A Movie A Day #232: Tyson (1995, directed by Uli Edel)

If any heavyweight champion from the post-Ali era of boxing has lived a life that seems like it should be ready-made for the biopic treatment, it is “Iron Mike” Tyson.  In 1995, HBO stepped up to provide just such a film.

In an episodic fashion, Tyson tells the story of Mike Tyson’s rise and fall.  At the start of the movie, Tyson is a child trying to survive on the tough streets of Brooklyn.  The events that unfold should be familiar to any fight fan: Mike (played by Spawn himself, Michael Jai White) gets sent to reform school. Mike is taken under the wing of the legendary trainer, Cus D’Amato (George C. Scott). Mike becomes the youngest heavyweight champion, marries and divorces Robin Givens (Kristen Wilson), and eventually falls under the corrupting influence of the flamboyant Don King (Paul Winfield).  After failing to train properly for what should have been a routine fight, Tyson loses his title and subsequently, he is convicted of rape and sent to prison.

Tyson aired shortly after the real Mike was released from prison and announced his return to boxing.  Unfortunately, much of what Mike Tyson is best known for occurred after he was released from prison.  As a result, don’t watch Tyson to see Mike bite off Evander Holyfield’s ear.  Don’t watch it expecting to see Mike get his famous facial tattoo.  All of that happened after Tyson aired.  Instead, Tyson tells the story of the first half of Mike’s life in conventional biopic style.  There is even a montage of newspaper headlines.

The best thing about Tyson is the cast.  Even though the film does not delve too deeply into any aspect of Tyson’s life, all of the actors are well-chosen.  In some ways, Michael Jai White has an impossible role.  Tyson has such a famous persona that it had to be difficult to play him without slipping into mere impersonation but White does a good job of suggesting that there is more to Tyson than just his voice and his anger.  Scott and Winfield are both ideally cast as Tyson’s contrasting father figures, with Winfield especially digging into the Don King role.

HBO’s Tyson is a good starter if you do not know anything about Mike’s early career but the definitive Mike Tyson film remains James Toback’s documentary, which also happens to be titled Tyson.

TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel)

Welcome back to Twin Peaks!

Last episode, Major Briggs (Don S. Davis) returned from the land of missing and brought with him a tale of the White Lodge.  Ben Horne (Richard Beymer) obsessed over the Civil War.  James Hurley (James Marshall) found himself trapped in a second-rate film noir.  Jean Reanult (Michael Parks) was finally killed but, when Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and Harry (Michael Ontkean) returned to the sheriff’s station, they discovered that someone had left them a present: a dead man sitting in front of a chess board.

Things start with the station still in darkness.  Doctor Hayward (Warren Frost), Harry, and Cooper are looking over the dead man’s body.  The first thing that they discover is that a chess pawn has been stuffed in his mouth.  When Cooper correctly guesses that the dead man will have a stab wound in his chest, severing the aorta, Harry deduces that this is not the first time that Cooper has seen something like this.

Cooper says that he knows that his former partner, Windom Earle, is responsible.  He guesses that the victim was a vagrant who was offered a lift by Earle.  (In reality, the victim was played by Craig MacLachlan, brother of Kyle.)  Earle stabbed the man and then set off the explosion in the woods.  When everyone was distracted, Earle carried the body into the station.  “Windom Earle has been in this room,” Cooper says, “I can still feel his presence.”

At the Great Northern, Audrey (Sherilyn Fenn) makes a deal with Bobby (Dana Ashrbook).  She wants Bobby to help her bring her father back from “limbo land.”  “From now on, Bobby,” Audrey says, “I’m the one you suck up to.”

“What about Shelly?” Bobby asks.

“What about Shelly?” Audrey replies.

Speaking of Shelly, she is in trouble because Leo (Eric Da Re) has suddenly woken up and now she’s trapped in a dark house, with no power and a very angry husband.  Fortunately, Bobby arrives home right when Leo is about to attack Shelly with an axe.  When Leo attacks Bobby instead, Shelly stabs Leo in the leg with a kitchen knife.  Like an unmasked Jason Voorhees, the wounded Leo staggers off into the woods while Bobby and Shelly embrace.

The next morning, back at the station, Cooper watches as the body is wheeled away.  Harry gives Cooper a cup of coffee and tells Cooper that, until he is reinstated in the FBI, he is still a deputy.  “If you want this case,” Harry says, “it’s yours.”

Out in the front lobby, Andy (Harry Goaz) tells Lucy (Kimmy Robertson) that he has to talk to her about Nicky.  Andy explains that he and Dick have been doing some detective work and they think that Nicky may have murdered his parents.

“He’s nine years old,” Lucy says.

“We know,” Andy nods, “we think he was six at the time of the crime.”

Lucy is not amused.

At the Marsh place, James is working on another one of classic cars when Jeffrey Marsh (John Apicella) walks up and introduces himself.  He says that he’s envious of James’s carefree lifestyle.  He says that he’d love to talk to James about the cars later in the day but James says that he should probably be moving on.  Evelyn (Annette McCarthy) walks up and says that she is sure that she can find all sorts of things for James to do around the house.  James walks back inside the garage and Jeffrey drives away in the car that James just finished working on.  As Evelyn looks off in the distance, there is the sound of screeching tires and a car crash.

At the diner, Ed (Everett McGill) is having a cup of coffee of Doctor Hayward.  Ed is worried because Nadine wants to start dating boys and, since she’s She-Hulk now, Ed worries that Nadine could kill them with her sex drive.  Doctor Hayward suggests that Ed tell her to be home by 9:00 on school nights.  I could be wrong but I don’t think Doctor Hayward is taking Nadine’s condition very seriously.

Doctor Hayward is actually more concerned about Donna, who took the van that morning to go see James.  Ed explains that Donna is taking James some money, presumably all twelve of the dollars that were in James’s bank account.

After the doctor leaves, Norma (Peggy Lipton) sits down across from Ed.  She says that Hank is in the hospital.  He says that a tree fell on him but Ed tells her that Nadine actually beat him up.  Norma is happy because, once Hank gets out of the hospital, he will be going back to prison for violating his parole.

At the sheriff’s station, Cooper and Harry are staring at the chess board that Windom Earle placed in front of the dead man.  Cooper explains that he and Earle played a game of chess every day for three years.  Earle thought that all the answers to life’s mysteries could be found in the game of chess.

Cooper explains that Windom Earle was his first partner.  Everything that he learned about the law and the bureau he learned from Windom Earle.  Cooper tells the story (the same one that he told Audrey earlier) of how, four years ago, he fell in love with a woman named Caroline who was a material witness to a federal crime and how, when she was attacked, Cooper was not prepared and could not save her life.  Cooper adds the detail that she was stabbed, in the same way as the vagrant.  Cooper also reveals that Caroline was Windom Earle’s wife.

Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) arrives at a bar called Wallies, looking for James.  James is not there but Evelyn is.  “You look like someone who needs help,” Evelyn says.  When Donna says she’s looking for James, Evelyn says that James did some work for her and then left for Mexico.  Donna leaves, presumably taking James’s twelve dollars with her.

At the Great Northern, Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn), Audrey, and Jerry (David Patrick Kelly) watch as Ben continues to play with his little army men.  Ben thinks that Jerry is General J.E.B. Stuart.  Ben assures everyone that they are marching forward and only God can stop them.  “The almighty is a Southerner,” Ben declares.  Dr. Jacoby explains that if Ben can reverse the defeat of the Confederacy then he will also reverse his own recent mental defeats.  Jacoby and Ben start to sing Dixie.

At the sheriff’s station, Major Briggs stumbles in, says that he needs to see Harry, and then collapses.

When he comes to, Major Briggs explains to Harry and Cooper that, when his superiors questioned him about his disappearance, they exhibited a degree of “intolerance and suspicion” that apparently left Briggs feeling traumatized.  Briggs goes on to explain that, during his disappearance, he believes that he was taken to the White Lodge.  Briggs goes on to say that there will be much trouble ahead.  “I will return,” Briggs says, “but until that time, I will be in the shadows if you need me.”

As Briggs leaves, Andy enters the office and tells Cooper and Harry that he needs to show them something.  He leads them to the conference room, where Dr. Jacoby announces that he has spent the last few hours talking to Lana Milford (Robyn Lively) and he has found no evidence of her being crazy or cursed.  There is no way that Lana is responsible for Dougie’s death, Jacoby says.  Jacoby goes on to say that Lana has a heightened sexual drive and skills that few men could ever hope to experience.  Jacoby announces that he and Lana are going to go bowling but, as soon as they step out of the office, they run into Mayor Milford (John Boylan), who was a rifle and who demands that nobody move.

The Mayor wants blood but Cooper has a solution.  He takes the rifle and then locks Milford and Lana in the conference room together.  After a few minutes, Lana and the Mayor are in love and talking about adopting a child.

At the Martell house, Pete (Jack Nance) tells Catherine (Piper Laurie) that they forgot to pick up the hot dogs.  Catherine is more interested in telling Pete the true story of how she survived the fire and marshaled the resources to defeat Ben.  She reveals that her brother (and Josie’s husband), Andrew Packard (Dan O’Herlihy), is not actually dead and he’s sitting in the study.  Andrew explains that he and Catherine faked his death in a boating accident because a contract had been taken out on Andrew’s life by Andrew’s former business partner, Thomas Eckhardt.  Catherine also reveals that Josie works for Thomas Eckhardt and that Eckhardt will be returning to Twin Peaks to rescue her from having to work as Catherine’s maid.

At the exact same time, Thomas Eckhardt (DAVID WARNER!) and his assistant, Jones (Brenda Strong), are checking into the Great Northern.

At the sheriff’s station, Lucy is sick of both Andy and Dick (Ian Buchanan) so she brings Doctor Hayward in to talk to both of them.  Doctor Hayward explains that he called the orphanage and that Nicky is no murderer.  Nicky’s mother was a chamber maid at the Great Northern and his father was a man who fled back to Canada following the back alley assault that led to Nicky’s conception.  Hayward explains that Nicky’s mom died in childbirth.  Nicky was adopted by a loving couple who died in an icy car crash.  Six year-old Nicky heroically attempted to pull his adoptive parents to safety but failed.  Andy and Dick both start to cry.

Harry gets an alert from Seattle, telling him that the man who Josie left with, the one who Josie claims that she merely escaped from, has been found murdered.  Since Cooper is now a deputy, Harry orders Cooper to find out if Josie killed him.  For once, Harry gets to order Cooper around.

At the Marsh house, James is packing his stuff when Evelyn comes in and swears the she is in love with him.  Evelyn says that there’s been an accident and Jeffrey’s dead.  James immediately figures out that Evelyn killed her husband and set him up to take the fall.  Evelyn says that it was Malcolm’s idea and that Malcom isn’t really her brother.  As the police arrive outside, Evelyn tells James to run and go find “that young girl who loves you.”

As James tries to sneak out of the house without being spotted by the cops, he runs into Donna, who is hiding behind a tree.  They run off while Evelyn talks to the police.

In the woods, a dazed and confused Leo comes across a cabin.  Inside the cabin, a man (Kenneth Welsh) plays a flute and invites Leo to enter.  The man sits down in front of a chess board and introduces himself as Windom Earle.

End credits.

This episode shares the same flaws as a lot of season 2.  There are a lot of good scenes, like Leo menacing Shelly and Bobby or the introduction of Windom Earle, but there are also scenes that are just too cartoonish, like anything involving the Mayor and Lana.  This episode was the first and only episode to be directed by German director Uli Edel and he does a pretty good job, putting his own unique spin on the show’s signature style.

Tomorrow: “Slaves and Masters,” in which Cooper gets unexpected help in his chess game against Windom Earle.

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland

Horror on TV: Tales From The Crypt 5.10 “Came The Dawn” (dir by Uli Edel)

Tonight’s excursion into televised horror is the 10th episode of the 5th season of Tales From The Crypt!  

Came The Dawn tells the twisted story of what happens when a mysterious hitchhiker (Brooke Shields) is picked up by a rich man (Perry King).  This one is full of twists and turns as director Uli Edel pays homage to Hitchcock.

It originally aired on November 17th, 1993!


Embracing the Melodrama Part II #65: Christiane F. — We Children Of The Banhof Zoo (dir by Uli Edel)

Christiane_F_Poster Dedicated to: Andreas W. “Atze” (1960 – 77), Axel W. (1960 – 77), Babette D. “Babsi” (1963 – 77) and all others who didn’t have the luck and strength to survive.

— End credits dedication of Christiane F. (1981)

After watching Out of the Blue, be sure to watch the 1981 German film Christiane F.  Like Out of the Blue, Christiane F. tells the story of what happens with adolescent aimlessness turns into self-destruction.  Like Out of The Blue, Christiane F. centers on one alienated girl and, like Out of the Blue, it features a dark ending.  Unlike Out of the Blue, Christiane F. is actually based on a true story and that makes it all the more disturbing.

Another difference between Out of the Blue and Christiane F. is that, while Out of the Blue‘s Ceebe was motivated by anger, 13 year-old Christiane (Natja Brunckhorst) is mostly just bored.  She lives in a drab apartment in Berlin, with her mother and her younger sister.  Whenever we see Christiane walking among the concrete buildings that make up her neighborhood, we can see why she’s so frustrated with her life.  She lives in a world that literally has no personality or hope for the future.

With nothing else to look forward to, Christiane becomes obsessed with going to Sound, a club that is advertised as the “most modern discotheque in Europe.”  Wearing makeup and high heels and lying about her age, Christiane manages to get into Sound and discovers an entire new world.  She meets the charismatic Detlef (Thomas Haustein) and a whole new group of friends.  All of her new friends use drugs and, eager to fit in and hoping to impress Detlef, Christiane is soon taking part.  She quickly goes from smoking pot to shooting heroin to working as a prostitute to finance her habit…

And you know what?  Just from the description, Christiane F. sounds like a typical histrionic anti-drug film, a German version of Reefer Madness.  Anti-drug films are always based on the idea that the worst possible thing that could happen will always happen and that’s certainly what happens in Christiane F.  However, Christiane F. never sinks to the level of propaganda.  There’s an authenticity to the film’s portrait of what it’s like to feel lost and alienated.  It captures the gnawing despair of feeling as if the rest of the world knows something about happiness that you’ll never be able to understand.

Which is not to say that the film doesn’t work as an anti-drug film.  I would never do heroin anyway but if I was so inclined, Christiane F. would change my mind.  As Christiane and her friends become addicts, the film takes on an element of Cronenbergian body terror.  When Christiane’s friends overdose, the camera lingers over their thin, scarred, and blue bodies.  In perhaps the film’s most shocking scene, Christiane is attacked in a public restroom by a junkie who steals her heroin and then proceeds to shoot up in front of her, plunging the syringe into his neck.

Christiane F. is a powerful film, featuring an excellent lead performance from Natja Brunckhorst and a great soundtrack from David Bowie.  Watch it with Out Of The Blue but make sure you’ve got a comedy ready to go afterward.



6 Trailers From 1981

Hi and welcome to the latest installment of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers.  I apologize for being a few days late with this installment. 

This week, I’m highlighting trailers from the year 1981.  1981 not only saw the release of Lucio Fulci’s twin classics The Beyond and The House By The Cemetary, it was also the year that my sister Melissa was born.  (Happy birthday, Melissa Anne!) 

You may notice that, despite citing them above, I did not include the trailer for either one of Fulci’s films in this post.  I’m saving them for a future edition.  Instead, let’s start with Alien Contamination and end with Christiane F. and see what waits in the middle.

1) Alien Contamination

Earlier in this series, I featured the trailer for Luigi Cozzi’s Star Wars rip-off, StarcrashThis is the trailer for Cozzi’s attempt to rip-off both Alien and Lucio Fulci’s classic Zombi 2.  The film is pretty dull but I have to give the trailer mad props for actually making this movie look like it might be kinda fun.

2) Scanners

In this trailer, David Cronenberg proves that nothing sells a film like an exploding head.

3) Dead & Buried

I haven’t seen this film but I’ve read several favorable reviews of it.  While the trailer isn’t nearly as graphic as some of the other trailers that I’ve featured in this series, I still like it.  With the ominous narrator and all, it has a nice retro feel to it.

4) The Evil Dead

Speaking of retro, here’s the trailer to the original Evil Dead

5) Copkiller a.k.a. Order of Death

I recently ordered this Italian film off of Amazon but I have yet to sit down and watch it.  The trailer, for me, is memorable just because it’s a chance to see both Harvey Keitel and Johnny Rotten (who were both quite the sexy beast back in 1981) occupying the same space.

6) Christiane F.

Some people, I know, would disagree with me referring to Christiane F. as being an exploitation film.  I’m sure that the film’s award-winning director — Uli Edel — would disagree with me.  However, Europe’s art films were often sold as America’s grindhouse movies and, just from anecdotal evidence, that was often the case with Christiane F.  Besides, I love this trailer if just for the music alone.