Saturday, September 19, 2020

Hedy Lamarr, Robert Walker, and June Allyson star in Her Highness and the Bellboy (1945)

Her Highness and the Bellboy

Year: 1945 (set in 1938)

Starring: Hedy Lamarr, Robert Walker, June Allyson, Agnes Moorhead, and Rags Ragland

My Rating★★★★

Written for the Joe Pasternak Blogathon hosted by the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.

Jimmy Dobson (Robert Walker) is a flirtatious bellboy for a fancy hotel but is, surprisingly, a bit of a straight-shooter. His closest friend is Albert Weever (Rags Ragland), another hotel employee, but one with a bit of an undescribed mental disability. Jimmy's fondness for Albert manifests whenever Albert starts getting dragged into bad company and Jimmy yanks him back out again. In a cozy old Victorian brownstone that has been split into multiple apartments, Jimmy lives fairly comfortably in an apartment directly below the lovely Leslie Odell (June Allyson), a charming and sweet girl who loves Jimmy dearly but suffers from emotional anxieties that manifest themselves in an inability to walk. So she spends her days painting Santa Claus figures to sell so she can help her aunt pay their rent and dreams of a day when Jimmy might just tell her he loves her back.

Each day is much like another for this little group of people until Princess Veronica (Hedy Lamarr) and her entourage including Countess Zoe (Agnes Moorhead) arrive from an unnamed European country. Princess Veronica wants to visit America for a very specific reason; she is in love with a newspaper journalist. But once there, a twist of fate throws the princess and Jimmy into the same path. Jimmy foolishly believes the princess is in love with him, when in reality, she yearns to marry her journalist who refuses her because he has no wish to marry royalty, no matter how much he loves her, which he does. Leslie yearns after Jimmy who is now infatuated with Princess Veronica who dearly dreams of her journalist. A mess if ever there was one.

At times a screwball comedy of errors, at times a romantic tragedy, Her Highness and the Bellboy is an entertaining ride from start to finish. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Movie Review: Today's Kira-kun (2017)

Today's Kira-kun (Closest Love to Heaven)

Country: Japan

Year: 2017

Genre: School, Romance, Friendship, Illness

Starring: Marie Iitoyo, Taishi Nakagawa, Shono Hayama, Yuna Taira

My Rating★★★★

Click to read more of my reviews for Japanese entertainment.

I bet ya'll thought all I watched were dramas with Kazuya Kamenashi. NOPE, my watchlist is much broader than that. Today's Kira-kun had been recommended to me by a little teenage friend I have (she lives in an East Asian country, not sure where) so I knew it was about time I watched it. And I'm very glad I did. The lead actors were SO YOUNG, only 19 when they made this movie. They're darling.

In Japan, the red string of fate binds lovers together, running from pinky to pinky. For Yuiji Kira (Taisha Nakagaway), he is living his life on borrowed time. A bad heart means he has roughly a year to live and up until his current high school year, Yuuji had been living life recklessly. But now, with his time so limited, Yuiji has settled down, his heart heavy because he doesn't want to die, and keeping the secret of his illness from his friends is loneliness itself. One day, shy, introverted Ninon Okamura (Marie Iitoyo) sees Yuiji crying, hurries up to him, a boy she has started admiring because he is different now, and vows to stay by his side for a year. Despite the oddity of her declaration, Yuiji takes her up on it, tying her fate to his. For Yuuji, this is the first genuine relationship he's had with a girl, allowing himself to fall in love. And for Ninon, this is her first relationship ever, including friendships. Together they must weather the storms of new beginnings, misunderstandings, parental influence, and Yuiji's weak and dying heart.

No country does high school stories like Japan. They're in their element when dealing with youth and love and that exhilarating time of life. I put off watching Today's Kira-kun because I wasn't sure if it had a happy ending, and I just have not been in the mood for sad stories. I'm happy to report that Today's Kira-kun ends very, very well. It's not like Koizora which is labeled a romantic tragedy for a reason.

The actors did a solid job in their performances. I've encountered Marie Iitoyo before in a couple of different roles and have always liked her. She's a good actress, although here she does perform a bit on the overly dramatic side. I did find some of her reactions a smidgeon over the top, but that's okay. It worked for the role and for the story. Taishi Nakagawa is newer to me, so I don't have much to compare him to in terms of past performances, but I do like him as Yuiji. He has a nice, friendly face, very expressive, and he cries on cue. I found myself liking the character a great deal and hoping his fate wouldn't be to die at the end of their year together. I was less impressed with the secondary actors Shono Hayama and Yuna Taira playing Yuiji's friends. Shono was okay in his best friend role, but I'm afraid that Yuna Taira as Rei Yahagi fell flat for me. She felt so much older than a teenager as if she were a woman of the world, and that just didn't work. Plus, I usually hate the ex-girlfriend/boyfriend of lead characters anyway since they're simply plot devices with no purpose but to stir things up. Which is what she does.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Dev Patel in The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

The Personal History of David Copperfield

(based on the novel David Copperfield by Charles Dickens)

Starring: Dev Patel, Jairaj Varsani, Ranveer Jaiswal, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw, Rosalind Eleazar, Morfydd Clark, Gwendoline Christie

Year: 2019

My Rating★★★★★

I'm an avid lover of Charles Dickens' work. So the moment I saw the trailer 6 months ago at a showing of the last movie I saw in the theater, Emma, I knew that as soon as possible, I wanted to watch The Personal History of David Copperfield. Whereas Emma didn't fully work for me, this movie did, in so many glorious ways. So I braved the theater with my sister for the first time since March 2020. We had popcorn and soda and social distanced from the other attendees and thoroughly enjoyed seeing a movie on the big screen.

The story begins with David, as he tells his youth and upbringing himself. Dev Patel as grown-up David Copperfield joins his mother, her housekeeper Peggotty, and his aunt Betsy Trotwood played by Tilda Swinton at the moment of his birth. This is a unique plot device having Dev Patel there, but it worked because of the way the story is narrated. After all, this is David, telling his own story, so why wouldn't he, grown-up David, be there at the moment of his birth?

For those unfamiliar with the Dickens' story, young David (played brilliantly by Ranveer Jaiswal) lives happily with his mother and Peggotty until his mother marries again when he's still a lad. His stepfather, Mr. Murdstone, and the man's sister Jane Murdstone are tyrants of the first order, a fact David realizes the first time he talks back to Mr. Murdstone and is cruelly horsewhipped for his insubordination. David (now played just as brilliantly by Jairaj Varsani) is then sent away by Murdstone to work in Murdstone's bootblack factory and live with an impoverished and silly man by the name of Micawber (Peter Capaldi) and his family. Inevitably, David's mother dies and David (now Dev Patel) leaves the factory to seek out his only living relation, his Aunt Betsy Trotwood who did not want him when he was born because he was a boy and not a girl, and her cousin Mr. Dick, played by the marvelous Hugh Laurie of Jeeves & Wooster and House fame.

Dev Patel as David Copperfield
David inevitably attends school where he meets and befriends a young man named Steerforth, meets a steady and faithful girl named Agnes (played wonderfully by Rosalind Eleazar) who he does not yet love, and ends up falling in love with Dora (Morfydd Clark who will apparently be in the new The Lord of the Rings that I'm very hesitant about), the lovely and foolish daughter of his future employer. Ben Wishaw plays Uriah Heep, a scoundrel version of Mr. Guppy from Bleak House.

The story of David Copperfield is always about the ups and downs, highs and lows of life. David starts life happy for about 8 years, then is miserable in the bootblack factory for about 10 years, until he's adopted by his aunt and goes to school, then his aunt loses everything, and so on and so forth. This is life as we know it. It's not always going to be a happy experience. There will be a combination of good times and hardships. I love that Dickens wrote his stories based on this premise, but always with such a ray of hope, and as we know, the story of David Copperfield is very nearly an autobiography of his own life.

There were many many moments where it felt like I was watching a story about Charles Dickens with Dev Patel as the great man himself. I LOVE that. It was a brilliant bit of directing. Let's just stop and talk about Dev Patel for a minute. He was born to play David Copperfield. I love him in this role. He attacked it with zeal and fervency and just made David come alive on the big screen. This brings me to Jairaj Varsani and Ranveer Jaiswal both playing young David Copperfield. I adore child actors. They have so much spark and pizzazz and both of these little boys are remarkable. I couldn't have asked for better child actors to take on the role of David Copperfield in his youth. There's a striking moment at the end of the film where grown-up David and young David (I believe it's Jairaj Varsani) see each other and grown-up David encourages him that it will all turn out right in the end. It's such a great moment.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Radio Theater: Orson Welles in A Tale of Two Cities (7/25/1938)

A Tale of Two Cities

Starring: Orson Welles, Mary Taylor, Edgar Barrier, Martin Gabel, Frank Readick, Betty Garde, Erskine Sanford, Ray Collins, Kenneth Delmar

Year: July 25, 1938

My Rating★★★

Available free from Indiana University Bloomington

This review will be quite brief.

I have listened to this radio play at least a half a dozen times, but it still confuses me. I partially blame my confusion on Mr. Welles' adaptation that feels a bit jumpy, but also on my having never read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. My unfamiliarity with the story makes it hard for me to focus and if I have just a few minutes where my mind wanders, which always seems to happen, well, that's the end. And I spend the rest of the play struggling to keep up.

All I do know is that it is a very condensed version of Dickens' novel. It has to be or they could never fit the story into an hour. 

Orson Welles gives a stellar performance as both Dr. Alexandre Manette and Sydney Carton, two men who are alike in appearance and voice but in no other way. My brain disengages about 10 minutes in and re-engages about 15 minutes from the end when I realize that Dr. Manette is about to be executed during the French Revolution and Sydney Carton, a man who has never done anything for anyone, decides to take his place. The final several minutes are very moving and fit well into my expectations of Orson Welles' emoting abilities.

The only reason I've listened to this radio play so many times is because it is the first play in my complete Audible collection of Orson Welles' plays. I forget that every single time and am simply too lazy to skip ahead. I must keep hoping that the story will someday click in my brain. Alas, it hasn't happened quite yet.

However, if you are familiar with Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities, then I have no doubt you will enjoy the radio play.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Book Review: A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson (2018)

A Christmas by the Sea

Author: Melody Carlson

Genre: Christian Fiction

Length: 176 pages

Year: 2018

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads - Amazon (Kindle Unlimited)

When widow Wendy Harper inherits a cottage by the sea from her grandfather, a cottage she had visited and loved many times when she was a child, the boon is an unanticipated godsend. Wendy and her twelve-year-old son Jackson travel to Seaside, Maine the week of Thanksgiving, intending to do as many minor upgrades as possible before Christmas. Wendy's intention is to put the cottage on the market to help assuage their financial burden, but Jackson is just as determined to stay in Seaside, Maine with his mother and make a new life for themselves. Fortunately for Jackson, he gets local wood handicraft artisan and business owner Caleb Colton on his side, a man who finds himself falling hard and fast for Wendy. As Jackson constantly reminds his mom, the important thing is trusting that God will provide for them, a truth that she's found herself wandering from in the years since her husband's losing bout with cancer.

Sometimes you just want to sit back and read a Christmas book, and when that mood strikes, Melody Carlson is the author who fills the bill in Christian fiction. A Christmas by the Sea is a simple and easy read, filled with the warmth of family and new friends and the possibility of making new memories. I lived on the Oregon coast for 6 years growing up and I loved much of it, although we didn't suffer from the same bouts of cold and snow as they do in Maine. 

How do you get ready for autumn?

Cinderella's Pumpkin Farm sign and Cinderella doll
My favorite season is upon us! The weather turns chilly (at least it does in Colorado), the leaves change color, and I can pull my long-sleeved shirts and sweaters out of storage! We even had snow the other day, the earliest snowfall in recorded Colorado history. Such a crazy year of nuttiness!

Do you have any fun things you do in the autumn?

This year we hosted an afternoon tea for a friend's daughter's high school graduation.

Her life this year has been tough, so that was fun to support her in this way. We hosted it last weekend and apart from the Congrats, GRAD! sign and little curlycue things hanging from the ceiling, it was all fall-themed. My sister and I wandered into Party City last Friday where we found the graduation stuff, but we also found an awesome flannel-backed vinyl tablecloth in fall leaves that fits our table perfectly. I love that it's vinyl because it means easy cleanup for spills. We used it for the tea and it was perfect.

I had a difficult Sunday a few weeks ago so I went for a long drive out into eastern Colorado, just to get away from the city and get some fresh air and fresh perspective. When I came back, my sister had changed out the art wall and even put up quite a bit of our fall decor. It was such a blessing to me.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Sunshine Blogger Award

I haven't been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger award in forever! I'm deeply touched that Rachel at Hamlette's Soliloquy nominated me. Thank you very much. ❤

Sunshine Blogger Award Rules 

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog.

2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

The Sunshine Blogger Award Questions Assigned to Me

1) What's something good that's happened to you this year?

I finally figured out a knitted shawl pattern that has been a thorn in my side for at least 5 years. I've had more than 2 dozen false starts over the years that had me ripping the pattern out and trying again, on repeat, until I would shove it into the closet to be dragged out again a year later. But this time I've got it. I'm now 3/4 of the way through the shawl and feeling an immense sense of pride and accomplishment.

2) What was your favorite movie when you were ten years old?

Hmm, it might have been All Dogs Go to Heaven or The Little Mermaid. I was fairly obsessed with both of them. It's funny watching All Dogs Go to Heaven now because it is so NOT politically correct and I love that aspect of it. I don't think it could be made now, at least, not with the same raw intensity.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Drama Review: Sapuri (2006)

Sapuri poster from 2006Sapuri

Year: 2006

Episodes: 11 episodes, 45 minutes each

Country: Japan

Genre: Inter-Office Romance, Age-Gap Romance 

Starring: Kazuya Kamenashi, Ito Misaki, Eita Nagayama, Koichi Sato, Reina Asami

My Rating: ★★

You can find a list of my Japanese drama reviews on my Japanese Drama and Movie Reviews page. 

Sapuri follows the inter-departmental relationships and romances of a marketing company. College-age Yuya Ishida (Kamenashi) is the new guy on the block, hired as a part-timer or almost an intern to do a gofer type of job. While there, he falls hard for straight-shooter Minami Fujii (Ito Misaki), a woman in her late twenties who wants to fall in love but regrets that she's never spent time actually pursuing feminine traits and can't easily put aside her business-like demeanor.

Then you have the boss, Imaoka-san (Koichi Sato) who's having love problems of his own, but who does take good care of Yuya in remembrance of Yuya's deceased father. And of course, the "other" woman chasing Yuya, Yuri Watanabe (Reina Asami) and the "other" guy chasing Minami, Satoshi Ogiwara (Eita Nagayama). With the sheer amount of romantic escapades happening, it's a miracle that anyone gets any work done.

I'm cutting right to the chase with this one.

In my estimation, Sapuri would have been much, much better if it had simply been an office comedy and left the age-gap romance completely alone. The relational stuff falls so horribly flat. I didn't buy it. I don't see how it became an age-gap romance. Yuya and Minami have almost nothing in common. He's a surfer boy with long beach bum hair, a reckless attitude, and abundant enthusiasm. He does mature somewhat by the end of the drama, but not enough to be a good match for Minami. She's straight-laced and prim and proper and no-nonsense like an American schoolmarm from the 1850s. How is that ever going to work out?

Friday, August 28, 2020

Harrison Ford in The Call of the Wild (2020)

The Call of the Wild starring Harrison Ford

The Call of the Wild (2020)

Starring: Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens, Omar Sy, Cara Gee

My Rating: ★★★★

Harrison Ford is one of those pillars of my life. He's just always been there, ever since I saw Star Wars for the first time when I was four-years-old. He's also one of those actors that people aren't really on the fence about; they either like him or they don't. I happen to like him.

The idea of him being in The Call of the Wild fascinated me because I've never read Jack London's book and I'd also never seen a single adaptation of it into a film. So watching this movie was a brand new introduction for me to the story and Harrison's presence in the film piqued my interest to make me try it.

There's a lot of heart behind The Call of the Wild.

I feel like Harrison just wanted to make this movie. That he's reached an age where he can sort of do what he wants, and unapologetically be who he is. I admire that about him now, and so there's a relaxed comfortableness he exhibits while playing John Thornton. There's very little artifice, but a tired, older man who's running from his demons and nightmares until his fate intertwines with the fate of this dog, Buck.

Animal movies have never really been my thing, which is weird because most people LOVE them. I guess they make me sad in some ways? Buck goes through a hard time. He's kidnapped from his home and shipped off to the Yukon because they're short of sled dogs. He's abused by his kidnappers to train and tame him. His first owner in the Yukon runs the mail sled and he and his female partner (possibly his lover/wife?) are very kind to Buck and the other sled dogs, as kind as you can be in the Yukon. His second owner in the Yukon is a cruel man named Hal, played by Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens as it happens, but John Thornton rescues him. Buck's journey to finally being at John Thornton's side is not an easy one.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Lessons Learned

Something bad, possibly criminally bad, happened and so my former favorite Japanese pop star is in big trouble. He should be in big trouble. It makes me wonder if he's actually always been this way or if this was just an incredible lapse in judgment and common sense. I honestly don't know. He may have been a bad egg for decades and no one ever caught him until now. Or he may just have made this one mistake and will strive to never repeat it going forward if he can even go forward.

I want to forgive him. Just like all of Japan probably wants to forgive him. But there's a difference between forgiving someone and trusting them. I don't know if he's trustworthy. Only time will tell if this was just a weird one-off moment of crazy. I'd like to think that he's serious and wants to make amends, that he realizes the severity of what he's done, and is genuinely sorry. I know he's sorry for hurting his fans because he's said as much. But that's not the same thing as being sorry for his actions because he realizes they were wrong.

He wants to return to being a "spiritual pillar," but I don't even know if that's possible. The problem with Japanese idols is that they are considered role models. They are held to a very high standard so when they crash and burn, it's severely bad. He may have lost everything because of one choice, one moment. Was it worth it? Was the risk, the thrill, the enticement worth it? I doubt it and I'm pretty sure he's realizing that right now. Half the story may even be false news reporting (the rumor mill) and if it is, well, then it's not as bad as it seems to be right now. But if he is fully guilty of the entire thing, then it's bad. 

If anything, this situation has reminded me that it's wrong to esteem people so highly. Because people are going to let you down. I was shattered this week because of his stupid sin nature. But I shouldn't have been. I let myself get too attached to a flawed, sinful human being. I put him on a pedestal and when he fell off, well, it rocked me. But people are going to fail, they're going to sin, and they're not perfect. I should know since I am one of those flawed, failing, sinful people myself. There's only one Person who will never let me down. And I need to spend more time thinking of Him than focusing on infatuations that will disappoint me.