- Modern Family Season 1 (2009), Christopher Lloyd & Steven Levitan – I’m not one for TV comedy generally, but this is a fantastic show. It all comes down to characters, with all of them being fully formed, hilarious individuals who continuously defy your expectations with their foibles. Manny is the best written character I’ve come across on television; whilst Ed O’Neill as the simultaneously grizzled yet endearing Jay is the character with the most growth, despite being the oldest. Great stuff.
- The Original Movie (1922), Tony Sarg – Incredible animation style stands out in this very early satire on the ‘business’ of the film industry and comments on artistic licence. A lot of the humour arises from the witty intertitles whilst a lot of the joy comes from admiring a visual style that is no longer produced. Manages to work in a few potshots at censorship as well, so you have to love that.
- Private Snafu: Spies (1943), Chuck Jones – An official American WWII propaganda cartoon directed by the iconic Chuck Jones. This is a real window into the past, essentially a warning to keep information confidential. Not much has changed in that regard, could almost be a contemporary anti-terrorism ad. The quite beautiful traditional animation, and familiar voices make this a treat to watch.
- The Sandlot Kids (1993), David M. Evans – I used to absolutely love this film as a kid, despite having little interest in baseball like most Aussie kids. Dennis Leary and Karen Allen are perfect as the parents of Scott Smalls, whilst the young cast members are all pretty excellent. Chief amongst them the charismatic leader of the crew Mike Vitar and the hilarious Patrick Renna, who was somewhat ubiquitous in family films of this vintage. I still absolutely love this film.
- Modern Family Season 2 (2010), Christopher Lloyd & Steven Levitan – Initially it seems as though the writing in this second season has lost some of the snap of the first. But it grows as the season progresses. The evolution and deepening of the various family relationships make this an intriguing, developing season. And the silly hi-jinks of Phil and Luke Dunphee are good for a fair quota of belly laughs.
- Little Nemo (1911), Winsor McCay – I came across this on the excellent Cineroulade site, which I encourage you all to check out. This story of a man creating very early animations features some incredible, if laboured drawings. It’s actually quite a gentle, funny comedy that for today’s audience showcases the technology of extremely old filmmaking. A great, fun combination of live action and animation.
Not Worth Watching:
- Burnt by the Sun (1994), Nikhita Mikhalkov – This Oscar award winning film is a surreally comic look at 30s Soviet Russia. However, at least early on, the comedy is not at all funny. The film concerns a respected Colonel, and the manner in which he is betrayed by the State. A few things work, the tender relationship between Colonel Kotov and his young wife and daughter for example. But unfortunately too much does not, the plot is pretty standard with an associate from the past returning to make trouble and overall, it’s all a bit unsatisfying.
- Before the Rain (1994), Milco Mancevski – This very slow moving Macedonian film suffers from the structural approach it takes. By dividing the narrative into an almost circular triptych, the film struggles to engage with the audience. I found this really quite a bore to watch. The last third is definitely the most satisfying, with a sense of character and journey. But the first two leave you too disinterested to really care.
- Prometheus (2012), Ridley Scott – Has more supremely original ideas than any film needs. But these are not integrated successfully into the script, which clunks. It looks amazing, with them design on par with the iconic earlier iterations of the franchise. But some of the actors are out of their depth, whilst neither the action or horror elements really worked for me. My major gripe though is that at times it felt like the film was trying to make me see the message, or ask life’s biggest questions, but forgetting to entertain me.
- Get the Gringo (2012), Adrian Grunberg – You can see why this went straight to DVD in other territories. It’s a pretty woeful and tired effort from Gibson et al. You would struggle to find more middle of the road filmmaking than this effort which literally put me to sleep. If you are hoping for over the top, prison break fun like I was, look elsewhere.
If you only have time to watch one Modern Family Series 1
Avoid at all costs Prometheus
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