Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Silent Films on TCM This April

 Hello my fellow silent film fans and TCM fans here is a list of silent films playing on TCM this April. Unfortunately because of 31 Days of Oscar, there is no silent Sunday night this month. With silent Sunday nights back in May, there will be more silents then. 

Sunday April 4th

The Circus
(1928) Director: Charlie Chaplin. Starring Charlie Chaplin and Merna Kennedy. 1:15 am Pacific. 4:15 am Eastern.

Tuesday April 20th

Our Dancing Daughters (1928) Director: Harry Beaumont. Starring Joan Crawford and John Mack Brown. 6am Pacific. 9am Eastern.

Monday April 26th 

Speedy (1928) Director: Ted Wilde. Starring Harold Lloyd and Ann Christy. 1am Pacific. 4am Eastern. 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Movie Review: Tenet


Note: If this review seems really late there is a reason for that. I missed this film when it was new. However when I saw it was still playing at a movie theater nearby me, I knew I had to see it. As I usually write reviews of new movies I just saw in theaters, I decided this is still new enough to include here.

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Style over substance, but the style is fantastic.

I must start this review by stating the obvious. The action scenes in this movie are incredible. These are huge scale action scenes that simply look amazing on the big screen. They are only further enhanced by the use of objects and people acting in reverse. This not only looks extremely cool, but it gives the movie a unique feel different from other action movies.. Even when these action scenes aren't happening, this film is brimming with atmosphere. I am sure there are those who will get lost at points, but still enjoy this movie in a way similar to The Big Sleep, where they get so engrossed in the atmosphere that they don't care. The design and cinematography (by Hoyte Van Hoytema, who had previously worked with Nolan on Interstellar and Dunkirk) also make every scene a visual treat. The cast is excellent and special praise must be given to the film's star, John David Washington, who pulls off a very difficult role very well. 

The story itself is at many time one of a standard but good action movie. However Christopher Nolan feels the need to try and make this plot more complex. This never fully works as these complexities seem to serve no reason but to make this movie more confusing. There is no depth or further story interest achieved through this. While a lot of great movies have quite complex plots, when a film's plot is complex simply to be complex, it simply doesn't work as well as it should. Nolan had an above average action movie here and it is unfortunate that he felt the need to do this. While this is still a good movie if he had dropped these complexities and simply made this a more straightforward action film, it could have been even better. 

If you can see this on the big screen I highly recommend you do. It may be very flawed, but there is still a whole lot to enjoy.           

Monday, March 29, 2021

Movie Review: Boogie


Michael's Movie Grade: F

Truly awful coming of age story. 

The problems with this film start with the main character himself. This kid is honestly a complete jerk through the whole running time. While not every movie needs its main character to be likable, it certainly hurts this one. This film wants the audience to connect with and sympathize with this character, but I just found myself unable to. Because of this watching him simply be a jerk to every other character is not in the least bit entertaining. The problems just continue on from there. The storyline is simply one cliché after another and each is done too poorly to make up for the lack of the originality. You know what is going to happen before it does and worse, you don't care when it does happen. All the characters that aren't our "hero" often feel more like plot devices than actual characters. The girlfriend and best friend especially have little personality beyond their functions in the plot and to give the main character someone to talk to. However the parents are the most unbearable. This is because all they do is fight and yell. This has only the function to make us uncomfortable. While it can be a good thing for a film to make us uncomfortable, this movie lacks any of the depth or emotional power to be one of those times. So what you are left with is just people yelling and fighting. The worst part of the movie though is that it has no entertainment value whatsoever. There is never a moment where this movie made me smile or excited. This is even a sports movie where the big climatic game is boring and causes no emotion response. When you don't care who wins the big game in a sports movie, you know it is bad. 

If you want to take a trip to the movie theater see anything else.     

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Cowboy Church #112

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

Today's musical selection begins with Ray Price singing Precious Memories. Though this is a sweet uplifting song, it was based upon a tragedy. In 1922, John Wright lost his five year old son. Wright would later say about this song, “’Precious Memories’ was born in the midnight hours as I bathed by pillow with tears, likewise all my songs came through life’s severest tests.” Though this is a very famous hymn, John Wright only received $36 for writing it. He would remain a janitor that was always struggling to make ends meet for his entire life. This is the title track of Ray's 1976 gospel album. Next up comes George Strait singing I Saw God Today. This song reminds us that though we often forget, proof of God's love is constantly around us, even in the smallest things. We too often forget to feel thankful for the blessings God has filled this world with. This song is from George's 2008 album Troubadour. It was written by Rodney Clawson, Monty Criswell and Wade Kirby. Clawson would say that the song came from Criswell who would often have unsuccessful hunting trips and come back and when asked how the trip went say, "I saw God today." Up next is Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing The Lord is Counting on You. This song was written by another legend of cowboy gospel legend, Stuart Hamblin, who also wrote This Ole House, It is No Secret (What God Can Do), and Open Up Your Heart (And Let the Sunshine In). Hamblin was also an actor and had played the villain in one of Roy's movies, The Arizona Kid (1939). This version of the song comes from Roy and Dale's 1959 album, Jesus Loves Me. Up next is Willie Nelson with Uncloudy Day. This song was written by Josiah Kelley Alwood in 1979. Alwood described why he wrote this song stating, “It was a balmy night in August 1879, when returning from a debate in Spring Hill, Ohio, to my home in Morenci, Michigan, about 1:00 a.m. I saw a beautiful rainbow north by northwest against a dense black nimbus cloud. The sky was all perfectly clear except this dark cloud which covered about forty degrees of the horizon and extended about halfway to the zenith. The phenomenon was entirely new to me and my nerves refreshed by the balmy air and the lovely sight. Old Morpheus was playing his sweetest lullaby. Another mile of travel, a few moments of time, a fellow of my size was ensconced in sweet home and wrapped in sweet sleep. A first class know-nothing till rosy-sweet morning was wide over the fields. To awake and look abroad and remember the night was to be filled with sweet melody. A while at the organ brought forth a piece of music now known as “The Unclouded Day.” A Day and a half was bestowed on the four stanzas.” This version comes from Willie's first (and best) gospel album, 1976's The Troublemaker. This recording features Willie at his best as this is one of the most fun and energetic versions of this song and Willie's voice and guitar playing are in top form. Gospel means "good news" so it is no wonder that so much of it is so joyful and this is about as joyful as it gets. Next comes Alan Jackson with Standing on the Promises of God. This hymn was written by Russell Carter in 1886. Carter had worked as a sheepherder (as well as a Professor) who developed a heart condition while sheepherding. This caused him to feel that he would not have much longer to live. He prayed to God to heal his condition and when God did, Carter vowed forever  “to stand on God’s promises.” This feeling lead to him writing this classic hymn. Up next is the Sons of the Pioneers with their 1934 recording of Open Up Dem Pearly Gates. Today's musical selection continues  with The Chuck Wagon Gang with their 1941 recording of He Set Me Free. This song was written by Albert E. Brumley and first published in 1939. Many consider this song to be the inspiration for Hank William's I Saw the Light and anybody familiar with that song will surely notice the similarities. Today's musical selection ends with The Charlie Daniels Band performing Walkin' in Jerusalem Just Like John. This song opened one of the band's best post-1970's albums, 2005's Songs From the Longleaf Pines. This was one of the band's Christian albums. However unlike the first two Christian albums from the group (1994's The Door and 1996's Steel Witness) instead of a Christian rock sound this album is 100% bluegrass. Bluegrass was always a type of music that Charlie and the rest of the band had a true fondness for and one that meant a lot to them personally. That can truly be felt in this album as this album is one of the most energetic, fun and passionate albums to come from them during this late period of their career.  

Exhibitor's Herald, 1944

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD. From the house of the LORD we bless you. Psalm 118:26

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 1 Timothy 1:15

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die. John 11:25

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. Isaiah 53:12

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 4:16

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. 2 So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. 3 Mary therefore took a pound[a] of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. 4 But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, 5 “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii[b] and given to the poor?” 6 He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. 7 Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it[c] for the day of my burial. 8 For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus[d] was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus. The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” 14 And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” So Jesus said to them, “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes
    and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn,
    and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.  Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And whoever sees me sees him who sent me. I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” John 12:1-50

Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

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

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Movie Review: Nobody


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

An excellent all out R rated action movie. 

If you have seen the previews then you know exactly what to except from this movie. There is no room for quietness or subtly, this is pure bloody action with a dark sense of humor. What makes this movie work so well is that it never takes itself too seriously. The filmmakers know what this is and exactly  what audiences want from it. And oh boy do they deliver!!! In a brisk 92 minutes movie fans get all the excitement they hope a film like this could bring. It should no surprise  to anybody that this film was written by Derek Kolstad, who worked on all three John Wick films. This movie shows again that he knows his way around an action film. The film centers around some big action set pieces and each one is perfectly set up and knows just when to go over the top and when to pull back to something less so (though I wouldn't call much of this film realistic). We all came to the theater to see the over the top moments, yet we need the more pulled back moments to make the over the top parts more fun (and boy are they) and to keep us having enough of an emotional connection to make the story work. This all creates a rollercoaster ride of a movie that is a sheer joy to watch. All of this is helped by excellent performances from  Bob Odenkirk, Aleksey Serebryakov and Christopher Lloyd (the whole cast does well, but the script lets these three show their talents off in a way that it doesn't for the rest of the cast). Bob Odenkirk is not somebody most of us would have cast as an action star of this type but he does very well. His performance is incredibly cool, tough and a lot of fun to watch, while at the same time giving a bit of unique everyman humanity to what could have been a bland cliché character. Aleksey Serebryakov is an excellent villain. This performance keeps him appropriately threatening as a man who can seem cool and calm one second and lash out in brutal unprovoked violence the next. Christopher Lloyd provides this movie with its funniest moments and kept the audience (in the theater I was in) laughing heartily. Speaking of humor among all the bloody violence is some really funny humor. While I wouldn't call this film a clear cut comedy, it has enough truly funny moments in it to have you leave with a smile on your face. 

The major fault of this film is the main character's wife and kids. These characters obviously only exist for plot reasons and have little personality outside of what the plot needs them to act like. One can't help but wish that the script gave them more in the way of personalities or even let them take more of a part in the movie's dark sense of humor. This film can also feel very similar to other movies you have seen before but you knew that going in. 

If you are an action movie fan you will have a blast watching Nobody

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #116

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again it is time for some classic cartoons. 

Today's cartoon selection begins with a classic Merrie Melody, I Wanna Be a Sailor (1937). This cartoon was directed by the one and only Tex Avery. The film is typical of Tex's Merrie Moldies of this time period. This is more story driven than his later MGM work and has a bit of a moral to it. Yet there are some great moments that perfectly show Tex's wild and zany humor that would soon become more prominent. This may seem like a strange combination but in this case it works very well and gives us a delightful cartoon. The following is an exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald, "I Wanna Be a Sailor: Merrie Melody - These are very good. They certainly help round out a program. -Charles Rossi, Strand Theatre, Schroon Lake, N.Y." The following is from an issue of The Film Daily dated Aug. 17, 1937, "With the music recorded on "I Wanna Be A Sailor," Leon Schlesinger has completed his first "Merrie Melodie" Technicolor cartoon for his 1937-38 program one month ahead of schedule. Producer's schedule for new season calls for 36 subjects to be released by Warner Brothers." 

Next comes a black and white Mickey Mouse, The Mad Dog (1932). Though today Mickey is mostly associated with slower paced and more sentimental cartoons, these earlier Mickey films are fast paced affairs with non-stop gags from start to finish. This was noted by a review in The Film Daily which stated about The Mad Dog, "A Mickey Mouse cartoon, which is one of the fastest-action animateds [sic] ever produced." This review goes on to say, "Just as exciting as a wooly western meller - and funnier of course." J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein's book, Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History notes that the score uses the promotional song, The Wedding Party of Mickey Mouse for your benefit that song will be included underneath. 

Motion Picture Herald, 1932

With April Fool's day not far away, I feel it is a perfect time for the following Popeye cartoon, Cookin' With Gags (1955). 


The Betty Boop cartoon More Pep (1936), harkens back to the Fleischer Studio's silent era Out of the Inkwell films. Like those earlier shorts, this film features animated characters interacting with the live action world around them and unleashing havoc upon it. This cartoon even features the same introduction as many entries in the earlier series. We start with a live action hand drawing a setting for our characters. Though Pudgy just appears on screen, Betty is first seen in a inkwell ala Koko the Clown. This film also seems to harken back to the sheer fast paced energy of the earlier Betty Boops. Many of these cartoons were slowing down by this point, but More Pep has well more pep. Even the cute pudgy can't slow down the action. 


Up next is Tweety's first appearance in a cartoon, A Tale of Two Kitties (1942). Sharp eyed viewers may notice that Tweety is not yellow in this film, but pink. Since he was a newborn baby bird, it made sense for him not to have feathers. According to director Bob Clampett, he based the character off of a nude baby photo of himself. Tweety already has his famous line, "I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat." According to animation historian Jerry Beck's book, I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat: Fifty Years of Sylvester and Tweety, This line also originated with Bob Clampett when in the mid-1930's he wrote a letter to a friend on MGM stationary. Next to Leo the MGM lion, Clampett drew a small bird with a word balloon with "I think I taw a titty-tat." Instead of Sylvester Tweety is here pitted against two cats named Babbit and Catstello. As should be obvious by the names, these cats were a take off on the infamous comedy team Abbott and Costello, who had just made their movie debut just a couple years earlier in One Night in the Tropics (1940). The voice of Catstello was provided by the man of a thousand voices, Mel Blanc (who also voiced Tweety) and Babbitt was voiced by writer Tedd Pierce. A reviewer in Showman's Trade Review was very impressed with these voices stating, "Either the famous comedy pair furnished the accompanying dialogue themselves or the impersonators are the last word in perfection." Though they would not catch on the way Tweety did, these characters would reappear in other cartoons. Some of these cartoons would even feature the duo as mice instead of cats. They would appear with Tweety much later in a 1998 episode of the TV show, Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries. This cartoon was reissued to theaters in 1948, the year Abbott and Costello made their most popular movie, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).  

Variety, 1933

In the mid-1930's in order to compete with the more popular cartoon studios like Disney or Fleischer, the Van Beuren Studio hired one of Disney's top cartoon directors, Burt Gillett (of Three Little Pigs fame). The studio gave Burt Gillett control over the studio's output and this lead to brand new series and the dropping of established ones. One of these new series was the Rainbow Parade cartoons, which were a not too subtle attempt to recapture the popularity of Disney's Silly Symphonies. Unfortunately this was not to be too successful as the studio would close after RKO stopped distributing their cartoons after getting the rights to distribute Disney cartoons in 1936. Here is the first Rainbow Parade cartoon, Pastry Town Wedding (1934). 

Before Woody Woodpecker the Walter Lantz studio created quite a few cartoon characters who are forgotten today. Here is one of those characters, Baby Faced Mouse in his first film, Cheese Nappers (1938).

Thanks for joining me come back next week for more animated classics. Until then may all your tunes be Looney and your melodies Merrie. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Movie Review: Minari


Note: I saw this film in a theater and it is so good to be back.

Michael's Movie Grade: A+

A truly incredible and moving film that should be seen by every movie fan.

This film is a semi-autobiographical story from director/writer Lee Isaac Chung and his passion can be felt in every second of this wonderful movie. The story itself is rather simple revolving around a Korean-American family starting a farm to achieve their (or the dad's) American dream. This simple story is told to near perfection. This is often a quiet and rather reflective film letting us take in every inch of atmosphere and charm. This movie tends to focus mostly on the family themselves and the relationship they have with each other. These characters each have extremely well thought out personalities that all of us can relate to and understand. Even more interesting than the characters themselves is the relationships between them. The young son and the grandma share the best scenes that bring both the funniest and the most touching moments. The mother's relationship with the youngest son is both touching and heartbreaking. He has a weak heart and this has lead her to become overprotective and extremely affectionate. However a lot of what she says to him scares him rather than calms him down. The two kids also have a great relationship. The sister not only looks out for her little brother but he also is the person she most confides in. The parents are perfect examples of two people who love each other but have completely different ideas of how they should be living. Even the family's relationship with a man who works for the father is rather touching. It is these perfectly well thought out relationships that truly make this film special. However there is still even more to recommend about this movie. The film paints a very engrossing portrait of small town America that is beautiful but also far from idyllic. This film also does an amazing job of conveying the difficulties that many people in these situations have went through. Yet even through all the emotional moments this brings on, the movie is not overly depressing or not entertaining. The humor throughout this film is excellent and the audience I saw this with laughed heartily at quite a few moments (after so long away from movie theaters it was so joyous for me to hear an audience really laugh again). Yet the humor never takes the slightest bit away from the emotional moments. This is a truly a movie that will both make you want to laugh and cry. 

I could not recommend this film any more. If you haven't seen it yet go out and see it.  

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Movie Review: Nomadland


Note: I saw this film in a theater and it is so good to be back.

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

An incredibly moving and powerful experience.

With very few movies under her belt (including the must see The Rider (2017)), Chole Zhao has proven herself to be a director to look out for  and this film only furthers the reputation she has built up with movie lovers like us. She handles this movie perfectly. This movie perfectly transitions for joyful fun scenes to moments of pure loneliness and isolation. One moment our main character will be joking around and having fun and the next she will seem completely lost and aimless. The way this works so well is that even the happiest scenes of this film have a tinge of sadness behind them, as we can feel a sense of longing for something that is absent for her life. Yet this film has enough humor and fun at points to keep it from becoming depressing or hard to watch. Because of this we can truly say we enjoyed this movie as well as were moved by it and that is a sign of real art. Of course praise must also be given to Frances McDormand's incredible performance. No word can describe this performance better than real. The humanity and honesty behind her acting make every emotion incredibly powerful. 

This film also benefits from a great soundtrack, that will delight many other country fans like me. I adored hearing such country greats as Lorretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, Lynn Anderson and Sons of the Pioneers (as well as some characters singing their own version of Willie Nelson's On the Road Again). The movie also has some beautiful scenery and cinematography (by Joshua James Richards).

This is simply a must see movie.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Movie Review: The Courier


Note: I saw this film in a theater and I am so glad to be back.

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

A top notch Cold War spy thriller. 

I must start this review by praising what everyone else is praising about this movie and that is Benedict Cumberbatch's performance. To be honest before this movie I was mostly familiar with him from the MCU and The Current War. While I knew he was a good actor from these films, I was unaware he was capable of a performance like this. His acting here is incredible and despite the fact that I knew who the actor was, I never once thought about the actor while watching his performance. This performance starts out as charming and quite comedic but as the storyline gets more intense so does the way he plays this character. Yet this always feels like the same person, no matter how intense or how charming the performance is. Cumberbatch knows how to make you believe you are watching a regular likable person being pushed to his limits. The last act of this movie is simply a tour de force for Cumberbatch. That is not to say that he is the only good member of the cast. In fact everybody in this movie truly shines.  This film also benefits from an incredible true story. This story is a perfect story for a movie like this because while it is true it also larger than life. The story is told extremely well. There is not a single scene in which my attention drifted. Yet at the same time it is told at a pace that never once feels rushed. This film also extremely benefits from a fantastic score by Abel Korzeniowski that perfectly captures and adds to each scene.

This is simply a must watch movie. 

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Movie Review: Chaos Walking


Note: I saw this film in a theater and it is so good to be back.

Michael's Movie Grade: C

An enjoyable trip to the movies but one can't help but feel this should have been better.

The main reason to watch this film is the two main characters. While they may not be extremely fleshed out, they are quite likable. On top of this the two actors (Tom Holland, Daisy Ridley) have excellent chemistry. They play off each other quite well and you grow to completely believe the friendship that grows between them. These two character bring much needed heart to this story. This especially shows in the scenes that discuss their parents. Because of us liking the characters these scenes are surprisingly heartfelt. Adding to this is that there are some well done action scenes and some pretty funny moments as well. One of the main plot points of this movie is something called the noise which allows you to hear and see men's thoughts. The way this is visual portrayed is honestly quite clever and this makes even some dialogue heavy scenes visually interesting. 

The problems with this movie begin with the world it takes place in. The problem is that despite taking place on a foreign planet (with the exception of the noise) there is nothing really interesting about this planet that can visually be seen. Not only does the planet simply look like a run down small town, but the entirety of what makes this planet different from ours in only heard in expository dialogue. Because of this none of the history of this planet is in anyway interesting or real to us. This film also suffers from being overly predictable. You can guess where the story is going early on and there are no real surprises here. 

Despite these faults, the things that work still make this an enjoyable watch. Still it could have been quite a bit better. 

Cowboy Church #111

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

Today’s musical selection begins with Tennessee Ernie Ford singing I Love to Tell the Story. When recovering from a sickness, Arabella Katherine Hankey wrote a poem about the life of Christ. This poem was broken into two parts the first being called The Story Wanted (published in January, 1866) and the second called The Story Told (published in November, 1866). I Love to Tell the Story comes from this second part. In 1869 William G. Fisher put this text to music and that is the version we know today. Still it is worth noting that Hankey wrote her own music for these words, but her music was seldom used and is now forgotten. Up next comes The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet (Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones, Kenny Price) with Shall We Gather at the River. This classic hymn was written by Dr. Robert Lowry in 1864. Lowry later described the thought process for writing this hymn, “One hot afternoon in July 1864, I was resting on his sofa, visions of heaven pervaded his senses. I saw the bright golden throne room and a multitude of saints gathered around the beautiful, cool, crystal, river of life. I was filled with a sense of great joy. I began to wonder why there seemed to be many hymns that referenced the river of death, but very few that mentioned the river of life. As I mused, the words and music to Shall We Gather at the River came to his heart and mind.” The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet came for the country themed variety show, Hee Haw. One day back stage Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones, Kenny Price, Archie Campbell, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Merle Travis were singing old gospel songs. Producer Sam Lovullo heard this singing and knew this had to become part of the show. In 1976 this became solidified as a regular part of the series and would remain so through the show's long run. While Hee Haw often featured a lot of corny humor, this part of the show would always be played seriously. In fact Grandpa Jones never wore his trademark hat and would sometimes appear out of costume in this sequences. Because of this it would often be used for the show's closing. Whether you are a fan of Hee Haw or not, The Hee Haw Gospel Quartet remains essential listening for all fans of country gospel music. Following this will be Alison Krauss and Union Station with Jesus Help Me to Stand. This is the closing track of their 1992 album, Every Time You Say Good Bye.  After will be Sara Watkins with Give Me Jesus. This comes from her 2009 self titled album which was also her first solo album. Next comes Johnny Cash with He Touched Me. This song was written by Bill Gaither in 1963. After this comes Gene Autry singing Little Old Church in the Valley. This version comes from an episode of Gene's Melody Ranch radio show dated 8/24/47. This song also features The Cass County Boys, The Pinafores, Johnny Bond and Carl Cotner's Orchestra. This is followed by The Sons of the Pioneers with 1937 recording of Lord You Made The Cowboy Happy. Today's musical selection ends with Roy Rogers singing The Lamp of Faith.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 4:16

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John: 5:14

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18

My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. John 17:15

The LORD detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but the prayer of the upright pleases him. Proverbs 15:8

The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. Psalm 145:18

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

 Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
 He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
 You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
 A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
 You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.

 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91

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


Saturday, March 20, 2021

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #115

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Once again it is time for some classic cartoons. 

The Betty Boop cartoons from the early 1930's were some of the most risqué cartoons from the golden age of American animation. Anyone who thinks of old cartoons as sweet, innocent and squeaky clean may be surprised to see scenes in these cartoons. One of the most risqué images from one of these cartoons comes from Red Hot Mama (1934), where we are given a look through Betty's dress. Though admittedly the rest of this cartoon is not exactly innocent either. The setting for this film is Hell, where Betty's sexiness excites the various demons. Not everyone back then was fine with what happens in this film as the following exhibitor's review from Motion Picture Herald shows. "Red Hot Mama: Betty Boop - I can remember several years ago after sound had been established that a great cry arose within the industry that the youngsters of that day ( and the show patron of tomorrow) were unable to find any entertainment in the movie palaces because the biz had gone high hat and no entertainment for them. I screened 'Red Hot Mama,' a cartoon yesterday on my Sunday matinee hence this letter. I have always felt that in booking these cartoons the youngsters were getting a treat. I enjoy their hearty laughs and suppressed excitement when their favorite cartoon is on the screen. However 'Red Hot Mama' must have been drawn when the guy was drunk. Betty Boop starts out sweetly, is suddenly transported to Hell and pursued and tortured by all sorts of fire devils, imps and what have you. One variety, the ability to bound in the air and come down on a spear studded tail stabbed in the floor. A grand subject for your juvenile trade? Naturally my Sunday matinee was without a cartoon. The only recommendation I have for this is that the one responsible for it be compelled to sit through a screening every time he has a pink elephant fantasy. Some exhibitor's have said they hesitate to report on products through the Herald for fear of getting in bad with the local exchange. My opinion is that the people who are sincere in this business welcome constructive criticism. Report fairly on pictures with merit and likewise that class of product which is detrimental to our investments. I'm not a crank but it is cartoons such as the Symphonies and 'Jack and the Beanstalk' and 'Little Red Hen' that are in demand and not such a thing as 'Red Hot Mama'. -E.A. Reynolds, Strand Theatre, Princeton, Minn. Small Town and Country Patronage." With the praise of the Silly Symphonies, I am wondering what this exhibitor would have to say about the Silly Symphony, Hell's Bells (1929). The following is a much more positive exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald, "Red Hot Mama: Betty Boop - This is a great cartoon comedy that will please everyone. It is full of good clean entertainment and much better than the average comedy. More time should be given to shorts in order to fill in a poor feature and everything would be better. Running Time eight minutes. -J.J. Medford, Orpheum Theatre, N.C. General patronage."

  Surrealness in 1930's cartoons was not limited to Betty Boop as is evidenced in the Toby the Pup cartoon, The Milkman (1931). While Charles Mintz was producing Krazy Kat cartoons for Columbia , he decided to create a separate series of cartoons for RKO, these starring a character named Toby the Pup. To head this series Mintz handed the duties to Dick Huemer, Art Davis and Sid Marcus. Dick Huemer had been a major contributor to the style of the Fleischer studio earlier and this is probably why these shorts have a Fleischer-type feel to them. Huemer, Davis and Marcus would later be the major creative factors for Columbia's Scrappy cartoons (also produced by Mintz).

When in 1963 the Warner Brothers cartoon studio closed, Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies would not be gone for long. Friz Freleng and David DePattie would soon produce more of these cartoons with much reduced budgets. Interestingly these cartoons never used one of the studio's biggest stars Bugs Bunny. A character who became a mainstay during this period was Speedy Gonzales. For the most part instead of being pitted against Sylvester (as he had been previously) he was pitted against Daffy Duck in most of these outings. Cats and Bruises (1965) was an exception to this and it is fun to see a pairing of Sylvester and Speedy from DePattie-Freleng. This is definitely one of Speedy's better outings during this period. 

Now we jump from the final days of the classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies to the earliest days with a cartoon staring the earliest star of Looney Tunes, Bosko. The film is Big Man From the North (1930). At this time the main creative forces behind the Looney Tunes were Hugh Harmon and Rudolph Ising, both of whom had worked with Walt Disney during the silent era. As such the Disney influence is often strongly felt in these films. This cartoon is a remake of a silent era Disney cartoon, Ozzie of the Mounted (1928) starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. 

As many of you know when Fleischer Studios was shut down, it was succeeded by Famous Studios who not only created new series, but continued the series started by the former studio. Many cartoon fans feel that these series went downhill after this, but the falling of quality was hardly something immediate. I especially am a fan of the early Famous Studios Popeye films. These cartoons may be different from the Fleischer output but they are fast paced, energetic and a lot of fun. There were also a wide variety of storylines used during this time that were not the simple one of Popeye and Bluto fighting over Olive. One great example of how good these films are is Me Musical Nephews (1942). The following is a review from The Film Daily, "One of the best Popeye shorts to hit the screen in years. Popeye's young nephews keep their uncle awake by practicing on their musical instruments and the grief they cause him is the central theme for some hilarious fun. This one deserves prominent billing."

  Next we join The Pink Panther in Sink Pink (1965). Around this time the filmmakers were experimenting with how much dialogue they should use in the Pink Panther cartoons. Most of this experimenting was with talking supporting characters or narrators the Panther interacted with. However there were two cartoons in which the Panther actually spoke himself. This was the first of the two and the Panther only speaks one line. In the second of these cartoons (Pink Ice (1965)) the panther has a more substantial use of dialogue. The experiment of using spoken words in Pink Panther cartoons was one that was quickly abandoned but these films still stand as very interesting and entertaining experiments.  

Today's cartoon selection ends with a classic Disney Silly Symphony, The Pied Piper (1933). Walt Disney had made two Alice Comedies based around the classic story during the silent era (Alice the Piper (1924) and Alice Rattled by Rats (1925)). This cartoon strongly differs because while the previous films were parodies this one is an adaption. During this time the Disney studio had not quite mastered human animation the way they had later. This short film marks a giant step towards what the studio would master in their later features. This is very clear when it comes to Art Babbitt's animation of the Mayor and Ham Luske's animation of the titular character. In his must have book, Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in its Golden Age, Michael Barrier writes "More than any of the other Disney animators, Babbitt and Luske showed in their work an intense interest in how people really moved. If other Disney animators, under the influence of Don Graham's life classes, measured their animation against the real world and adjusted it to get a closer fit, Babbitt and Luske went much further: they looked long and hard at the real world before they ever started animating." Another delight for Disney fans is some songs by Leigh Harline, who also wrote the songs for such Disney features as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Pinocchio (1940). Harline's earliest work with the Disney studio was earlier the same year with the Silly Symphony, Father Noah's Ark (1933). A review in The Film Daily stated "Incredible as it may seem, these Walt Disney Silly Symphonies keep getting better every time." The following is an exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald, "PIED PIPER: Silly Symphony—Another excellent colored cartoon. Good enough for anybody's program any time.—Charles Niles, Niles Theatre, Anamosa, Iowa. General patronage."

Thanks for joining me come back next week for more animated treasures. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry. 

Selected Resourses Used

Silly Symphonies: A Companion to the Classic Cartoon Series by Russell Merritt and J.B. Kaufman

Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in it's Golden Age by Michael Barrier

Of Mice and Magic: A History of the American Animated Cartoon by Leonard Maltin

Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies: A Complete Illustrated Guide to the Warner Brothers Cartoons by Jerry Beck and Will Friedwald 


Friday, March 19, 2021

Movie Review: The Marksman


Note: I saw this film in a theater and it is so good to be back. 

Michael's Movie Grade: B-

A typically enjoyable, if overly familiar Liam Neeson vehicle. 

Despite this movie dealing with illegal immigration and border patrol, any political or social commentary takes a backseat to a typical Liam Neeson storyline. This movie takes every step you can except from a Liam Neilson action movie without missing a beat. This means that if you are familiar with these movies you know most of the plot before it happens. This also means that if you like these movies you will enjoy this one and if you don't like these movies you won't. Luckily for me I always find myself enjoying these films. Liam Neeson has of course completely mastered playing the kind of character he does here and few can do it as well as he does. As always his performance lends a sense of humanity and emotion to this movie, while still completely deliver the tough action scenes we all want. The action scenes themselves are typically great and it is hard to think that any fans of these movies could absolutely love the ones here. Director Robert Lorenz knows just how to make these scenes as exciting as possible. They are over the top enough to be fun yet never too over the top to distract from the story or become comical. While we may not thinking of movies like this being feats of filmmaking, there is no doubt that it requires a lot of skill and know-how to walk this tightrope and not fall off. The relationship between Neeson's character and the young boy he helps (Jacob Perez) is surprisingly sweet and well handled. While it like the rest of the movie is told through cliché plot points, there is a real heart behind this part of the story and it makes the audience gain an emotional connection that lasts through even the most cliché of moments. 

Simply put if you like this movies, you will like this one and if you don't then this isn't going to change your mind.  

Movie Review: Raya and the Last Dragon

Note: I saw this film in a theater and it is so great to be back. 

Michael's Movie Grade: B

This may not be top tier Disney, but judged on its own merits it is pretty darn good. 

I must get the most obvious thing to say out of the way first. This film looks fantastic. This is something that both people who like and dislike this movie would agree with. How could you not? The backgrounds are incredibly detailed and there is not a single moment in this film in which 
is not simply breathtaking. Yet through the magic of Disney filmmaking the backgrounds do this without ever taking attention away from the film's focus, the characters in the foreground. This is something I never actively think about when watching an animated Disney movie but one I am always impressed by it when I think about it after leaving the theater. It shows the pure mastery of visual filmmaking that the animation studio has without ever showing off  or calling attention to itself. Having mentioned what happens in the foreground, this film has great action scenes that are incredibly exciting and a heck of a lot of fun to watch. These may in fact stand among Disney animation's finest action scenes. This movie makes you feel like you entered another world. While the art is a major reason for this, helping also is this film's use of mythology. The filmmakers create a world for the characters to live in which magical things are not only possible but accepted as fact and in the best fantasy tradition, this world feels real to us over the course of this movie. It is a place we can imagine ourselves going to and living in. 

The characters themselves are definitely likable and relatable, even if they can be a bit underdeveloped. Because of this we connect and relate to them well enough to care about them and what happens to them throughout the film. At the same time they do not feel as real to us as some of Disney's best characters do.

Now for the faults of the film. The most troubling fault is in the dialogue. Often times the dialogue directly and plainly states what we have already seen or what we can easily infer. This can get a little repetitive and annoying. However this is not the major problem with the dialogue. This movie has a message about people coming together and seeing the good in one another. This is a good message but that doesn't mean the dialogue has to beat us over the head with it. The amount of times we are told the same basic message over and over again is simply way too many and the dialogue itself is too directly on the nose. This movie is also hampered by the fact that while it is very enjoyable it is also very familiar. It never truly finds its own separate identity for similar Disney films. Because of this it stands as a good movie, but also as just one of many of Disney's good movies.

This movie is accompained by a delightful animated short film, Us Again. This film is wordless and yet perfectly conveys a beautiful message and heartfelt real human emotion. This is Disney doing what Disney does best.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Not So Quiet Man

 Just in time for St. Patrick's day here is a couple pages from a 1952 issue of Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin about John Ford's classic, The Quiet Man (1952). If you are having any trouble reading the following pages, click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in. If that still doesn't work for you, you can click here.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Video: Charley Chase - The Heckler (1940)

Cowboy Church #110

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

Today's musical selection begins with Red Foley's 1949 recording of Jesus Loves Me. Most of us who grew up in church grew up singing this song as children and hearing it again brings us back to the surprising simplicity of the gospel message (something we have too often tried to complicate). This hymn first appeared as a poem in Anna Bartlett Warner's 1860 novel, Say and Seal. The music as well as some additional lyrics were added by Dr. William Batchelder Bradbury in 1862. The Carter Family wasn't the only country group of the 1930's and 40's with the last name Carter. There was also The Chuck Wagon Gang which in their original incarnation consisted of D.P. Carter, his Son, Jim (Ernest) Carter and his daughters, Rose (Lola) Carter Karnes and Anna (Effie) Carter Gordon Davis. The group recorded mostly old gospel songs. Incredibly the group is still around today (though with completely new members). In this post we will hear their 1941 recording of Jesus Hold My Hand. This is another hymn that while upbeat came out of tragedy. Thomas A. Dorsey had not be married long when his wife was about to give birth. Dorsey was needed in St. Louis and though he regretted going and not being with his wife he reluctantly went. In St. Louis he received a telegram that his wife had died. She did give birth to a baby boy, who died not much later. Dorsey was understandably heartbroken and he turned away from God. One day a friend invited him to a music school. Dorsey found himself sitting at a piano with everything dead quiet. All the sudden this song came out. The song was first published in 1933 and connected with others who were going through similar grief. Now we join Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing The Lord is Counting on You. This song is written by another legend of cowboy gospel music Stuart Hamblen. Hamblen had also been an actor and appeared in the Roy Rogers movie, The Arizona Kid (1939). Now we join Trace Adkins singing Muddy Water. This great song comes from his 2008 album X. Next comes Johnny Cash singing Let the Lower Lights Be Burning. In the notes for the box set Unearthed, John wrote, "This is a very special song for me, and I'll tell you what it means to me now. When my father was dying, he was in a coma, and all my brothers and sisters and I were gathered around the bed, and we felt like telling him goodbye. But my oldest sister Louise said, 'Let's sing to him.' So we started singing 'Let the Lower Lights be Burning.' At some point I looked at him and, though he had been sound asleep in a coma for days, his lips started moving and he started singing that song along with us. The more we would sing it the more he sang. And he opened his eyes and he looked around at us as we were singing. Ad of course everybody had a good cry as watched him and listened to him as he sang 'Let the Lower Lights be Burning' with us." This version comes from John's 1962 album, Hymns From the Heart. Now it is time for the singing cowboy, Gene Autry with Let's Go to Church (Next Sunday Morning). This lovely version comes from an episode of Gene Autry's Melody Ranch Radio Show dated 4/1/1950 and also features The Cass County Boys, The Pinafores, Johnny Bond and Carl Cotner's Orchestra. As we end our musical selection for the day The Sons of the Pioneers tell us to Read the Bible Everyday in a classic 1948 recording. This song was written by one of the group's original members, Tim Spencer. 

                                                                Film Daily, 1946

Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. ~ Matthew 21:21

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. ~ Proverbs 3:5-6

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. ~ Ephesians 4:29

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. ~ Hebrews 10:24-25

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. ~ Jeremiah 29:11

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. ~ James 1:5

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. ~ 1 John 4:1

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. ~ 2 Peter 1:20-21

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. ~ Romans 12:12

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

The hope of the righteous will be gladness, but the expectation of the wicked will perish. Proverbs 10:28

He who heeds the word wisely will find good, and whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he. Proverbs 16:20

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


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #114

 Hello my friends and happy Saturday morning. Welcome back for another round of classic cartoons. 

Today's selection begins with Sylvester and Tweety in Tweet Dreams (1959). This cartoon is what is often referred to as a cheater. This means that it uses clips from earlier cartoons. The cartoons which have clips used here include Sandy Claws (1954), Tweety's Circus (1955), A Street Cat Named Sylvester (1953), Gift Wrapped (1952) and Too Hop to Handle (1956). Another cheater cartoon, Freudy Cat (1964) uses a similar premise where Sylvester visits a psychist. I have always loved the ending joke of this film. 

Next comes Disney's last Silly Symphony short, The Ugly Duckling (1939). The studio had already made this Hans Christian Anderson story into a Silly Symphony in 1931. However this version is more dramatic while the early version was more comedic. This wide different take on the source material fully justifies, the series returning to this story. Looking at this film, there is no doubt that the Silly Symphonies went out on a high note. The animation is fantastic even by Disney standards (animators include Eric Larson, Stan Quackenbush, Riley Thompson, Archie Robin, Milt Kahl and Paul Satterfeild). Comparing this to the earliest Symphonies shows how far Disney had come in the art of character animation. It is no wonder this won the "Best Cartoon" Oscar of 1939. Though originally playing in movie theatres this cartoon made a very early appearance on TV, when it played on an early variety show (May 1, 1940) celebrating the first anniversary of TV's first commercial appearance in New York. A review in Photoplay stated, "You'll choke with laughter and tears at the same time; gasp at the lovely color and settings. The Hans Christian Anderson story is followed closely except Disney improves on Anderson's very funny implication that the swan's egg in the duck's nest might lead Papa Duck to suspect his mate." A review in The Film Daily states. " Though the story only concerns the feathered folk this short is fused with real feels and pathos." 

                                                         Motion Picture Daily, 1940

Next comes a classic Fleischer Popeye cartoon, I Never Changes My Altitude (1937). When movie magazines listed this cartoon they changed the name to the grammatically correct, "I Never Change My Altitude." The following is an exhibitor's review from the Motion Picture Herald, "I Never Change My Altitude: Popeye the Sailor - These Popeye cartoons are very good for the kids. This one did not go over with the adults. Running time , eight minutes, A.J. Inks, Crystal Theatre, Ligonier, Ind. Small Town Patronage." Another exhibitor's review for the Motion Picture Harald, disagreed with this stating, " I NEVER CHANGE MY ALTITUDE: Popeye the Sailor—A good Popeye. Adults will enjoy this as much as the kids. Running time, seven minutes.— A. E. Eliasen, Rialto Theatre, Paynesville, Minn. Rural and small town patronage." 

Up next is a classic Daffy and Porky teaming, The Ducksters (1950). This cartoon features Daffy hosting a very sadistic radio game show with Porky as the contestant. Daffy is as much of a clear cut villain here as he would be in the later cartoons when he is up against Speedy Gonzales. However he is so energetic and fun to watch here that even those who hate his later more villainess roles will have fun watching this cartoon. This film would be reissued to theatres on June 18, 1961. 

Next comes Cubby Bear in Croon Crazy (1933). The following is an exhibitor's review from Motion Picture Herald, "Croon Crazy: Cubby the Bear - Seldom is there a short nowadays that doesn't ring in the 'Come up and see me sometime' stuff. You wonder whether new expressions are not all washed up. Why not start something new. - Mrs. N. Monte Gill, Strand Theatre, Montpelier, Vt. General Patronage." 

Up next is a Color Rhapsody cartoon from Columbia, The Herring Murder Mystery (1943). This is the only theatrical short directed by Dun Roman, who worked as a writer on other Columbia cartoons and would later work on Jay Ward's television cartoons. A reviewer for The Exhibitor wrote, "Technicolor, drawing and animation are all good but it isn't particularly funny." 


Motion Picture Herald, 1934

Today's cartoon selection ends with an oddball Disney short, Football Now and Then (1953). This cartoon was directed by Jack Kinney and it features much of the same mixture of clever satire and great cartoon slapstick as his Goofy shorts. Yet this film is much stranger than any of his Goofy cartoons. Though even a lot of major Disney fans are not familiar with this, those who know this cartoon all seem to have a fondness for it. So I hope you enjoy one of the silliest cartoons to come out of the Disney studio. 


Thanks for joining me come back next week for another round of animated classics. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry. 


Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Movie Review: The Sword and the Scoob


Note: This is a direct to video film.

Michael's Movie Grade: B

While not the best Scooby-Doo! movie, this definitely a good one. 

    After some really disappointing recent Scooby movies lately (Return to Zombie Island, Curse of the 13th Ghost), it is good to see the franchise get back on track with a movie that while 
nothing fantastic is thoroughly entertaining. The mystery here is a darn good one. It is solvable if you pay attention and try to figure out all the clues. Yet at the same it is never too obviously spelled out. A medieval setting proves prefect for the Scooby gang. Atmosphere has always been one of the most important parts of any Scooby outing and this movie definitely provides on this front. This is something that is especially true as we reach the climax in this movie (which takes place in an effectively creepy castle).  Morgan Le Fay proves to be an excellent villain. Like most of the best villains from this franchise she is quite creepy and threatening but never too scary to take away from the lighthearted fun. For fans of not just Scooby but all things pop culture, this film serves as a treasure trove of delightful references. From a Twilight Zone inspired opening to various references to Thundarr the Barbarian to a character named Mr. HB, this film will delight pop culture fans of all ages. 

The largest problem with this movie is that it feels like it has to have constant jokes. While there are some quite funny jokes here, there are also quite a few that miss. If the film simply let itself have more of a breath between jokes then one feels that the comedy could have worked better. Sadly once again this film also seems to have characters become dumber for the sake of a joke and then bring them back to normal afterwards (this seems to be a fault with many recent Scooby-Doo! movies). 

This may not be the original Zombie Island but it is certainly a vast improvement over Return to Zombie Island. While I doubt this will be many people's favorite Scooby movie, but I also feel that most Scooby fans will have a lot of fun watching this. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Looney Tunes Compilation Movies


Are the Looney Tunes compilation movies flawed? Yes. Do I absolutely love them? Heck yes.

For those of you unaware well after the golden age of Looney Tunes, Warner Brothers made 5 feature length movies combining the classic cartoon shorts and new animation. These movies are The Bugs Bunny/ Road Runner Movie (1979), The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981), Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982), Daffy Duck's Movie: Fantastic Island (1983) and Daffy Duck's Quackbusters (1988) (I am not including Bugs Bunny Superstar (1975), because the film is a documentary with no new animation). The first of these was directed by Looney Tunes legend Chuck Jones. The next three were directed by another classic Looney Tunes director, Friz Freleng. The last was the only directed by people who did not work on the classic Looney Tunes shorts, Greg Ford and Terry Lennon. 

As a kid these movies were just as much of a part of my Looney Tunes diet as any of the classic shorts were. Kids have the ability to watch the same movies over and over and never grow tired of them and that is just what I did with these movies. As such these features have become and remain just as much of a part of my Looney Tunes vocabulary as any of the classic shorts. Since I got into these movies as a kid, they actually served as my introduction to some shorts that weren't on TV as often (Mexican Borders (1962), The Pied Piper of Guadalupe (1961), The Unmentionables (1963), Curtain Razor (1949), Catty Cornered (1953))  still whenever I watch those shorts I think of these features. Childhood is probably the best time to be introduced to these movies (though they are aimed just as much at all audiences as the old shorts). When you are a kid you are not a film critic but rather someone simply looking to be entertained. The faults of these movies may be obvious but none of them stop the films from being incredibly entertaining. The classic cartoons are just as funny as ever when watched as part of a feature length movie and while the new scenes do not reach the heights of the classic cartoons they are still entertaining in their own way. The largest faults come from the connection of the old and the new. The animation is obviously better in the old and Mel Blanc's voice has aged. This can make it all too obvious what is old and what is new and therefore disrupt the flow of the movie. There are also times when the inclusion of certain cartoon shorts can feel forced into a movie's story. However while these faults may be very noticeable to the film critic in me, they make little difference to the movie fan in me. Every time I watch these movies I find me enjoying myself too much to care about these faults. That is why they remain common choices for watching movies at home for me (I hope that one day I can see these on the big screen).

These movies may not be for purists and I fully understand anyone who doesn't like them. However I admit that I not only like them but love them.   


Sunday, March 7, 2021

Cowboy Church #109

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

Today's musical selection begins with Cowboy Copas' 1956 recording of Don't Shake Hands With the Devil, a song that he co-wrote. Next up comes Tennessee Ernie Ford with Just As I Am. This hymn was written by Charlotte Elliott. She had been a writer of funny poems, but at 32 she became seriously ill in a way that would affect her for the rest of her life. This lead her to become angry and depressed. However minister and hymnist César Malan convinced her to replace this anger and pain with the peace of God. This lead her to become a hymnist herself. Years later her brother, Rev. H. V. Elliott had conceived of a plan for a school in Brighton for the daughters of clergymen, St. Mary’s Hall. A bazaar was to be held to raise money. As everyone worked to make this a success, Charlotte was deemed unfit to help with all that needed to be done. She instantly feel into depression and spiritual conflict. Yet she was able to take comfort in what the Lord had done for her and wrote this song inspired by her situation. The hymn was written in 1834 and first published in 1835. It gained greater popularity when it appeared in the1841 edition of The Invalid’s Hymn Book. The song later became associated with evangelist, Billy Graham and was the name of his autobiography.  This recording of the song comes from Tennessee Ernie Ford's 1958 gospel album, Nearer the Cross. Next comes The Sons of the Pioneers with God Speaks. This song was written by Rubylin Pittman and Jean Bond. This recording comes from the group's 1963 gospel album, Hymns of the Cowboy. It reminds us how we can be sure of God's mightiness and love by looking around at his creation and that there is never a moment where God's presence is not with us giving us hope joy and comfort. This is followed by Waylon Jennings singing Precious Memories. Though this is a sweet uplifting song, it was based upon a tragedy. In 1922, John Wright lost his five year old son. Wright would later say about this song, “’Precious Memories’ was born in the midnight hours as I bathed by pillow with tears, likewise all my songs came through life’s severest tests.” Though this is a very famous hymn, John Wright only received $36 for writing it. He would remain a janitor that was always struggling to make ends meet for his entire life. This version comes from Waylon's 1976 album, Are You Ready For the Country. While gospel music only made up a relatively small part of Waylon's output, there is no denying that his versions of these songs are incredible. His powerful yet soulful voice was perfectly suited for gospel music and I find myself feeling completely moved whenever I listen to him singing a gospel song. With that said this may be my favorite version of the classic hymn. Next comes Gene Autry singing Bless This House. This song was written in 1927 by Helen Taylor and  May Brahe. Gene's recording comes from an episode of his Melody Ranch radio show dated 11/21/1948. We continue with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans singing May the Good Lord Take a Likin' to Ya in a scene from the movie, Trigger Jr. (1950). Next is The Carter Family's 1934 recording of I'm Working on a Building. Today's musical selection ends with The Purple Hulls with Higher Ground. This comes from their 2012 album, Close to Home

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1

For nothing will be impossible with God. Luke 1:37

For we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! Psalm 40:4

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Isaiah 26:3

Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments Deuteronomy 7:9

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Luke 16:10

A faithful man will abound with blessings, But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished. Proverbs 28:20

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. Psalm 30:4

So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. 1 Peter 4:19

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Many claim to have unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find? Proverbs 20:6

I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who will do according to what is in my heart and mind. I will firmly establish his priestly house, and they will minister before my anointed one always. 1 Samuel 2:35 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

Thanks for joining me. Come back next week for another service of Cowboy Church. Happy Trails to you until we meet again.