MGM

A Fish Called Wanda (1988) - Charles Crichton

CLEVER BRITISH COMEDY
★★★

Director: Charles Crichton
ProduceR: Michael Shamberg
Writer: John Cleese
Starring:
John Cleese
Jamie Lee Curtis
Kevin Kline
Michael Palin
Music by John Du Prez
Cinematography Alan Hume
Edited by John Jympson
Production Company
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Prominent Features
Distributed by
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
United International Pictures
Release date
July 15, 1988
October 14, 1988
Running time
108 minutes
Country
United Kingdom
United States
Language
English

A Fish Called Wanda is a comedy from 1988 that was released by MGM Pictures. It’s directed by Charles Crichton and stars a lot of big names like John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Palin and Kevin Klein. The movie was an extremely popular around the time of its release. I remember my mom and her friends liking it when it came out. Unfortunately, it has faded from most people's memory in recent times.

The film is set in a relatively modern London (1987). It features two American criminal lovers Otto (Kevin Kline) and Wanda (Jamie Lee Curtis), who are planning to double-cross their boss George Thomason (Tom Georgeson) and his right hand man, Ken (Michael Palin), following a jewel heist that would get them over ten thousand British pounds. The plan involves a schlub British barrister (John Cleese), that gets involved with Wanda eventually driving this entire plan off a cliff. Hilariously.

The entire project started as a discussion between John Cleese and veteran director Charles Crichton back in 1969. The two had wanted to work together, but couldn’t come up with a viable plan. However, that desire to work alongside one and other never died, and in 1987 the two linked up to begin work on A Fish Called Wanda. A fantastic mix of smart comedy and great character work from a tremendous cast. The film direction is sold considering MGM had their doubts with the 78 year old director. Although John Cleese was alongside and picked up a Co-Direction credit.

This is a movie that I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for something smart to laugh at. John Cleese and Michael Palin are known for their work in the Monty Python series. However, this is a pretty far jump from that comedy troupe. I had a great time watching it and I think you would too. It’s not obscene or raunchy, but entertaining and clever. A damn fine movie that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Forbidden Planet (1956) - Fred M. Wilcox

GOOD OLD SCI-FI 68/100

Director: Fred M. Wilcox (as Fred McLeod Wilcox)
Writers: Cyril Hume (screen play), Irving Block (based on a story by)
Stars: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen
Genres: Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi | Thriller
Certificate: G
Country: USA
Language: English
Release Date: 22 August 1956
Production Co: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
Budget: $1,900,000 (estimated)
Gross USA: $3,000,000
Trivia: The critical success of this film convinced many in the film industry that well-funded science-fiction projects could be successful. Film historian Ben Mankiewicz has claimed that this film's success made future big-budget science-fiction films possible.

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Forbidden Planet is an American science fiction film from 1956. It was helmed by Lassie Come Home director, Fred Wilcox, and produced by MGM studios. This is a classic flick. Presented with a truly beautiful picture. A product of being filmed in Cinemascope and Eastmancolor from Kodak. Forbidden Planet is a scifi retelling of William Shakespeare's classic tale, The Tempest. It's extremely cheesy and has some very questionable acting. Except for lead actors Leslie Nielsen and Walter Pidgeon. They are both great.

A rescue mission from Earth is sent to Altair IV after command loses transmission with the colony living there. Led by Commander John J. Adams, the rescue team’s spaceship sets down on the mystery planet against the warnings from Doctor Morbius, a strange man hailing the ship from the planet. The crew finds out that Morbius is one of the few inhabitants left alive, along with his daughter and their servant robot, Robbie. The other people living on the planet have been killed by a mysterious force and Morbius fears that the same may happen to the rescue team. He encourages the crew to leave with his daughter before something bad happens, but it's soon too late.

Again, the film looks amazing. I watched this in HD on FilmStruck, and it looked great. Full color. Vibrant and interesting. We can credit the amazing set design and art to Cedric Gibbons and Arthur Lonergan working in the MGM lot. It’s a trip when you realize that the entire film was made indoors. Creative shots and a lot of huge matte paintings that make the settings look so believable. There is even some great animation provided by Joshua Meador from Walt Disney Studios. I loved the art direction and effects. Not the best, but tremendous for the time. There is a well made scene that shows an invisible monster walking on steel stairs and the filmmakers added in some bending steel. It looked great.

Aside from the bigger named actors like Leslie Nielsen or Anne Francis, the acting tends to be pretty bad. But it’s not bad enough to hinder the entertainment. The acting feels more television quality, probably since most of the props and some actors turn up in the Twilight Zone a few years later. There is an aire of cheapness that hangs about the movie. Unfortunately, that’s just something that drive-in monster movies from the fifties had to deal with. The technology for science-fiction movies wouldn’t catch up until at least the seventies.

Forbidden Planet is an amazing feat of filmmaking in the mid-fifties. The effects are top quality and the filmmaking is good. It’s a movie that should be studied by film aficionados all over the world. I simply cannot recommend it enough. Some people might find the slower pace annoying or boring, but I can almost guarantee you will find something else to like about it. I had some pretty low expectations before watching this movie. I thought it would of looked a lot worse than it did. But I came away happy and fully entertained.

The Addams Family (1991) - Barry Sonnenfeld

REALLY GOOD FAMILY COMEDY 85/100

The Addams Family (85)

Another great feature for the holidays! It's not necessarily a Christmas movie, but it feels that way. Gather the family around for this one.

Directed by    Barry Sonnenfeld
Produced by    Scott Rudin
Written by    
Caroline Thompson
Larry Wilson
Based on    The Addams Family
by Charles Addams
Starring    
Anjelica Huston
Raúl Juliá
Christopher Lloyd
Music by    Marc Shaiman
Cinematography    Owen Roizman
Edited by    Dede Allen
Production
company

Orion Pictures
Distributed by    Paramount Pictures
(North America and Latin America)
Orion Pictures
(International, 1991-1997)
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
(International, 1997-current)
Release date
November 22, 1991
Running time
99 minutes
Country    United States
Language    English
Budget    $30 million
Box office    $191.5 million

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The Addams Family is a dark comedy from 1991. It was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and starred Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd and Christina Ricci. The film is based on the old Addams Family cartoon from Charles Addams and the television program from the sixties. I’ve loved this film since my childhood. The humor is perfect. It’s the perfect mix of tame dark comedy that hasn’t suffered from age. While it isn’t a Holiday Film, it still stands a great comfort film that the entire family can enjoy. I lump this in with a lot of Christmas pictures and it doesn’t feel out of place.


The Addams Family are Gomez and Morticia. Their children, Wednesday and Pugsley. Morticia’s mother, Granny. Their butler Lurch and their hand, Thing. They are a rich but very strange family who appears to be a thorn in the side of the community they live with. The Addams’ lawyer, Tully Alford Esq. swindles the family out of their savings, a large cache of gold doubloons that makes up the entire Addams fortune. Tully is assisted in this rouse by a loan-shark, Abigail Craven and her “son” Gordon. Gordon closely resembles the long-lost Addams Family member, Fester Addams, and the duo use this to their advantage. Using Gordon to infiltrate the Addams’ estate and lead them to the riches. Only the problem is that “Gordon” is feeling more and more at home.  

This movie is written so well and the acting is awesome! The dramatic scenes can touch you while bringing a smile to your face. Everyone hits their mark, Anjelica Huston and Raul Julia are enchanting as Morticia and Gomez Addams. Their chemistry on screen is so real. My favorite character was that of Christopher Lloyd as the insane Fester Addams. Lloyd steals the show. Scenes with Fester coaching the young Pugsley and Wednesday are top notch. Its heart-warming to watch his admiration of their grotesque school talent show performance. 


The style of the film reminds me a lot of Burton’s quirky gothic esthetic. It felt like Barry Sonnenfeld had borrowed from Beetlejuice and the more recent, Edward Scissorhands. The effects were handled by Tony Gardner (127 Hours, Seed of Chucky) and are really good. Thing was, a great example of that. The scenes with Thing running around town and delivering for FedEx are great. It’s interesting to note that most of this movie was filmed on the same set as the original Addams Family television show. Also, Nineties Pop Rapper, MC Hammer contributed to the films soundtrack with The Addams Groove. A music video was produced and played before the film during the early theatrical run. It’s horrible. 


The Addams Family is a fantastically weird comfort film that leaves you entertained. I recommend this movie to everyone that hasn’t seen it. The characters might not be familiar, but it’s guaranteed to make you smile and laugh. Each member of the family brings their own bit of hilarity to the picture. Its heavily detailed and I keep finding new things to appreciate with each viewing. 

 

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