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not Woody's best but not bad either, 21 May 2015

I love Woody Allen's films, but I freely admit that "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" from 2010 isn't one of my favorites.

I had a problem because I really couldn't relate to any of the characters, but all of them were fleshed-out characters who wanted more than they had. And it's a top cast, which includes Sir Anthony Hopkins, Lucy Punch, Naomi Watts, Gemma Jones, Antonio Bandares, and Freida Pinto.

Set in England, the story concerns the desires and struggles of people of different generations. Helena (Gemma Jones) is alone after her husband Alfie (Hopkins) left her. She has begun seeing a fortuneteller (Pauline Collins) and believes everything she says.

Alfie, meanwhile, is in love with a hooker he met on an outcall (Punch) and has decided to marry her. She calls herself an actress, but as his daughter Sally (Watts) says to her husband Roy (Brolin), "The only acting she's ever done is faking an orgasm."

Sally works in an art gallery and is mad for her boss (Banderas). Her husband was a one-hit novelist trying to come up with a second one and very frustrated. He fantasizes about the woman he sees across the way, Dia (Pinto). As he's trying to get that book together, Helena has been paying all the bills.

Some of the outcomes for these people are good, some are not so good, though we really don't know what will ultimately happen to them. I guess his moral is, if you were happy before and lose that happiness, for whatever reason, you can be happy again. And if you were unhappy to begin with, and get what you think will make you happy - it won't.

The only character not fleshed out sufficiently is Dia, and as a result, Freida Pinto doesn't register much.

Everyone else is excellent, but the standout is Hopkins in a case of inspired casting. Normally this would be the Woody Allen role, and as you might imagine, there's no Woody in Hopkins. And there's none of his big characterizations in big movies that he has given us over the years. He's just a guy here who wanted something other than he had, who picks the wrong person and suffers for it. It's great when films are cast against type -- and it happens all too rarely.

This movie has a narration throughout, some good music, and is pretty to look at. It will remind you of some of Allen's films from 30 years ago in look.

Directed by Busby Berkeley, 20 May 2015

Choreographer Busby Berkeley, known for his contributions to films like 42nd Street, Dames, the Gold Diggers films, and so many others, also did quite a bit of movie directing. He directed this 1938 musical starring Pat O'Brien, Margaret Lindsay, and John Payne. The leads were intended for Bette Davis and Dick Powell, but Powell allowed took a suspended rather than do the Payne role.

John Quinn (O'Brien) manages a night club, Garden of the Moon, that has booked Rudy Vallee and his band. When Valee is in a car accident, Quinn's secretary Toni (Lindsay) books Don Vincente (Payne) -- a nobody -- and his band.

The band is thrilled to have the steady work, but when they arrive, they find out that they are only to be there for two weeks. Vincente feels duped, and from there on, war is declared.

Toni and Vincente fall for one another, and Toni plots a scheme to keep him and the band there. By the time Vincente gets a lucrative offer to do some radio shows, Quinn is determined to do anything to keep him.

Pleasant musical with some very funny bits in it, including a maharajah "friend" of Don Vincente who brings a lot of publicity to the club, in spite of the fact that he is in reality an ex-waiter and a not so ex- thief.

Payne, a real find for Darryl Zanuck, who signed him and made him a star in 1940, sings like a dream and is a solid romantic lead. Like Powell, this wasn't his favorite kind of role, and, like Powell, he ultimately went the noir route.

This movie was a departure for Margaret Lindsay, who had played heavier roles in the past; nevertheless, she pulls it off and probably fit it better than Bette Davis would have.

As Quinn, Pat O'Brien is great. He plays an abrasive boss with a soft spot for royalty, and he can be friendly when he has to be - that's almost never to an employee, with the exception of Toni.

Berkeley did a good job with this - it's pleasant and funny with good comedy and singing. Not terribly special, but entertaining.

Irene (1940)
sweet musical starring Anna Neagle, 19 May 2015

The musical Irene opened in 1919 and was revived in 1973, starring Debbie Reynolds.

The basic story is the same as in this film, and similar to the 1926 film of the same name.

Irene O'Dare (Anna Neagle), on an errand for her employers, goes to the home of Mrs. Vincent (Billie Burke) and meets Don (Ray Milland), a friend of Mrs. Vincent's son Bob (Alan Marshal).

Don suggests that she try out as a model in the "Madame Lucy" dress shop. For good measure, he invests in the shop himself. However, Irene isn't sure she wants the job after the store manager makes a pass. Don fires the manager and puts in another one, Smith (Roland Young), who visits Irene at her home and asks her to work for him.

Irene is a smash hit as a model, and Smith assigns her the most beautiful gown to wear at Mrs. Vincent's charity ball. Unfortunately, some Irish stew wrecks it. Irene goes anyway, wearing a stunning blue gown that belonged to her mother, and knocks everyone's socks off.

A guest at the ball, Princess Minetti, believes Irene is related to one Lady O'Dare, and Irene doesn't correct her.

Smith decides Irene is perfect for a publicity campaign to put the dress shop on the map. He sets Irene up in a Park Avenue suite, passing her off as the niece of Lady O'Dare. This way, she will be invited to social functions and wear the shop's beautiful gowns.

When a jealous fellow model tells a newspaper columnist that Irene is really shanty Irish, all hell breaks loose.

This is a nice musical, and Anna Neagle is lovely. She was an enormous stage and screen star in Britain and even has a street named after her. She did musicals and drama up until 1985. For 15 years, she was in the top 10 of biggest British box office stars. In this she dances, sings, and acts beautifully and looks wonderful in all of the gowns.

Good cast, well directed, a pleasant musical, and a good chance to see Anna Neagle, a British treasure.

nice movie but the midget bit is very un-pc, 18 May 2015

"April Showers" is a cute musical starring Ann Sothern, Jack Carson, Bobby Ellis, Robert Alda, and S.J. Sakall.

The film is based on the true story of Buster Keaton, who was responsible for making his parents' vaudeville act successful.

Sothern and Carson are husband and wife Joe and June Tyme, vaudevillians who have a lousy show and, when we first come upon them, are fired from their job. However, Joe is always upbeat, and the couple is in love. Plus, they stay at a place where the proprietor (Sakall) carries them.

Their son Buster is away at school but is desperate to join his parents' act. He finally shows up and does so. The act becomes a huge hit with the talented dancer and comic working with them, and they ultimately receive an invitation to play New York. When they arrive, the theater manager is appalled -- Billy is underage and the local children's society will not allow him to work.

Their troubles are just beginning, as Joe gradually loses his good humor and takes up a battle with the bottle.

Everyone is very good, with Sothern singing beautifully. Carson sang beautifully as well, and I think it was his voice, as he was a singer. Bobby Ellis was wonderful. The numbers are cute but not spectacular.

I guess I would say there just isn't anything special enough to separate this out from other musicals of the era. The actors rose above the material.

There is one section where Bobby imitates a midget (and is dubbed by Mel Blanc) to convince the children's group in New York that he can work -- very politically incorrect. Things like that in old films can be quite jarring. Is it as jarring as seeing Katharine Hepburn as a Chinese woman in Dragon Seed? No, but it's noticeably in bad taste.

Some enjoyable moments. Sadly, Carson died at 53 and Bobby Ellis at 40. Two talented people, dead too soon.

a murder, a novel, a van, and a poacher, 18 May 2015

Shane Thurgood, back home from Newcastle, is shot and killed. A mile away, the van of a poacher named Linus Campion has been burned. Campion blames Allen Barnes, a gameskeeper who is his former father-in-law. Barnes' other daughter Clara Peyton is married to an estate owner.

Shane is back to sell his grandfather's farm, and originally sold it to the Peytons, who backed out of the deal.

Part of figuring out why Shane was killed is to find the roman a clef he wrote about his relationship with both of the sisters. Vera is hoping there are clues there. His ex-wife had visited him shortly before his death and warned him to stop "stalking" her sister.

It turns out that the death is more about something else.

Love Vera and Joe, but I had a hard time getting into this one for some reason. I also found it a tad confusing - whether it was or wasn't, I don't know. It could be my attention drifted. The episode that followed this one, Protected, is way superior.

Still, I am so glad the series is back and sad to learn that David Leon will not be back next year. It won't be the same without him.

one of the best episodes of the series, 18 May 2015

A man is found dead on the street of a beach town, apparently hit on the back of the head in "Vera: Protected," from the fourth season.

Vera and Joe investigate and learn that the man is David Kenworthy, from a prominent family in the area. The family does property development and has for years.

On the night of the murder, there was a huge retirement for his father, but David wasn't there. No one knows what he was doing in that town.

David's older brother Tom is an alcoholic and is a suspect due to possible sibling rivalry and jealousy. Then there is an arcade owner named Larry Crowe. His son fell off the Kenworthy roof many years earlier during an apparent burglary, so the police said. This devastated Crowe because his son wasn't a criminal and never committed a robbery. He has hated the family ever since.

David and Tom's sister, Lorna, is estranged from the family, but she shows up where David died to leave flowers -- the story has received a lot of publicity. Vera and Joe find out she's been seeing her brother secretly.

Then there's David's girlfriend, with whom he fought on the day he died.

Meanwhile, Joe and his wife are looking for a house in a better area and arguing about how they can afford it.

Vera and Joe dig and go way back into the past to discover a well-kept secret, and some major dishonesty, to figure out the identity of the killer.

Intricate story with an excellent denouement, with Brenda Blethyn in fine form as Vera, who seems to have lightened up a little this season, making jokes and generally friendlier.

This is a wonderful episode, and it's always fun when Joe and his family are involved in the story.

I wasn't as crazy about it as some, 18 May 2015

...but there were some interesting elements to "Below the Deadline" from 1946.

This is an almost noir from Monogram directed by William "One Shot" Beaudine. The studios must have loved him.

This movie dealt the problems of a returning veteran, Joe Hilton (Warren Douglas). Certainly this has been explored in films such as "The Best Years of Our Lives," but I liked this take.

A gangster (Philip Van Zandt) dispatches two thugs to to threaten Jeff Hilton (George Meeker), using Jeff's attorney (Paul Maxey) in order to keep him from muscling in on certain rackets.

Jeff's girlfriend (Jan Wiley) convinces him to go out on his own and forget about the mobsters. We know what happens next, he's iced.

When his war hero brother Joe returns from service, seeing that his brother has been killed, he takes over his rackets. He wants revenge not only for his brother, but for these gangsters who made money on the black market while he was "eating out of cans covered with lice" and fighting for his country. Don't blame him.

He takes up with a woman (Ramsay Ames), who works in one of the clubs.

Short and not bad, and I wasn't familiar with the work of Ramsay Ames before this. She was a staggeringly beautiful woman -- and very modern looking -- someone else on this site mentioned that as well. She had a very "today" look. Apparently a lot of men fell off of catwalks at the studios trying to get a gander at her. She was multitalented - a former model and dancer-singer who had her own interview show in Spain. She was married to Man of La Mancha playwright Dale Wasserman.

Decent film, with some familiar faces who later worked a lot in TV, including Paul Maxey, Phillip Van Zandt, and the star, Warren Douglas, who became a writer and producer as well as an actor.

Torment (1944)
dark screenplay by Ingmar Bergman, 16 May 2015

"Torment" from 1944 is a Swedish film directed by Alf Sjoberg with a screenplay by Ingmar Bergman. Bergman also directed the last scenes, which were put in later when the producer rejected the original ending.

Jan-Erik Widgren (Alf Kjellin) is a young student under the thumb of a sadistic Latin teacher, known by all the students as Caligula. Everyone is afraid of him. Interesting that this is based on some of Bergman's own experiences, as he hated school and hated the institution of school.

Jan-Erik believes that one day he will meet a chaste woman with whom to share his life, though his friend tells him it's impossible, all girls are tramps.

He starts talking with a pretty young woman (Mai Zetterling) who works in a nearby store. That night he sees her drunk on her way home, and he helps her. They have an affair, but she has another lover - she fears him and she's apparently afraid to leave him because of that fear. He's also a terrible bully.

Meanwhile, graduation is drawing near, and as Jan-Erik has his affair and tries to study, his chances for graduation aren't looking all that good. Then something happens that nearly destroys him.

Very good film, exquisitely photographed in black and white. Also, there is not a ton of dialogue. It almost could be a silent. I found the last scene absolutely beautiful.

I remember the star, Alf Kjellin, as an older character actor on shows like "Mission Impossible." Here he is very striking, tall with high cheekbones and an angular face. Mai Zetterling, who is only about 19 and very pretty in this film, is excellent as the tormented woman. She had a good career doing stage work in her native Sweden and then making films in Sweden, Britain, and America. When she turned to directing, her films were sexually liberated and were met with some controversy. She had big affairs with Tyrone Power and Herbert Lom. Her biography is fascinating.

Both give strong performances.

Stig Jarrel as Caligula was a very versatile, fine actor, and here he plays a real demon. He's frightening, like a snake poised to strike. His last scene is extremely powerful.

This film is definitely worth seeing, even though it's not perfect and not a masterpiece. Still, it's effective, with some strong images.

murder on a train, 15 May 2015

Joe Ashworth, Vera's partner, and his daughter Jessie (Olivia Armstrong) board a train in "On Harbour Street," from "Vera" to begin its fourth season.

I just learned that Joe (David Leon) is not returning next season. It's such a great partnership, I hope the series doesn't suffer.

In this episode, an elderly woman boards a train and looks over at Ashworth's daughter, Jessie. She sits down. When Joe and Jessie leave the train, Jessie notices the lady is still there, seemingly asleep, and asks if she can wake her up. Joe says okay. When Jessie tries, she sees a bloody wound and screams. The woman is dead.

Very interesting episode as Vera and Joe endeavor to find out why anyone would want to kill this old lady, whom they learn is named Margaret. It turns out that she has quite a past, and also a friendship with another woman, Dee (Tilly Vosburgh), an alcoholic Margaret helps.

There's the discovery of a body, there's another murder, and an old mystery solved as Vera and Joe dig deeper.

Joe probably leaves for family reasons - his wife calls him upset because he's apparently forgotten about a counseling session for one of their children. Unlike Vera, he has a life outside of the department.

Very seemed more cheerful in this, as if she's lightening up. I think losing Joe will be very sad for her, as she seems fond of his family as well. Brenda Blethyn is wonderful as Vera, with her sly smile, her way of questioning a suspect, and the stories she tells.

Good episode.

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
no idea what to write, 14 May 2015

I just saw the first season of Broadchurch. I had heard a lot about it, and after watching "Foyle's War," I thought to myself, well, the bar has now been set for me pretty high. This show will have to be something to outdo it.

Actually it's like comparing apples to oranges. Where Foyle's War is steeped in history, with mysteries solved by a brilliant detective, it's more cerebral. I found this pure emotion and every bit as good.

David Tennant and Olivia Colman star as Alec Hardy and Ellie Miller, two people who are not comfortable working in the same police unit, especially since Ellie expected to get Alec's job. And who could work with Alec? He's impossible, not a team player, and he does not share in the office camaraderie. Add to that that he's ill and keeps passing out, it's not fun.

Hardy and Miller are on the case of a little boy, Danny, who was found dead on the beach. He was strangled.

Oh, let me name the suspects. There's a man thought to be a pedophile, whom the police suspect, a woman living in a caravan who has a strange, perhaps blackmail relationship with someone living nearby - she also has something of Danny's, the boy's own father, who has lied about where he was the night his son was killed, and even the local reverend.

Add to that reporters desperate for a story, a missing computer, and adultery, and you've got the town of Broadchurch going crazy. A family is grieving, and the crime still isn't solved.

The last half hour of the last episode will knock your socks off.

The acting is brilliant and totally believable from everyone. Tennant as an unlikable detective, stubborn and somewhat slovenly, is magnificent. Colman, less volatile, is no less wonderful as a wife, mother, and detective, who is aware that the crime hits close to home, as her son was a friend of Danny's.

Others in the cast are fantastic - Jodie Whittaker, Matthew Gravelle, Andrew Buchan, as well as the rest, round out the episodes beautifully.

I haven't seen the second season, but I was very surprised to see what's in it. Nothing you would expect from Season 1, which covers one case.

Excellent, dark, gripping, mysterious, very emotional -- fantastic.

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