Posts uit 2014 weergeven

Hell Up in Harlem (1973)

HELL UP IN HARLEM (1973, Larry Cohen)
Dir: Larry Cohen - Cast: Fred Williamson, Gloria Hendry, Margaret Avery, D'Urville Martin, Julius Harris, Tony King, Gerald Gordon
A sequel to the successful blaxploitation drama Black Caesar, hastily put together. After the unexpected success of the first movie, director Cohen was asked to come up with a blitz sequel. Problem was that both he and his star Williamson were occupied. Williamson was working in California on a movie called That Man Bolt while Cohen was busy on the East Coast, completing his own movie It’s Alive! The bulk of Hell Up in Harlem was shot over the weekends, with Cohen traveling from coast to coast, using all his imagination to construct a story and a movie.

The opening scene uses footage from the first movie, disregarding its bleak conclusion and changing the context of the assault on Williamson’s life. It is now suggested that the assault was masterminded by a corrupt District Atttorney and that Williamson survived the…

Divergent (2014)

DIVERGENT (2014, Neil Burger)
Dir: Neil Burger - Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Maggie Q, Ansel Elgort, Caleb Prior, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, Zoë Kravitz, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer
Half the world seems to be reading dystopian novels aimed at younger audiences these days, while Hollywood is trying to turn these novels into movies the whole world wants to see. Divergent is set in a future Chicago, a few decades after the great Cataclysm. Society - or what’s left of it - is divided into five different factions called Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Amity and Candor. At the age of 16, all youths must pick the faction in which they will live for the rest of their lives. A test indicates in which faction they really belong, but they’re nevertheless free to follow their heart. Most of them choose the faction in which they were born, but there are exceptions and of course our heroin, Beatrice (Tris to friends), is one of them: she born in Abnegation and her parents are s…

Shadows and Fog (1991)

Dir: Woody Allen - Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, John Cusack, Donald Pleasence, Madonna, Philip Bosco, Jodie Foster, Kathy Bates, Lily Tomlin, Charles Cragin, William H. Macey, Fred Gwynne, John Malkovich
Woody’s homage to German expressionist movies (notably Fritz Lang’s M, Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder) and the world of Kafka, with some typical Allen wit & wisdom added. The film was entirely shot on a studio set (2,400 m2) at Kaufman Studios, New York. The budget has been estimated at $14 million and with the film only grossing a mere $2 million, it's one of Woody’s major financial failures.

Allen himself plays a cleck called Kleinman who’s awakened in the middle of the night by a vigilante mob and asked to assist them in the search for a serial killer on the loose. When Kleinmann leaves his house to catch up with the mob, the streets seem deserted, and most of the time we see him aimlessly walking around the town, encountering all kind of strange folk and ev…

Black Caesar (1973)

BLACK CAESAR (1973, Larry Cohen)
Blaxploitation crime drama about an Afro-American crime boss (Fred Williamson) in Harlem, his bloody conflicts with the Italian Mafia and his live-long feud with an Irish police captain (Art Lund, in a good performance), who almost crippled him as a kid, when he was a shoe polisher. The movie was well-received by contemporary critics and was also hailed for the score by legendary soul artist James Brown (in reality most of the material was written by Brown’s band leader, jazz trombonist Fred Wesley). For a B-movie, Black Caesar is quite ambitious, presenting Williamson not simply as a brother who kicks some white ass, but rather as a tragic person fighting racial prejudice while working himself up in the Harlem underworld, but losing all touch with reality and therefore ending up being as bad as the racist schmuck he’s trying to chase from the black neighborhood.

Like the character, the movie over-stretches its own possibilities; it’s not bad, but it’…

Blue Thunder (1983)

Roy Scheider is Frank Murphy, an ex-Vietnam helicopter pilot, now serving LAPD. He’s asked to test a new high-tech helicopter called Blue Thunder, an anti-terrorist chopper loaded with state-of-the-art spy technology and heavy artillery; its stealth technology allows it to fly almost undetected and thanks to the advanced listening devices, people can be overheard wherever they are, even in their own bedrooms. The LA police force is preparing for the 1984 Olympics, and Murphy is told that the chopper will only be used for surveillance, but when his old army nemesis Cochran (Malcolm McDowell) pops up, Murphy becomes suspicious about what’s really going on ...

The combat helicopter from the title is a real wow and director John Badham keeps things moving from start to finish, but the story about a subversive action group eliminating political opposition is poorly developed; we learn that there’s a group of conspirators (apparently all-linked to the Military Complex) who want to use the …

The Two Faces of January (2013)

Dir: Hossein Amini - Cast: Viggo Mortensen, Kirsten Dunst, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Bevan, David Warshofsky, Karayianni Margaux, Yigit Ozscener, James Sobol Kelly

A thriller based on the novel of the same title by Patricia Highsmith; the title refers to the Roman God Janus, the double-faced God of transitions and new beginnings, who gave his name to the month of January, the beginning of the new year. The title also refers to the characters played by Viggo Mortensen and Oscar Isaac, who are both con man, not showing their real face to others.

Highsmith is best known for providing Hitchcock with the source material for “Strangers on a Train” and creating the character of Ripley, the young man with a talent for deceit and murder. Ripley is a rather unlikely Highsmith hero in the sense that he is successful in what he’s doing: most of her ‘heroes’ are people who almost accidentally get into trouble and then take all the wrong decisions, making things worse with every next step they…

Deconstructing Harry (1997)

Dir: Woody Allen - Cast: Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Kristie Alley, Richard Benjamin, Bob Balaban, Billy Crystal, Elisabeth Shue, Tobey McGuire, Paul Giamatti, Stanley Tucci, Demi Moore, Mariel Hemingway, Amy Irving, Robin Williams

A great comedy drama, along with Husbands and Wives (1992) Woody’s finest movie from the 90s. Woody is Harry Brown, a sex-obsessed author who lived through three marriages and numerous affairs. So far things seemed to go his way: he went to psychiatrists (six different ones) while others went nuts (including that one psychiatrist who became his wife), but now it’s pay-back time:  his real-life friends and lovers as well as the characters he created are trying to seek redress. Worst of all: his latest flame, a young admirer, has left him for a friend ...

Once again Woody gets the very best out of a great ensemble cast. Virtually everybody is in great form, but kudos go to Kristie Alley (as the psychiatrist/wife going nuts) and Elisabeth Shue (as the young lover …

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2014)

The first part of the trilogy ended with Smaug the dragon opening one eye, but it takes more than 100 minutes before we get to see him in this sequel, the ‘extra’ part created to turn the planned diptych into a triptych. If you ask me, they had better stuck to the original plans. This second entry feels too much like an entr’acte to be fully successful; it's still enjoyable, but it's hard to escape this feeling of redundancy and déja vu. The first half is needlessly drawn-out, offering far too many Orcs, those stupid creatures that are killed by the dozens and never manage to kill one of the dwarves or elves. Suckers. You wonder why anybody’s afraid of them.

But okay, the film grossed more than $950 million worldwide and no-one wants to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, right? Money makes the dwarves go round, and round. And yes, there’s some good news too: the character of Tauriel, the Robina Hood of the Elves, created for the series to fill a few narrative gaps, is …