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10+! (Spoilers ahoy).
I watched this show last night, and I can't get it out of my head. It's one of the major reasons I say some of the feature shows on HBO are not only better than most movies in the cinema, but FAR better. Jennifer Melfi's refusal to seek Tony's assistance made me forgive her all her questionable calls, such as continuing to see a rage-prone client sexually attracted to her just because she's intrigued by the lion-and-tamer interplay between them. In just about any movie you'd pay $10 for, Jennifer would have sobbed out the story of the rape to Tony, and of course he'd more than happy to take a grisly and extended revenge on the scumbag. We'd all cheer, go home, and forget the movie once we finished our post-cinema hamburgers. Instead we see what we rarely see in movies: a person making a correct moral choice when she has every reason in the world to get it wrong. And the correct personal choice too: we know, if Jennifer does not, that Tony's 'favors' always come at an extravagant price.
The seriousness of the episode counterpointed well with the preceding one involving Livia's death and funeral, which had almost rolling on the floor with laughter. Not that this show was all morality, either. Absent justice served on the rapist, I was grimly pleased to see Janice, Tony's New-Age-phony sister with more than a little of their mother in her, get roughed up for stealing Sventlana's artificial leg. We all know someone like Janice.
Mondo Mod (1967)
Joint Review with "Hippie Revolt"
Most of us who see this will watch the Something Weird presentation which pairs this with "Hippie Revolt."
"Mondo World" is the more miss-able of the two films. It has its moments of unintentional humor that we watch Something Weird films for, but they are few and far between. Probably the best moment is when a women is trying out a dress in a ill-lit boutique looks at the owner and says, "Could this be made any shorter?" The dress coming down to about a centimeter below her crotch. The film never defines "mod" but shows a collection of unrelated phenomena. Outside of the drug use, they might unnerve a grandmother in Kansas, but no one else. Guys with short hair on surfboards? Guys on dirtbikes? It's not a cultural revolt, it's people with a little spending money and leisure time, although the leering narrator seems to think differently. For the most part, this film seems to be the kind of second feature shown at drive-ins intended to bore people into putting away the speaker and leaving after fifteen minutes or so.
"Hippie Revolt" aka "Something's Happening" is a little more worthwhile; it at least works as a cultural document. Noteworthy in the running time: scenes of the Haight-Ashbury district of the time, which it is claimed had about one person every six square feet. I don't know if that was accurate, but the people did seem packed. The camera panned for a minute on a weekly community group seminar on how to avoid gangbangs, venereal disease, beatings and starvation, letting us know that not all was peace and consensual sex among these young, pad-crashing transients. Then the film moves to a commune called "Strawberry Fields," where it was revealed that the locals had problems with these hippies moving into the area. As no one seems to be doing anything productive, I might have problems myself. The property probably is still an outdoor slum thanks to these people. Mostly this part of the film lets us know that people zonked on drugs can sound really, really dumb. "The total presence of God and the total absence of God, it's like, the same thing," says a nubile young girl in a short dress, while a man nods in agreement; no doubt wondering how much more of this crap he will have to listen to before she will let him get into that dress.
Easily the best part of the disk is the extras. You get to see previews for sleazy, and I mean, sleazy, roughies like "Smoke and Flesh" and "The Dean's Wife." And deleted scenes from "Mondo Mod" showing nudity. (If and when you see a nice body in these extras, keep in mind: she's probably expecting her first great-grandchild right about now.) Best of all were the posters of drive-in movies shown while a voice-over used a drive-in in Greenville, SC plays. I found it amazing that two movies, "The Miracle of Birth" and "Birth of Triplets" were advertised here over and over. I didn't know 'birth films' were a genre? Either that, or obstetricians were a big part of the drive-in audience....
Sometimes you see a movie and wonder if it was made just so the crew could enjoy a six-week vacation in a nice place. Unspoiled Greece in 1961 was probably a very pleasant locale indeed for Roger Corman and friends to take such a vacation.
The story is a familiar one: Buff, good-hearted but naive hero is tricked by a more worldly man into using his great strength for his benefit until the hero wises up. This is a plot used in the great sagas of Hercules, Sigfred, and Tom Cruise. Here the trusting hero, Atlas, is invited by a city-state tyrant, Praximedes, to be his champion in a fight to the death so that Praximedes can annex some defiant holdout city.
The problem with all of this is: the movie is boring. Very boring. The fight scenes lack drama; the battle scenes look like extras throwing sticks that are supposed to be spears at each other. Michael Forest as Atlas can't act - period. Barboura Morris is the sex interest of changeable loyalties; she isn't bad looking, but she doesn't take off near enough clothes. --Oh, don't tell me it was 1961. "Spartacus" was made a year before, and that had a bathing scene. Plus a reference to homosexuality. "Atlas" was never meant to be a big-budget epic. So no excuses, Roger. This kind of movie, you have to sex up if you don't do anything else.
Frank Wolff's Praximedes seems to be having a good time; but rather than coming across as a figurative tyrant (he makes no secret that he is a -literal- tyrant), he seems more like a glad-handing jerk, and a distinctly American one at that.
I hope the crew enjoyed their vacation. The rest of us, if we want a Greek vacation, should catch "Summer Lovers" or "Venus on Fire".
"If..." I could have my two hours back. A bad '60s movie beloved by political dilettantes
I just saw "If " I can remember the advertisements for the movie from 1968, so I was interested in finally seeing it. It may be the perspective of an American who never went to a British public school and misses some of the social references, but I thought the movie was awful. For one thing, as others have pointed out, it takes almost the entire movie for the much ballyhooed-at-the-time revolt to break out. For another, whether the last scene is real or imagined, what occurs isn't a revolt, but a shooting rampage. There's quite a difference.
I know it may be bad form to judge a movie on subsequent events, but one cannot avoid doing it here. One person wrote a message board posting asking us not to compare the end of movie to the incidents at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech. But if there's a scintilla of difference between Klebold, Harris and Cho on the one hand and Travis (Malcom McDowell) on the other, I simply can't see it. All four of them were under the delusion that their gunfire is going to purify a f___-ed up world that they arrogantly take no responsibility for.
Which brings me to: why the hell are Travis and his chums even in a school they so despise? They are adults, or close to it. They're not in a military prison, like the inmates in "The Hill," a much better British film from about the same time. No one is forcing them to go to College and take beatings from the the whips, except maybe ambitious parents in need of a wake-up about the nature of their sons. I had the opportunity in college to join a frat, except I couldn't stand to be given silly, cruel orders by delinquents claiming to be my prospective "brothers." I took the consequences of not having the "in" with the Establishment that frats provide, and I can't say I regretted it.
If Travis fancies himself the second coming of Lenin (whose unbearded picture hangs prominently in his room) he's free to go out and organize a fitter's union or work for Michael Foot in the next election. If he wants to be Jack Kerouac, then get on the road and start writing. What possible benefit is he giving the world in joyriding a motorcycle and getting drunk in his room?
Sometimes reviewers have to be like the person who responded to the scene in "Last Tango In Paris" where Brando mopes about having had to go on a date with cow manure on his shoes. In the real world, the person said, a listener would say "Why didn't you scrape it off? Change your shoes?" --Don't allow fictional characters to lay a self-pity trip on you because you don't dare point out an common-sense alternative course of action for them. So it is here.
A Countess from Hong Kong (1967)
I cannot believe the number of people who wrote favorable reviews of this movie. I rented it for Sophia, but even with her I barely staggered through to the end of what seemed to be an interminable movie. Nothing worked - there was no timing, no chemistry between the stars, and one wasn't happy at the end because the characters didn't seem happy. As others have noticed, Brando was terribly miscast. As great an actor as he could be, he never came across as just -likeable-, and this would have been needed to make the film work.
About the only enjoyable note was struck by the delightful Patrick Cargill as Brando's man Hudson. Of course, today we would have a better idea why the idea of marriage to the Loren character made him cringe so (hint: rhymes with "say.")
It was suggested by some other poster that this is a commentary on Puritan America. But it seems Chaplin, in making Natascha the stereotypical prostitute = miserable, exploited drab, had some of the Victorian puritan to him as well. Why does Natascha want to leave Hong Kong? Is she tired of dancing with sailors? -Why- is she doing so? A woman who looks like Loren, can make herself up as well as Natascha and who can flatter men, ought to be doing far better in terms of clientelle, even in Hong Kong. If she's dancing with sailors, they ought to have admiral's bars. Not only that, if Natascha had more of the joie de vivre of the Shirley MacLaine character from Irma La Douce, one would see the attraction of the Brando character as more than just horniness, and understand his willingness to throw his political career away.
What particularly stood out for me was the set design. Did anyone ever think to look at a real cruise ship? Even luxury suites on actual liners seem a little cramped by land standards. But Brando's stateroom was bigger than my high school auditorium. Nor did Chaplin think to tell any of the characters or the extras to use crouched, 'hug the walls' walk non-sailors use at sea.
Of Human Bondage (1934)
Lurid Melodrama reminiscent of a D.W. Griffith Film
W. Somerset Maugham's Of Human Bondage is supposed to be a English language classic. If so, much must have been missing from the film version here. Phillip's (Leslie Howard) attraction to Mildred (Bette Davis) is so utterly inexplicable as to make the scenario seem like the post-breakup retelling of a relationship from the man's point of view. Being a family lawyer I've heard many such accounts; the man depicts himself as noble and always correct, and the woman is a hellion who has had no other objective than to exploit the man.
Indeed, unless one is willing to laugh at the social assumptions of the film maker, this is an uncomfortable movie to watch. Phillip even indulges Mildred when she brings over a baby of indeterminate paternity, but the real high point comes when Phillip allows Mildred - enraged and now of dubious sanity - the free run of his flat, with predictable results. Bette Davis was attractive for about five years of her life, but that period didn't occur here. In fact, by the end of the movie she looks a lot like the Baby Jane character she would play thirty years later.
I note how Howard's character is always impeccably dressed and groomed. It tells me that Phillip craves middle class respectability. Someone like that could not run from a woman with a course Cockney accent fast enough. Phillip is, for most of the movie, a student; such a person would have been more believable if he had been younger, and had the disheveled looks that bespeak the low income and the low self esteem that often accompanies student status - an English Raskolnikov, as it will. And balanced that by allowing Mildred a modicum of charm.
Pagan Island (1961)
A bad movie to love and cherish
This is a movie you can come up with a number of alternate titles, including "Welcome to Island Anthrax!" "Did you say she was going to be the bride of the sea -gull?-" and "Man, you worship one pig-ugly god!"
As you will surmise from the other reviews here, sailor Eddie Dew gets shipwrecked on an island which unfortunately has no listing on Expedia. Supposedly the all-female inhabitants are Polynesian, but both their skin color, figures and hair styles will make you think of early '60s co-ed cuties from someplace like USC - which indeed, the "actresses" probably were.
Almost immediately one of the girls show him to "his" hut (and he didn't even have to make reservations!). When the queen tells him that there is going to a festival tonight I am thinking: this guy's luck just doesn't quit.
However, the purpose of the festival seems to be to get their guest drunk, so they can hog tie him and prep him for execution the next night. Bummer. But what's this? Five other guys, apparently from the Negroes in Diapers Tribe (there's no other way to describe them), are paddling this way. The populace is terrified, so the queen lets prospective sacrificee Nani Maka cut Eddie down so he can grab his .38 and, in a bit of John Wayne marksmanship, drop all five at thirty paces without having to use the 'spare' bullet. He's a hero, and gets to have the run of the women there with the exception of the aforementioned Nani. Most guys would be content with that, but Eddie? Nooooo! So the Sea Gull - er, Sea God, is going to be angry. You have to wonder, why is it so many gods don't do -anything- except get angry?
One also wonders about these girls; if they didn't like Eddie because he was white, and don't like these black guys either, well who do they deign to couple with?
A lot of the reviews have laid into the girl who plays the queen, Trine Hovelsrud, some of whom didn't think much of her looks. Okay, she reads her lines off a cue card in a monotone, but with a name like that English was probably not her first language. And I disagree about her looks. She had a pretty Queen Next Door face, an appealing bob (there had to be a hair salon somewhere that we don't see) and the best legs on the island.
This, and "Fiend of Dope Island," make a peerless double bill for late Saturday night trash viewing and fodder for your internal Crow T. Robot. Rent them.
Until September (1984)
Could we have a non-stereotypical Frenchman?
This movie isn't terrible, really. Somebody commented that Mo is the type of American Europeans snicker at. But there are those, and not necessarily Anglo-Saxon yahoos, who do not care for Frenchmen; and the Xavier character isn't going to sway them.
Let's consider his stereotypical Frenchman attributes:
1). Cynical - very cynical. Check.
2). Reedy, underfed appearance, check, despite:
3). A great appreciation of cuisine. Check.
4). Lukewarm work ethic. Check. (Forget the fact he is supposedly a rich stockbroker, from watching him in the film he seems to put in ten hour workweeks.)
5). Beautiful wife, check. Despite that:
6). Loose interpretation of the marriage vows. Check.
7). Big sexual ego, which says an American girl owes you sex if you buy her dinner. Check.
Whether Mo is a hick or not, there's no reason for her to fall for this smug European twit other than the script dictates so.
On the other hand, as other male reviewers have, I did enjoy seeing Karen Allen's cute, petite body. I'll give the movie four stars; two of them are for that.
A completely confusing muddle of a film
Like the previous poster, I am from northern Vermont, and I was inclined to like this film. However, not since "Red Zone Cuba" have I seen such a confusing plot. The things the people sent to bootleg make no sense. Two of the gang paddle across the border send a second party across in a car. Uhm, why? Then they meet two others, and drive up at night in to the bad guy's hideout in a luxury Packard. --Wouldn't just two people in a flatbed truck make more sense? Then, parked outside the garage that holds the targeted hooch, the four fall asleep! When they waken in the morning and and start hauling the whiskey out, of course they're spotted and shot at, losing some of their precious cargo in the process. Then two of the smugglers put the whiskey in a boat and float it over the border. Again, why? I am told by someone whose great uncle really did smuggle in the area, all one needed was to drive a vehicle that could outrun than the U.S. Canada Border Patrol, which back then had a fraction of the resources it has now.
And don't get me started on the last half hour, which made no sense whatsoever.
The only good thing I can say about the film is that Kris Kristopherson has actually grown some charisma with the years.
By the numbers Multiplex fodder
I never thought I'd say I wasted two hours watching Jodie Foster act, but last night I did. Foster, who once was very selective about scripts, seems to have lost her way in the past couple Hollywood takes. "Panic Room" was unexceptional, but worthwhile. This movie is almost a retread of "Panic Room," and an inferior one at that.
Jodie has lost none of her intensity; but unfortunately, she is starting to look her age in this movie. I mention this in particular as she looks out of place with a six year old daughter. To be believable, the child ought to have been twelve or older. But Hollywood believes audiences can't feel sympathy unless the victim is blonde, blue eyed, female, and eight or less. Call it the Dakota Fanning Syndrome.
Good production values can't make up for a villain who seems to be channeling John Malklovich (accept no substitutes!) and an ending so pedestrian it had me slapping my face.