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The Cat Concerto (1947)
One of the most iconic Tom & Jerry shorts ever made.
In 1847, famous composer Franz Liszt wrote Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 (henceforth called Number 2), which is considered today as one of the most iconic pieces of classical music ever written. Though made to be a dramatic piece, it has had a place in the world of comedy, mainly in animated shorts and feature productions. The first use of the tune in film came from the 1929 Disney short "The Opry House", and this started a trend with other studios on making comedic interpretations of the tune performed by cartoon characters. One of the most iconic, and most memorable uses of this concept is found here.
Tom & Jerry, at this point, have become household names in the motion picture industry as one of the greatest duos ever conceived. For MGM, the Tom & Jerry shorts have become just as memorable for their craftsmanship, writing, and execution as their now classic movie musicals like "Singin' in the Rain" or "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers". However, this short takes a different turn from the usual house setting. Instead, it takes place in a concert hall, most likely the famous Hollywood Bowl.
Tom is a concert pianist who arrives on stage to perform Liszt's Number 2 on the grand piano in front of a massive audience. When he begins to play, everything is going fine, until we look inside the piano and we find that Jerry has made himself a small abode. Of course, he is waken up, though he doesn't get angry about it when he finds out who's at the keys. So he decides to have a bit of fun by making Tom's big night something he wishes never happened. Plus, it serves as a lesson for all piano owners: make sure there's no mice inside to ruin your session, 'cause then you're gonna have a bad time, and no one wants to have a bad time.
What makes this short work to its advantage is how it slowly builds up the slapstick as the tune goes on, and as it goes into the second half of the short, it starts to get more hectic, with the orchestra joining in. At first, Jerry does things to the piano that just irritates and distracts Tom, but when the tempo begins to rise, Jerry decides to make Tom's night a living hell by pushing him towards exhaustion, as if the last straw was finally drawn. In the end, as usual, Jerry gets the last laugh, as the spotlight shines on him and he takes a bow for the performance instead of Tom. Now THAT is a sign of satisfaction.
This is one of the Tom & Jerry shorts that has gotten such high praise from critics and audiences as a comedy classic, it became one of seven Tom & Jerry shorts to win an Academy Award for Best Short Subject in the Cartoon category, which was accepted by the film's producer, Fred Quimby. However, the film also met a moment of controversy. Right after the film was released, Warner Brothers released the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Rhapsody Rabbit", in which Bugs also plays Number Two on the grand piano in front of an audience, with the only difference being that he does not have an adversary to quarrel with. This led to the filmmakers at MGM and Warner Brothers arguing with each other saying that their film was original, and that they plagiarized each other, when really, it was all coincidental.
As for the film itself, it's one of the greats from the Hanna-Barbera catalog of Tom & Jerry shorts. The animation and timing is well done, and the comedy is as smart as usual. The music, obviously, flows with the on-going havoc, and it fits perfectly, making it one of the best uses of Liszt's classic piece. In fact, I have a feeling that the scene from "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" where Donald Duck and Daffy Duck do dueling pianos in the Ink and Paint Club pretty much pays tribute to this particular short.
In conclusion, this is a gem in the Tom & Jerry franchise, and a step forward for the characters to interact in different environments. As a kid, I looked forward to seeing this film appear on a Tom & Jerry block on Cartoon Network. Though if you're looking to own this film so you can watch it at anytime, it can be found on the first Tom & Jerry Spotlight Collection or Volume 1 of the Tom & Jerry Golden Collection.
Gift Wrapped (1952)
One of my personal favorites of the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons.
I'm sure I'm not the only one who believes that the Looney Tunes franchise of cartoon shorts are some of the best sources of slapstick comedy in all of cinema. Next to Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, another duo that is known for the chase scenario is Sylvester the Cat and Tweety Bird, both of which are performed brilliantly by the man of 1000 voices himself Mel Blanc.
"Gift Wrapped" is the Christmas-themed Sylvester and Tweety cartoon from 1952. It isn't often that we see a Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoon that takes place around Christmas time, but in this film, it is the perfect set-up for Sylvester's on-going lust to finally catch and eat Tweety. This is similar to the concept of the 1941 Tom & Jerry short "The Night Before Christmas", in which the famous cartoon duo does their usual shtick in a Christmas setting. But that's another story.
Sylvester wakes up on Christmas morning after failing to obtain a single mouse. He finds his present, only to find out it's a rubber mouse. All hope is lost for him, except a moment later, he hears Tweety singing "Jingle Bells". Peeking inside the wrapped cage is his long-awaited snack. However, Granny catches him in the act, and thus the good ol' scheming routine begins, with Sylvester failing every single time, with his only obstacles being Granny (obviously) and eventually a bulldog Sylvester finds in a present most likely for Granny.
As I said before, the usual Sylvester and Tweety set-up and having it take place on Christmas day is a unique and welcome idea. The background artwork in the film catches the Christmas atmosphere to a tee, and the animation is top-notch as usual thanks to Friz Freling's (credited as I. Freling in this picture) direction. My only issue is that it could've gone on a little longer, as there were plenty more opportunities to be done. But it's a short film meant to fill in 7 minutes before the beginning of the main feature it's supposed to accompany (most likely a Christmas movie like "Christmas in Connecticut" or "The Shop Around the Corner").
All in all, this is one of my favorite Sylvester and Tweety shorts, because it keeps to the formula while also making it a funny short to watch when it's on television during Christmastime, especially for those whose favorite Looney Tunes are Sylvester and/or Tweety, and I'm not just whistling Dixie, brother. The short alone can also be found on Volume 2 of the Looney Tunes Golden Collection and Volume 2 of the Looney Tunes Platinum Collection if you are a collector.
Mary Poppins (1964)
Anyone will love this Disney classic.
There are movies that will make you feel a lot of emotions, and I mean a lot of 'em. For a classic Disney picture, that's one big accomplishment. This is one of those movies that does exactly that, and possibly the best example of that statement.
"Mary Poppins" is a 1964 musical film based on the works of author P.L. Travers about a magical mysterious nanny who is summoned to take care of two children who have a father who is barely around them because of his job. The film takes place in London, and the previous nanny hired by George Banks, Esq. (David Tomlinson) quits because she is tired of chasing after his children, Jane and Michael Banks (Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber), even though they were after their runaway kite. So George Banks, who is a strict father figure, and his wife (Glynis Johns), decide to hire a new nanny that will set their children straight. Surprisingly, this gets the attention of Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews), and she whisks down to take the job as nanny. Jane and Michael eventually find out that she is a magical nanny with lots of surprises up her sleeve, from possessing a bottomless bag of things to the ability of transporting the children into a chalk portrait that immediately comes alive as soon as they jump in. Though she is kind, gentle, and as perfect as any human being can be, she is firm when it comes to her job as a nanny, and all the more mysterious, which pops a lot of questions into the supporting characters' heads. Let's not forget the re- occurrence of Bert (Dick Van Dyke), who interacts with the audience most of the time he's on screen, even with his poor, yet hilarious English accent.
The movie has gotten a lot of attention over the years, mostly from those who study film like myself and those who have children that enjoy everything made by Disney, both the good, and unfortunately the bad. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The movie today continues to captivate audiences around the globe with its Oscar-winning music and dance numbers, cinematography, and unique filmmaking techniques that Disney is often known for, to the point of mixing live-action and animation and that unforgettable song that only some can spell correctly.
Even with its happy moments, there's also some moody moments as well. There's a scene in the movie where Andrews sings a song about a woman who is surrounded by birds and asks for change in exchange for bird food bags. The heart-hitting music and lyrics in the scene actually manages to pretty much move anyone to tears, from the camera work to the expertly composed orchestrations from conductor Irwin Kostal and the famous Sherman Brothers.
"Mary Poppins" is a timeless film for the ages. As a classic movie, it's a masterpiece in filmmaking and musical direction. It went on to earn 5 Oscars, including a nomination for best picture. Unfortunately, it lost to "My Fair Lady", which was another musical. While I disagree with that decision, I will say that it more than deserved what it got.
Has every right to be considered a movie milestone.
We've seen quite a bit of stop-motion animation on television, with all of those holiday specials we see every Christmas, and of course, the infamous Wallace and Gromit shorts by filmmaker Nick Park in the U.K. However, in the 1990s, we haven't seen a whole lot of stop-motion animation on the big screen. In fact, we rarely saw that. However, one little film came to theatres in 1993 produced by "Batman" director Tim Burton and directed by then-newcomer Henry Selick (who would later make "Coraline") that really caught our attention. That film was "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas".
The movie focuses around Jack Skellington, the king of Halloween, who is tired of doing the same old celebration in Halloween Town year after year, as illustrated and interpreted in the film's second musical number. That's right. This is a musical. He wanders out of Halloween Town to find something new, until he stumbles upon a series of holiday doors in the middle of the forest. The one that catches his eye is a door in the shape of a tree. A Christmas tree as a matter of fact. He opens the door, only to be literally sucked in and discovers Christmas town. Fascinated by his discovery, he tells the citizens of Halloween Town all about it, and comes up with the idea of taking over Christmas this year. What happens after that I will not tell, because there are a certain number of people who have not even seen this fantastic movie yet.
Let me make it clear, if the 10/10 score isn't clear enough already if you looked under the summary. I absolutely love this movie. A lot. In fact, it's within the top 10 of my all time favorite movies list (which I have not fully completed yet). Every year since I've gotten the Special Edition DVD at age 15, I've watched this movie numerous times every year, and it still has not gotten old. Even though I never got the opportunity to watch this movie at a younger age (for some reason -.-), waiting until I got my hands on the DVD disc paid off nicely. The structure of the sets and characters are absolutely brilliant and morbid for a stop-motion picture. A lot of care went into the making of this motion picture milestone, even if Tim Burton was absent most of the time. The reason for that was he was directing "Batman Returns" for Warner Brothers and he was also in pre-production for the R-rated drama "Ed Wood", which would also be released by Touchstone. So, because of this, it was director Henry Selick's job to make sure that Tim Burton's vision was alive and well during production. The result, a movie that defined the mind of Tim Burton as a whole.
The music and songs, both done by former Oingo-Boingo front man and film composer Danny Elfman are also the highlight of the film besides the animation and visuals. There are 10 songs in total, and they are performed brilliantly. Danny Elfman also provides the singing voice of Jack Skellington. The music is celebrated to the point where in 2008, Walt Disney Records released a compilation album entitled "Nightmare Revisited", with all the songs and motion picture score performed by popular and independent acts, including the likes of Marilyn Manson, Korn, Rise Against, and the All-American Rejects (don't worry parents, it's family-friendly). Bizarre as it is, the compilation is definitely worth a buy if you love the film as much as I do.
Today, 20 years later as of this review post, the film still holds up really well. Merchandise went up the wazoo, video games were made, and it even garnered a cult following. Whether you are watching it in 2D or 3D, chances are, you're gonna get the same reaction of amazement on how far we've gotten with filmmaking technology. Back then, animated films didn't solely rely on computer generated images to wow audiences. Craftsmanship and imagination were needed to make a film that can captivate the movie-going public. Granted, this doesn't always mark every single film a success, but in this case, it's what made it a classic. The film may have a few faults, which are really very small nitpicks, but it does not hurt the film one bit. This movie is still fun to watch, and it can be best viewed on Halloween and Christmas. That's right. It's not just a Christmas movie. It's a Halloween treat as well. If you haven't seen this film once in your life, you owe it to yourself to find a DVD/Blu-Ray copy of this movie. If you have kids, it's even better.
Before I end this review, I must mention that Disney first released this film under their more adult subsidiary Touchstone Pictures, because they thought the movie would be too scary for younger audiences. In fact, it's what got it the PG rating. Ironically, this is the same studio that released a lesser known horror film called "The Watcher in the Woods". What they didn't realize is that kids eat this stuff up like Halloween candy. It wouldn't be until the 3D re-release when Disney themselves would distribute the film.
Rocko's Modern Life (1993)
It maybe aimed at kids, but it's even better for adults. The 90s were awesome...
One of the few channels I watched as a kid back in the 1990s was Nickelodeon, and the 90s is where the channel shined brightly because of its original quality programming for both kids and adults. One show stood out from the rest in my opinion, though The Ren & Stimpy Show came at a close second. No, the one that stood out the most to me is "Rocko's Modern Life".
Created by Joe Murray, who has garnered success in the independent film industry prior to this, and debuting in 1993, this animated comedy series was genius for its social satire, lovable and original characters, and sense of style in terms of art and creativity. It was one of Nick's stand-out shows next to the likes of Ren & Stimpy and Rugrats, eventually receiving an Emmy. After the show's success, Murray would later create another Emmy-winning series "Camp Lazlo", only it would be aired on Nickelodeon's rival channel, Cartoon Network. Today, Rocko has garnered a cult following and is hailed as one of the most memorable cartoons of the era. So the question is, does it still hold up?
First, the plot of the whole series. Rocko is a wallaby (a kangaroo-like marsupial) rumored to be in his 20s who moved from Australia to the fictional and wacky city of O-Town in order to try and live a normal, modern American lifestyle with his loyal dog Spunky, his best friends Heffer, a steer, and Filburt, a turtle, and finally his grumpy neighbors the Bigheads, both of which are cane toads. Normal? In a show like this? Yeah. Like that's gonna happen, which is why I use such a term loosely. Each episode of the show is riddled with slapstick, jokes for kids and adults, and social satirical commentary that represented certain events and political views.
So, now that's out of the way, does the show hold up for what it accomplishes? In my opinion, it more than holds up. I love the animation, character designs and art style, and I also love the social satire that it provides. Hell, a lot of the commentary is still relevant today. For example, there is an episode in season 3 entitled "Zanzibar" that focuses on recycling and cleaning up the environment, which today is reminiscent of pretty much every "Going Green" program in existence that doesn't go to the extreme (Greenpeace, anyone?), and they do it in a musical fashion. No, I'm not kidding.
This is one of my personal favorite cartoons from the 1990s, let alone one of my personal favorite television shows of all time. I myself have gotten the honor of pre-ordering the complete series from Shout! Factory and also receiving a lithograph signed by the creator himself as a bonus last year. The inner child in me is still screaming with joy. I am unsure if the show is still running in re-runs on Nickelodeon, as I don't even watch the network anymore, but if you're looking to purchase the series on DVD in the highest quality possible, your best bet is on Shout! Factory's website, as they are the only ones as of this review that have obtained the distribution rights from Viacom. It's definitely worth a purchase if you want to revisit a good part of the golden age of television animation.
Excellent showcasing of a great animator's work.
The late and great Friz Freling was without a doubt one of Warner Brothers' best animation directors in the studio's history. With a total of 5 Oscars and 2 Emmys under his belt (according to the film) while working for the Warners, he has created some of the most memorable animated shorts in film history, such as the Oscar-winning short "Knighty Knight Bugs" and the incredibly jazzy "Three Little Bops". Since the success of Chuck Jones' "The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie" in 1978, it would only be fair if director Friz Freling had his own showcase film featuring some of his best work with the studio, thus the creation of "The Looney, Looney, Looney Bugs Bunny Movie" in 1981.
As I mentioned before, this film is a showcase of Friz Freling's best work while working for Warner Brothers Pictures. The difference however, between this and Jones' film is that story arcs are inserted in between the different shorts specifically chosen for this feature film. Because of this, the movie is split into three separate acts: "Satan's Waiting'", which focuses on Yosemite Sam's numerous failed attempts at catching/destroying Bugs, "The Unmentionables", which focuses primarily on shorts featuring the gangster Rocky, and finally "The Oswald Awards", which focuses on a fictional award ceremony specifically made for cartoon characters. In-between the shorts are animated story arcs made for the movie that are also directed by Freling, which is always welcome. However, a person who has viewed many a Looney Tunes short will notice that some of the shorts have been edited either for time constraints or to blend in with the current scenario, which I can understand. Thankfully, all of these shorts in their complete form can be found on numerous Looney Tunes compilation DVDs and Blu-Rays.
The main question is this, however, does this work in the movie's favor? The answer is a definite yes, because this is the studio's own special way of saying "thanks" to one of their own for their dedication and hard work that got them to where they're at today as a motion picture studio that specializes in entertaining audiences of all ages, and since Looney Tunes shorts are viewed by both children and adults all over the globe, this would work extremely well as a family feature. As a fan of animation myself, I really dug this flick. Anyone who is a dedicated fan of the Looney Tunes franchise will most likely enjoy this flick for what it is, and it is also a great addition for family movie nights.
Can someone give me a sledgehammer?
The original Secret of NIMH was by far, one of the greatest animated movies of all time. Not only did kids enjoy it, but adults (like myself) too. It was Don Bluth's opus, and it was a dark epic tale. I loved it so much, that I wanted to find a career in animation because of that movie, as well as other films I watched in my childhood.
This, on the other hand, is the opposite. Thank God Don Bluth had nothing to do with this. The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, is by far, one of the WORST films I've ever seen in my entire life. In fact, it's the worst movie I've ever seen, period. Even the cast of Mystery Science Theater 3000 can't make this better, 'cause I don't think they would do it. The animation sucks, the voice acting is just laughable, the main villain, Martin, is just as hilariously bad as the villain in Warriors of Virtue, and overall, the film is a complete joke. MGM even had the balls to make this into a MUSICAL, of all things. Plus, they had to sugarcoat the original premise of the story, and make it more...ahem..."kid-friendly". No offense guys, but if you plan to sugarcoat the premise just to appeal to kids too young to realize that this movie is pure garbage, consider yourselves incompetent morons who think selling bad sequels to films many consider to be nostalgic masterpieces is a great idea, 'cause guess what? It isn't a good idea. Oh yeah, and did I mention that this movie had no connection to Rosco and the Rats of NIMH (the book sequel to Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH)? Another bad sign, as it was based on the CHARACTERS from the books. Not the story itself.
Fans of the original Secret of NIMH should stay the hell away from this god awful monstrosity, and if you saw this whole movie, you have my greatest sympathies. The Land Before Time sequels were more entertaining than this, and I hate those too (the first LBT was pure genius, BTW). This is similar to when Conan the Destroyer came out, as it gave a big fat middle finger to fans of Conan the Barbarian. In this case, NIMH 2 is the middle finger to fans of the original NIMH (like myself), and they should be offended.
If I ever see this movie in ANY retail store (and I'll be looking), I will take a hammer and smash both the case, and the disc and bury the remains in my own front yard. People will thank me, because no one should be subjected to this. Not even children who are too young to know what is a good or bad movie. Thanks a lot MGM. You just ruined a piece of my childhood, and you should be ashamed, even though it has been 11 (now 12) years since you made this garbage.
You know, Timmy was the sick mouse Mrs. Brisby was trying to save in the original, because he was dying of pneumonia. If you watch the sequel to one of the greatest animated films of all time, you would wish Timmy had died of pneumonia or squashed to death by the farmer's tractor. It wouldn't even matter if they lost the G-rating. It's that bad. Then again, the first movie's story would've been pointless. Bottom line, stick with the original, if you want to keep your sanity.
One more thing. If you like this movie, consider yourself someone who needs to get their brain examined, because I can't find one sane person who likes this garbage. Might as well take out my insanity and smash this piece of **** with a sledgehammer.