Thursday, March 23, 2023

Don't stay in the dark about 'Pitch Black Heist'

Pitch Black Heist (2011)
Starring: Liam Cunningham, Michael Fassbender, and Alex Macqueen
Director: John Maclean
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

A pair of safe-crackers (Cunningham and Fassbender) team up to rob an office secured with an alarm system that's triggered by light.

"Pitch Black Heist" has all the elements you expect to find in a caper film, and it delivers them succinctly and so satisfyingly that I would have thought impossible in a film that isn't even 15 minutes long. Even more astonishing, the expertly executed and paced heist plot is almost secondary to the development of the relationship between the two thieves, much of which takes place as they hang out in a pub. Watching actors of Cunningham and Fassbender's talent play off each other is a treat in and of itself, but since they are performing within the structure of a great script makes this a must-see movie, especially if you're a fan of crime and/or heist movies.

Aside from delivering in under 15 minutes what many films can't deliver in more than two hours, this award-winning effort from writer/director John Maclean is made even better by the great twist at the end. While it's a given that a heist movie like this will have things go wrong during the heist and that there will be one final twist/obstacle threatening the characters at the end, "Pitch Black Heist" goes above and beyond in every way during its final few minutes.

Grab a drink, click below, and get ready for some great story-telling!

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

It's Women's History Month...

... so here's one more cartoon about 1920s fashions from illustrator and writer Ethel Hays.

Ethel Hays

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

A fun horror movie spoof!

Night of the Living Bread (1990)
Starring: Vince Ware, Katie Harris, Robert J. Saunders, Gina Saunders, Stephen R. Newell, Kevin J. O'Brien, and Steve Heminghausen
Director: Kevin J. O'Brien
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When a strange explosion at a factory causes bread to animate and attack the living, will anyone survive to see the sun rise again?

Steve Heminghausen in "Night of the Living Bread" (1990)

"Night of the Living Bread" is a fun, well-executed spoof of the genre-shaping zombie flick "Night of the Living Dead" (1968). In its eight-minute running time, it touches hilariously on all the key scenes and story elements of George Romero's most famous flick... but with the zombies being replaced by slices of bread and hamburger buns.

This is one of those flicks where too much talk by a reviewer will ruin the fun of watching it (which you can do by clicking below, in this very post), so I'll just highlight two things that make this film so good: First, the cast of actors plays everything completely straight (with one exception); this heightens the comedic absurdity of the story. Second, the film has a jump-scare that is so unexpected that even a jaded horror film viewer like myself was startled by it.

Check out this great little flick and have your day brightened. (It will be ten-times more enjoyable if you're familiar with the film its making fun of, but I think it can be enjoyed by any fans of classic horror films.)

Monday, March 20, 2023

It's officially Spring!

Everybody say "thank you" to MacKenzie Richter for, once again, pushing back the cold winds of winter! Jack Frost knows not to mess with her!

MacKenzie Richter defeats winter!

Musical Monday with A.Chal

A.Chal in "Round Whippi" (2016)

"Round Whippin'" is a song from the Peruvian DJ/singer known as A.Chal. It's a pretty chill tune that starts to feel a little repetative as it closes out, but the video remains absolutely engrossing, and more than a little spooky, throughout. 

While I don't know what message the artist was trying to convey, I think it all adds up to, "Drugs are bad. Don't do drugs."

Round Whippin' (2016)
Starring: A.Chal
Director: Max Vatble
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Saturday, March 18, 2023

A fun but sloppy entry in the 'Cartoonland' series

Alice Chops the Suey (aka "Alice in Chinatown") (1925)
Starring: Margie Gay
Director: Walt Disney
Rating: Five of Ten Stars

When Alice is kidnapped by cartoon Chinese gangsters, her animated cat friend sets out to save her.
Margie Gay in "Alice Chops the Suey" (1925)

 "Alice Chops the Suey" is a so-so entry in the "Alice Comedies" (referred to as "Alice in Cartoonland" in these parts where the strengths are almost cancelled out by the weaknesses. It was an early series animated by Walt Disney himself, and if it tells us anything about Disney, it's that his talent for gathering and managing creative teams was superior to his own creative talents.

Coming during the latter half of the series, and ostensibly starring the fourth and final girl to play the live-action character having adventures in a cartoon world, this short film is literally non-stop action from beginning to end. Like some of the other best moments in the series, the fun it has with cartoon-world physics and the malleability of animated characters are also highlights here, especially if you have a taste for surrealism and the absurd.

On the downside though, there is a lack of attention to detail that felt sloppy and that I found frustrating. The most obvious example of this is the way Alice's shape changed to appear more like one of the natives of the Cartooniverse when she was put in a bag and carried off by the gangsters. I've previously commented on how disappointed I was when the live-action Alice turned into an animated Alice for no reason other than to make the scene easier to execute, but it's never been as badly and sloppily done as it is here. At the very least, Disney could have bothered to make the struggling character in the bag thinner, to match Alice.

I was also annoyed by the way this installment opened, but not for the reasons I understand that has frustrated other reviewers.

I've seen negative comments directed at "Alice Chops the Suey" because its opening moments are a clear and obvious "rip-off" of Fleischer Studios' Out of the Inkwell shorts. I didn't see that as a negative, but more as Disney acknowledging where the inspiration for his series mixing live-action and animation came from... even if Fleischer consistently did it better than Disney ever managed to do.

To my mind, the biggest flaw here is that Disney either forgot the set-up of the series and that the "borrowed" opening from Out of the Inkwell doesn't fit with how he uses it. Alice is NOT a creation of pen and ink, but is instead a flesh-and-blood being who enters Cartoonland. It makes no sense for her to pop out of the ink well, especially not since she isn't a drawn character. I don't know if the target audience for the series would be bothered by this, but it cast a pall over the entire episode for me. And the pat ending didn't help. 

Ultimately, though, the good almost cancels out the bad here, with "Alice Chops the Suey" being fast-paced and goofy enough to entertain.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Well-crafted film noir homage with a twist!

Long Cold Walk (2022)
Starring: Nat Wise, Rocco La Motta, Stephen Scott, Jessica Rudolph, and Gene Winer
Director: Gene Winer
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

A homicide detective on the nightshift (Wise, voiced by Winer), is called to the scene of what turns out to be a greater mystery than he could have possibly imagined.

Nat Wise in "Long Cold Walk" (2022)

"Long Cold Walk" is a well-crafted film noir homage with an unexpected twist. Visually, there are a few jarring elements--such as some extreme close-ups that don't seem to serve any purpose and an extra that seems out place with the historical setting of the film--but overall Gene Winer and his crew do a fine job, on pretty much every technical level you'd care to consider.

As this film reached its final moments, I was certain that I would be giving it a solid Six of Ten Stars... but then the twist occured. I was expecting there to be some sort of twist due to a comment made by the narrator at the very beginning of the film, but when it happened, it was not at all what I expected it to be. That twist, and how it was executed, got a star added to the rating all by itself! I've watched and reviewed so many films over the past 30 years that "WOW!" moments don't happen all that often anymore, but Winer delivered one with "Long Cold Walk".

If you like old-school detective movies and TV shows, you're going to enjoy this short. Click below to check it out!

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

It's Women's History Month...

... so here's another cartoon from the 1920s about women's fashion trends, by author/illustrator Ethel Hays. (Her self-titled cartoon series was syndicated to over 500 newspapers.)

Fashion cartoon by Ethel Hays