March 2021 Quickie Reviews

march 2021 BREAKDOWN
  •  34 films/series total
  •  16 new classic films
  • 14 re-watches
  • 1 foreign films
  • 4 TV series
  • 2 silent films
  • 1 foreign films
  • 1 documentary

Biggest Disappointment: This is a longer list than normal this month. But my top choice is Hooray for Love.

The Family Secret

Favorite Discovery: All Creatures Great and Small, The Family Secret

The Paradise (2012-2013) – I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve seen this series. The first season of this adaptation is my favorite. The second season is a bit less charming, but I find the power struggle between the two leads so fascinating as they try to balance that with their love for one another.

All Creatures Great and Small (2020) – This quaint series was definitely worth the wait. The scenes in rural England were so rich with color and the characters rather endearing.  The experiences of the vets and their interaction with customers and the animals really reveals their personalities. I’ve now  started watching the original series.

Reunions (2020) – Though nothing special, this French series is entertaining if a bit lightweight. It features a blended family who leave France after inheriting a run-down hotel on the island of Reunion. The inheritance is shared with an unknown brother and the two families must learn how to work together to make it a success. The plot is an interesting one.The relational aspect of the story line is the most compelling. It’s really nice to see Sara Martins from Death in Paradise pop up in this series as a main character.

The Parent Trap (1961) – I’d forgotten how much joy this Disney classic always brings me.  The entire cast is delightful, the vivid colors, photographic settings and costumes are all gorgeous. This time around, I appreciated even more the chemistry between Maureen O’Hara and Brian Keith.

Blondie of the Follies (1932) – Though there are some cheesy and also painful moments in this pre-Code musical comedy, I still really like it. It’s one of the rare Marion Davies talking films I like.

Dangerously They Live (1941) – I found this John Garfield suspense film disappointing. He plays a doctor caught up in a conspiracy with a female spy.  This was also Nancy Coleman’s first starring role and it shows. She is dull as the female spy.

The Wind and the Lion (1975) – This historical adventure tale about a desert sheik who abducts a young American and her children hit me at the right time. Sean Connery and Candace Bergen both do well in their roles. There was just a hint of attraction between them, but I appreciated how the film focuses on the growing respect between two strong characters. The side story about the political maneuverings of President Theodore Roosevelt’s attempts to free the American hostages felt a bit disconnected, but I LOVED Brian Keith’s balanced portrayal of my favorite U.S. President.

New in Town (2009) – I’m pretty sure my affinity for this film originates with my mother’s memories of growing up outside of the film’s setting of New Ulm, Minnesota. The accents, the lifestyle and the small, connected community all ring true to her stories.

The Quiet Man (1952) – The vibrant colors and stunning Irish setting of this movie always takes me by surprise, no matter how many times I see it. I’m always baffled by Maureen O’Hara’s character and find her reactions and behavior towards John Wayne hard to understand.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – Billed as a political thriller, it felt more like I was watching a real life horror show. It was scary how real this felt to today’s political climate considering it was made six decades ago. Angela Landsbury really sinks her teeth into creating one of the best onscreen villains I’ve ever seen. Laurence Harvey is also chillingly good at playing the brainwashed agent for which the film is named.

The Mallorca Files Season 2 – Surprisingly, this is one of the few series, where I can claim that I like the second season better than the first. Max and Miranda have really hit their stride in their police partnership.

Tonight’s the Night (1954) – This is the second time I’ve watched this Irish comedy this year, but I just had to show it to my mom. The first half is a bit of a slow start, but the second half is hilarious. Watching all the bungling attempts of the villagers to kill their new squire (played by David Niven) makes me laugh every time.

The Tunnel of Love (1958) – Is Doris Day ever not likable? She’s great here as one half of a couple trying to adopt. But the film was marred for me by the characterization of her husband as played by Richard Widmark who comes across as a total idiot. I also was turned off by Gig Young’s portrayal as their friend and neighbor who is a total sleazeball.

A Kiss in the Dark (1949) – I like Jane Wyman’s earlier films, before she got all serious. And she’s awfully cute opposite David Niven in this little comedy about a concert pianist who falls for down to earth model in an apartment house he invests in. And I love the family feel among all the residents of the apartments.

Leap Year (2010) – In honor of St Patrick’s Day (and my personal love for rom-coms), I revisited this favorite. I’m pretty sure this is the film that got me stuck on Amy Adams. I love the Irish road trip and her character whose strictness covers a soft, vulnerable soul.

Cool Runnings (1993) – John Candy forever! I love re-visiting this modern Disney classic about the first Jamaican Olympic bobsled team. It’s inspirational and always tugs my heart strings. Besides Candy, I love how the very different team mates slowly learn to appreciate each other.

Billy the Kid (1941) – This was a slow starter for me and sadly underutilized Brian Donlevy. I also had to laugh at the use of all black and leather as Robert Taylor’s costume. However, I really liked the story and character arc for Billy the Kid, even if it is less then factual. And Taylor does a good job playing a villain with a soft spot.

The Winning Team (1952) – Since it’s Doris Day month on TCM, I’m taking the opportunity to watch some of her films I’ve never seen before (which is pretty much all her musicals and dramas.) She’s great as the loyal wife of baseball legend Grover Cleveland Alexander played by Ronald Reagan. I like Reagan, but I don’t feel he gives the character the gravitas and emotional depth it needs. However, I felt a personal connection to the story because it shares some similarities with my grandfather’s; a man who grew up in Nebraska and had to choose between baseball and farming.

The Last Flight (1931) – I know this post WWI drama about the Lost Generation is highly rated, but I just couldn’t get excited about it. Richard Barthelmess always leaves me cold unfortunately. And I couldn’t relate to the plot or characters at all.

Tea for Two (1950) – As much as I love Doris Day, I prefer her comedies to her musicals. She’s as likable as ever here as an heiress who makes a bet with her uncle that she has to say no to every question over 48 hours. But musicals just aren’t my thing. However, I’m thankful to this film for introducing me to Gordon McRae. That man can sing! I’m surprised he wasn’t a commercially successful singer. Eve Arden was also a scene stealer with all the best lines.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – Wow! I can see why this David Lean classic is always spoken of so highly. It’s a memorable cinematic experience even on the small screen and despite the almost four hour run time. The visuals are incredible and draw you in even when the vistas are vast. Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif are electric on screen. And the supporting cast only adds to the prestige of this picture.

Man Wanted (1932) – Over time, I’ve really grown to respect Kay Francis as an actress. I’ve always liked this pre-code gem which allows her to shine as a female boss with a male secretary who is in love with her. She’s a strong woman, but a feminine one as well.

The Cossacks (1928) – What a mess of a film. The plot is thin, but when you have silent screen hams like Ernest Torrence, Nils Aster and my beloved John Gilbert giving magnetic performances, who cares. The story was adapted from a Tolstoy short story and I have to say, I probably still like it better than in its’ original grim form. And I felt the newer orchestration really enhanced the film.

The Red Balloon (1956) – An adorable short film of a boy’s love affair with his red balloon which acts more like a playful and loyal puppy as it follows him around Paris. There’s little dialogue, but a charming tour of 1950’s Paris which is mostly gray. The vibrant red of the balloon really pops against the colorless buildings and streets and the story displays a beautiful whimsy.

The Citadel (1938) – I discovered Robert Donat years ago and have tried to watch all of his films. Though this isn’t my favorite, mostly because it feels like it needed some trimming from the run time or better pacing throughout the plot, it’s still worth watching. The moral dilemmas this idealistic doctor faces in his career are very interesting and I love Rosalind Russell in the role of a supportive but strong wife.

H.M. Pulham Esq. (1941) – Hedy Lamarr gives a very good and understated performance here as the “one who got away.” Though this is a decent production with a good cast, I just didn’t care much for the story of a man re-evaluating his life and pining over his lost love. The ending didn’t make much sense either as it tries to convince that it’s really his wife he loves, especially as the majority of the film portrays him completely uninterested in her. That ending just feels like a cop out.

Illicit (1931) – An early Barbara Stanwyck film which shows just a glimpse of her talent. It’s also a story that wouldn’t be made after the Code since it shows a young couple living together before marriage because Stanwyck’s character believes “love wrecks marriage.” From that standpoint, it feels kind of modern, but thankfully Stanwyck went on to make better films.

Audrey (2020) – Having read a biography of Audrey Hepburn, this Netflix documentary didn’t tell me anything new about her. However, for those who have not read about her, this is a great informative film as it touches on all the same things about her that I have read. What it did add that I didn’t get in the biography are films and images of Audrey herself as well as hearing in her own words what she experienced. I also thought that the addition of the balletic performances throughout really, captured the emotional essence of Audrey’s life.

The Family Secret (1924) – Baby Peggy was a successful child star of the silent era who is largely forgotten today and whose films are mostly lost. This was my first time seeing her onscreen and I can see why she was so popular. She is frisky, adorable and talented. I hope I get the opportunity to see more of her work.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959) – I’ve never seen a real court case, but movies like this make me think there must be a lot of theater involved and that attorneys are also part psychologist and performer as well. This great cast led by James Stewart really portrays the intensity of the characters and the drama of a criminal case. Ben Gazzara in particular, really caught my eye, with his internal smoldering and brazen attitude.

Hooray for Love (1935) – Having previously enjoyed two other films pairing Gene Raymond and Ann Southern, I rented this from Amazon. What a disappointment! There’s very little plot and is mainly a bunch of musical numbers thrown together.

Lucky Me (1954) – I’m scared to say it, but the more I watch musicals, the more I realize I don’t like them. (with a few exceptions.) Even those featuring Doris Day. This particular one was painful to sit through and only Doris kept me in my seat. I did like the shots of Miami and Doris’ costumes. But most of the performances were obnoxious and poor Robert Cummings looks haggard.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) – I’m not sure why I was nervous that I wouldn’t enjoy this Hitchcock film, but I really did. James Stewart and Doris Day prove that they are both excellent dramatic actors as a couple who’s son is kidnapped as part of an assassination plot. I loved Hitch’s version of Morocco and London. Although I did have to laugh a bit at the lyrics of the song being performed at the symphony when it went on and on and on about trees.

The Ten Commandments (1956) – I’m so happy to be back in the theater and particularly for a screening of this epic film. Even though it is one of two films I grew up seeing numerous times, I never outgrow it. And seeing it on the big screen allows me to catch little details that I miss on a smaller television screen. The spectacle of it all always keeps me spellbound. The dramatic performances by a great cast, the costumes, the script with great one-liners that makes me swoon, only endears it to me more and more.

The Chosen Season 1 – I’m even more impressed with this series about Jesus the second time around.  It is the most humanized depiction of Him and those associated with Him that I have ever seen. I can’t wait for season two.

DNF -The Silver Brumby, Hunderby

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