Monday, October 29, 2012

Godzilla (1954) Buy 12+

How come Godzilla has a Criterion release? Oh well.
             Monster movies from the 1950s onward feel the same to me every time I watch one. They're a) too frightening, b) very annoying, c) too stupid, or d) really, really badly made films. The worst part to me is that they were mainly made to entertain the masses who wanted to have a good scare. Now, I'm not a sourpuss, and sometimes I can be enjoyed by an entertaining low-budget stupid horror film. It would be much better if a monster movie or any kind of film had a message to go along with that wasn't slapped onto it. That theme also has to have a point to be in the story. So, that's why I was surprised by Gojira or Godzilla, a 1954 Japanese monster film that deserves to be in the canon of great complex horror classics such as The Bride Of Frankenstein,  The Haunting,  Misery, and Cat People. The film's not only fun to look at for plain pleasure, but it also has a serious melancholy message of nuclear catastrophe to go along with it. 
           When Ishiro Honda directed it, Japan had just barely survived from the trauma of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which devastated the country with its horrifying loss of human life and its unprecedented side-effects. What's even more worse was that other countries were still testing their nuclear weapons on island near Japan. As a result, Godzilla became an allegory of Japan's suffering. The film constantly refers to nuclear disaster such as having "atomic tuna" or having ill health effects following the radiation.
            The film follows Japan after a series of disasters rock the stability of the nation. To explain what the cause of all this is, the government sends a group of investigators to the site where a monster was supposed to be seen. They are able to locate the monster, called Gojira/Godzilla, and they discover that he's an ancient dinosaur that's been contaminated by nuclear radiation. From here on, it becomes an allegorical drama about the consequences of nuclear testing as well as human emotions following a disaster. As Godzilla terrorizes Tokyo, some of  the experts  experience strong emotions about whether or not they should use a breaking new discovery of destroying oxygen to kill the monster.
Is Godzilla flossing his teeth with the model train set?
      Of course, the monster is the scariest thing in the movie. Its big bug-like eyes, breath of death, and menacing roar just send shivers down my spine whenever I think about it. What's even more amazing is that you can tell that it was a guy in a suit and you still are convinced that the monster really is there . (Apparently, that guy didn't like the suit too much. It got really hot in the suit and he often suffocated in it. Furthermore, the suit was really hard for the actor to move around in. I'd always be amazed at how the guy was able to press through that experience.)
    When the film got released in America, the producers decided to cut the atomic references from the original and have Raymond Burr play an American reporter describe the action rather than showing it. In other words, they reduce the complex philosophy into something so stupid that I don't want to talk about it! Let's move onto what I think about the film.
      To me, this film feels more like a complex disaster drama than a campy horror B-movie. Yes, there is absurd acting, and yes, there are frightening scenes. However, the film focuses more of its attention to the victims rather than on the monster. People are seen crushed, and dying in the hospitals because of Godzilla's destruction. In a heartbreaking scene, several schoolgirls are shown singing a hymn of peace to soothe the fears of the nation. Scientists and politicians fight over what is the right thing to do in this situation. The music and cinematography present a very gritty situation, and the ending is more of a pessimistic warning suggesting that there will be more disasters or Godzillas up ahead. No, it wasn't referring to the massive amount of sequels or the two awful American revisions that appeared after this. 
Happy Halloween, everyone! I know I haven't written a post since August, but I was getting overwhelmed by schoolwork, the moving into a new condo, and the sheer terror of the hurricane. Sorry. To make up for it, I've decided to do a post of a classic monster movie for Halloween! :) Thank you for being patient with me. And please do not send me hate mail for hating the Americanized version. It's just my opinion- I just think Gojira (1954) is superior to Godzilla, King Of The Monsters! (1956). 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Razor's Edge (1946) Rent 15 and up

What is the meaning of life? Based on a 1944 novel by W. Somerset Maugham,The Razor's Edge is unusual for a Hollywood picture because it deals with a subject that Hollywood rarely ever did, and that was spiritualism and life's meaning. Despite my applauds for finding a film that was trying something different at the time, I'm still kind of puzzled by this film. To help clear my muddled thoughts, let me explain my opinion on this 1946 classic.
    In it, a well-to do Chicago veteran named Larry Darrell (Tyrone Power) is traumatized for his best friend sacrificed himself during a battle in World War One. To clear his muddled thoughts, he decides to go to Paris and India to find enlightenment on the meaning of life. After he learns about goodness, he decides to go visit his old friends in Paris who for the most part aren't doing really well in their lives. For instance, Sophie (Anne Baxter) used to be in a happy marriage until her husband and child gets killed in a car accident. Now, she's a washed-up drunk. Larry decides to save her from her sins. However, his ex-fiancee Isabel (Gene Tierney) is still in love with him. Let me rephrase that. She's obsessed with him. She wants to marry him, and she doesn't understand why he won't focus on society. So to make him realize that he should accept society over life, she decides to sabotage his work with Sophie which ends in tragedy for all of three of them.
       As usual with other golden age pictures, this one is a beautifully produced movie and the acting is really good. Tyrone Power is a genuine good actor with real charm, despite his character having to say awful lines as "The dead have never been deader." The other actors, like Clifton Webb is admirable. Anne Baxter's award winning role easily is the best of the performances for she's a devastating tragic heroine. The audience actually feels sympathy for her when things don't work out for her. She's a character that fate hasn't been kind to, and her performance as a person trying to see that but unable to prevent it is an unforgettable one.
           Gene Tierney's character, though well acted, seems more like a Shakespearean villain rather than a hero. She literally gets Sophie back on the path to doom through psychological warfare and the reason why she does this is she only wants Larry for herself not for anyone else. Did this film turn into a prequel to Leave Her To Heaven? Why would our main leading heroine commit second-degree murder and still be Larry's main affection throughout the entire picture? I know that she doesn't understand his philosophy but that's no excuse for doing despicable things. Ever.
        The main problem that I have with this movie isn't our heroine but the freaking story itself! I just found it boring and uninteresting for our hero is bland, and his quest for meaning didn't resonate with me. That's probably because I haven't experienced his feelings yet , but if you have questions about life, this might be a good choice for you if you don't mind the fact that it's a depressing story with no uplifting moments in it. I'm sorry to say this but I do not like this film at all. But, it's still a good movie but it's not really engaging or interesting to watch.
A tragic heroine who went on to harass Bette Davis.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Wizard Of Oz BUY 5 and up

Yeah! I'm going to see a movie! Hopefully a good one.....
               This post is part of an amazing blogathon hosted by the one and only Forgotten Classics Of Yesteryear. I'm so honored to be here because I'm a huge fan of the blog for it has introduced me to some of my new favorite movies that I probably would have never heard of had I not read the blog.

This is a VHS for you young readers out there.
           When I was in Kindergarten, I never was fascinated with movies at all. Sure, I would watch my healthy dose of Disney/Pixar/Warner Brothers. But, I wasn't compelled by them to find out other movies to watch or to explore the people who actually made the films. Then, I saw the film that forever changed my life.
      My mother always would go to Blockbuster to rent videos for me to watch. (This was before Netflix and DVDs made it easier to watch films.) One day, she rented a video that she knew I was ready to watch. The movie was called The Wizard Of Oz.
        Now, you have seen and know everything about this movie, so I won't be going over the plot or background behind it. I'll be writing just about my thoughts of the film. The reason is that a person's thoughts about a beloved film is more powerful than the history of the film. Especially if he is a young toddler who's obsessed with Dr. Seuss. Now, let's move on.
           When I first saw the Serpia Kansas farm scenes, I at first questioned why the film wasn't in color. Instead of my mother lecturing me about the history of film, she just told that there's a surprise coming later. So, I patiently waited to see this surprise. In other words, I wanted the Kansas scenes to be over with when I first saw it. But, nowadays I kinda like them. They have a wholesome quality that catches you off guard. For example, after the evil Mrs. Gulch takes Toto away from Dorothy, Auntie Em says to her, " For forty years, I've always wanted to say this to you." A modern film would have her say a quote like "You are a godless woman!" Instead, Auntie Em says " But now, I'm a Christian woman and I can't say things like that anymore now." When you analyze it now, you see that Auntie Em hates this woman so much but because of her values, she won't give in to the temptation of cursing her, which would her character seem unfavorable in front of the family.
There's something out there for us, Toto.
        The best scene in the entire movie is the classic scene where Dorothy sings the classic song called "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". When I first saw it, Dorothy represented childhood wanting better and new things to do, and I identified with her because her life was misunderstood by her family, and the song represents hope and a better future. Now, I always cry at the scene. It's so beautiful.  
       After a visit to the local fortune teller, a twister hits the area. This part always creeped me out as a kid. None was more terrifying than Dorothy's own family accidentally locking her and poor Toto out of the shelter! I know that the tornado made it impossible for them to hear her cries, but as a kid, I was shocked to see Dorothy's loved ones abandoning her to the evil of the storm, and blocking the only way out of the dangerous situation! If that didn't terrify me enough, then we have poor Dorothy being knocked out by a flying window. What the heck!
           After a dream sequence that ended with a thunderous boom of the house, Dorothy wakes up and walks toward the door. When she opens it, the world changes from boring black and white to a colorful wonderland that's apparently been built out of plastic. But, it still is an impressive scene because of the way we are introduced to Oz with the magical score and beautiful cinematography.
         She finds out from Glinda, a.k.a the Good Witch, that she accidentally killed the Wicked Witch of the East. Since she was so wicked, the Munchkins who live around here are pleased with this that they sing an entire song dedicated to her. It's actually a charming sequence because the audience gets to know that the citizens are really happy to have someone rescue them from their villan. Apparently, since this is a children's film, we need to have a villan to come along and spoil the charming scene for a while. Enter the Wicked Witch of the West, and everyone but I was scared by her. I don't know what was wrong with me, but maybe I had seen people getting dressed up like her at Halloween. So, I was not scared by her because I knew what was coming already.
                 She's apparently upset with Dorothy because Dorothy not only killed her sister but she also got a hold of the MacGuffin that's very valuable here. If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'm talking about the Ruby Slippers, but I digress. Glinda saves Dorothy by saying the coolest thing ever. She says, " Go away because you have no power here." That quote is basically saying that evil won't win and it should get the heck out of here before the powerful good comes along and kills evil.

We're off to see the wizard and to kill a wicked witch!
             After the Wicked Witch leaves via explosion, Dorothy and Toto are shown the way to Oz via the Yellow Bricked Road. Along the way, she meets the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion who accompany her for the trip. These characters were awesome for they not only help the main character but they have probelms that we can relate with. That's pretty rare considering the sterotypes in modern films.   
        Long story short: They get caught in the  infamous poppy fields, but they get rescued by Glinda. They arrive to Oz where they participate in the Cowardly Lion's worst song ever. I'm not kidding. This song is just horrible to listen to, and Oz just looked too green for me. Luckily, we get to see the Wizard's big face come the heck out of nowwhere and scare the living daylights out of us. Thank you.
            The Wizard tells them that they must kill the Wicked Witch and bring him her magic broom. But, Dorothy gets captured by her flying monkeys whom always are cool to me. Seriously, you have monkeys with wings. What idea can't be so stupid in real life but is cooler in fantasy?!?
       The scene where Dorothy is locked in the castle brings real peril to me for the timer is running out and we know that if the trio of sidekicks don't hurry up, there's not going to be a happy ending. Luckily, they do arrive and after a chase through the castle, Dorothy kills the Witch by throwing a bucket of water at her. That's an epic villain death scene because she literally melts away into nothing! That scene gave me nightmares for weeks but they always ended with the Witch dying. :)
       The Wizard is shown to be a good-hearted fake who helps the trio realize that they had everything that they needed with them the entire time. Eventually, Glinda shows Dorothy the way home via clicking her ruby slippers three times. She returns home, and says the classic line, "There's no place like home."
             This is my favorite movie of all time. It not only has imagination, but has great acting, sets, directing and mostly good songs. But, it also revelaed to me that movies could be the most magicial thing ever. So to find out more, I started viewing other films that are now favorites of mine. Thank you, Oz.
There's No Place Like Home.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Night Train To Munich (1940) Buy 12+

Where is his face?
    This post is part of an awesome blog-a-thon honoring films that honor one of the greatest directors of all time. Thank you, Tales of the Easily Distracted and ClassicBecky's Brain Food for letting  Classic Cinema Reviews For Kids take part in such a diabolical great adventure as this one proved to be. I'm just so sorry that I haven't had any time to do the review until now, but I had to move to another house. So thank you for being patient with me. Now onto the review.....
      Alfred Hitchcock may have been best known for his Hollywood nightmare fantasies, but before he made Rebecca in 1940, he made some magnificent thrillers in Britain during the 1920s and 1930s. One of these films is a little picture known as The Lady Vanishes in 1938. Boy was that film fun! It had all of the ingredients of a modern good Hollywood blockbuster. It had romance, thrills, comedy, and a smuggled political message. One year later after that classic was released, Hitchcock left for Hollywood. Around at the same time, World War Two started. So what would be the most Hitchcockian thing to do in England without any help from Hitchcock? Well, that would be make a lot of generic espionage thrillers that could also be propaganda that would lift up people's spirits at the same time. Brilliant, lads.
        To be honest, some of those films would become unmemorable dull cheesy crap. But since this is a blog-a-thon honoring the "best" Hitchcockian films, I've decided to write about the 1940 film called Night Train To Munich. The director of the film was Carol Reed who would later direct other classics such as The Third Man, The Fallen Idol, and Oliver!. He later claimed that this film was an unofficial sequel to The Lady Vanishes. Let's see if that is true or not and whether it's better than the Hitchcock thriller.
       Our movie begins in 1939 when the Nazis march into Prague. There, a super important scientist a.k.a the MacGuffin that has nothing to do with the emotional conflict is flown to the safe country of England where the Blitz hasn't happened yet. Unfortunately, his daughter named Anna (Margaret Lockwood after she divorced Micheal Redgrave and realized that she's a daughter of a Czech scientist) is arrested and put into the miserable concentration camps. There, she meets and is befriended by fellow abused prisoner who goes by the name of Karl Mansen ( Paul Henreid ). One night, they escape from the camp in the probably most easiest way to escape prison, which is to turn off the lights so the guards can't see you. Wow. At least, it can't be insulting for the thousands of people who died trying to escape the camps during the war. And for that matter, why doesn't the prison scene feature the horrific torture/killing of many innocent people. But at least, Carol Reed had an excuse for no one knew what was really happening inside the camps until later.

             Anyway, the couple runs/hop on a boat to England where it's always happy and free. There, Anna manages to find her father who now is working for Britain. How? She writes a cryptic ad in the newspaper at her fellow escapee's suggestion. That way, no enemy spy could ever read it. Since her father is working for Britain and is in possible danger form the Nazis, he's guarded by Dickie Randall, a British officer disguised as the charming Gus Bennett played by Rex Harrison. Did I forget to mention that Gus Bennett is a really bad singer? Well, he is. Unless you're a fan of My Fair Lady, grab some earmuffs during those singing parts. Even Anna can't stand it for she says to him;"Pity nature didn't give you a voice". Yikes.

        Well pity the fool for he can't keep a close eye on Anna for she and her father gets kidnapped by some Nazi agents. Among them is Karl Mansen who was actually a Nazi spy to begin with. Surprise. At least Dickie is smart for he volunteers to get them back from Germany. He disguises himself as a German army engineer major. In other words, Rex Harrison plays a Nazi and according to a Criterion essay, he loved it. Let's move on before I'm scarred for life. He tells the Germans that he and Anna used to be lovers, and he might get her to be on their side so she will persuade her dad to cooperate. Clever idea. After a night of literally no sex, he persuades the pair to get on a train to Munich accompanied by Mansen and two guards. Once they get to Munich, they would leave on a plane where they would pass over the ice cream mountains- yes the sets are that bad- to the land of freedom . You're a clever spy, Dickie.
            Who should also be on the train at the exact same time? It's my favorite characters, Charters and Caldicott, of course. Now if only they could get Dame May Whitty to be the Czech scientist. Anyway, they spot Dickie because he used to go to college with them. This arouses Mansen's suspicions and to make a long story short, he realizes that the Army Major is just Dickie Randall in disguise, and he has orders to arrest him when they get to Munich. So much of your plan now, Dickie.
         However, Charters and Caldicott happened to a) miss their valued golf clubs, b) listen to the conversation and c) be British at the exact same time that Britain declares war on Germany. They decide to help Dickie, Anna, and her father escape but not before a big chase. How? Since this is a thriller, I'm not going to spoil anything. Sorry. It wouldn't be fair to let the tension loose.
          Overall, this film is surprisingly good fun. The acting's great, the thrills are genuine, and the smart writing reminded me of its predecessor, which was The Lady Vanishes. In fact, it reminded me too much of that film. It has a clever damsel in distress,  a charming eccentric Englishman, ordinary people getting into extraordinary adventures, an elderly MacGuffin, a villain thought to be a hero, a sort-of generic plot, a train, a climax involving guns, Charters and Caldicot, and a trip around Europe. However, this movie has special things to stand on its own. One is that Charters and Caldicot are much funnier and heroic in here, and they aren't useless to the narrative like they did in the first one. The heroes have much more of a reasonable relationship here than in the other film, and Paul Henreid plays such a stark contrast as a villain rather than in his famous role in Now, Voyager  that I didn't recognize him at all. The major reason why it works is that it has a death-defying stunt among the Alps that has a great deal. All of those ingredients make this a fun, thrilling adventure.
Our heroes.......

Friday, July 13, 2012

Note For The Hitchcock Blog

I've got some good news and some bad news on my post of Night Train To Munich. The bad news is that I just arrived from Paris yesterday. Orginally, I was going to write my post today, but thanks to a horrible side effect known as jet lag, I was unable to write it. Sorry. But the good news is that I have started on the post and it will be up by tomorrow. Thanks for your consideration.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gentleman Jim (1942) RENT for ages 10 and up

Get ready to swoon, ClassicBecky! 
       Before he got himself involved with scandals, Errol Flynn was one of the most popular leading men in Hollywood. With box-office/critically acclaimed hits such as The Adventures Of Robin Hood and Captain Blood, he showed that he was more than an athletic swashbuckler and romantic lover. The real reason why Errol Flynn is still famous is that he had charisma. He was one of the first actors who showed that this trait can help an actor evaluate his acting skills even more than action or romance can. No movie can better show this than the 70-year-old drama, Gentleman Jim.
          It's loosely based on the true life story of "Gentleman"James J. Corbett, the boxer who redefined the sport forever. Before him, boxing was more rough and tumble bare knuckle brawls than the kind you might see on T.V. today. (Even though I probably will not be watching that for I do not like sports at all, but I digress.) His style followed the more civilized way of the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, which emphasized more on the fairness of the sport rather than on the illegal brawls. (Literally, boxing was banned in many states until the early 20th Century. Yeah!) Jim also used polished footwork and technique that of course bewildered most of his rough opponents. This and of course his gentleman like personality helped him defeat John L. Sullivan in 1892.
The Real James Corbett Who Looks Nothing Like Errol
    Like most Hollywood biopics of the time, it is more of a fanciful imagining of the life rather than what truly happened. A main part of the film involves with a romantic love interest,played by Alexis Smith, who doesn't like our hero at all. In fact, she wants him to be knocked out in all of his big fights. But of course, he manages to get the girl by the end.Major shock. Another subplot involves James' family who are very combative yet loving at the same time thanks to his parents. The movie also shows that James was an outgoing person and he had a great sense of natural charisma. From what I can get from this movie, it suggests he would have a boxing career for his main income. Yeah, those scenarios didn't happen in real life. By 1892, he was already married, and his parents apparently took their own lives in a murder-suicide. Ouch. He supposedly was a mostly reserved man, and since boxing was mostly illegal, he became an actor to support himself. So in other words, it's mostly Hollywood gloss covering good potential for an emotional study of a compelling character.Why Hollywood?!?
          The shooting for this movie was also harsh for the main actor. According to TCM's article on the film by Jay S. Steinberg, "The famously hard-partying Flynn had been wracked with assorted health problems in 1942, and it all culminated with his collapse during the filming of one of Gentleman Jim's fight sequences. While the studio had publicly chalked it up to fatigue, the doctors diagnosed a mild heart attack. Alexis Smith recounted in the biography, The Two Lives of Errol Flynn by Michael Freedland, how she took the star aside and told him, "'It's so silly, working all day and then playing all night and dissipating yourself. Don't you want to live a long life?' Errol was his usually apparently unconcerned self: 'I'm only interested in this half,' he told her. 'I don't care for the future.'" 
           Despite those major setbacks (and the fact that I don't find any of the comic scenes funny at all), it's a really decent movie with more strengths than flaws. It's riddled with terrific work from most of the supporting actors, including an awesome performance from Ward Bond who plays a bigger-than-life performance of John L. Sullivan. The directing by Raoul Walsh is just amazing especially with those magnificent boxing scenes that are still stuck in my head to my annoyance. The plot's okay with some really good moments (the family scenes) with some really boring scenes (any involving Alexis Smith except for the end). I'm sorry but I didn't find her captivating as Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. She's just really an uninteresting character with nothing to offer than love/mock Errol. Boo you, Mr. Corbett. I hope you lose that Oscar for Best Actor That Was Beaten Up By Errol. Oh wait. I love you for no reason at all. At least, she's a great actor compared with another one named Jack Carson. Grr. I'm sorry but I just find his character to be really annoying and to have no purpose at all, except to drink heavily and to be funny. Rarely a good sign in movies.
   Thankfully, this movie has Errol Flynn to save it from Jack. The reason why this movie works is because of him. Case in point: the ending. As John L. Sullivan is giving him his belt as a sign of acceptance, notice Errol's underplaying. The reason why he's doing it is because he as an actor wants the audience to notice at what his character is showing rather than what is visible from the dialogue. In the scene, the audience can tell that Jim is respecting the man he had just beaten, and to show it without saying much is a grand accomplishment for anyone. Even though I'm only recommending this movie for those kids who would love Errol Flynn or boxing stories for the plot's really boring, this is one of Errol's greatest roles in film.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Horseathon: National Velvet (1944) BUY 6 and up

      Horses. What does it feel like to love a horse?- Angela Lansbury in National Velvet

        Personally, I like horses. They're cute and majestic, but they also are strong and durable. Seriously, they're probably one of the most abused animals in the world, and yet, they will still love us as we love them. Why? Well,any animal lover (including me) can tell you the reason why is because of a loving connection between the human and the animal. In my words, a loving relationship between a human and a pet is one of the best things that can ever happen to you because they seem to understand you better than most humans will ever will and they can sense what your dreams are. Such a connection exists in the 1944 classic National Velvet, which is best known for introducing a young Elizabeth Taylor to the world, (or to American audiences.)  Let's take a look, shall we.
             In 1920s England, young Velvet Brown (Elizabeth Taylor) encounters upon a young man named Mi Taylor (Mickey Rooney), whom her father (Donald Crisp) hires him as hired hand to work at his butcher shop. (How ironic is that the daughter of a butcher gets a horse that somehow doesn't get turned into meat.) Anyway, the reason why Mi came to town was that he found Mrs. Brown's (Anne Revere) name in his dead father notebook and wants to know what the connection is between the two. Throughout the entire movie, Mi and Velvet develops a best friend relationship between the two of them, which will come in handy later on. Hint. Hint.
         Seven minutes into the movie, and we get our first glimpse of our main interest, (other than Liz), and that would be a young Angela Lansbury in her second role. Just kidding. It's really the Pie, (short for Pirate)  or the freaking horse that the obsessed Velvet falls in love with at first sight of it. Luckily for her, the owner is piss... I mean... really upset at his horse for being a wild reckless rebel. So upset, that he holds a raffle for it in town. Through a series of twists and turns, Velvet manages to win the Pie. (Otherwise, this movie would be boring if she didn't win it. Ironically, it almost did happened.)
      Though a series of events, Velvet decides that the Pie should be placed in England's greatest race, which is The Grand National. She's helped by her family and Mi, who used to be a jockey until he accidentally killed someone, and the Pie is accepted into the race. However, Velvet fires the jockey they hired for being a jerk, and she decides to ride the horse herself, which is a no-no in the racing world. But can she and her beloved horse successfully win the race? 
           This is one great movie, and it's not because of the incredible horse race, even though that's part of the reason why I like it so much. The real reason why is that it has superb acting, an engaging plot, and of course the themes. Let's discuss them one by one. After all, I can do whatever I want on my own blog. :)
Who knew that Anne Revere was a direct descendant of Paul Revere?
    The acting is really amazing, unlike some other horse films. (Remember Disney's Home On The Range?)  Elizabeth Taylor is perfect for the innocent/bold Velvet, Mickey Rooney's always great, Donald Crisp is a character you'll both hate and admire at the same time, and fans of Angela Lansbury will not be disappointed by her acting skills. My favorite performance is that of Anne Revere. She may be one of the greatest cinematic mothers ever, for she's warm, bold, graceful, hard working, cheerful, worried, and wonderful at the same time. Her scenes in which she's encouraging her daughter to pursue her dreams always makes me cry for she plays a caring mother who would do anything for her daughter. That's awesome. In fact, she won an Oscar for it! Give that woman a blue ribbon! Sorry, Pie.
           Sadly, this movie isn't perfect. For one thing, the movie is kind of sexist because Velvet, a constantly fainting girl, is shown idolizing horses so much that even her own father gets sick of it. Don't get me wrong for I know Mi likes Pie, but at the same time I know that he sort of hates him at first and  that all of her family aren't really crazy about horses. So, Velvet is sort of being played as the stereotype of cute girls loving horses, which is not a nice thing for Hollywood to be doing at all. But the sexist accusations doesn't stop there, for at the very beginning, when school is being let out for summer, all of the boys get out early, while all of the females are forced inside to sing a boring song. Happily, the sexist accusations stop there for the movie turns into a fable of following your dreams.
         Unfortunately, there's more problems with the movie. One is Jackie 'Butch' Jenkins' character as Velvet's brother. He's really annoying! My gosh did I hate him. All he did was whine, make a mess, do boyish things and say that classic line, "I was sick last night". Believe me, it's just painful to listen him say that line. Another annoying thing is Hollywood's ever popular use of drunk comic relief as Mickey Rooney gets drunk. It just makes me upset to see drinking played as a comic situation, not a dangerous one! For really sensitive kids, they will cringe at the fact that some riders/horses fall, and that Velvet falls down while she's training Pie. Spoiler Alert: They will really cringe when they see Pie getting really ill and the fact that our heroine loses the race partly because she's a girl.
           Thankfully, this film's main strength is its wealth of positive messages/themes. Dreaming big, enjoying life but knowing when it's time to move on to bigger adventures, and taking risks are all hugely influential themes in here, and there's a lot more in here that I sadly won't cover here. However, the main statement of the film is that when people and animals have loving relationships, they'll have the best time of their life. In one scene, Velvet refuses to let Pie go to Hollywood, knowing that he won't understand it. Her crying eyes and bold attitude in that one scene shows a deeper love for her horse that makes the world seem to disappear, leaving only their love intact. Plus, the horse is awesome.
Aw. It's adorable.
       Thank you, Page for hosting this amazing Horseathon and letting me participate in my first blogathon. This post is dedicated to you and all of the other participants. 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Titanic Films 101

                 This year is the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic disaster, which forever changed maritime law. It also served as a metaphor of our overconfidence in technology, which we sadly still do to this very day. (Note: Our trust in phones and computers.)  In honor of that great ship and in memory of the 1500 lives whom died on that fateful night, Hollywood has been making a lot of movies about this historic event, but not all of them are masterpieces like Titanic (1997) and A Night To Remember (1958). Let's take a look at the best and worst Titanic films of all time.

           The Film That I Wished Was Still Around With UsSaved From The Atlantic (1912)
        A few weeks after the Titanic sank, one of the actual survivors, Dorothy Gibson, starred in a fictionalized film about the Titanic. I would have loved to see this film because it would have reflected society's look on the Titanic, and plus it has an actual survivor in it! Sadly, its studio, Eclair, had a huge fire that engulfed the only known prints, and this was Dorothy Gibson's last film. What a shame.
Major Failure: An Octopus In A Titanic Movie
Another Major Failure: A Rapping Dog In A Titanic Movie

       The Film I Wished Was Not Still Around With Us: The Legend Of Titanic (1999)
      This was the first animated Titanic movie ever, and sadly, that's one of two reasons why we still remember it. The other reason is that it's historically inaccurate, bland animation, a strained political message,stolen cliches, stupidity, and it has an octopus saving the Titanic. I'm not kidding. If you are still interested in why it's so bad, just go see The Nostalgia Critic's video review of it, which sums up all of my hatred of it.
         The Best Documentary on Titanic:  Secrets Of Titanic (1987) and Titanica (1995)
        Even though there are a ton of Titanic documentaries, none of those can even top these two. I like how they showed actual pieces of the ship, and the narration of the latter helps the viewer on a guide of the ship. In fact, both of these also show the human side of the actual expeditions themselves. What a wonderful way to see history in the making.
          The Best T.V. Show About Titanic:  Titanic: The Complete Story (1994)
        This is what got me into my love for Titanic. The survivor's accounts and the glorious images all helped me fuel my knowledge of the vent. And what also helped was that the last special was on the movies and pop culture phenomenon that Titanic has produced. It allowed me to know that those movies existed and that I should go see them. Thank you, History Channel. Now stop messing up your programming with Decoded and America:The Story Of Us and put something fun and nonjudgmental in there.
        The Worst T.V. Show About Titanic: Titanic (1996)
        Why Hollywood! You have ruined great actors like George C.Scott (Patton), Eva Marie Saint (North by Northwest), Tim Curry (Clue), and Pete Gallagher (Short Cuts) when you starred them in a 1996 mini-series that was rushed into production before James Cameron could release his film. The result is a lackluster production with "embarrassingly bad acting" and "out of place scenes". Okay, those words came out of a review from the Seattle-Post Intelligencer   . But they do describe this terrible movie, and there are so many historical inaccuracies that any Titanic fan wouldn't be caught dead watching it!
        The Worst Titanic Movie Ever:  Titanic: The Legend Goes On (2000)
       This is the worst animated film of all time! It's been ranked #1 on the IMDB's Bottom 100, and the Nostalgia Critic did a whole rampage of it on his channel. Here's my review of it in four sentences: This movie is so stupid, ugly, and shameful that I want it destroyed! It had terrible animation that could make Walt Disney puke, borrowed every major Disney storyline/character that could make him puke again, basic stupidity, silly dialogue, shame to Titanic freaks with its historical flaws, and this list could go on and on forever! But the worst part about it is that it has a rapping dog in it! Oh my goodness!
      Honorable Mentions:  Atlantic (1929), History Is Made at Night (1939), and Titanic (1953) are all heavily fictionalized Hollywood versions of the Titanic saga with the latter one winning an Oscar for its soapy script. (Though Barbara Stanwyck was good in it.) Titanic (1943) is notable because it was a German propaganda film that portrayed the British as total jerks, while the Germans as angels. (How ironic.) Tragically, there have been controversy over this as its director got mysteriously killed, and this film was banned in Germany until several decades later. Raise The Titanic (1980) was based on Clive Cussler's book of the same name. Why is it so notable? Well, it bombed really badly. So badly that its producers, Lew Grade, "sank into disaster", and Clive Cussler demanded that no other book of his would be made into another film. The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964) is a musical chronicling Molly Brown's life, including her brief appearance on Titanic. Time Bandits (1981) and Ghostbuster II (1989) all had brief glimpses of the ship. Too brief for my tastes.  In Naucht und Eis (In Night And Ice) was a silent Titanic drama that was released a few weeks after the actual tragedy. It was thought to be lost until a collector discovered it in 1998.
       The Best Titanic Movies Of All Time: Titanic (1997) and A Night To Remember (1958)
    Okay. I know that I'm cheating by picking two films for the number one spot, but I couldn't do it with those two immortal classics. Both of them showed us characters whom we cared about deeply, artistic ability, wonderful journeys, historically accuracy, and the ship sinking scenes are just awesome. Superb acting and directing also happened in these movies, and you must see these two on DVD, (or theater) right now.
   I think the real reason why we cherish Titanic so much is that we can identify with the lost souls and their ocean liner of dreams that symbolized life with a happy ending. After all, life should have a happy ending for dreams can only prosper in happy endings. Though it sank into tragedy, its dreams will go in our minds as a twisted tragic "happy ending." This post is made in honor of that great ship ,all of her passengers and all of their dreams that will be always remembered.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Holy Cow!: The Most Dangerous Game (1932) RENT 12+ (Depending on their capacity for scary stuff)

                Now, most of you guys are going to see The Hunger Games, and you're probably thinking that we aren't that obsessed and crazed with a bloody and devastating sport as the characters in that awesome movie do. You're wrong as we keep our eyes glued to televised sporting events like football, soccer, boxing, wrestling, car racing and of course hunting/fishing.  This makes our judgment seems weak, but at least we have rules for those types and it's much safer today than back then. Especially, when you consider that long ago, (and still today) many people thought that hunting was the greatest sport ever, despite the billions of animals, (and some random humans) that have died in it. (If a sport is deadly, don't say that it's the greatest thing ever. Otherwise, you'd be saying that Dick Cheney shot that guy in self-defense.)
       Maybe we like pain and torture when they,or we, hunted for food or for pointless trophies. But, whatever the case, be glad that you weren't playing with General Zaroff in Richard Connell's classic tale that makes us reconsider about what the hunted feels like. This tale is so well beloved that Hollywood seems to remake/spoof/remix this every single decade, and it all started with this 1932 chiller from the same guys that brought you the masterpiece, King Kong. That's right. M.C.Cooper produced, Fay Wray and Robert Armstrong starred,and Max Steiner composed this puppy just one year prior to that other masterpiece. Heck, even this was filmed on the same sound set and studio as Kong. Now, let's take a look at this one strange and crazy movie.
        On one dark and not-so-stormy night, Bob Rainsford (played by Joel McCrea) is traveling on board a cabin cruiser, and he's a famed hunter who believes that the hunted likes being hunted, and the hunters (like him) loves being the hunter. Yeah, right. However, before he can go on his merry little way, the ship sails through a channel near an island. This turns out to be a bad idea because it suddenly explodes and sinks. Yes! I'm a huge fan of shipwrecks, so I love this sequence even though there's no such thing in the story. :) Tragically, Rainsford is the only one left alive, and he washes upon the deserted island. Sadly, it's not populated by tourists and a hungry shark.
           However, he discovers that it is inhabited by a huge mansion with a strange door handle. I wished I had one. When he goes inside, he meets the owner, a charming yet cartoonish Russian hunter named General Zaroff, played by Lesile Banks. There, he learns that there have been other guests here as a result of numerous shipwrecks and there are some right now in the house. Later, he meets them-- a brother and sister which are played by the two main stars from King Kong. Does that mean that we will see the famed ape himself ? Sadly,not today. :(  Meanwhile, General Zaroff tells his guests that hunting has always been his number one thing in life, but after hunting every animal in existence, he got bored. So, he went to this forbidden island, and invented "the most dangerous game".
You look good-looking, Mr. Bob.
Even though he refuses to tell them what the beast is, Eve gets suspicious and whispers to Rainsford that several nights ago, the two sailors that saved them disappeared while with our nice host.
         Later that night, Eve's stupid drunk brother goes missing, and the couple decides to look for him in the secret trophy room. Much to their dismay/fright, they discover ....... okay, I'm not going to spoil it for you. Wait till you see it, because it's even more terrifying than the dogs in The Hunger Games! Oops, I've spoiled something. Well, skip the next paragraph if  you haven't seen this movie, or read the book.
         In there, they discover that Zaroff's game is to wreck ships, take the survivors in, hunt them on this creepy island, and once he has killed them, he brings them to be stuffed. Once they learn this, they demand that Zaroff to let them off. He agrees to do so, but only if they can survive his hunting expedition. Can they survive this psychopath's sport?
           This one is nothing like the story except for for some highlights. For instance, there was no woman accompanying Rainsford for the journey, there was no freaking shipwreck, and there's about a million of other details that I wished was in here/kicked out since I'm a fan of the story. Sadly, Hollywood in the 1930s had to publicize this story for release, since we were in the Great Depression. (Hollywood, I forgive you this time.)
             If the story's adaption bums me, why is it featured in The Criterion Collection of all places? It's because the mood and feel can give the viewers goosebumps, even nightmares. Come on, think about it. A man and his girlfriend are chased down by a crazed killer on a jungle-fested island with dogs on their tail has got to terrify everyone in some one's mind one time or another. This is also a great use of foreshadowing in the movies. All of the details in here point to something bad. A reoccurring "bad luck" card symbolizes a shipwreck, while a look on a man's face leads Eve to believe that General Zaroff had something to do with the men's demise. Even the music is foreshadowing doom as it plays like a twisted, devilish trumpet signaling the grand chase. The acting's great fun, and it always interested me how much King Kong and The Most Dangerous Game shared so much in common. Even the sailor's screams came straight from the former film.
            Parents, there are some concerns  here: there are severed heads in the trophy room, Robert Armstrong's character plays drinking as a comical matter, sharks are attacking sailors, the dogs are creepier than the Doberman in Hugo, the Russians are played stupidly, and the woman really is a damsel in distress. Since this is a Pre-Code film, there is violence, and minimal sexual references. The main concern is the entire mood as it's probably not for young kids at all. This can give them nightmares. Also, if your teen is a fan of the story, this is not for them for reasons above.
Do Not Run Into King Kong At All! 
           If you want to give your child a great introduction to foreshadowing and chills, show them this treat, as it has an anti-hunting message and asks us that infamous question that would bug us again in Planet Of The Apes; what is it like for the hunted animals? Do they enjoy it?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Some Like It Hot (1959) BUY 11 and up ( Read notes, first)

            Every human being here on Earth has their flaws. But at least, we are much better at our mistakes than the people in Some  Like It Hot, a 1959 comedy starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and the "sex goddess" herself, Marilyn Monroe. Along with its strong cast, and brilliant direction by the wonderful Billy Wilder, this movie has since become one of my favorite comedies of all time. But is it okay for kids? Let's take a look at one of the films condemned by the Catholic Church when first released.
              The story begins in 1929's Chicago, where gangsters ruled the streets with their whiskey and sadly before Roger Ebert was dueling with Gene Siskel. We find ourselves two struggling musicians, Joe and Jerry, (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon), who accidentally saw the St. Valentine's Day Massacre,(major/minor off-screen violence and historically inaccurate). Since they're witnesses who have to escape the mobsters in change, they get the first out-of -town job. Is it selling bananas or is it shoveling coal? Nah, for otherwise this wouldn't have been interesting as a comedy. Their new job is to be in an all-girl band. Wa-wa. It's also major wa-wa when Joe falls in love with the lead singer, Sugar. (You can't blame him, for she's played by Marilyn Monroe.) 
                 While they're on the job in sunny Florida, they turn out to be better women than men, since a millionaire gets engaged to Jerry, and they amazingly don't get fired. (Watch this movie, Adam Sandler!)  Joe decides to woo Marilyn by pretending to be a millionaire, but before wedding bells can ring, the gangsters arrive, leading to some high jinx.
                Now, you know why I love this movie! This has great performances by everyone. Tony proved that he could do cynical comedy well, and do a pitch-perfect Cary Grant imitation. Jack is a hoot as his comical self. My favorite scene is when he launches a party on board the ... wait, I'm not going to tell you. :)  The gangsters are spoofed wonderfully by the likes of George Raft, and others. Joe E. Brown is perhaps one of the greatest comical characters ever in a movie . But, Marilyn is so tragic and yet so full of grace that you care about her deeply. As she explains early in the film, she always seems to get "the fuzzy end of the lollipop". In real life, she got that, which makes it more heartbreaking, and more real than anything she has done. In my opinion, this is her best work ever.
          The scenes are just so humorous that I constantly laughed more than during the average comedy! And unlike Jack And Jill, everything in this movie works! Even the cross dressing scenes work in the subtext of laughter, which made me realize how luckily I am to be a male. Billy Wilder must have thought so too, for he constantly toys with sex and cynical wit. This is the reason why Some Like It Hot  was shocking for its time. It broke a lot of the rules at the time, because it keeps making comments about sex.  TCM host Robert Osborne once said that if the performances weren't great or if Billy Wilder was like Adam Sandler, then this movie would have been bad and it would be a really embarrassing movie just because of those issues that it addressed. Thank God that everything worked for the good of all.
           As mentioned in here, it has a lot of sexuality, which is somewhat tamed by today's standards. Yet, it may shock kids and some adults, because it also is wild for classics back then. You see, this really has a lot of sexual references in it. A lot. There's also two brutal, yet toned down gangster violence, with dead bodies visible, and since this is Prohibition, there's a lot of drinking! (Naughty America.) The gangsters are sadly stereotypically Italian, and there's a constant joke about Shell Oil in here that may be one of the first cases of product-placement. Despite all of these major concerns, (mostly about sex), this is actually the first Billy Wilder film that you should let them see, (along with Sabrina (1954) and possibly Witness For The Prosecution (1957). )
I look fabulous, don't I?
             The reason why is because just as Billy Wilder was perhaps cruel with his cynicism, he also offered great life lessons. Joe learns what it's like to be a woman from Sugar, and he realizes that what he has been doing is wrong, and that he should make it up to her. Sugar learns that true love can override marrying for money. Jerry learns that he can take control for himself as he gets engaged to a man, and all of the heroes are lovable and good-hearted.  But, my favorite character is Osgood played by Joe E. Brown. The reason why I love him is that he recognizes all of Jack's failures and yet, he still cares about him. This is just like what I said earlier about every one's flaws, and that even though we do major failures, we still have people who love us. Joe will still be loved by Sugar, and Jerry will still be loved by Osgood. "After all, nobody's perfect!"

Monday, March 5, 2012

An Introduction to Film (or why in the world am I doing this)

               When I was two, my mother showed me The Wizard Of Oz. With its imaginative storytelling, wonderful characters, fantastic plot, extravagant musical numbers, and its childlike entertainment, it quickly became one of my favorites. Now, I still enjoy with the same love, mainly because it's timeless but it can still be enjoyed by adults as well as children. As Cinemassacre once said in a review of its sequel, "That's what classics are made of." And I agree with him, because this movie has everything that you want and more.
          Tragically, our modern day movies seem to live up to the splendor of the olden days. We've got countless villains that fail to make us scream, comedies that everyone wants to see burned alive, and just really bad movies that seems to multiply ever year! Now, there are some great movies playing in the theater. In fact, I've got another blog devoted to them, so they won't be listed here. Sorry, but you still can check them out on
            Since you obviously won't be going to the worst movies out there since you will a) bored to death by pure badness or b) don't want everyone bored to tears by badness. So, while you wait for that guaranteed modern masterpiece to play on the big screen, why don't you take a deep breath in the glorious past of the movies. After all, they're still offer delightful surprises and enjoyable joys after all these years. In fact, some of them are even better than today's best. ( No kidding. Just check out the enjoyable Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory and compare it to its dark remake or The Day The Earth Stood Still to Transformers. No contest.)
             Now, I won't be biased, for I will try to examine them carefully and decide if it's in the three main categories that I will be making up today. They will either be in the good, the bad, or the  stupid. Hmm. That's almost as boring as the worst movies ever. Let's spruce it up a bit. They will be known now as essential, horrible, plain stupid, and okay. ( Yes, I know that there were only supposed to be three, not four.But I had to add it in!)
          Then, they will be added to another category of whether or not it will be okay for the kids, or you, or everybody. Some films haven't lived up to be tested on children, and some of them haven't been tested well enough for you. As Ty Burr said, "That's the dirty little secret about old movies." In my language, if it doesn't interest you, skip it. If the kids don't buy it, skip it. Simple.
             I will be reviewing every type of movie from the silent days to when it's twenty years old. The reason is that in order to experience movies, you have to see both the oldies and the sort-of newies.  Just looking at both the influence and how it's being influenced is part of the fun.
           Lastly, here's the reason why this blog is called Classic Cinema Reviews For Kids. After I saw The Wizard Of Oz, I began to connect with stories and how stories get to be made. Sure, books are awesome, but movies are accessible to just about everyone. They speak the same language universally, and plus if kids get to know them, they might be less afraid to go into the woods of cinema. And the best part about it is that you get to spend more time with them! So enjoy. :)