The main theme of “V For Vendetta” is that people should not be afraid of their governments, but instead governments should be afraid of their people. Written in the 1980’s as a limited series comic, and then reprinted in graphic novel form, this is the story of a dystopian future (a British one, mind you, in which Big Brother tactics are readily apparent in the real world) in which the government controls everything and dissent is quickly rooted out and squashed with vicious efficiency. That is until a mysterious masked figure known only as V (Hugo Weaving) starts wrecking havoc, trying to set an example to the citizens, showing them that an uprising is possible and that they can indeed fight back against the government that holds them all hostage. In addition to his attempts to inspire the populace at large, he also takes in a young woman named Evey (Natalie Portman) and makes her something of a protégé, dealing with her directly and trying to show her why he is fighting back against the fascist government that has taken over.Continue Reading …
From 1987, “The Running Man” is a sci-fi action adaptation of a Stephen King book from five years, a book that posited that the world would be in ruins and America will have devolved into an outright fascist dystopia in which the populace is partially placated by violent, state-run reality television, all in the far off and unimaginable year of 2025. That’s actually not that inaccurate, is it? And the movie actually sets the story in 2017 and mostly in 2019, and right now we all know we are just one bad presidential choice away from Pat Sajak hosting the government “sponsored” reimagining of “American Idol” meets “American Gladiators.” We’re talking about a classic Rome is burning scenario, and people are busy placing bets on which contestants will die first. This is the world of “The Running Man” and it started out as Orwellian-inspired ridiculous science fiction and now exists as an actually plausible future.Continue Reading …
As heard in episode 171 of Cinema Crespodiso.
“Dope” is a very cool movie from 2015 about a trio of friends living in Los Angeles, and this trio find themselves as outcasts in their own neighborhoods and school because they refuse to conform to any sort of stereotype. They love music, they are geeks about the 1990s and modern technology, the main character’s biggest goal is to get in to Harvard, which makes him appear to be a weirdo to his peers, and it all comes across as a solid and modern updating of the classic John Hughes movies of the 1980s.
Do you believe in coincidences? How about fate? Because just as we here at Cinema Crespodiso are busy covering the 25th annual Florida Film Festival, a past FFF selection has randomly popped up as this week’s Netflix pick, and that is a little indie drama called “Uncle John.” Featuring that guy who is NOT Judge Reinhold from the first two “Beverly Hills Cop” movies, this is the kind of indie movie that appears to be two different stories smashed together, and fortunately they do come together in the end, making for a well made crime drama thriller featuring some really strong performances.
First there is the titular Uncle John, played by John Ashton, and it is really cool seeing Ashton get a chance to be the lead in a movie, and he does well here as the small town carpenter that everyone likes and no one suspects. You see, very early on in the story, Uncle John has a dispute with a local guy that no one likes, and he kills him, and then he disposes of the body. The rest of the movie he tries to make sure no one suspects him, which is easy enough save for one person, the only person who did happen to like the murdered fella, and that’s the deceased’s brother (Ronnie Gene Blevins). Meanwhile, John’s nephew lives in the city and likes a girl at his job, and they strike up a friendship, which he tries to get to the next level. His attempts to break out of the friend zone end up sending the two of them to the country to make an unannounced visit to his Uncle John, which is obviously bad timing for John, but he makes due as best as he can.
Of all the Spike Lee joints out there, “Inside Man” might be his more mainstream and easily accessible to general audiences. A slick bank heist movie, “Inside Man” stands out from most of the others because it is a little smarter and slicker than most movies of this kind, not just satisfied with the basics of a bank heist movie but instead going that extra mile to find a way to do something that has not been done before.
Clive Owen plays the leader of the gang of people who walked into a huge bank, took everyone hostage and created a crazy situation for the NYPD. Denzel Washington and Chiwetel Ejiofor are the detective who show up to the scene and attempt to deescalate the situation and find out what is going on. Christopher Plummer is the shady dude who owns the bank and Jodie Foster is the fixer hired to secure some sensitive and secretive information within the bank to keep the shady dude out of trouble. There are a number of moving parts in this story, and it all comes together pretty nicely in the end, as the final ten minutes of the movie provide the big reveals and pay off necessary to bring this whole thing home nicely.
Being directed by Spike Lee, there is naturally some commentary about race relations and gender perceptions and income inequality here and there, but for the most part “Inside Man” is Spike Lee’s most unapologetically commercial movie, as he seemed fine with actually making a movie whose prime directive would be to entertain the audience, as opposed to his usual fare, which seems to be in service of informing and enlightening audiences. Which is fine, because artists are allowed to indulge in both, whether separately or one at a time, and Spike Lee is no different.
“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” is one of those sequels that pretty much no one asked for, but is also one of those rare cases in which said unwanted sequel actually turned out pretty good. It helps to have a legendary and awesome actress in the lead role, as well as another legend behind the camera, as Michelle Yeoh returned to reprise the role of Yu Shu Lien, and the original film’s fight choreographer and legit martial arts master Yuen Woo-Ping returned to take on directing duties this time. No big deal, he’s only the director of “Drunken Master” and “Iron Monkey,” nothing to see here, right?
While “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was much more the story of an unfulfilled yet intense love, its sequel is a more pragmatic movie, with the focus being the titular sword of destiny, also known as The Green Destiny. Yu Shu Lien pretty much comes out of retirement to help protect the sword from some bad guys who want it, led by a scary looking dude named Hades Dai (Jason Scott Lee!), and along the way she takes on an aspiring student named Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo, her first role, which she slays), and there’s also a guy in a cage that ends up being very important.
Who is Dock Ellis? “No No: A Dockumentary” tells us everything we need to know about the fella known as the “Muhammad Ali of Baseball,” what he did that was so special and why he should be remembered as one of the more important figures of 20th Century American sports.
Pitching in the major leagues from 1968 through 1979, Dock Ellis is best known athletically for a no-hitter he threw in 1970, an already rare feat indeed, made even more rare by him being very candid and open about the fact that he pitched this particular game while tripping on LSD. While this is a shocking admission, it also should not come as any surprise to any baseball fans, who should know that all of their favorite players for DECADES have been performing their duties while under the influence of something. LSD is a little extreme, but ballplayers have been playing while hungover, if not outright drunk, since the sport was invented, this particular documentary about Dock Ellis gets into the “greenies” which were given out by doctors and trainers to everyone for years and years (they were nothing more than amphetamines), players hit the field ripped on cocaine throughout the 80s, and steroids caused a big scandal in the late 1990s and early 2000s but if you don’t think athletes were using ‘roids in the 70s and 80s when it was perfectly legal and not looked down upon at all, then I got an Asgardian bridge to sell you.
From 2002, “Lost In La Mancha” started life as a making-of documentary for Terry Gilliam’s bizarre adaptation of the classic novel “Don Quixote,” which was to be titled “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.” Starring Johnny Depp as a 21st-century fella who time travels to a time and a place in which Don Quixote is alive and real, this movie was a dream project for Terry Gilliam, and the beginning of this production was a moment for him to celebrate. This celebration was quickly cut short, as problems plagued the production immediately, to the point where this making-of documentary became its own film, and became an “unmaking-of” film, the story of a movie production that stalled out and then died, a tale of “what could have been.”
Why are documentaries about unfinished movies or disastrous movie productions so fascinating? Joining the ranks of great films like “Jodorowsky’s Dune” and “Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau,” this particular documentary shows us everything – we see the idea take shape, and the elements come in to place to get the production started, and we see cameras roll and we get an idea of what this movie was even going to look like and how Gilliam was going to pull off certain effects, and then we see the shit hit the fan one piece at a time, until the whole things gets mucked up to the point of no return. Thanks to the extreme level of access these filmmakers had to the production, they were there for it all and they captured it all, which then means we get to be the flies on the wall of this failed film, which is something many people don’t get to see.
“Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films” is an excellent documentary about one of the most infamous movie production companies in the history of the Hollywood, Cannon Films. Not only does this documentary go deep on this company’s crazy history and really dive in to the insane filmography these folks created over the span of ten years, but it also spends the time to tell us all about the head of the company, Menahem Golan and his cousin Yoram Globus, two men who had considerable success making movies in Israel and had hoped to replicate that success in America. And while they certainly gave it the old college try, they didn’t exactly set the world on fire with their movies. But they definitely attempted to.
With “Silver Linings Playbook,” writer and director David O. Russell found himself in the midst of what would end up being a three-movie run of highly acclaimed, commercially successful and critically lauded films. Squished between “true life” tales “The Fighter” and “American Hustle,” with “Silver Linings Playbook” we got the story of a young man getting over a nervous breakdown connecting with a young woman battling her own personal demons and how these two damaged people were able to help each other through the powers of friendship, honesty and good old fashioned choreographed dance routines. This movie was very popular and well liked and it helped very much that there is a lot of great chemistry between this movie’s lead actors, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence.