Dogville (2003) Review

Happy 50th Birthday to Nicole Kidman!

Instead of a birthday Top Ten, I figured I should review Dogville since I watched it recently. Looking at Kidman’s films, there are still a few big ones I need to see before doing a Top Ten anyway so maybe I’ll do that list next year if I’m still blogging. It would be an interesting list as she’s done many different types of films but I’m pretty sure that my current favorites are the underrated To Die For, guilty pleasure Malice, and great ghost story The Others. I’ve never been a huge fan but Kidman has gone up in my estimation in the last few years and I thought she was really good in the Big Little Lies TV series, based on the Liane Moriarty book. I’m looking forward to seeing her in Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled.

Now let’s see what I thought of this three-hour-long Lars von Trier avant-garde play that explores human morality. Woohoo! PARTY! Dogville would make for a fun double feature with The Hateful Eight… 😉

Dogville (2003)

Directed & Written by Lars von Trier

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Lauren Bacall, Chloë Sevigny, Paul Bettany, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier, Ben Gazzara, James Caan

Narrated by John Hurt

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A woman on the run from the mob is reluctantly accepted in a small Colorado town. In exchange, she agrees to work for them. As a search visits town, she finds out that their support has a price. Yet her dangerous secret is never far away…

My Opinion:

This is the third Lars von Trier film I’ve seen after Dancer In The Dark & Melancholia (which I reviewed HERE & which I quite liked. Sort of. I think…). His work is certainly not to everyone’s taste and, in looking up Dogville, critics’ reviews were either “this is a masterpiece” or “what a load of pretentious bollocks” (I’m paraphrasing there but it’s what they meant). I liked Dogville. I preferred Melancholia but both are unique and, so far, I like what I’ve seen of von Trier’s style and think we may have a similar view on people (although I think he seems to have even less faith in humanity than I do).

Dogville’s set up, as a play with very few props and where each house in the small town is shown as an outline from above, took less getting used to than I was expecting. The story & the acting were good enough to not really need props, special effects, etc. If you seriously hate plays I suppose you might not have the patience for this film. However, like with The Hateful Eight, this movie is unnecessarily long. Three hours! It wasn’t needed. I don’t think the extra time really added much depth to the characters – the story could have been told just as well with an hour shaved off. But I’m admittedly getting old & tired & too damn busy to sit through these extra long movies. Then again…. No. It IS too long, dammit. I’m not just being grumpy. When it’s necessary for the story, really great movies don’t feel too long. Seven Samurai doesn’t feel too long. Seven Samurai is a masterpiece.

Dogville is decent. I’m glad I sat through it (in three sittings). But it’s not a masterpiece and it’s not as important as it thinks it is. However, to automatically label it pretentious does seem unfair. Von Trier took a gamble on trying something different that certainly wouldn’t appeal to mainstream audiences (well, duh – that seems to describe all his films) but I think it worked pretty well overall for Dogville.

Kidman was very good and I loved John Hurt’s narration (I’ve added Dogville to My Top Ten John Hurt Movies list of all I’ve seen of his but it just misses out on being in the ten). Actually, Hurt’s voice was probably the very best thing about the film – I’m going to keep exploring his work that I missed out on. He was certainly an underrated actor. As for everyone else, they all did a very good job in making us hate the shit out of them. Paul Bettany had an especially interesting role as the only one who seemed to be on Kidman’s side but, although not directly unkind, he ends up the worst of the lot. I wanted to punch him in the damn face. So… Yeah. You’re meant to hate these characters. And you will. So they all succeed in their roles but, of course, it doesn’t make for a pleasant three hours. It’s a film worth a watch but you’ll need to be in the right frame of mind before giving this one a go. I liked the concept and von Trier’s attempt to explore humanity and what could happen if we had the ability to completely take advantage of someone in need. Would we treat them kindly or not? Von Trier obviously thinks not. I wonder why he hates people so much?! But, I must admit to really liking how this film ends so maybe I’m not so different from the residents of Dogville. Which I suppose is von Trier’s obvious point. But, seriously – he could’ve gotten that point across in well under three hours. 😉

My Rating: 7/10

**Just thought I’d add this bit I read at Wikipedia, as I was unaware that this film is meant to be the first part of a trilogy:

The film is the first in von Trier’s projected USA – Land of Opportunities trilogy, which was followed by Manderlay (2005) and is projected to be completed with Washington.

I liked Dogville okay but doubt I can be bothered to watch the rest, unless the final one gets rave reviews when it’s finally made… I think I’ll next check out those Nymphomaniac films instead. Which also look like loads of fun. PARTY! 😉

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Rollerball (1975) Review

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Rollerball (1975)

Directed by Norman Jewison

Starring:
James Caan
John Houseman
Maud Adams
John Beck
Moses Gunn
Ralph Richardson

Running time: 129 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
In a corporate-controlled future, an ultra-violent sport known as Rollerball represents the world, and one of its powerful athletes is out to defy those who want him out of the game.

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My Opinion:

I’d been meaning to watch Rollerball for years. 70’s dystopian sci-fi is so very ME! Yet I’d never gotten around to watching this one for some reason (or THX 1138 – another one that’s been on my list for years). So, I had fairly high expectations. Well… Damn. I’m sorry if there are any fans of this film but Rollerball is, for the most part, a bit boring.

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Some sci-fi films age well but this isn’t really one of them. Its dystopian view doesn’t seem as relevant now (we have FAR bigger worries these days!) and, my god – there’s nothing I love more than ugly 70’s hair & fashion but the people in this look SO 70s that it’s hard to suspend disbelief & think of this as actually being set in the future. Rollerball takes a fairly serious approach to the subject matter so does as least sometimes come across as more “gritty” than other cheesy-looking sci-fi from the same era, such as Logan’s Run (although I do like Logan’s Run… I preferred it to this). But the only scenes that really work here are the ones where the actual sport is being played. Unfortunately, whenever they leave the arena, the movie goes back to looking every bit its age & becomes a bit of a snoozefest with dodgy acting from most everyone other than James Caan, which is probably why it took me about four attempts to finish it. Hey! You do get a glimpse of a penis in a shower scene in the beginning, though.

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Speaking of penises, I gotta say that Rollerball certainly wouldn’t pass the Bechdel test. Being a woman who likes a lot of old movies (especially ones that most would consider “guy” movies), I’m used to that so I’m not saying Rollerball is really any more guilty of this than a lot of movies at that time. However, the female characters in Rollerball are nothing more than “pretty wives” for the players. From what I could gather, they’re “given” to the biggest Rollerball stars and, when Caan’s character is told he must retire, his “wife” is promised to someone else. But they give him a replacement woman – I’m not sure why as they want Caan out of the spotlight anyway. Is she his retirement gift? Is it because he needs a pretty face by his side when he makes his retirement announcement? I probably missed the point as I kept falling asleep when they weren’t playing Rollerball. They hint at the fact that he may have actually been in love with his “wife” but the movie fails to really explore this storyline. This movie happens to be set in 2018 so I’m glad women are a bit more than just “sports star whores” these days! Hey, that’s okay – just balance things out by watching the Drew Barrymore & Ellen Page movie Whip It after Rollerball. 😉 Yeah! Whip It! That movie rules. I want to be a roller derby chick. I’d be the old one like Juliette Lewis’s Iron Maven (I’d like to use that name as well!). I’m a wuss, though, so I probably wouldn’t last long.

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Did I just compare Rollerball to Whip It?! Ha! Okay – Rollerball is really just super violent roller derby with motorcycles & a spiky ball but the main two films I thought of while watching it were two that I enjoyed a lot more: The Running Man & Death Race 2000. Rollerball is a better “film” than either of those but it kind of forgets to be fun or entertaining. Actually, that’s a little harsh… I’m going to wrap this up now & try to be more positive. In fact, I think this one may deserve two ratings.

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Summary:

I don’t think I’ve been entirely fair to Rollerball. I may enjoy something like Death Race 2000 more, which is also from 1975, but I’d have to admit that it also hasn’t aged well – it’s just less serious and more fun to watch in 2015. That’s down to personal taste, though, and plenty of people will prefer the far less cheesy Rollerball. I think it’s unfortunate that the non-sports scenes REALLY let the film down. While the players are in their Rollerball uniforms (which do have a cool iconic look) & beating the shit out of each other, the movie is enjoyable. I have a feeling that fans of this movie have nostalgic feelings about the sports scenes & have kind of blocked the rest from their minds. I don’t think I’ve done this before but I’m going to give Rollerball my current rating as well as the rating I may have given it if I’d been old enough to watch it back in 1975.

My 2015 Rating: 6.5/10

My 1975 Rating: 7.5/10

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The Godfather (1972) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Zoe of The Sporadic Chronicles Of A Beginner Blogger. Zoe has already reviewed The Departed (HERE) and The Green Mile (HERE) and Big Fish (HERE). Now, as if all those reviews weren’t enough, Zoe was the first person brave enough to choose to review The Godfather I & II (stay tuned for her review of The Godfather: Part II at this same time next Tuesday). Thanks so much for being such a big part of this project, Zoe! 🙂 Now let’s hear her thoughts on The Godfather, IMDB rank 2 out of 250.

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

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***WARNING: SPOILERS***

Alright, so this is going to be quite the post here. I took The Godfather movies because I was horrified to see it just languishing there on Table 9 Mutant’s IMDB Top 250 challenge… alone and untaken. How could this possibly be?! This is one of the greatest film sets ever! Alright, Part III might be a little sketchy and all that, but Part I and Part II are just… wow. Naturally, there are the heathens out there that will slam it, which I just find heartbreaking (though I still love you Eric, don’t ever forget that…). I am one of those people, like a good war movie I love a good mob flick.

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“There is more money potential in narcotics than anything else we’re looking at now. If we don’t get into it, somebody else will, maybe one of the Five Families, maybe all of them. And with the money they earn they’ll be able to buy more police and political power. Then they come after us.” – Tom Hagen

Synopsis: The story begins as “Don” Vito Corleone, the head of a New York Mafia “family”, oversees his daughter’s wedding with his wife Carmela. His beloved son Michael has just come home from the war, but does not intend to become part of his father’s business. Through Michael’s life the nature of the family business becomes clear. The business of the family is just like the head of the family, kind and benevolent to those who give respect, but given to ruthless violence whenever anything stands against the good of the family. Don Vito lives his life in the way of the old country, but times are changing and some don’t want to follow the old ways and look out for community and “family”. An up and coming rival of the Corleone family wants to start selling drugs in New York, and needs the Don’s influence to further his plan. The clash of the Don’s fading old world values and the new ways will demand a terrible price, especially from Michael, all for the sake of the family. – IMDB

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“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse”. – Don Corleone

This movie is just amazing. Something that you can really just wax lyrical about. This is certainly a fantastic mob movie, no two ways about it. I mean just to look at how old this film is, for starters, you cannot help but appreciate how particularly stunning this is, how well it is put together, the actors, the camerawork, the story, the music… everything. But we shall gush about that all as this progresses.

This movie was a piece of pure genius. Marlon Brando was an amazing Vito Corleone… he was certainly not someone I would have messed with, at any rate. The movie progressed at a gradual pace, but it was never boring. From the beginning you know that Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is definitely the Don’s favoured son, though he has three as well as one that Sonny (James Caan) brought in at a young age and is regarded as equal to his blood sons, and a daughter, Connie (Talia Shire), who has just gotten married to Carlo Rizzi (Gianni Russo). Vito Corleone is a powerful man, and such is evident at his daughter’s wedding. Michael arrives at Connie’s wedding dressed in his Marine Corps uniform and his girlfriend, Kay Adams (Diane Keaton) at his side. It is evident from the off that Michael is not like the rest of his Corleone brothers, though he is favoured by his father.

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“My father is no different than any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.” – Michael Corleone

A drug baron called Sollozzo (Al Lettieri) rolls into town and wishes to go into business with some of the families, and Vito is approached by a rivalling family, the Tattaglias, to take the deal. Vito, however, is not in for the drug trade, though it seems Sonny is. Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), considered the up and coming family consigliere, brought up with the Corleone boys as one of them, advises Vito that taking the deal is the one was to keep the family in power, and not having it usurped over the years. Naturally, this is where the whole movie finally catches. An attempt is made on Vito’s life, and he is left for dead. The Corleone family bands together and Sonny heads it up in the meantime. Michael gets wind of his father’s predicament, and soon his life changes.

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Watching the change in Michael is astounding. He starts off as reluctant, wary and insistent that he is not like his family, but when push comes to shove it is evident that the Corleone tendencies are well and truly there. Full scale crime family war breaks out, and it seems no one is safe. There is so much that is going on, so much traitorous betrayal and attempts to do one another in to protect themselves, but the Corleone brothers still stand. Michael gradually becomes harder, tougher and less forgiving, ultimately making the choice and assassinating the police chief and Sollozzo, taking cover in Sicily while things come right. Vito is not dead, but it seems that the family structure has changed drastically.

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“What’s the matter? What’s bothering you? I’ll handle it. I told you I can handle it, I’ll handle it.” – Michael Corleone

Michael’s isolation changes him even more, and he takes a wife while over in Sicily, though it becomes evident that it will not be safe for him there for much longer. While he is away, he needs to deal with the fact that his brother, Sonny, is killed, and he in enraged. Due to Sonny’s assassination, Vito decides enough is enough. Too many people are dying at one another’s hands in an attempt to even the scales, and it must come to a close. It thrilled me to watch how pacts and truces were made, how the hierarchy fit together, how people understood their place and abided by it, not questioning too much. It amazed me to see the power that some of these people have. It is astounding to me that although you know what rackets the Corleone family is involved in, it is never thrown onto the screen, never made something that takes over the story. Primarily this movie depicts the familial ties, the organisation and the loyalty, keeping focus on it and demanding your attention.

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“You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me?” – Don Corleone

The Godfather also touts one of the best cast ensembles in ages, and cannot be faulted for it. I was doing some extra reading and was so shocked to see exactly how much drama there was involved of the making of this movie, how Paramount fought Coppola almost every damn step of the way on casting, decisions, attempts to have him fired, the whole shebang. They were adamant about not having Marlon Brando in there (who *cough cough* won a damned Oscar for his performance, although he declined it) as well as not wanting Al Pacino… I was like what?! Imagine Paramount had gotten as much say as they wanted… The Godfather is one of the most influential films of all time, and should be appreciated for what it is: a piece of genius.

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“Only don’t tell me you’re innocent. Because it insults my intelligence and makes me very angry.” – Michael Corleone

I loved everything this film brought to us. This film was an excellent piece on the mob, not highlighting it as something evil and disgusting and something that should be taken down, but telling the story from the inside, which was fantastic. I loved how authentic everything was, how Italian, there are infinitely quotable lines from it, the camera work was fantastic, the score complemented every minute of it and the cast rounded it off perfectly. I still feel I haven’t done this film justice, but I just don’t know anymore. You are riveted for 175 minutes; there are no two ways about it.

Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 (2013) Review

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Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 (2013)

Directed by Cody Cameron & Kris Pearn

Starring Voice Actors:
Bill Hader
Anna Faris
James Caan
Andy Samberg
Neil Patrick Harris
Benjamin Bratt
Terry Crews
Will Forte
Kristen Schaal

Music by: Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo! Yo Gabba Gabba!)

Studio: Sony Pictures Animation

Running time: 95 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Flint Lockwood’s invention, the FLDSMDFR, has not been destroyed as previously believed and is now creating food/animal hybrids which are attacking those trying to clean up the island. The FLDSMDFR must be stopped before these dangerous foodimals take over the world.

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My Opinion:

I would love to have some of the drugs the filmmakers were on when they made this movie. I mean, the first film was crazy enough but this one is bananimals.

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I’ve sort of seen the first film a couple of times (I slept through most of it the second time). It’s okay. You certainly can’t say the story lacked originality! That’s definitely the case this time around as well. It continues immediately after the end of the previous film (I think. From what I remember). After the FLDSMDFR is destroyed (or so everyone thinks), an inventor (& the CEO of Live Corp) named Chester V arrives to clean up the island with a team of other scientists while Flint and his friends are sent to live in California where Flint takes a job at Live Corp.

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I felt that this section of the film was a little overlong and I was a bit bored. The movie is very slow to begin with. Luckily, Chester V needs Flint to come back to the island after his team of scientists are attacked by cheespiders (You know! Giant cheeseburgers with spidery French fry legs!). Turns out the FLDSMDFR wasn’t actually destroyed and it’s now churning out these crazy food/animal hybrids (foodimals, FYI) that could take over the planet. And Chester V needs Flint’s help to shut his invention down before more foodimals are created! Dun dun DUUUUUNNNN!

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This is where the movie finally picks up and gets much better: When Flint & his friends come back to the island which is filled with all kinds of weird & wonderful foodimals. I was going to try to remember all their funny names for this review but, unfortunately, I’m old and have a terrible memory now. Let’s see…

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I remember the huge “tacodiles”. Tacodile Supreme, actually. Um, Shrimpanzees? Watermelophants? Mosquitoast? And, of course, the “leek in the boat!”. Haha! The pickles that Flint’s father befriends are pretty funny and the family of marshmallows is adorable. But NOTHING is cuter than the little strawberry Flint’s girlfriend names… “Berry”! SO FREAKING ADORABLE! Okay, Berry totally made the whole movie for me. I want to adopt Berry. Berry can come live with me and we’ll watch things like Strawberry Shortcake together.

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Really, I don’t know what else to say about this. It does have some funny moments but it’s all pretty mental. It’s nowhere near the level of the stuff we get from Pixar or Disney. The characters are all likeable enough but I’ve still not fully bought into any of them after two films in the way I did with Pixar characters like Sulley & Mike. It’s a fun enough film to sit through with your kids, though, and I like it more than the first one. Because Berry isn’t in the first one! Your kids will love it and you won’t hate it.

My Rating: 6/10

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