Sunday, October 30, 2011

Leprechaun in the Hood (2000)

I was busier than I expected this week and therefore only got to see one movie. The good news is that I did have time to watch some TV and will be making a Fall TV post soon. The bad news is that the only movie I saw this week sucked. Thankfully it was one of the "so bad, its good" movies which are a ton of fun to watch with a group of friends!

Leprechaun in the Hood (2000)
I had never seen any of the Leprechaun movies before even though I had heard of the series. The first two films were released in theaters and actually made some money, mostly due to their low budget, which I am sure is still way more than the budget for this one! What shocked me was that this was the fifth of six movies in this series! Yes, they actually made a sequel to this monstrosity called Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood. Ugh...
Anyway, Leprechaun in the Hood "stars" rapper Ice-T. While he is good on Law & Order: SUV, the material Ice-T has to work with here must have made him wish he was in Johnny Mnemonic again! The Leprechaun is played by Warwick Davis, who is probably best known for his work on the Harry Potter series in which he played Professor Flitwick and Griphook the Goblin. I also recognized actor Anthony Montgomery who played the main character, "Postermaster P," from his role as Ensign Mayweather on Star Trek: Enterprise.

The basic plot is that three young aspiring rap artists accidentally unleash a leprechaun who was imprisoned by a record producer twenty years earlier. The rappers have stolen the magic flute of the leprechaun and try to stop him from killing people and acquiring gold.
As you could probably guess, Leprechaun in the Hood was a low budget, direct-to-video movie. However, I was surprised to see just how terrible the camera work was. I didn't come into this movie expecting amazing cinematography, but a lot of the scenes just had the camera staying still on a tripod. There was one scene where characters were walking down a street talking and you could barely see them until they finally walked down in front of the camera! The absolute worst moment was a time lapse during a conversation while one guy walks closer to another! Besides the awful directing and cinematography there are several scenes featuring the main characters singing that is merely filler to waste time. Yes, I know they are struggling musicians, but it usually had nothing to do with the plot and made you just wait for what wacky thing that silly leprechaun would do next.

I'm not sure I would consider Leprechaun in the Hood a comedy-horror movie, but there is certainly a good amount of intentional humor that is funny for the most part. I laughed out loud when Ice-T pulled a baseball bat out of his Afro and when one of the characters pulls out a book called Leprechauns for Dummies! Sadly the movie is so poorly made (I didn't even get to the terrible writing or bad acting) that these scenes can't save it, despite being memorable. There are also some bizarre scenes like a transvestite getting humped to death by the Leprechaun, some tone deaf back-up singers/strippers who look like they walked off the set of Goldfinger, and a five second cameo by the rapper Coolio.
Leprechaun in the Hood is a classic bad movie in that it is awful but still watchable. This silly flick is up there (or down there!) with Troll 2 in that respect. When comparing these two Leprechaun in the Hood is more tongue in cheek, but even worse from a technical aspect (camera work, directing, and tons of pointless filler). Like Troll 2, this is another sequel that has little, if any, relation to the previous movies in its series. If you love bad movies which don't take themselves too seriously check this one out. Otherwise stay far, far away.
"Lep in the Hood, Come to do no good"
Best final scene ever!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tales from the Archives: The Movie Church May 1928

This week's installment of my Tales from the Archives series about the "Movie Church" (Church of the Holy Infancy in Bethlehem, PA) is a bit different. Instead of having a schedule for upcoming films to be shown at the church auditorium, the May 1928 issue featured an advertisement for a motion picture called "The Crown of Thorns." The film, about the Passion, was to be shown that June at the Orpheum Theatre. A Google search revealed that there was a theater by that name in nearby Easton, PA so I assume it is the same one referred to in the article.

I searched for the film on IMDB and it appears that Crown of Thorns was also known as I.N.R.I. and came out in 1923. The film was directed by Robert Weine, the man who also directed The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). I wrote about that film and The Hands of Orlac, another movie directed by Weine, in one of my earlier posts.  Below is a picture of Robert Weine:

Famous German actor Werner Krauss played Pontius Pilate in this film. Krauss is best remembered for playing the titular role in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Krauss as Dr. Caligari is pictured below.

IMDB lists the American release date for Crown of Thorns as 1934. I am guessing that this is incorrect since the article clearly states that people in the US were watching it in 1928. It is possible that the article is referring to a different film, but I wasn't able to find any others that fit the title and time period.

According to the IMDB page for this film, Crown of Thorns was long thought to be lost. However, in 1999 a 16mm print was found in an Italian archives and a 35mm version of the movie was found in 2006 in Tokyo. Luckily a clip has made its way online! I'm not sure when or why a narration was added but check it out here!

Crown of Thorns
is a Passion story, but the film also included a framing story in a contemporary setting about an anarchist jailed for an attempted assassination. More information on both the film and director Robert Wiene can be found here.    

Come back Sunday for the spooky weekly wrap-up!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up (10/23)

Halloween (1978)
I am a Big John Carpenter fan but had somehow never seen this film before. Halloween is one of the most influential movies in the last 30 to 40 years as it is usually credited for the rise of the slasher genre. While this film has contains many elements that would eventually become cliches today, it is still am amazing film that holds up well. The great camerawork by Dean Cundey and Carpenter's directing allow the movie to rise above its low budget. That said, the low budget doesn't show much anyway since Halloween does a great job setting up the suspense and doesn't need to rely on blood and gore to be scary. Carpenter knows that what you don't see is scarier than what you do see, and uses that to full effect in this film. At its core, Halloween is about the struggle between good and evil. Although good will triumph over evil, evil always returns in some form.
Jamie Lee Curtis puts in a nice performance in what was her film debut and the role she will probably always be best known for. Donald Pleasence is awesome as usual as the doctor tracking Michael Myers. 
Although Halloween is probably Carpenter's best known movie, my favorite Carpenter film is still The Thing. Of course that is just personal preference as I love both along with all the other Carpenter films I have seen so far... except Ghosts of Mars.

I had seen this movie awhile ago but was due for a re-watch.
Bill Murray IS Peter Venkman. Although I can't imagine anybody else in this role, John Belushi was originally intended to play Venkman. Ghostbusters went through a long process of re-writes before it got made so I have a feeling that if Belushi lived and was in the movie it would be quite different. Murray and the cast made a lot of ad-libs which was a lot of fun and helped make this one of the most memorable and quotable comedies ever.
The special effects hold up well, as practical effects usually do!
One thing that surprised me was how good the writing was. Ghostbusters is not the most tightly written comedy, but its up there. Each set-up had a pay-off: Don't cross the streams, Stay Puft marshmallow man, Zuul, relationship between Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver) and Louis Tully (Rick Moranis), etc. A friend recommended watching the sequel saying it was underrated, so I'll give that movie a shot when I get the chance.

Ghost Dad (1990)
I love Bill Cosby. His stand-up and television work are both great. However he just couldn't make the jump to movies. I'm not counting Bill Cosby: Himself (1983) since that is just a filmed version of his stand-up routine at the time.
I was shocked to discover that the great actor Sidney Poitier directed this movie. He has directed a few other films but this one appears to have killed his directing career as it is the last movie he has made. Ghost Dad had a decent budget ($18 million) although I'm guessing most of that went to Cosby's salary. The special effects were actually decent, but most of them were camera tricks. Although its hard to believe, Ghost Dad made over $24 million at the box office so it actually turned a profit.
While Ghost Dad is watchable, there are far better family comedies out there. For a movie called Ghost Dad starring Bill Cosby its actually not as wacky as one would expect, although there are still some ridiculous moments. Hey, at least its not Leonard Part 6!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Tales from the Archives: The Movie Church March 1928

This parish monthly calendar dates from March 1928 and lists the movies shown that were to be shown in April. This time the format is that of a double feature followed by one short.

The first feature film shown on April 1st was the Western Pals in Paradise (1926). It seems that the film no longer exists.

The next film was Jim, the Conqueror (1927). Like Pals in Paradise it was a Western and I couldn't find much about it. It appears that this is also a lost film. The title role was played by actor William Boyd, pictured above. Boyd would become famous for playing cowboy Hopalong Cassidy in a popular film series throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

Last week we looked at a Stan Laurel short and an Oliver Hardy short. This time we finally get a short with both of them! However, it is not quite what it seems as although both comedians were in this short they were not a team yet. Not only does this short survive, but you can watch it here at YouTube.

Silence (1926) was the first feature for April 8th. The film was made by Cecil B. DeMille's DeMille Pictures Corporation. Well-known actor H.B. Warner was among the cast. It seems that this film no longer exists.

The second feature this week was Her Man o' War (1926), a World War I drama. Like Silence, it was also made by DeMille Pictures Corporation. The actress pictured is Jetta Goudal who was quite popular in the 1920s but is virtually unknown today. Her Man o' War also features William Boyd. According to IMDB a print of the film exists at the UCLA Film and Television Archives.

The short for this week was an Aesop's Fables cartoon called A Bull and a Yard Wide (1927). I wrote more about this animated series in my previous article about this Church (Feb. 1928).

The first feature for April 15th was Steel Preferred (1926). This is yet another William Boyd film, the third in this listing to be exact. The movie doesn't appear to survive.

The second feature was The Unknown Soldier (1926). The film starred Charles Emmett Mack, an actor who was discovered by D.W. Griffith and worked for Warner Brothers. Sadly Mack died in 1927 at the age of 26 in an automobile accident. According to IMDB a print of the film exists at the UCLA Film and Television Archives.

The short for the last week in this article was Should Husbands Pay? (1926). This short was co-directed and co-written by Stan Laurel. It was produced by famous comedy producer Hal Roach, pictured above.

Come back on Sunday for the Weekly Wrap-Up!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up (10/16)

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life (1983)
I love Monty Python but this is not one of their better works. It feels like a long episode with segments that are loosely connected. There are more musicals numbers than usual and they are hit or miss. I liked the short film at the beginning The Crimson Permanent Assurance (technically a separate film as it is sometimes shown with the feature but The Meaning of Life is never shown without it) directed by Terry Gilliam. I laughed quite a bit but these guys can do much better as seen in Holy Grail and Life of Brian. It was a bit of a disappointment but still not bad at all and I'm glad I saw it for completion's sake. I guess the biggest problem was that this was a sketch movie and didn't have the focus like the Monty Python's other two films. For example some of the segments felt like they went on too long and since the topic (life) is so general there are no recurring characters. If you are a Monty Python fan you will certainly enjoy this movie, but if you are just getting into them start with Monty Python and the Holy Grail or their TV show Monty Python's Flying Circus.

The Blob
The Blob is a remake of the 1958 cult classic. While the original was not a great film, the blob was one of the most creative monsters of the time period and its still a fun watch today. I wrote about it when I saw it at Blobfest this past summer.
From a technical aspect the movie was better made than I was expecting. The practical special effects are quite good and still horrifying. There is also a nice cut early on from the blob taking over guy's hand to a kid eating jello. The acting is average at best although I enjoyed Art LaFleur as Mr. Penny the Pharmacist and Jack Nance's cameo as a doctor.
The 1988 version tries to be like John Carpenter's The Thing by putting a darker tone to a 50s monster movie. However there is still a decent amount of humor which makes the tone of the film go back and forth from campy fun to creepy horror.
Speaking of Carpenter's The Thing, the blob in the 1988 version acts more like The Thing in the way it takes over bodies. In the original people were absorbed into the blob which made it grow larger and more powerful while this time the blob appears to hide within bodies.
Besides the tone, I noticed the pacing is off. The scene with the freezer is similar to the one in the original, but its placed way too early in the film. Some characters are given a decent amount of set-up time only to be killed pretty early on (the football player who seems to be the main character at first, the sheriff, the restaurant owner). The sub-plot with the priest felt out of place and didn't make a lot of sense. The ending was also kinda abrupt and felt like they were setting up a possible sequel which never came to fruition.
There is a plot twist in this version that the U.S. is responsible for the creation of the blob as a biological weapon. This was an interesting development that differentiates it from the original, although the way its done is quite similar to how the Weyand-Yutani Corporation wants to use the Xenomorphs as weapons in Alien and Aliens. Even the new stuff in this remake had been done before, and better.
I liked the 80s rock song over the end credits ("Brave New Love" by the band Alien) although I'm 99% sure it was only here because of the Dokken songs in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors which came out the year before and did quite well at the box office. The Blob (1988) was a commercial flop when released although it seems to have a somewhat better reputation today, probably because its practical effects have aged so well.
Despite my issues with the remake, I still had fun watching it. I would still recommend it to anyone who likes sci-horror films that don't take themselves too seriously. But if you are only going to see one blob movie, stick with the original. And if you ever get the chance to attend Blobfest I highly recommend it! I had tons of fun and it was one of my favorite cinematic experiences. It was awesome to actually be in the theater that The Blob was filmed in, while watching The Blob! I don't know if the remake is ever shown there but it would make a nice compare/contrast double feature.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Tales from the Archives: The Movie Church Feb. 1928

This week I will be discussing the films shown by Church of the Holy Infancy in February and March of 1928. The last post featured films shown at the Church in the final two months of 1926. I'm not sure why there is a one year gap here. Either they didn't show movies during this time, did not list them in the parish monthly calendars, or I missed them as I was going through the calendars. No matter what, this listing features some fascinating films and famous actors so let's get started!

The scheduling format is basically the same as we saw in the 1926 calendar. The main difference is that newsreels are no longer listed and we often have two shorts shown instead of just one.

We Moderns (1925) was a silent 7-reel comedy that is now a lost film. The movie was a First National Production, a film company that later merged with Warner Bros. The film was shot in London and was a British look at the flapper phenomenon.

The star of We Moderns was famous actress Colleen Moore. Moore became known for her flapper roles and bob haircut. Her popularity waned after the silent era.

The short that followed We Moderns was the Our Gang aka Little Rascals short Telling Whoppers (1926). This was the 55th Our Gang short released.

The final of the two shorts shown on February 12th was Red Hot Sands (1927). This silent animated short was in the Aesop's Film Fables series which were created by cartoonist Paul Terry. Although the early short films in the series were about the fables, they later dropped that gimmick but kept humorous morals which often had nothing to do with the story. The series was extremely popular in the 1920s.

The feature film shown on February 19th was the comedy The Lunatic at Large. The film starred Leon Errol and Dorothy Mackaill. Like We Moderns, this movie was also a First National Production. While it appears to be a lost film, I was able to find a review of the film from 1927. Check it out here!

The first short from this week was On the Front Page (1926) which starred Stan Laurel before he teamed up with Oliver Hardy to make the popular comedy duo Laurel and Hardy. This short still survives and also features famous silent actor and wrestler Bull Montana. I guess we wouldn't have Hulk Hogan and The Rock without him! Below is a picture of Montana.

The final short that week was a sports documentary called Taking Punishment (1927). It was made by the Sports Pictorials company which specialized in these sports shorts. Famous sportswriter Grantland Rice (and the namesake of the college football Rice Bowl) was associated with the company.

Only one film was shown on February 26th and it was the "Warner Spectacle" Don Juan (1926). The movie starred famous actor John Barrymore (the grandfather of Drew Barrymore) and was the first feature film to have synchronized Vitaphone sound effects and musical soundtrack. The character Don Juan kisses various women 191 times during the film for an average of one kiss every 53 seconds!


The feature movie for March 4th was The Third Degree (1926). This romance film starred Dolores Costello, who was the wife of John Barrymore who starred in Don Juan which was shown the week before. The film also featured Oscar nominated actress Louise Dresser and Jason Robards Sr., who was the father of better known actor Jason Robards, Jr. A print of The Third Degree exists at the Library of Congress film archive.
The first short this week was Smith's Baby (1926), produced by Mack Sennett Comedies. Sennett was an Oscar-winning director who was a pioneer of comedy in the early days of film.
The second short was another Aesop's Fables animated short: Small Town Sheriff (1927).
I am pleased to announce that this is the first film in this series that can be seen on YouTube! Check it out here!

The drama White Flannels (1927) was the feature for March 11th. The film featured Louise Dresser and Jason Robards Sr. who were both in last week's film. I'm starting to notice a bit of a pattern here but I'm not sure if this was intentional or not. It seems that this is a lost film.

A few weeks earlier the church showed a Stan Laurel solo short. This time they showed Bromo and Juliet (1926), an Oliver Hardy comedy short! Although Hardy was without Laurel, fellow comedian Charley Chase was also in the film. This short was followed up by Cutting a Melon (1927), another Aesop's Fables cartoon.

The Better 'Ole
(1926) was the feature film for March 18th. This movie was the second film to use the Vitaphone sound process for music and special effects after Don Juan. Last week we saw that this church apparently showed a 3-D film and now we see that they showed the first two Vitaphone sound films. It seems that this church was on the cutting edge when it came to cinema. They clearly liked their movies! The star of this film was Sydney "Syd" Chaplin, the older half-brother of Charlie Chaplin! He appeared with Charlie Chaplin in Shoulder Arms (1918) and was also in his own films like this one. Syd Chaplin was not as famous as his younger half-brother, but did work as Charlie's business manager. The Better 'Ole still survives and you can even buy in on DVD from the Warner Bros. Archive Collection.
The lone short for this week was On the Hook (1927), another short by the Sports Pictorials company.

The star of While London Sleeps (1926) was none other than "the famous film dog" Rin Tin Tin! Even though he was not human, Rin Tin Tin was immensely popular and starred in many films of the 1920s and early 1930s. The dog's lineage continues today and many of his descendants also appeared in movies. "Rinty," as he was often known, played a police dog helping Scotland Yard in this film. Sadly it appears to be lost.

The first short for March 25th was The Fourth Alarm (1926), the 53rd Our Gang comedy released.
The second and final short was called The Human Fly but I can't seem to locate any information about  it, even on IMDB. The closest I can find is a documentary short from 1917 but since this theater did not seem to show films older than a year or two I find it hard to believe that this is what they saw in 1928. I have a feeling this will remain a mystery!

See you Sunday for the weekly wrap-up!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up (10/9) - Robot Monster

I was pretty busy this past week and only had the chance to see one movie. Sadly it was a real stinker! Luckily I had loads of fun watching it with my friends and it is always amusing to watch an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Robot Monster (1953)
The "robot monster" is a guy in a gorilla suit wearing a diving helmet that is supposed to be an alien. And the monster has a cool bubble making machine! The movie only runs for 66 minutes but still uses tons of stock footage as padding, including a scene of dinosaurs fighting from Lost Continent which I saw a few weeks ago! Although this movie is pretty boring, at least it is short. The character of "Ro-Man" was weird enough to keep me mildly interested. Even though the movie's low budget ($16,000) really shows, it was somehow a financial success at the time as it made $1 million at the box office. Today it is considered one of the worst movies ever made.
I saw the MST3K version which also features two episodes of Radar Men from the Moon featuring the character Commando Cody.  The riffs and host segments were pretty good considering this was a first season episode. Still, this is not one of the better episodes and if you are new to MST3K don't start here. I had only seen one other first season episode, Robot Holocaust, which I thought was a better MST3K. The early episodes don't have stingers, which is too bad as I love guessing what the stinger will be when watching a MST3K. The episode is an interesting watch for fans of the show to see what the show was like early on and Robot Monster is required viewing for bad movie lovers!
Trivia: Famous film composer Elmer Bernstein actually composed the music for this movie! This was one of his first projects and he would go on to bigger and better things.
Joel: "That, ladies and gentlemen, is the destroyer of the universe. I rest my case."

Friday, October 7, 2011

Tales from the Archives: The Movie Church Nov. - Dec. 1926

To follow up my last Tales from the Archives post, the Church of the Holy Infancy in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania would show movies every Sunday for several years in the 20s and early 30s. From now on my weekly Tales from the Archives post will be about the films showed monthly, in chronological order. This week we start with the first listing, which dates from a November 1926 parish monthly calendar.

This article came out directly after the article I posted last week. It had only been one month and the movies were a hit at the parish! It is fascinating to note that the Church tried to avoid showing films that were already screened locally. The article mentions that cinemas would change the films they are showing quite frequently, and certainly more often than movie theaters do today. A lot of films were made during this time period, it is a shame that 80% of them are lost.

The first film, Lover's Island, starred actress Hope Hampton. Hampton was best known for playing flapper roles in the 1920s. Hampton was in the first of the Gold Diggers films in 1923. She was also in the film The Light in the Dark (1922) which starred Lon Chaney. The film was presumed lost for years but a nitrate print was found in 2003. You can see that film here.
Hampton is said to be one of the real life inspirations for the character Susan Alexander Kane, the talentless wife of the Charles Foster Kane in Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941).
Although there is an IMDB listing for Sea Scamps I was unable to find much about it other than that it was a short comedy.

The next week the Church showed Ship of Souls (1925) which starred Bert Lytell. According to IMDB, this drama was filmed in Hollywood in a single-strip stereoscopic (3D) process developed by Max O. Miller and released on 20 December 1925. I'm not sure exactly what this means though. 3-D films did exist in the 1920s but were not made often. Was the whole film shown in 3-D or only part? Did the parishioners of this Church get to see it in 3-D?
This website claims that a print of the film exists but gives no other information.
Bert Lytell was a popular actor during the silent film era. Sadly his career pretty much ended with the advent of talkies. Lytell has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Unlike Sea Scamps, I was able to find out a lot more about this week's short. My Stars was a short comedy which starred Johnny Arthur, a famous actor of the 1920s and 1930s. Arthur was best known for playing comedic "pansy" characters. After the Hays Code banned these types of roles his characters became masculine wimps. It's kinda funny that the Hays Code was banning gay stereotypes for the wrong reasons. Arthur is probably best known today for appearing in three Our Gang shorts in the 1930s. Like Hope Hampton, Arthur also starred in a Lon Chaney film: The Monster (1925).
Now its time for the really cool trivia: My Stars was written and directed by William Goodrich, a pseudonym of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle! Arbuckle was blacklisted in Hollywood due to a major scandal, but for a while he worked as a writer and director at Goodwill Productions under the William Goodrich name.
My Stars
is the only film in this article that I know for sure still exists. In fact you can buy it on DVD here as part of the Forgotten Films of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle collection.

The third and final week in this article's listing featured a film starring Clara Bow, a true Hollywood icon. Bow was known as "The It Girl" and was the biggest sex symbol of her time. Although her popularity waned after the silent era, she is still quite well known today and is by far the biggest name mentioned in this article.
Despite Bow's star power, Two Can Play (1926) is believed to be a lost film. According to IMDB only a small fragment and the trailer survive. It is pretty weird to see an ad for a showing of a film that appears to no longer exist. At least I know exactly where to find this film if I ever get access to a time machine!

Al St. John emerged as a silent film comic in shorts such as the one showed at the Church, Live Cowards. It appears that Live Cowards is a lost film. However, you can see Al St. John in action on YouTube with none other than Fatty Arbuckle AND Buster Keaton! St. John plays the "Holdup Man." Check it out here!

Unlike most silent film actors, St. John would become best known for his talkie career. In the 1930s and 1940s he played the famous character Fuzzy Q. Jones, a recurring comedic sidekick in tons of Western movies. Below is a picture of St. John as "Fuzzy," you should be able to guess how he acquired that name!

Come back on Sunday for the weekly wrap-up! The next installment of Tales from the Archives will be next Thursday (as usual) as we take a look at more films shown by this Church.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Weekly Wrap-Up (10/2)

Waking Life
Richard Linklater directed A Scanner Darkly (2006) which I consider to be the best film adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story. Don't get me wrong, its not my favorite film based on a Dick story, just the one that captures the feeling, themes, and story of the original novel the closest. Philip K. Dick is my favorite writer and after seeing A Scanner Darkly I wanted to see another film directed by Linklater as he is also a PKD fan. I finally got around to seeing Waking Life and I must admit, I was a little disappointed. Waking Life uses rotoscope style animation similar to the style later used in A Scanner Darkly. While the animation is unique and fun to watch, the biggest problem with this film is that there is way too much dialogue with people just sitting and looking at each other. Occasionally the animation will complement the dialogue. For example, during a monologue somebody says "humans are 70% water" and he appears to fill with water. While this was cool, it didn't happen much which led to many boring scenes. The main character, credited as "Main Character" was interesting as he was trying to wake up from a dream but kept having false awakenings. However, there is more focus on discussing philosophy, lucid dreams, illusion vs. reality, than on an actual plot. But since I am somebody interested in those three topics, I did enjoy those discussions. We even got a monologue about Philip K. Dick from Linklater himself! Overall the movie didn't feel as cinematic as it should have been since much of the time I could have just listened to it on the radio. At first I hated it, but as the movie went on I did get into it. This is probably one of those films that people either love or hate, but I just liked it. Waking Life has great animation, fantastic dialogue, and good ideas but still could have been executed better. Linklater's A Scanner Darkly touches on similar themes so I would recommend that movie instead. Linklater also directed School of Rock starring Jack Black. While I liked that movie, I doubt the intended audience of that film would enjoy Waking Life!
Return to Oz (1985)
Return to Oz is an unofficial sequel to the classic 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. However, its not quite a sequel as it also is an adaptation of the later Oz books and its not a musical. I've never read the Oz books so I don't know how close this movie is to the book sequels, but from what I understand it draws elements and characters from several of the books as well as the 1939 film. The red slippers were silver in the books and an agreement had to be made with MGM so that Disney could use them in this movie. Dorothy is about 10 years old like she was in the books, and unlike Judy Garland who was 17 when she played Dorothy. Fairuza Balk puts in a nice performance as Dorothy Gale. Balk did a good job carrying the movie, especially for a child actor.
Although this movie was a commercial and critical failure (Siskel and Ebert didn't like it), it has gained a small cult following in the years since its release. The special effects hold up surprisingly well for a 26 year old movie which impressed me. Practical effects age better than CGI, but I still gotta give credit to the SFX team. The set design is quite good as well. Oz is essentially given the post-apocalyptic treatment, which is something I had never seen in a straight-up fantasy movie before.
It was quite interesting to see a different take on the Oz story. The movie was directed by Walter Murch, and it is the first and only movie he has directed. Murch is a respected film editor and sound designer who has won three Oscars (along with several nominations) for his work on Apocalypse Now and The English Patient. While I thought he was fine, the movie probably would have been better if they brought in somebody like Tim Burton or Terry Gilliam.
Many people say that this movie is too dark for a "children's film." However, when compared to other PG 80s fantasy films its par for the course since its not much darker than The Neverending Story (1984), Legend (1985), or Labyrinth (1986).


3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain (1998)
This is one bad 90s kids movie. Even Surf Ninjas was better than this garbage! We have terrible acting and zero logic when it comes to the story. I know this was a movie meant for children, but that is never an excuse for a bad movie and an insult to the intelligence of all children. Hulk Hogan "stars" in this crapfest and if you've seen any Hulk Hogan movie you pretty much know what to expect. Jim Varney, most famous for the Earnest movies, plays a ridiculously over the top bad guy. We also have Loni Anderson as the female baddie and she hams it up even more than Varney, if that is possible.
Sadly this was character actor Victor Wong's last film. He should have gone out on a high note with Seven Years in Tibet! I guess Wong was contractually obligated to be in all of the 3 Ninjas movies. That reminds me, this is the fourth movie in this series. Why did they make so many of these movies?! I guess the earlier films are better (or at least the first one) but I have no desire to see any more of them.
Speaking of Wong, he plays the Asian grandfather of the "3 ninjas" but neither the boys nor their parents look Asian. Oh well, he is just a Mr. Miyagi rip-off anyway!
As bad as this movie is, at least its not a boring bad movie. Only watch this to make fun of it with a group of friends!