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A Month of Media: January Movies and DVDs
February 5, 2012

I’m experimenting this year, putting up this list of movies I watched this past month that I didn’t talk about elsewhere. I find it fun to share my short thoughts on these; hopefully readers will too.

Movies

Arise, My Love (1940) — I’ve liked Ray Milland since I saw The Major and the Minor; this political romantic comedy pairs him with Claudette Colbert in a little-known film notable for being co-written by Billy Wilder. It’s very much of its time, both in tackling the questions of World War II before the U.S. was officially involved and in showing a woman as an equal partner to a man, both professionally (she’s a reporter) and personally (she doesn’t take his guff).

Death on the Nile (1978) — My favorite Agatha Christie movie, with an amazing all-star cast. (I like it better than Murder on the Orient Express because I like Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot better than Albert Finney.) A nearly unsolvable mystery starring Bette Davis, Angela Lansbury, Maggie Smith, David Niven, Mia Farrow, and Manimal (Simon MacCorkindale).

Eyes Wide Shut (1999) — the most boring orgy movie possible, but I’m not a Kubrick fan. I did expect it to be more equal between the partners, instead of being just his story. Watched it because it was a Christmas movie, and the decorations are lovely.

The Ghost Writer (2010) — I didn’t realize this was a Polanski film until it was over, or I wouldn’t have watched it. It provided what I expected from an “important” movie; it was slower than I would have liked, and at the end, not much had really happened. But Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan were in it.

John Loves Mary (1949) — A Ronald Reagan film that has him returning from the war to fiancee Patricia Neal. The premise — he married the girlfriend of the buddy who saved his life overseas in order to get her into the country, only to find the buddy didn’t really care that much about her — should have been light and frothy, but it winds up dull, and all the scenes take longer than they should. Slow and ponderous.

Just You and Me, Kid (1979) — I recall watching this I don’t know how many times on HBO one summer as a youngster, so it was interesting to revisit. George Burns and Brooke Shields star in a labored odd-couple caper. He’s a retired vaudevillian full of stories, a wonderful portrait of nostalgia. She learns to care about others, although she’s out of her depth playing a hard-boiled orphan on the lam from a drug dealer. In a supporting role is Chris Knight, still looking like Peter Brady. More interesting are the old pros who play Burns’ buddies, including Ray Bolger, Carl Ballantine, Keye Luke, and Burl Ives. Better than I feared it might be, mostly due to Burns’ character’s stories and props.

The Unguarded Hour (1936) — I don’t recall much about this Loretta Young oldie at this point. There’s some blackmail. It felt like one of those movies where the plot changes abruptly in the last 15 minutes because back then, you couldn’t have a star do anything really bad.

That Uncertain Feeling (1941) — Lesser Lubitsch. Melvyn Douglas and Merle Oberon are married, only she wants to run away with Burgess Meredith because he’s more artistic and interesting. That in itself shows one of the big problems with the film: I thought the only well-cast role was Douglas. Eve Arden is nice in a supporting role as a legal secretary.

DVDs

Bad Girls From Valley High — Julie Benz and Monica Keena are two snobby high school girls who get cursed into prematurely aging. Janet Leigh’s final movie, sadly. This was the 4th on a $5 four-pack of school movies.

The Big Bang Theory Season 4

Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs — Very well-written and great voice cast, especially Anna Faris as the former nerd who feels she has to hide her smarts.

Community Season 2 — It’s so sad not to have more of this show available regularly. I hope NBC brings it back soon.

Dave — An amazing job by Kevin Kline playing two people who look alike but clearly have different personalties, conveyed by the way he carries himself. It’s The Prisoner of Zenda recast in the American Presidency. Hard to believe this movie is 20 years old.

Good News
(Warner Archive) — This disc includes the movie trailer, two numbers from the earlier 1930 version (starring Penny Singleton, better known as the movie’s Blondie), and a deleted number, which was surprising. Classic old-school musical with huge, colorful numbers featuring a cast of 40 or so, led by the gone-too-soon Joan McCracken.

From the Warner Archive Jean Harlow set: The Girl From Missouri, Reckless, Suzy, Personal Property

Leave Her to Heaven — One of those old movies that seems surprised that beautiful women can be evil, but with gorgeous old-school production design and rich colors.

Monsters vs. Aliens — Disappointing and predictable.

The Shadow — Wow, look at young, hairy Alex Baldwin (his first scenes feature him shirtless). This is a pulp film, which makes it true to its roots, but an enjoyable trifle for a Sunday afternoon, with gorgeous period sets and costumes — and what a cast! Ian McKellan, Penelope Ann Miller, Peter Boyle, Tim Curry, Jonathan Winters, and more.

Sleeping Beauty

27 Dresses — I like James Marsden, what can I say?

6 Responses  
gdwcomics writes:  

I love Death On The Nile but I think Evil Under The Sun is a better, tighter film. I love the whole Bette Davis/Maggie Smith relationship. I’d pay good money just to see a movie about those two characters.

I’m not sure I agree with your take on Unguarded Hour. I thought the surprise twist at the end was very clever and completely unexpected while still springing organically from the plot as opposed to being tacked on just so Tone could still be the good guy at the end.

“back then, you couldn’t have a star do anything really bad.”

Apparently you’ve never seen Tone in 1944’s “Phantom Lady”. ;)

I like Arise My Love. Although, if you want to talk about how a movie can change it’s tone at the drop of a hat, that film is a good example. It goes from witty, war time comedy to ultra serious WW2 propaganda film. But most WW2 era films were guilty of that. It’s one of the reasons I don’t care for the majority of WW2 films shot during wartime. I much prefer post war “war films” such as Best Years Of Our Lives.

Eyes Wide Shut is spectacularly bad. I prefer to think of Full Metal Jacket as Kubricks last film.

 
Johanna writes:  

I’ll definitely bow to your opinion of Unguarded Hour, since as I said, I don’t recall it much by now. Tone is someone I’ve seen a bunch of, but I don’t follow him specifically so I don’t think I’ve seen Phantom Lady.

Talking about WW2 propaganda reminds me of Idiot’s Delight, Clark Gable’s only musical and co-starring Norma Shearer. That one has two endings, one reserved and escapist about the war for U.S. audiences, one more “we all need to pull together and do what’s right” for international. All said while (in oh-so-subtle symbolism) the two leads are standing in an earthquake-destroyed hotel in the Alps.

 
gdwcomics writes:  

I like Idiots Delight until the last third of the film. I am a big Norma Shearer fan.

 
Bloggers say the craziest things #1 « SURVIVAL IS NOT ENOUGH! writes:  

[…] this was a Polanski film until it was over, or I wouldn’t have watched it. ” — Comics Worth Reading […]

 
Renee writes:  

Death on the Nile is my favorite Agatha Christie film too! It’s actually a family favorite, and we still quote it at each other (“this crocodile has lost its CROC.”). Agree about Peter Ustinov as Poirot; he’s the most likable Poirot, I think, although purists tend to downgrade his portrayal for that reason. And the combination of Bette Davis, Maggie Smith, Angela Lansbury, David Niven, and a poisonous Mia Farrow is just amazing.

 
Johanna writes:  

Good observation on Poirot. If not handled carefully, he could be insufferable. (I guess that puts him in the Holmes tradition.) Mia Farrow’s portrayal is so terrific! You’re sorry for her until you see the whole thing, and then rewatching it is great fun to see how your interpretation changes.

 

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