OPERATION PETTICOAT (1959) - My first taste of Blake Edwards was in the 1980s, and I could never figure out why producers kept giving him the keys to the movie-making machine. Those films were dreadful but this one is pure delight. It is ten years older than me but doesn't show its age at all - it has a thoroughly modern feel to it, is very funny, and has plenty of story, populated by characters with whom we are happy to spend time. You can't help but love Cary Grant doing his thing and as a bonus, you get Tony Curtis doing his thing alongside. This one stands the 50-years-later test.
IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON (2007) - This is one for the time capsule - a fine portrait of the dozen or so men who made history by walking on the moon in the twentieth century, telling their story nearly four decades later. Curiously, Neil Armstrong opted out, which is a real shame, but there is some priceless footage of his parents on "What's My Line" in the early 60s being asked how they would feel if their son became the first man to walk on the moon. The stories these guys tell must be heard and yet to a man they feel as if they were just the lucky ones to be the individuals actually experiencing what was truly a shared experience for all of mankind. The footage the filmmakers use is simply astounding. I was born the day we launched for the moon and as a kid, I was very interested in the space program. I am still fascinated by it to no end and I'm so glad this film was made before these men are laid to rest as footnotes to history.
THE PRESIDENT'S LADY (1953) - Another Tivo offering, not even available as yet on DVD. I was not familiar with the film but was intrigued by the subject matter, as I had a slight familiarity with the real-life predicament faced by President Andrew Jackson during his political heyday. Here, Chuck Heston is Jackson, a rough and tumble frontiersman/lawyer. Dawn Howell look-a-like, Susan Hayward is his lady, Rachel. It turns out that her divorce from Mr Prick is not quite formalized at the time she weds Jackson and this causes grievous scandal and torment for the couple as his political capital soars. His enemies use her against him at every opportunity until she dies just weeks before his inauguration. I really liked the film. I like depictions of strong marriages after seeing umpteen thousand variants of the marriage doomed to fail. Hayward is winning and ranks up there with June Allyson of THE GLENN MILLER STORY on my short list of all-time favorite movie wives. The third act is a bit rushed but it is a nice story up until his reluctant call to the presidency.
STARDUST (2007) - It's a bit cluttered and overlong but I was charmed nonetheless. There is a straightforward hero quest story at work with a smattering of interesting characters who pop in and out. The first scenes with DeNiro were great but he wears out his welcome soon after. There are some wonderful moments, including a fencing duel with a discombobulated corpse, and there is some great humor - it all adds up to a lot of fun.
THE PARENT TRAP (1961) - I saw this on the last day of school when I was in 2nd grade and fell madly in love with Hayley Mills. At the time, I didn't even question why she had a British accent as both the Boston girl and the Monterey tomboy. I think I even considered this my favorite film until it was superseded by STRIPES about five years later. It is still a worthy family classic even if I notice now that it drags a bit at times. They do a fine job of populating the screen with two girls using but one actress. Mason was fooled - when we saw another Hayley Mills film soon after, he asked if it was one of the sisters from this movie.
CORPSE BRIDE (2005) - Technically, this film is a masterpiece. Even though I knew it was stop-motion, about half an hour in, I had convinced myself that it is actually CG. But no, it truly is stop-motion, an art form that has no real necessity to exist any longer other than it is so magical when done well. I thought the first act was brilliant but once we leave the drab real world and enter the colorful underworld, it falls into that familiar Tim Burton pacing problem where everything looks really great but we stop caring much about what is actually transpiring. I love Danny Elfman to no end but after CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY and this film, I am ready for him to quit lyrics for awhile and just go back to underscoring. The ending didn't make sense to me because everybody seemed so happy in the underworld, but then the heroine gets to go to heaven, making me feel bad for all the dead people who are left behind. Will their world be so cheery the next day knowing that there is a greater reward than just being dead forever?
CUBE (1997) - I had not heard of this film until it recently came to my attention and sounded interesting. It is trying to be a psychological study with a high concept on a shoestring budget but it overshoots the target in my opinion. A group of disparate strangers awaken in a giant cube and are forced to find their way to freedom, knowing that one false move is instant death. They make a big point about how each of them was "chosen" for some individual talent and that they must all work together to survive, but then infighting brings them down as they seemingly prove that theory wrong by killing one another. There is a nugget of a great concept here and I believe this film will be much better the day it is remade by someone like Darren Aronofsky.
IN SEARCH OF THE CASTAWAYS (1962) - This film is both supremely silly and lots of fun. It is worth watching once but that will prove plenty. There are some laughably bad effects interspersed and you have never seen such bad process shots of people running in place in front of rear-projected images of apocalypse. The absolute best take-away from this movie is the song that Maurice Chevalier sings while stranded in a tree with a jaguar above and a flood below. He sings "Enjoy It" while cooking bird eggs for the gang - it has become a catch-phrase now for me and Cadence. Whenever one of us starts complaining about something, the other can instruct the sourpuss in a giddy French accent to basically stop bitching and enjoy it. The cat is gnawing on your toe? - Enjoy it! He's got nine of them to go - so enjoy it!
I MARRIED A WITCH (1942) - Tivo recorded it and Mason asked to watch it because he wonders if witches are real. He sat through the whole thing, which wasn't too tough at a brisk 77 minutes. There were a couple of laughs but not many. It seems like it should have been much funnier. There were some lame special effects, a shrewish Susan Hayward, and overall, not much to recommend.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (2007) - ENCHANTED was sold out so we wound up here. It was exactly as expected, maybe a bit more watchable even. Talking critters conquer pop culture but learn to despise the life of excess and crave the stability they left behind. It is the feature length examination of a minor subplot from PINOCCHIO.