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Hilarious, but disjointed.
It's really too bad that Clerks was up against the two highest rated events of the summer season- Survivor on CBS and the NBA Finals on NBC. I'm sure that the unfortunate scheduling contributed heavily to the lack of ratings; in some markets, including mine, the second episode wasn't even shown, because of the heavyweight competition. (Luckily, my local station sent me a videocassette of ep. 2.)
Both episodes of Clerks were hilarious, but not uniformly so. There are parts of both episodes that dragged, and parts of both that actually kind of shocked me. (Randall explaining to the jury how alike they and Dante are; the Indian convenience store). My friends and I, while enjoying the show immensely, realized there was no way the average viewer would even understand much of the cartoon, let alone appreciate the in-jokes and find the whole affair funny- in fact, there are parts of each that many would find downright offensive. While we wish the show would have continued (and perhaps with more equal competition, the show could have matured into something really good), perhaps it's best that the shows just come out on video for the benefit of the converted.
My main problem with the show was the stylistic similarity to "The Critic"- most of the jokes were not only pop-culture based, but they were essentially non-sequiters, contributing nothing to the story. Their use in the original movie fit in with the feel of the film- that of bored coworkers who are just killing time. They felt awkward, though, nestled in the sitcom-like plot of the cartoon.
All in all- recommended for the Clerks fans out there; everyone else may want to see the movies before seeing the cartoon.
Basic animation for a simple tale of a tantrum-throwing child.
I saw this in the theatrical compilation Spike and Mike's Classic Festival of Animation; it was neither the zenith or nadir of the show.
A simplistically rendered girl (who looks much like the comic strip character "Cathy") screams and cries, and her environment changes to reflect her thoughts and mood. After she's finished, we discover she's been in a sort of time-out room, and her mother comes inside and gets her.
That's about it. There is no underlying meaning or symbolism (that I picked up anyway). It seemed to be an exercise in animation, and an experiment in visually showing inner emotions.
The one thing that is impressive is that this is the director's first work; while just average as a short, it's impressive for a first effort.
Pâfekuto burû (1997)
I've been wanting to see Perfect Blue since I saw magazine ads for the theatrical release; it never made it to an Indianapolis theatre, however, and I made do with the recent VHS release.
The box promises a psychological thriller on a par with Hitchcock's work- as much as I love anime, I honestly can't give PB such high marks. It's a bit better than a Verhoeven potboiler, but nowhere near the level of a Hitchcock. The main plot points (and the suspense) are very cliched and overused- if it weren't for the psychological angle, the entire story would be a waste of time.
The sub-plots were interesting, but as many others have pointed out, it's best to be aware of or accepting of some very Japanese pop-culture standards, such as the pop-idol phenomena, the sex video industry, etc. The differences between Japanese and American cultures are very pronounced sometimes, and the fact that the storyline revolves around Japanese pop-culture may make the movie off-putting for casual fans.
The animation wasn't as spectacular as I was expecting- this is my own fault, rather than the movie's. I've come to expect a certain level of animation prowess in theatrical releases, and this felt more like an OVA. The animation is quite serviceable, though.
Character designs are a bit bland. The deformed appearance of the boy (Me-Mania) makes it obvious early on who the culprit is going to be. Character voices (English translation) are okay- I've heard worse. The song translation is well done, but I'm not a big fan of j-pop...
In the end- I don't mean to sound too down on Perfect Blue. I don't feel it's an appropriate movie for non-anime fans, but if you do like anime, it's a decent purchase.
Joy et Joan (1985)
Great Brigitte Lahaie vehicle; so-so book adaptation.
As far as "anonymous"-written soft-core pornographic books go, the Joy series can be considered a classic with Fanny Hill and The Story of O. Certainly not as well known as the others, but fairly erotic and entertaining...
Joy: Chapter 2 is an adaptation of the second book (usually titles Joy and Joan); as an adaptation, it barely follows in the book's tracks. As soft-core in its own right, however, it's a great movie.
Joy is played by Brigitte Lahaie- a distinctive looking (and beautiful) actress known mostly in America for her role as a prostitute in Henry & June, but known more in Europe for being a former hardcore porn actress and star of many exploitation films afterwards. Basically, in this film, Joy runs away from her sexually-abusive husband, and goes overseas. There she meets and becomes sexually involved with a young woman (girl in the book), while being tailed by a man whose intentions are unknown.
Obviously, the main draw of this film isn't the story, but the sex scenes- which are plenty. Brigitte is, as mentioned above, unique looking- she is not your run-of-the-mill sex kitten. She takes her role and runs with it; no matter how non-explicit her scenes are, she's great to watch, and she really knows what she's doing during the sex scenes. Her female partner (whose real name escapes me) also comes across well; she seems to be younger and energetic, and she provides a contrast to the more mature and thoughtful role Brigitte plays.
Are there better movies of this type? Probably. Are there better Brigitte Lahaie movies? Probably. But Joy: Chapter 2 is still an entertaining romp, that may just make you into a fan of Brigitte, too.
Miracle Mile (1988)
Perhaps unbelievable, but a still-powerful story of romance.
I was originally a fan of this movie because of the end-of-the-world themes; I still enjoy those themes. But since I've become older (and married) I've come to appreciate the romantic themes.
The story revolves (mostly) around a person who believes the world is going to end, and who is determined to save the one girl who's shown interest in him.
I don't wish to give away the entire (obvious) plot- suffice it to say that my wife was crying at the end, and that for the romantic-at-heart, there'd be no better ending possible to a nuclear-holocaust story.
I was a fan of this movie as a pre-teen, and paid over $100 for this movie as an adult. hat should hopefully show how powerful and moving this movie is...
Luxo Jr. (1986)
Transcends computer animation.
At the time of Luxo Jr., there was a lot of experimentation going on using computer animation- most of the resulting shorts seemed to be concerned with showing off the new zooming/tracking/etc technologies. (Who, interested in early computer animation, hasn't seen a plethora of shorts that involve zooming around a bunch of dolphins?)
Unlike other contemporary shorts, Pixar shorts attempted to tell a story rather than concentrate on life-like movements of animals (like the aforementioned dolphins or ostriches.) Because of the limitations of computer animation, Pixar chose to animate typically inanimate things; toys and figurines. With the aforementioned limitations, this provided Pixar with the background needed. Toys/other inanimate objects infused with life, attempting to interact with a living world.
Luxo, Jr. concerns a big (mother?) lamp learning to deal with a baby lamp, who is itself unaware of its limitations in this world. The short itself doesn't even last 60 seconds, but it creates understanding within the viewing audience for the large lamp, and an understanding that the small lamp is a child. This is an amazing feat for any cartoon, let alone one that was considered an experimental technology at the time of its release.
Pixar has release shorts since then, as well as full-length movies ("Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life"); it is still an amazing thing, though, to study Luxo, Jr., and the results thereof.
Toy Story (1995)
Despite the Disney conventions, a very entertaining film.
I avoided this movie for a long time- in fact, I only ended up seeing it due to the influence of alt.video.laserdisc.
I am forever indebted to this movie for re-igniting interest in Tron (my sentimental favorite movie of-all-time); but besides this, TS is an incredibly entertaining movie in its own right.
I was familiar with Pixar animation before TS; I actually stayed away from this movie because I didn't want to have my opinions altered by the presence of Disney. I now wish I had seen this movie years ago, instead of waiting for a cheap LD clearance sale.
TS, while adhering to Disney movie traditions, is an entertaining diversion, and historically important as a computer-rendered movie to boot. The difference between Disney and Pixar sensibilities concerning humor are evident early on; one is thankful that Disney gave so much lee-way to Pixar concerning story and dialogue. While I can't say that I was as entertained by the goings-on as average Disney fans, I can say that the results are much better than standard Disney fare. (In fact, if you can find this for under $50 on laserdisc, I can assure that your entertainment dollar is well-spent)
The LD contains the pre-TS Pixar shorts (worth the price of admission) as well as director's comments, and much more. The LD is probably the best deal I've had in a while, and I recommend that everyone- despite their feelings towards Disney- get this LD set. I hope that Disney comes out with an equivalent set for DVD users; everyone deserves to have access to this.
An amazing film, seemingly light-years beyond what Disney is capable of. I'm definitely looking forward to the sequel.
G.I. Joe (1985)
Decent toy tie-in.
GI Joe was essentially an advertisement for the toys; it, like the comic, was designed to tie in with the toy line, to support the storyline of the comic and toys, and to introduce new characters and vehicles.
Given the constraints of the advertising medium, the show was pretty good. The characters seemed to develop over time, and there were identifiable (and diverging) personalities. Unfortunately, GI Joe suffers from the same problem may other cartoons that depict battle show; no one gets hurt or killed.
I don't want to sound like a sadist or cheap thrill seeker, but one would think that a show depicting two large armed forces continuously battling over the globe would suffer casualties. Planes were constantly shot down, but no one ever died. Highly unrealistic, and with Robotech showing at the same time, GI Joe lost its edge. It may have been more popular than Robotech, but couldn't maintain interest for very long. ...and then there's the episode where Cobra has a high-powered laser, and- no, doesn't try to destroy Joe- attempts to carve the Cobra logo onto the face of the moon. What an effective use of technology and power! Graffiti!
Great show that lost its edge.
Alf in the beginning was a hilarious show, almost a satire of sitcoms. By the time the show left the air, though, it was a shell of its former self, just a family-friendly wacky sitcom that catered to children.
When Alf started out, he was a rather ratty-looking creature; he improved in looks over the years, but he originally seemed to be infested with fleas and/or moths; his voice was hoarse, and his wit caustic. Once execs learned of Alf's popularity amongst children, though, the scripts began to skew to a younger and younger demographic- turning off many of the people who had helped the show become a hip hit originally.
Alf later spun off a comic book series (itself the subject of a feeding frenzy/fad that ended up hurting the book's reputation and sales later on), and into an animation series notorious for a "subliminal message" inserted by frustrated overseas animators. (The "message" was innocuous, and consisted of the Statue of Liberty and an American flag; this scared people enough that the show ended up being dropped.)
Beautiful film that presaged the future of film making.
I was terribly excited about Tron when it came out theatrically; I was all of 8 years old, but was already a computer geek. 15 years later, I ended up purchasing the $100 Archive Edition laserdisc box set as my very first LD. Tron definitely made an impact on me.
Tron has survived the years- more so than many other contemporary SF films, and more than I think most critics would have guessed. Instead of looking out-dated and corny, as the years have passed, Tron has aged gracefully. Sure, the monochrome-screen terminals might look a bit old, and the arcade is a distant, fond memory, but the SFX are still beautiful, and the storyline, in this era of the Internet, seems shockingly modern.
One of the reasons Tron's SFX have aged so well is because they did not try to simulate anything already existing. We have no basis to determine if the architecture of the MCP's world is out-dated or not-hip; everything is styled so uniquely that it's never going to look wrong. Much like the design of Maria in Metropolis, the look of Tron is never going to be laughable or quaint.
The storyline is lacking a little bit; you can see the ideas the script writers wanted to insert, but there are too many ideas for only 2 hours of film. There are quite a few points in the film that are mentioned and then ignored (Grid bugs, anyone?), and occasionally the film digresses from the plot for no other reason than to digress- the digressions being unimportant to the story at hand. But, despite the problems, the philosophy of user/program interaction, and the handling of technophobia are both handled admirably.
I recommend every video game, computer, and SF fan to watch Tron at least once. I echo the call for it to be the widescreen version, but I am disappointed with the DVD's extra features- or lack thereof. The LD is much more full featured, and better for fans, despite the side breaks every 30 minutes.