Here’s The Trailer For Papillon!


Here’s the trailer for the upcoming film, Papillon!  As the trailer itself states, this is based on the amazing true story of Henri Charrière and his escape from the Devil’s Island penal colony.

Of course, this isn’t the first film to be made about Charrière, his escape, and his friendship with Louis Dega.  1973’s Papillon starred Steve McQueen as Charrière and Dustin Hoffman as Dega.  I haven’t seen this particular film but many consider it to be a classic.

In this remake, Charrière is played by Charlie Hunnam while Rami Malek takes over the role of Dega.  Will it be good or will it be forgettable?  The trailer, to be honest, is a bit generic.  We’ll find out for sure when the film is released on August 24th!

 

Film Review: Fahrenheit 451 (dir by Ramin Bahrani)


(Before reading this review, make sure that you’ve read my review of Ray Bradbury’s novel!)

(And then make you sure that you’ve read my review of the 1966 Truffaut film!)

The latest HBO original film, Fahrenheit 451, is bad.

For all the talent involved, for all the hype, and for all the hope that many of us had for it, it is extremely bad.  It sets up its targets and then fires at them with all the aim and success of a myopic archer.  By almost any standard, it’s a misfire of almost Vinyl proportions.

The film, of course, is based on Ray Bradbury’s novel about a future dystopia where the population is kept in line through pharmaceuticals and mind-numbing television and where firemen burn books.  Michael B. Jordan plays Montag, the fireman who develops doubts.  Michael Shannon plays Beatty, Montag’s boss. Sofia Boutella is Clarisse, who inspires Montag to question why.  And no one plays Montag’s wife because that character was apparently cut from the film.

From the minute this version starts, it’s obvious that this film was inspired less by Bradbury and more by Black Mirror, Blade Runner, and the Purge franchise.  The entire world is defined by neon and dark shadows.  Gone is Bradbury’s suggestion that a world without books would be a bland one.  Instead, a world without books is now one that looks like every single recent sci-fi film.  People may have stopped reading but apparently, they’re still watching old Ridley Scott movies.

Gone too is the idea of Montag as a middle-aged man struggling with an existential crisis.  Now, he’s Michael B. Jordan, who comes across as if he’s never had a moment of doubt in his entire life.  He’s less Montag and more Creed in an authoritarian future.  Also gone is the weary relationship with Captain Beatty.  Now, Beatty is almost a father figure to Montag.  Of course, Montag’s real father died mysteriously years ago.  Nothing indicates a lazy screenwriter quicker than a character with daddy issues.

As I mentioned earlier, in this version, Montag is not married.  Instead, he lives a bachelor lifestyle in a glitzy apartment and he spends most of his time asking questions to the future’s version of Alexa, Yuxie.  (“Yuxie, was Benjamin Franklin the first fireman?”)  Of course, in the novel, Montag’s wife stood in for every citizen who never questioned why books were being burned.  It was Montag’s dissatisfaction with his bland home life that led to him getting to know Clarisse and eventually questioning his job as a fireman.  Now, Montag starts to doubt after a random rebel says that Benjamin Franklin didn’t support burning books.  But why, if Montag has spent a lifetime refusing to question anything, would some rando rebel suddenly make him reconsider?

The Book People are still around but now they’re kind of a pain.  I love books but I wouldn’t want to hang out with any of them.  They’re a humorless group of people who live in a farm and apparently being a book person means you can’t wash your hair or something because seriously, everyone looked a bit grimy.  I mean, it’s important to rebel again authoritarianism but that doesn’t meant you can’t look good while doing it.  Each Book Person has memorized a book and you have to wonder how they decide who gets to memorize which book.  We’re told that one Book Person has memorized Chairman Mao but if you’re battling censorship, would you really want to hang out with a person who has devoted her life to the guy behind the Cultural Revolution?  Another Book Person claims to have memorized all of Proust but I think he’s a damn liar.  I mean, how is anyone going to check that?  I’m guessing he probably only memorized the first 20 pages or so of Swann’s Way.  What I want to know is who got to memorize the Twilight books?

This version of Fahrenheit 451 is a bit of a mess.  I’m not one to demand that literary adaptations stick exactly to their source material.  (For instance, the film version of The Godfather was greatly improved by ignoring 60% of what happened in Mario Puzo’s novel.  For that matter, we can all be thankful that It didn’t end with the Losers Club solidifying their bond by having group sex with Beverly.)  But, in this case, the changes don’t improve on the original.  Instead, they just turn Fahrenheit 451 into yet another shadowy dystopian film.

When it comes to Fahrenheit 451, my advice is just to read the book.

This Is What A Mountain Of Coke And A Deal With HBO Will Get You: Disco Beaver From Outer Space (dir by Joshua White)


So, this happened:

Every Saturday, I get together with my friends in the Late Night Movie Gang and we watch a movie.  I’m usually the one who picks the movie.  I usually try to pick something fun and kinda silly.  For instance, every Christmas, we watch Santa Claus Conquers The Martians.  Last week, we watched Tobor The Great.  And this week, I selected a 51-minute program from 1978.  The name of that program?

Disco Beaver From Outer Space.

Now, I have to admit that this was one of the rare instances where I didn’t actually bother to watch the entire movie before selecting it.  I did watch the first five minutes on YouTube.  It featured someone in a beaver costume walking around New York City and eating stuff while disco music played in the background.  That was all I needed to see.

An alien beaver eating New York!?  I thought, Disco music!?  How could this possibly go wrong!?

Add to that, the movie only had 51 minute run time.  Even if it’s terrible, I thought, at least it won’t be long!

However, once the film started, I discovered that 51 minutes can be a very long time indeed.  Unfortunately, it turned out that the beaver wasn’t actually in much of the film.  He showed up at the start of the movie and then he popped up in the middle and finally, he showed up again at the end.  That the beaver was cute and came with his own disco song made it all the more regretful that he wasn’t in more of the film.

Anyway, it turned out that the film itself was a collection of vaguely connected sketches.  The idea was that a husband and wife were looking for something to watch and , as a result, they kept changing the channel.  One channel featured a country western singer.  Another channel was showing Masterpiece Theater.  And then there was this movie about a vampire called Dragula.

The joke about Dragula was that he was gay and … well, that was pretty much it.  Dragula was gay and everyone he bit turned gay and eventually Lynn Redgrave showed up as Dr. Vanessa Van Helsing and she managed to destroy Dragula.  If you think this sounds homophobic … well, it was.  When the humor wasn’t homophobic, it was misogynistic.  I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m not easily offended and I’ve never been the type to need a safe space but I have to admit that I spent the majority of Disco Beaver cringing.  Of course, the problem wasn’t that the humor was politically incorrect.  The problem was that the majority of it just wasn’t that funny.

Disco Beaver was produced, for HBO, by National Lampoon.  In fact, HBO was only 6 years old when it broadcast Diso Beaver so I’m going to assume that this may have been one of the first original programs ever specifically made for the network.  Perhaps that explains why the entire production has a sort of “look how naughty we can be on cable!” feel to it.  “We just dropped the F bomb!  Here’s a whole skit about breasts!  And now, here’s a  skit about how to spot a homosexual.  We’re so daring!”

From the minute that Disco Beaver started, I felt as if I could literally hear the coke being cut backstage.  How many lines of cocaine were snorted over the course of the making of Disco Beaver?  Remember that scene at the end of Scarface where Al Pacino had a mountain of white powder on his desk?  I imagine that’s what the Disco Beaver production office looked like.

Anyway, we survived Disco Beaver and, at the end of it, we swore that we would never speak of it again.  And I learned a very valuable lesson!  Always watch the entire movie!

Here’s The Trailer For This Year’s Winner of the Palme d’Or, Shoplifters!


So, in case your curious about the film that just won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes film festival, here is the trailer for Kore-eda Hirokazu’s Shoplifters.  Magnolia Pictures has obtained the rights to release this film in North America but, as far as I know, it still doesn’t have an American release date.

(If I’m wrong about the lack of a definite release deate, please feel free to correct me in the comments.)

Here’s the plot of the film, according to Wikipedia:

In Tokyo, Osamu Shibata is married to Nobuyo, who live in poverty. Osamu receives occasional employment and Nobuyo has a low-paying job, but the family relies in large part on the grandmother’s pension. Osamu takes his son Shota shoplifting for groceries, and discover a girl, Yuri, homeless. Osamu takes Yuri to their home, where the family informally adopts her. However, the Tokyo police, aware Yuri is missing, begin to search for her.

And here’s the trailer!

Guilty Pleasure No. 36: The Legend of Billie Jean (dir by Matthew Robbins)


Two weeks ago, while I was sick in bed, I watched The Legend of Billie Jean, a deeply silly movie from 1985.

Okay, get this.  Billie Jean (Helen Slater) and her younger brother, Binx (an incredibly young Christian Slater), live in Corpus Christi, Texas.  Binx has always wanted to go to Vermont.  That right there should tell you just how silly this movie is.  Not only does it feature a character named Binx but it also features Texans wanting to go to Vermont.  I’m a native Texan who loves to travel but I can tell you right now that the last place I would ever want to go would be Vermont.  In fact, down here, we tend to assume that Vermont’s just a place that was made up by the media.  Bernie Sanders?  He’s just an actor.  Seriously, there’s no way that Vermont actually exists.

Anyway, after Binx throws a milkshake in the face of local bully, Hubie Pyatt (Barry Tubb), Hubie steals Binx’s scooter.  (If you’re stuck with a name like Hubie Pyatt, it seems kinda predestined that you’re going to grow up to be a bully.)  After getting nowhere with the police, Billie Jean returns home to discover that Binx has been beaten up and his scooter has been dismantled.  Billie Jean goes to Hubie’s father (Richard Bradford) to demand some money to get the scooter fixed.  Mr. Pyatt responds by attempting to assault Billie Jean, which leads to Binx shooting Mr. Pyatt in the shoulder.

So now, Billie Jean and Binx are on the run.

Joining them in their flight are two idiot friends (Martha Gehman and Yeardley Smith) and Lloyd (Keith Gordon), the son of the local district attorney.  Because this is a movie, Billie Jean quickly becomes a media superstar.  Everyone wants to meet Billie Jean.  Everyone wants to help Billie Jean.  A sympathetic police detective (Peter Coyote) is determined to capture Billie Jean without violence but that might be difficult with the media constantly getting in the way.

While hiding out in a motel, Billie Jean turns on the TV and watches the classic 1928 silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc.  (I have to say that I’ve stayed in a few motels around Corpus Christi and never once did I turn on the TV and just happen to come across a classic silent movie.)  Moved by Renee Falconetti’s performance in the lead role, Billie Jean decides to cut her hair really, really short (though not as short as Falconetti’s).  I guess Billie Jean is supposed to be a 1980s version of Joan of Arc, which really doesn’t make any sense.  I mean, Joan of Arc heard the voice of God and led the French to victory over the British.  Billie Jean is just trying to get some money to get her brother’s scooter fixed and pay for a trip to the imaginary state of Vermont.

Meanwhile, Mr. Pyatt has recovered from his wounds and is now selling Billie Jean merchandise in his store.  The detective mentions how weird that is but Mr. Pyatt is just out to make some money.  Can you blame him?  The entire country is obsessed with Billie Jean!

As you might have guessed, The Legend of Billie Jean is incredibly silly but likable.   Despite having an inconsistent Texas accent, Helen Slater does a good job in the lead role of Billie Jean and it’s interesting to actually see Christian Slater before he developed the sarcastic style that, for better or worse, has come to define pretty much all of his performances.  Never for a second do you believe that Billie Jean would actually become a media superstar.  (Nor do you ever believe that she’s the type who would have the patience to watch a silent movie.)  I mean, when you get right down to it, it’s a pretty dumb movie.  But, when you’re sick in bed, The Legend of Billie Jean is a perfectly acceptable way to pass the time.

Previous Guilty Pleasures

  1. Half-Baked
  2. Save The Last Dance
  3. Every Rose Has Its Thorns
  4. The Jeremy Kyle Show
  5. Invasion USA
  6. The Golden Child
  7. Final Destination 2
  8. Paparazzi
  9. The Principal
  10. The Substitute
  11. Terror In The Family
  12. Pandorum
  13. Lambada
  14. Fear
  15. Cocktail
  16. Keep Off The Grass
  17. Girls, Girls, Girls
  18. Class
  19. Tart
  20. King Kong vs. Godzilla
  21. Hawk the Slayer
  22. Battle Beyond the Stars
  23. Meridian
  24. Walk of Shame
  25. From Justin To Kelly
  26. Project Greenlight
  27. Sex Decoy: Love Stings
  28. Swimfan
  29. On the Line
  30. Wolfen
  31. Hail Caesar!
  32. It’s So Cold In The D
  33. In the Mix
  34. Healed By Grace
  35. Valley of the Dolls

Film Review: Tobor The Great (dir by Lee Sholem)


Last week, along with my friends and fellow members of the Late Night Movie Gang, I watched the 1954 sci-fi film, Tobor The Great.

As you can probably tell by looking at the top of this review, Tobor came with a really great poster.  It’s a poster that promises all sorts of sci-fi thrills and chills.  It screams, “B-movie masterpiece!”  You look at that poster and you think to yourself, This film is probably extremely silly but I absolutely have to watch it!

Of course, if you know anything about the B-movie aesthetic of the 50s and 60s, you won’t be shocked to learn that the poster has next to nothing to do with the actual film.  True, there is a robot is featured in the film.  The poster is honest about that.  And Tobor actually looks just as good in the movie as he does on the poster.  And there is a subplot about space travel but, at no point, do we see Tobor walking across the surface of Neptune or Jupiter or wherever it is that Tobor is supposed to be in this poster.  Maybe he’s on one of the moons of Saturn.  Who knows?

Also, at no point, does Tobor carry around a woman.  In fact, Tobor is pretty much a film for kids.  The main character, other than Tobor, is an 11 year-old boy named Gadge (Billy Chapin).  I can only imagine how audiences reacted when they went into the film expecting to see the scene in the poster and instead, they were confronted with a movie about a little boy and his robot.

Tobor is one of those films that opens with several minutes of stock footage.  Rockets take off.  The stars shine in the sky.  Scientists and engineers do stuff.  It all looks pretty impressive but, of course, none of it was actually shot for this film.  In fact, the use of all that stock footage mostly serves to highlight how cheap the rest of the movie looks.

As for the film’s plot, it has apparently been determined that it’s too dangerous to send humans into space.  So, Professor Nordstrom (Taylor Holmes) and Dr. Harrison (Charles Drake) build a robot that is specifically designed to fly an interstellar craft.  They name their creation Tobor, because that’s robot spelled backwards.  (Tobor even points out that his name is robot spelled backwards.)  In order to help Tobor explore the universe, they design him to be able to simulate human emotions.  In fact, they’re so successful at it that Tobor ends up befriending Nordstrom’s grandson, the aforementioned Gadge.

The press and the military are all very impressed with Tobor.  Unfortunately, it’s the 1950s and that means that the communists are impressed by Tobor as well!  Can the scientists and their families keep Tobor from getting abducted by a bunch of Russian agents!?  Let’s hope so because there’s a lot of space that needs to be explored….

Anyway, Tobor The Great is silly but kind of fun.  It has its slow spots but it also has a really cool robot and it’s always fun to watch the commies get thwarted.  It’s a real time capsule film, one that not only reflects the decade in which it was made but which also has a somewhat charming innocence to it.  If nothing else, it’s nice to think that, in the days before CGI, the filmmakers actually had to make a Tobor of their own.  Apparently, Tobor is currently in a private collection and I hope whoever has him is treating him well.