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

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I Love Silents - Silent Movies

2005/2006 BLOG Archive - Winter Season (December 2005 to end of February, 2006). My personal movie watching diary. NOTE: there may be spoilers for some entries.

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

February 27, 2006 - On this rainy day watched North Country (2005) - Excellent film set in 1989, about a Minnesota woman named Josey (Charlize Theron) who leaves her current "man" when he beats her and brings herself and two kids back home to live with her parents. She takes a job at the local iron mine which pays top wages so she can support her kids and get herself back on her feet and into her own place. Unfortunately, the mine is thirty to one male over female - and the cretins/men that dominate this place are set on sexually harassing the women workers who they feel don't *belong* working in the mines (Cretin: "the mines are mans work"). Josey can't take it anymore - she finally quits and starts a class-action lawsuit against the company to help bring changes to the laws for this company and all companies regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. Based on a true story, the acting in this is really excellent. Charlize Theron does a great job portraying Josey - I also really enjoyed the performance of Frances McDormand as her friend and co-worker who must quite work because she has Lou Gehrig's disease. (3.75 to 4 stars)

February 23, 2006 - Watched Cimarron (1931) - Epic tale covering 40 years spanning from the Oklahoma land run of 1889, through the Cherokee Strip run of 1893, to modern day 1930. Yancey Cravat (Richard Dix) brings his wife Sabra (Irene Dunne) and four year old son "Cim" to live in the wild, outlaw-ridden town of Osage in Oklahoma territory, boomed to 10,000 people in only six weeks. Yancey starts up a newspaper, "The Oklahoma Wigwam", while Sabra gets into "cleaning up the town", forms a ladies club, wallpapers her house, has a baby, and wears the newest "puffed sleeved" dresses. But poor Sabra has to pretty much take over the running of the paper, 'cause her drifter hubbie (who thinks living in one place for five years is the "longest sentence he's ever had") keeps leaving for years at a time to find adventure, with no word to Sabra or family what has become of him - 'til the next time he turns up in town again. Hmmm. Dix is sort of hammy and overacts but does stil manage to pull off Yancey's character quite well, Dunne does a good job as his wife. This film is full of interesting period costumes, well done. An early Oscar Best Picture winner, this was actually better than I was expecting. Quite good, really held my interest well. The print on the DVD of this looks quite nice too. Our Gang alert: watch for Eugene "Pineapple" Jackson as young Isaiah, who hitches a ride on Cravat's wagon, and ends up as, well, sort of houseboy/newspaper helpmate at the Cravat's place. The DVD of this also had two shorts as bonus features - The Devil's Cabaret - early Technicolor musical short featuring girls dancing in their slips down in Hades, and the like. Quite cute - I've seen this one somewhere before, not sure where though. There is also the Merry Melodies cartoon Red-headed Baby, songs sung by animated toys that are *living* (sort of like the toys on the "island of misfit toys" in Rudolph) and a Santa. Cartoon was so-so. (3.75 stars)

February 15, 2006 - Elizabethtown (2005) - About a handsome young shoe designer named Drew (Orlando Bloom) who has just had a huge flop with a shoe design, costing the company close to a billion dollars. He is about to commit suicide when he hears his father has died and travels to Elizabethtown, Kentucky to make arangements for the memorial. On the plane there he meets a perky blonde stewardess, Claire (Kirsten Dunst), and she gives him directions to Elizabethtown - and her phone number. Well, he soons arrives in the rather lovely little Kentucky town where he encounters a small town friendliness he's not used to, and soon meets his large extended family of cousins, uncles, and aunts he doesn't know. Lonely in the hotel where he stays, run amuck with a large, wild, wedding party, he starts up cell phone conversations with Claire, and they develop a strong relationship just via constant phone talk. Now we get into a weird part of the story that seems sort of dumb to me - they meet up finally, sleep with each other, seem to be having a good bond - yet, don't seem to really want to be together. I guess it's all about Drew and his still existing wish to kill himself over the billion dollar "fiasco". Seems sort of silly, but oh well. Anyway, after several days in town, memorial, etc. Drew takes a solo road trip home via a "map" made for him by Claire, complete with musical accompaniment via CDs, photos, and trivia. Looked like fun. Claire is really quite a cool girl I guess he is soon to understand. I wasn't expecting this film to be that great - it was actually much better than I thought it would be, I liked it quite a bit. Very nice soundtrack score too, and the film is sure not hurt a bit by the presence of a particularly adorable Orlando Bloom, looking mighty, mighty handsome if I do say so myself. (3.5 stars)

February 6, 2006 - Fever Pitch (2005) - About a guy named Ben (Jimmy Fallon) who is obsessed with the Boston Red Sox and the young executive business woman (Drew Barrymore) he starts dating. Ben has an apartment cluttered with Sox *stuff* - she workouts, is constantly on her cellphone taking business calls, and has three nosy gal pals who sort of discourage her relationship with him (ya know - "why is he still single at 30 years old and what's wrong with him?" etc.) Anyway, this film is a remake of a British film from 1997 and the British version is WAY better. The stories really only barely touch on the same plotline, but this version just misses the mark a bit. It's not bad, if I wasn't comparing it to the other version I would probably like this a bit more than I did. I always like Drew Barrymore though, and Jimmy Fallon is cute in a sort of puppy dog way. (3 stars)

February 3, 2006 - Watched 365 Nights in Hollywood (1934) - Down and out motion picture director Jimmy Dale (James Dunn), hooks up with a shyster that runs a Hollywood dramatic school and places an ad out to find the "star of tomorrow" ("Talent Not Necessary") to get new students into the school. Girl from Peoria, Alice Perkins (Alice Faye) arrives in town in response to the ad hoping to get herself into the movies. Taking a job as carhop at a local burger stand while taking "acting" lessons at night, she meets up with a newly arrived Utah man, in town to settle his uncle's estate and claim a $75,000 inheritance. When the school shyster hears about the money, he cons the Utah man into putting up his whole inheritance to produce a new picture, to be directed by Dale and starring sleazy actor Adrian Almont (who takes bribe money for the use of his name in promoting the "school"). The shyster, Adrian, and, yes, even Jimmy Dale have ideas about pocketing $30,000 for themselves while pretending they're using the whole $75,000 to produce the film. But Jimmy has other plans! And with pretty Alice as the star of the new film, what else could one hope but that it might be a success?! Mitchell and Durant play two annoying goofballs that are sort of the Laurel and Hardy of the ice delivery world, except NOT funny. The best part of this film is the two well-done, fun musical numbers. Alice Faye, looking lots like Jean Harlow in this, pretty much steals this film, which otherwise is fairly lackluster. (3.25 stars)

January 30, 2006 - Double feature on a DVD from Alpha Video - first, The Mechanical Man (1921), seriously oddball silent sci-fi. This is only fragments of the film and was a bit hard to follow the story, especially since the tinted print of this is on the edge of *extremely* poor quality, but it seems like it would be a really interesting film to see if restored and whole. About a mad scientist who has invented the plans for a giant "mechanical man" and a bad gang, led by a woman named Mado, kills him and steals the plans (none of this is here, just told via intertitle card). Mado ends up actually creating this mechanical man and operates him via remote-controlled electrical switches and wheels (and watches what's going on with him on this giant "silver screen"). The man is sent to wreak havoc on a house party, ripping the wall safe full of jewels out of the wall, etc. Later he arrives at a big masked ball, but the guests are under the mistaken notion that he is a party guest, amusingly disguised as the famed "mechanical man" - wrong, he starts after them, ripping the dress off one woman, but luckily the scientist's brother has meanwhile created ANOTHER mechanical man and sends him to fight the "bad" mechanical man. Pretty amusing - watching these two absurd looking actors in giant robot suits duke it out - heh! The music that accompanies this was not very good and a bit distracting too. (2.5 stars for this presentation)
Next, The Headless Horseman (1922), Will Rogers as Ichabod Crane, newly arrived schoolmaster in the little Dutch village of Sleepy Hollow, famed for it's ghost of the headless horseman. The belle of the village and daughter of a wealthy farmer, Katrina, starts immediately flirting with Ichabod. He finds himself interested in her too - when he sees the riches of her father's estate, but a rival for her affections is good-looking, conceited Abraham, the so-stated "hero of the village" nicknamed "Brom Bones". Ichabod loves to tell tales of ghosts, goblins, and witches, and when Bones becomes jealous over Katrina's flirtations, he plays tricks on Ichabod which convince the village idiots that Ichabod is a witch doctor - heh! The town is all set to tar and feather him, then ride him out of town on a rail - but the truth comes out about Bones tricks and all is forgiven. Next thing you know though, Ichabod ends up confronting the "headless horseman" on the haunted bridge, and they race along the village road together, Ichabod in complete fear for his life. Okey-dokey - well, this film really seems pretty good, though the print on this DVD is of such poor quality (quite fuzzy and lacking contrast) that sometimes it was hard to really see all the images. It appeared this was very nicely photographed, but hard to tell on this print. The music was okay. I would love to see what this would be liked with a restored print. (3 stars)
Then tonight, a Robert Montgomery double feature for me - - Pettiocat Fever (1936) - Robert Montgomery as a guy who runs a Labrador wireless station, where his only companion is his eskimo manservant - - he hasn't seen a woman in five months - or a beautiful woman in two years. A small plane crash lands carrying Sir James and his fiancee Irene (Myrna Loy), and of course, young Montgomery falls in love with her immediately. He fixes himself up in tux and tails and serves a dinner party at the station, all hoping to seduce Irene away from Sir James. Montgomery's *own* fiancee of two years arrives by surprise to throw a monkey wrench in the whole affair. This film is really pretty silly, a few laughs in spots, but not that good. (2.75 stars)
Piccadilly Jim (1936) - Playboy father and son each use trickery to snare the woman they love. Dad (Frank Morgan) loves Eugenia (Billie Burke), but she comes from this rich, eccentric family that when they meet father and son, won't let her marry the Pop. Son (Robert Montgomery) is a carousing playboy who goes out drinking at nightclubs in tux and tails, where he meets a beautiful woman who is engaged to marry a Lord. The son is also a caricaturist for a London newspaper working under the name "Picadilly Jim" who, after meeting this family, decides to do a daily cartoon strip with these people as the characters. It becomes the hit of the nation, but when the family next arrives from London they feel like they are a laughing stock - and everyone *is* laughing at them, as they recognize these famous figures from the cartoon. But surprise - it turns out the girl he met and chased earlier in the film is the niece of this family and now she won't have anything to do with him! Lots of terrific character actors helps pull this film along. (3.25 stars)

January 28, 2006 - Watched Flightplan (2005) - Suspenseful thriller about a woman (Jodie Foster) whose husband has just died from a fall off the roof of the Berlin building where they have been living. She boards a flight to return to America to live with her parents for awhile, accompanied by her little six-year old daughter Julia and the husband's coffin in cargo. The airplane is a real modern piece of work, with real wide aisles and over 400 passengers. Soon after taking off, the two fall asleep and when waking up, mom finds her daughter is missing. Now we get into a real mystery here - where is the girl? Has she been snatched by *bad men* with the intention of hijacking the plane - or was the little girl never *really* onboard (meaning mama just crazy!). I won't go into any more here so as not to spoil the suspense for anyone, but I did find this film to be quite good and Jodie Foster certainly does as excellent job as the *extremely* panicked mom. The film has very stylish, interesting photography and a nice musical score too. (3.75 stars)

January 27, 2006 - Watched the classic film version of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) this A.M. on TCM. All about young and oh so handsome, wealthy Londoner Dorian Gray (Hurd Hatfield) who prizes youth above all else, it seems. He has a portrait painted of himself and wishes that the portrait would age for him - while he stays forever young. One day he goes to the East End where he visits a seedy vaudeville club called "The Two Turtles" where performs blonde singer Sibyl Vane (Angela Lansbury), who apparently sings only one song every night, "The Little Yellow Bird", as she strolls the audience while the club owner tosses fake snowflakes over her head. She immediately spots handsome Dorian, the only "gentleman" in the audience and gives him the look. Well, Dorian falls in love with Sybil and shows up every night to see her act. But after being egged on by a cad of his acquaintance (George Sanders) he pulls a cruel trick on Sybil and loses her. She commits suicide and Dorian then notices that the painting has actually started to change and take on his corruption. His figure in the painting grows older and more and more hideous, while Dorian visits the London "half-world" areas, the dark side of the East End. This is a really excellent film and that Hurd Hatfield is quite the attractive one in my eyes - I'd call him pretty dapper. One interesting thing about this film is that some of the close-ups of the painting are done in color - I think when I have seen this shown before (haven't watched this in quite a few years now) whatever station I was watching didn't have the sequences shown in color. George Sanders is great playing the same guy he plays in all his films. (4 stars)

January 24, 2006 - Watched the very amusing pre-code farce Lonely Wives (1931) - Lawyer and Park Avenue man, Richard Smith (Edward Everett Horton) is weak to the wiles of women - *after* eight o'clock that is. Any pretty woman can wrap him around her finger it seems, and with his wife away - he's all play and he makes a date to meet his new secretary Kitty (she's perfected the swaying hands-on-hips walk of a thirties flapper/vamp) for ten in the evening. Meanwhile Kitty convinces her gal pal Diane (Laura La Plante) to arrive at Smith's house at eight to use her wiles to get him to be the lawyer for her intended divorce from her husband, a vaudeville impersonator who spends late nights, sometimes ALL night leaving his little wife alone and lonely. Well, that same evening, by coincidence the "Great Zero" (yeah, the impersonator husband) happens to arrive to see Smith because, as the "man of the moment", after a recent triumph in a murder case, he would like to impersonate him in his act. Another coincidence - they look and talk exactly alike (in fact, both parts are played by Edward Everett Horton). Smith convinces Zero to take his place for the evening and fool his mother-in-law (a major busybody who desires her daughter and son-in-law to have a baby - "pitter-patter, pitter-patter" she says for the patter of "little feet"). Smith meets up with Kitty and pal Diane and they all go out on the town to the Whoopee Club, Zero stays at Smith's house and fools all - and what should happen but Smith's wife arrives home from her trip by surprise and is all set to give her hubby (actually Zero, but she doesn't know it) an alcohol rubdown dressed in her new lace nightie. All kinds of bedroom farce stuff follows, leading to the next morning when Smith finally arrives home and the drunk butler keeps seeing double as he runs into Smith or Zero and receives orders contradicting each other - the poor butler thinks he's going nuts. Ha - this film is quite funny, I laughed out loud a number of times. Edward Everett Horton is really excellent in this part. I really like this film a WHOLE lot. (3.75 stars)

January 21, 2006 - Millions (2004) - A special, unique and heartfelt film about two UK brothers whose mom has died and the dad moves the three of them into a new house, just built, in what I would call the English countryside suburbs. The younger boy, Damian, about 8 or 9, is a friendly, but odd little fellow who sees visions of saints and chats with them like there is nothing at all unusual in their appearance. In fact, he has actually made quite a study of saints, spouting trivia on each saint's deeds, their birth and death years, etc. - yeah, he IS an unusual little chap. He builds himself this rambling shack of carboard boxes right next to the train which whizzes by at lightning speed causing his whole structure to vibrate violently (which the boy seems to get a thrill out of). One day a huge bag of cash comes flying through the sky out of nowhere and smashes his structure - the boy thinks the loot is a gift from God. The boys count the money, something like 229,000 pounds, and decide to hide it in their room and spend it. One thing though - the pound is soon to change over to the Euro and the money won't be good anymore, so they must decide what to do. Damian decides to give money away to the poor and goes around trying to find poor people to donate to (like the Mormons!), meanwhile older brother Anthony spends the dough on bribing fellow schoolmates into becoming his bodyguards, carrying his tray, and buying himself cell phones and the like. He would also like to put the money into buying real estate, while little Damian just seeks to do good. Ah - this film really caught me, very engaging. It is filmed in a very interesting style too - really different, with lots of shots at odd camera angles and interesting lighting. The film also has a really nice, catchy orchestral score. It took me about ten minutes or so to get used to the thick British accents, fortunately, even though straining at first, I got used to it. I have seen a LOT of films, from all decades, and this one is quite different and unique. Good one, and by the way, the actors who play the two boys are really excellent in this, particularly the cute little freckled fellow who plays Damian. (4 stars)

January 20, 2006 - Taxi! (1932) - The Consolidated Cab Co. versus the independent taxicabs in the big, big city of NYC. Consolidated taxi drivers love to strong arm the independents by such means as crashing into them, blocking them in against the curb, and making threats - nice guys, eh?! Anyway, old Pop Riley has a successful taxi business on a local street corner, including regular clients, and location right next to the "Fish Grotto" seafood restaurant (neat interior with revolving glass door, ceiling fans, fish tanks, and red-checkered tableclothes - wish I could go there!) where his beautiful daughter Sue (Loretta Young) works. Consolidated strong arm Bud Walker threatens Pop to give up his corner or else - but Pop refuses and they fix it so a truck driver purposely crashes into Pop's taxicab, wrecking it. Pop goes nuts and shoots the guy dead. Ten years in the state Penn for sickly Pop, who doesn't make it. Meanwhile, independent cab driver Matt Nolan (James Cagney), a tough guy with a chip on his shoulder, always ready to start a fight with someone for the smallest thing, is rousing up the other independents to fight against Consolidated. When Sue Riley stands up in front of the group and spouts that they should remain peaceful, Matt is furious and claims to hate her (and also threatens to hit her!). Next thing you know, a sudden switch in story - now we get a romance between Matt and Sue (yeah, you heard right) as they go necking at the movies and enter a fox trot dancing contest. But Matt's temper is getting in the way of their relationship as he punches the guy who beats him dancing, then almost hits a guy who steps on his foot in the elevator and the way up to get their marriage license. Believe it or not, dumb-dumb Sue marries the palooka. Now the third part of the story - while out at the "Cotton Pickers Club" nightclub (including interesting Cotton Club floor show) Matt gets in yet another fight, this time with Bud Walker (yeah, he's back) and Matt's brother steps in the way and is stabbed and killed by Bud. Then we get into a hunt by the police to find Bud, who goes in hiding, and Bud's girl trying to convince Sue to help Bud escape the country so Matt doesn't kill him and become a murderer himself. Weird, eh? This film is pretty good, with top-notch performances especially by Cagney, so perfect portraying this tough kind of person. Sue Riley must be the biggest dope in town - her "man" Matt threatens to punch her in the face MULTIPLE times during this film and she actually marries him and seems reasonably happy with the creep too - hmmm, I really question that. I enjoyed the performance of Leila Bennett as her Betty Boop voiced gal pal Ruby (Ruby: "I wish I could meet some big Spaniard with a lot of money." heh!) There is some fun-to-watch dancing by Cagney and Loretta Young in the dancing contest scene, which I enjoyed (Cagney also does a small tap dance at the apartment door in another scene). (3.5 stars)

January 15, 2006 - The Vanishing American (1925), silent historical epic about the conquering of the Indians. The survival of the fittest in the Grand Canyon - the peaceful, lazy cliff-dwellers are conquered by the invading, conceited Indians, then the Spaniards ride in on their white horses that the Indians think of as fire-breathing "white monsters". The Indians cannot defeat the gun-toting Spaniards, and believing they are gods, bow in obedience. Three hundred years later and Kit Carson rides into town and tries to take control of the dwindling Canyon Indians and basically turn them into white men, then on to the twentieth century where the Indian is resigned to life on a reservation. Half an hour into the film and the main story finally begins - - on a reservation in Mesa, Arizona a handsome young Indian warrior, Nophaie (Richard Dix), has a special relationship with the beautiful teacher at the Indian school, Miss Marion Warner (Lois Wilson, appearing in 1925 dress despite the fact this is set just before WWI) who he calls "White Desert Rose" - they appear to be a couple in love, in spite of the fact that he is an Indian. Town Indian agent and local bad man, Booker (suitably oily Noah Beery) helps white men come into town and steal the Indian's horses and then visits pretty Miss Warner at the school and starts pawing all over her. When she screams out, nearby Nophaie comes to her rescue, but Booker's henchmen go after Nophaie who escapes into the canyon on horseback. Booker switches the story and accuses Miss Warner of meeting in the schoolhouse with an Indian, and men are sent to find Nophaie to try and get the true story. But then suddenly War! The soldiers arrive and want horses and the only person who can convince the Indians to give the horses is our Indian hero. Miss Warner goes off to find Nophaie and convinces him to help fight as he is an "American" too, so then all the Indians march off to fight for the white man, but coming back after the war has ended, their lot in life hasn't been helped one bit! Well, well. A bit slow-moving and longwinded, but very nicely photographed on location, and the acting is top-notch. The DVD of this was from Image Entertainment and includes a quite nice-looking tinted print and equally nice organ score done before a live audience. For another silent film that features a similar interracial romance between handsome Indian and beautiful white woman, I like "The Last of the Mohicans (1921)" even better than this one. (3.25 stars)

January 14, 2006 - Rainy Saturday today, a good day for movies. This morning I watched Cecil B. DeMille's The Whispering Chorus (1918). About John Tremble, cashier who has a problem of what I would call "his conscience" - voices that whisper good and BAD ideas in his head about actions he should take (hence, the "whispering chorus"). Dissatisfied with working to "make a rich man richer" while he makes only $25 a week, he goes out on Christmas Eve to get his brave, patient wife Jane (Kathlyn Williams) a new dress she is longing for, then instead decides to gamble the money in a poker game in hopes of getting enough extra money to replace his own shabby overcoat - unfortunately he loses the money. But the voices still whisper and soon enough they tease him into embezzling cash from his office and juggling the books to cover his crime. Next day he reads in the papers that an investigator, handsome Coggeswell (Elliott Dexter) is being put on the job to investigate his company's books for some sort of possible crime the company may be involved in. Tremble panics and runs away and hides out in this deserted waterfront shack. A dead body washes up and hence Tremble's "bright" idea - exchange clothes with the body to make it appear to be him, then clobber the body over the head and leave an accusing note to make it appear John Tremble was murdered! He shaves off his beard and disappears, hiding himself away on the river docks, the body is found and John Tremble declared dead. The hunt is on for the murderer, Coggeswell offers Jane a job in his office, and Tremble stays in hiding and gradually becomes a tramp in ragged clothes and hair turned gray. Two years later and Coggeswell is elected governor. Of course, he and Jane have fallen in love, but they can't marry 'cause somehow Tremble's eldery mother has a premonition that her son is still living. This film is an excellent drama, very melodramatic, with an unusual story that really captures the attention. This is on the same DVD as "Old Wives for New" and features a brightly tinted print that looks good, though I thought just a bit lacking in sharpness (just oh so slightly fuzzy). Excellent orchestral score accompanies this film, done by the Mont Alto Orchestra. (3.75 - 4 stars)
Then later this afternoon, Officer 13 (1932), a very creaky precode film. Two Hollywood motorcycle officers chase down a speeding car and one of the officers is purposely knocked off the side of the road by the driver, who speeds off, leaving it a hit and run. But the other officer, Tom Burke (Monte Blue) AKA "Officer 13", chases him down and catches him. When the first officer dies, a trial starts to try and convict the driver, a gambler, of murder. But the passenger in his car, Miss Dane (Lila Lee), for some reason lies and says the motorcycle hit a boulder. Angry officer Burke goes nuts in court and gets thrown into the hall, then after the case is over and the gambler is let free, Officer Burke is punished by being sent to "the sticks". But pretty Miss Dane meets up with the dead officer's mother and sad son (played by a very young Mickey Rooney, who pretty much steals the show in this film), then feeling guilty, confesses to her lie. Then we get into a bit of silly stuff involving Burke, Miss Dane, and the police setting up a sting to close down the gambling joint of this broad (Seena Owen) who helped the gambler bribe a high official before the trial began. - - - Oh brother, this film is really pretty bad. I watched it to see two of my favorites from the silents - Monte Blue and Lila Lee - but, well, Monte Blue's acting ability is just not up to snub in this. Lila Lee is okay, given what she is given to do, but the plot is very weak. There are two scenes involving car/motorcycle accidents which are both so poorly done it is hard to believe anyone was even hurt, let along killed (the motorcycle doesn't even appear to be knocked, and I looked at it more than once, then it goes down a VERY small slope before stopping - later Lila Lee is in an accident where the cars don't appear to meet and same thing - down a slight embankment and her head is at rest on the wheel as if she is hurt!). I enjoyed seeing the scenes filmed on the real streets of early 30s L.A. - always interesting to see the quiet and clean streets, so different from today! This film was on a DVD from Alpha Video and looked okay, with some scratches and a hissing sound in the background - but not bad. (By the way, this one wins the prize for the most inaccurate description/plot summary written on a Netflix envelope - completely inaccurate, I wonder where they get some of these, they are often *somewhat* wrong - but this one takes the prize!) (2.25 stars)

January 11, 2006 - Old Wives for New (1918), another Cecil B. DeMille film along similar plotline to "Why Change Your Wife?" and "Don't Change Your Husband". In this one though, the wife has SERIOUSLY let herself go in appearance. The opening title card advises wives to "trim their *Votes for Women* with a little lace and ribbon" - okay, another film where Cecil B. De Mille is trying to tell wives to not let their appearance *go* after marriage. Multi-millionaire oil king, Charles Murdock (Elliott Dexter), is still handsome after twenty or so years of marriage, but his wife Sophy has become overweight, ragged haired, and sloppy, as she spends her days eating out of this huge box of chocolates, lounging in bed, and reading the funny papers. Charles remembers back to when he met her years ago when he literally hooked her dress on his fishing line as young Sophy, a sort of Mary Miles Minter lookalike with long blonde curls and pretty face, prances around in the river. They share a picnic and a kiss, then his mind is snapped back to reality as the scolding Sophy of today asks why he's "mooning around". Charles asks for a divorce and gives Sophy three weeks to think it over while he takes his grown son, Charley, on a camping/hunting trip. While on the trip he meets pretty 5th Avenue dressmaker, Juliet (Florence Vidor), as they both murder the same poor bear. The son Charley has previously convinced dad to shave off his mustache to look younger, and introduces himself to Juliet as dad's "younger brother". After three weeks Charles and Juliet are in love, and Charles, feeling guilty over his deception, reveals the truth about his marriage and children to her. He goes home and tries to forget her as his wife denies him his divorce. Then we get into an odd subplot about Charles and his wealthy older partner Berkeley who go out on a sort of "double date" to this nightclub with a couple of "painted ladies", where Berkeley flirts and leaves with yet another floozy there - then gets himself shot by his first girl. Murdock covers the whole thing over to protect his partner's reputation, but the newspapers mistakenly get the idea that it is Juliet that is behind the shooting, then Murdock tries to protect her. Well, well - this film left me *wanting* this couple to end up divorced as they seem SO unhappy, poor hubby sad because he has no love, and the wife looking more like his mother than his wife. It just seems clear from the get-go this is not going to be a couple who stays together. I thought the film to be quite good, but I rate it a bit below the other two similar Cecil B. DeMille films mentioned above. I love the way DeMille likes to show close-ups of ladies glamorous footwear - how did those gal's keep all that satin and frill on those shoes and hose clean?! Very nice vintage orchestral score composed and compiled by Eric Beheim which enhances the film. The tinted print of this on the Image Entertainment DVD is scratched up in parts, but as a whole quite good. (3.5 stars)

January 9, 2006 - Earlier today watched Pieces of April (2003) - Twenty-one year-old tattooed and pierced girl-with-attitude, April (Katie Holmes), invites her family over for Thanksgiving dinner then spends the day prepping even though has never used her oven before, while family travels to the dinner via car and snacks on junk 'cause they don't think they'll get a good dinner. April clearly has never cooked a thing before so gets most of her dishes from a can, then when she finds her oven to be broken, in order to cook her turkey must knock from door to door in her dilapidated New York City tenement building trying to borrow the use of an oven from one her assortment of oddball neighbors. Meanwhile, the family is on the way, lead by the cancer-ridden mom who may be on her last Thanksgiving, has become mean and neurotic, and apparently never really liked daughter/rebel April. This film all takes place on one Thanksgiving day from wake-up in the morning to dinner-time. The mom and family are so dislikable, not to mention Katie herself, that I found this film a bit hard to like at first. But as the film progressed I liked it more and more and in the end would rate this as quite good. Patricia Clarkson does a fine job playing the dislikable mom - hey, she is hard to like despite the fact that you know she's sick, and I guess that's what the actress is meant to be accomplishing. I also enjoyed the performance of Alison Pill, who I have seen in something recently that escapes me now ("Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen" perhaps?), as the "perfect", stuck-up younger sister. (3.25 - 3.5 stars)
Tonight an evening of Robert Montgomery pre-codes on TCM. First up, So This is College (1929) - About the escapades during senior year of two college fraternity chums who exchange one-liners and spend the whole movie chasing after the same girl. Biff (Robert Montgomery) and Eddie attend USC, where fraternity life is pretty much par for the course here: college hijinks, freshmen beanies, ukuleles, dance cards, bonfires and the big football game - all that's missing is the raccoon coats and a college widow! The guys are bigshots on the SC football team and make a pact to not fool around with girls 'til after the big game - but, well, that same day both guys separately meet cute little flapper Babs (Sally Starr, a sort of second string version of Clara Bow) on campus, and both end up visiting her at her sorority house that evening (along with a bevy of other guys she's met that day!). She clearly likes Biff better, but Eddie keeps chasing after her anyway and they have to have a caterpillar race to see who gets to take her to the school "hop" (and - umm - Biff rigs the race by poisoning Eddie's caterpillar - excuse me, but what a creep, poor caterpillar!). Anyway, the guys fight it out at the dance, stealing each other trousers, snitching dances off the dance card, etc. - but, well, Babs is really quite a fickle little thing, as it turns out. The film is silly but fun, with lots of cute musical numbers thrown in. Watch for Max Davidson as the old tailor, and the football game which is shot at the L.A. Coliseum. (3 stars)
The Big House (1930) - Man (Robert Montgomery) gets ten years in prison for manslaughter after killing a person with his car, and gets thrown in a tiny cell with a killer named Machine Gun (Wallace Beery) and armed robber, Morgan. He's sort of smarmy and cowardly, and immediately tattles on Machine Gun for stealing his smokes. Getting tired - that's all I managed to get down for this, now weeks later I'm finally getting this posted and, well, I will have to wait to write this one up on the next viewing as I don't remember enough now. (3.5 stars)
The Divorcee (1930) - Chester Morris and Norma Shearer play a young couple, Ted and Jerry (interestingly, I know a REAL couple named Ted and Jerry), who get married much to the chagrin of a couple of other men she knows, one (Conrad Nagel) of whom drives a group home like a madman and crashes the car, disfiguring a young lady, then marrying her even though he loves Jerry. On the night of their 3rd wedding anniversary, Jerry finds out that Ted has been having an affair and decides to "even the accounts" by sleeping with his best friend Don (Robert Montgomery). Ted doesn't take the news well, tosses over another couple's wedding cake at a wedding that night, soon they are divorced. Well, well - - same with "The Big House" - I was very sleepy when watching these last two this evening and didn't finish the review here. (3.25 stars)

January 6, 2006 - Week-End Marriage (1932) - About women who want to keep their jobs after marriage, and the men who want them to quit their jobs, stay home, clean, cook, and raise babies. A rather old-fashioned idea behind this plot, but looking at this film keeping in mind the time it was made, it is actually quite an interesting story. Lola (Loretta Young)and Ken (Norman Foster) love each other, but he won't marry her 'cause he thinks his $40 a week salary isn't enough for the two to live on and doesn't want Lola to work after marriage. When he gets offered a position in South America for a higher salary, he takes it - but it means being gone for two years. Lola's sister-in-law writes out in shorthand a script for Lola to use to trick poor sap Ken into marriage - - it works. He cans the South America job and agrees to let Lola work for a few months 'til they get on their feet. A year later and Lola is still working, and what's more Ken gets a demotion and Lola gets a raise - now she earns more than Ken, which of course being a *man* of his time, he hates! Meantime it seems the two both working makes it impossible to keep their house clean and get supper on the table - gee, all Ken wants is an old-fashioned girl to keep house for him - will he ever get it?! I enjoyed this film - nothing spectacular, but well acted and interesting plotline. In one scene they show the young couple in bed together kissing, which you don't often see in a film this early. The film also features lots of early thirties stuff to look at like dresses and kitchens and an old-time buffet-style diner where they eat in one scene. One of the things I enjoy when watching old films is that flash back to the past you get. Not too bad. (3.25 stars)

January 3, 2006 - Today watched Empire Records (1995) - One day in the life of the young people who work at "Empire Records", an independent music store selling cds and vinyl, and following it's own beat, letting employees play loud music, dance, and wear whatever they want. One girl loves aging pop idol Rex Manning and as it's "Rex Manning Day" at the shop she meets and tries to seduce her hero, one girl has just slit her wrist and shaves off her hair in the bathroom, one guy is about to tell the Rex Manning girl he loves her, another guy has stolen 9,000 bucks from yesterday's take and gambled it in hopes of saving the store from takeover. The rest are just offbeat in their own ways - all the action takes place in the store and the film is full of great tunes. I wasn't sure about this at first, but as it got going I ended up really liking it. The version I saw was the "Remix! Special Fan Edition" - don't know how this varies from the original. (3.5 stars)
Tonight saw Bright Road (1953) on TCM. Dorothy Dandridge as a young teacher, Miss Richards, on her first year of teaching and the relationship she has with a student named C.T. C.T. is from a large, poor family, he's slightly troubled, won't study, arrives late his first day, and just doesn't care about school - yet he is kind, bright, and always seems to have a smile. Now in the 4th grade, he has spent most of his schooling flunking and spending two years in each grade. Miss Richards tries to help him and meantime has a small flirtation (yeah, really quite small) with the good-looking guitar-playing, singing school principal (Harry Belafonte). C.T. has a soft spot in his own heart for his pretty little schoolmate, Tanya, and the two have a sweet little romance with walks home from school hand in hand. Well, this film is really a sort of hidden little jewel - how'd I manage to miss it all these years?! They also manage to fit in a few singing spots for Dorothy Dandridge, who gives a very sensitive portrayal of the new teacher (with interesting voice-overs of her inner voice speaking to herself). A special and different film. (4 stars)

January 2, 2006 - On this stormy rain-soaked afternoon watched Boys Don't Cry (1999), based on the true story of Teena Brandon, Nebraska teen transexual who disguises herself as a boy named Brandon by binding down her breasts and inserting sock in jeans - she really looks like a guy! Brandon ends up in this wasteland of a small town in Nebraska called Falls City where she befriends a bunch of white trash youth who spend most of their spare time rooting around, "mudding", and getting drunk on beer. Brandon meets trashy blonde Lana at a bar one night, admires her karaoke song with two girls he knows, and develops a big crush on her. They start up a relation without her knowing she is a female, and this, combined with the hidden outstanding arrest warrants hanging over Brandon's head, leads to the beginning of the end of Teena Brandon's secret. This film is spellbinding and intense from start to finish - an amazing acting job by Hilary Swank as Brandon, I did not remember the details of this story (and I *never* read the description of a film on the little Netflix envelope until AFTER I have seen the movie, so as to not read the unexpected spoiler - glad of that in the case of this one!) or what to expect in the end, that helped keep me on the edge for this really emotionally charged film. Excellent. (3.75 stars)

January 1, 2006 - On this rainy New Year's Day, watched Goodbye, Columbus (1969) - Jewish librarian Neil (Richard Benjamin) meets tall and tan and young and lovely brunette, Radcliffe student on summer vacation, Brenda (Ali MacGraw) at a country club swimming pool, then uses the aggressive method of pursuit by phoning her up later that day even though they haven't said more than two words to each other - amazingly she agrees to see him even though she can't even remember who he is! Soon they become a couple and are exchanging long kisses through most of the movie, while Neil must also contend with putting up with her wealthy yet classless, dysfunctional and obnoxious family which includes dad (Jack Klugman), actually the nicest of the bunch, psychotic mom, psychotic brother, and annoying brat little sister. All of this done with a real late sixties flair that really takes me back to life as I remember it in 1969 - the dresses on the women, the cars, the music. I like the "groovy" dance party scene and fun frolic of a sixties Jewish wedding and reception with lots of dancing and party guests who go crazy at the buffet table. Well done, with lots of interesting photography, bright colors, and music by "The Association" - a very enjoyable blast back to the past. (3.75 stars)

December 29, 2005 - Today watched Cecil B. DeMille's silent film Male and Female (1919) - Upstairs/downstairs story of servants (namely "the admirable" Crichton and "Tweeny", the cute little scullery maid who loves him) and masters at the Loam House, English estate where lives Lord Loam and his two pampered, lazy daughters who love to lounge around and be catered to by a bevy of servants. The eldest daughter, Lady Mary (Gloria Swanson), loves to take perfumed baths, then shower in rose water - she thinks servants are beneath her (yet lets them remove her clothes as she slips into the perfectly-temperature-controlled-by-maids bath water), though she does seem to have a slight fancy for house butler Crichton (Thomas Meighan, don't blame her there!), sort of one of those "perfect man servants" you often see ruling the roost in many upstairs downstairs films. Crichton is wise, handsome, the perfect servant who uses the white glove test to inspect for dust and rules the other numerous household servants making sure they give proper *service*. Crichton also seems to have philosophical ideas about his lot in life, and the world of the servers and those they serve. Well, what do you think happens? They all go on a yachting trip to the South Seas and get shipwrecked on this remote tropical island where soon the strong rule - namely, yeah, you know, Crichton has the survival skills needed and they all must look to him for food, fire, etc. Two years go by and we now get into a silent version of "Gilligan's Island" with bamboo huts, assortment of odd inventions created out of stuff they find to make their lives easier, even a set up to send up a smoke signal in case there is ever a passing ship - there is even, just like Gilligan's Island, three gals and four men - hmmm. They roam around in outfits made of grass, skins, and fur, and seem to have it fairly easy as the island seems to be well stocked with fruits and figs, goats and boars, plus roaming leopards (where the heck is this meant to be?)! Crichton has become a sort of "king" of the island via his great survivor skills, and the former servant has now become the master with Tweeny (Lila Lee) and Mary fighting to wait on him. As a love triange forms between the three, Mary and Crichton begin to fall in love with poor jealous Tweeny trying her best to keep in the game. This film is quite a good one, with a very interesting story and handsome, handsome leading man. The version I saw is from Kino and includes a fairly brightly tinted, nice quality print, and catchy orchestral score. (3.75 stars)

December 28, 2005 - Today had an at-home double feature for myself - first, watched The Collector (1965) - Interesting and unique psychological thriller about a young man (Terence Stamp) who collects butterflies and mounts them by the hundreds in picture frames. He has another obsession too - a young art student named Miranda (Samantha Eggar) who he stalks through the streets of London, soon going through with the ultimate goal of his obsession - he chloroforms her, kidnaps her, and hides her in this cathedral-like dungeon of his old countryside English house. Fixing the room up for her with bed, vanity, toilet and toiletries, art books, dresses - everything she might need, he locks her behind two thick bolted doors, plus bookcase to keep her hidden. She has no escape but to try and make deals with her captor in hopes of getting out of this predicament. Now we get a study of psychotic man versus his prisoner as she convinces him to let her go in four weeks in exchange for talking to him, eating, and, he hopes, maybe falling in "love" with him. This film is fascinating from beginning to end - just two people and one room throughout most of the film, yet it really kept me wanting to find out what would happen. I wonder at some of the choices she makes in trying to get away - perhaps she would have been wiser from the get-go to go along with him a bit more to try and get him to release her rather than her several efforts at escape. The film features an excellent, Doctor Zhivago-like score by Maurice Jarre that seems so light and beautiful for such a dark film, yet somehow works perfectly. This film is directed by one of my favorite directors, William Wyler, and a great job, like many of his other works, he did on this film. (4 stars)
Then second in today's "double feature", a film that is pretty much the complete opposite - Dancing Sweeties (1930) - About Bill (Grant Withers), conceited braggart hoofer who swipes a cute brunette named Molly (Sue Carol) from his biggest rival on the dance floor, "Needles" Thompson, and enters the big Waltz Contest at the local dance hall with her where he has already won 11 cups. Bill and Molly win and soon are nuzzling together over a couple of cokes and complaining how their folks boss them around and treat them like "children" (hmmm - a little odd to say the least considering Bill is no "youth" - he looks almost thirty). The dance hall is holding a free public wedding along with free furnished home for a couple that night, but when the couple to be married drops out at the last minute, the hall owners convinces Molly and Bill to be married "live on the radio" that night instead. They move into their little freebie home together and the next thing you know Molly and Bill go out dancing for the first time in nearly a month of marriage and - well, seems the honeymoon is OVER as Bill gets mad 'cause Molly can't dance the newest dance craze "the Hullaboo" and enter that night's contest with him to win yet another cup. So he starts lying, sneaking out, and dancing with a blondie named Jazzbo to win himself a cup, and the marriage is soon on the rocks - what else! Well, this film *is* pretty average, the acting pretty poor, and the plotline a bit silly - but I thought it was certainly worth seeing for it's vintage appeal and view of cute flapper-style dresses and hats on the gals, also there is a really excellent tap dance number played under the opening credits which I thought was very enjoyable, if just too brief (should have had more like that in the film!). Nothing spectacular, but still, a fun film. (3 stars)

Dec 27, 2005 - Must Love Dogs (2005) - About two recently divorced 40 year olds, Sarah and Jake (Diane Lane and John Cusack), who just can't seem to hook up though they are clearly meant to be together. Sarah's family gives her a "dating intervention", forcing photos of divorced men they know on her, and putting an internet ad (with her high school graduation picture, no less!) on Sarah starts to date men via the ad and meets Jake, (who's friend answered Sarah's ad on his "behalf") in the dog park. He's crazy about her at first sight, she seems to kind of like him too, but it just doesn't pan out. Now we get a whole movie where the two keep hooking up, can't find a condom, so split apart, date others, Sarah goes nutty changing her whole style and becoming a loose chick, blah blah blah. All kind of annoying 'cause it just seems *so* improbable that all these stupid things would come up to keep them apart considering they both liked each other from the get-go. Ah well. Another annoyance - Sarah is a very nervous, on-edge, mental case kind of girl - so tightly wound I found it somewhat irritating. And hey, why didn't they show Sarah watching "Doctor Zhivago" during the film as one way to show us that they both really belong together, instead of waiting 'til almost the end for the reveal that she has seen Jake's "favorite" film twenty times herself. (2.75 stars)

December 26, 2005 - Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) - Johnny Depp plays Willy Wonka as a complete eccentric, psychotic homosexual in this new version of the classic children's book. I have seen the old version of this from 1971 so many times it is hard to not compare the two (hey, as a ten-year old deprived of chocolate, how could I not have loved, loved, loved the old version when it came out - just that opening with all the candy being made - oh boy!). Both films are very similar in many ways - five golden tickets hidden in Wonka chocolate bars, and four kids who are spoiled rotten, mental cases plus Charlie find the tickets and win a day in Wonka's factory, closed for the last twenty years or something. This filmed version has the Oompa Loompas, the little men who run the factory (and I do mean LITTLE) all special effected to look almost as little as the little people in Land of the Giants, and all played by one man duplicated over and over into an army via special effects - I like the way they did this in the old film better, using real dwarfs, not trick photography. The boy playing Charlie, Freddie Highmore, is very good - charming and sweet, as he should be. I didn't think the casting of the other kids was as well done as in the earlier film - especially the two girls. I miss the nice, old-fashioned songs of the earlier version, though this newer version does have some interesting songs all sung by the Oompa Loompas in a variety of music styles (60s, heavy metal, Bollywood, etc.). But the lyrics taken from the book, were close to impossible to understand - it is better done in the old film, with the songs being done in song rhymes that are easily understood. This newer version does include some flashbacks relating to Wonka's childhood (clearly in attempt to explain why he's so psycho) including this thing with young Wonka appearing in a monstrous head gear, forced on him by his dentist father, which gives him a weird permanent smile making him for all the world look exactly like young Gwynplaine and his permanent grin in the silent film "The Man Who Laughs". This film is not bad, but if someone hasn't seen either version - I would definitely recommend seeing the 1971 version over this one. (3 stars)

December 23, 2005 - Play-Girl (1932) - At the Mayfield Department Store, the bevy of blondes that seems to work there all hope to be transferred to the departments most likely to have a lot of *rich men* as customers. Buster (Loretta Young) to her dismay ends up in infant wear - but she seems to feel two ways about it all - she's sad there are only women customers in her department, yet spouts about how she *never* wants to be married and is afraid of not living through a pregnancy. Buster and her older roomie Georgine (who sleep together in one double bed for some reason) go out dancing where Buster meets Wally (Norman Foster), an aggressive braggart who comes on so strong it works! She soon marries him, becomes pregnant, and all seems swell, but, uh oh, it seems our Wally has been lying to her about what he does for a living - seems he makes ALL his money from gambling on horses and poker hands. "Bus" demands he quit and get a real job, but when he takes $90 out of their savings account she assumes it was to make a bet on some horse - so throws him out. When Bus can't make ends meet, she actually turns to gambling herself, betting on hunch horse racing bets like "Baby Mine" just 'cause she's pregnant - and winning. This film is quite good, with interesting plotline, and lots of fun patter between a very catty blonde from the department store and Georgine with plenty of sexual innuendo thrown in. Loretta Young is very young and very beautiful in this, and does quite a good job at realistically portraying this character. I can't really say why this was called "Play Girl" as it barely describes the plot - unless it means she started "playing on the horses" or refers to the brief scene where the catty department store girl says "I knew she was a playgirl all along" - anyway, this film is really quite a good one. (3.5 stars)

December 21, 2005 - First Daughter (2004) - Samantha "Sam" MacKenzie(Katie Holmes), daughter of the President of the United States (played by Michael Keaton), goes off to California for college but can't get out from under the constant watch of her secret service men and "lookie-loo" students to break out and have some fun. Luckily Sam soon meets a cute guy named James, and they really seem to hit it off, but can she really be sure he likes her for just "herself"?! Well, this film started kind of dumb and actually got better as it took a turn for a pretty interesting romance. I liked this better than I thought I would, even Katie Holmes acting, which at first seemed kind of amateurish, actually seemed to get better as the film progressed (or did I just start to *like* her better as the film progressed?!). The actors who play her parents are pretty wasted here, really just throwaways - as the film is really just about her. (3.5 stars)

December 12, 2005 - This afternoon watched Miss Lulu Bett (1921) - a terrific and romantic little silent film directed by William de Mille. Poor spinster Miss Lulu Bett (Lois Wilson), living in the home of her sister's family, run with a stern hand by sis's husband Dwight Deacon, "master of the house", dentist, and sort of "Life With Father" /"Meet Me in St. Louis" head of the household and stickler for dinner promptly on time. Lulu is treated like a house servant/slave as she does all the family cooking and cleaning and gets in trouble for spending two bits for a potted violet. Well, the local school teacher, Mr. Cornish (Milton Sills) arrives one evening and Lulu clearly has a crush on him - - and it seems he fancies our Lulu too (though she seems oblivious to the fact) - after all, it's pretty clear from the get-go she's a beauty hidden by her ragged appearance. One day Deacon's brother Ninian arrives, a pudgy, somewhat aggressive middle-aged man, who immediately has his eye on Lulu 'cause she's got her long hair down when he arrives and looks quite pretty. Well, a very odd thing happens - when mom, dad, Ninian, and Lulu are out at a restaurant, Ninian jokingly pretends to marry Lulu - placing a ring on her finger, saying his vows, and prodding her to say them back, which she does. Umm - it turns out that our Deacon also happens to be a justice of the peace, and the couple is now REALLY married. Not for long though - a week later it seems that this Ninian may be a bigamist as he reveals to Lulu that he already has a wife who left him years ago, disappeared, and he doesn't know if she is alive or dead. Hmmm. Lulu goes home and must now face the family who only wants her around to cook and the town gossips who think she was sent packing by her husband. But there's one charm in the whole mix - the school teacher is still there and loves Lulu. Sigh. I love this film, that's all I need say! Nicely played by Lois Wilson in a way that sure makes you root for and hope things work out for Lulu. The film is on the same DVD from Image Entertainment as "Why Change Your Wife" and features a nice-looking sepia tinted print, as well as a yet another well-done orchestral score by the Mont Alto Orchestra. (4 stars)

December 11, 2005 - Today watched the silent film Why Change Your Wife? (1920), directed by Cecil B. DeMille. As the opening title card tells us "angels are often dead husbands, but husbands are seldom live angels" - and so thinks Beth Gordon (Gloria Swanson) in this well-done marital comedy. Beth is a woman of virtue, and really quite a bit of a nag - annoyed by hubby Robert's (Thomas Meighan) wine cellar and doggie in the house - she bugs him while he's shaving, asks him to stop smoking, and forces him to abandon his favorite music, the Hindustan fox trot in favor of violin playing by a long-haired wolf named Radinoff. Wondering where was the girl he once married, hubby goes to a local gown shop to buy Beth a negligee and hopefully bring a smile back to her face (and his too, no doubt, judging by the slinky see-through number he buys her). The model at the shop, Sally (Bebe Daniels), happens to be a girl from upstate who once had a crush on Robert, and seems to still (she just LOVES curly hair). So Sally of the perfumed lips, feather, furs, and velvet pillows, comes slinking out modeling the negligee laden with perfume and a heart tattoo on her shoulder. That night when he gives wifey the gift, she is a bit put out by the revealing nightie - her modesty just won't let herself be seen in it without covering herself. Later, when Robert buys tickets to the Follies, Beth won't go as she invited Radinoff and guests over to be charmed by his violin. So Robert gives the extra ticket to seductress Sally and next thing you know is in her apartment, a real spider trap with couch arms that open up, one side revealing a record player (equipped with no less than the Hindustan fox trot) and the other arm revealing a liquor cabinet. Arriving home at nearly two in the morning, Beth is mad and soon (oh SO soon) has divorced him. Robert marries Sally and soon finds the same things happening all over - Sally nagging and bugging him while he's trying to shave - and Sally hates doggie too. Meanwhile, Beth, who overhears gossips talking about how she "dresses like an old woman, no wonder she lost Robert", decides to change her look and buys six new gowns - all "sleeveless, backless, transparent, and as indecent" as possible. She is also soon trotting around a Grand Hotel wearing the latest revealing swimming costume and being chased by most of the men - looks like her days of modesty are LONG gone. Well, it won't be long 'til we can all guess what will happen with THAT going on, especially when Robert and the new Mrs. Gordon arrive by surprise to stay at the Grand Hotel. Anyway, this film is really very amusing. It has a very similar plot to Cecil B. DeMille's "Don't Change Your Husband", except kind of reversed. However, both films pretty much make the woman look more like the bad one - hmmm. The DVD from Image Entertainment features a nice looking tinted print and really excellent orchestral score by the Mont Alto Orchestra. This film is a lot of fun - I liked it a bit better than the similar "Don't Change Your Husband". (3.75 to 4 stars)

December 10, 2005 - Tonight watched the sequel to "Meet the Parents", Meet the Fockers (2004). In this, Gaylord "Greg" Focker (Ben Stiller) and his girlfriend Pam are engaged to be married, and now she is finally going to meet his parents - Florida sixty-something hippie couple who are the polar opposite of Pam's stiff parents. Focker's mom (Barbra Streisand) is a sex therapist, running a group class for senior citizens - Focker's dad (Dustin Hoffman) is an ex-lawyer "Mr. Mom" who has built a shrine on the wall of the house full of "Gay's" sixth and ninth place ribbons and the like. So basically, this movie is about the meeting of the two sets of parents and the clash between them, including arrival at the Florida home via Pam's dad's (Robert De Niro) new super-sized trailer and for some odd reason, Pam's sister's baby son in tow for the entire film. Of course, Pam's dad, like in the first film, still doesn't trust Greg to be in his "circle of trust" and at one point actually injects him with truth serum - heh. Well, I got a few laughs and chuckles from this here and there, but as a whole not nearly as good as "Meet the Parents". There is a bit too much bathroom style humor (dog down toilet = NOT funny), the things that amused me most were few: namely the answering machine message that Greg's parents have (haven't we all had family members that ramble and talk to others in the room instead of to the person they're talking to when on an answering machine?!), and when the baby finally says his first word "Ass-hooole" he says it in quite a funny way (nice performance by baby). (2.75 stars)

December 9, 2005 - Tonight watched (along with hubby, long time no see on the movie watching couch!) Meet the Parents (2000) - Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) spends the weekend at the home of his girlfriend Pam's parents and tries to become part of Pam's dad's (Robert DeNiro) "circle of trust". Greg wants to ask Pam to marry him, but is intimidated by dad, a secret CIA-agent who doesn't seem to like Greg much, all started off by the fact that Greg doesn't seem to like cats, like the dad's beloved, toilet-using cat Mr. Jinx. Dad spies on Greg via hidden camera and at one point actually hooks him up and questions him via an antique lie detector machine. Meanwhile, Greg also must contend with Pam's ex-fiance (Owen Wilson), a guy who is successful, seems perfect in every way, still has Pam's photos all over his huge mansion of a house, and is a favorite of Pam's dad to boot. Well, well. Actually this film has quite a few laughs in it, really quite amusing, I especially like the parts with Own Wilson as her ex. (3.75 stars)

December 8, 2005 - This morning watched a light bit of fluff, Ice Princess (2005) - Science geek comes out of her shell as she becomes a competitive figure skater. High school student Casey (Michelle Trachtenberg) needs a project to submit to try and win the Harvard Physics Scholarship, so she comes up with the idea of studying the effects of physics and inertia on figure skaters. Going to her local rink to film the skaters, she decides she needs even more of an insider understanding in order to complete her project - so she signs up for novice lessons. Casey literally becomes a super skater overnight, soon amazingly landing triple jumps. She decides to enter herself in the regional championships, but must keep the whole thing hidden from her feminist mom (Joan Cusack) who thinks the glittery costumes skaters wear sets women back 50 years. Casey must also contend with the tricks of the dastardly rink coach Tina (Kim Cattrall), apparently once a Tanya Harding of the skating world type and also the mother of one of the other female skaters. Oh yes, of course Casey "likes" the rink's Zamboni driver guy. Well, I really love figure skating, so thought this was pretty good, though had to accept a few implausibles like the rapid speed at which the girl progresses, the fact that for some reason most all the girls that are top contenders in regionals all train at the same ice rink, and the fact that in the big competition there is a spotlight that follows Casey - hmmm, they never have a spotlight on during a USFSA competition, only during the non-competing segments (like gala shows and the like). Typical soundtrack of new music on this, with reasonably good "girl singer" vocals. (3.5 stars)

December 2, 2005 - This A.M. watched Madame X (1937) on TCM. In France, a married woman named Jacqueline (Gladys George) is having an affair with another man, when another WOMAN visits and shoots him dead. Jacqueline returns home to find her young son Raymond is ill and her successful lawyer husband (Warren William) has found out about the affair and turns her out of the house AND out of her son's life for good. She won't accept his offer to give her financial support and disappears - next time we see her it's a few months later and she's working as a governess taking care of young Dickie Moore. But when the police show up, she assumes it has something to do with the crime of her shot lover and takes it on the lam. Travelling from country to country she becomes a big boozer and soon hits rock bottom. Meanwhile hubby has been trying to locate her for ten years, finally giving up. Jacqueline hooks up with a card shark and one drunken night she reveals to him the name of her former husband, now a very important figure in Paris. Mr. Card Shark is set to seek out the ex-husband to bribe him for quiet about his former wife, but Jacqueline shoots the card shark dead. Now we get into an interesting murder trial segment where Jacqueline, unknown to her, is defended by her son Raymond, now grown-up (now played by John Beal) and a lawyer on his first case. This is an excellent film, and certainly helped along by the great performance done by Gladys George. All the acting is top-notch in this, and the story is quite interesting too. (3.75 stars)
A light rain this afternoon, a nice time to watch another movie - so watched Kingdom of Heaven (2005), about the adventures of a pretty-faced young man named Balian (Orlando Bloom) who is full of honor and good intentions. In 1184, Balian, working as a blacksmith, is visited by his father (Liam Neeson), a baron, he has never met. After murdering the town priest, son joins father on a crusade to Jerusalem, to find forgiveness for his sins, and those of his dead wife, a suicide. So begins an adventure for Balian full of sword fights, father's death, a shipwreck followed by crossing of the desert by foot and more sword fighting, meeting with dad's various friends in Jerusalem including the young king, who wears a silver mask and gloves to cover his leprosy. Trying to keep peace in the city, unfortunately the king dies and the new king, married to the princess (who is the old king's sister and currently Balian's lover, what else would you expect?!), takes over and starts a war between the Christians and Muslims. Then a big bloody battle ensues. This film was actually pretty good - started a bit rambling and a bit hard to follow, but I actually found it interesting in an odd way. It certainly has some excellent scenes shot with crowds and crowds of extras, and well-done costumes and art direction. There's that same winter scene in this, I've seen in at least two other recent films this year ("Gladiator" and "King Arthur"), with the flying snow flakes amid the battle of flying arrows - hmmm. I don't quite see why Balian ended up in charge of the entire battle and had the power to knight everyone, but whatever. Extremely handsome Orlando Bloom spends most of the film sunburned or dirty-faced or scarred with blood, but, ah well, he still looks pretty darn good - oh my! (3.5 stars)

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