Monday, December 05, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Mingle All the Way (2018)

I was drawn to watch MINGLE ALL THE WAY (2018), a Hallmark Channel Christmas film from a few years ago, by the two top-billed actresses, Jen Lilley and Lindsay Wagner.

I've reviewed Lilley in a few other Hallmark films, which are linked at the end of this post, and I've loved Wagner since her days as THE BIONIC WOMAN (1976-78) and a star of classic TV-movies.

Lilley plays Molly, who with a partner (Casey Manderson) has created a new kind of networking app; named Mingle All the Way, the app is for busy professionals who would like to have a "plus one" to accompany them to social events without mixing in romance.

A potential investor (Rebecca Staab) wants Molly to personally test out the app during the Christmas season, and Molly is matched with Jeff (Brant Daugherty), an advertising executive.

Although they had previously had an unfortunate chance meeting in person, Molly and Jeff end up hitting it off, and Jeff is a particular help as Molly deals with the expectations of her prickly mother (Wagner).

No one will be surprised that romance soon seems in the offing for Molly and Jeff...although things could become complicated by the fact that Molly has not disclosed to Jeff that she's the woman behind the app that matched them.

Other than the referenced relationship complication -- I never like plots where a lot would be easily solved if characters communicated -- I quite enjoyed this film. It moves fast and the lead actors have nice chemistry, making their transition from annoyance to affection believable.

This is a different type of part for Wagner, whose most memorable characters of the past had a great deal of warmth and vulnerability. Chilly Veronica is not a supportive mother, and she also doesn't have a good feel for social cues, creating awkward moments.

However, like Molly and Jeff's characters, the script gradually transitions Veronica so that we see her reactions in a new light. The fact that her character possesses the ability to act as she does in her early scenes remains a bit alarming, but by movie's end we've come to like her.

I also particularly enjoyed Manderson as Molly's fun business partner, who provides her with the support she doesn't receive from her intimidating mother.

MINGLE ALL THE WAY was directed by Allan Harmon. It was filmed by Chris Kempinski in Vancouver, British Columbia.

MINGLE ALL THE WAY is available in a three-film DVD collection just released by Hallmark in November 2022.

Previous reviews of Jen Lilley Hallmark films: HARVEST LOVE (2017), USS CHRISTMAS (2020), and SNOWKISSED (2021).

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Peking Express (1951) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

PEKING EXPRESS (1951), an updated Paramount Pictures remake of the classic film SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932), has just been released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

I had no previous familiarity with this film despite it starring Joseph Cotten, an actor I always enjoy.

PEKING EXPRESS is set in Communist China a few years after the end of World War II. Cotten plays Dr. Michael Bachlin, who is in China on behalf of the World Health Organization. The Chinese track his every move, despite the fact he's there to lend humanitarian aid.

When Michael boards a Peking-bound train in Shanghai, he's shocked to be reunited with his old flame Danielle (Corinne Calvet, THE FAR COUNTRY). They had broken up five years before over issues of trust.

As Michael and Danielle tentatively rekindle their romance while the train makes its way to Peking, they must deal with an attempted murder, guerrilla warfare, being held hostage, and more.

I thought this was an enjoyable film, though it lacks the magic and style of the original, which was directed by Josef von Sternberg and starred Marlene Dietrich and Clive Brook. SHANGHAI EXPRESS was a 3-1/2 to 4-star classic, while PEKING EXPRESS is an entertaining enough 2-1/2 to 3-star movie.

PEKING EXPRESS feels too plot-heavy, with too many characters we don't get to know well taking up too much screen time, at the expense of Cotten and Calvet's character and romantic development. That said, I love Cotten and "train movies" and had a pleasant time watching it despite its imperfection.

IMDb says the movie runs 95 minutes but it appears that's an error, as the print I watched seemed complete and was 85 minutes.

The movie was directed by William Dieterle and filmed in black and white by Charles Lang. The script of this Hal Wallis production was by John Meredyth Lucas. The score was by Dimitri Tiomkin.

The supporting cast includes Edmund Gwenn, Marvin Miller, Benson Fong, Soo Yong, Robert W. Lee, and Victor Sen Yung.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks quite good, particularly where the closeups are concerned. The overall film lacks the visual distinction of SHANGHAI EXPRESS -- no fabulous Dietrich-style fashions here -- with the exterior shots looking particularly mundane; however, when the camera lands on Cotten and Calvet we're treated to some gorgeous faces in a beautiful print.

According to Kino Lorber, the disc was "remastered in HD by Paramount from a 4K scan of the 35mm camera fine grain."

Extras are a commentary track by Eddy Von Mueller and half a dozen trailers for additional films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Saturday, December 03, 2022

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...I can't spend too much time contemplating this list or it makes me a little nuts, but for anyone who wishes to peruse the new list of 100 Greatest Films from Sight and Sound, here it is. A great many wonderful directors are missing from the list, including names like Lubitsch, Wyler, and Hawks -- I mean, they've dropped RIO BRAVO (1959) from this year's list?! I suspect trying to narrow down any list to the "100 Best" of world cinema is a fool's errand, in any event.

...The President of the Academy announced that 23 categories of the Oscars will be presented live during the Oscar ceremony on March 12, 2023. Eight categories being cut was a move which was widely derided in 2022.

...Glenn Erickson has reviewed the new Warner Archive Blu-ray release of ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN (1958).

...New on December 10th from Old Mill Press: 3D NATIONAL PARKS: LIKE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN THEM BEFORE by David A. Bossert. Disney historian Bossert's many other books include 3D DISNEYLAND: LIKE YOU'VE NEVER SEEN IT BEFORE, which comes with a pair of 3D glasses. I'm ordering the national parks book on based on the quality of his past books, including the Disneyland 3D book.

...Having seen all of the Jon Hall and Maria Montez adventure films in recent months, I was intrigued by the review of DEPUTY MARSHAL (1949) at Jeff Arnold's West, as it stars Hall, Frances Langford, and Dick Foran, plus Russell Hayden and Julie Bishop. Even better was realizing I actually own a copy! It's going into my (mile-high) "watch" stack.

...Karen makes excellent December TCM recommendations at Shadows and Satin.

...Attention Southern Californians: The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood will be hosting a New Year's Day marathon of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991), ALADDIN (1992), THE LION KING (1994), and FROZEN (2013)...On December 26th, the Hollywood Legion Theatre will host a matinee screening of MARY POPPINS (1964).

...A movie poster exhibit is opening this weekend at Cal State Northridge.

...Notable Passings: Singer Louise Tobin, who was Harry James' first wife, has died at the age of 104...Character actor Cliff Emmich has died at 85.

...For additional recent links of interest to classic film fans, please check out my November 26th roundup.

Friday, December 02, 2022

TCM in December: Highlights

Happy December!

Historically December is probably my favorite month on Turner Classic Movies, and this year is no exception. There's a great schedule ahead to enjoy.

Ava Gardner is the December Star of the Month on Thursday evenings. This is a centennial celebration for the actress, who was born on Christmas Eve in 1922.

For complete Star of the Month schedule details and several movie review links, please visit my post TCM Star of the Month: Ava Gardner.

December is also a month packed with Christmas movies, including a 'round-the-clock marathon running from December 18th through Christmas Day. Please visit my post TCM in December: Christmas Movies for the complete schedule and numerous review links.

December's Noir Alley titles are DECOY (1946) on December 3rd and 4th, WALK SOFTLY, STRANGER (1950) on December 10th and 11th, and the Christmasy MR. SOFT TOUCH (1949) on December 17th and 18th.

Noir Alley will take the final two weekends of the month off while TCM features the Christmas movie marathon and special programming for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Noir Alley will return on the weekend of January 7th and 8th.

Here are a few additional highlights from TCM's December schedule. Please click any hyperlinked title to read a complete film review.

...A favorite George O'Brien "B" Western, BULLET CODE (1940), will be shown on Saturday morning, December 3rd. O'Brien's leading lady is his six-time costar, lovely Virginia Vale.

...An MGM favorite, HIGH SOCIETY (1956), will be shown on the 4th. It stars Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, John Lund, and Louis Armstrong. I last saw it at the 2019 TCM Classic Film Festival, where I was reminded that I probably like this film a little bit better than the movie it remade, THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940).

...The theme on three Mondays this month is "Directors' Final Films." December 5th's lineup includes some very good titles, including the superb JOURNEY FOR MARGARET (1942), a drama of the London Blitz starring Robert Young, Laraine Day, and Margaret O'Brien.  It was the final movie directed by W.S. "Woody" Van Dyke.

...The documentary MAX STEINER: MAESTRO OF MOVIE MUSIC (2021) will be shown on Tuesday evening, December 6th, along with three films scored by Steiner.

...Pearl Harbor Day will be commemorated with a daytime lineup of World War II Films, including THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944) and THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945).

...A day of British films on December 8th includes my favorite film from director Alfred Hitchcock's British era, THE LADY VANISHES (1938).

...Leonard Maltin hosts a trio of "RKO Musical Sleepers" on December 9th. The films are MELODY CRUISE (1933), HOORAY FOR LOVE (1935), and MUSIC FOR MADAME (1937). This should be a great evening!

...The Saturday morning "B" Western on December 10th is RIO GRANDE PATROL (1950) starring Tim Holt, Richard Martin, and Jane Nigh. In my linked review I called it "a fun, speedy hour with a personable cast."

..."Stars Behind Bars" on December 12th include Lawrence Tierney in a fun "B" film, SAN QUENTIN (1946). Tierney is the subject of a brand-new biography being published next week.

...Only on TCM will you find a tribute to Jean Brooks, which takes place on December 13th. I've seen a majority of the titles screening, including four FALCON mysteries; another Tom Conway film, A NIGHT OF ADVENTURE (1944); and the gem of the day, Val Lewton's THE LEOPARD MAN (1943).

...December 7th, 14th, and 28th the prime time theme is "Movie Neighbors." I especially like the films on the 14th, which kick off with Jean Arthur and Joel McCrea in THE MORE THE MERRIER (1943), followed by Virginia Mayo, Turhan Bey, and George Brent in OUT OF THE BLUE (1947) and then Rock Hudson and Doris Day in PILLOW TALK (1959).

...Mary Astor receives a 10-film tribute on December 15th, including the very good SMART WOMAN (1931), where Astor plays a woman who wins back her wandering husband by playing hard to get. The film has a wonderful part for John Halliday as a man who helps Nancy put her life back together.

...There's another fun "B" Western on Saturday, December 17th: STAGECOACH KID (1949) with Tim Holt, Richard Martin, and Jeff Donnell. It's great having Westerns like these shown on Saturday mornings!

...One of the greatest Astaire-Rogers musicals, SWING TIME (1936), will be shown on December 18th.

...The lineup of "Director's Final Films" on December 26th includes a Robert Taylor Western I'm fond of, AMBUSH (1950), directed by Sam Wood.  The fine cast includes Arlene Dahl, John Hodiak, Don Taylor, and John McIntire.

...A birthday tribute to Sydney Greenstreet on December 27th includes a favorite romantic comedy starring Ida Lupino, PILLOW TO POST (1945). I've seen most of the films showing on the 27th and it's a wonderful lineup, also including FLAMINGO ROAD (1949) and THE MALTESE FALCON (1941).

...The Hitchcock classic REAR WINDOW (1954) is one of the movies on the final night of films featuring "Movie Neighbors" on December 28th. This film is always worth revisiting, and anyone who hasn't had the pleasure should add this one to the calendar.

...A tribute to director William Wyler on December 29th includes MRS. MINIVER (1942), the Best Picture winner starring Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon.

...Enjoy New Year's Eve with four THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! musical compilation films, followed by half a dozen films in the THIN MAN mystery series.

Finally, a reminder that TCM's Message Boards have closed as of November 30th. They will be available in "read only" format until February 15th, then will be deleted.

For more on TCM in December 2022, please visit my posts Quick Preview of TCM in December, TCM Star of the Month: Ava Gardner, and TCM in December: Christmas Movies, along with TCM's online schedule.

In addition, TCM's December promotional video may be viewed on Twitter or YouTube.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 01, 2022

TCM in December: Christmas Movies

It's time for my annual guide to the Christmas movies being shown this month on Turner Classic Movies!

As usual, Christmas titles are scattered throughout the December schedule, including on Saturdays and Sundays.

This year TCM is repeating the Christmas week movie marathon also held in 2021; this year's marathon will be held from December 18th through Christmas Day.

There's always a small fluctuation in the titles shown from year to year, but most of the familiar Christmas favorites typically shown on TCM will be found on the schedule below.

Please click any hyperlinked title for a complete review. For those films shown multiple times, the review is linked only at the first mention.

Additionally, click on any of the stills to enlarge for a closer look.


Saturday, December 3rd



Sunday, December 4th



Saturday, December 10th



Sunday, December 11th

THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1948
CHRISTMAS PAST (1925)


Tuesday, December 13th

LADY IN THE LAKE (1947) (Shown as part of an evening of Philip Marlowe mysteries)


Saturday, December 17th

THE CAPTAIN'S CHRISTMAS (1938) (cartoon)
THE SONG OF BERNADETTE (1945)
KING OF KING (1961)
THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD (1965)
MR. SOFT TOUCH (1949) (Noir Alley)


Sunday, December 18th

MR. SOFT TOUCH (1949)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938)
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944)
IN THE GOLD OLD SUMMERTIME (1949)
THE KING OF KINGS (1927)
MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE (1983)
MON ONCLE ANTOINE (1971)


Monday, December 19th

ROADBLOCK (1951)
BOYS TOWN (1938)
TENTH AVENUE ANGEL (1948)
LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938)
THE GREAT RUPERT (1950)
THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940)
METROPOLITAN (1990)
BUNDLE OF JOY (1956)
ALL MINE TO GIVE (1957)


Tuesday, December 20th

KIND LADY (1935)
COVER UP (1949)
LADY IN THE LAKE (1947)
BACKFIRE (1940)
MR. SOFT TOUCH (1949)
GOING MY WAY (1944)
O. HENRY'S FULL HOUSE (1952)
PERIOD OF ADJUSTMENT (1962)
FANNY AND ALEXANDER (1982)


Wednesday, December 21st

CHRISTMAS PAST (1925)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938)
A CAROL FOR ANOTHER CHRISTMAS (1964)
CROOKS ANONYMOUS (1963)
BLAST OF SILENCE (1961)
CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945)
HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949)
LITTLE WOMEN (1949)
AUNTIE MAME (1958)


Thursday, December 22nd

BLOSSOMS IN THE DUST (1941)
THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE (1944)
BACHELOR MOTHER (1939)
MA AND PA KETTLE AT HOME (1954)
THE LION IN WINTER (1968)
IT HAPPENED ON 5TH AVENUE (1947)
THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (1942)
FITZWILLY (1967)
LADY ON A TRAIN (1945)
THE SILENT PARTNER (1978)


Friday, December 23rd

BUNDLE OF JOY (1956)
OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945)
ALL MINE TO GIVE (1957)
PENNY SERENADE (1941)
REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940)
DESK SET (1957)
BELL BOOK AND CANDLE (1958)
THE ROCKING HORSE WINNER (1949)
BIG BUSINESS (1929) (short)


Saturday, December 24th

THREE GODFATHERS (1936)
BEYOND TOMORROW (1940)
THE GREAT RUPERT (1950)
TENTH AVENUE ANGEL (1948)
THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940)
IT HAPPENED ON 5TH AVENUE (1947)
CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945)
MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944)
THE BISHOP'S WIFE (1947)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1938)
MEET JOHN DOE (1940)
POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES (1961)


Sunday, December 25th

STAR IN THE NIGHT (1945) (short)
BABES IN TOYLAND (1934)
LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938)
THE APARTMENT (1960)
THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (1942)
HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949)
IN THE GOOD OLD SUMMERTIME (1949)


TCM will also be celebrating New Year's Eve just as the network did last year, showing the THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT! musical compilation films followed by the THIN MAN series.

For more on TCM in December 2021, please visit Quick Preview of TCM in December and TCM Star of the Month: Ava Gardner, along with TCM's online schedule.

Coming this weekend: TCM in December: Highlights


Wednesday, November 30, 2022

TCM Star of the Month: Ava Gardner

This month Turner Classic Movies celebrates the centennial of the birth of Ava Gardner by honoring her as the December Star of the Month.

Gardner, who was previously honored in April 1997 and November 2010, will be celebrated on four Thursday evenings this month, beginning on December 1st.

Gardner films will continue on the 8th and the 15th, then take the 22nd off for TCM's Christmas movie marathon. The final films in the Gardner series will be shown December 29th.

There are many good films in the lineup; the first four films on December 1st are all films I have particularly enjoyed.

The complete schedule is below. Please click on any hyperlinked title to read my extended review.


December 1st

THE KILLERS (1946)

THE HUCKSTERS (1947)

THE BRIBE (1949)

EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE (1949)

WE WERE DANCING (1942)

GHOSTS ON THE LOOSE (1943)

MAISIE GOES TO RENO (1944)

3 MEN IN WHITE (1944)

SHE WENT TO THE RACES (1945)


December 8th

BAREFOOT CONTESSA (1954)

MOGAMBO (1953)

KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE (1953)

BHOWANI JUNCTION (1956)

MY FORBIDDEN PAST (1951)

SHOW BOAT (1951)

LONE STAR (1952)

RIDE, VAQUERO! (1953)

THE LITTLE HUT (1957)


December 15th

THE ANGEL WORE RED (1960)

THE NIGHT OF THE IGUANA (1964)

SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (1964) (more here)

55 DAYS AT PEKING (1963)



December 29th

THE GREAT SINNER (1949)

ON THE BEACH (1959)

THE SNOWS OF KILIMANJARO (1952)

AVA GARDNER, THE GIPSY OF HOLLYWOOD (2017)

THE LIFE AND TIMES OF JUDGE ROY BEAN (1972)


Coming soon: Look for my posts TCM in December: Highlights and TCM in December: Christmas Movies.

Related Post: TCM Star of the Month: Ava Gardner (November 2010).

Quick Preview of TCM in January

It's time for a look at what's coming in January on Turner Classic Movies!

A draft schedule is now available, and while it still has a number of blanks which will be filled in by New Year's, there's plenty of interesting information to share.

Marion Davies is the January Star of the Month. Two dozen Davies films will be shown spread across the first four Tuesday evenings of the month.

It's wonderful timing, coinciding with the recent publication of the new Davies biography by Lara Gabrielle.

The January Noir Alley titles are DON'T BOTHER TO KNOCK (1952), THUNDER ROAD (1958), THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS (1947), and HIGHWAY 301 (1950). Unusually for Noir Alley films, to date I've only seen one film on this list!

The TCM Spotlight will be focused on "Car Chases," while the month's Special Theme is "The Jewish Experience." Additional January programming themes include juries, '30s Westerns, snow, nightclubs, and films based on Russian literature.

Bonita Granville's Nancy Drew four-film series will be featured in prime time on January 6th, and several Torchy Blane mysteries will have a prime time airing on the 13th.

Martin Luther King Day on January 16th will include the TCM premiere of Cicely Tyson in the TV-movie THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MISS JANE PITTMAN (1974).

Filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes in January include James Garner, Jean Simmons, Ray Milland, Elvis Presley, Stanley Kramer, Errol Flynn, Frank Borzage, Eva Marie Saint, David Janssen, Lee Van Cleef, and Sir Ralph Richardson.

There will also be a memorial tribute to director Jean-Luc Godard on Tuesday, January 31st.

I'll have more about TCM in January posted here around the end of the year. In the meantime, enjoy Ava Gardner as the December Star of the Month!


Tuesday, November 29, 2022

New Western RoundUp Column

My newest Western Roundup column has just been posted at Classic Movie Hub.

This month I pay tribute to Western leading ladies while visiting the final resting places of 13 actresses who starred in both "A" and "B" Westerns.

Please click over to Classic Movie Hub for the column, and thanks very much for reading!


Monday, November 28, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Jolly Good Christmas (2022)

My first Christmas movie of the season is JOLLY GOOD CHRISTMAS (2022), a brand-new film from this year's slate of holiday films shown on the Hallmark Channel.

According to IMDb, JOLLY GOOD CHRISTMAS has an alternate title, CHRISTMAS IN LONDON.

It wasn't a hard decision to start the season with this film, since I'm a sucker for anything filmed in one of my favorite cities. It was a treat they actually did some nice location work, rather than faking it with establishing shots and green screens.

Another pull to the film is that it was written by Ron Oliver, whom I've had the pleasure of chatting with a couple of times at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs. He regularly writes and/or directs for the channel; I've also reviewed LOVE AT THE THANKSGIVING DAY PARADE (2012), which he directed, and TRULY, MADLY, SWEETLY (2018), which he cowrote and directed.

JOLLY GOOD CHRISTMAS has a pair of appealing lead actors in Will Kemp and Reshma Shetty. The British-born Kemp, who recently signed a multi-picture deal with Hallmark, plays David, an American architect working in London.

David is dating Charlotte (Sophie Hopkins), his boss's daughter, and is stymied over what to buy her for Christmas. After he has a "meet cute" with Anji (Shetty), a professional shopper, he offers to double her going rate if she will help him, even though it's almost Christmas Eve.

As David and Anji shop together, he comes to realize how little he really knows about Charlotte, while he and Anji connect over a series of adventures (and misadventures!). They've each had hurts and frustrations in their past lives but are also positive and goal-oriented, and over the course of the day they encourage each other, with the life each of them really wants suddenly seeming more possible.

This may not be absolute top-drawer Hallmark, but it's a very solid and enjoyable film I'll watch again. The film has a nice sense of "place" due to the location filming, along with Anji's parents owning a pub, and it also has fun doing a bit of contrasting the American and British versions of Christmas, with David wishing Anji a "merry" Christmas while she wishes him one that's "happy."

I had anticipated a love story in which the hero is torn between two women might be problematic, but I think the script handled it well, walking a line between making clear Charlotte is too edgy for David but at the same time, not really a bad person. David and Anji recognize their attraction but don't act on it until David makes a decision about his commitment to Charlotte and they talk it over.

JOLLY GOOD CHRISTMAS is engaging throughout, and it left me with a smile on my face, which is exactly what I hope for when I watch a Hallmark Christmas movie.

JOLLY GOOD CHRISTMAS was directed by Jonathan Wright and filmed by Russ Goozee.

For review links to some of the other Hallmark Christmas films I've watched in the last few years, please visit Hallmark Christmas Movie Reviews and scroll down to explore the titles.

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