Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Actresses who use a higher-pitched voice for a character

I'm watching Sam & Cat on Nick (and once again, I'm blaming my 5-year-old) and Ariana Grande, the actress who plays Cat, is speaking in a higher-than-normal pitched voice and at first it's a little distracting, then you get used to it, then, it's kind of sexy! (She's 20 now, I'm allowed to say this.) I found an interview online, and that is not her normal speaking voice. Many other actress have done this, Mira Sorvino in "Mighty Aphrodite," springs to mind, and it had the same effect.

The opposite of this would by Missi Pyle who was hilarious speaking in a low register as the stern German flight attendant in the Broadway revival of "Boeing Boeing." Once again, distracting at first, then sexy.

Monday, July 29, 2013

A very funny line

I was watching the Justice League with my son, and Hawkwoman and Dr. Fate were duking it out over some misunderstanding (why can't superheroes ask simple questions first before beating each other up?), and Hawkwoman is charging at Dr. Fate with her hammer, and she says, "I want hear what that bell on your head sounds like."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Film Review: Turbo

While watching this, I kept thinking of "Robots," another charmless CGI cartoon made up of pieces of other, better CGI films. We got some "Ratatouille," some "Cars," and the premise of "The Incredible Mr. Limpett."

A snail who dreams of being a speed demon gets sucked into a nitrous oxygen tank which instead of killing him instantly, makes him super speedy. He then hooks up with the owners of the shops at a down-on-its-luck mini mall who put their money together so he can race at the Indianapolis 500. And there's lots of talk of believing in your dreams.

It was just so by the numbers, I was nodding off early on.

The line that sums it all up: "There's nothing in the rule book that says a snail can't race in the Indianapolis 500."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Film review: Despicable Me 2

A little early in "Despicable Me 2," the head of a spy agency asks Gru to find a villain by going undercover in a mall.

Undercover in a mall?! I audibly slapped my forehead. Is this the best plot they could think of? In the first movie he stole the moon! Man, talk about diminished ambitions.

The film really suffers from comparisons to its predecessor, an endlessly inventive adventure with great oddball characters set in the world of James-Bond-global-takeover villainy. It started in Egypt and ended in outer space.

Most of this movie takes place in a mall!

I don't want to give it a bad review. The minions are always good for a laugh, most of the sequences were funny. But whereas every sequence in the first film was a home run, every sequence here is pretty much a single.

And his partner/love interest Lucy kind of confused me. She looks exactly like Helen Mirren, yet, Helen Mirren isn't doing her voice. Instead it's Kristen Wiig whom I'm still sore with after the run-every-joke-into-the-ground "Bridesmaids."

And the oldest daughter has a subplot about a crush on a cute boy and Gru's attempts to keep them apart. This is borrowed from the lesser "Hotel Transylvania" and doesn't even have a real resolution.

Go see it, but bring a kid.

Old-timey film review: The Canary Murder Case

Watch this 1929 Philo Vance Mystery and compare it to 1933's "The Kennel Murder Case" and you'll be amazed at how much film improved over 4 years. "Canary" is pretty static, the camera never moves, the acting is bad, and there's only one scene outside. In Kennel, the camera moves and swishes, a better line of actors come in and the dialogue moves better too.

Is it because the first was done at Paramount as a cheapie, and the other for Warner Bros.? "Kennel" was directed by Michael Curtiz, who would later direct "Casablanca" and a ton of other classics for Warners. Was it simply because he was a more gifted director?

Either way, "Canary" has 'early talky' all over it. Hollywood still didn't know how to overdub, so no music, and a scene in a crowded theater becomes comical when you hear only ten people clapping when you should hear thousands.

Maltin says this was originally filmed as a silent, then scenes were reshot and dialogue dubbed to make it a talky. This is really obvious. Further, the print I watched on YouTube was terrible, hopefully there's a restored DVD out there. Also, "Singing in the Rain" would have you believe that some actors from the silents never made it to the talkies because their voices were shrill. No, after watching this film it's obvious they didn't make it because they just couldn't act.

The plot: We meet the soon-to-be murder victim, a shrewd showgirl nicknamed "The Canary." She spends the first ten minutes of the film on the phone shaking down would-be murder suspects. She calls like a half-dozen guys, and you can't help but think of that season of "Dallas" where every conversation with JR ended with someone gritting his/her teeth and saying, "I'm going to kill that JR!" (A less cost-conscious film would have her shake them down in person, but that would have cost thousands in new sets, and days of shooting).

After she's murdered, all the suspects are taken in to the police headquarters where a detective interviews them one at a time at the detective's desk.. without legal representation. Think of any episode of "Law and Order" where the detectives interview the suspects in their houses and people walk around a little. It gets a little claustrophobic here.

Then Philo Vance plays poker with the suspects and determines who the killer is not by some slip of the tongue in the course of the game, but through how each suspect plays poker!

He could do this with every case.

Like "Kennel," the murder and solving the murder are preposterous. I have to read the books to see how much was carried over. Unlike "Kennel" William Powell lacks the charm and charisma he'd develop later, especially in the "Thin Man" films.

(A misstep in an otherwise well-intentioned film: A hotel clerk is a stammering negro used for comic effect. Not blatantly racist, but neither is it a proud moment for blacks in cinema.)

So, certainly worth watching as a curiosity. It can't be unnoticed that the whodunnit structure is there. We meet the characters and the detective, the soon-to-be victim pisses everyone off, s/he is murdered in a seemingly foolproof manner, and the detective talks to each suspect until someone slips, then the detective finds the apparatus, or method to how the murder was committed. It applies to a 1929 Philo Vance mystery, any episode of "Murder She Wrote," or "Law and Order."

What makes them watchable is the detective really. William Powell and Myrna Loy in the "Thin Man," Peter Falk in "Columbo," Hugh Lurie in "House." If you don't find the detective interesting, forget it, it's never going to work. William Powell was just getting up to speed.