Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater is a charming and silly story set in a world where magical creatures are part of everyday life. Our heroine, the aforementioned Pip Bartlett, is completely capable of talking with and taking care of magical creatures - it’s people she has problems with. Everything changes after an incident involving unicorns at her school and she is sent to spend the summer with her aunt, who is a veterinarian for magical creatures. Pip is having a great time caring for the animals, learning from her aunt, and generally staying out of trouble, until the Fuzzles arrive. Now, while these little balls of fluff may sound cute, their response to any fear or stress is to burst into flame. As more and more flood in the town, it becomes a serious fire hazard and Pip has to help find a solution, not only to save the town, but also to save the Fuzzles from being exterminated by the town government. Read more about Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater
I have a confession to make. For years, I had a secret crush on a much older woman. She passed away in 1990 at the age of 84. I was 34 at the time. I only knew her through her films, and one, in particular, stirred me. The woman was Greta Garbo and the film that burrowed a special place in my heart was Ninotchka. The script was written by Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder and directed by Ernst Lubitsch andtells the story of a down to business, emotionally cold Russian official sent to Paris to check on the status of Russia’s sale of the nation’s former crown jewels which were being sold to help support Russia’s recovery after the revolution. Upon arriving in Paris she finds herself involved in a legal battle with Russia’s exiled Grand Duchess for possession of the jewels and finds that the Russian representatives sent originally to sell the jewels seem to have given in to the temptations and pleasures of the rich Paris life. Her mission is complicated by the attentions of Count Leon d’Algout (Melvyn Douglas) who after meeting her on the street is determined to win her heart. Unknown to her is that he is also the lawyer representing the Grand Duchess in court. Unknown to him at the time is her relationship to his case. Can the heart win over political philosophy and the law? Read more about Ninotchka
Harley Sullivan: What kind of business you figure your brother left you? John O'Hanlan: Well, the letter don't say - but that's just like a lawyer. They don't tell you no more than it takes to confuse you. But it's a... something called the Cheyenne Social Club.
After receiving a letter informing him of the death of his brother John O’Hanlan (James Stewart) leaves his position as a hired hand on a cattle drive to take over the Cheyenne Social Club the business his brother left him in his will. It might seem obvious to us by the name of the business and the movie just exactly what the nature of the business is, but this is a story about a more innocent time and John O’Hanlan is a more innocent man. He is joined on his trek across the country and into Cheyenne by his good friend Harley (Henry Fonda). The film which was directed by Gene Kelly moves fluidly through the story from one situation to another. Low Key” may be the best way to describe this film about a man of high morals, and a kind heart who suddenly finds himself the owner of the most famous brothel in Wyoming. Read more about Cheyenne Social Club
A while back I posted an entry about the 1965 movie Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines. In that post, I mentioned another film that came out the same year called The Great Race. While I am entranced by the old planes in Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying machines, The Great Race is really my favorite of the two. The film stars Tony Curtis as “The Great Leslie,” a stereotype 1910 pure as gold hero in white and Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, a stereotype 1910 pure villain in black and tells the story of their race around the world by automobile. Leslie and Professor Fate are not the only cars racing. The race starts with a much larger pack of automobiles; Read more about The Great Race
Mortimer Brewster’s aunts Abby and Martha are two of the kindest, most loving women you could ever hope to meet. They are always willing to help others and always seemed to have a kind word for everyone. They raised Mortimer and his brothers Jonathan and Teddy from a young age. Mortimer has developed into a well-rounded young man who works for the city’s paper reviewing the theatre. Brother Teddy, while harmless, suffers from the delusion that he is President Theodore Roosevelt. Brother Jonathan, well, the less said about him the better. He was the type of child who enjoyed pulling the wings off of flies and the legs off of spiders. The “fun” begins when Mortimer is excitedly preparing to share the good news of his coming engagement to the girl next door rather unexpectedly finds a dead body in the window box seat of his Aunts’ home. Later that same night his brother Jonathan returns home after a long absence; who after numerous face changing surgeries looks a great deal like the actor Boris Karloff. With him comes an alcoholic plastic surgeon and another dead body. Meanwhile, Teddy seems to be digging body sized locks for the Panama Canal in the basement. Read more about Arsenic and Old Lace
In 1965, there were two racing comedies released both of them set during the first 10 years of 1900’s. The more popular of two was “The Great Race,” which was about an around the world automobile race; the second was Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines, about an air race between London and Paris in very early and flimsy aircraft. While I will admit there is something special about The Great Race and it certainly had more stars who were known in the United States, Those Magnificent Men and their flying Machines had something the other did not … History.
What do I mean by history? First of all, there is the light-hearted review of man’s attempts to fly featuring the comic skills of Red Skelton mixed with historic footage of some of the more outrageous of man’s attempts and failures to fly before the opening credits. You are not likely to see more historical film footage of man’s failed attempts to fly in another movie. But of even greater interest to someone like me is that every plane used in the film was a recreation of a historic airplane from the birth of aviation. In a few cases, they added some safety devices or a small change was made to better protect the pilots, but the planes did fly, or, at least, those that were supposed to fly did, and they were actually flown for the movie’s footage. Read more about Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines
Not too long ago I was reminded of one of my favorite romantic movies, The American President. The film stars Michael Douglas as President Andrew Shepherd and Annette Bening as Sydney Ellen Wade, a lobbyist for an ecological group. President Shepherd is something unusual in the U.S. Presidency, though not in movies, a single father. Shepherd is nearing the end of his first term, up for re-election and wondering if the real reason he was elected was due to a sympathy vote after his wife died of cancer during his campaign. Now, after a little over three years of widowhood, he spots Sydney at a meeting taking place at the White House and decides he would like to ask her out. The problem, obviously, is that he is the President of the United States. His life is a fish bowl and there is a dignity that goes with the office that makes it difficult to have close friends. His oldest and best friend now refuses to call him anything other than “Mr. President” even during their private games of pool. So just how does a President ask a woman out on a date? What happens when that date is successful and they find themselves strongly attracted to each other? Read more about American President
There’s a business in Logansport, Indiana known as Fiberglass Freaks. They produce my dream car. They don’t make a lot of them as each car is custom built by hand. The car is known as “The Batmobile.” Over the years in the movies and television there have been several Batmobiles, but the 1966 Batmobile is perhaps the best known and one of the most loved. It is this car this small company builds. The popularity of this car is not just because of its distinctive lines and style, but because of the popularity of a camp, comedy version of one of the most well-known crime fighters in comic book history, Batman.
The 1960’s Batman TV series was originally conceived as a drama; at some point the decision was made to turn it in to a camp comedy. I don’t know why the decision was made but the result was almost literally pure gold. Read more about BATMAN (1966 - TV Series)
I like jokes that are somewhat dry in their delivery—jokes delivered so straight they take just a couple of seconds to register. Though Support Your Local Sheriff has its share of comedy pratfalls, it’s also filled with James Garner’s brand of straight, matter-of-fact delivery. Read more about Support Your Local Sheriff
George C. Scott often manages to bring a believability to even the most unbelievable role. In the dark comedy They Might Be Giants, Scott plays Justin, a man believing himself to be the illustrious fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, who’s turned over to a psychologist, played by Joanne Woodward, for evaluation and treatment. She’s a young woman whose last name just happens to be Watson—a situation that doesn’t exactly help Justin’s delusions—and she’s soon drawn into his search for Moriarty, following “Holmes” hither and yon through Manhattan and into dangerous situations. Read more about They Might Be Giants