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Awkwardly-Shot Short Documentary
29 November 2020
The manner in which this short film from Edison company filmmaker James H. White is shot is both awkward and faintly amusing, due to how the camera is placed in order to capture the action. It had only been a little while ago, a year or less, that the Edison company had stopped production in filming vaudeville performers and dancers, and they, not being professional photographers like the Lumière Brothers, appeared to be struggling some with how to properly compose a picture. There were good compositions, such as in "American Falls from Above, American Side" (same year), or the "Morning Alarm" films. This is one case where the Lumières simply would have done better, perhaps by shooting from a side angle as in "Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat". What was done here just didn't succeed, and the result is somewhat humorous to see.

The composition at first appears to be quite good, as the mounted police charge of the title gallops forward in the distance. Unfortunately, they are headed right towards the camera, so that by the end the entire force is brought to a stop where they just sit awkwardly on their horses in front of the camera while the last five seconds or so run out. There is simply something off in the way it was pulled off that doesn't settle right, and the fact that they had to stop before hitting the camera is particularly funny - a diagonal angle would have worked better if not quite as effectively. Nonetheless, it is an interesting glimpse of history as always, capturing police officers that would otherwise be forgotten today.
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Deteriorated Military Documentary
28 November 2020
"U.S. Troops Landing at Daiquiri, Cuba" is the sort of film that fails to keep the viewer's interest due to the minimal amounts of action that is in frame. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does detract from entertainment value, especially considering what action there is is something that would be better captured as a photograph. The subject and composition of this picture are both great, historically and technically speaking, but when there is little action to capture it becomes rather dry as a result.

The title describes this short film from the Edison Company, shot by William 'Daddy' Paley, which features a dock as some U.S. soldiers march off the boat in a rather organized procession. Unfortunately, the ability to further evaluate the footage is lost seeing as how shaky and deteriorated the image quality is, which then makes it hard to really follow what action there is. Had the footage survived better, perhaps it would be more interesting to see; however even with this in mind, the fact that the viewable action is consistent and unchanging is unavoidable. The troops continuing to march down the dock and past the camera is repeated continuously, and with nothing else happening, a photograph would have done better at highlighting the event.
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A Hardly Top Notch Trick Film
28 November 2020
Warning: Spoilers
"The Mystic Swing" is ample evidence of how desperately the Edison Manufacturing Company wanted to catch up with their competition, the great French cinemagician Georges Méliès. For a film of 1900, it is certainly not bad by any means; there is at least somewhat of an effort to incorporate a story into what is otherwise a trick film, yet, compared to how much cleverer the Méliès films were even years before this, there is something lacking. The truth is, while Edwin S. Porter could do as many tricks just as easily and as seamlessly as the French filmmaker, he just couldn't do was recreate the sense of charm that marked the greatness of his competition's work. As a result, "The Mystic Swing" simply comes off as a basic appearing and disappearing act, with little substance or performance to make it particularly enjoyable.

The premise of this one-minute film from Porter is that Mephistopheles (a character who was played much more enjoyably and humorously by Méliès) and a magician are in competition against each other. Each take turns, one making a girl appear on a swing, the other making her disappear. A skeleton later becomes involved and serves the same function, but otherwise, that is all. Additionally, it was interesting to me at least that it was Mephistopheles who was outdone by the magician, rather than the other way around.

The big thing that just makes "The Mystic Swing" another generic trick film is that, outside of the fact the tricks are simple film edits (not dissolves or anything more revolutionary) there is no energetic charm that Méliès brought to the picture when he played the magician. He knew how to entertain because he was a stage magician in real life before being a filmmaker, and in no way could Porter or anyone in the Edison crew be able to top that. Thus, this film is really just a basic example of a trick film from the period, but hardly the best example considering the much more superior work that had been produced already a couple years before.
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Fragmentary Love Story in Old England
26 November 2020
There is very little to judge this later, little-recognized effort of the late filmmaker Edwin S. Porter on, with what remains being rather insignificant and only the faintest traces of a plot being noticeable. By 1908, Porter was long past his prime as were many of the other early filmmakers (Georges Méliès, etc.), and only a few of the directors of the early silent era would carry on and actually change with the times. "Tale the Autumn Leaves Told", unlike what other sites say, actually did contain a narrative as with many of Porter's films from this point in film history; furthermore, there is no way the film could live up to its title had it only been a series of vignettes covered by leaf-shaped masks as some suggest. An interesting scene, but little to review due to the lack of a complete story.

According to the Moving Picture World description, "Tale the Autumn Leaves Told" was a type of love story set in Merry Old England, with the typical plot of two lovers wanting to be married but being prevented from doing so by the father of the girl. This all boils down to the usual Hollywood-esq ending, where the father finally realizes his selfishness and forgives both - and that is the only scene which remains, in which the couple is married by a blacksmith before being discovered. As stated above, a leaf mask covers the camera lens to create a neat effect, but the point of this is unclear, with only the title really conveying why.

Overall, little to see with only the final scene remaining, and hence only worth seeing to historians or silent film buffs. Had the full movie survived, there may have been some interest, but a minute-and-a-half fragment is hardly enough to judge.
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Recent Méliès Rediscovery
17 November 2020
"The Triple-Headed Lady" is one of a couple Georges Méliès films that were recently made available through YouTube since their identification in 2015. Located among a collection of films of Frank Brinton's in Washington, Iowa, over thirty years had passed before Serge Bromberg identified the complete or nearly-complete print, another recovered film from an era of destroyed works. While nothing exceptional on its own, every bit counts, and any film or history buff will be glad to know of these two new resurfaces of films by the great French cinemagician ("The Wonderful Rose Tree", a less interesting film, being the other).

This brief one-minute trick film, which further makes use of the 'head' motif in Méliès's oeuvre, is set up like many of the trick films: a magician performing impossible stunts courtesy of special effects. It begins with the filmmaker himself as the magician creating the titular lady with three heads, an image that is admittedly very primitively done in terms of effects, so probably among the less impressive illusions considering the rough technique. However, the tricks get much better as the heads are removed and put by themselves, then magically attached to bodies of more women. This and other effects are some impressive illusions are on display, all performed within less than one minute with fairly good execution. A further example of the director's creativity, and one of the better Méliès trick films from around that period of time.
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Study of Dissolves
15 November 2020
Georges Méliès certainly wasn't moving anywhere particularly new or special by the time 1904 hit, the year of this short magic trick film "The Imperceptible Transmutations". Prior to the 1900's, his work in trick films and editing had largely consisted of innovations in the film edit, with acclaimed films such as "The House of the Devil", "A Nightmare" (both 1896), "The Astronomer's Dream" (1898), "The Devil in a Convent" (1899) and numerous others. Superimposition was the next great discovery in the filmmaker's career, including films as early as "The Four Troublesome Heads" (1898) and later ones like "The Man With the Rubber Head" (1901). The dissolve was really the final trick of significance in Méliès's body of work, done as early as 1899 for scene transitions but continuously being reproduced through a number of simple trick films to serve a similar function as would the film edit.

"The Imperceptible Transmutations" is a quick two-minute exercise of the latter effect, and bears a significant resemblance to "Fugitive Apparitions" of the same year. In both, Méliès is a magician who performs a basic magic act, making appear his female assistant who he causes to then disappear and transform. The dissolves utilized are gradually done, flaws being, of course, that as the woman appears Méliès's posture will shift by accident, showing a clear dissolve from one image to the next. A hard thing to be helped, this, and evidence that shows that while a slow dissolve is pleasant and works well in many situations, a film edit is much more seamless and will not show such inconsistencies. Overall, a typical magic show, yet enjoyable for what despite being fairly repetitive.
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The Penultimate Film of Georges Méliès
14 November 2020
1912 was the second-to-last year in the lengthy career of Georges Méliès, and by that point it was clear to most that the filmmaker was long past his prime. The trick film magic acts that he had produced for years back in the early 1900s had grown less popular as time went on; by 1908, he was divided into two studios, churning out a series of poor comedies and melodramas with the help of his production assistant Manuel. Interestingly enough, the following year 1909 saw very little new, with very few movies and many of them the ones he did make being trick films, which harkened back to his days prior to attempting comedies, showing a lack of the ability to make something new. 1910 he arguably made no films (Méliès film scholar John Frazer claims there were many, while Wikipedia states otherwise), and 1911 was the year he made a contract with Pathé Frères - the very company that had tried to outdo him in his own art only several years before with directors such as Segundo de Chomòn. Now that Pathé owned Star Film, Méliès was under an even greater strain, which was, quite simply, to show up his rival Ferdinand Zecca, who was formerly the underdog. The final six films of Méliès were produced by Pathé, and sadly, only one of them was a success ("The Conquest of the Pole", due to its giant of the snows).

"The Knight of the Snows" was his second-to-last or very last movie ("The Voyage of the Bourrichon Family" which followed in 1913 is said from certain sources to have been directed by the production assistant Manuel). It is also his final fantasy feature and the last film in which he plays Satan - a character who the filmmaker had been seen to play throughout his entire career, from "The Devil in a Convent" on up. Unfortunately, as with the majority of the six, "Le Chavalier des Neiges" was also a failure in its old-fashioned style of storytelling, from the basic plot and stagy long shots to special effects which pad the movie. Visually, and when compared to the rest of the Méliès fantasies, it is certainly worthwhile, yet behind the times for the period in its filmic technique.

The film is essentially a remake of the filmmaker's own "The Kingdom of Fairies" from 1903, almost a decade earlier. In this case, the story is transposed to a more medieval setting, as a princess is to be married to the titular Knight of the Snows, when another suitor shows up, wanting to fight for her hand. When all else fails, he seeks the aid of the Devil, brought to him by a wizard-like character, who summons demons to kidnap the princess. And, as in the 1903 film, the rightful suitor is now left to rescue the princess with the aid of a good fairy, leading to a typical finale and a punishment for the villain.

Even while the sets are gorgeously realistic and the costumes up to the standards, what results is what was considered an outdated film for that point in history. Ever since D.W. Griffith had developed the use of cutting with closeups, medium closeups, and POVs, the stagy style of long shots was no longer used, and with every scene in the movie being done this exact same way, the film flopped. Méliès was simply no long on top of filmmaking any longer; his time had passed, and he had done his part. Nonetheless, for any enthusiast of the filmmaker, there is lots to like, such as the outstanding dragon prop (previously used in "Baron Munchausen's Dream") and even a kind of remake of a scene from "The Kingdom of Fairies" in which said dragon, Satan and his minions pull the kidnapped princess up into the sky.
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Typical Méliès Magic
10 November 2020
"The Enchanted Sedan Chair" is a fairly typical magic act trick film from the career of Georges Méliès, both in tricks and structure. Like many other shorts of Méliès's which rely entirely on special effects, this three-minute film is all too typical in that it uses the premise of a stage magic show to utilize its effects, which are done not through the work of the magician himself but through camera tricks. Nonetheless, because Méliès was a stage magician before becoming a filmmaker, he does know how to pull off the illusions well in his role as the magician, creating mostly seamless dissolves and cuts that make the act come off with ease.

The premise of the magic show this time involves a sedan chair, brought in after the magician first creates a man from a set of clothes, and a woman from a mannequin. What follows is a lot of predictable magic, with the footmen, woman, man, etc. (who are dressed as if they came from the 17th century or so, for no apparent reason) switching places magically. There is one particular cut in this part which is quite obvious, but for the most part, the tricks, particularly the dissolves, are executed quite well. Apart from this, it isn't a particularly special film of the director's catalogue, but at least remains watchable at three minutes even if virtually the same as so many others.
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Fragmentary Méliès Fantasy
9 November 2020
1908 was the last big year in the film career of director Georges Méliès, and despite being generally considered as his worst year in the entirety of his career, it was also one of his most productive in quite some time. This was mainly due to having two studios by this point - Studio A, that produced films under his own direction, and Studio B, the films of which were supervised by his production assistant Manuel. But quality did not prevail over quantity; the majority of these films were not the usual magic shows or trick films of previous years, instead delving into an infrequently seen genre throughout Méliès's career: slapstick comedies. Not only did many of them rely upon physical gags that, while sometimes creative, did not nearly match up to the humor found within his 'haunted inn' movies, many of them are simply unfunny by today's standards - and possibly the standards of then.

"A Grandmother's Story" is thus seen as a refreshing breath of clean air after many of these poor comedies, reminding one of the greatness of the filmmaker's previous features even if not being especially good on its own. The film runs five minutes and while mostly plotless makes up for it in visual detail. Its narrative is a simple one, focusing on a child (André Méliès, the director's own son) who is read a bedtime story by his grandmother before going to bed. It doesn't take long for him to be transported into the typical dream world of the director that we have seen again and again, as a fairy takes him away to two locations: a toyland setting, and a beautiful woodsy area with flowers and butterflies.

As a whole, very little happens within the film action-wise. The 'story' of the title is unknown, probably related in some way to the dreams that follow, and very little occurs within the dreams themselves, which are mainly there to show off some gorgeous set designs. The toyland is the most rare of any set pieces seen in any Méliès movie, which is very distinct, almost as if it were pulled from a child's picture book. The second set is every bit as beautiful, with some wonderful butterfly costumes and scenery that give it the exact feel it desires. It is unfortunate that these designs were not put to a more effective purpose, as this first scene consists of the child simply wandering around the set, while the other one is mostly dancing. As such, the film is more bland with this in mind, being more visually interesting than anything else, and hence not as good as earlier efforts that told a stronger story which were enhanced through the additionally well-composed imagery.

Furthermore, "A Grandmother's Story", while little recognized as such, is actually a film fragment, not a complete film, with twelve numbers attributed to in the Star Film Catalogue. This indicates the full film was around twelve minutes, a longer effort with probably many more scenes in addition further illustrating the child's dream. This is particularly unnoticeable when one notes that the story seems to be quite complete in itself, having a beginning, body, and conclusion that would suggest it is all there. However, this supposition is incorrect, as half-way through, between the two dream sequences, there is a direct cut (Cineanalyst points out this could be used to show both scenes take place in a dream, while the other dissolve transitions would suggest moving from dream to reality) which definitely indicates missing scenes. However, while a complete print would be nice, it would also needlessly expand on what was already a basic plot; the two dream sequences we already have are fine, and little more is needed to make it better.
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"The New Lord of the Village": A Misidentification
8 November 2020
"The New Lord of the Village" was among numerous films to be released as part of the extraordinary, all-inclusive "Georges Méliès: First Wizard of Cinema" DVD set back in 1908. The reviews on this page are all written by people who have seen this film on disc four of the set (which comprises mainly slapstick comedies and melodramas directed by Méliès and his production assistant Manuel) - a nine-minute, three-scene morality tale that serves largely as a device for a number of camera tricks. However, as with plenty of other early rediscovered shorts, this film that most have viewed is a misidentification, a film that was pointed out by film historian David Bond as actually being a completely different short.

On the same set, located in disc five which comprises only ten films, is included an unidentified film fragment of a 1908 short - the same year Méliès produced "The New Lord of the Village". I had long speculated as to the title of this short, first thinking of it as being a lost or cut scene from the filmmaker's second adaptation of Cinderella from 1912. But, this being a reasonable identification in visual look only (since it featured similarities in set and costume design but otherwise made no logical sense) I then took up the theory that the one-and-a-half minute fragment was a scene from the 1908 film by Méliès I had not seen entitled "Tribulation; or, the Misfortunes of a Cobbler." This made much more sense, so much so that I identified it as such in my IMDb list of films from the DVD set. The brief scene includes a large crowd of people at a wedding, which then leaves the scene only for a man, dressed as what seems to be a cobbler, to enter and drink copious amounts of alcohol before the crowd returns and finds him drunk. The events seemed to make sense overall with the title, and thus for a long time I believed it to be that film.

However, according to Bond, the identity of these two shorts is mixed up. The film on the box set identified as "The New Lord of the Village", when first discovered, had on it the label of the other 1908 film, "Tribulation; or, the Misfortunes of a Cobbler". Analyzing the unidentified fragment, the film historian came to the conclusion that that fragment was actually a scene from the former film, and that the nine-minute morality tale that most identify as "Le nouveau seigneur du village" is in fact an unknown title, not "Tribulation" or any other film. This would make sense to me when one further considers the fact that "No Trifling With Love" was an alternate title to this film, and the short reviewed on this IMDb page has nothing to do with romance in any way, while the fragment included a wedding that would fit the title better. In any case, judging the short clip that is apparently left of "The New Lord of the Village" is hard, considering the confusing action and the lack of context; but at least future reviewers should be aware of this misidentification and ignore the film on the set as being neither short.
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Energetic Dancers and Dark Grottos
31 October 2020
One of the biggest themes explored throughout the career of the French filmmaker Georges Méliès was dreams. There are numerous reasons one could guess as to why this particular subject was so strongly utilized by him: perhaps he saw framing the films as a dream a good excuse for all sorts of great visual effects; maybe it was also so he could create as many nonsensical things as he wanted to within such a setting. Either way, he normally made excellent use of the effects within these dream films; a few good examples include "A Nightmare" (1896), "The Astronomer's Dream" (1898), and "The Rajah's Dream" (1900). Each one is packed full of action, humor, and creativity; the infamous filmmaker certainly milked the concept for all it was worth, and his films serve as proof of it.

"The Ballet Master's Dream" is not a particularly outstanding example of a dream film by Méliès, particularly in how it is far too simplistic with little in the way of action, but it is executed very well in terms of special effects. This time, the setup is an energetic ballet master who can't keep his mind off his work, so he goes to bed and dreams of the usual Méliès dancing girls. Surprisingly, unlike other dream films involving dancing like "A Crazy Composer" (1905), there are fewer dancers and if anything, the one that really steals the show is the eccentric played by Zizi Papillion, who appears after the setting inexplicably changes to a grotto. A few substitution splices and one use of superimposing are utilized, but the majority of the film lacks a lot of action and consists of mostly dance showcasing mixed with a few moments of humor.

While not especially great compared to other more superior efforts, the film as always has the Méliès charm that abounds in most of his pictures, and the comedy and effects are both pulled off well. Not very good when compared to other dream films, but for what it is it's executed quite well.
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Méliès Meets Slapstick
30 October 2020
In the large body of work produced by the French cinemagician Georges Méliès, the films he is mainly remembered for mainly include his fantasy/science fiction features, as well as his trick films, due to their wonderful charm and great visual effects that were ahead of their time when first premiered. However, this is not to say he was above producing films of other genres; on occasion, he would produce the standard drama/crime film more recognized as being the Edison Manufacturing Company's trademark, and sometimes, especially later in his career, slapstick was particularly prominent in the Star Film Catalog. Unfortunately, most fans of his work have dismissed his films of the latter genre, and for a good reason: Méliès did better with comedy and slapstick when it was in little humorous touches than with actually fully focusing a film on these elements. "The Hilarious Posters" is in many ways more of a comedy than a trick film, with limited effects that serve mainly to bring out the plot - a good thing considering Méliès usually did the opposite, but causing the effects to be shoved to the side and done much more abruptly and clumsily.

In "The Hilarious Posters", the filmmaker makes use of a concept he did numerous themes on throughout his career: the inanimate coming to life, in this case a wall of advertising posters becoming animated. It's an amusing little story, with some good elements of humor and a great finale, but, as other reviewers have already pointed out, the execution of the effects is rather sloppily pulled off. For Méliès, preventing this could easily have been a case of better judgement: to bring the posters to life, he uses an abrupt substitution splice, causing a quick jump from the pictures to the live human actors. Had the actors been better positioned in the poses of their drawn counterparts, this would not be a problem, but because the poses are a lot harder to keep for so long, it would have been far better for them to have kept the poses they did in the final product and use a slow dissolve to transition the images smoothly. Although the drawings and the actors would still not have matched up quite as well, doing this would have disguised it a lot better, and made more sense in addition given the scenario of the film.

Nevertheless, it is the creativity that pulls off the film, and the result is a very humorous comedy far better than later ones by the filmmaker. In 1908, he and his team would split into two studios, A and B; Méliès would create films in A, while his production assistant and actor known as Manuel would direct films in B. Because none of the slapstick comedies turned out that year had this element of the fantastic along with the slapstick, the majority of those films are today regarded as failures (it also didn't help that without Méliès onscreen, none of the ones by Manuel came off as especially distinctive to his style). "The Hilarious Posters" is thus a success in that it uses its effects (albeit poorly done) as a way of executing a genuinely creative story, something Méliès needed more of to survive in those later years.
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From Dream to Film
29 October 2020
Although "Unexpected Fireworks" is often dismissed as being one of the poorer Méliès pictures, due to its lack of obvious special effects and its realistic setting, it does have an interesting backstory that at least makes it slightly more interesting to the casual viewer. Made in 1905, the film is a comedy a couple years before Méliès's output would transition into slapstick, and thus rather unexpected in itself considering the director was still producing his usual trick and fantasy shorts that year, which were going out of style. Not a bad attempt by any means, but definitely not an especially good movie even for a comedy and rather strange in and of itself.

Production of "Unexpected Fireworks" began when André Méliès, the filmmaker's young son at four years of age, told his father about a dream he had one night in which some pranksters set off some fireworks around a sleeping drunk. That's exactly what happens in this film - a black comedy rather out of place in the Star Film Catalogue, but serving as a sort of symbol of what the cinemagician was all about. Méliès was a dreamer, a dreamer demonstrating with his work that films can show anything we want them to, be it adventures, real life, and yes, dreams. It is thus somewhat fitting that one of his own movies would be a literal depiction of a fantasy that formerly existed only in the mind of his son. An interesting anecdote, that, although the analyzation is somewhat limited considering the realistic setting of the picture.

As for the film itself, there is little to note without this story in mind except for the ending, in which the pranksters run up to the camera and mug before walking off. It's rare for actors in a Méliès film to break the fourth wall in this manner (aside from the magician films), much less be so close to the camera in medium closeup. An odd film and a definite stand out in the director's catalog, but of some note considering these things which are unclear to the average person.
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Manuel Takes the Helm
28 October 2020
As the other reviewers have pointed out, "Why That Actor Was Late" is a rather unusual production from Georges Méliès's Star Film Catalogue, but not without any historical context or reason. Beginning in 1896, Méliès started out as an average filmmaker for the time period, with his actuality shorts along the lines of the films produced by the Lumière Brothers. This is what everyone was doing at the time, and there were no standards of judging what was a 'good' film yet: cinema was a novelty, a fad that people were amazed seeing alone regardless of content.

As Méliès started utilizing stop-motion and innovating effects such as superimpositions and dissolves, he soon rose to becoming one of the top filmmakers of the period. The work of this 'cinemagician' was groundbreaking, fun, entertaining, and creative, be it fantasy and adventure films, magic acts, etc. For years he carried a high position, as audiences were astounded by the novel effects, baffled at how he did them, and huge profits ensued. For a long time he was the target of a lot of the competition, who attempted copying and doing similar concepts, none of which quite matched up to the level of creativity and playfulness of their superior.

But as the mid-1900s came around, this popularity began to slip. Slapstick comedies, chase films, dramas, etc. became more prominent in their exciting action and more complex plots. Films were no longer stagy and theatrical, but started to be shot on location more and more, increasingly realistic compared to the elaborately painted sets of the Star Film Company. By 1908, the year this film was produced, Méliès was much more focused on beating his competition by doing the things they did, rather than vice-versa. Thus, to increase his production of films, he split up into two different studios: A and B. One of these studios was under the control of Méliès himself; the other was run with its films directed by another man, the filmmaker's production assistant and actor known as Manuel.

"Why That Actor Was Late" is generally known by knowledgeable sources online as being more likely to have been directed by Manuel, as it does not have the same theatrical style of Méliès's previous output. Notably, there is also a lacking presence that makes it surprising this is a Star Film: the director does not appear to be playing a role in this one at all; his charm and energy this film severely lacks. No wonder why the other reviewers tend to bash this as being one of the director's weakest efforts: technically speaking, this is not a Méliès film at all, associating to him only through the production company it came from. Manuel was certainly nowhere near being the energetic filmmaker that was his boss, and if anything, he was better an actor than a director, as can be evidenced here.

"Why That Actor Was Late" is purely a slapstick comedy, the only problem being none of the physical humor is funny in any way considering Méliès wasn't onscreen (or even there) to pull it off. Henri Vilbert, a music hall star, portrays an actor (apparently himself) who struggles to make his way to a production in time. Vilbert may have been an actor, but he certainly wasn't a comedian, and he comes off as more unpleasant than funny as the man knocks over a restaurant table, makes a mess of the ticket sales, and causes a ton of pratfalls. It's often said that folks back in the day liked physical humor lots more than now, and maybe this was true; perhaps this Méliès film was a hit in the day (though considering he had done better with comedy before, it was probably only average). Nowadays, to the average person, the simplistic gags in this one would come off as more dumb than funny.

Concluding, it's safe to say that while this isn't a horrible movie, it certainly isn't great, mostly due to not feeling at all like a Star Film production. There is no flair, no energy, nothing except people running around and knocking into each-other, and if anything, Manuel is to blame. This consistently churning out comedy/drama films would continue the rest of the year for Méliès, and when that trend was over, his career would be just about finished too. A sad way to go out, considering his final films were produced by Pathé, a former rival that had now gotten the better of him.
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Early Live Magician's Act by Méliès Resurfaces
27 October 2020
Warning: Spoilers
"D. Devant, Conjurer", by the famed cinemagician Georges Méliès in his earliest years, was among a series of recovered fragmentary short films that survived as Leon Beaulieu flipbooks manufactured in the 1890's. While it is not unheard of for an early and presumably lost piece of cinema to be recovered under these conditions ("Arrival of a Train at Vincennes Station" by the same filmmaker was long speculated to exist in this manner), reviewing such a fragment is more or less difficult due to how little has actually been preserved. However, because it is good to see more Méliès films resurfacing over the past several years, the ten-seconds worth that we have is sufficient enough to at least briefly review and get a feel for what the original film was like, with certain cautions to be taken in terms of fair judgement.

Méliès made "D. Devant, Conjurer" in his very earliest years as a filmmaker in 1897, the second year he made movies in. Because the previous year's (1896's) output had consisted mostly of actuality snippets not unlike those of the Lumière Brothers, it is no wonder, then, that this year he was continuing to film short subjects for his catalog that lacked any fantasy or magic elements - or at least, for the most part. Last year had indeed been responsible for exceptions to this, including the production of the well-known and groundbreaking classic "The House of the Devil", as well as "The Vanishing Lady", and possibly others that used substitution splicing (known nowadays as stop motion), but these were fewer and farther between than one would expect. No doubt the reason why Méliès did not originally run with the possibilities of this editing technique was because he still wanted to keep a consistently running catalog by creating a few of these novel shorts here and there whilst mixing them with the documentary films most audiences were accustomed to seeing. It is then forgivable and somewhat interesting to see the various fiction films he made that year versus the amount of documentaries.

With a title like "D. Devant, Conjurer", one would probably expect the typical Méliès magic seen in other films like "The Bewitched Inn" or "The Famous Box Trick" (1898), but such is not the case. This film may in fact be a little of a landmark for Méliès in some regards, even despite its fragmentary flipbook form and the little-known listing in his enormous filmography. The conjurer of the title was in truth David Devant, an actual performing magician that knew the filmmaker well and even sold Méliès a film projector from the British pioneer Robert W. Paul. (He also appeared in at least two other films for Paul doing one act or another that have also survived as flipbooks). As such, this is not a cine-magic show like others, but an actual magician's performance recorded on film, a rarity in the director's catalog. (The only two other films I can think of like this include "Conjuring" of 1896, his second film starring himself, and "Conjurer Making Ten Hats in Sixty Seconds", probably also featuring Méliès). Not only that, it is probably the only magic performance I have seen by the filmmaker that does not star himself as the main magician, another extreme rarity that makes it worthy of some recognition.

As for the act itself, little can be said since it is only about ten seconds worth and there was likely probably forty or fifty seconds more of the act that are lost. The film features Devant standing before the camera against a white background, waving a hat before the audience and then proceeding to pull a rabbit out of it, a known trick that has become the stereotype of magicians. Not an especially great piece of film on its own, but interesting when one is given the history and context that analyze it on a deeper level.
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Intense Universal Dracula Sequel
27 September 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Following the classic Bela Lugosi "Dracula" movie of 1931 (which I, shamefully enough, have not yet seen) two sequels followed in later years that had little to do with the original story, but both of which were considered Dracula movies. The first of these was "Dracula's Daughter" (1936) - a strange yet interesting take on female vampirism that was actually quite interesting and worthwhile. Next, seven years after this odd followup, "Son of Dracula" was produced, an even more odd movie which, while with its flaws, has to have credit given it for a truly twisted plot with plenty of originality. As compared to the other two, it's definitely a more daring and risk-taking movie, mostly due to lacking the typical formula of the other two and going a unique way that isn't exactly the conventional path for a Dracula film to take. As such, it becomes a more intense sequel with some new content to explore, and as a whole explores that fresh material quite brilliantly.

The premise of "Son of Dracula" sees two women having a party at their estate, awaiting Kay's surprise appearance of Count Alucard (who, even before his appearance, is discovered that his name is actually "Dracula" spelled backwards). The count shows up all right, only to seduce Kay to the point of her lover Frank accidentally shooting her when attempting to kill Alucard in the midst of a quarrel following her marriage to the count. As the film progresses, the true interior motive of Kay, after being her mysterious resurrection, is revealed: she does not love Alucard at all, but married him only to become a vampire in order that she and Frank can have eternal life together as 'undead'. Here is where the movie begins to really twist and turn in the actions of Frank, who wants his beloved but must also kill her and Dracula - all while being deemed insane by the others. The ending sums all of these things up, and its unexpected twist is brilliant with plenty of ambiguity built up to it.

As stated above, one has to give the movie credit in that it tries to make an elaboration on the well-known plot structure of the other movies - this time, it is the victim who wants to become the vampire to live eternally, not simply the vampire who wants to cause trouble. Further props must go to the special effects: the appearances and disappearances of the vampires as they transform from bats or enter from puffs of fog are seamless and quite interesting (Gloria Holden as Dracula's Daughter never got to do any of this). Unfortunately, the title character of the "Son of Dracula" (or just Dracula) himself is played by Lon Chaney Jr., who is sadly a bit miscast in this role. There were plenty of parts Chaney could play: the bumbling Larry Talbot in "The Wolf Man" (1941), Kharis the mummy in the last three of Universal's mummy series, and many more. One thing it's hard to see him playing is a vampire, as the man feels far too old and does not look the part at all; nowhere near the smoothness of Gloria Holden or Christopher Lee. However, one can tell he tries his hardest and I suppose despite this slight miscasting he does an okay to decent job. Other than this, the rest of the cast is outstanding, the story is bursting with creativity and twists and the film is very good as a whole. Worth seeing for any horror or old movie buff that enjoys these old monster movies.
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We Bare Bears (2014–2019)
Bland Cartoon Network Show
25 September 2020
While not without a sizable audience, "We Bare Bears" is one of those Cartoon Network shows that never once appealed to me in any special way (though I would definitely prefer it over the weird and suggestive "Steven Universe"). Although I can see the logic in the arguments of the fans, who love the characters and the endearing warmth that makes it enjoyable, and while I certainly can't say this thinking is wrong, what I will have to say is that none of this struck any chords with me, and it all lacks a certain spark that makes a show like "The Amazing World of Gumball" great. Not a bad show by any means, but not a good one either; something I could put up with and be mildly entertained, but not something I'd look forward to seeing in any respect. Maybe I'm missing the point: I know some cartoons go for more subtle humor while others are far more outright in their presentation of comedy, but these types of cartoons have never appealed to me. I don't watch cartoons to see something that I would see in real life, I watch them for wackiness and over-the-top hilarity that is hardly believable. Cartoons aren't real life, and that's why I tend to avoid this and "Craig of the Creek" because they stick to a more realistic environment without showcasing unrealistic situations.

The premise of "We Bare Bears" is that three anthropomorphic bears live within a human society and go on all sorts of realistic adventures together. While I recall an episode or two that were actually kind of good, the problem with this premise is that it doesn't fully exercise the ability of the cartoon world. No over-the-top humor like in "Teen Titans Go!", and no surrealistic qualities and smart social commentaries like in "The Amazing World of Gumball". The only remotely surrealistic aspect is that the bears are anthropomorphic and act just like humans; otherwise, the entire show could have for the most part been filmed live-action. Additionally, the adventures that the three bears go on are uninteresting and bland, with no particular creativity involved and it's just not a standout in the midst of the other Cartoon Network shows.

While that's already the main reason why I find "We Bare Bears" mediocre, I have to say another serious flaw in the series is that some of the episodes take place in an alternate universe where the bears are baby cubs. Miniaturizing cartoon characters is already not a good idea because in most cases it tends to dumb down the entire program, and this one is no exception. I would take the grownup bears any day over these childish, high-pitched cubs that makes these episodes feel like they were made for the little kids. Hearing the baby bears call themselves "little bros" is extremely cringe-worthy and a blatantly obvious attempt to try and be cute. Plus the fact that the art style looks like it came from a children's picture book, which reinforces the cuteness of the bears. While the normal episodes are somewhat okay, these episodes are ten times more uninteresting and bland - honestly, I can't see what the creator of the show was thinking doing this.

I could go on and discuss how the theme song is stupid and uninteresting like the rest of it, but do I really need to? The bottom line is, "We Bare Bears" doesn't work for me at all and while I don't hate it, I find it pretty bland and uninteresting overall compared to what else I could be watching. If you're looking for a fun cartoon with some smarter satire, try "The Amazing World of Gumball": my top favorite Cartoon Network show that succeeds where this one doesn't. So, in conclusion, avoid this if you feel the same way I do regarding how a cartoon series should be about utilizing animation to create something unlike real life. Watch only if nothing else great is on.
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Dr. Cyclops (1940)
Impressive Technicolor Sci-Fi Movie
20 September 2020
"Dr. Cyclops" is another of the many movies made in the 30's and 40's that was based on a particularly much-explored genre: the mad scientist genre. Whether it was Boris Karloff in "The Man With Nine Lives" or the many sequels of "Frankenstein", there were always many variations, each one exploring a unique sci-fi topic of some kind. The one particular aspect that makes this one stand out is that it deals with the concept of miniaturization - a seldom explored idea that made its occasional appearances throughout the decades B movies were most prominent. When coming right down to it, "Dr. Cyclops" seems more a fantasy film when one considers the fact that the people are miniature for over two-thirds of the movie; but the science-fiction part is sprinkled in somewhat, if not overly emphasized (as most of the films of this genre tended to do).

The story begins with a group of scientists heading out to meet a Dr. Thorkel in a South American jungle. Once arriving, all three of them (plus the man who rented them the mules who insisted on coming) are disgruntled as the doctor appears to be working on a top-secret project that he will not let them in on knowing. He commands them to leave but, when they begin to snoop through his notes, he tricks them into entering his miniaturization machine which shrinks them to being each about a foot tall. The rest of the film is dependent entirely on how the shrunken scientists must escape from the doctor catching them and survive against the challenges the jungle presents them with. Not very suspenseful or action packed as a movie of today would tend to do, but ending on a good finale that that wraps it up well.

The main nitpick of "Dr. Cyclops" is that as with most sci-fi movies of the period, this one too features a romance - one not particularly well developed and sort of random with only a few brief segments that hint at it. Because it is more about the action than the romance the filmmakers fail to show it blossom in any outright way and seem to forget it as the miniature people survive an alligator, the doctor's cat Satanus, etc. with a romantic bit at the end that hardly feels led up to. Otherwise, the film is shot in a brilliant and fantasy-type technicolor, a rarity for most movies of the 40's, and contains very convincing special effects even when one views them today. An enjoyable film if not as intense as others of the period, and watchable even now with plenty of merits in its execution that cause it to come off very nicely.
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Me at the Zoo (2005 Video)
The Growth of YouTube
11 September 2020
Although most other reviewers on IMDb have analyzed Jawed Karim's short, nineteen-second clip that became the first video ever uploaded to YouTube in terms of acting quality, setting, etc., one really cannot do this without sounding rather ridiculous from overdoing their analysis of such a simple clip. If one looked at it reasonably for what it is, they would have to say "Me at the Zoo" probably was entirely unscripted, a short video Karim made just to get something up on YouTube and nothing more. The acting comes off as 'great' because it wasn't acting: too natural to be memorized; one can't expect this to be a Hollywood blockbuster of any sort. It is thus important only for being one of the great 'firsts' in history, and there is nothing else one can say about it without overdoing their interpretation. This is also the reason why I have not bothered to give it a rating in the first place; if any rating was necessary, it would probably have to be a 10/10, but since IMDb has a voting average of 4.6/10, one can tell most people don't even look at it for it's historical context and rate it simply like they'd rate any professional film - a sad mistake to be sure. The only real analysis to be taken out of the video is how much it varies from the videos YouTubers upload today - a drastic difference that few tend to recognize as fact.

"Me at the Zoo" consists of a man - Jawed Karim himself - standing in front of the elephants at a zoo, explaining how they have really long trunks. This is all there is to it, and due to the simplicity of the video, it comes off as more of a home movie than a YouTuber trying to become famous. In fact, to get right down to it, that was all the website was back then: not a big buck business, not a way for people to become popular, just a place where one could upload little snippets of their personal life for others to enjoy. No commercialism, no advertising, that was all. Videos still got smash hits, but this was not to cash in on the popularity of a person, just to present people with simple entertainment. That's all "Me at the Zoo" is, and if there is any entertainment value to be had out of watching this video, it is that alone.

Nowadays, at least in my mind, YouTube has declined in this sense: it is no longer about producing enjoyable, brief clips for casual viewers to enjoy, but all about the YouTubers themselves, trying to make themselves popular and sell merchandise. It has transformed from being a fun site with which to share one's enjoyable moments of life into an actual job, resulting in becoming yet another one of the entertainment industry's numerous minions. A sad thing, considering how great it used to be before all the commercialism came in and took it over in just fifteen years, and amazing how it doesn't take long for something to go too far and go in over its head. "Me at the Zoo" is a hence a reminder of YouTube's past: a man enjoying a day at the zoo, telling us about the elephants he's watching, a simple home movie. Too bad home movies don't garner any interest on YouTube anymore; shows how far away we've gotten from what used to be a great thing.
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The Amazing World of Gumball: The DVD (2011)
Season 1, Episode 1
An Interesting Beginning
29 August 2020
"The DVD" was the pilot for one of my favorite Cartoon Network shows entitled "The Amazing World of Gumball", and because CN no longer shows the first episodes on the channel anymore, it took my pure curiosity alone to look this one up to see what it was like. As most others have stated, the series in its first season was only a shell of what it would later become, consisting more of slapstick comedy more than the witty, humorous and occasionally satirical dialogue that was sprinkled in later episodes. It is no surprise then that this episode is more goofy and silly in regards to humor, but for a pilot remains a great episode despite how primitive it seems in comparison to later ones.

In "The DVD", Gumball and Darwin are up to their usual stunts, this time involving them trying to escape paying a fine for a DVD they wrecked (some film called "Alligators on a Train"). The various things they go through to either get money to pay the fine or get away from their mom are enjoyable and fun, with an interesting if not exactly original conclusion. Being from Season 1, the art style is less refined in this episode, with differing character designs from the later seasons that make it considerably standing out on its own. I myself have not seen anything else from the first season apart from this, so that's is just me talking how it is definitely a jarring contrast compared to what the show would later become.

I also might have to say that the rating on IMDb for Gumball might be a 0.1 higher if some of the initial viewers from 2011 had changed their original ratings. The show definitely got far better, but for a first episode I thought "The DVD" was a fine start, even if it is only a sample of the crazy installments that later came.
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A Brilliant New Adaptation
23 August 2020
Warning: Spoilers
Despite the fact Universal had already explored the Mary Shelley's timeless story of Victor Frankenstein and his murderous creation (here credited as "The Creature" instead of "The Monster") Hammer Films decided it was time for their own adaptation in 1957 when they released "The Curse of Frankenstein". Because Universal threatened to sue if their original Boris Karloff classic was copied in any way, Terence Fisher's version of the story is entirely unique compared to both the original novel and any sort of film interpretation up to this point. Not only is this a plus, with an entirely different take on the events of the book, but it actually - and I know this might be shocking - ends up doing better than Universal in many ways. "Frankenstein" (1931) may have been the first sound version of the story, but it followed a very traditional and contrived story which is further elaborated upon in this more advanced telling, and this one also shows more in the ways of character development aspects.

"The Curse of Frankenstein" begins with Frankenstein himself locked up in prison, relating the events of how he came to be condemned to die to a priest who visits him. Everything that follows is entirely unique to the original story - only the formula of his obsession with creating a man remains. In Fisher's film, Frankenstein has a tutor (Paul Krempe) that helps him in numerous experiments to bring back life, but that begins to pull himself out of the picture when he sees the madness his former student is entangled in to create life. His obsession with finding the right parts becomes so great he not only robs graves, but declines morally enough to kill an old man to get a human brain and promise to marry his maid (despite his betrothal to Elizabeth). When the brain is damaged, his creature becomes an evil and murderous monster who, despite Frankenstein's near death at the hands of it, still fascinates him. The climax and conclusion that follows are masterful and are more conceptually creative than the monster just (apparently) dying at the end of the Universal film - though that conclusion was more climatic in some ways.

Peter Cushing gets to portray Frankenstein, and although I at first thought he was too calm and placid to fit the role (having seen him appear as Van Helsing in "The Horror of Dracula" and "The Brides of Dracula") he proves himself worthy in a brilliant and believable performance of madness and obsessiveness. Christopher Lee's monster is different from the traditional one, but he works well with what he's given and it's always interesting to see a differing interpretation of the creature's physical characteristics. The supporting cast is amazing as well, with Robert Urquhart's conscientious Paul Krempe, Hazel Court's lovely Elizabeth, and Valerie Gaunt's double-crossing maid.

The plot and character development is very interesting, with the characters having all sorts of different motives one doesn't seem in the regular adaptation. The most interesting thing is how Frankenstein is actually depicted as a murderer who will not stop at anything to get the right parts for his creation - when traditionally, he is always shown as mad, but not morally declining and even more evil than the monster. The additional character development of the maid and Paul make the story even more fascinating - Paul being torn between his duty to Frankenstein and his duty to doing the right, while the maid attempts to blackmail her former lover and ultimately (SPOILERS) ends up a tragic victim. These additional threads and characters make a much more complex film that brings the story alive conceptually speaking. Mary Shelley's novel is no longer just adapted as the simple story of a man who puts himself at equal with God by creating life and then paying the penalty for it, but here adds on how the scientist's madness and insanity drives him to becoming worse than the very thing he created.

The film is said to be a landmark in horror film history for showing blood onscreen - but I wouldn't exactly say it's anything like a modern horror movie at all. While there are some scenes involving gore, many of the more violent scenes are left up to suggestion - especially the ending which was absolutely perfect. That's how one does it: less is more oftentimes, an idea which Hollywood has not seemed to have grasped in this day and age. In conclusion, "The Curse of Frankenstein" may not be anything like other adaptations of the novel, but it has a lot more complexity and ideas that elaborate further on the original themes and make a more conceptually interesting story. An underrated movie that tends to be overshadowed by its classic predecessor - a shame considering this one is every bit as good as the 1931 version and better in some respects.
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Fun If Flawed R&B Short Film
22 August 2020
One of the greatest cartoon shows in the 1960's was "Rocky and His Friends" (aka "The Bullwinkle Show"), which had a center of gold hidden under its primitive exterior of unchecked art and cheap animation. The show was a true family cartoon for all to enjoy: the silly cartoon art and action could be enjoyed by the kids, while the adults in the room would find great amusement in the witty and satirical dialogue that gave it a special intelligence, removing it from being "just another Saturday morning cartoon". It has since become a classic after all these years, and is now remembered as the best Jay Ward cartoon above other shows like "Hoppity Hooper" because of this extra layer that caused it to stand the test of time.

"Rocky and Bullwinkle" (2014) revives the series in a fresh and new way by updating all the aspects of the old show for new generations - including the use of 3D animation. While I recognize the other three reviewers of this nine-minute short film have given it a 1/10 for their various reasons, I honestly can't say this brief animation is horrible even despite the fact it does show enough flaws for me to subtract one star. Even if it is nothing at all like the original 1959-1964 series in many additional ways (hence another star subtracted) "Rocky and Bullwinkle" contains plenty of charm and entertainment that makes it a fun short to see overall, so long as one doesn't look for it to be a reboot of any kind.

"Rocky and Bullwinkle" continues Boris and Natasha's typical plans to "kill moose and squirrel" with their latest idea that is guaranteed to work this time: a lady moose robot run by Boris that will kill Bullwinkle through various methods. Of course Bullwinkle falls for the robot despite it obviously being a fake, and it is not long before the two are to be married. The ending is history - not to say it's unoriginal but just along the same lines that one would find in a regular R&B episode.

The first flaw one might pick with the film is the animation style. Changing from traditional cartoon animation to CGI 3D animation is obviously a harsh contrast and might not go over well with many viewers, especially the die-hards. For me personally, I would have to say that while I would agree with those who side with the original visual style, I can also say that technically it is extremely well-done and despite being somewhat flashy does a nice job 'updating' the original series' admittedly cheap style. It would have been good if they'd stuck with trying to look like the original, but for what they did here I can't call it bad even if it does give the whole thing an extremely different and more immature feel.

The other flaws I noticed were more minor nitpicks, yet inexcusable considering the source material. The first one would be Rocky's voice, which, like the original is done by June Foray, but has clearly aged and sounds a little off compared to how it used to sound. Obviously, this cannot be criticized too far considering it had been half a decade since she had voiced Rocky originally, but it does show and feels a little different for die-hard fans (of which I belong to, having seen four out of five of the seasons of the original show). Ironically, the other voice actors that are different from the originals, while not perfect, felt a lot better-sounding.

This first flaw is petty compared to the second flaw, which is a plot hole more than anything else. At the wedding, Rocky's fight with Natasha is entirely out of place if you look at it technically, when one takes into account that in the series both Rocky and Bullwinkle were entirely oblivious to Boris and Natasha's plots, with only the slightest of suspicions ("That voice! Where have I heard that voice?"). For Rocky to address Natasha by name and talk to her while having a rather unorthodox sword fight is definitely a flaw since he was never supposed to be aware of their presence in the first place. The writing style as a whole is admittedly different without much in the way of puns or humor crammed into the script - a huge part of what made the original so good. This evidences how writing in animated films (and movies in general) has gone down in recent years over special effects and CGI.

In terms of pros, the short does a good job, the main plus being that it does a good deal of homages to the original cartoon throughout the brief runtime. Not only do they keep Boris Badenoff's poor English (which was always hilarious and a much-needed trademark) but they also thought to place a humorous "Bullwinkle's Corner" segment in the middle of the film. A similar-sounding narrator is included at intervals and gets to deliver his "be sure to be with us next time" shtick which I applaud for keeping in the spirit of the original. The ending is both comical and enjoyable, and feels like it could have been part of a genuine story arc in the TV show with the typical mayhem that results in Boris and Natasha always losing at the last minute. It is also great seeing cameos of Cap'n Peach Fuzz, Dudley Do-right, and other members of the gang at the ceremony.

Of course, the entire plot of the film is heavily contrived and squeezed within the eight minutes of story (the ninth being entirely credits) but this cannot be helped unless they were to make it into a feature-length film like the one from 2000 which I have yet to see. Overall though, I thought it was a fun little R&B adventure despite its flaws and the fact it is nothing like the original, with enough enjoyable ideas and a creative enough plot to make it good.
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We Bare Bears: Potty Time (2016)
Season Unknown, Episode Unknown
Unfunny One-Gag Episode
19 August 2020
I saw this episode of (or TV short for) "We Bare Bears" several years ago as a promo for the show coming to the Cartoon Network. At only a couple minutes while the regular episodes are around eleven minutes, it is certainly different in this regard but no better in terms of content. "We Bare Bears" has never been an interesting show to me, in its for little-kid drawing style, bland stories, and uninteresting premise all around. Maybe I've not seen enough to really judge, but one thing for certain is that the baby bear episodes are always the worst compared to the other ones (which could sometimes be alright) and "Potty Time" is sadly one of the former. Clearly these episodes were designed to be cute, but aren't at least to me and come of as bad attempts to be as such.

"Potty Time" relies upon one unfunny and immature plot thread: the baby bears desperately want people to adopt them, when Panda subtly warns them he has to go to the bathroom. So the three bears are running around looking for a bathroom, and then a sort of crude twist happens at the end that is mildly amusing but at the same time an unfunny use of potty-humor. At two minutes one can't criticize the short too much, but because it is already an uninteresting baby bear episode and also childishly unfunny, I can't really call it very good. I remember finding it somewhat funny the years ago I watched it, but now when looking back I just feel like it was nothing to write home about and sort of a dumb premise to begin with.
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A Good Excuse for Don Knotts to Leave Andy Griffith
15 August 2020
Warning: Spoilers
"The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" was one of several films that resulted from Don Knotts's choosing to leave the beloved "The Andy Griffith Show" in 1965. One of the main characters on the show, the moment Knotts left his lack of presence was felt by all of the fans; and the series, as a result, was simply not as good anymore without the lovably incompetent Barney Fife to steal the show. Within the final three seasons of "The Andy Griffith Show", he made only four appearances as a guest star: the next step in his career was his appearance in several movies in the mid-60's. While most of the fans have mourned that he should not have left and taken the life out of his show, the best that can be said for his decision was - simply put - the fact that "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" was the first movie in which he appeared following his abrupt exit. And considering how great a film it is, that's saying a lot.

"The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" is such a fun film that if one comes right down to it, they would doubtless admit that it turned out an actual good excuse for Knotts's skipping out. The setting of the movie is in a small American town, in which Knotts portrays an aspiring news reporter named Luther Heggs who is faced with the challenge to sleep in an old haunted house. It is obvious the writers of this film had definitely had a good share of watching "The Andy Griffith Show", because they pull all the 'chicken' they can out of Luther - in a sense, Luther is like a different version of Barney in his uptight, socially-awkward yet lovable and easy to relate to character. (Then again, such a character is the role Don Knotts was doubtless made to play). The supporting cast does every bit as well in what they are given, making the combined work of all actors and actresses shine in making everything memorable. The film is filled with a wonderful sense of fun always, with lots of great humor one can't deny that makes it a classic.

The trademark of "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" is the repeating line of "Atta boy, Luther!" shouted by a random participant in the crowd in numerous locations: the courtroom, the fair, and the wedding. A wonderful running gag like the frosting on the cake, this is just one of many classic pieces of humor in the movie. Further comedy is found sprinkled in through a variety of characters, from the gossipy old ladies at the breakfast table to Luther's old school teacher testifying on the witness stand regarding Luther's personality as a child, then saying "I hope I helped you Luther" (when really she did the opposite!) The climax, in which (SPOILERS) Luther manages to save his unearned girlfriend Alma from the man behind the strange goings-on is satisfactory indeed: like with Barney, we are all rooting for Luther to accomplish something and stand up for himself. As stated above, it is definitely like watching Andy Griffith all over again - only in a much darker setting - and this is no bad thing.

Overall, "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken" is every bit as enjoyable as seeing Barney with Andy Griffith, and in my opinion a worthy product of his leaving. Not only an interesting use of the 'haunted house' motif, but a great film filled with great classic Don Knotts comedy and much else besides. If Knotts's other movies after this were just as good, I may have to check those out...a classic movie and a great one for the whole family!
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Mr. Bean (1990–1995)
Brilliant, Funny, Entertaining British Slapstick
13 August 2020
Warning: Spoilers
When it comes to comedy in movies and television these days, it tends to be rather hard to find slapstick being used in a genuinely funny way anymore. If used at all, it will tend to be the type of slapstick used to elicit cheap laughs from the audience, from pratfalls to other physical gags that never tend to be truly amusing to the average viewer. If anything, most humor today either relies on sarcasm (a.k.a. meanness) or black comedy (which can be funny only if done properly). So when one sees a show like "Mr. Bean", which is entirely reliant on physical gags instead of witty dialogue, it comes as sort of a shock that such comedy can still be funny - if it's executed properly. And here, it absolutely and entirely is, thanks to a wonderfully comedic actor and an outstanding writing team.

"Mr. Bean" follows the adventures of (what would be considered by today's standards as) a mentally retarded man who has strange ways of doing things. With only fifteen half-hour episodes made, each episode does not follow any particular story at all, but rather a series of several different sequences of different situations Mr. Bean (or as he likes to call himself, "Bean") faces. Not all of the sequences are equally great: some tend to be lesser when compared to others, but as a whole all of them work in getting laughs. The situations themselves are always made creative, whether it's shopping at Christmastime, staying at a hotel, or going to the dentist - each one becoming an opportunity for a variety of physical gags. As a said above, the writing team really had imagination, and they suck all they can out of each idea with outstanding results.

The key to what makes "Mr. Bean" work is, as others have already said, the lack of dialogue. Mr. Bean rarely speaks in the episodes, which does not matter one bit since Rowan Atkinson's face and acting are enough to bring humor across already - the man was perfect for the part and I bet he had a really fun time getting to do all the slapstick without having to memorize tons of lines. Of course, because the show was British, the humor is obviously of a different quality than American humor, often tending to be more cringe for certain audiences today (though I certainly never saw it as such; my brother did, hence my mentioning of that aspect). This different British feel of humor did not make the entertainment value any less for me, although when it came to the sequences that contained a little bit of nudity I was rather torn, not approving of the glimpses we see of Mr. Bean's butt cheeks, but also accepting that none of it was intended as pornographic and meant to be seen as humorous (particularly when Mr. Bean locks himself naked outside his hotel room). I almost would have take one star off because of this - but because most of the nudity is implied and very little is actually shown, I have decided to keep my 10/10 rating.

The reason why it ended after only fifteen episodes is obvious. Not because the show was hated by most audiences, not because it was cancelled, but because of the premise. The fact that most episodes followed no particular story-line and consisted entirely of a series of unrelated sequences tells us the writers could only make up so much, and it then makes sense that after awhile they ran out of ideas. What we have is great, and shows us that one does not need to use sarcasm and black comedy to create laughs. "Mr. Bean" is one of the few examples of true slapstick still being seen these days, and it is outstanding - I've seen all the episodes and each one is a hilarious and top-notch piece of slapstick every time. Highly recommended and outstanding entertainment for the whole family.
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