Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Movie Review: The Lost City


Michael's Movie Grade: B

A highly entertaining action-comedy. 

What makes this movie work is that it never takes itself seriously. There are times when we want to see something that will challenge us and there are also times when we want to see something that is simply silly fun. This film is just that and it delivers quite well. The humor comes fast and furious in this movie and most of it works. Having just seen this in a movie theater, I can tell you this film is an audience pleaser but the amount of laughter I heard throughout. What is also refreshing is the source of much of this humor. It is easy for a film like this to become too meta for its own good. This can be done to the point where it takes you out of the movie. Luckily that is not the case here. While this movie clearly makes fun of adventure films, the majority of the humor comes not from observations about these types of movies, but by putting these characters that seemingly wouldn't belong in an adventure movie in one. Because of this most of the humor comes from a completely natural and unforced place, while still being completely silly. This also makes it so that during the times the humor misses (which is less often than when it works), it doesn't hurt the movie too much. Speaking of the characters I really enjoyed these characters. One of the most important things about adventure movies (even one that is first and foremost a comedy), is you want to go on an adventure with characters you enjoy spending time with. While these characters fall into many of the clich├ęs for this type of comedy, they do so in a way that, they still are quite likable and easy to root for. Much of this is due to the pure chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum. These two work off each other perfectly and it is simply a joy to watch them share the screen.

It is no secret that this movie is far from original. We have all seen this story before and in this regard, this brings nothing new to the table. While this is not that big of a problem for a film this fun, it does make it so we always know what is going to happen next. 

Simply a really fun time at the movies. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Movie Review: Infinite Storm


Michael's Movie Grade: B

A well-made survival drama. 

The basic storyline of this film is very simple and kind of familiar, but it is done so well this doesn't matter. Being a movie about a mountain rescue naturally the look is very important. Luckily the film is fantastic in this regard. This is a beautiful looking movie that perfectly captures both the beauty and the danger of where the film takes place. Much of the movie is truly breathtaking to look at. As such, during the mountain scenes (which make up the majority of the film), your eyes are glued to the screen. The characters themselves are quite likable. The majority of the film is spent with just two characters but luckily these two characters are easy to connect to. partly because of what they have been through and partly because of who they are, it is hard not to feel for these characters. These two characters, who at first seem to have little in common, have excellent chemistry together and it is a joy to watch them share the screen. It of course doesn't hurt that Naomi Watts and Billy Howle both give great performances. The story while nothing original is well told. The ending (while I could see it coming from a mile away) is actually quite moving. 

On the downside this film has some dialogue that feels forced (especially the conversation or heroine has, before going to the mountain) and this can take you out of the movie. Also, though this movie doesn't have that much comedy, whenever it tries to be funny, this falls completely flat. 

While not original this is still a quite effective and even touching survival movie. 

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Cowboy Church #165

 Hello my friends and welcome to another service of Cowboy Church. 

Today's music selection begins with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1948 recording of Lead Me Gently Home. This hymn was written by Will L. Thompson in 1879. Thompson had trouble selling his songs early in his career. After being turned down by a music publisher, he would start his own publishing business, which would become one of the most successful American publishing businesses in the 1880's. Some of the other songs he wrote during his career include Softly and Tenderly, There's a Great World Coming and Jesus is all the World to Me. This is followed by Dottie West with How Great Thou Art. This classic hymn was originally based on a poem by Swedish Pastor Carl Gustav Boberg. He wrote this poem after walking home one day and a sudden storm came. When the storm stopped he saw the clear bay in front of him and heard a church bell in the distance. This inspired him to write the poem. He first published it in 1886. When he published it again in Witness of the Truth (A Newspaper he edited in 1891, it included both words and music. The English language version we all know was translated by missionary Stuart K. Hine. This version of the Hymn comes from Dottie's 1967 gospel album, Dottie West Sings Sacred Ballads. Next is The Sons of the San Joaquin with How Big is God. This song was written by Stuart Hamblen, one of the greats of cowboy gospel music. Hamblen was one of radio's great singing cowboys starting in the 1920's and as well as his career on radio he would even appear in a few western movies. However, at this time he was living anything but a Christian life. He drank, got into fights and often found himself in jail. In 1949 he would give his life to Christ at a Billy Graham Crusade. This would lead to a complete change within him, and he would give up drinking and live for Christ. His career would change as well, he would start writing gospel songs (including This Ole House and It is No Secret (What God Can Do)) and he would start a Christian radio show called, The Cowboy Church of the Air. This version of Hamblen's song comes from The Sons of the San Joaquin's 2017 album, One More Ride. Then comes The Carter Family's 1936 recording of No Depression In Heaven. Afterwards is Johnny Cash with Jesus in My Soul. This lively song comes from John's 1979 album, A Believer Sings the Truth. This was a double length gospel album and Columbia Records felt that such an album from John could never be successful. However Columbia allowed John to release the album on its own and it was successful earning a spot in the Country Top 50. A shorter version of the album called I Believe would be released in 1984, which would feature a select few songs from the double album, including this one. Strangely A Believer Sings the Truth would not find its way to CD until 2012. Next is Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with Have You Read the Bible Today. This is the B-side of a Little Golden Record from 1955 (the A-side was The Bible Tells Me So). Here Roy and Dale are backed by The Ranch Hands and Mitch Miller and his orchestra. Today's musical selection ends with The Statler Brothers singing Standing on the Promises of God. This hymn was written by Russell Carter in 1886. Working as a sheep herder he developed a heart condition. This led him to pray much more often, and he began to get closer to God every day. When he was healed, he vowed to "stand on the promises of God" and wrote this song. 

Next is the silent short film, Broncho Billy and the Western Girls (1913).

Now for a few words from Billy Graham.

For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:24-25

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15

For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

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

If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. Isaiah 58:10-11

For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:7

And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:27

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:11

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

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

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #167

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

Today's cartoon selection begins with the classic Goofy film, Two Weeks Vacation (1952). As I mentioned before on this blog, director Jack Kinney's Goofy short films are some of my all time favorite cartoons. Kinney was simply a great comic mind and Goofy was simply a perfect character for him. Though Kinney's humor appears in its purest form in short films, he did work on some of Disney's animated feature films. He was a sequence director on such features as Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), Saldos Amigos (1942), The Three Caballeros (1944), Melody Time (1948) and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949). 

Hop and Go (1943) is a fantastic late black and white Looney Tunes cartoons. This film was towards the very end of Looney Tunes appearing in black and white. The first color Looney Tune had been released the year before with The Hep Cat (1942) and the last black and white Looney Tune, Puss n' Booty (1943) would be released later the same year. This short film was directed by Norm McCabe. Though McCabe's Looney Tunes shorts have not been a staple of TV, due to being in black and white and having many direct references to World War 2 (when these films were made), many cartoon fans (including myself) have a real fondness for his Looney Tunes, which have a fun and unique style all their own. His work in the world of Looney Tunes hardly ended with the theatrical shorts though. He was the timing director on the Looney Tunes TV shows, Tiny Toons Adventures, Taz-Mania and Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries. He was also an animator on the feature length movie Daffy Duck's Quackbusters (1988). If the voice of Claude sounds familiar in the cartoon you are about to watch that is because it is provided by Pinto Colvig, who was also the voice of Goofy. 

Up next is the Terry Toon cartoon, Club Life in the Stone Age (1940). The following are a couple of exhibitor's reviews from The Motion Picture Herald, "CLUB LIFE IN THE STONE AGE: Terry-Toons— A very good black and white cartoon. Was afraid of this after the colored cartoons but it went over very well. - Gladys E. McArdle, Owl Theatre, Lebanon, Kansas. Small Town Patronage." "CLUB LIFE IN THE STONE AGE: Terry-Toons— Just an ordinary cartoon. Running time, 7 Minutes. E.M. Freiburger, Paramount Theatre, Dewey, Okla. Small Town Patronage."

Boxoffice, 1937

Now we join Pink Panther in The Pink Pro (1976).

Now it is time for a commercial break. 

Up next is the Roland and Rattfink cartoon, A Taste of Money (1970). This short film is the only cartoon in the series to not feature Roland. Instead, this is fully a Rattfink cartoon. This film is also a remake of the Yosemite Sam cartoon, Honey's Money (1962), which in turn is a remake of the Daffy Duck film His Bitter Half (1950). 

Up next is one of Disney's early Silly Symphonies, Monkey Melodies (1930). Like many of the Silly Symphonies of this era, this film has a very loose storyline that is simply meant to establish a mood and be a framework for a succession of gags. Also like most of the Silly Symphonies of this time the film includes an all star cast of animators. David Hand, who would later be the supervising director for the Disney features Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Bambi (1942), animated the opening scene, the alligators surfacing and the underwater chase with the alligators. Jack King, who would go on to direct some great Donald Duck cartoons, animated the ape in the vines, the monkey couple kissing on the log and the closing scene. Norm Ferguson, whose animation would help define the character of Pluto, animates the two monkeys scratching and the alligator dance. Dick Lundy, who would become a great Woody Woodpecker director, animates the Aba Daba Honeymoon (the song with nonsense lyrics) musical number. Ben Sharpsteen, who would be the supervising director on the Disney features Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940) and Dumbo (1941), animates the parrotts as well as the alligator triping the monkeys off the log. LEs Clark, one of the foremost Mickey Mouse animators and one of Walt's Nine Old Men, animates the Monkey's swinging on each other's tails and the introduction of the film's hero. Wilfred Jackson, who would be the co-director of such Disney features as Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951) and Peter Pan (1953), animates the boy monkey giving the girl flowers and the romantic dance. Tom Palmer, who would direct cartoons for both Warner Brothers and Van Bueren animated the boy offering the girl a banana and the monkeys meeting the hippo. Johnny Cannon, who animated on many Disney shorts of the 1930's, animates the boy monkey chasing the girl monkey through the vines. 

Let us close by singing one we all know. 

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

Resources Used

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


Friday, March 25, 2022

Charlie Chaplin and Pratfalls

 The following is an article from a 1917 issue of Motion Picture Magazine. If you have any trouble reading it, click on the pages and use your touch screen to zoom in. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Movie Review: Compartment No. 6 (Hytti nro 6)


Michael's Movie Grade: A-

A top-notch romance film. 

This movie's storyline is one that is nothing groundbreaking for a romance movie. The basic premise is that a woman is making a long train journey alone, where she has to share her compartment with a man who she at first dislikes. However, as the film goes on they develop a close friendship. While we may have seen similar stories quite often, what this movie does with this premise is truly great. One of the main ways this is done is the journey itself. You feel like you are actually going on a journey with these characters. The film gives a great sense of atmosphere to each place we visit. Not only do each of these places look beautiful, but there is a certain personality to each place that makes them as much of characters as our protagonists. Meanwhile we are filled with great little side trips that are truly charming. This movie's true beauty lies in the smaller moments. After the film is over these are the parts that will stay with us. Scenes like our heroine being at a party where she so obviously doesn't belong, our two main characters meeting an old lady friend of the guy's or a Finnish man briefly staying in our main characters' compartment are so irresistibly charming and have a strange unexplainable beauty to them. Little moments like these of course add to the feeling that we are going on a journey with these characters. The relationship between our two main characters is fantastic. This is not one of those pictures where it seems like the two characters who hate each other, simply end up liking each other because the plot says so. Instead, the change in their relationship feels perfectly natural and believable. Also whether they are hating each other or developing a beautiful friendship, these two are a joy to watch share the screen. The chemistry between these characters and the actors who play them (Yuriy Borisov,   Seidi Haarla) have excellent chemistry. This film also benefits from an excellent sense of humor and the last joke absolutely cracked me up.

A must see. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Ham and Bud: Jacks of all Trades

 The following is an article from a 1917 issue of Motion Picture Magazine. If you have any trouble reading click on the pages and use your touch screen to zoom in. 

Monday, March 21, 2022

Movie Review: The Outfit


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

An excellent thriller.

There is no doubt that director and co-writer Graham Moore (for whom this is his first time directing a feature film) enjoyed making this movie. It is easy to sense here that feeling of pure passion for making movies. Despite the often darkness of the subject matter and much of what happens, there is a certain playfulness here. This is especially evident in various of the great montages that are seen in this picture and the film's desire to keep its audience constantly guessing. This is truly a movie that will keep one guessing what is going to happen next every step of the way. While not every one of these plot twists work, the majority of them are excellent. You are often left wondering just who these characters really are and what exactly they are not telling us (or any of the other characters for that matter). This movie also is filled with that great dialogue that used to be common in movies but is becoming much rarer today. It is delightful to see a modern movie that is filled with such great dialogue and can easily hold our interest during scenes where it is simply just people talking. This is not to say that this film is not visually effective as well. Though this film is mostly located in one place, that place is filmed and lit in such a way that there is a wonderful, dark and foreboding atmosphere that I simply loved. Because of this unlike similar films this always feels like a movie rather than a filmed stage play. Of course, for a movie like this, one of the most important elements is the cast. Luckily the cast is fantastic here. While the whole cast is great, Mark Rylance and Zoey Deutch are especially fantastic and bring a real magnetism to this film.   

This movie does have some big faults though. While I won't give much away the final scene and the plot twist therein, feel too over the top and at odds with the rest of the film. This movie also does not need the heavy-handed narration from our main character. Still with how fantastic the rest of the movie is these faults are easy to forgive.

Video Link: The Forgotten Sound Films of Buster Keaton - Hats Off Entertainment

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Cowboy Church #164

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

Today's musical selection begins with The Sons of the Pioneers singing How Will I Know Him (When He Walks By). This song was written by Bob Nolan, one of the group's founding members and one of my favorite songwriters. This song comes from the band's 1963 gospel album, Hymns of the Cowboy. This is followed by The Statesmen Quartet with Faith Unlocks the Door. Singing lead at the start of this song is Jake Heiss, who was one of Elvis Presley's heroes. Elvis always gave credit to Jake Heiss for inspiring the way he sang ballads and gospel songs and anyone who is even slightly familiar with Elvis will be able to see where this influence lies. Next is Glen Campbell with What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Despite being Joseph Medlicott Scriven's most famous composition, when he made a collection of his writings entitled  Hymns and Other Verses it did not appear. It has been assumed that the reason for this is that he probably wrote it for his mother when she was sick and not for the public. It is believed that it is through his mother that the hymn reached the public. This is followed by The Grascals with Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.  This hymn began with a man named Anthony Showalter. As a fan of gospel music and an elder in a Presbyterian church, he held many "singing schools" at various churches in the south. One day he received two letters from former students who were struggling after their wives had passed. To respond to these letters, Showalter consulted scripture. He came across Deuteronomy 33:27, "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms." After reading this verse lyrics for a song chorus went through his head and he wrote down, "“Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.” After using this in the letters to his former students he sent this chorus to his friend hymnist, Elisha Hoffman. In the letter he also wrote, “Here is the chorus for a good hymn from Deuteronomy 33:27, but I can’t come up with the verses.” Hoffman then wrote the rest of the lyrics to which Showalter put to music. The hymn was published in 1887. Next is Johnny Cash singing Welcome Back Jesus. No matter how long we walk in the Lord, we are still living in this body of flesh. Because of this we have still have the temptation to sin and will even sometimes fall into these sins. The Bible states that with the help of God we can overcome any temptation and this should give us a lot of hope to know we have the strength of our father in heaven on our side. Yet this does not mean our battles against temptation will always be easy. Satan is crafty and knows how to hit us where we are the weakest. So if we have a failure, it is important to realize that Jesus still loves us and that we are still a work in progress. When these failures make us feel like we are incapable of receiving God's salvation, we must realize that these thoughts are nothing but lies and God is always willing to help us overcome any failure and we are still his beloved children. Afterwards is The Carter Family with their 1930 recording of On the Rock Where Moses Stood. This is followed by The Sons of the San Joaquin with God Leads His Dear Children Along. Today's music selection ends with Roy Rogers singing The Cricut Riding Preacher. Circuit riders were real men back in the late 1700's and 1800's. They were part of the Methodist Episcopal Church and rode on horse across the early United States, preaching the gospel. Naturally this was a perfect subject for Roy to sing about as the lore was similar to that of the cowboy and Roy was a Christian. This song is set to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Old Republic with a few choruses of Leaning on the Everlasting Arms inserted in there.  

Next is one of the all-time classic short films, The Great Train Robbery (1903).

Next comes the C.S. Lewis essay, The Grand Miracle.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7 

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 1 John 3:1

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

In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Titus 2:7-8

Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments. Psalm 119:66

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Hebrews 2:8

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14

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

Movie Review: Jujutsu Kaisen 0


Michael's Movie Grade: B

A really fun prequel to the popular anime.

This film may not be anything groundbreaking, but it is very entertaining and even kind of touching. The action scenes are fantastic. They are incredibly well paced and staged. Most of all though they are really exciting and keep you perfectly on the edge of your seat. Even with how far movie effects have come, there are still simply things you can do in an animated film that would not work as well in live action. This is perfectly shown in this film's action scenes, which know just how to use the medium to their advantage. The humor in this movie is also quite good. While it may not be consistently laugh out loud funny, there are definitely some moments that made me laugh out loud. However, what really makes this film stand out is our main character. He is incredibly likable and easy to relate to. It is hard not to care for this kid and root for him. This is what holds all the action scenes together and makes the story work so well. Yet it isn't just that he is likable, it is how he interacts and relates to the other characters. He plays off each of these characters quite well and forms a bit of a different relationship with each one. For a character who starts off simply wanting to make friends, this movie does a great job at establishing each friendship he makes. While I don't want to give much away, this movie has a strong emotional center to the story. This makes this action-packed film surprisingly moving.  

On the downside the story can feel a bit rushed and not all the side characters are given the time they need to have. This can also make some plot points seem to come out of nowhere. This film also has too much dialogue that is clearly meant to simply be exposition or that clearly states what we can see or infer for ourselves. 

This movie is a lot of fun for any fan of action films or of anime. 

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Some Cartoons For Saturday Morning #166

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

Despite Taz's extreme popularity with Looney Tunes fans today, he only appeared in 5 of the original short films. My favorite of these cartoons is Ducking the Devil (1957). This movie marks the only time during the golden age of Looney Tunes that Taz was paired against Daffy Duck. In the other four films, Taz had worked against Bugs Bunny. This movie like the other Taz cartoons is directed by Robert McKimson. 

Next Little Lulu tries to break into the movies, despite her cartoons already playing in movie theaters, in Lulu on Hollywood (1944). The storyline of this cartoon however is very appropriate as Little Lulu had been a star of cartoons that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post before Hollywood called on her to be a movie star. Not everyone was impressed with her animated screen antics though as is evidenced by a review of this cartoon in The Showman's Trade Review, which stated, "This promising little cartoon character is suffering from faulty scripting. In her mischievous nature rests on her popular following, but on the screen her antics are falling short of their protentional laugh punch." Still the range of emotions in her acting, during the screen test scene always puts a smile on my face. 

Motion Picture Herald, 1943

Next comes an early Merrie Melody cartoon that I really love, You're Too Careless with Your Kisses (1932). Like many of the Merrie Melodies of this time this short film very much resembles Disney's early Silly Symphonies. However this cartoon does not come off as a pale imitation of Disney but as a fun little movie that is very charming. There are some really clever gags here (such as one involving a couch) and the villain is a lot of fun. The themes of drunkenness and infidelity remind one that these cartoons were not made only for children but all movie audiences.   

Next comes an early Disney Silly Symphonies cartoon, Playful Pan (1930). One thing that separates Disney from other cartoon studios of the time is that they would sometimes completely throw away work that the filmmakers weren't happy with to make them work better. This costs time and money, something other studios held too dear to do such a thing. Though animation began on October 24, 1930, in early November of the same year. the film's opening scenes were completely redone. This redone animation lasts from the opening to when the tree is sawed in half with lightning. Because of this, the opening scenes of this short film were the last ones animated. Speaking of animators this cartoon features an all star cast of Disney animators. The beautiful opening is animated by Tom Palmer, a great animator who was also briefly a director for Warner Brothers. The scenes involving the daisies dancing, the fire attacking the tree and the squirrels were all animated by Les Clark. Les Clark is a true Disney legend and would become one of Walt's Nine Old Men and is often recognized as one of Mickey Mouse's best animators. Future Donald Duck director Jack King animates the great scene where Pan causes the flames to follow him. The flames actually jumping into the water was animated by Norm Ferguson, another Disney legend who played a huge role in developing Pluto's personality. Wilfred Jackson (who would become one of the best Silly Symphonies directors) animated the worms dancing. Johnny Cannon, who animated on many of Disney's best films from the 1930's would animate the scenes with the birds in the fire. Dave Hand, who would be the supervising director for the Disney features, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) and Bambi (1942), animated the trees and clouds dancing. Ben Sharpsteen, who would be the supervising director for the Disney features Pinocchio (1940) and Dumbo (1941) animates the lightning and the flames leaving the trees. Frenchy De Tremaudan, another great animator who worked on a lot of Disney's best shorts at this time, animates the animals squirting water. Dick Lundy, who animated Donald's first tantrum and would become a director of some great Woody Woodpecker cartoons at Walt Lantz studio, animates the animals running and the raccoon alerting Pan. Jack Cutting, who would later direct a couple of Silly Symphonies animates the fox whose tail is on fire. 

National Board of Review Magazine, 1931

Now it is time for a commercial break. 

Now we join The Pink Panther in Tickled Pink (1968). 

Up next is one of The Van Beuren Studio's Aesop's Sound Fables cartoons, Good Old Schooldays (1930). Notice two mice in this movie who look a lot like Mickey and Minnie. In 1931, Walt Disney would sue the Van Beuren Studio for making cartoons with characters too much like Mickey and Minnie for his comfort. 

Today's cartoon selection ends with our friend Goofy in Father's Weekend (1953). By the 1950's Goofy had turned from Mickey's silly friend to an everyman, who had to endure the little problems in life that pretty much every moviegoer could relate to. Much of this change occurred under the direction of Jack Kinney. I feel that too often Jack Kinney is overlooked when the great cartoon directors are listed. However his hilarious short films for Disney, perfectly show why he deserves to be listed with other greats like Tex Avery or Chuck Jones. This movie is a perfect example of his true gift with comedic cartoons and it never fails to make me laugh. 

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

Resources Used

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

The Disney Films by Leonard Maltin


Friday, March 18, 2022

Movie Review: Cheaper By the Dozen


Note: This film is only available on Disney +

Michael's Movie Grade: F

Bottom of the barrel family film

This may be a remake of a 2003 movie that is a remake of a 1950 movie, but even if those previous films didn't exist, there would be no reason to recommend this terrible movie. When you put this movie on the TV, there are only two options. It will either become background noise while you do something else, or it will drive you into pure boredom. If you want to actually sit down and watch a movie watch pretty much anything else. Though this is technically a comedy, I did not laugh once through its entire runtime. Most of these jokes either feel completely phoned in or trying too hard to feel hip and modern. The humor is not only unfunny, but it is painfully bad. There were many times throughout the course of this movie when I let out a loud a great big groan at a joke then muttered under my breath "I hate this movie." The characters themselves are as bland and boring as possible. They have little personality outside of some stereotypical movie character traits and what is necessary to move the story along. It is impossible to care about what happens to them because you never once believe that they are real people. The storyline is a mess. Rather than feeling like a feature length movie, this storyline feels like a messy hodgepodge of various episodes of a bad TV sitcom. None of these various story points are very well integrated and none of them are very interesting on their own. This film also tries to have some social commentary. While I appreciate a family film trying to have a serious talk about racism, it is not very well handled. Instead, it feels heavy-handed and forced. When in the beginning, you learn that the dogs' names are bad puns of Obama and Biden's names, you can already see how forced the social and political commentary is going to be throughout the movie. The worst thing about this movie is that there is not one good thing I can say about it.

Avoid at all costs. 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962)


After the huge departure of Snow White and The Three Stooges (1961), The Three Stooges Meet Hercules saw The Stooges return to more typical fare. This more than their previous two features with Curly Joe DeRita resembles the team's classic short films. Looking at the credits make it clear to stooge fans what one major factor in this change was. The movie was directed by Edward Bernds, who had a long career with The Stooges. His first time directing the trio was Micro-Phonies (1945), a film considered by most Stooge fans to be a real classic. Though he started directing the Stooges in the Curly-era most of the Stooges shorts he directed were during the Shemp era. In my opinion he was my favorite director of the Stooges during that time period and his Shemp films were often my favorite Shemp shorts. This did not even mark the first time Bernds directed a feature film with the Stooges. He directed the B-Western, Gold Raiders (1951), which featured The Stooges as comedy reliefs to George O'Brien's western hero. After Hercules Bernds would direct another Stooge feature film, Three Stooges in Orbit (1962) as well as the live action wraparounds for the Stooges' TV cartoon show, The New Three Stooges (1965). However, working with the Stooges was only part of a long and varied career for Bernds. To quote Leonard Maltin, "He was never a household name, even in Hollywood, but I defy you to think of anyone else who worked with both Mary Pickford and Sam Peckinpah, wrote for Shemp Howard and Elvis Presley, and directed Hugh Hurbert and Zsa Zsa Gabor." Besides his films with the Stooges movie comedy fans might know Bernds for directing some of The Bowery Boys movies. 

Another reason this film is a return to The Stooges' roots is because of its producer and co-writer Norman Maurer (who was also Moe's son in law). Though Norman had not worked on a Stooges film before he had worked with the Stooge characters before in their comic book adventures. By the time Norman Maurer made comics with the Stooges, he was already well established in the industry having worked on Daredevil comics and Boy Comics. His good friend since childhood, Joe Kubert had made a deal with Jubilee Publications' owner, Archer St. John, to produce and edit comics for the company. Joe called Norman suggesting that he would become his partner. In the same conversation, he suggested they make comics using the Stooges. Norman began negotiating with the boys about using them as subjects for these comics and in May of 1947, a deal was made. The first Three Stooges comic book though wouldn't appear until February of 1949 with Norman as the writer, editor and illustrator of the series. At first these comics were adaptions of the boys' short films, but in time the comics would come to tell original stories. Over the course of making these comics, Norman got a real handle on who these characters were and made comics that are truly delightful for fans of their films. By the time this movie was made, Norman had become the Stooges' manager. When Columbia made a Stooge feature, Stop! Look! and Laugh! (1960) without any involvement from the actual Stooges, The Stooges tried to sue. This ended up being settled out of court, with The Stooges being given a contract to make a feature film for them with Maurer as producer. This would end up not only applying to The Three Stooges Meet Hercules but all the Stooge features to follow. During the 1970's and 80's, Norman would work as a writer for Hanna-Barbera's TV cartoons. His work during this time would also have its Stooge connections. He would be a writer on The New Scooby-Doo! Movies (1972-1973) including the episodes where The Mystery Inc. Gang would meet The Three Stooges. He also created a short-lived series for the studio called The Robonic Stooges (1978), which would feature the trio as animated superheroes. He would also write for Scooby's All Star Laff-A-Lympics (1977-1979) which featured a genie named Babu, who was voiced by former stooge, Joe Besser. 

In this film The Stooges are druggists working for a real jerk named Dimsal (George N. Neise). They become friends with their next door neighbor a shy introverted inventor Skyler (Quinn Redeker), who is working on a time machine. The boys decide to help Skyler with his invention with some not helpful advice from Dimsal who hates and bullies Skyler. By accident the boys, Skylar and Skylar's girlfriend (Vicki Trickett) end up traveling back to ancient Greece, where they accidently help put the evil Odious (who looks and acts a lot like Dismal (and is played by the same actor)) on the throne. The boys and their friends have to set history right and contend with the powerful Hercules (Samson Burke (how perfect is it that the person playing such a strong man has the first name Samson)) who is being used by Odious. 

Larry named this as his favorite of the feature films, The Stooges made and it is easy to see why. This is sa fast moving and very fun movie that is sure to put a smile on my face every time I watch it. As should be true of every Stooges, this is a movie with no pretentions about being high art and never takes itself even the slightest bit seriously. This is a movie after all that features a villain named Odious (who Curly Joe even refers to as a skunk) and manages to put some pie throwing in a story about accident Greece. And it is this light breezy feeling that makes this movie so delightful. This movie accomplishes what should seem impossible and that is to keep the energy of a Stooge short going throughout a feature length run time. This movie never runs out of energy and becomes dull nor does the slapstick become too repetitive. Now to be fair, this may not be as laugh out loud funny as The Stooges' best shorts, but none of the jokes really fall flat either and many of them really do put a smile on your face. Though The Stooges were no longer young when they made this film and their antics have been toned down as their films were more aimed at children at this time, the trio show that they are still top-notch slapstick comedians. They carry out each gag as old pros, who know this material inside and out, but have never lost their passion for it. Even though there is a love story between the supporting characters and some B movie monsters (yes, the film does show its low budget during these scenes), The Stooges remain the film's focus and with that in mind I can't help but recommend this movie to Stooge fans everywhere. While it certainly has the faults that many B movies around this time have, there is more than enough for this Stooge fan to love. 

This movie also benefits from a strong supporting cast. The boys' inventor friend was played by Quinn K. Redeker, who just beginning a long career that is going on today. Like many actors in The Stooges' feature films, he has done much of his work for TV. In the 1960's and 70's he was mostly playing one off roles in episodes of various TV shows like Bonanza (1959-1973), Mannix (1967-1975), Adam 12 (1968-1975) and The Rockford Files (1974-1980). He became a much more familiar face to TV watchers starting in 1979 with his regular roles in Days of Our Lives (1968-present) and The Young and the Restless (1973-present). He would appear in over 800 episodes of Days of Our Lives and over 100 episodes of The Young and the Restless. Vicki Trickett, who plays his love interest on the other hand had a very brief career in front to the camera. She only appeared in 4 feature films (including this one). Her other movies were Pepe (1960), Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) and The Cabinet of Caligari (1962). George N. Neise who was excellent as the villain was mostly acting in TV playing one off characters on various shows like  The Rifleman (1958-1963), Have Gun Will Travel (1957-1963), Wagon Train (1957-1965)  and Get Smart (1965-1970). He would again play a villain in The Stooges' next feature film, The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962). Long time Stooge supporting player Emil Sitka has a small part as a Shepard. He first worked with The Stooges in Curly's last short film Half Wits Holiday (1947). During the Shemp-era and the Joe Besser-era he would become a regular face in The Stooges' short films. He will be forever beloved by Stooge fans for his immortal role in the short film, Brideless Groom (1947) where he delivered the immortal line, "Hold hands you love birds." He is a rare supporting player who appeared in Stooge films with all six of The Three Stooges. The King of Rhodes is played by the immortal Hal Smith. TV comedy fans will know him from his reoccuring role as Otis the drunk in The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968). Cartoon fans will know him for doing voices in various Hanna-Barbera TV cartoons including The Flintstones (1960-1966), Scooby Doo, Where Are You! (1969-1970), The Peter Potamus Show (1964-1966) and The Huckleberry Hound Show (1958-1961). He also voiced Elmer Fudd briefly after Arthur Q. Bryan's death and did various voices for The Stooges' TV cartoon show, The New Three Stooges (1965).  Director Edward Bernds was not impressed with Samson Burke who played Samson. Bernds talked about him stating, "He was a through amateur! Scene after scene, his eyes would seek me out for direction! Eventually it got so bad that I had to hide from his view. Samson was a bit on the timid side. I would say Moe was braver doing all this physical stuff than this might mass of muscle."

This movie was shot in 13 days with everyone have weekends off from shooting. The first days of shooting were Tuesday June 6, 1961, through June 9. Shooting continued on Monday June 12 through Friday June 16. The last batch of shooting was done from Monday June 19 through Thursday June 22. This is quite a contrast to their classic shorts which were often shot in 3 or 4 days. Because of this movie's low budget, clips from other movies were used at times. These clips came from the Columbia feature films, You Can't Take It With You (1938), Slaves of Babylon (1953) and Salome (1953). Clips were even used from a couple of Stooges short films, What's the Matador (1942) and Half Shot Shooters (1936). This movie was the biggest hit of any of the Stooges features yet grossing $2 million worldwide. With this in mind it is no wonder that Columbia would sign on the Stooges to make more feature length movies for them.     

This is by far one of The Stooges' best feature films. 

Independent Exhibitors Film Bulletin, 1962

 Resources Used

The Three Stooges Scrapbook by Jeff Lenburg, Joan Howard Maurer and Greg Lenburg

Leonard Maltin's Movie Crazy by Leonard Maltin.


Movie Review: I Am Here


Michael's Movie Grade: A+

An incredibly moving documentary film.

To state the importance of a film like this is impossible. This is not only a movie this is an important piece of world history recorded and documented for all time. It makes sure we never view any of these tragedies as anything we simply read in a history book, but as something that is real and involved real people. From here we can look at our world today with the knowledge of the horrors that hatred can inflict and the danger that is present anytime prejudice enters our world.   

Ella Blumenthal is a 98-year-old woman who was a survivor of the holocaust. In this film she tells us her remarkable life story. While most of us know what the holocaust was and understand it is one of the great man-made tragedies in history, this film is not about telling us those facts, but letting us go on an emotional and painful journey from the eyes of someone who experienced it first-hand. Her stories are incredible and lead us to marvel at how anyone made it through. She herself came so close to death that we become beyond grateful this incredible woman is still with us. While we have heard many of these horrors before hearing them from a first-hand account makes them all the more heartbreaking. Even though many of us have never experienced anything like this, the powerful humanity that rings through her words will stay with us and have an effect on us long after the movie is finished. 

Yet despite the tragedy of the story, this film is also a movie about hope. While the tragedies still hurt her when she thinks about them, Ella does not let them control her. She has a wonder family and a zest for life that many younger people will be envious of. She wakes up each morning, thankful for each day and thankful for the loved ones the surround her. She has a sense of humor and a strong fun-loving side to her personality. To think that with all she has been through she still has this side to her should give hope to all of us, who have been through much less. When I left the movie theater, I thanked God for all the blessings he has given me and felt an appreciation for life. I have never met Ella, but I absolutely love this woman dearly after watching this film. As film is essentially an emotional artform, a movie that has an effect like this should strongly be treasured. 

This movie also uses a device I have seen in more documentaries lately and that I love. This is the use of animation to tell of events from the past. Whenever a documentary uses live action recreations of past events something about it feels false and it takes me out of the film. Yet there is something about animation that defies this falsehood and makes these scenes seem more real to us. 

This is an incredible film and everybody should see it.    

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Movie Review: Turning Red


Note: This film is only available on Disney +

Michael's Movie Grade: B

A good Pixar movie, even if not one of their best.  

The basic storyline is very good. Like many Pixar films it discusses mature themes in a way that perfectly blends into the fantasy-based story. These themes are discussed in a way that is intelligent and thought-provoking but never preachy. The main character is quite likable. While in some ways she is a bit of a stereotype, she is a quite likable one. Though I can't say I can relate to her (I have never gone through any of the situations she did), I can feel for her and there is certainly not a scene that I don't want to see the best for her. Her relationship with her mother is well handled. You can fully see and understand where all the friction comes from. However, the relationship at the same time does not feel cold or distant. You can see that these two really do care for each other underneath it all. This makes us understand why she wants so badly to please her mother, while still live her own life. This creates a dichotomy that would be truly difficult for anyone. With this in mind, where this movie really works is the emotional moments. These moments truly pull on your heartstrings and I would be lying if I said I wasn't moved by some of these scenes. How effective these scenes are, makes all the more sense when you realize what a personal film this was for director Domee Shi (though she has worked on previous Pixar features as a storyboard artist this is her first time directing a feature film, though she did direct the Pixar short, Bao (2018)). Much of this film was based off of her own childhood and experiences growing up. The storytelling also moves at fast pace without ever feeling rushed.

The animation as expected of Pixar is excellent. Though it looks different from other Pixar movies, it still captures the feel of the film perfectly and much of the character animation really makes the characters come to life. 

Where this movie really doesn't work is the humor. There is not one single real laugh here. Instead, every joke falls completely flat. This wouldn't be as much of a problem if the humor did not come off as so loud and obnoxious. This is another film that feels that the louder it is the funnier it is. However, this is not in any way true. Another fault is the main character's friends. These characters have little to no personality outside of what is necessary to tell the story.

Overall while this may not be on the same level as Pixar's best, it is still quite a good movie. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Errol Flynn Takes Everything in Stride

 The following is an article from a 1937 issue of Motion Picture Magazine. If you have any trouble reading these pages click on them and use your touch screen to zoom in.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Movie Review: Pada


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

An excellent political thriller from India. 

Though this film was made in India and is about Indian politics, one doesn't need to be familiar with Indian politics to appreciate this movie. That is because its themes are much too universal. This movie is about prejudice, the mistreatment of others for personal gain and how drastic times often result in drastic measures. All of these are things that are familiar to people of most any country and one that many of us pray can one day go away. This movie discusses these themes in an intelligent and non-condescending way that will leave most anyone with food for thought as they leave the movie theater. Yet this film is far from being simply didactic, it is also a well-made piece of entertainment. This is a fast moving and incredibly intense thriller. It puts one on the edge of their seat and keeps them there for almost the whole two hours and 10 minutes. There is not a wasted moment or a single second of film that is not there for an important reason. Yet at the same time this film never feels rushed but plays out naturally. Each moment of suspense is well set up and has a payoff that feels perfectly natural. 

I only have two complaints about this film. One is that the main characters feel too similar and that I felt there should be more differentiating between their personalities. The other is that there are some lines of dialogue that feel kind of forced. 

An excellent political thriller that should excite those who are aware of the injustices the film addresses as well as those who are not.   

The Great Movie Pie Fights

 Hello my friends and happy PI day. What better way to celebrate PI day than by looking at some great movie pie fights. 

When many people think of silent movie comedy, pie fights immediately come to mind. However pie fights were actually pretty rare during the silent era. Film historian Brent Walker has stated that if one is to look at the Max Sennett comedies, one can find many more bricks being thrown than pies and this is certinaly true. However there were a few (admittedly very few) pie fights in silent movie comedy and they are quite memorable, perhaps adding to this being considered a staple of silent movies. The two best examples of pie fights in silent films were Charlie Chaplin's Behind the Screen (1916) and Laurel and Hardy's Battle of the Century (1927). 

Pie fights were actually more common during the talkie era and its great practitioners were The Three Stooges.

Perhaps no cartoon director mastered comedic timing better than Friz Freleng as is evidenced by this clip from Slick Hare (1947). 

Blake Edwards' epic movie comedy, The Great Race (1965) boasted of having the biggest pie fight in the history of the movies. 

I have always loved the pie fight in Blazing Saddles (1974).

One of the reasons that Mack Sennett comedies are so associated with pie fights actually may come from a later talkie short film that starred some of the old Keystone actors, Keystone Hotel (1935).

Let us end were it all began. Mr. Flip (1909) is believed to be the first film were someone gets a pie in the face. 


Sunday, March 13, 2022

Cowboy Church #163

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

Today's musical selection begins with Dale Evans singing This Little Light of Mine. This song is often credited to Harold Dixon Loes, but there is some debate as to whether or not he wrote the song. This hymn is said to date back to the 1920's. However the first known recording of the song comes from 1934, where it was sung by a man named Jim Boyd, who at the time was imprisoned in the Huntsville, Texas State Penitentiary. In 1939 a recording was made of a woman named Doris McMurray, who was serving time in a prison in Huntsville. She stated that she learned the sing from her grandmother in Waco. Since she was an African American woman this supports the belief that this song was originally an African American spiritual. In the 1950's and 60's this song would take on a whole new meaning as it would be used for the Civil Rights movement. Civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer would state, "Singing is one of the main things that can keep us going. When you're in a brick cell, locked up, and haven't done anything to anybody but still you're locked up there and sometimes words just begin to come to you and you begin to sing. Like one of my favorite songs, 'This Little Light of Mine, I'm Going to Let it Shine.' This same song goes back to the fifth chapter of Matthew, which is the Beatitudes of the Bible, when he says a city that sets on a hill cannot be hid. Let your light shine so that men would see your good works and glorify the father which is in heaven. I think singing is very important. It brings out the soul." This recording of the song comes from Roy Rogers and Dale Evans' 1973 gospel album, In the Sweet Bye and Bye. This is followed by Glen Campbell singing 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus. 'Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus was another hymn born out of personal tragedy.  Louisa M. R. Stead was happily married and one day her, her husband and their four year old daughter had a day at the beach, when they heard a scream. They went to see where the scream was coming from and saw a little boy drowning in the sea. Her husband tried to pull the boy out of the water but the boy pulled the husband down with him. Louisa and her daughter Lilly watched helplessly as the two died before their eyes. It is unknown when the song was actually written, but it is known that it was inspired by this tragedy and how God helped pull her through it as she soon went back on the mission field. The song was first published in 1882 a collection of hymns entitled Songs of Triumph. Next is Red Steagall with When He Gathers Up the Strays. Following is The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1947 recording of The Sea Walker. This song was written by Tim Spencer, one of the founding members of the group. Tim also sings lead on this wonderful track. Next comes Barbara Mandrell with Power in the Blood. This recording of the classic hymn comes from Barbara's 1989 gospel album, Precious Memories. This is followed by Johnny Cash with his version of the old Carter family song, Troublesome Waters. John certianly went through troublesome waters in his life. At one time they simply became too much for him to handle on his own. John spoke about this time stating, "It just felt like I was at the end of my line. I was down there by myself and I got to feelin' that I'd taken so many pills that I'd done it, that I was gonna blow up or something. I hadn't eaten in days, I hadn't slept in days, and my mind wasn't working too good anyway. I couldn't stand myself anymore. I wanted to get away from me. And if that meant dyin', then okay, I'm ready. I just had to get away from myself. I couldn't stand it anymore and I didn't think there was any other way. I took a flashlight with me and I said, I'm goin' to walk and crawl and climb into this cave until the light goes out, and then I'm gonna lie down. So I crawled in there with a flashlight until it burned out and I lay down to die. I was a mile in that cave. At least a mile. But I felt this great comforting presence sayin', 'No you're not dyin'.' I got things for you to do. So I got up, found my way out. Cliffs, ledges, drop-offs. I don't know how I got out, 'cept God got me out." After this experience, he knew that he had to repent from his many sins and rededicate his life to the Lord. Today's musical selection ends with Molly O'Day with her 1946 recording of The Tramp on the Street. The story goes that producer heard Molly singing this song (which she may have learned from Hank Williams (who she had shared performances with earlier in the 1940's) and arranged a record contract.    

Now for an episode of Roy Rogers' radio show. 

Next is C.S. Lewis' essay, Is Theism Important.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2

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

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 1 Timothy 1:12

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.  Matthew 10:29–31

I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things. “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?" Isaiah 45:7–9

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins? Lamentations 3:37–39

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Ephesians 1:4

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12

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