Monday, February 25, 2013

Brazil (1985) Review

Brazil 1985 poster
Director: Terry Gilliam
Stars: Johnathan Pryce, Robert De Niro
Genre: Science Fiction, Comedy

Terry Gilliam's (of Monty Python fame) imaginative and satirical dystopian science-fiction comedy loosely based on George Orwell's 1984.

The story follows Sam Lowry, a government employee, who secretly dreams of being so much more. When Sam meets the woman of his dreams (quite literally) his world, as the fresh prince would say, was flip-turned upside down. But if there's one thing a dystopic government hates it's love, happiness, and rebellion.

As I mentioned Brazil is a (very) loose adaptation of the novel 1984. Indeed, Brazil's original title during production was 1984 ½ (a nod not only to 1984 but to Fellini's  as well). However, though Gilliam has admitted the film's obvious inspirations from 1984, he also admitted to never having actually read the novel. Quite interesting. Thus, as expected, it is a very, very loose adaptation and can't really even truly be called an adaptation more than just being largely inspired by. 

Anyone familiar with Gilliam's style will expect the surrealist imagery and the ever-present black comedy. That's all here and it's done quite well. 

The dystopian world which is created here is done very well. Not only are all the sets impressive and aesthetically pleasing, but the films also manages to nail a particular style. It blends 1950s/60s fashion and style with a sort-of future steampunk look. A good example to better understand what I'm trying to describe would be computers which have typewriters as keyboards. It's a look often referred to as Retro-Futurism and Brazil is perhaps the finest visual example of Retro-Futurism, along with maybe the Fallout video game series. 

Brazil 1985 retrofuturism

The film backs quite a great cast. Johnathan Pryce has the lead role in what is perhaps his career-defining performance. Robert De Niro plays a great supporting character and does a great job as always (odd seeing De Niro in the middle of the bill, isn't it?). Bob Hoskins and Ian Holm do remarkable jobs as well, along with the vastly overlooked Kim Greist

The soundtrack is marvelous, of course of note is the song in which the film gets its name "Aquarela do Brasil" as performed by Geoff Muldaur, but the entire soundtrack and score are excellent throughout. 

Brazil 1985 baby face mask

All in all Brazil is a very good film and immensely enjoyable the whole way through. It's not an amazing film and it didn't blow me away or anything, but for what it is it's great fun. If you're looking to purchase Brazil I highly recommend the Criterion releases; I have the 3-disc set and it has tons of awesome special features. 

3.5/5 stars

Purchase Brazil on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Criterion Special Edition - Criterion 3-Disc Box Set

Monday, February 18, 2013

Nineteen-Eighty Four (1984) Review

Nineteen-Eighty Four (1984) film poster
Director: Michael Radford
Stars: John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton
Genre: Science Fiction, Drama

A film adaptation of George Orwell's 1984...released in the year 1984! How clever!

I can't help but to compare this to both the novel and all the previous film adaptations, but I will try to judge it as a standalone work also.

Obviously if you're familiar with the novel you'll be familiar with the film's plot as well. In a dystopian future Winston Smith commits crimes punishable by death; crimes such as falling in love or writing in a diary.

The films stays mostly truthful to the novel, aside from the expected butcherings and missing parts (it's not easy to translate a 300-something page novel into a two hour film you know!). But, again, for the most part it stays pretty faithful and it does a fine job of maintaining Orwell's vision, world, and message.

The films visualizes a very melancholy and depressing world, nearly completely devoid of color and emotion. The film really creates a world that looks dystopic and believable at the same time. As was the novel, it's quite the downer of a film; but that is the job of a warning.

All the character's are portrayed great. John Hurt as Winston is perfect, Richard Burton as O'Brien is great, Suzanna Hamilton as Julia is good.

Nineteen-Eighty Four (1984) Julia

To compare it to earlier adaptations of the same novel, I still feel that the 1954 Peter Cushing version stayed much more faithful. And while it may not be quite as visually pleasing as the 1956 version nor does it do particular scenes as well, it still gives the 1956 version a run for its money when it comes to best theatrical adaptation.

Nineteen-Eighty Four (1984) Big Brother

It's a decent adaptation and a solid film. I can really only recommend it to fans of Orwell's 1984, as I imagine they'd find the most interest in it. If you haven't seen this film nor read the novel, I strongly recommend reading the novel being as there is nothing that can compete with it.

3/5 stars

Purchase Nineteen-Eighty Four on Amazon: DVD

Thursday, February 14, 2013

My Bloody Valentine (1981) Review

My Bloody Valentine 1981 poster
Director: George Mihalka
Stars: Lori Hallier, Paul Kelman, Cynthia Dale
Genre: Horror, Slasher

In the wake of the slasher genre many films throughout the 80s tried to imitate the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th. In particular there were many holiday themed slashers, everything from Christmas to New Year's to Birthdays and just about any holiday you can imagine was made into a slasher film. My Bloody Valentine is obviously the Valentine's Day slasher. And if you hate Valentine's Day as much as I do then this may be just the movie for you.

The story is about Harry Warden, a miner who was left trapped in the mines because his co-workers were too anxious to get the the Valentine's dance. Harry Warden was later rescued and he then decided to get revenge on his careless co-workers. He threatened the town that so long as the hold Valentine's Day parties and put up decorations he will come back and kill. The town obeyed Harry's orders but twenty years later, on Saturday the 14th (a clever reference if I do say so myself) Valentine's Day, against the mayor's orders, teenagers who thought Harry Warden was just an urban legend threw a Valentine's Day the mines!

This is actually a pretty cool slasher and one of the better imitators of the 80s. First off, it's actually pretty scary. Walking around dark, abandoned mines is scary enough but when you add a gas-mask wearing, pick-axe toting, serial killer to the mix it gets even scarier. The villain's design is very simple yet very effective. 

This film is known for being heavily censored in its day but luckily some of the footage has since been restored. The cut version is only 90 minutes long and Wikipedia lists the Uncut version as being 101 minutes long, however I was unable to find a 101 minute version (I'm still unsure whether or not there really is one) but I managed to find a 93 minute long version which restored at least some of the cut footage.

My Bloody Valentine 1981 Harry Warden

In the 93 minute version you can clearly see which material was cut because the restored footage has a more worn and damaged look compared to the rest of the film. This actually benefits the film in my opinion because during every kill scene the film suddenly turns very grainy and it gives it an even cooler grindhouse look to it. The kills are pretty awesome by the way, I won't spoil any of them but there's some creative murders in here.

So definitely try to find an uncut version at least 93 minutes long. I haven't watched the cut version (why would I?) but I could imagine this film being a bit boring without all the awesome kills.

My Bloody Valentine 1981 water pipe kill

The plot is standard, it's not really doing anything new but it does a well enough job moving the film along and a well-enough back story to the killer. The ending, I won't spoil anything, was, uh, it was actually kind of cool. Definitely better than a lot of slasher endings, and the film's last lines are pretty awesome despite a somewhat silly twist. 

My Bloody Valentine 1981 heart in a box

The acting is mediocre but the characters are somewhat likable. There's a love triangle that goes on but it's not entirely pointless because it effects events later on in the film. There's your typical goofball character, the helpless women, and my favorite character of the film is the fat guy with the mustache. I really like that guy. I even dreamed about him...ahem, anyway.

My Bloody Valentine 1981 fat guy with mustache

The soundtrack is pretty solid throughout and there's a pretty nice end credit song too that I was quite fond of. The famous shoegaze band My Bloody Valentine gets their name from this film so that's musical contribution enough.

My Bloody Valentine 1981 pot kill

It spawned a 3D remake in 2009, which I haven't seen but it looks like shit. I'd advise to just stick with this awesome original for some good ole' fashioned stylish murders. A damn good film and highly underrated. One of my all time favorite slashers.

3.5/5 stars

Purchase My Bloody Valentine on Amazon: Blu-Ray - DVD - Stream - VHS
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