Thursday, December 24, 2015

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977)

Merry Christmas! (Please click the links to read about the other Christmas-themed movies I reviewed in 2011, 2012, 2013, and last year)

Synopsis: Lovable aquatic furballs discover the true meaning of Christmas. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A fun-filled musical Christmas treat starring lovable Muppet friends in a heartwarming tale of love, family and good cheer!

  • The perfect gift for the whole family!
  •  Sure to be a perennial Christmas tradition!
  • Starring Instantly lovable Muppet characters!
  •  Narrated by Everyone’s all-time favorite – Kermit the Frog!
  • Based on a book by Russell and Lillian Hoban
  • Featuring Original Music by Paul Williams!”

What Did I Learn?: You can’t make money selling snake oil because nobody wants to oil a snake. 

Really?: 1) So, why does the Nightmare band have a fish as a member? He’s difficult to transport, and as far as I can tell, he doesn’t actually do anything on-stage besides swim around violently. 2) Um, I really didn’t need to hear those same songs sung two or three times. 3) So, Ma pawns the family tool chest while Emmet puts a hole in Ma’s washtub. Considering both of those items are essential to their economic well-being, I had a hard time believing either of them would take such foolhardy actions.4) Emmet and his mother sing a song about a fat lady's bathing suit. That seems a little insensitive.

Rating: I can’t believe I missed Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas when it was first released in 1977. I loved the Muppets, and I would have watched this in a heartbeat. After seeing it for the first time as an adult, however, I’m not entirely sure what to think of EOJBC. Emmet and his mother are likeable characters, and the story itself is sweet and appropriate for the season. EOJBC is a nice little Christmas special, although the plot meanders, and there are a few too many songs (and worse – repeated songs) for my taste. I have no idea if contemporary kids could sit through this holiday speical, but it is worth a viewing. 8/10 stars.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Heavy Traffic (1973)

Adult Animated Movie #3

Synopsis: It’s basically 77 minutes of extremely unlikable characters, racist stereotypes, domestic violence, and sub-par animation – and those are its good points! 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “An animated fantasy of hard-edged city life.” 

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, 1970s-era New York City pinball arcade owners were quite blasé about customers destroying their machines. 

Really?: Heavy Traffic is a Ralph Bakshi animated fantasy, so it’s hard to judge it in terms of its overall credibility. That said, it’s strange that Bakshi would make Michael (the protagonist) so unsympathetic; he pushes a naked teenage girl off a rooftop and never lifts a finger to help her afterwards, and he later beats a man senseless with a lead pipe in order to steal his wallet. Why in the world should we give a shit about his welfare?

Rating: Heavy Traffic is a dated, vulgar, and rather unfunny “comedy” (see: “Synopsis”). I'll give it a few stars for an interesting soundtrack and some cool visuals of New York City, but I cannot recommend this movie. 3.5/10 stars.

Heavy Metal (1981)

Adult Animated Movie #2 

Synopsis: Glowing green orb creates mayhem amidst pulsating rock soundtrack and gratuitous nudity. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “A universe of mystery. A universe of magic. A universe of awesome good.... and terrifying evil.” 

What Did I Learn?: Apparently, large-breasted women exist in every corner of the galaxy. 

You Might Like This Movie If: You appreciate any heavy metal.
Really?: 1) See: “What Did I Learn?” and “Synopsis” 2) Funny how this was a Canadian production, yet producer Ivan Reitman didn’t include a single piece of music from a Canadian artist. 3) So, everyone really, really wants to possess the Loc-Nor, even though the simple act of touching it causes instant death. Um....what’s the attraction, exactly? 4) Hold on – the Loc-Nor is destroyed in another dimension, thereby destroying it on Earth in the present day? So, how does it wind up on Earth in the future? Come to think of it, how does the little girl become the next Terrakian? I thought one had to be descended from a certain family on another planet, and....oh, I give up. 

Rating: I have to give Heavy Metal a rather mixed review. On the one hand, the film is highly imaginative, visually stunning, and packed with great tunes. On the other hand, Heavy Metal is also rather juvenile (see: “What Did I Learn”), extremely violent and disturbing, and the plot – such as it is - eventually stops making sense (see: “Really?”).  Moreover, the vignettes and accompanying animation are wildly uneven – some of them work, and some of them certainly don’t. 6/10 stars.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Scanner Darkly (2006)

Adult Animated Movie #1 (Please click the link to read my review of Blade Runner, another film that was inspired by a novel from Philip K. Dick. Come to think of it, this would have been perfect for my salute to addiction movies) 

Synopsis: Hilarity ensues when L.A. junkies interact. Hmm...that sounds a bit like Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie without the belly laughs... 

Blurb From the DVD Jacket: “What does a scanner see? Into the head? Into the heart?”

What Did I Learn?: 1) It’s not that easy to make a functional silencer for a pistol. 2) The world is getting progressively worse. 3) Cats can be described as: “Drippy little things, moving along, about a foot above the ground.” 4) The most dangerous kind of person is the one who’s afraid of his own shadow. 


Really?: So, wait... who exactly sabotaged Bob’s (Keanu Reeves) brakes? The most likely suspect is Barris (Robert Downey Jr.), but he’s *in* the car with the other goofballs on a trip to San Diego when the troubles begin. I realize they’re all druggies, and therefore a little lacking in the judgement department, but that’s really dumb. 

Rating: Much like Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly is a highly original, well-written, and incredibly thought-provoking combination of live action and creative animation. Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder are both quite good, but Downey Jr. steals the movie as the wormy-but-extremely funny Barris. Check it out if you get the chance. 10/10 stars.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Damn the Defiant! (1962)

Please click the links to read my reviews of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Mutiny on the Bounty, and The Bounty

Synopsis: It’s a bit like Mutiny on the Bounty, except Fletcher Christian is a sadistic and selfish asshole, while Captain Bligh is the nicest bloke in the fleet. 

Blurb From the VHS Jacket: “Alec Guinness must battle a mutinous crew and Napoleon’s fleet in the rousing, historical adventure, DAMN THE DEFIANT!” (Incredibly, the VHS jacket actually gives away the entire plot!) 

What Did I Learn?: If somebody asks if you’re related to an admiral who shares your last name, the best answer is “no” – because it’s probably a trick question. 

Really?: Hmm... so, first mate Scott-Padget thinks nothing of using his connections to run roughshod over captains, and he enjoys humiliating and punishing the crews who serve under him. I’m surprised he survived so many years without mysteriously falling overboard, or finding a knife stuck in his back during shore leave. 

Rating: Alec Guinness shines as the weak-but-compassionate Captain Crawford in Damn the Defiant, a now-forgotten Horatio Hornblower-inspired sea adventure. DTD is an enjoyable movie, but the plot tends to meander and the audience is cheated out of a final confrontation between Crawford and Scott-Padget. I’d love to see this film remade. 7.5/10 stars.