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She Done Him Wrong (1933)

My first Mae West film and my oldest Cary Grant film mixed into one! My main takeaway: holy sexual innuendo. The plot isn’t anything great, but the reason to stay in Mae West’s one-liners, which I assume was the goal. Grant doesn’t have a whole lot to do, but he played his part as well as he could have. 
 

The Chase (1946)

I picked this, because I liked the setting of Florida/Havana and Robert Cummings. He was one of the best at playing the everyman caught up in crime and espionage. My main quibble was the plot twist about halfway through. It’s certainly unique, but it threw me off a bit. Steve Cochran impressed in his role as the criminal, which was one of the highlights for me.

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3 hours ago, Janet0312 said:

TCM did not feel the need to issue a warning about the insensitive portrayal of blind people prior to the movie, but that day is probably coming. 

Oh, come on. Really?

Just sounded like something funny to say. It was recently pointed out that there is no tongue in cheek emoji, so I should be wary of being taken too literally sometimes.

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2 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

And what's with these films where the oldest kid is an adult and the second oldest kid is like 8 or 9?

I just watched The Birds again the other night, and Rod Taylor and Veronica Cartwright are supposed to be brother and sister.  He was 33. She was 14. And Jessica Tandy, who was 54, was supposed to be mother of them both.

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I finally saw the 3 "That's Entertainment" shows.  Such fun!  I loved watching Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly dance together in part 2.  I remember them dancing together in "Ziegfeld Follies".  No words can describe watching the 2 best male dancers in movie history dance together.

Those "Entertainment" shows were fun!  Too bad they were only MGM shows.  Tonight I plan to watch "That's Dancing" which will be (thankfully) more than MGM shows.  I'm hoping in that to see Shirley Temple, James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Footlight Parade, Elvis, John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever, Jane Powell.  I'd like more Leslie Caron.  I'd like a little on Moira Shearer, but I doubt it.  Those "Entertainment" shows featured a nice amount of Ann Miller in tap, but nothing for ballet.  So I'd like to see that.  I'd also like to see more on Vera Ellen.  Those "Entertainment" shows didn't show much on her.

Lori

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1 hour ago, sewhite2000 said:

I just watched The Birds again the other night, and Rod Taylor and Veronica Cartwright are supposed to be brother and sister.  He was 33. She was 14. And Jessica Tandy, who was 54, was supposed to be mother of them both.

When my youngest brother turned 14, our mother was 52.  Our oldest brother (by the same parents) was 31.   Things like this do happen.  My two older brothers were 10 and 12 when I was born; 15 and 17 when our youngest brother was born.

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3 hours ago, kingrat said:

Speedy, if you haven't seen Deep Valley, that's my favorite Ida Lupino performance. She is consistently good, and I don't recall seeing any of her performances I didn't like. She seems more modern than some of her contemporaries. Although she wasn't in a lot of famous films, most of her films hold up very well, and one reason they do is Ida. Warner Brothers with its grittier, more realistic style was an excellent fit for her talents.

I think I might have this one on my DVR.  I'll need to watch it.  Thanks for the recommendation!

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3 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

It’s the lives Mr. and Mrs. Miniver 10 years after the war, and they are again played by Walter Pidgeon and Greer Garson, But it’s not what you’re expecting it to be. In a good way though. At least I thought.

Thanks, I'll check it out! 

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3 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

One somewhat surprising thing to remember about Ida Lupino is that she was British, very British. And you can really really notice it in her early films, and to a degree it shows up in some of her later movies too. It accounts for her curiously, engagingly, staccato like delivery.

I don't think I've ever seen any of her 30s films. I think the earliest of her films that I've seen is They Drive by Night.  

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2 hours ago, sewhite2000 said:

I just watched The Birds again the other night, and Rod Taylor and Veronica Cartwright are supposed to be brother and sister.  He was 33. She was 14. And Jessica Tandy, who was 54, was supposed to be mother of them both.

Yes.  That was always weird to me too.  They could have easily made Veronica Cartwright the daughter of Rod Taylor and I don't think it would have affected the story at all.  While I realize that 20 year age differences between children is not unheard of, usually there are a lot of children that would explain the large span in ages.  I didn't have as much an issue with Jessica Tandy as the mother, I could buy that.  She could conceivably be Rod Taylor's mother.  

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2 hours ago, Lori Ann said:

I finally saw the 3 "That's Entertainment" shows.  Such fun!  I loved watching Fred Astaire & Gene Kelly dance together in part 2.  I remember them dancing together in "Ziegfeld Follies".  No words can describe watching the 2 best male dancers in movie history dance together.

Those "Entertainment" shows were fun!  Too bad they were only MGM shows.  Tonight I plan to watch "That's Dancing" which will be (thankfully) more than MGM shows.  I'm hoping in that to see Shirley Temple, James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy, Footlight Parade, Elvis, John Travolta, Saturday Night Fever, Jane Powell.  I'd like more Leslie Caron.  I'd like a little on Moira Shearer, but I doubt it.  Those "Entertainment" shows featured a nice amount of Ann Miller in tap, but nothing for ballet.  So I'd like to see that.  I'd also like to see more on Vera Ellen.  Those "Entertainment" shows didn't show much on her.

Lori

I believe that the first That's Entertainment film was produced as a celebration of MGM's 50th anniversary--which is why it focused on MGM's musicals.  MGM was also known as the studio that produced the highest quality musicals and stars.  By 1973, when That's Entertainment was in production, the MGM backlot was in shambles and was set to be sold to developers and torn down (what a shame).  

On You Tube, there is a fantastic video that acts as a nice companion piece to That's Entertainment.  I believe it is the premiere of the film and there is also some sort of gala to promote the film.  Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli introduce a number of MGM's biggest stars over their 50-year history.  It's fun seeing so many of these stars.  There was so much talent packed onto that stage.  It's also weirdly emotional to see stars like Marjorie Main and Jimmy Durante. 

Vera-Ellen doesn't have a very large filmography.  She's probably best known for On the Town and White Christmas (both great films).  She does an amazing number in Words and Music with Gene Kelly called "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." I also enjoyed her in Three Little Words with Fred Astaire. 

For ballet dance routines, Vera-Ellen's opening number and the "Day in New York" numbers in On the Town; Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire in "The Girl Hunt Ballet" in The Band Wagon; and of course, Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly in the "Broadway Melody" number in Singin' in the Rain. I believe Cyd might also dance ballet in Silk Stockings, but don't quote me on that.  Then of course, there is Leslie Caron in An American in Paris.  

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7 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

I don't think I've ever seen any of her 30s films. I think the earliest of her films that I've seen is They Drive by Night.  

She’s excellent in THE LIGHT THAT FAILED (1939)- It’s really a breakthrough performance for her.

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8 hours ago, txfilmfan said:

When my youngest brother turned 14, our mother was 52.  Our oldest brother (by the same parents) was 31.   Things like this do happen.  My two older brothers were 10 and 12 when I was born; 15 and 17 when our youngest brother was born.

MY GOD, YOUR PARENTS WERE ANIMALS!!!!!

(and Good for them, I say.)

(ps- tongue is firmly in cheek here.)

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16 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

you should consider checking out THE MINIVER STORY (1951?)-  a sequel that was not a success, but which I find a lot more interesting than MRS. MINIVER. (The ending is a real surprise.)

Thank you! I requested that as well as ROAD HOUSE from my library. I rely on opinions expressed in this thread. Especially ones that lead me to avoid stinkers, like JAGGED EDGE.

When I was 14, my brother was 26 and our Mother was 46. He was a honeymoon baby & I am the "mistake".

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Midnight Run (1988)

Knockout action comedy featuring Robert De Niro as an ex-cop turned bounty hunter who is assigned to capture a white collar criminal on the run who ripped off the underworld, now out kill him. Aside from having the threat of Vegas mobsters showing up, De Niro also has to outwit both the FBI, also on the criminal's trail, as well as a crafty fellow bounty hunter.

Charles Grodin plays the former accountant on the run with a delicious deadpan dialogue delivery. Yes, after shortly being caught by De Niro, they will gradually, ever so gradually, start to bond with one another but this film is so much more than just your standard "buddy film."

As directed by Martin Brest, this film has some terrific action set pieces, one featuring a helicopter with Mafia marksmen shooting at our heroes in a careening car in a wild chase sequence, and a great dry sense of humour with the reactions of De Niro and Grodin to one another. This was one of the first films (along with King of Comedy) in which De Niro showed how skillful he could be at bringing moments of humour to an essentially serious scene.

img_2450.jpg?w=640

Aside from an intelligent, at times suspenseful, screenplay chock full of surprises, the other thing that so distinguishes this film is the depth of De Niro's performance. There is a scene in which he sees his young daughter for the first time in years which is genuinely touching, with their awkward silences and furtive glances at one another speaking volumes about two people who care about one another but don't know what to say. Grodin is a marvel, too, and, as the film progresses, you find that you really care what happens to the two lead characters. When an action comedy suspense film emotionally affects you like that you know you're hooked.

But the performances of the entire cast are first rate, including Yaphet Kotto as the lead FBI agent on the trail, Dennis Farina cold bloodedly chilling as the towering Mafia king pin demanding Grodin's death, Joe Pantoliano as a slimy double dealing bondsman given to screaming tantrums and John Ashton as the rival bounty hunter, a smart cookie but very, very rough.

For whatever reason Midnight Run was not a hit at the 1988 box office, nor has this film, which works so well on so many levels, action, suspense, comedy, characterizations, been rediscovered by many film fans since. One of the very best films of Robert De Niro's career, with one of his most engaging performances, it remains largely unknown by many movie buffs today. And that is an injustice to one great film.

Midnight+Run+2.jpg

3.5 out of 4

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January 2 News of the World (Universal, 2020)
Source: Theater

Yeah, so I started going to movies again around Thanksgiving. Sounds like the AMC chain, which has been my primary movie house for at least the last 10 years, is about to go away forever, so I'm trying to sneak in a few more visits. I feel pretty safe. The number of people seeing the movie with me so far has always been in the single digits and sometimes is zero. Private screening! For this film, there were three other people in the theater besides me. I took note when I saw the Universal logo appear. Back at the beginning of the pandemic, Universal announced they were going to start making their films available for streaming within two or three weeks of theatrical release, when for the entire existence of streaming that window of time had always been more like three months. This got the CEO of AMC so hacked off he said the chain wouldn't show Universal movies anymore. But obviously, that didn't happen. The pandemic has gone on for another 10 months, and everyone is following the Universal model, even more so. Beginning with Wonder Woman 1984, Warner Bros. announced they would be releasing all their features to theaters and to streaming on the SAME DAY. The theaters now just have to take whatever they can get.

Anyway, on to the movie. There was some discussion on these message boards recently about Tom Hanks, with just about everybody I remember reading having a pretty low assessment of his talent and in particular comparing him unfavorably to Jimmy Stewart, which is kind of interesting because my next review is going to be a Stewart film. I personally don't have the issues with Hanks that many of you seem to. He's usually a dependable lead, not one with a ton of range, maybe, but I've always thought he had a fairly captivating screen presence.

I found this film intriguing because its hero, played by Hanks, is a Confederate veteran. I wasn't sure there would ever be a movie again in which a Confederate soldier or veteran could be shown to have any redeeming qualities whatsoever, much less heroic ones (the movie is based on a novel). Now, there's a certain soft-sell to this whole aspect of the film: the words "Confederacy" or "Confederate" are never mentioned, but Hanks says he was with the Texas Third Infantry and surrendered at Galveston. 

The movie is set during Reconstruction, five years after the war ends and takes place entirely in Texas (it was filmed in New Mexico). Since I've lived my whole life in Texas, this facet was also of interest to me. It references a number of places with which I'm familiar, albeit nearly a hundred years before I was born. There are some details that feel accurate, based my amateur historical interest.  Union Army occupiers are everywhere, fomenting resentment among the citizenry. The Texans are told they won't be readmitted to full statehood until they ratify Amendments 13-15.

Hanks' character, a former San Antonio printer turned army captain, is now a professional news reader, a traveling Walter Cronkite of his day. He goes from town to town with the latest newspapers where the citizens are too hard-worked and possibly often illiterate to make a habit of reading newspapers. And for a dime each, they gather in the local gathering hall and let Hanks enlighten and entertain them for a couple of hours. Was this a real thing? It's not anything I'd ever heard of before, though it's fascinating to consider how news "traveled" in an era before telephones, much less social media. It gives the character a unique spin, although his profession doesn't play a huge part in the narrative, other than it gives him an excuse to be traveling and also in one scene where he uses his rhetorical abilities to fire up a crowd as a means of self-preservation.

After an opening sequence that shows Hanks performing his job in Wichita Falls not far from the Oklahoma border (which was, I think, still Indian territory then), we get to the meat of the plot: he discovers a young girl, perhaps nine or ten, who's been "rescued" from the Kiowas who took her captive when she was a toddler and who in turn slaughtered her entire family of Germanic immigrants (there were a lot of these in central Texas - New Braunfels and all that). So, she's "twice an orphan", a Dallas boarding house operator and apparently eff buddy for Hanks whenever he's in town played by Mare Winningham (the only other performer I recognized by name in a largely anonymous supporting cast) who speaks a little Kiowa tells him. This part of the movie was a little confusing to me, but I think after the army killed her Kiowa family, one black soldier was escorting was her to relatives but got lynched by a bunch of Texas racists. After trying to go through proper channels, Hanks realizes his only option to ensure the girl's safety is to make the 400-mile trek to central Texas himself to try to get the girl to an aunt and uncle.

The remainder of the film is highly episodic and reminded me of Cold Mountain, in which Jude Law plays a Civil War deserter walking several hundred miles back to his home and the woman he loves and having one random encounter after another in a crazy mixed-up world. Hanks and the girl Johanna encounter everything from an evil local despot to grimy Confederate veterans who apparently intend to recruit her into prostitution (again, this isn't really explicitly stated. The film tiptoes through a lot of what were probably unfortunate realities of the era) to an epic dust storm to a runaway wagon to ... oh, I'm not even sure I remember all the rest. The girl speaks only Kiowa and a few fragments of German she remembers and is highly willful and resentful of being forced to adapt to Anglo culture. The inability of her and Hanks to communicate for most of the film reminded me a little of the interaction of Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker, including a scene where the girl has no interest in learning how to use silverware, though no knock-down, drag-out fight ensues, fortunately. The young girl, whose name I never committed to memory, is pretty good, though I found her character arc and transformation a little too pat.

Along the way, the pair bond and we learn in bits and pieces about Hanks' former life. The fate of a wife he says he "left" in San Antonio isn't revealed until near the end.

Despite the elements I mentioned that intrigued me about the film, it didn't really move me that much. As I said, there is a certain soft-focus about the realities of that time and place. There is some gun violence, but it's pretty sanitary. There is one horse-shooting scene that occurs off-camera. There are hints of racism, though no racial slurs are uttered. I think the film was intended to appeal to an older audience that would like to see a good-old-fashioned style Western. It's co-written and directed by Paul Greengrass, who I think did at least a couple of the Jason Bourne movies and United 93.

News of the World (2020) - IMDb


Total movies seen this year: 3

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12 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

I believe that the first That's Entertainment film was produced as a celebration of MGM's 50th anniversary--which is why it focused on MGM's musicals.  MGM was also known as the studio that produced the highest quality musicals and stars.  By 1973, when That's Entertainment was in production, the MGM backlot was in shambles and was set to be sold to developers and torn down (what a shame).  

On You Tube, there is a fantastic video that acts as a nice companion piece to That's Entertainment.  I believe it is the premiere of the film and there is also some sort of gala to promote the film.  Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli introduce a number of MGM's biggest stars over their 50-year history.  It's fun seeing so many of these stars.  There was so much talent packed onto that stage.  It's also weirdly emotional to see stars like Marjorie Main and Jimmy Durante. 

Vera-Ellen doesn't have a very large filmography.  She's probably best known for On the Town and White Christmas (both great films).  She does an amazing number in Words and Music with Gene Kelly called "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue." I also enjoyed her in Three Little Words with Fred Astaire. 

For ballet dance routines, Vera-Ellen's opening number and the "Day in New York" numbers in On the Town; Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire in "The Girl Hunt Ballet" in The Band Wagon; and of course, Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly in the "Broadway Melody" number in Singin' in the Rain. I believe Cyd might also dance ballet in Silk Stockings, but don't quote me on that.  Then of course, there is Leslie Caron in An American in Paris.  

"That's Dancing" was fun. However, I can't believe how they did a segment on Busby Berkeley & left out "Footlight Parade". Seriously?! Yikes! I forgot who was speaking at the time, but he said something like, "the only one at the time that could maybe pose any threat to Fred & Ginger, was this little 6 year old girl - Shirley Temple". The show featured a nice amount on Ann Miller & Eleanor Powell. Those 2 IMO are the tops of the female tap dancers. They're amazing! It's a shame between those 4 shows, they only showed Ann Miller in tap, & not ballet. "That's Dancing" had a nice part in ballet. Ballet is under appreciated IMO. It's beautiful. The show even mentioned how ballet never really got its way to movies. But they showed Moira Shearer & "The Red Shoes". That was nice. They didn't show Leslie Caron. They showed James Cagney & "Yankee Doodle Dandy". I just can't believe how they didn't show even 2 seconds of "Footlight Parade". They showed Jane Powell. But I would have chosen a different scene from "Royal Wedding". They showed Cyd Charisse in "Silk Stockings". Heard of it, but never saw it. They didn't show Doris Day. She does wonderful tap dancing in some of her early movies. They showed John Travolta & "Saturday Night Fever". I liked that. For the 80s they showed Fame, Flashdance, & a small part of Michael Jackson's video for "Beat It". They could have shown "Footloose". I'd have liked some Patrick Swayze. "Dirty Dancing" came out after this show, so that wasn't featured. They showed Vera Ellen with Fred Astaire in "Three Little Words". They showed "On the Town". They showed the garbage can lid dance from "It's Always Fair Weather". I liked that part. I think the roller skate dance was shown in "That's Entertainment 2". Speaking of part 2, I loved how they intertwined "The Band Wagon" with it.

Lori

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10 minutes ago, sewhite2000 said:

Yeah, so I started going to movies again around Thanksgiving. Sounds like the AMC chain, which has been my primary movie house for at least the last 10 years, is about to go away forever, so I'm trying to sneak in a few more visits.

Was watching a live walking tour of NYC (oh how I miss the crowded streets & grand department stores) and was shocked to see a completely boarded up AMC multiplex theater.

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January 2 Vertigo (Paramount, 1958)
Source; TCM

Vertigo is probably one of my 10 favorite movies of all time, and I could probably write 10,000 words about it. This I promise I won't do on this forum! Most of you have probably seen it. I do remember a discussion about it on here a year or two back which made me kind of sad, because I felt like I was pretty much the only message board user who even liked the film. I have discovered in many years on here that I am often in a tiny minority regarding movie likes and dislikes, at least among this crowd. But no matter. So, I will provide a brief set-up of the plot and then save the rest of my chat for a post-mild spoilers section in which I'll still try not to reveal anything major but have to reveal a few things to explain why this movie gets to me.

James Stewart has one of those only-in-the-movies professions of a lawyer who becomes a San Francisco police detective with an eye on one day being police chief. This all goes to pot when he nearly dies in a rooftop chase (there are essays out there that suggest he did die, and the rest of the movie is a dream from the afterlife or something - interesting, but I'm going to ignore it), and the officer trying to save him does fall and die. Thanks to his newly discovered severe acrophobia, his superiors want to relegate him to a desk job, in which he has no interest and decides instead to become an early retirement man of "fairly independent means". He's got a friendship with a doting Barbara Bel Geddes, who draws underwear models for fashion magazines, and they have a playful, teasing banter about each other's romantic lives. She's clearly stuck on him, though we learn they were once engaged, and she called it off. Why is never elaborated upon.

Shortly after his retirement, Stewart is recruited by an old college buddy who has lived many years out east but has returned to SF to help run a shipping business left to his wife by her parents. He tells Stewart straight-faced that he believes his wife Madeline is from time to time possessed by the spirit of her own great-grandmother, driven to recreate and dwell upon moments of her tragic life, ultimately concluding he fears by making her commit suicide the same way she did. Stewart understandably thinks this is all bunk or some kind of mental issue, but quickly becomes agreeable to trailing Madeline from a discrete distance when he sees she's played by Kim Novak. He crosses some kind of professional ethical boundary line when he saves her from what appears to be a suicide attempt and then begins hanging out with her rather than following her, though not letting her know his connection to her husband. Eventually, he too gets sucked in to the belief that some force is compelling her to do harm to herself. He wants there to be a puzzle he can logically solve and make everything all right again, but things begin to spiral out of control.

Okay, Mild Spoilers From Here On Out!

Part of the reason I think this is a great movie is its themes with obsession and kinky romantic/sexual roleplaying. For the first act of the movie, Stewart seems to be a rather conventional protagonist, but we learn that he's being played for a sucker from the beginning, and he suffers a nervous breakdown because of the things he's made to believe. The remainder of the movie involves a revelation of the set-up (though initially not to him) and the entrance into his life of Judy, a Madeline lookalike after he believes Madeline is lost to him forever. Judy of course is also played by Novak. I won't go into the specific nature of this dual role for the sake of people who don't want to know, but Stewart's character Scotty wants to mold Judy into an exact replica of the ideal of image of Madeline he holds in his head. It's here he transforms from sucker to obsessive agent of change. He wants to coerce Judy into sublimating her own personality to the point where once again there is only Madeline, and the fact that she's WILLING TO GO ALONG WITH IT, is what makes the film so kinky. Hitchcock explores this theme of uneven dominance/submission issues in some of this other movies - I'm thinking immediately of Marnie and parts of The Birds - but never so thoroughly as in this film. Why does Judy act the way she does? The pat explanation is she feels guilt over her role in what happened to Scotty, but possibly she also gets off on it! You can trace this commitment to the bit all the way back to the Madeline scenes earlier the film, like when Madeline "wakes up" to find herself apparently naked in Stewart's bed, although after repeated viewing I think she was only feigning unconsciousness and just let Stewart undress her! That's pretty kinky for a 1958 mainstream Hollywood movie.

Anyway, it's a very dark and heartbreaking film, all the more unconventional for the era in that a murderer gets away with murder, though it was so subtle, most viewers probably didn't even think about it at the time. There was a tacked-on scene, I believe to satisfy the UK censors, that I've seen in the extra features of a DVD I used to own, in which we learn the murderer did get apprehended after all, but I like the ending the way it has always aired here in the US. The acting among the leads is very good. Novak balances her two very different roles nicely. Stewart starts out with a lot of "this darn corset" and "gee whiz, I don't wanna get mixed up in this darn thing" mannerisms that I sometimes find to be overkill, but he undergoes one of the darkest character arcs of his career, and he pulls it off masterfully. But special props to Bel Geddes, who absolutely breaks my heart every time I watch. She disappears halfway into the film, but I never forget her. I don't often comment on a film's look, feeling pretty ignorant about cinematography and art direction and such, but this film, especially in its restored version, is beautiful to look at. The colors are amazing, and I love the on-location street scenes of '50s San Francisco, which seems amazingly uncrowded.

Vertigo (film) - Wikipedia

Total movies seen this year: 4

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On 1/2/2021 at 10:42 AM, Det Jim McLeod said:

One of my favorite comedies of all time. I loved the porch swing sequence. As he tries to take a nap, he has to deal with annoying neighbors. There was the mother/daughter sing-song conversation as the daughter is being sent to the store. "I don't care!" "I don't care either! You tell me where to go and I'll go". Fields mutters "I d like to tell ya both where to go!"

"I can't hear you, dear, someone's shouting on the second floor..."

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I just watched Born Yesterday.  It just never gets old.  Was a bit confused about what J. S. said about Jean Arthur being difficult to work with.  I only know what my Mom told me and what I've read.  It is still so relevant today and I wish Ms. S. would have talked about the film showed that, although Harry loved her, he abused her physically and emotionally.

Not sure about tonight except for the TV Show The Rookie.  I like Overboard but saw it not too long ago (TCM's choice).

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I watched SERIAL MOM (1994) this morning. It’s not very good, but it’s not too bad either, and it has a strong ending and very memorable parts. Really nice footage of Baltimore in early spring too, Every exterior shot is bursting with azaleas, dogwoods, forsythia, and rhododendron blooms.

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January 3 Fatale (Lionsgate, 2020)
Source: Theater

Saw this one entirely by myself in the theater. I'm not entirely sure what to make of Fatale. It steals from the best. Classic movie fans will no doubt recognize the plot elements it swipes from The Postman Always Rings TwiceStrangers on a Train and especially Double Indemnity, not to mention slightly more modern fare like Body Heat and Fatal Attraction. Then throw in the modern elements of interracial relationships and a few allusions to real life contemporary fears that black people are automatically unfairly targeted by the police. For all this lineage, Fatale turns out to be an unholy mess of a movie. It appears, however, to be too ambitious to just enjoy as a good, trashy train wreck. Nor does it come anywhere close to achieving its lofty goals.

Hilary Swank was a two-time Oscar winner before the age of 30 for Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby, and then she kind of vanished. I can't think anything I've seen her in recently. I remember she played Amelia Earhart, but that might have been 10  years ago. I don't know her story at all. I have no idea if this obscurity was her own choice or the realities of an actress getting a little bit older. I see she's also listed as a producer on the film, so apparently she CHOSE this product and didn't just accept it out of desperation, which one might be inclined to believe after watching it. The leading male is played by an actor named  Michael Ealy, whom I couldn't identify by name, but as soon as I saw his face, I thought, "This is a guy who's been in some of those post-millennial ensemble black cast movies. Possibly he danced around a Christmas tree and sang 'This Christmas' at some point in his career." So, upon coming home, I checked out imdb, and he's been in everything from Barbershop and its sequel to a Fast and Furious Movie to 2019's The Intruder in which a black couple is terrorized by Dennis Quaid and The Perfect Guy, in which he sort of plays the part Swank plays in this one. I couldn't identify a single other person in the cast by name.

Ealy plays a self-made co-CEO of a Los Angeles athlete management and representation firm, who has a beautiful wife, a stunning house and all the luxuries money can buy. However, there's discontentment at home. He doesn't like his realtor wife being out all hours of the night entertaining clients. He wants to get into some serious domesticity and baby-making. He also with zero actual evidence suspects she's having an affair. While he's in this funk, he goes off with his business partner for a Vegas weekend. The partner (who wants them to sell out to a corporate mega-giant but can't do so without Ealy's approval, which may or may not figure into the plot later) confiscates Ealy's wedding ring and tells him "For the rest of the weekend, you're a single man". And sure enough, within minutes, he bumps into Swank. She reveals only that she has a "stressful job in a big city" and periodically comes to Vegas to "relieve pressure". He tells her only his first name and not the correct one, either. They hit if off, and soon they're having sex in her room. We get the first hint something is a little off-kilter about her when she reveals she's locked up his cell phone and won't return it to him unless he has sex with her one more time. He goes back home, overwhelmed with guilt, and begins being truly attentive to his wife for the first time in years, a la Michael Douglas in the early part of Fatal Attraction.

Then the movie takes a twist, so that it's not just a remake of that movie. A burglar breaks into their home. Ealy manages to drive him away. Then, the detective investigating the break-in turns out to be Swank! She clearly enjoys making Ealy uncomfortable, tormenting him with the fact that she could reveal their one-night stand to his wife at any time. But she's also apparently really good at her job and immediately realizes there's something fishy about the break-in, as there was no real attempt to take anything. She suspects someone in Ealy's life may have been trying to kill him and make it look like a robbery and will no doubt try again. But who? The shady business partner? A cousin for who long ago took a fall for Ealy and has never truly left the thug life behind? Someone involved in Swank's tragic backstory which involves a restraining order, a disabled child and an investigation into corruption charges against her DA ex-husband? There are a lot of plot elements swirling around, and while the Swank character is clearly forming some kind of master plan to make her life better in her mind, the movie takes it sweet time to give us any insights as to what that plan is.

It's a nice slow burn for a while, but then the bodies start to pile up, and my God, in the final half hour, they REALLY pile up. The movie gives us some really hackneyed cliches. In one scene, Ealy comes home to see his wife standing in the kitchen, but as he moves around a partial wall obstruction, he sees Swank is also in the kitchen! Reenk! Reenk! (trying to make the Psycho shower scene sound). Oh, it also borrows from the horror movie trope (and Fatal Atrraction) that warns us to never assume your enemy is actually dead.

I can't recommend it, but if you're into these kinds of movies, you might enjoy.

Fatale (2020) - IMDb

 Total movies seen this year: 5

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January 3 Overboard (MGM, 1987)
Source: TCM

There's a thread currently going on about this movie, and a recent poster said he was disappointed TCM showed such a "lousy" movie. I didn't think it was lousy, just sort of average. I did laugh out loud multiple times, but there were also long stretches where I was checking the time frequently.  I had seen bits and pieces of this movie on various networks in the 30-plus years since its release, so I pretty much knew how the plot was going to go down, though I was fuzzy on some specific details. I assumed for the example the Edward Herrman character would spend the whole movie looking for Goldie Hawn. I did find it funny that he actually found her immediately but seeing her amnesia had done nothing to alter her beyotch personality, just walked away! Later on in the movie, he becomes more like a conventional villain, and there's a plot revelation at the end that explains why he would even want her around.

I saw Foul Play when I was in elementary school, and I fell in love with Goldie Hawn. I was usually up for watching her movies, although they became increasingly terrible. She's only made one movie in the last 15 or 20 years, in which she played Amy Schumer's mother. I've forgotten the title. It also made me laugh occasionally, but not much. I always thought Kurt Russell was a greatly underrated actor. The ones who make it look so effortless don't get much credit. He also had a long period of professional inactivity, but in recent years he's been in a couple of Tarantino films, a couple of the Fast and Furious films, and of course, he played Starlord's father in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I'm delighted he's returned to working. They seem like a happy couple, although I swear I read they broke up about five years ago. I guess they reconciled. I also read he's essentially been Kate Hudson's father, and it was kind of neat to see them have a quick scene together in Deepwater Horizon.

The plot is probably well known to most of you. Hawn plays a fabulously wealthy woman in a luxurious but apparently loveless marriage to Herrman. They're yachting off the coast of Oregon, and she calls in Russell, a recently widowed carpenter who's just relocated with his four hyperactive preteen sons. He thinks it's an emergency, and to her it is: she wants more room in her closet on the boat that's already the size of an efficiency apartment. They hit it off wrong in every possible way. She's demeaning and insulting. He lacks any sophistication or refinement. She refuses to pay him when he builds a new closet with oak instead of cedar and pushes him off the boat and gets the captain to speed away when he becomes confrontational.

Not long after, she goes up on deck in the middle of the night to retrieve her wedding ring during a storm and gets washed ... well, overboard. She's klonked on the head by the garbage scow that picks her up (seems like that would have been a good sight gag, but it occurs off camera. Maybe it was a deleted scene?) and finds herself terrorizing the staff of the hospital while having no memory of who she is. As I mentioned already, Herrmann decides this is the perfect time to enjoy her money on his own and just leaves her there. But Russell sees her on the local news while at his favorite bowling alley and instantly concocts what he believes to be a genius plan. With only the flimsiest of evidence that he even knows her (the hospital staff is only to eager to get rid of her), he passes himself off as her husband and takes her home to use essentially as slave labor until he's deemed she's worked off the $600 she bilked him out off. The kids are in on the bit. He's obviously instructed them ahead of time, though we don't see that scene either. 

We're supposed to feel that Russell isn't a total louse - when his buddy gives him a bit of a "heh heh" regarding the fact Russell and Hawn about to spend their first night together, he makes it clear that while he she thinks a hot body (and Hawn who I'm guessing was about 40 at the time makes it clear how much she'd kept in shape in the very skimpy bathing suits she wears early on), he's not interested in using her for sexual purposes. No, he just wants her to cook and clean and be utterly miserable for a couple of months. Meanwhile, in every fiber of her being, she feels like this can't possibly have been her life, but as the days and weeks go on and no one else comes to claim her, she grudgingly begins to accept it. Improbably, she begins to bond with the family - first with the children, whom she angrily defends to an officious female principal and to whom she provides structure and support - and then with Russell, whom she helps fulfill his dream of designing and opening his own miniature golf course and with whom she falls in love.

I kept waiting for the slip-up, where Russell accidentally exposes his charade, but the movie actually has more subtlety than that. He feels guilt and longs to tell her the truth, but when he finally does, the kids and his buddy keep up the pretense, because they know how good she is for everybody. And so when the revelation inevitably does come, it's more sad than a moment for comic anger. As is common in these movies, we have a few minutes where we see Hawn and Russell both trying to adjust to their unhappy separate existences before the big reunion, again at sea. This film is so formulaic, I feel like I don't need to warn of spoilers.

Anyway, sort of a blah screwball '80s romantic comedy with two likeable leads (well, it takes Hawn a little time to become likeable). Goldie is pretty good at playing against type for the first half of the film, though it's a treat to see her twinkling-eye, lip-biting Laugh-In mannerisms eventually emerge. Russell was born to play the well-meaning hunky slob. The kids are okay. One of them looks familiar. He went on to something else I've seen when he was a teenager or young adult, but I'm too lazy to look it up. Katharine Helmond as Hawn's mother and Roddy McDowall as her butler, are underused, though there is a nice scene between Hawn and McDowall. Ben Maniewicz told an interesting backstory I'd never heard before about MGM hiring him to go through their properties and judge which ones might be good to remake, since he'd worked for the studio as a young boy. Instead, he found this unused script (written by a woman, I think) that reminded him of zany old-school screwball comedies that weren't getting made anymore. He liked it so much, he became one of the film's producers as well as taking the supporting role. I kind of wish I liked the movie more after reading about McDowall's faith in it.

Directed by Garry Marshall, who was a few years away from his career-defining Pretty Woman, and then late in life he directed all those star-loaded ensemble romantic comedies named after holidays (I don't think he ever got around to Arbor Day, but if he'd lived long enough, he probably would have). (Edit: Oh yeah, look for Hector Elizando, who I think was in every Marshall movie, hamming it up as the Portuguese captain of the garbage scow, acting as if he's Spencer Tracy in Captains Courageous).

Overboard (1987 film) - Wikipedia

Total movies seen this year: 6

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On 1/3/2021 at 9:49 AM, TomJH said:

Midnight Run (1988)

Knockout action comedy featuring Robert De Niro as an ex-cop turned bounty hunter who is assigned to capture a white collar criminal on the run who ripped off the underworld, now out kill him. Aside from having the threat of Vegas mobsters showing up, De Niro also has to outwit both the FBI, also on the criminal's trail, as well as a crafty fellow bounty hunter.

Charles Grodin plays the former accountant on the run with a delicious deadpan dialogue delivery. Yes, after shortly being caught by De Niro, they will gradually, ever so gradually, start to bond with one another but this film is so much more than just your standard "buddy film."

As directed by Martin Brest, this film has some terrific action set pieces, one featuring a helicopter with Mafia marksmen shooting at our heroes in a careening car in a wild chase sequence, and a great dry sense of humour with the reactions of De Niro and Grodin to one another. This was one of the first films (along with King of Comedy) in which De Niro showed how skillful he could be at bringing moments of humour to an essentially serious scene.

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Aside from an intelligent, at times suspenseful, screenplay chock full of surprises, the other thing that so distinguishes this film is the depth of De Niro's performance. There is a scene in which he sees his young daughter for the first time in years which is genuinely touching, with their awkward silences and furtive glances at one another speaking volumes about two people who care about one another but don't know what to say. Grodin is a marvel, too, and, as the film progresses, you find that you really care what happens to the two lead characters. When an action comedy suspense film emotionally affects you like that you know you're hooked.

But the performances of the entire cast are first rate, including Yaphet Kotto as the lead FBI agent on the trail, Dennis Farina cold bloodedly chilling as the towering Mafia king pin demanding Grodin's death, Joe Pantoliano as a slimy double dealing bondsman given to screaming tantrums and John Ashton as the rival bounty hunter, a smart cookie but very, very rough.

For whatever reason Midnight Run was not a hit at the 1988 box office, nor has this film, which works so well on so many levels, action, suspense, comedy, characterizations, been rediscovered by many film fans since. One of the very best films of Robert De Niro's career, with one of his most engaging performances, it remains largely unknown by many movie buffs today. And that is an injustice to one great film.

Midnight+Run+2.jpg

3.5 out of 4

I haven't seen it in some time. Your post inspires me to revisit it. Thank you.

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