Movie Blog - Film Review, Rating, Plot Summary / Synopsis - Archive Spring 2006

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I Love Silents - Silent Movies

2006 BLOG Archive - Spring Season (March 2006 to end of May, 2006). My personal movie watching diary. NOTE: there may be spoilers for some entries. Ratings are from 1 to 10 with 10 being best.

May 18, 2006 - This A.M. watched Housewife (1934) - Self-described "just a housewife" Nan (Ann Dvorak) is married to hubby Bill (George Brent) who only earns $175 a month as office manager for an advertising firm. Scrimping and saving to make ends meet, she still manages to remember that Sunday dinner isn't Sunday dinner without Leg of Lamb (and even though complains about their lack of income, keeps a maid in the house to help her with her "housework"). Hubby has a meanie boss where he works who gives him no respect, so with wife giving him the push (she's been busy reading "Success" magazine) he quits and decides to start his own advertising firm, with strong wife by his side helping him come up with ideas AND helping him get new clients. And meanwhile - he brings over blonde Pat (Bette Davis) from his old office, a girl who once was in love with him in high school, and stills seems to hold the torch for him. I guess the plot of this film sounds a bit silly, but I actually liked this a lot, though thought the ending was a bit tacked on and unsatisfying. Bette Davis looks very pretty in this film, and I love the chemistry between her and George Brent. Bonus - I love all the really gorgeous satin and crepe ruffled bias-cut dresses the women wear in this. 8 stars

May 17, 2006 - This afternoon on TCM, watched The Devil Doll (1936), another good one directed by Tod Browning. About two men who have just escaped from prison - one is a mad scientist (Henry B. Walthall) who has invented a method for reducing living things (first dogs, then, yes humans) to minature, alive and perfect in every way - well, every way but one - the memory is wiped out and the doll-sized being is completely under the control of the will of the scientists who have shrunk them! The other man (Lionel Barrymore) seeking vengence for his wrongful imprisonment against the three men who framed him, decides to use the shrinking method against these men, and ends up in Paris disguised as an old woman who runs a doll shop featuring "living" dolls for sale! I thought this film was a pretty fun sci-fi/horror flick, I always enjoy the work of Tod Browning. Of course, I couldn't help making comparisons between this and the other Browning film, "The Unholy Three", which features a man hiding out from the cops disguised as an old woman. Henry B. Walthall gives an excellent, if bug-eyed, performance as the mad scientist (the woman who plays his wife is pretty bug-eyed too - I guess they were both meant to be pretty "mad"), Lionel Barrymore, top-notch in this as well. The special effects showing the small-sized dogs, then later humans, is done quite well - it kept making me thing of the old TV show "Land of the Giants". 7 stars

May 18, 2006 - This A.M. watched Housewife (1934) - Self-described "just a housewife" Nan (Ann Dvorak) is married to hubby Bill (George Brent) who only earns $175 a month as office manager for an advertising firm. Scrimping and saving to make ends meet, she still manages to remember that Sunday dinner isn't Sunday dinner without Leg of Lamb (and even though complains about their lack of income, keeps a maid in the house to help her with her "housework"). Hubby has a meanie boss where he works who gives him no respect, so with wife giving him the push (she's been busy reading "Success" magazine) he quits and decides to start his own advertising firm, with strong wife by his side helping him come up with ideas AND helping him get new clients. And meanwhile - he brings over blonde Pat (Bette Davis) from his old office, a girl who once was in love with him in high school, and still seems to hold the torch for him. I guess the plot of this film sounds a bit silly, but I actually liked this a lot, though thought the ending was a bit tacked on and unsatisfying. Bette Davis looks very pretty in this film, and I love the chemistry between her and George Brent. Bonus - I love all the really gorgeous satin and crepe ruffled bias-cut dresses the women wear in this. ( 8/10 stars )

May 17, 2006 - This afternoon on TCM, watched The Devil Doll (1936), another good one directed by Tod Browning. About two men who have just escaped from prison - one is a mad scientist (Henry B. Walthall) who has invented a method for reducing living things (first dogs, then, yes humans) to minature, alive and perfect in every way - well, every way but one - the memory is wiped out and the doll-sized being is completely under the control of the will of the scientists who have shrunk them! The other man (Lionel Barrymore) seeking vengence for his wrongful imprisonment against the three men who framed him, decides to use the shrinking method against these men, and ends up in Paris disguised as an old woman who runs a doll shop featuring "living" dolls for sale! I thought this film was a pretty fun sci-fi/horror flick, I always enjoy the work of Tod Browning. Of course, I couldn't help making comparisons between this and the other Browning film, "The Unholy Three", which features a man hiding out from the cops disguised as an old woman. Henry B. Walthall gives an excellent, if bug-eyed, performance as the mad scientist (the woman who plays his wife is pretty bug-eyed too - I guess they were both meant to be pretty "mad"), Lionel Barrymore, top-notch in this as well. The special effects showing the small-sized dogs, then later humans, is done quite well - it kept making me think of the old TV show "Land of the Giants". ( 7/10 stars )

May 15, 2006 - Today watched Our Blushing Brides (1930) - Plot Summary - "Why Marry a Millionaire?" - - About three working girls/roommates/gal pals and their relationships with three men/millionaires/heels. The girls all work at Jardine's department store where virtuous Jerry (played by Joan Crawford) models dresses and ladies lingerie, blonde and innocent Connie (Anita Page) works the perfume counter, and wisecracking, sarcastic Franky (Dorothy Sebastian) is stuck in blankets (where there's "not a male customer in a carload"). Franky finally does meet a man in the blanket department - he's loaded with free-flowing wads of cash, so she immediately agrees to go out with him. Meanwhile pretty Connie is having a love affair with the owner's son, David Jardine (played by Raymond Hackett, who looked to me like a cross between David and Ricky Nelson), and Jerry has a fancy for the other son, Tony Jardine (Robert Montgomery). Jerry thinks Tony is "different" from the other cads/men she meets - but she soon finds out he's not, as she ends up in his lair - a tree house complete with sunken couch, dim lights, mood music, and disappearing staircase. Oh brother! Review - This film is quite enjoyable, I like the interrelationships between the three girls - there's plenty of chemistry and camaraderie there. Robert Montgomery is a doll, his slim self handsomely decked out in tuxedo, white tie, and tails (ooh la la) - he plays his playboy-like part expertly. Joan Crawford acts up a storm in this, with a full range of emotions - and gets to show herself off in slinky outfits and barely-there lingerie as well (which she REALLY seems to enjoy doing!). The film includes a fun fashion show, complete with foppish Parisian dress designers, and lots of capes, drapes, ruffles, and deco look hats. ( 7 to 8/10 stars )

May 12, 2006 - Today watched Munich (2005) - Nominated for Best Picture, this wasn't exactly what I was expecting - way too violent for my taste. About a group of assassins seeking to kill the eleven Palestinians responsible for the murder of the Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics. I can take violence in an exceptionally good movie, but this just didn't cut the mustard for me. ( 2 to 3/10 stars )

May 11, 2006 - Bette Davis day today on TCM - watched several films, first up The Golden Arrow (1936) - Weak film about facial cream heiress Daisy Appleby (Bette Davis) and her escapades in Florida, where she lounges around her yacht in unflattering swimsuit, and gets herself chased around the Casino by all sorts of European barons and dukes after her for her money. When she meets a reporter (George Brent) who is such a normal, straight-laced, and somewhat handsome All-American guy, she quickly falls for him. Then, to get the fortune hunters off her back, she convinces him to enter into a "marriage of convenience" with her, but in actuality, she is in love with him - and, not completely who she seems either. Well, this movie is pretty so-so. Bette Davis is great, as usual, but George Brent is a real stiff here, and the actress who plays Daisy's rival, "the richest girl in the world", is really, not a very good actress. Eugene Pallette adds a spark of life to this film, but, unfortunately, only has a few brief scenes. Probably best for Bette Davis fans only. ( 5/10 stars )
Next up, later today - The Working Man (1933) - "The Old Man and the Shoe" - - Interesting story of a sly old fox (George Arliss), owner of the Reeves Shoe Company, who seems like he'd rather be fishing with his pal in Maine than running the business, so heads off for a fishing holiday, leaving his conceited nephew in charge of biz. While out fishing, he accidently meets up with the son and daughter of Hartland, his recently deceased one-time friend and biggest rival in the shoe business. Giving them a fake name, the two youths have no idea he is rival Reeves, but they are really more interested in contacting bootleggers, throwing drunken parties, and running through their inheritance anyway. After heading back home with these two to get an "inside look" at the workings of their shoe factory and make an offer to buy the company, Reeves sees that the company is being run into the ground and decides he would rather help these Hartlands out instead - see, he was once in love with their mother, not to mention his swollen-headed nephew thinks he's too old to run a business anymore - he'll show the young whippersnapper! So he gets the Hartland's to make him their new trustee/guardian (and they do it 'cause they think he is just a simple "old fisherman" who will give them all the money they want to run wild with), then takes a firm hold of the running of the company and the young Hartlands! Really good film with excellent script and performances all around. George Arliss is an old charmer, really endearing in this film - he makes you really want to root for him. Bette Davis looks real cute in this, and does a great job, as always, in her part. The story is lots of fun to watch, and left me with a smile at the end - credit for this film really belongs to George Arliss who dominates the film and makes it a good one. ( 8/10 stars )
Next watched Fashions of 1934 (1934) - William Powell and Bette Davis play a crook and his girl who run a bootleg/pirated fashion racket, then later go to Paris to get into selling forged designer dress sketches, and next thing you know they have this idea for selling tons of ostrich feathers via a new Revue starring a fake Russian duchess. There was an enjoyable musical number done by Busby Berkeley featuring lots of blondes in ostrich feathers - quite fun to watch. Bette Davis looked quite good in the sling-style over one eye slouch hat she wears in this. ( 6/10 stars )

May 10, 2006 - Watched Heath Ledger (ooh la la) as Casanova (2005) - In 18th century Venice, Casanova runs around seducing woman after woman (including a bunch of beautiful nuns), but then meets a woman named Francesca, we first see disguised as a man, who he falls in love with. This farce is loads of fun, with many assumed identities, mistaken notions, women in drag, and the handsome, handsome Casanova (hey, I don't think Heath has ever looked better!) assuming several different personas all in the name of winning his lady love. Nice music score of period music, beautiful scenes of lovely Venice, and a dashing, costumed hero (looking gorgeous in wig and lace, I must say) all makes for an enjoyable romp. Did I mention the beauty of Heath Ledger? Oh, I guess so. ( 8/10 stars - 10+/10 stars for Heath )

May 9, 20006 - This evening on TCM, watched a double feature for myself, first up Judge Priest (1934) - "The Little Colonel Meets Colonel Sanders" - - Plot Summary - In the South, Kentucky circa 1890, we meet Judge Priest (played by Will Rogers), laid-back circuit court judge who dresses like Colonel Sanders and has bigger interests than court trials - namely lawn croquet, mint juleps, Confederate veteran social gatherings, taffy pulls, and his new-found friendship with an accused chicken thief (played by Stepin Fetchit) put on trial in his courtroom, who gives the judge tips on fishing for catfish. The judge also enjoys matchmaking for his nephew Rome (Tom Brown), a young man who has just graduated from law school and who is in love with the pretty girl next door in spite of his stuffy mama's protests (seems the girl isn't good enough for the mighty "Kentucky Priest's", mama has her eye on someone else for her son). Soon the film switches gear when young Rome gets his first case and defends a local man put on trial. Review - This film was actually quite a bit better than I was expecting - Will Rogers, wbose role dominates this film (aside from Henry B. Walthall, who also has a small, but important piece here) was more interesting in this than I have seen him in other roles, probably because he comes across as more like himself than a character. Henry B. Walthall, the handsome "Little Colonel" in "The Birth of a Nation", still looks attractive here nearly 20 years later, a real silver fox to my eyes. Hattie McDaniel plays a stereotypical black mammy, singing and hanging laundry and preparing the judge yet another mint julep in most of her scenes, yet comes across with loads of charm. Really quite an interesting film. ( 7 to 8/10 stars )
Next up, watched Check and Double Check (1930) - I didn't really get this one written up, but here's the sort of rambling notes I wrote - - Amos and Andy run the "Fresh Air" taxicab company in Harlem - with writing on the side of their car in an "Our Gang" style handwriting. Sue Carol is sweet and cute, but a very poor actress, so actually given very little to do here. The film deals with Amos and Andy, a sort of black-faced poor version of Laurel and Hardy, a haunted house, a lodge meeting, and side story of a rich girl, her jerk boyfirend, and her new, better boyfriend. ( 3/10 stars )

May 8, 2006 - Last Holiday (2006) - Okay, this ended up being way better than I was expecting. About a woman named Georgia (Queen Latifah) who finds out she only has three weeks to live, so quits her job as sales clerk in the cookware department at Kragen's department store and follows her dreams, most of which she keeps track of via photos and clippings placed in a book labeled "possibilities". Off goes Georgia to Prague for her "last holiday". There she stays at her dream Grand Hotel, where the kitchen is helmed by her fave chef. The hotel is running rampant with rich folk, and assuming she is rich too, Georgia soon becomes involved with a new circle of "friends" including Kragen (Timothy Hutton) himself, owner of the store where she worked. She soon is filling her days with massages and crazy spa treatments, snowboarding and base jumping (or whatever it was called), and eating loads of rich foods (and hey, why not?!). Enjoyable film - quite fun. I really liked Gerard Depardieu as the chef, and Queen Latifah herself is always enjoyable to watch. Hmmm - and Timothy Hutton is good here too, I haven't seen him in a film in quite awhile. ( 7.5/10 stars )

May 4, 2006 - This A.M., The Rich Are Always With Us (1932) - Interesting story about the rich set including Caroline (played by Ruth Chatterton), the "richest woman in the world", who is a trusting wife married to hubby Greg. She soon finds out he is courting around a young blonde, but luckily, Caroline has her own prospect - a writer named Julian (George Brent) who is madly in love with her. On the side we get Caroline's gal pal, a smart-dressed blonde named Malbro (Bette Davis), who happens to be in love with Julian. When Greg wants a divorce so he can marry the bitchy blonde, Caroline latches onto Julian, but Malbro won't give him up without a fight (well, a small effort anyway). This film is fairly good, the show is really stolen though by Bette Davis as she gives the most interesting performance of them all here. I am not surprised to see that Ruth Chatterton and George Brent were married in real life around the time this was made as I noticed a lot of romantic chemistry between the two of them, I thought George Brent actually turned in a better performance than usual because of this realistic portrayal of the couple's love affair. ( 7/10 stars )

May 3, 2006 - Watched a couple of Mary Astor pre-code films today - first, The Sin Ship (1931) - Plot Summary - Quite good film about a minister and his wife who miss their steamer and seek a ride on the ship of a gruff, unattractive old sea captain (played by Louis Wolheim), a confirmed bachelor who doesn't want anything to do with "love". But apparently he does want something to do with a beautiful woman, because he has his eye on the attractive wife from the get-go. Inviting her to his cabin for "tea" he comes on to her and she rejects him as an animal "soaked in liquor". SPOILER But now the twist - minister and wife are actually thieves "Smiley and Frisco Kitty" making a getaway to hideout from the cops after pulling a bank job! Review - This is a very enjoyable film with excellent performances by all. Actor Ian Keith does a great job switching voice from soft-spoken goody-goody minister to hard-edged, hard-drinking thug, Mary Astor gives a fine performance and looks quite lovely, and Louis Wolheim, who also directed this film, is excellent playing the Captain who becomes quite a likable character in spite of his rough start, so you can almost see perhaps a possibility of appealing to the woman in the end, despite his ugly mug. ( 8/10 stars )
Later, watched Easy to Love (1934) - "John & Carol & Eric & Charlotte". Plot Summary - Quite amusing bedroom farce. As one character puts it: the evolution of marriage - first a double bed, then twin beds, then separate rooms. And so it is for wealthy society couple, John and Carol Townsend (played by Adolphe Menjou and Genevieve Tobin) who are involved in a sort of "love quadrangle". John is having an affair with Carol's best friend Charlotte (Mary Astor), John's best friend Eric (Edward Everett Horton), wealthy "Sardine King", is in love with Carol. When Carol can't get her hubby into bed anymore, she thinks he has no energy from "playing too much polo" (his excuse for his daily afternoon tryst) - but finding out he has NOT been playing polo, she hires a detective who quickly gets the dope on the secret love affair. Now Carol uses Eric to "get even" with her hubby, by pretending to have her own affair! Review - This lively romp is loads of fun with lots of snappy pre-code dialogue, husband hiding in closets, wife trying to win her man back via negligees and the old "dropping the soap on the floor" bathtub trick, plus all-knowing valet and butler, and women in slinky dresses and fur collars. I liked Edward Everett Horton in this, playing pretty much the exact same guy he always plays, plus Guy Kibbee is very amusing in a small, but memorable part, as the Justice of the Peace. Fast-paced and enjoyable film. ( 8/10 stars )

May 2, 2006 - The Birth of a Natin (1915) - A very long (over 3 hour) silent film, directed by D.W. Griffith, that I would summarize like this - - the first part, hour and a half, is absolutely wonderfully done. The story of two families, one from the North, one from the South, just as the Civil War is starting. Of course, the friends end up fighting on opposite sides of the conflict. What I like about this film is that every frame looks just like an old sepia photo right out of the Civil War time - the costumes looked so real, it seemed like a step back to the past. In fact, the only thing that keeps it from looking like a real trip to the Civil War era via time machine is the use of blackfaced actors to portray many of the black characters - this is typically done in films at this time, but it just looks so phony and ridiculous - and that leads me into the second half of this film - the reconstruction. Possibly the most racist film I have ever seen, my jaw was actually dropping open a few times over some of this stuff. But as a whole, the film is a masterwork of it's time - I found it very enjoyable to watch and the three hours went by very quicky. Some things I liked in the film - 1. the portrayal of the scene of Lincoln's assasination, very well done, looked very realistic. 2. Mae Marsh who plays the teen daughter of the Southern family was really delightful in this, I now like her much more than I have from seeing her in other films. 3. Actor Henry B. Walthall is very attractive looking here, younger than I have seen him, and handsome in period costume. 4. The orchestral score done for this is excellent, I must say. 5. I love Lillian Gish! ( 10/10 stars )

April 28, 2006 - Firelight (1997) - Atmospheric period piece which tells a story that is sort of a weird take/twist on Jane Eyre. Here are the similar elements: a young woman comes to work as governess for a little girl at the massive estate of a rich, aristocratic, gentlemen who is quite a few years older than her. He has a wife living in the house, no longer a "real" wife because of illness, taken care of in a room of the house by a servant. Governess and gentleman fall in love, despite the fact he is not free. Here are the differences: The governess is actually the REAL mother of the little girl - see, a few years before, he hired her for 500 pounds to engage with him in a secret rendezvous in France for three days of sex and his desire to impregnate her and take the baby away so he can be a father and have an heir to carry on his name. Yeah, pretty darn weird. On the third day of sex she falls for him. After having the baby it takes her seven years to track him and baby down (yeah, he kept his name a secret from her). The other difference: unlike Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre, this man actually loves his wife - but she is a complete zombie, unable to speak or move. I thought this film was pretty good, but a slight disappointment - just not quite as romantic as I hoped, though the lead actor, Stephen Dillane, is extremely handsome (um yes, I did rent this in the first place to see him, I admit it). (7/10 stars)

April 27, 2006 - The Show Off (1926) - Plot Summary - About a conceited windbag named Aubrey Piper (Ford Sterling) - blow-hard, bluffer, "slap-em-on-the-back" kind of guy with elevated ideas about his own importance at his job with the Pennsylvania Railroad. Lying to his girlfriend Amy (Lois Wilson) about his job, he claims he has 30 men working under him but, in fact, earns 30 dollars a week as a clerk. This girl seems to adore him as she gazes at him with unfathomable, wide-eyed adoration and hangs on his every word - - but her family can't stand him, and when he arrives early for a date with Amy (just in time for dinner, of course) the family are not very nice to him. Amy then claims she will marry him for spite - the next thing you know they *are* married and living in his small, dingy flat. Now here's the part I don't get - he is far, far from being handsome, and it seems at first like Amy likes him for the money, the fancy houses, etc. he is going to buy for her. But then after they are married and sbe knows he is poor - she still seems to really love him, and he keeps on lying to her about stuff. Review - I found this film to be so-so, it does get better towards the end though. The main problem here is that the main character, Aubrey, seems mostly like a guy with no redeeming qualities, which makes it very difficult to care what happens to him - or to the bimbo that seems to like him so much, despite his extreme flaws (or is she just the kind of gal who thinks she has a "catch" if her man isn't beating her up or spending time in jail). Louise Brooks appears in this film, playing the girlfriend of Amy's brother, but has little to do for the majority of the film other than stand by her man, clinging to his arm, and looking gorgeous. This film does include many interesting street scenes of Philadelphia in the twenties, very interesting to look at, and is definitely worth seeing for the appearance of Louise Brooks. The version I saw included a really excellent, perky music score by Timothy Brock. (6.5/10 stars)

April 26, 2006 - Red-Headed Woman (1932) - Terrific pre-code film starring Jean Harlow as the "red-headed woman" - a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who uses her sex appeal to seduce rich men in an attempt to improve her social standing (plus get ahold of their dough!). With her eye on her wealthy, handsome, happily married boss (not to mention his photo pinned to her garter) she aggressively pursues him, as he does his very best to try and hold her off and keep his marriage intact. But even when she gets him, she can't stop trying to get someone better (well, you know - that is, richer). I love this film and I think Jean Harlow gives one of her best performances here as she whines, baby talks, swings her hips, and uses her charms to get the man she wants. Una Merkel is appealing, as usual, as her sidekick/gal pal, constantly feigning shock over the sorted schemes of her red-headed friend. highly recommend seeing this one. (10/10 stars)

April 25, 2006 - This afternoon, One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937) - About an out-of-work trombone player (Adolphe Menjou) and his aggressive, go-getter daughter Patsy (played by Deanna Durbin) who takes it upon herself to wheel and deal her father and friends into their own orchestra of unemployed musicians. Young Miss Durbin is attractive and charming, and has a very beautiful singing voice - I did, however, find her acting style in this to be a bit hyper and shrill-voiced, which was a bit annoying, though I loved hearing her sing. Another slight annoyance - all the characters in this film seem to treat Patsy as if she were about eight years old, sort of her own version of Shirley Temple - yet she is almost an adult. Especially at one party scene where all the well-heeled party guests seem to gather around her in an "ah, isn't she a cute little girl" style that just seems a bit ridiculous. I did enjoy the comic back-and-forth exchange of practical jokes between two of the characters - the character of Mr. Frost is particularly fun to watch, well played by actor Eugene Pallette. Decent film, though nothing great, probably best for Deanna Durbin fans only (which I am, actually, so don't get me wrong). (6.5/10 stars)

April 23, 2006 - The Greatest Game Ever Played (2005) - Heartwarming true story of an amateur golfer, a young man named Francis Ouimet, and his play at the 1913 U.S. Open where he tries his best to beat the Brits. Along with his little caddy - a chubby charmer, half the movie is this young golfer's tournament struggle for the cup - it is all very interesting, I guess especially for someone such as me, who enjoys watching golf tournies. I enjoyed the well-done Edwardian setting of this film, what with the costumes, music, etc. - there are some rather neat opening credits in the film too, featuring some tinted real-life film footage taken around 1900. Pretty good. (7/10 stars)

April 21, 2006 - It Happened Tomorrow (1944) - Fun, "Twilight Zone"-like science fiction story, set in the 1890's, about dapper Larry Stevens (played by Dick Powell) who becomes ace reporter of the Evening News when he is able to write news articles of events - before they happen! You see, Larry is mysteriously being given "tomorrow's" newspaper to him by a strange old man named Pop who works in the newspaper archive room. Larry meets beautiful Sylvia (Linda Darnell) when she is performing with her uncle in a fake nightclub fortune telling/mind reading act and Larry gives her the rush, soon succeeding in winning her over, but getting her mixed up in his "predictions" - like when he already knows before it has happened that a robbery will take place at the opera, and the cops assume Larry and Sylvia were in on the crime. This film is quite good, fast-paced and enjoyable - and actually has some laughs in it too, even though I would actually mainly call this a drama/fantasy and not a comedy. Edgar Kennedy is amusing as the hard-nosed police detective, and I liked the performance of John Philliber as the mysterious Pop. Linda Darnell looks cute wearing a man's suit in one scene, and Dick Powell is a charmer - handsome and dapper in moustache and checkered suit. Good fun. ( 7/10 stars )

April 19, 2006 - Today watched yet another version of one of my favorite stories Jane Eyre (1996) - this version, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, was lavish, beautifully photographed and costumed, with fab art direction, a wonderful orchestral score, the works - but it lacked chemistry between the characters of Jane (played in a gawky manner by youthful Charlotte Gainsbourg) and Mr. Rochester (played a bit gruffly and a "hard to believe he's in love" manner by William Hurt). However, Anna Paquin was perfect as young Jane (I knew she would be!) and I love this story SO much, that though the plot was quite shortened to fit into a two-hour film, I enjoyed every second of this romantic tale of poor, young Jane who comes to work as a governess in the huge, rambling estate of the aging, brooding, supposedly unattractive Mr. Rochester. I guess there is just no way for them to film this beloved story of mine and not have me enjoy it. ( 9/10 stars )

April 10, 2006 - Today, another cloudy, showery day (my favorite kind) - watched Bee Season (2005) - Weird story of an Oakland, California family of four, that at first seem like a normal, intellectual bunch with professor dad (Richard Gere) playing duets with smart son, etc. - but soon it becomes obvious this is a pretty dysfunctional family what with kleptomaniac, nutty mom who steals little objects by sneaking into stranger's houses, teenage son who joins the Hare Krishnas, dad obsessed with Kabbalahism (Jewish mysticism), and sixth grade daughter (really, by far the most normal of the bunch) who sees words turn into objects that gives her the correct spelling in her head as she progresses from local school spelling bee to the national spelling bee finals. This film was just not what I was expecting - I found the film interesting, but the family is just too strange to really care. I did like the little girl, and thought the young actress who plays her did an excellent job. ( 6/10 stars )

April 5, 2006 - Laugh, Clown, Laugh (1928) - The Count, The Clown, and the Tightrope Walker in Tragic Love Triangle - - The plot of this silent film involves Tito the Clown (played by Lon Chaney), of the Travelling Circus, who finds an abandoned (tied down by ropes by the river!) toddler girl while performing in the hills of Italy, and adopts her. Naming her "Simonetta" after his clown partner Simon, soon Simonetta (Loretta Young) has grown into a young beauty and joins their circus act as tightrope walker. Tito and Simon become a success in Rome performing as "Flik and Flok", but sad Tito must seek a doctor to deal with his sadness - see, he has fallen in love with his little girl. At the doctor's he meets rich, handsome, monocled Count Luigi Ravelli (Nils Asther) who has the opposite affliction to his sadness - uncontrollable laughter. Tito and the Count decide to help each other and become friends, and, of course, soon both are deeply in love with beautiful Simonetta. Who will get her? Lon Chaney is, as he always is, terrific playing the saddest of clowns performing his role with an immense amount of emotion, and Loretta Young is her usual lovely self. The version of this I saw featured a mysterious, exotic, wonderful music score that really enhanced the film and the quality of the print was excellent. This is a great film, highly recommended, my only complaint is that I did find it slightly odd that Chaney falls for the child he raised from such a young age (one other thing, what is that weird stuffed chicken/rooster - it looked real). I am giving this nine stars not ten, as I do like Chaney's clown film "He Who Gets Slapped" a little better. ( 9/10 stars )

April 4, 2006 - Today watched a film I have been highly anticipated (mostly 'cause of featuring my beautiful Heath Ledger) - Brokeback Mountain (2005) - about two young men who meet herding and caring for sheep one summer - high up on Brokeback Mountain. This was good, I didn't get it written up though.

Tonight watched a fun pre-code film Beauty for Sale (1933) - Three beauty parlor workers get involved with forbidden men. Madge Evans plays beautiful, blonde Letty Lawson, a young woman with one ambition - going to work at a beauty parlor. Recently trained at beauty school, she gets a job at Madame Sonia's, where her wisecracking gal pal Carol (Una Merkel) works. Letty soon gets involved with a rich client's husband, who quickly falls in love with her after his dog rips apart her hat. Carol is busy trying to snag herself a rich, but MUCH older sugar daddy, and another female co-worker, Jane, is having a secret affair with Madame Sonia's pride and joy, her precious son Barton. Part of this film takes place in the beauty shop, where we see scenes of very gossipy women, reminding me of very similar beauty parlor scenes in the later "The Women". This is an excellent film that started off seeming almost like a comedy, with pre-code one-liners flying right and left. Later the film becomes quite serious, better than expected - I liked this a lot. (8/10 stars)

April 3, 2006 - In Her Shoes (2005) - Really excellent, heartfelt story of two sisters - one is Maggie (Cameron Diaz) a flaky sex pot who can barely read and uses her sex appeal to get free drinks from the guys, the other is a slightly overweight lawyer named Rose (Toni Collette) who has no boyfriend and a seemingly dull life. The two sisters fight over the fact that the first sister slept with second sisters's "date/co-worker" and Maggie runs off without a word to live with the Grandma (Shirley MacLaine) in Florida who they haven't seen or heard from since childhood. This is sort of what I might call a "coming of age" film (even though the girls are 30-plus) as they both seem to find their way in this film and basically "grow-up". One finds love - they both find themselves. I guess you would definitely call this a chick flick. I loved this. (9/10 stars)

March 30, 2006 - Everything is Illuminated (2005) - Story of a strange young, Jewish-American man (played by Elijah Wood) who collects *things of remembrance* in little sacks and hangs them on this huge wall display in his house. When his grandmother gives him a photo left him by his grandfather, he makes a journey to Odessa, Ukraine to find the town - and the girl - who helped save grandpa from the Nazis and stands with him in the photo. There he hooks up with a "tour guide" - a weird Russian guy and his grandfather, plus their "seeing eye bitch" (cute doggie, really). This seemed like it was going to be sort of a black comedy for the first half, and didn't seem particularly that good. The second half takes a turn toward the much more serious, as it gets into the mystery of what happened during the Holocaust with grandpa and with the girl in the photo. Quite good and moving film. (7/10 stars)

March 28, 2006 - A rainy, lovely day of movies for me today - in the a.m., Listen, Darling (1938) - Cute story that got better as it went along of two teenagers (played by Judy Garland and Freddie Bartholomew) who kidnap the girl's broke, widowed mother (played by Mary Astor) before she marries an old man for his money. Driving her away in the back of their camper/trailer in hopes of keeping her away long enough so she doesn't marry the guy - it actually takes these two kids longer than you would think to come up with the obvious - find the mom a single man closer to her age who might be more to her liking. Luckily, within minutes it seems, handsome Walter Pidgeon arrives in the next trailer and seems like the perfect catch for mom. While the story in this may seem a little silly, the excellent performances by all make this a charming, fun film. I like the chemistry between Astor and Pidgeon, Scotty Beckett does well playing the super brat little brother you "love-to-hate", and Judy Garland's star quality absolutely shines in this film. Giving an emotional, endearing performance, she sings several lively, fun-to-listen-to songs in this, and when the film starts with a very young and lovely Judy singing a wonderful rendition of "Zing Went the Strings of My Heart", I just knew this film wouldn't be all bad. Two things I wonder about though - first, even though they are shown graduating from "junior high school" in the beginning, Freddie drives the car. Second, how come Freddie wants to hook mom up with old man Alan Hale at one point, almost as old and unattractive as the first man (both are described as rich so it can't be just for the money - and mom doesn't love either one). Yes, this film is fluff, but I quite enjoyed it and as the film ended I had a smile on my face and that's a good thing. (7/10 stars)
Then Lord Jeff (1938) - Coming-of-age tale starring Freddie Bartholomew as Geoffrey Braemer, a young man who grows from immaturity to manhood in the hands of some smart school training. The story begins with Jeff posing as "Lord Jeff", stealing an expensive jeweled necklace as part of a ring of jewel thieves, but he is caught and sent off to a Mercantile Marine School for orphaned boys. Sullen, snobby, surly to the other boys, he lies and fakes fainting spells, but boys and teachers try their best to steer him on the right course and whip him into shape. An excellent film, Mickey Rooney is super, as always, as a wise Irish schoolmate who helps Jeff find his way, little Terry Kilburn is a charmer as a cockney half-pint who clings onto Jeff despite getting the constant brush-off (yeah, just like little Pee Wee clings to Whitey in "Boys Town"). Actually, this film reminds me in many ways of "Boys Town". Quite good. (8/10 stars)
Later saw Cast a Dark Shadow (1955) - Fortune Hunter and sociopath Dirk Bogarde chases lonely, rich widows and their diamonds. Married to a much older, wealthy lady - he murders her in a clever manner, goes on uncaught and continues the chase for another target. But a wise, suspecting lawyer doesn't believe him. Clever and dark psychological story. Dirk Bogarde, to my eyes, is a gorgeously handsome man. ( 7/10 stars )
House by the River (1950) - Intense period thriller about a writer, Stephen Byrne (played by Louis Hayward), who lives in - yeah, you guessed it - a house by the river; with lovely yard and gazebo, yet oddly dark as the film opens with the sky clouded, shadows cast across scenery, haunting music, a dead animal floating by on the glistening water, and a black widow spider crawling over his writing. We meet the attractive, blonde servant girl, Emily, who Stephen clearly has a lustful eye on from the get-go. By the next scene, he tries to kiss her coming down the stairs after bathing in his tub, and, well, she screams and he strangles her. With his brother assisting him, they put her body in a big sack and sink her in the river, then follows the cover-up of the murder. Well, this film is quite interesting, dark and suspensful - there's a lot going on here. The print I saw looked fantastically full of sharp black and white contrast. The photography in this makes the film menacing with blackened rooms lit only by candle light casting dark, sharp shadows across the walls, some extreme camera angles up stairs and down halls, shots of faces seen only in mirrors, extreme close-ups, and sweat dripping on the face of a nervous murderer. ( 8/10 stars )

March 27, 2006 - Red Lily (1924) - Emotional tale which starts in a small village in Britanny where lives a young couple, Jean (played by Ramon Novarro) and Marline (Enid Bennett), childhood sweethearts who are torn apart when her father dies suddenly. Impoverished and alone, she must go to live with her next of kin - a poor and unfriendly family including drunken father, haggardly wife, and lot of dirty, small children. The man, a raging hothead, chases after the poor girl, almost with gleeful evil, with a whip 'til she runs off seeking refuge in her old home. Luckily her handsome beau loves her and takes her away to start a new life together in Paris. Unfortunately, through circumstances, they are separated and can't find each other - and thus follows the story of life and what happens to each of them in the big, bad, crime-ridden city. An emotionally charged film throughout, brightly tinted in part with shades of browns, reds, and oranges, with interesting photography in places, especially noticable the interesting shots taken into and out through windows and such. The music score that accompanies this film is really excellent, completely suits the mood of the story, and, I thought, enhanced the film. The acting is well-done - actress Enid Bennett reminded me, both in appearance and acting style, of Lillian Gish. Of course, Ramon Novarro looks very, very handsome, as usual, and Wallace Beery appears as his usual smarmy self. This is a terrific silent film, I loved it. ( 10/10 stars )
Tonight - No More Ladies (1935) - Well-heeled Ladies Man Marries Glamour Queen - Star-power doesn't help this weak, poorly scripted film. With Joan Crawford as satin-gowned, glamourous Marcia of the shades of white/art deco bedroom, Robert Montgomery as the well-dressed ladies man/playboy/heel who marries Marcia but can't stop chasing the ladies, sexy Franchot Tone as Jim, whose wife was stolen by our ladies man, Edna May Oliver as highball drinkin', one-liner talkin' Grandma Fanny, and Charles Ruggles as the drunkard, plus a slick MGM look and feel - you would think this film would be smart, funny, terrific, all it should be - it's not. The problem here is the lousy script - the characters do things that make little sense or just seems dumb, and more importantly, the film is just BORING. I was pretty much thinking "when is this going to end" - that's not a good thing. I did *not* find the two main characters sympathetic, so could really care less what happened to them. I mean, the Robert Montgomery character is just a complete cad, he should have been thrown out by her right near the beginning. Joan Crawford's character just comes across as a pouty brat to me - so who cares what happens with her anyway. Even my handsome Franchot Tone is given so little to do here, he's just wasted. The acting here is fine, but with the story as it is, this film is just dull. Edna May Oliver is the only saving grace here, she *is* pretty funny. ( 3 to 4/10 stars )

March 22, 2006 - Saw Prix de Beaute (1930) - With lots of sunshine, gauzy light and shadow filtering through windows and into rooms, tracking shots moving through crowds with hand-held camera, quick-paced editing and extreme close-ups here and there, the photography is the thing in this interesting, artistically done film. The plot of this film starts out as a bit of fluff about a beauty contest. The film begins on a warm Sunday at the local swimming pool, where we meet the lovely Lulu (played by Louise Brooks) - a bit of a show-off in front of the gawking men by poolside, she soon decides to enter herself to represent France in the Miss Europe beauty contest, much to the chagrin of her very jealous, stick-in-the-mud fiance (a pretty annoying fellow, really). Strutting down the runway the ten contestants display themselves in swimsuits, while the winner is chosen as the contestant who receives the longest applause (I was wondering, couldn't the girls just walk slower to prolong their length of time on the catwalk?!). Lulu is soon being chased by a Prince and a Maharaja, but her hot-headed beau from back home doesn't like the attentions paid to her by other men or her adoring public, for that matter (I guess he just wants her in his house, cooking his meals, and staying out of sight, eh?!). Louise Brooks is beautiful and charming, her presence helps enhance this film, but it's really the way it is photographed that held my interest the most. A bit distracting is the odd dubbed sound, which is a bit off. The print on this version looked very clear and full of nice contrast though. Watching this I just tried to overlook the sound problems and watch the film visually, and I found this to be an excellent film, well worth seeing. ( 9/10 stars )

March 20, 2006 - Earlier today, I Like Your Nerve (1931) - Silly story of Dapper Dan who chases Beauty about to marry the richest man in Central America. This film features a basic plotline we've all seen many times in many different films and that is this - a more appropriate, more handsome man tries to catch, before it's too late, a woman about to be married to a less appropriate, "wrong" man. In this film, Loretta Young plays beautiful young Diane, daughter of the Minister of Finance, who is to marry, in four days time, a wealthy, but gruff and rather ugly old man (well - there's really no other way I could put it!) - the reasons for her odd choice of partner are a secret. When she meets grinning, conceited Larry O'Brien (played by Douglas Fairbanks Jr.), he is immediately in love and uses a bunch of tricks and schemes in an attempt to win her for himself. She seems to dislike him (but, of course, in the way of most movies from then to now, she secretly *really* likes him). There is some humor in this, mostly of the Three Stooges / slap-in-the-face variety, plus some funny scenes with Claud Allister as Larry's gay sidekick Archie. Loretta Young really has little to do in this film other than look gorgeous in beautiful gowns and dangling earrings. Boris Karloff also has little to do in this film other than slink in and out of the room as butler. The actor who plays her father acts in a sort of bugged-out eyes style, but I guess it's supposed to be funny. Douglas Fairbanks Jr. tries to be charming, but he comes across to me as not particularly interesting - he's just sort of there. Okay film, but nothing great - a middle-range time filler, mainly for fans of Loretta Young. ( 5/10 stars )
This evening I watched The Naughty Flirt (1931) - Throwing a party in honor of her annual expulsion from finishing school, perky, well-to-do blonde Kay (played by Alice White) dances, plays the ukulele, bats her eyelashes, and gets thrown in the paddy wagon along with her circle of wild chums. And that's just the start of this story! While at court she meets handsome young lawyer Alan Ward (Paul Page), who by coincidence works for her daddy's law firm. She falls for him big-time, then pursues him like crazy - but no go from his side, though he seemed to like her from the get-go, I guess she's too much of a flirt for our serious young law man. But as one friend says of her "When Kay Elliott starts after a man - she never misses!". So - seducing him after she tries to snag him via the "Cinderella Dance" (girls throw in one shoe on the dance floor, guys pile on top of each other to attempt to find the shoe for their fave gal and get her for "dancing and dinner" later) it seems to be working. But man crazy Kay is currently engaged, by her own count, to "six or seven men"; Alan tired of her flirtations puts her over his knee and gives her a spanking (yeah, you read that right). She decides to change her ways and comes to work as his secretary. Okey-dokey. Meanwhile, Two chums, a brother and sister duo (the sister, quite well played by a very slim Myrna Loy), make plans to break up Kay and Alan for their own greed - to get Kay (and her $5,000,000) for the brother. This is a lively romp of a film mostly good because of Alice White who gives an engaging, fun-to-watch performance. She is more cute, with her spit curls, big eyes, and pouty mouth, than a good actress but her acting does run circles around that of her co-star, Paul Page, NOT much of an actor, I must say. I am a fan of Myrna Loy, but this film is *completely* stolen by Alice White. Really enjoyable, light fun - a very entertaining film. ( 7/10 stars )

March 17, 2006 - On this cloudy morning watched Junebug (2005), real slice-of-life tale about this slick Chicago newlywed couple who travel to North Carolina so the wife Madeleine, owner of a gallery, can pursue the contract of a rural folk artist who paints interesting, but mainly bloody, sexual, weird scenes of Civil War battles. But by coincidence, hubby's family lives nearby - so they stay with them - mom, quiet dad who likes to carve wood in the basement, plus usually scowling, broody younger brother and his pregnant wife (who wants to name her baby "Junebug" and acts more like a teenage girl than a married woman) and who, by all appearances, seem like they got married too young. This family seems pretty dysfunctional, but so does the yuppie couple when it all comes down to it. Really, watching this film, it just seems like these people are - well, people. Weird in their way, yet normal too. This movie really seems real. I like the way certain scenes are photographed in this - the camera moving through the rooms of the hushed, empty house, or showing the quiet, green street where they live. Yes, I did quite like this film a lot, the performance of Oscar nominated Amy Adams is especially good, and I also thought the actor portraying the younger brother particularly good as well. Really, all performances here quite excellent. ( 7/10 stars )

March 16, 2006 - This morning watched I Am a Thief (1934) on TCM. Well-done, fast-paced, slick, and fun mystery story about a pack of jewel thieves and assorted other characters aboard the Orient Express, all in hot pursuit of the famous "Karenina Diamonds". In Paris, the insurance companies are upset about the glut of jewel robberies happening in the city lately, so put up for auction the exquisite Karenina diamond necklace in hopes of luring out the thieves from hiding. Dealer Ricardo Cortez bids and wins the diamonds and is soon traveling by train to Istanbul with many others chasing him and, more importantly, chasing the prized jewels including smartly-dressed Mary Astor, a lady of mystery. Most of this film takes place aboard the train, in state rooms and dining car, with plot twists and turns that reminds me of an early Hitchcock film. It also reminds me of an Agatha Christie style mystery story including gathering of all characters in the dining car for interrogation by smart police detective. This movie does not disappoint - with really excellent acting all-around and an interesting, suspenseful plot, this is really an excellent film. ( 8/10 stars )

March 15, 2006 - Good Night and Good Luck (2005) - Film about the early 50s broadcasts of Edward R. Murrow in his fight against Senator McCarthy and his kangaroo court hearings against communism. This film is very interesting, with excellent lighting and black and white photography, the set decoration of the CBS offices combined with the extremely realistic costuming of the actors really, really made it seem like the 50s. Excellent portrayal of Edward R. Murrow done by actor David Strathairn, Oscar nominated for this role. ( 8/10 stars )

March 13, 2006 - This evening, Green Mansions (1959) - Pretty weird story about a man and his developing love story with a strange nymph-like girl in a densely forested and canopy darkened South American jungle. Anthony Perkins plays the young man, in search for revenge and GOLD he heads by canoe into the jungle, abounding with snakes, leopards, and even worse - headhunters. Befriending (well, kind of anyway) one tribe he soon sets into a nearby forest, lush with ferns and fawns and waterfalls and loads of unusual birds, where he meets the beautiful and mysterious Rima (played by Audrey Hepburn) who rescues him after he is bitten by a snake. Rima is a strange little thing indeed, her slim self darting amongst the trees and greenery, she tends to the wild creatures and lives with a gruff old man, her grandfather. But Rima longs to know the truth of herself and where she comes from - Grandfather won't tell. Hmmm. This film is an unusual one indeed, but with beautiful, interesting and colorful scenery, a sweeping orchestral score, and my favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn, who looks especially lovely here - well, it's actually pretty good and held by interest in spite of the possibly less than ZERO chemistry between leading man and lady (it is really pretty hard to believe that this is a couple in love, when they kiss - um, talk about a lack of passion). ( 7/10 stars )

March 10, 2006 - The Age of Consent (1932) - Oh, the problems of modern youth. At State College, while most of the young men are more interested in "free love" than marriage, handsome Michael aka "Mike" (Richard Cromwell, an exact cross between Leonardo DiCaprio and Jude Law) is full of old-fashioned ideals and he loves to get advice and talk things over with his favorite "Prof", a real sort of mentor to our young heartthrob. Meanwhile, Mike's girl Betty seems to like to flirt around, mainly with a hotshot named Duke who has a snazzy new car. As Betty chirps "I'm not my Grandmother - I like to have FUN - I'm modern!". Well - Mike and Betty really *are* in love, so he gives her his fraternity pin and proposes quitting college so they can be married. But Mike is full of "frustration" it seems and When Betty says they should wait until they graduate before they marry (two whole years!), Mike turns to flirtatious Dora, waitress at the local diner/college hangout, who he ends up getting drunk and spending the night with. Problems ensue for Mike as Dora's angry father walks in on them, then pushes marriage or prison onto poor, poor Mike (seems our little waitress was underage). This film, at first glance, seems like it is going to be a light piece of college romantic fluff, with all the college kids drooling over each other and the guys trying to convince the girls to "drop some of their morals". Instead it takes a turn toward the quite serious, and with an emotional wallop, really comes off to be quite an excellent film. There is a lot of discussion in this film about "what's right, what's wrong" and other morality issues, and most of the performances are pretty top-notch here, I thought Arline Judge especially good as waitress Dora. ( 7/10 stars )

March 9, 2006 - This morning I watched Spring Madness (1938) - Very silly story about serious Harvard man, Sam (Lew Ayres), all set to go on a two year trip to Russia to study the economy and write a book on the youth movement. One problem though - his girlfriend Alex (Maureen O'Sullivan), student at a nearby girl's college, doesn't know he is going. Alex and her slang-talking gal pals at college seem to care about one thing and one thing only - the spring dance. Alex is determined to get her man to that dance, but he actually has plans, along with his chum "The Lippencott" (well played by Burgess Meredith), to leave college before graduation and get on that ship to Russia - and he'll be leaving just *before* the dance. Dear oh dear. The plot of this film really just had nothing to hold my interest and most of the actors seem a bit long in the tooth to be realistic as college students. The only thing that saves this movie at all is some of the acting, especially by the some of the character actors, which is pretty well-done. I like Joyce Compton as Sally, man crazy blonde who only comes to college for the weekend dances, and Sterling Holloway as a Yale man, who seems to mainly hang about in the girl's college dorm lobby. And, well, Lew Ayres does look kind of cute in his polka dot pajamas in one scene. All in all, though, this movie is really just plain dumb. ( 4 to 5/10 stars )

March 8, 2006 - This A.M. watched Desert Nights (1929), John Gilbert's last silent film. In it he plays Hugh Rand, manager at the Crown Diamond Mines in Africa - - he hasn't been near a woman in three years. When a Lord and his daughter, Lady Diana (played by Mary Nolan), are to visit the Mines as a first stop before a hunting trip, Rand expects a bow-legged, cross-eyed "old maid". But surprise! - Diana is a beauty and soon sparks are flying between the two as they can't stop gazing at each other across the dinner table and share a lovely waltz together as daddy accompanies them on piano. Soon another surprise though - Lord and Lady are actually impostors and crooks. They steal a sack of diamonds and set off across the blazing hot desert with Rand as their hostage. When their African escorts leave them in the lurch, the thieves must turn to their hostage to help them out of the desert and soon they find out there is something of more value to them than diamonds - water! With glistening sun and black shadows, this film is expertly photographed. John Gilbert comes across as a handsome charmer, and his co-star, beautiful Mary Nolan, handles her role nicely. The film includes a pleasing orchestral score that really suits this story well. I found this film to be quite a good one. ( 8/10 stars )

March 7, 2006 - Made on Broadway (1933) - Smart, quick-tongued press agent Jeff Bidwell (played by Robert Montgomery) rescues out-of-work waitress, Minnie Martin (Sally Eilers), when she tries to kill herself by jumping into the river. He decides to use his skills to transform her from working class gal to swan and within a few months Minnie has become "Mona Martine", well-mannered, perfectly coiffed, satin gowned, and acting in the Follies. The plot takes a quick turn when Mona shoots Ramon, her handsome dance instructor, one night and Jeff again helps her by using his expert abilities at stringing together lies to cover the truth, and she uses her "skills" at acting to try to sway the jury her way during the trial. All the while, Jeff likes to have chit-chats with his ex-wife, who at first glance *seems* more interested in advances on her alimony than the goings on of her ex. This film is quite fast-paced and entertaining, with a few pre-code type lines thrown in which adds to the fun. The plot, in a way, reminds me of "My Fair Lady" in that he has her taking voice lessons, gives her a beauty makeover, and the like to change her (though even as Mona, she is certainly never a "lady"), which is all kind of brushed over quickly, but certainly there are similarities there. Our Gang Alert: Watch for Zeffie Tilbury (Our Gang's "Second Childhood") as one of the older ladies Jeff hires to pose as Mona's "aunts" during her trial. ( 7/10 stars )

March 3, 2006 - Watched The First Hundred Years (1938) - Quite improbable stage-style drama about a very happily married couple who separate over - well, the wife just won't give up her successful career as a theatrical agent to move to New Bedford with hubby for his new $15,000 a year job at the shipyards designing yachts. David (Robert Montgomery) is just SO tired of being a "kept man" by his wife Lynn (Virginia Bruce), all he wants is to take care of HER for a change. She won't budge, so two lawyers are hired, David moves into the yacht club, and the separation begins. It all seems so silly really. I mean, even now a couple wouldn't likely get themselves into a situation like this - you would think compromise between the couple and trying to work something out would be the way a happy couple would go - hmmm. The ultra quick split this couple makes is resolved eventually the old-fashioned way - Lynn is going to have a baby, so is perfectly happy to quit her job suddenly. Ah well. Pretty darn dumb. I did enjoy a couple of the character actor roles, Warren William as head of the theatrical agency, and Harry Davenport very enjoyable to see as her daffy, aging old Uncle Dawson, visiting the "happy couple" on his way for a trip around the world. ( 5/10 stars )
Next up, March of the Penguins (2005) - Documentary about Emperor Penguins and their annual 70-mile march from the sea to the breeding grounds in icy Antarctica. We see in AMAZING close-up camerawork the march, the finding of a mate for each bird, the keeping of the egg under the papa's belly while mama goes to sea to bring food, the hatching of the eggs, and the raising of the chicks - all through extremely harsh, cold weather conditions, blizzards, winds, ice, and the like. This documentary is awesome! So interesting - and I must say - those baby penguins are pretty much the cutest thing I have ever seen in my life! With excellent narration by Morgan Freeman, I really highly recommend this film. ( 10/10 stars )

March 2, 2006 - Pride and Prejudice (2005) - Newest version of the classic novel by Jane Austen, I have seen many filmed versions of this story (some *many* repeated viewings) and have read the book more than once too. This film is particularly beautifully photographed - golden light on the beautiful English countryside scenery and lighting the walls of the very countryfied (in this version) home of the Bennet family - peeling paint and much more shabby furnishings than usually seen when they film this (hey, most times I wonder why this family is considered so poor when they always live in a huge estate only a little less lavish than Pemberley). Anyway, the classic story of the five Bennet sisters, this version mainly revolving around just the story of Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bennet (Keira Knightley) and her dislike, then romance with the ever so handsome and rich (10,000 a year!) Mr. Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen - ooh la la). I am still high from this beautifully done version of this story, just having seen it - one of my favorite stories out of all novels. The casting in this version was PERFECT - as Jane, the eldest sister, is meant to be the most beautiful I was wondering how they would cast a woman more beautiful than Keira Knightley in this part - they did. The actress playing Jane is probably the best casting I have seen for that character (though she isn't given much to do in this version) - lovely and appropriately shy and sweet as the character calls for. Jena Malone is well-cast as Lydia, but again given little to do here. This is the main flaw in this film - it should have been at least an hour longer. I would have liked to see more of the side stories - Lizzie's little infatuation with Wickham, the story of Mr. Collins and Charlotte, Lydia and Kitty and their chase after officers, the romance of Jane and Bingley, Miss Bingley and her chase after Mr. Darcy, etc. - flushed out more. As it is, these stories are pretty brushed over with the concentration mostly on Lizzie's story. Even Lizzie and Mr. Darcy's story felt a bit rushed - I didn't see as much of the growing passion he has for her in the earlier parts of the story - or the ever growing dislike Lizzie has for him in those early scenes. Still though, I loved this. It includes a lovely orchestral score, by the way, and I LOVE the long tracking shots done in single takes through the crowds of people and dancers in the ballroom scenes, around corners, each actor going in and out of the scene right on cue - fantastic! ( 10/10 stars )

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