August 2022 Quickie Reviews

August 2022 BREAKDOWN
  • 22 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 1 new classic films
  • 11 re-watches
  • 4 TV series
  • 7 foreign film

Biggest Disappointment: Maisie Was a Lady

Favorite Discovery: Oh My Venus

Television Series:

Brokenwood Mysteries Season 8 – I love this New Zealand crime drama and its characters, so I was thrilled to see them all return for a new season. Now that Gina has finally caught the hint that Mike is uninterested in her, it’s been entertaining to see her befriend the unwilling Kristen.

Corner Gas Season 3 – As this is an episodic comedy with not much continuity from episode to episode, there isn’t much more to say as I continue my re-watch of this Canadian show. Other than, these characters continue to tickle my funny bone.

Virgin River Season 4 – After last season’s craziness and unnecessary drama, I was about ready to give up on this show. Thankfully, the writers reined in their tendency to go over the top with conflict and catastrophes this season. I’m still struggling to ship Brady and Brie as their relationship has dsyfunction written all over it. And I still find Hope very selfish and annoying. Preacher’s character is one of my favorites, but it seems as if he get short shrift on this show. Despite some of these complaints, I do enjoy this show and Jack and Mel’s relationship is at the heart of that. Thanks to some surprising cliffhangers I will be tuning in to see what happens next.

Darby & Joan (2022) – It’s so refreshing to see a show that features older people as the leads. Greta Sacchi stars in this light mystery about a British woman who goes to New Zealand to investigate her husband’s mysterious death with the help of a local retired detective. They way their friendship develops is so unique and yet credible. The episodic mysteries as well as the over-arching one kept me guessing as well. I’m very much looking forward to the next season.

Foreign Films & Series

What’s Wrong With Secretary Kim? (2018) – I’m just realizing that my newer affinity for K-drama series may be related to the dearth of really good, clean rom-coms in my life.  Man, do I miss Nora Ephron! Anyway, this is another office romance between a working class girl and her rich boss. What makes this one fun though is that he falls for her first and pursues her and also the way the script flips the familiar tropes. It’s pretty darn cute, but almost too much so that at times it veers into cheesy and saccharine. This is my second series starring actress Park Min-Young and I realized that I find her performances a bit average. This show retained my interest up to the point where the mystery of the two leads past was revealed. But once that point was reached, the show suffered from a decline in momentum, despite how adorable the romance was.

Strong Woman Do Bong Soon (2017) – A strong chemistry and love story between the main couple as well as a unique plot about a pint sized heroine with superpower strength makes up for all the other things about this drama that are lacking. This is my third series starring Park Bo-young and she is seriously A-DOR-A-BLE, but is well matched by the squee-worthy reactions of her male lead Park Hyung-sik. Otherwise, I felt the episodes were uneven, switching back and forth between light and happy and the dark sub-plot about a psychotic serial kidnapper. The jokes about the male lead’s ambiguous sexuality made me very uncomfortable and I could barely stand to watch the scenes with the heroine’s emotionally abusive mother. Even the love triangle was not all that well done. But none of that matters because the two Parks together just make me forget everything else that doesn’t work.

My Annoying Brother (2016) -This film had high ratings and since I had recently seen both male leads in Kdrama series, it piqued my interest. The story about two estranged brothers who reconnect when the older con-artist is granted parole to take care of his younger blind brother is very touching. The performances were good and I was crying by the end of the picture. I loved the development of the older brother, especially as he begins by being so unlikable and untrustworthy. However, even though this captured my emotions, I felt like the plot didn’t spend enough time exploring the past history between the brothers to give the viewer a good understanding of their estrangement so that the impact of their reconciliation isn’t as deep as it could be. Still it was worth my time.

Descendants of the Sun (2016) – Overall I really liked this popular series, despite some weaknesses, like heavy-handed music cues, and the need to suspend my disbelief over some illogical time lines and plot points. Since I loved Vincenzo, I knew I had to watch one of Song Joong-ki’s equally popular dramas, and he did not disappoint. He has amazing screen presence and magnetism. Having seen his co-star (and ex-wife) Song Hye-kyo in another drama, I just can’t really warm up to her, despite her delicate beauty. Although I do think she did a good job with her character here, showing her growth from a by the books doctor to one who learns to compromise when things are shaded outside of black and white lines. I thought her struggle to accept her feelings and then her relationship with a special forces soldier was especially realistic and relatable. I also really loved the bromance between our two male leads, the comparisons made between being a soldier and being a doctor and how both have similar goals while using very different methods.

Tale of the Nine Tailed (2020) -Some Youtube clips of Kim Bum from this series caught my eye and sold me on this series. And he was definitely the best part about the show despite playing a supporting role as the mischievous younger brother of a former mountain god. The main focus of the series which was the doomed romance between the main leads fell a bit flat for me. Considering it was supposed to be epic enough to span centuries and involve sacrifice and faithfulness,  the chemistry felt more like a platonic love. I started getting bored by the last couple of episodes, but hung in there until the end due to the complex and intriguing relationship between the brothers as played by Kim Bum and Lee Dong Wook. I also really appreciated the aspect of found/created family that flowed through the narrative.  It was a good show, but probably not one that I will remember well.

Oh My Venus (2016) –  This series may feature one of the most heart-warming romances I’ve seen yet from a Kdrama. Probably thanks to the chemistry and talent of So Ji Sub and Shin Min A who are just so natural in their interactions together as a former beauty who blackmails a secretive celebrity trainer (who is also the heir to a conglomerate) into helping her get back in shape after a bad breakup. Though it does include weight loss the focus of the show as well as that of the characters is in being healthy for health’s sake not just for appearances. The female lead is inspiring in her self- confidence and lack of vanity.  And it’s nice to see a portrayal of a talented wealthy guy as someone who struggles with the previous lack of nurturing love and who is able to look past outward appearances. The way he and his friends adopt Shin Min A is all kinds of cute as is her habit of mothering them. I didn’t really care that much about the relationship between the ex-boyfriend and ex-friend, but it is was very sad how misunderstanding and differing perspectives caused a rift in the ladies friendship. I really could watch this one again if only to revel in all the thoughtful, sweet and mature love story moments between our leads.

My Love From Another Star (2013) – Jun Ji-Yun and Kim Soo Hyun star in this very successful and popular series about a movie star who falls from grace. She ends up falling for her next door neighbor who just happens to be a centuries old alien about to return to his home star. I’ve never seen either of these actors in anything before and was so impressed with our female lead who knocks it out of the park with her hilarious performance, full of physical comedy.  She gives so much nuance and depth to a character who could so easily be stereotyped, letting us see the vanity and arrogance as well as the insecurity and vulnerability. The love story was very sweet, but my practical side was constantly skeptical of their ability to make a relationship work long term. And I know I’m in the minority here, but I really believe that the second male lead would have been a better choice for her long term. Kudos to the actor who was able to show the growth and maturity in her long time admirer.   I didn’t care at all for the villain who was played so over the top that I couldn’t take him seriously despite how evil he is. I get tired of this exaggerated sense of conflict when there is so much of that already present in everyday life. Despite the dangers, there were so many laugh out loud moments in these episodes; my favorite being when the heroine gets stuck in a sleeping bag and ends up wriggling around like a big green worm.  Overall the comedy and performance of the lead actress made this a memorable watch for me.

Classics

Maisie Was a Lady (1941) – I’m still working my way through the Maisie series (in no particular order) and this is the third one I’ve seen. I didn’t like it as much as the original Maisie film, mostly because Maisie’s crassness is in such great contrast to the well-mannered wealthy people she works for. But she still has that heart of gold that desires to help others. Lew Ayres unfortunately plays another drunken heir and his supposed romance with Maisie is almost non-existent until the last second when all of a sudden the two are in love. What? I know I’m watching these out of order, but the lack of continuity, particularly in her romances really makes it hard for me to care about the men in these films.

Hold That Kiss (1938) – The premise of this picture, about two people who mistake the other for being wealthy and therefore pursue a romance felt like it would lend itself to some great comedy. But within a couple of minutes into the film, I got a sense of deja-vu, only to eventually realize, I had seen it before. This finally convinced that Maureen O’Sullivan’s films are completely forgettable. I can’t tell you how many of hers I’ve seen, but I can never remember anything about them once I’m done. Which is a shame, because I like her. Anyway, after seeing this one again the only thing that really sticks out to me is how much I despise her gambler brother, who is selfish, greedy and puts his family at risk because of his addiction. The rest is just a blur.

Whirlpool (1934) -I’ve been wanting to re-watch this Jean Arthur for a long time as I had a very good impression of it. In re-visiting it, it wasn’t as good as I remembered, but I still enjoy it, mainly because it is a tender and sweet father-daughter story and I’m always a sucker for those. Jack Holt has a great starring role as Arthur’s sacrificial but criminal father and their scenes together make this worth watching.

Post 1980’s

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (2018) – I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen this film and I still love it as much as ever. The characters are so well-drawn, the story remains interesting and the setting is beautiful.

Redeeming Love (2022) – I saw this in the theater earlier this year and loved it, but it didn’t stand up as well upon a re-watch. Maybe because the excitement of finally seeing a memorable book adapted to film was already fulfilled or maybe it was just the big screen experience. I still liked it a lot though and still think for the most part the story, which was inspired by the Biblical prophet Hosea, is utterly unique in it’s portrayal of the complete redemptive power of love. This time around I was struck by the gorgeous setting and the way the cinematography captured that beauty on the screen.

One Night With the King (2006) – Sticking with biblical adaptations, this movie about Esther is one I haven’t seen in ages. It’s definitely not as good as I remembered, probably due to a lower budget which is clearly reflected in the quality of the production. The main actors are a little cheesy in their roles. But again for me, that doesn’t detract from the impact of the story.

The Lake House (2006) – I know most prefer Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in Speed, but I’m partial to this pairing. This is a remake of a very successful Korean film. I’ve seen both and like this one best thanks to Bullock and Reeves, although I must say, Bullock could have been given a more attractive hair style and costumes. I never can make sense of the timing in a plot centered around different time lines but it doesn’t take away from my sense of enjoyment.

Far From the Madding Crowd (2015) – My mom mentioned how many sad things happen in this movie which I had never noticed before. But there are a lot of missed opportunities, misunderstandings and even tragedy, often thanks to the heroine’s head-strong personality. I can’t entirely like Bathsheba Everdene as that heroine and yet there is much to admire about her too. Mainly, the reason I keep rewatching this is Matthias Schoenaert’s portrayal of the long-suffering, loyal Gabriel Oak. What a great hero! I also really love the rich tones of the cinematography.

Miss Congeniality (2000) – I had forgotten how genuinely funny this Sandra Bullock feature is. It’s clever but silly and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Bullock’s portrayal of a dedicated FBI agent is a bit crass in the beginning, but thankfully that doesn’t last.

Pride and Prejudice (2005) – It’s been a long while since I’ve seen this version and it didn’t hold up as well for me as I remembered. Though I still like it. Tom Hollander as Mr. Collins is the highlight for me in a film full of great talent. I’m not fond of how grubby certain scenes and characters appear compared to other more polished adaptations but I suppose it’s more true to life. I love all the outdoor scenes which make me just want to camp outside for the rest of my life.

The Inheritance (1997) – For being a television production, I had forgotten how well done and wonderful this movie is. It is adapted from a Louisa May Alcott story about a companion to a wealthy family whose place with them is threatened thanks to time and accusations. It’s rather refreshing how they all treat her like one of the family despite the fact that she is an employee. Of course she is a saint, so how could they help but love her. I really can’t do this justice, but if you ever get a chance to watch it, don’t miss out on this endearing, lovely film.

Hallmark Movies: Christmas in Toyland, Big Sky River, Sandra Brown’s White Hot, Dating the Delaneys, Groundswell, Romance in Style

July 2022 Quickie Reviews

july 2022 BREAKDOWN
  • 28 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 7 re-watches
  • 7 foreign film
  • 5 new classic films
  • 4 TV series

Biggest Disappointment: Hotel Portofino

Favorite Discovery: Well this is hard to choose, since I enjoyed almost all of the K-dramas I watched this month, but I think Doom At Your Service will remain one of the more memorable. Ooh, I also really loved Mr. Malcolm’s List. It was so nice to see a good period rom-com in the theater again! Continue reading “July 2022 Quickie Reviews”

January 2022 Quickie Reviews

January 2022 BREAKDOWN
  • 40 films/series total (not including Hallmark films)
  • 26 new classic films
  • 7 re-watches
  • 3 TV series
  • 3 silents
  • 2 documentaries
  • 1 foreign film

Biggest Disappointment: Cynara and Follow the Boys

Come September with Gina Lollabrigida and Rock Hudson

Favorite Discovery: Betty White: A Celebration, Come September and Redeeming Love

series

Republic of Doyle Season 5 – Ugh, just when things are going well with Jake and Leslie, a new challenge arises. I’m also not loving the addition of Sloane, a troubled young teenager who joins the Doyle gang. It’s nice however to finally see some progress in Des and Tinny’s relationship and to see some of the series re-occuring characters pop up in an episode or two.

The Indian Doctor Seasons 2 & 3 – This was a re-watch for me. It’s such a pleasant, likable show and season 2 is my favorite of all three. I particularly like the addition of Emlyn the cop.

Ladies of Letters Season 2 – The second and final season of this comedy series is still funny, but feels too far-fetched to be real. The scenarios are ridiculous, but the snarky relationship between the two women is still reason enough to watch this.

Documentaries:

That’s Entertainment II (1976) – Since I’ve only recently been making an effort to expand my knowledge and experience with classic musicals, I thought I ought to watch this series hosted by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. It was very disappointing. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to the clips they chose and no cohesive narrative. I’m not embarrassed to say I fast forwarded through several of the chosen clips. At times it felt more like the Gene Kelly show than anything else.

Betty White: A Celebration (2022) – I saw this in the theater with some girlfriends and what a fun experience it was! Originally this documentary was meant to be a celebration for Betty’s one hundredth birthday, but it also became a way to honor her after her death. Aside from her role as Rose in The Golden Girls, I knew next to nothing about Betty, so I really appreciate how this doc really delved into her early years in television, even showing a full episode of one of her earlier series, Date With the Angels. I had no idea Betty was a pioneer in the early years of television and gained a new found respect for her  because of it.  Her love story with husband Allen Ludden was another highlight. It was such a pleasure hearing from friends and former co-workers of Betty as well as from Betty herself.

Foreign

Elena and Her Men (1956) – Even Ingrid Bergman couldn’t save this film, nor her co-stars Jean Marais and Mel Ferrer.  It was a convoluted mess of a sex farce, comedy and political maneuvers. Directed by Jean Renoir, it bore many similarities to his highly lauded The Rules of the Game, without copying any of its’ intelligence.

Silents

A Christmas Past (1925) 6 Shorts- I’ve been meaning to watch this compilation of early, silent Christmas shorts, most of which were produced by the Edison Film Manufacturing Corp. There’s even one directed by D. W. Griffith. It also includes the earliest version of A Christmas Carol which manages to cover the main points of the famous story, but which loses the deeper impact of the details. Several of these featured stories about Santa and kind of run together in my mind. The one I enjoyed the best didn’t have a narrative like the rest. It just depicts a group of adults having a fun group snow day which made me want to join in…and I hate the cold!

Our Modern Maidens (1929) – This film starring Joan Crawford and her first husband Douglas Fairbanks Jr. has it’s place in film history. Not only because they newlyweds co-starred together, but also for it’s depiction of youth and because it straddles the transitional line between silents and talking pictures. In fact, in several ways, it feels very contemporary in the actions of its’ characters. The Crawford of silent films is different than that of talking ones, but in either case she is a spark plug on screen who draws all attention to herself. I wasn’t fond of how the lovers seem easily interchangeable which felt like a plot device more than anything. Fairbanks does a fabulous impression of his own father as well as John Barrymore and John Gilbert which is worth the price of admission alone.

Three Women (1924) – My second experience with a silent Ernst Lubitsch film left me more satisfied. The visual quality of this romantic drama was much better, with very clear shots. I did feel like I was watching two films though as the first half has more of Lubitsch’ humorous touch, while the second half transitions into tragedy and drama.  I thought the plot was an interesting one for the director as it depicted a middle aged mother obsessed with retaining her youth, struggling to bond with her adult daughter who really feels neglected. The conflict comes when the gold digger who has been courting the mother, ends up marrying the daughter instead! Pauline Frederick does excellent work in portraying the mother’s thoughts and emotions. I also have to mention the sets and some of the costumes are stunning.

Classics:

Annie Get Your Gun (1950) – Ooh, I hate to say it, but as much as this musical is beloved by classic film fans, I found myself cringing through a lot of it. I don’t know if it was the way the character was written or the way Betty Hutton portrayed her, but they made a farce out of Annie Oakley, a woman who deserves to be admired for her strength and talent. And then that ending where she chooses to subvert her talent and skill in order to win the love of Frank Butler really made me mad. However, the musical numbers were pretty exceptional, particularly There’s No Business Like Show Business and Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better. I had no idea these songs originated with this musical and the way they were performed only added to the joy of that discovery.

Christmas Eve (1947) – In my quest to watch as many classic holiday films as I can, I gave this one a shot. With a good cast, including Ann Harding, George Brent, Randolph Scott and George Raft I expected a good experience. Plus, the plot about an elderly spinster searching for her three adopted sons had great potential, but this film failed to capitalize on those strengths. It felt like three separate pictures depicting each son and had almost no transition at all between those stories.

Compliments of the Season (1930) I had never heard of this Christmas short about a newly released convict who wavers between new temptations and the desire to reform. I think the poor quality of the film itself detracted from my ability to appreciate it. The picture and sound were both fuzzy. However, the twist at the end displayed the Christmas spirit of kindness and generosity.

Come September (1961)  – As long as I’ve been looking forward to finally seeing this comedy starring Rock Hudson and Gina Lollabrigida, it did not disappoint! It was just as delightful as his battle of the sexes rom-coms with Doris Day, except in a gorgeous European setting. I really loved seeing Hudson’s playboy constantly being blocked from his amorous attentions only to see him turn fatherly stern over the group of girls staying at his villa turned hotel. This will be one I watch over and over again, now that I own it.

Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952)– I had never heard of this before, which is surprising as it has Rock Hudson in one of his earliest screen appearances as well as Charles Coburn, one of my favorite character actors. Coburn stars as a wealthy old bachelor who decides to bestow part of his fortune on the family of an old love and moves in with them under an assumed identity. Then he sees the havoc his money wreaks on the lives of that family. Coburn and Gigi Perreau as the youngster of the family completely steal the show between them and make this worth watching. This also features James Dean in a cameo appearance.

We’re No Angels (1955) – After discovering this holiday comedy last year, I couldn’t wait to watch it again. Who would have thought a story about three escaped convicts playing Santa to a local family would be so interesting and funny? This is the film that finally made me a fan of Peter Ustinov. The man is an under-rated comedic genius.

Don’t Go Near the Water (1957) – Glenn Ford and crew are naval PR men stationed on an island in WWII where they never see any action.  They are under the command of the idiotic Fred Clark who insists they keep the visiting (and blackmailing) reporter played by Keenan Wynne happy. It was a joy to see Russ Tamblyn and Jeff Richards co-star together again as I’ve always loved them in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Tamblyn in particular had an interesting role in this film.

First Lady (1937) -Strong performances by Kay Francis and Verree Teesdale as behind the scenes political nemesis and king makers make this worth watching. I love how it focuses on how women influence important events, even if the two main characters feel more like petty mean girls playing a game of one-upmanship than women truly concerned about the integrity of the candidates they support.

The Bachelor Father (1931) – A creaky production with an engaging story line about a wealthy bachelor who invites his grown illegitimate children whom he’s never met, to come live with him.  I appreciated how the plot has the adult children bonding quickly and acting as a team in their common interests with their newly discovered father. It’s also rare to see, that they are all more interested in a relationship with him than his money. C Aubrey Smith is great as the man who learns to love his offspring and of course Marion Davies is charming as one of his daughters who may or may not actually be his. A very young and almost unrecognizable Ray Milland plays the son.

Ship Ahoy (1942) – This is one of the few Eleanor Powell films, I had yet to see and I didn’t expect to enjoy it because it also features Red Skelton, who I often find obnoxious. However, he gave a more understated performance which I actually thought a bit endearing, even if I had a hard time believing him as a love interest for Powell. The flimsy plot has Powell acting as a courier for the enemy while believing it is for the government. But no one watches a Powell film for the plot anyway. It’s all about the dancing and she has some memorable numbers. I especially liked how they utilized her dance skill to tap out Morse code messages. It was a nice creative touch.

The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950) – Not a bad musical, but also not one that will be a favorite. I’m rarely a fan of films that cover the vaudeville era, though I can’t explain why. The over-bearing but loving father act was annoying, but I appreciated the glimpse of family life featuring the three sisters. This was Debbie Reynolds first speaking role and you can see glimpses of the actress she would become. My biggest complaint here is there was not enough Gordon MacRae.

Stolen Holiday (1937) – Kay Francis and Claude Rains make for an odd couple here. He’s a high class con-man and she is his ambitious but unsuspecting and loyal partner. Rains as always can be counted on for a good performance and Francis as usual is garbed in gorgeous gowns in her role as an haute couture designer. It was too hard to believe that she was naive to his schemes and that she would then sacrifice herself to save him knowing how he used her. Ian Hunter had a bland supporting role as Francis love interest.

The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944) – The first half of this bio-pic was very entertaining in its depiction of Twain’s early years before fame including the origin of some of his tall tales. I especially enjoyed the frog jumping contest. Frederic March completely embodied the famous author in his performance. The second half of the picture seemed to move so slowly and yet it raced through the last half of Twain’s life glossing over his success and fame. The wonderful supporting cast including Alexis Smith, Alan Hale, C. Aubrey Smith and John Carradine add to the prestige of the picture, even if they only pop up in small parts and then disappear again.

The Last Gangster (1937) – Another Edward G Robinson gangster pic, this one is a little different in that his gangster character spends the first half of the film behind bars and is also obsessed with his legacy in the form of his son. His ex-wife disappears with said son and remarries a very nice man in the form of James Stewart. But the past catches up with all of them when Robinson’s enemies kidnap the boy. It’s a bit jarring to switch back and forth between the happy family scenes and the darker ones surrounding Robinson. It’s fun to see a roughed up, ungroomed Robinson grow a heart, at least where it concerns his son.

Cynara (1932) – Kay Francis and Ronald Colman star in this melodrama about an upstanding man in love with his wife who has an affair with a working class girl. His secret is exposed when the girl kills herself and there is a public inquest. Francis is wasted in the role of the understanding wife whose long absence from home leaves her husband susceptible to temptation. Colman can’t give a bad performance, but I despised his character who claims to be madly in love with his wife, but can’t resist the non-existent charms of a shop girl. It makes him look weak and also like a liar. Not to mention, the mistress is so dull as to make one wonder why he would be interested in jeopardizing his marriage and social standing for her.  I despise stories about adultery that end with the wife being understanding and forgiving as if it is no big deal and with the implication that men just can’t help themselves. Even the fact that this was directed by King Vidor couldn’t save this one for me.

Anthony Adverse (1936) – I’ve decided to pay more attention to Frederic March this year and this is one of his bigger films. It’s very grand both in story scope and setting. March is the title character, an orphan who comes of age  in 18th & 19th century France. I’m learning to appreciate March’s understated performances and his ability to inhabit a character so that you forget you are watching the actor.  He’s joined by a wonderful supporting cast including Claude Rains, Olivia de Havilland, Edmund Gwenn and Gale Sondergaard in an Oscar winning performance. There are some lulls in the action, which caused me to lose interest and some circumstances that felt rather improbable. But overall, I felt this was an epic film which generally isn’t considered epic.

This Happy Breed (1944) – One of director David Lean’s earlier films, this chronicles the life of a British family between world wars. It’s an interesting family drama and gave me a good feel for British life, and not the Hollywood version of the British. Celia Johnson and Robert Newton give this picture heart as the husband and wife whose grown children and other relatives live with them. Their marriage is strong, quiet and full of committed love. The pace lagged a bit here and there, but I’m glad I watched it.

Always In My Heart (1942) – My overall impression of this Kay Francis picture is too much music and not enough story.  But seeing as how both the father and daughter of the story are musicians, the inclusion of music makes sense, though not at the expense of character and plot development. Yet this drama about the secret return of a husband and father after his release from prison, could have been really rich with detail and emotion. Walter Huston certainly did his best as the father in question. I also thought Gloria Warren as the daughter and aspiring singer was rather charming and Patti Hale as the young, rambunctious, eavesdropping Booley was adorable. Despite this film’s flaws, I still found it rather likable.

Merrily We Live (1938) – This shares many similarities to the more popular My Man Godfrey. I actually prefer it, but then I’ve always liked both Constance Bennett and Brian Aherne. Aherne is sardonic as a man mistaken for homeless who becomes the family’s newest butler and Bennett is the sophisticated glue holding her family together. This film also boasts a great supporting cast, particularly Bonita Granville in the role of the wise-cracking younger sister. I love the gag with the various remaining kitchen utensils after the family’s silver is stolen.

Undercurrent (1946) – This film fared better in my estimation after a re-watch. I had a memory of disliking it due to the opinion that the lead actors had been miscast. This time around, I still feel that the casting keeps the film feeling off balance, but that it actually serves the underlying uncertainty in the plot. Katharine Hepburn is actually good at portraying vulnerability on screen as she does here playing a shy, insecure wallflower in love with Robert Taylor’s successful, confident scientist. Taylor does a good job appearing harmless, until his occasional bursts of anger indicate elsewise. I still believe Robert Mitchum was miscast, but I don’t mind that too much. This is not a perfect film, by any means, but it’s definitely more interesting than I originally thought.

Night Into Morning (1951) – I can’t claim to be a Ray Milland fan but the premise of this drama that has him portraying a man reacting to the deaths of his wife and son from a senseless accident intrigued me. Milland explores the unpredictability of grief and the human reaction to it in a believable way. Nancy Davis and John Hodiak act as his friends and show the way others respond to those who grieve. Davis gives the story it’s only hope in a her sympathetic performance as a woman who is already on the other side of grieving tragedy and who is able to offer Milland some perspective.

Some Came Running (1958) – Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley MacLaine make for a formidable trio in this melodrama directed by Vincente Minnelli. Despite their presence, the story was a bit too sad and seedy for me to truly enjoy. MacLaine’s gives the most memorable performance as the tragic woman in unrequited love with Sinatra. Her character alternately annoyed me, impressed me and also made me feel sorry for her.

Repeat Performance (1947) – An interesting film noir about a woman, who after shooting her husband dead, gets the chance to live the past year over again and attempts to change the outcome. Joan Leslie is sweet and stunning. She’s perhaps still a bit too much of an ingenue for her part as a successful theater actress in love with and trying to hold on to her alcoholic, womanizing husband. Louis Hayward really made the husband too despicable to be believed.  Richard Basehart was fabulous as Leslie’s poet friend and Virginia Field sinks her teeth into a juicy role as the “other woman”. Field’s and Leslie’s costumes by Oleg Cassini were also a highlight. Though film noir isn’t my favorite genre, this is one I’ll remember and watch again.

Follow the Boys (1963) – The best thing about this dull comedy is Paula Prentiss and the gorgeous European locales where it was filmed. Russ Tamblyn comes in a nice second. The plot about women who follow their Navy men around to meet up with them in various ports could have been cute, but wasn’t. Fellow female co-stars Janis Paige and the French Dany Robin seemed too mature overall for this type of storyline, although their presence gave the film some gravitas. The men were ridiculous playboys. Also, I can understand why Connie Francis didn’t make many more films after this. She is at best, a mediocre actress.

The Cross of Lorraine (1943) – An unusual cast including Jean-Pierre Aumont, Gene Kelley, Wallace Ford, Cedric Hardwick, Joseph Calleia, Hume Cronyn and Peter Lorre meant I had to see this WWII drama about a group of French soldiers living in a Nazi prison camp. It’s pretty well made despite the fact that only Aumont is believable as a Frenchman. The depictions of how the hardships and torture of life in the camp impact each man is a character study that could have used a bit more depth, but manages to get its’ point across. The ending is very dramatic and obvious propaganda, but I didn’t mind.

To Be or Not to Be (1942) – My first viewing of this Lubitsch classic left me less than impressed, but the second time around I had a much better experience. Of course, my overall opinion of Carole Lombard has improved since I first saw it. But I can’t say Jack Benny has won me over yet. My favorite thing about this Ernst Lubitsch directed classic, is all the small character roles of the theater actors that make of Lombard and Benny’s troup. They add so much humor, interest and context to the whole plot.

Post 1980’s

Anne of Green Gables (1985) – The Canadian mini-series is one my mom and I re-visit every year around the New Year.  It’s so charming and adorable and the characters feel like old friends. I still laugh over Rachel Lynde’s busybody ways, sigh over Matthew’s love for Anne, warm to the softening of Marilla’s heart and cheer over Anne’s positive and imaginative outlook as she adapts to her new life.

Anne of Avonlea (1987) – Before I became more knowlegable about classic film, I had no idea that it was Dame Wendy Hiller playing the role of the irascible Mrs. Harris. I do like seeing Anne’s adventures and character growth away from home, but I always miss the Green Gables crowd. The very best part is the end when Anne and Gilbert FINALLY get together.

The Hating Game (2021) – Well, I’m gonna be one of those annoying people who proclaim the book better than the movie.  Though in all fairness I went in with bias. The basics of the story remain the same, but of course, it loses the depth and richness of the details that made the book so good. Lucy Hale did a good job as Lucy Hutton. She was strong and sassy, like in the book. But I did feel her wardrobe was a bit juvenile  and did not reflect that position of authority her character held. After finishing the movie, I had to go back and re-read the book again for comparison’s sake.

Downton Abbey (2019) – With the new Downton Abbey film coming out this spring, I felt it was time to re-watch this one. Getting back to these characters always feels like a visit with old friends. I still think the plot about Downton preparing for a visit from the king and queen was a really good one, which fit seamlessly into the Downton world and which also provided many moments of drama for the family and the staff below stairs. The battle between the Downton servants and those of the royal household made me laugh several times.

Redeeming Love (2022) – I’ve waited a long time to see a film adaptation of one of the best selling Christian fiction books ever released. The original story was an updated Western version of the biblical story of the Old Testament prophet Hosea who was commanded by God to marry a harlot and to remain faithful to her even as she was continuously unfaithful.  Though it’s been a while since I read the book, I’m happy to say I experienced no disappointment and felt it remained pretty true to the Francine Rivers’ popular story.  Though not necessarily marketed as a Christian movie, it is of course based on a faith based book, so I confess it was a little jarring to hear a few profanities as well as see some sex scenes in the film. However upon reflection I feel that most Christian films sanitize and gloss over the dark parts of humanity which make them feel false. The inclusion of these surprising elements, made this film feel more real to life, particularly since this is a story of a prostitute and the abuses she suffers prior to her rescue. Abigail Cowen and Tom Lewis who played the leads, really impressed me with their performances.  Cowen in particular was convincing. Her delicate appearance belies the skeptical, world-weary prostitute who has seen it all and who keeps running back to what is familiar because she doesn’t trust the kindness of the man who rescues her.

 

27 Hallmark Movies – Having been without Hallmark for the past two years, I’m still playing catch-up on all their movies from that time frame. I have to say, having taken a break and watching their films now, I can see an overall improvement in their plots, musical scores, character development etc. They still rely on some old stereotypes and can be cheesy, but not nearly as much as they used to. Favorites are in bold.

Trading Christmas, A Gift Wrapped Christmas, Christmas at Castle Hart, Where Your Heart Belongs, Love in Winterland, Taking the Reins, Hearts of Winter, It Was Always You, A New Year’s Resolution, The Wedding Veil, South Beach Love, North to Home, Finding Love in Mountain View, Sweet Pecan Summer, Chasing Waterfalls, Boyfriends of Christmas Past, Sweet Autumn, Dater’s Handbook, Snowkissed, Journey of My Heart, As Luck Would Have It, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, Rise and Shine Benedict Stone, Sand Dollar Cove, Baby, It’s Cold Inside, Love Strikes Twice, Just My Type

The Umpteenth Blogathon – It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)

FILM SYNOPSIS

When a group of strangers hear the confession of a dying man who leaves a mysterious clue about the whereabouts of a large sum of cash, they aren’t convinced he’s on the level. Yet, when they suspect each other of going after the money, they pause to discuss how to locate it and also how to split it when it’s found. Talks quickly break down and it becomes, “every man (and woman) for himself!”

Next thing you know, five different groups of people are racing to be the first one to find the dough, unaware that they are being tracked by the cops who have long wished to recover the money from a robbery case. Their attempts to beat each other out lead to the involvement of other strangers and motorists as well as crazy situations that quickly become destructive. Continue reading “The Umpteenth Blogathon – It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)”