I decided it might be a good idea to make what’s known as a “sticky post” here on the front page for those coming in who might be concerned about spoilers. In these posts I’m going to be talking about varying aspects of movies that I’ve been watching, This may include writing about things that some would consider spoilers, including, at times, the endings of these movies. Those who are particularly spoiler averse may want to avoid reading these posts if they are planning to watch the movie in question. In certain circumstances where I will be discussing events towards the end of the movie, including the ending in at least a vague way, or when a movie contains a particular plot twist that might be considered major, I will try to post a more specific spoiler warning, because I do recognize that even though I may be writing about a movie that is decades old, it’s still going to be new to some people. Okay, with that out of the way, let’s get on with it, shall we?
Comedy often does not translate well from language to language and culture to culture, and at first, not knowing as much about the culture or setting as I would have liked, I found Derek Yee‘s The Great Magician to be somewhat off-putting. However, as it began to settle into its storyline, I found it to be both something of a delightful rom-com and an interesting political satire.
Honestly, there are times when some of the obviously CGI illusions (especially those dealing with fire, which unfortunately are used as a large part of what convinces the people of the magician’s actual power) do break the suspension of disbelief, and drew me out of the film, but overall, I found it effective and entertaining.
The film stars the Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, who many will remember from last year’s The Grandmaster, and whose presence was the impetus for my watching this film, alongside Lau Ching-wan and Zhou Xun. It is currently available for streaming on Netflix with a Chinese soundtrack and English subtitles.
Just a quick note about the blog as the week begins: This is probably going to be another of those weeks without a whole lot of material posted. In particular, there won’t be a Top 250 Tuesday, nor a Thursday Old Time Radio post (though the Saturday Double Feature and the associated guessing game will be making their appearances.
Why the slowdown? Well, simply put, there are going to be a few other things that are going to require my attention this week. Also, there are a couple of things behind the scenes here that I’m working on that will hopefully a) make the blog as it moves forward just a little better, b) expand its scope just a bit, and c) give me a chance to do a little more original writing and posting, which is what I set this up for in the first place.
So worry not if you see a little less from me this week. Hopefully in the long run it will all be worthwhile. And in the meantime, if you’re looking for some fun reading, well, there is over a year’s worth of posts here for you to take in (yeah, I actually passed the one-year anniversary for the blog without any fanfare back in February), and I will be posting a few links and things over on the Facebook page, so…
One last thing while I’m at it: I really do appreciate all of you, whether you’re regular readers or just dropping by for a little look-see. And I especially appreciate those of you who take the time to “like” my posts and/or comment on them. You guys really keep me going, and though at times I may not be able to respond to individual comment or to acknowledge everyone, it’s all really appreciated.
And, of course, as always, until next time, Happy Viewing!
Saturday on the blog means Saturday Double Feature, right? Remember, the basic idea here is to take a movie that is out in theaters now, and pair it up with another movie from the 1980s or before. Sometimes the connection will be obvious, and sometimes it’ll be a little less so, but that’s part of the fun.
By the way, if you’re a fan of these double features, be sure to check out this post, which has the details of the new Saturday Double Feature Guessing Game. Be a winner! Show off your movie knowledge! Maybe even win an Actual Prize!
I kind of feel as though I should be more excited about Mr Peabody & Sherman than I am. After all, the show that the characters originated on, The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, was a staple of my childhood, and, although it’s been awhile since I’ve watched any of the segments from it, I do remember Peabody’s Improbable History with fondness. I suppose a large part of my reticence is that I suspect that what worked well as shorts simply won’t translate as well when expanded in an attempt to make a feature-length film.
Of course, this is far from the first time such an attempt has been made, and perhaps it’s for that reason that I have those feelings. Even ignoring other attempts to take the original characters and “update” or “expand” them, back in the early 80s Warner Brothers, looking for new ways to capitalize on the renewed popularity of their Bugs Bunny franchise, had the bright idea of simply compiling a number of their older shorts, editing them with a new wrap-around framing device, and releasing that to theaters, and it’s one of those attempts that I’ve chosen to pair up with Peabody for today’s double feature: 1982′s somewhat awkwardly titled Bugs Bunny’s 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales.
As I said, this was a compilation of the original shorts, but the problem was that, being designed as shorts, they each told a complete story themselves. Therefore, in order to make them fit into the overarching new framework, they had to be edited, and especially the endings, where much of the humor was to be found, had to be changed. Nonetheless, I suppose it was at least an effort to keep these characters alive and to bring them to a new, young audience.
Rather, however, than a trailer for the compilation movie (which is available in full online), I thought I’d just post one of the original shorts, and perhaps the biggest reason that I picked this particular Bugs film over the others:
Unfortunately, that one was especially heinously cut, with the ending of it being used later in the film, with Bugs’s last line being completely dropped.
So what do you think? Are you looking forward to or have you already seen Mr Peabody & Sherman? Do you have any other ideas for pairing films with it? if so, let me know below. And also let me know of any other upcoming movies you’d like to see “double featured”. Consider it, if you will, your chance to challenge me to come up with an interesting pair.
Until next time, Happy Viewing!
- The Meh Wayback: Mr. Peabody & Sherman (olaselicas.wordpress.com)
- Julie’s Daughters Review “Mister Peabody And Sherman” (kvil.cbslocal.com)
- Why It Took Rob Minkoff So Long to Make ‘Mr. Peabody & Sherman’ (thewrap.com)
I found the first Sin City to be a quirky, highly stylized little thriller, though I also know quite a few people who didn’t like it for the exact same reasons I did.
Either way, if this trailer is any indication, you’ll already know whether you want to spend more time there, because the sequel, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For definitely appears to be more of the same.
Look for it in August.
The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.
I’ve always found Peter Lorre to be a very intriguing actor. Both visually and vocally, he is very distinctive, and yet he always seems to somehow subsume himself into the roles he is playing. He also has a very interesting ability to shift the tone of the character he is playing with a seeming ease that is actually quite skillful which allows him to move from, say weaselly to menacing as quickly as an eye blink.
That’s why I was very interested and intrigued when I found out that he was, at one time, featured in his own old time radio show, Mystery in the Air.
The show was a summer replacement series which ran for 13 episodes in 1947. Unfortunately, of those 13, only seven apparently survive today. Nonetheless, those surviving episodes really provide some wonderful listening, as Lorre really sinks his teeth into the roles, and listening to these, for me at least, really makes it seem a shame that the rest are seemingly lost forever, and that the series did not last longer.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about them, preferring instead to simply give you a chance to listen for yourselves. Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to find three available for embedding below, but all seven appear to be available for download at the wonderful Internet Archive if you want to listen to the others.
Until next time, as always, Happy Listening!
Just a quick note for fans of my Old Time Radio Thursday posts. Obviously, when I first put up the posts I make sure that the links in them all work. However, as time goes by, various things happen, and some of the videos disappear. Also, it seems lately that one of the most prolific uploaders of these shows has been moving a number of them around, deleting some, and changing the links to others. So, if you happen to notice links that don’t work, or videos that don’t play, please let me know in the comments, and I will make every effort to fix or replace them as soon as possible.
(For example, I just got through updating this past Thursday’s post on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Unfortunately in that instance, I haven’t yet been able to find replacements for all of the episodes, but I have made what is, for now at least, a working playlist containing the first 13 episodes, which will go a long way toward giving you a good taste of the entire series.)
Also, I should take just a moment to thank those who do upload those shows for the effort that they put into doing so. Like all of you, I too am a fan of these shows and am very grateful to the people that continue to make them available for us all to hear.
Finally, if you have any suggestions or requests for shows to be featured, I’d love to see them. Just drop me a note via email, or leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to see what I can do.
As always, until next time, Happy listening!
- Old Time Radio Thursdays – #001: An Introduction (durnmoosemovies.wordpress.com)
- Second Response: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson (mondi313.wordpress.com)
Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #085 on the list,. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.
And when the Lamb had opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven about the space of half an hour
That seems to be one of the many questions that writer/director Ingmar Bergman is attempting to answer in his deservedly iconic film The Seventh Seal.
I call the film “deservedly iconic” because it is one of those films that “everyone knows”. Its signature motif, that of a knight (named Antonius Block and played masterfully by Max von Sydow) playing a game of chess with Death (as personified by Bengt Ekerot) , has become one of those images that pervades our consciousness, whether through direct exposure to it, or though various homages/parodies over the ensuing years.
However, no matter how often a person may have seen the image, one of the questions that is perhaps not often asked is: Just why is the knight playing the chess game in the first place? Is it that he has hope that he can actually defeat Death and thereby save his life – of course, this is the assumption that one automatically jumps to – or is there something else going on?
Actually, in the course of viewing the film, it becomes apparent that the latter is actually the case. Because the chess game is not being played to win. The knight, who is just returned to his home country from the crusades only to find it ravaged by the Great Plague, has seen so much of death, has dealt with it (and dealt it himself) so much that he knows there is no real hope of actually defeating it.
(In their first conversation, Block asks Death if He has come for him. The Reaper’s reply of “I have long walked by your side.” is met somewhat stoically by the knight who simply says “So I have noticed”.)
So the question then remains. If Block already knows that he is playing a game that he cannot win, then why challenge Him at all? What can he possibly hope to gain?
One of the things that I did not know going into the film is that the ocean-side chess game which provides so much of the iconography of this film is not, as one might expect, the climax of the movie. Instead, that particular confrontation actually opens the film, and the game continues in intervals as he makes his way from the seaside back to his home.
Why the delay? What does Block hope to gain?
In the middle of the film, there is a scene that takes place in a church confessional. Death is actually masquerading as the priest who is hearing Block’s confession. As he is speaking, the knight begins to explain himself, stating “Death visited me this morning. We are playing chess. This respite enables me to perform a vital errand.” to which Death responds “What errand?”. In his response, Block sums up at least a large part of the motivation for his challenge:
My whole life has been a meaningless search. I say it without bitterness or self-reproach. I know it is the same for all. But I want to use my respite for one significant action.
What is that “one significant action”? One gets the sense that even Block is unsure, and it is a question that remains unanswered until the final moves of the chess game are played out, at the true climax of the film, where the knight both literally and figuratively attempts to “cheat Death”.
I said above that the question of whether there can be hope even in the face of death is only one of the questions that Bergman asks in the film, and that is true. There are also many other questions that the film asks, some of which it answers, some of which it does not. But to this one at least, the answer appears to be “yes”. Though that answer does come in perhaps a rather unexpected form. Many other questions, such as the meaning of Faith, and the reason that God seems to be inactive and even invisible in the face of mankind’s suffering in general and the knight’s in particular are given at best answers that are only partial, or are not really even answered at all.
Still, it seems that both Block, and Bergman himself find value at least in the asking of the questions, even if certain answers may never actually be found.
Because, perhaps, it is when mankind finally quits asking these questions, quits wondering about and challenging the universe around him, God, Death, and even himself, that Death will win his final victory.
So what are your thoughts on The Seventh Seal? Is it a movie that you’ve seen or would like to? If you have seen it, is it one that would make your own Top 10 list? Or would it not even crack your Top 250? Also, I’m curious about what you think about my argument that some movies simply have to be seen on the big screen before one can even really judge them. And if you agree with it, what films you would put into that category. Let me know in the comments below.