Thursday, September 27, 2018

Predator Week, part I: The most dangerous game


Quite possibly the 1980s' finest combination of brains and brawn, you'd think Predator would be rated even higher than it already is.

Directed by John McTiernan
Written by Jim Thomas, John Thomas, and David Peoples
With Arnold Schwarzenegger (Dutch), Carl Weathers (Dillon), Bill Duke (Mack), Richard Chaves (Poncho), Sonny Landham (Billy), Jesse Ventura (Cooper), Shane Black (Hawkins), Elpidia Carillo (Anna), and Kevin Peter Hall (the Predator)

Spoiler alert: we're all going to die

Monday, September 24, 2018

Walt Disney, part IV: The happiest place on Earth


An odd little prepackaged voyage through Walt's then-new studio in Burbank, The Reluctant Dragon doesn't accomplish much, though I certainly don't begrudge its existence.  At least, not as a bonus feature on the Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad blu-ray.  As a theatrical feature film, on the other hand...

Directed by Alfred Werker and Hamilton Luske
With Robert Benchley (Robert Benchley), Nana Bryant (Mrs. Benchley), Frances Gifford (Doris), Buddy Pepper (Humphrey), Clarence Nash (Clarence Nash and Donald Duck), Florence Gill (Florence Gill and Clara Cluck), various other Disney employees and, for some reason, Alan Ladd (various Disney employees), and Walt Disney (Walt Disney), plus Billy Lee (the Boy in "The Reluctant Dragon"), Claud Allister (Sir Giles in "The Reluctant Dragon"), and Barnett Parker (the Dragon in "The Reluctant Dragon")

Spoiler alert: moderate, and not really applicable

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Walt Disney, part III: Serious Symphony


One of the most ambitious cinematic endeavors of all time, Fantasia is the masterpiece of Disney's Golden Age, and perhaps the greatest and most successful experiment in animation attempted by anyone in any age.

"Tocatta and Fugue in D Minor" and "The Nutcracker Suite" directed by Samuel Armstrong; "The Sorceror's Apprentice" directed by James Algar; "Rite of Spring" directed by Bill Roberts and Paul Satterfield; "Meet the Soundtrack" directed by David Hand and Ben Sharpsteen; "The Pastoral Symphony" directed by Jim Handley and Hamilton Luske; "Dance of the Hours" directed by Norman Ferguson and Thornton Hee; "Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria" directed by Wilfred Jackson
With Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor, and Walt Disney

Spoiler alert: inapplicable

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Walt Disney, part II: There are no strings on me


As a lavishly-mounted exercise in how, through magic and hard work, something unliving becomes alive, you could call Pinocchio the very essence of animation.  You could, that is, if you liked it a lot more than I do.

Directed by Bill Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske
With Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket), Christian Rub (Gepetto), Frankie Dorro (Lampwick), Walter Catlett ("Honest" John Worthington Foulfellow), Mel Blanc (Gideon the Cat's hiccups), Charles Judels (Stromboli), and Evelyn Venable (the Blue Fairy)

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Disney's Challengers, part I: Going up against the giant


Gulliver's Travels was the second feature-length animated film ever, and this quickly-fading novelty is the only sensible reason it made any money at all in 1939—because the most useful thing it ever does otherwise is provide a handy 86 minute explanation of why feature animation effectively stayed a Disney monopoly for half a century afterwards.

Directed by Dave Fleischer
Written by Dan Gordon, Cal Howard, Tedd Pierce, Edmond Seward and Isadore Sparber (based on Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World.  In Four Parts.  By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, Then a Captain of Several Ships by Jonathan Swift)
With Sam Parker (Lemuel Gulliver), Pinto Corvig (Gabby), Jack Mercer (King Little III), Tedd Pierce (King Bombo), Jessica Dragonette and Livonia Warren (Princess Glory), and Lanny Ross and Cal Howard (Prince David)

Spoiler alert: hell, it only gets one fourth of the way through

Monday, September 3, 2018

Father of the year


It may be a gimmick in search of a more resonant story, but Searching is a perfectly solid episode of SVU with an even-more-solid central performance from John Cho's face.

Directed by Aneesh Chaganty
Written by Sev Ohanian and Aneesh Chagnaty
With John Cho (David Kim), Michelle La (Margot Kim), Joseph Lee (Peter Kim), Sara Sohn (Pamela Nam Kim), and Debra Messing (Det. Rosemary Vick)

Spoiler alert: mild

Cardboard Science: Calculate your chances... negative... negative... negative...


Somewhere between must-see surrealist psychothriller and complete Z-movie trash, I don't suppose there's any compelling reason why Robot Monster can't be both.

Directed by Phil Tucker
Written by Wyott Ordung
With Gregory Moffett (Johnny), Claudia Barrett (Alice), George Nader (Roy), John Mylong (The Professor), Selena Royle (Mother), Pamela Paulson (Carla), and George Barrows/John Brown (Ro-Man Extension XJ-2 and Great Guidance)

Spoiler alert: high; and likewise high for Invaders From Mars (1953)