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REVIEW – The Iron Giant

November 16, 2016 Leave a comment
The Iron Giant.jpgDirected by: Brad Bird
Produced by: Allison Abbate, Des McAnuff
Screenplay by: Tim McCanlies
Story by: Brad Bird
Edited by: Darren T. Holmes
Cinematography by: Steven Wilzbach
Music by: Michael Kamen
Starring: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Aniston, Christopher McDonald, John Mahoney, Vin Diesel, James Gammon, M. Emmet Walsh, Cloris Leachman
Based on the novel The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
Year: 1999

 

Disney may have reigned at the box office in the 1990s, but by the end of the decade, the quality of their non-Pixar-produced films was undoubtedly beginning to slip, and so it’s no real wonder that other studios – particularly DreamWorks – were taking notice and trying to take a bite out of their share of the box office. Despite having the backing of a major studio behind it, however, Warner Bros. Animation struggled to find its footing with theatrical releases during this era. Space Jam, the studio’s first in-house feature film production, was a considerable success, but it relied upon familiar Looney Tunes characters and Michael Jordan (and an already existing and popular advertising campaign for shoes that already merged the two brands) to basically have the film market itself. Later films wouldn’t be able to use that crutch, however, and anemic advertising strategies for films like Quest for Camelot, Osmosis Jones, and even Looney Tunes: Back in Action – which no longer had the brand popularity and the basketball star to rely upon – did little to drum up ticket sales, and none of the films achieved the critical acclaim to even make them legit cult classics. There was, of course, one film released in between all this, however, that, despite the botched advertising (some of which, for some reason, used Scorpion’s “Rock You Like a Hurricane”) and underperformance, did manage to eventually make a name for itself not just as a cult classic, but as truly one of the most underappreciated animated film classics. Read more…

REVIEW: Music of the Heart – In memory of Wes Craven

September 5, 2015 1 comment
Music of the HeartDirected by: Wes Craven
Produced by: Susan Kaplan, Marianne Maddalena, Allan Miller, Walter Scheuer
Written by: Pamela Gray
Edited by: Gregg Featherman, Patrick Lussier
Cinematography by: Peter Deming
Music by: Mason Daring (score), Diane Warren (theme)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Gloria Estefan, Aidan Quinn, Cloris Leachman, Jane Leeves, Jean-Luke Figueroa, Olga Merediz, Kieran Culkin, Charlie Hofheimer, Rosalyn Coleman, Michael Angarano, Josh Pais, Henry Dinhofer, Justin “DJ” Spaulding
Based on a true story and inspired by the 1995 documentary Small Wonders by Allan Miller
Year: 1999

 

Wes Craven was in many ways my gateway to appreciating horror. Though I had seen and enjoyed horror films prior to anything he had made, Craven was the one who enabled me to dig further into the classic slasher movies that most people think of when they discuss the genre. When I first decided to dedicate the month of October to horror films, three of the first movies I reviewed were Wes Craven-directed: The Last House on the Left, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. During that time, my unfavorable review of the first Elm Street film actually caught the attention of a group from pretty much the fan site for the series, and this encouraged me to review a few more of the films, including the Craven-produced Dream Warriors and the aforementioned New Nightmare, both of which I actually enjoyed more than the first.

Before even this, however, there was Scream, the film that both celebrated and satirized the genre Craven had helped form. Now, I actually saw the third film in the series first at a sleepover back in 7th or 8th grade, and even though it’s considered the weakest of the series, and though I had no familiarity with the characters to have much context for what was going on, I actually had a good time with it, and I subsequently sought out the rest of the films at the time and enjoyed those even more! During my time as a horror genre-hater, the Scream series remained my one exception whenever horror movies came up as a topic of conversation, as they were more fun than truly terrifying to me. It soon became apparent, however, that I really should see the movies that Scream was deconstructing, and so this actually put the pressure on me to finally give films like the Elm Street movies, Friday the 13th, Halloween, and even The Cabin in the Woods their fair chance. I didn’t always like them, but the process itself has been enjoyable, and I feel like the pressure has certainly given me a new perspective and appreciation for the genre as a whole.

Sadly, Wes Craven suddenly passed away this week after a quiet battle with brain cancer, and I actually felt a pretty great sense of personal loss when I heard the news. I’ve still yet to see other famous films of his like People Under the Stairs and The Hills Have Eyes, but Craven had unbeknownst to me actually cemented himself in my mind as a filmmaker I still greatly appreciated, if only because of his indirect encouragement to branch out in my movie habits. Craven will always be remembered for his work in the horror genre, but instead of reviewing one of those famous horror films, I figured I’d do something a bit different and honor the guy by reviewing his own foray into unfamiliar territory, the often forgotten Music of the Heart, a sentimental based-on-a-true-story drama that has been sitting in my Netflix instant viewing queue for quite a while ever since I randomly glanced at the name “Wes Craven” being tied to a film that had Meryl Streep, Angela Basset, and Gloria Estefan in the film’s poster. Read more…

REVIEW: Bad Santa (Director’s Cut)

December 19, 2013 8 comments
Bad SantaDirected by: Terry Zwigoff
Produced by: John Cameron, Sarah Aubrey, Bob Weinstein; The Coen Brothers (executive producers)
Written by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Edited by: Robert Hoffman
Cinematography by: Jamie Anderson
Music by: David Kitay
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac, Brett Kelly, Lauren Tom, Cloris Leachman, John Ritter
Year: 2003

 

Perhaps the movie that was on my radar the longest, as far as holiday movies go, was Bad Santa, which was originally released all the way back when I was in high school, which also meant that I was absolutely unable to get a hold of a copy at the time, seeing as how I still lived at home, and I am not certain that the kind of comedy there within would have held up well should anyone even hear what was being uttered on screen, and it’s also not exactly the kind of film that, as I got older, would have been viewed in a family setting. It was in my queue for a while in all past Christmas Movie Months, never reaching me thanks to the stupid freaking “Long Wait” with Netflix and, may they rest in peace, Blockbuster. This year, however, I finally got my hands on a copy! Finally, I would gaze the apparent treasure that everyone else was raving about all that time ago (and even today)! I popped in the disc, and… there were two cuts: Bad(der) Santa, the unrated cut, and Bad Santa the director’s cut – but no theatrical cut. Read more…

Review: “Foodfight!”

July 30, 2013 1 comment
Foodfight!Directed by: Lawrence Kasanoff
Produced by: Lawrence Kasanoff, Joshua Wexler, George Johnson
Written by: Brent Friedman, Rebecca Swanson, Sean Catherine Derek (screenplay) Lawrence Kasanoff (screenplay & story), Joshua Wexler (story)
Edited by: Ray Mupas, Craig Paulsen, Ann Hoyt, Sean Rourke
Production Design by: Jonathan A. Carlson
Music by: Walter Murphy
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Wayne Brady, Eva Longoria, Hilary Duff, Larry Miller, Chris Kattan, Harvey Fierstein, Jerry Stiller, Cloris Leachman, Christopher Lloyd, James Arnold Taylor, Edie McClurg
Year: 2012

 

Starting production all the way back in 2001, it’d be tempting to call Foodfight! the Duke Nukem Forever of animated movies – with that game’s developer-hopping, financially constrained, 14-year-long development cycle from c. 1997 all the way to its miraculous resurrection and yet disastrous release in 2011 already something of a legend worthy of its own film adaptation – but that would imply that anybody who doesn’t work in marketing actually anticipated this corporate mascot-infested Toy Story rip-off’s release. Read more…

2012 IN REVIEW – The Films I Didn’t See: May – August

January 19, 2013 3 comments

Men in Black 3 - Josh Brolin and Will Smith

Ah, summer — the time of tentpole blockbuster films that are meant to pad out the studios’ budgets for the next few months. I believe I saw most of the major films released during this period, at least at some point in the year, if not the theatre: The Dark Knight Rises, The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-ManMen in Black 3, Battleship… Overall, it was a more than satisfying year for quality summer blockbusters that pleased both audiences and critics. … Well, probably not Battleship. That movie was awful.

Battleship - Alien ship. Yeah, I remember that from the boardgame.

With so many films that release in theatres that are best seen actually on the big screen, though, it was only inevitable that smaller and/or less interesting films fell by the wayside of my attention span. Critically acclaimed features like Beasts of the Southern Wild and Oslo, August 31st would get unfortunately lumped in with similarly ignored-by-me crap like Step Up Revolution and That’s My Boy this past summer, which isn’t a commentary on their quality as much as it is a reflection of my time and budgetary restrictions. (I subscribe to a number of rental services and still buy and go see movies in theatres, but I can only do so much and thus prioritize quality spectacle films usually over the quality comedies and dramas.)

So while I do believe I got the most out of my summertime viewings that I possibly could, let’s go over the films that I somehow managed to not see as of the time of this writing, for better or for worse. Read more…

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