lunes, 31 de mayo de 2010

From Screen to Theme Book Sale!


Brent Dodge, author of the ultimate Disney book “From Screen to Theme”, is having a special sale on his website. Until midnight, shipping will be free! So if you want to know how many Mary Poppins references are there at the Disney theme parks, From Screen to Theme is the book for you!

Order now! Visit the following website to order your copy:
From Screen to Theme

And remember, anything can happen if you let it.



domingo, 30 de mayo de 2010

Review #21: West Side Story (1961)



West Side Story (1961)

Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Rita Moreno, George Chakiris

Directed by: Jerome Robbins and Robert Wise

Released by: MGM/United Artists

Synopsis: Tony (Richard Beymer), leader of the Jets, has fallen in love with Maria (Natalie Wood), the sister of the Shark’s leader. Can their love blossom despite the dangers of two rival gangs?

Review: It was bound to happen. In my journey to discover the greatest films ever made I was destined to find the one movie I didn’t enjoy at all regardless of its legacy on the silver screen. To me, that movie is West Side Story.

West Side Story has enjoyed enormous success as both a stage play and a film musical, earning it several awards and recognitions since its release. The storyline is a 1950s version of the classic William Shakespeare play “Romeo and Juliet”, with dueling street gangs replacing the rival families. With a plot as established as Romero and Juliet, how can the movie go wrong? But alas, I have to big issues with the story.

The first is with the theme of the plot. It simply doesn’t know if it wants to be a grandiose melodrama or a silly musical. It keeps switching gears between both, making the film a very hard one to watch. There are moments where it tries to be comedic and whimsical, then goes into very dark drama, and goes back to silliness for a brief moment. It’s one of my biggest annoyances when it comes to stories. You must establish a balance between emotions in order to be an effective story, and West Side Story fails at this.

The other problem lies in the characters. To put it bluntly, these are some of the most unlikable characters to have appeared in a musical ever. I realize that these are all street punks that we shouldn’t respect, but the problem extends to the rest of the supporting cast as well. The authority figures are non-existent, and the ones that do come in are very pathetic. Not even Tony and Maria, the doomed lovers in this picture, are able to give the film an ounce of character. The actors try their best in their respective roles, but the unflattering ethnic stereotypes do not help them at all.

West Side Story’s only saving grace lies in the music and choreography, which are really good. I enjoyed how the dancing interprets street violence and gives some character to the film. A problem, though, is that they tend to go on for a very long time, adding nothing of substance and testing the audience’s patience. The songs fare better thanks to such iconic songs such as “Maria” and “America”. Unfortunately, some of them are superfluous to the story and just worsens West Side Story’s problem with the theme.

I understand that West Side Story has a huge legacy behind it, with its music and characters often referenced in the modern media, and people consider it to be one of the best romantic films of all time. In my case, West Side Story left me with an empty, disappointed feeling. It goes to show that good music and dancing sometimes isn’t enough to carry a film through its completion. Film musicals like “The Sound of Music” and “My Fair Lady” have proven that you can have thrilling music, extraordinary performances and fantastic story and character development. West Side Story nails the singing and dancing down, but forgets to give us characters to care for and an enjoyable plot regardless of its resolution.

Rating: 2 filmstrips out of 5



viernes, 28 de mayo de 2010

Classic Film References, Homages and Tributes #6: King Kong vs. Donkey Kong


The following Filmstrip Memories column was originally posted for Nintendo World Report as “Nintendo History 101: Donkey Kong vs. King Kong. To read the original version click here. Special thanks to site director Jon Lindemann for granting me the permission to post it here.

King Kong is a groundbreaking motion picture that set the standards for future aspiring blockbuster action films. Despite its special effects looking primitive today, King Kong would become an unforgettable experience that would influence filmmakers as well as the average movie goer. So great was King Kong’s impact that the appearance of a gorilla in any form of media is routinely followed by a quick reference to the film, whether by quoting its famous final line (“It was beauty killed the beast”) or re-creating the final scene at the Empire State building. More importantly, famous characters were born out of the movie's influence. Enter Nintendo’s lovable ape, Donkey Kong.


Donkey Kong is the brain child of designer Shigeru Miyamoto, who was working as an artist at the company when he created the character. While Nintendo had existed for many years as a toy company, they were going to experiment in the latest trend called video games. After a failed attempt with the coin-operated video game, Radarscope, Miyamoto was commissioned to design an arcade game that would compete with other famous titles. Originally, Miyamoto’s idea for the game involved the usage of famous cartoon icon Popeye the Sailor Man, taking the basic premise of the franchise (Popeye saves Olive Oil from Bluto) and turning it into an arcade game. The Popeye license was under negotiation with King Features, but that fell through (although it was later re-negotiated for Game and Watch, Nintendo’s LCD handhelds).

Miyamoto tried other ideas, and simplified the story of Beauty and the Beast. The final idea had a carpenter climb up the unfinished foundation of a building in order to reach his discontent pet gorilla, who had kidnapped his girlfriend. This came about due to technical limitations, most of Miyamoto's ideas were rejected as the characters had to do simpler things than he wanted or it wouldn't be possible to show it on screen. Replacing Popeye was a Brooklyn carpenter called the Jump Man (who would later become Nintendo’s mascot Mario), Olive became Pauline, and Brutus the big hairy brute turned into Donkey Kong, a big ape on the run.

The reason Miyamoto chose the name Donkey Kong was because he thought Donkey meant dumb and stubborn, and his beast was a King Kong like ape, King Kong being a generic Japanese term for any kind of menacing ape.


The concept of the game was almost a mockery of the premise of the original film. In a passionate rage, Donkey Kong kidnaps the beautiful Pauline and takes her to the highest building possible. Players must then guide Jump Man (Mario) through the building, avoiding obstacles such as barrels and fire. The final scene could be considered a parody of the ending of King Kong; when all of the floor connectors are taken away, Donkey Kong falls from the building ("It was plumber killed the beast"), and Jump Man and Pauline are reunited once more.


Donkey Kong was followed by two more arcade sequels. The first, called Donkey Kong Jr., stars Donkey Kong’s son as he rescues his father from Jump Man’s clutches. Like the first game, Donkey Kong Jr. is a parody of Son of Kong, King Kong’s sequel, starring the son of the protagonist. The third and final arcade game is Donkey Kong 3. Its gameplay was different from previous titles, featuring a new character, Stanley the Bug Exterminator. The premise is that Mario is away on vacation, and asks Stan to protect his garden from Donkey Kong and a slew of bugs.

Nintendo’s experiment with Donkey Kong was a phenomenal success. The easy to learn/hard to master gameplay hooked a lot of players back in the day. This lead to other successful releases that turned Nintendo into a videogame powerhouse that is still successful to this day. The characters that Donkey Kong launched would become icons in their own right, especially Donkey Kong and Mario. Their rivalry would be the stuff of legend, revisited time and time again in other projects that were just as fun as the arcade game that inspired it.

I will admit, though, Donkey Kong’s goofy smile is uncanny!

But the connection to the original King Kong film doesn’t end there. Due to the rising popularity of the videogame, MCA Universal, a huge entertainment conglomerate that held the Universal Studios copyright of the movie King Kong, sued Nintendo in 1984. Nintendo's defense was that by the time the King Kong film was released in theaters the characters and plot were already in the public domain, and thus Universal Studios only owned the film rights, not the rights to the characters and concept. Nintendo met with MCA over the lawsuit, after a telex was sent to NCL that ordered Hiroshi Yamauchi (Nintendo’s President at the time) to turn over all Nintendo's profits from Donkey Kong and destroy any unsold games within 48 hours.

It was found that MCA had never registered King Kong as a trademark, and past lawsuits, including one that Universal themselves had won, concluded that King Kong was in the public domain and could not be trademarked. Nintendo was awarded 1.8 million dollars.

This lawsuit would forever link the film and video game industry. Nintendo’s victory was a startling victory for the game industry, while Universal’s defeat was deemed laughable and humiliating for the company. This demonstrates that King Kong was so popular that even using its premise (in the form of parody) caused waves.

As for the character of Donkey Kong, he would later be reinvented from a villain to a hero in a new Donkey Kong series released in 1994 called Donkey Kong Country. The games were all platformers similar to Mario’s own efforts that pioneered the used of pre-rendered sprites to create a visual presentation that was stunning and unforgettable. Kong is a common character in Mario’s games, whether as an assistant or a playable combatant. In other Nintendo games such as Super Smash Bros. he appears to represent his character from the legendary arcade game, and is appropriately always the strongest character in the group.

Donkey Kong would even be the subject of a CG cartoon based on the Donkey Kong Country game series. Unfortunately, the series was very mediocre and was thus quickly forgotten.


Going back to King Kong, despite the embarrassing lawsuit Universal was still behind the franchise, re-releasing the films for many years and even creating a theme park attraction based on the original film. In 2005, they released a remake of King Kong directed by Peter Jackson (just one of the many directors that were inspired by the stop-motion-animated ape). The film received mixed reviews but was still a success. In an ironic twist, King Kong would be the star of his own videogame based on the remake and released for the Xbox, Xbox 360, Nintendo Gamecube, and Playstation 2. In the game players took on the role of both Jack Driscoll and Kong as they survived the perils of Skull Island, recreating the film’s best scenes. It was a surprisingly solid effort by Ubisoft and looked good as well.


Ironically, one of the most menacing apes in cinema history managed to create one of the goofiest primate video game characters of all time. Donkey Kong is proof that an iconic film character can inspire derivatives that become just as successful as the original. After all, imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.


miércoles, 26 de mayo de 2010

20 Reviews!


Filmstrip Memories has hit a new milestone! It is now the home to 20 classic film reviews! Remember that the goal is to try and reach 100 reviews before the year ends. With 20 reviews down, only 80 are left.

The most important thing about this set of reviews is that it was dedicated to a special person that has supported the site or I dearly cherish them.

In case you missed them, here is the first set of review along with the dedication.

1. Jaws (1975). Dedicated to Tony Lopez on his birthday.
2. The Band Wagon (1953). Dedicated to Albert Gutierrez, WEDnesday Show friend and Ultimate Disney member.
3. The Sound of Music (1965). Dedicated to Alex Loret de Mola.
4. Duck Soup (1933). Dedicated to Jesus Valentin, my nephew.
5. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). Dedicated to Neal Ronaghan and Zachary Miller of the RFN Newscast.
6. Adam’s Rib (1949). Dedicated to Mike Lockhardt Jr. and Anita Asher.
7. Arsenic and Old Lace (1944). Dedicated to Nicole Orso.
8. King Kong (1933). Dedicated to jpanimation of the Ultimate Disney forums.
9. Roman Holiday (1953).
10. Citizen Kane (1941).

Stay tuned for even more reviews and special content! You guys are awesome for your support!



Review #20: Citizen Kane (1941)



Citizen Kane (1941)

Starring: Orson Welles, William Alland, Ray Collins, Dorthy Comingore, Joseph Cotten

Directed by: Orson Welles

Released by: RKO Pictures

Synopsis: Minutes before his death infamous magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) mutters the word "Rosebud". This ignites a mystery that takes us to a journey into the enigmatic past of the man people grew to both love and hate.

Review: Citizen Kane is not just one of the best movies ever, it's THE greatest film ever created by man (according to critics of course). But you wouldn't realize this had you seen the film in its 1941 premiere. That's because the film is so daring in execution that very few people were able to see its strengths, effectively making it the classic film equivalent of an art house film.

Charles Foster Kane, played splendidly by Orson Welles, may be one of the most fascinating film characters ever committed to film. This is largely in part to the narrative style used in the movie. Rather than giving us a straight telling of his life, we, along with the news reporter, investigate his background by listening to what the people closest to him have to say. This creates an un-reliable plot device since the different accounts presents us different views on Charles Kane as a man, impresario and politician. Yet, this is the thing that makes him a fascinating man. Was he a hero or a villain? Was he honest or greedy? Was he a winner or a loser? You will ask these questions and more as you watch the film, making for an engrossing evening at the movies.

Citizen Kane is also home to the greatest movie mystery of all time. Without spoiling anything, the meaning of the word "Rosebud" is what guides the entire movie forward. It creates a curious motive for both the characters and the audience to listen to every detail as possible. Very few films are able to enthrall the audience this well. Many decades later and people are still debating what exactly the film’s ultimate resolution is.

There is also a mystery surrounding the actual Charles Foster Kane character. Sources say that he was inspired by many magnates of the time, but it's been proven that elements of the film were inspired by Welles’ own life. This makes the film a very personal one him. One begins to understand why he spent so much time and effort creating this picture: it's serves as a gateway to his eccentric mind.

The cinematography in the film is also spectacular. Orson Welles created a magnificent world and some intricate shots. At first they may seem like a cosmetic gimmick, but the special shots give us different points of views of the story, some that were created just for this film! It's no wonder why the film is a showcase of cinematography techniques.

But as groundbreaking as the film is it is bound to have its naysayers. The narrative technique used to tells us the story is one that requires a lot of patience. Since all characters offer different views on the same person it may be hard to fully grasp the plot. The shots may also be distracting, on occasion taking our attention away from the characters in order to notice a background element. The story may also be seen as a little dry for some due to some slow pacing in key scenes. As history has shown us, the movie isn't made for a typical audience, so don't feel too bad if you don't find yourself enjoying this mock biopic.

In many ways, Orson Welles created a film that mirrors its lead characters as well as the people around him. You may love the film, you may hate it, but there's no denying that it's a very fascinating social epic about a man who was too ambitious for its own good, and left an unforgettable legacy in the process. Yep, Citizen Kane is a lot like its namesake alright! What else did you expect from the guy that made us believe that aliens were invading Earth back in the day?

Rating: 5 filmstrips out of 5



martes, 25 de mayo de 2010

Review #19: Roman Holiday (1953)



Roman Holiday (1953)

Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert

Directed by: William Wyler

Released by: Paramount Pictures

Synopsis: Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn), frustrated by the demands of royalty, flees her duties to enjoy a holiday in Rome. In her journey she meets a nice American man named Joe Bradley (Gregory Peck), a reporter trying to find the latest news on her and sell it to the newspapers. As the day progresses, they are enchanted by the city, and a romance blooms soon thereafter.

Review: Roman Holiday is more than just a great film, it's a classic that established Audrey Hepburn as a beautiful film star. It also showed filmmakers how effective a romance film could be despite its simple plot. This was the second Audrey Hepburn film that I saw after Breakfast at Tiffany's, and it's amazing to see how she grew as an actress afterwards

The plot is very simple: girl is frustrated with her life and tries to escape it, girl meets boy, boy and girl go on a holiday and boy and girl fall in love. But it's the simplest stories that are told the best, and Roman Holiday is no exception. The film features everything from high drama to silly comedy, making for a satisfying film akin to Breakfast at Tiffany's (though in a much toned down scale). It's a movie that everyone should enjoy thanks to its merits in plot and character development.

Audrey Hepburn is lovely as Princess Ann, expressing anger, wonder and grace in a very natural manner. It's that kind of girl next door quality that made her a household name across the globe and earned her an Academy Award. Gregory Peck as the love interest is quite fascinating. He starts the film unsympathetic towards Ann, and only takes interest in her when he learns that she is the princess and thus could result in a juicy story. But as the film progresses he grows to become a very charming gentleman, effectively winning Ann's heart and the support of the audience. It's classic romance at its finest, and Peck and Hepburn have plenty of film chemistry to carry it through its completion.

The supporting characters are also very enjoyable, especially Eddie Albert as Irving Radovich, a photographer who happens to be Joe's partner in crime. He tags along with the couple in order to get some incriminating shots of Princess Ann. Like Joe, though, Ann's charm soon grows on him and becomes yet another friend in her journey.

But the one element that I enjoy the most in Roman Holiday is the city of Rome. The city is almost a character in itself, with its locales serving as major set pieces for the heartwarming romance. The Vespa ride through the city, the Mouth of Truth statue and the castles are magnificent and inspired a sense of awe and wonder in me while as I watched the film. If Roman Holiday doesn't make you book a flight to Rome, nothing will.

Very few things can be said against Roman Holiday, and many of its mistakes are just small enough to forgive. For example, without spoiling anything the ending may prove to be unsatisfying for some due to the awkwardness of the scene. There are times in which you realize this is Audrey Hepburn's first film due to some odd delivery of lines, but this can be forgiven and at times favors the film considering the character she is playing. It gives the film a fascinating human element while never being unrealistic.

In conclusion, Roman Holiday has it all: great characters performed by fantastic actors, a heartwarming love story and an exotic locale that enthralls the audience. It’s one of the most important films in Audrey Hepburn’s career, and it’s an excellent one at that.

Rating: 5 filmstrips out of 5



domingo, 23 de mayo de 2010

Review #18: King Kong (1933)



King Kong (1933)

Starring: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot

Directed by: Merian C. Cooper and Ernest Beaumont Schoedsack

Released by: RKO Pictures

Synopsis: Ambitious filmmaker Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) embarks on a journey to Skull Island to film the greatest picture ever. In their journey they meet one of the most terrifying secrets of the island: the eighth wonder of the world, King Kong!

Review: Like Singin’ in the Rain, King Kong was a movie I had known for many years (I even knew about the basic premise and the character) but had never bothered to see it. I finally got around to it and was very surprised to see that despite its age it’s an amazing thriller and one of the most gripping of the 1930s!

The story is very basic and one used for many decades. A group of people journey into a mysterious location and find an ancient evil/danger/treasure that puts their lives in danger. Later they foolishly bring it to modern civilization and it causes a lot of dangers and chaos, and only they can stop it. In King Kong the mysterious place is Skull Island and that threat is King Kong, a giant monster ape worshipped as a god by the denizens of the island.

But as the old saying goes, it’s not the story you tell it’s how you tell it that counts. King Kong has an amazing pace. Never does it stop to explain a superfluous detail or go on and on about a plot point. The entire story is told in its hour and a half run time, never leaving any questions unanswered while still being vague enough to keep audiences interested. The other reason the story is so great is because of how intensely it is told. It might have been made in 1933, but it surprisingly manages to be thrilling even in this age of sophisticated action films

This is all credited to two characters. First of course is King Kong himself. While he may look goofy he is anything but. He is a savage beast that kills and destroys unmercifully. Every time he is on screen you can’t take your eyes off of him and stare in shock at some of the things he does. Seriously, he eats people, steps on them and even drops them from very high places!

The other character is Carl Denham, the mastermind behind all the madness, played by Robert Armstrong. To me, he is the real antagonist of the film. Blinded by greed and ambition, he puts the lives of men and women all for the sake of show business. On top of this he is manipulative, misogynistic and selfish, putting his desires on top then the safety of others last. King Kong may be the monster on the loose, but Carl is a far bigger evil, and the movie benefits greatly from it.

For an action movie made in 1933 King Kong does a fantastic job of presenting us a fantastical world filled with strange, dangerous creatures. This is all brought to life by the magic of stop motion animation. While this may seem crude and primitive to an audience that has grown seeing computer generated creatures on screen, the effects are very effective in expressing the dangers Skull Island has in stored for the characters. What’s even more impressive is the interaction between the live action scenes and the animation. Characters will stand in front of it and even interact with the animation, creating the illusion that they were indeed confronted by these creatures. This is achieved by editing scenes together as well as using animatronics for detailed shots.

Kong in particular looks great. Despite looking rather cartoony his expressions are very well done and convey authenticity. He can express anger to sheer lust and curiosity, and his interactions with Ann Darrow are captivating and even risqué for the era it was made. The films that came after it perfected all of the techniques seen here, but the effects in King Kong are still great to watch.

Sadly, there are some flaws that while they don’t take away from the film they still bothered me a bit. The first is Ann Darrow, played by Fay Wray. She is the classic damsel in distress. During the first minutes of the film she is perky and likable, you feel for her right away. But once she becomes Kong’s prisoner all she does is scream and faint throughout the film, becoming a stereotypical character that you fail to care for. The same issue lies with Jack Driscoll, played by Bruce Cabot. He can be a charming character due to his 1930s machismo, but like Ann he quickly becomes a background character. Some of the acting is also cheesy and over the top. This can be forgiven due to the nature of the film, but it’s still worth noting. Finally, while this may not seem like a flaw, the film is unrelenting when it comes to action, meaning that there are very few quiet scenes where both the characters and the audience can relax and enjoy the rest of the story. Again not a real flaw but it can be tiresome for certain audiences.

For all its flaws, though, King Kong is an achievement in cinema, taking the impossible and making it possible for future filmmakers and storyteller to present a story with creatures beyond our imaginations. But this isn’t just a popcorn flick, it tells a good story with some well shot scenes and decent characters. It’s a movie fans shouldn’t miss if only to witness a great legacy told on screen.

Rating: 4 filmstrips out of 5


This review is dedicated to Ultimate Disney forum member jpanimation. Not only is he one of the most active participants in this project (offering recommendations, advice and such), he is a big fan of the film and was really happy to know that I saw the film. Hope I made the film justice!


jueves, 20 de mayo de 2010


This is a quick Twitter test, pardon our dust.

domingo, 16 de mayo de 2010

Review #17: Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)



Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Starring: Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Josephine Hull, Jean Adair, Raymond Massey, John Alexander and Peter Lorre

Directed by: Frank Capra

Released by: Warner Bros.

Synopsis: Drama critic Mortimer Brewster (Cary Grant) just married the love of his life, Elaine Harper (Priscine Lane). On his way home, he learns that his two aunts Abby (Josephine Hull) and Martha (Jean Adair) are hiding a very dark secret. As if that wasn't enough, his lunatic brother Jonathan (Raymond Massey) has escaped the Mental Institution. What’s a guy to do?!

Review: Arsenic and Old Lace proves that not only is Frank Capra is a great storyteller he is also very flexible when it comes to handling different film genres. Prior to this film he was known for light comedies and dramas with social messages about the average man overcoming the extraordinary. With Arsenic and Old Lace he tackles dark comedy to great results. Regardless of how morbid the plot is the film feels like a classic Capra film thanks to well written, likable characters and a great pace that doesn't let up. It goes to show you that even when adapting someone else's work Capra knows how to get the most out of it.

Cary Grant as Mortimer Brewster shows his versatility for dramatic and comedic roles, becoming a master at both. His performance is convincing and in many ways what you would expect from a Capra film. Mortimer is an average man who is thrown into a dark and sinister plot, and despite showing the most common sense out of the Brewster pack his sanity is constantly challenged, making for a very fun, wild ride.

Speaking of which, the Brewster family are the classic scene stealers, with a lot of poise expressed throughout the film. The two aunts, Abby and Martha, are the classic lovely old ladies, but the cleverness of the script turns them into complex characters who just want to do well through the wrong intentions (What do they do exactly? Find out for yourself). John Alexander as "Teddy" is very comical in his belief of being the 26th President of the United States (complete with his hilarious yell whenever he runs up the stairs). Teddy could have easily been a stock character, but his participation substantially adds to an already frenzied atmosphere.

Raymond Massey provides us a great villain as Jonathan, the deranged family member with murderous intentions. Even the minor characters offer us memorable scenes, like the cab driver in never ending delay and the policeman who aspires to be a writer of plays. It's this level of eccentricity that Capra is a master of and Arsenic and Old Lace gives us some of the best in this regard.

In spite of the plot's twists and turns, it never manages to have a hysteric pace. Arsenic and Old Lace runs very smoothly, aiding its overall appeal and merits as a comedic film. Most peculiar, the film pays tributes to the story's heritage in how its shot and staged. A great bulk of the narrative is spent on one location: the Brewster household. There are other shots, but everything is developed and discovered on the Brewster living room. To some this might be simplistic, but I think it adds a charm that reminds us where the story got its start.

To sum it all up, Arsenic and Old Lace will not make you cry, make you believe in the virtues of the human spirit or monologue about the qualities of the common man. In other words, don't go in expecting a Frank Capra epic. What you can expect, though, is a very enjoyable story that is able to be both delightful and deliciously morbid with unforgettable characters that may be the best presented to us by the incredible Frank Capra.

Rating: 4 filmstrips out of 5

This review is dedicated to Nicole Orso. She recommended the film to me back when this project was just a note on Facebook. Thanks! Your recommendations helped me a great deal in this project!



viernes, 14 de mayo de 2010

Classic Film References, Homages and Tributes #5: Hello, WALL-E!



In the summer of 2008, Disney and Pixar released their most unique film to date: WALL-E. It told the story of a little robot named WALL-E, the only living thing on Earth after humanity flew into outer space in order to escape the mass pollution they created. Day in and day out, the little robot tries to clean as much as possible due to his programming, but when he finds something of interest, he brings it back to his home and makes it part of his collection of treasures. Care to guess what one of his treasures is?


Yep, a VHS copy of Helly, Dolly!

This film reference is perhaps one of the most known today. Before I detail this let me talk to you about Helly, Dolly!

"Hello, Dolly!" started its life on the Broadway stage. With music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, "Hello, Dolly!" tells the story of a widow who wishes to find love for herself and many of the city's couples, presented in a grand, musical farce. The 1969 film version (directed by Gene Kelly, "Singin' in the Rain") stars Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau in 1890's New York City. The film was released on December 16, 1969 by 20th Century Fox. The movie nearly bankrupted the studios, and has gained infamy as being inferior to the stage production and was largely forgotten afterwards

So, how did "Hello, Dolly!" end up in WALL-E?

At the end of the day, WALL-E likes to relax by watching a VHS copy of "Hello, Dolly!". The VHS player is connected to an iPod, and the screen is magnified for his viewing pleasure. Unlike other film references, this one is unique in that it's vital to the plot development. Through the movie he learns about the virtues of love and happiness.

Opening the movie is the song "Put on your Sunday Clothes". In the play and film it is used to represent young, naïve love. In WALL-E, it's used in an ironic context. The first image we see in the film is that of a brown, decaying Earth, with the atmosphere cluttered by waste. Later in the film, WALL-E tries to learn to dance like the performers in the movie, using a lid to simulate a hat.

Here is a clip of the musical number:

"It Only Takes a Moment" is the play's love theme, an anthem for true love. In WALL-E it too is a love theme. WALL-E meets another robot called EVE. She is a white, modern robot sent to Earth to try and find proof that it is habitable again. WALL-E beats her to the punch, and finds a leaf growing out of an old boot. He gives it to EVE as a token of love, something he learned by watching the movie.


On the left, the scene as it was originally seen in theaters. On the right, the scene presented in WALL-E

The song is used throughout the movie to signify the love between EVE and WALL-E, providing the audience with some of the emotional scenes in the storyline. Through their love, humanity learns to once again live life and provides inspiration to restore Earth to its natural beauty. As Jerry Sherman stated in an interview with Entertainment Weekly about the movie, director Andrew Stanton used the lyrics rather than the melody to show us what the characters thought of each other. To WALL-E, love only takes a moment and is symbolized by the union of two hands.

This is the clip that WALL-E so dearly loves:

So, the film version of "Hello, Dolly!" wasn't considered a classic when Pixar used it in WALL-E. What made a classic in the end was not that it was used in the movie, but HOW it was used. It's a beautiful testament of how movies can teach us about the wonderful things in live, or inspire us to pursue them like WALL-E did. Films can leave an impact in us, and many times help us become better people. What may have been a gimmick ended up being essential in telling one of the greatest film stories of the last decade.

To learn more about how Pixar implemented "Hello, Dolly!" in the movie, check out this Entertainment Weekly interview with director Andrew Stanton and composer Jerry Herman.


jueves, 13 de mayo de 2010

Review #16: Adam's Rib (1949)



Adam's Rib (1949)

Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Judy Holiday, Jean Hagen, Tom Ewell, and David Wayne

Directed by: George Cukor

Released by: MGM

Synopsis: A woman (Judy Holiday) is put on trial for trying shooting her husband by accident. She is represented by defense attorney Amanda Bonner (Katharine Hepburn). Much to their surprise, the prosecutor and the husband's attorney is Adam Bonner (Spencer Tracy), Amanda's husband! Can marriage sustain the pressures of court?

Review: One of my pet peeves with most romantic comedies (especially "battle of the sexes" comedies) is that they tend to focus on either the male or female character, often created an unfair, one sided story where one side makes the other look bad. This tends to alienate the audience since they feel that the movie was not made for them. I am happy to say that Adam's Rib successfully avoids this problem and provides us with an enjoyable romantic story that everyone should be delighted by.

Stories about power couples weren't original by the time Adam's Rib was released. But, the idea of a couple being rivals in a court of justice and trying to defend their causes is stupendous and very clever. What makes it great, though, is that it never takes itself too seriously and handles its subject very well. The chemistry between Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn aids the plot immensely. You can tell that they love each other, even when they courtroom battle gets heated towards its conclusion. There is passion and never do they feel like they are acting selfishly. Both of them have great ideals about the case and try their best to convey it in court.

And that's where the fairness comes in. Adam's Rib talks strongly about fairness towards the opposite sex and to judge people based on their actions and not by their gender. But Adam's plight is honorable too: that no one should be given the right to take justice into their hands. At times it may look like the film favors Amanda over Adam, but in reality the writers did a great job in presenting both ideas, letting the viewer decide which one is the fairest.

Like many pictures of its era, Adam's Rib has a great stage feel regardless of its motion picture existence. Everything from the opening titles to the scenes in the Bonner's apartment is presented to resemble a stage production. This is even carried to the supporting characters, all Broadway performers who make their film debut in Adam's Rib. The first of these is Judy Holiday, playing the role of Doris Attinger, the woman put on trial. From the minute you see her you know that deep down she isn't a bad woman, just an overworked wife driven to desperation by her uncaring husband. You realize why Amanda is so set on defending this woman: Judy Holiday gives us an earnest character that is easy to cheer for. As an interesting piece of history, this role was given to her as an opportunity to star in the film adaptation of Born Yesterday. Her success in this film earned her both the role and an Academy Award for Best Actress.

Jean Hagen (best known for her performance as Lina Lamont in Singin' in the Rain) has great presence as Beryl Caighn, the other woman in the relationship. Unfortunately, we don't get to see her as much as the other characters, and her lines are limited, but in the scenes she is in she's funny and memorable at the very least. Faring much better is Tom Ewell as Warren Francis Attinger the ungrateful husband. He may be a stereotypical character, but helps the audience understand why the relationship between him and his wife is so twisted. Last but not least is David Wayne as Kip Lurie, the Bonner's friend and neighbor. I confess that while he does deliver some great lines he tends to get obnoxious at times (funny enough, Spencer Tracy's character expresses many of our feelings when Kip is on screen). But, his character is needed in making the tension between Adam and Amanda that more relevant to the storyline, so love him or hate him, he is an important character.

Like many movies, accuracy is at times sacrificed for the sake of entertainment, and Adam's Rib is no different. The film doesn't present us with an accurate look at court procedures. I am sure that those paying attention will see some mistakes in the lawyers' claims. It doesn't hurt the enjoyment of the film, but some might take notice of it. The other problem with Adam's Rib is that to me the ending was a bit rushed and didn't quite know how to end the story. I may be mistaken in this regard, but it didn't feel as tight as the rest of the film.

In closing, Adam's Rib proves that a solid romantic comedy can be appealing to both men and women. It doesn't hold back in its ideals but rarely does it feel heavy handed. The chemistry between Hepburn and Tracy is a great asset to the film, while the supporting characters round out the great cast. Adam's Rib is funny, charming and enjoyable. This one shouldn't be missed.

Rating: 4 filmstrips out of 5


This review is dedicated to Mike Lockhardt Jr. and Anita Asher in honor of their recent engagement. Congratulations! May this union be blessed with lots of love and happiness!


miércoles, 12 de mayo de 2010

My Apologies...


I want to apologize for the lack of updates this week. While I do have a lot of things written up for the site, the truth is that I've been VERY busy as of late. First, my mother recently broke her ankle and has been in treatment for the last few weeks. I've been attending her and looking out for her since.

School is nearly over for the semester and I have A LOT of schoolwork to finish. I've been staying till very late in the morning finishing up all of my schoolwork. This has left me drained and tired, and I need some time to recover.

I promise that once all of this blows over and I feel better I will be posting as much content as possible. Thanks everyone for your patience and support!



domingo, 9 de mayo de 2010

Filmstrip Memories on NWR Newscast


Last Wednesday night I had the pleasure of recording the latest episode of Nintendo World Report Newscast episode with Neal Ronaghan and Zach Miller (the "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" review was dedicated to them). This is the result of our efforts: Newscast #17

Nintendo World Report Newscast #17

Filmstrip Memories gets a nice mention at the beginning of the show, I talk about the WarioWare games I created based on classic movies and had a fun time overall, so check it out when you can!



sábado, 8 de mayo de 2010

Review #15: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)



Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

Starring: Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur

Directed by: Frank Capra

Released by: Columbia Pictures

Synopsis: Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a small town poet that plays the tuba, inherits a great fortune from his late uncle, and is taken to New York City to claim it. But when he decides to do great things with it, his sanity is questioned and is put on an unfair trial where his ideals are put to the test.

Review: One of the things I love most about Frank Capra's films is that they celebrate the strengths of the common man. At times they may come off as preachy, but they make the films more accessible and easier to relate than any other film of its kind. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is no exception. The common man in this picture is Longfellow Deeds, played wonderfully by Gary Cooper. Mr. Deeds is an eccentric man, with an always honest disposition and unique views on life. This causes him to be labeled as "not quite there", but the truth is that he is perhaps smarter than the characters he encounters, and that becomes both his weakness and greatest strength. Yep, this is a Capra film alright. Mr. Deeds embodies the everyday man very well. When placed in an extraordinary situation his reaction is very believable. He is full of doubt, unsure of what to do and pressured by society to act in a way he doesn't believe in, strengthening his own ideals in the process.

He also encounters some very cynical and mean spirited people, many which later become his friends and allies. Louise Bennet (Jean Arthur) is the best example. She is dead set on manipulating Mr. Deeds in order to get a story for her employers to use against him. His charms, however, prove to be too strong in the end, defeating many of the ill intentions he is faced during his journey. Once more, this is classic Capra at its finest. This is pulled off thanks to the very strong script and the versatility of the actors. They feel authentic and know how to play their characters effortlessly.

It's a relatively simply film, but one presented very well. The film has no fancy cinematography or intriguing set pieces. It makes due with the strength of the story and the talents of the cast of players, and sometimes that's just enough to make a great film. The best example of this is the court scene. Without spoiling it, everything you have grown to expect in a Capra film appears here. Capra's ideals of the virtues and values of the common man shine greatly, presenting us a Mr. Deeds that is very hurt by the lies and offenses of the people he used to call friends, and then rises to the occasion with the one thing people were judging: his eccentricity. This scene makes a big statement about what we consider to be sane and normal, telling us that even when we all have our quirks we shouldn't be labeled as incapable of rational thought. The film even has the audacity to question high scholars when they try hard to over analyze a simple concept and yet still be victim of it. To me, that's a great message.

Of course, the most common problem in Capra's films is that when defining the good guys he tends to make the antagonists really cartoony almost to the point of being silly. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town suffers from this as well, though it isn't as bad as the films that came before and after it. The other flaw in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town is that for some it might be too light considering the topic it is handling. The drama is light, even when the conflict gains a much bigger presence in the last act of the film. This, however, can work in the film's favor. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town may be the most accessible of the ambitious Capra films. It delivers a point without being too preachy about it (in my honest opinion, Mr. Deeds' speech is more of an observation than a full on message).

Before Capra took on corrupt politics in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, he gives us a lighter and enjoyable film in Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, but doesn't skip on the social relevance. Frank Capra reminds us once again that we the common people have the power to do great things and face adversity with our goodwill and smarts. Don't miss out on this great film.

Rating: 4 filmstrips out of 5


This review is dedicated to Neal Ronaghan and Zachary Miller. Last Wednesday night we recorded the Nintendo World Report Newscast podcast, and Filmstrip Memories got a nice mention from them. Expect to listen to the show very soon. Thanks for the awesome recording session!