THE KID

December 29, 2015

85e8ffd39dad672b32dc4df852803cd81921

1921/1971 (Re-issue w/t new score)

sU

CANDLES 8

DIRECTOR: Charlie Chaplin

May contain spoilers!

The bitter sweet tale of a baby left in a rich persons car by a desperate mother, only for the car to be stolen and the child to left in the hands of Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp, The Kid has become a bonafide comedy classic in the 90 years since its initial release.

Five years go by and The Tramp is a loving adoptive father to the boy, John, who he raises to be a streetwise urchin. The Kid, Jackie Coogan is adorable, cheeky and has enough comic flair to stand up against the great Chaplin himself.

The film is short, only clocking in at 50 minutes, though this is the shortened version of the original 68 minute cut, with a new musical score composed by Chaplin and composed and orchestrated by Carry On’s Eric Rodgers and what a score it is. Both moving and comical as the typically satirical and Dickensian plot calls for.

The boy is finally reunited with his mother who became a successful actress and The Tramp joins them in the finale, but not before the boy is to be taken into state care and deposited in an orphanage, clearly something close to Chaplin’s heart as he himself spent time in such a place and was not about to let people forget it.

And how does he do that? He makes an all time classic and one which is still being seen, restored and enjoyed almost 100 years after he produced it. Some moments are still laugh out loud funny whilst others, such as the scenes of John being torn from his ‘Father’ are heart wrenching and incredibly well performed by the young Coogan, let alone Chaplin, who’s despair is palpable.

A genuine classic and one to seen.


PIXELS (3D)

December 28, 2015

pixels_xlg2015

s12A12

CANDLES 6

DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus

May contain spoilers!

Kevin James as the President of the United States! If that does not sum up this movie then nothing does! But having said that, he was clearly a metaphor for G. W. Bush, an inane, illiterate joke of a President but still, ‘The King of Queens’ as the head of state… seriously?

Well, the fact that it was stuff like this which stood out to me rather than an alien invasion by vintage computer game characters does highlight a flaw in the writing, with a brand of childish and self indulgent comedy which gets in the way of a much more fun and intriguing premise.

The idea is simple: A tape of computer games from the 80’s was sent up to space in a probe, like you do and decades later, after interpreting this as an act of war, an alien race which had intercepted this probe has come to Earth to answer this aggression.

The fact that the defence to this ludicrous invasion is formulated and executed within just days of the threat first becoming known aside, a team of Arcaders led by geek and gaming champ Adam Sandler, is sent to beat the Pixels before they destroy the planet.

The best things about this film are Peter Dinklage as an arrogant gamer who thinks that he is the best thing since sliced bread and Frozen’s Olaf, Josh Gad, as a middle-aged virgin conspiracy nut, both of which join the team to fight the invaders, the only way they know how, playing the games on a life sized stage.

The concept is fun and puerile and if it was just left to this Futurama inspired plot then this could have been a gem but since this is another Adam Sandler and friends effort, with a cast made up of just that, a bunch of mates getting together for a laugh, the film’s comedy is distracting at times. Not always, with a few silly laughs along the way and there is no doubt that this is entertaining for kids.

But a movie about 80’s arcade games is surly aimed at a 30 to 40 something audience, yet its tone is very childish and in being so, limits its appeal accordingly. This is good solid entertainment and may be better than it first appears and I suspect that it may also garner a much greater and loyal audience in years to come but right now it feels like a missed opportunity.


THE REVIEW COLLECTION: THE STAR WARS SAGA

December 27, 2015

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Well after two and half weeks of Star Wars, with reviews covering everything major from 1977 to the latest release, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), it is now all over.

Taking us through Christmas, it is time to put this franchise to bed for 2015, also time to collected up the reviews and put them together in one place, archived as it were.

So, here is.

THE STAR WARS SAGA

So, Merry Christmas and may the Force with you…


IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (BLACK & WHITE & COLOURISED)

December 27, 2015

its_a_wonderful_life_ver31946

1946/2007 (COLOURISED)

CANDLES 10

DIRECTOR: Frank Capra

May Contain Spoilers!

The Christmas classic which has left an unparalleled mark on movie history and the Family Christmas is undoubtedly, Frank Capra’s, It’s A Wonderful Life. Like many seasonal classics, this has gained its fame and recognition from TV showings over the seven decades since its initial release, but it’s clearly NOT a Christmas film in the traditional sense. Yes, it’s set on Christmas Eve and it features a Christmas miracle but most of it is pretty dark and set over the span of George Bailey’s (James Stewart) life.

It tells the simple story of how a good man’s life has more meaningful and has a greater impact on those around him than he could have possibly known, and is shown this by Clarence, a second class angel on a mission to get his wings. He fights for the underdog and sacrifices his own dreams in the process. This and the prospect of prison following his uncles mistake in misplacing $8000 of his banks money, eventually leads him to contemplate suicide. It is here that Clarence shows him what life would have been like without him and coins one of cinema and TV’s most used, or overused plot devices!

But the beauty of this classic is that it is a real film in its own right, whether you watch it at Christmas time of in June! It’s dark but moralistic tone plays out like a religious parable, with Stewart’s character facing off against the seemingly evil Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) in order to protect the little man. In post-war 1946 America, this banker helping the working class would have been very topical but even today, in a world were bankers are perceived as crooks and thieves, the idea of Bailey’s idealism is appealing, a shows in a macro-cosmic way how economy and socialism can work hand in hand.

wl3But enough politics. This is a deeply meaningful and yet whimsical take, which is heart-warming throughout for all the right reasons. Family and proper, decent family values are promoted here, not the schmaltzy ones, but the REAL values, not perfect people in the perfect family, but family and friends sticking together for their collective betterment. The idea that two of life’s “Little people” standing shoulder to shoulder can hold their own against one “Fat cat”.

It’s A Wonderful Life is just one of Frank Capra’s brilliant movies. A man with a clear social message but in this case, using a man born into money to tell his story. This is Scrooge but in reverse. The happy ending comes not from learning from the error of his ways but the realisation that he was already a good man and that his deeds would pay divides when he truly needed them too.

A classic, well shot, acted and conceived. A worthy classic if ever there was one.

COLOURISATION

In 1985, this film was colourised, a process which I, as many, have a fundamental problem with. I feel that it is unnecessary and as wrong as CGI special editions or post conversions of old films into 3D.

But whilst I feel there is little need for any of these processes, I am guilty of enjoying the results. It can be nice to revisit classics such as Jurassic Park (1993) or The Wizard Of Oz (1939) after an IMAX 3D conversion, without detracting from the originals, it can offer a new viewing experience of a film which has been watched to death! At the very least, a novelty.

It’s A Wonderful Life? was converted back in the mid 80’s but the version which is available on Blu-ray now, is the 2007 Legend Films version and what a beautiful print it is!

The first thing I noticed about this version was that it did offer a different look at the film and one which added some visual flair to the narrative itself. For example; Violet Bick (Gloria Grahame) was seen as both a child in the pharmacy flirty with the young George Bailey whilst wearing a pink cardigan and then she is seen again as an adult, wearing a pink dress.

This detail is impossible to see in the black and white version and whilst it hardly makes of breaks the film, it does add a little character detail. But in the famous scene in which Jimmy Stewart’s Bailey is sat in Martini’s Bar contemplating his suicide, the bar actually looks to cosy, with the black and white version presenting a more gloomy and dour place for Bailey’s darkest moment.

N.B. Following reassessment, It’s A Wonderful life has been upgraded from the very respectable 9/10 to full marks, 10/10 or 10 Candles. In short, what was I thinking back in 2012!

 


COLOURISED CHRISTMAS ~ MIRACLE ON 34th STREET (1947) & IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)

December 26, 2015

Last Monday, just a day after Frank Capra’s classic, It’s A Wonderful Life’s 69th Birthday, we have sat down to celebrate Christmas with two classic festive movies, both of whcih have the dubious honour of being some of the first to be colourised back in the mid 1980’s.

Miracle On 34th Street (1947) was actually released in May of that year, despite the fact that it is set between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This was apparently due to studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck feeling that more people went to the cinema in summer rather than braving the cold of winter so the publicity, including the theatrical posters were toned down, without any festive artwork whatsoever.

But in 1985, this film was colourised, a process which I, as many, have a fundamental problem with. I feel that it is unnecessary and as wrong as CGI special editions or post conversions of old films into 3D.

But whilst I feel there is little need for any of these processes, I am guilty of enjoying the results. It can be nice to revisit classics such as Jurassic Park (1993) or The Wizard Of Oz (1939) after an IMAX 3D conversion, without detracting from the originals, it can offer a new viewing experience of a film which has been watched to death! At the very least, a novelty.

So what a pleasant surprise to discover how good A Miracle On 34th Street looked after the 1985 colourisation process. Granted, the colour is not as rich as Technicolor but it works, breathing new life into a film which looked perfectly fine in black and white but why not have the option to see it colour, certainly with such a light and breezy subject such as this.

The colour complimented the film’s festive tone and whilst not better than the original, it was a nice alternate way to see this classic.

But what about the 1946 classic, It’s A Wonderful Life? This too, was converted back in the mid 80’s but the version which is available on Blu-ray now, is the 2007 Legend Films version and what a beautiful print it is!

The first thing I noticed about this version was that it did offer a different look at the film and one which added some visual flair to the narrative itself. For example; Violet Bick (Gloria Grahame) was seen as both a child in the pharmacy flirty with the young George Bailey whilst wearing a pink cardigan and then she is seen again as an adult, wearing a pink dress.

This detail is impossible to see in the black and white version and whilst it hardly makes of breaks the film, it does add a little character detail. But in the famous scene in which Jimmy Stewart’s Bailey is sat in Martini’s Bar contemplating his suicide, the bar actually looks to cosy, with the black and white version presenting a more gloomy and dour place for Bailey’s darkest moment.

Overall, both these films faired well from the colourisation process, not perfectly and both movies suffered from a lack of richness, in many ways caused by the original black and white lighting and cinematography but on the other hand, from someone who has seen the black and white versions numerous times before, this was a great double bill of bright, vibrant and colourful classics, seen for the first time in way which presented them in quite literally, a different light.

A red Kris Kringle and a Pink Dress. Two images which I would never have seen if not for this controversial process. Is colourisation wrong?

No, not as long as the originals are both definitive and respected. The colour versions make for a nice novelty and should be enjoyed as such. And I did enjoy them.


TOP FIVE CHRISTMAS FILMS

December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Today I have taken a look back at Christmas films which a have already been reviewed on nEoFILM and selected what I believe to be the top five festive movies. This is not the top five of all time as I have not reviewed every major Christmas film, with classics such as early versions A Christmas Carol/Scrooge yet to be reviewed, let alone modern classics like Scrooged (1988) or of the 1994 version of A Miracle On 34th Street.

But having said that, the number one choice may well stand even against such strong competition. This is not based on my ratings either, as there are more films which rate higher than the titles included on list list which may hold up better as films but this is about the spirit of a Christmas movie and what I personally think of when choosing a film for festive viewing.

 

Anyway, without further ague…

…at number 5 we have…

~5

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

nightmare_before_christmas_ver1

1993

DIRECTOR: Henry Selick

May Contain Spoilers!

Whilst Tim Burton was directing Batman Returns, he was also producing this stop-motion animation classic. The influence of Batman’s second outing was clear, and I’m sure that there was a nod to Returns in the scene when the Mayer of Halloween Town is looking for Jack Skellington, with a picture of  bat and cat on a plan for next years Halloween.

The story is well conceived, as Jack Skelington, the master mind of the Halloween, is bored with his endless role in the macabre holiday and discovers Christmas Town. Whilst there, he becomes obsessed with Christmas and returns home and arranges for Halloween Town to take over the holiday that year.

Jack’s obsession leads him to research Christmas but he can’t understand it, leading to a Christmas sack filled with shrunken heads and a host of other macabre gifts. The beauty of this film is that it is aimed at everyone. It feels like a kids film but the humour is classic Burton, as is the style. Jack’s obsession is handled in a mature fashion too, a concept that is not fully understandable by children but enough so as to understand his actions.

The other master-stroke here is that almost all the characters of Halloween Town are good. Their motives by trying to put on Christmas are admirable and Jack’s sorrow at his inevitable failure is also very touching. Bad things happen to good people, or creatures, throughout but there’s little malice. it walks a line which fairy tales often do, but this is little a more brazen about doing so.

With a blend of humour, scares and striking imagery, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a great watch for all the family, and a through-back into the days of Grimm and Anderson, only in the final days of the 20th Century.

~4

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL

1992

DIRECTOR: Brian Henson

May Contain Spoilers!

The Muppets have always been a strangely compelling creation. Taken seriously as personalities by their creators and fans alike, Kurmet and Miss Piggy are as timeless as Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, whilst  managing to maintain their characters over the time without them becoming diminished of tamed, as with the Looney Tunes characters.

The 90’s saw a revival of the franchise in the form of movies, such as this and The Muppet Treasure Island and the short lived TV series rehash. There’s no doubt of the success of these films, though the series left a lot to be desired, but to me, it just doesn’t do it. Scrooge of played admirably by Michael Caine, and in turn it is he who drives the script, with a lot of help for our Muppets.

But with these classic stories being retold in Muppet form, the characters that are the Muppets are subdued and it’s this that works for me normally, and something which has been lost here. This is a decent enough family Christmas film, the kids will love it and it filled with Christmas cheer and a very festive atmosphere but it just falls short for me, and leaves me a little cold. Appropriate fro the time time of year though.

~3

SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE

1985

DIRECTOR: Jeannot Szwarc

May Contain Spoilers!

I can remember this coming out in 1985, The Santa Clause (1994) as it were of the 80’s. It’s not amazing, but it’s a serviceable festive treat. Santa Claus is given a plausible back story and evolves nicely into the character which all grew up with and love.

But I feel that this is supposed to be a Dudley Moore vehicle. Tosh! If anyone was to steal the show from Santa, it would have to be the wonderful, John Lithgow, as quite rightly, as he plays the villainous toy manufacturer,  B.Z. who takes what was becoming a paint by numbers affair and gave it some life. Flamboyant and over the top, Lithgow adds a sense of pantomime villainy which actually gives us something and someone to root for. And what does it say about this movie, that the title character, one of the most iconic in modern western culture, should be relegated to third billing, and we thought that Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) was bad, with Michael Keaton following Jack Nicholson.

More of a classic that many would give it credit for, but hardly Miracle On 34th Street (1947), but is a film which feels like Christmas to kids of today and a reminder of Christmas Eve for us children of then 1980’s.

~2

miracle-on-34th-street-poster1947

1947/1985 (Colourised)

sU

CANDLES 10

DIRECTOR: George Seaton

May contain spoilers!

The original and dare I say, the best, Miracle On 34th Street is one of the  Christmas classics. We meet Maureen O’Hara and her daughter, a young Natalie Wood, a cynical pair, the mother divorced and the daughter who only believes in what she sees.

Enter Kris Kringle, aka Santa Claus. The newly hired Macy’s Department Store Santa claims to be the REAL Father Christmas but O’Hara and Wood are too wise to believe this, but this story of believing in Santa is more to do with faith and never allowing life’s hurdles to jade us rather than is solving the controversy as to whether Kris Kringle is Santa Claus or simply a mad man.

Miracle On 34th Street (1947) was actually released in May of that year, despite the fact that it is set between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This was apparently due to studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck feeling that more people went to the cinema in summer rather than braving the cold of winter so the publicity, including the theatrical posters were toned down, without any festive artwork whatsoever.

The tone and dialogue are sharp as this light comedy mounts its attack on the ever commercialised Christmas, (and they thought it was it bad in 1947!) but somehow manages to make its string of marketing managers and CEO’s, including fictitious versions of R. H. Macy and Mr. Gimble of the now defunct Gimbles Department Store’s into loveable rogues rather than fat cat villains. This an enjoyable and poignant romp through the Christmas Season as the we follow Kringle’s journey into the heart of commercialism only to be won over by the good nature of people, faith in mankind winning out.

COLOURISATION

In 1985, this film was colourised, a process which I, as many, have a fundamental problem with. I feel that it is unnecessary and as wrong as CGI special editions or post conversions of old films into 3D.

xeyCgEE.640x360.0But whilst I feel there is little need for any of these processes, I am guilty of enjoying the results. It can be nice to revisit classics such as Jurassic Park (1993) or The Wizard Of Oz (1939) after an IMAX 3D conversion, without detracting from the originals, it can offer a new viewing experience of a film which has been watched to death! At the very least, a novelty.

So what a pleasant surprise to discover how good A Miracle On 34th Street looked after the 1985 colourisation process. Granted, the colour is not as rich as Technicolor but it works, breathing new life into a film which looked perfectly fine in black and white but why not have the option to see it colour, certainly with such a light and breezy subject such as this.

The colour complimented the film’s festive tone and whilst not better than the original, it was a nice alternate way to see this classic.

…and at number…

~1

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

its_a_wonderful_life_ver31946

CANDLES 10

DIRECTOR: Frank Capra

May Contain Spoilers!

The Christmas classic which has left an unparalleled mark on movie history and the Family Christmas is undoubtedly, Frank Capra’s, It’s A Wonderful Life. Like many seasonal classics, this has gained its fame and recognition from TV showings over the seven decades since its initial release, but it’s clearly NOT a Christmas film in the traditional sense. Yes, it’s set on Christmas Eve and it features a Christmas miracle but most of it is pretty dark and set over the span of George Bailey’s (James Stewart) life.

It tells the simple story of how a good man’s life has more meaningful and has a greater impact on those around him than he could have possibly known, and is shown this by Clarence, a second class angel on a mission to get his wings. He fights for the underdog and sacrifices his own dreams in the process. This and the prospect of prison following his uncles mistake in misplacing $8000 of his banks money, eventually leads him to contemplate suicide. It is here that Clarence shows him what life would have been like without him and coins one of cinema and TV’s most used, or overused plot devices!

But the beauty of this classic is that it is a real film in its own right, whether you watch it at Christmas time of in June! It’s dark but moralistic tone plays out like a religious parable, with Stewart’s character facing off against the seemingly evil Mr. Potter (Lionel Barrymore) in order to protect the little man. In post-war 1946 America, this banker helping the working class would have been very topical but even today, in a world were bankers are perceived as crooks and thieves, the idea of Bailey’s idealism is appealing, a shows in a microcosmic way how economy and socialism can work hand in hand.

wl3But enough politics. This is a deeply meaningful and yet whimsical take, which is heart-warming throughout for all the right reasons. Family and proper, decent family values are promoted here, not the schmaltzy ones, but the REAL values, not perfect people in the perfect family, but family and friends sticking together for their collective betterment. The idea that two of life’s “Little people” standing shoulder to shoulder can hold their own against one “Fat cat”.

It’s A Wonderful Life is just one of Frank Capra’s brilliant movies. A man with a clear social message but in this case, using a man born into money to tell his story. This is Scrooge but in reverse. The happy ending comes not from learning from the error of his ways but the realisation that he was already a good man and that his deeds would pay divides when he truly needed them too.

A classic, well shot, acted and conceived. A worthy classic if ever there was one.

N.B. This has been reassessed and upgraded from 9/10 – 10/10 (27/12/15).

 


MIRACLE ON 34th STREET (1947)

December 25, 2015

miracle-on-34th-street-poster1947

1947/1985 (Colourised)

sU

CANDLES 10

DIRECTOR: George Seaton

May contain spoilers!

The original and dare I say, the best, Miracle On 34th Street is one of the  Christmas classics. We meet Maureen O’Hara and her daughter, a young Natalie Wood, a cynical pair, the mother divorced and the daughter who only believes in what she sees.

Enter Kris Kringle, aka Santa Claus. The newly hired Macy’s Department Store Santa claims to be the REAL Father Christmas but O’Hara and Wood are too wise to believe this, but this story of believing in Santa is more to do with faith and never allowing life’s hurdles to jade us rather than is solving the controversy as to whether Kris Kringle is Santa Claus or simply a mad man.

Miracle On 34th Street (1947) was actually released in May of that year, despite the fact that it is set between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This was apparently due to studio head, Darryl F. Zanuck feeling that more people went to the cinema in summer rather than braving the cold of winter so the publicity, including the theatrical posters were toned down, without any festive artwork whatsoever.

The tone and dialogue are sharp as this light comedy mounts its attack on the ever commercialised Christmas, (and they thought it was it bad in 1947!) but somehow manages to make its string of marketing managers and CEO’s, including fictitious versions of R. H. Macy and Mr. Gimble of the now defunct Gimbles Department Store’s into loveable rogues rather than fat cat villains. This an enjoyable and poignant romp through the Christmas Season as the we follow Kringle’s journey into the heart of commercialism only to be won over by the good nature of people, faith in mankind winning out.

COLOURISATION

In 1985, this film was colourised, a process which I, as many, have a fundamental problem with. I feel that it is unnecessary and as wrong as CGI special editions or post conversions of old films into 3D.

xeyCgEE.640x360.0But whilst I feel there is little need for any of these processes, I am guilty of enjoying the results. It can be nice to revisit classics such as Jurassic Park (1993) or The Wizard Of Oz (1939) after an IMAX 3D conversion, without detracting from the originals, it can offer a new viewing experience of a film which has been watched to death! At the very least, a novelty.

So what a pleasant surprise to discover how good A Miracle On 34th Street looked after the 1985 colourisation process. Granted, the colour is not as rich as Technicolor but it works, breathing new life into a film which looked perfectly fine in black and white but why not have the option to see it colour, certainly with such a light and breezy subject such as this.

The colour complimented the film’s festive tone and whilst not better than the original, it was a nice alternate way to see this classic.