Friday, November 25, 2011

One A Week Reviews #47: Aftershock

As Thanksgiving was just yesterday, I got to thinking about the family I'm so grateful to have. This film also made me think about them, and just how blessed a life I've lived. I can't recommend this fascinating family tragedy highly enough - originally reviewed for

Official Synopsis:
Tangshan, 1976. Two seven-year-old twins are buried under the rubble of the deadliest earthquake of the 20th century. The rescue team explains to their mother that freeing either child will almost certainly result in the death of the other. Forced to make the most difficult decision of her life, she finally chooses to save her son. Though left behind as dead, the little girl miraculously survives, unbeknownst to her brother and mother. Aftershock follows the family on their separate journeys over the course of the next 32, years as they build their lives forever shadowed by the traumatic experience of the earthquake and eventually face each other – and the decisions of the past.

The acclaimed epic that broke all box-office records in China, Aftershock features an all-star cast including Zhang Jingchu (Rush Hour 3) and Chen Daoming (Hero).

Our Take:
Reading the synopsis, one can jump to the conclusion that, as an epic, Aftershock could perhaps be a mass expression of communal grief. Reading up on the sheer death and damage toll the Tangshan earthquake took, one wonders how anyone who was alive to experience it could possibly ever completely recover. Officially, 240,000 people died and the entire city pretty much had to be rebuilt. According to Wikipedia (and, as always, take of that what you will), experts think two to three times that number may have died that day.

(How often did this film make me cry? Find out after the break...)

Friday, November 18, 2011

One A Week Reviews #46: Brand New Day

Sometimes it's nice to watch a movie with a happy songs, happy people, and happy endings. Reviewing this for DVD Snapshot was a pleasure, and I can't help but imagine this catching on with any kid who watches Grease or High School Musical.
 Brand New Day

Official Synopsis:

Oscar-Winner Geoffrey Rush “is awesome” (Ain't It Cool News) as a hilariously devout minister chasing a runaway seminary student named Willie across the land down under. As Willie tries to make it back to the girl of his dreams, he embarks on a glorious, uproarious road trip filled with music, magic, and foot-stomping fun. Based on a beloved Australian musical, Brand New Day is “one of the most delightful, heartfelt and crowd-pleasing musical comedies in years” (NYC Movie Guru).

Our Take:

Under it's original title Bran Nue Dae, this was one of the most successful Australian films ever, and it's easy to see why. Brand New Day is a light, colorful and crowd-pleasing musical that somehow brings the lives of 1969 Aboriginal, rural, and hippie Australians (all of whom I admittedly know nothing about) right into your living room.

“Boy Meets Girl” is the oldest story in the world, and it's only the details that differentiate the telling. In this case, it starts in fragments. Willie loves Rosie, but he's in seminary while she's falling from the choir to the honky-tonk (...and there is no way good girls sang about condoms in 1969). Willie runs away to find his drunkard Uncle Tadpole, meet some Aussie hippies and return to his Rosie, with glowering Father Benedictus chasing him like a cartoon villain.

Friday, November 11, 2011

One A Week Reviews #45: The Naked Civil Servant

The Naked Civil Servant

I wonder if they didn't include the real Quentin Crisp introducing The Naked Civil Servant so the 1975 audience wouldn't completely dismiss the magnificent queen brilliantly embodied by John Hurt as a caricature. "Quentin Crsip," though was a role created and cultivated by Quentin Crsip, and it was he was an outsized, brilliant marvel. You'd never believe it if you didn't meet the real Crisp up front.

Sometimes, in a world that expects conformity, one must be the biggest, most exaggerated version of themselves that they could be. Crsip's autobiography shared his life, growing up a unique and very gay boy coming of age in England between two world wars. John Hurt is beyond brilliant in the role, not only does he inhabit the part fully, he's also absolutely lovely in drag. As Hurt has pretty much looked ravaged by time since 1977, seeing him so young and delicate is refreshing. Savoring every word of Crisp's bon mots - and he one seriously funny wit- and conveying the strength and dignity required for someone the whole world is against, Hurt's Crisp is like an exotic, hothouse flower in a cold, concrete garden. His armor was his flamboyance and, out and proud before the world knew you could be, he never let any small-minded... bullshit get in his way, and Crisp put up with a lot of it. His struggles and the cruelty of others are a good reminder to those of us, thanks to privilege and, frankly, physical stature don't get menaced by thugs and the judgmental every single time we walk out of the house. Admittedly, part of his survival mechanism is a certain... passivity that can be infuriating, but perhaps detachment was what it took to make it against those odds. He also seems to be the heart of his bohemian circle, and his fondness for those friends seems to be the primary relationships in his life.

(As Crisp himself might say: Don't fear, dear, everything after the break is fabulous)

Friday, November 4, 2011

BUTTERFLY Bonus: It's Wrong For Me To Love You

Bonus: If you think you can still respect yourself in the morning, this is "It's Wrong For Me To Love You," the (ahem) love theme of Butterfly, as performed by Ms. Zadora.. oh, Pia, it's wrong for us, too... and yet it's oh, so right.

I'm tellin' ya, she really does have a wonderful singing voice. I bet if she hadn't tried to be a movie star she'd have wound up a pretty big recording act in the Eighties.


One A Week Reviews #44: Butterfly


Ok, the first thing to address with Butterfly is that Pia Zadora isn't horrible. She's not... great, but she's not as gawd-awful here as you'd believe based on her reputation.

What first strikes a contemporary viewer, 20 years away from the height of her reputation and 30 from the release of this and The Lonely Lady, is how much Jessica Alba resembles her.  Zadora's millionaire husband at the time produced Butterfly, and while I'm not sure why he's so enthusiastic about getting her (admittedly slammin') body displayed (male preening pride?), you have to appreciate that he's created a handsome, well-produced period piece filled with recognizable stars of the time. Zadora is young, with a baby face and killer body, but she's not an awful actress here.Being surrounded by Stacey Keach, an obviously drunk Orson Welles, and James Franciscus doesn't hurt either. Edward Albert,  Stuart Whitman, and George "Buck" Flowers are on hand, as well. Best casting of all? Ed McMahon and June Lockhart show up as a pair of rich, affected comic relief parents of a wealthy character.

Butterfly is based on a James M. Cain novel, and if you've never read him you simply must. Kady, a manipulative temptress in the Cain tradition, shows up suddenly in the life of her lonely father Jess (a quite-good and surprisingly lean Stacey Keach) and seems to be as interested in an intimate relationship as she is in a filial one. She's also rather obvious in her motivation, which is to get her hands on the silver in the closed mine he tends. She's greed personified, while Keach's Jess wears the broken heart of a parent who feels they failed on his sleeve. In other words, he's a painfully easy mark. One wonders how the material was sold to Keach to get him to engage in the scene of frozen-faced brain-freeze as he slides his hands around to Kady's breasts in the bathtub... then escalates from there.

(There's some spoilers and a bonus video from here on in, kids. Fans of campy crap beware!)