Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Movie Review: Eighth Grade

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A+

Review: This is my favorite movie so far this year. It is beautifully moving, really funny and heartbreakingly real.

This movie is a near perfect cinematic look at a very difficult time in many people's lives. What makes this work is how extremely real it is. This brought me back to what life was like for me during eighth grade and how happy I am to have made it threw that. Much of this realism comes from how true the main character rings. There is so much of ourselves (especially me) to be seen in this young girl. We all have felt her anxiety, and her desire to be more popular than she is. She is not perfect, but we can so easily see that she is a good person deep down inside. There are so many times that we just want to hug her and tell her that she can make it through. I found it near impossible not to connect with this character. I felt sad when she felt sad, and happy when she felt happy. This is enhanced by Elsie Fisher's amazing performance. Despite her problems our main character has, this is not a depressing film. A lot of this is due to the movie having a very important and helpful message about how so much of what we spend our time worrying about is very temporary. We know that things will only get better for our main character and what she is going through now will not last, and this makes us feel very proud of her for what she does. I wish I had seen this movie in middle school, as a message like that would have been very important to me, but I also feel that in some ways it even makes me feel better about my own axinites today. The film also features some great moments of humor and I laughed often while watching this film. A scene where she is praying especially made me grin.

All in all this is a must see movie and my favorite of the year so far.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Monday, July 30, 2018

Three Stooges Exhibitor's Reviews

I love exhibitor's reviews. They give a look at how many films were originally shown and how audiences' reacted. Today we are going to look at some more of them. These all centering on the classic Curly-era short films of the Three Stooges.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Motion Picture Herald June 29, 1940
"Violent is the Word for Curly: Three Stooges - Played this a second time, as Columbia had no others we had not played. Audience liked it very much. Played in the right place, you cannot beat these Stooge Comedies. -C.. L. Niles, Niles Theater, Anamosa, Iowa. General patronage."

"Rockin' Thru the Rockies: Three Stooges - Just what the doctor ordered for plenty of laughs. Swell. Running Time 18 minutes. - A. J. Inks, Crystal Theater, Ligonier, Ind. Small town patronage."

                                                   Motion Picture Herald August 1, 1936

"Ants in the Pantry: 3 Stooges - A funny though insane comedy - L. A. Irwin, Palace Theater, Penacook, N. H. General patronage."

                                                    Motion Picture Herald May 25, 1940"Oh You Nazty Spy: Three Stooges - A satirical comedy on Hitler that was a knockout. The best stooge comedy to date. Running Time 19 minutes. -A. J. Inks, Crystal Theater, Ligonier, Ind. Small town patronage."

"Oh You Nazty Spy: Three Stooges - Here is a very clever satire on dictators which would be good in itself. Add to that the three Stooges and you have plenty of slapstick and action. It went over very well. I still get a point I didn't get before every once in a while when I start thinking about it. - W. Varick Nevins, III, Alfred Co-op Theater, Alfred N.Y. Small college town and rural patronage."

"Oily to Bed and Oily to Rise: Three Stooges - A riot. Play it. Columbia knows how to make comedies. - Herald Rankin, Plaza Theatre, Tilbury, Ontario, Canada. General patronage."


Friday, July 27, 2018

Happy 78th Birthday to Bugs Bunny

Today we celebrate the 78th Birthday of everyone's favorite Wascally Wabbit. 78 years ago today A Wild Hare was released to theaters. Though some people consider the earlier Porky's Hare Hunt, as the debut of Bugs Bunny, many argue that that rabbit is a different character, and July 27th is accepted as Bugs' birthday. However a 1947 article from Box Office Magazine claims Easter Sunday as the rabbit's birthday. One might think that the article is referring to Porky's Hare Hunt, but that cartoon was released on April 30 and this article is from April 12 and refers to the rabbit's birthday celebration in the past. Easter Sunday is probably chosen because of its association with rabbits. If you wish to see that article click here.

A more touching birthday tribute happened the next year, as a Bugs Bunny birthday party was brought to "crippled kiddies" (as they are refereed to in an article in Boxoffice magazine). Again though the date of the article that talks about this indicates a different birthday for Bugs than the releases of either A Wild Hare or Porky's Hare HuntHere is the Boxoffice article about this party.

People just couldn't get Bugs' birthday right. A 1961 article (also from Boxoffice) stated that Bugs recently celebrated his 25th birthday. Well Porky's Hare Hunt was released in 1938 and A Wild Hare was released in 1940. Do the math and figure out what was wrong with this. Anyway to see that article click here.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Movie Review: Teen Titans Go! to the Movies

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: Teen Titans Go! makes a shockingly good transition to feature length. This film not only retains the charm of the show, but improves upon it heavily.

The show has given me moments that made me laugh out loud, but this movie had me laughing consistently throughout. The humor of this movie ranges from very clever satire of superhero movies to immature poop and fart jokes. The two mesh perfectly though because the immature humor comes naturally out of the Titan's immature personalities, while the satire is woven into the actual story. Even though I knew the show's humor is not as devoid of wit in the way so many of its detractors feel, I still didn't except the clever humor to be this clever. There is no superhero troupe that is not made fun of here. Each joke about these troupes is so funny because they all ring perfectly true. The film also makes fun of the very essence of DC's most popular characters. Two scenes involving Batman's origin story were unbelievably funny and perfect examples of dark humor at its best. The movie even makes fun of the show that inspired it. Though the show has used some of the complaints lodged against it for humor, those episodes always ended up being some of the show's weakest. However this movie surprised me by using these complaints for humor that was actually really funny.

The storyline itself in many ways feels like a Saturday morning cartoon. Usually this is a bad sign for animated movies, because when this happens more often than not the film feels padded to reach feature length. However this movie feels just the right length to tell the story and the time just breezes by.

This film will upset many fans of the 2003-2006 show for portraying the characters in such a different light. I will admit though I don't have the same fondness for that show many others have (I mean I think its a good show, but I like many superhero cartoons more), so none of those complaints ring true for me. This movie is a comedy and it made me laugh all the way through and I am very satisfied with that.

But don't go away we have a short to talk about.

The Late Batsby

Michael's Movie Grade: D

This short film is really a brief sneak peak at Lauren Faust's new TV show, DC Super Hero Girls. However this short does not really make me want to see the show. However it is so brief I don't know how much this will determine if I like the show. However here, the humor feels forced, the story uninteresting, the designs not standing out and these versions of the characters, not being the most engaging. This film was too brief and inconsequential, as to leave me with nothing else to say, but I was not a fan.

-Michael J. Ruhland      

Monday, July 23, 2018

Movie Review: Sorry to Bother You

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: A highly intelligent and very funny satire, that's message really packs a strong punch.

This movie starts out as a fairly straightforward satire of race relations and the negative aspects of capitalism. These scenes while more conventional than what would come later, are still very good. The humor is really funny, and there are plenty of times I laughed out loud, especially at the opening. Even in these scenes though, the film makes its serious points. Both of these are seen in the "white voice." This is when Cassius (Lakeith Stansfield) uses a voice to sound like a white guy in order to make his job as a telemarketer more successful. This voice is actually provided by David Cross, and Stansfield simply mouths along. This is both really funny (and it is used to good effect in some great jokes) and quite unnerving. The effect never feels real as the lip-sync doesn't always full match what is being said. This is definitely done on purpose. It gives us a feeling of dishonesty. Cassius is betraying who he is to make money. While he is figuratively selling his soul at this and other times in the movie, the film never asks us to condemn him for it. He lives in a capitalistic society and badly needs money. He is desperate and feels he needs to do this. This is something many of us can easily relate to. It helps us also fully connect with the film as it becomes more surreal. This change is rather abrupt, and can alienate some people from the movie. However to me that's what makes it work. Though I won't go into much detail about what happens to Cassius after the "white voice" (trust me you will not see much of this coming), the world around him becomes more surreal and we are whisked into this world as suddenly as our hero is, and we are figuring things out at the same time he does. This fully puts us in the character's shoes as we are just as shocked by the plot twists as he is. Much of the imagery later in this film becomes much more stranger and at times even Fellini-esque (the scene with his girlfriend's (Tessa Thompson) performance especially stands out).

This movie's title is just as much satire as the film itself. This film is not sorry to bother anyone. In fact in many ways it is a call to arms against any injustice. Despite the title the film openly rails against anyone who chooses not to care about the state of the world around them as long as they are alright. It tells one to get out of their comfy chair and actually do something about the things that aren't right in this world. This message will certainly make many watching this film uncomfortable in a way few mainstream movies even try to do.

Truth be told not everything in this movie works. For instance the reality show parodies seem out of place. Reality shows are also an extremely easy target that have been made fun of plenty of times, and nothing new is added here. These scenes are also simply not funny and feel below the rest of the satire the movie gives us. Still truth be told this is small complaint for a very great movie.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Movie Review: The Eqaulizer 2

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: Denzel Washington's first sequel is a success.

One thing I like about this movie is that it takes its time and knows when to slow down and be quiet. This isn't one of those action films that rushes from one action scene to another. However when the action scenes come we are invested in our main character and the environment of this film. This only makes these more exciting. Many scenes don't in fact forward the plot. However they add a charm to this movie that isn't in most mainstream action films. Seeing our main character help an old man, who much of the world has stopped paying attention to, is surprisingly sweet and touching. However there is nothing forced about this and the sentiment feels real. Similarly seeing him with all his Lyft passengers sets up the environment and even the emotional state he is in, pulling us further into this character. These are slow moving quiet scenes but they leave just as much of an impact as the big action scenes (which again are excellent). Also helping this movie is that the main character is just so likable. You not agree with his methods for helping others, but you admire his unselfish reasons behind it.

The only real complaint I have about this movie are that some of the side characters could have been more developed. Some of them feel quite cliché and like characters we have seen in other movies, but our hero's relationships with these characters make these scenes still work.

This is not your typical action movie, but it is definitely a good one.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Movie Review: Skyscrapper

Review By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: C+

Review: This will never be considered an action classic, but it is fun.

In many ways Dwayne Johnson is this movie's rock (see what I did there). What makes this movie work is the Rock's extremely likable on screen persona. This may not be the most complex character, but I couldn't help but like him. Because I liked this character, the suspense scenes worked quite well. I did not want to see anything happen to him or the family he cared so much about. Unfortunately none of the other characters feel this fleshed out, and when he is not on screen the movie suffers. Still he is onscreen for the majority of the movie, so there aren't many of these scenes to sit through. Though the movie would have still benefitted from better villains.

The action scenes are over the top silly fun. True, if you try to think about them possibly they don't make sense but why would you want to do that? These scenes feel big and the special effects are quite good. This is especially true if you see it in Dolby.

The story itself is one we have seen many times before, and there is even a Lady of Shanghai   shootout scene. Nothing new is added here, but because we like the main character we are still invested and there still are some great action scenes. Don't go in expecting a great movie. This is a turn your mind off and just have fun film, and it works as that.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Johnny Cash: Forever Words

The words of few songwriters have touched me as deeply as those of Johnny Cash. His lyrics were full of beautiful honesty. This album proves I am far from alone on this. Johnny Cash had written lyrics and poems that he never got to turn into full songs. This album shows great performers taking these words and turning them into there own songs. None of these artists try to sound like Johnny Cash. There is little of Johnny Cash's famous sound in this album. Each song is in the style of the artist performing.

So let's have a look.

Forever/ I Still Miss Someone- Kris Kristofferson and Willie NelsonThis is the shortest track on this album and it feels it. The track starts off with Willie Nelson playing a short part of the 1958, Johnny Cash classic I Still Miss Someone on guitar. Willie's very unique guitar style is heard to great effect here, and he proves why he is one of the best guitar players in country music. Kris Kristofferson joins in not singing, but rather reciting a lovely short poem written by Johnny Cash. My fellow Kris Kristofferson fans may be disappointed here as he doesn't get to do much on this album. This happens in a matter of 47 seconds and just feels to brief to leave the impact it should. However it is nice for what it is.

To June This Morning - Ruston Kelly and Kacey MusgravesA soft slow ballad. The melody is sweet and relaxing. It lets us fully take in Johnny's words. The lyrics here are absolutely gorgeous. This is a sweet and touching love song to Johnny's wife. The lyrics are simple and straightforward and celebrate the little moments where nothing big was happening and the two were just enjoying being together.

Gold All Over the Ground - Brad PaisleyThis is certainly a song in Brad Paisley recognizable style of country music. This style and Johnny's lyrics complement each other perfectly. This is a lovely country ballad, and a very straight forward love song.

You Never Knew My Mind - Chris CornellIt is interesting to see Chris Cornell associated with this album considering his passing. That can be simply explained by stating that this is one of his last recordings. Johnny did an amazing cover of Cornell's Rusty Cage on his 1996 album Unchained. After that cover, Chris Cornell does a fantastic interpretation of Johnny's words here. This is one of the best songs on the album. The lyrics sound like the self-reflective type of lyrics Johnny would sing later in his life. They are incredible moving and Cornell sings them with full emotion here.

The Captain's Daughter - Alison Krauss & Union StationThis is just simply lovely. These Johnny Cash lyrics sound like something, he would have sung with June on their 1967 album, Carrying On With Johnny Cash and June Carter. It is an old fashioned ballad telling of a forbidden love story of two lovers separated by their social classes. One wonders if this was not meant as a duet for him and June as both lovers get a chance to speak. Alison and Union Station do this song in their usual combination of bluegrass and folk music. It works perfectly and this whole song is just so sweet.

Jellico Coal Man - T. Bone BurnettThis song does not have the depth that the previous songs did. It is instead just a fun song. The music behind the lyrics is much more rock and roll than anything we have heard to this point. The bass playing here is one of the few cases though of Johnny's style being used. It doesn't full sound like the "boom-chicka-boom" we all know but the influence can be felt.

 The Walking Wounded - Roseanne Cash

Johnny Cash liked to incorporate much social commentary into some of his songs. This is the first strong use of this on the album. This song serves as a reminder to never forget those worse off than we are and never forget to lend them a helping hand. This song is turned into a lovely country ballad by Johnny's daughter, and her voice conveys the message perfectly.

Them Double Blues - John MelloncampThis is pure fun rockabilly. The lyrics at fun and John Melloncamp complements this perfectly by providing a great blend of rock and country and just having fun with what is here. No deep meanings here, just fun.

Body on Body - JewelVery sensual lyrics for Johnny Cash. They are also very beautiful and bring to mind beautiful images. Jewel's arrangement works perfectly here as it is soft and lovely and lets the lyrics shine.

I'll Still Love You - Elvis CostelloA simple and straightforward love ballad. The arrangement here is simply lovely incorporating string and horns into the mix, making it sound like a classic ballad. Elvis sings it quite well too.

It is worth noting that Johnny Cash and Elvis Costello had previously recorded together a version of the George Jones song, We Ought to Be Ashamed in 1979.

June's Sundown - Carlene CarterJohn's stepdaughter does a fantastic interpretation of these lyrics Johnny wrote about her mom. The lyrics are some of the loveliest on this collection. The imagery described here is so vivid, that these lyrics take you to another place when listening. Carlene's arrangement is lovely and brings to mind some of Johnny's later day recordings. This is truly a highlight.

He Bore it All - Daily and VincentNow if you want some great southern gospel, here you go. Johnny writes about how Jesus Christ sacrificed for us. Daily and Vincent bring a very fun bluegrass style to this song, that will no doubt make your toes tap. Before starting the song, Matthew 11:28 (Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.) is quoted. Even though he may have not always lived the life a Christian ought to lead, Johnny knew there was a God and always found inspiration in the words of God. In his best gospel work those beliefs can be felt, and that is certainly true with these lyrics here and even in the upbeat bluegrass performance by Daily and Vincent, which so jubilant even none believers may want to shout "hallelujah." Chinky Pin Hill - I'm With Her I'm With Her is an incredible female folk trio composed of Sara Watkins (Formally of Nickel Creek), Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan. This track shows them stepping into a bit of bluegrass/folk style. These are rather silly lyrics and as such the group just has fun with it. This is an upbeat toe-stomping fun song and works extremely well at being that.

Goin', Goin' Gone - Robert Glaser Featuring Ro James and Anu Sun
This is by far my least favorite song on this album. The lyrics are Johnny being honest about his problems with drugs. However it is the music where this song doesn't work. The lyrics don't seem to fit this R&B themed music and the whole thing feels off.

What Would I Dreamer Do? - The Jayhawks
The music itself sounds a lot like other songs I have heard, but it is still nice. The lyrics are fantastic. There are a bit fanciful and like other songs here they bring beautiful images to mind.

Spirit Rider - Jamey Johnson
A great way to end this album. Jamey Johnson is one of the most pure country singers out there today, and like all good country singers his songs are full of pure emotion and that can be felt here. He uses melody to this song, which perfectly complements both his voice and Johnny's love lyrics.

Johnny's son, John Carter Cash co-produced this album with Steve Berkowitz. Berkowitz had produced Johnny Cash's classic 1968 live album, At Folsom Prison and his 1969 live album, At San Quentin. He also produced some of Bob Dylan's best albums including Another Side of Bob Dylan (1964), Brining it all Back Home (1965) and Blonde on Blonde (1966).

This a fantastic album and I can't recommend it enough.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Monday, July 16, 2018

Movie Review: Sicario: Day of Soldario

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: C

Review: This movie has interesting ideas and quite a few really suspenseful scenes, but it falls short of what it could have been.

This movie works best, when centering on a drug cartel leader's teenage daughter (Isabela Moner). This character is quite likable and feels more real than most of the characters around her. With her having no control over the situation she finds her self in, one begins to picture themselves in her shoes. This makes any suspense centered around her feel so much more real. On the opposite side are the scenes centered around a teenage boy (Elijah Rodriguez). We are never given any reason to connect with this character on any level. As such every scene centering on this character is simply quite boring and in the end adds nothing to the movie. These scenes could have easily been left out and the film would have been better. The film cuts from these stories and others. As such the movie too often feels unfocused. These multiple stories also make the film feel overlong, especially when one especially misses the mark. This film is always visually interesting though. Dariuz Wolski's cinematography is always great.

This movie has problems, but what works does work quite well and the film is worth seeing for that. Just except to get bored when it drifts to the story of the teenage boy.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, July 14, 2018

In Loving Memory of Hank Williams

In my mind Hank Williams is still the heart of country music, all these years after he passed away. His songs and voice were full of such real pure emotion that still can touch one's heart today. Dying at the young age of 29, Hank Williams still left behind one of the greatest legacies of American music. He was also still at the height of his popularity so it is no wonder the music industry rose up to pay tribute after he passed.

The following is from a June, 1953 issue of Radio TV Mirror.

"Perhaps the miracle of this form of entertainment is the fact that a man or woman's voice, in spite of death, can go on thrilling millions...

"With Hank Williams tragic passing, at least eight recording companies put out as many memorial record tributes We personally feel his Luke the Drifter recordings are our greatest legacy from him. But the MGM 'In Memory of Hank Williams' record with Sonny Smith reciting a poem by recording star Al Smith is a moving touching testimonial. MGM has also released under one label 'Hank Williams' as Luke the Drifter,' the best of the songs Hank recorded under that name. Included on the album are 'Pictures From Life's Other Side' 'Be Careful of Stones that You Throw,' 'Men With Broken Hearts,' 'The Funeral,' 'Too Many Parties and Too Many Pals,' and 'Beyond the Sunset.'"

This Luke the Drifter album ended up being very influential. In his book Chronicles Volume One, Bob Dylan wrote "The Luke the Drifter record, I just about wore out. That's the one where he sings and recites parables, like the Beatitudes, I could listen to the Luke the Drifter record all day and drift away myself, become totally convinced in the goodness of man."

-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Movie Review: Hotel Transylvania 3 Summer Vacation

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: This is the silliest and most cartoon-y Hotel Transylvania movie yet. It is also the most fun.

While the previous films in this series have had there over the top moments, the films themselves felt like they were partly holding themselves back from fulling embracing being a cartoon. This film never does that, and lets itself be first and foremost a silly cartoon. While it may not reach the heights of the best Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry cartoons (which lets be honest isn't even an insult to this movie), it definitely feels in the spirt of that type of film and does this quite well. There are even uses of classic cartoon chase gags here and they work very well. They jokes come fast and furious and many of them truly made me laugh in a way I rarely did at the previous two movies. Not every joke hits, but there are definitely more hits than misses. Some made me laugh out loud while others just made me smile. The animation was the best part of the previous films and it is still excellent here. The story is a bit clichéd, and you can always see what is coming next. Despite this the film is an example of a simple story simply told and the story still has its charms.

If you are a fan of funny fast paced cartoons, I definitely recommend this movie. It may not be a new classic, but not every movie has to be. This movie is fun and in the end that is all that matters.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Movie Review: Whitney

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B+

Review: Involving and often heartbreaking documentary gets its power from the pure emotion of those being interviewed.

This film shows a very human portrayal of Whitney Houston. In this movie she is shown as a woman who instead of facing her troubles chose to run away from them and instead into a path of self destruction. What makes this feel so personal and powerful is the interviews with those who knew her. This is in what has become the standard format for documentaries and features clips between various people being interviewed. While this is seen in many documentaries today, it works extremely well here. The reason for this is the people being interviewed are often overcome by pure emotion when talking about Whitney Houston. You can tell how deeply they wished they could have helped her, but didn't always know how. When the documentary turns to her last days, it becomes difficult to watch because you can see the pain on her family and friends faces. However this movie isn't completely about her tragic drug addiction. There is of course a lot about her music and film career. These scenes are fascinating and give great insight into a great career. We learn how she got her start, how her music affected people so powerfully and how she became one of the most popular stars of her generation. However this is also the only place where the movie truly falters. Not that these scenes aren't excellent, which they are, but the fact that sometimes this information is so intricately detailed and other times very vague. Her early career is very well chronicled here, but as the film goes on it becomes much more about her personal demons and less about music and film, with a couple of exceptions. Still this movie is more than good enough to make up for this. This is an excellent film and I certainty recommend it to documentary fans.      

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, July 6, 2018

Movie Review: Ant Man and the Wasp

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: After the intense events of Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel lightens up with a much smaller scale (pun for once not intended) and more lighthearted movie. This film is for the most part, just pure fun escapism. It exceeds extremely well at this and may be one of my favorite Marvel movies.

This film successeds heavily were other Marvel movies have succeeded. By this I mean the relationships and banter between the characters. This is maybe one of the best uses of that though outside of the Guardians movies. True of many of the best superhero team ups, the joy is seeing these two heroes play off each other so well. There is plenty of humor to be found in this film. Nearly all of this humor works perfectly. What works about a lot of the humor is that it is often very clever and imaginative. Just the way our main hero plays a game with his daughter at the begging of this film, is so clever that we are immediately drawn into the movie and the movie keeps our attention completely for the rest of its running time. For a movie that lasts over two hours, time seems to fly by, and when it ended I didn't quite want it to be over. Even the action scenes (which lately I have felt have dragged on much to long in superhero and sci-fi movies) never feel to drag on. The reason for this may because a lot was happening during these scenes and before one bit of action got boring the film simply cut to another bit of action. This kept the suspense going and therefore kept my eyes glued to the screen. Even with all the fun this film was though, when the story needed to be serious it did so very well.

All in all, this film is just a pure fun time at the movies.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Thursday, July 5, 2018


The following is an article from Broadcasting magazine (dated April 15, 1963).

-Michael J. Ruhland

"Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club, which returned to the air last fall as a syndicated series after a three-year hiatus since the end of its network career on ABC-TV, is doing better in syndication than on the network, according to Vincent H. Jefferds, director of marketing for the character merchandising division of Walt Disney Productions. 'It is now on 80 stations,' Mr. Jefferds said 'and we except the number to hit 150 in the next two months.'

"One reason for optimism is a promotional film he has just completed to help the salesman of Buena Vista Distributing Co., Disney's syndication arm, tell the Mickey Mouse Club story. And as the film tells it, it's a pretty impressive story. Since last fall, when the series started, stations carrying the program have seen their audience rise 34.5%, on the average, for the time period over the figure for the previous year, with more than half of these stations (57%) of these stations standing in first place in their markets while Mickey Mouse Club is on the air.

"The stations which had already ranked first in their markets (48%) have not only kept top place but have boosted their ratings by 18.2%, the film states. Stations which were in second place (34%) moved into first with an average rise in ratings of 57.5%. Stations which had been in third place have moved up with an average rating increase of 171.4% over the preceding year.

"Mickey Mouse Club has attracted advertisers as well as the audience, according to the promotional film, which states: 'Many important sponsors have instructed their agencies to buy heavily wherever the show is placed.' The program's sponsor list includes Colgate, Post cereals, Nestle, Continental Baking, Sunkist, Kellogg, Coca-Cola, Seven Up, Cracker Jack and Malt-o-Meal, all the leading companies and Safeway and Kroger food chains.

"Quality Sells One reason for this top-drawer list is the quality of the program material, Mr. Jefferds explains. More then $16 million was put into the production of the 280 hours of Mickey Mouse Club shows which, after some editing from syndication, leaves enough for more than three years of programing on a half-hour a day, five days a week basis. And he noted new material is being added and interspersed with the original content, so 'if we wanted we could go on forever.'

"Another reason is the program's merchandising adjuncts, available to 'substantial sponsors who commit for at least 26 weeks.' Using Kroger as an example, the film shows window and interior display sheets featuring Disney characters, special Mousketeer Club trading stamp books for the youngsters who collect their own stamps, Mousketeer hats redeemed for Kroger bread wrappers, Disney characters in peanut butter and jelly glasses, family contests with trips to Disneyland as prizes, character cut outs and records shelf talkers and counter displays.

"Merchandising assistance is available to stations as well as advertisers, Mr. Jefferds says. Personal appearances of Chief Mousketeer Jimmy Dodd, the kids and the Disney characters can be arranged to help launch the broadcasts, their sponsorship or to help jack up the ratings where they are below the national average. There is a heavy demand for Disney merchandise he reports noting that from a slow start in the fall, orders for Mousketeer hats.      

"Half of the stations start the Mickey Mouse Club at 5pm., with 30% starting before then (mostly at 4:30pm) and the remainder after 5 (chiefly 5:30pm) Outside the U.S., the series is 'doing great' where there is open coemption, but it has been impossible to clear time for 2 1/2 hours a week in countries where tv is government controlled, Mr. Jefferds said."


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Movie Review: Uncle Drew

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B-

Review: A surprisingly funny movie. Not perfect by any means but it made me laugh.

This is a turn your mind off and enjoy type of movie. This film may not win any points for originality but it made me laugh. I was certainty not alone in this as most everybody around me in the theater was laughing too. The jokes were enjoyably over the top and silly. They were so silly I could have no other reaction but laughter. They is little I can do beyond that to explain why this film made me laugh, but it did, and I thinking anybody willing to turn their mind off and enjoy will have the same reaction.

The story itself is one we have seen before many times. There is not a plot point one could not see coming. However our main two characters are certainly likable enough to make this plot still work and remain enjoyable. Still it is the laughs that make this movie work and work well. This will never be a classic, but for what it is it is more enjoyable than it seems to have any right to be.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, July 2, 2018

Who is the King of the Cowboys?

As many of my fellow fans of old movies know there are two names that come up when the idea of a singing cowboy is brought up. These are of course Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. They were the kings of a certain type of movie that combined corny "B" western stories with fantastic country music. With this it seems like "Who is the king of the cowboys?" is a natural question. This question was put to the test by creating a double feature of two of the cowboys' films, Billy the Kid Returns (1938 with Roy Rogers) and Boots and Saddles (1937 with Gene Autry). The following was written in an issue of the Showman's Trade Review.

"Reproduced herewith is a newspaper layout used by Richard Peffley, city manager of Northio Theater in Fremont, Ohio to advertise a "Double-Western Jamboree" at the Strand Theatre. Peffley used the provocative question, "Who is the King of the Cowboys?" to draw attention to the program which featured Republic's Gene Autry and Roy Rogers in "Boots and Saddles" and "Billy the Kid Returns." The features were second run, but by doubling them and selling them as noted, past records were broken."

To see the page that this was written on, including the newspaper layout mentioned, click here.

The following was an exhibitors review for Billy the Kid Returns written for the Motion Picture Herald (dated November 5, 1938).

"Billy the Kid Returns: Roy Rodgers, Mary Hart, Smiley Burnette - Pretty good picture which played average business. Roy Rodgers will in time develop into a real draw. Played October 14-15 - E.M. Freiburger, Paramount theatre, Dewey, Okla. Small Town Patronage."

In with the old out with the new, an exhibitors review written directly below this on the same page for the Gene Autry movie Gold Mine in the Sky (written by S. Hanson from the Fox Theatre) stated, "Autry doesn't bring them in like he used to. Acting very poor. Singing only salvation."

The following was an exhibitors review of Boots and Saddles (dated May 7, 1938) for the Motion Picture Herald.

"Boots and Saddles: Gene Autry, Judith Allen, Ra Hould - not quite as much business on this one, but still way over the average. As do all the Autry pictures, this packs loads of entertainment. - C. E. Fismer, Lyric Theater, Hamilton, Ohio. General Patronage."

-Michael J. Ruhland          

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Silent Film of the Month: The Glorious Fourth (1927)

Run Time: 20 minutes. Studio: Hal Roach Studios. Director: Robert F. McGowan. Writer: Hal Roach. Titles: H.M. Walker. Main Cast: Joe Cobb, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Jannie Hoskins, Jackie Condon, Jay R. Smith, Harry Spear, Pete the Pup, Charley Chase. Producer: Hal Roach.

Well the Fourth of July is just a few days away, and what better way to celebrate it than with an explosively good Our Gang short?

In The Glorious Fourth, Joe's mom owns a firework stand. Naturally the gang enjoys playing with the fireworks. When Farina gains a whole 25 cents, he purchases a giant skyrocket, and unleashes pure chaos. The gang then comes across a man selling explosive capsules. However Pete (called Pansy here) swallows them, which for the gang is not a good sign of things to come.

This is a very funny short. In many ways it is a typical Our Gang film of this era. While many later Our Gang's (especially during the MGM years), would become very sentimental, this was not the case with the films of the silent era. In these shorts the story means very little and the film hops around from idea to idea, milking as many gags as possible from each situation. Therefore the only way to judge one of these films is to see how much it makes you laugh. This film certainly makes me laugh. The jokes come fast and furious and often very funny. Adding to this film is the appearance of Charley Chase. Chase is one of the great screen comedians and he perfectly shows why here, as he plays a drunk who gets in the middle of a brigade of exploding fireworks, but doesn't understand anything happening around him.    

The real star of this picture is Farina. Interestingly though this character was played by a male kid, the Our Gang pictures of this time, where constantly changing the character's gender. This is a practice which would later be done with Buckwheat in his early appearances, before it was settled that this character was also a boy. This caused some confusion for audiences. Even an article in The Exhibitors Herald (dated July 10, 1926) would state "Charlie Pettijohn had his picture taken with Farina, the Our Gang starlet..." (To see this full article click here) Since Mickey Daniels had left the group, Farina was often the main character of the shorts at this period. This however was not popular with everybody. G. Carey of the Strand Theater in Paris, Arkansas would write in an exhibitor's review (dated November 26, 1927) for an Our Gang film titled Ten Years Old (1927), "Best Our Gang in a long time. For once Roach didn't let the little colored boy hog the picture."  
A review in The Film Daily (dated July 24, 1927) said that this film was "Not the Best." The review would go on to state, "There is much action of a conventional sort, panicky figures rushing across the screen to avoid threatening destruction. One or two feeble attempts at a gag and so far as real humor is concerned, a good deal ado about nothing." See the whole review and much more here.

Below is an Exhibitor's Review (dated January 12, 1929) for Exhibitors Herald World.

"Glorious Fourth: Our Gang —Good. Haven't seen a bad one yet.—Mrs. Hulda J. Green, Gem thea- tre, Greenriver, Utah.—General patronage." 

The following is an Exhibitor's review of this film from the Exhibitors Herald and Motion Picture World. 

"THE GLORIOUS FOURTH: Our Gang — Just a "Gang." have seen better. Maybe I'm fed up on them. —Frank Sabin. Majestic theatre. Eureka, Ont., Can. - General Patronage."

- Michael J. Ruhland

Resources UsedThe Little Rascals: The Life and Times of Our Gang by Leonard Maltin and Richard W. Bann.