Friday, January 16, 2015

Fwd: Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge

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Date: Jan 16, 2015 4:23 PM
Subject: Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge
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Dave's 2,500 Movies Challenge

#1,614. The Bells of San Angelo (1947)

Posted: 16 Jan 2015 10:14 AM PST

Directed By: William Witney

Starring: Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Andy Devine

Tag line: "Swinging From His Toes And Shooting From His Hips...Roy Battles His Foes With A Song On His Lips!"

Trivia: In Spain, the film was released as The Bells of Rosarita

Even those who've never seen one of his films have likely heard of Roy Rogers, the singing cowboy who starred in over 100 movies and had his own TV and radio shows in the 1950s and '60s. Though he occasionally appeared as a supporting player early in his career (he had a small role in Dark Command, with John Wayne), Rogers soon became a star in his own right, often playing the hero (who, quite coincidentally, was usually named Roy Rogers). Directed by William Witney, who would helm some two dozen of Rogers' movies in the late '40s and early '50s, The Bells of San Angelo teams Roy with many of his regular co-stars, including his wife Dale Evans; his Palomino horse, Trigger (who actually received second billing), and Andy Devine, who adds a bit of comic relief as the sheriff wanted by Scotland Yard.

The Bells of San Angelo sees Rogers playing an officer with the border patrol sent to the small town of San Angelo to investigate a possible smuggling operation. But before he can speak with his key witness, the young man is gunned down by guards working for an American mining company, who claim he had stolen from them (they go so far as to plant a nugget of pure silver on the dead man's body). Realizing there's something strange going on, Roy decides to hang around for a while, a decision that doesn't sit well with the mine's boss, Rex Gridley (John McGuire). To further complicate matters, Roy receives a telegram from his superiors telling him noted western fiction author Lee Daniels is coming to town, and that he should allow the writer to tag along with him during his investigation. Expecting a man, most assume Daniels missed the bus when he doesn't turn up, but in reality, Lee Daniels is a woman (Dale Evans), who, after learning that Roy doesn't care much for her writing, tries to conceal her identity. As if all this wasn't enough, British lawyer Lionel Bates (Olaf Hytten) shows up on the scene looking for a man named George Wallington Lancaster, which, unbeknownst to everyone, was the real name of the local sheriff before he changed it to Cookie Bullfincher (Andy Devine). Fearing the worst, the sheriff tries to leave town soon after Bates arrives, but Roy convinces him to stick around, especially since he'll need his help squashing the smuggling operation (which threatens to turn deadly before he can close the book on it).

To be honest, I always felt Roy Rogers was a much better singer than he was an actor. As with most of his films, his character in The Bells of San Angelo is squeaky clean, and though he can hold his own in a fight (which he does more than once in this picture), Rogers' goody-two-shoes image usually won out, even if the situation called for him to get down and dirty. As a result, I often find him the least interesting character in his own movie, though he does impress us on a few occasions with his singing voice (his "A Cowboy's Dream of Heaven" is a pretty little tune). Faring a bit better is Dale Evans as the writer trying to hide her true identity, and it's always fun to see Andy Devine turn up in these movies, playing a character much like the ones he portrayed in such John Ford westerns as Stagecoach and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Story-wise, The Bells of San Angelo delivers the goods, providing a handful of thrilling moments, and, once the British lawyer enters the picture, we're even treated to an old-fashioned fox hunt (with a raccoon standing in for the fox)!

While I may not think much of his acting, there's no denying the mark that Roy Rogers left on the western genre. And thanks to films like The Bells of San Angelo, it looks as if his reputation as the west's most heroic singing cowboy is here to stay.

#1,613. Coraline (2009)

Posted: 15 Jan 2015 08:48 PM PST

Directed By: Henry Selick

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, John Hodgman

Tag line: "Be careful what you wish for"

Trivia: For this movie, over 130 sets were built across 52 different stages at the studio

As he did with 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas, director and stop-motion animator Henry Selick infuses his 2009 film Coraline with tons of style and personality, all to tell the story of a young girl whose perfect dream world quickly turns into a nightmare.

Having just moved to the "Pink Palace", a former Victorian mansion that's been split into several apartments, Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) finds that there's not much for an 11-year-old to do. What's more, her new neighbors, a pair of retired stage actors named Miss Spink (Jennifer Saunders) and Miss Forcible (Dawn French); and Russian acrobat Mr. Bobinsky (Ian McShane), are exceedingly peculiar, and don't make for good company. Not even Wyborne (Robert Bailey Jr.), a kid who lives nearby with his grandmother, is much of a companion, and with her parents (Teri Hatcher and John Hodgman) so engrossed in their work all the time, poor Coraline can't help but feel alone and forgotten. Then, while exploring her new home, the young girl makes a startling discovery: a small door, covered over with wallpaper, which leads to a fascinating world, one that looks like a more interesting version of her new surroundings. Here, she meets her "other" mother and father (also voiced by Hatcher and Hodgman), who, instead of working, spend their time catering to her every need and desire. But according to the stray black cat that hangs around with her (Keith David), which can talk in this bizarre universe, Coraline's "other" mother is not as friendly as she appears, and is planning to trick the gullible girl into staying in this alternate reality with her… forever.

Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, the animation in Coraline is stunning. From the opening scene, where a pair of mechanized hands disassembles a rag doll, then re-makes it to look exactly like Coraline, Selick and his team drew me into their fantastic world, which became even more colorful (not to mention more intriguing) as the movie wore on. During one of her visits to the "other" reality, Coraline stops by the apartment of the alternate Miss Spink and Miss Forcible, where she's treated to a most unusual stage show, and a similar encounter in the "other" Mr. Bobinsky's flat is equally as vibrant and imaginative. With dozens of set pieces so elaborate that they required an entire 140,000 square foot warehouse in Hillsboro, Oregon to house them, Coraline is a visual smorgasbord.

Along with its animation, Coraline boasts some lively characters, each brought convincingly to life by the film's fine collection of voice actors. Dakota Fanning is beyond great as Coraline, while Keith David gets in touch with his feline side, lending his distinctive baritone to the black cat. Standing above the rest, though, are Teri Hatcher in the dual role of Coraline's indifferent real mother and her overly sweet "other" one, and Ian McShane, nearly unrecognizable as the eccentric Mr. Bolinsky. Their talents, combined with the film's awesome stop-motion, help transform Coraline into a movie as lush and beautiful as anything Selick had done before.

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