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Friday, December 21, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas: 1965


Release date: December 9, 1965 (initial release)
Director: Bill Melendez
Running time: 25 minutes
DVD release date: September 12, 2000
Sequel: A Boy Named Charlie Brown
  
   Well, the Christmas Season is upon us yet again. I guess now it's time to review a Christmas-ish movie, and this year I've picked one that I hold very dear. I watched this movie so many times when I was younger, and it has been quite awhile since I sat down with it again. I am also quite glad that I still own this film today on VHS, because in a bit we'll never see the likes of the format again. I know that this film is very different from my last selection, "Santa Clause Conquers The Martians," but who knows, maybe next year I'll have something stranger in store. But now, lets not waste any time in taking a look at a childhood memory of mine, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

   All my life I've had sort of had a bone to pick with commercialism, and it only just occurred to me that this may be where that originated. This movie, or short film isn't entirely about Christmas (as far as Christmas specials go. You all know how a Christmas special goes! The characters in the show meet Santa and help him with some problem he has, and they take it upon themselves to quote on quote, "Save Christmas," by delivering the presents to all the good girls and boys, but this doesn't happen here. In fact, the characters never see Santa at all, and what's more is that he's not even mentioned! The only thing Christmas-related in the special, is a Christmas tree. And I submit to you, dear readers, that this short film represents the true meaning of Christmas better than any other episode submitted to public entertainment with the similar, if not the same intention. 

   The plot of the short film goes like this. Charlie Brown is feeling a bit down during the Christmas season, but he can't figure out why. While trying to deal with this dilemma, he is chosen by his, "friends" to be the director of the Christmas play they are presenting in their school (with no adults around, of course). Charlie Brown really tries his best in directing the actors and positions to create the play they were intended to present. This, unfortunately does not go over well, and Charlie Brown decides with a complete lack of cooperation, and because the rest of the world is being too commercial, none of the play can be presented. They decide that the thing that the play needs is a Christmas Tree to give the play an authentic look. Charlie and Linus proceed into town to find the biggest tree, but when they get there, they notice that all of the tree's being sold are aluminum (all except one). The only wooden tree left in the lot was the smallest, and overall most unappealing one there. Charlie Brown picks this tree, because he said, "it needed him." It is my belief that the other reason Charlie picks this tree, is because he relates to it. throughout the strips he has been in, Charlie Brown has always thought little of himself, if anything at all. But he always tells the truth, and he does the best that he can in anything he tries to do. The film shows an example of this when Charlie Brown is given the task of directing the school play.

   When Charlie Brown presents the tree to the others, they insult the tree's value, and by extension, insult Charlie Brown's value in their usual fashion. But before Charlie loses all hope, Linus divulges the true meaning of Christmas, plain and simply. Charlie Brown then takes the tree outside (the others following) and tries to decorate the tree with a single ornament, but the tree bends over, and Charlie Brown believes that he killed the tree, and (once again) by extension, the spirit of Christmas. But the theme of the film appears at the very end, when the others decide (supposedly in Charlie Brown's pity) that the tree wasn't as bad as they had originally thought. They decorate the tree and make it look nice, and surprise Charlie Brown with their cooperation, thus reconstructing the traditional Christmas. The End.

      I like this movie, and people in general like this movie and I think I know why. Everyone at one time has felt as though they were not accepted or understood. This is what Charlie Brown goes through in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," among other things.we connect with the character, and since the story revolves around the character, we also connect with the story. So, for a simple 20 minuet long story, it is quite engaging. Every character in the peanut series is a bully to Charlie Brown, maybe with the exception of Linus. This is because Charlie Brown doesn't really stand up for himself, so he's easy to knock down frequently. He is different from the group, and when this is pointed out to him, he feels bad about it and considers changing. On the contrary, one of the character's, Pigpen (my favorite) is also different from the bunch. However, what differentiates Pigpen from Charlie Brown, is due to their tolerance for who they are. In other words, Pigpen is secure, while Charlie Brown is not. In the comics, Charlie Brown frequently became agitated by Pigpen, because he didn't care about the way he looked or did things and the rest of the group (for the most part) accepted him. Pigpen just didn't care what anyone thought, and that's why he is my favorite character in the Peanuts franchise. So, on that note, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, and for the more extreme one's Happy D-Day! I've got some more cult favorites coming at ya for the next few months, but for my next review I think I'll take a detour down doomsday lane.

8.2/10


Click here to watch the trailer
Next Review: 2012 2009

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 1975


Release date: September 26, 1975 (USA)
Director: Jim Sharman
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 100 minutes
Sequel: Shock Treatment


(Note: If you don't care about recent developments regarding "Cult Classic Theater", skip this paragraph.")


   Finally! After almost a year of writing, I have summoned the strength to tackle the strange and misunderstood realm of film known as, "cult classics." I would be remiss,  if I did not look into such a genre in the time that I have dedicated towards building upon this blog. To be honest, I never really understood what it meant, "Cult Classic." What I mean is, I never really understood it when coming up with the name for the blog. I thought it would just be a nice sounding name to call a hobby. At the time, I never really gave the title's meaning much thought. Now that I know, I feel rather stupid when recalling previous conversations with others. "So what do you like to do with your free time, Albert?" "Well, I like to review horror films on a blog I have called 'Cult Classic Theater'. The reason that I have brought up this inconsistency, is because I have been thinking about changing the title of the blog. I have recently introduced this website to a friend who will be, from now on, reviewing films with me. Look for "2001: A Space Odyssey" in a bit. That's all I really have to say, so now, here's "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

   Directed by the strange and wild Jim Sherman, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is a musical about a couple that wander into a mansion after their car breaking down to use their telephone. This is the only part in the film that isn't strange. What is strange, comes after they are let inside. Now, what I should remind you, is that up until this point the pacing for the film has been very...regular. A couple, different from the one in the story that we follow, is married. After we see that they come out of the chapel awaiting the guests that are ready to shower them with rice and praise, we are to assume that these are the characters that we will be following. This, however, is not true. It is instead false foreshadowing for stranger events to take place. After the bride and groom leave the scene, we are introduced to Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon), who sing the second song. 

   I liked the song very much, and I figured that this being the very first official song of the film, that it would establish the mood for the rest of the movie. It did not. It in fact, the mood became increasingly stranger until the conclusion of the film. And you also become increasingly uncomfortable while everything is happening around you because you cannot stop it. You cannot stop Brad and Janet from going to the mansion, and then entering the mansion and by extension their demise. And when it's finally over you know you can't un-watch anything. You saw it and you can never again say, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Never heard of it!" But this is where it gets interesting. Because once you finish the film, you come out of the theater or your living room as either one person or another. You either hated this movie, or you really liked it. And...what the @#!*% , I really liked this movie!

   I really did! And it wasn't that I connected with the film  on any level whatsoever, but it was that somebody was actually allowed to make this film! It took a lot of guts to film what awhile ago would have been identified as un-filmable. It's like if you were to take a look inside of any one's mind while they were daydreaming alone in a closet with the door shut and the lights out...under the covers...and under a bed. Don't ask me how you would do it, because it probably couldn't be done. Just ask how okay you would have to be with yourself to film it! And one of the reasons that some people don't particularly enjoy the film is because they aren't okay with themselves and what their mind does when they are alone. Some people are too old, and others need some foundation in a film. That's another thing too; the plot is just frightening. And I'm not saying that in the sense that things in the film are scary (there are many scary things in the movie), but I'm saying that the plot is driving on a dangerous path. I'll try to explain this the best that I can, but you really need to see the film in order to understand where it is I'm coming from. 

   Pretend that you and your family are all in one car driving to your uncle Joe's house simply for the purpose of auctioning his used lawn chairs and broken china to his only neighbor's pet dog and cat. Pretend that you were the only one in the car that didn't know that this was what you were doing when you got to your Uncle Joe's place, and you simply thought that you were paying him a visit. Pretend that your Uncle Joe's house is precariously placed on the very top of a steep cliff. Pretend that you figured it would only take you an hour to get from the bottom of the cliff to the top of the cliff, but it actually took three hours. Now pretend that the music on the radio in the car you were in was really good, but your family wouldn't stop talking long enough for you to actually listen to it. Pretend that your car starts swerving because your going so fast you can't see anything. Pretend that the cliff around you begins falling off, and now everyone in the car is wearing fishnet stockings, and wearing funny hats, and singing and although you judge that they are singing well you cannot tell what it is they are singing about and you just want an explanation of what's happening around you and you try to ask a question but no-one can hear you and now pretend you are suddenly at the house and everyone in the car simultaneously tells you at the same time that the reason that you are at your Uncle Joe's house is to auction his used lawn chairs and china to his neighbor's pets. And now your thinking to yourself, "Should I freak out right now? Or, should I accept these events that are now unfolding before me?" And that, is to me what, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" feels like. It's a train wreak you can't take your eyes off of, but you have a feeling that there was a reason that the train had to crash and you just don't know why. 

   The Rocky Horror Picture Show is riddled with shocking visuals, that put you at the edge of your comfort zone. The music is very well composed (in my opinion), and there is room for interpret-ability when it comes to the meanings of those songs, and even the film in general.  I can't really stress how much you have to see this movie. Who knows? You might hate this movie so much, that you'll never be able to look at Tim Curry ever again. But maybe you'll like it, and if you do you're not alone. Even today there are extra screenings of the film in select theaters. People dress up as there favorite characters, and sing along with the movie. If that sounds fun to you, try looking to see where the next screening will take place, and bring your friends. You just might have some fun. After all, it's true what they say, "You may have seen many movies, but you've never seen anything like 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'." 

   7/10



Next Review: A Charlie Brown Christmas 1965


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Wolf Man: 1941


Release date: 1941 (initial release)
Director: George Waggner
MPAA rating: R
Prequel: Werewolf of London
Sequel: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man

   Welcome to my second Halloween review! In case you are not a dedicated follower, or you don't often read my reviews, every Hollows Eve I review one of the Golden Age horror films. These were the various films that were released by Universal Studios and which feature many of the classic horror film monsters, such as Dracula, The Mummy, Frankenstein, and the movie I have chosen to review this year, "The Wolf Man." Now, I haven't  dabbled about too much in this area of film, although my first ever review was "Nosferatu" which was one of the first Dracula films ever made. The golden Age is a very special area of horror that I have decided, through my ramblings in the genre, should be handled with care. After all, some pretty incredible things can come out of a film that spawned an icon that would live even past its expiration date. This is, "The Wolf Man."

   "The Wolf Man." The iconic character of horror that stands right next to others like Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and The Mummy! What secrets would this furry beast hold? Well, Lon Chaney Jr. told me, and I'm going to tell you, but don't you tell anyone because it's a secret! Okay, so lycanthropy, or werewolf ism  has to do with transforming from a man to a wolf at the sight of a full moon. The first alleged "Wolf Man" was Peter Stubbe, a resident of the German town Bedburg in the late 1500's. Now, Peter was not recorded to have ever transformed into a wolf, but his actions pertaining to them were quite clear. Peter Stubbe was executed for literally devouring sixteen humans, most of which were children. As punishment, he had his arms and legs broken, was skinned and finally cremated...Lon Chaney Jr. on the other hand, was not, and this is his story.

   Sir John Talbot's (Claude Rains) son, (Lon Chaney Jr.) comes home and is the first to discover that a werewolf is residing in the forest of their town. After saving someone from getting killed by the wolf, he himself gets attacked and bitten. Through the duration of the film our hero must overcome the primal instincts of the curse brought upon him. Will his human side defeat the wolf inside him, or will this curse ultimately destroy him? I love this film, and it's great for so many reasons. Let's start with Lon Chaney Jr, son of the famous ""Phantom of the Opera." Here we have a performance that surpassed my expectations. Lon Chaney Jr. had adopted an acting talent unlike his father. One of the reasons why I like this character is because of his instant likability, and heroism. You really end up feeling bad for him when it is he who has to become the werewolf, and even more sad when the very person who has to kill him is (insert spoiler here).

   In any case, Lon Chaney lives up to his father's fame, and it is quite interesting; the various similarities they have with their acting abilities. Moving on, the film does manage to retain a spooky atmosphere because of its forest and Gothic scenery. And yet it still takes place in the present (or rather ITS present); it being made in 1941. I'd like to think that the fact that the film is putting you in this position is making it much spookier. Most of this is due to the production value, which is wonderful. All I can really say is that golden age films just naturally fit together, retaining a camp as well as a spook factor far superior to other films alien to its kind. If you're a fan of horror that had been disappointed by, "The Wolf Man" 's counterpart released not too long ago, all may not be lost.

7.5/10


Watch "The Wolf Man" Here:
Next Review: The Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975
     

Monday, November 5, 2012

Plan 9 From Outer Space: 1959


Release date: July 22, 1959 (USA)
Director: Ed Wood, Jr.
DVD release date: May 18, 1999
Screenplay: Ed Wood, Jr.
Sequel: Night of the Ghouls

     Lets talk a little bit about Ed Wood. This overly-optimistic director of several titles, was deemed the worst film director of all time. His movies are corny, they are campy, and although I do like Ed Wood and the name he has made for himself, the movies that he makes with the meager finance he is given, are just bad. But the person behind these films, "Glen or Glenda", "The Ghoul Goes West," and, of course, "Plan 9 From Outer Space," is the real story.

     
     Ed Wood was  an odd ball of sorts. Secretly a transvestite, Ed wood worked in Hollywood for a short time before signing over to screen classics, a studio which specialized in B-movies. He made his first film, Glen or Glenda which expressed his love for wearing women's clothing. This passion of his ruined the marriage with his first wife, but not his second. Befriending Bela Lugosi, who was currently a drug addict, made making films a bit easier for Ed, because in his mind Bela was still a star. Although appearing in many films, Bela's popularity died down drastically with the atomic age of films. This was a period in film history that was confined to the 50's, and consisted mostly of bugs that grew 50 feet tall and started destroying the tranquil city of fill in the blank. Ed Wood would continue to make B-movies with Bela, and eventually they became good friends. Supposedly during this time, Bela checked himself into rehab as one of the first celebrities ever to do so. Ed Wood would continue to make movies, and would later be dubbed, "The Worst Director of all Time." You can't get more depressing than that.

   Plan 9 From Outer Space is one of those movies that you don't necessarily dream about, more so that one movie that you don't believe exists until you watch it. You have, a science fiction film, that has implemented horror into it. Now, if it were to be done correctly, we may have a good film, or at least a decent one. Often times science fiction can become quite scary. This, however, is not one of those cases. In fact, very rarely would you come across a science fiction film that is also a horror film from the 50's. But that doesn't mean that they aren't out there. I think what Ed Wood may have been trying to do was put everything he liked into one movie, and this is one of the reasons that "Plan 9 From Outer Space" simply does not work. Alien's from another planet come to earth to execute "plan 9" which involves the resurrection of the dead. Why do they do this? I honestly could not catch onto their motives. In this sense the film can become apparently cryptic to some viewers, mainly me. At least we have the satisfaction of every character being on the same page as those that are watching them. 

   The editing for "Plan 9" is just one of the worst things I've seen in awhile. Normally editing in a film isn't something I talk about in a review, but I need to address this. Normally in a film,  the final product will create for itself a smooth transition from each and every shot. The purpose of editing is to create a seemingly fluent narrative for the viewers to comfortable watch a film in. "Plan 9" instead resorts to still shots one after the other in the same position almost every time. This is why, if you were watching this movie now-a-day's you would so bored you wouldn't know what to do with yourself. Because of this complete lack of fluency within the film, it appears to be only a play being recorded by a camera. When it appears as though the camera or operator of the camera (Ed) isn't invested in what he is creating, no-one else will be. Obviously Ed Wood was very excited with making movies and, by the looks of this film, he must have had complete control.


   Complete control is not necessarily a bad thing. Why, look at Citizen Kane, where the studio hated what director and actor Orson Welles created, but he had complete control, and ultimately created one of the greatest films ever made, and continued to create fantastic films then-after. But while Welles and Wood knew what they wanted, it was only Welles that, lets face it, knew what he was doing. But I hope as the years keep passing, humans will find the capacity to appreciate "Plan 9" not for the film making, or the acting, or the editing, or the genre, or the direction, or the set design, or anything aesthetic about the film at all, but the insertion of everything Ed Wood stood for exclusively in one film. We have to appreciate this amount of independence that is possible in a project like this. 


   Ever since I began this blog I have learned many a deal of film related things, for instance, "how to make a film" and "how not to". But I have always wrote by one fact that I have made for myself, and that is that film is interpretative, and any film can be seen in a number of ways. This is why it is important to read many reviews of a film, and not just mine. The growth of film is based on new ideas, and the only way to formulate said ideas is if you can learn through the best ways that define you as a film-maker,review,viewer, anything-er. I think that Ed Wood lived a life when no-one at the time knew how important it was to think outside of the box. No, Ed's films are not good. But that was never the point. He did what he wanted because he loved making movies. Any film maker does this, if not for, um, the money, i guess.

Movies are only good as the viewer perceives it to be...

3.2/10




Watch the full movie here:
Next Review: The Wolf Man 1941

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: 1984


Release date: August 15, 1984 (USA)

Director: W. D. Richter
MPAA rating: PG
Running time: 103 minutes
Music: Michael Boddicker

   On Cult Classic Theater I have reviewed many films, most of which many people have never heard of.  I'm not too good at keeping my reviews grounded to the title of my blog, "cult classic," and I'm not sure what I should do about that.  Regardless, I have still managed to broaden my perspective of the cinematic world, so in a way, I'm reaching past the former boundaries I've set for myself.  I like that.  I still enjoy this hobby I have made for myself and I hope to ,"stick with the program" for a couple more years if not more.  In case you are wondering why I'm not reviewing this film yet, it's because I have reached a certain mile stone for this blog.  a small feat, but a feat to be recognized at that.  So, I'm pleased to show you, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai:  Across the 8th Dimension."  This is my 50th review.

   But why this movie?  Well, Buckaroo Banzai links to my past in a certain special way.  I don't know...ya ever watched something as a kid, and then ten years later you watch it again and you get this overwhelming feeling of nostalgia from it.  One of these movies (or in this case, short films) was of "The Night on Bald Mountain," a short from the film, Fantasia.  Another one of these films is the one you're looking at, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai:  Across the 8th Dimension."  Who is Buckaroo Banzai?  The hero of our film, played by Peter Weller, is a race car driver...and a neurosurgeon...and a rock star.  He is awesome, and a likable character at that.  And that's the key word here;  likability.  Of course you would think to put this trait into any main character of a film, but with the other characteristics I have expressed to you about him, that might be a difficult feat to overcome.  Surprisingly, director W.D Richter, does this phenomenally well.  You have this guy who can do everything, but that can still come off as a realistic guy (for the most part).

     Our story is as follows;  everyman Buckaroo Banzai and his parents have created a rocket car (if you will) to jump into other dimensions using a device called The Oscillation Overthruster.  Buckaroo tests this device, and successfully drives...through a mountain.  Yes, through a mountain.  Actually, through a dimension inside of the mountain. However, upon re-entree to the third dimension, Banzai accidently brings back an alien or, "lectroid" artifact.  Buckaroo Banzai finds out later, with the help of his crew called, The Hong Kong Cavaliers, that what Buckaroo had witnessed was the 8th dimension, during a meeting about the technology that brought Banzai there.  He was contacted by, "black" Lectroids to be able to see the "red" Lectroid's because the red Lectroid's want to steal the Oscillation Overthruster, so that they can, "go home."


   W.D Richter's character of Buckaroo Banzai is, in a way satirizing all of the hero's in films and books.  The guy's that can have any woman they want, can do whatever he wants, everyone knows him, wants to be him, and approves everything he does. But, very differently, you still can see that Buckaroo is just a man. For example, Steven Spielberg takes a very different approach with the Indiana Jones Trilogy. Contrarily wise, THIS character is a jerk, but a doctor. He's rude, but heroic. However, the likability that is attached to Harrison Ford's character has to do with the duality of his character, and the choices he makes throughout the situations he comes across. So it really is up to you which of these, "every-men" you prefer.

      Our villain is good (for the kind of camp this film wants to emit) but he is aside the film itself, meaning that although he has more to do with the story, there is no connection between him and Banzai, suggesting that this villain won't be around for very long. I can think of one reason why they might have done this. Buckaroo Banzai was meant to have several films to its name. The fact that, "across the 8th dimension" was a subtext, is a hint to that. Supposedly each film would feature Buckaroo banzai, along with his crew, "The Hong Kong Cavaliers" going around saving the world from evil. I sounded cool. It also sounded like a serial. A serial is series of short films, or episodes, that would be played in theaters on a scheduled time of week or month, depending on cost of production. Often times, nearing the end of each episode, there would be a cliff hanger. You would have to wait until the next episode to see how the hero would escape the danger he was previously confronted by. Buckaroo Banzai never incorporated cliff hangers, but would have separate stories for each film (*ahem* Indiana Jones). Sadly, W.D Richter's next installed adventure for Buckaroo Banzai, "The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Against the World Crime League" never saw the light of day, although it was teased at the end of this film. I won't lie, I was so excited to watch that movie after finishing this one. You couldn't fathom.
    There are two ways I can look at this film: from a child's perspective, and from an analytical perspective. From a child standpoint, I really like this movie. But does that mean that it IS a good movie? no, of course not. The story is insane, the costumes are okay, I guess, Buckaroo has no weakness, so he isn't completely fleshed out as the film's hero, The Hong Kong Cavaliers have nothing that distinguishes their character besides their name, and what they wear, and it is a mess. But to this day I love every minuet of it. I'm sure fans of this film will agree that Buckaroo Banzai has its flaws, but what W.D Richter may have just been going for was a camp film. And guess what? It became a cult classic! So my blog title finally has one more percentage of meaning in its name. I hope that counts for something.

6.0/10


Watch the Trailer Here:

Next Review:  Plan 9 From Outer Space 1959

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Terminator: 1984


Release date: October 26, 1984 (USA)
Director: James Cameron
Music: Brad Fiedel
Rating: R (USA)
Story by: William Wisher Jr.


   "The Terminator."  How can you be as menacing and to the point as this name?  And with a name so simple, who would have guessed there would be a bigger theme here?  World domination, sure.  World destruction, defiantly.  But this film only sets up these  key points during the very end of the third installment of the series.  What the very first film provides for us  is the foundation that the audience will refer back to when the next two films hit the scene.  But what James Cameron didn't realize was that this film would be the beginning of a franchise of films.  Lets meet our cybernetic organism from the future, "The Terminator."

   It goes something like this.  In 2029 Jon Connor is the leader of the remainder of the human race.  Skynet, a self aware super computer, has unleashed its robotic military to exterminate the human race, and Jon is the only one who can save us all.  Learning about this, Skynet sends a Terminator (Arnold Shwarzenegger) back in time to the year 1984 to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) so that she doesn't give birth to the savior of mankind, Jon Connor.  That is friggin awesome!  "The Terminator's" story line is defiantly one of the more positive parts of the film, and this was proven through the three other films that spawned from it, as well as a T.V show.  James Cameron might not have seen it at the time, but other directors knew that this concept was ripe for expanding upon in the world of cinema.  I believe that each film was made by a different person, and this is a very interesting notion because even though each film fits together with the last (for the most part) they each take things in a slightly different direction.  I think that this film had a less of an impressive budget, so it can be excused for it lack of action, (although it had allot)  but I also think that it had the most tension, mainly due to the fact that there was no hope for anyone to survive in this film (especially Sarah Connor).

   This is why I like the movie a lot.  Sarah Connor is essentially a normal person, and does not seem the type that would raise the savior of mankind.  But because of this, it is very realistic that she would have to grow into the role.  She would have been able to do this naturally through the course of time, but because of time travel, things go haywire and our character is thrown into a conflict that she herself cannot face alone.  Sarah has not prepared herself to mentally handle the fact that Cyborgs will be coming back from the future to destroy her.  I'll be honest, I might not take news like that too well, which is why Sarah Connors character is very likable:  because we connect with her and the way she would respond to the situation that she is thrown into.  This is what sets this film apart from the rest of the franchise, and would (for awhile at least) be the only origin story of Sarah Connor.  


   The effects in this film are something quite special.  Although primitive by today's standards, back then it looked very good.  As for myself, I like them, but this is another reason why this particular film differs from the others.  James Cameron utilizes stop motion very well,  as well as an animatronic replica of Shwarzenegger for close ups of of his robo- interior.  These scenes are very impressive, being that there is no form of CG anywhere in it. 

   For now, this would be a modest film.  But when James Cameron got enough money to make the sequel he always wanted, people started paying attention to to this film.  And when this second film hit theaters, it became a huge success and was thus transformed into a cult classic.  To this day, T2 is on my top ten list of films.  I love it.  But as for this one, I can confidently say that it was an interesting start to a huge successful franchise.  I only hope that for science fiction fans alike, we can go back to this film and respect it for what it's worth today.  If you've looked past this film because of the sequel, let me remind you that T2 would not be here without T1, because all the film really is in the end, is an opening act for the first installment.  But remember, that doesn't excuse you from passing it up.  You could never have fathomed what you would have missed if you had.

7.7/10


Watch the full movie here
 Next Review:  The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension 1984 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Batman Returns: 1992


Initial release date: June 16, 1992
Director: Tim Burton
DVD release date: April 29, 1997
Rating: PG-13 (USA)
Music: Danny Elfman


   Tim Burton's gone batty once again, to take on the sequel to the Batman film that set the record straight on how a story about a man wearing spandex and a cape, can be dark, edgy, and deep with character fleshing.  This was the real Batman film, until 1992 when The Dark Knight's curtain was drawn wide open.  The question that remained, was if people could handle what they would see on the other side...Christopher Nolan and Joel Schumacher  would have their chance, but tonight we're riding down @#!*% 's highway in the Batmobile, where it has gotten significantly colder for our main hero and villains, The Bat, The Cat, and The Penguin.  Tonight is when the underworld freezes over.  This is Batman Returns!


   It's hard to believe that the Batman franchise is still running strong.  New arrivals of comics are becoming welcomed editions of the  B-Man universe, and hopefully Batman will continue to leave audiences in shock on the big screen.  I'm witting these words in light of the third and final Batman film by director Christopher Nolan.  It feels to me like an end of an era, and in some ways that's a good thing.  The sad truth for the caped crusader is rearing its ugly head:  Batman won't be here forever.  But, I don't claim to know anything, because nothing is absolute.  I'm just curious as too how many adventures a human male can go through, and not show any signs of aging.  At this rate Bruce Wayne must fight criminals every second of his existence!  I suppose it is just a comic, but that's what happens man.  That's what happens when Batman is the majority of your reading matter checked out from the library.  It was...intoxicating...Anyway, on with the review!


   In every conceivable fashion, "Batman Returns" is the most depressing Batman film created.  That's my opinion, granted, however I do have very good reason to believe this.  Tim Burton's first Batman film received allot of praise, so as a reward Burton was granted a sequel, AND given complete control of the film.  Perhaps maybe too much control.  Remember, Batman was targeted to children and adults (mostly adults), but this new film was much different.  I can safely say that Batman Returns is not a children's film.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that this movie strays from its predecessor.  In fact, Batman Returns is Batman 2.0.  Everything is improved on.  The characters have more back-story, there's more action, it's much darker, and there are more villains.  In fact, the villains are the best part about Batman in my opinion.  And their origins are even cooler.


   Our two villains in this film are Catwoman and The Penguin.  Both of these characters have very depressing origins.  The Penguin (Danny DeVito), whose real name is Oswald Cobblepot, was abandoned as a child by his neglectful parents who could not endure his disfigured body resembling a small bird.  This scene is shown at the very start of the film, and the opening credits role as little baby Cobblepot is thrown into the river inside of a bassinet by his parents.  As the baby travels into the sewers to be confined to a world of misunderstanding, our story begins.  This, I thought was a very Burton-esc way of starting a film, and because of this I did enjoy it.  However, it did raise a couple of questions, such as why penguins were living underground and if Paul Reubens' appearance as Mr. Cobblepot was meant to be a cameo.  But now lets talk about Catwoman.  Vicky Vale is nowhere to be found in this new film.  In her place we have Selina Kyle (Michelle Pfeiffer).  I like this character so much, and I also prefer her origin over The Penguin's.  Single Selina Kyle, lives alone in her apartment with only her cats to keep her company.  Her answering machine constantly spews bad new out at her:  Her mother's criticisms, missed opportunities for vacationing, and beauty product advertisements.  She is mistreated by her boss, Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) and after stumbling upon a shady business deal between him and Oswald things take a turn for the worst.  Watch the movie, and you'll know what I mean.


   Our villains do a fantastic job of keeping our hero busy, and setting an even darker tone than the last film.  Like I said before, it may be too dark for some audiences, which was the main reason why Tim Burton was booted off the Batman franchise for good.  But boy, did he leave an impact.  Comics would become darker than ever, and that lust for Batman was back!  So, it's a mixed opinion sort of thing.  Some people don't care for how bitter the ending left fans, and others just didn't like the extreme style Tim Burton used for the film.  However im on the other end of the scale, and I love this movie.  At the time that I saw the first Batman film, I would have been terrified.  But today, It's the perfect Batman film (for a Tim Burton fan).  Just keep that in mind.


8.1/10


Watch the Trailer Here 
 The Terminator:  1984   

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Batman: 1989

Release date: June 23, 1989 (USA)
Director: Tim Burton
DVD release date: March 25, 1997
Rating: PG-13 (USA)
Screenplay: Warren Skaaren, Sam Hamm


   Batman:  The Caped Crusader, The Dark Knight, and even in some cases, The Dynamic Duo.  Bob Kane's creation of Batman has done nothing but evolve since Detective Comics had Batman appear for the first time in 1939 with the release of their 27th issue.  It featured Bruce Wayne as Batman against a Chemical Crime Syndicate, and it blew up in everyone's faces!  They had to know more.  However, today only a couple of copies of these very early Batman Comics still exist today, and we wouldn't see this darker side of Batman until much later.  In my opinion, these were Batman's best days, when not just crooks, but cops were afraid of Batman, and nobody could touch him besides the super crime lords that were as crazy as him.  In a sense, Batman first started out as an anti-hero, and I believe the new movie, "The Dark Knight Rises" will bring Batman's legacy full circle.  So in light of that, I have decided to review the Batman films by Tim Burton first, because this was technically the first feature-length film of Batman, with the darkest setting...so far.


   Being the fact that I have not yet expressed my admiration for Tim Burton, this review should be a deal lengthier than my previous reviews.  Let me start off by saying that Tim Burton is the strangest director I know, and has created by far the most films where you, as a viewer, shift uncomfortably in your seat, of run out of the theater screaming because he broke your mind, or you haven't been able to look away because his style is incredibly original, and unlike anything you have seen.  His visual style is sublime, his directing...strange to say the least, and a homage payer to many old horror films, and films in general.  The first of Tim Burton's works that I had reviewed, called "Vincent", was a great character study for Tim Burton, and if you know a great deal about him, you realize that Vincent, is really just Tim as a child.  But, if at this point in the review your asking why "Vincent" isn't posted on the site yet, it's because terrible things happen to reviews if you leave your computer on while the auto-save function temporarily glitches.  I suppose these things happen...


   However, I am prepared to write about some of the less appealing aspects that Tim Burton possesses.  "Batman" is a wonderful example of how Tim Burton can take an idea already thought up, and put his own spin on it.  Now, Tim has done this with the majority of the films he's directed, and as such he has been dubbed "The Remake King"...which isn't necessarily a good thing.  But don't worry, because "Batman" is an example of how an idea can  be made into a film, and not feel like it's been overused.  I'm not sure, but I think that this Batman film was one of the first of its kind to be made into a motion picture.  But there was a difference between this film, and the ones made before it.  This Batman film was made more for adults than for kids.  I believe this heightened ticket sales, as well as creating a wider audience to discover the Batman universe in, since Batman just began to convert to slightly darker story lines in the comics with the arrival of new artists.


  Batman teamed up with this kind of a director was a godsend to the film industry, as well as Batman fans.  The film presented a very dark setting (but not too dark), and this was one of Burton's specialties.  The city of Gotham was as stylistic as it was strange, but I suppose it had to be because Bat's and Clown's would be fighting in it.  Speaking of which, The Joker is an interesting character in this film.  Consider the scene with Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger) hostage to the clown.  Joker (Jack Nicholson) explains that his...psychosis...is more of an artistic one.  It's not so much as doing something because you can, rather sending a message through abstract destruction...because you can.  And it is an interesting notion, as well as one that would be plausible to The Joker, because of the deformities created by the mishaps in the Ace Chemical co.  And this is a very interesting foe against foe origin in this film, because if you think about it, they are each the creator of their own alter ego.  Young Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson) kills Bruce Wayne's (Michael Keaton) parents causing him to become The Batman, and Batman pushes Jack into the infamous vat of acid, thus transforming him into The Joker.    


   This is truly the plight of Batman.  The idea that he may be creating more villains than he  can take off the streets of Gotham (If he's doing more harm than good).  Many people have touched on this theory, and have understood its significance.  Heck, even the animated series recognized the power within this thought.  This is also the reason why I believe Batman to be more of an anti-hero than a hero, but it fits his character and Gotham and especially this film.  Tim Burton's Batman is a very good movie, and it captures the struggles a crime fighter of this caliber must face.  It's dark and edgy, and brought out, not my likability of the horror genre, more so my...tolerance for it.  There are some campy moments, some funny ones, but at the center you'll find a stone cold flick worth checking out if your any kind of a Batman fan. 


8.0/10


Watch the Trailer Here
Next Review:  Batman Returns  1992  
          

Monday, July 9, 2012

Singing In the Rain: 1952

Release date: April 11, 1952 (USA)
Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
DVD release date: March 26, 1997
Running time: 103 minutes
Music: Nacio Herb Brown, Arthur Freed

   The Musical is an interesting piece of cinema, isn't it? It can manage to tell a story the traditional way, and still manage to stop time for a moment to emphasis a certain aspect of the film like "their in love" or "these guys really hate each other."  There are good examples of how people can transition into song, and the quality of it, there are some better examples of it, and then there are some down right ROTTEN examples of it.  Fortunately, the film we are looking at today is one of the better examples.  This is the magnum opus of musicals, The piece de resistance of performances, quote on quote, "MGM's Technicolor Musical Treasure," "Singin' in the Rain!"


   What is it that I find irresistible about this film, where I can't leave it alone, and choose to watch it again and again?  Is it the choreography, or the story?  The music, or the characters? Well, it's all of them!  Everything, is top notch, but lets go through everything just to give it a once over.  The story was my main attraction to the film, because that's exactly what it was about!  Making movies, and the transition, as well as strain actors had to go through with the invention of sound in a film.  Every studio was pitted against each other in a mad race to reach the new era of film first.  To create the first talking picture!  And it was this story line that the actors could thrive in.  And thrive they did!  Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds had no trouble carrying this film and it's two Oscar nominations.  The funny thing about the characters in this film is that everyone is where they should be.  Gene Kelly is the main character, Donald O'Connor is the supporting actor, and Debbie Reynolds is the love interest.  However, when they're all together these characters become equal in every way.


   Well, that does it for my review.  As for the rest of the story, I'd have to say it's a very educational experience, for me and film junkies alike.  In fact, this was probably the first film I ever saw that would teach me about the technical hardships of the ever expanding film business.  I learned allot, and I must not have known it, but I was watching the first educational film I'd ever like in a long while.  But aside from engaging story, "Singin' in the Rain" is adorned with amazing songs, choreography, characters, and amazing dance numbers.  There is and incredibly fluent nature with the story that is mirrored through every twirl, tap, and leap throughout the film.  It's a talented experience, with an overwhelming aura of abstraction, especially nearing the end of the film.  Not to mention, "Singin' in the Rain" is an interesting character study for the film industry, and the many attempts to transition in to the world of sound.


Watch Trailer Here (Note:  All songs are in this trailer)
  Next Review:  Batman 1989
    
   

Saturday, June 30, 2012

West Side Story: 1961


Composer: Leonard Bernstein
Playwright: Arthur Laurents
Adapted from: Romeo and Juliet
Lyricist: Stephen Sondheim
Characters: Schrank, A-rab, Baby John, Maria, Bernardo, Tony, Action, Doc, Anita, Riff, Chino


   Romeo and Juliet. The timeless story about a boy and a girl who fall in love with each other, but are torn apart by their families, who have hated each other since who knows how long ago. You've all heard this story before, so why am I telling this to you? Well, because this kind of plot is timeless within itself, and can be told forever, and whenever. But this, my friends...this is special. And not only that, but I like this film more than any other film adaptation of Romeo and Juliet manufactured by human hands. Let me tell you why.

   West Side Story is an example of how a plot such as this can be adapted to various time periods. Our two families are now Americans and Puerto Ricans. They both hate each other, accept for an American named Tony, and a Puerto Rican named Maria. Maria's brother, Bernardo, and Tony's friend, Riff are the leaders of both groups, and are also the ones that are killed from each side.  And, besides the fact that our Juliet does not die in the end with our Romeo, those are the only changes.  The rest is the same, only updated to fit with the time it was made. But in an adaptation of Romeo And Juliet, the story is not the aspect everyone is looking forward to because almost everyone knows the story, or at least the basic premise.  And this is where West Side Story really shines, because believe it or not, this film is a musical.

 The music in this movie is wonderful!  Composer Leonard Bernstein and Lyricist Sephen Sondheim did a fantastic job creating the songs in West Side Story.  The music is great, and coupled with even better choreography.  But how can simply writing about the music be enough.  So I'll post my top five favorite songs from the film.

#5:  Something's Coming


#4:  Quintet


#3:  America


#2:  Jet's Song



#1:  Cool


  Well, that's my list.  I hope it didn't take up too much space on the review, and try not to take the list too seriously.  It's my own opinion and we're each entitled to one.  I didn't list "Maria", or "Gym Mambo"  because there wasn't enough space, but those are two other scenes that are great.  And this movie was wonderful!  I suppose for me it's a little better because it adds allot of nostalgic value, being that I watched this many times before as a younger person.  But if you haven't seen "West Side Story", go!  Right now!  Go and get it!  Please, by any means, obtain this film.  Watch it!  Put it on your action/item list.  I have not yet heard of a person who has died, and not seen this film.  Don't blame me though, it's not common knowledge people just throw around.

7.8/10

Next Review:  Singin' in the Rain 1952


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Treasure of the Sierra Madre: 1948


Initial release date: 1948
Director: John Huston
DVD release date: September 30, 2003
Story: B. Traven
Music: Max Steiner


   Here we have yet another inspiration of cinema to contribute to the Indiana Jones films.  "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" is an adventure film, that focuses more on the reality that is digging for gold, surviving out in the wild, and trying to make a living off of this bountiful restitution.  In a sense, it is much more than a film about gold fever, because there really is no such thing.  "Gold fever" is not the longing to get rich quick.  It's survival in every sense of the word.  The toil of life itself, and the excuse that, someday everyone goes a little loony from the deprivation of a simple life.


   Like in most of the films he's done, Humphrey Bogart is wonderful in the portrait of his roles...or in this case...a psychopath.  Yes it's true, every other minuet he's blaming his friends, and accusing everybody of stabbing him in the back.  This is his character ark, and it is simply flawless.  He starts out as a wandering, squandering, down-on-his-luck American in a small Mexican town, to a wandering, hallucinating, soon-to-be-down-on-his-luck, American, on the outskirts of a small Mexican town.  There is a scene where his character, Dobbs, had just killed another man.  He says, "Conscience, what a thing.  If you believe you've got a conscience it'll pester ya to death.  But if you don't believe ya got one, what could it do to ya?"  he finds out soon enough.


   This movie was a wonderful western and well worth the genre.  It's a very real film, meaning that it focuses on reality being the villain.  Everyone then believed that digging for gold was difficult, but like this...never!  It gives away allot of new information about digging for gold, as well as advice when avoiding the hazards that come along with it.  There are three characters in this film which each symbolize a different kind of preparedness for this kind of job.  Tim Holt's character symbolizes the one that is willing to learn from his mistake and eager to learn.  Bogart's character symbolizes the reckless one.  The one seduced by the mountain that gave them the gold, and the one who paid the price for it.  And finally, Walter Hutson plays the experienced one.  The character who's already been through everything, and when the day is done he has no problem laughing about it.  But believe me, it takes a pretty experianced soul to laugh at the dangers that were right on their tails the whole journey through the treasure of the sierra madre!


 8/10


Watch the Trailer Here
Next Review:  West Side Story 1961