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.

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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.

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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.

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Yesterday’s TV Movies

Real life gets in the way of blogging again, and I just want to relax with some TV, or at least movies about making TV (and radio).

  • A Hard Day’s Night: The Beatles have a lot of fun avoiding rehearsals for their big TV appearance.
  • Death to Smoochy: Politics and intrigue around who gets to entertain kids on TV.
  • Radioland Murders: A madcap murder mystery going on away from the microphone while the station is still on the air.
  • Quiz Show: scandal and intrigue around TV trivia games
  • Soapdish: soap opera drama behind the scenes in the soap opera production.
  • Broadcast News: It’s about ethics in journalism and romance! Still my favorite depiction of unrequited love for a best friend.

The Avengers

The Avengers. Warner Bros. 1998.

Before watching the movie:

What can be said about this big-budget adaptation of a beloved, long-lasting sci-fi/fantasy/action/adventure franchise? This movie that brought people’s childhood fantasies to the big screen in an ambitious project that had never been done before? The first time moviegoers assembled for The Avengers?

Of course, I mean the 1998 adaptation of the British ITV series from the 60s. What else could I be referring to?

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Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train. Warner Bros. 1951

Before watching the movie:

This is one of those that nobody ever really discusses beyond the concept. A pair of strangers meet on a train and through conversation, discover that they both have someone they’d like to murder, and if they each just kill the other person’s target, they could both get away with it from having no apparent motive.

The only other thing people say about it is that it’s a Hitchcock film, which does more or less define a genre, or at least a tone. I also note that Raymond Chandler worked on the screenplay, so it should come off as a good detective story, assuming there’s a detective in it that nobody talks about. There has to be one, so there’s an antagonist, I assume.

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