Sunday, February 24, 2019

"How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World" (2019)

I went to see this movie twice this week.  Once to see if it would be too scary/intense for my kids, and then again with my just-turned-9-yr-old, the only one I felt could handle it.  My 11-yr-old doesn't enjoy watching suspenseful things in the theater, and my 7-yr-old has been battling nightmares lately, especially after watching a couple of new movies that I felt were less scary than this one.  So they stayed home with Cowboy and I took my birthday girl, the Dragon Mama.  She was 100% fine, as I knew she would be.  Sorry, other kids, you'll just have to watch it on DVD in a few months.  I think you'll enjoy it more that way anyway.  Sam can wander around half-watching the stressful parts and I can put a blanket over Boo when there are scary parts.

Okay, so I am very conflicted about this movie.  I definitely did not love it the way I love the first movie.  But I liked it a lot better than the second one (which I will probably like better the second time I watch it, whenever I manage to see it again, but overall, not as much my thing).  Give me another viewing or two, and I'll probably love it.  But not like the first one.

Like that first one, this is a movie I cry through.  In fact, I cried more the second time than the first.  Tears running down my face, me trying to sniffle quietly, and so on.  Because... it's all about growing up and letting go of loved ones and moving on.  The first viewing, I was like, nope, I don't like this at all, because I generally hate stories about growing up.  But the second time through, I was more like, wow, this is one of the best movies about growing up and moving on that I've ever seen.  So I kinda loved it, actually... but not in a "let's watch it over and over" way like I love the first one.  More of a, "once in a while, when I'm feeling pensive, I'll rewatch this" way.

There's only one thing I don't like about it, actually, and that's that they spent all this time explaining that the bad guy is using dragon venom to control his evil dragons, and then they never went anywhere with that.  Hiccup never smashed the vials and set those dragons free or anything.  So that felt a little like a gun-on-the-mantel-that-didn't-get-used, to me.  But it's a pretty minor quibble.

Also, tiny little boy Hiccup in the flashbacks?  IS THE CUTEST THING EVER AND I WANT TO HUG HIM.  This 45-second scene might be my favorite thing in the whole movie.

EDIT:  Is this movie family friendly?  There's a lot of explosions and fighting, the bad guy is creepy and has really evil dragons, there's a lot of peril for characters, etc.  It's on par with the second film in those respects.

Friday, February 22, 2019

My Ten Favorite Western Movie Couples

Cordy at Any Merry Little Thought is hosting her second Lovely Blog Party this month, a blog party dedicated to beautiful romances throughout fiction.  For this party, I hereby present you with my ten favorite romantic couples from western movies!  These are are couples whose love stories I swoon over, or cheer for, or simply never tire of.  Couples that I think have the chance to really, truly be able to live happily ever after.  Because if I don't feel like they're going to have a happy marriage, I'm not happy with a fictional couple being together at the end of a movie or book.  It's a thing.  Okay?  Okay.  Let's do this.

Titles linked to my reviews where applicable.

1. Amy Martin (Emily Banks) and Cal Wayne (Bobby Darin) in Gunfight in Abilene (1967)

Cal and Amy were once planning to get married, but then he was reported dead during the Civil War, and she began seeing his best friend's older brother.  When Cal turns up very much alive, Amy must decide between her long-smoldering feelings for him or the security offered by her new fiance.  No prizes guessing which one *I* would choose.  I actually co-wrote a follow-up fanfic story for this movie once, which you can read here on  (It's posted under the name MountySwiss, the person I co-wrote it with.)(I wrote all the scenes with Cal Wayne in them, and she wrote the others.)(It does have some violence, but no bad language or sex.)(The story, I mean.  The same goes for the movie, actually.)(ANYWAY!)

2. Penelope Worth (Gail Russell) and Quirt Evans (John Wayne) in Angel and the Badman (1947)

She might not quite be an angel, but then again, he's not quite a bad man either.  By learning from each other and both being willing to change and grow in order to live in the other person's world, they wind up becoming admirably suited to each other.  I think they have a beautiful life ahead.

3. Elena de la Vega (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Alejandro Murrieta (Antonio Banderas) in The Mask of Zorro (1998)

Elena is the daughter of landed, titled Spanish aristocrats.  Alejandro is an orphan who grew up ragged and scrabbling for existence.  But they're both passionate and principled, and when they learn to work together, they become unstoppable.

4. Dallas (Claire Trevor) and the Ringo Kid (John Wayne) in Stagecoach (1939).

I've got a fondness for outcasts, and no mistake.  This former fallen woman and former convicted criminal will be mutually helpful in their quests to forge a better life by leaving their past selves behind.

5. Hilary Price (Juliet Mills) and Jamie Bowen (Don Galloway) in The Rare Breed (1966)

She's a young lady from Great Britain, travelling in America with her mother and the prize bull they've sold to a Texas rancher.  He's the rancher's neglected son, sweet and kind when his father wants him to be tough and rowdy.  They bring out the best in each other, and I think they're absolutely adorable together -- maybe the cutest couple on this list!

6. Ruth Lavery (Mona Freeman) and Choya (Alan Ladd) in Branded (1950)

Choya and Ruth are both so stubborn that, once they put their minds toward being together instead of working against each other, they've got a bright future.  Even though they first met when he was trying to con her family by posing as her long-lost brother, once they clear up that little misunderstanding, things smooth out readily enough.

7. Jessica Harrison (Sigrid Thornton) and Jim Craig (Tom Burlinson) in The Man from Snowy River (1982)

Probably this should be much higher on my list, since this is my favorite movie and all.  But sometimes I worry a little that Jim and Jessica will both be too stubborn and attached to their lifestyles to make a good go of things.  If they really want to, though, they can do it.

8. Molly Stark (Diane Lane) and the Virginian (Bill Pullman) in The Virginian (2000)

More stubborn people!  Being stubborn myself, I often gravitate toward people who are stubborn, tenacious, even a little bull-dogged.  Anyway, the Virginian spends most of the movie gently, determinedly pursuing the new schoolteacher from back East.  Molly Stark spends the movie insisting she won't marry a violent cowboy or some such fiddle-faddle and rot.  But I'm quite sure they'll be happy together, especially since he's so very patient.  She will require patience, I think.

9. Dell Payton (Shirley MacLaine) and Jason Sweet (Glenn Ford) in The Sheepman (1958)

She's 24, he's 42, and you expect this to be a weird sort of awkward, but instead, they're adorable.  Much of the adorableness stems from the fact that they seem to have some kind of inside joke that causes them to work really hard not to laugh in just about every scene they share.  That mutual humor makes me think they're going to have a grand life together.

10. John Chandler (Alan Ladd) and Linnett Moore (Olivia de Havilland) in The Proud Rebel (1958)

Both John and Linnett have big problems.  John's son (David Ladd) has been mute since his mother died.  Linnett is a single woman, not young, who owns a fine farm that some mean sheep ranchers want to get by any means necessary.  But they're both kind, good, honorable people and, together, they eventually find a way to make a better, happier life.

I hope you had fun with that!  Maybe even found a western movie or two you want to watch now :-)

PLEASE NOTE!  Most of these movies are NOT actually black-and-white.  All but #s 2 and 4 are color movies.  I just used b&w pictures of all of the couples because it was aesthetically pleasing.

If you want to see all my "ten favorite" lists, I have collected them on this page, with links to each individual post.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

We Love Shakespeare Week -- Giveaway WINNERS!

The Rafflecopter widget has spoken!  Here are the lucky winners of the We Love Shakespeare Week Giveaway!

"Though she be but little..." bookmark -- Laura
"Though she be but little..." boomark -- Kendra
Sayings We Owe Shakespeare bookmark -- Sarah
Twelve Shakespeare bookmarks -- Eva
Love word cloud sticker -- MovieCritic
"Love all..." sticker -- MovieCritic
Heart word cloud sticker -- MovieCritic
William Shakespeare: The Complete Plays in One Sitting -- John Smith
Brush Up Your Shakespeare! -- Quiggy
A Brief Guide to William Shakespeare Without the Boring Bits -- Anna Holmberg
Romeo and Juliet:  A Coloring Classic -- Ivy Miranda

(You'll notice that two people are getting a "Though she be but little, she is fierce" bookmark, and that is because I have discovered that I had bought TWO of those.  Huh.  So two people are getting those, and one person is getting all the stickers.)

I'll be emailing all the winners this afternoon to ask for shipping addresses and such, so check your email for those, okay?

Thanks for joining the fun, everyone!  We're up to 25 contributed posts right now, so if you haven't read all of those yet, check out the ones you've missed via the links here.

Shakespeare or Not Quiz -- Answers

Here are the answers to the Shakespeare or Not? quiz!  Basically, numbers 3, 5, 7, and 11 were NOT by Shakespeare.  Scores below!

Movie Critic -- 10
Eva -- 9
Jessica Prescott -- 6
Ivy Miranda -- 5

Classic Couples Quiz -- Answers

Here are the answers to the Classic Couples Quiz!  And everyone's scores are below.

Ivy Miranda -- 12 
Kirsty -- 12
Movie Critic -- 9

Thanks for playing, everyone!

Friday, February 15, 2019

"Hamlet" (1948)

I'd seen Laurence Olivier's Hamlet once before, probably between 2002 and 2004, though I'm not entirely certain.  I remember I was not a big fan of it, though I never bothered recording my thoughts on why.

Well, I watched it again this week so I could review it for We Love Shakespeare Week, and... I am still not a big fan of it.  Which I think says more about me and my personal needs from a Hamlet production than anything else, as there's nothing bad or wrong about this film.  It just doesn't work for me personally, and I'd like to explore that a bit here.

This is a very pretty film, in an austere way, with lots of lovely costumes and some stunning sets.  This Elsinore is cold and forboding, but not a place of decay or despair.  It's more like a place forsaken, emptied of life and passion.  And that's very much what I feel is missing from this whole film:  passion.  The words are here, the movements are here, but I can't connect to the emotions.  They may be hidden under the surface, but I just can't find them most of the time.  And that disappoints me.

These are the opening shots of the film.  Look how empty, how cold, how mystery-shrouded, yet barren they are.

For me, Hamlet is a story that focuses on the core emotions and problems of the human condition.  Being versus not being.  Following your emotions or your rationality.  Acting according to your convictions.  Duty and honor and obligation and desire.

But what does Olivier say this is?  He says this is primarily a story of a man who cannot make up his mind.  He states that right at the beginning of the film.  And I just don't see it that way.  So no wonder I disagree with his directing and acting!  I disagree with him on the whole point of the play.  (He directed it as well as starring, so I consider most of the decisions here to be his.)

Over and over, the camera looks at the characters from up high or far away, as if insisting that the audience maintain their distance.  This might also be trying to tell us that Hamlet feels detached from life, from the court, from the recent events.  He sits apart from the rest of the court in the opening scenes, though that's fairly typical staging.  But perhaps the repeated distancing of the camera from the action is meant to emphasize that separation?

I'm not saying they shoot everything from far away -- plenty of the action is closer to the camera, and once in a very great while, you even get a superb closeup.

But it's definitely a deliberate choice to keep looking at people from far away, and often from above.

Possibly they're trying to emphasize the theme of spying.  Hamlet is repeatedly spied upon during the play, by Polonious, by Claudius, by others (there's no Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in this version, but in the play, their whole reason for hanging out in Elsinore is to spy on him).  So that might be part of it -- putting us in the position of a spy.

There's one spot where Hamlet gets to do a bit of spying himself -- Olivier has him overhear Polonius and Claudius decide to watch him interact with Ophelia, which makes him later asking her where her father is very interesting -- he's testing her, trying to see whose side she's chosen.

Mostly, I think my problem with this version is that Hamlet himself seems very detached.  Cold, even.  It's like he's not allowing himself to feel anything at all.  Is he afraid of feeling too much?  Is he working extra hard to mask his emotions?  Holding himself very deliberately in check so as to remain aloof from all the trouble in Elsinore?  I DO NOT KNOW.  And that really bugs me.  I should know what he's feeling and thinking.  I don't want an inscrutable Hamlet, I want a Hamlet I can sympathize with.

Even with Ophelia, he's distant, remote.  I don't see love or passion or even friendly feelings in his scenes with her.  Maybe a little disappointment. Certainly no pangs of despised love.

I don't know why Olivier chose to play Hamlet this way!  Because it's very obviously deliberate.  He can play passionate, he can play emotional, he can play great depth of feeling.  I've seen him do it.  I like him really well in Rebecca (1940), Pride and Prejudice (1940), and Wuthering Heights (1939).  So why does he go all cold, dead fish for this?  Is it because he's 40 and feels somehow that he's too old for the role?  I don't personally think there's an age limit on how old or young you have to be to play Hamlet, but maybe he was worried about looking like he was trying to be younger than he was?  I wish I knew.

Now, Jean Simmons is amazing as Ophelia. She's nineteen, with a fragile, ethereal beauty.

She's got a very sweet, cute relationship with her brother, Laertes (Terence Morgan).

I like how he shields her a little from their blustery, somewhat gruff father Polonius (Felix Aylmer).

Really, this Ophelia is my favorite part of the film.  At such time as I watch this version again, it will be for her.  When she goes mad, you can't help but grieve, for she's like a lost little girl who needs rescuing.

But Hamlet remains detached from her, separated by himself, by others, and finally by her death.

Let's see, what about the rest of the cast?  I'm afraid Normal Wooland was a fairly boring Horatio.

Polonius (Felix Aylmer) and Gertrude (Eileen Herlie) were adequate.  But Claudius (Basil Sydney) disappointed me.  He wasn't conniving, he wasn't treacherous, he wasn't even interesting.  He was just kind of there.

I was rather charmed by Terence Morgan as Laertes, so that definitely pleased me.  Laertes is so often overlooked when casting and performing Hamlet, but I find him terribly important.  How he and Ophelia behave toward each other, and whether or not he serves as a good mirror image of Hamlet can elevate or drag down a production for me.

I felt like he could have been a little more tender toward Ophelia in their last scene together, but he did a great job being overcome with is emotions, so I'm okay with it.

So, when Hamlet comes back from his pirate adventure, usually he's played as being sort of settled down.  Calmed.  No more wild and whirling words.  He's ready for whatever his future holds.  But that's not at all the way I felt about him here!  If anything, he just seemed sort of relaxed and cheerful.  Playful, even!

In fact, I loved him in the gravedigger scene!  He finally felt alive and real.  I wish so much he'd been more like this for the rest of the movie, because if he had, I would absolutely dig it to pieces.

Is this a bad production?  NO.  It's beautifully shot.  It's nicely acted.  It just... does not suit me.

For the last few years, I've been "grading" the various Hamlet productions I watch when I review them.  Here's how this one measures up, for me:

Hamlet: B-
Horatio: C
Laertes: B+
Ophelia: A
Claudius: D
Gertrude: C
Polonius:  C
Overall Production: B

If you want to see how that compares to other versions I've seen, check out My Thoughts on Various Hamlet Adaptations.

I'll leave you with this gorgeous shot of Hamlet, all shrouded in confusion and being quite inscrutable.  Because it's really pretty.  And because I might have a teeny bit of a crush on Olivier right now.

This has been my final contribution to my We Love Shakespeare Week party!  I'll be posting the answers to the party games this weekend, and drawing winners for the giveaway on Sunday.  Be sure to check out everyone else's posts via the links here.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Announcing A Tribute to Vic Morrow blogathon

Yes, it's true.  I'm right in the middle of We Love Shakespeare Week, and I'm already talking about my next blogging event.

Today would have been Vic Morrow's 90th birthday.  To honor and remember him, I'm hereby announcing that DKoren of Sidewalk Crossings and I are cohosting a blogathon dedicated to Vic Morrow in April!  And we invite you to join us.  You can sign up here on my post or over on Sidewalk Crossings.

Vic Morrow has been one of my favorite actors since I was in my mid-teens.  He played my absolute favorite fictional character, Sergeant Saunders, on my favorite TV show, Combat! (1962-67).  He had an electrifying presence onscreen, and his acting abilities continue to astonish me.  Not only that, but I owe my friendship with DKoren in no small part to Vic Morrow -- I discovered her blog 14 years ago by searching for other bloggers who listed him as an interest.

 If you're not sure you know who Vic Morrow is or what he acted in, here's a link to his page on  There you'll discover that he not only made movies with the likes of Glenn Ford, Sidney Poitier, Elvis, Robert Ryan, James Cagney, and Aldo Ray, he also guest-starred in oodles of TV shows throughout the 1960s and '70s.  Many of those TV show episodes can be viewed on YouTube or elsewhere on the internet.

He also starred on the TV show Combat! for five years, working with an illustrious string of guest stars like James Coburn, Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson, John Dehner, and James MacArthur.  Many actors specifically requested a guest slot on the show just so they could have the chance to work with Vic Morrow.

You are welcome to write a review of a single TV show episode for this blogathon, or review a movie, or write up anything else related to Vic Morrow that comes to mind.  If you're not sure if your idea will work, just discuss it with either myself or DKoren.

As usual, I've gotten very enthusiastic with creating buttons for this event.  Find one you like and share it on your blog or website -- there are plenty to choose from.

The Roster

Sidewalk Crossings -- King Creole (1958)
Hamlette's Soliloquy -- Review of some movie or TV show ep and "Why Vic's Character Sgt. Saunders on Combat! (1962-67) is My Favorite Fictional Character of All Time (And Why You Should, Like, Care)"
The Midnite Drive-in -- 1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982)
Coffee, Classics, and Craziness -- Favorite episodes of Combat! (1962-67)
+ Horseback to Byzantium -- Bonanza episode "The Avenger" (1960)
+ You!