Monthly Archives: March 2012

Brian’s Classic Review – Ingmar Bergman’s “Persona”

“Persona”         Rating: 9 out of 10

The great thing about Bergman’s films has always been that they are open to interpretive analysis. Other great directors like Kubrick and Fellini are famous for doing the same thing but none have dealt with issues that relate to all human beings better than Bergman. The Seventh Seal dealt with man’s relationship with God, Wild Strawberries was about analyzing your life’s accomplishments, Cries and Whispers was about death, and Persona, which deftly handles a story of mental illness. Now, each person who watches this may get something different from it but I’ll give you my perspective. I feel this film is about a schizophrenic, delusional, and mentally ill woman. I think the character of the actress (played by Liv Ullmann) is completely in the mind of the nurse (played by Bibi Andersson). The beginning of the film is filled with flashes of light, dark, a young boy, a tarantula, and a crucifixion. It seems to be the random memories of of Bibi Andersson as she moves back into reality. As the story progresses, the nurse is placed on an island alone with the actress who refuses to speak but seems normal otherwise. They spend a great deal of time together until Bibi Andersson is comfortable enough to let her guard down and relate her most disturbing regret and decision. Part of her believes that by relating this story to a mute woman is a way of letting out her feelings without fear that it can be verbally repeated, But, soon she finds an open envelope with a letter to someone from the actress that relates the entire confession and it turns the film from a story of friendship to one of anger and revenge.

I don’t want to give any more away because Persona, like all Bergman films, are much better experienced than they are explained. Similar to 2001, you’ll likely have a different experience than I had watching it and may even come to a different conclusion. I felt as though the entire film took place in Bibi Andersson’s mind. She wrote the letter herself while in her actress personality so that when her personality switched back to the nurse, she had no memory of the event. There are also other scenes that reenforce my idea such as when they spend time in the mirror together, how the actress only speaks in whispers(a common symptom of schizophrenics), or the camera shot of the two women side by side representing one person with two faces.

A lot of this review may sound confusing and the movie may not be your cup of tea. All of Bergman’s films require your full attention and provoke a lot of thought. However, there is no other director that understood the human condition better and if you’re ready to handle a very challenging film, Persona is one that you can’t wait to discuss once it’s finished.

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Vic’s Retro Pick – “Flash Gordon” 1980

Victor

7 out of 10

If indeed you dig cheese and camp on the most epic of levels (thrown in with some sci-fi) the Mike Hodges 1980 fantasy offering “Flash Gordon” is your platter that matters. It’s pretty cemented as one of the best ‘bad” films of the 1980’s. It’s laughable, charming and empty and quite a ride on the roller-coaster of camp. Hodges’ film is an explosion of sound, color, bombast and fun. I dare say that everyone can find something to love in this movie while exclaiming that it’s really bad. Well, its a conundrum all right.  Sam J. Jones, in a Razzie nominated performance, plays an ex-football player for the NY Jets. After boarding a plane with the very cute Dale Arden (Melody Anderson, “Dead and Buried”) they get caught in a funky looking meteor shower. They crash land and meet Dr Zarkov, played with delightful glee by the awesome Topol (“For Your Eyes Only”). Zarkov claims to know what is sending all of these meteors and causing the disasters that are plaguing earth. After they reluctantly get tricked aboard his rocket, Zarkov launches them to the planet Mongo. Then all campy hell breaks loose. In a good (and bad) way.

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The film then becomes an opulent ride full of loud Sci Fi action and gaudy costumes (Danilo Donati) that are bright red and jump at you from the screen. The 2 best things in Hodges’ hokey comic opus are Queen’s rock-a-licious soundtrack and of course the amazing Max Von Sydow as Emperor Ming The Merciless. Fred Mercury belts out the now iconic “Flash. Ah Ah” with vivid abandon. And we love it. Von Sydow absolutely revels in the material when he steals every scene he’s in. Except when the stunning Ornella Muti is on screen. Rawr. Brian Blessed, while attached to huge ridiculous looking wings is fantastic to watch as he bellows just about every line he has (“Impetuous Boy!!!). Prince Barin (Timothy Dalton) is another character we are introduced too as well and he displays heroic Robin Hood tendencies that are so off the wall that it is completely lovable but rather silly. There are Rocket Cycles, Sky Cities, football style fight scenes, force fields and wing barbarian attacks that are bountiful and ludicrous to behold. But is it fun and a piece of colorful camp and wonder?  Yeah sure. Is it full of innovative and funky sets and costumes? Kinda. Is it full of hammy, scene chewing? Oh yeah! Is it a good movie? Who the fuck knows. But have fun re-watching it. I sure did. Much more fun than when I first skewered it for my Middle School Newspaper review.

Under The Radar – “The Awakening” 2011

Victor –

8 out of 10

“The Awakening” is a British gothic ghost story directed by Nick Murphy and is easily the best ghostly tale since Juame Balguero’s “Fragile” which I enjoyed for it’s conviction and story. There is very simply much to like in Murphy’s tale of a paranormal debunker in post WW1 England played by the beautifully talented Rebecca Hall. The film also stars Dominic West (300, The Phantom Menace) as a WW1 vet who becomes an assistant dean at an all boys boarding school in the country which used to be a private home. Rest assured in proper gothic manner the house is imposing, eerie and menacing solely due to the fantastic camera work by DP Eduard Grau (Buried)

At the film’s start it is established that Florence (Hall) has a passion for debunking charlatans during seances. She is manically insistent that they be arrested and put away for fooling gullible persons who have lost loved ones. Though she is tough she has a vulnerable interior and has a frail personality. Hall does a commendable job at showing us both sides as they grow into conflict as the story progresses. After Robert (West) visits her to ask for her help to tackle a mystery at the boarding school is when the film takes a very interesting and engaging turn. Florence with the help of the mysterious house lady Maud, incorporates herself into the populace of the school which includes several scared boys and one in particular named Tom who is taken with Florence and her investigation into the “ghost boy” who is said to be lurking the cold and remote mansion. Imelda Stauton (Dr Who, Harry Potter) gives a very terse and proper performance as Maud that is earnest and sad. She knows many things about the house and the boys that could change what the outcome of Florence’s investigation may reveal. She watches on as Florence utilizes the techniques of the day for “ghostbusting” (which is wildly interesting) and she observes how Florence becomes obsessed with finding this strange boy even after she has debunked some bad behaviors from some of the schoolboys who had taken a prank too far. Robert also is witness to her behavior and starts to protect her from herself.

Suffice it to say, apart from the great cinematography and eerie music that is haunting and simplistic, the film is a slow burn that reveals twist upon twist that is satisfying and believable. Especially as the complex association between the mysterious Tom, Flo and Maud is revealed. And the revelations come slowly and without warning. There is a off center and distracting sub plot involving a maintenance worker that is useless and goes nowhere but that is nitpicking. I was reminded very much of “The Others” and some other eerie British productions like the 1989 TV mini-series “The Woman in Black” and Del Toro’s “The Devil’s Backbone”. This film is quite enjoyable and not at all flashy and loud much like some US productions about ghosts. With the exception of Ti West’s “The Innkeepers.” So get comfy and pull up your blanket on a rainy night and get ready to dig “The Awakening” Recommended!

 

 

Brian’s Review – “City Of God”

City of God

Rating: 8 out of 10

This film is as impeccably shot and edited as any crime thriller I’ve ever seen. There are more sequences I can name where the camera is used so creatively that I took notice. The editing is also first rate. If you happen to see the film, look for a sequence where the entire criminal history of one apartment is presented within a static shot of a room that goes through a time metamorphosis before your eyes. It’s absolutely mesmerizing and proof that director Fernando Meirelles is a talent that is here to stay. I can see the influences right on the screen: Robert Rodriguez, Scorsese, and certainly Danny Boyle. And yet, Meirelles has a style all his own that has a frenetic energy that is at times exhausting to keep up with. There’s a ton of amazing hand held camera work that most will love but those with a sensitivity to motion sickness will detest. That style has been all the rage the last 12 years or so because of its inherent trait of creating an artificial documentary-like reality.

The story on the other hand is the weaker element to the film. Similar to films like Crash and Magnolia, it tries to implement different character perspectives within the same environment. The problem is that the film desperately needs a unifying narrative voice. The character of Rocket was clearly supposed to be the main but the script constantly veers off into different territories. Now, all of the interweaving stories are interesting and kept my attention throughout. But, because of the constant shift of narrative focus, we never really get a sense of who these people are beyond the strict caricatures of good and bad. That’s not to say that there aren’t a great deal of excellent films that do the same thing. But, the price of telling the story that way is that you never get emotionally connected to the characters. Don’t let that dissuade you from seeing the film though. If you’re a fan of crime films and don’t mind extreme violence, there’s so much to like here.

Vic’s Review – “The Adventures of TinTin”

Blockbuster filmmakers Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson team up for this 3-D motion capture adaptation of Georges Remi’s classic comic strip, centered around the adventures of fearless young journalist Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his trusty dog, Snowy. Daniel Craig, Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Mackenzie Crook and Cary Elwes also lend their talents to this action-packed family adventure.

Victor – 8 out of 10

Well, I suppose it was inevitable that one day the two Titans of Movies were bound to collaborate on something. Mr. Peter Jackson (LOTR, King Kong and Dead Alive) and Mr Steven Spielberg (Jaws, War of the Worlds and Duel). What would they come up with? A Jurassic Park sequel? An original Horror flick with Jackson’s intense flair? A space opera that takes place on another world ripe with CGI creatures and settings? Well, gang, none of the above.

What they decide to do is adapt Georges Remi’s classic and iconic comic strip called “The Adventures of Tin Tin” It was an honest decision and a way to make something so highly regarded into a huge success. So on they went and put their two massive resources together and started production on an animated motion capture film that is an extraordinary and adventurous romp that made me feel like a kid again. Something “Super 8” was supposed to do but didn’t.

I am keeping the review spoiler free and just concentrating on what I really liked about Tin Tin. I unfortunately never read the strip but was familiar somewhat from having friends who did. They would explain how TinTin is a very efficient and stalwart individual who as a journalist gets to the bottom of every story no matter the danger. He also does it with the help of his dog, Snowy. Jamie Bell (King Kong) voices the intrepid TinTin and he does a fantastic job in this great looking film. TinTin takes what Zemekis did with “The Polar Express” and raises the bar with dynamic and involving rendering. The film flows and comes to life like a living liquid full of wonder and surprise. The picture is incredible to behold as we are immersed in this photorealistic world full of airplanes, trains and automobiles.

Jackson and Spielberg supplies us with one stunt filled action sequence after another. Displays that can only be seen in this other-world dimension of animation. Displays that no live action cameras can capture on location. It never comes across as cartoony or naive. When we see creases, wrinkles and shadows done so well we are grateful for the way Jackson and old Stevie handle the realism. The set pieces are spectacularly fun and are done on the very superb level of Raiders of the Lost Ark and even The Last Crusade. Pure un-adulterated 1940’s action fare done with style and sophistication. Supporting Jamie Bell’s great VO work is Simon Pegg, Daniel Craig, Cary Elwes and Andy Serkis. Each of them give very believable and inventive voice performances.

I’ve read that the film comes very close to the comics in the way some characters look and even what they wear. But some purists claim that there are some misses in the adaptation itself. They claim that 2 different comic story-lines are melded together and that some of it may be distracting. I, myself, loved every frame and minute of it. Pure fun and an energetic adventurous intensity drive “The Adventures of TinTin” and that is what is important. Highly recommended. Enjoy!