Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Movie Review: Indivisible

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B+

Review: Excellent and moving Christian film about the true story of Army Chaplain Darren Turner (played fantastically by Justin Bruening).

What makes this movie work is that the emotion in it feels so real. Much of this emotion comes from the relationship between our main character and his wife (Sara Drew). This relationship is treated beautifully and realistically and the chemistry between the two leads could not be better. This is a heartfelt look at what effect a war can have on the relationship between spouses. They can not comprehend what the other went through. She can't understand the horrors he saw in Iraq, and he can't understand how much she needed his comfort when raising their family by herself. There is not shown to be a right or a wrong side. These are just two humans who are at the end of their ropes. We don not side with one of them instead we connect with both of them and just want to see them work things out. Also powerful is the Chaplain's struggle with faith. As a Christian I can attest it is often times very hard to put your full faith in God during the bad times. Never having been in war, I can not even imagine how bad this doubt gets when you have seen those horrors. The emotion here is completely real. Helping out here is that nothing is sugar coated for this film. The battle scenes while not bloody are extremely intense. Similarly the hardships that come from this war are not played down. There are tearful moments in this film that really do make one feel hurt. Seeing a dead little girl been carried out because they weren't able to save her is painful. This film also shows that those who are at home go through hard times as well. They know each second they could lose the one they love, and while they don't see the horrors of war, that does not make what they go through not difficult in its own way. We see the pain they go through presented in an honest and powerful way.

This is not a perfect movie, as there is some forced dialogue, bad humor and undeveloped subplots. However the power of what works in this film is still excellent and make this movie well worth seeing.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Friday, October 26, 2018

Movie Review: Hunter Killer

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B-

Review: Nothing new or thought provoking but a fun action movie none the less.

What makes this movie work is that the main character is likable and the stakes are well set before the action scenes. The main character like the story is one that we have definitely seen before. While you can argue that he is underdeveloped this does not change the fact he is quite likable. His actions always make sense and we admire him for doing what he feels is right even if he is bound to get in trouble for it. Adding to this is a very good performance by Gerard Butler that adds charm to the character. Also well handled is the character of Captain Andropov. His initial distrust of the Americans and how he grows a fondness for our protagonist is quite a believable transition and the performance by Michael Nyqvist is quite good. What is interesting is that even though this is an action film it starts off at a slow pace. This beginning is mostly handled by dialogue. This is an interesting contrast to the later scenes which are pure action. It works great though. We understand the massive stakes and already like the lead character by the time this movie becomes mostly action. Because of this the action scenes become more exciting, as which actually care about the outcome (even if we know it). This movie does not have to much humor, but I will admit the few funny parts succeed well, and there are a couple good laughs.

The downside is we have seen much of this movie before. Nothing feels fresh or new about this movie, and we all know how it will end. On top of this while our lead and the Russian captain are interesting characters, the rest of the characters are not that interesting. They fill their parts well enough, but we would never want to watch a movie staring these characters.

Yeah don't go in excepting anything new and thought provoking as you will be disappointed if you do. However for what this movie is, I had quite a bit of fun watching it and I appreciate that it took its time before the action scenes, creating a more exciting movie.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Movie Review: Mid 90's

Review Written by Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: While it doesn't reach the heights of the other A24 movies we have had so far, Mid 90's is an enjoyable film that shows Jonah Hill as a talented director.

What works best about this movie is the main characters. It would be easy to have make the older teenagers completely unlikable and all together bad. However this movie shows them as abundantly human. They may be into bad things and introduce a young teenage kid to the world of sex, drugs and alcohol, but they don't set out to hurt the kid. They truly grow to love him. This is shown very well in one scene involving a one on one talk with one of the older teenagers and younger teenagers. This scene is very well written and extremely well acted (by Sunny Suljic and Na-kel Smith). This scene works so well because what we are seeing on screen is treated so real. We believe every word of this conversation and get very much involved in the emotion of the scene. Na-kel Smith's performance in this film is amazing and it is strange to think this is his first movie. I see great things in the future for him. Much of the dialogue in this film is not as touching and heartfelt. In fact it is downright vulgar. While this dialogue could certainty turn me off at times, this is fully the way kids this age talk, giving a sense of realism to the characters. This movie also looks very good. Christopher Blauvelt's cinematography is excellent providing a certain nostalgic feel to this movie that fits the era perfectly. Speaking about the era, the soundtrack is filled with 90's hip-hop and hard rock songs. Truth be told these songs are not my taste in music by any means. However I can't deny how much these songs help evoke the era in which this movie takes place in and how well this works. More to my taste is Trent Razor and Atticus Ross' music score. This is an excellent score that perfectly evokes the emotion of what is happening in the film.

The story in this movie can seem meandering at times. The film doesn't always seem to know what it is trying to say. There are times when I am not sure what various scenes were going for. There was one particularly awkward sex scene that made me feel really uncomfortable. This scene was not uncomfortable in a fascinating or thought provoking way. Instead I just felt embarrassed for watching it and wondered what exactly it was supposed to add to the rest of the movie. I am still unsure of what I was supposed to make of the ending, but still I felt I didn't get whatever emotional connection I was supposed to have to this. While some of the characters are well thought it this is not true of every character. Fourth Grade just felt like poor comedy relief without anything that made the rest of the characters so interesting. Similarly was Stevie's brother, who felt like your typical movie jerk of a big brother, but even less developed.

If you try to compare this to A24's previous work it is bound to disappoint, but taken on its own terms it is quite good.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Mickey Mouse in "Mickey's Kangaroo" (1935)

Mickey's Kangaroo was Mickey's last theatrical cartoon short in black and white. Earlier the same year this cartoon was released Mickey's first color cartoon, The Band Concert had already been released and had been a smash hit with audiences and critics. From this, there was no doubt that Mickey was going to stay in color. This is one of the only two black and white Mickey's to be released after The Band Concert with the other being the excellent, Mickey's Service Station. This was not only the last black and white Mickey, but the last black and white theatrical cartoon from the Disney studio.

By this time, Mickey was no longer the star of his own cartoons, the way he was the previous year (1934 still featured cartoons like Two Gun Mickey, Shanghaied and Mickey Plays Papa, where the mouse was clearly the star). Instead Mickey Mouse cartoons found the mouse playing straight man to characters that were once his supporting cast. This film is an example of that. Though credited as a Mickey Mouse cartoon, Pluto is the real star of this film getting most of the laughs. Speaking of Pluto this cartoon marks one of the only two cartoons where Pluto is actually given a voice (The other being The Moose Hunt (1931). True in other cartoons an angel and a devil would appear on Pluto's shoulders and we would hear them speak, but in this film it is the mutt himself that gets dialogue. Truth be told it is hard to say he speaks. As the dog's mouth never moves, what we are hearing is his inner thoughts. This is not true of The Moose Hunt where Pluto actually does speak to Mickey. Still in both cartoons it is obvious why the studio never did this again. The reason is it doesn't work. The animation is more than good enough for us to tell what Pluto is thinking without hearing his thoughts, making the device pointless. Still that is not to take away from this cartoon, which is fast paced fun entertainment. There is some good slapstick and the animation is fantastic.

This cartoon is oddly enough inspired by a true event in Disney history. An Australian wine maker named Leo Buring set Walt Disney two wallabies as a present in 1934. If Walt could receive these as a present why couldn't Mickey receive a kangaroo as a present. The following appears in an issue of The Film Daily (dated Friday 12, 1935).

"Inspired by the gift of three wallabies from an Australian admirer, Walt Disney has added a kangaroo to his gallery of animated cartoon characters. It appears in 'Mickey's Kangaroo,' being released by Untied Artists."

This cartoon was directed by David Hand, who would later be the supervising director for two of the studio's best animated features, Snow White And the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Bambi (1942).

The following is a very brief article in The Film Daily (dated April 10, 1935).

"'Mickey's Kangaroo' Walt Disney subject released by U. A. will have its premiere at Radio City Music Hall on April 18."

The following is an exhibitors review in Motion Picture Herald (dated June 12, 1937).

"Mickey's Kangaroo: Mickey Mouse - Oh boy! This is a corking good cartoon. Mickey Mouse sure has a time of it with a kangaroo by giving him a working out with a pair of boxing gloves. Running time- one reel - Rudolf Dubs, Royal Theater, Kimball, S. D. Small Town Patronage."

The following is a review in the Motion Picture Daily (Dated Friday May 3, 1935).

"It was Pluto the dog, that had a local theatre audience howling at his antics in this, the latest of the Mickey Mouse series. Mickey is his usual comedic self, but this short is all Pluto and the two new characters, the Kangaroos.

 Mickey gets a present of a mother and a baby kangaroo from a friend in Australia. On discovering the animals box, Mickey puts on the gloves with the mother. He takes a terrific beating and winds up in a hay bailing machine. In the meantime Pluto has been chased all over the place by the baby. The four wind up pals however.

Highly recommended. Production Code Seal No. 715. Running Time, 8 1/2 mins. 'G'"  

The following is an exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald (Dated January 25, 1936).

"Mickey's Kangaroo: Mickey Mouse - Laugh from start to finish. Running time 8 minutes. - W. M. Allison, Princess Theatre, Tucumcari, N. M. Small town and rural patronage."

On the same page directly proceeding that exhibitor's review was this exhibitors review.

"Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies: These are by far the cream of the cartoon release. Adults get a great kick out of them. - Frank E. Sabin, Majestic Theatre, Eureka, Mont. Small town patronage."

The following is a review from The Philadelphia Exhibitor.

"Mickey's Kangaroo. Untied Artist - Disney. 8 min. Up to the standard of the series with Mickey getting some kangaroos as a gift. After Mickey boxes with a big one and Pluto takes over the little ones, they have enough. It all ends pleasantly with the usual okay Disney gags and ideas. Okay."

The following is an article from Variety (dated Wednesday, September 18, 1935).

"Roxy, N.Y.
It would be unfair to call the current week's stage show 'typical.' Its pretty bad and the Roxy's average is usually pretty good.

"Another cause of complaint this week is the Roxy's inclusion of a cartoon short, 'Mickey's Kangaroo,' which was exhibited around town about a year ago. That is putting a penalty on the regular going theatre-goer that is hard to justify. New short entry entry is the first of Columbia's 'Voice of Experience' series.

"Against the jumbled, lame and lethargic stage layout and the repeat of short product the house has a bang-up feature in Gaumont-British's '39 Steps' so business will probably be spiffy. But that stage show!

"One of the Gae Foster production numbers starts with the 'Old Spinning Wheel' sung from the tormenter by Norman Neilson and then romped into two-four time for hoofing. Three sections of girls all attired differently, seem to be adlibbing with their feet. There is a lack of unity, harmony, and sense that is bewildering.  

"One of the headliners is Cecil Mack. He played the house a year ago and seemed funnier. With the assistance of stooges he entices some giggles but the act is meandering. Several vulgarisms by Mack should be eliminated. The both- thumbs - to - nose gesture directed at the audience is unpardonable and many hells and damns don't belong.

"Other headliner is Billy Hill, the songwriter working with Mrs. Hill. Audience goes big for his western and hillbilly ballads. He wrote 'The Last Round Up,' 'Spinning Wheel,' etc. Finale has Johnny Boyle, holdovers daughter and son tap dancing to Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' with the stage and chorus dressed in motif. That's okay."

Though the idea of a stage show being part of the movie going experience seems odd today, it was not uncommon during this era. For those unaware, The 39 Steps was directed by Alfred Hitchcock and I agree with this reviewer that it is an excellent film. If you have not seen it I could not recommend it more.  


Les Clark (Mickey painting Pluto's sign - Truck back - Pluto happy - Jumps around; Pluto knocks Mickey down - licks face - Mickey kisses - O.S. postman's whistle; Postman delivers box - exits - Mickey and Pluto in; C.U. of delivery tag; Mickey starts to open box - Mickey falls on face. Pluto follows box out of scene; Box hopping - Pluto following - box on note - box chases Pluto; Mickey  says 'Hot Dog' etc. exit towards kangaroo; Mickey shakes kangaroo's hand - says "Hi ya pal" "Wait 'till I get my gloves. Then exits; Door shot - Mickey says "be right out" Falls - enters doorway; Kangaroo hops out of the scene, Pluto out from under porch... barks; Kangaroo hopping - turns - honks at Pluto; Pluto dives under porch, comes out through step. Surprised expression)

Fred Moore (Kangaroo ripping into doghouse scene, happy - dive in - tail bursts out - head points out - kangaroo honks; Pluto by rooftop- "Busting up my house"; Kangaroo licks Pluto off dog house; Pluto- "Last Straw." "I'll run him off the place".... exits; Dog house scene - fist out through entrance - knocks out of scene; Pluto lands in basket- shakes pins off - exits towards kangaroo; Mother eating leaves - baby pops out of pooch - smacks Pluto - Pluto pouch - baby up - wallops him out of scene; exterior of house - Mickey runs out - holding up gloves - jumps over rail toward kangaroo; Kangaroo and baby - Mickey in - lifts out of pouch - "Hey Pluto look"; Mickey and baby - baby socks him - they spar; Pluto enters - "Take care of the little one" etc. Mickey exits with mother; Mickey and mother on pan - gym in barn; C.U. Pluto - "Now's my chance - get the little guy first."; Pluto starts after baby - circle action another pan; Pluto diving after baby - kangaroo clunks Pluto - baby-out - Pluto follows)

Dick Lundy (Mickey sparring with mother - dialogue Lupino Lane action - Mickey socks kangaroo. Dialogue. Kangaroo socks Mickey out of scene; Mickey into ropes - spins around - dialogue and spins back again (unspins) back towards kangaroo; Mickey circles kangaroo - swings at him - misses - kangaroo pounds Mickey - poses of kangaroo boxing Mickey - knocks him out of scene; Mickey lands against wall - in bucket - kangaroo in - punching bag action; Kangaroo mauling Mickey; Kangaroo bouncing Mickey from punching to wall; Kangaroo and Mickey repeat action - punching bag breaks - Mickey exits; Bale of hay bumps to stop - Mickey pops out - dialogue "let's mix it up")

Gerry Geronimi (Pan - Pluto hopping after baby - Pump pan in - water gag - Pluto follows baby out; Wheel barrow - Baby hops over - Pluto lands on handle - somersaults - rides wheelbarrow down hill - hits rock; Pluto lands in dump heap - up through derbies; top of dump - baby hops in Happy "heep beeps."; Pluto sore - hops out after baby - springs on feet; Baby scoots as Pluto lands - business  of Pluto bouncing up and down; Hopping onto baby - both hop - Pluto snaps at tail - finally bumps head; Clothes line - Pluto lands in corset - bounces on vertical angle pan - ropes snap - loosen - Pluto exits; Exterior of house - Pluto crashes thru; Interior - Pluto dazed - coming to - Baby looks in door "Beep-beep" hops; Closer view - baby kisses Pluto - Pluto dialogue - off stage crashes)

Hardie Gramatki (Exterior of barn - biffs and bangs - pigeons and chickens scatter; Exterior window - Pluto and baby hop in - look in window; Interior of doorway - Pluto and baby follow - bouncing action; Bailing machine - Mickey lands in machine - machinery goes into action; All three take it big - dive out windows and doors; Bailing machine - bale of hay pops out - machine collapses; Fireside scene - Mother kangaroo - baby up out of pouch - Pluto up - kissing, etc. Mickey looks in window)

Story: Our film starts with Mickey painting Pluto's name on the dog's new dog house. Pluto likes it very much and licks Mickey. Mickey gets a present from Australia. It turns out to be a mother kangaroo and her baby. The excited mother kangaroo jumps around and ends up breaking Pluto's new house. Pluto is mad. Pluto heads after the big kangaroo, receives punches to the face. This gives Mickey an idea. The mouse gets out his boxing gloves and decides to do some sparing with the mother. He asks Pluto to take care of the son. Pluto gives the baby chase only to receive punches from the little guy. Meanwhile the mother kangaroo is absolutely beating up Mickey. Meanwhile the baby gives Pluto a big kisses. This melts Pluto's heart and the two become friends. The two go to watch Mickey and the mother fight. The mother knocks Mickey into the hay bailer, and Mickey comes out in the middle of a bail of hay, still as happy as ever. Pluto joins his new friend in the mother kangaroo's pouch for a sweet happy ending.



-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Movie Reviews: Bad Times at the El Royale

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: A very good looking and suspenseful movie. Not every story element worked and there were parts that came off as rather weak, but what was good was really good.

This is definitely one of the most visually appealing movies of the year. The sets, the cinematography  and the amazing use of color are fantastic. Now that black and white movies are quite rare, it is also rare for a film to use color to its advantage. When one watches a Disney cartoon of the 1930's or a Hitchcock movie from the 1950's, one is amazed and mesmerized by how great color is used in these films. The color not only looks great but it helps tell the story and the emotions of the character. Now that color movies are taken for granted there is too little of this in modern cinema. This film is an exception. The color looks amazing. Even a simple idea of the California side of the hotel being in one color and the Nevada side being in a different strikes the viewers interest. Also there are parts of the hotel that are less colorful then others. As some of the darker scenes take place in these parts the use of color brings us further into the emotion of the film. Drew Goodard proves himself as a great stylistic director of the type that is rare in Hollywood today.

The cast in this movie is incredible. Jeff Bridges gives a performance that is really charming, while still giving us reason to not fully trust this character. Cynthia Erivo gets to show off both her acting chops and her amazing singing voice to great advantage. Young Cailee Spaeny gives an absorbing performance, that is genuinely creepy. The whole cast is fantastic and helped make this far farfetched story much more believable.

The story is quite absorbing for the most part. The suspense is real and there were quite a few plot twists I did not see coming. On the other hand is the character of Billy Lee. Though played quite well but Chris Hemsworth, the character never feels as real or developed as the other characters. He instead plays as what I call a movie stereotype and quite a forced one at that. Sadly he plays a huge part in the climax of this film cutting much into the believability and emotion of this scene. This makes the climax disappointing after all that has come before. Still all that has come before has been good enough to recommend this film.

-Michael J. Ruhland   

Friday, October 19, 2018

Movie Review: First Man

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: This movie may not be what many would except from a film with this subject matter. This is hardly a jump for joy feel good movie. In fact it is a very quiet and subtle film that emphasis the doubts and fears many of those working on the space mission must have felt. As such this is an extremely powerful movie with a lot of emotional weight and an example of truly great filmmaking.

The emphasis in this film is not the goal of going into outer space, but rather the relationship between Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his wife (Claire Foy). Their daughter (Lucy Stafford) has passed away, and the hurt of her passing never quite goes away. This of course causes much hurt in both parents and the hurt can be seen through the majority of the film. This is communicated perfectly with subtle but very effective performances from Gosling and Foy. I could feel my heart breaking for them many times over the course of this movie. I was especially moved by Foy's performance during the scenes in which Neil is in danger. You could tell she was still hurting and couldn't stand the idea of losing another one she loves. While the marriage here wasn't shown as being perfect, the sense that the two loved each other was never lost. A charming scene early on shows the two dancing to an old song that means a lot to them, and this scene certainly brought a sense of warmth to the film. These two together are the emotional center of the film and this is handled beautifully.

The "action" scenes were incredible. They were perfectly shot giving a sense of urgency and suspense. Hearing all the noises of the ship and seeing everything shake before us, put us in the emotional state of what was happening on screen. We felt fear each time. Though deep down of course I knew how everything turns out I was legitimately worried at times. The way director Damien Chazelle and cinematographer Linus Sandgren show these scenes puts us into the internal struggle of the characters, making everything we see on screen even more real to us. There is also no doubt the landing climax just looks incredible, taking one's breath away easily.

This film does not have as much dialogue as one might except. In fact many scenes play without dialogue. This works beautifully. Since the emotion of this film is mostly internal, telling the story in mostly visual terms heightens this feeling. This is not something that is easy to pull off but thanks to an extremely talented crew behind the camera the story is told in such a way that we never miss the amount of dialogue we would usually hear in a film like this. This is pure cinematic storytelling done right. Also with less talking the music becomes more important and composer Justin Hurwitz gives a fantastic musical score. He knows when to play something grand and does so effectively, but most of the music is rather quiet in a way that enhances the quietness and subtleness of the rest of this film. He also knows when to bow out. There are a couple scenes with no music and the lack of music is used just as beautifully as the presence of music by creating a sense of awe and wonder in a way no music could describe.

This may not be the mainstream feel good movie many might except, but if you don't mind this you will find a film with a powerful and quiet beauty that is just as great.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein can be viewed as the ultimate scare comedy. This is because the horror and the comedy are mixed together so perfectly. One of the greatest strengths that director Charles Barton gave to the Abbott and Costello movies he directed was that he always played the serious scenes straight in a way that would not distract from the comedy but instead enhance it. The creepy scenes in this film, while they would never keep me up at night are genuinely creepy. Sandra's (Lenore Aubert) attempt to suck Lou's blood is really suspenseful. We become genuinely worried about Lou. However in typical Abbott and Costello fashion afterwards we get a great joke with Lou telling Bud, "You can have Sandra but make sure you have plenty of bandages." A scene were we see Dracula (Bela Lugosi) take a victim, is not only creepy but masterfully shot by cinematographer Charles Van Enger. The climax of this film is absolutely incredible. As all the monsters get turned on Bud and Lou, we get both scares and laughs in equal measures. I remember as a kid this scene used to give me the chills. There are actually two shocking death scenes that are quite intense. On the other hand there is some very funny slapstick of the boys being chased by Frankenstein's monster (Glen Strange). On the other hand again, Dracula enticing Lou to come over to him instead of escaping creeped me out as a kid (interestingly this scene planed to have a joke in it where Lou would sit on a rock refusing to go and Dracula would move the rock with Lou on it, but the film was already to far over budget). The reason that scene works is that Lugosi was still powerful in the role of Dracula and gave a very eerie presence to this slapstick comedy. The exit of the Frankenstein monster from this movie is one of the most striking images in the film and always stays well in my mind after I watch it. This brief moment (even though it is in a comedy) is a masterpiece of horror filmmaking. After this masterful climax though in typical Abbott and Costello fashion is a really funny ending joke (which features a vocal cameo from Vincent Price).    

The script went through multiple incarnations. The first was written by Oscar Brodney and was basically a simple story outline. Bertram Milhauser then expanded upon this creating a much more detailed story. This version reused a plot element involving microfilm from the movie Sherlock Holmes in Washington, for which Milhauser was one of the writers. This script was scrapped and brand new one was written by Robert Lees and Fredric Rinaldo, who had previously written Hold That Ghost with Abbott and Costello. Upon seeing this script Lou Costello hated it. Lou said to producer Robert Arthur, "My [five year old] daughter could write a better script than this. You aren't serious about making this are you?" Arthur was and convinced Lou through both money and the hiring of Charles Barton (Lou's favorite director).

A working title for this film was The Brain of Frankenstein but that title was felt to sound too much like a straight horror movie, making the studio change the title to Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The mummy was at one time planned to be one of the monsters featured but the idea was dropped. However as many of us know Abbott and Costello would later meet the mummy in a later film.

During the making of this film (as for all the Abbott and Costello films) there was much practical joking going on. Bud and Lou always kept this up to relive tension and to keep spirits up during the boring periods of movie making. This practical jokes included the throwing of pies, exploding cigars and spraying of seltzer bottles. Much of these practical jokes were at the expense of a man named Bobby Barker. Barker was hired on most Abbott and Costello movies simply for this purpose. We actually get to see him on camera in this film as he gets the line "Seen 'em. I don't even know them." Not everybody enjoyed these hijinks as much as Bud and Lou did. Bela Lugosi, did not find this very amusing. He took his part in this film seriously and felt that they should not be joking around on the set. This did not diminish in any way how happy Lugosi was to be working on this film, he loved the character of Dracula and was so happy to be playing the character again. This passion for the character shows perfectly in this film as he gives a masterful performance that is just as good as the one he gave in the brilliant 1931 horror classic. Interestingly Lugosi almost did not get the part. The part almost went to Ian Keith, who also almost got the part of the count in the 1931 movie Lugosi starred in. Sadly Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein was the second and last time Lugosi played the character, but with just with these two films he left more of an impression than anyone else in the role ever could.
With Lon Chaney Jr. reprising his role as the Wolf Man and Bela Lugosi returning as Dracula, one would think that Boris Karloff would return as the Frankenstein monster. This was not the case. Karloff loved the character and did not want to see him be kidded. He appeared in an advertisement for the movie, featuring him waiting in line to buy a ticket. He agreed to do this as long as he never saw the movie. This is a shame he felt this way, but Glenn Strange does more than a capable job of playing the character here. As we will see in later posts Karloff would in fact appear in two Abbott and Costello movies later.

This movie was much more expensive than the average Abbott and Costello film costing $800,000.

This film was a huge success, being one of the duo's best moneymakers and one of the most critically praised movies staring the two comics. Many film fans today consider this the boys' best film, and it has influenced people you would never except. Quentin Tarantino has stated that this movie taught him how to blend genres. This was also one of Elvis Presley's favorite movies. The film still works masterfully today.

To read about how this movie and other Halloween films of the era were advertised in 1948 click here. To read a short 1948 article about the popularity of this film click here. To see a great advertisement for this film that was put up outside a theater click here. To read about how contagious the laughter caused by this film could be click here. 

Below is an original advertisement for the film in Showman's Trade Review.

Below is an original theatrical trailer.

-Michael J. Ruhland 


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Movie Review: Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B-

Review: After finding the first Goosebumps movie to be little more than a decent time passer, I didn't go into this movie excepting much more. However while this film is nothing mind-blowing and has its share of faults, I found myself enjoying it quite a bit.

One thing that puts this movie ahead of the first one is that this one is quite a bit more creepy and suspenseful. Slappy still has a creepy presence and brings a bit of an edge to this film as he did last time. However this time, his plan is quite a bit more scary. While there is little here that will keep most adults up at night, the film has an eerie and uncomfortable feeling that is surprisingly unsettling. There are quite a few good jump scares and moments of real suspense. The most effective use of this suspense is in the early scenes, where we know Slappy is alive and the kids don't. Something could happen at any minute and we don't know when or he will truly reveal himself. Every time we see that seemingly lifeless dummy next to our heroes, this is all we can think about creating a fantastic mood of unease and suspense. Also (don't worry there are no real spoilers), while much of the conclusion of the first movie felt forced, it doesn't at all feel that way here, therefore creating some real suspense. Actually the ending here is great and makes me look forward to the third one. The main characters are underdeveloped, however they are likable enough that we don't want to see anything happen to them, making the spooky scenes more effective.

The humor is very hit and miss. The scene with the gummy bears is quite funny and I laughed out loud at a fantastic reference to It. Still some of the jokes completely miss their marks and made me groan. Also before our villain steps into the picture the movie is kind of dull. The opening scenes introducing our characters and storylines are quite dull. This part feels like a movie we have seen done many times before and often much better. Also while our main characters are likable, we are treated to very lame and boring school bullies and two boring romantic subplots. However when we first see Slappy the story gets interesting and the movie really picks up and becomes quite a bit of fun.

This may not be a new Halloween classic, but for what it is, this movie is definitely fun and I am glad I saw it.    

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Movie Review: The Old Man and the Gun

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A+

Review: Robert Redford has called this his last movie. If this is in fact true, he certainly goes out with a bang here. In The Old Man and the Gun Redford plays a gentleman bank robber. The performance he gives in this film is nothing short of extortionary. He plays the part with such an easygoing charm, that it is near impossible not to like this guy. Despite the fact he commits armed robbery many times just because he finds it fun, because of Redford's charismatic performance, we fall just as much for his charm as Sissy Spacek's character does. We almost forget there is anything bad about what he does, because he is so likable doing it. This is perfectly shown in a great scene in which a teller in a bank he is robbing, cries because this happened on her first day. He tries to cheer her up and lets her know she is doing a great job. All of this he does with an easygoing smile as if he were just walking down the street on a calm and peaceful day. Despite the fact that we are actually watching him rob a bank, we like him even more after this scene. Also helping is his chemistry with Sissy Spacek. Every time we see these two on screen together, the movie could not be better. They just simply light up the screen. This is definitely a role that most actors could never pull off, but Robert Redford makes it seem so easy and effortless. Director and writer David Lowery (who had directed Redford in Pete's Dragon), supposedly wrote the screenplay specifically for its star, as a tribute to the actor's great talent, and it shows.

Lowery also brings a lot to the table beyond just its star. This film is perfectly paced. It has a leisurely pace that creates a perfect easygoing feel that matches that of the main character. This film is also beautifully shot. Lowery used 16mm film, and definitely made excellent use of it. There are some images in this film that will stay in one's mind well after watching the movie. The image used above is one example. One of the best images involves our "hero" on horseback in the country with his back to the audience. This image is so strikingly beautiful that my jaw almost dropped seeing it. Actually much of this movie looks like an American film of the 1970's, a perfect look for a farewell to an actor who made many of his best films at that time. It keeps all the visual beauty of the best films of that era, and brilliantly invokes the past while still standing perfectly as its own thing.

This is a must see movie for pretty much anyone who enjoys great storytelling, with fantastic acting. This is one of the best movies of the year so far and the perfect farewell to a great actor.

-Michael J. Ruhland       

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Mickey Mouse in "Canine Caddy" (1941)

In the late 1920's and early 1930's Mickey Mouse cartoons had stories that completely revolved around the main character. However as the years went on this would change. Much of this was due to the fact that many were now looking at Mickey as a role model for kids, and parents were complaining about his mischievous antics saying they set a bad example. With this the Disney studio got rid of his more rebellious actions. The result of this was that Mickey was still a great character and was still very likable, but he was no longer funny in and of himself. By 1941, when today's cartoon was released he became the studio's straight man, playing off of the bigger laugh getters such as Donald Duck, Goofy and of course Pluto. Mickey proved to be prefect for this role and many great cartoons were made in this vein. One of these is the cartoon we will look at today, Canine Caddy. In this film though credited as a Mickey Mouse cartoon, nearly all of the laughs come from Pluto instead, while Mickey just tries to enjoy a game of golf.

This cartoon was directed by Disney legend Clyde Geronimi. Geronimi would go on to become a major director of animated Disney feature films. He would co-direct Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp and 101 Dalmatians. He would also serve as the supervising director Sleeping Beauty. Don Duckwall would serve as assistant director on this film and Bruce Bushman would do the layouts.

The following is a short article from Showman's Trade Review (Dated May 3, 1941).

"Walt Disney's latest Technicolor cartoon, 'Canine Caddy', is scheduled to be released nationally by RKO Radio on May 30th when the golf season will be at its peak. The short subject stars Mickey Mouse as a 'scratch' golfer with Pluto as his caddy.

"In view of its timely release date, theatremen should plan to reach local golfers by posting bulletins at golf clubs and arranging tieups with sporting goods dealers. A special screening should be held for newspaper sports editors to the end that valuable publicity will be garnered in that section."

As stated in an issue of Motion Picture Herald on January 3, 1942, this film played with the feature Hellzapoppin' at the Rivoli, to see the page this is stated on click here.

The following is an exhibitor's review for the Motion Picture Herald (dated June 7, 1941)

"Canine Caddy: Walt Disney Cartoons- Disney introduces a new character a mole I think that causes Pluto all sorts of trouble underground. Very good - of course. Running Time 8 Minutes - W. Varick Nevins III, Alfred Co-op theater, Alfred, N.Y. Small Town Patronage."

The following was a review in Showman's Trade Review (Dated June 7, 1941)

"All of Disney's flair for making entertaining cartoons which have made him preeminent in his field are apparent in this subject. Laughs abound when Mickey goes golfing with Pluto, his faithful pup, acting as his caddy. Pluto's set to with a gopher adds to the gaiety and it ends with Mickey telling Pluto he's only a mutt after all. This is Disney at his best and your audience will eat it up."

This cartoon would be reissued to theaters in May, 1962.  

Ken Muse (Pan of golf course - Mickey Making practice swing - says "What a swell day for a game of golf!" Turns to right and says "Caddy."; Mickey prepares to swing at ball - pulls up pants - addresses ball - o.s. sniffling causes hat to fall down; Pluto sniffing flag on green - o.s. "shh" - Pluto takes - looks in Mickey's direction; Mickey mad yells "QUIET!" Starts to hit ball again - o.s. thumping causes hat to fall down again; Pluto nonchalantly scratching himself with hind paw; Mickey still jittering - yells Pluto; Pluto stops scratching - looks towards Mickey very sheepishly - Mickey says "Cut it out!"; Mickey takes terrific swing at ball - winds up - unwinds - lands on ground with club bent; Pluto takes at Mickey to left - goes into laugh; Mickey flips club up with foot - drives ball off; Mickey lines up putt - clips path with hair clippers; Mickey hits ball - pan ball around cup - Pluto snorts ball in - Pluto snorts ball in - goes into innocent expression; Mickey on tee yells "Fore!" - gets ready to drive ball; Mickey in back swing, anticipates drive; Mickey takes at Pluto excited - says "Wait - Hold It!"; Pluto stops shaking, takes at ball on fanny - Mickey in - says - "Don't move hold still"; Mickey takes another swing at ball on Pluto's fanny - misses; Mickey lining up ball on Pluto's fanny - Pluto trembling - trembling gets Mickey - he shakes it off; Mickey swings at ball on Mickey's fanny. Pluto drops fanny with Mickey hitting ball in mid-air. Says "Oh Boy What a Sock!")
Morey Reden (Pluto places ball on mound - gives it a couple of pats - looks towards Mickey - then backs off to right; Pluto looks at pulsating hand - sees gopher to right on pan - anticipates leaping; Gopher in from left - Pluto after him - Gopher zips behind hill to left - Pluto skids on turn. Stakes up grass like carpet; Gopher leaps in hole - Pluto after him - short underground pan; Pluto dives into scene - chases gopher underground - Gopher takes out to right)  

Emery Hawkins (Pluto ducks as ball wizzes by - runs after it; Ball hits tree - rebounds to other trees - Pluto in pursuit; Ball rolls into scene - Pluto in - goes in to point - Mickey enters says "good boy Pluto!" Pats Pluto; Pluto comes into scene - takes flag out of cup; Mickey lines up putt - clips path with hair clippers; Pluto moves head back and forth paralleling action of Mickey's club; Pluto swings head like Mickey's club - falls on face - runs out to right after ball; Golfball lands in sc. - Pluto in goes into point - ball rolls under him turning over on back while still in point - ball rolls into sand trap - Pluto takes)  
Charles Nichols (Pluto I crouched position with hand over eyes - sand settles - ball on Pluto's fanny; Pluto in Sphinx tableau with head covered with sand - opens eyes slowly - blinks -takes at himself; Pluto starts to shake sand off - ball bouncing on fanny; Pluto sees divot cut in fanny - makes scared take - gulps - covers eyes with paws; Pluto's paws over eyes trembling - peeks up thru fingers; Pluto trembling and sweating - prays. O.S. Mickey's voice: "Hold Still!" Pluto flattens out; Pan of ball bouncing into sc. from left - rolls and bounces into gopher hole - Pluto skids in - goes into point - half-eaten ball shoots out in front of Pluto; Gopher chewing - spits out bits of golf ball - double takes at Pluto - snorts at Pluto - Ducks into hole - does fast action in and out hole - then disappears; Gopher razzes Pluto - Pluto dives at gopher - digs up can - can lands o.s.; Pluto's head pops up as he hears o.s. sound - looks to right - goes into surprised take; Pluto in wolf attitude - sneaks up on can - pounces on it with front paws - Pluto tries to catch gopher with paws.)

George Nicholas (Pluto takes at golf ball core - hears off stage crunching - big take; Pluto dives at hole - starts digging furiously - digs gopher out - follow gopher on pan - Gopher recovers starts out at right; Pluto digging in ground - Gopher walks up mad - grabs Pluto's tail & gives it several quick bites putting a crimp in it; Gopher running inside can - bumps against tree - lands straight up)

Norm Tate (Gopher laughing; Mickey about to make putt - ground starts to tremble - Mickey looks around in surprise; Mound full of holes like swiss cheese. Hill shakes like quake - Mickey looking around gopher zips in and out; Mickey on top of mound still excited - Gopher pops up in front of Mickey - Mickey takes - pan down - Pluto pops out of ground - looks around wildly - o.s. Gopher razz - Pluto takes; Gopher under Mickey's legs razzing Pluto; Pluto mad - leaps up at gopher - hill caves in leaving big hole; Mickey and Pluto pop out of hole - dirt holes around heads and necks - Mickey laughs at Pluto - Says "Ha-Ha-Ha--Ah! You're just a mutt!" Pluto nods 'yes' - wags tail spinning sod with gopher on it)

Volus Jones (Gopher sees Pluto coming - bluestreaks out to right; Gopher in from upper left corner - detours faucet - Pluto in - bongs into faucet - vibration effect; Pluto coming out of vibration - eyes continues to vibrate - o.s. Gopher laughing; Pluto shakes off effects of hit - takes to right - big growl - bluestreaks out to left)

Eric Gunrey (Pluto chasing gopher; Pluto chases gopher underground - Gopher over Pluto - Pluto takes - out to right)

Chic Otterstrom (Mickey on green ready to make putt - truck back to longer shot - gopher in from left - Pluto right behind - both start boring hill)

Story: Mickey is getting ready for a big golf game. He calls over his caddy Pluto, who very carefully puts the ball in place for Mickey. Mickey takes big preparations to hit the ball. However before he does he is distracting by Pluto sniffing the flagpole in the hole. Mickey tells him to be quiet. Pluto isn't quiet so Mickey messes up his swing cause him to get angry at Pluto. Mickey finally hits the ball and it winds up close to the hole. Mickey gets a birdie. On the next hole the trouble begins. Mickeys gets the ball in a sand trap then on Pluto's fanny. Pluto is scared and Mickey has trouble hitting it. When Mickey finally hits it, he hits it in a gopher hole. The gopher eats the ball. This causes an angry Pluto to give chase. Much slapstick ensues with Pluto getting the worst of everything. The two end up destroying the hole golf course. Mickey however can't stay mad at Pluto and forgives him.

This cartoon received a shortened "Have A Laugh" version for TV. You can view that below.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Saturday, October 13, 2018

MLP:FIM School Raze Parts 1 & 2

We have a two-parter today. The first part was written by Nicole Dubuc, and was storyboarded by Karine Charlebois, Tori Grant and Ansley King. The second part was written by Josh Harbor, and storyboarded by Kaylea Chard, Mincheul Park and Nicole Wang. In this episode, all magic is disappearing from Equestria and no creature knows why.

Many of the episodes lately have been too predictable. That is not the case here. The reveal of who is behind all this is actually really shocking. It is also kind of dark for this show and I applaud the writers for taking such a huge chance (and one that could have easily not worked). This is an intense episode with some of the best action since Twilight's Kingdom. Seeing what happened to Starlight in particular is shocking. The ending could have easily been a dues ex machina, but it doesn't come off that way because it feels like this whole season has been building towards it. Still with all this, the humor is quite funny. Rarity being the one to struggle without her magic is not only surprising, but really funny as well. This episode also again shows how well defined the students have become over this season and how there is just as much to them as their is to the mane six.

All in all this is a fantastic episode and a perfect way to end this season.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Great Movies For Halloween Watching

Halloween is a holiday best celebrated by watching movies, in fact I believe it was created with that purpose in mind. So today I wish to share with you some movies, I think are perfect for watching this October. Some of these are very well known while others are overlooked gems, but I love each one of them and I hope you will check them out.

Valerie and Her Week Of Wonders (1970) This movie is pure art house cinema at its best and one of the best film of the Czechoslovakian New Wave. Each image is beautifully and lovingly put together creating a sense of pictorial beauty only movies can achieve. The story is shockingly different from anything you would see in mainstream cinema. It is never explained what exactly is happening or why it is happening. The story is instead completely fueled by emotion. What unfolds happens because of the emotions of the characters and not because of any form of logic. This movie at times can be peaceful, erotic, disturbing or terrifying. One thing is certain though this film is always fascinating. When I see this movie it has an almost hypnotizing effect on me making it hard to look away from. I recommend this movie for Halloween not only because of the terrifying scenes involving vampires, but also because it creates an uncomfortably uneasy feeling that is perfect for this time of year.

Nosferatu (1922) One of the films that helped above all to define the horror movie. This silent German classic, is still terrifying today. Images such as the Count Orlock appearing in the doorway, and the scene aboard the ship remain in one's mind long after the movie is finished. Max Shreck's performance as the horrible vampire is still amazing, and gives life to this horrifying character. Like all of director F.W. Murnau's films, one of the delights of this movie is the stunning look of the movie. The film has the qualities of a beautiful painting, while still remaining perfectly cinematic. This still remains a classic and one of the greatest Vampire movies ever made.

Pinocchio (1940) This may seem like an odd choice to some, but this movie is easily the darkest and most creepy of Disney's animated features. I think the reason for this is actually very simple. That is that Pinocchio might be the most powerless Disney hero. He has neither the brawn nor wit to fight the truly horrifying villains. He run or he can avoid them, but a showdown between good and evil is impossible in this movie. Think of the scene in Pleasure Island when the puppet's friend Lampwick is turning into a donkey. This has often been called the most horrifying scene in Disney animation. However I will argue that the reason for this is not the transformation itself, but rather that we are seeing what is happing for the perceptive of Pinocchio. Our hero can't do a thing to help his friend and he knows it. All he can do is watch in horror at what is happening in front of him. Watching in this scene we are in the same powerless position. We know it is too late for Lampwick and the best we can do is praying it doesn't happen to Pinocchio. This scene creates a sense of suspense and unease in a way no other scene in Disney animation does, because in almost any other animated Disney film we know things are going to turn out right, but here that certainty is taken away from us and we come the horrible realization that maybe the traditional Disney happy ending isn't going to happen. Beyond just this uncomfortableness, this is a great movie to watch at anytime and one of Disney's finest achievements. The artistry, humor, animation, characters, music and yes even horror all come together to create a cinematic masterpiece that is not only unique by Disney standards but by movie standards in general. There will never be another movie quite like this, but thank goodness we have this one.

Vampyr (1932) Carl Theodore Dryer's first sound feature is still a brilliant work of art. The images in this German film are ones that stay in the audience's mind and haunt their nightmare's all these years later. Story-wise this may be a typical Vampire-themed horror movie, but the way the story is told is unlike any other film I can think of. This film draws one into a creepy dreamlike world, that makes the movie have an unreal feeling that makes the movie even scarier. Though this is a talkie, the use of title cards and some scenes of complete silence make this feel like a silent film in all the best ways. This is a horror movie you will never forget.

The Orphanage (2007) A highly intelligent and spooky Spanish horror film. This movie is constantly suspenseful, and none of the plot twists did I see coming. However they made perfect sense when they happened. However this film isn't just scary. This is also a very touching movie. Our main character has to deal with the disappearance of her child and these scenes are downright sad. This uneasy and suspenseful movie is a modern day classic of horror.

Daffy Duck's Quackbusters (1988) This was the last of the Looney Tunes compilation feature films that began with The Bugs Bunny/ Roadrunner Movie (1979). These films combined classic Looney Tunes cartoons of the 1940's, 50's and 60's, with brand new animation made specifically for these new movies. This is probably the second best of these films (after The Bugs Bunny/ Road Runner Movie) and just an excellent movie all around. This movie incorporates many really great short films and often times these are cartoons that don't receive as much constant praise as the ones used in the previous movies. That does not mean they are lesser, but rather that they aren't the ones you see mentioned everywhere. These classic cartoons are just as hilarious as they were in their day and are beautifully put together in this compilation. The new animated scenes, while you can argue aren't as great as the classic shorts (whatever will be?) are very well done and highly entertaining in their own right. To add to these new scenes is the great musical soundtrack. If the music in these new scenes reminds one of what is heard in various classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies, that is because the music used here was actually the Carl Stalling and Milt Franklin scores for various classic Looney Tunes. This makes these new scenes feel much more like the classic cartoons. This is a spooky themed story using spooky themed cartoons making it a perfect treat for this time of year.

The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) Considered by many film critics to be the greatest Spanish movie of all time, this movie is truly a masterpiece. Though this movie may have a subtle political message about dictator Francisco Franco Bahamonde, it still holds so much more for those who can't understand this commentary. The children's reaction to seeing Frankenstein (1931) speaks to us about the power of cinema. This is especially true of one little girl named Ana (Ana Torrent) who begins to feel a strong kinship with the creature after seeing the movie. Not being able to understand why the creature drowned the little girl in the movie, she asks her big sister to explain. Her sister tells him that what she saw was fake, besides the sister had seen the creature and he is now a spirit. This explanation causes Ana to show kindness to a wounded solider she finds. Though I won't talk about what this leads to, this part of the story shows how beautifully simple many children view the world and how it is sad we have to lose that. All in all this is a beautiful movie that never fails to move me.

  Psycho (1960) and The Birds (1963) Despite how disturbing and intense Alfred Hitchcock's movies get, he only directed two real horror movies. Not shockingly these two movies show the master at his best. What makes them work so well is that neither really starts as a horror movie. In fact The Birds begins as a romantic comedy and Psycho begins as a character study of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh). This helps create much more of a shock when the horror happens. These two movies are legitimately creepy and I still feel a little uneasy when seeing a group of birds outside a window. These movies have been dissected so many times, that there is not much I can say that hasn't already been said. However if you for any reason haven't seen them see them as soon as possible, they are brilliantly made movies by a master filmmaker and still retain all their power today.

This is not a list of my favorite Halloween movies, nor is it a list of the best. These are just simply some movies, I really like and hope you will too. I plan to recommend more Halloween movies in one of these posts each year so if one you really like doesn't show up here maybe it will next year.

-Michael J. Ruhland  



Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Movie Review: Night School

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: C+

Review: An enjoyable little comedy. This may never go down as a comedy classic, but for what it is I enjoyed myself.

What makes this movie work most of all is simply that the main character is so likable. He may tell big lies to his fiancée and family, but one gets the feeling it is not really them he is lying to but instead, he is lying to himself.  There is little about him that ever feels intentionally cruel. His difficultly learning is treated very respectably and is very relatable. It is also shown well cinematically by having the problems come out at him visually and get all tangled up. We really do feel for him and want to see him succeed. There is never a moment in this film in which we are not rooting for him, and this makes even some of the weaker moments work. Adding to this is that he is played with a very likable charm by Kevin Hart.

The humor is not laugh out loud hilarious and one feels at times not as consistent as it should be. Despite this there are some legitimately funny scenes here. The best laughs seem to come from the over the top strict principal who holds a grudge against our main character. He is so over the top and takes so much joy in our protagonists troubles that it is hard not to laugh. Tiffany Haddish gets to play a more understated role, but still gets to show off her comedy chops. This more "subtle" approach actually makes her funnier than she is in some of her more over the top roles. The comedic chemistry between her and Hart is quite good, and it is a lot of fun watching them together. On the other hand the fellow classmates of the protagonist are rather weak and the jokes from them hardly crack a smile.  

The story in this movie is very predictable. At every second you knew exactly what was going to happen. There is not a single surprise and there are a few times when you feel like you have seen this before. Still it moves swiftly and thanks to the likability of the main character, it still works.

Maybe this is not a brilliant work of art, or a laugh out loud hilarious movie, but if you want to just go out and see a likeable movie that will give you a few laughs, this movie will give you just that.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

The Time of Their Lives (1946)

The Time of Their Lives is the most unusual of all of the Abbott and Costello films. This is one of the two films in which the duo did not work as a team, but rather as two actors appearing in the same movie. While the other of these movies (Little Giant (1946)) incorporated one of their classic bits of business (7x13=28), The Time of Their Lives featured no vaudeville style routines. In fact since for the majority of the movie Lou plays a ghost, Bud's character cannot see or here him, offering little of the famous exchanges of words between them. Lou's character keeps much of Lou's famous screen persona. Horatio Prim (Lou's character), while not as stupid as his usual persona keeps the child like nature and absent mindedness are still present. Bud's character on the other hand has virtually nothing in common with how we are used to seeing Bud on screen. Dr. Greenway (Bud's character) is a timid and anxiety-filled man, who retains none of Bud's usual on screen brashness and greed. Bud would remain quite proud of this role and state The Time of Their Lives as one of his favorite movies he was in.

This is a fantastic film and holds up just as well any of the boys' more traditional films. While one may not think of the story when talking about an Abbott and Costello film, the story in this movie is excellent. The story is completely involving and the serious moments are just as great as the comedic. This was the first Abbott and Costello film to be directed by Charles Barton. What Barton brought to the team's films is that he played the serious scenes rather straight (Something that would later help make Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), so great). The two main romances are very sweet and bring an emotional hold to this movie. The film also has a few scenes that get surprisingly dark for an Abbott and Costello. Seeing Lou's character (as well as Marjorie Reynolds') shot dead is honestly a little disturbing. There are again no jokes here, and the seriousness adds some very effective weight to the movie. The séance scene offers a moment that is both touching and kind of creepy.    

Just because this movie's serious moments work well doesn't mean this movie isn't funny. The idea of people from the past interacting with modern (well modern for 1946) technology may be one we have seen many times, but it works beautifully here. Horatio's (Lou) reaction to a light bulb and the great scene involving a radio are really funny. In some ways Marjorie Reynolds plays Bud's usual role of straight man to Lou and she is fantastic at it. The two have great chemistry and offer many laughs. There are also many good one-liners in this film and even the one's that don't come from Bud or Lou are very funny. I especially love a reference to Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940). The ending gag is one of the best endings to an Abbott and Costello film and never fails to make me laugh no matter how many times I see this movie. (Interestingly this movie was originally going to have a sweet ending instead of a funny one. Horatio (Lou) would go to Heaven and see his girlfriend (Ann Gillis) waiting outside. Horatio would ask her why she wasn't in Heaven. She would say that she asked to wait outside because it wouldn't have been Heaven without him. This was replaced by the funny ending we have now.)

The script did not start out as an Abbott and Costello movie. In this early script (by Val Burton, who would end up producing the final film) the two ghosts (parts that went to Lou and Marjorie Reynolds), would have been a dandy and his black servant. Burton wrote this script in 1944 and quickly abandoned it. However just a year later writers Walter DeLeon and Bradford Ropes decided to rework this idea into an Abbott and Costello movie. Abbott and Costello's main writer John Grant (who knew every vaudeville routine by heart) would be brought in to add some additional dialogue.

At one point during the making of this film Lou called the director stating that he wanted to switch parts with Bud or not do the film at all. Too much had already been shot and Barton refused. Lou did not show up for a little bit, but when he came back he played the part he had been assigned saying nothing about this call.

Despite receiving good reviews, this movie was a disappointment at the box office. It marked the last of the two films the duo made together but not as a team.

To see an original review in Showman's Trade Review click here. To read an original review in Motion Picture Herald click here. To read how this movie was advertised when shown in Buffalo, New York click here.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, October 8, 2018

Movie Review: A Star is Born

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: The worst thing I can say about this film is that the 1937, and the 1954 version are better (I don't like the 1976 version, to be honest). That as many of my fellow movie fans know is not even an insult. This is a fantastic movie that proves (just as the '54 version did) that the basic story of A Star is Born is timeless and can be adapted to any time period.

The reason the story holds up so well, even though we have seen it three times before is that everybody working on the film seems to have a complete passion for what they are doing. This is not a phoned in, get a few bucks from an easy audience remake. This is a film made by people who still love the basic story and want to introduce it to a new generation and tell it in their own way. Every emotional scene in this movie is still just as powerful as ever. Even though I knew how the story would end up, because I have seen the previous versions, I still found myself tearing up and feeling uncomfortable (in a good way). Bradley Cooper proves himself a very good director right out of the gate. There is not a shot wasted in this movie and the use of montage is near perfect. Adding to this movie is the great cinematography by Matthew Libatique. The whole movie looks visually great. The performances from our two leads are also fantastic, and I agree with those saying there might be a good acting career ahead for Lady Gaga.

One thing that really stand out in this movie is the music. The songs are absolutely fantastic. Many of them were cowritten by Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga themselves. Honestly I could see myself buying a Bradley Cooper album if he ever decided to put any out. The man has a really good voice and songwriting talent to spare. Not only that but he has a real presence when performing his songs that amazed me. I know it has been said many times, but Lady Gaga's voice is amazing. Her type of music isn't always mine, but her talent can not be denied. She really gets to show how amazing her talent is as these songs show her voice to her best advantage. Backing up Bradley Cooper is Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real (Lukas is the son of country music legend Willie Nelson for those who don't know). They are a fantastic country-rock band and their energy is perfectly captured here. Lady Gaga suggested to Cooper that the music be preformed and record live. This idea works brilliantly as during the song numbers there is that amazing energy that can be felt when watching a great concert film. These scenes make you feel like you are at a concert and give you the same excitement.

There are a few missteps in this movie. For instance the SNL scene doesn't work at all and the movie can feel a little long towards the end. Still these faults are completely overcome by what is great about this movie.

All in all, this is what a remake should be and a great movie.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, October 5, 2018

Movie Review: Venom

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: F

Review: Terrible movie, avoid this like the plague.

This is a movie that left me with nothing to like. The characters themselves are stereotypes of movie characters. There is nothing remotely interesting about them at all. The villain is a stock movie villain, the love interest has no personality what so ever and our protagonist feels very awkwardly and clumsily written. The cast seems to be trying to do their best, but even such talented actors have trouble putting across such awkward dialogue and uninteresting characters and feel a little uneasy at times. Tom Hardy especially seems to be having trouble making his character in the least bit likable. Most of all this leaves us with no one to root for and when the big action climax comes, there is no reason to care about anything we see.

The storyline is just as clichéd as the characters. Despite focusing on a different type of character, the movie plays it safe and makes the story just like so many superhero movies. When it comes to the story the film feels like it just going through the motions. It feels like the writers have a checklist of everything that is in many superhero movies and must go through each of them. The problem though isn't that it is clichéd and predictable, but rather that there seems to be no passion involved. What makes so many cliché superhero films work is that you feel like despite having seen this before, you can feel the filmmakers passion for the source material, none of that can be felt here. Even worse or when the movie tries to make a point. The dialogue about Global Warming, taking care of the homeless and especially about the Abraham and Isaac story from the Bible (that scene is just embarrassing), feel completely forced into the movie and out of place. The simplistic way they are treated is not the problem but rather how poorly they are incorporated into the movie and how awkward the writing is, simply makes these scenes embarrassing whether you agree with them or not.

Just simply avoid this film. If you see it, don't wait for the end credits scene it is painful.

-Michael J. Ruhland      

Monday, October 1, 2018

Movie Review: Little Women.

Review Written By Michael J. Ruhland

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: Though in my mind the 1933 movie will always remain the best film version of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel. That movie is dripping with charm and emotion in a way that is truly amazing. However with that said I am glad to say after seeing the most recent movie version of Little Women that I really liked it.

The movie may be placed in the modern day, but the story remains a delightfully old fashioned one. Jo may now be writing elaborate fantasy novels and zombie-thrillers and the character's may now have modern technology, but most of the movie doesn't feel like it needs to take place in any time period, and it feels like the idea of the film is that the original story is so timeless that so much can happen in modern times. If this was the idea, than the film works quite well. This may not be the most faithful adaption of Little Women, but what it may not capture in all the little details, it makes up for in capturing much of the book's spirit. The relationship between the sisters is still the main focus here and the movie captures this beautifully. The scenes between Beth and Jo towards the end are very touching. The fact that Jo still is willing to work as Meg's "wingman" even though she thinks the whole idea is stupid, reminds us of what we have done for those we love. The relationship between Jo and Amy could have easily been a fault, because there is no sugar coating here, and the two do things that are very mean to each other over the course of this movie. Still this movie handles this very well. You can always feel that both love each other, even when they are at their meanest. They are both so different that they get on each other's nerves and they have a harder time showing that they love each other than any other pair of the March sisters. However we still always feel that deep down they love the other. The relationships between these characters is where the movie shines and it is done so well it easily outshines any faults in the film.    

The idea of putting the 150 year old book into the modern day is a risky one, and leads it to stumble at times. The weakest scenes in the film are the two party scenes. It is true seeing a party that involves teenagers drinking, wearing skimpy outfits and dancing to loud hip-hop music doesn't sound like it belongs in an adaption of Little Women. Truth is I think it could have worked in a movie that tried to completely modernize everything. This movie however doesn't, making scenes that are so strikingly modern feel completely out of place.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Silent Film of the Month: Alice's Spooky Adventure (1924)

Run Time: 8 minutes. Studio: Walt Disney Productions. Director: Walt Disney. Producer: Walt Disney. Main Cast: Virginia Davis, Leon Holmes, Spec O'Donell. Animators: Walt Disney, Rollin Hamilton. Cameraman: Roy Disney.

Well its October and that means Halloween is coming up. With that in mind I feel it is a great time to look at a spooky themed Alice Comedy entitled Alice's Spooky Adventure.

The Alice Comedies were Walt Disney's first real series. In these films a live action Alice would find herself in an animated wonderland. This was an unsubtle reversal of what the Fleischer brothers were doing with their Out of the Inkwell series. In that series an animated Koko the clown found his way into the live action world causing havoc there.

Alice's Spooky Adventure was the fourth Alice Comedy. When Walt Disney made the first Alice Comedy (Alice's Wonderland), he was producing various cartoons for Laugh-O-Gram Films in Kanas City. They were mostly involving old fairytales moved in modern day. However he was running into much finical troubles at this time. Unfortunately the studio was bankrupt before the film could be completed. This lead Walt to move to California and get a distribution contract with Margert Winkler (who also distributed the Felix the Cat and Out of the Inkwell). The contract stated that Alice must still be played by Virginia Davis (who played the character in Alice's Wonderland) in the new Alice Comedies. Walt wrote a letter to the Davis family asking them to move to California. Fortunately for Walt they agreed. Immediately after this animation began on the second Alice comedy (Alice's Day at Sea). The problem was at this time Walt did not have the full crew who had worked on Alice's Wonderland. Because of this Walt needed to do most of the work himself including the animation and direction. Walt while certainly a talented animator was not the fastest and was not on the level of Ub Iwerks, who had worked with him on the Laugh-O-Gram films. Because of this pure live action scenes would take up quite a bit of the screen time for these early Alice Comedies. Just as the scenes with animation had a lot of similarities to the Out of the Inkwell series, the pure live action scenes resembled Hal Roach's Our Gang comedy shorts (known by many now as The Little Rascals). This is rather interesting considering how new Our Gang was at the time of these shorts, having just started in 1922. Still the resemblance is hard to ignore with Alice's live action friends often physically resembling the Our Gang kids. Featured in Alice's Spooky Adventure are Spec McDonald, who looked a lot like Our Gang's freckled faced Mickey Daniels and Leon Holmes, this series' answer to chubby Joe Cobb from the Our Gang films. As the series would go on Ub Iwerks would start working for the films and the animation would become much more prominent, while the live action would be pushed further into the background (in some of the later entries live action Alice herself seemed to be just making her short obligatory cameos that had little to do with the animated plot). That was not the case here as the live action takes up a decent portion of the film.

In this film Alice is playing baseball with her friends. However a baseball lands in an old abandoned house and Alice goes to get it out. However a piece of plaster falls down and knocks her unconscious. While unconscious Alice has an animated dream that she is in a town called Spookville. While there her and her new cat friend, go to see a concert. Ghosts seeing them at the concert give chase.

This is a highly entertaining film. The animation definitely lacks the polish and depth of later Disney cartoons, but it more than makes up for it the with pure imagination. Much of this film resembles   more of an early Fleischer cartoon than a Disney cartoon. For instance the houses in Spookville grow faces that react to seeing Alice. This is something that you would definitely not see in a later Disney cartoon, but just because it is different does not mean is not effective. These visual ideas are immediately intriguing and pull you into the film. The live action part is also very fun and the closing live action gag is hilarious. All in all this is a great film and I can't help but recommend it.

With Alice's Spooky Adventure Walt was hoping to have a shorter production period than he had on the previous Alice Comedies. However Mother Nature had other plans. The filming of the live action scenes had been continually delayed by clouds and fog.

Margert Winkler was very happy with the film upon receiving it and wrote to Walt, "I will be frank with you and say that I have been waiting for just such a picture as 'Alice's Spooky Adventure' before using it in all territories throughout the world." She did have reservations though about some of the scenes combining live action and animation and asked that they would be retaken. Winkler must have been happy with the introduction of a cartoon cat in this film (later named Julius for future Alice Comedies). In the next Alice Comedy, Alice's Wild West Show a dog would be used as Alice's sidekick and Winkler would write Walt saying "I might suggest that in your cartoon stuff you use a cat whenever possible and don't be afraid to let him do ridiculous things." Not surprisingly the cat would again appear in the following Alice Comedy, Alice's Fishy Story.  

Resources UsedWalt in Wonderland: The Silent Films of Walt Disney by J. B. Kaufman and Russell Merritt.