Archive for the ‘Music/Musical’ Category

The Bodyguard

Movie Review #725

bodyguard

Directed by Mick Jackson. Written by Lawrence Kasdan. Produced by Kevin Costner, Lawrence Kasdan, and Jim Wilson for Kasdan Pictures, Tig Productions, and Warner Bros. Starring Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston. Cameo: Debbie Reynolds. Distributed by Warner Bros. in wide release on November 25, 1992. Rated R: language. Runs 129 minutes.

Cinemaniac Reviews two and a half stars

“I Will Always Love You” is at the heart of this movie. It’s first performed by John Doe (the stage name of John Duchac), while Kevin Costner and Whitney Houston are seen discussing it. Whitney’s character refers to it as a “cowboy song” and points out the melancholia in the lyrics. Something written for her character to be an interesting analysis, but I can’t quite call it an agreeable one. As you might guess, the song is also performed at the very close of the film, by Whitney herself. And that finale feels so unforgettably powerful, but only for one reason. It’s not really the scene itself that has any power. It’s just that song. Whitney’s earth-shattering voice makes a better movie out of “The Bodyguard”, and while it’s all a pretty likable flick, it’s hard not to feel that a song sung with such passion and conviction, not to mention a cover version that vastly exceeds the original artist’s recording, deserved a more poignant movie.

“The Bodyguard” had so much room for potential, but in all, it really isn’t a bad movie. It’s utter trash, which is why it’s so much fun to watch. And again, it’s nothing special at all without Whitney’s music. A good rule of thumb is, if you don’t really like the soundtrack (because there isn’t a human being that creepeth upon the land who hath not heard it yet), then don’t watch the movie. Your enjoyment of R&B music is pretty much what weighs the film as trash or treasure. The story plays out like a two-hour special edition episode of a television crime procedural. We learn that the victim is Rachel Marron (Whitney) and her bodyguard is Frank Farmer (Kevin Costner). Marron famous, to put it in simplest terms. Farmer is apparently great at the job, since he worked as a Secret Service agent for a number of years, though he made his sudden retirement and went to live in the mountains after Reagan was shot. Farmer wasn’t there, he was just afraid his reputation would be ruined. Anyway, Marron isn’t told as immediately as she wishes, but she’s being stalked by one of her fans. So “The Bodyguard” is mostly about that. It’s also about Marron’s inability to to adequately respect the bodyguard without having sex with him. It makes for a really entertaining but eventually really cheesy story, especially when you know from the moment they look at each other that they’re going to fall in love.

The execution of the premise is with limited fuel. By the subplot, when Frank and Rachel travel to the mountains, I began to lose interest in the film. Fortunately it picks up by the end, but this is pretty surprising considering how much fun I was having at any moment prior. The character development is rather amusing. Frank does so much to protect Rachel, and yet he’s so assertive and defensive of himself, insisting he only do what’s in his job description. Just help the poor woman out, will ya? Or don’t, and deliver a completely hilarious line like, “I’m here to keep you alive, not help you shop.” The script fails even when trying to deliver the “movie within a movie” technique. Of all movies, Whitney and Costner go and see “Seven Samurai” on their first date. Yes, the 1950′s, black-and-white, Japanese samurai epic that exceeds three hours. I mean, I liked the movie, and apparently so did Whitney’s character, but to think that that was Costner’s character’s sixty-second time seeing the movie!? No offense to Akira Kurosawa, but I’d be sick of the film before I’d seen it seven times!

Kevin Costner might be the only one who suffers from the screenplay. His performance is just so good! Then again, the way he takes his role so seriously makes every “whoops” in Lawrence Kasdan’s (“The Empire Strikes Back”, “Return of the Jedi”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”) script stand out even more. Whitney’s character just downright confuses me, and it has nothing to do with her delivery, aside from the fact that she just isn’t convincing in the role of an Oscar winner. But where the logic is most lacking in her character is that I can’t imagine any celebrity has such vast amounts of time on his or her hands, especially if they’re singing on tour. “The Bodyguard” is one of the paramount definitions of the word “cheesy.” Think of the Tejano pop star Selena having James Bond protecting her every second of the day. That’s a pretty accurate image of what you’d find in this flick.

Tomorrow’s Review

Need for Speed

THE BODYGUARD IS AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY, DVD, VHS, AND LASERDISC.

Dreamgirls

Movie Review #685

Studio: DreamWorks SKG — Paramount Pictures — Laurence Mark Productions
Distributor: DreamWorks SKG — Paramount Pictures
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Bill Condon. Produced by Laurence Mark. Screenplay by Bill Condon. Book by Tom Eyen.

Rated PG-13 by the MPAA — profanity, infrequent sexual content, infrequent drug material. Runs 2 hours, 10 minutes. Premiered at Austin Butt-Numb-A-Thon on December 9, 2006. Limited release in Los Angeles, California and New York City, New York on December 15, 2006. Wide release in the USA on December 25, 2006.

Starring Jamie Foxx, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Danny Glover, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose, and Keith Robinson. Also starring Sharon Leal, Hinton Battle, Mariah Wilson, Yvette Cason, Ken Page, John Lithgow, John Krasinski, Alexander Folk, Esther Scott, Jordan Wright, Dawnn Lewis, JoNell Kennedy, Sybyl Walker, Rory O’Malley, Ivar Brogger, Jocko Sims, Pam Trotter, Cleo King, and Charles Jones.

Cinemaniac Reviews three stars

I like Eddie Murphy. Not post-2000 Eddie Murphy. SNL Eddie Murphy. “Beverly Hills Cop” Eddie Murphy. Stand-up comic Eddie Murphy. To consolidate all that jazz, real Eddie Murphy. “Dreamgirls” is a 2007 movie featuring Eddie Murphy in a supporting role. Not post-2000 Eddie Murphy. Nor the real Eddie Murphy we got used to in the ’80s. But a real Eddie Murphy, any way you slice it.

So why am I kicking off my “Dreamgirls” review with talk on Murphy, who only appears for a quarter of the film? Because it’s a thankful quarter of the film, and enough to prove that this movie does offer surprises. “Dreamgirls” is about racism and moreover sexism. This trio (Beyoncé Knowles, Anika Noni Rose, Jennifer Hudson) doesn’t want to be the backup singers for Jimmy Thunder (Murphy) or their boss’s (Jamie Foxx) playthings. I mean, have you even heard of the Raelettes? They’re the female voices you’ll hear in the background of pretty much any Ray Charles song. You want that little recognition, as the group of extras that nobody’s heard of, and you may as well have no talent whatsoever.

But these women do have talent. So they work on becoming the Dreamgirls, a trio on their own command.

“Dreamgirls” is an enjoyable musical with at least six great performances–those from Knowles, Rose, Hudson, Murphy, and Foxx, as well as a supporting performance from Danny Glover. Let’s face it, it’s not every day I’ll sit down and instantly decide to pop in a musical movie. No, “Dreamgirls” isn’t a classic, and Bill Condon’s “Chicago”, whether you love it or loathe it, has a decidedly better screenplay. Not that this one is bad, though. Its one bitter flaw is pacing, with a running time that overstays its welcome by about fifteen minutes. This being mostly thanks to the integration of one in every four or five songs. They’re used as interludes and heavily distract us from the plot. But nothing on the soundtrack is without chutzpah, regardless of where and how it’s placed. So, if you’re lookin’ for a good song and dance…here you are.

Tomorrow’s Review

American Pie 2

White Christmas

Movie Review #670

image

Studio: Paramount Pictures
Distributor: Paramount Pictures (1954 release & 1964 re-release)
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by Michael Curtiz. Produced by Robert Emmett Dolan. Written for the screen by Norman Krasna & Norman Panama & Melvin Frank.

Approved by the Production Code Administration (certificate #16919). Runs 2 hours. Wide release in the USA on October 14, 1954. Re-release in Denmark on December 1, 1959 and on December 8, 1964; in the USA on October 25, 1961; and in the UK on December 12, 2008.

Starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen. Also starring Dean Jagger, Mary Wickes, and Anne Whitfield. With an additional performance by John Brascia. Also featuring an uncredited performance by Barrie Chase as Doris Lenz.

Cinemaniac Reviews three and a half stars

“Where do you think you’re going?  Nobody’s leaving.  Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.  No, no.  We’re all in this together.  This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here.  We’re gonna press on, and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby danced with Danny f–king Kaye.  And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.”

–Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

To the tune of “Singin’ in the Rain”:

They’re singin’ in the snow,
Just singin’ in the snow,
What a glorious movie–
On Christmas, more so.
I’m laughing and glad.
Even scenes that are sad
Are cheerful, well-written,
And spirited, lad.
Let the movie begin,
Then play it again.
By the way, Michael Curtiz
Directed this film.
If anything, he
Proves he’s one of the
Best directors
Of the 1950s.

Reviewin’ in the snow!
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
Dee-ah dee-ah dee-ah
I’m happy again!
I’m reviewin’ and writin’ in the snow!

The set, it don’t convince,
But frankly, it hints
At the stagey atmosphere
Of “White Christmas”.
This movie’s classic
And never too bombastic
And it feels like the movie
“Singin’ in the Rain”.
It’s a movie that brings
Kaye, Danny and Crosby, Bing
Together in quite a fine
Stage coupling.
Based on “Holiday Inn”:
A script that don’t run thin.
If only
I could give this film four stars!

Tomorrow’s Review

Kick-Ass 2

Flashdance

Review No. 582

Oh what a feeling!  (What else is there to say?)

flashdance

B

CREW:
Director — Adrian Lyne
Producers — Don Simpson, Jerry Bruckheimer, Tom Jacobson, Lynda Rosen Obst, Peter Guber, Jon Peters
Screenplay — Tom Hedley & Joe Eszterhas
Story — Mr. Hedley

CAST:
Jennifer Beals — Alexandra “Alex” Owens
Michael Nouri — Nick Hurley

OTHER:
Distributor — Paramount Pictures
Release Date — April 15, 1983
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 1 hour, 35 minutes
MPAA Rating — R
Flags (allmovie.com) — adult language; adult situations; not for children; nudity; profanity

FLASHDANCE WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 18, 2013.

Adrian Lyne’s sophomore swing as a director is fun for one reason–it feels the 1980s as a zeitgeist for cheesy entertainment, not as a decade.  Yeah, I had a pretty fun time with Flashdance.  But maybe “cheesy” is the wrong word.  Most ’80s movies are delightfully cheesy, from beginning to end.  Everybody who is involved with making this movie is equally in love with it, and the results can vary.  Of all the films that have been alluded to, this one takes an easy #1 (from my viewings, at least), but a good fifty percent of that is just the opening scene.  It’s so intoxicating, you don’t immediately realize that this is a really poor dancer, and that amount of water would probably injure a person, especially if she was bent back that far.  But later on, it’s become a way of teasing the audience, as if for a loud, unanimous “Why!?”: the finale begins with a few bars of “What a Feeling” and cuts off, simply because the dancing needs to be worsened.  It’s a killjoy sort of ending just for the cheese.

One, two, three, three and a half stars out of five.

Those who spotted the poster know that the tagline is: “Take your passion and make it happen!”  Yes, we’re left with the thought as to why the movie was made, when all it does is affirm that if you “Take your passion and make it happen!” it’s going to be really easy, every step of the way.  But this is the result of an ending that took five minutes out of the entire movie.  I’m betting there’s an alternate ending somewhere, featuring a more believable conclusion, and I’d like to see it sometime.  Or maybe there isn’t, since there’s not even a concern for the story.  It’s rather carefree, which isn’t bad at all.  This is what some may call a “guilty pleasure” and others might not even see what the guilt is.

The main character is Alexandra Owens.  She goes by Alex, and she’s played by Jennifer Beals.  She lives in Pittsburgh–as if saying it in dialogue isn’t enough, she’s a steelworker, but she’s pursuing the career of a dancer.  There’s nothing unintentionally funny in the script.  Strange, right?  And not that she enjoys the characterization that is considered ideal for a heroine, but she’s likable for her enthusiasm.  Cameraman Donald Peterman would concur (let’s just say, he doesn’t look Beals in the eye while she’s dancing).  Add the editing, and even a terribly cheesy movie like this one has a right to mise-en-scène.  There’s an entire scene that may as well have been created from an epileptic LSD trip–try and count how many black frames are interspliced between tinted, dazed panning!  Alas, there’s a reason it’s called Flashdance.  It’s a double entendre, actually: dancers that show skin, in a flashy dance movie.

Tomorrow

American History X

&

Apocalypse Now

Enjoy my review? Please share it using one of the buttons below!

Review No. 581

He’ll sing his OWN “Pretty Women” as he offs Mr. Orbison.

Sweeney_Todd_Movie_Poster_by_yt458

A

CREW:
Director — Tim Burton
Producers — Richard D. Zanuck, John Logan, Walter F. Parkes, Laurie MacDonald
Screenplay — Mr. Logan
Based on — Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street by Stephen Sondheim & Hugh Wheeler

CAST:
Johnny Depp — Benjamin Barker aka Sweeney Todd
Helena Bonham Carter — Mrs. Nellie Lovett
Alan Rickman — Judge Turpin
Timothy Spall — Beadle Bamford
Jayne Wisener — Johanna Barker
Sacha Baron Cohen — Davy Collins aka Adolfo Pirelli
Jamie Campbell Bower — Anthony Hope
Laura Michelle Kelly — Lucy Barker
Ed Sanders — Toby Ragg

OTHER:
Distributor — DreamWorks Pictures
Release Date — December 21, 2007
Language — English
Country — United Kingdom & USA
Running Time — 1 hour, 56 minutes
MPAA Rating — R
MPAA Description — graphic bloody violence

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 17, 2013.

The legend that is Sweeney Todd has been around since 1847, first appearing in The String of Pearls by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest.  He’s been played by the likeness of at least twenty actors, the first reported the aptly named Tod Slaughter (1936).  And you know who he is, more than likely: he’s a fictional barber who’s come back to haunt Victorian England, solely for the purpose of getting his tale of sweet revenge.  You might know that he was cast out of England by the judge who desired his wife–that was fifteen years before, and he hasn’t spent a minute away without homicidal thoughts.  You probably know, most of all, that he doesn’t waste a minute to make his crime look innocent: with the help of Mrs. Lovett and her innocuously named “meat pies,” as well as with a little help from his “friends”.  (Straight razors.)

His best-known depiction was on Broadway.  That show ran from March of 1979 until the following June the following year.  Forgive me if I’m wrong (I’m not exactly the “Broadway expert”), but if a show wins eight Tonys, it shouldn’t close after fifteen months.  You can only keep a movie in theaters so long, and after 91 days of wide release, Tim Burton’s adaptation had barely surpassed its budget with domestic ticket sales.  Yet it’s become something of a cult classic since, so much that you know the basics of it by heart even if you haven’t seen it.  There’s a reason for that.  Though you must know the reason for your not having seen it.

SweeneyTodd

Two crazies.

Burton uses stage effects to his own cinematic virtue.  Everything here is an over the top presentation of his macabre, but not in an unwatchable way, in a Broadway-like way.  This got an R rating for “graphic bloody violence,” but that’s hidden lingo for “there’s so much blood, spraying in every which direction and streaming down the necks of victims, that we thank god it looks like paint.”  It’s Burton’s sense of humor, as is the makeup design.  The low lighting during several scenes brings out the figurative “paleness” in both Johnny Depp (as Sweeney Todd) and Helena Bonham Carter (as Mrs. Lovett), by means of making both look like ghosts.

Even if Carter’s makeup is clearly overdone, she herself is clearly as great as Johnny Depp is in his own role.  These two are the most frequent collaborators with director Tim Burton, so it’s great to finally see them together.  You’d be surprised (or maybe, anything but) that it’s she who leads him on to become the “demon” he is–and ends up turning herself into more than a nutcase.  I’m not one to immediately take a liking to showtunes, but I did here.  The supporting cast does fine in respect to music, but these two are perfect.  Their chemistry is of the Faye Dunaway/Warren Beatty caliber, therefore not only do they work well together, they work well with their victims.  In fact, this is their own Bonnie and Clyde.  All right, there’s a Hamlet approach that makes everything a bit more twisted, and much kookier under Tim Burton’s control.  But as far as movie musicals go, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is a good competitor with Chicago as the best movie musical of the last decade.

Later

Flashdance

Enjoy my review? Please share it using one of the buttons below!

8 Mile

Review No. 571

I enjoyed this disappointment.  Is that an oxymoron?

eight_mile_ver2

B-MINUS

CREW:
Director — Curtis Hanson
Producers — Mr. Hanson, Brian Grazer, Jimmy Iovine
Screenplay — Scott Silver

CAST:
Eminem — James (Jimmy) “B-Rabbit” Smith, Jr.
Kim Basinger — Stephanie
Brittany Murphy — Alex Latorno
Mekhi Phifer — David “Future” Porter
Taryn Manning — Janeane

OTHER:
Distributor — Universal Pictures
Release Date — November 8, 2002
Language — English
Country — USA
Running Time — 1 hour, 50 minutes
MPAA Rating — R
MPAA Description — strong language, sexuality, some violence and drug use

8 MILE WAS WATCHED ON AUGUST 13, 2013.

Eminem wasn’t killed off by the disgraced Y2k music plague.  But he’s not a musician, either–he’s a lyrical genius.  I’m not going to try to deny that he could give a rags to riches story to nine third-world countries–and still manage to keep his own–if he had a dollar for every profane, violent, homophobic, anarchic, misogynous, etc., etc., etc. lyric.  Though even as someone who doesn’t enjoy rap music much, trying to choose a favorite song of Eminem’s is as hard as doing the same for the Beatles.  He’s a brilliant writer and a brilliant speaker.  He can rap his way through anything, even a movie.  And a movie became inevitable after The Marshall Mathers Show, his fourth album, was met with massive acclaim.  8 Mile is what you’d call a star vehicle.  I’m not calling it a limousine, for those unfamiliar with the term, but if it were a limousine, it’s sad to think that the person driving (and just about anyone sitting in front of Eminem) just wants to “git-r-done.”

I have to smile at the 2002 release.  Save for the story, everything about it seems like a 25th anniversary packaging of “the Saturday Night Fever effect.”  Rest assured, this will become a universally respected “classic,” as well, and it’s not surprising that it’s almost halfway there already.  I don’t want to imply that it isn’t a good movie.  8 Mile is entertaining, but it just doesn’t deserve such a dubbing.  Yes, the movie achieved quite a bit: the least of its success may have been becoming the highest-grossing R-rated movie of 2002, and ninth highest-grossing opening weekend of that year.  Marketing-wise, this is the standard by which its followers should be judged.  The question is, does it really offer enough in style or substance to warrant any followers?  The soundtrack won several awards, even an Oscar, but I struggle to find anything else handed its way.

He’s on the mic.

Eminem delivers dynamically here.  Of course it’s a compliment, just not such a dynamic one.  He’s playing himself in a way so literal, he’s almost cheating.  Virtually nothing makes this less than autobiographical than “B-Rabbit,” his character’s nickname.  This is the story of a young man who doesn’t feel he has a life until he discovers rap music.  “B-Rabbit” doesn’t feel passionate for rap until he’s gone to a rap battle and performed his heart out.  It’s a very Rocky-esque moment–cheesy, but touching in a way.  This is the progression of the very movie itself, incidentally.  While it feels a bit cheesy at times due to dumbed-down dialogue, scenes can get very emotional, thanks to just one actress: Kim Basinger, who plays Eminem’s mother.  It’s no accident that a woman with the first name Kim is in this role, but frankly, this is as great a performance on her part as the Oscar-winner that was her L.A. Confidential.

8 Mile is a movie I’ll recommend, or at least guarantee some enjoyment of.  It’s one of few movies of that caliber, I might add, that I wanted to stay through the credits with.  That was because “Lose Yourself” was playing.  Back to the Saturday Night Fever nod, it’s like turning the TV off while John Travolta walks along to “Stayin’ Alive”.  I “lost myself” in the credits, and occasionally for what was beforehand.  Just not enough.

POSTSCRIPT: The headline I wrote was supposed to be read in Eminem’s voice.  Try it.

Later

More Charlie Chaplin

Enjoy my review? Please share it using one of the buttons below!

Singin’ in the Rain

Review No. 531

Enjoyable, but uneven.

singin-in-the-rain

B

DIRECTED BY GENE KELLY AND STANLEY DONEN. PRODUCED BY ARTHUR FREED. WRITTEN BY BETTY COMDEN AND ADOLPH GREEN. STARRING KELLY (DON LOCKWOOD), DONALD O’CONNOR (COSMO BROWN), DEBBIE REYNOLDS (KATHY SELDEN), JEAN HAGEN (LINA LAMONT), AND MILLARD MITCHELL (R.F. SIMPSON). ALSO STARRING CYD CHARISSE, DOUGLAS FOWLEY, AND RITA MORENO. DISTRIBUTED BY METRO-GOLDWYN-MAYER ON MARCH 27, 1952. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 43 MINUTES. SUITABLE FOR ALL AGES.

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN WAS WATCHED ON JULY 18, 2013.

“I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feelin’
I’m happy again”

Singin’ in the Rain is a fun little movie musical.  It’s clearly influential, amusing, and a delight to watch.  There’s well-written banter between Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor, as well as some of the most memorable musical numbers in movie history.  The titular number as well as “Make ‘Em Laugh” take over the mind for days after viewing.  Think of it as a wholesome Mel Brooks movie from the 1950s, somewhat along the lines of The Producers, but enjoyable for all demographics.

singin_in_the_rain

The sun’s in his heart.

The whole movie sets out to appreciate film.  It sets up in 1927 and chronicles an unwanted transition into the “talkie” era.  Not just that, but the ability to use microphones to record movie musicals.  Where Singin’ in the Rain loses its touch is in the clash between theater and cinema.  It wants to show a certain love for film, but it’s immensely self-indulgent, basking in a sort of magic that doesn’t carry through the screen.

The movie does offer some great surprises.  While all it’s trying to do is have some fun, it does go the extra step and extinguish skepticisms about where reality fits musicals.  Meaning, they don’t break out in song and dance whenever they feel like it, as if that’s ever socially acceptable.  But perhaps it’s actually inaccurate to call it “enjoyable for all demographics.”  Everybody and their dog loves Singin’ in the Rain as if it were manna from heaven.  I guess I could give in to agreeing with this mass: manna from heaven was presumably beautiful and palatable, as is Singin’ in the Rain.  As far as it being a movie, it’s not quite the classic it’s consistently made out to be.

Enjoy my review? Please share it using one of the buttons below!

Review No. 511

Watch it immediately…or steer clear.

south_park_bigger_longer_and_uncut_xlg

A-MINUS

DIRECTED BY TREY PARKER. PRODUCED BY PARKER AND MATT STONE. WRITTEN BY PARKER, STONE, AND PAM BRADY. BASED ON “SOUTH PARK” BY PARKER AND STONE. FEATURING THE VOICES OF PARKER (STAN MARSH ERIC CARTMAN / SATAN / MR. GARRISON / PHILLIP NILES ARGYLE), STONE (KYLE BROFLOVSKI / KENNY McCORMICK / SADDAM HUSSEIN / BUTTERS SCOTCH / TERRANCE HENRY STOOT), MARY KAY BERGMAN (LIANE CARTMAN / SHEILA BROFLOVSKI / SHARON MARSH / CAROL McCORMICK / WENDY TESTABURGER), AND ISAAC HAYES (CHEF JEROME McELROY). ALSO FEATURING THE VOICES OF JESSE HOWELL, ANTHONY CROSS-THOMAS, FRANCESCA CLIFFORD, BRUCE HOWELL, DEB ADAIR, JENNIFER HOWELL, GEORGE CLOONEY, BRENT SPINER, MINNIE DRIVER, DAVE FOLEY, ERIC IDLE, NICK RHODES, TODDY E. WALTERS, STEWART COPELAND, STANLEY G. SAWICKI, AND MIKE JUDGE. DISTRIBUTED BY PARAMOUNT PICTURES ON JUNE 30, 1999. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 21 MINUTES. NOT FOR CHILDREN, DUE TO PROFANITY.

SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT WAS WATCHED ON JUNE 30, 2013.

“Blame Canada! Blame Canada!
With all their beady little eyes
And flapping heads so full of lies
Blame Canada! Blame Canada!
We need to form a full assault
It’s Canada’s fault!”

South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut is the feature-length film released to theaters less than two years after the TV series first aired and frankly, I’m surprised the series is still in production, almost a decade and a half later. That isn’t a bad thing. It’s actually rather daring. South Park began on the premise that if fourth graders knew how to do something, they’d do it. If they knew how to swear, how to be racist, how to be sexist, and how to involve themselves in matters that were larger than life as they knew it–then they would. And this film rendition makes sure that anything too unspeakable for TV, made it to the silver screen.

Written by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and their collaborator Pam Brady, Bigger, Longer & Uncut jumps deftly and wildly around all sorts of political satire. The story unfolds on a snowy Sunday morning in the mountain town of South Park, where Stan Marsh, Kyle Broflovski, Eric Cartman, and Kenny McCormick are going to the movies. They convince a homeless man to buy them tickets to an R-rated Canadian movie from their favorite comedy duo, Terrance and Phillip; a few hours later, they exit the theater with more colorful vocabularies. Things start to get out of hand when these “new words” make their way into the classroom, and that’s only the beginning. Somewhere down the road, the parents intervene. In fact, they blame Canada for their children’s expanded vocabulary, and then begin a third World War with them!

South_Park_-_Bigger,_Longer_&_Uncut-30

This is where it all begins…

The movie’s one fault is in its pacing. Bigger, Longer & Uncut clocks in at just over an hour and twenty minutes, though it’s obvious it could have told a more fluent story in just an hour. Of course Kenny dies and, after an operation scene in which his heart is accidentally replaced with a baked potato, he is deported to Hell. Much from here on is set in Hell, but the focus isn’t on Kenny; it’s on a love affair between Satan and Saddam Hussein. Funny, but entirely tangential. Furthermore, the climactic moments are extended to lead up to an overly thoughtful ending.

But no harm, no foul. It’s everything you’d expect from a South Park episode, save for the musical numbers, which are as memorable as the highly original plot. As I type this, the Oscar-nominated “Blame Canada” is still playing over and over in my mind.

FUN FACT: PRODUCERS TREY PARKER AND MATT STONE MADE SURE THE FILM RECEIVED AN R RATING AT ALL COSTS, EVEN THOUGH IT WAS CALCULATED THAT A PG-13 WOULD HAVE BROUGHT IN A MUCH LARGER PROFIT. INCIDENTALLY, THE FILM EARNED AN NC-17 ON SIX SUBMISSIONS TO THE MPAA, AND DIDN’T RECEIVE ITS R RATING UNTIL LESS THAN TWO WEEKS BEFORE RELEASE.

Enjoy my review? Please share it using one of the buttons below!

New York, New York

Review No. 489

Martin Scorsese is king of the hill once again with “New York, New York”.

new_york_new_york_ver1

B-PLUS

DIRECTED BY MARTIN SCORSESE. PRODUCED BY ROBERT CHARTOFF AND IRWIN WINKLER.  SCREENPLAY BY EARL MAC RAUCH AND MARDIK MARTIN. STORY BY RAUCH. STARRING LIZA MINNELLI (FRANCINE EVANS) AND ROBERT DE NIRO (JIMMY DOYLE). ALSO STARRING LIONEL STANDER, BARRY PRIMUS, MARY KAY PLACE, GEORGIE AULD, GEORGE MEMMOLI, DICK MILLER, CLARENCE CLEMONS, CASEY KASEM, AND ADAM WINKLER. DISTRIBUTED BY UNITED ARTISTS ON JUNE 21, 1977. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 2 HOURS, 43 MINUTES.  NOT FOR ALL AGES, DUE TO SUBJECT MATTER.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK WAS WATCHED ON MAY 27, 2013.

“Do I look like a gentleman to you in this shirt and these pants?” –Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro)

Jimmy Doyle (Robert De Niro) is a womanizing saxophonist who meets his wife-to-be, singer Francine Evans (Liza Minnelli), at a party in New York City. She doesn’t show much interest in him at first, but when they have absolutely no trouble getting a gig as a musical duo, she’s in love with him. The trouble from there on out is when a rivalry arises between the two. Jimmy wants to take control of his wife’s career. If it’s not how he wants it, then he’ll willingly spend hours assuring her that it’s not the way she wants it, either. Francine makes every attempt to show her possessive spouse that she genuinely appreciates him, and his ego has to show disapproval.

There’s no way to explain the story without immediately revealing the formula that sets it into action. The idea that music is first what brings two people together, but later what splits them apart, is something you could find on TV at almost any time. But beyond this, New York, New York isn’t a generic VH1 biopic. It’s a Martin Scorsese film, so there’s much depth added. New York, New York gives us an intricate look at our characters. We feel not what Jimmy is feeling, not what Francine is feeling, but whatever Scorsese wants us to be feeling.

The film is simply beautiful. Admittedly, there’s several exterior sceneries that are undoubtedly fake, purely for theatrical effect. That’s not a sunset, that’s handpainted celluloid. Ditto a train and a row of skyscrapers. But when Scorsese takes his hand off Broadway, there’s a lavishly cinematic sensation before you. New York, New York is a romance that involves its audience, as Scorsese is the one director who can and will make you fall in love with the Big Apple.

New York New York pic2

“We’ll always have Paris.” But not N’Yawk.

The chemistry between De Niro and Minnelli is impeccable, contrary to what one might expect. The ups and downs of their marriage is fun to watch as it begins. Their banter is amusing and seems ad libbed flawlessly. It’s difficult not to love them. Then the screenplay introduces a bit of melancholia as the relationship goes downhill. The climactic scenes feature more sincere looks at what’s been at hand all along: De Niro’s domineering egotism and Minnelli’s submission to him. A scene when he goes berserk on her when she mentions her personal matters, is shocking.

Minnelli’s performance of “New York, New York” is an especially poignant ending to the film. The scene was almost inevitable, but the emotion it offers up was not in the least.* New York, New York isn’t a masterpiece, but it does entertain. At nearly three hours, every minute flies by in a beautiful breeze of 1940s big band music. By the time Minnelli performs the title song, it feels like only an hour has passed.

*Not to knock Frank Sinatra, but that we associate the tune with his cover performance (three years later) is absolute blasphemy.

The Next Few Days/Weeks/Months…

Enjoy my review? Please share it using one of the buttons below!

Review No. 488

Even smiling will make your face ache.

the_rocky_horror_picture_show_poster

A

DIRECTED BY JIM SHARMAN.  PRODUCED BY MICHAEL WHITE. WRITTEN BY SHARMAN AND RICHARD O’BRIEN. BASED ON “THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW” BY O’BRIEN. STARRING TIM CURRY (DR. FRANK N. FURTER), SUSAN SARANDON (JANET WEISS), BARRY BOSTWICK (BRAD MAJORS), O’BRIEN (RIFF RIFF), PATRICIA QUINN (MAGENTA), LITTLE NELL (COLUMBIA), JONATHAN ADAMS (DR. EVERETT V. SCOTT), PETER HINWOOD (ROCKY HORROR), MEATLOAF (EDDIE), AND CHARLES GRAY (THE CRIMINOLOGIST). DISTRIBUTED BY 20TH CENTURY FOX ON SEPTEMBER 26, 1975. PRODUCED IN ENGLISH BY THE UNITED KINGDOM AND THE UNITED STATES. RUNS 1 HOUR, 40 MINUTES. NOT FOR CHILDREN, DUE TO BRIEF NUDITY AND MILD VIOLENCE.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW WAS WATCHED ON MAY 26, 2013.

“If only we were amongst friends…or sane persons!” –Janet (Susan Sarandon)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a word-for-word, shot-for-shot, note-for-note definition of “bizarre.” There’s nothing here that represents a modicum of sanity. Okay, there’s two people that are just like us, but their facial expressions are those that yearn for lobotomies. When a normal person watches this, though, it’s difficult not to rock along with everything, no matter how unpredictably outlandish this absurd musical riot gets. It’s a horror-ish movie that gives a brand-new meaning to “scary.”

Rocky Horror concerns an engaged couple, Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon) and Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick). Their car breaks down late at night, and the only residence in sight is a castle. Assuming whoever is in the castle has a telephone they can use, Janet and Brad take their chances. But as a result, they’ve now found themselves trapped inside one of the most sick-and-twisted domiciles imaginable. Here in the castle resides Dr. Frank N. Furter (Tim Curry), a freak of nature who flaunts himself as the “Sweet Transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania.” And that’s not all: he’s created a man-like creature named Rocky Horror (Peter Hinwood), who he plans to keep for his own sensual pleasures. In fact, just about everyone who crosses him is bound to become an object for his hedonism.

rocky_horror_picture_show_

And you thought Buffalo Bill was a freak in The Silence of the Lambs.

As Rocky Horror is a loving homage to the Golden Age of B-movies, it presents a plot we’d likely see in an Ed Wood flick, but to the very extremes. There’s a very small difference between this and Glen or Glenda though. If Mr. Wood were to direct Rocky Horror, he’d have flaws all over the place. Poor acting, mindless special effects, a hokey plot line. We could laugh at the unintentionally funny outcome, until the poor pacing kicked in and it all grew boring. He’d take everything to heart with utter solemnity.

If you look at Rocky Horror as an honest-to-god science fiction flick, you’ll find mistakes flying left and right. I do have one, small complaint over an unintended flaw: we almost completely lose our hero and heroine during the scene in which Rocky himself is born. But even that musical number was just as much fun as the rest of the movie. What makes this the energized masterpiece that it is is that no one here takes the production seriously. Not director Jim Sharman. He has a hayride commanding scenes where nothing makes sense. Sometimes films need a bit of gravity to even out with the incessant levity. Not here. There’s a wild, out-of-control, chaotic thrill that spreads contagiously to the audience, and doesn’t offer up a cure until the credits have closed.

Introducing, a new feature

Enjoy my review? Please share it using one of the buttons below!



  • Quick Recommendations

    No film is recommendable to everyone, because if it strongly appeals to many audiences, it's going to be poorly received by at least one audience. These 25 classics, however, I would recommend to eight and a half, if not nine in every ten people.

    2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY

    BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN

    BEFORE SUNRISE

    BEFORE SUNSET

    BEFORE MIDNIGHT

    THE BIG LEBOWSKI

    BLUE VELVET

    THE BIRTH OF A NATION; OR THE CLANSMAN

    CITIZEN KANE

    CITY LIGHTS: A COMEDY ROMANCE IN PANTOMIME

    DAVID LEAN'S FILM OF DOCTOR ZHIVAGO

    EYES WIDE SHUT

    FIGHT CLUB

    GOODFELLAS

    THE GRADUATE

    KILL BILL: VOL. 1

    KILL BILL: VOL. 2

    MARIO PUZO'S THE GODFATHER

    MARIO PUZO'S THE GODFATHER: PART II

    MARIO PUZO'S THE GODFATHER: PART III

    MATCH POINT

    PULP FICTION

    REQUIEM FOR A DREAM

    THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED

  • Don't like coming here all the time? Not a problem: we can come to you. Enter your email address to follow the blog and receive notifications of new reviews by email.

    Join 1,174 other followers

  • Blog Stats

    • 64,928 hits

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,174 other followers

%d bloggers like this: