Film Review: Radioactive (dir by Marjane Satrapi)

If you want to talk about the birth of the modern world, you have to talk about Marie Curie.

That’s the argument made by the biopic, Radioactive.  It’s a compelling argument and it’s very much correct.  Born in Poland and a citizen of France, Marie Curie was the 1st woman to win the Nobel Prize, the 1st person and only woman to win the Nobel Prize a second time, and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two scientific fields.  She shared her first Nobel Prize (in Physics) with her husband, Pierre.  After Pierre’s tragic death, Marie won her second Nobel, this time for Chemistry.  Both her daughter and her son-in-law would go on to win Nobel Prizes of their own and the Curie family continues to produce notable scientists to this very day.

Marie Curie is best known for her pioneering research on radioactivity, a coin that she termed.  She developed techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes.  She discovered that radioactivity could be used to battle aggressive forms of cancer.  Without her research, there would be no nuclear power, no chemotherapy, no X-ray machines, and no atomic weaponry.  Marie Curie is one of the few people about whom it can legitimately be said that they changed the world.  Of course, Curie herself later died of a radiation poisoning.

Radioactive opens with Marie (played by Rosamund Pike) on the verge of death, before flashing back to show us her early life and she went from being an obscure scientist to becoming the world renowned Madame Curie.  We watch as she meets and falls in love with Pierre Curie (Sam Riley).  The film celebrates not only their love for each other but also takes a look at Marie’s struggle to escape from Pierre’s shadow.  Though she was acknowledged as his partner and won her first Nobel Prize with him, it’s not until Pierre is trampled death by a bunch of horses that Marie’s genius is truly acknowledged.  The scenes in which Marie expresses her frustration at being overshadowed by her husband are some of the best in the film, largely because the film doesn’t make the mistake of attempting to portray Pierre as intentionally stealing all of the glory for himself.  Instead, society just assumes that Pierre deserves most of the credit because …. well, Pierre’s a man and Marie’s a woman.

Unfortunately, Radioactive makes some perplexing narrative choices.  Throughout the film, there are random moments when we get a sudden flashfoward and see random people interacting with radioactivity.  For instance, we go to a hospital in the 1950s and we listen as a doctor explains that he’s going to use radioactivity to help a patient combat cancer.  Another scene features the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima.  We see the nuclear tests in Los Alamos.  One moment, Marie is crying in the middle of the street.  The next minute, an ambulance drives past her, on the way to Chernobyl.  On the one hand, it’s easy to see what the film’s going for.  It’s showing us everything, good and bad, that will happen as a result of Marie Curie’s work.  It makes the very relevant argument that sometimes, in order to get something good (less pollution, treatments for cancer) you have to risk something bad, like the possibility of being vaporized by an atomic bomb.  But the flashforwards are handled so clumsily that they actually detract from the film.  When I watched the sequence taking place at the hospital, I found myself wondering if Marie Curie discovered bad acting before or after she discovered radioactivity.  This is probably one of the few instances where a biopic would have been helped by taking a more traditional approach to its material.

On the plus side, Radioactive does feature a very good performance from Rosamund Pike, who really deserves to be known for more than just killing Neil Patrick Harris in Gone Girl.  (Don’t spoiler alert me.  The film’s nearly 6 years old.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you weren’t ever going to.)  Radioactive is currently playing on Amazon Prime and you should definitely watch it if you’re planning on keeping radioactive isotopes in your desk at work.  Seriously, don’t do it.

Who? (1974, directed by Jack Gold)

Lucas Martino (Joseph Bova), an American scientist who was previously captured by the Soviets in East Berlin and who was gravely injured in a terrible car crash, is finally returned to the Americans.  But is it really Dr. Martino?  Making identification difficult is that the Soviets had to totally rebuild Martino’s body after his car crash.  He appears to still have one of his original arms but he’s otherwise a cyborg.  He now has a metal head with an expressionless face.  Is he really Lucas Martino or is he a spy?  Even though his fingerprints check out, it’s possible that the real Martino’s arm could have been surgically grafted onto an imposter’s body.

It falls to agent Shawn Rogers (Elliot Gould) to determine whether or not this Martino is the real Martino.  Rogers interrogates the man claiming to be Martino but struggles to determine whether or not the man is who he claims to be.  Complicating matters is that, even if Martino is Martino, it’s possible that he could have possibly been brainwashed by Shawn’s Soviet counterpart, Col. Azarin (Trevor Howard).  As Shawn interrogates Martino, the film frequently shows Azarin asking Martino the exact same questions.  Is the film showing what Shawn thinks happened or is the film showing what actually happened?

Who? is based on a classic sci-fi novel by Algis Budrys.  It’s pretty faithful to its source material but it doesn’t really work as a film.  Some of that is because, despite the fact that Bova gives a good performance, the cyborg makeup is never really convincing.  Many potentially dramatic scenes are ruined by how silly Bova looks.  Trevor Howard is too British to be convincing as a sinister Russian and Elliott Gould is likewise miscast as Shawn Rogers.  Gould was always at his best playing quirky, counter-cultural characters.  Just think about his performance in Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye, where Gould was such a strange P.I. that it allowed Altman to deconstruct the entire genre.  In Who?, Gould is meant to be a much more conventional secret agent and he seems lost in the role.

Speaking of Robert Altman, he’s the type of director who probably could have worked wonders with Who?  I think Michael Crichton probably could have pulled off the film.  Maybe Mike Hodges, as well.  But Jack Gold was a much less adventurous director than any of these filmmakers and his direction in Who? is often too low-key and conventional.  I kept waiting for the film to really go for it and challenge my expectations and surprise me but it never did.  Who? doesn’t seem to know what type of film it wants to be.  Is it a spy thriller or a sci-fi film or an examination of what it means to be human?  It tries to be all three but just doesn’t succeed.

The idea behind the movie is a good one and Budrys’s book remains intriguing.  This is one that I wouldn’t mind seeing remade, perhaps by someone like Denis Villeneuve or Alex Garland.

Music Video of the Day: Fuel by Metallica (1997, directed by Wayne Isham)

Sometime, people like to drive too fast.  Sometimes, people like to live too fast.  For those special moments, there’s always Metallica.

This video was directed by Wayne Isham, who has directed the majority of Metallica’s videos, not to mention videos for just about everyone else in the music business as well.  The video was produced by Quentin Tarantino’s production company, A Band Apart and the use of dramatic title cards certainly does fit in with Tarantino’s aesthetic.  The video feels like a tribute to the car chase films of the 60s and 70s.  It’s Death Proof before Death Proof.

Fuel was later covered by Avirl Lavigne.  Be careful bringing that up in certain company.


Lisa’s Week In Review: 8/3/20 — 8/9/20

Season 22 of Big Brother started this week and with it, my summer job of covering the show for the Big Brother Blog!  So, I didn’t watch as many movies as usual this week.  Nor did I review as many …. well, actually, I didn’t review anything.  It’s been a while since that’s happened.  However, I have a lot of reviews scheduled to go for next week so yay!

Anyway, forgive the rambling intro …. here’s what I did this week:

Shock (1977, dir by Mario Bava)


Films I Watched:

  1. Charge Over You (2012)
  2. Countdown to Looking Glass (1984)
  3. Crowhaven Farm (1970)
  4. Giant (1956)
  5. Insignificance (1985)
  6. Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret (2013)
  7. Shock (1977)
  8. Top Gun (1986)

Television Shows I Watched:

  1. Bar Rescue
  2. Big Brother 22
  3. The Bold and the Beautiful
  4. Days of our Lives
  5. Doctor Phil
  6. Dragnet
  7. Fear They Neighbor
  8. General Hospital
  9. It’s A Living
  10. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
  11. The Love Boat
  12. Masterchef
  13. The Office
  14. Paranormal Survivor
  15. The Powers of Matthew Star
  16. See No Evil
  17. The Simpsons
  18. World’s Most Wanted
  19. The Young and the Restless

Music To Which I Listened:

  1. Ami
  2. Britney Spears
  3. Chris Zabriskie
  4. Daft Punk
  5. Elle King
  6. Ennio Morricone
  7. Jessica Simpson
  8. Lam Gallagher
  9. Libra
  10. Lou Reed
  11. Phantogram
  12. The Psychedelic Furs
  13. Pulp
  14. Saint Motel
  15. Selena Gomez
  16. Skrillex
  17. Taylor Swift
  18. Tegan and Sara
  19. The Ting Tings
  20. The View

Our Tribute To Morricone:

  1. Main Theme From A Fistful of Dollars (A Fistful of Dollars)
  2. Main Theme From For A Few Dollars More (For A Few Dollars More)
  3. Gui La Tesa (Duck, You Sucker!)
  4. Malena (Malena)
  5. Chi l’ha vista morire? (Who Saw Her Die?)
  6. Neve (The Hateful Eight)
  7. Final Theme From Cinema Paradiso (Cinema Paradiso)

Links From The Site:

  1. Along with my Morricone tribute, I shared a music video from Ami.
  2. Erin shared the Covers of Action Stories, along with Tip on a Dead Jockey, Big City Nurse, Like Crazy, Passionately Yours Eve, Whisper, Collier’s and Spicy Mystery!
  3. Jeff shared music videos from Bon Jovi, Madness, Grateful Dead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Squeeze and Metallica!  He reviewed Snatched, The Hanged Man, Cotter, The Airzone Solution, Boulevard, Dream’s Ashes, and The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan!
  4. Val reviewed 365 Days and shared 4 Shots From 4 Films!
  5. Ryan reviewed Micky, Ghouls, Mondo Groovy, and Mondo Groovy Horrorshow!

More From Us:

  1. I reviewed Big Brother for the Big Brother Blog!
  2. On my music site, I shared songs from Jessica Simpson, Skrillex, Tegan and Sara, Liam Gallagher, The View, The Psychedelic Furs, and Chris Zabriskie!
  3. On her photography site, Erin shared: Walking, Ahead, Fields of Green, Rain, End of the Street, Alley, and Modelo!
  4. Ryan has a patreon!  Consider subscribing!

Want to see what I did last week?  Click here!


The Rise & Fall of a White Collar Hooligan (2012, directed by Paul Tanter)

Mike Jacobs (Nick Nevern) is an unemployed Brit who has never been able to get much going in his life.  He’s smart but he’s also a university drop-out and he refuses to accept any job that he feels wouldn’t provide a proper mental challenge.  Mike is also a football hooligan, spending most of his time getting into fights with the supporters of rival teams and occasionally with the police.  As Mike explains it, there’s no better thrill than getting angry, destroying stuff, and knowing that your mates are going to back you up.

At the latest soccer riot, Mike runs into an old friend of his named Eddie Mills (Simon Phillips).  Eddie offers Mike a job opportunity.  At first, Eddie just has Mike deliver a few packages, all to determine whether or not Mike can be trusted with something big.  Once Mike has proven himself, Eddie reveals that his business is credit card fraud.  He and his gang steal people’s credit card numbers and then, every night, withdraw as much money as they can on the card.  The scheme works because  the gang only uses a card once and then tosses the number away.  By the time the fraud has been discovered, the gang is using a totally different card.  Eddie explains that it’s a victimless crime because the banks are insured and the card holders don’t have to pay the bill once the fraud has been uncovered.

Despite his initial misgivings, Mike goes to work with Eddie.  At first, everything is great.  Mike is making a lot of money, doing a lot of drugs, and having a lot sex.  However, because this is a crime film, eventually Mike discovers that there’s no such thing as a victimless crime and the world of credit card fraud is much more dangerous than he realized.

It’s a tradition that movies about football hooligans rarely involve much football and that’s the case with The Rise and Fall of a White Collar Hooligan.  By my count, there are three short scenes that take place at a match and none of them are particularly important.  Instead, for Mike and Eddie, the point of football is the fight after the match.  The rush that they get from defying the police and smashing car windows is the same rush that they get from stealing money from the banks and the credit card companies.  The main difference between the two activities is that one just leads to black eyes and broken bones while the other makes them rich.

I liked The Rise and the Fall of White Collar Hooligan.  Though the story’s predictable, it’s stylishly directed and Nick Nevern and Simon Phillips are both good in the main roles.  What I especially liked is that the credit card scheme actually made sense and it was easy to understand how someone like Mike could convince himself that what he was doing really wasn’t that big of a deal.  There’s nothing surprising about the movie but it’s undeniably entertaining.

In the U.S., it was released as Blue Collar Hooligan.  I’m not sure why the title was changed.  Mike is blue collar but, throughout the film, he brags about how his crimes are all white collar and he even calls himself as “white collar hooligan.”  Maybe someone thought Americans would be more likely to watch the movie is they thought it was about a blue collar criminal instead of a white collar one.  They’re probably right.


Song of the Day: Final Theme From Cinema Paradiso by Ennio Morricone

Well, here we are.  All things must come to an end and today, our month-long tribute to Morricone comes to a close with one final piece of music from the greatest composer of our age.  I want to close things out with a piece from Morricone’s score for 1988’s Cinema Paradiso.

Here, from Cinema Paradiso, is the final theme:

Goodnight, Morricone.

Previous Entries In Our Tribute To Morricone:

  1. Deborah’s Theme (Once Upon A Time In America)
  2. Violaznioe Violenza (Hitch-Hike)
  3. Come Un Madrigale (Four Flies on Grey Velvet)
  4. Il Grande Silenzio (The Great Silence)
  5. The Strength of the Righteous (The Untouchables)
  6. So Alone (What Have You Done To Solange?)
  7. The Main Theme From The Mission (The Mission)
  8. The Return (Days of Heaven)
  9. Man With A Harmonic (Once Upon A Time In The West)
  10. The Ecstasy of Gold (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly)
  11. The Main Theme From The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly)
  12. Regan’s Theme (The Exorcist II: The Heretic)
  13. Desolation (The Thing)
  14. The Legend of the Pianist (The Legend of 1900)
  15. Theme From Frantic (Frantic)
  16. La Lucertola (Lizard In A Woman’s Skin)
  17. Spasmodicamente (Spasmo)
  18. The Theme From The Stendhal Syndrome (The Stendhal Syndrome)
  19. My Name Is Nobody (My Name Is Nobody)
  20. Piume di Cristallo (The Bird With The Crystal Plumage)
  21. For Love One Can Die (D’amore si muore)
  22. Chi Mai (various)
  23. La Resa (The Big Gundown)
  24. Main Title Theme (Red Sonja)
  25. The Main Theme From The Cat O’Nine Tails (The Cat O’Nine Tails)
  26. Deep Down (Danger Diabolik!)
  27. Main Theme From Autopsy (Autopsy)
  28. Main Theme From Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion) 
  29. Main Theme From A Fistful of Dollars (A Fistful of Dollars)
  30. Main Theme From For A Few Dollars More (For A Few Dollars More)
  31. Gui La Tesa (Duck, You Sucker!)
  32. Malena (Malena)
  33. Chi l’ha vista morire? (Who Saw Her Die?)
  34. Neve (The Hateful Eight)

Music Video Of The Day: Frantic by Metallica (2003, directed by Wayne Isham)

Frantic was the 2nd single off of Metallica’s controversial St. Anger.  Like a lot of the songs off of that album, it was inspired by the band’s previous battles with drugs and alcohol.  In this video, a chicken delivery driver has his life flash before his eyes after crashing his truck and he realizes that he wasted most of it.  He’s laughs when he realizes that he’s still alive but then another vehicle crashes into him.

The first time I saw this video, I thought it was an awkward concept for a Metallica video, considering the band’s own history with road accidents.  Over time, I’ve come to better appreciate the video.  The lyrics of the song are influenced by Buddhist thought and I don’t know if there’s better evidence that life is pain than getting a second chance at life that only last for 2 minutes.

Does everyone still hate St. Anger or is it okay to now admit that it wasn’t as bad as everyone said when it first came out?

Dream’s Ashes (2005, directed by Rafe Clayton)

Lee (Alistair Marshall) is a drug dealer living in Leeds.  Pining for his former girlfriend, Lee goes about his day-to-day life, dealing drugs, getting harassed by the police, and searching for some sort of escape from his empty existence.  Unfortunately, it’s not going to be easy for Lee.  His own mum tells him that he’s not very smart and there is no easy exit from the world that Lee has found himself in.  Of course, his mother is also his main supplier and she pushes Lee to try to a new drug called Wax which leads to Lee having hallucinations of the baby that his ex miscarried at the start of the movie. Lee’s mother has not only pushed her son into the drug underworld but she’s also supplying his main competitor.  Can you blame Lee for having issues?

Dream’s Ashes is a low-budget indie for the UK.  Not much happens in the film, beyond Lee wandering from one shitty situation to another, all the while thinking about his dead baby and wishing that he could get back together with his ex.  That’s rather point of the film, of course.  Lee is stuck in a dead end existence, where there’s not much to do but deal drugs and wish that things could be different.  Unfortunately, Lee isn’t exactly a compelling character and the scenes where he talks, in voice over, about his life as a drug dealer feel as if they’ve been cribbed from an early draft of Trainspotting.

Where the film does succeed is in its cinematography.  Shot on location in Leeds, Dream’s Ashes looks wonderful.  The majority of the film is in gritty black-and-white, which makes the occasional flash of color all the more meaningful.  Lee’s jacket is always a muted red and the baby, when it appears, appears to be lit with a heavenly glow.  Visually, the film does a fantastic job of capturing the feel of being trapped in a bleak go-nowhere existence.  When Lee starts to embrace his drug-induced hallucinations, you can’t blame him.  They’re certainly better than anything that the real world has to offer him.

Dream’s Ashes is 65 minutes long and available on Prime.