Val’s Movie Roundup #8: Hallmark Edition


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The Magic of Ordinary Days (2005) – Okay, pro tip for watching Hallmark movies. Do not watch Hallmark Hall of Fame movies on Hallmark. These were specially made TV Movies that had higher production values and unusual runtimes for TV Movies. Unfortunately, Hallmark is editing them down to make them shorter. I didn’t realize that when I watched this so it was probably not the ideal viewing experience. I did notice it when I tried to watch Follow The Stars Home (2001). If that thing wasn’t edited, then it’s one of the worst put together films I’ve attempted to watch in a while. I stopped pretty quickly. I’m going to get it on DVD so I’ll find out for sure. As for this movie, the version I watched on Hallmark gets sidetracked too much with a plot involving Japanese internment camps. It should have remained focused on the couple played by Keri Russell and Skeet Ulrich. I have a feeling that problem doesn’t disappear with a greater running time. Keri Russell plays a woman pregnant out of wedlock who is married off to Ulrich that lives in the country. It takes place in the 1940’s. It’s decent. The higher production values shine through. This is not a standard Hallmark TV movie. It’s kind of night and day in that sense. The only other problem I noticed was that Russell has a little too much of a modern look, but far from Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai (2003). Ulrich blends in pretty well except at one point. Late in the film they put him in a plaid shirt and suddenly there’s 90’s Skeet Ulrich. See this one uncut.

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Lies Between Friends (2010) – I’m going to cut the crap here. You see that thing in the picture above. That awful looking wig on Gabrielle Anwar’s head will drive you mad! It is terribly artificial looking. And it’s onscreen almost the entire film. What were they thinking!!! It is so distracting that you just can’t pay attention. And this is a murder mystery mind you. Just wow! Also, I found Gabrielle Anwar’s performance to have as much depth as a puddle. But it’s the wig that single-handedly ruins the movie. You’d think someone would have noticed. Even if Anwar had a bald head, then it would have been better to write that into the character rather than having that phenomenon of fakery on display. For masochists only.

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Class (2010) – The plot and characters are extremely predictable. You know exactly what is going to happen from the get go. Nothing is surprising in the slightest. This movie is about a guy who is assigned by a professor at law school to help a young single mother who is having trouble. Do I have to say more? Of course not. The real problem is the casting. Not Catherine Mary Stewart. I could watch her sit in a chair reading and would be happy. Okay, I have a crush on her still after all these years. The leading actors are the problem. She looks like the Tiffani-Amber Thiessen from Beverly Hills, 90210 type, which doesn’t fit her character. He also looks like he could have been on that show. He would have played the frat boy that even Ian Ziering’s character would have found contemptible. Again, doesn’t fit his character. Neither acts well enough to pull off not instantly looking the part. It just doesn’t work.

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The Mystery Cruise (2013) – Over the weekend I played through River City Ransom on NES with a friend. It’s basically an RPG version of Double Dragon. If you double tap left or right, then you’ll run in that direction. When your attack gets greater, then you can come to a new screen, run, and in an instant put an enemy to the ground. The start of this movie is like being on the receiving end of that punch. Honestly, it’s like you came back from commercial in the middle of a TV show except it’s the beginning of the movie. Talk about cut to the chase. In fact, it does start at the end of a chase. Sadly, this is the best part of the movie. It’s zany and stupid. Then the movie spells out that it’s supposed to start a new TV series. Then it shows exactly why that never panned out. This is an example of messy writing and editing. You jump around from conversation to conversation, but it’s like the glue and the transitions are missing. It’s about two ladies, one of which wants to start a detective agency with the other, who go on a mystery cruise. Everyone plays a part and someone has to figure out who the murderer is. Of course reality comes in the form of a lady who is really trying to kill her husband. If you must watch something that has “The Mystery Cruise” in it, then you’re better off watching a Let’s Play of Detective Barbie: The Mystery Cruise. Out of these four movies, definitely go with The Magic of Ordinary Days, but an unedited version.

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Song of the Day: X Gon’ Give It to Ya (by DMX)


DMX

So, after weeks of waiting we finally got the trailer for the Deadpool live-action film set to release on February 2016. I’m sure that people will be flocking to Youtube to look up two songs that were featured during the trailer. The latest “Song of the Day” comes courtesy of the second song in the trailer and a classic hip-hop track of the early 2000’s.

DMX was what one would call a giant of hip-hop when he first entered the scene in 1998 and dominated the hip-hop landscape in the next five year with five albums that debuted No. 1 in the charts. His presence and charisma was such that even Hollywood even came calling and DMX starred in several action flicks. It’s from his 2003 film Cradle 2 the Grave that our featured song comes from.

“X Gon’ Give It to Ya” was part of the soundtrack to Cradle 2 the Grave. Whether one actually thought the film was any good would be up for debate. Now the song itself was a hit and continued to cement DMX as the hardest and most recognizable voice in hip-hop at the time. Other rappers made more money. Others were more socially aware. Yet, when it came to just an all-out lyrical assault on listeners DMX still reigned supreme.

X’ Gon Give It to Ya

Arf arf, yeah, uh, yeah (Grr)
Yeah, uh (Grr)
Yeah, don’t get it twisted
This rap shit is mine, motherfucker
It’s not a fuckin’ game
Fuck what you heard, it’s what you hearin’ (What you hearin’)
It’s what you hearin’ (Listen)
It’s what you hearin’ (Listen)
It’s what you hearin’ (Listen)

X gon’ give it to ya (What?)
Fuck waitin’ for you to get it on your own
X gon’ deliver to ya
Knock knock, open up the door it’s real
With the non-stop pop-pop of stainless steel
Go hard gettin’ busy wit it
But I got such a good heart
That I’ll make a motherfucker wonder if he did it
Damn right, and I’ll do it again (Yeah)
‘Cause I am right, so I gots to win
Break bread with the enemy (What?)
No matter how many cats I break bread with
I’ll break who you sendin’ me (Yeah!)
You motherfuckers never wanted nothin’ but your life saved
Bitch, and that’s for the light day
I’m gettin down, down, make a nigga say “freeze!”
But won’t be the one endin’ up on his knees, bitch please!
If the only thing you cats did was came out to play
Stay out my way motherfucker

First we gonna rock, then we gonna roll
Then we let it pop, don’t let it go (What?)
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya
First we gonna rock, then we gonna roll
Then we let it pop, don’t let it go
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya

Ain’t never gave nothin’ to me
But every time I turn around
Cats got they hands out wantin’ somethin’ from me
I ain’t got it so you can’t get it (Yeah!)
Let’s leave it at that ’cause I ain’t wit it (Yeah!)
Hit it wit full strength, I’m a jail nigga
So I face the world like it’s Earl in the bullpen
You against me, me against you
Whatever, whenever, nigga, the fuck you gon’ do?
I’m a wolf in sheep’s clothin’ (What?)
Only nigga that you know that can chill
Come back and get the streets open
I’ve been doing this for nineteen years (What?)
Niggas wanna fight me? Fight these tears (What?)
I put in work and it’s all for the kids
But these cats done forgot what work is (Uh-huh!)
They don’t know who we be (Lookin’!)
But they don’t know who they see, nigga!

First we gonna rock, then we gonna roll
Then we let it pop, don’t let it go (What?)
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya (C’mon)
First we gonna rock, then we gonna roll
Then we let it pop, don’t let it go (C’mon)
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya

Ayo where my niggas at?
I know I got them down in the game
Give ’em love and they give it back
Talk too much for too long (What?)
Don’t give up, you’re too strong (What?)
Dog to the wow wow hunnies (Yeah!)
Shoutout to niggas that done it (C’mon!)
And it ain’t even about the dough
It’s about gettin’ down for what you stand for, yo

First we gonna rock, then we gonna roll
Then we let it pop, don’t let it go (C’mon)
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya (C’mon)
First we gonna rock, then we gonna roll
Then we let it pop, don’t let it go (C’mon)
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya (C’mon)
First we gonna rock, then we gonna roll
Then we let it pop, don’t let it go (C’mon)
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya
X gon’ give it to ya, he gon’ give it to ya (C’mon)

C’mon
Uh, uh
C’mon

Lisa Watches An Oscar Nominee: The Little Foxes (dir by William Wyler)


Little_foxesThat Bette Davis was an amazingly talented actress is something that we all already know.

However, she has become such an iconic figure that I think that it’s easy to forget just how versatile she could be.  She was ferocious in Of Human Bondage.  She was poignant in Dark Victory.  She was majestic in All About Eve.  Even when she eventually ended up appearing in stuff like Burnt Offerings, she still managed to command the screen.  Of course, nobody played evil with quite the style and power as Bette Davis at her prime.  And if you ever have any doubt about that fact, I would suggest watching the 1941 Best Picture nominee, The Little Foxes.

Based on a play by Lillian Hellman, The Little Foxes is a dark Southern melodrama that takes place in 1900.  The once mighty Hubbard Family has fallen on hard times.  Brothers Benjamin (Charles Dingle) and Oscar (Carl Benton Reid) have inherited their father’s money and Oscar has made himself even more wealthy by marrying the poignant alcoholic Birdie (Patricia Collinge).  However, when Oscar and Benjamin decide that they want to build a cotton mill, they discover that, even with their own fortunes, they are still $75,000 short.

They turn to their sister, Regina (Bette Davis).  As quickly becomes obvious, Regina is a hundred times more intelligent and clever than either one of her brothers.  However, because she’s a woman, Regina was not considered to be a legal heir to their father’s fortune.  As a result, after his death, she was left penniless.  In order to survive, Regina had to marry the wealthy but sickly Horace (Herbert Marshall).  When Regina asks Horace for the $75,000, Horace refuses.  He wants nothing to do with either one of her brothers.

With the reluctant help of Oscar’s son, Leo (Dan Duryea), the brothers steal the money straight from Horace’s bank account.  Regina, however, finds out about the theft and schemes to blackmail her two brothers….

For the majority of the film, you are totally on Regina’s side.  Despite the fact that Regina is ruthless and obviously taking advantage of Horace’s weakened state, you find yourself making excuses for her.  Her brothers are both so sleazy and greedy and Regina is so much smarter than her idiotic siblings that the film occasionally feels like a dark comedy.  It’s fun watching her get the better of them and you find yourself assuming (and hoping) that Regina will somehow be redeemed by the end of the movie.

And then it happens.

Aware of both Regina’s scheme and the fact that she never loved him, Horace announces that he’s going to change his will and he’s going to leave his entire fortune to their daughter, Alexandra (Teresa Wright, in her Oscar-nominated film debut).  He also tells Reginia that he’s going to say that he lent Leo the money, which would make it impossible for her blackmail scheme to work.

It’s while they’re arguing that Horace suddenly suffers a heart attack.  And as Horace struggles to climb up a staircase so that he can get his medicine, Regina calmly sits in a chair and shows not a hint of emotion as he dies.  It’s such an unexpected and effective moment, largely because Bette Davis’s performance was so good that it kept both the viewer and Horace from realizing just how monstrous Regina truly was.

It’s hard to think of any contemporary actress who could so totally and believably embody a character of Regina Gibbons.  It takes courage to commit so fully to playing such an evil and hateful character.  Bette Davis had that courage and her performance alone makes The Little Foxes worth watching.

The (Official) Deadpool Red Band Trailer


Deadpool

Fox has released the trailer for Marvel’s Deadpool, which comes out next year. This is the same trailer that was shown at the San Diego Comic Con earlier this year, and is in crystal clear HD. For those who aren’t aware, Deadpool is the tale of Wade Wilson (no relation to me, mind you), who is dying of cancer and elects to join a program similar to the Weapon X one that created Wolverine. When he’s given the same healing factor as Wolverine, Wilson takes his new-found abilities and becomes Deadpool, the Merc With a Mouth, weapon-wielding extraordinaire. The movie has the potential to be great or maybe not, considering how hard they’re trying to appease their target audience. It hits just about every mark, with it’s breaking of the fourth wall and comic elements. It’s also great to not only see Ryan Reynolds reprising the mishandled role from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but finally having it done in a way that at least comes close to the comic origins.

Why is this a Fox production and not a Disney/Marvel one? Well, for one, Fox already had the character. Two, I don’t think Deadpool fits into the wholesome do-gooder world that most of the Marvel Heroes and Heroines inhabit. He’s more like Stitch in comparison to the other Disney Characters.

Deadpool also stars Morena Baccarin, Gina Carano and T.J. Miller. Enjoy.

Lisa Watches An Oscar Winner: The Best Years Of Our Lives (dir by William Wyler)


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I’ve seen The Best Years Of Our Lives on TCM a few times.  There’s a part of me that always wishes that this film was dull, in the way that many best picture winners can be when watched through modern eyes, or in any other way overrated.  The Best Years Of Our Lives won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1946 and in doing so, it defeated one of my favorite films of all time, It’s A Wonderful Life.  A part of me would love to be able to say that this was one of the greatest injustices of cinematic history but, honestly, I can’t.    The Best Years Of Our Lives is an excellent film, one that remains more than worthy of every award that it won.

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The film deals with veterans returning home from World War II and struggling to adjust to life in peacetime.  That’s a topic that’s as relevant today as it was back in 1946.  If there’s anything that remains consistent about human history it’s that there is always a war being fought somewhere and the man and women who fight those wars are often forgotten and abandoned after the final shot has been fired.  The returning veterans in The Best Years Of Our Lives deal with the same issues that our soldiers have to deal with today as they return from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Best Years Of Our Lives follows three veterans as they return home to Boone City, Ohio.  As they try to adjust to civilian life, their loved ones struggle to adjust to them.

 Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews

Teresa Wright and Dana Andrews

Fred Derry (played by Dana Andrews) is a self-described former soda jerk.  (To be honest, I’m really not sure what a soda jerk was but it doesn’t sound like a very fun job.)  During the war, he was a captain in the air force.  He returns home with several decorations and few marketable skills.  During the war, he was good at bombing cities but there’s not much that can be done with that skill during peacetime.  Nearly penniless, Fred takes a job selling perfume at a department store.  He spends his days trying to control her temper and not give into his frustration.  At night, he’s haunted by nightmares of combat.

Teresa Wright and Virginia Mayo

Teresa Wright and Virginia Mayo

Meanwhile, his wife, Marie (Virginia Mayo), finds herself resenting the fact that Fred has come home.  She married him while he was in flight training and, as quickly becomes obvious, she’s less enamored of Fred now that he’s just another civilian with a low-paying job.  (She continually begs him to wear the uniform that he can’t wait to take off.)  The Best Years Of Our Lives is a film full of great performances but Virginia Mayo really stands out.  I have to admit that, whenever I watch this film, I find myself envious of her ability to both snarl and smile at the same time.

Teresa Wright, Myrna Loy, Fredric March, and Michael Hall

Teresa Wright, Myrna Loy, Fredric March, and Michael Hall

Al Stephenson (Fredric March) was a bank loan officer who served as an infantry sergeant.  (It’s interesting to note that the educated and successful Al was outranked by Fred during the war.)  Al returns home to his loving wife, Milly (Myrna Loy), his daughter Peggy (the beautiful Teresa Wright), and his son, Rob (Michael Hall).  At first, Al struggles to reconnect with his family and he deals with the tension by drinking too much.  Rehired by the bank, he approves a risky loan to a fellow veteran.  After the bank president (Ray Collins, a.k.a. Boss Jim Gettys from Citizen Kane) admonishes Al, Al gives a speech about what America owes to its returning veterans.

Meanwhile, Peggy has fallen in love with Fred.  When Milly and Al remind her that Fred is (unhappily) married, Peggy announces, “I am going to break that marriage up!”  It’s a wonderful line, brilliantly delivered by the great Teresa Wright.

Harold Russell

Harold Russell

Marriage is also on the mind of Homer Parrish (Harold Russell).  A former high school quarterback, Homer was planning on marrying Wilma (Cathy O’Donnell) as soon as he finished serving in the Navy.  During the war, he lost both his hands and now he’s returned home with metal hooks.  Homer locks himself away from the world.  When he finally does talk to Wilma, it’s to show her how difficult life with him will be.  Wilma doesn’t care but Homer does.

Harold Russell won an Academy Award for his performance here.  Russell was not a professional actor.  Instead he was a veteran and a real-life amputee.  Watching his performance today, it’s obvious that Russell was not an experienced actor but the natural charm that enchanted the Academy still shines through.

Harold Russell, Dana Andrews, and Fredric March

Harold Russell, Dana Andrews, and Fredric March

It’s been nearly 70 years since The Best Years Of Our Lives was first released but it remains a powerfully honest and surprisingly dark film.  All three of the veterans deal with very real issues and, somewhat surprisingly, the film refuses to provide any of them with the type of conventional happy ending that we tend to take for granted when it comes to movies made before 1967.  As the film concludes, Fred is still struggling financially.  Homer is still adjusting to life as an amputee.  Al is still drinking.   All three have a long road ahead of them but they’re all making progress.  None of them will ever be the same as they were before the war but, at the same time, they’re all working on making new lives for themselves.  They haven’t given up.  They haven’t surrendered to despair and, the film suggests, that is triumph enough.

The Best Years Of Our Lives is a great film and a great best picture winner.  It’s just a shame that it had to be released the same year as It’s A Wonderful Life.