The Transformers: The Movie

Unicron – as voiced by Orson Welles – in The Transformers: The Movie

 

 

As a new multi-squillion-dollar Transformers movie directed by Michael (Pearl Harbor) Bay comes down the pipe, someone obviously thought a quick cash-in was in order. So here’s the old Transformers from 1986. On the upside: the voice talent is of the “well I never” variety. In what other film would you get Robert Stack, Eric Idle, Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles all working together? On the other hand, just what the hell is going on? The plot is pretty much unfathomable – Welles described it as being about “a big toy who attacks a bunch of smaller toys”. The title music helpfully tells us the movie is about “Robots in disguise”, fighting Stunticons, Aerialbots and various other deadly shape-shifting things. Taking the fetishisation of metal beyond even the wild fantasies of Top Gear fans, Transformers: The Movie is just like the TV series that spawned it – a bewildering, crudely drawn cartoon battle set to a poodle-haired rock soundtrack (think Van Halen’s Jump without the catchy hook). Those dewy-eyed for anything 1980s will love it. Those hoping for a fitting epitaph for the creator of Citizen Kane – this was one of his last contribution to movies – should look elsewhere.

© Steve Morrissey 2007

 

The Transformers: The Movie – at Amazon.com

 

 

 

Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream

Dressed to kill: Divine in Pink Flamingos

 

 

Or how six films screened in graveyard slots between 1970 and 1977 changed the way movies are watched and made.

The six are: El Topo, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s mad freakish spaghetti western, the Man with No Name drops acid. Night of the Living Dead, George Romero’s splattersome zombie motherlode which even now Romero is rubbing his hands about. Pink Flamingos – John Waters broke through with this excursion into camp sleaze, and how happy Waters is with the idea that almost single-handedly he dragged Hollywood along with him into the world of bad taste. The Harder They Come, the reggae film by Perry Henzell that filled a need created by Bob Marley for Jamaican music on film – Henzell is touchingly humbled even now by the reception that midnight movie audiences gave to a film that had flopped. The Rocky Horror Picture Show – the movie that seems to have sparked the singalong, interactive screening phenomenon is Richard O’Brien’s baby and though he’s less chucklesome than the other interviewees (possibly because he’s spent decades talking about little else) O’Brien is a charmer full of anecdotes. And finally Eraserhead, which looks as mad now as it did when it came out. David Lynch chats happily about the film but he won’t talk about the notorious baby, never has. Expectant mothers used to be warned before going in to screenings of Lynch’s film, apparently.

And that’s it – six films, lots of talking heads, a handful of clips, loads of old stories, plenty of fun. Midnight Movies makes its case – how the B movie became the A movie, how genre movies came back from the dead – eloquently. What is never said is, Rocky Horror and Eraserhead excepted, is how remarkably shabby the movies look.

© Steve Morrissey 2007

 

Midnight Movies – at Amazon.com

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Meet the Robinsons

Meet Wilbur and Lewis from Meet the Robinsons

 

 

Disney remind us of their legacy as animation innovators with this busy busy busy story about a young inventor genius and orphan (big aah) called Lewis who is zipped into the future by his new pal Wilbur Robinson. There Wilbur hopes Lewis will help him defeat a snarling, moustachioed villain called Bowler Hat Guy (who’s not a thousand light years removed from Dick Dastardly) and Lewis hopes Wilbur will help him recover his latest whizzy gadget, the Memory Scanner, from Bowler Hat Guy’s felonious grasp. This will enable Lewis to probe his own mind, in a desperate attempt to remember who his mother was (even bigger aah). On the way Lewis meets Wilbur’s extended eccentric family, jazz-loving frogs, dogs who wear glasses and a talking dinosaur, most of which are cute, all of which teeter on the edge of sentimentality.

Though one of the first new films out of Disney after it bought Pixar (or did Pixar engineer a reverse takeover?), there is scant Pixar involvement in Meet the Robinsons, and it’s obvious. That’s not to say that the Pixar look isn’t heavily evident. But then there’s plenty of Studio Ghibli in here too. And The Jetsons, Robots, Futurama, Jimmy Neutron and more other sources than any self-respecting animation should be referencing. Meet the Robinsons brims with gorgeous 1930s modernist imagery, there’s a menagerie of off-the-wall characters and a raft of whistleable Danny Elfman songs. But there’s a distinct impression that in the breathless panic to keep adding ingredients something vital has been mislaid.

© Steve Morrissey 2007

 

Meet the Robinsons – at Amazon.com