Sunday Morning Movie: Flash Gordon (1980)

Flash Gordon (1980)
Directed by Mike Hodges

For breakfast: Banana Nut Muffins

It’s fairly hard to criticize a film when it intends to be campy B-movie fun. Bad dialogue…check. Bad acting…check. Overdone costumes and cheesy effects…double check. There are two things that prevent this from slipping into nonsense territory: 1) the incredibly fun synth soundtrack from Queen and 2) the casting and performance of Max von Sydow as the evil Emperor Ming. Only in the ’80s can something like this be pulled off, of course it helps that the film has a good enough sense of humor about itself that it’s laughing along with the audience the whole way.

“Flash, I love you! But we’ve only got 14 hours to save the Earth!”

Oh, and one other thing…

Best. Trailer. Ever.

Sunday Morning Movie: The Wild Bunch (1969)

The Wild Bunch – The Director’s Cut (1969)
Directed by Sam Peckinpah

For breakfast: Biscuits ‘n Gravy

Sam Peckinpah completely demystifies and deconstructs the western in this gritty, beautiful film. I’m a huge fan of westerns and the “myths” that accompany them, but I also have a great appreciation for filmmakers who dare to turn a genre on its head (Kubrick anyone?). I came up with the term ‘poetic brutality’ after watching Peckinpah’s Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia and it more than applies here. From the opening sequence, shootout after shootout plays out more like a graceful dance rather than chaotic destruction. And yet every scene still manages to maintain a level of tension that grips and pulls the audience in. No one, that’s right…NO ONE can put together a shootout like Peckinpah. Up to this point westerns were all about the sharp-shootin’, charismatic hero, but here we get no heroes. We have aging men (played perfectly by one of the best ensembles I’ve seen) in a dying land who live by a code that is dying along with it. Everyone in the film is neither good nor bad, but appropriately colored a shade of gray. They find redemption in the end by adhering to the only set of values they can have in a world that has forgotten them. God I love this movie.

Grade: A

 

The Magic Christian (1969)

(Note that this was a review written for Film-Talk’s World Cinema Club, so it contains plot information and possible spoilers.)

You have to have a certain sense of humor to appreciate something like The Magic Christian. Joseph McGrath and writer Terry Southern (Dr. Strangelove, Candy, Easy Rider) give us an utterly hilarious, political satire that is filled with dark, absurd humor. Needless to say, the film hasn’t been well received and really isn’t talked about. I first saw it in one of my college film classes and I instantly fell in love with it. But this really isn’t suprising considering I’m a fan of random, absurdist humor.

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Oldboy (2003)

(Note that this was a review written for Film-Talk’s World Cinema Club, so it contains plot information and possible spoilers.)

The second entry into Park’s “Vengeance Trilogy”, Oldboy is the most tragic, Shakespearean story I’ve seen…that isn’t adapted from any Shakespeare. The story of Oh-Daesu (Min-sik Choi) is not unlike that of someone like Hamlet, but we’ll come back to that later. Due to forces beyond his control, our hero is thrust into a situation where he loses everything. Imprisoned for no reason, Oh-Daesu’s only contact with other humans is through his television. He is suspected of his own wife’s murder and his daughter is taken away. His body, his mind, and his spirit are broken until he turns his thinking around and dedicates his time to training his body and plotting his escape and his revenge on those who have taken his life from him.

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Django (1966)

(Note that this was a review written for Film-Talk’s World Cinema Club, so it contains plot information and possible spoilers.)

Django has virtually the same plot at Sergio Leone‘s A Fistful of Dollars (1964), as both are pretty much direct adaptations of Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961). Where Django differs from it’s predecessors is in the gritty, hyper-stylized look of the film and in the extreme violence. Violence which happened to get the film banned in the UK until 1993.

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