The Sundowners is a pleasant and happy film, marked by wonderful set pieces (a tremendous brush fire sequence, a sheep-shearing contest, a gambling scene, a tavern brawl) all set to a jaunty Dimitri Tiomkin score.
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The title of Michael Powell's WWII propaganda actioner refers to the boundary separating the United States and Canada. A suitably righteous narrator tells us it's the world's only undefended national border and, as such, befits the values of peace and democracy shared by the two countries. 49th Parallel isn't a strident call to arms meant to guilt-trip Americans into re-thinking their neutrality, but rather a tribute to the Canadian (and to all free-thinking) people who were already involved in the anti-Nazi effort. By praising democratic values and warning of the Nazi threat looming over the free world, 49th Parallel was director Michael Powell's roundabout exhortation to the American people to join the good fight.
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That's why Superstar, starring Molly Shannon, is a breath of fresh air. It's the first film in a long while to give a woman the freedom to "get jiggy" with all-out Jim Carrey-esque full body humor.
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As heavily promoted as it's been, you should know the plot by know. Sandra Bullock is Lucy, a goofy, salt-of-the-earth Chicago Transit Authority toll booth attendant who falls in love (at first sight) with Peter (Peter Gallagher), a yuppie lawyer. Almost immediately after Lucy swoons, Peter gets pushed onto the train tracks, whereupon Lucy comes to the rescue. Then the obligatory "misunderstanding" occurs: Peter's concerned parents think Lucy is Peter's fiancee, pulling Lucy into the family as a new member. But when Peter's brother Jack (Bill Pullman) arrives on the scene, Lucy and Jack begin to fall in love and, well...you get the picture.
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Andrews is just perfect in the title role, a mystical nanny who literally falls from the London sky and into the lives of two lonely children in 1910. The kids desperately need some kind of attention. Their father (David Tomlinson) is a workaholic, brown-nosing banker, who treats his kids as two obstacles in keeping an orderly home. Mom (Glynis Johns) is no better, a dingbat who prefers supporting social causes to spending time with her kids. Funny how little things have changed, huh?
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The most palatable entry since "Wayne's World" in the seemingly unstoppable onslaught of "Saturday Night Live" sketches turned into feature films, "Superstar" is genuinely funny, for a change.
This time the beaten-to-death, three-minute bit stretched to movie length is about "SNL"-er Molly Shannon's terminally dorky catholic school girl Mary Katherine Gallagher, who is desperate for her first kiss and determined to break into showbiz through performing in the campus "Stamp Out Venereal Disease" talent show.
Dumb? Naturally. But director Bruce McCulloch ("Dog Park") -- an alumnus of the Canadian sketch show "Kids In the Hall" -- gives "Superstar" a different comedic sensibility than "A Night at the Roxbury," "Coneheads," and the rest of the "SNL" big screen tripe.
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'Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Ageing)' arrives in April.
The two awards have made for a great 72nd birthday present for the country music icon.