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Firebird 2015 AD (1981)
Firebird 2015 A.D. - More like FireBORED 2015 A.D.
Okay, I AM writing this review in 2016, the year AFTER the movie takes place - now the past. Oh to hell with it, lets just say the middle of the 2010s so that makes my review take place in the time period the movie takes place. Now with that out of my system lets continue.
Take this scenario. In the mid 2010s gasoline is in very short supply and what is left is drastically expensive. As a result all gas burning vehicles have been banned and this has had a terrible effect on the U.S. economy. But lo and behold a group of people see through this. There's plenty of gasoline to be had they say, the U.S. government is just hogging it all for itself and this group is determined to see to it that the ban is lifted and the fuel is released, and those behind it are brought to justice for the harm it has done. In the meantime the group's favorite hobby is riding their cars around to defy the ban. To keep them in line (and to impose the ban) the government has sent special police forces out to stop this group of rebels - known as "burners" - with whatever means necessary. However nothing is going to stop these "burners" from their mission. But there are those who don't want the ban lifted, mainly the special police forces because if the ban goes, they are out of a job. So its the burners (the heroes)versus the corrupt special police (the villains) and only one side is going to win.
Now that sounds great doesn't it? And if someone else besides David Robertson had directed it, then maybe we would have had a great sci-fi movie. But he did and therefore we don't. Instead Firebird 2015 A.D. is about a bunch of people whether, it is the burners or the special police, bitching about how life is unfair in these hard times while driving around through... the desert. No cities, small towns, suburbs, or abandoned amusement parks. Just lots of empty desert landscape and nothing more. After all it worked for Wile E. Coyote didn't it? Well it doesn't work here because it only adds to the slowness that permeates this movie.
The plot, as it goes, is about Red,a leader of the burners (played by Darrin McGavin) joining forces with his long lost son (Robert Wisden) who has arrived at Red's home (a pit stop for burners as Red has his own gasoline supply) where they plan on reaching Washington D.C. so they can defeat the gas ban. Meanwhile a group of the special police (led by Doug McClure) have set up a camp near Red's compound with the hopes of stopping him. In the meantime McGavin's son falls in love with the daughter of another burner play by Mary Beth Ruebens. And that's all there is! No juicy twists or memorable quotes or set pieces to get into here. Zip! Now if this film was a rip-snorting chase movie being something like Mad Max 2 – The Road Warrior meets Smokey And The Bandit used with the above mentioned scenario then maybe we would have a real exciting flick. But nooooooo! What we get is people bemoaning what is sad happenings in their lives while constantly mumbling of how they want to defeat the other team. And all this while racing their gas wasting cars and motorcycles around what seems like the same 1 1/2 mile stretch of desert over and over again.
Now the acting. Marc McClure, always a good actor, feels wasted as the movie's heavy. He often looks like he rather be starring in a more challenging role, like maybe the lead in a softcore porno flick than in this thing. As for Rubens, she is a pretty girl, but what does she really do? And Darren McGavin? Well he just acts like Darrin McGavin.
But what's worst about this movie is the setting. Made in 1982, this was supposed to look at the distant future year of 2015. Instead it just looks like 1982. My point is this, if your going to make a movie about the future MAKE IT LOOK LIKE THE FUTURE! This movie looks about as futuristic as Meet Me In St Louis starring Judy Garland looked futuristic. There is nothing here - outside of the police uniforms and they don't count much - that makes this movie feel like things to come. I guess the makers of Firebird 2015 A.D. think by saying that this story is in the future but not showing anything futuristic was a decent idea. No, and this is one of the top reasons this movie fall flat on it's butt. We want to SEE the future and feel it, not just be suggested of it.
A boring sci-fi movie that doesn't feel like a sci-fi movie at all. Well at least Darrin McGavin recovered from this wreck. His next role was that of Ralphie's father in "A Christmas Story" - and he had the best role of his career.
My Rating (from Excellent to Poor) - Pretty Bad. Just stick to the Mad Max movies instead. Or better yet the original Death Race 2000.
Worlds Away - another mind blowing Cirque du Soleil experience.
A girl named Mia goes to a rinky-dink traveling carnival/circus. While attending the circus she sees - and immediately becomes smitten by - the shows trapeze artist, a boy known only as the Aerialist. As he sees her its love at first sight for him as well. He misses his trapeze and falls to the ground. But instead of going splat, the ground gives way underneath him. Mia rushes over to help and she falls in with him. When she regains her senses back, she finds herself in the misty, dreamlike world of Cirque du Soleil whose landscape consists of numerous large circus tents bathed in glowing moonlight. The girl and the boy travel from tent to tent experiencing the weird characters and dazzling performances in each tent while desperately searching for one another in this bizarre world.
That's it! I have just explained the complete plot of Cirque du Soleil Worlds Away. Not that there is really anything being given away here... in fact there is very little - if any - to give away. But the plot is not important here. It is the performances of the Cirque du Soleil performers that is. To get to the point, Worlds Away is basically a Cirque du Soleil's Greatest Hits album (with parts of O, Ka, Mystere, The Beatles Love, among others, and actually filmed at the theatres where they are performed at in Las Vegas) with the very loose plot of the two lovers traveling through the tents trying to find each other used as a clothesline on to which to hang the various acts upon. However this setup does not take away from the jaw dropping spectacle that is Cirque du Soleil. From clowns reading newspapers that are on fire to a ballet dancer dancing to the Beatles song "As My Guitar Gently Weeps" as rose petals drift around her and much more, Worlds Away doesn't fail in the blow-your-mind department.
However the best was saved for last, the act between Mia and the Aerialist. Does the girl and the boy find each other? Of course they do! Don't worry, as I mentioned before I ain't spoiling anything. Because of Worlds Away's wisp of a storyline, there isn't anything to spoil. There are no twists or turns or main surprises. Most of the acts you see in Worlds Away you have seen done before in one way or another from other Cirque du Soleil shows, either from its live theater, its IMAX movie shorts, or its television specials. Hell, you'll figure it out that the girl and the boy will eventually reunite once they - and we - start exploring Cirque Du Soleil Land! Its like I said before, the movie is deliberately structured where the plot doesn't matter, the performances do. You are here to have your brain dazzled, not stimulated. THAT'S the filmmakers intent. Both Erica Linz (Mia) and Igor Ziripov (The Aerialist) are Cirque du Soleil pros who have been in numerous Cirque productions. To see them do their "straps" act forty feet in the air in the finale is breathtaking to say the least as both of them seem to almost defy gravity itself with this act! You can clearly see and respect the years of practice it took to do this and make it look effortless (in fact Ziripov has performed this act before with his real life wife in certain Cirque shows). It is not only a sensual and romantic experience, but it is downright astonishing to watch.
On the down side to Worlds Away, at times there is a clear, over-abundance of performances filling the screen which, coupled with the loose story of the girl and boy seeking each other, tends to give the film a somewhat slightly draggy and boring feel. And that may aggravate some people. When I took my girlfriend on my fourth (and final) time to the cinema to see it, the theater was completely empty except for us and an elderly couple sitting six rows down from us. She yawned between gulps of her Dr Pepper throughout it while wondering what her boyfriend - that's me - had gotten her into. When I showed it to my mother on Blu-ray, she wasn't impressed either, even though she enjoys Cirque du Soleil. So I will say it does indeed get a wee slow, but do stick with it. As I said the final act is WELL worth it.
In all this is another handsome show from Cirque Du Soleil. As for director Andrew Adamson and executive producer James Cameron (to which this movie had been a pet project of his for years) I definitely applaud both of them.
My rating from Excellent to Poor... Very Good. Well worth a look and great entertainment.
Zoinks! Great fun for Scooby fans, Kiss fans, and especially if you're a fan of both!
What is a Halloween WITHOUT Kiss or the Scooby Gang? With this terrific fun-fest we will never know the answer to that question! Yup the Fearless Five team up with the Hottest Band In The World to solve the mystery of the Crimson Witch, an especially vicious new monster that is terrorizing the visitors to the Kiss themed amusement park known as Kiss World on Halloween Night. And in the process the Gang will travel to strange places, learn how to belch fire, and find out who Kiss really are.
For starters let start with the animation. The five Scooby-Doo characters have never looked better. The animation is fluid without over-animating them. The animation is sharp, very colorful and crisp looking. As for the plot, that is where a snag comes in. To me it gets a tad too thick at times. We all know the basic Scooby-Doo plot and it was always straight forward. Shaggy, Daphne, Velma, Fred, and Scooby stumble onto another weird situation, run for their lives from the monster, and then solve the mystery and expose the buttface in the mask and costume that was causing all the trouble at the episodes end (and always revealing their solutions with an ironic comparative ease - after all if they figured out it was just some harmless ordinary idiot in a costume and mask from the start, then what were they so frightened of?). It was a formula that was took it easy on the brain and was fun to watch as well. That was why it was so successful and Hanna-Barbera used it many times over in their various shows (Speed Buggy, Jabberjaw, etc.)
Here the plot concerns a Black Diamond the band must protect, and the Witch wants desperately, while the Scooby Gang helps the band out in their quest. But it goes deeper than just protecting the precious gem, far more so. And that is where the plot of "Scooby-Doo and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery" kicks into gear and things get complicated. It is a little more than the basic Scooby formula that I had described before. Not that it is a bad thing. After all this is a MOVIE, so it has to be more solid than an average episode. I'm just saying that it seems a little bit off putting for viewers that are more used to 30 minute Scooby adventures, like myself.
But the real treat here is the voice casting. The band members actually do their own voices, as well as their real life manager Doc McGee. There is also a bevy a celebrity voices here, from Jason Mewes and Paula Perrette, to Penny Marshall and Darius Rucker, just to name a few. The band members all do a decent job with their rolls. For non-actors (well Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley has done acting before) there is rarely a flat reading of lines by the them and it is a joy to hear them sound like voice acting pros.
Another added plus is the slathering of Kiss references that are plastered throughout the movie. A couple of examples: when the gang is watching a video of the Witch doing her evil, she smashes a guitar. Paul Stanley smashes his guitar at the end of every Kiss concert. When told that the Scooby Gang will join them whether he likes it or not, the Demon (Gene Simmons) replies "Oy" referencing the fact that Simmons is Jewish. The list goes on and on. It took me at least three viewings before I could get even half of the references. And there are a few non-Kiss references thrown in to keep you on your toes, look for a Sailor Moon one. Kiss fanatics, like yours truly, will be in Kiss trivia hog heaven here.
In all this is a great Scooby adventure, a great Kiss adventure, and a great Halloween movie. Along with great Kiss songs (the opening credits are a knockout) and a new Kiss song that is fun to listen to, "Scooby-Doo and Kiss: Rock and Roll Mystery" will definitely get your Halloween Rockin and Rolling All Nite!
My Rating (from Excellent to Poor): Good. Lots of fun to be had here.
Live Aid (1985)
7/13/15 - Thirty years later and this thing will still blow your mind
It was 30 years ago today - 7-13-85 - when Live Aid was unleashed upon the world. Of course it was expected, Bob Geldof had announced the event to the public a few weeks before. But nobody could have predicted the (still) staggering effect that this monster had on the public.
Live Aid started at 12:00 P.M. in London (7:00 A.M. in Philadelphia, and 6:00 A.M. where I lived at which was the Gulf Coast area of the U.S., which meant I woke up and this thing was already going on full blast). For the next 16 hours the entire world was given a concert like no other. Star after star played. Geldof tried to get as many reunions as he could and succeeded getting a number of them (The Who, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Black Sabbath, but unsuccessfully failed to get the Beatles). He also threw in the spectacle of Phil Collins playing in London and then flying the Concord over to Philly to play a couple of songs before joining Led Zeppelin for what would be the fun, but notoriously sloppy Led Zeppelin reunion. But some mistakes aside Live Aid was something not to be missed. Nobody in my neighborhood was watching anything else that day but Live Aid until the very end. The concert was simply that mesmerizing.
The show in the thirty years since it has been telecast has lost none of its power to dazzle. Of course the Live Aid DVD it is not without flaws. Missing whole acts, songs cut from some of the performers, and the performance list for the Philly show is scrambled up for whatever reason (example: Judas Priest played BEFORE Madonna, the DVD setup has the reverse). It all kinda taints things a tad. But these are small potatoes. Live Aid is a wall to wall rock and roll amusement park for the eyes and ears that will leave you exhausted and exhilarated when it is through. When you do watch it you better make sure you have a whole day to do so because at 10 hours plus you will be there in your living room for quite a while. I should know... that is what happened to me today when I made my 30th anniversary viewing!
Kiss: The Last Kiss (2000)
A great last show of the original lineup
The Last Kiss was a Pay-Per-View show that played only once ten years ago today on October 7, 2000 during the band's Farewell Tour of 2000. Kiss treated this special just like it was a stop on their tour and if you didn't order it, well you missed it because it never played like this again (versions played years later were edited). And it would be one of the last times we would see the original lineup of the band. Yeah, Kiss would play again and they would still be fun, but it would never again be the same with out this - the original lineup. Captured in New Jersey at The Meadowlands on June 27, 2000, the show captures every drop of the band in all of it's bombastic glory and it is a great blast of fun to watch. After watching this (it is available on Kissology - Volume 3) you WILL feel the power and excitement of Kiss, what the are like in concert, and just what makes them special to their fans - like yours truly. Whether you saw them on this tour (like I did... three times in fact!) or not, this was - and still is - a great way to see the original lineup in one of their final performances together and see all the things that makes them The Hottest Band In The World.
The Blob (1988)
20 years later The Blob still is one of the better remakes from the 80's
Yes this review is written on August 5, 2008...20 years ago to the day that the remake of The Blob was unleashed to audiences. And it was... and still is... one of the better creature feature remakes. It was a damn shame the flick bombed at the box office.
During the 1980's it seemed like a whole slew of remakes of sci-fi and horror classics from the 50's were being put on the screen. You had the good (The Fly, The Thing), and you had the lousy (Invaders From Mars). The Blob was one of the better ones and it is a shame it went nowhere at the at the box office and only somewhat better on home video because it deserves to be watched. This time everybody's favorite slimeball from space invaders a small Colorado ski town (where it was a small town in New England in the original). Cute-as-a-button cheerleader Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) and the town troublemaker Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillion in a role that firmly makes him as good an actor as his older bro Matt) are the ones who go up against the Blob and try to stop it.
Of course we do have some problems here gang. The original Blob was red.. a sicking BLOOD red. That was one of the reasons it was so scary. Here Mr. Blob is a pinkish-purple. Not frighting. Also the original was a silent predator. You didn't know it was there until you turned around and there it was. This version throws things around, splashes water, and... jinkees... screams! Yes it screams. And I didn't know it even had vocal cords! I'm sorry but silence is golden when it comes to the Blob.
On the positive side are two great performances by the two leads and even if it is a bit too much to take Smith's transformation from a peppy cheerleader to an ass-kicking teenage girl version of Rambo. And yes there are the gross out moments. You couldn't have a flick like this without them and this one gives you the goods.
Unfortunately we are left with one of those it's-not-over-yet-folks kind of endings. You know what I'm talking about. The monster finally gets it's butt kicked and we think after all the trouble it has caused it has gotten what it deserved and that's that...BUT WAIT! The last shot shows the villain is still alive in one way or another and ready to go out and cause more fun filled chaos. In other words... sequel! What is really irritating with this is that most of the movies that put on this kind of ending usually don't go anywhere financial-wise and therefore we never do see that sequel and we are just left with a somewhat half-opened ending that will never be resolved. And director Chuck Russell allowed The Blob to commit this sin. Knowing the rotten performance that The Blob delivered at the box office we know we will never see The Blob 2. But maybe that's a good thing - no Blob 2 - because with this one just a single trip was very satisfying enough, thank you.
So go out and grab a copy. You'll get get caught in it's slimy grip and enjoy every minute it. Happy Birthday, Blob!
Kirk Alyn makes this Superman a blast
I wish to say that ten years ago on this very day I personally met Kirk Alyn when I helped him with a chore. He was quite elderly and frail, but still it was an honor to meet him. So this comment is dedicated to the memory of Kirk Alyn.
This is the first time The Man of Steel ever appeared on the screen. And guess what? It's great all thanks to Kirk Alyn and a cast that makes it good fun. Yeah I grant you, the special effects are hokey, but you don't need rock'em-sock'em visuals to make a movie, just a great sense of pure enjoyment. Along with Kirk there is Noel Neil as a very spunky Lois Lane. Carol Forman makes a great villain (and a very sexy one too) as the Spider Lady. And former Little Rascal Tommy "Butch" Bond plays Jimmy Olsen (which in itself is another beginning... Bond was the first person to have ever played this role!). But it's Alyn that makes it all great. He gives Superman a sense of real superhero pizazz without making the Son of Krypton look pompous. So run, or fly, out and get a copy and pop it in your player. This is one time where your entertainment time really does become "A job for Superman"!
Tex Avery's bizarre masterpiece
As we all know Tex Avery has made more than his share of great animated works. From "Symphony In Slang" to "Who Killed Who?" to one of the best of the Droopy cartoons "Three Little Pups". But those were all with MGM. Avery was canned after MGM's animation department was shut down, so he found employment for MGM rival Walter Lantz."Sh-h-h-h-h-h" is the undisputed Master of the Crazed Cartoon's brilliant masterpiece. It was also his last animated short.
Our story tells us about a Mr. Twiddle, a little man who works in a VERY noisy nightclub playing percussion while the horn section blows their trumpets right in his ears, making him a nervous wreck. He goes to see psychiatrist, Dr. I.M. Jittery (get it?), who tells him that his nerves are shot and unless he goes away so he can get some quiet rest he'll just blow up. So Mr. Twiddle goes to The Hush-Hush Lodge in the Swiss Alps, a place that prides itself on absolutely no sounds made whatsoever. Not long after Twiddle hits the hay, the people in the next room start to badly play a trumpet while howling with laughter. Twiddle tries to get them to stop but no avail. Each effort he makes is met by an even ruder response from these pests who seem to be enjoying torturing him. For example: Twiddle slips a note under the door saying to please stop the noise. The people in return instantly slip a note under the door telling him to "Aww shutup". And it goes on. That's the source of the cartoon's gags and sure, you get the usual Avery-styled barrage of them. But the main thrust is that Twiddle - along with us the viewers - never see who these sadistic noisemakers are. They are kept a complete mystery until being reveled in the cartoon's ingenuous twist ending (which I downright refuse to tell you here). We also see the unfortunate fate that befalls poor Mr. Twiddle.
This is also one of the most downright bizarre and weirdest cartoons ever made. For starters the cartoon's underlying atmosphere concerning Twiddle's ordeal seems dark and the ending, while it is great, itself feels macabre. There is also little dialog spoken throughout - for the most part all we get are a sparse array of sound effects. But mostly it's that laughter that gets to you. It goes on and on and on. Even as the cartoon fades out in it's final seconds we hear absolutely nothing but that crazed laughter. You're left with a very strange, and even creepy, feeling after Sh-h-h-h-h-h is over. And this is what makes this cartoon brilliant. Only Avery could take something plain like a laugh recording and frame a cartoon around it in such a way that he not only makes us smile with his trademark sight gags but chills our blood at the same time with a vivid weirdness. And to me this is the genius of Tex Avery, of his being able to easily twist the viewer around, to make us laugh but instead of leaving us smiling we're creeped out. And this was the last cartoon Avery ever made. After Sh-h-h-h-h-h was finished it was semi-retirement with some occasional television work for him until his death in 1980. He definitely saved his best short for last.
For those of you who have been trying like hell to see this one (it used to play occasionally on television among the other Walter Lantz cartoons, but now it's seldom - if ever - played anymore) it is on the Woody Woodpecker and Friends Classic Cartoon Collection (Volume 1) DVD boxed set. So now you can watch Tex Avery's brilliantly comedic and macabre final film and see just what made this man the legend he has become.
Burnt Offerings (1976)
THE best haunted house movie ever made.
This review will contain spoilers... in other words I will expose the ending. But it is needed to show a point. So if you haven't seen this movie and want to be surprised - move on. But if the ending perplexed you - and it did to some people - I will try to explain because I figured it out and I'm here to help.
Now I know that many people consider The Shining as the best haunted house movie. Yeah, I'll agree that one is spooky. But for pure just-to-creep-you-out styled chills, you can't beat this one. The movie starts out with a young family renting an old somewhat run-down looking mansion for the summer for the mind-numbingly low amount of $900... for the whole summertime, not just monthly. The owners (a brother sister pair played by Burgess Meredeth and Eileen Eckhardt along with their caretaker played by Dub Taylor) are a little strange but nice. The condition, they must care for their old mother who lives in a upstairs room. So the family - father Oliver Reed, mother Karen Black, their son Lee H. Montgomery (who, despite his mention in The Golden Turkey Awards as one of the most obnoxious child actors ever, comes across as a pretty decent actor) and Reed's elderly aunt played by Betty Davis (who isn't - for once - playing some old nutcase, diva, or all around self-centered bitch) moves in. It isn't long before we find out about the evil surrounding the house. . . every time someone gets hurt, which is often, the house starts looking a little better. Not only that, but that the house is also purposely doing things to put the family in danger. And what about that creepy old women upstairs that we never see? Mmmmmmm!
Okay basic plot aside let's us get to what makes the film scary. It's the fact that the family is up against an evil force they don't understand, and it doesn't stop until everything around it is harmed. That means them. Now the acting. Black is quite good as the wife who becomes infatuated with just who the old woman is (Black begins to look lovingly at a table filled with pictures of the woman's loved ones outside her bedroom even though she knows none of the people in the photos) and starts taking on the mannerisms of the lady. Reed (an actor who I never really liked because to me he always looked more like he wanted to beat you up than entertain you) is also good as the father who becomes more confused, nervous, and outright scared as things get stranger. Davis is sympathetic as the aunt who realizes that something is wrong with the house when her health starts to go bad with quick alarm and mentions that they need to get the hell outta there. But the best acting goes to Anthony James as The Chauffeur. Kind of like a featured player in the house's show of evil, this guy will give you the willies with his downright satanic smile and menacing demeanor. He's the kind of stuff that nightmares are made of and I assure you he WILL make you cringe with horror.
Now the ending with the last scene of the movie, showing the pictures on the table, being the one of most chilling in the film. Some people just didn't get it so I will explain. The house destroyed the family - or more to the point - devoured them, much to the delight and pleasure of the siblings/owners. Their pain was it's nourishment (in the audio commentary director Dan Curtis says the best horror movies are the ones where everybody's doomed and nobody makes it out of their dreaded situation alive). After the old woman possessed Black, and the father, the aunt, and the son have all met nightmarish ends, the house springs back to life from it's former run-down look - as seen in pictures hanging in the hallway all showing that this has happen a number of times before and will happen again. And, for you see, all those many pictures on the table outside of the old woman's bedroom weren't pictures of friends, sweethearts, family, and other loved ones. They were pictures (with our doomed family being the latest addition)... of victims. The End.
Isn't fun to be frightened sh*tless? Because you will be after watching Burnt Offerings!
This review was written on 10-31-2007...Happy Halloween and Pleasant Nightmares!
Love Me, Love My Mouse (1966)
A win for Tom... Chuck Jones style
After the horrible T and J cartoons of Gene Deitch put a nasty dent in the series, MGM had the smarts to show him the door and in his place hire one of the geniuses of animation, Chuck Jones, to finish out the series. Whereas Deitch didn't have a clue about how to treat Tom (or Jerry for that matter) Jones did. He understood that sometimes that that cat just needed to one-up the little rodent.
In this one Tom presents Jerry as a gift (or rather a snack) for his girlfriend Tootles - or Toots as she was also called - while on a dinner date at her house. Jerry puts on an act and plays onto her motherly feelings by pretending that he's suddenly terrified of Tom to which Tootles responds by giving our top feline a sound leave-that-poor-little-mouse-alone styled smacking. Throughout the date Jerry keeps doing dastardly things to set-up Tom and get him clobbered by his girlfriend. Ah, but it isn't long before Jerry paints himself into a corner with his fake act and is soon running for dear life, much to Tom's joy.
Jones knew how both of these characters worked and used his knowledge to put out a fine batch of T and J shorts, this one among them. He realized that sometimes Tom Cat just needed to put that little jerk Jerry Mouse in his place. Love Me, Love My Mouse was one of those times. Another great Tom and Jerry cartoon for those of us who are Tom fans.
Dance of the Weed (1941)
One of early MGM's most beautiful
After Disney did Fantasia it seems that a lot of the early work of it's rivals, Warner Bros. and MGM started having a lot of that film's feel blended into a number of their own works - the use of no dialog with just actions and music, "sound effects" done by musical instruments like flutes, cymbals, and xylophones (to name a few), and lovely animation. Dance of the Weed was one of the lot of those cartoons that MGM's Rudolf Ising cranked out with a Fantasia-like feel... and he did a beautiful job here.
The story concerns, well, a weed who wants acceptance by the other flowers and plants in the meadow where he lives. He is the laughingstock of the meadow and is picked on by all. Then he runs into a pretty little flower who likes to ballet dance along with her sister flowers and falls in love with her. The Weed tries to dance along with them, but in his lankiness trips all over the place and all of the flowers regard him as a complete oaf. He wins the girl flower's heart however, when he bravely saves her from some nasty snapdragons.
The ballet dance parts with the flowers is indeed very Fantasia-like, and it comes across as dazzling. The colors of the animation here are just the right shades to give one the misty feel of the meadow in the early morning hours, the lushness of the fields and forest where the flowers and Weed dance, and the darkness where the snapdragon lives. The one thing that also must be said is the character of the Weed. You get a genuine feel for him. He looks like a fool and acts like one, but damn it, you like him. Then we really like him when we find out that this clumsy fool has the heart of a warrior.
The one drawback to Dance of the Weed is it's rarity. I only saw it twice in the 80's and only just now have I been able to see it on Cartoon Network's sister channel Boomerang (a space of about 20 years between viewings!). My best advice is to keep your attention glued to Boomerang in case it is played more often. However, you can get a taste with a few clips of it on the first DVD volume of Tom And Jerry in the special features section entitled "The Music of MGM".
It's extreme rareness is irritating, but if you do happen to catch Dance of the Weed be prepared for one of the most beautiful works to come out of early MGM.
Mouse for Sale (1955)
One of Tom's greatest victories over Jerry
One of the smarter things that William Hanna and Joseph Barbera did with the Tom and Jerry cartoons was to switch the winner of the outcome of the battles that the cat and mouse had with each other. There were times where Jerry won and times when Tom won (though it be said that Jerry won more that Tom). Doing this kept the series interesting and fun. By not doing this - always having the same character as the winner - would have given the T and J cartoons a lopsided and frustrated feel. And "Mouse For Sale" proves this point of being balanced... it's one of the times that Jerry Mouse deserved his butt-whooping by Tom Cat.
As I wrote for my review for "Buddies ...Thicker Than Water" I've always liked Tom more than Jerry and most of my favorite shorts of the series had Tom as the winner (but not always - "Tennis Chumps" was one of the shorts where Jerry clearly was the winner and a cartoon I've always enjoyed, Mice Follies is another). Why? I guess it's because I've always associated myself far more with Tom's snide personality than with Jerry's self-congratulating persona. To me Jerry was always an obnoxious little smart-ass who always got a thrill out of getting the best of the cat and somehow or other got rewarded for it with a victory at the end of the cartoon... and sometimes it was a victory that the mouse clearly didn't deserve. But not this time! Mouse For Sale is one of top times where Hanna and Barbera gave us a reason why we should sneer at Jerry and Tom became the winner.
The cartoon starts out with Tom seeing an ad in a paper for a pet store who needs white mice. So Tom grabs Jerry, slaps on a coat of white paint, and then swaps him at the store for big bucks. Tom's owner then finds the money (after Tom hides it underneath a rug), goes out with the dough, buys and brings back home a "cute little white mouse"... all of this to Tom's horror. When Tom tries to take care of Jerry, our feline gets smacked upside the head with a broom by his owner. Of course Jerry takes full advantage of this situation to get Tom clobbered over and again. But fear not... Tom outwits the rodent and Jerry gets a good comeuppance at the cartoons end (I'm just not saying how Tom does it).
Mouse For Sale stands out as one of the funniest of the T and J shorts because of the generous amount of sight gags. Example... when the owner brings Jerry home and Tom sees him for the first time Tom's face comes off his head for a moment as though it's a mask he is wearing, Jerry's fan dance with a couple of feathers to fool the owner into thinking he is still a white mouse when some of the white comes off, Tom's reaction when Jerry jumps out of the broom closet (one of the best gags), and so on. Also Hanna and Barbera really go into the personalities of the characters. Tom is still snide, but you like him here (whereas you disliked him before in some other T and J cartoons) thanks to Jerry's irritating teasing. And this cartoon is included on the Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection Volume 3 DVD set.
So rejoice Tom Cat lovers... Mouse For Sale is indeed one of Tom's best wins!
The only really good Tom and Jerry cartoon that Gene Deitch made
After Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera were given the ax on the Tom and Jerry shorts in the late 50's, MGM made a massive blunder in hiring Gene Deitch and William Snyder from the Soviet Prague to take their place when the studio wanted to make a new batch of T and J cartoons. The animation in Deitch's cartoons lacked any of the mannered and balanced feel of the Hanna-Barbara efforts or the timing of later Chuck Jones efforts, plus Deitch had all those irritating echoing sound effects that seemed out-of-place.
The one thing I always really hated about Deitch and his version of T and J was the disrespectful way he treated Tom. I have always liked Tom more than Jerry and some my favorite T and J shorts has Tom as the victor. Deitch never once showed Tom any of the dignity that Hanna and Barbera showed him or the way that Chuck Jones would later show him after Deitch was fired from the series. The character is ALWAYS making a fool of himself, getting beaten up for no reason, and is continuously getting one-upped by Jerry, usually with the mouse mean-spiritedly dancing and laughing in celebration nearby. Jerry was the winner in all 13 of Deitch's shorts, even at times when the little jerk clearly didn't deserve to win. However of all of the 13 pieces of crap that Deitch and Snyder put out,"Buddies...Thicker Than Water" was one of the only two decent cartoons that they made (the other being "Calypso Cat" with "Buddies" being the better of the two).
Here Deitch really did capture the feel of the H-B shorts and all of the tics that made those cartoons so great - Jerry can be generous at times and Tom can be selfish at times (and vice-versa), they get along for a few moments. As much as I dislike Jerry I will say that this was the only - and I do mean ONLY - Deitch short where I felt Jerry deserved to win and Tom to lose. The plot, as it goes, finds Tom in the freezing cold asking his chum Jerry for a warm place to sleep and eat. Jerry lives in a N.Y.C. penthouse and kindly lets Tom in. But then Tom double-crosses Jerry and gets the mouse thrown out in the cold so he can stay in the place instead. Jerry then enacts his "ghostly" revenge on the cat.
The one thing Deitch does well here is give this cartoon a real feel of horror as Jerry stalks Tom as a "ghoul". The echoing sound effects, blaring horns, and xylophones - the same crap that Deitch put in all of his "work" - doesn't get on your nerves like before. Instead here they work to the effect of the feel of the cartoon's weirdness (the scene where Tom and Jerry are giggling while getting drunk on a bottle of champagne sounds truly bizarre).
"Buddies...Thicker Than Water" truly stands out as one of the most weirdest and - if I can say this - freakiest of any the Tom and Jerry cartoons, a nice example of animated horror, and as I said above only one of two good cartoons by the worst director of the entire series.(Deitch even pompously believes his version of Tom and Jerry is better that the later Chuck Jones version. Yeah, like hell it is!) However I will say this, when they get around to putting out future volumes of Tom and Jerry on DVD I do hope that Warner Bros. and MGM puts a couple of Deitch cartoons in there. I don't really think that they should omit him completely because, like it or not, he IS a part of the T and J series as a whole. But I'll be really miffed if this cartoon isn't one of them.
A Saturday morning classic is now on DVD!
You remember the Grovie Goolies from the early 1970's don't you? They were a variation on Rowin and Martin's Laugh-In but with monster characters instead of a vast array of comedians. The show took place at Horrible Hall, a kind of hotel/boarding house for monsters. The three main characters were leader Drac, stupid but lovable Frankie, and hippie werewolf Wolfie. Other characters were witch Hagatha, the Mortica Addams-like Bella, Mummy, the two headed Dr. Jeckle and Hyde (with one head being Jeckle and the other Hyde), skeleton Boneapart, Ghoulahand (a giant hand), flesh eating plant Orvile, as well as three brats named Ratso, Batso,and Hauntleroy. Ratso and Batso were always causing trouble for the other residents and were always getting caught and punished, except for the times when the whiny tattletale Hauntelroy was involved and who got it instead.
Each episode had two songs sung by such bands as the Mummies and the Puppies (with Mummy Cass - get it? - playing bongos), The Rolling Headstones, and the main characters own band with Drac on keyboards, Wofie on guitars, and Frankie on drums and percussion. All the songs had a definite 60's bubblegum feel (still prevalent sounding today)with all the lyrics having to do with monsters. Some of the songs, such as Cling Clang, Darkness, and Chick-A-Boom (a song that actually made it into the Billboard Top 40 by one of the shows songwriters who went under the name Daddy Dewdrop!) are pretty catchy, while others such as 1,2,3 and Where Are You Going, Little Ghoul? are bland and inane sounding.
Still this show was a lot of fun to watch with the impressive voice talent behind the characters (Larry Storch as Drac, using the same voice he used for Phenneus J. Whoopee on those Tennesee Tuxedo cartoons, comedy pro Howard Morris as Frankie, Wolfie, and Mummy) and the never ending barrage of one-liners, silly jokes, and sight gags (all done to a laugh track and canned applause no less!)
The recent release on DVD by the company that obtained the rights from Filmation, Entertainment Rights (out of England), have done a fine job in bringing back all 16 episodes and digitally remastering each one. For any self-respecting member of Generation X who grew up watching this on Saturday mornings with a bowl of, well, whatever their favorite cereal was, will have a flood of great memories come back to them. This one is very much a must on your TV DVDs collection.
Invasion of the Body Snachers meets Dawn of the Dead
I watched Slither as my Halloween movie for 2006 and - WOW - it's a great choice for anybody who loves alien invasion movies and gory zombie flicks. The movie starts out with the husband (Michael Rooker) of a popular schoolteacher (Elizabeth Banks) getting "invaded" (read here - his body is taken over) by the alien which starts out looking like a crawling brain. He soon acts weird (of course... he's been taken over!) by eating raw meat and killing neighborhood dogs and cats for more, shall we say, nourishment. He then impregnates a woman (alien style that is, NOT human)then tries to mutailate his wife. When the town sheriff (Nathan Fillion)a man who's always had feelings for her comes to the rescue the real trouble explodes... literally as our victim carrying the alien spawn burst forth letting them loose (they look like slugs). When they enter a person - abracadabra! instant transformation into flesh eating zombie/alien invader - and now it's up to the sheriff, the wife, and a teenage girl (Tania Saulnier) who almost gets taken over (she manages to escape) to save the day and stop the invading flesh eaters. The effects here are great. Those slug things will gross you out and the "birth" scene with the woman (Brenda James) as big as a house (really) with blood pouring out of her mouth crying out "The pain, the pain! before exploding will turn your stomach. Not for the squeamish I'll say that! James Gunn (who wrote Scooby Doo, wrote and produced Scooby Doo 2 - Monsters Unleashed, and wrote the Dawn of the Dead remake)shows that he truly enjoys telling a good horror yarn, along with a good dollop of comedy thrown in. He wrote and directed Slither and this man shows impressive talent. The acting is all good here, especially Gregg Henry as the obnoxious, foulmouthed mayor of the small town with a cowardly streak. Gunn has a bit part at the beginning as a nerdy looking co-worker of Banks who tries to hit-up on her, Gunn's wife Jessica Fischer plays the police dispatcher, and look out to see Gunn's old boss, Troma Pictures legend Lloyd Kaufman (from Gunn's days working for Troma Pictures) as an arrested drunk sitting in the police station. (Gunn appeared in Kaufman's entertaining DVD intitled Make Your Own Damn Movie... you need to check this one out) In all zombie fans will be tickeled pink (or blood red) with this one while fans of evil alien invasion flicks will be in hog heaven.
My rating (from excellent to poor) is a GOOD. Way to go James Gunn!