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Archive for May, 2017

Birds (1963)

This classic horror film is well-known but maybe not often seen.  But it should be.  The acting is excellent, the pacing is tense (although a bit slower than modern audiences might be used to), and the tension is high in the latter half.  One of the most striking qualities, when you notice it, is that there is no musical score.  The reason may be to let the audience listen for the horrifying sounds of gathering birds.  It certainly leaves an impression.  I would classify some of Hitchcock’s work as a bit over-hyped, but this is not one of them.  He had problems behind the scenes and was an unfair dictator, especially toward the movie’s star, Tippie Hedron, but he definitely knew what he was doing with this story.  If you have a bit more patience than the average ten-year-old in a movie theater, I’d recommend this movie to any fan of thrillers, horror movies, or classic cinema.

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Big Hero 6

This recent film was based on a comic and fleshed out into 3D CGI.  It is beautifully animated and lots of fun.  The plot twists aren’t exactly shocking, and most of the jokes are cliche, but the characters are touching and funny, and the action is fun and exciting.  There’s plenty going on to hold your attention.  There are a couple of tearjerker moments, so keep the tissues handy.  But all in all, it’s a great movie for anyone of any age.  The dialogue is snappy, the music is toe-tapping, and the main character is sympathetic.  The only real complaint I have is that the whole thing feels, in the end, like a setup for more movies or a series, and nothing’s been done yet.  The title refers to six people working together to be heroes (including the robot), the movie ends with the not-so-surprising reveal that they’re working as superheroes now, and the whole thing could have easily transitioned into a series like that.  It’s a pity that nothing’s been announced yet, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

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Little Lulu

Most people probably haven’t heard of this one.  Not exactly considered a classic, it’s still pretty good.  It’s not as frenetic as modern cartoons, but there’s plenty of Tom and Jerry-style slapstick.  The main character is cute in a Wednesday Addams sort of way.  She’s calm and pragmatic and always ready for an adventure.  Her overly enthusiastic father is the complete opposite and a perfect foil for her.  Her successes are assured, but there’s still plenty of excitement.  The tone is light, and the pacing is well-suited for a modern audience, unlike most cartoons of the time.  It’s not easy to find good copies of the videos these days, but it’s worth the search.

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This movie really shows its age.  Full of offensive stereotypes and cheesy humor, even its actors can’t seem to bring themselves to put any effort into their roles.  It’s mindless action and little more.  The casual racism is everywhere, and the comedy is lame and full of terrible puns that mostly make fun of Chinese language and culture.  The effects are pretty good for a movie from the mid-’80s, but that’s pretty much the only thing to recommend it.  If you like kung fu movies but thought that they needed less character development and a more cliche plot, this is a film for you.

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Betty Boop

This character has been around since the advent of sound in films.  She was part of the early development of animation and graphics.  Goofy and often oversexualized, Betty is still quite important to the history of cartoons, and not just in America.  Her influence was part of what led directly to the creation of Japanese anime.  Her cartoons might be a bit slow and cutesy for modern kids, but they’re worth a look if you’re interested in animation history.  The songs are well-done, if not particularly memorable.  And some of the side characters are weird enough to be genuinely funny.  This piece of history is mildly entertaining and actually a bit of fun.

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Better Than Chocolate

This is a moving look into a small community of LGBT people.  There’s romance and drama and angst and just enough cultural and social homophobia to present a picture of what queer people often have to deal with.  It’s touching and emotional, and the characters are sympathetic and feel so real.  The acting is superb, and the story is compelling.  It’s a great movie, whether you’re looking for something LGBT-related or not.  It’s a great way to gently raise questions about lifestyle and choices and love, so if you know someone who needs a nudge in the right direction, this is a great film to show them.  There are plenty of sex scenes and plenty of nudity, however, so this is not for kids.  None of it is done in an overly sexualized or pornographic manner, but it is very sexy and sensual, so viewer beware.  If you’re mature enough to handle that, though, this is a great movie with both entertainment and social movement value.

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Beetlejuice

This strange, mildly unsettling comedy is an acquired taste.  But if you love anything Tim Burton or anything darkly funny, it’s for you.  It’s gross and weird and has bizarre effects, but it’s all pretty entertaining.  The acting is excellent, the music is memorable, the story is original.  Michael Keaton is disturbing and funny as the titular ghost, and Winona Ryder is in top form as the character that most people think of when they see her name.  Everyone is excellent.  The plot has a few twists and a satisfying ending.  There isn’t much else to say.  If you like bizarre comedies and dark humor, this is a classic.

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