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Dog Eat Dog (2016)
Tremendously disappointing. Really wanted to like it too.
This is a surprisingly bad movie considering the talent involved. When you get Nic Cage, Willem Dafoe, and Paul Schrader together, you'd think a decent film would result. Nope. The whole film is an absolute mess. The film is about "one last heist" by Dafoe, Cage, and Cook (in this case a kidnapping). The film is an incoherent mess that doesn't really give a damn about the botched kidnapping/heist, and has a contempt for its characters. Schrader didn't write this film (it was written by Matthew Wilder, no relation to Billy Wilder), which may explain (somewhat) why it's so bad, but Schrader deserves an equal amount of the blame. There are about 4 lines in the movie that are good, but the few genuine laughs are unintentional. And there are many WTF, random moments in the film that seemed thrown in because the writer and director thought they were cool. Cage has a whole conversation about moving to Nice with a hooker he just met, then you never hear about it afterwards. Cage also rambles incoherently about Humphrey Bogart in the movie for no apparent reason, then (in the stupidest development of the movie), Dafoe's character breaks down and says to his partner "I want you to be my friend" after being portrayed as the "bad a**" of the group. It comes completely out of left field. Then, Dafoe's character gets killed by Cook (the third man in the trio with Cage and Dafoe) because Cook "is sick of hearing his s***". Then in a bizarre flashback, you see Cage, Cook, and Dafoe squirting each other with mustard and ketchup (yes you read that right) right after Dafoe gets shot. It's a bizarre scene that makes absolutely no sense.
Even the kidnapping itself is staged badly. The Greco (who is the ring leader, played by Schrader himself in a lousy performance) decides to send the man with the ransom money to the place where the baby is kidnapped without telling Cage, Cook, and Dafoe (and it's never explained why he does this). It ends up a mess. The confrontation with police at the end of the movie is unbelievable (Cook and Cage are on their way to see Greco, but Cook needs to go grocery shopping first for some reason, and ends up getting caught). You never care about the 3 main characters, and Schrader don't seem to like them either. The only time I felt sad during the film is near the end when a couple gets kidnapped by Cage (after he escapes from police custody, which is also never explained), and they end up getting killed in a shootout as bystanders. It's like the creators were bored and just wanted to kill them off for the sake of doing so. The only good stuff is some good camera-work, a nice performance by Dafoe, and the film isn't boring. It's just awful.
Overall it's a stupid movie with a very bland title.
Completely different film from Suzuki, and fantastic.
For those who dig Suzuki's Yakuza movies will be shocked at this ethereal, haunting, and brilliant art movie. It's one of the most atmospheric movies I've ever seen. It is technically a horror movie, very reminiscent of Kwaidan and the later J-horror films of Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Suzuki was unemployable in the Japanese film history until this picture came along, and it reinvented him as a horror filmmaker. It did really well at the Japanese box office, and Suzuki was re-established as a filmmaker.
The only warning about this movie is that it is one of the slowest movies ever made. I've sat through Tarkovsky, Tarr, Antonioni, you name it, and this is slower than most of their movies. But it's a work of genius.
Flawed but still fascinating (and quite grim)...
I watched this film when I was younger and loved it. Seeing it again after many years, it's still riveting, but it has flaws in it, mainly the motivations of Charles, the man who goes missing. Why was he killed so indiscriminately? It was a pretty well known fact that the CIA and the US were behind the 9/11/73 (yes, the Chilean coup happened on Sept. 11th), and as far as the movie goes, Charles was never threatening to expose what was happening. There's even a NY Times reporter in the movie covering the coup, and she's never messed with. Plus there was a coup attempt a few months prior to the September one, and it (obviously) failed. The country was also in turmoil during the Allende years (lots of strikes, some local, some manufactured by the Americans), so the portrayal of Charles as a naive idealist strikes as false. Plus 2 other men who write for a left wing publication that Charles does are arrested, one is executed, the other is set free. So why was Charles considered such a threat? The movie never really explains.
Lemmon's character naivete works well (and it's one of his best performances). He's just a man who is looking for his son, and is outraged not only about his son and his son's fate, but of the sheer brutality (very well depicted in the movie) carried about by the coup leaders with backing from the US. Lemmon is a very proud American, so his beliefs are pretty much shot to hell by the end of the film, which shows the ugly side of US foreign policy. The official run around is in full swing and Lemmon's gets more and more infuriated at the lies and obfuscation of the US officials, and then it turns to fury as he discovers his son's fate.
A flawed but still great movie. As a man looking for his son, the film works wonders thanks to Lemmon and Spacek. As a political thriller, it works less well.
I watched the first few episodes of this, and found it hysterical. Many here (and some others) have said this show is terrible because its main characters are caricatures/stereotypes of gays, and I think that's silly. I've met gay guys like the two depicted here, so it's not all a "stereotype". I would also like to point out that Ian McKellen is gay himself (and has been out for years), and if Sir Ian thought this was a terrible show about gays, he wouldn't have done it. It's not like he needs the money.
Watch this show and laugh. Don't let the uptight PC crowd deprive you of laughs.
The Day of the Jackal (1973)
Still relevant, riveting, and brilliant 35 years later...
This has to be one of the best espionage/political thrillers ever made. I have seen this film many times, and it never gets old. Despite the fact that I know how it ends, how it progresses, it is always riveting, fascinating, brilliantly understated, brilliantly acted, and superbly directed.
The film hasn't really dated at all. Many of the events it depicts did in fact happen, and while the film itself is not based on an actual assassination attempt on Charles de Gaulle, the film is certainly plausible and the film has a documentary feel to it. De Gaulle did pull out of Algeria in 1962, infuriating the far right wing in France. The steps taken by the French detective (played wonderfully by Michel Lonsdale) are as meticulous as you would expect from a detective attempting to save the life of the president of his country. Today if a film like this was made (in fact, this was remade as an awful film in 1997 just called The Jackal), it would have been filled with smarmy wise cracks, girls with enormous breasts, lots of bloody, unmotivated violence, CGI everywhere, actors/actresses with Botox, political correctness toning down some ugly truths about humans, and it would have twice as many cuts. The film, directed by Fred Zinneman (A Man for All Seasons, High Noon, A Nun's Story), is beautifully paced and very subtly directed. It's one of his finest films, and one of the best thrillers of the 1970's.
Incredible film-making, one five minute take, and one sixty two minute take...
This is one of the most unique, fascinating films ever made from the Scottish play. The film was made for Hungarian TV, and it was shot on old fashioned, analog video. Yet Bela Tarr (one of the greatest filmmakers working today) made an incredible film. There are a mere 2 shots in the film. The pre-credits shot runs five minutes, the post credits shot runs 62 minutes. It's incredible that Tarr composed a 62 minute take, but that he does it so well, and you find yourself forgetting about the length of the shot, and are drawn into Tarr's world. Tarr is a master filmmaker, one of the greatest ever (certainly the best ever to emerge from Hungary), and this is one of his most fascinating films.
The film is available as a bonus feature on Facets's DVD of Satantango.
Every Which Way But Loose (1978)
A film that's still hilarious, never boring, and much better than its initial reputation...
When this film was made, it was reviled (and I mean REVILED) by the critics of the day. How dare Clint Eastwood make a comedy! Yet, it was Clint's biggest box office success up to that time (and still might be). I saw it when it was out at the theater, and years later, not only does it hold up, but it's light years better, more realistic (honestly), and intelligent than most modern comedies combined.
This film was originally meant for Burt Reyonlds, but Clint liked it a lot and decided to do it, despite having his manager and just about everyone he was friends with tell him not to do it. Eastwood said he was drawn to the movie because it didn't have a conventionally happy ending. He doesn't get the girl, and ends up broke with the ape. I saw this when I was really young, and having watched too many sitcoms (like most Americans), I was sad when the film had an ending like this. I didn't expect it. There was a line in which Clint's character, Philo, says to Sondra Locke (who plays a hustling country singer) "I was hoping to go beyond your bedroom". If this film were made today, it would have a Jerry Springer like condescension towards the working classes (with an incest subplot, a grandma with no teeth, and the obligatory Deliverance references). This film is still funny and entertaining, even though the ape, Clyde, really doesn't fit in all the time. If they lost the ape, the film would still be good.
The film is also consistently funny. There are no real story lulls in it. And it was made in a time when people weren't so uptight and politiclaly correct. One of the early scenes has Clint in a bar and he talks to a girl, who gives a ton of lip and smug condescension. He asks her "what are you mad at?" with all sincerity. Clint was hitting on a PC chick years before political correctness came about. We have become much too uptight and rigidly humourless. Even the comedies nowadays aren't particularly funny. They're usually gross, smug, and childish, without any real trace of wit. A shame, but then, we have this film we can go back to.
A complex, balanced portrait of US/USSR espionage....
Usually in 80's Cold War films (Red Dawn being the most glaring example), the Russians are portrayed as bungling, evil idiots, and the Americans are portrayed as wonderful, virtuous, absolutely perfect people. Here in Clint Eastwood's Firefox, the Russians are portrayed as intelligent professionals who are simply trying to do their job (to prevent the Firefox from being stolen), and who do screw up. And the Americans are portrayed as people who are just doing their jobs as well, but who also screw up. In other words, they are HUMAN, not cartoons. Many critics disliked this film, saying it was too slow until Clint steals the plane. This is completely wrong. The film creates an unbearable, claustrophobic tension until the final chase sequence. Critics these days complain about films having too many special effects in them. Well, back in 1982, they were doing the opposite. They mocked the incredible, nail biting building in the first 2 hours of the film. It has great performances, not only by Clint, but by many British actors. Warren Clarke, best known as Dim in A Clockwork Orange, plays one of the spies helping Clint capture the plane. Freddie Jones, another great British actor who played the sadistic owner of the elephant man in David Lynch's film, plays a British agent who sends Clint into Russia for this mission. I think this is one of Clint's best films, certainly one of his most underrated and misunderstood.
The North American Region 1 DVD of the film is excellent. There is a featurette on the DVD, made at the time of the film's release for British TV. It's a very subdued, interesting feature, where Clint is very business like with his observations, and it's a nice contrast to the slick "featurettes" you get nowadays, which are really infomercials and have the depth of an Entertainment Tonight interview. To me, Clint seems more interested in his work than doing the Hollywood scene, and he continues to do great work today.
A beautiful film, languidly paced, and a very subtle message of tolerance..., July 6, 2006
I really liked this film. It's a bit long for most people, but most of Mr. Eastwood's films generally run a bit on the long side. I loved the languorous pacing of the whole thing. The film takes its time showing us Savannah, its people, its character, and its dark side. Kevin Spacey gives a performance that should have won an Oscar. John Cusack is excellent here. I find him rather one note most of the time, but he blends in very well here. The most surprising performance here goes to Jack Thompson as Spacey's lawyer. Thompson is actually an Australian actor (who was in Breaker Morant years ago), yet he does the Southern style so well you'd think he was raised in Savannah. Jude Law is mesmerizing in one of his early roles, and all the support players are excellent. There isn't one bad performance in the whole film. Sometimes in Eastwood's films there are supporting performances that are a bit rough, but here that doesn't happen. The most intriguing performance, if you can call it that, goes to The Lady Chablis, an actual transvestite performer who resides in Savannah. The scene where she goes to the cotillion is one of the best scenes in the entire film. She has grace, dignity, and mystique, and Clint lets the camera linger on her. Along with The Lady Chablis, Spacey's character is homosexual. In Thompson's final argument during the murder trial, he talks about his client's homosexuality, but says if God thinks it's a sin, then God should judge it. The generally positive portrayals of Spacey's character and Chablis show that a film can contain a message, yet be subtle about it and not hammer you over the head with it. Most Hollywood films that have gay characters in them always have that "tolerance" speech in them, as if the viewer is an idiot (well, some viewers are) and has to have everything spoon fed to her or him. Eastwood reportedly got some flack from right wing commentators over this film, primarily for his portrayal of the homosexual characters. Eastwood has identified himself generally as a Republican, but he seems more of a libertarian than anything else. Eastwood's films have always had digs at people who try and dictate your conduct (Bridges of Madison County has a powerful scene in a diner commenting on this), and this film is consistent with that point of view. Some have argued that this film is a horrible adaptation of the book. I haven't read it, but the film itself is very well done.
Worse than I imagined....poor Dave Atell....
Out of morbid curiosity, I watched this, and it was as painful as I thought it was going to be. I liked Dave Atell's Insomniac Theater in small doses, and I hoped this would be at least as good as that, but it wasn't.
It's depressing, boring, tedious, and deeply embarrassing. Atell himself seems deeply distressed and embarrassed (similar to Louie Anderson and his horrible stint on Family Feud) to be hosting such a mediocre show. The celebrity judges seem to feel the same way as well. You actually feel sorry for them trying (in vain) to make this show worth watching. While it has better production values than the original Gong Show, it's actually worse than the original, because the original Gong Show had terrible production values and was cheesy as anything on TV before or since, but Chuck Barris (the original host) knew that. That was part of the fun, watching a televised freak show. That quality is what has endeared it to many. The remake doesn't have that quality.
I doubt this will last more than one season.