The Last Little Tramp

Modern TimesM Modern 1936

Theaters:  February 1936

Streaming:  August 2010

Rated:  G

Runtime:  87 minutes

Genre:  Comedy – Drama – Family  – Romance

els:  8.5/10

IMDB:  8.5/10

Amazon:  4.8/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  9.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  4.3/5

Metacritic Metascore:  96/100

Metacritic User Score:  8.9/10

Awards:

Directed by:  Charlie Chaplin

Written by:  Charlie Chaplin

Music by:  Charlie Chaplin

Cast:  Charlie Chaplin, Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman

Film Locations:  Santa Clarita and Los Angeles, California, US

Budget:  $1,500,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $1,400,000

Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp, humorously battles modern life in the depression years of the 1930s, and he repeatedly loses. In his never-ending quest for survival he splits his time between failing his employers, getting fired, getting arrested, and spending time in the local jail. Coming off one escapade he discovers and falls in love with the beautiful gamin, Goddard; the dual together accelerate the tempo of absurd slap-stick into overdrive.

Silent films, after the technical hurdles of film, camera, and projector were overcome, became a full-fledged art form beginning in the mid-1890s and lasting until the late 1920s.  The early 20th century saw the art form generate almost all the genres that we know today, along with the experimentation and perfection of close-ups, long shots, and panning.  Contrary  to popular belief the technical quality of these early films was generally very good and the use of color in the 1920s was common. What wasn’t good was their preservation; by some estimates almost 70% of all silent films are forever lost. True silent movies incorporated live music at the theater, giving employment to thousands of musicians and the coming ‘talkies’ laid them all off.  Progress always has a price. The beginning of the end for silent movies occurred when Warner Brothers released The Jazz Singer in 1927, squeezing out silent films in a few short years afterward.

This is Chaplin’s last ‘silent’ movie, although audible music, song, and voice are interspersed with pantomime and title cards throughout the movie. By 1936 silent movies were well in the past but Chaplin felt that for his send off of his beloved mime, the Little Tramp, he needed to keep him inaudible.  But with all things Chaplin he broke that promise also when he staged the Tramp’s hilariously memorable nonsense song and dance number towards the end of the movie.  This scene alone, is worth the price of admission.

Charlie Chaplin, born in England in 1889, began his performing  career early in life, somewhere around the age of 10, working the London music halls and stages until he was 19. He came to America in the first decade of the 20th century and through his Little Tramp persona became one of the most recognizable men in the world. His movies on the surface were comedies but almost always contained a statement on the sufferings of the proletariat and fascism. His farce: the 1940 film, The Great Dictator, lampooned the German fascist while playing off the similarities between himself and Hitler; their small stature, silly mustache, and low birth. Loathing fascism, Chaplin, inexplicably was able to sympathize with communism, never realizing that the two were the opposite sides to the same coin.

Charlie Chaplin was married to 4 women and had 11 children.  His 3rd wife was the lovely and captivating, Paulette Goodard, whom he married in 1936. She co-starred with Chaplin in this movie and others including the above mentioned: The Great Dictator.  She is remembered mostly for these two films along with Cecil B. DeMille’s Reap the Wild Wind and So Proudly We Hail!, which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.  To see Goodard, in this movie and others, is to fall in love with her.

Place this movie on your “Must See in My Lifetime” list.  A true Chaplin masterpiece.

Unusual Detention

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle M Jumanji 2017

Theaters:  December 2017

Streaming:  March 2018

Rated:  PG-13

Runtime:  119 minutes

Genre:  Action – Adventure – Comedy – Drama – Family – Fantasy

els:  6.0/10

IMDB:  7.1/10

Amazon:  4.1/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  6.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  4.4/5

Metacritic Metascore:  58/100

Metacritic User Score:  6.7/10

Awards:

Directed by:  Jake Kasdan

Written by:  Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Scott Rosenberg, Jeff Pinkner; (screenplay), Chris Van Allsburg (book)

Music by:  Henry Jackman

Cast:  Dwayne Johnson, Jack Black, Kevin Hart, Karen Gillan, Nick Jonas, Bobby Cannavale

Film Locations:  Hawaii and Georgia, US

Budget:  $90,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $942,935,000

Four high school kids, serving detention for being high school kids, discover an old Nintendo-like video console in a school store-room, complete with a Jumanji game cassette.  They hook it up to a TV set and 4 avatars appear, with the kids naturally choosing the one opposite of their true personality. After the 4th avatar is chosen they are transported into the video game, assuming the bodies of their apotheosis.  Very quickly they discover that they can die in this fantasy land of make-believe. To survive and escape they must complete the task of returning a gigantic green jewel to the eye of a rock jaguar statue.  Thus begins the slap-dash adventure of evading charging rhinos, hippos, and a crazed motorcycle gang.

The movie is based on the 1981 children’s illustrated book by Chris Van Allsburg of the same name: Jumanji.  Preceding this 2017 movie was the well-received 1995 Jumanji movie starring Robin Williams.  Allsburg followed up his book with another, similar, illustrated children’s book: Zathura; which was made into the 2005 movie: Zathura starring Tim Robbins. The screenplay for this movie is entirely predictable, all adventure and mild comedy with no real plot twists or surprises.  The one and only time I was surprised came very early in the movie when a hippo charged the avatars.  After that scene everything played out as expected.

Jake Kasdan, director of the mostly forgettable comedies, Bad Teacher, Sex Tape, along with the tolerable Walk Hard, manages to make this movie blandly humorous and almost interesting. He certainly didn’t take any risks with this family movie with the exception of penis jokes, and he definitely could have given those a rest.

Dwayne Johnson provides the backbone for this movie and turns in a great performance depicting a fearful, nervous 16 year-old. Karen Gillan’s spastic rendition of a come-on was whimsically passable but Sandra Bullock did the spaz part better in the 2000 flick: Miss Congeniality.

This is a fun family movie.  It breaks no new ground but it does entertain for a few hours. It’s rumored that Kasdan, the screenplay team of Rosenberg and Pinkner, and the principal actors are all lined up for a sequel.  It may work but new writers may have given it better odds.

 

A Little Big Tale

Little Big Man (Theaters – December 1970; Streaming – April 2003)  Rated: PG  —M Little 1970  Runtime: 139 minutes

Genre:  Adventure – Comedy – Satire – Western

els:  6.5/10

IMDB:  7.6/10

Amazon:  4.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics: 7.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  3.8/5

Metacritic Metascore:  63/100

Metacritic User Score:  8.0/10

Awards: NA

Directed by:  Arthur Penn

Written by:  Calder Willingham (screenplay), Thomas Berger (book)

Music by:  John Hammond

Cast:  Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George, Richard Mulligan

Film Locations: Calgary, Morely, Alberta, Canada; Billings, Crow Indian Reservation, Hardin, Lame Deer, Little Big Horn Battlefield, Nevada City, Virginia City, Montana – Agoura Hills, Los Angeles, Thousand Oaks, California, US

Budget: $15,000,000

Worldwide Box Office: $31,600,000

An ancient and time-worn Jack Crabb (Hoffman), spending his final days in a nursing home, relates his incongruous life of farce and fate to an interested historian.  At the age of 10 a Pawnee raiding party attacks his family and kills his parents. Later a Cheyenne brave finds him and his sister hiding in their destroyed wagon and takes them back to his tribe.  The tribe’s chief, Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George) raises the boy and thus begins a series of improbable events that punctuate Jack’s long and full life. Indian on Indian battles, white on red battles, sexually repressed preacher’s wife battles, gunfighter playing, snake oil selling, drunken despondency; all  in a day in the life of a western meme.

Arthur Penn creates a movie of contrasts that is labeled revisionist history but is no more than a comedy situated in the late 19th century American west, incorporating events of historical interest but not necessarily accurate or correct. The contrasts are established through the lives of the story’s actors, their happenstance encounters and experiences highlighting life’s hypocrisy and charades. Jack as a natural gunfighter that cannot stomach killing, a preacher’s wife that seeks pleasure over salvation, a narcissistic general searching for fame through folly. A tragedy’s lessons told through tongue-in-cheek schtick. An effective delivery of farce that unfortunately passed as truth for millions of viewers.

Hoffman takes top billing as lead actor and he delivers a masterful performance both on-screen and as the voice-over narrator, but it is Chief Dan George who shines, turning an ok script into a wonderful exhibition of cheerful existence in the face of our inhumanity. George was nominated for an Academy Award but unfortunately lost out to John Mills in the totally forgettable Ryan’s Daughter. Richard Mulligan, as Custer, turns in a performance that is remarkable in its absurdity, an under-dog role elevated to a tour-de-force of parody. Faye Dunaway’s hilarious representation as a sexually needy whore and preacher’s wife sets the standard for urgency over love, a role reprised brilliantly by Madeline Kahn as Lili von Shtupp in the 1974 romp, Blazing Saddles.

Little Big Man is a fun chuckle of a movie that should not be confused for history but as a satire of the past. A movie encompassing a large swath of all western tales encapsulated into a few hours of humor and jest.

 

Shrew Taming

McLintock!  M McLIntock 1963

Theaters:  November 1963

Streaming: July 1997

Rated: NR

Runtime: 127 minutes

Genre: Comedy – Romance – Western

els:  6.0/10

IMDB:  7.3/10

Amazon:  4.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics:  5.1/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience:  3.9/5

Metacritic Metascore:  NA/100

Metacritic User Score:  NA/10

Awards: NA

Directed by: Andrew V. McLaglen

Written by: James Edward Grant

Music by: Frank De Vol

Cast: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara

Film Locations: Fairbank – Chiricahua National Monument – Duquesne – Harshaw – Klondyke – Las Cienegas National Conservation Area – Lochiel – Nogales – Patagonia – Ruby – San Raphael Valley – San Xavier – Sonoita – Sonoran Desert – Tucson, Arizona, USA

Budget: $4,000,000

Worldwide Box Office: $14,500,000

Katherine Gilhooley McLintock (Maureen O’Hara) after a 2 year absence returns to her husband, G.W. McLintock (John Wayne) and their ranch outside of the western town of the eponymous McLintock to ask for a divorce, custody of their teenage daughter, and alimony. G.W., still confused about why she left in the first place, just says no to all and proceeds to woo Katherine back to his arms and their ranch.  While G.W. deals with his recalcitrant wife he also faces challenges from dirt farmers trying to farm the unfarmable high plateau, Indians resisting resettlement to the reservation, along with the worthy and not so worthy suitors pursuing the affections of Becky (Stefanie Powers), his daughter. All matters proceed in a slapdash but charming facetiousness.

This movie is all John Wayne. He chose the director, Andrew V. McLaglen, herded the script through completion with scriptwriter, James Edward Grant, had his son Michael produce the movie, and another son, Patrick star in the slightly incestuous role of  a cow-hand courting his movie daughter Becky. The film also marks the beginning of Wayne letting the world know his views on everything from politics to education within the confines of this and his subsequent movies.

The movie reunites John Wayne with his frequent co-star Maureen O’Hara. These two worked together in 4 other movies including the 1950 Rio Grande, the 1952 The Quiet Man, the 1957 The Wings of Eagles, and the 1971 Big Jake. The two had a special working relationship, each able to abide the other’s head strong tendencies, and both could act their parts, from the common “man” to the polish and charm of the upper crust. Their onscreen affection for each other always came through as honest and real, not only a credit to their abilities as actors but also their deportment as a true lady and a true gentleman, all in an age gone by.

A legitimate classic movie with hints of Shakespeare’s comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, the moral education of Father Knows Best, and the real-life tragedy known as the Trail of Tears. John Wayne taming Maureen O’Hara, John Wayne educating his family and friends, John Wayne attempting to reconcile the law with the Indians’ pride and heritage.  John Wayne shows a humorous side in this movie but he is still the big man on the set.

Art Imitates Life

American Made (Theaters-2017; Streaming-2018)  Rated: R  Runtime: 115 minutesM American Made 2017

Genre:  Action-Adventure-Biography-Comedy-Crime-Drama-Mystery-Suspense-Thriller

els – 6.5/10

IMDb – 7.2/10

Amazon – 3.5/5 stars

Rotten Tomatoes Critics – 7.0/10

Rotten Tomatoes Audience – 3.8/5

Metacritic Metascore – 65/100

Metacritic User Score – 6.8/10

Directed by:  Doug Liman

Written by:   Gary Spinelli

Music by:  Christophe Beck

Cast:   Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright

Film Locations:   Atlanta, Ball Ground and Madison, Georgia, US; New Orleans, US; Araracuara, Caqueta and Medellin, Columbia

Budget:   $50,000,000

Worldwide Box Office:  $135,581,390

Barry Seal (Cruise) is a hustler, a con, a drug smuggling, gun running, money laundering, CIA operative; a Medellin Cartel useful stooge, and all around terrific husband and father who will not let anything get between him and an illicit mountain of cash. Seal is a TWA pilot who can’t make ends meet or fulfill his adrenaline needs, so he turns to flying drugs from South American to supplement his legitimate wages and feed his risk cravings.  He soon attracts the attention of the CIA who need a gofer to conduct business between the agency and Panama’s Noriega. This leads to running CIA supplied guns to Panama and the Cartel in Columbia.  Return flights are loaded with Columbian cocaine netting Seal $2000 per kilogram smuggled.  The amount of drugs involved eventually causes Seal to run out of banks and closet space for his green abundance. The entire story is told with more humor than drama, concentrating on Seal’s/Cruise’s smile and devil be damned style. You know Seal is man without a conscience but he is so darn likable and fun.

American Made is aptly directed by Doug Liman who keeps the focus of the movie light and airy, bordering on silly, against a background of drugs and the ensuing trail of death and ruin; and somehow it all works. Liman last worked with Cruise in the fantastic and critical acclaimed 2014 sci-fi flick: Live Die Repeat: The Edge of Tomorrow.  A little known, but talented writer, Gary Spinelli wrote the screenplay for this movie and auctioned it off to Universal for a cool million back in 2014. At that time Ron Howard was pegged to direct the movie. Filming started around May 2015 and continued off and on until January 2017.

This film is blithely marketed as a true story, a biography. As with all things Hollywood, that statement stretches reality to the breaking point. Barry Seal was a pilot for TWA and he was a drug smuggler; that part is true, after which the rest of the story gets the Hollywood treatment where the truth is pitted against fiction; may the highest gross potential wins.  The CIA part of the story may or may not have happened but the official line is it did not or at least not till much later in time.  Seal was busted for drug smuggling and money laundering and was facing serious time in the pen. He cut a deal with the DEA to help bring down the Columbian Cartels in exchanged for a lighter sentence.  At this point it appears the CIA, in conjunction with the DEA, stepped in to also gather information on the Nicaraguan Sandinistas.  Subsequently, Seal, at an airport in Nicaragua, took photos of Pablo Escobar, Ochoa, plus a Sandinista government official, Federico Vaughan, directing the loading of cocaine onto a DEA aircraft.  These pictures leaked out to the general public, after which Escobar placed a bounty on Seal’s life; supposedly $1,000,000 for capture and return to Columbia or $500,000 for his death. In early 1986 Seal was assassinated by Escobar’s hit men in front of a Baton Rouge, Louisiana Salvation Army facility.

Seal’s American Made life is a comedy.  Seal’s real life was a tragedy. Aristotle said in the 4th century BC, that art imitates life, mimesis, whereas Oscar Wilde in 1889 said the life imitates art, anti-mimesis. Here art imitates life, but comedy polled better than tragedy: money wins. Ok, that might be a bit heavy.  It’s a good movie so kick your feet up and pass the popcorn.

 

Multitudinous Mummy Movies

M Mummy 1932

The Mummy 1932

Five score and 3 years ago our movie producers, directors, and all of that artsy crowd, brought forth on this planet, a new genre, conceived in horror and comedy, and dedicated to the proposition that all mummies are created with white wrappings…

…To you who are the sons and brothers of the dearly departed mummies, I see that the struggle to emulate them will be an irresponsible one. For all men praise the dead, if they stay dead, and, however preeminent your virtue may be, I do not say even to approach them, and avoid awakening their rivals…, but when a mummy is out-of-the-way, back in its tomb, the honor and goodwill which it receives is usually misbegotten…

Apologies to Lincoln and Pericles.

Below are fifty-eight mummies of horror, laughs, action, and occasional distracting romance, captured on film for your eternal mummyificent enjoyment.  Included in the list are feature films, short films, made for TV films, campy movies, low-budget movies, high budget movies, movies made from real events, and to wrap up, movies mostly in the English language but Spanish ones are also included, if only for their amusement value. Myriad big names in Hollywood have lent their talents to the making of successful, and not so successful, mummy movies, including: Boris Karloff, The Three Stooges, Lon Cheney, Charlton Heston, Raymond Burr, Tony Curtis, Christopher Walken, Louis Gossett Jr., Brendan Fraser, Jet Li, Danny Glover, Tom Cruise, and as sure as Egyptian tombs have mummies, the future will bring other stars plying their craft on hip new mummy movies.

No attempt was made to make a complete list of all known mummy movies; foreign language and made for TV mummy movies are copious, many worth watching, but for the most part, are not included here.  The list below is ranked by popularity, best films first, as determined from taking the average of IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes Critics, Rotten Tomatoes Audience, and Amazon ratings. The name of the movie is listed first followed by the year of release then its average rating.

M Mummy 1959

The Mummy 1959

  1. The Mummy, 1932, 7.8/10
  2. We Want our Mummy, 1939, 7.6/10
  3. The Mummy, 1959, 7.6/10
  4. Bubba Ho-Tep, 2002, 7.6/10
  5. Mil Mascaras vs the Aztec Mummy, 2007, 7.6/10
  6. Under Wraps, 1997, 7.4/10
  7. The Monster Squad, 1987, 7.2/10
  8. Curse of the Mummy, 1970, 7.1/10
  9. The Mummy, 1999, 7.1/10
  10. The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb, 1980, 7.0/10
  11. The Mummy’s Hand, 1940, 6.9/10
  12. The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, 1964, 6.9/10
  13. Abbot and Costello Meet the Mummy, 1955, 6.8/10
  14. The Mummy Returns, 2001, 6.8/10
  15. The Mummy’s Curse, 1944, 6.5/10
  16. The Mummy’s Shroud, 1967, 6.5/10
  17. The Awakening, 1980, 6.5/10

    M Mummy Bubba

    Bubba Ho-Tep 2002

  18. The Egyptian Mummy, 1914, 6.3/10
  19. Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb, 1971, 6.2/10
  20. The Mummy Lives, 1993, 6.2/10
  21. The Mummy an’ the Armadillo, 2004, 6.2/10
  22. The Mummy and the Curse of the Jackals, 1969, 6.1/10
  23. The Mummy’s Revenge, 1975, 6.1/10
  24. The Mummy’s Ghost, 1944, 6.0/10
  25. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, 2008, 5.9/10
  26. The Mummy, 1912, 5.8/10
  27. The Mummy’s Tomb, 1942, 5.8/10
  28. All New Adventures of Laurel and Hardy in For Love or Mummy, 1999, 5.8/10
  29. The Mummy’s Kiss: 2nd Dynasty, 2006, 5.8/10
  30. Mummy’s Kiss, 2003, 5.7/10

    M Mummy Squad

    The Monster Squad 1987

  31. The Curse of King Tut’s Tomb, 2006, 5.7/10
  32. The Mummy, 2017, 5.6/10
  33. The Eternal: Kiss of the Mummy, 1998, 5.3/10
  34. Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy, 1999, 5.2/10
  35. The Eyes of the Mummy, 1922, 5.1/10
  36. Tale of the Mummy, 1998, 4.9/10
  37. Dawn of the Mummy, 1981, 4.8/10
  38. Attack of the Virgin Mummies, 2004, 4.8/10
  39. The Attack of the Aztec Mummy, 1957, 4.6/10
  40. 7 Mummies, 2006, 4.6/10
  41. Frankenstein vs The Mummy, 2015, 4.3/10
  42. The Robot vs the Aztec Mummy, 1964, 4.2/10
  43. Legend of the Mummy, 1998, 4.2/10
  44. Curse of the Aztec Mummy, 1957, 4.0/10
  45. El Macho vs the Canadian Mummies of Mars, 2003, 4.0/10

    M Mummy 1999

    The Mummy 1999

  46. Wrestling Women vs the Aztec Mummy, 1964, 3.9/10
  47. Mummy Maniac, 2007, 3.5/10
  48. Day of the Mummy, 2014, 3.5/10
  49. Mummy Raider, 2002, 3.4/10
  50. The Kung Fu Mummy, 2005, 3.0/10
  51. American Mummy, 2014, 3.0/10
  52. The Mummy Resurrected, 2014, 3.0/10
  53. Attack of the Mayan Mummy, 1964, 2.5/10
  54. Isis Rising: Curse of the Lady Mummy, 2013, 1.9/10
  55. Wanted, a Mummy, 1910, NR
  56. The Mummy and the Cow Puncher, 1912, NR
  57. The Mummy and the Humming Bird, 1915, NR
  58. The Mummy of Tutankhamun, 2017, NR
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