Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) 11/1000

Don’t Bother to Knock (1952)

Rated: Approved

Genre: Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery

Directed by Roy Ward Baker

Starring Richard Widmark, Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Bancroft

Plot: After being dumped by his girlfriend, an airline pilot pursues a babysitter in his hotel and gradually realizes she is dangerous.

Trivia: This was Anne Bancroft’s film debut. It was also Marilyn Monroe’s first leading film role, although it was her 18th film. She used the opportunity as an attempt to prove to critics that she could act.

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Nothing about the opening credits particularly stand out to me in this one. It seems pretty standard for the time. As the movie opens into the first scene the first though I have is how little time can change in some ways and how much it can in other. There are still angry little old ladies around today, causing a fuss and  havoc, but then the immediate cut to a stunningly young Anne Bancroft… time marches on even when we don’t feel like it does. I have never seen her this young and the softness of her features are almost surprising. She has always been lovely, but to see her in her innocence is something else entirely. The transition of her talking to the barkeep and then singing felt off… did that really happen during this time? It feels more forced than natural. And the lip-syncing is not quite right either. I feel like it is her voice but she prerecorded it. I have no problem when it is done well, but this is not done well.

Ah, Marilyn as graced the screen at last with her beautiful face. Sweet Norma Jean will always hold a place in my heart, and her character, Nell, so far seems to play her small town girl charm well. I could watch her talk forever. The way her lips move is so soft and sensual. It is no mystery as to why she became so much more of a sex symbol than anything else. It is the unfortunate part of fame, being sold as a commodity, and her commodity was and still is sex. It isn’t until later, like with so many, that we appreciated the great wealth of other assets she brought to the table. I am reminded of the line from the reported in Valley of the Dolls when Jen dies. “What were her measurements” is still one of the only things cared about with Marilyn, even now decades after her death.

After we get some plot setup with Nell getting the job as Bunny’s babysitter, we journey back to hotel lounge where Lyn is singing again, Jed in attendance. This rendition is a little better but as she starts that third piece, her microphone is too far from her mouth… I know it is a tiny detail, but those kind of inconsistencies tend to glare at me. As she finishes her song, Jed comes to meet her at the bar and through conversation we are able to learn that the breakup letter we see him reading in the beginning came from her.

The cutaway to Nelly trying on the mothers jewelry and then running to the window as a plane passes overhead, a single tear dripping down her face, it is all very lovely as a sequence. The way the film is shot makes me feel like it is all being done in real time. Back to Lyn talking to Jed about her reasons not to marry him, I feel drawn to her character. I relate with her strongly in this scene and the conviction with which the lines are delivered makes it easy to see how she went so far in her career.

Elisha Cook Jr, who plays the elevator operator, is one of my all time favorite male character actors and he does not disappoint in this film. He adds just the right touch of comedy to lighten up the intense drama that is all the scenes surrounding him. Not so much to distract you into thinking this is a comedy, but enough to cut the tension every now and then with a little chuckle. The pun about his job having its ups and downs is prime for that. He delivers the line so easily, you have to think for a minute to make sure you really heard what you just did. Jed’s reaction is much the same and goes to show a sense that script writers seemed to have at the time about what their audience was thinking and feeling.

The meet-cute between Nell and Jed is indeed cute as she flirts back and forth with him through the blinds. People say that Disney gave girls a false expectation of reality, I say it is things like this. Marilyn Monroe can flirt using blinds, sure, but I would probably look like a spaz and have the police called on me. Though the phone call to Nell can also be seen as a false expectation. No man calls a girl like that today and gets results. At least they better not. This is the kind of message that girls get on Tinder along with a dick pic, and those are not cool. “I’m lonely, frustrated, and I have a bottle of rye” is not a good pick up line, just for future information.

More is revealed about Nell as Eddie comes up to check on her and finds her decked out, head to toe, in the mothers belongings. She has a longing for nice things, but her mourning of a lover that died (presumably involving a plane somehow) keeps her from moving on to find the happiness she dreams of. A psychologist could pick this apart, I am sure, but I will have to do the best I can with just my fascination with character building. The resolve with which she reties the sash to the robe after dismissing Eddie is not a good sign in my opinion. It seems like she will be inviting Jed over after all. At this point, I am not sure if that idea is worse for Jed or for Nell, but either way I worry for Bunny caught in the middle of all this. This is why I don’t use babysitters unless I absolutely have to. I have seen way too many movies where it all went wrong.

Through all of her hiding and setting up, I wonder if she remembers that the mother said she would be back up at 11:00 to check on things. If Nell is still dressed up in the mothers clothes with a man in the room, it is not going to turn out well at all. There are so many ways this can go wrong. This film is like a poster child for rape culture, first of all. Each word that drips from Jed’s, or should I say “Billy”, mouth makes me cringe and uncomfortable.

As Nell learns that Jed is a pilot and begins to invent an entire history for him, the true depth of her cracked psyche seems to be unearthed. She is now making Jed into the lover she lost by exaggerating any similarities and erasing the differences. As Bunny comes out and discovers them I am reminded again of why I don’t so babysitters. Gods help the person who treats my children like that if I trust them to watch them when I am not around. “If you don’t pay any attention to them, they’ll stop.” Okay, how about we use that concept on you, Nell? Oh god… is she going to push her out of the window?? No… NO! Get your hands off her, Nell! Whew… I really thought she was gonna die. Her speech to Bunny is chilling and she makes no secret to her intent. She is truly a dark person.

Nell and Eddie talking while Jed hides in the bathroom is another instance where I feel sympathy for Nell. I know what it is to be sheltered and held back, and I also know what it is like to have anxieties and depression because of that life. It is unfortunate that she did not get the right help because if this story were told today I could see it going a lot differently. Actually, this is one of the few classic movies that I feel could be remade with different story elements and be just as effective. I wonder if that is already out there. Any readers that might know of one, please let me know so I can add it to my list!

The climax of the film is building quickly as the nosy old lady and her husband come to the room to investigate. We see that Nell has trussed up and gagged Bunny, the couple witness Jed coming out of Bunny’s room, and Nell plays off her fear and depression over his escape as fear over her life. She accuses Jed of bursting into the room and holding them hostage. As the woman is calling for help, Nell locks Eddie in the closet and a murderous look comes over her faces as she turned toward Bunny’s door.

Below in the dining room as the tray of dishes comes crashing to the floor, we see that the mother’s instinct catches into gear at last and her husband suggests she go check on Bunny now. It is all fortuitous timing since Nell has just gotten the couple to leave her, saying that she had something she needed to do by herself. Everything seems to be happening at once, like clockwork. All the people (and animals) coming together at once as they realize, either fully or instinctively, that Nell is bad news and Bunny needs help. Mom comes to the rescue followed quickly by Jed, but as Jed helps Eddie out of the closet, Nell slips away downstairs.

The character development as Jed talks Nell “down from the edge” so to speak feels sincere. Nell feels sincere as well, making me feel that if the trivia I found most interesting about this film is true, then she succeeded in her attempt to prove she had more acting capabilities than she was previously given credit for. This movie was really surprising for me, though I guess it shouldn’t have been. I have always been a fan of Film-Noir and this was a beautiful example of it. I rate this a 4.8/5 and will try to find to add to my collection very soon.

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The Big Short (2015) 10/1000

The Big Short (2015)

Rated R

Genre: Biography, Comedy, Drama

Directed by Adam McKay

Starring Christian Bale, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling

Plot: Four denizens in the world of high-finance predict the credit and housing bubble collapse of the mid-2000s, and decide to take on the big banks for their greed and lack of foresight.

Movie Trivia: Author Michael Lewis revealed in an interview that Paramount, the studio distributing the film, allowed director and screenwriter Adam McKay to make this film only if he agreed to make a sequel to Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy (2004).

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The opening is fast paced and clue me in to what to expect as this movie progresses. The simple, childlike opening cutting without segue to a the hustle and bustle of what I have always know the banking industry to be in my life time accompanied by almost frantic jazz music. The montage of progress up to 2008 feels too familiar. This may be listed as a comedy but I feel like it is going to hinge on the idea that you have to laugh because its so depressing you have no other choice. Mike (Christian Bale) is… odd. To say the least. The first scene with him makes you feel like there is much more under the surface but the only way to know what is going on under the surface is to actually be him. He marches to the tune of his own drum and is not the kind of person I would imagine as a banker at all.

As Mark walks is (Steve Carrel) I feel myself forcing my brain not to make Michael Scott comparisons already. Immediately the first impression is of what a douche he is. I mean… wow. As we go back to Mike’s overview of the mortgage database we see more clues that confirm my original thoughts on his character having much more under the surface. It seems like he is a genius of some sort. The use of montage in this instance feels very familiar, calling to mind Sherlock (BBC series) and A Beautiful Mind. It is effective but not anything that feels new.

The voice over asking is we feels bored or stupid yet could not be more wonderful. IT is amusing and spot on because as much as I try to understand all I Can to be an informed voter in the the country I live it, I am not a math minded person. I do my best to understand but so much of it becomes muddled in my head as I try to sort it all out. I have an imaginative mind and I feel like numbers are more rational than I can easily grasp, if that makes sense at all. So at this moment I appreciate the courtesy and the humor of the voice over, almost as a nod specifically to me as a viewer. The brief pause to watch the gorgeous blonde in a bubble bath, sipping champagne an explaining what all has happened is another perfect fit, humorous and intelligent, explaining but not pandering.

Flashing through Mark’s life back to his time in school is wonderful. I love his mom’s answer to the Rabbi when she is told the only reason he studies so hard is to find inconsistencies in the word of God. That example along with what we have seen of him in the support group meeting tell a story in itself of who this character is. It is also nice to have a movie that lets you pick up on clues to who the characters are without spelling it all out as bullet points on a nutrition label.

When Mike walks from the meeting and the bankers are left laughing with hip-hop music playing I feel a sense of disgust. It may not have been that unprofessional, but I feel like in each of those bankers heads that were in that real life meeting, that is very much how it went down. They were “getting free money” because they had no clue at all what they were doing as a career, even though it was at the cost of millions of families livelihoods, homes, jobs, and very way of life. And they wonder why Millennials are bitter and miss our childhoods…

The dry humor of this matches with the pacing is perfect. It fits the mental image of how us lowly peasants imagine the meetings working on Big Wall Street, the dry humor matches the sarcasm felt about it all. This movie comments on so much more than a simple comedy or a dramatic representation of a true story. They way is goes between the two poles of its subject is flawless and funny. Even the parts that move so fast you aren’t positive you understand, living it helps the understanding. The added side bars of celebrities explaining the movie as we go along is also a commentary in itself on the generation that the makers of the film intended their audience to be. It is relatable on so many levels but that isn’t always necesarily a good thing.

As the surveyor comes to the house to talk to the man about being 90 days late on the mortgage, the real life implications of those times are made evident yet again. The entire way it went down hurt so many innocent people and changed their lives for ever.

I am finding it difficult again to take notes as the script moves so quickly and I lose myself in the story. One thing I do have to note though is how well they have me on the edge of my seat as the housing bubble begins to burst. Even knowing and living it, I am still on the edge of my seat in suspense, which is a feat in movie making in my opinion. There are no surprises in this movie, but I am still invested emotionally in what is happening.

When the movie makes the transition to Vegas and had the Phantom of the Opera opening as the musical accompaniment I was hit with how perfect the two go together. Usually I associate Phantom with New York, Paris and London, but the way that the Phantom character molds and controls every aspect of the opera house from on high does in a way match the views of both Vegas and of the bankers and politicians that made this crisis possible.

This script really is amazing. The celebrity explanations really come at the perfect times to keep everyone in line with what is happening. They realize that the reason this was able to happen in the first place was due to ignorance, so to combat that, here is a face you know and trust to break it all down for you.

As the movie comes to a close I want to cry. It has been such a true testament of what happened, how it happened, and Steven Carrel as Mark offers my personal view on everything. The disgust about the bailout, the rage at how it could happen in the first place. And now, with a Trump nomination, we see more truth in is words as the blame is being placed on the poor and on the immigrants. This movie may be listed as a comedy, but it does much what I thought it would. I makes us laugh because at this point we have to laugh to not fall into a slump of allowing this to EVER happen again. It is a scary world we live in, sometimes you have to laugh at that darkness to rise above it in even the smallest of ways. I laugh and learn because my two daughters deserve a better a future than what I can give them right now.

I really enjoyed this movie and I look forward to watching it again one day when I have more time to dissect it, but for now I give it 4.4/5 and would definitely recommend.

 

 

Valley of the Dolls (1967) 9/1000

Valley of the Dolls (1967)

Rated: PG-13

Genre: Drama, Music, Romance

Directed by Mark Robson

Starring Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, and Paul Burke

Plot: Film version of Jacqueline Susann’s best selling novel chronicling the rise and fall of three young women in show business.

Movie Trivia: The character of Neely O’Hara was partially based on Judy Garland’s own history. It was Garland’s real life pill addiction that contributed to her leaving this film.

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The beginning with the silhouette of a thin woman turning into a mountain range as the narrator describes the climb of Mount Everest followed immediately by the three women becoming three pills that burst open to release cascades of granulated medication that bring you down to the opening title tell you quickly what this story is going to be about. You are given the impression right off the bat that this does not intend to be the sugarcoated reach for stardom that most pictures of this kind were at the time. The montage seems broken up and almost like pictures in a storybook rather than a flowing montage of memory. It is almost as if she is telling this from the future, after the fact, when she has already succumb to addiction, if the context clues so far tell me anything. The song during the opening credits along with the script for the credits themselves date the movie perfectly. The flashes of cemeteries throughout the journey seem very ominous, especially as the song talks about the scary joy of future.

Anne’s first taste of true show business should be her first sign that this is not the place for her, but it seems it is “possible future boss, ohmuhgah isn’t he so cute” is going to be changing her mind. As Neely takes the stage for the telethon I can see the correlations to Judy already. Her stage presence seems to be modeled directly after her. Sharon Tate as Jen is gorgeous. She is just as stunning as all the pictures and news reports made her out to be all these years. The music still dates this movie so much and not a single song has yet to be in a style I enjoy. The male singer seems so stiff, almost like a Ken doll flirting with Barbie.

As the night concludes you see the three girls separate into their different lives. Each one seems to be going in a different way, all of them seem like they are grasping at a false hope. Things look good for now but you are on the edge of a cliff and that jump could kill you. Now as Lawson performs for her first time it is even more obvious that while Neely was based off of Judy, she was meant to play this part. I think it would have been very interesting to see her in a movie that seems to match her own rise and fall in some ways. The darkened sex scene with zero nudity is one of my favorite old techniques for letting you know what was happening and still leaving just enough to your imagination. I have no issue with nudity, I enjoy it in most instances as a valid and effective story technique, but it isn’t needed all the time, especially as just a way to get views and raves from an audience. The montage of Neely advancing her knowledge and career, getting married, and beginning taking a pill of some kind.

The mysterious phone call from Tony’s sister to a doctor is very intriguing. I actually have no clue as of now what it could be in reference to. Neely seems to be doing well while Jen is being seemly used by Tony and Anne breaks off her tryst with her boss. Soon after she is offered the job of being a spokes-girl for a new cosmetic company which she readily accepts as a new challenge and an increase in quality of living. The following montage shows her popularity and glamour appeal rising steadily as the Gillian Girl becomes more and more popular. Next on the TV in Jen’s living room is Neely receiving an award. With Anne as the Gillian Girl, Neely a recognized star, and Jen married still to the love of her life and living in what appears to be great comfort, their false success seems to be lasting for a while, lucky them.

Seeing behind the scenes into Neely’s life we see the pills and the fame taking its toll heavily on her personal life, causing her husband to leave her at last. Anne seems to be back under the claws of her ex-boyfriend/ex-boss combo, which does not bode well for her innocent character at all. It seems the point of this so far is not quite learning from your lessons. Next we get the answer to the mysterious phone call to Tony’s doctor. He has a very rare genetic disease that will have him incapacitated within a year. On top of it all, Jen is pregnant and is seeming to have started her own pill regimen.

Anne seems to be the only one who has her head above water as this point while both Jen and Neely struggle to stay afloat as life deals them new heartaches and challenges. Neely is falling deeper into a spiral of depression fueled by pills and alcohol. Once her second marriage implodes it seems her spiral starts to quicken. Neely stumbling upon a porn theater advertising Jen seems to solidify this. At this moment Anne is the only one who has a hope at a chance of making it out of the world in one piece. Neely’s stoned and drunken stumble ending with her waking up in a place she has never been with a man she doesn’t remember going through her purse is reason number 294897 I am an introvert. I know that with proper knowledge and common sense and a little self defense that there are ways to protect yourself, but nonetheless, things like that scare me and I cant even begin to imagine Neely’s fear in that moment.

It isn’t until Neely wakes up in the hospital and describes how she is unable to sleep or get through the day without a doll that I realize that “doll” is in reference o the drugs not the girls. Again showing how my sheltered background makes it to where I am always learning something new that I just assume all other know automatically somehow. The scene of Jen in the porn was actually very artistic, especially when you compare it to modern porn. The way the lace curtain billows across hides just the right things at just the right times. The follow scene as Jen begs for her freedom to go home, I am brought again to the theme of the overall story. Heartbreak comes in call forms.

I remember a few months ago I said that Captain America: The First Avenger is where montages went to die. I was mistaken, I just had not gotten to this film yet. There are so many that the word is starting to lose meaning as I type it yet again. Neely’s montage about her time in the hospital is slightly different in the small fact that this time we have a thick grey-white mist around the edge of the picture to make it seem as if we are seeing this from her drug laced vision, even though she is on the shots as well. The movie feels like a mix between Mother Dearest and The Snake Pit at this point. The way that Neely delivers her monologue is very steady, almost like she is listing off something from a book, but it doesn’t fall flat the way that people usually use that phrase. In this case it feels more like Neely has cut off emotion from the experience. She is wearing a mask and she must maintain that mask. It also feels like she is attempting to send Anne through a guilt trip for playing a part in sending her there. The scene of Neely and Tony singing together is very touching and I feel like I enjoy this song much better as a duet. Tony does not feel as stiff, which I guess is ironic since he is technically considered a “vegetable” at this point.

Jen is the tragic beauty of this film, much like her real life off the screen. The makeup in this is also noteworthy. I may not be a huge fan of the music of this movie but the makeup more than makes up for that, no pun intended. As Anne is hounded by reporters as the scene of Jen’s death and the reporter asks “What were her measurements” I am drawn again to how close this resembled her actual death. She may not have committed suicide, but the focus on her body throughout her life and even into her death is foreshadowed in this film.

The phone call between Neely and Anne followed by the flashes between the two, the ocean, the pills and then Lyon seems to represent an internal struggle between the two women for Lyon and for health. I also see it as a temptation to Anne to begin a step down the same road. Anne’s overdose seems to be her last and her first as she stumbles out into the ocean waves, showing me I was right about the foreshadowing of the montage sequence between Anne and Neely after the phone call. As the theme song picks back up and the waves crash into Anne’s limp body I feel overcome with sympathy for her character. She is just as beautifully tragic as Jen but in a much different way. Like most deaths such as these, you think most about what they could have done with the life they threw away of whatever comfort they thought they had. Oh, yay! She is pulling herself back up!

The scene where Anne stumbles into her room and tosses the pills across the room feels like it is rage against so much more that the pills. Rage that she did not die, rage that she wanted to die, rage that Jen is gone and that her friendship with Neely is dissolving, rage that Lyon seems to not be with her anymore (emotionally that is). There is a noticeable lack of cemeteries on Anne’s journey back home, making you feel more hopeful as she returns home. As the film starts to draw to a close I am reminded of All About Eve as Neely becomes the monster that started her own path of self destruction. It is like that movie made all stars paranoid of the upcoming young stars even more than they already were.

Holy face of a twelve year old, Batman! Richard Dreyfuss looks amazing! And upon a quick search I have learned that this is his very first movie at the age of 20. I know I never knew that before watching this movie. He is so cute! As Neely drunken screams in the alley and paces back and forth, the slasher movie side of me is just waiting for Michael to be in the shot behind her each pass. It may not be Michael, but she is in a very vulnerable situation at the moment. As she starts listing off the people she shoved away before finally pleading to God and screaming her own name. So much is not said through words in this scene. You sense what it all really means in her head and I gain my first dab of sympathy for her.

I love that Anne walks out on Lyon, off to seek her own way separate from the hell she just left. As the theme song picks back up it feels less sorrowful and more hopeful as the lyrics tell of learned lessons and stronger wills.

This was a pretty good movie! Not a favorite, when it comes to movies about show business there are quite a few I enjoy more such as Sunset Boulevard, Mommy Dearest, or What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. I rate this a 3.7/5 and would recommend to the right people. No matter what it was a joy to watch the acting and Sharon Tate in particular after reading so much about her for so long. My last parting thought…. how perfect would Sharon Tate have been for a live action Sleeping Beauty? She looks so much like a Disney princess!

 

Full Metal Jacket (1987) 8/1000

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Rated: R

Genre: Drama, War

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring Matthew Modine, R. Lee Ermey, and Vincent D’Onofrio

Plot: A pragmatic U.S. Marine observes the dehumanizing effects of the Vietnam War has on his fellow recruits from their brutal boot camp training to the bloody street fighting in Hue.

Movie Trivia: Private Joker’s shirt on Parris Island reveals that his real name is J.T. Davis. It’s a deliberate reference to Spec. James T. Davis, the first officially recognized U.S. casualty in Vietnam, who was killed in 1961.

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The opening with the lamenting “Goodbye Darling, Hello Vietnam” song playing over a silent montage of young men having their hair shaved off. The simple visual of all the different hair lengths and textures tells a story in itself of each one of them coming from a different background and having a different story to tell. As it transitions to the next scene I am having an “a-ha” moment, most likely, yet again due to this nasty summer sold I have. I am not sure I ever realized that the famous sergeant parodied and referenced throughout all of media was from this movie. If I did know that, I forgot at some point before watching this today for my first time. This makes me, if possible, even more excited for what all is to come. As the scene unfolds I am getting everything I ever wanted. Everything this scene has been built up to be through my time in the cinephile community is been met and surpassed. This is hilarious and lets me know that I would not survive a second under a commander and an environment like that. Between my nervous laughter and low tolerance for high stress situations, I would die from anxiety. The more we see how the Privates are treated, the less humorous it seems. It truly is abuse in many ways. As they “pray” I feel chills run down my body. The terrifying kind of chill, as I pray myself that this is fiction. The thought of this kind of brainwashing is horrible especially when you look at how the military complex in America is structured.

I am not sure if it is my cold, my laziness, or the effectiveness of the scene, but my chest actually hurts as I watch them go through the physical endurance. I feel like I would be exactly like “Private Pyle”, which makes me nervous. I feel like he is most likely to commit suicide, and that breaks my heart. I find myself wondering where he came from, what brought him there. Watching his brother in arms all pulling to help him makes my heart hurt for my prediction even more. Watching as “Private Joker” stand up to the Drill Sergeant, I got my first ray of hope for Leonard as he begins to improve drastically. That hope is very quickly dashed as we see him making mistake after mistake, causing the Drill Sergeant to turn his punishments instead on the rest of the platoon. The night scene with the blue light saturating the screen does not bode well for Leonard. It seems that his brothers have fully turned against him at last. The beat him, all of them, and I am sickened and stunned. I feel it is only a matter of time before my prediction comes true now. The speech about the “famous Marine shooters” is chilling, and again I find myself begging for this all to be truly fictional and a part of me is almost scared to do the research to find out the truth. This is the problem of living in a very sheltered home for the majority of my life so far: I feel so naive when it comes to real life situations and things such as this and I feel like it is something I should know as a functioning member of society. I have to be informed to vote appropriately, even about things in the past, because it all matters.

Speaking of a sheltered upbringing, hearing the platoon sing “Happy Birthday, Jesus” calls to mind more than just a few memories of why movies such as this were sheltered from me. It is amusing to me, though, that right after the thought comes to mind about my sheltered life, a song that I sang every Christmas comes on. The way Leonard talks to his rifle shows me that he has truly been brainwashed by his time in training, which at this point in the film, I am not sure to take that as positive or negative. I am honestly surprised he made it though basic training, though the look on his face as the assignments are being read out… The sinister music of the next scene as Joker patrols the bunks puts you immediately on edge and I feel my cinephile senses tingling. Joker slowly swings the door to the bathroom open, and there he is. Leonard, loading live ammunition into a “full metal jacket”, and explaining the title of the film to me. (Side bar: anyone else feel like Peter Griffin when that happens?) I can see this going one of two ways and neither one look good. Either way I am going to say… I called it. And I am feeling less and less like him, I should add… I may be anxiety ridden and awkward but I am no killer. The look on his face as the Drill Sergeant walks into the room is horrifying. Every gasp and move leading to him shooting the sergeant right in the chest. That is the kind of scene that had me literally jumping up from my lounged position into full attention, nervous for what is to happen as the scene unfolds before me. The visual of the brains splattering on the white tile is amazing. The effects crew had to have worked long hours to get that done just right. The actor who played Leonard Lawrence, “Private Pyle”, did a phenomenal job. I feel the need to pause the movie and have a cigarette after seeing a scene such as that. The realism mixed with surrealism… it is how I could imagine feeling if I were actually there. You know it is happening but at the same time it feels like a dream because things like this “don’t really happen”.

The scene with the Vietnamese prostitute was another amusing moment for me because it is yet another scene I have heard referenced and parodied over and over but never knew it was from this! I really never knew so many cultural references came from this one movie. The nighttime bunk talks and laughter is cut short by the real reason they are all there. War. The scenes are laid out beautifully, the fire cutting through the night and illuminating the enemy troops. I love the button that Joker is reprimanded for and (especially since it is on the helmet of on the cover) I feel like it is going to carry some importance in the plot. The theme throughout is “killer mentality” and you cant go very long into the story without being reminded of that. The cut from Joker asking for the location for a mass grave to his reaction being at said grave was beautiful. You can tell in an instant that he was brought back to harsh reality yet again. The camera pulls back and widens the view of the audience so we are able to see the line of Vietnamese bodies lying side by side, covered in white lime. With an hour left, I sense a theme in the move spiraling progressively darker. Each scene is Joker’s journey watching himself and the world around him breakdown. Each scene brings him closer to his own break, I fear. The talk about his helmet and the button is perfect, explaining how the two represent the concept of the duality of man. Very beautiful and brings such a depth of meaning to the plot.

Joker coming to the Marine outpost has me almost sick to my stomach. The Marine pulling the hat off his “sleeping brother”, revealing instead an obviously dead Vietnamese soldier is horrible and very showing. We see them go into training with hope and future, it is literally beaten out of them in many cases, and then they are sent to another country. No wonder things like this occur, they are set up to occur. It it heartbreaking in its diabolic simplicity. The choreography of the soldiers and the camera as they make their way closer and closer to investigate the bombing after the lieutenant is taken down is stunning. The explosions and gunfire seem more realistic and less gratuitous than most action movies seem today. Granted, in war explosions make more sense, but nonetheless, it is a pleasant break to see explosions used in their proper context. The slow pan as they record the line of soldiers shows the pan of emotion this movie explores. Somber, scary, funny and then irreverent all at once. The interviews are the same. The final interview with Joker brings me back to my roller coaster in how I feel about his character. He really does represent the duality of man. He wants to see a beautiful place, immerse himself in their culture, and then kill them and be the first on his block with a confirmed kill. Both of those fit him, both of those are part of his integral character. And that duality scares me. Each scene is stunning. The set design and the detailed planing of every shot makes for a movie that you forget is a movie and not just a glimpse through a mirror into history.

As Cowboy takes control, a breakdown in command begins to occur. They are all friends, they are all in this together, they all have thoughts and feelings and opinions on how it should go down after this, and it seems like there is no one right or wrong answer. They all have give and take to be considered. But as one of the men breaks rank to try and help the fallen soldier, I sense that the tension mounting now will be broken soon and it is not going to go well for anyone involved. Seeing “Mother” running out after the now two fallen soldiers in the area ahead confirms my fears. They cannot think or reason beyond this animalistic instinct to follow what they think is right, and that moral instinct has been compromised by the abusive training. With the death of Cowboy there is a shift in the tension, ushering in a new feeling of fear. This time you are less scared for the lives of the American soldiers and you are more scared of what they are capable of doing now that they have lost so many friends this one day. Cowboy was the straw that broke the camels back so to speak. The music marks this shift as well, becoming almost like a metallic whining sort of sound matched with rhythmic, pounding drums. It is almost as if the combined loss has made them into a pack more than training and fighting ever could have. They are united in their quest for bloody vengeance now. But as you see a young girl holding the sniper rifle, yet again we are brought to the theme of the duality of man. Anyone can be brainwashed into violence for any reason if they have the right brain and the right teacher. It is a very scary thought. As the platoon stands around watching the young female sniper pray in Vietnamese while she dies, you see again how Joker represents both sides of humanity. The quest for peace is always, especially peace with ones self, is always at war with the will of society. As much as he projected it, it seems like he was not “born to kill” after all.

Seeing the platoon of soldiers marching through a burning city at night while seeing the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse Theme song is more chilling than I have words to really describe. The true meaning of that, the capitalism America invading your homeland with the aid of a cartoon mouse all while marching a death march that could also be skipped to. No somberness, no humbleness, no regret, just jovial bouncing songs and laughter as the culture burns around this. This scene in itself sums up a good deal of the problems with America at that time and also today.

This movie was deep and meaningful in so many ways. I see easily why it is such a favorite of so many because it has quickly become one of mine as well. 5/5 for this film to make two new favorites in a row! I’m on a roll!

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Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013) 7/1000

Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013)

Rated: PG-13

Genre: Biography, Drama

Directed by Lee Daniels

Starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and John Cusack

Plot: As Cecil Gaines serves eight presidents during his tenure as a butler at the White House, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and other major events affect this man’s life, and American society.

Movie Trivia: The character of Cecil Gaines was based on Eugene Allen, who served as White House butler for over 30 years and 8 presidents: Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. Much of the detail is fictionalized for this movie.

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From the first scene I can tell this is going to be a movie to remember. The age makeup, the classic music, the camera angles and then that vivid mental image of lynched black boys paired with the MLK quote. With the current climate, I feel like this movie is going to be very emotionally charged for me.

I was not wrong. I have a feeling that keeping myself on strict note taking during this film will be difficult. I am already emotionally invested and the story has only just begun. Seeing his journey from the field to the house as a servant breaks my heart. This is my heritage as a southern resident. On the ground I live has soaked the blood of slaves and Indians. I live in Memphis, so I have the added heartbreak of this being the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot. With everything happening in the world today, I could not have picked a better movie to blindly watch. I apologize in advance if this review is not as detailed as my others. It might be more socially charged than my other reviews, but for that I do not apologize. Equality is an issue I feel deeply about and I fight for daily. It was only a matter of time that I found a movie that put me up on that soap box.

Robin Williams does a good Eisenhower. This movie is very much making me want to research the real man that this story is based off of. Some of the script is a little weak in regards to the father-son relationship. There has not been enough development there, in my opinion. Cusack is amazing with the prosthetic. I mean… wow… I am convinced. He has the inflection on the voice perfect, the mannerism. Very impressive. Ohhhh, hello Jesse Williams! This cast really has everyone! Sorry, not sorry, Jesse Williams is one of the most beautiful specimens of humanity and hotness that I have ever seen. Watching the preparation for the counter sit-ins has me at the first sign of tears in the movie. Watching the white ally being forced to shove and shout racial slurs to  prepare not only the black woman before him but also himself for what to expect. We are in those times again in so many ways and as a white ally, I feel that scene deeply.

Showing the juxtaposition between the dinner sit-in and the formal dinner service at the White House is very effective. Showing the  hungry, scared protesters and then showing the black butlers to the law making white men as they stand in a corner and “don’t exist”. It is a very telling moment to define the thoughts of the time and of now: comply, don’t die. And then even further with the Freedom Rider’s scene in Birmingham. The National Civil Right’s Museum here in Memphis has the very bus they are showing in the movie. Seeing it in person, the twisted and charred metal chairs, the missing roof, just a week ago when I visited and now watching this scene, I feel much more connected to it.

Coming next to the assassination of Kennedy, seeing blood soaked Jackie… this movie is hitting every point and hitting it so eloquently. As Charlie is buried I am brought back to myself, remembering that I have neglected my note taking yet again. This movie just sucks  you in and makes you truly lose track of time as history rolls out before your eyes. The casting, the camera angles, the script, it all moved together so very well, seamlessly making me fall into the story, forgetting everything else. This is the kind of movie where after it had finished, I sat in stunned silence, staring out into space as the impact of the film made itself known. I am very surprised that I did not cry because I came incredibly close multiple times.

This is a wonderful film and I now count it among my favorites. Especially with all that is currently happening in America, I feel this movie is very important as a reminder. Check yourself often. Louis teaches us that there are right and wrong ways to establish change in a society. Cecil teaches us that sometimes you absolutely have to shake the status quo to show and stand for what is right. You cannot go too far in either direction or the message you are wanting to spread will get muddied and twisted by those who do not understand. I give this movie 5/5 and recommend this movie for EVERYONE.

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The Fly (1958) 6/1000

The Fly (1958)

Rated: “Approved”

Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-fi

Directed by Kurt Neumann

Starring David Hedison, Patricia Owens, and Vincent Price

Plot: A scientist has a horrific accident when he tries to use his newly invented teleportation device.

Movie Trivia: This became this biggest box-office of director Kurt Neumann’s career, but he never knew it. He died a month after the premier, and only a week before it went into general release.

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The opening credits seem to be rolling over technicolor images of dead bugs and fly swatters, which seems fitting. The music seems more romantic that I would expect, but the added buzz of a fly and cymbals do make for an effective, if short, opening credits.

The movie opens with a man coming in to work a graveyard shift at a factory, but he hears machinery running. He goes to investigate and finds a lovely woman, Helene, operating a large hydraulic press. She runs away at the sight of him, and upon closer inspection, he sees that she was using the machine as a weapon of murder. The workers scream becoming the ring of the telephone is very Hitchcock-esque. We cut away to Helene at home making a phone call to her brother-in-law (Vincent Price), stating that she killed Andre, her husband, and needs help. As she hangs up on him he receives a panicked phone call from the worker who stumbled upon the murder. Andre is his brother and he was killed in one of his own factories. Francois makes a frantic call to an inspector and explains the situation in full honesty.

Francois and Inspector Chares arrive back at the scene of the crime. The blood is so very red, almost like paint that as set a little. Red and sticky looking. The scene f the investigation feels pretty standard. We learn that she did kill him, though she claims it was not murder. But she refuses to say why it happened, only how. In the middle of the conversation, a fly begins to buzz through the room and she is immediately entranced, like a cat. She follows it to a lampshade and swats it away, almost as if she is disappointed.

Inspector Chares leaves her abruptly and asks to be shown Andre’s laboratory. It looks destroyed. They discuss the possibilities of what all will happen. One cannot help but notice the occasional buzzing in the background, keeping the title of the film constantly in mind. This is especially noticeable when Vincent Price ends the scene with the line about Andre and Helene not even hurting a fly.

The next scene shows Helene in bed being served breakfast by a nurse. During the conversation it is made known that she does not remember being a mother. Now, this could be an ill played joke or serious, but it seems for the moment like it is left for the viewer to decide. As she begins to eat, a fly begins to buzz around the room and much like before, her attention is caught, almost like a cat. The nurse notices as well and begins to swat at it. Despite all Helene’s pleading she swats the fly down with a rolled newspaper. She breaks down into uncontrollable sobs and is placed back in bed by the nurse.

Through the next scene as Francois and Inspector Chares discuss Helene’s condition, we learn that she indeed does not claim Phillipe as her child and, even more shockingly, that Francois is in love with her but did not marry her because of his brother. The next day a warrant is to be drawn up for Helene’s arrest. Over all, it is not looking too good for Helene. As the next scene unfolds we learn that poor Phillipe does not know of his father’s death. It seems Francois is keeping him in the dark to protect him. Phillipe says that he saw the fly is mother is looking for in Francois’ office. He explains that it is bigger than the last time he saw it and it has a white head instead of black and a funny sort of leg. Francois retire to his office at once to make a call to Inspector Chares, but hangs up as soon as the line connects.

Francois then goes to Helene’s home, lying his way past the nurse and into Helene’s room. He tells Helene that he has trapped the fly in his desk and demands answers from her or else he will turn the fly over to Inspector Chares. She makes him promise that he has it before she will continue. She explains that she was pretending to be mad for Phillipe’s sake and that the fly must be destroyed. She request that Inspector Chares comes to hear the story as well and then we begin the flashback.

Andre comes home excited and pulls Helene down to the lab to show her his newest experiment. He presents a plate that was given to them by and aunt and places it in a chamber on on side of the room. After some scientific knob twirling and button pushing, the plate disappears from the chamber and appears in a chamber on the other side of a door in another room. Andre explains that he transports the atoms through space from one space to another, which immediately brings my mind to Willy Wonka and the giant chocolate bars. All seems to be going well until Helene flips the plate over to show that the Made in Japan stamp has been reversed. Andre immediately goes to work to find out what went wrong, much to Helene’s confusion.

After running through everything and finding it all to be in working order, he decides to try again, this time with a newspaper. It goes perfectly, which gives him a scary new idea to try it with the family cat, putting a saucer of milk in there along with the cat. IT never makes a reappearance, but a ghostly meow and can be heard floating toward the distance. Lesson learned, I do hope. Weeks later he is still trying to work it out. Even taking his wife out has a little distraction in the form of math equations on the ballet program. That evening at home though, he entertains Helene by sending a Champagne set up through the invention, results are perfect yet again. Then he takes a guinea pig to show the next step in his progress. Helene begs him not to, but he assures her it will be fine and sends the pet on through. It works perfectly again. He  says that he plans to observe the pet for any ill effects after after that he can determine the experiment a success.

Helene is suddenly overcome with panic about the speed with which technology is being developed. She would be petrified to see where we are today, but I do feel like this is going to be a running theme of the film. As time goes on we see that the pig is doing well, so Andre decides to invite Francois over to show off his neat feat of science. When Francois arrives, he and Helene find a note on the lab door saying that Andre is not to be disturbed. He never comes up, so that evening Helene goes to check on him, finding a note giving her specific instructions to get a bowl of milk laced with rum. She does as she is told and bring it to Andre. His face is covered and he keeps his hand inside his robe. She look for a fly as the note bids her and admits to him that their son, Phillipe, had the fly earlier but Helene forced him to let it go. In a panic, he reveals his misshapen hand that he had kept previously hidden. It is now hairy and slightly shiny and it looks like a claw of some kind. This cause Helene to run from the room screaming. Once she calms down, they decide to  resume the search tomorrow after they have both had sleep. Andre also promises to explain.

The next day Andre has a letter typed out for Helene explaining that he was sending himself through the experiment and a fly got into the chamber with him. They swapped atoms and now his only hope is to find the fly and go back through the chamber or he will have to destroy himself. Helene, fearful for her husbands life, promises to help him however she can as long as he stops talking about killing himself. The following scene shows Helene’s apparent decent into madness as she orders all the flies to be caught and sending Phillipe out into the yard to hunt out there.  He comes home unsuccessful, but then she spots the white-headed fly she needs. The trap she concocts doesn’t work and the fly escapes through a hole in the window and out into the world. It seems hopeless now.

Andre feels the same but agrees to one last attempt at going through the chamber to reverse the process. Though once he steps out he seems to have no to little will of his own left. He resist the urge to kill her and uses the energy to destroy his lab instead. When she wakes up, Andre convinces her to help him end it. She follows him to the factory where the press is and Andre sets it up to the setting it needs to be at and instructs Helene to stand at the ready. He lays onto the press and silently begs Helene to push the button. She does, and then presses the button again to crush his hand.

Back to the present, Francois seems convinced by her story while Inspector Chares believe this to be proof of her insanity. The next day while on a walk, Francois stops at a bench where a spider has strung its nest. As a bell begins to toll a large fly smacks into the web and you can hear a tiny voice crying for help. As serious as it is meant to be, I could not help but find some humor in the scene. The ambulance arrives to take Helene away, but Phillipe runs up just in time to inform Francois that he found the fly in a spiders web in the garden. Francois grabs Inspector Chares and runs with him to the garden where they see a fly with a mans head. Inspector Chares grabs a rock and smashed both the man-fly and the spider. Francois notes the similarities between the crime he just committed and the one Helene is being charged of. The come up with a plan for it to be seen as suicide and the movie ends with Helene, Francois and Phillipe playing a happy, family game in the yard.

For my first classic creature film, this was not too bad. I am still not a fan of the genre but I would like to see the remake of this with Jeff Goldblum to see what changes were made. I give this film a 3/5 and see myself watching this around Halloween for some classic fun.

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Eyes Wide Shut (1999) 5/1000

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Rated R

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, and Todd Field

Plot: A New York City doctor, who is married to an art curator, pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once cheated on him.

Movie Trivia: Due to Stanley Kubrick’s fear of travel virtually the entire film was shot in and near London (despite the movie’s New York setting). Elaborate street sets built at Pinewood Studios were used for all the scenes showing Tom Cruise walking around the city.

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The music calls to mind a waltz as the credits fade in and out on black before showing a flash of a young Kidman from the back as she steps out of her black dress. We learn her name is Alice as Cruise (Bill, her husband) interacts with her about being late for a gathering they are both dressing for. The conversation with their daughter and the babysitter does not seem particularly noteworthy, though that seems to be a skill of Kubrick; drawing great meaning from the seemingly meaningless. The gala the are attending is lovely but as Bill and Alice dance, you are reminded of the reality of situations such as these. That is until Bill recognizes an old colleague of his that had dropped out of medical school playing the piano in the band. As the song end, Bill and Alice as Bill makes his way to reacquaint himself with the person he has recognized. They plan to meet later at the bar, but even though the exchange between Bill and Nick last for so short a time, Alice is left waiting at the bar for what seems like too long of a time. Time enough at least to get moderately tipsy and have a suave older gentleman begin to work her over. My first fear as he grabbed her glass was that she was about to have something slipped in it… that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we do not leave beverages out of eye sight while still consuming them.

We see a cut away to Bill as Alice is dancing and flirting with the older man. He has been somewhat sidetracked by a conversation between two women. The entire night seems to be taking a very odd turn as Bill and Alice are pulled farther and farther away from one another until Bill is finally called to the side of an overdosed naked woman in one of the upstairs bathrooms. As Alice emphatically says again and again that she is ready to leave that the tall stranger wont let her, I got very nervous about his character again. I am nervous for him to make a reappearance. The night ends with a passionately one sided sex scene as Nicole seems very bothered and distracted by the evenings events.

The following montage is beautiful not only in its display of the female form, but also in the music, and flow of the camera as it takes you through the individual days of Alice and Bill. The end the day half naked in bed together, smoking a joint, when Alice brings up the two girl she saw Bill speaking to at the party the previous evening. She plays it off playfully jealous but almost as if she wants an excuse for her own behavior the night before. He irrational response to him makes me believe that even more. Both have a disconnect in communication for sure. The camera dropping and raising with Alice as she succumbs to a laughing fit was stunning. Her monologue is so very well done. I feel every word she is speaking, and the small cutaways to Bill’s reaction is very poignant.

As her story ends, Bill gets a call on the phone about the death of Lou Nathanson. On his way to the scene, images of the night that never was between Alice and her sailor run through his mind like a movie reel, shown in a blue hued black and white, of her giving over to her fantasies. Marion seems a little odd and at this moment I am not sure if that is due to direction or acting ability. As she reveals that she is “in love” with Bill, I am still left wondering about her character and the ability of the actress portraying her. As Bill leaves, he is hounded by mental images of Alice and the sailor as well as a group of punks that lightly harass him. With the way he falls mindlessly into every situation makes it easy to believe that he will not walk out of this movie without first falling into a lot of trouble.

Cookies, milk, TV, and cigarettes… yeah, Alice and I would get along great. There is a noted lack of an “I love you” from Bill as he blows off his wife for the prostitute he has hired. Bill proves to be a better guy than first realized though as he decided to leave but pay the prostitute for her time nonetheless. It is a wonderful gesture and starts to make you wonder if he might love his wife as much as he claims to. Though as Bill passes a nightclub and sees Nick, his old friend, on the billboard, he makes the step through the doors and I come back to my opinion that he does not do too much thinking before he steps head first into a situation.

Every interaction between Nick and Bill starts to make me think that this could be a love story between these two. It seems apparent that the meat of the movie will be as Bill comes with Nick to this mysterious meetup. He is instructed to get a costume to gain entry to the party and the resulting scene is hilarious as Bill tries to convince the new shop owner to help him in a timely fashion despite it being the middle of the night. Once the shop owner stumbles upon his very young daughter with cross-dressing Asian men, the scene derails in a very fun way, reminding you to expect nothing and prepare for everything as the plot unfolds even further. Bill gets what he has come for and begins the journey by taxi to the secret meetup. The entire way more detailed pictures come to mind of Alice and her fantasy sailor.

The path Bill is taking by taxi is very wooded until suddenly a blue gate guarded by two men comes into view. Bill pays the driver and arranges for him to wait for him to return. He exits the taxi and talks with the guards, giving the password and then being escorted up to the house which is more of a mansion and surrounded by very nice vehicles. A red carpet treatment greets Bill as he enters the home. He dons his mask and steps into the forbidden world he as suddenly found himself in. The room he walks in to is filled with people in black robes, all wearing masks. In the center of the room in a circle knees a good handful of black robed people while a tall red robed man walks in a slow circle inside of the group, waving a bowl of incense attacked to a chain he is holding in his right hand. He carries a staff in his left hand, and everyone seems to be moving ritualistically. One of the participants is wearing a lovely black feathered headdress. The black figures rise and disrobe, revealing their half naked female bodies underneath before kneeling once more. Now as the red figure makes his way around the circle, he pauses in front of each woman and bangs the end of his staff on the ground to signal the woman to rise and choose a person standing in the room to lead off and one can only assume, have sex with them. The woman in the lovely headdress chooses Bill, which is no great surprise, but as she is leading him down the hallway following the others, she makes it known that she is aware that he does not belong and that he must leave quickly before something horrible happens. Before she is able to relay more warning than that to Bill, she is escorted off by another masked member and Bill is left on his own at the halfway point of the film, lost and confused in a place he knows nothing about.

Bill wanders room to room, witnessing orgy after orgy until the woman with the headdress finds him to give him one final warning, refusing to tell him why or how, but just to leave. As she slips away, the butler informs Bill that his driver is waiting for him at the door. Bill follows the butler but he is lead not to the door, but to a chamber that seems to be like a courtroom. The robes figures are present, the red one seated on a throne in the center flanked on either side by people in purple while the black robed individuals fill up the background in a sea of faces, all turned toward Bill. It seems judgement day has come.As he fails to give the second password and is forced to unmask and then asked undress, you feel the growing since of foreboding reach epic heights, broken at last by the voice of the woman in the headdress offering herself in place of Bill. Her requested is accepted on the condition that Bill never seek answers to the night or mention what he saw at the risk of his life and the life of his family.

The woman is led away by a man in a Plague Doctors mask and all requests to learn her fate are denied Bill. He returns home to find his daughter sleeping peacefully while Alice does not to be sleeping quite as soundly as Bill wakes her from what appears to be a laughing nightmare. She explains her nightmare to him after some prodding, saying that they were naked in a deserted city. In the dream, as Bill runs off to find clothes and Alice feels a sense of happiness and relief was over her, a sense of freedom. Then her fantasy sailor comes out of the woods near her in the dream, staring at her and then laughing. Bill pushes her further, knowing there is more. Alice reluctantly admits that the sailor began to kiss her and make love to her in front of an entire crowd of people all involved in a large orgy. She describes how she started having sex with multiple men, countless numbers, all while Bill could see, and all she wanted was to laugh in his face. Explaining the pealing laughter he woke her from. It is obvious that Bill is very bothered by this dream for even more obvious reasons.

The next day he goes to look for Nick but is not having much luck tracking him down. The story from the hotel clerk leaves a nasty taste in the mouth as the audience and Bill are both lead to believe without much doubt that Nick is most likely dead right now thanks to granting Bill access to the party the previous night. As he returns the costume to the shop he realizes that the mask is not in the bag with the rest of his items. We also learn that the father is now pimping his daughter out for extra money. It is as if the entire world has gone as sex crazed as him.

Bill shows back up at the gate of the mansion of the party, and the intro of simplistic piano music reminds you of the warning issued to him by Red Cloak as he departed. As a car slowly approaches the gate, you feel a shiver of apprehension.  He is given an envelope and the car retreats as fast as it came. The crescendo of piano as he opens the letter makes for baited breath watching. Inside is another vague warning to not search for more answers. He goes home to his family, but with the plan to go out again, I am not thinking he plans to head the warning.

His evening out consist largely of retracing his steps with Domino and learning he dodged a major bullet by opting to not have sex with her the previous night. I do find it very telling that the headline on the paper he chose reads “Luck to be Alive”. A very fitting heading for his own day, for sure. In the paper he sees a report of a death that it seems he connects to his feather headdress wearing savior from the party. From hair color, it seems as if he is on the right track, though not much more can be positively identified from the corpse of the woman. His steps trace him even further as he is brought back to the man he aided with the overdosed prostitute at the party. He informs Bill that he knows what happened the previous night and what has happened since. This is a mind explosion for both Bill and the audience and I am very intrigued to see what will transpire from this conversation.

Through the explanation of Bill’s friend from the party, I am not sure if this is truth or cover up. Part of this feels very like “Rosemary’s Baby”, the true meaning and motive behind this cult seems so deviant and evil. The entire explanation seems like an appeasement, especially as we see his lost mask laying next to Alice in bed while she sleeps. As he notices it himself when he gets home, we see him break down at long last and tell Alice all he has been through the past 24 hours. We see the toll this takes on her and it is very easy to imagine her sense of betrayal and shock, especially with the holiday season to celebrate with their young daughter. As they are talking in the mall and coming to terms with this new found phase of marriage, the one constant thought I have… where is their daughter and who is watching her?

Over all, this was an… interesting movie. I am not sure I can judge it fully from one viewing, but unfortunately this year that is all I have the time for. On that note, I give the film a 3.5/4 with an invisible extra half point for the sheer creative confusion I now find myself in. Someone want to go into a discussion about this movie? It is one to be studied through multiple play-throughs and in depth discussions to decipher every movement.

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9 (2009) 4/1000

9 (2009)

Rated PG-13

Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure

Directed by Shane Acker

Starring Elijah Wood, Jennifer Connelly, and Crispin Glover

Plot: A rag doll that awakens in a postapocalyptic future holds the key to humanity’s salvation.

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The opening seems very Edward Scissorhands as we see the creation of the ragdoll with somewhat mystical and mechanical components. The animation feels very smooth and expressive. The lack of dialogue from his awakening feels perfect, like the world is destitute. His first view of the world confirms this and we are given an explanation to his silence: he lacks a voice box. With the current political climate in America, this movie feels more terrifying than it probably would had I watched it a year ago. The “Revolt!” posters alone send chills up the spine.

We are finally introduced to another ragdoll like 9 who seem elderly and kind. My first question is why he has the bullet if he recognizes its danger. The attack by the feline bone-machine type creature is very gripping all the way until the resolution of the scene with the creature bounding away and 2’s unique hat shattering to the ground as he glances back at 9. It is a swift reminder that this is not the family feature that most animated films lend themselves toward (not most families at least). And that is furthered by the flashback to the rather intense war sequence where the ragdolls are hiding and dodging guns, boots and bullets as a battle rages around them, ended by a toxic gas killing everything.

That brings us to the present of the story, the remaining ragdolls surviving by hiding and taking absolutely no risks, which means not risking the mission to rescue 2 even though 9 saw that he was still alive as he was being taken away. 9 convinces 5 to help him and again I am reminded of the current American political climate. All of this can be used as a metaphor in my head, especially with what is happening with the democratic party. 5’s need for order and control causes him to lose control and run into the dangerous path before them. It is rather funny that Elijah is the voice of 9, as this duo reminds me much of Frodo and Sam, though it has yet to become fully clear in my mind which is which.

The entire trip feels like it is sped up, but not in a hurried way. More as a way to show you that even though the perils are great, the distance is not as far as it may seem. They quickly find 2 and proceed to fight the creature holding him captive before the mysterious 7 comes to the rescue, slaying the beast and saving the day. Before anyone can stop him, 9 places the mysterious relic in the mechanism, releasing an energy ray that fries 2 and makes a large GLADOS type villain come to life. Things do not look good for our tiny heroes at this point. I can see easily why it was listed as ages 13 and up under the ratings guides. The more conservative parents would not enjoy their snowflakes being subject to such violence.

The newly activated machine immediately begins to build, ominous music accompanying this scene. The backstory we receive immediately follow that scene shows us what all there truly is to fear from this invention. The explanation by 9 leads me to believe that I have figured out by which means the machine will be defeated, but lets see where the plot takes us.

The ambush by the birdlike machine in the ragdoll sanctuary was a tad jarring for me, just because I have a deeply ingrained phobia of birds. It was beautifully choreographed and animated, the storyboards must have had this impeccably planned as each shot streams together seamlessly. The way that 9 got 2 to trust him will go very much unrewarded is my reading of 2’s character is correct. Bringing the head of the bird back to its creator seemed almost biblical in application.

The goon of a ragdoll getting high is quite the concept and goes far to explain his simpleton behavior when all the rest seem to be so advanced. You also a a huge read into 9, 7, and 1 as the true reason for 2’s capture was revealed. Then a quick flash back to the goon as he is seemingly hypnotized by an unknown force. As 1 ventures out alone, we see that it is 2, behaving much as a zombie himself with a snakelike tail. The creature introduced next is one that is near impossible to describe… the creative of look and concept alone leave me speechless, but the added animation and the application of the ideas make for a horrifying new addition to my nightmares. For the sake of ease until a name is given to it by the film, I shall dub this creature hypno-mantis-cobra (HMC)

The aftermath of the HMC leaves them all intact and with a body to reclaim and bury. They have a short-lived moment of unity (1 watched from the background) as they lay 2 to rest before continuing on to the path to find where 9 woke up and found the relic that began this entire issue. As they enter the chamber where the machine resides, they learn of its evil plan. the goon is used as demonstration as the machine sucks the life force from him and absorbs it into itself.  Even with an alarm being sound, it seems like the plan is going pretty well. The factory explodes, the ragdolls are safe. Though I am not sure I agree with 5 when he says “It’s done.” Somehow it does not feel done, especially with 1 still seeming to control the fate of the group as quasi-leader. Everything is so happy, records are playing, but as 5 looks toward the wreckage and sees spidery legs crawling, we are given a movie go to that was beautifully done.

5 bravely called the alarm but not soon enough to safe himself from being consumed by the machine. 6 discovers the truth and tried to relay to 9 the mission to find the first room still, that there is hope still. Ans again I feel like I have this movie pegged, but there is still time to be proven wrong. Back at the first room, 9 runs immediately to the papers scattering the floor of their creators lab, finding a hologram box under his creators hand addressed to him regarding the machine he had awoken. We find out that each of the ragdolls are pieces of the creators soul, broken off to become one with the machine to govern its actions for the preservation and betterment of humanity.

Invigorated with new purpose, 9 rushes back to his new friends to try to explain what they must do and stop them from killing the machine. They are firing on him and 1, as usual, refuses to listen to reason. That is until he sees that 9 is willing to sacrifice himself. At that moment he pushed 9 out of the way, allowing for 9 to take out the relic that began this all. He sets up his pyre of respect and pressed the correct sequence on the relic to release his “fallen” comrades in a holographic type medium. They take their places around the pyre and then float away to the heavens, causing rain to fall and wash away the destruction. The camera zooms in on the water drops and we see tiny bacteria inside each drop of water.

This movie was much deeper than I anticipated, but it was pretty good. rather predictable, but that does not necesarily mean bad. It was fun film and I give it 3.5/5 and would recommend to the right person, not blindly.

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The Sting (1973) 3/1000

The Sting (1973)

Rated PG

Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

Directed by George Roy Hill

Starring Paul Newman, Robert Redford, and Robert Shaw

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Plot: In Chicago in September 1936, a young con man seeking revenge for his murdered partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker.

Movie Trivia: Robert Redford did not see this movie until June of 2004, even though it won 7 Oscars.

The music and opening credits make this feel very vaudeville, like I am about be in for a fun show. Watching the first man step to the side as the thief runs off with the mans money makes me really suspicious of him, but I am not too trusting of Hooker either. Ah yes, immediate confirmation on the first man as he runs off, and immediate confirmation on Hooker as we find out he was part of it the whole time. Now that is a creative con, and really leads me in to be excited for what else is to come.

Seeing Hooker in the casino is heartbreaking. He seems like a wonderful guy and like someone who should have a better head on his shoulders but his constant reaching for the next big thing clouds his judgement of the present. I am actually finding it hard to take notes while I watch this one because the script has me fascinated. It is like music, in a way, sharp and quick with an intelligent design. Redford looks amazing in the maroon pinstripe suit, skinny and tall, quick and agile. Luther’s death hit hard to both Hooker and the audience member as the call went unanswered. I knew in that moment and my heart sank.

The transition between the different phases or chapters of the film is beautiful, reminding me of Norman Rockwell and of a happier time that almost comes in juxtaposition to the fear and tragedy just witnessed through the plot. The background painting and set design makes it feel almost like a carnival. Paul Newman’s character seems very hardened but at ease at the same time. He has a past but he tends to not let it get too much in the way of his present it seems.

The makeover sequence was funny and reminds you that this movie is not overly as serious as the underbelly of the plot allows you to occasionally believe. No dialogue with the ragtime music makes it feel like a silent film, completely with the slightest touch of slapstick humor. Hooker placing the scrap of paper in the crack of the door shows a good deal in the the skepticism and mistrust he has of society, especially after what happened to Luther. Setting up the next con was a beautiful showmanship of camera angles and script writing. It looked like a painting.

Watching this film I can see where countless others have gained inspiration for set design especially, but for many other things as well. Every scene feels almost too perfect, like it would in a musical or a cartoon, but realistic enough for you to know this is real life. As the plot builds up to the poker game I feel myself genuinely invested in the outcome, wanting Hookers first big con to go well. But So many things are working against them from the start, it is hard to see it working out perfectly, that it if it works out at all. The series of fancy card tricks ending in a 52 card pickup seems to be foreshadowing that.

Paul Newman’s drunk impression in hilarious and the slow con is fascinating and thrilling all at once. I am not sure if it is because I am a poker fan or it was just that well done, but the entire sequence made me almost giddy as the final hands were revealed. Hooker’s betrayal seems like the next step in the long con more than anything. Hooker is the second man in the operation after all. This is quite the test for his fist time outside of the small game on the streets. And we see that the paper scrap came in handy quite well as Hooker escapes into the dark for his life.

We find out quickly that is was Doyle who set up the shooter in Hookers home, making me wonder just how well this con might go over yet again. They are sending me through quite the roller coaster of believing if it will work out or not. Which works very well for the genre overall. Every moment drips with anticipation as another layer of the con is revealed. Will this be the one that falls through? Or this one? Each scene adds to the film, which seems like a simple thing but it isn’t, really. Every scene seems necessary.

The closer we get the the climax the higher the chance of failure becomes. Each step is bigger and riskier than the last, but at this point you aren’t too sure who you are pulling for. Part of you want the target to find out, even if it is too late, to see the look on his face as he realizes he’s been had, and another part of you wants them to completely get away with it. Though the constant threat to Hooker’s life leaves you to believe that no one will quite get out of this scot-free.

The sting goes off and it had me going myself until the FBI was checking the door after the target left the building. What a great ride this has been! I found myself glued to the screen on more than one instance, forgetting to blog and take notes as the impressions hit me. It was true comedy and wit like I have not seen in a long time. I give this movie a 4.5/5 putting it very close to being added to my list of favorite movies. I recommend this one for sure.

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The Usual Suspects (1995) 2/1000

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Rated: R

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Directed by: Bryan Singer

Starring: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, and Chazz Palminteri

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Plot: A sole survivor tells of the twisty events leading up to a horrific gun battle on a boat, which began when five criminals meet at a seemingly random police lineup.

Movie Trivia: Kevin Spacey had to read the script twice when he first received it, to make sure he fully understood it.

 

I am very excited to watch this one! As a cinephile for a number of years I know all about this film although I have yet to actually watch it myself. I know about the twist ending, I know about the final plot, but nonetheless I am very excited to finally add this to my watched list so I can discuss it in more detail in my cinephile communities.

The movie opens up with a beautifully morose scene of moonlight reflecting on water with violins and pianos composing a lullaby of sorrow while the opening credits fade in and out. The music has a hushed yet hurried quality to it, calling it mind classic crime, almost mafia-esque. Now that could be due to my foreknowledge of the film, but it is what I hear regardless. The music is cut off suddenly by the strike of a match. The way the light from the line of fire illuminated small details of the scene is very well done. The death and destruction. As Keyser douses out the flame, proceeds to kill Keaton, and then relights the liquid, you cannot help but see a huge insight into his character. It is almost as if he does not want to allow Keaton the satisfaction of blowing up the boat, especially without gaining the satisfaction of killing him first, for whatever reason. The dialogue is simple and chilling as Keaton asks for the time before the kill is made. He wants to know the time of his death and through that small question you can imagine in an instant what all could be going through his head.

The fade away cut to Spacey in what looks to be a courtroom of some kind looks surreal, almost dreamlike. The harsh light shining down directly above him and the quality of the audio (I do hope my sickness isn’t adding to this), seems to me as if it is an exaggerated portrayal of truth, a biased truth, like you are not intended to truly trust what you are about to be told during this monologue. The cutaways, flashbacks and quick pacing of the scenes leading up to the famous lineup made for a refreshing and at times comical introduction to the people we will be dealing with in this film. The lineup scene itself did not disappoint either, it was funny and furthered the understanding of each character, intriguing you as to what happened between this day and the night on the boat.

Although the scenes of the five guys being interrogated look very similar to the scene with Spacey, the hue of the overhead light is remarkably different. It is more golden and natural here, where the blue/white light on Spacey seemed otherworldly. The scenes following are interesting but nothing popped out to me as notable until Verbal begins his interrogation. You see quickly how he got the name Verbal and Spacey does an amazing job adding small quirks to the character. It feels almost like Norman Bates in a way.

The extreme close up to Verbal’s eye leading to the fade in of the next scene was like poetry. His slow sip of the coffee, the angle of the camera, it felt as if we were whooshing into his mind. The way Keaton is so distracted by the lingering looks of the other conmen for the lineup is very telling. You can see the electricity jumping between them and you can see that despite his own reservations he will be joining the crew. The conversation between Keaton and Verbal seems to solidify this, especially as Verbal milks the disability to gain sympathy from Keaton. Spacey portrays this character so very well, walking down the stairs, the tensing of his arms, you can tell he practiced this stance religiously to get it just right. His hard work paid off in a big way.

At the halfway point of the film, we have seen two jobs go down. One was successful and the other not so much, leading the team to realize that Redfoot might not be as trustworthy as McManus has led them all to believe. Through it all you are brought to Verbal and Keaton being the two main characters of the crew. Everyone else seems to be a supporting character in the plot while these two seem to be dodging and playing one another just right. Again, this could be due to foreknowledge of the film, but I sense Verbal playing Keaton throughout, twisting him to feel like he is in charge when really it is Verbal who is the mind behind the entire operation, pulling each string without anyone being the wiser.

As more is revealed about Keyser Soze you see the true depth of Spacey commitment to his character. Every single word drips with conviction and truth. Th extent of the web Keyser Soze controls is terrifying in its mythical nature. It is very much an urban legend kind of power, and since we are getting the complete story from the horses mouth, so to speak, it is hard to sort through what is exaggeration and what is truth.

As the movie builds to the climax, you are riveted to the screen with the choreography of explosions and special effects. The sequence is almost completely devoid of dialogue, using camera angles, lighting and special effects to move the story along now. The brief break to go back to the interrogation room is a good reminder to the viewer that this is still just one side of the events from a sole “survivor”. As the ending draws closer, you are given much more solid clues as to the identity of Keyser Soze. The fantasy film noir style of the vision of Keyser Soze falls very much in line with Verbal’s own self image, playing into what he knows the cop wants to hear to let him go.

I feel like I am saying this a lot, but yet again Spacey is absolutely flooring me with his performance. The despair of betrayal is so real, so attainable. You truly feel sorry for him in that moment. The violins bring us into the ending, completing the circle as the cop realizes his horrible mistake and seeing Soze slip into a car to walk away free as a bird.

 

I am very glad to have this movie under my belt at last and I definitely see the appeal that it holds over others in my cinephile community, but I am not sure I am as wowed by it as I probably would have been had I watched it sooner. Nonetheless, it was artistic, entertaining and a movie that I will not soon forget. This solidified my opinion on Spacey’s talent, it was one of the best performances I have seen in a while. I give this movie 4/5, and would recommend.

 

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