April 2021 Quickie Reviews

April 2021 BREAKDOWN
  • 40  films/series total
  • 14 re-watches
  •  11 new classic films
  • 4 TV series
  • 1 silent films

Biggest Disappointment: How the West Was Won & Main Street

Favorite Discovery: The Bench, Newton’s Law

Favorite Re-discovery: Secondhand Lions

The Bench (2017) – This short film clocks in at an hour, but makes good use of that time. I loved the concept showing various people meeting and talking on a park bench and seeing how those relationships progress or not. Though a slow start, it was sweet, brief put to the point. And it has the added bonus of introducing me to singer Charlotte Campbell who sang her own songs in the film.

My Family and Other Animals (2005) -Having seen the Durrells in Corfu series, I was intrigued to run across this earlier film of the family. It was different from the series, definitely more quirky and the music score took a bit of getting used to. But once I got past making comparisons with the series, I really enjoyed it.  In  a much briefer time, it manages to capture the characters fairly well.

Brokenwood Mysteries Season 7 – Some of my favorite New Zealand detectives are back and better than ever. Even with the departure of one of the show’s regulars, this is one of their best seasons, in my opinion. And I really appreciated how this season came back around full circle with a reference back to a character and story line from season 1.

No Demo Reno (2021) – When I heard one of my favorite Instagrammers was debuting her own show on HGTV, of course I had to watch! Jen has an extra big personality and great energy. I really like how they show the total renovation in half hour segments. The reveal is always the best part of these shows.

Newton’s Law (2017) – My mom talked me into watching this Australian legal dramedy and I’m so glad she did. The casting and story lines are all engaging. I’m so disappointed though that it only lasts for one season, as there were some plot points left open ended. But it’s definitely a series I will watch again.

All Creatures Great and Small (1978) – After watching the recent re-make of this series, of course I had to watch the original. It took me a couple of episodes to get into it and I can’t help comparing it to the re-make. Despite the outdated cinematography, the characters make this original watchable.

Captain Salvation (1927) – Though I only recognized one name in the cast of this silent drama, the plot interested me enough for a watch.  It portrays a minister who falls out of favor with his village when he defends and shows kindness to a prostitute. It’s an interesting look at a moral argument, even if some of the circumstances the main characters face are a bit far-fetched. It’s also a bit uneven at times, but overall, I liked it.

A Man for All Seasons (1966) – I finally got around to watching this critically acclaimed story of Sir Thomas More’s resistance to King Henry VIII’s desire to marry Anne Boleyn. As you would suspect, it is full of political intrigue, power struggles and unshakeable conviction. It is well filmed and really made me feel like I was stepping back in time thanks to the costumes, settings and dialogue. It was slow but steady, filled with a lot of moral debates, and I can’t say I loved it. However, I was very moved by the sense of purpose displayed by More’s character. And I can certainly see why it won several Oscars.

Send Me No Flowers (1964) – I’m not sure why I consider this the lesser of the three films  Doris Day and Rock Hudson made together. I’ve certainly seen it less frequently than the other two. But this time around, I was struck by how wrong I was to think less of it. I view it as a continuation of the other two movies, since the two are married in this picture and I can imagine it is how their previous characters might end up; out in the suburbs in a loving marriage. I do miss seeing Hudson as more of an alpha-male. Tony Randall as usual,  steals most of his scenes, and I really do consider him an integral part of the Hudson-Day pairings.

Donovan’s Reef  (1963) – How have I never seen this John Wayne and John Ford picture before?! Boasting a gorgeous setting, fun story and a great cast of  characters, it immediately appealed to me. The children are adorable and sassy and the verbal warfare between Wayne and his leading lady keeps things interesting.

The Glass Bottom Boat (1966) – As great as her other films are, this is my favorite Doris Day picture. Obviously, she is perfection as a widow mistaken for a Russian spy, but I also love Rod Taylor’s character. And the addition of some great comedic supporting actors really round this zany story out.

Air Force (1943) – This one came as a surprise to me. I was interested because John Garfield is in it, but his screen time is less than when he was in starring roles. The story about an air force squadron and its’ challenges during WWII, is not one that I’m immediately drawn to. But a great ensemble cast of  supporting actors who give good performances along with good pacing and tense, dramatic moments made this a movie I will most likely re-visit.

The Gods Must be Crazy II (1989) – This is an old family favorite that I like to pull out every so often. Sadly, it’s a more obscure film, which is a shame, because it is unique and hilarious and celebrates Africa.

Death on the Nile (1978) – My mom is a huge Poirot fan. Me, not so much. However, I was willing to watch this Agatha Christie adaptation due to a cast full of classic film actors I recognize. Although it was over two hours, the pacing never lagged. The performances were all very good. I particularly liked seeing my old favorite David Niven in a more serious and complimentary role.

The Lady Vanishes (2013) – It has been long enough since I’ve seen Hitchcock’s film  that I didn’t suffer the problem of making comparisons.  Even though I knew the ending, I still really enjoyed this version. The tension was kept taut and the British cast was all very familiar.  In particular, Tuppence Middleton’s performance in the lead really cemented the unreliable nature of her character.

It Happened to Jane (1959) – I’ve written a full review on this Doris Day film already.  Suffice it to say, it’s one of my more recently discovered favorites of hers.

The Mating Game (1959) –  Such a cute little rom-com starring Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall.  I think this is one of Randall’s best parts as he gets to play the lead and also the straight man mostly.  I love the conflict of his IRS tax man figuring out how to deal with her kind, but quirky family who has never filed their taxes. The supporting cast is also great.

Evil Under the Sun (1982) – I guess you can say my first Poirot film was a success because I was willing to give this subsequent one a go. A couple of cast members from Death on the Nile returned, namely Peter Ustinov as the detective himself and Maggie Smith as a totally different character.  This was another good mystery, although the solving of the crime itself seemed a bit far-fetched. The costumes were 80’s outlandish for this film supposedly set in an earlier decade, but whatever. It’s all for fun.

The Egg and I (1947) – Well, this isn’t as bad as I thought it would be based on the tile and plot. Even though it co-stars Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray, Colbert is the one who really seems to shine. MacMurray just seemed to fade into the background for me. The Ma and Pa Kettle film series sprang from this, and I am baffled as to why. I cringed every time those two characters were on screen. Overall, I felt some of the run time could have been trimmed. Several little vignettes were unnecessary.

How the West Was Won (1962) –  Due to the longer running time on this drama, I had delayed watching this ambitious film telling about the development of the American West as seen through the eyes of three generations of the same family. The large all-star cast finally sold me, but the majority of them only make brief appearances.  The grand camera scope showing the vastness of the outdoor vistas of the West is the best part. Unfortunately, I felt some scenes were ultimately unnecessary and there were stretches which lagged.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) – Well, since we seem to be on a Poirot movie kick, my mom and I re-watched this most recent one done by Kenneth Branaugh. I love the stylization of this film. Branaugh is an actor/director I have come to respect more and more as time goes on. I’m looking forward to his next Poirot remake Death on the Nile.

The Facts of Life (1960) Though I have a hard time with Bob Hope, I gave this middle-age romance a shot because of Lucille Ball. The two are part of the same married crowd and have never liked each other, but eventually that changes and they  attempt an affair. They both give more subdued performances which is appropriate for such a subject, but the film definitely approaches the whole affair angle with humor.

It Happened Tomorrow (1944) I enjoyed this little comedy starring Dick Powell and Linda Darnell while watching it, but now I can’t remember much about it. The premise of Powell’s newspaper man having access to future news before it happens is a good one and I liked the lesson the film tried to teach.

Fifth Avenue Girl (1939) – Ginger Rogers definitely plays this comedy more subdued than usual, but it works. I think the plot of her working girl being hired to be a fake girlfriend to a wealthy man to make his family jealous is rather creative.

The Choice (2016) – Nicholas Sparks films are hit or miss with me. But I’ve always appreciated this particular one about a young couple building a life together. I believe this is one of his more under-rated stories. And bonus! No one dies.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008) – I love this movie. Everything about it makes me happy. The cast is perfect, the story about a working woman down on her luck who spends a whirlwind day with a flighty singer is fun. The 1930’s art deco settings and the costuming is spot on. Stand out performances by the two co-stars Amy Adams and Frances McDormand make me believe in the quick but deep friendship developed by two such disparate characters.

Seven Days in Utopia (2011) – This one was a little slow paced and definitely had an overt religious message I wasn’t expecting, but that wasn’t unappreciated. Still, you can’t go wrong with a Robert Duvall film and the ending was unexpected.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) – I wanted to find this funnier than I did. I do appreciate both Michael Caine and Steve Martin. But Martin’s character is so crass, that I had a hard time watching him. I also was hoping for more scenic views of the French Riviera.

Call the Midwife Christmas Special (2020) – I know it’s way past Christmas, but there is never a bad time to catch up with this show. I had to watch this episode in bits and pieces so it didn’t stick with me as much as some of them do. I really related to Trixie’s story line about her godmother signing her up for a dating service. So cute.

The Help (2011) – I love this movie. The cast, direction, costuming and cinematography all work together to really pull me in to the racial conflict of 60’s era Mississippi.

The Grand Seduction (2013) – This slower paced quiet story about a dying Canadian fishing village that plays an elaborate hoax on a bad-boy doctor in order to convince him to stay so they can attract new business investment was a bit far-fetched at times but fun. I love shows with quirky towns and residents. Not to mention, the Newfoundland coast line is stunning. Finally, Brendan Gleeson gives an outstanding performance.

Secondhand Lions (2003) – It had been so long since I’d seen this sweet little movie, that I had forgotten most of it. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself falling in love with this coming of age story about a young boy who is dropped off with two eccentric uncles. I love stories with quirky old men and these two played by Robert Duvall and Michael Caine are rather endearing.

Our Very Own (1950) – How is this classic not better known? Ann Blythe stars as a young lady on the cusp of adulthood who learns from her jealous sister that she is adopted. The exploration of this subject and family ties one rarely seen in classic film and Blythe plays her part beautifully. You can feel all the emotions she experiences as she processes this big secret that was kept from her.

Hangmen Also Die! (1943) – I didn’t realize this was a Fritz Lang film when I chose it, but you can sure see his signature all over it. Based on the true story of the assassination of a Nazi colonel by a member of the Czech underground, this is incredibly tense and also sad. I did feel it was a bit longer than necessary, but it definitely made an impression.

Jane Austen Book Club (2007) – I’ll watch or re-watch anything with Emily Blunt which is why I don’t mind re-visiting this film, even though it’s not a favorite. But it does make me yearn to be part of a similar book club.

Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941) – I liked this even more upon this re-watch.  Robert Montgomery is surprisingly good as a boxer who dies too soon and then goes on to inhabit other people’s bodies. Claude Rains provides the needed gravitas to make this plot work, while Jackie Gleason is the comedic foil.

Penelope (1966) – One of Natalie Wood’s very underrated comedies, this is silly, yet lots of fun. Wood stars as a neglected wife who robs people in order to get attention. I love Peter Falk as the detective who is on to her but also charmed by her.

Main Street (2010) – What a dud. With such a great cast, including Ellyn Burstyn, Colin Firth, Patricia Clarkson and Orlando Bloom, I expected a charming little story about the potential revival of a small town. Instead, the story was both depressing and boring. The characters weren’t even that interesting.

Lilies of the Field (1963) – Why, oh why did I wait so long to discover this classic. It’s such a simple but sweet story with interesting characters. Very stark visually, but with such depth of emotion. Sidney Poitier is brilliant as the lead, utterly charming but with a backbone of steel. Unwilling to be taken advantage of by the poor nuns, but willing to give his time and energy as he chooses.

Stranger than Fiction (2006) – This is my favorite Will Ferrell film, probably thanks to his incredibly understated performance as an IRS agent who discovers he’s actually a character in a famous author’s come-back novel. At the time I first saw this, the plot was utterly unique and I still love the quirky, creative vibe of the film. Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman provide support with superb performances.

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