As anyone who knows cinema can tell you, the 70s were a revolutionary period for cinema. There was a new school that swept through and brought us genre defying (and defining) films from visionary filmmakers. With it also brought the young actors who are now widely recognized as legends. I’m thinking of one actor in particular — John Cazale. In the seventies, he was in five films that were nominated for Best Picture. He was engaged to Meryl Streep and he sadly succumbed to cancer in 1978. He was a fantastic character actor with the aforementioned phenomenal career. Why the quick bio of Mr. Cazale? Simple. He is in one of my favorite films of all time, and the film that I am reviewing tonight, The Deer Hunter.

If you haven’t seen this film, stop reading this and go watch it. It will be 3 hours of intricately paced storytelling that you will never forget. The cast includes such powerhouses of acting as Meryl Streep, Christopher Walken, Robert De Niro and John Savage. Of course, John Cazale plays a perpetual screw up that gets under Michael’s (De Niro) skin. It is a small, but memorable role. Now, I could spend this entire review telling you about the erie score that you swear you’ve heard before, the great cinematography, and the obviously fantastic acting that brings the beautifully written story to life.

Said story revolves around Michael, the titular Deer Hunter, and his group of friends who work at a Pennsylvania steel mill amidst the Vietnam War. Michael, Steven (Savage) and Nick (Walken) are best friends that all enlist together and are shipping out in a few days. The movie begins with Steven getting married and the group of friends going off on one last hunting trip together. After which, they cut to the three of them already in Vietnam. What follows is a harrowing and emotionally charged series of events that take place while all three friends are captured. This event leads to Nick and Steven having a mental break. Michael is able to get the three of them out, but when they stumble across and American helicopter, he is only able to get Nick aboard. This is one of the last times that Michael will see his best friend. Steven is injured and Michael winds up carrying him to allied territory and getting him the help he needs. Michael gets shipped home and doesn’t quite know how to fit in. The entire film revolves around how a small town man copes with the horrors he witnessed in Vietnam and how it changed his perceptions and relationships of his life from before the war. I’m trying not to go into too much detail because this film deserves to be viewed. Meryl Streep plays Linda, a love interest for both Michael and his best friend Nick. Before they go off to war we see the quiet, contemplating Michael show affection to her, but it is Nick that makes his intentions known as he asks her to marry him when they get back. She obviously has feelings for both of them, but she seems to love Nick and accepts his offer. Michael and Steven are the only two that return from Vietnam as Nick is reported as going AWOL after the events when they were captured. Steven has lost both of his legs and an arm and lives in a VA hospital while his wife and child are being taken care of by his mother. His mental break leaves him ashamed and unable to deal with his new circumstances. When Michael gets home, he intentionally avoids everyone else except for Linda, whom he still cares deeply for. She is shaken at the absence of Nick, but she eventually grows closer to Michael. The two of them start a relationship when Michael is invited to a hunting trip with the remainder of the group of friends (of which Cazale is one of them). While on the trip, Michael has a spiritual experience when he chases down and lets a buck live, this is the first time he has ever not gotten the deer he has pursued and when he gets back to the cabin, Cazale’s character is being his usual self and one of the things he does triggers a violent response from Michael as it reminds him of the traumatic event from Vietnam. He ends the trip early and they all arrive home the next day. This flashback event makes Michael a bit distant from Linda and causes him to visit Steven in the VA hospital. While there, Steven is obviously suffering from a mental break, but has a few lucid moments. In one of these moments, he reveals that his sock drawer is full of money from Vietnam that comes every month or so. Michael concludes that Nick is still alive. The film then takes Michael on a journey back to Vietnam during the events that took place when the U.S. withdrew. Complete with the historic fleeing of the embassy and the aircraft carriers knocking helicopters into the ocean to make room for more people. In a series of scenes that reflect the grimy seventies film style completely, Michael tracks down Nick to an illegal gambling parlor where one of the most iconic scenes in film takes place. The film ends with Michael back in Pennsylvania with Linda and the rest of the group in a very melancholy scene that sums up the entire theme of the film. A loss of innocence and how people struggle to pick up the pieces and move on after they find themselves in a life that no longer resembles what they knew.

I understand that my summary of the film isn’t really a review, but I felt that the movie is an essential viewing for any film lover. You can’t just read a review or summary and think that it is enough. You need to watch it. I intentionally left the pivotal parts of the film ambiguous and, in some cases, absent altogether. I couldn’t bring myself to spoil these scenes. Hell, my worlds couldn’t even do them justice. The only thing I can do is tell you what anyone else can tell you. The film is a product of its era, but it stands apart as a beautifully made product. It isn’t like most Vietnam films in that it focuses on a group of friends and events through the eyes of one individual that experienced Vietnam. He didn’t fight, or witness events, he experienced all that conflict had to offer and then had to go home and pick up the pieces. How can he go back to what things were before? Why does it all matter? How does it matter at this point?

The film is damned near perfect. As I said, brilliantly made. The acting is second to none and I feel that it is De Niro’s best role of that period. I know that people may think I’m crazy considering that this was his genesis as an actor. It was De Niro in the 70s. To me, though, this was his best film. Sure, Taxi Driver showcased his range and talent, The Deer Hunter showcased his humanity and apathy. So, yes. This film is worth seeing. I think there are a few films that should be required viewing for anyone who declares themselves a film fan. Hell, if more people took the time to watch films like this, I doubt we would have the sludge that is pushed out now. And it isn’t because Hollywood is talentless and out of ideas. It is because they know what will make money. Stupid, popcorn flicks will make money. Original, artsy, instant classics are a risky enterprise. So, watch as many classics as you can. Study what is arguably the best period in cinema history and take notes. This is what real cinema is. Then, try to to think about how a talentless woman like Kristen Stewart is making three times as much as Meryl Streep.

This isn’t a review. It is a trailer for a film that was released 35 years ago.


Lockout (2012)

Posted: 04/01/2013 in Ramblings

My first review for this week is for the film Lockout. I’ve been avoiding this flick since I saw the first grumblings about it on the internet, but what sealed the deal was watching the first trailer. I immediately thought of the Christopher Lambert vehicle Fortress 2. A sequel to a film about the ultimate prison. The ultimate-er prison satellite that Lambert found himself locked in after he escaped the original. Now, it seemed orbital prisons were making a comeback. This time with Guy Pearce playing a character not unlike a poor man’s Snake Plissken. Complete with the quasi-futuristic implied dystopia from the Escape From… franchise. What caught my eye was a psychopath Scotchman (is there any OTHER kind?!) played by the always-excellent Joseph Gilgun (Misfits, This Is England). To be honest, I just wanted to see him. His role takes up, accumulatively, roughly 20 minutes. The films isn’t bad, but it is far from an instant classic.

The premise was more of a mashup than I thought. It mixed the aforementioned films along with a bit of Demolition Man and The General’s Daughter (Yea). This is basically the stone soup of action plots. The films is a great break from the seemingly constant onslaught of terrible action films that have come out over the last few years. While most are terrible, there are a few gems. This flick; however, is mid-grade at best. The plot revolves around Snow (Pearce) being wrongfully (and illegally) convicted of a murder of a U.S. General, that happened to be an old friend of his trying to sell state secrets. This gets him convicted to 30 years of cryogenically induced sleep in a orbital prison. It just so happens that this prison is where the President’s daughter is going in order to thaw out and interview a prisoner (Gilgun) for some charity she works for. She actually questions him about how ethical his chemically induced coma is. Really. She actually asks if he dreams. Anyway, this goes over terribly and through incompetence, this prisoner breaks free and releases 499 other inmates — including his own brother. Snow is offered his Snake Plissken deal and is told to save the First Kid. What follows is 90 minutes of action and filler dialog. There are a few decent quips, but most of the interaction between Snow and the First Kid is forced. Pearce does his best to do SOMETHING with the role, but it seems all of his acting skills went to Lawless earlier in the year. So, what we are left with is a film that mashes up some of the more absurd portions of the films I just mentioned and actually delivers a half-decent ride. Sure, it is predictable and any “fun” we are supposed to have with it never really happens. The point is to turn your brain off and ignore how crappy the premise is. As far as action flicks go, it is a product of it’s genre. It is certainly better than the worst of the 80s/90s crap, and is eons ahead of most of the stuff released in the past ten years, but it still fails to do anything original. The casting was the most ballsy thing done during the production of this film.

Possibly the best thing about the film is Snow’s inability to give two-shits about pretty much ANYTHING, yet still somehow have enough interest to make quips. That, and the coup led by what I can only assume is the head of the Secret Service…maybe? The bottom line is that if you are bored and can’t decide on what to watch on Netflix, or want to sacrifice some time on the alter of Action, check this flick out. I think it is a solid middle-of-the-road. A five out of ten. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t great.

New Year’s Post

Posted: 01/01/2013 in Ramblings

I’m starting to hate people that write long-winded blog posts about how they’re sorry they haven’t posted in a while and give a long list of reasons why they should be forgiven. Especially those, like myself, that pretend to have readers. People other than themselves that actually care what they think. I’ve seen it too many times and I think I’ve even done it. I’m going to get right down to the fat and confess my idea for a brilliant 2013. I think I need to do two things at the start of this new year. One, is to watch a movie every day and write two reviews a week. Said reviews can be about any of the films I see and they can be as long as I wish AFTER they reach the 500 word mark. Another thing I feel like doing is being proactive about my back injury and try to walk as much as I can over the next year. It is something that kills me to do, but sitting around waiting to feel better isn’t living and I need to do something other than brood. I’ll try to do a mile a day, but I doubt I’ll be able to get even close to that, all things considered. I’ve also decided to treat certain days as check-in points and post what I am doing, listening to, reading, thinking and watching. There will be no set schedule. I suppose I’ve going to treat this a bit like a journal and less like I’m talking to an audience. That will make it easier to write without all of the ego involved. It isn’t about my musings, it is just to let me get some of the things out of my head.

Right now, for instance, I am reading Butcher Bird by Richard Kadrey. One of my favorite authors. He is 4 books deep into a fantastic urban fantasy series set around the character of Sandman Slim (it is the title of the first book, and yet, even the main character hates the ridiculous name). I recommend it whole-heartedly. I am listening to Band of Skulls, which is a nice little alternative band from the UK. And I have been watching a ton of movies lately. Nothing in the horror genre, really. Well, House of the Devil (great retro-flick) and Class of Nuke ‘Em High (Troma’s heyday) are TECHNICALLY horror. And the snow falling outside is making me feel both nostalgic and depressed.

Of course, this will be posted tomorrow, so most of the things said won’t really matter, but I’ll add something to this before posting it.

And here I am. Happy New Year, everyone. The snow left around 2.5 inches, and ice EVERYWHERE. It was nice, though. I wound up watching 30 Days of Night around 3am while the snow was falling. It wasn’t as bad as I remembered it. The only problem I had with it was Josh Hartnett. Which is usually the case with anything he is in. With the exception of The Faculty and Black Dahlia (both were enjoyable for what they were….my taste with him is questionable). Anyway, happy New Year to anyone who is reading this. And to the people not reading it? Well….the internet is a big place. I can see how you got lost on your way here. It’s distracting. I’m lonely.