It Takes Two

It Takes Two. Dualstar Productions 1995.

Before watching the movie:

I dimly remember watching Full House and I remember a lot better having an interest in the Olsens’ Dualstar work when I was young. I won a couple of their detective series videos in a contest I think I got a third just because I liked the series, and I saw others without owning them. I know I saw a few of their movies, but not as much of their filmography as I expected looks familiar.

It’s not surprising to see identical siblings (or close enough in their case) build a career in show business out of their similarity, but I can’t think of another pair that built a brand (or at least had a brand built around them) the way Mary-Kate and Ashley did. While they have plenty of productions that demonstrate it’s possible to create a vehicle for them without banking on their identicality, this one is a “Prince and the Pauper” story, apparently with a bit of The Parent Trap thrown in (I always wondered why the Parent Trap remake had Lindsay Lohan in a dual role instead of getting still-bankable real twins).

After watching the movie:

Amanda Lemmon has spent the first ten years of her life in an orphanage. Alyssa Callaway has spent her whole life raised by her wealthy father Roger, their butler Vincenzo, and her boarding school. They happen to look uncannily alike. Amanda is about to be adopted by “orphan collectors” the Butkises, but would much rather be adopted by her social worker Diane. Alyssa returns from her boarding school for the summer to learn that her father will be marrying Clarice, selling the lovely mansion, sending Alyssa to a school in Europe forever, all the standard golddigging wicked stepparent stuff, prompting Alyssa to formally Run Away in protest, not long before Amanda gets dared into ringing the bell at the “haunted” mansion across the lake, and they promptly get mistaken for each other. Quickly overwhelmed by being swept into another life, they both run off into the forest and find each other. Amanda and Alyssa decide to spend a day in each other’s lives, and quickly find that Diane and Roger would be perfect for each other, and setting them up together would take away both their problems.

The cartoonish evil of Clarice is saturated in tropes. There’s no relationship between her and Roger at all, her first scene without Roger has her talking openly about her golddigging plans so that Alyssa and the audience can hear them, and there’s a major rush into the wedding. All of those things come up a lot in romantic comedy plots, especially where children are involved. When you make the fiancee that needs to be dumped so unambiguously villainous, there’s no room for any justification for why they’re together in the first place. Roger makes some comments about “this family needs a mother”, but if that’s the only qualification, there are doubtless many better candidates in his life.

We learn that Roger made his money “accidentally”, by buying the frequency band that cell phones use back when it was a cool, futuristic idea that would never take off. Where did he get the money to buy up radio frequencies? Never mentioned. Just something that anybody with dumb luck can do, I guess.

I really do like Diane and Roger together, and there’s some great humor from the kids at camp. I would’ve liked to see more involvement from the other kids once the plot to get them together was under way. This may have started from a “rich kid/poor kid switch places like Twain” place, but it quickly gets away from that and really, for me, Alyssa and Amanda being each other’s doppelganger was one of the least interesting parts of the story.

I don’t mind a story being by the numbers, but some of the numbers this hits are lazy and worn out to the point that it took me out of the story. It’s mostly just a fun good time with the Olsens, Steve Guttenberg, and Kirstie Alley, and that’s all it’s trying to be. And it’s for kids, so it doesn’t have as much of a need to innovate.

Advertisements

The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons.
Mercury 1942.

Before watching the movie:

I seem to recall that this is sometimes regarded as at least equal in stature to Citizen Kane in some way. It doesn’t get the hype that Kane does though, and it seems to get discussed to the extent of “probably Orson Wells’ best film ever, but moving on…”

Much like Kane is a portrait of a life, just with a nominal mystery to drive the plot, this seems to be a portrait of a family’s travails over possibly years. I have a sense that it’s character driven and plot light and would probably be comfortable on the same shelf with Little Women.

Continue reading

Stargate

Stargate. Metro Goldwyn-Mayer 1994.

Before watching the movie:

I can probably count on one hand the number of episodes of Stargate: SG-1 I’ve seen, and still have room for the number of episodes of Stargate: Andromeda and Stargate Universe. I think there are two other series now? It was the Star franchise I cared least about.

So Stargate and the Stargates have always been a thing that the show has expected viewers to know about in everything I’ve seen. I’m interested in seeing how the concept is introduced for the very first time, from the very beginning.

Continue reading

Wholly Moses!

Wholly Moses! Columbia Pictures 1980.

Before watching the movie:

This movie sounds very similar to Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. The major difference, aside from being about a Moses parallel instead of a Jesus parallel, seems to be that Herschel has been deluded into believing he is God’s prophet while Brian spends the whole movie begging the crowds to stop trying to make him their messiah. Apparently it was also protested by Jewish groups for mocking their religion. I didn’t find Life of Brian as blasphemous as everyone said, so I’ll reserve judgment here.

Read more

Movies of My Yesterdays: Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves

I usually avoid sequels here, and yes, it’s direct to video, but this one means more to me than the original Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. I don’t remember if it’s the one I saw first, but it’s the one I saw most back then. I knew it was a sequel to “Kids”, but at first I didn’t realize that there was another one in between the two (Honey, I Blew Up The Kid, which is about the toddler getting bigger and bigger until it gets into “Attack of the 50-foot _____” territory).

This one, and the TV series that apparently came out the same year, but doesn’t seem to be related, came to me right at the time when I was not only in a period of discovering my own new favorites for what seemed like the first time, but also particularly interested in invention, and so stories starring the wacky tinkerer Wayne Szalinski and his quirky inventions especially appealed to me.

Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. Walt Disney Pictures 1997.

Years after making his name with the Shrink Machine, Wayne Szalinski has founded Szalinski Labs, a “throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks” R&D company, which he operates as the president of and his brother Gordon heads development projects for. Wayne’s son Adam has no interest in Wayne’s passion for science and would much rather go to baseball camp instead of the math summer camp Wayne has picked out for him. The family is preparing for a weekend where Wayne and Gordon’s wives Diane and Patti go on a vacation and Gordon as well as his and Patti’s kids Jenny and Mitch will be staying with Wayne and Adam. Just as the weekend begins, Wayne has Gordon help him haul a gigantic tiki sculpture that Diane hates up to the attic, where he intends to use the Shrink Machine one last time before it goes to the Smithsonian to shrink it to pocket size. But a mishap with the machine also shrinks Wayne and Gordon, and soon after, Diane and Patti get shrunk too. Returning from an errand to find no parents in the house, the kids come to the obvious conclusion: house party.

Much like Home Alone 2, I think the success of this movie comes from delivering more of what made the original interesting. As I recall, “Kids” is mostly about the shrunken kids spending the weekend crossing the backyard, which is now a harsh jungle from their perspective. While that story was more about surviving in unforgiving nature, this story is set entirely in the house, making even more familiar household objects into an alien landscape for the parents to navigate. There’s also the added angle that the parents are able to observe what their kids are doing when they think they’re unsupervised, and so the dramatic irony is much richer than “where are the missing kids? Right out the back door!”

Of course in the third act, after things get too out of hand for the kids, they start to display the ways in which they were raised right after all. It’s a pretty standard trope, especially for Adam having some of Wayne’s science knowledge rub off on him after all, but I’m impressed now that the culmination of Jenny’s story is that when the boy she has a crush on gets her alone and forces a kiss on her, she pushes him away and tells him off for not asking. For 1997, that seems like a rare storytelling choice.

I have no complaints about the effects. There’s some things that I can’t tell if it’s good puppetry or very good CGI, but considering that it’s the late 90s and a direct to video budget, it’s probably puppetry. Sometimes the greenscreen compositing is a little obvious, but that’s hardly ever a solved problem even today, and it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of the story that they basically have a choice between decent compositing and very good but obvious oversize sets. When dealing with the world on a much smaller scale, I’m not sure it’s possible to make things look real, because it will either be more detailed than we’re used to or less detailed than we expect.

This is still a lot of fun for a direct to video family movie. It’s aged incredibly well and possibly aside from Gordon and Mitch’s actors seeming like Wayne Knight and Jonathan Taylor Thomas stand-ins, it feels almost timeless. It’s nice to watch a movie with nostalgia value and not end up disillusioned.

Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask. Code Entertainment 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not a very big fan of horror, but I do enjoy a mockumentary, especially a comedic one, and horror is a genre that’s always ripe to be mocked.

I hadn’t heard of this movie before the part of the internet that works in mysterious ways (okay, the mysterious ways governed by data and math) brought it to the surface. It’s a pretty simple premise, as a serial killer to be invites a documentary team to follow him as he plans his blaze of glory, and instead of calling the police or anything, they go get their killer story.

Continue reading

The Missing Corpse

The Missing Corpse. Producers Releasing Corporation 1945

Before watching the movie:

I just found out about this movie, and it sounds like a lot of fun. A newspaper mogul gets killed and planted in his rival’s car, so the rival then has to hide the corpse to not get charged for the murder, only the body keeps going missing and somehow turning up in conspicuous places.

Some of the names in the cast seem vaguely familiar, but there’s not really anything that would’ve made it stand out except the black box algorithms that control our lives thought I might like it, and for once it looks like they’re right.

Continue reading