Movie Blog - Film Review, Rating, Plot Summary / Synopsis - Archive Fall 2005

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I Love Silents - Silent Movies

2005 BLOG Archive - Fall Season (September 2005 to end of November). My personal movie watching diary. NOTE: there may be spoilers for some entries.

ratings: 1 = dud; 2 = fair; 3 = good; 4 = excellent

November 28, 2005 - The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005) - Four sixteen-year best girlfriends spend their summer apart, but connect via a pair of jeans that magically fits all four girls perfectly in spite of the fact they all are completely different sizes. Lena (Alexis Bledel) spends the summer with her grandparents who live in an incredibly beautiful (!) seaside village in Greece, Bridget goes to girl's soccer camp in Mexico, Carmen (America Ferrera) goes to stay with her dad in South Carolina, and Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) stays home to work at Wallman's and create a documentary on "losers". Each girl keeps the pants a week, then mails them to the next girl with the idea the pants will magically make good things happen. So what happens - Lena falls in love with a Greek guy, but her grandparents are feuding with his grandparents, so she is forbidden to see him. She sneaks around seeing him anyway, and comes out of her shell, bringing down her hair and wearing new dresses. Meanwhile, Bridget has no problem showing off her looks as she flips her long blonde hair and chases up a storm after a good-looking soccer coach, even though it's "100% forbidden" for coaches to date the players. Carmen finds out her dad has moved in with a blonde and her teenage blonde children and dad is about to be married, but Puerto Rican Carmen doesn't feel like she fits in with dad's new family. When overweight Carmen doesn't fit into the bridesmaid dress she goes nuts, throws a rock at the family while they're eating dinner, then heads back home. Tibby works on her film and meets a twelve-year old girl named Bailey who faints in the Wallman's, then later meet up again as the pants are mistakenly delivered to Bailey's house. Bailey helps Tibby with the documentary and comes across as wise to the world beyond her years, later Tibby finds out that Bailey is very ill with Leukemia. This film is really quite a well-done coming-of-age story, all the young women come across very realisticly and the stories are interesting, I found myself wanting to know what happens with these characters - and that's the way it should be when watching a film. (3.5 stars)

November 27, 2005 - Watched the very melodramatic Cecil B. DeMille directed silent film The Cheat (1915) - Society gal, Edith Hardy (Fannie Ward), spends too much money on clothes (like 600 bucks for a chiffon evening gown) much to the annoyance of her husband Richard "Dick" Hardy. Hubby asks her to hold off on her spending until his stock investment comes through. Then that night at the Red Cross Ball, being held at the home of the Burmese Ivory King (Sessue Hayakawa), favorite flirtation of the "Long Island smart-set", Edith is pushed by a party guest into investing ten thousand bucks on some stock, and takes the money from the Red Cross Fund, which she is holding 'cause she is Fund Treasurer (oops - guess they picked the wrong gal for that job). Well, within a couple hours (while still at the same Ball - that was fast!) the stock collapses and she loses all the money. The Ivory King offers to give her the 10,000 to restore to the fund (and keep her out of jail) in exchange for "favors" - she does it. But the next day Hubby's investment comes through and hubby pronounces the Hardy's as rich. Now Edith has the $10,000 to return to the Ivory King, but when she visits him at his home - the bad, bad man wants his "favors", not the dough - then the evil fellow actually brands her back with the tool he uses to brand his ivory, marking her forever "his". Oh dear. Anyway, she shoots him, hubby takes the blame, and then we get into a trial segment, a short bit of melodrama. Well, this is a pretty good film - I enjoyed it, even with a bit of overacting by actress Fannie Ward. On the same Image Entertainment DVD as "Carmen", which I saw yesterday, the print is a mixture of tinting and black and white and looks, for the most part, pretty nice. I really like the orchestral score done for this film by Robert Israel, really suited this. (3.5 stars)
This afternoon watched The Love Trap (1929), directed by William Wyler. A bit of an odd comedy about a cute chorus girl named Evelyn (Laura La Plante), inept and clumsy, who gets fired from the chorus line, then that night goes with her gal pal Bunny to a wealthy man's house party where a girl can get 50 bucks just for "lookin' pretty". Evelyn meets a rich old man, a stern judge, while at the party, but they don't exactly hit it off as he witnesses her hiccuping from gin, then see's her in her negligee when she is tricked into the house owner's room after he purposely spills a drink on her. Innocent Evelyn is offended by the man's advances and leaves the party (without her 50 bucks), but returning home finds all her furniture on the street as she has been kicked out for not paying her rent. It starts to rain, but luckily a young man, Peter (Neil Hamilton), comes along and rescues her as they and all her furniture drive around all night via the use of four taxicabs. Next day, they're married - hmm, that was quick. Now Evelyn must contend with Peter's family - namely his mum, who can't fancy her son married to a chorus girl. And worse - the judge she met at the party turns out to be his uncle! This film is mostly a silent film, with music and sound effects - and comes across a little bit oddly. The last half hour suddenly switches to a talkie, and I think this last part is the best part of the film where in an amusing scene, the judge tries to bribe Evelyn into divorcing Peter, and she comes up with a trick to trap the judge into looking to her husband like she is having a love affair with the judge. What this was really supposed to do as far as keeping Peter and getting his family off her back, I have no idea. But it did keep me amused - silly film, but sort of fun. The Kino DVD of this film features a very nice looking print with a lot of contrast. The DVD includes an interesting documentary called "Directed by William Wyler", made in the 80's I believe. (3.25 stars)

November 26, 2005 - Carmen (1915), directed by Cecil B. DeMille. A tavern owner is in cahoots with a band of smugglers, but the handsome new officer on the watch, Don Jose (Wallace Reid), won't be bribed to let the smugglers pass through with their goods. So the smugglers take the goods up to the mountains where the gypsies live, and get Carmen the gypsy (Geraldine Farrar) to use her feminine wiles on Don Jose and seduce him so they can smuggle the goods by him. She takes a job in a factory so she can be near him, then at the tavern that night, she dances on a table, and, though no thing of beauty (at least as played by this actress), it works - Don Jose is in love (or extreme lust, anyway). Carmen later visits him on his guard watch and tricks him away with her kisses - then waves on, none too subtly, the smugglers to pass through. Next day she returns to work in the factory, gets in a brawl with some of the factory girls, and ends up slashing one of the girls with her knife. When Carmen is being carted off to prison, Don Jose comes to her rescue and kills an officer, then they both escape to the gyspy camp. But Carmen soon runs off to Seville with her lover, the bullfighter - and, uh oh, lustful and extremely jealous young Don Jose follows her! Well, this film was really quite good. Very nicely photographed. The DVD from Image Entertainment features a very nice-looking, brightly tinted print and terrific orchestral score with a mix of tunes from Bizet's Carmen and the Barber of Seville. On the same DVD is Charlie Chaplin's Burlesque on Carmen (1916), an amusing take-off on the 1915 Carmen film following the plot and title cards quite closely, with humor thrown in and Chaplin playing "Darn Hosiery". (3.25 stars for "Carmen", 2.75 stars for "Burlesque on Carmen")

November 16, 2005 - The White Hell of Pitz Palu (1929) - A newly engaged couple, Maria (Leni Riefenstahl) and Hans, are staying at this Hut at the base of the Pitz Palu mountain, where they are about to have their "first night alone". But who should suddenly appear at the door but the "Ghost of the Mountain", Dr. Johannes "Hannes" Krafft, who lost his wife on a climb a few years earlier when an avalanche came roaring down sweeping her into a deep mountain crevice and trapping her forever in ice. Now he roams the mountain searching for her, all while seeking to climb the treacherous North face of Pitz Palu to become the first to reach it's summit. When Hannes hears that five students are going to attempt the climb, he sets out to scale the north face by himself - but Hans joins in, and Hannes and Hans (hmmm - sounds like those two pumped exercise guys with the "Arnie" accents from Saturday Night Live - ya know what I mean?!) set out for the day. When Maria joins in, the three start the difficult climb, unfortunately avalanches seem to be the norm on this peak - why, oh, why would anyone want to climb there? Soon Hannes and Hans are both injured and as an avalanche and change of weather for the worst comes, they are trapped on an icy ridge. There is then a LONG rescue segment that goes on for more than an hour. This film started off quite good, but the search and rescue just went on a wee too long, I thought. The good part is - this film is gorgeously photographed - almost all the shots are visually interesting, lots and lots of extreme close-ups, dripping icicles, fast-flowing clouds with shadows roaming over the snowy landscape below, and, of course, lots of falling snow and rushing avalanches throughout the film. The Kino DVD has a very nice looking black and white print of the film and an excellent orchestral score that perfectly suits the mood of the story. It includes a very interesting hour-long interview with Leni Riefenstahl at 100 years old. (3.5 stars)

November 10, 2005 - This A.M., Good Will Hunting (1997) - Twenty-year old Boston youth from the wrong side of the tracks, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), loves to fight, loves to drink, and works as a janitor cleaning the halls of MIT. But we soon find out he is a mathematical genius as he writes a proof for a theorem on a hallway blackboard, meant to be solved by the end of the semester by some genius student, if they can! When the math professor who put up the problem finds out it was the janitor who solved it, he sets out to help the young man, who has just joined with his gang of gorilla friends in beating up a rival "gang". The professor gets him out of going to prison in exchange for weekly math sessions and Thursday afternoon's getting counselling. Soon Will is hooked up with, pretty much against his wishes (but even he realizes it's better than prison), the professor's college roommate, a psychiatrist named Sean (Robin Williams). Sean tries to help Will, an orphan who seems to hide in his shell so as to not get hurt, and Will helps Sean with his problems too, as younger man and older seem to bond. Meanwhile, Will meets Skylar (Minnie Driver), a Harvard student, one night at a bar and they hit it off. Well, this film was pretty good, though I didn't really like it as much as I hoped. I just found the Will character too annoying to really care much what happens to him. I also saw little chemistry between Matt Damon and Minnie Driver to believe in the love match between their characters. (3.5 stars)

November 8, 2005 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) - On to year three at Hogwarts for Harry Potter and friends, as they must live in the school castle with Dementors, the guards of Azkaban - on the lookout for an escaped murderer named Sirius Black (Gary Oldman). The Dementors are dark creatures indeed - looking like giant black hooded flying skeletons, they feed off of people's good memories. It is revealed to Harry to watch out for Sirius Black, as he is after Harry to try to kill him. Full of absolutely fabulous special effects, like a drive in fast motion through the English streets via triple decker bus and Harry soaring through the sky on the back of a half eagle/half horse creature called a hippogriff, plus the usual boys on broomsticks and the like - what fun. With magic and time tripping via "time turner" and werewolfs and shape-shifters and other imaginative creatures, plus great photography, tracking shots, special effects, and excellent John Williams music score - this film is just loads of fun for young and old too (hey, that's not me). (4 stars)

November 6, 2005 - The Golden Chance (1915), directed by Cecil B. DeMille. A pretty young woman named Mary (Cleo Ridgely), daughter of a judge, has married a varmint against her parent's wishes - and apparently they were right, as she is now living in a crummy old tenement flat with the husband, a drunkard and thief who expects food on the table but won't give her money to pay either food or rent. Mary takes a job as a seamstress in a well-to-do household where Mr. and Mrs. Hillary of "the Smart Set" live. The Hillary's invite a handsome young millionaire, Roger Manning (Wallace Reid) to their dinner party with the offer of coming to meet the "prettiest girl in the world" all 'cause they want Manning to invest money in some scheme. When the "pretty girl" flakes out, Mrs. Hillary convinces Mary to take her place at the dinner party, and dresses her up in jewels and a beautiful gown. Manning falls for Mary, but still won't invest, so to give them more time to push the poor guy, the Hillary's pay Mary to spend the weekend at their house and lure Manning to come for the weekend too. Manning is in love with Mary - but what can poor Mary do, she's married! (and apparently, being 1915, divorce is out of the question for her - hmm). Anyway, this film is really excellent - a pleasant surprise for me. This is on the same Image Entertainment DVD as "Don't Change Your Husband" and features a tinted print that looks pretty good, with a bit of light scratching here and there. Excellent and appropriate orchestral score by the Mont Alto Orchestra accompanies this. I got this DVD more to see "Don't Change Your Husband" and liked this film even better. Hurrah! (4 stars)

November 4, 2005 - Don't Change Your Husband (1919), directed by Cecil B. DeMille. About the marital troubles of Mr. and Mrs. Porter. Jim Porter (Elliot Dexter), mostly interested in his business, has lost his romance - and his waistline (or so the title card says anyway, he looked okay to me). Leila Porter (Gloria Swanson), a clotheshorse with peacock fan, is annoyed by her husbands numerous bad habits like putting his dirty, scuffed shoes up on her knitting, putting his cigar down on her solitaire game, shaking his cigar ashes on the floor, falling asleep with his cigar in his hand getting cigar ashes all over his PJ's and, oh yes, having a propensity for eating big plates of onions. Hubby also forgets their Wedding Anniversary - well, well. Leila hosts an anniversary party and hubby is late 'cause of business. Party guest Schuyler Van Sutphen (Lew Cody), a dandy and a cad, steps in to try and take lonely Leila away from her husband. Hubby arrives home, clueless about the anniversary, and even subtle (or not so subtle) hints like these little bride and groom figurines in front of everyone's place setting does nothing to jog his memory. Next day, he makes it up to her by giving her - um - a check for $1,000 (as Elaine says on "Seinfeld", "you gave me cash?!") as her gift which she doesn't seem too grateful for (gosh, that's even a lot of money NOW - I wouldn't mind that). Schuyler, a smooth talker with shiny shoes and snaky grin, invites Leila for the weekend (well, his aunt will be there too) and seduces her at this fancy dress ball. Next thing you know, Leila divorces Jim and marries the creep. Poor Jim. But she soon finds out - men just have loads of bad habits. Soon she is just as annoyed by Schuyler's habits as she was by Jim's - dunking cookies in his coffee, and cigarette's everywhere (you know, she would be very lucky indeed if these men of hers DON'T end up with lung cancer) But Schuyler is even worse as it soon comes out that he is selling her jewels for gambling and seeing another woman - oh dear. Meanwhile, our Jim has shaved off his mustache (hey, I thought he looked way better with the mustache), trimmed his hair, got himself some new clothes and a personal trainer who has him exercising on a rowing machine and using the "medicine ball" - heh. I thought this film was pretty good, sort of a typical marital comedy of the era. Nothing fabulous - but a nice, light entertainment for an hour and a half. The DVD from Image Entertainment has a nice tinted print with a bit of fine scratching in parts. The orchestral music for this, by the Mont Alto Orchestra, is excellent. (3.75 stars)

November 3, 2005 - Watched The Wedding Date (2005) - Dumb movie about this dope named Kat (Debra Messing) who for some reason feels the need to pay six thousand bucks to hire a "male escort" to fly with her to England and pretend to be her "date" for her sister's wedding - all to make her ex-fiance, who happens to be the best man, jealous. Hmmm. The hired man, Nick (Dermot Mulroney), turns out to be exceptionally handsome, all-knowing, and extremely wise about women and the world. As you can guess, Kat begins to fall for Nick and lose interest in the ex-fiance/intended target. Well, well, well. This movie is extremely weak. Hunky Dermot Mulroney is, well, oh so good-looking, but even that doesn't help this film. With less than ZERO chemistry between leading man and lady, plus an implausible, stupid plotline - this just DOES NOT work. There are some nice tunes on the soundtrack, and I love seeing the streets of London, but otherwise just not too good. I can't really say I have ever really cared for Debra Messing in anything I've seen either. (2.25 stars)

October 27, 2005 - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) Second Harry Potter movie, this one was as good, if not slightly better than the first. In this a "house elf" named Dobby (done via computer animation) arrives during summer holiday to advise Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) not to return for year two at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but Harry goes anyway, arriving via flying car with his best pal, red-headed goofball Ron. All the usual suspects are there, including smartie Hermione, and Harry's biggest enemy, Malfoy. This year a new mystery for Harry and pals as they try to uncover the mysterious, hidden, and just opened for the first time in YEARS, "chamber of secrets" where lurks a monster intent on killing (or "petrifying" as seems to happen more) students at school who are not of pure wizard blood. This film is full of magic and great special effects - love the scene during the soccer-style flying game where Harry and Malfoy are flying on broomsticks through the narrow passage under the arena seats (sort of a flying brookstick version of Stars Wars). With wizards and witches and pixies and ghosts and elves and giant spiders and boys on flying brooms and a phoenix who heals with his teardrops - how could ya not love it?! And by the way - love, love, love the music score for the Harry Potter films, done by John Williams. (4 stars)

October 26, 2005 - The Love of Jeanne Ney (1927), directed by G.W. Pabst. In Russia during a civil war following the revolution, the father of a beautiful young girl named Jeanne is murdered after he pays for a list of Bolshevik agents from this rat-like man/varmint. Soon the town is taken over by the Red Army and Jeanne escapes to Paris, with the help of her Bolshevik lover Andreas and a kindly officer. Jeanne moves in with her Uncle Raymond who is a detective, and his pretty blind daughter (Brigitte Helm). Soon Andreas is assigned to Paris and by coincidence the varmint arrives at the same time and goes after the poor little blind girl, soon becoming engaged to her. But he is secretly plotting to murder her (after he marries her and gets her money) - and dumbly relates his plot to a prostitute, who tells on him. Meanwhile, the plot takes a turn to a man who hires Uncle Raymond's detective agency to find his stolen 23 carat diamond. This film is one of the best silent films I've seen in awhile - unusual, romantic, beautifully photographed with lots of interesting tracking shots, etc. and has a really interesting plotline too - hurrah. (4 stars)

October 24, 2005 - Watched the early Best Picture Oscar winner The Broadway Melody (1929) - Dance duo "the Mahoney sisters" featuring older, wiser sis "Hank" (Bessie Love) and sweet, beautiful, slightly dumb lil sis, "Queenie" (Anita Page), arrive in New York City to make a success on the Great White Way. They immediately get parts in a new Broadway show, with songs written by Hank's boyfriend Eddie including the famous "The Broadway Melody" (performed several times during the film). Eddie and Queenie fall in love, but Queenie is SO loyal to her sister that they don't let Hank know their secret, and Queenie starts running around with a rich admirer who sooner than you think buys her diamonds and wants to put her up in a "Park Avenue apartment" (ah ha, so THAT'S what he's up to!). Anyway, this film is better in the earlier parts with the typical backstage stuff going on like catty showgirls, rehearsals with yelling stage directors, a chorus of girls who can barely dance, and this one even features a gay costume designer ("Well, I didn't design the theatre doors" - response to him: "Well if you did they would have been painted lavender"). There are lots of fun to watch musical numbers including songs "You Were Meant for Me", and "The Wedding of the Painted Doll", but the story gets a bit dull with all the stuff going on with Queenie running around with the rich man, and Sis and Eddie trying to make her stop. The DVD for this film includes some interesting Metro Movietone Revues featuring such vaudeville performers as Van and Schenck and a great little gal singer, only about twelve or so and almost looking like a boy except for the dress, named Grace Rogers who I really enjoyed. (3.5 stars)

October 21, 2005 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) - First film based on the J.K. Rowling novels about Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), living since babyhood with his meanie auntie and uncle and super brat cousin Dudley in a village in Surrey, forced to live in the "cupboard under the stairs". On Harry's 11th birthday a bearded giant (Robbie Coltrane) visits and informs Harry that he not just an ordinary boy but is actually a wizard (and a famous one at that) and must enroll at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to begin his training. The giant takes him on a journey through a secret alley in London, a step back to the 19th century full of all kinds wizards and witches, where he can purchase his "school supplies" such as a magic wand and white owl. Off goes Harry on the Hogwarts Express to school where he soon befriends red-headed Ron and smarty-pants schoolgirl Hermione. The school is a take-off on England's private school system including prefects, division into houses, head boys, even school sports (hey, I've seen it all in other movies) - but at this school instead of learning latin and mathematics, they take classes in spells, levitation, flying on brooms, etc. While at school, Harry and his friends must help keep bad wizards from getting ahold of the Sorcerer's Stone, hidden in a dungeon being guarded by a three-headed dog. This film is full of magic - great special effects with boys flying on broomsticks, a "wizard" version of a football game with play in the air (yes, via same brooksticks), an invisibility cloak rendering the wearer invisible. It features all the usual fantasy figures you would expect too - trolls and goblins and giants and centaurs and unicorns - even a fire-breathing dragon. It is a story full of wonderful imaginative stuff indeed, and is really well-filmed. The young man playing Harry is really perfect and charming in the part, in fact, everyone else is too. I would have LOVED this film even more when I was a kid, but as it is I thought it was really excellent, very enjoyable, and lots of fun. (3.75 stars)

October 19, 2005 - This A.M., watched The Unholy Three (1925), directed by Tod Browning. About three sideshow performers - Echo the Ventriloquist (Lon Chaney), Hercules the Strongman (Victor McLaglen), and Tweedledee (Harry Earles), the hot-tempered sideshow dwarf (first seen kicking a young boy in the face who is seen laughing at Tweedledee in the crowd) - who decide to join forces as "The Unholy Three" to commit robberies. They open up a bird shop along with Echo's girl, a pickpocket named Rosie O'Grady (Mae Busch), and hired man Hector (the only one not in on their schemes - hired in case they need a fall guy). Echo works in the shop disguised as an old woman, "Granny O'Grady", and Tweedledee disguises himself as a baby. Echo throws his voice to make parrots appear to talk, tricking unsuspecting customers - when a customer calls to complain about his parrot, "Granny" and "baby" visit the man's plush estate to scope out the goods. Oddly, the man and his visitor happen to have a safe standing open and are admiring an expensive ruby necklace right in front of Tweedledee. The Unholy Three plan to rob the house that night, but Rosie is falling for Hector and jealous Echo can't bring himself to leave the two alone together - so off go Hercules and Tweedledee alone to commit the crime, and they end up murdering the man and bringing on the cops in hot pursuit. The print of this I saw on TCM has a weird purplish tint for most of the film which isn't that great (the film looks better in the few scenes that are in regular black and white) but otherwise looks okay - the music is okay too, some is the same music heard in TCM's version of "He Who Gets Slapped". This is a great film - only one question I have: why do they call themselves "The Unholy Three" when there are actually four of them, including Rosie, working together - 'cause girls don't count?! or something - hmmph. (4 stars)

October 18, 2005 - Today watched Stella Maris (1918) - Mary Pickford plays a duel role as Stella Maris and as Unity Blake in this charming, terrific silent film. Beautiful Stella Maris, paralyzed since childhood, lives in a dream-like world completely shielded from all the world's bad things and seems to spend all her time in bed, alongside her trusty dog Teddy and assorted bunnies and kittens. Unity Blake is the ugly-ducking of a local London orphanage, but one day a woman comes in to adopt a girl and chooses Unity after seeing her outside beating a rug. Unity arrives at the home of the woman, who turns out to be a bitter, unhappy drunkard who only wanted a free house servant - Unity is quickly put to work. That woman has a husband, John Risca (Conway Tearle), who happens to be a man who Stella Maris loves, and who has unfortunatley given Stella the idea that he is unmarried and lives in a castle (what could he be thinking of, lying like that to the poor bedridden girl?!). When Unity arrives home one day after having been robbed of that night's meal by some bad cockney street boys, Risca's evil wife thrashes her within an inch of her life. The wife goes to prison for three years and John adopts Unity as his only way to atone for his wife's bad deed. Meanwhile, a miraculous surgery is performed on Stella who can now walk again - but now, outside the confines of her bedroom, she begins to see hunger, murder, suicide, and other of life's misery's for the first time. A few years goes by, Stella and Unity both fall in love with John Risca who is desperately in love with Stella, but (for some odd reason) won't leave his wife who is now out of prison and living alone, while John lives with Unity and his dizzy Aunt Gladys (Josephine Crowell). This is a completely enjoyable and moving film - Mary Pickford does a great job playing two parts, and it is so interesting to me how she can look so very beautiful as Stella, and so very ugly as Unity (they do seem to have Unity's teeth blackened, and maybe something on her eyelashes to really lighten them up to make her eyes look small). The DVD from Milestone Films features a nice-looking tinted print and a lovely orchestral score by Philip Carli that really matches the film well. (4 stars)

October 17, 2005 - Okay, a day full of heavy rain and thunderstorms - the perfect day to watch a couple of recent thrillers I hadn't seen before. First up, Panic Room (2002) - this tense thriller pretty much kept me on the edge of my seat - I'm still skakin' in my boots as I write this, having just finished watching it a few minutes ago. About a woman (Jodie Foster), newly divorced, and her tomboy preteen daughter (who I thought was a boy for the first 40 minutes of the film!) who purchase a neat, huge old Manhattan brownstone, previously inhabited by an ill eccentric who had a "panic room" built into the house. A room you can hide in that is foolproof against any intruder getting into it once the steel door slides shut - and inside are security cameras that show every room in the house, food and water supply, and separate phone line to the outside world. Well, the very first night in their new home, what do you think happens? Yeah, three men break in with the pre-planned idea of getting three million dollars that is hidden in the house, thinking the house would be empty for another week. When mom and daughter realize there are men in the house, they immediately race to hide themselves in the panic room. Now it becomes a war between the men (seems the money is in a safe IN the panic room) who desparately want the women out and them into the room to get the dough) and the woman intent on saving their own lives from these desperate characters. One man (Forest Whitaker) is an expert on panic rooms and more sensitive than the others (he "doesn't want to hurt no one"), one man (Jared Leto) is the grandson of the eccentric who lead them onto the money and is kind of a moron, the third, a last minute tagalong who also brings with him a big old gun, is the most evil of the three. This is somewhat of a far-fetched story, but is full of tension from start to finish. Lots of interesting tracking shots moving through the rooms and passages of the house in close-up. Pretty good. (3.5 stars)
Then, Runaway Jury (2003) - Really excellent and exciting courtroom mystery/thriller about a jury trial. The widow of a murdered man (murdered by an angry ex-employee at a stock broker company who went on a wild rampage shooting his ex-coworkers) versus the gun company that manufactured the gun. The gun company's defense team hires a big-time specialist (Gene Hackman) in selecting a jury, and we see him and his team who work undercover spying on potential jurors, putting secret cameras on their team in the courtroom to watch the jurors reactions,etc. Nick Easter (John Cusack) gets selected for the jury but it seems he has an ulterior motive: working with his girlfriend on the outside, they try to bribe each side's lawyer for $10,000,000 to have Nick sway the jury for their side. From the picking of the jury through the finish of the trial this kept me totally interested in "what's going to happen next?" - and that's the way it should be! (4 stars)

October 12, 2005 - This A.M. watched the pre-code film Central Airport (1933) - At Central Airport one stormy night, a passenger plane has gone missing - ends up it has crash landed, and pilot Jim Blaine (Richard Barthelmess) gets the blame. Feeling no one will want him to pilot passengers anymore, he takes a job at a bank. One day the "Air Circus" arrives in town featuring "the greatest parachute jumper in the West", beautiful Jill Collins (Sally Eilers). Jim spots a parachute jumper who's parachute has been caught in a tree - he goes to the rescue and, of course, it's Jill. She hates him (that doesn't last long), he flirts big time with her. But just then her brother is killed piloting the plane above, Jim helps out - and soon has taken brother's spot in the show as pilot. They travel from town to town performing at fairgrounds, now in love, they always get adjoining hotel rooms and are clearly sleeping together. But one evening Jim reveals to her that he's not interested in marriage - something about why buy the cow when you're getting the milk for free, I guess. Anyway, when a wolf gives Jill the chase in the hotel the next morning, he ends up being Jim's younger brother Neil (Tom Brown). Jim is injured in an airshow accident at the Pomona fairgrounds (hey, I was just there a few weeks ago for the L.A. County Fair, looked like it was really filmed there - though QUITE a bit less built-up buildings and grounds in the thirties, to say the least) and is hospitalized for a month, Neil takes over as pilot in the show and takes over with the adjoining room bit too! Anyway, when Jim catches them in bed together it ends up she married Neil (why, oh why do women in movies always quickly marry the wrong man when they think they're not going to get the man they really love?!). The film includes an exciting sea rescue finale where they must line up all the cars in Cuba so the runway can be seen through thick fog. This is quite a good film, featuring lots of well-photographed stunt flying scenes. (3.5 stars)

October 11, 2005 - Watched The Great Gabbo (1929), a sort of early backstage musical featuring the old one about a nutty ventriloquist who carries on conversations with his dummy, and seems to think the dummy is real (of course, this version pre-dates all of the other filmed versions I have seen of this plotline). In this, the conceited, pompous "Great Gabbo" (Erich von Stroheim) does an act with his dummy Otto performing in small town joints. Gabbo has a girlfriend named Mary (Betty Compson) that has been with him for two years, but he treats her very badly - nothing she does seems to be right in his eyes, despite the fact she treats HIM as sweet as pie. Well, she leaves him, and before you know it Gabbo has actually become a huge success with his act and is playing on Broadyway in the "Manhattan Revue". A big star, he brings Otto out to this nightclub every evening and eats dinner before the show - all making a sort of act out of it in front of the other patrons, who lap it up. And Gabbo does have a pretty good act - he specializes in drinking water, eating sausages, smoking, swallowing eggs, etc. all while Otto is singing. Anyway, Mary has now become a successful dancer and, oddly enough, ends up in the same show - and has herself a big tough egg of a boyfriend, co-star in HER act. BUT Gabbo thinks he will get her back - and she does everything, it seems, to give him encouragement. Hmmm. Well, this film is fairly good - it includes quite a few enjoyable late twenties style musical numbers, of the rows of dancing showgirls who seem to lack dancing talent variety. The print of this film, which is featured on the same Kino DVD as "Blind Husbands", looks very nice indeed. (3.5 stars)

October 10, 2005 - Blind Husbands (1919) - At a hotel in an alpine village, a carriage arrives carrying Dr. Robert Armstrong, a famous American surgeon, arriving with his lonely, ignored wife Margaret for rest, relaxation, and mountain climbing (do those really go hand-in-hand?). Also arriving is a conceited Austrian officer named Erich von Steuben (Erich von Stroheim) who is mainly interested in three things: wine, women, and song. Seeing how ignored Margaret is by her husband, he immediately starts giving her the rush - blanket for her feet, flowers, even an expensive box she had her eye on at a street cart. Hubby seems to have suspicions, but for some reason decides to invite Von Steuben to climb "The Pinnacle" with him. The wife climbs part way, just to the Pinnacle cabin, where they all bed down in separate rooms for the night before the climb at sunrise and she slips a secret note under Von Steuben's door. But also at the cabin is "Silent Sepp", wise, all-seeing mountaineer who is watching ALL. Nexr day she waits anxiously for the men, as they make the climb, just the two of them, including a rough climb up a sheer mountain face (oh boy, what fun). This film is really good - it includes a great shot of a zoom-in close up of Von Steuben's scarred, ugly mug as he snarls a smile in a shot that reminds me completely of Melies' famous closeup shot of the moon in "A Trip to the Moon". The DVD from Kino features a quite nice-looking print with brightly colored tinting - it has a bit of snowflaking here and there, but the picture does include a lot of contrast. Seriously excellent piano score by Donald Sosin, adapted from the original 1919 cue sheet. (3.75 stars)

October 9, 2005 - Today saw Lords of Dogtown (2005) - Based on a true story set in 1975 Venice, California - a group of teenage skateboard/surfer guys who like to hang at this surfboard shop run by surfer/pothead Skip (Heath Ledger, still cute even with the fake teeth he had to wear for this) start picking up some really great skateboard moves when they get some new urethane wheels in the shop. Skip forms a skateboard team for the guys and they start competing in local competitions, then start sneaking into local backyards to practice tougher and tougher moves, skating inside drained swimming pools. Before you know it - the guys have become super stars as they make the cover of "Skateboard" magazine, and a whole new skateboard culture is formed. Fame goes to some heads, others go their separate ways, most hook up with all kinds of girls, and Skip turns to the bottle. I thought this film was excellent, though the earlier parts of the film are a bit more enjoyable, before they become famous (and before all the fightin' and carousin' starts). It is filmed in an interesting documentary style, with hand-held cameras moving freeform in close-ups over the faces and skating scenes. The film contains quite a bit of nostalgia for me too - not that a little, shy geek gal from the Valley, as I was at that time, knew anything about surfing, skateboarding, or Westside skater guys (though I did have a fancy at the time for guys with LONG blond hair) - but for the time, place, and music of the era, so very familiar to me. The opening scene of the film - at the abandoned ruins of POP park in Venice - boy, does that bring me back. In 1975 I was fourteen years old, close to the age of these characters, and we used to ride bikes along the beach on the path that ran from Venice to Santa Monica. My favorite part of the ride was alongside those spooky old POP ruins, all boarded up, with all the old rides, carnival booths, and rollercoaster sticking up above the boards. Pretty neat. The soundtrack in this is really great and features many classic rock favorites of mine from the time - Foghat, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent, lots of songs I remember, there's even a Devo song. Quite good. By the way, in about 1974 I had a couple of girlfriends who were really into riding their skateboards around the sidewalks in our neighborhood - I gave it a try, fell hard on my knee, and still have the slight scar to this day! (3.75 stars)
Tonight on TCM watched one of my favorite silents - The Unknown (1927), directed by Tod Browning. Lon Chaney plays Alonzo the Armless Wonder, a circus performer who has an act throwing knives with his feet at Nanon (Joan Crawford) - as she spins on this wheel the knives cut off her dress ending her up in hot pants and halter. Of course, Alonzo is terribly in love with Nanon, only she has a fancy for the circus strong man/beefcake Malabar - BUT only problem is, Nanon has a phobia of mens hands - she hates for a man's hands to "paw all over her". In a desperate act, Alonzo blackmails a doctor to perform an operation to alter his body (no not THAT) so that he can win over Nanon for himself. I am not even going to go into the details of this plotline, keeping it a surprise for someone who hasn't seen this. But this is an absolutely terrific film of the horror ilk - bizarre and unusual. Lon Chaney is so amazing in this - so flexible as he is able to make Alonzo do everything from drinking wine to smoking cigarettes with his feet. The print that I always see of this, as shown on TCM, has a really perfect score to match the film too. (4 stars)

October 8, 2005 - Tonight on TCM, watched The Guns of Navarone (1961) - Basically this - In WW2, six men in Greece must climb the side of this sheer, high cliff to reach this fortess on the Aegean Sea and save the lives of 2,000 men from the Nazis. Gregory Peck plays our main hero - he speaks Greek and German, is an experienced mountaineer, and is the strong, calm leader-type. Another man (Anthony Quinn) is his sworn enemy since the wartime death of his family which he blames Peck for (but he is holding out killing Peck 'til the end of the war - lucky for Peck). A third man gets injured on the climb and gets dragged around with them sick for the ENTIRE movie. Then there's James Darren (yeah, Moondoggie) who, of course, has a song. Now perhaps I was somewhat drowsy watching this - but I don't really see why they had to climb the cliff only to stroll around in villages for a couple days waiting for the day when the Nazis come - why didn't they just go to the fortress from the villages, which is what they do at the end part (in other words, they don't reclimb the cliff). Hmmm - am I missing something here? As my hubby called this film "a boy's movie" - made by males for males, with males in mind, few females in it. There are two token women in this actually, one token kiss. Anyway, as the genre of "war movies" is close to my least favorite film genre - this was actually pretty good. Nice score by Dimitri Tiomkin too - would have liked more of it in the film. (3 stars)

October 7, 2005 - A Pair of Silk Stockings (1918) - Silent comedy/bedroom farce about a couple whose marriage is in a rut. Sam Thornhill (Harrison Ford, darling in monacle) wants a touring car but his wife Molly (Constance Talmadge) - who "hasn't been nice to him in a week" - wants a shiny new roadster. Sam gives her money hoping she'll realize how nice he is and go ahead and buy the touring car - she buys the roadster. SOoooo - he comes up with a very misguided idea - he buys this really expensive ermine and sable fur coat (apparently this guy just has oodles of money to burn) for a woman he doesn't even know, then gives it to her as a gift from an "anonymous secret admirer" and leaves the bill out for Molly to see. His plan backfires - hoping Molly will think he turned to another woman only because she hasn't been treating him well - instead she is furious and divorces him! Then the plot really comes loose - with Molly arriving at a house party where guests are, for their amusement, rehearsing an Ibsen play, and Sam is there, disguised in beard and cap for the play. Misunderstandings and mistaken identities ensue as Sam comes up with schemes to win Molly back, Molly spends the night in the bedroom of out-of-town Jack (she was once engaged to him, but now he is engaged to another) and she catches him climbing in the window (missed his train), they both catch a burglar (who is really bearded Sam hiding in the bathroom), tie him up with her silk stockings (and a bag over his head), then have to explain to all what Jack and her were doing in the bedroom together when the burglar "disappears". Yeah, pretty silly - but kept me amused. The film includes a sepia tinted print and piano score by Phil Carli, plus there is a live audience from a Cinesation screening where this was shown, laughing here and there along with the movie. (3.25 stars)

October 5, 2005 - Son of the Gods (1930) - College student Sam Lee (Richard Barthelmess) is Chinese, but passes for white, and is the son of the "richest Oriental in New York City". He leaves college after an incident involving a trip to a nightclub with a group of fellow students including three bimbos who, when they find out he is a "chinaman" (or "chink" as one girl so tactlessly states) leave in a taxi. He leaves school and returns to his father's home, but soon leaves without money to work his way to Europe and make himself a man. He is befriended by an English writer and soon meets up with a wealthy woman Allana (Constance Bennett) and they fall in love. Unfortunately, her daddy has been investigating Sam, finds out Sam is Chinese and tells her. Oh dear - she immediately goes into the club where Sam is dining and flogs him across the face with her riding crop. Sam returns to America so bitter he becomes a full-fledged Chinaman, clothes and all, with destain for all white people. Allana immediately has a change of heart and seeks out Sam, but he won't have anything to do with her. Ha! (I question why he ever would want to see her again after what she does to him - ah well.) Barthelmess has a soft and nice voice for talkies, he comes across in this as gentle and charming - he's a doll. A really excellent movie, though obviously not exactly politically correct if made today - this film should perhaps be looked at with the time period it was made in mind. It actually does, though, show the Chinese characters in a very good light, while a lot of the white people come across looking like jerks. (4 stars)
Next up in my little morning double feature, The Right of Way (1931) - About a Quebec lawyer named Charles "Beauty" Steele (Conrad Nagel) who is a drunkard, womanizer and all-around jerk basically. He has a wife who doesn't love him (and apparently only married him for his money judging by the fact she admits to being in love with her current lover BEFORE she married him), and she has a creepy brother who steals 10,000 bucks from him. While in this seedy waterfront tavern where he has found the brother hiding out, Beauty gets himself beat up and thrown in the river by a gang of waterfront men. He is rescued and brought into the forest by a man who a few days before he had defended and gotten off on a murder charge. The man takes him to his cabin and gets a very beautiful young local girl named Rosalie (Loretta Young) to nurse him back to health. Beauty starts to recover, but has complete amnesia and no memory of his former life. He, for some strange reason, has a complete personality change and is now a nice, decent man who takes himself a job in a local tailor shop (under Snitz Edwards!). Beauty and Rosalie, of course, soon fall in love - but neither knows he already has a wife! Quite good, though when Beauty does finally remember who he really is, it seems a bit absurd to me that he suddenly becomes a creep again - you would think he would just be ashamed of who he once was, and try to get out of his unhappy marriage situation. (3.5 stars)
Then watched Chocolat (2000) - In 1959, a woman (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter, who blow from town to town with the wind, arrive one day in a beautiful little village in the French countryside and open up a chocolate shop, soon full of lovely, luscious handmade chocolates. But the mayor of the town doesn't like her 'cause she won't attend church, has a daughter but has never been married, and, well, just doesn't fit in with the structured by-the-book lifestyle of this set-in-their-ways village. But soon she begins to change the lives of many in town as she offers up chocolates made from Mayan secret recipes and seems to have a knack for choosing everyone's favorite chocolate. She helps a lonely woman bring passion back into her marriage, an older gentleman hook up with a local widow (Leslie Caron) he has admired for years, a woman (Lena Olin) unhappily married to a big brute, a young boy not allowed to see his grandmother (Judi Dench), even the grandmother herself. Meanwhile, some "river rats" sail into town and she befriends one of them - the oh so handsome, guitar playing, sexy Roux (Johnny Depp). This is a good film, but the character of the mayor is just SO annoying trying to get her out of town for no really good reason (and the town's young priest going along with the cretin) - it just sort of gets on my nerves. (3.5 stars)

October 3, 2005 - Watched Tumbleweeds (1925) - Bravo! terrific little silent western. About cattlemen who must clear out from their ranches when the government offers up the strip of land where they are raising their cattle to homesteaders. Cowboy Don Carver (William S. Hart), owner of the Box K ranch, is ruggedly handsome, manly, and just a touch "girl shy" when he meets a pretty gal named Molly (Barbara Bedford) when he accidently ropes her in some sort of saloon hijinks he's up to with his goofy, grubby cowpoke sidekick "Kentucky Rose" (he also, in a previous scene, has roughed up her half-brother, though deservedly so). But Molly goes for him anyway as he shyly shows up the next day with a bunch of prairie flowers in his hand (and in an amusing scene, has just secretly cut off his Alfalfa-like cowlick off the top of his head in her parlor). Now our hero must contend with two bad men (one her half-brother, the other her oily, hated wannnabee suitor) who want to lay their hands on the Box K. In an exciting scene, thousands of homesteaders race to claim their land at the sound of the noon cannon shot. Horses, wagons, even big-wheeled bicycles, race across the land at a really high rate of speed (boy, that gal Molly can drive a wagon at a fast pace!) in some really great camerawork. This film is really excellent - I like the shots of the sepia-tinted cowboys on horseback as they are silhouetted against the prairie sky, and, of course, the big finale is really fun and exciting to watch. The DVD from Image Entertainment features a very nice looking tinted print and excellent piano score by William Perry. It also includes a short made in the thirties with Wlliam S. Hart himself describing the historical background of the film. Interesting to see and hear him, unfortunately he comes across a bit long-winded and hammy. Still nice to see though. (4 stars)
Next up, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (2002) - Coming-of-age story set in the early 70s about four Catholic school fifteen-year old (or thereabouts) boys who like to pull pranks at school and are creating this action hero comic book "Atomic Trinity" full of sex, violence, and depictions of the stern, no-nonsense one-legged nun teacher (Jodie Foster) at school, hated by the boys. The main character of the film, Frances (Emile Hirsch), has a big crush on a pretty schoolgirl named Margie (Jena Malone) who isn't quite as normal as he would hope. Another boy, Tim (Kieran Culkin) has one main goal - to seek revenge on the nun he hates, coming up with this nutty plan to steal a cougar from an animal park and set it lose in her office. This is a very good film, really held my interest - though I could have done without the animation scenes throughout the film depicting the latest action in their comic book, as it relates to what's going on in the mind of Frances. (3.75 stars)
This evening two Robert Mitchum films on TCM - first up, Cape Fear (1962) - Mitchum as ex-convict Max Cady, just released from prison after eight years and bitter, bitter, bitter. He soon starts stalking the man, played by Gregory Peck, who gave witness in the trial that helped put him away. Cady is a real bad guy, beats up women, and has his eye on raping (and who knows what else) Peck's wife and even more so Peck's cute little preteen daughter Nancy. This film is excellent, though has a few scenes I wonder about - like, why does the mom go off to pick up groceries and leave Nancy alone in front of her school to wait in the car when they KNOW Cady is after her (and sure enough he shows up and the streets are immediately empty of all people but Nancy and him). Kind of a dizzy mom - what was she thinking about?! (3.75 stars)
After that, another Mitchum film - The Big Steal (1949) - About the chase in Mexico for a stolen payroll involving three men, each after one of the other men, and a dame (Jane Greer) (OF COURSE there's a dame) who hooks up with Mitchum 'cause they're both after her "beau" (she 'cause he "borrowed" 2,000 bucks from her and didn't seem to be going to pay it back) - of course, she hates Mitchum - so in the way of all movies, they eventually end up kissing. Heh. Good one, though I did find it hard to see Robert Mitchum as the hero-type in this after having JUST watched him as a complete evil creep with no redeeming qualities (which he does oh so well) in "Cape Fear". Love seeing two former silent latin matinee idols, Ramon Novarro and Don Alvarado as the Mexican police offers. (3.75 stars)

September 26, 2005 - My Own Private Idaho (1991) - About two young men living on the streets and scraping by as male prostitutes - one is Mike (River Phoenix), narcoleptic, disturbed, and from a bad family background. The other is Scott (Keanu Reeves), handsome, seems to swing both ways, and from a rich family background. The film follows them from Idaho, to Seattle, to Portland to Idaho to Italy to Portland to Idaho - you get the idea anyway. It is beautifully photographed with lots of neat images to look at, and the story of the two friends is fairly interesting - BUT, this film didn't completely hit the mark for me as I found the subplot with an eccentric older street man named Bob who lives with them and the other street youth of the area in what appears to be an abandoned old building to be uninteresting and somewhat annoying to watch. Okay. (3 stars)
Tonight on TCM, saw The Green Years (1946) which I haven't seen in about 20 years so it was pretty fresh for me (yet I still had a vague memory of that green suit with the black flowers poor little Dean Stockwell has to wear). A young Irish boy named Robert Shannon (Stockwell) arrives in Scotland to live with his relations, and his "papa" (really his grandpa) who seems to run the household with a tightwad's fist, doesn't really seem to want to put out any money on the boy (and even sells the boy's one possession - a big tricycle). But little Robbie befriends his "Grandfather" (really his great-grandfather) played by Charles Coburn with shaggy hair and fake big red nose (red 'cause he likes to indudge in his whiskey). Robert grows up (now played by Tom Drake - hey, my Grandma had a date with Tom Drake years ago) to want to become a doctor, but the family won't pay for his education so he must work in the mines (or some such place), and meanwhile is busy romancing local girl Alison. Dean Stockwell, a very appealing child actor is excellent in this, but Charles Coburn, as usual, really steals the show. (3.25 stars)

September 25, 2005 - Peeping Tom (1960) - A film about a VERY disturbed young man that says blame it all on the parents. About a peeping tom/murderer (Carl Boehm) who films girls he meets, then as the film is rolling, he kills them - and he does something to them (a secret for most of the film) to make them extra scared so he can capture the fear on camera. Later he watches the films in his lonely upstairs room. Yeah, you got it - a real psycho. He befriends a woman who lives downstairs and she soon finds out he actually is the landlord of the house and has lived there his whole life where in his childhood his dad used to like to scare him awake in the night and film his fear - like father, like son, eh. Good one - saw this once before and liked it more the first time as it held more suspense for me when I didn't know what was going to happen - but still thought this good, really creepy. (3.75 stars)

September 23, 2005 - The Last of the Mohicans (1920) - In 1757, two sisters, beautiful harp-playing Cora (Barbara Bedford) and her younger sister (who she practically raised) Alice, are stopped at English outpost Fort Edward while their dad, the Colonel, is at nearby Fort William Henry. Cora is being pursued by the young and cowardly (and quite cute, I might add) Captain Randolph (George Hackathorne), but secretly she fancies a good-looking young Indian man named Uncas, who, along with his father the Chief, are the last of their tribe. When it is relayed that an attack by the French and their Indian allies is going to occur at Fort William Henry, the troops, along with the two sisters, travel to the Fort by foot - and the two girls are put into the hands of an Indian named Magua (Wallace Beery) who leads them separated from the troops onto a secret shortcut path known only to Indians - and, what else, he turns out to be evil and in search of their scalps or?!. Uncas and friends come across them while on route and help the sisters hide from Magua in a secret cave. Later, under the influence of firewater, Magua and his tribe of braves go crazy (and what crazed, overacted looks on the "savages" faces - popping eyes and the like!) and attack the women and children as they leave the Fort. This film gets better and better as the story progresses, it has a lot of great on-location photography with well-lit rock formations and such (great shots like one where Cora gazes at Uncas as he stands in silhouette in the opening of the cave. I also like a scene with back and forth cuts featuring facial shots of Cora and the creep Magua as he watches her leave the fort - good expressions on their faces), and the story actually gets pretty exciting in the later scenes with the menacing Indians (all played by Caucasians with their skin darkened, it appears), the evil, evil Magua and our very brave heroine. The DVD features an extremely sharp, tinted print that looks absolutely great - the orchestral score by R.J. Miller is, for the majority of the film, quite good. (3.75 to 4 stars)
Tonight, The Breakfast Club (1985) - 80s brat pack, John Hughes directed teen film all taking place on one Saturday where five cliched high school students - the geek (Anthony Michael Hall), the princess (Molly Ringwald), the jock (Emilio Estevez), the rebel (Judd Nelson), and the weird-girl (Aly Sheedy) - are spending the day at school on detention. They are all from different social circles at school and look on each other with annoyance basically, but as the day progresses they begin to talk and eventually become friends (well, just for the day anyway) as they find out they all have more in common then they thought. I have always liked this film - first saw this in a packed movie theater in Westwood village the Friday night it opened - all those years ago (gosh, the years go by fast!). (3.75 stars)

September 20, 2005 - Okay, on a Michael Vartan kick so this A.M. watched One Hour Photo (2002), perfect kind of movie to watch on the first day of thunderstorms and rain in months. This is a really, really good psychological thriller starring Robin Williams as the lonely, middle-aged, plain and slightly pudgy "one hour photo" guy at the local "Savmart" store who has a secret - he is obsessed with a family who comes in to have their photos done, and keeps copies of their family photos for himself. He sort of imagines himself as uncle of this attractive mom, dad (my handsome Vartan - and oh boy does he look good in this film), and son grouping (but not just them, as at one point he buys a vintage photo of a woman at a flea market and pretends it's his mom). The music and the way this is done makes for a lot of tension, almost Hitchcock in style - this film pretty much kept me on the edge of my seat. I like the way color is used in this - the photo guy's drab, lonely life all done in whites and beiges - his apartment, where he works, his clothes - all drab beige. The family and especially their photos are brilliant with bright colors. Robin Williams does a fantastic job as this psychotic man - really believable, never saw him as "Robin Williams" at all. Good one. (4 stars)
Next up, the silent The Red Kimona (1925), based on a true story. In New Orleans, a young woman named Gabrielle Darley (Priscilla Bonner) has just been dumped by her lover, Howard Blaine. She chases him to Los Angeles, then crazed when he immediately gives her the brush-off (and appears to be buying an engagement ring for another woman), she shoots him dead. Now we get her on trial for murder where she relates her sad story including their first meeting in a small town when she is just a schoolgirl, followed by her escape from her low-class, cruel family with him to New Orleans where she dreams of herself in a wedding gown. Unfortunately as she gazes into the mirror imagining her vision - we see the truth - she is wearing a bright red kimona. Seems our creepy Howard, instead of marrying her, has forced her into prostitution. Later she is taken under the wing of a wealthy society matron who really only helps her to improve her own social standing. But living in this ladies home (household run by a meanie "Mrs. Danvers" lookalike), Gabrielle meets the boyishly charming chauffeur "Fred", and in a fun ride on the "Big Dipper" (filmed with the camera riding with us on the coaster) at a local amusement park, they start to fall in love. Very melodramatic, but excellent film. The shots of the kimona, plus the lamp in the red light district are tinted red for a great effect. I love the scenes near the end shot as Fred races through the old streets of L.A. to get to the girl. Kino version includes a nice piano score by Robert Israel, plus a black and white print that looked fine (again, hard to tell 'cause this was on TCM and my cable is really crummy). (3.75 stars)

September 19, 2005 - This morning, Monster-in-Law (2005) - About temp worker "Charlie" (Jennifer Lopez)in search for the "right man", who meets a gorgeous doctor, Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan) on a catering job, then hooks up with him only to soon have to contend with his overbearing mother, a famous talk show host named Viola Fields (Jane Fonda), just out of mental hospital after being "replaced" on her job by a younger woman. When Kevin proposes marriage to Charlie at mama's house (on Charlie's very first meeting with mama - what timing!) - mama sets out to drive Charlie crazy and sabotage the marriage plans. She has a fake anciety attack and moves into Charlie and Kevin's house, where Charlie must "take care of her" while Kevin is at a medical conference. Soon it's Viola versus Charlie in schemes to get even with each other. Well, this goes on a bit much, but still was an okay film - ya know, at least it kept me mildly entertained for a couple hours. I got about two out-loud laughs from the whole film, but that Michael Vartan is, well, oh so handsome and that helped! (3.25 stars)
Later watched Charlie's Angels (2000) - Pretty much non-stop action girl power movie based on the seventies TV series about three beautiful girls, the Angels, who work for a private investigation firm headed by Charlie Townsend, who is only heard from via his voice on a speaker (and John Forsythe is here to reprise his role as the voice of Charlie). In this version the three angels are named Dylan (Drew Barrymore), Natalie (Cameron Diaz), and Alex (Lucy Liu) - but they still have Bosley aka "Boz" (Bill Murray) as Charlie's in-person "right-hand man" (or whatever he is). Now really, is there anything these girls can't do - amazing death-defying stunts, falling out of helicopters, fighting five or six tough guys single-handedly with hands tied behind the back, and escaping sure-death at every turn. They are also masters of disguise, going undercover in a variety of gear and sexy outfits and tricking men with their sexual wiles as they smoke out the bad guys - hurrah! Anyway there is a small plotline in all this action involving a kidnapped software engineer who has invented some fantastic voice recognition software. Anyway, this film is loads of fun with a cool retro soundtrack that features a mix of 70s and 80s tunes (often oldies featuring the word "angel" in the lyrics) and some newer stuff thrown in. Enjoyed this. (3.5 stars)

September 15, 2005 - Broadway to Hollywood (1933) - Follows three generations of a vaudeville family from the 1880's to current day. The Hacketts, soft shoe act, have a son (Jackie Cooper) and sooner than you think they have become "The Three Hacketts" - sonny grows up and falls in love with the lead dancer of "The Dancing Dolls" - Anne (Madge Evans), and soon he and Anne leave the act to go on broadway where he has been offered the part of leading juvenile. From grandfather Hackett (Frank Morgan) to Hackett Junior to Hackett III (Eddie Quillan), all the Hackett men are boozers and womanizers, causing trouble with wives and performances (ya know, the dancing). The wife of the first Hackett (played by Alice Brady) is ever so patient, but a bit obnoxious too - and she certainly isn't too friendly to her son's chosen wife. I find this to be a bit of a boring film, quite so-so - with a few lackluster song and dance routines tossed in, though I do enjoy the tap dance number done by a very young Mickey Rooney who plays, oh so briefly, Hackett III as a boy. Jimmy Durante appears in a bit part. (2.75 stars)

September 14, 2005 - The Blue Bird (1918), directed by Maurice Tourneur. Wonderful, lovely little fantasy film about two children, Mytyl (Tula Belle) and Tyltyl (Robin Macdougall) who live in a poor home in a village where their neighbors are the "Rich Children" and a poor neighbor who has a very sick young daughter who asks Mytyl for her bird. Mytyl is selfish and won't allow it, then that night the children wake up to admire with envy a party across the way at the rich children's home (interestingly shot, in silhouette). In a dreamlike fantasy - a fairy arrives to take the children in search for the bluebird of happiness. Fire, water, light, bread, milk, and sugar become human, as their souls inside are revealed to the kids - and the family dog and cat become human too (well, humans in animal suits). The fairy then brings them on a fantastic journey from the Palace of Night, to a visit with their deceased grandparents, to the Palace of Happiness where all the "Luxuries" live, to the world of the unborn children. This film is a really nice version of this story, quite familiar to me from the number of times I have seen the Shirley Temple version. It is a very imaginative film, beautifully photographed and lit, and is full of fun special effects. I really liked the scene with the unborn children, bodies covered in see-through gauze-like veils making for an interesting effect. I also think the actors who play the kids are especially good and natural. The Kino DVD of this has a nice-looking brightly tinted print, however some of the footage does suffer from nitrate decompostion. It features a terrific, wonderful orchestral score that very much enhances this film (the music is going through my head as I write this - I thought it really helped make this film extremely enjoyable). (4 stars)
Tonight saw Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You (1996) - Comedy about a well-to-do New York household featuring Goldie Hawn married to Alan Alda, and living with several of their grown-up (or almost grown-up) children including Drew Barrymore about to be married, wild daughter who flits from man to man, two teenage girls who don't do much except lurk around their crush (a young man they admire from afar) and the son (Lukas Haas) who is a young Republican in a family of liberals. Woody Allen plays the ex-husband who now lives in Paris, and falls for Julia Roberts, then seduces her via trickery involving the daughters (who have previously been seen spying on Julia through a spyhole in some friend's living room with next-door psychiatrist office). This film is quite amusing and the interesting part of this is it is done as a thirties musical with old-time songs thrown in, and actually sung by these non-musical actors (some do a great job, others not so good). (3.75 stars)

September 13, 2005 - On the same DVD as yesterday's "The Wishing Ring" is Before Hollywood, There Was Fort Lee, N.J. - Documentary done in the voice-over narration style common in the sixties - this mainly contains a bunch of stills of the various studios in the Fort Lee area in the early days of filmmaking, plus stills from some of the films made at each studio. Bonus though is the full-length short films that are included in the documentary, namely: "Rescued from an Eagle's Nest" (1908), "The Curtain Pole", and Mary Pickford in "The Lonely Villa" (1909). Unfortunately, the intertitles have been removed from these and the narrator relates what is happening in each film as it plays - a style I find extremely annoying. Okay documentary, mainly for the film footage featured in it. (3 stars)
And also on the same DVD, A Girl's Folly (1917), directed by Maurice Tourneur. A behind-the-scenes glimpse of the workings of a movie studio, with the "matinee idol", Driscoll, who appears a bit bored with the whole thing and loves to primp himself in the mirror. Then there's "another popular star" played by Johnny Hines, plus an actress the director just calls "Girl" - hmmm. Inside the studio, we see our stars filming this hokey western (while Driscoll's valet is in his dressing room signing Driscoll's signature to his photographs), then all go on location to New Jersey for outdoor shooting. While there, country girl Mary accidently steps into a shot and next thing you know she's headed for New York, on Driscoll's prompting, to become an actress. This film is enjoyable, nothing great, but fun to see this early look at a film being made. Like Tourneur's "The Wishing Ring", this film includes several pretty long-haired girls who seem to just cavort in the background throughout the film, with no real purpose. It also includes really cute title cards, each with a humorous drawing - several intertitles feature a chess board with the director's hand moving his "pawns" (the actors) as they are filming the western. Mostly very nice-looking, clear sepia-toned tinted print, with a bit of nitrate decomposition in places. The musical score for this on the Image Entertainment DVD is a very, very nice orchestral score by Robert Israel. (3.25 stars)
Later watched The Average Woman (1924) - Young modern Sally Whipple (Pauline Garon) - fun-loving, dice-rolling dancing flapper - meets handsome, bespectacled young man, Jimmy Munroe (Harrison Ford, oh so darling in round black-framed glasses) at the library, where she catches him observing her every move. See, he is writing an article on "the average woman" and taking a peek at his notes Sally finds out what he knows about the average woman thus far: likes to pick locks with a hair pin, adds postscripts to all her letters, and is afraid of mice - heh. He follows her out on the streets to get the scoop, and SHE gets a cop to haul him in to the judge - her papa. But it's ALL 'cause she fancies him - so the judge sentences Jimmy to report each week - to his daughter! Meanwhile, Sally already wears the ring (right hand only so far) of one Rudolph, well-to-do owner of the Blue Boar Tavern. But papa is trying to investigate this tavern, and meanwhile there is a very odd subplot involving a young boy called "Tike" who, as Rudolph relates it, came - along with a batch of kittens - with the tavern (what?, living alone in the basement of this tavern?! How strange is that). Rudolph, over a story have to do with Tike and Sally's mom, blackmails Sally to marry him and asks the judge for "protection". Everything resolves at the drop of a hat. The video I saw this on is from Nostalgia Family Video and features a print in pretty shaky condition - faded and somewhat blurry, with not nearly enough contrast. But it does include a nice piano score featuring Scott Joplin piano rags and such. The film is fairly good, though I would really like to see this in a MUCH better quality print. Harrison Ford is a doll and Pauline Garon does a cute job as the flapper. (3 stars)

September 12, 2005 - This morning, watched the silent film The Wishing Ring (1914), directed by Maurice Tourneur. About Giles, the son of an Earl, who gets expelled from college for "gross misconduct" after Giles and his school pals are seen carousing and noisemaking in this Alehouse/Inn while patrons upstairs are attempting to sleep. While at his God-father's estate, he is asked to attend to the garden roses while God-father is out-of-town, as a thief has been stealing the roses. Giles soon meets "the little rose thief" - the plainish, but lively parson's daughter Sally (Vivian Martin), and soon the two are flirting over tea and meeting each day - but she thinks he is the gardener, and meantime the Earl has written to son that he isn't to come home until he's earned himself half a crown. The "wishing ring" part of this story is really just a small subplot involving a ring they buy from a band of gypsies that will grant anything the wearer wishes. She soon wishes for a kiss by her love (Giles secretly sneaks up behind her to bestow the kiss) and a wished-for new dress and shoes that Giles buys and slips through the window as a gift "from the wishing ring". That's pretty much it for that subplot. But this is really quite a charming film, I enjoyed this a lot. Love the tracking shot moving slowly along the dinner table in the last scene showing the faces of the various characters as they chow down on fruit and bread. There is an odd running gag involving four pretty long-haired maidens that keep cavorting around in scenes, that really has no purpose other than to add to the charm. The DVD features a very nice-looking tinted print, and orchestral score by the Mont Alto Orchestra that helps make this little old film a real delight. (4 stars)
On the same DVD is the D.W. Griffith directed The New York Hat (1912) - Mary Pickford as a girl whose mother has just died, leaving an odd trust to the village parson (Lionel Barrymore) - use her small savings to buy Mary trinkets, as she desires them. Well, sooner than you think, a beautiful $10 hat from New York arrives on display in a local shop window, and is much admired by the local young girls, including Mary. The parson buys her the hat - then the town gossips are on the rampage 'cause they don't know the reasons why the parson is going around buying this pretty young girl an expensive hat. Quite good - very nice-looking print too, with only a small amount of decomposition in a few places. Very nice musical score as well. (3.75 stars)
Tonight, one of my recent times faves, Never Been Kissed (1999) - Twenty-five year old geek girl copy editor Josie Geller (Drew Barrymore), who has never really had a "real kiss", enrolls at a local high school to pose as a student for her first big undercover assignment as a reporter to be called "My Semester in High School". A "geek to the core" as she says, she immediately clicks in with the geek kids and joins up in the school's Mathletes (well, they're called something else, which is escaping me at the moment - but you get the idea). Anyway, one of her courses is for Shakespeare's "As You Like It" and the teacher (Michael Vartan) is - um - absolutely gorgeous. But - oops - he thinks she is only seventeen! Well, they flirt anyway - but Josie also fancies the school heartthrob/jerk who looks a lot like her own high school days crush - a guy who pretended he was takin' Josie to the prom only to throw eggs on her as he drove by (wow - could anyone ACTUALLY be that mean?!). When Josie is told by her old curmudgeon boss that she MUST make friends with the school "cool kids", her brother (David Arquette) comes to her rescue by posing himself as a student and getting her in with the "in" crowd. Yep - this film also has that "mean girl" trio so commonly seen in movies these days. With a really fun story, a really handsome leading man, and a great soundtrack - I just LOVE this movie. Molly Shannon is funny playing Josie's co-worker gal pal Anita. I could watch this one again and again - as it is, I've probably seen this one ten or twelve times in the last couple of years (4 stars)

September 9, 2005 - Today, Outside the Law (1920), directed by Tod Browning. In San Francisco's Chinatown, Chang Low, who believes in the philosophy of Confucius, is trying to reform a father who runs a gambling house, and his daughter Molly "Silky Moll" (Priscilla Lane) who apparently used to run around with "Black Mike" (Lon Chaney) and his mob. Black Mike aka "Blackie" hates her so has come up with a plot to railroad her dad into prison to get her to join up with them - then railroad HER by making her take the blame for his plot to rob a wealthy house safe of it's jewels. One of the mob, Bill, apparently has taken a fancy to her, as he reveals that Blackie is planning to tell the cops that she is going to do this robbery - she decides to go ahead with it anyway. Bob and her steal the jewels, escape the cops, and hideout in a Knob Hill apartment. While spending months hiding out together, a neighbor's kid (cute with buster-brown haircut, but the kid actor keeps glancing at the camera) reforms them of their bad ways as they decide perhaps they should be married and have a kid of their own. But Blackie and his dwarf pal are still on the lookout to find them - and the jewels! Unfortunately, the very last minute of this, on my rented Netflix disc, was flukey and just wouldn't play. The DVD features a nice musical score and some sound effects. The print looks fairly good, though some of the last part of the film suffers from nitrate damage. Of course, I love Lon Chaney, he actually plays a duel role in this as he plays Blackie, and also plays a small part as Chang Low's Chinese servant. (3.5 stars)
Next saw Love On the Run (1936) - Rival American reporters in London, Mike (Clark Gable) and Barney (Franchot Tone), oddly seen sleeping together in the same room (well, in twin beds) in the first scene, are chasing after a wealthy runaway bride (gee, where have we seen that plot before?!) named Sally Parker (Joan Crawford) to get a story. Mike befriends Sally and they both escape from the reporters (she doesn't know HE's one) to France (where most of the characters seen in bank, restaurant, nightclub, etc. are actually Americans or an American actor BARELY putting on a French accent) where they hideout at the Fontainbleau Palace, run by an insane caretaker (Donald Meek) who thinks they're ghosts. Meanwhile Barney keeps turning up, and there is a weird subplot involving a fake Baron and Baroness who are spies trying to get a map that Mike and Sally got ahold of while escaping to France via airplane. As dopey as it sounds. With three great MGM stars - Gable, Crawford, and cutie Franchot Tone - you would think this would be better. The flaw is the story - it's just really dumb. (2.5 stars)
Then, on the same DVD as "Outside the Law", saw Shadows (1922) - In the small fishing village of Urkey, a Chinese man, Yen Sin (played by Lon Chaney), washes ashore from a shipwreck that has killed town girl Sympathy's husband. A handsome young minister (darling Harrison Ford) arrives in town and immediately pretty Sympathy and the minister are an item. Meanwhile Yen Sin, at first asked to leave town for being a heathen, stays on and - um - opens up a houseboat laundry. Yen Sin soon befriends the town chubby boy (always munching on something) "Mista Bad Boy", as he calls him, as well as Sympathy and the young minister (who has his mind on "saving" Yen Sin). The minister and the girl marry, but when he receives a letter from Sympathy's dead husband revealing that he didn't die in the wreck and now wants cash from the minister to stay out of town - our poor handsome hero is heartbroken, and now feels he must stay away from Sympathy to protect their just born baby. The DVD of this features a nice-looking sepia tinted print, and suitable organ score. Unfortunately, the Netflix DVD of this had some glitches in it, so I missed a few minutes here and there of the film when it wouldn't play. The clear print of this, plus the sympathetic character he plays here, just made Harrison Ford's adorableness come out full force for me - wow what a heartthrob - sigh. (3 stars for the film, 4 stars for scenes with Harrison Ford)

September 8, 2005 - Bride and Prejudice (2004) - Bollywood take-off of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, set in the modern day. In this version the Bennets are replaced by a family in India with four daughters (they left out Kitty!) who meet up at a wedding dance with a wealthy Englishman (who mama, of course, hopes will marry one of her daughters), his sister, and rich American friend William Darcy, who owns a string of hotels. The story follows quite closely to Austen's version including modernized, but similar dialogue, a dizzy mother pushing her daughters into finding husbands, Indian version of "Mr. Collins" who arrives from L.A. to seek himself one of the girls for wife (and is very obnoxious and unappealing, but has money), we even get the Indian daughter version of "Mary" who, as in "Pride and Prejudice", likes to perform in front of everyone, despite a lack of talent - in this she does a terrible "Cobra" dance, much to the embarrassment of her sisters. Of course, Lalita ("Elizabeth" character) finds the handsome, wealthy Mr. Darcy to be an arrogant jerk - but soon falls for him. Full of brightly colored saris and loads of fun musical numbers, this is quite an enjoyable film. The deleted scenes and extended songs on the DVD add even more to this. (3.5 stars)

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