Finally, They’ve Restored The Marx Bros.

At least five of the original movies have been digitally cleaned up and, in some cases, with lost or cut footage restored.

I watched a couple of these movies last year and loved them all over again, but wondered why nobody had come in and done a better restoration.  I figured it was a money thing and there wasn’t enough interest in it from studios too busy putting out billion dollar blockbusters.

Thankfully, I was wrong.

There’s no planned Blu-ray release schedule yet, but I’m sure we’ll get one eventually.  I am a patient man.

Schade points out that a print of Animal Crackers was located in the British Film Institute archives, and it contains bits of monkey business that were cut by American censors, including the excised lyric “I think I’ll try and make her” from the song “Hooray for Captain Spaulding,” as well as a bit where Harpo, rolled-up newspaper in hand, plays “slap-ass” with a society dame.

Hello, Nurse!

Update: I first wrote of my excitement about the Marx Bros. movies coming to DVD in 2004 on this very blog.  The money quote from that:

Yes, five others were released years ago, but they received no special attention. There aren’t any special bonus features added to them, the prints weren’t cleaned up at all, and they were released almost like they were public domain films someone was trying to dump.

It only took twelve years (or more)…

Joe Dante and Chuck Jones

25 years ago, Joe Dante developed a movie that would have been a dramatization of the Warner Bros. animation unit/Termite Terrace in the 30s and 40s.  It’s a movie many of us would kill to see to this day.

It never got made.

Pity.  Sounds like perfect Oscar bait. Nothing Hollywood loves more than movies about Hollywood.

In any case, this will likely be as close as we ever get to the movie: a six minute interview with Dante describing how the project came to be and why it died so young.  (“Space Jam.”  Ugh)



(Via Cartoon Brew)

Zoolander No. 2

So, I had a little adventure two nights back.

I was in the vicinity of Lincoln Center, NYC and had about three hours to kill. My plan was to walk up a block to where the movie theater was and catch whatever was showing in the time I had available.

But as I started my walk, a bigger spectacle awaited me:

Zoolander 2 premiere on the street
The Zoolander No. 2 premiere was being held at one of the halls at Lincoln Center, which was once the center of Fashion Week, as I understand it. So they set up a runway in the street. Boxed in by glass and filled with a media gauntlet, the stars were showing up, one by one, to make the walk.

(I later learned that earlier they had left the whole thing open to do a fake runway fashion show in character. I missed that.)

I stood amongst the crowd of gawkers across the street, about twenty feet away, watching through the glass as the Hollywood celebs did their thing. First, there was the photographers’ section, then they’d walk across to the dude from Entertainment Tonight, then be passed to at least two other media outlets that I saw conducting interviews. One was recording all their video on their cellphone. Might be an on-line outfit, maybe?

I didn’t recognize half the people, and judging by the conversations I heard around me, a lot of people didn’t know either, but thought they did.

Ben Stiller was obvious, though, and the cries of, "He’s so short!" rang out multiple times.

Ben Stiller being interviewed

SNL made a strong showing, with Fred Armisen and Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell being present. There might have been more, but I haven’t watched that show in 20 years now…

Will Ferrell being interviewed by Entertainment Tonight’s Smiley Guy:

Will Ferrell being interviewed on Entertainment a Tonight

Fashion icon Anna Wintour was even present. (I didn’t get a picture. She kept moving.)

The loudest cheer went up for, of all people, Jennifer Aniston. Go figure. Look carefully and you might see her face here between all the photographers’ shoulders:

Jennifer Aniston on the purple carpet

(And, yes, traffic was still streaming past us in the two open lanes of traffic.)

I stood around watching this for about a half hour before going to the movie theater a block up to catch a showing of "The Big Short," which is an amazing movie.

Across the hall from where my movie was, there was a theater blocked out for a "private event." A line of people outside the building were waiting to see "Zoolander No. 2". (I saw a sign for that at the door.) I think those two things are related.

What I learned: The iPhone camera is awesome, but trying to take shots from that far away under those circumstances is trying, at best. With a weather threat of snow in the air, I almost brought my real camera with me into the city that night to take pics of the city in the snow. But it didn’t. And I didn’t bring the camera, anyway. If I had, I might have much better pictures to show you today. Maybe. In the interests of travelling light, I had planned to only bring my wide angle lens, not the 85mm that would be helpful in that situation.

But it was an interesting experience, and an unexpected one.

Update: it would seem that Leonard Maltin really really didn’t like the movie, for all the same reasons I had no interest in seeing it in the first place.

Hurray for Hollywood

Hollywood is an amazing place for creating new ideas. Modern, fresh visions are the bedrock on which the movie and television industry are built.

That being said, are you more looking forward to "MacGyver: The Movie" or "MacGyver: The TV Series"?

Either way, "MacGyver" is a STEM series, so I’m placing my bets on a woman playing the title role in whichever version makes it to an audience. Bonus points she’s not white or Asian.

What I Thought About “Les Miserables”

  • I felt sorry for the focus puller. It looks like three quarters of the movie was shot at f/1.8. The focus puller had a LOT of work to do to keep up with moving actors in a scene.

  • “Gladiator 2” will not be a musical. I believe the Actor’s Union has even written a new rule to keep Russell Crowe from ever singing in a movie again.

  • France was a rotten place to live in the 19th century.

  • I kept hearing stories about women crying in the theaters during Anne Hathaway’s big musical moment in the first half hour. I got more emotional with the Daddy/Daughter moments, because I’m a softie dad.

  • Was the CGI that obvious, or is the Blu-Ray high definition just too clear? Either way, all of the CGI backgrounds jumped out pretty obviously.

  • I knew one song in advance of the movie. I surprised my wife when I sang along with “Bring Him Home.” Though at least now I get what the song is about better. I knew it from Dennis De Young’s “10 on Broadway” album. That album is not available digitally on Amazon, but is on iTunes. You can buy the CD off Amazon, too.

  • Hugh Jackman got robbed at the Oscars.

  • Obvious and Obligatory Geek Moment: Wasn’t it great to see a team-up between Catwoman and Wolverine, though?

  • I love how the proper French accent sounds so — British.

  • Yes, the camera angles were a little weird. Dutch angles, close-ups, medium range at best. And then, when the camera pulls back, there’s an odd amount of negative space in the top half of the screen, with all of the important stuff packed into the lower third or so. Strange. It does feel a little cramped. I guess when you’re filming with an f/1.8 lens, everything wants to have shallow depth of field.

  • No, really, there were shots where the actor’s nose and eyes were in focus, but their ears were staring to blur already. That’s a shallow depth of field. What did they think they were doing? Being all Stanely Kubrick with a 50mm and lighting scenes by candle light a la “Barry Lyndon”?

  • The Blu-ray looks and sounds great. We used the 5.1 surround sound since we don’t have the other two speakers for the 7.1 setting, but everything was clear and crisp, nonetheless.

Cinderella: The Awful Truth

In watching the new “Cinderella” Blu-ray with my daughter, the awful truth dawned on me:

Cinderella’s stepmother is a murderer. Cinderella’s father didn’t die of natural causes. It’s never stated explicitly in the movie how he died. And since the movie is done from Cinderella’s point of view, it’s nothing the audience needs to know if she doesn’t know it or is explicitly told it. The Wicked Stepmother got away with the perfect crime: She killed her husband to get his money. Imagine if they have life insurance policies back then; maybe then her runway would have been long enough that she wouldn’t have pressed Cinderella into service cleaning her own house before the Ball arrived and Cinderella met the man of her dreams.

Obviously, the murder was done with two goals in mind: Don’t dirty your own hands, and don’t get caught. To that end, this nasty man-eater likely paid off someone to do the dirty deed. She’s still getting of murder by this, but she didn’t have to poison the father’s food. She couldn’t stab him or shoot him, because that would raise suspicions. A quiet poisoning leading to a heart attack would do the trick. Science and medicine weren’t significantly advanced back them for a medical examiner to have doubts as to the husband’s death. But who would do it? Obvious money would be on someone in the kitchen. They have access to the food and to the husband. And, given a big enough payment (with the husband’s own money, naturally), they have motive: Filthy lucre.

The problem is, the stepmother likes money, so she can’t afford to give it away. Plus, there’s a loose end. The kitchen help could talk. If any suspicion were ever to be raised, they might be interviewed first and squeal before she’d have the chance to silence them, or convince them to stay silent. Instead, I believe the stepmother paid off someone in the cleaning staff to do the deed.

cinderella's wicked stepmother

Then, she poisoned that staff member, took the money back, and had Cinderella take over the job of the entire staff, crying about lack of money all the while as a cover story. Since the second dead person in the household is the downstairs help, nobody cares enough to be suspicious and life goes on.

It’s the perfect crime. The stepmother is a real schemer.

I suspect this will be the plot of “Wicked II”, coming to Broadway this fall. Someone check Kristen Chenoweth’s availability to play Cinderella. Maybe we can get Glenn Close to play the stepmother? Gus and Jaq can be Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

Mary Poppins

I saw part of “Marry Poppins” tonight while my daughter was watching it.

The highlight of it was the rooftop scene near the end of the movie, which presages a couple of other movie things:

  • Wire-Fu: Forget “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and thrill to the amount of wire work on the pseudo-rooftops of this number.
  • Parkour: Dick Van Dyke and his chimney sweeping friends are jumping, diving, and rolling over every obstacle in their way, a half century ahead of “Casino Royale.”

Watch for yourself:

And, yes, Van Dyke’s British accent is atrocious. Believe that when people say it. It’s absolutely true. Wow.

Movie Trailers Update

I haven’t popped over to the movie trailers section of my Apple TV in a long time. I’m always impressed how quickly the high res trailers load up and how great they look on the TV. But for now, a quick round-up of what I watched:

  • The Avengers: I wanted to watch this first. It’s the whole reason I turned this thing on. But it wasn’t available on the Apple TV. It’s listed on there, but when you click it, you get a message that it’s not available and to please try again later? I wonder what’s going on there? Apple has the trailer exclusively, last I heard. Is it web only?

  • The FP: You need to see this trailer. It’s just asking for the Rifftrax treatment. It’s made to be a “cult hit.” It looks like it’s a post-apocalyptic story of two gangs that fight it out on Dance Dance Revolution. Winner Take All. I kid you not. It’s a viral sensation now, and one of Apple’s Most Watched trailers. It’s either awful and cheesy, or amazing and wondrous and fantastically cheesy.

  • Brave: Not so much a trailer as it is two minutes of the actual movie. I liked it. I can see wherethey’re going for 3D with it, too. PIXAR usually does better staying away from humans, but the designs here are strong enough to be interesting. Reminded me of “Tangled” in some ways, though. We’ll see how this pans out.

  • John Carter: People who’ve seen it early say it’s ten times better than all the trailers, but that this latest trailer is the best. I’m still not sold, but then I haven’t seen a story yet. The trailers are all CGI fighting and people leaping around. There’s a potential for something cool here, but I’m not sold yet.

  • Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Fighter: While I give them points for the high concept and I did giggle my way through parts of this, I’m not completely sold yet. And, yes, the Washington Monument wasn’t around in Lincoln’s time. Whoops.

2011 New Year’s Resolution

Last year, I decided against doing any New Year’s Resolutions, since I failed most spectaularly on the ones I had set the year before.

This year, I’m feeling more adventurous, so I’ve set some photographic New Year’s Resolutions. Click on the link to visit the all-new for that post.

My first resolution for the new year: Keep running regularly. It might not be daily, but at least three times a week should be doable.

The second resolution: Get VariousAndSundry updated regularly again, even if it’s only once a week.

Three: Watch more Blu-ray movies. I’ve been very slow to buy them, mostly because I haven’t watched enough of the ones I DID buy. So let’s start correcting for that in 2011.

Short Thoughts

So much stuff going on these days, no time to pull my thoughts together into a blog post. Seriously, follow me on Twitter to get the latest and greatest, but here’s a few thoughts off the top of my head:

  • Oscars: Just finished watching “Up” the other night. Had to watch it in two parts, a week apart. That’s just how my life rolls. And you know what? It’s the only Oscar-nomination film from 2009 that I’ve seen. I used to be culturally hip, you know.

I’m torn on who will win. Not who I “want” to win, but who I “think” will win. There’s two schools of thoughts here: a war movie like “Hurt Locker” is bound to activate the Hollywood insurgents into voting. But “Avatar” is seen as the movie which can save movies. So there’s a solid business reason to give that movie, even with its trite premise and cliche-addled scripts (from what I’ve read about it), the award, anyway. Hollywood must keep pushing 3-D down our throats, so “Avatar” must win. It’s pocketbooks versus politics at the Oscars this year.

  • I don’t buy that 3D is going to be the next big thing. I just don’t see it happening, even if it did take over CES this year.

  • “Up” is a heart-breaking movie. It’ll break your heart three times before the twenty minute mark, and then twice more near the end. Yet, you’ll love it and root for all the right people. It’s the heaviest PIxar movie to date, though.

And it looks very very cool on Blu Ray.

  • “American Idol” has been a lot of fun this year so far, and Hollywood Week is starting next week. The thing that continues to astound me about “Idol” each year is how many singing single mothers they can find to put on stage… It’s sad, but “Idol” is turning into the Olympics: 3 minutes of show biz surrounded by ten minutes of documentaries explaining how wretched this contestant’s life has been.

  • The iPad looks cool. It’s not going to pass the Finance Committee’s desk without a veto, so I won’t likely be getting one. But I do think it’s the ultimate comic book reader. The exciting thing is how it’ll look in a year. When the second generation model comes out, perhaps even with a price drop, it’ll be interesting to see how many apps are out there, how much content you can put on it, etc. But I’m excited for it.

  • Adobe Flash sucks. Period. It’s the Comic Sans of web technologies and it can’t go away fast enough.

  • ALF is on Twitter. Must reading, daily.

  • Grammys: I listened to even less music than I watched movies in the theater. On the other hand, I’ve been out of music touch for a while now, so there’s nothing new there. I enjoy podcasts too much to stop to listen to much music.