Gary Oldman: Getting Vicious with Baldwin & Gibson?

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On June 25th, Playboy had published an interview with Gary Oldman, an actor who is best known for his portrayal of Commissioner Gordon, Count Dracula, and Sid Vicious. Within this ten page interview, Oldman talks at length about theory on acting and film, the politics behind Hollywood, and teaching his children the history of cinema. However, what people will take away is a small 5% of the article where he uses Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin as examples of the hypocrisy found in Hollywood and Public Perception. First of all, the whole reason Baldwin was originally brought up was because Oldman was discussing how Baldwin’s documentary “Seduced and Abandoned” showed the ridiculousness of getting a movie produced. The interviewer David Hoffman asked leading questions which caused Oldman to digress into an interesting rant. The hypocrisy he was talking about is where social commentators like John Stewart, Bill Mahr, can get away with saying similar things because it’s deemed in context or socially acceptable whereas the people will publicly shame anyone else. If you don’t believe me, take a few moments and listen to Glenn Beck or Richard Pryor. Furthermore, John Stewart once discussed on Larry King that this knee jerk ostracizing is perplexing. Regardless, Oldman had quickly realized his rant didn’t come out as tactfully as he had hoped.

So this interview has gone very badly. You have to edit and cut half of what I’ve said, because it’s going to make me sound like a bigot”

Now, Gary Oldman has released a public apology. This is where Oldman puts his “anti-semitic” statement in proper context by citing the award wining book An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood. In hindsight, this is another form of yellow journalism where David Hoffman took a small fraction of an interview and spun it into something needlessly controversial. While CBS is going to continue the spin with headlines like, Gary Oldman Apologizes for Defending Alec Baldwin and Mel Gibson, I am going to look up some of Oldman’s inspirations such as, Stanley Kubrick’s Playboy Interview, The Loneliness of the Long Distant Runner, The Raging Moon, and An Empire of Their Own. Honestly, I don’t read interviews of my favorite artist in hopes for anything derogatory or controversial.

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Captain America: Winter Soldier (2014) Review

Captain_America618-618x400Directors:

Anthony RussoJoe Russo

Writers:

Christopher Markus (screenplay), Stephen McFeely(screenplay)

During the early years of Marvel, the global threat focused on weaponizing radiation testing and atomic bombs. Marvel summed up this fear with their rampaging Hulk. However, that fear has been diminished while a new fear focusing on surveillance and terrorism has grown. The writers of Winter Soldier understood this shift thus they modernized Marvel’s threats to match the current global state. Because over arching surveillance diminishes people’s privacy and freedom, it made sense why this was Captain America’s story. After all, the First Avenger only fights for his beliefs in freedom and justice.

Previously, Marvel bumped against this ideology during the Iron Man series. Stark Industries earned its fortune by manufacturing state of the art military grade weapons. After the invention of the Mach IV, Iron Patriot, and War Machines suits. The moral dilemma develops which question whether or not any government body should have access to this technology. Captain America: Winter Soldier answers the question through a domino effect. Through backdoors, governments are providing known terrorist organizations with military technology. The terrorist use this technology to create terror and chaos. This prompts other governments to use and develop more surveillance technology as a form of counter terrorism. The transparency this surveillance creates not only provides a suspect list but also diminishes privacy and freedom for everyone else. This becomes even more apparent when the suspect list is turned into a kill list for military drones. This is the antagonism of Winter Soldier.

Although most comic book movies have a clearly defined villain, it actually makes more sense for Winter Soldier to take this approach. Yes, there is the Winter Soldier, but as one can see he is merely one cog in the machine. Writers often make a mistake of throwing a more powerful doppelganger at their protagonist. This direct approach will often create forgettable antagonist. Instead, it’s better to have an antagonist who directly challenges the ideology the hero represents. This more dynamic threat is no longer a simple can the hero survive. Not only was every action scene beautifully choreographed, but also each fight usually ended with a hero limping or crawling away. They weren’t just trying to defeat their opponent but also trying to escape with their lives. Furthermore, because this is a story that revolves around deception, the protagonists never knew who the enemy was until it was too late. This dynamic will create tension because it now makes one wonder how much will be affected when the day is over and the dust settles. By the time the credits roll, it’s clear everything in the Captain’s world changes.

In addition, the production was highly detailed and orchestrated. For example, the sniper shots were brilliant pieces of cinema. First the tension would be primed with the gunshot followed by the cold industrial Winter Soldier theme. This would be followed by confusing POV camera angles which never clearly focus on where the sniper was shooting from. This combined with each shot always hitting the highest priority person created a well executed scene which accurately represents the Winter Soldier and his level of threat.

The actors all delivered top performances both physically and emotionally. There are quite a few instances where their actions and physical endurance was indeed super soldier like. It’s surprising they weren’t huffing and puffing after every twenty seconds just on the one take which made it to film. It’s hard to imagine them keeping this pace up all day. Then, these actors were also able to project the full emotional spectrum. For instance, Scarlett Johansson could make the audience laugh to breaking their hearts within one short scene.

Finally, not only was Marvel able to follow up Dark Knight but also they were able to push beyond and set the new standard for comic book movies. Although they both touched upon similar themes, the amount of depth and quality in Winter Soldier made Dark Knight seem much more shallow and less daring. From top to bottom, Marvel was able to create a super hero world which carried resonance with its beautiful set production, top notch acting, and mature storytelling. Thank you Marvel for finally making a movie for us comic book lovers.

A Serbian Film (2010) Review

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Director:

 Srdjan Spasojevic

Writers:

 Aleksandar Radivojevic (screenplay), Srdjan Spasojevic (screenplay)

Stars:

 Srdjan Todorovic, Sergej Trifunovic, Jelena Gavrilovic

They say that rape isn’t about sexual gratification; rather, the act is about power and dominance. A Serbian Film demonstrates this message in horrific detail. With an introduction which shows the son watching his father star in a softcore film, this movie clearly doesn’t want to hide it’s depraved intentions. The plot is about Milos, a fading porn actor being approached to star in his last smut film. However, as the movie progresses, it turns out this isn’t the normal production and film Milo is familiar with.

The prevailing theme of the story focuses on the idea of the nuclear family. This movie showcases how patriarchal dominance is exerted through sexuality and violence. The first act spends much of its time desensitized the act of sexual activity. This is made more clear when the wife ask why her husband, Milo, never has sex with her like he does with his former porn stars. He states it was because he loves her and that was a job. After the story moves on to act two, sexual acts become more brutal and their depictions are used as a form of dominance. By the time act three hits the top of its disturbing crescendo, we see sex and violence complete subvert the idea of family.

In the meantime, the writers also give forth some interesting philosophical subplots which may or may not have been fully realized by the time of climax. First, in the snuff film, an actess is introduced who becomes dominated by physical and sexual assaults. Next, Milo is shown a tape which depicts her giving birth to a baby which also becomes sexually assaulted. Although this is the point where the director of the snuff film gives privy to the overall themes behind his motivation, it’s quite hard to take him seriously and not view this as splatter porn when he is yelling, “I gave birth to Newborn porn”. Once more, the actress is shown as Milo is portrayed having sex with her before ending her life during his climax. Thus, ending the dominance cycle of sex and violence.

Although the film begins on a digital camera and looks cheap with boring camera angles, the screenplay really does save the day. There’s a point where we are watching found footage with the protagonist, and each tape shows just enough to pull the viewer in and discover what happens with the next tape. Also, the third act runs a parallel path with the protagonist and a flashback to his previous day. This mixed narrative keeps the pacing alive and doesn’t allow the viewer to flinch of walk away from this spiraling madness. Furthermore, although Milo begins with a picturesque family and as a warm father, by the time the movie hits its stride his violence and chopped up memory makes the audience really question this unreliable narrator. The production design also adds to the overall cerebral madness. The sound design has the eery hollow sounds combined with the industrial score and set production of industrial warehouse contrasting with the bright family home also added to the nightmarish tonality.

Overall, this is a movie which spirals down and beyond depravity while doing a wonderful macabre illustration of dominance through sex and violence. This movie isn’t for everyone nor does it pretend to be. It’s more for those who have an affinity for exploitation.

Cheap Thrills (2014) Review

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Director:

E.L. Katz

Writers:

David Chirchirillo, Trent Haaga

Stars:

Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner

 

Cheap Thrills, a dark comedy which examines a struggle between patriarchal and hedonistic males. After Craig, the family man, loses his job and is facing eviction he meets up with an old high school badboy Vince. After the two reconnect, they meet Violet and Colin a money to burn couple who will offer any amount of cash to make the two friends do any depraved or violent act, excluding homosexuality of course.

Although there are a several honest attempts at humor, only depraved souls like Marquis De Sade will be laughing the whole way through. The aspect of comedy could be examined in a Shakespearean context. For example, at the core of this movie is a protagonist who literally breaks down his homosocial bonds in order to strengthen his heterosexual relationship and status with his wife.

What we also see is a story revolving around a Darwinian example of survival of the fittest. Because the family man needs resources in order to provide for his family, Craig never lacks the reason or motivation to commit to doing the next horrible act. Meanwhile, hedonistic Vince is only motivated by the pleasurable aspects of each situation such as, drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence. When a new situation arises which makes Vince uncomfortable he often falters and hesitates; however, because Craig is motivated by the intrinsic need to provide for his family, it doesn’t matter how uncomfortable the situation may be as long as he gets the payoff.

The production was average. The camera angles and movement made it feel indie but the lighting and sound editing didn’t make it a burden to watch. Sara Paxton played a coked out wife Violet who they almost had to cattle prong for her to show any emotion during the sex scene. Although David Koechner’s performance was pitch perfect, him playing the sleezy alpha male husband Colin didn’t seem to be much of stretch from his normal. However, the main focus of the movie was on Vince and Craig, and Pat Healy and Ethan Embry both reached and gave remarkable performances of lowlives. It was interesting watching Healy transforming from a meek to savage character. Also with Embry getting his start from playing nice guy teen to his later proper gentlemen roles, it was really nice to see him break out of that comfort zone by beating a man’s face in or by doing acts that are surely to offend every dog lover.

Overall, the story was completely fascinating and a morbidly entertaining way of deconstructing the archetypal image of the father figure while the performances by the cast and the production didn’t make it unbearable to watch. The pacing was good and one could not help but be drawn in. It will be interesting to see what new themes and style the the creators will tackle next.

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PPF 3/26

This week, we discuss, Avengers AI, Infinity: Heist, Daredevil, Thor chapter 1, Iron Patriot, Conan the Barbarian, Thief, Final Fantasy X HD, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes, Divergent, Nymphomaniac, Haunted House 2, X-Men, and more

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014) Review

Avengers-ConfidentialCreators:

Director Kenichi Shimizu

Writer Mitsutaka Hirota

Players:

Black Widow Jennifer Carpenter

Punisher Brian Bloom

Punisher is tracking down an arms dealer who happens to also be in SHIELD’s cross-hairs. After we see Punisher take down a warehouse full of armed thugs, Black Widow intervenes while Punisher is brutally interrogating the arms dealer. Punisher and Black Widow begin a confrontation full of CQC gunplay, scissor kicks, reversals and any other anime fighting style that may come to mind. This first scene sets the tone and style of this animated movie. Those who follow recent anime by the production company Madhouse will feel comfortably at home. What is impressive is how the gun fights are brutal and violent but never once show blood or gore. Despite it being a Marvel production, the action never feels less intense.

After the initial scene, what follows is more or less a paint by numbers action flick with a whopping amount of terrorist cliche’s ripped from testosterone fueled 80s action movies complete with a screaming guitar solo soundtrack. This isn’t a bad thing. After all, this movie focuses on Marvel’s leather tight femme fatale Black Widow and the take no prisoners Punisher. What should the audience expect? To top it off they are hunting down a techno terrorist organization called Leviathan who have committed, “every known evil deed”. Although this might sound a little cheesy, the action and animation is slick. Remember, this is also aimed at the little kiddies.

In fact, what this movie suffers from is too much character development for Black Widow. They throw a love story into the middle of the big confrontation and it bogs down the pacing and cohesion of the action. For a character named Black Widow, this was a really odd choice for the story. Honestly, if this side story was cut, it would have left the rest of the plot completely intact. Black Widow is voiced by Jennifer “Dexter” Carpenter. Although I loved her portrayal of Debra Morgan and her colorful uses of the F bomb, her voice acting needs some work. It was monotone and lacked much needed inflection. Brian Bloom, on the other hand, did a great job of portraying the gravel and grumble of the Punisher. Once again, this proves that voice actors will always perform better than live actors. It’s a different style of performance and few are able to successfully make the transition.

Overall, this was an entertaining movie that fathers could easily enjoy with their sons. This movie didn’t break any new ground for animated movies, but it did raise the bar for Marvel Animation’s hit or miss quality of direct to video releases. I am very excited to see what they will release next.

Dead Shadows (2012)

ImageThe overall story of Dead Shadows feels like an homage to 80’s scifi horror, in particular Night of the Comet.  In the first five minutes, we see our protagonist, Chris, watch his parents die after the Halley Comet flew by. Although it looks like modern times, we are suppose to believe ten years have passed. Chris becomes a tech nerd who slowly builds a relationship the girl next door. The first act makes the story feel like a slow burn Ti West movie. However, that script got thrown out for something that barely resembles a shooting script. The rest of the movie is a montage of campy and somehow diverse mutated parisians melting or ripping each other to shreds. Some scenes are stacked on top of each other in a way where it would have made more sense if we were given a missing scene title card. The only continuity that remained intact in the end was the characters consistent bad decision making. For example, why is he making out with that naked spider woman? Overall, this is a cheaply made scifi horror which gives it a nostalgic flavor. Maybe if they dumped the first act the movie would have felt more focused.