Anne of Windy Poplars

Almost as Good as Anne of Green Gables

Delightful follow up to Anne of Green Gables (1934 version). The acting by all concerned was very effective, especially the luminous Anne Shirley as…Anne Shirley, and Joan Carroll as the child Betty. Marcia Mae Jones, usually seen as Shirley Temple’s nemesis is perfectly cast as Jen Pringle. Well worth searching for. One of the last “lost” movies on my want to see list. It is not available on DVD and even the Anne Shirley marathon of TCM did not show it. I found it by means of a link which downloaded it to my computer. You can find it as a link on You Tube posted by an angel named Susannah.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

August 29, 2020

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Star-Studded Cast in this Low Budget Gem

This was a moving family film. I would not call it a teen movie at all. Gilly has been in a succession of foster homes while searching for her biological mother. She finally lands with Maime Trotter. Will she accept that she has finally found a home? The acting is superb on all counts. The young actor who plays Gilly really makes you go from disgust to a grudging liking without changing her basic defiant and prickly personality. Although it does contain some predictable clichés it doesn’t follow a template the whole way. Octavia Spencer was wonderful in her role as the wise no-nonsense teacher. Everyone was great, but I particularly enjoyed her role. Laughter, Cheers, and Tears abound and it leaves you wanting more.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

April 3, 2020

Flipper’s New Adventure

Great Kid’s Movie with Two Legendary Stars

I only saw about the last 45 minutes of this movie or thereabouts. I only came to the review page to express my wonderment that the great British actress, Francesca Annis, played in this at the age of 19!

I didn’t even recognize her as the sister Gwen, until I caught a glance at the credits. Probably due to her nose job at 21. I had no idea she started out so young, which I learned by looking at her page. And Pamela Franklin! it just seems like she pops up in everything during this time period.

Her resume is not that packed, but the movies she was in were so high profile and also starred some of the great stars of the screen. Bette Davis…Deborah Kerr…Maggie Smith… Michael Redgrave…William Holden…Marlon Brando…Dirk Bogarde. She was also in one of my favorite Disney movies, The Horse Without a Head which also starred Jean-Pierre Aumont, Leo McKern, and Herbert Lom! As she got older she guest-starred in many American TV series back in the day when there were only 3 channels so she would come to my attention time after time. What a memorable presence she was in everything! A great actress indeed. If she ever writes an autobiography, I’d definitely read it. I think she’s is long retired now from the antiquarian book business, so that is probably not on the horizon.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

December 19, 2019

The Secret of Crickley Hall

Listen to Your Youngest Daughter!

**Major Spoilers**

Excellent ghost story. Not scary, but the family drama and suspense are the focus here, not jump scares. Many involving mysteries, slowly revealed, and a good side story involving Maisie Williams as the oldest daughter. Great job in developing the youngest daughter, who is the shining light of truth and insight in a suffering and confused family. I really liked that though there were some conflicts between the husband and wife, it did not split them apart. Although it is revealed that the son is in fact dead (and how could it be otherwise?) the family remains in tact and the ghosts are set free, so it was ultimately a hopeful happy ending for a horror story. Especially as we learn the fate of the main orphan, Stephan. I wish we had had more details about him. Also we know that Cam was kidnapped from the beginning, so there was a loose end there, as the family never learns how he came to drown, and neither does the audience.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

September 4, 2019

The Littlest Horse Thieves

A Heartbreaker!

Although the movie’s conclusion is upbeat and and hopeful regarding the miners and the main families and all but one of the horses, the fate of that most beloved horse (who is blind) is heartbreaking and poignant. When one of the boys father comments about the sadness, the boy reminds him that up above in the fields he knew he was blind, but in the lightless mine pit he was a hero who knew the way. OMG OMG OMG. The performance of Chloe Franks was a standout, the most affecting of a strong cast. Alistair Sims performance made the character of the Lord who owned the mine profoundly creepy with his giggling. What was he thinking? All in all a top notch Disney drama with more darkness than expected, but which made it even more memorable. But I could never watch it a second time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

June 26, 2019

Twice Blessed

Interesting Variation of the Parent Trap plot, with None of its Charm

The appeal for this movie is its similarities and differences from Parent Trap. In this case the twins know each other and their non-custodial parents even though they rarely see them. So we miss the emotional epiphanies when the two discover each others existence. In this movie, the mother is an uptight famous child psychologist engaged to a Senator. The dad is scruffy newspaper man. The twins are 16 or 17 years old when the movie starts, so teen romance does play a large part of the plot. Mom’s daughter is a conservative intellectual genius, Dad’s is a dumb blonde and a jitterbug queen. Hilarity ensues when they decide on impulse to change places. Sounds pretty good, right? It would have been very good indeed had this movie had the great stars and performances (and charm) of either the Hayley Mills led project or the Lindsey Lohan vehicle. But no. All of the players are pretty pedestrian, and so is this movie. Oh well, glad I saw it anyway. Can’t believe I was unaware of this until I saw it listed on TCM. I’m a huge Hayley Mills and Parent Trap fan. I read the book (Lottie and Lisa) when it was finally re-issued in English in 2015.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

June 2, 2019

The Edge of Seventeen

Not Your Typical Teenage Movie

I enjoyed the humor and performances and the sweet upbeat ending. The only downside was the insufferable behavior of our heroine throughout most of the movie. She was thoroughly unlikable. Also, the improbable casting of Hailee Steinfeld as someone who would be unpopular in high-school with her gorgeous face and super-model body and quirky fashion-sense, was eye-rolling. The writing was excellent as there was not one one-dimensional character in the cast. No one was all bad or all good. This movie turns the typical John Hughes- type cast of characters on their ear: the nerdy Asian with a crush on Nadine, the former friend who abandons her for the popular clique, the dumb jock brother, the neurotic mother, the trusted, unconventional but wise teacher, the handsome entitled and popular unrequited love interest. they are all here…but not here. They are different. Even our lovable but awkward heroine who finally finds her way. Like I said, she is not all that lovable. Hmmmm. I take back what I said about this being a downside. As far as the ending: Yay! this is how Pretty in Pink should have ended. **9stars out of 10**

March 25, 2017

Anne of Green Gables

2016 PBS Production

Dreadful.

This version of Anne of Green Gables was absolutely dire. Where do I begin? Right off the bat, when I knew I was doomed to disappointment, Martin Sheen playing the soulful shy Matthew as if he was some kind of slapstick comic. Yakitty Yakkity Yak to his horse, and then falling face first into a mud puddle. SMH. Too bad, because the scene on the train was actually quite promising. I thought Martin Sheen was a good actor and was willing to give him a chance, but this was disgraceful. It was probably the direction.

The young actress who played Anne, delivered her lines. Period. Whenever a line came close to echoing a line Megan Follows said, the contrast would have been laughable if it weren’t so inept. One of the pivotal comic scenes, (Anne’s “apology” to Rachel after her rude behavior) took place in a wide shot and without audible dialogue. It was probably a mercy. She wasn’t helped by the freckles put on with a pencil that kept appearing and disappearing, and that dye job on her hair! When she got into the sunlight, it looked like something a cheap tart would do to her hair. Again, probably the direction rather than the young actresses fault.

Any production has a tough row to hoe to even come close to the perfection that was The Sullivan Production. That whole cast was perfection itself and truly inhabited their roles. I won’t talk about the lack of depth. The whole Minnie May episode, I swear, clocked in at under a minute and that included the reconciliation scene. And “Matthew” continually on the verge of a heart attack. I guess stay tuned for the next installment. The Actor who played Gilbert looked younger than Anne and came across as a bratty little brother. The actress who played Marilla actually was not bad, though not the same character that Colleen Dewhurst interpreted. And Rachel was also excellent. The little actress who played Diana was a bright spot, as little screen time as she had. Again, no depth. And miscasting. She should have played Anne. There will probably be a second installment to this as many of the key scenes were left out entirely (no Lily Maid of Astalot. No Miss Stacy.) If they recast an older Anne and Gilbert, and kill Matthew off quickly, it might have a chance to be half-way decent.

There is hope. The early 1930’s version with Dawn O’Day (Anne Shirley), Tom Brown, and Helen Westley was a wonder and showed that you could convey the charm of this story in 78 minutes flat, and even manage to include a satisfying romance between Anne and Gilbert. **2 stars out of 10**

November 25, 2016

Little Women

Gives the 1994 Production a Run for its Money!

I was surprised and delighted by this 1978 TV miniseries. Shocked, more like it. One of my favorite authors commented in a blog that this miniseries had a huge influence on her as a writer. (I was intrigued by this statement and got it out from the library. I didn’t expect much considering the sit-com actresses cast in the key roles, not to mention William Shatner as Professor Bhaer. But much to my satisfaction and bemusement, they all did their roles proud. A special shout out to Eve Plumb, as Beth. She was very affecting. Her death was handled with grace, and even beauty. Equally surprising was William Shatner, who was very appealing in the role, tamping down, as he did, his habitual bombastic style. Needless to say, the luminous Dorothy McGuire was a perfect Marmee. And the great Greer Garson added an extra dimension to her Aunt March. The writing was fantastic: sensitive and delicate in places, and very faithful to the book. Due to the miniseries format, it included more of the book’s content and was leisurely paced though it never dragged. The 1994 Winona Ryder led film has always been my favorite, and probably will continue to be, but this one came very very close, and in some ways, surpassed it, in my view.**9 out of 10 stars**

February 1, 2016