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On Xmas Eve 1986 I saw the first 10 minutes of this special but I had
to go out and I missed the rest of it. The idea of toys coming alive
might not seem like such a new idea in post-Toy Story world, but since
this is live-action, and uses the talents of Jim Henson, I'd prefer
this over the Pixar behemoth.
The story is virtually identical to Toy Story, with toy boss Rugby (a stuffed lion) not too keen on his rule being usurped by the imminent unwrapping of this year's present. The Christmas Toy has a new edge though in that if the humans catch them out of their reset position they remain frozen forever.
It's shot and lit in a magical way though it goes on just a bit too long. I am still glad I finally managed to figure out what exactly it was, it only took me 27 years.
This 1979 special has John Denver and his
not-quite-mop/not-quite-puppet friends sing a selection of Xmas songs
amid a series of brief sketches. It's mostly musical, with a thin story
stringing the songs together, but it works for the most part. The only
bit I found to be boring was the long toy soldier segment. John Denver,
despite hardly being hip with the kiddies of any generation, has a
gentle voice and brings a cozy warmth to the show. He also seems to be
genuinely find his interaction with the Muppets to be funny.
It's never been aired again since 1979 and never been released on any home video format, but the soundtrack album has remained popular over the years. If you can find an old recording of the show then it is worth adding to your Muppet/Christmas special list.
It's Christmastime in New York, and the Muppet gang have posted their
cards and wishlists, but after causing mayhem at the Post Office Gonzo
is left with three undelivered letters to Santa. When he gets back he
discovers that the office is closed and he must deliver them to the
North Pole by hand. After a few false starts he and a few of the others
manage to get to the spot with an all-southern view and save Xmas, for
three people. Cameos from Uma Thurman, Nathan Lane, Mayor Bloomberg
(!), and, obviously, Whoopie Goldberg come and go.
Directed by Kirk Thatcher, the "Punk on Bus" himself, this is a lot better than his previous attempt at Yuletide Muppetry. I found A Very Merry Muppet Christmas to be rather flat and TV-ish. There's nothing wrong with the TV platform as many Xmas specials have become classics, a few Muppet efforts among them, but the atmosphere matters and Letters to Santa is slightly better than the 2002 in that regard. I don't know what it is, I can't put my finger on it, but maybe the real locations detract from the feeling. I think that the Muppets work best when they are shot entirely in studios where the lighting and effects can be more competently controlled.
It's worth watching, but not up to the better Muppet Xmas specials.
In this 1995 Christmas special Kermit the Frog does the scene setting
for the story of the benevolent Mr. Willowby (Robert Downey Jr. at the
height of his bad boy phase) who enjoys bringing holiday cheer to all
around him. The mice living in his mansion are looking for the perfect
tree, as is Willowby himself. Both of them are after the same tree,
only it's too big for Willowby's hall, so he snips the top off and
gives it away as a smaller tree, and so on and so on until the only the
very tip is left, which is even more perfect for the mice.
It's very cute, and has a cosy Xmas feel to it. It's never been seen again since it aired back in the mid-90s. Of all the holiday specials that have come and gone over the years I would place this somewhere in the middle. Sure, Charlie Brown and Garfield get their annual airings but Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree is a fun half hour for snowy Xmas Eves.
The Muppet gang are off to Fozzie's mother's house in the country for
Christmas, she plans on going to Malibu and has already rented the
house to Doc and Sprocket from Fraggle Rock, when Fozzie and his pals
show up they decide to make it work. Meanwhile, Miss Piggy has been
caught in a huge snowstorm and can't make it. I liked the crossover
between the Muppets and Fraggle Rock but then the Sesame Street gang
turn up too, and they find an old film reel of them as babies, so we
get a live action Muppet Babies bit too, and then Kermit and Robin
discover an actual Fraggle Hole in the basement and venture in for the
first ever meeting of Muppet and Fraggle. Eventually Piggy arrives, as
There's so much going on in this Xmas Special, it's 48 minutes long but packs in loads into the running time and is never boring for a single second. The Swedish Chef even considers cooking Big Bird for Christmas Dinner.
I think I'll make this part of my annual tradition now. It's so much better than that lame movie with Jason Segel, and just as good as A Muppet Christmas Carol.
This third adaption of Raymond Chandler's most famous character in the
Noir era has Robert Montgomery (succeeding Dick Powell and Boagie)
assume the role of Philip Marlowe as well as the director's chair.
Marlowe is called to the office of a crime magazine publisher by the editor to secretly locate the boss's wife but uncovers a bigger conspiracy in the process. It's a little long-winded, but the presence of Audrey Totter and her large, staring, watching eyes alleviates some of that. But what is most interesting about the movie is the subjective camera gimmick.
With the exception of three narration scenes in which Marlowe talks directly to the camera, we see the entire movie through his eyes. The scenes are all acted out in long, single, continuous takes. We sometimes see Marlowe when he looks in a mirror, or when he reaches his hand out to pick something up though he's mostly off-screen, his voice coming from behind the camera. Some how criticized this as being eventually tiresome, but I never once got bored of it and I found it to be a very interesting way to immerse the audience in the story. I've never seen it done in any other movie.
It does have a problem, which might be related to this point of view, in that the titular lady and lake are never actually seen but only referenced. I guess this was to keep location scenes absent as they would be too hard to shoot in long, continuous takes but they could have built a fake location on a set. We never get to see the streets of the fictional Bay City or the snowy mountains Marlowe refers to. It would have greatly increased the Xmas atmosphere, which is merely a cursory backdrop at best.
Still very much worth watching.
You'd think that the poster boy for mid-90s 16-bit "tood" would have a
better Xmas special than this! It seems that every animated hero from
the 80s and 90s got to do their own "saving Xmas" story but this is
probably the weakest effort I have seen from an established franchise.
Robotnik kidnaps Santa and plans to steal presents, and therefor Xmas, for himself. Sonic comes to the rescue, but not before earning super-speed which can make him zip around the world in no time and meet Santa's tight deadline.
This is generic, auto-pilot kiddie fare all the way. The muzak score is nothing but familiar holiday jingles with an overuse of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" (which isn't even an Xmas tune), the animation and locations are bland and forgettable, and the humor crass and slapstick. You're better off trying to appreciate the snowy atmosphere in the Ice Cap Zone in Sonic 3 and forget about this one.
I liked it before it was cool.
Back in February 2002 a local cinema was showing the original Japanese version of Nausicaä and I decided to give it a go since I was such a big fan of Castle of Cagliostro. The English subtitles were horrendous and laughably in need of spell-checking, but the packed audience really got into it, and there was something infectious about the movie.
It wasn't until 2005 that Miyazaki allowed the movie to be properly released in Western countries after the disastrous 1984 cut titled "Warriors of the Wind" lost 21 minutes of story and destroyed his vision. Miyazaki lost faith in selling his movies in foreign territories. The new English version has some dialogue problems that one last script revision could have solved, but it's still a far superior animated masterpiece than most of the Disney, Pixar, and Dreamworks offerings of the past ten years.
A thousand years after mankind destroyed that planet and made it uninhabitable, humans have retreated to a few, isolated communities across deserts while a toxic forest spreads across the land. Nature is simply fighting back against the last of mankind, and the gargantuan insects in the forest might be initially terrifying, but are generally looking for peace and status quo.
In the Valley of Wind Princess Nausicaä leads her people with love and inspires them with peace. An invading army from the country of Tolmekia kills her father, the King, and provokes a confrontation with the insects of the forest.
Without Nausicaä there would be no Ferngully or Avatar. Miyazaki was well ahead of the game regarding the story and themes. There is imagination and scope here rarely seen in animation since. There are a few problems though - the subplot with the ancient warrior God falls flat and goes nowhere, the bad guys do not get the retribution that they deserve, and the ending is a little abrupt.
Joe Hisaishi's score is catchy and wonderful, and I highly recommend that you hunt down the many different versions available on CD. The Manga, also written Miyazaki, is much longer and expansive too if you're into that sort of thing.
Not my personal favorite Miyazaki film, but a masterpiece no doubt.
The Wii motion controller inspired many developers to take advantage of
the console with rail-shooter spin-offs of games that were successful
on the PlayStation and Xbox. Dead Space, the chilling 2008 survival
horror got its very own rail-shooter in the form of Dead Space:
Extraction. It's not a great game, and you'll forget about it soon
after playing, but it fills the time if you have some to spare.
The story takes place before the events of the first game aboard the Ishimura spaceship and switches the POV from about 5 different characters. There's not much atmosphere, and the lack of free movement can be quite frustrating. All you have to do is point and shoot at monsters, while frequently waiting through very long, unskippable dialogue scenes. It can get quite tedious and deters from playing levels again and again.
It's just not fast enough, or at least it's not fast in the right places. While the main series has a loyal fan following I can't see this disposable spin-off winning over any non-fans. I did find the character of Lexine to be impossible cute though.
Graphics B- Sound B Gameplay C Lasting Appeal C
Up until the early 90s New York City was a very different place when
compared to the vibrant cosmopolitan/metropolitan of culture and coffee
shops with free Wi-Fi of today. It was a very dirty city filled with
porno theatres, pawn shops, and crack houses where you couldn't walk
ten feet without getting mugged.
In the absence of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, morally sound/suspicious cop Matt Cordell makes it his duty to lay waste to the criminal scum infesting the city, but soon he goes too far and his maniacal ways catch up with him.
Grizzled Detective McCrae and rookie beat cop Forrest (that would be Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell himself) team up to track down Cordell, who has been dubbed the 'Maniac Cop' by the New York media, who have stirred the city into a frenzy by implying ALL cops are to be considered suspicious.
There's more plot than is necessary for what is, in essence, a disposable 80s slasher flick, but it's nice to have those satirical layers, which are even more relevant now in an America with a rising police state in which even small, local forces are being heavily militarized with so-called 'rights' going out the window. In 2005 the Supreme Court ruled that police do not have duty to protect and serve anymore, only to enforce laws. Contemporary America is a breeding ground for many Maniac Cops, which lends the movie and ironic and prophetic edge, and makes it ripe for a remake.
Writer Larry Cohen (who also gave us The Stuff, Phone Booth, and Cellular) and director William Lustig have no illusion that they are delivering a trashy exploitation flick and everything in the movie is a testament to that from the harsh, sleazy cinematography to the mostly unattractive locations. Lustig even casts a woman with a disgusting cold sore in a bit part with many facial close-ups. Gross! But for a film set in New York it is so very, very obviously film in Los Angeles with anonymous flyovers of New York pasted onto it. Not really a big problem, but extremely noticeable. The only real gripe I have with Maniac Cop is that it sets up a lot potential that is never properly realized. The sequels were bigger and glossier, and aesthetically very different, making this first entry a bit of a weaker false start, but it is entertaining and Matt Cordell, despite being the antagonist, is a sort of tragic anti-hero in the mold of Jason Voorhees which is a mark of a superior slasher flick.
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