Cinema Paradiso (1988) review

 

Rated: 3.5 / 5

“Life isn’t like in movies.  It’s much harder.”

It’s films like these that make me glad to be an avid film-watcher.  Films that show how powerful film can be, the emotions they carry, the memories they hold, and how they cause one to reflect upon life.  That doesn’t mean I consider this to be a perfect film, or even one of my favorites, but it is never-the-less a solid film that evoked an emotional response within me.

The film is a coming of age story, and how film has affected the coming of age process not just for the main protagonist, but for just about everyone he has known as a child.  The important role watching films at his local cinema played for him in his life, the lessons that can be gained from film and from outside of film.  And also trying to live life away from the hobby he had cherished for most of his youth.

It takes place in this little Italian town where Toto (that’s more of a nickname, but that’s what I’ll go with) spends most of his time in a theater, watching this Catholic priest (who pretty much runs the town on a cultural level) forcing the edits of various films, cutting out footage that shows people kissing on screen (that fucking asshole).  Toto not only sees this (and therebye gets to see the uncut footage before it is cut), but also learns how projectors work thanks to hanging out in the projection booth with the projectionist Alfredo.  Alfredo often quotes words of wisdom that he gained from the films he’s watched, some words that Toto takes to heart (or at least tries).

It’s not all fun and games though.  While Toto and most of the village do show up to the movies to watch them and enjoy themselves (making it more of an experience, an opportunity for practically the entire town to get together and have a romp in the theater, not just to see the film itself), there are times where the dangers and fears of making film-watching possible are shown.  The fear of the lion where the projected film comes out of, the easily flammable film reels which must not be taken lightly, and how one mustn’t let film cause them to become irresponsible with life’s other duties and experiences.

As Toto gets older and more mature, so do the films.  While he was a youth the Catholic priest’s concern for kissing scenes and anything that becomes too tantalizing for viewers causes him to prevent such footage from being shown to protect the youth, so is the case for many adults who don’t want their children to become exposed to such stuff.  But when they get older, when they become young adults, the youth have a desire to seek out those they want a relationship with, to find love.  And so eventually the Catholics lose their ability to control what shouldn’t be seen in a movie, and those scenes are left intact for everyone to see (much to everyone’s delight, as many complained about the edited versions in the past, and rightly so).  So the viewers are able to see the actors/actresses kiss on screen, so does Tito finally find his first love and get his first kiss.

Where the film becomes somewhat off-putting is when Tito joins the military.  It’s brief, and granted I guess it’s meant to show that he has to spend time away from movies, away from his hometown more than anything else.  It just threw the pacing off a bit for me.  And to be honest, it’s the only real issue I had with the entire film.  And on that note, eventually Alfredo convinces Tito that he must leave the town, leave this place, forget about everything and live his own life, create his own memories outside of this town, outside of this film.  Basically, Alfredo wants Tito to have the life he never could.  So that’s what Tito eventually does.

It isn’t until much later in life that Tito returns, after learning that Alfredo had died.  Yet Alfredo never wanted Tito to return, and expressed this wish to his mother, yet Tito’s mother calls Tito back regardless.  So at the end, I was wondering if it would end up being a good thing or a bad thing for Tito to come back to the town.  But seeing everyone else from his childhood gather for Alfredo’s funeral, and for the demolishing of the Cinema Paradiso (things have changed, theaters have become less significant with the VHS technology; a bit foreboding for today I must say), and coming across a film reel Aldredo left behind for Tito, just in case.  And Tito watches the film reel through a projector, and sees that it’s all the cut footage from all those films of the past, of all these actors and actresses giving each other passionate kisses.  Tito becomes emotionally floored.

It’s these romantic moments that become important for Tito in the past.  Because he also shares a love for cinema just as these characters in film share a love for each other.  And how could he not have a love for cinema?  Cinema provided a way for him to learn many of life’s valuable lessons.  How to find love, making friends with others, working projectors to put these sounds and images on a screen to make everyone else laugh and cry; and ultimately a way for everyone to find moments of happiness.  How can one forget the past when it has brought them so much?  How can one turn their back on film when it holds so many moments, so many memories, so many emotions?

Highly recommended film.

 

PS: Well, apparently there’s a couple other versions of the movie.  There’s the version when it was first released in Italy, clocking in at roughly 155 minutes, then the International cut which runs about 124 minutes (the version I saw), and then there’s the more recent “Director’s Cut” (which is a bit misleading from what I understand, it’s more of an extended cut, the initial Italy version is more to the Director’s vision I think) which clocks in at a whopping 170 minutes.  Strangely enough, there’s some debate as to which version many would consider superior.  Despite the cuts, many believe the 124 International Version is the superior film because of how it ends up portraying the relationship between Tito, Alfredo, and Elena (Tito’s first love) by the end.  See here for more:

http://www.edmundyeo.com/2007/05/cinema-paradiso-original-vs-new-version.html

Fahrenheit 451 (2018) review and comparison to the novel

Rated: 2 / 5
So they did it, they made a modern adaptation of the novel (itself I have reviewed). How is it compared to the novel? As in most novel-to-film adaptations, not as good. And it suffers from some of the problems that I geared it would. Yet does have some balls with some of the subject matter contained, which is something that is much needed today. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go as far with it as it should have, which is something the book did.

Oh, by the way, I will be spoiling both the book and the movie here.  But I’ll be doing this review under the assumption that you’ve read the novel.  Because if you haven’t, you should.  Plus it’s a short book anyway.

Anyway, so the film is in a more modern, somewhat futuristic (by our present day standards) setting, with the only real technological advances being that video is shown along the entire outside of a building.  So sort of like modern day New York, but more extreme than that.  And it just doesn’t seem practical.  You know how fucking difficult it is to keep something like that cleaned?  What if it breaks?  What if there are pixels that need to be repaired?  Plus the film doesn’t do the one thing I was expecting it to do from a technological standpoint, and that’s having a living room with all the walls made out as television screens.  Considering that was something not only in the main protagonist’s home in the novel, but also that it was considered common, and considering the film has entire skyscrapers that act as one big-ass tv screen, you would think the movie would’ve had that in it.

But I digress, it does have some nice modern touches to it, such as having an Alexa-like unit in most places, responding to questions, offering advice, and spying on you (even when you think you’ve shut it off).  And it does have the whole “brainwashing kids in school” thing, though the film is being a bit devious about this by having law enforcement figures be shown doing the brainwashing (thus metaphorically saying, “Cops are bad, m’kay?”).  And it does a bit of satire on social media, by having all the news stuff showing little facebook-like icons floating all around live feed bits, sshowing people’s reactions to them (in a far too simplistic manner in my opinion; The Orville did that better in one of its episodes, and I thought that show was mediocre).

But other than that, the film is just a typical by-the-numbers movie, rather boring at times, and not all that interesting.  It doesn’t get across the important bits of wisdom as effectively as the novel did.  Probably because it dumbs it down, which is rather ironic considering what the novel’s message is.  The acting is decent, but none of the actors seem to have any real chemistry, and the relationships all come off as forced.

It also doesn’t help that our protagonist Montag, played by Michael B. Jordan (who’s casting has been met with some reservation by die-hard fans of the book, for reasons I’ll get into later), doesn’t have a wife in this adaptation, like he did in the novel.  Instead, it opts to let him have a more close relationship with the captain of the fire team, a sort of father-son relationship (even though they’re not actually father and son), or sort of bromance, a comradery thing.  This causes the film to suffer in a great way compared to the novel.  For starters, the relationship in the novel demonstrates how isolated the husband and wife are from one another, how they don’t really love each other, how the wife is more into television shows and chatting with her friends about said-shows.  The media creating a kind of isolation, something I pointed out as a danger to society in that film Suicide Club.  And it shows just how far gone she really is, how much the way society is, the instant gratification mindset, the materialistic mindset, has led her to not care about Montag at all.  It’s a symptom most in this society have (at least in the novel version), which showcases the overall problem on a smaller scale.  We don’t get that in this film.  Rather, it just does the typical totalitarian society ala 1984.  Look, if you wanted to do a modern adaptation of 1984, then just do a modern fucking adaptation of 1984.  Fahrenheit 451 isn’t supposed to be like that.  It’s about how society has become its own worst enemy, rather than those in charge being the ones as the primary cause of the harm.

The other issue with the film is that these firemen (and I assume many in the society) take drugs via eyedrops, which I guess is supposed to suppress emotions and/or emotional memories.  You know, like the drugs in the film Equilibrium.  And none of that shit was in the novel either.  So why did they do it?  As I indicated in the last paragraph, it dumbs down the ideas in the novel.  In the movie, they take drugs to make their job easier, to function in society with less emotion and less remorse.  In the film, members of society drifted into this direction without drugs because of the instant gratification mindset, because of the simplistic tv shows (doubtful they have full-length movies, considering the attention span).  Sure, people took drugs in the book, but not for the same reason they do in the movie.  It was mainly anti-depressants, a side-effect of becoming so isolated via technology and the lifestyle.  Montag (in the novel) also has this mindset; he smiles and acts happy even though he isn’t.  And he has been doing this for so long he has forgotten what true happiness is, and just assumes he really is happy even though he isn’t.  This is not something the film contains within it, for anyone.  Makes the film shallow and more uninteresting.

Yeah, this is a more entertaining movie, as ridiculous as it gets.

In fact, the manner in which Montag gets an awakening from this mindset is also far different than in the novel.  In the novel, he meets, by random chance, some little girl who acts carefree and different from everyone else.  This is to highlight what the children are actually like, what they’re expected to be, and highlighting an important quality that all humans should have, lest they lose semblance of meaning and happiness.  Now, this little girl isn’t in the movie per-se, but there is an older substitute (otherwise I guess some would mistakenly assume Montag is a pedophile or something, because we can’t have adults having and innocent conversation with a child, in the middle of the night, alone on the street, with no one else around; guess I’m not helping my case out very much when detailing the context; the 50s were a more innocent time period).  An older substitute that he eventually makes out with (well now that would just make the novel version awkward).  The thing is though, she doesn’t awaken Montag to this way of thinking so much as she brings him in to the revolution.  Yep, it all comes back to challenging the totalitarian pricks in power, as opposed to pointing out how society is flawed because of its own self-inflicted wounds.  Again, why the fuck do this and call it Fahrenheit 451 as opposed to 1984?

This ain’t a loli hentai sweetie, so stop pretending these are teenage boobs under this non-teenage bra under this non-teenage see-through clothing!

Oh, and also, there’s no killer robot dog in this.  Ah, whatever.

Missed opportunity!

There’s also this interesting yet strange plot development halfway through the film.  How the revolutionists, somehow someway, have utilized digitized versions of old novels and created an artificial DNA molecule that can be implanted into DNA.  It’s not explained too well, but I guess the implication is that, once this spreads into more humans, it will eventually infect everyone with this DNA strand, and they will naturally know about all these books on an instinctual level.  The more I think about it, the more dumb it seems compared to the ending plan in the novel, which was also far-fetched but at least seemed more achievable compared to this.  Besides, this plan never made it to the human stage, it only got into a single bird species.  How the fuck is it supposed to spread to humans?  DNA spreading doesn’t cross species like that!  And even if it did, it would take so fucking long it wouldn’t even matter by the time it kicked in!  The bird species might have died off by that point!  Honestly, this would be one of those contexts where that speech Yoda makes in The Last Jedi would actually work (sure as shit didn’t work in that movie).  Plus it all ignores the other plot element in the novel about the other danger to society being the way it is.  Lack of compassion leads to not caring about impending doom to the point where no action is taken when a fucking missile blows up an entire city!  I don’t know, maybe it was a budget thing.

Lastly, the main actor himself.  He’s black.  Some have an issue with this, and they’re not KKK members or neo-nazis.  They take issue with this the same way they take issue with having the human torch from Fantastic Four being black in that one incarnation no one liked.  Not accurate to the novel/comic.  Now, personally, in this film’s case, I didn’t have a problem with it in terms of being faithful to the novel.  But it is worth bringing up an element of the novel that I just knew this film wasn’t going to have the balls to do.  The novel mentions that minorities are one of the potential faults in society.  Not necessarily because minorities in of themselves are bad people so much as it’s easy to put the blame on them for when something goes wrong, like the stock market crash of 2008 or some shit like that (indicated in the film The Big Short).  However, while they can be used as scapegoats for something they didn’t do, there are some bad things they are responsible for, and it’s addressed in a very brief manner that gives something for the reader to think about.  And when this book was written, blacks were considered minorities.  Today, many would still attribute that label to them.  And considering the manner in which the captain has a conversation at certain points with Montag (in the novel), he addresses him as a white man, telling him how black men are (grouping them with other minorities).  It’s not done bluntly, it’s on the more subtle side, but it’s there.

With that being said, I didn’t really give much of a shit about them changing the main protagonists race, he could be played by anyone (don’t push it with the sex change though, we’re already getting enough of that shit with Ghostbusters: Answer the Call and Ocean’s 8).  But I do take issue with the intention behind it, and this is a thinking outside the box sort of thing that is inconsequential to the events that happen within the movie itself.  It’s the same reason why all the villains are white, and why the leader of the revolution is a black lady.  The whole subliminal thing of making blacks out to be the good guys, and whites out to be the bad guys (excluding Black Panther, where Michael B. Jordan played the villain, but that film is an exception).  Another one of those films which we’re going to see much more of that take little jabs at the white guilt complex.  It’s really petty stuff honestly.  Did find it a bit strange that Montag was pretty much the only black guy on the fireteam though.

But anyway, at the end of the day, the film is dull, a poor adaptation of the novel, and dumbs down if not altogether eliminates the important points made in the original source material.  Plus I don’t think they had the budget to pull it off.  It’s just not that interesting of a film, which is frustrating when it has such interesting subject matter.  The potential is there, which makes it all the more tragic and infuriating that it has been wasted.  The irony.

The Youth of the Nation: Suicide Club

Introduction

Over the past couple weeks, my drive has slowed to a crawl.  I have no one but myself to blame, for the most part.  I have a bad habit of taking on too many projects at once, from television series (attempting to make a review for Naoki Urasawa’s Monster, Babylon 5, Vietnam – A Television History, and perhaps a couple others), movie trilogies (mainly the Star Wars prequel trilogy so that I can re-address the newer Star Wars films), other various movies (thought about reviewing Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, Made in America, and Redline), developing a fan-made expansion for a board game, creating my own original (somewhat) board game, and of course revisiting my Nostalgia for the 90s post by making the February 1990 sequel, which I’m having a hard time doing because I find it difficult to gain the willpower to track down and watch all the films/shows/games/songs from that month of that year (but I am down to a single film at least).  I try to keep myself focused on one thing, but rarely succeed.  Guess that’s the downside to having a bit of Attention Deficit Disorder.  So I usually try to finish these things in spurts.

But then comes situations that I know I’m going to want to address at some point, but try to avoid.  But then I just say, “Fuck it, I’m at my best when I spontaneously combust and go on spontaneous rants on something topical.”  So what set me off this time?  The recent school shooting (at this point it doesn’t really matter which one I’m referring to, consider it any of the shootings that involve school kids blowing away other school kids, and not in the sexual way [I don’t care how insensitive that joke is at this point]).

This isn’t going to be a single post.  This is going to be a series, where I not only review a film, but address how it’s themes address this ongoing “crisis” (if it can even be called that).  Because the problem with youth isn’t so simple that it can be condensed into just one topic.  And there isn’t any single film that can adequately address all those topics (though that one movie Higher Learning sort of tried; it failed, but it tried).  When it comes to something like this, people tend to try to make it as simple as possible, believing that the problem is something so simple that only 1, maybe 2 things need to be changed and then everything will be all better.  They couldn’t be more wrong.

 

Suicide Club review

Rated: 3 / 5

Let me get this out of the way, I’m not against suicide.  I used to be, in the past, mainly because all we would here is how suicide is bad, people shouldn’t kill themselves, we have more to live for, blah blah blah.  That’s all true, and one must also consider how selfish of an act it is and what consequences it would entail to those close to them, mainly family members and friends (assuming they have any).  However, what if one doesn’t have more to live for?  What if there is no one close to them who would be all that emotionally affected by their death?  What if they have no friends (or more importantly, what if they feel like they have no friends)?  Much of the downsides to suicide go away, and the only thing they would have to worry about is, “I really hope I don’t fuck this up,” or, “I really hope this is going to be quick and mostly painless.”  Basically whatever it takes to make the pain go away, whether it’s a physical pain from some disease or a physical injury; or mental pain from being bullied, from guilt over an action of the past, from thinking the future is too bleak, or from being alone and feeling isolated for too long.  All of those can start to look like very good reasons to off yourself regardless of what anyone else tells you.  Sure there are those who try to re-assure you that if you tough it out things will be alright in the end.  But what do they know?  They don’t know the future.  They don’t know everything.  They don’t know if your life will improve or continue to go into the shitter.

On the other hand, much of it could be applied to groundless paranoia, subliminal messaging, peer pressure, and the people you hang around with.  While there are good reasons worth killing yourself over, sometimes people are coaxed into it by people who don’t really give a shit about you.  Either way, good idea or bad idea, don’t take it lightly.  There’s no going back from something like that.  It’s a one and done thing, unless you fuck it up somehow and then you may end up a vegetable or a more miserable person than ever before who becomes less independent and less capable of killing yourself, living your life in an endless hell.  So either way you need to do things proper and with some amount of responsibility.  You know, like with living life.

Which brings me to this movie, known in the U.S. as Suicide Club, known in Japan as Suicide Circle.  It begins with a bunch of school kids jumping onto the tracks of a subway and they all get run over by the train.  A very gruesome scene of mass suicide.  Boy do those janitors have their work cut out for them.

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Roar (1981) review

Rated: Either 2/5 or 5/5, depending on how you look at it.

Saying that this film was released in 1981 is a bit deceiving, considering it took nearly a decade to actually finish shooting it, on a 12 million dollar budget.  That aside, this movies is pure insanity.  You know those horror stories about what it was like behind the scenes making that film Apocalypse Now?  That’s practically the equivalent to what it was like for this movie, except rather than heart attacks and losing their minds (their minds were gone by the time the project got started, because only insane people would think this was a good idea) , they got mauled by lions and tigers and panthers and elephants (all of the above combined added up to 100+ animals on set/location).

So, you’re probably wondering what the hell this movie is?  Well, in terms of plot description, it’s about some hillbilly (who is also the director of the film, Noel Marshall) who lives with an insane number of lions at his house in the middle of nowhere in the African continent.  He has convinced his family to come over and visit him to see what its like, failing to inform them about all the lions living on the property.  He goes to the airport to act as their escort, while getting in accidents along the way that sink his boat and crash a car, and arrives so late that the family arrived at the house well before he arrived at the airport.  So now they have to try to survive against all the wildlife until their husband/dad can make it back.

So, you would think this is ripe for thriller/horror material, and a warning against the dangers of trying to tame lions and stuff.  But strangely enough, the movie tries to be lighthearted about all this most of the time.  It tries to play much of the stuff going on for laughs, even though you just know it’s downright terrifying stuff.  The first time I watched this film, I was on the edge of my seat throughout most of the runtime, just wondering when something was going to go wrong, when someone was going to get mauled, when actors break character and run for their lives.  I mean, it’s impossible not to feel the tension from virtually everyone (except for that insane director) that is on-screen, the worried looks in their eyes with each passing second, with lions being anywhere from several yards away to not even a millimeter away; as in lions made contact with pretty much everyone at multiple times throughout the film.

Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t see anyone get badly hurt or anything on-screen.

Ok, that’s a lie, we see a few people get hurt on screen, but they’re minor characters.  It’s knowing about the behind-the-scenes stories that are more fascinating than the film itself.  And yes, behind the scenes, the injuries were a shitload worse than they are in the movie itself.  Everyone on set got injured, including the cameramen and other technicians.  Well, almost everyone.  The black guy who acted as a friend to Noel Marshall’s character managed to get out of the entire production unscathed.  Because he was the smart one, he knew to stay away from these lions, and you could tell from his mannerisms in the movie.  The worst of the injuries probably happened to poor Melanie Griffith, daughter of Tippi Hedren (yes, THAT Tippi Hedren, from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds; guess it wasn’t enough that she had to be traumatized by seagulls in her last film, now she had to move on to lions and elephants), and daughter of Noel Marshall (and to add to the trauma, Tippi was married to this psycho director, but divorced him after the film was released).  Melanie Griffith got her face clawed/chewed so bad she not only almost lost an eye, but also needed reconstructive surgery.

Oh, but it gets better.  Guess what the theme to the film is.  The moral lesson.  Seriously, take a guess, I’ll wait.

Made your guess?  Good.  If you thought the theme was about how nature can’t be controlled, that the wild will always stay wild, then you’re thinking too much along the lines of common sense.  We’re dealing with insane people with a budget here.  The theme of the film is about how animals and people can live together in harmony so long as they understand one another.  The moment I figured out that’s the message the film was pushing, unironically and in all seriousness and with honest intentions, that was the moment I fell on the floor laughing my ass off.  I mean, for crying out loud, they didn’t consider rewriting the theme just a tad during that entire decade of filming when all this stuff was going down?  Not even when the 70+ cast/crew members got injured and/or hospitalized?  Paul Verhoeven must’ve been shaking his head somewhere in the world going all, “How stupid can people be?  They’re making my job of inserting satire into my films impossible damnit!”  This is peak irony.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film more misguided than this, not under these extreme circumstances, not by a longshot.

And, to be honest, there’s not much else to say about this film.  The first 30 minutes introduces the dad at the house, going to the airport, and the family arriving at the house.  The rest of the film is a glorified Scooby-Doo chase that lasts for the next hour.  It gets monotonous, which would normally make something like this extremely boring, but it’s very difficult to get bored watching something so batshit insane, where there were virtually no stunt-doubles because only the actors and actresses and some animal trainers who raised the lions themselves would dare get that close to them (not even stuntmen or stuntwomen are this insane).  Although it is worth noting that Melanie Griffith originally didn’t want to do the film, so a friend of hers named Patricia Nedd played her part for a few scenes, until Melanie changed her mind and went back into the part.  I’m unsure of the details as to what scenes Patricia was in.

There’s a German cut of the film, which I haven’t seen, which has an additional scene in the film where a lion clamps onto Noel Marshall’s leg and pulls him down, and Marshall let’s out a horrendous scream.  A part of me wants to see that bit, but a larger part of me doesn’t feel like tracking down a German VHS tape and shelling out money for it.

On a last note, how the idea for the film came to be.  Tippi Hedren and Noel Marshall found out about an abandoned house that a game warden used to live in, in the middle of Africa , which became populated by a pride of lions.  Guess they decided that was a wonderful enough idea to make a movie about living in a house with a bunch of lions.

Or tigers.

Anyway, do I recommend the movie?  Hell yeah I do!  This has to be seen to be believed.  Currently available for free on youtube as of this writing.  Now don’t get me wrong, just because I recommend it doesn’t mean it’s a good film.  Far from it.  The acting is mediocre at best, the pacing off, the dialogue so bad and out of place it becomes funny, and not really much of a plot.  But it makes up for all that that with, well, pretty much everything else I’ve brought up in this review.  Plus it becomes a bit fascinating seeing the lion interactions.  For instance, I’ve learned that lions hate the water, but tigers seem to love it.

You gotta love the Japanese.

Fifty Shades Freed (2018) review (April drunken Fools edition)

Rated: Take a fucking guess.

Been a while since I’ve done this, but it’s been a regular thing with each Fifty Shades of Butt-Fucking film that’s come out over the past couple years, so I mine as well as finish it all the way to the climax.  Climax, something none of these films have ever gotten me to do.  Because not only are the sex scenes sissy shit, they have been getting less and less enticing with each passing film.  Hopefully this one will be better, but if not, I fucking swear I’m putting up porn gifs/pics on this blog entry.  One way or another, I’m getting a fucking climax (hey, maybe you will too).  You’ve been warned.

Rat Pack Week a Lynch1979 event | ALCOHOL MAY BE MAN'S WORST ENEMY, BUT THE BIBLE SAYS LOVE YOUR ENEMY. | image tagged in rat pack week,lynch1979,memes | made w/ Imgflip meme maker

Oh, and there better be ass-slapping in this like there was in the last 2 films.  And there better be some unintentional hilarity (which the first film provided, the second film far less so).  If not, I’m going to throw a bitch-fit.  Oh, who am I kidding, it’s a drunk review; bitch-fits are inevitable.

What this review is rated, though I can’t swear to the film containing incest and rape.  But who knows, I might just improvise on that.
Just in cases you needed 1 more warning in case it wasn’t clear.

Review

That’s right.  Like Twilight, these dipshits gotta get married.  Now consummate the fucking thing!

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Death Wish (2018) review

Rated: 3.5 / 5

“So you’re going to save the animal that shot him!?”
“If I can.”

Rant

So I was interested in seeing this film in November of last year when it was set to release, but then it got pushed back to May 2, 2018, due to concerns of it being released after the events of a mass shooting.  Guess that turned out well.

While I was eager to see this flick after watching the trailer last year (and becoming dismayed when I found it its release would be delayed until, well, today), I had my reservations.  First, with Bruce Willis.  The last film I saw him in where he looked like he gave a damn about the role and attempted to put some effort into it was Looper (a film I found to be mediocre, mainly due to some holes in the time travel logic, and the altered pace of the second half).  Outside of that, most of the stuff he’s in he’s just sleepwalking through.  Not putting hardly any effort into his role.  Unfortunately, that’s still the case with this film, but he does become more alive during the action scenes.  On the other hand, despite people stating how awesome Charles Bronson is, he pretty much did the exact same thing in the original 1974 Death Wish film.

The second reservation is with Eli Roth.  Now, this director, he couldn’t make a great film to save his life.  The best anyone could ever hope for from him is a B+ movie, and that’s it.  Most of the time he releases C-grade material that can be entertaining, but not good enough to be entirely memorable.  He loves putting gore into his films, can keep a film interesting enough to sit through all the way to the end, and usually injects enough thought-provoking material to consider when the film is over; but let’s be fair here, it’s stuff you would only think about for a couple moments and then move on, it’s never heavy.  That being said, for a film like this, a competent B+ actioner was all that I really needed.  Plus, unlike just about every other film he’s done, this one doesn’t star annoying youngsters.  He finally directs something with a middle-aged (or older-aged; sorry Bruce) protagonist having the lead role.

When the original Death Wish film was released in 1974, it was released to much controversy.  Critics decried its support of vigilantism, repulsed by the violence and the rape scene, and proclaimed the film as immoral to society.  Yet it was a hit with audiences, and it sparked discussion on the concept of vigilantism, especially with the rising crime rates.  Cut to today, and it doesn’t seem like much has changed on the controversy aspect, except that now “racism” is thrown into the mix, and choosing to attack groups of people with certain political views in addition to the concepts brought up in the film, as opposed to just exclusively attacking the ideas in the film itself.

One could say it’s definitely not a good time in America to release a movie which embraces gun-toting vigilantism with a complete disregard for any repercussions, one that offers a well-to-do white man as the answer to crime, but it’s never really a good time to release such an insensitive, tone-deaf movie. The crucial arc of pacifist-to-maniac is missing here, leaving the feature pointless, merely staging a “protect your family” parade. The only challenging thing about this movie is watching it.

David J. Fowlie of Keeping it Reel

Alan Zilberman @alanzilberman

Eli Roth’s Death Wish remake is so nakedly fascist that alt-righters will have an erection before the trailer ends http://bit.ly/2hr1mpC

Donna Dickens@MildlyAmused

Maybe isn’t a good idea in a post-Trayvon Martin world. White dudes on vigilante rampages for their fridged wife is very 1980…

Replying to @adamcbest

Moving it to Chicago is basically code for “let’s shoot black people”

In moving the setting to Chicago, a city where gun violence is both well-documented and highly politicized, and setting the trailer to “Back in Black”, the remake tips its hand: 2017’s Death Wish comes off as a work of cowardice and opportunism, piggybacking off hard-right fear-mongering and a government that’s completely and utterly disingenuous in its rhetoric about violent crime when nationwide, crime rates—despite rises in cities thanks to mass shootings like the Pulse massacre in Orlando—remain historically low. This stands in stark contrast to the state of violent crime in the U.S. during the ’70s, a decade that did see rising crime as well as some of the most notorious killers in the nation’s history.

The new Death Wish has an entirely different context, one where guns are routinely turned on black citizens by white supremacists and white cops, where mass shootings regularly occur and lawmakers refuse to do anything about it, where guns in the hands of the populace is not a rarity but arguably an epidemic. It takes a profound level of either ignorance or craven, willful opportunism to think that this is a moment to make a film about a white man’s rage channeled through the barrel of a gun.

Joshua Rivera of GQ

Although, even trying to have fun with the gritty revenge flick can prove troublesome; for some indefensible reason 95% of the criminals are minorities. The self-aware jabs at how easy it is to acquire a gun in America (Bruce Willis takes a few comedic trips to a satirical weapons store similar to Ammunation the Grand Theft Auto games) feel halfhearted and edited in after recent tragedies to throw criticism in both directions of the political spectrum. And let’s face it, watching a teenage girl fear for her life during a shootout right now is probably the last thing people will want to see, regardless of how the scare turns out. Honestly, an enlightened remake of Death Wish would not place Jordan in a coma, instead, it would give her a real character alongside PTSD in the aftermath of such events. The limited amount of perspective we do get from her is better than anything else in the movie from a narrative standpoint,

Robert Kojder of Flickering Myth

It’s the absolute wrong movie at the absolute wrong time. With our country currently reeling from the latest in what seems like an endless cycle of sickening school shootings, there couldn’t be a worse moment for a film that not only fetishizes gun violence, but also seems to get off on it. I’m sure there must have been long hand-wringing debates about whether to shelve the film for a couple of months and let the still-fresh wounds heal. At least I hope so. But whatever the case, the louder and more irresponsible voices in the room seem to have won out.

[…]

The audience I saw it with (in a Blue State, no less) cheered like crazy during the moments that might have otherwise given them pause. […] But the marketing of the film is another matter entirely. It has an unmistakable stink of rah-rah Make America Great Again-ness to it. It’s patriotic red meat thrown to the NRA crowd.

Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly

A time of Trumpist racism, incoherent gun policy, fear of police, etc., would be fertile subjects for mainstream films that use genre metaphors to address real national debates. That’s something this Death Wish doesn’t even try to be. Something has gone very wrong in Hollywood when one longs for the moral nuance of a Charles Bronson exploitation flick.

John Defore of Hollywood Reporter

The NRA would have you believe that the answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. But what about a bad movie with a gun? There will surely be those who approach Eli Roth’s updated “Death Wish” — with Bruce Willis taking over outlaw-justice duties for Charles Bronson — as the fantasy balm of righteous violence they need after the headline horrors of so many mass killings.

But is an upstanding man turned instant vengeance machine, who slays only the right criminals, who never hits a bystander, really the message our roiling gun-debate conversation needs right now?

[…]

Never addressed, though, is the racial truism that if an anonymous, hoodie-shrouded person of color from a poor neighborhood were dispensing street justice, he’d hardly be labeled a “guardian angel” or people’s hero. He might not even be covered by the media. But that kind of truth-telling would just harsh this movie’s NRA-friendly buzz.

[…]

It’s anyone’s guess if the nation’s newly politicized, gun-control-hungry teenagers will be a decisive demographic in this movie’s box office fate. But as I left the screening for “Death Wish,” one middle-aged white guy barked out over the credits, “God bless the NRA! Arm the teachers!” Trigger warning, indeed.

Robert Abele of The Wrap

It’s difficult to think of a film more out of step with the current culture than Eli Roth’s remake of Michael Winner’s 1974 action thriller Death Wish. At a time when Americans are constantly bombarded with reports of unpunished police brutality, the film suggests that the true problem with justice in our country is that law enforcement isn’t violent enough.

Jake Cole of Slant

Watch it now, and you laugh at the campier aspects, cringe at the outright racism and sit slack-jawed as a Southern yokel/NRA avatar circa ’74 talks about how the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

[…]

But it helps to remember that this Nixon-era law-and-order wet dream also became a huge blockbuster hit, sparked a lot of point/counterpoint conversation about vigilantism, gave Charles Bronson’s career a shot in the arm and kicked off a revenge-fantasy franchise that went well into the Nineties.  […] And given how Trump resurrected that same “law and order” rhetoric to scare voters and play to his base’s baser instincts, you can see why an opportunist might want to remake it now, right?

David Fear of Rolling Stone

2018 is turning out to be a truly inclusive year for on-screen representation. “Black Panther” invited African-American audiences to see themselves in a massive superhero movie that wasn’t about their own oppression, “A Fantastic Woman” gave transgender women the chance to see themselves in an acclaimed film that wasn’t terribly retrograde, and now Eli Roth’s dangerously enjoyable “Death Wish” gives right-wing lunatics the opportunity to see themselves in a fascist fairy tale that wasn’t directed by Dinesh D’Souza. To each their own cinema.

[…]

The grossest part of the entire movie are the milliseconds between when you smile at what you’re seeing and when you recoil at what it means. Roth implicates us in the violence to an extent that the original never did, or never could.

David Ehrlich of IndieWire

Irresponsibly tone deaf, maverick in its thematic ignorance and pornographic in its fetishistic gun obsession. There’s never a point where vi-o-lent vigilante justice might *not* be the answer, always gruesomely inflicted with Rothian levels of fatal body trauma. For a movie that opens with media chatter about how Chicago’s criminal epidemic has reached near-dystopian levels, there’s a shocking lack of responsible messaging under peeled layers of flesh. No matter how much you might want to separate your politics from movies, Death Wish refuses to let you. It’s a dumbfounding example of the exact kind of weapons normalization we *do-f#&king-not* need in mainstream pop culture right now.

Matt Donato of We Got This Covered

The scene, by all rights, ought to be a nasty bit of business: a middle-aged white avenger in a hoodie, popping out of nowhere to blow a black drug dealer away. But that “last customer” line plays like an old Schwarzenegger kiss-off, and the lawless killing is followed by equal-time commentary from black and white talk-radio hosts — the film’s explicit attempt to defuse any racist overtones.

More than that, the reality of a glib execution like this one is that audiences have been consuming overripe revenge thrillers for 45 years now, and they no longer take them all that seriously. Blowing someone away with unsmiling moral cool is now an act of violent comedy. (That’s certainly how the multi-racial audience reacted at the preview showing of “Death Wish” I attended; they hooted and hollered with glee.)

“Death Wish,” make no mistake, is a movie that has its heart in the wrong place. It’s an advertisement for gun fetishism, for taking the law into your own hands, for homicide as justice, for thinking of assault weapons as the world’s coolest toys. Given that the eternal debate about gun control has now been heightened, post-Parkland massacre, to a new state of urgency, the film, depending on your point of view, is either horribly timed or spectacularly well-timed. An N.R.A. cultist might see the new “Death Wish” and think, “Hollywood finally made one for our side.”

Owen Gleiberman of Variety

There is no clear explanation as to why Roth decided today’s world needed to revisit the franchise’s ultra-right-wing dog whistling. Perhaps a George Zimmerman biopic fell apart due to rights issues, and this was the closest producers could get. Or maybe the cinema needs just that much more sickeningly sincere gun fetishization – they’ve certainly got an audience in Senator Marco Rubio, so that’s one ticket sold.

Takashi Seida of The Globe and Mail

Death Wish is the last movie we need right now. Eli Roth‘s remake of the 1974 original is just as tasteless and tone-deaf as its exploitative trailer promised, with Bruce Willis‘ doctor-turned-vigilante Paul Kersey doling out gunpowdered justice against the milieu of Chicago’s real-life gun violence epidemic after his wife is killed during a home invasion.

Randall Colburn of Consequences of Sound

Actually: No. There’s no better time to sit with director Eli Roth’s version of “Death Wish.” Sixteen days after Parkland; 17 days after the murder of Chicago police Cmdr. Paul Bauer; the same week as our president’s assertion that he would’ve run into that Florida high school and taken care of business, gun or no. Yes, it feels like the week for this movie.

Funny thing: Initially, MGM had this Bruce Willis “Death Wish” reboot scheduled for a Nov. 22, 2017, launch. But a week after last fall’s gun massacre in Las Vegas, the studio thought, well, maybe this isn’t the moment to get audiences jazzed about an NRA wet dream. So MGM waited, forgetting that America never goes too long between massacres.

Michael Phillips of Chicago Tribune

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So that’s the general atmosphere of mainstream film critics, and I’m sure mainstream news sites and talk shows, most of which are liberal and pro-gun-control.  Unlike the 70s where they just called the film repulsive, today they not only call it repulsive, but call anyone who enjoys it repulsive, and call anyone related to being pro-Trump or pro-NRA repulsive (and racist, and alt-right, and pro-fascist).

Ok, first of all, can’t we just agree that there are people out there who don’t give a fuck about politics and just want to see a revenge-thriller?  Not everyone who would find enjoyment in this move fits those “negative” traits, and even if they did those trait definitions have been stretched so broadly just about anyone could fit into their definition.

Second, just because someone is pro-NRA, pro-Trump, anti-gun-control, doesn’t mean they’re an asshole who promotes violence and wants to kill everyone.  I’m tired of seeing people like that, including me, being labeled as such.

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Third, and this is the big one, I think they fear that films like this, about vigilantes and how their way can work because police aren’t a guaranteed source of protection (as many recent shootings have demonstrated; if these cocksuckers are going to exploit shooting massacres to justify not seeing a film, then I’m going to be one of those cocksuckers who will exploit the shootings and justification for seeing the film).  Because this film, and the original Death Wish (among other films between 1974 and 2008, nevermind the 1973 Walking Tall film), provide reasons as to why and how having guns (good guy with a gun) can eliminate criminals early on who wish to cause violence among innocent civilians (ie the bad guy with a gun).  They wanna label anti-gun-control individuals as people who want violence to happen and as deplorables who will make things worse, that can go both ways.  Why not label the pro-gun-control individuals as those who also want violence to happen.  See how things work out if you ask that some guy with a gun follows the law and not shoot anyone when he’s about to start shooting people.  See how that worked out for many examples in the past where a good guy with a gun stopped such incidents before they got exponentially worse.  Forget about seeing so judgemental and open-minded and letting people make up their own decisions.

“Everyone is very sensitive, everyone is ready to take a stance against something, but c’mon guys.

“You have to be aware of your audience, if you want to handle that subject matter, you have to be smart about it. And we do.

“When you see the film, you’ll see exactly how we handle the killing, how it’s not about race. It’s about good, it’s about bad. He’s going after bad guys, he’s going after the guys that did this to him. But you know what, everybody gets a taste of justice in this movie.”

Eli Roth

Some are actually calling for the movie to be plugged from theaters or questioning the decision of the studio to make the film at all ( just by the critic’s interpretations of the film’s politics) and that’s why I say that a lot of these guys are definitely no different nor any better than those “1950s book-burners right-wing assholes” they claim to hate so much.

But thank God we still got some freedoms left and the movie was released and viewed by yours truly.

Mucho Macho on Manly Movie

And some people going, “A white guy in a hoodie killing a black gangster (nevermind about the white guys he offs, that’s mandatory to avoid being labeled UBER-RACIST!).  That’s racist!”  Fuck you!  You wouldn’t be bitching about that if it was a black guy killing off a bunch of white people, like Denzel Washington did in The Equalizer.  Hell, you wouldn’t bitch about it if it was about a black guy going all vigilante on a bunch of white guys who killed his family.  Stop trying to make this a racist black vs. white issue!  Everyone from all sides has a thing for revenge films!

“This film is the last thing we need released right now because it’s a sensitive subject!”  Fuck off!  Having a movie about a sensitive subject allows for more potentially constructive conversations to happen.  Besides, every movie contains material that some may find offensive and triggering.

“My best friend was killed by a thug with a gun!”  Mine wasn’t, so I don’t give a shit.

“My family died in a car crash!”  Well, guess we better ban all racing films from theaters.

“My family died in a plane crash!”  Doesn’t mean everyone else still can’t watch Fearless or Airplane! or Con Air.

“My dog died!”  Fuck you, I’m still going to watch and enjoy Old Yeller!

“Me and my wife got gang-raped!”  Guess we can’t have films with rape as a plot device anymore, not even if it tackles the subject with how to recover/recoup from it, nevermind other revenge flicks that can come from that such as I Spit on Your Grave or Elle.

“My girlfriend broke up with me!”  Then avoid all the straight and lesbian romance flicks and go watch Brokeback Mountain or some movie where homosexual men or transgenders or futas fuck each other up the ass!

“My waiter was mean to me!”  Cry me a river and starve to death while I watch Waiting.

Virtually anything can set someone off.  Some have their personal traumas that they are unable to get over (or that some don’t want them to get over, at least not too quickly, because we can’t encourage people to get over traumatic experiences on their own and be tough and independent now can me?) which prevents them from watching and enjoying a film containing that particular subject matter.  But just because that’s the case for them doesn’t mean they should bring the experience down for everyone (including those tough enough to get over the traumatic experience) else who is interested in seeing the fucking film, whether it’s a stupid fucking film, a smart fucking film, a poorly made film, a richly made film, etc.  Let individuals decide for themselves if they want to see it or not, and whether they’ll enjoy it or not.  And if they want your input, they’ll fucking ask for it (or visit a website and read about it, hello readers).  The only reason this is controversial is because of the social/political/cultural climate that the mainstream has been stirring up ever since 2014, and doubling down on it, and doing their damnedest to make us hate ourselves and each other, and I’m fucking sick of it, and hope they burn in hell for dividing us like this.  A part of me hopes this film stays at the top of the box office for 3 weeks straight just to spite these assholes, and especially if it beats out Black Panther so that Disney and Marvel lose their shit.

*sigh*

 

 

Actual Film Review

Alright, enough with the ranting, which will probably take up more space than the actual review.  So how was the film?  I enjoyed it.  It’s roughly what I was hoping it would be.  Didn’t exceed expectations (that would’ve been a miracle), but it didn’t fall below them either.  Bruce Willis is typical, nothing to special about his acting talents; just sleepwalking until the action scenes (so basically like Bronson, except he also sleepwalks through the actions scenes too).  Eli Roth kept things interesting with the pacing and the action for the most part (though the first 30 minutes is a bit slow, because they needed a better dialogue writer and better actors and actresses to deliver them, and it’s all by-the-numbers).  And the violence is much appreciated, not shying away from any of it.

Now I wouldn’t say it’s quite as gritty as the original film.  Roth may like to think he’s making gritty material, but just because it’s violent doesn’t mean it’s gritty.  He’s not skilled enough for that, and he’s too clean with his directing, despite what the gore may make you think.  That being said, I prefer this remake to the original simply because it’s more fun and energetic.  The 1974 film is rather boring by my standards, and monotonous.  The only reason it’s hailed as a classic is because it was released in a “timely” matter (even if critics back then claimed otherwise) when it was relevant (like this film today), and because it was the first true vigilante film.  Many were fed up with the high crime rates and the lack of police successfully protecting citizens, so the idea of taking the law into their own hands appealed to many.  And crime isn’t much better today in some areas of the country (Detroit, Chicago, the latter of which is where the film takes place, and I firmly believe this was intentional on the screenwriter’s part).  Because crime rates and violence is still a problem today, this theme is still relevant, especially when we’re in a day and age where we’re encouraged to be less independent than ever.  Doesn’t usually work out that well.

Death Sentence

The other element this brings is how social media and radio hosts and podcasters react to vigilante Bruce Willis.  You know, like what Boondock Saints did (one of the most overrated movies ever, even for something that only has a cult status).  Or what The Brave One did, something I reviewed alongside another film called Miss Sloane, the latter of which was a very pro-gun-control film which bombed in theaters (hah!).  The Brave One had a female being in the role of the vigilante, a good girl with a gun.  And it’s a film I consider to be superior to Death Wish (both versions) and Boondock Saints in terms of dealing with the pros and cons of being a vigilante.  The other good film on vigilantism (that focuses primarily on what the consequences are) that I’ve seen is the under-rated Death Sentence starring Kevin Bacon.  This new Death Wish film attempts to show the grey area of vigilantes, by having podcasters ask if he’s right or wrong (it came off as very shallow and tacked on), by having another vigilante wanna-be get killed off (that addition worked better), and showing how Willis’ character becomes more closed off from others, and how his den becomes more and more littered and trashed as he continues on this lifestyle.  It doesn’t go far enough to point out how unhealthy the lifestyle is, in my opinion, but it’s there.  But regardless, the film clearly sides with vigilantism, and one could argue without much outcry from me that vigilantism is glorified.  But at least it’s nice enough to show that Willis doesn’t start out as a pro.  He almost gets killed from a bullet ricochet when he fires for the first time (pretty sure it was played more for laughs then as a warning; entertaining regardless), gets his hand messed up from the slider, and the gun gets jammed on one occasion.  Plus he lucks out of getting killed in one instance.  So I wouldn’t say it entirely glorifies vigilantism to the point where it encourages anyone to be a vigilante.  But I would say, like the original film did, that society could use vigilantes to make society better, because law enforcement isn’t always enough.  In any case, Eli Roth is like Scott Snyder when it comes to themes; neither director is capable of going far enough with them to be considered satisfactory.

And the violence does get quite brutal at times, especially when he visits the auto-shop (that’s all I’ll say about it).  And I always appreciate a film bringing some hard R violence into the cinemas to remind me that not everything is bland and holding back (just most mainstream movies).  It worked far better in this film than it did in Eli Roth’s previous film The Green Inferno.

From the films I’ve seen in the director’s repertoire, this is probably his best-made film to date, better than Hostel (that’s probably not saying much for some readers out there, but there it is).  Roth does miss far more than he hits, and in my opinion this film is only his second hit (next to Hostel, all other films of his I either don’t care to see, or I have seen and think they’re shitty).

Good fun shoot-em-up entertainment with a dose of torture in the middle, and we have a protagonist who doesn’t come off as invincible (he gets some scars and hits off and on).  Recommended.

PS: For those who bitch about Willis’ character not puking out of sickness and disgust from his first kill like Bronson did in the original adaptation, I chalk it up to Willis being used to being around dead people; you know, being a hospital surgeon and all.

PPS: Doesn’t the daughter in this film look like Anne Hathaway?