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Lost Horizon Review


Extraordinary
The weirdest film by Frank Capra, this epic was adapted from James Hilton's bestselling novel about a plane full of passengers stranded in Tibet who are brought to the imaginary utopia Shangri-la. (Hilton's sensational fantasy was inspired by mountaineering trips to the Himalayas -- pretty much unknown then -- and it probably still influences how people in the West think about Tibet.)

Lost Horizon is a strange but haunting mixture of drama, long expository passages, and romance, with lavish, Xanadu-like sets set against stock footage of icy mountains -- but the performance of Ronald Colman carries the movie. Colman's character is a Brit who decides he doesn't mind hanging with the Buddhists and enjoying the quiet life, but some of his companions are unhappy in the worker's paradise and debate whether to try to escape. Sensuality is provided by the young Jane Wyatt, later the matron on TV's Father Knows Best (Wyatt's character is even shown in a distant frontal nude scene, a wink at the Hays Code).

Continue reading: Lost Horizon Review

Mr. Deeds Review


Weak
Adam Sandler really wants you to like him. Oh, and he's also very sorry for Little Nicky, an experiment that resembled your typical Sandler flick but had the drawing power of my socks after a full-court basketball game. This time out, Sandler plays it extremely safe in an effort to please his slighted fan base and cover his once-dominated bases. Too bad repeated trips under the microscope of comedy ultimately have produced a lukewarm version of material the comedian relied upon years ago.

Sandler fills the title role in Mr. Deeds (a remake of the ancient Gary Cooper film), playing an unassuming New Hampshire resident and aspiring greeting card writer who learns he's the heir to a $40 billion media conglomerate. Since happiness isn't tied to financial gains in the Granite state, the newfound fortune doesn't faze Deeds, though he does agree to accompany two shareholders (Peter Gallagher and Erick Avari) back to Manhattan to sign what he's told is required paperwork. Once in N.Y., the "big city vs. big country" gags march down Park Avenue with mixed results.

Continue reading: Mr. Deeds Review

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town Review


OK
Frank Capra's story of a simple man who inherits vast wealth has become a commonly-copied tale, but the tedium of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town outweighs its message of freedom and charity. Gary Cooper is dry as dust (despite being "eccentric" -- he plays the tuba!), and Jean Arthur makes no impression as the reporter who hustles him to get the inside scoop. I realize it's heresy, but the story just needs some life. Frankly, I can't imagine the upcoming Adam Sandler version could do any worse.

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

You Can't Take It With You Review


Essential
Jimmy Stewart's legendary career was just beginning when he co-starred in this Frank Capra classic, a warm, heart-tugging Best Picture Oscar winner. Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway show by Kaufman and Hart, Capra's entry captures a wacky extended family living together in post-Depression USA, devoting all their efforts to their favorite pastimes with a smiling middle finger to societal expectations and demands.

The joy nearly leaps off the screen and begs you to join. In a charming introduction, family patriarch Grandpa Vanderhof (Lionel Barrymore, on crutches due to arthritis) meets a mousy accountant named Poppins (the appropriately named Donald Meek), a dreamer who'd rather make toys than punch meaningless numbers all day. With a simple tease of what could be, Vanderhof convinces his newfound friend to toss it all away and live with his family. And poof, as Poppins says, "the die is cast."

Continue reading: You Can't Take It With You Review

You Can't Take It With You Review


Good
Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur come together in Frank Capra's third and final Best Director effort, You Can't Take It With You, a movie which is amusing, but unfortunately ends up as one of his least enduring efforts. Overlong and underplotted, the film concerns two young lovers who finally endeavor to introduce their families to one another. As usual, Capra attempts to pillory big business, but the effort here is half-baked and overshadowed by slapstick antics between the two families. A Best Picture winner in 1938, the movie isn't aging well and can be suitably replaced by pretty much any of Capra's other works.

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

Lost Horizon Review


Very Good
A classic book and a classic film -- make sure you look for the full-length (132 minute) restored version, which features still photographs where there was no known print to match up to the audio. Bizarre methodology, yet strangely, it works.

Mr. Deeds Goes To Town Review


OK
Frank Capra's story of a simple man who inherits vast wealth has become a commonly-copied tale, but the tedium of Mr. Deeds Goes to Town outweighs its message of freedom and charity. Gary Cooper is dry as dust (despite being "eccentric" -- he plays the tuba!), and Jean Arthur makes no impression as the reporter who hustles him to get the inside scoop. I realize it's heresy, but the story just needs some life. Frankly, I can't imagine the upcoming Adam Sandler version could do any worse.
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Mr. Deeds Movie Review

Mr. Deeds Movie Review

Adam Sandler really wants you to like him. Oh, and he's also very sorry...

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