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Fat Camp (I) (2017)
4/10
something's wrong with Hutch
16 September 2019
Hutch (Chris Redd) is an irresponsible slacker who is obsessed with workouts and women. It's 4 years after leaving college and he's still unemployed. His mother (Vivica A. Fox) has had enough and kicks him out of her house. His friends are unwilling to take in the loser. Big Mike (Mel Rodriguez) gives him a job as a counsellor at a failing health camp for kids and institutes a $5k competition for the counsellor whose kids lose the most pounds. Charlie and Abby are fellow counsellors.

There is an annoying jerk in Hutch without the joy of a fun clown. There is a potential for dark comedy but this is strictly trying to be traditional feel-good underdog comedy. It doesn't really work. Then Hutch does an 180 in the middle which only suggests that he's the wrong character at the beginning. If he could be someone else... If it could be a different character... I don't know how to fix this. Hutch needs to be an obsessive gym rat. The opening section should be him at the gym failing to be a trainer. No. No. Forget that. He should be Bill Murray in Meatballs. Alright, Chris Redd can't be Bill Murray. I don't know how to fix this.
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The Upside (2017)
8/10
it gets better
16 September 2019
Dell Scott (Kevin Hart) has always been about himself. He's on parole and all he cares about is getting signatures for his employment sheet. He doesn't care about the jobs and accidentally stumbles into a job interview. Philip Lacasse (Bryan Cranston) is a billionaire quadriplegic in need of a live-in caretaker. He is bitter at still being alive after his business assistant Yvonne Pendleton (Nicole Kidman) disobeyed his DNR. He is depressed from the death of his wife and the hopelessness of his condition. Dell is struggling to get back into his estranged son's life.

This is adapted from the 2011 French film The Intouchables which is a flawed movie with a sincere message. In my opinion, this remake is far superior to the French original. The original is mostly about race and class. While that is part of the issue in the new movie, it is mostly about Dell's criminal past and his irresponsible attitude that is the center of the premise. That is a far more effective personal drama. As for the acting, it's expected from Cranston and Kidman while Hart is a big surprise. He needs to do a few more dramas. That's not to say that this is in any way a perfect movie. There are several moments when the old clichés go too far. The opera is one of those moments. Dell's conversion is obvious and expected. The movie needs to add something to distract from its inherent conventional nature. I would add a line with Dell saying, "You didn't tell me that she was going to be sista." I really like switching out the egg for the book. I really like the relationships. I love Julianna Margulies' scene. I really like this movie.
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Greta (2018)
6/10
fine
15 September 2019
Frances McCullen (Chloë Grace Moretz) lives in Manhattan in the apartment of her college friend Erica Penn (Maika Monroe). She finds a handbag on the subway train. She decides to hand deliver it back to its owner, Greta Hideg (Isabelle Huppert). Greta's daughter lives in Paris. Frances befriends the lonely woman until she accidentally discovers a cache of similar handbags ready to be placed in the subway. She tries to ignore Greta which only intensifies the stalking.

This is generally fine. It's single white female with a motherhood bend. With movies of this type, the question becomes whether Frances does something unreasonably stupid. She really shouldn't care about the dog, or lie in church, or go down to the basement. Otherwise, I'm fine with all of her moves. The tension is not as high as one would hope for mostly due to the lack of physical threat from Isabelle Huppert. Although I do like the phone pic stalking of Erica. That is probably the most tense situation of the movie and it's well done. There is fine creepiness from director Neil Jordan and Huppert but the thriller needs more intensity.
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The Cocoanuts (1929)
7/10
Marx Brothers in all their glory
15 September 2019
Mr. Hammer (Groucho Marx) runs Florida resort, Hotel de Cocoanut. The staff is frustrated with not getting paid but he is able to talk them out of wanting money. Polly loves the desk clerk, Bob Adams. Her mother would rather her marry the rich Harvey Yates. Only he's secretly a jewel thief with his partner Penelope. New arrivals, Chico and Harpo, are a couple of wacky con men.

It's the Marx Brothers. It's their first film after perfecting their show on Broadway. It takes about twenty minutes before Chico and Harpo get into the movie. It has all the hallmarks of the brothers. There are musical numbers. The brothers have a fun physical time going in and out of two connected rooms. Groucho and Chico have an extended conversation with a "viaduct/why a duck" confusion. It's classic although it's lesser known than their other movies. It may not be their best work but there is plenty of them in it. Honestly, the other people and the other story gets in the way of the Marx Brothers humor.
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6/10
slightly better
15 September 2019
Max doesn't see the appeal of human babies until his owner Katie has a baby of her own. He finds himself falling for the kid to the point of being neurotically fearful for him. The family goes to the country where the dogs are mentored by the confident sheep dog Rooster. Max leaves his favorite toy Busy Bee in the care of Gidget who promptly loses it to the old lady's numerous cats. Snowball sees himself as a superhero ready to help the helpless. Daisy comes in looking for help with a tiger imprisoned in a circus.

The first one is fine for little kids. It's loud and it's brightly colored. The story gets too big and too outlandish. This one is a little better. I don't find myself getting quite as bored with the story. The scale of the story is pulled back to a more reasonable level. The circus is probably as outrageous as it can get without going over. The plot does split up into three stories which is a major drawback. This franchise succeeds more when the characters join up and gain more chemistry. The gang needs to stay together. This one takes a step up from competent entertainment for little kids to acceptable time for a family to spend together.
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Super Gidget (2019 Video)
7/10
Evil squirrels
15 September 2019
Gidget is a superhero. When Max is taken by the evil squirrels, Super Gidget is called upon to save him. Only it's not the squirrels that is the big bad. The bad turns out to be a super flea with mind control powers. I like this. It's short and fun. What I like most is an idea for the third movie. The gang needs to find the evil squirrels.
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Minion Scouts (2019 Video)
7/10
good Minions short
15 September 2019
The Minions are entranced by the girls' merit badges. They join the Badger Scouts to get badges of their own. It's only a four minute short. It is very Minions with a montage of chaotic misadventures. It is short simple fun. The only thing missing is the girls joining the Minions at the scout gathering.
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Naughty or Nice (2012 TV Movie)
6/10
interesting premise for a Hallmark movie
15 September 2019
Life is not going well for Krissy Kringle (Hilarie Burton) during the Christmas holiday season. The hot water is out. She's expecting to be promoted but gets fired instead. She's the only without decorations despite being on Candy Cane Lane and gets harassed by her neighbor. She is mistakenly delivered Santa's Naughty or Nice list. The book reveals everybody's naughty acts. Krissy uses it to out people and take revenge against her enemies.

For a Hallmark movie, this actually has an interesting premise. There are a few laughs. Hilarie Burton has a little fun. It's pretty good considering it's Hallmark. It is a little clunky and the production has its limitations. It needs a few more rewrites and a few more bucks. I really like some of the ideas in the premise.
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6/10
outlandish world
15 September 2019
Warning: Spoilers
The long forgotten world was destroyed in sixty minutes by a weapon called Medusa. It's now a post-apocalyptic world where cities are mounted on wheels and devouring each other for the limited remaining resources. London has crossed a land-bridge to raid the dwindling supply of smaller settlements. Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) is the ruthless leader working on a secret program. His daughter Katherine is innocent. Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) is a historian trying to hide the salvaged ancient weapon tech. When Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) tries to assassinate Thaddeus, Tom uncovers one of his secrets and gets thrown out of London.

I really like the outlandish premise. There is fun craziness. Hester is a great character and played by the compelling Hera Hilmar. On the other hand, Sheehan is playing his usual talkative know-it-all. He's a bit annoying and not the best romantic lead. Quite frankly, it's better to have Sheehan and Ronan Raftery switch roles. Ronan seems more like the boy scout type and would pair better with Hera. Sheehan would give more spice to the pairing with Leila George. It may still be a great movie until the third act turns into a grinding never-ending ending.

I would rearrange the final battle entirely. After defeating Shrike, Hester finds the crash drive. Hester and Tom sneak back into London. They reunite with Katherine and the group sneaks into St. Paul's. Thaddeus fires the weapon once which starts to malfunction. Random strikes hit everywhere including London and the small group fights to stop Medusa saving not just the wall but also London itself. It's a tighter ending. It's not as action packed but it's much better to have the group together. Overall, I like this movie. I like the start more and the ending is not so bad. It could definitely be better. For one thing, the world should be deader. There is way too much green plant life. The world should be a desert. It's post-apocalyptic after all.
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Witchboard (1986)
6/10
camp horror
14 September 2019
Brandon Sinclair (Stephen Nichols) brings out the ouija board at a party. With Linda Brewster (Tawny Kitaen), he tries to contact a young spirit named David. Linda's jealous boyfriend Jim Morar (Todd Allen) disrupts the seance. Later, she contacts David by herself. As David threaten to possess Linda, Brandon is desperate to retrieve the ouija board and calls in medium Zarabeth (Kathleen Wilhoite).

This is a gosh darn campy horror. I'm not sure if it's a cult classic but I can see it. There are weird lines coming out of nowhere like the bomb lines. The acting is bad but there is something funny about it. Jim is a dumb as and everybody is over-acting. Wilhoite is trying so hard. Tawny Kitaen jumps through another glass naked. It's not a scary horror. It's not a good movie. It's not bland and it has a fun sensibility with its badness.
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The Mule (2018)
5/10
old man humor
14 September 2019
Korean War vet Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) is an award winning flower grower. Times are tough and he loses his business to internet competition. His constant travels have alienated his ex-wife (Dianne Wiest) and daughter. His granddaughter (Taissa Farmiga) is getting married. He needs money to contribute to the wedding and a wedding guest has a suggestion. He becomes a mule for the drug cartel. Agent Colin Bates (Bradley Cooper) is new to the DEA and he's tracking the mules.

First off, the cartel is overpaying for transportation. He's only moving the drugs within the States. The only reason to pay that much is to deliver the drugs across the border. I'm not sure why Clint is not doing that for this movie. It probably costs more to construct a border crossing and it may be difficult to film there now even for the GOP giant. There's not enough tension and crossing the border has the ability to inject vast amounts of intensity. This is generally a well constructed and functionally structured movie. Clint can do this in his sleep. The problem is that he thinks certain scene are hilarious but it's old-man hilarity. It's hilarious to old men who yell at kids to get off their lawns. The negro scene is hilarious. The five minutes of danger is hilarious. Jimmy Stewart is a great bit. The internet is a catch-all. It's old man humor done in an accusatory way. Relax old man, I've changed my tires before and I've even changed an air filter or two. He is directing the humor at the audience rather than with the audience. Of course, Clint has to be a sex machine and I actually find this somewhat funny. Finally, the DEA agents are not seen in the best light either. If they know that it's a black truck, one would think that a drug sniffing dog would be discreetly deployed around every dark colored truck. Quite frankly, the earlier dog scene is really good. There is a lackadaisical feel to the writing. This is not Clint's best work.
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3/10
boring
14 September 2019
In colonial times, a woman is killed for witchcraft. In present day, Lise seeks revenge upon her ancestor's killers' descendants. Writer/director Ken Friedman seems to have been a minor filmmaker. That's the feel of this indie. It's a minor work of a minor creator. It's boring. Even with an indie, the filmmaker's style can be retrieved. One can see the skills even without the budget. Kevin Smith has his humor in Clerks. Christopher Nolan has his intrigue in Following. Darren Aronofsky has his weirdness in Pi. This indie is boring. Friedman does try but he isn't doing anything good. Shelby Leverington has some beauty but staring at her face in closeup for extended time ends up being boring and pretentious. It's not weird enough to be camp. It's not daring enough to be interesting. It's boring. Even the blood looks weak. There is some competency in the filmmaking but it's not enough.
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4/10
weak filmmaking
14 September 2019
17 years earlier at the Douglas Academy Boarding School, Jane is found dead in a storeroom at the end of the hall. It's assumed to be a suicide and her journal is missing. Present day, Jane's best friend Courtney Snow (Sara Rue) returns to the school for a reunion after writing a successful novel about her dead friend. She is struggling to write a second novel and is convinced to join the faculty. She reconnects with former classmate Brett who is the son of Headmaster Ian Ramsey. The storeroom has been reopened and student Laurel McAvoy living there resembles her dead best friend Jane.

There are requirements that this movie never fulfills. Sara Rue does not really resemble Amber Borycki. It's always problematic to switch back and forth to the flashbacks. It's probably better to simply put a wig on Sara Rue and have her play her younger self. The role of Laura/Jane needs someone much more distinctive. It needs someone with a recognizable face which immediate screams out doppelganger. Aside from those issues, this is a rather choppy, weak movie. As a horror, there is nothing scary or even spooky. Some of ghostly aspect is downright bad. There is a general poor quality to the production.
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One Last Thing (II) (2018)
6/10
flip it and reverse it
13 September 2019
Quiet Florida dentist Dylan Derringer (Wendell Pierce) spends his spare time perfecting his golf game. Jaime (Joanne Froggatt) is his assistant. He tracks down his daughter Lucy (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) in Brooklyn. She's a daughter that he didn't know he had for 25 years.

This doesn't have the loudest of dramas. It's very quiet. At first, I'm expecting Hallmark channel but this is trying to throwback to a quieter melodrama. I appreciate Wendell Pierce. For the drama, I would flip the characters and have Lucy search for her father. She could be searching for organ donors and that would give additional colors to their relationship. It would make another layer to everything and elevate this rather slow melodrama.
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8/10
end of an era
13 September 2019
It's 1981 Texas. Forrest Tucker (Robert Redford) is driving his getaway car after robbing a bank. He stops for Jewel (Sissy Spacek) and her broken down truck. He tells her that he's a bank robber but she does not believe him. Forrest is with his partners Teddy (Danny Glover) and Waller (Tom Waits). They're robbing yet another bank right under the nose of police detective John Hunt (Casey Affleck). Hunt soon realizes that the life-long criminal Tucker has been robbing banks across the American southwest.

Like the movie's protagonist, this is an easy-going, gentle crime spree. It's melancholy. Redford and Spacek are poignant alluding to another era in Hollywood. The Casey Affleck part reminds me of David Fincher. Director David Lowery is obviously a fan. There is one moment when a young Robert Redford shows up and his cinematic history comes flooding back. All his other cinematic moments pop up in my mind. It's a great nostalgic move. On the other hand, I'm uncertain about the meeting between Tucker and Hunt at the diner. It's too convenient but more problematic, Hunt would arrest Tucker. At least, he would follow him. Now watch, it's probably the only real moment from the true story in the whole movie.
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6/10
dog stealer
13 September 2019
Young Davy Allen rescues a dog brutally chained to a fence. He releases the collar and brings the dog home. Mean Mr. Thornycroft comes looking for the dog but Davy refuses to hand him over. Thornycroft sends the sheriff to force the issue. The judge holds court in the local general store. It turns out that the magistrate is also a local director of the SPCA.

He did steal the dog. I mean to say that Davy did steal the dog. It's not like the dog was being beaten. Thornycroft is the classic mean old man. I also don't know about treating the dog as an individual. That's a bit too progressive. Again it would help if Thornycroft would give the dog a few wacks. Otherwise, there is no real evidence against him. Being a mean old man is not enough to steal his dog. This won the Oscar for best short subject.
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Madame X (1929)
7/10
Ruth great
13 September 2019
Jacqueline (Ruth Chatterton) is kicked out of her home after her husband Louis Floriot (Lewis Stone) discovers her affair. She is unable to even to see their young son Raymond. Years later, she becomes the drunken mistress of gambler Laroque. He plies her with alcohol to get the truth of her identity. With Louis now the Attorney General, Laroque decides to blackmail him and she shoots Laroque in the back killing him. Through a stroke of cosmic coincidence, her son is assigned to be her lawyer for her trial.

The sound quality is problematic for this early talkie. The poster advertises ALL TALKING but there comes with plenty of static. Many of the Lionel Barrymore directions are stagey which is expected for the great stage actor. Another expectation is that the acting is superbly confident. It doesn't get better than Chatterton. She runs the gamut from crying to drunk to drunk crying to despair. It's a master class of classical acting. The surprise is that it doesn't devolve into the silent-era-overacting which is still prevalent in that era. She is always in control while going far in range. Barrymore is unable to add much to the directing language which is its main limitation. He is basically doing a stage play although one reviewer seems to suggest him creating one of the first boom mike. I don't know about that. Filmmakers started doing that a year earlier. Barrymore is functional and he has the good sense to have good actors. Both Chatterton and Barrymore's directing were considered unofficially for Oscars.
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Lead with Your Heart (2015 TV Movie)
5/10
slow drift
13 September 2019
Ben (William Baldwin) and Maura McCabe Walker (Kari Matchett) seem to have a perfect life with their teen son Adam applying for college and daughter Lacey is away. Maura has a possible promotion at the bank taking her away to the big city of Minneapolis. With an emptying nest and underlying personal differences, the couple finds themselves drifting apart.

The drift is too slow which keeps the movie rather bland for the first half hour. Instead of talking about it, they need to be hit with something. I know that Hallmark doesn't want real drama but it should try. I don't really care about the kids. I don't care about the parents. I'm not rooting for some sitcom contrivances but this movie needs something. The reality of the slow drift does not give much intensity.
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Better Late Than Never (2016–2018)
7/10
fun geezers
13 September 2019
William Shatner is Captain Kirk. Henry Winkler is the Fonz. George Foreman is former boxing champ. Terry Bradshaw is former NFL star and broadcaster. The four American icons travel around the globe trying new things with their young guide Jeff Dye. The trick of this show is the great charisma of the cast and their great chemistry together. Shatner, Winkler, and Bradshaw are more than willing to make fools of themselves. Foreman is a little more reserved but he's also pretty great. Jeff Dye is a solid little nephew. He's able to be their foil and their little nephew. The best is the first season when they go to Asia. They are more fish-out-of-water and the locations are more exotic in those four episodes. The second season has them going to Europe and north Africa. It's a little short two seasons. Honestly, I doubt the guys actually stayed in that tiny Japanese hotel all night. The boys are probably too old to keep the show going even if the viewership didn't decline.
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Maya & Marty (2016– )
6/10
variety experiment
12 September 2019
SNL alumni Maya Rudolph and Martin Short host a prime time variety show produced by Lorne Michaels. It's hour long episodes. There are six of them. It's a summer replacement show. They have big name guests with many from SNL. The question is whether this genre can return. The short answer is no. This has a few issues. The biggest is that Maya and Marty are not really connected performers other than their stints on SNL. Quite frankly, Marty was a short term hired gun while Maya was part of a major female wave that signified an era. They don't have much in common. It's nothing like Marty and Steve Martin. Another issue is the song and dance aspect. I appreciate the old school variety but it's not that fun. The skits are hit and miss. One thing that could energize it would be to do it live although that would be SNL. It seems that live performances of musicals, and old TV shows hold more potential. Those feel like Events while this feels old.
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Mr. D (2012– )
7/10
solid sitcom
12 September 2019
Gerry Duncan (Gerry Dee) is an under-qualified, under-motivated, selfish, petty school teacher at the prestigious Xavier Academy. He wants his students to call him Mr. D but that's the nickname of the most popular teacher. Robert Cheeley (Jonathan Torrens) is the equally incompetent vice principal. Lisa Mason (Lauren Hammersley) is the sincere good teacher. Trudy Walsh (Bette MacDonald) is the bossy school secretary. Bobbi Galka (Naomi Snieckus) is the mannish gym teacher.

This is a workplace sitcom. Gerry Dee's teaching background and his comedic timing is well used. It doesn't hurt to have a whole cast of solid comedic actors. It's a great group. There is one missed opportunity. The funniest relationship is Gerry and this tiny little blonde girl. I don't remember her name but she's hilariously mean. It simply divine to have a little girl kick Gerry around. It would have been great for him to stick with the smaller kids. Eventually, they could grow older and for random reasons, they're stuck with him to their despair. The kids do have some sporadic comedic turns but they're the missed opportunity. In our days of shared universes, the show could have spun-off another show with the kids. I don't know how this show lasted eight seasons but I liked most of it. It's a solid sitcom.
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5/10
clarity on Clara
12 September 2019
Clara Johnson (Yvette Mimieux) has the mind of a child and the body of a model. She is on vacation with her protective mother Meg (Olivia de Havilland) in Florence. Local Fabrizio Naccarelli (George Hamilton) is taken with the beauty although Meg tries to keep them apart. Neither Fabrizio nor his rich family seem not to notice Clara's disability.

Yvette's performance as the mentally challenged girl is a little too nuanced. She seems more naive than damaged. It would be more compelling if her difficulties are more pronounced and the Italians fail to see it due to the language barrier. She needs an early scene where she struggles with something. The other way to play this is to make Meg overprotective in an unreasonable amount. The movie needs to state Clara's mental level right from the start so the audience can gage on where the story lands. All of it may be moot. It doesn't have the intensity when the romance is being seen from the mother's point of view. It's hard to see any reason to end the relationship. It's hard to see the drama. It's hard to see any danger other than a slowly self-inflicted one from Meg. There is one moment when Clara seems to lose herself early in the movie but it's not expanded upon. It's a hint more than a reveal. This movie needs Clara to be the protagonist and a little more clarity on Clara. I almost want them to lock away Clara so that she can escape for love. The age difference thing is silly but then it gets more silly. This movie needs real drama rather than this.
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6/10
a few too many clueless people
12 September 2019
An axe wielding serial killer is on the loose with six murders in Chicago. A shadowy figure pushes a bird seller to kill with an axe. Struggling actor Oliver Duffy (Lew Ayres) notices the suspicious bird seller stalking Edwina Brown (Laraine Day). After more attempts, he suspects someone is targeting her by hypnotizing different people to commit the crimes.

The basic outlandish premise is possible serial killer hunt material. There is a lot of stupidity coming from the police and media. It's much more than the usual trope. It's not the sharpest crime drama but it is better than the standard during that era. Mostly, I like Duffy and I like Edwina despite some cluelessness. Quite frankly, there are a few too many clueless characters in the movie. It actually gets to be funny. Overall, I like this but it's not winning any awards.
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Sailing Into Love (2019 TV Movie)
6/10
functional Hallmark
11 September 2019
Claire Richards (Leah Renee) is a high school biology teacher in a small seaside community. Blue Island is her beloved place and a favorite of her late mother. She has a fishy meet-cute with Tom Hastings (Chris McNally). She is shocked when he turns out to be the new boat captain taking her class to Blue Island. She is further shocked to find surveyors on the island as the town prepares to sell it to a resort developer. She is further shocked again when her ex Jason McClure turns out to be the lead lawyer working for the developer.

I like the story. It's a simple triangle with a dash of saving the neighborhood. The meet-cute is fine. The splash of fish is what sells it. The lead is fine although her voice isn't great. The guy is fine although not that exceptional. There is a little bit of danger which helps the tension a little bit. As a Hallmark romance, this is fine.
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6/10
sword and sandal
11 September 2019
Shipwrecked Viking Rolfe (Richard Widmark) is rescued by monks. At the monastery, he learns about the legendary giant golden bell called the Mother of Voices. At least, that's the story he tells in the marketplace. He is taken by soldiers to the king. Moorish king Aly Mansuh (Sidney Poitier) is driven to find the bell.

First, he's in Africa. Then, he's in Scandinavia. Then, he's back in Africa shipwrecking twice in the same place. The whole world is unbelievably small. There has to be a better way to work the plot. Why not start in Scandinavia? He steals the boat. He shipwrecks. He learns about the bell from the monks. He's taken by the king. They sail off. That's a much better flow. Otherwise, it could be a fine old style sword and sandal action thriller. There are some fair action and a big giant bell. It's marginal.
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