Over Xmas and through NYE, I got to watch a lot of films and tv — both good and bad. Here’s the roster:
Transparent (full season 2): I predicted that the second season would be much like the first for this series, and I was totally wrong. Themes deepened even more than characters, though we saw some growth there, too. The focus on Jewish (and trans) history through flashbacks to a previous generation were the amazing highlight. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
Grimm (season 1): Finally gave in and watched this dark fantasy series, and WOW is it cheesy. Terrible dialogue, dreadful plot continuity, and Juliette is utterly flat and stale (from character conception to Bitsie Tulloch’s performance). The best I can say is that it’s been a painless late night option for enjoying with the hubs while I play Words With Friends. The only real highlight is Silas Weir Mitchell’s Monroe. He out-acts everyone else in the show by miles. NOT RECOMMENDED.
Coraline (2006): I enjoyed this creepy animated film at the theater when it came out, though it rather traumatized my seven-year-old son at the time. Got to watch it again for Christmas with my mom (who’d never seen it), and liked it even more — which says a lot about the dearth of engaging creepy animation these days. (Also learned that this was not a Tim Burton production, which I thought it was!) RECOMMENDED.
And the noir…
I, the Jury (1953): This Mike Hammer vehicle is as B as a B Noir can get. Biff Elliot does his best to be tough and gruff as he labors to avenge a war-time pal’s murder and falls into the clutches of a femme fatale (Peggie Castle). All the requisite hard-boiled elements are present, and that makes for a fun diversion, but at 87 minutes, it’s a bit longer than most casual viewers will likely last. I enjoyed it, but NOT RECOMMENDED.
The Prowler (1951): I am not a fan of Van Heflin, but he’s actually good as antihero Webb Garwood opposite Evelyn Keyes in this B noir flick. Webb feels fate has dealt him a crummy hand as a city cop who was once a high school football hero, and he decides to do something about it. Setting his sights on unhappily married ex-performer Susan Gilvray (Keyes), he pushes a hard seduction, especially once he finds out how much her abusive spouse (a late-night radio host) is insured for. Much that follows is textbook noir, though complications arise that force them to take it on the lam and hope for the best…which this kind of noir makes highly unlikely. RECOMMENDED.
Jeopardy (1953): Finally watched this lesser-known Stanwyck noir on DVD. Its premise is promising: wife Helen (Stanwyck) must get help for husband (Barry Sullivan) when he’s trapped beneath the beam of a crumbling jetty on a lonely stretch of beach in Mexico. The acting is solid, even including the surprisingly not-annoying little son (Lee Aaker) who keeps Dad’s spirits up as the tide rolls in. I was surprised to find (or re-remember) that Ralph Meeker (of Kiss Me Deadly fame) plays the criminal who steals Helen’s car and kidnaps her along with it. He does his best with the one-dimensional role — as do Stanwyck and Sullivan — but there’s a great deal of padding to make this one-trick film last feature length. I can see why it was successful as a 20-minute radio play, but the first act is far too long, as is the rescue. NOT RECOMMENDED unless you are a die-hard Stanwyck, Sullivan, or Meeker fan that needs to see everything they’ve done.