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I'm a movie enthusiast. I especially like the films of the 1920s-1950s, and consider that the best era of film-making thus far.
I am an avid reader, especially of the classics of the 19th century, and in recent years have gained a liking of comics (especially the Golden Age) and classic pulps such as Doc Savage and the Shadow.
I like classical music, the music of the big band era, and several early rock n' roll singers (such as Elvis Presley), some country music (such as Hank Williams) as well as quite a few film scores.
My favorite movies:
My favorite actors:
(List with Pictures)
Or just the names:
1. James Stewart
2. Don Ameche
3. Clark Gable
4. Arthur Lake
5. Cary Grant
6. Charlton Heston
7. Bela Lugosi
8. The Marx Brothers
9. Jeremy Brett
My favorite actresses:
(List with Pictures)
Or just the names:
1. Glenda Farrell
2. Carole Lombard
3. Katharine Hepburn
4. Claudette Colbert
5. Danielle Darriuex
6. Brigitte Helm
7. Fay Wray
8. Betty Hutton
9. Rachel Weisz
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
The tale of how the Wizard came to be.
For those who don't know (and disregarded the spoiler warning anyway) "Oz the Great and Powerful is a 2013 Disney movie, directed by Sam Raimi, which tells the story of carnival magician Oscar Zoroaster Phadrig Isaac Norman Henkel Emmannuel Ambroise Diggs (whose friends call him Oz for short), who, upon fleeing his carnival in a hot-air balloon to escape the strongman husband of one of his illicit lovers, is whisked away by a tornado to a land, which whether by coincidence or design, is also called Oz. There, he embarks upon a grand adventure which leads to him becoming the legendary Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and a better man to boot.
I thought James Franco was good in the title role. Could someone else have played the part better? Possibly. But he wasn't anywhere near bad, and it's refreshing to see someone other than Johnny Depp getting the lead role in this type of movie. The role of a conniving carnival magician fits Franco like a glove, and he had just the right balance of smarminess and likability.
Mila Kunis was very good as Theodora before and during her transformation, but afterward......not so much. She had the laugh down pat, but her screaming and facial expressions were more awkward than scary. It seems as if the Wicked Witch of the West was somewhat out of her acting range. She was perfect as the naive Theodora, and is most likely good at playing evil characters who are subtly creepy. But as a hyperactive witch who screams every line at the top of her lungs, she seems embarrassingly out her element. Her shouting just isn't very scary. It's like the Wicked Witch equivalent of Christian Bale's Batman voice (not in sound, but in effect). Her makeup didn't do her any favors, either. There was some fear that if her makeup was too scary, it would frighten children. So, changes were made to tone down the creepiness. The result looks like nothing more or less than a green Mila Kunis with arched eyebrows. In still pictures, she actually looks impressive. The arched eyebrows and green contact lenses give her a subtle creepiness. But in motion, the eyebrows look stiff and inexpressive, the contact lenses don't make much of an impact one way or the other, and the overall minimalistic approach to the makeup doesn't work nearly as well for the pretty Mila Kunis as it did for crone-like Margaret Hamilton. The makeup also seems to be hindering her facial expressions, as she looks as if she's acting with only her mouth and part of her face near her nose.
Fortunately, Rachel Weisz was there to save the day. She portrayed Evanora with the kind of larger than life, deliciously evil zest that you rarely see these days. In fact, I'd so so far as to say that her performance turned Evanora into one of the best villainesses in Disney history. And since Evanora was the main antagonist of the movie, she managed to take a lot of the sting out of the disappointment caused by the lackluster portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West. Interestingly, when Evanora becomes a wrinkled hag at the end, her makeup is very impressive. Why didn't they have the sense to make Mila Kunis' makeup that good?
Much of the rest of the cast was great as well. Michelle Williams did Glinda more than justice. She brought the character to life with a wonderfully sincere sweetness, and never came across as sappy. China Girl was a scene-stealer. The effects used to create her were so good that she looked like she was made of real china. Her mannerisms and facial expressions were equally impressive, and the voice acting by Joey King (who was also great as the corresponding wheelchair girl character) was even better. I was afraid that Finley (voiced by Zach Braff) would be annoying, but he was actually pretty good. Knuck (played by Tony Cox) was pretty annoying, though. He was less an actual character than he was shtick manifested in human form. Mercifully, he didn't have much screen time.
Director Sam Raimi brought a great sense of style to the movie. From the creative opening titles sequence onward, "Oz The Great and Powerful" is full of stylistic flair, plenty of heart, and just enough brains to make it all come together beautifully.
The Technicolor-inspired color palette and production design are eye-popping. While there is indeed a ton of CGI, there were, in total, nearly 30 actual sets built for the movie. This brings a refreshing sense of realness to many scenes. For example, when China Girl begs Oz to let her come along on his witch hunt, the Yellow Brick Road, the stalks of corn, and the wooden sign are all real. Only China Girl, Finley, and the sky are CGI. A few scenes had no CGI whatsoever. And even in the CGI-heavy scenes, the foreground is almost always a practical set. As a result, there aren't any moments where the actors look as if they are confused as to where they are or what is in front of them. They always seem perfectly integrated into the world, because they were rarely ever in an empty blue-screen room.
Danny Elfman's score is excellent. From the eerily beautiful theme used for the music box and Theodora's waltz, to the Wizard's fanfare, memorable melodies abound.
As a whole, I find "Oz The Great and Powerful" very enjoyable. While the Wicked Witch of the West is disappointing and a few bits of humor come across as annoying, the other elements of the movie more than make up for it. It has a great sense of fun, is sometimes surprisingly touching, and unlike "Alice in Wonderland" (2010), has a story that, although simple and a bit silly (and what Oz story has not been a little silly), works well.
A great, old-fashioned adventure that towers above its flaws.
As there's something about the the 1930s-1940s that appeals to me, I tend to prefer movies set in the era and made in its cinematic style. And being fond of the adventure genre, I anticipate movies like the Indiana Jones trilogy, "The Rocketeer", "Sky Captain And the World of Tomorrow", "The Mummy" (1999) and, of course, "Captain America".
When I first heard about this movie, my expectations soared. The director was Joe Johnston, who made my favorite superhero movie, "The Rocketeer". It was set during WWII, made in a 1940s style, and scored by Alan Silvestri. Alas, my heart sank after I found out that they were going to do the whole frozen alive storyline I've always hated. But, I reasoned, the only reason they are making it is because of "The Avengers". Without that storyline, they wouldn't even be making it. Beggars can't be choosers.
Well, after two years of waiting, I got to see the movie. And to my surprise, it surpassed my high expectations. I didn't even hate the ending, although I would have much preferred a happier one more in line with the original 1940s comics (in which Cap stays in his own era, then fights commies in the 1950s). So, here are my thoughts on the movie.
Chris Evans was great as Captain America. He nailed the character. After watching him as Captain America, I can't see anyone else in the role. The special effects performed on him to make him look skinny for the first part of the movie were absolutely seamless. If I hadn't known about them, I wouldn't have been able to tell they were there. But those effects would not have looked nearly so great if it had not been for Evans convincingly "acting skinny". No matter what condition Steve Rogers is in, shrimp or super soldier, Chris Evans portrayed him flawlessly.
It was refreshing to see a non-angsty, pure-hearted hero for the first time in a while. Instead of portraying Cap with irony or satire, they took him seriously, and it really payed off. Cap, despite (or because of) his delightful simplicity and earnestness, comes across as incredibly deep and human, proving once again that the notion of the old-fashioned hero being inferior to his modern antihero counterpart is merely a haughty assumption.
Hugo Weaving's Red Skull was effectively menacing, darkly humorous, and overall deliciously like an old-fashioned serial villain. Haley Atwell was charming, feisty and classically beautiful as Peggy Carter. Stanley Tucci's Dr. Erskine was played to perfection, Tommy Lee Jones was a scene-stealer of the highest order, Toby Jones was very memorable as a sympathetic, almost lovable Arnim Zola, Richard Armitage was effectively despicable, Dominic Cooper was good as Howard Stark, and Neal McDonough made his presence known despite very little screen time. Sebastion Stan was also quite good as Bucky, although he wasn't quite as memorable as many of the others.
Visuals and Action.
My feelings on the visuals are mixed. I was hoping for a bit more of a photo-realistic feel, but it instead looks a bit too much like "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (a movie whose visuals I like very much, but would prefer to be a novelty, not the norm). That said, the use of wide lenses did help make it look more real than many other movies with such massive amounts of CGI. The color in many scenes is quite good, or at least by today's standards. I did dislike the muted color used in some of the winter scenes, though. I wish they had gone for more of a Technicolor look, but I'm pretty satisfied with the look of the movie, except for the winter scenes.
I didn't like the action montage too much, as it had some slow-motion effects, as well as giving off a feeling that you're being cheated out of some scenes. I also thought that the motorcycle-chase felt somewhat rushed. Other than that, however, I did like most of the action scenes. The Kruger chase, Cap's first mission, and the final fight with Red Skull were standouts.
I would have preferred that the HYDRA soldiers' uniforms look a bit more Nazi-like, but the look they have works well. Red Skull doesn't care about them as individuals. He is the Hydra, and they are merely his many identical heads. Thus, their faceless, almost robotic look works very well.
Silvestri's score is the best superhero score in years. His main theme unfortunately doesn't have the "flow" that some of his better works do, and seems a little clunky at first. But after you hear it a few times, it grows on you. It's now stuck in my head. Overall, Silvestri's score hits all the right notes, and captures menace, adventure, and every other mood required of it, while having actual themes. Media Ventures, eat your collective heart out.
The humor was great throughout. The levels of "heart" were set to maximum. The romance, although sparse, was memorable. Everything was portrayed swiftly, without padding, The plot was very well thought out. Memorable lines and scenes abound. Overall, the writing was excellent. Some things that I particularly liked were Steve's journey from shrimp to super-soldier, the USO scene, Cap's first mission, the role-reversal with Bucky, and the romance. I also liked how Red Skull was his own boss. It gave him more menace. Plus, using HYDRA ironically makes it feel more historically accurate. Having Captain America defeat the Nazis would mess with history too much, and having him lose to them just wouldn't do. All I really disliked were Bucky's death and Captain America getting frozen alive. That could work well in some movies, but a 1940s-style adventure of this sort just cries out for a happy ending. Plus, the modern-day bookends detract from the overall atmosphere. Still, the final scenes were poignant, although out-of-place.
A Christmas Carol (2009)
One of the better adaptations of "A Christmas Carol".
I once caught the last 30 minutes of "A Christmas Carol" (2009) on television several ago, and was somewhat disappointed. The character animation was of a strange sort, almost realistic in shape and movement, but yet without realistic texture. The result was that they looked like something out of a video game....and a little creepy. Plus, there was a coach chase that seemed out-of-place. On the other hand, I found the music to be excellent.
A few days later, I caught it again, this time from the beginning. Oddly enough, my reaction was completely different this time around. I found it visually spectacular, and the characters had entirely lost their creepiness. The movie no longer looked like a video game, but like an oil painting magically come to life. I wound up thoroughly enjoying it.
The visuals take a while to get used to, but are actually quite spectacular. I would not want to see this style of animation become the norm, as I believe that animation should be more stylized. If animation gets any more realistic, it might as well be live-action. As it is, some people have said that about this movie, and I can't say that I entirely disagree. However, it worked perfectly for this movie, as it gave it the look of an oil painting come to life, enhancing the atmosphere. The characters' facial expressions are impeccably copied from actor to digital image, without losing any of the soul or emotion, and the backdrops are breathtaking.
The actors are all excellent in their roles. Jim Carrey is excellent as Scrooge. The voice, expressions, mannerisms, and emotions are all well-done. Gary Oldman, as usual, is excellent in his multiple roles as Bob Cratchit, Marley's ghost, and Tiny Tim.
Alan Silvestri has been phoning it in for a few years, composing fairly good but forgettable scores for the "Night at the Museum" movies and "G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra". However, this time, he pulled out all the stops and gave us the type of bombastic musical tour de force he is known for. The music is appropriately "Christmasy", and at the same time bombastic, with some parts triumphant and others dark and menacing.
For the most part, the movie was remarkably faithful to the book, easily one of the most faithful adaptations. However, there were two odd changes that came out of nowhere. One is when Scrooge extinguishes the Ghost of Christmas Past. As he pushes the snuffer down, it blasts off thousands of feet into the air, with Scrooge hanging on for dear life. He eventually falls, screaming, back into his own bedroom. The scene is bizarre, and doesn't really make sense. The second is a carriage chase, with the Ghost of Christmas Future chasing Scrooge down the streets of London with a coach and four creepy, red-eyed horses. Scrooge then falls down a drainpipe, thus shrinking to a few inches tall. The following scene is right from the book, only with a shrunken Scrooge, and some added humor. This scenes, as well, came out of nowhere. It was rather pointless, and stopped the plot for a few minutes. However, it was beautifully shot/rendered/whatever it is, excellently scored, and very atmospheric, so it's not a huge flaw.
Overall, I found it very enjoyable. Like most adaptations, it deviated a little from the book, but other than a few slight changes, it is remarkably faithful, with most of the dialogue being word-for-word from the book. Other than the Ghost of NASA Past liftoff scene and the carriage chase, it was almost perfect.
Slapstick (Of Another Kind) (1982)
A surreal experience.
A couple of years back, I was shopping in a flea market, and came across a VHS tape. It was entitled "Slapstick of Another Kind", and it starred Jerry Lewis and Madeline Kahn. It was selling for only 50 cents. So, I bought it. After all, a Slapstick comedy starring Jerry Lewis and Madeline Kahn had to be good.
When I started watching it, I was shocked at what I saw. It was not funny. It seemed to be trying to be a comedy, but it wasn't. It was boring, unfunny, and so loony that it gave me a headache. You see, it is set in a future where the average IQ is 1, unruly children are sent to military school and there forced to read books with blank pages (if they look away, they get an electroshock), cars run on chicken manure, and the Chinese have all shrunk themselves to two inches tall and fly around in UFOs that look like fortune cookies. Adding to this craziness, Jerry Lewis and Madeline Kahn's characters, two giant, hideous twins, are born to to a wealthy (and supposedly beautiful) couple (also played by Lewis and Kahn), and turn out to be aliens who are idiots unless they literally put their heads together, in which case they are smarter than Albert Einstein. Did I mention that they are two feet tall when they are born? The plot is incoherent, there is no humor, and the characters make Dr. Insano look normal. The characters, especially Lewis and Kahn (as both the parents and children) have makeup jobs that make them look like they are made of wax.
As if it were not enough that Jerry Lewis and Madeline Kahn signed up for this piece of trash, the cast also includes Marty Feldman, Jim Backus, Merv Griffin, and narration by Orson Welles. Yes, that's right. Orson Welles, the man who made "Citizen Kane" and "The Third Man", and who created the "War of the Worlds" radio broadcast that terrified America, lent his golden voice to "Slapstick of Another Kind". As if it were not enough to disgrace the dignity of living actors, director Steven Paul (who went on to produce such masterpieces as "Ghost Rider", "Bratz", and "Baby Geniuses 2") went a step further - he put in a pair of Laurel and Hardy imitators.
The horrible attempts at humor make the movie even more unbearable than it already was. There were horribly unfunny jokes about the Chinese, castration, the economy, and too many other things to mention. I will admit that I did laugh once. There was a running joke about automobiles running on chicken manure because gasoline was about $10,000 a gallon. all throughout the movie, it was completely unfunny - except once. In one scene, a character asks the butler (played by Marty Feldman) where some other characters are. He replies: "They're at the Exxon chicken-s*** station". That's the only time in the movie that I laughed, and that joke probably only seemed funny because it the rest were so bad that it seemed funny in comparison.
After I finished watching the movie, I felt cheated out of my money. I had paid 50 cents for this??? I could have bought a root beer, a postage stamp, or a pint of chicken-s*** at Exxon. I've been gypped! I will give the movie some credit where it's due. Some of the special-effects work was decent, and....well, that's it.
Treasure Island (1990)
Good old-fashioned storytellling
About a month ago, Robert Newton was Long John Silver to me. I thought you just can't beat his portrayal, no way, no how. That was until I saw Charlton Heston in the 1990 version. He nailed it. It's one of those performances of a literary character that is so good it's as if the character walked off the page. I'm, talking about Jeremy Brett-Sherlock Holmes, Hugh Laurie-Bertie Wooster, David Suchet-Hercule Poirot perfection here.
Christopher Lee was perfect as Blind Pew, and used a surprising voice. I say surprising, because we all know what his voice sounds like. Deep, booming, and sophisticated. Well, as Blind Pew, his voice is high-pitched, and for lack of a better term "wretched-sounding", which for this character, is a good thing.
The rest of the actors were all perfect as well, including Christian Bale as Jim Hawkins and Oliver Reed as Billy Bones. But it is Charlton Heston who steals the show. His Long John Silver is gritty and frightening, yet somehow we can't help but feel a little pity for him. Every second he is on screen, you feel like you are watching a real pirate. As much as I like Robert Newton, Jack Sparrow, etc, Heston's Long John Silver is the real deal.
The cinematography is excellent. It's colorful, and the exotic locations are captured very well. There's no shaky-cam, no unneeded camera movements, no fancy stuff, just good old-fashioned cinematography.
The music is performed by a band known as "The Chieftans". Although it is only a band, not a large orchestra, their Scottish-flavored music fitted the atmosphere well, and occasionally was quite rousing in a swashbuckling sort of way.
The plot, atmosphere, and characters are very faithful to the book, the effect could be described as "deja-vu".
Overall, this is a movie that doesn't try to be groundbreaking or push limits. It doesn't try to be modern, hip, or cool. It just tells a good story, and tells it well.
The Rocketeer (1991)
Great fun, and a masterpiece of its genre.
"The Rocketeer" is easily one of my favorite adventure movies. For me, it is one of the most enjoyable movies of all time, a magical experience. In my opinion, it rivals the Indiana Jones movies.
The actors all did a terrific job. They gave one of the most accurate modern portrayals of people from the 1930s I have seen in years. This movie got the mannerisms, speech, and slang of the 1930s exactly right. It is one of the few that has the characters speaking exactly the way they would in the 1930s. That in itself is a feat of scriptwriting and acting.
Cliff Secord is a very likable character. He is pretty much your average Joe, the type of guy you see every day. The villain, Neville Sinclair is brilliantly portrayed by Timothy Dalton.
The plot, well is quite simple, as were the plots of the serials it is inspired by.
The music is just plain terrific. The score is one of the most magical I have ever heard. This was back in the day when James Horner was still among the greatest composers around.
Don't expect a huge, action-packed extravaganza. In 1991, CGI was just starting out, and "The Rocketeer" contains none. All of the effects are achieved with old-fashioned methods, such as stop-motion.
Overall, "The Rocketeer" is one of the most faithful modern imitations of a 1930s movie. It captures the spirit perfectly, and takes the sources it pays homage to seriously (but not too seriously).
Smart Blonde (1937)
A delight to watch
Different people rate how good a movie is based on different criteria. I myself rate various different movies as being good or bad for various different reasons. I quite simply do not believe that one type of film should be judged by the standards of another. And although I like a meaningful film with a message as much as the next guy, I do not consider "pure entertainment" movies inferior. And if one succeeds very well at its intended task, in this case, entertaining, as well as being well-made in the various departments, such as acting, cinematography, etc, I will consider it as good or even great. And this movie is both very enjoyable and well-made. (And thus, in my eyes, great in its genre and intention). Glenda Farrell is perfect as Torchy Blane, a smart, sassy, wisecrackin' reporter always on the lookout for another scoop. Her sweetheart is Steve McBride(Barton Maclane), a tough flatfoot who is seldom right and a bit cranky, but all considered, he's a good egg.
This is also a must-see for Superman fans, as Lois Lane was based on Torchy. Although the name Lois Lane was taken from Lola Lane, one of the two actresses who took over the part of Torchy, Jerry Siegel confirmed that the character was based on Torchy as played by Glenda Farrell. Smart Blonde is a mystery, but it's not the most challenging case you're likely to see, although is does keep you guessing. The real reason to watch this is Torchy herself. She is beautiful, smart, hilarious, and has a certain energy that you have to see to understand. She is one of a kind. Glenda Farrell was a great actress. She wasn't the Oscar-winning type, but she knew how to light up the screen with her presence like few others. She is one of the greatest scene-stealers of all time.
Jane Wyman (who played Torchy in one of the later films, with mediocre results) is cute and funny in a small role as hat-check girl. This is also the first in a series of nine Torchy Blane movies made by Warner Brothers in the 1930s. Although seven (including this one) star Glenda Farrell and Barton Maclane as Torchy and Steve, in two she was replaced by other actresses, one being Jane Wyman, the other Lola Lane. These two both did disappointing jobs. Wyman tried her best, but it felt forced and didn't work well. Lola Lane was downright horrible in the role. Glenda Farrell was born for the part, and no one else could play it well. Overall, this is a hilarious, very entertaining comedy with a fairly interesting mystery. If you ever get the chance to see this or any of the other Glenda Farrell Torchy Blane movies, I highly recommend that you do. They are very good lighthearted, hilarious, feel-good movies that are ten times better than most comedies being made today.
An amazing, one-of-a-kind adventure
Different people rate how good a movie is based on different criteria. I myself rate various different movies as being good or bad for various different reasons. I quite simply do not believe that one type of film should be judged by the standards of another. And although I like a meaningful film with a message as much as the next guy, I do not consider "pure entertainment" movies in any way inferior. And if one succeeds very well at its intended task, in this case, entertaining, as well as being well-made in the various departments, such as acting, cinematography, etc, I will consider it as great or even a masterpiece. And this movie is both very enjoyable and well-made. (And thus, in my eyes, great in its genre and intention).
Many reviewers have complained about the plot and script of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow", saying that isn't deep enough, etc, but it is as well written as the "Star Wars", or "Indiana Jones" movies. The plot is simple at first glance, but it is really quite skilfully written and contains so many references and homages to classic sci-fi films and serials (I spotted references to King Kong, War of the Worlds, The Day the Earth Stood Still,The Wizard of Oz, Buck Rogers, the Max Fleisher Superman Cartoons and many more), that I begin to marvel at how they were able to cram them all into one hour-and-a-half film. The musical score is the best I have heard in years, it should have won an Oscar. The characters are well acted with their own characteristics, virtues, and faults, and are actually very likable, a pleasant change from the characters in many modern films. Some people have complained about Gweneth Paltrow's character, but she did an excellent job. It has been said that she is simply playing herself, but that is actually a good thing. When an actor or actress plays him/her self, it breaths that real person's life into the character, making the character more likable and believable. Totenkopf (Sir Lawrence Olivier) was was quite different from your average villain, and was a pleasant change. In time, he may be considered one of the greatest sympathetic villains of all time. The special effects are amazing, they looked real and unreal at the same time, like a beautiful painting, in some scenes looking almost exactly real. The scenes of 1930s New York, Giant Robots, etc, are breathtaking.They are all beautifully done. This movie is wonderful tribute to classic films and serials, and a welcome change from the same-old-same-old sci-fi film of today. However, it isn't meant to be only a "homage", it is meant to be an actual 1930s movie, it just so happens to have been made recently. It isn't for everyone. It's hit or miss-you either love it or hate it. If you like classic serials such as Flash Gordon Buck Rogers, or Phantom of Chinatown, or films like King Kong, Metropolis,War of the Worlds, or The Wizard of Oz you will probably like it, if not, you will probably hate it.