January 2019 Quickie Film Reviews

With the start of a new year, I decided to change my approach in watching films. In the past couple of years, I chose to watch as many new-to-me classic films as I could, whether or not they interested me. I wanted to broaden my knowledge and experience with them. And while I found some real gems, I also found myself spending a lot of time watching films I didn’t really enjoy.

This year I want to continue to watch classic films I’ve never seen before. But I also want to re-watch classic films I’ve not seen in a while or which I really enjoy watching. I also want to get back to watching newer released foreign films and series. In addition, I will be watching more contemporary films as well.

This month I had great success in newer series, especially on the foreign side. The only one of the series I listed that I didn’t love was Beauty and the Beast. I enjoyed re-watching several classic and contemporary films.

Photo Source: IMDb

I watched quite a bit less in classic films, but the ones I did see were entertaining. My favorite discovery of the month was Operation Mad Ball with Jack Lemmon.

Vanity Fair (2018) – ITV/Amazon Series – Having seen two previous film versions of this classic novel, I had low expectations. But, wow! This series was perfectly cast, beautifully costumed and filmed. And for the first time I got emotionally involved with this story which really doesn’t have any true heroes or heroines (other than sweet Dobbins). Seven episodes.

Anna Karenina (2013) (European Mini-Series) Amazon Prime – Another literature adaptation which caught my eye. I’ve seen the films with Garbo and Vivien Leigh, but believe this is the best interpretation of Tolstoy’s novel that I’ve seen so far. The longer run time allowed for the development of the characters’ complexities. This one was dubbed in English, so no need to read subtitles. Two episodes.

Beauty and the Beast (2014)  (Italian Series) Amazon Prime – This one started out so promising! But then it devolved into utter cheesiness. Still I enjoyed the gorgeous settings which made the film come alive. I also appreciated that the Beast was so because of his emotional state and not his physical one. Two episodes.

I Love My Husband (2018) (Russian Series) Amazon Prime – My first experience with a contemporary Russian series and I loved it. A husband unknowingly connects with his wife through an online dating site. I loved the focus on marriage, family and also on the wife’s need for her own identity outside the home. Perfect mix of comedy and drama and only four episodes long.

Murder My Sweet (1944)- I can see why this film noir receives so much praise. It was entertaining and suspenseful. It’s also features Dick Powell, Claire Trevor and Anne Shirley in some of their best roles.

Il Mare (2000) Korean Film – This Korean film was eventually re-made as The Lake House with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. Most IMDb reviewers seem to prefer this original to the remake, but I disagree. I found Il Mare just a bit too slow and quiet for me by comparison.

Dust Be My Destiny (1939) -One of the four films pairing Priscilla Lane with John Garfield. I really liked this story about the down and out newlyweds on the run from the law. Garfield gives a moving performance of a man who has no hope that anyone will believe him or give him a break.

The Proud Rebel (1958) -Starring Olivia de Havilland and Alan Ladd, it’s a slow, quiet Western. Ladd’s real  son does an amazing job in the role of his mute (movie) son. I enjoyed seeing Olivia in a film like this.

Sex and the Single Girl (1964) – (Re-watch) It has been a while since I first watched this Natalie Wood and Tony Curtis comedy. Yes, it is silly, but I still love it. The car chase scene is as funny as I remembered. It doesn’t hurt that Henry Fonda, Lauren Bacall, Mel Ferrer among others are supporting players.

Love on the Run (1936) -(Re-watch) I had seen this Gable/Crawford pairing once before and thought it was terrible. Upon a second viewing, I decided it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. It’s still not all that great, but it is entertaining, and I love Crawford’s star-spangled white dress.

Four’s a Crowd (1938) – (Re-watch) While Errol Flynn made an excellent swashbuckler, I’m reminded once again with this film that he had a light comic touch. It’s unfortunate, he wasn’t cast in more comedies. I love his banter with Roz Russell here.

Stranger than Fiction (2006) – (Re-watch) I had forgotten how much I enjoy this quirky little film. It stars Will Ferrell in a rare serious role. It’s just unique and so much fun and I like the overall message.

James Stewart, Robert Mitchum: The Two Faces of America (2017) -This was rather disappointing. I didn’t learn anything new and there was a lot of wasted time that didn’t really focus on the actors or the topic.

Mr. Sunshine (2018) -It took me a couple of episodes to get hooked on this Netflix Korean drama, but wow! Once I did, I binge watched the whole thing. I was fascinated by the historical setting. I also loved the blend of romance and drama. Even with the beautifully sad ending, I would watch it again.

Macao (1952) -I always forget how beautiful Jane Russell is and also how well she can sing. I love her when partnered with Robert Mitchum on screen. This film noir was enjoyable, not great, but entertaining.

Operation Mad Ball (1957) – I love early Jack Lemmon films!  He’s great in this one, as a charming, scheming Army private who works to plan a ball behind the backs of the officers. This is such a great little undiscovered comedy. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Is there anything Lemmon can’t do??

Sunday in New York (1963) – (Re-watch) I never get tired of watching this Sixties romantic comedy with Jane Fonda, Rod Taylor and Cliff Robertson.

Big City (1948) -While you can’t ever go wrong with a Margaret O’Brien film, this was not one of my favorites. I love the idea of three men of different faiths working together to raise an orphan. But this movie needed some editing and could have told the story concisely, in less time. Also, at this point O’Brien was getting a little too old to play the sweet little girl roles.

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