Monika and Harry run from the city and retreat from their drab lives into the countryside. For a time, they live out their romantic fantasies, but reality compels them to return. Superficially, the story resembles "Moonrise Kingdom", but this is no whimsical fable. Both Harry and Monika have harsh truths to confront, and ultimately are woven into the darker fabric of adult life. Astonishing performances and elegant direction deliver a powerful, unforgettable film.
Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) takes his family to Catalina for his first vacation in eleven years. Young Andy (Mickey Rooney) and Marion (Cecilia Parker) learn some love lessons during their two weeks in California. Modern audiences may snicker at the freshly-scrubbed kissing antics, but the Hardy parents' relationships with their children - and each other - are surprisingly well-rendered. The subplot (involving a bad land investment) is clever as well. Charming pre-sitcom was a big hit, continuing a string of films that later included Judy Garland.
The Salkinds assemble their "Superman" production team to tell a splashy version of another beloved American character, Santa Claus. David Huddleston is fine as the jolly man in the big red coat, but David Newman's script isn't strong enough to deliver the goods. We don't have much sympathy for ambitious elf Patch (Dudley Moore), because he's simply not very good at making toys (not to mention the fact the he's excited about mechanizing Santa's production line). Patch isn't a great judge of human nature once he leaves the workshop, either - his new boss B.Z. (John Lithgow) is on the verge of bankruptcy for making hazardous toys. There's several storylines chugging along here, but none of them generate much interest.
Arguably the least-seen large-scale studio film in history, "Heaven's Gate" is one of the first projects where the articles surrounding its release overwhelmed the story itself. A bleak expansion of the Johnson County War, writer/director Cimino reaches for an epic collision between idealism and economic/political reality at the turn of the century. While Vilmos Zsigmond's enormous Montana landscapes and David Mansfield's score are truly lovely, the characters and script can't fill the canvas Cimino has constructed.