Saturday, December 19, 2015

1980 - STAR WARS: THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK


If you can get through the first 30 minutes of this film with all the Millennium Falcon won't fly jokes
with Han Solo and Chewbacca hamming it up, this is a pretty decent sequel.

Geoege Lucas gave up direction on this film turning it over to a decent director of actors named Irvin Kershner.  But for the most part this was a Lucas production with his hand prints all over it especially in the special effects sequences which are still very good.



There may be a touch of what Andrew Sarris calls "strained seriousness"  running through this film but it certainly plays better then what the future held for the series.

124 minutes.


1955 - THE MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET, the stripped down version.



The stripped down version of the holiday film from the 1947 film to put it mildly.  This version has a decent director and cast and is not too offensive.  Apparently this version was part of something called the 20th Century Fox which was some sort of anthology series that at times hacked down and remade their old movies for TV.








The direction is by Walt Disney's go to guy Robert Stevenson and has a good cast with Thomas Mitchell, Theresa Wright and MacDonald Carey carrying the load.

60 minutes.

1977 - STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE


Preparing for the new Star Wars film and thought I would sit through the first three films.
So called episode 4 plays pretty good.  This was the enhanced version that George Lucas fooled around with adding more digital stuff to the film and so scenes that were previously cut.  Adding all this junk really didn't do anything for his film but it didn't hurt it. 

The cast looks incredibly young and The idea to add Peter Cushing and especially Alec Guinness was an inspired idea.  They brought some gravitas to what could have been a very silly film.  The trend setting computerized special effect were also a big deal at the time.  Before this with the exception of 2001:  A Space Odyssey did a science fiction film look this good.




It didn't escape many critics that Lucas "borrowed" from a lot of other films.  If is a film buff's dream to do a spot the reference to other movies particularly the final attack on the Death Star which is a mix of The Dam Busters and 633 Squadron.

Like I said the film still plays pretty well.

121 minutes.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

1955 - BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK - in Cinemascope


The director John Sturges shows Hollywood how to film in Cinemascope in this thriller that doesn't over stay it's welcome.


This is an MGM production a studio not exactly know for open mindedness when it comes to technological innovation or story content.  So it's kind of amazing Sturges was able to shoot on location instead of some Burbank soundstage.


Again, Sturges use of composition in the wide screen format is very impressive.



81 minutes.

2015 - A VERY MURRAY CHRISTMAS, not amused



20 minutes into this smarmy Christmas Special I pretty much had my fill of this supposed "cool" holiday show.  Bill Murray can't sing and to listen to him sing song after song was pure torture.

I get that the makers of this special are trying to have it both ways, deconstruct a typical Christmas Special like something Andy Williams or Perry Como would do, but the joke wore itself out after a while.  This show also attempts to trade on the cool guy persona of Bill Murray as he brings in a bunch of his Hollywood cronies to worship at the feet of cool guy Murray.


You know a musical comedy show is pretty bad when you are actually looking fotward to Miley Cyrus showing up during a dream sequence.  Maya Rudolph supposedly can sing but you would never know it from the piss poor sound recording of her Christmas performance.

Frankly the Bill Murray "coolest guy in the room" persona is getting a little tired and let's face it Murray's looking a little old to doing it.

 56 minutes.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

1934 - MAMA'S LITTLE PIRATE, an Our Gang short.


Championed by Leonard Maltin as the inspiration for The Goonies.  Mama's Little Pirate is just another version of Jack and the Beanstock. About the only thing these two films have in common is the search for treasure.  Sorry Leonard I think you might have got it wrong this time. 





18 minutes.

Monday, November 16, 2015

1938 - A YANK AT OXFORD, making them the way MGM likes them.


A Yank AT Oxford holds the distinction of being the first MGM film to be filmed in England instead of some studio set in Hollywood.  This is MGM at it's most typical, a good production and utter blandness in story content.  After all the studio didn't want to upset it's American or British audiences.

Robert Taylor is the cocky American student who excels at athletics.  He ends up getting a scholarship to study at Oxford and runs into the usual cultural differences that result when you mix the British and those darn Yanks together.  Honestly you could write this film in your sleep and considering the six writers I believe I counted in the titles they probably did.




The film if it has any interest at all is seeing Vivian Leigh in an early role before her breakout performance in Gone With The Wind.   

An empty film kind of a waste of time.

102 minutes