June 2020 Quickie Reviews

JUNE 2020 BREAKDOWN

  • 27 films/series total
  • 9 new classic films
  • 5 TV series
  • 5 foreign films/series
  • 3 Shakespeare adaptations
  • 3 re-watches
  • 1 documentary

Biggest Disappointment: Barakah Meets Barakah

Frank Morgan in A Stranger in Town

Favorite Discovery: A Stranger in Town and Small Island

Sweet Magnolias (2020) – Everyone, but I mean everyone, has been talking about this Netflix family and girl power drama. And with good reason. While it is a clean show, it also doesn’t shy away from real life situations like adultery, divorce and broken relationships, even it if does cast them in a slightly rosier light. I love the core of this series that is the strong friendship between the three main female leads. My only complaints are that some of the supporting actors are a bit wooden in their delivery and that cliff-hanger of an ending!

Bless This Mess Season 2 – I fell hard for this fish out of water sitcom last year. I love the twist of portraying a NYC couple adjusting to living on a farm in the middle of nowhere Nebraska. And though it does poke fun at the country folks it is an equal opportunity offender in making fun of the city couple as well. Lake Bell and Dax Shepherd are hilarious and I’ve found myself laughing out loud often while watching this show. I’m very glad this season expanded the amount of episodes from last year.

The Train (1964) – Burt Lancaster stars in this WWII flick as an agent of the French Underground working to save a train load of art that has been stolen by a Nazi officer. Though I’m not a fan of Lancaster who always comes across self-righteous (in my opinion), the story and the action kept me intrigued. I was disappointed by the anti-climatic ending.

A Stranger in Town (1943) – Character actor Frank Morgan takes a starring role as a Supreme Court judge who encounters institutional corruption in a small town while on vacation. Not only was this brief film humorous and fun, but it also addressed the serious issue of privilege and entrenched government manipulation. Morgan has a stirring speech at the end about the responsibility of American citizens that made me want to stand up and cheer. Definitely worth a watch!

Niagara (1953) – This is my first experience with Marilyn Monroe playing a conniving femme fatale. This color film noir depicted her toxic marriage with Joe Cotton in a believable way. But it was Jean Peter’s performance as a newlywed who gets caught up in their twisted game who stole the show for me. The scenes all around Niagara Falls were so interesting and made me wish I had explored it more when I was there.

Too Young to Kiss (1951) – I liked this much better than I anticipated, considering I’ve never been a fan of June Allyson. She didn’t annoy me as much as usual. Perhaps that is due to her character trying to pass as a child in order to catch the attention of Van Johnson’s music promoter. Overall, I thought this comedy was rather cute and am willing to watch it again.

Hamlet (1996) –  In my goal to become more familiar with Shakespeare’s work, I finally tackled this four hour drama. Um wow! Boasting an excellent cast, intricate set and wonderful performances, it kept me intrigued. Although I will confess, I still struggled with the language of the Bard and had to Google a synopsis of the story to keep up.

Just Mercy (2020) – I wanted to see this one in the theater in January, but missed it. So, I was thrilled Amazon offered it for free this month. It’s a compelling and inspiring look not only at injustice, but also the way we stereotype those in the prison system.

Von Ryan’s Express (1965) – For a WWII film, this one had quite a bit of humor sprinkled in among the serious and tense moments. I appreciated how much of the film took place on a train. And it doesn’t hurt that it was filmed in color, so I could stare at the endless blue of Frank Sinatra’s eyes.

My Darling Clementine (1946) – Considering I’m ambivalent about Henry Fonda and Westerns, no fan of Victor Mature and absolutely adore the Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday portrayals in the more recent Tombstone, I liked this John Ford version better than I expected to. Mature’s performance in the first half of the film really grabbed my attention. And for once I appreciated Fonda underplaying his role. But I felt the ladies playing the love interests were a distraction from an otherwise really good Western.

Bringing Up Baby (1938) – My all time favorite film still delights me after all these years. So many great lines and performances, not to mention the silliness of it all.

Call My Agent (2015)– I like this French series about talent agents, but I don’t love it. What I do really appreciate is a behind the scenes view of the world of French cinema and the fact that the guest stars are real French film stars. I have yet to get emotionally involved with the characters and wish there was a bit more warmth displayed, both in the cinematography and in the performances.

36 Hours (1964) – This WWII drama was a re-watch for me and didn’t have the same impact the second time around. I still felt Eva Marie Saint and James Garner were great in their roles and I’m never going to be unhappy to see Rod Taylor on the screen. I loved the ending a bit more this time around, even though the humor of it, didn’t quite jive with the overall serious tone of the movie.

As You Like It (2006) – My second foray into Shakespeare for the month. I definitely prefer his comedies. The premise is far-fetched, but who cares when it’s this much fun. I loved how the re-imagined setting of the play in Japan. But mostly I enjoyed watching my personal fave Romola Garai. And then there is Alfred Molina who kills it as the court fool.

Castle on the Hudson (1940) – It took me a while to develop an appreciation for John Garfield, but now that I have I’m seeking out all his films. Including this one about a cocky small time gangster who lands in prison. Garfield is great at pathos as he displays here. His journey from an arrogant, selfish man to one who develops character and integrity at great personal cost is a beautiful one.

Hot Sweet Sour (2017) – It’s been a while since I watched a Turkish film. This one about a couple who split but agree to marry in five years if they are both still single caught my attention. The first half plays like a romantic comedy until it finally segues into a melodrama. I think I would have preferred it stay in the rom-com zone. I found myself frustrated with the female lead, but there was a reason for some of her selfish, immature behavior which I learned later. I was very impressed with the male lead however.

Henry V (1989) – Ya’ll, the third time is NOT the charm. I’m trying hard to appreciate Shakespeare and if anyone can help in that endeavor, it is Kenneth Brannagh. However, the language still trips me up. It’s like watching a foreign movie without the subtitles and with extra pontificating. I know this one has very good reviews, but I finally quit half way through.

Lady J (2018) – This French Netflix film is little like eating macarons – full of gorgeous pastel colors and delicacy.  But it has an underlying darkness as it is in essence, a tale of revenge. As much as I love dialogue, there was too much of it for me here. It’s a visually pleasing film, but failed to engage me emotionally.

Mae West: Dirty Blonde (2020) – I went in blind to this PBS documentary about this groundbreaking blonde bombshell. While I wish it had featured more information on West’s personal life, it certainly did a good job explaining her career success placed within the context of the time she lived in. What she achieved as woman in the film industry is extraordinary. Not only did she push social and moral boundaries, but those that inhibited the female sex as well. However, I didn’t feel like I got to know her personally. The presentation left me feeling a bit detached from the subject.

Girls from Ipanama (Coisa Mais Linda) Season 2 (2020) – I still love these characters as much as I did before, although I wasn’t thrilled with some of their choices this season.   There were quite a few things introduced then left unexplored and several story lines felt like they moved too quickly. I do love that Adelia’s sister and Malu’s business partner received more screen time as I really like their characters. I did feel like there was a bit too much gratuitous nudity and sex. However, this Brazilian Netflix series remains one of my guilty pleasures.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) – After a couple of very serious, heavy feeling films, I needed something light and funny, so decided on a re-watch of my favorite comedy in recent years. As expected it did the trick, and lightened my spirits. I think the casting and plot for this re-make is just genius. And I appreciate how the film doesn’t take itself seriously at all.

Barakah Meets Barakah (2016) – I’m always trying to branch out in exploring foreign films. So this Saudi made Netflix picture caught my attention. It’s the story of a middle class man who meets and falls for a wealthy girl. Sadly, I didn’t find this one all that interesting, other than the exposure to Middle Eastern culture it afforded me.

The Soloist (2009) – I love Robert Downey Jr. and was curious to see him in a more dramatic film with Jamie Foxx. Of course, with these two talents, great performances were a given. The story wasn’t quite what I was expecting with its’ focus on mental illness and homelessness.  Though I do appreciate that it presents these topics with compassion, it was a bit too much sadness and darkness for me at this time of my life.

When a Man Loves (1927) – How could I pass up the chance to see Drew Barrymore’s grandparents, John Barrymore and Dolores Costello, act together in the same film? This is the first of Barrymore’s silent movies that I have seen and I must say, I think I prefer him in “talkies”. It was heavy on the melodrama both in the story line and the acting and the plot was all over the place. Plus, it’s hard to take the very masculine Barrymore seriously when he’s wearing a full face of makeup.

Small Island (2009) – Populated with now familiar faces like Naomie Harris, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ruth Wilson & David Oyelowo, this mini-series provides a thoughtful look at the experiences of Jamaican immigrants in London after WWII. I don’t know much about Britain’s history with racism, but this gave me a better idea. I really connected with the characters and their experiences. It is beautifully shot and emotionally compelling. Plus, it made me want to visit the island of Jamaica.

By Your Leave (1934) – A forgettable little programmer about a husband and wife who decide to take a week’s vacation from each other.  I expected a bit more from a film starring Frank Morgan and Genevieve Tobin. The best parts of the film were those with their bossy maid played by a pre-wicked witch Margaret Hamilton.

Continue reading “June 2020 Quickie Reviews”

Foreign Film Friday – I Love My Husband (2018) Russian Series

SUMMARY

After fifteen years of marriage and two children, Sergey and Olga have grown apart emotionally. Their life has become a matter of routine and duty. When Olga finds her husband’s profile on a dating website, she decides to connect with her husband using a false identity. Sergey quickly becomes enamored with the mysterious woman named Emma.

Meanwhile, in their real life Olga is torn over her husband’s “infidelity” but believes their marriage is worth saving. The more she reaches out to her husband, the more distant he becomes. However, her virtual identity as Emma gives her new insight and understanding into her husband while also exposing the failures in their marriage.  The more Olga pretends to be Emma, the more “Emma” impacts Olga’s life. But when Olga finally regains her sense of identity, will she still feel her marriage worth saving? Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday – I Love My Husband (2018) Russian Series”

September 2018 Classic Film Quickie Reviews

This month I managed to watch twenty-four films I had never seen before. Of those, four were foreign classics. Sadly I didn’t love any of this month’s foreign film choices.

Tony Curtis, Janet Lee & Dean Martin
Who Was That Lady (1960)

Several of these films surprised me in a good way including She’s Working Her Way Through College and Without Reservations. Others surprised me in a negative way. I also watched two film adaptations of Tennessee Williams plays. All in all, September was a productive month for me in terms of classic film. Continue reading “September 2018 Classic Film Quickie Reviews”

Foreign Film Friday -Marriage Italian Style (1964)

SUMMARY

Marriage Italian Style tells the story of Filumena (Sophia Loren), a prostitute, and her decades long relationship as the mistress of a wealthy Neopolitan business man named Domenico (Marcello Mastroianni).

The film opens with Filumena on her deathbed requesting that the wily Domenico marry her before she passes away. He is loathe to marry her as he is already engaged to be married to one of his young employees. But, Domenico feels he owes it to her, so he agrees.

We then learn in flashbacks the history of their relationship beginning with their first meeting in a whore house when Filumena is seventeen. The first flashbacks are from Domenico’s perspective and we meet a man who is entitled and feels as if he is doing a favor to Filumena with his patronage. He eventually sets her up as his mistress and then as his dying mother’s caretaker. Finally, he trusts her to manage his businesses as he travels around Europe. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Marriage Italian Style (1964)”

Foreign Film Friday -Lovebird (2013)

Çalikuşu is a historical romantic drama based on a novel of the same name set in Istanbul at the beginning of the twentieth century. Although the more accurate translation for Çalikuşu is wren, its’ English title is Lovebird which is a nickname for Feride, the main female character.

SET UP FOR LOVEBIRD

As a young child, Feride is orphaned and sent to live with her maternal aunt’s family. Her arrival upsets the delicate emotional balance of the household, particularly with her female cousin Necmiye, who resents the attention her mother devotes to the new member of their household. Feride also has a combative relationship with her older male cousin Kamran which originates from a mutual attraction and distrust between them.

Thanks to her father’s wishes for her to receive an education, Feride is enrolled at a local French convent boarding school, where she lives when not staying with her aunt and uncle. Her biggest wish is to fulfill her promise to her dead father to finish school and to become a teacher. But as she comes close to the end of her schooling her relationship with Kamran begins to change and pose a threat to her goal and her heart.

For my full review, please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review.

Foreign Film Friday -A Tale of Love and Darkness

A Tale of Love and Darkness is a film based on the book of the same name written by Jewish author Amos Oz. It is an autobiographical story of the author’s younger years growing up in Jerusalem in the years prior to and directly after the formation of the state of Israel.

SUMMARY

Young Amos lives with his parents in Jerusalem during a tumultuous time. WWII had ended recently. Many Jews moved to the British occupied area of Palestine which is tenuously shared with Arab residents. His mother, in particular, seems haunted by her past memories of the destruction of her privileged life in Poland. Amos’ mother Fania does her best to show her love to her son and husband, but those memories make it difficult for her to connect with them. While reconciling herself to her new and challenging present in Jerusalem, Fania shares stories, both fact and fiction, to help distract herself and her son from the struggle of their daily lives.

Please follow me over to The Silver Petticoat Review to see my complete review of this film.

Foreign Film Friday -Girl on a Bicycle (2013)

Although I admit my exposure to foreign films is miniscule, it is pretty much a guarantee that any film set in France, in particular Paris, is going to pique my interest.

FILM SUMMARY

Italian Paolo is content with his life. He lives with his German girlfriend Greta in Paris, has a steady job as a tour bus driver and a dependable if not so good advisor in English friend Derek. After finally proposing to Greta, he finds himself continually crossing paths with the lovely Cecile. Although he is in love with Greta, Paolo cannot helped but be intrigued by the girl riding the bicycle. One day, while in pursuit of her, he accidentally hits her with his bus, which throws his life completely off course.

At the hospital, he informs the nurse that Cecile is his wife so that he can get information on her condition, (a la While You Were Sleeping). When the nurse escorts him into Cecile’s room, her young children immediately greet him with hugs and cries of  “Papa!” You see, Cecile has always told her children that their father is off fighting dragons, but when he returns they will know him because he speaks English. Upon her release from the hospital, Paolo takes Cecile and the children to their home and finds himself in the predicament of caring for her and the children secretly while also trying to maintain his relationship with Greta, who begins to suspect that Paolo is hiding something important from her. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Girl on a Bicycle (2013)”

Foreign Film Friday -Departures (2008)

SUMMARY

Japanese film Departures tells the story of Daigo a professional cellist who loses his dream job with a Tokyo orchestra. In debt, and with no other options, Daigo makes the decision to move with his wife Miko, back to his hometown to live in the house he inherited from his mother.

While job hunting, Daigo finds an ad for a job assisting in departures which promises good pay with no experience required. Upon arriving at the business which he thinks is a travel agency, he discovers from the owner that the ad is a misprint. The position available is actually as an assistant to help with “departures”, more commonly known as an undertaker.

The owner hires him on the spot despite Daigo’s hesitancy to work with the dead. Being unsure that he will keep the job and embarrassed by it, he does not inform his wife about the details of his new position. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Departures (2008)”

Foreign Film Friday -Romantics Anonymous (2010)

When the opening credits began with a French version of the song I Have Confidence from the Sound of Music, it set the tone and immediately convinced me that I would love this film.

A French-Belgian film originally titled, Les Emotifs Anonymes, Romantics Anonymous introduces us to Angelique, a woman crippled by shyness. We see her faint in her group meeting, for which the film is named, but she works up enough courage to attend her interview with the owner of The Chocolate Mill.

When we first meet Jean-Rene, he is introduced to us and to Angelique as a mean man, but it turns out he is also socially challenged and unable to deal with many simple human interactions. Although the interview between these extreme introverts is awkward, Angelique manages to impress him with her knowledge of chocolate and he offers her the job. The only problem is that she thinks that she will be making chocolate and he just hired her as a sales representative to help boost the shop’s faltering sales enough to keep it out of bankruptcy.

On her sales rounds, Angelique discovers that although their buyers think the chocolate is good, it is not exceptional and neither does it live up to current trends in the market. But she has a secret. Angelique is a gifted chocolatier who has had extreme success in the past with her chocolate recipes. The trouble is that she sold her chocolates anonymously. But with the shop in jeopardy, Angelique is convinced that she can help.

In the midst of the chocolate shop story line is a concurrent one about the relationship that develops between Jean-Rene and Angelique. As you can imagine, with their personality challenges it is a very awkward and bumpy path they travel. They are immediately stricken by one another, but their own insecurities keep cropping up as obstacles. Continue reading “Foreign Film Friday -Romantics Anonymous (2010)”