FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| Alfred Hitchcock |||
Alfred Hitchcock

This is perhaps an obvious choice, however, most people tend to overlook the Master of Suspense’s early work as well as the relevancy of his last film as a key element in the continuing transition and development of the genre he defined.

One of Hitchcock's early triumphs, this predecessor to the mistaken identity man on the run scenario Hitchcock turned to time and again, stars Robert Donat as the innocent wrongly accused of murder and pursued by both the police and enemy spies. This is the first example of Hitchcock’s mastery over the suspense tale, giving us a glimpse of the greatness to come.

Considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock's greatest works, this story of two men who meet by chance on a train and frivolously discuss swapping murders is a prime example of a common Hitchcock theme of the man who suddenly finds himself within a nightmare world over which he has no control. You can easily see how this film lays the ground work for the more popular “North by Northwest”.

Alfred Hitchcock's final film is a light-hearted thriller involving phony psychics, kidnappers and organized religion, all of which cross paths in the search for a missing heir and a fortune in jewels. Here, Hitchcock has brilliantly developed his signature form to include the now common, and often overused, device of plot twist, after plot twist, after plot twist. Widescreen!

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Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

By BrianOrndorf

June 15th, 2006

Garfield returns to the big screen in “Tail of Two Kitties,” and potential audiences wince nationwide. Marginally better than the 2004 original, the new Garfield still manages to waltz into tedium through unimaginative screenwriting and a bizarre sustained belief that a CG cat in a practical world is comedy gold.

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties

As Jon Arbuckle (Breckin Meyer) prepares to propose to his girlfriend Liz (an unexpectedly perky Jennifer Love Hewitt), he learns that she’s being quickly sent off to the U.K. for a last minute conference. Hoping to surprise her, Jon heads to London, unintentionally bringing along his cat Garfield (voiced by Bill Murray) and dog Odie for the ride. Set loose in the city, Garfield is promptly mistaken for a royal cat named Prince (Tim Curry), who has been named heir to a fortune. Enjoying the pampered life, Garfield soon becomes a target for a jealous servant (Billy Connolly) who is next in line for the inheritance.

It comes as some relief that this sequel to the 2004 abomination “Garfield” is a faintly more assured production. I’m wouldn’t go so far as to say this film is worthwhile, but instead of eliciting anger like the last film did, this installment merely bores. That’s progress to me.

At this point the strange approach to a Garfield feature film has been solidified – he’s still a CG creation in a practical world. For the follow-up, “Two Kitties” steals copiously from the sweet little pig flick “Babe,” the 1995 family film masterpiece, to widen the limited scope behind the technology. Opening with narration from Roscoe Lee Brown, the film even focuses on a group of Prince’s talking barnyard animal subjects, worried about their place in the world.

Hey, if you must shamelessly pinch, “Babe” is a great film to take from.

The rest of this mild adventure (barely 70 minutes long) rolls along on known quantities, again playing up the feline’s love for lasagna, his hatred of Mondays, and ambivalence towards pal Odie. Once again the energetic voicework from Bill Murray certainly saves the picture, even though none of his comic riffing manages to strike gold. He’s working up a sweat with tepid material and he’s knows it.

However, one has to feel awful for Brecken Meyer. I can’t imagine the actor pictured his career would eventually involve a franchise of movies playing second banana to an imaginary obese cat that eats too much lasagna. Poor guy.

Moving the action to “London” lightens up the film some with a fresh location (it still looks like L.A. to me). Having a fun bunch of English talent providing voices to Garfield’s new barnyard friends helps (including Bob Hoskins, Rhys Ifans, Vinnie Jones, and Richard E. Grant), and Billy Connolly is correctly bombastic as he tries to kill Garfield with increasingly tired “Home Alone” results. There’s a little more air to breathe in this sequel, but that’s quickly stifled when the obligatory use of belching, farting, and animal urine jokes come calling.

One creative decision that continues to drive me crazy is Odie. Again played by a real dog, Odie still isn’t allowed any of the cartoonish attributes that made him a fan favorite in Jim Davis’s original comic strip. “Two Kitties” allows every other animal in the frame a chance to speak, or in Garfield’s case, to dance and sing as well, but not dear Odie. Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise. By muting his voice and robbing him of his sweet, oblivious nature, Odie remains the only agreeable character in the franchise.

My rating: D+