Friday, November 28, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Brotherhood of the Popcorn (2014)

I first became acquainted with the new documentary BROTHERHOOD OF THE POPCORN (2014) when it was shown at the Lone Pine Film Festival last month.

Due to our festival tour schedule we could only catch about half of the film, but Woody Wise, who is featured in the film, kindly sent me a screener so I could watch the whole thing. It made for great holiday weekend viewing!

BROTHERHOOD OF THE POPCORN tells the story of the "Cliffhangers," a group of senior citizens who have been meeting at Woody's house to watch "old" movies every other Saturday for the past 35 years.

The men all enjoy serials, hence the name of the group. Film noir and Westerns are also favorites.

In addition to depicting the men's communal enjoyment of great movies, the film explores each of their backgrounds and current interests. It's a diverse group including a couple of animators, a former L.A. Times reporter, a teacher, a fish truck driver, and a rockabilly singer.

The section of the film on Woody accompanies him to his favorite volunteer job, screening movies at the Lone Pine Film Festival. Having just been to the festival, where I had the pleasure of meeting Woody, I especially enjoyed that.

BROTHERHOOD OF THE POPCORN runs 90 minutes. At that length it wouldn't hurt to edit down a couple of the more repetitive sections, but that's my only criticism of a documentary which any classic film fan should enjoy.

More than a few of viewers will probably envy Woody's screening room -- not to mention the fact that his home sits on property once owned by Bette Davis. And those of us indulging in the Warner Archive Black Friday sale today could certainly relate to watching Woody flip through a stack of Archive DVDs deciding what the group should watch next!

The movie was directed by Inda Reid. It was produced by Woody Wise and another Cliffhanger, James Tim Walker. The filmmakers' hope is to enter the movie in festivals.

The film's official website includes a trailer. BROTHERHOOD OF THE POPCORN also has a Facebook page, and you can follow Woody on Twitter at @wisewoody.

Sincere thanks to Woody Wise for providing a review copy of this film.

Tonight's Movie: Plymouth Adventure (1952) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

There seem to have been relatively few Thanksgiving-themed films released during the classic film era.

One of the first "Thanksgiving" films I think of is MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947), which is more closely associated with Christmas but opens on Thanksgiving Day.

Another major Thanksgiving film is MGM's PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE (1952), available in a remastered edition from the Warner Archive.

PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE is a straightforward telling of the Pilgrims traveling to the New World on the Mayflower. All the familiar names are there: William Bradford (Leo Genn), John Alden (Van Johnson), Priscilla Mullins (Dawn Addams), Miles Standish (Noel Drayton), William Brewster (Barry Jones) and more.

The story is told matter-of-factly, with the major dramatic arc being the romantic attraction of foul-tempered Mayflower Captain Christopher Jones (Spencer Tracy) and Bradford's emotionally fragile wife Dorothy (Gene Tierney), followed by Jones's conversion from being a first-class jerk to a more honorable man.

It's all quite watchable and looks great on the remastered DVD, yet the film is rather stolid and perhaps disappointing, lacking dramatic heft and excitement.

Adding to this is that the relationship between the Captain and Dorothy seems truncated; Tracy and Tierney have one excellent dramatic scene yet the passion seems to come out of nowhere. It doesn't help that for much of the film Tracy plays his character without any shadings, nor does the script provide an explanation for his character's behavior; he's just mean.

Van Johnson is sweet as eager young John Alden. I would have enjoyed seeing more of Johnson and Tierney, and less of Tracy and his crew member Lloyd Bridges, whose character is as mean as Tracy's.

One of the film's pleasures is the scoring by Miklos Rozsa, particularly the "going to sea" sequence. Rozsa seemed to have an affinity for these types of scenes as he also did a wonderful job the following year on the sailing film ALL THE BROTHERS WERE VALIANT (1953).

I also enjoyed John Dehner as Gilbert Winslow, who is introduced at the outset as keeping a journal on the Pilgrims' voyage. This allows Dehner to narrate the film in his mellifluous voice.

The cast also includes Tommy Ivo, Noreen Corcoran, Rhys Williams, and Kathleen Lockhart.

PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE runs 105 minutes. It was directed by Clarence Brown and photographed in Technicolor by William Daniels. The movie won an Oscar for Best Special Effects.

As a side note, I welcome other suggestions for classic-era Thanksgiving viewing in the comments, and I'm sure my readers would enjoy hearing ideas as well.

The Warner Archive release of PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE includes the trailer.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.

A Visit to Autzen Stadium

One of the fun things we did on our recent visit with our daughter at the University of Oregon was attend a football game at beautiful Autzen Stadium.

Our daughter plays tenor saxophone in the Ducks marching band so the games are a big part of her college experience.

Game day for us began with breakfast at Elmer's. We found the breakfast here so good that we ate there two days in a row.

When we walked back to our hotel, we were quite surprised to find a row of seven motorcycle officers lined up at the front entrance.

It turned out that the Oregon Ducks football team had spent the pre-game night at our hotel! That was certainly a fun and unexpected coincidence. We watched as the team filed out of the hotel and onto the buses, then the buses took off for Autzen Stadium with the motorcycle officers' lights going. It was quite an exciting start to our game day experience.

The stadium is some distance from the University of Oregon campus, with a walk "over the river and through the woods."

Some of the beautiful landscaping around the stadium.

Autzen Stadium! The "O" for Oregon was added for a Game Day telecast a few years ago.

The plaza outside the stadium, leading to Moshofsky Center and a Duck Store:

We packed a lunch from Subway and ate alongside hundreds of people inside Moshofsky Center. The center can hold up to 5000 "tailgating" fans before football games.

The University of Oregon Marching Band enters the stadium! Our daughter is down there somewhere...

Welcome to Autzen Stadium!

The Ducks band plays the National Anthem:

And the Oregon football team runs through the middle of the band to take the field!

The Oregon Duck mascot, which sometimes looks like Donald Duck due to a special agreement with Walt Disney dating back to the 1940s. Given our family's love for all things Disney, it's rather fun that our daughter ended up at a university with a Disney mascot!

It was quite thrilling to watch the game amidst a sea of excited fans wearing green and yellow. We sat in the section right next to the band, which was the perfect vantage point for us as band parents.

The band performs their halftime show:

We stayed nice and warm in the third quarter thanks to more Dutch Bros. hot chocolate!

Oregon beat the Colorado Buffaloes, 44-10. Following the game it's tradition for the band to sing, rather than play, the university's alma mater song. A moving end to a really wonderful day.

Previously: A Visit to the University of Oregon.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Dr. Kildare's Strange Case (1940) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

DR. KILDARE'S STRANGE CASE (1940) is the fourth film in the MGM series, available from the Warner Archive as part of the Dr. Kildare Movie Collection.

Watching the Kildare films is rather like being caught up in an engrossing TV series. I find I really look forward to returning to Blair General Hospital, and happily I still have quite a number of Dr. Kildare and Dr. Gillespie films ahead of me.

In DR. KILDARE'S STRANGE CASE the good doctor comes to the aid of a colleague, Dr. Lane (Shepperd Strudwick), who's had a great deal of bad luck with patients dying. When Dr. Lane's latest patient (John Eldredge) survives brain surgery but subsequently goes insane, Dr. Kildare administers dangerous insulin shock therapy in an attempt to cure the patient.

Meanwhile, the rich hospital benefactor from the previous film has built a new clinic and offers Dr. Kildare a lucrative job which even comes with a lovely house. Nurse Mary Lamont (Laraine Day) has stars in her eyes thinking of the wonderful life she and Dr. Kildare could have if he takes the job...but Mary is crushed when she realizes Jimmy wants to keep working with Dr. Gillespie (Lionel Barrymore). Jimmy won't consider marriage as long as he's making a lowly intern's salary of $20 a week.

Once again Dr. Kildare seems to skirt medical ethics, treating a patient in secret, though as it turns out Dr. Gillespie always seems to be pulling strings behind the scenes. And needless to say, the concept of insulin shock therapy is rather fascinating from the modern perspective.

Also returning in this film are regular cast members Alma Kruger, Nat Pendleton, Marie Blake, Samuel S. Hinds, Emma Dunn, Frank Orth, Walter Kingsford, Nell Craig, Tom Collins, and George Reed.

DR. KILDARE'S STRANGE CASE runs 77 minutes. It was directed by Harold S. Bucquet and photographed by John F. Seitz.

Previously reviewed films also available in the Warner Archive's Dr. Kildare Movie Collection: YOUNG DR. KILDARE (1938), CALLING DR. KILDARE (1939), and THE SECRET OF DR. KILDARE (1939).

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD collection. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website. Please note that the initial sets of this series sold at the Warner Archive site are traditionally replicated (pressed) rather than burned on demand.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Best wishes to all for a very happy and blessed Thanksgiving Day!

Last St. Patrick's Day I shared a little about the life and career of Irish-born actress Angela Greene. She appeared in countless studio publicity photos while under contract to Warner Bros. in the '40s.

Having marked St. Patrick's Day with a Greene publicity photo, here she is celebrating Thanksgiving!

I'm grateful for many blessings this Thanksgiving, including all of you who regularly visit and support this blog in countless ways. Thanks to each one of you, and have a wonderful day!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TCM and Disney Announce Joint Projects

Fans of both Turner Classic Movies and Disney have even more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving with the announcement of a new partnership between TCM and Disney.

The cross-company plans, which were detailed extensively in the New York Times, include TCM working with Disney to update the Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Orlando and Disney providing content for a Treasures from the Disney Vault series to air several times per year on TCM.

I was curious when I recently received my TCM Now Playing guide and noticed several Disney programs and movies airing on December 21st, including THE DISNEYLAND STORY (1954) and THE RELUCTANT DRAGON (1941). Now we know what was behind that programming! The schedule for December 21st is here; it also includes DAVY CROCKETT (1955), THE VANISHING PRAIRIE (1954), and THIRD MAN ON THE MOUNTAIN (1959).

The TCM press release details some of the additional titles coming to TCM in the next year, including THE THREE CABALLEROS (1944), THE ADVENTURES OF ICHABOD AND MR. TOAD (1949), DARBY O'GILL AND THE LITTLE PEOPLE (1959), and POLLYANNA (1960).

TCM also plans to air Disney documentaries such as WALT AND EL GRUPO (2008), about Walt Disney's 1941 South American tour, and WAKING SLEEPING BEAUTY (2009), about the renaissance of animated Disney musicals in the '80s.

I'm very hopeful we might see some more relatively obscure Disney films air on TCM in the coming months, such as SO DEAR TO MY HEART (1948), THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRIE MEN (1952), THE SWORD AND THE ROSE (1953), ROB ROY: THE HIGHLAND ROGUE (1953), WESTWARD HO THE WAGONS! (1956), SUMMER MAGIC (1963), MIRACLE OF THE WHITE STALLIONS (1963), THE MOON-SPINNERS (1964), SMITH! (1969), THE CASTAWAY COWBOY (1974), and NIGHT CROSSING (1982).

As I Tweeted this morning, it would also seem a natural fit if Disney and TCM would partner to resurrect the Disney Treasures DVD program, not to mention Disney's short-lived MOD DVD series.

My husband and I have had occasion to discuss the Treasures sets with host Leonard Maltin in the past, and he spoke about Disney not having great interest in marketing sets made for such a niche audience, when they can make so much more selling their most popular titles.

Classic film fans would doubtless give the lesser-known but much-wanted "vintage" Disney titles brisk traffic at the TCM Shop. Let's cross our fingers that a partnership eventually emerges in this area as well.

As the New York Times notes, for the past two years Disney and TCM have also partnered for the TCM Classic Film Cruise and the TCM Classic Film Festival.  The cruise is now held on a Disney cruise ship, while Disney's El Capitan Theatre has hosted screenings at the festival. It's going to be exciting to see how the partnership further develops in the months to come.

In related news, Aurora has a great interview with TCM programmer Charlie Tabesh at her blog Once Upon a Screen. Be sure to check it out!

Today at Disneyland: Thanksgiving Eve 2014

It's been our family tradition for many years now to spend part of Thanksgiving Eve at the Disneyland Resort. We enjoyed several hours there today with our oldest and youngest children -- the other two are spending Thanksgiving away at college out of state but will be home for Christmas break in a couple more weeks.

The Jingle Cruise, which was modestly decorated in 2013, went the other direction this year with a veritable explosion of Christmas all over the ride -- the theme being that a shipment of Christmas treats went missing and the jungle animals got into it!

We strolled around Toon Town looking at the colorful, cartoony decorations...

...and of course enjoyed the holiday overlay on It's a Small World.

The Feliz Navidad sign in Small World was changed this year:

More scenes from Small World Holiday:

We splurged on lunch at Big Thunder Ranch BBQ, including dessert!

And before we left we had the chance to say hello to Minnie Mouse:

There was great news today about a new partnership between Disney and Turner Classic Movies! I'll be covering that in a separate post in the near future.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Previous Thanksgiving Eve at Disneyland Posts: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Bolt (2008)

BOLT (2008) is a very enjoyable animated Disney film. Its pleasures include on-target portrayals of dog and cat behavior as well as a satiric look at Hollywood and network television. The movie proved to be quite a pleasant surprise.

I think I was put off trying BOLT when it was originally released due to the lead voice actors, John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, in whom I have zero interest. By the time I watched the movie on a recent plane trip I had completely forgotten who was in the voice cast! I didn't recognize their voices so I was able to enjoy the film without my unenthused impressions of the actors influencing my opinion.

I watched the film on my iPad thanks to Disney's Movies Anywhere app; my daughter is a BOLT fan, and I'd purchased the DVD for her as a gift a few years ago. Since I'd input the Disney Movie Rewards code at the time I bought it, the movie was automatically loaded into my Disney Movies Anywhere library when Disney launched the app earlier this year.

Bolt (Travolta) is a doggy TV star, but he doesn't know it. His handlers believe Bolt's "acting" will be more effective if he doesn't see the cameras or special effects, so when he regularly saves his young owner Penny (Cyrus) from the bad guys, he thinks it's real and that he has superpowers. When Penny locks Bolt in his trailer each night after filming, he has no idea where she goes.

Circumstances separate Bolt and Penny, and as Bolt is exposed to the "real world" he gradually comes to realize that he's an ordinary dog. He knows, though, that Penny is his "person" and is confident that their relationship is more than acting.

Bolt sets out on a long cross-country road trip to find Penny, aided by Mittens the stray cat (Susie Essman) and Rhino (Mark Walton), a hamster in an exercise ball who's an enthusiastic fan of Bolt's TV series.

Like the recently seen BIG HERO 6 (2014), the film is derivative; three animals, including a dog and cat, on a long journey has been done by Disney not once but twice! (That would be THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, filmed in 1963 and 1993.) There's also a touch of LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955), as a sheltered dog learns about the tough world from a stray.

Despite the familiarity, I felt that overall this film worked better than BIG HERO 6, thanks to a solid screenplay, which at 96 minutes is better paced than BIG HERO 6's 102 minutes.

BOLT's script has a nice sense of humor mixed with touches of poignance; the scene where Mittens admits to having been abandoned by her previous owner packs a wallop, but the funny scenes keep the film from being too emotional. The pointed barbs about network executives are quite amusing, and there are some delightful bits with the animals, such as Bolt learning to beg. I liked this one a lot.

The supporting voice cast includes Malcolm McDowell as the TV show villain, James Lipton as the director, and Greg Germann as Penny's smarmy, work-obsessed agent. The additional voice actors include Anne Lockhart, granddaughter of Gene and Kathleen, and daughter of June.

BOLT was directed by Byron Howard and Chris Williams.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG for "mild action and peril." In my opinion it's a family-friendly Disney film.

BOLT is available on DVD or in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.