sarandon as the Evil Queen. Tony winner Idina Menzel (WICKED) also scores as Dempsey's girlfriend .

The film is energetically directed by Kevin Lima and the surprisingly clever song score is provided by Alan Mencken (The Little Mermaid) and Stephen Schwartz (Pippin, Godspell). Top it off with some top-notch visual effects and cinema's most durable sidekick, Pip the Chipmunk and you have all the ingredients for a first-rate adult fairy tale that provides some big laughs in addition to the expected warm-fuzzy feelings.
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ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK


An instant underground classic, Escape from New York was a stylish and exciting futuristic action drama centered on a prisoner named Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) who has been assigned to rescue the kidnapped President of the United States on a very tight timetable. Russell created his most memorable character in Snake and makes this film thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. Russell receives solid support from Isaac Hayes, Lee Van Cleef, Donald Pleasance, Adrienne Barbeau (wife of the film's director director John Carpenter), and Ernest Borgnine, providing unexpected comic relief as a cab driver. If you've never seen this sleeper, you're in for a treat. A real roller coaster ride that's totally engrossing and so much fun.
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ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was an imaginative and entertaining 2004 comedy about a milquetoast (Jim Carrey) who accidentally learns that his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) went to a mysterious company and had their relationship completely erased from her memory and he is so resentful of this, that he decides to do the same. During this process we are treated to various flashbacks and flashforwards which come at a lightning pace documenting this wild and twisted relationship.

The real star of this film is its Oscar winning screenplay...an intelligent and totally original screenplay that demands attention be paid to dialogue and detail. Jim Carrey delivers his best performance since The Truman Show and Kate Winslet received an Oscar nomination for her luminous performance as his independent-minded girlfriend. A truly unique film experience for those who are game.
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EXTREMITIES

Extremities is the disturbing, yet riveting screen version of a play by William Mastriosimone (who adapted his own play for the screen) about a woman who is attacked in her car one night by a would-be rapist on her way home and is terrified when she realizes the man got her purse and knows where she lives. After her roommates leave for work the next day, the guy shows up at her home and attempts to rape her.



The story takes a surprising twist when, at one point, the woman turns the tables on the man and is able to overpower him; but when she realizes there is no way that attempted rape can be proven and if the man is arrested, he will just get off, she decides to keep him prisoner in the house until she can get a confession out of him. Far-fetched? Maybe. Disturbing? Definitely, but there's a wonderfully claustrophobic feel about this film, especially the middle with just the woman and her attacker, that you can't help but feel completely a part of what's going on.

I did not see the play on Broadway, but I would imagine a piece like this works better onstage, but that doesn't make this film any less riveting an experience.

Farrah Fawcett, one of the last actresses to do the role on Broadway, was awarded the role of Marjorie in the film version and delivers a taut and deeply moving performance as the victim who refuses to be a victim. Many critics found Fawcett's performance to be one-note, but for me, Marjorie is a woman completely numbed by what she has been through and the performance works for me.



James Russo, in the performance of his career, is slimy and menacing as the would-be rapist who finds Marjorie to be much more of a challenge than he assumed.

Alfre Woodard and Diana Scarwid co-star as Marjorie's roommates, who come home after Marjorie has overpowered the guy and has him tied up and stuffed in their fireplace upon their arrival. And it's the arrival of the roommates that take the story to an unexpected level because they didn't see what we saw Marjorie go through and therefore, think she should call the police and let them handle the guy. Not for the faint of heart, but if you can stand it, a gripping film experience anchored by a lead performance that will surprise you.
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FAILURE TO LAUNCH
Failure to Launch is a clever and very entertaining romantic comedy based on an American phenomena that, inexplicably, doesn't get talked about much but is refreshingly brought out of the closet here.

Matthew McConaughey stars as Tripp, a 35 year-old,commitment-phobic, man/child who works as a boat broker and still lives at home with his parents. A supposed chance meeting with a woman named Paula leads Tripp to think he might be in love...unbeknownst to him, Paula was actually hired by his parents to seduce him so that he will move out of the house.

Granted, this clever premise is also problematic in that it forces the viewer to sympathize with characters who are doing unsympathetic things. If you can accept the fact that there is no legitimate reason why Tripp should be living at home (he originally stayed at home to recover from the death of an ex)anymore AND you can accept the arrogance of Paula who claims latest client Tripp is a classic case AND that she can make ANY man want to move out his parents' house AND you can accept that instead of just kicking Tripp out, his parents go to these lengths to get him out of the house, this movie is a lot of fun.

Tom Dey's spirited direction is a big plus and the cast is wonderful. Matthew McConaughey, an actor whose made more bad movies in the last decade or two than most working actors today, has not been this appealing in years and Sarah Jessica Parker somehow manages to make the arrogant Paula extremely likable. Justin Bartha and Bradley Cooper are very funny as Ace and Demo, Tripp's two best friends, who ALSO live at home with their parents and Zooey Deschanel steals every scene she is in as Kit, Paula's dark-spirited roommate. The casting of Terry Bradshaw and Kathy Bates as Tripp's parents is nothing short of genius...the chemistry between Bradshaw and Bates is kinetic and they bring even more humor and warmth to their roles than the script allows.

There is one funny scene after another and even though you can see where this one is going pretty quickly, the journey is a lot of fun. If you're an adult living at home, or you're a parent of an adult living at home, this film is a must. Both sides of the issue are presented here...purely for laughs.
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FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
A nearly flawless teen comedy, Fast Times at Ridgemont High is the classic, raunchy, episodic look at an eclectic group of high school students at a California high school.

Multiple storylines are showcased in this now classic comedy which include a shy movie theater usher (Brian Backer) trying to get a date with a pizza waitress named Stacy, not realizing she is really smitten with his BFF Mike Damone (Robert Romanus); Stacy's older brother Brad finds himself in financial trouble with his new car when he loses his long time job in a fast food joint and the perpetually stoned Jeff Spiccoli (Sean Penn) might miss the big end of the year dance because he is flunking history and his tight-assed history teacher might keep him from attending.

A clever screenplay by Cameron Crowe, based on his own masquerade as a high school student and spirited direction by Amy Heckerling help to keep this classic fresh and funny 25 years after its release and with a perfect, hand-picked cast, some of whom became big stars: Jennifer Jason Leigh as the virginal Stacy Hamilton; Judge Reinhold as Bad; the luscious Phoebe Cates as Stacy's girlfriend Linda, who offers Stacy lots of bad advice on men; and Sean Penn, absolutely memorable and stealing every scene he's in as Jeff Spiccoli.

Crowe and Heckerling seamlessly interlace these characters through multiple story lines to great effect. The film also features one of the best soundtracks of an 80's film and brief appearances by future stars like Forrest Whitaker, Amanda Wyss, James Russo, Eric Stolz, Vincent Schiavelli, Anthony Edwards, and Nicolas Cage. Anyway you slice it, a classic. Beware of edited versions...a Director's cut would be a dream.
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cricket's Avatar
Registered User
Off this page I love Escape From New York, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Down and out in Beverly Hills, and Extremities.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was just ok for me.



FATAL INSTINCT


Fatal Instinct is a side-splittingly funny spoof of film noir dramas, in the AIRPLANE/NAKED GUN mode that offers affectionate winks at films like Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Cape Fear, offering consistent laughs thanks, in part, to the self-assured direction of comedy icon Carl Reiner.

Reiner smartly chose to cast strong actors instead of pure comics whose uncanny ability to play the funny material with completely straight faces is what makes the film so funny.

Armand Assante is surprisingly funny as Ned Ravine, a cop and a lawyer who is being cheated on by a scheming wife (Kate Nelligan), being pursued by a sexy client (Sean Young)and being loved from afar by his faithful secretary (Sherilyn Fenn). There are also funny turns from Christopheer McDonald as Nelligan's dim-witted lover, James Remar, in a perfect take off of Max Cady from Cape Fear, and Tony Randall as a judge.

The gags come fast and furious and most of them work, there's even a very funny cameo by Bob Euker, as a color commentator for a trial. Just sit back, relax, don't think about it too much and there's a lot of fun to be had here.
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FATHER'S DAY
Robin Williams and Billy Crystal are two of the funniest men in the business and it is their own brilliance as comedians that makes Father's Day worth a look. In this rather lame comedy, a woman named Colette (a miscast Natassia Kinski)has a fight with her son (bland newcomer Charlie Hofheimer)who runs away from home to follow his girlfriend who is following a touring rock band.

While the boy's father (Bruce Greenwood) sets out to find him, Colette calls two men from her past (Crystal, Williams)who she had affairs with years ago, tells both men that the boy is their son to get them to help in the search for the boy. Crystal is a successful attorney fresh into his third marriage (to Julia Louis Dreyfuss) and Williams is a suicidal writer who has a gun to his head when Colette calls. The plot takes all the routes you would expect but Williams and Crystal are so funny that you don't mind taking the ride. I suspect large portions of their scenes together are improvised and nobody does that better than these two. When these two are off-screen, the movie comes to a screeching halt, but when they are on, they somehow manage to make this convoluted mess worth sitting through. No classic, but Williams and Crystal fans might want to check it out.
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Michael J. Fox offers one of his strongest performance s in For Love or Money, a predictable yet entertaining comedy that bears more than a passing resemblance to the 1960 classic The Apartment. Fox plays Doug, the slick concierge at a fancy Manhattan hotel who becomes caught between an unscrupulous businessman (Anthony Higgins), who he's hoping will help to finance his dream of his own hotel and his mistress (Gabrielle Anwar), a department store clerk and aspiring singer who refuses to accept the fact that the man is married and will never leave his wife.

Fox gives his best performance since Back to the Future as a fast talking yet utterly charming con artist with impeccable people skills which have become both a benefit and a detriment where his work is concerned. Anwar is an attractive leading lady and Higgins is appropriately smarmy as the villain of the piece. An intelligent screenplay and noteworthy supporting turns by Michael Tucker as a hotel guest and Fyvesh Finkle as a senile bell hop are icing on the cake for this smart little comedy that went virtually unnoticed at the time of its release but provides breezy entertainment.
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Bette Midler proves that she can single-handedly make a film worth watching in For the Boys, an overlong but rewarding comedy-drama with music which chronicles the relationship between singer Dixie Leonard and comic Eddie Sparks (James Caan), a character clearly patterned after Bob Hope, which begins during a WWII USO tour and concludes in the present where the glamorously aging couple are being reunited for a television special.



Bette received her second Best Actress Oscar nomination for her commanding performance here, She lights up the screen whether Dixie is upstaging Eddie in front of thousands of troops during WWII, cursing out sponsors during her and Eddie's television show, or tearing Eddie a new one when she thinks he is trying to steal her son away from her.

As expected, she makes the most of her musical moments in the film with "Stuff Like that There" and "Come Rain or Come Shine" as standouts. Caan works hard in the role of Eddie Sparks, managing to make a pretty despicable character rather likable for the majority of the story. The only big mistake here was director Mark Rydell's casting of his real-life son, Christopher in the pivotal role of Dixie's adult son. Rydell's lifeless performance is a major detriment to an important part of the film, but for the most part, For the Boys is grand entertainment, thanks to the Divine Miss M.
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From the people who brought us Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman, and A Mighty Wind, comes For Your Consideration, an extremely smart and deliciously funny satire that skewers Hollywood and more specifically, "the business of show business."

The razor-sharp screenplay by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy centers on the production of a movie called "Home for Purim", the story of a family gathering for this Jewish Holiday during WWII who are rocked by the arrival of the daughter with her lesbian lover. The film stars Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara), an actress who burst onto the Hollywood scene with a smash hit movie in 1989 and then disappeared; and Victor Alan Miller (Harry Shearer), an actor who has spent the majority of his career playing a hot dog in a series of TV commercials, but as filming of the movie-within-a-movie progresses, the film starts to generate Oscar buzz for Marilyn and that's where the fun begins.

To reveal any more plot would be criminal,but suffice it to say that Guest and Levy have turned a jaundiced eye on Hollywood and given us a deft look into the inner workings of Hollywood and the silliness and unpredictability that often materializes in that mad pursuit of box office receipts and award recognition.

O'Hara turns in the performance of her career as Marilyn Hack and yes, the performance is Oscar-worthy as does Harry Shearer, taking his most significant role in the Guest company since SPINAL TAP and making Victor sweet and vulnerable. Director Guest also doubles as the director of the film and Levy is very amusing as Victor's agent. Laughs are also provided by Parker Posey as Callie Webb, the self-absorbed actress playing Marilyn and Victor's movie daughter, Jennifer Coolidge as the film's clueless producer, and Fred Williard and Jane Lynch as a pair of reporters from an "Entertainment Tonight" sort of show. For those fascinated with the inner workings of Hollywood, this film is a must and a comedic joy from start to finish.
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Jessica Lange was robbed of an Academy Award for her mesmerizing performance in the 1982 film, Frances, a relatively gripping character study/biography of the late 1930's actress Frances Farmer, who, after being ostracized from Hollywood, ended up being declared insane, institutionalized, and lobotomized, according to this screenplay.



Not knowing a lot about the actress before the release of this film, I have never been sure of how factual it is (I always got the feeling that the Harry York character, played by Sam Shepherd, was fictional), but how many screen biographies are big on the facts? Sometimes facts are glossed over and/or ignored for the sake of preserving or igniting drama.

Whether or not this is true is for those who knew Farmer to say. I did see an interview once with Farmer's nephew (?) who was very pleased with Lange's interpretation of Farmer and that is exactly why this film is worth seeing.



Despite a meandering screenplay, turgid direction, and a feeling the movie is about 30 minutes too long, this movie is worth seeing for one reason and one reason only...the riveting performance by Jessica Lange.

She is in virtually every frame of this movie and makes every single moment vivid, striking, and achingly real. This film should be shown to acting classes on a daily basis...maybe the best performance by an actress in a leading role in the 1980's. Not a great film, but an amazing performance by a consummate actress that must be seen to be believed.
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Every time a film is made about a real-life figure, particularly a show business figure, people love to complain that the movie is not accurate regarding the facts of that person's life. If the truth be told, if movie biographies were strictly about the facts, no one would go to see them, because for the most part, the facts don't make for great entertainment and Fanny Brice is no exception.



The 1968 musical Funny Girl has been maligned for years because it is not a very accurate representation of the facts of Fanny Brice's life. If you want to learn about Fanny Brice's life, read a biography or go on the internet, but if you want to see an amazing movie musical spotlighting a legendary performer at the beginning of her amazing career, then you can't beat Funny Girl, the 1968 musical based on the 1964 Broadway musical that made Barbra Streisand a star.

Streisand tied with Katharine Hepburn for the Best Actress Oscar for this charismatic star turn as the young girl from Henry Street who becomes a big star of the Ziegfeld Follies and has a heartbreaking romance with a charming gambler named Nick Arnstein, played by Omar Sharif.



Streisand is in practically every frame of this film and never makes you wish otherwise...one of the great performances in the history of cinema...whether she is defying Florenz Ziegfeld by refusing to appear in the finale or chasing an ocean liner to be with Nick, Streisand gives the one-woman performance of a lifetime here.

Directed by Oscar-winner William Wyler, Streisand is lovingly photographed and effectively showcases the Jule Styne-Bob Merrill score, which includes classics like "People" and "Don't Rain On My Parade". Some changes have been made in the score from the stage musical but Streisand makes it all work and the finale "My Man" is just devastating. It's not an accurate biography of the vaudeville legend, but as a dazzling and entertaining movie musical, it's hard to top this one.
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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is the sparkling 1953 musical comedy based on the Broadway musical that made Carol Channing a star and here does the same thing for another blonde...namely Marilyn Monroe. Monroe shines in the ultimate dumb blonde role: Lorelei Lee, who along with best pal Dorothy Shaw (Jane Russell) are a couple of showgirls traveling on an ocean liner to Paris being tailed by a private detective hired by the father of Lorelai's latest beau, to get the goods on her.

The razor-thin plot is so not the issue here. The issue is the performances by the film's stars that absolutely light up the screen. Monroe, in particular, found the role of a lifetime here as Lorelei Lee, the seemingly dim-witted gold digger with a nose for diamonds and rich men, who has no shame about using her obvious physical assets to get what she wants. This is the role that most people look to when they say that Monroe was just a "dumb blonde", but if you watch closely, Monroe is just playing a "dumb blonde" and doing it better than probably anyone ever did. And never was there a clearer example of why the camera just loved Monroe.

Though the film is clearly Monroe's showcase, Jane Russell never allows herself to be blown off the screen and performs impressively alongside Monroe as the wisecracking Dorothy Shaw. Russell proves to have the same skill with a wisecrack that actresses like Thelma Ritter and Eve Arden did.

Elliott Reed, Tommy Noonan, Charles Coburn, and young George Winslow offer solid support in supporting roles as the various men (and boys) involved in the misadventures of Lorelei and Dorothy.

Musical highlights include the ladies' opening number, "Two Little Girls from Little Rock", "Bye Bye Baby", "Ain't Anybody Here for Love?", and Monroe's "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend", has become a permanent part of cinema pop culture.

Aided by breezy direction from Howard Hawks, this is a delightful musical comedy classic which features two beautiful and talented ladies front and center at the peak of their charm.
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Spike Lee, in my mind a hit and miss director, hit a bullseye with Get on the Bus. This engrossing 1996 comedy-drama follows a group of black men who take a bus trip from a Los Angeles suburb, en route to the Million Man March in Washington DC.



I love movies that focus on fictional characters involved in a real life event and Lee has put together a most interesting collection of characters and thrown them together for this personal journey to a history-making event.



Some of the finest African American talent has been assembled to make this story work. Andre Braugher shines as Flip, a self-absorbed actor, waiting to hear about the results of an audition, who you have to really wonder why he is even interested in attending the march. Isaiah Washington plays a closeted homosexual whose soon to be ex-lover (Harry Lennix) pretty much outs him in front of everyone on the bus. A father (Thomas Jefferson Byrd) is accompanied by his son (De'Aundre Bonds) who, because of a court order, has to be in shackles for the entire trip. Hill Harper plays a film student who has decided to film the march for a school project. Roger Guevenor Smith plays a light-skinned black cop who confronts a Muslim passenger (Gabriel Casseus) who has a record and still has a warrant on his head.

Richard Belzer plays the paranoid Caucasian driver of the bus whose discomfort with the assignment forces him to quit a couple of hours into the trip forcing the trip leader (the always solid Charles S. Dutton) to take over driving the bus and Ossie Davis adds a touch of dignity as Pop, the only passenger on the bus who was probably at the first march on Washington in the 60's.



This is a delicious ensemble peace, lovingly directed and skillfully acted with a music score that is a Motown lover's dream. A minor classic that, if given the opportunity, will move you.
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Godspell is the 1973 film version of the off-Broadway musical based on the Gospel according to St. Matthew that has probably been performed on stage more than any other musical in the history of theater.

The film version is a relatively faithful rendering of the Broadway musical, which is sort of comic-book re-telling of the last days of Jesus Christ in which Jesus, wearing clown makeup and a Superman T-shirt is followed around New York city by a group of bouncy young disciples who abandon their hum drum lives to follow their new savior.

The musical score by Stephen Schwartz, a classic in and of its self, includes "Day by Day", "All For the Best", "Turn Back O'Man" , and "O Bless the Lord My Soul".

Victor Garber had his first significant film role as Jesus and the film also features five members of the original off-Broadway cast (it should be mentioned that four actors in this film are no longer with us). The film makes effective use of NYC locations with some imaginative staging for several numbers , most notably a portion of "All for the Best" taking place on the giant jumbo-tron in Times Square.

"Learn Your Lessons Well" and "We Beseech Thee" were not included in the film and a new song "Beautiful City" was added in hopes of garnering a Best Song Oscar nomination, but really adds nothing to the story, but for fans of the stage musical, the movie will not disappoint.
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