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Grand Hotel of Death
MY FAKE FIANCE This by-the-numbers romantic comedy was a very popular TV film in 2009 and led to a sitcom for stars Melissa Joan Hart and Joey Lawrence. The two leads play characters who can’t stand each other but join forces when she has all her furniture stolen (in one of the most improbable moments among many improbable moments) and he has a debt collector threatening to break his legs. The pair devises a scheme to stage a phony wedding so they can collect the dough and gifts. While waiting for the wedding, however, they meet each others' families and get to know each other -- seeing what sensitive souls lurk beneath the acerbic surfaces -- and they, naturally enough in a film like this, fall in love. It’s a not-very-demanding sitcom-style story as predictable as a Republican at a gun control hearing. But less destructive. (Curiously, like all Disney-ABC Family Channel movies, this is rated 4 out of 5 possibe stars. Curious because many better, non-Disney/AFC films are rated less highly. Is the fix in?
CASTLE ON THE HUDSON (1940), directed by Anatole Litvak, this exciting melodrama features John Garfield as a tough guy who gets sent to prison for robbery. He leaves behind devoted girlfriend Ann Sheridan and meets reformer warden Pat O'Brien. The film is based on the book Twenty Thousand Years in Sing Sing, written by Lewis E. Lawes, the warden of the Sing Sing prison warden who actually did improve conditions for the inmates. It's not bad, as prison pictures go, with Garfield delivering a portrait of a swaggering anti-hero who has his own code of honor.
PRIDE OF THE MARINES (1945) At various times funny, touching, and exciting, this film tells the true story U.S. Marine Al Schmid in World War II, whose heroic stand against a Japanese attack during the Battle of Guadalcanal, left him blinded by a grenade. The film was based on the Roger Butterfield book, Al Schmid, Marine. John Garfield is great as Scmid, and he has wonderful chemistry with Eleanor Parker as the woman he loves. Their early courtship scenes are as charming as their post-war relationship is moving. It teeters on the edge of being sugary, but the acting and writing by a top-notch cast and crew keep it afloat.
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS (1944) Silly melodrama about a group of boat passengers on route to New York who discover that threy’re dead and are on the way to heaven…or hell. Edmund Gwenn is their steward, Sydney Greenstreet is the inquisitor; and John Garfield, Paul Henreid, and Eleanor Parker are among the hapless passengers. It is a remake of the 1930 film, Outward Bound, itself based on the 1924 play of the same name, and it’s all hokey nonsense, a kind of Grand Hotel of death.
BOND REDUX About three months ago, my brother told me he had taken his daughters, Xanthe, age 12, and Helena, age 8, to see SKYFALL, the latest James Bond movie. They had never seen a Bond movie before, he told me, and they were blown away by it. Never seen a Bond, I thought, what could that be like? It just so happened that on Christmas I had gotten a nice present: the 50th Anniversary Blu-Ray collection of all the "official" 007 epics (excluding the final Sean Connery installment, Never Say Never Again, and the comic caper Casino Royale). It was fate. Not having spent a lot of time with my nieces lately, I thought, "This is a good way to bond with them" (if you'll pardon the appropriate pun) and also give me an excuse to revisit the movies in their new Blu-Ray incarnations (they look terrific, as my father might have said). Since then, we've watched four Connery 007s (not in order), with the common consensus among us being that Goldfinger has been the best so far (it was educational, too: Helena learned not to paint her body gold -- unless she left a small bare patch at the base of the spine to allow the body to breathe), with You Only Live Twice a close second (they loved the volcano headquarters of the bald villain – whom they think resembles Dr. Evil in the Austin Powers series). We all agreed that Doctor No looked the cheapest, though Connery was lean and mean (and Xanthe wouldn't agree that there was anything wrong with Bond shooting a bad guy in cold blood), and that the best moment in Thunderball was when Bond leaves the dance floor with a newly minted corpse, deposits her at a table of guests, and explains: "Do you mind if my partner sits this one out? She's just dead."
March 16, 2013