The Night the World Exploded

The Night the World Exploded. Clover Productions 1957.

Before watching the movie:

Another one I stumbled upon that I know pretty much nothing about. It has something to do with an unknown mineral that’s been present in the Earth all this time igniting and bad stuff happens. I don’t know how the plot is going to set up that this thing can happen and is going to destroy the world if it isn’t stopped if it sounds like setting it off in one place will set it off all over the world, but that’s what I’ll find out.

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Along Came Polly

Along Came Polly. Jersey Films 2004.

Before watching the movie:

I think I was aware of this movie as a title floating out there, but that was pretty much the end of it. Even watching a trailer, I thought this was There’s Something About Mary for a moment. I wouldn’t have expected Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston to appear together in anything.

Total opposites romantic comedies, especially where the cautious guy’s world is opened by a wildcard girl, are pretty common (off the top of my head, Something Wild fits the bill), but what the concept reminds me the most of is Yes Man. It’s something about the mix of extreme activities that he never would have agreed to without this change in his life, I think. I don’t really have a whole lot more to say about a movie I barely knew existed, just how much it reminds me of more well-regarded movies.

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Ip Man

Ip Man. Golden Harvest 2008.

Before watching the movie:

I have heard this series mentioned a lot as some kind of great work that doesn’t have to be discussed because everyone in the conversation has already seen it. I’ve seen the sequels pop up from time to time, but the original movie doesn’t show up as much.

I have to admit I read the title as if it was English until I decided to look up what it’s about. What does a man of Ip do? Ip Man (or Yip Man, or Ip Mun, depending on the transliteration) is the name of a famous martial artist. He trained Bruce Lee. This is (very loosely) based on his early life. Apparently the story is about him standing up to invading forces to defend his village solo, which is to say it concerns things that absolutely didn’t happen to him in the Second Sino-Japanese war.

I have the understanding that while this movie did not originally get released in the US, it, or at least its sequels, brought Donnie Yen to the attention of American film studios. I do not know any of the names of the other actors, but it looks like they actually cast Japanese actors as the Japanese characters, which I suppose a Chinese production is more likely to do if they have access to Japanese actors, because Chinese audiences are very familiar with the differences between Chinese and Japanese people, unlike many in the American audience.

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Wings

Wings. Paramount Pictures 1927.

Before watching the movie:

The machinery of the Public Domain has shuddered back to life and as with last year, new works are transferring ownership to the people. Perhaps most notably, the copyright on the final Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories finally expired, so it will be entertaining to see what shaky legal argument the Doyle Estate will come up with to try to continue to get money out of Holmes now. Also joining the Public Domain is The Jazz Singer, which has an enduring technical legacy and, I hear, little else to recommend it.

But the member of the PD class of 2023 that I’ve heard the most praise for is Wings. While I don’t recall hearing of it before now, it has not only a good reputation in story but also very impressive aerial cinematography for its time. I’m strongly reminded of Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, so much as I remember anything about it. While that movie was set in the first world war but made in the 1960s, it will be interesting to see how the 1920s retold WWI.

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Movies of My Yesterdays of My Yesterdays

Welcome to the next evolution in repurposing old articles: revisiting posts about revisiting movies. I do appreciate a good meta concept. And also this one.

Any collection of highlights from the Movies of My Yesterdays series has to include the very first edition: Lady and the Tramp.

I’m not sure, but I think The Seven Percent Solution might be the longest post I’ve written on this blog, and it looks like I put a lot into crafting it as the final Sherlock Holmes movie review. I hope it doesn’t seem overdone, but I mostly feel good about it still.

Almost as much surplus of retrospective is found with Galaxy Quest. Also almost as much writing quality. I enjoy very much when I can find a topic to Say Something About in relation to a movie, and in this case, I was recognizing the 50th anniversary of Star Trek.

The One Magic Christmas review is its own Christmas redemption story.

While not as heavy on retrospective, I think there’s a good helping of social commentary in the reviews for The Secret of My Success, An American Tail, and Bicentennial Man.

Finally, I can’t necessarily speak to the writing quality of the reviews, but I hope I got across how much I love The Iron Giant and Meet The Robinsons and possibly only love them more with each rewatch.

Surviving Christmas

Surviving Christmas. Liveplanet 2004.

Before watching the movie:

Nobody talks at all about this movie. I see the title floating around, but usually only as a title available in a catalog, not even anything people are referencing. It only just barely exists.

The summary I saw of this movie just described a rich eccentric paying a family to let him spend Christmas with them, but then I looked up the trailer, and I was expecting a lonely older man as the rich guy, but it’s going to be very strange to see Ben Affleck playing a goofy inept manchild. I may have missed the early heartthrob stage of his career, but I always thought he was doing more grounded romantic leads.

As well this looks incredibly like a Christmas remake of Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star. I thought the guy was going to just be lonely, but apparently it specifically says he’s looking to recapture his childhood, spelled out in the contract they draw up. So it’s not just a family hijacked by someone who turned on the money firehose, it’s a family hired to make a middle-aged man feel like a kid again.

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The Thing (1982)

The Thing. Universal Pictures 1982.

Before watching the movie:

This is one more legend that’s a bit of a black box. I know there’s a monster besieging a research station in the Arctic or Antarctic, and that’s about it. I think almost the entire movie goes without showing the monster? It might be an alien but it’s left ambiguous? The poster is as much of a masterpiece as the movie, they say, and it is a fantastic poster.

I dimly recall a TV special about practical and visual effects in horror movies in general that may have touched on this movie, but I’m not sure. The images I’m remembering could be almost any horror movie, but they could fit a frozen research station for all I know.

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Movies of my Yesterdays: Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

I had intended to do another movie on the basis of a current meme, but I didn’t really feel up to that and then the week got away from me, so instead I’m going to share my thoughts on rewatching one of my favorite Christmas movies.

I vaguely remember when this was new, even if I don’t directly remember it coming out. We got around to it eventually on video, probably the next year. Movies are available at home the next month now somehow, but they still had a very long embargo then, and of course they wouldn’t release a Christmas movie in the summer, so I’m sure I saw it the next year. I do recall reading the novelization a few years later, though while I remember it being the first time I noticed scenes in a novelization not from the book, I don’t really remember more than that. I especially like to watch this toward the beginning of the season since it begins with the end of the Thanksgiving Parade. I wouldn’t say it’s ever been a foundational tradition of the season, but it’s almost always been there, and it carries innocent nostalgia in my mind, so it’s time to see if it holds up to a modern cynic.

Miracle on 34th Street. 20th Century Fox 1994.

Dorey Walker is a very guarded and practical single mother and teaches her young daughter Susan the same, including that there is no Santa Claus to put any childish faith in, something their neighbor friend, lawyer Brian Bedford, finds concerning. Dorey’s employer, old fashioned department store Cole’s, prepares to go into an incredibly important holiday shopping season, as if they don’t make enough to pay off the debts they incurred evading a hostile takeover from Victor Landburgh’s soulless megacorp Shopper’s Express, they’ll default and Landburgh could buy up the company for cheap. This year, Cole’s will have a new Santa at their flagship 34th Street store thanks to an emergency hire of a charming old man named Kriss who was very particular about the portrayal of the character for the Thanksgiving Parade. Dorey, Susan, and Brian soon discover that this man, isn’t just a very good Santa, he believes he is the legendary Kriss Kringle. Brian and Kriss make it their mission to make believers out of Dorey and Susan, but while the family wrestle with their personal faith, Kriss’s unexpected habit of giving parents advice on what other stores have items Cole’s doesn’t have or charges too much for is paying off in brand loyalty and inspires Cole’s to introduce a dedicated “find it for you” concierge service, pulling in an unprecedentedly fantastic sales season and foiling Landbergh’s plans, unless he can scheme a way to get Kriss out of the way. Also Dorey suggests that doubting Susan can test Kriss with the kind of Christmas wish she’d never ask her mother for, and Susan tells him her most impossible private wish: a father, a brother, and a big house upstate.

I’m coming back to this movie with a lot more context. I’ve since seen the original movie, and I had thought this carried through the old real life rivalry between Macy and Gimbel. Of course, few remember Gimbel’s anymore, or anything of that rivalry. It’s actually a pretty clever translation into an outmoded business from a friendlier time fighting for its life against the modern mercenary corporate raiders. While the pacing and tone is much more approachable here, I do have to say I prefer the resolution of the earlier version, in which the judge decides to uphold the decision already made by the US Mail to accept Kriss’s identity, rather than taking the extra leaps of “if the government can trust in God on faith to the point they print it on their money, this court can accept on faith that Santa Claus exists”, and further “Santa Claus exists and therefore this court trusts that Mr. Kringle is who he says he is.” But then, better legal experts have torn these movies apart on the court proceedings.

I had always taken the narrative intent to be that Kriss is indeed Santa Claus, so I was surprised a year or two ago to see someone arguing that the point is that we don’t know and it shouldn’t matter. That might be more the case for the earlier version, but this treatment gives us every reason to believe Kriss short of seeing him do a scrap of supernatural magic. My current take is that, while anyone can embody the spirit of Santa Claus, Kriss has so dedicated himself to it that he might as well be the man in the flesh, but the most important thing is the spirit he inspires in others, and which the public reciprocates in the support that is unfortunately nerfed down to not much more than a montage of signs in this telling, moving to the audience but not to the plot.

The warm feelings of this movie persist. It’s the inspiring story of a man who gives himself to the world, and most of the world, on learning he’s in trouble, responding in kind. It’s a lesson in open minds and open hearts, and the joy and wonder that can result from being the one person to insist on caring for and loving everyone in spite of the hostility of the societal machine running as usual.