Frankenweenie (2012)

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A real return to form for Tim Burton with another stop-motion animation, this time a remake/expanded version of a decades-old short, the story of Young Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) who is devastated by the death of his dog Sparky but through science class and an experiment on a dead frog, he learns how he might bring him back to life. A glorious spin on the Frankenstein story with a genius character by the name of Edgar, a creepy bug-eyed buck-toothed little hunchback frenemy who rats out Victor’s secret and soon all the animals in the pet cemetery are making a return … Written by Leonard Ripps (in 1984) from Burton’s original idea, with a screenplay by John August and apologies to the source, Mary Shelley who probably never saw this one coming! A great pastiche of monster movies. Brilliant, moving and funny as hell. Love it.

The Bad News Bears (1976)


Has-been pool cleaner Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau) winds up coaching a hopeless Little League team at the behest of a councilman who’s PO’d at his own talentless son being denied a spot in this ultra-competitive sport. These kids really are the dregs – lazy, unathletic and truly without a prayer. Until Morris is gifted a smartass girl, Amanda (Tatum O’Neal) who’s the daughter of one of his exes and the best pitcher he could possibly get. She’s peddling star maps around Hollywood. Plus Kelly (Jackie Earle Haley) a wiseass punk old before his time who’s a great all-rounder. This year, they  might just beat their great foes, the Yankees, trained by Vic Morrow … Foul-mouthed, funny, unsentimental, this is one of the best satires of the Seventies made by that great comic auteur, Michael Ritchie, also responsible for beauty pageant comedy, Smile and political campaign movie The Candidate (not laughing now, are we?)  The screenplay by Burt Lancaster’s son Bill hits a lot of bases (!) – about the ethics of sport, teamwork, relationships, the importance of winning, and doing things your own way, but in a scathing way, of course. Lancaster had polio as a kid but played baseball at a pitch now named after this film (it’s at Ohio Ave and Sepulveda Blvd in LA). He wrote one of the sequels to this and collaborated with John Carpenter on The Thing. Matthau is simply great as the man who finally gets it together to relish the prospect of hard work and  winning, Morrow is totally on it as the opposing coach who will win at any cost and O’Neal is fabulous as the spirited girl leading the pack. This was a huge success and deservedly so. It’s the first of three films and a TV series and was remade many years later. However, forty years after its initial release it’s still the best baseball movie ever!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)

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The turn of the century set musical has honourable precedents and reached a peak of classicism with Meet Me in St Louis. Five years after that came this, a good humoured outing concerning the takeover of a baseball team by Esther Williams, who gets to dunk in a swimming pool which is of course a propos. Sinatra, Kelly and Munshin would be re-teamed 6 months later in On the Town, the classic film musical made on location with young choreographer Stanley Donen. This was Kelly’s idea. Inventive direction by musical master Busby Berkeley adds to the fun of the gambling plot and the play itself.