Jude–As a regular to this site, we here at J.P.’s I’m Outta Here Movie Thoughts hereby invite you to review a movie of your choice. If you are amenable to writing a review please let me know which movie and what clips and we here at the site will take care of the rest.
Monthly Archives: May 2010
Guest Reviewer Charles is Back and will be reviewing …
Witness for the Prosecution. So tune in for a review of a classic. JPFmovies
I am under increasing pressure to diversify my choice in movies to review. Well, as I may have mentioned before, I will avoid a chick flick as best I can. That’s right, I said chick flick, like it or not — it’s out there now. Anyway, I have looked through my vast archives in search of a movie to squash these unfounded complaints about the movies lucky enough to be reviewed on this site: Joe Versus The Volcano. I hope the fact that I think this is a great movie does not throw the integrity of everything else I write about into doubt.
Based on some of my research, it seems that JVTV has become an industry joke. Because of the movies’ low revenue, one does not need to be a Hollywood insider to figure out why it is viewed as a joke and as one of Hanks’ minor films. Though I am not a big Tom Hanks fan (yes, I know he has won awards, made lots of movies, et cetera) he and Meg Ryan (in all three of her characters) do very well in JVTV. Hanks and Ryan aside, what I really like about this movie are the minor characters played by bigger names. There is Joe’s unpleasant and demanding boss, Frank Waturi (played by Dan Hedaya), Robert Stack assumes the role of the Doctor, Abe Vigoda plays the Waponi chief and Kirk Douglas plays the wealthy industrialist.
Now on to the movie. Joe Banks (Tom Hanks) is a downtrodden everyman, working in a factory for a horribly unpleasant boss, Frank Waturi (Dan Hedaya). Listless and chronically sick, Banks habitually visits doctors who find nothing physiologically wrong with him. Eventually Dr. Ellison (Robert Stack), diagnoses Banks with a fatal disease called a “brain cloud,” a disease that has no symptoms and will kill Joe within six months.
Upon learning this news, Joe tells his boss off, quits his job, and asks former co-worker DeDe (Meg Ryan) out on a date that seems to be going quite well, until he tells her that he is dying, at which time she becomes very upset and leaves.
The next morning Samuel Graynamore (Lloyd Bridges) unexpectedly shows up at Joe’s house and makes him a proposition. Graynamore needs “bubaru,” a mineral required to manufacture superconductors. The tiny Pacific island of Waponi Wu, and the resident Waponis, have the largest deposit of bubaru in the world. They will let him mine it if he can solve a problem for them. Their culture believes that the volcano on their island must be appeased by a voluntary human sacrifice once every century, but none of the Waponis are willing to volunteer this time around. If Graynamore can find a sacrificial lamb, he can have the mineral rights to the island. Graynamore gives Joe carte blanche to enjoy his final days, as long as he is willing to jump into the volcano at the end, suggesting that he “live like a king, die like a man.” With nothing to lose, Joe accepts.
Joe spends the day shopping and the night at the Pierre Hotel in New York, where he solicits advice on everything from style to living life to the fullest from his wise chauffeur, Marshall (Ossie Davis). In my favorite scene, Joe purchases four magnificent, handcrafted, waterproof steamer trunks from a fanatically dedicated luggage salesman (Barry McGovern).
The next morning, Joe goes to a yacht owned by Graynamore and captained by Patricia (Meg Ryan’s third character). She had reluctantly agreed to take Joe to Waponi Wu after Graynamore promised to give her the yacht in return.
During the voyage, they run into bad weather and Patricia is knocked unconscious and flung overboard. Joe jumps in after her and lightning strikes and sinks the yacht. Joe constructs a raft by lashing together his steamer trunks. Patricia does not regain consciousness for several days while Joe doles out the small supply of water to her and gradually becomes delirious from thirst. Eventually the two of them find that they have drifted to their destination.
The Waponis treat them to a grand feast. Their chief (Abe Vigoda) asks one last time if anyone else will volunteer, but there are no takers and Joe heads for the volcano. Patricia tries to stop him, declaring her love for him. He admits he loves her as well, “but the timing stinks.” Patricia gets the chief to marry them.
Afterwards, Patricia refuses to be separated from Joe. When he is unable to dissuade her, they jump in together, but the volcano erupts at that moment, blowing them out into the ocean. The island sinks, but Joe and Patricia land near their trusty steamer trunks. At first ecstatic about their miraculous salvation, Joe puts a damper on things by telling Patricia about his fatal brain cloud. She recognizes the name of Joe’s doctor as that of her father’s crony and realizes that Joe has been lied to. He is not dying and they can live happily ever after (if they can survive being on a raft in the middle of the ocean).
I’ll be the first to admit this movie is not for everyone. Some will find the movie at best amusing and at worst tripe, but I think it’s great.
I have been wanting to review this determined movie for some time, so why not now? Here goes. This film deals with one of the most controversial legal (not moral) questions of the 20th century: Were these Judges’ trials (a part of the Nuremberg Trials), the result of the Allies having been victorious, hence, merely victors’ spoils (as Goering contended) or, in fact, proceedings that had a true, sound basis in law (as the United States, the Soviet Union, and England contended). To try to avoid resolving this question, Winston Churchill proposed that the leading Nazis be summarily executed by using a legal procedure known as a “Bill of Attainder”—a process by which a legislative body declares a person or people guilty without the benefit of trial. Indeed, it is well known that the (Allied) trial justices knew they had to find at least some of the criminals not guilty specifically to avoid the trials being characterized as victors’ spoils.
However, on the other side of the argument is that these were crimes against humanity, the likes of which had until then been unknown to so-called civilized societies. Furthermore, the participants knew the atrocities they were committing or contributing to violated every sense of human decency for which accountability would later be dished out (heavily) should the Germans lose the war.
The film begins to address this seemingly central and novel question, but leaves this debate behind soon after it is raised; the trial and its attendant drama move forward, drawing in its audience. Judy Garland’s testimony proves to be pivotal and riveting. (And, its premise is based on a true German case from 1942.) The defense continues to claim that the trial is really solely for the benefit of the Allies and not for meting out justice, but it’s a losing argument–for obvious reasons.
We’re treated to a cast that just won’t quit: Spencer Tracey, William Shatner, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Werner Klemperer (AKA Colonel Klink), and Maximilian Schell, who gave an out-of-this-world performance.
Stanley Kramer, the film’s producer and director, when he did take a position on a matter, made no apologies for creating “message films.” Though his transparent, clear motives have the potential to age poorly, (this doesn’t happen here), there’s no doubt that he had the stature and courage to approach controversial issues – such as racism (“The Defiant Ones” (1958)), religion and politics (“Inherit the Wind” (1960)), and the Holocaust, (“Judgment at Nuremberg” (1961)) with conviction and clarity. The movie is so convinced of its own importance that Kramer surely had advance notice of the imminent, eleven Oscar nominations before opening production. Fortunately, the self-importance is quite justified. The epic 186-minute courtroom drama tackles some fundamental War issues, such as the accountability of so-called responsible, highly-educated, and highly-placed German citizens for events of the Holocaust and how patriotism can eclipse and corrupt human conduct, decency, and basic morals. Armed with a mighty cast of Hollywood stars, Kramer dissects the Judges’ Trials at Nuremberg, exposing madness, tragedy, and hypocrisy.
“The things you own end up owning you,” Tyler Durden said during “Fight Club.” It’s one of my favorite lines from any movie, by virtue of both its delivery and its substance.
I looked on the IMDB site to see how many people had written about “Fight Club,” and it was a surprisingly high number: 2,412. So how does one write something that is going to be original or give any insight that has not been offered before? I don’t know. Like it or not, here are my thoughts on Fight Club:
The movie “Fight Club,” eponymously named, is based on Chuck Palahniuk’s controversial 1996 novel, which had an initial poor showing, selling few copies. According to Palahniuk, the novel was inspired by real events that took place while on a camping trip. Some men can’t resist a good brawl it seems. When Palahniuk returned to work battered and bruised, all of his co-workers assiduously avoided him, apparently unwilling to ask what had happened on his trip. It was his coworkers’ palpable reluctance to inquire about his real, serious injuries that inspired the writing of “Fight Club.”
Like the novel, “Fight Club” the movie (also a rather daring and controversial film) did not make a splash in the marketplace. Fight Club made only about $37 million dollars—just over half of the film’s budget, which served as one factor contributing to the head of 20th Century Fox resigning the next year.
However, the further one gets away from its release, the more “Fight Club’s” popularity grows. When the movie was released, the critics were deeply divided, either effusively praising it or violently hating it. Some critics even went so far as to label it “mindless fascism.” For quite some time, “Fight Club” never appeared on any movie polls ranking the 100 greatest films, but when one searches today’s individual favorite lists or popularity polls, it’s consistently considered the landmark film of the 90s. Why does its audience keep growing? Is it because Fight Club is simply a brilliant movie? Perhaps because it is a commentary on modern American consumerism. No one can know for certain; perhaps that is the reason the question continues to persist.
But I digress. The movie is about a nameless (and sleepless) man who is incredibly bored with his humdrum, bureaucratic life. Then he meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt—and also the other half of his split personality), who goes on to teach him a series of bizarre life lessons. These lessons unravel piece by piece, all while people engage in brutal fist fights as a way of managing whatever their issues with modern society may be. These fights morph into other activities that prove to be increasingly more self-destructive—like destroying “corporate art” or intentionally inciting a fight with a stranger and then loosing. As the movie moves forward, the “homework” assigned to “Fight Club” members is designed to lead to chaos and anarchy.
The cast of Fight Club is superb. Brad Pitt (of whom I am not normally a fan) gives an extraordinary performance as Tyler Durden. Pitt makes you believe that Tyler is a part of his own personality. Even his twisted laugh throughout the film makes the watcher believe he is a wing-nut. You also find yourself hanging on every word Edward Norton says throughout his narration. Norton’s acting ability is always worth the price of admission, and it is particularly sharp here. In the beginning of the movie, his character is an insomnia-suffering zombie living the mundane corporate life. Norton transitions his character right up until the end, when it becomes clear that he is a changed man.
Now, the icing on the cake: As anyone who has read my reviews on this site knows, there are few things that I loathe more than movies that are whiny, nagging, or worse, preachy. “Fight Club” offers us story that is the antitheses of all that I despise in traditional milquetoast movies.
If you have not seen it, do so. If you have already, take the time to watch it again.
Yes, I know it’s overdue, but here is my personal take on “The Fugitive.”
Zatoichi “The Fugitive” is the fourth in the Zatoichi series that centers on a blind man wandering the Japanese countryside, ostensibly making his living as a masseur. In reality, though, he is a professional gambler, a Yakuza (members of traditional, organized crime syndicates in Japan) and most importantly, an outstanding swordsman. Zatoichi is a master of the “iaido” style—that consisting of the smooth, controlled movements of drawing the sword from its scabbard, striking or cutting an opponent, removing blood from the blade, and then replacing the sword back into the scabbard.
Like most blind people, Zatoichi possesses extremely heightened remaining senses. His senses are so sharp, in fact, that he can hear the way dice role in a cup, differentiate between a man and a woman by their distinctive scents, and use his swordsmanship with deadly precision and lighting speed. All of these abilities go a long way in keeping him alive in a time and place abounding in death.
In “The Fugitive,” Zatoichi strolls into a town that is in the midst of hosting a Sumo wrestling match. Ichi decides to participate in the Japanese tradition and wins the requisite five matches to take the tournament, while the local Yakuza loose face, since they were beaten by a blind man. After the matches have ended, Ichi is enjoying a snack next to a pond when he is attacked by local scoundrel trying to capture the 10 ryo (gold currency used during the period weighing about 16.5 grams) bounty that was placed on Ichi’s head. Ichi cautions the man to discontinue the attacks, but his warnings go unheeded. Ichi makes quick work of the man, and while he is dying, Ichi is able to find out the name of the mother of his latest victim.
Ichi sets out to—and does—find the dead man’s mother (herself a Yakuza) and begs for her forgiveness. While apologizing, Ichi stumbles upon a local Yakuza power struggle, takes the side of the underdog, and eventually restores the balance of power, ending a violent turf war and returning the town to a state of peace.
While intervening in this struggle, Ichi is forced again to deal with the bounty on his head as well as with a skilled, angry Ronin. In the end, Ichi and the Ronin fight a grueling battle, and Ichi, again, is the warrior left standing.
I must profess–I love the entire Zatoichi series and have all 26 movies. While the general storyline in “The Fugitive” constitutes the basis for each of the Zatoichi films, they are all enjoyable individually and stand up well on their own. Many of the original Ichi movies surprisingly contain a fair amount of humor, unlike the 2003 remakethough, which was a grim and bloody tale of the blind man’s journey.
I agree with my counterpart’s (Silver) review in several respects. First, the Lone Wolf and Cub series (also one of my favorites) plays on the same general theme. One could easily conclude that both of these series reflect the sentiments of Japanese movie culture popular at the time. More importantly, I also agree with Silver in that this is not a Yojimbo or some other cinematic masterpiece, nor was it meant to be. These movies were made to be enjoyed by a more general, mainstream audience and they were obviously very successful at doing so.
Despite its age, the movie is about 40 years old, “Zatoichi—The Fugitive” continues to entertain and provides an excellent representation of period Asian Samurai cinema.