In this episode you get to listen to me talk to no one as I ramble on about Curious George and Dark city. This is because the world is ending or something.
Director: Matthew O’Callaghan
Stars: Will Ferrell, Drew Barrymore, David Cross, Eugene Levy, Frank Welker, Dick Van Dyke
Director: Alex Proyas
Stars: Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt
Because this is a solo episode I did a lot of work writing this up so you get a transcript.
Hello my name is Tracey James and Welcome to off my shelf, a podcast about movies that are well off my shelf. Where we go through my DVDs and talk about the movies in my collection. In this episode Shayna Fine was supposed to be here to talk all about Curious George and Dark city but due to the beginning of the end we thought it best not to get together.
We are both trying our best to be responsible parts of society by doing our duty: self-isolating and social distancing. That could not have been accomplished recording in my small apartment across a 2 foot table. So now you get the fortunate (or possibly unfortunate) pleasure of listening to my sultry voice meader through a self discussion of these 2 movies.
I know, these films are a very weird combo to discuss. Why, you might ask, are these 2 together then? Well because they came together in alphabetical order. That’s it. I do move things around sometimes but it made little difference in this case. Curious George is the last of the films in the s and the Ds are strange and amazing but nothing that really goes with it. So this stuck.
But 2006’s Curious George is a great movie to help you forget about what is going on. I know, I know, it is a silly kids animated movie. But it is so cute, and so adorable, that you just kinda smile and it makes you feel less…less…forlorn.
Curious George is based on the series of kids books that many of us grew up with. These books have been published since 1941 and were created by Margaret and H.A. Rey. But his first appearance was 2 years earlier in another book by H.A.Rey called Cecily G. and the Nine Monkeys about a Giraffe and her 9 monkey friends. The story actually sounds really depressing about taking animals and putting them in the zoo and deforestation and then there is a fire. What?! But from that we got Curious George who was one of the 9 monkeys. We are actually lucky to have these stories at all because the Rey’s were Jewish and living in Paris at the start of WW2. They had to flee on homemade bicycles and they managed to get out just before Hitler’s army invaded France. One of the few items they took with them was the manuscripts for Curious George.
There were only 7 books published during the author’s lifetime.
Curious George (1941)
Curious George Takes a Job (1947)
Curious George Rides a Bike (1952)
Curious George Gets a Medal (1957)
Curious George Flies a Kite (1958)
Curious George Learns the Alphabet (1963)
Curious George Goes to the Hospital (1966)
Where the only recurring characters were George and the Man in the yellow hat. In the original stories, the “Man in the Yellow Hat” was never given a name but I guess for story purposes he was given one for this movie “Ted” who was voiced by Will Farrell.
I actually think the voice work in this movie is fantastic. Farrell does an awesome job in his first animated role as Ted sounding goofy, clumsy, frustrated but never mean. David Cross is just hilarious as Junior, the jealous, unappreciated son of the aged explorer Mr. Bloomsberry voiced by Dick Van Dyke.
There was a scene in the movie where Ted and Junior were talking and I had the weirdest, This is right but there is something wrong moment. You know what I mean, like when you see someone everyday and they do something minor to change themselves and you can’t put a finger on it, like teeth whitening. Well it is because 4 years after this film, Farrell and Cross did voices in Megamind together (that is also another hilarious movie) and I think my brain was like “Shouldn’t that be Megamind and Minion”? Because of that movie I cannot hear the word melancholy without giggling. Meh-lonk-olee?
There was also the voice talents of Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy – this was actually his first animated film as well. Which seemed surprising to me but maybe that is because he has done several since – , and Frank Welker.
That last name may not be known by most but Frank Welker, who vocalizes Curious George’s adorable little monkey sounds, has been doing voice work for decades and you would for sure have heard him. He is the original voice of Scooby Doo and still does his voice today, Also Santa’s little helper on the Simpsons, The Cave of Wonders from Aladdin “Who disturbs my slumber?”, a bunch of voices in Transformers including Megatron and Soundwave, Nibbler from Futurama, and Grimace described as “a large, purple anthropomorphic being of indeterminate species with short arms and legs” from McDonald Land (who remembers mcdonald land? That just triggers a memory of the Simpsons when Homer becomes Krusty and was at Krusty Burger to introduce their new burger (the one with ketchup), he beats up the Krusty Burglar cuz he thinks he is going to steal all the burgers. “Stop, stop, he’s already dead!” gets me every time. ), Welker has over 800 credits on IMDB.
Frank Welker is also my Star Trek Connection!! Actually he has several connections to Star Trek. He did voices in 2 video games, Was the voice of an “Alien Creature” in the 8th episode of season 5 of Voyager called “Nothing Human”. And, what I think is the coolest connection, he does Spock’s screams in Star Trek 3 Search for Spock. It is no wilhelm scream but it is pretty amazing.
If you don’t know, or maybe you have heard references to this but aren’t sure, this is the wilhelm scream. It is an absolutely ridiculous scream that has been used in film since 1951. Though it was voiced by Sheb Wooley it was named after the character Private Wilhelm, who was shot in the leg in the 1953 western The Charge at Feather River where the sound effect was used. Since then, the sound has gained a certain level of notoriety after, as an in-joke, it has been added to many famous movies, tv shows, and videogames (I’m looking at you Starcraft!). It is said to be in over 433 films and it is fun to pick out when you hear it.
But I digress, back to Curious george. Another thing that makes this movie just so light and fun is the soundtrack by Jack Johnson. You can’t frown while listening to it. Well one kind of breaks your heart right at the beginning but that is it. The song “Supposed to be” that plays over the opening of the film where you find George in the jungle playing with all his jungle friends being cute and curious and then they all go home with their parents and you realize he is all alone….i’m not crying, you’re crying! At least it is not as bad as Up! Or Finding Nemo or any Disney movie really where they actively try to break you with the immediate cruel death of a close loved one. For this I could see poachers moving through the jungle underbrush coming after him and his mother all very Bambi-esque. Anyways all the songs just exude a sunny carefree-ness that Johnson’s music is known for and that really adds to the vibrant nature of the movie and helps you forget all of that unpleasantness at the beginning.
In addition to the 9 songs that are used in the film, Johnson, for the soundtrack Album which has the long title “Sing-A-Longs and Lullabies for the Film Curious George” has 3 additional songs. Including a song about recycling called “The 3 Rs” which explains, well, the 3 Rs, you know reduce , reuse, recycle; a Lullaby, and the song “We’re going to be friends”. I knew that JackJohnson didn’t write this song but I was very surprised to find out that it was written by another Jack, Jack White of the White Stripes in 2001 and was part of the album White Blood Cells released in 2002. I just thought the song was much older than that. But this was also used as the opening song for the weird and wonderful Napoleon Dynamite. The song has had several covers done by various artists as well as specially played for Conan O’Brien by request when the White Stripes came on Late Night. Conan also uses it as the opening to his podcast Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend.
What else is there to say about this movie. I didn’t talk much about the story line cuz it isn’t that deep or anything. Ted goes to Africa to find the lost shrine of Zagawa to save a museum but comes back with a monkey and the antics ensue. It is whimsical, bright, but not insipid. It is easy and silly with lots of visual gags for kids but there are some tidbits thrown in there for adults as well. Like I said, it is just a really cute movie.
But then I got to over thinking and adulting and the consequences of bringing an undeclared animal into a foregn city. Then because of what is going on I think of movies like Contagion and 28 days later. He could be out there being cute but infecting all the people and bringing down society. Or am i just remembering a robot chicken skit…hmm. Who knew that Robot chicken didn’t just make us laugh but taught us lessons too?
Well that got dark, I guess this is my smooth segue from Curious George to Dark City.
First off I gotta say my DVD was not working. I tried everything and all it did was crash my computer like 6 times. So pissed! I always thought a DVD lifespan was about 15-20 years but according to google it can be as much as 200 years if stored correctly! What? Then what is the deal with my discs? I mean, so far this podcast I have gone through about 134 discs in 40 episodes and 3 discs haven’t worked. That is a 2% faulty rate. That means, if this rate keeps constant, I have about 13-14 faulty discs all together. Unless I find some other/better place to store my discs or worst case scenario something horrible happens to them. I can’t think about that!
Anyways, Dark City, the sci-fi cult classic from 1998 directed by the same guy who directed The Crow, Alex Proyas.
Ah, The Crow, another sci-fi cult classic that’s excessively 90’s which gained most of its notoriety from
Cashing in on that emo/goth scene that was prevalent at the time
It is also one of the early comic book adaptation films
And the notorious death of it’s star Brandon Lee.
Brandon Lee was the son of Bruce Lee and just starting to make a name for himself in film when tragedy struck. There has been all kinds of speculation on how he died. Officially he died of a gunshot wound received on set from a faulty prop gun but there were whispers about the set being cursed (Poltergeist and The Exorcist style), there was a conspiracy, it was payback for something he had done, and all sorts of things.
Did you know there were 4 crow movies and a TV show? I didn’t!
The Crow (1994)
The Crow: City of Angels (1996) – both of which I have seen but not in a very long time
Then there was
The tv show – The Crow: Stairway to Heaven (1998–1999)
And the movies
The Crow: Salvation (2000)
The Crow: Wicked Prayer (2005)
which i didn’t even know existed
This is knowledge I can’t un-know. I kinda want to see these especially since the 3rd and 4th movie have the likes of Kirsten Dunst, Edward Furlong, David Boreanaz, Tara Reid, and Dennis Hopper. What?!
Alex Proyas, also went on to direct the critic and audience despised movies Knowing starring Nic Cage and the culturally and racially insensitive Gods of Egypt. He also directed the not so bad but could have been way better I,Robot.
The thing that pissed me off about this movie more than anything else is that it should not have been called I, Robot in the first place. Yeah the story stems from the Isaac Asimov book of the same name that establishes the 3 Laws of robotics but that book is several short stories of robots and their evolution into future society. The story used in the movie was that of a novel called Caliban aka Issac Asimov’s Caliban written by Roger MacBride Allen set in the world that Asimov had created and published in 1993. Sure the book is a lot darker and twisted but it is that story and McBride doesn’t even get credit for it (at least not on IMDB).
Anyways, Dark City has the visual styling of The Crow meets the matrix, meets chronicles of Riddick. As in there are pale-skinned men wrapped in leathery outfits, in a dark gray/green toned environment, with weird monolithic sculptures. I know the Matrix and Chronicles of Riddick was released after Dark City but I’m weary to give it credit for influencing their visual style. But instead of being futuristic Dark City is set in the very 1940s/50s film noir city like you’re reading one of those old detective novels but with sci-fi elements.
The film makers took the name Dark City a little too seriously when they made this film. I know it is supposed to take place in a mysterious city in perpetual night but I spent most of the movie squinting trying to figure out what was going on. Everything happened in the shadows making parts of the movie very hard to follow.
I hadn’t watched this movie in years and remembered very little except Keifer Sutherland being in it and there was something to do with aliens and a beach.
Keifer Sutherland has never shied away from sci-fi throughout his career. Even before Dark City he was in the show Amazing stories created by Steven Spielberg (who directed a few episodes including the episode Sutherland was in with Keven Costner, The Mission), The Lost Boys, Flatliners, and Twin peaks. This movie came in the midst of what some consider a slump in his career which didn’t really pick back up until he starred as Jack Bauer in 24.
But the movie also stars 2 Oscar winners, Jennifer Connelly who won for A Beautiful Mind in 2002 (surprisingly her only oscar nomination and win) and William Hurt who won for Kiss of the Spider Woman in 1986 (He also had 3 other nominations, Children of a Lesser God, Broadcast News, and A History of Violence), as well as the talented Rufus Sewell (who i enjoy best when he plays a bad guy, especially in a Knight’s Tale) who also had the misfortune of being in the movie Gods of Egypt working with Proyas again.
From the rest of the cast, which is full of names I don’t recognise but some faces I kind of do, there are some great and cheesy movie connections. Like
Richard O’Brien, who plays Mr Hand. You would probably know him best from Rocky Horror Picture show as Riff Raff so he is used to being ultra pale and in a kinky get up. But I was tickled to find out he was also in the cinematic wonder Spice World! Colours of the world, Spice up your life! Confession moment, I have never watched Spice world but I may know all the Spice girls lyrics and dance moves. Keep that knowledge to yourself..
Then there is Ian Richardson who was a classically trained british actor. He was the titular politician in the original House of Cards which the popular netfix series was based on.
There Is also Bruce Spence. Who I recognized from Mad Max but found he was in some other huge franchises including being in Ace Venture When Nature Calls, He did the voice of Chum in Finding Nemo, was the train man in The Matrix Revolutions, Lord of the Rings Return of the King, Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. But was also in serious bombs like Australia, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I, Frankenstein, and sadly also Gods of Egypt.
John Bluthal was in Fifth Element (one of my fave movies. I can watch that movie over and over). He played Professor Pacoli right at the beginning. He was the one yelling “Aziz Light!”
Looking up all these actors also made me realize how many Aussies were in the movie. Then found out most of the shooting locations were actually in Australia. So then that made a whole lot of sense.
I also found a star Trek connection!! I swear star trek has been around for so long in so many iterations it is more of a shock not to find a connection than there is to find a connection. I mean it isn’t a great connection as it is with Discovery but it is a connection nonetheless. It is Melissa George, She was in the season 2 episode “If Memory Serves”. It was the one that was a direct connection to the first episode of the Original Series when Pike was the Captain of the Enterprise. It was crap.
Anyways, back to Dark City. The movie where an alien race created a floating city in space where they give people false memories and observe them to somehow determine the origins of the soul to save their dying species for some reason. But don’t worry, one of the people in the city is immune to the alien powers and will free the humans…or just let them go to the beach. Yeah….no wonder I didn’t remember what this movie is about. It is crazy convoluted and the convolution doesn’t come back together to make any sense.
The beach that everyone was trying to get to or really the main character was trying to get to was Shell beach. This was also something that made me laugh cuz I kept confusing it with shell city. What is Shell City you may ask? Well if you are familiar with who lives in a pineapple under the sea you would know. It is where king neptune’s crown was taken as part of the lemon scented plan zee in the Spongebob Movie. There is another movie that I cannot get enough of. You want a feel-good movie? You should watch that.
Unlike spongebob or Curious george, dark city isn’t a feel good movie. It is slow, dark, depressing, and a little bloody. It hasn’t aged well but the elements of a decent sci-fi are in there. I get why this is a cult classic. But I have seen this movie done a lot better. That may also be the issue upon rewatching, it now seems like a cliche, nothing new or interesting.
Well I think that is it. I still enjoy the adorableness that is Curious George but not really into the bleak Dark City.
I guess that’s it for this episode of Off My Shelf
Until next time you can follow along on Instagram and twitter @omyshelf or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
On the next episode, if everything gets back to normal, I will have a guest and we will be talking about Darkwing Duck.
Hope you’ll be here to listen.
Music Used in this Episode
Wallflowers – Bad Snacks Support by RFM – NCM: https://bit.ly/2xGHypM