July 2020 Quickie Reviews

JUly 2020 BREAKDOWN

  • 24 films/series total
  • 12 re-watches
  • 8 TV series
  • 7 new classic films
  • 5 re-watches
  • 4 documentaries and series
  • 2 foreign films/series

Biggest Disappointment: Bomb Girls

That Man from Rio

Favorite Discovery: That Man From Rio, Louisa and Chef

Dead Still (2020) – I love the unique idea behind this Acorn drama series about a Victorian photographer who takes pictures of the dead. The characters including his niece and assistant are interesting. I also like that it is set in Dublin which is rare for a British drama. However, the overall story line for the series and within each individual episode was overly campy and unnecessarily tawdry which is disappointing. However, I am interested in a second season.

Grantchester Season 5 – Another very compelling season of this cozy British mystery series! I really like Will, much better than I ever did Sydney. He and Geordie have an interesting friendship. I also like the love interest that was introduced for Will this season as well as the story line surrounding Geordie’s mother-in-law. Like Call the Midwife, this show manages to tackle relevant subjects in it’s historical time frame.

A Knight’s Tale (2001) – It’s been years since I saw this one, and I really enjoyed re-visiting it. The way this film meshes modern music and sensibilities with a medieval setting is fun and makes the story feel fresh. I always get a giggle out of Paul Bettany’s performance as Chaucer but the rest of the male cast is entertaining as well.

Emma (1996) – Nothing will ever reach the zenith of the BBC’s 2009 Emma mini-series for me, but I appreciated this one more than I expected. I’ve been wanting to see this adaptation starring Kate Beckinsale for a while. I thought it was rather good. Surprisingly, the interpretations of Harriet and Frank Churchill were my favorites. I did think the relationship Emma shared with Ms. Taylor turned Weston wasn’t as strong as in other films and I also felt the chemistry between Emma and Knightley was weak here. I also liked how it included depictions of the working man in its’ film settings.

The Gilded Age (2018) – I’ve always been fascinated by this period of American history, particularly the wealthy New York elite. However, this documentary also explored the economic and political changes as well to give me a broader understanding of how these changes affected the common man also. While it wasn’t necessarily gripping info, it was definitely educational and enlightening. Many parallels between that time and our own were inferred, so as to make this documentary relevant for modern viewers.

Tiger Bay (1959) – This was Hayley Mills as I’ve never seen her in her first credited role, starring alongside her father. Mills plays a young girl who befriends a murderer and hinders the police investigation to find him in this crime drama. Disney’s Hayley Mills she is not. But she’s still rather endearing playing tough and her relationship with the man who kills his girlfriend helps to humanize him to the audience.

Father Brown Season 8 – I was thrilled with the return of this clerical snoop and his cohorts. And while I still enjoy their antics, I miss some of the characters from earlier seasons. Some of this season’s plots are more than a bit farfetched. I’m starting to care less and less about this show.

What Happens in Vegas (2008) – I’d forgotten how much this silly little comedy makes me laugh. It’s certainly not a masterpiece by any means, but it’s fun and a nice escape. Cameron Diaz really is always a delight, especially in this marriage of convenience, hate to love story. But this will always be the movie that made me a fan of Lake Bell.

Bye Bye Birdie (1963) – Meh. It’s not a bad musical, but nothing I fell in love with either. I like Dick Van Dyke, but the story line about his overbearing mother really annoyed me. Janet Leigh was fun, but if I was her character, I would have dumped Van Dyke a long time ago.

The Berlin Dance School (2016) – This German mini-series sounded really interesting. Set in post war Berlin, it explores the lives of three sisters and their strict mother. I managed to finish the first 90 minute episode, but then skipped to the end. This story was rather dark and dreary, beginning with a rape. I didn’t find any of the characters all that likeable, so I decided not to invest any more time with it.

Chef (2014) – This beautiful film reminded me of how much I like Jon Favreau as an actor. He is great as a chef foundering in both his personal and professional life. I particularly loved seeing his relationship with his young son develop. The story is thoughtful and sensitive. The food scenes made me salivate. And I loved the supporting cast as well. This movie deserves more attention.

That Darn Cat (1965) – I loved this Disney film starring Hayley Mills and Dean Jones growing up. And watching it again decades later, I still find it cute and entertaining. It does a great job of making its feline star feel like a human character.

Million Dollar American Princesses Season 1 (2015) – Downton Abbey’s own Lady Cora aka Elizabeth McGovern hosts this cable docu-series about real life American heiresses who married into the English aristocracy. The content shared interested me very much, but the presentation of it left quite a bit to be desired. Many modern day shots were used when discussing the subject matter. And models dressed as the heiresses were in very cheap, poorly researched costumes.

Bomb Girls (2012) – I got a couple episodes into this Canadian WWII drama before calling it quits. The premise of women working in a bomb factory while the men are off to war has promise. However, I found the plot clichéd and the characters even more so.

Secrets of Iconic British Estates (2013) – I watched all three episodes of this mini-series which explored Henry VIII’s Hampton Court, Chatham which belongs to the Dukes of Devonshire and Althorp, homes to the Earls of Spencer. The episode on Althorp interested me the most, not just because it was the home of Princess Diana, but also because her brother the Earl participated in the episode and made it even more interesting by they personal details he shared. As a fan of historical estates, this series certainly delivered.

Louisa (1950) This otherwise mundane comedy is made delightfully endearing with its’ focus on an elder romance and love triangle played by top notch character actors, Spring Byington, Edmund Gwenn and Charles Coburn. It’s very rare to see stories which focus on the older generation and this one does it well.

The Defiant Ones (1958) – Groundbreaking in its’ day, I finally got around to watching this movie starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis as two prison escapees who must work together despite their racial animosity towards each other. The story is made more powerful by being filmed in stark black and white and also the sole use of natural sounds as its’ soundtrack. I can’t believe I waited so long to watch this.

A United Kingdom (2016) – This has been on my watch list since before its’ release. It is based on the true story of a marriage between a white British woman and a black African prince.  Their relationship is touching and sincere made even more believable by the forces of British and South African politics endeavoring to keep them apart since their relationship is not in those nations’ best interest.

The Long Gray Line (1955) – I had no idea that this film, based on a true story, starring Tyrone Power and Maureen O’Hara, was directed by John Ford! It had a fairly slow start, and I almost gave up on it, but I’m glad I didn’t. The ending tied everything together nicely and made me tear up. It’s one of those beautiful depictions of a common every-day life lived in a way that makes a profound difference on those around it. These are the types of stories I always find inspiring.

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – No matter how many times I watch this Capra movie about an idealistic underdog taking a stand against incredible odds, I always come away challenged and inspired. This is tied for first place as my favorite movie.

Treasure Houses of Britain (2011) – Another series about famous British estate or manor homes. I watched a few episodes, but lost interest. The presentation is rather dull with numerous long shots of the homes’ exteriors and a focus on specific artistic pieces owned by the estate. I would have liked to hear more about the homes’ histories as well as see more of the interiors of these places.

The Grass is Greener (1960) – As a Cary Grant fan, I hate to say it, but the more I re-watch his later films, the more I feel that his performances become almost rote. There’s a loss of energy and personal investment in these pictures. However, revisiting this one years later, I am absolutely delighted by Jean Simmons character performance. She’s sparkling, witty, well dressed by Dior and steals every scene she is in.

That Man from Rio (1964) – I had about given up on classic foreign films recently, but decided to give this one a shot. And boy, am I glad I did. This is all kinds of fun and is my new favorite film of French actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Françoise Dorléac. Belmondo is a soldier on leave who follows his girlfriend’s kidnappers from Paris to Brazil in an effort to rescue her. While Dorléac is lovely, it is Belmondo who held my attention as a modern Douglas Fairbanks character. His Adrien is quick-thinking, agile and doesn’t know the word impossible in this romantic-adventure. I loved the vicarious tour through 1960’s Brazil, however I do feel the film could have been edited to cut down the run time a bit without suffering any losses. This French picture was a delightful surprise.

 Perfect Strangers (1950) – Ginger Rogers gives a very subdued performance in this jury room drama about a divorced woman who falls for a married fellow juror played by Dennis Morgan. The best part about this film is Thelma Ritter who is entertaining as usual. I wasn’t bored by this one, but I also found it rather slow and most likely forgettable.

 

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