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All reviews - Movies (106) - TV Shows (4) - Music (13)

She’s Electric...

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 17 June 2015 09:34 (A review of My Man Godfrey)

...she’s in a family full of eccentrics.


Does a comedy film actually have to make you laugh? Can you have a comedy without any laughs in it? This was once a question posed by film critic Mark Kermode.  When thinking of this question, the first movie which comes to my mind if My Man Godfrey, a comedy which I love but there are only a few moments during it which make me laugh and even those few aren’t big laughs, despite the movie’s crazy screwball, gorilla imitating antics in which the straight man William Powell enters a cartoon world. But I would still call it a comedy as it’s a movie which leaves you feeling melancholic watching it.

 

William Powell’s role as Godfrey exemplifies why he is the master of words. He can take any regular sounding lines and turn them into something memorable and when he speaks any unique piece of script writing, it’s like poetry. It’s easy to fall in love with Carole Lombard watching My Man Godfrey; she succeeds in playing a ditsy scatterbrain in an endearing manner but I feel the real unsung cast member of the film is Gail Patrick, one of the most underrated actresses of the 30’s; it’s a shame she never became an A-list leading lady. She became typecast playing (for lack of a better term) bitches, but could do so with a dose of humanity.

 

I love those moments which describe a ridiculous situation which are never caught on camera. The mental image of Carole Lombard riding into a mansion on a horse, going up the stairs and leaving it in the library is an image better left to my imagination. Let’s play grumpy old man and assume, oh say a Hangover sequel would not allow such a scene to be left to the viewer’s imagination and thus be unfunny as all hell.

 

Screwball comedy was all about making fun of the rich as retribution for the great depression; My Man Godfrey is probably the most harsh attack on the rich which the genre ever made, partially because of just how sombre the film is. The opening scene in which men are living in a shanty town by a dump or the scavenger hunt for bums or so called ‘forgotten men’ are shocking sights for any era. Likewise the Bullock family may be wealthy but they sure aren’t happy and don’t get along with each other.

 

My Man Godfrey wasn’t based on a stage play but watching it you might think otherwise as long stretches of the film take place in real time. Plus you get one thing almost unheard of in film’s prior to the 1950’s, an intricate title sequence.  I consider My Man Godfrey along with You Can’t Take It With You as the two quintessential “kooky family” movies although “kooky” may be an understatement.



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What Is the Deal With Donut Dunking?!

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 14 June 2015 01:27 (A review of It Happened One Night)

*** This review contains spoilers ***

It Happened One Night was my first exposure to what I now consider to be my favourite genre of film, the screwball comedy. I’ll never forget the feeling of exuberance at watching Clark Gable run to his boss at the newspaper to pitch a story about how he’s fallen in love with a princess, such energy, such emotion; I had never felt such a way from watching a movie before. It Happened One Night is the famous and most widely seen film of its genre and I believe it deserves such an accolade; something unforgettable is happening in every scene, whether funny or tender, jam packed little details to spot on every viewing. It Happened One Night along with Twentieth Century gave birth to the screwball comedy; but it isn’t the only sub genre it set a standard for. The runaway princess movie, the road movie and the newspaper comedy all owe their debts to it.

 

In his opening scene Clark Gable is introduced as the king; couldn’t be more adapt. Watching the movie closely I can say that everything this man says is pure gold from his art of donut dunking, art of clothes removal, the different methods hitchhike signalling and his wall of Jericho. Then it dawned on me just how Seinfeldian this movie is. Much of Clark Gable’s dialogue in this movie could be a Jerry Seinfeld stand up routine. It’s easy to see how many screwball comedies have influenced modern day sitcoms; all that’s missing is the laugh track.

 

Claudette Colbert is one of the most famous incumbents of The Gable Treatment; what I like to call the macho manner in which Gable treats his leading ladies. Of course for any other actor to have this characteristic they would be an unlikable brute, but because it’s Gable it works. I also have to ask did the scene in which Gable eats a raw carrot while attempting to hitch-hike with his usual confidence and cockiness inspire Bugs Bunny? Ah Gable, has never ever existed a more charismatic human being?



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Now That’s What I Call Archaeology!

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 14 June 2015 12:18 (A review of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)

*** This review contains spoilers ***

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade takes everything that made Raiders of the Lost Ark great to begin with and builds on top of that. Last Crusade is unquestionably my favourite of the series, the main reason for this being the role of Sean Connery as Indy’s father Henry Jones Sr which I consider to be one of the greatest casting choices ever. This casting was largely due to James Bond being one of the inspirations for Indiana Jones although oddly enough despite my love of Indiana Jones I’ve never been keen on the James Bond films. There’s something about father-son stories that I’ve always had a particular affection for and the relationship between Indy and his father is so difficult to put into words how in depth it is. They don’t get along despite being so much alike, at heart they are both being giddy school boys. Their scenes together are so melancholic and full of complex emotions which humanises the character of Indiana Jones. I really do think this may be the greatest pairing of two actors ever.

 

This ties in with the other aspect which elevates The Last Crusade, just how thematic it is. The search for the bond between father and son ends up becoming more important than the search for the grail; I always remember Henry Jones’ words of “Let it go” as legitimate life advice. The score by John Williams is not only one of his best but one of his most moving, perfectly capturing the melancholic and deep thematic nature of the film. I regularly listen the movie’s soundtrack in moments of personal reflection, it’s that powerful.

 

The Last Crusade is also a comedy classic in its own right from the North by Northwest type moments (“No ticket!”) to more slapstick oriented gags. The Forest Gump type moment in which Indy inadvertently confronts Hitler face to face is brilliant on so many levels. It works the same way the clothes hanger scene from Raiders did. I also love that Marcus gets to go along on the adventure, revealing that he’s a clumsy fool who once got lost in his museum. His line “The pen is mightier than the sword” always cracks me up with the manner in which he delivers it in an English gentlemanly way, or Indy Sr’s uttering of “Junior!”; music to my ears. Indy Jr, Indy Sr, Sallah and Marcus are simply the most fun group of characters.

 

If I was the make a list of my favourite action scenes in film, I swear my list would be dominated by scenes from the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones films. Last Crusade was one of the last blockbusters to have such extensive use of practical effects, you know, before CGI had to go and ruin everything. Also does anyone else think Donavan looks like Doc Brown after drinking from the wrong cup?

 

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is one of these rare movies which gives me everything I could ask for a movie. Like the filmmakers specifically made it just for me, encapsulating everything I love about cinema.



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Proper Action and Sh*t

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 12 June 2015 07:02 (A review of Hot Fuzz)

*** This review contains spoilers ***

Hot Fuzz is my favourite comedy of the new millennium, as well as in my top 5 favourite films of said era. I already thought Shaun of the Dead itself was a perfect film, yet Hot Fuzz is even better.There are so many film and pop culture references, inside jokes and foreshadowing, ranging from the subtle to the more obvious. Just how long does it take to write a movie this layered? It’s like Bad Boys meets The Vicar of Dibley meets The Wicker Man. British comedy has long been about quality over quantity, just look at the small episode count of British sitcoms, or films by Aardman Animations which employee a similar style of humour to Hot Fuzz; there is more comedy in this one film than several Hollywood comedies combined. The pacing and consistency of the jokes in Hot Fuzz is perfect, never is there more than 10 seconds that I’m not laughing. For me the best laugh was saved until the end, when the swan attacks the police officer in the car.

Those moments when Danny (Nick Frost) asks Nicholas Angel about films he has seen, just how many times have I been in this situation in real life, when someone names films one by one (usually junk food films), and when you say you haven’t seen one they keep going onto you about it. Angel himself manages to be a likable character despite his overt political correctness, but for me Timothy Dalton steals the show. He really is one of the last of his kind, as a Shakespearean trained actor who can play these types of debonair villains, here he just has the smuggest look on his face.

It’s easy for a film to mock bureaucracy, this seems to be one film which speaks in its favour, then again how many films can make the act of filling out paperwork look exciting. The film’s use of fascism and the concept of “The Greater Good” (the greater good!) as a theme surprisingly is highly thought provoking.

Hot Fuzz satirizes action movies by being grounded in reality and with Danny’s misconceptions between fantasy and reality, yet at the same time also celebrates them. Having an action movie with British police officers, set in a small English town and full of Hollywood action movie tropes, the concept works on so many levels, likely because there doesn’t exist a tradition of cop movies in the UK. Plus having the bad guy’s hideout being an outlet for an actual British supermarket chain is another stroke of brilliance. There’s just something refreshing and satisfying watching these Hollywood clichés spoofed in a British manner. Action movies have never been a favourite genre of mine, especially this brand of shaky cam, fast cut action, but the action scenes here are legitimately edge of your seat thrilling. The film’s use of CGI blood is my only complaint, but when a film is this amazing I can look past this one flaw. Thank you Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg for improving the greater good of British cinema (the greater good!).


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Her Undisputed Masterpiece

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 3 June 2015 09:17 (A review of Hounds of Love)

Do you like Kate Bush? I’ve been a big fan ever since the release of her 1978 debut album The Kick Inside. In ’85 Kate released this, Hounds of Love, her most accomplished album. The whole album has a clear crisp sound and a new sheen of consummate professionalism which really gives the songs a big boost, while at the same time it deepens and enriches the meaning of the preceding four albums.

In terms of lyrical craftsmanship, the sheer song writing, this album hits a new peak of professionalism. Take the lyrics to Cloudbusting, in this song Kate Bush addresses the problem of abusive political authority.

Running Up That Hill is the most moving pop song of the 1980’s, about understanding and commitment. Its universal message crosses all boundaries and instills one with the hope that it’s not too late to better ourselves. It’s impossible in this world to emphasize with ourselves, unless we emphasize with our other. It’s an important message, crucial really, and it’s beautifully stated on the album.

It’s hard to choose a favourite among so many great tracks, but I think The Ninth Wave is her undisputed masterpiece; it’s an epic meditation on mysticism. The final song is extremely uplifting, her lyrics are as positive and affirmative as anything as anything I’ve heard in rock.

Take The Big Sky, a great, great song, a personal favourite. A song so catchy, people probably don’t listen to the lyrics, but they should, because it’s not just about the pleasures of pensive day dreaming and the importance of the inner child, but is also a personal statement about the artist herself. Hey Paul...


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What Happened To You Man?

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 29 May 2015 09:21 (A review of The Nostalgia Critic)

“You used to have strong plentiful balls”: Ma-ti – Battlefield Earth Review

Back in 2007, an episode of The Angry Video Game Nerd involved the titular character reviewing the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. This was a change of pace to his regular videos as he would normally only review video games, however I particularly loved this one video and wish he could have done more like this, or that someone would come around and be The Angry Video Game Nerd of movies. In a number of respects this was The Nostalgia Critic (portrayed by Doug Walker). This is what first attracted me to the series when I first discovered it in 2009, and after watching a few episodes I was hooked. The series debuted on YouTube in 2007 before moving to Doug Walker’s own site That Guy With the Glasses.com (later re-titled Channel Awesome), a website which showcased of people involved in the increasingly popular genre of satirical reviews.

 

That Guy With the Glasses wasn’t entertainment being churned out by a corporation or by Hollywood executives, it was entertainment for the people by the people with no concern for financial gain but creating content purely out of passion which could be shared with a mass audience thanks to this thing known as the internet. I had my own aspirations to be on TGWTG, of course nothing ever materialized, but to even be a follower of the site it felt like being part of something truly special and unique. All the great personalities the site had to offer; Spoony, Angry Joe, Todd in the Shadows, Linkara, Paw, Film Brain - the list goes on. Online videos like these have more heart, soul and personality than contemporary Hollywood blockbusters or anything currently on TV.

 

But let’s talk about The Nostalgia Critic. Doug Walker was a natural comedian, he made the art of reviewing while cracking jokes, pop culture references and comedic over reactions look easy. Surf Ninjas is my favourite NC review, I have watched a good 30 times; a masterpiece of sarcasm. I remember I used to stay up on Tuesday nights to see each new video as soon as it was uploaded and I considered Doug Walker to be one of my comedic influences.

 

Various ex fans of The Nostalgia Critic have different dates as to when he went downhill, so I can’t speak for everyone, but for me personally 2011 was the beginning of the end. Right from the start of 2011 the cracks were showing. Sequel month was lazy idea, just rehashing previous review source material, but I presumed this would just be a minor blip. Despite a few good videos over the following year, the quality had declined. Also while I absolutely adored the two year anniversary special Kickassia, the following anniversary special in 2011 Suburban Knights simply wasn’t funny, not to mention it felt like a very anti-climatic follow up to Kickassia in which they made the special in cooperation with an actual micro-nation. Going from something as large scale and ambitious as that to a special filmed is suburban neighborhood felt like bummer. When Star Trek month rolled around in January 2012 I gave up. Now at this point The Nostalgia Critic’s video weren’t awful, but more so just really boring.

 

I was glad when Doug brought the series to an end in August 2012 and began a new project called Demo Reel. Perhaps Demo Reel had potential but what I have watched of it is seriously dull; although at least it was something different and showed Doug didn’t want to be The Critic all his life. However due to failure of Demo Reel Doug revived The Nostalgia Critic. I haven’t seen everything he has done since the series revival but what I have is unbelievably awful. For this review I had to try and watch more recent videos of his which I hadn’t seen, and doing so was the biggest chore, such a contrast to his older work which had such a natural progression and the best of which were consistently funny from beginning to end.

 

A rundown of the problems with The Nostalgia Critic beginning in 2011 and spiraling out of control in 2012:

 

Firstly he started going to way of MTV, he’s become The Nostalgia Critic in name only. This problem began in October 2011 when he reviewed Exorcist II: The Heretic and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2; two films totally outside of his territory as there’s nothing nostalgic about them to the Critic’s target audience. He once had cut of date of 2000 (aside from the odd exception), however now it’s clear he’s run out of nostalgic movies and TV shows from his time frame and now reviews whatever he wants. He was at his best reviewing stupid and nonsensical Movies and TV shows from the 80’s and 90’s; that was the kind of material that worked best with his brand of humor.

 

His jokes are now forced beyond belief, an example? In his Top 11 F-Ups Part 3 he makes a joke about how people get the titles of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith mixed up. Not only is this joke shoe horned in out of nowhere, it’s creating a situation that doesn’t even exist. However it’s bad enough when a joke is unfunny and forced, it’s even worse if it goes on for ages. I don’t mind long jokes if they’re done well as Doug himself has done so in the past such as the dream sequence in the Junior review. For an example of a joke which goes on for an eternity; the “Allen” gag in his Jurassic Park III review. I was in a state of disbelief and non-existent laughter at just how long it lasts. I could make a huge list of the individual jokes in his new videos and why each one doesn’t work.

 

 

Other reviews are simply unpleasant, hateful and mean spirited. In his review of Eight Crazy Nights he had recurring gag throughout the video making fun of Happy Madison fans as lowest common denominator yokels. Regardless of how terrible Happy Madison films are, I did not start watching this guy’s videos in the first place to see such mean spirited gags such as this.

 

The other major source of increasing annoyance is the lack of research he does for his videos. In his Patch Adams review he clearly has no knowledge of film’s subject matter, or in his Jurassic Park review he criticizes the science present in the film and even has a sketch about it despite having no apparent knowledge of it. This brings me to what annoys me most of what the critic has now become. He’s become a self righteous know-it-all jerk, and not in an intentional self aware funny way. His review of Patch Adams is just one huge snob fest, while in his reviews of generally well liked films (Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Matrix), he parades like his opinion is fact even though his criticisms on these films are just stupid nit picking. There was once a time when watching a Nostalgia Critic review was simply fun, now it’s about having Doug Walker’s self righteous, poorly researched, incorrect or simply illogical statements shoved down your throat. The dividing line between Doug and his fictional creation is becoming increasingly blurred; in his Top 11 F-Ups Part 3 he makes a list entry related to videos he made speaking as himself and not the Critic.

 

Since Demo Reel failed the people Doug has hired to appear in that show are now regulars on the revived series of The Nostalgia Citric, and none of them of any charisma; it makes me miss the days of Ma-ti. His new videos also look too sterile and washed out; what happened to that warm inviting yellow background?

 

He’s also stopped using creative title cards and instead now uses lazy photo shopped title cards; ironic considering in his Drew Struzan tribute he criticized movie studios for using lazy, uninspired photo shopped movie posters. Also all these new title cards have an exaggerated facial expression from Doug which is increasingly obnoxious. I’m sure there are many other problems I could mention, but trying to watch his more recent videos for the sake of this review is excruciating with how bad they are.

 

Then there’s his NC: Editorials. These annoy me for two reasons. Firstly it’s the constant retreading of this mentality that you’re simply blinded by nostalgia if you dislike some aspect of contemporary popular culture. Secondly they’re pretentious, giving an over important emphasis to questions no one was asking the answers to (Is It Right to Nitpick? Why Do We Love Stupid?), or questions which have obvious answers (Have we gone too deep into CGI?, Why Is Tom & Jerry Genius?).


I can’t comment on the current state of other TGWTG contributors as I gave up on the site as a whole long ago (expect Todd In the Shadows who is the only one I still watch), but I know some of long time members such as The Nostalgia Chick, Oancitizen, Phealous and Obscurus Lupa are no longer there.


When writing this review I was wondering if it was a mistake to undertake as I much prefer to write reviews of stuff I love instead of contributing to an internet full of negativity, but this show used to mean so much to me and bring me such joy, now it does the complete opposite. I have witnessed two things in my life degrade from being something I loved so dearly to becoming one of the worst pieces of so called “entertainment” I have ever seen - The Simpsons and The Nostalgia Critic. It’s hard to watch his old videos now without thinking about what a joke he is now. Congratulations Doug on destroying your own creation. 



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Seeeeymoooour!

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 28 May 2015 03:09 (A review of 22 Short Films About Springfield)

I can narrow down the two Simpsons episodes which I quote the most in daily life; A Star Is Burns and 22 Short Films about Springfield. Half of my favourite Simpsons’ quotes come from these two episodes alone.

 

This episode has not only my all time favourite Simpsons’ moment but also possibly my favourite moment in TV history; I am indeed talking about the greatness that is the Skinner and Superintendent skit. I can recall several instances in which myself and people I’ve known have recited this scene in its entirety from memory. As a kid I didn’t get the humour of the scene, but can recall my parents and older brother laughing hysterically at it. Now that I’m older I constantly watch this scene over and over again. But do you know what’s the funniest thing (well aside from the aforementioned scene) it’s the little differences. Such as the episode’s parody of Pulp Fiction’s “Muthaf**ka” scene, with Chief Wiggum stating “Hey I know you!”; the complete opposite of what is said in the scene from Pulp Fiction. Like the greatest of Simpsons’ gags it works on so many levels. Why did they never make another episode like this? I guess this one was as close to perfection as it gets that they could never top it.



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The Pride of the Simpsons

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 28 May 2015 03:08 (A review of Homer at the Bat)

After recently re-watching the first nine seasons or what fans now refer to as the golden age I have come to the decision that Homer at the Bat is my favourite episode of The Simpsons.

 

I should point out that I’m not a sports fan (far from it as a matter of fact) and due to cultural reasons I do not know who any of these baseball stars are as the sport is not popular in the UK. However this made me realise just what made the guest appearances during The Simpsons glory days so great. Even if you’re not familiar with a celebrity you can still enjoy their appearance on the show as they manage to give them their own unique comic, down to Earth personalities. Here there are no fewer nine guest stars and they’re all equally memorable and funny. However what also astounds me is how each of these guest stars has their own story arc and all this within the confines of 22 minutes. There is even an early exposure to Barney Gumble being a secret intellectual; leave it to The Simpsons to get the viewer interested in who was England’s greatest prime minister. There is so much going on in this episode yet the show’s creators successfully get it all in without any of it feeling forced. There’s enough material here to make several episodes.

 

Homer at the Bat is one of the more surreal episodes of The Simpons’ glory days and they even manage to summarise this during the end credits in one catchy song (a parody of Talkin’ Baseball by Terry Cashman). Like many Simpsons’ parodies it has become more famous than its source and like the best Simpsons’ songs, a whole generation can recite it off by heart.



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No One Can Succeed Like Mister Roberts

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 27 May 2015 09:46 (A review of Mister Roberts)

Fonda, Cagney, Powell, Lemon. What more do you want? Being a huge fan of all four actors, for me personally this may be the greatest accumulation of actors ever; thus I will try my best to contain my inner fan boy. Not only do all four play interesting characters but they all share interesting relationships between each other. Fonda and Cagney share a Bugs Bunny/ Yosemite Sam dynamic with Cagney being a frustrated old captain in a position of power but with no control and Fonda stepping over everything he does.


Jack Lemon’s Ensign Pulver on the other hand hates the captain but out of total shock the captain likes Ensign. I find this dynamic particular funny as I can relate to that situation of being admired by someone you dislike. However I also relate to the character of Mister Roberts himself in his predicament of being stuck in a rut of which he is desperate to escape from; wanting to leave the navy cargo boat and be right in the action of the Second World War. The entire film effortlessly combines tragedy and comedy with the final scene being one of my favourite movie endings ever. The claustrophobic intimacy of the ship as well as the simply superb dialogue and performances makes the dialogue heavy scenes so engaging. Even with two directors on the project which could have spelled disaster the film manages to come out perfectly fine. The other scene which always stuck out to me was at the beginning of the film when the men are attempting to get a glimpse of women in a shower and going crazy as hell over it. Would men have the same reaction today because of the internet? Was the prospect of seeing a naked woman more thrilling back then?


Mister Roberts would be William Powell’s final film although one of Jack Lemon’s first, so I see the film as a passing of the torch between two generations of comedic actors.[Link removed - login to see] Originally Powell retired after appearing in How to Marry a Millionaire but decided to appear in Mister Roberts after reading the script. A much, much better choice of final film.



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Freud & Ginger

Posted : 2 years, 6 months ago on 27 May 2015 12:54 (A review of Carefree)

On my first viewing of Carefree, I experienced something I never thought I would with Fred and Ginger, boredom. Initially I was expecting another spectacular musical showcase, however the film is on a smaller scale (their shortest at only 80 minutes) than their previous outings and only contains a mere four musical numbers; making it more of a comedy with some singing and dancing than a full fledged musical. With several movies behind them following a similar formula, if they were going to make another then they had to do something different or things would have become stale. I wished though that Fred Astaire could have done straight comedies during his career; Carefree is the closest thing to that.

 

None of the musical numbers in Carefree stand out as being among the best in the series. Fred Astaire’s number in which he plays golf while tap dancing sounds better on paper than it does in execution. I’m sure what he’s doing is no easy task yet it doesn’t look all that impressive to watch. The Yam on the other hand is a pretty standard number, but heck, it’s still Fred and Ginger dancing. I find the film’s most interest musical number is ‘I Used to be Color Blind’, the most experimental in the film, shot in slow motion and allowing the viewer to see Fred and Ginger’s grace in every detail.

 

For the only time in the series, Astaire plays a character who is not a dancer by profession, but rather a psychiatrist (although they do make sure to mention he once had aspirations of becoming a dancer). I don’t completely buy Astaire as a psychiatrist, but realism is not what these movies are about. Plus I’m sure the psychology on display here is of the “you are getting sleepy” variety as seen in movies. He doesn’t break his professional ethics though by pursuing his patient like his stalkerish attitude towards Ginger in other films in the series, instead she wants him.

 

Carefree belongs to Ginger, playing a character whom has been put under hypnosis, giving her the opportunity to completely goof around in a child like manner with big wide eyes, and it’s pretty funny stuff. How many movies do you get to see Ginger Rogers wielding a shot gun? Everyone needs at least one movie where they get to act stupid. The comedic assets of Ralph Bellamy and Jack Carson are a big benefits to the film’s witty dialogue, where much of the film’s strength lies. Even if the dance numbers don’t fully exceed, as a screwball comedy, Carefree grows on me, of course I am a sucker for these movies and the Astaire/Rodgers name, so good enough for me!



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