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Reservation Dogs and Stranger Things
It's a small Inuit community. Five girls hanging out are attacked by a polar bear. They shoot it twice and escape. Something is wrong with the bear. It's an alien parasite.
This is a combination of Reservation Dogs and Stranger Things. It's pretty good for a small indie. I love the out-of-the-ordinary location and community. I would like more with the characters. The girls need some space to have their own individuality. It's a simple premise and it's done simply. The ending is a bit simplistic. The acting is fine for the most part especially for relative amateurs. All of that is excusable. The simple fact is that I like these characters and I like them in this simple sci-fi horror. It's fun and it's enjoyable.
needs more plot
Izzy (Zelda Adams) lives on a remote mountain in isolation with her mother (Toby Poser). They do peaceful earth-friendly witchcraft. Izzy is anxious to stretch her wings. She leaves the property and encounters neighbor Amber (Lulu Adams). A Hellbender is a demonic witch who feeds off fear.
This is a family affair for John Adams, Zelda, Lulu, and Toby. It's a small indie horror. I really like the witchcraft visuals, but this movie needs more plot. There are long sections of nothing much happening. I do love some scenes and the ending. It just needs a few more dramatic plot elements. Maybe the ranger could be a bigger character. Maybe Amber could be nosier. The story needs something more.
Gambling House (1950)
no to redemption
Petty criminal Marc Fury (Victor Mature) got shot. The cops believe that he is involved in a murder at a gambling house. The real killer, gangster Joe Farrow (William Bendix), wants Fury to take the rap. Fury steals incriminating evidence against Farrow after being double-crossed. He manages to win the case, but the cops take him into custody anyways. Before taken in, he slips the evidence onto unsuspecting social worker Lynn Warren (Terry Moore). It turns out that the government is trying to deport him.
Terry Moore is lacking but Victor Mature fits the role perfectly. I like the gangster part, but the redemption arc is less appealing. I definitely want a darker progression. He doesn't deserve his redemption. His court speeches are unconvincing. The movie is trying to sell something and I'm not buying.
The Golden Equator (1956)
It's an RKO-Pathe documentary short about the country Equator and its bright future. Director Hamilton Wright seems to have made a career of happy documentaries of various exotic countries. He probably got a lot of help from the local governments. It's nothing more than a promotional short from the tourism department. Nevertheless, it's still fun to see the local flavors and interesting construction methods. The textile factory is fine, but I love hat making more. There is a lot to see here. The disappointing part is the black and white filming. It needs colors. With the tropical landscape and local costumes, vibrant colors would bring this to life.
compelling actors in compelling story
Sarah (Jodie Comer) is the only person applying for a job in a Liverpool adult care home. She befriends Tony (Stephen Graham) who is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease. When COVID hits, her boss Steve (Ian Hart) gets hit and the system breaks down. Sarah finds herself alone in the fight for her charges.
These are compelling performances in a compelling story. I actually like the first half without the COVID story. There is a real connection between Sarah and Tony. The COVID hit can be a little harsh at times. I almost feel like it's too soon. It's a case of more with less. She doesn't have to yell her anger. The audience would do it for her. It would also leave room for the last scene to hit harder.
In Fast Company (1946)
The Bowery Boys
A guy from the neighborhood gets caught up in a cabbie war. Father Donovan recruits Slip (Leo Gorcey) to drive the cab for a couple of days while the guy recovers. It's the Bowery Boys against the corrupt taxi company owner.
This is the second film in this series. It has both Slip and Sach. They have their fun. It's a silly franchise and that's fine. I don't care that much about any seriousness. I probably wouldn't even want that many car chases. The fights need to be more slapstick. All in all, it's a little fun with some serious matters which may or may not fit with the silliness. It's fine.
Popeye, the Ace of Space (1953)
Popeye vs Martians
Popeye gets kidnapped by Martian aliens. They intend to test their weapons on an average Earth specimen. Their Cosmic Ager turns Popeye into an old man, but he fights back with his spinach. They use more strange weapons and Popeye continue to resist.
This Popeye cartoon is stepping out of its safe standard formula. This one doesn't have Olive or Bluto. The Martians are somewhat Bluto-shaped. This is Popeye vs Martians. It's fun. It's a little exciting to work some new territories. The premise is simple but effective. It's imaginative. The only minor issue is that the Martians aren't cuter. They could have been recurring characters.
Visiting Virginia (1947)
This TravelTalks episode passes through modern Roanoke, and Richmond, but it doesn't stay long. Instead, it spends more of its time visiting the tobacco, sugar cane, and peanuts farms. Then it visits some natural wonders like a beautiful cave.
This one doesn't spend much time in the cities or looking at buildings. It's a good idea. I love the old agriculture. I love the footage of the old-style farm work. The cave looks good too, but I doubt it hasn't changed much over the years. It's the old farm work that is the highlight in this one for me. I wouldn't mind having the whole episode filled with that.
The Face Behind the Mask (1938)
trying to combine
Autocratic ruler Louis XIV sends a mystery man into prison locked in an iron mask. This short asks the question of who and pontificates on the unjust nature of this autocratic state.
This tries to tie the classic story with the rising dictatorships in Europe. I get the premise, but it is a bit of stretching. Royalty is something to be ridiculed, but the new dictators are cruel power-mad murderous men. There are parallels to be sure. It's a matter of tone and degree. Also, one has to assume that the audience is familiar with the source material. It doesn't help that I don't like the John Nesbitt narration. One can see the early American view that these new rulers are the old royals by another name. It's a repeat, but it's more than that.
So Ends Our Night (1941)
fine wartime film
It's 1937 Austria. Josef Steiner (Fredric March) and teenager Ludwig Kern (Glenn Ford) are picked up by the police. They and many others are on the run and in hiding from the Nazis. Josef is offered clemency to turn against the others including those who helped him escape the concentration camp. He had left behind his wife Marie (Frances Dee). Ludwig falls for fellow Jewish exile Ruth Holland (Margaret Sullavan). After Austria is taken over by the Nazis, Josef becomes a hunted man.
This is a fine wartime film with one Oscar nomination under its belt. March and Ford are good. March has some powerful scenes while this is an early breakout role for Ford. I still think that the movie would be more powerful if it kept only one main character. More than anything, these journeys feel real and that's important during this time. It shows the oppressiveness of the police state and the callous cruelty of the Nazis.
Jerky Turkey (1945)
Plymouth Rock chicken
The Pilgrims land on Plymouth Rock. One Pilgrim goes hunting for a turkey. One turkey has a fun time pranking the Pilgrim. It's a surprising takedown of the Pilgrims. It's a more adult MGM cartoon from Tex Avery in the sense that the jokes are hitting older. There are political jokes. I don't even understand how Plymouth Rock is a chicken. Is that a brand of chicken back in the day? Oh! It's a breed of chicken. How many kids would know that? How many adults would know that? I don't mind a lot of this, but it's often flying at my head if not over my head. Are they really saying that the Pilgrims are leading an invasion force to the New World? Otherwise, I do really, really like the ending. It's a fitting ending since I don't really care about either character.
Diary of the Dead (2007)
George A. Romero zombie movie
The dead are rising. A group of young people is filming a mummy movie in the middle of the woods. They watch the news reporting the real-world horror. Ridley and Francine leave right away while the others decide what to do. The director Jason is headed for his girlfriend Debra. The movie premise has Jason doing the filming with Debra's narration.
It's a George A. Romero zombie movie. I don't like this gimmick of Jason filming. He's the lead character, but his face is mostly hidden behind the camera. If it needs to be found footage, it needs to be fully in found footage. I also don't like the narration. With these smaller movies, it's always fun to see a future star in an early role. In this one, Tatiana Maslany has a minor role along with a couple of other familiar faces. I do like the mummy guy still in costume when they reunite. A zombie mummy is fun. Romero is having some fun here.
Babysitter Wanted (2008)
Sincerely religious Angie Albright (Sarah Thompson) is starting art history classes in college. Her new roommate is a mess. She is befriended by Rick (Matt Dallas). Someone seems to be stalking her. She needs money to buy a bed and takes a babysitting job at a remote farm.
This is a fine horror with some fine actors. It's a lesser horror. There are some flat spots in the story, but it has a good twist. It's not anything that surprising, but it's still good. There is a fun little side-twist with a priest. That one is the better one. I expected more out of Rick. All in all, it's a fine little horror.
Hannah (Jurnee Smollett) and her daughter Vee live in a house in the woods which they rent from their cantankerous neighbor Lou (Allison Janney). Philip (Logan Marshall-Green) is a killer coming into their lives. He is Vee's abusive presumed-dead father, and he kidnaps her. Lou joins Hannah in pursuit.
I like the first half. I like Terminator Janney. I like the fight in the cabin. I like crossing the bridge. I'm fine with the CIA but the bigger reveal is problematic. I couldn't figure out how Hannah came to be Lou's renter. Presumably, Hannah would be on the run and have no idea where she's going. The premise seems like a stretch, and it kept bugging me. I don't really like the additional connection anyways. It's not necessarily, and it adds nothing but complications. The first half is a fun time with Terminator Janney. The rest is a mixed bag.
The Hucksters (1947)
big names limited effect
Victor Albee Norman (Clark Gable) returns from the war to rejoin the advertising business. He insists on being honest and sincere. He interviews with Mr. Kimberly (Adolphe Menjou) who is struggling with their big cantankerous demanding client, Beautee Soap. Evan Llewellyn Evans (Sydney Greenstreet) wants his list of society ladies to endorse his soap. Victor signs up the most prominent name on the list, war widower Kay Dorrance (Deborah Kerr) who has two young kids. Nightclub singer Jean Ogilvie (Ava Gardner) is his ex.
I don't really buy the basic premise of the movie. Victor needs to set up his character. He is fundamentalist in honesty, and he stays in the advertising game. There is a way to play it, but it would require showing his war experience. He needs to sell the character to the audience. As for the advertising, I don't understand the influence of these society ladies. Are they famous back then? Maybe they were the Tik Tok celebrities of their day. After putting those things aside, it's up to Clark Gable to use his charms and in a sense, he overwhelms the movie. There is no drama in the story. It feels flat. It looks like a romance, but it doesn't have the heart of one. It wants to take down the world of advertising, but it just takes down this movie.
Looking Forward (1933)
Depression era department store owner Gabriel Service Sr. (Lewis Stone) faces financial difficulties. Loyal long-time employee Tim Benton (Lionel Barrymore) gets laid off, but he refuses to blame his boss. Meanwhile, Gabriel's clueless family members are surprised by their troubles and are less supportive of his decision to maintain the store.
The central message seems to be rolling up your sleeves and surviving the Depression. The rich boss is not a villain. He's spending his own money to keep the store going. Benton is using his lemons to make lemonade. As a movie, it's interesting but not that compelling. It's more a series of events rather than a compelling story.
My Dream Is Yours (1949)
Doris Day musical with Bugs cameo
Singing radio host Gary Mitchell callously dumps his agent Doug Blake (Jack Carson). Doug sets off to find a new singer making a tour of the New York nightclubs. In a diner, he finds Martha Gibson (Doris Day) singing from a remote jukebox. She's a single mom and is forced to leave her son behind with her uncle as she makes the rounds in Hollywood. Doug convinces Girl Friday Vivian Martin (Eve Arden) to take in Martha.
I didn't know some early jukebox record is done that way. It's like an early streaming service. This is a fine Doris Day post-war musical. She has the sweetheart voice and sweetheart personality. The single mom angle adds some much-needed depth to an otherwise bland straight forward story. I wouldn't mind more Vi. Quite frankly, she's a better match for Doug. Bugs Bunny makes a cameo with Tweety Bird in an animated section. This is supposed to be a takedown of the music business, but it's done with kiddie gloves. It's light. It's harmless. It's fine.
The Light Touch (1951)
Thief Sam Conride (Stewart Granger) steals a painting from an Italian museum. He double-crosses his partner Felix Guignol (George Sanders) by faking its destruction in a boat fire. Their client Aramescue don't necessarily buy it. Sam comes up with a new scheme. They recruit innocent Anna Vasarri (Pier Angeli) to paint copies and sell them to unsuspecting customers who know about theft but don't know that it's supposedly destroyed.
This is a B-movie. It desperately needs a bigger star. Sam needs to be a slick charmer. Granger has an old-time leading man look with height. I don't notice his British accent. He seems more non-descript than anything. He had a long career, but I don't know much of his work. The premise holds some potential, but this can't exceed beyond its B-movie nature. I can see this being reworked with bigger stars in the two leads.
Eden Lake (2008)
big names in British thriller
Steve (Michael Fassbender) takes his girlfriend Jenny (Kelly Reilly) to his beloved spot at Eden Lake. It's a beach on a quarry lake that is being developed into a private gated community. He intends to propose to her. They break into the construction site and get harassed by a group of teenagers led by Brett (Jack O'Connell).
I didn't realize that this British thriller has so many interesting actors. This is a new Straw Dogs with kids on bikes. Some of the couple's troubles are self-induced which frustrated me. I do wish that Steve crashes the car after running over one of the kids. He doesn't have to kill the kid, but just injure him. It's better as a back-and-forth racheting-up of the conflict. There is another issue with the final section. While I understand the need to not call the cops, that decision does need some expanding. Maybe, the father is a cop. That would explain how the kids got away with all their delinquency. My final suggestion is to get rid of the black kid. Let's play the racism card. Adam's East Indian character can mean more. I do like the final ending. I feared that the one-legged lady would turn into Rambo and kill everyone which would happen in a Hollywood movie.
Joan instead of Marilyn
In 1901, Evelyn Nesbit (Joan Collins) is a stage performer. She becomes the object of competition between wealthy industrial tycoon Harry Kendall Thaw (Farley Granger) and his rival architect Stanford White (Ray Milland). It results in murder and scandal.
Apparently, Marilyn Monroe was the first choice for the role. I would have loved to see it. I like Joan, but this role needs something more vivacious. She's darker than that. I want Evelyn to play up her girlish allure while these two men battle over her. The movie feels a little stiff. The camera moves, the staging, and the rest are all very static. It's a 50's movie. Director Richard Fleischer had a long and successful career with many differing movies. I don't want to blame him for anything, but this is probably not his best work. I wish that I didn't know about Marilyn Monroe. I just kept picturing her in this role. This is not necessarily bad, but I'm not drawn to these characters.
Abraham Rodriguez (Alan Arkin) is Popi to his two young sons. The boys' mother is dead. The three of them and his girlfriend Lupe (Rita Moreno) live in the slums. He struggles with various odd jobs and surviving day to day. He notices that the new Cuban refugees have much better lives and comes up with a crazy idea.
I like the idea of the premise. I like the location. I don't like Abraham. I get that this is a satirical comedy. It has moments of humor. I never really get to like Abraham. I need him to show more love to his kids and his girlfriend. I get the idea of running after those neighbor kids is him worrying about his sons turning wild. It needs some setting up. The only time when that love is front and center is when the boys are out in the water. That is the best. Aside from that, Arkin is no Latino. Maybe he can pass but I know he's faking. Back in the day, it's business as usual. All in all, I like the originality of the premise more than the execution.
The Better 'Ole (1926)
the other Chaplin
In WWI, Bert Chester is in the British Secret Service and working the British lines alongside the lowly soldiers. Pvt. William 'Old Bill' Busby (Syd Chaplin) is the beloved 30 years veteran of the service. He's a comedic everyman who won't be rising up the ranks any time soon.
I don't know anything about Syd Chaplin. Apparently, he's the older half-brother of Charlie Chaplin and had his own movie career during the silent era. The brothers were very close. One can certainly see similar mannerisms. Syd is a chunkier and older version of his famous brother. That works comedically. I'm actually surprised that he didn't get more play as the Tramp's friend or family. He would fit very nicely as a carnival mirror image of the iconic character. Maybe he's a little too close for comedic purposes. They would step on each other comedically. In this movie, he's a rougher version of the Tramp. I really like this character. He's fun. As for the movie, it runs a bit longer than I expected. It's full-length like a modern film. It runs out of steam. The horse bit goes on too long. I like my silent films a lot shorter unless they are involved stories. I'm not that involved with this story.
China Clipper (1936)
Dave Logan (Pat O'Brien) gets inspired by Lindbergh's flight. He quits his safe job to set up his own airline. It's a never-ending struggle. His war buddy Hap Stuart (Humphrey Bogart) joins his ragtag gang.
This movie needs a villain, an antagonist for the story. Without it, the story is flying level with no excitement. It becomes a series of events rather than a narrative dramatic story. There is no emotional buy-in. Pat O'Brien is yelling his lines at everybody. Bogie is playing second fiddle as supporting cast. Flying was the newfangled thing during that time and the audience back then might appreciate this more. There is no drama in this.
So Big (1953)
Jane is the Big One
Selina (Jane Wyman) is a happy student in a pricey girls' boarding school. Her world is turned upside down when her father dies leaving her alone and broke. She is reluctant to accept any help. She becomes a teacher in small rural town. She nurtures student Roelf, and he develops a crush on her. She marries farmer Pervus De Jong (Sterling Hayden) and they have a son, Dirk nickname So Big.
There is a bit of sentimental hokum and melodrama in this film. It's calling back to an olden times and olden ways. It's trying very hard to push the ideals of substance over money. Through it all, Jane Wyman maintains its sincerity. When she leaves the screen, the movie struggles. She is the biggest One of them all. This movie wants to be an old time character epic and I want it for Jane. She pulls it through the finish line. Her reunion with Roelf is ten times more compelling than all of Dirk's drama.
Easy Living (1949)
I keep missing the passes
Football star Pete Wilson (Victor Mature) has his loving socialite wife Liza Wilson (Lizabeth Scott). Everything is easy. He gets some bad medical news that threatens to end it all. Anne (Lucille Ball) is the team secretary.
Boy! I was slow on uptake. I missed all the clues until the insurance rejection. I keep missing stuff in this movie. I missed the love connection until she admits to it. The movie keeps throwing the ball and I keep dropping it. I'm not sure if it's all my fault or if the movie is not doing it right. As for his medical issue, it doesn't generate the right kind of tension. He looks perfectly fine. The issue is basically a random bomb that could explode at any time. It doesn't raise the tension. If the audience can see his deterioration, it becomes more like a ticking time bomb and it could raise the tension as normal. I get the premise, but it's not getting me.