The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter

Movie Review #852: The most fascinating and the most brutal documentary my eyes have ever watched.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

Gimme Shelter

Documentary, Music
Rated R (contains footage of actual murder, disturbing content, violence, graphic nudity, drug use, strong language)
91 minutes

On December 6, 1969, a free concert was held on the Altamont Speedway in San Francisco, California.  The concert was expected to go down in history as “Woodstock West.”  When talking about the attendance of the concert, that it was indeed.  300,000 people congregated around a scaffold to hear multiple bands perform rock ‘n roll music.  But Altamont wasn’t at all the peaceful gathering that Woodstock was.  Practically everybody at the concert was using hallucinogenic drugs, and by the time the Rolling Stones got on the scaffold to perform the final act, violent outbreaks were beginning to erupt between the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (who acted as security guards during the concert) and the audience.  At multiple times during the concert, Mick Jagger would tell everybody that there would be no more music until everybody calmed down.  In fact, he stopped right in the middle of “Sympathy for the Devil” to ask what all the fighting was about, before completely restarting the song.  During the next number, “Under My Thumb”, a man named Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by Hells Angels member Alan Passaro.

The truth is stranger than fiction.  So much stranger, and we are able to thoroughly understand that adage when watching the documentary “The Rolling Stones: Gimme Shelter”.  Directors Albert and David Maysles captured unbelievably raw footage from the Altamont Concert on December 6th, and it’s viscerally edited by Charlotte Zwerin (who’s credited as another director).  There’s moments in the film that are as disturbing as they are hypnotizing.  The audience is seen writhing around like animals and thinking nothing of it.  Some audience members clamber up on the stage while the Stones are performing, in an attempt to talk to their frontman Mick Jagger, only to get thrown back out into the crowd by the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.  The Stones try and act like they don’t see anything going on.  The sight of this movie is almost too surreal and nightmareish to believe.

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Gimme Shelter

Movie Review #851: ‘Gimme Shelter’ is no classic, but it’s highlighted by a solid performance.

★★½
By Alexander Diminiano

gimme_shelter

Drama
Rated PG-13 (contains mature themes, depiction of abuse, violence, drug content, profanity)
101 minutes

The film is an independent drama, and for most of the movie, it takes into consideration just how depraved the life of sixteen-year-old Apple (Vanessa Hudgens) is. Her mother has been arrested for drugs, and she’s been from shelter to shelter. Her mother’s just gotten back from jail when the story opens up, and Apple runs away. She hopes to build a better life for herself, but instead discovers that she is pregnant, and now has two lives to support. The cutting, visceral imagery and tour de force performance by Hudgens emphasize just what a horrible life it is the character is living, and it’s more convincingly a true story than most other dramas in recent memory.

But that’s just the first hour of the movie. The rest of the movie just wants to be uplifting, and while I guess it was to some extent, it becomes extremely superficial. The remainder of the movie serves the same purpose as a fundraiser for pregnant teenage girls. It’s not the fact that “Gimme Shelter” is cinema’s most pro-humanitarian movie of the year, but that it tries so damn hard to claim that title, that makes its last forty minutes cloying and unconvincing.

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Caddyshack

Movie Review #850: I could gopher seconds.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano
caddyshack_ver2

Comedy, Sport
Rated R (contains sexual content, nudity, suggestive dialogue)
98 minutes

You know what I miss most about Harold Ramis? It’s the enthusiasm that pervades every movie he directs. It’s pretty obvious that everyone’s having fun acting in the movie, and they’re all eager to please their audience. That’s especially true of “Caddyshack”, Ramis’s first film as a director. There’s Michael O’Keefe, a clueless teenager who’s not planning on going to college, but has no idea what he’ll do with his life instead. There’s Chevy Chase, a classy golfer who thinks he plays well but would rather not compete. There’s Bill Murray, the greenskeeper who has waged war on the evil gophers that burrow beneath the golf course. There’s Ted Knight, a rich snob who owns the golf court and gets pissed off at just about everyone and everything. And there’s Rodney Dangerfield, who walks onto the golf course like a bull in a china shop, who steals every scene he’s in, who wants to buy the golf course from Knight.

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Dredd

Movie Review #849: Adding a sci-fi twist to ‘The Raid”s formula, ‘Dredd’ is a thoroughly engrossing, dystopian blockbuster that makes some sly social commentary along the way.

★★★½
By Red Stewart

dredd_ver2

Action, Sci-Fi
Rated R (contains graphic violence, drug content, sexual content, profanity)
95 minutes

Science fiction has always been the greatest way of making snarky remarks about current problems in society indirectly. It’s why it’s one of the greatest genres ever created; you can entertain the dumb masses whilst providing intellectual fodder for smarter audiences. The original Star Trek television series was famous for doing just this, and numerous movies have also joined the ranks.

In that regard, “Dredd” is one of the most original sci-fi films to come out in recent years. Based on the long-running Judge Dredd comic strip, “Dredd” is set in a dystopian future where a nuclear war has destroyed most of civilization and left the rest of the world in an almost-anarchic state. Keeping order are the Judges, individuals who act as judge, jury, and executioner on the streets. Aiming to join these ranks is rookie Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who is assigned under the veteran Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) for evaluation. During his daily tour of the city, Dredd traces the source of a popular street drug called Slo-Mo to a slum tower run by drug kingpin Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Not wanting her empire to crumble, Ma-Ma traps the two inside her building, forcing them to fight their way out.

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Lucy

Movie Review #848: ‘Lucy’ is a lot of fun, even with its flaws.

★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

lucy

Action, Sci-Fi
Rated R (contains graphic violence, disturbing content, sexual content, drug content)
90 minutes

I wouldn’t call “Lucy” a “smart” movie, but I wouldn’t exactly say it’s “dumb,” either.  Its intelligence seems irrelevant, because Luc Besson’s script plays out as if writing it took no thought at all.  Not that we asked for character development anyway, but there’s really only three things we can say about the characters in this movie: One, Scarlett Johansson plays a stereotypical dumb blonde who becomes smart, then all-knowing, then as manipulative as a god.  Two, Morgan Freeman’s the other good guy.  Three, everyone else in the story is a bad guy.

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The Master

Movie Review #847: ‘The Master’ is an excellent title for a film this powerful.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano
master_ver4

Drama
144 minutes
Rated R (contains religious subject matter, graphic nudity, sexual content, profanity)

All right, Paul Thomas Anderson. Now you have my attention. “The Master” is the first PTA film I’ve seen that hasn’t bored me to tears. In fact, it’s excited me, thrilled me, inspirited me, and rejuvenated me most every thought-provoking step of the way. PTA’s film is for audiences who take the movies seriously. Or, for those who take life seriously. Or, for those who want to take either one seriously. It’s not for everyone, but for those who are eager to be challenged by the movies, “The Master” is a wonder to behold.

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The Raid 2

Movie Review #846: Better than ‘The Raid: Redemption’, but it’s still not a good movie.

★★
By Alexander Diminiano
raid_two_berandal_ver3

Action, Crime, Thriller
Rated R (contains graphic violence, strong language, sexual content)
150 minutes

When I reviewed “The Raid: Redemption” in 2012, I absolutely smothered it, and I do not by the least bit regret doing so. It’s difficult to expand a complete synopsis of that movie beyond two sentences. (1) In less than ten minutes, and perhaps closer to five, we watch a police officer exercise, bit farewell to his wife, and loading onto a bus with the rest of his police squad. (2) The squad storms into a thirty-foot building, where they are immediately noticed on security cameras, and for the next 90 minutes, they fight to the death with whoever’s in there for seemingly no reason.

My main complaint with “The Raid” was that it lacked drama. So the first hour of “The Raid 2″ was like a gift from god, per my understanding. There’s character development all over the place here. The movie allots time for the dramatic development of its hero, Rama (Iko Uwais), who is arrested early in the film by a fellow cop. We saw this character kiss his wife goodbye in the first film, and we saw him exercise and kill people, but we never understood like we do now that he actually loves and cares for his family so much, nor that he isn’t so eager as we thought he was to take a human being’s life. Knowing this gives the film a worthy emotional output.

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Alien

Movie Review #845: ‘Alien’ does a fantastic job building atmosphere, but it lacks some of the more well-refined thrills its legacy may suggest.

★★★
By Red Stewart

alien

Horror, Sci-Fi
Rated R (contains gore, sci-fi violence, profanity)
117 minutes

Not too long ago I found myself in a discussion about the merits of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” and whether it qualified as a cinematic masterpiece or an imaginative failure. Someone claimed that it ruined the legacy set forth by Scott’s 1979 seminal “Alien”, resulting in another to retort that if “Alien” was released today, it would be passed over as a cheap slasher flick.

I don’t agree with this assessment at all, but I often wonder what the word “classic” should entail. To me, a classic film is a movie that’s not only established a strong historical heritage within the framework of its genre, but as also aged well, and regarding the latter, I can’t quite say that “Alien” has done that. Everyone’s familiar with the story by now; a hostile foreign organism accidentally winds up on a commercial spaceship and begins hunting down its crew. And while this does sound like the perfect setup for a B-movie horror flick, it’s Scott’s direction and the real human emotions displayed by the cast that elevate it above those foregrounds.

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Snowpiercer

Movie Review #844: It’s very, very difficult to believe that Terry Gilliam did not direct this one.

★★★★
By Alexander Diminiano

snowpiercer_ver27

Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated R (contains violence, brief drug use, profanity)
126 minutes

“The engine is sacred! And Wilford is divine! Wilford is merciful!” – Tilda Swinton in “Snowpiercer”

“Snowpiercer” is a reveling work of art, a Gilliamesque parable set in the year of A.D. 2031. It has been 17 years since a scientist by the name of Wilford (Ed Harris) dispersed a chemical called CW-7 all across the earth, freezing the entire planet and making virtually all life extinct.

Now every surviving human being is situated on a train headed around the world in an endless continuum. Every time the Yekaterina Bridge is passed, the New Year is declared. And though the surviving population might say it in celebration, it is not a Happy New Year this time around.

There’s clearly a French Revolution concept in “Snowpiercer”, and it’s absolutely brilliant. The rear of the train is occupied by folks who have already received a full education and who are not worthy of working for Her Majesty, Queen Tilda Swinton. She lives up in the front of the train. Whereas the rear of the train houses powerless commoners, who are entirely dissatisfied by every law and living condition exacted on them.

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By Alexander Diminiano

All right, ramblers, let’s get rambling. But make sure to check back with yesterday’s and Sunday’s posts if you missed them. Otherwise, here we go with Part III of this guy:

woody-allen

10. Bullets over Broadway (1994)

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9. Blue Jasmine (2013)

Blue-Jasmine-2013-Movie

8. Everyone Says I Love You (1996)

hero_EB19970117REVIEWS701170302AR

7. Manhattan (1979)

image

6. Zelig (1983)

Zelig2

5. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)

Manhattan-Murder-Mystery3

4. Match Point (2005)

large_match_point_blu-ray3

3. Interiors (1978)

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2. Annie Hall (1977)

annie-hall

1. Take the Money and Run (1969)

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  • Notice

    Cinemaniac Reviews will be on hiatus starting August 13, 2014. We will be back with reviews as usual on August 25th.
  • The Grading Scale

    Since November 15, 2013:

    ★★★★
    ★★★½
    ★★★
    ★★½
    ★★
    ★½

    ½
    no stars

    October 5, 2011 – October 31, 2013

    A+
    A
    A-
    B+
    B
    B-
    C+
    C
    C-
    D+
    D
    D-
    F

    July 30, 2011 – October 2, 2011
    A+
    A
    B
    C
    D
    F


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