Reviews written by registered user
directoroffantasies

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31 reviews in total 
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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Cold War Relic, 13 February 2005
8/10

This film played for a year in Tampa. (Remember ads reading "held over"?) It was made near the height of the Cold War, from a novel written by one of that war's heroes, Soviet dissident Boris Pasternak. "Dr. Zhivago" provided lessons in Russian history in the guise of soapy drama.

Owing to obvious East-West tensions, director David Lean could not film the Russian Revolution on Russian snows. (Others did so, and whatever happened to those films?) Southern Alberta and (oddly) urban Spain stand in for several parts of the Union. One can't see the Lake Louise train station without thinking of this film.

Presumably few Russian actors were available to Hollywood in the '60s, but the largely British cast is convincing as participants on both sides of those ten days that shook the world. The cheap and easy take on anything Russian is to claim that the real star is Russia, its winter weather and its sheer vastness. Denied access to the genuine soil, the filmmakers here manage to pay tribute to that land now freed, post-1991, from the Red serfdom depicted in "Dr. Zhivago".

Cultural Revolution, 13 February 2005
8/10

One sign that Chairman Mao truly was dead came in 1982, when the People's Republic allowed the Disney people to open an exhibit on China at their Florida park. Didn't Mao criticize Walt and refuse to allow his films to be shown? "Wonders of China" was originally filmed in 1981-82 and has since had several subtle updates. The original included a segment on the disputed Chinese Tibetan possession. This was scissored out years later. Now a newer version includes Hong Hong, which was still British when the film was first made.

This well-scored travelogue stars the late Keye Luke as Li Bai/Li Po, T'ang dynasty poet, who serves as tour guide. There are interesting glimpses of the Beijing Opera, the giant Buddha along the Yangtze and the ice sculpture park in arctic Harbin.

China has changed dramatically, and for the better, since the Great Helmsman's death. The fact that this film was made and is shown daily to tourist audiences is proof of that.

O Canada! (1982)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
North Country Fair, 13 February 2005
8/10

There has been plentiful negative comment north of the border about Disney's ersatz Canada at EPCOT Center's World Showcase in Florida. The consensus is that it reinforces the country's "hoser image". An exception to this is "O Canada", yet another variation on Disney's familiar Circle Vision screen experience.

"O Canada" is a cross country ride from the giant tides of Fundy Bay in the Maritimes to the Banff Springs Hotel west of Calgary. The storyline is neatly divided between English and French Canada, with narrators specific to each staying out of one another's way. Uniquely, the film's theme song contains stanzas in both languages.

Someone wrote some interesting organ music for a procession up the center aisle at Montreal's Catholic cathedral. Sound designers cleverly captured the sounds of skating and slapshooting during an outdoor hockey game. About all that's missing is a curling bonspiel.

Like most of Disney's mini-films, this one probably will need an update in the near future.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Magic Eye, 13 February 2005
8/10

"Magic Journeys" was the first of several films shown in the "Magic Eye Theater" at Disney World. All have employed a 3-D process, with the audience wearing the same glasses audiences wore at theaters in the 50s.

Some 3D films are filled with what Kermit the frog (in his own mini-film) called "cheap 3D tricks". This one had a trombone slide protrude into the audience, but little else to scare or confuse the kiddies.

"Magic Journeys" involved a group of children attending a circus and playing outdoors, including a horseback ride on a beach in the Cayman Islands. There was no narration and only a small quantity of dialogue for the performers to speak. The Sherman brothers, who took home an Oscar for "Mary Poppins" wrote the theme song and created a synthesized underscore.

Third Generation, 13 February 2005
8/10

For Disneyland, when it was new, Imagineers created a film projected on nine screens completely surrounding the audience. I saw this original version in 1970 and can still remember a firetruck ride through the nighttime streets of Los Angeles, the cameras riding atop the vehicle.

In 1973, the original Circle-Vision presentation was replaced by "Magic Carpet Round the World", a slightly less interesting travelogue of foreign lands. The camera crew hid behind the protective burladero in Madrid's Las Ventas bullring during a corrida. Outraged members of the audience threw coins at them.

Just in time for the 1984 Olympics, which I attended, Disneyland premiered a third generation of Circle Vision, "American Journeys". Fellow standees included Thai boxers, if memory serves. (The film also was shown at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Florida). This cross-country travel film included an outrigger ride off Waikiki, a buggy ride through a covered bridge during fall foliage, a tailhook landing on a carrier deck, an on-the-field look at baseball in Dodger Stadium and many other clever slices of American life. Someone came up with a memorable score, blended with (I think) Peter Coyote's spare narration.

Circle Vision has the limitation that one must stand throughout. If sore feet allow, it works beautifully.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Useful Travelogue, 13 February 2005
8/10

The most successful travel programs are those which inspire the audience actually to visit the locations filmed. This (welcome) sit-down presentation at Disney World, housed in a replica of the Versailles theater, did the trick for me. Over the years, I've tried to visit as many of the shooting locations as possible.

There is minimal offscreen narration, in French-accented English, with a continuous music track of 19th century French chestnuts linked together by Disney's music man, the late Buddy Baker.

This is a half-circle film, extending beyond peripheral vision but not behind. Disney had pioneered the nine-camera Circle Vision process for a Disneyland ride in the late 50s and eventually rang several changes on the original.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Kaleidoscope, 13 February 2005
8/10

Emile Radok, the distinguished Czech director/cinematographer who inspired much of the experimental filmwork at Expo 67 in Montreal, was commissioned by the Disney people to make, of all things, a pre-show waiting area presentation for one of its theme park rides. Like cooking at the airport, this isn't the fulfillment of lifelong ambitions, but Radok made it work splendidly. (As did the chefs who each earned a Michelin star for their restaurants at Charles de Gaulle and Orly).

Radok's specialty is split screen work. Here, presentday cityscapes and historical re-creations are flashed onto a series of screens which actually move, kaleidoscope fashion, creating split images out of one single projection. This lively visual and mechanical spectacle far outshines the "Universe of Energy" ride-thru to come.

2 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Lost In Translation, 11 February 2005
5/10

Originally, like all of Irwin Allen's Sixties TV sci-fi operas, "The Space Family Robinson" took itself too seriously. (Disney, rights holder to "Swiss Family Robinson", forced a last-minute title change). The first episode actually broadcast, "The Reluctant Stowaway", was barely-plausible drama and featured a purely-evil Dr. Zachary Smith.

Allen slowly converted his clunky space operetta into a comedy of errors, highlighting Jonathan Harris's comic side as a more buffoonish Smith. It worked, despite the howls of critics. For the big-screen tribute to this vanished Sixties world, director and screenwriter unwisely copy the original idea.

The updated script rings acceptable changes on the premise of sending a single family to colonize space. One wouldn't expect a slavish copy of the pilot's scenario. Drama over comedy, however, doesn't cut it. Gary Oldman, chilling as Ludwig van Beethoven, seems straight out of an Up All Night horror flick as Dr. Smith. The character could have been nicknamed Igor instead of Zack.

I don't hold opinions about child actors. As the parents, William Hurt and Mimi Rogers are interesting substitutes for Zorro and Mrs. Lassie. Hard to beat the sheer Mom-ness of June Lockhart, though.

I suppose it is enough that someone wanted to spend millions of dollars remembering one of one's TV favorites from childhood.

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Exercise in Nostalgia, 11 February 2005
8/10

They've remade a film you remember fondly. OK, let's go back and take another look at the original. Set the wayback machine for the Tet Offensive and dial up "The Thomas Crown Affair".

Did anyone notice how they did the bank robbery? According to legend, the film company installed hidden cameras in a real bank and had cast members interact with customers during normal working hours. The bank's employees were in on the gag, but not these folks you see lining up to cash checks. When they act scared, they really are. If anyone tried that today, they'd buy a lawsuit for invasion of privacy.

Steve McQueen is said to be a minimalist actor, standing about looking cool and occasionally mumbling a few sentences of dialogue. In reality, he sold this performance hard, given how different Boston socialite Tommy Crown was from himself. The actor put in a number of 80-hour weeks learning polo, often ending the day with hands bloodied from holding a mallet too long.

The young Faye Dunaway, fresh off her "Bonnie and Clyde" breakthrough, matched McQueen for poise and cool, scene after scene. This was crucial to the seduction, as they had to be emotional equals for Crown to place any value on the conquest.

Thirty-seven years later and I still haven't found any evidence of windmills in this film, but we'll chalk up the musical score as an elegant period piece, well worth its Oscar. The imitation Expo-67/Emile Radok split screens were a breakthrough at the time and are seldom used to this extent today. Only in hand-held camera movement has this film been significantly copied.

Somewhere, Steve McQueen is still smiling that faint Porfirio Rubirosa smile of his.

Sideways (2004)
2 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
Not A Chick Flick, 8 February 2005
8/10

How to choose a film for date night? From the safety of my marriage, let me advise you single gents: Don't take her to see "Sideways". Go with your compadres, who won't be repelled by the two magnetic poles of Miles and Jack.

I hesitate to use the hackneyed old term "buddy picture", but that is what "Sideways" boils down to. Most men can be reduced, if need be, to the simple categories exemplified by Thomas "Wings" Church and Paul "My Daddy Was Baseball Commissioner" Giamatti. In the extreme forms on display here, both may be repellent to women -- off the screen -- but the two can understand each other.

OK, I'm a wine enthusiast. Not a snob, mind you, though no one admits to being one of these. At least I can understand Miles's obsession, if not his romantic hesitations. And, oh, by the way, what he says about wine is completely accurate, if completely ridiculous.

I would say there is room for a sequel here.


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