Thursday, June 10, 2021

Movie Review: Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway


Michael's Movie Grade: B

Fast paced and silly family fun and a sequel that tops the original. 

All movie fans have learned when it comes to sequels that bigger does not always in fact equal better. Yet this sequel is both bigger and better. Still it is not the scope that makes this movie better. One thing that makes this film work better though is the role of Peter himself. While I found him likable and entertaining in the first film, I didn't relate to him the way I do here. He is put in a situation that all of us can understand and emphasize with. He has made mistakes in the past and is trying to get away from them, yet the whole world seems to see him as a "bad seed." With this it becomes easy to identify with Peter, because we all have wanted to prove ourselves to be something more than others think we are. McGregor is given a much better role here than he had in the first movie. He is much more interesting, funny and charming as a new father figure, who doesn't quite know how to be one. Here he even provides the film with its most heartfelt moments. What also makes the larger scale work is that the movie knows that it is cliché and both satirizes and embraces the cliché at the same time. These very clever jokes on sequels having to be bigger than the original are often the comedic highlights of the movie and the climatic scene put a big smile on face all the through. Yet the filmmakers manage to do this without ever treating the story like a joke, allowing us to get involved with the emotions of the story while laughing at the silliness of it all at the same time. 

This movie feels like it has to constantly throw jokes at us. Because of this some really funny moments will sit side by side with jokes that fall completely flat. Unfortunately some of the jokes that fall flat become running jokes. Still this doesn't change that the jokes that work are genuinely funny and I found myself laughing quite a bit. But if there is a third film, I hope that very annoying rooster will be left out.   

There is very little in this movie that hasn't been seen before and it is easy to see what will happen next. There are also a few subplots that simply go nowhere and the villain is not very interesting.  

All in all this film provided me with just what I wanted from it, a really fun time at the movies.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

My Pal Trigger (1946)


Maybe it is the horse lover in me, but My Pal Trigger stands as my favorite Roy Rogers movie and with how much I love these films this is saying a lot. I am in good company as Roy himself considered this movie to be his favorite that he made. 

This film tells a fictionalized story about how Roy met his famous horse. Roy is a horse trader who wants to mate his mare with rancher Gabby's (Gabby Hayes (a regular in Roy's movies at this time)) star stallion. Gabby refuses this offer, feeling that Roy's horse is not good enough. When the villainous Brett Scoville (Jack Holt (who would later play a major role in Roy's movie, Trail of Robin Hood (1950))) steals Gabby's horse, the stallion escapes and finds and mates with Roy's mare. Brett tracks the stallion down and accidently kills him. Gabby accuses Roy of this killing and our cowboy hero must go on the lam. The mare gives birth to a colt, who Roy names Trigger. 

This story may be a bit corny and predictable at times but throughout his career, Roy Rogers had a talent for making something that would be corny and predictable in other hands feel sincere and heartfelt (one just needs to listen to the many children songs he recorded). Sincerity is the main reason this movie works so well. Everything is so heartfelt and put together with care that the film simply becomes irresistible. There is more drama here than there is in the average Roy Rogers movie with some scenes that pack a surprising emotional punch. These scenes show that Roy is much better actor than he is often given credit for. Yet this does not mean that the film in any way is lacking in the fast paced action and great country music that all of us want from a Roy Rogers movie. Director Frank McDonald (who directed 3 other Roy Rogers movies in 1946 alone (Song of Arizona, Rainbow Over Texas and Under Nevada Skies (as well as the Gene Autry picture Sioux City Sue of the same year))) keeps the action moving at a brisk fast pace that is simply a joy to watch. Roy Rogers, Dale Evans (who the following year would marry Roy) and the Sons of the Pioneers (one of the greatest country music groups of all time and one that Roy was a founding member of) are all at the top of their game here and remind us just why we love vintage country music so much.

Some musical highlights include the lovely wistful and nostalgic Livin' Western Style (sung by Roy and written by Don Swander and June Hershey (the team that wrote Deep of the Heart of Texas)), the lively western swing number Harriet (sung by Roy and Dale and written by Abel Baer and Paul Cunningham (the team that wrote Piggy Wiggy Woo)) and fast paced and fun Alla En El Rancho Grande (performed by The Sons of the Pioneers, a Spanish langue song written by Silvano Ramos with some English lyrics by Bartley Costello). The last of those songs listed has also been recorded by the likes of Elvis Presley, Dean Martin and Gene Autry. 

Showman's Trade Review, 1947

The following is an article from Showman's Trade Review (dated June 29, 1946). "Republic Pictures has announced an unique, nation-wide contest in connection with the forth coming release of 'My Pal Trigger,' Roy Rogers outdoor film in which $1000 in cash prizes will be donated to the authors of the best names of twin colts sired by Trigger, star movie horse. Birth of the twin colts is an integral part of the film's plot. The contest has been especially designed to enable participating exhibitors to stage local contests, coincident with their showing of the film. While Republic has announced that $1000 in cash will be divided among 18 national winners, selected from the best five entries from each theatre participating. There is nothing in the contest rules to prevent exhibitors rom promoting additional prizes locally for the best five local entries, these to be selected by exhibitors or by a board of local judges of their own choosing. Contest aids have been prepared by Republic, including two-color window cards suitable for lobby display ; contest blanks telling the contest story ; special publicity stories planned for local planting with newspapers, etc. Contest blanks are intended for distribution through schools, stores, clubs, milk companies, etc. All contests aids are to be made available to exhibitors without charge. The press book for 'My Pal Trigger' suggests that exhibitors contact local branches of The Roy Rogers Fan Clun for exploitation plans for the pictures. Entries in the Colt naming contest close December 31, 1946."

The following is a review from Photoplay Magazine. "Like all films of this series, this is a very good Roy Rogers and an excellent Trigger up to all sorts of tricks to insure you a fine western. The picture is tightknit, has genuine sincerity, is filled with well worked suspense. Rogers is accused of killing the great Golden Sovereign; after being bailed out of jail, he clears town in a hurry. In the midst of his wandering his Mare Lady, presents him with a foal, Trigger, the image of Golden Sovereign. From there on in Roy and Trigger fight their way over a rough western road to handshakes for Roy from his old enemy and laurel wreaths for Trigger. Familiar faces grace the struggle - George "Gabby" Hayes, Dale Evans and Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers. If you're in mind to go west for a couple of hours buy your ticket. The trip will turn out fine. Your Reviewer Says: Roy and Trigger know their monkey business."

Motion Picture Herald, 1944

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Always Remember


June 6th, 1998

Cowboy Church #122

 Hello my friends and welcome back for another service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing, Sweet Hour of Prayer. The words of this hymn are believed to have come from William W. Walford, a blind preacher from Warwickshire, England. It is believed that when fellow minister and friend, Thomas Salmon visited him in 1842, he asked Salmon to write down the words of a poem he had written about prayer. When Salmon was in the United States, three years later, he showed the poem to an editor of The New York Observer. It was then printed in an issue dated September 13, 1845. In 1861, William Bradbury would write the music for this hymn. Bradbury had also written the music for such Hymns as Just as I Am, He Leadeth Me and The Solid Rock. This recording of the hymn was the title track of Roy and Dale's 1957 gospel album. Up next is Johnny Cash with Jesus was a Carpenter. This recording is a live performance of the song, John did at the White House on April 17, 1970 (Richard Nixon was president at this time). It would be released as part of the 2011 Bootleg Vol. III: Live Around The World, two CD set. Though Gene Autry was never as vocal about his faith as Roy Rogers was the church played a major role in his musical life. His grandfather, E.W. Autry had been a Baptist preacher and the first time Gene ever sang in public (at the age of five) was at the Missionary Baptist Church, where his grandfather preached. He wasn't the only member of the family to perform music at that church as his mother also played the organ there. With that in mind my next musical choice is When Mother Played the Organ (And Daddy Sang a Hymn). This song was written by Dick Sanford and George McConnell. The recording comes from an episode of Gene's Melody Ranch Radio Show (dated 8/25/46) and Gene is backed by The Cass County Boys, The Kettle Sisters, Johnny Bond and Carl Cotner's Orchestra. This song features a tiny bit of the hymn Beautiful Isle of Somewhere, which Gene sang in the movie, Colorado Sunset (1939). The Cass County Boys would appear in a number of Gene's movies including Valley of Fire (1951), Indian Territory (1950), Wagon Team (1952), Twilight on the Rio Grande (1947) and Robin Hood of Texas (1947). Next comes Elvis Presley with It is No Secret (What God Can Do). This song was written by cowboy singer and actor Stuart Hamblen. Before turning to God, this man's life could hardly be considered Godly. He often drank and fought and this often landed him in jail. When in 1949 Hamblin went to a Billy Graham crusade, he turned his life over to God. The drinking and fighting were put behind him and his whole life changing. One day he was talking about this change to his good friend John Wayne (yes that John Wayne) and that it was no secret what God had done for him. John Wayne said, that he should write a song with those lyrics. This is followed by The Louvin Brothers with The Christian Life. This recording comes from their 1960 album, Satan is Real. Next is Randy Travis with Blessed Assurance. This recording comes from his 2003 gospel album, Worship and Faith. Afterwards comes The Carter Family with their 1934 recording of Working on a Building. Many who write and discuss Bob Dylan tend to overlook and dismiss what is known as his "Christian Period". This took place from 1979 to 1981. At this time he became a born again Christian and was very vocal about it. His albums at this time were full of nothing but Christian songs and at concerts he left out many of his past hits to make them all about his Christian music. This alienated much of the audience that had once embraced him as the voice of a generation and felt that he was no longer speaking for them. As well as alienated they felt Bob was betraying them. Many still feel this way when looking back at this part of his career and some Dylan fans feel it should just be forgotten. Yet one song from this period that actually receives praise from those who dismiss this period is Every Grain of Sand. While this song is just as overtly Christian as any others from this period, it is simply too beautifully written for anyone who appreciates Bob's song writing to resist. This song truly shows how amazing of a song Bob could right just as much as any of his work from the 1960's and its lyrics always speak to me each time I listen. Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of Lord You Made the Cowboy Happy. Whether you are or are not a cowboy, this song should remind you just how many blessing the Lord has given you each day that you don't even think about.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:4-6

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8

  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16

God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Numbers 23:19

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43

 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Thank you for joining me come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy trails to you until we meet again. 

                                                                        Resources Used

Liner notes for the CD Gene Autry: Cowboy Hymns and Songs of Inspiration by Holly George-Warren