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The Thin Man Goes Home Review


Good
In this fifth installment of the Thin Man series, the Charleses leave New York for some rest and relaxation at Nick's parents' home in the small town of Sycamore Springs (boo!) but leave precious little Nick Jr. at boarding school (yay!). Coming a decade after the original film, this time out, William Powell and Myrna Loy are as devastatingly debonair as ever, though it doesn't stop them from playing at a little physical comedy when needed. Loy's willowy gorgeousness adds to, instead of detracts from, her comic timing, while Powell remains the coolest character in just about any room, even with that big Walter Matthau-size schnozz and ridiculous moustache.

While it would likely have been heretical to the characters' creator Dashiell Hammett, the couple seems to have given up liquor, with Nick compulsively nipping at a flask of nonalcoholic cider. This doesn't stop Nora from mistrusting his ability to stay on the wagon, and wishing maybe that he would ("Sneaking off like that and getting drunk ... without me."). The film eases ever so slowly into the mystery that we know is coming, following the couple up to the town on the town, and setting up Nick's relationship with his stern and disapproving father. The mystery, which involves a horrid painting of a windmill that everyone wants to get their hands on, Maltese Falcon-like, and a townful of neighbors who keep stopping by, wondering if Nick is working on a case. He'd prefer not to and would rather sit in a hammock with his cider jug and reading Nick Carter detective stories, but he gets sort of goaded into it once the stranger shows up on Nick's parents' doorstep and gets shot before he can get a full sentence out.

Continue reading: The Thin Man Goes Home Review

Shadow Of The Thin Man Review


Good
In this fourth installment of The Thin Man, we find our heroes now with a growing Nick Jr. (who has to be kept on a leash), and somewhat less drunk than in previous installments. I suppose this would make them unfit parents, no? The story is generally fun (though, in keeping with other episodes, difficult to follow or fathom), about a murdered jockey and the machinations in ferreting out the killer. Unfortunately, the Charleses are off-cmera for much too long for my tastes, and when they are on camera, they're sober. Crikey!

The Great Ziegfeld Review


Weak
Here's a textbook case of how a film can lose its appeal over the years.

Florenz Ziegfeld (played by William Powell) was a real man responsible for creating Broadway as we know it. The three-hour opus traces nearly his entire life. He began by producing carnival-class shows, low-rent vaudeville acts designed to appeal to the common man -- wrestling, animal acts, and the like. Bored with philistine work, Ziegfeld raised lots of money to build a big show, starting with Broadway's Follies and culminating in the production of the classic Show Boat. Along the way, Ziegfeld loses everything more than once, owing to his addiction to gambling, but he always fights his way back to the top.

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After The Thin Man Review


Very Good
Possibly a bit better than the original Thin Man, aided by an even drier script and the appearance of James Stewart (though in a bit of a strange role). It's more hijinks for Nick and Nora this time around, as they return home to San Francisco and get caught up in a murder mystery, which even lands Nora in the pokey. Cute, though like its predecessor, more than a little dated.

The Thin Man Goes Home Review


Good
In this fifth installment of the Thin Man series, the Charleses leave New York for some rest and relaxation at Nick's parents' home in the small town of Sycamore Springs (boo!) but leave precious little Nick Jr. at boarding school (yay!). Coming a decade after the original film, this time out, William Powell and Myrna Loy are as devastatingly debonair as ever, though it doesn't stop them from playing at a little physical comedy when needed. Loy's willowy gorgeousness adds to, instead of detracts from, her comic timing, while Powell remains the coolest character in just about any room, even with that big Walter Matthau-size schnozz and ridiculous moustache.

While it would likely have been heretical to the characters' creator Dashiell Hammett, the couple seems to have given up liquor, with Nick compulsively nipping at a flask of nonalcoholic cider. This doesn't stop Nora from mistrusting his ability to stay on the wagon, and wishing maybe that he would ("Sneaking off like that and getting drunk ... without me."). The film eases ever so slowly into the mystery that we know is coming, following the couple up to the town on the town, and setting up Nick's relationship with his stern and disapproving father. The mystery, which involves a horrid painting of a windmill that everyone wants to get their hands on, Maltese Falcon-like, and a townful of neighbors who keep stopping by, wondering if Nick is working on a case. He'd prefer not to and would rather sit in a hammock with his cider jug and reading Nick Carter detective stories, but he gets sort of goaded into it once the stranger shows up on Nick's parents' doorstep and gets shot before he can get a full sentence out.

Continue reading: The Thin Man Goes Home Review

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House Review


Good
By the time Cary Grant took on the role of Jim Blandings, the hapless hero of this would-be screwball comedy about the perils of home ownership, he no longer had to prove himself as a great comic actor. His charm-school looks and exacting sense of timing propelled three of the finest comedies from Hollywood's golden age -- Bringing Up Baby (1938), His Girl Friday (1940), and The Philadelphia Story (1940) -- but here he doesn't seem particularly compelled to top himself. The script doesn't light much of a fire under him either. What makes those three earlier movies so enduring is their speed -- the way the jokes keep coming, and the way Grant and his cohorts keep knocking them out of the park -- and Dream House is built out of much weaker material.

Grant plays Blandings, a Manhattan advertising executive who lives in a too-small apartment with his wife Muriel (Myrna Loy), their two children, and a maid. After a clunky opening sequence that oversells just how tightly packed everybody is, the Blandings go house-hunting in Connecticut, where they fall for a large house on an estate of rolling hills. They've rushed into things, though: the broker mischaracterized the size of the property and the state of the home, which is beyond repair and needs to be torn down. The idea of the Blandings setting off to build a brand-new house initially seems like solid comic fodder, but there really aren't too many jokes to tell within the setup - most revolve around the ever-escalating construction tab, and shots of Grant making outraged noises and widening his eyes get old fast. Jim's lawyer friend Bill Cole (Melvyn Douglas) is a decent straight man, but he's also hooked into a go-nowhere infidelity subplot that drags down an already sluggish film.

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Another Thin Man Review


Good
The third Thin Man movie finds the series struggling a bit as it searches for new ideas, while also taking a rather mean turn of events. For starters, Asta now has a sibling -- a (human) baby -- to distract the Charleses. But never mind the kid, the couple (trio) has a new mystery to deal with: A military colonel who's being threatened by a just-outta-prison man from his past is sure he's going to be killed. 20 minutes later, he is killed. Whodunnit? Well, our obvious suspect may just be a bit too obvious, if you know what I mean.

Unfortunately, the mystery here is random and a bit obtuse, and the jokes just aren't as funny with all the ultra-dark goings on.

Continue reading: Another Thin Man Review

Libeled Lady Review


Excellent
How big of a star was Jean Harlow? In 1936 she got top billing here, despite -- by far -- having less screen time than her three big-name co-stars.

As a matter of fact, Harlow is the least interesting part of Libeled Lady (she's neither the libeler nor the lady in question), but that doesn't make it a fun little movie. The story is a little tricky, so try to keep up: Socialite Connie Allenbury (Myrna Low) is the subject of Warren's (Spencer Tracy) gossipmongering in newsprint. He says she's a homewrecker, but she disagrees and sues. Warren's busted for making stuff up, but he devises a way out: He'll have friend Bill (William Powell) impersonate The Perfect Guy and get in good with her father, eventually proving that Connie is a homewrecker after all. Oh, but Bill's not married. Warren solves that by having his own girlfriend Gladys (Harlow) marry Bill for the sake of convenience.

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Song Of The Thin Man Review


Weak
It wouldn't be Hollywood if they didn't wring too much out of a good idea, an axiom proven with Song of the Thin Man, the none-too-memorable conclusion to the six-film Thin Man series which started in 1934. Things start off nicely on the boat S.S. Fortune, which has been rented out for a swank gambling benefit and has a hot jazz band scorching up the stage. Nick and Nora are there, of course (apparently back on the sauce, though moderately), enjoying the rare night out away from their child Nick Jr., played by an 11-year-old Dean Stockwell, who is delightful in his absence from a majority of the film. The bandleader, in trouble with some bookies and needing money, gets shot in the back. Though we're in the dark as to who did it; this is a film that dates from an era when you could still have a gun slowly appear from behind a door and shoot somebody without us ever seeing the person holding it. It's also the kind of film that hearkens back to an earlier era of film where the cops still all have brogues and are named Clancy or Callahan.

For most of the film, Nick and Nora are chasing about after the killer(s) and getting a quickie introduction to the jazz world, one strangely uninhabited by African-Americans. The dry-martini duo get dragged to a number of kuh-raaaaazy daddio hepcat happenings, which juices things up somewhat, as the mystery here is somewhat of a klunker and one that you quickly stop trying to bother figuring out.

Continue reading: Song Of The Thin Man Review

The Thin Man Review


Good
You can save yourself the trouble of sending me hate mail, I already know what you're gonna say. The Thin Man, produced way back in 1934, just isn't that funny any more. The jokes are worn to the bone, the plot setup has been reworked into oblivion, and frankly the acting is spotty in parts. Still, William Powell and Myrna Loy have good chemistry -- and even better body language -- throughout this watershed crime story cum slapstick comedy. (He's a former P.I., she's a society maven, together they solve murders, and they have a dog.) You can see how this would be funny, but, like fine wine, even classic movies start to fade over time. Not that it isn't still without some of its old merits, of course.
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The Great Ziegfeld Movie Review

The Great Ziegfeld Movie Review

Here's a textbook case of how a film can lose its appeal over the years.Florenz...

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