Wednesday, December 28, 2016

CARANDIRU (2003)

Based on the memoir/novel of Dr. Drauzio Varella, who was a doctor at the real-life Carandiru Penitentiary in Sao Paulo, Brazil from 1989 to 1992, CARANDIRU is the even further fictionalized story of life inside the infamous prison.  Told mainly through the eyes of the doctor, we're also shown multiple flashbacks (mostly showing what the prisoners did to end up in prison) and various things that the doctor probably heard about later on.

In the late 1980's, vastly overcrowded with over 7,000 men crammed into a 70 year-old complex, Carandiru was facing an AIDS epidemic.  That is where the doctor comes in.  He sets up a clinic and begins treating the prisoners.  That in itself is an amazing story (one doctor to take care of over 7,000 men, many of which barely seem one step above being a wide animal), but the emotional cap to CARANDIRU is after spending well over a hour learning about these men...a riot breaks out and the police use it as an excuse to wholesale massacre over 100 men in cold-blood.

CARANDIRU is a well-made film, but despite the impressive photography and strong acting...I just couldn't get into the story.  Yeah, I understand these guys are currently paying for their crimes by being in prison, but most of them seemed completely unrepentant and more than will to continue being of less than zero value to society.  None of these guys would you want to know in real life!  But, maybe, that's not the point of the film.  As far as entertainment goes, I was entertained from beginning to end.

Mild violence, less male nudity than a single episode of "Oz", memorable characters, steady pace and a few cast members that would later on become well-known to American audiences: Wagner Moura from Netflix's "Narcos" and Rodrigo Santoro from HBO's "Westworld".

Worth checking out, but nothing worth getting excited about.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

THE PHANTOM OF HOLLYWOOD (1974)

Originally broadcast on CBS on Feb. 2, 1974, THE PHANTOM OF HOLLYWOOD is a largely forgettable film except for the better-than-the-story-deserves cast and the fact that the majority of the movie was filmed on MGM's legendary backlot (Lot 2 to be exact) right before it was sold and razed!

Mirroring real life events (MGM was in dire financial trouble back in the 1970's), a once legendary movie studio is in dire financial trouble and must sell off some of their backlot to stay afloat.  Trouble comes when a mysterious masked "phantom", who lives on the backlot, catches wind of this news and starts killing everybody.  He even kidnaps a studio exec's daughter.  In order to flush him out of hiding, the studio starts bulldozing everything.

Medium pace, interesting cast (John Ireland, Peter Lawford, Jackie Coogan, Broderick Crawford, Peter Haskell, Jack Cassidy), average acting (John Ireland is the best of the lot), various film clips from stuff like GRAND HOTEL, MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (1935) and DINNER AT EIGHT, dumb as hell ending.  

As a classic Hollywood fan, THE PHANTOM OF HOLLYWOOD was bittersweet because it really was neat seeing all of those cool old Hollywood sets, but then seeing them destroyed kinda hurt.  Still, I'm glad I watched it.
The building facade in the above and below pictures appears to be the same, but yet nothing else matches.

Monday, December 5, 2016

EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN (1994)

Widowed master Chinese chef, Mr. Chu, lives at home with his three unwed daughters.  The youngest is a teenager who works as a cashier for Wendy's Hamburgers, the middle one is an executive for an airline and the oldest is a high school teacher.

As the film starts, we see Mr. Chu preparing an extravagant, mouth-watering feast for himself and his three children.  He does this each Sunday.  There's food enough to feed 12 people, but yet his daughters hardly even touch anything.  They barely even talk either.  The festive-looking dinner table is at a contrast to the quiet mood...each of the four main characters are lost in their own private worlds.  They've all come to a crossroads in their lives and, thanks to the brilliantly constructed script by James Schamus, Ang Lee and Hui-Ling Wang, we soon learn all about Mr. Chu, his three daughters and the various people in their lives.

EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN is a wonderful film.  It's been probably a decade since I last saw it, but watching it again for this review was a real treat because it was just as touching and human as I remember it to be.  Perfect script, subtle cinematography that kinda creeps up on you at just how beautiful it really is, great acting.

If you've never seen EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN, then you should do yourself a favor and check it out.  Highly recommended.