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Includes:A Day at the Races (1937) Room Service (1938), MPAA Rating: NR At the Circus (1939) A Night in Casablanca (1946) A Day at the Races A Day at the Races was the Marx Brothers' follow-up to their incomparable A Night at the Opera. Groucho Marx is cast as Hugo Z. Hackenbush, a veterinarian who passes himself off as a human doctor when summoned by wealthy hypochondriac Emily Upjohn (Margaret Dumont) to take over the financially strapped Standish Sanitarium. Chico Marx plays the sanitarium's general factotum, who works without pay because he has a soft spot for its owner, lovely Judy Standish (Maureen O'Sullivan). Harpo Marx portrays a jockey at the local racetrack, constantly bullied by the evil Morgan (Douglass Dumbrille), who will take over the sanitarium if Judy can't pay its debts. After several side-splitting routines--Chico selling Groucho tips on the races, Chico and Harpo rescuing Groucho from the clutches of femme fatale Esther Muir, all three Marxes conducting a lunatic "examination" of Margaret Dumont--the fate of the sanitarium rests on a Big Race involving Hi-Hat, a horse belonging to the film's nominal hero, Allan Jones. Virtually everything that worked in "Opera" is trotted out again for "Races", including a hectic slapstick finale wherein the Marxes lay waste to a public event. What is missing here is inspiration; perhaps this is due to the fact that MGM producer Irving Thalberg, whose input was so essential to the success of "Opera", died during the filming of "Races". Even so, Day at the Races made more money than any other previous Marx Brothers film--the result being that MGM, in the spirit of "they loved it once", would continue recycling Races' best bits for the studio's next three Marx vehicles. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide Room Service Having paid $255,500 for the rights to John Murray and Allen Boretz' Broadway hit Room Service, RKO Radio then scouted about for a "perfect" cast. Thanks to the persistence of show-biz agent Zeppo Marx, RKO was able to secure the services of Zeppo's brothers Groucho, Harpo and Chico Marx for $100,000. The result is an uneven but entertaining blend of traditional stage farce and Marxian madness. Groucho plays two-bit producer Gordon Miller, who has gone deeply into debt while trying to stage a turgid production called "Hail and Farewell". Miller and his entire cast are ensconced in the Great White Way Hotel, managed by his brother-in-law Gribble Cliff Dunstan, who is fed up with the troupe's inability to pay its bills. As Miller, his director Harry Binelli (Chico) and his business manager Faker Englund (Harpo) try to figure out new methods of raising money, in walks Leo Davis Frank Albertson, the wide-eyed playwright, who is unaware that his masterpiece is in danger of closing before it even opens. He soon figures out what's what after Harry and Faker hock his typewriter for eating money. When hotel inspector Wagner Donald MacBride threatens to throw Miller and his entourage out bag and baggage, the producer and his cronies fake a measles epidemic so that Wagner will be forced to allow them to stay. Salvation seems at hand when Jenkins Philip Wood, a potential backer, arrives with a blank check in hand. But after sampling a bit of the lunacy that has surrounded the play since its inception, Jenkins dashes off, refusing to finance such a chancy property. Miller manages to mollify Wagner by pretending that Jenkins has invested money in the show, but when this scheme falls through, our hero resorts to really drastic measures by pretending that Davis and Faker have both committed suicide because of Wagner's persecution. Weaving in and out of the proceedings are nominal heroines Lucille Ball and Ann Miller, as well as Philip Loeb (who played Faker in the original Broadway production), brilliantly cast as a mild-mannered bill collector. Room Service is hardly typical Marx Bros. fare, despite the efforts by screenwriter Morris Ryskind to inject characteristic verbal gags and visual bits into the action; the film works better as a situation comedy than as a Marx vehicle (Groucho's only comment on the subject was that his brother Zeppo should have arranged a larger salary). In 1943, RKO Radio remade Room Service as a musical titled Step Lively, which was actually something of an improvement on the original. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide At the Circus A distinct letdown from their previous MGM films, the Marx Bros.' At the Circus nonetheless contains intermittent moments of high hilarity. When Jeff Wilson (Kenny Baker) is in danger of losing his circus to crooked creditor Carter (James Burke), Jeff's faithful roustabout Antonio (Chico Marx) enlists the aid of seedy attorney J. Cheever Loophole (Groucho Marx). Despite the best efforts of Loophole, Antonio and general hanger-on Punchy (Harpo Marx), Jeff is robbed of the circus payroll by two flies in the ointment, Goliath the Strong Man (Nat Pendleton) and Little Professor Atom (Jerry Marenghi, later known as Jerry Maren). Also in on the plot to wrest control of the circus is aerialist Peerless Pauline (Eve Arden), with whom Loophole has a cozy tete-a-tete while walking on the ceiling (no kidding!) In a last-ditch effort to raise the necessary funds, Loophole romances Jeff's wealthy aunt Mrs. Dukesbury (Margaret Dumont). The finale takes place at a fancy society party at the Dukesbury mansion, with Punchy and Antonio hijacking the scheduled entertainment and replacing it with a full-fledged circus performance. Weighed down by an excess of plot and a surfeit of misfire gags, not to mention one of sappiest romantic subplots in film history (involving sappy tenor Kenny Baker and sappier ingenue Florence Rice), At the Circus still keeps audiences happy with Groucho's rendition of the deathless "Lydia the Tatooed Lady" (by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg) and the zany denoument, wherein pompous conductor Fritz Feld and his orchestra are set adrift in the middle of the ocean and the magnificent Margaret Dumont is shot out of a cannon. Best gag: When Eve Arden stuffs the circus payroll into her blouse, Groucho turns to the camera and whispers "There must be some way of getting that money back without offending the Hays Office." ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide A Night in Casablanca After a five-year absence, the Marx Brothers returned to the screen in the independently-produced effort A Night in Casablanca. Originally conceived as a parody of Casablanca (with character names like "Humphrey Bogus" and "Lowen Behold"), the film emerged as a spoof of wartime melodramas in general. Someone has been methodically murdering the managers of the Hotel Casablanca, and that someone is escaped Nazi war criminal Heinrich Stubel (Sig Ruman). Disguised as a Count Pfefferman, Stubel intends to reclaim the stolen art treasures that he's hidden in a secret room somewhere in the hotel, and the only way he can do this undetected is by bumping off the managers and taking over the hotel himself. The newest manager of Hotel Casablanca is former motel proprietor Ronald Kornblow (Groucho Marx), who, blissfully unaware that he's been hired only because no one else will take the job, immediately takes charge in his own inimitably inept fashion. Corbacchio (Chico Marx), owner of the Yellow Camel company, appoints himself as Kornblow's bodyguard, aided and abetted by Stubel's mute valet Rusty (Harpo Marx). In his efforts to kill Kornblow, Stubel dispatches femme fatale Beatrice Reiner (Lisette Verea) to romance the lecherous manager, leading to a hilarious recreation of a key comedy sequence in the Marxes' earlier A Day at the Races. Arrested on a trumped-up charge, Kornblow, Corbacchio and Rusty escape in time to foil Stubel and his stooges. As in most Marx Brothers epics, A Night in Casablanca includes a tiresome romantic subplot, this time involving disgraced French flyer (Pierre) and his faithful sweetheart Annette (Lois Collier). Though hampered by listless direction and witless one-liners, A Night in Casablanca contains enough hilarity to compensate for its many flaws; some of the best visual gags were conceived by an uncredited Frank Tashlin, including Harpo's legendary "holding up the building" bit. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide
John Hughes and Chris Columbus repeat their best-selling formula from the first Home Alone film with this sequel. Once again Kevin McCallister's (Macaulay Culkin) family leave him behind, only now he gets on a flight to New York instead of going with his family to Miami. Kevin manages to hail a cab and is delivered to the doorsteps of the Plaza Hotel, where, using his father's credit card, he rents out a suite and has the time of his life -- although a smarmy hotel clerk (Tim Curry) and bellboy (Rob Schneider) eye him with suspicion. But ingenious Kevin keeps them at bay, using the same tomfoolery he applied to his uncle in the first picture. He takes time out from his consumer debauch to chat with a friendly old toy-store magnate (Eddie Bracken) and pontificate to a homeless Pigeon Lady (Brenda Fricker) on the meaning of Christmas. But then he runs into his old enemies Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern).When he finds out that they plan on robbing the old man's toy store on Christmas Eve, he mans the battle stations once again, complete with electric prods, flames of fire, and sundry blunt instruments. ~ Paul Brenner, All Movie Guide
Includes:Grease (1978), MPAA Rating: PG Footloose (1984), MPAA Rating: PG Dreamgirls (2006), MPAA Rating: PG-13 Grease "Grease," said the poster and the Barry Gibb song, "is the word." Transferring its setting from Chicago to sunny California, and adding a dash of disco to the ersatz '50s score, producer Allan Carr and director Randal Kleiser turned this long-running Jim Jacobs - Warren Casey Broadway smash into the biggest blockbuster of 1978. 1950s teens Danny (John Travolta) and Australian transfer Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) spend their "Summer Nights" falling in love, but once fall comes, it's back to Rydell High and its cliques. As one of the bad boy T-Birds, Danny has to act cool for best pal Kenickie (Jeff Conaway) and their leather-clad mates Sonny (Michael Tucci) and Doody (Barry Pearl, in the role Travolta played on stage). Despite befriending Frenchy (Didi Conn), one of the rebel Pink Ladies, virginal Sandy is "too pure to be Pink," as the Ladies' leader Rizzo (Stockard Channing) acidly observes. Declaring their devotion in such ballads as "Hopelessly Devoted to You" and "Sandy," Sandy and Danny split, reconcile, and split again amidst a pep rally, dances, drive-ins, and a drag race, before deciding "You're the One That I Want" at the climactic carnival. With Travolta white-hot from Saturday Night Fever (1977), Grease soundtrack singles climbed the charts and summer movie crowds poured in. With the presence of Joan Blondell, Eve Arden, Sid Caesar, Edd "Kookie" Byrnes and Frankie Avalon appealing to grown-up memories, Grease became the highest grossing film of 1978, the highest grossing movie musical ever, and the third most popular film of the new blockbuster '70s after Star Wars (1977) and Jaws (1975). Its sequel, Grease 2, did not exactly set the world on fire in 1982. ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide Footloose In this lively adolescent-oriented musical, a city kid attempts to adapt to life in an ultra-conservative backwater Midwestern town. Once there, he ends up leading the repressed teenagers into a rebellion against the town fathers, who have outlawed rock & roll and dancing. ~ Sandra Brennan, All Movie Guide Dreamgirls Director Bill Condon brings Tom Eyen's Tony award-winning Broadway musical to the big screen in a tale of dreams, stardom, and the high cost of success in the cutthroat recording industry. The time is the 1960s, and singers Effie (Jennifer Hudson), Lorrell (Anika Noni Rose), and Deena (BeyoncÃ© Knowles) are about to find out just what it's like to have their wildest dreams come true. Discovered at a local talent show by ambitious manager Curtis Taylor Jr. (Jamie Foxx), the trio known as "the Dreamettes" is soon offered the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of opening for popular singer James "Thunder" Early (Eddie Murphy). Subsequently molded into an unstoppable hit machine by Taylor and propelled into the spotlight as "the Dreams," the girls quickly find their bid for the big time taking priority over personal friendship as Taylor edges out the ultra-talented Effie so that the more beautiful Deena can become the face of the group. Now, as the crossover act continues to dominate the airwaves, the small-town girls with big-city dreams slowly begin to realize that the true cost of fame may be higher than any of them ever anticipated. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide
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