film

Old School Review: Dr. Strangelove or How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

Occasionally in history what was once old can become new again. I’ve been revisiting older films as of late and I’ve found several to be incredibly relevant in their stories when compared to the headlines of today. One such story is “Dr. Strangelove (or how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb)” by legendary film director Stanley Kubrick in 1964. “Dr. Strangelove” is a black comedy that satirizes the rampant paranoia of the cold war conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union.

On a lone military base United States Air Force Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper issues orders to his subordinate Captain Lionel Mandrake, a British Royal Air Force officer, to put the base on alert. He then issues an order for an unauthorized first strike nuclear attack on the Soviet Union and locks down the base. “Wing Attack Plan R” is received by the airmen in their bombers and they go about their orders utilizing their CRM 114 discriminator, a device that is programmed to only accept communications from general Jack D. Ripper in the form of a secret three letter code, also known only to the general. From there the film follows the President of the United States, his advisers, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff as they try to recall the bombers and prevent a nuclear apocalypse.

I honestly went into this not expecting to find a new favorite, but it became one nonetheless. It’s a brilliant ploy on the insane paranoia that the fear of the cold war instilled in people. In fact, I find it increasingly relevant in today’s world. The inherent insanity of our own headlines reflect what was once fantasy or farce into reality, I mean, we did elect a reality TV show host as the President. But anyhow, I do love the performances here, especially of George C. Scott (famously known for his role as infamous WW2 general George S. Patton) as general Buck Turgidson who tries to explain the practices of the military in such situations to the president. As he fumbles through, making jokes and getting caught up in his own bravado I couldn’t help but be tickled by the absurdity of it all. Nuclear holocaust being a possibility in real life is terrifying enough, but put the lens of satire on it and it becomes a brilliant sort of laugh factory. Peter Sellers also does a lot to play into the humor here as he plays three characters throughout the film; Lionel Mandrake, the RAF officer that tries to talk down the out-of-his-mind general Ripper, President Merkin Muffley, who has my favorite line in the movie “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here, this is the war room!”, and Dr. Strangelove himself, the wheelchair bound nuclear war expert and ex-nazi scientist who has a case of diagnostic apraxia aka alien hand syndrome in which his lame limb lapses into the Nazi salute. Brilliant.

So if you’re looking to fill out your Stanley Kubrick flicks, or just hankering for a comedy satire that plays with real world issues, give this one a watch, it’s worth your time.

Final Score: 31 seats at the war room table (give or take)

*Check out this video on the history of the making of “Dr. Strangelove” on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJ6BiRtGTAk

 

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film

Review: Free Fire, “Slapstick gunplay meets Reservoir Dogs’ style genre flick”

A24 is the new studio to beat lately. With plenty of oddball flicks like “Swiss Army Man” and “Spring Breakers” or genre infused flicks like “Under the Skin”, “Slow West”, “Green Room” “The Lobster” and ‘Ex-Machina”-they’ve always made curiously unique choices when choosing the films that would fall under their umbrella. They also happened to work with the recent underdog best picture winner “Moonlight”. So with that repertoire behind their filmography I went into “Free Fire” expecting to find another unique flick.

“Free Fire” is a one location story about an arms deal gone wrong in an abandoned warehouse, in 1978 Boston. The wrong guns are brought to the deal, and plenty of high strung emotions as well. Tempers flare when enemies recognize each other and all sense gets thrown out the window. Cillian Murphy leads a band of IRA (Irish Republican Army) members and hired help to purchase a heap of guns, while Sharlto Copley heads a coy operation of arms dealers looking to sell. In between the group mechanics, the side characters emerge loudly and with gusto. This movie is essentially all second act, which clips by at a swift hour and thirty minutes. The tension is kept alive as the characters get clipped by bullets, writhe in the dirt and broken glass of the warehouse floor, and crawl about looking for potential enemies and blindly shooting with the crack shot skill of a storm trooper in a looney-tunes cartoon. Combining slapstick gunplay humor with murderous intent and Tarantino-esque handling of dialogue, “Free Fire” aims to be a bloody good time at the theater.

The best part about this genre flick is the cast. Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer, as Vernon and Ord respectively, steal every scene that they’re in. Brie Larson also pulls a gem of a performance out of “Justine”, the intermediary of the deal. All of the smaller characters that impact the story, like Jack Reynor’s Harry or Sam Riley’s Stevo, are boisterous and big in nature as well, cackling above the crackle of gunfire amidst the chaos. Michael Smiley’s Frank and Babou Ceesay’s Martin also play integral roles even though they may be the quieter parts of the whole.

“Free Fire” wasn’t pretending to be more than what it presented itself as, and that’s part of what made it so damn fun. I enjoyed my time with it, and if you give it a look, I think you might too!

Final Score: 7000 bullets (How many they used in making the film! Check out link below)

Brie Larson and Armie Hammer’s ‘Free Fire’ used 7,000 bullets during production

“Free Fire” is rated R and opened for wide release in the US on 4/21/17

 

 

 

 

film

Movie Pitch: A course correction for the “Alien Versus Predator” film series

I don’t know about you, but I found both of the “Alien vs Predator” movies to be rather lacking in quality. Which is a massive disappointment considering both sci-fi/horror icons come from series that are pillars of the modern genres that they helped to pioneer. That’s not to say I didn’t find aspects of both films that were entertaining, but the initial flick was rated PG-13 and didn’t do enough with either property- while the sequel was drowned in darkness and went way too over the top to amend the misgivings of the first. Probably shouldn’t have opened the sequel with a child getting a heart to heart with a squirmy facehugger. So, I’m going to offer a few ideas as to how I would make a third entry into the series and revive the respective space aliens and their age old struggle.

1: Set the film in space

The initial flaw of the first two films, in my opinion, was that they followed the structure put in place of the Predator flicks by setting the stories on modern day Earth. For the third entry, I would flip that idea and set the films in deep space. Put the Predators in the world of “Aliens”. In fact, I would take inspiration from the video game “Alien: Isolation” by placing the story in a gigantic space station that has been taken over by a nest of Xenomorphs.

2: The timeline should be post “Aliens”/in the future

I would set the film after the events of “Aliens”, not being directly related to that film, but taking place after that film in the timeline. In order for the humans to have any kind of impact I would give them the benefit of this time jump when we have superior weapons and technology. I would also keep the world tactile and retain that “lived in” sensation partly by keeping the eighties technology, something that looks old and outdated-but is actually futuristic in its ability. As a side note, I would embrace practical filmmaking practices as much as possible. Real, large, sets built from scratch, costumes, animatronics, and slimy oozing gore.

3: Make the Xenomorphs great again

Okay, ignore the political subtext, it simply made me chuckle. Now, one of my favorite aspects of “Alien” and its sequel are the fact that these creatures are horrifying. They’re essentially space raptors. We should treat them as such. Show that they are capable of being an intelligent species-not purely a source of fodder for the predators’, or humans’, weapons. Maybe have them trick the humans into falling into a trap, much like coyotes or wolves operate with a pack mentality.

4: Have the Predators pull the strings

As the galactic hunters that they are, the Predators should be the driving force behind the plot’s movement, even if the viewers are unaware of this as its happening. In this story I would set up the Predators as a small group of elite hunters tasked with eliminating this alien nest. We could play with the possibility of this being a sort of “last stand” scenario for the aliens in this section of space? Or the Predators motivation could be that they don’t like the idea of a space station filled with Xenomorphs so close to their own planet? There are a few different ways this could go, however I do enjoy the idea of the Predators subtly manipulating the space marines into checking out this station. Or, another possibility is that the space marines were sent there independently, as a response to a distress signal, but the Predators use the marines to their advantage when they discover humans also milling about the derelict space station. Either way, I think the Predators using the humans as bait to bring out the queen they intend to kill would be a great deal of fun.

5: Humans storyline should be military based

The human element of the story should be present and at the center of the film. However, we are not the stars of the movie, the warring alien factions are. So, through this effort I believe creating bombastic characters from a military squad akin to the one in “Aliens” would benefit this story greatly. We cannot simply slavishly recreate those characters or scenes though. No one can take “Game over man!” from Bill Paxton, R.I.P. I would view this as a monster movie, set in space, with a horror aesthetic permeating it. We can meet new characters as the film progresses, survivors on the station etc. Obviously somebody also has to be an android in hiding.

Those are my ideas for a possible third entry in the “Alien vs Predator” series of films. I think this would be an excellent return to form if handled with care, and more than anything else- it’s a movie I want to watch. Maybe some day we’ll get something along these lines. So, what do you think? Comment below with any ideas you have for another film in this series or let me know what you thought of my rendition. Thanks for reading!