Archive for March, 2012

Dick Tracy (1990) Review

Posted in Movie reviews - 1990s, Movies with tags , , , , , on March 23, 2012 by They call me "Mephy"

Dick Tracy (1990)

Promotional movie poster

We’re really taking long breaks from the “real world” films that may/may not help us write all these reviews. Some of us just need someone else’s nostalgic trip to feel at home. So today, we bring your a review of Warren Beatty’s 1990 film adaption of Dick Tracy.

So it starts off in a 1930s Chicago(?), a by-the-book, tough detective Dick Tracy (Warren Beatty) arrives on the scene of a massacre of a cards game consisting of villains (they’re all pretty much recurring characters from the 1930s comic strip) and the disappearance of the owner of Club Ritz. Meanwhile, a crime boss named “Big Boy” Caprice (played by Al Pacino…you can’t help but see some Tony Montana in him when he yells in scenes) has paid and gathered all of the crime rings of the city in order to form an alliance, which would result in extortion of almost everything from meals in diners to

haircuts in barbershops. Tracy is also a man torn between duty and love, failing to express his feelings to Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) and being seduced by the attractive singer of Club Ritz, Breathless Mahoney (Madonna…yes.) . He also adopts a street urchin (nicknamed “The Kid”) who assists him throughout the film, but we’re not going to talk about him. There’s also a few notable names like Dick Van Dyke (as District Attorney John Fletcher), Dustin Hoffman (Mumbles), and a cameo as a store owner by Charles Fleischer.

Reviews for this movie were mixed, notably Roger Ebert gave this film four out of four stars for the nostalgia trip and praising it for the designs and prosthetic makeup. Desson Thomson of Washington Post apparently gave a rather negative review, calling it an imitation of the Batman (1989) film, with less in-depth and character development (which is true but isn’t that what a comic feels like unless you’ve read a number of issues?). A bit understandable since Danny Elfman worked on the orchestra score (with Stephen Sondheim) and if you’ve watch films with Danny Elfman scores in them, you’d know how most of his work sounds. Warren Beatty surprisingly produced, directed, and starred in the title role, despite being “too old” for the role (he was 52 at the time…funny, he doesn’t look that old). The film maintains a two-dimensional comic atmosphere, using a believable matte painting with vivid colored surroundings (the comic strip had limited color palette, so everything from cars to clothes were figuratively bleeding bright colors…). Of course, this film is an okay adaptation that doesn’t take away the charm and original plots of Chester Gould’s work. It’s a movie to watch, if you’re into the pulp action (classic-era) genre!

A sequel, too, was planned for the film but due to legal disputes between Warren Beatty and Tribune (the guys who own the comic strips), it has not been produced as of yet…Beatty’s also 74 and aging now.

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Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) Review

Posted in Movie reviews - 1980s, Movies on March 16, 2012 by They call me "Mephy"

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

It's the story of a man, a woman, and a rabbit in a triangle of trouble.

Promotional movie poster

This one’s bound to at least emit nostalgia out of your childhood if you grew up staring at the idiot box. This movie is like a cross between Disney, Warner Bros., and Dick Tracy (which will be reviewed next time). Based on a novel by Gary K. Wolf “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?”, the film was directed by Rober Zemeckis (same director of Back to the Future) and was notable for bringing back a fanbase to the golden age of American animation, which brought along the Disney Renaissance era (The Little Mermaid in 1989, until Tarzan in 1999). The film was also one of the final films that Mel Blanc voiced Looney Tune characters before his death in 1989.

It is 1947 in Hollywood, humans and cartoons co-exist together and cartoon shorts are acted in the same manner as a live-action actor does. A toon rabbit named Roger Rabbit (voiced by Charles Fleischer) is supposedly framed for the murder of Marvin Acme , owner of Toontown and Acme Corporation. Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskin), alcoholic private investigator whose former partner and brother was killed by a toon with a piano to the head, is made a scapegoat to Roger’s motivation to murder Mr. Acme, having previously shown scandalous picture of Mr. Acme and Roger’s seductive and gorgeous wife, Jessica Rabbit, together. He must clear his name (and Roger’s) and figure out who the real killer is, while coping with his own inner demons and a looney cameo of toons (no pun intended), ranging from old-timey Betty Boop to despicable Daffy Duck. Meanwhile, Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) is scheming a diabolical plan to change the ways of the town and get rid of the toons.

Kathleen Turner voices the eye-candy (not to mention, ear-candy) character Jessica Rabbit

"I'm not bad...I'm just drawn that way."

It is no surprise this one has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has a good mixture of cartoon violence and humor, as well as a touching story. Spielberg helped in asking permission for the usage of the copyrighted characters of Warner Bros, Fleischer Studios, King Features Syndicate, Felix the Cat Productions, Turner Entertainment, and Universal Pictures/Walter Lantz Productions to appear alongside each other, particularly Donald Duck with Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse (which as also the first an only time both appeared together on screen before). The film also spawned a new dance move named The Roger Rabbit dance which involves skipping backwards doing a flapping gesture as if hooking one’s thumb on suspenders. The miming by the live actors and the moving of live action props when used by the cartoon characters by moved around on strings or used robotic arms in holding, which felt realistic and perfectly timed in its quality. Recommended highly for cartoon fans who want to take a break from all the 3D hype (it may be three decades old, but it still has some kick in it). It’s one of the many films you’ll be able to watch many times without getting bored!

A sequel is also planned (or still thought of, at least) but with the emerging computer animations these days, will it do well? Only time will tell on that one, but they assure us that it’ll be just like this one: no CGIs, just traditional 2D animation combined with live action.

Graveyard of the Fireflies (火垂るの墓 Hotaru no Haka) (1988) Review

Posted in Movie reviews - 1980s, Movies with tags , , , , , , , on March 5, 2012 by They call me "Mephy"

Graveyard of the Fireflies (1988)

“In spite of it all, a lovely day”

Promotional movie poster (Japan)

Promotional movie poster (Japan)

Note: This was late due to internet problems and the fact we had a surprise last Sunday, so this is technically an extra one.

One of Japan’s finest anti-war animation next to “Barefoot Genji” set in the last years and aftermathof WWII, the story involving two siblings and their struggle to live day by day after the loss of their mother in a firebombing, as food becomes scarce and people become selfish.

The film opens to a dying Seita, after days of malnutrition and much struggling with the economically struggling Japan, resulting from the unconditional surrender and end of WWII. Seita does whatever it takes to

Other than theme on the horrors of war, Setsuko acts as the innocence left within all the sadness, unaware of death and relying on her older brother to tell her that everything will be alright. We feel as helpless as the characters succumb to their untimely deaths, leaving us with a sense of hopelessness. She also symbolizes reason (the youth; the future of tomorrow) and the clinging hope. Seita represents perseverance and virtually what little remains of good left in the world of empathetical adults. The fireflies are where the film got it’s title; symbolizing the fragile existence and fate (we all die eventually).

One of the few (in the blogger’s opinion) Japanese “animes” that someone who dislikes the idea of otaku culture would not turn away from (the blogger admits he especially dislikes the “mainstream” otakus for not having better taste in what they watch). It speaks for the side of Japanese people in a war-torn era in contrast to the Allies (Americans, British, Russians) and not limiting to French, Polish, and even Thailand. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki transformed Japan’s generation after the baby boomer generation into existentialist ones, with the introduction and rise of the video game industry and other ways Japan has used to deal with the traumas of war and more horrifying decades of birth defects and radiation poisoning, much like Germany and the events of the Holocaust. We are made to sympathize with the common victims of war: everyday people like us who have little to nothing to do with the war other than a growing hate for attackers who take away loved ones and their homes.

Photo credited to Kawano Katsuhito (from DeviantArt)

Since the Sakuma Drops (fruit drops brand) played a motif in the film, a commemorative tin was made with the image of Setsuko on it over the years.

Another tear-jerking (have a napkin, in case) animation that questions the necessity of both war and the ethical morals shifted by it. Recommended for even the faint of heart, there are moments that mass graves or a dead body is used effectively as to express death amongst the living and there are times when even the scenes of frolicking on the beach between the siblings acts as a moment of comfort and carefree, away from the war; this is what makes the film beautiful in all its simplicity. This film is not one to be missed by any war film buffs nor the casual movie-goers.

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