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Last of the Pagans (1935)
I have a sort of on-the-fence feel about this film. I know this is a result of its time, including clichés of the Polynesian people that you have to take with a grain of salt. The 1930s were not exactly a time period of embracing diversity and fighting against racism. It also includes certain tropes of adventure movies that are sexist, such as the main male character Taro kidnapping his bride Lilleo from another island because "that's what his tribe does". Followed by her falling in love with him through what is basically Stockholm Syndrome. That being said, this is one of the few early Hollywood movies I have ever seen which tried to show the abomination of enslaving a group of people. It doesn't do it well, but it gets a C for effort. The film shows everything through the eyes of Taro and the other Polynesians. You see their lives and hear their language (which was probably a Hollywood, bastardized version of a Polynesian language- I'm not entirely sure). They are simply people living out their daily lives, although their daily lives are made out a little like a travel brochure. You see the way the islanders are tricked by by the mining company and then worked to exhaustion. Despite the cheesy romance and rather slapped together ending, this has the underlying message of the cruelty of stealing another person's life for greed. Overall, it is still tame in comparison to history. Also, I understand this is credited as being, in part, based on Herman Melville's Typee, but I really didn't see many similarities except for a few of the customs of the islanders. All in all, it is a beautifully photographed movie and deserves some recognition for it's attempt to be different in its storytelling.
The Zeta Project (2001)
Not the greatest in animated series, but certainly on of the better ones. For a spin off, Zeta presented strong characters and good action. The plot lines fell a little short in comparison to Batman and Batman Beyond, but it was still a great show. The character of Ro was an especially good touch because it was interesting to see how Zeta, who went from dealing with an unusual teen in Batman Beyond, got to see the world through Ro's eyes presenting a little less violent view. Zee had a great deal of heat, like most shows about robots with personalities, but there was something else that is hard to pinpoint. Something that made me remember this show six years later. I think that if it had been allowed to last passed one season it would have reached it's full potential. In other words - I miss this show.
Merlin's Apprentice (2006)
After the initial disappointment come many redeeming qualities
Okay, first off, I nearly turned it off when the prologue began and I realized it truly was not a sequel to the beloved made-for-TV movie. The production value is low and the climax is rushed. It is missing the true tragedy and lore of the original Arthurian tales, yet at the same time holds onto the feeling of virtue and the loss of it that ended Camelot in the original legends. You can tell Richardson and Neil aren't as into the roles this time around (hey, a paycheck is a paycheck). There are some good one liners, good magic tricks, and one decent sword fight. John Reardon also stands out as being able to pull off his part with the same emotion as can be seen in the previous Merlin film. I would not call this movie a waste of time, I would call it mindless entertainment for the cheesy fantasy lover. Probably something most would prefer to catch on TV instead of spending money on.
The Canterville Ghost (1944)
An absolute for all movie lovers!
Okay, I'm the first to admit this movie has almost nothing to do with Wilde's original story, but I can't help loving it. Like most versions of the story, this one is adapted for the time it was made in, so this one revolves around war and bravery. When I was eight years old I forced my entire birthday party to watch this movie and every year after they all always wanted to watch it. It's been a long time since I 've had a birthday party like that, but some of those friends have even gone out and bought the movie since then. We all had a little crush on Robert Young in this. Margaret O'Brian is fabulous sneaking around the Ghost's room and doing her bob of a curtsy. And of course Charles Laughton spitting in at the portraits of his cowardly kinsmen. The comedic timing is wonderful and there are great one liners. Best line: "I believe they call it woogie boogie".
The Canterville Ghost (1986)
The best Modern Adapation
True this one is not very close to the original story, but this one had the most that modern viewers could relate to. It's funny and quick moving. Both Sir Gielgud and Milano are wonderful. As a child this was one of my all time favorite movies to watch every Halloween (true, that was a long list, but it was still fun). The scenes between the two main characters are the greatest. There are still the basic principles of the story are there - a friendship between a misunderstood spirit and an innocent girl who teach each that love is stronger than life or death. The saddest part is when the ghost hunter's equipment brings back Sir Simon's wife for only a moment, just long enough for her to see her and for her to call out to him. The best part of all is when Jenny takes her father to see Sir Simon. A great movie for any family or ghost lover.
Today's Special (1981)
I'm not crazy!!!!!!!!!
I used to watched this show when I was so young that I could barely talk. But I remembered it. I always thought the mannequin and the woman store clerk should end up together, cause well, I was just a a weird kid. But anyway, for the past two decades every time I mention this show people look at me like I've been smoking something and I couldn't remember the name of it for the life of me so I couldn't prove anything. But here it is!!! I really loved this show. I liked how they always had so much imagination and all of the games they played became reality. Children's TV today doesn't have as much thought put into it. They focus more on the learning part of it as opposed to the story or way kids should be able to pretend things about a show like I did with this one. I miss television like this for children.
Finding Neverland (2004)
Before I give this review, I probably should just mention that I am a major Peter Pan/J.M. Barrie freak who knows far too much trivia on both subjects. I promise not to nit pick. Now on with the review: Finding Neverland is a film inspired by the events that lead to and followed the creation of the play/book Peter Pan. The part of the Scottish playwright James Barrie was handled masterfully by none other than Johnny Depp. Equally well done was the performance of Kate Winslet as Sylvia Davies, the woman whose four sons were the original "Lost Boys". Julie Christie creates a very human antagonist as Sylvia's overbearing mother. Dustin Hoffman also brings in a comical presentation as the producer of Barrie's plays, who thinks that Peter Pan is the most ridiculous thing ever
but produces it anyway. This movie, despite the sad events that take place, is not as depressing as it may seem. There's plenty of humor to balance out the more heavy topics. Barrie's conversations with the boys are very clever. Setting aside all of the historical inaccuracies which the descendents of the Davies family are currently up in arms about (for example, the killing off of Mr. Davies before the movie even begins and slightly changing the first meeting between Barrie and Sylvia Davies), this is a wonderful (not using the term loosely) tale of how imagination can be like medicine. The use of constant fantastical imagery (although a technique used before to tell the story of famous authors and artists) paints the perfect picture of the relationship Barrie created with the Davies family. It shows how the games they played became the tale of boy who would not grow up and gives insight on how the mind of an author works when they take from life. These scenes of fancy are done with obvious costumes and paper backdrops, making sure the audience understands that they are coming from the mind of a playwright. Although focusing a little too much on Peter Davies, whose emotional trauma turns annoying every now and again, everyone is portrayed with dignity. There is no bitterness at growing up given in the movie either, similar to the way growing up is discussed in the original Peter Pan story. When Barrie realizes that the eldest boy, George, has suddenly become a young man he's proud, not upset. The 'love story' is done in a subtle manner, exactly how it would have been if Barrie was in love with Mrs. Davies. The failing relationship he has with his wife in the film is also touched upon in a way that is very human, not a theatrical soap opera. Even the scandal that hangs over the tale today, involving the questioning of this married man who spent all of his time with a widow and four young boys, was mentioned in a way that did not make it the focus of the movie. Nor was the main plot about the birth of Peter and Wendy. Instead, the film makers chose to keep the attention on the lives of the characters and most specifically on the way Barrie shared his pretend haven, Neverland, with Sylvia and the boys. Some fun things you may enjoy while watching are Barrie's brief conversations with a friend named Arthur (who is in fact supposed to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), the short mutterings of Dustin Hoffman's character, and of course the constant toss between reality and the imaginary games Barrie, Sylvia, and the boys play. Setting aside all of my nit picks which I shall not mention since they would spoil the feeling of admiration the story leaves you with, I most certainly had to say this was a great film. I command you all to go see it.
Ella Enchanted (2004)
An Enchanting Curse
I adored this book in junior high and I still go back to read it every once in a while. It is one of my favorites, which is what I told the survey man from Miramax films after I saw the sneak preview. The only words of advice I had for him were, "Stick to the book." This movie was no where near as wonderful or full of life as the book, but it is a pleasant, fun children's movie. The cast is great, but only a select few of those characters received a decent amount of screen time. I agree that it was too modern, an obvious play at the Shrek success, and a little too familiar with "Ever After" (scene of first kiss taking place in front of a fire at a party), but it was not the worst movie ever made. The costumes were rather cheap looking (there were sequins and pleather!!!) and some of the contemporary dances were a little much. I did like Anne Hathaway's version of Queen's "Somebody to Love". All in all, I recommend this film to those who have never read the book...then I suggest you go read the book.
House of Wax (1953)
The Days of Whine and Wax
Doesn't anyone else miss these old horror movies where people really knew how to scream. It was loud and dramatic and usually followed by a lot of whimpering. This film was one of the great B-horror movies because it has all the basic elements including the screamer woman. I can't remember where I picked up this love for Vincent Price movies, but I do remember renting this one for the first time (imagine the surprise on the video store clerk's face when this sweet little 9 year old girl brought an obscure horror movie to his counter). It's always been one of my favorites of Price's. Just the first walk through the museum's chamber of horrors is a great scene. There's a group of women who are growing weaker with every famous horrific scene on display until one of them finally faints and Vincent Price just causally reaches into his coat. He holds out a little bottle to the women and offers, "Smelling salts?" in a manner that suggests that it was not the first time someone had fainted in his museum. How is that not classic?
I MISS THIS SHOW!!!
As a history major, I'd just like to say that I loved this show. It was clever and silly at the same time. I've been able to use episodes I taped for school projects and my professors just loved it. Sure, it was not as much for the mainstream audience like some of the other Warner Bros. shows, but that's what I liked about it. Where else could you see a cartoon of Napoleon pointing to countries on a map and saying, "Got it. Got it. Want it. Need it!" I can see how some people would not get many of the jokes, but for the most part I felt this show painted a wonderful, fun view of history that should be used in classrooms. Kids can only take so much of text book facts and videos that had been made in the 70's.