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Sangarsh the Struggle (2005)
Balakrishna proves once again he can both fight and dance!
Superstar Balakrishna with the distinctive hairstyle plays a heroic police officer who is a one man army. His wardrobe department certainly were kept busy! Lots of fighting but an equal amount of dancing and romance as well. At the start of the picture we see a high ranking office placing a garland like wreath over the head of a statue of the main character. This insures the viewers that there are dramatic moments ahead. Basically a formula picture for a targeted audience. There's enough for his fans but what about the rest of the movie going public? Well, the cast is a big plus. Then there is the on location shooting, first in Singapore(partial view of Merlion Park) and later in Switzerland. The numerous big song and dance production numbers with the colorful costumes are a definite crowd pleaser. On the negative side the film has a pieced together feel about it, too mechanical. It just doesn't flow evenly enough. Most of the song and dance numbers were released separately on volume 60 of a Bollywood Hangama DVD and this no doubt boosted it's popularity.
Church Street Station (1984)
A Country Music showcase!
A half hour country music concert series that featured multiple performers. Church Street Station had introductory and closing narration by Rex Allen, Sr. as well as visuals of the historic train station. Each episode was filmed at the Cheyenne Saloon in Orlando Florida. The stage was small but the amount of big name guests were colossal. The series ran for at least 8 years and the shows had performances by Roy Clark, Tanya Tucker, Eddy Raven, Patty Loveless, Porter Wagner, Dottie West, the Forrester Sisters, Mel Tillis, Lorrie Morgan, Tom T. Hall, Kathy Mattea, Lynn Anderson, Carl Perkins, B.J. Thomas, and the Osmond Brothers to name a few. There were, if not all the time, at least for a few seasons, 26 episodes per year. The TV series also spawned several DVD's.
Breakfast Pals (1939)
cereal characters in disguise?
Bobby proves to his friend that with the right Breakfast Pals (i.e. Snap, Crackle, Pop) your cereal will be ever so more enjoyable. Along the way there is plenty of action that involves improvised weapons such as a pepper shaker, pancakes & syrup! The pacing & plot line of this theatrical cereal commercial are good, as are the voice characterizations. The vibrant colors are a plus as well. What must be pointed out, however, is that the 3 familiar gnome Rice Krispies mascots don't quite look themselves. Perhaps in order to get the head animator he had to have free reign. For the only time they have small noses and Crackle doesn't have a pointed hat. And what about those cereal bowls? They look more like molds for jello. Putting this cereal movie ad in context, Corn Flakes and Grape Nuts are older, Post Toasties at one time had Mickey Mouse on their box in 1934, old radio drama's featured frequent dramatic commercials of Quaker Puffed Rice and Popeye ate Wheatena, in addition to print ads with Babe Ruth for Wheaties. Maxwell House had the line,"good to the last drop", in this film it's, "crisp to the last spoonful". And what about Krispies spelled with a K. Is that sort of like how for many years now Cops has been spelled with a K as in moviedom's Keystone Kops?
Time used wisely
As with Stacey's video commercial, Washed Ashore, there's a dog in this film as well, but its role is not as vital. Somehow a well behaved pet in the story always is a plus! One minute videos DO take a lot of time to make and the involved effort here pays off. Nothing is simple emotionally, however Ms Smith-Velez captures the story of a woman whose brother might be dying, in a very poignant way. As the sister chips at the fudge it feels symbolic of the lady's pain. The image of the inserted pacemaker takes one by surprise and the background music which is played by the brother, makes for a sweet ending. Much of the input of this review by MC.
Santa Claus Story (1945)
Noteworthy for Santa telling the Yes Virginia story
Do you like archive footage of monkeys in a short Christmas film? If not, then it's a definite shortcoming! The live action b&w films starts out with narration from, The Night before Christmas. So far, so good. Then we see a boy and girl all snug in their beds. A dog(terrier) is on hand as well. Santa comes down the chimney and greets Virginia and Jackie. Virginia asks for a story. Monkeys must have been big at the time, so Mr. Claus relates some interesting tales about monkeys getting dressed up, at a zoo, building a house, and decorating a Christmas tree. The 2nd story is what sets this brief movie apart. The Yes Virginia story has exploded in the media since 1970, but before that there wasn't much more than readings, plus newspaper and pamphlet reprints. So here in a film, Santa gives a good, abbreviated reading of the Yes Virginia Christmas story. We see the children playing with their toys under the tree while Santa reads. And that's about it. Christmas music is interspersed throughout. It's a shame that Castle Films removed the credits.
Seraya sheyka (1948)
A heartwarming nature survival toon
Ready to fly away with the rest of the flock, little gray neck, a female duckling, sees her rabbit friend in danger and comes to the rescue. The encounter between her and the fox leaves gray neck with a disability. She will have to battle the Winter season,the fox, and build confidence in herself. This endearing 20 minute Russian animated film not only deals with confidence, but with loss(gray neck's Mother thinks she is dead), the power of friendship, and the harshness of Nature. Even though there is dialogue the visuals are enough to tell the story. The English language version sometimes translates inaccurately but conveys the same message. There is a mistake, though. One character is referred to as a wood cock in the English version. The Russian version correctly refers to him as a grouse. Another minor difference is the American release has additional opening narration and deletes a still scene of marsh land. Appropriate music adds to what must be one of the most circulated Russian toons in the United States as it was released in 16mm, 8mm, VHS and DVD here!
The Little Teacher (1915)
Mack & Fatty have all the fun while Mabel looks on!
The version reviewed had the title, A Small Town Bully(adapted from The Little Teacher). Whether this was meant as a remake of the 1909 Griffith film in which Sennett was also in is somewhat doubtful. Except for the basic premise of a new teacher and wild students, there is no other similarity. There doesn't seem to be any classic novel with this title, although there was a play, but it wasn't written until 1918 or 1919. Mabel Normand has the lead, but she doesn't have to stretch her acting talent. 3rd lead, Mack Sennett, really has the juiciest role and makes the most of it. If you thought the Bowery Boys were the only adults playing juvenile delinquents, watch Mack & Fatty in this film! Can you go wrong in making a classroom hijinks silent comedy film? A resounding no! There is a brief love interest for Mabel involved, and people fall off a bridge and into the water. Fast paced and fun to watch.
Maria di Nazaret (2012)
Great cast, story slightly different.
Just watched a Spanish language dubbed version of this on TV in a four hour time slot. Keep in mind that criticism is of the abridged version as no doubt some of the content was edited out to fit in more commercials. Well done overall with a good pace(very important for a 4 hour program) and a fine performance by Allisa Jung as the Virgin Mary. Yes this movie does focus on the two Mary's, and yet it also covers the same ground done in previous versions(although in some parts moves along a little too quickly) of the life of Jesus. Among both Mary's, less time is with Mary Magdalena. Andreas Pietschmann was an excellent choice for the part of Jesus. Some of the variations in comparison with other film treatments are the fact that Allisa Jung as Mary doesn't seem to age, has a very long speech near the end, and also the character of Erodiade, while very interesting, almost seems to be a villainous character from a different story. She might fit in better in an episode of Stargate! And yet I enjoyed watching the actress who portrayed her, Antonia Liskova. It really is the cast that makes this movie worthwhile!
The Littlest Angel (1950)
Film stays very close to the book
This short film adaption of the well known radio play and children's book set the standard by which all other adaptations must be measured. Many of the same words are used as the book, although the choices are more concise without harming the overall storyline. The male narrator enunciates clearly using a relaxing tone, emotion and moderate pacing. Simplicity sometimes works best with a favorite children's story, and as there was only a small budget available for this movie, it works well. Often it is like a slide show, with occasional movements. Few scenes of flying and running. Limited sound effects as well. Lightning, is the major one! The main character doesn't talk. There is a brief attempt at a song and plenty of sobbing. None of the characters actually speak. The Understanding Angel sings the word hallelujah a few times, and the choir, towards the end, sing a brief excerpt from Joy to the World. There may only be 2 instruments for the music. An organ and harp. It's all that is really necessary. Lots of imagery is used and a good use of colors. If you don't know the story: A child enters Heaven, but he is NOT a model angel. Nothing he does seems to be right. When Jesus is born, everyone must decide on a gift...
Christmas Fairy Tale (1961)
A parade of storybook favorites!
It's easy to tell that this short live action b&w film was made with lots of love and hard work. The craftsmanship alone makes this worth watching. It is not stop motion. The characters revolve, bend over, move their arms, etc. Although the story takes place on Christmas Eve, there actually is only a slim plot connection to Christmas throughout. Laura(a real girl) is reading a book of Mother Goose stories. We see the pages briefly. She wonders what the characters might be doing at this festive time of year. Then we switch to storybook land. Here is where we begin the parade of familiar children's characters from nursery rhymes, picture books and fairy tales. Wee Willie Winkie is the only recurring character. The highlights include Mother Goose herself in her sweetshop, Rapunzel, the three blind mice skating, Puss and Boots, Little Red Riding Hood dancing with the Wolf(don't think you'll find that anywhere else!), and Little Bo Peep dancing with Little Boy Blue. Also making appearances are Robin Hood, Hansel and Gretel, the three bears and Goldilocks, and Rip Van Winkle. Then the story switches to Tazewell's The Littlest Snowman. The cover of the book is shown, then the story of the snowman with a candy heart. The revolving diorama's are not to be missed! Looking at the date of the book in which the 2nd half of the film was based on, the active years of the film crew, and the overall look of the movie, a date of 1959 or 1960 would have to be pretty close. It would be interesting to speculate if the film's connection to Christmas was an afterthought.