Saturday, January 7, 2012

My 2011 Movie Odyssey - Part X

Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus (1960)
Disney regular and ultimate precocious redhead Kevin Corcoran finally gets a movie all to himself. It's a joy to watch him as he learns the ins and outs of the circus business while charming every adult in sight. Toby's pet monkey gets a little too much screen time, but overall the movie is quite entertaining and a wonderful showcase for one of cinema's more underrated child actors.

The Illusionist (2010)
An animated Jacques Tati roams the countryside performing a series of mediocre magic tricks. I really wanted to like this movie, since I love Tati and it was directed by the director of The Triplets of Belleville, but the whole thing was far too melancholy for my tastes and an animated character is no substitute for the real Tati.

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold (2011)
The movie is fun to watch, and director Morgan Spurlock is a wonderfully engaging character, but the movie didn’t tell me very much about the world of product placement that I didn’t already know. I also wish Spurlock had been more biting in his analysis of product placement; the whole thing came off disappointingly tame.

Gymkata (1985)
Who comes up with these ideas? An American gymnast is enlisted by the US government to compete in a dangerous competition so they can build a Star Wars satellite station. He is able to come out victorious by combining his skills in gymnastics with martial arts. The movie is full of cliched or implausible moments, the absolute best scene being the one in which he fights off a village full of crazy people by using a stone pommel horse that just happens to be in the middle of the village square.

Zardoz (1974)
The screenshots from this film of Sean Connery wearing massive red boots and not much else are all over the internet and I was curious to see if the actual movie was as bad as the pictures promised. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, as some of the story ideas were interesting, but mostly it was just silly. We get a giant floating stone head that vomits guns, trippy, psychedelic visuals in lieu of conflict, and lots and lots of running around for no apparent reason.

Freaky Friday (1976)
This is another winner from Disney. Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster are both very fun as the mother and daughter who switch bodies. The whole movie is full of laughs, and while the climax ventures from preposterous into absurd, the film is very entertaining.

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
I don’t know whose idea it was to make Geena Davis into an action star, but I wish whoever it was would have kept his or her ideas to him or herself. She already proved a year earlier in Cutthroat Island that action was not her forte, but here she is again beating people up and then blowing up their houses. The premise is kind of interesting, but each new plot twist got more and more ridiculous and by the end I just didn’t care about anything.

The Happiest Millionaire (1967)
This is a flawed but at times entertaining musical. It is full of quirky characters and a few fun songs, but it is far too long for its own good and the narrative needs actual structure. Fred MacMurray stars as the titular millionaire who combines boxing and Bible study, keeps alligators as pets, and is a very patriotic American. He’s fun to watch, but he can’t sing very well, and when he tries to speak his songs it just sounds awkward. The movie can’t decide if it’s about the millionaire or his daughter, as long stretches (and many of them rather dull) focus solely on her and her efforts to become a lady after being brought up as a tomboy. The problem is that we never really get to see her act like a tomboy - we just hear her complaining about it. We are also introduced near the beginning to her two brothers who have a really fun musical number, but then disappear for the rest of the movie with almost no explanation given. At almost three hours long in its full version, the movie could really stand to lose about an hour of running time, focusing the plot on Fred MacMurray.

Winnie the Pooh (2011)
I was wary when I first heard about this movie. The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is one of my favorite Disney films and I am a fan of A.A. Milne as well. Most of what I had seen of previous movies trying to bank on the Winnie the Pooh name (like The Tigger Movie and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie) they bore very little resemblance to both Milne’s original stories and the look of the first movie. So I was quite pleased to find out that the story was taken from three of the original stories and the look was a return to the 1977 film. The movie is quite charming and I was very pleased that they kept the characters’ interactions with the narrator, never letting the audience forget that these stories originally appeared in a book. It is a worthy sequel to the original.

Good Hair (2009)
This is a fascinating look into the time, effort, and money that African American women (and some men) put into making their hair fall down straight instead of frizzing up in an afro. The documentary is very entertaining and informative, though it made me sad to see an entire culture of people trying to model themselves after other people instead of trying to do things with their hair that are uniquely their own and that white women can’t do.

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