Tom Miller, a talent agent, spends most of nights drowning his
sorrow in booze. Tom hasn’t had much luck as of late, leading him to a life of alcoholism. All that changes when Tom is hired by Fats Murdoch, a former gangster, who is hellbent on making his soon-to-be blond bombshell wife, Jerri Jordan, a singing star. Frank Tashlin’s The Girl Can’t Help It is a love-letter of sorts to the 1950s music scene. Tashlin’s films are always charming and playful and The Girl Can’t Help It is no different, opening with Tom Miller introducing the film to the audience. The music numbers in The Girl Can’t Help It are blended into the narrative, never feeling forced or unnecessary. Considering a large part of the film is spent at various nightclubs everything feels natural, and in that regard, This film is essentially the prototype of what I personally want out of a musical. A big part of this film revolves around the budding romance between Tom Miller and Jerri Jordan. Tashlin develops these characters early and often, making the romance feel genuine. For example through the early part of the film we know Tom is a lost soul, so to speak, yet it is about halfway through the film when we learn his alcoholism is in direct relation to a bad break-up with a former client. One of my favorite sequences of the entire film is when Tom is haunted by the images of his ex, seeing her image all around him every time her song comes on the radio. On the other hand, Jerri is a stereotypical sex-pot who wants nothing more than to live a domesticated life. She is constantly told she is meant for more and nearly every character in the film views her strictly from a sexual perspective, except Tom. Tashlin really understands his characters and when the two begin to actually grow feelings for each other it works perfectly. Make no mistake, The Girl Can’t Help It is a comedic film with Tashlin using a smart screenplay and lots of fun little sight gags, typically revolving around Jerri’s beauity and/or lack of singing ability, to create an enjoyable experience. This film really feels like Tashin’s love letter to 1950s doo-wop type music and maybe the greatest aspect about the film is how much it still rings true today. Just another enjoyable, charming experience from Tashlin.
Taking place slightly after World War II, Nagisa Oshima's The Sun's Burial is the story of Tatsu, Takeshi, and Hanoko, three friends who live in the slums of Japan. Tatsu and Tekeshi are best friends whom are bored with their current situation, ultimately joining a gang for the sole purpose of having something to do. On the other end is Hanoko, a very strong-willed female character who seems to have a good understanding of what she wants, often doing whatever it takes to "get ahead" in life. Nagisha Oshima is without a doubt a masterful filmmaker, with many of his films having political/cultural intentions, and The Sun's Burial is certainly no diffrent. Throughout the film we follow thse three characters as they navigate through the slums. We witness blood trafficking, prostitution, assault, murder, etc, as these three young souls attempt to navigate their hostile existence. Deception is a common theme through The Sun's Burial as characters routinely decieve one and other for selfh reasons, with Tatsu and Tekeshi, best friends, unable to escape from turning on each other themselves. Oshima's films routinely fatures gorgeous cinematography and The Sun's Burial is no different, featuring beautiful contrast color imagery and composition. Oshima's film is certainly a nihilistic effort, though not to the same extent as say Koji Wakamatsu's films, with him essentially challenging the youth of Japan to make something of themselves by means other then deception. My only real issue with The Sun's Burial is that I found its overabundance of characters unnecessary and frankly hard to follow at times, inevitably deminishing the film's overall emotional impact on me. None the less, Taking place directly after World War II, The Sun's Burial emplores people to move past self-loathing and be productive, no doubt an important thematic element given the film's release.
A family of five lives peacefully in rural France, happily and alone from the outside world. One day a major highway construction project, which was abandoned 10 years ago, is finished, ultimately pushing this family too their limits. Ursula Meier's Home is a unique and interesting drama that touches on the sancitity of the place we call home as well as being an eco-parable. The film spends a good amount of time with the family before the highway opens, capturing how happy and care-free the family is. In these scenes the film establishes all the important and genuine relationship dynamics which will tested later in the film. Just imagine going from an existence in which your life is one of complete tranquility to the constant buzz of the highway as busy cars go by. This is what we witness, with Home doing a fantastic job at creating the tension and suspense over what many of us would consider as trivial everyday distractions. The cinematography of Home certainly aids in creating this emotional effect, going from warm and open landscapes to a more claustrophobic feel as these characters begin to affected. The mother, played by Isabelle Huppert, is really the most important character to the films thematic intentions. She is a woman who is threatened by the highway as if she fears it gives her children reason to runaway to the outside world. Much of what happens in Home with the various characters is subtle and understated, but the confrontational elements certainly threaten to tear them apart. My only real problem with Home is towards the end of the film where I thought it tried a little too hard to get its message across, inevitably sacrificing some of the believability of the narrative. That being said, Ursula Meier's Home works so well because of its well-defined characters, making some of the more overly dramatic moments towards the end easier to stomach.
Johnny lives a simple life with his wife, Celia, and brother, Polo, in New York
City. When Johnny and Polo's father, John Sr., comes to visit old, and deep-seeded family dynamics start to unfold. Things take quite a turn though when we learn that Johnny is hiding a dark secret, which could change all of their lives for good. Fred Zinnemann's A Hatful of Rain is a raw film depicting the debilitating effects drug addiction can have not only on oneself, but the people they care about. A Hatful of Rain does a great job early on at playing with the viewers perceptions- portraying Johnny as the son with his head on his shoulders while his brother is the perceived screw-up. This is because early on these characters are from John Sr. point-of-view and when Zinnemann pulls the curtain back we begin to notice Johnny's troubling addiction. Being a very taboo subject at the time, Zinnemann does a lot of skillful things in showing how this drug lifestyle is present in everyday society, all around us whether we notice it or not. A great example of this is early on in the film when Johnny is being interrogated by dealers who he owes money too. Two innocent children interrupt, asking for help in navigating the stairs. One of the thugs helps the young boy, and immediately goes back to his interrogation. While many would overlook this simple scene, Zinnemann uses it to show how these types of taboo issues are prevalent all around us whether we know it or not. This is a major theme throughout, with Polo's problems being very much on the surface while Johnny's are hidden in the shadows. The visual design of A Hatful of Rain is very film noir-ish, using lots of shadows and black and white contrast to show Johnny's problems. The urban landscapes of New York are also prevalent in the background, as if Zinnemann wants to remind the audience that Johnny's drug addiction is a part of real life, not just fiction. In the end, Zinneman's film is not only about drug addiction but about two sons so fearful of disappointing their father that they risk hurting themselves or each other to do so. There are tons of nice, subtle undertones about the relationship the two men have with their father - how he was never really there for them when they were younger for example, and one could even argue that with A Hatful of Rain, Zinnemann is showing how John Sr. is ultimately responsible for his son's failings.
A newly wed couple (Steve Zahn & Milla Jovovich) on vacation in Hawaii learn that a psychopathic couple is murdering tourists on one of the islands. As they set off onto a trail to find some nice scenary, they run into a couple (Timothy Olyphant & Kiele Sanchez) whom accompanies them on the trail. Could this couple actually be the psychopaths?!?! or just another couple??? Thats the basic premise of A Perfect Getaway. This is really an interesting film because it almost seems as if David Twohy, the writer and director, was self aware about the ridiculousness of the material while making the film. A Perfect Getaway is loaded with really odd references - One of the newly wed's is a screenwriter for example, so there are stretches of dialogue all about screenwriting and structure. Its really odd and almost self-aware. As the two couple's learn about the potential psychopaths, there are multiple references to Natural Born Killers and other random references. What is so interesting is that all this odd, goofy commentary may be all intentional, with Twohy ultimately more interested in writing an elaborate Farce. Then again I might be giving him way too much credit. Perhaps the reason they weren't taking it so seriously has to do with a big twist towards the end of the film which really is laughable at best. Without giving anything away, its one of those twists that is completely unmotivated and out of left field. I personally think the best twists are the ones that could be figured out, if you pay very close attention to earlier details, but none of those are present in the slightest. Its just feels like the writer was like, "OH, this would be a crazy way to change things up!". Anyway, Timothy Olyphant does do a great job of carrying this film for me. He basically plays an ex-soldier of some sort who comes off as a bit mental and spends most of his time talking about all his crazy stories. It's a great performance because Olyphant really makes you unsure about his character's intentions while being incredibly entertaining while doing so. I do have some problems with David Twohy's direction of action scenes. Much like his previous film, The Chronicles of Riddick, the action is poorly edited and confusing. In the end, I cannot deny that I enjoyed the film - It's well paced and kept my attention throughout. The twist just drove me nuts and the very end involving Milla Jonovich's characters' inner turmoil made no damn sense, being completely underdeveloped and tacked on. The bottom line though is I can't be sure of David Twohy's intentions but if this whole silly film was intentionally that way, the film is actually quite genius.
'Dead End Drive In' is the type of film which I am ashamed to say I never watched until now. Set in Post-Apocalyptic Australia, we are introduced to our main character Crabs, a young man, who wishes he was bigger and stronger like his brother. One night, Crabs takes his girlfriend to a drive-in movie theater, which later we find out is actually an internment camp set up by the government. Crabs is told he cannot leave, and most of the film follows him as he tries to figure out how to get the parts for his 57 Chevy - which he needs to escape. The film is pretty much all that I love about 80's sci-fi. The pounding synth inspired score is awesome, along with the amazing production design mainly composed of neon lights, spray paint artistry, and some amazingly over the top costumes, make-up and hairstyles. At its core the film is clearly a social commentary, as we watch Crabs and his girlfriend grow more distant as their viewpoints on the situation tend to differ. She views the place as having everything she needs, while Crabs views himself as a prisoner. There is even a random subplot involving White Supremacists holding an Anti-Asian protest rally after a bunch of new asian prisoners are brought into the camp. The film is over-the-top, with many of the other prisoners being played in an hysterically over-the top manner. Some people think this film is boring because most of the action doesnt come til near the very end, but I personally was just fascinated with this 80's post apocalyptic world that was created. Speaking of, the action towards the end is exciting, with some good car chase action and great cinematography which you would expect coming from this type of film. The film is quite gorgeous, and the director even does some very fun things using the drive-in screen. For example, during the White Supremacist rally, the director screens his own film "The Man From Hong Kong'- Dead-in Drive In is very tongue and cheek in that regard. Essentially it's a lot of fun for anyone whom is a fan of 80's sci-fi trash cinema or even Oz Exploitation. The inclusion of a racist subplot might not have been necessary, but the irony of White Supremacists holding an Anti-Asian rally during a screening of Trenchard-Smith's "The Man From Hong Kong" is great.
After her doctors declare she is ready to return to society, Ethel leaves the
psychiatric hospital and goes to live with her grandmother. Something is off about Ethel from the get-go, specifically her insatiable desire to consume massive amounts of food. When her grandma tries to curb Ethel's eating habits by locking the food up, Ethel's homicidal tendencies come out in spades. Nick Millard's Criminally Insane is a raw, low-budget horror flick with a fun little social commentary, whether intentional or not. Ethel is a grotesque women whose addicted to stuffing her face and while maybe I'm giving the film a little too much credit, Criminally Insane is somewhat relevant to modern America's obesity epidemic. The cinematography certainly does a good job at capturing how grotesque of a human being Ethel is, using close-ups of enormous amounts of food she consumes, which portray her more like an animal than a human being. There is a nice array of cinematography to help create atmosphere from well-placed low-angles and canted angles, to a few rare handheld scenes which do create a nice, subtle atmosphere putting the viewer into this woman's headspace. The violence is very explicit and stylized in a way that seems to borrow a lot from Italian Giallos - the extremely vivid red used for blood, the zooms, quick cuts, etc. Criminally Insane is a film that certainly suffers from most of the common problems with these types of low budget features - poor acting, low quality stunt work, etc. but it's another example of a film that still keeps your attention because of its unflinching desire to tell this warped tale.
Flickan tells the story of a young girl, who finds out that her parents will be going to Africa for the summer to take care of the "less privileged children". Her Aunt comes to stay at the house to take care of her while her parents are gone but when the Aunt gets "the chance of a lifetime", the young girl is left alone for the summer. Fredrik Edfeldt's Flickan is essentially a very unconventional coming of age story that raises some interesting and poignant discussion. From the very beginning of this film you can tell that Fredrik Edfeldt is committed to telling this story from a young child's point of view. As her parent's pack we are shown unique compositions really demonstrating the anxiety and fear which the daughter is experiencing as her parents prepare to leave for the summer. Blanca Engström does a fantastic job as the young girl. She does not have that much dialogue, so the film relies quite heavily on her mannerisms, posture, and facial expressions to give insight into this character. Luckily for us, Blanca pulls it all off remarkably well. The director uses a very strong symbolic example in a high diving board at the girl's summer camp to portray her maturation. In the beginning of the film, she is defly afraid of the board, yet as the film progresses we see that she can stand on the diving board, but still won't take the proverbial leap. There are lots of interesting things going on in Flickan but the film does still have a few issues which I thought needed to be addressed. The main one being the departure of the Aunt. Yea, they set up that she is irresponsible and possibly a drug addict of some sort but I still would have liked a little more closure into exactly why she made such a bold move as to leave her young niece home alone for the summer. Through the summer we see childhood cruelty, carnal acts among adults, and a budding romance all from the perspective of this young girl. Although the pacing could be a little slow for some, its a moody, atmospheric, thought provoking film about innocence and adolescence.
The Roaring Twenties opens during World War I as three soldiers: Eddie, Lloyd, and George discuss their future plans for when the war ends. Eddie is a man of modest ambitions, who simply wants to go back to working as a car mechanic. Lloyd aspires to be a lawyer but George's intentions are far less noble. When the war ends the men all return home, looking for work. Eddie struggles to find a job but when a routine package delivery lands him in a speakeasy, Eddie begins a lucrative life of crime. Raoul Walsh's The Roaring Twenties is an epic film which spans nearly a decade of the lives of Eddie, George, and Lloyd as they work together as bootleggers. This is a film that not only wishes to tell a story but wishes to be a testament of the times, and it succeeds at creating a rather important documentation of post WWI America. When so many of our soldiers returned home from the war they quickly learned that the world keeps on turning, forcing many to struggle to find work with many seeking money wherever they could find it. The structure of The Roaring Twenties is two-fold, using narration to create this documentary-type atmosphere which perfectly melds with the narrative of Eddie's tragic story. Eddie is without question the main protagonist and we see him transform right in front of our eyes, going from mild mannered and good intentioned to a demanding man whose power seemingly has corrupted him. That being said, even when Eddie is at his worst, he shows glimpses of sympathy and compassion. This is why George is a very important character in The Roaring Twenties, a man whose mean-spirit and selfish mindset from the very beginning create a nice contrast with Eddie. This contrast is what ultimately helps the viewer feel sympathetic for Eddie. Raoul Walsh does a great job with The Roaring Twenties, portraying the violence in a very raw and explicit manner, another element which makes the film feel more like a documentary than a fictional narrative. The montages are the highlight, with Walsh even mixing in surrealism to show how the stock market crash of 1929 affected everyone. The Roaring Twenties is an epic story of friendship and changing times that succeeds in both its narrative aspirations as well as being a well-crafted documentation of the time period.
Eric, the son of a wealthy man, seemingly has no real direction in his life. He lives in his father's family home in the Hamptons where most of his time is spent throwing elaborate theme parties where he gets plastered and makes a fool of himself. When Eric's dad decides to sell the house, Eric decides that he needs to throw the biggest send-off party imagineable in terms of fun and rememberance, deducing that a Good Old Fashioned Orgy fits the bill. A Good Old Fashioned Orgy is a comedy very much built from the early Adam Sandler mold. The main protagonist is a 30-something year old with absolutely no direction who in the end really doesn't learn all that much. The film follows pretty much all the standard tropes for this type of film with the love interest who is the complete oppositite to Eric, the best friend who secrely desires Eric, and the frat boy sidekick character. I will give A Good Old Fashioned Orgy some credit for being mildly unpredictable in terms of the outcome involving the two love interests but by and large it is a film that doesn't bring anything new to the table. A Good Old Fashioned Orgy sets itself up for failure so to speak in that a major chunk of the running time is spent talking up this Orgy climax to the point that one will almost certainly be let down at the end. Obviously the only reason to watch a film like this is for comedic intentions and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy is mildly entertaining, though definitely suffers from lulls of no comedic impact. It's a relatively talented comedic cast with Jason Sudeikis, Nick Kroll, Will Forte, and Tyler Labine all bringing some quality moments to the film. A Good Old Fashioned Orgy is a servicable comedy in which I never felt bored, just don't expect anything earth shattering in terms of comedic prowess.
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