Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century
★ ★ 1/2 out of 5
Directed by Chuck Jones
Starring Mel Blanc as Daffy Duck/Marvin the Martian
Duck Dodgers (in the 24 1/2th century) is given a task to go to Planet X to get more of the shaving cream atom, but when he arrives, Marvin the Martian is also there.
This is my last Chuck Jones short of the week. I did not watch this one at the museum of the moving image, like I did the others, but instead decided to watch this one online a few days later. Like I said in my Duck Amuck review, I’m not really a fan of Daffy Duck. He’s probably my least favorite Looney Toons character, and that shows through in Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century, which was really just 7 minutes of Daffy Duck being a dick. I don’t find that very enjoyable. I admire the creativity of the short, but I just didn’t find it enjoyable. That said, this is probably the least creative Chuck Jones short film I’ve seen. I did think it was a funny, and effective spoof of B-movies. With all the classic tropes, the cheesy spaceships, the dumb planet names, and the title drops. The first few times that they did a cheesy title drop, making fun of B-movie sci-fi, I found it really funny, but every time they said “Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century” it grated on me more and more. I still did think it was a good way to make fun of those old movies. Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century is a pretty decent short if you like the Daffy Duck style of humor. I don’t, but if I did, I’m sure I’d love this movie.
All That Jazz
★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Bob Fosse
Starring Roy Scheider as Joe Gideon
A dying musical theater director recounts his tales of womanizing, drug using, and directing his final show.
I must have missed something with this movie, because I did not understand what the hell was going on. All That Jazz is a movie without a coherent plot, or decent direction. The film seems to jump from scene to scene, never explaining anything, and never holding on to a moment for long enough for us to know exactly what’s going on. I didn’t get who or what the white lady was until half way through the film, I didn’t understand that it was all supposed to be like a hallucination until about halfway through when I started thinking to myself “is this supposed to make sense?” I don’t think it is, but that doesn’t make it excusable. Even as an exercise in surrealism, I still don’t think it really works, because it tries to tell us the story of a life, and it tries to show us a character arc, and it fails at getting both across. It does have a few great points though, mainly being the visuals. The camerawork is incredible, and even when I was wondering what the hell was happening, I still thought it was interesting to look at. Carrying on from this, Bob Fosse’s choreography was excellent as well. The visuals of the film would not have been what they were if the choreo was not as great as it was. The dances were reminiscent of old Busby Berkeley numbers, and were definitely the best parts of the film, and the only times when the movie made sense. All That Jazz is confusing, disjointed, weird, and all that jazz. This is definitely just a polarizing film, it seems like many others love the movie, but it just isn’t my cup of tea.
The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics
★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Chuck Jones
Starring Robert Morley as Narrator
A simple line wants to woo his true love, the dot. But the dot finds the line boring, and instead loves the crazy, unpredictable squiggle.
This was the only Chuck Jones short I saw that I was unfamiliar with. It’s not a Looney Toons short, and has next to no affiliation with the show. So I’d never seen it, or heard of it, before I saw it playing in the museum of the moving image. This is Chuck Jones’ Oscar winning short film. About a line, who loves a dot. It’s an incredibly simple story, but it’s a wacky one. Having your two main characters be such simple shapes. It’s incredibly creative as a premise. But unfortunately, when you get a premise like this, there’s a small chance that it could become boring. And at times, that’s what The Dot and the Line becomes. I can’t put my finger on why, but at times, it definitely dragged along. But it was worth it for all the other times when it was just fantastic. I’m not sure how Oscar worthy the whole film was, but it was certainly an enjoyable little cartoon. Who ever thought that you could make a half decent story out of the romance of a dot and a line.
★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Chuck Jones
Starring Mel Blanc as Daffy Duck
Daffy Duck attempts to make a Three Muskateers picture, but his animator keeps messing with him.
My second of the three Chuck Jones shorts from the museum. Duck Amuck is another one that I had fond memories of, just like What’s Opera Doc?. But unfortunately, it doesn’t hold up as well as What’s Opera Doc? does. Duck Amuck is still great, it’s incredibly fun, and wildly inventive. Like the animation for animators, showing how you can really do anything, and play god to your characters just by using a pencil and eraser. But it didn’t hold the same amount of charm or nostalgia for me that Opera did. Probably because I’ve never been much of a Daffy Duck fan. He’s always been a kind of annoying character, much less my kind of humor. Daffy Duck is just kind of a dick, whereas Bugs Bunny is a Charlie Chaplin/Buster Keaton type figure. Still, even though I’m not a fan of the character, and the film isn’t as great as it was as a kid, it’s still arguably the most creative animated short film I’ve ever seen. I think this is the first to do the “animator controls the world” gag, which has become commonplace. So in the end, I may not be in love with Duck Amuck, but I do think it’s pretty damn great.
What’s Opera Doc?
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Chuck Jones
Starring Mel Blanc as Bugs Bunny
Arthur Q. Bryan as Elmer Fudd
A bugs bunny cartoon, staged as the opera “Siegfried”, in which Elmer Fudd wants to kill the rabbit, but Bugs disguises himself as a woman, which Elmer falls for.
You’re probably first wondering why I’m reviewing an old Looney Toons cartoon, and I’ll explain quickly. I went to the museum of the moving image in New York City this week (wonderful museum by the way, if you’re in New York City ever, check it out) and they have an exhibit on Chuck Jones, the influential animator of Looney Toons. In the exhibit I watched a few of Chuck Jones old animated short films, so my next three reviews will all be Chuck Jones animated shorts. The first of them being What’s Opera Doc?, which is my favorite Looney Toons segment ever. I haven’t seen this short film since I was a little kid, but it’s stuck with me so well. This is one of the most creative, crazy, outside the box thinking animated shorts ever made. Who ever would have thought that cherished childhood memories could be created by making a bugs bunny version of the opera “Siegfried”. No one would have ever thought, and yet, this is one of the short films that everyone lists as their favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon. The way the story is told is just plain excellent, and the songs are catchy. “Kill the rabbit!” has been stuck in my head since I was four years old. But through all that, I think what makes the film the best, is that in rewatching this cherished childhood memory, I found it was just as good, and just as funny as I remembered it. It still retains all the magic even ten years after I saw it last. Which is the mark of a great film.
Gone with the Wind
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Victor Fleming
Starring Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara
Clark Gable as Rhett Butler
Just before the start of the civil war, a southern belle, Scarlett O’Hara, confesses her love for Ashley Wilkes. A man who happens to be getting married soon. Through the next few years, Scarlett manipulates herself into affairs, and loveless marriages.
I knew I was missing something the first time I watched this film, about three years ago when I thought it was perfectly mediocre. I told myself recently that Gone with the Wind must be better than I remember it being, and lo and behold it was. The movie went from an “eh, it’s just one of those classics that was groundbreaking back in 1939 but really isn’t anything special now” to “that movie was one of the best movies of the 1930s, and possibly one of the best of the entire golden era of Hollywood”. Gone with the Wind is an epic in every sense of the word. It has a scope and ambition to it that you don’t see in classic films often. The producers wanted to tell the biggest story they could, they wanted to break boundaries, and they really did. Which is part of what makes the film fascinating to watch. But what makes it a really good film, instead of just being an admirable one, is the writing and the editing. Even though the film is about three and a half hours long, I never once felt bored. It never felt like it was dragging along at all, but always moving along at a perfect pace. As well, it never feels like the plot points are being forced in to extend the runtime. Everything that happens feels natural, and the story flows nicely. Then of course, there’s the characters the film creates. Scarlett O’Hara is the most evil, manipulative woman I’ve ever seen on screen, and watching her is so much fun. Everything she does just makes me cringe with anger. She’s really just a terrible person. I think that this was what changed my mind on the film actually, looking at it from a different viewpoint. When I first watched it, I thought Scarlett was supposed to be a likable character, and that kind of scared me off. But watching it this time, having in mind that Scarlett is just awful made me really enjoy the film. The production design of Gone with the Wind is amazing as well. The sets are wonderfully grand. Really, just all together, I loved Gone with the Wind. I’m very glad I watched it again. I still may not think it deserved it’s best picture win over Stagecoach, but none the less. It was an excellent, excellent picture.
★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5
Directed by Sam Raimi
Starring Tobey Maguire as Peter Parker
Alfred Molina as Doc Ock
Failing college classes, and losing every job he’s given, Spider-Man gets a new adversary when his mentor, Doctor Octavius, attaches artificially intelligent robotic arms to himself, which gain control over his brain and turn him into a criminal.
I was a huge fan of this movie when I was a kid. Spider man was my life. I haven’t seen this movie in years, and decided that I needed to revisit it on my way to New York City. Like I said before, this movie was my shit back in the second grade. I watched it on repeat, and played the video game. Now, the film both blew me away, and completely underwhelmed me. Which was surprising. What I remembered being great about the movie, wasn’t all that great this time. And what I didn’t remember at all, but now can appreciate due to my film knowledge that I didn’t have back when I was 7, was freaking amazing. Alright, so one thing I remembered about the movie was how hilarious it was. I remembered laughing my ass off, and so I went in this time expecting the script to be really well written. Unfortunately, I have to say, the script of Spider-Man 2 is one of the worst super hero screenplays ever. It’s so formulaic, and filled with jokes that are just as cringeworthy, if not more than the famous X-Men “what happens when a toad gets struck by lightning” line. I laughed a lot, but it was more laughing at how poorly crafted the script was. Whoever wrote this obviously really needs some training in how to write realistic dialogue. That said, the script still managed to make for an enjoyable film, but not in a “damn, that was a clever movie” way, more of a “this is freaking ridiculous” way. But, what really blew me away, was Sam Raimi’s direction. I’ve always found that Raimi was a solid director, nothing brilliant, but his work on this movie was outstanding. I might even say this is the best directed superhero movie I’ve ever seen. Every second, the atmosphere was on point. The fight scenes had amazing editing. The way he builds suspense, when you know a robotic arm is gonna pop up, is just brilliant. Every choice Raimi made for the film was excellent. So yeah, in the end, the script disappointed me, but Raimi impressed me. No matter what though, it’s one hell of an enjoyable movie.
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Woody Allen
Starring Woody Allen as Alvy Singer
Diane Keaton as Annie Hall
Alvy Singer, a television comedian, looks back on his relationship with Annie, trying to figure out where the relationship failed.
Annie Hall is by far, my favorite Woody Allen movie. And when he’s made so many excellent films, that means a lot. This movie achieves what few movies of it’s kind can, it’s gut-bustingly hilarious, and maintains that hilarity even when it reaches monumentally deep truths. Annie Hall manages to make you think, while it’s making you laugh. It’s the very definition of a smart comedy. It also sparked an entire sub-genre of rom-coms. The “destined to fail relationship, and you know that the whole time” rom-com. Films where we see the end of the relationship at the beginning, and we jump through the story to see why it failed. Movies like 500 Days of Summer, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have followed what Annie Hall did. It was revolutionary in it’s genre. No happy ending, no surprise “I love you after all”, no real resolution. At the end, Alvy Singer still doesn’t know why his relationship with Annie failed. But that’s not the point of the film either, it’s a character study of Alvy, showing how his mind is piecing this together, through monologues, through fourth wall breaks, through little other flashbacks. All this helps us understand who Alvy is. Woody Allen gives, what I believe to be his best performance ever in this movie. He may play the same kind of character as Alvy Singer often, but this is definitely the role that required the most depth, and the most range. Allen is spectacular. Not only does he give a great performance, but I’d say Annie Hall is the film where Woody finally found his footing as a director. As much as I love his early movies, like Bananas, they aren’t all that great in terms of filmmaking. Annie Hall is the film where Woody finally got a full grasp on his directorial style. This is just all together one of the best movies ever made. Definitely one of my favorites, and arguably the best romantic comedy ever. Say what you will about Woody Allen, but the man is a genius.
★ ★ ★ out of 5
Directed by Merian C. Cooper & Ernest B. Schoedsack
Starring Fay Wray as Ann Darrow
Robert Armstrong as Carl Denham
A film crew goes to an uncivilized island, where something seems a bit off with the villagers. The villagers kidnap the film productions’ lead actress, and sacrifice her to their god. A 30 foot tall ape, living on the island. Who falls in love with the girl.
I’m not sure if my expectations were too high, or if the film is just dated. Probably a lot of both. But King Kong definitely disappointed me in a lot of ways. I’ve seen Peter Jackson’s version before, and I was expecting the original to blow his version out of the water. It had all the makings of something great. It has the same great story, cool revolutionary stop motion special effects, and a runtime that’s about an hour and a half shorter (something Peter Jackson’s needed to have). So where did it go wrong? I can sum it up pretty easily. The characters. Not a single character in the movie, except for Kong himself, is memorable. None of them have good motivations for what they do, they’re just set up to be a certain way, and everything they do mirrors that. Carl Denham for example, is a huge risk taker, and everything he does through the film is dangerous. But it never tells us why. This makes for under-developed characters, we know what they’re doing but we never know the reasoning behind it. Every one is very one dimensional. Then of course, there are the characters who don’t need to be there/are just plain racist. Such as the Chinese man, who spends the whole film saying things like “me so scared.” or “me no good feel about this”. He’s basically Jar Jar Binks, if Jar Jar Binks were an extremely xenophobic, and racist caricature of asian men. I understand that the 1930s were a different time, but come on. I’m reviewing the film in 2014, and that does not hold up. That said, there are some awesome parts of the film, like I mentioned, I love the story of King Kong, it’s one of the most creative, and genius fantasy-horror stories ever written. Whoever came up with the idea of Skull Island, and it’s king, is one of the most creative, and brilliant people out there. As well, the stop motion effects are awesome, I love the look of the film in general. Also, I have to say, a few of the Kong-Dinosaur fight scenes were the best fights I’ve seen from this era of film. All in all, King Kong is a very dated movie, in a lot of ways, it fails, but in some others, it’s still brilliant.
Good Will Hunting
Directed by Gus Van Sant
“I Gotta See About a Girl”
–Robin Williams as Sean
Nearly two weeks ago, as I write this post, the film industry suffered a great loss. The death of one of the best actors of all time. Robin Williams’ death is a tragic one. He was an amazing comedian, and an even better actor. An actor whose films I’d grown up watching.
I decided that I needed to revisit what I think was Williams’ greatest achievement. His greatest performance, and my favorite film starring him.
Good Will Hunting is one of those films that is just a powerhouse of writing and acting. Every word spoken feels powerful, and you’re never completely sure if it’s because the writing is good, or the acting is good. But you’re pretty sure that it comes down to both.
Storywise, Good Will Hunting is pretty simple. Will Hunting is an ordinary guy from South Boston. He drinks too much, and has a few too many offenses, but what he really likes doing is hanging around with his three best friends. Oh, and also he’s secretly a mathematical genius. After his parole officer assigns him to work as a janitor at MIT, Will solves an equation meant for an advanced mathematics class, leading to the professor taking him under his wing. Will is bailed out of jail on two conditions, that he continues to be mentored by the professor, and that he gets therapy.
Will continues to grow, and defeats his fears about the world by talking to his new therapist, another South Boston local, Sean, who Will can relate to. He also meets a Harvard girl, named Skylar, who changes his view on the world.
It sounds like a pretty typical movie, extraordinary guy meets new people who help him overcome the odds. But the way Damon and Affleck wrote it really elevates it above anything else like it. Will Hunting is not a new type of character, but he’s made into something great because his dialogue is so damn good.
I actually read the script of the movie before I saw it, and I still believe that it’s one of the best around. Every line has a purpose, everything is there to help build character. There’s hardly any filler, it’s an airtight script.
Another great part of the film is how many genres it covers, it’s a buddy movie, a love story, and a film about mental illness. All these genres, and it never feels like it doesn’t know what it’s going for, it knows exactly what it wants to be. Which is a razor sharp witted character drama, with a ton of brilliant performances.
Speaking of brilliant performances, I need to speak about the man that I rewatched the film for. Robin Williams. Williams gives one of the most deep, emotional, and strikingly funny performances I’ve ever seen. The role shows off every bit of his range, and showcases exactly how great he is.
From scenes of screaming at Will, to quietly reminiscing about how his wife farted in her sleep, every single thing he did on screen was captivating. He also improvised a surprising amount of his extraordinary dialogue, which goes to show again how talented Robin was. He steals every scene he’s in, and delivers every line in such a brilliantly real way.
Then of course, Matt Damon doesn’t get enough credit for his performance here. He’s amazing as well, and this is probably the role that shows his most range, the “it’s not your fault” scene being an example of just how good Matt Damon can be.
Good Will Hunting is a masterpiece of writing and acting. It manages to be such a gritty look at south Boston, as well as being such an inspirational and good hearted piece. Like I said earlier, a film like it can easily lose track of what it wants itself to be, but Good Will Hunting never loses sight of it’s goal.
It’s a love story and a buddy movie, but above all else, it’s a portrait of a deeply flawed character. Will enters the film an immature little child, a Peter Pan type, who refuses to grow up and leave his Neverland of Boston. But the journey this movie takes him on helps him realize that there’s so much more out there. It’s a pleasure for us to take this journey with him.