Saturday, February 29, 2020
Vinni Pukh: The Russian Winnie the Pooh (1969-1972) [The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense's The Shortening]
Russian animation has a long history, and for all the cracks made about how they look like they were animated at gunpoint in gulags, they often looked good, and usually no worse than what America/the U.S. was producing at the time
Vinni Pukh is a = bear living in the Forest of 1000 Trees. On an everpresent search for honey, he gets himself into various scrapes and fixes, but can rely on friends like Piglet to get him out of trouble. If he's lucky he might even learn a [valuable] lesson in the process!
Winnie the Pooh has seen a few different adaptions over the years, with the famous one being from Disney. Everyone has the mental image of what he looks like in their minds, with the yellow fur, red shirt, and gentle voice. Russia's answer to the character is quite different though! Shorter, louder, and more active by a mile, he's a lot of fun.
Aesthetic/Visual differences like that aside though, these are very faithful renditions of the original stories. It tells them nicely, and in a very humourous way. The = narrator gives a great = The only big ommission is the lack of Christopher Robin, because the creators felt the animals would work better as equals, rather than having superior human in the bunch.
Onto the characters. Comrade the Pooh is a ball of =. Silly, somewhat philosophical, and determined to get honey no matter what, he's an endearing lead. Piglet meanwhile is simply the most adorable thing to have ever lived, both visually and =! Other characters such as Rabbit, Owl, and Eeyore also show up gradually, and are each amusing in different ways, with the perpetually depressed Eeyore being the closest in appearance to the one everyone knows. It's entertaining seeing how all these varied characters interact, and they're always up to something.
The actors in Vinni Pukh ranged from serious professionals to =. The narration is by = Vladimir Osenev, who delivers a goof mix of sincerity and almost-sarcasm to the porceedings. Yevgeny Leonov entertains as the hyperactive lead, and Iya Savvina is cute and sweet as Piglet. Everyone else does their jobs well, with not a bad moment in the bunch.
The animation here is simple and not the most expensive in the world, but it looks very good nonetheless. The characters are designed well, their movements are fluid, and the painted backdrops have a lovely pastel quality to them. Everyone fits [well] with their surroundings
There's only one downside to Vinni Pukh, and that's length.There are only three episodes, running 1t 10, 10, and 20 minutes, respectively. This = is so good, yet we have so little to enjoy, over and done with before you =.
The legacy of this show has been great, both in its mother country and abroad. At home in Russia it's been given numerous awards, and their own murals, statues, and stamps, and back in America, the animator behind the more well known Winnie the Pooh movies felt this version to be superior! It's heartening to know that despite its short life, the work put into this series paid off well for everyone. If you enjoy lighthearted animation, or if you have kids, Vinni Pukh is the thing for you!
Friday, February 28, 2020
A book series I've recently discovered is the Australian [series] Alice-Miranda, which follows the adventures of the titular young heroine as she meets colourful people, fights dastardly villains, helps those in need, and embarks on thrilling escapades. They're an absolute joy to read. Adorable, adventurous, never condescending, and they can get pretty bloody heavy at times too! It's always nice reading something that knows to be sweet without being saccharine, and mature without getting too grim.
Alice-Miranda Highton-Smith Kennington-Jones has just started life at the boarding school Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale, and is excited to meet everyone there and learn new things. She makes fast friends with many girls, as well as some enemies, and with their help she sets out to win any challenges thrown at her, and discover the mystery behind the school's elusive headmistress...
I was really looking forward to this movie! I knew a movie based on the books was coming, but figured it was a long way off yet. Then one day I was casually scanning through the week's new tv guide, when BAM, Alice-Miranda on at 5:30! I dutifully parked myself in front of the tv, all ready for what was no doubt going to be an adorable and fun movie, AND....
Oh boy, I hated this movie!
This is an example of an adaption done plain wrong! It starts off alright, but lots of little things kept cropping up. It began rushing through the book's story like crazy, and got the sequence of events all wrong. The book has a nice and breezy pace, quick to read but taking its time with the story. The movie however feels like it's rushing to adapt as much as it can before it reaches the finish line. It doesn't seem to care about doing it well, but doing it just to say they have. For example, the 3 challenges Alice-Miranda has to go through in the book are here breezed through all in one scene, like they were nothing. There was no camping or thrilling boat race either, or Alethea cheating. The stuff with the prowler hasn't even been mentioned yet, despite coming up much earlier in the book, namely because the third challenge was the climax!
There are many events that I was afraid were just dropped altogether, but they do show up, eventually being the key word. Anything dramatic is just stripped away though, in one scene moreso than any others. What should be a slow and sombre scene, set by moonlight, is instead over and done with very quickly and matter-of-factly, in broad daylight.
Then, with only about 25 minutes left, it suddenly ignores the ending of Miss Grimm's redemption and starts adapting Book 3! As you can imagine, trying to fit in the whole third book and end the first in only 25 minutes is an insane idea, and goes as well as you'd expect.
Now onto the characters. Alice-Miranda is translated decently in places, but comes across a bit more =, naive, and dare I say stupid at times in this version. Some of the characters feel how they did in the books, though not realised properly, while others were completely different! The biggest difference is the school bully Alethea, who's merged visually with a mean girl from a later book, and given other main girl Jacinta's mother troubles.
Then guess who shows up-Sloane! The mean girl they already merged with another character! Geez, it's one thing to compress characters together, but it's another entirely to ignore even that and include them all anyway. What are they gonna do with these characters when they're now identical?!
The headmistress Miss Grimm really gets shafted. In the book she spends her whole time cooped up in her office until the end, and has no wish to see anyone, but she still shares scenes with Alice-Miranda, and interacts with the students. She's a mean piece of work for the majority of the book, which makes the reveal later on work so well, and her redemption so sweet. Here though she feels less mean and more sad and isolated, so the ending doesn't have the same punch as it should.
One last note is names. With ones like Jacinta Headlington-Bear, you can tell the series has some kooky appellations! The movie says them very [matter-of-factly] though, as if they're the most normal names in the world, which loses the humourous impact they would have had. With jokes like these you don't wanna lay it on too thick, but no-one likes unbuttered toast!
The voice acting here is tolerable at best, pretty bad at worst. More than a few performances are clunky or unendearing, and it really made the film a chore to watch!
The animation here is nice as still images, looking very clean and cute, although it seems a bit cheap in motion, feeling very much on a TV budget. I'm not quite sure if the audio totally matched with the visuals either, kinda like a bad dub. There's some nice diversity and representation here, which is good. Some of the characters' visuals annoyed me though, such as the cook, with her star shaped pudding hair!
You're probably wondering if there's anything about this movie I did like. Well, I did really appreciate that everyone's Australian! The book's pretty ambiguous about its location (and it definitely takes place in a different and nicer world than ours), but it's pretty clearly England. Here though they changed it up to the nationality of the series, which I liked. It may not be strictly on-book, and we Aussies might not nearly be that classy, but I appreciate it nonetheless! Oy oy oy!
Alice-Miranda: Friends Forever is a great example of what not to do when adapting a book, and what happens when laziness overtakes inspiration. If you're trying to adapt a book but you're lazy, that's PERFECT/perfect. You don't need to exert yourself because the author already did all the hard work. All you need to do is let it play out as on the page, but some people can't help but tinker (or in this case butcher) the source material, try and tell their own story, or just mess things up. This is one bad movie, and I don't recommend it in the slightest. The books though are absolutely wonderful, and I highly recommend you seek them out if you're at all interested in schoolgirl adventures!
Thursday, February 27, 2020
Scooby Doo and the Gourmet Ghost (2018) [The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense's The Shortening]
Scooby Doo is a property that rarely disappoints. Not every episode or every movie might be golden, but =. It's still got it, too! Even the newer movies are often great fun, regardless of what gimmicks they use, case in point Scooby Doo and the Gourmet Ghost...
The Scooby Gang is invited to the Rocky Harbour Culinary Institute by Fred's uncle Bobby Flay. Everything goes well to begin with, as the gang meet the colourful set of people at the resort, but things take a turn for the worse when the sun goes down, and the Red Ghost comes knocking...
Scooby Doo and the Gourmet Ghost is a funny entry in the long-running film series, showing no signs of age. The story is fresh, and typical. It has everything you expect, while enough new things to keep you amused and surprised. The humour always works, and there's never a dull moment.
The mystery in The Gourmet Ghost is very well done. It's not obvious from the get-go, and culminates with a reveal that's a surprise, and effective in all but one element (I'd exp[lain, but no spoilers!). You'll think it's the obvious party (possibly even thinking ill of the movie's script if they did stick with them as the culprit), never suspecting the ghost's true identity, and there's always enough intrigue to keep you on your toes, and enough suspects to sift through. Really the only problem is that some of these suspects don't appear nearly enough.
An area I feel the movie particularly excels is its mixing of old and new. The usage of technology in The Gourmet Ghost is really neat! Some of it is fanciful, some quite realistic, making for nice = [surprises] The idea of mentioning modern day technology in Scooby Doo can feel odd, as while the series has always had a floating timeline, mentioning cutting edge modern day = in such a 6-s style series can feel odd at times. Never = though, as these = always hit the mark.
The big gimmick to this film is its use of celebrity chefs, such as Bobby Flay and Giada de Laurentiis. I don't know a great deal about either of those two, so whether they're ok people in real life or = assholes I wouldn't know, but they acquit themselves pretty well here. The concept as a whole of using celebrity chef s= is gimmicky and pretty cheesy in places, with its fair share of clumsy namedropping, but overall it works pretty well, and they don't feel superfluous for the most part.
The main cast of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy, and Scooby are fun as always. They each get plenty to do, either together or separately, and you're never left with too much or too little of anyone. characters
Where The Gourmet Ghost does run the risk of losing its viewers is in some of the characters. They can border/verge on annoying at times! TV's Skip Taylor for example get sa few laughs, but most of the time I wanted him dead. Jeremiah Noseworthy is fine for the most part, although that kind of character, from his personality to his voice, could grate on others.
The acting here is all good. The Scooby Gang are perfect, with longtime cast member Frank Welker still providing the voices for both Fred and Scooby Doo. Matthew Lillard continues to be a perfect Shaggy, once again showing that not only is he a better actor than some people give him credit for, but that he's a much better Shaggy than those = live action movies made anyone think he was!
such as Marcus Samuelsson and Maya Haile, who I really liked. They don't have that big a role, but they're amusing, and they act well enough that I thought they were fictional characters rather than real people, made to act out of their wheelhouse.
The animation here is what you'd expect from Scooby Doo. Well-drawn, lively, and plenty of fun. Never a bad moent, it's still a shining example of 2D animation.
Scooby Doo and the Gourmet Ghost is a great time to be had, for kids and adults alike. It'll provide an entertaining experience, teach kids the importance of mysteries, and teach adults o respect talking dogs! Just because they might care too much about food, doesn't mean they can't help you out!...
Asterix and the Mansion of the Gods (2014) [The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense's The Shortening]
The mighty Roman Empire is steadily marching over the world, occupying every territory it can see, but there's one that constantly evades their grasp-A small Gaulish village. Unassuming to look at, but armed with a powerful magic potion that can lay waste to entire Roman armies in a matter of second. The two Gauls Asterix and Obelix are hunting for boars as usual, until they come across a disconcerting sight-A construction site. The Romans have come up with a new plan to deal with the Gauls, by building a series of apartment blocks in the forest, and slowly forcing the locals away
Asterix and the Mansion of the gods is an adaption of the famous Belgian/French comic series, famous the world over (except America, because they're heathens). These tales of adventure, comedy, and satire have long struck a chord with audiences, and have inspired many. They've also inspired plenty of film adaptions, to mixed success. Many have been live action, and while I haven't seen all of these, and thus can't speak to their quality...it just looks wrong seeing characters drawn in such an exaggerated stylistic way being played by real people! Thankfully we've gotten a fair amount of animated ones over the years too, including today's movie...
Mansion of the Gods is a great =, bringing the comic book to life. It tells the story well, not diverting much from the original story, and expands on the = [well]. The new scenes it adds never feel forced or at odds with the rest of the story, and complement everything quite well!
The film is just the right length at a brisk 80 minutes. Not too short or too long, and you'll be wanting more by the time it finishes ,in the way that makes you feel satisfied. It's a pretty densely packed 80s minutes too, with plenty going on, and never a boring moment as we're racing from one thing to the next.
tackles surprisingly = thoughtful themes such as cultural assimilation, and how the biggest challenge with this isn't just the bad it brings, but the good, and how that can make it difficult to fight back against it, as well as the trouble when many of the = are innocent civilians. It's the reason why the Native Americans can't just tell all the white man to go bugger off back to Europe.
The characters are a larger than life bunch. From their puntastic names, to crazy behaviour, they're nice and entertaining
Of special note/importance is the montage at the halfway point, which shows the Gauls all adjusting to their new Roman life at the Mansion of the Gods. From its great imagery, to the lighthearted choice of music, it really sells a feeling of =, but also [melancholy at what they're all leaving behind, and not really fitting in].
Mansion of the Gods is animated superbly! The 3D animation is great, and there's never a stiff moment. Everything is fluid, the characters always look lively, and no scenes are poorly handled. Everyone looks exactly how they were drawn in the comic too, like it's come to life.
The score here is very neat, nailing the adventurous fun of the source material. Music plays a very important part later on too, during the aforementioned montage. The Italian song Sarà perché ti amo is a wonderful fit. It's a great song, and complements] the proceedings perfectly.
Overall, whether you're new to Asterix and are curious about it/dipping your toes, or are a seasoned fan, pleased or exasperated with the adaptions, Asterix and the mansion of the Gods is a great little film, and shows that not everything the French make nowadays is crap!...
Saturday, February 22, 2020
With 24 novels and over 20 movies to his name, Tarzan has always been a figure I've been afraid to dip my toe into, due to the sheer amount of material. Much in the same way how Bollywood has always made me nervous, with its huge libraries, and common 3 hour runtimes. In the last week however I finally made my first step, reading the original book from 1912. I've gotta say, it's really good!
Tarzan of the Apes is a thrilling adventure tale with a fast pace, many tense and emotional scenes, and an interesting story. The dialogue may feel a bit weird sometimes (certain characters talk like philosophical robots), but the book really nails non-verbal narration. Many books that are largely told to us might run the risk of =/failing, but this succeeds. The characters are an interesting bunch, with Tarzan being the best. While conventionally uncivilised, he's very intelligent, and you can really see this as the book goes on.
The way the book handles race is also admirable for such a time! It explicitly details the horrors of the European colonists plundering the continent of its resources, killing and driving away the locals, even naming and shaming Belgium and its mad king! The book has many diverse black characters, from the sympathetic mutineer, to comedy relief maid Esmeralda (she's a darling!), the hostile tribespeople, and more. Going into this book I was afraid it'd be really dated, but not at all. It surprised me with how progressive it was, with the crowning moment coming near the end, when Tarzan learns a valuable lesson.
Overall, it's a book I thoroughly recommend. It delivers exactly what you'd hope and expect when you hear the name Tarzan. Does the debut film from 6 years later do the same though?...
Many years ago, the honourable Lord Greystroke and his wife Alice are stranded on the African coastline after a mutiny. It's not long before they both die, and their newly born baby is left defenceless, until he's rescued and raised by a tribe of apes. The years pass, and Tarzan grows from a curious young boy to a tough determined man. When more humans come to the jungle on an expedition, Tarzan immediately falls in love with the beautiful Jane, and sets out to protect her from all harm...
Tarzan of the Apes had a pretty tough job to do in adapting a pretty = book. While it's unable to include many of the details added by the narrative, and pares the animal cast list down, it includes many of the key scenes, and it never feels incomplete. What impressed me was its faithfulness to the book for the most part. It may be simplified and =, but it's rarely untrue.
Rarely. There is one glaring change, and that is Binns the Sailor. In the book, it's just the Clayton family who are stranded, and Tarzan is raised solely by the apes, and self-taught. Here though we have a sailor accompanying the family, only to be conveniently kidnapped by Arabs until such a time as the plot needs him again. Then, 10 years later he still cares enough about the people he knew for 5 minutes to go back for them, and finds young/little Tarzan, who he teaches. He's also the one responsible for bringing Jane and co. over in this version, which adds nothing, and he vanishes completely after the second half. What really irks me about these additions is that it 'fixes' things in the book that didn't need to be fixed, and instead takes away valuable time the film could have been adapting other key scenes.
In terms of adventures, there's plenty to enjoy here. We've got pirate brawls, exotic animals, societies of apes, evil gorillas, and so on. Even on a reduced scale to the book there's still plenty to enjoy, which goes to show what fertile ground it is for making movies!
The characters are all good. Tarzan is portrayed quite well here. While not as intelligent as in the book, he's still the heroic ans resourceful hero you'd expect. I like that the movie takes its time with young Tarzan too, building the character up rather than flashing through 20+ years in a 2 minute montage.
Jane is your typical damsel. She's not useless by any means, and is a likeable and pretty presence, so you understand why/how Tarzan falls for her. Her suitor, father, and his friend are sadly underdeveloped, and really could've done with more to do. Esmeralda though, while missing most of her funny book dialogue (that girl can mix and match/mix up animal names in the best way/of ways!), is still funny, and heroic enough.
In regards to race, the film isn't able to be as in depth as the book, but it's never bad. The only thing that really annoyed me was the friendly mutineer being replaced by the unwelcome Binns.
The acting in Tarzan of the Apes is decent all round. Elmo Lincoln makes for a good Tarzan. He's muscly, good looking, knows how to swing from a tree, and conveys a good appearance of yelling (more on that later). What impressed me Gordon Griffith. He does a very good job as young Tarzan, and gets half the movie to shine! Despite his sometimes/occasionally terrifying pure white eyes, What's also surprising, and makes the movie unique, is the nudity, and how it chooses to be convincing rather than showing Tarzan being born fully clothed. Thankfully nothing one need avert their eyes from.
We also have Madame Sul Te Wan as Esmeralda, who does a great job, despite limited screentime. She makes every moment count. Colin Kenny is alright, held back by a fake moustache and crazy eyes.
Now to the effects. They're pretty neat! The set design is all good, and the costumes and = are mostly ]convincing]. The apes may look unconvincing by modern/today's standards, but this is a film from 1918. I'm hardly gonna throw stones because they're not on par with films made a hundred years later.
It's hard to tell what is and isn't stock footage in this film, and I mean that in a good way. If you're a 1910s era person needing an Africa fix, this is what you're looking for!
Tarzan of the Apes is a pretty good adventure. Any flaws it has are relatively minor, and the film is a simple yet effective piece, and a real good time to be had.
So, what became of Tarzan after this film? Well, Elmo Lincoln stayed on for another two sequels. One being the sadly lost Romance of Tarzan, which featured the rest of the novel being adapted (and features Tarzan battling cowboys of all things!), and a couple of 250 minute serials! So long! These successes paved the way for more to come, and we all know/ we're all familiar with the classics that came next, and the famous Tarzan cry that made history. If that's how Johnny Weissmuller sounded, how you ask, did the original Tarzan sound? Well, silent, since he was in a silent film, but if you must know...
Now are you happy this was a silent film?...
Monday, February 10, 2020
The disturbed Roderick Usher invites a friend over to spend some time at his isolated family estate. While there the guest gets acquainted with Roderick's new wife Madeline, who is being painted by her husband. For every brush stroke that he paints though, Madeline grows weaker, until finally as the portrait is complete, she is dead. A despondent Roderick relies on his friend to cheer him up after the funeral, but strange things begin to happen...
This adaption of House of Usher really left me cold. I went into it hopeful, expecting a nice spooky movie, with a neat arty touch to it, but instead I was bored off my ass after only 20 minutes. I wanted to give it a chance, so I didn't write it off then and there, but when you're already a third of the way through the movie and you're figuratively checking your watch, that's not/hardly a good sign.
One of the most distinctive things about this film is that not only does it adapt The Fall of the House of Usher, but also The Oval Portrait, another story of Poe's. With all the various indignities Edgar's adaptations have suffered over the years, there are certainly much worse things you could do than combine a couple stories into one My only worry was that as we reached the halfway point, we still hadn't really seen much sign of the main story kicking into gear, so I was afraid the Oval Portrait stuff might end up overshadowing the titular story. Ultimately it takes up the first half hour, while the second is devoted entirely to Usher.
Once the movie finally gets on track adapting House of Usher it does an alright job. No big divergences, and it even includes the narrator's recital of Ethelred's adventure, which most movies feel the need to leave on the cutting room floor.
Mixing these two stories doesn't seem like such a bad idea on paper, since but I do worry it might take something away from not to mention the simple fact that these are two different stories, and you can't just stitch 'em together and call it a day. 'Dying' psychosomatically from being painted could certainly fit in with the Usher family mindset, but I feel it's better when their deaths are unremarkable events they know are coming. It just happens (or so they think!).
Once the movie finally gets on track adapting House of Usher it does an alright job. No big divergences, and it even includes the narrator's recital of Ethelred's adventure, which most movies feel the need to leave on the cutting room floor.
The biggest changes made to the source material in this film are strange ones. The first is that Roderick and Madeline are no longer siblings, but husband and wife. Seems arbitrary, but ok. The second though is far more major-They survive the end of the movie! Excuse me? Ok, nevermind that them being siblings is really quite important, as the change means she's no longer a cursed Usher, why the gosh hell do the Ushers survive? Them dying is the lynchpin of the story! It's the whole point! I guess even arthouse French auteurs from the 1920s were suckers for happy endings.
The set design and direction in House of Usher is the best thing about it by far. It's not perfect by any means, as more than a few scenes are impossible to tell what's going on] (whether this is intentional or not = to me), and there are moments where you're either not sure what you're looking at, or the miniature doesn't really add up with what's happening. As for the pluses though, the = This film builds up a wonderful atmosphere through its spooky hallways and billowing curtains, its foggy moors, and its =. Just a shame they weren't in a better film.
Another thing I applaud the movie for is its ease of access. I might not be able to speak/understand French, but I have read Poe, so I understood what was happening, but the movie is also pretty light on intertitles too, so foreign audiences aren't daunted with 10 walls of French text every few minutes.
The acting is alright. The main role of Roderick is played ok by Jean Debucourt, though he often looks less like a frail melencholic and more like a druggie smiling like he just heard a bad joke. Marguerite Gance is decent as Madeline too, looking suitably sickly and ethereal in her relatively short screentime. Charles Lamy is good as the friend, and his casting was quite a surprise! Most movies based on this story cast a young handsome man in the role, so to see an older gentleman is certainly different!
I had such hopes for this version of House of Usher, but overall it just disappointed me. It's got its pluses, but they didn't save it in my eyes.
Molly Carr is a poor but optimistic girl living in the [slums] of New York, eking out a tiny living, and hoping for something more-Not only a better job, but a romance too. This ends up coming true when a man crashes his car in the street below, and is brought back to Molly's [apartment] to recuperate. The two hit it off, and the man reveals himself to be Jack Cromwell, heir to the famous South Hampton family. He decides to help Molly out, and takes her and her friends back to his home to make some performances, and help making his uncaring fiancee jealous enough to love him. Molly goes along with the idea at first, but soon finds it difficult [to put up the front] when she really has fallen for Jack...
Sunny Side Up is an early musical, coming from 1929! With famed composers DeSylva, Brown, and Henderson behind it, you'd expect something great. Or you might expect something on par with Just Imagine, depending on what you thought of that movie. I mostly like it, but it is a very mixed production in some ways, feeling both ahead of and behind the times. As for this precursor, I felt much the same.
This is your basic romantic-musical, telling nothing particularly new or dynamic with its story, so I was surprised that it was 2 hours! Films back then were very rarely this length, outside of epics. What does this standard romance do to warrant such a gargantuan runtime? Why, it's a Great Depression revue, reminding people that things aren't so bad by way of song and dance! An admirable sentiment, if not for the fact that these musical and comedy acts are more likely to send/plunge someone from the time/period into depression than lift them out of it. At least this film doesn't end by literally saying the Great Depression is over, like other ones of the age!
The movie becomes a lot more tolerable after this first hour (I know that sounds brutal, but it's not quite that bad/as bad as it sounds!), and I was pleasantly amused by many scenes, as well as the conceit of the gang masquerading as the rich occupants of a South Hampton home. The romance is well written, with its ups and downs, no scene feels unnecessary, and the comedy is on point, with a few moments that really made me laugh.
Sunny Side Up came out during the days before strict limitations were forced upon movies. Despite its otherwise innocent tone, there are some salacious moments here. The movie also has some 'strong' language. They say 'Hell' a couple of times like it's no big deal! With oncoming censorship, it would've been hard saying Gosh without raising the ire of puritans.
What I found especially funny was an exchange between Jack and his jealous fiancee. "It's a good thing I came along. You were making a holy show of yourself!" "Why, what do you mean?"-"The idea, of making love to that girl in front of/before all these people"-"Well what's wrong with that? She's a nice girl!". I'm baffled as to how making love only used to mean kissing or holding hands, and the scene is hilarious by modern standards!
The characters in Sunny Side Up are an alright bunch. Molly is a Pollyanna type girl, always seeing the bright side and cheering her friends up. She's likeable without feeling saccharine. You can buy that her friends would care about her so much. Bea and Eddie are good. They make for a sweet couple, and their friendship with the others is endearing. Eric the butcher is an amusing addition, providing both comedy and heart to the film.
Jack is your typical rich guy yearning for something more than their unlimited wealth. Y'know, exactly the person most people in the Great Depression wanted dead, but ended up being heroes in romances an inordinate amount. While I did raise my eyebrows at him a few times, at his sometimes oblivious nature regarding money, and towards Molly's feelings towards him, I liked Jack. Plus, he's a good romantic when he finally sets his mind to it.
The rest of the cast amuse, from effete South Hamptoners, to wily women, and hypocritical butlers, who really have it in for 'mere commoners', despite being just that themselves.
The acting in Sunny Side Up is decent, but not without issues, as many of the performers can be quite screechy at times. Janet Gaynor is an alright lead. Very sweet, and adorable, and if her singing and acting skills didn't totally wow me. She's pretty harmless. El Brendel has a surprisingly big role here! He's a good friend of Molly's, and is consistently in the film, always getting plenty to do. He's never overtaking the leads, but he's never left in the dust either, which is a relief.
Marjorie White and Frank Richardson and entertaining as Molly's other friends, even if their comedy can sometimes get on your nerves. Charles Farrell is good as the romantic lead, while everyone else does good jobs, from Sharon Lynn his conniving fiancee, to Mary Forbes as his snobby yet not heartless mother.
Now it's time to come to the other major part of Sunny Side Up-The music. To start, I went into this film prepared to give Janet Gaynor the Benefit of the doubt. Is she known for being shrill? Sure. Have I experienced this first hand? Of course. But maybe she'll be fine here! Well...She was alright. A bit high-pitched in places, but not terrible. Not that great either, but it wasn't exactly torture listening to her. The others though? Oh boy was it torture!
Marjorie White and Frank Richardson are quite grating in most of their numbers, especially the revue song. I suppose a good comparison is the comedy duo in Just Imagine, Sunny's musical successor. They were a little piercing, but they managed to keep it tolerable, and deliver an entertaining few numbers. The duo here though are just painful! There's no if's or but's about how I found their singing voices. I found them to be ear-splittingly shrill, as well as unfunny! I like the actors, so I won't hold it against them (the whole number may well have been intentionally bad for a joke), but I still recommend having a mute button handy.
Another painful one is Marjorie White's Scottish ditty. It's comparable to one Doris Day once Sang in the film Lucky Me. Neither are able to pull off a Scottish accent, and even Day sounded a bit shrill that time. She's got nothing on White though. She's a dear, but whoever gave her singing lessons for this movie should be/have been shot!
The film's main song is I'm a Dreamer, Aren't We All. I'd heard it gets reprised several times throughout the film, yet up until around 90 minutes in, it hadn't been sung again even once/had only been sung once! Quite a relief, since you don't wanna get sick of it. When it does get reprised, it's fine, but then it's sung again only a few minutes later! This second reprisal was a sadder one because Molly's broken up about her man, so I was expecting the next one to be happy again at the end. But nope, it's before the happy conclusion, so it's just as sad as the last! Sigh...
Each of the numbers have their own distinct choreography. Some are just sung from down in a chair, while others are more active, with dancing, comedy pratfalls, and more. I found one pleasantly reminiscent of a Mack Sennett beach show. The standout is Turn on the Heat, with its various seasonal changes. But then sadly it begins to get ostentatious/it gets ostentatious by the end. The cool igloos to the warm palm trees were fun, but was the fire really necessary, or the fountain? It seemed unnecessary. We were already impressed, goshdammit!
For a film from 1929 you'd expect it to be creaky, and Sunny Side Up certainly is in places, but overall the direction is very good, with many creative and = shots! There are also some interesting effects here, such as one with a moving photograph. This film may have been commonplace with its story, but there may well have been nothing like it visually!
Sunny Side Up is a great example of where cinema was headed. It may not be a perfect film, and is actively annoying in many places, but it's a must watch for film history enthusiasts, ans fans of romantic musicals will get a little out of it...