So last time I left off with a link to the famous Kelly’s Heroes review. Let’s pick up from there.
Mamma Mia: Well now who would believe you could take a string of hit songs from one band a build a movie around it? Of course in a way it’s been done before, but not very well (The Beatles movies). Is this the one that works? In a word, yes. It has its faults, but they can be overlooked. One of the big helps is having Benny Anderson fiddling the music as-needed; nothing like going back to the source to keep the flavour. The directing is fine, the setting enjoyable, the plot pretty fair. Almost all of the acting is top-notch: this is in fact the only Maryl Streep performance I like. Christine Baranski is her usual over-the-top stereotype character that is irresistible. Young Amanda Seyfried not only acts well but can sing wonderfully too. The only singing that does fall down is Pierce Brosnan, who frankly is terrible and should have been dubbed. The ending is a bit hurry-up and contrived, but mostly you watch for the comedy and the songs and you won’t be disappointed.
Much Ado About Nothing: This Kenneth Branagh production is terrific. Oh some people will have trouble with the Shakespearian English and may not grasp the plot and setting. Don’t try too hard is my advice. The jokes are there, the tragedy is inconsequential and exists mainly to set up more jokes, and the acting is top class at every point. Even Michael Keaton’s over-done Dogberry is perfect in its form (it helps relieve the tragedy). Branagh himself delivers some of the best bits of performance, especially in concert with his then-wife Emma Thompson. The ‘revelation’ scenes they each do are worth it for their moment-of-shock looks. Devise brave punishments for any who say otherwise!
My Fair Lady: If there is a flaw here I can’t find it, and I’ve seen it many times. Some may fault Rex Harrison’s ‘lack’ of singing, but I tell you he does it better the way he does than Pierce Brosnan manages in Mamma Mia. The sets are visually spectacular, Stanley Halloway is golden, and Audrey Hepburn fantastic as usual. In fact every performance is grand, including all the supporting actors. Possibly the ‘freeze frame’ scene is a bit hokey, but imagine the work it required. Watch, enjoy, and hum the tunes afterward.
O Brother, Where Art Thou?: This may be the best movie ever made. Certainly the best from the Coen Brothers. You can debate if this is a musical if you want, really it isn’t; the music is an integral part of the story whereas most musicals are stories arranged to present the music. The acting is fantastic in every character, the directing excellent, the plot amusing as can be. Maybe you can argue about the sets and you’re blind if you don’t notice the plot holes (the timeline is whacky for one thing), but who cares? I do have to point out that there is a continuing flaw in info on this movie: Pete’s last name is NOT “Hogwallop”! For heaven’s sake, pay attention! “Pa always said ‘never trust a Hogwallop'” is unlikely to be uttered by one, now is it? And he apologizes for betraying his friends, blaming it on his “Hogwallop blood”. His cousin is a Hogwallop; Pete’s last name is NEVER GIVEN! Okay, rant over.
Paint Your Wagon: Much changed from the original book, I’m putting this in here as an example of a movie mistake. Take out the music and you’ve got a much better movie. Really.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl is an excellent movie in every way. You can’t not like it. You can hate people who nit-pick over the “goofs” in it because hey, they forgot to notice there’s no such thing as walking skeletons right? As for the sequels … they are just “milk the franchise” trash, often reusing the same jokes and scenarios but to no good end.
Shrek: Surprised? You shouldn’t be. The original movie is a great spoof of fairy tales (and a lot of other things). The subsequent issues are more “milking the franchise” than anything. But really …
Spartacus (1960): This is actually a great movie. A bit long and tedious in parts, and with a few flaws – but ones that can be forgiven. The worst is the drawn-out ending. The character of Crassus is not well written; you never really get a handle on what he’s about and it seems the writers didn’t either. That’s about the worst you can say for it, really. Except that it has been remade. I don’t even want to know about that one.
State Fair (1945): A simple musical comedy with some not-very-good music, ultra simplistic plot, and fair acting. Despite its D-grade production I like watching it. Maybe because it doesn’t try for being an epic. It certainly is better than the other versions of the same story, especially the 1962 one.
Until next Monday when I will go at a long list of films all of which start with the word “The”.