Watching Monk makes me feel less neurotic. I mean, who the heck can be more neurotic than this guy? I’m sure there are people out there but in my slightly-neurotic case, I’m sorry…detective Adrian Monk just makes me feel better about my little problems. Aside from that selfish reason, I like the show also because it’s funny and highly entertaining (at least to me). The cases are simple and often quite silly and far-fetched, but Monk’s character makes up for it by being one of the most complex and fascinating (some might call it annoying) characters on TV today. Monk is basically about a man who lost his wife in a tragic accident and he becomes so highly obsessive-compulsive that he can no longer be a police officer. So, he uses he super-detective powers to good use by consulting for the police. Like the Sherlock Holmes stories where Sherlock has his Watson, Monk has a sidekick in his assistant Natalie (Sharona was his assistant in the first two seasons). Sherlock also had a police inspector who was always calling him in for assistance, just like Monk’s Captain Stottlemeyer. All in all, Monk usually provides a solid hour of fun fair and escapism…and also makes you feel more secure about all of your minor foibles and quirks.
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For a British detective show, this one is fun. Having LOVED Patricia Routledge in her acclaimed British comedy Keeping Up Appearances, I was at first hesitant to try this show. I mean, Routledge will always be Appearances’ Hyacinth Bucket to me and watching her play anything else would be silly and pointless, right? Well, Routledge’s acting skills are such that, shortly after I began the first season of Hetty, I soon forgot about Hyacinth and Appearances (at least for the time being). Routledge’s Hetty is a spunky, determined woman who is desperate to fight off senior citizenship for as long as she can. Her husband recently retires and he figures they will live a life of quiet, peaceful rest but Hetty is cagy and unfulfilled by the thought of lazing around in her Golden Years. Instead, she takes a job at a post office branch and while working, she begins to investigate some potential frauds. One thing leads to another and she is well on her way to solving crimes. She enlists the help of a young, wandering teenaged boy who becomes her “assistant” and eventually moves in with her and her husband. Unlike some detective shows where there is a strong “gimmick” factor…the gimmick here being a senior, former housewife detective…the crimes and plots are pretty strong and convincing. The cases she takes on are not fluff, but also in the same token, they are not so unbelievable that no one would ever be able to solve them…not to mention an inexperienced P.I.
Rupert Everett adds his name to the lengthy list of men who have played the Arthur Conan Doyle classic detective. Here, Sherlock Holmes starts off this case on a sour note with a look into his habitual and problematic drug use. Watson, his pal and partner-in-crime (played here by British actor Ian Hart), tries his best to pull Holmes out of the addiction but when it comes right down to it, what gets Holmes clean is the work. The work of crime and investigating and putting all the investigating together to solve the case. The case, in this instance, is the murder of a series of young women, all from affluent families, who are found with different clothes on and a silk stocking lodged in their throats. Holmes and Watson begin on the trail of plodding and prodding until they find their man or woman. The relationship of the two men is key here, as it always was in the Doyle books and the subsequent many, many movies based on the character of Holmes. Without convincing chemistry between Holmes and Watson, the story is almost guaranteed not to work. Thankfully, here it does work.
Robert Mitchum does not get more broody than in this film noir classic. He’s hired by wealthy Kirk Douglas to track down Douglas’ wife. Once Mitchum finds her, he is enamored and falls in love. She, of course, turns out to be a true Femme Fatale and it all spirals downhill from there. Remade in 1984 as Against All Odds, this classic features Mitchum in one of his most complex performances. He has to be everything in this movie…loving, scared, scorned, troubled, etc. And he plays all of the emotions with his classic “shrug-of-the-shoulders” demeanor. A must see for any film noir fan.
For film noir-buffs, this is as close to the Father of the genre as you can get. For a genre that came into its own AFTER WWII, this 1941 film still fits the “noir” bill even though it was made before we even entered into the War. Like other noir titles made before the end of the War, specifically Otto Preminger’s 1944 classic Laura and Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (also from 1944), The Maltese Falcon did a good job of molding what the noir genre was to become in its heyday…the 1950s. The first appearance of Bogart as legendary Hammett private dick Sam Spade, this also is the first pairing of Bogart with director John Huston, with whom Bogie made five subsequent films. Mary Astor plays possibly the first ever true femme fatale on screen…she’s cold, seductive and very conniving. Plot wise…Spade gets entangled with Astor after his partner dies investigating something for her. Astor turns out to be much more than an innocent victim. What Astor needed Spade’s partner to investigate was bogus and the true crime involves a golden falcon…which those who want are willing to do ANYTHING to get. A true noir classic!
First off, I will be honest. Gary Cooper is sorely miscast in this film. Is that a reason to stay away from it? Definitely not. I just want you to be prepared, though, for Mr. Cooper’s unusual stiffness, in a role that calls for a man who is supposed to be suave and relaxed. Barring Cooper’s role, this is a great, sweet romantic comedy with an endearing father/daughter relationship thrown in to make it even more special. Directed by Billy Wilder, who again proves he can direct any type of movie, Love in the Afternoon features a charming performance by a young Audrey Hepburn and a welcomed comeback role for Maurice Chevalier, who plays her private investigator father. Cooper’s stiffness seems to add to the comedy of this film, though I’m sure that was completely unintentional. The real added comedy comes from one of Chevalier’s clients and from the “Gypsies,” a band that Cooper has serenade him and his lovers in his hotel suite. Because of those moments of comic relief and the appealing, unassuming relationship between Hepburn and Chevalier, this movie overlooks Cooper’s uncomfortability. Look for one of the most romantic, tearful good-bye scenes in all of cinema.