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 http://matt-mattmovies.blogspot.com/
            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. :)