Archive for the ‘Movies (K)’ Category

 

SCORSESE

 

I’m always looking for ways to be more productive so I’ll be sharing some of my smaller reviews here as frequently as possible. It takes a long time to give a piece as much attention as I’d like, but sometimes my short sketches are still interesting enough to post. (In my opinion.) I’m naming this feature “Short Stack” because when I was brainstorming feature titles I started daydreaming of pancakes.

So today I’m posting a pair of quick studies I did for my weekly Blu-Ray column over at Daily Grindhouse. Both have to do with the subject of the great filmmaker Martin Scorsese and his infrequently-discussed flair for comedy.

As the preeminent cinematic artist of the current era of film — as he’s considered by cinemaniacs like myself — Scorsese seems to be thought of by normal people, most often, as a gangster-film director. The high cultural profile of MEAN  STREETS, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, GANGS OF NEW YORK, and THE DEPARTED bolsters that perception, and the widespread regard for RAGING BULL and TAXI DRIVER, a boxing picture and an urban vigilante picture, probably add to his image as a guy who makes movies about tough guys. Which he does, sometimes. When Scorsese does a genre picture, he tends to do the most artful and sophisticated possible version of them. His genre pictures are different, not easily forgotten, exemplary.

But there are several other facets to what Scorsese’s work is about. There’s Scorsese the documentarian (THE LAST WALTZ, SHINE A LIGHT), Scorsese the theologian (THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, KUNDUN), Scorsese the entertainer (CAPE FEAR, SHUTTER ISLAND), Scorsese the maker of woman’s pictures (ALICE DOESN’T LIVE HERE ANYMORE), Scorsese the producer of excellent taste (THE GRIFTERS, MAD DOG & GLORY), and plenty more still. But one of them absolutely is comedy.

Scorsese’s comedies don’t fit the popular notion of the genre, that’s for sure. The one Scorsese film that is intentionally described as such is AFTER HOURS, which is really more of a Kafka-esque nightmare. He never really goes after laughs for 100% of a film; his humor tends towards the darker registers and some of his films’ funniest moments come intertwined with scenes of graphic horror, or violence, or at least drama. That’s why nobody thinks of GOODFELLAS as a comedy, even though it’s way funnier than plenty of movies that are widely advertised as hilarious. Nobody expects movies with multiple murders to be riotously funny. When comedy comes that black sometimes it can be missed in all the darkness.

Bill Murray once said in an interview with NBC that he likes to play things straight, which is why when he says something funny, it’s a nice surprise. That’s a massive paraphrase, and also an accurate analogy to many of Scorsese’s films. If a film director isn’t branded or perceived as a comedy director, that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t do comedy. Martin Scorsese, as his filmography shows, can do pretty much anything.

All of which leads up to the following two films. One is a biopic of a real-life felon, the other is a story about an aspiring comedian so delusional he ends up kidnapping his comedy idol. Neither of them sound too funny on paper, but as they unspool they’re downright wicked.

I’ve written about THE WOLF OF WALL STREET before, but I love it so much I wrote about it again. It’s a highly different film than THE KING OF COMEDY, from 1983, but they have hilarity in common — though it’s surprising to notice that one is far funnier and less immediately disturbing than the other.

 

The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET (2013)

The most widely misunderstood movie of 2013, and arguably the best (I’d argue it), but surely the most important. Does that sound crazy? Yes, I know 12 YEARS A SLAVE was officially named Best Picture. That’s understandable and only a monster would stand in opposition — a finely-made film about institutional racism in America will unfortunately be relevant to this country every year. But at this particular moment in time, there’s no more relevant topic than financial malfeasance. How do you think institutional racism is maintained nowadays? We’re far too enlightened to allow actual slavery. Today’s bad guys need more subtle ways to profit off the backs of those less fortunate.

LEO DOLLARS

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET hints around this issue, zoning in on a single-but-hardly-isolated instance, that of Jordan Belfort, who committed routine stock market fraud, specifically targeting lower-income wage slaves (because rich people were too smart). For his crimes, preying upon trusting clients and causing most of them economic ruin, he served 22 months. Seems a bit light, doesn’t it? The movie treats the prison sentence as almost an afterthought — it lasts only a minute or two, in a running time of 180 minutes. This is why some viewers (and critics!) thought the movie let its protagonist off easy. They’re forgetting how this movie begins: With a stentorian faux-commercial for Stratton Oakmont, the bullshit name Belfort gave his boiler room to make it sound more authentic.

 

 

Then Leonardo DiCaprio enters the film in the role of Belfort, narrating the whole coke-and-hookers criminal odyssey. We see him getting blown by a pretty blonde as he speeds down a highway in a red Ferrari — which he corrects mid-anecdote, making the car white. The rest of the movie seems to ditch this third-wall-breaking neo-Zack-Morris ability to bend the reality of what we’re watching, but I tend to think the device is there all along, as if absorbed by the momentum of the narrative.

FERRARI

In other words, the whole movie is a put-on. It’s being told to us by a bullshit artist — no, not an artist — a bullshit Renaissance-man. We can’t trust him. We shouldn’t trust him. Of course, any audience member who fully trusts what they’re seeing and hearing might get the wrong idea. I guess it’s better to be one of the upset people than to be one of the little shits who will inevitably treat this movie as career inspiration. That doesn’t mean the movie isn’t a necessary gesture.

THIS GUY

The same way 12 YEARS A SLAVE reminds us of our nation’s despicable history and how it still affects us all today, so too does THE WOLF OF WALL STREET remind us of the bastards who raid our economy and our pockets for their own benefit — let alone the corporate interests that own pretty much everything in sight. That’s a valuable service for a movie to perform. Yeah, it’s a black comedy. It’s funny as hell. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down. You want to get mad, please: get mad! Just don’t address your anger to DiCaprio, writer Terence Winter, or director Martin Scorsese. Address it to Jordan Belfort, and the many more like him who you can see, right now, out on the sidewalk, in slick suits and ties, racing to their day jobs defrauding the government and its citizens. They’re all over the place, man.

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The King of Comedy (1983)

THE KING OF COMEDY (1983)

As the recent case of “the very serious people vs. THE WOLF OF WALL STREET” proves, sometimes people have trouble telling when Martin Scorsese is kidding. He’s a serious artist, sure, and more film-literate than pretty much anybody on the planet, but there’s a dark sense of humor running through so much of his work. He’s so rarely commended for that humor that sometimes he has to spell it out for people, like here, when he put the word COMEDY in the title.

HA

Like THE WOLF OF WALL STREETTHE KING OF COMEDY is the blackest kind of black comedy. From a script by former film critic Paul Zimmerman, Scorsese tells the story of Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro), an aspiring stand-up comic who practices religiously in his mother’s basement for the day he will get to perform on the late-night talk show hosted by his hero, Jerry Langford (the simultaneously legendary and often controversial comic Jerry Lewis). When Langford spurns Pupkin, Rupert’s hopes aren’t dashed, but his approach changes. Instead of going through the normal channels, auditioning and all that, he kidnaps Langford, demanding his spot on the show.

JERRY

This is the satiric inverse of TAXI DRIVER, the earlier Scorsese/De Niro masterwork concerning themes of isolation and obsession. Like NETWORK, it predicted future trends by many years: The craven desire for fame, where in place of talent there is only ferociously aggressive drive, has a lot to do with many of the most prominent entertainers of the last decade or so. It’s comical enough, but it’s also pretty awful. You have to be a little twisted to find THE KING OF COMEDY funny, which is why many irony-deficient pundits apparently didn’t get it at the time. So basically, between THE KING OF COMEDY and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, Scorsese has been dealing with being misunderstood by oversensitive bores for thirty years.

 

@jonnyabomb

 

 

Raw Force (1982)

 

On the Norwegian Wikipedia page for the 1982 exploitation epic RAW FORCE — probably the only time I’ll ever start a sentence that way — we are informed that the movie was banned in Norway in 1984. That’s the most attention any kind of majority, political or otherwise, has paid this movie. RAW FORCE is made for almost no one, because it is apparently made for almost everyone. Nearly every convention or trope of genre movies from the first seventy or so years of the existence of film is expended in this one rickety heap of madness.

 

THIS IS THE RAW FORCE.

 

As I tried to describe on our latest podcast focusing on RAW FORCEdescribing this movie is like fighting a giant squid. Just when you’ve bested one wavy storytelling strand, another one snaps up and grabs you by the throat.

 

Here’s the trailer, which is maybe the most dishonest trailer I’ve ever seen:

 

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That trailer literally sells a different movie. The clips are the same, but some of the character names and all of their backstories are totally different. The editors somehow cobbled together a cohesive story from several scenes that have no connection. This is the SHOGUN ASSASSIN of movie trailers. RAW FORCE is plenty of kinds of fun, but one adjective that does not apply is “cohesive.” This is the summary I gave on the podcast:

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NOT THAT EDWARD MURPHY

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First, a quote from Anton Chekhov:

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Okay. So early on in RAW FORCE, when a plane lands on a remote island and a character mentions that the waters surrounding the island are infested with vicious piranha, you can bet you will see those fish by the end of the movie. And if that character is a white-suited human trafficker who looks and talks exactly like Adolf Hitler, you may fairly assume he’ll be the one to meet them.

 

EVERYBODY HATES HITLER

 

Otherwise, RAW FORCE, also known as KUNG FU CANNIBALS, completely ignores the principle of Chekhov’s gun. This movie operates under its own rules, and also it doesn’t have any rules. If you somehow managed to drink up all the movies and television shows of the 1970s and then you barfed them back up, the mess on the bathroom floor might look like this.

 

RIGHT IN THE TUMMY-BALLS

 

Saloon fights, graveyard fights, bazooka fights, hippies in warpaint, gratuitously naked ladies, karate-chopping hobbit bartenders, giggling monks who dine on human women, ninja zombies, a BOOGIE NIGHTS style group of protagonists calling themselves the Burbank Karate Club, an ornery sea captain, a kung fu chef, an extended riff on ‘Gilligan’s Island’, and the aforementioned worst person in human history: All this and more in RAW FORCE.

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This was a fun episode even though I was delirious and feverish and congested and loopy. As always my co-hosts Joe and Freeman were terrific, engaging, and informative. You can subscribe and download the show on iTunes (please comment with feedback!) or you can

CLICK HERE!

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Here are our previous episodes, in case you’d like to catch up. We’re recording a new episode this week! Stay tuned.

STREET WARS (1992)

STREET WARS (1992)

Vigilante Force

VIGILANTE FORCE (1976)

GHOSTHOUSE (1988)

GHOSTHOUSE (1988)

THRILLER: THEY CALL HER ONE EYE (1973)

THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE (1973)

Find me on Twitter:

@jonnyabomb

 

BYE I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU

 

 

RAW FORCE

 

LADIES

 

 

DAILY GRINDHOUSE BANNER

Daily Grindhouse would be pretty much my favorite website even if I weren’t writing for them, but since I am, here’s a collection of all my work so far.  It’s some of my very best stuff. Enjoy!

25TH HOUR (2002) 48 HRS. (1982) 52 PICK-UP (1986) 88  THE ACT OF KILLING (2013) ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948) Alex Cross (2012) ALIEN (1979) ALIEN ZONE (1978) ALPHABET CITY (1984) american sniper  AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981) ANACONDA (1997) ANTS (1977) The Apple (1980) ARMY OF DARKNESS (1992) ARTISTS & MODELS (1955) Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) BADLANDS (1973) BAIT (2012) A Band Called Death (2013) BASKET CASE (1982)  BATMAN (1989) BATTLE ROYALE (2000) The Baytown Outlaws (2013). Beetlejuice (1988) BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO (2013) BEST WORST MOVIE (2009)The Big Lebowski (1998) Big Trouble In Little China (1986) BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974) BLACK DEATH (2011) THE BLOB (1988) BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) The Brides Of Dracula (1960) brothers-2009 BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING (1965) untitled CARRIE (1976) CB4 THE MOVIE (1993) CEMETERY MAN (1994) Charley Varrick (1973) CHEAP THRILLS (2013) CHOPPING MALL (1986) class-of-1984-poster The Colony (2013) COMPLIANCE (2012) CON AIR (1997) Conquest (1983) THE CONTRACTOR (2013) Creature (2011) CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) CRIME WAVE (1954) THE CROW (1994) DARKMAN (1990) DEAD & BURIED (1981) DEADLY FRIEND (1986) deranged-1974-movie-review-jpeg-35312 THE DESCENT (2005) THE DEVIL’S EXPRESS (1976) dillinger-1973 DIRTY HARRY (1971) Django (1966) Django Unchained (2012).  DOG SOLDIERSDOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944) DRACULA (1931) Dredd (2012) DRIVE (2011) Drive Angry (2011) End of Watch (2012) EQUINOX (1970) Escape From New York (1981) Evil Dead (2013) THE EXORCIST (1973) Eyes Without A Face (1960) FACE-OFF (1997) Fast Five A tumblr_n2u9s565B11rscnczo1_500 Fist Of Legend (1994) FRANKENSTEIN (1931) GANJA & HESS (1973) the-gauntlet-1977 Get Carter (1971) ghostbusters GHOSTBUSTERS 2 (1989) ghosthouse 1988 GI Joe Retaliation (2013) THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2011) GOD TOLD ME TO (1976) GONE GIRL (2014) THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY (1966) The Great Silence (1968) Gremlins 2 - The New Batch (1990) The Grey (2012) Halloween (1978) Hannie Caulder (1971) Hardbodies (1984) Hardware (1990).. Henry (1990) High Crime (1973)  THE HILLS RUN RED (1966) . IMG_8699 THE HIT (1984)Hit Man (1972) hobo with a shotgun HOMEFRONT (2013) The Horror Of Dracula (1958) the host - no words HOUSE (HAUSU) (1977) The Iceman (2013) The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009) IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) THE INNOCENTS (1961) THE INSIDER (1999) The Invisible Man (1933) Iron-Man-3-2013 I SAW THE DEVIL (2010) Island-of-Lost-Souls-19331 Jackie Brown (1997) jaws jennifers body  JUAN OF THE DEAD (2011) The Keep (1983) KILLER JOE (2011) The Killers (1966) Killing Them Softly (2012) The-King-of-Comedy-1983 LADY IN CEMENT (1968) LADY TERMINATOR (1989) THE LAST CIRCUS (2010) BERRY GORDY’S THE LAST DRAGON (1985) Lawless (2012) LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) the-leopard-man-movie-poster-1943-1020199765 Leprechaun (1993) A LIFE LESS ORDINARY (1997) LINK (1986) Liz & Dick (TV, 2012) Lockout (2012) The Lords of Salem (2013) Lost Highway THE MAGIC BLADE (1976) MAN OF STEEL (2013) THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO LITTLE (1997) The Man with the Iron Fists (2012) Maniac Cop (1988) THE MANITOU (1978) MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE (1976) men-in-war-1957 MIGHTY PEKING MAN (1977) MILANO CALIBRO 9 (1972) MULHOLLAND DR. (2001) MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D (2009) My_Darling_Clementine_1946 NakedSpur-1953-MGM-one navajo-joe-1966 NEAR DARK (1987) NEON MANIACS (1986) night of the comet NIGHT OF THE CREEPS (1986) THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) Night of the Living Dead (1968) NOSFERATU (1922) NOTORIOUS (2009) OF UNKNOWN ORIGIN (1983) ONLY GOD FORGIVES (2013) OUT OF THE PAST (1947) PACIFIC RIM (2013) pet-sematary-1989 Phenomena (1985) POOTIE TANG (2001) POSSESSION (1981) PREDATOR (1987) Premium Rush (2012) PRIVATE SCHOOL (1983) PULP FICTION (1994) Pursued (1947) q-the-winged-serpent-movie-poster-1983-1020195479 quick-change-poster BERANDAL (2014) RAVENOUS (1999) RAW FORCE (1982) Raw Meat (1972) RE-ANIMATOR (1985) Rear Window (1954) RED RIVER (1948) RED ROCK WEST (1992) Relentless (1989) RIDDICK (2013) tumblr_njo3upN5tn1sy67obo1_540 the road  ROBOCOP (1987) ROBOCOP (2014) SCANNERS  Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) SCROOGED (1988) Shaft (1971) Sheba, Baby (1975) SHOCK WAVES (1977) shogun_assassin SORCERER (1977) source-code Spring Breakers (2013) SQUIRM (1976) STARSHIP-TROOPERS-1997 story of ricky  STREET TRASH (1987) Streets-Of-Fire-1984 THE STUNT MAN (1980) SUDDEN IMPACT (1983) Super (2011) SUSPIRIA (1977) switchblade_sisters_poster_02 (1) TAXI DRIVER (1976) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013) THE THING (1982) THIS IS THE END (2013) thriller TORQUE (2004) touch of evil The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) TREMORS (1990) TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007) THE TWILIGHT PEOPLE (1972) THE UNKNOWN (1927) Under The Dome VAMPIRE’S KISS (1988) VERTIGO-1958-649x1024 Vigilante (1983) vigilante force THE VISITOR (1979) WHICH WAY IS UP (1977) WHITE HUNTER  WHY DON’T YOU PLAY IN HELL THE WICKER MAN (1973) winters-bone WITCHBOARD (1986) worlds-greatest-dad-2009 ZODIAC (2007) ZOMBI 2 (1979) ZOMBIELAND (2009)

Make Daily Grindhouse your daily destination for genre movie news, reviews, and interviews — there’s a ton of truly great content over there, beyond just the parts with my name on ’em.

And follow me on Twitter for updates!: @jonnyabomb

This collection has been much-requested and a long time coming.  To get at the reviews, just click on the movie poster of your choice.  And be sure to bookmark this page, because it’s bound to get updated frequently!

         Age Of The Dragons (2011) Alex Cross (2012)          Assault On Precinct 13 (1976)      A Band Called Death (2013)  The Bay (2012) The Baytown Outlaws (2013).        Big Fan (2009) The Big Gundown (1966)    Black Death (2010)          The Brides Of Dracula (1960) Bring it On (2000) Brothers (2009)               Cloud Atlas (2012)   Conan The Barbarian (1982) Conquest (1983)    CREEP (2004)  

The Dark Knight (2008) The Dark Knight Rises (2012)       Days of Thunder (1990)         Django Unchained (2012)           EQUINOX (1970) Escape from New York (1981) Evil Dead (2013)         Fist Of Legend (1994) Flight (2012)       The Gauntlet (1977) Get Carter (1971)    gi_joe_retaliation_ver30 THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (US, 2011).          The Grey (2012) Halloween (1978)       Hardbodies (1984) Hardware (1990)   The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009)    Hit Man (1972)          The Iceman (2013)     THE INGLORIOUS BASTARDS (1978).   THE INSIDER (1999)  The Invisible Man (1933)  Iron Man 3 (2013) Island Of Lost Souls (1933)      The Keep (1983)   Killer Joe (2012) The Killers (1966) Killing Them Softly (2012)          LadyTerminator                Lincoln (2012)   The Lords of Salem (2013)      The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) Manborg Maniac Cop (1988)  THE MANITOU (1978)  MEN IN WAR (1957)      MULHOLLAND DR. (2001)     NEAR DARK (1987)      Night of the Living Dead (1968)          Peeples (2013) A Perfect World (1993)      PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971)        THE PROFESSIONALS (1966)      The Raid (2012)       Red Tails (2012) Relentless (1989)    SALT (2010) Bill Hicks Sane Man (1989)   SCROOGED (1988)  Severance (2006) Shaft (1971)       Southern Comfort (1981)    Spring Breakers (2013)  THE SQUID &THE WHALE (2005)  State of Play (2009)              Teddy Bear (2012) The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)    This Is The End (2013)   The Tourist (2010)  THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN (1976)    TREMORS (1990)  Triangle (2009)       Tyson (2008)       Vigilante (1983)