Monthly Archives: January 2012

‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’ Superbowl Advert

The original film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one of the most joyous celebrations of adolescence ever made. Now, 26 years after the film was released, Matthew Broderick has come back with a teaser TV advert for the 2012 Superbowl that ties into the original movie? Terrific.

There are tons of hidden objects and Easter eggs in this extended Honda advertisement too, so watch it a few times and leave a comment identifying some of what you’ve found and how it ties into the original movie. Enjoy.

Oh, and do wait until the end. Really. Then go home.

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Review: Soylent Green

soylent green one sheet

New York City is home to nine million residents and it’s a bustling place, but the iconic 1973 sci-fi thriller Soylent Green posits a grim future where NYC has exploded to 40 million people and there’s insufficient food and space for everyone. Unless, of course, you’re rich and can afford to live in the protected community of the privileged, in which case you have every modern amenity, including a beautiful woman who comes as part of the “furniture”.
The film revolves around the mysterious assassination of elite Soylent Corporation board member William Simonson (Joseph Cotten), and the subsequent investigation by NYPD Detective Thorn (Charlton Heston). Thorn shares a run-down, cramped tenement with his friend Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson, in his last film role), a tired researcher who figures out that the widely consumed soylent green can’t be made out of sea plankton because the oceans are dying.
Simonson’s mistress Shirl (Leigh Taylor-Young) and bodyguard Tab Fielding (Chuck Connors) are both conveniently away when Simonson is murdered: does Fielding know more about the attack than he’s letting on? Meanwhile Shirl grows fond of Thorn and lets him use the apartment, including offering him the experience of a shower with real hot water, an air conditioner that cools off “like winter used to be” and food in more abundance than he can ever remember seeing.

Soylent Green is primarily a warning of the dangers of overpopulation, but there’s a thread of dystopic cynicism that still rings true, a mistrust of the motivations behind corporate activities and some equally striking commentary on religion and its Marxist function as the opiate of the masses, including when a beleagured priest (Lincoln Kilpatrick) explains to Thorn “we don’t see no rich people at this church any more” and particularly late in the film when Roth is euthanized.
One of the most striking images in this film is when hundreds of people riot after being told that the government has run out of soylent green at a distribution center. Filmed with a yellow filter to give it an aged, gritty appearance, the scene is that much more shocking when crowd control turns out to be “Scoops”, garbage trucks modified to pick up rioters and truck them away.
Symbolically, garbage trucks appear again later in the film in an even grimmer fashion, as Thorn hops aboard one to learn what happens to the body of his beloved friend Roth. With overtones of Nazi concentration camps, the solution to feeding the populace is grim indeed.
Dystopic sci-fi films can age poorly, but Soylent Green ranks up as one of the best films of the 1970’s, a shocker with striking, upsetting imagery and a stark solution to the continued challenges of overpopulation. If you have a chance to see it, do so. It’s well worth your time. Just skip any soylent foodstuffs your friends offer you afterwards.

Review: Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Sherlock Holmes A Game of Shadows one sheetWhile I quite enjoyed the 2009 Guy Ritchie reinvention of the fabled observant detective in Sherlock Holmes, applying the same formula in this newer film Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows proved more a boring, tedious exercise in special effects and self-conscious film making and less an engaging and narratively ingenious film.

In the original books by Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes is a fastidious, rather odd bird with extraordinary knowledge and powers of observation. Famously able to deduce things from the tiniest speck of dust or wrinkle in a hem, he was the anti-hero, someone who was generally unlikeable but brilliant. Reimagined by directory Guy Ritchie and action star Robert Downey Jr. (think Iron Man), Holmes is completely different in A Game of Shadows and looks more like a homeless vagabond than a celebrated detective.
As with the books, the narrative is from the perspective of his long-suffering companion and friend Dr. John Watson (Jude Law), who applies his medical background and experience to aid in solving particularly perplexing mysteries. Except in A Game of Shadows, there’s not much mystery, there’s not really a case, there’s no client, and the story unfolds in an increasingly baffling and incoherent manner.
The story revolves around Holmes uncovering a plot by the nefarious Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris) to start a world war and then profit by selling arms and ammunition to both sides. Holmes rival and love interest Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) appears for a short time, to be replaced on screen with the more interesting Gypsy fortune teller Madame Simza (Noomi Rapace). Watson has just married Mary (Kelly Reilly) and it’s during their honeymoon that Holmes intervenes in a plot by Moriarty to murder Watson, conveniently sidetracking Mary for the rest of the film and forcing Watson to reluctantly take on this, their last case together.
The special effects are impressive, but even there the innovations of the first film are overused in this sequel to the point where it’s bizarre and at one point even breaks the narrative wall. Near the end of the film, Holmes plots out the specific moves he’ll use in a fight against arch-enemy Professor James Moriarty (Jared Harris), who then looks at Holmes and says “two can play at that, sir” and similarly plots out, in graphic slow motion, his anticipated moves in the upcoming scuffle. But how does Moriarty know that Holmes was figuring out his attack?
I’ve always been a fan of the enigmatic, brilliant Sherlock Holmes, but I think that from a cinematic and narrative perspective Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows leaves a lot to be desired. It’s visually pretty, but there’s much that doesn’t make sense and Ritchie and Downey have created a completely new Holmes that has nothing to do with the fictional creation of Doyle and while it’s entertaining, it’s also overly long, tedious and confusing as heck. I’d wait until it’s on DVD and make sure you’ve got some popcorn to munch on during the overly long later scenes.
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Review: The Iron Lady

the iron lady one sheetOn the surface, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher might not seem like a good subject for a biopic. She wasn’t flamboyant, there’s no romantic back story, and she was more known for her steel will than her diplomacy. In these politically charged times, however, The Iron Lady is surprisingly timely, with its profile of the greengrocer’s daughter who rose through — fought her way through — the British political ranks to become one of the most powerful women in the Western Hemisphere.

The narrative roughly follows her personal history, starting with her school years and showing how she rose to become the first female Member of Parliament, then Prime Minister of Britain for eleven years, during which time she wrestled with the recession of the 1980s, the birth of the European Union, the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, a massive miner’s strike, the Argentine fight over the Falkland Islands and the bombings and rebellion of the Irish, including frequent bombings — emotionally portrayed in the film — from the Provisional Irish Republican Army.
As Thatcher, Meryl Streep is superb. From her makeup and wardrobe to her speech and the behaviors and mannerisms of a woman in her forties, fifties and older, Streep vanishes in her portrayal of the Iron Lady and it’s a wonder to behold in an era where films are about their stars as much as they are about the characters in the movie. It’s the anti-Tom Cruise, if you will.
The film opens with a touching scene where Thatcher is retired, her husband Denis (well played by Jim Broadbent) has passed away a few years earlier but is still very much a tangible, physical presence to her, and she has avoided her minders and gone down to the local grocers for a pint of milk. Shocked at the price, she comes back and discusses it with Denis. Except he’s been dead for a few years at that point to everyone but Thatcher. Dementia? Yes, but also seemingly the logical consequence of a life well spent on public service, though her daughter Carol (Olivia Colman) might not entirely agree when her Mum’s still correcting her in public.
In addition to a fascinating and reasonably neutral political narrative that focused on Thatcher and the cost her family paid in her single-minded devotion to her service to Britain, The Iron Lady was surprisingly touching and more than once I felt a wave of emotion sweep over me as I watched her children fight for attention, a beloved advisor killed in an IRA bombing, or her long-suffering husband Denis sit on the sidelines as he realized yet again he couldn’t compete with her passionate love of service.
Still, the best part of The Iron Lady is Streep’s performance. It’s truly that good. The film itself is a touching and engaging biopic, but will ultimately be of more interest to students of history and those who seek a sense of the battles she had to fight as the first woman Member of Parliament and the first female head of a Western Power. Well worth watching in this context, it’s a reminder of the power of cinema to let us peek into the life of a powerful, amazing woman.
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