Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Gardener - This One's for the Ladies (and some of you men)

The Gardener is a 70s Horror Film starring Joe Dallesandro as the title character, a gardener with evil powers. More importantly, gardener who never wears a shirt with evil powers. Excited yet?
The movie is very pretty, filmed in Puerto Rico. Very gorgeous shots of various flowers and our title character fill the movie.
It's not very believable that Carl - The Gardener - can manipulate the flowers to drive his employers and friends crazy, and that's mostly because it isn't really explained. It just happens, and they expect us to believe it because the evidence is there. He comes, he goes, they go crazy.
I want to say that this movie was made to exploit the young actor (at least young at the time), but he's never really explored. He has some exploitive scenes, like when he skinny dips and seduces various female characters, but he's really not "fleshed" out. LoL. Flesh.
Our main character Ellen (played by Katherine Hepburn's niece Katharine Houghton) gets most of the screen time and she falls prey to Carl's powers of manipulation. The flowers in the house start to affect her other servants, her husband, and her best friend, who just wants to bed him. (Rita Glam, stealing every scene she's in)
I obviously wanted to watch the movie for some eye candy, and I kinda' get it. Joe Dallesandro as Carl struts around the movie in nothing but a pair of tight camel skin pants. We get a butt shot and some ab shots, but nothing that I can't see on an episode of Desperate Housewives or Weeds.
Still, the acting of our two main actresses, (playing the typical main character and main character's horny friend that pollutes so many other films) rises above B movie status and they take the ridiculous script so seriously that it elicits some unnecessary laughter throughout.
Worth a watch for cult movie fans, and gay people, but don't expect too much. Just some flesh, flowers and HORROR!!!! heheh.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

(500) Days of Summer - A Love Story with Balls

I love Zooey Deschanel. I love everything I've seen her in, even The Happening. She has it all: Her unique acting style. Her awesome singing voice (which we also get to hear in this movie) and her choice of acting roles. So far I've seen her play everything from the ingenue role of Lady Larken in the movie musical Once Upon a Mattress, a space traveler in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to a kick-ass Dorothy Gale in Tin Man.
She's recently been doing more mainstream fair like the formerly mention The Happening, Yes Man with Jim Carrey and Elf with Will Ferrel.
Zooey however is really the Queen of the Indie Scene. With films like Eulogy and the music album Volume 1 she has done with M. Ward as She and Him.
In (500) Days of Summer she plays the title character of Summer who Jospeh Gordon Levitt's character, Tom Hansen, pines for the duration of the film despite her constant telling him that she does not belive in having a boyfriend or being pinned down to one guy, and it's not hard to believe that he would still chase after her, at least for me.
(500) Days of Summer lets you know straight up that these two people will not end up together at the end of the film. The film lets you know how Tom Hansen feels about a sexual encounter he just had with Summer by breaking out into a big song and dance number. The film lets you know with a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie that the events are also not based on fact. Of course that is just not true, right?
There is so much reality infused into this romantic comedy that you laugh because as outlandish as some of the actions are of the characters (Summer and Tom sit in a park and see who can yell "penis" the loudest as people pass by) you can't help be see how real it is.
The movie is filmed in a very unique way in which we can tell exactly how our main character Tom Hansen is feeling. To the dance number already mentioned to the split screen sequence in which we see at - the same time - how he wants things to go down, and exactly how it will go down.
The movie is cleverly written, and the tone throughout the film is very even. It's very well acted and easy to believe. Plus Zooey's in it, hello.
Here's a performance of Zooey that has nothing to do with the movie.
Beautiful, no?

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Little Prince (1974) - The Lerner and Lowe Movie Musical Directed by Stanley Donen, That's A Lot

I always thought that The Little Prince was just an animated series on Nickelodeon so it surprised me when I was flipping through Disney Channel and saw that it was also a musical made in 1974. I was 10 back then. I later on found out that all of this, the animated series, the musical, and later on the Rachel Portman Opera was based off of the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

The story bring us into the world of an unnamed aviator who gets stranded in the dessert and finds company with a strange boy and his strange stories of planetary travel.
The movie, directed by Singing the Rain director Stanley Donen, is very close to the book, as are most of the adaptations of this story that I've seen. They usually have the same intro involving a drawing of an elephant being eaten by a snake. It's not a hat dammit.

After the intro with the drawing, the aviator gets stranded in the dessert, meets the prince and the prince tells his story, or stories, of what led him from his planet, called B612, and the many people and places he's met in his journeys.
What sets this version apart from other versions is the music by legendary music men Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe who also did the music and lyrics for Camelot and My Fair Lady. The songs are pretty good with "You're a Child" taking up the majority of his planetary visits. The songs do have a tendency to drag though. There are some songs I know i definitely would have cut for time. This movie is not long, it's 88 minutes, but due to songs that kind of drag, it feels loooong. I am a firm believer that music is story in a musical and for the most part this movie follows that rule, but there are one or two songs here that feel unnecassary and stretched too thin.
Gene Wilder and Bob Fosses get top billing in this movie, and neither of them are the aviator or the prince. Gene Wilder plays a Fox and Bob Fosse plays a dancing snake. Both meet the prince in his travels and affect him greatly. Great scenes they are. Bob Fosse's dancing is phenomenal, but it's one of those scenes that I believe was stretched too thin.
The aviator is played by stage and screen actor Richard Kiley. The prince is played by Steven Warner who's only other starring role would be in the disastrous 1976 film version of The Blue Bird. Both actors play off of each other very well really helps keep the story focused.
The effects are amazing with the 2d animated birds who carry the prince through his planetary travels and the fish eye lens that is used as he visits each planet, except for earth of course. Imagine a movie where most of it is shot with a fish eye lens. Scary huh?
A pretty good movie, but would've been much better with a few edits. If you read the book I have no doubt you'll love this. For musical theater fans, you might find enjoyment in the acting and singing and those Lerner and Lowe songs. For the rest of the world though, watch with caution.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Daria on DVD Finally May 11th

At last, an official DVD release of Daria. I would've preffered to have it be on blu ray, but I'm not picky. On a side note, Aeon Flux will be available on blu ray as an amazon.com exclusive.
Wow, I remember when this show came out. It was so different and so real. These characters might have been drawn, but I saw more of myself in these characters than in Dawson's Creek or Felicity.
Promoted as a Beavis and Butt-Head spin-off, Daria was it's polar opposite which aliented most fans of Mike Judge's series. Mike Judge would later on leave Beavis and Butt-Head behind to work on King of the Hill and the recent animated sitcom The Goode Family, and Daria would take on a life of her own.
Daria has had two telemovies and and has been an animated host on numerous MTV specials on top of having 65 episodes. Both telemovies will be included in this DVD release, rumored to be around 50 dollars, as well as every episode and an abundance of special features.
Click here for more info.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Tune - Bill Plympton's Masterpiece

The Tune is an animated musical made by Oscar winning animator Bill Plympton (Your Face) who also did every single drawing in this feature. A first for animated movies. With Bill Plympton's drawings and music by the talented Maureen McElheron, The Tune becomes a unique classic.
The story follows songwriter Dell on a journey to write a song so he could live happily ever after with the girl of his dreams, Didi, also played by Maureen McEhleron. He travels through the wonderous place of Floobynooby and learns to write songs with his heart, and not his pancreas.
Drawn solely in a style that looks like colored pencil, the look of the film tends to be uneven, but Bill Plympton's style itself is so unique and invitingly strange that one tends to ignore the style shift as each song in the story is presented with a unique look.
The music is in this movie is what really makes the film. Mauren McElheron juggles so many styles that it's hard to believe that she's the sole composer. We go from Old Broadway to Country, to 60's Beach Rock. We even get some Rhythm and Blues and a Tango Piece. The music in The Tune really celebrates the old American Classics.
The Tune really suffers during some long drawn out sequences and songs that do garner laughs, but many might seem to think that they detract from the story. (Namely a scene with a wise man and another scene with two business men inflicting torture upon each other's faces.) Still, even with these scenes, it's very easy for me to recommend a viewing of this film.

Lil' Abner - Beefcake and Music, What's Not to Love?

During my downtime from work and my show, I decided to sit down and watch Lil' Abner. Two theater friends of mine have been talking about it, and I've been wanting to watch it for awhile now. I mean, look at that main actor. HOT!
If you haven't noticed by now, I love musicals, and Lil' Abner is a cute little musical. I was instantly pulled into this unique world based off of the comic strip of the same name by Al Capp.
The main plot introduces us to Daisy Mae's (Leslie Parish) plight to catch Lil' Abner (Peter Palmer) on Sadie Hawkin's Day and finally marry him. This simple plot expands and expands to include almost every character in the little town of Dogpatch and the American Government.

Lil Abner kind of reminded me of Oklahoma, but better. Oklahoma seemed to lack focus, whereas Lil' Abner is totally focused. Most importantly, you can feel the love behind every scene. The movie is just so infectious and charming that it's hard to not be pulled into this world.
There's also a few scenes with Julie Newmar playing the small role of Stupefyin' Jones. (because she can "stupefy" any man in her tracks)

Peter Palmer is absolutely delicious in his role as Lil' Abner, the title character and the original actor to play him on stage.
Lil' Abner comes together very nicely. The sets are beautiful, the singing is beautiful, the men are beautiful... :-)
What's not to love?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Alice on the Wall - Read the Review, Watch the Movie :-)

Upon review, Disney's Alice in Wonderland is not only one of the faithful cinematic retellings of Lewis Carrol's most well known books, but also a nice allegory for growing up. Alice starts the movie young and naive and grows throughout the movie, and I don't mean just physically. Not as obvious as one would expect in a Disney film, but it does happen.
I used to really hate this movie because I really like when Disney Studios personalize a well known story with their own magical touch. In this movie, the only real Disney staple I see is that of the character of Alice, and that's enough for me really. They really took this character out of the pages and put her into reality, and then put her into Wonderland, hehehe. Smiley face again :-)
I may have naysers to this next quote, but one thing I love about Disney movies is how they create strong central female characters. Throughout Cinderella's plight, she stays strong and true to herself. Aurora even has a hint, tiny tiny hint, of rebellion when she discovers she is truly a princess. Alice is a very strong character and she is what drives the entire movie. We really care about her because Disney allows us to get to know her; portrayed to perfection by Kathryn Beaumont. Kathryn Beaumont IS Alice. This little underrated actress is known for Alice and Wendy, but trust me folks, this girl OWNS Alice. End of story
This review however is not for Disney's well known adaptation, but for a special cut of the film I saw that synchronized Disney's Alice in Wonderland and Pink Floyd's well know album The Wall.
Like with MGM's Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, one simply has to play the album along with the footage of the film, and boom, a psychedelic version of a well known family film musical. I'm not going to get into the psychology behind audio synchronized type experiences, or how random the idea is, I'm just here to review one of them.
Alice on the Wall, or The Wonderland Wall isn't perfect, even though it's a much better synchro than Oz and Moon, but wow when it comes together it really comes together.
The first thing I noticed is when a scene changes, either the mood of the music changes or a song changes completely with the film. Other things I noticed is when sound effects on the album synch up with the action on-screen. A scene where Alice is cradling her kitten Dinah has a baby crying (or meowing) on the album.
Of course, not an ideal way to watch the movie, but it is fun when you and a bunch of friends want to sit around and see an interesting movie experience for little to no money. I mean, all you really need is a copy of The Wall and a copy of Disney's Alice, or you could watch it on the google video provided up above :-)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

50 First Dates - Ed and Mark's Romantic Afternoon

So it was the morning after opening night of the musical I choreograph, sing and dance in, and Mark and I were just relaxing at home. I wanted to watch an obscure underground movie and Mark wanted to watch 50 First Dates, which I have never seen before. He likes doing that, watching movies with me that I've never seen before. I usually have watched whatever movie he wants to watch already. He especially likes watching a movie with me that neither have us have watched.
50 First Dates goes into that category of movies that I just didn't get to watching. I did want to watch it, but I just never got around to it.
As everyone knows, 50 First Dates is the story of a boy played by Adam Sandler meeting a girl played by Drew Barrymore who doesn't remember meeting him at all the following few days. So enchanted by the girl by Drew Barrymore he is, he decides to pursue her day after day so they can fall in love day after day.
Adam Sandler plays it straight for the most part. Straight meaning he's not the funny man in this one, and straight meaning he's not exclusively attracted to the ladies. Heheh. You've got to see the opening scene for that one to be explained.
The funny one in this one has got to be Drew Barrymore. This little lady lets it loose in this movie and I think she should always let it loose. She has a real talent for comedy that sadly is only properly displayed on the blooper real that's contained in the disc. Within the movie however, she does a delicate balance of retaining humor while dealing with the seriousness of her condition, which doesn't actually exist within our reality but within the reality of the movie. She's awesome.
There's also a scene with a vomiting walrus that I couldn't stop watching. Vomit is funny. :-) Smiles!!!
Also stars Dan Akroyd, Rob Schneider, Sean Astin and a heartfelt appearance from Amy Hill. (All-American Girl's Grandma Kim)
A pretty good romantic comedy that isn't without it's faults, but well worth a view. Now that that's over, I get to watch my obscure movie. Stay tuned for a review on that one, hehehe.

Happy Feet - I Know, Out of All People I Should've Been the First In Line to See This One

I finally forced myself to sit down and watch Happy Feet. Everyone who has seen it has told me to see it, and everyone who has seen it upon finding out I haven't seen it has been shocked beyond belief. I mean, it's an animated musical. What could I not like about it?
Happy Feet came out around the time of March of the Penguins, Farce of the Penguins and Surf's Up. A part of me felt as if Warner Bros' was just trying to compete. There was also nothing really about the movie that excited me. It was a jukebox musical (a musical using previously known songs) and those are always tricky, I wasn't too aware of it's cast (but if I had known that Nicole Kidman and Brittany Murphy had singing parts in this I would've been all over that CD) and the look of the film appeared to be unimaginative. It just looked blah.
That was all changed once I saw the amazing CGI recreation of the penguins and their environment and Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman's beautiful opening number. The film's CGI is far from cheap or gimmicky. A lot of love went behind the look of the penguins and the feel for the piece over all. The songs do what their supposed to do: move a story forward. The songs are very integral to the plot and do not detract.
The plot is also surprisingly multi layered. This film could have easily been a fluff piece, but there are so many issues and themes scattered throughout the movie. In this movie alone we deal with religion, class system, and how one can be treated for being different.
Mumbles, our hero of the piece and voiced by Elijah Wood as an adult and Elizabeth Daily as a youngin', is born different from the rest of his penguin neighborhood for the simple fact that he wasn't born with a natural singing voice and he dances. No other penguin in the pack dances. They think it's weird. For this he is automatically shunned and his father is ashamed of him. He finds a friend in Gloria (Britanny Murphy) and always has the support of his mother voiced by Nicole Kidman. Along his adventures he also makes fast friends with a pack of latino voiced penguins.
I know.
Mumble's parents are named Norma Jean and Memphis. Get it? I thought it was pretty clever.
I think as long as people keep being dramatically afraid of what they don't understand, stories with the theme of isolation will always thrive. So sadly, they will always thrive.
Where the movie threw me off a little was at it's second act where it seems to be another movie altogther. I originally was going to argue that it seems to begin as one type of movie and then turn into another, but Happy Feet defies so many rules already that it works. This movie begins as a musical, and then evolves into an action adventure science fiction movie. I would've preferred to have more songs pushing the story forward in the second act, but I was so caught up in the struggle of our characters that I didn't even notice. This is risky film making and I wish more studios would be this risky.
Happy Feet is a wholly unique experience and one I'll be buying on blu-ray. The blu-ray also contains a bonus cartoon, I Love to Singa, from the Warner Bros. Vault that explains this cute joke from South Park.

Looking for a good musical and an awesome CGI experience? This is it. Not South Park, Happy Feet of course.

Friday, February 5, 2010

More Alice News

Wow, what I thought was going to happen is going to happen. With the upcoming release of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland comes a slew of Alice DVDs, both new releases and re-releases. The most popular of these new Alice DVDs coming out is Paramount Pictures' Alice in Wonderland done in 1933.
Out of print for years now and only available on TV in edited form, Paramount's Alice in Wonderland will finally see it's way onto DVD March 2nd. Tim Burton's Alice comes out on March 5th. See how marketing works?
This is one Alice I have never seen but I have heard so much about it. Like most versions, it combines elements of both Alice books.
Here's the only clear scene I can find. It features The White Queen (in sheep form) and Humpty Dumpty.

Like other Alice adaptations, this fim also has a big name cast. Hard to tell unless you have a good ear, but that's WC Fields as Humpty. Other cast members include Gary Cooper as The White Knight and CARY GRANT!!!! He is so dreamy. Not sure how dreamy he'll be playing The Mock Turtle though.
The amazon listing shows that the movie is Black and White and COLOR. Not sure what that means but I am anxious to find out.
This is definitely a version of Alice I want to purchase real soon. This one and Meryl Street in Alice at the Palace.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Alice in TV and Cinema

I'm one of those guys that when I like something, I really like something. Due to the anticipation of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, I started to watch the 1985 musical version of Alice in Wonderland, which also led to the viewing of several other versions of Alice that I have obtained through the years including an X Rated Musical Version. We won't talk much about that one because I want to keep this family friendly. Well, my version of family friendly.
I thought it would be awesome to feature a list of the film versions of Alice that I have been exposed to. Keep in mind this is not chronological but it's listed in the order that I was exposed to a viewing of each film. I've also purposely left some out. I've decided only to include some of the most popular and sometimes strange versions. 
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
  • I was first exposed to the Alice stories when my mother rented the musical Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which featured a young Michael Crawford (original Phantom of the Opera) as The White Rabbit and a young Fiona Fullerton as Alice who would go on to be a Bond Girl in A View to Kill. Also in this film are big name people playing the residents of Wonderland, a staple in these productions. Aside from Crawford and Fullerton we've also got Dudley Moore and Peter Sellers to name a few. One thing I love about this movie is how naturally the songs come in and out. That's a huge plus in any musical. The sets are also incredibly beautiful if not obviously manufactured. It works in this movie though due to the childlike nature of the production. The costumes are also top notch despite the majority of them obviously being humans in animal costumes. However, beautiful as this movie is, this movie didn't leave too much of an impression on me. The next one did though.
Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland

  • The following week I was exposed to Disney's take on Alice. As a child, I related more to this version of the Alice character. Voiced by Kathryn Beaumont, who also voiced Wendy in Disney's Peter Pan, this Alice felt more real to me despite being animated. The songs in this one were much better too and Alice was given a driving force to travel through Wonderland: she wanted to get the hell outta there.
  • Originally, Disney had a much different version of Alice in mind, but when Alice in Wonderland fans got a hold of this news, they wrote letters begging him not to detract too far from the book. As a result, Disney's version is very, very stuck strictly to the book and doesn't have the same warm feel as the other films in the Disney Library. Not a bad movie, but I can't help but think it could've been better had Disney just made the film he wanted and ignored the letters from ignorant book fans.
Alice in Wonderland
  • This was the 1985 TV musical I reviewed in the previous article. This one has stayed with me the most out of the rest of the others on this list due to it's script, it's top notch all star cast and it's incredible songs. Click here for a full over view, or just look for it on the right of the blog archive list.
Alice in Wonderland

  • Another all star production, this one made in 1999. A very effective and breathtaking opening scene sets the stage for this production. The camera moves through Alice's room to show toys  that would later become characters in Wonderland, and then moves through the halls of her home and outside to a tea party that shows human guests that would also become characters in Wonderland. Tina Majorina of Veronica Mars and Napoleon Dynamite stars as Alice complete with a british accent. A bit slow at times and sometimes too reliant upon it's big name stars. (Whoopi Goldberg as The Cheshire Cat, Martin Short as The Mad Hatter, George Wendt as Tweedle Dee and Miranda Richardson as The Queen of Hearts to name a few) I give this version mad props though in special effects and in keeping true to the spirit of the book. Also features puppets from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, and not the first time the Creature Shop has done something Alice related, but we'll get to that later.
Alice by stop motion filmmaker, Jan Švankmajer.
  • This version of Alice might be found as strange. A human Alice in a stop motion animated world, Alice travels through Wonderland chasing a stuffed taxidermic white rabbit who bleeds saw dust, and that's nothing compared to the rest of it. Told with very little dialogue, except for some minor narration from Alice, this movie is purely for the visual aspects as opposed to the dialogue aspect like the other movie versions. In one of the more eerie scenes, a mouse makes it's home on top of Alice's head, mistaking it for an island. He even gets as far as starting a fire to cook some rice. It's well worth a view to see the outrageousness of it all.
Alice Through the Looking Glass
  • One of the few movies that is based purely on the second Alice book Through the Looking Glass. Most Alice film adaptations just takes some elements of Through the Looking Glass - The Tweedles, The Flowers - and plugs them into the Wonderland sequences. This is one of those rare movies that takes Through the Looking Glass and adapts it for film without even touching Wonderland. Kate Beckinsale of Underworld fame stars as Alice in this one of a kind production. The film has truly set itself apart style-wise from the other adaptations on this list due to it's quirky nature. The Red Queen walks around in shiny red pleather. The White Queen has a head of hair that looks like coils of paper. The Tweedles look like a gay couple. Alice changes hairstyles and costumes as she enters each new scene, even sprouting wings at one point. This film is noted for containing a scene from a cut chapter of the original book. 
Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland.

  • This one has got to be my most personal favorite. Alice is decked out with wild hair and a real victorian dress. Gone is the apron and the bright colors, since this version was filmed in black and white to emulate victorian pictures. Gone are also the animal costumes. Alice walks through a dreamlike world, filmed in England during the summer of 1966. This version gives Lewis Carrol's intentions a certain clarity. The lack of animal costumes gives the viewer a closer glimpse of Carrol's intended satire. Highly recommended. 
Alice in Wonderland The X Rated Musical.
  • We're going to not spend too much time on this one. The songs were really good, The Mad Hatter was totally my type, Alice was adorable. Get the R Rated version. It's paced better.
  • A look into the REAL Alice. Alice Liddel, the inspiration for Alice. An older Alice is invited to America to celebrate Lewis Carrol, who is long dead, and she is haunted by visions from her past that include characters from Wonderland. The dream sequences feature creations from Jim Henson's Creature Shop who would later on lend their talents to the 1999 movie version of Alice in Wonderland. The movie doesn't delve too much into Lewis Carrol and Alice's relationship, but what it does touch upon is very sweet if not a little disturbing for modern audiences. Kind of reminded me of Finding Neverland.
I can't wait to add Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland to this list. That one I've been waiting for for awhile now. Until then, I got my list of Alice movies right here, and many more I left out :-)

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