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The Good Dinosaur (2015)
Entertaining, but not all that special
"The Good Dinosaur" was a fun movie and will probably be memorable for young children, but the plot is entirely predictable. The animation, as usual, is superb. The notion of humans and dinosaurs living in the same ecosystem, with dinosaurs as the more advanced creature, is jarring.
The animalistic Spot character (even before being named) reminded me of a first grade classmate of mine who was lacking in language ability and seemed to unleash his rage while playing dodge ball very aggressively, for example.
I happened to view the film in an audience that was about half parents with young children and half college students. All seemed to enjoy it.
The Peanuts Movie (2015)
Nothing but Classic Peanuts!!!
The new Peanuts movie is sensational. It is absolutely classic Peanuts. They have not wrecked Peanuts by making it a 21st century melodrama that deals with issues of various sorts.
The Peanuts Movie is a superbly animated retelling of stories that we all know: the kite-eating tree, Snoopy vs. the Red Baron, the Little Red-Haired Girl, and on and on.
The voices are mostly done by unknowns. The only recognizable name in the cast is Kristin Chenoweth as Snoopy's love interest, Fifi. The children seem to have been cast to mimic as closely as possible the voicing from the 1960s TV specials.
There is even a reference to late Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz and his nickname Sparky. Schulz's sons produced this movie and they did a remarkably faithful job of reviving his father's creation; they kept new, unwelcome ideas from infringing on the Peanuts legacy.
This was wonderful to watch in 3D.
Loosely based on the life of a modern figure?
By the end of the movie, I was noticing a lot of things that made me wonder if the Malcolm character was loosely based on a modern figure that all of us know.
2. African father he never knew
3. Wants to get into Harvard
4. Surrounded by sexually confused
5. Willing to get involved with drugs to get what he wants
6. Not concerned with being genuinely black
7. Covered for by authorities who look the other way
8. Willing to be a toady because someone asks him
9. Parrots what his betters say
Obviously, I'm not a fan of this particular politician. But the parallels started to add up. I would have liked the movie better if Malcolm had stood up for himself more.
The movie had echoes of a film noir, where the character kept getting deeper into a spiral.
Unwatchable due to slurping mouth noises
This episode is unacceptable and impossible to watch due to slurping mouth noises made by Albert Salmi. Mouth noises are intolerable. At least that is my two cents.
This episode flows better than some of the other fourth-season episodes, many of which were obviously stretched out to an hour from 30-minute scripts.
Interestingly, Albert Salmi was only about 35 when this was filmed even though he plays a money-grubber in the twilight of his career. The makeup department did a creditable job, although it is obvious that it is a costume. (Why didn't they hire someone who was about the same age as the character? It seems like they went to a lot of trouble to make the episode less credible than it should have been.)
Albert Salmi died in a murder-suicide after killing his wife.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013)
Sensationalized story; bad sound
The production values of this movie were pretty low. The sound was awful. In many scenes, the dialogue could not be heard clearly without turning the volume up so loud that the sound effects were overwhelming. It made we want to turn the closed captioning on, except the movie has none. The on-screen titles were also much smaller than they needed to be.
The story that is being told is pretty clear. Everything is thrust at the viewer in black and white, not in shades of gray. The FDA agent is made out to be a cartoon character, unwilling to seize even blatant drugs being brought across the border for purposes of distribution. It seems the story of Woodroof has been sensationalized more than was necessary. But this is in keeping with the filmmakers' (note apostrophe) technique of making everything black or white with no shades of gray.
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
I wanted to see this movie because of its reputation, all-star cast, and because I have always enjoyed the Richard Rodney Bennett theme. (If it had words, they should go, 'Murder on the Orient Express, oh how dastardly...')
Having seen the film, I have to say the theme music is a lot better. The plot of the movie is cartoonish and not even a little bit plausible. The detective is a blowhard that no one should ever talk to without a lawyer. Like "Heathers" and "The Gods Must Be Crazy," I don't understand all the interest in this movie. The excellent cinematography simply can't carry the lame plot.
The Sound of Music Live! (2013)
So viewers are aware, this is not a remake of the 1965 movie. This is a television production of the Broadway show.
This was old-fashioned TV. In the 1950s, much television was broadcast live, and performances of musicals were frequent. This was essentially a televised stage performance, with simple sets and no special effects. The company performed the 1959 Broadway version of "The Sound of Music," with one exception: the song "An Ordinary Couple" from the original production was removed and replaced with "Something Good," which was written for the 1965 film version.
Viewers unfamiliar with the stage version might not recognize two other songs from the Broadway show not included in the 1965 film (but included in this production), "No Way to Stop It" and "How Can Love Survive." The latter song is one of the most well-crafted lyrics of Oscar Hammerstein II.
The cast did a very good job, but there is no question that it could have been better with a prerecorded format instead of performing live for the sake of novelty.
If television broadcast more musicals in this format, it would be most welcome.
Highway Patrol (1955)
Compelling 50s TV
"Highway Patrol" episodes are especially compelling because they are almost all action. There is very little talk. Compare it to "Dragnet," which is almost all talk and very little action. "Highway Patrol" episodes generally start with a crime, and when Dan Mathews and his team are called in, they snap to and get busy. There is no banter around the police station.
Part of this is because of the 30-minute format. There just wasn't time to set everything up. They had to use every minute to develop and resolve the story.
The compelling drama makes it hard to get up, even for a minute. I wish TV shows were still like this. "24" was like this, but just about every other crime drama wastes a lot of screen time with banter and nonsense.
Just about every episode of "Highway Patrol" is a good ride.
Monster's Ball (2001)
This film was just awful! If a student at one of the country's top film schools had made it, I think he'd fail. There is no plot, there is crime with no punishment, and there are just dreadful plot holes (who did Lawrence kill, why is Buck keeping a scrapbook, how did a character get away with murder, how did a character get hit by a car). This is just a film to hate. I'm glad I rented a good one to watch afterward.
The Out-of-Towners (1999)
A remake which outshines than the original!
After seeing the new version of "The Out-of-Towners," I rewatched the original the next day, and am of the firm opinion that the Steve Martin-Goldie Hawn version is not only one of the funniest movies this year, but an improvement over the original.
Here's why: The Jack Lemmon-Sandy Dennis version suffered from poor pacing; a lot of screen time was wasted watching them walk in the rain, for example. The new version moves much more quickly and contains funnier gags. It's also a plus that the couple's children are grown and figure into the plot, replacing the quite young children (unseen) in the original.
Another problem with the original was the discontinuity of the characters. The couple (the Kellermans in the first outing; they're now the Clarks) was supposedly from Ohio, but Jack Lemmon's character carried the same attitude ("Your lawyers are going to hear from my lawyers about this.") as any number of Neil Simon's native New Yorkers. Sandy Dennis also spoke in a tone of voice and accent which suggested Brooklyn, not Columbus. She also had misplaced concerns ("What about the milk for the children?") more appropriate in a local with time on her hands than a visitor in a run for her life.
Finally, one glaring plot hole from the original has been fixed. In the 1970 version, the Lemmon character is interviewing for a job in the Manhattan office of the firm he now works for, and it is established that he has been there before. It is a mystery why he simply didn't call someone from the office when he got in trouble. In the new version, this same character is out of work and interviewing with a firm whose members are unknown to him.
Although both films are quite good -- the 1970 version is a notable icon of the helplessness and frustration people felt with the world at the time -- the 1999 version stands as the better production.