Monday, July 31, 2023

Movie Review: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

One of the best of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. 

Producer/co-writer Seth Rogan (who also voiced Bebop) said that in this film, he wished to delve more into the teenage nature of these characters. This was done to the point that for the first time actual teenagers (Nicolas Cantu, Brady Noon, Micah Abbey, Shamon Brown Jr.) provided the characters' voices. To further punctuate this idea, the four recorded there lines together and were encouraged to play off each other in the way only teenage boys can. This worked very well and provided this movie with a real charm. The real teenage interactions between the turtles really makes these characters feel authentic and real. Because of this no matter how over the top or cliché the movie may get, we still have a strong emotional connection. Some of the interactions between these characters were silly teenagers being silly teenagers, but a lot of it was pretty heartfelt. The authenticity to how these interactions are presented make these heartfelt moments play very well. Even the sillier interactions make the characters feel more real to us. This movie also simply does a good job into delving into the feeling of isolation and the inability to fit in with others as well as the close comradery to anyone who makes you feel like you belong somewhere that are all a part of the teenage experience. Because of this even if this is an action packed movie, it is the little moments that make it really stand out. This is not to say that the action scenes aren't great in fact they are fantastic. The pacing, staging and animation in these scenes is all fantastic. Not only this but as the action scenes move along you can feel each one raising the stakes a little compared to what the previous ones have done, leading up to a very fun finale. I also love the look of this film (though I admit there are a few of the human designs that don't work), which, though clearly inspired by the Spider-verse films, give this movie the unique feel of something that a teenage might draw or imagine. The animation and the way the characters move is incredibly smooth. All this creates something that doesn't look real but still feels real. 

There is a lot of comedy in this movie and it can be a little hit and miss. Some of the jokes are laugh out loud funny, while others simply fall flat. I would say for the most part the actual funny moments outnumber the comedic moments that fall flat. 

Admittedly there is little to this storyline, we have not seen before and from the start you can guess how the movie will end. This is especially seen towards the last act where the clichés become a little too prominent. 

This film may be flawed but what works here is truly wonderful and make this a must watch for any TMNT fan. 

Sunday, July 30, 2023

Cowboy Church #235

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

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with How Great Thou Art.  In the book, Happy Trails: Our Life Story, Roy tells of a story that had to do with this song. "I'll tell you about one time we nearly got into a real war with the promoters: at the World Championship Rodeo at Madison Square Garden in 1952. During the first rehearsal I started to practice 'How Great Thou Art,' a religious song I wanted to make the centerpiece of our musical act. There's a line in that song that goes, 'Then sings my soul my Savior God to Thee...' Someone in the front office heard the rehearsal and came to me that night to tell me I wasn't allowed to mention Christ at the rodeo. 'It might work for the kids in Houston, Texas' he told me, 'But this is New York. You can't preach to kids here.' I told him I wasn't preaching but that the Savior was a part of the song and I fully intended to sing that song in New York or anywhere else we performed. They suggested that I could change the words of the song, so it didn't mention Him. I'm not one for grandstand plays but I told those fellas that if I couldn't sing 'How Great thou Art' just how it was written, Dale and I would pack up and leave town. The song stayed in the show. That year we did forty-three performances over twenty-six days and broke all Madison Square Garden attendance records."

This is followed by Janie Fricke with The Old Rugged Cross. This song dates back to 1913 and was written by evangelist, George Bennard. Actually, the first verse was written in 1912. It was written while Bennard was a part of a series of revival meetings in Albion, Michigan. He was worried about the complete disregard for the gospel around him and wrote this verse as a repose. Of writing it Bennard said, "I seemed to have a vision ... I saw the Christ and the cross inseparable." The song wouldn't be completed for several months, when he was leading meetings at a local church in Pokagan, Michigan. He played it for Rev. Leroy (the sponsoring pastor) and his wife, Ruby Bostwick, both of whom found themselves moved to tears. It was then incorporated into a service at that church on June 7, 1913. The song has the same effect today as it must have back then.

Then comes The Blue Sky Boys with their 1936 recording of Hymns My Mother Sang. It is amazing how much old hymns can stay with us. These old hymns speak to us in a way few songs (either old or recent) can. I know sometimes when I am struggling with something, the words of these hymns come straight back to me and move me. They strengthen my faith and help me know that God is in control.

Next comes Johnny Cash with I'm a Newborn Man. This song was written by John and his wife June. It came from John's 1979 double length gospel album, A Believer Sings the Truth. Columbia Records did not have much faith in how a double length gospel album would sell and did not want to release this album. However John (with Columbia's blessing) would release the album under his own Cachet label. In 1982 Columbia would reissue the album on the Columbia label. In 1984 Columbia would release a much shorter version of the album as I Believe

Next comes Kris Kristofferson with Burden of Freedom. This version of the song comes from Kris' 1972 album, Border Lord. He would later make another version for his 2006 album, This Old Road. A year before Kris wrote this song he had responded to an alter call and this song and Why Me Lord were responses to what that spiritual experience, one that Kris himself admitted he didn't fully understand yet. Around this time a resurgence was happening with Christian music. A lot had happened in recent years and as many young people had turned to God, they brought along their own types of music, that meant something to them personally. Therefore much Christian music was no longer hymns but mire contemporary sounding music that paid tribute to God while reflecting the world these young Christians had grown up in. Johnny Cash would often play before these audiences as part of concerts mostly made up of the younger artists. Feeling it would be good for Kris to be in such an environment, John invited Kris and his wife Rita Coolidge to perform as well. Kris would play his own songs like Burden of Freedom or Why Me Lord. Yet Kris felt decidedly uncomfortable at these concerts. He would say about the experience, "I was singing songs, I thought were spiritual but people wanted to hear more songs specifically about Jesus. Eventually I had to tell John that I couldn't do these types of shows anymore I felt like a hypocrite." (A Man Called Cash by Steve Turner)

Afterwards is The Charlie Daniels Band with There's Power in the Blood. Though it may be simple doctrine that we have heard since Sunday school, I hope we never forget how much power there truly is in the blood of Jesus. No matter what temptations and struggles we may face in life, Jesus' blood spilled on Calvary's cross has overcome all of it. With man something may be impossible but with God all things are possible. 

Then comes Cowboy Copas with Remember Man Thou Art Dust. While there are people who may be great by human standards, when you compare even the greatest person in the world to God there is simply no comparison. This is why we should not take too much pride in our own ways but should live according to each and every word of God.

Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1935 recording of One More River to Cross.  

Now for a message from Lonnie Frisbee. 

Now for some real old west history. Here are the words of Wyatt Earp on the old west itself. The words are read by Steve Berwick.


No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:9

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 2 Thessalonians 3:3

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:4

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. Acts 10:38 

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. Jeremiah 29:11

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3

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

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Some Cartoons for Saturday Morning #236

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

Today's cartoon selection begins with Sylvester in Stooge for a Mouse (1950). This Friz Freleng directed short is one of my favorite solo Sylvester cartoons and it always puts a smile on my face no matter how many times I watch it. This film would later be semi-remade as the Bugs Bunny short Bugsy and Mugsy (1957).

Next comes a classic Disney short, Old MacDonald Duck (1941). This movie was directed by Jack King, a fine director who directed many delightful Donald Duck cartoons at this time. As expected of a Disney cartoon from this era, this short film boasts some very fine character animation that fully shows, how much great talent was at the Disney studio during this time period. A brief scene from this short was used in the Disney feature film, The Reluctant Dragon (1941) when a live action Robert Benchley is getting a look at how cartoons are made. This cartoon would make its TV debut on an episode of The Mickey Mouse Club that would air on October 1, 1957. The following is an exhibitor's review from Motion Picture Herald. "OLD MacDONALD DUCK: Walt Disney cartoons - It doesn't take a good reel to have the audience applaud Disney. The mere title of "Don Duck" - and heaven help the stoic. The usual dilemmas - the repetitious finale. Sir Duck is prostrated by a beastly insect, the paying audience is prostrated with the much needed delight. Running time, 8 minutes. - Gene Rothgeb, Haven Theatre, New Haven, Ind. General Patronage." 

Now we join our old friend Scrappy in The City Slicker (1939). 

Next comes Woody Woodpecker in The Mad Hatter (1948). This movie was the first Woody Woodpecker short film to be distributed by United Artists. 

Now it is time for a commercial break. 

Now comes a real classic, the Bugs Bunny cartoon, The Wacky Wabbit (1942). As many of you know all the major Looney Tunes directors had their different take on Bugs Bunny. Bob Clampett's Bugs was very much a fun-loving prankster. Unlike Chuck Jones' version of the character, this Bugs did not always need to act in self-defense but could just pick on someone to have a little fun. That is true of the way he treats Elmer here. Elmer in this movie is not hunting wabbits, but simply minding his own business, when Bugs decides to let the poor fellow have it. Elmer in this cartoon looks different from how many movie fans picture him looking. This is because he was briefly redesigned to look like his voice actor Arthur Q. Byran. The following is a review from The Film Daily, "Fourteen carrot entertainer this 'Wacky Wabbit.' There's a laugh in every foot. The wise guy rabbit in this instance tries his trick on a gold prospector. He drives the poor guy crazy confounding him and keeping him constantly on the jump. Bugs Bunny grows in stature with every new Merry Melody release. He bids fair to become as funny as any character now in animated cartoons. The smart showman should grab this short." 

Now for a silent movie, Colonel Heeza Liar in Africa (1913). 

Next comes the Tijuana Toads in Frog Jog (1972). The Tijuana Toads was a series of 17 theatrically released animated short films from the DePatie-Freleng Studio (the same studio that produced the Pink Panther shorts). In this cartoon, El Toro tries to lose some weight to win back his girlfriend.  Pancho is voiced by Tom Holland (not the Spider-Man actor, a different Tom Holland), who was also the voice of Speedy Gonzales' cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez. El Toro is voiced by Don Diamond, who was a regular on the live action Disney TV series of the 1950's, Zorro

Today's cartoon selection ends with a TV cartoon by Filmmation starring the DC comics superhero The Atom, The House of Doom (1967).

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

Friday, July 28, 2023

Movie Review: Haunted Mansion


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

A delightful horror/comedy from Disney. 

As a huge Disney fan, I am delighted to see one of my favorite Disneyland rides get a very fun feature film based off of it. Naturally one of my favorite things about the movie was to see so many parts of the beloved ride, truly come to life on the screen. It is obvious that director Justin Simien (who has directed another horror/comedy movie with Bad Hair (2020)) and writer Katie Dippold (who co-wrote the spooky comedy, Ghost Busters (2016)) have a real fondness for the ride. So much of this film is a love filled tribute to the ride, that go beyond simple Easter Eggs. Yet there is much more to enjoy about the film than just its tribute to the ride. Surprisingly this movie has a pretty good storyline. Not only is this story a lot of fun but it is also surprisingly emotional at times. I did not come into this movie excepting it to pull on my heartstrings. However it did just that. The emotional moments in this movie never feel forced or needlessly sentimental but instead simply seem to flow naturally from the storyline. You get an emotional connection with some of these characters and when these emotional scenes come up, I would not blame anyone who gets a little teary-eyed. Speaking of the characters, these characters are great. While, as excepted from this type of comedy, the characters are often over the top and eccentric, they never become caricatures. Instead there is something more to the majority of these characters that makes them feel emotionally grounded. This movie also benefits from a wonderful sense of atmosphere. While tame compared to many horror movies today, this film does keep a genuinely creepy feel for much of its runtime. Like the ride itself this atmosphere feels both creepy and playful at the same time and there is something about this mixture that is simply hard to resist. There are even a couple of genuine scares in this movie (the scene in the attic for instance). What adds to this atmosphere is that this movie adds some lore to various of the ride's haunts and this lore is actually quite well written. 

The humor can be a bit hit and miss here. There are quite a few comedic sequences that simply fall flat. However there are also some really good laugh out loud moments here. Some of these moments simply cracked me up (as well as many others in the theater with me). Even some of the jokes that were funny in the trailers are even funnier here. This fully makes up for the comedic moments that don't work. 

Unfortunately this movie is longer than it needs to be and the pacing can feel a little off at times. This can cause certain scenes to drag a little and for the excitement to be lost a few times. Also some of the CGI is honestly not that great and feels like it belongs in a movie from 20 years ago. There are also quite a few moments that feel maybe a bit too similar to many other movies we have seen before. 

Despite any faults though this movie is a pure delight to watch. 

By the way Jared Leto pretty much perfectly captured the voice that Paul Frees does for The Ghost Host on the ride.  

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982)


The 3rd of the Looney Tunes compilation movies may not be as strong as the previous two (The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie (1979), The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie (1981)) but it is still a fun watch. Plus it was a childhood favorite of mine. 

Like the previous two movies in the series, this movie combines newly animated scenes with classic cartoon shorts to create a feature length movie. However unlike the previous two this film combines this all into one story.  Though like The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie this film is also directed by Friz Freleng. However unlike the previous two movies, the classic cartoons used here come from diffrent directors. The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie features all cartoons directed by Chuck Jones (who also directed the new scenes) and The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie featured cartoons directed by Friz Freleng. This movie instead features classic cartoon shorts from Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, Robert McKimson. The cartoon shorts used in this film are Cracked Quack (1952, directed by Freleng), Apes of Wrath (1959, directed by Freleng), Wise Quackers (1949), directed by Freleng), Ali Baba Bunny (1957, directed by Jones) (also used in The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Movie), Tweety and the Beanstalk (1957, directed by Freleng), Bewitched Bunny (1954, directed by Jones), Goldimouse and the Three Cats (1960, directed by Freleng), Red Riding Hoodwinked (1955, directed by Freleng), The Pied Piper of Guadalupe (1961, directed by Freleng), Mexican Boarders (1962, directed by Freleng), One Froggy Evening (1955, directed by Jones) and Aqua Duck (1963, directed by McKimson). Despite Yosemite Sam playing a large role in the story, none of the classic shorts used here include him.

The storyline involves Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as book salesmen, competing to see who can sell the most books. Meanwhile a sultan (Yosemite Sam) is looking for a new storyteller for his spoiled brat son (who is very much like the character Junior from the Friz Freleng directed Looney Tunes short, A Waggily Tale (1956)). Finding Bugs at his door trying to sell a book of stories. Sam then forces Bugs to be his son's new storyteller. 

There is a whole lot to enjoy about this movie. Every one of the classic cartoon shorts used here is gem. Each one put a smile on my face. They not only charming and fun but some of them are laugh out loud funny. In fact many of these shorts are why this was a childhood favorite of mine. This movie marked the first time I had seen Cracked Quack, The Pied Piper of Guadalupe and Mexican Borders, all of which I simply loved. So as I kid, I would watch this movie over and over again to see these shorts again. To this day, I can still quote nearly every line of this movie off the top of my head. Watching this movie today, still brings me back to watching the film as a kid. Yet even the new scenes are pretty good. The storyline is basic and simple but fun, just like all of the best Looney Tunes films. Yet it never feels like it is stretched to make it feature length, but instead fits into the time period. While these new scenes may not be as laugh out loud funny as the classic shorts, they are still quite charming. The new gags for the most part work well enough and definitely made me smile and even laugh at times. The dynamics between Bugs, Yosemite Sam and his son are a lot of fun as well and I enjoyed Bugs' Groucho Marx type comments about the kid. 

This movie does have its faults that make it not as strong as the previous two feature length compilation films. Though there was some editing of the classic shorts in the previous movies, here there is quite a bit more of it. This is obviously done to make it fit better with this movie's more typical story. For fans of the classic shorts, this editing can get annoying as there are some truly great moments cut out of here. Some of the cartoons also feature unnecessary narration from Bugs that they would all be better off without. This narration especially hurts One Froggy Evening. Though it is not the fault of the filmmakers, Mel Blanc (the voice of most of the Looney Tunes) had definitely grown older by the time this movie was made and the difference in how his voice sounded can be felt between the new and old sequences. 

Despite its flaws this movie is still a delight to watch. Enjoy it yourself or show it to a kid, it might be one of their childhood favorites like it is mine. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Challenge of the Super Friends: Fairy Tale of Doom (1978)


A very fun episode. 

In this episode Toyman invents a device that can trap anyone inside of a book. The Legion of Doom uses this device to trap the Super Friends inside of various fairy tales. Hawkman gets stuck in Jack and the Beanstalk. Wonder Woman gets trapped in Alice in Wonderland. Superman gets trapped in Gulliver's Travels. 

This is corny silver age style superhero antics at their best. The basic story idea itself is simply delightful by itself and the way it plays out is just as much fun. The designs of the various fairy tale lands are wonderfully thought out and very atmospheric. I especially love the psychedelic look of Wonder Land. I also enjoy just how sinister these stories are against our heroes. Including the pure sadistic-ness of Wonder Land. There is also plenty of corny fun moments here. The best of these corny moments includes Brainiac giving the Lilliputians kryptonite weapons. This episode also includes some fun action scenes and a good sense of suspense. 

This is simply a lot of fun. 

Monday, July 24, 2023

Movie Review: Theater Camp


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

A laugh out loud funny movie. 

This film is the brain child of Ben Platt, Noah Galvin, Molly Gordon and Nick Lieberman (who all wrote and starred in the film together (Gordon and Lieberman directed it)), all of whom were very much theater children. They looked back on their experiences and brought us this gem of a comedy. What makes this movie so funny is that because of this there is always a kernel of truth behind all of the gags no matter how over the top they get. You do not need to be a theater person to see this truth. Those who are truly and utterly passionate about something and dedicate their lives to that passion are almost all a very eccentric group of people, who are simply a different bread than everyone else. This movie takes these eccentricates and plays them to their extremes for comedic effect but this is not done to the point to make these characters caricatures. Instead as over the top as these characters are, they are not too far removed for somebody we could meet in real life. That much of the comedy comes directly from these characters and what makes them who they are is what makes it so funny. In a comedy, you can easily forgive any faults, if it is simply funny enough and this movie is. I not only giggled and smiled watching this film but I laughed out loud through much of it (as did most of the audience with me). I came into this film expecting to have a few light laughs, I did not except to laugh out loud the way I did. The scene where we actually got to see the play was simply near perfect with one big laugh directly after another. It also helps that this is a movie that not only has some great gags, but with how many of these gags truly catch you by surprise. 

This film does have its faults though. The faux documentary style of filmmaking does seem to simply come and go at times and there are times when you forget that this is supposed to be a fake documentary. Also the story can get a little too familiar and predictable at times. There are times when the comedy can take how conventional the storyline is and have fun with it, but there aren't enough of these. 

This is simply put, a very good time at the movies. 

Sunday, July 23, 2023

Cowboy Church #234

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

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with It is No Secret (What God Can Do). his song was written by cowboy singer and actor Stuart Hamblen. Before turning to God, this man's life could hardly be considered Godly. He often drank and fought, and this often landed him in jail. When in 1949 Hamblin went to a Billy Graham crusade, he turned his life over to God. The drinking and fighting were put behind him and his whole life changing. One day he was talking about this change to his good friend John Wayne (yes that John Wayne) and that it was no secret what God had done for him. John Wayne said that he should write a song with those lyrics. Stuart Hamblen had also had a brief movie career and appeared in the Roy Rogers film, The Arizona Kid (1939).

Then comes Wanda Jackson with Scars in the Hands of Jesus.

Afterwards is Dwight Yoakam with Hold on to God. This song was written by Dwight himself and came from his 1988 album, Buenas Noches from a Lonely Room. The lesson that this song has may be very simple, but it is also a very important one. Sometimes when things get rough, it can be hard to keep holding on to God's word and not turn to the ways of the world. However, if we hold on to God's word, it will get us through any rough time in a way that the world never could. 

Next is Randy Travis with Jerusalem's Cry.

Now for Kenny Rogers with What a Friend We Have in Jesus.  This hymn still has an important message for us today. When it seems like there is no one to turn to at any moment of our lives, Jesus is always there. He is always there to listen to us, no matter what. More than that though he deeply cares about every single one of us. A better friend than Jesus could never be found no matter how hard we try. What a friend we have in Jesus indeed. 

Afterwards is Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings with The Greatest Cowboy of Them All. This is a song about heroes and all of us have our heroes. While these heroes may be entertainers, writers, political figures, intellectuals and humanitarians, when you put any of them up against Jesus Christ, they simply pale in comparison. This because even someone who is great by human standards is nothing when compared to the glory of God.  

Then comes The Blue Sky Boys with their 1946 recording of Dust on the Bible. I love to read, and I am sure many of you do too. There are so many great books out there, both fiction and non-fiction. However, when it comes to your edification, no book can come close to the bible. As Christians it is important to read the Bible daily because how can we live the word of God, if we do not seriously study it. 

Next is Lefty Frizell with We Crucified Our Lord. I think it is important to always remember that you and I are the reason Jesus went to the cross. He did not have to go. He had all the power of God at his hands, and no one could truly make him go to the cross, if he did not feel the need to go there. However, he loved us so deeply that he would endure the cross so that our sins could be forgiven, and we could have a strong personal relationship with God.  

Today's musical selection ends with The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1937 recording of 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 comes the C.S. Lewis essay, What Are We to Make of Jesus Christ?

Next is a silent short film starring cowboy star, Tom Mix, Sage Brush Tom (1915).

Universal Weekly, 1932

 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor. Proverbs 22:9

If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. James 2:15-17

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. Proverbs 14:31

Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God. Hebrews 6:1

Command and teach these things. 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. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 1 Timothy 4:11-15

I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:2-8

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

Saturday, July 22, 2023

Secret Invasion: Harvest


The most conventional and familiar episode yet. Also the weakest episode yet. 

Though the early episodes of this show were something very different and unique among the MCU output, this episode fully feels like many previous MCU projects. Now that the villains' plans are known to us, the show can no longer have the same feeling of mystery and espionage that the early episodes had. Unfortunately this makes it hard for this episode to truly stand out among many earlier MCU movies and shows. One thing that puts many of the previous MCU movies and shows over this episode is that the main villain is still very bland. He is threatening but he is not especially enjoyable to watch nor does he have any part of his personality that makes him stand out. As well as him, many of the supporting characters are simply very bland as well, feeling more like plot points than characters. 

The dialogue in this episode ranges from very bland and cliché to quite clever and intelligent. I didn't feel that there was as much clever dialogue as in the previous episodes, but what there was worked quite well. Sadly much of the dialogue simply feels like a weaker version of dialogue we have heard in previous MCU projects. It simply doesn't have same effect here. 

This is not to say that there us nothing to enjoy about this episode though. The action scenes are fun, even if not especially memorable. Also I still like how this show works as a character study for Nick Fury and Samuel L. Jackson is just as wonderful in the role as always. 

Some Cartoons for Saturday Morning #235

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

Today's cartoon selection begins with a classic Sylvester and Tweety movie, The Rebel Without Claws (1961). About the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons, director Friz Freleng stated, "Tweety doesn't do anything. He can't even put a hat on because his arms are too short. And he's got such a bug head. The comedy comes out of Sylvester and his determination, his stubbornness to get the bird no matter what happens to him. Still everybody says 'Oh I love that Tweety.' Audiences are funny. They never love the characters that really get the laughs." 

Next comes Heckle and Jeckle in Dancing Shoes (1949). Paul Terry considered the Heckle and Jeckle films to be the best cartoons he ever produced and I personally agree with him. I truly love these cartoons. 

Next comes a delightful UPA cartoon short, The Jaywalker (1956). This movie was directed by Bobe Cannon, who directed some of the studio's finest cartoons including all four of the classic Gerald McBoing Boing theatrical shorts. 

Class is now in session. Let us all join Professor Betty Boop in The Swing School (1938). The following are some exhibitor's reviews from The Motion Picture Herald. "SWING SCHOOL: Betty Boop Cartoons— Quite enjoyable. Why not give the whole series a try. Mr. Exhibitor? Running Time, seven minutes. - Pearce Parkhurst. Paramount Theatre, Schroon Lake, N.Y. Small town and summer patronage." "SWING SCHOOL: Betty Boop Cartoons - A dandy cartoon. Clever animation. - L.A. Irwin, Palace Theatre, Penacook, N.H. General patronage." 

Now it is time for a commercial break. 

Now for a silent movie starring Mutt and Jeff, On Strike (1920). 

Next comes a wonderful movie starring Pluto, Bone Trouble (1940). This is actually a very important cartoon for the Disney studio as it was the first short film directed by Jack Kinney, who would go on to direct many of the studio's laugh out loud funniest cartoons. This movie may not be his funniest short but it does show signs of how great of a cartoon director he would become. This theatrical cartoon made its TV debut on the Disney TV special, One Hour in Wonderland (1950). That special was Disney's very first time making something for TV and was used to promote the feature film, Alice in Wonderland (1951). This short film would also later air on an episode of the Disneyland TV show entitled Pluto's Day (1956). 

Now for a fun little cartoon from Columbia, Kongo Roo (1946).

Today's cartoon selection ends with the second of the 1967 made for TV cartoons from the Filmmation Studio that star the DC superhero, The Atom. This is not high art but it is just the kind of corny superhero fun that I enjoy. 

Thanks so much for joining me. Come back next week for another selection of animated treasures. Until then may all your tunes be looney and your melodies merry. 

Resources Used

I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat: Fifty Years of Sylvester and Tweety by Jerry Beck.

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

Friday, July 21, 2023

Movie Review: Oppenheimer


Michael's Movie Grade: A+

Possibly Christopher Nolan's best film. 

Christopher Nolan's harshest critics often accuse him of being too much style over substance. While I really like the filmmaker, it is hard to argue this point on many of his films (especially the recent Tenet). However that is not the case here. While this movie has all the hallmarks of Nolan's signature style (non-liner storytelling and heavy use of close-ups to name a couple), they are now fully subservient to the story and characters. In fact, despite many great experimental touches in how the story is told, the story itself is Nolan's most conventional since The Dark Knight Trilogy. Despite a lack of subtitles stating the time or place of each scene, in a movie that hops around between different time periods and places, this movie is incredibly easy to follow. This makes for something that can be appreciated by both film scholars and the average movie goer. However saying that the story is easy to follow is not saying it is not complex. As any movie about "the father of the atomic bomb" should be this film is very morally complex. Whether our main character is a hero, a villain or both is something that we are left to decide for ourselves. This film provides arguments for all these beliefs and many are hard to argue with. One thing is not in doubt though and that is that this character always feels like a real person with both virtues and flaws. Much of this is due to a wonderfully human performance by Cillian Murphy (who had worked with Nolan before playing the Scarecrow in The Dark Knight Trilogy). Like many of Nolan's films this movie is very dialogue heavy. This is not a problem here as much of the dialogue is very intelligent and thought provoking. Though this movie doesn't tell us how to feel about our main character, one thing it clearly takes a side on is the communist witch trials in post-World War 2 America. Many films have taken aim at this, but once again this movie gives a very intelligent look at this dark moment in American history. As stated before, this movie takes a non-liner approach to its storytelling and that proves to be the right way to tell this story. It lets us see the differences in how Oppenheimer was looked at before and after World War 2 and how America itself had changed. To go back in forth between these makes the contrast all the more effective. 

Nolan likes to work in the IMAX format (as well as on film) and the way he uses this format is fantastic. He really experiments with what he can do with sound here and the result is incredible and truly makes this movie a more impactful experience. 

The only real complaint I have is one scene involving President Truman. This scene simply stands out as hokey and too on the nose, which is in contrast to the rest of the film. However, one small scene in a 3-hour movie, is not a big problem.

This is simply a must see.   

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Secret Invasion: Beloved


The best episode of the show yet. 

As this episode starts we have just the right type of moments. These are the little character moments that makes the MCU more than the bland action movies and shows that its critics often say it is. A scene with Nick Fury and his wife in a restaurant and a scene with Fury's wife talking to Rhodes in a church. These are slower paced and dialogue heavy scenes, but the dialogue is in fact excellent. It doesn't hurt that Fury's wife is turning out to be a great character in her own right and her relationship with her husband brings a good sense of emotion to this show. The scenes between these two characters are fantastic and what I wish this whole show could be like. The scenes with Rhodes are also truly excellent and also shine with some truly great dialogue and a truly wonderful twist that is actually really shocking. This episode also has some really good success with making this feel completely different than anything else in the MCU. Though the last episode made me worry that this was going in an all too conventional direction, this episode (with the exception of one big action scene (which strangely wasn't as exciting as the scenes with characters just talking)) feels more like a spy thriller than a typical MCU entry. 

This episode does have some pretty major flaws though. The biggest involves the aftermath of what was supposed to be a shocking scene in the previous episode. This episode completely undoes that whole important moment, and the result simply feels like a complete and utter cop-out. This was simply a horrible idea, and it is strange that what I consider the best episode of this show yet, has the worst and most horribly written twist yet. I truly hated this cop-out. The villain also still comes off as completely bland. Sure, he is a major threat, but he doesn't have much in the way of personality and has little to no screen presence. 

Despite some major faults, this episode has some truly great moments and this proves to be the show's best episode yet. 

Movie Review: Lost in the Stars (Xiao shi de ta)


Michael's Movie Grade: B+

A very fun and engaging thriller from China. 

This film is one of those movies that will constantly keep you guessing, just where it is heading from start to finish. It grabs your attention very quickly because the premise itself is very intriguing and clever. A man whose wife has been missing, one day finds a woman waking up beside him claiming to be his wife. When the police come, this woman seems to have all the evidence that says this woman is his wife. It would be a shame to give away anything more about this story, because from there comes so many twists and turns that leave you constantly wondering just what is in fact real and who is telling the truth. Each of these twists made me get even more engaged in the film and curious about just where it was going to go next. As a fan of these types of thrillers, I found myself simply having a wonderful time, always trying to guess where this movie would go next and never having it go in the I excepted it to. Adding to my enjoyment was the pure stylish direction of this movie. There is such a wonderful look to this film that is not only wonderful to look at but also helps us get into the characters' psyche. Much of this is probably due to the two directors of the film. Rui Cui has worked on visual effects for a few big budget Hollywood films (including Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Terminator Genisys (2015)). Xiang Liu has worked as a cinematographer on such Chinese films as Erdos Rider (2015) and Shadows and Echoes (2019). With directors like these it is no wonder this is such a good-looking film. This movie also benefits from some great acting from Yilong Zhu, Ni Ni, Janice Man and Kay Huang. All of whom make these characters fascinating and enjoyable to watch even when their motivations are hidden from us.

There are times however when some of the twists can get so over the top that they feel kind of out of place with the rest of the film. There are also quite a few questions that simply go unanswered. However none of this can take away from how much fun this movie is to watch. 

This may not be a perfect film, but it is so much fun to watch that you may not care. 

Monday, July 17, 2023

Movie Review: The Miracle Club


Michael's Movie Grade: B

A very good-hearted little feel-good movie. 

 This is one of those movies where so much of the reason it works is due to the cast and the characters they are playing. This movie has some really great actresses in it including Laura Linney, Kathy Bates, Maggie Smith and Agnes O'Casey (this is her first feature film but is simply wonderful in it). Every one of them simply lights up the screen whenever they are on. Not only do they all have great chemistry but they also work off of each other very well. Because of this even the most cliché scenes have a good emotional connection to us, because the actresses make them completely believable. The characters that they play are also very well handled. These are characters that are quite flawed but very likable as well. Their flaws can't hide that underneath it all they do have good hearts. The good heartedness behind these characters is so much of what makes this movie so charming. The basic story is nothing we have not seen before in many feel-good movies, but it is done fairly well here and its charms overcome its clichés. I did appreciate that this film was not afraid to have some quite effective sad moments as this made the feel-good moments work all the better. The humor here may be hit and miss but when a comedic moment worked it did easily put a smile on my face. 

However the clichés do make it, so it is hard for this film to truly stand out and as much as this movie works it is still bound to get lost in the sheer amount of these type of feel-good movies that are very similar. I do admit I am not a fan of the scenes that have to do with the main characters' husbands, all of whom are quite bland and cliché characters that feel more like plot points than actual characters. 

While it is familiar, this film should delight anyone who likes this type of feel-good movie. 

Challenge of the Super Friends: The Final Challenge (1978)

A delightful episode. 

As this episode begins some members of the Super Friends (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Apache Chief) are being chased by some members of the Legion of Doom (Cheetah, The Ridder, Scarecrow, Bizzaro, Black Manta). All of them are teleported to a dimension, where a strange being puts them into various contests against each other to settle their disputes once and for all. Meanwhile the rest of the Super Friends and Legion of Doom try to find where their partners are. 

There is a lot to enjoy about this episode. The various challenges our main characters are put through to decide their differences are very creative and a lot of fun. There is a lot of fun to be had with each of them. Just as much fun is the various universes that the rest of our heroes and villains visit on their way to find their lost partners. This gives a delightfully corny sci-fi feel to the episode, especially with the universe of three-dimensional objects and the strange being that lives there. All of this is boosted by wonderfully atmospheric background art that is simply a joy to look at. The dynamic between the Super Friends and the Legion of Doom working together also gives this episode a unique feel and is also simply a lot of fun. Add to this some really fun action scenes and this episode is a pure delight. There is even a real fun twist here towards the end.

This is just a lot of fun. 

Video Link: François Truffaut interview 1960

Sunday, July 16, 2023

Cowboy Church #233

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

Today's musical selection begins with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans with their 1950 recording of In the Garden.  This song was written by C. Austin Miles. As well as a hymnist, Austin's hobby was photography. He wrote this song in 1912 while waiting some film to dry in a cold and leaky basement. Miles had discovered earlier that he could read the bible in the red lighting of his darkroom and often did. This day he was reading John 20. He read about how Mary went into the garden to see Jesus' tomb. Her heart was full of sadness, but when she learned that Jesus had overcome the grave she was moved to great joy. This passage moved Miles as he read it, and this song started to come to him. Miles originally intended this song to be an Easter song and for it to be from the point of view of Mary Magdalene. Miles would later say about this song, “This is not an experience limited to a happening almost 2,000 years ago. It is the daily companionship with the Lord that makes up the Christian’s life.” Learning this story has made this song all the more powerful for me and I hope it enhances the power of this great hymn for you as well. 

This is followed by Leroy Van Dyke with 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.

Afterwards is The Browns with their 1961 recording of Church in the Wildwood.

Then comes Homer Rodeheaver & Virginia Asher with their 1921 recording of The Old Rugged Cross

Next is Johnny Cash with Strange Things Happening Everyday. This is a cover of a Sister Rosetta Tharpe song, and John does a really good job with it. 

Now comes The Sons of the Pioneers with their 1948 recording of Rounded Up in Glory. Though we currently live in this world, we are not citizens of this world. Instead, we are citizens of heaven and we are only passing through this world. One day we will be rounded up in glory and we will see our lord and savior face to face. No matter how good anything in this world is it cannot compare to the blessings God has in store for us in heaven. No matter what hardships we might face in life, they pale in comparison to the glories of heaven. 

Then is The Louvin Brothers with The Weapon of Prayer. It is too often we as Christians forget about the importance of prayer and what a blessing it simply is to be allowed to pray. The fact that the creator of the world loves us so dearly that he will listen to our prayers and care deeply about whatever we are going through is simply mind boggling. It is not something we should take for granted but it should rather be something that makes us recognize just how much God truly loves us. 

Today's musical selection ends with Randy Travis and Mac Powell (from the Christian rock band, Third Day) with Love Lifted Me. This hymn was written in 1912 by James Rowe and Howard E. Smith. Rowe's daughter would later state, “ I can see them now, my father striding up and down humming a bar or two, and Howard E. playing it and jotting it down…The two huddled together, working line by line, bar by bar, composing this hymn in tandem.”

Now for Dale Evans talking about her Christian faith. 

Now for a episode of Gene Autry's Melody Ranch radio show that aired on September 17, 1949.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

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

Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown. Revelation 2:10

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

For the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him. 2 Chronicles 30:9

Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Revelation 3:19

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:13

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17

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

Saturday, July 15, 2023

Secret Invasion: Betrayed


The 3rd episode of this Marvel series becomes more conventional than the previous episodes but there is still some stuff that works very well. 

My favorite part of this episode is the scenes between Nick Fury and his wife. Marvel (whether in movies, comics or shows) is usually at its best when it focuses on the drama between the characters and their relationships with each other. These scenes are Marvel doing what it does best. These are two well written characters having intelligent dialogue about how the effects of what has happened in the MCU movies and TV shows. As I watched these scenes, I grew a strong emotional connection. This is the most important ingredient to any form of science fiction. Because if we are emotionally connected than the fantasy seems more real to us. 

I have the exact opposite reaction to the scenes with the main villain. He was bland in the previous two episodes, but he only becomes blander here. We spend more time with him in this episode and get a good peak at what his master plan is. His master plan by the way is incredibly cliché and something we have seen many times before with no twist to it at all. His dialogue is also cliché and there is little of it that we haven't heard a million times before. All this brings the show into the same fault that happens to most of these Marvel streaming series. What starts off as something different from the average MCU project turns into something very conventional as the series goes along (this is especially true of Wanda Vision). There are quite a few scenes here that not only feel incredibly conventional but feel like lesser versions of scenes we have already seen in previous MCU movies. 

Besides just the main villain some of the other supporting characters here are also quite bland and most of them, you kind of forget about them when they aren't on screen. This even makes what is supposed to be an emotional twist fall completely flat. 

This episode does however benefit from a well-done sense of atmosphere, a couple good comic moments and of course the pure tough guy charisma of Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. There is also a good sense of suspense, as unlike in many MCU projects we feel that any character can die at any moment. 

In this episode this series' flaws are becoming all the more apparent but there is still quite a bit to really like. 

Some Cartoons for Saturday Morning #234

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

Today's cartoon selection begins with a classic Popeye movie, Customers Wanted (1939). This film is a bit of a cheater using clips from previous cartoons. These clips are from Let's Get Movin' (1936) and The Twisker Pitcher (1937). This movie would be remade as another Popeye cartoon, Penny Antics (1955). Though this is a cheater cartoon, it is easily one of the better cheaters, because the new footage is just as good (if not better) than the clips. 

Next comes the Terry Toons cartoon, African Jungle Hunt (1957). 

Next we join the fox and the crow in The Dream Kids (1944). In this movie the crows tries to give the fox nightmares. The following is a review from The Film Daily, "Just a routine Technicolor cartoon. This time they get mixed up in some dream sequences as the crow attempts to invade the Fox's warm house, resulting in some fast, if not-too-funny scenes."  

Mickey's Amateurs (1937) is a rare directorial effort by Pinto Colvig, who my fellow Disney fans will know best as the voice of Goofy (who appears in this film). He co-directed this cartoon with Erdman Penner and Walt Pfeiffer. Penner spent most of his time at Disney working in the story department. He even worked on such Disney feature films as Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), The Reluctant Dragon (1941), Victory Through Air Power (1943), Make Mine Music (1946), Melody Time (1948), The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), Cinderella (1950), Alice in Wonderland (1951), Peter Pan (1953), Lady and the Tramp (1955) and Sleeping Beauty (1959). Walt Pfeiffer was a childhood friend of Walt Disney and would become manager of Disney's Penthouse Club. None of these men were typically directors of cartoons and to see them in the director's chair is a rare treat. The three also wrote the short, which was a more typical job for them.  In their book Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History, J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein describe this film as " extremely offbeat cartoon, with wild, freewheeling gags and animation that suggest other studios as much as Disney." Animator Al Eugster remembered working on this cartoon with a real fondness stating, "I felt I had more freedom during my assignment on this film." This short would be the last Mickey Mouse cartoon released for United Artists. The following is a review from The Motion Picture Herald. "Making sport of the current amateur hour craze, the Disney penmen have devised some of the craziest and comic cartoon moments yet to hit the screen. With Mickey Mouse as the master of ceremonies, the talent parade their specific specialties. Donald Duck recites "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," which is a very coy act for Donald and a good laugh for his audience. The female aspirants are represented by Clara Cluck and Carabelle Cow who offer a song and a piano treat. The highlight of the progamme and the one that would receive this reviewer's vote is 'Bandmaster Goofy and his Fifty Piece Band.' Goofy and his 'Rube Goldberg' invention play 'In The Good Old Summertime' and then going modern, the pace proves too much for the maestro and his machine. The subject must be seen to be appreciated and enjoyed and enjoyed. The fun it offers defies description. Running time, one reel."  

Now it is time for a commercial break. 

Next we join Sylvester and Tweety in The Jet Cage (1962). Though this film gives Milt Franklin credit for the music, much of the music was done by William Lava. This is because Milt Franklin died of a heart attack before finishing the musical score and had to be replaced by William Lava. About the Sylvester and Tweety cartoons, director Friz Freleng stated, "Tweety doesn't do anything. He can't even put a hat on because his arms are too short. And he's got such a bug head. The comedy comes out of Sylvester and his determination, his stubbornness to get the bird no matter what happens to him. Still everybody says 'Oh I love that Tweety.' Audiences are funny. They never love the characters that really get the laughs." 

Now for a classic silent movie, Cramps (1916). 

Now for a Tijuana Toads movie, Fastest Tongue in the West (1971). Pancho is voiced by Tom Holland (not the Spider-Man actor, a different Tom Holland), who was also the voice of Speedy Gonzales' cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez. 

Today's cartoon selection ends with The Simpsons in one of their shorts for the Tracey Ullman Show (before they got their own TV series), Home Hypnotism (1989). 

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 Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History by J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein

 I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat: Fifty Years of Sylvester and Tweety by Jerry Beck.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Movie Review: Psycho-Pass Providence


Michael's Movie Grade: A-

A very mature and intelligent animated Japanese movie.

Based on the anime TV show, this film manages to be both very intelligent and action packed. This is something hard to pull off and something that many movies try but fail at (look at The Matrix sequels for instance). However this movie manages to do this just right. Despite all the big action set pieces, this is a movie that is not afraid to make you think. In fact it demands you to think if you want to enjoy it. The world this movie takes place in, is filled with many thought-provoking ideas. Few of them are in any way simple. This film takes a look at some of the most complex topics out there. These include war, how big of a price peace is worth, if the end can always justify the means, free will and if there is ever a clear right and wrong. To discuss these topics, the movie even examines the roles politics and religion play in them. To all of this the film offers no easy answers but instead makes us take a long and deep look at these topics. Yet all of this does not for a second take away from the action. This is an action-packed film and the action rarely if ever lets up. This keeps the movie moving at a fast pace and never once does it get boring. These action scenes are incredibly well executed and keep one easily on the edge of their seats. Yet the action scenes do not ever get in the way of the thought-provoking topics either. This movie also has a large cast of characters, yet pretty much each one is incredibly well defined and easy to understand and relate to. This adds a lot to both the emotional core of the story and the excitement of the action scenes.

This is simply a wonderful film and everyone who views animation as a true art form and not just children's entertainment needs to watch it.  

My Favorite Popeye Films

 It is time to celebrate Popeye's 90th Film Anniversary. The reason I include the word film is because this is the anniversary of Popeye's first short film, but the character had already existed beforehand in E.C. Segar's Thimble Theater comic strip. This original short film was called Popeye the Sailor (1933) and it was actually part of the Betty Boop series, though Popeye is clearly the star (with Betty really only having a cameo in the cartoon). Soon afterwards Popeye would have his own series of short films. This long running series, first made by Fleischer Studios then later Famous Studios, features many wonderful cartoons that animation fans still love very much today. 

Due to this anniversary, I am going to take a look at some of my favorite Popeye cartoons. These cartoons are in no specific order and are a list of my favorites, rather than what I critically think are the best. 

Hello How Am I (1939)

If it were just for the premise alone I would still love this short. Wimpy disguses himself as Popeye to get a hamburger dinner, Olive is making for Popeye. When Popeye runs into this fake Popeye he becomes very confused. However this film does not rely solely on a wonderful premise, there are also plenty of great gags and quotable dialogue. All this adds up to a wonderful cartoon. " My dear man, is there but only one Washington?" 

Too Weak to Work (1943)

In this film Bluto and Popeye are working on a ship together, when Bluto pretends to be in bad health to get out of working. This short is pure unhinged insanity and that is just the kind of cartoon I like. There is no gag too crazy or nonsensical for this movie and as the cartoon goes on it keeps finding ways to get even crazier. Even the animation itself is wild and crazy (including work by the cult-favorite animator Jim Tyler). 

Let's Celebrake (1938)

In this film Bluto, Popeye and Olive all plan to go out for New Years Eve. However when Popeye sees that they are going to leave Olive's grandmother alone on the holiday, Popeye, decides to take her along with her as his date and Olive as Bluto's. This is an oddly sentimental Popeye cartoon, but it works very well. It manages to feel very heartfelt without ever feeling forced or cloying. Not only this, but it is also a very funny movie with some great gags. 

Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba and His Forty Thieves (1937)

This is easily my favorite of the three two-reel Popeye films (longer than the average Popeye short but still a short film). While some may prefer Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor (1937), I think this cartoon has better gags and a more epic scale. 

Mister and Mistletoe (1955).

In this film Bluto pretends to be Santa Claus to get in good with Olive and get revenge on Popeye. Remember when I said that these are my personal favorites and not what I think are the best. Well this is where that is especially true. This is a fun cartoon, but it can not be called on of the best Popeyes. However I have a real fondness for anything Christmas and this cartoon is as Christmas-y as they come and I simply love it. 

Goonland (1938)

In this cartoon Popeye travels to Goonland to save his pappy who is being held captive there. This is as good as Popeye cartoons get. The humor constantly works with each gag working very well and often times getting even funnier with each one. The one with the film breaking is simply perfect. This film also has probably the best use of Poopdeck Pappy and the dialogue between him and Popeye is simply perfect. There is also a wonderful sense of atmosphere here, as Goonland has a completely different feel than any of the locations used in other Popeye films. The Goons by the way had been used in the Thimble Theater comic strip before ever appearing in any of the animated cartoons. 

Can You Take It (1934)

A lot of the Fleischer cartoons of the 1930's have a distinctly tough urban feel to them and that has never been truer than with this cartoon, where Popeye tries to join a club of tough gags (led by Bluto). This film also captures the feel of Fleischer cartoons of this era by having some truly bizarre and surreal gags. This is the type of Popeye cartoon, you would not see a couple years later and I love it. 

The Hungry Goat (1943)

Sans Bluto and Olive, this film has Popeye unsuccessfully trying to stop a goat from eating a ship before his captain returns. This cartoon has a completely different feel from any other Popeye cartoon and feels more like a Looney Tunes short. I doubt this movie ranks among anyone else's favorites, but I simply have a real soft spot for it. Maybe this is because it is simply so different. 

Popeye the Sailor Present Eugene the Jeep (1940)

This is another cartoon where Olive and Bluto don't appear. Instead Popeye shares the screen with Eugene the Jeep, a dog like character with magical abilities. I simply have a love for this character, whether it be in animation or the comic strips. This may be my favorite of the cartoons featuring this character, because it is simply him, Popeye and a simple story (Popeye trying to put the Jeep out for the night). Nearly every gag works in this delightful film.