Archive for August, 2011

TRUE ROMANCE, Tony Scott (1993)

Posted in Action!, Romance with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Summer sales are the best, and I’m not talking about clothes, considering this is a blog about movies. I’ve bought more than 10 movies in the past month which, of course, I will review here.

First film I decided to watch was True Romance, for two main inspiring facts: a public TV channel was broadcasting Jackie Brown, a film I love and already commented here, and second, because I just started the very same day to review The Sopranos, my favorite TV series of all times. Thus, mafia on one hand, and Tarantino’s genius helped in my choice.

I hadn’t seen this movie in ages and reckon I got more fascinated than in previous occasions, probably because I paid more attention on the dialogues, characters and the amazing crew of actors working on this bloody and violent American dream story.

Clarence (Christian Slater) is a comic book guy in Detroit. Continuing his self-imposed tradition, he spends his birthday enjoying a Sonny Chiba triple feature at a theatre on his own. A hot chick named Alabama (Patricia Arquette), for no apparent reason, joins him in the session, and will accept to go for a coffee with him afterwards. The rest you can figure out, they go to his apartment and have a good night. However, Alabama will confess the encounter wasn’t by chance. She’s a call girl, and she’s the birthday present for Clarence from his friends. It was too much coincidence.

What she can’t control is the instant crush on him, Alabama is completely in love with Clarence, and it’s the same the other way round. Thus, they get married immediately.

Everything happens so quick, Alabama’s stuff is at her pimp’s joint. Clarence decides to pay a visit to Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman), following Elvis Presley’s advise, tell him Alabama’s non of his business anymore, grab her stuff, and probably kill him. He accomplishes his mission, but there’s something out of frame: the suitcase he takes is not his wife’s, and it’s full of cocaine.

Rid of Drexl, Clarence and Alabama need to take care of the suitcase. Sell the blow, take the money and be happy ever after. But as you can imagine, things are not so easy, drug dealing involves many sides, and this one remaining, led by a cold mafia guy name Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken), won’t put things easy.

Thus the married couple heads to LA, thinking is the perfect place for selling the dope at good profit, considering the film industry scene as the potential customer, plus Clarence’s friend, Dick (Michael Rappaport), an actor looking for his opportunity in the bizz, who apparently has the right contacts. As their brilliant future seems closer, things get more and more complicated though.

This is a movie that, if you don’t know Tarantino wrote the script, but you’re fond of his work, you quickly know his trademark is present. It’s weird he didn’t direct it, considering the noise spread thanks to Reservoir Dogs, but as far as I’ve read through the net, he just sold the script and forgot about the issue quite much.

True Romance is excessive, in all senses, love is crazy, violence is brutal, and situations are impossible…very very Tarantino’s.

The way everything happens, or better said, the speed at the events occur, reminds me a bit of the comics.  Everything related to feelings specially, is quite summarized. Can you imagine people falling mad in love overnight? I consider myself a romantic person, serious, but no, I can’t imagine myself so in love all of a sudden.

Truth is Alabama and Clarence are not an average couple. The comic store guy gets such a pretty girl he’d never dream of, but she comes with the package, and he needs the strength and guts, to preserve his reward. All his bravery will bring out encouraged by his personal angel, Elvis (Val Kilmer) in his golden suit. Suddenly, Clarence the loner and loser, becomes a tough guy, willing to do whatever to defend and put their love at safe.

What about Alabama? She’s like a kind of late 80’s Marilyn, the hot blonde. It’s kinda fun, her sister Rosanna’s  film with Madonna, Desperately Seeking Susan, comes always to my mind, when referring to True Romance. The appearance, the clothes and accessories, this funny and careless attitude, turn Alabama into an icon.

I really love the way characters are added to the plot, turning the plot into a complex net. The pimp, Clarence’s father and Coccotti, Dick and Elliot, the cops… the rhythm is shaking, all the characters are, how to say, relevant, rich and interesting, and several of them, thanks to the actors playing them and the dialogues, are super charismatic and unique: Gary Oldman as the white pimp pretending to be black; Walken as the perfect mobster, firm, polite and cold, but eventually losing patience; Hopper, the loving drunken father who is a loser living in a trailer, who’s got nothing else to lose… these are examples of what I mean. Characters are carefully developed, all of them having their moments.

I’ve already mentioned dialogues. Tarantino is a master, I’ve written this already on this blog. I’m a diehard fan of them. The ability of creating an increasing and extreme tension at certain points, to finally explode, is awesome. Constant references to classic films really show how passionate he is about everything. I love that.

True Romance is a rough story of love, and a search for the American dream,  peppered with violence and action…perfect combination for any given Sunday evening. What else can you ask for?

EASTERN PROMISES , David Cronenberg (2007)

Posted in Action!, Directors, Drama with tags , , , , , , on August 13, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Can’t believe I haven’t talked about  this movie here yet, this is unacceptable! I’ve seen this film at least 4 times and reckon it’s one of my favorite ones of the past decade. Let’s put some remedy to such mistake.

Back in 2005, with A History of Violence, David Cronenberg started the so called Trilogy of Violence, which is still unfinished, and don’t think with the upcoming A Dangerous Method, comes to an end either.

Anyway, Eastern Promises is no doubt another example of violence, but this time from a perspective of the Russian mob in London nowadays, settled for at least 10-12 years and becoming powerful and very dangerous.

The starting point of the story is the death of a young Jane Doe, named Tatiana, at a maternity ward, by giving birth to her baby girl, in unfortunate and extreme circumstances.

The midwife who last assisted her, Anna (Naomi Watts), finds a diary written in Russian in her hand bag, and is determined to find any relatives so the newborn will escape from the bureaucratic adoption procedures.

Despite her Russian  roots, she can’t read the diary, plus her uncle Stepan does not agree to nose at dead people personal values. By chance, she finds a card from a restaurant named Trans-Siberian, so she decides to pay a visit, hoping someone can give her some information about the teenager or at least, get some help to translate the diary.

Once there, she will meet the friendly owner of the place, Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), who suggests her to come back the following day, so he can help her.  However, behind the amiable mask of a tender old man, the head of one of the most dangerous Russian mafia families, Vory V Zakone.

Problems will start the moment she hands him a copy of the diary, in which both Semyon and his careless and shallow son, Kirill (Vincent Cassel) are named and accused of very terrible things. This little spot in his business is something to be vanished easily, but what nobody takes into account is the driver, Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), very close to Kirill, and acquainted with everything happening, and another two-face character.

Last time I watched Eastern Promises was 4 days ago, with my best friend. First thing she told me was that she hadn’t seen it before for being too sensitive to violent scenes, getting especially anxious when raping involved. Didn’t think much when I reckoned it wasn’t so violent, remembering only the scene at the public sauna. Don’t want to spoil anything, but let me tell you THAT is one of the best moments I’ve ever seen in a movie, if you’ve never seen this movie before, remember these two main adjectives: hard and raw.

Anyway, first scene and I was thinking “Oh My God! This is going to be a mistake I’ll remember for years”. Fortunately, I’ve been training my friend somehow, and she enjoyed the film a lot.

I could praise this film nonstop, there are many aspects to be highlighted I don’t know which one to start with.

There are two main plots which at some point they both meet, but not completely. And which one is more relevant? On one hand the story of Tatiana and her daughter Christina, christened by Anna, the nurse. It works as the perfect introduction to the underworld, but also something as apparently innocent as a diary brings out lots of trouble to Semyon. On the other hand, the affair of Soyka’s murder at Azim’s barbershop, an impulsive command by Kirill which also will cause lots of disturbance. The typical catchy sentence to attract the audience, in this case, is more than appropriate and quite meaningful:  Every sin leaves a mark. well, basically Eastern Promises, depicted in this Russian mafia frame, is all about that. Everything you do, will have consequences, no matter whether your acts involve low or high profile people.

I enjoy lots with the way  the story develops, the different plots getting closer and closer, thus the more you see, the more you understand. Characters are evolving according to the circumstances, and who you think was the nice guy, turns to be a real son o a bitch, and the other way round.

Russian mafia is definitely one of the strongest points in the story. We’ve seen Italian mafia hundreds of times, Irish gangs, ghetto boys, Chinese mob…we know how they deal with their affairs. However, we are quite ignorant  regarding Eastern dirty business and the way they handle and behave, traditions, code messages and whatever stuff you can think of.

Interesting the fact that this family is settled in London. I used to live the 12 years ago and noticed a massive wave of Russian and Polish immigrants. In certain neighborhoods, there were groups of guys dealing and arguing in street corners, with young nice chicks by their side…Here the legal business is the restaurant, but then you find brothels with prostitutes confined, hooked on heroin, pursuing the western dream of getting away from poverty for a better living. Tatiana was one of these girls, her innocence corrupted and her life ruined.

Tattoo code really fascinates me, probably because this traditional feature has almost disappeared. Tattoos not only meant choosing an unorthodox way of life, but also marked the belonging to a dark and exclusive elite. And finally, in this case, beside every inking having a meaning, certain ones were kind of awards, as in the Army, recognition and rising levels.

Along his filmography, Cronenberg has hired services of relevant actors for his purposes: Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken, Ralph Fiennes, James Woods, Marilyn Chambers and Jennifer Jason Leigh, among others. Truth is that before A History of Violence, I find remarkable the partnership between the director and Jeremy Irons, which delivered two of the least popular of his films, yet to be included among the list of most twisted minded and insane of his works: Dead Ringers and M Butterfly.  I love both, especially the story of the Mantle twins, I had already talked about long time ago on this blog.

With the concept of the trilogy of the violence, seems that the story repeats, with the Canadian and Mortensen creating a strong comradeship. A History of Violence was the starting point, sharing features in common with Eastern Promises. They both show us men, with lives which differ  enormously  from what they really are, and consequently carrying a heavy burdens.

If Mortensen’s act in the first one was outstanding, I reckon as Nikolai he’s over the top. He’s not just the driver, but also the undertaker, the nurse of Kirill, the Russian Mr. Wolf always ready to put things back in their place. From the very beginning my friend  was wondering whether he was good or evil. I think he settles right in the middle. As you’re discovering what he’s into, in order to do good, his methods are wrong.

Rumors say that Cronenberg is planning to work on a sequel. If this is true I feel really curious, it can be a waste of time or a master piece. The end of the film leaves one door open everyone wants to peep through. That could be a good opportunity to discover how the aftermath would be. I’d love it. We’ll have to wait and see.

Once again, Cronenberg does not disappoint. People criticize him for moving away from the body horror he mainly created, and turning more mainstream. I disagree. Nowadays the director focuses more on tough stories, with some kind of lesson behind, and perhaps, rather than insisting on the reality-delusion duality, he’s more into parallel lives, with an apparent front, and a dark side underneath, which eventually comes up to surface. And nevermind what others say, he keeps on with his taste for blood.

Misunderstood and underestimated, in my humble opinion he’s one of the most talented directors, always delivering interesting and different proposals, audience should pay more attention to. Seriously, it’s never too late to discover his work, I encourage you from here.

 

DO NOT MESS WITH THE KIDS!

Posted in Horror, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Few days ago while Night of the Living Dead, the subject of kids in horror movies came to my mind.

Most of times, kids as “good” characters or even heroes, get on my nerves, because they involve this emotional part totally expendable in the plot. For instance, I don’t know whether you’ve seen 28 Weeks Later…well, let me tell you the kids are two completely assholes, ok, they imply the action starting to develop, but in the end, there’s too much crap which ruins the effect of the film. They just suck!

Kids are cool when they are badasses, because they can be terrible, making you shit on your pants.

The girl in Night of the Living Dead is absolutely gorgeous, but with just few make up, she’s become an icon in horror culture. When affection and innocence vanish, replaced by coldness and evil, children are relentless. Better you step out, otherwise, you’ll be pretty fucked up.

Sure you remember some characters, apparently harmless, which have made you feel uneasy. Wanna feel like creating a list? Here are my top 10 kids I would run away from if I was unlucky to find them by chance:

THE VAMPIRE KID – SALEM’S LOT

I’ve discovered many people in my age got traumatized by this ugly little bastard, scratching at the window with that deadly smile. Most of us watched this chapter hidden from our parents’ sight and then we used to have lots of nightmares. Nowadays you can see the strings holding the vampire, yet those scenes give me the creeps.

THE MUTANT CLONE  BLONDE GIRLS – THE BROOD

With those winter suits covering their ugly faces, those bitches were ruining everything and killing everyone their crazy mother thought were an obstacle.

MALACHAI AND ISAAC – CHILDREN OF THE CORN

Adult people must die! Isaac as a kind of preacher, and Malachai, his closest dog, applying this philosophy and submitting all the kids in town to the worship of “He who walks behind the rows”.

REGAN – THE EXORCIST

No comments needed. It took me many years to get the courage enough to see this film. Everything related to the occult, spirits, the Devil and everything unseen, scares me to death. And this bitch throwing up and twisting her neck 360º makes me sweat…a lot!

THE GRADY TWINS – THE SHINING

Oh my God! With those blue dresses I also used to wear, holding hands, just standing in front of poor Danny Torrance…and that half smile seeming to say: you’re done!

MELANIE ROBERTS AND THE CHILDREN – VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED

These blonde children ready to rule the world, numb and super cold, were capable of terrorizing a whole town, controlling their parents and having psychic powers were too difficult to beat.

DAMIEN – THE OMEN

A classic! Since born, he was a pain in the ass for those obstacles in his race to rule the world. His personal entourage was interesting too…

KAREN COOPER – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD

As already commented, this girl is absolutely gorgeous, but in motion and seeking for living flesh, delivers an image you cannot forget ever. Needless to say, she’s THE  icon of the zombie world.

SADAKO YAMAMURA – THE RING

Beware with videotapes you see…Sadako was right not having her long black hair cut, because she’s so ugly it’s not necessary she does anything else for you to have a heart attack. And her eyes…ufff!

TODD BOWDEN – APT PUPIL

Not to be considered a horror movie, Apt Pupils features Todd Bowden, a teenager decided to blackmail and ruin an old Nazi’s hidden retirement.

What do you say? Any kid this list is missing? Sure! Hope you share them with me ASAP!