SPRING (AND SUMMER) BREAKERS? WATCHIN' IN 2013

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Re: SPRING (AND SUMMER) BREAKERS? WATCHIN' IN 2013

Postby J.M. Vargas » Mon Jul 01, 2013 1:07 am

Alejandro Jodorowsky's FANDO AND LIS (1968) on DVD for the first time. A low-budget cinematic adaptation of a surrealist play the writer/director of "El Topo" shot from his recollections of staging the play in Mexico, "Fando and Lis" is just different and weird-enough to stand out (particularly coming from late 60's Mexican cinema) while also being too pretentious and full of itself (unless you're into the theater) to qualify as nothing more than a curio for new Jodorowsky fans like myself. Using a mix of allegory and in-your-face symbolism (everything from the implied rape of a little girl by circus people to the lead couple literally painting themselves and the room they're in completely black), "Fando and Lis" manages to visualize on a shoestring budget the absurd and arid landscape (the desolate locations most of the film takes place in as well as Fando's internal back-and-forth romance/hatred for the too-pure-to-be-realistic Lis) of Dante's Divine Comedy as the character's search for the mythical city of Tar takes its toll on them and the oddball weirdos they come across. I'm glad I've seen "Fando and Lis" because a few of Jodorowsky's cinematic trademarks (characters speaking without their mouths moving, small roles for deformed people, etc.) take shape here, but this is definitely the type of film I don't see myself coming back to ever again.

THE BURGLARS (1971) on TCM-HD for the first time. What starts as a diamond heist at a Greek magnate's mansion becomes a waiting game for a getaway boat to repair some damages, which keeps a team of professional thieves stuck in the island with the prized loot at the mercy of a crooked cop (Omar Sharif, clearly enjoying the job as a paid vacation) that wants the diamonds to himself. The old-school pace of this international co-production (including a pretty cool car chase that clearly inspired Frankenheimer when he directed "Ronin") is refreshing, allowing star Jean-Paul Belmondo to flex movie star muscle both seducing his co-stars (Dyan Canon and Nicole Calfan) and performing his own stunts (jumping off buses, falling from a truck down a steep incline in one take, etc.). The scene where Belmondo and Sharif play cat and mouse games at a restaurant feels like the DeNiro-Pacino meet in "Heat," only funny and actually engaging. Not a lost or forgotten gem, "The Burglars" is a pleasant way to kill time and have fun without having much to show afterwards besides the constant grin on your face you had while watching.

Alejandro Jodorowsky's THE HOLY MOUNTAIN (1973) at IFC Center Midnights for the first time. P.T. Anderson's "The Master" makes a lot more sense now that I've seen the mother of all 'guru' movies (for lack of a better term). There aren't enough drugs in the world that could make me come up with a semi-comprehensible summary that could do "The Holy Mountain" any justice. It's so much more than what it appears to be, the story of a Christ-lookalike thief that falls in with a holy man (Jodorowsky) that teams-up with other characters so together the group can try to achieve immortality through _______... and something about turning defecated shit into gold, i.e. A Happy Madison Production (you're welcome, I'll be here all week! :?). I thought "El Topo" was an amazing, disturbing and deep movie, but "Holy Mountain" tops it on every level (visually, artistically, thematically, allegorically, etc.) and concludes with a notorious final scene that I can honestly say I loathe and adore with equal zeal. It's a cliche but it's true: you don't watch "The Holy Mountain," you experience it. And the best way to do is either on Blu-ray or, if it comes by your town, a midnight theater screening. Between this and "El Topo" I've become a Jodorowsky fan for life. Bring on "Santa Sangre," motherf***ers! 8)

Enzo G. Castellari's THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978) on Blu-ray for the first time. Like "The Dirty Dozen" with the boring parts (the training, the "getting to know you" moments, etc.) cut off, "The Inglorious Bastards" embraces and relishes the cliche that war movies glorify violence. That's exactly what this is, a violent comic strip that is a text-book of how to stage maximum war violence employing the tricks of the trade and stretching a budget smartly. It takes 45 min. until an actual plot to kick in, and you're never more than 5-10 min. away from a cool action scene and/or shootout. Bo Svenson (who appears, from his appearance in the making-of documentary, to be an intolerable douche), Fred Williamson (having a ball and being a physical mother) and Michael Pergolani (you can't take your eyes off of Nick when he's on screen) headline a small army of actors, technicians and stuntmen that director Castellari directs with the energy and skill of a dozen flicks combined. Plus he throws in a gratuitous bunch of naked chicks that fire machine-guns and some Peckinpah slow-motion montages just because the movie needs a stylish break from its relentlessly awesome war mayhem and effective-though-obvious miniature work.

CONAN THE DESTROYER (1984) on DVD for the first time. A proud member of the class of '84 films (along with "Gremlins" and "Temple of Doom") too violent for PG that ushered in the PG-13 rating, "Conan the Destroyer" is still a watered-down fantasy rehash of "Conan the Barbarian." Even Basil Poledouris rips-off his own memorable score with an inferior one. Directed with impersonal professionalism by Richard Fleischer (except for the bouncing rocks that also float on water... really?) "Destroyer" at least doesn't take itself so seriously that it doesn't have fun repeating/coasting on the beats of the first movie (punching animals, drunk behavior, Mako being Mako, etc.) and Schwarzenegger's physique, which the low-budget "Terminator" used to better effect the same year. Tracey Walter stinks up the movie with his unfunny comic relief schtick but Olivia d'Abo (Nicole Wallace on "Law & Order: Criminal Intent") is fascinatingly miscast as a virgin princess that seems imported wholesale from "the Valley." Not the neutered piece of shit that I was expecting but a weak-sauce way to end Arnold's "Conan" franchise.

LA CONSTELLATION JODOROWSKY (1994) on DVD for the first time. A bonus documentary in Anchor Bay's "Fando and Lis" DVD release, this 19 year-old French documentary about the filmmaker (who is clearly more fluent in French than English) is an unintentionally great and lengthy coming attraction trailer for the upcoming "Jodorowsky's Dune" documentary. A good deal of the piece deals with the aborted project that eventually became David Lynch's movie, but most of "LCJ" is taken by Jodorowsky just talking (to a class of paying listeners, to someone he's giving a tarot card reading, to the documentary director about his family tree past affecting his present, etc.), and that's just fine because Alejandro proves to be an engaging personality worth listening and paying attention to. Whether you agree with what he says is besides the point. Too little time is actually spent discussing Alejandro's movies ("Santa Sangre" is barely mentioned) but the clips shown (tattered, below-8mm quality junk) and some of the war stories (like the slice of humble pie he had to swallow to be allowed to make "The Rainbow Thief" with Peter O'Toole) at least make you appreciate more the restoration done for the post-2007 home video and midnight theater screenings of both his best-known films and Jodorowsky's reputation.

Guillermo Del Toro's MIMIC: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1997/2011) on Blu-ray for the first time. I'm not sure Del Toro's original vision for this $25 million 'B' movie (as both seen and described in his director's cut) was that good or interesting to begin with. The giant bug creatures are meant to be be a cross between a human and a poe'd cockroach ("Jurassic Park" meets "Aliens" set in Gotham's sewers) but the creatures behave more like movie psychos, killing some characters viciously and letting others live at the whim of the script. Between Josh Brolin's laughable CDC Police tough guy act, the trying-too-hard bad soundtrack, the autistic kid, the dodgy CGI, the guy from "Roc" doing the supporting black character routine and Mira Sorvino/Jeremy Northam as lame audience surrogates/leads "Mimic" never had a chance to live up to its potential even before the notorious meddling by the Weinsteins. Only Giancarlo Giannini, F. Murray Abraham (cameo), the design of the creatures and Del Toro's stylish touches (the movie looks gorgeous) lift "Mimic" from forgettable to passable. Great bonus features on the Blu-ray though, in which no punches are pulled and Guillermo shits on the Weinsteins as much as Lionsgate's legal team will allow him to.

Richard Kelly's SOUTHLAND TALES (2006) on Blu-ray for the first time. Haven't seen "Donnie Darko" yet, and "Southland Tales" might keep it that way. It's not that I hated this movie as much as I don't know what to make of it, which I think was Kelly's intent all along. Like "Magnolia" on crack cocaine and with a huge cast acting as if each of them is the lead in their own movie (that many of them are former late night sketch TV comedians just adds to the incongruity), Richard Kelly's laundry list of post-Iraq Invasion pet peeves (NSA spying on citizens, reality TV, California laid-back culture, the GOP neocons, etc.) is an angry shout of artistic expression by a writer/director whose compass points everywhere and nowhere. I mean, Bush-Cheney running for office again with a good shot at winning California's 55 electoral votes is already post-apocalyptic enough. But an emasculated Dwayne Johnson and Seann William Scott(s) as the "saviors" that are key to the end of times? Justin Timberlake reading from Book of Revelations (deep!) and starring in a music-video-of-the-mind while high on drugs? "SNL's" Cheri Oteri and Jon Lovitz as tough bad-asses? Animated cars humping? Kevin Smith and Janeane Garofalo unrecognizable under tons of make-up? Christopher Lambert as an arms-dealing ice cream truck driver?

To his credit Kelly manages to link of these disparate elements together PLUS shows Eli Roth getting killed while taking a dump in a toilet. This is definitely a unique and batshit take on the end of the world. Too bad those of us not in Kelly's wavelength (i.e. 99 and 44/100% of the world) have to struggle just to wrap our minds around what we're seeing, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi comedy that doesn't neatly fit into either category or any other category you might see fit to invent to try and classify it. It's not a total loss, but "Southland Tales" definitely separates fans of ambitious failures (like Judge Patrick Bromley) from pretenders like me, because this is just... just... WOW! :shock:
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Re: SPRING (AND SUMMER) BREAKERS? WATCHIN' IN 2013

Postby Polynikes » Mon Jul 01, 2013 7:54 am

Lying on the sofa for the last couple of days channel hopping while recovering from a virus, I chanced upon The Expendables (2010) and Unknown (2011). Pretty much as expected. The Expendables is a straightforward cash-in for Stallone, and the only surprise is that people spent money going to the cinema to see it, but fair play to Stallone, he’s honest; no pretensions that this is going to be a profound meditation on the nature of being - you get what it says on the tin. I missed a few minutes, and I could swear on re-entering the room that I saw Arnold Schwarzenegger deliver a line or two before walking away, but I don’t remember seeing him again. I know I saw Bruce Willis earlier in the film, but I don’t think he returned either. Strange.

I was disappointed by Unknown, as it was another example of a film where the plot has not been carefully thought through. The premise has potential, but it needs to be worked out carefully. There were echoes of Frantic and Taken about the film. On the positive side, Bruno Ganz gives a well crafted performance as an ex-Stasi man.
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Re: SPRING (AND SUMMER) BREAKERS? WATCHIN' IN 2013

Postby J.M. Vargas » Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:01 am

David Cronenberg's FAST COMPANY (1979) on DVD. This movie is growing on me with each repeat viewing, even though it's in no danger of reaching my Cronenberg Top 10. Listening to the commentary track David comes across as such a sincere gearhead that you can almost understand why he was slumming in this exploitation genre just so he could get his kicks.

MYSTERY MEN (1999) on HD-DVD for the first time. Before there was "X-Men," and before "Kick-Ass" & "Watchmen" thoroughly deconstructed the team superhero genre... there was a big-budget "Mystery Men" summer movie? And it was helmed with no tonal or visual consistency (unless you count ripping off the Schumacher "Batman" movies) by cameraman-turned-one-time director Kinka Usher? From Michael Bay's cameo as a frat boy villain to the underused Wes Studi as superhero/motivational speaker Sphinx, each cast member of "Mystery Men" lifts/sinks the movie with their individual takes on their made-up superhero roles. Hank Azaria's The Blue Raja steals every scene he's in (I haven't stopped talking in Raja's pretend British accent) and William H. Macy (along with Studi) sell their characters like pros. Ben Stiller's Banner-without-Hulkout Mr. Furious schtick and Geoffrey Rush's take on a disco villain (with Eddie Izzard as a henchman) wear thin really quick though, and "Mystery Men" takes a long time beating the same basic joke to death before fizzling with the type of over-the-top climax "Austin Power" had already dressed down... twice. BTW, was there a law passed in Hollywood that every movie/TV show since '99 has to use Smash Mouth's 'All-Star' at some point?

THIS IS THE END (2013) in theaters for the first time. The big-screen, big-budget adaptation of 2007's "Jay and Seth Versus The Apocalypse" is everything "Your Highness" promised to be but wasn't: a winking, self-referential, foul-mouthed and laugh-out loud celebration of the current generation of young Hollywood turks (playing exaggerated versions of their perceived images: lovable Seth Rogen, sweetheart Jonah Hill, asshole Danny McBride, etc.) and pop culture in general. When the movie isn't having fun subverting our perception of Michael Cera as a sweetheart pushover it squeezes the now-cliche end-of-the-world movie scenario for as many laughs as it can generate before the premise runs about 20 min. too long. I was a little troubled that there were no women in the main group that holes up at James Franco's home (Emma Watson shows up briefly, only to be "chased away") but that only makes the male bonding between the bromance "couples" (particularly Rogen and Jay Baruchel) all the more ridiculously lovable. BTW, all the $$$ it took to secure the expensive song used near the end of the movie: money well spent guys. :lol:

Sofia Coppola's THE BLING RING (2013) in theaters for the first time. By jettisoning the slow pace and lingering shots of her previous movies (which would have felt out of place and pretentious given the subject matter) Sofia Coppola kind-of goes mainstream with "The Bling Ring" while simultaneously, almost subtly, retaining her unique take of being observational and non-judgmental about people of privilege going through the motions of their so-called life. Inspired by the real gang of well-to-do L.A. teenagers that broke into stars' home to steal their swag (which is so excessive it initially goes unnoticed by the victims) when they're out of town, the movie truly shows its colors when the teens are caught and we switch leads from Katie Chang's Rebecca to Emma Watson's Nicki. Israel Broussard is a serviceable cipher/audience representative to the seductive appeal of not only celebrity culture but material things and pretend friends to fill the hole left in his life by absent parents (which is what separates Sofia's perspective from the rich spoiled characters she constantly depicts in her films: being raised by loving parents). It's no "Somewhere" or "Lost in Translation," but "The Bling Ring" is a decent entry in Sofia's growing resume.
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Re: SPRING (AND SUMMER) BREAKERS? WATCHIN' IN 2013

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:48 am

Last week, I celebrated Independence Day by watching three Rifftrax shorts:
-"Patriotism" (where a post-Hogan Bob Crane says that pretty much anything we do is patriotic)
-"The Bill of Rights in Action" (where the audience must choose if a Neo-Nazi should be locked up for disturbing the peace, released because of Freedom of Speech, or, as Kevin suggests, just punched out)
-"What it Means to Be an American" (basically playing badminton, living on fruit farms and considering any other country to be backwards dictatorships)

Then, on Sunday, I went to see a revival showing of "1776". This was particularly good, as the showing was at the State Theater in New Brunswick, NJ. Thus, the jokes about NJ and New Brunswick got a lot of laughs (though not as much as the joke about the NY legislature).
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Re: SPRING (AND SUMMER) BREAKERS? WATCHIN' IN 2013

Postby Polynikes » Wed Jul 24, 2013 2:19 pm

Foolproof (2008). An enjoyable above average heist film, in my opinion much better than more celebrated offerings of the genre such as Ocean's Eleven and the sequels. Heist movies by their nature can test credulity, but I thought Foolproof did a better job than most in creating plausible technical break-ins, not relying overly on super gizmos. The characters were not over pleased with themselves as actors are wont to be in such films and the plot does not go over the top, which gives it a more credible feel than is usual for a heist movie. Foolproof could be improved like any film (some of the "twists" were easy to anticipate) and it is not going to make the best 100 films of all time for most people, but it is a pleasant way to pass the time if you are in the mood for a light film which delivers what it promises.
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