Scenes That I Love: Max Von Sydow Meets Death In The Seventh Seal


The Seventh Seal (1957, directed by Ingmar Bergman)

I had a bit of a panic attack earlier today when I logged onto twitter and I discovered that everyone was both sharing picture of the great actor Max Von Sydow and debating which one of his many roles was his best.

“Oh my God!” I thought, “Max von Sydow must have died!  2018 sucks now!”

I looked over at the trending topics and, to my shock, Max von Sydow was not trending.  However, Mark Zuckerberg was.

“Goddammit,” I thought, “Mark Zuckerberg is totally overshadowing the legendary career of one of the most important actors of all time!”

I was prepared to take advantage of the no-filter atmosphere of twitter and start screaming at people for not showing the proper respect to the life and legacy of Max von Sydow.  Fortunately, before I totally lost my temper, I decided to make sure that my assumptions were correct.  That’s something that I rarely do but I’m certainly glad that I did it this time because, by doing so, I discovered that Max von Sydow was not dead.

Instead, today was his 89th birthday!

Happy birthday, Max von Sydow!

What is Max von Sydow’s greatest role?  There’s so many to choose from.  He’s got a whole new legion of fans as a result of his appearances in last two Star Wars films.  Considering that he’s been an outspoken agnostic, it’s somewhat ironic that his first English-language role was as Jesus Christ in The Greatest Story Ever Told and that he epitomized everyone’s idea of the ideal priest in The Exorcist.  He’s played assassins, saints, and intellectuals.  He’s twice been nominated for an Oscar.  When I asked my boyfriend for his pick for Max von Sydow’s greatest performance, he picked the Emperor Ming in Flash Gordon.  Speaking of famous villains, von Sydow also played Blofield in Never Say Never Again and let’s not forget the assassin he played in Three Days of the Condor or his role in Minority Report or his performance as Leland Gualt in Needful Things!  And what about his performance in The Diving Bell and the Butterfly or his Emmy-nominated turn in Game of Thrones

Well, I could sit here and spend hours listing great Max von Sydow performances.  But, when talking about the career of Max von Sydow, you have to start with the films of Ingmar Bergman.  And when you talk about Bergman and von Sydow, you have to start with 1957’s The Seventh Seal.

(Some sites claim that The Seventh Seal was von Sydow’s film debut but that’s not true.  It may have been his first film for Bergman but von Sydow actually made his screen debut in 1949.  Before finding film stardom, von Sydow dominated the Swedish stage.)

In honor of both Max von Sydow’s 89th birthday and his amazing career, today’s scene that I love is from The Seventh Seal.  This haunting and atmospheric film is one that you definitely should see if you haven’t see it already.  Here von Sydow’s knight first meets Death (Bengt Ekerot*) and settles in for a game of chess.

Happy birthday, Max von Sydow!

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*While Bengt Ekerot never went on to achieve the type of international fame that von Sydow did, his performance here set the archetype of how Death, as a character, continues to be portrayed in books and films to this day.

What Lisa Watched Last Night #178: Evil Doctor (dir by Brian Skiba)


On Sunday night, immediately after watching Twin Betrayal, I watched and, working with TSL contributor Case Wright, live tweeted a film called Evil Doctor!

Why Was I Watching It?

The first reason was an obvious one.  It was a Lifetime movie and, as our regular readers know, there’s no way that I would ever miss the chance to watch a Lifetime film.

The other reason was that the film was named Evil Doctor, which made it sound like the origin story of perhaps the greatest MCU villain of all time.  As a general rule, any Lifetime film that has the word “evil” in the title is going to turn out to be good.  Evil is right up there with “Bad,” “Confessions,” and “…at 17” as far as words in Lifetime movie titles are concerned.

What Was It About?

Everyone wants something.

Aubrey Lewis (Jen Lilley) just wants to have her baby in peace.

Aubrey’s husband, Matt (Corin Nemec), wants to be a respected television writer, even if he is stuck writing for a sitcom called Family Phun.

And what does Dr. Natalie Barnes (Dina Meyer) want?  She wants to have a baby and she wants a baby now!  She also wants to deal with all of the unresolved issues that she had with her dead father, who happened to look just like Matt!  What better solution to Natalie’s problems than seduce Matt, steal Aubrey’s baby, and kill anyone who gets in her way?

Seriously, she’s not called an evil doctor for nothing.

What Worked?

Obviously, with a film like this, success is going to depend on how effectively the title character is played.  Fortunately, Dina Meyer really threw herself into the role of the evil doctor, kidnapping babies, seducing starlets, and murdering anyone who looked at her the wrong way.  Dina Meyer has always done a good job when she’s been cast as a Lifetime movie psycho and Evil Doctor was no different.  As well, Corin Nemec and Jen Lilley were likable as the objects of her obsession.

Evil Doctor was one of those Lifetime films that showed no hesitation about going totally and completely over-the-top.  Between the evil doctor plotting and the wayward husband trying not to get caught and the poor wife just trying to have her baby in peace, there was not one ounce of drama that this film did not explore.  It was outlandish, flamboyant, silly, and a hell of a lot fun!

What Did Not Work?

I think that the film missed a huge opportunity by not recruiting Eric Roberts to reprise his character from Stalked By My Doctor in a cameo appearance.  I would have ended the film with Matt and Aubrey going to see their new doctor and discovering Dr. Beck waiting for them in his office.  That would have been a legendary ending!

(For the record, according to the imdb, Eric Roberts currently has 57 films that are either currently filming or in post-production.  That has nothing to do with Evil Doctor but it is a fun piece of trivia.)

Other than the glaring lack of Eric Roberts, everything worked in Evil Doctor.  I mean, let’s be honest.  When you watch a film with a title like Evil Doctor, you know what you’re going to get.  You watch a film like this because you want to embrace the melodrama and you’re looking forward to trying to predict every outlandish twist.  Evil Doctor delivered exactly what it promised.

“Oh my God!  Just Like Me!” Moments

I totally related to Janelle (Kelsey Griswold), who was Aubrey’s sister and who moved in to help around the house while Aubrey was pregnant.  Janelle had this wonderfully sarcastic, no-bullshit approach to life, to which I totally related.  Janelle disliked almost everyone who came by the house and never made any attempt to hide that fact.

Lessons Learned

Always trust your sister’s instincts.

Cecil B. DeMented: MADAM SATAN (MGM 1930)


cracked rear viewer

It’s wild! It’s weird! It’s Cecil B. DeMille’s  MADAM SATAN, a movie I’ve heard about for decades, but never had the chance to catch, until now. It’s got a little something for everybody, from drama to comedy to musical numbers to half-naked women to jazz baby Lillian Roth! Was it worth the wait, Dear Readers? Well… read on!

Better hold on to your seats though, as MADAM SATAN shifts abruptly in tone throughout it’s running time. It’s slow going the first few minutes, starting out as a stiff drawing-room drama. Angela Brooks (Kay Johnson) is worried about her dissipating  marriage to Bob, who neglects her and stays out all night. Now here comes comedy, with Bob (Reginald Denny ) and his pal Jimmy (Roland Young) trying to sneak in at dawn, two wasted wastrels drunk as the proverbial skunks. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the maid (Elsa Peterson) breaks out…

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Film Review: Pacific Rim Uprising (dir. by Steven S. DeKnight)


Moving to directing isn’t always smooth

Pacific Rim Poster

.Duel was a success for Steven Spielberg, and Alex Garland had a wonderful success with Ex Machina. Conversely, Cinematographer Wally Pfister’s Transcendence wasn’t as well received. Though he has worked on TV, Pfister hasn’t had a motion picture follow-up (though I’m eager to see him do so). Everyone moves in different directions and at their own pace. Steven S. DeKnight is well-known for his work on Daredevil and the Spartacus series on Starz. He makes the leap to directing with Pacific Rim Uprising, the results of which are a mixed bag for me. I saw the original four times in the cinema. Uprising has some fun moments, most of them with John Boyega (John Boyega, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and Cailee Spaeny (The Shoes), but it wasn’t particularly memorable for me. I don’t know if I could actually say I hated it. That doesn’t mean that the kids won’t love it. There are some good moments of action that are reminiscent of Saban’s Power Rangers, and the movie provides exactly what it advertises – Jaeger on Kaiju action.

Uprising takes place ten years after the end of Pacific Rim, focusing on Jake Pentacost (John Boyega, Star Wars: The Last Jedi) son of the now legendary Stacker Pentacost. The world has moved on from the Kaiju crisis in various ways. When a new threat looms on the horizon, Jaeger pilots are needed once again. Jake would rather not get involved, plowing his trade as Jaeger tech smuggler. When he meets up with Amara Namani, a young hacker (Spaeny), both are brought into the newest rendition of the Jaeger Program. This also leads to a family reunion of sorts with Jake’s sister, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), who now heads the program. We even have our favorite scientist duo returning in Gottlieb (Burn Gorman, Game of Thrones) and Geiszler (Charlie Day). With all this familarity, you’d think that more of the same is the perfect recipe for a sequel.

The plot could have used a little more development, at least in comparison to the first firm. Uprising does stand on its own, and I could see some interesting arcs develop in future films. My problem with it was just that I didn’t feel a sense of worry for anyone. In the first film, there was this sense of escalation. Every incident was increasingly more dangerous for everyone involved. I didn’t quite feel that this film, but it makes up for it for having some interesting action scenes. DeKnight keeps the scenes short and sweet, and the flow of the movie is quite good, despite the lack of fights. Those moments are few and far between, which kind of left me a little drowsy waiting for them.

From a character standpoint, the real gems in Uprising are Jake and Amara. Boyega and Spaeny are great in just about every scene they’re in. Scott Eastwood isn’t bad either, actually, though he really isn’t given much to work with. Everyone else appears to be filling in roles. While it would’ve been nice to see more characterization in the rest of the crew, they do what they need to in order to keep the story moving.

Visually, Pacific Rim Uprising hits all the right notes. The Kaiju are strange and the Jaegers are impressive. The action moves in such a way where you’re not too lost with what you’re viewing. If there are any problems in this area, it’s that they appeared too clean (and that’s just a nitpick, really). Where the Original used nighttime or rainy shots to mask the effects (much like the first T-Rex encounter in Jurassic Park), most of Uprising’s effects are in broad daylight. It looks great, but also had a HDR quality to it that (for me) felt like you were watching a high end demo reel. The 3D also helped with the effects there.

Overall, I’d easily catch Pacific Rim Uprising again once it hits the digital circuit. It might be worth the viewing on an IMAX screen or even in 3D, but it isn’t anything anyone needs to rush to see.

Music Video of the Day: Superlove by Avicii featuring Lenny Kravitz (2012, dir by Rich Ragsdale)


I like this video because it’s an unapologetic celebration of how music and dance can transform even the most mundane setting into something special.

Dance!  Enjoy!