Final Deadball is a strange little thing.
At first I thought it would be incomprehensible without seeing Deadball–Final is a short spin-off semi-sequel for one of the supporting cast in Deadball–but halfway through there’s a big expository scene so one might be able to understand it without seeing the feature.
I wish I had some names but nothing was translated except the title.
It mostly consists of the protagonist, a recently released juvenile delinquent, trying to escape from his fate. The murderous deadball follows him around, killing bystanders, as he tries to escape it.
The guy who plays the protagonist is fantastic. Final is on DV and appears to be no budget, so the technical values–while creative–aren’t fantastic. But the lead stays professional, even though he’s in poorly lighted frames. He maintains sympathy throughout.
It’s got a surprising amount of depth, given the constraints.
Released by Nikkatsu.
While it is exceptionally bad, Hybrids does have some really good CG composites. The fight scenes are incredible for a short; sure, the design of the evil alien monsters is laughable, but the silly monsters do exist in the physical environments.
Hybrids has three problems. First–and actually least important–is it’s pointless. It’s fine if Hybrids is a demo reel for CG effects; it doesn’t have to be awful though. Director Kalyn switches between bad Malick impressions for blissful country life and lousy future junkyard action for the fights. His writing’s even worse though. These aliens can master long distance space travel but they’re morons.
Another big problem is lead Daniella Evangelista. She’s goofy when she’s acting tough and her voiceover narration is awful.
At six minutes, Kalyn manages to be boring. Special effects competencies aside, Hybrids offers nothing.
A straight demo reel of ugly aliens would’ve been better.
Written, directed and edited by Patrick Kalyn; director of photography, Cliff Hokanson; music by Sam Hulick; produced by Gabriel Napora.
Starring Daniella Evangelista (Dakota) and Kaitlyn Bernard (Abigail).
Posted in 2013, Canada, Color, English, Sci-Fi, Short
Tagged Cliff Hokanson, Daniella Evangelista, Gabriel Napora, Kaitlyn Bernard, Patrick Kalyn, Sam Hulick
Motherland wasn’t made with a reference copy of Film Symbolism for Dummies handy. Director Appell apparently had a copy of Film Symbolism for Complete Freaking Morons on hand instead. It’s painful to watch, especially towards the end. Appell actually gets worse after aping the little girl in red from Schindler’s List. I didn’t know you could get cheaper with sentimentality than ripping off Schindler’s List, but Appell manages.
The short is a mix of CG and live action. The design–combining Soviet architecture and Nazi Germany visual staples–isn’t bad. The CG isn’t particularly good though. Stevo Arendt’s photography is awful. It doesn’t match the CG lighting and Appell’s ambitions for Motherland flop due to its technical incompetencies.
As for the acting… none of the actors speak, which is probably a good thing. They’re terrible without dialogue; they’d probably be worse with it.
It’s a risible attempt at “deep” filmmaking.
Written and directed by Hannes Appell; co-directed by Krystof Zlatnik; director of photography, Stevo Arendt; music by David Christiansen; produced by Libor Tesacek and Felix Vollmar.
Starring Simona Sbaffi (Mother), Christina Uhland (Daughter), Moritz Gaa (Worker), Ulrich K. Günther (Capitalist) and Bernhard Linke (Soldier).
Posted in 2010, Color, Germany, Short
Tagged Bernhard Linke, Christina Uhland, David Christiansen, Felix Vollmar, Hannes Appell, Krystof Zlatnik, Libor Tesacek, Moritz Gaa, Simona Sbaffi, Stevo Arendt, Ulrich K. Günther
Until the Missing Link shows up, The Dinosaur and the Missing Link is strangely realistic. Director O’Brien’s stop motion creations–he always uses long shot–seem like actors, like any other silent with a terrible print. It’s eerie. Even the gorilla-like Missing Link occasionally looks like a guy in costume. O’Brien’s eyes are fantastic, along with characters’ barely moving pauses between lines.
O’Brien imagines the prehistoric world as a spoof on high society. For a while, it’s just a really funny short. Then, once the Missing Link arrives, it’s clear O’Brien’s going to make the stop motion exciting in addition to excellent. The cast goes on a hunt, one involving a fantastic bow and arrow shot, the titular Dinosaur and a lot of landscape sets. Models. You know what I mean.
For the conclusion, O’Brien finds a mix of humor, realism and special effects. It’s a wonderful little picture.
Directed, animated and photographed by Willis O’Brien; produced by Herman Wobbler; released by Conquest Pictures.
Breaking Even has a number of surprises. Its star, Tom Howard, came from vaudeville and it shows. Not in a bad way, the short’s structured for his style. The only bad thing about Even is its editing. Director Scotto can direct dialogue sequences fine, but when he’s got to move the camera, it always ends in a bad edit. The disjointed cuts are probably his fault and not the uncredited editor’s.
Anyway, Howard plays a know-it-all who tries to talk a man in distress (George Shelton) out of committing suicide. It doesn’t going expectedly. The best parts are when Howard and Shelton are clearly making the other want to laugh.
In addition to the back and forth, there are a couple impressive sight gags. The final one’s a little obvious–and not the best joke for the situation–but Even’s a fairly amusing short. Howard’s always moving.
Directed by Aubrey Scotto; written by Harry W. Conn; released by Paramount Pictures.
Starring Tom Howard (the shopowner) and George Shelton (the businessman).
“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
Despite Michael Curtiz directing and Claude Rains starring–Curtiz does better than Rains–Sons of Liberty is a rather tepid little short.
Rains plays a Jewish proto-American (circa 1776) who sacrifices all for the United States. He even dies penniless because he won’t sign a document on the Sabbath. Of course, Liberty never says the word “Jewish.” I was shocked when someone identified a rabbi by title.
The short also has a lot of problems establishing characters. Gale Sondergaard shows up as Rains’s wife–she’s not very good either. She shows up after Rains has supposedly been in jail for a year. I understand they’re playing fast and loose with history–I didn’t look up the real story because I wouldn’t want it ruined–but Curtiz and writer Crane Wilbur ignore even the most basic narrative requirements.
While it’s interesting as a historical document, but Liberty is a flop.
Directed by Michael Curtiz; written by Crane Wilbur; directors of photography, Sol Polito and Ray Rennahan; edited by Thomas Pratt; music by Howard Jackson; produced by Gordon Hollingshead; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Claude Rains (Haym Salomon), Gale Sondergaard (Rachel Salomon), Donald Crisp (Alexander McDougall), Montagu Love (George Washington), Henry O’Neill (Member of Continental Congress) and James Stephenson (Colonel Tillman).
Posted in 1939, Biography, Color, Drama, English, History, Short, USA, Warner Bros.
Tagged Claude Rains, Crane Wilbur, Donald Crisp, Gale Sondergaard, Gordon Hollingshead, Henry O'Neill, Howard Jackson, James Stephenson, Michael Curtiz, Montagu Love, Ray Rennahan, Sol Polito, Thomas Pratt
The Horse plays a little like the end of another movie, like Burnett cut off the first hour and a half and just left the finale. He forces the viewer to distance him or herself from the film’s narrative as much as possible–the characters all know one another, the viewer never gets an introduction.
Burnett opens the film on a very long shot of the California countryside. A car approaches. Until that car shows up, it looks like a painting. Besides the car, it’s impossibly motionless. But instead of the car arriving and bringing the viewer in, Burnett pushes them out again. One watches The Horse always listening closely, always wondering if some detail is too understated.
When the film comes to its conclusion, Burnett has just made the viewer wait twelve minutes and explained nothing. The end makes The Horse even more confounding.
It’s affecting more than successful.
Written, edited, produced and directed by Charles Burnett; director of photography, Ian Conner.
Starring Gordon Houston (William), Maury Wright (Ray’s boy), Gary Morrin (Walter), Roger Collins (West), George Williams (Lee) and Larry Clark (Ray).
Posted in 1973, Color, Drama, English, Short, USA
Tagged Charles Burnett, Gary Morrin, George Williams, Gordon Houston, Ian Conner, Larry Clark, Maury Wright, Roger Collins
The Studio Murder Mystery is a lame little short mystery. It takes place at a Hollywood studio, just before and after a troublesome star is murdered. The before parts aren’t so bad–Henabery has a little fun with the movie in the movie stuff and the scene at the commissary where the cast’s gossip establishes the ground situation works too.
But then there’s the murder and the detectives arrive. Donald Meek’s the criminologist, John Hamilton’s the experienced copper. They have absolutely no chemistry together and Burnet Hershey’s script toggles between the two investigating. They never work together on the case.
The conclusion has a meager chase scene. Studio was obviously done cheap and Henabery just doesn’t have the chops to make a cheap chase work. He also can’t get it to pace well–the mystery is too thin–and Studio drags at nineteen minutes. The last handful are agonizingly boring.
Directed by Joseph Henabery; screenplay by Burnet Hershey, based on a story by S.S. Van Dine; director of photography, Edwin B. DuPar; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Donald Meek (Dr. Crabtree), John Hamilton (Insp. Carr), Robert Middlemass (Boris Seminoff), Thelma Tipson (Dolly Demarest), Walter Fenner (Ian Stevens) and Jane Bramley (Mae Norton).
Doctor Crabtree and Inspector Carr series:
Posted in 1932, Black and White, English, Mystery, Short, USA, Warner Bros.
Tagged Burnet Hershey, Donald Meek, Edwin B. DuPar, Jane Bramley, John Hamilton, Joseph Henabery, Robert Middlemass, S.S. Van Dine, Thelma Tipson, Walter Fenner
Ah, the joys of boyhood. Watching A Day with the Boys, one quickly tires of all the outdoor activities director Gulager chronicles. The titular boys have no names and no dialogue–Boys is entirely dialogue-free–and they just act adorably rambunctious. When they’re sliding down a hill on cardboard sheets, they even put their faithful dog in a box so he can join them.
The film’s extremely well-made. Gulager has a lot of excellent help from László Kovács’s photography and especially Robert F. Shugrue’s editing. The process shots are stunning.
But he doesn’t seem to have a point. It’s all very idyllic, then it starts getting monotonous. The only thing suggesting otherwise is Michel Mention’s occasionally ominous score. It doesn’t seem like Gulager has any insight into boyhood.
Then, as it turns out, he does have some insight and it’s startling. Boys is a fantastic piece of filmmaking.
Written, produced and directed by Clu Gulager; director of photography, László Kovács; edited by Robert F. Shugrue; music by Michel Mention; released by Universal Pictures.
Starring Mike Hertel (Boy), Jack Grindle (Boy), John McCaffrey (Boy), William Elliott (Boy), Craig Williams (Boy), Mark Spirtos (Boy), John Gulager (Boy), Artie Conkling (Boy), Ricky Bender (Boy) and James Kearce (The Businessman).
Posted in 1969, Color, Drama, Short, Universal Pictures, USA
Tagged Artie Conkling, Clu Gulager, Craig Williams, Jack Grindle, James Kearce, John Gulager, John McCaffrey, László Kovács, Mark Spirtos, Michel Mention, Mike Hertel, Ricky Bender, Robert F. Shugrue, William Elliott