April 2020 Quickie Reviews

April 2020 BREAKDOWN
  • 30 films/series total
  • 12 re-watches
  • 7 TV series
  • 5 new classic films
  • 2 foreign films/series
  • 1 Documentary

Biggest Disappointment: Ekaterina Season 3

Favorite Discovery: The English Game, The Rape of Europa

Call the Midwife Season 9 – I hardly need to say that this British series continues it’s history of excellence in scripts, performances and cinematography. In it’s ninth season it continues to remain historically accurate while also currently relevant.

Ekaterina Season 3 – As much as I loved the first season of this Russian historical drama about Catherine the Great, I feel each succeeding season has decreased in story value. It’s still a gorgeous production, but I care less and less about the characters. As much as I hate to say it, season two gave a clear ending and it should have been left at that.

Good Morning Miss Dove (1955) – My appreciation for this quiet story grew the more I pondered it.  I’m not a big fan of Jennifer Jones, but she gives a remarkably understated performance as a stern, but kind teacher who learns the value of her sacrificial life. The final scene with her small change of expression completes the whole theme. It’s so sweet and moving.

The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) – This French candy colored confection starring Catherine Deneuve and her real life sister playing sisters is a feast for the eyes. I fell in love with the fish-bowl cafe in the square and the vibrant cheerfulness of this musical. I did find the characters’ reactions to a killer on the loose a bit disconcerting. The plot was not all that exciting and I felt it ran on a bit long, but overall, it’s a watchable piece of fluff.

Cat Ballou (1965) – I’d forgotten how much fun this comedy western is. Jane Fonda gets to play the “straight man” as the innocent woman turned outlaw. It’s all rather silly, but highly entertaining.

Baby Driver (2017) – Though this one features a bit more violence than I prefer, I admired the creative use of music throughout the film. I don’t think I’ve seen anything quite like it nor the character of Baby, the getaway driver for a gang of thieves.

There’s Something About Mary (1998) – Its been ages since I last watched this modern classic. Cameron Diaz has such a goofy innocence about her in her earlier films. I certainly enjoyed revisiting this comedy although I’d forgotten how creepy some of the male characters are in their objectification of Mary.

The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941) – This has been on my TBW list for a long time, so I was glad when it finally showed up on TCM. There are some great performances in this drama. James Gunn does well as the farmer who’s bad luck sees him sell his soul to the devil. His gradual moral decline is believable. Of course, Walter Huston and Edward Arnold as the title characters are the real stars.

Indiscreet (1958) – It’s been so long since I’d seen this Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman feature, I remembered very little of it. So boy, was it a delight to rediscover it. I appreciate the focus on a mature romance. I also couldn’t tear my eyes away from the decor of Bergman’s apartment. Then of course, there was the joy of watching Grant dance on screen. I definitely won’t wait so long to watch this one again.

Cinderella (2011) – For the most part I really enjoyed this fresh take on the classic fairy tale.  Set in 1950’s Rome, it features some beautiful and romanticized exterior shots of the city, not to mention some of the fabulous fashions of the decade. My only complaints are the unnecessarily long run time and the English dubbing which slightly took away from the emotion of the actors’ performances.

Manhattan Melodrama (1934) – Who else but Clark Gable could make a gangster killer sympathetic to Myrna Loy and the audience?? No one. I’ve always loved this film for Gable’s performance, but also for his pairing with co-stars Loy and William Powell. It’s such an endearing tale of love and friendship.

The English Game (2020) – Julian Fellowes does it again with another class conscious series This one is centered around the cotton mills and the English game of football which gives a fresh perspective on  Fellowes’ favorite theme. It also sparked my interest in a sport that I knew very little about.

An Ideal Husband (1999) Few things lift the spirit like an Oscar Wilde comedy. The casting and costuming of this one is spot on. I particularly love Rupert Everett as Lord Goring as well as his interactions with Minnie Driver as his love interest.

Rat Race (2001) – Though I’ve seen this multiple times, it never fails to make me laugh until my stomach hurts. I still prefer it’s inspiration It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. But this one has it’s own charms, including a tour bus full of I Love Lucy lookalikes.

The Windermere Children (2020) – Based on the true story  of child Holocaust survivors who were brought to Britain after the war, this one is somber, but good. It’s still unimaginable what horrors they survived and what courage it took to continue with their lives.

Love Wedding Repeat (2020) – Unfortunately, this film’s title is difficult to remember. As a romantic comedy, it is fairly average even though it is filled with recognizable actors. Supporting actor Joel Fry gives the best performance and one which made me giggle. It was also refreshing to see Poldark villain Jack Farthing in a contemporary role as a drug addicted stalker who is the catalyst for all the film’s action. It’s a movie which provides some light entertainment but you probably won’t remember long term.

Pride and Prejudice (1940) – This was my first introduction to any Jane Austen and one I have fond memories off. In re-visiting it, I felt it holds up to my memories, even with some small changes from the original novel. I still can’t get all that excited about Laurence Olivier as Darcy, although he really does suit the role well. This also features my favorite interpretation of Mary’s character as well as Mrs. Bennett.

Shooter (2007) -I love a good action movie which includes military and political plots and this is one of my favorites. Mark Wahlberg is fun to watch as a wronged veteran who goes on the hunt for the guys who framed him. Michael Pena also shines in a supporting role.

The Rape of Europa (2006) – My sister recommended this documentary to me about the Nazi theft of art during WWII. It was completely fascinating as well as being educational. I did feel there was a bit of a slant on the interpretation of Hitler’s motives, but otherwise, I was completely riveted. It also presents an interesting perspective on the cultural cost of war.

That Touch of Mink (1962) – It’s been a long time since I watched this old favorite. As much as I love Doris Day and Cary Grant in comedies, this is really Gig Young’s show. My impression of Grant’s performance has changed in the intervening years. It feels like he phoned it in and I’ve decided this is not my favorite of his films. I do love Doris Day’s drunk scene though.

Belgravia (2020) – The long wait is finally over and well worth it . It’s another captivating Julian Fellowes produced drama, this time adapted from his own novel. Three episodes in, and I feel confident saying Fellowes is a British national treasure with his ability to tell a great story within interesting historical settings. I love the mix of familiar and fresh faces in this series.

The Village (2013) Season 1 – I found myself completely engrossed in the lives and the events featured in this series. Set in Britain in the years surrounding WWI, it portrays both sympathetically and honestly the variances of human nature. It also doesn’t shy away from tragedy. The stories are told through the eyes of its’ observant child narrator who comes of age in difficult circumstances. It’s very well done and recommended for those who like realistic stories.

Return of the Hero (2018) – Though I just viewed this French comedy last month, I enjoyed it so much, I made my mom and sisters watch it with me. The pickiest among them declared that it was pretty good, rather funny and sounded surprised by her own summation.

The Hucksters (1947)– Full of famous names like Clark Gable, Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner, Sidney Greenstreet and Edward Arnold, this movie should be better than it is. But it’s still rather watchable despite it all. Kerr’s onscreen kids are adorable and I love seeing Arnold in a role as an honorable man. The ending is a bit far-fetched, but oh well.

Teacher’s Pet (1958) -I’d forgotten much about this Clark Gable and Doris Day comedy, so it was nice to revisit it. The May-December romance between the two stretches the bounds of credibility, not to mention Gable’s character isn’t all that lovable. However, they make it work. And once again Gig Young outshines his co-stars in his supporting role as Day’s friend and Gable’s competition.

Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017) – This biographical drama about AA Milne and his son who inspired the Winnie the Pooh stories is rather sad but interesting.  Performances by Margot Robbie and Domhnall Gleeson as the Milnes make them sympathetic characters despite their flaws. The interactions between father and son were my favorite parts of this story. But it really made me sad to learn that the real Christopher Robin suffered so much from the fame that was thrust upon him.

Dancing on the Edge (2013) – Few times and places were more glamorous than London in the 1930’s, so I loved getting a taste of it in this series about a black Jazz band’s rise to fame. It has an outstanding cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Matthew Goode, Tom Hughes, Jacqueline Bissett and others, this is eminently watchable.

Montana Belle (1952) – I gave this western about the Dalton Gang and female outlaw Belle Starr a chance simply for George Brent’s presence. However, even that wasn’t enough to save this one for me. Beginning with the poor color quality, wooden performances, an extremely slow start and utterly unbelievable plot, this was painful to sit through.

The Blue Bird (1940) – This fantasy film starring Shirley Temple is rather interesting and unlike her prior films. It features her as a rather unlikable child who goes on a fairy tale journey which ends with her change of heart. Though I prefer Temple in her earlier films, this one still managed to entertain me.

Jamestown (2017) Season 1– I didn’t have high hopes for this one, but ended up hooked from the first episode. It’s portrayal of the female characters doesn’t seem historically accurate. Nor do I like how it makes all the men appear either evil or weak next to the women. But it is emotionally compelling, addicting and with an emphasis on drama.

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