Doc Hollywood (1991)

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Young jerk-slash-doctor Ben Stone (Michael J. Fox), tired of his thankless job in a chaotic D.C. emergency room, heads out to Los Angeles for a job interview in a cushy, swanky plastic surgery clinic. After a bit of reckless driving and an incident with some cows, he and his classic 1957 Speedster wind up underneath a fence in the tiny town of Grady, “The Squash Capital of the South.”  The court orders Ben to pay a small fine and work as a doctor in the local clinic for community service, mainly because the town’s current doctor (Barnard Hughes) is about to retire and they can’t find anyone to replace him. Ben has no intention of staying, until the quirky locals, especially Mayor Nicholson (David Ogden Stiers) and the beautiful ambulance driver Lou (Julie Warner), start to worm their way into his heart. Doc Hollywood (1991), despite its cynical opening scenes, is an old-fashioned, gentle romantic comedy, the kind of thing critics said Michael J. Fox should have been doing instead of Bright Lights, Big City (1988). But because we critics are fickle and flawed, reviewers weren’t keen on the kinder, gentler Fox, either, Roger Ebert being one of the few exceptions.   Doc Hollywood hearkens back to the days of older, inoffensive entertainment, including a scene with an outdoor late night showing of The General (1927), though there are a few moments that belie the film’s mild-mannered demeanor, mainly an early scene when Lou is introduced to us, completely and … Continue reading

It’s a Date (1940)

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It’s a Date is impressive in that it presages the post-war bobby soxer films by a few years, as well as the Hawaiian fashion trend; in fact, Peter Stackpole’s now-famous photo spread featuring Hawaiian and Polynesian fashions in Life Magazine didn’t go to print until after It’s a Date was released. This was clearly meant to be a trendy film, one to appeal to the younger crowd, particularly the ladies who were Durbin’s biggest fans. Continue reading

My Fellow Americans (1996)

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My Fellow Americans is exceedingly kind to its two leads, who are allowed to be charming and charismatic and fun, and whose sheer exuberance turns a strange tale about the attempted assassination of two former presidents into a delightful, lighthearted comedy. Continue reading

The Russian Woodpecker (2015)

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It’s that connection between the corrupt past and the corrupt neo-Soviet present that gives The Russian Woodpecker its heft. The film never unearths anything startling, and its attempts to fool you into thinking it has are done in bad faith, but the film remains a compelling reminder of just how quickly we humans tend to fall back into old habits, even old habits that are likely to kill us. Continue reading

Victor/Victoria (1982)

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Victor/Victoria happily embraces the been-there-done-that tone of a film that, fifty years after the original, knows its plot should no longer be scandalous. The genius of the film’s nonchalant sexuality is that gender-bending, drag and homosexuality were still salacious in 1982, and Victor/Victoria shows better than any other film before or since just how ridiculous that is.
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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

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The Taking of Pelham One Two Three is one goddamned entertaining film. Pelham is also exciting, especially for a film that consists largely of guys talking into radio mics at people they’ve never seen. Matthau is tough and confident — so confident, in fact, that he handily pulls off wearing the most beautiful, outrageous clothes, two yellow and red catastrophes duking it out with each other across his chest throughout the entire film. Continue reading

If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium (1969)

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Underneath that stereotypical late-60s conservative backlash veneer are some really interesting points being made, points that director Mel Stuart sadly seems to have not noticed. Continue reading

Gold (1934)

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Gold is an odd little bird, irresistible and entertaining despite being a bit thin on plot. It’s believable and thoughtful and the performances range from good to fantastic. It’s hard to imagine getting all worked up over alchemy here in the amazing futuristic year of 2016, but it’s easy to do with Gold. Continue reading

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

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The failures of the women in Woolf are reflective of the time in which it was made, which is ironic, considering this was very clearly intended to be an indictment of America’s sociocultural clime. It succeeds as being timeless far better than almost any other social consciousness film, and certainly is one of Albee’s best in this regard, but the need for the play to destroy Honey and Martha is telling. Continue reading

The King and Four Queens (1956)

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Filmed in the beautiful St. George, Utah area and with cinematography by Lucien Ballard, The King and Four Queens is light on plot but full of gorgeous scenery. Continue reading