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Client Seduction (2014)
High-profile defense attorney Melissa Eco (Ally Sheedy) wants to change her image after her rich client gets away with rape. Her rebellious teen daughter Abby (Annie Clark) does not approve. Melissa takes on the case for homeless Greg Milles (Rhys Ward). He's accused of killing a girl during a home robbery. He blames the killing on his drug addicted partner Dennis Brunner (Erik Knudsen). As Melissa's investigating raises more questions, she finds Abby has fallen in with Greg's gang.
Ally Sheedy plays it way too innocent in the beginning. She's a harden lawyer and she shouldn't be so easily convinced by the guy. Rhys Ward looks way too guilty which adds to the unreality of Melissa's belief in her client. Erik Knudsen would work much better in that role. Everybody is so sketchy that it's unbelievable that Melissa doesn't notice. This needs to be a mystery where the audience gets shocked by Greg's guilt. Instead, none of this is realistic especially Melissa. An experienced defense lawyer wouldn't be like that unless she's the type who only defends the innocent which she is not. It's a lot of disbelief.
nice animated show
This Netflix animated series is created by Guillermo del Toro. Unbeknownst to humans, trolls live under the town of Arcadia. Their chosen hero Trollhunter battles various dark forces from the Darklands. The present Trollhunter gets defeated leaving behind his magical amulet. Teenagers Jim and his bumbling best friend Toby find the amulet which chooses Jim to be the new and only human Trollhunter mentored by trolls Blinky and AARRRGGHH!!!. He has a crush on classmate Claire Nuñez.
Guillermo del Toro has a great eye for design. I don't know how involved he is with this show. I can see that the trolls have a certain del Toro vibe. The trio of kids are perfect simple hero characters and their troll friends are solid personalities. The story is pretty good for the first season. It's fun and I loved it after one season. I like the animation style and that season ends by defeating the villain. The second and third seasons drag a little as the show keeps inventing new adventures for the heroes. This is a very well-made animated show on Netflix. It ends after 3 seasons as del Toro continues with the other two parts, 3Below and Wizards, of the Arcadia trilogy.
My New Best Friend (2015)
wow that was sad
Cooper Brawn (James Denton) is a carefree K-9 cop who still cares for his ex-fiancé Samantha Phillips (Laura Mennell) despite breaking up due to his lack of responsible life planning. Little girl Polka-dot is new in town and trying to find work. Cooper reluctantly pays out of his own pocket for her to take care of an old bloodhound. She lives with her sick mother who are on the run from her abusive father. When her mother is hospitalized, she keeps various secrets to stay out of social services following in the footsteps of her literary hero, Huckleberry Finn.
Wow, that was sad. I was expecting a kid's movie and this is dealing with a serious issue. The light background music fits more of a light-hearted kiddie movie. There is one moment when I couldn't figure out what Polka-dot is doing when the paramedics arrive. It's a short moment of confusion which could have been alleviated with Polka-dot having an inner voice. It could explain what she's planning at the time. As for the ending, some of it gets dragged out. It already packs a big punch and it needs to land that punch more effectively.
German art house
It's 1955 Munich. Veronika Voss is a former UFA movie star. She is surprised that reporter Robert Krohn doesn't know her famous past and they have an affair. He does a story about her and uncovers a dark story of addiction orchestrated by her doctor Marianne Katz. He recruits his girlfriend Henriette to go undercover to get morphine from Katz.
Director Rainer Werner Fassbinder delivers a dark story of faded glory much like Sunset Boulevard. Rosel Zech delivers a performance worthy of Marlene Dietrich. The black and white cinematography delivers a surreal vision of the past. It is dark, German, art house, and depressing. It is worthy of cinephiles.
Go Chase Yourself (1938)
Bumbling bank teller Wilbur Meeley (Joe Penner) lets out the bank's secret vault to a gang of robbers casing the joint. He wins a trailer and pulls it home under his own power. His wife Carol (Lucille Ball) is no fan of the trailer and sends him to sleep in it. That night, the robbers come back for the vault. As they make their escape, they find and hook up the trailer pretending to be a family on vacation. Wilbur becomes the clueless prisoner of the gang. Carol reports him missing but the manager accuses Wilbur of being the one who stole the $50k.
I've never heard of Joe Penner who is a long forgotten vaudeville star during the Depression era. I can see his wacky voice being funny on the radio. As a movie lead, he's a bit schlubby. He's no leading man. He's more a comedic sidekick. The screwball comedy plot is a mess of convenient encounters and random connections. I'm not sure if it actually makes sense or that it matters. It gets more and more crazy. I actually admire the random sitcom plotting. The biggest aspect is of course Lucille Ball. She's a tall drink of water with a very unique voice. She has her moments even as a side character. She's kinda pretty and can really work her comedic face. This is not necessarily laugh out loud today although I can see the audience of yesteryear having a good time.
Sidewalks of New York (1931)
Bumbling wealthy landlord Mr. Harmon (Buster Keaton) is surprised to find his property fall into chaos caused by rowdy kids. Margie Kelly comes to aid of her little brother and knocks Harmon down. It's love at first sight for him. He decides to help the kids to win her over. It's tougher than he imagined with Margie's brother Clipper working with criminal Butch.
Silent super star Buster Keaton had mixed results during the sound era. This film is one of his successes. It does allow Buster to do his physical comedy. It's relatively funny although the seriousness of Clipper's dilemma is not that fun. Buster is still physically impressive. I do miss a large constructed stunt. While this is not at the level of his silent classics, this does allow Buster to play his character and be the butt of the joke. The romance is nice. It's not high class but Buster does his work well.
The Sweetest Christmas (2017)
Kylie Watson (Lacey Chabert) is trying to start her own cake business and expecting a marriage proposal from boyfriend Alex. He brings her to a pizza place owned by her high school boyfriend Nick. Instead of a marriage proposal, Alex offers her a promotion. Disappointed, she breaks up with him. She gets into the American Gingerbread Competition and needs Nick's oven.
I actually like Alex trying to fix it. It's not the greatest move. It could have been funny. Of course, Kylie has to go with the hunkier guy and on top of that, he has a cute little boy. Lacey Chabert is super sweet and that's the central heart of this Hallmark romance. Otherwise, I don't think this would work. I don't really like Nick. She makes it work. She is so up that she uplifts the whole movie. In the end, that's all that matters in this type of movies.
Once Upon a Holiday (2015)
Katie (Briana Evigan) is a reluctant princess. She's tired of being over-scheduled and wants to see the sights in New York. She sneaks away from her aunt and gets robbed on the streets. Nice guy Jack Langdon (Paul Campbell) tries to help but the thieves get away with her purse and her old camera. He tries to help her navigate the big city and she keeps her identity a secret.
It's always a little wrong to have Canada for New York although modern cities are more uniform than before. I don't particularly like this princess. She's a little too old to be so clueless and so tired of responsibilities. That sort of story is better done with teenage princesses. Quite frankly, it would make more sense if she has amnesia. Evigan has the constant smile necessary for the role but the role isn't good. It may not fit the Hallmark brand other than the simplistic romance. Also nobody steals old cameras. I do like the Santa Claus community but the movie doesn't follow that up with the couple doing Elf duties. At least, that could have been fun.
newspapers not specials
This is a France-produced animated series of the iconic franchise. It is mostly a series of tiny vignettes that are reminiscent of the classic newspaper strips. They are around one minute each that animates a three or four comic strip panels. The animation style is also reminiscent of the comic strip. It is nostalgic in that sense although the episodes don't each have the singular story of the classic specials. It may be more appropriate to fit the shows to its medium. It needs more of the specials and less of the newspaper strips.
the Evergreen shared universe
Lisa (Jill Wagner) and Oliver are retail experts in Boston. She takes a quick trip to her hometown of Evergreen. She left as a kid and she finds the beloved general store had closed a year earlier. The store owner had passed away and the mayor is trying to sell it to the right owner. She has a meet-cute with local Kevin Miller (Mark Deklin) over a truck breakdown and hires him to do the remodeling. They find an old key and a 25 year old letter to Santa from KM. Allie is visiting Florida and Michelle gets set up. It's the Evergreen shared universe from Hallmark. That's a good idea if done properly. It needs a stable of regulars with some connecting story elements. It is very Hallmark. You get what is expected and nothing more.
Kidnapping Stella (2019)
Tom and Vic kidnap Stella and hold her for ransom. This is a remake of The Disappearance of Alice Creed (2009). There is no reason to remake that movie unless they get a bigger star to play the female lead. Gemma Arterton is a relative star. Jella Haase is definitely smaller. There is no point in making a British indie into a smaller American indie. As for any tension, one better not have seen the original. By the midway point, I stop paying attention. Things happen. I don't approve. Grade gets lower and lower. It's not as bad as Psycho but it's in the same league.
The Amityville Murders (2018)
based on true events
It's 1974, three weeks before the infamous murders. Ronnie DeFeo (Paul Ben-Victor) and Louise DeFeo (Diane Franklin) have five children; college-age Butch (John Robinson), Dawn (Chelsea Ricketts), Allison, Marc, and Jody. Butch and Dawn are calling upon the spirits in the red room. Ronnie has nefarious dealings and brutally beats his family. Butch has nightmarish visions and continues to deteriorate. Butch is sick and alone at home on Halloween. The house is ransacked and Ronnie's money is stolen from his safe.
This is based on true events. As always, one has to take it with a good helping of salt. It comes with the supernatural anyways so the pretense is pretty thin. At least, it's trying to fit the true story in and around the spirit world. The most compelling part may be the return of Diane Franklin. This really should be the story of Dawn. She's the 'normal' character and the story could be seen through her eyes. The supernatural part should be in question for the majority of the movie. The drama isn't there. As a horror, it could be much better. There is potential but it's concentrating on the wrong character.
Road to Christmas (2018)
In LA, TV producer Maggie Baker (Jessy Schram) works for home style guru Julia Wise (Teryl Rothery). With pressure from the network, Julia needs to change the Christmas special and recalls her son Danny (Chad Michael Murray) to the show. He used to produce the show before Maggie's time. Maggie's secret plan is to reunite the three Wise brothers for Julia.
It's the classic romantic clash of a devil-may-care cad and an uptight heroine. There isn't much more than that here. It's a Hallmark Christmas romance special. On a super superficial take, Jessy Schram used to play the fragile ingenue or the damsel in distress. Her stick figure really sells her fragility. That persona goes away over time. Quite frankly, Matreya Scarrwener may be a better fit for the role. Both would be fine. The romance is fine but it's nothing super. The premise is not that pun worthy. Also the other brothers are not the most charismatic. At the very least, they need to be comic relief. This is generally pretty bland although the family reunion is pretty sweet.
Christmas in Evergreen (2017)
no drama romance
The town of Evergreen is home to a magic Christmas globe. Veterinarian Allie Shaw (Ashley Williams) is moving to DC for a new job at a big clinic and spending time with her ex Spencer. She makes a wish on the globe and situations conspire to keep her stuck in town. Michelle (Holly Robinson Peete) is her best friend who is taking over the Christmas festival. Ryan Bellamy (Teddy Sears) and his daughter Zoe are passing through town to fly to Florida. Zoe makes a wish on the globe. They run into Allie at the airport. Flights are canceled. The road out is blocked. No one can come in for the Christmas festival and no one can leave.
This is a Hallmark Christmas romance. It is a no drama special. There are no big surprises. Ashley Williams is super sweet. Teddy Sears is perfectly nice. It is hot sugary chocolate and it doesn't even have the marshmallows for fun. It does what it sets up to do. It does not offend. It does not challenge. It is a dash of magic and a batch of sugar cookies. It is Christmas at its nicest and safest.
It's a Wonderful World (1939)
Drunken tycoon Willie Heywood gets married for the fourth time. Private detective Guy Johnson (James Stewart) is his hired body man. One night, Willie stumbles upon the murder of his mistress Dolores Gonzalez. It's a setup by his new wife Vivian and her lover Al Mallon. Guy quickly grabs Willie and hides him from the police. Willie promises to pay Guy $100k to solve the murder. They are quickly arrested but Guy manages to escape. He kidnaps poet Edwina Corday (Claudette Colbert) as he makes a getaway.
The pairing is great. The screwball comedy plot is a little too screwy. The initial kidnapping is a little rough and they left behind the little dog. The glasses are hilarious. The wacky rambling adventure has its ups and its downs. Mostly, one has to love the comic chemistry of Stewart and Colbert.
Lucky Night (1939)
love that night
Wealthy heiress Cora Jordan (Myrna Loy) can't seem to find love. Her father suggests getting a job and she insists on not getting any help from him. She has a tough time and meets Bill Overton (Robert Taylor) on a park bench who is also hopelessly unemployed. She tells him that she's been disowned by her rich father. It's a crazy drunken night and they wake up to discover that they've been married. He rejects her father's job offer. They get a small apartment and he gets a regular job. He remains restless with his safe life.
I love the first night. The movie somewhat flattens after that. Loy and Taylor do have good chemistry. Loy shines and Taylor is great support. I don't find their struggle that much fun or compelling. Basically, he would rather be a drunk and I'm not with that. Instead of trying to enlighten a domestic conflict, it should simply have Cora trying to annul the marriage and Bill trying to win her back. The movie can end when they walk into the sunset together. The second half is flawed.
fine entry level doc
It's a five part documentary series titled Fury, Fear, Hell, Rage, and Deliverance. It's almost four and a half hour. It's the standard overview of the global war. It's a French and Canadian co-production which has a tendency of mentioning those countries. The black and white footage has been lightly colorized and foley artists have added sound. It's especially important to see the real colors of the uniforms. It's a bit old fashion but it is interesting to see the war done this way. For example, I always assumed the war to start quickly after the assassination. Told this way, it seems to be a rolling start as Europe's royalty sleepwalks into it after a month. It's not at the level of Ken Burns' Civil War. It's too standard for that. It also has a small anti-war slant which does infiltrate the series. This is perfectly fine for entry level history students.
Fast and Loose (1939)
sequel to a copy
Quick-witted rare book seller couple Joel and Garda Sloane occasionally dabbles in the dangerous world of detectives. Absent-minded Mr. Oates tells them that cash-strapped Nicholas Torrent is looking to sell a rare scrap of a William Shakespeare manuscript. They track down Nicholas for Oates and they uncover a mystery of missing books.
A fast talking couple solving mysteries is almost a genre of its own with William Powell and Myrna Loy as the movies gained sound. This is a sequel to a movie from a year earlier although that one stars two different actors. The mystery genre owes a lot to Agatha Christie. In many ways, it's a copy of a copy, a sequel to a follower. I hate to say it but it reminds me a lot of all the Lifetime mystery solving people whether they're book sellers, gardeners, or bakers. The quick retorts have moments of almost humor. I don't mind the leads although I don't see how people can develop attachments to a constant rotation of actors for the same roles. I would rather have more of the rapid fire dialogue between the married couple than the slow moving mystery.
Elton John (Taron Egerton) is flamboyantly dressed as he walks into a group rehab session. He recounts his search for love, his life, his music, and his fame. His search for love starts with his cold parents. He finds a brother in song writing partner Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell). In LA, he is taken with the dashing John Reid who eventually takes over his business as his manager. Reid turns out to be a ruthless taskmaster and a callous ex-lover. Elton's life spirals downwards until his drug use hits rock bottom.
It's a surreal musical bio of pop icon Elton John. The central theme of finding love is a powerful one for him. In a way, this movie falls into a trap. Elton has so many great hits that it's too tempting to do a Mamma Mia!. They use the songs to project every turn of his life. It concentrates more as a musical. It could have been more powerful emotionally as a darker bio-film. It should be a movie of Elton and Bernie. Every time the movie has a chance of achieving emotional tension, it decides to do a song. While it worked well for the first half, it becomes somewhat tied down by its surrealist musical style. The best use of the songs seem to be Elton writing them or the crass producer rejecting Elton's biggest hits. That part is a bit funny. Egerton has the feel of a sad clown. I wonder if Jamie Bell would work better as Elton. The movie does achieve an emotional punch in the end and that's a great moment. I do like this movie but I also question whether a more compelling telling is possible.
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) is excommunicated by the High Table and a $14 million bounty is placed on his head. This reminds me of The Warriors. It has a lot of gun fu action as John Wick go on a difficult journey against various criminal gangs. It has loads of fun action. The plot is simple although it would be better to have Wick map out his quest. There are good fun to be had except for Halle Berry. She seems to be trying earn an Oscar for some reason. This is action fun. It's not Monster's Ball. This is all about the fights, the knives, the close gun shots, and the cool cool fights. It's about fun.
Liam Hartwell (Diego Klattenhoff) wakes up from a car crash with no memories, even his own name. He waves down a passing car and driver dies. He finds a roadside diner and everybody is dead. Fearing toxic air, he barricades himself in a house. He tries to wave off a man but he also drops dead. He approaches a crow and it drops dead. He realizes that he's the cause of the deaths. A Jane Doe (Charlotte Sullivan) happens upon the house and he's surprised that she doesn't die. She is similarly afflicted with amnesia and they are apparently connected through an inciting incident.
I like the initial concept. I'm more leery of the Jane Doe addition and the complication to the initial concept. I'm willing to go with it as long as it gets to a satisfying sci-fi explanation. Then the movie gets to the final reveal. It's a detour to something else. I'm waiting for the sci-fi plot and it does something else. The sci-fi premise seems to be sidelined for this ending. The incident can't be that simple. It needs to be something more. While I appreciate the writing of the twist, it's a detour down the wrong path.
It's 1960 small town Montana. Jeannette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) seem to be a loving couple with their teenage son Joe. Jerry loses his groundskeeper job at a golf course. Instead of accepting an offer to return to his old job, he surprises his family and takes off to fight wildfires burning nearby. The couple fights. Jeannette goes out with the older successful Warren Miller who owns a car dealership.
Paul Dano is trying his hand in directing and adapting this novel with his partner Zoe Kazan. It's a slow and quiet start. Dano does leave a sense of foreboding with his style and an unnerving Gyllenhaal. With his departure, Mulligan takes over with a devastating performance. I do wish for the boy to do more with the girl. He's the audience substitute as he sits quietly while the firestorm rages all around. This is a movie of quiet explosions. These are two great actors doing some powerful acting.
Nancy Drew: Detective (1938)
Nancy Drew hopes to be a lawyer following her father's footsteps. Her alta mater's wealthy benefactor Miss Eldredge reneges on a promised donation. Nancy vows to find her and change her mind. Dr. Spires tells Nancy and her father about a kidnapping which is presumed to be Miss Eldredge. They go to police Captain Tweedy who seems ill equipped to help. With a strange car following them, her father tells her to drop the case. Dr. Spires is almost beaten to death. With neighbor boy Ted Nickerson in tow, Nancy sets off to solve the case following a carrier pigeon.
This Nancy Drew is not necessarily vastly smarter as much as more driven. She is female empowerment of her time. More than anything, her biggest skill seems to be pushing Ted to do her bidding. Poor Ted. That's some good comedy. It does get a bit too silly. I don't know why Ted has to be the one dressed as the nurse other than making him the butt of the joke. I don't think the guard would know who Nancy is although Ted does have a girlish face. I like this version of Nancy enough. She's not Sherlock Holmes but she strives to do right and she doesn't quit. She does have more girlie attributes than I hoped. This is the first of four early adaptations of the popular character.
Where the Boys Are (1960)
the new youth of days past
It's Easter vacation in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. College kids from all over America come to experience the mayhem. Merritt, Melanie, Tuggle and Angie are students from an all-girls Midwestern college who escape the wintery cold and old fashion morality for the sunshine and fun of the Florida beaches where the boys are. They pick up hitchhiker TV Thompson. Merritt is pursued by charismatic rich Ivy Leaguer Ryder Smith (George Hamilton).
The crowds of young kids wouldn't be anything new to anybody now but I'm sure it was something new back in the day. The sexual relationship politics show a movement from the conservative 50's to the sexual liberation of the 60's and beyond. There are elements of both. It's interesting to see the bubbling mix. I can only imagine the discussion that this elicited. The morality is still 50's but the pressure is being applied to the whole courtship structure. As for the music, it is still 50's. The edgier stuff is the jazz hipster set. The actual beach sound would break through a year or two later. This feels like an old movie trying to say something new about the youth. I am surprised by the rape and other edgy situations.
Beach Party (1963)
clean cut bikini movie
Frankie (Frankie Avalon) and Dolores (Annette Funicello) arrive at a beach house. He is surprised that she has invited the whole gang to their romantic getaway. The guys surf while the girls read on the beach. Anthropologist Professor Sutwell and his assistant Marianne are secretly studying the kids from an overlooking house. Sutwell comes to the rescue when bike gang leader Eric Von Zipper harasses Dolores which drives a wedge between the young couple.
This is the first pairing of Avalon and Funicello. While it's not the first beach movie, it does create the series of light weight beach rom-com musicals. It has the music, the style, and a cartoon version of the culture. I can do without the ridiculous comedy of the biker gang. It would serve them better to have a more threatening gang. That may be too dark in this bubble gum movie. There isn't any kind of realism here. It's notable when Frankie and Annette walk in on their sleeping friends. The girls are in one room and the boys are in the other room. This is wholesomeness in a bikini. My biggest issue is Frankie trying to get Dolores jealous. I certainly want them to be more pure in their love for each other especially considering the light sweet nature of this movie. This is not a great movie but it does have some fun and it's a big part of movie history.