Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Film Review: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

A plant form from outer space is slowly colonising America, one body at a time.

1950s America may be characterizied by a rising fear amoung the population that communists were slowly infiltrating every corner of society. Politicians, celebrities, your friendly neighbours across the road might be accused, without proper evidence, of being commi spies, such was the level of fear generated by politicians looking for votes. Put enough fear in a person and they'll do anything you ask; give you their lunch money; vote for you; go to war for you. Reason starts to fail and their minds become malleable. Films released at this time exploited this real fear. Monster mutation movies examined, comically, the possible effects of a nuclear fallout, horror movies like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" directed by Don Siegel in 1956 may, arguably, have used its story, of an Alien life form secretly inhabiting the body of your average American, as an allegory of the communist threat at the time.

 In small town America, a doctor discovers that some of his patients have become suspicious of their loved ones, that theyre not quite themselves. Though sceptical at first, this is proved to be true in the most horrifying way. His close freind finds a clone of himself growing in his house. These clones are somehow coming alive, assuming the personalities of the original, then offing the original. Slowly, one by one, this life form is colonising America.

 Some films tend to get a bit preachy about hot topics. A film about hostile invaders taking over America would resonate with alot of concerned citizens who might look for some sort of catharsis from thier fears. But theres more to this film than just cashing in on a "hot" idea. What this film does so well is pure and basic, it entertains. And the references to politics may only be in hindsight. With the directors ability to creates suspenseful, edge of your seat scenes with a genuinly engaging dialogue, its hard to believe that Don seigel would rely on such dirty tricks alone.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Goin away for a while!

Hey people who visit my site sometimes. I won't be posting any reviews for a while as I'm going travelling for a year in Australia quite soon, in like a week, so I'm just trying to sort out all that goes into planning a year long holiday, which cuts into my movie watching and reviewing time. And on top of that it'll be a couple of months before I start posting new reviews, as it would kinda be best to enjoy the new country as much as possible and all that, without spending the large amount of time that goes into blog upkeeping. So there it is. See you in a few months!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Serial Mom (1994)

OK, with my fine powers of acute observation, I have come to the conclusion that this film uses just one method to try and impress us: contrasting 50s style, middle class, suburban, normal, "happy" families.............with something that is shocking, murder. And comedy. That sums up the entire movie, for me anyway. Like it works up to a certain point, it just doesn't go that extra mile to be funny, like it's not trying hard enough. It's also as if they drew up a rough draft of the movie, and then just went with that. It doesn't feel like it got polished, or worked on. You feel like there's a gem of a movie inside there, OK we've seen these movies before, but if they only mulled over the dialogue and some of the plot points for a while, they might have turned something out that was genuinely funny. So the premise is interesting enough, even if we've seen it before. We meet our "happy family". It's ultra stylised. Mother: "Good morning darling! Hi kids! Don't forget your lunch Chip. Have a great day at school!". Ahhhh. A fly buzzes around the kitchen table, the mother flips her insanity switch, SPLAT! Awkward moment. The mother has a shocking secret...............she kills people in her spare time! Oh no. So the entire movie is just about her putting on this "loving mother" appearance, then snapping when people piss her off, then she offs them. And her family, and loving but really stupid husband, not putting two and two together, while friends and neighbours get wacked by psycho bitch. Kathleen Turner, who I now think is pretty cool, puts in a good performance and does the best with what she's got, which aint much. I had an odd feeling about Mrs. Turner before I knew much about her for some odd reason. But the more I see of her, the more I like her. Like, she played that stupid, but really hot blonde in "Romancing The Stone", but then I've seen her since in "The Man With Two Brains" and now this, and it seems like she's not afraid to go out on a limb, and take a risk with certain roles. Like, she doesn't mind looking silly, which I like alot. There's nothing worse than someone who tries their best not to look silly, but in control at all times. Just relax a little! And Kathleen doesn't seem to mind at all playing a psychotic serial killer. That's pretty cool. I haven't seen any of John Waters movies before, but from what I've read it seems like he relies on mainly being shocking. Now these days, in my opinion, it's pretty hard to impress by just being shocking alone. It actually gets really annoying and lame. And even around that ancient time of 1994 it would've seemed hard with the likes of David Lynch around doing well with that sort of thing, another guy who's movies I haven't seen much of , but by the sounds of it he was a total freak. Well this clip gave me a good idea anyway: Haha what a nut. Actually, lookin at Lynch's filmography, I haven't seen any of his films. SEE! I don't mind looking silly! Let's all do it! Come on guys and gals! Wouldn't eat panties on youtube though. Anyway this movie was eeeeeehhhhhhhh, alright. I don't want to hate on it too much, but it could have been better (insert condescending tone). Ricky Lake is in it. Ok I'm sorry if I've just put you off watching the movie altogether. Sam Waterston(stupid dad), Matthew Lillard(horror movie fanboy son, comments on horror movies while ACTUALLY being in a horror movie! Haha how awesome!), Susan Somers makes an appearance, Traci Lords is in it woohoo, and......that's it I think. I'll give my random movie that I actually give a score to.............................wait for it...........................wait for it........................6/10.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bullit (1968)

Bullit, directed by Peter Yates, stars Steve McQueen as Detective Frank Bullit, a tough as nails maverick cop who drives a Ford Mustang. But wait there's more. His job is: protect a key witness whose gonna testify against a crime syndicate in San Fransisco. Walter Chalmers (Robert Vaughn), an ambitious politician, wants him looked after until the day of the hearing. It's gonna do wonders for his career. But things don't go to plan, an attempt is made on the life of the witness. Bullit must get to bottom of this mess, while being pressured from above by the slimy politician who's threatening to crucify Bullit in the media if his witness doesn't get to testify.

And of course there is the classic car chase. Ford Mustang vs. Dodge Charger. Warner Bro's, who distributed the film, actually stood to make alot of mula out of the their kind advertising of the Mustang. What could be better than McQueen screeching his way around San Fransisco for an advertisement. "I fuckin want that!" are my thoughts exactly. I want a Mustang. I want to be Steve McQueen. I want Jacqueline Bisset as my girlfriend. Why not? For the love of God why not??? Great advertising.

Anyway, that car chase is really good. Nothin too flashy, nothin is made to look better than it really is. It's just really real, and friggin cool. The scenes weren't sped up, and McQueen did most of his driving stunts himself. Apparently he came to work one day and found his stunt man, Bud Ekins, being filmed drivin the Mustang and he got pretty mad, and cussed everyone out. What a badass. And San Fran is a great place for a car chase, with those crazy steep roads. What a great location. I think there has been better car chases since, but before the premier this was sposed to be a really huge event in action film history. It supposedly reinvented the car chase. Nicely done.

The story is simple enough. There are moments that will have you questioning Bullit's motives, but for the most part it holds up really well. Robert Duvall stars in a minor role as a cab driver, and has a decent crack at it. Jacqueline Bisset is the eye candy in the film as Bullit's girlfriend. She makes the odd appearance here and there, doesn't have much to say, but I'm OK with that. McQueen kinda just plays himself, he doesn't get to involved with his character, like he's kinda detached from everything, but in a way it works. If you're a cop, eventually things aren't gonna effect you that much and you'd get detached naturally. Maybe that was his plan all along, maybe not. Any how good job Steve.

I thought that I'd actually be like "holy shit, this film is great!!" before writing this review, but I've kinda toned down my enthusiasm . It's got a 97% approval rating on RottenTomatoes, but I dunno. It's like an 8/10 in my opinion. Just a really solid film. It's certainly not all non stop, sick to you're stomach action. The car chase is like 10 minutes long. But the rest of the film is slow paced, but still really interesting. So give it a look if you wanna tick it off that list of classics that you need to watch.

Oh, and that moment that kicks off the car chase is done brilliantly. Silence...........................................brooooooooom! Hell Yeah.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Masters of the Universe (1987)

OK, so to be totally honest I wasn't too disappointed with this film. It's actually somewhat entertaining. I was planning on laughing throughout, pointing my finger shouting "haha how silly, like get a clue people" or something to that effect, which i did do here and there, but for the most part I actually just had fun going along with the craziness. Like the plot isn't that great, so what, it's He-Man for fug sake! Infact the idea is to keep the plot as simple as possible in my opinion, and up the hamminess. More hamminess please. It actually could have done with more ham. Totally over act He-Man and Skeletor's parts while keeping the earth beings playing it totally straight, like "What the fuck are monsters doing in California!!?? Woooaahh stop the boat! What the hell is going on??? What the fuck is that little midget troll thing?" Something like what Jay does in Dogma. "The fuck! Who the fuck?? What the fuck??"

So the plot goes: Skeletor(Frank Langella, guy who plays Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon) has taken control of castle Greyskull, and has taken the hot Scorceress(Christina Pickles) prisoner with his magic powers. Woooooooo scary..... Outside in the land of Eternia there was one mother of a huge BATTLE! that just took place where Eternia's warriors were decimated by Skeletor's armies, which we never get to see. Extras are too expensive(even for a $17 million film) so we see like 5 of skeletors warriors ambushed by our hero, the one the only, Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, "I Have The Powerrrrrrrrr!!!".................HE-MAN!!!! Played by Dolph Lundgren. Who is possibly, scratch that definitely the worst actor in the film. He kinda says his line then looks at his muscles to reassure himself that he's got something to offer. "Jesus that line was terrible, but god almighty do I have great pecs".

Anyway, makin this simple.......He-Man, along with Man-At-Arms(cool name I think) and Teela find this little troll midget dude, Gwildor, who fucked up and gave Skeletor a teleporting device, the cosmic key, but Gwildor kept a prototype. They enter the Castle to save the Sorceress, but have to leg it when they're outnumbered, and transport themselves to a totally random part of the universe............happens to be California, United States, Planet Earth. Low Budget.

Julie(played by Courtney Cox, very well I think) is planning on leaving town to start a new life. She's saying her last goodbyes to her boyfriend Kevin, when they stumble across the cosmic key, which got lost in He-Man and co's teleportation. Skeletor and co are able to track this device, and when they eventually do, all hell breaks out in the small Californian town. He-Man must retrieve the Cosmic Key, prevent innocents on Earth getting caught up in the mess, return to Castle Greyskull and save the hot blonde Sorceress. Skeletor wants to enslave He-Man, his eternal pain in the ass, return to Eternia with the last remaining cosmic Key, and become a super god when Eternia's moon aligns with castle Greyskull. Understandable.

It's a really easy film for people to hate on, but it's got it's good points too. Mainly, really cheesy characters who are fun to watch when they're not taking things too seriously. Courtney Cox was good to watch, as was James Tolken(Bald guy in Top Gun) who plays this "cop with an attitude". The effects are terrible, but you know they're "so bad they're good" in a way. As I said Dolph Lundgren was woeful, but he never had that much dialogue, other than "let's go!" or "come on!". The little midget guy was quite annoying. Other than that, not such a terrible way to spend an afternoon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Radio Days (1987)

Radio Days was directed by Woody Allen, and is quite a hard film to explain. I haven't watched that many Woody Allen films, the reason being whenever I sit down to watch one, I seem to come up with a brilliant excuse not to watch it. I don't know why it is but they don't get me hooked in. Every character feels like they're Woody. Every character seems to just channel Woody's persona, and I just lose interest. Some people might say the same thing about Quentin Tarantino, that all his characters seem like replica's of himself, but his movies are still genius in my opinion, so it's hard to explain really.

So as I said this movie is really hard to explain, plotwise. The only explanation I can give of it is that it's more about just capturing the feeling and atmosphere of a Jewish family living in New York from the late 1930's to the mid 1940's and the Golden Age of Radio before those evil moving picture sets came to town. So Woody grows up listening to the radio, and imagining all these great shows like "The Masked Avenger" in his head, as you would with radio, and there seems to be some great benefit to doin it this way, rather than actually watching TV. I don't know.

Anyway, it's an Ok film. I personally could not relate to any of it. It's a nostalgic film, for people who once lived similar lives to Woody, and for the rest of us it's just an interesting thing just to observe and try appreciate for what it is. I thought it looked, and sounded great, like if I saw a small clip of it I'd think that it was something really special. But when you add all the parts together, it just doesn't do much. The obvious reason being that it doesn't really have a plot. It's more like a bunch of comical little scenes stitched together, with snappy screwball dialogue, but what it all amounted to was just a bit random in my opinion. I wish I could "get" it but I just didn't. Maybe it's coz i'm just a big stupid head.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Pawnbroker (1965)

The Pawnbroker is one of the greatest character studies I have ever seen. It tells the story of Sol Nazerman(Rod Steiger), a German-Jewish university professor who survives imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp, only to see his wife, children, friends, everything that he ever loved taken away from him in the most brutal and terrifying ways possible. We observe Sol, twenty years on, living and working in Harlem, New York City.

He runs a pawnshop, and encounters every sort of scumbag and cretin around. A coke head selling his mothers radio for a lousy two dollars for his next fix, a racketeer who uses Sol and his business as a front for his own shady dealings, and then there are people that basically visit Sol just for the conversation, just to hear themselves talk, and feel connected to someone. But Sol is on his own planet altogether. What he has done is subconsciously rid himself of any emotion whatsoever. He's gone totally numb from the experiences he's had. If you can imagine having everything you ever knew, everyone you ever loved being, witness the death of all of that, and to survive it all, just try and imagine how in the world someone could cope with that. What would you do? You now run a pawnshop, a guy comes in to your store, tries to start up a conversation about the weather or some shit, and you're thinking about that day you saw your wife raped by German officers. Or seeing your best friend chased by Alsatians then beaten to death with clubs. You'd be living in hell for the rest of your life. I can't begin to imagine how it really feels, but I can understand on my own basic level.

Basically this movie is seriously depressing. It's brutal. There's no redemption or salvation from his life and it's terrifying to witness. And just thinking about the fact that there are millions of Sol Nazerman's out there in the world who have their own stories to tell is just frightening, and really scares the shit out of me. And the way that life has that tendency to repeat itself over and over again throughout every decade and century is just.....oh my goooooood.......aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh! I know this is just a movie, but it really effected me on a personal level, OK to a waaaaaaaaaaay lesser degree than Sol Nazerman, but I can still connect enough with the basic feelings of it. It's one of those movies that just really hits you with a ton of bricks, and leaves you shattered. The movie that comes closest to it in my mind is American History X, or in terms of the study of loniless would be Taxi Driver. That kind of film. Really makes you think. So if you wanna be depressed for the next month or so, watch the Pawnbroker! But honestly it's one of the best movies I've seen, with one of the most convincing performances I've ever had the privilege to witness thanks to Rod Steiger.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Attack! (1956)

Attack! is an American war film directed by Robert Aldrich starring Jack Palance and bad boy Lee Marvin. It's about courage, honesty, standing up for what is right, and condemning to the depths of hell cowardly and dishonest behaviour, and it's just the kind of movie I like. It's easy to get real worked up about some of the bastards in this movie, while also cheering on the heroes. So it tells the story of an American front line combat unit in Belgium, during WWII. Col. Clyde Bartlett(Lee Marvin) runs the show, and he's placed Erskine Cooney(Eddie Albert) as Captain to help his post war political career. See, Erskine is the son of a top judge in the states, and the judge wants to make a war hero out of his cowardly son. Bartlett can use the judge's help after the war, two agendas meet conveniently as one, and you have a fuck up of a situation that follows. The opening scene shows a platoon get shot to pieces, and we learn later on that Cooney could have saved the men and provided support but he's too yellow! The sniveling little runt. See what I mean about getting worked up! Lt. Harold Woodruff (William Smithers) and Lt. Joe Costa (Jack Palance) are two brave fighters who are fuckin pissed off that a snivelling runt such as Cooney is in charge of the troops. Moral is low, so Woodruff tries to reason with Col. Bartlett to get rid of Cooney. But Bartlett is one step ahead. He's fairly frank with Woodruff, being unpretentious he knows that Cooney is nothin but a yellu belly, but he's heard from above that the chances of this unit seeing combat again is 100/1. So he's willing to play the game to get what he wants. Woodruff doesn't like the sound of Cooney staying on, but the news of the unit's slim chances of battle again lifts his spirits enough for him to go along. Then UH OH! seems like there's a new smell of Nazi around the place, Lt. Costa must send his platoon into a small neighbouring town for a reconnaissance mission. Costa must obey, but warns Cooney that if he fails to provide support and chickens out again, he'll "stick this grenade down (his) throat and pull the pin!". Hell yeah. So, the platoon get sent into the small town that low and behold is ridden with SS and fuggin Panzers. Costa's unit is torn to shreds, and where is Cooney? Downing whiskey because he's too scared to enter combat. He tells them to pull out instead and just basically run back, that's the best thing to do. I know situations in war get exaggerated in movies, but I was out of my seat punching at an imaginary Cooney in my living room, yelling and screaming. What a bastard. Anyway, before I reveal the entire movie, I'll just say that this is one hell of a movie to get riled up about. And the way in which the heroes deal with the crummy situation is great to be apart of. It's like a lessons of life movie. Lotsa great examples of how to deal with sonsabitches.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Boxcar Bertha (1972)

So this was an interesting one. Martin Scorsese directed this just a year or so before directing Mean Streets. It was produced by Roger Corman, a dude who was famous for his Exploitation B-Movies, so what you get here is a few sex scenes every so often, mixed with bright coloured bloody violence to keep the audiences at the drive-ins interested enough while they waited for the main feature to start. Added to the mix is Scorsese's very personal touches, like the exploration of themes of loneliness and religion. Include his wacky editing techniques. You get the feeling that he's still learning his trade, while trying to impress with his choppy editing, especially in the opening scenes.

Bertha Thompson, played by Barbara Hershey, was supposedly an actual person, an outlaw folk hero around the time of the great depression. However, as far as I can tell, this movie bears very little resemblance to her real life besides her name being Bertha and her freight train exploits in the Southern Territory. When her father dies tragically in an airplane accident, she decides to head off into the world on her own riding in boxcars, where she meets David Carradine's character "Big" Bill Shelley. Bill is a union man, and he's fed up with the railway establishment, and all that goes along with that. There's riots, angry speeches to workers, violence, all that sort of thing. So Bertha falls in love with Bill, and what we see from here on is a sort of Bonnie and Clyde relationship develope. They rob trains, rich people, run away from the law, get jiggy with it, get caught, break out of prison and so on so forth. Exciting stuff, but it's still a small bit of a rip-off of the original. But Scorsese makes things interesting with his personal touches, like the violence, it's quick and to the point, kinda grim. There's nothing glorious about dying. Well done in my opinion.

It's really not like any of his other works in certain ways. Like the tone of it all. There's an upbeat kinda feeling to it all. And then suddenly you're hit with terrifying scenes of extreme violence and racism. But for the most part it feels like you're watching Starsky and Hutch. It's an exciting adventure, then smack! you're presented with something terrible. Alot of great directors seem to use juxtapositions like this quite well. In his other films you're kinda always expecting the violence, whereas here it's totally out of the blue, and done in sort of a comical way almost, but grim at the same time, quite hard to explain really.

Anyway, this is one of his films that seems to get overlooked, but it's really interesting seeing his progression from this to Mean Streets and so on. There's some mediocre acting (Hershey and Carradine are quite good, but alot of amateur acting), poor sets, overly choppy editing in some parts done to impress, scenes thrown in to keep Roger happy( required sex and violence scenes). But then there's also some really great aspects to it. So give it a watch if you're a real fan of the director.

Carlito's Way (1993)

Ok so Carlito's Way was directed by Brian De Palma roughly I think 10 years after he directed Scarface. Both star Al Pacino as the principal character, but differ alot story wise. Scarface was about an immigrant criminal climbing the ladder of gangster life, and ultimately flushing his success down the crapper with his drug habit. Whereas Carlito's Way is about an immigrant criminal who's had enough of it all, basically he's just run out of steam, but he's finding it hard to leave the "life". Crime follows him around like an old mangy dog that follows you around alot, you know what I'm talkin about? Ya I don't quite know myself.

Sean Penn(frackin brilliant in this) plays this hot shot lawyer who's clients are all mobsters, and he gets Carlito out of a 30 year sentence after only 5 years served. So Carlito is obviously over the moon and basically in love with this guy. But now that he's out he wants to go straight. Once he ran a huge drugs operation on the streets and was in charge of like 90 guys, so he's a legend around the streets. But now all he wants to do is get some money together, $75 000, so he can set himself up as a used car dealer in the Bahamas. His old crime buddies laugh their asses off when they hear about this, but Carlito is determined.

First he's gotta get the money together, so he takes charge of a club who's customers are basically all Mafia "made" guys. And slowly but surely, he lands himself straight back into his old lifestyle, but he's willing to pay the price for his dream. But soon he finds himself too far in, "past the point of no return" as he says. Will he ever get to where he wants to be? Will he get the girl?(there's a bit of romance, underwritten in the script really) Will he sell cars one day? Will his past fatally catch up with him? Watch and find out!

So this is a really well made film, and it really has a terrific ending, it just seems to hit the right note perfectly. You've probably all seen this, it's really well known and all, but I just thought I'd give it some more praise.