Archive for March, 2009

ELVIS (THE EARLY YEARS), James Steven Sadwith 2005

Posted in Biopic, Drama with tags , , , , , on March 29, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

elvisfirstyears

I’m suffering from Elvismania lately and need to feed my curiosity with as much stuff of the King as possible.

I’ve started by reading the first part of a biography by Peter Guralnick called Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, which covers his childhood, teenage years and his rise to stardom until the military service period. I highly recommend this book if you want to learn from his early figure as a shy and humble character willing to learn and to please everyone, especially his parents, Vernon and Gladys.

I’ll keep on reading Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley, by same author, which has been described as a masterpiece.

In the meantime I’m enjoying amazing shows such as ’68 Comeback Special, Aloha From Hawaii, The Lost Performances, and any documentary about the King, such as Elvis By the Presley’s, the Last 24 hours…everything I’m able to find.

We discovered this movie by chance, although it counts with famous actors seems that wasn’t advertised nor promoted at all, moreover instead of a proper film, it it more addressed to be one of these crappy telefilms to be broadcasted after lunch for not very critic audience.

Elvis, aka the Early Years, reviews in almost 3 hours the rising of Elvis into stardom, from the humble teenager discovered by Sam Phillips by chance to become the first and most prominent music superstar the history has witnessed, the army period, his years in Hollywood and eventually the point of inflection in his career, the ’68 Comeback Special.

Not only his artistic career was interesting but also his personal life and circumstances to understand who Elvis really was. He’s the most outstanding example of what the expression “from rags to riches” means: he grew up in a very poor family with constant economic problems due to Vernon’s difficulties in keeping a job, constantly moving from one house to another, brought up in a very religious environment, and overprotected by his mother, Gladys. His main aim was taking care of his folks and provide them as many commodities as possible, he lived in constant fear of turning back to where he came from, which probably caused him to depend on a slavery rich way of life, accepting any kind of deals his manager Colonel Tom Parker offered in order to save  huge amounts of money in his bank account which allowed him to carry an extravagant way of life but at the same time contributed to make him more lonesome and miserable.

Elvis in his golden lame suit

Elvis in his golden lame suit

Also relationships with women are reflected in the movie, however only 3 are more outstanding: Dixie, his first love from before he started to become a star; Priscilla, whose relationship started in Germany during his military service when she was 14 and who’d eventually become his wife and mother of his only child Lisa Marie; and Ann-Margret, a famous wild and rebel actress who co-started one of Elvis’ movies and apparently had an affair.

The subjects of loneliness and loyalty which are constant concerns for Elvis are also depicted in the film.

I could tell more and more about the plot, the actual life of Elvis Presley, but I prefer to encourage you not only to watch a film if you can get a bit more acquainted with Elvis both the figure and the person but also to read Guralnick’s books, which I think have inspired this telefilm, for many of the most outstanding moments in the movie are exactly the same as how are told by the writer.

My opinion is divided regarding the movie, which I considered to be not a bad summary of Elvis’ early years connected to Guralnick’s biography, but the telefilm concept kills all the essence of the story. I don’t know how to explain it what you notice it’s been film differently with not as many devices as with a proper film, and even though it counts with actors such as Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Elvis), Rose McGowan (Ann-Margret), Randy Quaid (Col. Tom Parker) or Robert Patrick (Vernon Presley) you witness and overacted film with not much quality in performances and not good acting in dramatic scenes. Of course, there are certain sentences which are taken from actual sources but script cannot be considered one of the best.

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers seems a bad choice for Elvis’ role to me, especially for two main reasons: he always overacts and is too much effeminate. Period.

Well, this is obviously not the most desired Elvis’ biopic by his die-hard fans but I reckon it would be  a risky enterprise which could fall into Hollywood commercial targets forgetting about who he actually was and focusing on a superficial story  similar to Johnny Cash’s biopic Walk the Line.

ROBOCOP, Paul Verhoeven 1987

Posted in Action!, Directors, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , on March 15, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

robocop-poster

 

Yesterday was a good day for me, not only because Spring seems to be real at last but because I enjoyed a mini buying spree  which  made me feel very very happy. And one of my best purchases was RoboCop. Yeah! Eventually it’s mine and couldn’t wait to see it after so long long time, so as soon as I arrived home we watched it and enjoyed one of the best sci-fi 80s movie, amazed by how I was allowed to watch so much violence in my childhood with no major consequences as nowadays parents and adult people intend to convince that can affect kids in a very wrong way.

 

But let’s focus on the movie first and then open for discussion.

 

Set in Detroit in a not so far away future, the city development is endangered by crime. OCP, Omni Consumer Products executive chief has designed a new Detroit city to be built over the old and damaged city ashes but in order to proceed with the plans crime must be erradicated or at least controlled as not to risk the huge investment, that’s why, Police Department is bought by the company, something not well received by cops, who threat to start a strike which would ruin the city even more if possible. Cops are dying on duty on a daily basis and not enough units are available for patrolling and keeping order, so basically situation is chaos.

 

Dick Jones (Ronny Cox), the old man’s right hand, presents a robot prototype called ED-209 as the solution to end with crime in the city, apparently all tests have proved to be succesful however when showing its abilities to OCP executives the machine fails to commands and kills one of them, something that ambitious Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) approaches to convince the old man that his RoboCop  project could be active in less time for less money and more effectiveness.

Ed-209

Ed-209

On the other hand, on a lower level, in a regular police station, Alex J. Murphy (Peter Weller) starts on duty with officer Anne Lewis (Nancy Allen) as his partner. When tracking down a very dangeruous group of criminals led by Clarence Boddicker (Kurtwood Smith) in to an old mill, Murphy is violently killed with Lewis witnessing the execution unable to protect her partner and no backup available to assist them.

 

Murphy’s remaining parts of his body, basically his face and head, are used for RoboCop project, becoming half man, half robot, with memories apparently erased, for serving and protecting the community, as RoboCop, the cop that can work 24/7, the perfect invincible and most efficient Police arm to eradicate crime in Detroit.

Lewis calibrating RoboCop's gun

Lewis calibrating RoboCop's gun

Everything will work fine until RoboCop starts remembering…and seeks for vengeance.

 

I commented already about Total Recall, which in fact was filmed 3 years after RoboCop. You can guess Verhoeven’s signature in both movies easily with several features in common, both full of violence, futuristic and both box-office hits.

 

RoboCop resists passing of time better than Total Recall except for ED-209 motion scenes which remind of the all Star Wars AT-AT’s and AT-ST’s movements. Well, looking for some information, Phil Tippet, the animation creator, was also involved in Star Wars in stop motion animation. What a coincidence, huh?

 

Regarding the subject I was mentioning at the beginning, violence in this movie is constant, plenty of blood, dramatic execution of Murphy’s, rape attempts, people shot…I don’t remember when I watched RoboCop for the first time, but I’m sure I wasn’t more than 13. Honestly, I didn’t remember so much violence, memories are very selective I guess, but reviewing the the movie yesterday I got very shocked. I don’t remember it to be rated, and it was the typical movie all kids were in love with. We were continuously watching violent movies and nothing happened to us. Nowadays adults try to protect their kids from watching violence on TV due to the apparent consequences it may cause, however news, which are unrated, show blood and violence constantly in a more shocking way, seems that the more you see the more you’re concerned, but nobody criticizes this, only movies and videogames.

 

A different question dealt in RoboCop is the good and bad thing in different aspects. For instance, when creating the Robocop from Murphy first is tried to approach one of his arms, however Morton decides to get rid of it, for once the cop has been officially declared deceased, they can do and manipulate the body in the way they want. Is it correct? Verhoeven lets the audience decide. What about the moment when cops are to execute RoboCop? Lewis and others try to stop the shooting for he/it is just another cop, he’s accomplished the tasks he was designed to, however, because they have been commanded to eliminate him, no reasoning is admitted. Is this right or wrong? The savior suddenly becomes an outlaw.

 

RoboCop is not just an action movie, there’s more meaning or message beyond that, and I find that very interesting. Definitely a good movie to see.

 

THE MALTESE FALCON, John Huston 1941

Posted in Classic with tags , , , on March 15, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

maltese_falcon

 

Due to recently seen crap still pending to be commented here, I’ve decided to review some of the all time classics, from comedy to drama, focusing on the most relevant titles of the most established and respected directors.

 

To start, we have the Maltese Falcon, based on Dashiel Hammett’s detective novel, directed by John Huston.

 

Spade (Humphrey Bogart) and Archer, the modest private detective partners, receive the visit of an elegant and wealthy-like lady, Miss Wanderly, who requires their service in order to find her missing sister. She mentions the name of Thursby, who’s to be tracked by Archer, and pays them 200 bucks, enough to know she’s not telling the truth, but as money talks, the prefer not to ask many questions.

 

Late that night, Sam Spade is informed that his partner has been shot to death, and also Thursby follows same fate, becoming Spade suspicious of murdering. On the other hand, to add more mess to the situation, Archer’s widow, is in fact Spade’s jealous lover, which also will contribute the detective to be under Police surveillance.

Spade and his new friends

Spade and his new friends

Spade will be meeting dangerous people, among them Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre) and Kasper Gutman, whose main objective is to recover  a priceless statue of a black falcon of historic value at any cost, getting involved in complex situations, from being tailed, to be sedated, threatened to death…

 

It is really a good movie however  many people are involved in the plot and so quick and dense dialogues  sometimes can be very confusing, you have to pay attention to any single detail otherwise you’ll miss something.

 

In my opinion, Bogart’s performance is the best, very personal and charming, I enjoy his frivolist attitude and the way he faces the criminals. Very elegant style tried to be copied unsuccesfully, just one Boggie is enough. One of the best, definitely. 

CARNE (MEAT), ARMANDO BO 1968

Posted in Drama, Just Fun with tags , , , on March 8, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

carne

First time I got acquainted with Carne was during a Trash Culture exhibition five years ago here in Barcelona. It was showed together with two more small screens catching both image and sound of audience’s reactions during the session in Sitges Festival. I remember having a good laugh, however couldn’t finish it and got frustrated for all these years, until I received a copy as a present.

Apparently the story told in Carne was based on true events, however I think the facts were far too different as presented in the film.

Delicia (Isabella Sarli) is a gorgeous and sexy woman who lives with her old and sick grandfather and works in the same meat factory plant as her boyfriend Antonio, who loves to make portraits of her naked and is very frustrated for not being able to provide her an accommodated life.

Delicia’s beauty is too outstanding to be unnoticed by males in town, who see her as a piece of tender and juicy meat. Humberto, aka the Macho, one of the drivers is obsessed with her and will start forcing and raping her anytime he feels the need to possess her, no matter where or when, in the middle of her way home, by the railway track or during working hours in a meat fridge. He keeps on abusing by threatening her and because he adores her boyfriend she keeps this terrible secret to herself, scared of Antonio leaving her for being a slut and having lost her purity. However,  he starts noticing something is going on because she starts to act weirdly, and because he thinks she’s not honest with him and probably is cheating on him he decides to separate temporarily until his doubts are cleared.

Humberto designs a master plan for he and his friends to satisfy their appetite for her once for all which consists on one of the crew to distract her and abduct her into a freezing container truck and drive her to a hidden and quiet place to start a brutal sex party. What nobody counted on was on a neighbor kid witnessing the whole scene who will tell Antonio about Delicia’s kidnap.

Container party time!

Container party time!

Delicia is raped several times but some of the men prefer not to abuse her for several reasons. Eventually Antonio reaches the place and fights against all the gang, not noticing that she has escaped during the confusion.

Hot and dramatic shower

Hot and dramatic shower

Eventually Humberto is definitely punished by Antonio and Delicia’s pride and dignity avenged.

Carne seems a terrible drama which could be a Hollywood success, doesn’t it? Well, the greatness of this movie is precisely the opposite, how such dramatic moments are depicted in (almost) a comic way.

Dialogues are simple and stupid, and Isabella Sarli is such a bad actress that when about to be raped you can’t help laughing for the way she rejects and fights against men, it’s almost impossible to act like this on purpose.

I don’t really know what went on at the time of casting characters but guess Sarli’s two powerful reasons had something to do with it, there’s no other explanation for that. In fact, the movie, very impudent and almost pronographic at that time, is an exhibition of Isabella Sarli‘s charms.

Yes, Carne is definitely a piece of kitsch shit, I wouldn’t dare to recommend it to anyone without risking my integrity but it was fun when I discovered it five years ago and it was great to see it again, just to remember a very good time in the past.