Movies I’ve Recently Seen: One really good new movie and four not-so-good old ones

For the first time in more than 15 months, I’ve posted one of these “Recently Seen” posts containing a new movie I saw actually saw in a movie theater.

A- Limbo (2021)

The trailer suggests this is a comedy, and at first, it feels like a very funny and quirky one. But the farther you go into the story, you realize just how serious this film is. Omar (Amir El-Masry) is one of several, all-male, new immigrants stuck on a small, desolate island off the coast of Scotland. They’re getting not-so-useful lessons on how to act in a western country. Omar always carries his oud, although he seems to have stopped playing it at all. His occasional phone calls tell us he has problems with family he left behind. Not to be mistaken with the 1999 John Sayles movie with the same name.

I saw Limbo at the Shattuck‘s Auditorium 9, which has a good-sized screen, and new, reclining chairs. Unfortunately, I was the only person in the theater – a first for me. Too bad; it should be watched with an audience.

B- History is Made at Night (1937)

This strange, romantic drama is never believable for a minute, but it’s fun. Jean Arthur plays an unhappy wife driven away by her extremely wealthy, suspicious, and jealous husband (Colin Clive – as always, chewing the scenery). His distrustful and illegal shenanigans sends her into the arms of the world’s greatest headwaiter (Charles Boyer). But the husband frames the headwaiter on a murder charge. The characters go back and forth between Paris and New York, and in the last act the film goes into Titanic territory.

C+ Go West (1940)

Comedy westerns were common in the middle of the century. When the Marx Brothers got around to make one, they stole Buster Keaton’s title and Laurel and Hardy’s plot.

The movie starts great! Chico and Harpo take every cent in Groucho’s pockets. It closes with a fast and funny railroad race. Most of the problems are in between. There’s an extremely pointless plot, and the Brothers act like nice guys – which goes very much against their characters. But it has some worthy comic bits making fun of western conventions – especially of the old “Put up your hands” routine.

C The Green-Eyed Blonde (1957)

Not everything Dalton Trumbo wrote was worth watching. This very unlikely story about teenage girls in a reformatory has only a few moments of real drama. And yet we’re supposed to accept that a group of adolescents living in what is basically a jail can hide a baby for two weeks. One nice touch: It’s a rare ’50s movie with a racially-mixed cast and no bigotry or segregation. Trumbo’s name is still not in the credits.

D At the Circus (1939)

This one doesn’t belong in The Best of The Marx Brothers, but that’s where the Criterion Channel put it. The first hour has rare moments of moderate laughter, and one terrific musical number (Lydia the Tattooed Lady). The rest is an idiotic plot and very weak gags. Kenny Baker may be the worst male romantic lead in cinema history. But then, after too much time waiting, Margaret Dumont appears and suddenly we get touches of Marxist magic. I never saw her happier with Groucho.

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