Monday, August 29, 2011

Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor's "Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance"

 Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor take over the Ghost Rider franchise from Mark Steven Johnson's dismal 2007 attempt.  Does the new trailer promise a better film?  You decide!

Check it out here!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Psycho (1960)

1960, Paramount Pictures

Principal Cast:  Anthony Perkins, Vera Miles, John Gavin, Janet Leigh, Martin Balsam
Director:  Alfred Hitchcock
Producer:  Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay:  Joseph Stefano
Cinematography:  John L. Russell
Plot:  A young woman steals $40,000 from her employer's client, and subsequently encounters a young motel proprietor too long under the domination of his mother.  (Courtesy: IMDB)

Awards & Nominations

Academy Awards
Best Actress in a Supporting Role:  Janet Leigh - Nominee
Best Art Direction/Set Decoration (Black & White):  Joseph Hurley, Robert Clatworthy, George Milo - Nominee
Best Cinematography:  John L. Russell - Nominee
Best Director: Alfred Hitchcock- Nominee

American Film Institute

  • #14 of the 100 Greatest Films
  • #1 of the 100 Most Thrilling Movies
  • #2 of the 50 Greatest Villains (Norman Bates)
  • #56 of the 100 Greatest Quotes ("A boy's best friend is his mother.")
  • #4 of the 25 Greatest Film Scores

Director's Guild of America
Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures: Alfred Hitchcock - Nominee

The Essential Films

Golden Globes
Best Supporting Actress:  Janet Leigh - Winner

National Film Registration Board
Included in the National Film Registry as an important and/or culturally significant film

Writers Guild of America
Best Written American Drama: Joseph L. Stefano - Nominee

Well, if the woman up there is Mrs. Bates... who's that woman buried out in Greenlawn Cemetery? 

Everything you have read, seen or heard about this film is probably true.  Unfortunately the "twist" ending has been parodied to death (no pun intended) and it, along with its iconic score, is part of the American pop culture landscape.  However, if you have never seen Psycho, then you owe yourself a good scare.

Behind Jaws and The Exorcist, Psycho is easily one of the best horror, thrillers or horror/thrillers of all time.  It's not just because the film features a serial killer (although that plays a significant role), but because the film is genuinely terrifying.  

One of the reasons this film is so scary is that the scares are earned by a well-crafted screenplay.  Instead of using the tired conventions of modern horror films where something "jumps out" at the audience, the screenplay builds its characters, their motivations and their actions so well that when the scare comes it is natural and organic instead of contrived.  What is quite genius about Stefano's script (which was based on a novel by Robert Blotch), is that one of the main characters has what appears to be a petty motivation at the beginning of the film.  However, without entering into spoiler territory, Hitchcock completely manipulates your expectations and as Act I ends and Act II begins you are completely caught off guard as to what to expect in the film.  It's at this point that the Norman Bates character becomes the main crux of the story.  His motivation and character development are so fascinating that it dwarfs the rest of the plot and characters.  The mystery surrounding what is truly going on at the Bates motel is one of the most well-written in cinema history.

Obviously, Hitchcock's value can never be understated, but he truly did create a horror milestone.  Just examine the infamous shower murder scene.  A scene that even people who have never seen the film can immediately call to mind when the film is mentioned.  It is incredibly frightening, disturbing and terrifying.  Notice, however, there is no gore.  None.  You see a knife, a shadowy figure, the beautiful Janet Leigh screaming in terror and finally some blood trickling down the drain.  You never see the knife wounds, or stab marks, however the rapid-fire editing, the point of view shots (from both the victim and the killer), the sound effects and of course that unnerving score by Bernard Herrmann all combine to make one of the most violent scenes of all time.

While Hitchcock certainly had his easily recognizable styles and themes, they never overshadowed the actors or the performances.  Whether it was Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo or Cary Grant in North by Northwest, Hitchcock always populated his films with incredible actors.  Janet Leigh and Martin Balsam both give fine supporting performances, but the true star of the film has to be Anthony Perkins.  Perkins' portrayal of Norman Bates is all at once terrifying, pathetic, sweet and off-putting.  He clearly belongs on the list of the greatest film villains of all time.

Psycho is a horror film without monsters, ghosts or gore, yet it will never cease to terrify audiences.  It challenges expectations and its ending will drive you crazy.  But that's ok... we all go a little mad sometimes.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Roman Polanski's "Carnage"

The trailer for Roman Polanski's new film "Carnage" has been released.  Check it out!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

FORCED PERSPECTIVE, Ep.3 – Revenge of the Apes!

There’s a whole lot of revoltin’ going on as SportsGuy515 and Adolfo discuss Cowboys & Aliens and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. And in this week’s TOP 5 List, the duo countdown the best “REVOLUTION” films.


Samurai Rebellion (1967)

Samurai Rebellion
1967, Toho

Principal Cast:  Toshirō Mifune, Yoko Tsukasa, Tatsuyoshi Ehara, Etsuko Ichihara, Isao Yamagata, Tatsuya Nakadai, Shigeru Koyama, Michiko Otsuka
Director:  Masaki Kobayashi
Producers:  Toshirō Mifune, Tomoyuki Tanaka
Screenplay by:  Shinobu Hashimoto, based on a novel by Yasuhiko Takiguchi
Cinematography:  Kazuo Yamada
Plot:  The mother of a feudal lord's only heir is kidnapped away from her husband by the lord.  The husband and his samurai father must decide whether to accept the unjust decision, or risk death to get her back. (Courtesy: IMDB)

Awards & Nominations

British Film Institute
Sutherland Trophy

Venice Film Festival

Samurai cinema is often overlooked by some as violent, bloody action movies.  While some certainly fall into the category, it's a certainly a crime to paint them all with the same brush.  The samurai films of the 50s and 60s were certainly much more than blood splattered sword fests.  Yes, they are exciting to watch and contain action sequences, but that's never really what the film is about.  Akira Kurosawa, whose legendary samurai films include Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, and Sanjuro is often considered the premiere director of this genre.  But it's his contemporary, Masaki Kobayashi that brings us Samurai Rebellion, a film that holds its own and then some against those samurai giants of cinema.

Samurai Rebellion is an incredible piece of filmmaking.  The story:  Isaburo Sasahara is a swordsman on the verge of retirement.  It's a time of peace, he sees no use for his skills anymore, so he puts his son, Suga, in charge of the family and moves on to a quiet life.  Enter the clan lord who ends up ruffling some feathers.  Apparently the young woman he married had the nerve to strike him, so he orders Suga to marry her.  Suga, in the interest of keeping peace within the clan agrees, but the family (and Suga) is pleasantly surprised when the marriage becomes a happy and loving one.  Ichi, the new wife, bears Suga a child and for a while, everything seems perfect.  But the clan lord changes his mind... he wants Ichi back and expects Suga to cooperate.  This is too much for the Sasahara clan to handle. Isaburo and Suga take a stand to protect their family, no matter what the costs.
Kobayashi directs this film masterfully, pacing it perfectly.  It starts off slow, he slowly builds up the tension of the film, but then gives you a breather.  He builds it up again, backs it off, and then really ramps up the tension until the last act of the film when Isaburo and Suga finally revolt against their entire clan in a bloody battle.

The actors, specifically Mifune as Isaburo and Yoko Tsukasa as Ichi, are phenomenal.  Mifune, if you've seen his work in other films, always brings his acting chops to the table.  But Tsukasa is so perfect.  She never overacts, and her character's tempered emotions are heartbreaking.  

The cinematography by Kazuo Yamada is gorgeous.  Whether shooting a large, sweeping, panoramic shot, a contemplative medium shot or a tense, emotional close-up, everything looks absolutely perfect.  By 1967, most films were shot in color, so the black and white photography looks especially great.

Isaburo Sasahara is indeed one of the great film heroes.  The final battle of the film is, like most samurai films, bloody and exciting; and Isasburo is an expert swordsman that kills off many attackers in a climactic scene.  But this is not what makes him a great hero.  If you get too lost in the action, you'll miss the point.  Throughout the film, words like "honor" and "duty" are used by the clan lord and his representatives to bend Isaburo and Suga to their will.  They MUST obey.  But the "rebellion" of these samurai is not about disrespect or lack of honor.  Isaburo realizes his true duty in life is to protect his family, above all else, and everything else is a distant second place. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho
2000, Lions Gate

Principal Cast:  Christian Bale, Chloe Sevigny, Reese Witherspoon, Jared Leto, Willem Dafoe
Director:  Mary Harron
Producers:  Christian Halsey Solomon, Chris Hanley, Edward R. Pressman
Screenwriters:  Mary Harron & Guinevere Turner based on the novel by Bret Easton Ellis
Cinematography:  Andrzej Sekula

American Psycho is a character study on Patrick Bateman.  Bateman is your average Wall Street, 1980s era yuppie that places a high value on material possessions.  Oh yeah, he also likes to kill people.

I want to stab you to death, and then play around with your blood. 

Full disclosure:  This film is ambiguous.  It does not have a clear cut, wrapped in a ribbon, answers every question kind of ending.  In fact, it raises some contradictions that some might consider plot holes (they're not) and never addresses them.  Herein lies the brilliance of this film.

Most people think this is about a serial killer that goes around killing people.  It's not.  That plot is just the tool this film is using to illustrated the real point.  This film is about obsession.  Obsession about social class.  Obsession with material possessions.  And most importantly, obsession with yourself.  It is therefore no coincidence that this film takes place during the 1980s.

Bateman works for a stock firm.  He never seems to actually do any work, but that doesn't matter.  He's rich, and seemingly successful.  He's obsessed with getting the nicest things, wearing the nicest clothing, living in the nicest apartment, eating at the finest restaurants, etc.  He has an exhaustive morning ritual that he explains in detail at the beginning of the film. He is obsessed with these material achievements, because of what they mean:  a higher, more elite social status.  Hell, Bateman even gets infuriated when one of his colleagues has a nicer business card than his.  Society tells him what he should want, but when he gets it, he feels nothing.

Bateman only feels anything when he succumbs to his extreme addictions.  Mainly, killing people.  When he realizes the previously mentioned colleague is surpassing him professionally, he brutally kills him.  Bateman, even when he's not killing people, exhibits these violent tendencies with just words.  Whether it's a bartender or his girlfriend, he will blatantly admit he's killed people or admit how he wants to kill someone.  No one ever listens.  This is the true criticism the film is trying to make.  Even when this brutal killer is confessing, no one seems to be listening to him... because they are too wrapped up in their own lives.  They are too obsessed with themselves.
Bateman kills people.  He does it because he needs to feel something.   It's at those moments of violence that his "mask,"  the face he shows society, finally comes off.  Hell, he even allows himself to savor cheesy 80s pop music while he's doing his horrible deeds.
Any more discussion or points that I'd like to make on the movie would be getting into spoiler territory.  Just watch the movie, and think about the ending.  If you REALLY pay attention and you REALLY think about it, you'll realize it's not that ambiguous after all.