October 2, 2015
DIRECTOR: Nick Park
May contain spoilers!
The third short in the Wallace and Gromit series of Nick Park (Creature Comforts) directed films, Ardman Animation were on a role in the 1990’s with these Christmas favourites. Beginning in 1993 with A Grand Day Out and following it up a year later with superior, The Wrong Trousers (1994), this plasticine world led by a strange northern English inventor and his remarkably intelligent dog follows the pair on their adventures together and it was getting better and better.
A Close Shave introduced the now beloved character of Shawn The Sheep and in this case, basically the plot to their first full length feature five later, The Great Escape (1963) parody Chicken Run (2000), in which an evil dog is hell bent on rustling sheep in order to make them into dog food.
Wallace and Gromit work so well on so many levels, playing into old fashioned English eccentricities which we here in Britain will understand and everybody else will find amusing, as well as not being afraid to draw on film’s lavish history to produce plots which are diverse, fun and witty.
Ardman Animation have since gone on over the past 20 years to produce many more films, but it is here, with these early shorts, a mainstay of Christmas time here in the U.K., which served as a springboard for their success and it is most defiantly earned.
September 30, 2015
The FOTM for September is none other than Val Guest’s British sci-fi classic, The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961). This was covered in detail this month with a week dedicated to reviews from the latest BFI Blu-ray edition, which also included three nuclear themed documentaries from 1950’s/60’s. This ran here on nEoFILM between 14th – 18th September.
- Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)
- Operation: Hurricane (1952)
- The H Bomb (1956)
- The Hole In The Ground (1962)
September 28, 2015
DIRECTORS: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson & Hamilton Luske
May contain spoilers!
This classic animation, as with many of the golden age Disney pictures, have become more iconic than critically acclaimed. The animation style is good, though not at the heights of Disney’s greatest works, with many short cuts used throughout and story is so simple that it manages to miss the darker points of the story and spend much of its running time focusing on the dastardly cat’s attempts to kill the friendly mice.
But there is no doubting the style of this animated feature, with Disney’s brand of anthropomorphic fun throughout, decent enough songs, many of which are now classics in their own rights and moments of fun. But the plot is only based on the original tale and opts to spend as little time as possible with its source material, in favour of its own patented brand of Disney action and comedy.
But this certainly serves as a colourful introduction to the story for young children, who will hopefully seek out the much darker and poignant source, later in life.
September 25, 2015
DIRECTOR: Tom Mankiewicz
May contain spoilers!
“Just the facts, maam”
I was kid when I was first introduced to this 1980’s comedy interpretation of the 50’s/60’s cop drama Dragnet. And I loved it. But it is a little hard for me judge this in the context because of this. Yes, it is ludicrous, the plot is more 80’s than 50’/60’s and whilst some comedic scenes work by shining a modern light of what was funny by modern standards about classic TV, other jokes such a the Police fighter jet complete with a flashing blue light are step too far.
But then again, this is Tom Hanks in his all but forget comedy era and one which I remember well. Starring along side Dan Aykroyd to boot, this was an A-list pairing at the time yet this film has all but fallen into obscurity. It has all the hall marks of another adaptation, the 2004 Todd Phillips directed Starsky And Hutch, which made a comedy out of a relatively serious cop show.
Both have there merits and by doing this, they both serve to breathe some life into franchises which had long since died and I think that aiming the comedy at the generation gap is fair game but with Dragnet, it plays it a bit too broadly. There are plenty of Tom Hanks moments and Aykroyd’s poe-faced Sgt. Joe Friday, nephew of the original’s Lt. Joe Friday, making this a sequel to the TV series, is great fun but this is as much a comedy vehicle for these two as it is an homage to the original, and to be honest, homage might be strong word.
All bar the title, this is a generic cop comedy based on the genre, something with The Heat (2013) may have also done a little better by spoofing the entire genre rather than just a specific title.
As a fan of 80’s comedy, Hanks and Aykroyd, this a worth seeing again but as a dragnet fan, probably not worth wasting your time.
September 23, 2015
DIRECTOR: Gary Nelson
May contain spoilers!
I want to say that the effects where good for the time. I want to say the acting was acceptable. I want to say that the screenplay was more than a mediocre sci-fi script and that Anthony Perkins was not horribly miscast in this post Star Wars Disney movie.
As the for the acting, all I can say is that it was toss-up between Roddy McDowell’s dustbin shaped R2-D2 rip-off, V.I.C.E.N.T. and Ernest Borgnine. Maximilian Schell was just incredible, incredible that he felt no need to act in any way, just go off on one for 90 minutes! But any movie which has with McDowell and Ernest Borgnine as their best actors is as doomed as ludicrously sized greenhouse shaped spaceship lingering around the titular Black Hole!
Oh hang on…
So, the action was poor, the script was mediocre and the special effects were, well functional, though the black hole looked more like Roman candle from a cheep fireworks set. This was 1979, 11 years after 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), 2 years after Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters Of Then Third Kind (1977) and the same year as Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). There is no excuse for the cheap look of this film, except for the fact that is easy to forget that Disney was not the successful and iconic studio that it is today.
They had hit rough times and their output was poor and this poor man’s Star Wars is living proof of that. But one thing I will say for it, beside the amusement of how bad certain elements where, especially the casting of Anthony Perkins as a dubious but essentially “good” character, yes, they cast Psycho in a Disney film and portraying him in a similar light!, and that is the pacing as well as the late John Barry’s easy to enjoy score.
The plot is simple and ends up being a chase throughout the vast spacecraft, leading to several set pieces and this is where it works. It is entertaining, corny but fun and no matter how hard you try, you cannot help rooting for the them a little. But the bizarre Heaven and Hell ending with the dead villain and his equally dispatched sidekick robot Maximilian, is typical ’70’s nonsense and totally out-of-place in such a straight forward sci-fi action romp as this. This is where the film thinks that it 2001, but trust me, it most certainly is not!
September 21, 2015
DIRECTOR: Guy Richie
May Contain Spoilers!
The 2012 sequel to Guy Richie’s hit Sherlock Holmes (2009) meets a major stumbling block. Where do we go from here? Following the events of the London-based reboot in which Robert Downey Jr. takes on the mantle of literary detective, this carries on almost where we left off but in the three-years between the two movies, BBC’s Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch had become a phenomenon in ways that Richie could only have dreamt of for his own movies.
But it is a shame, because given time to breathe, both versions are good, modern and invigorating but Downy’s Holmes is a heroic Hollywood manifestation, whilst Cumberbatch is all BBC, through and through. But it seems here, that now we have re-established Sherlock as a slightly mad, rough and tumble detective, Richie opted to take him down the action road and away from the intellectual detective from first film.
Here, he is simply fighting his nemesis but there is very little “detecting” going on and it is clearly following the three act structure of hero meets nemesis, takes a beating but wins out in the end by making the ultimate sacrifice for his friends. Fair enough but the plot was too hollow to prove this and Downy is running the risk of being the Baker Street detective in name only.
Having said that, the film was entertaining, funny and the action was good, though way over the top. Still, far from Holmes’ worst outing and Downy Jr. is always a pleasure to watch with this is being no exception to that rule. In my view, this was misstep and one which may well have derailed the budding franchise but with Sherlock to compete with, it was always going to be an uphill struggle.