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Too much Sound of Music or not enough?
Nice, if brief visual view of Austria with some folk customs, and instruments. A tribute to the Sound of Music. Some songs sung in German. A small tribute to the song Silent Night. A very special surprise was a cameo from the cast of the 5th Musketeer(1979). Lloyd Bridges, Alan Hale jr, Cornel Wilde and Jose Ferrer were dressed in character! The recent TV broadcast version I watched must have edited out most of Sid Caesar's part, as he had little to do. Senta Berger did a fair job of singing. The marionette's were nothing short of superb! Rousing finish!
Does William Conrad sing?
Christmas specials and or variety shows are most often a showcase for the singing and dancing abilities of the main performers and guest stars. When you have a Sonny and Cher Christmas special, your first question becomes, who are the guest stars? Of all the possible guest stars that they could work with in 1973, who would be on the bottom of the list? Most likely William Conrad. He's a great radio and TV star, but not your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice for a variety show. Well maybe Sonny and Cher will have some outstanding musical numbers together? No. Well then, why watch this? Out of curiosity? Yes! Sonny and Cher basically only sing (sitting down) one song together, and it's a shortened version of Jingle Bells. Very average. Their daughter gets involved in too much of the show. Cute goes only so far! The regular cast of the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour is very capable, though. They help tremendously! But the real surprise is how well William(Cannon, Jake and the Fatman) Conrad does! In pantomime as a hobo he embodies the spirit of Oliver Hardy! In several sketches he shows how versatile he is! But, does he sing? Yes, and the song- The First Noel. With his distinctive baritone voice, Mr. Conrad's rendition turns out quite pleasing. It was worth the wait! But the real highlight, particularly for 1973 was his reading of Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. It wasn't until the next year when the story was animated on ABC TV, that it really took off! There's also a musical sketch that's kind of goofy, but in a cult status kind of way. It's about a bear that needs Winter to come in a hurry. It starts out with Sonny reading a story from a very well done pop-up book. And speaking of well done, the set designs are excellent through-out. The show substitutes Christmas songs for fireworks near the end. If only they could have deleted one sketch and added 2 best effort songs by Sonny & Cher this special could have gotten a 10!
Interviews, songs, dance and the people of Berazil
This documentary, which was actually made in 1982, gives a nice overview of Brazilian Samba music and the history and effect it has on the country's people. We see songs sung in their entirety,in Portuguese, with a summary of their meaning. We hear about politics, discrimination and the economy in regions such as Bahia. The landscapes are shown as well as brief interior shots of restaurants and the meals. Our knowledge of Samba music by and for the people is expanded as well as it's major connection to religion. Technically well done with an amazing crew that includes cinematography by Chris Morphet who worked on the movies, The Kids are Alright(1979) and Concert for George(2003)and editing by Richard Bedford who was involved with the Louis Jordan version of Count Dracula(1977). Lots of great costumes, some scenes of the Carnival, and even a martial arts dance! Those who are more knowledgeable about the music of the time may recognize some of the other singers and musicians involved. There is also a Brazilian actress show in a dance number with a singer. Some scenes might have went on a little too long but a great closing number makes up for it!
Around the World in 80 Days (1990)
Rudolph meets Jules Verne or The Return of David Niven
As with many Jules Verne novels, the title is the plot. This one was not only written in 1872 but set in the same year as well. It's a mixture of 4 genres: Adventure, Crime Drama, Romance and Western. Put some very interesting characters in the mixture and you have a classic! A fault of many hour long animated adaptations of classics is that they leave out too much. Here the abridgement works perfectly. I'm sure they did the best animation they could with the budget and it works sufficiently. This story would by most accounts be #3 of Verne's big three. The others- 20,000 Leagues under the Sea (+) Journey to the Center of the Earth. It was the 3rd of the 3 date wise. What is missing from many classic adventure stories, including the 2 previously mentioned is a strong female lead, and that's what sets this apart from the rest, in a positive way. The voice characterizations are excellent. The Phileas Fogg character is obviously patterned after David Niven from the 1956 live action movie version. Not a bad idea! And what actress did they choose to play the female lead? None other than the star of that all time favorite model animation film, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer! What a great job she does, with a pretty good accent. For the character of Passepartout, don't worry, he is a true blue Frenchman! In comparison to some other animated movies, the train segment may contain a little more violence than usual. This was an Emerald City and Animundi co- production. Other ECP films include A Tale of Two Cities; Oliver Twist; Phantom of the Opera, Ben Hur; Call of the Wild.
Santiago Apostol (2017)
New elements added to historical drama add zest.
Review based on 1st showing on Spanish television, April 14, 2017. When seeing the movie title Santiago Apóstol(2017)the first question many people may have is, which apostle is that? Of course in different languages the Apostles have different names. For example in French there is Pierre and Jean; Polish-Jan; Slovak-Ondrej, on and on. Santiago is a little more difficult to guess than most. He is, in fact, James the Greater, brother of St. John the Evangelist and one of the 12 apostles. This Mexican movie, which began filming in June 2015, deals with Santiago from the time he became an apostle to his death. The time spent with Jesus accounts for a half hour. It's quite a good abridgment of what would normally be the entire plot of another movie. The whole 2 hours are engrossing with a fast pace, good acting/direction, vivid colors and wonderful costume design. If there was an award for best casting this film would win it! Julián Gil is superb as the lead character. Once the first quarter of the plot winds down we then see Santiago as he coverts followers, confronts temptation, avoids capture and shows perhaps more aggression then his fellow apostles. One scene shows him single handed fighting 3 or 4 men to set a group of captives(who were being transported) free. Another scene has him engaged in a one on one sword fight, winning decisively. A key ingredient in the plot concerns his visions of Mary, the Mother of God(played with flair by Scarlet Ortiz), and her help. As Santiago has a major connection to Spain and is believed to have been buried in Santiago de Compostela, it is not a surprise that the shooting location is Pontevedra, Galicia, northwestern Spain. The setting is indeed a big plus! A nice addition to this movie are the occasional full screen geographical maps showing where the journeys are continuing to. Well worth watching and a fine addition to the many religious biographical dramas of the past.
Mel-O-Toons: Robin Hood (1960)
Robin Hood, bows and arrows, but what about Maid Marian?
For a six minute overview of the Robin Hood legend this cartoon is OK. There are no songs, the animation is very basic, the narration and music are good. Besides Robin, only 4 other characters are singled out. The basic story given: England, the Middle Ages, King Richard joins the crusades, his evil brother John is placed in charge. Robin is at once declared an outlaw. The first to join him in fighting authority and helping the poor is Will Scarlet. An example is given of the work they are to perform. Then we are shown the 2nd member to join, Little John. A big mistake is not giving any time to Maid Marian. We only see her in a "still" cameo, like the Three Stooges in, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World(1963). Friar Tuck is in this very, very brief scene too. Next is the archery contest. We see the Sheriff of Nottingham. Then comes the end of the crusades. Yes, it's a bare bones story but a good introduction of Robin Hood to children with a short attention span!
The Three Musketeers (1986)
Tries to be different and succeeds!
This is not your run of the mill version of The Three Musketeers! What did the producer and director want to achieve? To introduce the classic novel to a young teenage audience(13-17)and tell it in a way that hasn't been done before. And if the movie sparks an interest in the source material, then the objective has been achieved. So is this the greatest adaption ever made? No, but it should spark some interest! The basic plot line is kept intact, but the entire introduction of D'Artagnan has been cut. That certainly helped to speed things up in a movie that doesn't even run one hour in length! The story generally involves romance(here only hinted at), lots of swordplay(very little this time), court intrigue and power struggles(both in evidence). Novelty ideas include Milady as Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations fame! The characters speaking to the audience, as in the Bob Hope, Bing Crosby Road movies. Add to that an artsy ballet sequence, not unlike what was done to the 1950's French version of the Little Matchgirl. If you really like the novel and have watched many of the film versions, this one is so different that you might just want to watch it twice! It has the makings of being very repeatable. On the negative side, D'Artagnan comes off as a cardboard character. The one who really shines is Milady! The women in this animated tale actually have good roles which is in direct opposition of so many male dominated classics! Their costumes are a real plus! Not really much humor, with the exception of the King, who is supposed to provide some laughs. The stylistic art work is not too elaborate, not too simple. It works. The music creates the proper mood. As for the ending, ... a bit too abrupt.
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?