October 2020 Quickie Reviews

October 2020 Breakdown
  • 23 films/series total
  • 13 new classic films
  • 2 TV series
  • 2 re-watches

Biggest Disappointment: The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, Love Before Breakfast

Favorite Discovery: 42, Devotion

Brokenwood Mysteries (2014) Season 1-3 – I can see why this mystery series is such a big hit in its’ home country of New Zealand. The characters are interesting and have great camaraderie and continue to grow on me with each season. I really appreciate the supporting characters as well, including the lead detective’s Maori sidekick and the female Russian medical examiner with her one-offs about life in Russia. This is a new favorite series for me.

Emily in Paris (2020) – If not for the Parisian setting and Ashley Park offering comic relief as the best friend, I’m not sure I would have finished this Netflix series. I liked Lily Collins, but couldn’t take her title character seriously. Any charm the show displayed was off-set by the shallow-ness of many of the characters. But I will say, the French men were pretty sexy.

Love Before Breakfast (1936) – Somehow this Carole Lombard picture had escaped my notice until now. The movie itself is well made with smooth shots and camera angles and stunning costumes for Lombard. But the story about a wealthy man who nicely stalks an equally wealthy woman in pursuit of a romance with her is somewhat creepy. And the two main characters are not that likable.

Take Her, She’s Mine (1963) – Pure fluff and silliness, Sandra Dee carries this film about a young woman who constantly but innocently finds herself in trouble.  Despite the fact that James Stewart stars as her father, this is definitely her picture.

The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (2012) – Meh…I expected to like this Australian historical mystery better than I did. But since it was made for TV maybe my expectations were set too high? In any case, it was nice to see some familiar faces even if the mystery and tension of this story was lacking.

The Apple Dumpling Gang (1975)  – A childhood favorite, I had forgotten how much this one makes me laugh!  Don Knotts and Tim Conway are comedy gold as a bumbling outlaw duo who get mixed up with a gambler and some orphans he has inherited. It dawned on me for the first time, that although the children are in most of the scenes and a catalyst for a lot of the action, that they have very few actual lines.

Impact (1949)– It’s so nice to see Brian Donleavy in a starring role and as a relatively decent man, no less. He’s pretty convincing as a wealthy industrialist who survives a murder attempt by his wife’s lover and who then goes into hiding, leaving the world to think he is dead. But it is Helen Walker as his femme fatale wife who really steals the show.

The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944) – I didn’t pay as much attention to the first half of this Cecil B. DeMille biographical picture as I should have. I wouldn’t have guessed this was a DeMille film as I’m much more used to his biblical epics. Gary Cooper plays a military doctor who refuses to abandon his injured men when the rest of the army evacuates. His efforts to get them home are the stuff of every day heroes – exactly the kind of story I enjoy. I do get a bit tired of Cooper’s “aw shucks” attitude in every role he plays. The best part of this was the camaraderie of the men in his charge. They truly were a band of brothers.

The Racket (1951) – Two Roberts (Mitchum and Ryan) face off in this film noir in a  moral battle between a police captain and a gangster. Ryan gives an intense performance, but as usual, I prefer Mitchum. This film also explores how pervasive and hard to root out corruption can be, even in those who are supposed to uphold the law.

Touch of Evil (1958) – I’m just going to say it….Orson Welles is…peculiar. His interest in the seedy side of human nature is not my cup of tea, but his films are always so interesting. This one, about two cops, one American and one Mexican who find themselves in conflict over a case really delved deep into vice and corruption. By the end I felt a bit icky and needed to watch something happy to slough off the residue of this story. Charlton Heston is not believable as a Mexican cop, but I do find his voice very sexy. Also, I have to say Joseph Calleia gives an amazing understated performance as Welles sidekick.

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019) – An absolutely heart-warming yet simple story of an unusual friendship between a runaway man with Down’s Syndrome and a man with a troubled background. I always find something compelling about Shia LeBeouf  in his performances and this is one of his better roles. The other actors did a great job as well.

Lady in the Lake (1946) As a fan of Robert Montgomery, I put off watching his version of Phillip Marlowe, afraid I wouldn’t like it. This detective story felt uneven.  Montgomery’s love interest played by Audrey Totter appeared to undergo a personality transplant midway through, which made her character seem false. This is the second film I’ve seen recently with Lloyd Nolan and he’s really growing on me. I thought his shady cop character was the best part of this film.

Devotion (1931)– Sadly, I generally find Leslie Howard and Ann Harding dull on screen. However, they were both rather endearing in this story about a young woman who disguises herself as a middle aged nanny to work in her love interest’s home.  I’m so glad I got to see this sweet little comedy and will definitely watch it again.

Casino Royale (1967) – This James Bond spoof starring David Niven, Peter Sellars, Orson Welles, Woody Allen and a host of other big names, feels like a drunken daydream. It’s random chaos which completely breaks the bounds of credulity.  The plot is ridiculous, when there is one. Mainly, it’s just a showcase for these actors to ham it up. I did like the film’s take on the original Bond being the opposite of his popular image. There were some fun scenes, but overall it dragged on too long.

Unholy Partners (1941) – Wow! It’s a shame Edward G Robinson and Edward Arnold didn’t make more films together. Their chemistry as begrudging business partners is electric. Robinson’s newspaper man convinces Arnold’s big time gambler to finance his new tabloid rag.  It’s too bad they completely overshadow the other actors and side storylines. But, this one is definitely worth watching.

Rebecca (2020) – I still think HItchcock’s is the definitive version of du Maurier’s novel. But if you leave out the comparison, this one was an entertaining interpretation of the classic story. The cinematography and settings for this one are fabulous Though, sadly I don’t think the main characters were well cast. Armie Hammer comes across wooden and angry rather than aloof and tortured. While Lily James is a good actress, she’s too beautiful and doesn’t do timid well enough to really inhabit the second Mrs. Winter.

Death of a Scoundrel (1956) – No one does an elegant villain better than George Sanders who plays the title character. Although his meteoric rise to wealth and success are a bit hard to believe, his manipulation, lies and cheating to get there are not. Most of the women in this film are superfluous characters to the story just as they are to Sanders. However, Yvonne Decarlo, does a good job as his sidekick and displays her character’s personal growth well.

Extraction (2020) – Chris Hemsworth plays a mercenary hired to retrieve a kidnapped Indian drug lord’s son in this Netflix action film. There’s a lot of  fighting and violence and it all moves at a very quick pace. The relationship that develops between himself and the teenage boy he rescues is the best part of this otherwise formulaic story. I did appreciate the ambiguous ending and the fact that Hemsworth’s female boss gets to be a badass.

Tycoon (1947) – John Wayne stars as an engineer who falls in love with Laraine Day’s heiress while working in South America. This is beautifully filmed with lots of vibrant color. I even found Day interesting in her role which is not always the case. However, I felt Wayne was mis-cast here as he played his part with his usual Western bravado.  The running time could have been trimmed down without missing anything important. I did enjoy the supporting roles and the actors’ who played them.

Chain Lightning (1950) – I watched this solely for Eleanor Parker.  She is both beautiful and capable in this film as a woman working in the post-war aviation world who gets entangled with old flame Humphrey Bogart. Bogart is an arrogant, but genius test pilot who pushes the boundaries. I enjoyed the scenes on the ground much better than the ones in the air which just weren’t all that interesting. This is rather formulaic and fairly unmemorable.

Personal Property (1937) – This is now the third time I’ve seen this comedy with Robert Taylor and Jean Harlow and it continues to grow on me.  Taylor and Harlow are both amusing and charming in their roles. Taylor is an ex-con who takes up residence in Harlow’s home as a bailiff. She is secretly broke and engaged to his brother. There are several funny scenes and the rapport between the two stars is easy and light-hearted. I will now be putting this on my list of favorite comedies.

Daddy’s Home (2015) – I loved the onscreen chemistry between Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell in The Other Guys, so was excited to see them in another comedy together. While this one is entertaining, it’s not nearly as funny. Ferrell plays an emotionally threatened step-dad when Wahlberg’s rock-star cool dad returns to connect with his children. It has potential, but is mostly ridiculous. Thomas Haden Church shines as Ferrell’s self-absorbed boss.

42 (2013) – Okay, I loved this biopic about Jackie Robinson. The visual aesthetics instantly transported me to the 1950’s. I may not enjoy baseball, but I sure do love a good baseball movie and this one touches all the bases – the intracacies and love of the sport, the human interest stories, a realistic and well handled conflict. This one isn’t about winning, but how Robinson, his club manager and team-mates handled his integration as the first black man to play in a major league. Chadwick Boseman proves he is an actor we lost too soon as he completely inhabits this historical figure. I also really enjoyed the scenes depicting Robinson’s relationship with his wife, who is an admirable, strong character in her own right.

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