Showing posts with label United Artists. Show all posts
Showing posts with label United Artists. Show all posts

Friday, December 15, 2023

Review: Woody Allen's "SLEEPER" is Comedy Gold and a Sci-Fi Classic

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 53 of 2023 (No. 1942) by Leroy Douresseaux

Sleeper (1973)
Running time:  87 minutes (1 hour, 27 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Woody Allen
WRITERS:  Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman
PRODUCER:  Jack Grossberg
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  David M. Walsh (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Ralph Rosenblum, O. Nicholas Brown, and Ron Kalish
COMPOSER: Woody Allen


Starring:  Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory, Don Keefer, John McLiam, Bartlett Robinson, Chris Forbes, Mews Small, Peter Hobbs, and John Cannon (voice)

Sleeper is a 1973 science fiction-comedy film directed by Woody Allen.  The film focuses on a store owner who is revived from a cryogenic state into a future world in which the United States has been transformed into an oppressive government that forces its citizens happy and content.

Sleeper opens in the year 2173.  The American Federation, a police state (of sorts), has replaced the United States of America, which was destroyed long ago.  The government is oppressive, but it keeps its citizens happy by giving them good jobs, plenty of food, mood-altering drugs, happiness via mind alteration, and a device called the “orgasmatron” to keep them sexual satisfied.

There is, however, an underground rebellion determined to take down the government and its mysterious “Leader.”  Towards that end, the rebels revive Miles Monroe (Woody Allen), a jazz musician who also owned of the “Happy Carrot” health food restaurant.  In 1973, Miles went in for a routine operation, which managed to go wrong, and the result was that he was cryogenically frozen.  The rebels illegally revive Miles and plan to use him as spy to infiltrate and derail the government because he would be the only member of this society without a known “biometric identity.”

As someone from the distant past, Miles is considered by the current government to be an “alien.”  If caught by the police, he will be brainwashed into a complacent member of society.  The success of Miles' spy mission and his hope of remaining free of brainwashing rest in an idle socialite and poet, Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton), who may be too self-indulgent to become a rebel.

Coup de chance, the film Woody Allen says will likely be his final directorial effort, was released in France in September (2023).  Because of the controversies surrounding Allen the last few decades, especially the last five years, the film may not get a U.S. theatrical release.  In anticipation of somehow seeing Coup de chance, I have decided to watch the recent Woody Allen films that I missed, such as the 2015 film, Irrational Man.

I also decided to review Allen's 1973 classic film, Sleeper, because this year (2023) is the fiftieth anniversary of its original theatrical release (specifically December 17, 1973).  I have seen the film twice before, but I have previously not written a review of it.

Because Woody Allen has become such a controversial and, in recent years, such a toxic figure in American cinema and culture, people may have forgotten what a charming cinematic figure he was for at least three decades.  They may also be unaware that Allen is also an accomplished clarinetist as one can discover in Sleeper's lively Dixieland-style jazz soundtrack, which features Allen performing with “The Preservation Hall Jazz Band” and “The New Orleans Funeral Ragtime Orchestra.”

Sleeper is certainly an excellent parody of the science fiction films of its time, and it is a sharp satire of pseudo-intellectuals, pretentious artists and their patrons, self-indulgent poets, and other assorted poseurs.  The film expertly references such then current science fiction films as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), A Clockwork Orange (1971), and THX 1138 (1971).  [Douglas Rain, who provided the voice of “HAL 9000” in 2001: A Space Odyssey, also provided the voice of the medical computer in Sleeper.]

However, Sleeper is a showcase of Wood Allen's immense comedic talents, both as writer and as an actor possessing impeccable comic timing.  His skill at physical comedy is also quite impressive and reveals the influence of great performers such as Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, and Groucho Marx, and I would add the work of the great master of silent films, Buster Keaton.  Allen uses facial expressions and the rapid delivery of dialogue, which transforms this slightly built man into a comedy force of nature.  Allen uses his body like a prop, something to abused so long as it stirs a the barrel of laughs.  The result is a winning and lovable character in Miles Monroe.

Sleeper also proves (at least for me) that Diane Keaton is the perfect comic foil and partner for Woody Allen.  Obviously, she has serious dramatic chops, but Keaton is also pure magic and sparkly delight as a comedic actress.  I could watch another hour of her and Allen in this scenario.  Sleeper may seem a bit dated in some aspects, but its leads are eternally pleasing.  Sleeper is a clever satire as well as a witty spin on dystopian science fiction.  Other than Mike Judge's 2006 satirical sci-fi comedy, Idiocracy, there is nothing like it.  Still, the treat in Sleeper is an energetic Woody Allen and an equally smart and savvy Diane Keaton.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Friday, December 15, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site or blog for syndication rights and fees.



Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Review: "THE FINAL COUNTDOWN" is Still Timeless Entertainment

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 37 of 2023 (No. 1926) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Final Countdown (1980)
Running time:  103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Don Taylor
WRITERS:  David Ambrose & Gerry Davis and Thomas Hunter & Peter Powell; from a story by Thomas Hunter & Peter Powell and David Ambrose
PRODUCERS:  Peter Vincent Douglas
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Vincent J. Kemper (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Robert K. Lambert
COMPOSER: John Scott


Starring:  Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katharine Ross, James Farentino, Ron O'Neal, Charles Durning, Victor Mohica, Soon-Teck Oh, and Alvin Ing

The Final Countdown is a 1980 science fiction war film from director Don Taylor.  The film features an ensemble cast starring such Hollywood legends and icons as Kirk Douglas, Charles Durning, and Martin Sheen.  The film focuses on the crew of a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier that is tossed back in time to the year 1941 near Hawaii, just a day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The Final Countdown opens in 1980.  The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Nimitz, departs Naval Station Pearl Harbor for naval exercises in the mid-Pacific Ocean.  It is commanded by Captain Matt Yelland (Kirk Douglas).  The ship also takes on a civilian observer, Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen), a systems analyst for Tideman Industries.  Lasky is working as an efficiency expert for the U.S. Defense Department on the orders of his reclusive employer, Richard Tideman.

Once at sea, the Nimitz encounters a mysterious, electrically-charged storm that eventually becomes a vortex.  While the ship passes through the mystery storm, its radar and other equipment become unresponsive, and the crew falls into agony.  After the event, Capt. Yelland and the crew are initially unsure of what has happened to them.  They also discover that they have lost radio contact with U.S. Pacific Fleet Command at Pearl Harbor.

Yelland wonders if there has been a nuclear strike on Hawaii, but soon Lasky and Commander, Air Group Richard T. Owens (James Farentino) begin to suspect that they been tossed back in time to December 6, 1941.  That is one day before “a day which will live in infamy,” December 7, 1941 – the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii.  Now, comes the big questions.  By itself, the Nimitz has the aircraft power to destroy the Japanese fleet.  So should Yelland launch that air power and change history by stopping the attack on Pearl Harbor?

The Final Countdown is one of my all-time favorite films.  I have a soft spot for time-travel movies, especially such films as Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), and of course, The Terminator (1984) and its sequels.

In spite of my intense love for this film – yes, I said intense – I can see its flaws.  I think The Final Countdown's concept would work better as a television miniseries or even as an ongoing series.  Its relatively short runtime is not enough time for the film to really be indulgent in revealing its most important character, the U.S.S. Nimitz.  Director Don Taylor gives us several scenes of the planes, jets, fighter aircraft, etc., but every scene of the ship's interior makes it obvious that the film needs to take a deeper dive into the bowels of the Nimitz.  All that military hardware demands more screen time, or at least, I'm the one demanding more of it.

Most of all, the time travel angle of the story seems to come and go so fast, and the screenplay does not really grapple with what would happen if Captain Yelland and his crew inserted themselves into the attack on Pearl Harbor.  It glosses over that and over the many points of view that would result from the kind of command structure that a ship like the Nimitz has.

The wild card characters are Senator Samuel S. Chapman (Charles Durning) and his secretary, Laurel Scott (Katharine Ross).  Their appearance in the narrative is a considerable development and creates conflict and complications in the decisions that the captain and crew of the Nimitz will make.  Time constraints mean that the film doesn't really deal with these two characters.

I spotted so many cracks in this recent viewing of The Final Countdown, I still really love this film.  I enjoyed seeing some of my favorite movies stars, such as Kirk Douglas (Out of the Past), Martin Sheen, and Charles Durning (To Be or Not to Be) in roles that called upon their usual film personalities.  I don't think I remembered that Ron O'Neal (Super Fly, 1972) was in this film, but he gets his chance to emote and overact.  I have seen this film at least three times, and this was the first time that James Farentino;s presence also registered with me.

Yes, The Final Countdown seems to be missing at least another half-hour of story, but the first time I saw it, when I was a teenager, it blew my mind.  I saw it again years later, and I was surprised to find that I still loved it.  I just watched The Final Countdown again, and guess what?  I still love it, even adore it.  That's why I'm being generous with the grade I'm giving The Final Countdown.  I need a Blu-ray or DVD copy.

8 of 10
★★★★ out of 4 stars

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.



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Thursday, May 4, 2023

Review: Riveting "WOMEN TALKING" is a Film That Speaks Directly, Even to Us

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 19 of 2023 (No. 1908) by Leroy Douresseaux

Women Talking (2022)
Running time:  104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
MPA – PG-13 for mature thematic content including sexual assault, bloody images, and some strong language
DIRECTOR:  Sarah Polley
WRITER:  Sarah Polley (based upon the book by Miriam Toews)
PRODUCERS:  Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, and Frances McDormand
EDITORS:  Christopher Donaldson and Roslyn Kalloo
COMPOSER:  Hildur Guðnadottir
Academy Award winner


Starring:  Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, France McDormand, Judith Ivey, Emily Mitchell, Kate Hallet, Liv McNeil, Shelia McCarthy, Michelle McLeod, Kira Guloien, Shayla Brown, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, August Winter, and Ben Whishaw

Women Talking is a 2022 drama film from writer-director Sarah Polley. The film is based on Miriam Towes' 2018 Canadian novel, Women Talking.  Both the film and the novel are inspired by real-life events.  Women Talking the film focuses on a group of women who must decide if they should do nothing, stay and fight, or leave their isolated religious community where sexual abuse of girls and women is common.

Women Talking opens in the year 2010 in an unnamed, isolated Mennonite colony.  The colony's women and girls have discovered that some of the men in the colony have been using livestock tranquilizer to subdue them in order to rape them.  Although other men in the colony have had these attackers arrested and imprisoned in a nearby city, they are also seeking bail for the attackers.

The men have left the women by themselves for two days in order for the women to determine what they will do going forward.  However, the men expect the women to forgive their attackers or be expelled from the colony.  The women gather in a barn to discuss and to vote.  They have a young man named August (Ben Whishaw) sit in the meeting in order to take the minutes.  When he was a boy, Ben's mother was expelled from the colony.  Ben returned to become the colony's sole teacher, but he only teaches the boys because women are not allowed to attend school.

Elders like Agata (Judith Ivey) and Greta (Sheila McCarthy) lead the discussion, but young women like Ona (Rooney Mara), Salome (Claire Foy), Mariche (Jessie Buckley), and Mejal (Michelle McLeod) have strong opinions.  Should the women do nothing... forgive... stay and fight... or leave the colony?  As they grapple with the brutal reality of their faith, the time to decide is running out.

Almost four days out from watching Women Talking, and I find myself still thinking about it, dear readers.  In the wake of the of the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, it feels like a supernaturally timely film.  The “Dobbs decision” held that the Constitution of the United States did not confer a right to abortion.  It is just the latest in a more than three-decade assault on women's rights to reproductive freedom and choice.

Women Talking effectively delivers a valuable message.  The women of the Mennonite colony that this film depicts must confront not only the violence against them, but also a religion designed down to its bones to give men all the power over women.  Their faith essentially renders women and girls indentured servants and non-citizens.

I quibble that writer-director Sarah Polley's direction and Oscar-winning screenplay bury the actresses of Women Talking beneath the scenario and story.  There is a lot of genuine talent here, and I wanted to see more of them, in a broader sense, although no one can really keep Rooney Mara from shining.  In a way, however, that is good thing.  The way Polley presents this makes Women Talking as timeless as it is timely.

Women Talking is truly an exceptional and spectacular film because the women at the heart of its story are talking.  What they say crosses over into our real world.  Because what is depicted in this film is real, it matters.  Women Talking is based on something that happened not that long ago, in this century, so women struggling for equality and human rights must keep talking.  And this movie, Women Talking, is entertainment, educational, and hopefully, inspiration for future generations.

9 of 10
★★★★+ out of 4 stars

Thursday, May 4, 2023

2023 Academy Awards, USA:  1 win: “Best Adapted Screenplay” (Sarah Polley) and 1 nomination: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Jeremy Kleiner, Dede Gardner, and Frances McDormand – producers)

2023 Golden Globes, USA:  2 nominations: “Best Original Score - Motion Picture” (Hildur Guðnadóttir) and “Best Screenplay-Motion Picture” (Sarah Polley)

The text is copyright © 2023 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for syndication rights and fees.



Saturday, December 3, 2022

Review: "THREE THOUSAND YEARS OF LONGING" is a Fairy Tale of Love Stories

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 73 of 2022 (No. 1885) by Leroy Douresseaux

Three Thousand Years of Longing (2022)
Running time:  108 minutes (1 hour, 48 minutes)
MPA – R for some sexual content, graphic nudity and brief violence
DIRECTOR:  George Miller
WRITERS:  George Miller and Augusta Gore (based upon the short story by A.S. Byatt)
PRODUCERS:  Doug Mitchell and George Miller
EDITOR:  Margaret Sixel


Starring:  Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, Erdil Yasaroglu, Aamito Lagum, Ece Yuksel, Matteo Bocelli, and Nicolas Mouawad

Three Thousand Years of Longing is a 2022 fantasy film and romantic drama directed by George Miller  It is based on the short story, “The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye,” which was written by author A. S. Byatt and first published in the Winter 1994 edition of The Paris Review.  Three Thousand Years of Longing focuses on lonely scholar and a djinn who offers her three wishes in exchange for his freedom.

Three Thousand Years of Longing introduces Alithea Binnie (Tilda Swinton), a lonely British scholar and “narratologist.”  She travels to Istanbul, Turkey for a conference.  While there, Alithea visits Istanbul's “Grand Bazaar” where she enters a store filled with beautiful and intricate glassware.  She purchases an odd, antique bottle, and takes it back to her hotel.

While cleaning the bottle, Alithea is shocked to discover that there is something inside it and that she has unwittingly released its contents.  Alithea has accidentally unleashed a djinn that was trapped inside the bottle.  The Djinn (Idris Elba) offers to grant her three wishes, but Alithea believes that djinn are tricksters and that the wishes they grant turn out to be misfortune for those that did the wishing.  So The Djinn tells Alithea three tales that explain how he came to be in the bottle in which she found him.  Will this convince Alithea to accept his offer of three wishes – an act that will grant him freedom?

First, I must say that Three Thousand Years of Longing has excellent production values, and I would expect nothing less from a great filmmaker like George Miller, best known for his Mad Max films, including the original Mad Max (1979) and the most recent, the winner of multiple Oscar-winner, Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).  The costumes, sets, art direction, hair and make-up, the score, and cinematography give Three Thousand Years of Longing a golden hue.  It is in the depiction of The Djinn's stories that this film's production values assert their power in transforming Three Thousand Years of Longing into a engaging fairy tale full of wondrous fairy tales

However, these same fairy tales often outshine the main narrative, much of which deals with the impasse in which Alithea and The Djinn find themselves.  Luckily, Three Thousand Years of Longing is a story with a beginning, middle, and an end.  For it is at the end that we learn that Three Thousand Years of Longing is truly a love story, but a love story that only a fairy tale can tell.  Love is a story, and in this story, love, with its endless longing, is different and lives differently.

George Miller and his co-writer, Augusta Gore, could only tell this film story with two extraordinary and exceptional actors.  Tilda Swinton, strange chameleon and splendid thespian, and Idris Elba, whose profound voice reveals the deep pool of ability from which it springs, are so perfectly matched in being mismatched and star-crossed, that they make us believe in what their characters ultimately make for themselves.  Three Thousand Years of Longing is not perfect, but it is the kind of fantasy film that only exceptional cinematic talents can create.

7 of 10
★★★½ out of 4 stars

Saturday, December 3, 2022

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Thursday, June 16, 2022

Review: "LICORICE PIZZA" is a Dumb Title for a Freaking Fantastic Film

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 36 of 2022 (No. 1848) by Leroy Douresseaux

Licorice Pizza (2021)
Running time:  133 minutes (2 hours, 13 minutes)
MPA – R for language, sexual material and some drug use
WRITER/DIRECTOR:  Paul Thomas Anderson
PRODUCERS:  Paul Thomas Anderson, Sara Murphy, and Adam Somner
CINEMATOGRAPHERS:  Paul Thomas Anderson (D.o.P.) and Michael Bauman
EDITOR:  Andy Jurgensen
COMPOSER:  Jonny Greenwood
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Alana Haim, Cooper Hoffman, Sean Penn, Tom Waits, Will Angarola, Griff Giacchino, James Kelley, Maya Rudolph, Iyana Halley, Ryan Heffington, Benny Safdie, Joseph Cross, and Bradley Cooper

Licorice Pizza is a 2021 coming-of-age comedy and drama and period film written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  The film focuses on the adventures and misadventures of a teenage boy and a 20-something young woman as their romantic relationship develops.

Licorice Pizza is set in San Fernando Valley, California, circa 1973.  The film introduces 15-year-old Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), a child actor.  While preparing for “picture day” at his high school, Gary notices the photographer's assistant, Alana Kane (Alana Haim).  Gary is smitten with her and strikes up a conversation, but Alana, who says that she is 25-years-old (although she could be as much as 28-years-old), tries to rebuff him, to no avail.

A kind of romance begins while Gary becomes a budding teenage businessman and while Alana tries to get her life together.  This version of “first love,” however, involves a treacherous navigation as both are attracted to other people.  This includes other teen girls for Gary and actors and politicians for Alana.  Meanwhile, there is an entire San Fernando Valley of adventures to be had and some growing up to do.

The Los Angeles Times described Licorice Pizza as a “family-and-friends-project” because much of the cast of the film is made up of Paul Thomas Anderson's family and friends.  The lead actor, Cooper Hoffman, is the son of the late actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who appeared in several of Anderson's films.  A former local restaurant that Anderson patronized is recreated for the film.  Living and deceased Hollywood celebrities appear as characters in the film, including legendary television star and studio executive, Lucille Ball, and film producer, Jon Peters.  Gary Valentine and his adventures are based on the life of former child actor turned film and TV producer, Gary Goetzman, a friend of Anderson's and the producing partner of actor Tom Hanks.  The film even takes its title from, “Licorice Pizza” (1969-85), a former Southern California record store chain that, through sales and acquisitions, became part of the “Musicland” brand.

Thinking about Licorice Pizza, I can only regard it as perfect, and I feel that its perfection comes from the fact that the concept, plot, story, setting, and characters come from a place of love and of familiarity for Anderson.  Everything feels natural and real, and there were instances when I was watching this film that it felt like I was staring through a window in time at something that had actually taken place.

To me, Anderson's screenplay is perfect down to the punctuation and indention.  To change it would be to ruin it.  Even the soundtrack is filled with songs that seem as if they were recorded long ago, but were always meant for Licorice Pizza.

Gary Valentine and Alana Kane (love those names) are so well-developed and so naturally developed that I found myself loving them, being annoyed at them, and being worried for them – as if they were my own charges.  As Gary, Hoffman gives one of the best performances of a teenage character that I have ever seen.  Alana Haim is Meryl Streep and Glenn Close good as Alana Kane, and her not receiving an Oscar nomination for this performance is artistic theft.

Well … I love this film, and I demand that you watch it.  Or I'll beg if that's what it takes.  The lives of white kids in 1970s San Fernando Valley is a star system away from when and how I grew up.  Still, I could feel that era and the lives of these people in my heart.  Honestly, Licorice Pizza is a stupid-ass title for a stupendous-ass film.  If the title is what is holding you back from seeing it, ignore that title and see one of the truly great films of the last several years.

10 of 10

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

2022 Academy Awards, USA:  3 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Sara Murphy, Adam Somner, and Paul Thomas Anderson), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Paul Thomas Anderson), and “Best Original Screenplay” (Paul Thomas Anderson)

2022 BAFTA Awards:  1 win:  “Best Screenplay-Original (Paul Thomas Anderson);  4 nominations: “Best Film” (Sara Murphy, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Adam Somner), “Best Director” (Paul Thomas Anderson), “Best Leading Actress” (Alana Haim), “Best Editing” (Andy Jurgensen)

2022 Golden Globes, USA:  4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy,” “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Alana Haim), “Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy” (Cooper Hoffman), and “Best Screenplay – Motion Picture” (Paul Thomas Anderson)

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site or blog for reprint and syndication rights and fees.



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Thursday, March 3, 2022

Review: Vincent Price Does Killer Shakespeare in "THEATRE OF BLOOD"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 10 of 2022 (No. 1822) by Leroy Douresseaux

Theatre of Blood (1973)
Running time:  104 minutes (1 hour, 44 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Douglas Hickox
WRITERS: Anthony Greville-Bell (based on an idea by Stanley Mann and John Kohn)
PRODUCERS:  John Kohn and Stanley Mann
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Wolfgang Suschitzky (D.o.P.)
EDITOR:  Malcolm Cooke
COMPOSER:  Michael J. Lewis

THRILLER/HORROR with elements of comedy

Starring:  Vincent Price, Diana Rigg, Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Robert Coote, Michael Hordern. Robert Morley, Coral Browne, Jack Hawkins, Arthur Lowe, Dennis Price, Milo O'Shea, and Eric Sykes

Theatre of Blood is a 1973 British horror-thriller and dark comedy from director Douglas Hickox.  The film stars Vincent Price as a scorned Shakespearean actor who takes revenge on his critics using the plays of William Shakespeare as reference for his diabolical methods of murder.

Theatre of Blood opens with a murder.  “Theatre Critics Guild” member, George Maxwell (Michael Hordern), is repeatedly stabbed by a mob of homeless people turned murderers.  Maxwell and his fellow guild members recently humiliated Shakespearean actor, Edward Kendal Sheridan Lionheart (Vincent Price).  He was thought to have committed suicide by jumping from the balcony of the guild's headquarters.  Instead, Lionheart was rescued by the very vagrants and homeless people that hehas  recruited to his cause – revenge against the critics who failed to acclaim his genius.

Now, Lionheart has targeted the eight remaining members of the Theatre Critics Guild, designing their deaths using murder scenes from the plays of William Shakespeare.  The police are trying to discover the identity of the killers, and even after they do, they still can't seem to stop him.  Only one of his targets, critic Peregrine Devlin (Ian Hendry), seems smart enough to foil Lionheart.  However, Devlin has no idea just how obsessed and focused Lionheart is.

Vincent Price (1911–1993) was an American actor and a legendary movie star, in addition to being an author and art historian.  Price was and still is best known for his performances in horror films, although his career spanned other genres.  Price appeared in more than 100 films, but he also performed on television, the stage, and on radio.

I am currently reading the wonderful comic book miniseries, Elvira Meets Vincent Price, which is written by David Avallone, drawn by Juan Samu, and published by Dynamite Entertainment.  The series will end shortly, and because I have enjoyed reading it so much, I decided to watch and review a Vincent Price movie.  The first Vincent Price movie that I can remember seeing was Theatre of Blood (known as Theater of Blood in the United States).  As I haven't seen it since that first time, I decided to watch it again.

I remember really liking this movie the first time I saw it, and I enjoyed it watching it again.  Theatre of Blood is both a horror-thriller and a dark comedy, something I did not get watching it as a youngster.  Truthfully, however, Theatre of Blood is a monster movie – a Vincent Price monster movie.

At first, I found myself enjoying Edward Lionheart's revenge and the games of death he plays with his enemies, the critics who would not give him the honor he believes he is due.  Then, I noticed that Lionheart's murderous crusade drags in an ever growing number of innocents and collateral damage.  At that point, I was forced to realize that the beguiling Lionheart is a deranged maniac and probably has been one for a long time.

After I accepted that Lionheart was neither hero nor anti-hero, but was instead a lunatic, I began to enjoy Price's not-quite-over the top performance, with its alternating layers of madness, subtlety, elegance, and maniacal glee.  By the time, I finished Theatre of Blood, I realized a few things.  One is that I need a regular dose of Vincent Price cinema in my life.  Another is that I will absolutely recommend this movie to you, dear readers.

8 of 10

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


Friday, February 25, 2022

Review: "THE ADDAMS FAMILY 2" is a Truly Disappointing Sequel

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 9 of 2022 (No. 1821) by Leroy Douresseaux

The Addams Family 2 (2021)
Running time:  93 minutes (1 hour, 33 minutes)
MPAA – PG for macabre and rude humor, violence and language
DIRECTORS:  Greg Tiernan and Conrad Vernon
WRITERS:  Dan Hernandez, Benji Samit, Ben Queen, and Susanna Fogel; from a story by Dan Hernandez and Benji Samit (based on the characters created by Charles Addams)
PRODUCERS:  Gail Berman, Alison O'Brien, Danielle Sterling, and Conrad Vernon
EDITOR:  Ryan Folsey
COMPOSERS: Jeff Danna and Mychael Danna


Starring:  (voices) Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Javon “Wanna” Walton, Nick Kroll, Snoop Dogg, Bette Midler, Conrad Vernon, Bill Hader, Wallace Shawn, Brian Sommer, Cherami Leigh, and Ted Evans

The Addams Family 2 is a 2021 computer-animated supernatural comedy from directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan.  The film is a sequel to the 2019 animated film, The Addams Family.  Both films are based on the characters created by The New Yorker cartoonist, the late Charles Addams (1912-1988).  The Addams Family 2 focuses on the Addams Family as take a road trip, during which a scientist pursues Wednesday.

The Addams Family 2 opens at a school science fair.  There, Wednesday Addams (Chloe Grace Moretz) presents her experiment, in which she uses DNA from her pet squid, Socrates, on her Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) to show how humans can be improved.  Wednesday is somewhat put off that her family:  father, Gomez Addams (Oscar Isaac); mother, Morticia (Charlize Theron); and her brother, Pugsley (Javon “Wanna” Walton) have decided to attend the science fair, which is sponsored by the Cyrus Strange FoundationCyrus Strange (Bill Hader) himself appears at the fair as a 3D hologram, and he is instantly drawn to Wednesday experiment and hopes to recruit her to work for him.

Back at home, Gomez Addams worries that the children are drifting apart from him and Morticia.  He decides that a family vacation is just what is needed to keep the family together, so he declares that they are going on a road trip across the United States.  Uncle Fester, Thing (the sentient hand), and Lurch (the butler) join them on the vacation, with everyone packing into an huge, odd-looking camper.  Gomez even takes the family to Miami where he hopes Cousin Itt (Snoop Dogg) can help with the family dilemma.

There is a complication in these vacation plans, however.  Cyrus Strange is determined to have Wednesday, and sends a shady lawyer, Mr. Mustela (Wallace Shawn), and a brutish henchman, Pongo (Ted Evans) to trick Gomez and Morticia into believing that Wednesday might be Cyrus' child.  Wednesday is already having doubts about her connections to the Addams Family, so which family will she decide to choose, the Addams or Cyrus Strange?

Charles Addams' macabre cartoon characters first became “The Addams Family” in the former ABC television series, “The Addams Family” (1964-66).  I have been a fan of that series since I was a child.  As a child, I was also a fan of NBC's former Saturday morning cartoon series, “The Addams Family” (Hanna-Barbera, 1973).  That series depicts the Addams Family on a cross-country road trip, exploring the United States in their “Creepy Camper” that resembles their Victorian-style mansion home.  The Addams Family 2 is not a remake of that old cartoon series, but it does borrow a few elements from it.

The Addams Family 2019 was enough of a hit that producing a sequel probably seemed obvious to MGM, which holds the rights to produce Addams Family film and television series.  The end result is something that looks and feels like a sequel that was rushed into production.  The idea of Wednesday not being an Addams is a ridiculous plot.  I can certainly accept the notion of a precocious child wondering about her parentage and lineage.  However, if she is different from the rest of her family, it is because each member of the Addams Family is different from all others.  That is the point this film makes at end of the story, but we didn't need an entire mediocre movie to tell us that.  Raising questions about Wednesday's family is just a lame plot line.

So, it goes without saying that I did not like this film.  The Addams Family 2 ends up being the latest in a long line of pitiful Hollywood road trip movies.  I will say that the last 17 minutes of the film – before the end credits – are actually good.  It is the only time that the film has any real conflict, melodrama, or action, and what happens in these seventeen minutes is actually consequential to the both the Addams Family and a few other supporting characters.

The Addams Family 2019 is my favorite media adaptation of “The Addams Family” characters outside of the 1960s and 1970s.  It manages to be sweet, charming, heartwarming, and, of course, macabre – the way it should be.  I gave it a B+, but The Addams Family 2 bored the hell outta me until the last seventeen minutes.  I'm being generous giving it a C.

4 of 10

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

The text is copyright © 2022 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved.  Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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Friday, October 8, 2021

Review: "NO TIME TO DIE," But Plenty of Time to Bore

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 60 of 2021 (No. 1798) by Leroy Douresseaux

No Time to Die (2021)
Running time:  163 minutes (2 hours, 43 minutes)
MPAA – PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some disturbing images, brief strong language and some suggestive material
DIRECTOR:  Cary Joji Fukunaga
WRITERS:  Neal Purvis & Robert Wade and Cary Joji Fukunaga, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge; from a story by Cary Joji Fukunaga and Neal Purvis & Robert Wade (based on the characters created by Ian Fleming)
PRODUCERS:  Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Linus Sandgren (D.o.P.)
EDITORS:  Tom Smith and Elliot Graham
COMPOSER:  Hans Zimmer
SONG:  “No Time to Die,” sung by Billie Eilish; written by Billie Eilish and Finneas O'Connell


Starring:  Daniel Craig, Rami Malek, Lea Seydoux, Lashana Lynch, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Rory Kinnear, Billy Magnussen, David Dencik, Dali Benssalah, and Jeffrey Wright with Christoph Waltz

No Time to Day is a 2021 spy and action-adventure film from director Cary Joji Fukunaga.  It is the 25th entry in EON Productions' James Bond film franchise, and it is also the fifth and (supposedly) final film in which actor Daniel Craig portrays Bond.  In No Time to Die, James Bond is attempting to enjoy life after having left active service when an old friend asks him to help the CIA secure a dangerous new weapon.

No Time to Die finds former M16 agent, James Bond-007 (Daniel Craig), enjoying life after leaving active service with his lover, Dr. Madeleine Swann (Lea Seydoux).  While vacationing in Matera, Italy, Spectre assassins ambush Bond, and although he survives that attempt, he believes that he has been betrayed.  Bond blames Madeleine and leaves her.

Five years later, MI6 scientist, Valdo Obruchev (David Dencik), is kidnapped from an MI6 laboratory.  Obruchev was working on a bio-weapons project, “Project Heracles,” at the behest of Gareth Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), also known as “M,” the head of MI6.  In Jamaica, Bond's friend, CIA agent Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), asks Bond to help him track Obruchev, but Bond refuses.  Later, Bond encounters Nomi (Lashana Lynch), the MI6 agent who has succeeded him as the new “007.”  After discovering more about “Project Heracles” via Nomi, Bond agrees to help Leiter find Obruchev.

Bond discovers that his old nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld (Christoph Waltz), the founder and head of the criminal syndicate, Spectre, is somehow involved with Obruchev.  However, the true mastermind behind Obruchev's activities is a mysterious terrorist leader (Rami Malek) on a mission of revenge and harboring plans to kill untold millions of people.

Of the previous Daniel Craig James Bond films:  Casino Royale (2006), Quantum of Solace (2008), Skyfall (2012) and Spectre (2015), the last two join No Time to Die to form some kind of Daniel Craig as James Bond life cycle.  When it comes to James Bond, I am not interested in s life story, origin tale, or death story of 007.  Craig is the first actor to play Bond who gets a swan song film.  All the other Bond actors did not get a goodbye movie; they simply left.

Although it has some good moments and some exceptional set pieces – in the form of extended action scenes – No Time to Die gets old and listless, especially after the action that takes place in Matera.  This film is also too long and too tired, especially wants the drama moves to Japan.  Even Daniel Craig, who is only 53-years-old, seems to be much older than he really his.  His body is tight, but his face is Beetlejuice.  It is as if everything about this film inadvertently says that both Craig and Bond are way past their expiration date.  In fact, both seem like spoiled milk.

No Time to Die has other problems.  Ray Fiennes, with his dour faced portrayal of “M,” only makes things seem more rundown.  Naomie Harris is utterly wasted as Eve Moneypenny.  Lashana Lynch cannot do much to save her utterly wasted and woefully underdeveloped character, Nomi, the new 007.  Jeffrey Wright seems like an out-of-gas old car as Felix Leiter.  As for Rami Malek: what could have been is so obvious in how much he gets out of so little.

On the other hand, Rory Kinnear brings some quiet energy as M's chief of staff, Bill Tanner.  As usual Ben Whishaw is top notch as “Q,” and I hope the Bond bosses bring him back in the next iteration of the franchise.  Also, Bill Magnussen provides an expected pretty boy, watermelon sugar rush as the bright-eyed CIA agent, Logan Ash.

In the final analysis, if I had to do it again, I would not go to a movie theater to see No Time to Die.  Don't get me wrong.  I am a huge James Bond fan and would see this movie anyway.  I will always find a lot to like even in Bond movies about which I have mixed feelings.  However, No Time to Die is the kind of Bond movie that I could have waited to see at home.  It is sad that Daniel Craig's tenure as James Bond did not so much end as it simply petered out.

6 of 10

Friday, October 8, 2021

The text is copyright © 2021 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this blog or site for reprint and syndication rights and fees.


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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Review: Jack Benny is Eternally Cool in "To Be or Not to Be" (Remembering Jack Benny)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 161 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

To Be or Not to Be (1942) – Black & White
Running time:  99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
WRITERS:  Edwin Justus Mayer; from a story by Melchior Lengyel
EDITOR:  Dorothy Spencer
COMPOSER: Werner R. Heymann
Academy Award nominee


Starring:  Carole Lombard, Jack Benny, Robert Stack, Felix Bressart, Lionel Atwill, Stanley Ridges, Sig Ruman, Tom Dugan, Charles Halton, George Lynn, Henry Victor, Maude Eburne, Halliwell Hobbes, and Miles Mander

The subject of this movie review is To Be or Not to Be, a 1942 film starring Carole Lombard and Jack Benny.  The film was produced and directed by Ernst Lubitsch, who also wrote the film’s original story with Melchior Lengyel, although Lubitsch did not receive a screen credit.  Set during the Nazi occupation of Poland, the film focuses on an acting troupe involved in a Polish soldier’s efforts to track down a German spy.

If you’ve ever seen the 1983 Mel Brooks’ film, To Be or Not to Be and wondered how anyone could eke laughs out of the Nazi’s invading Poland, part of that most contentious time in recent history, World War II, then imagine how shocked many moviegoers must have been when they the original To Be or Not to Be, a 1942 directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

In occupied Poland, ham actor Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) leads a troupe of actors in a game of subterfuge against the Nazi’s.  It begins with the Nazi’s invasion of Poland.  At the same time, Tura’s wife, Maria (Carole Lombard, who was killed in a plane crash before this film was release), is returning the affections a young military pilot, Lt. Stanislav Sobinski (Robert Stack), who often visits the Turas’ theatre, the Polski, to woo Maria.  After the invasion, Sobinski escapes to England where he continues the fight against the Nazis.  However, he must sneak back into Poland to stop Prof. Alexander Siletsky (Stanley Ridges), a Nazi spy who has information on the efforts of the Resistance in Poland.  Upon discovering Maria and Sobinski’s playful “affair,” Tura is reluctant to help the young pilot, but his patriotism wins the day.  Tura and his ragtag troupe of actors don Nazi uniforms and march right into the heart of the Gestapo headquarters in Warsaw to take on Nazi Col. Ehrhardt (Sig Ruman), but his is a game not only to save the Resistance, but also save their own necks.

Ernst Lubitsch is perhaps one of Hollywood’s best directors of satire and subtle comedy, and his phrase, “The Lubitsch Touch,” became famous because his films reflected his sophisticated wit and style.  Taking nothing away from a novel concept and unconventional comic script or even denying the talents of the cast, a film like To Be or Not to Be could be a disaster without a master helmsman.  Lubitsch (who directed Ninotchka, The Shop Around the Corner, and Heaven Can Wait among other) gracefully mixes menace and comic in an erudite manner that manages to poke fun at the Nazi’s (essentially this movie is the filmmakers’ way of thumbing their noses at Nazi Germany), while satirizing the Nazis’ insatiable need to conquer and their arrogance in believing that they had all the right answers.  While Mel Brooks remake was broad slapstick presented as if it were a stage show (vaudeville?), Lubitsch film is a clever farce that treads broad comedy with highly understated sexual innuendo, cunning wordplay, and sly mischief.

Although they’re good, most of the cast comes across as either workman-like character actors and glorified extras, which is not an insult to them.  There are some standout performances.  Sig Ruman as Col. Ehrhardt personifies this film’s monsters/clowns approach to the Nazis, and Henry Victor is menacing as the machine-like Capt. Schulz, so much so that he is the victim of some of the film’s best humor.  Carole Lombard pretty much owns the first half of the film, and while the second half relegates her to a supporting player, it allows her breezy sexiness and comedic talents to shine through.  Whenever she dresses in an evening gown, the audience can see why she was one of those special actresses who personified the glamour of old Hollywood.

The second half of the film belongs to Jack Benny.  His gentle sarcasm, mock self-deprecating humor, and his clueless belief that he was more talented than he was – all part of his act – solidifies this film’s unusual mixture of farce, slapstick, patriotism, and idealism.  Benny is a sly fox and his Joseph Tura knows he’s smarter than the Nazi’s, even when he’s in mortal danger.  His performance mixes leading man as comic hero and comic hero as overconfident ringmaster.  The joke was supposed to be on Benny’s Joseph Tura, and it is for a long time.  Still, Tura will get the last laugh no matter how many times the joke’s on him.  It is that uncommon nature that makes To Be or Not to Be an inimitable comedy and drama.

8 of 10

1943 Academy Awards:  1 nomination: Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture (Werner R. Heymann)

1996 National Film Preservation Board, USA:  National Film Registry

Friday, July 28, 2006

Updated:  Thursday, December 26, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Review: "Gun Crazy" is Crazy Cool (Remembering Dalton Trumbo)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 151 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Gun Crazy (1950) – B&W
Deadly is the Female (1949) – original title
Running time: 86 minutes (1 hour, 26 minutes)
DIRECTOR:  Joseph H. Lewis
WRITERS:  MacKinlay Kantor, Millard Kaufman, and Dalton Trumbo (based upon the short story by MacKinlay Kantor)
PRODUCERS:  Frank King and Maurice King
CINEMATOGRAPHER:  Russell Harlan (director of photography)
EDITOR:  Harry Gerstad
COMPOSER:  Victor Young


Starring:  Peggy Cummings, John Dall, Barry Kroeger, Morris Carnovsky, Anabel Shaw, Harry Lewis, Nedrick Young, and Rusty Tamblyn with (cast that received no screen credit) David Bair, Paul Frison, and Trevor Bardette

The subject of this movie review is Gun Crazy, a 1950 film noir crime drama directed by Joseph H. Lewis.  The film was originally released under the title, Deadly is the Female, apparently sometime in 1949.  Gun Crazy is based on a short story written by MacKinlay Kantor, one of the film’s screenwriters.  Although Millard Kaufman is also credited as a screenwriter on Gun Crazy, he is not.  Kaufman was a “front writer,” meaning he allowed another screenwriter to use his name in order to work on the project.  The writer who used Kaufman’s name was Dalton Trumbo.

Trumbo was one of the “Hollywood 10.”  They were cited for contempt of Congress for refusing to give testimony to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) concerning Communist activity in Hollywood in the 1930s and early 1940s.  Trumbo and others were blacklisted from working on Hollywood film productions, or, if they did work on a production, their names were omitted from the film.  Trumbo is credited as the writer who reworked MacKinlay Kantor’s Gun Crazy story into a tale of a doomed love affair, but he could not receive a screen credit for his work on the film.

Gun Crazy the movie introduces Bart Tare (Rusty Tamblyn).  As a boy, Tare was obsessed with guns, although he was loathed to kill anything.  His obsession lands him in a reform school, but he retains the support of his family and especially of his friends, Dave Allister (Paul Frison) and Clyde Boston (Trevor Bardette).  After leaving the reform school and doing a stint in the army, adult Bart (John Dall) returns home to find that the adult Dave Allister (Nedrick Young) is now the editor of their hometown paper and that Clyde is now Sheriff Clyde Boston (Harry Lewis).

The trio attends a traveling carnival where Bart meets the love of his life, Annie Laurie Starr (Peggy Cummings), a carnie trick pistol shooter, who, like Bart, is gun-obsessed.  The two run off and get married, but Laurie is a dangerous girl who wants the high life.  The legitimate jobs that poor Bart can get won’t pay enough to buy her all the things she wants.  He’s too in love to be without her, so it’s easy for her to talk him into a life of crime.  They commit a string of daring robberies across the country that eventually cause them to kill.  Hunted and desperate, Laurie and Bart head back home to Bart’s sister, Ruby (Anabel Shaw), and her family, but Sheriff Clyde and Dave are waiting for them.

Experts and students of the film genre known as Film-Noir consider Gun Crazy to be classic noir.  The film, released initially under the title, Deadly is the Female, is based upon novelist MacKinlay Kantor’s short story that was originally published in The Saturday Evening Post.  Gun Crazy was mostly forgotten until it fell into favor in France with film critics, especially the group of critics who would themselves one day become filmmakers and also become tied to a movement called French New Wave – the most famous of the lot being François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard.  Godard’s 1960 film, Breathless, apparently references Gun Crazy.

Although many critics and reviewers have praised director Joseph H. Lewis for the film’s documentary feel, used especially during the robbery sequences, Lewis’ film is actually very stylized and expressionistic from a visual point of view.  Everything that is important for the audience to know about Laurie and Bart:  their roles, identities, thoughts, and feelings, as well as the roles of the people around them, Lewis tells through visual cues.  From the titled camera shots early in the film that suggest the mental state of young Bart to the sexualized first encounter of Bart and Laurie – all are stylish.  In fact, Lewis really pushes the idea of sex and the duo’s obsession with guns being interrelated.

The film has some good performances, a few exceptional – especially British actress Peggy Cummings as Laurie and, in two small roles, Barry Kroeger as Laurie’s carnival boss, Packett, and Morris Carnovsky as Judge Willoughby.  The script is a good blueprint for Lewis, but is soft on the dichotomy between Bart’s two worlds – Peggy and crime and Dave and Clyde.  Ultimately this film does fit the auteur theory that Truffaut, Godard, and their contemporaries pushed – the idea that the director is the film’s author.  Joseph H. Lewis takes the best that his cast and crew give him and turn Gun Crazy into a film of notorious love, sexual tension, lust, and the kind of violence that can come from two lovers’ obsessions.  This is definitely a precursor to Bonnie and Clyde.

7 of 10

Saturday, July 15, 2006

1998 National Film Preservation Board, USA:  National Film Registry

Updated: Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The text is copyright © 2013 Leroy Douresseaux. All Rights Reserved. Contact this site for syndication rights and fees.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Review: "Art School Confidential" Has an Artful Cast (Happy B'day, John Malkovich)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 216 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

Art School Confidential (2006)
Running time: 102 minutes (1 hour, 42 minutes)
MPAA – R for language including sexual references, nudity, and a scene of violence
DIRECTOR: Terry Zwigoff
WRITER: Daniel Clowes (based on the comic by Daniel Clowes)
PRODUCERS: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, and Russell Smith
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jamie Anderson, A.S.C. (director of photography)
EDITOR: Robert Hoffman
COMPOSER: David Kitay

COMEDY/DRAMA with elements of romance

Starring: Max Minghella, Sophia Myles, John Malkovich, Jim Broadbent, Matt Keeslar, Ethan Suplee, Joel David Moore, Nick Swardson, Anjelica Huston, Adam Scott, Jack Ong, Michael Lerner, and Ezra Buzzington

The subject of this movie review is Art School Confidential, a 2006 comedy-drama from director Terry Zwigoff. The film is based on a four-page comic book short story written and drawn by Daniel Clowes and published in Clowes’ comic book series, Eightball #7 (Fantagraphics Books). Clowes wrote the screenplay for Art School Confidential, the second film collaboration between him and Zwigoff. Zwigoff directed and Clowes wrote the screenplay for Ghost World, a film based on a Clowes graphic novel.

In Art School Confidential, an ambitious art school student tries desperately to get the girl of his dreams, but she’s attracted to a dumb jock type whose simplistic pop art paintings have taken the art class by storm. This the second film from the team of Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes that gave us the Oscar-nominated, Ghost World. Clowes is a comic book artist, and Art School Confidential, like Ghost World, is adapted from his comics.

Jerome Platz (Max Minghella) wants to be the greatest artist of the 21st Century, and to that end he escapes his suburban home and terrible high school to a tiny East Coast art school, the Strathmore Institute. However, the beauty and craft of his portraiture does not win him any friends among his fellow students in the anything-goes art class. He finds this new world filled with a collection of offbeat characters: his worldly, but obnoxious classmate, Bardo (Joel David Moore); a roommate exploding with the desire to make a cinematic masterpiece of blood and violence, Vince (Ethan Suplee); his self-involved art teacher, Professor Sandiford (John Malkovich); and a failed artist and Strathmore grad who is drowning in alcohol and self-pity, Jimmy (Jim Broadbent).

Jerome does find his eye drawn to the girl of his dreams, Audrey Baumgarten (Sophia Myles), an artist’s model (who models nude for Jerome’s class) and daughter of an acclaimed artist. Audrey is initially attracted to Jerome, whose attitude is refreshing and not like the affectations of the local art crowd. However, a fellow art student and jock-type named Jonah (Matt Keeslar) becomes the toast of the art school with his pop art paintings. When Audrey turns her attentions to Jonah, Jerome concocts various plans to win back her affections, which all fail, but his next one will put Jerome’s future at stake, as well as the lives of those in and around Strathmore.

While Art School Confidential comes across as a satire of art schools, the faculty, and students, it is also a love story and youth relationship drama. It works well as all three. As a work of satire, Clowes’ script is matter-of-fact about art school politics. All his characters exist more in their own worlds than they do in the larger world in which they also co-exist, whether or not they believe they do. It seems as if they tolerate people and desire others attentions mostly so others should validate their art, agendas, and careers.

As for the romance and drama: Max Minghella certainly makes Jerome Platz a likeable underdog for whom we root. He may a bit aloof and may be naïve in terms of his expectations, but he’s honest and his ignorance and rudeness are endearing. We want him to get the girl, and we love the girl, too. Sophia Myles plays Audrey, the object of desire, quite well – mainly because she’s an “It” girl with that kind of classic look that works so well in film.

Still, the question that’s on everyone’s mind, “Is Art School Confidential funny?” I thought it uproariously funny, although it goes dry at the beginning of the last act. Clowes views humanity with a sanguine eye, even when his work seems cynical. His comics are matter-of-fact about humanity – warts and all. He may privately pass judgment, but in his comics, he lets the reader make up his own mind. His movie writing is like that, and Zwigoff is adept at picking up both the subtle nuances and broad strokes of his screenwriting collaborators. That allows Zwigoff to spend his time letting his talented cast have fun with the script and story. The result is fun, even exceptionally good flicks like Art School Confidential.

8 of 10

Friday, October 20, 2006

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Review: "Lions for Lambs" is a Political Film That Roars (Happy 50th B'day, Tom Cruise)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 20 (of 2008) by Leroy Douresseaux

Lions for Lambs (2007)
Running time: 91 minutes (1 hour, 31 minutes)
MPAA – R for some war violence and language
DIRECTOR: Robert Redford
WRITER: Matthew Michael Carnahan
PRODUCERS: Matthew Michael Carnahan, Tracy Falco, Andrew Hauptman, and Robert Redford
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Philippe Rousselot (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Joe Hutshing


Starring: Robert Redford, Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, Michael Peña, Andrew Garfield, Peter Berg, Kevin Dunn, and Derek Luke

Lions for Lambs is a 2007 drama from director Robert Redford. The film stars Redford, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise in a story that connects the actions of a veteran television reporter, a powerful U.S. Republican senator, a college professor, and a stranded platoon of soldiers trapped in Afghanistan.

Tom Cruise re-launched United Artists as viable movie studio with Lions for Lambs, the Robert Redford-helmed look at America's “War on Terror.” Using a complex three-pronged narrative, Redford (who also stars in this film) connects the lives of the movie’s characters by politics and bloodshed. While a young, but powerful Washington senator goes toe to toe with a reporter, who on the down side of her career, on the issue of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, an idealistic professor and Vietnam veteran tries to keep a promising student engaged, while two of his former pupils struggle to survive behind enemy lines in Afghanistan.

At an unnamed California university, the anguished Professor Stephen Malley (Robert Redford) calls Todd (Andrew Garfield), a talented, but aimless student who usually misses class into his office for a heart to heart conversation. Malley is trying to reach this privileged, but disaffected student to hopefully encourage him to do something to make change rather than just be cynical about the current state of affairs. Two of Prof. Malley’s students volunteered to join the U.S. military and now serve with Special Forces in the “War on Terror.” This bold decision by Arian Finch (Derek Luke) and Ernest Rodriguez (Michael Peña) has left Malley both moved and distraught, but he wants to share their determination to make a difference with Todd.

Unbeknownst to Malley, Arian and Ernest are stranded on a snowy mountainside in Badakhshan, Afghanistan as Taliban fighters move in and their commanders struggle to get them out.

Meanwhile, charismatic Presidential hopeful, Senator Jasper Irving (Tom Cruise) is giving probing TV journalist Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) a bombshell of a story, as the two go toe to toe over the “War on Terror.” Sen. Irving has used his influence to launch a new phase in the war in Afghanistan – one that will affect the fates of Arian and Ernest, as arguments, memories, and battle weave these three stories ever more tightly together.

Much has been made of the lack of success at the box office of films dealing with Iraq (Rendition, In the Valley of Elah), which is really no surprise considering how disconnected so many Americans are from the “Global War on Terror,” not to mention how unpopular the Iraq War is among Americans and in other nations. This unpopularity and lack of connectivity is precisely why a film like Lions for Lambs is so important. Lions for Lambs is so indicative of our current state of affairs as Americans as to be painful. No wonder the film received mostly middling to negative reviews and was a dud at the box office. Like Spike Lee’s scandalous 1987 film, School Days, Redford’s film insists on throwing the painful but necessary truth in our faces, and so many Americans would rather be chasing the latest consumer toys or obsessing over meaningless pop culture tittle-tattle. It has been said that Lions for Lambs is too “talky,” supposedly a handicap for a film.

Lions for Lambs does talk a lot, but it has something to say and we should be listening.

Still, Cruise (who gives the film’s best and sharpest performance, by far) and Streep arguing history, politics, and war as a ruthlessly ambitious politician and a jaded reporter, while American servicemen die is a sign of the times. Watching Redford’s old school activist professor trying to get Garfield’s cynical and spoiled rich boy get engaged in change while the student’s classmates shed blood for him is deeply saddening. While Peña’s Ernest and Derek’s Arian are lions in this supposed war for our civilization, the lambs are back home holding the keys to the lions’ fates.

Redford’s film clearly asks that a country embrace a more selfless agenda and do some serious soul searching, instead of acting and lying in our own self-interests. It’s good when a Hollywood movie tackles the national mood and asks tough questions. It means that American cinema still matters beyond being mere corporate product.

8 of 10

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Review: Rob Corddry Rocks "Hot Tub Time Machine"

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 65 (of 2010) by Leroy Douresseaux

Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
Running time: 99 minutes (1 hour, 39 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use and pervasive language
DIRECTOR: Steve Pink
WRITERS: Josh Heald, Sean Anders, and John Morris; from a story by Josh Heald
PRODUCERS: John Cusack, Grace Loh, Matt Moore, and John Morris
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jack Green (director of photography)
EDITORS: George Folsey Jr. and James Thomas
COMPOSER: Christophe Beck


Starring: John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, Clark Duke, Sebastian Stan, Lyndsy Fonseca, Collette Wolfe, Crispin Glover, Chevy Chase, Lizzy Caplan, Aliu Oyofo, Jake Rose, Brook Bennett, and Kellee Stewart

Hot Tub Time Machine is a raunchy, time-traveling comedy that opened in theatres this past March. The film has a ridiculous premise, but it sure is funny.

The movie presents a group of best friends have become bored with their adult lives and who have now mostly drifted apart. The self-absorbed Adam (John Cusack) has just been dumped by his girlfriend, and now his only companion is his nephew, Jacob (Clark Duke), his sister’s son who is obsessed with video games. Lou (Rob Corddry) is the party guy and an alcoholic abandoned by family and friends. Nick Webber-Agnew (Craig Robinson) was once Nick Webber, a young guy who dreamed of making it in the music business. Now, he has a dead-end job at a dog spa, and his wife Courtney Agnew-Webber (Kellee Stewart) controls his every move.

After Lou has an accident-that-looks-like-a-suicide-attempt, Adam and Nick (with Jacob tagging along) take him to Kodiak Valley Ski Resort, the scene of many memorable weekends when they were young. The resort has fallen on hard times, and the only thing worth enjoying is the ski resort hot tub. After a night of drinking, however, the men wake up to discover that they are now in the year 1986 because they fell asleep in the hot tub time machine. Adam, Lou, and Nick have a chance to relive this pivotal moment in their lives, but changing even the slightest thing could mean disaster for everybody.

One of the things that stand out about Hot Tub Time Machine is how surprisingly good the ensemble cast is. Craig Robinson, with his deadpan delivery, wit, and comic timing, is as good as any other comic actor working in movies and television today. But the best here is Rob Corddry. As Lou, he’s a beast – a freaking, free-spirited beast of comedy and belly laughs. Playing Lou requires Corddry to bare his ass and to also bare his soul at the most inappropriate times, which Corddry does with ease.

The screenwriters of Hot Tub Time Machine mix different movie genres and formulas to create the movie. Hot Tub Time Machine is part arrested-development movie, like Old School, which finds 30-something men rediscovering their college-age years with mixed results. It is a time when they could drink and carouse without having to worry about adult responsibilities like holding a job, supporting a family, and paying bills. Like Wedding Crashers or The Hangover, this is also very guy-centric, with women acting merely as objects by which the guys can validate, redeem, or sexually relieve themselves.

Hot Tub Time Machine is also like those raunchy, teen sex comedies of the 1980s, and particularly resembles the 1984 ski comedy, Hot Dog…The Movie. Hot Tub presents a scenario in which the lead characters can alter the past via time travel – a familiar movie chestnut used in comedies like Groundhog Day and 13 Going on 30.

What makes Hot Tub Time Machine different is that Adam, Lou, Nick, and Jacob are not transformed into brand new, shiny good guys by the end of this film. They practically remain the same self-absorbed losers looking for self-gratification. In Old School, after regressing to immaturity and sewing their no-longer-wild oats, the guys go back to being upright citizens by movie’s end. Here, the guys don’t “grow up;” they just get lucky.

Hot Tub Time Machine is all over the place and there isn’t much of a story. Still, it proudly puts its lovable losers through an obstacle course of vulgar antics, and the result is a movie that will make you laugh and howl. The title, Hot Tub Time Machine, alone promises crude, offensive humor, and thank heavens that it delivers.

6 of 10

Thursday, August 12, 2010