October 2021 Quickie Reviews

OctoBER 2021 BREAKDOWN
  • 29 films/series total
  • 15 new classic films
  • 7 re-watches
  • 3 new TV series
  • 4 silent films
  • 3 foreign film/series
  • 1 documentary

Most watched actor/actress: Lucille Ball -4 films

Biggest Disappointment: Snow is on the Sea 

Favorite Discovery: The West Point Story

TV Series:

My Life is Murder Season 2 – After season one, I’m much better adjusted to Alexa’s sometimes abrasive personality. This season has a new setting in New Zealand, but keeps Alexa’s best sidekick, the colorful, incorrigible Madison. I’m really appreciating this series dive into Alexa’s past history, although it did leave some threads hanging in regards to her brother. It’s nice to see her making some emotional progress as evidenced by her allowing Madison to live with her.

The Good Karma Hospital – I decided it was time for a re-watch while waiting for season 4. It’s been long enough that I forgot some of the details. I still really enjoy this series about do-gooder doctors who work in India. The characters are all intriguing. I didn’t enjoy season 3 as well as the first two, thanks to some added side character drama.

The Republic of Doyle Season 1 – This is a fun but lightweight series about a father-son duo of PI’s. I love that it is set in Newfoundland, a place I’ve never been, but am getting to explore via the Doyles. Jake’s relationship with his father Malachy is interesting as is his dysfunctional interactions with his ex-wife and his potential love interest who is also a cop. I’m curious to see how these relationships develop as the series goes on.

Documentary:

This Is Francis X. Bushman (2021) -I’ve only recently become familiar with this name as I’ve learned more about silent film. It’s crazy to me that stars who were so popular in that era are almost completely forgotten now. Knowing nothing about Bushman, this documentary gave me the highlights of his career, although I would have loved to know more about his personal life. Since it was narrated by his grandson, it does feel some of his weaknesses and failings were a bit white washed. Not to mention the narration was rather monotone, like a recitation of facts, instead of being engaging. Still, this is a good introduction to a man who was larger than life at one time and I’m thankful that TCM is including this kind of offering in their schedule.

Foreign Films/Series:

Snow Is on the Sea (2015) – This was one of those slow moving Korean tearjerkers that hits just about every cliche; orphaned young woman with fatal disease, falls for a man who has already buried his sister.  But he chooses to love her despite the risk of losing someone he cares about again. I think I could have liked it, except the ending was unexpectedly tragic and really made me mad.

Another Miss Oh (2016) – My best friend loves this Korean drama and got me hooked on it. The premise is a bit of a love triangle based on a major misunderstanding because two girls have the same name. As with most k-dramas, I binge-watched it. I loved that the “ordinary” Miss Oh was fearless in expressing her heart, but also found her a bit immature at times. The male lead was “emotionally stunted” and really treated her badly for a long time, which I had a hard time with. However, the story was fun and the majority of the side characters were very entertaining.

Le coup du berger/Fool’s Mate (1956) – I keep trying with these classic foreign films, but they are mostly a miss for me. This short directed by Jacques Rivette is part of the French New Wave movement which is not a cinema period that I seem to enjoy. This was billed as a comedy, but I didn’t find it funny. However, the short story about a woman trying to trick her husband into allowing her to accept a gift from her lover is an interesting one as based on the moves of a chess game.

Silents:

The Wind (1928) – I’m filling a big gap in my classic film watching, by finally viewing some of Lillian Gish’s films. This is maybe the third of her silent films I’ve seen and I admit she is a good actress.  But I have a hard time connecting with her for some reason. This is the second of her pairings with the Swedish Lars Hanson and I do enjoy them together. Although his hands look massive next to her head. What’s really stunning about this picture is how the wind is really the main character of the story, even more so than the actors. It’s so alive and menacing.

A Trip to the Moon (1902) – I’ve long heard about this and am familiar with the image of the moon like most classic film fans. So, I was thrilled to finally get a chance to see this early example of cinema. I found it interesting, but a bit underwhelming. What was fascinating is how many things in the film were similar to NASA’s trip to the moon decades later.

I Do (1921) – Harold Lloyd stars in this mildly entertaining comedy short as a young husband who helps babysit his wife’s nephews. The second half is the best, especially when he goes looking for an intruder in the dark and keeps getting scared by a balloon that constantly bumps into him.

Camille (1921) – I love a good romantic tragedy and the original story by Dumas fils is one of the best. This is an interesting adaptation since it updates the setting to a modern Paris. It stars Rudolph Valentino pre-super stardom as the young innocent law student who falls for the worldly courtesan, played by Alla Nazimova. It is definitely Nazimova’s film and she makes the most of it. The sets are imaginatively fantastic and worth watching for them alone thanks to designer Natacha Rambova who later married Valentino. Though not my favorite itineration, this is still worth watching.

Classics:

Blondie Johnson (1933) – I thought this film rather average. It could have been a lot better. And Chester Morris, who I usually like, left a lot to be desired as the male lead and romantic interest. What I did like was the story starring Joan Blondell as a woman who rises from the bottom to become the head of a crime syndicate. But as much as I like Blondell, it felt like wasted potential. My other complaint is all the actors felt and looked a little to soft to be hardened criminals.

The West Point Story (1950) – I was pleasantly surprised by this underrated musical starring James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Doris Day and Gordon MacCrae. Although, he has the skill and training, it always feels odd seeing Cagney as a song and dance man, but he’s good as a musical producer who helps put on a show with West Point cadets. Aside from The Kissing Rock, the musical numbers aren’t extremely memorable, but they are fun. Things really pick up and sparkle once Day shows up on screen later on in the run time. And having now seen four of MacCrae’s films, I think this is my favorite performance of his as a duty and honor first cadet who falls for Day. This was just a really enjoyable experience for me.

Rio Bravo (1959) – Westerns aren’t my go-to genre, but this is one of the more highly regarded ones, so I felt it was time to give it a chance. It’s a really well-done character drama starring John Wayne as a sheriff guarding the evil brother of a wealthy landowner. Even though it was Wayne’s film, I thought he had the show stolen from him by all the supporting characters. Walter Brennan as his sarcastic, cackling deputy provided the needed humor and Dean Martin was fabulous as another deputy wrestling with alcohol and his private demons. I also really enjoyed Pedro Gonzalez as the Hispanic hotel owner who is a friend of the law. The romance between Wayne and the young Angie Dickinson felt unnecessary, but I didn’t mind it either.

Track of the Cat (1954) – As a fan of Teresa Wright and Robert Mitchum, this has long been on my watch list. However, I can’t say I enjoyed it. I wasn’t expecting it to feature such family dysfunction, misery and tragedy. Plus, casting Carl Switzer as the old Indian was a ridiculous casting choice. The characters were pretty unsympathetic. However, the cinematography boasted some stunning shots.

Easy to Wed (1946) – I might have appreciated this more if I wasn’t constantly comparing it to the original Libeled Lady, which was so perfectly cast the first time around. As it is, Lucille Ball was the most entertaining part of the remake, although Esther Williams and Van Johnson make for nice eye candy. Williams is believable as the heiress, though Johnson is a little less so as the irresistible fixer sent by the newspaper to force her to drop her libel suit. I found Keenan Wynn almost unbearable. Ball and Williams had some nice costumes though.

Twelve Crowded Hours  (1939) – It’s Lucille Ball month on TCM and for her sake I chose this short drama where she plays the girlfriend of a newspaperman who is trying to protect her brother, but gets her mixed up with a gangster and a police detective. Sadly, it’s a rather forgettable film and Ball is under-utilizied in it.

My Dear Miss Aldrich (1937) – Sign me up for anything with Edna Oliver. Even in supporting roles, she always steals the show, much like she does here as the aunt of a spinster Midwestern teacher who inherits a New York newspaper along with a fortune. This film is made better with a likable cast including Maureen O’Sullivan and Walter Pidgeon as the heiress and her sexist editor. It’s lightweight but fun.

Calm Yourself (1935) – I almost gave up on this before it really got started.  However, I’m glad I stuck with it. Though it is an inconsequential little comedy, starring a young Robert Young and Madge Evans, it had some fun moments and became more entertaining as it went along.

The Ghost & Mrs. Muir (1947) – This is always the perfect time of year for me to re-visit this old favorite. As I am not a fan of spooky or horror, this romantic ghost story is perfect for me. The cinematography is a gorgeous enhancement to the plot about a beautiful widow who falls for the ghostly owner of her new home. Strangely, Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison have great chemistry and are able to make their relationship believable despite never being able to touch.

Topper (1937) – This is another of my ghostly favorites, though one with a much more comedic angle. Cary Grant and Constance Bennet make for beautiful if other-worldly socialites who decide to help liberate their stodgy friend Cosmo Topper from his controlled life as their good deed to get in to heaven. Roland Young is fantastic as Topper especially in the scenes requiring special effects.

Her Husband’s Affairs (1947) – This is one of several Lucille Ball films I am watching this month. It’s nice to see Lucy play a woman who does the rescuing instead of needing to be rescued. She plays the wife of Franchot Tone an ad-man who has great ideas that are better sold by his wife. It’s a mildly entertaining comedy, even if some of the situations are very far-fetched. It was nice to see Edward Everett Horton in a supporting role and half-bald at that.

Arsene Lupin Returns (1938) – While this doesn’t live up to my love for the earlier Arsene Lupine film starring the Barrymore brothers, I liked it much more than I expected too. This story features an American detective played by Warren William caught up in a case involving the supposedly retired Lupin played by Melvin Douglas. Although both men were great in their roles, Douglas in particular playing it extra suave and sophisticated, I couldn’t help but think they should be playing opposite of how they were cast. Still, it is a fun and entertaining picture.

The Fuller Brush Girl (1950) – I’ve heard great things about this Lucille Ball comedy over the years and really really wanted to like it. Sadly, I didn’t love it. The first half was harder for me to sit through as it picked up quite a bit by the second half and got much funnier. I like Ball’s co-star Eddie Albert more when he plays serious parts, not like the ditzy guy he is here.

Post 1980’s:

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) – I love a good ensemble piece, especially when it stars the best of British talent and features a story about the older generation.  I love all the little individual character stories here about a group of elderly British retirees decamping to a run down hotel in India. The cultural adjustments they make are amusing and proves that you are never too old to learn new things and to start life over. A sweet and funny and a film I will never get tired of watching.

Nine to Five (1980) – I finally got around to watching this modern classic and enjoyed it even more than I expected. I loved the girl gang of Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton all befriending each other in their efforts to bring their sexist boss down.  And I don’t think I will ever look at a garage door opener the same way again!

Brooklyn (2015) – This immigrant story featuring Saoirse Ronan is so well told and engaging. I really feel the emotional impact of her journey from Irishwoman to American every time I watch it. The romance is very sweet and endearing as well.

Love & Friendship (2016) – This Jane Austen adaptation of Lady Susan feels different from her other stories, thanks to a surfeit of sarcastic wit as displayed by Kate Beckinsale in the lead. She’s a manipulative woman, but such a charming one that you can’t help but cheer her on. In some ways, I even admire her. No one is as intelligent as her, that’s for sure, but they all provide their own humorous moments to make this a delightful film.

Pure Country (1992) – It’s been decades since I last watched the only film that country star George Strait made. He’s a little wooden in this story about a singer who is jaded by his career and ends up running away to gain some perspective. But former Disney star Lesley Anne Warren picks up his acting slack as his manager. The music is still great and brought back some memories, making me feel nostalgic.

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