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My Name is Bruce (2007)—and I don’t mean Bruce Lee.

The second film in our series is “My Name Is Bruce,” the 2007 comedy-horror-spoof-film, directed, co-produced and starring the “B” (or C+ if you listen to some people) movie great Bruce Campbell.  As you know we just took a look at Army of Darkness (by far my favorite Campbell film); this time around we are discussing a movie about Bruce Campbell playing Bruce Campbell.  Unlike unintentional actors who are not really acting on screen, like when Chazz Palminteri plays Chazz Palminteri in every film, Campbell parades his status as cult B-movie genre megastar and makes a film that pokes fun at his acting career.  My guess is that most Hollywood “stars” have too big of an ego to make something with this sort of self-deprecating humor in it.

 

In his film, Campbell exaggerates all possible perceptions of what life is like being Bruce Campbell.  Portraying himself as a gone to hell, ruined by the devil’s nectar, divorced, making wretched sequels to already awful movies and living a trailer with an alcoholic dog, being Bruce means at best you are a proud loser barely maintaining a toehold on the “C” list of celebrity parties.

 

Somehow believing that Bruce is the hero he portrays in movies, Jeff, a fan and the sole surviving member of a group of Goth-like teens attacked by an ancient oriental evil demon that protects the souls of dead Chinese and bean curd, decides to kidnap Bruce and take him to his small town in the Heartland.  There, Bruce erroneously assumes his agent has set the stage for his birthday present (which was actually a hooker) by setting him up for yet another horror film shot in reality-style with an all-amateur cast.

 

Bruce is a little slow on the uptake in realizing that this Midwest jerk water burg of Gold Lick is under actual peril from an ancient, white-bearded God of War set on avenging the lives of 100 “Chinaman” workers lost in a mining disaster 100 years earlier.  Nevertheless, Jeff has sold him as the town’s savior, and like in Army of Darkness, takes up a “Hail to the King Baby” lifestyle.

 

After visiting Goldlick’s gun shop, Bruce and many amateur-actor citizens of Goldlick follow Bruce to take on Guan-Di, which Bruce thinks is just part of the movie.  When he finds out that it’s a real demon, he gets the hell out of Dodge, disappointing his female love interest Kelly and upsetting Jeff as well as the entire town of Goldlick.  When Bruce returns to his trailer home, he finds that everyone, including his junkie dog, hates him.  He has a restraining order placed upon him by his ex-wife, Cheryl who also wants more alimony, and finds that his “surprise birthday present” from Mills was just a singing prostitute.  Bruce is then called by Jeff, who informs him that he’s going to take on Guan-Di alone in spite of Bruce’s embarrassing retreat.

 

The hooker takes Bruce back to Goldlick, where he is treated with contempt but is determined to rescue Jeff.  He drives to the old cemetery where they planted dynamite at the mausoleum and try to lure Guan-Di inside with a cardboard cut-out of Bruce, which Guan-Di doesn’t fall for.  Displaying his machismo, Bruce decides to sacrifice himself using bean curd to luring Guan-Di and the dynamite is blown up.  He emerges from the debris alive, and hangs the medallion back on the mausoleum wall soothing the spirit.  Guan-Di then also comes back to life, and at the very last minute, it turns out the whole story was a movie being screened by the principals at the studio.  Bruce argues with Ted Raimi about the timeworn ending and turns it into a “happy ending,” which involves Bruce and Kelly married, living in a nice house, white picket fence and their son, Jeff, who is accepted into Harvard.  After the movie ends, Bruce asks, “What could be a better ending than that?” after which Guan-Di appears and attacks Bruce.

 

I must admit I was a little surprised with this film, I didn’t know what to expect—there are not too many movies where one satirizes one’s own career.  Fans of Bruce Campbell and the genera he represents I am sure were delighted by this film.  Though I am generally not a “B” horror movie fan (I enjoy many other “B” movie types) this film was not a cheap horror at all; instead it was a unique (and funny) look through the lens of the world of cheap horror movies.  It was better than I thought it would be and it needs to be watched more than once before catching all of the hidden humor; and anyone looking to kill a couple hours could do much worse than watching My Name is Bruce.  I will say this, while researching this review I looked at Bruce Campbell’s filmography and I would be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that all but the most elite actors would give their right arm for the professional opportunities he has had.  Not bad for someone relegated to the seedy underworld of “B” horror movies—according to the site Celebrity Net Worth his is estimated at six million—I don’t know about you but that is a hell of a lot more than me.

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Movie Reviews

 

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Samurai Fiction: The Original Kill Bill—Sorry Quentin Tarantino The Cat’s Out The Bag.

Quentin Tarantino, meet Hiroyuki Nakano. Oh, wait a minute. Sorry, my mistake. You’ve already met. Well, can I introduce you to Kinji Fukasaku? Oh, sorry, that’s right. You’ve met him too. In fact, Quentin, you know almost everyone in this room, don’t you? Ah well, go and mingle. But just so you know, your cat is out of the bag now. You’ve been mining Asian movies for ideas for years, haven’t you? Not that there’s anything wrong with that!

 

As for the rest of you Tarantino fans out there, if you haven’t done so already, meet Samurai Fiction – a delight of a movie rivaled only by Kurusawa’s Sanjuro. Nobody could doubt the absolute awesomeness of a good Japanese martial arts flick – but likewise, nobody watching one could doubt that these samurai seriously need to chill out and take a five minute break. Well, Kurusawa in Sanjuro and Nakano in Samurai Fiction give us that break, poking a little fun at samurai seriousness while not denying us our martial movement fix for the day. Evidently Tarantino was as delighted as the rest of us by these and other great Asian martial arts films – and he plagiarizes them – oops, I mean pays homage to them – shamelessly.

 

Samurai Fiction’s opening titles, in which samurai performing kata are silhouetted against a red background, were in turn satirized in blue & black in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1. Also, Tarantino used Hotei’s famous instrumental track “Shin Jingi Naki Tatakai” (“Battle Without Honor or Humanity” – the title of a classic yakuza movie by Kinji Fukasaku, a major influence on Tarantino) as background music for Kill Bill Vol. 1. Hotei played Kazamatsuri in Samurai Fiction and composed its soundtrack.

 

Tarantino admits that he gets his ideas from old movies mainly Asian and anyone with any knowledge of both movies would see that Tarantino takes names, significant parts of stories and other elements from Asian cinema.  When asked about plagiarizing ideas from other movies, he stated, “I lift ideas from other great films just like every other great filmmaker.” Is that why the ear-cutting scene from Reservoir Dogs was STOLEN from Django? Or why one of the fighting scenes in Kill Bill Vol. 1 is basically an exact copy of a scene from Samurai Fiction? Those are more than some pretty big ideas.

 

That said, let’s get down to business.   The film was directed by Hiroyuki Nakano and it is almost entirely black-and-white, and follows a fairly standard plotline for a comedy and jidaigeki samurai film, but the presence of Tomoyasu Hotei’s rock-and-roll soundtrack separates it from the films it was inspired by, such as the works of Akira Kurosawa. A loose spinoff was released in 2001, as Red Shadow.

 

While the film is nearly entirely in black-and-white, paying homage to older samurai movies, this allows for the artistic and dramatic use of color; this is most noticeable whenever a character is killed, and the screen flashes red for a moment. Color is used to dramatic effect at the beginning and end of the film as well to focus the audience in what they are watching.

 

The plot centers on Inukai Heishiro (Fukikoshi Mitsuru), the son of a clan officer. One of his clan’s most precious heirlooms, a sword given them by the Shogun, has been stolen by the samurai Kazamatsuri (Tomoyasu Hotei). Against his father’s advice, Heishiro insists on retrieving the sword himself. His father sends two ninja after him to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.

 

Kazamatsuri wounds Heishiro, and kills one of his companions. The young noble ends up staying with an older samurai (Morio Kazama) and his daughter Koharu (Tamaki Ogawa) while he heals from his wound and plans his next move. The older samurai tries to dissuade him from fighting, but Heishiro’s honor won’t allow him to leave Kazamatsuri alive. The older samurai, who turns out to be the master Hanbei Mizogushi, convinces him to fight Kazamatsuri by throwing rocks rather than with swords.

 

Meanwhile Kazamatsuri settles for a few days at a gambling house owned by Lady Okatsu (Mari Atsuki), who falls in love with him. Then one night one of the ninja sent to protect Heishiro bribes her to poison his sake for one thousand gold. She does, but Kazamatsuri tastes the poison and kills Okatsu. He then kidnaps Koharu in an attempt to get the master Mizoguchi to fight him.

 

Mizoguchi reveals to Heishiro that he killed Koharu’s father, and has since never drawn his sword on another man, despite his immense skill. They then go to find Kazamatsuri and rescue Koharu. While Mizoguchi stalls Kazamatsuri, Heishiro takes Koharu aside and says he will marry her if Mizoguchi wins. Kazamatsuri fights Mizoguchi, who only draws his sword after his opponent destroys his wooden sword. He then disarms Kazamatsuri near a cliff. Kazamatsuri, admitting defeat, commits suicide by jumping off the cliff. Heishiro and the others go to the bottom, where there is no sign of Kazamatsuri’s body, but Koharu spots the stolen sword at the bottom of the river, where Heishiro retrieves it.

Flash forward one year. Heishiro has married Koharu, the sword is restored, and Mizoguchi is now an official in Heishiro’s clan.

 

The film has a number of inside jokes and allusions. For example, the stolen sword that is at the center of the plot was a personal possession of Toshirō Mifune, the star of many of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai films. One of Heishiro’s closest friends is named Kurosawa.

 

Between the rock and roll background and Hotei’s portrayal of Kazamatsuri’s cool disdain for the skills of the bumbling samurai who pursue him, it’s impossible not to become lost in admiration at Hotei’s ability to slide effortlessly and apparently in a state of total relaxation, from noncombat to combat situations — for example, when he is confronted by young Heishiro and his companions, Hotei as Kazamatsuri is so unconcerned by their presence that he turns coolly away to take a leak by the side of the road before responding to their taunts and challenges.

 

So, Tarantino fans, and those who think American cinema is the cat’s ass, why don’t you smell an Asian one? Why do I watch so many Asian movies? Apparently what I’m really doing is watching the future of American moviemaking, since American directors are so bankrupt of ideas that they have no recourse but to follow foreign filmmakers meekly as they lead them around by the nose.

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Princessofpaperclips gets all pissed off about The Millionairess.

Fragments of a Self

A Review of Anthony Asquith’s Film The Millionairess

The stereotypes of women in this film are more dominant than its plot. The Millionairess, based on George Bernard Shaw’s play, starred Sophia Loren and Peter Sellers, and was released in Britain in 1960. Packed into a mere ninety minutes, Epifinia the protagonist appears in a variety of ubiquitous female roles: an object, a child, the wild woman, and an emotional, irrational wreck. At best, she is difficult to take seriously; at worse she is a capable woman, trying desperately to mask her intelligence. Kabir (Sellers) is largely a foil character, as the film largely revolves around Epifinia’s internal struggles.

“Long live the Millionairess” …Immediately we realize possessions define Epifinia, rather than defining her by character or accomplishments. Her identity depends upon her wealth; not even money she earned, but that bequeath to her by a man. At the reading of her father’s will, she is told her inheritance is contingent upon her obedience to his wishes. Even after his death, he has power over her.

The first glimpse we get into the erratic life of Epifania is outside of her apartment. The door ajar, Epifinia and Alastair, her husband, argue. He shouts she must “obey” him, because “I am your husband”.  Epifania resists dominance by throwing him out, followed by a plate, which barely misses his head. The room is trashed.  Her hair is in disarray, her dress is ripped nearly exposing her breast. The front of her skirt is torn, inches short of revealing her crotch. This creates a link between resisting male authority and hyper sexuality. In Sagamore’s office, she crawls across the floor like an animal with a broken chair leg in her fist, reinforcing this. There is a deliberate connection between her animalistic behavior and resistance to the dominant paradigm.
Portraits of her father and husband loom over Epifinia in the foyer. A voice echoes from the painting admonishing her for “disobeying me”. She kneels subserviently in front of the painting. Epifinia begs the painting for advice- insecure about her ability to make her own decisions, wanting someone to take care of her, as if she were a child. Her choice of clothing is bright, childlike, and ridiculous, making it impossible to view her as an adult and not as a decorative object.

Kabir pulls Epifania out of the river, bringing her to a fish smokers to change into dry clothes. She seeks attention, initially throwing her dress and later her undergarments at him, visibly frustrated when he ignores her. She tries to seduce him by feigning illness, insisting he check her pulse, shoulder and back while she removes more and more of her loosely draped coat. Throughout the film she attempts to use her sexuality to gain attention.

Occasionally, Epifania surprises the viewer by acting out of character. Her anger is aroused when the psychologist insults her father. She throws him to the ground and in the river. In addition to physical strength, she is also quite intelligent, spearheading an operation to build a clinic in Calcutta. When she takes on Kabir’s challenge to work for three months, she is analytic, pragmatic, and clear headed. If she is able to demonstrate this level of competency and clarity, we assume she is playing the ditz the remainder of the film. Sadly, we later learn that her motivation in building the clinic was to entice Kabir, hoping to gain his approval and increased physical proximity. Her business savvy at the pasta shop grows from a desire to win the affections of Kabir. None of this is prompted by an interest to create, strive, or succeed on her terms. The only time she makes a decision that addresses her own needs, is after Kabir rejects her. At that point she decides to establish a deliberate community of women, to will live out her days away from men.

It is interesting that Shaw inserts a character like Kabir as the object of Epifinia’s desire. He is selfless, altruistic and sincere in his role as humanitarian doctor. He ignores Epifinia’s coquettish behavior, scolding her for wasting his time. Kabir states her “sickness is beyond my skills”, calling her an “imaginary invalid” when she plays sick to gain attention.  He states his worldview as “being, not having”, telling Epifinia “power must come from within”, rather than from the possession of money and objects.
During the denouement, Kabir is told that Epifinia “will withdraw from the world at midnight”, which he interprets as an allusion to suicide. He swiftly enters, as Epifinia is ready to depart for her hermitage.  Kabir attempts to stop what he perceives as a suicide attempt, when she is really leaping into a boat from a ledge. At the last moment, Kabir proclaims his love for Epifinia and then they dance off…living “happily ever after”. Which is hard to believe, based on the storyline up until this point. I would find it hard for a man with Kabir’s values and sense of self to resign himself to the lack of such in Epifinia.

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Let’s Take a Trip Back to the 1980s: Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

Where do you start with a movie like this?  Let’s go with the fact that Fast Times served as an incubator for many of today’s great actors and actresses: Sean Penn (one of my personal favorites), Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, a young Nicolas Cage performing under his real name “Copolla,” Judge Rienhold,  James Russo and Forrest Whitaker each appeared in this film early in their careers.  The cast was not solely composed of soon to be stars; Fast Times also had some more seasoned actors in it like Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian) who played Mr. Hand, the history teacher and the dearly departed Vincent Schiavelli who played the biology teacher, Mr. Vargas.  Fast Times was a launching pad for many of these major movie and T.V. stars.

Next is the movie’s great soundtrack.  Songs like “Speeding” by The Go Go’s, “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne—on a side note, this song reached #7 on the Hot 100 and became Browne’s highest charting single, interestingly “Somebody’s Baby” was not included in a Jackson Browne album until 15 years later when his first “best of” collection was released.  Other great songs include  “Love Rules” by Don Henley, “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” by Sammy Hagar, “I Don’t Know” by Jimmy Buffett, “Goodbye, Goodbye” by Oingo Boingo, “Fast Times (The Best Years Of Our Lives)” by Billy Squier, and “Raised On The Radio” by The Ravyns.  The Fast Times soundtrack reads like a Who’s Who of 1980s top bands and music for the decade.
Now the story of Fast Times: the movie portrays teenage life but is virtually plotless, it simply chronicles a group of teenagers as they stumble their way through high school.  Typical of so many 1980s teen movies, much of it (rightfully so) takes place at the local mall giving the viewer the opportunity to reminisce about all those timeless 80s arcade games.   Though virtually plotless, the basic storyline involves Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), the ideal slang-talking emptyheaded surfer sporting Hawaiian shirts.  Spicoli has a hard time with the formality of school, especially as it is personified by his history teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston).  The two begin to have a battle of wills which surprisingly evens out in the end.  Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) is a senior who hops from one fast-food job to the next but has no idea what he is supposed to do in life even though everyone, including his guidance counselor, expects a lot from him.  Stacy Hamilton is a guy-crazy chick who is sensitive, but always wants sex and attention, leading her first into the arms of an older man, and eventually into those of Mike Damone, a cocky hustler, when the only guy who genuinely cares for her is nerdy Mark Ratner. Damone is a shady character, a charming sweet-talker who scalps tickets with his piano scarf and does what he can to make a quick buck.  He tries to help Ratner score with Stacy, then steals the girl right out from under him.  Ratner is an insecure nerd-type who has a good heart and just wants his shot with Stacy.  He finds himself brokenhearted when he uncovers Damone’s betrayal.  Linda Barrett is Stacy’s best friend and confidante, a very sexy, confident girl who is constantly moving from one guy to the next and sort of becomes a quasi role model for Stacy. That’s essentially the basic foundation for what goes on.

In conclusion, this is the best 80s teen movie. Fast Times separates itself from “Brat Pack” films (the group of young actors and actresses who frequently appeared together typically in John Hughes’ films like The Breakfast Club) due in part to a much stronger cast.  Think of where the actors and actresses from Fast Times are now versus members of the Brat Pack.  Fast Times is required viewing for teens, adults and anyone with a fondness for 80s culture.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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Crank Yankers–Some Dung Some Roses.

I don’t know how many of you have ever seen Comedy Central’s crank yankers.  Where celebrities and others make prank phone calls to the general public which are acted out as puppets.  Some of the scenes are so funny I find myself crying with laughter others, however, are such duds you find yourself getting up to get a glass of water or do anything but watch the sketch.  Since the show has its ups and downs, we can’t throw it in the dung heap nor can we make it a rose.  So it looks like Crank Yankers is just not crap!  Perhaps one of the funniest sketches in the show’s history is what I’ve inserted into this post.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2009 in Movie Reviews

 

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This Movie is like an old friend–“Real Men” Jim Belushi and John Ritter.

Real Men (1987) starring John Ritter and Jim Belushi is an unknown quantity to many.  The movie didn’t do anything in the theaters, and get at best very infrequent airings on cable movie channels, but is has become a sort of cult classic (yes I agree that term is overused).  I normally reject movies with severe logic deficiencies—even comedies but Real Men has a special place in the comedy section of my DVD collection.  A movie like Real Men for many people is actually quite difficult to like.  Some might say it falls in the same class as “Hudson Hawk,” a different spoof that is as much vilified by its critics as it is glorified by its fans.  As for me and many of my friends, Real Men was an absolutely hilarious experience.

Belushi plays a womanizing super CIA agent who has to take Ritter, a less than average suburbanite, across the country to give aliens a glass of water in exchange for “the good package” or “the big gun.”  On the trip they have so many completely eccentric situations happening to them that I couldn’t help but be entertained.  Today the “zany” adventures of many so-called comedies are so strained that they are beyond being “not funny” and reach into the realm of annoying.  However Real Men has such an air of informality about it, that the films outlandish circumstances were seamless and even got this hardened cynic to suspend belief and laugh until there were tears in my eyes.

This one is definitely a rose, but a tough one to find.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2009 in Movie Reviews

 

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