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the movie is what it is, and you gotta admire them for it
First of all, I should make clear that Paul Feig's "Ghostbusters" is neither a sequel to nor remake of Ivan Reitman's version. It's more like an alternate version, with a female cast. As in the original version, there's a goof-off (Melissa McCarthy), a childlike character (Kate McKinnon), a no-nonsense type (Kristen Wiig) and a non-scientist (Leslie Jones), each using their talents to fight the evil spirits trying to take over New York. This version changes the story a little bit, but I enjoyed it. Naturally the CGI is more sophisticated - and sometimes so over-the-top that it's ridiculous - but I liked what I saw.
No, the movie won't be for everyone (the previous reviewer didn't like it). But, if you're in for some plain old fun, then this new "Ghostbusters" is for you.
Of Rice and Hen (1953)
No, I say nobody interferes with this rooster!
Once again, Miss Prissy tries to win Foghorn Leghorn's heart, while the immature Foggy keeps trying to avoid her, while Barnyard Dog decides to enter the scheme. By now it should be clear that Foggy is probably the least inclined of all the Looney Tunes to do anything productive: he either wants to play pranks - especially if they involve tormenting the dog - and sit around all day. "Of Rice and Hen" also makes clear that the other hens treat Miss Prissy like dirt. There are some true heels in the Warner Bros. animation universe.
Anyway, it's a funny cartoon. Foghorn Leghorn must have been one of the most enjoyable characters for Mel Blanc to voice.
Bednyy, bednyy Pavel (2003)
ethos of a czar
Vitaliy Melnikov's look at Czar Paul I of Russia is at once a biopic and a study of the Russian cultural ethos. Paul's reign was a short one - overshadowed by his mother and predecessor Catherine the Great - and it was beset by a number of crushing issues. "Bednyy bednyy Pavel" ("Poor Poor Paul" in English) does a good job focusing on this moment in history. I wouldn't go so far as to call this a masterpiece, but it's still an important movie. A lot of the humor is stuff that you'll only get if you understand Russian culture. The actors make sure to put a lot of emotion into their roles to emphasize the Russian ethos. Check it out.
Russian director Nikita Mikhalkov is probably best known in the United States for 1994's Oscar-winning "Burnt by the Sun", an indictment of Stalin's purges. It turns out that he had been directing movies for years before then. A particularly good one was 1977's "Neokonchennaya pyesa dlya mekhanicheskogo pianino" ("An Unfinished Piece for Mechanical Piano" in English), a composite of some of Anton Chekhov's works. It looks at a group of aristocrats who have gathered at a vacation home in rural Russia in the early twentieth century. Relationships develop, but things aren't necessarily what they seem.
The movie makes sure to incorporate Chekhov's fatalistic style, and even includes a performance of Franz Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody #2" (comically performed by Daffy Duck and Donald Duck in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"?). A lot of the humor is more unique to Russian culture, so people outside Russia might not get it, but you should still see the movie. Complex, profound characters and impressive rural scenery make this one not to be missed.
relationships with cats, people, and Russia
Andrei Khrzhanovsky's "Poltory komnaty" ("Room and a Half" in English) takes a fictionalized look at Joseph Brodsky. My interpretation of much of the movie is that Brodsky viewed the cat as a better friend than most people, but he did eventually make an effort to make peace with people. As he says at the end of the movie, we are all condemned to death.
Much of the movie is told as animated sequences, creating an ethereal feeling. No doubt this is to emphasize Brodsky's disillusionment with life in the Soviet Union. One of the most effective scenes is a "meeting" that he has with his parents (in reality, all of them are dead by this point) towards the end of the movie. Whether in life or death, he didn't see much future for Russia.
I've read a few of Brodsky's works. They certainly evoke a Russian existence. As for the movie, it's not a masterpiece, but I recommend it.
generation gap of the Cold War
To the numerous movies about generation gaps we can now add Valeriy Todorovsky's "Stilyagi" ("Hipsters" in English). It focuses on an assortment of youths in 1950s Moscow who are really into western music and fashion, to the disfavor of Soviet authorities. I particularly liked the scene where Fred plays Mels the boogie woogie song: it's gotta be the first time that anyone's ever heard an old-style rock 'n' roll song entirely in Russian.
The movie emphasizes that the authorities considered jazz a form of western imperialism. While I was in grad school, some students from Russia co-rented a house with me and the other US students. One of them noted that this was in fact the case, but that the authorities still allowed Frank Sinatra's music. That sounds counter-intuitive to me, but who knows what the reasoning was. The point is that ever since popular culture arose, the younger generation has gotten into the new stuff while the older generation turns its nose at it. There was one scene in "Hipsters" that reminded me of the scene in "A Hard Day's Night" where the Beatles get into an argument with a man on a train and Ringo* has a snarky comment.
Anyway, really fun movie. And remember, he doesn't need an American wife!
*Today is in fact Ringo's birthday.
social satire for strangers in a strange land
Georgiy Danelia's "Kin-dza-dza!" is part science fiction, part comedy, part social satire. When a pair of passers-by touch a strange object held by a man on a street in Moscow, they find themselves standing on a desert planet in another galaxy. It's a stratified society, a bit like what the Mad Max movies depict. The human-looking inhabitants have their own slang, their own clothes, and their own technology. But there's a lot in store.
It's one of the more bizarre movies out there. When you look at what it depicts, it's clear that this sort of movie could have only gotten released under Gorbachev, when the Soviet Union finally started owning up to its mistakes. In general I interpret it as having the same basic gist of some of Terry Gilliam's movies: a look at the desire to escape from our modern world (depicted in "Time Bandits" and "Brazil").
Sluzhebnyy roman (1977)
there's a trick here
Eldar Ryazanov's "Sluzhebnyy roman" ("Office Romance" in English) had me properly fooled early on. I assumed that it was going to be a Soviet version of "The Apartment". It turns out that there's a number of surprises on the way, many of them cartoonish. This story of a love affair between maladroit statistician Anatoly Novoseltsev (Andrey Myagkov) and stern boss Lyudmila Kalugina (Alisa Freindlich) hits all the right notes. Overall it comes across as a spoof of day-to-day work in the Soviet Union. It could easily get shown as a double-bill with "The Apartment", "9 to 5", or the opening segment in Monty Python's "Meaning of Life". Really funny.
modern St. Petersburg
Aleksey Uchitel's "Progulka" ("The Stroll" in English) focuses on some people walking throughout St. Petersburg. I interpreted the movie as a look at general uncertainty about Russia's future. It first it seems naive of Olya to simply let Alyosha start walking with her when she has no idea who he is, but it's as if to say "What can one do given recent events?" The rowdy fans and the gypsies emphasize this.
What I found interesting was the end. It starts raining and the three of them run into the bowling alley. It's after that Olya has a change. It's as though the rain prompted her to see through things. That's my interpretation at least.
I recommend the movie.
Dzhentlmeny udachi (1971)
Aleksandr Sery's "Dzhentlmeny udachi" ("Gentlemen of Fortune" in English) is one of those movies whose purpose is to be silly. Yevgeny Leonov plays a kindergarten director who get hired to pose as the leader of a criminal gang to find out the location of a stolen helmet. I understand that Sery had previously been in jail, and so he knew what the jail scenes should look like. But mostly, the movie consists of over-the-top acting and a couple of scenes that made me think "Wait...what?!" Some of the cast members also starred in Leonid Gayday's 1967 comedy "Kidnapping, Caucasian Style" (one of the zaniest movies that I've ever seen). Basically, any one of these movies is a good time. You're sure to love it.
PS: Savely Kramarov (Fedya) eventually moved to the US where he appeared in movies such as "Moscow on the Hudson".