Reviews written by registered user
|158 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The way this film tells it's story is dazzling. A thing of beauty.
The one gripe I have about the film as a whole is that the male lead has nothing to offer to the female lead. He is just a festering, ape-like bag of hurt and neediness. He has zero conversation, apparently indicative of zero thought process. When she tries to leave, he beats her or tries to drown her.
The female lead is drawn, at some level, to the old watchman (another occupant of the bridge) who at least has some past normal life experience to which she can relate. He is a man with things to say, a man of deep ocean tides, not a man who has met life in the fetal position or failed to live at all.
I will not say the male lead destroys the film. It is still awesome in style to behold. The way it achieves story-telling things is a marvel.
But that guy. Oh, that guy.
The first 10 to 15 minutes of this film was repellent, and I was
thinking about bailing because it appeared another king-size projectile
of cinematic Tarantino sycophant vomit was hurling my way.
Then, something happened. Harry Dean Stanton showed up, and Christopher Walken, and Sam Rockwell, and a growing cast of characters inhabiting a truly special universe. The story took off. I stepped into the screen, and I could not leave.
At this point, almost 24 hours after seeing it, I know I will want to do it again. Seven Psychopaths is no doubt one of the best films, old or new, I have seen in a lifetime of active film-going.
In a world where everyone seems inordinately absorbed in yearning and striving to be perceived as original and quirky, this film's quirk and originality is as deep and rich and authentic as that of any film I have seen. It's successfully quirky, in other words, and not just another load of hipster/poser aspirational noodling.
(High marks for the soundtrack too.)
Check it out.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Up front, I'll admit that I was somewhat disappointed by this film. I
cherish Robert Aldrich for several films, and while on a string of
viewings which included Attack, Ten Seconds to Hell, The Big Knife and
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, I ordered this one as well to take a
look at. Of these films, Deadly is probably my least favorite. There's
a promise of a wild experience, both rooted in the era and ripping the
lid off of it, that never quite materializes. The inflated cultural
context many writers heap on this film is understandable in terms of
championing Aldrich auteur-ism, but otherwise absurd. Sorry. The lower
you keep your expectations, the greater the odds you might fall for
it's loopy appeal.
The best part of the film, for this viewer, comes at the moment when Hammer finally gets the key and visits the terminal locker where the radioactive material is stored. As he loosens the straps on the big leather case a crack, a blinding glint of sunlight floods from the box and we hear a sound that sends a chill up our backbone: the hiss of a nuclear cobra as it were. Very good use of lighting and sound here. I wish more of the film had parlayed moments into something like this.
The thing that bothered me -- resulting in the disappointment I spoke of -- was the flatness and flat out ineptitude of nearly all the performances. The struggling thespians, as much as the fifty cent budget does, get in the way of the director's grand design. -- We know it can't work that way. The people are too poorly integrated, and the best compliment I can probably pay this film is to say that it is the best-looking dirt-cheap film I have ever seen 98% of the time. The people though... there's the killer.
The ending is a letdown too. How to say this delicately: Being able to tell that the blond in the burning bungalow is a mannequin completely ruins it by taking you out of the moment and then some. They should have ditched the scene altogether when they saw in the rushes what it looked like, or determined then and there that it was essential to re-shoot that one shot if they were going to release it at all. But they didn't, and this is one of those things that aficionados of this film will always, but always be asked to explain to anyone with whom they share it.
My six stars is for the Aldrich context, and for a couple of choice pieces of time this film contains. (OK, then, for precisely ONE piece of time it contains: the aforesaid scene between Hammer and the leather case. But who's counting?)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I think the ending of this film should be spoiled for two reasons:
1)There are so very many reviews online that make glancing mention of
an ending which disturbs, without anyone ever going so far as to
explain what, exactly, in this age when we have seemingly seen it all,
could be disturbing about a 1963 crime film
and 2) Because the ending really IS pretty nasty, out-Quentining Tarrantino himself with almost offhand ease, you may opt not to watch at all.
Asher's direction (which takes lots of hits in online world) is blunt and nondescript, which I think works for an actively vicious film. To do stylish arabesques with the camera, or to seem to overly calculate the delivery would feminize this most crudely testosterone-driven of all films.
Silva is so good, you want him to succeed in all his brutal activity. Elisabeth Montgomery is, if anything, even prettier than you remember her. I don't really get what flips her to totally betray Silva as she does. Supposedly she realizes what a nutzoid killer he is. But one has the impression she has realized that for some time. Did she simply grow bored of Silva? Hard saying.
Okay, here it comes. Get ready for something so singularly distasteful, it bothers me to even type it in here. During the last few minutes of this film the Silva character, the new Johnny Cool, is placed in a straitjacket in order to subdue him, and then prepared to be buried alive in the coffin of one of the men he killed. He pleads first, then he struggles wildly as the inescapable nature of his fate closes in on him. It is a scene that makes you feel ill. It's the kind of fate you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy, and that in fact you'd rather not spend two seconds of your life imagining at all. The ultimate action isn't shown. But the last time we glimpse Johnny Cool, it is chillingly clear what is just seconds away from taking place.
It might be argued that this is a logical end for a pathological killer who has been an unstoppable killing machine up to that point, one whose enemies seem to have zero hope of ever catching him off guard. But I don't think the ending is accessible through normal ideas about logic or justice. It is not a return to center and balance. Not exactly justice. Even for a killer, this is an unforgettably awful way to die. Doubly so for a character, a true anti-hero, who has such charisma that you rooted for him no matter what he was doing. I doubt that this almost breezy tale of a professional killer bears such an abrupt shift to horror right at the end.
Overall, the film is enjoyable as a cheap crime film with hipster ambitions. But, as many have noted on the net, the ending dissipates the real fun, and coming right at the end, the whole thing is apt to leave a bad taste in the mouth. It is probably the ending that has effectively buried this film alive -- pun intended -- for generations, and kept it unreleased on regular DVD to this day.
Coda: I can see it being remade today with a different ending, a case some message board wags have pleaded. Jason Statham would be Johnny Cool. It would end with him being sealed in the coffin. The End But wait... That would be a trick false ending. As the hearse drove to the cemetery, it would pick up speed and zoom away. There'd be a crazy twenty minute car chase with the cortège careening through downtown L.A. after the hearse, through a million of dollars worth of car repair. Finally, after the last car in the cortège had been driven off a cliff in a burst of flame, we'd see the hearse pull down a side road and park on the shoulder of the road in long shot. The driver would get out and open the coffin, helping Statham out of the jacket. After that, the driver would remove the sunglasses and beard, take off the hat and shake her luxuriant hair loose, and babe and killer would drive on into the sunset. Oh yeah -- and there would be sacks of cash in the coffin that the wind would whip all around the inside of the hearse, like one of those "How many dollars can you grab" booths at a fair. Makes no sense, but it'd be a crowd pleaser. It would become your routine noughties action flick, in other words, amoral more through stupidity than anything else.
Hmm... maybe the current ending isn't so bad after all.
This film would pretend to satirize and critique small town Babbitry.
But I think what we are left with after watching it is the sense or the
message that the damning failure of people in small towns all over
America isn't that they are greedy or hypocritical, but merely that
they are personally ridiculous. Lear could forgive them their addiction
to tobacco, which is really just their conditioned response to
manipulation by tobacco company execs. --What he cannot forgive is
their being embarrassing to anointed, omniscient hipsters such as
For example: What is the satirical strength -- or the purpose -- of fleeting, disjointed closeups of the hands of middle aged and elderly women tugging at and smoothing their girdles as they file out of church Sunday morning? There's a sense that Lear is addressing a grievance here, possibly working off a grudge or past slight. But what does Lear have, really, aside from contempt? And is the contempt really earned and fair? And is it entertaining in it's own right?
To that last, I say no. As a film, it is just too mean-spirited and misanthropic at it's core to be a rewarding or honest watch. It makes the fatal mistake of all diatribe literature, which his TV shows skirted because of the short format. His soured view is absolutely fatal at feature length, unrelieved as it is by frequent commercial breaks to dilute the rancor. In long form, it is too clear that Lear cannot create engaging and truthful characters. Even actors you always like -- Dick Van Dyke, Jean Stapleton, Bernard Hughes -- are weird jerks or Pavlovian puppets in Lear's hands. Apparently, nothing like entertainment value or human empathy can stand in the way of Lear's particular message nor his brand of "relevant" '70s evangelism.
Like most the viewers for whom this film can truthfully be called a
disappointment, my expectations for this film were probably too high.
This is because the trailer promised more for me than the makers could
possibly have dreamed. It touched a chord; it was a personal thing.
Indeed, the film's implied mocking comment on what it takes to make a
high concept film these days -- as suggested by the trailer -- made it
a must-see for this jaded, generally over-it goer to modern films. But
aside from the humor of the basic idea, there's not much going on here.
Right off, the opening speech got the movie maker off on my bad side. The opening speech to the audience failed. Pathetically. The eloquence and logic of it will impress 13 year old minds easily zoomed by the smart sound of any litany of details. But even presuming that this is closer to the level of commercial copy writing than to Shakespeare, I could argue with every single example the guy gives of cinematic "no reason". When he ends his ramble by calling "no reason" "that all important element of style", I wanted to ask the screen "So an element of style is all this means to you?" The next hour and a half in fact proved that there is nothing in this guy's bucket -- zero, zip, Nada -- but an amateur film geek's giddy (and empty) awareness of style.
I was prepared to love this film by the trailer. But it never delivers on the trailer's promise of 100% pure whack. Maybe it couldn't have. -- Or maybe it could have, in the right hands, and the director just wasn't up to the aesthetic and intellectual challenges of the project.
The concept is golden. The follow-through is weaker than water. Net out two stars of ten. And that's being generous with this disappointment.
This is a film of first and second hand reminiscence. We hear his
daughter, his friends, and the man himself.
I saw it not long after it came out on PBS, and even at that point it stood as a refreshing oasis in the desert of material available about this unique voice in American art. Levine was cast long ago as America's Otto Dix; some said America's George Grosz. I can see that in terms of caustic observation and politics. But he buffered Dix's acid with the brushwork of Degas at his most seductive, and his natural gift for caricature surpassed Grosz's and brought the bite of Daumier or Toulouse-Lautrec into the 20th century. His mastery of anatomy and details of the world around us was so sure that he worked from memory most the time, with little or no recourse to the model or prop. He was some artist.
The promise has been made that another film about him is on the way. We'll see. For now, get hold of this VHS if you can. Rent a copy for your art group if you have to. It's a treasure.
I count myself lucky to have been one of those young cinephiles glued
to the television for all 8 weeks of this series the first time it was
on. Being a hardcore auteurist, thanks to my then burgeoning Andrew
Sarris library, I understood clearly what this series was: Richard
Schickel's personal vision, if you will, of the careers of a handful of
the greatest American directors of the period covered by fellow critic
Sarris's American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968.
At this time, it would have been very hard for any avid reader-about-film to miss the parallel between directors and critics. Sarris, Canby, Crist, McDonald, Schickel, Wood, Durgnat, Kael were something like auteurs themselves. Each had a highly personal point of view of what a film was and, be they the Ed Wood of film criticism or the Orson Welles, each staked their territory admirably the old fashioned way, with hundreds of highly literate, finely articulated essays on the topic. We remember the rivalries and the sniping these days when we remember the era at all. But that's the Enquirer view, the Entertainment Tonight view. I wish people understood that it was as exciting a time to be reading film criticism as it was to be a movie-goer in the 60s and 70s.
If you take it in the context of today, when every show is a saturating, thick barrage of clips and chock full of two second sound bytes from multiple interviews, individual episodes of The Men Who Made The Movies may seem to fail to deliver. But judging such shows by the intelligence of the foundation, the script, and not just interview and clip counts, this series comes up champ. Schickel's insights into the style and vision of Hawks and Hitchcock and Capra, et al. are as cogent as anything written on them before or since. He put his finger right on what the smartest auteurists of the era thought made these directors' work worth a second thought. And Cliff Robertson's reading of Schickel's words was understated, steady and insightful. -- One of the best jobs of voice-over narration I have heard, almost 40 years later.
Ten of ten. I wish someone would issue this series on DVD.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I remember seeing most of the first half of this film years ago, being
somewhat impressed by the atmosphere, and feeling that the fault must
be my own, for having tuned in five minutes late, that it wasn't making
total sense. I cut it more slack for being obviously dubbed. Sure,
after all some movies suffer from bad translation.
These many years later, after finding a public domain DVD online, I had a chance to finally check my generally positive -- and at any rate intrigued --memory of this film.
First off, I am convinced that someone studied the visuals of the original films this was supposedly re-shot from (or however culled from) with no access to a translation.
Therefore, while there are motivated people walking to and fro, gazing smolderingly at each other, uttering lines of obvious deep portent, all as a pretty serviceable music track swells and fades in the background, while camera setups and lighting that seem to come right out of a well-made film are everywhere in evidence, none of it -- NONE OF IT -- really makes clear sense. It's close to a pantomime in which the audience is not invited in, as they would have been in a high period silent film with few inter-titles. Something's missing; it all stays fuzzy.
The first half is a basically comprehensible story, in that you can tell what's going on in a schematic sense. But the connective tissue that would make it a full-limbed, resonant experience is missing. We see a couple, not really meeting them, and never learn anything about them. Right off, the husband opens a letter summoning him on account of a gambling debt. You can tell by the furrow of his brow and the flaring nostrils that he's up against it. But why do we care? We don't even know him or his wife. OK, so I'm an empathetic sort who decides to care about other people who are in trouble. Still, the experience of this film is completely opaque. I want to care, but I am held at a distance. It's a pity, too.
I read a lot of really harsh criticism of Jerry Warren online, even an article in which we are told that Warren himself said in an interview that he didn't care about film -- he was making money. But the look of this film is actually pretty accomplished. There seems to have been the craftsmanship there to put something credible and creditable together. There is a respectable achievement of atmosphere throughout, even in the stone hand framing device at the beginning which is pretty much a non-sequitur cooked out of purest nothing. There's a semi-potent horror scene when the poor husband is in a town square at night, and wheels around to face various creepy grotesques peering at him from the dark. It's an effective moment. It's because of these things that Curse is doubly frustrating. This film didn't have to be as opaque and nebulous an experience as it is.
At whatever point you drop the needle on this film, it will seem as if you came in after something major happened, and that you will never get the point because of that until you backtrack and watch the entire thing. But no. That's just the way Curse plays.
The second half makes even less sense than the first, and with no big horror payoff moments. I can't tell who anyone is, what their relationship is or what is going on, until the end comes, when I can only wonder what has just happened.
I don't dislike this film. I wish I understood what the heck happens during that last half. And I wish they'd had a translator for the first half so they actually had known what was going on with the characters and been in a position to share with us.
--Or do I? The famed, hated Carradine sequence of this film is native-spoken English, and it is horrible. Junk. Maybe this film seems better specifically because of the cryptic quality it has from having been stolen sans understanding by the makers/thieves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The richness of this episode lies between the lines. Walt and Jesse in
a confined space and in a holding pattern until they can clear the cook
lab of a source of contamination, the fly of the title. All they can do
is wait, and while waiting, talk, and talk they do.
It would be selfish of me to really bring in the heavy spoilers on this episode. So I'll just say this. Within a limited format, "Fly" contains a white hot kernel of suspense that is as compelling as any in the series thus far. Walt, in an injured, fatigued state and acting weird (Jesse begins to suspect Walt may have a brain tumor) is in a mood to pontificate and ramble. In such a state, we quickly realize, he may say too much.
That's all I'd better say.
This episode rates a 10 of 10. It could have had more gun play. It could have gone back to the Hank storyline which we are right in the middle of now. But there's a place for this episode at this point. It is pure character revelation. Not a bad thing.
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