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Man Hunt

great start
It's July 1939. Vacationing British sportsman Thorndike (Walter Pidgeon) has Hitler in his gun sight. He is caught from behind and a shot is fired. He claims that he was simply stalking his prey for the game of it and had no intention of killing Hitler. He survives torture and murder attempt while trying to escape back to England.

It's a great start for an intriguing premise. With a minor alteration, this could be a perfect setup. Fritz Lang is the director. I'm not sure about the escape. I thought they were building up to a perverted Nazi game of man hunting. It seems to be a missed opportunity. It does end up being a light standard manhunt situation until he gets back to England. The tension dissipates and the situation becomes somewhat manufactured. I don't really understand why the Brits couldn't just replace his passport. It's as if no one has ever lost a passport while away in a foreign land. It stops making sense.


Jewish epic
In post WWII, Jewish refugees have been put into a camp on Cyprus and prevented from moving on to Palestine by the British army. Ari Ben Canaan (Paul Newman) had fought for the British Jewish forces and is now organizing a break out from the camp. Kitty Fremont (Eva Marie Saint) is a nurse recovering from the death of her news photographer husband who was killed in Palestine.

Director Otto Preminger is putting up a three and a half hour epic. It's presenting the Jewish side very sympathetically. At the start, it's trying to make Eva Marie Saint the in-between character. She is the audience and the negotiator. That may be the movie's main flaw in the first half. It struggles to present the other side and I struggled to listen to her do-gooder babbling. The second half does turn into the battle for Israel. Again, it is a very pro Jewish portrayal with them actually trying to live with the Arabs. Of course, the pretty blonde Jewish girl gets killed by a Arab. I'll try to be generous and interpret the messaging as one of coexistence and peace. In the end, this does struggle with present day reality and a terribly disputed history.


simple quirky sweet humor
Milton (Ben Kingsley) is slowly deteriorating as he lives alone in a small western Pennsylvanian town. He complains about the same issues at every town council meeting. His daughter is worried about his health. Suddenly, a space ship crashes into his backyard and destroys his adrianas. An injured alien comes out and starts staying with him.

It's quirky. It's simple. It has Ben Kingsley, Harriet Sansom Harris, Jane Curtin, and an alien. It starts as a slow indie. It gets funnier and funnier. It does have a couple of bumps in the road. The biggest one is killing the cat. I don't think it's necessary or the funniest turn that writer could do. They could have made a fun caper and break into Denise's clinic. The other is the final scene. I thought they had settled the issue very well with good emotional resolution. There is no need to question it one last time. All in all, I love the simple sweetness and easy humor of this small indie.

Mrs. Soffel

slow moving
It's 1901 Pittsburgh. Kate Soffel (Diane Keaton) is the wife of prison warden Peter Soffel (Edward Herrmann). Ed Biddle (Mel Gibson) and Jack Biddle (Matthew Modine) are brothers on death row for murder although they claim to be innocent. Kate befriends Ed. It grows into a romance and she helps them escape.

This is based on a true story. It doesn't always make it compelling. I can do with a lot less of the courting in the first half. It is terribly boring and terribly long. It takes an hour before they escape. The escape and the fugitive stages have a bit more tension which this movie sorely needs. As for the romance, it's hard to know Ed's true feelings until they become fugitives on the run. Keaton and Gibson do try to generate some heat at that point. It's a 50-50 proposition. It feels more like a romance novel. The most compelling scenes happen in the last five minutes. It is a very long slough to get there.

Spy Kids: Armageddon

Terrence Tango (Zachary Levi) and Nora Torrez (Gina Rodriguez) are the best spies working for the OSS and trying to take down video game inventor Rey 'The King' Kingston (Billy Magnussen). Nora and Terrence are married with two kids, Tony Tango-Torrez (Connor Esterson) and Patty Tango-Torrez (Everly Carganilla).

Robert Rodriguez is trying to reboot his franchise with a little help from his son. The first question I have is why. It's an IP, I guess. The tech has advanced, but I don't like that reason. The special effects were always more weird than top-of-the-line. In fact, this one is slightly less weird, but it does maintain an imaginative edge. For the actors, it's great to have Zachary and Gina. The kids are leaning younger. That's about it. I am surprised that Robert Rodriguez didn't get any of the hot young actors around today. Finally, there is an interesting message from Patty. I like it, but it's strictly for a kiddie movie. I am not still not buying any answer to the why question. It's reboot for reboot's sake. They are getting what's left of that Netflix money.

Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter

Herman's Hermits' second
It's Manchester, England. It's Herman's Hermits. It's their second movie. The members of the band are trying to make their way in the world. I know one or two of their songs, but I don't know much about the band. I'm not really drawn to the guys. They seem like fine blokes. They're just not superstars. I don't care about them and I don't care about their characters. It is more interesting as a artifact of the times. I'm much more interested in the views of the Manchester streets. I don't think that there is a hit in the soundtrack, but the music is cute. Their stardom had already fallen before this.

The War Against Mrs. Hadley

wartime propaganda
In Washington, D. C., wealthy widow Mrs. Stella Hadley (Fay Bainter) is throwing herself a birthday party. It's Dec 7, 1941. Pearl Habor happens and everyone rushes off to their duty. Stella refuses to let the war interfere with her life. She demands that her son Ted return home for the Christmas holidays, war or no war. Instead, he is going to the front. Her daughter Pat starts dating soldier Mike.

This is war propaganda, pure and simple. Mrs. Hadley is certainly a specific role during that time. It's interesting that she's clueless rather than being callous. It allows for a little bit of humor and also her later character growth. It's wartime.

About My Father

De Niro saves
Sebastian (Sebastian Maniscalco) has his traditional hard-working Italian immigrant father Salvo (Robert De Niro) as his only family. His girlfriend Ellie (Leslie Bibb) comes from a completely different family. Her father Bill (David Rasche) is a hotel tycoon from a long line of successful men. Her mother Tigger (Kim Cattrall) is an important politician. Her brother Lucky (Anders Holm) is a brash concierge to entitled hotel guests. Her other brother Doug (Brett Dier) is a new age thinker.

Sebastian Maniscalco is probably writing from his life experiences. The Italian immigrant life is well represented except for the large family. Ellie's family is too broad until much later in the movie. The writing is generally too broad and the characters are too one-dimensional. This is saved by Robert De Niro. He gives this humanity when all it has rights to is a few uncomfortable laughs. He gives his character life and heart to his relationship with the son. He and he alone is the saving grace of this movie.

No One Will Save You

all about Kaitlyn Dever
Brynn (Kaitlyn Dever) lives alone in her home. She avoids other people. She is mourning for the dead. Suddenly, a strange figure appears into her home.

This is all Kaitlyn Dever. A lot of this movie is her in a house and then this turn happens. The turn is interesting although my first idea is that it's all in her head. The reality of the situation does go back and forth until it almost becomes unimportant. The premise is interesting although it's nothing extraordinary. I've always liked Kaitlyn Dever. The movie maintains a spooky atmosphere throughout. I like the reveal, but I would like a cleaner wrap-up.

Blue Beetle

sitcom and superhero
Victoria Kord (Susan Sarandon), CEO of Kord Industries, finds an alien Scarab and intends to use it to make the company a leading source for the military. She is opposed by her niece Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine). Meanwhile, Jaime Reyes (Xolo Maridueña) returns home after graduating college. Rudy Reyes (George Lopez) is his uncle.

This is a small slice of the DC universe. It's hard to tell if they will be connecting any other parts to this little world or if they will continue the story at all. It's George Lopez doing more of his Latino family brand of comedy. The family is basically a network sitcom family. It's got all the standard tropes and characters. The main difference is that the superhero aspect being stacked on top of it. It's all fine but nothing that excites. It's not bringing anything new.

Seance on a Wet Afternoon

intriguing Brit flick
Myra Savage (Kim Stanley) is a medium. She holds seances at her home assisted by her submissive husband Billy (Richard Attenborough) and their son Arthur who died at birth. She convinces Billy to kidnap Amanda Clayton, a young girl from a rich family. She intends to prove her psychic abilities to the police by leading them to the girl. It doesn't stop her from demanding a large sum in a ransom note.

At first, I couldn't really see how this scheme would work without killing the girl. The masks help but there are still problems. The girl could recognize them even with the masks. The girl should definitely know that she's been kidnapped. There is just no easy way out.

This is not the Richard Attenborough that I'm familiar with. The character does require a weaker personality. He should be more scared and brow-beaten by Myra. I imagine a bespectacled nerd. Kim Stanley is not as crazy as I expected at first. She does a fine job building up to that point. The two of them are doing some fine acting. This is a movie waiting to be remade.

The Death of Superman

DC animated movie
Superman saves the mayor in his latest rescue. Lois Lane is dating Clark without knowing his real identity. Dr. Klyburn is studying his Krytonian tech with his help. Lex is under house detention, but of course he is able to sneak out. He is at Lex Corp working on various anti-Superman projects. Doomsday emerges from a meteor and takes out most of the Justice League. There is only Superman left to face the monster.

This is a DC animated movie. Aside from the various origin stories, The Death of Superman is one of the most iconic comic book stories. This one has a great beatdown of the Justice League.

The Duke

TV licence
It's 1961 Britain and based on a true story. Taxi driver Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent) is on trial for the theft of Goya's portrait of the Duke of Wellington. He's a man with an overwhelming sense of injustice. He is especially riled up over the required licence for every television set. He even removed the BBC from his TV to not pay the licence. His wife Dorothy (Helen Mirren) pays it anyways when they are visited by the government. Still, he never lets these 'injustices' rest.

I don't really get the TV licence. I don't get how those government suits track him down or why they spend the time. The whole thing is too weird even if it's true. It's an odd jumping off point, but at least it's interesting. This is a low intensity film if relatively charming little British tale. I would probably make it a courtroom drama to heighten the tension. There is a section of fun dialogue when Kempton is on the stand. Mostly, it's lightly charming with the likes of Jim Broadbent. He just has all charms in the world.

The End

Burt Reynolds black comedy
Wendell Sonny Lawson (Burt Reynolds) gets a bad diagnosis with less than a year to live. He tells his girlfriend Mary Ellen (Sally Field). Julie Lawson (Kristy McNichol) is his daughter with his ex-wife Jessica (Joanne Woodward). After a failed suicide attempt, he is sent to a mental institution where he befriends fellow patient Marlon Borunki (Dom DeLuise).

This is an odd little film especially considering Burt's other comedies at the time. The gallows humor works when he's pair with Dom DeLuise. The emotional blackmail with his daughter doesn't. This movie feels rather bumpy. I would prefer staying with Burt and Dom for the most part.

Love, Classified

Hallmark drama
Emilia Bloom (Melora Hardin) is a highly successful spy novel writer who is estranged from her adult children, Taylor Bloom (Katherine McNamara) and Zach Bloom (Max Lloyd-Jones). She left them after they lost their father. She arranges a book signing at the hometown book store and tries to reconnect with them. Taylor tries an unusual dating app and is surprised when she's pair with a woman, Franki (Arienne Mandi).

This is a Hallmark. It's interesting for a couple of interesting actresses not normally seen on Hallmark. It's doing a gay romance which is unusual for Hallmark. It all adds up to something interesting without it all working. Sometimes, I think the movie should do either concentrate on the family conflict or the gay romance, but not both. They don't compliment each other unless Emilia is shown to be anti-gay. It's still interesting.

A Challenge for Robin Hood

Hammar does Robin Hood
In medieval England, there is tension between the ruling Norman class and the ruled Saxons. Norman noble Robin de Courtenay (Barrie Ingham) saves a Saxon boy after his father was killed by his cruel cousin Roger de Courtenay (Peter Blythe). After the family patriarch dies, most of the inheritance is divided in equal parts to Robin, his brother Henry, and the actual heir Roger. An enraged Roger kills Henry and frames Robin. Robin and Friar Tuck (James Hayter) are forced to escape into the woods with the Saxon poor.

Hammar Film is reworking the origin story of Robin Hood. I don't mind it. Plenty of others have done the same. It's a costume drama. It's better than expected coming from Hammar. It has its fun with some swashbuckling arrow work. The action is basically old non-realism with comedic touches. Maybe they could have done something more brutal and realistic. I don't recognize these British actors but they seem to be solid. I would like this to be shorter and the pacing to be faster.

Wizards of Waverly Place: The Movie

Puerto Rico vacation
The Russo family is going on a magic-free vacation. The parents take the wands away from the kids. They encounter street magician Archie who claims to be a wizard. Alex (Selena Gomez) makes a bad wish. Brother and sister have to work together.

I've never seen Wizards of Waverly Place but this popped up on the TV. It seems like a good idea to see a young Selena Gomez in her breakout role. Her character Alex is a snarky self-involved teenager. Her star power is self-evident. The filming is going to Puerto Rico and there is plenty of sand and surf. They do go to some good wilderness. There is a bit of heart as brother and sister reconcile. Steve Valentine is good at being underhanded. It's a Disney TV movie and better than most of them.

Grace Unplugged

easy fix not taken
Gracie Trey (AJ Michalka) performs with her protective father Johnny Trey (James Denton) at church. She's 18 and desperate to be a music star. Johnny's old manager Frank 'Mossy' Mostin (Kevin Pollak) shows up one day and tells him that his old song has became a viral sensation. Mossy offers him a new shot but he rejects it out of hand. He doesn't want his old problematic life. He's happy with his wife Michelle Trey (Shawnee Smith), church, and family. Gracie has a different idea. Quentin (Michael Welch) is the company intern.

An easy fix would be having the mom there accompanying her. I guess that easy fix is not what the movie is looking for. It's fine for the Christian crowd who sees Hollywood as a den of iniquity. An even easier fix for the movie would be to make Johnny a single parent. The whole movie has a hesitant feel. It's written like a weak melodrama although it could be worst. It's too hesitant to be too dark. It's too light to do anything risky. It seems to be more against the superficiality of commercial capitalism than anything else. It's singing to a certain choir.

Why Can't My Life Be a ROM-COM

lower budget rom-com
Eliza Sloane (Em Haine) has a boyfriend and expects a promotion. She loses her job. Her boyfriend dumps her. Her best friend Sofia Munoz (Cecilia Deacon) gives her a worn-out book called "A Guide to Marrying Rich". They're 26 and going to the Hamptons to find rich husbands. Eliza likes towel boy Doug (Wern Lee) working at the club. Sofia redirects her to Rich Hawthorne (Markian Tarasiuk) while Sofia's crush John Fuller (Roraigh Falkner) is his best friend. The girls get diner waitressing jobs where cook Ryan (Aren Buchholz) starts flirting with Sofia.

It's a lower budget rom-com. The general outline of such a movie is here. The actors are mostly second tier. They're fine for who they are. These are pretty people. Their comedic chops are limited. There are a few fleeting moments of humor, but they are exceedingly fleeting. This is basically younger Hallmark and cheaper. The lower budget does present a problem when it is supposed to be in high society.

You Were Never Lovelier

dancing team Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth
In Buenos Aires, dancer Robert Davis (Fred Astaire) loses all his money at the race track. He seeks work from Eduardo Acuña (Adolphe Menjou) at his hotel. Eduardo is a controlling traditionalist and insists his four daughters be married off in the order of their ages. The oldest is getting married. Second oldest Maria Acuña (Rita Hayworth) is not about to marry anyone. The two youngest are desperate to marry their boyfriends.

Nowadays, Rita Hayworth is best remembered as the sex goddess on screen. It's lesser remembered that she's Latina and an excellent dancer from her dancing parents. Fred Astaire considers her one of his best partners. They have an intriguing meet-cute. She shows some interest and some revulsion in equal parts. It's another Taming of the Shrew. In this one, there is singing and dancing. It takes about an hour before the leads actually do a number together. He is almost twenty years her senior, but that's the movies back in the day. The premise is a little complicated. I get the idea of switching the roles. I would have kept it simple with the two younger couples hiring Robert to seduce Maria.

Artistic Temper

Ruth Etting sings her songs
Housewife Ruth Whitney (Ruth Etting) is a singer at heart, but her husband Dr. Jim Whitney does not approve. He hates show people. She sings a song to time her three minute egg. She invites a group of performers home and he confronts them. She has had enough.

This starts at an Automat-type eatery and that's a fun place. Ruth Etting sings her torch songs. The story is a defense for the lower art forms. The cast of characters has a few circus people and some bad magic. In the end, this is mostly about Ruth Etting singing her songs and that's fine for an eighteen minutes short. That's a half dozen eggs.

Mavka. Lisova pisnya

Ukrainian animated film
Lesh, the guardian of an ancient forest, gives a drop from the Tree of Life to a sawmill owner for curing his critically ill infant daughter. Instead of being grateful, the sawmill owner returns with a whole army to claim the Tree of Life. The army is destroyed and Lesh prevents any more human intrusion into the forest. Years later, forest spirit Mavka befriends human musician Lukas. The late sawmill owner's daughter Kylina intends to take the forest for herself.

This is an Ukrainian animated film based on a 1918 play. The computer animation is not quite cutting edge. It looks better than a TV movie. The writing is familiar and yet a little foreign. It feels like a Disney movie with some wrong translation. It's still interesting. Just a little off-center.

Can You Take It

Popeye triumvirate with deadly violence
Popeye walks Olive Oyl to her work at the hospital ward of the Bruiser Club. He goes next door to Bruiser Boys Club front entrance where a sign asks "Can you take it? We DARE you to join". At the club, President Bluto tries to intimidate Popeye with a series of deadly traps. Popeye is able to beat most of them, but he ends up in the hospital ward with Olive Oyl. He eats his spinach and goes back to confront Bluto.

This has the Popeye triumvirate in their traditional roles. In this early Popeye, Olive Oyl sounds like Olive Oyl. I do have questions about the deadly traps. I wonder how many people have already been killed. It's a little extreme. That's fine for a cartoon.

Don't Bet on Blondes

premise don't make sense
Famous Broadway sports bookmaker Oscar 'Odds' Owen (Warren William) loses $50k to a doped horse owned by Everett Markham (Clay Clement). He forces Markham to pay back his bet and leave horse racing. He decides to go into underwriting unusual insurance policies. Markham's actress friend Marilyn Youngblood (Claire Dodd) is dating rich playboy Dwight Boardman (Walter Byron) and supporting her problematic moronic father Colonel Youngblood (Guy Kibbee). Markham sees a way to get back at Odds. He pushes the Colonel to make a bet on his daughter not marrying in the next three years. Owen's men start harassing Marilyn's boyfriends starting with Dwight and then David Van Dusen (Errol Flynn).

The story is a bit of irreverent fun. Warren William should have more early screen time. I like the inside scoop on the betting world and I want more. While the Colonel spins a fine tall tale, Odds is too smart to fall for the scam. It's too easy for the girl to marry. The whole premise doesn't really make sense. This makes Odds look like a reckless gambler trying to cover his bet.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

loving lots
Techno Cosmic Research Institute leader Cynthia Utrom sends a military squad to capture scientist Baxter Stockman who created a mutagenic ooze. Fifteen years later, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael and Donatello are turtles and Splinter is the rat who raised them. They are some of the mutated creatures living in the NYC underground. The turtles encounter aspiring reporter April O'Neil after her moped gets stolen. The turtles decide to gain acceptance in the wider world by catching the mysterious criminal Superfly.

This is a new computer animated reboot of this franchise. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are two of the writers and also the producers. I really love several aspects in this one. I like the humor. I really like the animation style. I really love that the turtles look like kids rather than muscle-bound bodybuilders. I like the mayhem until it gets too much for me. Maybe I'm too old for this shi4. The non-stop kinetic energy on the screen eventually tires me out. I still really like it.

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