Movie Review Voting for July!

It’s that time again!

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“To see how many Pringles we can eat in one sitting?”

No, to see what people want me to review for July! Your choices are:

  • Pippi Longstocking (1997)
  • Pee Wee’s Big Adventure
  • The Court Jester (1957)
  • A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum
  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)
  • The Pirate (1948)

The usual rules apply; you can vote once by either leaving the movie you want to see reviewed in the comments or sending an email to upontheshelfshow@gmail.com. Voting ends on June 30th. Patreon supporters get perks such as being able to vote twice and getting a say in what movies wind up On The Shelf. It’s totally optional, but much appreciated. Special thanks to my supporters Gordhan Rajani and Amelia Jones for helping me keep this up. Click here if you wish to support me too. Thank you, and happy voting!

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June Review: Fun and Fancy Free (1947)

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Sigh, poor package features, why does nobody like you? Why is it that internet reviewers and Disney critics and fans always seem to give you the shaft? Is it the minimized animation budget? The effort towards story and character that was forcibly driven towards wartime propaganda over actual films? The deviation of a traditional three-act structure in favor of a string of unrelated shorts woven together by a loosely connecting theme or narration? Well in a manner of speaking, it’s a combination of all three. For one thing most people I know prefer to sit down and enjoy a movie that has one uninterrupted story. And yes there are a good number of films, great ones, in fact, that play around with how the story is presented, but as of writing there’s yet to be an audience or even a filmmaker clamoring for an animated equivalent of something like Pulp Fiction.

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In theory.

And of course the major factor in all this is the time period in which these movies were made. I’ve already talked about this in my review of The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad but for those not on the uptake, THERE WAS A FREAKING WORLD WAR WHILE THIS WAS GOING ON. Disney couldn’t afford to do something on the scale of Pinocchio or Fantasia or even Dumbo because his best animators were A, drafted out to fight, B, struggling to work with what little resources they had when the government was also pushing them to remind the public to buy bonds, or C, kicked out because of the disastrous animators’ strike of the early ’40’s. Projects with linear narratives that were considered big scale like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Lady and the Tramp were put on hold for virtually a decade. The best they could do was package a bunch of fun little shorts together because releasing them individually wouldn’t bring in as much desperately needed revenue as a full feature would.

And who says these shorts are bad? I don’t! At worst they’re fluffy little time fillers, but at their best they can hold their own with the big leagues of Disney animation. Again, going back to my Ichabod and Mr. Toad review, Disney’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow is the first thing I and a good many others think of when the story comes to mind. I also have the advantage that a lot of people today sadly don’t in that I grew up with virtually all of the package feature shorts in one way or another, either through individual VHS releases or on the Disney Channel as part of shows like Mouse Tracks, Donald’s Quack Attack, or the DTV music videos. It would be years until I saw them all as they were meant to in order as one full film, but blame Disney themselves for that. It’s a Catch-22 situation when it comes to their forgotten films; Disney sees there’s not much public interest in these old movies and so holds out on releasing them for as long as possible, while the public notices Disney never getting around to releasing these movies and think it must be because they’re not worth their time. So nobody wins and we all get smothered under another avalanche of Frozen dvds.

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“FROZEN??!!! FROZEN FROZEN FROZEN!!!!!”

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“No! Go home! You’re drunk!”

As of writing there’s only two – count ’em, TWO – Walt Disney Animated Classics that have yet to be released fully on Blu-Ray, and they’re, you guessed it, package features. “Make Mine Music” and “Melody Time” to be precise. You wanna know how old the dvds for them are? The advertisements that play before the main menu are for The Tigger Movie and The Little Mermaid 2. That’s THE YEAR 2000. NEARLY TWENTY YEARS AGO. And the only reason why today’s feature “Fun and Fancy Free” got on blu-ray is because the higher ups at Disney decided to combine it with Ichabod & Mr. Toad. So now we have a package blu-ray of two package features (three if you count The Reluctant Dragon which is also on there). It’s Package-ception, if you will. BWOMP.

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“She’ll get around to the actual review any minute now, folks.”

Back to the topic at hand, World War Two was finally winding down and the country was in a state of elation from having their boys return home after tearing the Axis powers a new one. Walt Disney had ideas for two full-length features, one inspired by a short story by Sinclair Lewis (I’d say based on but it barely resembles the tale that’s printed) and the other a take on Jack and the Beanstalk starring Mickey Mouse. Neither of them were able to get the treatment he wanted due to story issues and because the first thing to go during wars and Republican administrations is money for the arts. So he compromised by bringing them both into one movie with each of them sharing a half. Looking back I would have loved to have seen what an hour-length or even 75 minute version of Mickey and the Beanstalk would have been like because for all its flaws I enjoy it that much, and I’m tired of holding my breath waiting for Disney to do SOMETHING with “Gigantic”. Bongo on the other hand, I can’t see as anything other than a short, but that’s not a jab at its quality. Yet how do both stand up as a feature? Does it live up to what its title promises? Let’s find out.

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An Official Upload Schedule (finally!)

Hello everyone. I’m sure some of you are tired of waiting after the first of every month, unsure of exactly when each movie review will be released. I’m also disappointed by my lack of consistency. Well, fret no more. Beginning this June, reviews will be posted on the first of every month. Voting will promptly recommence the following day, where I’ll post the list of films to vote for.

Thanks, and I’ll see you June 1st for the next review!

May Review: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

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“Dear Mr. Potter, we are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

– Harry’s acceptance letter to Hogwarts

When I was in third grade, I saw my older sister doing something that shocked me beyond all belief – reading a book. Not a girly magazine, not 30 posters of Devon Sawa and Johnathan Taylor Thomas stapled together, an honest to goodness book. It was one her best friend recommended she read. On the cover was a boy riding a broomstick; the back whispered of an orphan boy, midair sports, dragons and a school for magic. Vaguely remembering the name Harry something-or-other from a quiz featured in an issue of Disney Adventures (yes, really), I fell into the usual baby sister routine of waiting for the older sibling to pass her book down to me so I could see what the fuss was about.

It was worth the wait.

An unprecedented worldwide success, Harry Potter was to literature as Star Wars was to film, revolutionizing the fantasy genre and changing the way people viewed “children’s” entertainment. JK Rowling, a woman who suddenly made reading not just for lit nerds, quickly became a household name along with Harry, Ron, Hermione, Dumbledore and a cast of hundreds of magical characters she brought to life in an immersive original world that any kid would give their front teeth to visit. Luckily most wont have to do that now that we have the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at the Universal Studios theme parks. Speaking as someone who’s gone there twice, I’m not ashamed to say it feels like the whole Hogwarts experience was ripped right from the page and screen. I even got myself my own wand (reed, 12 inches, leafy vine pattern spiraling towards the tip, very firm and reliable).

With three hit books and a fourth on the way, a movie series was as inevitable as the dawn of the twenty-first century. Rowling was courted by many studios and directors for the rights to produce one of the biggest blockbuster franchises in history. Disney was among them, but since this was during the Eisner era they let it slip through their fingers along with prospective theme park rights, respect for legacy, and common sense in general.

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“”Let Warner Bros. make their little wizard picture,” he said. “They’ll be too busy watching Little Mermaid 2 to go see it”, he said.”

Thanks to a largely faithful screenplay by Steve Kloves and Rowling’s adherence to detail (as well as insisting that the entire cast be authentically British), the stage was set for a perfect adaptation. The one caveat was who would be helming Harry’s first foray into Hollywood. Rowling’s first choice was none other than Monty Python alum, the brilliant mind behind The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, and The Director With The Worst Luck in the Universe, Terry Gilliam. Unfortunately the heads at Warner Bros were wary of potential box office returns with Terry because, well, see the last title. With that they unceremoniously dumped him in favor of the significantly safer bet, Chris Columbus of Home Alome fame. Chris is not a hack by any means, yet book fans and Terry’s fans (and poor Terry himself) have criticized this movie as too safe by half under his direction. And…

…honestly I don’t see it. Chris Columbus, in my opinion, not only does a fine job introducing the wizard world to us, but later manages to top himself in the sequel. As the initial entry into the Harry Potter saga there’s a load of backstory and world building that needs to be done and he does so with whimsy aplomb, but not without that undercurrent of mystery and darkness that turns this boarding school romp into a true adventure that explores the power of friendship and love and the lines between good and evil. One can’t help but imagine every now and then what kind of creativity and wonder Terry might have brought to the film, but as a wise man once said, it doesn’t do to dwell on dreams.

So grab your wand and settle in with a mug of butterbeer, let’s dive into Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s/Philosopher’s Stone.

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Movie Voting Time for June!

Hello again! Well you came, you saw, and you made your opinion clear. This month we’re returning to the usual voting routine. Looks like we’re going to have to save Chamber of Secrets for Sequel Month –

Oops, did I type that out loud?

Anyway, in that time between announcing that the first Harry Potter will be my next movie review and this post, my birthday came and went, and with it came some new movies for the Shelf! Please welcome the Tim Burton tribute to the “worst director in history” Ed Wood, and two more Gene Kelly classics, The Pirate with Judy Garland and On The Town with Frank Sinatra! I also received the blu-ray edition of The Mel Brooks Collection; some of the movies there are already On The Shelf but it comes with a few more that aren’t though I haven’t seen yet, and I’m ready to give them serious consideration.

And now the moment you’ve been waiting for, the selection for this month’s movies to vote for:

  • Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
  • The Court Jester (1957)
  • Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  • Pippi Longstocking (1997)
  • Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

The usual rules apply; you can vote once by either leaving the movie you want to see reviewed in the comments or sending an email to upontheshelfshow@gmail.com. Voting ends on May 31st. Patreon supporters get perks such as being able to vote twice and getting a say in what movies wind up On The Shelf. It’s totally optional, but much appreciated. Special thanks to my supporters Gordhan Rajani and Amelia Jones for helping me keep this up. Click here if you wish to support me too. Thank you, and happy voting!

Movie Voting is Back!!

Here it is, the moment you’ve been waiting for! It’s time to vote for what movie you’d like to see reviewed for the month of May! I’ve had a nice break and now I’ve got quite a few reviews in store. This month the nominees are:

For anyone not aware of how things work here, you can vote once and only once by either saying what you movie you want to see in the comments or by emailing me at upontheshelfshow@gmail.com. Voting closes on April 30th. Supporters on Patreon can receive perks such as doubling your vote or having a movie of your choice being considered for review! It’s completely optional but it would help me a great deal and is much appreciated. Thanks, and Happy Voting!

An Unexpected Gift and a Patreon Page

Back when I intended to make video reviews, I set up a Patreon account. Most reviewers nowadays have them to help support themselves and continue to supply quality content while rewarding their fans. I had hoped that perhaps over time I might accumulate such a following.

But of course, things change.

When I switched to doing written reviews I forgot all about Patreon and left my outdated goals and perks to gather dust. I wasn’t going to make a career out of reviews, I was just doing it for fun. If I was going to ask for money, what could I have to offer in return?

Last night made me reconsider that.

Thanks to the spontaneous and generous donation of Amelia Jones, my bank account is slightly more secure and a movie of her choice, The Black Cauldron, was added to the Shelf. In conjunction with getting two long-awaited film reviews out within a week and considering what to do next, I decided to revamp my Patreon Page to reflect this blog. Support is totally optional, but much appreciated, and what you get in return reflects that – Shout-outs, more chances to vote, new countdowns, and the opportunity to see more of what you want Up On The Shelf! Please consider dropping by.

Meanwhile I’ve been working on a few movie reviews in my spare time. I should be in a place where by May voting will open up again, and once it is, you’ll know! Thanks for sticking with me this long, and once again be sure to visit my Patreon Page to see how you can be rewarded for supporting me!

June/April Review: Muppet Treasure Island (1996)

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“Hoist the sails and sing –
Sailing for adventure on the big blue wet thing!”

– Best. Lyrics. Ever.

Before I start I have a confession to make. The reason why it took as long as it did to get this review out largely has to do with what I was going through at the time with my then-boyfriend. He adored the Muppets and got me to love and appreciate them again after years of seeing them as only kiddie stuff or nightmare fuel (those gdamned martians…) I envisioned this review as a meaningful discussion between two fans who have differing viewpoints on this film (I love it, he hated it for his own pigheaded reasons). Unfortunately by that point things between us were rapidly falling apart. Our relationship was already a sinking ship, something that took me longer than it should have to figure out, but some much needed soul-searching on top of the most recent bout of drama made me realize that I needed to bail out as fast as possible. After enduring seven long years of emotional abuse, cutting all ties with the man I believed I had a future with was one of the hardest things I ever done. I needed to let go of the dreams I thought we once shared, learn who I was without him overshadowing every opinion and action I made, and step away from a number of things that I associated with him. This review was one of them.

On the plus side, going back to doing it solo means I have nobody apart from the comments section to answer to, explain what I already know back to me, tell me what I think is wrong, or throw a tantrum and go pout in the corner for twenty minutes when I don’t agree with them.

In other words, suck it, you lying manipulative walking meatloaf lover. Your thoughts don’t mean jack shit here or anywhere else.

Getting back to the topic at hand, The Muppet Movie is arguably my favorite of the Muppet films, but the one that I watched the most growing up which often comes close to dethroning it? That would be Muppet Treasure Island. I’m not alone in that regard as many a 90’s kids waxing nostalgic on the internet will tell you how awesome and hilarious it is. Some have even gone as far to say it’s the best adaptation of Treasure Island (I can’t comment on that since the only versions I’ve seen are this and Treasure Planet, both of which are coincidentally made by Disney).

Still, all childhood nostalgia aside, does it still hold up? Yes, though I have noticed a growing opposition to that in recent years. Most of the arguments amount to, “It doesn’t match the charm of the original films or Muppet Christmas Carol. THAT was a better book adaptation with Muppets” with one or two more quibbles thrown in that I’ll address later. While it is pretty obvious that the films were straying a bit from the usual Jim Henson formula by that point, I still think it captures most of the humor and heart the Muppets are known for, and takes a few more risks as well. It follows the success of the formula utilized a few years prior in The Muppets’ Christmas Carol – telling a classic story with a well-known human actor playing the lead/villain role – and it feels like a natural continuation of that idea instead of a retread.

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November/April Review: The Prince of Egypt (1998)

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“I have seen the oppression of my people in Egypt, and I have heard their cry […] And so unto Pharaoh, I shall send…you.”
– The Burning Bush

Over two years ago I talked about Dreamworks and their unfortunate habit of leaning on the Shrek-style bandwagon (which they themselves have to blame for creating in the first place) and how every once in a while it’s balanced out by a work of jaw-dropping animation and drama that pushes the boundaries of film in a way only Pixar, Disney, and the occasional Don Bluth film have succeeded. It’s been like this since Dreamworks’ inception. “The Prince of Egypt”, today’s film, was the second animated film released after their first, “Antz”, a fairly obvious attempt to copy Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”, premiered that same year. Ask animation buffs which is the better film and you’ll immediately be directed to this one. It’s unusual that an animation studio that just got off the ground would try something like a musical remake of “The Ten Commandments”, but hey, some ideas can sound silly on paper and yet blow everyone away in practice. “The Prince of Egypt” is without a doubt one of those films. Fostered by both Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg, directed by Brenda Chapman, with songs by Stephen Schwartz of Wicked and Pippin fame and music by pre-BWOOOOOMP-obsessed Hans Zimmer, it’s a movie that at times even manages to bring the great Cecil B. Demille epic to its knees.

Now unlike certain people who shall remain nameless, I have a deep respect for those of different cultures and religions. While this movie is based on a sacred text to many, it is in no way a direct take on said text, and any jokes I make toward the holy figures depicted are not a rip on the figures themselves, just the characters as they are in the movie. The movie opens with a similar disclaimer in case you’re worried they’ll be insensitive to anyone (frankly I think the filmmakers were more terrified of offending anyone religious than any audience member who went to see this).

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In other words, “Just repeat to yourselves ‘It’s just a film, I should really just relax.'”

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