How To Fall In Love (2012) – reviewed by George

I like the mystery movies on Hallmark, and occasionally I’ll see an ad for a romantic movie starring someone I like and haven’t seen for a while, and it attracts my attention. And then I set up my DVR to record it.
This movie stars Eric Mabius from “Ugly Betty” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”, and Brooke D’Orsay whose smile is unforgettable from “Royal Pains” and “Two and a Half Men”, and Kathy Najimy from “Hocus Pocus – 1 and 2” and “Veronica’s Closet”.
It begins with Harold ( Rowen Kahn) in high school, shy and insecure, in his freshman year dressed up in a black suit and tie and being driven to the Homecoming Dance by his mother (Barbara Tyson) because he’s too young for a driver’s license. First stop is to pick up his date Annie (Madison Desjariais), who is very outgoing and energetic. Annie has arranged for “the gang” to meet them so they can all go in together. They all end up in the one car, and Harold is out of his element, disappointed big-time that he doesn’t have Annie to himself even a little bit. Though Annie doesn’t seem to mind.
Years later Harold (Eric Mabius), still shy and self-effacing, has his own business as an accountant and tax consultant, and Annie (Brooke D’Orsay) is a waitress in a dining spot owned by Kim (Kathy Najimy), and she lives with her sister Claire (Jody Thompson), and Claire’s husband and their little girl Megan (Olivia Knowles). Harold does have a friend, Willy (Panou). He and Willy play golf, and Harold does Willy’s family taxes. And Harold’s office is decorated with his own black and white nature photographs, and they are really good.
Now: Claire and her husband are clients, Harold does their taxes, they are happy and impressed with the photography and invite Harold to Megan’s 6th birthday party on Saturday. Claire mentions that her sister Annie will be there – didn’t you go to high school with her?
So the setup, which reads long, has actually only taken 3 minutes. Well, because I used the space to name cast members who don’t appear for a while.
At the party Annie tells Harold that she is an event planner and that she planned this party – Megan’s birthday party. She’s very good, but still actually a waitress.
Claire has been telling Annie for some time that she needs to grow up and move out, but Annie can’t find anything in the city (where she actually could be a planner) that she can afford.
So when happily married Willy laughingly tells Harold he needs a dating coach, and Harold repeats that to Annie – Annie happily offers her own services at a reasonable price, and rushes off to start reading up on dating behavior. And she teaches Harold according to 8 Lessons as follows:
Lesson 1: Self-Confidence, Lesson 2: Breaking the Ice, Lesson 3: The Art of Conversation, Lesson 4: Start Sharing, Lesson 5: Make Her Feel Special, Lesson 6: Getting Close, Lesson 7: Compromise, Lesson 8: Follow Your Heart.
So Harold pays attention, and when he meets Julie (Gina Holden), he tries his best to get the lessons right, with regular advice from Annie.
It really works, not just in the movie, but in real life. If you doubt, watch the movie and see the logic of it. And then maybe try it out? But only if you’re currently not involved – what do you think I am! The only thing – while Annie is falling for Harold, and Harold is doing so well and is happy, Annie thinks he’s falling for Julie, and all he cares about is Annie. Well, Julie is really falling for Harold, so there you are; it works.
Result: super movie, and Recommended. And I love Annie’s line: Claire is explaining to Annie why she wants her to leave. “I feel that I’m helping you escape reality.” And Annie counters: “Of course not. I can escape reality on my own!”
Written by Bart Fisher, Directed by Mark Griffiths.

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Pan Am: Episode 7, “Truth or Dare” (2011) – reviewed by George

A super episode with two love stories that unfortunately must end for now.
First, Laura (Margot Robbie) falls for a sailor, Joe (Gaius Charles), but racism rears its ugly head and her landlord bursts in with two other jerks and Joe is beaten up. Plus Joe is soon to be shipped off, and won’t be able to come back to NYC for a long time: a time which is undisclosed.
Second, Laura’s sister Kate (Kelli Garner) falls for the Yugoslavian diplomat she is supposed to be turning, Nico Lanza (Goran Visnjic). Nico is a Communist official who thinks Tito is a real danger to his country. But despite his interest in Kate, her handler Richard (Jeremy Davidson) thinks she isn’t working fast enough, and sends a group of four men to her apartment to beat Nico up. How this is supposed to convince him to work with us is undisclosed.
Colette (Karine Vanasse) gets a thrill when pilot Dean (Mike Vogel) lets her fly the plane while the other two male crew members are out of the cockpit. Her smile speaks volumes.
And Maggie (Christina Ricci) is the one with little to do.
The two love stories are very effective, very well-directed and acted, and are very sad. Oddly the men playing the love interests are both well-known for hospital dramas: Goran for ER, and Gauis for Grey’s Anatomy.
And a crystal hummingbird figures in the plot.
Written by Mike Daniels & Jack Orman, Directed by Julie Anne Robinson.

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The Marx Brothers in “The Cocoanuts” (1929) – reviewed by George

Sand, sea, palm trees, and scads of beautiful girls – pretty good way to start a movie. All the people (there are men too) are staying at the Hotel de Cocoanut in Florida. The manager is Mr. Hammer (Groucho), the desk clerk is Jamison (Zeppo), and there are two weirdos, Harpo and Chico (Harpo and Chico), who arrive and do schtick in the lobby, involving great gobs of mischief.
Further, the staff is revolting (oh, they’re attractive enough, but they’re refusing to work until they get paid – no salaries for the last two weeks). And as they storm around the front desk, Hammer reads aloud a telegram he has received, and after the good news has been absorbed he completely makes it senseless with this announcement: “You’re all invited to the wedding of Aunt Fanny’s Eight-pound boy!” And the bellhops do a production number on the stairs.
A few normal people are involved, but there are also shysters. The good: Polly Potter (Mary Eaton) loves Bob (Oscar Shaw), but her mother, who is good but status-obsessed, Mrs. Potter (Margaret Dumont) wants Polly to wed the higher class Harvey Yates (Cyril Ring), who is a jewel thief after Mrs. Potter’s diamond necklace. He is aided by accomplice Penelope (Kay Francis).
The plan is for Harvey to take the Potter women to dinner, steal the key to the jewel box, give it to Penelope, and she will steal the necklace. But the plan goes awry thanks to the intrusiveness of Harpo and Chico.
There’s also a scene where Groucho tries to train Chico to help him out at a land auction by outbidding everyone to drive the prices up. He tries to make clear to Chico where the land that’s for sale is on a map, and he points out a viaduct. Chico persists in asking “Why a duck?”
So overall it’s a pretty funny movie, but there are too many sequences that don’t have a payoff. It’s roughly an hour and a half, and at the halfway point, I wasn’t sure I could make it, but resolved to try. The big engagement party at the end (I don’t do spoilers, so don’t ask who is getting married) was pretty funny, but also rather silly. So see it or don’t. No instructions from me.
Music and Lyrics by Irving Berlin, Book by George S. Kaufman, Adaptation for the Screen by Morrie Ryskind, Directed by Joseph Santley and Robert Florey (2 directors?!?).

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“Alias Nick and Nora” – Two Documentaries reviewed by George

  1. William Powell: A True Gentleman (2005)
    A summary of Powell’s career, plus a little info on loves and marriages, begins by noting his birth in 1892. He attended the American Academy of Dramatic Art, started acting on stage, found a great influence in actor Leo Ditrichstein (1865-1928), and 10 years after the Academy had appeared in 200 plays.
    In the early twenties he was appearing in “Spanish Love”. At lunch one day director Albert Parker came to his table to say he was about to start directing a film with Lionel Barrymore – “Sherlock Holmes” – and he wanted William to play Moriarty’s assistant. AND filming would be in Nw York, so William could keep his stage job. This doesn’t explain how Powell managed matinees, but it was a small part, so maybe could be filmed on days with no afternoon performances. And later, still playing mostly villains, talkies came in and his career really took off.
    He signed with agent Myron Selznick and got a fat contract at Paramount, where after a few more villainous roles he got his break as detective Philo Vance in “The Canary Murder Case”. That was 1929.
    The doc goes on to include the Thin Man films , Life with Father, Mister Roberts, and so on until his death in 1984. A really entertaining and informative 31 minute program.
    Narrated by Michael York.
  2. Myrna Loy: So Nice to Come Home To (1990)
    A 46 minute program from TCM which starts with Californian Myrna (she was actually born in Helena Montana, but the family moved to L.A. after her father’s death) getting a break in pictures. Her films and loves are chronicled very entertainingly with lots of clips. Surprisingly she languished in small roles at Warners, but when her contract ran out she moved to MGM where one of her first roles was Nora Charles. Shortly after that, moviegoers voted her top actress in the movies. A fine appreciation of a talented and beautiful actress includes clips from “The Best Years of Our Lives” and other wonderful films.
    The disc also includes one episode of the TV version of “The Thin Man” starring Peter Lawford and Phyllis Kirk.
    Hosted by Kathleen Turner, Written and Directed by Richard Schickel.

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The Terror (1963) – reviewed by George

After a week off, Horror Thursday is back, except it’s really Boredom Thursday with this movie. A young soldier (Jack Nicholson) is riding along the ocean’s shore. He looks ill and falls off his horse. The tide is coming in, and having his face underwater wakes him up. He sees a young woman (Sandra Knight) and hears her say, “Fresh water from the mountain.” He staggers up (his horse has wandered off) and he approaches the woman and drinks heavily from a stream, but when he looks up she is gone. He looks around and sees her run to a cleft in a rock formation that allows seawater in with great force. She laughs at him and runs into the cleft, disappearing completely. He nearly drowns trying to find her, but she reappears away from the cleft and morphs into a woman of late middle-age (Dorothy Neumann).
And there is great consternation over her identity, when she is played by Miss Knight. She may be the wife of Eric, the old woman’s lost son, or she may be Baroness Von Leppe, the wife of the Baron (Boris Karloff).
There are two other men in the castle: Stefan (Richard Miller) and Gustav (Jonathan Haze), and all four of the male characters spend a lot of time arguing over who she is, where she has gotten to, if she is the Baroness let’s look in her tomb, and so on.
If watching for pleasure I would have given up early and had some Cherry Dr. Pepper (no, I do not work for them or have stock – I just like Cherry Dr. Pepper). But this is my job, so I stuck it out, without ever enjoying the film at all.
And it’s in Pathe color, which is a pale imitation of Technicolor, and I mean “pale” literally. Do I really need to say Not Recommended?
Screen Play by Leo Gordon and Jack Hill, Directed by Roger Corman.

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Ramon Novarro in “The Night Is Young” (1934) – reviewed by George

Well, hooray, this film,, unlike yesterday’s, does not condone rape as a legitimate courtship tactic. It is a relatively standard MGM musical. Novarro plays Arch Duke Paul Gustave, but why isn’t he Crown Prince? He’s the son of Emperor Franz Joseph (Henry Stephenson). Well, maybe he’s just the legitimate heir, like nephew or something.
Anyway, the movie is set in the Vienna of long ago, and it begins in a theater rehearsal hall with the ballet master rehearsing the Corps de Ballet. And no wonder he is so upset with very minor faults – he has no time for perfection; the audience is already seated, and the girls go on first.
At this point his motto should be Alfred E. Newman’s “Why worry?”
Two of the girls are good friends: Lisl and Fanni (Evelyn Laye and Una Merkel), and when finally released from the rehearsal and on their way to the stage, they gossip happily.
We see a distinguished-looking audience, with many of the women smiling longingly up at Paul’s box, where he is sitting with his assigned companion and adviser Baron Szereny (Edward Everett Horton), who now whispers in Paiul’s ear that the woman he is to marry is the worst of the possible choices (chosen by the Emperor, of course). She is Countess Zarika Rafay (Rosalind Russell in a small role). And the marriage is to be announced next week.
That night Paul will meet Lisl and Fanni and Fanni’s boyfriend Willy (Charles Butterworth) who owns a horse (credited as Mitzi) and carriage and is a sort of Viennese cabby. Paul and Lisl will fall in love, but is their love possible? The audience is teased as the flow goes with and then against the young couple, and then cycles some more from good news to bad.
Along the way there are some really good songs by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II, like “When I Grow Too Old to Dream” and the title song, which is not “TNIY and you’re so beautiful”, but “TNIY and so are we”. Never heard of that one (until now). The film has comedy and some charm and is recommended.
This was Novarro’s last starring role. He continued to appear in movies until 1950, after which all his credits are on TV.
From the Story by Vicki Baum, Screen Play by Edgar Allan Woolf and Franz Schulz, Directed by Dudley Murphy.

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Ramon Novarro in “The Barbarian” (1933) – reviewed by George

In Cairo a train is boarding and will depart soon. An American tourist (Hedda Hopper) is leaving in a private car, and Jamil (Ramon) jumps in to tell her goodbye and how he will never forget her visit. He takes a ring off his finger and gives it to her and says he will remember her always. She looks at her hand and removes a ring to give to him. They exchange sad goodbyes and he leaves to walk down the platform to another car where he meets a German tourist (Leni Stengel) to whom he says sad, love-heavy goodbyes. He gives her a ring and she gives him an expensive-looking brooch.
And again he walks down the platform, but this time to meet incoming vacationers who have not yet gotten off the train. One is Diana (Myrna Loy) who is traveling with her uncle Cecil (C. Aubrey Smith), and Powers (Louise Closser Hale), who could be a relative, a companion, or a chaperone, or pick two at random. Jamil offers Diana help, but she ignores him and runs off to meet Gerald (Reginald Denny) whom she plans to marry. They kiss and Jamil looks crestfallen. But he doesn’t give up; he steals her dog Missy.
Later he appears at the hotel to return the dog and tell Diana that she shouldn’t leave her dog so close to the tracks. Cecil puts a tip on the table, but Jamil smilingly refuses it. Says Cecil, “First driver I’ve ever known who wouldn’t take a tip.” And yet the tip is gone.
Well, Jamil is a total schemer and a charming louse who is actually a prince who works women through degradation, which he pretends is merely training.
So will Diana fall for this? In this day and age she would laugh at him and then whack him with something heavy. Or maybe just push him off the balcony. But in 1933? Who knows? If you wanna know, rent this. If not, then hopefully you’re already contributing to some victim’s support organizations and anti-rape programs, and groups that raise consciousness about the issue, and encourage women to tell their stories. In the meantime this movie is NOT RECOMMENDED. I didn’t like it at all.
From the Story by Edgar Selwyn, Screen Play and Dialogue by Anita Loos and Elmer Harris, Directed by Sam Wood.
Question: What was wrong with people in the thirties? Turns out all the movies that really burn my grits are from that decade. At least so far.

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Ramon Novarro in “The Pagan” (1929) – reviewed by George

I was so impressed by Novarro (whom I had never seen before) in “Ben-Hur” that I decided to try to locate some other films of his. Here’s the first one.
On an island where “East meets West”, according to the caption, we are also informed that this particular island has 6 Bar-rooms and 1 Bank. Mr. Slater (Donald Crisp) is at that bank where he is accosted by a young prostitute Madge (Rene’e Adore’e). Is he disgusted or afraid? I couldn’t tell – probably both. He manages to evade her, and inside he tells a clerk that he has missed his cargo at Raratonga and is looking for copra. The clerk says, “The largest plantation here is owned by Henry Shoesmith Jr. (Ramon) – a young half-caste. But Henry never works it. He is too much like his native mother was.”
The boy leaves to tell Henry that a man who wants business is waiting at the bank. Henry is lying under a tree eating fresh fruit and listening to the ukulele playing of an attractive young woman, and he says he is too busy for business. The clerk: “Maybe tomorrow?” Henry: “Yes, yes. Go away.”
Then Henry hears a girl singing. He looks around and finds the song is coming from a boat anchored nearby, so he swims out and meets the singer Tito (Dorthy Janis). It’s Slater’s boat so he asks, “You his daughter?” And she replies, “No. I’m his Christian duty.”
Later Slater finds out Henry was there and beats Tito. “You were born half-white, but through my teaching you will be all white.”
And then he gets Henry’s copra without paying for it. Henry says that he has more coconuts than he can eat and just gives them to Slater, who was planning to gyp Henry with a low bid anyway.
So now we have the set-up: Greed against Innocence, Hate against Love. And Slater is the type of Christian who has learned nothing from Jesus’s teachings, and ends up giving the church a bad name. And soon he is dedicated to killing Henry.
Now: the date of the film naturally led me to expect sound, and there is a soundtrack, but it’s music, singing (Pagan Love Song gets a lot of play), and sound effects. The dialogue is all in captions. I attribute this to the fact that the film was shot out of the U.S., and I hope the next Novarro flick is a studio production.
This is a good movie, but certainly not to everyone’s taste. I liked it, but you must make up your own mind.
Filmed in the Paumolu Islands of the South Seas, From the Story by John Russell, Scenario by Dorothy Farnum, Directed by W.S. Van Dyke.
AND: All this fuss about copra! What is it? Well, according to the title cards, it’s coconut meat dried by the sun. Copra is sold to the markets of the world to be converted into oils and soap. So now I know. AND Novarro had a big hit when his singing of “Pagan Love Song” was released as a record to be played on people’s Victrolas.

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Pan Am, Episode 6: “The Genuine Article” (2011) – reviewed by George

Maggie (Christina Ricci) is up against Miss Havemeyer (Veanna Cox) again. She’s collected a few infractions, Havemeyer has reported them, and Maggie is officially grounded. “But I’ve got a flight to Rio in a couple of hours!”
“We’ll get a replacement.”
“Who speaks Porugese?”
If you know Maggie, you know she’s a schemer and that no way does she actually speak Portuguese. So she reports to the flight just to see, and yes, someone is grounded, but it isn’t her, it’s Kate (Kelli Garner). And the man running the check-in desk tells Kate it’s just as well, her apartment house plumber called about a busted pipe. And Laura (Margot Robbie) is busy being photographed for the followup coverage in Life magazine about a stewardess’s job and life. Colette (Karine Vanesse) is in the episode, but as usual has less to do than the other three.
In Rio there are mix-ups galore and everybody gets some dialogue, except 2nd officer Sanjeev (Kal Parekh), who at least gets some facetime. And Kate was grounded by her handler who has a secret mission for her.
So Maggie gets to Rio and on the layover tries to take some college courses under real student’s names. Crazy! The episode is basically kind of an extended date night.
I think you can skip this one.
Written by Todd Ellis Kessler & Nick Thiel, Directed by Matthew Penn.

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Lost in Translation (2003) – reviewed by George

A friend whose opinions I trust suggested I review this film because it’s funny. I found it basically sad. There are some laughs scattered around, but not enough to call it a comedy; it’s more a personal journey sort of movie.
Star Bob Harris (Bill Murray) leaves his family to go to Tokyo to shoot a TV commercial for Santory whiskey. When he deplanes after dark he gets a cab to his hotel, but along the way seems totally uninterested in the city, which is brightly lit and vibrant. He looks downright gloomy, but comes alive a little when he sees an electronic billboard showing him drinking Santory.
At his hotel he’s met by a very nice group of people from Santory who introduce themselves, say nice things about his work, and arrange to pick him up the next morning. He is very pleasant right back, but as he turns to be led to his room, he is handed a letter from his wife that says only, “You forgot Adam’s birthday. I’m sure he’ll understand. Have a good trip.”
Talk about contradictory! How could you have a good trip after that!
The next morning on the down elevator, Bob is a head and a fraction taller than any of the other men headed for the lobby. Worth a grin. Once in the lobby he is welcomed by several employees of the hotel, The Tokyo Park Hyatt (where magically coincidentally, the interiors were shot).
The Santory folks pick him up and take him to the commercial shoot, where the director speaks only Japanese and Bob speaks only English. Long, long speeches about what the director wants are translated by the girl assigned to the task as “Turn to the camera” and “More intensity!”. I’d say Poor Bob, but he just goes ahead and does the speech as he thinks it should be done – relaxed and friendly, and his drinking of the whiskey is truly funny.
Then Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) appears. She is married to John, a professional photographer who got a gig in Japan, and she had no plans (and some friends in Tokyo) so went with him. Since their arrival he has pretty much ignored her, and seems to be busy with his gorgeous clients. The operative word is seems; and what does busy really mean?
So she’s unhappy, and Bob’s unhappy too. All he wants is to go home to his family.
Finally, at the slightly less than one-third point of the movie they meet and start hanging out together.
Well, this can’t end well, and it no longer is funny, and I kept thinking about stuff I needed to do. Like load the dishwasher and buy some cheese.
Written and Directed by Sofia Coppola.

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