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Showing posts from May, 2006

RECENTLY RATED MOVIES #17: SAME AS IT EVER WAS?

Ah! Summer movies! Love 'em, hate 'em... who can freakin' decide? Just like their cliched "It was a so-so year at the movies" annual denouncement of the past twelve months, the media likes to spend the few months before summer building up anticipation for all the big-budget, no-brainer, superhero junk-food flicks that they cram up our turkey asses like delicious stuffing from May through August. "Hey, Fat America! Run over your neighbor's kids with your resource-squandering H2 (while sucking down a 87-ounce Pepsi) to SEE THIS NOW!"

Then in September, the media chides us for not eating our greens, worrying about the depravity of our souls, and tell us why movies are in such a bad state THIS YEAR, which will turn out to be, inevitably, the big-budget, no-brainer, superhero junk-food flicks that you are still cleaning out of your anal cavity. Then they tell us the films we SHOULD BE WATCHING, all from September through November, and all of them POSSIBLY…

THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON UP IN CEL BLOC #6

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It seemed like I fought every inch of the way this week to get any of my posting done on both sites. Truly behind at work, throwing small temper tantrums along the way, and learning how to handle both Dreamweaver and Photoshop, two programs of which I went into the week with a total time experience of, oh... an hour, and that was mostly on Dreamweaver, all because I had to temporarily take over some website duties in the abscence of our graphic designer, who high-tailed it to better economic fortunes and a job more closely suited to his talents. It's been fun, but each evening I was wiped out and really fought with my self-proclaimed journaling goals.

Almost gave up on my project this week, as the only person keeping me writing at such a clip is little ol' me. But, half of the purpose of this experiment is that I keep doing it, and do it I did. It's also a little harder to do when Jen and I have the same schedules, or she has several days off in a row and we have a housegue…

FIVE DISCS OF DEATH #5

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The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cinema 4 Rating: 8
It seems that many of my childhood nightmares rest squarely on the shoulders of Mr. Clint Eastwood. Love the guy, love his westerns, tolerate his cop flicks, deeply appreciate his skills as a filmmaker. But a rare excursion to one of the two drive-in theatres in Alaska as a child (more on this subject at a later date) and its triple-feature Clint Eastwood western marathon (or so I have been told it was; it may have only been a double-feature), left me with a lifelong intolerance for hanging scenes, to the point where I get all wigged out at the conclusion of films like Dancer in the Dark and Capote. Likewise, in Outlaw Josey Wales, there is a scene early on in this film where a Gatling gun is employed on a group of soldiers. While I can handle the use of machine guns just fine in most gangster films, somehow as a youth I could not understand the fairness of such a weapon as a Gatling gun, which could devastate at a…

THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON UP IN CEL BLOC #5

Since the Cinema 4: Cel Bloc relies not just on cartoons from my own collection of DVDs and dusty VHS tapes, I just want to take the opportunity to point people to the Refrederator, from which three of the past week's cartoons were culled. Honestly, I already own these films on DVDs with quality ranging from terrible to OK, but the form in which the fine folks at Refrederator place them is well considered and the quality, despite the agedness of the material, seems to be relatively high, or at least, the best that can be found. You can go to iTunes and sign up for the podcast (which I have), and I will say, it is nice to get on the computer each day and fine a nicely gift-wrapped cartoon waiting for you when you open iTunes. (They seem to play better, however, when you reopen them in QuickTime, though.) I hate to rip on fellow cartoon fiends, but the Vintage ToonCast (also available on iTunes) also presents some of the same films, but with ugly black bars wrapped around half of th…

FIVE DISCS OF DEATH #4

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A Shot In the Dark (1964)
Director: Blake Edwards
Cinema 4 Rating: 8
The Pink Panther Strikes Again may have been my first theatrical Peter Sellers film, but I was already well-versed in Inspector Clouseau's unique style of detection from watching, in the limited means I had in those days, not just the Inspector cartoons on Saturday morning TV (which is, really, a totally different guy), but the first two films in the series, The Pink Panther and this film, which is the first true pure Clouseau showcase. (The original film focuses as much, if not more, on David Niven's thieving character.) This film sets up Herbert Lom's blustery Inspector Dreyfus and also introduces the precious Burt Kwouk as Clouseau's karate-attacking equally bumbling houseboy Kato. That it works is astounding, since the film was a Sellers project that he wanted out of until Edwards was brought in. The applause needs to go primarily to Edwards and budding screenwriter (and eventual Exorcist creator) Wi…

THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON... #4

Terrytoons, Warner Bros., Ted Eshbaugh, Walter Lantz, Columbia, Van Beuren, and back to Warner Bros.; we hit 'em all, or rather, we hit a bunch of studios this past week on the Cel Bloc. No plan; just jumping on to whatever film I ran across online or in my collection or on television. A little freestyle ani-hoppin', if you will.

Because we are dealing with films of a certain antiquity, I have (quite purposefully, I might add) rung up a bit of debate on the use of stereotypes in cartoons, a subject which will get touched on here and there throughout the course of the site. I will also mention that a couple of the commenters come from some interesting backgrounds and/or websites. I won't drop any names nor will I comment here on their comments (I will in later reviews, for the Cel Bloc is ever progressive and cannot be backtracked upon); suffice to say, that I would just like to draw your attention over to the reviews for the Bugs Bunny war propaganda short Any Bonds Today?

FIVE DISCS OF DEATH #3

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Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)
Director: Robert Hamer
Cinema 4 Rating: 8
Alec Guinness, long, long before Obi-Wan Kenobi, plays 8 different parts. 8 PARTS! If that is not enough to pique your interest, then there is nothing I can do for you. If you are interested, when a distant relation of the titled d'Ascoyne family blames his mother's death on the clan, he vows to gain his revenge on them, and take in a sizable inheritance, by doing in the eight members of the d'Ascoynes who stand in his way of the dukedom. The problem? All eight d'Ascoynes, male and female, are played by Guinness, and it might not be as easy as it seems at first. Deliciously dark and riotously funny, but with a typically British understatedness in the delivery of some of the gags (pay close attention to everything going on around the characters). I know some people who come out underwhelmed, but they are wrong. With our American viewpoint, when you think of comedy from the late 40's, it often com…

THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON... #3

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There was a concentration this week on Tom and Jerry at the Cinema 4: Cel Bloc, but not the Tom and Jerry with whom most of civilization is familiar. Instead, this is a human Tom and Jerry, not a cat and mouse team, but who similarly fought, drank and played their way through nearly 30 adventures in the early 1930's for the Van Beuren Studios. The films are simple but fun (for the most part -- I take major issue with one of them), and while there were no great strides made in the art of animation, there are a handful of clever gags in most of the entries in the series. Many of them, all public domain, can actually be found at archive.org, and many others can be found on DVD; not essential viewing, but if you have the time...

This past week on Cinema 4: Cel Bloc --
Sunday, 4/30/06: In the Bag (1932) Cel Bloc Rating: 6
Monday, 5/01/06: Piano Tooners (1932) Cel Bloc Rating: 6
Tuesday, 5/02/06: Plane Dumb (1932) Cel Bloc Rating: 4
Wednesday, 5/03/06: Pencil Mania (1932) Cel Bloc Rating: 6
T…

SLIPPED DISCS: ROYAL FLASH (1975)

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I'm twelve years old in early 1977, and I am at the Denali Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska for a showing of the latest Inspector Clouseau film, The Pink Panther Strikes Again. (The date is approximate; in Alaska, at that time, we often did not get films on time. The film was released mid-December, 1976; I have adjusted to account for this.) I am already familiar with Peter Sellers' buffoonish Inspector, though I know just as much about the character from the cartoon series that aired every Saturday morning on The Pink Panther Show (in whatever form it was in from year-to-year), and truth be told, though I had seen the first two films in the series at that tender age already, I was at the theatre almost as much for the opening animated credits as I was to see Peter Sellers.

In that day, films were still shown as double-features, and when you paid for one movie, you got another usually inferior film with it. Example: later in 1977, when my mother and I took in The Spy Who Loved Me, …

RECENTLY RATED MOVIES #16

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Finally, Jen and I are getting out to films again. And I am just giddy about it. Despite my hatred of crowds, and hesitancy to engage myself with the public in general, there is no place better to watch films than in a movie theatre. It is not merely the chance to see a film up on a big screen (sometimes even a showing a bad print on a pull-up screen with an old projector is enough to warrant my attention), but it is the whole experience. Nothing brings me greater joy than attending the films. And none of that feeling has to do with the overrated popcorn...

We've gotten out to three films in the past week, and both of us were astonished when this fact popped up while we were driving to the last one. Jen's weekends are not my weekends, and we actually get very little time together, and it is only on her weekends that we have late afternoon/evening time to go out (she works mostly through the afternoon and evenings). So, if you ever wondered how I happen to have so much time to w…

Five Discs of Death #2

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Invaders from Mars (1953)
Director: William Cameron Menzies
Cinema 4 Rating: 7
Apart from scaring the crap out of me as a child when I saw it on a Saturday afternoon TV matinee, what does this film have to offer me as a supposedly far-more-knowledgable adult? Isn't this the film that infamously has the alien soldier wandering about with a very clear zipper up his back? Isn't there a point where one has to grow up and get past cheesy films like this? Well, the sets are limited in scope, the costumes are cheesy, the acting is sometimes wooden... and it is all designed this way on purpose. This is the fever dream of an innocent child, and the movie reflects his vision of the big, bad scary world (some have written McCarthyist scares are woven into its lining, but I don't necessarily see it that way), the movie is seen from his perspective (in some extraordinary shots, especially in the police station), and his imagining of that worst of all childhood fears: the loss of the love …

THERE'S A RIOT GOIN' ON... #2

Most of the past week on my other blog, the Cinema 4: Cel Bloc, was spent going over another section on the first disc of the Max Fleischer Color Classics collection, Somewhere In Dreamland. Frankly, the cartoons are starting to get cuter and cuter, and I'm becoming a little disconnected from the series. I'm hoping for a couple of good wolf attacks in the near future on upcoming shorts; just a little bit of antagonism can do wonders for a cartoon, and this week there were two Fleischers', The Cobweb Hotel and Greedy Humpty Dumpty, that had some nice dark edges to them. Of course, there was also that avian suicide attempt (I kid you not) in Hawaiian Birds, but outside of that, the film is basically forgettable.

Because of the gradually increasing cuteness, and the fact that I have been reviewing a lot of Fleischer cartoons over the last month (including some Superman episodes), by Saturday, I took a jump over into another studio at large in the 1930's: Terrytoons, with t…

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