Category Archives: Romantic Comedy Movies

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008) Movie Review

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (2008)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Henry Winkler, Brooke Burns, Warren Christie, Connor Christopher Levins, Woody Jeffreys
Director: Michael Scott
Release Date: 13 December 2008
Language: English
Length: 88 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: image_thumb83_thumb1_thumb

Synopsis:

Retired policeman, Ralph (Henry Winkler), is on his way to his niece’s house for Christmas when he makes friends with a stranger, Morgan (Warren Christie), at the airport.  Morgan has no place to go for Christmas and is ready to sleep on the airport floor while he waits for a flight to Colorado and his new job, but Ralph has other ideas.  He persuades his niece, Jennifer (Brooke Burns), to let Morgan stay with them for a few days.  Jennifer isn’t happy about it, but she desperately needs help cooking her first Christmas turkey and Morgan is a chef so she lets Ralph talk her into it.  Morgan isn’t in Jennifer’s home for long before he realizes that she doesn’t seem to have much of a Christmas spirit.  Morgan, Ralph and Brian (Connor Christopher Levins), Jennifer’s son, band together to make this Christmas one that Jennifer will never forget.

Review:

I always enjoy watching the Hallmark Christmas movies during the holidays, but Henry Winklermost of them are just average.  The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is one of the better ones.  I tuned in to watch it because Henry Winkler is the movie.  It was so fun to see him in a movie again!  Henry Winkler  plays Uncle Ralph and is a real character.  He is a retired policeman, so he is tough, but he definitely has a soft, squishy center.  Honestly, Ralph’s character seemed to be a grown-up Fonz from Happy Days, which is probably why I liked him so much!  I also appreciated that Henry Winkler was not afraid to act silly and have fun with his role.  No sense in resting on your dignity at an old age, I say!

The main plot deals with the romance developing between Morgan (Warren Christie) and Jennifer (Brooke Burns), who are polar opposites.  Morgan is a free spirit who has worked all over the world and has no permanent address.  He loves the Christmas season and quizzes Jennifer down on why she doesn’t enjoy Jennifer and Morganthe holiday as much.  Jennifer is a hardworking single mom who doesn’t have time for Christmas.  She sees no point in opening Christmas cards when the person’s name is on the outside of the envelope, has been sending Christmas cards to people she can’t remember for years and has the only undecorated house on the block.  Jennifer is seriously involved with a jeweler, Richard (Woody Jeffreys), but, of course, we all know that Jennifer and Morgan will end up together somehow.  Before the movie starts, you know how it will begin and it doesn’t take long before you know how it will end, but that doesn’t mean you know what happens in between.  It was a lot of fun to see these two characters interact and argue.  Jennifer creatively manages to locate the hot Hanging the LightsChristmas toy for the season for her son, Brian, but it is Morgan’s quick-thinking that enables them to actually get the toy in time for Christmas.  My particular favorite was the Christmas decorating.  Jennifer’s next-door neighbor is extremely upset that Jennifer’s house is the only one that is not decorated on the block.  Morgan gets drafted to hang the lights and very carefully inserts a single red bulb into the strand of white lights to drive the woman crazy – love it!

Morgan makes several good points about the holidays in this movie and it reminded me of how much I love the Christmas season.  I look forward to December for weeks and then, when Christmastime is upon me, it is so stressful that I can’t wait for it to be over.  This is such a horrible attitude to have and the Most Wonderful Time of the Yearwriters of this movie totally called me on it!  Watching this movie reminded me of all of the crazy things that I do not enjoy about the holiday like the pressure to decorate because your neighbors are, the huge feast that we force ourselves to make for guests we don’t even like, the eternal debate between real and fake Christmas trees, sending countless Christmas cards to people who don’t remember you and don’t care, and spending countless hours shopping for the perfect gift.  What I loved about the movie was Morgan and Ralph’s handling of the stress and pressure of the holidays.  Yes you can look at it as a huge list of things to do, but there are so many wonderful things that happen around Christmastime that it is totally worth it and this movie reminded me of that.  There are ways to have fun while performing all of these chores and Brian’s character, played by an adorable Connor Christopher Levins, helped me remember why it is all worth it.

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year is one of the better made-for-TV movies made in recent years and I am confident that your family will enjoy watching it Most Wonderful Time of the Year 2together.  There are plenty of little laughs and funny sequences for the younger children to get a giggle in, a handsome hero and beautiful girl who fall in love for the teens and a little bit of everything for the adults.  The DVD is very inexpensive for this movie, but I recommend catching it on TV around Christmastime so that it is something special to look forward to.  If you need a bit of a boost to feel the Christmas spirit and are looking for something new and different, this movie will be sure to fit the bill.

Content:

This movie contains a scene with partial nudity, but the actress is completely wrapped up in a towel so nothing is really shown.  There are some verbal arguments and disagreements, but nothing violent.  There is some drinking of alcohol and very mild swearing.  Recommended for viewers ages 5 and up.

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Rare Birds (2001) Movie Review

Rare Birds (2001)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: William Hurt, Andy Jones, Molly Parker, Vicky Hynes, Greg Malone
Director: Sturla Gunnarsson
Release Date: 9 September 2001
Language: English
Length: 99 minutes
Movie Rating: R
View Format: Online Streaming
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

Dave (William Hurt) is down-and-out in Newfoundland.  His restaurant, The Auk, sits empty so he spends his time drinking and missing his wife, who is working in Washington DC.  Dave’s only real human contact lies with his neighbor, Phonce (Andy Jones), a rather unusual local who recently found ten kilos of cocaine and he wants Dave’s help to sell it.  To keep Dave around, Phonce hatches a sure-fire plan to pack The Auk.  They will phone in a rare bird sighting that will have the birders coming into town from all over!  The plan appears to be working when Dave has customers in his empty restaurant and asks Phonce’s sister-in-law, Alice (Molly Parker) to help out.  Now Dave is snorting cocaine and thinking about having an affair with Alice while Phonce is testing his miniature submarine and keeping an eye on the strange men showing up in town.  So when their story starts coming under suspicion, will they have a Plan B available to get them out of this mess?

Review:

I saw this movie online and needed a good laugh so I thought I would give it a Rare Birds - Top Three with Submarinechance.  Rare Birds was not as funny as I was hoping for, however, as it is more of a black comedy, but there are a few laugh-out-loud moments in the movie.  One of them is when Dave (William Hurt) tries to phone in his rare bird sighting and makes a total hash of it.  He doesn’t give good details to the local radio show about birds and destroys the phone booth when he tries to make a quick and unnoticed getaway.  Luckily, his friend Phonce (Andy Jones) has a Plan B and a Plan C available.  Surprisingly enough, some of the plans actually worked!

Phonce was the real heart of the movie.  Andy Jones is hilarious in this role!  He is so matter-of-fact about things, but has a really unusual worldview.  Suspicious, quirky and unpredictable, Phonce kept me guessing up until the Dave Cookingvery end.  Dave (William Hurt) plays the straight guy here and sets up the scenes for some good laughs, but isn’t a funny character himself.  In fact, his life is pretty sad and depressed.  A failing business, a failed marriage and an inability to let go and start over leaves Dave in a very bad place.  I am not at all sure what Alice (Molly Parker), saw in him.  Alice is young, beautiful and making decisions about her future.  The only thing that I thought was attractive about Dave was his cooking skills!  Granted, it would be absolutely wonderful to have my own personal chef, but Dave lives in a pretty desolate spot and I was not convinced there was any future for the two of them until a rather unexpected ending.

The thing that kept this movie from being better than average was the bizarre Dave with Duck Decoyending.  Everything comes to a head as Dave and Phonce are testing the submarine’s depth limits while drunk and then a group of strangers show up.  There is a bunch of talking and some weird suggestions and then that storyline is just done.  I admit that I wasn’t paying close attention at the time, but I didn’t think the ending made very much sense.  Also, that whole ‘riding-off-into-the-sunset’ happily-ever-after ending didn’t do very much for me.

The movie is well-acted and had an interesting premise, but it kind of fizzled out for me in the middle and completely lost me in the end.  I wish they had stuck Rare Birds DVD Coverwith the rare bird plotline rather than bring in all of these other random subplots as I think it would have strengthened the movie.  I found that all of the storylines didn’t seem to merge very well together and things got quite muddled at the end.  Still, there is some lovely local scenery and plenty of local color in Rare Birds.  If you enjoy understated black comedies, this might be one that you will enjoy checking out.

Content:

This movie contains drug use, lots of alcohol drinking, smoking, extramarital affairs (nothing too graphic) and strong language.  It is the drug abuse and ten kilos of cocaine that pushed this movie into the R rating as it is actually pretty clean.  Recommended for ages 18 and up.

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Gnomeo and Juliet (2011) Movie Review

Gnomeo & Juliet

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith, Michael Caine, Jason Statham
Director: Kelly Asbury
Release Date: 11 February 2011
Language: English
Length: 84 minutes
Movie Rating: PG
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb86_thumb1_thumb[4]

Synopsis:

“This animated family comedy transports Shakespeare’s classic tale of forbidden romance between two star-crossed lovers from warring families to the unlikely and irreverent world of garden gnomes.” — Netflix.com

Review:

I resisted seeing this movie as I do not enjoy the story of Romeo and Juliet.  Call me a hopeless romantic, but I cannot bear to watch a story over and over where I know the lovers have no chance at happiness.  I Gnomeo & Juliet Meetwas not at all sure if the Disney writers would dare to change the story so that the two young lovers have a happy ending or if they would stay true to the original.  I ended up watching it with my nieces and nephews and completely falling in love with the movie!  I am thrilled to report that the ending, while schmaltzy and over the top, is a happily-ever-after.  Gnomeo and Juliet’s love unites their families and ends the feud between them, which was a wonderful finale.  I hope that this doesn’t ruin the movie for you!  If there is any consolation, there are a lot of moments where you think their love is doomed and you completely give up on Gnomeo and Juliet’s happiness, which made the ending that much more gratifying!

Gnomeo & Juliet completely reimagines Shakespeare’s original story and replaces everyone with gnomes and other lawn decorations.  I loved seeing the different gnomes and their outfits, decorations and props.  Juliet’s pedestal is a completely over-the-top water feature Gang of Gnomescomplete with “Tiki-tiki-tiki Room” music.  A red gnome is wearing a super revealing bathing suit with a thong back.  A Dolly Parton cowgirl gnome starts off the lawn mower races.  A fisherman delights in catching the ceramic fish attached to the end of his line over and over again.  The gnomes are complemented by other lawn ornaments such as fawns, mushrooms, and bunnies.  They are able to interact with toys inside the houses, as well, but they are outdoor features so they don’t have much opportunities.  One of my favorite characters was a heartbroken flamingo who was separated from the love his life and was living Gnomeo & Juliet with Flamingo Friendalone.  He is completely out of touch with what is going on around him, but is so loveable that you cannot help but smile when he comes on screen.  I also loved watching the gnomes “freeze” when people are around.  My favorite moments was when a jogger turns the corner and sees an alleyway literally packed with gnomes and it stops her in her tracks.  Kind of creepy when you think about it – but so funny to watch!

Disney spared no expense on the vocal talents in this film.  All of the main characters are voiced by Hollywood A-listers and this elevates the movie up above many other animated feature films.  A talented Elton John as a Gnomeanimator can make you believe that the character he has created is real, but when you combine top-notch animation (and lets face it Disney is still the best out there!) with a talented actor or actress performing the vocals, you create something special and memorable.  In addition to great vocals, there is some perfectly placed music in the movie. All of the music is performed courtesy of Elton John and I thought the songs were well-chosen and enhanced the storyline.  I absolutely fell in love with “Hello, Hello” and thought it was the perfect accompaniment to the first meeting between Gnomeo and Juliet.

While it may seem silly to see garden gnomes fighting over their lawns and prolonging a feud that has been around for so long that no one ever remembers what is about anymore, it somehow is not.  Children Gnomeo & Juliet Spy Modewatching this movie may laugh at the gnomes cutting down a beloved tree or painting a fountain in the other garden, but the rivalry comes through loud and clear and it is very easy to picture this happening between real-life families and friends.  Though Gnomeo & Juliet can be viewed as pure fluffy entertainment, there are still some solid lessons to be learned from the movie.  Gnomeo & Juliet has a little something for everyone and viewers of all ages will enjoy watching it together.  This movie is sure to please those looking for family friendly entertainment for a variety of viewers.

Content:

This movie contains some cartoon violence.  There are some fights between the gnomes.  Some of the gnomes end up “dead” (smashed or cracked so they cannot be fixed).  The gnomes have some verbal arguments and fight with others based on the color of their hats.  Recommended for viewers ages 3 and up.

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Filed under Animated Movies, Children & Family Movies, Disney, Fantasy Movies, Romantic Comedy Movies

Under the Biltmore Clock (1984) Movie Review

Under the Biltmore Clock

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Series: American Playhouse Season 4, Episode 14
Starring: Sean Young, Lenny von Dohlen, Barnard Hughes, Mark Hulsey, Megan Mullally
Director: Neal Miller
Release Date: 1984
Language: English
Length: 79 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: DVD
My Rating: image_thumb82_thumb1_thumb1

Synopsis:

“Deciding she needs a husband, 21-year-old Myra Harper (Sean Young) sets her sights on the reserved yet rich Knowleton Whitney (Lenny von Dohlen). All goes according to plan, and the two fall in love under the Biltmore Hotel clock. But meeting his wacky parents turns out to be much harder for Myra than simply landing her man. This lighthearted romance is adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story “Myra Meets His Family.”” — Netflix.com

Review:

I both loved and hated this movie.  To begin with, Under the Biltmore Clock was nothing like I expected it to be.  I thought I was going to be Myra's First Partywatching a romantic comedy set in the 1920s, but Under the Biltmore Clock is nothing like your traditional romantic comedy.  This movie is based on a short story by “Myra Meets His Family” by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I should have taken this into consideration when I rented this movie as I know better than to expect happy endings from Fitzgerald.  Alas, I overlooked this piece of information and was anticipating a happily-ever-after despite all clues leading to the contrary.  Even though this movie does not have a happy ending, I did appreciate the wit and irony that Fitzgerald employed to make sure that both main characters – Myra (Sean Young) and Knowleton (Lenny von Dohlen) got what they deserved in the end.

This movie begins in 1915 with a fresh young beauty, Myra, showing up on the scene and stealing all the boys’ hearts away.  She goes through men quickly and the years pass almost before she knows it.  Myra is a good-time girl and it is hinted at, but never admitted, that she might no longer be waiting until marriage to have sex.  The film tries to make Myra Meets Knowleton's FamilyMyra likeable, but it is pretty clear that she is a gold digger and simply waiting for the best offer she can get while having a good time.  It doesn’t take her long for Myra to get her hooks into Knowleton Whitney, a shy young man from a wealthy family.  Myra dazzles Knowleton with her charm and, before Knowleton knows what happens, they are engaged.  Now the fun begins.  How does Knowleton go against mummy & daddy’s wishes and marry the woman he loves?  Knowleton is a complex character ably portrayed by Lenny von Dohlen.  He is madly in love with Myra when he is with her, but has doubts when they apart.  I was delighted to see that Knowleton had hidden depths and thought his scheme was actually quite clever, but, unfortunately, Knowleton didn’t quite have the guts to pull it off.

Observant viewers will be delighted to see a young Megan Mullally appear in this movie as Myra’s close friend, Lilah.  She has adopted a Myra and Knowletonposh, upper-class accent and has some scrumptious hats and outfits to show off on-screen.  The lead characters had some lovely period costumes, but the production had to cut some corners with the costumes on supporting characters.  During the dance scene, there are some rather sad, prom-dress rejects parading across the floor.  However, the sets are well done, particularly in the Whitney mansion.  I also loved the music.  It was delightful to hear period music incorporated into the movie.  I particularly enjoyed Mrya’s spirited performance at the family talent show, which showcased flapper style at its finest.

If you are looking for something a bit different, something sneakily clever and do not require a happy ending, you will enjoy Under the Biltmore Clock.  There are twists and turns throughout the movie that will definitely keep you guessing.  While this movie is solid and entertaining, there is some bit of heart that is missing, which caused me to rate it a bit lower than I probably should have.  I liked Knowleton far more than Myra, but I didn’t love either one of them and they never felt right together for me.  Do not be fooled into thinking this is a romantic comedy, but rather a comedy with a romantic subplot that doesn’t go as planned.

Content:

This movie contains scenes of drinking and smoking. There are some gay characters who are crossdressers.  There is a definite divide between the upper and lower class.  Due to the time period, there is a clear division between women’s and men’s roles.  Women are still working to get the vote and most women aspire to simply marry well.  Though some mature topics, such as premarital sex, are hinted at, there is nothing inappropriate in this movie for younger viewers.  Recommended for ages 10 and up.

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The Baroness and the Butler (1938) Movie Review

The Baroness and the Butler (1938)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: William Powell, Annabella, Helen Westley, Henry Stephenson, Joseph Schildkraut
Director: Walter Lang
Release Date: 18 February 1938
Language: English
Length: 80 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis:

Johann Porok (William Powell) is the proud butler for the Count (Henry Stephenson) and Countess Sandor (Helen Westley) in Hungary, where the Count was Prime Minister.  The family is shocked when Johann is elected to Parliament, as a member of the opposing party.  The Count does not mind that Johann ridicules him and questions his political leanings, but it infuriates his daughter, Katrina (Annabella).  Katrina is convinced that Johann is using his position in her father’s household to pry out government secrets and that he is humiliating a wonderful man.  Can Johann hold onto a job and the people he loves or will he be forced to chose between what them and what he believes to be true?

Review:

This is a charming little movie.  Of course, it is completely predictable and has a completely unbelievable Hollywood ending, but I still enjoyed watching it.  The setting is turn-of-the-century Hungary.  The aristocracy still hold most of the power in government, but the lower classes are determined to get some rights and enough food to eat.  Men were gentlemen, Baroness and the Butler Movie Stilldressed in suits and exceptionally polite, even when they disagreed.  Conversation was witty, full of sly, subtle barbs and cheeky little one liners.  The women were ladies, garbed in gorgeous, impractical confections and deferring to the men.  There was a strict social order that must be obeyed and a wide rift between those who had and those who had not.  Servants in a wealthy household knew the social ranking of the different titles and enforced a strict hierarchy among their own positions.  The butler ruled the household and was responsible for every detail of the house and grounds.  Meetings with the entire staff were essential to a smooth, controlled household and Johann Porok’s character is no exception.

William Powell portrayed his character as the perfect butler and really excelled in this William Powellposition.  I did not find him quite as believable in his role as a an intelligent, educated man elected to head of his political party.  Johann Porok could have been an interesting, layered character, but he really is not.  I really enjoyed the first part of the film where Porok is trying to balance his role as butler, keeping the Count well groomed and taken care of, more than the last part where Porok is trying to put his past as a servant behind him and become a man in his own right.  I do not believe that a man who has been brought up to be the perfect servant and performed that task for over a decade could so easily shed his background and be ready to enter society as an equal to those whom he used to serve.  However, I did love that William Powell imbued his character with an innate nobility and managed to convey the impression that no job is too lowly to perform to the best of one’s ability.  Annabella plays his romantic counterpart as the Baroness Katrina Marissey.  I did not particularly care for her character.  She was a rather shallow, Annabellaspoiled little rich girl.  She did manage some sparks with William Powell, but I found her to be unconvincing in some critical scenes, including the one where she falls in love with Porok.  Still, she was adequate, but a bit uninspiring.  Her real-life Hollywood story was much more romantic and interesting than she was in this movie.  But her performance did not bother me as much as the fact that she was married while this romance developed.  I mean, I never once believed that these two would get together (though the screenwriters managed to write in some Hollywood miracles into the script to make it so), but I still found it very distasteful that marriages vows were treated so lightly in the movie.  Her husband, Baron Georg Marissey, is played rather predictably and rather forgettably by Joseph Schildkraut.

The reason why I gave the movie a higher than average rating was because of the performance of two old pros who starred in this movie as the Count and Countess.  Henry Henry StephensonStephenson played Count Albert Sandor and he was just so charming in this role.  An old aristocrat, he is used to things being just so and has no hesitation about demanding rather unusual things.  What I loved is that he gave the Count a great deal of wit and humor in his portrayal.  There is a scene where Porok is assisting the Count while hunting and tries to convince the Count that there is a mysterious echo that comes and goes.  The Count later remarks that he is much more successful when he hunts with Porok than without.  There are several little charming scenes between the two of them that will bring a smileHelen Westley to your face as you watch.  However, the real star of this movies is Helen Westley, who plays Countess Sandor.  She was absolutely hilarious!  The Countess is a rather featherbrained woman who has no interest in politics other than what she needs to know to show support for her husband.  Because of this, she misunderstands quite a bit of what is going on around her and has some of the most hilarious reactions and non sequiturs in the entire film!  It is worth watching this movie just to see the few scenes she sparkles so magnificently in!

All in all, this is a old black-and-white movie that will be remembered and beloved by a rather small audience.  I stumbled across it on TCM one night and found myself rather charmed by it.  Again, the storyline is completely absurd, but there are some scenes that are rather enchanting.  I wish that the movie had a different ending, as it was so fantastical that it was completely unbelievable, but it is one of those happily-ever-after endings that we don’t see too many of these days.  I believe that this movie is worth catching if you find it on TV, but this movie is not yet out on DVD and I am not sure that it ever will be.

Content:

This movie contains a few scenes of drinking and smoking.  There are a lot of political discussions and references to class inequality.  Recommended for ages 8 and up.

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A Damsel in Distress (1937) Movie Review

A Damsel in Distress (1937)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Fred Astaire, George Burns, Gracie Allen, Joan Fontaine, Reginald Gardiner
Director: George Stevens
Release Date: 19 November 1937
Language: English
Length: 98 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis:

Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Joan Fontaine) must wed soon, but she is not in love with any of her suitors.  Determined to marry for love, Lady Alyce tries to sneak off to London to meet the American she met some time ago on a ski trip.  Unfortunately, her latest attempt to meet the man leads her to encounter Jerry Halliday (Fred Astaire), a famous performer who has broken hearts the world over.  Keggs (Reginald Gardiner), the family butler, mistakenly identifies Jerry as Alyce’s boyfriend and hijinks ensue as some try to keep Jerry and Alyce apart, while others try and help them find time together.  But in the end, the fact remains that Jerry is not the American that Alyce fell in love with – or is he…?

Review:

This was a fun musical to watch, but the strength of the film lies in its pieces rather than in the sum total of its parts.  The music was composed by George Gershwin, with lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and the film was called a musical, but there was not very much singing in it.  There were some lovely instrumental pieces and a few clever lines of song, but most of the singing was done by choirs or arranged groups of people in the castle.  This was an unexpected disappointment as I am accustomed to musicals featuring song and dance routines throughout the film with the songs adding to the story.  Instead, this film relies on some performers at the castle to perform music for guests with Fred Astaire joining in at some points to great comedic effect.  While these songs were clever and fun, they just did not fit into the storyline and did nothing to further the plot.  I was delighted with the dance routines, however, and thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Fred Astaire, George Burns and Gracie Allen.  These three had some terrific routines that elevated the movie into something memorable and worth watching.  In particular, I had a wonderful time watching these three dance their way through a local circus.  It was cleverly staged and used some terrific sets such as spinning tunnels, slides, rotating circles, electronic sidewalks and fun-house mirrors.  Fred Astaire made the other two look like they were merely average dancers, but George Burns and Gracie Allen held their own and brought a lot of personality and style to the routines.  I feel that this movie was worth watching for the fun-loving dance routines alone, but there were so few of them!  I was left wanting a great deal more song and dance in the movie as a whole, but there were some brilliant moments that made me glad that I took the time to watch the film.

The plot is nothing special in this movie, but the actors and actresses did the best with what they had.  I never really bought the romance between Jerry Halliday (Fred Astaire) and Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Joan Fontaine).  I feel that the movie would have been much stronger if there was a love triangle between these two leads and the completely absent Mr. X that Lady Alyce supposedly fell in love with.  Having Lady Alyce change her mind and heart so often throughout the film made it difficult, if not impossible, to take her seriously when she proclaimed her love for someone else.  This main plot was a real disappointment, but the subplot of the servants in the castle was very entertaining and worth seeing.  All of the servants put money into a pot and then drew names out of a hat with the suitors’ names on them. Whomever drew the name of the winning suitor wins the pot.  Keggs (Reginald Gardiner), the straitlaced butler, maneuvers so that he draws the name of the current frontrunner, Reggie (Ray Noble), a rather dimwitted, but loveable young man.  He is outwitted at almost every turn by a young servant, Albert (Harry Watson), who knows that Lady Alyce writes to an American and insists on being given the name Mr. X as he is betting on Lady Alyce throwing Reggie over for her American.  Seeing an older, more established man battling a clever young boy was an unexpected delight and I enjoyed this plotline much more than any of the others.

I feel that the superb acting elevated this rather humdrum musical into something that was fun and flirty.  Gracie (Gracie Allen) was my favorite character by far!  She plays George’s (George Burns) featherbrained secretary and she was so funny!  When George threatens to replace her at the beginning of the film and hire another girl, her response is “are you sure we have enough work for two girls?”  I don’t think that she had a thought in her head, but I knew that I would smile when I saw her on screen.  She was a lovely dancer and interfaced effortlessly with everyone on screen.  Gracie Allen stole the show, in my opinion, and I will need to make an effort to look up some of the other movies that she is in.  Fred Astaire plays his typical role as a jaded playboy who is looking for a woman who truly loves him with his usual panache, but lacking some of the biting wit and weakness in character that would have made him memorable and interesting.  Still, Fred Astaire is incomparable when it comes to dancing and it was wonderful to see him dancing side by side with George Burns and Gracie Allen so his talent could be fully appreciated.  Too often his skills are hidden by floating skirts and beautiful partners, but this time you can see him side-by-side-by-side so that it is immediately apparent how fabulous he was.  Reginald Gardiner was quite entertaining as Keggs, who appears to be a prim-and-proper butler on the surface, but has a weakness for operatic arias and will do anything that it takes to win the money in the pot, no matter how low the blow.  Montagu Love, who played Lady Alyce’s father Lord John Marshmorton, was a refreshing change from a typical, domineering father.  He loves his garden more than society and there are a few entertaining scenes where he mistaken for a lowly gardener while tending his beloved roses.  I loved that he wanted his daughter to make a true love match, however, and really liked him.  I found Joan Fontaine to be largely forgettable as Lady Alyce Marshmorton.  She has a few romantic scenes with Fred Astaire, but nothing of particular note.  Indeed, the best part of her roles is the continual references to the Lawrence Leap, which is a perilous jump off of a balcony to preserve a lady’s honor.  Other than that, she is a beautiful prop to move the story along and never finds a way to hold her own with the brash, outspoken American crew.

I stumbled across this movie on TCM late one night and had a fun time watching it, but I understand why it is not available on DVD.  I would not imagine that it is anyone’s favorite musical and all of the leads have been in other, more memorable films that made a great deal more money.  Still, this is a fun black-and-white musical from the 1930s, when films like this were very popular so they churned them out by the truckload.  I felt like this musical was so close to becoming something truly memorable, but it just did not quite execute on its promise.  A stronger storyline and perhaps a different ending would do a great deal to elevate this film.  Still, there are some moments that truly sparkle and made me happy that I took the time to watch it.  If you enjoy older musicals, especially those featuring Fred Astaire, you will want to keep an eye out for this one on TV.

Content:

This movie contains some scenes of drinking and smoking.  There are a few passionate embraces and chaste kisses.  Recommended for ages 6 and up.

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Knight and Day (2010) Movie Review

Knight and Day (2010)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano, Jordi Mollà
Director: James Mangold
Release Date: 23 June 2010
Language: English
Length: 110 minutes
Movie Rating: PG-13
View Format: Movie Theatre
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Synopsis:

“Perpetually unlucky in love, June (Cameron Diaz) becomes intrigued by a mysterious man (Tom Cruise), who unexpectedly drags her into a whirlwind adventure involving devious enemies, life-threatening confrontations and a major discovery that may alter the future of humankind. Directed by James Mangold, this exhilarating action-comedy also features Peter Sarsgaard, Paul Dano, Maggie Grace and Viola Davis.” — Netflix.com

Review:

Wow.  And I mean wow.  What a great summer blockbuster movie!  This is just what the doctor ordered for an entertaining action thriller.  I enjoyed watching the previews and thought that this movie might be a fun one to watch, but I was not expecting to have such a great time!  I was feeling a little low and needed something to pick up my mood and this was the perfect movie for that.  It started off a little bit slow and I was concerned that it was not going to be such a great show, but I needn’t have worried as the pace picked up about 15 minutes into the movie and then just kept me going the whole time!  The action sequences are well done and pretty classically styled in this movie.  You have a lot of gunfights, car chases and, of course, a killer motorcycle chase.  I mean, come on, when is the last time you saw a Tom Cruise action thriller without a motorcycle chase?  I thought that the action, while relatively unimaginative, was well done and suited the film’s characters.  There are a couple of interesting screen shots, but the cinematography is pretty average, in my opinion.  Still, the director made the car chases and the action on the road memorable and a real thrill to watch!  Make sure to watch your speed on your way home from the theatre or you will find yourself going just a bit too fast, like I was.

The best part of the movie, for me, was the comedy.  I was not expecting to laugh as much as I did during this movie!  There are some great one liners and a lot of funny sequences.  I was really surprised by the chemistry between Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise as I saw them as a pretty odd pairing, but they really made the romance and the witty banter work between them.  I think that the main complaint that most people will have with this movie is that Tom Cruise’s character is indistinguishable from his other spy characters.  I am reminded of a quote by someone saying that John Wayne played one character his whole career: John Wayne.  There is quite a bit of truth to that with Tom Cruise’s action career, as well, but stick with what you do well and you will succeed.  He was the character that I know and love and expected so I was happy with it.  He is a little bit older and his body is a little bit older, but he is still looking pretty good in this movie!  Cameron Diaz was adorable as a regular tomboy who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  She finds a way to be cute, bubbly, slightly awkward, but with great instincts and some inherent spy talents.  I loved her in this movie and now have to reevaluate my opinion of her as an actress.  There are also a few standout supporting actors in this movie, including Celia Weston and Jack O’Connell, who play Tom Cruise’s parents.  They are not in the movie for very much of it, but they are hilarious and I loved the way they chose to close out the movie with them!

If you are looking for a great action movie that has plenty of laughs, some good stunt sequences, a delightful romance and just everything you are looking for in a perfect summer movie, look no further than this one!  There is a good chance that you will miss this movie in the theatres as it is sandwiched in between Toy Story 3 and Twilight: Eclipse so take the time to look it up when it comes out on DVD.  This is not only a great action thriller, but it is a funny comedy, a cute romance, and a terrific spy drama.  There really aren’t any surprises here, but the formula is tried and true and they manage to make a memorable, fun movie out of all the pieces.  Don’t miss it!

Content:

This movie involves a lot of violence including gunfights, car chases, motorcycle chases, the running of the bulls, hand-to-hand combat (kicking, punching, karate, boxing, etc.), stabbing, explosions, and being tied up and “questioned” (off screen).  There are also scenes of mild sensuality, some strong language (including the “f” word), drugging people to knock them out, and plenty of double-crossing spy action.  Recommended for ages 13 and up.

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Filed under Action Movies, Adventure Movies, Comedy Movies, Romance Movies, Romantic Comedy Movies, Thriller Movies

Second Chorus (1941) Review

Second Chorus (1941)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

Starring: Fred Astaire, Paulette Goddard, Artie Shaw, Burgess Meredith, Charles Butterworth
Director: H.C. Potter
Release Date: 3 January 1941
Language: English
Length: 84 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis:

Fred Astaire is a dancin’ fool for love in this Oscar-nominated musical comedy about trumpet-playing pals who compete for the affections of a beautiful woman. Musician buddies Danny (Fred Astaire) and Hank (Burgess Meredith) follow their friend Ellen (Paulette Goddard) to New York City when she’s hired as Artie Shaw‘s band manager. A string of comical mishaps ensues as Danny and Hank try to land spots in the band – and to win Ellen’s heart.” — Netflix.com

Review:

This is an old, black-and-white romantic comedy that I both liked and disliked.  Danny (Fred Astaire) & Hank (Burgess Meredith) are roommates and best friends who meet in college and formed a band called the Perennials.  They have no intention on graduating from college and having to actually work for a living, but they both graduate by mistake.  They are both competing to get into Artie Shaw’s band and to win the affections of the beautiful Ellen (Burgess Meredith), a former collection agency secretary.  They managed to get Ellen fired from her previous job and hired her to be their manager, but she ends up going to work for Artie Shaw (who plays himself in the movie) as she is really talented at what she does.  The friends will do absolutely anything – lie, cheat, steal, whatever it takes – to beat out the other guy and to win Ellen’s heart.  I can see that they were going for comedy here by the pranks that Danny & Hank play on each other, but some of them were not that funny to me.  Also, I guess I always realize that I am living in a completely different era as these cocksure, smooth-talking, lying pranksters/playboys are just not my cup of tea.  I couldn’t find myself on the side of Hank or Danny and found that I wouldn’t really have picked either of them or been able to stay friends with them after all of the anguish they caused me if I were Ellen!  Still, there were some funny moments and a few great dance sequences put on by Fred Astaire that were definitely worth watching.  I also loved Lester (Charles Butterworth), the wealthy, older gentleman who decides to back an Artie Shaw concert.  He was adorable and so funny in his role as a rather clueless bachelor who would believe anyone when it came to social matters and music.

The music in this movie is wonderful.  The real Artie Shaw Band is in the movie and, if you enjoy big band music, this is a movie not to be missed!  While Danny & Hank were able to break into the music world pretty easily (they had several miraculous connections and a few lucky breaks), I know that this was not the case for most musicians then or now.  They do show a few of the less-than-desirable jobs musicians take (singing & dancing in a folk ensemble or blowing the bugle at the horse races), but, as a whole, being a musician is shown as something glamorous and a get-rich-quick option.  There really are few songs with words in this movie so it is not your traditional musical, but it definitely focuses on music – almost to the exclusion of anything else!  The two leads are musicians, it is their life ambition to play trumpet in a great band, they girl they are both in love with is a music manager, all of the pranks they play involve music directly or indirectly and, of course, there are musicians playing almost the whole way through.  I felt that the music and the few dance numbers by Astaire definitely overshadowed the plot and the characters.

I thought this movie was a fun walk down the lanes of a bygone era, but it is not my favorite by Astaire and I did not really care for his character or most of the others in this movie.  Still, I had a fun time watching it and really enjoyed listening to the music.  If you have a chance to check out this movie on TV, as I did, I think you should check it out – just don’t expect a lot!

Content:

This movie shows smoking & drinking, a few sexual innuendos (very mild, mainly about people jumping to conclusions), and lots of silly pranks.  Recommended for ages 6 and up.

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Filed under Classic Movies, Comedy Movies, Historical Movies, Musicals, Romantic Comedy Movies

Buck Privates (1941) Movie Review

Buck Privates (1941)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

 

Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Lee Bowman, Alan Curtis, The Andrews Sisters
Director: Arthur Lubin
Release Date: 31 January 1941
Language: English
Length: 84 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Synopsis:

Slicker Smith (Bud Abbott)  & Herbie Brown (Lou Costello) are trying to make a living as a pair of con artists when they run into a policeman (Nat Pendleton) who is determined to take them in.  Rather than go to jail, they enlist in the army and believe that they have left their troubles behind them.  Unfortunately for them, their troubles are just beginning!  The policeman ends up as their drill sergeant and they just don’t seem to be able to fit in to the army.  As they go through basic training, they encounter all kinds of silly situations and get themselves into plenty of trouble!

Review:

This was a silly, fun movie about enlisting in the army.  Rather than focus on how difficult everything is and how stressful it is to be learning so many new things, this movie focuses on making everything appear humorous.  The action centers around 4 guys: 2 salesmen Smith & Brown (Abbott & Costello) who join the army to escape the police, 1 wealthy spoiled brat, Randolph Parker III (Lee Bowman), and 1 ex-chauffeur, Bob Martin (Alan Curtis), who is determined to make his ex-boss pay for the horrible way that he treated them.  To add to the fun, one of the policemen is the drill sergeant (Nat Pendleton) in charge of the unit with the 2 salesmen.  Abbott & Costello are a laugh as the two clueless privates who somehow manage to do just about everything wrong!  From making beds to marching in an organized unit to making bets with other soldiers, they create havoc wherever they go!  They really steal the show as they create some iconic laughs that every military man will remember and appreciate.  Also, their snappy, witty banter is simply not seen in movies these days and is really clever.  Make sure to listen to what they are saying as they have some hilarious scenes in this movie!

This movie made me laugh and I found myself thoroughly entertained.  The Andrews Sisters are part of the women’s unit that are accompanying this particular group of soldiers to boost morale and so there was some terrific singing in this movie.  They hit a lot of the classic, patriotic war songs including “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “You’re A Lucky Fellow, Mr. Smith.”   They sounded terrific and had such a wonderful harmony and way of singing.  There is also a great party sequence that shows some top-notch lindy hop or swing dancers.  There is a love triangle as the wealthy man and his ex-chauffeur chase after the same girl (Jane Frazee), plenty of laughs as Abbott & Costello muddle their way through basic training, fantastic singing throughout the film and a mock battle to train the soldiers so there is a little bit of something for everyone!  If you have the opportunity to see this movie on TV or to rent it, I highly recommend that you do as it is a wonderful black-and-white classic that is funny and entertaining at the same time.

Content:

This movie shows gambling, drinking, smoking, fighting (including a boxing match), some violence and all kinds of silly pranks.  Appropriate for viewers of all ages.

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The Perils of Pauline (1947) Movie Review

The Perils of Pauline (1947)

Movie Review by Debbie Winkler

 

Starring: Betty Hutton, John Lund, Billy De Wolfe, William Demarest, Constance Collier
Director: George Marshall
Release Date: 4 July 1947
Language: English
Length: 96 minutes
Movie Rating: Not Rated
View Format: TV
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Synopsis:

“This tuneful comedy is based loosely on the life of irrepressible silent-movie star Pearl White (played to the hilt by Betty Hutton). The film follows White from her humble beginnings as a frustrated sweatshop worker to her days on the road with a repertory company to her worldwide fame as queen of the serials. William Demarest co-stars as stentorian director George “Mac” McGuire, and John Lund portrays Mike Farrington, White’s love interest.” — Netflix.com

Review:

This is a funny, lighthearted movie about the actress who played Pauline in the old black-and-white silent films.  Betty Hutton plays the role of Pearl White who starts out on the stage and ends up in farcical roles in Hollywood movies.  She jumps into the movie with zest and humor and makes the most of her role.  John Lund plays her love interest, Michael Farrington, a rather snooty actor who believes that the stage is the only appropriate place to act.  He struggles with loving a woman who is more successful than he is and accepting her help in furthering his career.  Timmy Timmons (Billy De Wolfe) was by far my favorite character in the film.  He follows the 2 lead actors around and kind of does whatever they are doing.  When they are both on stage, he is acting live on stage as well and gets forced into whatever roles no one else wants.  When Pearl gets her big break and is cast as Pauline, he is cast as the villain in the movies.  He has this thin little mustache and is hilarious as he tries to explain the difference between gnashing his teeth and chewing to the director, among other memorable moments.  Constance Collier plays Julia Gibbs, Pearl’s’s mentor, as she struggles to make her way as an actress.  She really believes in her and is willing to put up with a lot to stay her friend.  She also delights in bashing people on the head whenever they threaten her dear friend’s safety.

The story is pretty fast paced and has many clever moments, but isn’t anything special.  It is supposedly based on the life of Pearl White, but I do not know how accurate any of the story is.  There are a few musical numbers, which I really enjoyed, but there are not very many of them, which was too bad as I would have enjoyed seeing more of them.  Still, this is an enjoyable little movie if you are looking for something about Hollywood when it is very first beginning.  For younger viewers who have never been introduced to silent films, they will not really understand what is going on, but for older viewers, this will be a lot of fun to watch and laugh at.  Just remember – the audience can’t hear anything you are saying so you have to “talk” with your hands!  Great fun!

Content:

This movie contains some verbal arguments, a few scenes of smoking & drinking and passionate on-stage kisses (all closed mouthed, of course).  Appropriate for viewers of all ages, recommended for ages 8 and up.

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Filed under Based on a Real Story Movies, Biopic Movies, Classic Movies, Comedy Movies, Musicals, Romantic Comedy Movies