A new teacher is confronted by a classroom of delinquent and disruptive teenagers... well all know the genre because it's been done over and over with each generation embracing it as though its something fresh. To Sir With Love was one of the forerunners and helped shape the mould. 'Blackboard Jungle' was actually the first but To Sir With Love further fashioned it into a formula worth repeating. For me it's one of the best and none of the others have come as close to affectively showing the transformation of students. There's a wonderful montage midway into the film which shows the class on a day trip to the museum. The images are powerful with a real sense of wonder and curiosity captured on the faces of the students. The other thing that strikes me about this over the countless clone movies is that it points the finger at adults. With a school full of troublesome teenagers, they are surrounded by a faculty of teachers who loath them and bare no belief in them whatsoever. How can kids be inspired if there is no faith and respect for them? Sidney Poitier is always amazing and his role as Thackery is inspiring. This is a great film that's spirit has travelled throughout decades of replications such as Lean On Me, Stand & Deliver, Dangerous Minds and Freedom Writers... few people know that Sidney Poitier returned 30 years later for a sequel directed by Peter Bogdonovich. While it was unnecessary, it was still a curious and engaging movie showing the similarities between the 1960s teenager and the 1990s teenager.
I'm about to open the floodgates but I'm wearing a life-jacket and am ready for the surge... I don't really need to review Alex Proyas' The Crow starring Brandon Lee. It's a work of art, a modern masterpiece and a fucking awesome movie... and so I'll jump straight to The Crow: City Of Angels. On the heels of such a critically acclaimed film, it was a brave thing to tempt fate twice. City Of Angels was not received well and was harshly judged. I never understood the hate... where the first film was a gothic horror, COA was a grunge horror. It's aesthetically different and well made. Director Tim Pope has a long history of stylised music videos, having directed most of The Cure's clips and he brings a new vision to the franchise that separates itself from what people expected and perhaps that was the movie's fault. David Goyer (Batman Begins) wrote the screenplay and he also envisioned something dirtier and more insipid. Now that 16 years have past, the movie has found itself a cult following. Time has served it well and it's a decent film unto itself.
And then there was 3. "Salvation" is the second sequel in the series and again tried to redefine the property. It was a well intentioned entry to the franchise but sadly missed the mark. The story is good enough and the reimaging of The Crow character is pretty cool... but the movie simply lacks a visual presence. It looks more like a television crime show than the horror vigilante movie that it's supposed to be. All's it would have taken to elevate it would have been a different lighting design and cinematography because all of the other components are in place. Still, I don't hate Salvation. It might be a lacklustre sequel in comparison with the previous films but as a stand-alone it works well enough to make it worth a look. What it does have going for it is a really fucking awesome soundtrack.
Oh and here's my review for the 4th Crow film "Wicked Prayer".... it's a turd!
When the final credits roll at the end of Mister Lonely, you pinch yourself as reassurance that you weren't dreaming. It's a really odd experience. In the remote highlands of Scotland there is a commune of celebrity impersonators. They live in character, away from judgement. Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Charlie Chaplin, The Queen and others... they tend to the animals, maintain the castle they live in and spend their lives trapped in performance. It's one of those films that makes little sense and yet works well. The movie alternates between two unrelated stories; the aforementioned commune and then a missionary priest in South America (Werner Herzog) who witnesses a miracle. It's difficult to grasp the relevance of these two independent stories aside from the fact that one deals with identity and the other with faith. The movie has understandably alienated a lot of people. It's as equally loathed amongst audiences as it is loved. I'm one of the lovers. I find it challenging and having seen it three times, I find myself deeper in its enchantment with each viewing. What does it all mean? I don't know. Does it have something to say? Yes. What is it? Um... I'm still working on that one.
'The Wonderful World Of Disney' was staple viewing for me as a kid. Every Sunday night without fail I would park myself on the floor in front of the tv (in my PJs) and watch every fun-filled adventure they presented. These were classic made-for-television films which were essentially cheaper alternatives to Disney's theatrical films... and now Disney are releasing a whole collection of them on DVD. I plan to buy a heap of them and I started with 'The Treasure of Matecumbe'. I suspect that The Goonies took a lot of inspiration from this movie... it's the story of a kid who finds a treasure map in his attic and embarks on an adventure with his best friend to find it so that he can save his home from foreclosure (sound familiar?). The adventure itself is a lot different, however, with the two boys travelling along a river and finding themselves caught up in all kinds of trouble... they meet a stowaway, a scam artist, native indians and even the KKK. The essence of the film owes a lot to Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer stories and presents a fun couple of hours for the whole family. For me it was a nostalgic flick and a reminder of how wonderful Disney really used to be, back when family entertainment was valued so much more. When Sunday nights on television were chock-full of movies and reality tv would have sounded pointless. The Treasure Of Matecumbe is a welcome addition to my collection of films and I'm looking forward to collecting more of these...
My previous film review of 'Colors' inspired me to explore further into the urban gang & turf war issues of South Central LA. Many of us have seen the films (Menace II Society, Boyz N The Hood etc) which offer an eye-opening peek into the window of this imprisoned faction of society. I ended my review of Colors by saying that while I understood gang violence, I still didn't get it... and so after sifting through a heap of dvds I found "Made In America: Bloods & Crips". This documentary explores the history of black gangs and explains their origins, their motivations and their necessity. Needless to say these gangs grew out of segregation, hatred and racism stemming back to the 1950s and a time where the only respect they were ever going to get was within their own community. They began as clubs and evolved into gangs. Respect evolved into fear and before they knew it the defiant and reverent attitudes which built communities spiralled into a chaotic and violent war zone with absolutely no reason, logic or purpose. The film is narrated by Forrest Whitaker and it's a good exploration of it's subject. It refrains from showing explicit images and choses to delve into the issues with people from all sides of the war. Former members, community leaders, victim families and current members. Curiously the one point of view absent from the film is the police. This is a smart move as such opinions are destructive to finding the solution. *** spoiler alert *** the film concludes by highlighting the absurdity and ignorance of the streets wars. All political and social significance of the gangs is long lost and the white man and authority cannot be held responsible anymore. Black men are killing black men and the only way out is to die or change... unity and opportunity is what will bring peace.... but that, of course, is fruitless.
Colors is the father of urban gansta films. Before the likes of Spike Lee, John Singleton and The Hughes Brothers brought turf wars to the screen, Dennis Hopper got there first. His film follows two uniform cops on the streets of South Central LA who share separate philosophies on how to deal with an out of control gangland. The gangs featured in the film are the Bloods, Crips & The White Fence. Gangsta genre is all too familiar these days. We've seen countless stories on screen over the years, each one tragic but looking back on Colors it was a pioneering and brave film. It was the first true telling of gang life and the world's first real glimpse into it's ugliness. Sean Penn and Robert Duvall are brilliant and the rest of the cast are a who's-who of familiar faces. Don Cheadle, Damon Waynes and Tony Todd are just a few... oh and of course the leader of the Whites is played by Trinidad ("Badgers?") Silva. I had seen the movie a few times when I was younger but watching it now with all of the other urban films in mind, it becomes clearer that Colors was a bold and powerful foundation. And from a sheltered and relatively privileged upbringing the whole "gang violence" thing is so fucking pointless to me. It's a oxymoron to say the least because I understand it... and yet I don't get it. A great film.
Most sporting movies are generic. They're most often about the underdogs who climb their way from nothing into something. It's a formula that has been around for decades and isn't going anywhere. Not all of these movies are bad either, in fact it's a reliable formula that inspires us and movies like Miracle, Remember The Titans and Slapshot are proven winners. Now comes Moneyball, another true story about a baseball team stuck deep in the shit. Its general manager, Brad Pitt, enlists the smarts of an economics graduate played by Jonah Hill and together they formulate a revolutionary game plan based on individual player values and statistics. Naturally this unconventional method shakes up the league and enemies are made along the way. Moneyball is smart! It's a solid film with solid performances. In my opinion, Brad Pitt has not been this good in a long time and Jonah Hill is remarkable. You needn't know a thing about sport, let alone baseball, to enjoy this film. It's simply a fascinating story told really well. Surprisingly the production stumbled with original director Steven Soderberg leaving and being replaced by Bennett Miller (Capote). You wouldn't know it. Moneyball deserved it's Oscar nomination. It's inspiring stuff without the fluff!
*** Graphic Content. Read ahead only if you have the stomach to. ***
It takes a hardcore horror buff to endure Nekromantik. What I want to say is that before recent films like 'A Serbian Film' and 'The Human Centipede 2' Nekromantik was the apex of cinematic depravity. That's just not true because Nekromantik REMAINS one of the most depraved experiments in obscenity. This is a German horror film for strong stomachs. It's repulsive and vulgar and cannot be unseen. It's images will plague your mind like a disease. To summarise without much detail, its a film about lovers who collect human remains. They fuck corpses (rotten decomposing). The images are vivid and unrelenting. The camera never flinches and the viewer, if they persist, is invited to endure explicit acts of perversion. You feel guilty watching it and you desperately crave ANYTHING DISNEY. To this day Nekromantik is banned in almost every country. So why go to the effort of sourcing it? Because it's groundbreaking and it can be argued that there is artistic merit. I always argue that good films provoke an emotional reaction. It's good to be affected by cinema and I find films like this to be challenging. The film is full of irony and at the time of its release in the late 80s it served as a commentary of the state of censorship and fear of moral corruption. If it's a film that kindles your curiosity then approach it with the right frame of mind. You will never enjoy it but you may just find it demanding and complex. And just when you thought your vomit bag was full enough, Nekromantik 2 came along... pushing it further (if that's even possible). Don't worry, I won't post any reviews here. Its disgusting but far more self-satirical, much like Human Centipede 2 was to part 1.
Office Killer was critically panned when released in the late 90s. I liked it though, and it has since earned itself a cult status. It's a great little black comedy about the geeky, introverted and ignored office worker who flips out and starts randomly killing the people around her. While the movie is riddled with cliches it is nevertheless a fun, pulpy movie, intentionally melodramatic and well performed. It was written by Tom Kalin who directed the brilliant art house serial killer film, Swoon. Carol Kane is always great on screen, offering a quirky and eccentric serial killer, reminiscent of everyone's favourite Milton (have you seen my stapler?).
Dolan's Cadillac is one of the lousier Stephen King films. His books can be complex even in short form and they are easily spoiled by screen adaptations. The story is taken from his Nightmares And Dreamscapes collection and was made by a television director. It's not his fault that Dolan's Cadillac doesn't work though. In short form it would have made for a decent hour-long episode of a tv show... Hell, there was even a 13 part series called Nightmares & Dreamscapes! Anyhow, it's a basic revenge movie. Wes Bentley is a man who seeks vengeance for the murder of his wife. She was witness to a gangland murder and executed in turn. Christian Slater plays the title character of Dolan, a mobster invested in the sex-traffic trade. It could have been handled better and certainly a lot grittier. I'm thinking of flicks like Death Sentence, The Brave One and Death Wish. With the right aesthetic and toned down performances this could have been something else. Unfortunately it nose dives to the muddy depths of lesser King adaptations.
A few months ago I posted a positive review of a little horror movie called "Reeker". It told of an unknown entity which stalked a stranded group of friends in the middle of the desert. It was creative and surprising... tonight I watched it's sequel, or rather prequel. "No Man's Land" is a steaming pile of shit. The first 15 minutes take place in 1978 and we get a back-story of how the Reeker came to be. There's some cool and genuinely gruesome stuff in this brief intro, but then the movie jumps to "present day", which is actually set just before the first film. It's basically a half-arsed rehash of the first movie. There is nothing inspiring about it and it's acted atrociously. The movie was written and directed by the same guy but I have no idea what he was thinking? Even in script form there is no way he could have possibly thought this was improving on the original. I don't understand the logic behind this movie when there was potential to turn the story into a nice little franchise. Enough said, No Man's Land sucks.
"Noise" opens with a grim scenario. A girl boards a train late at night and moments later realises that the carriage is strewn with dead bodies. Several days later a woman is found in a drainage ditch. The two crimes are connected and Brendan Cowell plays the insignificant cop assigned the duty of manning the graveyard shift at a police information caravan. He also suffers tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears) which heightens his boredom on the job. This is one of those WOW films. It totally roped me in from the moment it started and I was on edge the whole way. I had no idea where it was going and was totally enthralled by every character. It's a damn tense film too and it's isolated setting under the cloak of darkness makes it all the more unnerving. Brendan Cowell is great and the scenes with him outsmarting a local ratbag feral is superbly acted. It might have taken me a long time to get to this film but it most definitely finds itself amongst my favourite Aussie films. Check it out if you haven't already.
Linear is a visual representation of U2's 2008 album No Line On The Horizon. Director Anton Corbijn was asked by the band to capture the album on film and he put together a story of a cop who throws in his career to travel across France and Spain in search of... something. When Corbijn finished the film the band decided to return to the studio to rearrange the album. This put Linear out of whack with new arrangements, a new song and a lost song... and so he went back and re cut the film, resulting in a wonderful alternative album to the one U2 released. The album itself (imo) is creatively the best work the band has done in almost 20 years and this film really enhances it. I know the album and lyrics well but watching Linear gave a greater exposure to the underlying themes of the songs. There's a raw and almost sleazy energy throughout the whole thing as well as a newfound dissociation in the music with Bono singing in 3rd person instead of his usual 1st person point of view. There is also a huge sense of optimism and freedom which is especially highlighted with Corbijn's visuals. I found it to be reminiscent of Easy Rider in it's presentation of life on the road... a few stops here, a few stops there... lots of reflection and beautiful landscapes. Watching it once makes me want to watch it again. If you do get a chance, see it on a large screen with the volume high. Linear is a great musical journey!
My bias towards Steven Spielberg is unavoidable but I honestly don't think that would have affected my thoughts about The Adventures Of Tintin. This is a wonderful film! Like so many people, I grew up with Tinin. I read lots of the books and watched the animated tv show. It's high adventure spoke to me and when you think about it, everything in a Tintin story is of this world. There is no fantasy realm of monsters or super-villains and, although heightened reality, the situations are human. I think Spielberg and Peter Jackson have collaborated for an incredibly faithful adaptation which is a sight to behold. It looks magnificent. The characters are true to the original Herge stories and while they have amalgamated several stories for creative purposes it all results in an adventure which honours the legacy and introduces Tintin to a whole new generation. The motion-capture animation sets the bar very high for others to follow and it's a movie experience to celebrate. I have watched it several times already and it gets better each time. I rate this in my top 10 of the year.
For some reason I often return to Slipstream. It's a movie I loved as a kid and the older I get the more I realise what's wrong with it. It's stodgily told and a lot of the production values have depreciated over time.... but something lures me back time and again. I love the aesthetic and the setting. It takes place on a post apocalyptic Earth where a global catastrophe has rendered the planet almost uninhabitable. All thats left are rugged ridges and windswept canyons. A bounty hunter kidnaps a murderer from police for a large reward and much of the film is about being on the run. Some great themes and the concept is original. This was the follow up film for director Steven Lisberger who had just made Tron at the time. Expectations were high and you get the feeling that he was out of his depth. The cast are good with Bob Peck, Bill Paxton, Mark Hamill, Ben Kingsley & F Murray Abraham (how's that for a lineup?) but the movie ultimately never really gels.... nevertheless it remains a simple treat that I go back for. Its one of the rare instances then I would suggest the benefits of a good remake. This deserves to be done well!