Showing 1 - 10 of 388 posts found matching keyword: movies

Mom and I continue watching Hallmark mystery movies. We've discovered that they're a uneven bunch, often relying on formula to overcome a lack of characterization and charisma. As an actor, it must be a good paycheck if you can get it.

We were big fans of the "Murder She Baked" series. Mom had read the books, and the actors had a rapport better than most of the comparables. Sadly, that series was canceled, and much of the cast moved on to other things. Specifically, these things.

89. (1528.) The Chronicle Mysteries: Recovered (2019)
Alison Sweeney, formerly Hannah the baker, here plays podcaster Alex who investigates an unsolved missing persons case. (Sound familiar? I have to wonder if the "Serial" podcast is getting a cut.) The missing person is played by the actress who played Hannah's sister, and Alex is romantically linked to the actor who played Hannah's sister's husband. It's really a head trip, which is good because the mystery is not. The ending is astonishingly bad.

93. (1532.) The Chronicle Mysteries: The Wrong Man (2019)
The Chronicle cast is back, this time with two mysteries. Alex is now editor of a newspaper and sets out to solve a crime involving dead lawyers and mobsters. Speaking of lawyers, Hannah the baker's mother's lawyer is now a farmer-turned-engineer. The resolution hinges on the improbably timely arrival of a piece of evidence and an unusually talkative stevedore. But if you can swallow the ending to the first one....

106. (1545.) The Chronicle Mysteries: Vines That Bind (2019)
There's a third one! As a favor to the newspaper gossip columnist, Hannah Alex travels to another state to solve a double murder in a vineyard that may have been committed by the daughter of the victim. Or his wife. His daughter! His wife! The guilty party is telegraphed far too early, so it felt like we spent most of the second half looking for red herrings. Bah.

Obviously, these are not the best that Hallmark has to offer. (Personally, I still like Darrow & Darrow.)

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Watching Star Wars the other day, two things struck me. The first was how big a liar C-3P0 is!

From the beginning, he knows who Princess Leia is, then he denies as much to Luke when the boy finds the hologram in R2-D2. Later, he lies to a Death Star officer so as to escape capture.

Now, my revelation might not seem such a big deal to you. "So a diplomatic robot lies to people. So what?" I'm glad you asked. Once it's established that Threepio is deceitful, it calls into question all of Threepio's statements that aren't otherwise verified. In other words, everything we think we know about Artoo might be false as well.

The little robot communicates almost exclusively through beeps and whistles. The audience has to trust the "human/cyborg relations" expert to interpret those noises for us. If we can't trust Threepio, how can we be sure that it was Artoo's idea to run away from Uncle Owen's garage? Maybe the "accidental" reveal of Leia's hologram was no accident. Maybe he *hasn't* found the Princess on the Death Star.

Or, of course, this could all be related to the second thing that struck me: the script kind of sucks.

But boy, it looks great!

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This is your annual reminder: TCM is airing 1776 tonight at 10:15 Eastern.

You can keep your fireworks. I'm celebrating my independence in front of my TV.

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I don't usually run movie posts back-to-back like this, but Dad's still his own part-time job. (There are only so many hours in a day, you know.) Add to that the fact that I've lost sleep because I left my phone and wallet in a Ted's Montana Grill yesterday, and, yeah, another movie review post is all you're getting.

97. (1536.) Night and the City (1950)
I found this hard to watch because I didn't sympathize with the protagonist at all. However, it has some pretty good cinematography, especially the shot of the protagonist caught by headlights in an alley as the mob closes in on him. Good noir.

98. (1537.) Hidden Figures (2016)
I'd categorize this as Bubblegum Biopic: a history of American popular culture punched up for mass consumption. (That's not an insult. My favorite musical, 1776 would fall in the same category.) I really enjoyed this, too. In hindsight, I'm glad it was nominated for an Academy Award so that more people will be encouraged to see it.

99. (1538.) Friendly Persuasion (1956)
Quakers! Civil War! Church Organs! Girls! Geese! If this sequential series of unrelated events was supposed to have a point, it went over my head. (*Someone* must have gotten it. It was nominated for Best Picture in '57. Quakers must have been a big Academy voting block back in the McCarthy era.)

100. (1539.) Destination Wedding (2018)
Recommended by friend Otto, this romantic comedy has only two roles, played by Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder as two mismatched, unlikable people destined for one another. Or not. Otto's right, it's got some funny in it, especially if you like the actors.

101. (1540.) Till the End of Time (1946)
Have you seen The Best Years of Our Lives? Yeah, this is that, but much more boring.

102. (1541.) Dirty Mary Crazy Larry (1974)
Have you seen Vanishing Point and Sugarland Express? Yeah, this is those. It's pretty good, actually.

103. (1542.) Outlaw Blues (1977)
Peter Fonda was the embodiment of 60s-70s counterculture on celluloid, here playing a felon who goes on the run from the law while simultaneously becoming the Next Big Thing in country music. It has its moments, in no small part thanks to Susan Saint James.

More to come.

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Where were we? Oh, yes. Movies!

88. (1527.) My Man Godfrey (1936)
William Powell plays William Powell as a down-on-his-luck fellow in the Depression who lands a job as butler to a family of rich cads. Very entertaining. (It's easy to see why William Powell was Cary Grant's mother's favorite actor.)

91. (1530.) Ruby Herring Mysteries: Silent Witness (2019)
Someone got the breakdown of a typical Hallmark Movies and Mystery channel movie... and shot it as-is. The result, as you might expect, is average.

90. (1529.) Moana (2016)
Catchy songs! Not much else to say. Are all Disney animated films so bland? I think the answer is yes. That's why you have to get kids watching while they're so young.

92. (1531.) Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Watches like a marketing exercise in "How to squeeze more blood out of the Harry Potter franchise." This is only the second movie I've ever seen in said franchise, and frankly, that's two too many.

94. (1533.) The Trip to Bountiful (1985)
I really think I watched this character study of an old woman coming to terms with living in the imaginary past in a civics class in 1989. It's not my usual cup of tea, but it's well done.

95. (1534.) The Chocolate War (1988)
I can best describe this as A Separate Peace done right. I've read that the ending differs from the book, but it's about as dark as "Hollywood" can manage. (I was the right age for this in 1988. Why hadn't I seen it before? Was I too busy watching old ladies visit Bountiful, Texas?)

96. (1535.) Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
This much maligned sci-fi Christmas film is much maligned for a reason (low budget, bad acting, bat-shit crazy story...). But it was clearly made to entertain children, like television's Batman of the same era. Watched through that prism, its flaws are forgivable (and its imagination, laudable). I chuckled at the intentionally camp sensibilities more than once, especially when Santa Claus escapes an air lock shaped like a chimney without further explanation.

More to come.

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♫ "Movies. We get movies. We get sacks and sacks of movies!" ♫

77. (1516.) The Reluctant Debutante (1958)
It's always a little weird watching a movie that is clearly a strict adaptation of a stage play. They almost always make me wish I was seeing the show live. While the film is cute enough, I imagine live actors playing it out in real time would have given it the goosing it needed to really come alive.

78. (1517.) The Good Dinosaur (2015)
Every once in a while, Pixar releases a film whose mere existence appears to be a demonstration of some advance in their technical expertise. In Nemo it was "look what we can do with water!" In Brave it was "look what we can do with hair!" Here, it's "look what we can do with scenery!" It's the environmental scenery that steals every scene and is, frankly, the only real reason to watch this coming-of-age adventure story.

79. (1518.) The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (1987)
As I watched this, the one thought that ran through my mind over and over, as if on a skipping record, was "Holy shit, someone thought this was a good enough idea that they paid money to have it made." Would I have thought it was awesome if I had seen it when I was 12? That I can't definitively say no bothers me immensely.

80. (1519.) Mid90s (2018)
Jonah Hill's directorial debut is similar to Ladybird and Eighth Grade in all the right ways. Amazon's A24 studio continues to collect auteurs making coming-of-age movies that feel like genuine biopics. Kudos.

83. (1522.) Tomorrowland (2015)
This movie was panned by critics for pacing issues and heavy-handed hectoring. I can see that. However, it nonetheless combines the best of director Brad Bird's imagination, affinity for retro sci-fi, and optimism. (Besides, I've always had a soft spot for female android tweens.) I found it very enjoyable.

Also: when you teleport, you'll need a Coke.

Drink Coke! (Tomorrowland)

84. (1523.) Book Club (2011)
This was Mom's pick, and I'm happy to report that it was a pleasant surprise. The all-star cast helped a lot, especially Candice Bergen.

More to come.

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It's June already, and I'm still listing movies watched in April! I need to speed this up.

67. (1506.) High School U.S.A. (1983)
Michael J. Fox leads a cast of recognizable young television stars in this made-for-TV teenage sex comedy without the sex. (The generic title is exactly on point.) It's an interesting snapshot of the state of early 80s television talent, but not a very good film.

71. (1510.) Niagra (1953)
This Hitchcockian suspense thriller has a strong film noir influence. Personally, I wouldn't call it noir because it lacks the typically flawed, doomed noir protagonist. (Monroe isn't the anti-hero protagonist here, Jean Peters is, and her role is more akin to Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window than Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo.) Don't let my quibbling dissuade you; this is a good film no matter what label you put on it.

72. (1511.) Blithe Spirit (1945)
I can't say why exactly — maybe it was the garish makeup, maybe it was the characters, maybe it's just my own stubborn inability to believe in the supernatural — but this hybridized romantic comedy/ghost story left me cold. I can't deny it has some snappy though.

73. (1512.) Pete's Dragon (2016)
As if trying to put as much distance as possible between itself and the original material, this remake is now set in the Pacific Northwest instead of the Atlantic Northeast. (Passamaquoddy doesn't even get a mention!) The film is too busy trying to tug at whatever emotional strings it can find to create real characters or much in the way of a plot. But I guess that's what Disney films do these days.

74. (1513.) Paddington (2014)
Whatever magic the original Paddington Bear had has been successfully recreated in this enchanting film. I don't know how any movie can manage to be so satirically snarky and absurdist while also being completely sincere. Delightful.

76. (1515.) Bye Bye Braverman (1968)
Four unlikable men travel across New York City to attend a funeral of a fifth unlikable man in this existential comedy. The journey is the destination, and that journey isn't very enlightening or satisfying. But at least they drink Coke.

Drink Coke! (Braverman)

More to come.

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Today marks the start of the 13th annual Wriphe.com Superman Month!

Is this the year I finally make it to the Superman Celebration in Metropolis, Illinois? Probably not. It's next weekend, and I already have other plans.

Their guests of honor will include original Supergirl, Helen Slater, and Erica Durance, Smallville's Lois Lane. Their lists of guest artists, however, leaves something to be desired compared to past years. I guess they do have to save something for next year.

Out of curiosity, I took a look at the Greater Metropolis Convention & Visitors Bureau website to see what else there might be to do in town between autograph sessions underneath the Superman Statue. Metropolis isn't a big town, and the Visitors Bureau only lists 15 total "sights and attractions." Of course the big draw is the Harrah's Casino (which I haven't visited) and the Super Museum & Gift Shop (which I have and highly recommend). They also have a bowling alley, gym, state park, and microbrewery. I guess the town isn't big enough to support a full sized brewery.

Their most unusual non-Superman offering might be the Mermet Springs "full service dive site" inside an abandoned stone quarry that includes "the jet airplane from the movie U.S. Marshals." That short sells what they offer, as the Mermet Springs website lists 2 additional planes and 10 other man made objects to swim around. Not counting Jimmy Olsen.

I find it easier to believe that Jimmy Olsen can hold his breath for three hours than that he can win at checkers

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Spoiler warning: I like movies.

58. (1497.) Trafic (1971)
While not as charming as Tati's earlier works — a result of fewer characters and the more anonymous "modern" setting — his commentary on the transportation industry of the early 70s has plenty of well-earned chuckles.

60. (1499.) Happy Death Day (2017)
The only genre of horror film that I enjoy is the old-fashioned, gore-filled slasher flick, especially ones where the hero gets in the last licks. Happy Death Day delivers all that plus some great character development and romance (with an overt nod and wink to the classic Groundhog Day). It figures that it was written by an established comic book author. It's a lot of fun.

61. (1500.) The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015)
I remember reviewers panning this film for being a shallow example of style over substance. That's true. But there's plenty of room in the market for stylish spy movies in the mold of the Sean Connery James Bond films of the 60s. (Not coincidentally, Ian Fleming played a role in the creation of the original U.N.C.L.E. television series.) I liked it.

62. (1501.) It Started with a Kiss (1959)
The highlight of this silly romantic comedy is the prominence of the Lincoln Futura, the concept car that Chuck Barris would repaint into the 1966 Batmobile. Awesome to see it rolling through Europe.

63. (1502.) Sing (2016)
I thought this movie would be a crass exercise in corporate synergy, Universal using its movie arm to promote its music catalog... and I was right. It's okay, but ultimately hollow and unsatisfying bit of pop music fluff (especially because most songs are limited to short snippets).

66. (1505.) Lady Street Fighter (1981)
I watched this whole thing, and I can't tell you what it was all about. I can say that the title is very literal: some woman with a bad accent got into a lot of fights on streets. So bad it's good. Man, I love TCM Underground.

More to come.

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Neither Mom nor I watch a lot of serialized television. I prefer stand-alone movies. She prefers going to bed with a mystery novel. We've found an overlapping sweet spot of entertainment that we both enjoy in the Hallmark Mysteries and Movies channel.

Most of the following are what used to be called "made for television movies," if that distinction has any meaning anymore in the modern landscape of streaming media. Most of them are based on series of books.

64. (1503.) Murder, She Baked: A Plum Pudding Mystery (2015)
We started by watching the misadventures of professional baker and amateur sleuth Hannah (Alison Sweeney). Mom had read and loved the books. The movies are cute, if heavier on the romance than the mysteries. Alas, Sweeney has moved on to other series and will bake no more murders.

65. (1504.) Site Unseen: An Emma Fielding Mystery (2017)
41. (1480.) Past Malice: An Emma Fielding Mystery (2018)
42. (1481.) Emma Fielding: More Bitter Than Death (2019)
Emma Fielding is the Indiana Jane of mystery fiction, an archaeologist who somehow spends more time chasing murderers than relics. On television, she's played by the botoxed face of Courtney Thorne-Smith of Melrose Place fame. I'm okay with these, but it's not my favorite series.

68. (1507.) Morning Show Mystery: Mortal Mishaps (2018)
69. (1508.) Morning Show Mystery: Murder on the Menu (2018)
70. (1509.) Morning Show Mysteries: A Murder in Mind (2019)
81. (1520.) Morning Show Mysteries: Countdown to Murder (2019)
82. (1521.) Morning Show Mysteries: Death by Design (2019)
These are based on books co-written by Al Roker about a morning-show celebrity whose entire social network appears to be filled with murderers. Holly Robinson Peete of 21 Jump Street has the lead opposite Rick Fox, who could probably be replaced by a block of wood without anyone noticing. I enjoy this series, partially because I like a bit of ethnic diversity in the otherwise lily-white Hallmark landscape and partially because I'm always able to solve them before the halfway point. (They make me feel smart, even though by design a toddler could likely put the clues together.)

85. (1524.) Darrow & Darrow (2017)
86. (1525.) Darrow & Darrow 2 (2018)
87. (1526.) Darrow & Darrow: Body of Evidence (2018)
Unquestionably my favorite of the Hallmark mystery bunch. The younger titular Darrow is Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who I had something of a crush on in the mid 90s in her pre-According to Jim appearances in Steve Martin's Father of the Bride remakes and the Relativity television series I watched with my girlfriend at the time. I could still watch her for hours, and I have.

So that's what my Mom and I do together — even when it isn't Mother's Day.

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To be continued...

 

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