A-Z Daily Throwback Review: Gamer (2009)

            Filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (who simply go by Neveldine/Taylor in credits) have made a name with their frantic stylistic choices and shock value sex and violence. Previously utilizing the persona of Jason Statham for the Crank franchise, Gerard Butler seems a perfect casting choice for Gamer. Though Gamer takes story and narrative more seriously than the Crank films, both utilize subtle satire alongside clunky filmmaking. The relevance of the film is interesting, the storyline intriguing, and yet there are too many loose strings in the screenplay for this to be a film worth thinking about. Although Gamer raises some intriguing scenarios, there is difficulty with follow-through.


            The initial premise of the film is introduced with an overkill display of the popularity of Kable (Butler), the star character in a futuristic game. Like so many near-future films of the recent past, this game offers the promise of release to death-row inmates should they survive thirty rounds. What makes the game unique is the lack of control. The convicts aren’t able to control whether they live or die, because they are actually controlled by gamers who pay to play for real blood.


            There is only a short section of the film in which we see the point-of-view of the person playing the video game, though this is by-far the most inventive visual shot in the film. It is a shame that more of the action was not seen through this angle rather than the head-ache inducing editing that is mostly used. With every shot lasting less than a second, the action sequences don’t resemble a video game. The same problem that there are in the action sequences seems to run rampant through the entire film, or all of Neveldine/Taylor’s films, for that matter.


            There is actually a surprisingly small amount of action that takes place inside the video game. The screenplay is instead convoluted with numerous ideas and tangents as the filmmakers seem unable to keep their attention span on any one thing long enough for it to develop. Some of the tangents are interesting, though the main storyline is neglected for the chaotic collection of concepts for future human devastation and destruction. For instance, what do we learn about the boy playing Kable aside from his high-tech computer/entertainment bubble. He is introduced, used, and quickly dismissed without resolution. There is no time for resolution in this film. Characters are introduced and killed quickly and unemotionally, simply in order to keep the film moving.


            Michael C. Hall co-stars as the villainous Ken Castle, the creator of the technology for the game, which served as a way to enslave the poor and disenfranchised for the entertainment of the wealthy. The implications are obvious in these difficult economic times, but the film never commits to anything beyond the action for resolution. The video game universe is the highlight of the film, including many oddities of the gaming world that will only be familiar to avid players of violent games. There are always innocent civilians that seem oblivious to the constant battle near them, excessive violence and predictable behavior.

Desert Island Films: David Gordon Green Projects

          The trailer for Prince Avalanche hit the internet this past week, and the David Gordon Green independent comedy is set for an early August release. The film is the first feature Green has written since 2007’s Snow Angels, and it stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch. More importantly, it takes out of the fast pace of city life and into the middle of nowhere, returning Green to the roots of his early independent work which garnered him such high praise before his pratfall into generically bad comedies such as The Sitter.

          This is not to say that Green should be tied down to drama, or independent cinema, but his work is always most impressive when it carries his distinct style. Some of his best work comes in surprising areas, including episodes of HBO’s “Eastbound and Down” which are downright poetic in their approach and presentation. It is simply a relief to see that Green has retained more control in the content of his upcoming features, though I have my reservations about the other two films we can soon expect to see from the director.


          The first is called Joe, and will also be released in 2013. The film stars Nicolas Cage as an ex-con who meets and becomes a role model for a 15-year-old boy. Although it takes place in the south, which aligns with many other Green films, the screenplay is written by Gary Hawkins, based on the novel by Larry Brown. There is also the issue of Nicolas Cage, who seems to just back projects that are direct rip-offs of immediate successes. Stolen took from Taken, and it is hard not to notice the similarities in Joe’s plot and Jeff Nichols’ Mud (2012), especially since both star Tye Sheridan as a boy meeting an unorthodox role model. Even more interestingly, Green produced Nichols’ debut feature, Shotgun Stories (2007), which is good enough to be on this list for this contribution alone. Mud’s role model, and title character, is played by Matthew McConaughey. On a side note, I have no doubt that we will be seeing plenty more of Sheridan in the years to come. At his young age he has already worked with Green, Nichols, and made his debut in Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life.


          The second film in the works for Green is a remake of Dario Argento’s seminal horror masterpiece, Suspiria (1977). Although I am happy to find that Green has adapted the screenplay himself, I can’t help but feel somewhat hesitant in dishing out hope that the film will be a fraction as good as the original. Part of the problem in my imagining the production is due to the fact that it will be unlike anything Green has done before. Even when he transitioned from the heavy drama of Snow Angels to the stoned comedy style of Pineapple Express, Green was able to retain the laid-back pacing that has been constant in his entire filmography. Though the original Suspiria (1977) is not nearly action-packed, it will be interesting to see how Green handles suspense.


5. George Washington (2000)


          Green’s debut feature, George Washington, established the filmmaker in many ways. Casting his film almost entirely with non-professional actors, even finding people on the beach he wanted to be in his film, Green manages to create an authenticity which would remain in all of his early films. George Washington deals with an extremely difficult subject matter, one most directors would not willingly go near, especially not as a first feature. A cast full of non-professionals and many children must have made for an interesting experience on set, but the result is nothing short of a confidently created masterpiece in independent cinema.


          The film tells the simple story of a group of children who band together to hide a tragic mistake that occurs among them one day. It is a painfully depressing film, and not one I would recommend in the hands of nearly any other director. Green never exploits the situation, nor does he seem to ever want to manipulate the audience into feeling anything. We are presented with a specific time, place, and a specific incident. This film is a slice of life, where we can witness what happens without feeling as though the filmmaker is attempting to sway us in any direction with the material.


          It is also worth mentioning that this was the third film credit for Paul Schneider, who has the small supporting role of Rico Rice and would return as the lead in Green’s sophomore film, All the Real Girls.


4. “Eastbound and Down” (2009-2012)

          “Eastbound and Down” was created by Ben Best and Danny McBride, who had previously collaborated on the successful screenplay The Foot Fist Way (2006), which was directed by Jody Hill. Hill also produced, wrote and directed many episodes of “Eastbound and Down,” along with Adam McKay (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Bergundy) and David Gordon Green.


          Green went to school with McBride, and was the first to cast him in a film as the supporting character Bust-Ass in All the Real Girls. Ever since then Green and McBride have worked together often, perhaps explaining why the atrocity that was Your Highness ever occurred. Although Green only worked on 10 episodes in the three seasons, this is only one less than Hill and eight more than McKay. I find myself lulled into artistic appreciation while watching Green’s episodes, especially a few in season two which are remarkably poetic for a comedic television series starring one of Hollywood’s biggest mouths.


3. Shotgun Stories (2007)


(The following is an excerpt of Ryan Izay’s 2007 review via Real Movie News)


          Independent filmmaker and soon-to-be Hollywood’s hot commodity after directing Pineapple Express, David Gordon Green is a name that is usually connected to rural American stories, simple and somehow still intensely engaging and fascinating. There is an undeniable link in D.G. Green’s choice to produce Shotgun Stories, a film in a similar vein and pacing. In fact, Shotgun Stories is the ultimate rural American story, about a blood feud. Brothers fighting brothers brings the undeniable connection to our country’s history, and basing his film on such a strong subject Jeff Nichols is able to complete his directorial debut with a simple and extremely effective piece of independent filmmaking. There less shots in the film, more attention is given to those chosen, and they are all confident and impressive choices for a first-time director. But most impressive is the cast. Michael Shannon is a long under-rated actor and he carries the film in many scenes, but what is more amazing is the way Nichols seems to bring the best out of actors who I usually tend to dislike. Somehow none of the performances feel like a performance, which adds realism to the story, which drags us in with beautiful and dangerous images.


          The significant details that make this otherwise film straightforward film something marvelous from each scene to the next are not always subtle, but they are always simple. The names of the brothers that are feuding are a perfect example. While the brothers from the legitimate Hayes family are named Cleaman (Michael Abbott, Jr.), Mark (Travis Smith), Stephen (Lynnsee Provence), and John (David Rhodes), the brothers from the illegitimate Hayes family are simple named Son (Shannon), Boy (Douglas Ligon), and Kid (Barlow Jacobs). Even from birth it is obvious that the illegitimate brothers were given less care and attention, and they naturally are filled with feelings of resentment towards their half-brothers who have received so many more opportunities while they were left with a spiteful mother and absent father.


          Thirty-some years of repression leaves Son feeling unsatisfied after hearing their father has died, and after crashing the funeral they were not invited to he makes a rash speech about what a horrible father he was to them, regardless of how well he treated his second family. This speech upsets Mark and Stephen Hayes the most, and a gripping cycle of revenge becomes inevitable. Having never had parents that actually cared, the illegitimate Hayes brothers have learned to count on each other and their sense of protection over each other is strong enough to create tense and unsettling situations. Son is a man who already bears scars from a shotgun across his back. Although stories circulate that he received these from a robbery gone wrong or from cheating on another man’s wife, the only important truth is that he got the scars protecting his brothers. As expert as the direction is, Nichols also manages a script that never overdoes it on dialogue. Part of what makes the actors so believable is their lack of emoting. They don’t talk about the past, their feelings, or much else that isn’t of immediate significance. We hear more gossip and bullshit than actual facts, leaving us to decide what to believe from the time we spend with them.


          Even as I write this review I am amazed at how directly I speak of the characters in the film. Few films have the power to make me forget that I am watching actors, and David Gordon Green’s sophomore film, All the Real Girls floored me in a similar way. Half-Nelson and nearly every performance Gosling gives seem to do the same. These are the type of films that can be cherished, because the filmmakers brought something to life in a way that returns my hope that film can always retain a certain element of magic, even without making 3-D pictures or using blockbuster special effects. Shotgun Stories is more than just another film, it is a gift, a piece of art, and truly unforgettable.


          Some films may not be well suited for a music-only track, but this is the best candidate I have seen in some time. The music is simple and perfectly suited for the tone of the film, and the cinematography along with the simple music by the band Lucero is perfect.


2. Pineapple Express (2008)


          My top choice in the Desert Island Stoner Comedies list is also number two on my D.G.G. list, because it is more than just a film for potheads. Pineapple Express is Green’s sellout film, being that it was the first time he directed material that he hadn’t written himself and it was a his first blockbuster with stars and a finale filled with action and effects. After this film he was lulled into several other mainstream films, with screenplays written by others. The result is a watering down of the director’s natural and iconic style, but Pineapple Express is the perfect marriage of mainstream action/comedy and that signature directorial approach.


          Green’s films prior to Pineapple Express always took place in southern small towns, often in North Carolina where the director attended school. This small-town vibe carries over into Pineapple Express, with plenty of insert shots of naturalistic background actors and country scenery. The final shootout occurs in a barn, which is an odd location for a film which has an otherwise urban-oriented screenplay. There is also the wonderful addition of McBride to the cast, whose longtime friendship with the director has greatly helped his career.  


1. All the Real Girls (2003)

          Though this was neither Zooey Deschanel nor Paul Schneider’s first film, it was a big break for both of them. It was their first starring roles, and under Green’s direction they are at their best. If I were to make a Desert Island list for both of these actor, All the Real Girls would be number one on those lists as well. The acting is spectacular all around in Green’s second feature, which is ironic considering he took a dramatically different approach in casting the main roles in this film. George Washington was met with such critical success that even supporting roles are easily filled by marvelous actors, and Green shows his abilities as a director are even more spectacular when working with trained talent. The film co-stars Shea Whigham (Silver Lining Playbook, Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter), Danny McBride, and Patricia Clarkson (Shutter Island, The East). There is also the odd addition of Matt Chapman, best known as the voice actor for the web series “Homestar Runner.” His character is named Strong Bad in both the series and this film.


          There is no easy way to explain why I love All the Real Girls so much. It is a film which often infuriates me, sparking a great number of emotional reactions that are only possible with great filmmaking. The characters are flawed but real, and by the end of the film it is impossible not to have an investment in their lives. This film breaks my heart, but only because of how much it is able to capture the feeling of heartbreak. Even when the situations in the film are in no way reminiscent of my own personal heartbreak, I find myself relating to the characters and feeling their pain. First love and the subsequent heartbreak is universal, and Green’s ability to direct his actors makes it possible for audiences to experience a rural southern lifestyle unlike their own and still relate to the emotions of the film’s characters with ease.



A-Z Daily Throwback Review: Faces (1968)


          Faces was not the first film to be created by John Cassavetes. The actor did not intend to change the face of filmmaking when he created Shadows, a film that many believe to be the beginnings of independent cinema in America. When the film was created it was intended to be an exercise in acting and creativity. Commercial viability was never a consideration for this group of filmmakers, not in the same way creativity and exploration seems to be at the heart of the naturalistic film filled with ‘improvised’ dialogue. The film was shot with a 16mm handheld camera with classmates and friends shooting the film, as if it were being made by film students. The irony is that John Cassavetes was already a movie star. He created the film through improvisational exercises in an acting workshop he often taught, developing the plot through the workshop until Shadows emerged to be filmed for $40,000.


          The same respect to creativity above all else remained with Cassavetes even though it was over ten years since he had filmed the first version of Shadows. Cassavetes even invited a young man with aspirations of directing to work on Faces as a production assistant, despite his lacking experience. That man was Steven Spielberg. Like Shadows, Faces is also filled with scenes of seemingly ordinary people acting naturally and behaving as though nobody is watching. The honest approach includes the moments that the characters expose their true selves amidst other scenes of them wearing masks, usually held in place with the help of alcohol. The honesty also carries over into the way that Cassavetes chose to film the story, objects often obstructing the audience’s view in the foreground when the characters move freely around. The characters are also shown in all of their unglamorous glory, none more noticeable than the worn face of John Marley.


          Marley plays Richard Forst, a successful businessman who can’t keep his life together once he returns home to his wife, Maria (Lynn Carlin). The marriage doesn’t seem altogether unpleasant in the first evening we see them together, laughing and navigating the conversation near dangerous territory in a conversation about men and women when Maria mentions that she believes Richard’s friend to be a poor father and cheating on his wife. Marley laughs forcefully at the insinuation, but we are watching his behavior with the absolute knowledge that he is putting on a mask for his wife, having spent the previous scene with the two friends and a prostitute (Gena Rowlands). When Richard suddenly snaps at his wife, demanding a divorce, it would seem to come out of thin air had we not just experienced the tiring process of lies and manipulations.


          The process of this scene is much like every major scene in the film, with a character seeming to change emotions with no apparent reason. The reasons for the about-face emotional reactions are buried within the scene, often subtly explaining the bizarre changes. Maria is left by Richard, who returns to the prostitute to find that she is entertaining two unsavory gentlemen, and she gets a group of friends to go out with her. Later that night Maria returns with the friends and their own young gentleman, Chet (Seymour Cassel). He is a young man with lots of energy, and the women seem to enjoy him, though Maria quietly watches. When Chet suddenly reveals that they are making fools of themselves while dancing with one of the women he has cajoled into dancing with him, another conflict suddenly occurs. Chet’s enthusiasm makes his sudden feelings of embarrassment seem out of place, except for the brief moment in which Maria leaves the room followed by Chet’s eyes, which explains his motivations.


          The film was shot in high-contrast 16 mm black and white, and although there are some interesting and apparently deliberate camera choices within the film, it is much more about the characters and their moments of honesty among put on performances for the benefit of those nearby. Mostly it seems to be about the inability to keep the mask on in a failed marriage any longer.


          Faces was available in the John Cassavetes box set, but now the film is available alone in a two-disc DVD that includes the restored digital transfer of the film. The package includes a booklet with an essay about the film by film critic Stuart Klawans, which is fantastic despite the fact that the scholar doesn’t find any explanation or motivation for the character’s sudden changes in emotions, which just tells me he isn’t looking close enough. The special features on the second disc include an alternate opening to the film from an early cut of the film. There are also a few documentaries from 2004 and a 1968 episode of a French television program that featured interviews and behind the scenes footage in discussing Cassavetes.

Revenge for Jolly DVD review

  • Actors: Brian Petsos, Oscar Isaac, Elijah Wood
  • Directors: Chadd Harbold
  • Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Subtitles: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 7, 2013
  • Run Time: 84 minutes


              Revenge films are rather formulaic. In order to get the audience onboard with the extreme violent measures taken in enacting vengeance, they are first forced to endure an attack on the protagonist. These scenes are also attacking the emotional reflexes of the audience members in order to inspire a reaction that welcomes the violent method of revenge. These films don’t just want the audience to watch the revenge; they are asked to participate. The biggest problem with Revenge for Jolly is the fact that the audience is never on the same level of the characters enacting revenge, and so instead of participants in the crime the audience we are simply unwilling witnesses.


              Revenge is, as the title suggests, for Jolly. Jolly is the beloved little lap dog belonging to sociopath Harry (Brian Petsos), and in the opening sequences it is killed by an unknown party. The death of the dog is handled very discretely, only showing the aftermath from a distance and silhouetted. The manner is which the dog is disposed is also mild and blood-free, setting up the film to be more comic than dramatic, but also leaving less room for justifying Harry’s violent rampage.


              Harry quickly enlists his cousin Cecil (Oscar Isaac from TV’s “The New Girl”) in helping him find and dispatch judgment on all who were responsible for the death of his dog. Then Harry begins indiscriminately killing people along the way, including a bevy of celebrity stars with brief appearances. The cast includes Elijah Wood, Adam Brody, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Kevin Corrigan, Garret Dillahunt (“Raising Hope”), Bobby Moynihan (“Saturday Night Live”) and Jillian Jacobs (“Community”).



    Entertainment Value: 8/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10

    Historical Significance: 6/10

    Disc Features: 1/10



    Broken City Blu-ray review

  • Actors: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe
  • Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: April 30, 2013
  • Run Time: 109 minutes



              Films released in the first quarter of the year are deadly dangerous, like food that has been festering in the fridge for a little too long. It may look fine upon first inspection, and you may even be able to hide flaws in the presentation, but in the end there is always a good chance that it will make you violently ill. Broken City hasn’t “gone bad,” mostly because it doesn’t appear that there was much good in the material to begin with. Despite an alarmingly good cast and a solid trailer, Broken City fails to live up to its potential, instead whimpering through the plot with no real gravity.


              One of the film’s problems is aspirations to be something far greater. Had this been treated like a season of HBO’s “The Wire” or Netflix’s “House of Cards,” Broken City may have been far more engaging. Instead it appears somewhat jarring, when it isn’t dreadfully predictable and dull. Mark Wahlberg sleepwalks through his role as a former New York police officer Billy Taggart, who works as a private investigator to make ends meet. When the city’s mayor (Russell Crowe) hires Taggart to follow his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in order to discover who she is cheating with, the private detective finds himself pulled into a far bigger job than originally imagined.


              It is quite clear that the intentions of the mayor are dishonorable, both because of the ominous leering looks Crowe gives in every scene and because the trailer for this film left very little to be discovered. In an already over simplistic plot that is presented in a convoluted manner, the trailer gives away one of the only twists that the plot has to offer. There isn’t much left to this film once the suspense and mystery has been removed, and it has very little of either to begin with.


              The Blu-ray includes a behind-the-scenes documentary looking at the various aspects of production, from the beginning on. There are also a few deleted scenes and an alternate ending.


    Entertainment Value: 5/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10

    Historical Significance: 3/10

    Disc Features: 6/10




    Cheech and Chong's Animated Movie Blu-ray review

  • Format: AC-3, Animated, Blu-ray, Dolby, DTS Surround Sound, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (DTS 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English, French, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: April 23, 2013
  • Run Time: 120 minutes


              Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong were not the first marijuana advocates in the entertainment industry by a long shot, but they were the first to tap into the audience demographic in the 1970s and ‘80s when they created what is now considered the first stoner comedy, Up in Smoke (1978). The truth is that the two had already been a comedy duo for years prior to their film career, with a successful comedy routine and several albums to show for their efforts.


    Many of their original characters and sketches are perfectly suited for the imaginative style of animation, though this film often now feels a bit dated. In fact, much of Cheech and Chong’s Animated Movie, from the skits to the animation style, belong in the 1970s. The lingo alone may be too foreign for younger audiences, but fans of this pair aren’t likely to be younger. Those little stoners have Harold and Kumar in replacement of the Russian and Mexican icons from the past.


    The film includes many iconic personas that are well suited for animation, including the Chihuahua skit. Then there are the usual marijuana-smoking hijinks of the pair, though the film has no real plot. It is not unlike many of Cheech and Chong’s live-action films, such as Nice Dreams, which feature a series of skits within the main narrative. As Cheech and Chong get stoned and watch TV, we are given more of the skits, including a game show called “Let’s Make a Dope Deal.”


    The Blu-ray includes three separate commentary tracks over the 83-minute animated film; the first with Marin and Chong, one with the Chambers Brothers and Lou Adler, and the final one with Tommy and Paris Chong. There is a 4.20 Listening Mode, which plays all three of the commentaries. Also included in the special features is a jam session with Blind Melon Chitlin’ and a slideshow photo gallery.


    Entertainment Value: 7/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7/10

    Historical Significance: 7/10

    Disc Features: 7/10



    A-Z Daily Throwback Review: Eagle vs. Shark (2007)



    Eagle vs. Shark is the simple story of two slightly strange and lonely people who meet and connect, although often awkwardly so. Lily (Loren Horsley) is a sad fast-food waitress, in danger of losing even that job, but she has a crush on one of her customers. Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) comes in to eat at the same time every day, and when he invites Lily to a party they hit it off and begin seeing each other. Jarrod’s main concern is getting revenge on the bully who picked on him when he was growing up, so he and Lily take a trip home for Jarrod to enact revenge. Meanwhile Lily gets to know Jarrod’s family, most of which still look at him as an outcast and mourn the loss of his brother.


    With “dress as your favorite animal” parties and uncomfortable visits home, Eagle vs. Shark is like Napoleon Dynamite meets Buffalo 66. The deadpan style of humor in delivery and eccentric dressing habits and interests is not far off from Napoleon Dynamite either, but through the strange habits of these characters is actually a rather endearing story of love. Neither Lily nor Jarrod are very experienced in love, and it is often awkward and uncomfortable, but somehow still sweet.


    Along with a group of eclectic and strange characters, Eagle vs. Shark has numerous sequences of unexpected stop-animation to bring us even further into the delusional fantasy world of Jarrod and Lily. They are both searching for something, and this is often represented in the things they fantasize, as are their fears. Being brought into the world of an outcast is often as uncomfortable as you might expect, but the struggle isn’t in vain. The experiences that the characters go through allow them to break out of their shells and leave behind their illusions.


           The DVD has deleted scenes, with optional commentary by writer/director Taika Waititi. Some of the deleted scenes are pretty funny, although it is a good length at an hour-and-a-half. As enjoyable as the film was, much longer would have made it suffer. There is also a series of outtakes, most of which is filled with the actors laughing for no reason. The commentary is one of the highlights of the DVD, with Waititi and several guests. There is also a music video which is basically just footage from the film. The music is yet another great element of the film, so it is appropriate there is a music video included.

    A-Z Daily Throwback Review: Danny Deckchair (2004)


                Occasionally it is nice to watch something light, especially with some of the darker films coming out around this time. The problem is that most filmmakers have a hard time making films light without turning them slightly stupid at the same time. Danny Deckchair is a fun film that isn’t to be thought about too much, but it wouldn’t hurt it if you did.


                Danny is a cement truck driver that is unhappy with his life. He doesn’t like his job and all he is looking forward to is a vacation. Even this changes suddenly when his girlfriend, Trudy, comes up with an excuse to skip it. Stuck at home with nothing to do, Danny begins to get creative. After a fight with Trudy, Danny buys as many balloons and as much helium as he can, and soon he is floating off in the seat of his deckchair.


                Danny flies right out of Sydney and into a small town called Clarence. At this point the film begins to resemble The Majestic in many ways, though the most obvious comparison to any modern audience will be Pixar’s Up. Nobody knows who Danny is, so he I able to recreate himself. He cleans up and takes a job helping with an election campaign, all the while winning over the woman whose tree he landed in.


                Rhys Ifans has an unmistakable charm about him, especially once he shaves and cuts his hair. Once he does this it is amazing to see that he as been cast in roles such as the flat mate in Notting Hill who had the unforgettable photo session in his underwear. Miranda Otto, who plays Glenda the love interest, also seems to fit well into the romantic comedy role. There is something more fragile about Glenda than is usually seen in these sorts of films and it is a refreshing change. Ultimately there is nothing drastically amazing about Danny Deckchair, and yet it is a great date movie and time well spent.

    A-Z Daily Throwback Review: Chapter 27 (2007)

              When Russell Crow added a great deal of weight to accurately play the true-life role of the whistleblower in The Insider, he began receiving attention. Christian Bale lost a ton of weight for his role in The Machinist, but still had the critics eating out of the palm of his hand. Charlize Theron made herself unattractive in Monster, Nicole Kidman added to her nose to play the famous author in The Hours and even Tom Hanks received attention for his fluctuating weight in Cast Away. The bottom line seems to be that the more unattractive attractive actors are able to make themselves for the sake of a performance, the more positive critical attention they will likely receive. Jared Leto has proved no different with his performance in chapter 27, for which he gained 60 pounds to play the man who killed John Lennon.


              Based on the true story of Hawaiian drifter, Mark David Chapman (Leto), Chapter 27 follows the path of the disturbed fan as he comes face to face with ex-Beatle John Lennon during the three days leading up to their encounter in December of 1980. Chapman at first just seems to be a socially awkward fan, waiting outside of Lennon’s home with a group of ordinary fans waiting to get the Lennon’s autograph, but his interactions with others around him hint at something unnerving in him. He awkwardly makes conversation with an attractive young fan, Jude (Lindsey Lohan), who convinces him to buy Lennon’s new solo album. When the young girl and her friend ask Chapman to join them at the movies, however, he begins spouting angry ideas that come word-for-word out of the text of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, which is the book the infamous killer had in his possession when arrested.


              In the first moments of voiceover Chapman explains his belief in the words of Holden Caufield, the narrator and protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye. There are twenty-six chapters in Salinger’s book, suggesting that Chapman believed his visit to be a continuation of Caufield’s visit to the city of “phony people” in the book. Caufield’s hatred and anger towards many things, including movies, is then adopted by Chapman as he wanders the city in a similar fashion, clutching his book of Catcher in the Rye and Lennon’s latest album as though they were all that mattered.

    A-Z Daily Throwback Review: Bad Lieutenant (1992)

                Abel Ferrara’s deeply disturbing morality tale of a crooked cop who is no more harmful to everybody he encounters than he is to himself on a daily basis. The film is all about the lead performance, and like Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, the protagonist is not at all admirable. In most ways, he is downright despicable. Bad Lieutenant stars Harvey Keitel as the nameless Manhattan cop who uses his power to live a reckless life of addiction. Although he is living a sinful life full of indulgences of escape, there is nothing pleasant or admirable about the way he lives. Ferrara films with such unrelenting honesty that Bad Lieutenant received an NC-17 rating, though not at all for titillating reasons. The NC-17 is appropriate as a label of how mature the subject matter.


                Although the cop has a wife and kids, he is rarely seen at home. Nights are spent prowling the city, looking for easy prey and quick distraction from the guilt and shame which has built up over the years of abuse. He uses cocaine so regularly that there is a tense manner to his behavior the few moments he is sober with his children. The marriage he may have once cared about has also disintegrated, the lieutenant only using the home to crash for brief periods at the end of the night. Mostly he spends his time roaming the city, always as a cop but never working. He interrupts a police investigation of a robbery to steal the money from the thieves, provides cover for the drug dealers in order for free product, and sexually abuses women in exchange for inaction.


                This behavior doesn’t even seem to be appealing to the dirty cop, but he follows the routine anyways. Even while in the company of prostitutes and high on drugs, he breaks down. The only point of hope for the crooked cop comes from the horrifying rape of a local nun. When the victimized woman decides that she wants to forgive the assailants rather than condemn them for their crime, the guilty cop becomes fascinated, seeming to see his own redemption in her seemingly senseless forgiveness. This doesn’t stop his ill behavior, only occasionally slowing it, but it changes his demeanor some. Living his life as though it may end at any moment, and at times acting in ways that will hurry the process, the option of redemption and escape seems to appeal the hurting criminal of a cop.

    A-Z Daily Throwback Review: A Mighty Heart

                What could be a disadvantage is turned into the main advantage of A Mighty Heart. Based on a highly publicized event which occurred relatively few years ago, A Mighty Heart promises audiences an ending they can already anticipate. Seeming to realize that this was a story everyone will know the ending of before watching the first five minutes, A Mighty Heart takes a factual approach to giving all of details which weren’t reported in the news. Adapted from Mariane Pearl’s book about the events we are given a personal perspective, but also one of precise factual reporting. This along with Michael Winterbottom’s documentary-style directing presents the predictable story into stark levels of realism that is difficult as it is fascinating in the same way a car wreck on the freeway is. Looking means seeing something terrible and horrific that nobody should have to go through, but not looking doesn’t change the fact that it happened.


    Soon after 9/11, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (Dan Futterman) and his wife Mariane traveled to Pakistan to do what they could in terms of reporting the news. They establish a somewhat comfortable existence while working and even with Mariane pregnant they seem to feel safe, until Daniel sets up a meeting with Sheikh Gilani. Daniel meets with several people before deciding to meet Gilani, each warning him to stay in public if he takes the risk of meeting the infamous man. He agrees but when he receives a phone call at the public restaurant he was supposed to meet the man at telling him to leave with some of Gilani’s men. This is the last time he was free and safe, although Mariane’s battle is just beginning. Unable to get her husband on the phone she begins investigating his disappearance, which eventually begins to snowball into a mass effort which proves to be largely in vain. Even as advances are made in the discovery of who was behind the kidnapping, it doesn’t help to accomplish the one thing that seems important throughout the entire film.


    Certainly what seems to be an award season film for Angelina Jolie, A Mighty Heart showcases the actress’s ability to adapt into someone else’s shoes, but it also makes use of the reputation she has developed as a person. Jolie and her humanitarian work has been the only thing left for journalists to write about now that she no longer appears to be dating her brother, wearing Billy Bob Thornton’s blood around her neck, and her relationship with Brad Pitt has morphed into much of the same humanitarian publicity with him joining the film as a producer as well. She is obviously a caring person, and it appears that this film is attempting some of that good outside of just an Academy Award nomination. The Blu-ray has and optional PSA introduction about journalists in danger, unafraid to declare the death of Pearl before the film has begun. Ultimately this is what A Mighty Heart seems determined to get across; the power and responsibility of information given by journalists. They have a dangerous, important, and often challenging career which is not always respected due to the scum that call themselves journalists in order to feed off of human suffering. The line is so blurred at points that when Mariane is leaving her home and accosted by all of the press looking to make a story out of her husband’s tragedy it inspires rage, and yet her novel of the same events seems a poignant and courageous undertaking to make certain her husband’s death was not in vain.


    Along with the PSA, the Blu-ray contains a basic array of special features, seeming intent to keep the film respectful at all costs. There is a brief making-of featurette which goes into some details about the production of the film, but the rest of the features are far more interested in the topic inspiring the film and the positive changes that can be made, rather than the act of filmmaking. Winterbottom recently directed the stark and horrifying documentary, Road to Guantanamo, a film that condemns the treatment of prisoners in Cuba, but A Mighty Heart gives just as passionate a cry for these atrocities of war to stop, whatever group or country is involved. The high definition presentation of the film is not a highly significant change from previous viewings, but this isn’t the type of film that lends itself to visual or audio improvements. The story is the true star, even in the Blu-ray treatment of the film.