THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS (2016) has a blissfully happy dog’s world turn sour when his owner (“We’re soulmates — I wouldn’t use the word, but I can see why other people would.”) brings home a hulking new brother; before long, efforts to get rid of the big guy have them out in the city running from a pet revolutionary army and trying to get home. This feels like an unsuccessful attempt to expand a Pixar short — the scenes showing what pets are up to while we’re away are funny (and as a dog owner I identify with lots of them) but once the dogs leave home it’s formulaic enough it might as well be The Aristocats. “Maybe you have plenty of time, but for me every breath is a cliffhanger.”
THE TIGER WOMAN (1944) was a Republic movie serial starring Linda Stirling (in the photo; all rights to the image remain with current holder) as the White Jungle Goddess who has to deal with schemers plotting to steal the oil lease from the Oil Company of Good. Oh, and they also plan to obtain proof the Tiger Woman is really an American heiress, then kill her and use one of their own to obtain the fortune. This is fun if you can live with the implicit racism of this kind of Tarzan setup (I can, but no question it’s there) and Stirling gets more action than most serial women did (I think she did better in later movies) though the bad guys are both stiff. And yes, the Tiger Woman is wearing a leopard print. “Thanks for the information — you forgot you were dealing with smart people.”
FREE CINEMA was the first disc in a DVD collection of various documentaries in the “free cinema” movement of 1950s Britain. While these would be a fantastic resource if I were writing fiction set in the period (the looks, the clothes, the buildings, peoples’ expressions), they didn’t grab me enough to watch more than a couple. O Dreamland (1953) by Lindsay Anderson was the short that kicked off free cinema with a look at the title amusement park; Momma Don’t Allow (1956) focuses on teens at a dance club.
ROCKET GIBRALTAR (1994) has patriarch Burt Lancaster’s clan gathering for his 77th birthday, where the grandchildren promise to honor Lancaster’s secret fantasy to have a Viking funeral as his birthday gift. A good, low-key film that would double-bill well with Return of the Secaucus Seven (it has a similar slice-of-life feel). With Kevin Space, Bill Pullman, John Glover and Macauley Culkin among the clan.
Moving to TV, FANTASTIC FOUR: World’s Greatest Heroes was a 2006 cartoon that did a very good job with the FF but which never aired all its episodes in the original run (it’s also frustratingly hard to track down even via Netflix). The DVD I did find includes a set of episodes pitting the FF against Doom; solid, well done super-heroic fun.
I didn’t care for Reginald Hudlin’s run on Black Panther which seemed completely discontinuous with everything that went before it (it would have worked better as a Year One) Adapted to a BET network cartoon, however, BLACK PANTHER is a lot of fun and no more divergent than, say, Iron Fist (and a lot better). Djimon Hounsou plays T’Challa (with Alfre Woodard as the queen mother), who finds himself dealing with both American incursions into Wakanda and a scheme by Klaw, the man who killed T’Challa’s father, to kill the son too. Good job. “Send Klaw our best plumber!”