Here’s The Trailer for Possessor!

Starring Christopher Abbott, Andrea Riseborough, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tuppence Middleton and Sean Bean, Possessor is the new film from Canadian filmmaker Brandon Cronenberg!  And yes, if you’re wondering, Brandon is the son of the iconic horror director, David Cronenberg.

Possessor is a film about an elite assassin who can inhabit other people’s bodies.  The film made its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, way back in January.  At the time, the critics loved it.  Speaking for myself, I’ve heard wonderful things about the film and I can’t wait to see it.  Possessor will be released on October 9th.

Here’s the trailer!

Here’s The Trailer For Halloween Party!

Just in case you had forgotten that Halloween is just around the corner….

Here’s the trailer for a film called Halloween Party!

Judging from the trailer, this looks a bit like a low-budget film, which can often be a very good thing as far as horror films are concerned.  Too often, spending a lot of money on a horror film will take away the film’s authenticity.  The slicker the movie, the more likely it is that you’ll be reminded that it is just a movie.  Whereas low budget films have a rougher, more authentic feel to them.  You don’t need a lot of money to be scary.  In fact, it helps to have as a little money as possible!

Born American (1986, directed by Renny Harlin)

The year is 1986 and the Cold War is raging between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Three American college students are on vacation in Finland.  Mitch (Steve Durham) and Savoy (Mike Norris) think it would be a great idea to secretly cross the border into Russia and just hang out for a few hours.  The more cautious KC (David Coburn) thinks that would be a mistake but he’s outvoted.

Of course, it turns out that KC was correct.  No sooner have the three students crossed the border than they find themselves being chased by Soviet soldiers and getting accused of raping a woman in a nearby village.  When the three of them attempt to flee back over the border, they instead end up accidentally destroying the village instead.  Arrested by the Russians, KC is tortured by the KGB until Savoy agrees to confess to being an intelligence agent.

Sentenced to a prison camp in Siberia, Savoy and KC are forced to take part in forced labor while Mitch is used as a pawn in an underground human chess match where the pawns are all prisoners and capturing a pawn means that prisoner is then executed.  (I don’t get it either.)  After KC dies due to the abuse to which he’s been subjected, Savoy discovers that there’s a former American intelligence agent known as The Admiral (Thalmus Rasulala) living underneath the prison.  The Admiral is willing to help Savoy escape but he wants Savoy to help him by smuggling a book that The Admiral has written to publishers in the West.

What type of name is Savoy anyways?

Despite the name and the pro-American subject matter, Born American was produced in Finland.  At the time, it was the most expensive Finnish film ever made.  It was also the directorial debut of Renny Harlin and the surprise box office success of Born American led to Harlin getting offers from Hollywood.  If not for Born American, Renny Harlin would never have gotten the chance to direct Die Hard 2 or to marry Geena Davis.  Of course, he also wouldn’t have gotten the chance to direct Cutthroat Island.

The best thing about Born American are the action scenes.  They rarely make much sense in the context of the film’s plot but Renny Harlin proved that, even with his directorial debut, he knew how to film people blowing things up and shooting guns at each other.  The scenes in the prison camp are believably intense, or at least they are until The Admiral shows up in his well-furnished underground lair.

The worst thing about Born American is the plot, which never makes any sense.  I’m about as anti-communist as they come and even I still found it hard to have much sympathy for three obviously wealthy college students who were stupid enough to try to sneak into Russia just so they’d have a story to tell later.  Savoy is not much of a hero because almost all of his troubles could have been avoided by him not acing like an idiot.  Plus, what type of name is Savoy?

Originally, Savoy was to be played by Chuck Norris.  When Chuck withdrew from the project, the producers instead hired his son, Mike Norris, and rewrote the script to make the three Americans college students.  This was Mike Norris’s first starring role and, unfortunately, he’s not very good.  He’s believable as a tourist but once he’s taken prisoner and has to emote, he starts delivering all of his lines in a high-pitched whine and it becomes difficult to listen to him.  Watching Mike Norris in the role of Savoy Brown, I couldn’t help but think to myself that Chuck Norris never would have gotten captured in the first place.

Film Review: Fyre Fraud (dir by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason)

Yesterday, on Hulu, I watched Fyre Fraud, a 2019 documentary about the disaster that was the Fyre Festival.

With everything’s that going on in the world right now, it can be easy to forget just what a big deal the Fyre Festival was back in 2017.  The Fyre Festival was supposed to be the greatest party of 2017. Influencers played it up on Instagram. A commercial for it, one that featured the world’s top models on a beautiful island, was pretty much inescapable on social media. It was going to be the greatest musical festival of all time, with luxury villas and yachts and private chefs and …. Blink-182? Even before the entire festival was revealed to be a massive fraud, I have to admit that I was kind of like, “All this for Blink-182?”

The festival did turn out to be a disaster. A lot of people paid a lot of money to end up on the beach, staying in rain-soaked FEMA tents and eating pre-packaged sandwiches. The bands cancelled so there wasn’t even any music. After the festival was officially canceled, several people found themselves stranded on the island. Those of us who weren’t there followed the drama on twitter. We joked about the Lord of the of Flies. One of my favorite tweets about the whole mess compared it to an episode of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. “The Gang Puts On A Music Festival.”

If those two paragraphs above seem familiar, that’s because I copy and pasted them from my review of FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened.  The Fyre Festival was such a legendary disaster that it was the subject of not one but two documentaries, both of which were released within days of each other in 2019.  FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened was released on Netflix while Fyre Fraud premiered on Hulu.

Both documentaries tell the same basic story, though each focuses on different aspects of the story.  For instance, FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened featured several interviews with the people who actually lived and worked on the island where the festival was to take place and it revealed that the majority of them went unpaid for their hard work.  (I’ll always remember the restaurant owner who ended up feeding hundreds of stranded festival goers, all of whom had specifically been told not to bring money with them to the island.)  The Greatest Party That Never Happened went into detail about how the festival fell apart during the planning stages and how those involved in putting it on seemed to by fueled by a willful denial of reality.

Fyre Fraud, on the other hand, focuses on FOMO, the fear of missing out that left so many people vulnerable to a con man like the festival’s organizer, Billy McFarland.  Along with various “experts” discussing the power of social media influencers, Fyre Fraud features footage of the festival goers first arriving, via school bus, at the beach and seeing their FEMA tents.  (While most of the festival goers attempt to joke about how terrible the place looks, one woman loudly sobs in the background and begs the bus driver to turn around.)  Fyre Fraud also features an interview with Billy McFarland, in which McFarland says that he’s willing to answer any questions but then refusing to answer several questions and announcing that he needs to take a break.  If The Greatest Party That Never Happened made Billy McFarland look like a douchebag who overpromised and quickly got in over his head, Fyre Fraud makes him look like a con artist who is incapable of feeling guilt or understanding why so many people were angry with him.

Fyre Fraud never really digs as much into the story as you would want it to.  It’s pretty much a surface-level examination of the Fyre Festival, one that acknowledges the fear of missing out without really doing an in depth examination into way that fear is so strong for so many people.  Fortunately, though, the story of the Fyre Festival is so insane that it’s impossible to make a boring documentary about it.  This is one of those stories that just demands to be told and retold.

Film Review: Becoming Bond (dir by Josh Greenbaum)

In 1968, after Sean Connery announced that he would no longer be playing the role, there was a worldwide search for a new actor to play the role of James Bond.

Several actors were mentioned as a replacement, some of them better known than others.  Future Bonds Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore were both considered.  Oliver Reed was considered but ultimately not chosen because he was considered to be a bit too “rough” for the refined Bond.  Another intriguing possibility was Terrence Stamp but he was ultimately rejected because it was felt he would want too much creative control over the character.  Michael Caine turned down the role because he had already played a secret agent in three films and he didn’t want to run the risk of getting typecast.  As the start date for production on On Her Majesty’s Secret Service approached, the producers needed someone who looked good, was convincing in the action scenes, and who maybe could act.

In the end, they picked George Lazenby, an Australian-born model who had never acted before.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the inexperienced Lazenby’s performance was not critically acclaimed.  After all, he was not only stepping into an iconic role but he was also replacing one of the most charismatic actors around, Sean Connery.  In retrospect, critics have come to appreciate On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and, to a certain extent, even George Lazenby’s performance as well.  Lazenby may not have had Connery’s confidence but On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would not have worked with a confident Bond.  For this film, which found Bond feeling underappreciated by M and retiring from the spy game so he could marry Tracy, a more vulnerable actor was needed and Lazenby fit the bill.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service would be the only time that George Lazenby would play James Bond.  Despite being offered a million pound contract to portray Bond in another film, Lazenby publicly walked away from the role and Sean Connery returned for Diamonds Are Forever.

Why did Lazenby walk away from the role?  It depends on who you ask.  Some say that he was stunned by the bad reviews.  Some say that he let his fame go to his head and he decided that he was bigger than Bond.  At the time, Lazenby said that he considered Bond to be a “brute” and that he was all about peace.  A hippie Bond?  I think even Daniel Craig’s version of the character would take issue with that.

The 2017 documentary, Becoming Bond, takes a look at the events that led to George Lazenby becoming Bond.  The film is framed around a lengthy interview with Lazenby and includes several dramatized recreations of his past life.  (Live and Let Die‘s Jane Seymour appears as Maggie Abbott, the agent who encouraged Lazenby to pursue the role of Bond.)  The film opens with Lazenby’s unruly childhood in Australia and follows him as he goes from being a high school drop out to an auto mechanic to a car salesman.  Eventually, he follows his girlfriend to London and, somewhat randomly, he falls into being a model.  He finds minor fame selling candy in commercials and then, eventually, he finds bigger fame as James Bond before being reduced to being the answer to a trivia question after he walks away from the role.

The film’s biggest strength is that George Lazenby is a charmer.  Still a handsome rouge even in his late 70s, Lazenby narrates his story with the skill of a born raconteur.  Listening to him talk, it’s possible to understand how someone could have looked at the young Lazenby and viewed him as being a potential James Bond.  In fact, he’s got so much charm that it takes a while to realize that his stories occasionally contradict themselves.  At one point, the film’s unseen interviewer stops him to ask if all of his stories are actually true.  Lazenby merely smiles.

The film is full of details about Lazenby’s life before Bond and also all of the the trouble that he went through to even be considered for the role.  (Lazenby claims that he stole one of Sean Connery’s suits and wore it to the audition.)  Unfortunately, it doesn’t really tell us much about why Lazenby left the role, other than the fact that it seemed like a good idea at the time.  Lazenby does talk about the restrictions that were put on him by the film’s producers.  For instance, he was told that he couldn’t come to the film’s premiere unless he cut his hair and shaved his beard because “Bond doesn’t have a beard.”  In the end, though, Lazenby seems just as confused as any of us as to what exactly it was that he was thinking when he turned down a second Bond film.  One gets the feeling that it ultimately came down to not wanting to be told what to do, which is something I can respect even if it does seem like Lazenby was a bit short-sighted.  (Connery had similar objections but still stuck with the role long enough to make enough money to ensure that he could spend the rest of life doing what he wanted to do.)

Unfortunately, the film doesn’t go into much detail about Lazenby’s life after Bond.  He mentions that he got married and he sold real estate.  He doesn’t talk much about the films that he made after On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and that’s unfortunate because, even though none of this films were considered to be major productions, it was in those films that Lazenby proved that he actually could act and that he deserved better than to just be remembered as a cautionary tale.  Check out his grieving father in the 1972 giallo, Who Saw Her Die?  Or the blackmailed politician that Lazenby played in 1979’s Saint Jack.  If nothing else, those roles would eventually provide Lazenby with a bit of redemption as modern viewers discovered not only those films but also Lazenby’s talent.  Unfortunately, that part of Lazenby’s story goes untold.

Becoming Bond is available on Hulu.  While I wish it had gone into a bit more details about Lazenby’s post-Bond life, it’s still required viewing for any fan of 007.

Music Video of the Day: No New Tales To Tell by Love and Rockets (1987, directed by Tony van den Ende)

Love and Rockets is definitely one of those 80s bands that should have been bigger than they were.  Basically made up of every member of Bauhaus except for Peter Murphy, Love and Rockets was responsible for some of the best songs of the decade.

No New Tales To Tell is from their third studio album, Earth, Sun, Moon.  Thanks to this music video, which was put in heavy rotation on MTV, the song did manage to reach number 18 on the U.S. charts.  The video was directed by the very prolific Tony van den Ende and it features a few shots of the band in their Bubblemen costumes.  (The Bubblemen were a side project for several members of the band.  They performed while dressed as friendly bees.)