Aug 20, 2014

What Women Want (2000)

Genre: comedy, fantasy, romance
Directed by: Nancy Meyers
Produced by: Susan Cartsonis, Bruce Davey, Gina Matthews, etc.
Written by: Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa
Music by: Alan Silvestri
Running time: 127 minutes
Production company: Wind Dancer Productions, Centropolis Entertainment, Paramount Pictures, etc.
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures, New Films International, Buena Vista International, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $70,000,000
Box office: $374,111,707 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Mel Gibson, Helen Hunt, Marisa Tomei, Alan Alda, Ashley Johnson, Mark Feuerstein, Lauren Holly, Delta Burke, Valerie Perrine, Judy Greer, Sarah Paulson, Ana Gasteyer, Lisa Edelstein, Loretta Devine, Diana Maria Riva, Eric Balfour, Andrea Baker, Bette Midler

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I know he's a controversial figure but I like Mel Gibson as an actor lots. I first really got a thing for him from watching the Lethal Weapon series which he made great alongside Danny Glover. With lots of frenetic energy, it's a great series as far as action goes. You also can't deny just how awesome the Mad Max series is, well the first two anyway.

His career has kind of stalled in the last few years with only a film role a year it would seem, most recently with The Expendables 3. I remember having high hopes for Edge of Darkness from 2010 which was originally a British TV show from the 1980's. Even with Martin Campbell, the series' director, it disappointed. I'll never forget the action hero that Mel Gibson really is though. He's got a lot of charisma and that's why I knew he could handle a movie like What Women Want.

Aug 19, 2014

All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (1996)

Genre: animation, adventure, family
Directed by: Larry Leker, Paul Sabella
Produced by: Jonathan Dern, Paul Sabella, Kelly Ward, etc.
Written by: Arne Olsen, Kelly Ward, Mark Young
Music by: Mark Watters
Running time: 82 minutes
Production company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, United International Pictures, Chapel Distribution, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $8,620,678 (North America)


IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Charlie Sheen, Dom DeLuise, Sheena Easton, Adam Wylie, George Hearn, Bebe Neuwirth, Ernest Borgnine, Wallace Shawn, Hamilton Camp, Dan Castellaneta, Pat Corley, Jim Cummings, Bobby Di Cicco, Annette Helde, Marabina Jaimes, Tony Jay, Maurice LaMarche, Steve Mackall, Kevin Michael Richardson
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All Dogs Go to Heaven is one of those perfect "not really for kids movies." With a sombre colour palette, some frightening imagery as well as some mature subject matter, it's in no way the ideal movie to introduce your four year-old to movies for the first time. As I said in my review for All Dogs Go to Heaven, I think it's still a great learning tool for younger movie watchers to grow some backbone. You can't grow up if you're only fed jellybeans. You need some red meat after all.

MGM took over production duties from the original and it's pretty clear that they aimed to make All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 a little more friendly for the family movie market. I don't think it's as neutered as people make it out to be, but its edge in comparison to Bluth's entry has been considerably softened. The biggest problem with All Dogs Go to Heaven is that it's so generic. There are some other problems too of course but I guess that's the best way it can be summed up.

Aug 18, 2014

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

Genre: comedy, mystery, thriller
Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
Produced by: Edward Black
Written by: Sidney Gilliat, Frank Launder
Music by: Louis Levy, Charles Williams
Running time: 96 minutes
Production company: Gainsborough Pictures
Distributed by: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Gaumont British Picture Corporation of America, Nederland NV, etc.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Margaret Lockwood, Michael Redgrave, Paul Lukas, Dame May Whitty, Cecil Parker, Linden Travers, Naunton Wayne, Basil Radford, Mary Clare, Emile Boreo, Googie Withers, Sally Stewart, Philip Leaver, Selma Vaz Dias, Catherine Lacey, Josephine Wilson, Charles Oliver, Kathleen Tremaine

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Alfred Hitchcock found himself in a pretty interesting spot before having made The Lady Vanishes. He needed a film to fulfill a contract he had with producer Edward Black, who then offered him a project by the name of The Lost Lady which was based off of a book called The Wheel Spins by Ethel Lina White. This would later become The Lady Vanishes and had previously been a failed production. Roy William Neill had begun filming it in Yugoslavia but once officials found out that they were portrayed in a negative light, the team was kicked out of the country. Hitchcock was smart to set to set TLV in a fictional location. After all, everyone was all tense due to the brewing of a World War.

At the same time, the call of the United States was coming strong across the Atlantic. Alfred Hitchcock was adored stateside and Hollywood wanted him to be making movies for them. Beginning in 1939, producer David O. Selznick successfully signed Hitchcock to a seven-year agreement, ensuring his talents would remain in the US. This was following the release of The Lady Vanishes which ended up being a huge success financially and critically. The rest is history.

Aug 17, 2014

Lady Killers (2003)

Genre: comedy, crime
Directed by: Gary Preisler
Produced by: Don Ashley, Amy Greenspun, Gary Preisler, etc.
Written by: Gary Preisler
Music by: Chris Horvath
Running time: 90 minutes
Production company: Delfino Entertainment, National Lampoon Productions, Voyage Entertainment, etc.
Distributed by: P&A Distributors, Lady Killers Productions LLC
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $527,000 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Will Friedle, Chris Owen, Louise Lasser, Renée Taylor, Nikki Ziering, Rudy De Luca, Jack Ong, J.J. Cole, Carmen Twillie, Gabriel Bologna

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National Lampoon, a magazine that traces its beginnings to 1970 before ending its publication in 1998. Originally just a collection of crude, sometimes intelligent comedy, it branched out into a variety of media to include film. Movies like Animal House and Vacation look like oddities now if you look at all of the National Lampoons productions and Lady Killers doesn't do anything to dispel that notion.

There are some pretty shoddy productions from National Lampoon throughout its history and that's because anyone could lease the National Lampoon name. Make a bad movie and slap National Lampoon on the poster and there you have it. A funny movie, in theory only though. What a way to ruin a brand eh? I wonder what a touch of quality control could have done. The rights were then bought by a company that named itself National Lampoon Inc. and has made a collection of movies that can summed up as frat boy trash since 2002. Lady Killers was their first film attempt and it looks like it went through a name change once it was released on DVD to Gold Diggers. I'm sticking with its original theatrical title though.

Aug 16, 2014

All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)

Genre: animation, comedy, drama
Directed by: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, Dan Kuenster
Produced by: Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, etc.
Written by: David N. Weiss
Music by: Ralph Burns
Running time: 85 minutes
Production company: Goldcrest Films International, Sullivan Bluth Studios
Distributed by: United Artists, Rank Organisation, Goldcrest Films International, etc.
Country: Ireland, United Kingdom, United States
Language: English
Budget: $14,000,000
Box office: $27,000,000 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Judith Barsi, Vic Tayback. Charles Nelson Reilly, Loni Anderson, Melba Moore, Ken Page, Rob Fuller, Godfrey Quigley, Anna Manahan, Candy Devine, Daryl Gilley, Earleen Carey, Nigel Pegram
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I was born in 1990 but growing up I never got the chance to see All Dogs Go to Heaven. It didn't do incredibly well during its theatrical run but was one of the biggest sellers once it hit the home market with over three million VHS tapes sold in its first week. Ex-Disney animator Don Bluth made quite a name for himself when he left Disney and The Land Before Time is still one of my all time favourites from when I was a kid.

The release of All Dog Go to Heaven was a sad one because of the death of voice actress Judith Barsi who had also voiced Ducky in The Land Before Time. She was murdered by her father along with her mother which is just unbelievably tragic. It's hard not to think about it while watching All Dogs Go to Heaven and it makes a couple of the scenes even more hard hitting.

Aug 15, 2014

The Ladies Man (1961)

Genre: comedy
Directed by: Jerry Lewis
Produced by: Jerry Lewis, Ernest D. Glucksman
Written by: Jerry Lewis, Bill Richmond
Music by: Walter Scharf
Running time: 95 minutes
Production company: Paramount Pictures
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures, Columbia Broadcasting System, Paramount Home Video
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $3,100,000
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Jerry Lewis, Helen Traubel, Pat Stanley, Kathleen Freeman, George Raft, Harry James, Marty Ingels, Buddy Lester, Gloria Jean, Hope Holiday, Jack LaLanne, Sylvia Lewis, Dee Arlen, Francesca Bellini, Jack Kruschen, Vicki Benet, Alex Gerry, Patricia Blair, Doodles Weaver, Lillian Briggs, Bonnie Evans

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I don't have a lot of experience with Jerry Lewis but generally I like him. I've seen him in Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy which isn't at all his typical role and I've also seen him in The Nutty Professor. TNP hasn't aged very well if you ask me but it's definitely better than the modern retelling of the story with Eddie Murphy.

The Ladies Man isn't really the kind of movie that could be very well remade. It takes place in an all women's boarding house with Jerry Lewis playing the most sensitive man on earth. The kind who is reduced to tears multiple times. The way in which The Ladies Man is filmed is really cool because the boarding house set is built as if it were a dollhouse. Apparently the most expensive set for a family comedy at the time, the effect of panning from one room to another without any cuts is nice to watch as is the effect of zooming out and getting long shots of the entire, open-roomed house.

Aug 14, 2014

Music of the Heart (1999)

Genre: drama, music
Directed by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Susan Kaplan, Marianne Maddalena, Allan Miller, etc.
Written by: Pamela Gray
Music by: Mason Daring
Running time: 124 minutes
Production company: Craven-Maddalena Films, Miramax Films
Distributed by: Miramax Films, Alliance Atlantis Communications, Arthaus Filmverleih, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $27,000,000
Box office: $14,859,394 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Meryl Streep, Cloris Leachman, Aidan Quinn, Angela Bassett, Josh Pais, Gloria Estefan, Charlie Hofheimer, Kieran Culkin, Jay O. Sanders, Henry Dinhofer, Michael Angarano, Jean-Luke Figueroa, Jade Yorker, Victoria Gómez, Justin Pierre Edmund, Justin 'DJ' Spaulding, Zoe Sternbach-Taubman, Christopher Lopez, Ruben Jared Seraballs, Lucy Nonas-Barnes, Rosalyn Coleman
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So it was my girlfriend who picked to watch this movie and as the opening credits are rolling with nice pleasant music, I was dumbfounded to see Wes Craven's name attached to this. Craven does non-horror movies? Since when? Turns out that Music of the Heart is his only non-horror movie and even received some Academy notice. 

As you'd expect of a Craven horror movie, Music of the Heart was released around Halloween in 1999. Its intentions are quite different though. Executive producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein are part of the team that make up the Music of the Heart production, add in Meryl Streep in a starring role and that means there's a strong possibility that Music of the Heart is what you'd call an "Oscar bait" film. November is usually awards season but October 29th isn't so distant from that. There are obviously good and bad Oscar bait films and the question is where does Music of the Heart find itself?

Aug 13, 2014

Never Say Never Again (1983)

Genre: action, adventure, thriller
Directed by: Irvin Kershner
Produced by: Jack Schwartzman, Kevin McClory, Michael Dryhurst
Written by: Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Music by: Michel Legrand
Running time: 134 minutes
Production company: TaliaFilm II Productions, Woodcote, PSO International
Distributed by: Warner Bros., Producers Sales Organization (PSO), Columbia-EMI-Warner, etc.
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Budget: $36,000,000
Box office: $160,000,000 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Sean Connery, Klaus Maria Brandauer, Max von Sydow, Barbara Carrera, Kim Basinger, Bernie Casey, Alec McCowen, Edward Fox, Pamela Salem, Rowan Atkinson, Valerie Leon, Milos Kirek, Pat Roach, Anthony Sharp, Prunella Gee, Gavan O'Herlihy, Ronald Pickup
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I am a huge James Bond fan, through and through. From the greats to the mediocre entries, 007 movies represent a two hour time slot that is guaranteed to be enjoyable for me. At least to a certain extent anyway. I guess Sean Connery is my favourite Bond but honestly all of them have their reasons to be likeable. I'm not one of those pro-Connery or pro-Moore types either. I love them all.

When I first heard about Never Say Never Again, I guess I was scandalized. It's not part of the original EON productions and was born out of Kevin McClory's long legal battle for the film rights of Thunderball. He was one of the original writers of the Thunderball script and once Ian Fleming wrote the book for Thunderball which borrowed heavily from the film script, well that opened the door for McClory to get his foot in.

The whole idea of having gotten away with getting the rights to Thunderball which includes the SPECTRE organization strikes me as opportunistic even if I can understand the reasons behind McClory's beef with Fleming. But really, remaking Thunderball (which is a personal favourite of mine) eighteen years later with Mr. Connery himself coming back?!? It's two parts crazy and one part money-grabbing. The film even made a very impressive profit from its investment and became the highest grossing Bond film which I'm sure really riled up the folks at EON.

Aug 12, 2014

Monster-in-Law (2005)

Genre: comedy, romance
Directed by: Robert Luketic
Produced by: Chris Bender, J.C. Spink, Paula Weinstein, etc.
Written by: Anya Kochoff
Music by: David Newman, Rosey
Running time: 101 minutes
Production company: BenderSpink, Spring Creek Productions, Kumar Mobiliengesellschaft mbH & Co. Projekt Nr. 1 KG, etc.
Distributed by: New Line Cinema, Metropolitan Filmexport, Warner Bros., etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $43,000,000
Box office: $154,749,918 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Jane Fonda, Michael Vartan, Wanda Sykes, Adam Scott, Monet Mazur, Annie Parisse, Will Arnett, Elaine Stritch, Stephen Dunham
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I had no idea that Jane Fonda had stopped acting for fifteen years before the release of Monster-in-Law. That makes it pretty depressing now when you think about it. She's a legend who comes back to star in what seem like at first glance such a dimwitted romantic comedy? I guess it's an easy way to ease her way back in because really, fifteen years is a long time to not be acting. 

Jane Fonda actually doesn't do that bad of a job in what is a pretty run-of-the-mill affair. The script for Monster-in-Law is far from brilliant but she makes do with what she has to make a couple of amusing moments. It does help that she's alongside Jennifer Lopez who doesn't really make a very good case for herself here. She comes off as very blank and was even nominated for a Razzy for her efforts. I guess the best way to look at Monster-in-Law is a lost opportunity. A faceoff between JLo and Jane Fonda doesn't sound that dumb if you really think about it.

VeggieTales: God Wants Me to Forgive Them!?! (1994)

Genre: animation, short, family
Directed by: Phil Vischer
Produced by: Phil Vischer
Written by: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki
Music by: Kurt Heinecke
Running time: 30 minutes
Production company: Big Idea Productions
Distributed by:  Everland Entertainment
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: N/A

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Phil Vischer, Mike Nawrocki, Bridgett Miller, Lisa Vischer, Dan Anderson, Gail Freeman, Jeff Morrow, Greg Whalen
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Here we are back again for some more VeggieTales. One of the amusing things I've noticed about the later VT videos is that they like to take popular stories and adapt them with morally correct vegetables. How about VeggieTales: Minnesota Cuke and the Search for Samson's Hairbrush? It even has the same font as Indiana Jones! The whole VT operation is probably small enough to avoid the ire of big studios but this 1994 entry was also inspired to use some familiar material.

VeggieTales: God Wants Me to Forgive Them!?! uses John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath (basically only in name though) as well the first episode of Gilligan's Island. If you can imagine what a Christian parody of both would be like, well there you have it. That only really goes for the Gilligan part though because The Grapes of Wrath is basically just about a group of grumpy grapes who are mean. Are these spoofs any good? Long story short, not particularly.