The Hustler (1961)

The Hustler

The Hustler Review

The Hustler is a 1961 drama film directed by Robert Rossen and starring Paul Newman, Jackie Gleeson and Piper Laurie. It is a lauded, but to me a very overrated movie.

It is about a professional pool hustler and it follows his obsession with the sport, his turbulent relationship with a woman and the consequences of the life he leads. Now, I definitely do agree that it is an important movie with a relevant and socially conscious subject matter. However, the execution of said subject matter is pretty mediocre. It is, simply put, a boring movie. Incredibly, frustratingly dull and awfully slow-paced. It is lifeless, lacks energy and is mostly a chore to sit through. That is the biggest problem of The Hustler and it unfortunately stays as a problem throughout its whole running time which is also way overlong.

Eddie is a typical protagonist of the time, but he is well realized and pretty well developed. And a lot of the highlight dramatic scenes are with him. Fats is an okay character, but the rest are quite forgettable with the exception of Sarah who is grounded in reality and likable.

The acting is without a doubt the film’s strongest point. Paul Newman is of course the standout and he deserved his Oscar nomination, but he did not get the award deservedly. Piper Laurie is also stupendous and she did such a great job in the most sympathetic role. Jackie Gleason is also good, but the rest are forgettable.

It is a well filmed and well directed movie. The tone is too depressing and it is at times overly dramatic, but most of the dramatic sequences do work. It is also important to watch and is definitely a professional, well acted film. It is grounded in reality as well with such a realistic approach to its storytelling and character depictions. The dialogue is also solid, but it is just so predictable, so overlong and so incredibly tedious that it can put you to sleep. It is an awfully paced, sluggish movie.

As for its Academy Award nominations, it did not deserve the nine it got. The acting nominations are deserved, but the rest are not. And this is once again a proof of how weak a year 1961 is when even most of its biggest films aren’t that good in reality. Such an uninspired year for films.

The Hustler is well acted, well directed and it has an important subject matter, but it is just so incredibly boring with a lack of energy in its execution, awfully sluggish pace and overlong running time. It is realistic and relevant, but still a chore to sit through.

My Rating – 3

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Jolly Little Elves (1934)

Jolly Little ElvesJolly Little Elves Review

Jolly Little Elves is a 1934 animated short film by Walter Lantz. It was nominated for Best Animated Short Film at the 7th Academy Awards.

It is about elves who help an old shoemaker with the shoes. It is such an uninspired and disappointing movie mainly because of the plot that is so forgettable and even non-existent. Nothing particularly memorable or remarkable happens here.

Yes, the animation is solid, it isn’t great, but is well done and the details are great. The character design is also fine and the score is pretty good with the dunk song being quite memorable and catchy. But the characters are very bland and although it starts and ends well, the whole middle section is pretty boring to be honest. And it definitely did not deserve its Oscar nomination as there isn’t anything particularly great or interesting about it.

Jolly Little Elves is such a forgettable short with good animation and score, but uninteresting characters and such an uninspired and bland story.

My Rating – 2.8

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Manhattan (1979)

ManhattanManhattan Review

Manhattan is a 1979 romantic comedy film directed by Woody Allen and starring himself as well as Diane Keaton. It is one of his most well regarded works for good reasons.

It is about a 42-year-old man who dates a 17-year-old girl, but eventually falls in love with his best friend’s mistress. That premise definitely sounds cringeworthy. And the movie is like that to some degree as it is a typical love triangle that is almost impossible to happen in real life, but is typical for a Woody Allen flick. Also, I won’t lie but the age difference between the two in the relationship is creepy.

And although that certainly wasn’t pleasant, the movie still largely manages to overcome those problems mainly due to a clever script and fantastic humor. And also great character development. The screenplay is superb, it is never boring, never rushed and it has just the right amount of dialogue as well as calm moments accompanied by a wonderful score. The beginning wasn’t as good, but the whole second act was phenomenal and filled with many sophisticated conversations and great performances. I loved the ending as well and although it somewhat felt weird and came out of nowhere, it is still so cliché-ridden that I enjoyed it immensely.

The characters are, as I said before, phenomenal across the board. And despite those impossible love connections and convoluted relationships between them, they felt like real people, flawed and realistic. Isaac is of course the standout character here. He is a typical, but still great Woody Allen character and his neurotic and hypochondriac behavior lends to much of the film’s humor. Mary is fantastic as well, so likable and so grounded in reality and the relationship between the two is excellent. Yale wasn’t as memorable, but Tracy is such a sympathetic and lovable girl that you really feel for her.

The acting is absolutely fantastic. Allen is excellent in the lead role, but Diane Keaton also did such a good job as well. However, it is Mariel Hemingway who stole the show. She is so natural and so phenomenal in her role that she really surprised me and naturally deserved her Oscar nomination.

Manhattan is astounding to look at. The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous with a couple of instantly recognizable and simply beautiful shots. And the black-and-white photography choice was fitting for this film. It is well acted and wonderfully directed, but it is above all so tightly paced and edited with not a single wasted or rushed sequence and that I enjoyed a lot. The score is so incredible and George Gershwin‘s music suited this material wonderfully. The humor is fantastic and is one of the biggest reasons to see this movie in my opinion. It is filled with so many sophisticated and hilarious lines and I laughed many times. It is also always realistic, always unpredictable and never clichéd. The tone is well handled with romance and comedy elements wonderfully incorporated along with some dramatic moments as well. The dialogue is superb and the film is really smart. Yes, the creepiness factor is definitely present and it ruined the experience for me, but they still don’t go too far with it and instead of stupid sex scenes, clever conversations and realistic and emotional scenes are present which I really loved. And it is definitely one of the director’s best works and one of the very best of his earlier works. It isn’t as good as ‘Annie Hall‘, but it is definitely better than ‘Interiors’.

Manhattan is such a good movie that is unfortunately creepy and too convoluted in premise, but is still so grounded in its characters, it has fantastic acting across the board, the cinematography and score are both terrific and the movie has such a sophisticated, cliché-ridden screenplay, great conversations and really good humor.

My Rating – 4

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Interior & Exterior Stills from Manhattan

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Puttin’ on the Dog (1944)

Puttin' on the Dog Puttin’ on the Dog Review

Puttin’ on the Dog is a 1944 animated short that is the 16th of Tom and Jerry’s shorts. It is one of the funniest, but more problematic films.

Tom disguises himself as a dog in order to get into a dog pound to search for Jerry. This is an expected territory for the filmmakers and it is an entertaining setting. Tom is really good here and Jerry is excellent as well. But Spike is the worst here since his introduction as he is too stupid. And that is the biggest problem of this movie. The portrayal of dogs as these incredibly stupid creatures is so stereotypical and although done with funny results, is still a weak choice.

The ending is also not as good as it could have been, but is still an okay finale. But Puttin’ on the Dog is incredibly funny. That is its biggest strength. It is often really humorous and at times even hilarious. It is one of the rare instances of a Tom and Jerry short being very funny, but also very troublesome in other regards. It is well animated with all of the dogs well depicted and it is well scored. I just wished for a less stereotypical approach to the story.

Puttin’ on the Dog is an evidently funny short filled with hilarious moments, but it is also stereotypical and problematic in its plot.

My Rating – 4

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Labyrinth (1986)

Labyrinth

Labyrinth Review

Labyrinth is a 1986 musical fantasy film directed by Jim Henson and starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly. The movie received a mixed reception upon its release, but it now has a cult following.

Teen girl Sarah’s infant brother has been kidnapped by a goblin and she has to go into a huge maze in order to find him. I really liked this plot as I found it riveting for the most time. Yes, it doesn’t have a bigger message or statement behind it and it isn’t as impactful or as emotional as ‘The NeverEnding Story‘, but it is still a charming and really fun flick filled with boundless imagination.

The characters are really good and most of them are quite memorable. Sarah is a weak protagonist that isn’t particularly fleshed out, but Jareth the Goblin King is naturally such an unforgettable and intriguing character. Ludo is a lovable creature and Sir Didymus is really funny. But it is of course Hoggle the dwarf who is the standout here with such a likable personality and the friendship between him and Sarah is really sweet.

The acting is stupendous as well. David Bowie gives such a good performance, especially good for a singer and his persona created here really stands out. Now, Jennifer Connelly was okay, but at times quite weak and although she was extremely young here, I still can’t believe how much she progressed over the years in terms of her acting talent. And all of the creatures are really well voiced with Brian Henson being the highlight in the role of Hoggle.

Labyrinth is a technically arresting fantasy flick. The imagery created here is absolutely gorgeous to behold. The puppetry is really fantastic and all of the creatures are wonderfully created and acted. Their character design is splendid. The maze itself is such a visual feast filled with excellent set designs and interesting properties. The world-building is particularly strong in this movie.

Now the music is lacking. First, there isn’t much of it here. Also, when it happens, it isn’t particularly memorable. The songs are catchy, but not that appealing. The pacing is also really problematic as you have some incredibly drawn out sequences, especially some singing scenes that seem more like detours than adding anything new to the table. That was the biggest problem this movie never overcame. Also, the whole second half of the film is quite inferior to the previous half and the running time is slightly overblown in this one. And another problem is the sound mixing which is troublesome and in some scenes quite poor.

The directing is solid, the acting is good and the visuals are great with make-up and costumes being terrific. The dialogue is also solid and I really liked Labyrinth‘s humor which is very well done. There are a couple of really funny moments to witness here, filled with such fun and effervescent humor. The movie is very flawed, but it is such a charming and above all fun and authentic experience that the flaws should be overlooked. It has this whole new world wonderfully created and depicted and it is filled with lovable creatures and such a weird, but fun story. There was too much action near the end and those parts aren’t as good plus the detours are quite present from time to time, but it wrapped up really well with a memorable ending. Also, there are many sequences here that are not only visually phenomenal, but also so imaginative, authentic and even artistic. The imagery is just unforgettable and the whole movie is a bit underappreciated in my honest opinion as it has a lot to offer and it also has a big heart.

Labyrinth is far from a great film owing to some evident pacing issues, forgettable songs and inferior second half, but it is still such a charming and really fun movie filled with lovable characters, terrific world-building, charming and entertaining story, quite good humor and simply fantastic, unforgettable imagery.

My Rating – 4

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Labyrinth

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Mickey’s Orphans (1931)

Mickey's Orphans

Mickey’s Orphans

Mickey’s Orphans is a 1931 Disney animated short film starring Mickey Mouse and nominated for an Oscar.

Mickey and Minnie receive a basket loaded with kittens on Christmas Eve. The two are happy to adopt them, but the kittens eventually prove to be a nuisance. This is a film that is thematically great with excellent score and some gags are really fun. The characters are solid here with Pluto being the highlight. The kittens are also fun.

The animation is really great in my opinion, not exactly in its character design, but more in its interiors and overall pleasant looks to it. But the plot is lacking. Yes, the first third or so is really good, but from then on it quickly goes downhill and is just loaded with action after action which quickly gets tiresome. It is a fun flick, but it could have been much better had it focused more on plot instead of action.

Mickey’s Orphans is excellent for Christmas because of that type of music and it must be fun for children, but it is nevertheless some slight stuff with not one outstanding moment either in plot or in characterization present and the famous characters are not particularly charming nor are they given much to do here. It is a solid film, but also very substandard and forgettable.

My Rating – 3

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WarGames (1983)

WarGames

WarGames Review

WarGames is a 1983 sci-fi thriller film directed by John Badham and starring young Matthew Broderick. It is one of the more well crafted blockbusters of the decade.

It follows a young hacker who accidentally accesses a US military supercomputer and must prevent the start of the nuclear war. This story is of course hugely entertaining and simply fun from beginning to end. Yes, it is childish, but it is more childlike than childish to be exact and it is just fun to watch and very likable. There is only one big problem I’ve had with the plot and overall film and that is that it’s way too predictable with many plot points being incredibly easy to predict. And its happy ending, although sweet and even clever, is still too triumphant in a typical blockbuster manner.

The characters here are really good. David is an archetype, but he’s never a bother. Jennifer is really fun and likable and all of the military men were somewhat memorable and some even funny. Dr. Falken is also a good character but the one which should have been more fascinating because he was obviously written to be so. Overall the characters are not too remarkable, but solid for blockbuster expectations.

The acting is really good. Matthew Broderick is stupendous in his early role and Ally Sheedy was really sympathetic. And as for the adults, all did a great job with Dabney Coleman being the best.

It is technically a pretty good movie. It is quite well directed and of course well acted. The script is really good and I liked its sophistication near the end and its great message. The pacing is excellent with never a boring or too extended scene and although the movie lasts a bit too long, it is still a memorable and fun experience. I liked its dialogue as well and the whole mix of genres is terrific. The science fiction elements are great and the thriller elements are also good, but the best are weirdly enough the teen elements thanks to excellent pairing of the two.

The story is overall really memorable and so entertaining. I liked its incorporation of video games and it was to me especially interesting watching this movie after reading so much about it in ‘Ready Player One‘. The attention to detail is great and the score is also well done. It is predictable, but never too lazy or too childish. I liked that there wasn’t much action in WarGames and that I highly appreciate in blockbusters. The movie is also admittedly quite original and imaginative and it uses its premise and setting wonderfully. I also liked the humor very much. It was present only from time to time, but was really well done. And it is definitely worthy of its excellent critical reception as it is in my opinion one of the rare blockbusters from the eighties that are not only good, but likable and clever as well. And also exquisitely well crafted.

WarGames is such a well crafted and endlessly entertaining movie filled good acting, nice characters, entertaining story and excellent incorporation of different genres ranging from teen to sci-fi to thriller. It is also a smart and very well scripted film with fine dialogue, good message and excellent pacing. It is too predictable at times, but it is wonderfully childlike and hugely entertaining nonetheless and is one of the best blockbusters of the eighties for sure.

My Rating – 4.5

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from WarGames

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The Bodyguard (1944)

The BodyguardThe Bodyguard Review

The Bodyguard is a 1944 animated short which is the 15th of Tom and Jerry cartoons. It is one of the best of its time.

Jerry helps Spike the dog and he for his gratitude tells him that whenever he is in trouble, he should just whistle and he will come to save him. That is such a great premise and wonderfully executed as well. The short is entertaining from start to finish and it is just so fun and so funny as well. The finale is perfect, the beginning is really good as well which is rare and the middle parts, although a bit repetitive, are still highly amusing.

Tom is great here, but Jerry is even better. However, it is Spike who is the highlight as he is really well put to use in this one. And because of that, The Bodyguard quality-wise manages to trump ‘Dog Trouble‘ which was the first appearance of this character.

The animation is really good and the character design of Spike is fantastic. The score is okay, but not as good as before. But the humor is terrific and it is really funny at certain parts, especially in the last third or so. The only thing that bothered me is the voice acting which is once again present. This time Spike gets to talk and it is annoying, but not as annoying as some of the previous instances of that practice.

The Bodyguard is very entertaining and funny with a great premise, wonderfully beginning and finale and a terrific use of the Spike character.

My Rating – 4.3

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Shrek the Third (2007)

Shrek the Third

Shrek the Third Review

Shrek the Third is a 2007 DreamWorks animated fantasy comedy film with the voice cast consisting of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas and Cameron Diaz. It is the third entry in the franchise and without a doubt the worst.

Fiona’s father tells Shrek upon his death that he is going to be the next heir to the throne unless he finds a boy named Arthur. Shrek sets out to find Arthur whereas Prince Charming plots to overthrow Shrek and become king. This is naturally a very mediocre storyline with rehashed story arks and conflicts seen from the previous installments. The journey and the emotional stuff thrown in for good measure are frankly boring and overly typical. The first act is a bit more entertaining, but it quickly goes downhill into expected and highly uninspired territory.

Frankly, I did enjoy some parts of this film and I do think that it is not that bad a film. It is mediocre, but not awful which I thought when I saw it for the first time but obviously changed my mind upon the second viewing. The humor is solid at times and I really laughed at certain moments. And it is overall entertaining to a degree and not a nuisance.

The characters are weak here and even the previously established characters fail at being memorable. Shrek and Fiona are both much less interesting in this flick because the babies plot ark, although a bit amusing, wears off pretty quickly and becomes a clichéd plot progression. Puss in Boots has more funny moments here than in the previous film, but Donkey isn’t as funny unfortunately. Both are mildly funny, but criminally underused. Queen Lillian has one funny scene but is otherwise boring as usual and Prince Charming is again a one-note character. Merlin was also typical and never particularly funny and the newly introduced character of Arthur “Artie” Pendragon is so typical and just boring as hell. He does have a couple of fine moments with Shrek, but he is still highly forgettable. The princesses are the highlights here with Cinderella, Rapunzel, Aurora and especially Snow White being very funny and a good parody of the Disney princesses, although too on-the-nose.

The acting is as usual really good, but of course overstuffed with celebrities. Justin Timberlake is interestingly enough really good in the role of Arthur and of course Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas and Mike Myers are once again the standouts. Everyone here admittedly does a fine job.

The animation in Shrek the Third wasn’t impressing, at least to me it wasn’t. Yes, it looks good with its lush colors and beautiful interiors. The character design is definitely good and it is overall pleasant to watch. However, the exteriors are weak as always and some scenes, especially in the nature, are really dated and just don’t hold up as much. They definitely do a much better job with the characters and interiors than with the outside world.

The humor was solid in my opinion. The princesses did make me laugh as did some of the other characters from time to time. But it was once again forced and too easy. Also the parodying got way out of hand in this one and the second half isn’t as funny as the first one. But because it is genuinely funny at certain moments, it is solid and that made the movie bearable.

The music is once again annoying in its use of modern songs, especially rock. But here at least the songs are cut and don’t last for too long which was refreshing. But the filmmakers once again struggle with this franchise in creating a really good score, they just use old stuff and are never creative whatsoever.

When comparing Shrek the Third with the other entries in the franchise, it is of course the worst. Both ‘Shrek‘ and ‘Shrek 2‘ are much, much better and even ‘Shrek Forever After‘ is a better movie. This one is definitely the most typical and most uncreative of the franchise. And it is also one of the worst films from DreamWorks animation, it lies at the bottom of the list, up there with ‘Madagascar‘.

It is a badly edited film and although rarely boring, it is still overlong and the script is lacking. The attention to detail is solid, but the world-building was better before. The acting is really good, but the character development isn’t on par with the previous installments. The score is also mediocre and the emotion is forced. The humor is genuinely good at times, but still too forced. And it definitely lacks a heart, something which its predecessors possessed, at least to some degree. And it also isn’t original whatsoever, it reuses some ideas and plot points from before and what is even worse is how frankly tired and forgettable it is. It is undoubtedly the worst part in the franchise. It is watchable and mildly entertaining and funny, but nothing more than that. There is nothing more to it. It is a basic, tired DreamWorks product with no soul and no heart.

Shrek the Third is without a doubt the worst entry in the franchise. It does have its moments, it is funny from time to time and it’s mildly entertaining, but it is still incredibly mediocre with such an uninspired and typical plot, weaker character development, very annoying music and animation that is good, but still nothing too remarkable. The acting is good, but everything else is lacking and it is above all a very forgettable movie that is one of the worst from DreamWorks Animation.

My Rating – 2.5

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      Interior & Exterior Stills from Shrek the Third

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The Crunch Bird (1971)

The Crunch BirdThe Crunch Bird Review

The Crunch Bird is a 1971 Oscar-winning animated short that is by no means a great film.

A woman goes to a pet store to buy a gift for her husband. She buys a bird that likes to chew things and eventually misinterprets the husband’s words and bites him in the ass. Now, this is an incredibly short film, running at approximately two minutes which is way too short. And it did not deserve its Oscar whatsoever.

The other problem it has is the plot which is uninspired. Yes, the gag at the end was good and it concluded in a good way with it, but everything besides that is lacking. And the characters are also like that. But the biggest offender is its animation which is just so lazy and frankly unpleasant for the eyes. It has a good style, but bad execution. Also the voice work is awful as it is evident from an early start that one man voiced all of the characters including the woman which is super annoying and just so amateurish.

The Crunch Bird is one of the weakest Oscar winners with a good ending, but bad animation, awful voice acting and an uninspired plot.

My Rating – 2.5

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