DARYL-PosterThis is another film lost to the fogbanks of my youth. I know my family rented this at least once when I was a kid, maybe more than once since the title of the film has remained in my memory even if little else about it did. When a reminder of it came from Paramount’s YouTube channel, I decided to refresh my memory of this 1985 film from Simon Wencer.

Barret Oliver, perhaps better known from his role as Bastian in The NeverEnding Story the previous year, has the title role as Daryl, a young boy who is abandoned in the woods near a modest suburb. He has no memory of who he is beyond his name, or where he came from. The local authorities quickly place him in foster care, with a couple that have been hoping for an adoption for some time and view this as a potential chance to do so. Continue reading

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All Creatures Big and Small

ACBAS-ONIG-PosterGetting a straight answer on just what this film is appears to be a difficult task. It was a free film given away in June 2015 on Google Play (which I watched via YouTube on a day when my ‘net connection was working well), with a note there saying it was released to video on demand the same day as in theaters. As near as I can tell it was never released in theaters in the U.S., and IMDb’s box office page indicates no theatrical take… but the company credits page indicates distribution for theaters in other countries. It was produced in four different countries — Germany, Luxembourg, Ireland, and Belgium — and it appears to be known by a different English title in every market and medium. On Google Play, it’s All Creatures Big and Small; on other home video formats and its alleged theatrical releases, it’s variously known as Ooops…. Noah is Gone, Two by Two: God’s Little Creatures, and Two by Two: Ooops… the Ark is Gone. Even the English voice cast is a little ambiguous, with two different voice casts listed on IMDb; I’ll be assuming the cast listed in the end credits is correct.

What’s reasonably easy to describe is the film itself. As some of the less-elegant titles above indicate, this animated feature is a story about Noah’s Ark and the Great Flood. Noah gets name-dropped briefly, but is never seen; the story’s focus remains solidly on the animals, and on a particular group of oddball creatures. Dave (Dermot Magennis) and his son Finny (Callum Maloney) are a pair of nestrians, creatures that look a bit like a platypus crossed with a parrot and a koala. Dave’s been moving them around constantly to find where they belong when they get the call to the ark. Only problem is when they get there… they find that they aren’t on the list. Continue reading

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Shanghai Express

Shanghai Express Poster1932 Best Picture Nominee

A love story crossed with a bit of political intrigue, Shanghai Express takes place during the middle of a civil war in China. Marlene Dietrich stars as Madeleine, who has become better known as “Shanghai Lily”; she’s a “coaster”, a woman who — we are told by one of the other train passengers — “lives by her wits” on the China coast. Although it isn’t stated directly, the heavy implication is that she is a prostitute. But, just like Pretty Woman some sixty years later, the film doesn’t view this as a condemnation of her character (though other passengers are certainly scandalized), and much of the narrative thrust of the film is her attempting to regain the faith and love of her former fiance, played by Clive Brook. Continue reading

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On the Origin of Jokers

Joker HeadIf there’s one trope that superhero stories love the most, it has to be the origin story. Whether it’s in the movies, on television, or in the comic books themselves, if somebody’s wearing a costume and either committing or stopping crime, there’s a reason for it. There’s an event that made them what they were. Sometimes the reliance on the origin story can feel monotonous for long-time fans, given that any franchise reboot involves a repetition of it, but it helps to get new fans invested in the characters (and there are always new fans).

Of course, not every character has an origin story. There are some characters — mostly villains from the golden or silver ages of comics — whose origin has never been explored. And there are a few more whose origin has been examined but never firmly established, with more than one possibility flitting about. Mostly they’re minor villains, characters that neither the writers nor fans care to spend a huge amount of time on. And then there’s the Joker. Continue reading

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No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached PosterI’m not sure what I was expecting.

I wasn’t expecting greatness from No Strings Attached. It’s not as though I never saw the promos for it. It’s a romantic comedy starring Ashton Kutcher; I just naturally assume there’s a ceiling on the potential quality there. And having seen Valentine’s Day, I don’t assume there’s a floor. But somehow I thought this might be all right. Maybe because it also stars Natalie Portman, who is usually pretty good in films. Or maybe — probably — because it was directed by Ivan Reitman, who directed the great comedy Stripes and the masterpiece Ghostbusters. But then I remember he also directed Junior.

I didn’t hate No Strings Attached, but I’m finding it difficult to come up with things to praise about it. Continue reading

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127 Hours

127 Hours Poster2010 Best Picture Nominee

There’s a problem with yes or no questions. They look simple. They’re meant to be simple. There are, after all, only two answers, diametrically opposed, clearly defined. And yet the truth of the matter is they don’t always work out that way, often because of a subjective element. “Is 127 Hours a good movie?” is a yes or no question that demands elaboration. “Does Danny Boyle do a good job?” and “Is James Franco’s performance good?” naturally spring to mind after the first question, and they’re relatively easy questions to tackle. But then there’s the question “Does 127 Hours have an interesting story?” And there things get a little murkier. Continue reading

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Winter Dragon

Winter Dragon Title ScreenMovie and television rights are an interesting thing. Often the licenses for adaptations are written in a “use it or lose it” way, pressuring studios to produce something if they want to maintain a potentially lucrative license. Every so often this results in the ludicrous situation of releasing garbage in the hopes of later releasing gold. Roughly ten years ago, Red Eagle Entertainment licensed the adaptation rights to Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time, a massively popular (and just plain massive) fantasy epic (which I spent nearly a year reviewing here). Since then they have apparently had trouble getting all of their ducks in a row and the rights were about to expire. The goal was purportedly to produce a television series. In a desperate attempt to extend their license, they decided to settle for putting out a pilot episode this year. Which they had to pay FXX to air in a late night paid-programming slot.

Suffice to say, the result is not exactly what fans were clamoring for. Continue reading

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