The people who created the great Disney animation classics were called the Nine Old Men, and the last of them, Ollie Johnston, died last week at age 95. Johnston and his closest colleague, Frank Thomas, was featured in the wonderful documentary “Frank and Ollie.” They and the other animators were actors who performed with paintbrushes, creating unforgettable performances. Johnston created Thumper in “Bambi,” Mr. Smee in Peter Pan and the trio of fanciful fairies in Sleeping Beauty.
As lifelong friend and fellow animator Frank Thomas recalled, “Ollie was the only one of the Studio animators who was sensitive to character relationships and how they affected story,” explained Frank — “Back then cartoon characters seldom touched unless they hit each other. But one day Ollie said, ‘You know, the act of two people holding hands communicates in a powerful way.’ And he was right. His warmth made a difference in so many of our characters.”
Tim Ryan of Rotten Tomatoes picks the 20 greatest movie fights of all time, and as you can imagine, it has prompted some impassioned arguments, you might even say fights, in the comments. I love its scope — it even manages to include a romantic comedy (the Colin Firth/Hugh Grant “It’s Raining Men” fight from “Bridget Jones’ Diary”) along with all of the martial arts/boxing/noir/spy/plain-old-fashioned-beat-downs. The best part is that it includes the clips, so you can see for yourself. But like most lists, it will leave you thinking of the ones they left out. No “Kill Bill?” No John Wayne? No “Adventures of Robin Hood?” And, incredibly, no Merlin vs. Madame Mim? (Sorry, the only clip I could find was in French, but you don’t need to understand what they’re saying to enjoy this one.)
The New York Times reports that a special radio channel has been installed in school buses. It plays music that kids like, and it plays commercials. The content is provided at no cost to the school district by RadioOne, which is only to happy to have a captive audience of young consumers.
Steven Shulman, who founded BusRadio with Michael Yanoff, said the company provided an “age-appropriate” alternative to local FM radio stations, with songs and advertising screened by an advisory committee of school administrators and psychiatrists.
In contrast, he said, his son once came home asking what Viagra was after hearing a commercial on the bus coming home from summer camp in Mashpee, Mass. BusRadio develops playlists from a library of 1,000 pop songs and will either edit out questionable content and lyrics or refrain from playing a song altogether. “It’s tough to find clean rap music, but we do,” Mr. Shulman said.
Recent advertisers on BusRadio include Answers.com, the Cartoon Network, Buena Vista Home Entertainment and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. The company does not accept advertising for candy or soda, or for toys that Mr. Shulman considers inappropriate, like video games with violent content, and it prefers advertisements that have a message. “We don’t want them to say, ‘Go out and buy $200 sneakers,’ ” Mr. Shulman said. “We want them to say, ‘Go and exercise, and use this gear if you want.’ ”
I appreciate this sensitivity (which is, I am sure, a commercial necessity), but do we really need to fill kids’ heads with mass media to and from school? Isn’t this time for social interaction and looking out the window and quiet reflection? Aren’t we teaching them that they should expect every minute of every day to be hooked into some form of media instead of learning how to make conversation and use their imagination? And do we really need to bombard them with more exhortations to buy more things?
With its first self-financed production, Marvel has produced one of the best superhero movies ever made, pure popcorn pleasure for its special effects, its story, its villain, and its hero. Director Jon Favreau, star Robert Downey Jr. and a first-class screenplay mix electrifying action, a compelling drama, and top-notch performances. Plus there are the best robot-type characters since R2D2, C3PO, and Hewey, Dewey, and Louie.
Downey plays international weapons dealer/super-brain/playboy Tony Stark as a rock star. He is an industrialist who appears on the cover of Rolling Stone and dates cover girls. He has an answer for every possible question or criticism about the company he runs: “The day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace I’ll start building beams for baby hospitals.” But he does not have an answer for himself. His own conflicts would haunt him if he would slow down for a moment to think about them. That moment comes when he is captured by jihadists on a sales tour of American armed forces in the Mideast, using his own weapons. Told to recreate his company’s most powerful weapon for them instead he creates something for himself. The mastermind of cutting edge technology reaches back to the oldest of old school combat and creates for himself a high-tech suit of armor so that he can escape. It becomes the first stage in what will transform him into Iron Man. And the more he is protected by his Iron Man suit, the more he begins to open up to himself and others about who he really is and take responsibility for the world he has helped to create.
Downey superbly conveys Stark’s vulnerability and brilliance. He makes every line of dialogue feel improvised and natural, a great counter to the over-the-top special effects and fight scenes. In this middle of this great big movie he gives a subtle performance that is every bit as compelling as the most jam-packed action footage. He evolves as the suit does, trying out new things, coming alive for the first time as he is encased in metal.
The themes of the story has some powerful resonance about America’s role in the world without being heavy-handed. There’s no time for it — everything moves quickly as Stark continues to develop his suit and is attacked by bad guys and good guys and, well, there’s another category I am not going to give away. There is strong support from Terrence Howard as Stark’s military contact and friend, Gwenyth Paltrow, who gives some snap to her role as the indispensable aide de camp, and Jeff Bridges (with his head shaved!) as Stark’s closest business associate. The visuals are bracing and powerful and the action scenes are fanboy heaven. Watch for quick cameos from director Favreau, fan Ghostface Killah, and Iron Man co-creator Stan Lee. But don’t get distracted. Downey is the literal heart of this movie, and like the appliance that keeps Stark alive, he is a power source whose potential seems limitless.
"Guardian of the Galaxy's" Awesome Mixtape One of the many pleasures of "Guardians of the Galaxy," opening this week, is the soundtrack featuring some 70's classics from an "Awesome Mixtape" played by Peter "Star Lord" Quill (Chris Pratt). Here are some of the highlights.
"Hooked on a Feeling" by Blue Swede
Comic-Con 2014: Day 2 Day 2 of Comic-Con included: an interview with "Sharknado" and "Sharknado 2" screenwriter Thunder Levin, a buggy lunch with Boxtrolls, press events with the directors and casts of four films, and appearing on the Rotten Tomatoes panel, where each attendee was given a paddle with a ripe tomato on on
Thank You! This Site is 19 Years Old This Week! It seems like yesterday, but it was 19 years ago this week that I first began writing reviews online as The Movie Mom®. Anyone remember Prodigy? The first appearance of my website was via the Sears-owned online service, so long ago it does not even turn up in Wayback searches. At the time, we
Interview: Dan Cohen of "Alive Inside" Dan Cohen is the gifted and passionately committed man who transforms the lives of people with dementia and other severely debilitating diseases. He is featured in the documentary "Alive Inside." He is the founder of Music and Memory, which provides resources to help bring these programs to peopl
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