Tag Archives: movie reviews

ANDROMEDA NEBULA (1967) FILM REVIEW

andromeda nebulaANDROMEDA NEBULA (1967) – This movie was adapted from the 1957 novel Andromeda: A Space Age Tale by Ivan Yefremov. Unusual for sci-fi writers in the Soviet Union under Stalin, Yefremov courageously defied some of the political limitations that the blood-soaked dictator and his regime placed on fiction. Ivan is credited for, among other things, breaking free of the Soviet policy that limited futuristic tales to just a few years in the future. He continued that trailblazing in his works after Stalin died.

andromeda nebula picAnd that brings us back to Andromeda Nebula. The story is set over a millenium in the future, when an Age of World Unification (under a Soviet system, of course) was followed by the establishment of the Ring aka the Great Circle. The Ring is a loosely affiliated assortment of planets who exchange scientific and cultural information and try to facilitate each other’s efforts to colonize space.

In the universe of Andromeda Nebula, faster than light travel does not yet exist, so communication between planets takes between decades and centuries. This imposes certain limits that similar fictional planetary alliances don’t have to deal with, and the movie focuses on the dramas that could unfold within those confines. Continue reading

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NEW YEAR’S DAY (1989)

new y dayNEW YEAR’S DAY (1989) – HAPPY NEW YEAR! Balladeer’s Blog welcomes in 2023 with this review of Henry Jaglom’s comedy-drama New Year’s Day, released on December 13th, 1989, and best known for the appearance of an all-nude David Duchovny. Jaglom wrote and directed this movie, as he had so many before it. Henry also plays a major role in New Year’s Day as Drew, a middle-aged writer/ director who recently got a divorce and has moved back to New York City from Los Angeles to start anew.

He had sublet his apartment while in L.A. and arrives in the wee hours of a very snowy New Year’s Day to discover that the subletters are still there, because their signed agreement gave them occupancy through January 1st. Drew thought that meant they would be gone by the 1st of the year, and after some initial arguing, the older man agrees to let the ladies stay that one last day. Continue reading

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A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1997)

Christmas Carol-a-Thon 2022 continues here at Balladeer’s Blog with this look at the often-overlooked animated version from 1997.

christmas carol 1997A CHRISTMAS CAROL (1997) – This musical cartoon version of the Dickens classic was produced by DIC, the animators known for the early Real Ghostbusters and Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons. The animation quality is adequate but nothing outstanding. However, I will say I find this version’s animation superior to that in the 1982 Australian cartoon A Christmas Carol.

The songs range from bland and forgettable to annoying. I take back everything bad I ever said about a few of Leslie Bricusse’s songs in Scrooge. Every bit of his work towers over the “striving for competence” songs we get in many other Christmas Carol renditions. Santa’s Sooty Suit from this one sticks in your head but not necessarily in a good way.  

Tim Curry of all people voices Ebenezer Scrooge and shows how good he can really be. If you’re like me, you can’t see anything but Dr. Frank N. Furter from The Rocky Horror Picture Show whenever Curry appears as himself on screen. Because he gets to hide behind animation in this production it’s much easier to lose yourself in the character he plays, and he does an excellent job.  Continue reading

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BLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (1988)

blackadder's christmas carolBLACKADDER’S CHRISTMAS CAROL – Balladeer’s Blog’s 13th Annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon continues! Long-time readers know what a big fan I am of Rowan Atkinson’s work – especially his Blackadder programs. Hell, I’m even an enormous fan of his more serious work in Full Throttle. And I never tire of telling anyone who will listen that I think he’d make a perfect Dikaiopolis in Aristophanes’ comedy The Acharnians

As to why it took me so long to finally get around to reviewing Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, it’s the same reason that applied to the George C Scott version: I wanted to handle some of the more obscure Carols before hitting the well-known ones.

This Christmas Special is set in Victorian England with Atkinson starring as Ebenezer Blackadder, owner of a moustache shop. Tony Robinson is on hand as yet another member of the Baldrick family line.

In typically perverse Blackadder fashion the storyline reverses the usual sequence of events. Ebenezer starts out as a kind-hearted and generous soul but soon the Christmas Spirit (Robbie Coltrane) shows him visions of Blackadders Past, Present and Yet-to-Come.     Continue reading

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JUNGLE JIM ON SCREEN

jungle jim johnnyNews of the disastrous reaction to screenings of the unwanted and unneeded fifth Indiana Jones movie, starring a 136-year-old Harrison Ford, caused me to reflect on the 1980s flood of Indiana Jones imitators. Studios even revived the old H. Rider Haggard character Allan Quatermain by casting Richard Chamberlin as Quatermain in a few movies.

Conspicuously absent from that 1980s eruption was Jungle Jim, the former comic strip character who had been depicted in a film serial, several movies and a television series from the 1930s to 1950s. Obviously, the same attempts to update Allan Quatermain would have to be made in reviving Jungle Jim, but it certainly could have been pulled off.

After all, decades before Raiders of the Lost Ark, “Jungle Jim” Bradley, mercenary jungle guide and adventurer, was fighting Nazis and other menaces while finding lost cities & ancient artifacts, all while romancing lovely ladies. Throw in the occasional giant spider or huge, man-eating eel and enjoy!

A 1980s Jungle Jim series could have combined the best elements of Indiana Jones, Crocodile Dundee and Allan Quatermain.  

At any rate, all this led me to write this examination of the big and small screen escapades of Jungle Jim in all their fun, outdated, absurd and So Bad They’re Good glory. Johnny Weissmuller, the former Tarzan actor, actually had to speak in complete sentences as Jungle Jim, emphasizing his poor thespian skills.

jungle jim 1937JUNGLE JIM (1937) – This 12 episode serial from Universal starred Grant Withers as the title character in the pith helmet. The story involved Joan Redmond, a wealthy young heiress who disappeared in the African jungle with her parents years earlier.

Sightings of a white woman in command of a pride of lions have inspired media speculation that the now teenaged heiress was still alive. Two rival jungle expeditions set out to find her, one launched by the tale’s heroes and another launched by the tale’s villains. 

The good guys, guided by Jungle Jim, want to bring the young Lion Goddess back to her home country and her inheritance. The bad guys, led by the young lady’s villainous relative Bruce Redmond, want to kill Joan, thus allowing Bruce to claim the inheritance for himself. Further complicating things are two international criminals who have been stranded in the jungle with Joan for years and have been passing themselves off to her as if they are her parents. Continue reading

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2nd CHANCE FOR CHRISTMAS (2019): CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2022 CONTINUES

Christmas Carol-A-Thon 2022 here at Balladeer’s Blog continues with a review of this 2019 item.

2nd Chance For Christmas2nd CHANCE FOR CHRISTMAS (2019) – (Special thanks to Balladeer’s Blog reader Lee Ann for recommending this Carol to me.)

Directed by Christopher Ray, this is an adaptation of the Dickens classic and sets the story in the present-day. The Scrooge stand-in is a Country Western singer named Chance Love (Brittany Underwood). My fellow Carol enthusiasts will immediately be put in mind of A Diva’s Christmas Carol, reviewed previously here at Balladeer’s Blog.

2nd Chance For Christmas shrewdly stakes out its own territory so that it stands out from the Vanessa Williams flick about a pop starlet named Ebony Williams. In addition the film shrewdly used a numerical designation for the first word in the title rather than spelling out “Second” ensuring it will be listed ahead of movies whose titles begin with any letters at all.

Brittany Underwood does a very good job as Chance, the mean-spirited and selfish singing starlet who abuses everyone around her. Every step of the way Underwood is up to the demands of the storyline and manages her comedic parts well, always the toughest challenge.

In fact nearly all the comedy bits in 2nd Chance For Christmas are well-written and well-executed, so I will avoid any spoilers regarding the jokes so as not to ruin them for first-time viewers.    Continue reading

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SCROOGE IN THE HOOD (2011): CHRISTMAS CAROL-A-THON 2022 BEGINS

mascot chair and bottle picIf it’s the Friday after Thanksgiving, then regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog know it’s the day when I kick off my annual Christmas Carol-A-Thon in which I review several versions of A Christmas Carol. I look at movies, television shows, radio shows and books which adapt the Dickens classic. Every year I present new reviews and a few old classics since newer readers will have missed them.

scrooge in the hoodSCROOGE IN THE HOOD (2011) – This is easily the worst attempt at a comedy version of the Carol that I’ve ever seen. It’s also a failure in terms of production values. Acting is nonexistent, props are below Cable Public Access levels, dialogue is often impossible to make out and the writing is like something from a 14-year-old trying to be edgy.

The premise behind this failed comedy is that Scrooge is a pimp, and gangsters from outside the Hood are trying to muscle in on his business. They’ve already killed his colleague Marley and are gunning for him, now.

This flick has one joke – inserting profanity, bloodshed and sexual situations into A Christmas Carol – and repeats it over and over and over for 83 minutes. Even porno adaptations like Ebenezer Screwed show a more inventive approach. Continue reading

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KOMMISSAR X: ALL SEVEN MOVIES

kommissar xWhat James Bond hath wrought! Among the many imitations of Ian Fleming’s 007 were American rip-offs like Derek Flint and Matt Helm, but often overlooked here in 2022 are Germany’s Kommissar X films. The series of novels began in 1959 and number at least SIX-HUNDRED TWENTY! You read that right. Truly, no man is Bert Island.

The Kommissar X (also known as Commissioner X) tales were similar in style to Germany’s own Jerry Cotton novels which began publication in 1954. The Jerry Cotton character even beat Kommissar X to the big screen, with professional Smug Prick George Nader starring as the federal agent in eight movies.

Kommissar X was played by Tony Kendall, with Brad Harris as his sidekick Tom Rowland.

kiss kiss kill killKISS KISS, KILL KILL (1966) – Also released under the titles Hunt for the Unknown, Chasing the Unknown and Jagd auf Unbekannt, this was the first film appearance of Kommissar X, aka Private Investigator Joe Walker, and his colleague Police Captain Tom Rowland. Like James Bond and Jerry Cotton, Joe Walker had his own memorable theme music to accompany him as he kicked butt, bedded down with beautiful women and drove fancy sports cars.

chasing the unknownStylish villain Oberon (Nikola Popovic), called “O’Brien” in some dubs, is a mastermind who has accumulated a fortune in gold through dishonest means and wiped out his accomplices in order to nab their share of the loot, too. He also has plans to abduct a nuclear physicist, which gets Kommissar X mixed up in all this.

In Yugoslavia, our hero tangles with some of Oberon’s underlings and renews his acquaintance with Captain Tom Rowland, who is in the country to train police departments in state-of-the-art criminology. Ultimately, the pair trail Oberon to his island fortress, where they face the villain’s army of beautiful female soldiers as they try to recover the stolen gold AND the nuclear physicist.        Continue reading

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KONG ISLAND (1968) BAD MOVIE REVIEW

kong islandKONG ISLAND (1968) has also been released under the titles King of Kong Island and Eva, the Savage Venus. Every one of those titles could let viewers build a strong case for false advertising. There’s no island, no king OR King Kong and though the third title listed above may hint at something lurid, the wild jungle woman of that title has very little screen time.

Under any name, this movie appeals to most of us fans of So Bad They’re Good films. We get a regulation Mad Scientist, his army of robot/ bionic apes which AREN’T really robotic or bionic, a sultry young woman raised in the jungle by the animals and plenty of action scenes.  

This Italian film was produced by Brad Harris, who also starred as the beefcake hero who shows off his bodybuilder frame in shirtless scenes. Ladies got to ogle Burt while men got to ogle Eva, who is known to the Kenyan natives as … the Sacred Monkey. (?) Years later the Hong Kong movie Goliathon would combine a jungle queen and a gorilla that really was as big as King Kong. 

The Characters:

brad harrisBURT DAWSON (Brad Harris) is the muscular soldier of fortune who hires on for any job, legal or illegal. Kong Island opens with Burt and a few accomplices on the run after robbing a payroll. They stop in the wilderness to split the loot only to be double-crossed by their colleague Turk (Paul Carter), who shoots down the other survivors of the raid.

Burt, too, catches a bullet from behind, but apparently the large sweat stain on his back stopped the bullet or something because he shows up later, with a gunshot wound on his shoulder despite being shot in the back. Go figure. Burt recovers and turns up in Nairobi, Kenya looking to hire on for any shady or dangerous job available. Continue reading

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I GO POGO (1980) ELECTION DAY FLUFF

i go pogoI GO POGO (1980) – A possum for president? This stop-motion animation rendition of Walt Kelly’s iconic comic strip Pogo is, sad to say, even more aimless and unentertaining than the 1969 conventional animation show The Pogo Special Birthday Special. That IS the actual title, by the way. The approach to that half-hour cartoon special was, as the title indicates, so cloyingly cutesy that even Walt Kelly himself disliked it. 

Walt Kelly passed away in 1973 so at least he didn’t have to see this second travesty of his brilliant series. Pogo (1948-1975) featured cartoon animals who lived in the Okefenokee Swamp and were as cute and memorable as anything that Disney or Hanna-Barbera ever produced. Like the much later children’s franchise The Muppets, Pogo appealed to adults as well as children, and even sprinkled in a fair amount of political and social commentary.

pogoKelly was a master of making his political allegories blend so seamlessly into the tales of his cartoon animals that the deeper meaning would go over children’s heads as they enjoyed the antics of the Okefenokee Swamp’s denizens. For a comparison, think of how Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels was a very biting satire but the story outline is so perfect it survived as a children’s tale long after the political and social topics that Swift was writing about faded into history.

And though each side of the American political aisle tries to claim Walt Kelly as their own he was actually my kind of guy and took shots at BOTH SIDES. The political left could point to the way that Kelly’s 1950s cat character Simple J. Malarkey was an unflattering caricature of Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, but the right could point to Walt’s cowbird characters who embodied pretentious, parasitic communist activists.   

pogo merchBlame the 1969 television special and this 1980 bomb for helping to consign these brilliant cartoon figures to oblivion, even though they once rivaled the Disney Empire in merchandising. Peanuts and Winnie the Pooh had nothing on Pogo and company. Continue reading

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