What’s it About?
A football player and his friends travel to the planet Mongo and find themselves fighting the tyranny of Ming the Merciless to save Earth.
Directed by Mike Hodges
7 out of 10
If you indeed love cinematic cheese and camp on the most epic of levels (thrown in with some off the wall sci-fi), the Mike Hodges 1980 fantasy offering “Flash Gordon” is your platter that matters. It’s pretty much cemented as one of the best ‘bad” films of the 1980′s. It’s laughable, charming, empty but it’s quite a ride on the roller-coaster of camp and colorful fun. Hodges’ film is an explosion of sounds, colors, bombast and did I say fun? I dare say that pretty much everyone can find something to love in this movie while still exclaiming that it’s really bad. Well, its a conundrum all right. Hodges’ fantasy film stars actor Sam J. Jones, in a Razzie nominated performance, portraying an ex-football player for the NY Jets.
After boarding a plane with the very cute Dale Arden (Melody Anderson of Dead and Buried), Flash and Dale get caught in a funky looking meteor shower. They eventually crash land and meet the zany Dr Zarkov, played with delightful glee by the awesome Topol (For Your Eyes Only). Zarkov claims to know what is sending all of these meteors and causing the disasters that are plaguing earth. After they reluctantly get tricked aboard his rocket, Zarkov launches them to the planet Mongo. Then all campy hell breaks loose. In a good (and ironically bad) way.
The film then becomes an opulent ride full of loud sci fi action and gaudy costumes (Danilo Donati) that are mostly bright red and immediately jump at you from the screen. The 2 best things in Hodges’ hokey comic opus are Queen’s rock-a-licious soundtrack and of course the amazing Max Von Sydow as Emperor Ming The Merciless. Fred Mercury belts out the now iconic “Flash. Ah Ah” with vivid abandon. And we love it. Von Sydow absolutely revels in the material when he steals every scene he’s in. Except when the stunning Ornella Muti is on screen. Rawr. Brian Blessed, while attached to huge ridiculous looking wings is fantastic to watch as he bellows just about every line he has (“You impetuous boy!”) thanks to Lorenzo Semple Jr’s (King Kong, Batman) corny but affable screenplay. Semple Jr, being no stranger to camp, kicks up the flamboyant fun into the stratosphere with this entry.
Prince Barin, played by the charismatic Timothy Dalton (The Rocketeer, Hot Fuzz), is another enjoyable character we are introduced too as well and he displays heroic Robin Hood type tendencies that are so off the wall that it is completely lovable but ultimately rather silly. There are rocket cycles, sky cities, stylized football fight scenes, force fields and wing barbarian attacks that are bountiful and ludicrous to behold. But is it a blast and a piece of colorful camp and wonder? Yeah sure! Is it full of innovative and funky sets and costumes? Kinda. Is it full of hammy, scene chewing? Oh hell yeah! Is it a good movie? Who the fuck knows? But have fun re-watching it. I surely did. Much more fun than when I first skewered it for my Middle School newspaper movie review.
What’s it About?
Based on a true story set in pre-war Japan, a man and one of his servants begin a torrid affair. Their desire becomes a sexual obsession.
In the Realm of the Senses (aka Ai No Korida)
Directed by Nagisa Ôshima
6 out of 10
I really had to think about this one for a few days before I wrote the review. It would have been easy to dismiss this film an an artsy hardcore pornography that explores nothing but ways to make you cringe. I think if I had gone with that original line of thought without giving my brain a few days to digest what I’d seen, I would have done the filmmakers a dis-service. There is more going on here than meets the eye even if it is both shocking and repellent along with being semi-well executed. Pornography is meant to turn on and involve the viewer for the purposes of sexual gratification.
This film pushes the viewer away and makes them feel distant and cold to their sexual experiences. The main couple here may constantly have sex but their moments in the bedroom are filled with anger, jealousy, contempt, and self-loathing. Sada (the female lead) and Kichizo (the male lead) do not enjoy one another as much as they take out their frustrations through sex. He is an experimenter that has no lines on what he will tolerate and she is a sadomasochistic and jealous lover who wants to possess him mind, body, and spirit.
The sex in the film is largely un-simulated and contains actual oral and vaginal penetration. It was banned in several countries and it wasn’t until Criterion decided to do a film restoration that it actually got its day in court with art film fans. Many will try to dissect is as if it was a loftier and more pretentious movie than it really is. This is not a complicated subject. It basically asks the question: “When can a person truly say they possess another completely?”
The answer is obviously: Never. So, the pain and anguish it takes in watching the vile acts performed on each other in the name of control is quite disgusting. If I’m constantly pointing out what a terrible movie this is to experience, why did I rate it a 6? Well, the performances are terrific, the pacing is perfect for the subject matter, and the direction is very brave. This is certainly a film that laid all its chips on the table for a boom or bust scenario.
Can I recommend it? I have to say no despite feeling more positive than negative because most viewers would rather not put themselves through this. It’s a harrowing experience. Also, I don’t think it’s a particularly deep film even though it is part of the Criterion Collection. But, at the end of the day, I have to rate a film by how well it executes what it set out to do and for the most part, they’ve succeeded.
What’s it About?
A splinter group of Roman soldiers fight for their lives behind enemy lines after their legion is decimated in a devastating guerrilla attack.
Directed by Neil Marshall
7 out of 10
It’s awfully hard to make an epic film about the Roman Empire after “Gladiator.” Ridley Scott really nailed the aura and feel of the hard life of the men of that period with his Academy Award-winning film. There’s a lot of people that don’t like “Gladiator” and felt it wasn’t worthy of the praise it received and I couldn’t disagree more. So, when I started watching “Centurion,” there was an “Oh no” feeling I had. Were they really going to try to compete with Ridley’s film?
It sure felt that way for the first 30 minutes. Here we have an army, a general beloved by his men, and barbaric enemies of the north. Then, something great happened. The film took on a totally different approach more akin to “Apocalypto.” We have a tougher foe on horseback chasing down weaker men on foot in a game of cat and mouse as they try to get back to countrymen that don’t even want them. This approach really worked for me. I love the idea of intelligent warriors trying to figure out how to survive.
It would not have been pulled off if not for the great direction from Neil Marshall who is quickly becoming one of the great secrets in film today. If you’re not familiar, he did an amazing job on “The Descent” as well as the underrated “Dog Soldiers.” Since those two films were horror, I was curious how he would handle a film of a different genre and feel and he seems totally comfortable here. Special attention must be paid to cinematographer Sam McCurdy who creates a beautiful sense of darkness and light through the lens. Almost every shot in this film is gorgeous.
If there’s a downside, the plot is pretty thin. While I did find some of the characters interesting, others were throwaways. Also, the progression of the story is hampered in parts by odd decisions that slow it down. Still, if you enjoy period epics with grisly violence, you’ll find a lot to like here.
Hey Densters! My good friend, Shawn O’ Halloran, from http://tv-tastic.com/ drops by Vic’s Movie Den for another killer guest post. This time he reviews the very popular: “The Lego Movie”
What’s it About?
An ordinary LEGO mini-figure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.
“The Lego Movie”
10 out of 10
It is a rare event that I give a film a perfect score but if there was ever a film that was more deserving in recent memory, I can’t think of one. The LEGO Movie is by far the best animated film I have ever seen and that includes ANY Pixar film (yes, I know… blasphemy). It is also the first film I have seen in years in which the entire audience stood up and applauded when the credits rolled.
Cleverly acted, the film showcases the comedic talents and sometimes surprising comedic talents of some of the biggest names in popular film today. Will Farrell (Lord Business/President Business) and Will Arnett (Batman/Bruce Wayne)… heck, those guys are givens as far as comedic timing is concerned but who knew that Morgan Freeman and Liam Neeson could be so funny?
From the beginning, the story seems like nothing more than a rehash of the themes in Kung Fu Panda or The Matrix with the role of Po/Neo taken on by our very ordinary hero, Emmet (Chris Pratt). As the film progresses, it takes on the tone and plot of a million of other action film clichés but the visually stunning frenetic action combined with multiple clever pop-culture references allows you to forgive what seems like a generic story and just simply enjoy the awesome adventure that you and your kids are on.
The level of detail is absolutely phenomenal, right down to the tiny scratches in the ABS plastic and my favorite, the visible finger prints on the mini-figures themselves. And make no mistake, by design, this film was meant to be seen by families which just makes the experience that much more enjoyable.
So, am I saying that the overall experience of the film makes up for the weak story? Nope. In the last 20 minutes of the film there are live-action sequences that tie the whole story together and turn what was a generic and almost mediocre plot into one of the most brilliant pieces of complex fantasy story-telling I have ever seen in a family film. It was so cleverly done that I literally slapped myself in the forehead for being tricked like I was because the film drops not-so-subtle clues as to the big twist throughout its entirety.
I came out of this film realizing that though cleverly marketed as a kid’s film, this is a nostalgia film for X and Y Geners (is that a word? don’t care, going with it…) and the tell was with 1980′s Spaceman, the insanely hyperactive Benny (voiced by Charlie Day).
Anyone whoever had this mini-figure (or a similar one with the space helmet) knew that within a month’s time of taking that helmet off repeatedly, the bottom of the helmet near the chin would split because it was so thin. The reason for this is simple: it was a two part injection-molded piece of plastic and that thin little piece was right on the seam. The fact that someone thought of this very esoteric detail in and of itself is not only brilliant but it also helps achieve one of the film’s main goals: taking our generation back to a time when we were seven years-old.
The level of violence in this film is probably the biggest factor in the MPAA PG rating, but it’s the exact same kind of violence that a seven year-old kid would inflict on their own LEGO minifigures through normal imagination-fueled play and like everything else in the film, it ties into the big twist that brings the whole film together.
Is The LEGO Movie, as some have claimed, just a two-hour advertisement for a toy? Yep, but who cares? LEGO toys are a permanent part of our pop-culture and certainly no different than film franchises based on G.I. Joe or Transformers… except for the fact that I can watch a LEGO film with my kids and not scare the living crap out of them. The motivations for this film are irrelevant as to its quality despite the cynical attitudes towards it.
My only regret is that we didn’t see it in 3D as this is one film that it is a moral imperative to see in 3D. Oh, well… I guess we’ll just have to go see it again. Everything is awesome, indeed.
Thanks Shawn for the contribution. I am very grateful and I sincerely appreciate it!
What’s it About?
Based on true events, 16 year-old Jamie falls in with his mother’s new boyfriend and his crowd of self-appointed neighborhood watchmen, a relationship that leads to a spree of torture and murder.
“The Snowtown Murders”
Directed by Justin Kurzel
7 out of 10
This film falls squarely in with others I’ve reviewed like “Antichrist” in that it’s a well made film that shows a picture of hell on Earth in a realistic way and yet I can’t recommend it. Why? The images in it are filled with real world and all too real horror. The main character played by Lucas Pittaway is pure frustration to watch. His whole existence revolves around being a victim. He is raped by his own brother, pushed around by every single person in his life, and coerced into assisting with murders that horrify and repulse him. And yet, because he is so weak, he never says no. As a viewer, it’s never a comfortable experience.
Obviously, considering the subject matter is about some of the worst crimes in Australian history, this comes as no surprise. But, because this film plays everything off as deadpan real, it gives an uneasy and claustrophobic feel to all of the plot progressions. We witness graphic tortures, murders, a main character who is pure evil, and a daily routine in a white trash neighborhood that has no glimmer of hope anywhere within its confines.
So, after all of this, why am I rating it a 7? The performances are excellent all the way around, particularly by Daniel Henshall who plays the deviously charismatic leader of the serial killers. He tries to make things make sense from his twisted point of view and is methodical in how he gets all these men to kill and torture for him. Also, the world that is created by Justin Kurzel feels cold, bleak, and all too real. This is true life horror that couldn’t be further away from the cliche slasher films that most horror enthusiasts are accustomed to. However, proceed at your own risk. This is a harrowing film and not one for the squeamish.
A short crime-drama with a unique premise, comes from two award-winning filmmakers.
Medal of Honor winning police officer, Paul J. Williams, is also an award winning filmmaker and screenwriter. His latest project, the crime drama, CASE #5930, will be produced by Crash Palace Productions, and William D. Prystauk will direct this thirty-minute short film.
To bring this project to light, we need help with our Kickstarter campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1908226591/case-5930-short-film?ref=search
Information and thanks will be sent through Twitter @CrashPalace, and will also leave updates and production information on the CASE #5930 Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/CASE-5930/561395307288140?ref=hl