Monthly Archives: June 2012

Brian’s Review – “The Dictator”

This outlandish comedy chronicles the glorious efforts of despotic General Aladeen, dictator of the Republic of Wadiya, to oppress his people and fight democracy. Helping the tyrant maintain his rule at all costs is an all-female security force.

Brian –

5 out of 10

I have to start the review out by saying this might be the shortest film I’ve ever seen in the theater. I looked up on IMDB after I saw it and the running time was a shrunken 81 minutes. I feel like I barely started eating my popcorn and the credits were rolling. I am by no means equating the quality of a film with how long it is but if I’m paying 10 bucks a ticket, give me my fucking money’s worth!

That said, the film itself is predictable and corny. It’s certainly not terrible and Sacha Baren Cohen is supremely likeable in everything he does, including this. But, the main problem is that it has so few laughs. Most of the best parts are in the trailer and the rest of the movie feels like going on a zip line ride: It starts exciting, then you wonder what the big deal is, then it’s over and you’re out 20 bucks. I was a huge fan of Borat. That movie had belly laugh moments that were absolutely brilliant. The opening in Kazakhstan is priceless, the characters are memorable, and the real life moments with actual people are fantastic. The Dictator, unfortunately, is completely scripted. I don’t know if that is a byproduct of Cohen becoming so famous now that he can’t fool people like he did before or if they just didn’t have any good ideas. But, it’s a glaring absence when that’s the backbone of what Borat so special.

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Are there some funny moments? I can think of a few. There is one sequence where the Dictator is having discussions that sound like a terrorist attack in his native tongue in front of two horrified old white people. Another involves him explaining why a dictatorship is better than a Democracy and using examples that hit close to home. These are very good moments but the overall picture feels rushed and flawed. I hope in his next film he gets back to basics because this feels like a misstep.

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Vic’s Classics – “Kronos” 1957


Before ID4′s huge and menacing spaceships gleefully devastated our world, there was a weird, boxey, volvo-like cube machine from outer space that did the same thing back in 1957′s under rated B sci fi bizarre-fest “Kronos.”

This neat and tidy little sci fi gem, directed by Kurt Neumann has gained an exceptional cult status over the years and is a very interesting, cautionary tale covered in an above average plot and it teaches us about the over-use and consumption of earth’s natural resources.

A heady and smart subject to discuss in film without getting preachy. It IS an alien invasion film and it does take place in the 50′s. But there are no huge explosions or people being turned to ash and bones. It is a dry extinction of the people of earth. And that is very scary. Well, for the 1950′s anyway.

“Kronos” itself is a large, alien “cube-like” machine called an accumulator. What does this mean?. It means we are screwed. No wait. It means we have to fight it tooth and nail. Even after it emerges from a large meteorite that crashes in the waters near Mexico. A malevolent alien race has sent Kronos to earth to deplete our energy and have it returned to save their own world. The film stars Jeff Morrow and Barbara Lawrence. In the film a scientist, a Dr Eliot, under the control of an unseen alien force, suggests to the military using an atomic bomb to take out Kronos. Earlier, Eliot sabotages lab equipment and the lab’s computer (named Susie) under the influence of the aliens. Still with me? OK. Let’s move on.

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They track an asteroid that contains Kronos but after it eventually crash lands, Kronos is set free to suck the energy juice out of the earth. Our intrepid leads, in b movie fashion, head to Mexico to investigate the downed asteroid. There they discover that Kronos is bad business and poor Doc Eliot is having a rough time keeping those pesky aliens out of his head. One cool scene involves the party landing on Kronos and checking out what makes it tick. It’s a cool sci fi moment that is cheesy and heady at the same time. The conventions of the genre are spun in full force in this movie. Including bombs that go off above Kronos that looks like the 4th of July gone batty.

As the film unravels we are told more about Dr Eliot and the intentions of Kronos and the aliens who have sent it. The machine is headed towards an H bomb stockpile facility in LA. Why did they drop it in the waters off Mexico? Hmmm. Oh well. If Kronos makes it to LA and the bombs then it’s adios human race. I won’t spoil the ending but it is a neatly tied up “in the nick of time” ploy. but it works in it’s funky b movie charm. The dialog is wonky but engaging and even endearing. We listen to the leads say things like “Hey, let’s try and make the feature!” or “That’s the starter button there on the dash” You know, real smart sci fi stuff…So, enjoy “Kronos” (it’s a very cool looking boxey destructo thing) and have fun with the banter and the way out science that is both confusing and not so scientific. At least until the end. Plus I loved the sound Kronos makes as it obliterates the landscape. Recommended!

The Top 10 Films of the 1980’s

Brian –


10 – Scarface


I was really debating between this and another De Palma film, Blow Out, for the 10 spot. I actually think that Blow Out is the technically superior film. It contains amazing use of sound, pacing, and plot twists. But, Scarface contains one of the most potent performances in screen history that gets better and better every time I see it. Pacino is spellbinding as Tony Montana and makes the close to 3 hour running time fly by. Its message is simple but powerful: Once you climb to the top, you have nowhere to go but down.

9 – The King of Comedy

 

One of the most underrated films of all time. It was Scorsese’s follow-up to Raging Bull and was judged too harshly because he was competing against his own brilliance. This film’s plot about media obsession is even more potent today than it was in 1983. Back then, all we had was print magazines, newspaper, TV, and movies. Nowadays, our phones are wired into constant media that is streamed anywhere we go at any time. Stalking was the 2000’s buzz word as psychotic fans did anything and everything to follow the stars that they drew unhealthy obsessions over and this movie displays that psychosis in a real and palpable way. Deniro delivers a unique and memorable performance that is unlike anything else he’s ever done. If you’ve never seen it, rent it now! You will not be disappointed.

8 – Ran

Kurosawa made this masterpiece when he was 75 but he shows he never lost any bit of his film making skills with age. I’ve watched this film several times and get something new out of it every time. Its story is ageless and asks great questions about the leaders of the past. When was it time to give up power? Who can you trust? Is family the most sacred bond? As one of Kurosawa’s few color films, it shows the master could work with any color, any story, and at any time of his life and deliver a film of stunning power and beauty.

7 – Blue Velvet:

David Lynch’s fearless film about the horrible things that go on in the most normal of places. There are definite Hitchcock influences here, particularly Rear Window as a young Kyle MacLachlan hides in a closet and gets a vision of what hell looks like. It leads him on a mystery that will shock viewers as much as it will interest them. It has all the usual Lynchian weirdness but it also has a poignancy about lost innocence. It’s not for everyone. But, then again, you could say that about every David Lynch film.

6 – Raiders of the Lost Ark

What happened when George Lucas and Steven Spielberg teamed up at the peaks of their careers? Well, Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s a stirring tribute to Saturday matinee serials that used to play in theaters in the early 20th century. In them , the hero would drive his car off a cliff in a big action scene and the film would end. You’d be forced to come back next week and see how he would survive. Raiders is just like that except we don’t have to wait until next week and the production values are off the charts. Scene after scene, it’s one great action scene that’s even better than the last. It’s hard to believe this film is over 30 years old. It’s just as fun, fresh, and brilliant as it ever was.

5 – Full Metal Jacket

One of the greatest war films ever made. It’s actually a tale of two stories. The first half is the story of what basic training can do to a tragically innocent soul. The second half is what war does to those that thought they were ready for combat. The second half doesn’t quite live up to the greatness of the first but it’s still engaging. The performances throughout by the then unknown cast helps the viewer focus on the story more than the stars. I also loved the ending because it’s not what you expect as the young soldiers descend into hell.

4 – The Last Temptation of Christ

Yes, I know it’s not based on scripture. Yes, I am aware that the Christian community has disowned it. And, yes, I also know that many refuse to watch it because they’ve been told it’s blasphemous. It’s a shame if you miss this fictional exploration into the human side of Christ. The church has told us that Christ was all man and all God. And yet, few film makers have ever had the guts to explore the human nature of Jesus. Scorsese presents us a Christ that has doubts, fears, and desires, as any man would have. The beauty is the way that it shows how despite all these misgivings, he still gives the ultimate sacrifice. I fail to see what’s blasphemous about that.

3 – The Elephant Man

This is the most emotional pick on my list. I absolutely love this film. It’s one of the most beautiful, sad, and poetic films ever made. The Elephant Man (played by John Hurt) goes through a metamorphosis through this film that you rarely see. First, he’s shown as a freak, then a science experiment, then a friend, an artist, and a friend. Hurt’s performance is one of the greats in the history of cinema and he would have been a shoo-in for an Oscar if he wasn’t competing against the next film on the list……

2 – Raging Bull

The performance I just previously mentioned was by Robert Deniro and it is considered by many to be the greatest ever. It’s hard to argue when this film is routinely brought up as one of the greatest ever and just recently moved up AFI’s top 100 films ever all the way to #4. The black and white cinematography is arguably the best of Scorsese’s career and the way the film is presented entirely from Jake LaMotta’s perspective displays his feeling of anger, jealously, and bitterness perfectly to the audience. We feel everything he feels even if we are repulsed by his actions.

1 – The Empire Strikes Back

Did I just name a science fiction sequel as the greatest film of an entire decade? You bet you ass I did. This isn’t just the best Star Wars movie. It’s arguably the greatest science fiction achievement since Kubrick’s 2001. The entire world that is created is densely populated with some of the most incredible visual imagery that has ever been printed to film. The characters, story, sets, and special effects were so far ahead of their time it feels like this film was made tomorrow. I’d also like to point out Mark Hamill’s performance. I have read over the years that people seem to think his acting was sub-par. He’s the entire dramatic glue and makes it all work. It’s not just an intensely physical performance but he’s communicating with a puppet for a good third of the film and it comes across as not only believable but it draws the viewer in. I know that the audience has been inundated over the years with sequels, prequels, cartoon series, toys, and other things that have nothing to do with how good the original films that inspired it is. I urge you to forget all that crap and re-watch it. It’s better than you even remember and my pick for the best film of the 1980’s.

Honorable mentions (in no particular order) :

Amadeus
E.T.-The Extra Terrestrial
Wings of Desire
Plains, Trains, and Automobiles
Brazil
Field of Dreams
Blow Out
Ghostbusters
Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure
Aliens
Heathers
The Thing
The Road Warrior
Tootsie
Witness
A Night mare on Elm Street
The Shining
Blade Runner
Kagemusha
The Thing
The Thin Blue Line
Fanny and Alexander
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Brian’s Review – “A Dangerous Method”

 

 

 

 

Seduced by the challenge of an impossible case, the driven Dr. Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) takes the unbalanced yet beautiful Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightly) as his patient. Jung’s weapon is the method of his master, the renowned Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen). Both men fall under Sabina’s spell. Based on a true story.

“A Dangerous Method”

Brian

8 out of 10

On the surface, this film may seem like another attempt to take attractive Hollywood stars and slam them into a period piece about forbidden romance. If you were to take it at face value it’s possible you could draw that conclusion. But, underneath all the bravura performances and sexual tension is a layered story about the trial and error of early psychoanalysis. Michael Fassbender plays Carl Jung, an early disciple of Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) who takes a patient (Keira Knightley) who has deep psychological scars from her sexual repression. Carl decides he’s going to use psychoanalysis and counseling to heal her.

Now, what separates A Dangerous Method from other films of this type is that the guidebook is being written by the very men who are administering the therapy. Their code of honor isn’t set in stone and when Fassbender and Knightley engage in a passionate affair it’s unknown whether it will lead to the crumble of a science that is still struggling for acceptance within the medical community. It is directed with care and authenticity by David Cronenberg, who is mostly known for his more violent and controversial films Crash, Naked Lunch, and Videodrome. Those movies had a dark and otherworldly style. This film is gorgeous and filled with extensive period detail. I would never had known that it was Cronenberg title from viewing the frame. He also handles the relationships between the main characters with sensitivity. I was so pleased it wasn’t another film where the sex scenes dominated the story. They are important facets to the overall picture but the progression of the plot is put front and center.

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The part that really hooked me was the idea that the test subjects for psychoanalysis were not only the patients but the doctors themselves. They needed to make the same mistakes that surgeons or specialists do. But, in this case, instead of it revolving around an organ, it revolved around human emotions. Fassbender makes the ultimate mistake when he decides to put his own wants and desires ahead of what is needed to further the greater good.

All of the performances are great and Knightley gets some real scene chewing spots where her character is having extreme panic attacks. But, it’s Viggo Mortensen that is the true star here. He is not only one of the most underrated and talented actors working today but he’s also one of the most under-appreciated. He absolutely disappears in the role of Sigmund Freud and should have been given Oscar attention last year. Alas, the academy so rarely gets it right.

It doesn’t all fuse together perfectly but it’s a film that adds an intelligence to the stale “forbidden romance” genre and makes me wonder what would have happened if the early Psychoanalysts hadn’t made the mistakes to teach their followers what not to do.