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Directed by David Yates
Produced by David Heyman, David Barron & J. K. Rowling
Screenplay by Steve Kloves
Based on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling
Starring Daniel Radcliffe
Helena Bonham Carter
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Eduardo Serra
Editing by Mark Day
Studio Heyday Films
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date 18 November 2010
Running Time 146 minutes
Country United Kingdom & United States
It’s almost over. Almost a decade ago the first Harry Potter film was released and there is just one more picture to go until it is all finally over. Deathly Hallows part 1 I find to be OK, but it is very different to the other films in the series. There is no Hogwarts or the fun associated with it, while most of the supporting cast are relegated to cameo appearances in the first 10 minutes of the film. The entire movie focusses on the dynamic between Harry, Hermione and Ron. Much of the movie is like one big camping trip with the three main characters and their tent being in the spotlight for a long time. The film is quite slow but it builds and makes the viewer want the final installment now rather than in July.
This Potter film is a lot darker than the rest of the series and there is not much in the way of comic relief as in the other films. This movie feels a lot more like a Lord of the Rings type film than Harry Potter. (I guess JK Rowling based the last book on Tolkien’s work?!)
I must admit that I did not anticipate this film like I have the others in the Potter series. I gave up reading the books after the fifth installment and even though I do have the final two books here at home, I have never really had the inclination to read them. Maybe it’s because of the dread that if I do read them then the story will be finished. (Does that make sense?!)
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Created by Charles M. Schulz
Directed by Bill Melendez
Voices of Peter Robbins
Theme music composer Vince Guaraldi
Composer Vince Guaraldi
Country of origin USA
A Charlie Brown Christmas is a holiday tradition in the USA but it had been ages since I had seen it on TV here in Australia. It was the Peanuts Gang’s first television special, and the best one. The story is a little preachy and the religious message is a bit strong, but it’s honest and decries the increasing commercialism of Christmas.
The animation is a little choppy but there are some scenes, such as the one where all the kids are dancing, which cannot help but raise a smile in the viewer. It also features Vince Guaraldi’s brilliant and catchy jazzy music which became such a key with the Peanuts series.
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Directed by George Seaton
Produced by William Perlberg
Screenplay by George Seaton
Story by Valentine Davies
Starring Maureen O’Hara
Music by Cyril Mockridge
Cinematography Lloyd Ahern & Charles G. Clarke
Editing by Robert L. Simpson
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date May 2, 1947 (US)
Running time 96 minutes
Miracle On 34th Street was a 1947 Christmas movie that was released at the start of May. Edmund Gwenn won an Academy Award for best supporting actor playing Santa Claus in this film. The film also features 9-year-old Natalie Wood and Maureen O’ Hara.
This is one of the best Christmas movies ever made, much better than the 1994 remake. It is sincere and doesn’t take itself too seriously at all. It is a sweet tale of the power of faith and that your dreams can come true if you believe. There is a lot of humour in the film and Gwenn is the quintessential Kris Kringle. Everyone puts in a good performance and the film is extremely entertaining too. It is a bit sentimental but it is not at all cynical.
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Written by The Brothers Grimm
Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Julie Hickson & Rick Heinrichs
Original channel The Disney Channel
Original run October 31, 1983
This short early film by Tim Burton is being shown at ACMI as a part of the Tim Burton exhibition at Federation Square. I had never seen it before. It is a Burton-esque version of the Grimm’s fairy tale and has a few amusing moments. It runs for about 20 minutes and combines live-action with stop motion animation, although it is mostly live-action. Like most things Burton, it is slightly weird.
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.
Directed by David Swift
Produced by Walt Disney (uncredited)
Associate Producer: George Golitzen
Written by Novel: Eleanor Porter
Screenplay: David Swift
Starring Hayley Mills
Music by Paul Smith
Cinematography Russell Harlan
Editing by Frank Gross
Distributed by Buena Vista
Distribution Release date May 19, 1960
Running time 134 minutes
Country United States
Pollyanna was released into cinemas 50 years ago last Monday. You would think that Disney would be making a big song and dance about this popular and well remembered film reaching the half century mark but it seems that the Walt Disney Company does not really value its past live action films. Heck, Disney doesn’t really value its animated classics either, and simply views them as a cash cow to be released on video or DVD every seven years. In fact it is pretty obvious that all Disney cares about these days is making horrendous live action teen comedies that can sell heaps of merchandise. I doubt that a film like Pollyanna would be made today as it would be difficult to fit in any fart jokes or sell merchandise with the sweet story.
One thing that I think needs to be said is that despite Disney’s reputation today as being just kids stuff, he could still get the biggest stars to appear in his films. Fine actors such as Jane Wyman and Karl Malden appear as do Agnes Moorehead and Ed Platt, who went on to play the Chief of Control in Get Smart but played supporting roles in a number of major films (including a brief part as Cary Grant‘s lawyer in Hitchcock’s North By Northwest). However the real star of the film is Hayley Mills, who played the little girl whose positive attitude brought a whole town together. She is really good in this film and went on to become a huge child star in the 1960s, mainly in other Disney films.
This is a very entertaining film, in the Disney tradition, it’s just a shame that Disney today doesn’t really care at all about it.
Directed by Frank Capra
Produced by Frank Capra
Written by Short story: Philip Van Doren Stern
Screenplay: Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Jo Swerling & Frank Capra
Starring James Stewart
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Joseph Walker
Editing by William Hornbeck
Studio Liberty Films
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s) December 20, 1946
Running time 130 minutes
Country United States
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
Just before last Christmas I purchased a DVD three pack of Paramount classic holiday movies from Big W for just $16. The three movies were some of the all-time Hollywood classics: White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life and The Bells Of St Mary’s. This was a real bargain and if you see these still available at Big W you really must get it. I also noticed that Big W were also selling White Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life separately for $13 each. As I said $16 for three great movies is a real bargain.
“Look, Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.”
I must also make a warning here as Big W are also selling It’s A Wonderful Life for just $5. This is not the bargain it seems as this cheap and nasty version is through a public domain company and not the official Paramount release. Years ago I bought a public domain copy that was released through MRA for what I thought was a cheap price. Unfortunately the soundtrack did not sync up with the movie correctly which meant that the voices did not match the actors lips, making the film completely unwatchable. Thus I learnt a very important lesson about not buying DVDs from public domain companies. (Although I have broken this promise since on an awful Laurel & Hardy box set that also had syncing problems!)
“A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.”
Anyway onto Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, one of the most corny, hokey, old-fashioned, sentimental and truly wonderful classic films of all time. For some reason this is one movie that always gets me blubbering like a baby at the ending when the angel Clarence finally gets his wings. It is amazing that this one film can get me tearing up even though it is so corny. “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” For those who don’t know the story this film is about George Bailey, played by James Stewart, a man with big dreams that are never ever realised because he is always tied down to a small town. He wants to travel the world and become wealthy but circumstances always cause him to miss out on opportunities and means that he has to remain in sleepy Bedford Falls. Disaster strikes towards the films finale and George decides to end it all, until he meets Clarence, an awkward angel who shows George how terrible the world would be if he had never been born. Naturally Clarence shows George just how important he really is while George’s family and friends repay him for his years of service and generosity which helps him avert his disaster.
This film is an all time classic and one of my favourites, a truly great movie that one really has to see. I know that my review does not do the film justice. There are great performances from Stewart and Donna Reed, but it is Barrymore who shines as the films villain Mr. Potter. The film drips sentimentality, but it works, or else I would not blubber like a baby every time I watch the movie.
Directed by Don Chaffey
Produced by Hugh Attwooll
Written by Novel: Eleanor Atkinson
Screenplay: Robert Westerby
Music by Francis Chagrin
Cinematography Paul Beeson
Editing by Peter Tanner
Distributed by Walt Disney Company and Buena Vista Distribution Company
Release date(s) July 17, 1961
Running time 87 min.
Country United States
Greyfriars Bobby is the type of movie that doesn’t get made anymore. It is a sweet and sentimental film that never wears out its welcome. The movie is based on a true story from the 1860s, when a little sky terrier kept a vigil over his masters’ grave for 14 years until his own death.
This is one of those films that used to be shown on The Wonderful World Of Disney but has not be screened on TV for at least a couple of decades. I have watched this movie on DVD a few times since I bought it many years ago and it never fails to tear me up (shhh, don’t tell anyone). It is that kind of movie.
I also love the whole Scottish-ness about the film. It is set in Edinburgh and all the actors are Scots, which means that everyone has that wonderful Scottish brogue. Also, one of the main characters, John Trail has the most brilliant mutton-chops ever seen in motion pictures, which means that I must give the film some bonus points just for them.
As an aside, I wonder why movies about dogs don’t get made by Hollywood anymore. Back when I was growing up we had Benji, while before that there were many other canine heroes in Rin Tin Tin, Lassie and Old Yeller (which I will be watching very soon). It’s really sad as I love these kinds of movies.