The Art of American Screen Acting, 1912-1960

In this episode of “The Online Movie Show with Phil Hall,” historian Dan Callahan returns to discuss his book “The Art of American Screen Acting, 1912-1960.” Get ready for a fun and insightful discussion on how cinema acting has evolved from the silent era through Hollywood’s Golden Age.

The episode can be heard here.

Warning Sign (1985)

You could definitely call “Warning Sign” a precursor to “28 Days Later,” but the latter film just handles the premise so much better. Hal Barwood’s movie is a shockingly bland meshing of science fiction and horror that is never quite sure what it wants to be. Sometimes it’s a science fiction movie about government conspiracy and a top secret disease gone out of control, and other times it’s about three bystanders battling disease ridden rage induced zombies, and the undead. It bounces back and forth between grim science fiction to gruesome horror and feels so ill-conceived and poorly constructed.

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Short Circuit (1986)

In the decade that gave us “E.T.” and droids, “Short Circuit” introduces a hero that’s a little bit of both. “Short Circuit” is very much like “Chopping Mall” except when lightning strikes a military grade robot he becomes hyperactive and charming like Robin Williams. I wouldn’t call “Short Circuit” a childhood favorite but I fondly remember re-visiting the movie time and time again on network TV when I was a kid and didn’t hate it. In the spectrum of “Mac and Me,” and “E.T.,” its right there smack dab in the middle with “Batteries Not Included.”

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Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon (2013)

As a Hanna Barbera geek, I have to say “Mask of the Blue Falcon” hit all the right notes. I didn’t just have a good time with the surprisingly clever vehicle for the Mystery Inc. crew, but I also had so much fun pointing out all of the Easter Eggs. And yes, every single Easter Egg within “Mask of the Blue Falcon” is a reference to a Hanna Barbera cartoon from the sixties and seventies. I’m just disappointed we didn’t see anything referencing “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids.” What? It’s an obscenely underrated Scooby Doo wannabe, darnit!

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Scooby-Doo & Batman: The Brave and the Bold (2018)

For the uninitiated when Scooby Doo was attempting a new formula, they turned “Scooby Doo” in to a series of movies where they solved crimes with big celebrities like Dick Van Dyke and Sonny and Cher. Among the most popular crossovers was Batman and Robin. For years Batman and Robin were the most consistent allies of Mystery, Inc. getting in to all kinds of scrape ups with them, and battling people like Joker and the Penguin. They just seemed to click. “The Brave and the Bold” continues the long tradition by teaming them together by pairing the modern iteration of Scooby Doo with the family friendly animated “Batman: Brave and Bold” and it works.

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Hotel Transylvania 3: A Monster Vacation (2018)

If anything, I’m glad Genndy Tartakovsky’s off beat humor and fun animation has been embraced by Sony, but like the previous “Hotel Transylvania’s” this threequel is a mixed bag. Some of it is genuinely funny, and other times it’s either flat or kind of dull. Tartakovsky is usually so very off beat and original, it’s sad that Sony pretty much went the formulaic route with all movie series. There’s the romance, the baby sequel, and inevitable second romance with the series’ arguably most popular character. And the movie, like the formula is pretty predictable, which is what keeps “A Monster Vacation” from really taking off.

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The Bootleg Files: Alice the Fire Fighter

BOOTLEG FILES 657: “Alice the Fire Fighter” (1926 animated short by Walt Disney).

LAST SEEN: On several online video sites.

AMERICAN HOME VIDEO: On public domain labels.

REASON FOR BOOTLEG STATUS: A lapsed copyright opens it up to endless duping.

CHANCES OF SEEING A COMMERCIAL DVD RELEASE: Although it has been restored, it is stuck in public domain hell.

In 1924, an aspiring animator from Kansas City named Walt Disney caught his first big break when he signed with the independent Winkler Pictures to create a series of short films that combined animation with live action. Disney came up with the concept of a having a then-contemporary riff on “Alice in Wonderland,” with a live action little girl interacting with comic cartoon characters. This series became known as the Alice Comedies, and 57 one-reelers were created over the next three years.
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