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3538 reviews in total 
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wonderful episode, 19 September 2014

"Mrs. McGinty's Dead" is a great entry into the Poirot series.

Poirot has been asked to save an innocent man, James Bentley, from the hangman's noose, as the inspector in charge of the case thinks his conviction for the murder of his landlady, Mrs. McGinty, is a mistake.

Poirot goes to the village where the murder took place and runs into Ariadne Oliver (Zoe Wanamaker), who is in the same village, Broadhinny, to work on an adaptation of one of her novels as a play. with a dramatist, Robin Upward.

Mrs. McGinty did housekeeping work in the village, so she had access to several homes. While searching through her belongings, Poirot finds an edition of a newspaper dated not long before the woman's death. Two photographs had been removed, but Poirot tracks down a full edition. The paper has a Where Are They Now featuring two women who, many years earlier, had been involved in murders: Lily Gamboll, who committed murder with a meat cleaver as a child, and Eva Kane, who had been the love interest who inspired a man to murder his wife and bury her in a cellar.

The question is, did Mrs. McGinty realize that a woman in the village was connected to one of these women? Was one of them Lily Gamboll, or perhaps the child of Eva Kane? There is another murder, and as Poirot draws closer to the solution, he realizes that blackmail and subterfuge are involved. The murderer is clever, but no one is cleverer as Poirot.

Really excellent episode with some lively and interesting characters throughout, all of whom seem to have something going on, be it a secret love affair or something else.

Mrs. McGinty's dead is darker than some of the earlier Poirots but no less entertaining.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
fast-moving B from MGM, 18 September 2014

Melvin Douglas stars in the 1939 B movie, Tell No Tales.

Douglas plays Michael Cassidy, who is the editor of a newspaper whom he's told is about to close its doors. In the meantime, a rag has been sensationalizing a kidnapping; a witness (Louise Platt) is being kept a virtual prisoner at the school where she teaches. While Mike is having a drink in his usual bar, the bartender checks a list and realizes that he has one of the bills the kidnappers received. This gives Mike the idea of tracking down and catching the kidnapper himself and giving his newspaper a great final issue.

I often wonder how Melvin Douglas must have felt, breezing his way through one film after another, possibly knowing that he was one of the finest actors of the century. It was a talent he wouldn't be able to show until he was an old man, but when he did, one saw how wasted he had been all those years. He's wonderful here in a spirited performance.

It was nice to see Mantan Moreland and Theresa Harris in this film, as they were two black actors deserving of more recognition. Moreland is probably best remembered as Birmingham, Charlie Chan's chauffeur. He had a friendly face and an enormous comic talent. Theresa Harris for some reason had better roles in precode films than she did later on. I suppose in a way this is a film about wasted talent - Moreland and Harris, a beautiful and sexy woman, were victims of their time and Douglas was in a groove from which he did not escape until much later.

Good movie with some very good performances.

The Walker (2007)
helping someone at your own expense just never pays off, 18 September 2014

Woody Harrelson is "The Walker" in this 2007 drama directed by Paul Schrader. It takes place in Washington, D.C., where Carter Page III (Harrelson) takes society women to parties and concerts when their husbands are out of town or don't want to attend. He's gay, very charming, with a rich family history of successful and admired men. The women love his stories and he always looks debonair.

One day, Carter drives his friend Lynn (Kristin Scott-Thomas) to her lover's house for a tryst. Both her husband and lover Robbie are well-known, and her liaison's with this lover are kept secret.

Lynn exits the house in shock and tells Carter that Robbie is dead, stabbed, and if anyone finds out she was seeing him, it will ruin her husband's career. Carter chivalrously offers to take her home and then return and report the murder himself as if he was visiting Robbie about some investments and found the body.

The police, of course, are suspicious. It's a high-profile case and they want to close it. Someone is leaking information to them also that Lynn and Robbie were lovers. Carter stands his ground, even though he's encouraged to look after his own best interests. He soon finds himself out of the social scene, and Lynn leaves town.

The story here is not about the murder, it's about Carter being used and abused by these women. He would do anything for them, but if he needed something, he wouldn't get it from any of them. It's apparent that he doesn't realize that at first. It's also apparent that being the descendant of respected men means that people keep looking at him and wondering how he got to be the way he did. He wants to do a noble thing; he wants to be loyal.

The wonderful cast includes Lauren Bacall, Ned Beatty, Lily Tomlin, and Willem Dafoe. Harrelson gives a fantastic performance as a slow-talking, dashing Southerner who normally keeps things on a superficial level and doesn't show his true feelings. Lauren Bacall is a society gossip who thinks more highly of Willem and sees her group of friends for what they are. She's great, although some didn't understand her attitude at the end of the movie. She respected Carter enough to be honest, as opposed to her friends. When you see the film, you'll know what I mean.

Scandal, politics, greed, affairs, none of this is new. And this film gives the impression that a few things were left on the cutting room floor that should have been included. This makes the film occasionally confusing. However, scandal, politics, greed, and affairs are just background for The Walker. The true story is how, in a crisis, you find out who your real friends are. You find out you don't have many. And in an atmosphere like this film's, none.

A great soundtrack accompanies The Walker, and one gets an impression of Washington society that's not very positive, but when has it been? Worth seeing for Harrelson's performance especially.

a very different Poirot, 16 September 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

In "The Double Clue," we see Poirot smitten with a Russian Countess while Inspector Japp is about to lose his job because of a series of jewel thefts.

A desperate Japp calls on Poirot for help. Poirot instead starts escorting the Countess around town while Hastings and Miss Lemon try to solve the case themselves, alienating all of the suspects as they go! Those of us who know Poirot realize that he knows who the criminal is and even admires the thief's expertise. Poirot actually manipulates the case so that jewels are returned and Japp keeps his job.

Did Poirot fall for the Russian countess? I think so. Like Sherlock's Irene Adler, the Countess was that special woman who challenged Poirot as he had not been challenged previously. He follows his own ethical code but in a roundabout way this time, when in fact he could have had the criminal arrested.

An interesting episode.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
dated as all get out, 16 September 2014

There are some films that stand the test of time. "Ann Carver's Profession" DEFINITELY isn't one of them.

This 1933 film stars Fay Wray, Gene Raymond, and Claire Dodd. The story will leave you in shock.

Raymond plays a college football star, Bill Graham, who now is working his way up in business, except that he feels stagnant. His wife Ann (Wray) was an attorney, and now she's his wife, and they're very much in love. One night at a party, she criticizes a big attorney for the way he's trying a case, and he wants to hire her. Her husband is thrilled for her and very proud.

Ann becomes a star overnight when she replaces the lead attorney on a case that will have your jaw drop to the floor. A man is on trial for consorting with a black woman he claims he did not know was black. She is on the stand and has to show her shoulder so that everyone can see her skin is darker than it is on her face. Ann wins the case by bringing women in wearing bathing suits and asking the prosecution to pick out the black women.

Okay, we made it through. The boss is so impressed that he gives her $5,000, equal to $84,000 today - this is when people made something like $100 a month, and that was a good salary. Her husband has just gotten a raise, but when she shows him her check, he doesn't say anything about it.

As Ann becomes more famous, Bill feels like he's going nowhere. He takes a job singing in a nightclub, which in the beginning Ann wanted him to take. Now, she's embarrassed and furious. He meets a woman there who is crazy about him; he starts drinking and the two have an affair. One night, she dies by accident. Bill is arrested for her murder. Ann defends him.

Ann is clearly portrayed as the villain here, putting her career before her husband and becoming haughty. Today when she got married, she would have kept working. In those days, the husband was considered a failure if his wife worked. Two-career households are very difficult, no one is denying that, and finding time together takes work and commitment. But that isn't what Ann Carver's Profession is about. It's about the importance of a woman putting her husband and her husband's ego first and taking a back seat.

Someone mentioned Fay Wray's acting in the courtroom scene as being over the top. Watch John Beal's courtroom speech in Madame X. Today it seems over the top. Back then, that was considered good acting. A lot of actors came from the stage and brought that training to film, and I think the acting on stage back then was a little bigger than we see today. As Bette Davis said, "Actors today want to be real. But real acting is larger than life." If you see this listed on TCM, take a look at it. It's a wonderful look at the mores and attitudes back then, so different from what they are today. The cast is good, and the film moves quickly. It's an artifact -- in fact, it's an antique.

B movie from Warners, 15 September 2014

As someone mentioned, this is supposedly a remake of Dust Be My Destiny which starred John Garfield. I don't know, since I haven't seen Dust, but if Warner Brothers remade The Maltese Falcon twice (actually the Maltese Falcon was the third film), they could certainly have remade Dust Be My Destiny. They remade just about everything else.

Tod Andrews, who had a prolific TV career later, plays Ken Marshall, a reporter who discovers political corruption. If it comes out, it will ruin one candidate's campaign for governor.

Ken is rendered unconscious, with booze poured all over him, and then placed in the driver's seat of a car that's sent down the highway. After an accident kills three people, Ken goes to prison. He is able to escape, however, winds up in another town, and builds a new life for himself, even getting a reporter job under another name. Then one day, an old cellmate shows up and blackmails him.

This is an okay film with the big star being Regis Toomey. Someone mentioned that the wife didn't look pregnant up to the moment she gave birth. All a woman did was faint, and you were supposed to know she was pregnant. I think the censors didn't allow it, because if you look at movies like The Great Lie, the pregnant person never looked pregnant. As Lucille Ball said, "Today you can not only see that a woman is pregnant, but how she got that way."

two hobos think they've hit the mother lode, 15 September 2014

Union Depot is a 1932 precode film starring Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Guy Kibbee, and Joan Blondell.

Chick (Fairbanks) and Scrap Iron Scratch (Kibbee) are two hobos during the Depression, hungry and hanging around Union Depot to beg for money and look for opportunities to get money.

The first opportunity comes in the form of a conductor's uniform hanging in the mens room, which Chick steals by sticking a pole through the mens room window. Then he gets a real windfall - a man (Frank McHugh) leaves his suitcase in the mens room. Chick chases him to return it, but the man is gone. Inside is everything Chick will need to look like the handsome man that he is: a suit, shaving cream, shaver. He emerges from the mens room looking great. He also has money that was in the suit pocket.

He goes to a diner and orders soup to nuts and racks up a huge bill of $1.75. I can't believe the prices in those days. He sees a forlorn looking young woman in the station. It's Ruth (Joan Blondell) who needs $64 to get to Salt Lake City to join a show that she was in before she broke her ankle. And she'll do anything to get it. That's fine with Chick. He takes her to a private dining room and makes a pass. She tries, but she can't go through with it. She finally tells Chick her full story, that besides needing to get to the show, she's running from a creep that lived in her rooming house. Chick believes her and says he'll buy her ticket.

Somewhere along the line, he meets up with Scratch, who has found a wallet with a pawn ticket. The pawn ticket is for a violin in a case. Chick takes it to the pawnbroker across the way. While the pawnbroker is taking care of another customer, Chick opens the violin and finds $13,000 -- the equivalent of nearly a quarter of a million dollars today. Frankly, I could use the $13,000 now, and it's over 80 years later.

Chick hides the violin case and leaves Scratch in charge of it and takes some of the money with him. And there the fun begins.

This is a fast-moving, entertaining story that leaves one with a tinge of sadness. I am a huge fan of Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. I think he was a very underrated actor. He's marvelous here, as effective as a hobo as he is as a dapper gentleman. Both his comedy and dramatic work are marvelous. Joan Blondell is adorable -- so pretty and sweet, but with an edge that shows that the character has been through hard times.

Precode has a more liberal view of sex. People have it, for one thing. And you don't have to be married. Fairbanks is fairly cavalier about it and angry when Blondell doesn't come across.

Very good movie - if you see that it's on TCM, don't miss it. I would have liked a less downbeat ending, but hey, it was the Depression.

"Ringer" (2011)
an exercise in complete frustration, 15 September 2014

What is the problem with CW that they took this off the air after one season? Yes, season 1 was tied up for the most part, but you knew from the end that there were lots of exciting plots for season 2. The characters were left in limbo. Couldn't they have least done a special two-hour episode where they finished up? I'm really angry about this. I binge-watched, so I saw more flaws maybe than the average viewer. However, there are two things that I love - movies about twins and makeover movies, where someone has plastic surgery and changes their face.

Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as twins, Siobhan and Bridget. Bridget is a drug user and prostitute who witnessed a murder and right before she is supposed to testify against the killer, who is a monster, she becomes frightened and takes off for parts unknown. She runs to New York city and to her estranged sister, Siobhan. Siobhan married money, but she's a piece of work, as you will see.

Bridget and Siobhan seem to have settled their differences and go out to Siobhan's beach house. While they are out on Siobhan's boat, Bridget falls asleep. When she wakes up, her sister is gone, and it seems that she has committed suicide. As in "A Stolen Life," "Dead Ringer," "Deceptions," and "The Dark Mirror," Bridget steals her sister's identity. She intends to leave as soon as her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor can get to her, but it doesn't work out that way.

Ringer was a really good series, not as good as something like Homeland or The Americans or Mad Men, but still good. There were some problems, one of which was some of the dialogue. "We have to talk" was said at least 20 times on every episode - I might not have noticed except as I said, I binge watched. The other problem was the situation with Henry - I mean, how many times can he say he's through and stop seeing her? He broke things off with Siobhan in just about every episode.

Here's the next problem. Sarah Michelle Gellar, an immensely popular actress. Personally, I didn't find her very good, though attractive, and here's why. First of all, in real life, twins can't really substitute for one another unless the person absolutely doesn't know them. Everyone has their own aura, their own way of talking and moving, and it doesn't matter how identical they are. Case in point: a young woman was hit on the head with a rock, woke up in the park, and had amnesia (true story). With no identification, the hospital put her photo in the paper. Her parents rushed to the hospital. When they met her, they weren't sure it was really her. Because she didn't know who she was, everything about her was different. So it's not just looks, and differentiating people but having one with her hair down and one with her hair up is a cheap trick.

Bridget was street-wise, rougher, tougher, unsophisticated. She wouldn't have spoken like Siobhan, she wouldn't have moved like Siobhan. Siobhan had an air of sophistication honed by several years of marriage to money and living the good life. She was also a colder person and more detached. Yet sometimes, even with the hairdos, I wasn't sure who it was in the scene.

That aside, the cast was fine: Welsh actor Ioan Gruffud as Siobhan's husband, Andrew Martin; Kristoffer Polaha as Siobhan's friend Gemma's husband Henry; Nestor Carbonell as Victor Machado, the detective assigned to Bridget's case; Zoey Deutch as Siobhan's stepdaughter; soap star Justin Bruening as Siobhan's boyfriend Tyler; and Andrea Roth as Andrew's ex-wife Catherine.

I think CW made a mistake taking this off the air. It became more and more interesting as the episodes continued, and I understand there was a campaign to keep it on the air. A shame it didn't work.

Decent second feature, 15 September 2014

What's neat about 1949's Strange Bargain is that on an episode of Murder, She Wrote, some of the cast returned for a sequel, during which Jessica tries to get to the bottom of the case. The film solved the case, but for the Murder, She Wrote episode, "The Days Dwindle Down," they added another twist to what we saw.

Anyway, it was a good idea because the film was used in flashbacks. The returning stars were Martha Scott, Jeffrey Lynn (who had long ago left show business and made a fortune in real estate) and Harry Morgan.

In the film Strange Bargain, Jeffrey Lynn plays Sam Wilson, an assistant bookkeeper at a company that is going under. He and his wife, Georgia (Scott) are having trouble making ends meet. With the encouragement of his wife, Sam goes in to ask for a raise and learns then that he's fired. Later on, as he's leaving, his boss, Mr. Jarvis (Richard Gaines) asks him to have a drink.

Jarvis admits that he's gone through the $500,000 his father left him (the equivalent of about 4 million today), and he is basically broke. He plans on killing himself and making it look like murder so his wife (Katherine Emery) can collect his $250,000 insurance policy; with double indemnity, that makes $500,000. He's going to set it up as a robbery. He will call Sam and give him a signal, and he wants Sam to come to his home then and remove the gun and dump it in the river. For that, he'll leave Sam $10,000 in the open safe.

Sam refuses to help him and attempts to talk Jarvis out of it, but he won't be swayed. Sam still refuses to help.

However, Jarvis calls him and gives the signal. Sam pleads with him to wait until he can get there and talk to him, but he's too late. He removes the gun and the money.

The police (Harry Morgan and Walter Sande) start an investigation and hone in on Jarvis' partner, Timothy Hearne (Henry O'Neill). Sam insists that Hearne couldn't have done it, but he's afraid that the man will be arrested.

This is a pretty good film. Lynn's career never recovered after World War II - he was a pleasant enough actor, and still made occasional TV appearances even after he left. Katherine Emery always reminds me of Mercedes McCambridge.

Watch it with the Murder She Wrote episode which you can stream.

B movie from RKO, 14 September 2014

Ann Dvorak and Harry Carey wound up in this B movie, Racing Lady, done by RKO and probably made in about three days.

Dvorak and Carey are daughter and father, Ruth and Tom Martin. Ruth has a horse that she believes has the makings of a winning racehorse. There aren't any female trainers in the racing field (in fact, I'm not sure there are many today). However, during the horse's first race, she is injured when pushed into the rail. The vet advises euthanasia, but Ruth has the horse's leg bandaged up, and retires her to the home she shares with her father.

The horse's filly turns out to be an excellent racehorse. Ruth can't afford the high fee for one of the big races, but puts the horse in a claiming race, which means all the horses are up for sale for about the same price until the actual race. Ruth's horse wins, but she learns it was claimed by one Steven Wendel (Smith Ballew), who owns many winning racehorses. He offers Ruth a job training, and she takes it, wanting to be near her horse.

Not much in the way of character development here as the film only runs one hour. Dvorak was better than this; she eventually became disgusted with her roles, married an Englishman, and made films there for a time. The actor playing Wendel, Smith Ballew, was the first singing cowboy and a popular radio star. He eventually retired and moved to Texas. The wonderful Harry Carey would go on to be nominated for an Oscar for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington not long after this.

Hattie McDaniel gives a spirited performance as a beloved employee, but the other two blacks in the film played cringe-worthy stereotypes, always difficult to see nowadays.

The horses were beautiful, and the racing footage was interesting.

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