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2012 Oscar winner for Best Animated Short, and it was well deserved
This is a simple story, told without spoken word but rather by pictures and music. I wasn't sure what I was seeing at first, but was willing to give fifteen minutes. At the end, there were no reasons for regret, and I was in full agreement with the Academy for acknowledging this work with the Oscar for Best Animated Short.
*** WARNING: Possible spoilers ahead ***
Is this film a sort-of sideways slap at technology, such as e-books and devices like the Kindle or Nook? Perhaps, especially as the main character performs "surgery" on the old bedraggled tome rather than merely scanning it into a database. But the point I took away from this scene was that books live only so long as they are read, and to stop reading them is to kill them. The other thing to remember is that while e-books offer a way to put the printed word in front of more people more economically, not everybody, especially in developing countries or following natural disasters, will have access to the needed technology or infrastructure to fully take advantage of e-books. Not to mention that sometimes curling up with an actual physical book, turning the pages and idly wondering who else might have held this volume transcends the convenience of glowing letters on a glass screen.
Librarians and bibliophiles will be drawn to this, of course, but one can only hope that ordinary people will also see this. One hopes that they will take away the underlying lesson — that books and stories live on, but only so long as people continue to read, write, and tell them.
Far Out Man (1990)
I paid 2.00 for the DVD. I want my money back!!
I listened to Cheech and Chong in their day; yeah, even though I wasn't a pothead I thought they were at least moderately funny. Maybe you needed to have been (or still be) a stoner to appreciate this film....but seriously, this movie is so screwed up that watching it stoned would merely be a waste of good weed.
In a word, this sucked!! I wasn't expecting much in the first place, but even then I was disappointed. A couple of reviewers have described this as something like a Chong family home movie; that's giving this thing far more credit than it has coming. I couldn't get the plot, it made no sense whatsoever; and the cast (especially for Martin Mull) seemed to be merely going through the motions in order to just make it to the end of this fiasco. Frankly, this cost me about 90 minutes out of my life that I'm never going to get back, and I'm upset about it.
You will notice that there are entries under the "memorable quotes", and even one item listed under "trivia", but nothing under "goofs". I think that's because this film was one big mistake from start to finish, and there was no way they could fit the whole movie into that one little section. It gets one star only because I couldn't figure out how to give it any less.
I did get *some* good out of the disc, though. I super-glued it in a stack with two other turkeys and it made for a passable clay pigeon.
Ski Hard (1996)
Not as bad as it could have been
Picked up this video at a local outlet, it was on the 'two for a dollar' rack and I needed a second movie to make the deal. Considering that I've already seen "Downhill Racer", "Hot Dog", "Ski Patrol", and "Reno and the Doc" (and others whose names escape me), I figured that at worst it was just going to be more of the same.
Well, frankly, it was; but how many different ways can someone film people skiing downhill without it becoming predictable? I was pleasantly surprised to find this Canadian offering to be fairly tight and well-written (the hour and a half was done before I realized) as well as mildly amusing. As a skier myself -- you can't ride a bike in Wisconsin all year round -- I could appreciate the skiing scenes, and the attitudes portrayed by a couple of the characters (especially the super-skier 'Spider') were definitely spot-on.
All in all, it's not a great movie. Five out of ten is, in my opinion, the mark for an average film. And of course, unless you live in Canada, you've probably never heard of any of the cast members. But if you enjoyed the antics in "Ski Patrol" or "Hot Dog: The Movie", you would probably also enjoy giving this film a look.
C.B. Hustlers (1976)
CB Radios, Custom Vans, 18-wheelers, and Hookers --- What's Not to Like?
Found this little bit of soft-core raunch on a 'double-feature' DVD in one of those "Anything in the place is a buck" stores. It was paired up with "Cheerleader's Beach Party" (also 1978), which seemed somewhat appropriate.
My one-line summary was, of course, tongue-in-cheek. If you're looking for something more than mild titillation, you'd be better off spending your money elsewhere. The package says this is rated "R"; obviously that's a 1978 "R" because I've seen more explicit stuff on regular broadcast TV lately. There is an ample supply of (naked) female breasts and butts, and some simulated sex scenes, but that's about it. Nothing to be seen below the waistline.
Plot, such as it is, deals with a group of three 'pavement princesses' and their pimp working out of two custom vans. The preferred clientèle are 18-wheel truck drivers, and of course there's a nemesis in the form of an inept backwater newspaper man who overhears some of their coded jargon over a CB radio and decides that morality must prevail.
Slightly amusing byplay between the newspaperman and his sidekick/assistant, and there is a bit of a twist at the end. However, in the long run this is the kind of film that one watches only out of curiosity (or if one wants to know what was considered risqué during the Carter administration), and has little or no replay value.
Gilligan's Island (1964)
So it isn't "Seinfeld" (thank goodness). It wasn't meant to be.
Most of the reviews so far have damned "Gilligan's Island" with faint praise; most of the people have said that they either watched it as a kid (inferring that it wasn't meant for adults), or watch it only when nothing else is on.
Too bad. I pity them.
Too many people nowadays are trying to appear to be sophisticated and worldly; comparing the seven castaways with the Seven Deadly Sins, for example. "Gilligan's Island" was never meant to be fodder for college treatises or a locale from which to mine deeper, hidden meanings. It was a show that was meant to entertain the public....and for its brief three-year run, it did just that.
LET UP ON THE SHOW, ALREADY!! All you do is come off sounding like someone who, as my father used to say, wouldn't be satisfied if you had the moon with a fence around it. Just watch it and put the world on hold for a half-hour or more. Forget that you've got that test tomorrow, or the car needs to go into the shop, or the housework is piling up. So maybe it is/was far-fetched, and it had plot holes big enough to sail the "Queen Mary" through. You mean shows about a family of pop musicians ("The Partridge Family"), a genie ("I Dream of Jeannie"), a witch ("Bewitched"), a clan of hayseed multi-millionaires ("The Beverly Hillbillies") didn't stretch credibility beyond the breaking point either?
And remember another thing before you try to compare this to "Seinfeld", "Night Court", "Friends", or any other recent sitcom. "Gilligan's Island" managed to be humorous *without* falling back on sexual innuendoes a la "The Golden Girls", racial humor as heard in "All in the Family" or "The Jeffersons", or the foul, offensive language as heard in just about anything coming through my TV on the WB, Fox or UPN networks. Sorry, but if that is what is necessary for something to be "funny" today, I'll stay stuck in the '60s or '70s.
Win Ben Stein's Money (1997)
There are three TV game shows that require a brain. This is one of them.
The other two, of course, are "Jeopardy" and " Who Wants to be a Millionaire".
This is a game show for the Gen-X crowd. Despite that, it is entertaining and informative, even to a Baby Boomer like myself. Others have already outlined the format, so I won't rehash that aspect of the show. I will, however, point out that the host, Ben Stein, carries enough credentials and just plain smarts (check his IMDb bio!) into this program that anyone who bests him has definitely earned his bragging rights.
As noted in other reviews, it is only seen over the Comedy Central cable channel, and because of this the envelope can be pushed a bit further than if it were broadcast over ABC or CBS. There are a fair amount of double entendres and other scatological humor, and you are apt to hear a couple of George Carlin's famous seven words, so you might want to give this one a pass if you are easily offended. But the questions are challenging, and the climactic "Best of Ten Test of Knowledge" is apt to run the gamut from 16th century monarchs to last week's newspaper headlines.
If "potty humor" and bad puns don't offend you, and you are able to get Comedy Central, tune it in. It won't be long before you too will think that you "...might have a chance, albeit a small one, to WIN BEN STEIN'S MONEY!!"
The Wonder Years (1988)
WA-a-ay too true to be funny
Those of us who actually grew up in the 1960s know just how true this show is/was. The '60s weren't all about getting high, getting laid, and getting drafted. Kevin, worshipping Winnie from afar; the uncertainty of the future; and the realities of the Generation Gap (as exemplified by the conflict between Kevin's sister Karen and her father, as Karen prepares to go her own way in life) -- this is the way the 1960s *really* were for most of America.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
(*yawn*) Haven't we seen this before?
As I watched this film, all I could keep asking myself was "Hasn't this been done before?". Then I remembered the old Mel Brooks' TV series "When Things Were Rotten", which also skewered the Robin Hood legend...and this movie proves that Mel did it before, and did it better to boot.
(As a side note, there was also a made-for-TV movie called "The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood", starring George Segal and Morgan Fairchild. I seem to remember it favorably, but it's been so long since I saw it that I don't feel I should try to make any comparisons at this time.)
The casting was better than the plot; Cary Elwes was a believable Robin Hood and I felt that Amy Yasbeck played a reasonable Maid Marion, considering the way her character was written. However, ten years from now will anyone understand why we had a group of black homeboys rapping the introduction, or why David Chappelle's character (Ahchoo) wears his hat backwards?
It's an OK movie...but Mel Brooks has done much better than this.
Grand Prix (1966)
A Technically Superb Film
I won't bore you with the plotline; you can get all that elsewhere. The main reason one should see this film is for the camera effects. And remember too -- these were all done the hard way; there was no computer imaging back in 1966!
If you get the chance to see this in a theater, DO NOT BE LATE!! The opening -- with the driver plugging his ears with cotton before putting on his helmet -- is aptly appropriate. The split-screen and multiple-image effects are first seen in the opening and crop up throughout the movie -- and always to good advantage, not just a "gee whiz, look what we can do" use of technique and technology. ESPN and the other networks, in their NASCAR telecasts, have just now started to adopt techniques first used by Frankenheimer 30-plus years ago.
One of the best scenes in the film is in the early minutes. You are actually *in* the cockpit of a F-1 car as it spins out of control, slides off the track, and launches itself into the harbor. I might add that this was *NOT* done with models, but used real, full-sized cars and took long hours to produce -- and these were truly "state-of-the-art" effects in 1966 (I won't give away the secrets here but will say that if you can locate a copy of the appropriate issue of "Popular Mechanics" [March 1966?] you will enjoy the article about the film and the techniques). The end result was about 15 seconds of some of the best racing footage committed to film. Needless to say, this is a very quick-running sequence!
I saw this picture in Cinerama in 1966, and I too echo the sentiment for a re-release of this picture to the large screen. More is the pity that Cinerama is no more. There are few pictures where Cinerama could be used to its fullest advantage; the in-car and on-track sequences of this film, however, were some of those.
Field of Dreams (1989)
It went the distance
There seems to be little that I could add to the hundreds of words in praise of this movie.
I watched it again over the weekend. I've seen this film a dozen or more times, and even on commercial TV, chopped up as it was, it still has the power to bring tears to my eyes -- and they're starting to water again now, even as I compose this post.
It does seem a shame that this movie did not win more awards, but this isn't the first time that has happened, nor will it be the last. But awards do not necessarily reflect a movie's appeal, and I predict that people will be watching "Field of Dreams" for a long time to come. I cannot believe, however, that this did not score higher in the top 250 -- especially when I see some of the movies that have outpolled it.
All the comments about the corniness and hokeyness are true, in spades, but I can't imagine this film any other way. Even the profound soliloquy by Terence Mann (and what better voice than James Earl Jones could have been found to deliver it?) on the meaning of baseball works within the context of this movie, and his pronunciation that "People will come" was eerily prophetic ... because almost immediately people started coming to Dyersville to see the Field for themselves. And even today, more than ten years after the film's release, people are still coming to that small town in NE Iowa and driving out to see the Field, to touch the bases, and to warily peek into the cornfields in center field.
This movie is a must-see for anyone, male or female, who considers themselves a baseball fan. It also should be seen by 50-something fathers and their 30-something sons -- before the son finds, as did Ray Kinsella, that "... he never had time to take it back". Then those fathers and sons should somehow find a way to "go the distance" to Dyersville and have a catch....
One further comment -- within the past few years, I have come into possession of a commercially-produced documentary video, seemingly made for TV broadcast, detailing the making of the movie itself. As best as I can recall it is entitled "DreamField". I strongly recommend that you give this a viewing if you ever get the chance.
Toy Story 2 (1999)
This movie is too good for just kids!
I am 45 years old, single, never married, and have no children. However, that didn't stop me from seeing and enjoying "Toy Story 2" this past weekend.
There is very little I can add to the comments already posted. CG animation works well for the toys and other non-living items, and even in the short time since the original "Toy Story" the improvement in the animation of "real" creatures (compare Sid's dog and the people in "TS" to Andy's dog and the people in "TS2") is impressive, but there is still room for improvement.
My favorite scene was when Jesse first meets Woody, and I danged near spit rootbeer through my nose when I saw the "Cleaner" character! Pixar's "Jumping Lamp" short that preceded the actual feature was a nice touch, as were the outtakes, although the flatulence humor was a little too "South Park" for my taste. One has to wonder if this would have passed muster if Walt Disney were still alive.
There are a couple of odd points that are never really answered, though. It turns out that Woody is a highly-prized cowboy doll inspired by a puppet character from an early B&W TV show (did anybody else make the connection to "Howdy Doody"?), which raised (to me, anyway) the questions of how Andy came to own one -- and in such good condition, yet! -- and how come Andy's parents weren't aware of Woody's collectible value?
And maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I personally feel that "TS2" also took a couple of well-aimed and well-deserved shots at the current "collectibles" trend. It tries and succeeds in making the point that toys are for kids and are meant to be played with, rather than purchased by adults and held as marketable commodities not unlike stocks and bonds (can you say "Beanie Babies"?).
It's poorly-conceived movies like "Inspector Gadget" and "George of the Jungle", or obvious movie-length commercials like "Pokemon" and "Ninja Turtles" that show us what is wrong with children's cinema today. We need more movies like "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" to show us what it can and should be.
Reno and the Doc (1984)
If this movie were any more of a dog, you'd have to rent it from a kennel.
The ad copy on the box says this is "the ultimate ski comedy" and compares it to "Hot Dog - The Movie". WRONG!!!
About the only funny thing in this is the feud between the title character "Reno" and a bunch of Yahoos called the "Kukamungas"...and after watching the movie twice I still can't figure out what they actually contribute to the plot. The premise -- a 45-year old ski bum hits the pro dual-slalom circuit and does a Tiger Woods number on it -- is hokey beyond belief by itself. Toss in a down-on-his-luck conman ("Doc") and add a touch of mental telepathy, and you've got a turkey so confusing that even the ski racing sequences (although well filmed by 1984 standards) can't save it.
Watch "Hot Dog -- The Movie". Watch "Ski Patrol". Watch any Warren Miller ski flick. But run, do not walk, away from "Reno and the Doc".
A real rarity
In M*A*S*H, the TV series, we have one of the rarest animals in existence...a TV-series spinoff that equaled, and even surpassed, the movie that spawned it.
Running, if memory serves, for 11 years (the Korean War itself lasted only four!), this series weathered cast changes as well as changes in public attitudes to television, and still managed to remain sharp and pointed throughout its life.
I especially liked the way they did not try to recast a role when a central character departed (Trapper, Henry, Frank, and finally Radar), recognizing that no one could recreate someone else's role, but introduced a new character as a complete replacement or gave an existing character, such as Klinger, a chance in the limelite.
Colonel Flagg, on the other hand, could have very easily been left on the cutting room floor. This character was just too far over the top to be even remotely believable -- although he did prove to be an excellent foil (or should that be "fool"?) for Hawkeye and company.
About the only other complaint I could find is the way in which they wrote out Henry Blake. While it is true that death, especially in war, is a common occurrence, it seems to me that some way could have been found to "revive" Henry somehow. There were enough examples of Army bureaucratic ineptitude, such as mistakenly declaring Hawkeye dead or the "Captain Tuttle" scam (remember all the back pay "he" received?), that it could have very easily been explained away. Radar's lines in announcing the death ("Colonel Blake's plane was shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun in -- there were no survivors.") just touches the surface, and upon closer examination seem to be tailor-made to leave enough of an opening for just such a thing. It would have required no real effort to have a Stateside paper containing a reference to Blake turn up later in the series, along with an explanation that the Army's early report of "no survivors" was an error or that Blake just plain missed the flight!!
Kudos to all involved -- most especially the writers.
My judgment is that this is what series TV tries to be, and most of the time fails dismally. The fact that it was covering ground that had already been plowed by the movie, rather than being completely original, makes it all the more remarkable.
Cat Ballou (1965)
The only reason Fonda got top billing is because it was called "Cat Ballou"
Let's face facts -- Fonda was OK in this movie, but Lee Marvin was in his glory as over-the-hill gunslinger Kid Shelleen. Add to that his second role as as the noseless Tim Strawn. Toss in the matter-of-fact way the Kid reveals that he and Tim had been brothers.
And leave us not forget my favorite scene -- the "suiting up" of the Kid prior to the ultimate showdown. It's almost like the investiture of an ancient high priest, down to the acolyte-like functioning of Jackson Two-Bears (played to perfection by Tom Nardini). Absolutely no dialogue, and set, as I recall, to music reminiscent of the Spanish corridas.
If anyone draws up a list of Lee Marvin's best films, they'd have to be nuts to not put this in the top three. His "Best Actor" Oscar for this film was well-deserved.
And equally high marks to whomever did the stunt work for Marvin. The antics on horseback during the last scenes, with a "drunken" Kid Shelleen in the saddle, have to be seen to be believed.
By all means, see this movie. Be ready to cheer for the "bad guys" as they seek revenge against the "badder guys". But do NOT, under any circumstances, think for a minute that the movie as shown on TNT is complete. The last time they aired it, they actually CUT part of the above-mentioned dressing scene -- an unforgivable sin of omission, in my book. Rent (or buy) the video or DVD instead.
In 20 years this film will seem 40 years old.
Technically, and given the financial constraints of modern animation, this is a good movie. Of course the Disney people fiddled with the story line and the character names, but name me the last Disney film that stayed "true" to its origins.
Production values were up to Disney standards (which means a lot), and the story is guaranteed not to offend anyone's sense of PC. You can feel safe tossing this into the VCR and plunking the kids in front of it for a hour or so. They'll enjoy it, even if they miss a lot of the "adult"-level humor.
My biggest gripe is with the topical references. Sure, we get the humor of "Air Herc" sandals and the other merchandising tie-ins ("Herculade" and the action figures) NOW, but what happens ten years down the line? I mean, Michael Jordan is already retired; will there even BE "Air Jordans" then? The same goes for the cynical "Hades" character. This kind of humor is trendy and hip NOW, but I'm afraid it just hasn't got the legs to "go the distance".
And that's the problem with films that depend on references to current events, stars, situations, or product placement. They come off looking like a polyester leisure suit -- great in its day, but ridiculous if not downright incomprehensible after the fad has passed. As proof, check out the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" video tapes. Unless you were there in the 60s, a lot of the inside jokes (like the "Kirwood Derby") are missed. And how about the "PanAm" logo on the spacecraft in "2001"?
My rating? Two stars out of five, for now; and probably dropping to 1-and-a-half within five years.
The Cannonball Run (1981)
You were expecting maybe "Citizen Kane"?
This film wasn't meant to win Academy Awards or Golden Palms; it was made for one and only one purpose -- to make money for Hal Needham and 20th Century-Fox. The plot, such as it is, can be summed up as "drive neat cars across the country as fast as you can", and the cast was obviously handpicked (a) to be funny and (b) to be as recognizable (read: marketable) as possible.
In short, it was meant to be FUN! Obviously, they got it right.
Set in the late 1970s, when the "double nickle" speed limit was still in effect (and almost universally ignored ;^P), and based loosely on an actual event (the "Cannonball Roberts Memorial Trophy Dash"), this movie was designed to appeal to all the wannabe race drivers and other assorted leadfoots in America. After all, who wouldn't love to take a high-performance car and open it up, just *once*, to see what it could do? Even today, it's still a major-league hoot!
So, get the tape or the DVD ready, grab a couple cans of your favorite beverage and a bag of snack chips, and settle back in the Laz-Z-Boy. If you have the time, make it a double (or triple) feature by screening "Cannonball Run II" and "The Gumball Rally" as well.
Gentlemen, start your engines!
Breakheart Pass (1975)
Finally, someone read the book BEFORE making the movie!
Alistair MacLean has always been one of my favorite authors, dating back to my high-school days in the mid-'60s. He has written many outstanding books, and many films have been made from them. Too many times, however, the title is the only thing that remains the same.
Not in this case, however. Either MacLean himself was involved with this film, or the director actually read the book first before starting, as this film is faithful to the book. A rarity indeed.