Blog Archives

What I Watched In… March 2018

Thor-Ragnarok

Favorite of the Month: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

  1. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), C
  2. Mute (2018), C-
  3. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010), F; RiffTrax Riff, A
  4. The Incredible Hulk (2008), B-
  5. The Revenge of Frankenstein (1958), B
  6. Godzilla’s Revenge (1969), F
  7. Spookers (2017), C
  8. Iron Man 2 (2010), B+
  9. Turok: Son of Stone (2008), C
  10. Thor (2011), B+
  11. Escape From L.A. (1996), C-
  12. Guardians of Oz (2015), C+
  13. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), A
  14. The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953) B
  15. Thor: Ragnarok (2017), B+
  16. A Futile and Stupid Gesture (2018), B
  17. Animal House (1978), B+
  18. The Avengers (2012), A
  19. Constantine (2005), D
  20. Lego DC Comics Super Heroes: The Flash (2018), B
  21. The Boy in the Plastic Bubble (1976), D; RiffTrax Riff, B+
  22. Lean on Me (1989), B+
  23. Iron Man 3 (2013), B+
  24. Terror Out of the Sky (1978), D-
  25. The Mad Magician (1954), C
  26. The Ritual (2018), B
  27. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989), B+
  28. Thor: The Dark World (2013), C+
  29. Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla (1974), B-
  30. The Prince of Egypt (1998), A-
  31. Spider-Man (2002), B
  32. Here Comes Peter Cottontail (1971), B-

 

Advertisements

What I Watched In… October 2015

Favorite of the Month: The Martian (2015)

Favorite of the Month: The Martian (2015)

A few days late, and sorry about that, but here’s my monthly rundown of movies I watched.

In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written or talked about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Miami Connection (1987), F; RiffTrax, A
2. Little Shop of Horrors (1986), A
3. Hatchet (2006), B+
4. Hatchet II (2010), B+
5. Hatchet III (2013), B
6. Descendants (2015), C+
7. The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t (1979), B
8. The Green Inferno (2013), C
9. The Martian (2015), A
10. Friday the 13th (1980), B
11. Friday the 13th Part 2 (1981), B
12. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), B+
13. A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985), D
14. The Scribbler (2014), B
15. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949), A
16. Halloween is Grinch Night (1977), B-
17. The Nightmare (2015), B
18. Scared Shrekless (2010), B
19. Addams Family Values (1993), A-
20. Creepshow (1982), B
21. Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954), B-
22. Revenge of the Creature (1955), C
23. The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), D
24. Candyman (1992), B
25. Halloween (1978), A
26. Halloween: Unmasked 2000 (1999), B-
27. Strangers on a Train (1951), A
28. Monster Problems (2015), A-
29. Conventional (2015), B
30. Tales of Halloween (2015), B
31. Teen Wolf (1985), C
32. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966), A
33. You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972), B
34. Garfield in Disguise (1985), A
35. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), A
36. Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff (1949), B
37. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), B+
38. Hocus Pocus (1993), B-
39. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955), B

What I Watched In… June 2014

Favorite of the Month: Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

Favorite of the Month: Much Ado About Nothing (2012)

First off, allow me to apologize for the lack of activity here lately. I know I promised to start hitting you guys with more regular reviews, but June didn’t allow me a lot of time for writing of any kind because — and this is the part I make no apologizes for — I got married. It’s been a great month, but a busy one. The odd thing is, I did manage to squeeze in a healthy number of movies, while simultaneously having virtually no time to DO anything with them.

Anyway, back to the usual stuff. In the interest of full disclosure (and to generate a little content here) I thought I’d present a regular tally of what movies I managed to see in the previous month. Some of them I’ve written about, most of them I haven’t. This list includes movies I saw for the first time, movies I’ve seen a thousand times, movies I saw in the theater, movies I watched at home, direct-to-DVD, made-for-TV and anything else that qualifies as a movie. I also choose my favorite of the month among those movies I saw for the first time, marked in red. Feel free to discuss or ask about any of them!

1. Jaws (1975), A
2. Pulp Fiction (1994), B+
3.  The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953), B
4. Cool as Ice (1991), F; Rifftrax Riff, B+
5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013), C+
6. The Institute (2013), B-
7. Timecrimes (2007), A-
8. Curious George (2006), B
9. Knights of Badassdom (2013), B+
10. Identity Thief (2013), C
11. American Psycho (2000), B-
12. The Adventures of the American Rabbit (1986), B-
13. Hercules (1958), D+; MST3K Riff, B
14. From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), B
15. From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999), C
16. From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999), B-
17. Full Tilt Boogie (1997), B-
18. Killers From Space (1954), D; Film Crew Riff, B
19. Much Ado About Nothing (2012), A-
20. High Anxiety (1977), B
21. The Aristocats (1970), C+
22. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963), B+
23. The Matrix (1999), A
24. Armageddon (1998), B-
25. Frozen (2013), A
26. How to Train Your Dragon (2010), B+
27. You’re Next (2013), C+
28. Maleficent (2014), B-
29. Planet of Dinosaurs (1977), F; RiffTrax Riff, B
30. The Wolverine (2013), B-
31. The LEGO Movie (2014), A
32. The Conjuring (2013), C-
33. Monsters University (2013), B+
34. The Blue Umbrella (2013), A

The Christmas Special Day 3: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

how-the-grinch-stole-christmasDirector: Chuck Jones

Writers: Irv Spector & Bob Ogle, based on the book by Dr. Seuss

Cast: Boris Karloff, June Foray

Plot: In the town of Whoville, Christmas is a season beloved by all. The Whos in Whoville gather together to cut down the town tree, decorate the community, and celebrate the season. But not everybody is happy with the season. North of Whoville, in a mountain cave, lives a green creature called the Grinch (Boris Karloff, doing double-duty as the narrator) who hates Christmas with all of his two-sizes-too-small heart. As he watches their celebration begin, he vows to destroy Christmas for everyone. Stitching together a Santa Claus suit and putting “antlers” on his dog Max, the Grinch sweeps into town and begins breaking into houses, stealing every present, every decoration, every morsel of food, even the roast beast. As he goes to work in one house, however, he’s interrupted by little Cindy Lou Who (June Foray).Cindy Lou mistakes him for Santa and asks him why he’s taking their Christmas tree. He tells her he’s bringing the tree to his workshop to repair a broken light, then ushers her off to bed and finishes his insidious task.

The Grinch and Max take their loot to the top of a mountain, where he plans to spy on the Whos as they wake up and find their Christmas ruined. To his shock, though, the Whos come from their houses, join hands, and begin to sing despite their lack of gifts, of trees, of boxes and bags. That’s when it dawns on him… that perhaps Christmas has a deeper meaning than those things one can buy from a store. As his heart fills for the first time in years, his sleigh of toys begins to tip over the side of the mountain. His newfound Christmas spirit gives him the strength to rescue the sleigh and he races back to Whoville to return everything he stole. The Whos welcome him with open arms and even allow him to carve the roast beast.

Thoughts: Like most movies (even short films) that are based on children’s books, when the time came to animate How the Grinch Stole Christmas there was a need to beef up the story considerably in order to make it fill the allotted running time. Fortunately, this is a case where just enough was added to make the story a real classic (as opposed to the 2001 feature film where just enough was added to make the whole thing feel like a waste of time).

Out of all the specials I’m going to talk about this month, this may be the most singularly perfect case of voice casting we’ll see. Boris Karloff, as both the narrator and the Grinch himself, delivers a legitimately flawless performance. The Narrator has the sort of homespun quality you want – it’s like having a grandfather or a gruff uncle calling you around the fireplace to tell you a story. Then he shifts into the Grinch persona, adopting a nasty edge to his timbre that sends him from being your grandfather to that creepy old man down the street you’re really afraid of but feel compelled to pester at Halloween. Complimenting Karloff in the small but vital role of Cindy Lou Who is the legendary June Foray, one of the two greatest voice artists of all time (the other being Mel Blanc, and if you want to rank anybody else above those two you are wrong). Foray gives Cindy Lou a tender innocence that could easily be obnoxious and saccharine, but she imbues it with such sincerity that she’s impossible to dislike. Cindy Lou is the child every parent wishes they could present to Santa Claus down at the mall.

Then there’s the direction. Chuck Jones, perhaps the greatest animator in American history, takes the performances of these voice artists and crafts a beautifully rendered, visually amazing world that perfectly captures the wonderful lunacy of Dr. Seuss’s best work, while still maintaining his own inimitable comedic style. In the antics of the Grinch and his dog Max, you can see the finest moments of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner or of Tom and Jerry, both of whom experienced their best years when directed by Jones.

The Grinch slinks along like a snake in this cartoon, he casually licks his fingers to unscrew a light bulb, and in one of the greatest moments in the special, his face grows into this insidious, far-too-wide grin when he concocts his terrible scheme. This sort of thing is all Jones, all part of his amazing animated style. The action sequences, when he’s racing up and down the mountain in his sled, or where he desperately tries to save the presents at the end… again, Jones is the star here, showing off the potential of animation to tell a story of this nature in a thrilling fashion.

Rounding out a perfect crew was Thurl Ravenscroft, best known as the voice of cereal mascot Tony the Tiger, singing “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” The song is great in and of itself, but planting it in Ravenscroft’s deep baritone gives it a feeling that no other Christmas song can boast. That song, that performance, is just as famous as any other part of this cartoon, and it’s well-deserved.

This film also passes a rather unique test when it comes to Christmas specials. There are honestly far too few truly original stories out there. We live in a world where half the Christmas stories told are just retreads of A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life. This film is its own story, though, not a parody, which makes it impressive enough. But eventually, it reached the stage where it is the source of parody – plenty of movies and TV shows have spoofed the Grinch over the years. That places it in the upper echelon of Christmas stories, the strata of tale that writers who can’t come up with their own story choose instead to build upon. If that isn’t the sign of a cultural landmark, I don’t know what is.