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Update: My original opinions can change at any time. Also, I hate IMDb's system of rearranging names/numbers (it won't let me just change the number, press enter, and move that person / movie up to the slot I typed in), so I've decided that I will make a separate list for every single season. Provided that I actually sit through them all.
Not listed: Prue's boss at the auction house. He's nice but, I'm trying to steer clear of men who have no IMDb.com photo or headshot.
Titles chosen for popularity and culture-defining as well as for actual quality and excellence.
I don't have a preferred style, by the way: some people apparently only liked her old, slight variation on Doug's formula of plot description + movie clip + joke. I think that had its merits. As much as I know it bothered her, she was funny and clever. And some movies just didn't need serious analyzation. Perhaps my nominations below are among them. I just feel like the well on what Lindsay Ellis helped create has been painfully bone dry the last 8 months and that is a shame. But I also recognize that it's difficult to please everyone.
Also, sorry for the silly Coded Curse words now and then but I do not believe in censorship and will never agree to it. I am an adult, most people currently are, and if anything about this list offends you- take a hike.
Former Intro: I'm sorta still developing this list, so there are a lot of guys left to go up. (List created, in case it doesn't mention: February 2, 2012)
I'm a frosty guy and these guys in their prime can light my fire any day!
The format was pretty much carved out by Doug Walker in the summer of 2007. Doug started on YouTube but had his videos removed frequently due to unlawful attacks on Fair Use, leading him to become the face of a new website where he was the star and which would basically be dedicated to amateur critics reviewing various pop culture items. For awhile, the first dozen or so reviewers were male and the braintrust of the site (not all-male themselves) decided it was time to broaden the viewerbase. Their idea to do this was to copy Doug in the form of a Nostalgia Chick and several submissions were made on YouTube. In a brilliant move, once the deadline had been reached, the site took not just one chick- but 3. Two animation reviewers (Marz Gurl and That Chick with the Goggles) and a film school graduate with a degree she was itching to put to use, Lindsay Ellis. Who was given the title of Nostalgia Chick. 4 episodes later, her character was already musing on "what do I do now that I'm considered a copy rather than a full-fledged expert?" 3 seasons in, Ellis had begun crafting an irresistible formula of complex technical, social, and political analyzation on films, music, television, and soon to come- books and internet fads. With a range of topics and sub-topics including feminist interpretation, mythology, marketing, product placement, and skewering celebrities for the stupid things they say.
Eventually, she formed her own Channel Awesome (a brand name for the network the critics make as a group) called Chez Apocalypse with a select group of TGwtG reviewers (Oancitizen, Todd in the Shadows, Maven of the Eventide) as well as a group of other broad-discussion based culture reviewers on Blip.tv (Rantasmo, The Bunny Perspective, Folding Ideas). Lindsay truly has a vision for the future of the medium of internet criticism and while her new series (50 Shades of Green) is still shaping up, things have really come a long way from going on throat-tearing rampage rants about "Bat Credit Cards." Haven't they?
Anyway, after rewatching nearly all of her episodes (Season 3's "Dune, Yo" is forever lost in oblivion) anywhere from 3 to 5 times a piece (some more than that), I feel I'm qualified to list her Top 11 Best Episodes (top 11, of course, because of Spinal Tap). All episodes were considered and screened for this list (including the Sexual Awakening of a Nerd series), with the exception of shorts in the file marked For the Fans, or something to that effect. The ones about the Todd-Lupa and FilmBrain-Luke fanfics and The Rape Rap. (This list is subject to some change over time, especially in the 7-11 range.)
Note: I wanted to do this as a proper countdown but I don't think there's a way to structure the numbers in the opposite direction.
Honorable Mentions: Cruel Intentions, Reality Bites, Charlie's Angels, Grease, and Labyrinth.
Fear Itself: Spooked (2008)
Another Loser for the Fear Itself Roster
What did we learn from last week's poor episode? Nothing apparently, because this week's is even poorer in terms of what a horror movie should be.
Copying a page right out of the Saw series handbook, this episode is about a cop / detective who does not-so-nice things to get information out of suspects. Yawn. But unlike those movies, this guy is played by Eric Roberts. Eric, who was a lot less lovable in 1992's Final Analysis, has a heart of gold here. But it's just too late for him to change his ways because ghosts are mean and they're not so good at letting a grudge go.
Whatever, I could let this bad plot go. Also, I can forgive the fact that Eric is suited up with White Noise type techno-gear to hear ghosts even though it's clearly already been done before. Because this episode is certainly more stylish than The Sacrifice. And Eric Roberts is a great actor. But this is a multiple-person story. And he's the only one giving a good performance. He's surrounded by a cast of boring, tepid, and completely uninteresting co-stars.
As the episode follows through its' ghost story, we get some bad CGI (the reflective window thing is just plain wrong and completely predictable - as were the weird-breathing sound effects), a really poorly lit and photographed false scare, tensionless reveals without proper build-up, and a really lame flashback scene.
The ending looks like it might finally break the curse of tedium from this episode. But again, predictability sets in. And - was anyone actually surprised by how it ended? Everyone knew the guy's assistant was going to use that gun by the end of the episode. They only showed him straddling and caressing it in every shot he's in. "Ooh, baby. Ooh, baby." He was completely in love with it. So, does that make this ironic? No, it's just predictable.
If they want a writer who can write a twist, they should have gotten that guy who did Frailty and Masters of Horror: Family. He can't write a satisfying script. But if your characters are boring, he can at least make things unpredictable. The guy who ended up writing Spooked was Matt Venne, the one responsible for Masters of Horror's cruddy, Pelts, film / episode. Maybe not such a good choice to write this.
So, in conclusion, I'd only recommend this if you want to see a really short horror movie that is completely predictable. At least it's got a little style and Eric Roberts is amazing, as always. He also has aged very well over these years. The guy is still breathtaking.
Fear Itself: The Sacrifice (2008)
The New Masters of Horror series debuts... That's it.
Masters of Horror was a truly ground-breaking concept / format when it first debuted on Showtime. To give the most important, world-renowned, successful horror filmmakers the chance to make their own films their way with no studio interference. And have their films debut on Showtime with no cutting for violence, nudity, language, or story content, so long as it didn't break one of Showtime's few restrictions (no male genitalia, no scenes of children killing or hurting children their own age - those are ones I know about).
With a deal like that, it's no wonder they were able to stir the interest of every living major name in the genre (Wes Craven didn't participate but he was interested, and George A. Romero and Roger Corman signed up but had to back out for personal reasons). John Carpenter (Halloween, The Fog, The Thing), Dario Argento (Suspiria, Deep Red, Opera, Tenebre, Phenomena), Joe Dante (Piranha, The Howling, Gremlins), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Salem's Lot, Poltergeist), John Landis (An American Werewolf in London, Innocent Blood, Michael Jackson's Thriller), Larry Cohen (It's Alive, Q the Winged Serpent, The Stuff), Stuart Gordon (Re-Animator, Dagon, From Beyond, Dolls), Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q), Tom Holland (Fright Night, Child's Play), John McNaughton (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, The Borrower), Don Coscarelli (Phantasm, Bubba Ho-Tep).
Masters of Horror was a historic event. The quality of the films they'd make was unfortunately affected by a 10-day shooting schedule so that the films would be TV-ready. Many of the films needed more work and didn't get it. But surprisingly, some of the films turned out to be pure excellence. John Carpenter and Dario Argento made the best films they'd made in years for Masters. And the newcomers (Lucky McKee, William Malone, Rob Schmidt) managed to make the best films of the whole series. So this was a worthwhile thing for horror fans.
But the deal was only for 2 seasons of films. Showtime decided to pass on a 3rd season. But NBC decided they wanted their own Masters of Horror series for 45-minute showings on TV, padded to an hour with commercial breaks- naturally. And they got their wish, thanks to Lionsgate, one of the leading names in horror this decade. A studio with output like May, Ginger Snaps, American Psycho, Open Water, Riding the Bullet, Hard Candy, and lots of direct-to-DVD films.
So, here's the first episode. Directed by... Breck Eisner. Let me be first to say in a review... "Who?" In NBC's promo for Fear Itself, they said the makers of some of the most terrifying films ever made were assembled for this series. So it surprises me that a guy with no horror experience is directing an episode. Though, he's "announced" as the director for a bunch of remakes. What? Remakes are one of the things that is killing horror this decade. And the makers of a horror anthology want a 'remake-guy' on their directors list? Thankfully however, he's remaking a not-great George Romero film, The Crazies, and the old '50s Universal monster movie, Creature from the Black Lagoon. I'm fine with that. Remake bad films all you want, just don't touch the good ones. And, enough time has passed to remake a film as old fashioned as a black and white Universal monster film.
But, how's the episode?
The good news, and there is some, is that the opening title theme for this series, Fear Itself, is kind of cool. System of a Down is a very creative and interesting band and they didn't do their usual over-the-top thing on this theme. It was just bizarre and nice, I liked it. The acting quality is acceptable. The look of the production design and all that is okay. It's only 45-minutes long so you won't really get too bored. And viewing it is free- you don't need to buy Showtime to watch this. Everyone can see it for free.
The bad news is that this episode just doesn't cut it. When it gets going, the camera speeds up like 28 Days Later. 28 Days Later is a great film, but I don't think other movies should try and copy it. Plus, it's more of an action-film technique to make the camera whir this fast around. It's not scary to have a speedy camera. The monster for the episode isn't scary either. They tried that old "what you don't see is scarier than what you do see" thing. That could work. But the sound effects that you hear before you see the monster aren't scary. Plus the camera is moving so fast, you don't get time to get scared of the sounds.
The story is not interesting, although the theme leaves you room to guess what it'll be. It sort of mixes a witch film with a torture film, you see a character fall down and wake up tied upside down and he can't get down. But later, there's a monster, so now you have 3 themes. That doesn't last long and soon it's a few people trapped in a cabin with a monster outside and it's not a scary monster so... Then, there's a vampire theme and the totally clichéd 'your brother or sister is bitten and you just can't kill them, so you have to watch them transform'. Plus, to make matters worse, the sister characters are supposed to be like the Amish, cut off from the rest of the world and their behavior is old fashioned. Yet, one of them is a sexpot whose dialogue slips in and out of her old-fashioned "Romanian" upbringing. I say, why bother making them that way if you can't keep them that way?
In the end, you're left with a lot of cliché and stuff you've already seen before. If you want to see it again, you might enjoy this. Me... I kind of want to see something a little different. Or more interesting.
He can give you anything you want... how about another movie?
This movie is based on such a great concept: a monster genie. The 1990's was the premiere decade for wish-granting killers, wasn't it? First there was Leprechaun. And that became a franchise. But it didn't really work because the acting was bad, the story writing was non-existent, and on top of that, the special effects were usually awful. Then comes Demon Knight. The writing wasn't much better, but the special effects were slightly improved, and the acting was a big step forward. But it was too funny. Both of the films lacked a real dark side. They were too silly. Neither was scary.
Right out of the box, Wishmaster intends to be more serious. Which is a good thing. But did it deliver what the 1990's really needed? Less of an emphasis on special effects, and more emphasis on writing, character, on some kind of point? Unfortunately, no. This film was directed by Bob (Robert) Kurtzman. Who is the 'K' in KNB Effects. So, instead of less sloppy gore, there's more of it. So much more, that the movie embarrasses itself more than the disastrous Jason Goes to Hell. Which, not surprisingly, Wishmaster's score composer Harry Manfredini also did the music for.
The plot involves a woman who has an unknown link to the monster genie who escapes his prison inside a ruby and starts attacking people, most of whom he forces to wish for something. So he starts to track the woman down to make her his next victim. Or something. That's it, pretty much. Except the genie in human form keeps running into big, tall, angry, physically imposing guys and trying to play mind games with them. Trying is the operative word here. They yell and swear at him, he keeps his cool, but he gets them all to wish for something. You might have instead expected them to have less patience than this.
The acting is good, I admit. But the music is awful, the special effects are terrible (which is strange, since KNB are world-renowned effects-men and the whole crew worked on this, including N & B - Nicotero and Berger), the victims make their wishes too quickly, there is no suspense in the film at all, and the story is not interesting. You won't care about any of the characters, you won't be impressed by any of the "horror" in the movie. All there is to marvel at here are some horror celebrity cameos. The best of which is Buck Flower (The Fog, Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, 976-Evil II) who is funny for about 90 seconds or so.
Haute tension (2003)
Old Review - Haute / High Tension
French horror coming out this decade is just horrible. Films like Irreversible, Frontier(s), and Calvaire are bad enough. But High Tension seems to be both the most recognizable film for the sub-genre and the greatest indicator of why it's crud at the very same time.
I could waste a lot of time dressing up this comment and all that... Why bother? Let's just get to the problems with the film. Of which there are so many, it's hard to count.
1. All the characters are complete idiots. So there's no reason to care about them or be afraid for their situations.
2. Nothing that happens in the film is interesting whatsoever.
3. It's sleazy. There's a shower-voyeurism scene, a masturbation scene, and we see a woman who kills people hoping to impress another woman she has tied up and tortured in the hopes that she'll want to make love with her. So right away, half of what happens in the film will only appeal to sick and screwed up people. And I mean - more sick and screwed up than Me.
Those are enough reasons right there. But there are more: bad editing, bad writing, no suspense. Bad everything. This director went from this abomination to commit pure Horror heresy: remaking Wes Craven's 1977 classic, The Hills Have Eyes.
UPDATE (April 24, 2009): Thanks to the 2 people who voted that this was a good comment / review.
Beware the Brainy Zombies
Let Sleeping Corpses Lie starts off with quite a bang. It starts itself as a surprising right-on-the-nose social commentary, with a lot of nods to what was going on in cities in England in the late '60s, early '70s. Buying the movie based on Anchor Bay's truly excellent cover art and expecting their usual quality transfer, you might also expect the film to feel like a bad low-budget zombie film. Since most of Anchor Bay's product is the forgotten cult gem or campy flick. But Sleeping is just a damn good movie.
The plot is interesting, the characters are well-written and the actors do a good job of playing them, and the quality of the film's photography and sound... is immaculate. This filmmaker really knows what he's doing. And it all comes together in a way that feels, again, like a damn good movie does. And the social commentary even manages to feel much more honest than it does in Dario Argento's films. This is really about people and what happens to them. In fact, it barely even feels like a typical zombie film. Because there is almost no sense of "invasion" at all. There aren't any scenes where a cemetery full of creatures stumble toward paranoid, freaking people.
Is this film the ultimate European version of Night of the Living Dead? Maybe. It's in color and uses composed music as opposed to Romero's stale library tracks. It is basically of the slower paced variety. But, what's wrong with that? Isn't a slower film that is great better than a fast-paced movie that sucks?
The big problem with this movie... There is no explanation for why the corpses / zombies are - A) super-tough, and B) super-smart. These are not at all like your typical Romero zombies. These zombies for whatever reason are incredibly intelligent (why?) and unbelievably strong (why?). Why are they this way? The movie doesn't explain. And nothing about the film's plot explains it either. So, when you're watching these zombies do their thing... the tension you'd normally feel suddenly becomes a matter of going, "what the f...?!" But seriously, apart from that, the film is without question a masterpiece. Much better than the typical European zombie films every zombie fanatic seems to rave about. 20 times better than, for instance, a Lucio Fulci zombie flick. Though- no one can ever make the accusation that these zombies are boring. In fact, like I'm trying to say... they're a little too involved. Making you wonder, more than any viewer should, what's going on inside their heads to make them so damn smart. You might be thinking when you're not actually watching the movie, that this would enhance the scariness of the movie. Unfortunately, that is not true. It actually makes it feel very cartoony and only wears on the viewer's nerves.
Sleeping avoids being boring by having a great Us versus Them plot - tension between the citizens of England and the police force, based on what was seen then as subversive culture ruining the dignity of England's charming Decent Society. Though it may be old, when you look at David Bowie and the controversy at one point going on in England with his "long haired guys" thing. There was a lot of hostility between young 20 something's and the staunch adults in England. The main detective is one of the cinema's biggest jerks, of any movie, of any genre, of any country's films. And you hate him beyond the words to describe it. And if you've ever had an antagonistic father or teacher, or even met a cop half this jerk-ish, it's impossible not to accept him as a believable character.
All older horror movies are talky. Even the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre features more talking than horror for much of its running time. In that talk however, the film does manage to come up with a truly classic and effective explanation for their zombies.
Another VERY intelligent reviewer said the following about the movie. Allow me to quote that user, acidxian:
"The zombies are typical flesh-eaters, although a lot more intelligent than usual. Not only do they know when they need to lay low, but the main corpse also somehow figures out how to reanimate others by placing his own "blood" on the lips of any convenient corpse. The idea is absurd and is worse than if they'd chosen to offer no explanation for it at all. If the cause of the zombies is the ultrasonic pesticide machine, then what does that have to do with the blood of the corpses spreading a contagion?"
Melody Time (1948)
Part III of both Fantasia, and The Three Caballeros
Arguably, the most obscure of Disney's feature-length films to be released on VHS and DVD, Melody Time is pretty much a 3rd installment in the Fantasia series, but if not, than you can definitely count it as a twin of-or part II to Make Mine Music (1946). It's virtually the same. But with one exception. Now, almost all 7 segments are longer than those from Make Mine Music. And this time, the selection of shorts are much more eclectic in variety. We have 2 American folk tales, a visual poem with words, a visual story without words, and much more.
Technically, Melody Time is superior to Make Mine Music. But- not where you might expect it to be. For instance, the longer segments are, obviously, "Johnny Appleseed" and "Pecos Bill." Of these two, "Pecos" is definitely better. But, even for Disney, and in the 1940's - this is just too silly to be that entertaining most of the time. You would have to be the least intelligent, most childlike person out there to find this mostly "humorous" segment to be that amusing. But, it has the right look and feel for Western-themed Disney animation. Then, "Johnny" is more serious but... there's something odd about this one, to say the least. I guess it's Disney's complete rejection of actual historical events during a sequence where the pioneers and The Indians (yep, complete with Red-faces and all) dance and eat apple bakings together. It may be "pleasant" if you don't want to see violent history, but it's still stupid. Then, this may not bother anyone else either, but there are a few too many references to God's work, which is too much to think about in a family-oriented cartoon. "Prayin's for church," as they say.
Next, is "Little Toot," which for some reason doesn't strike me as that great a story. I believe it's become a favorite showing on the Disney channel between shows / movies (or, at least that's how it used to be before their new millennium Tw'een programming took over). I don't know why. It may be based entirely on the song. It's a pleasant song, but strictly for fans of old radio / big band / 1940's music.
All the other segments, though, are practically perfect for what they are. The first, "Once Upon a Wintertime," has some of the most magnificent colors I've ever seen in a Disney movie in a long time. For 1948, this is just pure visual delight - the blues and reds are just beyond vibrant. The tale is perhaps a little generic, but then so is most of what Disney puts to film. But that magic is there in full force on this segment. The second, is "Bumble Boogie." It's short and for what it is, it's good. Not very memorable, at all. But, if you don't mind alternate versions (what we today call the "Remix") of popular / famous pieces of music, you might enjoy it (I certainly did).
The fifth segment is "Trees," and this is one of the most beautiful scenes I've ever witnessed in any Disney movie. It is basically the fill-in for the Interpretive segments from Make Mine Music, only the colors are so beautiful - especially the greens, yellows, and oranges. Parts of the poem itself are a little hard to hear, but the singing mixed with these visuals is just a sight to behold. Then, the sixth, "Blame It on the Samba," mostly goes for the cuteness of that trouble making bird from The Three Caballeros, the Araquan. The pitch of his voice / giggle have changed and it's now much squeakier and mousier. The animation is good, but the song is great and it's great to see Donald and his green parrot buddy return. Also returning is a live-action person added to the mix who may be a sister to the Cookie Woman from Caballeros. There's some funny chaos later on in this one.
This is the first of these musical package features from Disney (post Fantasia) to have few weak parts, for which each of those have their positive attributes too. "Johnny Appleseed" may not be told very well, but the colors again are unbelievable in several scenes, that it makes moments of the segment uplifting. And then, "Pecos Bill" has so many songs for one of these segments, that one of them is likely to end up getting a little stuck in your head. My favorite is "Blue Shadows on the Trail."
Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Most Overrated Disney Film Ever Nominated for a Best Picture Oscar
When I was told that this was (and is, to this day) the only Disney animated film ever nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, I said to myself- "I have to see it again." By this point, I was obviously a Disney completest. So I bought it (on VHS), and watched it. What can I say? It's a joke! Let's try to take it, scene by scene. First, we are told of the story of the selfish Prince with no love in his heart. A beautiful, magical Enchantress turns him into a Beast (a furry animal, human-sized, with monster teeth and claws) when he dismisses her on the basis of what he perceives as her surface ugliness. Okay, good story. Makes sense. Decent set-up - "for who could ever love a monster?" the story asks at the end.
Well, we're going to meet her (the One who could love a monster). Her name is Belle, and she is a misfit in her small provincial French town. She reads books all the time while the townspeople feel beautiful girls should spend all their time waiting for a handsome man to make them wives and mothers. So, next we meet the handsome man who wants to be her husband, Gaston. He's conceited and arrogant - a real jerk, but a fairly accurate product of the time, with less than ideal views on independent, free-thinking women. Which Belle is. This is an okay establishing scene. We're told a lot. The characters are definitely a little flat, but the only real problem is, perhaps, that the woman singing (and speaking) Belle's part has a sort of grating voice. I'm not kidding.
So, her father is an inventor who gets lost in the woods on his way to a convention and after being chased by the unsavory creatures in the woods to the Beast's Castle, he is imprisoned by the Beast in his tower. Belle is lead to the castle by the father's runaway horse, and when she finds him, she meets the Beast, who is just the biggest creep in cinema history, once we know it's actually that selfish Prince. Nice to know being this Beast hasn't taught him a thing about humility. Belle begs for the Beast to release her father, but he refuses. So she offers to take her father's place and that... SUDDENLY melts the Beast's heart... A little. He agrees, the father is taken back to his home by a Spider Carriage, and Beast offers to give her a more comfortable room.
Now, by this time is where we start to get really worn out by the huge plausibility and character flaws. Belle is the woman, who is given the film's title of being "so Difficult" (important to remember), but it's Beast who is the moody one. Which is understandable, since he was turned into a Beast. But isn't the least bit understandable, given all we've learned about Karma. If you are a bad person, bad things happen to you. Beast got what he deserved, and it's incredibly selfish of him to expect that the work he has to do to become human again will happen on it's own. But the filmmakers have convinced all the people who like this film that it's not a problem. Because they've FLUFFED it up, by just tossing it to the side and saying, "oh, he's just got a bad temper." What does that mean? It means, Beast is still a bad person waiting for Love to make him human. So in effect, he'll still be a bad person when he's human, only he'll be human.
Perhaps I'm reading too much into it. Because Beast, over the course of the film, learns to love Belle and becomes a hero. But right from the get-go, we are not supposed to like Beast. Then, under some extremely disturbing circumstances, Belle is thrown into the Castle and through some lame musical numbers (again, I'm not kidding, these musical sequences are not up to the standards of The Little Mermaid and Aladdin), we are manipulated into believing "oh, look, they fell in love so quickly!" Another example of this type of insulting manipulation is the scene where Gaston is convincing the townspeople that the Beast is evil. He sings 1 stupid song and suddenly, everyone in the town is storming the castle, Frankenstein-style (big points for originality there).
This film is just one big sappy, unconvincing mess. If anything, it offers some extraordinary colors, 1 funny song ("Gaston" has it's riotously hilarious moments - "and every last inch of me's covered with hair!"), and Jerry Orbach (yep, that crusty detective from Law & Order) is fantastic in his role as a Parisian candelabra, with an impeccable accent. But other than that, this movie just caters to girls and women, assuming that if you dumb it down for them, they'll love it. I hate seeing that happen, but it looks like the ladies (and some gay people) fell for it. Two Thumbs Down.
Make Mine Music (1946)
Fantasia... Part II - featuring the Top 40's... OF the 40's
Of all Walt Disney's animated films, there are 5 features that a huge amount of people have never heard of. Saludos Amigos (1943) is one, but it's not fully feature-length (it's only 45 minutes, so it shouldn't even count when you always hear those Disney video & DVD announcements that say "Our 20-whatever-TH full-length animated classic...," but they actually do count it). The excellent Fun and Fancy Free (1947) is another. The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad (1949). And then, there are the 2 sequels to Fantasia (1940): Melody Time (1948) and this film, Make Mine Music (1946). The reason you probably haven't heard much about them is that, first- they were "Package Films" which were never really that popular AS package films, and second- they didn't make a lot of money for the studio when they were released in theaters in the 1940's. In fact, Disney would have gone extinct forever in 1950 (many say) if Cinderella had not have been a huge hit (which it was).
I say, they are sequels to Fantasia because they are made almost the exact same way. They lack a Composer / Orchestrator character to link them together, but when one segment ends, another simply begins. So basically, if you liked Fantasia, all you need to like this movie is some appreciation for the music you hear here. And this really is in the same sort of style as the music we hear in several Disney films. There's jazz (which you hear in The Aristocats, 1970), classical (every Disney film, animated or non), and interpretive stuff. I may not be a huge fan of any of these styles of music, personally, but that's what's great about Disney. They can put animation to it and make you like it or appreciate it more.
The first thing that should probably be said is that the wonderful people at Walt Disney Home Video, have taken it upon themselves to edit one of the musical segments entirely out of all prints of the film available on VHS and DVD. Isn't that nice of them? Without any proper explanation why - if you haven't seen it already, you're not going to see it ever (and I checked, it's not on You Tube). I've never seen it, so I can't comment on it.
The segments in the film can be put into 3 categories. 1- Storyline, 2- Interpretive, and 3- Combination. "Peter and the Wolf" and "The Whale Who Wanted to Sing at the Met" are Storyline. So they are longer than the others and take more time to tell. Both are good stories, if you like opera and folk / fairy tales. Though, "Peter" is probably the best (certainly it's been said it's Walt Disney's favorite), some of the animation / color choices here seem a little too wacky for Americans. "Whale" is underwhelming but has a memorable ending (it was a mistake, I think, to have the 1 opera singer doing all the speaking voices too).
"Blue Bayou," "Without You," "Two Silhouettes," and "After You've Gone," (big surprise) are Interpretive. No characters, no story. Just a song with some lyrics, and pure art. "Bayou" and "Without" are very beautiful and a little haunting. "Silhouettes" is truly classic and lovely, if also the most boring part of the movie. "After" has no lyrics but is very fun and upbeat.
Then finally, "All the Cats Join In," "Casey at the Bat," and "Johnnie Fedora and Alice Bluebonnet" are Combination. Which means, they have stories, but they are entirely told through one long, continuous song or don't take any breaks. "Casey" is funny, without a doubt (even though it's quite offensive, in one moment, to overweight people). "Johnnie" is definitely a fan favorite, and is kind of sad too. And "Cats" is fast-paced, so it's entertaining. But it doesn't speak too kindly of the youth of the 1940's. They are portrayed as quite elitist and discriminating.
So, unlike most Disney films (and even their package films), this film rests entirely on the strength of each individual segment / short. And some of these aren't memorable, while most are slightly below average quality. No Disney movie to buy on DVD is cheap, but with these Disney titles, you usually get a bonus cartoon. So I recommend purchase for true Disney fans. If you're looking for something to rent - I recommend only for you alone, if you're a Disney completest. But for your family, there are more appropriate and sensitive Disney films. Most films act as art, and as that, Make Mine Music does provide some average stuff worth seeing. I recommend it for that reason alone. If you're looking for something else, I say, find something else.
The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
Down Under with the World's Two Bravest Mice
First thing's first, if you know the history of Disney's animated features, then you know a little about what Disney was going through when they made the original Rescuers. They were dealing with lackluster animated films, which they weren't able to produce more than 3 or so per decade since the 1950's. The '60s were very hard, especially with the failing health and eventual death of Walt Disney, but they managed to come out on top with The Jungle Book. But the '70s were a different story. Both 1970's The Aristocats and 1973's Robin Hood were not met with even close to the same success of '60s hits Jungle and 101 Dalmatians. So of course, if Disney's latest investment, 1977's The Rescuers, weren't able to work out- it was pretty clear they would have to make another Mary Poppins / Bedknobs and Broomsticks blockbuster (which would be the disastrous Pete's Dragon) and hope their feature-length Winnie the Pooh package film would pick up the slack.
However, The Rescuers was a hit with audiences and critics (becoming one of their most successful films, animated or non, of the decade). And there's a pretty obvious reason for that. The story was very touching, the characters were one of a kind, and the movie itself when it came together, had everything. Humor, tears, excitement. It was a perfect Disney film. So, really, a sequel to this film was never actually a very good idea. Because in this film, we see the filmmakers trying to replace everything in the original. And they're only able to be second rate in their attempts. Penny the orphan from the first movie is replaced by a little boy, Cody, who's not an orphan but a little explorer / animal activist. In the original film, when Penny needed the mice to save her, she says quite plainly - "how can two little mice save me (from these villains)?" And that was important. But in this film, there's none of that. Though there are some unbelievable scenes where one of the mice (or even 3) are able to hold little Cody's weight just by holding onto a rope. Sorry, but that's impossible. No wonder there was never a line in the movie about "2 little mice," because then everyone would have laughed because this is ridiculous.
The original villain, Medusa, is replaced by another greedy baddie, Percival C. McLeach. So, 2 little mice can save us from greed... Why is it always a greedy thief? Because Bernard and Bianca can't handle international terrorists? Or Michael Jackson? The other 3 original villains, Snoops and the 2 crocodiles, are replaced here by 1 villain, a salamander named Joanna, who's probably the cutest character here. I'm not kidding- just watch that scene where she swims out of the river and waves 'goodbye' to McLeach. The original Albatross, Orville, is replaced here by Wilbur- which was just an excuse to hire John Candy, who had huge success with his classic '80s John Hughes family comedy, Uncle Buck. And right here is a good example of where the movie goes horribly wrong. Wilbur arrives in Australia, injures his back, then the movie goes for a 4+ minute sequence (split into two) with a bunch of mice "operating" on him while he is flopping around and wailing. Does that sound appealing... to anyone?
So anyway, bottom line - I think this film was meant more for the audiences who prefer blander fare like those Don Bluth films. But for Disney, this has absolutely none of that great Disney magic that films like Aladdin and The Little Mermaid were able to recapture from Disney's stagnant, stumbling '80s. The one saving grace here is the incorporation of computer animated technology. Now, usually, I cry foul and whip CGI every chance I get. But about this time, Disney began their collaboration with Pixar to make animated films with some obvious computer-generated backgrounds so they could have sequences like several of the ones in this movie, where the movie functions as a roller-coaster ride (most notably the opening credits sequence where the camera SPEEDS through a field of some kind of flower, and a couple of Wilbur's great flying scenes). Now, that's magical, if not exciting and great fun.
But with this sequel, we lose all of what made the first great - the true danger, empathizing with the lonely orphan, and the whole idea of seeing a character's darkest hour and journey, so when we finally see their brighter day, it really feels as though they triumphed. All we get in return is some dull humor, the end of Bernard and Bianca's romantic saga, and a cool golden eagle with some very polarizing Eggs in Distress action. I say it polarized because the movie was so predictable, I was wishing the whole time we would either see the eggs hatch and go "aaaahhhh" (code for "isn't that cute?") or see Joanna the villain get to actually eat the eggs. Most of the time, I wanted to see Joanna get her UNjust desserts- which speaks to just how boring this is for a Disney movie. I say- skip it.
The Scary Simpsons Are At it Again
The Simpson Halloween specials / Treehouses of Horror usually function as spoofs on different types of horror movies / TV programs.
The first tale focuses on Homer's quest to get himself a Colossal Donut, but when he buys one at the local convenience store, he's bummed out by it's not so colossal size and vows revenge on this false advertising. As he drives over to the store's giant mascot, the radio warns that weird things are happening due to a disturbance of some sort of scientific / supernatural origin (Night of the Living Dead, 1968) but isn't specific on the details. Homer steals the mascot's giant donut. Suddenly, lightning strikes and the huge advertising mascot comes to life and storms the town (Ghostbusters, 1984) as do several others in the form of billboards and sculptural structures. Soon, the citizens of Springfield are being crushed and devoured all over the place. Marge suggests when the Donut mascot comes to Homer's house looking for his donut that returning the monster's cherished item will make it stop killing (Leprechaun, 1993). Homer gives back the donut but the mascots continue rampaging. Lisa decides that maybe the advertising executives will know what to do.
The second tale begins with Bart and his dog playing Frisbee in the backyard when he is approached by Groundskeeper Willie who attacks him with a rake. Bart immediately wakes up from his dream, screaming, to find that the wound Willie inflicted upon him in his dream is still there (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984) - so it wasn't completely a dream. At school, he and other children discover that Willie visited all their dreams and attacked them but Principal Skinner refuses to admit the school is involved. Later that day, Martin is having a dream in which he is a Wizard Master (A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, 1987) of Latin. Willie shows up, wraps his super-long tongue around him (Wes Craven's New Nightmare, 1994) and he suffocates to death in his school-class while everyone else takes a test (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, 1988). Bart and Lisa tell Marge and Homer about this and they tell Bart and Lisa the whole truth about Willie. On Friday the 13th (Friday the 13th, 1980) some time ago, the parents set Willie on fire and he vowed revenge (The Burning, 1981). Lisa and Bart decide the only way to stop Willie is to go into their dream and force him into a final showdown.
The third tale has the Simpson household in utter terror because... Aunts Patty and Selma are stopping over to visit. Looking for a place to hide, Homer discovers a strange hole in the wall that leads to a gateway between universes (numerous Twilight Zone episodes / Phantasm, 1979). He goes inside it and gets lost, so he has to ask his family and friends for help. While there, he accidentally causes a rip in the dimension's fabric which causes it to begin to implode. Bart decides the only way to save him is to tie a rope around himself and go in (Poltergeist, 1982) the dimension to get Homer and have everyone pull him out in time to save him. Things don't go exactly as planned.
Altogether, this is one of the more entertaining Treehouses of Horror. Though the first 2 tales are not hysterically funny, they are still great horror spoofs. The third tale is actually very funny and one of the best individual portions of the Treehouse series. I highly recommend this Entry in the show's series.