Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out gleefully turns the Star Wars characters into caricatures–it’s a mix of Empire and Episode One, apparently because that combination works out funniest. Darth Vader is upset when Darth Maul gets more of the Emperor’s attention, C–3PO (actually voiced by Anthony Daniels) annoys everyone, Luke is all of a sudden a heartthrob.
What’s impressive about Michael Price’s script is how well he tells the jokes. Lego Star Wars doesn’t revere its source material, but does appreciate it and all the pop culture hubbub it’s caused. The result’s far smarter for that approach. Price tells a lot of jokes I assumed he’d avoid.
The CG’s all fantastic; the shadowing makes some of the static LEGO figures appear to be physical rather than rendered. The John Williams music works well (and is the only thing used sincerely).
As expected, it’s fun, but smart too.
Directed by Guy Vasilovich; screenplay by Michael Price; edited by Michael D. Black; produced by Joshua Wexler; released by Cartoon Network.
Starring Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Kenneth Colley (Admiral Piett), Brian Blessed (Boss Nass), Julian Glover (General Veers), Lloyd Floyd (Luke Skywalker), Matt Sloan (Darth Vader), Ahmed Best (Jar Jar Binks), Lisa Fuson (Princess Leia Organa), John Armstrong (Han Solo), Andy Secombe (Watto), Tom Kane (Narrator / Yoda), Sam Witwer (Darth Maul / Emperor Palpatine) and Jason Canning (Admiral Ozzel).
Posted in 2012, Action, Animation, Cartoon Network, Color, English, Family, Sci-Fi, USA
Tagged Ahmed Best, Andy Secombe, Anthony Daniels, Brian Blessed, Guy Vasilovich, Jason Canning, John Armstrong, Joshua Wexler, Julian Glover, Kenneth Colley, Lisa Fuson, Lloyd Floyd, Matt Sloan, Michael D. Black, Michael Price, Sam Witwer, Tom Kane
Superman and the Mole Men is somewhat hard to watch–and not because of the goofy mole people costumes. The bad guys in the film aren’t the mole men, but the evil redneck townspeople who hunt them down. Mole Men runs less than an hour (a theatrical pilot for the “Adventures of Superman” TV series) but the constant hounding of the cute little mole men and unrelenting viciousness of main villain Jeff Corey makes it constantly uncomfortable.
The other problem is how ineffectual Superman’s presence is to quelling the viciousness. While George Reeves is pretty good as Superman, except the fists to hips stance, Robert Maxwell’s script doesn’t know what to do with him. Being super has nothing to do with Superman’s role in the picture. So an added frustration is knowing Superman should be saving the little mole men, but isn’t because Maxwell’s got him giving nonessential speeches.
As Kent, Reeves’s wink-wink performance doesn’t play well. When he’s giving a straight performance as a newspaper reporter, he’s a lot better. Phyllis Coates is barely present as Lois Lane; she’s not very good. Besides Corey, the best supporting work is from Walter Reed.
Clark Ramsey’s photography is weak. Sholem’s direction is competent enough. Mole Men‘s real villain is its small budget. The mole men had been running around ten minutes before I realized their sweatsuits were supposed to be their fur.
Darrell Calker’s score is nice.
Mole Men isn’t good, but it’s definitely has some good things about it.
Directed by Lee Sholem; screenplay by Robert Maxwell, based on characters created by Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel; director of photography, Clark Ramsey; edited by Albrecht Joseph; music by Darrell Calker; produced by Barney A. Sarecky; released by Lippert Pictures.
Starring George Reeves (Superman / Clark Kent), Phyllis Coates (Lois Lane), Jeff Corey (Luke Benson), Walter Reed (Bill Corrigan), J. Farrell MacDonald (Pop Shannon), Stanley Andrews (The Sheriff), Ray Walker (John Craig), Hal K. Dawson (Chuck Weber), John Baer (Dr. Reed), Frank Reicher (Hospital Superintendent) and Beverly Washburn (Child).
Posted in 1951, Action, Black and White, Drama, English, Family, Fantasy, Lippert Pictures, Sci-Fi, USA
Tagged Albrecht Joseph, Barney A. Sarecky, Beverly Washburn, Clark Ramsey, Darrell Calker, Frank Reicher, George Reeves, Hal K. Dawson, J. Farrell MacDonald, Jeff Corey, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, John Baer, Lee Sholem, Phyllis Coates, Ray Walker, Robert Maxwell, Stanley Andrews, Walter Reed
“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is near perfect. Director Melendez and writer Charles M. Schulz create this beautiful little experience. The special’s excellence is in its structure. “Pumpkin” has the main plot–Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, which actually starts as Linus writing the Great Pumpkin–and then the two subplots. First, the other Peanuts gang having Halloween and, second, Snoopy’s adventures as a World War I ace.
The three threads mix a lot–Snoopy shows up memorably in Linus’s story and Lucy is always giving Linus crap when she passes through his pumpkin patch–and the special creates its own cohesive universe. There’s no concern for anything outside it; Melendez and Schulz conceive it beautifully.
They even have time for capsule scenes, like Snoopy’s reactions to Schroeder’s piano playing.
And the end is absolutely perfect. It’s never schmaltzy and it’s always sincere without being saccharine. It’s magnificent.
Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; animated by Bob Bachman; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.
Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Sally Dryer (Lucy Van Pelt), Kathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Ann Altieri (Frieda / Violet), Gail DeFaria (Pigpen), Lisa DeFaria (Patty) and Glenn Mendelson (Schroeder / Shermy).
Posted in 1966, Animation, Color, Columbia Broadcasting System, Comedy, English, Family, Short, USA
Tagged Ann Altieri, Bill Melendez, Bob Bachman, Charles M. Schulz, Christopher Shea, Gail DeFaria, Glenn Mendelson, Kathy Steinberg, Lisa DeFaria, Peter Robbins, Robert T. Gillis, Sally Dryer, Vince Guaraldi
Assisted Fishing opens with two major problems indicative of the film’s overall deficiencies. John Samaha plays a trailer park mom (in addition to another role) and director Crouch opens with her watching a commercial featuring her son, the film’s protagonist. In one of Fishing‘s nicer moves, Crouch infers that information. Derek Haugen plays the protagonist, which isn’t material information right now. Anyway, in this commercial Haugen’s invention for attracting fish electrocutes them instead.
But it’s a commercial. Why would he run a commercial featuring his product electrocuting fish? It doesn’t make sense in the narrative, just as a dumb joke. And Fishing is full of dumb jokes. Unless you like fart jokes, an iguana whose internal dialogue appears to be in “angry black guy” voice and some misogyny; I found it trying and vaguely offensive. Crouch’s greatest influence seems to be crappy “Saturday Night Live” spin-off movies. Fishing‘s primary joke seems to be how unfunny its jokes play out.
As a director, Crouch isn’t bad. About two of three shots are okay–the third usually involves someone having to move in frame and Crouch doesn’t do those well. The music choices are weak but the Florida location shooting helps. Crouch really misses his chance at establishing the setting, which would have helped. Not a lot, but a little.
Sadly, Martin Milligan’s DV photography is weak.
Efforts like Assisted Fishing are great examples of why the Troma guys really were better than anyone else at enthusiastic low budget buffoonery.
Written and directed by Joe Crouch; director of photography, Martin Milligan; edited by Crouch and Derek Haugen.
Starring Derek Haugen (Dewey Winfield), Arlan Godthaab (Henry), Gary Dion (The General), Paul James Saunders (Bernie), John Samaha (Willie / Mama Bear), Sandra Weston (Agnes), Michael London (Eugene), Willow Hale (Luann), Allyson Sereboff (Monica), Peter Vander Meulen (Billy), Theresa Marie Lynch (Summer), Bill Fox (Clay), Tim Whittet (Jimmy Valentine), Wil Philip (Game Warden), Michael Langenbach (David Monroe) and Matt Cohen (The Mayor).
Posted in 2012, Color, Comedy, English, Family, Sport, USA
Tagged Allyson Sereboff, Arlan Godthaab, Bill Fox, Derek Haugen, Gary Dion, Joe Crouch, John Samaha, Martin Milligan, Matt Cohen, Michael Langenbach, Michael London, Paul James Saunders, Peter Vander Meulen, Sandra Weston, Theresa Marie Lynch, Tim Whittet, Wil Philip, Willow Hale
A Pig’s Tail is a lovely little short, thanks to the hands-on Aardman stop motion, Cox’s straightforward but enthusiastic direction, and Catherine Taylor’s voice acting as the protagonist. The short tells the story of a determined piglet who doesn’t exactly like being in a factory farm. She decides to do something about it.
The U.S. Humane Society co-produced Tail, so it has an educational component and that component occasionally gets in the way of good narrative. For example, the farmer–who is more traditionally animated (in a deft move)–is almost more sympathetic than the pigs. Especially given how Tail shows the reality of the brutality a starving, abused animal will render.
It’s almost too short for its own good–running about five minutes. Cox and her cast could probably have held up for a lot longer. As is, Tail is still a finely produced, delicately made film.
Directed by Sarah Cox; written by Matthew Walker; director of photography, Nathan Sale; edited by Victoria Stevens; music by Steven Delopoulos; produced by Jason Fletcher-Bartholomew and Christine Gutleben; released by The Humane Society of the United States.
Starring Catherine Taylor (Ginger), Sophie Angelson (Mama Pig), Heidi Lynch (Mean Piglet), James Arnold Parker (The Farmer) and Kaia Rose (Nice Piglet).
Posted in 2012, Adventure, Animation, Color, English, Family, Humane Society of the United States, Short, UK, USA
Tagged Catherine Taylor, Christine Gutleben, Heidi Lynch, James Arnold Parker, Jason Fletcher-Bartholomew, Kaia Rose, Matthew Walker, Nathan Sale, Sarah Cox, Sophie Angelson, Steven Delopoulos, Victoria Stevens
Ditching School to Whistle has some of the general problems of a documentary short subject, especially one about a quirky topic. Director–and film student–Chi recounts his adventure cutting school to compete in the International Whistlers Convention and he has these occasionally lame moments where his narration pushes for profundity.
But one can forgive such mistakes as Chi’s direction and editing is astonishingly good. All of his filmmaking instincts are right on–especially when one realizes he must have been shooting Ditching on prosumer cameras at best. He cleaned a lot of it up in post; the end product is phenomenally well-made.
He tries too hard to rationalize the whistling convention, offering too much complementary commentary on his interviewee’s lives. So, as a documentary maker he needs to develop a tad, but as a director he probably ought to be teaching those film classes instead of taking them.
Directed, produced and edited by Ien Chi.
Boys Will Be Joys is a strange Our Gang outing, simply because the story doesn’t belong to the Gang. Instead, sixty year-old industrialist Paul Weigel has grown bored being a successful grown-up and just wants to goof off.
Luckily, he happens to be developing a plot of land the Gang has built an incredible amateur amusement park on and they come by his office demanding he stop developing.
There’s a shocking lack of tension to Joys. It’s fairly certain from a few minutes in–after Weigel bats a couple balls with some teenagers in a ballgame–the Gang isn’t going to meet with much resistance from the “adult.” Weigel even orders his subordinates to run the machinery so the boys can enjoy the rides.
McGowan’s got some decent shots and the amusement park set-up is rather impressive.
I think there’s only one gag in the entire picture.
Directed by Robert F. McGowan; written by Hal Roach; titles by H.M. Walker; director of photography, Art Lloyd; edited by Richard C. Currier; produced by F. Richard Jones; released by Pathé Exchange.
Starring Allen ‘Farina’ Hoskins (Farina), Andy Samuel (Andy), Jackie Condon (Jackie), Jannie Hoskins (Jannie), Jay R. Smith (Jay), Johnny Downs (Johnny), Joe Cobb (Joe), Mickey Daniels (Mickey), Mary Kornman (Mary) and Paul Weigel (Henry Mills).
Posted in 1925, Black and White, Comedy, Family, Pathé, Short, USA
Tagged Allen 'Farina' Hoskins, Andy Samuel, Art Lloyd, F. Richard Jones, H.M. Walker, Hal Roach, Jackie Condon, Jannie Hoskins, Jay R. Smith, Joe Cobb, Johnny Downs, Mary Kornman, Mickey Daniels, Paul Weigel, Richard C. Currier, Robert F. McGowan
Who Framed Roger Rabbit, even with the absolute mess of a final act, would have really benefited from a better director.
Oh, Zemeckis isn’t bad. With Dean Cundey shooting the film, it’d be hard for it to look bad and it doesn’t. But Zemeckis doesn’t–apparently–know how to bring all the elements together. The film opens as a Chinatown homage and sort of falls apart once it deviates from that model.
The big problem is Bob Hoskins, his performance and his character. The performance isn’t the fault of screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, but the fully contrived backstory for the character is sure their responsibility. Roger Rabbit‘s so diverting–the animation mixes beautifully with the live action and is always visually engaging–the end credits are rolling by the time it’s clear Hoskins’s character is more cartoonish than the cartoons.
Since any judgment about character development can be delayed, Hoskins’s performance is the film’s bigger problem. He’s charmless in a role more appropriate for Humphrey Bogart. He does, however, work really well (without speaking) during the cartoon effects.
The rest of the supporting cast is very strong–Christopher Lloyd and Joanna Cassidy are both excellent. Voicing the cartoon leads Charles Fleischer and Kathleen Turner do well… though there aren’t enough great lines from Turner. There are like four, which are all outstanding, but no more.
The derivative Alan Silvestri score gets old immediately and Arthur Schmidt’s editing is bad, but, otherwise, Roger Rabbit‘s fun stuff.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis; animation director, Richard Williams; screenplay by Jeffrey Price and Peter S. Seaman, based on a novel by Gary K. Wolf; director of photography, Dean Cundey; edited by Arthur Schmidt; music by Alan Silvestri; production designers, Roger Cain and Elliot Scott; produced by Frank Marshall and Robert Watts; released by Touchstone Pictures.
Starring Bob Hoskins (Eddie Valiant), Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit / Benny The Cab / Greasy / Psycho), Christopher Lloyd (Judge Doom), Kathleen Turner (Jessica Rabbit), Joanna Cassidy (Dolores), Alan Tilvern (R.K. Maroon), Stubby Kaye (Marvin Acme), Lou Hirsch (Baby Herman) and David L. Lander (Smart Ass).
Roger Rabbit shorts:
Posted in 1988, Animation, Color, Comedy, Crime, English, Family, Fantasy, Mystery, Touchstone Pictures, USA
Tagged Alan Silvestri, Alan Tilvern, Arthur Schmidt, Bob Hoskins, Charles Fleischer, Christopher Lloyd, David L. Lander, Dean Cundey, Elliot Scott, Frank Marshall, Gary K. Wolf, Jeffrey Price, Joanna Cassidy, Kathleen Turner, Lou Hirsch, Peter S. Seaman, Richard Williams, Robert Watts, Robert Zemeckis, Roger Cain, Stubby Kaye
I think Trail Mix-Up is supposed to be zany, what with the inclusion of an adorable beaver and a cuddly bear in Roger Rabbit and Baby Herman’s trek through the wilderness.
It’s not very good, of course. Besides Droopy’s Jaws-related cameo and Jessica Rabbit showing up for a moment, there’s nothing memorable about it until the end. And, at the end, Roger Rabbit destroys the planet Earth… hopefully so there can be no more of these lame cartoons.
When looking for cartoons to ape, director Cook and his writers somehow miss the multiple outdoor-oriented Disney cartoons they could have referenced. Trail would’ve been much improved with an appearance from Ranger J. Audubon Woodlore.
It does benefit somewhat from Baby Herman actually being cute–he calls the beaver “doggy”–even if Roger’s as unlikable as always in his cartoon outings.
The animation’s competent, but lacks any substantial qualities.
Directed by Barry Cook; screenplay by Rob Minkoff, Cook, Mark Kausler and Patrick A. Ventura, based on characters created by Gary K. Wolf; edited by Victor Livingston; music by Bruce Broughton; released by Walt Disney Pictures.
Starring Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit), Kathleen Turner (Jessica Rabbit), April Winchell (Young Baby Herman / Mrs. Herman), Lou Hirsch (Adult Baby Herman), Corey Burton (Droopy Dog) and Frank Welker (Bear / Beaver).
Roger Rabbit shorts:
Posted in 1993, Animation, Color, Comedy, English, Family, Short, USA, Walt Disney Pictures
Tagged April Winchell, Barry Cook, Bruce Broughton, Charles Fleischer, Corey Burton, Frank Welker, Gary K. Wolf, Kathleen Turner, Lou Hirsch, Mark Kausler, Patrick A. Ventura, Rob Minkoff, Victor Livingston
Roller Coaster Rabbit is exceptionally overproduced. The animation is technically outstanding, just without any gags–Roger Rabbit makes a terrible cartoon protagonist because he’s an unlikable moron–but at the end it takes an odd turn towards the CG. There are some fire effects, there are a lot of spark effects, it’s as though Minkoff gave his traditional animators a break and let the tech guys handle the rest.
The paltry story involves Roger babysitting Baby Herman at a carnival. Baby Herman wants a balloon, which leads to a lot of trouble. Even though the initial gags aren’t funny, they’re more imaginative than the final one involving an endless roller coaster (hence the title). Four credited writers apparently couldn’t come up with a gag to break up the monotony.
Some of Minkoff’s direction is fantastic; while too infrequent, there’re a few outstanding shots.
And Charles Fleischer sounds bored as Roger.
Directed by Rob Minkoff and Frank Marshall; screenplay by Bill Kopp, Kevin Harkey, Lynne Naylor and Patrick A. Ventura, based on characters created by Gary K. Wolf; edited by Chuck Williams; music by Bruce Broughton; produced by Donald W. Ernst; released by Touchstone Pictures.
Starring Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit), Kathleen Turner (Jessica Rabbit), April Winchell (Young Baby Herman / Mrs. Herman), Lou Hirsch (Adult Baby Herman), Corey Burton (Droopy Dog) and Frank Welker (Bull).
Posted in 1990, Animation, Color, Comedy, English, Family, Short, Touchstone Pictures, USA
Tagged April Winchell, Bill Kopp, Bruce Broughton, Charles Fleischer, Chuck Williams, Corey Burton, Donald W. Ernst, Frank Marshall, Frank Welker, Gary K. Wolf, Kathleen Turner, Kevin Harkey, Lou Hirsch, Lynne Naylor, Patrick A. Ventura, Rob Minkoff