Bert Marcus' Champs is an in-depth look at the rise of three of the most successful boxers of the last few decades, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield, and Bernard Hopkins. Through these three men's stories, Champs dissects not only the state of Boxing in America and its influence on society, but it also uses their story to challenge the perceptions of the American Dream, poverty and racism in America. Chronicling the lives of these three men from an early age, Champs captures how boxing is essentially the best and worst aspects of the American Dream, giving these underprivileged men and woman a chance to escape from their impoverished upbringings, figuratively and literally fighting their way out. The promise of fame of fortune is real, and there are success stories, but the film also reminds the viewer that for as many people who escape via boxing, there are others that simply aren't good enough. This is a film that uses the sport of boxing and these men's stories to comment on urban poverty and racism, capturing how these impoverished environments create this survival of the fittest mentality, something that is inherently a major part of boxing itself. Make no mistake, Champs is not a film that simply wants to condemn boxing as a violent and barbaric sport with no intrinsic value, quite the opposite, but the film captures how the sports itself needs a massive makeover as it pertains to the business and regulation side. Champs paints a portrait of boxing as the lone wolf sport, where boxers don't have the same support systems and structure other sports have, whether it be the NFL, NBA, or NHL. Without this association or structure, boxers are routinely taken advantage of, with boxing being the best example of Laissez-faire capitalism run amok. From a technical perspective, Champs is a mostly talking heads type of documentary, but I really enjoyed the re-creation footage used to capture the fighters early struggles, being beautifully shot in a way that evokes a meditative state. While uneven and unsure of itself at times, Champs is a film that finds itself overwhelmed at times wrestling with the relationship between boxing and other sociopolitical issues, whether it be racism, the prison industrial complex, and poverty.
Don Siegel's Coogan's Bluff doesn't take long in establishing its main protagonist, Coogan, an Arizona deputy sheriff, is man's man type of character who does things his own way, typically infuriating his superiors in the process. After his latest reckless arrest, Coogan's superior sends him to New York City in order to bring back Riggerman, a criminal who will stand trial in his home state of Arizona. Nearly every character in New York assumes Coogan is from Texas, which as you can imagine annoys Coogan, something which is only exacerbated when he is told by the local police chief he has to wait a few days for the prisoner to be released. When Coogan lets his ego and lack of patience get in the way of his police work the prisoner inevitably escapes, sending Coogan out into the big city to recapture the prisoner, much to the behest of the New York police who wish he'd just go home. Don Siegel's Coogan's Bluff is very much a fish out of water story, which finds much joy in juxtaposing Coogan's rough-and-tough, no-nonsense cowboy persona with the tangled-web of bureaucracy pumping through New York City. Draped in machoism, Coogan's Bluff is a film that comes off feeling very dated in regards to gender dynamics, with Eastwood's central character being a cocky, womanizing borderline misogynist, which the film never praises nor condones. Don Siegel's direction is solid and understated, with one of my favorite aspects being how his camera routinely lingers on Eastwood's "Texas" characteristics, whether it be his boots or cowboy hat, making it stick out to the viewer, much like Eastwood's own style clashes with those of the New Yorkers. The film is more a detective story than an action film with very few scenes of actual conflict, but when they do come Siegel's direction elevates them, mixing in point-of-view shots in chaotic fight scenes and handheld in a memorable motorcycle chase that elevate the visceral nature of the sequences. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the entire film is how Eastwood's character's whole arch essentially revolves around him correcting his own mistakes, being the man who was indirectly responsible for letting Riggerman escape in the first place. Eastwood's character doesn't seem to truly learn a lesson though, as if Don Siegel is admitting the character is not always right, but regardless, Siegel is a fan of this type of bravado.
From the very beginning of Roger Vadim's Barbarella, the film's aggressive sexual nature is front in center, with Jane Fonda's iconic zero gravity striptease front and center as the opening credits play. The film tells the story of Barbarella, a 41st century astronaut, who sets out in search of a missing inventor, Durand Durand, whose positronic ray poses a serious threat to all of humanity. Traveling from star system to start system in various outlandish outfits and psychedelic sci-fi infused backdrops, Barbarella discovers the joy of sex along her journey, eventually finding her way to Druand Durand. Roger Vadim's Barbarella is an outlandish sexcapade that provides a rather entertaining time capsule of the 1960s, being essentially a sex romp masquerading as a sci-fi epic. It's really not that difficult to understand why Barbarella has become such a cult classic in the science fiction community, between Jane Fonda's half-naked performance and the extensive and impressive production design and world building that make Barbarella an over-the-top but awe-inspiring-ly creative space opera. Jane Fonda personifies the objectification of the female form in this film, with Barbarbella being a sexual creature who is sought after and desired by nearly everyone she comes across. The whole film has such a kinky, sleazy undertone, as nearly every major set piece, whether it be an exposition or action-driven sequence having some type of sexual symbolic intention. There is a scene in the film where Barbarbella withstands an adversaries organ of love, which essentially has Jane Fonda showing the world her "O face", which destroys the machine due to it being unable to deal with Barbarella's sexual energy. While it's probably a little harsh to call Barbarella an incoherent film, the storyline itself is very convoluted and simply not that interesting, outside of the film's lavish production design. Very much a product of the time, the swinging sixties, Barbella is a lavishly designed sci-fi epic that is a one-of-a-kind experience, for better or worse.
Alex and Emily have recently relocated from Seattle to Los Angeles. While taking care of their young son, RJ, Alex is fearful of not being able to make new friends in Los Angeles, a concern that is mildly shared by his wife. While at the local playground, Alex has a chance encounter with Kurt, a friendly new-age type father, who invites Alex and his family over for dinner, eager to welcome them to the neighborhood. What begins as a quaint dinner becomes increasingly bizarre as the night goes on, with Kurt and his wife, Charlotte, being a peculiar couple to say the least. Patrick Brice's The Overnight is a fun comedy and surprisingly pensive relationship drama that does an excellent job at balancing these two elements. Relying heavily on its talented cast, Jason Schwartzman and Adam Scott being the true standouts, Patrick Brice's The Overnight is a film that works, due largely to its ability to stay one step ahead of the audience, being unpredictable as to where the night will go next. While the comedy is the lifeblood of the film, The Overnight's heart is predicated around the young married couple in Alex and Emily, who have begun to feel the effect of having a stagnant life, both sexually and emotionally, capturing the anxieties involved with the lifestyle choices they've made. Through the night they spend with the free-spirited Kurt and Charlotte, Emily and Alex in particular, leave with a better understanding of not only themselves and their own insecurities, but how theu affect their relationship, with the film delivering a tender, albeit slight message. Through raucous comedy, The Overnight captures the essence of what love is, using a rather hilarious finale to show the unselfishness of love and how the true nature of it is never self-serving, whether that be through sex or other needs or desires. This scene itself is a little hard to fully accept from a realism perspective, but that sacrifice Alex makes towards the end for the sake of Kurt perfectly symbolizes how love is a completely unselfish act. Featuring a talented cast and fresh comedy, The Overnight is an endearing and original comedy/drama that works more than it doesn't
Sebastian Schipper's Victoria opens in a muggy night club with Victoria, a young woman who dances alone in the crowded nightclub. After having her fill of drinks and dancing Victoria begins to head home, but when she meets four charming locals, she is immediately swept up by their bravado for fun. Being from Madrid, Victoria is a young woman very much outside of her element in Berlin, and in meeting these four men she feels something she hasn't in a long time, companionship. Striking up a special bond with one of the boys, Sonne, Victoria spends the night hitting the town in Berlin, but soon their night escalates from drunken fun to violence and despair, when the boys convince Victoria to help them with a dangerous favor. Given the impressive technical accomplishments of Victoria, a 140 minute film that is shot with a single take, I was a little concerned that Victoria was a film that used its impressive technical prowess to mask a story that is subpar. Fortunately this couldn't be further from the case, as Victoria is a powerful and unique examination of loneliness. The first half of Victoria is a very loose, carefree narrative that finds this young woman befriend a group of silly but harmless young men. There is a care free aura to this segment, which finds the group wandering the streets of Berlin with drunken glee, subtlety giving off the impression that Victoria herself hasn't quite had this type of connection with people in a long time. Using a more exposition-based scene at the halfway point of the narrative, Sebastian Schipper makes it clear that Victoria is a character who has spent a large part of her life in a form of isolation, spending many hours in front of Piano with little time for any form of companionship whether it be mere friendship or love. The second half of the film couldn't be more of a tonal shift, with the film becoming a gripping and intense heist film that leaves the viewer on the edge of their seat. I was pleasantly surprised by just how much this film affected me emotionally, with Victoria's story being somber, powerful, and ultimately tragic. I particularly liked how the film's narrative returns to the same club after the heist, which at the time is believed to have been a success. In the beginning Victoria danced completely alone in the club but now she dances with Sonne, as Sebastian Schipper visually juxtaposing Victoria's new found hope and companionship she has found, a moment that unfortunately is short lived. Technically the film is impressive, but not only for its ability to use a single take, but more so for how the cinematography is able to deliver impressive compositions that effectively transport the viewer into the emotions of its characters. One of my favorite examples of this takes place at the midway point of the film, where Victoria sits inside the cafe where she works, looking outside at her new-found friends. The film positions the camera from within the cafe, using the glass window as a boundary between Victoria and the four Berlin locals outside, perfectly illustrating her solitude, and desire to not feel alone. Victoria's inability to speak German is another key ingredient into why this film works so well, as it gives the film a unique ability to provide the audience information which its main protagonist isn't privy too, doing so while staying completely in the point-of-view of Victoria, which aids in increasing the tension of the situation in its wild, visceral second half. Intense, touching, and ultimately tragic, Sebastian Schipper Victoria is an impressive technical achievement that manages to provide thrills while also providing emotional resonance in its story of a woman who is seeking some form of connection.
After the death of his father, Arnaud and his older brother, Manu, plan on spending the summer hoping to save the family business. Running a carpentry business where they specialize in building sheds, Arnaud finds his peaceful summer interrupted when he meets Madeleine, a tough, yet beautiful woman. Madeleine is quite the peculiar soul, spending nearly every waking moment training for the upcoming apocalypse, practicing survival skills in an effort to make sure she is strong enough when the time comes. Madeleine latest act of training centers around joining the army boot camp in an effort to hone her surival skills, making sure she is ready for the upcoming worldwide collapse. Arnaud couldn't be more docile, expecting nothing to come from the world around him, but he is intrigued and captivated by Madeline, signing up for the boot camp himself. Thomas Cailley's Love at First Fight is a charming and unique love story centered around two individuals who coulnd't be more different. LIke any good love story, Madeleine and Arnaud are two individuals with very different perspectives. While Madeleine sees conflict and challenges around every corner, Arnaud is a character who goes with the flow. The boot camp itself is harder on Madeleine than she ever imagined, not being as intensive or survival focused as she expected. She continously butts heads with those around her, with Arnaud being the only person who routinely keeps coming back. Love at First Fight is an interesting film that takes a characters existential crisis in Madeleine, and uses it to capture the slowly evolving young love between two characters. Madeleine's obsession with survival has made her a character with a 'me against the world' mentality, with Arnaud being the person who slowly shows Madeleine she isn't alone. It's interesting how Arnaud and Madeleine are essentially the opposite of typical gender roles, as Madeleine's toughness and independence and Arnaud's sensitivity and compassion are typically traits associated with the opposite sex. I wouldn't go as far as to say the film shatters societies social expectations when it comes to feminism and masculinity, but it does feel refreshing nonetheless. Love at First Fight isn't a film that is going to sweep you off your feet, but the film's romantic relationship that develops between the two characters does feel very organic, though slight, with the film taking its time to develop their evolving relationship.
Taking place twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park, Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World returns to Isla Nublar, which now features a fully-operational theme park, where tens of thousands of guests attend daily. With visitor rates declining, due to the spectacle of dinosaurs wearing off among the general public, the park begins generically engineering bigger and more awe-inspiring dinosaurs in order to raise attendance. Unfortunately, things go terrible wrong from there, putting the lives of everyone in the park at risk. Colin Trevorrow's Jurassic World is a film very much made in the Spielbergian mold, raising many of the same thematic questions as its predecessors in the series. The story is centered around two young boys, Gray and Zach, who are sent by their parents to stay with their aunt, Claire on the island. Their parents are headed towards a divorce, thinking the island would provide a nice escape for their children. Claire having a prominent position in the corporate structure of Jurassic World doesnt have time to chaperone, which puts the boys in harms way when the chaos begins. Jurassic World is more of an action-horror film than its predessors, upping the ante in terms of violence and chaos. Tapping into the same themes as it's predecessors, with man's inability to control nature, corporate greed, and the importance of family, Jurassic Park feels very much like a Spielberg film. I particularly liked the notion of how the general populace is always looking for something bigger and better, driving the corporation to play with nature for the sake of maximizing profit. Jurassic World never tries to seperate itself from the original, instead embrancing it, attempting to trigger Nostalgia from the first film with lots of small references. The driving narrative isn't much different either, revolving around Claire attempting to find her two nephews stuck in the park, as she learns the importance of family in the process. While I found the whole subplot involving the military's interest in the raptors to be down right silly, Jurassic World is a big, fun action film that entertains by capturing the same sense of awe as its predecessors, regardless of some of its more clunky and stupendous subplots.
From the onset of Dude Bro Party Massacre III the filmmakers make it very clear what this film is all about. Opening with a word crawl that explains this is the only surviving copy of a the third film in this horror franchise, Dude Bro Massacre III sits on an old VHS, recorded off of Late Night Early Morning television. Fully capturing the look and feel of those old crappy VHS 80s movies, Dude Bro Party III feels authentic. The best way I can describe Dude Bro Party Massacre III is an absurdist horror comedy with some of the most creative and offensive violence and comedy I've seen in awhile. Almost a parody of both horror movies and 'so bad its good' movies, Dude Bro Party Massacre III embraces its absurdity with reckless abandonment. The opening sequence of the "lost film" catches up the viewer to what happened in parts I and II, with gratuitous violence at the hands of Motherface, a serial killer who prays on the members of Delta Bi Theta, a fraternity where bros are born. The fraternity has believed to have killed Motherface twice now. When Brock is mysteriously killed, his twin brother Brent pledges at the Delta Bi Theta House, with intentions of solving the mystery of his brother's death. Dude Bro Party is a well put together movie which satirically twists the nature of the 80's slasher film, with the victims not being sorority girls but bros. From using slow motion when the bros are swimming in the lake, to having one of them accidently tear his clothes, exposing more of his midriff, Dude Bro Party Massacre III is a highly entertaining comedy that really brings the cheesy, over the top violence as well. The death scenes in this film are incredibly creative and ridiculous, with one particular death sequence towards the end being gleefully executed bad taste. Being on television, Dude Bro Party Massacre even has commercials, which are as stupid and ridiculous as the film itself. If you are a fan of absurd humor, satirical parody, or gratuitous violence, Dude Bro Party Massacre III is a very fun and insane ride.
There are plenty of coming of age films these days, but not many of them are so brutally honest and nonjudgmental as Marielle Heller's Diary of a Teenage Girl. The story is centered around 15 yr old Minne Goetze, a aspiring cartoonist, who is longing for acceptance and attention. Minnie's desire to fulfil her budding sexuality comes to a fever pitch when she enters into a love affair with her mother's 35 yr old boyfriend, Monroe. A refreshing film dealing with female sexuality, Diary of a Teenage Girl doesn't shy away from exploring the romanticism young woman have with sex, showing in Minnie a young woman who views sex as a right of passage into adulthood. Minnie is a character who is a bit of a loner with low self esteem, and the love affair she enters into with Monroe makes her feel appreciated and desired, blissfully unaware of the danger in such a volatile relationship. Given the film's seventies setting and subject matter, Diary of a Teenage Girl is much darker film than its tone suggests, but thankfully it doesn't rely on quirkiness, with the filmmakers injecting the film with surrealist touches and honest humor that keeps the film uncomfortable but never unbearable. This is a film full of small moments that do a great job at capturing the psyche of a young woman's emerging sexuality and misplaced views, my favorite being how the film subtlely suggests that Minnie's poor self image stems from her mother, a caring but somewhat vapid woman who always encourages her daughter to dress sexier. Another interesting aspect of the film is how Diary of a Teenage Girl doesnt shy away from female sexuality, a refreshing concept that reminds the viewer female sexuality isnt a taboo, as women also have sex drives. In the end, this film works so well because of its nonjudgmental approach, offering a provocative portrait of a young woman's coming of age that reminds the viewer loving oneself and finding happiness from within oneself, not others, is the key to success both personally and in relationships.
Juan Paulo Laserna's Sweet and Vicious is an emotionally devastating debut film examining darker aspectd of contemporary Columbia. The film is centered around Manuela, a 22 year old woman whose the daughter of wealthy parents who are among the Columbian upper class. Seemingly having every opportunity for success, Manuela is quietly and deeply unhappy, struggling to find independence among her patriarchal upbringing. Her one glimmer of hope in achieving this lies in her best friend, who is leaving for Brazil, with Manuela secretly hoping to follow suit. When Manuela becomes pregnant, her life spirals even further out of control, as she begins to realize her hopes, dreams, and ambitions are completely destroyed. Sweet and Vicious is a seething film about the restrictive nature of Columbia's traditional and conservative culture, a patriarchal society that indirectly restricts the independence of woman and those that are different. Through Manuela's story, the film captures a country of strict moral code, where having an abortion is against the law and woman routinely must put their own personal goals and ambitions aside due to the patriarchal nature of this traditional culture. The film captures the darker aspects of faith, where the notion that everything will sort itself out is used in a restrictive way, with Manuela's family attempting to convince her that God's plan is to have a child. Her dreams and ambitions are essentially thrown at the wayside due to this logic, and while I'd never say Sweet and Vicious is anti-religion, it does subtlety capture the empowerment it gives individuals to validate censorship. For a first time filmmaker, Laserna's direction and storytelling is impressive, using symbolism and surrealism to effectively transport the viewer into the fractured psyche of Manuela, a woman who simply wants to regain control of her own life. I particularly liked the film's symbolic use of animals, commenting on the domestication of a woman being similar to that of an animal, with Manuela wanting to remain a wild creature who can make her own decisions. Laserna uses haunting sequences throughout the film to capture Manuela's embattled mind, visually and viscerally showing her run through various scenarios of what to do in her head. Featuring a devastating conclusion that captures the dangers of conforming to societies expectations, Juan Paulo Laserna's Sweet and Vicious is a powerful cautionary tale about the importance of independence and the restrictive nature traditional culture can create.
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