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Category:    Home > Reviews > Comedy > Musical > Animated > Biopic > Boxing > Backstage > Show Business > Drama > New Zealand > Shakespear > Cats Don't Dance (1997*)/Gentleman Jim (1942*)/Great Ziegfeld (1936/MGM*)/Midwinter's Tale (1995/Castle Rock/*/**)/Millie Lies Low (2021/Film Movement DVD)/Saving Grace (2000/**both Fine Line/New Line

Cats Don't Dance (1997*)/Gentleman Jim (1942*)/Great Ziegfeld (1936/MGM*)/Midwinter's Tale (1995/Castle Rock/*/**)/Millie Lies Low (2021/Film Movement DVD)/Saving Grace (2000/**both Fine Line/New Line/*all Warner Archive Blu-rays)

Picture: B+/B/B-/B-/C/B- Sound: B+/C+/B-/B-/C+/B- Extras: B/C+/C+/C-/B-/C+ Films: C+/C+/B-/C+/C+/C

PLEASE NOTE: All five Warner Archive Blu-rays are now only available from Warner Bros. and can be ordered from the links below.

The following comedies have some drama and more than a few have songs to go with their music...

Cats Don't Dance (1997) is a cell-animated, fun musical film, with music by Randy Newman (Toy Story) that centers on Danny the Cat, a musically inclined feline who goes to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a famous singer/actor. As he overcomes many obstacles that come in his path, including getting in trouble with a feisty human star, he pairs up with another like minded female feline and the two take tinseltown by storm with original routines.

The film has a good message and has a certain amount of innocence to it that is missing in a lot of modern animated studio features which constantly do the opposite with hidden social messages populating many. I don't know the numbers off hand, but this seems like perhaps a forgotten animated title that underperformed from Warner's library and that has been largely overlooked so it is good that it's getting a second life now. Sure, the plot is a bit unoriginal and some of it feels a little easy and familiar, but it has a great bit of heart to it that makes it endearing which makes it interesting for a rewatch.

Cats Don't Dance features the voice talent of Scott Bakula, Mark Dindal, Ashley Peldon, Matthew Herried, Don Knotts, and Jasmine Guy. The film is directed by Mark Dindal (Chicken Little, The Emperor's New Groove, and the 2024 Garfield movie.)

Special Features include:

Classic Looney Tunes cartoons in HD: Curtain Razor, Daffy Duck in Hollywood, Show Biz Bugs, and What's Up Doc?, plus an Original Theatrical Trailer for Cats Don't Dance in HD.

Cats Don't Dance isn't the greatest animation achievement of our time, but fun enough and reminds us of a simpler time in Hollywood.

Raoul Walsh's Gentleman Jim (1942) is an unusual film for the gutsy director, a biopic that tries to do much more by being a comedy with some music and really pushing the lead star system angle by casting Errol Flynn as the the legendary boxer of the title. We learn how James Corbett (Flynn) went from high society to being outstanding in a down and dirty sport that still to this day has its controversies. Don't expect Rocky or Raging Bull, but the boxing is interesting if not ultra violent or gritty.

Alexis Smith is the lead gal and the supporting cast includes Alan Hale, Rhys Williams, William Frawley, Ward Bond and Jack Carson, so that tells you what you need to know about the comic content here and it is here. Running a tight 104 minutes, you'll love this film if you think all Walsh juggles gels and Flynn was in prime form here, more than able to carry the lead here as he always did. Yes, it also has a few cliches, but it was meant to be a hit and it was. It is worth a good look if you are interested.

Extras include the Estee Lauter Screen Actors Guild radio drama version of the film with Flynn and Smith, an Original Theatrical Trailer and three classic Warner cartoon shorts: The Dover Boys At Pimento University, Foney Fables and Hobby Horse-Laffs.

Robert Z. Leonard's The Great Ziegfeld (1936) was an early sound musical that runs three hours and won the Academy Award for Best Picture and for good reason. This was only nine years after sound arrived for films and more than proved that sound was here to stay. William Powell plays the title legend, showing his genius for entertainment and is joined by Myrna Loy, already established as his Thin Man co-star, as Billie Burke. It is a backstage musical and biopic at the same time, but the music numbers often put the narrative on the backburner and that's not a bad thing here.

They are joined by Frank Morgan, Virginia Bruce, Reginald Owen, Luise Rainer, Buddy Doyle as Eddie Cantor, A.A. Trimble as Will Rogers, Nat Pendleton, Ray Bolger and Fannie Brice as themselves, plus some future actresses of name among the Ziegfeld Girls, uncredited William Demarest and Mae Questel, the original voice of Betty Boop, in an obviously very strong cast. The film has the energy to justify its length and more familiar songs include Shine On Harvest Moon, If You Knew Susie, My Man, Makin' Whoopie, Rhapsody In Blue and Ol' Man River among others. Yes, some moments have not aged well and some are not 'politically correct,' but most of the film impresses.

The production is top rate and MGM really put some serious money into the film, which you can see then and now. I do not want to ruin the film, but I will say the sequence with Ray Bolger that includes She's A Follies Girl also offers much, much more and is one of the most amazing solo dance sequences in cinema history. All serious film fans need to see this classic at least once, especially now that it has been so well restored.

Extras include the vintage animated cartoon short Toytown Hall, an Original Theatrical Trailer, Leo Is On The Air radio promo for the film, footage of the theatrical premiere of the film and featurette Ziegfeld On Film.

Kenneth Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale (1995) is the director/writer's attempt to tell a story of backstage wackiness in the Woody Allen mode. He captures much of the director's anxiety, which is perfect for all kinds of anxiety as the makers of a new play audition endless people until they get the cast they want, then still have troubles getting it all together. Michael Maloney plays the man leading it all with the help of Joan Collins, hilarious in rare form an an underrated performance here. Most of the cast might be unfamiliar to most U.S. audiences (Julia Sawalha, Nicholas Farrell, Richard Briers, John Sessions and Gerard Horan might be recognized, but most could not name them) and Jennifer Sanders (now know for the international superhit sitcom Absolutely Fabulous with Joanna Lumley) shows up towards the end to put the film over.

To recommend to not recommend? It has some funny moments and some in-jokes many might miss, but it was a mixed bag for me now as it was then. Branagh made this after the big commercial failure of his Frankenstein film with Francis Coppola and just before his underrated, 70mm Hamlet, so it is interesting to see just what he made in between two huge productions. Though not for everyone, anyone who would like this and Shakespeare does factor in it all, will want to try it out.

An Original Theatrical Trailer is the only extra.

Michele Savill's Millie Lies Low (2021) is from New Zealand and stars Ana Scotney as the title character, who is on her way to flying to a great job and future in New York City when she has a panic attack and leaves the Big Apple-bound plane, then starts to wonder around where she lives. There, she is trying to get lost in the crowd and hide in plain sight, which she succeeds at for a while. However, she is not rendered invisible either and eventually has to deal with being there.

Running 100 minutes, it is a nice look at one of the most underrated countries around and has its moments, but it also lands up with more than a few cliches and some predictability, but is worth a look for the most interested or someone looking to see a film from this underseen country and its cinema. The director has some talent and the cast gives it a decent go.

Extras include Savill's so-so short film Ellen Is Leaving (16 minutes) a feature length audio commentary track on the film by Savill and Trailers.

Nigel Cole's Saving Grace (2000) is one of the less-memorable films in a cycle of European films (especially made in U.K., Ireland, Scotland) that focused on people dying and causing a big group of friends to morn, people trapped in a bad financial situation who find a unique way to change their situation or comedies that had a dark undertone and many seem to deal withy the after-effects of the Thatcher Years, but not only because of them.

Brenda Blethyn is a women of means whose husband has not only killed himself, but left her with all kinds of debt that he did not tell her about, so she has to come up with something fast to help herself and save what she has or it will be a personal disaster for her. Help strangely comes from her gardener (Craig Ferguson, a longtime actor who everyone now knows as a talk show host, co-producing here) who suggests growing and selling 'pot' to make ends meet and more.

The result is a one-joke movie that spends a long 93 minutes beating its lone idea to death and no matter the talent in the cast here, its a run-on film that is just not that good. Martin Clunes and Diana Quick lead the supporting cast, but even they (or a ton of any or even many controlled substance used before viewing this one) can save the film. Not even a cult item (Yet? Ever?) despite Ferguson's recent successes, Director Cole fared better with Calendar Girls (2003) and underrated Made In Dagenham (2010) and is still a solid, active, journeyman director. For only the extremely curious only.

Extras include two feature length audio commentary tracks by the cast and crew, et al, and an Original Theatrical Trailer.

Now for playback performance. Cats Don't Dance is presented in 1080p high definition on Blu-ray disc with an MPEG-4 AVC codec, a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and am lossless, English DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 (48kHz, 24-bit) lossless mix. This is the best the film has ever looked or sounded as it's been struck from a 4K remaster from the original camera negative. The animation is beautifully done and comes across clean and vivid on disc.

The rest of the Warner Archive Blu-rays also feature restored presentations including the 1080p 1.33 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image transfers on Jim and Ziegfeld, both of which can show the age of the materials used, but are the best I have seen either on home video. Jim is particularly impressive, but Ziegfeld can be a little softer more often, but many shots are also shot soft on purpose. It also has five men credited as Director of Photography. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Mono lossless mixes on both sound as good as they will ever sound, though it is Ziegfeld that actually holds up better for some reason, likely because it involved even more songs and music. Fans and scholars will be impressed with the upgrades either way.

The 1080p 1.85 X 1 black & white digital High Definition image on Tale also has some softness, but again, some of it is intended, a certain style the makers stick with. That may annoy some, but you'll get it. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 2.0 Stereo lossless mix is dialogue/joke-based and sounds fine for what it is, better than most of Woody Allen's monophonic audio well into the multi-channel digital sound age. The poster indicates the film was released in Dolby older analog Dolby System, A-type noise reduction, but might have had some digital Dolby prints made. Either way, if you have a home theater system, play in Pro Logic mode or something similar for best sound for an y mono surrounds in the encoded mix.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on Grace is one of the rare films totally shot on Fuji 35mm color negative film and it looks good, shot in the Super 35mm format and holding up well enough. However, there are still some soft spots, but its hard to tell if it is the disc or the way it is shot. The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 lossless mix is as good as the film will ever sound, originally a Dolby Digital release, its lucky to sound as good as it does for its age. It has a consistent soundfield, but is still dialogue-based, save the music.

Lastly, the anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Millie is soft throughout and very trying to view, but color is still not bad, while the sound is offered in both lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mixes. The 5.1 is a bit better, but both sound fine. Wonder if this would look and sound better in a higher format?

To order any or all of the five Warner Archive Blu-rays reviewed above, go to this link for them and many more great web-exclusive releases at:


- Nicholas Sheffo and James Lockhart (Cats)



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