December 31, 2011

The Trip

The Trip, 2011. Two comics go on a road trip in the north of England. Directed by Michael Winterbottom. Starring Steve Coogan & Rob Brydon.

Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 4/4 (Great)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). It's not as funny as the clips I've seen and heard had led me to expect, but there a several hilarious bits. The serious parts aren't so good, but they put the humor into an interesting context.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.5/4 (Okay)

December 30, 2011

Best of My 2011

Here are my year-end top movies lists, for each of my rating categories. As in previous years, this is the best of my year, not of the year; everything (and only things) I saw for the first time since the day I posted year-end lists last year are eligible.

Concept
1. Monsters, 2010
2. Attack the Block, 2011
3. Mr. Hulot's Holiday, 1953

Story
1. 13 Assassins, 2010
2. Exit through the Gift Shop, 2010
3. Wait until Dark, 1967

Characters
1. The Thin Man, 1934
2. Mr. Hulot's Holiday, 1953
3. Another Year, 2010

Dialog
1. The Thin Man, 1934
2. Another Year, 2010
3. The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928

Pacing
1. Hanna, 2011
2. Commando, 1985
3. Unstoppable, 2010

Cinematography
1. The Tree of Life, 2011
2. The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928

Special Effects/Design
1. The Tree of Life, 2011
2. Sleeping Beauty, 1959
3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2011
4. An American in Paris, 1951

Acting
1. The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928
2. Blue Valentine, 2010
3. Drive, 2011

Music
1. A Hard Day's Night, 1964
2. The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928
3. The Tree of Life, 2011

Subjective Rating
1. Winnie the Pooh, 2011 (10/10)
2. The Muppets, 2011 (9/10)
3. "The Ballad of Nessie," 2011 (9/10)
4. The Circus, 1928 (9/10)
5. The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928 (9/10)

Objective Rating
1. The Passion of Joan of Arc, 1928 (3.9/4)
2. Winnie the Pooh, 2011 (3.7/4)
3. Drive, 2011 (3.6/4)
4. Another Year, 2010 (3.6/4)
5. The Illusionist, 2010 (3.5/4)

THX 1138

from my 1970s Science Fiction Marathon, part 2 of 12


THX 1138, 1971. A man in a far-future dystopia is arrested for not taking enough drugs. Directed by George Lucas. Written by Lucas & Walter Murch. Starring Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, Don Pedro Colley & Maggie McOmie.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 1/4 (Bad). I expect the original film would get an overwhelming "great" in this category. But instead I had to watch the new version with cartoons drawn on top of everything.  Because George Lucas is a dick.
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). It's a speculative rating, really. Since the DVD just has the director's "cut," I can only guess what the original was like.  It seems very interesting, and surprisingly intense for such an eye-roll-inducing set-up.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.4/4 (Okay)

December 29, 2011

"Billy's Balloon"


"Billy's Balloon," 1998. A child is attacked by his balloon. Written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt.

Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: n/a
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: n/a
Subjective Rating: 10/10 (Favorite of my favorites, 4/4 5/4). Perfect comedic timing.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.0/4 (Good) 3.1/4 (Very good)

December 28, 2011

The Andromeda Strain

from my 1970s Science Fiction Marathon, part 1 of 12


The Andromeda Strain, 1971. Scientists in a secret lab fight a disease from space. Directed by Robert Wise. Written by Nelson Gidding, based on a novel by Michael Crichton. Starring Arthur Hill, David Wayne, James Olson & Kate Reid.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad). It doesn't help that half the lines are accompanied by gestures like whirling around, or pulling off glasses.
Pacing: 1/4 (Bad)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 1/4 (Bad)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent, 2/4). Wise tried valiantly to make a serious science fiction film emulating A Space Odyssey.  Any possibility at taking it seriously, though, is undermined by extreme corniness.  Combining Space Odyssey's pace with a B movie level of intelligence is a fairly disastrous recipe. Of course, luckily for me, that didn't stop Wise from using that same recipe again to make Star Trek: The Motion Picture - but that film had enough grandeur and spectacle to make it work, while Andromeda Strain is forced to fall back on its half-baked plot to hold your interest.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.0/4 (Indifferent)

VSM: 1970s Science Fiction

Mostly this list is limited movies we haven't seen (except for Logan's Run, which we saw about a decade ago, and Close Encounters, which I think I saw once but too long ago to remember), which is why obvious choices like Star Wars and Alien aren't there.

Very Slow Marathon #7 - 1970s Science Fiction
[note: You can find this from the sidebar, under "Very Slow Marathons."]

1. The Andromeda Strain, 1971
2. THX 1138, 1971
3. Silent Running, 1972
4. Solaris, 1972
5. Soylent Green, 1973
6. Westworld, 1973
7. Fantastic Planet, 1973
8. The Stepford Wives, 1975
9. Logan's Run, 1976
10. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1977
11. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978
12. Time After Time, 1979

(2001: A Space Odyssey)

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 13 of 13

2001: A Space Odyssey, 1968... I've got nothing new to add to my earlier post: linkity link.

December 27, 2011

"Lily and Jim"


"Lily and Jim" (short), 1997. An awkward blind date. Directed by Don Hertzfeldt. Written by Hertzfeldt, with Karin Anger & Robert May. Starring Anger & May.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4). Fairly funny, but rough.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.6/4 (Good)

(The Godfather)

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 12 of 13

The Godfather, 1972.  ...I don't really have anything new to add to my post on this from about a year ago, so here's a link to that.

December 26, 2011

Harold and Maude


Harold and Maude, 1971. A morbid, rich teenager falls in love with a crazy old lady. Directed by Hal Ashby. Written by Colin Higgins. Starring Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort & Vivian Pickles.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 3/4 (Good)
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 4/4 (Great)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great, 4/4). Re-watching it for the first time in several years, I started off annoyed at how self-absorbed Maude is (not annoyed that the character's written that way, mind you, but annoyed with Maude personally - the character's too entertaining to want her to be different). But as little hints of her life are dropped here and there, I came around to understanding her a little, and seeing the events of the film in a different perspective - as the conclusion to a long, tragic story.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.3/4 (Very good)

(update of a previous post - original is here)

December 24, 2011

"Genre"


"Genre" (short), 1996. An animator torments his cartoon rabbit. Written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad). It was great concept, when Chuck Jones did it.
Story: 1/4 (Bad). No story.
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog: n/a
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4). Funny but derivative.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.1/4 (Okay)

The Passion of Joan of Arc

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 11 of 13


La passion de Jeanne d'Arc, 1928. The heresy trial of Joan of Arc. Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer. Written by Dreyer & Joseph Delteil. Starring Maria Falconetti.

Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 4/4 (Great). Although a detailed plot synopsis would sound like an unremarkable historical drama, the execution of the writing is absolutely perfect.
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 4/4 (Great). It's taken from the transcripts of the actual trial. I never expected to see this level of realism in the dialog of a movie earlier than the 50s, much less in a silent.
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 4/4 (Great)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 4/4 (Great). One of the greatest performances, ever.
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 9/10 (One of my favorites, 4/4 5/4). Emotionally powerful, intellectually fascinating, visually striking, and entirely unique.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.9/4 4.0/4 (Great)

Doctor Who #149: Paradise Towers



Doctor Who: "Paradise Towers," 1987 (the second story of four from season twenty-four). Something is killing people in a dystopian apartment building. Directed by Nicholas Mallett. Written by Stephen Wyatt. Starring Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford, Richard Briers & Howard Cooke.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 1/4 (Bad). At least it makes sense. It's full of plot holes, but it makes enough sense that you can identify the plot holes. That's pretty good for late 80's Doctor Who.
Characters: 1/4 (Bad). Some nice ideas for characters, but with terrible execution.
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 1/4 (Bad)
Acting: 1/4 (Bad)
Music: 0/4 (Terrible)
Subjective Rating: 3/10 (Bad, 1/4). Silly, but a completely wrong type of silly for Doctor Who. It's like the writer had never seen Doctor Who, heard it was a children's show, and then... just didn't give any more fucks. Poor Sylvester McCoy - between this and "Time and the Rani," he really got a horrible start to his Doctor. If I'd been watching at the time, I might even have thought he was worse than Colin Baker.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.1/4 (Bad)

December 23, 2011

L'Avventura

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 10 of 13



L'Avventura, 1960. A man and a woman don't find their missing friend. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Written by Antonioni, Elio Bartolini & Tonino Guerra. Starring Gabriele Ferzetti & Monica Vitti.

Concept: 0/4 (Terrible)
Story: 0/4 (Terrible). The epitome of narrative vacuum.
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 0/4 (Terrible). Not that it could have been improved - the sadistically slow pace is necessary to convince you that he meant to do this.
Cinematography: 4/4 (Great)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent). I don't even know.
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent). It's good when it's there. It's usually conspicuously absent.
Subjective Rating: 1/10 (Eew get it away, 0/4). It's like watching paint dry. Completely, utterly awful. My wife says, "The word you're looking for is inane. Inane."
Objective Rating (Average): 1.4/4 (Bad)

December 22, 2011

Lilo & Stitch


Lilo & Stitch, 2002. A cute, fluffy space monster uses an orphan as a human shield against his pursuers. Written and directed by Dean DeBlois & Chris Sanders. Starring Daveigh Chase, Chris Sanders & Tia Carrere.

Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 3/4 (Good)
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 9/10 (One of my favorites, 4/4 5/4). I had forgotten how wonderful this movie is - right up there with Pixar's best.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.4/4 3.5/4 (Very good)

December 21, 2011

"Ah, L'Amour"


"Ah, L'Amour" (short), 1995. Women over-react to a man's advances. Written & directed by Don Hertzfeldt.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 1/4 (Bad)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). It's a loooong way off from the beautifully expressive animation that Don would do later. It's entertaining, though. And very short.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.2/4 (Okay)

December 20, 2011

La Dolce Vita

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 9 of 13


La Dolce Vita, 1960. A jackass is a jackass. Directed by Federico Fellini. Written by Fellini, Ennio Flaiano & Tullio Pinelli, with Brunello Rondi. Starring Marcello Mastroianni, Anita Ekberg, Anouk Aimée & Yvonne Furneaux.

Concept: 0/4 (Terrible)
Story: 0/4 (Terrible). No story. No dramatic tension of any kind.
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent). I'm torn here. They're very well developed characters. I mean, the movie does nothing but develop the protagonist for three hours. But he's so completely unlikable and unrelatable, I can't bring myself to call him a good character. Presumably this attitude toward him is my fault, not the movie's; so many people love this movie, they must be relating to him at least a little. I find that thought depressing.
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 1/4 (Bad)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 3/10 (Bad, 1/4). It's the sort of movie that gets heavily analyzed because the audience has Nothing Else To Do for 3 hours.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.9/4 (Eh)

(update of a previous post - original is here)

December 19, 2011

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home


Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986. Kirk & friends time travel to the 1980s. Directed by Leonard Nimoy. Written by Steve Meerson, Peter Krikes, Harve Bennett & Nicholas Meyer; story by Bennett & Nimoy; based on a TV show by Gene Roddenberry. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy & Catherine Hicks.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 4/4 (Great)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great, 4/4). Nine times out of ten, when humor and the original Star Trek cast mix, the result is a disaster. But in this case, it's brilliant. It's not quite as good a movie as Wrath of Khan, but it's close.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.7/4 (Good)

Doctor Who #148: "Time and the Rani"


Doctor Who: "Time and the Rani," 1987 (the first story of four from season twenty-four). An evil Time Lady needs the Doctor's brain in order to carry out an experiment. Directed by Andrew Morgan. Written by Pip & Jane Baker. Starring Sylvester McCoy, Bonnie Langford & Kate O'Mara.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 0/4 (Terrible)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 1/4 (Bad)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 1/4 (Bad)
Subjective Rating: 3/10 (Bad, 1/4). The first episode is okay. The rest consists of a cycle of various protagonists alternately escaping and getting re-captured. And the mysterious master plan that you're supposed to be in suspense over turns out to be plot-holed gibberish.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.3/4 (Bad)

December 17, 2011

Star Trek III: The Search for Spock



Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, 1984. Two people sharing one brain need to recover a lost body... in Space! Directed by Leonard Nimoy. Written by Harve Bennett, based on a TV show by Gene Roddenberry. Starring William Shatner, DeForest Kelley, Robin Curtis, Merritt Butrick & Christopher Lloyd.

Concept: 3/4 (Good). So, if I was going to pick a classic episode for a movie to emulate, "Spock's Brain" wouldn't exactly be my first choice. But negative associations aside, it's a pretty good concept.
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent). Why are Klingons even in this movie? Because if you didn't have battles and fisticuffs, it would be too damn science fictiony, I guess. Okay, blowing up the Enterprise is pretty cool - but is it worth turning what could have been a unique psychological drama into a mediocre action vehicle?
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 1/4 (Bad)
Special effects/design: 1/4 (Bad). Most of the effects are excellent, but the entire climax of the film takes place on Planet Styrofoam.
Acting: 3/4 (Good). Shatner and Kelley are both surprisingly excellent. Curtis, however, is painful to watch. Who would have thought a movie could ever suffer from not having Kirstie Alley?
Music: 1/4 (Bad)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4). It's close to being a good movie. The script is quite nice, regardless of my pet peeve with the The Third Act Of All Films, Regardless Of Genre, Must Be An Action Sequence formula. If only that action sequence had been any good...
Objective Rating (Average): 2.1/4 (Okay)

December 16, 2011

"It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown"



"It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown" (TV short), 1992. Christmas-related sketches. Directed by Bill Melendez. Written by Charles M. Schulz. Starring Jamie E. Smith, Phillip Lucier & Lindsay Benesh.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad). Why does this exist? More importantly, why is it on video?
Story: 0/4 (Terrible). No story.
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 1/4 (Bad)
Cinematography: 1/4 (Bad)
Special effects/design: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Acting: 1/4 (Bad)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 4/10 (Eh, 2/4). A relentless barrage of four-panel "jokes," animated for no apparent reason. All the faults of the 60's special, magnified, with none of the charm.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.6/4 (Eh)

"A Charlie Brown Christmas"



"A Charlie Brown Christmas" (TV short), 1965. A depressed kid is talked into directing the school Christmas play. Directed by Bill Melendez. Written by Charles M. Schulz. Starring Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea & Tracy Stratford.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 1/4 (Bad)
Special effects/design: 1/4 (Bad). Points off for conspicuously absent sound effects.
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent). The voices are perfect.
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). Mildly wonderful. I probably saw it as a kid, but I have no memory of watching it before yesterday. So, I was quite pleasantly surprised to find out how good it is.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.4/4 (Okay)

December 15, 2011

Hellboy



Hellboy, 2004. A demon raised by the US Government fights supernatural badguys. Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Written by Del Toro; story by Del Toro & Peter Briggs; based on a comic book by Mike Mignola. Starring Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans & Karel Roden.

Concept: 4/4 (Great)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 4/4 (Great). The development is pretty terrible, but there's enough Awesome that I have to give full points in this category.
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good). The CG is mediocre. The practical effects and design are great.
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4). It's fun. There's some great action. But I remembered it being a lot better than it is. Maybe I had lower standards for a superhero movie back in 2004. Or maybe now that I've seen it enough that the cool bits aren't novel anymore, I'm less distracted from the mess of a story.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.7/4 (Good)

(update of a previous post - original is here)

December 14, 2011

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan



Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, 1982. An old enemy of Kirk wants vengeance. Directed by Nicholas Meyer. Written by Jack B. Sowards & Meyer; story by Harve Bennett, Sowards & Samuel A. Peeples; based on a TV show by Gene Roddenberry. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley & Ricardo Montalban.

Concept: 4/4 (Great). Revenge is a great motive for any action movie. And on top of that, this movie's a polar opposite of the first one - not that it's necessarily a better direction, but it's great that it's such a different direction. You'd never get that kind of change of pace from a modern franchise.
Story: 3/4 (Good)
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good). The effects are great, but why are the bad guys a hair band? Maybe in the remake Khan will be emo. If only it had been made in the 70s, they could have been punks.
Acting: 3/4 (Good). Ham sandwich! But I'm okay with that.
Music: 1/4 (Bad). Oh, James Horner, you so awful.
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great, 4/4). It used to be one of my favorites. Usually when I like a movie this much, it gets better with every viewing, but this one seems to get a little worse every time. There's no subtlety; what you get is just what's there on the surface. Still awesome, though.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.0/4 (Good)

December 13, 2011

The Wizard of Oz

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 8 of 13



The Wizard of Oz, 1939. A witch and a lost girl fight to the death over a sparkly pair of heels. Directed by Victor Fleming. Written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson & Edgar Allan Woolf, based on a book by L. Frank Baum. Starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley & Margaret Hamilton.

Concept: 4/4 (Great)
Story: 3/4 (Good)
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 3/4 (Good). Garland is great. The rest are entertainingly hammy.
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great, 4/4). Whenever I watch this, I try to imagine what it would be like to see it for the first time. I can never tell, but I do usually notice things that have previously been invisibile-due-to-familiarity. One thing I managed to pull out of it this time around was just how good a song and performance "Over the Rainbow" is. I mean, yeah, I've always known it's great, but this time it struck me how much it probably would have floored me if I'd never heard it before.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.6/4 (Great)

(update of a previous post - original is here)

December 12, 2011

Serenity



Serenity, 2005. Space fugitives have government secrets. Written and directed by Joss Whedon. Starring Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau & Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad). A TV show with a large cast and a slowly developing plot is supposed to make a watchable movie how exactly?
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good). Great with banter, often bad with plot-related stuff.
Pacing: 1/4 (Bad)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent). Mostly good, with some key moments of awful.
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4). There are moments of greatness, and moments of embarassingly bad crap. But even if the crap weren't there, the great bits wouldn't come together into a coherent movie.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.9/4 (Eh)

Finding Nemo



Finding Nemo, 2003. A fish swims through the ocean to find his son. Directed by Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich. Written by Stanton, Bob Peterson & David Reynolds. Starring Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould & Willem Dafoe.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 3/4 (Good)
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 4/4 (Great)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 4/4 (Great)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 4/4 (Great)
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 9/10 (One of my favorites, 4/4 5/4). I would go on about how good it is, but whatever, you've seen it. Everybody's seen this, right?
Objective Rating (Average): 3.6/4 3.7/4 (Great)

(update of a previous post - original is here)

"The Flying Mouse"



"The Flying Mouse" (short), 1934. A young mouse wishes for wings. Directed by David Hand. Starring Clarence Nash.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent, 2/4). Heavy-handed moralizing, but with some nice animation.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.4/4 (Okay)

December 11, 2011

"Elmer Elephant"



"Elmer Elephant" (short), 1936. Other animals make fun of an elephant's trunk. Directed by Wilfred Jackson. Written by Earl Hurd, Bianca Majolie, Ted Sears & Roy Williams. Starring Bernice Hansen.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 4/10 (Eh, 2/4). Um... who cares?
Objective Rating (Average): 2.1/4 (Okay)

Dumbo



Dumbo, 1941. A circus elephant has embarrassingly large ears. Directed by Ben Sharpsteen. Written by Joe Grant, Dick Huemer, Otto Englander, Bill Peet, Aurelius Battaglia, Joe Rinaldi, Vernon Stallings & Webb Smith, based on a book by Helen Aberson & Harold Pearl. Starring Edward Brophy, Cliff Edwards & Verna Felton.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 3/4 (Good). The plot could potentially have been very tedious, but this movie is a model of economical storytelling (without ever rushing anything).
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 4/4 (Great)
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 9/10 (One of my favorites, 4/4 5/4). Sad, and beautifully uncomplicated. When everything turns out happy in the end, it's so sudden and arbitrary and absurdly thorough, it doesn't feel real - like someone was telling a sad bedtime story and realized at the last minute that if it didn't have a happy ending the kids would be up crying all night. The adults in the audience are left to decide for themselves what really happens.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.5/4 (Very good) 3.6/4 (Great)

(update of a previous post - original is here)

December 9, 2011

Doctor Who #132: The Awakening



Doctor Who: "The Awakening," 1984 (the second story of seven from season twenty-one). An historical reenactment awakens a buried psychic entity. Directed by Michael Owen Morris. Written by Eric Pringle. Starring Peter Davison, Janet Fielding, Mark Strickson, Polly James & Denis Lill.

Concept: 0/4 (Terrible). I don't see how it could possibly make sense.
Story: 0/4 (Terrible)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 1/4 (Bad). It's two episodes, from a script that was originally meant to be four. The re-writing process must have involved a paper shredder and some scotch tape.
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 1/4 (Bad)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 4/10 (Eh, 2/4). It's crap, but at least it's not boring. On the contrary, you're kept very occupied trying to figure out what any of this is supposed to mean. You don't know what the monster is (except that it comes from another planet), or why it's there until the very end of the episode where The Doctor explains everything (and it's a pretty weak explanation with gaping holes in it) and also mentions that, "Oh, by the way, I've just defeated it." How? "Because I said so."
Objective Rating (Average): 1.2/4 (Bad)

December 8, 2011

Star Trek: The Motion Picture



Star Trek: The Motion Picture, 1979. A giant, deadly spaceship is headed for Earth. Directed by Robert Wise. Written by Harold Livingston, story by Alan Dean Foster, based on a TV show by Gene Roddenberry. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Persis Khambatta & Stephen Collins.

Concept: 4/4 (Great)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent). I want to give them credit for trying - a sci-fi movie this expensive, post-Star Wars, with no action of any kind. And to be fair, there is quite a bit of suspense, considering how long the movie takes to get going. But for all the good intentions, there isn't much of a story at all, and what little there is is lifted directly from episodes of the TV show.
Characters: 3/4 (Good). I would say they're bad, but then there's Bones. Being awesome. And apparently not having anything to do on the ship but pace through the halls and occasionally insult people.
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 1/4 (Bad)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great). Douglas Trumbull is pretty much the best thing to ever happen to science fiction.
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 3/4 (Good). I kind of hate Goldsmith's version of the theme. A lot. But the V'ger music is pretty cool.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). Although there's only one credited screenwriter, it was in fact written by committee, and it hurts for it. Script-wise, it's more like Star Trek's Greatest Hits (minus the action) than a story of its own. But the visuals! Trumbull should have been credited as the star; I'm pretty sure his effects get more screen time than the actors.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.7/4 (Good)

"Christmas Comes but Once a Year"

"Christmas Comes but Once a Year" (short), 1936. A cackling old man builds an impromptu Christmas for orphans. Directed by Dave Fleischer. Starring Jack Mercer & Mae Questel.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 0/4 (Terrible)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent). Good score, terrible singing.
Subjective Rating: 4/10 (Eh, 2/4). Not funny, but I enjoy the animation style - probably because I haven't seen many Fleischer cartoons from this era.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.7/4 (Eh)

December 7, 2011

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, 1964. Martians kidnap Santa. Directed by Nicholas Webster. Written by Glenville Mareth, story by Paul L. Jacobson. Starring John Call, Leonard Hicks, Vincent Beck, Bill McCutcheon, Victor Stiles & Donna Conforti.

Concept: 0/4 (Terrible). A terrible idea, yes, but in a good way.
Story: 0/4 (Terrible)
Characters: 0/4 (Terrible)
Dialog: 0/4 (Terrible)
Pacing: 0/4 (Terrible)
Cinematography: 0/4 (Terrible)
Special effects/design: 0/4 (Terrible)
Acting: 1/4 (Bad)
Music: 3/4 (Good). I like the theme song, and the score is surprisingly okay.
Subjective Rating: 1/10 (Eew get it away, 0/4). Despite appearances, it's not a campy fun sort of bad movie. How can a movie about Santa Claus vs. Martians not be campy fun? It's just so damn bad. It makes Ed Wood look like a master craftsman.
Objective Rating (Average): 0.4/4 (Terrible)

The Third Man

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 7 of 13



The Third Man, 1949. An American in post-war Vienna tries to clear the name of his recently deceased friend. Directed by Carol Reed. Written by Graham Greene. Starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles & Trevor Howard.

Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 3/4 (Good)
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 4/4 (Great)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 4/4 (Great). Visually, this movie is as good as it gets.
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great). Bombs are a great set designer.
Acting: 4/4 (Great). Oh man, Welles' grin alone could earn this movie a 4. It's surely one of the Top Ten Moments of Acting.
Music: 4/4 (Great). It's my second time watching the movie, and I've had a complete reversal on my reaction to the music. It had seemed so completely wrong for the movie. It is wrong for the first half of the movie, and by the time it starts to fit, I had already rejected it. But on the second viewing, the effect has changed so much it's like a different score. Watching that first half of the movie knowing that the title character is on his way - knowing the character and how Welles plays him - the score is absolutely perfect. It's hard to imagine the movie with a traditional mystery/crime score. It would still be a great movie that way, but... I don't know. Maybe Welles' performance wouldn't seem so great without that music to prepare you for him.
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great, 4/4). An all-around damn good movie.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.8/4 (Great)

(update of a previous post - original is here)

The Night of the Hunter

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 6 of 13



The Night of the Hunter, 1955. A mad "preacher" is after money that two kids have hidden. Directed by Charles Laughton. Written by James Agee, based on a novel by Davis Grubb. Starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, Billy Chapin & Sally Jane Bruce.

Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 4/4 (Great)
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 4/4 (Great)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 4/4 (Great)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 8/10 (Great, 4/4). Powerfully suspenseful and visually beautiful. Mitchum's preacher is one of the scariest movie characters of all time. It's a strange movie, combining expressionist horror and noir crime thiller - taking the best from both worlds without much regard for the audience's expectations. I appreciated and enjoyed it a lot more the second time around.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.7/4 (Great)

(update of a previous post - original is here)

December 6, 2011

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom



Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, 1984. Indiana Jones discovers an evil cult in India. Directed by Steven Spielberg. Written by Willard Huyck & Gloria Katz; story by George Lucas. Starring Harrison Ford, Kate Capshaw, Jonathan Ke Quan & Amrish Puri.

Concept: 3/4 (Good). If it weren't for the fact that it's a sequel to a great movie that demands a sequel, it would be a pretty bad concept.
Story: 1/4 (Bad). "Quick, we must escape through these plot holes! What's that? No, we can't go out the front door like everyone else. That's not exciting enough!"
Characters: 1/4 (Bad). What's with these people? It's like Lucas went out of his way to think up the most annoying characters possible. Granted, none of them are played by Shia LaBeouf, so it could be worse.
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent). Grating. Not that they could have done any better with this writing.
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). It's a reluctant 7. It's ever so slightly better than a 6. Partly it's nostalgia; I watched this a lot as a kid. And partly it's the scary bits; there are some moments of greatness in there.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.3/4 (Okay)

December 5, 2011

Star Trek: The Animated Series: Season Two (wrap-up)

Star Trek [The Animated Series]: Season Two, 1974.

Concept: 3/4 (Good). The concept of the show as a whole is good, although the episode-by-episode concepts only average out to about 1.8/4.
Story: 1/4 (Bad). Rounded down from an average of about 1.3/4.
Characters: 1/4 (Bad). Average: 1.0/4.
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad). Average: 1.0/4.
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent). Average: 2.0/4.
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent). Average: 2.0/4.
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good). Average: about 3.2/4.
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent). Average: 1.5/4.
Music: 4/4 (Great). Average: 4.0/4.
Subjective Rating: 3/10 (Bad, 1/4). Average: about 4.7/10. Although I only thought one episode was really bad, the rest are all mediocre. The unrelenting barrage of mediocrity has a cumulative effect of A Very Bad Show Indeed.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.0/4 (Indifferent)

The Episodes, sorted by subjective rating (objective rating in parentheses)
5/10
- "The Pirates of Orion" (2.3/4)
- "Albatross" (2.0/4)
- "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth" (1.9/4)
- "Bem" (1.9/4)
- "The Practical Joker" (1.9/4)
3/10
- "The Counter-Clock Incident" (1.8/4)

Star Trek: "The Counter-Clock Incident"



Star Trek [The Animated Series]: "The Counter-Clock Incident," 1974 (the last episode of six from season two). Time moves in reverse in a another universe.

Created by Gene Roddenberry. Directed by Bill Reed. Written by Fred Bronson. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Nichelle Nichols & James Doohan.

Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 0/4 (Terrible)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 0/4 (Terrible). The first ten minutes of the episode, before shit gets ridiculous, might have been good. Horrible performances by Nichols and Doohan ensure that it's not.
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 3/10 (Bad, 1/4). It hurts. It physically hurts to watch this one. So little of this episode is logical, it's remarkable that Spock's brain didn't explode.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.8/4 (Eh)

Star Trek: "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth"



Star Trek [The Animated Series]: "How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth," 1974 (the fifth episode of six from season two). A former Mayan god is a found to be a conceited space monster.

Created by Gene Roddenberry. Directed by Bill Reed. Written by Russell Bates & David Wise. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley & James Doohan.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent, 2/4). How many times has this plot been done on Star Trek? Enough already. It wasn't a good idea to begin with.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.9/4 (Eh)

December 3, 2011

Sesame Street: Old School, Volume Two



Sesame Street: Old School Volume Two, 1974-1979 (the first episode of each of seasons six through ten, plus a few hours of other sketches). Some people and monsters really love the alphabet.

Created by Joan Ganz Cooney. Written by Joseph A. Bailey, Sara Compton, Jerry Juhl, Judy Freudberg, Tony Geiss, Emily Perl Kingsley, David Korr, Ray Sipherd, Norman Stiles & Paul D. Zimmerman. Starring Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, Caroll Spinney, Northern J. Calloway, Emilio Delgado, Loretta Long, Sonia Manzano, Bob McGrath & Roscoe Orman.

Concept: 4/4 (Great)
Story: 0/4 (Terrible)
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 1/4 (Bad)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 9/10 (One of my favorites, 4/4 5/4). The quality drops noticeably in these episodes compared with Volume One. There's still a lot of great Muppet stuff, but it doesn't usually have the feel of Jim and Frank Messing Around and Doing Whatever They Like that the early years had (which is not surprising, since they've got their own show by this point, whereas in the early 70s Sesame Street was their only regular outlet to get stuff on TV).
Objective Rating (Average): 2.7/4 2.8/4 (Good)

December 2, 2011

Star Trek: "Albatross"



Star Trek [The Animated Series]: "Albatross," 1974 (the fourth episode of six from season two). McCoy is accused of starting a plague.

Created by Gene Roddenberry. Directed by Hal Sutherland. Written by Dario Finelli. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley & Lou Scheimer.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 1/4 (Bad)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent, 2/4). It promises to be some sort of legal drama, but they have to skip the entire legal part thanks to time constraints - which leaves you with... people turning color because of Space Magic? I don't even know. But the aliens look pretty cool.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.0/4 (Indifferent)

Star Trek: "The Practical Joker"



Star Trek [The Animated Series]: "The Practical Joker," 1974 (the third episode of six from season two). The Enterprise computer develops a bad sense of humor.

Created by Gene Roddenberry. Directed by Hal Sutherland. Written by Chuck Menville. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy & DeForest Kelley.

Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 1/4 (Bad)
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent, 2/4). I guess it's a novel idea, but it's also a stupid idea. It's one of the (frustratingly many) episodes that are more Filmation than Star Trek.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.9/4 (Eh)

December 1, 2011

"Watch Your Left"



"Soigne ton gauche" (short), 1936. A lazy young man is recruited as a sparring partner. Directed by René Clément. Written by Jean-Marie Huard. Starring Jacques Tati.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4). Some nice mime, and a couple laughs. Not memorable.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.0/4 (Indifferent)

Mr. Hulot's Holiday

from my 1st Ebert’s Great Movies Marathon, part 5 of 13



Les vacances de Monsieur Hulot, 1953. A nice man vacations by the sea. Directed by and starring Jacques Tati. Written by Jacques Tati, Pierre Aubert, Jacques Lagrange & Henri Marquet.

Concept: 4/4 (Great). A silent film in the 50s? With a lovable protagonist? Perfect.
Story: 1/4 (Bad). No story - doesn't need one.
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good). There's very little, but it's too much.
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 4/4 (Great). Really, the acting's good, not great. But I have to give full points for Tati's performance.
Music: 3/4 (Good). It should be annoying how often the same song is repeated, but it works.
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). It's only occasionally funny (although when it is funny, it can be hilarious); mostly it's just slow and peaceful. I don't like it nearly as much as I expected to, but Hulot's too great a character to not like it.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.0/4 (Good)

November 30, 2011

Star Trek: "Bem"



Star Trek [The Animated Series]: "Bem," 1974 (the second episode of six from season two). A visiting diplomat joins and sabotages a mission.

Created by Gene Roddenberry. Directed by Hal Sutherland. Written by David Gerrold. Starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy & James Doohan.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent, 2/4). The potentially interesting science fiction element is promptly ignored almost as soon as it's introduced. Meanwhile, we're supposed to care about the development of a character that would be annoying even if he were in a show with decent character writing. But at least there are no crimes against logic.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.9/4 (Eh)

Doctor Who #95: The Sun Makers

[note: My blog has gotten bloated with cast and crew details, and it's been taking up way too much of my time to post. I don't even remember why I include all that stuff. So: format change.]



Doctor Who: "The Sun Makers," 1977 (the fourth story of six from season fifteen). An evil corporation has enslaved the human race on Pluto. Directed by Pennant Roberts. Written by Robert Holmes. Starring Tom Baker, Louise Jameson & Richard Leech.

Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 3/4 (Good). It's great to see Leela finally kick some ass. She gets to go into full on action hero mode.
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 1/4 (Bad)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). Cartoonish fun. One of the better of the classic series. It's a relief, after watching so many bad Doctor Who episodes in a row, to see a really good one. I was starting to forget why I liked the show. You don't need a budget to make a great TV show - but you do need a writer.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.4/4 (Okay)

November 29, 2011

Doctor Who #60: Day of the Daleks



Data
Title: Doctor Who: "Day of the Daleks"
Year: 1972
Network: BBC
Episodes: 4, at 25 minutes each; the first story (of five) from season nine
Creators: Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Director: Paul Bernard
Writer: Louis Marks
Starring: Jon Pertwee
With: Nicholas Courtney, Katy Manning, Aubrey Woods, Anna Barry, Jimmy Winston, Scott Fredericks, Wilfred Carter
Music: Ron Grainer (theme); Dudley Simpson
I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Synopsis: time travelers from a dystopian future want to change history

My reaction
Concept: 4/4 (Great)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 1/4 (Bad)
Acting: 1/4 (Bad)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4). It could have been a really good story, but the execution is terrible. The "action" is unintentionally funny, the villain can't act, and the Daleks have no business being there at all.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.9/4 (Eh)

November 28, 2011

Hudson Hawk



Data
Title: Hudson Hawk
Year: 1991
Length: 100 minutes
Director: Michael Lehmann
Writers: Steven E. de Souza & Daniel Waters; story by Bruce Willis & Robert Kraft
Starring: Bruce Willis
With: Danny Aiello, Andie MacDowell, James Coburn, Richard E. Grant, Sandra Bernhard, Donald Burton, Don Harvey, David Caruso, Andrew Bryniarski, Lorraine Toussaint
Music: Michael Kamen, Robert Kraft (and non-original music)
Cinematography: Dante Spinotti
Editing: Chris Lebenzon, Michael Tronick
I saw it: on video and TV several times, most recently yesterday (have on DVD)
Synopsis: a burglar works unwillingly for weird international conspirators

My reaction
Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 0/4 (Terrible)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 0/4 (Terrible)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Acting: 1/4 (Bad)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). I don't know why I like this movie. Of all the things one might do with this movie (such as throwing things at it, or hunting down and destroying every copy), liking it is one of the last things you'd expect.
Objective Rating (Average): 1.4/4 (Bad)

Doctor Who #58: Colony in Space



Data
Title: Doctor Who: "Colony in Space"
Year: 1971
Network: BBC
Episodes: 6, at 25 minutes each; the fourth story (of five) from season eight
Creators: Sydney Newman, C.E. Webber, Donald Wilson
Director: Michael E. Briant
Writer: Malcolm Hulke
Starring: Jon Pertwee
With: Katy Manning, Roger Delgado, Nicholas Pennell, John Ringham, Roy Skelton, Helen Worth, Bernard Kay, Morris Perry, Tony Caunter, Nicholas Courtney
Music: Ron Grainer (theme); Dudley Simpson
I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), a few days ago
Synopsis: poor colonists and a mining corporation want the same planet

My reaction
Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 1/4 (Bad)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 1/4 (Bad). Terrible effects, mediocre design.
Acting: 1/4 (Bad)
Music: 0/4 (Terrible)
Subjective Rating: 2/10 (Terrible, 0/4). Sloppy and unimaginative. There is no redeeming value, except for the fact that it is associated with a usually good show. It's not nearly as bad as the worst Doctor Who stories, though (and that is a testament to just how bad Doctor Who can get).
Objective Rating (Average): 1.0/4 (Bad)

November 26, 2011

"Small Fry"

Data
Title: "Small Fry"
Year: 2011
Length: 7 minutes
Director: Angus MacLane
Writer: Josh Cooley
Starring: Tim Allen
With: Tom Hanks, Jane Lynch, Teddy Newton
Music: John Powell
I saw it: in the theater, a couple days ago
Synopsis: a fun meal toy swaps places with Buzz Lightyear

My reaction
Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 1/4 (Bad)
Characters: 3/4 (Good). It's getting ridiculous how many characters there are in the Toy Story world. A 7 minute cartoon should not be loaded with celebrity cameos. Most of the new characters are very funny, though.
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4). One expects more from Pixar. It's cute and entertaining, but, for Pixar, it's only just a step above a DVD bonus feature.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.4/4 (Okay)

The Muppets

Data
Title: The Muppets
Year: 2011
Length: 98 minutes
Director: James Bobin
Writers: Jason Segel & Nicholas Stoller, based on characters by Jim Henson
Starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Peter Linz
With: Chris Cooper, Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, Dave Goelz, Bill Barretta, David Rudman, Matt Vogel
Music: Christophe Beck (score); Bret McKenzie and many others (songs)
Cinematography: Don Burgess
Editing: James M. Thomas
I saw it: in the theater, a couple days ago
Synopsis: three fans reunite the Muppets

My reaction
Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 4/4 (Great)
Dialog: 4/4 (Great)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 9/10 (One of my favorites, 4/4 5/4). Charming and hilarious. Not surprisingly, it often feels like a Muppet episode of Flight of the Conchords. But that's okay - that's a good fit for the Muppets. It's loaded with nostalgia and references to The Muppet Show, so much so that much of the movie might go completely over the head of a non-fan. And the character development is more mature than it's been in any of the earlier Muppet movies. The children in the theater where we saw it were clearly bored. But screw them, the Muppets were always meant to be for adults, and now they finally are. I'm impressed that Disney let the film-makers make their own movie; apart from a couple (very brief) out-of-place cameos by child stars, there's not any overt sign of this being a Heavily Marketed Product.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.3/4 3.4/4 (Very good)

[update: re-watched 11/24/2013]

November 23, 2011

Muppets from Space



Data
Title: Muppets from Space
Year: 1999
Length: 87 minutes
Director: Tim Hill
Writers: Jerry Juhl, Joey Mazzarino & Ken Kaufman
Starring: Dave Goelz
With: Steve Whitmire, Bill Barretta, Jerry Nelson, Brian Henson, Kevin Clash, Frank Oz, Jeffrey Tambor
Music: Jamshied Sharifi (and non-original music)
Cinematography: Alan Caso
Editing: Richard Pearson, Michael A. Stevenson
I saw it: in the theater (1999), on video several times (have on DVD)
Synopsis: space aliens contact Gonzo

My reaction
Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). Goofy. Easily the funniest of the 1990s Muppet movies.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.9/4 (Good)

Muppet Treasure Island



Data
Title: Muppet Treasure Island
Year: 1996
Length: 99 minutes
Director: Brian Henson
Writers: Jerry Juhl, Kirk R. Thatcher & James V. Hart, based on a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson
Starring: Tim Curry, Kevin Bishop
With: Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Kevin Clash, Bill Barretta, Frank Oz, Billy Connolly, Jennifer Saunders
Music: Hans Zimmer (score); Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil (songs)
Cinematography: John Fenner
Editing: Michael Jablow
I saw it: on video many times, most recently yesterday (have on DVD)
Synopsis: a boy has a map to pirate treasure

My reaction
Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent). Treasure Island should make a great movie (although it never has), but it's a terrible fit for the Muppets. It's dark, suspenseful, morally ambiguous, and extremely bloody - not a setting for zany musical anitcs.
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent). It's never quite acting, but Tim Curry's performance is a lot of fun.
Music: 1/4 (Bad)
Subjective Rating: 7/10 (Good, 3/4). Nothing really works. Since it's not taken seriously, the plot's pretty much just a backdrop, and too Disney-fied to have been good anyway. The humor is rarely funny (although there are a handful of delightful bits). The musical numbers are all tedious crap. On the other hand, there's Tim Curry playing one of the most iconic villains ever and clearly loving every second of it.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.1/4 (Okay)

November 22, 2011

Joe Versus the Volcano



Data
Title: Joe Versus the Volcano
Year: 1990
Length: 102 minutes
Director: John Patrick Shanley
Writer: John Patrick Shanley
Starring: Tom Hanks, Meg Ryan
With: Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Abe Vigoda, Dan Hedaya, Barry McGovern, Amanda Plummer, Ossie Davis
Music: Georges Delerue (and non-original music)
Cinematography: Stephen Goldblatt
Editing: Richard Halsey, Kenneth Wannberg
I saw it: on video several times, most recently yesterday (have on DVD)
Synopsis: a terminally ill man is hired to jump into a volcano

My reaction
Concept: 3/4 (Good)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog: 3/4 (Good)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 3/4 (Good)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great). The special effects are cartoonish, and everything looks like a sound stage (despite being filmed on location), but that's all part of the whimsy. Embrace the whimsy.
Acting: 3/4 (Good)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 9/10 (One of my favorites, 4/4 5/4). Wonderfully absurd. I don't understand why there isn't more love for this movie. Maybe because everyone who watches it expects a Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.1/4 3.2/4 (Very good)

November 21, 2011

Star Trek: "The Pirates of Orion"



Data
Title: Star Trek [The Animated Series]: "The Pirates of Orion"
Year: 1974
Network: NBC
Episode: the first (of six) from season two; 24 minutes
Creator: Gene Roddenberry
Director: Hal Sutherland
Writer: Howard Weinstein
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
With: George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Majel Barrett, James Doohan
Music: Alexander Courage (theme); Ray Ellis, Norm Prescott
I saw it: on video a couple times, most recently yesterday (have on DVD)
Synopsis: pirates steal medicine Spock needs to live

My reaction
Concept: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Story: 3/4 (Good)
Characters: 1/4 (Bad)
Dialog: 1/4 (Bad)
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 4/4 (Great)
Subjective Rating: 5/10 (Indifferent, 2/4). It's simple, lacking anything even remotely clever. But that can make for a better episode than when they try harder and end up with something that doesn't make sense.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.3/4 (Okay)

Time Bandits



Data
Title: Time Bandits
Year: 1981
Length: 116 minutes
Director: Terry Gilliam
Writers: Michael Palin & Terry Gilliam
Starring: Craig Warnock
With: John Cleese, Sean Connery, Shelley Duvall, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, Ralph Richardson, Peter Vaughan, David Warner, David Rappaport, Kenny Baker, Malcolm Dixon, Mike Edmonds, Jack Purvis, Tiny Ross
Music: Mike Moran
Cinematography: Peter Biziou
Editing: Julian Doyle
I saw it: on video many times, most recently yesterday (have on DVD)
Synopsis: a boy gets caught up with time-traveling criminals

My reaction
Concept: 4/4 (Great)
Story: 3/4 (Good)
Characters: 3/4 (Good)
Dialog: 4/4 (Great)
Pacing: 4/4 (Great)
Cinematography: 4/4 (Great)
Special effects/design: 4/4 (Great)
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 3/4 (Good)
Subjective Rating: 10/10 (Favorite of my favorites, 4/4 5/4). Hmm. I don't seem to have anything to say about this except for Sweet Jesus I love this movie.
Objective Rating (Average): 3.5/4 (Very good) 3.6/4 (Great)

November 20, 2011

Thor

Data
Title: Thor
Year: 2011
Length: 115 minutes
Director: Kenneth Branagh
Writers: Ashley Miller, Zack Stentz & Don Payne; story by J. Michael Straczynski & Mark Protosevich; based on a comic book by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman
With: Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Stellan Skarsgård, Kat Dennings, Clark Gregg, Idris Elba, Colm Feore, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Josh Dallas, Jaimie Alexander, Rene Russo
Music: Patrick Doyle
Cinematography: Haris Zambarloukos
Editing: Paul Rubell
I saw it: on video (rented from Netflix), yesterday
Synopsis: a Norse god from outer space is exiled to Earth

My reaction
Concept: 1/4 (Bad)
Story: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Characters: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Dialog: 2/4 (Indifferent). Good with banter, bad otherwise.
Pacing: 3/4 (Good)
Cinematography: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Special effects/design: 3/4 (Good). Good design. The effects are good in places, and bad in others.
Acting: 2/4 (Indifferent)
Music: 1/4 (Bad)
Subjective Rating: 6/10 (Okay, 2/4). There's a section in the middle, for about 20 minutes, when it's a comedy. That part's kind of awesome. The rest is pretty dumb, but could have been a lot worse.
Objective Rating (Average): 2.0/4 (Indifferent)