Category Archives: Film

Movie Review: Ready Player One (2018)


                Ever since Ernest Cline’s book READY PLAYER ONE was announced as a forthcoming film directed by Steven Spielberg, speculation ran rampant: would all of the ham-fisted 1980s pop culture references be dragged onto the screen as poorly as they were done on paper? Would protagonist Wade still be a chubby weirdo who spends a portion of the book alone and depressed in his room, engaging in virtual reality porn with his full-body gaming rig? Would we still have to sit through entire chapters of a game built around Canadian prog-rock band Rush? Well the movie is here and I can honest say…it’s not a disaster.

                Yes I know, believe me, I never thought I’d type those words either. Yet here we are on the cusp of April 2018 and the movie I watched last night wasn’t a steaming cat turd served on a damp paper plate. Taking time out of his busy schedule of American history biopic films, Spielberg has returned to genre work and delivered an entertaining, if workman-like, production that will likely please casual fans of their parents’ childhoods and disappoint those of us who really wanted to have a good time hating other people’s hard work. Such is life!

                Let’s start with the good stuff. First of all, Zak Penn (whose credits include work on superhero movies like THE AVENGERS and the X-MEN film series) has managed to improve some of the worst things about the book. Cline receives co-screenwriting credit but it’s hard to imagine he really did much here, since a lot of the clunky dialogue is missing. Gone are the painfully unfunny banter sessions between gamer dudes in a virtual replica of an 80s finished basement. Villainous CEO Nolan Sorrento has an expanded role here after feeling almost like an afterthought in the book. He doggedly pursues our heroes across The OASIS, a virtual reality video game world created by departed incel genius James Halliday.

                The racism, sexism and transphobia of the book are toned down too, thankfully. Daito and Shoto in the book were Long Duk Dong-level caricatures, Japanese characters who speak humorlessly about honor and duty. In the movie they’re Daito and Sho, two kids as thinly-drawn as the other supporting cast but at least they get to smile and crack wise from time to time. Gone is the part of the book where Wade endlessly badgers his love interest Art3mis to discover her gender outside the game and tells her she can’t stop him from emailing her. The movie even gives her a backstory about why she hates Sorrento’s company IOI.

                Unfortunately, she still feels like a trophy in many ways and she gets stuck in a creaky old scenario where she insists Wade wouldn’t find her attractive in real life because she’s hideous, yet she turns out to be a conventionally attractive young woman with a pale birthmark across her eye. It’s as though they took inspiration from that godawful One Direction lyric, “You don’t know you’re beautiful / and that’s what makes you beautiful.” She hates her own appearance and needs validation from Wade to accept herself.

                But I promised to highlight the positives first so let’s move on. The book is built on a world in which Halliday adored 1980s film, music, and TV, and he has filled his game with references to these things. It’s insane to think that teens in 2045 would obsessively pore over pop culture from the 1980s, no matter how big the prize they might win by knowing that Mike Seaver’s best friend on GROWING PAINS was named “Boner”.  It’s glaringly obvious that the entire book is Cline’s own wish fulfillment that the world would somehow recognize that the entertainment from his own 80s childhood was objectively the best ever. I mean, can you imagine the kids of 2018 eagerly trading facts about Perry Como’s best album or which Gidget movie is the ginchiest?

My positive point here is that it’s not as painful in the movie. That may be because they toned it down a bit (there’s no monologue like that painful section of the book that made the rounds on social media where Wade rattles off random pop culture properties he studied for three whole pages). It could also be that it’s just not as jarring to have a thousand pop culture items mentioned when you can actually see them instead of just reading their names in a list. Either way, it works a bit better here.

As for the negatives, I’ll try to keep this fairly short. It’s still a story chock full of nostalgia porn for middle-aged gamers.  And there’s still plenty of sexist crap like one of Halliday’s puzzles involving the player having to find a woman he dated one time and asking her to dance because he was too scared to do it in real life before he died. When this virtual Damsel In Distress looked into the character’s eyes and said something along the lines of, “You don’t know how long I’ve waited for you to ask,” I had to cringe, imagining Halliday feverishly working through the night to program the likeness of a woman he had a crush on into his video game, presumably without her permission.

Also, while I said some of the dialogue has been improved from the source material, some parts feel like vintage awkward Cline prose. At one point Wade’s Aunt gets blown up by Sorrento’s hench-drones and Wade’s big line is, “You killed my mother’s sister!” At another point, Wade is searching video of Halliday for a clue to winning a big race and Halliday more or less looks into the camera and says, “Don’t you wish we could just…go backwards? Like put it in reverse and put the pedal to the metal?!” Naturally the secret to winning is revealed to be driving backwards instead of forward.

               The world-building of the movie isn’t much better than the book. We still have stacks of mobile homes in Columbus, Ohio, “the fastest-growing city in the world.” We still have a poorly-explained dystopian future where everything is supposedly falling apart but everyone has strong wi-fi and a virtual reality to play with. And now we have some weird system of corporate slavery where you owe money to Sorrento’s IOI corporation and get confined in a little prison cell to work off your debt, and apparently that’s legal??

The cast is fine but there aren’t any particularly noteworthy performances. Ben Mendelsohn does his best with a predictable “Evil Corporate Guy” villain but can’t come close to the greatness of someone like William Atherton in Die Hard and Ghostbusters, if I may namecheck a couple of 80s pop cultural artifacts. Simon Pegg is wasted as Halliday’s BFF and business partner Og. At the end of the movie he reveals that he was watching Wade all along as the Curator, a robot character who watches over the archives of Halliday’s life achievements and memories. In that moment I was stricken by the sad thought of a guy who’s spent YEARS logged into virtual reality all day every day, just so he can lead thousands of gamers around to see his buddy Halliday using the toilet at age 28 or taking the dog for a walk at age 43.

Speaking of the ending, as Wade makes his way to the final puzzle Halliday left behind, he’s playing the game in the back of an old postal truck driven by his friends while Sorrento pursues them through the city streets. When they finally come to a halt, Sorrento advances on the truck and is confronted by a group of hundreds of civilians who’ve been following Wade’s progress with admiration. Sorrento pulls out a pistol and the crowd slowly parts to make way for him. As he heads for the truck with his back to the crowd, clearly intent on gunning down their folk hero, not a SINGLE person in the crowd makes a move to tackle him or otherwise impede his progress. If my eyes could have rolled back any further the optic nerves would have detached.

Ultimately, if you have an opinion already, the movie isn’t likely to change it. If you like the book or just thought the trailers looked cool, you’ll probably like the movie. If you hated the book, I doubt you’re going to come out of the film as a born-again fan. But Spielberg and crew built the best DeLorean they could out of some extremely rusty parts, so I doff my Vader helmet to them.  3.5 out of 5.

GOD IN THE MIRROR, VOL.1: 1982-1985

God In the Mirror vol.1

A DECADE IN THE MAKING!  30 PAGES OF LINER NOTES!  The finest rock songs from 1980s cinema, guaranteed to send you straight to the gym and give you muscles of steel.

From the liner notes:

Welcome to “The God In the Mirror.”  Your first question is probably what the title refers to and that is you, my friend.  You are the god in the mirror.  Why?  Well, because the 1980s were a unique time for American cinema and this great nation in general.  For most of the decade we could feel Communist USSR breathing down our necks (or so we thought).  It’s rather quaint to recall it now, with the great Soviet bear just a memory, but there were times when nuclear annihilation seemed just around the corner.  If you go back now and examine the films, television and books of the era you see it everywhere.  Paranoia and fear were the order of the day and the American Action Movie was born anew from the womb of President Ronald Reagan.

None of the action films from the 1980s could have succeeded quite so well if it weren’t for the music.  Hard-rocking vocals near the upper limits of human hearing, squealing guitar solos, a pounding drum beat, and those lyrics…sweet Jesus, the lyrics!  The finest examples of the era (featured here) speak directly to the listener, goading him to start pummeling his problems into submission.  Eschewing proper grammar and logic in favor of testosterone, these songs have come to be known as “You Songs” by me and my friends.  They address the listener directly like a badass sermon from the pulpit of pain.  Check out the lyrics and your questions will all be answered.

Assembled here in this collection are the best of the best, a batch of headbangers meant to move you to action.  They are songs to inspire you to shrug off defeat and fight for your country, your life, and the possibly fictional American dream of being “a winner.”  Whether these are legitimate aims is for you the listener to decide.  I warn you though:  when I first started this project I was a quiet, unassuming guy with little drive and no prospects.  Now I’m an unstoppable force, crushing those who get in my way and bedding people by the score, all in the name of Me.  Hetero ladies and lesbians, gay men and my trans sistren and brethren, I encourage you to listen too!  The power exists in every one of us.  It’s up to You to use it.


01 – Survivor – Eye of the Tiger (1982, Rocky III)

02 – 707 –  Mega Force (1982, Megaforce)

03 – Paul Engemann – Scarface (Push It To the Limit) (1983, Scarface)

04 – Paul Engemann & Giorgio Moroder – Success (1983, Scarface)

05 – Frank Stallone – Far From Over (1983, Staying Alive)

06 – Joe ‘Bean’ Esposito – You’re the Best (Karate Kid 1984)

07 – Shooting Star – Get Ready Boy (1984, Up the Creek)

08 – Bobby Caldwell – Don’t Quit (1984, Body By Jake)

09 – Chris Thompson – The Runner (1984, The Philadelphia Experiment)

10 – Survivor – Moment of Truth (Karate Kid 1984)

11 – Joseph Williams – Firepower (1984, Body By Jake)

12 – John Cafferty – Heart’s On Fire (1985, Rocky IV)

13 – Dwight David – The Last Dragon (1985)

14 – The Power Station – Someday, Somehow, Someone’s Gotta Pay (Commando 1985)

15 – Chaz Jankel – Number One (Real Genius 1985)

16 – Derringer – Real American (1985 WWF album)

17 – Survivor – Burning Heart (Rocky IV 1985)


[As always, if you enjoy the music, don’t forget to support the artists.  And visit the great blog to learn more about this kind of stuff!]


Forgotten Film: OXFORD BLUES (1984)

In the great pantheon of 1980s youth cinema, there are classics like Sixteen Candles and The Breakfast Club, then sleepers and guilty pleasures like Real Genius and Three O’Clock High, and finally…there’s stuff like Oxford Blues.

00 title

The basic storyline here is that American Nick De Angelo (Rob Lowe), first seen rowing with his dad on Lake Mead in Nevada, is a Las Vegas kid with a year of college under his belt.  He falls for British bombshell Lady Victoria in a magazine and when he discovers she’s headed to Oxford to study, he makes it his mission to enroll himself and win her affections. He accomplishes this by 1) getting a hacker friend to move his grades up the list a bit on the computer, and 2) meeting a conveniently wealthy, cougar-ish divorcee who beds him, helps him win $14,000 in a casino, and gives him her 1955 Thunderbird to take with him overseas.

Lowe was at the height of his youthful powers here, full of charisma and pretty much physically flawless to the point of being a bit disgusting.

See? I told you.
See? I told you.
Are you serious with this? It's not fair to the rest of us.
Are you serious with this? It’s not fair to the rest of us.

Once Nick gets to Oxford, he meets another young American named Rona (Ally Sheedy), gets an advisor and a friendly roommate, and starts his classes. When the other students at school discover he has rowing experience, he’s quickly recruited to a team and the plot kicks into high gear.  And Rob’s not the only good-looking actor in this thing, it’s overloaded with attractive young people.

Amanda Pays as Victoria is lovely in her screen debut.
Julian Sands plays dashing rowing and romantic rival Colin.
Anthony Calf (whom I'm embarrassed to admit I got confused with Anthony Head from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) plays Colin's sycophantic toady Gareth.
Anthony Calf (whom I’m embarrassed to admit I got confused with Anthony Head from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) plays Colin’s sycophantic toady Gareth.
Cary Elwes (and his hair) as Lionel
Cary Elwes (and his hair) as Lionel
Ally Sheedy
Ally Sheedy as Rona is cute as a button.

Not only are the stars attractive, the English landscape and architecture shines as well in Oxford Blues. Check it out:

Oxford Blues 01
John Stanier’s cinematography takes full advantage of morning sunlight, frost-covered trees, and misty rivers.
Stanier worked on camera and lighting crews all through the 1970s but this was his first film as the credited cinematographer and he really delivered.
Stanier worked on camera and lighting crews all through the 1970s but this was his first film as the credited cinematographer and he really delivered.
A really lovely, moody scene.
A nice moody scene.

Sadly, John Stanier only went on to six more cinematography gigs before disappearing in 1996, only to return a decade later. Death Wish 3 and Rambo III seem to be his highest profile films and based solely on his work here, I think he deserved a better career.

So far so good, right?  I mean the film is completely improbable in the way that only ’80s movies can be, but in the right hands it’s just different enough to separate itself from the pack and win over audiences with some breezy charm, impish college pranks and a dash of romance.  It had star power, a novel premise, and looked gorgeous. Yet aside from a few die-hard fans, this movie seems all but forgotten.  So what went wrong?

With all due respect to writer/director Robert Boris, the fault here rests entirely on the screenplay.  Oxford Blues is a movie that fights itself every step of the way.  For every light-hearted prank like having Nick get a fake invite to a fancy British dinner party and arrive wearing a kilt, there’s another scene where Nick is facing a disciplinary committee for fighting another student. It never fully commits to being a romantic comedy or a coming-of-age drama, and when you’re in that grey area, you really need to walk that line perfectly.  Boris is no John Hughes, and the script just never gels.

Nick, getting as lost in the movie as I felt.
Nick, getting as lost in the movie as I felt.

In addition to the tonal problem, the other disaster is Nick himself.  I mentioned that Lowe has charisma spilling out of his tailored jeans pockets, but even he can’t rescue a character with no redeeming qualities.  From the moment he sets foot in England, Nick is a petulant, entitled brat who won’t listen to anyone and expects everyone to bend over backwards to give him what he wants. It’s clear from the start that he’s a guy who only puts forth the minimum effort and needs to learn the value of hard work.  But there are ways of writing a character like that and having them come off as a likeable rogue.  Val Kilmer in the aforementioned Real Genius is one example.  Here, Nick is simply unlikeable and I found myself siding with the villain of the piece instead of the protagonist.

About an hour in, Nick is in the audience for a debate about American vs. British cultural values.  The movie seems to want us to take his side as he stands up and argues the American side of the issue in a brash manner.


We deal with things differently than you all do.


I should say you deal with nothing at all.

You merely expect things.


Well we feel that there’s nothing that’s

beyond our grasp, if that’s what you mean.

(blatantly eyeing Colin’s fiance Victoria in front of a large crowd, disrespecting both her and Colin)


No matter what the cost to others?

Americans have a particular talent for

taking what they want, in spite of

the cost to the others it affects.


Don’t turn this into a personal thing, Colin.

(blatantly ignoring that HE just made it personal)


But it IS personal. They say Oxford is what you

make of it. Well I’m afraid since you’ve been

here, you’ve made it rather less than it was.

Sorry Rob, you just got SERVED by Julian Sands.
Sorry Rob, you just got SERVED by Julian Sands.

It was at that moment that I jumped into Colin’s camp. He may be arrogant but he’s absolutely right about Nick’s lack of character. Nick proceeds to pursue and sleep with Victoria, continuing to ignore the obvious fact that Ally Sheedy’s Rona is madly in love with his dumb ass, then he gets chucked out of school for fighting Gareth again. Sure, Gareth may be more of a scumbag than Nick but that’s only one guy and it’s way too late in the film for Nick to be acting like a prat.

I’ve never seen the 1938 movie A Yank at Oxford, upon which this movie is based. But everything I’m seeing in the movie trailer looks like Robert Taylor’s American character is way more comedic and endearing than Nick.  I’m all for having a character work their way through an arc from scoundrel to saint, but if you spend 85 minutes making me hate somebody, don’t expect the final 10 minutes to undo all of that. Besides, after finally doing something remotely altruistic — agreeing to row with Colin to beat Harvard’s team — Nick doesn’t even get why people are back on his side:


You know of course why I let you back?


Because Oxford avenged a 25-year old loss.


Because you did something rather selfless today.

Because you have EARNED another chance.


And because Oxford has avenged a 25-year old loss.

Oxford Blues was a miss with critics and audiences alike when it came out, hitting #8 in its opening weekend and ending up with about $8.8 million total box office. Lowe and Sheedy would go on to strike box office gold together the next year in St. Elmo’s Fire. Robert Boris had a number of scripts to his name before this but it was his directorial debut. The standouts in his resume tend to be more dramatic fare like Electra Glide In Blue (1973) and it’s a shame MGM trusted this remake to him when it could have turned out to be rather charming in the hands of a skilled comedy writer.

I leave you now with some images from the ending credits of Oxford Blues. After the exceedingly serious tone most of the picture had, the credits sequence featuring Nick dressed in various British costumes like Sherlock Holmes seems tonally wrong and completely out of character. One has to wonder if perhaps the studio mandated it so the audience would leave the theater thinking they’d actually seen a comedy.

Oxford Blues credits 01
The name’s Bond…Nick Bond.
Oxford Blues credits 02
Somewhat appropriate, if only because I spent the whole movie wishing Nick would get a clue.
Oxford Blues credits 03
Nice wellies, mate.

Movie Review: The Wizard Of Speed and Time (1989)


SYNOPSIS: A Hollywood filmmaker (Mike Jittlov) desperate for work is hired by a shifty producer to film a segment for an upcoming TV special about Hollywood special effects. Unbeknownst to him, the producer has placed a $25,000 bet with a colleague that Jittlov won’t come up with anything by the deadline. But our creative hero has a few tricks up his wizard sleeves. With the help of his friends and his own indomitable spirit, could he somehow pull this off after all?


In some respects, it’s a miracle this movie exists at all. I think Jittlov is a fascinating filmmaker with a unique voice, ripe for someone to revive his fortunes with a good documentary a la Rodriguez after the movie Sugar Man came out. Here’s a guy with all the talent in the world who taught himself to do things on film that few other independents could have done, who banged his head against the Hollywood gates for years, and ultimately faded into obscurity for a variety of reasons.

I’m not quite the Jittlovian expert that my friend Stefan is but from what he tells me, this movie was actually filmed in Los Angeles around 1983 with the backing of a small studio. It’s hard to review TWOSAT without digging into Jittlov’s own backstory, so bear with me. Throughout the 1970s, he produced various inventive short films set to music, seeking work for his own production company.

Around 1977 he came to the attention of Disney, who hired him to do a piece for their TV program The Wonderful World Of Disney. This is really the reason that this film says it takes place in 1977. Over the years he did a few things for that company including the inaugural ‘Mickey Mouse satellite’ short film played on the Disney Channel when it launched in 1983. Rumors persist that he was stiffed on at least part of his payments at that time.

Jittlov plays a stylized version of himself here, as his “character” gets hired to produce a TV segment and he goes around Hollywood showing the absurdities of how the system works (and how it had worked against him). We go from the outrageous fees charged for use of a backlot, to the insanity of waiting for a union crew to load a truck when you could do it yourself, to the lunacy of trying to sign up for an expensive director’s guild membership when you already need to be a member of another guild.

The whole thing would be depressing if it weren’t for the irrepressible spirit with which Jittlov imbues the proceedings. Every obstacle, no matter how mountainous, is met with a smile and a clever solution or simply an intense period of hard work in his mom’s garage. Jittlov’s own amazing talents for in-camera special effects like stop-motion as well as painstakingly hand-painting the finished film are all on display here and the results are stunning if you have the slightest knowledge of how these things were done in the age before computers.

Jittlov’s own Herculean efforts in real life mirror those on screen to such a degree that reality and film become blurred. The truly unbelievable part is that not only did he manage to tell a “magical realism” account of his battles with the system up to that point, he also telegraphs his own future to a degree. The evil producer of the film is played by Richard Kaye, the actual producer of the Wizard Of Speed and Time. The true story of this film’s post-production has yet to be told in a definite way, but as the years passed, Kaye grew impatient with Jittlov’s perfectionism. Jittlov was doing every effect himself, by hand, and Kaye’s production studio was in financial trouble.

Some fans posit the idea that this is why Kaye wrestled control of the film away from Jittlov and released it in 1989 to as many video stores as possible. If you were in a video store in the early 1990s, there’s a good chance chance you saw this on the shelves and perhaps even saw a cardboard standee heralding its arrival. The theory goes that Kaye hoped the success of TWOSAT would help get his company back on its feet. Unfortunately for him — and Mike Jittlov — that’s not what happened. Lacking any big name stars, the film found a cult of fans on home video but not the mass audience it needed.


Jittlov seems to have been slightly embittered by the experience (not that it’s hard to see why) and rarely stepped into the spotlight afterwards. He’s not a hard man to find by any means and he’s done some other work but nothing with this kind of personal vision or on this grand a scale. Watching the movie, it’s hard not to feel a twinge of sadness at that thought. The film crackles with life, from the fast-paced editing and clever script to the little additions he gave it like a person’s eyes flashing with light when they really mean business. And what can I say about the climactic sequence when we finally see the fruits of his character’s labors on the TV special? Magical is a corny word but it’s the only way to properly describe those five minutes.

The film works on multiple levels if you pay close attention to it. On the surface we’re watching a boy-done-good film about an underdog that works his way to the top (well, the top of the middle). Beneath the surface is a man coming to grips with the way Hollywood works and skewering it as best he can. Sometimes when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, the unstoppable force makes a sarcastic movie about the experience. If the movie has a flaw, I guess it might be the necessary use of a homemade synth score that betrays its low budget origins. But I think that’s a small quibble in a viewing experience that leaves you feeling as if the world has untapped potential just waiting for you to discover it.

The sheer joy of Jittlov’s creativity and outlook on life is evident in every single goddamned frame of this thing, including giving parts to his own mother, brother, and friends. Knowing other little tidbits about the production, like the fact that he was 35 when he filmed this and has his first kiss ON-SCREEN, simply adds to the overall vibe of a man who was born to do this work, devoted his life to it, and had a supreme talent and vision that never fully bore fruit thanks to a lack of backing. Jittlov’s use of fast-motion and his creative approaches to low-budget problem-solving bring to mind the early career of Sam Raimi. In another reality, Jittlov might have been a family-friendly Raimi making beloved films we cherish to this day. But Hollywood doesn’t work that way, even for a wizard.

Rating: 4.5 / 5


Movie Review: The Wall (Die Wand), 2012

The Wall movie poster

“A woman inexplicably finds herself cut off from all human contact when an invisible, unyielding wall suddenly surrounds the countryside. Accompanied by her loyal dog Lynx, she becomes immersed in a world untouched by civilization and ruled by the laws of nature.” —Music Box Films

I like a good “What If” tale, and as far as those things go, this one — based on a 1963 novel by Austrian writer Marlen Haushofer — is a doozy. The titular wall appears pretty early in the film and from that moment on, actor Martina Gedeck is on her own aside from a cat named Lynx and a friendly cow. Her performance is a true tour de force, anchoring this fantastical tale firmly in reality. Her character’s isolation, despair, happiness, and wonder at nature all became palpable things in her talented hands and it’s no wonder she won Best Actress at the Austrian Film Awards, amongst other ceremonies.

No less than six cinematographers are credited on IMDB, which is surprising, but they did an amazing job. From the shining, untrampled crust of an Austrian snowfall to the glowing alpine sunsets of summer, this movie is absolutely gorgeous.  Depressing at times, but gorgeous.

Don’t waste your time waiting the whole movie for her to escape her magical confinement; the film isn’t about that. The wall and many other aspects of the story are symbolic. It’s about how a person survives when everything is taken from them including companionship. When we sometimes crave being alone, where is the limit of that craving? As the years go on, how does she cope with her own thoughts? How does she cope with hunting to survive when the act of killing is repugnant to her? [warning to viewers: there’s a very graphic scene of a deer dying and rolling down a hill in an agonizingly long series of shots]

The film has a running voiceover by the character rather than dialogue and it worked well for me. Gedeck delivers her thoughts in a rather matter-of-fact way as she writes down a chronicle of her time within Die Wand (The Wall), bringing surprising beauty out of the German language. Like the change of seasons, the film goes from calm contemplation to despair and back again. It’s harrowing at times, and I’m not sure I’ll find myself going back to it often, but the beauty and thought-provoking aspects of the film impressed the hell out of me. Every so often I need cinema like this to cleanse my palate after the 15th movie where Hollywood superheroes knock down a city block.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Movie Review: Don’t Look Now (1973)

Don't Look Now 1973 movie poster

Over the years The Criterion Collection has restored and presented many of cinema’s greatest treasures. Thanks to their meticulous care, thousands of the film world’s greatest achievements have gotten the care and attention they so richly deserve. On the other hand, they’ve also reissued stuff like Don’t Look Now.

This movie is almost universally beloved by critics and Serious Film Viewers. When I was a film student, if they’d showed this to us I’m sure I would have gone right along with the party line and proclaimed this to be a masterpiece. But I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now. I don’t have to call something profound because it’s slow. I can call it yawn-inducing and poorly paced.

The basic plot here is that John and Laura lost their little girl Christine to a drowning and now they’re in Venice while John helps with a church restoration. One day Laura meets two sisters, one of whom — a blind woman with second sight — says she can see Christine sitting with John and Laura, and that the daughter is happy. She also says Christine bears a warning for her parents: leave Venice at once. John doesn’t believe it and he stays, much to his detriment.

Now, I could attempt to expand on that synopsis but there would be no point because there is no further plot, unless you count John’s endless meandering through foggy alleyways. Does cinematographer Anthony Richmond make empty Venice look great in the film? Absolutely. Does the occasional splash of the color red on Christine’s raincoat and blood on a photographic slide have a striking effect when it appears? Sure it does. Is there a famous sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie? Apparently, but unless you’re into watching two bony skeletons clack together, it’s not going to do much for you.

Roger Ebert once said, “It is the film’s visual style, acting, and mood that evoke its uncanny power” and his sentiment is echoed by a lot of other reviews I’ve read about this movie. But without a decent script, it’s simply style over substance. This film has a reputation for being terrifying, or at the very least chilling. I adore films with those descriptors but this never even came close. As always, I can only speak for my own personal experience and would never discount anyone else’s opinions on art. Aside from the decent cinematography and a tremendous performance by Donald Sutherland’s mustache, this film really failed for me on every other level.

Japanese Fans of American Movies

(repost from 17 Nov. 2012)

Just out of curiousity, I went to recently and took a peek at what fans over there think about classic American movies.  The comments are an interesting mix of nostalgia and poetry, thanks to the drawbacks inherent in using an online translator. I did do a very small amount of editing when sentences almost made sense but not quite. I think it speaks for itself.  Here’s a sampling.


“Watching in the theater at the time of real-time, this became one of my favorite movies ever since.
It makes me remember such fun childhood secret base, the make-believe adventures.
Struggling actor, this may be weighed heavily on the power of production.
It is not a masterpiece, it is not a smash hit for sure.
Itself will be seen as one of the memories.”

“The presence of the girl, a pure heart and adventure boys! I saw for the first time decades ago and with two daughters by the age of 37, I realized that ‘You’re still a good movie.’ This movie has a good feeling irresistibly handmade. This movie is a work that remains in the heart forever! Masterpiece arranged with “ET” “Stand By Me” as a movie sister!”

Back To the Future:

“Blu-Ray is so too clear, and you know the face, such as makeup and lipstick Michael J. Fox! During filming at the time, it was that actors are like this makeup style. · · ·  Investigation of time period has been carefully considered; set, also costumes, interesting way of life of local cities that American Dream of 1955 at full speed is glimpsed.
The sound is not a narrow range, such as dance and party scene of scampering Delorean. Feel powerful enough and turn up the volume.
The contents of the work will be in the classic masterpiece now.”

“I was glad most, to hear a colorful subtitled voice! (it was dubbed in my first view of this movie.) Marty and Doc interaction dubbed mono tears! No matter how many times I do not get tired of watching people try color!
Viewing last scene after two hours, we instinctively clapped quickly in a row of the theater. Of course I love.”

Star Wars

“Speaking of why “Star Wars” is interesting…
There is a theory on that.
They have followed in setting the stage for a sci-fi, poetic view of the world that humanity has inherited Lush cotton.
A universal narrative flow that, in the underlying, attracts the viewer.
That’s right, too.
But do you yourself say you were stunned.  It was a production that does not show the full extent of its hull, suddenly at the beginning of forever, even after the giant spaceship.
All began here, a watershed of any SF movie,
Monumental work. You lose the history of movies if you don’t watch at least once in a lifetime.

“I met Star Wars for the first time when I saw it in the theater, a special edition in 1997. I was nine years old at the time, had been clinging to the armrest of the seat. In the rush of the Death Star scene I likely fell into the illusion of infinite space. Made me feel even more widely the universe and the dark theater big screen. Considering now, I think we were able to watch this movie at the theater and I was really happy. I wonder if it is not a great success as a remake of Kurosawa’s “Hidden Fortress.”
I wept to figure out trying to make a movie interesting and obedient! Lucas Bonus and the splendor of the documentary. Do not miss the hot talk of the coaches that have been attracted to Star Wars!”

“When this series is still in theaters, SF things were not interesting at all to me. I was totally addicted to this world, very interesting and I watched with a light heart. I think “The Empire Strikes Back” was particularly well done. The second film of the trilogy is a role model so that it is difficult to make “Back to the future2″ very good. In the scene where Luke’s arm is cut, my voice has become almost involuntarily leave. It was leaving in the middle of the H · Ford scene also. It is something that is now unthinkable.  Unfortunate wee bit is Toshiro Mifune is almost casted as Obiwan-Kenobi during fabrication of the first work. I did not realize that he has also turned down offers as the face of Dazu Vader in the third film.”

“[George Lucas] has not limited changes to STAR WARS, the masterpiece, over and over again, changing the version, he changed, the goods change hands-
Yea, Yea do Godfather too. · · · if you do things like that [won’t it] become pandemonium to resell the fan with it?
Old version is important so that everyone in the theater at that time as fans can always enjoy cheaper version later.
I think that I am angry, I think I’m a little different.
I do not have [the Special Edition version of Star Wars]. It is not a good DVD because I enjoyed the old unprocessed material,,,
Although I think that somehow I also wish that I bought [the Special Edition version] there is no way I would like it.”

Blade Runner

“From this movie I was able to understand “revenge” the first time in my life. It may seem unreasonable for Roy (Rutger Hauer). From the perspective of a Replicant, killing President Tyrell was a legitimate action. The “Blade Runner” uses “biological violent harm”, rather than normal methods, such as “detention, arrest” of a “man who has committed a crime.” The replicant Roy was the subject of the “kill-capture”. When he shed tears like a human being, like any one of the characters, in a moment, then the audience lived with him in the movie. Never have I seen a movie like this!”

“I went to the cinema in Namba, Osaka when the film was first produced. I was a junior high school student and I thought I knew the synopsis in magazines in Japan.
(Advertising rattle alert! → Ads lie to the customer!)
I was very impressed that the lights of Dotonbori are the same as the Blade Runner landscape, because it was like being in the movie after leaving the theater! There was also a nice uncle who sell the chestnut next to the exit.
Impression at the time was of a movie that makes you feel to be adult somehow. I do not know the meaning of that.
Time to watch the DVD only, please I want you to stop the wet work momma.”

“It is a masterpiece of SF movie filled with a lot of imagination.
Combination of Syd Mead and Ridley Scott.
The show is reproduced beautifully with a decadent air in the near future
A presence of Rutger Hauer’s replicant is overwhelming.
With intelligence, “Rebel Machine”, many masterpieces
Maybe it is the royal road of SF that it has created.

Rutger Hauer acts beautifully.
And the words of Harrison Ford are good.
“Say Kiss Me” is something I want to say once.
It is tantalizing words.
In [the Director’s Cut] narration is turned off. And therefore you’ll be able to concentrate on the video. It has become something more impressive.
It’s also good music of Vangelis.

When the end theme is flowing, I reached a time of bliss.”

Jurassic Park

“Since the story is very solid, a fantasy world is in front of your eyes. It seems to be what is happening in reality. In a scene they are attacked by Dinosaurs Zaurus. Raptor is looming. It is as impressive as you might want, such scenes many times your eyes can see.”

“This work was released in theaters in 1993, and became a hot topic for the realistic dinosaurs. I think it is a matter of course, because the movements and facial expressions of the dinosaurs are too great. And the difference is full of humor and emotion, the masterpiece I enjoy with my family. Steven Spielberg makes work that gives the excitement to the viewer always. I think it will not change in the future. First of all do not kill the children. The best meaning of Spielberg’s work is to be with each other. I want you to make a variety of work in the future also. Apparently there is also a plan of part “4”, I want to achieve by all means. I want to experience the excitement of that.”

“While said movie is a dinosaur movie, there is very little CG time of the dinosaurs appeared. Spielberg has made it very effective with limited usage of CG. It does not put out the dinosaurs suddenly from the beginning. In the darkness thin, I bring a human scream at the beginning in the first attack by a Velociraptor because of the “eating sounds”, and the cry of the dinosaur. It does not show the dinosaur. It still does not show. . Velociraptor’s actually reveal is the middle of the story.  Technique of this is tantalizing. Stagecraft to fear becoming arrogant. It has been successful for the advantage of the fact that the poor usage of CG can be used in cost issues, creating a more enjoyable entertainment.
There are a lot of animal disaster films. Watch this movie for Spielberg techniques, and the subject matter of the ultimate class that dinosaurs became foul.”