My Top Ten Brian De Palma Movies

Happy Birthday to Brian De Palma, who turns 78 today.

I really love some of De Palma’s films. And feel “meh” about some. And kind of hate a couple. And still haven’t seen some of his big ones (I’ve listed those at the end). His movies really are all over the place on quality & on genre! I do really like when he’s gone more “horror” but his crime films are great.

So here are my top ten De Palma films that I’ve seen, although I didn’t really like number 10 and barely remember number 9. And 11 was…. Ugh! I’m sure some of those I haven’t seen or need to re-watch would make this list (certainly Blow Out or Body Double). I’ll update this list when I see or re-watch any.

My Top Ten Brian De Palma Movies (I’ve seen 11…):

11. Mission To Mars (UGH)

Top Ten:

10. Snake Eyes (ugh)

9. Casualties Of War

8. The Fury

7. Mission: Impossible

6. Sisters (aka Blood Sisters)

5. Carlito’s Way (I could do with re-watching this…)

4. Phantom Of The Paradise

3. Scarface

2. The Untouchables

1. Carrie

Saw But Need To Re-Watch As Don’t Really Remember Them:
Blow Out & Body Double

Some I’ve Not Seen:
Hi, Mom!, Obsession, Dressed To Kill, The Bonfire Of The Vanities, Raising Cain, The Black Dahlia, Redacted, Passion

**Oh, and De Palma made that Bruce Springsteen video for Dancing In The Dark where he pulls that “random” pretty girl (Courteney Cox) out of the audience to dance with him (this is probably the only time you’ll see a Springsteen video on this blog. I’m not a fan…):

Exam, Paul Williams Still Alive & The To Do List Movie Reviews

Happy Bank Holiday Monday to those in the UK who won’t be reading this since you’re not at work pretending to work while actually reading blogs! Then I think you Americans have next Monday off? So, since no one will be around the next couple of weeks, I figured it was time to do a few more mini-reviews of movies that I didn’t give enough of a shit about to review when I watched them a year ago. Sounds like fun, right?! 😉 Here we go…

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Exam (2009)

Directed by Stuart Hazeldine

Starring: Adar Beck, Chris Carey, Gemma Chan, Nathalie Cox, John Lloyd Fillingham, Chuk Iwuji, Luke Mably, Pollyanna McIntosh, Jimi Mistry, Colin Salmon

My Opinion:

Exam is the best of these three movies, which doesn’t say much for the other two. I’ll say that Exam had a brilliant concept and I did appreciate that. It started out pretty great but got too far-fetched & silly by the end, which was disappointing since it had a lot of potential. I’m feeling lazy today so I’ll let Wikipedia give you the set-up:

The film is set in present-time United Kingdom in an alternate history. Eight candidates dress for what appears to be an employment assessment exam; they enter a room and sit down at individual desks. Each desk contains a question paper with the word “candidate”, followed by a number, from one to eight. The Invigilator, a representative of the company named DATAPREV, explains that the exam is 80 minutes and consists of only one question, but there are three rules: they must not talk to the Invigilator or the armed guard at the door, spoil their paper, or leave the room. If they do, they will be disqualified.

That sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? And it is – it’s why I watched this movie. And it gets even more interesting when the exam starts and the candidates discover the one question. The state of the world in this alternate history, which we learn a little about as the movie progresses, does help to explain the lengths that these eight candidates are willing to go to in order to get this job. But not quite… As to be expected, there are a couple of pricks who you’re meant to immediately dislike but none of the characters are very well developed and you don’t care enough about any of them to really care who will get the job at the end.

Had the characters been better instead of so one-dimensional and had the story been less far-fetched by the end, I’d have liked this one a lot more. I did really enjoy the mystery involved with the whole thing. It was fun seeing the candidates trying various ways to figure out what the hell was going on with the bizarre exam. In a world (shit, did I just use the “in a world” phrase?) where times are desperate, as in the story’s alternate history, you can almost believe that these candidates will do anything to get this very important job. However, the movie doesn’t manage to make us believe that “this could really happen”, which sucks as I think it could. Exam reminded me a lot of The Purge, which is another movie that I thought had a brilliant concept & so many ideas to be explored but never were. Like The Purge, Exam feels like a wasted opportunity (although I really liked The Purge and find myself always sticking up for it).

Don’t let my negativity discourage you if you like the sound of this movie. I think I may just be too picky in always expecting movies to have some deeper sort of meaning. If you don’t think about it too hard & are able to suspend disbelief, you may get some enjoyment out of Exam.

My Rating: 6/10

Paul Williams Still Alive (2011)

Directed by Stephen Kessler

Starring: Well, mainly just Paul Williams, his wife, and the director but there’s plenty of old footage with famous celebrities to watch. 

My Opinion:

What a shitty documentary. Hell, I think I could make a better documentary. The trouble isn’t the subject as I think Paul Williams is fascinating enough to make for an interesting documentary. But god the director, Stephen Kessler, is annoying! This reminded me a bit of the John Hughes documentary, Don’t You Forget About Me (which I reviewed HERE). In both films, the makers almost feel more like stalkers than like proper filmmakers.

I’ll say that Paul Williams comes across a bit grumpy in the documentary but that’s probably understandable as the director pretty much spends the whole film talking about how Paul Williams used to be a pretty big star but now he’s nothing (which isn’t true at all, especially since Daft Punk soon after declared their love for him & worked with him on their amazing Random Access Memories album). It’s ridiculous as Paul Williams has had a longer and FAR more successful career than Kessler (his only other movie you’ll have heard of is the crappy National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation).

As for Paul Williams, I know some people here probably know nothing about him although you may recognize his face. He was (well, still is) mainly a singer-songwriter but also an actor whose most famous work was in the Seventies. He wrote songs for people such as Barbara Streisand (Evergreen) and The Carpenters (We’ve Only Just Begun & Rainy Days And Mondays). Perhaps his most famous song, though, is The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie (it’s certainly my favorite & in my list of My Top Ten Happy Songs). He was also in Smokey And The Bandit and the spectacularly mad Brian De Palma film Phantom Of The Paradise, which I reviewed HERE. Williams plays an evil record executive in Phantom, which is a mental “horror musical” that I enjoyed so much that I decided to watch this documentary soon after. Bah! Rubbish. Watch Phantom instead.

It’s hard to know what to rate this as it IS worth checking out if you’re interested in Paul Williams and don’t know much about him. There are plenty of old clips with lots of famous celebrities & the film is almost worth watching for that alone. Don’t expect the most in-depth documentary ever, though, and be prepared to feel as annoyed by the director as Williams sometimes clearly is. I’m glad I watched it but would like to see a better documentary about Paul Williams.

My Rating: 6/10

(okay rating more for the fact that Williams is an interesting character than for the quality of the documentary)

The To Do List (2013)

Directed by Maggie Carey

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Rachel Bilson, Johnny Simmons, Bill Hader, Alia Shawkat, Sarah Steele, Andy Samberg, Scott Porter, Connie Britton

My Opinion:

How can a totally filthy sex comedy be so BORING and completely unfunny in any way? What a load of shit.

I’m thinking that maybe I truly don’t like Aubrey Plaza. I don’t have much experience with her (she’s in that Parks & Recreation thing, right? Never seen it). I didn’t mind her in the slightly pretentious Safety Not Guaranteed but then she mostly just got on my nerves in the disappointing Life After Beth. Well, I’d have to say I pretty much hated her in this. I don’t know if that’s entirely her fault, though, as I can’t say I liked anyone in this plus the movie is just plain bad. I honestly can’t think of a less funny “comedy” that I’ve seen in recent years. It’s almost as bad as a Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer “parody” movie.

(Just go play with yourself instead of watching this movie – you’ll have way more fun)

So, in this movie, perfect student Plaza decides she wants to lose her virginity & do every sexual thing that she can before heading off to college. Or something like that – I don’t remember much of this movie now. Anyway, here’s her sexual “to do” list:

I wouldn’t call myself a prude so my issues with the movie have nothing at all to do with the subject matter. I do enjoy the occasional sex comedy. But what I require is for them to actually be funny. I mean, WTF is this shit?:

Aubrey Plaza’s character is beyond annoying in this movie & I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do any of the things on that above “to do list” with her. The only funny thing, looking at that list, is how it says “British?” next to “teabagging“. lol. Okay – that’s kind of funny. But the rest of this movie is NOT. This movie can go do all of the above things to itself. Yeah… Go fuck yourself, movie!

My Rating: 3/10

Now here’s the rather epic, totally 70’s prog rock-y Touch, Paul Williams’ song with Daft Punk on Random Access Memories:

My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2014

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Hi everyone! Crap – when did it suddenly become almost-2015?! Shouldn’t we be living on Mars by now or something? This isn’t the future I imagined back in 1984. What a disappointment.

Anyway! Where was I? Well, it looks like I have two days left of 2014 so I guess I better post my Top Ten Lists! Looks like I did this well into January last year but I’ll be busy this January with my Studio Ghibli Month starting next Monday. Woohoo! (Oh man, why did I decide to do that to myself?! I’m sooo not prepared!).

I’ll start with the list I actually enjoy the most: These are My Top Ten Movies Watched At Home In 2014. Tomorrow I’ll post My Top Ten Movies Of 2014 (going by UK cinema release date). Then I may do My Top Books Read In 2014 on New Year’s Day – that’s a pathetic list since I didn’t read much this year. I’ll stop rambling – here’s my list counting down from ten to my number one favorite. As always, these are the ones I enjoyed the most although there are others I watched that are probably more “worthy” and I’d give those higher ratings. I’ve included the links to the ones I’ve reviewed. 🙂

10. Spring Breakers

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This probably doesn’t deserve to be on the list, but… You know when you like a movie but you have NO idea WHY?? This is one of those movies for me.

9. TRON: Legacy

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I know it has its flaws but I don’t care – I had a lot of fun with this one. Plus: Garrett Hedlund! He’s so pretty… Also: DAFT PUNK SCORE!

8. Phantom Of The Paradise

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What’s not to like about Brian De Palma’s totally 1970s Faustian rock opera horror film?? Okay… Most of you went “WTF?” in the comments of my review but I do appreciate when a good discussion gets going on an interesting film like this one (thank you, Man In Black! I’ll get to the rest of your comments soon – I’ve just been taking a blog break over Xmas). 😉

7. The Cabinet Of Dr Caligari

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I’m surprised by how little I knew of this classic before watching it this year. Not only was the style of the whole film amazing but I thought the story was also ahead of its time. Every film lover should watch this movie.

6. Kiki’s Delivery Service

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This is one of several Studio Ghibli films I watched this year but I never got around to reviewing any of them, which is partly why I’m going to review a bunch of them together in January. I like the simplicity of this one. It’s the most “child-friendly” Ghibli I’ve seen so far and it’s one that really grew on me after watching it a couple of times.

5. Bernie

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I like doing these lists at the end of the year because I find that some movies really grow on me & end up much higher on the list than I would have expected. Bernie is one of these movies. I’ve always been a fan of Richard Linklater’s style and I’m not sure why I hadn’t checked this one out until this year. I’m also not sure why it seems to have not received as much attention as some of his other films considering that the story is quite fascinating, especially the ongoing story involving Linklater & the real-life Bernie. I’m still amazed by the whole situation…

4. Full Metal Jacket

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As I always say, I’m NOT a fan of war movies. However, I’ve worked my way through most of the war movies in the IMDB Top 250 and ended up loving a lot of them (The Bridge On The River Kwai and The Great Escape being my favorites). I didn’t love Full Metal Jacket as much as those and the first half was far better than the second half but I still really liked the film. I may have to stop saying I’m not a fan of war movies…

3. Daft Punk’s Electroma

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I like Daft Punk. And sci-fi. And cool robots. And “artsy fartsy”. I loved Electroma. So sue me. (Btw – thank you to the whole five commenters on the review for this! Lol! More than I expected… 😉 I’ll catch up on replying to comments on this blog soon!)

2. The Return Of The Living Dead

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I love zombies. And I especially love the 80s. I have no idea why I never saw this one before now but it’s certainly one that’s a new favorite I’ll re-visit every now & then.

1. Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind

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Obviously, I’m a fan of Studio Ghibli films as I’m dedicating a whole month to them. But there are maybe four or five Ghibli films I LOVE (so far) while the rest I just “really like” so I still wouldn’t call myself the biggest Ghibli fan compared to other people out there. However, Nausicaä Of The Valley Of The Wind really blew me away. (Ha! “Blew” me away… Blow away? Wind? Get it? Okay, it really wasn’t that funny). This was like some weird sort of mash up of the later, more well known Ghibli stuff and 1981’s Heavy Metal. It’s post-apocalyptic and fairly violent for a Ghibli and very much not for young kids. I LOVED IT. It’s so very “me” and I can’t wait to review it for Studio Ghibli Month.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Like I said, the above are the ones I enjoyed the most but I watched a lot of other very good films that really deserve a mention as well:

City Of God
Marnie
Blue Is The Warmest Color
Night Of The Creeps
Rashômon
Howl’s Moving Castle

You can see my full list of movies watched in 2014 HERE. Sad, I know… 🙂

Daft Punk’s Electroma (2006) Movie Review

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Daft Punk’s Electroma (2006)

Directed by Daft Punk

Written by:
Thomas Bangalter & Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo (Daft Punk)
Paul Hahn
Cédric Hervet

Starring:
Peter Hurteau
Michael Reich

Music by:
Todd Rundgren
Brian Eno
Sébastien Tellier
Curtis Mayfield
Linda Perhacs
Jackson C. Frank
Mathieu Tonetti

Running time: 72 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Daft Punk’s Electroma is a 2006 film by French electronic music duo Daft Punk. The plot revolves around the quest of two robots (the band members, played by Peter Hurteau and Michael Reich) to become human.

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My Opinion:

I decided to finally watch this after reviewing the weird & wonderful Phantom Of The Paradise, Brian De Palma’s 1974 Faustian rock opera horror film (you can read my review of that HERE). Daft Punk were massively influenced by Phantom Of The Paradise so I loved seeing the masked Phantom and the resemblance to the Daft Punk “robots”.

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Just like with Phantom Of The Paradise, I’m not going to recommend Electroma to absolutely everyone who may be reading this. You’d love it or you’d hate it and, if you’re not a fan of Daft Punk and their whole robot persona thing, you may struggle to even make it through Electroma‘s 72 minute running time. I’ll say you don’t have to be a fan of their music, though, as none of their music is in the film. If you like “art”, you may appreciate this film. This is more like an extra long music video than a film and it has lots of great images I so desperately want to use in this review as I think it would sell the film to some of you. Unfortunately, some of the coolest images are also major plot spoilers so I’ll have to leave those out.

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What did I think of Electroma? I loved it. There are actually four other films I kept thinking of while watching this (two earlier than Electroma & two that were made later). I’ve reviewed three of them and really like them all so, if you like these films, you MAY like this odd combination of the four. One is 1971 road movie classic Vanishing Point, another is 1973’s Westworld, the third is the thoroughly strange French comedy horror Rubber about a car tire that kills people with its psychic powers (seriously – it’s awesome), and the final one is the recent naked Scarlett Johansson movie Under The Skin which really had a very similar look to Electroma, especially during this particular scene:

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I’d love to think I could actually talk at least one person into watching this but I better let you all know this: There’s no dialogue in this film. There are extended periods of silence. There are very long sequences of the Daft Punk robots driving… and driving… and driving… and then walking… and walking… and wwwwwwwwaaaaaaaaalllllllllkkkkkkkiiiiiiinnnnnnnggggggggggggggg……………….. Well, none of that bothers me but I know that some people would turn it off during these bits. As I said, this is more a piece of art than a movie. The plot really is as simple as the above plot synopsis makes it sound (two robots wish to be human). It’s an idea that has been explored more deeply in innumerable sci-fi movies but it’s still a great plot that I always enjoy seeing represented in different ways, especially as we’re getting closer & closer to things such as technological singularity becoming a reality. Not that that’s really the theme of this film – I’d say Electroma is possibly set in a future where the singularity has already happened? And now these two robots long to be the humans that no longer exist? Yeah, I kind of like the sound of that and it makes the movie sort of bittersweet…

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Those who know me will know that I’m also a big fan of music and I was surprised there wasn’t actually more of it in this film made by two very famous musicians (and no music of their own, although they have the movie Interstella 5555 for that, which I now plan to also watch very soon). I did enjoy the music I’m sure they will have very carefully chosen, especially the Todd Rundgren and Curtis Mayfield songs & sequences in which they were used. I’ll include the clip that uses Todd Rundgren at end of the review as it’s at the beginning of the movie and will give you a feel for the film if you’re at all interested. The clip of the Curtis Mayfield song is awesome but a massive plot spoiler that would ruin one of the best moments in the film if you watched it.

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Summary:

Daft Punk’s Electroma is weird. This is “art” that I’m sure some would brand as pretentious. But, hey – I love Daft Punk’s music & their whole image. Robots rock. The plot is simple but I think two robots wanting to be human is something that even humans can relate to as we ourselves don’t even really know what it means to be human. If nothing else, Electroma is a lovely film to look at with a collection of cool sci-fi imagery and the backdrop of a beautiful Californian landscape. Good job, Daft Punk – I really enjoyed Electroma. Domo arigato, Mr Robotos. (Sorry – I was dying to get that line in here somewhere!)

My Rating: 8/10

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Todd Rundgren – International Feel (actual clip from the movie):

Phantom Of The Paradise (1974) Review

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Phantom Of The Paradise (1974)

Directed by Brian De Palma

Starring:
Paul Williams
William Finley
Jessica Harper
Gerrit Graham

Running time: 91 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
A disfigured composer sells his soul for the woman he loves so that she will perform his music. However, an evil record tycoon betrays him and steals his music to open his rock palace, The Paradise.

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My Opinion:

This movie started getting a bunch of attention this year for its 40th anniversary and I’d never even heard of it before then. When I read reviews and saw that it was some weird sort of “rock opera horror” directed by Brian De Palma and starring the great Rainbow Connection Paul Williams and that it, basically, may be responsible for giving us DAFT PUNK… Well, I had to see it! I can’t believe I’d never even heard of this now-cult-classic before. Apparently, though, it was a major flop at the time everywhere other than Paris and for some reason Winnipeg, where they worship this film and have organized Phantompalooza. I’m not sure why the movie is suddenly getting so much attention but I suppose that it’s probably down to Thomas Bangalter and Guy Manuel de Homem-Christo (Daft Punk) declaring their love for it when collaborating with Paul Williams for their Random Access Memories album. Having watched it now, it’s obvious what a huge influence it had on them. Check out William Finley as the Phantom in the title:

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I finally saw this movie a couple of months ago and I still can’t quite decide if it’s a brilliant masterpiece or a big pile of shit. What a way to start a review, huh?! Maybe it’s just brilliantly horrible. Horribly brilliant? Either way, although I just called this a possible pile of shit, I’ll be giving it a 7.5/10 rating (so you can stop reading & just yell at me now, Brian). 😉 I sort of feel the same way about this movie as I did about David Bowie’s The Man Who Fell To Earth. I know that, in a lot of ways, that movie was “bad” but I couldn’t help but be fascinated with it and it’s certainly one of the most memorable movies I’ve watched in the last couple of years and one I seem to come back to a lot when reviewing other movies that I liked yet can’t fully explain why. Phantom Of The Paradise was the same for me and totally worth being the only full price Blu-ray I’ve purchased for myself in ages, even if I WAS thinking to myself “what the fuck?!” the entire time I was watching it.

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Phantom Of The Paradise is a combination of The Phantom Of The Opera (obviously), Faust, and The Picture Of Dorian Gray. I’m not sure why it never achieved the success of two other similar films that both came out a year later – Tommy and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It certainly feels a lot more ambitious than either of those, which I suppose may have been the problem? There’s a lot going on in Phantom and it maybe tries to be too many things at once. The other two aren’t really any less strange than Phantom, though. Unfortunately, the biggest problem may just be that the songs aren’t as good. Sorry, Paul Williams! I think you’re awesome and I love what you did with Daft Punk and Rainbow Connection is my favorite Muppets song. But, unlike in Tommy or Rocky Horror, there’s nothing really memorable in this when it comes to the music other than maybe the main ballad which is pretty but not exactly catchy like Time Warp or even Pinball Wizard.

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I suppose I was a little upset that I was left unsure of how I felt about this movie once it finished as I’d hyped it up in my mind to possibly be some kind of undiscovered gem that I’d absolutely love. Well, there ARE things I really liked about it. Images such as the one above are what helped to convince me to watch this. The band is known as The Undeads, which is their third and best incarnation in the film as they keep changing their style to suit whatever record producer Swan (Paul Williams) thinks the public wants. This is in contrast to composer Winslow Leach, played by William Finley, who cares only about the music itself instead of fame and who (obviously) ends up the “Phantom” of the film. Paul Williams’ Swan is an evil & greedy record producer and owner of “The Paradise” concert hall. Williams is great as some sort of satanic little brother to David Cassidy. Check him out:

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The best thing about this film is the main story between Williams’ Swan & Finley’s The Phantom. I loved the cause of The Phantom’s disfigurement and, of course, THE scene that is clearly the one that turned those lightbulbs on above Daft Punk’s heads. (Slight spoiler but not really if you know Phantom Of The Opera): The Phantom’s vocal chords have been destroyed along with his face so he not only needs to wear the strange silver helmet but also must use an electronic voice-box to talk (and sing). I wish I could find a clip of the scene to share here but can only find some images:

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I should also give a quick mention to Jessica Harper, of Suspiria fame, who plays The Phantom’s muse à la The Phantom Of The Opera and Gerrit Graham as a camp glam rocker. Both were really good in two fairly big roles and the below shower scene was pretty cool:

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Summary:

I know this review was far longer than my usual reviews but if I’ve talked at least ONE person into checking out this movie, I’ll be very happy. Is it good? Is it shit? I’m honestly still not sure. I’ve said it a few times recently but these are the types of films that actually make me want to run a movie blog. I’ll always watch & review loads of mainstream films but they rarely excite me in the same sort of way that the more “unusual” or artistic films do. I’d rather watch something extremely memorable like this than just another cookie cutter film made with a profit in mind. The main theme (of many) in Phantom Of The Paradise is timeless – art over profit. We need more Phantoms in this world but, unfortunately, there will always be more Swans.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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You know I have to end this with Touch, the Daft Punk/Paul Williams collaboration on Random Access Memories: 🙂