Author Topic: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar  (Read 98315 times)

Offline GSyren

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #105 on: July 30, 2013, 05:36:39 PM »
Just watching Air Crash Investigation on National Geographic about the 1956 crash over Grand Canyon. Although it's certainly no laughing matter, I just couldn't help a little chuckle when I learned that the pilot on the United flight was Captain Shirley.

Offline GSyren

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #106 on: July 31, 2013, 03:04:03 PM »
TitleThe Beast of Hollow Mountain (8-427328-750219)
DirectorEdward Nassour, Ismael Rodriguez
ActorsGuy Madison, Patricia Medina, Carlos Rivas, Edward Noriega, Julio Villarreal
Produced1956 in United States
Runtime79 minutes
AudioEnglish Dolby Digital Mono
SubtitlesFrench, Spanish
OverviewAn American cowboy living in Mexico discovers his cattle is being eaten by a giant prehistoric dinosaur.
My thoughtsWillis O'Brien, the man behind the animation and effects in King Kong, had an idea for a film with cowboys and dinosaurs. He never got to make that film, but his idea spawned two films; The Beast of Hollow Mountain and The Valley of Gwangi. Beast was first out, and is definitely the lesser of the two. And it's the one with the least dinosaur footage. Aside from a very short sequence, we're almost at the one hour mark of the 1:19 runtime before any real dinosaur action takes place. Before that it's a pretty routine cowboy movie.

The animation isn't very good. It would be a compliment to even call it second rate. The only exception is a few walking and running sequences that - according to Neil Pettigrew in his book "The Stop Motion Fimography" - is made with replacement animation. That entails making a set of fixed models that represent a walking/running cycle and using them one at a time over and over. This makes for a smooth animation, but looks a bit fake since there is no variation at all, every steep looks the same.

The Beast of Hollow Mountain was supposedly the first stop motion film to be shot in CinemaScope and color. Using back projection in color adds a level of problems, and several scenes show problems with color matching and fuzzy backgrounds. When Ray Harryhausen was asked to do 7th Voyage of Sinbad in color two years later, he hesitated and only gave in after much experimentation. Possibly he had seen the trouble they had in Beast.

If you have the chance, you should watch The Beast of Hollow Mountain followed directly by watching The Valley of Gwangi, and you will appreciate the greatness of Ray Harryhausen's animation. While Gwangi is certainly not a perfect movie, it's definitely better than Beast.

The Beast of Hollow Mountain is not easy to find on DVD, and if you're not a stop motion fan, it's hardly worth the trouble. The DVD I found is a Spanish region free PAL release. It's not anamorphic. The picture quality is just acceptable, and with one exception the print used is free from damage. It's certainly better than watching it online, though.
My rating2.5 out of 5

Offline GSyren

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #107 on: August 07, 2013, 09:51:23 AM »
TitleOz the Great and Powerful (8-717418-393489)
DirectorSam Raimi
ActorsJames Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Zach Braff
Produced2013 in United States
Runtime130 minutes
AudioEnglish DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Audio Descriptive Dolby Digital 2-Channel Stereo, Italian DTS 5.1, Russian Dolby Digital 5.1, Other Dolby Digital 5.1
SubtitlesEnglish, Italian, Other, Lithuanian, Russian, Greek, Estonian, Latvian
OverviewDisney's fantastical adventure Oz The Great And Powerful, from the director of the Spider-Man trilogy, follows Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with dubious ethics. When Diggs is hurled away to the vibrant Land of Oz, he thinks he's hit the jackpot – until he meets three witches (Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz and Michelle Williams), who aren't convinced he's the great wizard everyone's expecting. Reluctantly drawn into epic problems facing Oz and its inhabitants, Oscar must find out who is good and who is evil before it's too late. Putting his magical arts to use through illusion, ingenuity – and even some wizardry – Oscar transforms himself into the great Wizard and a better man as well.
My thoughtsThere have been Oz movies before and after 1939, but up til now the MGM version has been the definitive Oz movie. Oz the Great and Powerful is not just an adaption of one or more of L. Frank Baum’s books, but very clearly meant as a prequel to the 1939 movie. That’s both a strength and a weakness.

The 1939 movie isn’t really about the Wizard of Oz. It’s about Dorothy. This film is about the wizard. And also about the three witches. It totally ignores the other protagonists of the 1939 film, though; the scarecrow, the tinman and the cowardly lion.

But the bigger problem - for me anyway - is the wizard himself. Not having read the Baum books I cannot decide if he is true to the books, but that’s a bit beside the point. Since this is so clearly a prequel, it’s important that we can look at him and say, yes he could grow into the wizard we know from the 1939 film. And I just can’t see that.

Many have critizised James Franco’s portrayal of the wizard. And to some extent I agree with them. But the problem goes deeper than that. The problem is in the script. The wizard’s personality clashes way too much with the wizard we all know and love.

This film carries over at least two traditions from the 1939 film; it open in black and white, and figures from the ”real” world are carried over to Oz. But both these are failures, in my opinion. The transition from b&w to color is not nearly as inventive as in the original. And the figures carried over are too subtle. Two of them reappear in voice only, since their Oz characters are animated.

And there is yet another problem. Unlike the Baum books, the 1939 film clearly indicates that Dorothy’s adventure is all a dream. And if that’s the case, then this story makes no sense.

In a way I prefer the 1985 ”Return to Oz”, because it goes back to Baum’s books and doesn’t pretend to have any connection to the 1939 film. But despite all this I still like this film. For all its faults it still has a lot of charm, and it is technically impressive. I like the fact that a lot of the sets were built for real, so the actors didn’t just have to walk around empty greenscreen stages, like in many other films today. It does make a difference.

All in all, far from the perfect prequel to the 1939 film (as if that’s even possible). But still quite an entertaining film. Recommanded with reservations.
My rating4 out of 5

Offline Achim

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #108 on: August 08, 2013, 06:15:28 AM »
Nice review, thanks. I do want to see it, but maybe I should go for a rental first...

The 1939 movie isn’t really about the Wizard of Oz. It’s about Dorothy. This film is about the wizard. And also about the three witches.
I always thought there was four witches, two good ones and two bad ones, resp. one for North, South, East and West each. :headscratch:

Offline GSyren

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #109 on: August 08, 2013, 09:16:54 AM »
I always thought there was four witches, two good ones and two bad ones, resp. one for North, South, East and West each. :headscratch:
Seems logical, doesn't it? Maybe there were four witches in the books, but there are only three in the 1939 film, and also in this one. And of course in the 1939 film we only see the feet (or defeat, if you like  8)) of one of the bad witches after Dorothy's house lands on her.

Offline GSyren

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #110 on: August 08, 2013, 03:00:57 PM »
TitleBunny Lake is Missing (5-035822-932937)
DirectorOtto Preminger
ActorsKeir Dullea, Carol Lynley, Lucie Mannheim, Noël Coward, Delphi Lawrence
Produced1965 in United Kingdom
Runtime103 minutes
AudioEnglish Dolby Digital Mono
SubtitlesEnglish
OverviewWhen Ann Lake (Carol Lynley, The Poseidon Adventure) goes to pick up four year old Bunny at her new preschool in London, she's told that no child by that name is enrolled there...

Superintendent Newhouse (Academy Award® winner Laurence Olivier, Best Actor, 1948, Hamlet; The Boys From Brazil) of Scotland Yard is assigned to the case. His suspects include: Steven Lake (Keir Dullea, 2001: A Space Odyssey), the child's protective uncle; Horatio Wilson (Noël Coward, The Italian Job - 1969), the Lake's decadent landlord; and Aida Ford (Martita Hunt, Anastasia), the school's eccentric ex-headmistress, but he soon learns that no one has actually seen the child and there is absolutely no proof that Bunny ever existed.

Ann maintains the child's been kidnapped, but Newhouse begins to suspect that the hysterical young woman may just be insane. Bunny Lake is Missing is director Otto Preminger's (Anatomy of a Murder) controversial masterpiece of terror and suspense.
My thoughtsIf you only read the one line plot description on IMDb - A woman reports that her young daughter is missing, but there seems to be no evidence that she ever existed - you might well think that the film was Flightplan with Jodie Foster. The premise isn’t that new, though. But apart from that, these films have very little in common.

In this film, young mother Ann Lake has moved to London from Boston, and has left her four year old daughter for her first day at school. Since she was a bit late, there was nobody to hand over her daughter to, but the cook promised to keep an eye on Bunny. But when Ann comes to collect her daughter, Bunny is nowhere to be found, and none of the staff remembers seeing her and the cook has quit and left the school.

Going further into the story would be too much of a spoiler. I felt that the story didn’t really make sense in some places, and for me, the only surprise at the ending was how ”off” it seemed.

There are many good performances, though. The most pleasing one is Sir Laurence Olivier as a police superintendent. Carol Lynley as Ann Lake and Keir Dullea as her brother are ok, but it’s hard to shine in the company of so many great British actors; Anna Massey, Martita Hunt, Finlay Currie and Noël Coward, just to mention a few.

The pop group The Zombies get a credit, even though they’re only seen on TV (from ”Top of the Pops”, I believe), and one astute reviewer noted that even though we hear parts of three of their songs, the one that would have been most appropriate, ”She’s not there”, isn’t among them.

Uneven but interesting would be my verdict. Recommended, though.
My rating3 out of 5

Offline GSyren

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #111 on: August 26, 2013, 12:04:38 PM »
TitleSafety Last! (715515-106511)
DirectorFred Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
ActorsHarold Lloyd, Mildred Davis, Bill Strother, Noah Young, Westcott B. Clarke
Produced1923 in United States
Runtime74 minutes
AudioMusic Only PCM 2-Channel Stereo, Music Only PCM Mono, Commentary Dolby Digital 2-Channel Stereo
SubtitlesNone
OverviewThe comic genius of silent star Harold Lloyd is eternal. Chaplin was the sweet innocent, Keaton the stoic outsider, but Lloyd—the modern guy striving for success—is us. And with its torrent of perfectly executed gags and astonishing stunts, Safety Last! is the perfect introduction to him. Lloyd plays a small-town bumpkin trying to make it in the big city, who finds employment as a lowly department-store clerk. He comes up with a wild publicity stunt to draw attention to the store, resulting in an incredible feat of derring-do on his part that gets him started on the climb to success. Laugh-out-loud funny and jaw-dropping in equal measure, Safety Last! is a movie experience par excellence, anchored by a genuine legend.
My thoughtsThe featurette calls Harold Lloyd ”The Third Genius” (the other two being Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton). It’s a crying shame that so many people today haven’t heard of Harold Lloyd. He made lots of films and was one of the most successful actors of the silent era. Safety Last! is his best known film, and it’s absolutely great.

The scenes of Harold climbing the building are remarkably well done. You might think they were done using rear projection, but they were not. That technique had not been perfected yet. And even if it had, Lloyd probably wouldn’t have used it.

One small problem that the film holds, in my opinion, is that you know from the outset that Lloyd is going to get into peril on the ouside of the building, so the build-up - as funny as it is - feels like it’s dragging just a bit. You want to get to the exciting part. But the build-up is necessary in order to explain why Harold is climbing the building, so just sit tight and enjoy the gags.

The climbing sequence is brilliantly devised and executed. How many different unforseen obstacles can you encounter climbing a building wall? Well, lots. And they just get worse as Harold gets higher.

So, how does this 90 year old film look? It looks fantastic. There may be a few very minor blemishes, but short of a full scale restoration it’s hard to imagine that it could look any better.

I’m usually not that fond of silent movies. But there are a few that I just love. There’s the 1924 Thief of Bagdad. There’s Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. There’s Buster Keaton’s The General. There are a few others, too. But I think that my number one favorite is Safety Last!
My rating4.5 out of 5

Offline DSig

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #112 on: August 26, 2013, 03:42:51 PM »
I have to almost 100% agree ... silents don't float my boat but a good one is always enjoyable.  But Lloyd almost always goes past good right to Great.  Like Keaton and Chaplin, Lloyd really brings a punch to his performances.  I saw a special on him a couple years ago and am still unsure why he hasn't gotten the attention that the other two have.
Thank you
David

Offline Achim

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #113 on: August 27, 2013, 06:02:15 AM »
TitleSafety Last! (715515-106511)
My thoughtsThe featurette calls Harold Lloyd ”The Third Genius” (the other two being Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton). It’s a crying shame that so many people today haven’t heard of Harold Lloyd. He made lots of films and was one of the most successful actors of the silent era. Safety Last! is his best known film, and it’s absolutely great.

The scenes of Harold climbing the building are remarkably well done. You might think they were done using rear projection, but they were not. That technique had not been perfected yet. And even if it had, Lloyd probably wouldn’t have used it.
Mine arrived yesterday :)

I have know Harold since I was a little kid. I have always preferred his style over Chaplin (I bought some of his Criterion releases) and Keaton (I The General and might go for Steamboat Willie later on), although my favorites were always Laurel & Hardy, who are sadly underrepresented on DVD let alone Blu-ray.

Did the featurette also explain how the clock effect was achieved? While no rear projection was involved, Lloyd was not in complete danger...

Offline GSyren

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #114 on: August 27, 2013, 08:13:58 AM »
Did the featurette also explain how the clock effect was achieved? While no rear projection was involved, Lloyd was not in complete danger...
Oh yes, it was explained in detail. Not quite as dangerous as it looks, no, but risky enough. I didn't want to go into any detail because it's a bit of a spoiler for those who may not have seen the film yet.
Quote
my favorites were always Laurel & Hardy, who are sadly underrepresented on DVD let alone Blu-ray
Agreed, but they were not stars of the silent era. Have you checked out this one?
Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Offline Achim

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #115 on: August 28, 2013, 06:11:15 AM »
Oh yes, it was explained in detail. Not quite as dangerous as it looks, no, but risky enough. I didn't want to go into any detail because it's a bit of a spoiler for those who may not have seen the film yet.
The video I have seen may actually have been on Criterions website or their YouTube channel; so probably the exact same thing you saw :bag:

Quote
Agreed, but they were not stars of the silent era. Have you checked out this one?
Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection
No, hadn't seen it. I have added it to my wish list. Released 2011, so not even old...

Weren't they active throughout the transition from silent to sound, just like Chaplin? Maybe with Chaplin more grounded in silent and laurel and Hady more in sound...? (I seem them all more of comedy stars of that "era" in general, maybe limited to b/w films.)
« Last Edit: August 28, 2013, 06:13:52 AM by Achim »

Offline GSyren

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #116 on: August 28, 2013, 10:18:34 AM »
Maybe with Chaplin more grounded in silent and laurel and Hady more in sound...?
Yes, that's what I meant. L&H certainly did some silent shorts, but the main body or their work was in sound.

I know that Babes in Toyland, and possibly some other of their films, has been colorized, but I don't think any of their films were actually shot in color.

Offline Achim

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #117 on: August 28, 2013, 05:35:01 PM »
Babes in Toyland is available on Blu-ray in Region A as March of the Wooden Soldiers. I fix this to be a rather weak film and to add insult to injury, they are not in it enough.

It actually seems to be Sweden (?) where a decent amount of Blu-rays is available...

They used to be on German TV a lot when I was a kid. One of the few things the whole family enjoyed to watch.

Offline GSyren

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #118 on: August 28, 2013, 08:18:23 PM »
Well, I had no idea that there were 6 Scandinavian BD releases of Laurel & Hardy films. They're released by Soul Media, which I believe is a Danish company. They have Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish subtitles.

Not their most well known titles, perhaps; A-Haunting We Will Go, The Bullfighters, The Dancing Masters, The Big Noise, Jitterbugs and Great Guns.

Offline Achim

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Re: Reviews and ramblings by Gunnar
« Reply #119 on: August 29, 2013, 06:05:37 AM »
The one I remember well from childhood is Way Out West, so that might be one to have. Or maybe a collection of shorts; like the set you suggested, but at this point I'd prefer Blu-rays.


FWIW, I sent a suggestion to Criterion to consider Laurel & Hardy.