Irene Dunne, supposedly dead, returns after being gone for years to find husband Cary Grant remarried and on his honeymoon. When she goes to the hotel and Grant sees her, his new wife is forgotten about. But, the couple does have other problems, such as Grant finding out that while Dunne was stranded on an island in the middle of nowhere, she was not alone. Remade in 1963 as Move Over, Darling with Doris Day and James Garner, who can’t surpass the superb performances of the Grant/Dunne team. This is the second of three pairings with Dunne and Grant (the first being 1937’s social comedy The Awful Truth and the last was 1941’s tear-jerker Penny Serenade). Of all three films, this one, I feel, gives off the most laughs and chemistry between the two stars.

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When I took screenwriting classes in college, I always wondered if I would make it in Hollywood. One of the reasons I never did is that I do not write like Woody Allen. I’m not always a fan of Allen…most of his recent films have been so-so comedies (with the exception of the unique Melinda and Melinda), but Match Point is one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and most assuredly the best film of 2005, in my opinion. Why? How about this…not a word is out of place and there is nothing extra that should be in the film and nothing that shouldn’t. It’s a perfectly constructed film all the way around, I attest solely to Allen’s writing. The actors are good in their roles but I wouldn’t say that’s what “made” the film for me. Allen just simply has a way of working a story so it seems so easy and so perfect at the same time. It is a neat, clean circle…the story starts off with one thread and that thread runs through the entire film but in a subtle way until the ending, when you realized, “OH, I get it.” The story revolves around a young tennis pro who gets a job at an upper class athletic club and soon makes friends with one of the members…an affluent young man who has both a pretty, demure sister and a beautiful, sultry fiancée. The tennis pro falls for the sister but really falls hard for the fiancée. What happens from there leads to a complex, intricate series of events that keep the audience guessing at every turn. The ending, unlike most films I’ve seen recently, will not disappoint or ruin the masterfulness of this film. What happens right up to the last second will only increase how strong this film is…which is proof of Allen’s genius.

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OK—everyone has seen it. Everyone knows the story. Some people can even recite the dialogue (I would have to confess, I’m in this category). When you get right down to it, this is a great movie. Sad thing is that it gets so over-watched around the holiday season that many people have the “not again” mentality. PLEASE don’t disregard this movie just because it has been overplayed, colorized and basically abused. What director Frank Capra does here is capture a little slice of Americana—something that Capra excelled in. Unlike Capra’s other Americana films (most notably Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Meet John Doe, and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town), this one has a dark edge—a hardness that makes us think for a second that maybe America is not all that it’s cracked up to be. That is where Jimmy Stewart’s acting genius kicks in. His portrayal of the lowly, always-disappointed George Bailey has the audience rooting him on, even when he’s at his most weak. I mean, here is Bailey, standing by a bridge, looking down into the icy waters of the river, waiting for the perfect moment to jump. Does anyone really believe he will? No—not with the genuine way Stewart breathes life into Bailey. No one with that much compassion in their heart could really ever end it all? But, that’s why Stewart is perfect as Bailey. He does give Capra a “hard” edge, all while keeping the film, at its core, a feel-good film…one that can and should be enjoyed ANY time of year, not just in the holiday season.

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For the first time, Woody Allen acting in one of his movies did not annoy me so much that the temptation to turn the film off was almost irresistible. He does not choose, in Husbands and Wives, to play someone who is more neurotic than anyone else in Manhattan. That is not the ONLY reason I enjoyed this film. It is a strikingly open and honest film about relationships. It doesn’t hold anything back and is not afraid to realistically show the anatomy of a break-up, midlife relationship malaise, and the frantic energy of a new relationship. In hindsight (this film is from 1992), it’s a strong subject matter for Allen, who has a young college student fall for his middle-aged professor character. It was not long after this film that Allen, in reality…NOT in the movies, fell in love with his adopted step-daughter. But, leaving that alone, he does an excellent job of being as honest as he can be in this film…as an actor AND as a director. His scenes with Juliette Lewis (the young girl that plays the smitten college student) are filled with frank talk…not with silly dribble that many May-September screen romances sometimes fall for. The other characters’ relationship dialogue is just as true as Allen’s. No one walks away into the sunset in this one. It’s brutal at times, but so is life and love. Right?

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The teaming of the comedy team of Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, and director George Cukor leads to comic mayhem as a bright rich girl steals her sister’s fiancée, a struggling young lawyer. Not the most famous of the Grant/Hepburn/Cukor pairings (The Philadelphia Story would have to take that prize) but I feel it’s the best. The comedy has a quirky, strange quality that makes it unconventional, which might be why it was not initially received as a classic, but it’s not too strange to miss this wonderful film.

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Did you ever look for something and it’s not where you remember putting it but the next time you look, it’s there? Sure, it happens to all of us occasionally and we think “I’m losing my mind.” In a second or two, that thought is replaced with something else and we forget about our minor brain lapse. But, what if things like that would continue to happen? What if we kept seeing things and hearing thing and doubting our sanity…little occurrences at first and then major things like losing pieces of jewelry and misplacing practically everything…? Well, Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight experiences all of these things plus more. Her husband, played with cruel intensity by Charles Boyer, might or might not be “helping” her out in the insanity department. Regardless, he becomes less and less sympathetic with her as she slips more and more out of reality. The audience never really knows whether Bergman is insane or not. I mean she hears footsteps above her…and we hear them too…but it’s not until the end until the plot is uncovered. Director George Cukor directs this so passionately that at times it has the feel of a horror film. When the light from the gaslights dims, the look on Bergman’s face is pure terror…as if she was being tortured. And…as you come to find out…she is. But how…and by whom????

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The film that forced married men to think twice before straying…as well as reviving Michael Douglas’ acting career…is a top-notch thriller. It got a lot of attention when it came out in 1987 because of its graphic violence and (especially) sexuality. Sometimes, when you strip the controversy from a film, what you’re left with is a movie that really was not worth all of the attention. I would say that is not true here…this is a great film that knows how to convey fear to the audience. Never would I say something is Hitchcockian (I believe that NOTHING will ever be worthy of that label since the Master of Suspense was, just that, a Master…the one and only), but I think that IF Hitchcock would have been working in 1987, he might have made a film in this same vein. The vein being a continual threat of menacing terror that keeps growing and growing until it just cannot do anything else other than explode! So, watch this one for the thrills…not for the attention it got when it came out. And, whatever you do, please do not call it Hitchcockian. If necessary…maybe pseudo-Hitchcockian, or semi-Hitchcockian? But, only if necessary!

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This is one funny film. It is not exactly politically correct and it is also not a perfect film (I just don’t like the son’s character) but all-in-all, it will make you laugh (most likely). A remake of La Cage Aux Folles, here director Mike Nichols weaves a comic web of intrigue, bawdiness, love, sex and scandal…all set in South Beach, Miami…one of the playgrounds of the world. Even though there is a great cast here including Gene Hackman and Dianne Wiest, Robin Williams and Nathan Lane steal the show as gay lovers who own, manage (Williams) and perform in (Lane) a South Beach nightclub. Enter Hackman and Wiest as ultra-conservative parents of young lady who wants to marry Williams’ son. The fact that Hackman is a Republican senator involved in a sex scandal is not helping him feel more charitable. What happens? Well, you just have to watch and find out. But, I warn you, get your funny bone tuned!

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This film is an interesting twist on the often mundane genre of romantic comedies. Ryan Reynolds, who has successfully gone beyond his previous role as teen movie heartthrob, is very appealing here. He plays it serious when needed, always charming and never too over the top. The story has Reynolds talking with his daughter, Maya, about why he’s divorcing her mother. Maya wants to know details about his past relationships, hoping it will help her see what might have gone wrong with her parents’ marriage. Reynolds confesses to having three serious relationships in his life, one of whom is Maya’s mother…but Maya is just going to have to guess which story is the one about her parents. Yes, it’s overly cutesy at times (I mean it IS a romantic comedy), but never too much. And unlike almost all “rom coms” of today, it is not entirely predictable. Sure, we know it will end happy but with whom will it end happy???? Watch and find out!
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The post Pillow Talk 1960s romantic comedies could be summed up in two words: Doris Day. The country was heading into a total transformation but good old Doris was trying her best to keep the American public firmly planted in the 1940s and 1950s, which is when romantic comedies like this shined and didn’t seem as tarnished. Don’t get me wrong…I love Doris Day. I can belt out “Que Sera Sera” in the shower with the best of ‘um (you’re going to have to take my word for it). But, by the mid-1960s, her clean image as the “good” girl was wearing a little thin. This film (one of her two pairings with co-star James Garner) is no exception. Garner (as Day’s husband) seems like a caveman in this film, always barking that his wife is not home since she’s out working! The horror!!!! But, all kidding aside, this would have to be one of my most guilty pleasures. I used to say that about Pillow Talk, but at least that film won an Oscar! This one didn’t come close but it’s just as much fun and just as sweet. The plot is silly and the dialogue is very outdated by today’s standards (or even by the mid-1960s standards) but it’s just a fun film to watch. Any film that has a pool explode into a yard-full of suds can’t be half bad, right?

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