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