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    16 years


Battle of Britain

loads of planes
It's 1940 and the Allies are retreating. They are forced to withdraw and prepare for the Battle of Britain. Hitler considers England not his natural enemy and tries to negotiate. This movie follows the two sides as they struggle for the future of humanity.

There are some big names and a couple of legendary ones. There are lots of planes. They used up a lot explosives and I like the black smoke. The in-between story telling can be slow. There are just so many characters. The main character should be a young pilot which the audience can see grow in the fight. I don't care much about the marital problems of the Harveys. Plummer is a great actor and he's quite compelling as the heroic leader. The problems of two little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. The air to air combat is great. They're able to put up the planes needed to make it look great. The narrative is a traditional telling of the battle with the big German 'mistake' being concentrating on London. Overall, it's about the planes and there are loads of them.

A Kiss Before Dying

great story and good Wagner
Bud Corliss (Robert Wagner) comforts his girlfriend Dorothy "Dory" Kingship (Joanne Woodward) who is utterly distraught after discovering her pregnancy. He's the gold digger and concerned only about her father's mining fortune. Her disinheritance is guaranteed and he is pushed to marry her. He plans to stage her suicide to get rid of both of his responsibilities. Dory has a sister in Ellen (Virginia Leith) and nobody in the family has ever met Bud.

It's an interesting noir story of the 50's. The Kingship family is the new wealth of the country while Bud represents the growing greed. He is the maniac pushed over the cliff. Robert Wagner has the leading man looks and he reminds me of Charlie Sheen if he turned fully to the dark side of Gordon Gekko. If there is a weakness in the movie, it's Ellen. She needs to be a younger sister rather than an older sister. She needs to be more innocent than Dory. That would elevate the danger and her innocence would allow better for his deception. Also, I don't see any great acting from Leith. The movie gets handed to her after the turn and she doesn't have the big screen power. She has a good look but she never took over. Overall, I love the story and the early execution is great. Wagner does really good work here.

Sex Kittens Go to College

elevator pitch with nothing else
Collins College is waiting to welcome their new head of the science department, professor Dr. Mathilda West (Mamie Van Doren), with 13 degrees, IQ 298, and 40-20-30. They had used the school computer Thinko to select West. They didn't realize that she is a buxom blonde with unusual effects on everybody. Also arriving on the train are two criminals searching for Thinko.

This is a wacky small sex comedy. It starts with a fun premise but it struggles to go beyond that. Mamie is not a good comedian but at least she can walk and talk. She is Marilyn Monroe without the skills. I'm just not sure if shooting into the crowd is that funny. She does have a monkey. Is that enough? It's definitely not enough to reignite a fun elevator pitch.


still don't like the brat
Geppetto (Roberto Benigni) is a struggling woodworker. After a traveling caravan arrives in town with puppets, he gets a magical piece of wood and carves Pinocchio who comes to life. It's an adaptation of the classic Italian children's novel. It has a magical darkness and a reality to the surreal world. The problem is that I've never liked Pinocchio. He's an idiot and an annoying brat. He never does what Geppetto wants. He keeps getting tricked by the most obvious scams. He's an infuriating character. I appreciate the style and the faithfulness of this adaptation. I still don't like Pinocchio. I kept wondering if a movie about Geppetto would be more compelling. I'm not fully sold with Benigni's comedic take on Geppetto but I would have liked to give it a try for the whole movie. Overall, this is an interesting exercise but I'm not fully engaged.

How Sweet It Is!

a bit too sour
Action photographer Grif Henderson (James Garner) is not so concerned about his hippie son Davey but his wife Jenny (Debbie Reynolds) is a different story. Davey wants to go to Europe with his girlfriend Bootsie Wax but Jenny rejects it out of hand. Grif gets an assignment following Bootsie and a bunch of school girls in Europe making it a trip for the whole family. Jenny makes her travel arrangements with a con man which sets her up on an outrageous adventure.

This is writing partners Jerry Belson and Garry Marshall. For any Happy Days fans, there is a tiny little Erin Moran in a Garry Marshall movie. I don't really understand why the couple would split up on an European trip. Grif may be fine to send Davey alone on a trip but he would be a fool to send away his wife. The premise needs something more to explain itself. I actually had a bit of fun with these comedic acting veterans like the lifeboat scene. The whole thing is twisted into a contrived sitcom premise which is understandable for a couple of sitcom writers. The split story telling stalls out the pacing for those sections. The movie seems intent on separating the couple for as long as possible. As for the kids, there is a large drop off in skill level and their part of the movie suffers. I was expecting more for the cat-house although it does get in some good slapstick. In the end, the marital conflict isn't fun when it could have been. I like some of Debbie Reynolds' work but the movie is always a little awkward.

Three Coins in the Fountain

forget the story, just watch the vistas
In Rome, Anita Hutchins (Jean Peters) picks up new arrival Maria Williams (Maggie McNamara) at the airport. She is to be Anita's replacement who is planning to go back to America. They are staying at a palatial apartment with Miss Frances (Dorothy McGuire) who is the secretary to the American author John Frederick Shadwell (Clifton Webb). The three women stop at the famous Trevi Fountain where they toss in a coin and make a wish. Anita and translator Giorgio Bianchi (Rossano Brazzi) have chemistry but company policy prevents them from dating. Maria is taken with the notorious playboy Prince Dino di Cessi (Louis Jourdan).

I don't care about the stories. I barely care about the characters although they seem fine. It's not anything to write home about. This is an amazing visual feast. Italy looks great and the wide screen embraces the vista. Forget the plot. Look at the screen. This is tourism porn. I love the many location shoots. It feels like a wonderful Italian vacation. Venice is picturesque. This is a beautiful travel show within a forgettable movie.

Silver Dollar

EGR in biopic
Kansas farmer Yates Martin (Edward G. Robinson) spends his money on salted claims in Colorado. He struggles with his general store as he often gives the miners easy terms. He gives away supplies for a third of an unproven mine. As he runs out of supplies and sets to return to Kansas, he strikes it rich on the claim, not with gold but silver. His wife is always unhappy with his easy spending but he keeps getting lucky. He is recruited into politics and rises to be the governor. He takes Lily Owens as his mistress and befriends General Ulysses S. Grant. He continues to rise until it all comes crashing down.

This is a biopic of Horace Tabor renamed as Yates Martin here. His life unfolding is a little rushed at times. Certainly, there is a lot to get through. All in all, Edward G. Robinson is the driving force and delivers a solid character study. If the wife nags a bit less, this could be an interesting relationship movie with the couple. She's somewhat a stereotype. I would have liked a more fully formed character. Their relationship is one note for most of the movie. Overall, it's a solid standard biopic.

Witchslayer Gretl

A grown-up Hansel is hunting witches with his assistant Lara. He rescues Ehren from warlock Abyss but he fears her magic. He would rather kill her but Lara convinces him otherwise. Abyss' queen turns out to be Hansel's long lost sister Gretel (Shannen Doherty) who was taken by a witch and assumed killed.

I only know Paul McGillion as the affable Dr. Carson Beckett from Stargate: Atlantis. This is a completely different role and doesn't fit him. He's not that dark. As with many Syfy shows of that era, this looks cheap and the CGI is cheap. The premise is interesting and there is good potential with these characters. In the end, this is a cheap TV fantasy movie.

Popeye Meets Rip Van Winkle

Sleeping Rip Van Winkle gets thrown out for 20 years of unpaid rent. Popeye takes him home to sleep in his bed. Rip sleepwalks away while a storm is brewing or in actually dwarves playing bowling. The dwarves are not happy that Popeye interrupts their game. When a coin falls out of Rip's coat, he assumes Popeye to be a pickpocket and starts firing.

I don't like the drawing of the new characters and I don't like them period. I do like the surreal bowling concept but it doesn't fit the general reality of Popeye. Quite frankly, I kept waiting for it all to be Popeye's dream. The spinach action is relatively bland. This one is different from the others.


swinging 30's
Helen and Jimmy are a rich and bored couple. They have invited their happy couple friends George and Rose. It turns out that George and Rose are also unhappy. Helen has the idea to exchange husbands.

This pre-Code short starts with an edgy premise. The game turns out to be less sexy and more talky. Despite the comedic attempts, non of it is actually funny. I don't like these people anyways. It's not only the characters who are bored.

Calling on Michigan

golden age
Traveltalks goes to Michigan. It start with Lansing and then moves to the industrial Detroit. After some longing looks at the lakeside lodgings of the rich, they arrive at Greenfield Village, founded in 1929 by automobile magnate Henry Ford. This can be summed up as the various buildings built from the automobile. It's the start of the golden age of Detroit and the American automobile. The place is on the rise and it would never have so much hope as it does here. It is certainly a good calling card for migration to the area.

Barney's Hungry Cousin

Alum and Jellystone
Barney Bear arrives at Jellystone National Park. He intends to have a picnic while a local bear intends to steal that picnic. I've never heard of Alum which leads me to wonder whether it was more prevalent during the olden days. I do remember a lot of these gags and I may have seen this one before. I just don't know if he's Barney's cousin. It would be funnier if he's a country cousin. He seems like a fun character and I wonder if he ever reappears in Barney or even Yogi Bear cartoons.

A Model Kidnapping

standard Lifetime
Grace is desperate to be a model but refuses to do nudes. She answers an internet ad from Hunter Kelly and gets trapped into performing for a porn site.

This Lifetime movie is standard girl-in-trouble story. It would help if the girl is a better actress. When she tries to seduce Hunter, it doesn't come off as believable and Hunter comes off as dumb. Then the boyfriend does something even dumber by texting to Grace's phone and thereby alerting her kidnapper. Also the movie needs to show the steps where the boyfriend's computer friend found the porn site or else he's going to come off as a porn freak. As for Nicole, it's unreasonable for her to believe in Hunter's pathetic lie about the other girls. It would be much more compelling for her to be also a murdering psychopath. As for her prison, it can't be a room with windows and stuff. Obviously, it's just a house and they're working with limitations. Finally, the rescue is too uncoordinated. The boyfriend is too reckless. At the very least, he should tell the mother just in case he fails. The ending has limited tension anyways.

Five Star Final

It's the rough and tumble world of tabloid newspapers. Managing editor Joseph W. Randall (Edward G. Robinson) is trying to print classier material in The Evening Gazette. Some of his co-workers complain to owner Bernard Hinchecliffe who agrees to resurrect the 20 year old Vorhees Murder Case to spice up the scandal rag's circulation. Randall assigns unscrupulous reporter Isopod to dig up dirt on Nancy Voorhees. The reopening of old wounds threaten to claim new innocent victims.

This was nominated to the equivalent of the Best Picture Oscar. I kept thinking that the plot seemed familiar. I didn't realize that this was remade into Two Against the World (1936). I don't think that Randall has enough humanity to root for in the beginning. I also expected more screen time for the lead. Until his turn, he is too monotone. He needs more internal conflict. Even the turn doesn't feel that powerful. I don't find the Voorhees that compelling either. All in all, it's an intriguing story but I couldn't really connect to any of these characters.

Payment on Demand

Bette Davis vehicle
Joyce Ramsey (Bette Davis) is the hard driving force inside her marriage to lawyer David Ramsey. They are well off with daughters Martha and Diana. Suddenly, David wants a divorce. In flashbacks, their relationship is shown from their poor beginnings and the cancer growing within it.

This is Marriage Story from the 50's. That's a crazy concept. I would have liked less aggression imbalance between Joyce and David although that's the premise here. I can't ignore that. She is the alpha in the relationship and Bette Davis is the perfect vehicle for the material. Her acting power is a great match for her character's personality. Overall, it's a compelling character work in a challenging film considering the era.


sci-fi mashup
Young Mike Hillary dreams of fire which kills his mother. He starts sleeping in a bath even as a young man (Mark-Paul Gosselaar). He returns to his mother's home town and uncovers his secret origins with his superpower.

This is a mashup of various sci-fi premises. There is Firestarter, an X-Men, a Terminator, and a Close Encounter. All in all, it's a B-movie. It's not terrible. It tries but it doesn't have it.

White Noise 2: The Light

premise gets confusing
Abe Dale (Nathan Fillion) is in a diner with his wife and kid. He's concerned that they seem to be having trouble when a stranger shots them and kills himself. Three months later, the distraught Abe tries to commit suicide. After a near death experience, he is saved by his doctors and starts having visions. His doctor Karras explains that it's EVP and he has been studying the phenomenon. Sherry Clarke (Katee Sackhoff) is his nurse.

It's been four years since I saw the original. I remember liking the mood but not the plot. This one is the reverse. It's more Final Destination. The movie actually uses "He sees dead people" with quote fingers. Then the movie adds a twist in the premise. While the plot gets convoluted, it is still intriguing. I'm still not sure what it all means or the rules of the game. As for the style, it's stuck in generic Vancouver looks but not the cool way in the original. It does have Fillion and that's not half bad. It's compelling enough to waste a couple of hours.


bad remake
Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Pete Staunton (Will Ferrell) are on an Austrian ski vacation with their two boys. Charlotte (Miranda Otto) is the sex obsessed resort manager. Something happens which puts doubt into the Staunton marriage.

This is an American remake of the great film, Force Majeure, by Swedish filmmaker Ruben Östlund. It has been rewritten and directed by comedic actors, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. They have become a great filmmaker duo following two poignant films with nice comedic touches; The Way Way Back and The Descendants. This one is a great disappointment. As a remake, this is an utter failure. It takes the unsaid and say it out loud. It takes the regular life and makes it wacky. While there are some compelling moves, this keeps feeling wrong.

I try to envision not watching Force Majeure first and imagine watching this with virgin eyes. I don't know who came up with Charlotte but she seems to inhabit a wacky Will Ferrell comedy. I do not like Otto's accent or her character. The movie is trying to be wacky and then like an avalanche, it tries to be serious. It can be funny and serious but wackiness can often clash. In the big overarching premise, it's trying to be a wacky ski comedy from the 80's with a gigolo ski teacher and a swinging manager. It doesn't need it and doesn't want it. There are moments that intrigue me. I didn't really like Zach and Rosie except one moment at the end of the scene where Rosie is looking at Zach. I like the resolution of Billie and Pete but it goes a step too far. That's this movie at its core. I like a lot of it but it always goes one step too far. I hate Charlotte and the movie would be far superior without her. Overall, this has some moments but it keeps getting it wrong.

Men of the Sky

It's the Army Air Force. Lt. General H.H. Arnold presents new flyers with their wings during this time of war. As each cadet gets his wings, some of their origin stories are revealed. We see the men studying, training, and flying. Finally, they are sent to Australia.

This is a colored wartime propaganda film. The colors are great. The film looks good but the filmmaking is pretty stiff. I love the old planes but the movie could use more aerial footage. I really hate projecting background for the cockpit sequences. The movie needs to have more cameras in the air. That's the best footage. The director is a veteran from early silent era. I don't think this is particularly good propaganda.

Hidden Crimes

limited B-movie
Bank robbers steal $18.4 in bonds and their leader Max Carver hides the loot. One year later in Philadelphia, he's in prison for the crime but the loot has not been recovered. His son Steven is staying with his sister Julia Carver (Tricia Helfer). His crime partners David Lester (Kris Holden-Ried) and Finn want the loot. When a botched threat leaves Max in a coma, David goes for plan B. Max had sent a clue to Julia and Max's war buddy Kurt Warnecke helps her.

I don't like the female prison guard. It seems unlikely to have a female prison guard in a high security male prison. It gets even more unlikely when she delivers a postcard outside of the system. That is illegal and she could get into a lot of trouble. It would be easier for him to call her with clues which are indecipherable except for them. It's all setup for a contrived scavenger hunt. A twist is expected and it's not that surprising. Kurt could have looked up the final clue with a google search. All in all, it's a limited B-movie.

Five Graves to Cairo

great premise but needs more
It's June 1942. Tobruk had fallen and Rommel is pursuing the British back to Cairo. A crippled British tank is slowly rolling across the desert with most of the crew dead. Sole survivor Corporal John Bramble stumbled out of the tank and gets stranded in the middle of nowhere. He happens upon the Empress of Britain, an isolated seaside hotel owned by Farid. The only remaining staff is French maid Mouche. Bramble assumes the identity of the dead waiter Davos. When he is summoned by Field Marshal Rommel, it's revealed that Davos was a German spy and Bramble is forced to play the part. Rommel proudly declares that he has secret supply depots all the way to Cairo.

There is good potential with this premise. I expected more tension with the possibility of being backstabbed by Mouche or Farid. There is some good tension with the Germans. The secret is good although the map is a bit small for precise locations. The bigger issue is the ending. It's not exciting. It has no thrills. Bramble should not expect anything good had happened to Mouche. I would rework that ending.

Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story

Masked men led by Nathaniel Reed (Trace Adkins) rob a stagecoach driven by Calhoun (Kim Coates). Some years later, Nathaniel is three months behind on his mortgage. His wife Laura Lee Reed (Michelle Harrison) is sick. Former running mate Frank Bell arrives with news of another former mate being killed after tortured for information. Despite the warning, Nathaniel refuses to run. Calhoun is now a Marshall and arrives with Bonnie Mudd looking to capture him alive. In the gunfight, Calhoun kills Laura Lee. Nathaniel goes back to robbing with Frank and another mate Sid (Judd Nelson).

My first complaint may seem petty but it is important. I don't like some of the gunshot sounds especially inside the house. They sound soft almost like a cap gun. They need more power. The second annoying thing is the need to make Nathaniel the hero of the story. He insists on not hurting people during the robberies. It's such a weak and obvious move. He's almost a gentleman in the way that he's written. While Trace Adkins has functional acting skills, it is nowhere deep enough to be an emotional performance. All in all, this is not exciting. It is not insightful. It is not that interesting other than getting me to skim through Nathaniel Reed's wiki page.

The Happy Days of Garry Marshall

network doc
It's a network TV doc of the late legendary TV and movie creator. The stars of his shows and films sing his praises. There is a sprinkling of behind the scenes. Mostly, it is the most Garry Marshall documentary of Garry Marshall. It is nice. It's a little fun. It's nostalgic which is very good for pandemic watching. It's empty calories. There is nothing to be learned other than that he's a super nice guy. I think we knew that already.

The Singing Nun

pop bio
Sister Ann (Debbie Reynolds) leaves the Dominican convent near Antwerp for her new assignment at Samaritan House in a poor area of Brussels run by Father Clementi (Ricardo Montalbán). She takes an interest in young Dominic Arlien and his older sister Nicole (Katharine Ross) but they have a troubled home life. The demure nun becomes a singing sensation and an unconventional pop star known as The Singing Nun.

Of course, this has the iconic hit song but it does not have the true story which is so much more complicated. Her later life is even more complicated which is more worthy of a biopic. In fact, her life changes in 1966 and beyond. This is sanitized version of her life up to that point. Even without knowing much about her, one can tell that this has been fictionalized. In a way, it's a fitting movie for her. The image is always bigger than the real person.

The Kentuckian

appealing triangle
It's 1820's. Elias "Big Eli" Wakefield (Burt Lancaster) is headed for Texas with his son "Little Eli". He's leaving Kentucky away from feuding families. He gets arrested and Hannah Bolen takes care of Little Eli. Two Frome men arrive to kill him. Hannah overhears them and breaks Elias out of jail. She's also escaping bondage and joins the two Wakefields. They only escape after Elias surrender his life savings. With his money gone, Elias joins his older brother Zack Wakefield who puts him to work. He makes an enemy in Stan Bodine (Walter Matthau) and makes a friend in school teacher Susie Spann.

This is romantic melodrama at its best and full of sacrifices. It is most notable for Burt Lancaster as not only the leading man but also one of his few directing efforts. I can't say that he shows any particular directing skills but the movie functions well. If it needs anything, it needs to show more of Elias' mountainman skills. That would pay off as he struggles between civilization and the frontier world. This love triangle is the most endearing. There are no rotten corners in this triangle. In the end, it is a struggle within Elias. I also have to say that I have never seen a man run across water like that gun fight. All in all, this is a great little romantic thriller.

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