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Super Godzilla (1993)
Mainly for Godzilla fans
This is a cumbersome game in which you march Godzilla around a grid playing field (cities or rural locations) trying to collect power-ups and recharges and then battle other kaiju.
The 'overworld' scenes aren't very detailed - just a map in the upper part of the screen to show where you are, and a window at the bottom showing Godzilla repetitively passing by or through the same scenery over and over.
This is not a faithful adaptation of Godzilla, at all. The only way to cross the power lines is to take out the towers - you can't walk through the lines. The power line mazes can be really vexing, since you can't STOP Godzilla from walking, so unless you constantly redirect him, he'll blunder right into the obstacles.
The kaiju vs kaiju fight system is very frustrating. In order to build up your power, which allows you to perform more damaging attacks, you have to advance on the other monster. Typically, just about the time you get the meter built up, the opponent will charge into you, and you have to start the buildup all over again.
If you play the game right, you'll get to change into Super Godzilla; it's kind of interesting to note that 'Super Godzilla' looks almost exactly like 'Space Godzilla' from the movies.
This isn't much of a video game; I'd say it's only for Godzilla collectors, like myself.
Wife and Auto Trouble (1916)
Seems like a template for films to come
Has strong elements of W.C. Fields' films 'Running Wild' and 'Man on the Flying Trapeze', especially within the family unit, but it predates both of them. Now. how this chronology covers Fields, or any of the other performers'/writers' skits performed on the live stage, can only be left to conjecture.
But this film does run very close to Fields' silent 'Running Wild,', though it leaves out the subplot of getting tickets to the wrestling match. And, as opposed to 'Man on the Flying Trapeze', our henpecked protagonist in this film IS having an affair with his secretary. In real life, Fields was having an affair with the actress who PLAYED his secretary in 'Man on the Flying Trapeze'.
This flows along satisfactorily, in the classic battleaxe/henpecked character flow, until the end, which I suspect was cut off in the version I have access to. It ends after Collier wrecks the new car, and he's trying to convince the cop not to arrest him, while his wife and mother-in-law shout for his incarceration. He lifts his lapel to the arresting cop, talks to him, and shows it to him again, then it fades out.
Her Painted Hero (1915)
Good for a few laughs
COULD BE SPOILERS Polly Moran is the most 'live' character of this slapstick romance, playing a stage-struck girl who's in love with beefy 'matinee idol' Hale Hamilton.
The theatre property man and local bill-poster don't take her seriously until she inherits millions from a dead uncle, then they engage in a slapstick fight to the finish to win her for their own, while she pines for her 'matinee idol'.
There are some fairly clever gags, in this film, but mostly slapstick laughs - and the better kind of slapstick, definitely. I generally shy away from the frenetic 'Keystone style', but this is a paced, building comedy that manages to get a little character development in, on the side.
The biggest problem I had with it is that, due to film quality and costume, it became very difficult to tell Polly Moran's father from the theatre manager, leading to some confusion in the viewing.
This is a funny little film, with the two men who formerly rejected her trying hard to woo her back, while she's trying to woo a man who won't have anything to do with her.
Hollywood Dinosaurs (1991)
Informative and entertaining
One of those movies I grabbed for three bucks at a grocery store, this proved to be a real bargain.
It contains mostly trailer footage from dinosaur movies of the past, starting with 1,000,000 yrs BC (original) and coming up just short of Jurassic Park.
Reid Richmond, whoever he is, does a great job of narrating the collection. He dispenses basic well-known facts of these movies, some obscure trivia, and his wry delivery is great for the dry brand of humor in the writing.
Assuming the producers did their research, there are some trivia bits here that I've never found in any other format. The video covers most of the great monsters, but excludes Gamera, for some reason. But, as sardonic as the writing gets, this film still shows respect for the dinosaur films it shows.
If any copies of this are available, I'd advise fans of the genre to seek them out.
Gangs of New York (2002)
Useless romantic subplot
When is Hollywood going to learn? If your story is compelling, and your characters are strong, you don't NEED to insert some useless romantic subplot.
I'll agree on the base with most reviewers who say Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill Cutting stole the movie. I really enjoyed his performance. I think his over-the-top scenery chewing was just what the larger-than-life character of Bill the Butcher called for.
DiCaprio wasn't so bad in his character, but he's just too cute to ever be believable as a street tough. Oh, Diaz? Was she even in this? I was lucky enough to see it the first time in a form in which I could fast-forward through the useless subplot between her and Leo.
I came into this film expecting my weak stomach to be very upset by the violence, but it never really comes home. The brutality of the first gang war was impressive, but it was the only real episode that illustrated the gangs. The film was hit-and-miss, from there.
The filmmakers missed BIG in getting distracted by Amsterdam's romance with that cipher of a woman (Diaz). You can fast-forward through every scene they have and not miss a bit of the movie.
The REAL romance here is between Amsterdam and The Butcher. The filmmakers shied, in fear, from showing the romantic relationship between Amsterdam and Bill. That was what was clearly being built, all the way. But because American audiences are too frightened to accept a male/male romance, they had to throw in that gratuitous hetero romance for Leo. Watch the film; the only logical end is for Bill and Amsterdam to be lovers.
The fact that the moviemakers were too constricted by Amurkan Valyoos to show a homosexual romance between two powerful male characters is what makes the later scenes between Bill and Amsterdam seem so fake. That's also what would explain the strange actions of Bill after the knife-throwing incident, when he knows Amsterdam is plotting to kill him.
Picture: Bill, a vicious man, has Amsterdam in his power, and he knows Amsterdam has been plotting to kill him. So he lets Amsterdam get away with just a burn scar? If Bill wasn't in love with Amsterdam, he would have truly mutilated him - taken an ear, a nose, probably an eye, which would have matched up with Bill's own handicap.
That's where the continuity gap hit hard - and it's not like continuity was being well-served, up to that point. Whether or not you like the idea of Amsterdam and Bill being lovers, Diaz' part was still totally useless, and should not have been in the movie. I'd like to see a version of this film, without her. Yes, and I will go ahead and make the same criticism often heard, on the IMDb: the combat wasn't realistic. I saw in that first battle at least twice as much carnage as showed up, at the end.
If you're gonna be real, be real all the way, like 'Saving Private Ryan'. Don't kill thirty guys in your opening battle, then end it with most of them surviving.
Oh, yeah. There's another point. After Bill throws his knife into Amsterdam's gut? If Amsterdam was wealthy and connected, he would have had a low chance of surviving it. As a poor street person, his chances of surviving after his intestines had been punctured would be nil. Peritonitis would set in, without professional help - and WITH the professional help, of that time, he most likely would still have died. A street kid who'd been stabbed would have just died.
The visuals were great - especially the gangs 'uniforms' in the last scene. The film itself was so disjointed, I'm hoping for better on the DVD - and I'm hoping I can cut out Diaz' scenes. The real romance in this film is between Amsterdam and Bill. Diaz is a cipher.
Greased Lightning (1977)
Enjoyable, engrossing film
Richard Pryor shows his versatility, in this story of a black moonshine runner who forces his way into the white-dominated professional racing circuit. I'm not sure how historically accurate it is, but the film drew me into the story, right off the bat. When they establish Pryor's character as a WWII veteran, that automatically buys some sympathy, and it's not hard to guess how hard it would have been for a black man to make his mark in the white-dominated south, let alone the white-ultra-dominated auto racing field. This particular aspect of racing, I think, still shows today in the incredibly-low percentage of black drivers in the major leagues of auto racing. I know it's not because African-Americans can't build or drive cars - I believe it's still because of the redneck image of pro stock-car racing.
Anyway, off my soapbox. This is a great movie. Pryor is very believable and turns in a fine performance as the protagonist. It's also great to see how the small local drivers started to build up the sport into the massive, ugly organization that is is, today. The film also kept my interest by showing the NASCAR races, year after year, showing their evolution and devolution.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film, front to back - of course, I'm kind of tilted towards car films. But the way the actors played out their characters in this film made them very human. I recommend this to any open-minded NASCAR fan. This'll show you where it came from.
The Grudge Match (1991)
'American Gladiators' for couch potatoes
Always silly, sometimes even amusing little show that used to come on our worst local UHF affiliate randomly in the middle of the night. Contestants with a score to settle would agree to fight in the Grudge Match Arena. As I recall it, they usually started with a boxing or wrestling event with some odd handicap - boxing gloves the size of suitcases, or hitting each other with foam clubs while hopping around in stacks of inner tubes, for instance. There was always a messy event, too, usually the last one of the three in each show. These often involved food, which gave host Ventura lots of cracks to make about over-sized referee John Pinette. I remember seeing pie fights, condiment fights, even a donut fight. This show probably was inspired by 'American Gladiators', which was quite popular, at that time. I don't know if I'd buy the DVD, but I wouldn't mind seeing the re-runs on cable, somewhere.
The Tree in a Test Tube (1943)
As war propaganda goes, could've been worse
This is your only chance to see The Boys in full color. Reportedly shot on their lunch break, it IS a weak entry, a film in which Stan and Ollie do nothing more than open their luggage and respond to Pete Smith's jackass narration about how many of their toiletries bow to the timber industry.
Taken as a film of its time, this is no embarrassment to Stan and Ollie. As the only film they ever made in color, it becomes an odd little collector's item, which is really where its only interest lies. Completest should have this in their collection, but fans who only want to see a Laurel & Hardy comedy should probably pass this up.
The Babe (1992)
It's not without it's charm
I may have liked this movie better than many reviewers because I DON'T know a whole lot of details about Babe Ruth's real life. Other than the famous 'called shot' and his home run race with Gehrig, I'd only heard that he was larger-than-life, a real undisciplined manchild.
To that end, I thought John Goodman turned in a pretty good performance as the Bambino, bringing his usual genius to his work. His range of emotion was excellent, and did much to complement the whirlwind pace of Ruth's salad days. The most powerful scene was definitely Ruth attacking the booing hometown fans during his slump; Goodman gave a frighteningly convincing impression of a man quickly devolving into an apoplectic state. Whether the incident took place in real life, I don't know, but being as I haven't seen a reviewer on imdb castigate it as fiction, I'll assume that it was.
The soundtrack in the movie was perfect, as well. A great combination of uplifting sports-movie heroic music and hopping, gin-joint jazz; it hid from the spotlight and supported the whole film, like a good score should.
The only major problem I found with the film was, ironically, John Goodman himself. He clearly tries very hard to look, move, and talk like The Babe, but he's so recognizable on his own that I didn't see the Sultan of Swat in living color - I saw John Goodman playing baseball. Unfortunately, the remainder of the cast gave mostly-forgettable performances, but I supposed that's something you assume when their whole point of being included in the movie was to show their relationship to the central character.
In conclusion: maybe not good for sports historians, but a pretty watchable film, on its own.
Big Business (1929)
Iconic Laurel & Hardy humor
One of The Boys' funniest silent films, 'Big Business' contains their trademark Reciprocating Destruction theme. Irascible James Finlayson's temper and Stanley's oblivious ineptitude light the fuse to a battle that starts with a broken tree branch and ends with the total destruction of a Model T and the partial destruction of a Culver City bungalow.
It's a sheer delight to watch The Boys and Fin deliberately, and with malice aforethought, find new ways to inflict indignities upon each others' property. Fin cuts up the Christmas tree they were trying to sell, Stanley takes a pen knife and carves the wood off Fin's door frame. From there, we build to a crescendo of Stanley pulling up shrubs and hurling them through windows and Ollie methodically potholing the yard with a shovel, while Fin dances on the rubble that used to be The Boys' delivery truck. The neighbors gather on the sidewalk, unsure what to make of the melee; even the neighborhood cop is too stunned to step in and break it up.
This is a sport at which Laurel & Hardy excelled, and at which they can be seen again in the all-out wardrobe assault of 'Hats Off' and the freeway free-for-all of 'Two Tars', possibly their greatest Reciprocating Destruction movie.
This is a movie you should definitely buy.