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The rebooted GHOSTBUSTERS is a reinvention out of the original story
written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, with a vital and relevant
gender-swapping. And each member of the foursome posse has passed the
appraisal as genuine comedienne thanks to their Saturday Night Live
stint, not to mention Melissa McCarthy is presently THE most bankable
US comedienne in the movie business, which has been kick-started by
director Paul Feig's BRIDESMAIDS (2011).
In the remake, Erin Gilbert (Wiig), a tenured-to-be physics professor at Columbia University rekindles her passion for paranormal activities when she has to confront her school-day bestie Abby Yates (McCarthy), now a maverick researcher, for publishing the book which they wrote together about the existence of that particular subject matter years ago, behind her back. They meet a real ghost in a haunted house which thrusts them to form a "Ghostbuster" team to catch ghosts, with the participation of the technophile Jillian Holtzman (McKinnon) and the street-smart subway worker Patty Tolan (Jones, not a latecomer like Ernie Hudson in the original, she is a loudmouth and her presence is ubiquitous), who offers them a hearse-revamped automobile, plus a dimwit eye-candy Kevin (Hemsworth, who is amazingly good in his goofy and flippant dash) as their inept secretary, whom, Erin has a crush on (and who doesn't? Maybe only Holtzman, but unfortunately the lesbian undercurrent never catches on).
Pristine-looking in present-day New York, the reboot seems rather expensive, and its visual grandeur rightfully gives enough credits to the Special Effects advancement between the whopping thirty-some gap, with highlights like a green reptile ghost which is a mixture of dragon and Baphomet, running amok in a heavy metal concert, and the ultimate boss, a gigantic glowering form of Ghostbusters' trademark logo based on an unthinkable concept that a human being can be changed into an amorphous ghost simply by electrocution, that is what Rowan North (Casey), a withdrawn sociopath, manages to pull off after successfully building a portal to a ghost world.
The dutiful cameos (Murray, Aykroyd, Hudson, Weaver, Potts and even the son of the late Harold Ramis) from the original franchise are less than surprising, the real deal here is McKinnon's Dr. Holtzmann, a unique incarnation of both flamboyance and geekiness, she is in effect the life force behind their enterprise, which makes Wiig and McCarthy look rather amateurish in this peculiar line of business, although it does seem to be pretty easy for her to constantly ply the team with updated ghost-capturing weaponry.
Labelled as a faithful remake, this fantasy-comedy crowdpleaser doesn't deserve all the backlash, especially those sexist and racist ones, the problem seems to be - Paul Feig and his female- enpowering team ruefully pick a safe route to retread the old path, instead of going off the beaten track, at least for the sake of its comedic fodder, like he did in SPY (2015) last year with McCarthy, especially we are all fully aware what a superlative one-liner and deadpan impersonator Wiig is, alas, the entire project eventually settles for an unambitious aim which has been aptly executed, but, if they hope to reboot a new franchise, the first step is a middling one, and according to the financial turnover, a sequel is a long shot at this point.
SUICIDE SQUAD, conspicuously hits a nadir in its feedback from critics,
which officially raise the curtain of the battle-of-wits between DC
franchises and carping pundits, perhaps it will be wiser for their next
projects to skip the early critics screenings, if their claim of those
films are made for die-hard comic books fans is sincere, who cares
about critics then? The only problem is, the die-hard fanbase alone
cannot cough up enough doughs to cover its hefty production budget, and
since it is all about money, one might expect some sea change will soon
befall from their grandee decision makers.
This time, one must concur with the critics, maybe in light of a seriousness-bucking freshness wrought by Marvel's DEADPOOL (2016) into the ever-blasé superhero glut earlier this year, audience's surged expectancy towards SUICIDE SQUAD has reached a threshold of inevitable ricochet. There is something frustratingly by-the-numbers in this supposedly paradigm-shifting entertaining fare where a ragtag cluster of characteristic antiheroes are reluctantly mustered together - in this case, a bomb is implanted in their neck, which can be detonate by Colonel Red Flag (Kinnaman, looks impeccably high-minded, ) if they rebel or try to escape -, to work for the US government and save the world from an impending doom from a sorceress-deity Enchantress (Delevingne).
Top hit-man Deadshot (Smith) and former psychiatrist Harley Quinn (Robbie) are among the expendables who predictably get the star treatment with a more generous story arc and screen- time, but Smith doesn't comes off so much a merciless mercenary than a traditionally valued family man who solely happens to be a marksman. As for Robbie, the current "it" girl in Hollywood, her over-merchandised impersonation of Quinn's bi-polar bearings patently stands out among the assembly, not because she is phenomenal, only the competition isn't challenging enough. Yet, the biggest disappointment is Jared Leto's Joker, short-changed in screen-time notwithstanding, his pompous performance is hammy to high heaven, menace and romantic vibes between Joker and Harley Quinn are both in dire dearth. Courtney's Captain Boomerang is the only member who betrays a whiff of unpredictability in his veins, whereas a penitent Diablo (Hernandez), being the only one who actually is bestowed with super power amongst the squad, follows a stock plot device, awakes from his shell of self-punishment (for his own sins) to embrace his power to battle the evil.
A stony-faced Viola Davis plays Amanda Walker, a government agent abides by her own gray-area philosophy and wantonly overstays her welcome, and a long-standing villain problem in the superhero assembly-line doesn't ameliorate at all, numberless and faceless minions are basically weapon-less moving targets to boost the gang's close-combat dexterity, and motivation-aside, is Enchantress's swaggering portal-opening parade a blatant homage to the original GHOSTBUSTERS (1984)? Also the inundating score from Steven Price during the heightened battle is insufferable. Concisely, SUICIDE SQUAD is unintelligently oscillating between a costly cult caterer and a pulpy mainstream appeaser, and as it often turns out, it fial to reach both sides.
Eclectic American filmmaker Phillip Kaufman's seventh feature,
indisputably his most prominent and competent work, a staggering epic
depicts the real-life astronauts who are selected for Project Mercury,
aka. Mercury 7, in the early 60s, at the heat of space competition
paranoia between USA and USSR, based on the titular popular novel of
Clocking around 192-minute, the film sets its point of departure in 1947, where the war hero and legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager (Shepard) successfully breaks the sound barrier, which stimulates more pushing-the-envelope competitions and attracts newbie pilots to the hallowed land, Edwards Air Force Base, among them are Gordo Cooper (Quaid), Gus Grissom (Ward) and Deke Slayton (Paulin), who in due time will be recruited as the members of the Mercury 7 in the wake of the launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite in 1957. The other four fellow pilots are John Glenn (Harris) from US Marine Corps, Alan Shepard (Glenn), Walter Schirra (Henriksen) and Scott Carpenter (Frank) from US Navy. The 7 chosen ones have to undergo a series of backbreaking training for their unprecedented expedition, instant fame and media attention duly ensue to the point of pestering, also, a more existential question subsequently emerges, in the eyes of the military top-dogs, are they merely some guinea pigs cherry-picked to a historic but also high risky mission as a passive passenger inside a capsule or as a consummate pilot who is sitting in the driving seat? Can their utility be demeaningly filled in by an unenlightened chimp sitting on the same seat? The answer will be pinpointed by Yeager in his offhand remark and their upcoming conduct during their space voyages.
Kaufman's chronological account of this masculine vocation where egoism, sensational nationalism and military snobbery blend intelligently with peer pressure and fraternity among the seven astronauts, traverses through a vast scope of characters and factual events, emphasizes on three space-launches of Shepard, Grissom and Glenn, and their respective aftermath, does not mince word in military's victor/loser dichotomous attitudes (which is an abiding trait in the mindset of USA), in Grissom's case, the payoff is unsatisfactory, but at least he is alive and kicking after his trails and tribulations, and in Glenn's case, a brilliant grandeur of aboriginal occultism well countervails the overarching scientific materiality.
In a paralleled subplot, Chuck Yeager, who is deemed as a maverick by the NASA recruiter, continues his dare-devil, limit-pushing enterprise which denotes another maniac obsession of human race - speed. Kaufman's script varnishes him with a more tacit, thousand-yard stare sophistication, to underpins his unsung hero station and to coyly suggest that even earthbound, there are also worthier heroes walking among us because of their significant contributions to the fatherland.
A sidebar account of the ostensibly supportive astronaut wives' reserves and gripes towards the perilous nature of their hubbies' occupation and the injustice within the bureaucracy introduces a telling dissonance from the other sex, where Venorica Cartwright's Betty Grissom fulminates against the USA military for their backtracking and Mary Jo Deschanel's Annie Glenn, under her husband's undivided support, her stutter inadvertently leaves Lyndon Johnson (Moffat) look like a fuming knucklehead. However, a more pertinent story of the pioneer female aviator Pancho Barnes, played by Kim Stanley in her silver-screen final appearance, which has never gotten a proper platform to be even marginally tapped into.
Sam Shepard receives a token Oscar nomination for the large ensemble, he is the ideal embodiment of a fearless pathfinder, reticent, inaccessible, mythic, only enriched with his ritualistic solicit of a gum before each death-defying stunt. To name-check other strong performances from the cast, Scott Glenn and Ed Harris both raise above the average bar with their respectively hot-headed and level-headed temperament; Fred Ward is less outstanding, but his heartfelt disheartenment actually well connects with the viewers, to show the downside of their valorous undertaking; whereas a perpetually smirky Dennis Quaid over-abuses his self- congratulating impertinence, which becomes a thorn in the audience's side.
A big thumb-up to the film's Special Effect team, whose work has still remained resonant and awe- inspiring to watch 33 years later at a time where Digital VFX is jadedly awash. Undeniably, THE RIGHT STUFF is that kind of film requires immense teamwork and coordination to pull it through its lengthy production spell, it is a high watermark for Hollywood industry, as a doe-eyed audience who is not entire familiar with USA's history, the end result is both inspiring and coruscating, in other words, it is a rational ensemble piece with astonishingly constructed settings to imitate the authentic facts, and most importantly, it dares to inspect the patriotic sentiment with a discerning eye.
In the vein of Jacques Deray's unstimulating LA PISCINE (1969) and
François Ozon's tantalizingly cagey SWIMMING POOL (2003), Italian
filmmaker Luca Guadagnino's much anticipated follow-up of his family
embroilment haute-coutrue drama, I AM LOVE (2009), A BIGGER SPLASH (the
name hints a more adept reference of British artist David Hockney's pop
art painting), debuted in last year's Venice, it centers on a
close-knitted quartet's moral tug-of-war which sets its scenic
background in the remote Italian island, Pantelleria, and swimming
pool, again just like in I AM LOVE, functions as the metaphor for
imminent man-made danger (Guadagnino cannot swim in real life).
Marianne Lane (Swinton), a famed British rock star, enjoys her recuperation from a recent throat operation in Pantelleria with her boyfriend Paul De Smelt, a Belgian documentary filmmaker (Schoenaerts, finally returns to a role which he can act with his own nationality), but the unplanned arrival of Marianne's ex-boyfriend, the UK music producer Harry Hawkes (Fiennes) and his American daughter Penelope Lanier (Johnson), interrupts the lovey-dovey's intimate holiday. Marianne, who is not supposed to talk for at least two weeks, kindly invites Harry and Penelope to stay with them, and the ensuing days, the initial harmonious equilibrium will little by little be encroached by an irritable tension, since Harry has his own agenda for his visit - to win back his muse Marianne.
This is a Ralph Fiennes whom audience have never seen before, his Harry, is a hyperactive, incessantly garrulous sport, as if he is perpetually under the influence (and maybe he is), runs polarized from extremely buddy-buddy to presumptuously infuriating, that is Harry, a force of no halfway compromise, his intoxicating moves under the throbbing rhythm of The Rolling Stones' EMOTIONAL RESCUE challenge another inexplicably addictive dance routines which Oscar Isaac stuns in EX MACHINA (2015). And how much Harry can one stomach? The film will give its answer.
Besides, there is some serious business to be done (for Harry, I mean), and pieces together from the infrequent flashbacks, audience will be informed that Paul is Harry's friend at the beginning, it is Harry who introduces him to Marianne, and no wonder Harry holds the grudge about being usurped like that (despite of his own philandering nature), but the point is, Marianne is really happy with Paul (explicitly shown by Paul's female-satisfying gesture in the chamber), maybe due to her voice-loss, she hasn't clearly manifested that the only reason she invites Harry to stay is for old time's sake, and hopes that their friendship remains, but in Harry's book, her hospitality betrays a promising signal, he is motivated, tests the water from Paul's reaction and revels in his street- smart gregariousness, until Marianne has to literally spell out her resolution in utterance, which effectively closes the case.
In another pair, Paul and Penelope, the latter is the enigmatic variant in the quartet, who has never revealed her intentions, is she under the command of Harry to seduce Paul, to undermine their relationship, or is she really Harry's daughter? Since Harry has only known her existence for over a one-year span, there is a soldering sexual tension between her and Harry in the karaoke, is it incest-arousing or a set-up to agitate the bystanders (namely Marianne in this case)? Or what has happened between her and Paul in their lake hike? Guadagnino habitually leaves many a lacuna like these to leaven the atmosphere of mystery and temptation, while the topical immigrant crisis, looms large in the background mostly and for once, precipitates an encounter unexpectedly, until cunningly exploited as a possible justification for the unpleasant death, which happens in the swimming pool and is closed with a polished zooming-out aviation shot, overall, the film's cinematography never fails to leave the island's unique topography untapped.
The quartet core together concocts a palpable interplay between each of them, Ralph Fiennes is the MVP simply because he is all over the place and wondrous to behold under a fully liberated context, and at the same time his performance knowingly triggers a tint of abstruseness which belies the nature of every human soul; Swinton, to quote Penelope's offhand remark, "a very domesticated rock star", hemmed herself in Marianne's own verbal barrier and retreats to a less idiosyncratic realization of a woman in desperation to express her emotions through means other than words, she might not be convincing as a Rock-N-Roll superstar, but surely her Marianne is a woman who doesn't settle for second-rated commodity.
Matthias Schoenaerts, as solid and desirable as one can divine, seems to be typecast as the even- tempered lover with a burly figure serving well as a bodyguard to the woman he loves, the truth is, his Paul is supposedly the most dangerous and unpredictable one among the four, yet, his barbaric spasm only materialises with a lukewarm thrill; meanwhile, Dakota Johnson, on the contrary, pulls off a staggering impression out of her cool-girl veneer, apart from the gratuitous nudity (so is for Mr. Fiennes), her breakdown in the end sparks off more empathy and tells more of her character than we give the credit for.
The ending, with a massively anti-climatic caricature of the a celebrity's fandom, seems to be an odd choice to close a sturdily built character drama which scars has clearly forever marred those who have survived, and a takeaway advice: don't ever invite your ex to spend a holiday with you, it has proved to be lethally dangerous.
Husband-and-wife team Schlöndorff (his sixth feature) and von Trotta
(her first feature) bring Heinrich Böll's sensational novel to the big
screen, THE LOST HONOR OF KATHARINA BLUM is everything one may imagine
from a political reportage made in West Germany during the 70s:
following the guidance of a forensic eye, a steely heroine (masked by
her innocent or accomplice opaqueness and her political slant) comes
under harsh interrogation by the sloppy police force, who majestically
fails to seize their suspect in the first place; unscrupulous reporters
harass those related or involved like a callous fly, cook up stories to
manipulate the reaction from the populace, thus to ensure that more
papers are sold; more private matters will surface, some big name is
enmeshed, some insider deal needs to be organised, whilst, Katharine
Blum (Wrinkler), our protagonist, retreats to be a cog in the machine.
But, at the end of the day, what happens is simply a love-at-first-sight romance between two strangers, although it doesn't sound so credible in the soil of German, but there is absolutely no political agenda involved, the only bug is, the target Ludwig (Prochnow) is a wanted anarchist, and in this case, the subsequent occurrence will destroy Katharina's tranquil life, eventually turns her into an avenging angel with blood in her hands, but at that point, we will emotionally stand by her as her vindictive resolution engages as the only satisfactory compensation (not just for her, but for viewers too) against a grim, unfair and repressive society where morality and humanity have lost their grounds to political alienation and media obsession.
Both law enforcement and paper media, and their symbiosis are under scrutiny, although the ignoble journalist Werner Tötges (Laser) takes the brunt of reproach here, but the scene where he visits Katharina's dying mother in the hospital inconveniently imposes as a stretch of its own manipulative story-telling from the director-duo (since he has no qualms about publishing a truth- twisted report, there is really no need for him to torture a dying woman like that, the purpose of that scene is too obvious); Inspector Beizmenne (Adorf) and DA (Becker) aren't exactly chummy characters to hang out with, they represent a different sort of violence and cruelty, which viciously menaces to strip Katharina of her privacy using their black-face/white-face strategy, whenever they find something needs an explanation, whether or not it is relevant to Ludwig, whom she knows only for one night. A third party to be condemned (if only in a minor gesture) is Katharina's employer, the middle-class lawyer Hubert (Bennent), Katharina works for him as a housekeeper, and one of his client, the "mysterious gentleman" Alois (Vosgerau), whom Katharina has been seeing over several years but refuses to reveal to the police under any kind of questioning. They have self-serving reasons to play safe in the game which are understandable, it is their brazen desperation and self-obsessed consideration that is too sickening to stomach.
The film refrains from being a more captivating thriller with its sparing usage of action pieces, the big arrest in the end hasn't been portrayed directly, so as to leave all the leverage to Katharina's final revenge scene, which doesn't disappoint, and Angela Winkler proves that she is such a powerhouse of stamina despite of her vulnerable first impression, gradually she grows on you with her slow disintegration during all the grilling and slander from media and public, but she never loses her core of strength, an excellent exemplar of a slow-burner in the German acting school.
The epilogue scenes are another slap-in-the-face of the hypocrisy of the modern journalism, as clear as day, Tötges is killed not because he is a journalist, but an unethical bastard. Unnervingly, one has no trouble tracing the film's continuing relevance in today's world, which in fact, gives its sustaining life force of this 40-year-old curio.
A US indie sleeper, grosses over $14 million in its theatrical release
earlier this year. Filmmaker Michael Showalter's second feature is a
star-vehicle for acting legendary Sally Field, who plays the titular
Doris Miller, an old maiden in her sixties, living in Staten Island
(aka. where the spooky murder takes place in Brian De Palma's SISTERS
The opening scene is the funeral of Doris' mother, whom she has been ministering to for as long as she can remember. Now, mum is gone, what has left to her is a house stacked with numberless items of amassed recollections. Her brother Todd (Root) and his stuck-up wife Cynthia (McLendon-Covey) strongly urge her to see a therapist (Reaser) for her pack-rat habit, and maybe she can move out so they can sell the house, talking of selfishness and pragmatism.
During her workplace, Doris has a crush on the newly-arrived co-worker John (Greenfield), who is only half her age. Boosted by the motto of turning "impossible" to "I'm possible", which she has garnerd from a self-help seminar, Doris bucks up to pursue this May-December crush, a new door is open to her, when she gleans information of John from his Facebook page and steers into John's hipster lifestyle, listening to the CD of his favourite electro-pop band, and dressing up in neon suit to attend the band's concert hoping for meet John there, and her endeavour works, she surprisingly enjoys her new-found younger friends, because, Doris is after all, anything but dowdy, her vivid-colored, bohemian style is eccentric for her age, but in the era of manifestly advocating acceptance of each other's difference, Doris is quite the shining example of being herself. More significantly, a platonic friendship burgeons between her and John, but that is not love she is pining for.
Inevitably and predictably, a setback emerges when Doris finds out John has a new girlfriend Brooklyn (Behrs), which breaks her heart. Out of desperation and under the influence of alcohol, Doris impulsively sends a flame under a false name on John's Facebook page, which (in a way too simplistic manner) successfully sabotages the relationship, thus, Doris comes across as a caring friend, to comfort a despondent John and seek any chance that she could swoop in the girlfriend's shoes. At this stage, viewers will realise that Doris has gone too far, her reckless act basically seals off the possibility of anything romantic could ever last between her and John, because sooner or later, she has an awkward confession to make, and reckoning by a normal logic and from John's perspective, they can barely remain friends afterwards.
That is exactly what happens, it shatters Doris' pipe dream, but on the other hand, it also strikes as a wake-up call, Doris finally musters up enough courage to say goodbye to all the token objects she and her mother have been hoarding through all these years, and move on from her old, musty life, as her best friend Roz (Daly, a fiery and imposing gran) quips "she is just a kid herself", Doris has never grown up when she sacrifices everything else to tend to her mother. This is the life- affirming message the film intends to inform us, one can never be too late to start anew, just seize the day, and sometimes, it is not such a big deal to try something out of one's comfort zone, as long as it is hazard-free.
A plum leading role for Sally Field, mines her impeccable dexterity in both drama and comedy departments, she can throw incredibly funny reactions when she is lost in anachronism and digital- era jargon, while in the confrontational set pieces, she is electrifyingly emotive to the hilt, yet, her wide-eyed maladroitness inspires great screen chemistry with Max Greenfield's honest-to- goodness Prince Charming. Also, Showalter knowingly plays the tricks of diverting into Doris' fantasy to the point of arresting rejoice, and nimbly chooses for only three scenarios lest it will become bathetic, and three indeed is the charm, a third one in the coda grants this flyweight dramedy an intelligent heart and a whiff of unforced cheeriness, what a wonderful and fulfilling viewing experience!
John Ford swooped his historically fourth BEST DIRECTOR win for THE
QUIET MAN in the Oscars, a record very much likely will never be
matched, to say nothing of being surpassed. But it was his only win
from a Ford-Wayne picture, THE SEARCHERS (1956) was wholesomely
snubbed, but it is not a conventional Ford-Wayne picture either, its
locale is deviant from their usual Western landscape.
Wayne plays Sean Thornton, an Irish-born American from Pittsburgh, returns to his homeland, a backwater town called Inisfree (a fictional place) in the 1920s, he reclaims his family land from widow Sarah Tillane (Natwick) and falls for an ardent ginger Mary-Kate Danaher (O'Hara), after locking horns with her eldest brother Squire Will Danaher (McLaglen), a loutish heavy who also sets his eyes on Thornton's farm, and according to the provincial tradition, Mary-Kate cannot marry without Squire's consent.
With a little conspiracy from Sean's new local friends - yes, Sean is the new apple of the eye for this jerkwater town, who can easily gain trust and favour from denizens over the unwelcome Squire himself. - including the matchmaker Michaeleen Flynn (Fitzgerald), reverend Cyril Playfair's (Shields) and his wife (Crowe), who fabricate a quid pro quo to inveigle Squire to marry Mary-Kate to Sean, so himself in return could marry Ms. Tillane, and the plan works (for the first half), Sean and Mary-Kate ties the knot, but an unknowing Ms. Tillane refuses to take Squire for the team, after a bout of ruckus, Squire holds back Mary-Kate's dowry, which according to Sean's noble confession, doesn't mean anything to him, what he loves is her, not her fortune, but talking about different values, for Mary-Kate, her dowry is not just money, it is her own reputation at stake, that's something worth her husband to fight for, but Sean seems to be unmotivated.
Sean's past in USA has been carefully veiled in the narrative, only his burly figure and the occasional attention from reverend Playfair, who is a fervent sport fan, knowingly suggest his vocation, a former prizefighter, who has sworn to abnegate boxing after accidentally knocking off an opponent during a match. Now, coerced by an obdurate Mary-Kate, Sean has to use his fists to earn back her respect and prove that he is not a coward, even though in his mind, it is plumb purposeless, but the point is, that's what husbands must do to defend his womenfolk, so a long- delayed close-range brawl between Sean and Squire arrives ebulliently with on-lookers betting their money on who is the last man standing.
THE QUIET MAN adheres to the conventional criteria of a patriarchal society under the microcosm of Inisfree, machismo reeks of booze, smoke, gambles and sweat after a fist fight, even Mary-Kate, a perfect specimen of a fine lady, blindly hamstrings her pride in the shibboleth, which leaves the picture a smack outmoded in the eyes of a new viewer six decades later.
Visually expansive, thanks to the sublime topography of the Irish countryside (in the sunny days only) and John Ford's discerning sense of aesthetics, THE QUIET MAN also elicits a more layered performance from John Wayne, not merely a macho bigot bogged in his own intransigence, he can also be a rose-loving, violence-relinquishing pacifist, paired with a strikingly zealous Ms. O'Hara, who is so ambidextrous both indoor and outdoor, whether she is playing harpsichord or playing rough against Wayne. Slas, Wayne finds his match, a virtuous leading lady who can both physically and characteristically challenge him in a Ford picture.
Victor McLaglen, who is visibly too old to play big brother of O'Hara (34 years of her senior), is the only member in the cast rewarded with an Oscar nomination, but in retrospect, he chews the scenery a bit little. Yet, it is Barry Fitzgerald who almost single-handedly holds intact the film's comedic vibe as the booze-dependent Flynn, with gusto and impeccable foibles, and in truth, THE QUIET MAN aims to be a bubbly ethnographic study sending a more liberal message - there is no reason why Catholicism and Protestantism cannot co-exist harmoniously under the same roof, maybe not all roads can lead to Rome, but at least there are several of them can. A final nod to Victor Young's majestic score, utterly pertinent to accompany a jolly journey in that bygone era and faraway place.
Steven Spielberg's theatrical feature film debut made at the age of 28,
THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS is based on the true event happened in
southern-west Texas 1969. A young woman Lou Jean Poplin (Hawn), abets
her husband Clovis Michael Poplin (Atherton) to escape from his
pre-release facility in Beauford H. Jester Prison Farm, and en route to
Sugar Land to get their infant boy from his foster family. It is plain
happenstance that they hold a patrolman Maxwell Slide (Sacks) hostage
and driving the latter's patrol automobile, the three head to Sugar
Land, while tailing by a parade of police vehicles led by Texas
Department of Public Safety (DPS) Captain Harlin Tanner (Johnson).
At first glance, the Poplins's plan is, from any aspects, shockingly fatuous, how on earth they can naively think the authorities will leave their son in situ under such circumstances? Without much thinking, one would realise there must be a deathtrap awaits in their final destination, yet, during their entire journey, that never occurs to them until it's too late. One might argue, that is what happened in real life, maybe the Poplins are sheer simpletons, pure white trashes, yet, we are not watching a documentary about the sensationalised story, if the protagonists are treated with such a simple-minded frame of mind, which effectively creates a sizeable challenge for viewers to relate to, ultimately the viewing experience will be all but satisfactory.
Maybe, if Spielberg could lean his angle more from the perspective of Slide, who is a decent young man caught by surprise when performing his duties. The outcome would be more edifying, since the growing mutual respect is the key revelation out of this jejune act, as an outsider, Slide has the privileged intimacy to observe the couple and get a glimpse of their mindset, if there is any vestiges to keep viewers invested in their fate. However they are reckless and dull-witted, the Poplins are not the worst, Spielberg shows no relent to dress down those self-professed vigilante riflemen, a bunch of trigger-happy hillbillies who are instinctively aroused by the thrill of killing, have no wits to even make a basic evaluation about their targets before plunging into a manic fusillade, they exemplifies the bane of America's ever-controversial "gun culture", to possess a weapon of mass destruction is not for everyone, if a country cannot establish a fail-safe edict to secure the safety of the innocent, logically, this is the liberty we should uniformly forego.
Mr. Spielberg manifests an acute eye for the visual splendour, there are incredibly breathtaking shots taken along the Texas highway landscape, for its sepia vastness and gorgeous sunset, although one might find it puzzling about the functionality of the cavalcade of police cars tailing along, that's not the right way to splurge tax payers' money. In a more important note, the film has officially embarked the time-honoured collaboration between Spielberg and John Williams, spans over four decades hitherto.
Goldie Hawn, ups her ante to play a more straight-faced and neurotic character which is not her strong suit, irritable as ever thanks to the vacuous nature of Lou Jean, Atherton and Sacks, two fresh faces given abundant screen-time to act, are fine but no surprises, last but not the least. Ben Johnson, the Oscar-winning veteran for THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (1971), instils something decent and sympathetic in the story, being the only rational mind in that ephemeral fanfare.
A young French-Canadian model and would-be actress Danielle Breton
(Kidder) in New York City, meets cute with a black advertising salesman
Philip Woode (Wilson), in a proto-reality show "Peeping Tom", which
conspicuously heralds director Brian De Palma's intrigue of voyeurism
in this lurid genre piece: the urge of killing from a Siamese twin
under severe psychological pressure and personality disorder, who has
been recently successfully severed from her sister.
Yes, Danielle has a twin sister Dominique, De Palma and co-writer Louisa Rose's script doesn't shy away from steadily implicating that Dominique is the insidious killer who lurks behind the camera, initiates conversations with the personable Danielle, and mercilessly assaults any man who gets intimate with her lovable sister, an emblem of the evil side of the conjoined anomaly, meantime, a bespectacled, bulged-eyed, gangling Emil Breton (Finley), Danielle's ex-husband, looks equally suspicious and sinister with his hidden agenda.
Philip is the jinxed victim who thinks he is getting lucky, but fails to notice that he overstays his welcome due to his own goodwill, how ironic is that? Before succumbing to death, however clumsily, at least he manages to catch the attraction of Grace Collier (Salt), the journalist living in the building across Danielle's apartment, immediately she alerts the police force, but as outlined by the split screen dynamically chronicling the paralleled actions, contrasting the crime scene where Danielle and Emil hastily conceal the dead body (thanks for ruining couch bed for me Mr. De Palma) and clean up the blood, with the detectives dilly-dally their action (racism and sexism are heedfully hinted here) to check Danielle's apartment against Grace's mounting keenness and impatience. What De Palma devises is a stylish and effective cinematic machination, but he also wears his heart on his sleeve, which inconveniently renders the not-so-convoluted story an unwelcome feeling of arbitrariness.
Grace, hogs the limelight thereafter, vigilantly plays detective, digs into the backstories of Danielle and hopes for an exposé, thanks to the assistance of a private eye Joseph Larch (Durning), who will later undertake a tailing mission to a bizarre and goofy cul-de-sac (and literally, the ending of the film). Grace is characterised as an uncouth, career-pursuing knucklehead, we understand that she is a woman of principle, works hard to break the glass ceiling, but her undisguised single- mindedness and wanting for etiquette turn herself into an irritant, consequently pare down viewers' investment into her dangerous pursuit, which ends up in a mental hospital, where Emil finally gives his tell-all recount and discloses the darkest secret of Danielle, while Grace's own sanity will be forever compromised by Emil's hypnotic brainwash. Undeniably, this part is the meat of the story, it is presented from a peculiar angle of an eyeball, with a surreal veneer onto the sensational tale-of-misery by its grotesque tableaux vivants and freaky colour scheme, yet, for my money, Bernard Herrmann's intrusive score is a shade shrill and nerve-racking.
Margot Kidder deserves some kudos for her dualistic impersonation and nails a not-so-irritating French accent, to corroborate her undervalued versatility. It would also turn out to be a wonderful idea for Jennifer Salt to give up acting and become a successful TV producer and writer instead. On the first impression, SISTERS is a testimony of De Palma's forte: injecting a dash of gore into a deeply unsettling psycho-drama, but that doesn't make him an essential master, because a certain requirement of gravitas and punctiliousness is something uniformly absent from most of his works I have watched.
A restored 139-min version of this quintessential Disney entertainment,
under the helm of the ambidextrous conjuror Robert Stevenson, who has
once brought us MARY POPPINS (1964).
BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS is a whimsical and kind-hearted genre-buster, a menagerie of comedy, musical (catchy ditties written by Richard M. Sherman and Robert Be. Sherman), live- action fantasy and animation, it won BEST SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS in the Oscars. The story takes places in Great Britain during the high point of WWII, an apprentice witch Eglantine Price (Lansbury, as immaculate and one-of-a-kind as ever) is saddled with three children, Charlie (Weighill), Carrie (O'Callaghan)and Paul (Snart), who are evacuated from London during the Blitz, in the rural town Pepperinge Eye. After an initial adjusting period, during which an 11-year-old Charlie, the oldest of the three, in the age of not believing, cunningly and constantly blackmails Miss Price for monetary gain in exchange of keeping her secret safe, a special bond begins to shape up when they embark on an adventure to seek out a final magic spell when her correspondence school of witchcraft announces its closure due to the warfare.
Eglantine casts a transportation spell on her bed-knob, and asks Paul, the youngest kid, to keep it, only under Paul's command, the bed can transport them to wherever he dictates. When they locate Mr. Emelius Browne (Tomlinson, recruited again for his avuncular affinity), the headmaster of the said school in London, it turns out that Mr. Browne is merely an unlucky street con artist, he is not blessed with the gift for witchcraft as Miss Price does, but he is on board for the journey nevertheless, which augurs a remotely romantic undercurrent.
After an elongated set piece in Portobello Road, where a fanfare of ethnographic dancing display takes place gratuitously, the film will be channeled into the innovative passage where live-action and traditional animation studiously coalesce together in the island of Naboombu, governed by a pack of anthropomorphic wild animals. This part can be safely excised from the whole picture, narrative-wise, and presented itself as an individual cartoon short about a jejune soccer match with distinctively animalistic sketch, as back in home, Miss Price will soon realise the spell she has been looking for is just around the corner where she never cares to look.
The final chapter is an act of sheer patriotism, preceded by Mr. Browne's self-deprecating retreat to play hard-to-get for a reason rather too obvious, followed by a generalised and G-rated battle between archaic museum exhibits (under her hard-earned Substitutiary Locomotion spell) and a platoon of ill-fated Nazi soldiers, reaches its well-aimed crescendo. Sadly from a grown-up's view, the story's innate shortage of any sophisticated characterisation owing to its children-pandering propensity foils any attempt to thrill audience who is looking for something a bit more than a common family treat. Only if one could watch it for the first time as a kid, which could make a grand difference after all, that's also the chance those family ventures are taking, ad infinitum.
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