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

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I Love Silents - Silent Movies

2005 BLOG Archive - Summer Season (June, July, August 2005). My personal movie watching diary. NOTE: there may be spoilers for some entries.

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

August 30, 2005 - Saw Spies (1928) - Silent spy film directed by Fritz Lang that features just about every spy movie cliche you can think of - secret headquarters, stolen documents, disappearing ink, buttoned gadgets including futuristic device that prints messages on a small screen on the wall, mysterious Asians, opium dens, cyanide tablets, and a beautiful Russian female spy who falls in love with a young man from the other side, Secret Service agent no. 326. It's all about the Secret Service versus the "Enemy" - Haghi, dressed in black, goatee, blanket covering his legs, wheelchair-bound, and usually accompanied by a stern-looking nurse. Haghi runs his own camp of spies, the Secret Service are trying to find out just WHO he is. This film is beautifully lit and photographed with some very interesting looking scenes. I like the weird nightclub they go to, featuring a boxing ring with fights going - right in the middle of the dance floor! I would have liked this better if it had been maybe a half hour shorter - it just went on a wee bit long. The DVD from Kino has a gorgeous looking black and white print - completely clear with loads of contrast. It includes an excellent music score by Donald Sosin - I especially like the main theme that plays when Haghi appears on-screen, this theme runs quite a bit throughout the film (it's the music that plays when the DVD menu is displayed). There is a really good scene, beautifully photographed, where the young couple are having tea as they begin to fall in love. As she shows him her display of Russian religious icons, the background music includes a really nice theme with a hint of a Russian sound to it (balalaika music?) that I really enjoyed. A spy film is not really one of my favorite genres, so really, I did find this to be quite a good film and quite a bit of fun. (3.5 stars)

Auugst 29, 2005 - This A.M., watched Two Against the World (1932) - Dell Hamilton (Constance Bennett), spoiled daughter of a millionaire businessman, meets David Norton (Neil Hamilton) in the elevator (oh so briefly) and he ends up being the young lawyer hired to try and get $10,000 out of the Hamilton family for a poor family whose father was killed while working on one of the "Hamilton properties". The Hamilton's think Norton is not from their social set, but rather just a poor young lawyer with a cause - but Dell doesn't care as she immediately hooks up with Norton and goes with him to his fave slophouse diner "The Coffee Cup" where they chow down on beans with ketchup, the house specialty. She invites Norton to a big party at her house, where he meets up with a wealthy socialite who remembers him as a boy. Surprise to the stuck-up Hamilton's - seems he comes from a wealthy family too. Dell and Norton keep seeing each other, meanwhile the plot takes a turn when Dell's married sister, having an affair with a rich cad named Vic, leaves her powder case on the pillow at Vic's apartment. When Dell's brother finds the case he assumes it's Dell's, that Vic is having an affair with Dell, and to defend her honor seeks to murder Vic. On with a court trial that ends absurdly (and the plot NEVER returns to the original story about the poor family!). Anyway, this is really quite a good film - I enjoyed it a lot, much better than expected. Constance Bennett and Neil Hamilton have a nice pitter-pat together, making their scenes with each other especially good. (3.75 stars)
Later today watched The Day After Tomorrow (2004) - Global warming leading to polar melting has suddenly caused EXTREME weather conditions in the northern hemisphere including hail storms with HUGE chunks of ice falling and hitting people, New York City flooded by tidal waves, and Los Angeles hit by a bunch of freak giant tornadoes that rip up the Hollywood sign, tear apart the downtown buildings, and attack the Capitol Records building (yes, just like in the 70s film Earthquake - heh). Scientist Hall (Dennis Quaid) predicts (correctly so) that in six to eight weeks a new ice age will hit the planet - and advises evacuation to the Southern parts of the globe. But the dopey Vice President won't listen, so by the time the evacuations actually start it's too late for most living in northern cities. Meanwhile Hall's son Sam becomes trapped in the New York City library along with a couple of his fellow Scholastic Decathelon teammates. Hall tells him via telephone to stay put as the worst of the storm is yet to hit and anyone who goes outside will instantly freeze to death. In a move that defies reason, Hall sets out, along with a couple of scientist buddies, to reach Manhattan and "rescue" his son. Hmmm - shouldn't he freeze immediately once he gets outside? And why can't he just wait for the storms to pass (as he, being the scientist, seems to know will happen) then seek out to connect with his son - after all, the son's not six - he's an almost grown-up young man, who is bright to boot. Just makes no sense to me. Ah well. Just must accept. Anyway, this film is not going to win any prizes for it's greatness, but it did pretty much keep me on the edge of my seat and entertained for two hours. What more could I really ask from a special effects-laden disaster film?! This film has a lot in common with the disaster films of the Seventies like Poseiden Adventure, even has some similar scenes like crowd of dummies being led to their doom by a well-meaning hero, while only our featured players and a few believers stay put in the library building as Sam relates papa SAID to do. And I might mention, the special effects in this a really well done. (3.75 stars)
Tonight Merrily We Live (1938) - Screwball comedy about a slightly eccentric family including two daughters, played by Constance Bennett and Bonita Granville, and a dizzy mamma (Billy Burke) who hires tramps as the family butler (there is also a nondescript son and grumpy old man papa as part of this family, plus Patsy Kelly as a maid). When Brian Aherne arrives at the door, all grubby-looking after his car breaks down, he is immediately assumed to be a bum and hired on the spot as new butler. Soon all the females fall for this handsome speciman. The film is sort of a combination "You Can't Take It With You" and "My Man Godfrey". Kept me amused. (3.25 stars)

August 26, 2005 - Two Weeks Notice (2002) - In which clumsy, dizzy, always getting from place to place in a quick shuffle run, binge-eating, lawyer-for-a-cause Lucy Kelson (Sandra Bullock) meets wealthy, smooth-talking, always on, ladies man George Wade, head of the evil Wade Corporation, over a clash between her and his company to save a Coney Island community center/historic building from the wrecking ball. George, currently on the lookout for a new company lawyer (he only hires female lawyers) immediately hires Lucy, and she, oddly, accepts. Now we get a quick-paced trip over the next year where the two seem to have developed a pretty tight bond (purely plutonic) and actually seem to click (purely platonic) - yet Lucy is dissatisfied 'cause she mostly spends her time picking his ties, getting his coffee, telling him how to dress, and helping him with his divorces - he has become totally dependent on her opinion. So she gives him her two week notice, then tries to help him find a replacement - ending up finding this young, red-headed female lawyer, just out of Harvard, who flirts with George and causes loads of jealousy. And blah, blah, blah. This movie just didn't catch me. I didn't think there was ANY romantic chemistry between the two leads, and found the whole thing just a bit boring. I watched this as I really like both Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant, but this one just left me cold. Not a bad film, just dull and boy what a waste of Hugh Grant - where's that charm boy I'm used to seeing?! (2.5 stars)

August 25, 2005 - Her Cardboard Lover (1942), directed by George Cukor. Robert Taylor as Terry Trindale, song writer staying at a hotel/casino trying to write some new ballads, but stuck 'cause he's stuck on a woman at the casino he admires from afar named Consuelo Croyden (Norma Shearer, in her last film role). Like a shy, lovestruck schoolboy he is unable to speak to her (and Robert Taylor does a great job playing the bashful boy - how darling he is!) - 'til one day he gets up his nerve, blirting out "I love you" first thing he says to her (followed by constant chatter - the shy-bit is over suddenly, it seems). She, of course, doesn't like him - but when her former fiance, Tony (George Sanders), a real cad whom she is trying to escape though is still in love with, shows up at the hotel - she hires Terry to pose as her lover and new fiance so that she won't go back to him. The rest of the film just goes on and on and on with Conseulo trying to get out of her room and get back with Tony, and Terry doing everything it takes to keep her prisoner including slapping her, kissing her, putting on her pajamas and pretending he is "sleeping over" in her room when Tony arrives, threatening to jump off the balcony if she leaves to meet Tony, and getting in a fist fight with Tony in the hotel basement - nothing seems to quench her love for that creep. This plotline just goes on too much - I was getting very bored with it. The silent version of this story starring Marion Davies is a much, much better film. The only thing that saved this one at all for me was the fact that two of my favorite stars, Taylor and Shearer, are featured. (2.75 stars)

August 24, 2005 - This A.M., watched the silent romantic comedy The Primitive Lover (1922). Phyllis (Constance Talmadge), bored with her marriage to handsome Hector (Harrison Ford), fantasizes (as she reads the novel "The Divine Sacrifice" imagining herself the heroine) about the two of them on a raft at sea, and with only enough food and water for two, the third man on the raft sacrifices himself for them. Well, it seems the book she is reading was actually written by her former lover, Donald Wales, who died in the South American jungle after writing the book. Surprise! Newspaper headlines - "Donald Wales Found Alive" - seems he was only pulling a publicity stunt to promote his book. He returns home to her to find she has married his best friend Hector, who Wales claims KNEW about the publicity stunt. Hector agrees to give her a divorce, she moves to Nevada, but doesn't actually WANT the divorce - just goes through with it 'cause she thinks Hector wants it. Ya know - the same old movie miscommunication going on here, where a woman/man decides to marry the wrong person just 'cause they think the one they really love isn't interested. Anyway, Hector follows her to Nevada, meets up with an Indian, and overhears Wales brag that he would love to bring Phyllis to live in the wilderness (as written about in his other book "The Primitive Lover") and show her what love REALLY is. So Hector gets his new Indian friend to help him get Phyllis back, and the next thing you know has Phyllis and Wales forced to live (by gunpoint) in this cabin in the wilderness, while he is in the cabin next door having the Indian secretly doing the cooking, hunting, making fire, etc. to make it look like he's the REAL "primitive lover" and not Wales. This film is quite amusing, especially in the earlier parts (I laughed out loud several times) - it slows a bit for me near the end, but still quite good. Harrison Ford is just so handsome, adorable - with such a nice smile. Swoon - my newest silent crush. The DVD I saw for this is from Unknown Video and features a quite nice looking black and white print, as well as appropriate organ score by Bob Vaughn. The DVD includes the comedy short Splash Yourself (1927) - About a man (Bobby Vernon), arrived just off the boat from Sweden, who becomes a plumber and messes up the basement pipes in this house where a spiritualist is currently faking out a group of rich suckers upstairs. Of course, water squirts all over the house from every which way - well, I'm sure we've all seen THAT gag before! This short didn't really catch me. (3.5 stars for "The Primitive Lover", 2 stars for "Splash Yourself")

August 23, 2005 - Watched a silent double feature this morning - first up, The Wicked Darling (1919), directed by Tod Browning. Mary "the Gutter Rose" Stevens (Priscilla Dean) lives in the slums, and along with her pickpocket pal, "Stoop" Connors (Lon Chaney), sets out to rob the goods from a snazzy house party where she snatches a pearl necklace that falls off the neck of one Adele Hoyt (Gertrude Astor), who has just given her fiance, Kent Mortimer, the axe 'cause he's lost all his money. Mary hides out in Kent's house, but he finds her and 'cause he's such a good guy (I guess) and believes Mary when she says she DIDN'T steal the necklace - um, she suddenly turns "good girl" and gets a real job as a waitress in a somewhat downscale diner. Kent, now poor, one day comes in for dinner where Mary is his server (and apparently still somewhat the "Gutter Rose" as she is completely happy to serve a patron food that has dropped on the floor) and when she recognizes him (and takes back the "dropped" steak) meets up with him after work. Soon they are a couple about town and Mary falls in love - but still, unknown to Kent, has the pearl necklace hidden in a flower vase. Kent "can't tolerate a thief", and thinks Mary is wonderful. Oh, what can she do? If she tells him about the necklace - he'll know she really did steal it?! Meantime, bad Stoop keeps coming around to get his girl back and more importantly, the necklace. This film is pretty enjoyable. The DVD, from Image Entertainment, features a tinted print that has a good deal of contrast in the image, though the print contains quite a lot of blotching and deterioration, plus a small amount of footage missing here and there. Plus, it seemed like (though maybe I'm wrong on this) that a few of the intertitles here and there were placed a few frames off, so it seemed like someone else was saying the line, or the intertitle came up first - then you see the character talking (which didn't seem right to me). The orchestral score is comprised of music of the era and matches nicely to the film. (3.5 stars)
Next up, Victory (1919), directed by Maurice Tourneur. Heyst (Jack Holt), a man living in solitude with only his houseboy (and a cat) on the isolated island of Samburan, in the Dutch East Indies, seeks only to read the library of philsophical books written by his father and live alone, escaping life. One day, while visiting the islands (to finalize business and "cut the last links" so he can return to becoming a COMPLETE recluse) he meets a pretty girl, Agnes (Seena Owen), who plays the first violin in a ladies orchestra run my an old meanie who hates and pinches Agnes "the hussy". The hotel where the orchestra plays is run by Schomberg (Wallace Beery), a man who is married, but secretly chases after beautiful Agnes - he also seems to have a grudge against Heyst. Agnes, trying to escape her lot in life, asks Heyst to bring her back to the island with him. Feeling sorry for her, he agrees, and the two travel to the island together on a native junk - but Schomberg finds out and seeks revenge. His revenge comes in the form of three bad men who arrive at his hotel, Mr. Jones, Ricardo (Lon Chaney), and Pedro. He tells the men that Heyst has a stash of stolen wealth on his island, so the men set out for the island to steal the goods. When they arrive, Heyst is immediately suspicious of them, meanwhile Ricardo does his best to rape Agnes, though doesn't succeed, but he's impressed by the fact that he's "never seen a woman put up such a fight" and falls for Agnes. The film is very enjoyable and nicely photographed. It is on the same Image Entertainment DVD as "The Wicked Darling" and features a beautifully tinted print in shades of lavender, crimson red, green, blue, and sepia. The orchestral score is good and matches nicely to the film. (3.75 stars)
Later today watched Zouzou (1934) - French language film with subtitles - Ten year olds, Miss Zou Zou and Mr. Jean, perform in a circus sideshow, billed as twins - one black, one white. Raised as brother and sister, soon they grow-up - Jean (Jean Gabin), just back from serving at sea, Zou Zou (Josephine Baker), and the papa who raised them leave for Paris, where papa has a new job in a music hall. Jean gets a job as an electrician in the music hall and Zou Zou takes a job doing ironing and delivery at a local laundry. Soon Jean meets and falls for Claire, Zou Zou's coworker and friend. But wait, the glitch is, Zou Zou (even though he's like a brother) is in love with Jean! When Jean is falsely arrested for murder, Zou Zou takes a job as a singer in the show to raise money for his defense. The last part of the film features an enjoyable musical finale, done Busby Berkeley style, but with looser looking girls in very skimpy outfits, a GIANT bed, and Zou Zou singing dressed in feathers (very strategically placed) in this giant bird cage, not to mention the girls fluttering around in this stream of cascading water. The film is fairly good, though dragged a bit in the middle. It includes a few shots of girls with see-through dresses and breasts showing, though Josephine Baker herself doesn't show nearly what she does in the silent "Siren of the Tropics". I find Josephine Baker to have a good voice for talkies (very nice singing voice too) and interesting, child-like personality - very likeable actually. (3 stars)

August 22, 2005 - Take Care of My Cat (2001) - Subtitled Korean film about five best girlfriends from school, newly graduated, who are now trying to find their way out in the real world. One girl takes a job in a Seoul office and loves using her wages to buy new clothes and laser eye surgery, one works for her father for NO wages in his "heated brick" spa (whatever that is), one wants to be a textile designer but is very poor (no money for schooling) and lives with her grandparents in a deteriorated shack-like house with a ceiling close to collapsing, and the other two are identical twins who sell their homemade jewelry on street corners (and aren't featured in the film very much!). As they begin to grow apart, the girls decide to get together once a month to keep the relationship going - and when they get together, it's all fun, giggles, and spin the bottle drinking games. These girls seem a lot more fun as a group then they do individually! They are all trying to be grown-up but still often regress into teenage silliness - constantly on cell phones, arcade dancing, and a rooftop game involving a mirror, knife, the moon, and finding out who each's "future husband" will be (as reflected in the mirror). Oh yes, there's a cat, incidently, who is passed through the movie from girl to girl. Very good - I enjoyed this one a lot. The characters are well played out in this, and I found their stories very interesting - they actually seemed like REAL girls (as opposed to the usual Hollywood movie "mean girls", etc.). (3.75 stars)

August 20, 2005 - Watched the Frank Capra directed film You Can't Take it With You (1938) - Oscar Best Picture winner about a young man, Bill Kirby (Jimmy Stewart) engaged to be married to the stenographer at his father's company, Alice (Jean Arthur) - but the glitch is they come from two VERY different families. His father is a double-dealing businessman first, a banker, and stuffed shirt and the mom is no better. Alice's is a family of complete eccentrics, out for fun and "doing what you want", including the grandfather (Lionel Barrymore), the mom (Spring Byington) who writes plays just 'cause a typewriter was accidently delivered to their house one day, the toe-dancing/candy making sister (Ann Miller), a man who lives in their house and was once their ice man but now creates fireworks in the basement along with the father, new man Poppins (Donald Meek) invited by Grandpa to live with them (he makes masks and assorted nonsense items), and an assortment of animals including a crow. Bill and Alice try to get the families acquainted and in an odd move on Bill's part, he brings his parents for dinner purposely on the wrong night just so they can see Alice's family as they REALLY are. By an odd coincidence, Bill's father is also trying to buy their house so he can dominate all twelve blocks around some factory and take it over. I LOVE this movie, it's loads of fun - and Jimmy Stewart is one of my long-time very favorite actors. (4 stars)

August 18, 2005 - This morning watched three films shown as part of Irene Dunne day on TCM. First up, Bachelor Apartment (1931) - Park Avenue bachelor, Wayne Carter (Lowell Sherman), a playboy who goes on "hunting" expeditions on the streets of New York for women, and keeps a collection of see-through negligees and jewelry left behind by his female "guests". He meets two sisters at his apartment one day - one in the process of being seduced by Carter's prissy butler Rollins (who is pretending the Park Avneue apartment is his) - the other, trying to locate her sister, is Helene (Irene Dunne) who Carter soon hires as his new secretary. She's a good girl so there's really nowhere to go with her for him - until he starts to reform his playboy ways and begins to fall for her. Meanwhile, in some amusing scenes, one of his old flames - a married woman named Mrs. Carraway (Mae Murray) who just WON'T leave him alone - keeps popping up at his apartment strutting around in barely-there nighties and causing trouble for him. Not too bad - though I find Lowell Sherman terrifically unappealing. (3 stars)
Next up, No Other Woman (1933) - Melodrama starring Irene Dunne as Anna Stanley, mill town girl who marries big ape Jim Carter (Charles Bickford), steel mill worker and braggart. She desperately wants to get out of her humdrum existence so, to save money, turns their cookie-cutter house (with view out window of smoke-stacked steel mill) into a boarding house, against hubby's wishes. Meanwhile, Anna has a friend named Joe (Eric Linden), a young chemist who has invented a way to make permanent dye from steel mill waste products. Anna and Jim invest their savings and start up a dye works company with Joe - soon all become millionaires. Marital troubles ensue as this story takes a plot turn that is very similar to one I saw a few days ago, in the silent film "Battle of the Sexes", where a gold digger blonde (complete with caddish, latin boyfriend on the side) seeks to wreck Jim's marriage so she can have him (and his money!) for herself. Yeah, quite a good film. (3.5 stars)
Third film this morning I saw was This Man is Mine (1934) - Filmed stage play all set in one or two rooms and featuring a cast of four men and four women who play couples who love to hang out in gowns and tuxes, drink, play bridge - and, well, cheat on each other. Married couple, Toni (Irene Dunne) and Jim's (Ralph Bellamy) marriage is upset by the arrival in town of Fran (Constance Cummings), Jim's ex-wife who ran off with another man causing their divorce. Now, again divorced and on the loose, Fran sets out to get her old husband Jim back which she accomplishes PRETTY DARN easily. But Toni, oddly enough, is willing to fight for the creep. Hmmmm. The couple appears bored with marriage in the first scene, but then act like they like each other until the arrival of the vixen. Ah, well. Okay film, but a wee bit talkie and boring. (2.75 stars)

August 15, 2005 - Finding Neverland (2004) - Period story set in 1903/1904 based on the true story of writer J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) and his relationship with a widowed mother, Sylvia (Kate Winslet) and her four boys. "Uncle Jim", married man, visits the family each day and enacts wild fantasies with the boys all leading to the writing of his most famous play "Peter Pan". Meanwhile his marriage seems to be headed towards null and void. I loved this movie - terrific. Plus the film has excellent art direction, costumes, and a very nice musical score. And might I add, what a doll that Johnny Depp is - swoon-time. (4 stars)
Later today watched The Battle of the Sexes (1928) - D.W. Griffith directed silent film about Marie (Phyllis Haver), blondie gold digger, who spots her next mark in the beauty parlor/barbershop - middle-aged, pudgy businessman Mr. Judson (Jean Hersholt) who makes a quarter million dollars a deal. He leads a merry life with his wife, and twentyish daughter and son - all seen happily opening presents on "Mumsy's" birthday (including expensive diamond bracelet from "Daddy"). Soon their happy little foursome is disrupted by Marie, who takes an apartment in their swanky building, along with her caddish, handsome latin boyfriend Babe (Don Alvarado - um, swoon) and soon has hooked and seduced Judson into cavorting with her nightly while the family thinks he's doing that old cliche "working late". Next thing you know Judson is on the old exercise belt and wearing a girdle so his new flame will like him. He takes her out to a new nightclub, sweats like a pig as he dances up a storm with her - and gets CAUGHT by Mumsy and kids as they happen to go out to the same club that night. Is divorce in the stars for Mumsy and Daddy - what do you think?! Nice looking black and white print on this DVD from Image Entertainment, along with an excellent, perky music score by the Mont Alto Orchestra that really helps move this along. Enjoyable film. (3.5 stars)
Next in my silent double bill for today - Jack Pickford as Tom Sawyer (1917). Spunky Tom loves to fight, eat watermelon, hang out with the dirtiest, missing-toothed, raggedy-clothed Huckleberry Finn ever put on film, and flirt with new girl Becky Thatcher. I love Jack Pickford's portrayal of Tom Sawyer - and, well, I do have a sort of crush on him. Nice outdoor scenes and a feeling of the "old days" gives this film a special boost in my book. The DVD I have of this is from Unknown Video and also includes the film "Little Mary Sunshine". The print quality is not super great, the organ score by Bob Vaughn is pretty good (better than the music by Maria Newman that I have heard for this same movie). (3.25 stars)
Tonight watched Swing Time (1936) - Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musical with that same familiar plot that all their movies have - boy meets girl, girl hates boy, boy dances with then gets girl. This one was slightly different in that (instead of her hating him for the majority of the movie until they finally dance together and she falls for him) they dance together fairly near the beginning, she falls for him, then he tries to brush HER off 'cause he is engaged to be married (and LOYAL it seems). Then there's that same old familiar sidekick older male and female duo. Pretty good film - mainly for the terrific song and dance numbers like "A Fine Romance", "The Way You Look Tonight" and WOW "Bojangles of Harlem" number. (3 stars for the story, 4 stars for the musical numbers)

August 10, 2005 - A Very Long Engagement (2004) - French film with subtitles, about Mathilde (Audrey Tatou) who goes on a quest in 1920 to find the truth of whether her childhood sweetheart and fiance, Manech, one of five men condemned to death in WWI for sabotaging their own hand in an effort to get out of the war, is still alive. Beautiful young Mathilde, born on January 1st 1900, lame from a childhood bout with polio (which she sometimes uses to her advantage as she pretends she is wheelchair-bound to get information a few times), has a rather quirky personality - she is continually thinking things of this form: "If the dog comes through the door before I count to seven, Manech is still alive", stuff like that. The story follows her as she tries to piece together the clues to the mystery of what really happened to the five men. Beautifully photographed and excellent art direction and costumes give this film a nice quality. (4 stars)

August 9, 2005 - Watched the Roy Del Ruth directed pre-code film, Blonde Crazy (1931) - About Bert (James Cagney), cocky hotel bellhop in the "largest hotel in a small mid-west city", who hooks up with new blondie chambermaid Anne (Joan Blondell) and gets mixed up with larceny and con games. They move along from hotel to hotel in larger and larger cities, meet up with other con guys, and pull jobs Bert reads about in the scrapbook he keeps full of newspaper articles describing various rackets. Ray Milland has a very small part as a guy that Anne meets on the train and later marries. Anne spends most of her time slapping "Bertie" in the face, but actually kind of fancies the jerk. Full of wise-cracking blondes and lots of hooch, this film is really quite enjoyable. (3.25 stars)
Next watched The Bachelor Father (1931) - Crotchety, gout-ridden old Sir Basil (C. Aubrey Smith), I suppose rather lonely in his old age, decides to round up his three children, who he has fathered (all by different women) but never met, and have them come to live with him in his manor house in Surrey, England. Easy to locate via this ledger of the women he had to "pay off", soon they arrive. Ray Milland (given little to do in this film, actually) is the English son, then there's Maria - daughter of a Spanish Opera singer. Last there's Toni (Marion Davies), tap-dancin', a bit loud-mouthed, American girl who is actually not really his daughter - but doesn't know it yet. Sir Basil soon mellows and really enjoys having some new life in the house, especially becoming, of course, attached to Toni who calls him "Chief" but soon becomes very attached to him too. Silly, but quite enjoyable movie that got better as it went along. I always like Marion Davies, especially in silent films, but she is quite good in this too. At the beginning of the movie, when they reveal that Toni is NOT Sir Basil's daughter, I immediately thought: ah ha - I bet when she goes to England and meets the brother they fall in love, but have to suppress it because they are siblings - then later find out they are NOT really related, so can get married after all. Sounds like a plot I remember from One Life to Live. Oh well, NOTHING like that happens in this movie at all - Toni simply hooks up with the personal secretary guy (or whatever he was) - I think it would have been better with the brother angle. (3 stars)
Later today, watched the silent film Merry-Go-Round (1923) - In Vienna before the war, Count Franz Hohenegg (Norman Kerry), the last of his line, meets Agnes (Mary Philbin), the little organ grinder at the merry-go-round located in Vienna's version of Coney Island, the Prater, where the Count and his rich friends are having an excursion one day. He tells her that he works as a necktie salesman, for reasons that can only be because he is engaged to be married to Countess Gisella, who he does not love. The merry-go-round is owned and run by the meanest man in town, Huber, who does things like paw all over Agnes, step on her toe while forcing her to smile and operate the organ at the same time, treats his wife like crap including only allowing her a TINY slice of salami (and the rest for himself, greedy pig!), making Agnes (and her dad too, who runs the Punch and Judy show) work while her mom is on her deathbed a few minutes from death, and lots worse. Meanwhile, at the concession next to Huber's works Bartholomew (George Hackathorne), the hunchback, who loves Agnes. Well, the Count, under the wishes of the emperor, must go through with his marriage, and breaks the heart of little Agnes who DOES find out who he really is. Soon war breaks out, and off goes the Count (and the aging dad gets called too - odd) to the front. I LOVED this film - really super. The acting of Mary Philbin is perhaps a wee over the top, but I really did become totally engaged in this story - and, hey, I find that Bartholomew guy to be quite cute - I didn't think the idea of her possibly ending up with him to be a bad thing! Well, anyway. The Image Entertainment DVD of this features a fairly decent looking tinted print, a bit of scratching in some places. I really like the orchestral score done for this which was based on the original 1923 cue sheet. (4 stars)

August 8, 2005 - The Parent Trap (1998) - Remake of the Hayley Mills classic starring Lindsay Lohen in a double role as twins Hallie and Annie - separated as babies when their parents divorced - Hallie to live with her wealthy father, Nick, at his Napa Valley vineyard - Annie goes with mom to live in London, where mom has become a famous designer of wedding gowns. The girls have NO IDEA they have a twin sister - until - that fateful day when the girls meet at Camp Walden where, by a huge coincidence, both have been sent for the summer. Hating each other for looking alike, they are placed in the - whoa - "isolation cabin" (what a weird concept for a summer camp - seems more like prison camp, doesn't it?!) and soon they bond and discover they are related. Now they come up with a plan to switch places, each pretending to be the other twin and returning home to meet the parent they never met - plus, of course, they would LOVE to hook these two parents back up. This film is very close to the Hayley Mills version - lots of the same scenes and some of the same dialogue too. It is quite well done for being a remake - a very young Lindsay Lohen does a good job in the part too. Quite good. (3.5 stars)
This evening watched two films that were part of TCM's Shelley Winters day - first up, Alfie (1966) - Londoner Alfie (Michael Caine) likes to meet "birds", seduce them, then use them (mainly to clean his house, it seems like) or throw them out. He fathers a child with one bird, then says something like "a bird is a bird - you lose one, there's always another. But each child is unique". Hmmm, well that's pretty much Alfie's attitude when it comes to women. He's a real cad. (3.5 stars)
Later watched an old favorite, The Night of the Hunter (1955) - what a great movie. (4 stars)

August 2, 2005 - Early Italian silent film L'Inferno (1911) - The poet Dante is escorted through the pit of Hell by Virgil where he sees pretty much every kind of sinner you can think of being punished in a variety of ways - buried in ice, buried in pits of fire, turned into trees, bitten by serpents, poked by pitchforks held by winged demons, you name it. The film kind of goes on and on with this journey through "The Inferno", but is full of surreal images that are pretty neat - like the doomed souls being blown by the wind (and we see them sort of floating across the screen via early special effects). The special effects done in this are pretty interesting for the day - but the musical score on the DVD, done by German group Tangerine Dream, is - um - dreadful. You would think this sort of modern, surreal-like score would somewhat suit this very surreal film - and parts of it were, well, okay. But there is actual singing for some of the score - and hearing these vocals playing over the film is really quite annoying, distracting, and doesn't match what's going on. All in all, an interesting film to see for those interested in early film, though I can't say I would want to see this again with that music attached to it. (2.75 stars)
Tonight on TCM, watched The Roaring Twenties (1939) - Hard to go too wrong here with Humphrey Bogart AND James Cagney both starring in this story about three wartime pals and their journey through the Roaring Twenties and prohibition. Eddie (played by Cagney) - the good guy who goes bad, George (Bogart) - the bad guy who stays bad, and innocent, handsome youth Lloyd (Jeffrey Lynn) - the good guy who stays good. After WWI ends, Eddie, who used to work in a garage, can't get his old job back. Struggling along driving a taxicab, he ends up becoming a big bootlegger after he is mistakenly arrested for carrying a taxi passengers "goods" into this speakeasy. Meanwhile he meets his war days penpal, Jean (Priscilla Lane) who ends up being a schoolgirl despite the glamour girl shot she sent Eddie making her look much older. But a few years later he meets her again, now out of her school uniform and grown-up - she ends up singing in his joint and falling for Lloyd, now a young lawyer who is currently working for Eddie. Later Eddie and George join up to steal booze out from under other mob leaders - and the gang wars begin! Not too bad. (3.25 stars)

August 1, 2005 - This morning, last year's Oscar winner for best documentary, Born into Brothels (2004) - Excellent, moving documentary following eight children (five girls, three boys) who were born and live in the red light district of Calcutta, India where their mother's all work as prostitutes. The documentary-maker, photographer Zana Briski, has come to live in the district and befriends the kids when she starts giving them photography lessons. These kids turn out to be great photographers, shooting one great shot after another of life in the dirty streets of Calcutta, and even gain some success when their photos are displayed in galleries in other parts of the world. Soon, Zana tries to help these kids by attempting to get them away from the district (especially before the girls end up having to "join the line") and into boarding schools - a tough go, since no school wants to take the children of criminals. Brightly colored, interestingly photographed glimpse into this "other world", a world so different from my own - this film is totally interesting, totally absorbing. I would love to see a follow-up film in ten years to show us what happened with these rather endearing children. (4 stars)

July 29, 2005 - Light bit of silly fluff on TCM this afternoon, The Heavenly Body (1943) - Professor William "Bill" Whitley (William Powell), trying to make astronomical history with his discovery of a new comet, pays little attention to his beautiful, lonely wife Vicky (Hedy Lamarr) who actually doesn't know the difference between astronomy and astrology. Next thing you know, their butt-in neighbor lady (Spring Byington) actually sets up an appointment for Vicky to have her horoscope done by Mrs. Sybill (Fay Bainter), well-known lady astrologer. Soon Vicky is receiving personalized weekly astrological forecasts by mail, telling her EVERYTHING to do not limited to avoiding kissing her hubby on Tuesdays - and soon she is actually told to leave Bill for the stars have predicted she will meet the man of her destiny within the next two weeks who will become her second husband! Well, Vicky meets the handsome local air raid warden, Lloyd Hunter (James Craig), believes he is the predicted man, and is all ready to leave Bill for Lloyd. Oh brother! This film is not too bad, though a bit silly and predictable (not to mention kind of unfair to the poor Lloyd Hunter character - really just a pawn in this whole married couple's mess). I was quite amused by a scene involving a case of vodka and a bunch of dancing, drunken Russians. (3.25 stars)

July 27, 2005 - This A.M. watched Office Space (1999) - About Peter (Ron Livingston), guy who works in a typical office space boxed in in his horrible little cubicle amongst a sea of other cubicles, where he is working on fixing the two to four digit software millennium bug. He HATES his job! One day while having group therapy with his stuck-up "girlfriend" to try to fix up their relationship, the psychiatrist, while hypnotizing Peter to relax and enjoy his life, drops dead in the middle of the session. SUDDENLY, Peter completely changes his attitude - he skips his required weekend work, comes into work late on Monday wearing his "casual" clothes, gets up the sudden courage to ask out the cutsie waitress (Jennifer Aniston) he's had his eye on, and tells the "two Bobs" (consultants sent in to "interview" everyone so they can find who to lay off) that he only works "15 minutes" a week. Typically, the clueless two Bobs think Peter is "upper management material"! Quite an amusing film - strikes a little close to home for everyone I know who works in an office like that (the whole thing makes ME glad I don't work in an office like that anymore)! (3.5 stars)

July 26, 2005 - Garden State (2004) - L.A. actor Andrew (Zach Braff), whose main claim to fame is a part on a tv show where he played a retarded football player, returns to his small New Jersey hometown after the accidental bathtub drowning of his paraplegic mom. While back home he meets up with his old school chums pretty much everywhere he goes, parties with same said chums (a real bunch of pot-heads and coke-heads, actually), butts heads with his psychiatrist dad who has been keeping Andrew on medication since the age of sixteen, and starts up a romance with a quirky, gabby, pretty girl named Sam (Natalie Portman) who lies a whole lot and seems to love building elaborate hamster habitats. This is somewhat of a black comedy and started off a bit slow for me, but it soon took a turn of the romantic sort and actually ended up being not TOO bad a film, helped along by a very good soundtrack. (3 stars)

July 25, 2005 - Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) - Plot is basically this: twelve kids, a toad named Beans, who knows how many dogs (seems like one, but sometimes there's a whole bunch of them), and a very immature fifty-something father EQUALS complete chaos. Tom Baker (Steve Martin), high school football coach in the small town of Midland, Illinois takes on his dream job of coaching his old University team, the Stallions - so moves the whole clan to the big city amidst loads of whines and complaints from the kids, despite moving them into a huge, beautiful old house where all the kids (except the twins, for some reason) get their own rooms. Meanwhile, the mom, Kate (Bonnie Hunt) has written a book about the family called, you guessed it, "Cheaper by the Dozen" which is about to be published. She sets off to NYC for a two-week book publicity tour, leaving the family alone (yeah, that dad isn't much help!) - and the kids completely run amuck. The kids include the whiny teenage son - sad 'cause he had to leave his girlfriend back in Midland behind (boo hoo), the whiny teenage daughter (Hilary Duff) - bimbo queen of the fashion makeover and sarcastic one-liner, a bad little brat girl (the cliched middle child, no doubt) who dreams up most of the mean stunts these kids pull, a little boy with glasses who the rest of the family call "Fed Ex" ('cause he must have been left by the Fed Ex guy - what a mean family (!), no wonder the kid's closest friend is Beans the frog), and the oldest daughter (Piper Perabo) who lives with a conceited actor boyfriend (Ashton Kutcher) who the family doesn't like (and who is the brunt of most of the kid's "pranks"). Well, the kids in this movie are just so bratty it's impossible to really care. Not that good - even Steve Martin is pretty wasted here. The 1950 version of this with Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy is much better. (2.5 stars)

July 19, 2005 - Today, School of Rock (2003) - Pudgy, fortyish, out-of-work rocker Dewey Finn (Jack Black) gets kicked out of his current band and is about to be kicked out of his apartment by his roomie's bitchy girlfriend (hey, there's no other way to say it!) who calls him a freeloader. One day his roommate, a substitute teacher, while out on a teaching job gets a phone call to be the emergency substitute at Horace Green Prep - and gets who takes the call?! You got it - Dewey pretends he's the roomie and goes as the substitute for a class of ten year-old prep school kids using his roomie's name, Ned Schneebly. "Mr. S" soon has the class running amuck as he throws out all work for them in favor of turning the class into a rock band and getting them ready to compete in the "Battle of the Bands" - keeping all a secret from the hard-nosed geek lady school principal (Joan Cusack). But the kids get some lessons in life - and so does Dewey, as they form a rather good band they call "School of Rock". An entertaining film - kept me amused. (3.5 stars)
Later, watched The Penalty (1920) - A young boy, the victim of city traffic, has both his legs amputated above the knees unneccesarily by a doctor performing his first serious operation. That boy grows up to become known as "Blizzard" (Lon Chaney), MEAN, bitter, "lord and master of the underworld" in San Francisco's Barbary Coast. A young woman named Rose is hired by the secret service to go undercover and find out why Blizzard has made his bevy of dance hall girls turn to working in this factory making thousands of hats. Blizzard, meanwhile, has a scheme to get even with the doctor who did him wrong, now a famous surgeon, and sees his opportunity when the doctor's daughter Barbara is, of all things, seeking a model who looks like Satan for a sculpture she wants to create called "Satan After the Fall". Well, this works out - as Blizzard's contorted evil face really does look like Satan! Oddly, Blizzard seems to have a soft side as he loves to play the piano with his current favorite young lady working the pedals for him. Rose, skilled at music, soon becomes his favorite pedaler - but while Blizzard is off being sculpted, Rose is sneaking around finding secret passages, rooms, etc. Blizzard soon has become quite the madman as he reveals his weird plan, two years in the works, to loot San Francisco, and he also comes up with the plan to have the doctor cut off the legs of Barbara's fella (the doctor's assistant) - and attach them to himself! This film is quite a good film of the horror ilk - Chaney is great, as always. The DVD from Kino has a nice quality tinted print and suitably horror-like music score. It includes the Lon Chaney short western By the Sun's Rays (1914), where Chaney is a gold mine clerk who is helping bad guys steal gold shipments, using a mirror as a signal - meanwhile he keeps getting snubbed by the pretty daughter of the mine boss. I found this to be a fairly interesting early short. (4 stars for "The Penalty", 3 stars for "By the Sun's Rays")

July 18, 2005 - This morning, last year's Oscar Best Picture winner - Million Dollar Baby (2004). Gruff, aging boxing trainer and owner of the "Hit Pit Gym", Frankie (Clint Eastwood), loses his best boxer to another trainer - so decides to take on a 31 year-old girl wannabee boxer named Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), who's been hanging in the gym and trying to get Frankie to train her for the last some months, while he's been giving her the brush-off (Frankie: "I don't train girls!" or something like that). Frankie and Maggie both have little in the way of family (he has a daughter who returns all his letters - she has a, how shall I put it, "trailer trash" family who only come around when she has some money to throw their way). So now comes the story of the budding friendship between boxer and trainer, as Frankie helps train Maggie to work her way up to boxing in the WBA welterweight championship. This film started off slowly, but gradually built into a moving, interesting story. Really liked this. The lead actors are excellent in their respective parts - including Morgan Freeman who does a nice job playing Scrap, one of Frankie's former boxers, who lost his eye during a fight and now helps run the Hit Pit Gym - and the voice-over narrator of the story. (4 stars)

July 17, 2005 - Tonight on TCM's Silent Sunday screening, saw My Best Girl (1927). The romance is the thing in this story of stock girl Maggie (Mary Pickford) who works at the local 5 and 10 store where she falls hard for the "extremely" good-looking new stock boy named Joe Grant (Charles "Buddy" Rogers). What she doesn't know is that Joe is actually the wealthy son of the owner of the 5 and 10 cent store chain, working his way up in the store incognito - plus he's engaged to a dull society girl named Millicent. Maggie herself lives with her working class family - mom, pop, and floozy sister - in "the swellest house on Goat Hill", clearly the wrong side of the tracks. This film is amazingly romantic and absolutely dripping with the vibe of a real life couple falling in love (Mary Pickford and Buddy Rogers later married in real life). A charming and terrific movie, and really one of the most romantic I've seen with an amazing chemistry between the two stars. The version shown was from Milestone Films and features a very nice looking tinted print and a really great music score that I am still humming the next day. (4 stars)

July 14, 2005 - This AM watched the British silent Piccadilly (1929). Our story starts out at London's Piccadilly Club, where the booze is flowing, the dance floor is full, and everyone comes dressed to the nines. The Piccadilly Club is also where that sensation "Mabel and Vic" appear, billed as "London's greatest dance attraction". Mabel (Gilda Gray) and Vic are sort of Britian's answer to the Astaires, including young Vic dancing like Fred Astaire from his toes all the way to his top hat and tails (but without the talent!). While they dance one night, an incident involving a dirty plate occurs in the audience. The club owner, Valentine Wilmot, is called upon and the blame is passed from restaurant to kitchen to scullery. When Valentine goes into the scullery to confront the guilty dish-washing staff he finds them all engaged in another activity - for there dancing on a table is a young and beautiful Chinese girl named Shosho (Anna May Wong) and everyone has stopped to watch her. She is sacked on the spot. Meanwhile, Mabel, in love with Valentine, gives Vic the cold shoulder when he tries to make the moves on her. Mad at Mabel, Vic turns in his fortnight's notice to the club, and since he's really the star of the dancing duo, soon Mabel is flopping in her solo dance routine. Valentine, so intrigued with the beauty of Shosho, secretly auditions her in his office and next day calls her in and hires her to be his new act - dancing at the club in traditional Chinese costume. Shosho is a hit (especially with the wildly applauding men of the audience), and touted by the newspapers as "The Chinese Dancing Wonder", and soon she has shed her scullery girl rags for fur, sequins, and a French manicure. Trouble comes next though, as seductive young Shosho is soon running around town with Valentine on her arm, and a jealous Mabel in hot pursuit! This is a terrific film with a really interesting story, and Anna May Wong pretty much steals the show - she's really got a star quality about her. And I really like the way it's photographed including the use of lots of close-ups and interesting tracking shots. The DVD, from Milestone Films, features a beautiful tinted print with a nice clear picture. The music, a sort of jazzy modernish piece done by Neil Brand, is really excellent and suits the movie well. The DVD includes a few extras like a talkie black and white Prologue to the film, and interview with Neil Brand discussing his score. Unfortunately, on my rented Netflix disk, the bonus feature with a panel discussion about Anna May Wong would NOT play at all. (4 stars)

July 12, 2005 - This afternoon watched two movies, first Closer (2004) stylish movie about four "beautiful people" in London and the sexual interactions between them. Dan (Jude Law), the writer - he writes obituaries for the newspaper but is awaiting possible publication of his book. Alice (Natalie Portman), the stripper - an American newly arrived in London, with her hair dyed bright red - she loves to lie. Anna (Julia Roberts), the American photographer - she loves aquariums. Last, there's Larry (Clive Owen), the doctor (and pervert). We know right off the bat watching this film, our Dan is no sweetheart young man struggling with his writing - when we see him surfing the Net in the "London Sex Anon" chat room where we first meet Larry, as Dan tricks Larry into thinking he is chatting with a woman - and lots of really raunchy sex talk comes out of the keyboard of these two. Actually, all four of these people exhibit (hmmm - how shall I put it?) a bit of sexual quirkiness. Dan hooks up with Alice, later fancies Anna. Anna meets Larry in the Aquarium, when he is tricked into going there to meet his "Sex Anon" girl from the chatroom. Later Larry fancies Alice, who ends up stripping for him in a private room of the strip joint where she is now working. This film is really interesting - filmed in an unusual way with sudden, unannounced, jumps in time, so in each scene it might suddenly be a year later from the last scene. Really, this movie is quite intriguing - it actually kept me very interested in these four dysfunctional oddballs. (3.75 stars)
Next up, Wimbledon (2004) - Predictable, but quite good film about a 32-year old British tennis played named Peter Colt (Paul Bettany), ranked 119th in the world, who is playing as a wild card at Wimbledon, his last tournament before he retires and becomes tennis director at some sort of retirement village. But his first day at Wimbledon he meets a hotshot woman's tennis player from America - cute, young, and blonde Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) when he is mistakenly given the key to her hotel suite when he checks in (then encounters her - where else - as she is showering in her room). Anyway, the film then progresses through each of their quest to become Wimbledon champion while becoming lovestruck with each other at the same time. Plus, Lizzie has an over-protective daddy getting in the way. Enjoyable. (3.5 stars)

July 8, 2005 - Tonight watched Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (2004) - About two best pals (the kind of guys you might remember from your computer/engineering classes) - Harold, the Korean guy who works at an investment firm and Kumar, the Indian guy soon to become a medical student. They get a notion to get themselves some White Castle burgers one evening, then spend the whole night getting into various amusing situations not limited to landing in jail and riding on the back of an escaped cheetah to try to get to White Castle 'cause their car gets stolen by Neil Patrick Harris aka "Doogie Howser, M.D.". This film does quite a bit of poking fun at a variety of racial stereotypes. It also kind of seems like a take on Cheech and Chong movies, what with all the pot smoking - it's actually quite an amusing film and better than I was actually expecting. I didn't really care for the gross-out bathroom humor though - namely the competition between two Princeton chicks who compete on the toilet playing "battleshits". Gross. (3.25 stars)

July 6, 2005 - This morning, saw Mary Pickford as Little Annie Rooney (1925), scruffy rough-and-tumble young girl from the wrong side of the tracks who loves to fight the "Kid Kellys" neighborhood gang (throwing bricks at each other, no less). Annie's pal, Jewish boy Abie Levy (Spec O'Donnell), is not supposed to join the fight 'cause of a holiday, but he joins in anyway. The kids cause $5 in damage to the fruit vendor from their fighting, so put on an "Our Gang"-style show for local neighborhood kids to raise the money (admission fee: "bottles, sacks, or whatever you got"). This neighborhood includes a real mix of stereotypical ethnic types - Jewish, Greek, Chinese (they run a laundry, of course), and Irish (Annie's Irish Pop is - you guessed it - the local police officer). The twentyish young men in town have a gang of their own - including Annie's brother Tim, a criminal just out of prison named Spider, Greek thug Tony, and loafish older Kelly brother, Joe Kelly (William Haines) who forces local Jewish shopkeeper, Abie's dad, to purchase $10 in dance tickets (trying to raise money for their "bail fund"). Joe Kelly, a real charmer, flashes a flirtatious smile to little Annie and she's suddenly smitten with him. Big trouble though, the night of the dance at the "Pansy Club" when Annie's dad is shot by one of the bad gang guys, and Joe Kelly gets blamed. This film is quite good - the DVD, from Terra Entertainment, includes a very nice black and white print with good contrast. But the music score is, how shall I put it, atrocious. The tunes are fine, it's that they don't match the movie AT ALL. There is even someone snoring in the background of the soundtrack during one scene, and during another the music is "Jingle Bells" even though it's supposed to be the merry month of May. OUR GANG ALERT: Look for Eugene "Pineapple" Jackson who plays Humidor, and also in the kiddie audience of the show they put on catch a quick glimpse of Bobby "Bonedust" Young. (3.5 stars)

July 5, 2005 - The Girl Next Door (2004) - High school senior Matthew (Emile Hirsch) doesn't have much to remember for his yearbook's "best memories" entry. He spent senior year studying, acting as class president, getting into his dream college, and hanging with his two geek pals - but that's not the sort of memories he seems to want as he gazes admiringly towards the scads of pretty girls runnin' around his school. When a gorgeous girl named Danielle moves in next door, he gets caught by her spying through the window while she undresses (gee, maybe she should have closed the blinds if she didn't want a peeping tom). She comes over to confront him, and they soon become friends as she leads our innocent boy into skipping class, having a late night swim in a stranger's backyard pool, and lots more. Matthew starts to fall for her, but one of his pals, a guy who loves porn movies and is the spittin' image of a young John Cusack, finds out that the girl is actually a porn star. Next thing you know young Matthew is mixed up with her sleazy "friend", a porn producer not that happy when Matthew tries to encourage Danielle, his best porn star, to leave the porn business. This film starts off pretty well, even has some laughs here and there. It breaks down a bit towards the end, but is still an enjoyable film. (3.25 stars)
Later today watched Coyote Ugly (2000) - Plot is basically this: small-town Jersey girl named Violet (Piper Perabo) goes to the big city to pursue her dream of becoming a songwriter and ends up dancing on the top of the bar in this NYC wild nightspot called "Coyote Ugly". Well, it's not as bad as it sounds. See cute, and rather aggressive, young Violet DOES end up a "Coyote", bartending, dancing, and squirting men with water, etc. at Coyote Ugly, but it's really kind of an upscale joint, plus she meets an Australian hottie (Adam Garcia) who, sooner than you think, becomes her new boyfriend. Quite a good film. (3.75 stars)

July 3, 2005 - The Wizard of Oz (1939), childhood favorite - still one of my favorite films. Tonight's screening on TCM had an especially bright-looking Technicolor print, I thought. My very favorite scene of The Wizard of Oz is from the point where Dorothy is knocked out onto her bed by her window in the Tornado all the way through the terrifically imaginative Munchkinland scenes and to the point where she just starts off on the yellow-brick road. Hubby agrees that's his favorite part too. Hubby and I both agree that when we were kids we were very scared during the part where the Wicked Witch turns over the hourglass and says to Dorothy "This is how long you have left to live", then poor Dorothy suffers watching the red sand slowly draining out. I wonder if kids still feel that way - or has the world become so jaded, something like that no longer will frighten even the smallest of child?! (4 stars)

June 29, 2005 - The Aviator (2004) - Biopic about Howard Hughes (Leonardo DiCaprio), starting with his years spent working on the flying scenes for "Hell's Angels" (and featuring an actress playing Jean Harlow at the Hell's Angels premiere who looks NOTHING like the real Jean Harlow - since she had close to no dialogue in this, you would think they would put more effort into finding more of a Harlow lookalike - ah, well). Then progressing through the years as Hughes becomes more and more eccentric - like his 12 lined-up peas on his dinner plate, constantly washing his hands with this black soap, repeating words over and over again, and lots more. The film has lots about Hughes designing various airplanes, plus his relationships with actresses Katherine Hepburn (really well played by Cate Blanchette) and Ava Gardner (couldn't quite see Ava in this portrayal done by Kate Beckinsale). Pretty good film, DiCaprio does a really good acting job as Hughes, but this wasn't as good as I hoped for. I actually enjoyed yesterday's viewing of Ella Enchanted a bit more! (3.5 stars)

June 28, 2005 - In the A.M., Ella Enchanted (2004) - A surprisingly good fairy tale that is sort of a Cinderella story with a touch of The Wizard of Oz, and other fairy tales thrown in. About a girl named Ella (Anne Hathaway) who lives in the medieval village of Frell, and is given a gift when she is a baby by her fairy godmother. A fairy known for her "bad gifts", Ella is given the gift of "obedience". Whatever she is told to do - she MUST obey, which causes lots of trouble later on, after her father marries again and pretty teenage Ella now has a wicked stepmother (Joanna Lumley - I still can't help but keep thinking of her as Patsy from Ab Fab) and two bad stepsisters. One day Ella meets the very handsome Prince Charmont, aka Prince "Char" (Hugh Dancy) as he known in that well-read teenybopper mag "Medieval Teen", and though she pretends to hate him - well, he's just SO handsome she secretly, of course, is in love with him. Ella goes on a trek to try to find her fairy godmother and ask her to reverse the obedience spell which has been much more a curse than a gift, bringing along with her a man who has been turned into a talking book (he oddly doesn't seem to care!). Along the way, Ella meets an Elf who wants to be a lawyer, so he comes along on the journey so he can stop at the Prince's castle to ask if the law that all elves must only sing, dance, and entertain can be changed. This film is interesting in that it combines the modern world (like the way everyone talks, the grand opening of this big new mall, modern dance moves and music, etc.) with the medieval fantasy world of elves, giants, and ogres. The special effects are interesting - not done to the level of Lord of the Rings, but still well done. The film also features a small amount of voice-over narration by Eric Idle read in fairy story rhymes. Much better film than I was actually expecting. (3.75 stars)

June 27, 2005 - This morning saw Siren of the Tropics (1927) - In Paris, young engineer Andre Berval loves Denise - she's the goddaughter of the Marquis Severo who is an investor, Andre's employer, and a "notable personage in Paris society". But - - the old Marquis loves her himself (and no, not like a "goddaughter"). The old perve wants to marry Denise, and even asks his wife for a divorce ("Never!" she refuses - hey, she's not about to give up her power position). To get Andre out of the way, the Marquis sends him off to the tropics to take charge of mining minerals at one of his investments at Monte Puebla. Plus, he asks his right-hand man at the site, Alvarez (a bad man) to make sure Andre "never sees France again". Andre arrives in the tropics and soon makes friends with a wild island girl named Papitou (Josephine Baker) when he rescues her, bare-breasted and struggling from the grips of creepy Alvarez who accosts her as she's about to take a dip in the water. All dressed in bangles, necklaces, giant hoop earrings, and sarong-like skirt - Papitou sleeps in a hammock, has an old drunken, white father, and likes to cavort around half-naked most of time. Papitou helps save Andre from being left to die by Alvarez on some rocks near Monte Puebla, and she falls in love with him. When Andre returns to Paris, Papitou follows him (dressed up amusingly out-of-style in her effort to dress like a Parisian lady) and next thing you know, Papitou is strutting her native tropical dance moves in a Paris music hall and becomes a sensation. But she only really cares about hookin' up with her beloved Andre, who's now engaged to Denise. This film is really enjoyable and Josephine Baker is quite engaging - and a good comedienne too, she's kind of what I would call daffy (though I could do without seeing her naked, I would guess lots of men would feel otherwise) - enjoyed her music hall dance numbers too. The DVD of this is from Kino. It features a really terrific looking print - brightly tinted in mainly shades of pink, yellow, red, and golden browns. There is a slight bleeding of the tint in a few earlier scenes, but as a whole it looks really gorgeous, and the images contain a lot of contrast. The music included is terrific as well. It is by Donald Sosin and is mostly a jazzy piano score, but with some other music as well, particularly good is some guitar music matching nicely with the scenes in the tropics. Good one. Is it my imagination or does the trailer for this film (featured on the DVD) include a whole bunch of scenes that aren't in the movie?! (3.75 stars)

June 26, 2005 - Tonight on TCM, saw The Front (1976) - Woody Allen plays Howard Prince, cashier with a side career as a bookie, who has a writer friend, Alfred Miller, unable to work when he is blacklisted for communism in the early 1950's. To help out his friend, Howard agrees to act as a front - turning in Miller's work as is own. Soon he is busy fronting Miller's scripts for this popular early TV show starring that popular "Hecky Brown" (Zero Mostel) who himself goes under investigation by the "commitee". Meanwhile Howard pretty much becomes an overnight sensation - the scripts are that good - and takes on fronting a couple more guys who've been blacklisted. Plus, he hooks up with this gal who works on the show and seems to be interested in Howard only 'cause she thinks he is a great writer. This film, billed as a comedy, is really only slightly amusing as the serious overtones of the story overshadow most of the humorous elements. But it is certainly, like most Woody Allen films I have seen, excellent. The Frank Sinatra song "Young at Heart" (hey, I love the 50's Frank Sinatra/Doris Day film that comes from - also called "Young at Heart") plays over the opening and closing credits. (3.75 stars)

June 21, 2005 - Tonight watched an old favorite on DVD - The Turning Point (1977). About two fortyish old friends, Emma (Anne Bancroft) and Deedee (Shirley MacLaine) who once tried out for the same part in an upcoming new ballet "Anna Karenina" - Emma got the part and something like 30 curtain calls, Deedee got pregnant. So Emma goes on to become a great prima ballerina in the American Ballet Company, while Deedee gets married, moves to Oklahoma, and raises three kids. Now the company is in town and the two women get back together, then Deedee's daughter Emilia (Leslie Browne), a great dancer herself, is offered a place in the company. Deedee goes to New York for the summer with Emilia, and Deedee's son Ethan tags along too. The story basically becomes the regret each of the two women have over the life they chose. Deedee wishes she had stuck with a ballet career rather than becoming a wife and mother, Emma regrets not having a family. Side story thrown in is the spark of romance between Emilia and caddish dancer Yuri (Mikhail Baryshnikov). Well, this film is full of great ballet numbers (wow- Baryshnikov was fantastic), and a view into the world of ballet behind the scenes. I saw this film in the theatre when it first came out. I was only sixteen years old, but was so impressed with this movie I immediately developed a love for ballet that has lasted to this day! One of my favorite films from the 70s, I've seen this many times. (4 stars)

June 19, 2005 - Three Blaxpoitation films today - first up, Dolemite (1975) - Starring Rudy Ray Moore as Dolemite, in prison for stealing furs and drugs. He's given a break - help the cops find out who's still committing drug deals in his 'hood and killed "Little Jimmy" in exchange for his release. Out he comes, greeted at the prison gate by his "girls" - hookers who immediately undress him and put him into his pimp outfit (doesn't stay on long - as soon as he's in the car, the girls undress him again). Anyway, the rest of the film is a very loose plot about Dolemite's enemy, Willie Green, who has gotten ahold of Dolomite's nightclub AND his girl, Pinky (who went to work for Willie while Dolemite was in prison) - plus all kinds of shootings and happenin's at the house of prostitution run by "Queen Bee". Not to mention several bad white cops, a corrupt mayor, and loads of bad, bad acting - all interestingly filmed in 70's L.A. This film is amusing in spots, mostly though, pretty darn bad. The DVD includes a new and EXTREMELY low budget "documentary" with Rudy Ray Moore showing some of the South Central L.A. locations where the film was shot. (1.75 stars)
Superfly (1972) - Priest (Ron O'Neal), drug pusher who wants out. He thinks up a scheme where he and his partner Eddie can pool their money, $300,000, and invest in cocaine which they can resell to make $1 Million. Full of cool 70's music by Curtis Mayfield, and hip cats in WIDE lapels, wide-brimmed fedoras, and lots of fur and leather, this makes for a fairly enjoyable film. Interesting montage of Priest and friends making drug deals and people snorting cocaine, all done in a style I can only call an "early music video" to the song "I'm Your Pusher". (3.25 stars)
Shaft (1971) - Harlem private investigator John Shaft (Richard Roundtree), he of the cool 70s threads and lots of "lady friends". Hired to find the kidnapped daughter of this drugpin guy named Bumpy (Moses Gunn, actor I remember more from Little House on the Prairie), this ends up as what I could only call "the black guys versus the Italian mafia". Yeah - pretty good, and love, love, love the Shaft theme song. (3 stars)

June 18, 2005 - Around the World in 80 Days (2004) - Eccentric inventor Phileas Fogg (played by, hmmm, rather good-looking Steve Coogan) makes a bet with the rather corrupt head of the Royal Academy of Science, Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent) - if he can complete a journey around the world in no more than 80 days, he takes over as head. If he fails - he must give up all his off-the-wall research projects and inventions - like flying machines, rollerblades, etc. Joining him on his trip is a man (Jackie Chan) who has just stolen a jade Buddha which he is trying to return to his village in China. Predictably, a pretty girl soon joins up with the two men too. Full of very colorful imagery and special effects, making for a light bit of fun entertainment for a Saturday evening. I would have REALLY loved this when I was a kid - as it is, I still thought it was quite enjoyable. The film includes quite a few cameo appearances as well. (3.25 stars)

June 16, 2005 - This A.M. watched the silent Little Mary Sunshine (1916), basically an early animal and kid picture. About a well-to-do young man, Bob (Henry King), newly engaged to Sylvia - but he prefers to get drunk with his circle of chums rather than pick her up to go to the theatre. Apparently, one mistake is all it takes - when Bob finally arrives (very, very late) she (under the encouragement of her Mama) breaks the engagement. Meanwhile, in another house in a poorer part of town we see little Mary (Baby Marie Osborne), cute blonde moppet, whose father has just arrived home drunk and murdered her mother by clobbering her over the head. Neighbors come to help the child, but seems they aren't paying THAT much attention to her, as they let a 4-year old wander off into the street alone. Mary climbs into Bob's car to hide. Bob finds her - and decides to keep her! Bob, even though fast approaching thirty years old (it seems to me anyway) still lives with his parents in their upscale house. They all take a liking to little Mary, who soon is cavorting with this organ grinder's trained bear, which, of all things, the organ grinder leaves tied to a tree in Mary's backyard. Meanwhile, Bob's dad teases Sylvia that Bob has a "new girl" in his life, and Bob gives up "drink" 'cause of the trouble it has caused him. Well, this film is quite cute - nothing great, but enjoyable and the little girl has a lot of charm. It certainly is the same kind of plot often seen in later Shirley Temple films. The DVD of this is from Unknown Video and features a tinted print that looks fairly decent - a bit fuzzy and with some speckling and a few frames missing here and there. It features a nice organ score by Bob Vaughn. (3 stars)

June 13, 2005 - Watched Beyond the Sea (2004) - Well done biopic about the life of Bobby Darin, directed by and starring Kevin Spacey. Following the rise of his singing career, as well his marriage to actress Sandra Dee (playd by Kate Bosworth, who does look quite a bit like Sandra Dee the way they have her made up, at least at some angles) and birth of their son. Done in an interesting style full of bright colors and old-fashioned dance numbers thrown in in sort of fantasy segments, this had the feel of an old movie, and I liked that about it. Kevin Spacey sings all the songs himself - and I think he does a great job. (3.25 stars)

June 10, 2005 - In the morning, watched Eraserhead (1977), directed by David Lynch. No doubt the weirdest film I have ever seen. Dark and surreal - about this guy named Henry who has this mass of hair atop his head (yeah, like the top of an eraser) and goes around in a geeky-looking suit with large pocket protector full of pencils in his pocket. He has this weird girlfriend named Mary, and when he goes for dinner at her house, her mom confronts him on whether he has had "sexual intercourse" with Mary. Well, it seems there's a baby. Um, no ordinary baby - they get married and the baby is this sort of E.T. looking alien that cries (constantly) like a real baby. Everyone in this film is completely bizarre, the streets are old, dark, dirty, and empty. There isn't much dialogue, just this weird wind sound in the background and sort of subtle static or buzz of machinery or something (when I think about it, the sounds sort of remind me of the game "Myst"). The setting seems to be around the 1930's, yet it really seems like maybe the future after a nuclear bomb has desolated the surroundings and all that's left is empty old brick buildings and people who have been seriously damaged by the effects of radiation. There are weird piles of moss in everyone's house, plus Henry has this strange dirt pile with a dead twig in it as a decoration on his nightstand. Henry is often on his bed, having dreams resulting in yet even weirder scenes than the rest of the film - or are they dreams? Who knows. Well, this film is very interestingly photographed (done in black and white), but is very dark and kind of gives me the creeps. So I've seen it, and can check it off my list - but doubtful I would want to see it again. NOTE: It IS kind of hard to stop thinking about it though. (3 stars)

June 6, 2005 - The Hours (2002) - Captivating film that interweaves three stories all which take place in one day. The first story, set in Richmond, England in the 1920's, is about writer Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), who is fighting insanity and working on writing her book "Mrs. Dalloway". The second story, set in Los Angeles in 1951, is about a housewife, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), who is somewhat insane herself as she spends the day baking a cake for her hubby's b-day, taking care of her little boy, reading the book Mrs. Dalloway, and planning her own suicide. The third story, 2001 in NYC, is about a woman, Clarissa (Meryl Streep), planning a party for her writer friend Richard (Ed Harris), who is being given an award for his book of poetry, and also is very sick with AIDS. This film features overtones of lesbianism in each of the stories. There are also lots of suicidal and really unhappy people in this - sounds depressing, right? Yet the style of the film, so intriguingly done, full of close-ups and a haunting, terrific music score playing through most scenes, really makes this film a good one. Really liked this a lot, love the way the three stories weave together, and great acting by all the actors. I especially liked the performance of Nicole Kidman who was completely transformed physically and mentally into Virginia Woolf. (4 stars)

June 5, 2005 - Xanadu (1980) - Okay, I know this film is pretty universally panned, but I really like this one. Featuring loads of GREAT music by ELO, Gene Kelly, a cutie-pie in brown vest as the lead male, and loads of roller-skating dancers and campy fun - how can you go wrong?! About Sonny Malone (Michael Beck), a painter who works enlarging record album covers for advertising purposes and loves to rollerskate around beachside L.A. One day he keeps meeting up with a pretty girl named Kira (Olivia Newton-John) who also loves to rollerskate and by a strange coincidence is featured on the cover of one of the paintings he's working on. Well, it seems she is actually a MUSE, and her father is Zeus - heh! Anyway, Sonny meets an older man on the beach, Danny McGuire (Gene Kelly), they strike up a friendship and decide to join forces to open up a hot new dance club together, which they later decide to call "Xanadu". This movie is really just a bunch of song and dance numbers strung loosely together by a rather silly story. The acting is also pretty bad (except Gene Kelly! - love him), but the soundtrack is so terrific this makes for a very enjoyable film. My favorite numbers are when Gene Kelly is trying on different outfits to the song "All Over the World", and the big finale on rollerskates for the opening night of Xanadu. Um, this film kind of makes it look like everyone and his brother circa L.A., 1980 were getting around by rollerskate - ha. (3.5 stars)

June 4, 2005 - In the morning watched the Japanese film Red Beard (1965), directed by Akira Kurosawa. About Yasumoto, the young and rather arrogant new doctor at a medical clinic for the poor. He is assigned there against his wishes and vows to not wear his uniform and go against all rules in the hopes of being asked to leave. But instead, Yasumoto gradually falls under the spell of the good that comes out of the badness at the clinic and learns something about life as he helps a variety of patients, all under the guidance of the stern, but knowledgable head doctor known as "Red Beard". Through the over 3-hour length film, there are stories featured about several patients including an old man on his deathbed, another man, much beloved by his neighbors for his kindness, who relates, as he lay dying, the story of the romance with and loss of his wife in an earthquake. There is also an insane woman (she's killed several men) known as "The Mantis" who is locked in her own chambers next to the herb garden (weird, eh?!). The last third is the best part of this film, I thought, and revolves around Dr. Yasumoto's first patient of his own - a 12-year old girl who is damaged both physically and mentally by the abusive house she came from (where her "foster mom" was trying to sell her for prostitution). Then there is the story of the "rat boy", Chobo, starving youth who is caught stealing gruel from the clinic. All in all, this film is quite good, though it is a bit too long for what it is. But - the photography in this is so great that it makes seeing this really worthwhile. Every single frame in this film looks like an amazing photograph, the interesting visualization of each human figure against various backdrops of shadows, rain, light, and snow. Fantastic. Love the scene where the one man meets up with his wife at this market full of wind chimes. The sound in this film is interesting too - there is little background music (though what music there is is very nice), but the background is often filled with the sound of wind and sometimes little tinkling chimes in the distance. (3.75 stars)
Tonight on TCM, watched The More the Merrier (1943) - Screwball comedy starring Charles Coburn as Benjamin Dingle, an older man who rents half of a Washington D.C. area apartment from a young lady named Connie Milligan (Jean Arthur) - apparently renting out part of her apartment all on account of helping the cause, i.e. the room shortage caused by the War. Connie is single and Dingle (too old himself to be interested in her, it seems) takes it upon himself to become matchmaker for her, so at the spur of the moment rents out half of his apartment half ($6 a week!) to tall, handsome Joe Carter (Joel McCrea). Connie, a stickler for a time schedule it seems, has the men running around from room to room trying to keep up with her morning routine. She also has this boring fiance (a real stuffed shirt!) but, of course, with hunky Joe Carter livin' with her, well, it seems only a matter of time 'til that ends. Anyway, this movie has a very loosely strung plotline that leaves me asking loads of questions - like, how come Dingle rents half of his room to Joe as a potential match for Connie, but then at first tries to keep Joe hidden in the tiny apartment? And how come Connie and Joe pronounce their love for each other (through the wall that divides their adjoining beds - heh!), then later when they get married act like it's just a "marriage of convenience"? And, hey, how come Connie tells them her fiance is 42 years old and has "no hair" - then when we see him, he seems younger and does have hair? Well, this film is just one to sit back, accept it, and have fun. Yeah, really quite amusing - the three lead actors really help in pulling this one off. (3.75 stars)

June 3, 2005 - This morning a silent film, Daddy-Long-Legs (1919) - About Jerusha "Judy" Abbott (Mary Pickford), found in an ash can wrapped in newspaper when she was a baby, and being raised in an orphanage run like a prison by a real MEANIE matron (what a sour face that woman has!) where the kids march around in matching gingham outfits, and are served, of all things, prunes three times a day (yuck). At 12 years old, spunky Judy is seen getting into all kinds of mischief at the orphanage not limited to getting tipsy on this jug of Apple Jack tossed over the wall by a thief, then sliding down bannisters, and leading the other orphans into stealing jam and running amuck. On "Blue Wednesday" as Judy calls it, each month the trustees arrive to inspect the grounds, and on one of these occasions Judy gets into yet more trouble as she squirts water on the stuck-up daughter of one of the trustees, then steals the girl's doll by cutting it's arm off. The matron actually punishes Judy by burning her hand on the hot stove - yow! But luck comes to Judy one day, as apparently a few years have passed now, and a new trustee decides to pay her way through college (even though as he states "I hate girls - especially pretty ones"). He won't let her see him or know who he is, but when Judy sees his long shadow on the wall she dubs him "Daddy Long Legs". Cut to Judy, now in college, where she meets two men who fall in love with her at the same time - one of which is a much older, wealthy gentleman (the rival, a younger man, calls him "Foxy Grandpa") who is the uncle of one of her dorm roommates. Love this film - it is full of humor, yet sentimental at the same time. The intertitles are interesting with little drawings on each one. The DVD of this is from Milestone Films and features a nice-looking tinted print, plus the music score by Maria Newman is quite good and suitable for the film. This movie is delightful and charming - one of my favorite Mary Pickford films. (4 stars)

June 1, 2005 - This morning on TCM, watched Beg, Borrow or Steal (1937) - Frank Morgan stars as Ingraham Steward, a con man who lives on the French Riviera and tricks rich Americans into buying overpriced artwork by using his collection of fake fraternity pins to make each male potential sucker think he is a fellow Frat brother. Meanwhile, Steward has a wife and daughter back home (who he hasn't seen in 15 years) - the daughter, Joyce, is about to be married to dull, permanently frowning Horace, a man who won't drink, smoke, gamble, or basically have any kind of fun. When Joyce's mom reveals that Steward has written a letter offering up his "chateau" for the wedding (yes, the family have been misled to believe he is wealthy) the social-climbing parents of Horace decide they will accept the fake invitation. So all arrive in the Riviera and Steward has to quickly come up with a chateau he can pretend is his. He knows a young man named Bill (John Beal), caretaker of the chateau of a Lord (currently on a hunting trip in Scotland), and gets Bill to agree to use of the chateau. Steward also invites his friends - an assortment of art forgers and thieves - to arrive for the wedding posed as Gentlemen and Lords. Meanwhile our very handsome (!) Bill spends most of the time before the wedding flirting with pretty blonde-haired Joyce. This movie is predictable, but really quite amusing, with lots of laughs and funny bits provided by a range of great Thirties character actors. Good one. (3.5 stars)

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