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The Search for Bridey Murphy
(1956)

Teresa Wright Shines
Odd structured film has Louis Hayward start out talking to the viewing audience as though he's introducing a TV play, but then he walks onto the set of the story, a cocktail party in 1956 Pueblo, Colorado.

Morey Bernstein (Hayward) is at a boring party where a visiting blowhard is doing parlor tricks by hypnotizing guests. Bernstein thinks it's stupid but his interest in piqued and he investigates hypnosis after being told the stories about Edgar Cayce.

He learns how to do it and starts investigating the phenomenon of hypnosis. One night Ruth Simmons (Teresa Wright) is at a party and lets him put her under. The room is stunned when Ruth seems to regress to a past life where she was the young Bridey Murphy in 1800s Ireland.

Bernstein tapes the session as Wright tells stories full of specific detail about places she's never been to. In a series of taped sessions, Wrights elaborates on the story of Bridey and even talks about her life after death, spooking everyone.

The film uses transcripts of the actual tapes from the real-life sessions Bernstein taped with the real-life Ruth (Virginia Tighe) in Pueblo. His resulting book was a sensation although it was condemned by several churches as it seemed to "prove" the ideas of reincarnation and post-death experiences.

The film basically presents the facts of the sessions and lets the viewer draw his own conclusions.

Wright gives a superb performance, but Hayward is very hammy and rather obnoxious. Co-stars include Nancy Gates as the wife, Kenneth Tobey as the husband, Richard Anderson as a doctor, and in the regression scenes, silent stars James Kirkwood, Hallene Hill, and Anne Cornwall.

Very interesting.

Dalgliesh
(2021)

Stick with the Roy Marsden Series
Yet another re-do of a series that's far superior.

Roy Marsden starred in a series of multipart episodes which aired between 1983 and 1998. These are thorough and engrossing shows with great detail and character development.

Don't bother with these gray cut-downs.

Tango Shalom
(2021)

as we are different, so we are one
Tango Shalom (2021) was actually filmed several years ago but seems to have finally been released in theaters and on streaming platforms. Despite some awkward editing cuts and a few draggy spots (it runs 115 minutes) it is ultimately a pleasant comedy with the kind of message this old world truly needs.

Written by the late Joseph Bologna with Claudio and Jos Laniado, the story concerns a rabbi with financial problems. He leaves his comfortable Brooklyn neighborhood (Williamsburg?) and goes into "the city" to find work but runs across a Latin dance school, which fosters his secret dream of dancing the tango. The snappy teacher (Karina Smirnoff) notices his innate talent and talks him into being her partner in a big televised dance competition. The problem is that being an Hassidic Jew, he's not allowed to touch a woman other than his wife.

So the rabbi (Jos Laniado) goes on a quest to visit various religious leaders (Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu) to learn how various religions would deal with such a problem. Once he finds his solution, he then has to face the TV cameras and his astonished family. While the ending isn't quite as rousing as in, say, Strictly Ballroom, it makes its point.

Some nice cameos by Renee Taylor, Lainie Kazan, Bern Cohen, and Joseph Bologna (who died in 2017) as the priest. Directed by Gabriel Bologna.

I guess the ultimate message is that as we are different, so we are one.

Dune: Part One
(2021)

Boring Beyond Belief
Snail's paced bore. I couldn't understand half of what was said (not that it mattered). I was hoping the big worms would take over since they were more interesting than the lousy actors.

The Agatha Christie Code
(2005)

Garbage
Overhyped nonsense.

You won't learn a thing from this drivel. Suchet swans about with a couple of writers and a gardener as they babble on about Christie without adding a penny's worth of information to what we already know.

The photo of the 4- or 5-year-old girl with a dog is clearly closer to 10. The handwritten stuff from a 4- or 5-year-old girl clearly is not from a kid of that age. It's all faked.

The visit to the artist who never met Christie is a waste of time.

They gloss over her work as a chemist's assistant and use of poisons in her books. THAT might have been interesting, but instead they visit a gardener who yaps on about peach and cherry pits. And? The connection to Christie is what?

Basically this ends up as a travelogue ... and a boring one at that.

The Marriage Circle
(1924)

Nasty Women and Dumb Men
I found The Marriage Circle pretty annoying more for the characters than the acting.

Annoying Mizzi (Marie Prevost) is in a bad marriage to Adolphe Menjou so she decides to go after her friend's doctor husband (Monte Blue) by constantly calling for his services by pretending to be sick. The whole premise here is that the vamp has only to bat an eyelash or drop a shoulder strap and the dopey man falls to his knees enslaved. Monte is married to Florence Vidor and his business associate (Creighton Hale) is mad for her. But Flo loves Monte ... until she suspects he may be playing around (which he is not). The more Monte resists Marie, the more determined she becomes to land him.

Round and round it goes with Marie inserting herself in Monte's life while dumb Flo thinks he's after Miss Hofer (Esther Ralston). The whole conceit is based on no one's being able to see the obvious. This might seem like a sly sex romp but Marie's character is just not likable nor are we ever given any reason for her disdain of Adolphe.

Mizzi should have been tossed out on her ear after causing all this trouble.

An excellent score by the Mont Alto group.

The Last Bus
(2021)

Oil Slick
Timothy Spall as an old man who as a young man moved from Land's End in Cornwall to a northern point in Scotland. Now, after the death of his wife (Phyllis Logan) he decides to take a bus trip back to Land's End ... something over 830 miles. Along the way he meets a lot of people and has several experiences and becomes a hashtag celebrity on social media.

While Spall is quite good, the story seems lacking. We get flashback glimpses that fill out his life as a young man, but his life as an old man in Scotland is left pretty blank. We can guess what his purpose is for trekking to Cornwall and the ending is rather flat. Although it seems like it is, it is not based on a true story.

Art Carney's HARRY AND TONTO came to mind, but this film has not of the humor of the former film. And although Spall's character would likely be totally unaware of his own 15 minutes of fame on social media, the people who would have watched the videos and pictures posted would be much more intrusive than what we're shown. His trip to Cornwall would have been strewn with selfies.

The expected ending, which should be an emotional high point, falls flat. Like an oil slick in a puddle.

Citizen Hearst: An American Experience Special
(2021)

Hearst and Davies
Fascinating biography of the complex William Randolph Hearst. This two-part documentary on PBS' American Experience series looks at Hearst's life as a young man, a newspaper publisher, a politician, a movie producer, and as a collector of art.

Most interesting and probably the least publicized arc of Hearst's career was his work as a film producer, especially with the films of Marion Davies, his mistress/companion/business partner of more than 30 years.

While the documentary highlights the great success of WHEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER in 1922, it fails to mention the equally successful LITTLE OLD NEW YORK in 1923. These two films made a superstar of Davies and established Hearst as a major film producer ... big enough to interest the newly formed MGM in 1924 to join forces as a producing and distribution partner (a partnership that lasted for a decade).

The documentary harps too much on Davies's drinking problem and continues to spread false information about the success of her her films, stating at one point "in the early 1930s" seven of her nine last films were flops. Ain't true.

In the late 1920s, Hearst and Davies scored with classics like THE PATSY and SHOW PEOPLE and early talkies like MARIANNE and THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 were solid hits.

The documentary seems rather skewed toward favoring Hearst's estranged wife Millicent, a former show girl who, with Hearst's money, ascended to the social elite of New York and became (again with Hearst's money) a noted philanthropist. As a social lioness, she refused to divorce Hearst and clung to the title of Mrs. Hearst.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, Davies (with her own money) founded several children's clinics (including one at UCLA which bears her name), and had a successful business career (not mentioned in the documentary) well into the 1950s that included buying and running the Desert Inn in Palm Springs and erecting the Davies Building skyscraper in New York. It's still there.

Hearst enjoyed being a film producer and aside from the films of Marion Davies, also produced films for silent stars like Alma Rubens, Matt Moore, Seena Owen, Norman Kerry, Forrest Stanley, Anita Stewart, Colleen Moore, and Lionel Barrymore.

The documentary is largely based on David Nasaw's excellent biography of Hearst from 2000 called "The Chief" and he appears as a talking head along with two of Hearst's grandsons. I never heard of any of the other talking heads.

Bottom line: the documentary is filled with information and photos and film clips (not identified) and is a deep dive into the life of a complex and fascinating man who had his faults. Well worth watching!

Three Amigos!
(1986)

Incredibly Stupid and Unfunny
Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin Short bomb out in this dreadful film about three silent movie stars who plays the Three Amigos on screen.

A peasant in Mexico thinks there are real so she writes to Hollywood and asks them to come to help fight the local bandito.

Stupid on all levels and not a single laugh in the interminable 108 long long minutes. Filled with ethnic insults ad stereotypes sure to offend anyone with a brain.

Courtship
(1987)

Evoking Memories
Courtship (1987) is a terrific talky story by Horton Foote and is one arc of his memoir trilogy of stories about a small town in Texas in the 1910s ... (the others are On Valentine's Day and 1918). Together they track the years 1915-18 and the lives of Elizabeth Vaughn (Hallie Foote) and Horace Robedaux (William Converse-Roberts).

This first entry sets up the courtship and eventual elopement of the young lovers and the girl's father (Michael Higgins) and his defiant distaste for Horace. He seems a tad obsessed with his daughters (Amanda Plummer plays the younger Laura) to the point of sexual obsession. He likes the idea of their being old maids.

These plays by Foote beautifully capture the era in which they are set. He gets all the peripheral things right like the music, the clothing, the movies they talk about, but more importantly the way we were in those more innocent times. While people were outwardly more genteel and polite, inside, they still seethed and hated and loved.

The class-conscious daddy is also anti-booze and anti-dancing and most certainly against women voting etc. Yet Elizabeth has the gumption to defy her father and run off with Horace. Even the mother (Rochelle Oliver) would rather have her daughters be old maids rather than marry the "wrong man."

Beautifully done. The trilogy ends in 1918 with the family dealing with the consequences of WW I and the Influenza epidemic.

The IMDb credits are wrong. Neither Richard Jenkins nor Steven Hill appear in this film.

Dear Evan Hansen
(2021)

Tuneless Music and Rapid Aging
Ben Platt re-creates his Tony Award-winning role as Evan Hansen in this paean to teen angst and social media manipulation.

Platt plays a high school senior with social anxiety disorder so he writes chirpy letters to himself every day spewing foolishness about how good the day will be. Suicidal Connor (a raving nutbag on the loose) steals a letter and then kills himself that night. When the letter is found (the letters are always addressed Dear Evan Hansen...) the delusional mother (Amy Adams) latches on to the nonsense idea that Connor and Evan had been secret friends.

Platt then latches on to the idea as well since it suddenly gives him a spotlight as the school reels over the suicide (although no one knew the dead kid). He invents a friendship and insinuates himself into the dead kid's family and gets closer to his sister (the dour Kaitlyn Dever). This new family thing alienates him from his own mother (Julianne Moore, 20 years too old for the role).

As the whole grief thing turns into a social media blast the lies start to be exposed and the whole things crashes around Platt. The silly orchard memorial Kickstarter thing made me puke a little.

The songs all sound like they're being made up on the spot. Tuneless and with repetitive lyrics that hark back to their Broadway origins. Remember show tunes? These ain't them.

Platt is made up via prosthetics and heavy make-up to look ten years younger, but with that curly hair-do he looks like a deranged Harpo Marx. And the whole rejuvenation makes him look like he has a hook nose. Moore, on the other hand, looks old enough to be his grandmother. Apparently they used all the film's make-up budget on Platt.

Lastly, while Platt's "tic and twitch" singing style worked on stage, it's rather bizarre in a Hollywood close-up.

A Winter Tan
(1987)

Jackie Burroughs Dazzles
A Winter Tan (1987) is a Canadian film written and directed by and starring the great Jackie Burroughs. This is an extraordinary tour-de-force effort in which Burroughs (probably best known as Mother Mucca in the Tales of the City series) portrays Maryse Holden, a college professor and feminist writer. On what she perceives to be her last great hedonist adventure (she's in her late 40s): an extended trip to Mexico. She pursues sex, booze, and drugs and writes diary-like letters back to a friend in New York. Long story short, she's correct in her assumption that this would be her last great splash but not for the reason she thinks.

Burroughs, tall and angular (and 48 at the time) laments (as Holden) her fading looks and tries desperately to get a tan to cover the flaws in her aging skin. She's less able to easily attract men and has to pay them in a few cases. She's obviously too old for the wild disco clubs that cater to youth and because of the booze and drugs starts running afoul of the Mexican police, especially after she's caught with a 14-year-old boy. Grim and gripping, this is a tough movie but in the long final monologue Burroughs delivers a master class in acting ... all in one take. Burroughs won the Canadian Genie Award as best actress.

This film was released on VHS by Kino many decades ago but has never been released on DVD or Blu-ray.

Hold the Sunset
(2018)

Unfunny and Annoying Characters.
Hugely bad sitcom despite the cast. The basic premise might have looked good on paper but the mother is too stupid for words and the son is the most annoying TV character I can remember.

Plot has oldsters Phil and Edith (John Cleese, Alison Steadman) planning to sell their respective homes and marry and move away together to a sunny spot in southern Europe. Instead, her jerk of a son (Jason Watkins) quits his job, leaves his wife, and moves back into the house so he can resume his boyhood. Her daughter (Joanna Scanlan) comes sniffing round looking for cash for her hair-do business.

The mother is torn between the two children. Should she sell the house or not? In either case she has a leach of a child waiting to grab whatever is available.

Others in the cast are Rosie Cavaliero as the discarded whiny wife, Peter Egan as a neighbor, James Cosmo as an old thief, and Anne Reid as Queenie the cleaning lady.

Cleese sits around making snide comments while Steadman dithers about her middle-aged children. Watkins is annoying as hell and even carries a puppet just to ensure you'll hate him. Reid is the only ray of light as Queenie.

The plots are stupid. Really stupid.

The Power of the Dog
(2021)

Eerie and Complex
The Power of the Dog (2021) is an exceptional and complex film from Jane Campion. She wrote and directed this Western set in Montana in 1925 (it's based on a novel). Story has two dour brothers (Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons) who live together in a massive barn of a house on the plains. When Plemons ups a marries a local hotel keeper (Kirsten Dunst) it sets in motion a weird tale of repressive rage.

Plemons is a tad dim and doesn't realize that Dunst is unsuited to ranch life. She herself quickly starts hitting the bottle. Her son is gay and is even more unsuited to the life than she is. Cumberbatch is a filthy, stinking cowboy who resents the mother and son. Things start getting interesting when we learn he has a Classics degree from Yale. He has a few more secrets that unfold when he seems to befriend the awkward son.

Slow and complex story keeps the viewer wondering exactly what's next. Nothing is ever really explained or articulated but we can read between the lines. The first clue may be that the brothers share a bed in the rambling house.

Acting is terrific and Cumberbatch and Dunst turn in especially good performances. The son is played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Keith Carradine shows up briefly as the governor. Campion filmed this one in New Zealand and the whole look of the film (all those damned dark, muted colors again) is other worldly. Neflix is running this one and it's definitely worth a look. This one might be in the awards running later this year.

Bye Bye Birdie
(1995)

Jason Alexander Shines
TV movie version of the 1961 Broadway hit stars Jason Alexander as the songwriter Albert who has a chance at success because of a contract with new singing sensation Conrad Birdie. But Birdie's been drafted and headed to the Army. With his stalwart girlfriend Rose (Vanessa Williams, who can't dance) and smothering mama (Tyne Daly) in tow, they head to smalltown Ohio for a gigantic publicity stunt (Birdie kisses local girl fan goodbye) and to debut Albert's new song.

I guess this was a big TV event in 1995 (I don't recall it) but most (if not all) of the singing is canned. The three stars are all quite good (Alexander won a Tony Award for Jerome Robbins' Broadway in 1989, right at the start of Seinfeld). Big songs include "I've Got a Lot of Living to Do" and "Put on a Happy Face."

Others in the cast don't fare so well. Blah George Wendt as the Paul Lynde role as the harried father and gives not much to the famous "Kids" song (sung by Paul Lynde in the Broadway production). There's also Marc Kudisch as Birdie (he lip syncs badly) and Chynna Phillips as Kim the teen (a decade too old for the part). Vicki Lewis shows up for the small role of Gloria Rasputin.

Even away back in 1995 the story must have seemed long in the tooth what with its obvious reference points in Elvis Presley and Conway Twitty as well as Ed Sullivan. Other relics include a TV clip of Father Knows Best and a funny reference to the film Lost Horizons.

Jason Alexander is a delight. Tyne Daly is the only performer who does NOT lip sync a pre-recorded number. The three new songs added to this TV shows all stink.

Cupid, Registered Guide
(1921)

Light-Hearted Edgar Jones
Rare comedy in the Edgar Jones "north woods" series filmed in Maine.

Jones plays Bob Stickney a Maine woods guide who's rescued by Doc Lang (Carlton Brickert) after he falls down a hillside and breaks his shoulder.

Lang wants to marry heiress Lana Candage (Edna May Sperl) but she's been "kidnapped" by her father (William Peavey) to remote Telos Lake in the Allagash. Daddy wants her to marry dopey Mortimer Totten (Ben Hendricks, Jr.) and writes a codicil in his will that Lana will only inherit his estate if she marries with his permission and in his presence.

After Mortimer shows up at the lake camp, Lana pretends to be sick so they'll have to send for Doc Lang. Bob brings the Doc and they conspire to trick old daddy by taking him to see the Tollywhoppus (a version of Bigfoot).

When the old man boards a "carry" to get across the lake, they suspend him on the ropes and force him to agree to the marriage of Lana and Doc.

The Glorious Lady
(1919)

Olive Thomas and Matt Moore Star
The Glorious Lady (1919) is a lush-looking film starring Olive Thomas as a country girl who rescues Lord Loame (Matt Moore) after an accident during a cross-country horse race. We're told he's the "last of his line" and mama is afraid the line will die out if he doesn't settle down and marry. He does, but he marries Olive Thomas and not one of the more suitable ladies mama had hoped for.

Dastardly Dr. Neuman (Robert Taber) had hopes his sister would get to be the lady of the manor. Apparently Olive is injured in rescuing Moore and is told she can't have a baby. This throws the dynastic-minded old dowager into a tizzy and starts an evil plot to force a divorce between Olive and Moore so that the sister can move in (literally).

The stars are quite good here and Taber is appropriately oily as the villain. Marie Burke plays the dowager and a Mrs. Henry Clive plays the vapid sister. More interesting is Evelyn Brent as Lady Eileen, but her function in the story seems to be as a gossip (overheard by Olive) who spreads the divorce idea. Huntley Gordon appears briefly as a local lord and Mona Kingsley has a nice bit as Babette the chorus girl who comes into the plot. There's also a devious detective who gets no billing though he has a major role.

Much hand-wringing but Olive Thomas is a luminous star to behold.

Reminiscence
(2021)

Pretty Bad
Like many new films, REMINISCENCE has that dreary underlit look that mutes color to the point of looking like mud. Appropriately, the story is set in the near future when climate change has melted the polar ice caps and daytime temperatures are soaring. Miami is partially underwater and with temperatures so hot, people now sleep in the daytime and most activity is nocturnal. Boats have replaced cars and dams and levees are holding back (for the time being) the ocean. Yet it's a soggy world. It matches the plot.

Hugh Jackman runs a memory business. People pay to lie in a tank of water and have their brains manipulated so that they can remember better times. This procedure creates holograms which are stored on "disks" and can be payed at home. The process is also used by the cops for depositions of criminals. When a mysterious woman (Rebecca Ferguson) comes in for a session, she triggers something in Jackman's memory and they have an affair. She disappears suddenly and he tries to track her down but becomes involved in a political scandal. She was not what she seemed.

Many clever and intriguing bits and pieces here but these do not add up to a very satisfying film. Ultimately, this becomes a time waster that drags on and on and on.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It
(2021)

Sour Grapes
This is a 90-minute documentary on the long-lasting star who turns 90 this year. Clunky title but it gets explained toward the end of the show. The film documents Moreno's early years in Puerto Rico, arrival in New York City as a kid, and her eventual entry into films under the thumb of Louis B. Mayer.

Lots of clips from Moreno's early films going back to 1950. Most, but not all, of these early roles were of the "dusky maiden" type. She played all manner of Hispanics, Indians, Polynesians and anything else that required dark make-up. Much time is spent on WEST SIDE STORY and how it didn't make her a major film star. Interesting but not earth shaking.

One complaint is that none of the film clips were named and only a few were talked about. It often looked like one of those YouTube tributes.

Another complaint is the constant whining about the roles she was given and how she rarely got to play non-ethnic parts. This said while demanding that only Hispanics should play the major Hispanic roles in films like the remake of WEST SIDE STORY or IN THE HEIGHTS. You can't have it both ways.

Talented? Yes. Likable? Not so much.

Best Friends for Life
(1998)

Dreary Bleary
Two life-long friends approaching 60 (Gena Rowlands, Linda Lavin) face some harsh realities about their lives and their friendship after their husbands die.

Silly and unrealistic from the get-go. Rowlands is a rich woman in Houston who's life is taken up by the social whirl (a Zoo Ball? Really?) while Lavin is the down-home type living in rural South Carolina. Their husbands die within a week or so of each other, so they reach out to each other for comfort.

While they were friends "at school," their adult lives have been mostly separate and they have just about nothing in common as old women yet believe they are best friends. Each one gripes endlessly about lousy marriages, bad sex, loneliness, etc. But neither one ever did a thing to remedy their situation.

Their lives diverge even more when Rowlands becomes ill and Lavin finds herself a man (the ancient Richard Farnsworth). While Rowlands' life sinks as her daughter (Helen Slater) reveals she never liked her, Lavin's sparks upward with her lover and a ridiculous wallpaper business she goes into with her maid (Ja'net DuBois). Really?

Also involved in this silliness is Gwen Verdon, briefly seen as Lavin's globe-trotting mother and Burke Moses, as the younger financial advisor Rowlands tries to ensnare in a relationship. His dismissal of her advances is the only flicker of reality in this sticky goopy mess.

The worst moment is at the Zoo Ball when Rowlands discovers hubby was having an affair with a fellow socialite (Karen Austin) and she hunts her down in the toilet with her brainless friends in tow. They all brandish guns (really?) and then run away screaming when one goes off accidentally. Dreary and Bleary.

1918
(1985)

Spanish Influenza and War
1918 is part of a trilogy of plays by Horton Foote that follow the Robedaux family in rural Texas in the early 1900s. This one deals with the Spanish Influenza epidemic (the Germans sent it to us) and the closing months of WW I and their effects on the family.

Main characters include the effete Horace (William Converse-Roberts), a local businessman who's being pressured into joining up and going to fight in Europe. But he contracts the flu and almost dies. When he finally seems to have recovered, the war ends. His wife (Hallie Foote) deals with his sickness, the death of her baby, and her newfound pregnancy. Her kid brother (Matthew Broderick) is hot for war and goes to the movies all the time to watch Robert Harron (whom he's told he resembles). But when it comes right down to it, he never joins up. Oddly, sources state the film he watches is The Heart of a Nation (1916) but I think it's The Birth of a Nation (1915).

As the "boys" start coming home, the horror of the war slowly sinks in and the small-towners lose their taste for flag waving amid the maimed, the blind, and the shell shocked. There's also a long list of plague victims. The story and characters are partly autobiographical and the films nicely captures the feels of 1918 and the naivete of Americans at that time. Thoughtful and well done.... And nothing seems to have changed except people had manners back then.

My Brilliant Career
(1979)

My Brilliant Davis
What's not to love? A willful heroine who yearns for "life" outside her outback dustbowl farm, she's sent off to live with granny and meets a dashing young man (Sam Neill) but she doesn't want marriage. Set in 1897 Australia, this Victorian story bristles with sexual tension amid the staid and proper houses of the well-to-do.

Davis, as Sybylla Melvyn, just can't give up her dreams of being a writer or pianist to become a wife. Directed by Gillian Armstrong and based on the 1901 novel by a woman named Miles Franklin, we are treated to a lush and exotic setting that basically produces a stillborn romance. Sybylla gets her comeuppance for being willful when she is sent from grandma's lush home to be a governess at the McSwatt pig farm. But even this insult cannot shake her resolve.

Judy Davis is brilliant. In her first major film role, she was ignored by Oscars and Golden Globes but won the best actress BAFTA. Neill is quite good as the frustrated beau. Wendy Hughes plays the displaced Aunt Helen, Aileen Britton as the stern grandmother, Patricia Kennedy as the wise Aunt Gussie, Julia Blake as the mother, and Robert Grubb as the pompous twit Frank all make their marks. This one had me from the opening strains of Schumann's "Kinderszenen."

Straight Is the Way
(1921)

Charming Ouija Board Story
After Bob Carter (Matt Moore) is driven to thievery by his dire circumstances, he and pal Loot Follet (George Parsons) bail New York City for Hampton Center, New Hampshire, where they think the pickings will be easy.

They hole up in a deserted part of a rambling house owned by the destitute Aunt Mehitable (Mabel Bert) and her grand niece Dorcas (Gladys Leslie). The thieves soon learn how desperate the women are, especially after a local loan shark (Henry Sedley) tries to collect the money on their mortgage.

The men decide to intervene on the women's nightly session with a Ouija board as they try to contact the long dead Uncle Henry to find where he hid his treasure. From that point, the story takes an odd and ironic turn, one that changes the lives of everyone involved.

Matt is excellent as Bob Carter, the thief with a strong conscience. Leslie is sweet as the innocent Dorcas. Bert is fun as the gullible old lady, and Parsons is fine as Loot. Sedley is snarky as the loan shark. There's also Van Dyke Brooke as the constable, Peggy Parr as the city hustler, Emily Fitzroy as Mrs. Crabtree, and Tammany Young as the barroom waiter.

Written by Frances Marion and directed by Robert Vignola. Some sources list Marion Davies as the producer for Cosmopolitan Pictures.

Here Today
(2021)

Sticky Goopy
This is a comedy that turns into a Hallmark sticky goopy. Billy Crystal stars as a comedy writer who works on an incredibly unfunny cable TV sketch comedy show that ads tell us is #1. He has dementia but drugs are enabling him to function. He meets a woman (Tiffany Haddish) who won a raffle to have lunch with him. They form an unlikely friendship.

Much of the film entails flashbacks that show us his life with his wife from 40 years ago. He's sort of a Neil Simon writer with hit movies and Broadway plays but he's been writing for this lame SNL clone for decades. He's hidden his dementia from his kids and they are resentful of his friendship with the younger woman. And that's about it. The last third of the film turns maudlin as Crystal gets the expected bad news and we go all sticky goopy.

Crystal is fine (and co-wrote the script) but Haddish is a bit much at times. Supporting cast is unremarkable as are cameos by Sharon Stone and Kevin Kline.

There's a brief look at a photoshopped picture of comedy legends Imogene Coca, Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, and Howard with Crystal added in, supposedly from his early writing days. But I'm afraid their prime time on TV was long before Crystal's character would have been a writer.

Anyway.

Whitstable Pearl
(2021)

Blah
Dull stories and dull leads make this a scenery show and there's not even much of that.

Plot has restaurant owner (Kerry Godliman) working part-time as a local private detective. Moving into down is a sullen London cop (Howard Charles) and of course they get involved in each other's lives. He's the cop but he needs her local knowledge to solve the various crimes. It's notable that there's zero chemistry between these two.

There are a few other regulars but they have nothing to do other than Frances Barber as the mother with a few secrets. This main plot plays in the background of a series of limp crime stories and finally washes up on shore in the final installment.

It's one of those shows where the local girl (Godliman as Pearl Nolan) knows nobody in town, which is the size of a shoe. Comparing this to shows like VERA or SHETLAND makes this look like a school play.

A couple of interesting guest actresses like Cathy Tyson and Annette Badland help but they can't save this, and a few of the plot surprises are totally unbelievable.

Blah.

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