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4344 reviews in total 
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jungle of madness, 10 July 2014

The first collaboration between Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski is an epic tale of madness the same way that "Apocalypse Now" is. This account of an expedition to find a fabled city of gold in 1500s South America uses the action and setting to delve into the deepest darkest reaches of the human soul. Kinski's maniacal Lope Aguirre is the embodiment of hubris. Reading about the troubled production, "Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes" ("Aguirre, the Wrath of God" in English) comes across as a documentary about its own making. Herzog and Kinski of course went through much of the same on the set of "Fitzcarraldo", which drew controversy for creating the same conditions on the set that the movie depicts.

Moving along the story as much as the action and setting is the soundtrack by German progressive rock group Popol Vuh. You may recall their haunting opening score in Herzog's "Nosferatu" - probably the best adaptation of "Dracula" in movie history - while the camera pans across mummified bodies. In the end, the story reflects all successive colonial quests, continuing to the 21st century. Aguirre's fanaticism is no different from any other individual who was obsessed with taking over another land, regardless of the consequences (look at the past thirteen years). The movie affirms Herzog as one of the leaders of the New German Cinema in the 1970s (along with Wim Wenders). It's a movie that everyone should see.

As a side note, I'll add that since we in the English-speaking world are so used to seeing historical movies in which every character has either an English or an American accent, it's interesting to see one in which most of the characters speak German.

Stanley Kubrick, meet westerns, 8 July 2014

The movie billed as the first space western sets out to entertain, and it succeeds. "Moon Zero Two" is set in 2021 on the moon, where a colony (presumably built by Newt Gingrich?) has attracted a number of people. A former astronaut gets more than he bargained for when he takes on a mission to bring down a sapphire asteroid.

The movie very much has the look of one of those 1960s-1970s sci-fi flicks, including some go-go dancers. It's fitting that the movie got released not long after the moon landing, and a lot of the movie appears to have taken inspiration from "2001: A Space Odyssey". The cast includes James Olson (Father in "Ragtime") and Adrienne Corri (Mrs. Alexander in "A Clockwork Orange"). Warren Mitchell played bigot Alf Garnett on "Till Death Us Do Part", on which "All in the Family" was based.

You gotta love Hammer movies.

not Sergio Martino's best, 7 July 2014

Sergio Martino is one of the notable directors in the Euro-horror genre along with Mario Bava, Jess Franco, Jean Rollin, and others. My personal favorite of his movies is "The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh". His "Assassinio al cimitero etrusco" ("The Scorpion with Two Tails" in English) is an OK, not great movie. It's a convoluted story about a woman whose archaeologist husband gets murdered while looking through an ancient cemetery in Italy. Elvire Audray, who plays the lead role, looks as if she could have been one of Alfred Hitchcock's icy blondes. I haven't seen all of Martino's movies, but of the ones that I've seen I'd say that his best ones star Edwige Fenech*. This one is more mediocre. Other cast members include John Saxon (Roper in "Enter the Dragon" and the father in "A Nightmare on Elm Street") and Van Johnson (one of the stars from Hollywood's Golden Age).

*Quentin Tarantino referenced her in "Inglourious Basterds": Mike Myers's character is named Ed Fenech.

Non-Stop (2014)
Lupita Nyong'o deserves MUCH better than this, 7 July 2014

Liam Neeson, once upon a time a serious actor known for roles in "Schindler's List" and "Rob Roy", now sticks with roles that historically went to Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Norris, etc. The ridiculous "Non-Stop" is the latest example. Even more disappointing is the presence of Julianne Moore. She's supposed to star in movies like "Far from Heaven" and "A Single Man", not action flicks. But the real letdown is the presence of Lupita Nyong'o. An Oscar winner for the role of a slave in "12 Years a Slave", she now stars in this. Can't she catch a break?! I looked at director Jaume Collet-Serra's repertoire. It includes the "House of Wax" remake. One would hope that as a Catalan, he would make movies about issues affecting Catalonia, such as the independence movement there. As it stands, he's not doing that region any favors.

Yes, I know that this movie wasn't intended to be anything serious. I stand by what I said. THIS MOVIE SUCKS!

Clint continues the good kind of typecasting, 5 July 2014

In 2012 Clint Eastwood became a punchline due to his conversation with a chair at the Republican National Convention. Even so, "Trouble with the Curve" is still worth seeing. He plays an aging talent scout for the Atlanta Braves. Likely to get soon get forced out of his job, he has a strained relationship with his daughter (Amy Adams). He realizes that he has to go out and find the team a new player.

Eastwood has played a lot of crotchety old men in the past few years and was starting to get typecast in that role. He had said after "Gran Torino" that he wasn't going to act anymore, but it was obviously possible to convince him to do this one last role. A bit like what happens with some of the characters that he's played. The movie isn't a masterpiece but is worth seeing. Who would've ever guessed that the guy on the old western TV series would still be playing these fine roles into his 80s?

100 years since World War I, 29 June 2014

We just passed the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, which led to the first global war. Since that war - now known as World War I - created the conditions and caused World War II, that makes "The Monuments Men" all the more important. Hitler's rise to power and subsequent occupation of Europe could never have come to pass without the crippling reparations imposed on Germany at the Versailles negotiations. That in addition to the fact that at the negotiations, the racist crook Woodrow Wilson refused to listen to a young Ho Chi Minh, setting the stage for the Vietnam War, and the carving up of the former Ottoman Empire by the British and French set the stage for the current horror in the Middle East. Basically, the so-called War to End All Wars set the stage for all future wars. Gavrilo Princip was simply resisting the occupation of his land and he inadvertently changed the course of history.

The movie itself isn't a masterpiece but is still worth seeing. It's a funny collection of characters, especially Bill Murray's character. And of course it's neat to see Neuschwanstein Castle (which also appeared in the 1962 movie "The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm"); I once put together a 6,000-piece jigsaw puzzle showing that castle.

Nonetheless, movies need to get made about the conditions that drove Gavrilo Princip to assassinate Franz Ferdinand and about the Versailles negotiations. Whether it's the Israel-Palestine conflict (caused by the Sykes-Picot Agreement), the horror that the former Yugoslavia witnessed in the 1990s (caused by the artificial creation of the Yugoslav kingdom), or the Russia-Georgia War (rooted in the Armenian Genocide), it seems that almost every part of the planet remains f***ed up because of World War I.

You think that you'll become famous this way?, 26 June 2014

I read that 1950 turned out to be a major year for movies that went on to become part of LGBT culture. That year saw the releases of "Cinderella", "Sunset Boulevard" and "All About Eve". The latter two share similar themes. Much like how Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) has disappeared from the screen in her middle age, Margo Channing (Bette Davis) is aging and is seen as "less useful".

Although the movie is a favorite of gays, it essentially contains homophobic themes. Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is depicted as possibly lesbian, and is a vicious individual trying to steal the limelight from Margo. Addison DeWitt (George Sanders) is depicted as possibly gay and is a cynical, emotionally vacant individual.

Whatever the case, Joseph L. Mankiewicz's movie remains an important part of cinema history. Bette Davis appears to be having the time of her life as Margo. A young Marilyn Monroe appears in the movie as an aspiring actress. See it if you get a chance.

Take THAT, Nicolae Ceaușescu!, 24 June 2014

This time, the ever campy Mistress of the Dark has to spend the weekend in a Carpathian castle that appears to be based on every Vincent Price movie. Although it takes place in 1851, the beehive-haired hostess never misses a chance to reference popular culture from a more recent era. Although the production was likely the first time that a number of Romanian citizens learned of Elvira, there's the chance that some of them knew about her in the 1980s: I recently read a New York Times article about someone in Ceaușescu-era Romania who obtained pirated copies of movies from the US and showed them. Most of them were apparently action flicks, but one would hope that Elvira was in there somewhere (understanding that her puns probably wouldn't have translated well into Romanian).

The point is, "Elvira's Haunted Hills" is a funny movie, and it's enough to make anyone want to go to Romania. I hear that Dracula's castle is pretty impressive.

Deșteaptă-te, române!

no you can't read my poker face, because no one was born this way, 23 June 2014

In the last few years the expression "little monsters" has become the moniker for Lady Gaga's fans. I don't know whether or not it was Gaga herself who coined created the description, but that's the name for them.

Well, the movie "Little Monsters" has nothing to do with that. It's one of those '80s movies that liked to think that it was all about friendship. It's not any kind of terrible movie - you gotta love the tricks that Maurice gets Brian to play on other kids - but the movie misses the mark. I think that it should have been all about the kids' desire to escape an overly structured existence. Had they stuck with that, the movie would have been a mediocrity at worst. As it stands, the movie ended up sort of irritating.

You may recall Fred Savage as the grandson in "The Princess Bride". Devin Ratray notably played Buzz in "Home Alone", but more recently appeared in "Nebraska". Frank Whaley played Robby Krieger in "The Doors" and also appeared as Brett in "Pulp Fiction".

I'd like to force Pat Robertson to attend a Lady Gaga concert just to mess with his mind (assuming that he has one).

PS: I attended a speech that Daniel Stern gave at my college in 2004 about his USO tour in Iraq the previous year. He said that some Iraqi children recognized him from "Home Alone", which made him realize how much US culture dominates.

How about a real look at Latin America?, 23 June 2014

"Saludos Amigos" is an ultra-stereotyped look at Latin America, which Disney followed with "The Three Caballeros" two years later. Basically, it depicts hispanophone and lusophone America as suave men and sexy women, all of whom spend eternity partying. That's right, no look at the legacies of colonialism (namely the terrible inequality). Cool parrot José Carioca (which is the demonym for Rio de Janeiro) of course returned in "The Three Caballeros".

Basically, this movie is what Disney THOUGHT that it meant to build good relations with Latin America. A better way to do so would be to read Eduardo Galeano's "Open Veins of Latin America" (a Spanish-language copy of which Hugo Chávez gave to Barack Obama at a Summit of the Americas in 2009).

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