Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Parallax View Review

I generally don’t watch conspiracy thrillers.  And now I know why.

This movie strikes me as being guilty of what I might call “Preacher’s Realism” – trying to make a movie that convinces people they’re seeing what life is really like by playing to their suspicions and intuitions, just to stir up a passion for the subject matter.  This may sound like another word for propaganda, but propaganda sounds too official, whereas this is more petty, like a kid on YouTube trying to convince people that President Obama is the Antichrist.  We’ve seen this in the religious films from Pure Flix, and the semi-religious Tomorrowland sermon movie.  The Parallax View sets itself apart from these films by avoiding focusing on a real event that conspiracy theorists care about, instead fabricating events to build original conspiracy theories around.  That being said, the way that the movie is done, particularly with its bookends, is surely designed to anger the viewers by making them feel as though they are being lied to by a government that chooses not to see the truth, claiming instead to accept “evidence.”

I can understand why many people appreciate this film.  It’s written cleverly, has some neat visuals, and a good cast – I particularly love seeing William Daniels in just about any role, which made his character in this movie fun to watch.  I can’t say that it’s a very boring film, or that it’s stupid.  Technically, it is well done.  I just can’t bring myself to like it very much, for two main reasons.  First of all, I have a hard time getting into a genre that focuses on realistic events if they aren’t real events – I like fictional stories to feel like fantasies.  This kind of film is sometimes considered to be a re-imagining of the film noir genre, and it takes a lot for me to really enjoy the story of a film noir movie more than the atmosphere, which this film does not achieve on the level of, for example, Blade Runner.  Secondly, and most importantly, I am offended by the thought of a film that sets out to make its viewers angry with those who base their views on evidence, and make them value evidence less as a result.  This is unhealthy for the culture, and it is an abuse of the power of cinema.

116 The Parallax View

The Party Review

There are times when a normal review is insufficient or inappropriate for a unique movie, and I think this is one of those times.  So, to boil it down to the key focal points, this review will focus on what I consider to be the movie’s two major pros and two major cons.

Pro #1: the team.  It’s basically the Pink Panther gang, doing Pink Panther comedy.  Blake Edwards is in the director’s chair, and the result is very much a Blake Edwards film, which is (for the most part) a good thing.  As one would expect from Edwards, the film is dependent on impressive performances, unique characters, believable character relations, and visual/physical comedy, all of which proved to be dependable this time.  The music is provided by Henry Mancini, of course, and even though I’m not as big a fan of this soundtrack as I am to that of The Pink Panther, the music still has that Mancini charm that is unique to his soundtracks.  (I think I even heard him work in a little bit of “Meglio Stasera [It Had Better Be Tonight]” in the background of the bathroom scene.)  Peter Sellers is predictably the star, and he handles the role of Hrundi V. Bakshi much like the way he performed the character of Clouseau – with perfect timing, charming naivete, and a carefully comedic accent.  This performance, however, is rather controversial, as it has Sellers wearing brown makeup to play a man from India, which leads to first main con.

Con #1: the white-washing.  To illustrate what makes it hard for me to sort out my feelings about the casting of Peter Sellers in this role, I have made the following chart:

White-washing graphic 01

For a better overview of the issue of white-washing in film as a whole, I recommend an editorial by Doug Walker that can be viewed by clicking here.  As for this film in particular, however, I am rather stumped.  It must be Sellers in this role, or else there’s no point in having the role.  Sellers is expected to do a funny accent, and the funny accent he does in this film works well for the character, but unlike with Clouseau, this accent only works if he uses makeup to look the part.  I naturally want to defend Edwards and Sellers, which might not be so difficult seeing as how sources indicate that former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is known for citing one of Sellers’ lines in the film that she felt expressed the positive self-identity Indians should have.  However, my moral concerns cannot be entirely appeased by this, and this does knock the film’s grade down by a few marks.

Con #2: the plot.  Spoiler: there isn’t one.  Not in any conventional sense, that is, because the vast majority of the film is just one party that gradually gets crazier and crazier.  Pink Panther fans expecting some clever storyline in which Sellers fights a villain who’s going to use the party for villainous means are bound to be rather disappointed to find that there is no such story.  There is only gradually building chaos.  This means the movie can get a little old after a while.  On the other hand …

Pro #2: the story.  Considering the lack of plot, it is amazing just how cleverly they handled the concept and story.  There is a particular order and form to this film that must have been crafted very, very carefully to make a motion picture that remains as funny as this one does.  Yes, as I alluded to above, it can go into “tederesting” territory, but it keeps bouncing back with a joke that was cleverly set up a scene or two earlier.  It’s actually rather amazing that Edwards and his team managed to pull of such an oppositional film in a way that’s easy to digest, and a heck of a lot of fun to watch.  This is very much its own kind of film, and I for that I cannot help but appreciate it very much.

115 The Party

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

I had to watch it at some point – it’s unfortunately my duty.  That being said, by coming into this film expecting a terrible movie, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a lot of it is interesting and enjoyable.  Starting the movie with a laughing Vulcan is enough to make one curious, and the curiosity keeps cropping up throughout the film, which I think is a sign that the story can’t be that bad.  True, the premise is strange and ridiculous – I mean, they essentially go find God in space – but I can enjoy just about anything as long as the character dynamic of the original Kirk, Spock, and Bones is present (unless it’s as tedious as Star Trek: The Slow Motion Picture).  I really don’t have much else to say about this one because, while I recognize that a lot of it is awkward, clunky, corny, unbelievable, bizarre, needless, and boring, I have to admit that whenever they focus on the relationships between the characters, I’m happy to be along for the ride.

114 Star Trek V Review

Persepolis Review

It’s hard to find a film that could make me feel more ignorant than a French-Iranian film that’s based on a comic I’ve never read and set in a context that’s both before my time and on the other side of the planet.  However, what makes me appreciate this film so much is that I don’t need to have a full understanding of this context in order to enjoy it.  Since it’s the story of a girl growing up during the ’70s and ’80s in Iran (and partially in France), it might sound like it would be intangible to an American audience, but this film sort of seems to take advantage of western ignorance by showing this history entirely from the perspective of a young girl.  She becomes a channel for experiencing a piece of this world during this time period, and that’s what makes it so interesting.

The writer/director team of Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud (the former having written the aforementioned comic based on her own life) have amazing talent for handling serious, unsettling, or adult matters in a way that’s easy to digest.  The unique animation style makes it a pleasure to view, and some of the music that’s featured and/or mentioned adds to the fun.  The most notable music sequence in the film is something I would not want to spoil, but I must say that it’s amazing how they reworked what feels like a very cliche kind of scene (I mean, this song has been used for this sort of montage dozens upon dozens of times) into something anyone would adore is truly remarkable.  While I’m not the type to enjoy a story that doesn’t really build to any particular resolution of a main conflict, I do think this film stays just focused enough that the likability of the characters keeps me as invested as I need to be to thoroughly enjoy it.  The story does seem to lack an ending, but since it’s based on real life and has no historical basis for an ending, I won’t deduct any points given the fact that all the good content they packed into the 95 minutes makes it a good story anyway.  Perhaps the most impressive thing about it is how universally enjoyable it is.  I can’t recommend this film to absolutely everyone, but I would have to recommend it to most, because it’s clear that this is one story that was handled with care, and it’s a delight.

113 Persepolis Review

JD’s Favorite Movies – May, 2016

Last year, on Geek Pride Day of 2015, I posted a list of my favorite movies.  Then, this past Thanksgiving, I posted an updated list.  Why?  Because my list is always changing, with films moving up and down drastically all the time.  Since my feelings about certain movies have evolved so much, and since I watch a lot of movies, I think that this is a good list to re-publish in approximately six-month intervals.  So, with six months’ worth of changes, here’s the updated list of my top 100 favorite films of all time:

  1. The Muppet movie series (’79, Caper or MTI, MMW, 2011, MTM or Carol, then Space)
  2. Labyrinth
  3. Who Framed Roger Rabbit
  4. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
  5. Duck Soup (1933)
  6. The Gremlins series
  7. Mary Poppins
  8. The Back to the Future series (1, then 2 and 3)
  9. High Anxiety
  10. The Naked Gun series (1, then 2, then 3)
  11. The Wizard of Oz
  12. Play It Again, Sam
  13. The Ghostbusters series (1, then 2)
  14. The Truman Show
  15. Some Like It Hot
  16. The Breakfast Club
  17. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
  18. Young Frankenstein
  19. Casablanca
  20. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  21. The Dark Crystal
  22. Annie Hall
  23. The Princess Bride
  24. Beetlejuice
  25. Airplane
  26. Phantom of the Paradise
  27. CLUE
  28. Hot Fuzz
  29. The Twelve Chairs
  30. Carrie (2013)
  31. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
  32. Follow That Bird
  33. The Lego Movie
  34. Silver Linings Playbook
  35. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  36. The Harry Potter series (5, 2, 1, 7 or 8, 4 or 6, then 3)
  37. The Pink Panther
  38. Wayne’s World
  39. Spaceballs: The Movie
  40. Citizen Kane
  41. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  42. Ever After
  43. Silent Movie
  44. Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan
  45. The Hunger Games series (3 or 2, closely followed by 4, then 1)
  46. Batman (1989)
  47. The Graduate
  48. Sleeper
  49. The Lion King 1½
  50. Blazing Saddles
  51. Magic in the Moonlight
  52. Batman: The Movie (1966)
  53. Hook
  54. Crazy People
  55. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  56. Inside Out
  57. Singin’ in the Rain
  58. Monty Python’s Life of Brian
  59. Robin Hood: Men in Tights
  60. Shaun of the Dead
  61. The Sound of Music
  62. The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle
  63. Cinderella (1950)
  64. Metropolis (Giorgio Moroder version)
  65. Scoop
  66. The Road to El Dorado
  67. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
  68. Doctor Who: The Movie
  69. Back to the Beach
  70. The Parent Trap (1961)
  71. Twelve Angry Men
  72. Charlotte’s Web (1973)
  73. The Little Mermaid
  74. A Night at Casablanca
  75. Matinee
  76. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
  77. Amelie
  78. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  79. Babes in Arms
  80. Strike Up the Band
  81. Alice (1990)
  82. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  83. Her (2013)
  84. Ed Wood (1994)
  85. Guardians of the Galaxy
  86. Aladdin
  87. Beauty and the Beast
  88. Delirious (1991)
  89. Persepolis
  90. The Outrage
  91. Rashomon
  92. This Is Spinal Tap
  93. Annie (1982)
  94. The Spy Kids series (probably 2, 1 or 4, then 3)
  95. Forbidden Planet
  96. Blade Runner
  97. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex
  98. The Lion King
  99. A Night at the Opera
  100. Flushed Away

Just a reminder, this list is a very loose one, so give or take about 20 spaces with most of them.

Unlike what I did with the two previous publications of this list, I’ve cut out episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000, because it’s the context of the show that makes those movies enjoyable, so I’d better save those for a list of my favorite TV show episodes.

Also, I cut out documentaries.  To make up for this, here’s a list of some of my favorites, not necessarily in order:

  1. I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story
  2. Being Elmo
  3. The People vs. George Lucas
  4. The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story
  5. With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story
  6. The Unbelievers
  7. I Know That Voice
  8. Comic Book Confidential
  9. Sound City
  10. This Is Not a Film

Lastly, I’d like to list a few of my least-favorite films – the ones I hate the most – if only because I can only justify having Perks high up on the positive list by having it higher up on the negative list.  It’s a complicated film.

  1. God’s Not Dead
  2. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
  3. Daisies
  4. Wavelength
  5. 2001: A Space Odyssey
  6. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013)
  7. Up
  8. Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
  9. The Smurfs
  10. Elf

Now you know more about my cinematic tastes than you needed to, and I think we all know you’re better off for it.  Happy Geek Pride Day!


UPDATE May 26th, 2016: it occurred to me too late that I meant to put Mel Brooks’ The Twelve Chairs up high on my list a few months ago, and I somehow forgot.  To fix this, I have just placed Twelve Chairs between Hot Fuzz and Carrie, which bumped the film that had been in my 100th spot – Austin Powers – off of the list.  Consider Powers to be an honorable mention.  (Also, I just moved Citizen Kane down a few spaces, because I can’t let this movie get too proud – it may be great, but it deserves to be brought down a peg.)


 

Phantom of the Paradise Review

Whoops.  I only meant to watch the first few minutes of the movie before going to bed, so I wonder, how did I end up staying awake into the middle of the night to finish it?  Oops.  I meant to return it to the library after I watched it, and yet somehow it stayed in my computer with PowerDVD running different scenes from it everyday, which I accidentally kept watching.  Oh, poopy – I had other music I meant to listen to, so why have I been listening to this soundtrack so much over the past month?  Uh oh, it looks like a Blu-Ray copy of this movie somehow became a priority on my birthday wishlist, even though I had more important needs than another Blu-Ray for my collection.  Crap!  I wasn’t supposed to be happy that I actually got the Blu-Ray for my birthday instead of an external hard drive!

And to think, horror isn’t really a genre I go for, so I wasn’t even supposed to like this very much.  Whoops-a-daisy.  By gosh, it sure is amazing what mistakes can be made because of something nearly flawless.

But seriously folks, I can see the movie’s mistakes.  I see the inconsistency in the camera quality, and the continuity errors with the Phantom’s makeup.  I can tell that the editing isn’t always entirely professional, like when it accidentally indicates that Phoenix has noticed a gun, even though she hasn’t.  Somehow, I find these little blemishes to make the movie a little more human, and to make it all the more fun.  It is no surprise that this is a ’70s cult classic.  It’s a movie I’ve been meaning to see for a while since Paul Williams is always talking about it, and I’m a big fan of his, but I just wish I’d realized that I needed to see it sooner so I could immediately start preaching the good new of Phantom of the Paradise to all the world.  I can’t help but feel as though this ignorance was a big mistake on my part.

Whoops.

112 Phantom of the Paradise

Phantom of the Opera (2004) Review

Since my last review was of a movie from 2004, it’s only natural that I would follow it with another film from 2004 that has absolutely nothing in common with it whatsoever.  How’s that for a segue?  Terrible, I know, but I have no other explanation for how I ended up watching (and reviewing) such a ridiculous movie.  The stage musical, as far as I’m concerned, is fine, in spite of its issues, but I can see how adapting such a strange production into a film would be challenging.  Joel Schumacher took on this challenge with a bit too much confidence it seems, because he clearly took a lot of creative chances, trying out whatever would seem most interesting.  Sometimes this worked okay, but for the most part, the result was a rather awkward movie.  Not terrible – it’s still interesting and the music and visuals are often impressive – but focusing on the portrayal of the main characters alone is enough to make one wonder, “How on earth could this be what they were aiming for?”

I have nothing much else to say, except that it seems rather needless.  Just see the stage show.  Or, cut to the chase and by the title song from the soundtrack, listen to that a bunch of times with the synth sound blasting through a sub-woofer, and then I’d say the key part of the Phantom experience is covered.  On the other hand, there is a movie musical that adapts the same story in a way that also takes several big, strange, creative chances, and it works quite well.  I’ll save all that for my next review, but for now, let us all remember Schumacher’s Phantom the only way we can: by making a confused face and shrugging in unison.

All together now.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

111 The Phantom of the Opera (2004)