Heidi (1937)

I happened to hire out this DVD for a relative, but I watched it and really enjoyed it.

I have known about Heidi but hadn’t been impelled to engage in it.

Having had a nosy on the internet, it’s based on the Johann Spyri children’s book, published in the late 1800’s. The story of Heidi has since been adapted for television and the movie screen many times.

I hired out the Shirley Temple one. It’s the color version, so there may be a black and white original.

In ten minutes I was hooked in to this sweet movie.

Heidi’s Grandfather Adolph (Jean Hersholt) is huddled away in the snowy Swiss Alps. He looks after Heidi (Shirley Temple) when her parents die and the silent and detached man becomes fond of her. Their friendship grows warmly.

Despite Adolph having had a chip on his shoulder, against people and God, his faith in God and others comes back to life. This movie is therefore spiritual as well as for a thoughtful mood. It’s also got real life themes.

As the story goes, Heidi really wants to be with Adolph, but is moved around by others. Upset by Heidi’s departure from the Alps, Adolph walks to Frankfurt to bring her back.

At Frankfurt, she becomes friends with a wheelchair-bound invalid, who is the daughter of a wealthy widower, and Heidi brings much life and joy into her life.

Adolph making it to Frankfurt is time bound, but works in making the viewer even more eager to find out what will happen next.

Some of the plot is neatly sown together, but complications arise also. This movie is most of all warm-hearted and uplifting.

Heidi, Director: Allan Dwan, Genre: Family drama, Year: 1937, Rating: 8/10

Purpose

Justin Bieber is not an artist I have followed so I can’t categorize Bieber as one of the artists I follow. I must have ignored his seven other albums at my peril going by the screaming throngs of teenage girls at his concerts.

But I did like the sound of his single What Do You Mean and so picked the album with another 12 Bieber tracks on it.

What Do You Mean is electronic sounding pop that sounds clean and polished; it is smooth groove and makes one listen. It’s got moderately complex lyrics. I wanted more.

Bieber’s Purpose is a soft pop album that is ambient and fresh. There are thirteen tracks with the odd one out being “Children”. On the surface, “Children” is a departure from the album’s theme of a difficult relationship.

Although Bieber is singing about the love and break up of a relationship, the album isn’t overall bitter or nasty. The one unkind word is “Love Yourself”, which was a sour note.

Purpose doesn’t bore. From a quietly effective rap to ambient infused chords, but there are quibbles: it may be too long and the album comes around to themes that are off-putting.

Although Purpose was a pick of mine, it didn’t entirely shine on the day. I thought about how the lovers in the songs dealt with love and consequences.

Purpose is edgy in the sense that a parent wouldn’t want their daughter, who may listen to Purpose, to experience a love meltdown, but to somehow do a relationship a better way.

Album: Purpose, Artist: Justin Bieber, Genre: Soft pop, Year: 2015, Rating: 5/10

 

The Phantom Menace

I titled this review (above) as just The Phantom Menace, but the on screen title is Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Why didn’t I use the full title? Just because it sounds better. The following is my review of this film that was published as a retro review a year after the movie was released because I just wanted to. It did get published nevertheless.

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After what seemed an unsatisfactory five minutes in the first prequel to the blockbuster Star Wars trilogy of the late seventies and early eighties, The Phantom Menace seemed to progress into a thoroughly entertaining piece of science fiction fantasy for this once Star Wars mad fan.

Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) is a master Jedi sent with his apprentice Obi Wan Kenobi (Ewan Macgregor) to settle a trade dispute between the peaceful Planet of Naboo and the Trade Federation.

After an unsuccessful meeting, the Federation maintains blockades and stifles communications and dominates proceedings. Queen Amadala of Naboo (Natalie Portman) will not tolerate an impending war and is intent on protecting her people.

Leaving the planet to protect the Queen, the Jedi’s stumble across Anakin Skywalker, a slave who works in a junkyard of the planet Tatooine.  Qui-Gon feels that Anakin has special powers. After some bargaining with Anakin’s owner and a good stroke of destiny in a “pod race”, Anakin is taken under the Jedi’s wing, and comes on board. Anakin is then going to be trained as a Jedi Knight. And if you’ve seen the first trilogy you know what happens to him (and the development of that won’t be on screen until the next two episodes).

There are plenty of throwbacks to older Star Wars material, most notably in the development of plot, characters and brief comic interludes. The intention of the makers is to create a coherent series. Viewers can watch from beginning to end the life and drama of a family set somewhere other than earth, but that people can relate to.

The Phantom Menace has an over-arching theme of good defeating evil and other themes of loyalty, courage, sacrifice and redemption. The good versus evil topic has a quasi-religious undertone (though I don’t go along with The Force as such).

The battle scenes in space and on Naboo, the climatic and convincing light saber duel, the presence of Liam Neeson and Ewan Macgregor, the pod race, the rousing John Williams score and the visual excitement outweigh any deficiencies in an enjoyable space opera episode. And this is the perspective of once was a fan, but still has a sentimental inkling for.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Director: George Lucas, Genre: Science Fiction, Year: 1999, My rating: 8/10

Clash of the Titans

Of the Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans films—films about the myths of ancient Greece—the 1981 original, Clash of the Titans, is the better one.

In the 1981 original, the writer follows the mythology closely, but it is not overdone.

The story gets going when god Zeus (Laurence Olivier) gives his human son Perseus (Harry Hamlin) gifts worthy of a knight on a journey. Zeus then tells Perseus that the gifts are there to help him on a journey of executing his destiny.

In that vein, Perseus attempts to save Andromeda (Judi Bowker) from various forces such as the sea beast the Kraken, and a vengeful, spurned lover.

The gods are dramatized the more by British stalwarts Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith. Well-known actors that includes Clare Bloom play other gods and goddesses in their midst.

Formidable roles were not the usual for Olivier, but as Zeus there is a formidable streak, and at the end of his career was a departure from his earlier theatrical roles.

The gods’ inflamed passions and schemes, in the god’s home on Mount Olympus, is all a bit of a farce in essence. However, if you strip down the elements of the mythology, there’s a theme of taking up one’s courage. The Greeks didn’t know if there were gods, but they did know how to tell a story that has spiritual or universal application.

It is a telling which is not spectacular or fantastic as the marketing tells us is. The telling is straight forward, but it holds a steady pace, a tone of gravitas, and some excitement especially in Medusa’s lair as Perseus ventures out on his journey.

Clash of the Titans, Director: Desmond Davis, Genre: Fantasy, Year: 1981, Rating: 7/10

Rated PG (Contains fantasy action and brief nudity)

 

Monster Trucks

Monster Trucks treads a familiar route. The oil company should reveal when digging in environmentally risky places, but it has been skirting the authorities. The company doesn’t tell the authorities about monsters, as implausible as it sounds to have monsters in the way. Again, it’s about the bad company that doesn’t care about the environment. It’s at least framed as the bad company and framed as the poor monsters in the environment getting undeserved treatment. But the target audience probably wouldn’t care.

There are too many awesome trucks and neat things going on to divert their attention away from the environmental message. Teenager Tripp (Lucas Till) happens to stumble on a monster—which is rather cute, a cross between a dolphin and a squid with Free Willy’s set of teeth. The monster soups up a four wheel drive truck that Tripp drives. The truck somehow moves faster with a monster underneath that ingests oil. The truck now has a real daredevil streak. But Tripp can’t escape his humdrum life in the country and get on the road with it. He is protecting the monster from the company men. If the company can hide their tracks then the authorities won’t get wind of the monsters they are hiding. They are bad, bad boys.

So the story has a moral slant with Tripp the good guy with a good girl by him and some assorted companions along the way, aiming to save the monsters from the greedy. The story is quite engaging more or less. I didn’t have an aversion to the action scenes with four wheel drive trucks which will keep the kids engaged more than the adults. The kids who like this sort of film, may play with bulldozers or four wheel drive trucks, the toys they play with in the lounge room and sandpit. These action set pieces will give them extra incentive in playing imaginatively, if that’s the right word. Perhaps with more energy. As a family, they might have seen truck racing events and so watching this movie is a natural step.

The good guys and good girl are likeable in a family film I didn’t have an aversion to, but which isn’t all on the mark either. It is one and a half hours of pleasantries, action, and an okay story, one which will make you like monsters.

Monster Trucks, Director: Chris Wedge, Genre: Family, Year: 2016, Rating: 6/10