The Land Before Time



When it comes to animation, there are few American names that can even attempt to stand up to Walt Disney in comparison to quality and recognizably. The animation game, especially as of late, has always been a battle between cheaply crafted cartoons and quality pieces of art. On one hand there are those willing to painstakingly portray masterful stories not just with well written scripts, but with beautiful animated images, sweeping scores to carry the watcher into the heart of the emotion being portrayed by expert voice actors. On the other hand is the opportunity to make a quick buck by producing something cheaply for the purpose of making a film that children will be eager to see. Don Bluth, maintained a level of animation excellence that remains unparalleled. His stories, unlike the majority of films produced by Disney at the time (whom he was once employed by) dealt seriously with issues of death and emotional trauma. In The Land Before Time we’re introduced to a world filled, not only with vivid color and cute characters, but with danger, death and heartache.


    The Land Before Time was co-produced by Don Bluth, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Ultimately, Bluth had the reigns as the director of the film. The story follows Littlefoot, a small “long neck” dinosaur who lives during a time when the earth is changing and becoming less hospitable to his kind. The herbivore dinosaurs speak of a legend called “The Great Valley”. In essence it is a utopia where food and water is plentiful. Littlefoot’s mother teaches him to memorize the way to the great valley. As he soon finds himself quite alone, finding this legend becomes the premise of the whole movie. While Littlefoot’s mother is loving, she did manage to instill some serious prejudices in him. The majority of the young dinosaurs have been taught to stick to their own kind. When Littlefoot finds that he is alone, he realizes his best chance for survival is to team up with a group of other young dinosaurs that have also been separated from their family. Not only are they in search of The Great Valley, but they must fend off a number of dangers, including the dreaded “Sharptooth”. Pride, anger and devastating loss fuel the heavy themes laden throughout this animated feature.


     The Land Before Time name has unfortunately become synonymous with the cheap animated film. With at least 12 sequels, the franchise quickly became a cash cow. Needless to say, Bluth was not involved with the lesser sequels. What has become a common rabble of animation initially started as a rare gem. Bluth took the time to craft a deeply moving film for children about real issues that any number of the audience could have been dealing with, and he did it in an engaging way that upheld his artistic integrity to both story and the visual medium. The fact that Bluth managed to give Disney a run for their money is testament enough to his skill as an animator and a story teller, but he continued with his creations, constantly coming out with weighty cartoons that had dark character in dark worlds searching for that glimmer of hope, much like what life actually is. Given the resources and the manpower, one can’t help but wonder what other works Bluth would have created in his career. The Land Before Time has, in my house, stood the test of time, it’s sitting on my shelf on VHS, one of the few reasons that I keep my VCR.

The Hudsucker Proxy


        Hyperbole is a dangerous, but completely necessary, tool of the filmmakers trade. Thankfully, few wield the tool better than the Coen brothers when it comes to their craft. The pair have consistently create fascinatingly odd movies with unparalleled quality in both storytelling and pitch-perfect casting. What they tend to strive in is a rare type of subtle exaggeration of what makes traditional film-making so effective. This is demonstrated exceptionally well in The Hudsucker Proxy a comedy that affectionately pays homage to the fast talking romantic comedies of the 40s and 50s in which fast talking newspaper men and women did whatever it took to get a story and every day Joe Schmo’s could get a shot at running big companies. The early days of narrative talkies is long gone, but in 1994 the Coen brothers teamed up with Sam Raimi and wrote a story that uses the past as a template for humor and originality. Slight exaggeration of the past is placed tenderly into a full color screwball comedy created decades after this type of film was thought to be long gone.


    Tim Robbins plays the eager and bright eyed business school graduate named Norville Barnes. Barnes acquires a job in the mail room of the enormous “Hudsucker Industries” a nondescript mega corporation whose owner commits suicide within the first minutes of the film. Sidney Mussberger (Paul Newman) convinces the board to put a nobody in charge of the company in order to make the stocks plummet so they can then buy up the majority of the shares and make the company successful again. Barnes happens to be in the right place at the right time and is handed the company on a silver platter. In the meantime, the newspapers are chomping at the bit to get the scoop on this new sap. Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is the star, Pulitzer winning reporter who takes it upon herself to get in close with the new boss and find out just whats going on. The board is thrown for a loop when Norville’s ideas bring in profit, which is the last thing they want to happen.


    The Hudsucker Proxy is the closest thing to a modern day Frank Capra film we’ve seen in decades. The legendary director of such films as It Happened One Night, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life often used fast talking characters, witty dialogue and a feel good story to draw in an audience. Taking a page out of Capra’s book, the Coen brothers deliver a modern rendition of something that Capra could have written himself. The film is beautifully crafted with sprinklings of bygone gimmicks, including but not limited to: Angels, narrators who control the story, screwball comedy, busy newsrooms and countless other elements that we’ve seen in films from the past. The entire movie is a lovingly made piece of history to honor the type of movie that everyone knows and loves, while giving us a new story, a new plot to cheer for with the same type of characters we’ve seen in black and white for generations. The score matches the emotions of the characters perfectly and the sets are incredible and larger than life. The movie uses incredibly witty dialogue and jokes to fuel the progression of the comedy, but never shies away from the physical pratfall gag when it’s necessary.


    I literally had no idea what to expect when I put this movie into my DVD player. It wasn’t until I watched the end credits that I even realized that either Coen brother or Sam Raimi had anything to do with it;  a privilege of ignorance that I experience less frequently than I used to. When the movie started I immediately felt like I was being greeted by an old classic, the likes of which I had never seen in such stark colors or with these particular actors. For the duration of the film I simply enjoyed the progression of a kind and warm plot told by a gentle narrator; familiar but entirely new. It was a feat that very few could have accomplished, but one that was, in this instance, done very near perfectly.



    George Lucas has become one of the most controversial icons in fiction history. He is attributed with creating some of the most successful films and franchises in the history of the medium; most notably, of course, being the Star Wars films. His stories thrilled audiences throughout the 70s and 80s, but today he’s continues to frustrate his fans by tampering with Star Wars and refusing to release the rights to the theatrical releases. He also was responsible for adding an extra chapter to his Indiana Jones series that certainly dropped the overall average of the franchise in the eyes of the public. All controversy aside, it is absolutely safe to say that Lucas was a pioneer for modern special effects and genre pieces as a whole. Star Wars and Indiana Jones were absolutely fantastic, appealing to the sense of adventure and curiosity imbued in all film viewers on a scale the likes of which had not been matched on film. What those franchises did for Science Fiction and Adventure films, Willow did for Fantasy, unfortunately with far less recognition.


    Willow follows the path of the titular Nelwyn, a fictional race that is represented by a cast comprised entirely of people affected by dwarfism. Willow discovers a Daikini (Daikinis being the equivilant of humans in this fantasy realm) infant. It is soon discovered that this infant is in fact the chosen princess to whom the throne belongs. She has long been sought after by the evil Bavmorda, who wishes to destroy the child and extend her reign of terror over the land. Along the way Willow meets various friends of various species who aid him in his quest to protect the rightful heir.


    Lucas wrote a classic sword and sorcery flick, and he did it specifically with families in mind. Willow is practically dripping with all the classic cliché fantasy morals, classic good vs evil stuff, but it’s done in a way that is an absolute blast. This was made on the cutting edge of special effects, when CGI was brand new and practical effects were still widely used. While some of the more ambitious action sequences certainly look dated, it’s refreshing to go back and watch a movie unfold before the use of CG elements became absolutely rampant, particularly in a Lucas film. Long before The Lord of The Rings, Willow filmed on location in New Zealand, portraying sweeping, epic landscapes to accompany an eclectic set of fantasy/adventure scenarios. Everything from the costumes to the set designs to the special effects just looks the part for a fantasy story; even the age of the film ads to the beauty of the movie.


    The movie allows you to not only to be entertained by the way it looks, but Lucas shows off his writing skills by giving us genuine character development (something that was sorely lacking in the Star Wars prequels). The actors selected to play the protagonists did an absolute fantastic job of encompassing their character. Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer never miss a beat as the hero, Willow, and Madmartigan, respectively. The pacing allows for ample time to both wow the audience visually and draw them into the lives of those on the screen. It lacks the overly lengthy run-time of modern fantasy “epics” but manages to offer a fun and well written addition to the genre.


    Willow certainly earned it’s status as a cult classic; the adventure aspect of the film measures up to Indiana Jones and Star Wars despite it’s lesser acknowledgments. It was created in a time, as my friend and fellow blogger Ryan Partlow points out, when children’s films were carefully crafted before they were presented to the audience… at least the good ones were anyway.

Where The Wild Things Are


Maurice Sendak’s beautifully eery stories and illustrations became a force in the world of children’s literature in the early 1960s. His career spanned multiple decades and his works continue to influence the imagination of young readers as well as those that simply appreciate the pictures he drew. Sendak’s most popular work, by far, was his book Where The Wild Things Are, a story whose images and plot is perhaps the most famous in the history of his medium. The story of a little boy who, after being sent to bed with no supper, creates a world in his room. This world is filled with wild undergrowth, massive trees and, of course, huge monsters who had to obey his every whim. It was a simple story with huge illustrations and an even bigger heart, a piece of work that drew you in, regardless of your age.


Sendak’s crowning achievement has dawned the walls of countless children’s sections of countless city libraries for decades. It was only a matter of time before someone took a crack at turning this beloved jewel into a feature length film. So, in 2009 Spike Jones gave it a shot. Where The Wild Things brought the awe inspiring power of a child’s imagination to the big screen, and It did it in live action, foregoing the easier road that would have been paved by computer animation. What could have easily been a standard formula kid flick turned out to be something much more interesting. That imagination that becomes our lens into the mind of a troubled little boy shows us wonder and excitement, but it also shows us fear and anger at exaggerated and often frightening levels. Jones shows us these things primarily with his use of cinematography, the entire movie shows this massive world, effectively making the viewer remember how big the backyard used to be when they were six.


From the get-go, it’s obvious that Jones had high ambitions for this film. We see what a somewhat unstable home life is like for Max, the hero of our story, from his perspective. He’s angsty, angry, energetic and quite often selfish. He is, however, just a young boy dealing with a grown up world. When he runs away from home and finds a ship that takes him to an island filled with monsters, we’re really just watching how difficult the emotions of a child can be to deal with. What were originally just monsters romping around the forest with Max in the children’s book turns into a dysfunctional family that Max has to deal with and try not to let down. There are parts of this movie that make absolutely no sense if you can’t allow yourself to see the situation from the eyes of Max; which is really all Spike Jones is trying to get you to do.


Where The Wild Things Are was nothing what I expected it would be. It’s a dark and dramatic movie that deals with some pretty heavy issues surrounding family and the dysfunctionality that goes along with having one. It’s relatable, in that these struggles are almost universal and the heightened emotions are certainly familiar to anyone that remembers their childhood. The film as a whole struggles with some pacing issues that no amount of beautiful costuming and cinematography can cover up. However it’s a film the likes of which you rarely see. Jones took a big chance with one of the most famous books of all time, and it pays off in that he refused to submit this to a formula, instead he gave us a visually breathtaking film about children but not exclusively for them. It’s a whimsical world that’s easy to get lost in, especially with a perfectly paired soundtrack and some very impressive visuals.

Let’s Talk About The Princess Bride, Shall We?


I feel like this post may cover some obvious ground for a lot of my readers, but after learning that my wife has never seen the original Star Wars trilogy all the way through, I feel like I can’t leave anything up to chance any more. As most of you know, back in the 1980s a little movie called The Princess Bride was released. It was written by one of the most talented writers to ever pen a screen play; William Goldman. The movie will always remain one of my absolute favorite films, regardless of it’s superficial flaws. What I fear is that the movie has reached the level that many before it’s time have reached. It’s one of those films that everyone can quote and acknowledge how great it is, despite a massive decrease in the amount of people that have actually watched it. For example; I knew quotes from The Godfather years before I actually watched the movie.  FilmDrunk actually reported the results of a survey of the top 10 films that people lied about watching.

The Princess Bride has been elevated to a legendary status in pop culture. One need merely don a faux Spanish accent and quote the unforgettable line of vengeance uttered by Inigo Montoya in order to gain a grin of familiarity from a total stranger. The impact that the story of Westley and Buttercup has had on our culture is vast. Virtual badges can be seen throughout internet social sites, T-shirts with quotations from the movie are sold in novelty stores, and a devout following has been attracted to the high spirited adventure tale.

Released in 1987, The Princess Bride was, on the surface, nothing new. The 1980s was notable for a good number of Fantasy flicks, such as The Never Ending Story, Labyrinth, and Ridley Scott’s Legend. Despite all these films displaying far more stunning visual effects for the time, William Goldman’s story about True love and High adventure remains the most notable. Taking the helm to direct the film was Rob Reiner, who helped bring the beloved book by William Goldman to the big screen, and into the hearts of generations to come. It wasn’t a grand spectacle, visually speaking, but what it was, was one of the best written Fantasy stories ever put to screen. Goldman tells a story that everyone loves. True love conquers all. Never backing away from the fact that love is never easy, he tugs at the heartstrings of all his viewers. The enduring characters that Goldman creates let us know exactly what side we want to win. The viewer is led on a journey of emotions ranging from agony, to joy, hate, to love, all the while keeping a light tone without compromising the drama at all.

The recognition that The Princess Bride received after it’s release continues to grow. Both critics and audiences continue to love it. In a 2000 edition of it’s magazine, “Total Film” magazine named The Princess Bride the 38th greatest comedy film of all time. In A similar report in 2006, “The Writers Guild of America” selected the screenplay as number 84 of all time. But the reason for the enduring tale is not in the critical recognition, it rests in the fans. The devout following continues to grow.

Goldman was no stranger to the writing game when he penned The Princess Bride, at this time he was well known for many screen plays and novels, the most notable being Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, however none come so close to the hearts of it’s viewers as The Princess Bride, which became, and remains a high standard to measure up against in the film industry. Seriously, I know this is true in most cases, but the book is actually better than the movie simply because Goldman isn’t limited by an hour and a half run time. We’re given hilarious and heart wrenching views into the pasts of every character and he writes with a sharp wit that could never be fully translated to the screen.

True Love conquers all…Even if it takes a while. This is not only the claim of the film, but it is a view that is expected from a movie by most of the population. How this holds up to actual beliefs is hard to tell, but the idea of love being the strongest bond on earth is not a new idea. The claim is warranted through society and pop culture, this is what people want to believe, as is evident in movies, music and television. Goldman used a fairly simplistic and common idea, and elaborated around it. We see Goldman’s genius shine through by mixing fantasy, classic love story structure, and comedy all the while eloquently giving millions of viewers a simple, recognized idea in a complex and thoroughly enjoyable, relatable, and entertaining shell that is The Princess Bride.

If you happen to be in the Bellingham WA area on August 24th 2013 you can watch the The Princess Bride outdoors on a big screen with hundreds of other fans thanks to the Fairhaven Outdoor Cinema, a series of events that happen throughout the summer.  There is a fantastic lineup of films this summer, and The Princess Bride is just one of them.

Wrapping up the case for the Turtles: TMNT



Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

This is it, the final installment into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise until the Michael Bay produced re-boot happens sometime next year. While I will continue to remain overly optimistic about the project until proven wrong, it is getting harder and harder to not groan at some of the casting and artistic choices he’s taken. Anywho, where were we? Ah, yes! TMNT the fourth and final chapter in the original Turtle saga. When we last left the Turtles they had visited ancient japan in a zany and pun-ridden adventure to save April. This plot line essentially left us waiting 14 years for another movie. Perhaps it was the rapid succession that the first three films came onto the scene that made public movie goers a bit weary, but thankfully, we got to see the four reptilian crime fighting brothers in action once again. This time, the whole thing is wrapped in a medium that may have been more suited to their particular needs.


TMNT, although a direct sequel to the previous three live action movies, is completely computer animated. As impressive as Henson’s costumes were, and as cool as it was to see Casey Jones and April as real life actors for the first time on screen, it becomes immediately apparent that the turtles are just as comfortable in an animated environment as a live action one, perhaps more so. The film picks up on the Turtles roughly a year (perhaps more?) after their last adventure. Leonardo left for leadership training/self discovery in the forests of south America. He is eventually discovered by April, who is no longer a reporter but a procurer of rare artifacts. April convinces him that his year absence from his brothers has put the Turtle team on stand still indefinitely. He returns just as a group of stone warriors and monsters begins to tear apart the city. Before they can confront the monsters however, they must learn a valuable lesson about the importance of teamwork and they value of differences.


The basic message of this film is as obvious and as blatant as a locker room pep talk. Work together, you’re only as strong as your weakest link etc. etc. But in a way, that’s what the Turtles are all about, so it’s unsurprising. The story actually holds up quite well in spite of certain dialogue issues. The characters have changed slightly, overly emphasizing the differences in personality. The biggest and most annoying change happens with Michelangelo, who has kept his jokester demeanor, but is significantly dumbed down to the point of irritation. Goofy wit is exchanged for dimwittedness. And what the whole plot boils down to is the conflict between Raph and Leo, with the most emotionally charged scene being a martial arts battle between the two of them.


Visually, this movie nailed it. It uses a mixture of vibrant colors with dark shadows to convey the unique universe that has become home to the Turtles, and the cinematography allows for some truly cool looking action sequences that are unparalleled in the series. The voice acting is pretty great as well, particularly with the addition of Mako, who voices Splinter. While different than any other version, Mako brings a surprising range to the character, with more humor but the same amount of weight and seriousness behind his words and warnings.


TMNT found it’s stride early on in the opening sequence. By the time the logo flashes onto the screen I was already amped up for the return of the pizza loving, heroes in a half shell. While script issues are obvious (a problem that has plagued every Turtles movie) TMNT steps it up visually and compliments it all with a story that fits the animated world that the franchise cozies into. The film both ties in nicely with the previous three movies, while at the same time giving hope of a continuation of the animated re-boot . The end of the film promised an animated sequel with old enemies returning. Instead, they handed the reigns to Michael Bay. That, however, will never discredit the four film series that gave the Turtles a shot at the big screen, with incredible results.

The (Ever Dwindling) Case for the Turtles: Part 3



Part 1    Part 2    Part 4

Well, going into this whole “tell why I like the turtle franchise” series I knew that I was going to have to confront what is almost universally known as the worst of the bunch. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III uses the ever popular time-travel-trope in an attempt to maintain the momentum that the first two movies managed to generate. I feel like a review of the movie isn’t going to help my case for why I love this series, so rather, I’ll give a brief synopsis of the film and then a list of why it was actually, somewhat enjoyable to see the Turtles succumb to a new level of mediocrity.

      Turtles in Time as I’ve come to call it, mostly due to the NES game that far surpasses the movie, presents us with our favorite heroes in a half-shell shortly after they’ve defeated Shredder for a second time (and this time for good). April is en rout for a much needed vacation, and, for reasons I will never be able to understand, decides to give the Turtles some radical (read: terrible) gifts from a flea market before heading out. Among the random assortment of thrift store rubbish is an ancient scepter that she thinks looked Japanese, so she naturally picks it up for Splinter. Naturally, things go horribly wrong when the scepter turns out to be an ancient time machine that hurtles April into ancient Japan, while simultaneously throttling the emperors rebellious son into the future in her place. No surprise, the Turtles head back after her, leaving a slightly confused Casey Jones to watch over the emperors son, as well as four of the emperors royal guards who swapped places with the turtles. A number of challenges await the turtles in the past, namely finding April and the time scepter so they can get back home. There is also the rebellion they decide to help out… since they’re in town. The Turtles find themselves face to face with a group of traders that seek to bring firepower to the side of the oppressive emperor.

That’s the long and the short of it, and I’ll just give you a quick heads up on some of the negative aspects of it. The script and dialogue is worse than the other two films combined, the turtles aren’t done by Jim Henson so they look weird, the time scepter plot makes less sense than the turtles origin story and the ridiculousness level is at an all time high. That’s just to name a few problems, but what makes it worth watching? Lets do this in list form, shall we?



  1. Time Travel: The over-used time travel schtick was one of the worst things about it, but it was also one of the best things about it. Getting the Turtles out of their regular environment was something that needed to be done, they had been fighting the same bad guy for two films in the same city with very little change. Also, the way the time scepter works is that if someone in the past, the scepter it activates at the same time in the future. Which, in linear terms makes absolutely no sense. Making the only plausible explanation is that the two time lines are in separate universes. Given the turtles history with other dimensions (namely X) this makes perfect sense, and actually ads to the canon quite nicely
  2. Higher Production Value: You’re not going to be watching the best period piece by any stretch of the imagination, that’s evident by the majority of the actors they hired. Still, it was pretty fun seeing all the sets and costumes look like they jumped out of ancient Japan. The traders even added a little swash-buckle to the franchise, and that’s always nice.
  3. Casey Came Back: Casey Jones’ absence from Secret of the Ooze, was inexcusable. He was easily the most entertaining part of the first movie, and he’s back in the third one. It’s a shame his role is slightly watered down and takes second fiddle to the main plot, but he brings about the few laughs that the film has to offer as the babysitter of ancient warriors in modern day New York.
  4. It’s Still the Turtles: The movie wasn’t great, but it hadn’t sunk to a level that the poorly made live action TV show would become. Most of the bad dialogue and corny jokes are excusable because the this franchise is so unique. Very few studios would take on a project like this. A live action film about four mutant Ninja Turtles going back in time to aid a rebellion in ancient Japan doesn’t really sound like something you would see outside of the SyFy channel; but this was different, everyone in 1993 wanted to see just that.


It’s sad to see the franchise sink to the level that Turtles III sank to, however it isn’t without it’s merits. We get a chance to see the turtles in a new environment fighting new enemies with some overly formulaic jokes and pop culture references. It’s certainly worth watching, at least once while powering through the four movies that comprise this series. Sure, it’s the film that stopped production of TMNT movies for a solid 14 years, but it wasn’t the end for the Turtles quite yet.





I’ve talked about quality Children’s movies in the past, mostly due to the fact that they’re a difficult monster to tackle. Rather than giving in to the thought process that children are far less critical of movies and making something that is just passable as entertainment is A-OK, some go the extra mile to not only make a good movie for kids, but a good movie in general. In a recent viewing of the 1995 film Jumanji I was impressed at just how well it has held up over time. It implemented not only a talented cast, but an exciting and heartfelt story about dealing with ones fears and the importance of friendship. Not to mention it allowed the viewers imagination to run wild.


We’re introduced to Alan, a young boy who is led to find a mysterious board game buried deep in a construction site.  It’s all very mysterious. We’re given a glimpse into Alan’s life, the complicated relationship he has with his father and the problems with local bullies. Alan eventually finds himself playing the new found game with Sarah Whittle, a neighbor girl whom he has a slight crush on. As soon as the game begins the atmosphere changes and abnormality abounds. Alan rolls poorly, to say the least, and Sarah watches helplessly as he is literally sucked into the core of the game board, screaming. She runs from the house and never returns. The movie then jumps forward 26 years, and two other children find themselves in a very similar situation.


Jumanji proved to be a popular movie in it’s time, and looking back it’s evident as to why that was the case. The visuals in the film, for one thing, are good even by today’s standards (with a few exceptions). It’s largely acknowledged that this was a big step in the process of moving towards a wider use of CGI in film. The premise of jungle like elements flowing from a board game and into the real world is an extremely fun premise, but it’s pieced together with a coherent and emotionally relateable story. The cast also does a fantastic job, with Robin Williams leading the way and a young Kirsten Dunst starring alongside. Williams portrays a child stuck in a grown man’s body perfectly as the older version of Alan, the boy that gets sucked into the Jumanji. He uses his naturally energetic nature to capture the essence of the child while utilizing his talent as a dramatic actor to deal with the serious nature of what’s happened to him.


The film appeals to the endued sense of adventure, curiosity and imagination the resides in the heart of anyone that was a child. Growing up I would often speculate with friends weather or not I would play Jumanji, given the chance. It’s a quality piece of family entertainment that allows movie night to be accompanied by an unprecedented level of quality. There are far things more exciting than having a rain forest in your living room, and with Jumanji, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Inspector General

Inspector general


The Inspector General allows one of the greatest comedic actors of all time to explore the social awkwardness of a lower class citizen being put into the position of an Inspector General, an official whose job it is to inspect villages, expose corruption and place it’s affairs in order. Danny Kay, (White Christmas) plays Georgi, a man with far too large a heart to be an adequate assistant to the con man he works for. Kay is an incredible, multi-talented thespian with impeccable comedic timing. He is the main attraction to this quirky little period comedy, however he is surrounded by an equally odd supporting cast that adds to the humor and unique nature of the film.

Georgi, after being thrown out of his traveling medicine show, is forced to wander off on his own. His tattered clothes leave him looking like a tramp, eventually causing him to use a counterfeited piece of parchment bearing the fake insignia of the emperor, Napoleon, to plug up a hole in his shoe. He wanders into a small town and is almost immediately accused of stealing a horse. The town, whose leaders are full of corruption, learn that there is an Inspector General traveling incognito from town to town, doling out death penalties to inadequate governmental leaders. Long story short, thanks to the counterfieted signature in his boot, Georgi is mistaken as the Inspector General and must overcome the fact that he is an illiterate con-man who is generally too kind to pull any wool over anyone’s eyes.

Though simplistic, the plot works extremely well, especially with Danny Kay leading the way. At one point in the film, he doesn’t entirely know what’s happening when all of the sudden he is released from jail and is offered a feast in his honor. Due to the fact that he hasn’t eaten in 3 days, he gladly overlooks the oddity of the situation and tries his best to play the part just long enough to get something to eat. It isn’t until he passes out after the meal and wakes up the next morning that he realizes the position he’s found himself in. Kay proves himself to be an oft overlooked master of slapstick physical comedy, as well as witty banter.

Though it’s understandable that The Inspector General isn’t the most well known of Kay’s films, it certainly is given less attention than it deserves. It lacks some of the vibrancy of The Court Jester and it doesn’t have the star power associated with White Christmas, however the little odd-ball movie has, much like it’s main character, a huge heart. It is, for lack of a better description, a nice movie. Our protagonist is kind and wanting to help others before helping himself, he demonstrates a level of love to complete strangers that is almost never returned in the film, and yet it isn’t sad. Georgi’s kindness transcends the actions that others do to him, and he instead focuses on how he himself treats others, which is often times quite humorous.


The case for the Turtles part 2: The Secret of the Ooze


Part 1 Part 3 Part 4

 It is universally recognized that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze is not as good as its predecessor (which, itself, was hardly loved by critics). I took it upon myself to re-watching my favorite childhood franchise, start to finish and see just how it’s held up these past few decades. The heroes in a half-shell had their work cut out for them in their previous movie, and against all odds they were victorious over both the foot clan and the box office naysayers of 1990. With huge success the Turtles were green-lit for a second movie. Some of the major changes in the sequel came in the form of new characters, a more cartoony feel, a much larger budget, and less usage of the Turtles signature weapons. Not that the weapons weren’t there, just that many people complained about how dark and violent the first movie was. Their wishes were accommodated, despite consideration for if it would effect the movie at all.


Secret of the Ooze delves more deeply into the origins of the Turtles history. The angsty reptiles meet new friends and fight new enemies as they attempt to piece together the fragments of their past that has been dredged up quite unexpectedly. The mutigent that created them has been discovered to be toxic waste which is being disposed of by a scientific research firm. The foot clan decides that they want some mutants on their side (who wouldn’t, right?) and swipe the last bottle of the ooze in order to create Toka and Razar a pair of giant monstrosities the do the bidding of their master. Not only do the turtles have to stop Toka and Razar, they’re forced to confront the foot Clan once more. Shredder wanted a crime empire in the first Turtles movie, but in the follow up he’s after a much more enticing dish…revenge!

As was the case from the first movie, there is absolutely no lack of corny dialogue and bad puns. We’re treated to a veritable barrage of early 90s slang mixed with exaggerated teenaged emotions encapsulated in the shell of four giant turtles. The violence in the movie is toned down, but the budget is ramped up. While it’s certainly more akin to the cartoon than Turtles I the bigger budget allows for a more polished feel to the whole experience. At the time, the audience of the franchise was overwhelmingly children. Because of this, the Turtles walked a fine line between good family entertainment and hard hitting martial arts.

Secret of the Ooze is thoroughly enjoyable; at least I find it so. As a child this was my favorite of the three Turtle films I was accustomed to watching, and it’s undoubtedly attributed to three things. 1) A more polished sense of action. Sure, the weapons were used little to none in this film, but the action sequences were visually more entertaining and sleek than the first film. 2) The jokes land better than the previous installment. All the jokes in the franchise are groan worthy, but even watching the films now, I found the humor to be much more pungent in Ooze. 3) Vanilla Ice. As this came out in, arguably, the strangest decade I’ve had the privilege to live through, I absolutely found Vanilla Ice’s rendition of “Go Ninja” so compelling that it became my anthem for years. While these reasons stood strong for my childhood, I can’t help but realize just how mistaken I was. As fun as The Secret of the Ooze is, it shadows in comparison to the film that started the film franchise.