Movies You Need To See: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis

May 29, 2010

 

It may seem kinda off the wall but the movie you need to see this week is a silent film. I know right-no dialogue? How are we supposed to watch a movie with no dialogue. Trust me this one is well worth watching. It is a German film by master filmmaker Fritz Lang made in 1927. It may be the very first Science fiction film ever made. No only is it groundbreaking in visual effects the story told itself it has a great political commentary.

 Although I havent seen a whole hell of a lot of silent films this is my very favorite and one of the only movies I own on VHS and is allowed to sit on the same shelf as the DVD’s. It was the favorite film of Adolf Hitler but don’t let that scare you, Saddam Hussein’s favorite movie was the Godfather. (we have this in common) 

The main reason I am telling you all this is because starting  Friday June 4, a new virtually complete version of the film is screening at Lagoon Cinema in Uptown Minneapolis.  Through the years many parts of the film were lost. On the copy I own on VHS it has several missing scenes where intertitles have to explain what happened in the missing scene. I am super excited to see the newly restored almost nearly complete version  and I will most likely be attending more than once. I strongly recommend that you do the same.

This film is absolutely Magnificent and to see it one the big screen restored to its original splendor is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Imagine as you’re sitting there watching this glorious piece of art that 80 years ago your great grand parents were probably doing the very same thing. (Metropolis was like the Avatar of the 1920’s only much better. About a completely different world with cutting edge visual effects.)

Seriously I cannot express to you enough. GO see this film.

 And if you dont want to make the drive to Uptown at least rent it or watch it on Youtube. (although it wont be nearly as great)

-Danny Johnson

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Pan’s Labyrinth-Beauty in Film

May 26, 2010

A truly wonderful fairy tale for adults. One of the most heartbreaking and most beautiful films I’ve ever seen



Movies You Need To See: Fright Night.

May 22, 2010

A Great 80’s Horror flick. I just watched it today and throughly enjoyed it.  And for all the Twilight fans, This is a real vampire movie.


Influences: Martin Scorsese

May 20, 2010

 

I’d Just like to start off with saying Martin Scorsese is my personal filmmaking idol. He is a living film legend that has had a huge influence on Cinema today. He has been making great films for 40 years now and is still going strong.

The first time I really had an experience with Scorsese was in the spring of 2007, it was what made me pursue filmmaking seriously. The Departed had just won the Oscar for Best Picture and gave Scorsese his first and long overdue Best Director win. My good friend Joseph and I decided to one day after school have what we called the Scorsesathon. We went to that horrid necessary evil known as Blockbuster and rented the Departed and Goodfellas. We decided to watch the Departed first to see what all of the buzz was all about. Although Joseph doesn’t particularly love this film now at our first viewing we were both amazed. We were blown away by the complex narrative, the amazing cinematography and the violence and profanity. I knew after watching that film that those were the kind of movies i wanted to make. Gritty stories of crime filled with violence, vulgarity but never forsaking an awesome narrative. It was such a huge influence and (although we didn’t know it at the time) it wasnt even one of Scorsese’s true masterpieces. unfortunately it was a school night and we didn’t have time to watch the Second film, which quickly became one of my all time favorites, Goodfellas. When Joe left for home decided to start watching it myself. I only got through the first hour of it but i remember saying to Joe the next day at school, “Vaske I watched the first hour of Goodfellas last night and only the first hour was better than the whole movie of the Departed.” So he came over that following weekend and we finish it together. Since that day I have Idolized Scorsese as a filmmaker and hope to one day be even a small fraction as he is at his worst.

Scorsese Films of Note

Mean Streets (1973)

This was one of Scorsese’s earliest movies. It was inspired by his on upbringing in Little Italy in New York City. This is the story on one person, Charlie, (played by a young Harvey Keitel)  struggling through trying to realize what God’s plan is for him while living a neighborhood filled with crime and colorful characters, one of which is the semipsychopathic Johnny Boy. (played by a young Robert De Niro) The thing I like most of all was it was a personal story for Scorsese set in his home neighborhood. It used a very small budget and was basically a cast and crew of family and friends. It needless to say this film is to Scorsese what Paint it Black is to me.

Enjoy this scene from Mean Streets

*vulgar language

 

Taxi Driver (1976)

This film is definitely in my top 10 favorite films of all time. This is the film that caught the attention of the entire film community and helped to usher in a new gritty subgenre of the American New Wave. Trust me when I say that this movie is not for the faint of heart it is extremely graphic in pretty much every meaning of the word. It was also very controversial in its day and is said to be one of the inspirations for John Hinckley Jr.’s attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.  It portrays the life of a psychopathic Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle (masterfully played by Robert De Niro) and his struggle to make his way as a taxi driver in New York City. (In the 1970’s being a New York Cabbie was considered one of the most dangerous professions in the country)  This in my opinion is De Niro’s all time greatest performance. Yes even better than his Oscar-winning roles in Raging Bull and The Godfather Part II. This film has an excellent screenplay by Paul Schrader, excellent cinematography,  and not one performance is lacking.  I’m Serious nothing about this film is anything less than magnificent. Please do you self a favor if you havent seen this movie rent or by it immediately and enjoy one of the best films to come out of the 1970’s and definitely one of the greatest films ever made.  Its one of the few movies I can watch everyday and never get tired of.

Here’s the origional trailer. Enjoy.

Raging Bull (1980)

Most people agree that this is the best character study done since Citizen Kane. It is filmed in glorious black and white by artistic choice. This is another one of Scorsese’s films that will blow you away with its visuals. It was voted number 2 on ESPN’s top 25 Sports Movies of All Time, but this movie is so much more. It tell the true story of boxing legend Jake “the Bronx Bull” La Motta, awesomely portrayed by Robert DeNiro earning him his second Oscar (Best Actor his first being Best Supporting Actor for The Godfather Part II). Joe Pesci also gives one of his best performances ever perfectly cast as Jake’s little brother and manager Joey La Motta. Many say this is Scorsese’s best film I would disagree saying that Taxi Driver is, but it is still one of his best and an absolutely terrific film. This is another one that you should do yourself a favor and rent.

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)    

This is by far Martin Scorsese’s most controversial film. It is for the most part considered outright blasphemy by the Christian community. It is based on the controversial 1960 novel by Nikos Kazantzakis adapted to the screen by Paul Schrader. Being raised Catholic and going to Catholic schools all my life , I was even told by a my highschool religion teachers not to see this film. Although im not a very conservative Christian I expected to be at least a little offended by it. I was very surprised to find that I wasnt offended in the least. I found it to actually be a very interesting and thought provoking movie. It is the only film I have ever seen that portrays the more human side of Christ. Willem Defoe this unseen Jesus as a reluctant very human person almost flawed which is one of the problem Christians have with the movie. He knows that he is the son of God but he isn’t sure that he is ready for the responsiblity of starting ministry and changing the world forever which he knows will end with his own martyrdom. Scorsese does the interesting choice to let all of the actors in the film retain their own accents and having all American actors play the Jewish characters and all the Roman characters played by British actors. It definitely adds something to the film. If you aren’t very easily offended and have a pretty open mind I do suggest you give this one a viewing.

Here’s a clip. Notice the simplistic modern dialect.

 

Goodfellas (1990)

Another great film and one of my personal favorites. Other than the Godfather Part I & II this film in my opinion, and quite a few others’ as well, is the greatest Mafia film of all time. While the Godfather shows the upper levels of the mafia. Goodfellas is the true story of a street crew of mafia associates that spans from the 1950’s up until the 1980’s. This movie has a great story, great cast and absolutely amazing cinematography.  This movie is so great there is not much more I can say about it. See it if you havent, its amazing, you will not regret it. It is one of those movies that you can watch the first part of and easily finding yourself nearly 3 hours later not even noticing anything other than that movie was amazing.

Here’s a scene. Its one of my favorite shots in movie history. Notice its all one shot. No cuts. Just beautiful.

 

Gangs of New York (2002)

This may be considered one of Scorsese’s lesser works but it is still an incredibly entertaining movie. It was actually the first Martin Scorsese film i had ever seen. I loved it then and still enjoy it throughly. I was amazed by the amount of graphic violence in this movie. In retrospect I was probably to young to see it at the time. Because I am quite a history nerd I know that It’s all together not completely historically accurate but still a great depiction of a fairly forgotten part of American history. It tells the story of the street gangs that were a way of life in New York in the 1860’s. It chronicles the incredibly violent clash of new immigrants, Irish for the most part, and the Native New Yorkers know by history as “Know Nothings.”  It marks the first collaboration of Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio. It features solid performances from DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly, Brendan Gleeson and a typically amazing performance from Daniel Day-Lewis. (In my opinion is the greatest actor alive today.)  It is definitely worth seeing even if only for Daniel Day-Lewis’s exceptional performance.

 

The Aviator (2004)

This one is a biopic of aviation pioneer and millionaire Howard Hughes. The film covers middle part of Hughes life while he was becoming a successful movie producer and airline tycoon. Leonardo DiCaprio gives and amazing performance as Howard Hughes. Scorsese returns to doing what he did you so well in Taxi Driver conveying one persons struggle with psychological disorder. This one isn’t in the same league as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas but it is still a wonderful film. It also features an amazing performance by Cate Blanchet as Katherine Hepburn for which she earned an Oscar for Best Supporting actress.

The Departed (2006)

I already talked about this one quite a bit at the top so ill keep it short here.  This was Scorsese’s first Oscar win for Best Director which many people see as more of a lifetime award than an award specifically for the Departed. although the Departed is a pretty good film he deserved a Best Director award long before and always was kinda just overlooked. I think it was the Academy saying, “Sorry Marty we fucked up all those other times.”

Ok Im going to give you the opening scene. Its pretty gritty but if you can handle this you can pretty much handle the whole movie.  

*warning extremely vulgar language, racial slurs, and violence.

 

-Danny Johnson


Da’Fuck?: A Reveiw of the Human Centipede.

May 17, 2010

Ok so Joseph, the prodigal son, recently returned to us from the East Coast where he was going to school. We all decided that we should do something on Saturday night to celebrate.  How would the boys of Off the Edge Productions celebrate the reunification of  the crew you ask? By driving to Minneapolis to see the Latest buzz film in the Indie horror genre, a film that reading the synopsis of is enough to make you intrigued and sick to your stomach at the same time, The Human Centipede. Now amongst our group of friends this movie was a joke because we had read about it since preproduction.

The premise of the movie is simple. A psychopathic prodigy Surgeon decides to create a human centipede by surgically joining people, actual live people, together by the gastric system. For those of you that aren’t the best at science that means sewing peoples mouths to another person’s anus and likewise down a line of three people hoping that food will pass through end to end. To put it in laymen terms sewing three people together asshole to mouth and the people in front will shit into the mouths of the people behind them.  Hearing this I naturally was drawn to it probably for its shear………..um originality I guess you could say.

After a small reunion to at Off the Edge headquarters and a round of cigarettes and sunflower seeds we were off to Uptown knowing full well what we had in store for us, or at least we thought we did.

May 15, 2010, 11 p.m central standard time, Minneapolis MN. The show starts.

As it began it started out like any other gorefest. Two attractive girls that can barely act (but you forgive them because it’s a horror film. We are good people, horror fans) get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere in a country where they don’t know a word of the language. They begin to walk in the wood and just like any other horror film the director wastes no time in getting the girls sopping wet with a sudden rain storm. Realizing that this was exactly what was going on I chuckled to myself thinking, “I love Horror films.” Predictably so, the girls stumble upon the house of the crazy German surgeon and they are drugged and then become part of his disgusting experiment.  Up until this point it was a typical horror film.

There are a few escape attempts that are supposed to deliver suspense and thrills but fails to do so for the most part. Well, spoiler alert, the centipede is complete in the early part of the second act and what happens after that is just plain weird. There are a few scenes where the doctor further dehumanizes his victims by trying to train them like a dog and beat them when they don’t comply, and in another scene of note the first round of digestion is shown. Accompanied by the sophomoric but memorable line. “Oh Shit, I have to Shit.” At this point I gave up on this film being anything at all especially because the gore was surprisingly low. I gave up the hope of seeing some great  low budget gore effects.

The Third act does provide some moments that will make anyone with a soul cringe but still nothing unseen or particularly memorable. The part frustrated me the most was the justification. The justification is usually some halfassed message that the filmmaker will try to convey to make all the gore and exploitation for a reason instead of just having the balls to say this film is an exploitation film and purely by definition pornographic. The last film this I saw that did this halfassed last-minute justification was goriest most irresponsible film I have ever seen, Cannibal Holocaust (1980).  Although The Human Centipede was not nearly as horribly graphic or just horrible in general as Cannibal Holocaust, the too little too late justification is almost exactly the same. I don’t wanna give away the ending in case you still for some strange reason want to see this film after reading this review but I hope you don’t buy the justification and I don’t think you have any problem spotting it, especially since it is followed by probably the goriest scene of the movie.

However I do believe in giving credit where credit is do so there is one good thing I can say about this film. The acting performance by Dieter Laser (who played the surgeon, Dr. Heiter) was nearly flawless. He played the part of the Psychopath so well I kinda wonder about his own sanity. The creepiest parts of this movie are completely fueled by Laser. I have never seen any of his other work but I cannot imagine that he fits better in any other role. He perfectly portrays the misanthropic, narcissistic, brilliant surgeon with a God complex. But even with a truly chilling performance by Laser it was not enough to even salvage the film to make it a justified spending of  9 American Dollars.

In conclusion please for the sake of good horror cinema and for the sake of your own money DO NOT see this film. There is rarely a film that I feel guilty for contributing to the box office of such a film, and this was one of them. (The last one was Twilight) Also I cannot express enough to anyone reading this DO NOT for the love of God and all things good, ever even consider seeing Cannibal Holocaust (1980). There are somethings you just cannot unsee and that film is one of them. Just trust me it’s not worth it. Dont See it.

Well Thats my review of the Human Centipede. Thanks for reading. Let me know what you think (agree or disagree)

-Danny Johnson