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Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
Wasn't Even Good on MST3K
This film is a bleak joyless train-wreck of a movie. It has no plot, no budget, and the acting is horrible. The premise of the movie is that the Master worships a demon in exchange, I suppose, for the ability to wed many women, all of whom he keeps in suspended animation in some room that is like a crypt or something. A typical middle-class family gets lost while going on vacation and winds up having to stay the night in the Master's home. All the wives wake up and bicker about whether the Master should marry the woman and her six year old daughter who are staying the night. It's a kind of creepy insight into the mind of the man who made the movie, actually. Not much more than that, though. No plot, no action, and a horribly depressing ending.
The only reason I ever watched this movie is that I had heard that the Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment of it was pretty funny. Sadly Joel and the bots couldn't even make this one worthwhile.
The Girl in Lovers Lane (1960)
People Are Too Hard On It
Like probably 90% of the people writing reviews for this movie, I saw this on "Mystery Science Theater 3000." Joel and the bots did an excellent job of riffing on this movie, and I thought that it was one of the funnier episodes.
This being said, however, this wasn't a particularly horrible movie. Especially compared to some of films they ran on MST3K.
It had it's weaknesses: the movie had about zero budget and so things like the costumes and set design were horrible. The plot, also, digressed in spots. On the whole, though, the acting was competent and the story held my interest. I actually found myself caring about the characters.
It wasn't a perfect movie, but it was nowhere near as bad as the usual MST3k fare such as "Giant Gila Monster" and "Manos Hand of Fate." As such, it doesn't really deserve to be mocked as much as it has been. It was a B-Movie from the 50s, but it was a watchable one.
The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936)
I found this to be the most entertaining of all the "Big Broadcast" movies. This isn't saying much, since these films were mainly just mash-ups of all the big names in radio that year, doing sketches independently of one another and strung together into a movie.
This one, however, has a very strong and entertaining plot. Jack Benny plays a sardonic radio executive, with Ray Milland as his slightly oilier second-in-command. George Burns and Gracie Allen play radio sponsors, which is just an excuse to trot them out and do their shtick (but what a great shtick it was). Shirley Ross plays the young ingénue who comes to New York to find stardom on the radio.
It was probably Ross who impressed me the most, she seems to have been a very funny actress with a great singing voice. It's a pity she didn't have more of a career in films.
Jack Benny, I think, was better suited to playing the wise-cracking supporting character -- as he did in this film -- as compared to the leading man. He was not a very good actor and had a lifelong difficulty memorizing lines. He was great here, though, playing a sarcastic cynic, a character in direct contrast with the miserly wannabe character he played on the radio.
It is also worth noting that I think this is Benny's only film pairing with his best friend, George Burns. The two don't have much to do together, but it's nice to see, just the same.
A final note: Bob Burns also has a very funny role in this movie as a Hillbilly who keeps interrupting radio shows trying to find Leopold Stokowski. He wants to find the maestro to show him a musical instrument he has invented. It is a long black tube that you blow into. Burns used it on his own radio show. He called it a "bazooka." Turns out, that's where the weapon got it's name. See how much we owe to radio?
Irwin Allen was the Michael Bay of the 60s
This was a painfully silly "Cinemascope Blockbuster" from the 1960s. The premise is that the Van Allen radiation belt circling the Earth has caught fire, and this fire is gradually incinerating the Earth. The polar ice caps are melting, New York and London have been evacuated, and pretty much everyone thinks that it's the end of the world. We don't see any of that however, because we are on board a submarine traveling around the world underwater -- which, you must admit, is a clever way to save on a special effects budget.
This movie is replete with almost every cliché from the era. It's premise (the Van Allen Belt catching fire) is made even more laughable by its attempts to sound scientific. Nevertheless, it's all good, stupid fun.
Walter Pidgeon stars as the Admiral of the submarine. I'm not too familiar with the actor, but I was thrown by how much he looks like Walt Disney, and I found that very distracting. It's somehow worrying to think of Uncle Walt having access to nuclear missiles.
Frankie Avalon was in the film, apparently, but for the life of me, I can't remember his character. Peter Lorre was there also, trudging through his lines with an entirely forgivable world-weariness. "I was in 'M'," you can almost hear him say, 'And now they give me this garbage.'"
This was not a very believable movie, but it's fun enough if you like 50s/60s disaster movies.
The Big Broadcast (1932)
This is one of many films from the 30s which attempt to showcase a wide variety of radio stars. Its basically a revue of different comedy and musical acts strung together with the barest hint of a plot.
I generally like the genre, however, I found this one to be a bit unpleasant, due in large part to one of the plot mechanisms.
In the film, Bing Crosby is jilted by his fiancé, and he winds up befriending an oil-man in a speakeasy, who has been similarly jilted. The two wind up getting drunk. Bing is so depressed about his predicament that he decides to commit suicide, and forces his friend to commit suicide with him. The climax of this sub-plot consists of the two of them sitting on the floor in Bing's kitchen with the gas turned on, waiting to die. Then, someone lights a match and blows up the kitchen.
I am familiar with the comedy styles from the 30's, and I realize that you cannot always apply modern sensibilities to them, but no matter how you look at it, this was just not funny. It was a very long and drawn out sub-plot that did not have many jokes in it.
There are some great moments in the film, though. The interplays between George Burns and Gracie Allen are, as always wonderful. There is also a musical number with Cab Calloway which is great. Its just the "Bing tries to kill himself" storyline that brings the whole thing down.
Royal Wedding (1951)
Pure Soda Pop
There's not even enough substance in this movie to call it champagne, its pure soda pop.
"Royal Wedding" is a true classic Astaire movie. It contains the spectacular number where he dances on the walls and ceiling of his room, and its worth watching just for that.
The plot is amusing if only because its so flimsy, even by the standards of movie musicals. Astaire and Powell play a brother and sister dance team who go to England to star in a show at about the same time as the royal wedding of (then) Princess Elizabeth II. They both fall in love. They decided (for like two minutes) that they don't want to get married, and then they change their minds and they both marry their loved ones. That's it, no wacky misunderstandings, no awkward situations, nothing. There are one or two other subplots, but they are resolved in equally effortless ways. Its like the shortest episode of Three's Company ever.
Of course the plot is padded by like half a dozen dance numbers, which are nothing special (except the aforementioned dancing on the ceiling routine), but since its Fred Astaire, they are a joy to watch.
Keenan Wynne has a really fun part, playing twin brothers, one from Brooklyn and one from London. He clearly has a wonderful time doing several routines where he plays both brothers having long distance phone calls with each other.
Anyway, its a very fun more, but totally lacking in any kind of substance.
The Great Race (1965)
Wacky Races Was Better
This movie came out scarcely one month after "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines," so it would unfair to say absolutely that "The Great Race" was a complete rip-off on "Flying Machines." I will say that the two movies share a great deal of jokes, plot devices, and even some dialog. For all I know "Flying Machines" could have stolen them from "The Great Race." In any event, the jokes are funnier in "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines." "The Great Race" is about two rival daredevils, The Amazing Leslie (Tony Curtis) and Professor Fate (Jack Lemmon), who engage in an auto race from New York to Paris. Allegedly, this movie suffered huge delays and budget over-runs due to heavy partying by the cast and crew. Judging from the condition which Tony Curtis is in throughout most of the movie, I can believe it. He often stares blearily at the camera in a pose meant to be dashing, but which instead comes off as vaguely hung-over, and he reads his lines with all the verve and skill of a third-grader reciting from a history text-book.
Natalie Wood stated that she was not pleased with her performance in this movie, and I'd say she was justified. Her character is grating, and too frenetic.
Jack Lemmon is actually pretty good as Professor Fate, the villain of the piece. He portrays a stereotypically cartoony bad-guy, but he does it well, and you can tell that he is having fun with the part. The only problem is that the rest of the movie is so flat and lifeless, he never gets any situations to react to that are as fun as his character.
Another movie that "The Great Race" borrows heavily from is "Around the World in Eighty Days," using the automobile race as an excuse to show a variety of exotic locations (filmed in glorious Panavision), and trot out special guest stars. The trouble is, Blake Edwards, as director, fails to capture anything special in the exotic locales, and the guest stars also fall well short of the mark. To put things in perspective, one of the guest stars in Larry Storch. When one of your big guns in Agarn, from "F-Troop," your production is in trouble.
Its not really a bad movie, its just a poorly acted movie that isn't nearly as funny as it thinks it is. Its definitely a distant second to "Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines." Hanna-Barbera based their short-lived cartoon "Wacky Races" on this movie. The cartoon was more enjoyable.
Astérix aux jeux olympiques (2008)
Not that bad
I just watched the English translation of this movie, and I don't think it was as bad as people made it out to be.
Of the three live-action Asterix movies, none has really come close to capturing the charm of the comics (or even the animated features). "Mission Cleopatra" came closest, I think. The first movie was just miserable.
"Asterix at the Olympic Games" was a fun, if not perfect, attempt at capturing the magic of the books. My biggest complaint was that although its an Asterix and Obelix movie, it doesn't really seem to be about them. They don't even make an appearance until about 15 minutes in. It lends a certain degree of ridiculousness (and not in an amusing way) to the movie to have this enormous title screen that says "Astérix Aux Jeux Olympiques," and then have the entire opening act of the movie be about someone other than Asterix.
The CGI in the movie was also off-putting. Its used to make many of the more cartoony effects of the film, which is good, but it was really over-used in many scenes that didn't require them. Also, it wasn't really good CGI either.
The plot was nothing special, but it was amusing. It had some good jokes, and the characters were pretty fun. It was nothing like the comic ("Asterix at the Olympic Games") which it was based on, but I didn't expect it to be.
There were, apparently, tons of guest appearances by European (I think) athletes, none of whom I recognize -- being wholly ignorant on the topic of sports in this country or any other. I think these probably stuck in the throat of many people, who might have known who they were.
Anyway, I think they are starting to get the hang of how to make live-action Asterix movies, but I really do wish that the story had been more involved with Asterix, himself.
Planet Hulk (2010)
Good Enough, But I Hope There's a Sequel
"Planet Hulk" is an adaptation of a storyline from the "Incredible Hulk" comic book, in which Hulk is exiled to outer space by a bunch of other super-heroes, because he is such a menace on Earth. Of course, things don't go as the heroes plan, and, due to a wormhole in space, instead of being sent to the idyllic, tranquil planet that the heroes intended, Hulk is instead sent to Sakar, a divided world, ravaged by hostile monsters, and ruled by the cruel monarch known as the Red King.
The "Planet Hulk" storyline from the comics was huge, and there was no real way to adapt the entire thing into a movie, as a result, you get a much scaled down version of the story. There is a depth to the comic book which you just don't get in the movie, but the movie never feels rushed, or overly edited, so it scales down the comic book well. The two biggest changes from the comic to the movie are: 1) The Brood character is not present as a member of the Warbound, and 2) Silver Surfer is replaced by Beta Ray Bill as one of the gladiators that Hulk fights. In watching the "Making of" segment, apparently they didn't have the legal rights to use the Silver Surfer (possibly tied up with the company that currently is controlling the rights to the Fantastic Four), so they used Beta Ray Bill instead. He was a good choice, but he (basically an alien version of Thor) is kind of a silly character, who wouldn't be known by anyone but real hardcore Marvel Comics fans.
The movie goes right up to the point where the Red King is defeated. People who have read "Planet Hulk" know that this is not where the storyline ends. Again, the creators explain this in the "Making of" segment, saying that they wanted to make the film self-contained. The end of the comic, ties directly in to "World War Hulk" the next Hulk storyline. Also, the comic ends on a much more depressing note.
All in all, I enjoyed the movie, but really hope they make a sequel that adapts "World War Hulk."
This movie had a shoestring budget, the acting wasn't very good, and the plot didn't make much sense; nevertheless, I liked it.
The plot: At the request of Queen Elizabeth I, John Dee, her magician, summons an angel to show the Queen what life if like in the future. Flash-forward to a punk-rock future version of England. The world economy has completely collapsed, roving street gangs (and the police) randomly kill or terrorize people, and Top of the Pops is played constantly on Television.
The story centers around a gang of female punks (an Historian, a Pyromaniac, a Nymphomaniac, their leader, and their au pair), who more or less aimlessly travel through London killing people.
Like I've said, the plot is not very substantial, but the characters are very vivid and seem very real. Likewise, the writing is well done, and does a good job of highlighting the frustration and alienation of the era.
There are some funny bits, there are some scary bits, and there are some boring bits. I thought I was going to be completely bored with the movie, but I wound up finding it very interesting.
The Story of Mankind (1957)
Its no "Big Store"
When I was 8 years old, and going through my Marx Brothers phase, my father read in the TV Guide that they were showing the Marx Brothers film, "The Big Store" late on Friday night, and set the VCR to tape it for me. When I woke up on Saturday -- due no doubt to a misprint in the TV guide -- my father and I discovered "The Story of Mankind" had been recorded instead.
"The Big Store" was probably one of the least funny of all the Marx Brothers movies and nevertheless it stands as one of the century's finest works of cinema when compared with "The Story of Mankind." I can almost justify TV Guide's error, in that the Marx Brothers -- Groucho, Chico, and Harpo -- appear in both movies. Although in "The Story of Mankind," they are divided up into a series of unrelated scenes: Groucho plays Peter Minuit, Chico plays some guy talking to Christopher Columbus, and Harpo plays Isaac Newton????? Harpo's scene lasts about half a minute; Chico only has two or three lines; Groucho's scene is at least funny, but horribly racially insensitive by today's standards. The rest of the movie doesn't bear mentioning. They trotted out some of the finest actors of the day, and made them recite total garbage. What a disappointment.
TV Guide, I sent you a nice letter, I'm still waiting for an apology.
For the record: "The Big Store" has a wonderful bit of physical comedy with the Marx Brothers on roller skates, and a couple of songs by Virginia O'Brien. I was really looking forward to seeing it.
Very Bad Movie
The Hulk is one of my favorite comic book characters, and I have always felt that Ang Lee is an excellent director. Despite these two prejudices, I felt that "The Hulk" was a terrible, dull, nonsensical movie.
I thought that all the principles (except possibly for Nolte) were stiff and wooden in their acting. The movie endeavored to have a quiet, and a brooding atmosphere, but, instead, was just really dull. The lead up to his transformation into the Hulk was slow and dreary. I'm probably one of the few who wasn't really bothered by the CGI (which many thought was substandard), but I never got much of a sense of empathy for the monster.
Then, at the end, there is a confrontation between Banner/Hulk and his nemesis, which just plain does not make any logical sense.
I imagine that they were trying to make this film into a super-hero/psychological horror film, but it just didn't work. It was too slow, and the scenes which were meant to draw out suspense just made things more dull.
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Not So Bad Its Good
"Plan 9 From Outer Space" has been subjected to a good of reverse criticism, that is to say, people who say that its so incredibly lousy, that its actually fun to watch.
This is just not true. Granted, the production values are abysmal. It is sort of fun to watch the paper plate UFOs, and count how many times the same footage of Lugosi is used. Even so, the plot is so incredibly tedious, that its a chore to watch this movie.
There is almost no action in it, and every important plot point is explained in endless exposition. Its dull, moves at a snails pace, there are only about four sets used, the plot makes no kind of sense, and the acting isn't amusingly bad, its just bad.
Ed Wood was not a visionary, he was an incompetent man who had no kind of talent. His lack of attention to detail, is just insulting to the audience. He exploited everyone he came across in order to get his movies made, and films like this were the end result. It really wasn't worth the effort.
If you want to laugh at something camp, try watching some of the other horror films of the same era, "The Creature from the Black Lagoon," for example, or possibly a serial.
I think its time that we put away Ed Wood's work. He doesn't even deserve a place as an amusingly bad director. He just truly had no talent.
The Avengers (1998)
Yes, It Really Was That Bad
I am a huge fan of the Avengers, and have seen every episode at least twice. I enjoy films which are more cerebral, as opposed to the standard Hollywood blockbuster. I consider myself literate, appreciate good writing in films, and know and appreciate satire. Not only that, but I frequently enjoy dumb, silly movies, if they are fun, even if they don't always make sense.
That being said: every aspect of the film version of the Avengers is bad, from Uma Thurman's wooden acting, to the bizarre and nonsensical plot. There are no redeeming points to this movie. None. Its just really bad. Its not even fun to make fun of, its too boring.
There are people out there who seem to take a perverse pleasure in enjoying (or at least claiming to enjoy) movies that everyone else hates. Its a natural feeling, I guess. If you think something else is brilliant, that no one else likes, it would seem to indicate that you have a deeper level of appreciation of things, than people around you.
Many people like that have written reviews to this movie. I've read a few and they claim things like people have become so benumbed by Hollywood blockbusters that they can't understand what a smart, clever movie this is; or they might claim that people don't understand that it was really supposed to be a campy parody of the spy genre; or (my personal favorite) that people just don't "get" this movie.
Take my word for it, there is nothing in "The Avengers" for you to get. It is not clever, its not some high concept parody, its just a really, REALLY badly written, acted, and directed movie that I doubt anyone on the production team was happy with after it had been finished.
I was really excited about this movie, and went on opening night. I went in with an open mind, understanding that it had gotten bad reviews. I wanted to like it. I couldn't, it was just too painful, like watching a video of a botched operation.
If you want to see a good revamping of a spy-show, try watching "Get Smart." If you want a silly, campy movie based on existing material, try watching "Howard the Duck" or "Doc Savage." Yes, I liked the movie "Doc Savage," and still think "The Avengers" was awful. Trust me on this, you don't want to see "The Avengers."
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Shouldn't have changed the ending!
I strongly disliked this film when it came out in the 80s. I thought that the visuals were very cool, and I liked the music, but I really disliked the happy ending.
***SPOILERS AHEAD*** Essentially, "Little Shop" is set up as a tragedy from the very beginning, with a classic Greek Chorus narrating the way that Seymour, the main character, has doomed himself. Seymour actually does some pretty horrific things throughout the movie (killing people then chopping them up and feeding them to a plant). Then, at the end, there is no retribution, he marries the girl of his dreams and goes off to live happily ever after.
Last night, I saw the alternate ending of the film, which is much more true to the earlier Roger Corman film, as well as the stage musical. In it, the evil space-alien plant eats Seymour and Audrey, his love interest, after informing Seymour that he's "been had." The alien plants then proliferate around the world, and attempt to take it over, as depicted in a montage of scenes spoofing various monster movies of the 50s and 60s.
This is not a "feel good" ending, but then, this is a movie about a serial killer who feeds his victims to a plant that eat human blood, I don't think it deserves a "feel good" ending. The ending they gave it was much more contrived, and it always felt a bit creepy to me, in that it seemed to reward someone who did some terrible things. I liked the ending they threw away. It was a lot more elaborate, and I would have enjoyed seeing it on the big screen.
The Colour of Magic (2008)
Dull Adaptation of Sub-Par Books
Terry Pratchett has admitted that the first three books in his Discworld series ("The Colour of Magic," "The Light Fantastic," and "Equal Rites") are not very good, and recommends that new readers start with his fourth book ("Mort").
I was nevertheless optimistic when I heard they were making a movie adaption of "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic" (to be called, simply, "The Colour of Magic"), because I saw this as a chance for the powers that be to edit out all of the boring/unnecessary/clichéd parts, and update the story a bit to better fit in with how the Discworld has eventually evolved.
Sadly they didn't do this, and "The Colour of Magic" is merely a stiff, poorly acted encapsulation of the two books, where the principles are rigidly walked through all the important plot points, before being whisked away, often with no real justification, to the next plot point.
There was almost nothing to like about this movie, except to say that the sets were very pretty. Most of the laugh-lines were blown, and many parts of the plot just do not make sense. The acting isn't very good, and while the special effects are good by BBC standards -- this is setting the bar so ridiculously low that it is practically a meaningless statement.
I really didn't like this movie. "Hogfather" was much better, and I have high hopes for "Going Postal."
Heavy Metal (1981)
I was a little too young to watch this (10) when it first came out, but, on a whim, I watched it on NetFlix the other night.
The animation was embarrassingly bad. Fans of the movie seem to be poo-pooing anyone who comments on how bad the animation is, but come on, the animation is done at a REALLY low frame rate, causing movement to look really stiff and jerky.
That said, the artwork is rather good, in a comic-book sort of way. The style was very unique, and was clearly influenced by the cartoons of Ralph Bakshi. Even though the movie was a series of episodes, there was a uniform look and tone, which I enjoyed.
The writing, again, pretty much on a par with some comic books of the era. If you are a fan of any of the anthology comics from the seventies, like "House of Mystery" or "House of Secrets" you will see many parallels (including the fact that Bernie Wrightson, well-known as a horror comic artist primarily in the 70s and 80s, contributed work to the movie).
The voice acting was laughable -- but in a good way. It seems as if most of the actors accepted this gig as a goof. No one really seems to be taking the material all that seriously, which is good, because it is NOT Shakespeare.
I am not familiar with the magazine, "Heavy Metal," so I can't draw any comparisons to that; but for me, the movie reminded me most of the comic book inserts that they used to include in "National Lampoon." Kind of quirky, intentionally camp, and with decent enough artwork.
It was a nice enough movie, although the horrible quality of the animation did tend to distract from the story -- what there was of it.
Mr. Magoo (1997)
I forgot that this movie existed
This morning, I found myself unexpectedly remembering that this movie existed. I found myself thinking, "Oh yeah, there was a Mr. Magoo movie, wasn't there?" This is more surprising because I remember following the controversy surrounding this movie (advocacy group for the visually impaired said that this movie was demeaning). I even went to see this movie on the day it opened, because I am a fan of both Mr. Magoo, and Mr. Nielson, and thought he would be an excellent choice to play Mr. Magoo. I even remember the opening animated credits, because I thought that they were pretty amusing.
After that, though, its all a complete blank. I think its a pretty sad statement about any movie that it is so lame, so bland, and so utterly without merit that you can't remember ANYTHING from it. I understand that Leslie Nielson isn't always known for appearing in first class comedies, but I saw him in "Spy Hard," in "Scary Movie 4," and "Police Squad 3" and none of these were great movies, but I came away at least remembering *something*. Mr. Magoo, though, is a complete blank.
I find myself wondering now if all the controversy surrounding the film wasn't actually generated by the studio that produced it, in the hopes of generating at least some small amount of interest in an otherwise totally worthless movie.
Hard to Find, but Worth the Wait
I just managed to find a copy of "Mission Cleopatra," which is not as easy as you would think for someone living in the United States. So far, I have only watched about the first 10 minutes of the film, and I can safely say that I laughed more in those 10 minutes than I did watching the entirety of the *first* live action Asterix movie.
I am watching the dubbed version, and while the dubbing job is a little disconcerting, I have found the movie to be very funny and true to the book. I see that people on here have said that the dubbed version is very inferior to the subtitled version, that may very well be true, and after I watch the subtitled version (also on my DVD) I may have to come on here and alter my review. As it stands, though, I find it to be a very entertaining movie, and it more than makes up for the mess which they made out of the first movie.
La bergère et le ramoneur (1952)
A Bizarre Treat
One of the great tragedies of life is that Disney is so very successful at everything that they do. If they were not, we might have more unique little gems of animation such as "The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird." The story is that an evil king has usurped the throne of a place called Up-And-Down-Land (I could have the name wrong). He is hated by everyone. His favorite hobby is shooting birds, and at some point in the past, he presumably killed the wife of Mr. Wonderbird (a bird, played with typical flair by Peter Ustinov) leaving him with four young chicks to raise. Meanwhile, we see that another of the evil king's hobbies is painting. He has done three paintings in particular: a self portrait, a painting of a shepherdess (which he has fallen in love with), and a painting of chimney sweep (of whom he is jealous). One night, the shepherdess and the chimney sweep climb down out of their paintings and run away together. The self portrait of the king climbs down out of his frame as well, and does away with the real king (You think I'm making this up? Its the real plot) and sends the royal police force after the young lovers. Mr. Wonderbird then assists the lovers in attempting to escape the King's forces.
The plot is wonderfully surreal, and the setting Up-and-Down-Land is an incredibly imagined place, full of towering buildings accessible only by elevators. Its an equal mixture of the worlds of "Metropolis" and "1984" and the drawings of Dr. Seuss.
Watch it for a very unique viewing experience that doesn't fit the standard formula for most animated features.
Ma and Pa Kettle Go to Town (1950)
I Like It, I Really Like It
I purchased the DVD which contained "Ma and Pa Kettle Go To Town" on deep discount. I have very fond memories of seeing the "Ma and Pa Kettle" movies on Television when I was a child. Of course, the things which make a seven year old laugh and the things which make a 37 year old laugh are often very different. When I watched this movie, though, I was surprised to see that I still found it quite enjoyable. In particular, I was quite impressed at Percy Kilbride's comic skills as Pa Kettle. He had a wonderful deadpan delivery. Marjorie Main gives the same robust performance which she brought to almost all her roles as a character actress, and, as always, it is fun.
In general, don't look at this film for great plot, or production values, but its got wonderful comic acting, and some genuine laughs.
The Lord of the Rings (1978)
I remember going to see the movie in the summer of '78 with my parents, and being pretty into it at the time. Of course, I was seven at the time.
Right before the Jackson movies came out, my wife and I rented this movie since she had never seen it and I was feeling nostalgic.
Ralph Bakshi ran out of money about mid-way through the animation process for this movie, and was forced to drastically cut corners on this production. Since this movie was done primarily with rotoscoping, the animation technique for people on a budget, this is saying something. Much of this movie is animation only in the very loosest sense of the word. There are some scenes which are very obviously just people standing in front of a screen, with maybe some animation effects superimposed on top of them.
Because of budget constraints, the movie -- already a compression of "The Fellowship of the Rings" and part of "The Two Towers" -- was pared down even more. What you get is sort of like a film-strip version of the Cliff Notes of the books.
Its not all bad, though, the animation brings a warmth to it, that I found lacking in the Jackson movies. Its nice to imagine what it could have been like with decent funding.
This movie is also noteworthy for having the sequel which never came. Several years later, a half-hearted half-hour long TV special was aired, which was meant to wrap things up. All I will say about that is that it was a musical.
Reveille with Beverly (1943)
If You Can't Join Up, Buy Bonds
From around the time Europe began fighting World War II, until the war's end, Hollywood (with significant prodding from the government) made tons of movies which were designed to try and get young men to enlist in the Army, by making the life of a serviceman appear "cool." This is by far the sloppiest, implying that the life of a soldier is devoid of work, you get the best food, and you get to lie around all day listening to Ann Miller on the radio. I am far too young to have participated in WWII, but I think that there was more to it than that. There is the barest cat's whisker of a plot, and a bunch of musical numbers featuring some of the day's leading acts.
I think that by 1943, even the most naive of civvies knew that there was more going on overseas than the wacky hijinks portrayed in this movie. While I am sure that it was meant to be viewed as escapist entertainment, I can't help but wonder if the family and loved ones of men fighting in the war, were amused or repulsed by this trivialization of their loved ones' sacrifice.
King Kong (2005)
An Insult to the Original
Watching this movie is like listening to someone who doesn't know how to tell a story try and tell a story. It is overlong, dull, and all the emphasis is put in the wrong places.
I tried watching this movie, and fell asleep after the first hour and a half.
Everyone knows the plot of "King Kong": Film crew finds giant ape. Film crew tries to bring giant ape to New York. Giant ape escapes, kidnaps girl, and wrecks city before being killed. Its supposed be a moral lessons about man trying to tame forces that were never meant to be tamed.
In Jackson's remake, he spends way too much time focusing in on the characters who are searching for Kong, as well as loading the film down with WAY too many scenes of them trying to avoid all the monsters on Skull Island.
I get the sense that Jackson really wants this to be a character-driven monster movie, but the characters are all shallow and stereotypical and its hard to work up any empathy for any of them.
As a side-note: I saw the original movie, "King Kong" some time after I saw this re-make. I was surprised at the quality of the special effects (for the time, 1933) as well as the quality of the acting and depth of the characters.
There is a scene in Jackson's remake on the boat, where they are filming a scene from the movie that they are ostensibly going to Skull Island to make. The actors recited stilted lines in a stiff manner that one might expect from a film from the '30s. The joke here is that the scene which they are performing, was an actual scene from the original movie. Jackson meant this as an homage to the original, however, the scene in the original was done in a manner so much better than we are meant to believe from how Jackson's cast plays it, that it really is nothing more than a slap in the face to the original. I found it insulting.
To summarize: Jackson's movie is loud, dull and over-long. The characters are stale and flat, and while the special effects are very good, they are nothing which you haven't scene before.
Second Chorus (1940)
Great Acting, Weak Plot, Weak Songs
Even for a Fred Astaire film, this movie had a ridiculous plot. At 41 years of age, we are meant to believe that Fred is a perennial college student in his mid-twenties, who has just graduated and is vying with his ex-room-mate (Burgess Meredith) both for a job with Artie Shaw's band and the affections of Paulette Goddard.
The songs are few and far between, and (with the exception of "Poor Mr. Chislom") not very good. Even more surprising, there is virtually no dancing -- with more scenes, instead, focusing on Astaire doing a very bad mime of playing the trumpet.
The characters all come across as selfish, and things which are meant to be viewed as harmless pranks appear nasty and needlessly hurtful. By the end of the movie, you have not developed a level of empathy for any of them -- except perhaps for Paulette Goddard, who really shines in this movie as a great comic actress and foil for much of the movie. See it for her role, but most of Astaire's other movies are much better.