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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?
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 film 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.