Directed by Frank Tashlin
Produced by Jerry Lewis
Written by Frank Tashlin
Starring Jerry Lewis
Anna Maria Alberghetti
Editing by Arthur P. Schmidt
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date December 16, 1960
Running time 91 min.
I didn’t know that Jerry Lewis was in town when I bought this from Target on Sunday. All I knew was that I had been wanting it for a little while but was too stingy to pay $30 for it in JB Hifi. Currently this and some other Jerry Lewis films are on sale in Target for $7, which is a bargain.
I must make mention of the film’s director Frank Tashlin. He had quite an interesting career in Hollywood. He started out as an animator and a newspaper strip cartoonist and helped Warner Bros. develop the Looney Tunes brand of humour. He also briefly worked at Disney before going to Columbia briefly to head up their animation department. He returned to Warners where he directed some of the funniest cartoons of all time including the brilliant Puss ‘N’ Booty.
He then left animation for live action, becoming a gag man for Harpo Marx and Lucille Ball before directing movies starring Bob Hope, Doris Day and Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. He was also an author and wrote a book on animating as well as another children’s book. Phew…
Cinderfella is a typical Jerry Lewis outing with Jerry playing the Cinderella role until his fairy godfather, Ed Wynn, pays him a visit. There are lots of silly gags and Jerry also gets to sing (his voice aint bad either). Overall it’s not a bad way to spend 80 minutes.
Directed by John Lasseter
Co-Directors:Lee Unkrich & Ash Brannon
Produced by Karen Robert Jackson & Helene Plotkin
Written by Andrew Stanton
Starring Tom Hanks
Music by Randy Newman
Cinematography Sharon Calahan
Editing by Lee Unkrich, Edie Bleiman & David Ian Salter
Studio Pixar Animation Studios
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Release date November 24, 1999
Running time 92 minutes
Country United States
I enjoyed watching Toy Story 2 even more that the original. Again there is some top notch animation from Pixar and the characters are warm and relatable. A lot of the time you forget that they are not real but are images on a screen.
Woody and Buzz are back and teaching the importance of friendship. I like the inclusion of Jesse the cowgirl, as voiced by Joan Cusack and Stinky Pete the Prospector, voiced by Kelsey Grammar.
Again it is a great film by Pixar with really lovable characters. It is very funny and is suspensful at the same time.
Directed by John Lasseter
Produced by Ralph Guggenheim & Bonnie Arnold
Written by John Lasseter
Erik von Detten
Music by Randy Newman
Editing by Robert Gordon & Lee Unkrich
Studio Pixar Animation Studios
Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures
Release date November 22, 1995
Running time 81 minutes
Country United States
It’s hard to believe that Toy Story is 15 years old. Woody, Buzz and the gang are still fresh after all that time. Now with Toy Story 3 being released today I thought that I would relive the first two adventures.
Toy Story was the first feature-length CGI animated film and unlike Dreamworks’ Shrek, it doesn’t feel dated at all. I think that this is the great thing about Pixar in that they don’t just concentrate on pop culture references or fart jokes (unlike Dreamworks) but actually create characters that an audience can care for and a story that is engaging. It’s a bit hard to review Toy Story as it is a film that almost everyone has seen and I am sure enjoys. There is a lot of great humour and the characters, such as Woody, have real emotions that we can really empathise with.
Directed by Abe Levitow
Produced by Henry G. Saperstein & Lee Orgel
Written by Joan Janis & Chuck Jones
Starring Judy Garland
Music by Harold Arlen & E.Y. “Yip” Harburg
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date October 24, 1962 (USA)
Running time 85 mins.
This is a film that I have wanted to see for a very long time. It was made by the famed UPA cartoons studio, which modernised animation in the 1950s and usurped Disney’s position as the industries leading light. They also took home several Oscars in that decade and created Mr Magoo and Gerald McBoing Boing (with Dr Seuss), but by this films release in 1962 their light had well and truly faded. The studios guiding light, John Hubley had left in the 50s and by 1959 UPA had lost their theatrical distribution contract with Columbia.
This film was also also responsible for Chuck Jones being fired by Warner Bros. Jones had moonlighted for UPA in writing this film, which Warner’s did not appreciate as they had an exclusivity contract with him. Even though Jones is only credited as writing this film some of the character designs, particularly that of Mewsette, look as though they are his style. Many of his team of animators from Warner Bros. were also involved in this project.
There is a bit of other star power in this film. Three decades before it became trendy for major Hollywood stars to do the voices in animated films Judy Garland did the voice of Mewsette. Robert Goulet and Red Buttons play the other leading characters Juane Tom and Robespierre while Paul Frees who was no stranger to voicing animated characters, played the part of Meowrice. The songs in the film which are quite catchy were written by the team of Arlen and Harburg who a couple of decades earlier wrote the songs for another Judy Garland vehicle, The Wizard Of Oz.
The film is quite entertaining but not quite as good as the fare that Disney was making at that time. There is a bit of the UPA pretensions that they were making art rather than making a cartoon, but these are actually enjoyable. The backgrounds are really nice to look at and the little lecture on the different artists from the turn of last century was kind of cool too.
I have decided that this winter I am going to get out and see a few movies. I think that the last time that I went to the cinema was back in February to see Avatar. I do plan to see Toy Story 3 and perhaps Shrek Forever After, but there are a few other films that I would like to see too, that won’t be shown at the local Village or Hoyts multiplex.
The ACMI cinemas are showing a lot of old horror films this winter. I think that it is to correspond with the Tim Burton exhibition that they will have and that these are all either films that inspired Burton or simply films he likes. Tickets are all $14.
I may be able to see the 1941 version of The Wolfman next Friday at 9.30pm, if I finish work a little early.
On Friday July 9th at 7.30 Todd Browning’s Freaks is screening. This is a movie I have always wanted to see but I don’t think that I will be able to make the screening due to work.
On Saturday July 10th at 2pm, Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Arognauts will be screening, while on the same day at 4:15 it will be Frankenstein.
On Saturday July 17th Forbidden Planet with Robbie the Robot is on, which will satisfy my current fetish for 1950s sci-fi. It’s screening at 2pm.
Melbourne Docklands are also screening free movies under the stars on their big screen. This Monday they have Citizen Kane while upcoming films include Goldfinger, North By Northwest, Rear Window, Some Like It Hot, Dr. No, Westside Story, Return Of The Pink Panther and Bridge On The River Kwai. If it is not too cold or pouring with rain I will definitely try to see a free of these films.
Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Produced by Daniel M. Angel
Written by Paul Brickhill, Lewis Gilbert & Vernon Harris
Starring Kenneth More
Music by John Addison
Cinematography Jack Asher
Distributed by Rank
Release date 10 July 1956 (London)
30 April 1957 (NYC)
Running time 136 Minutes
Reach For The Sky is the inspirational true story of Flight Commander Douglas Bader, who despite losing both his legs in a flying accident was able to become a hero of the Battle Of Britain, and then spent four years as a German prisoner of war.
Once upon a time this film, which was the most popular British film of 1956, would have always been shown on Australian TV. I remember seeing it many times on a Sunday afternoon, but it would be over 25 years since I can remember it last being on TV. (Perhaps ABC2 shows it nowadays late at night?!) Fortunately it has been recently released onto DVD by Magna Pacific, through their connection with Britain’s Granada International. It forms a part of their Silver Screen Collection, and is one part of a 3 DVD set, with The Heroes Of Telemark (starring Kirk Douglas and Richard Harris) and Malta Story.
I found rewatching Reach For The Sky to be a good experience. It is a very British film and I found Kenneth More’s portrayal of Bader to be a little clichéd, with all of the stiff upper lipped fighting spirit and courage that he showed. The crash that crippled Bader is well staged as are the WWII battle scenes, even if they do use some original and stock footage. Overall the film is a very enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.
Directed by Isaac Julien
Produced by Paula Jalfon, Colin MacCabe & Caroline Kaplan
Written by Isaac Julien & Adam Finch
Starring Samuel L. Jackson
Distributed by Independent Film Channel
Release date August 14, 2002
Running time 60 minutes
Baadasssss Cinema is a documentary that discusses the blaxploitation movies of the 1970s, and particularly looks at the post popular films such as Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, Shaft, Black Caesar, Superfly and Coffy. People interviewed include Fred Williamson, Mario Van Peebles, Qeuntin Taratino and the lovely Pam Grier, who talk about the impact that the films had on the black community and on popular culture.
Personally I’ve always liked blaxploitation films (those that I have seen anyway). They are very visual, like the film equivalent of a comic book, with their over the top fashion, violence, stereotypes, great music and bad acting. How can you not love a genre of movie that features something as ridiculous as Pam Grier pulling a gun that was hidden in her afro before shooting the bad guys. It is this sort of thing that makes these films so much fun to watch.
BaadAsssss Cinema also briefly goes into detail about the blaxploitation crossovers that happened as well, such as the blaxploitation/horror films like Blacula (Dracula’s black soul brother) and also the blaxploitation/kung fu crossovers. It was very interesting and gave me a hunger to see more of these incredible blaxploitation films.
Directed by Gordon Parks
Produced by Joel Freeman
Written by Ernest Tidyman (novel & screenplay)
John D.F. Black
Starring Richard Roundtree
Music by Isaac Hayes & J. J. Johnson
Cinematography Urs Furrer
Editing by Hugh A. Robertson
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Warner Bros. (DVD)
Release date July 2, 1971 (USA)
Shaft is often hailed as one of the first Blaxploitation films that were made in the 1970s but I am not so sure if it really fits into that category. To me it seems more like a typical cop film set in New York, only with a black man as the hero of the piece. There is also the iconic Theme From Shaft by the late Isaac Hayes, which I guess sets it apart from the rest.
I enjoyed Shaft very much and thought it was very exciting. Compared to the blaxploitation films that followed this one seems very tame, as the sex scenes and violence are toned down, while the swearing is not as over the top as the later films. The plot involves the daughter of a black crime boss being kidnapped by the mafia and Shaft having to rescue her in order to stop the potential bloodshed that a gang war in Harlem would cause. Richard Roundtree is very likable as John Shaft and gives a very laid back performance. Most of the acting is pretty good, especially when compared to later blaxploitation films.
Directed by Howard Hawks (uncredited)
Written by Novella:
John W. Campbell, Jr.
Starring Margaret Sheridan
Robert O. Cornthwaite
James R. Young
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Russell Harlan, ASC
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date April 29, 1951
Running time 87 min.
Watch the skies
The Thing From Another World is often hailed as the first great sci-fi/horror film but I’m not so sure. I guess that it is the film that kicked off the 1950s sci-fi cycle of films and admit that the sci-fi elements of the film have the potential to be great, but I was very disappointed at the horror element of the film.
For those who don’t know the story, a UFO crashes to Earth near the North Pole and is found by scientists and airforce officials. Whilst the spaceship is destroyed thanks to the ineptitude of the airforce personnel, they do find an alien encased in the ice. They take the alien back to their base still in the ice, but his icy tomb is melted and he is alive. Soon it is discovered that he is plant-based and bullets don’t harm him, and that he needs blood to survive and to reproduce.
The reason why I find the horror elements of the film to be disappointing is that despite the potential for tension, no one in the film seems to be scared of the alien. Sure they say that they are frightened, yet the audience cannot see that. Despite knowing that they cannot kill the monster with bullets and that it eats humans, the airforce people decide to confront it armed only with guns, while in another scene with the alien on the loose one of the airforce people jokes with his girlfriend, who also just happened to be posted to the area. Why should I be afraid of their fate if they aren’t?
I suppose that I feel frustrated that the film has so much potential but didn’t capitalise on it in its entirety. Despite this lack of tension the film is still entertaining if talky and I enjoyed watching it a lot.
Directed by Harve Foster (live action)
Wilfred Jackson (animation)
Produced by Walt Disney
Written by Dalton S. Reymond, Morton Grant, Maurice Rapf, Bill Peet, Ralph Wright & George Stallings
Joel Chandler Harris (original stories)
Starring Ruth Warrick
Johnny Lee (voice)
Nick Stewart (voice)
Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof, Paul J. Smith (score), Edward Plumb (orchestration)
Cinematography Gregg Toland
Editing by William M. Morgan
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
Release date(s) November 12, 1946 (U.S. release)
Running time 94 minutes
Usually when you think of movies that have been banned the name Walt Disney doesn’t spring to mind. Most Disney films are sweet as saccharine but there is indeed one Disney classic that has been banned for the last two decades and has caused more controversy and differing opinions than any other film that I know of. There are many theories as to why Disney has imposed a ban on this film being released onto DVD and I really don’t understand most of the speculation. Then again I am neither an American or an African-American and am not fully aware of the issues involved and so can only judge the film on its entertainment value and not its cultural or racial undertones. I will say that I don’t understand why a film such as Birth Of A Nation can be freely available to buy on DVD and shown (as of last Saturday on ABC2) on television yet Song Of The South is not, other than the fact that some people automatically associate the Disney brand name with entertainment for children. (Won’t we think of the children!)
Having watched Song Of The South I have to say that I really do wonder what all the fuss is about. I don’t think that it is blatantly racist at all. I know that the argument that African-Americans who don’t like the film use it that the film is set just after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery and that the black people seem to be happy to work for the whites and that their characters are mere stereotypes but then again that’s the way Hollywood does things. It could also be argued, I guess, that Disney’s films are set in an alternate reality where live action humans and cartoon characters interact. Everyone is happy in the Disneyverse despite what is happening in the real world. However the whites and blacks in this film are not equals and there is a clear line of power that is implied here. The black people are clearly subservant to the whites, except in the eyes of the children who treat everyone with respect.
One thing that I think is the real shame of this film not being able to be viewed is that now no one gets to see Jame Baskett’s performance as Uncle Remus. His performance exudes a warmth that is contagious. His role is also important in another way in that this would have been one of (if not the) first times that a black man had the main role in a film not targeted specifically to a black audience.
I think that Song Of The South is a typical Disney live action film in much the same vein as they would make a decade later, focussing on the lives of some kids and the trials that they have to face. The three animated scenes featuring Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear are brilliantly done too. I don’t think that it makes any sense Banning Song Of The South, especially if more blatantly racist films are freely available to be released onto DVD or shown on TV. Then again this is my opinion.