In Bruges (2008)

Directed by Martin McDonagh

Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

I have to lead the review with the stated prejudice I went into this film with, a general dislike for Colin Farrell’s previous body of work. Nothing against the actor, it seems that the majority of his roles revolved around playing some egotistical, over-confident, one-dimensional tough guy with a chip on his shoulder. I find it hard to relate to that kind of character or harbor any shared empathy. Which is probably why I liked this departure from form on his part.

In Bruges is the story of two hitmen hiding out in Belgium after the younger inexperienced Farrell accidentally kills an innocent child. Immature and unsure how to deal the guilt he’s feeling, Farrell attempts to quiet his conscious with women, drugs, and drink but his sins eventually overcome. Coincidental encounters set against the backdrop of a film set with a Boschian theme adds to internal torment the protagonist is undergoing. Strong supporting character performances from Gleeson and Fiennes add a whimsical morality that make the final act come together in a very satisfying way.

This film is beautiful, shot in a storybook town in Belgium, with lots of subtext and allegorical meaning. It’s funny, tense, heart-warming, and sometimes sad. The only gripe I have with it would be the odd insert of the American dwarf actor who’s comedic scenes seem to detract from the momentum of the script and never really add much to the plot except for the payoff.


Teeth (2007)


Directed by Mitchel Lichtenstein

Starring Jess Wiexler 

Ok, you can easily piece together the premise of this movie from the trailer.  But what you can’t appreciate is the expert hand that delivers a high concept idea like this in such a technically competant, skillfully acted, and craftly written way.  Adverb nazis eat your heart out.

All kidding aside this is the best quirky horror movie since May, previously reviewed by Sir Dantasia, viewed by both of us, probably on the prodding of AICN recommended geek movie pundits as Harry Knowles.  I got the word on this one from Mark Kermode initially, but Dan told me to check it out after his viewing.  In the vein of Saved! and Masters of Horror’s Jenifer, this film delivers the goods (by the way, to fully appreciate Jenifer, rent the DVD and watch the deleted scenes, D’Argento fans eat your **** out).

This movie could not have achieved its intended affect without the talent and skill of actress Jess Weixler and guiding mind of Mitchell Lichenstien.  Jess had an amazing way of delivering the performance required of such a tongue-in-cheek role as the protagonist of this movie.  She handily shifted her acting between surreal and sublime so expertly that the role was completely believable.  The direction cannot be ignored also, because I’ve seen this kind of genre blundered before and the overall vision of this project is evident and laudable.  The cinematography (Wolfgang Held) should also recieve praise for such parsinium shots as Dawn’s ride back to her home against the backdrop of the nuclear silos and the creative disguise of “suggestive material.”

I pray we see more of these two artisans in future Hollywood cannon as they both have command of their professions.  Big applause for a highly entertaining, comedic, and satisfying visceral horror romp.

Lost in La Mancha (2002)

Directed by: Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe

Starring: Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jeff Bridges (Narration), Cast & Crew of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

Awards: Won Golden Satellite Award for Best Documentary DVD (2004)

Concluding my three part look at documentaries dealing with the making of films, let us take a look at Terry Gilliam and the doomed production of The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Terry Gilliam has a history of having a rather rough go at getting his “visions” made. The director had a long drawn out fight with the studio and producers over Brazil that dragged into the news media and got the critics involved. The Adventures of Baron Münchhausen went way over budget and was buried during it’s stateside release. These are but a few of the difficulties that Gilliam has had to face with his pictures, but at least all these films have been finished and saw the light of day. Don Quixote was not so fortunate.

In Lost in La Mancha, we get an exclusive insider’s look at a failed production that showed much promise until things quickly collapse as one disaster occurs after another. First problem is what seems to be a recurring theme for Gilliam, a creative vision that exceeds his budget. Sometimes this can be a beneficial problem as it forces productions and directors to be more creative and less wasteful (ahem, Mr. Lucas…). In this case, however, it proves disastrous further down the road. The second mistake made is hiring an actor who is advanced in his age that will be required to do physical work that he is not capable of doing. While fitting the role perfectly, there is something to be said for using a younger actor and relying on makeup and wardrobe if the role calls for it. Finally, shooting in the great outdoors is often problematic, especially when done in a desert canyon that is prone to flash flooding.

These are but a few of the problems that befall the cast and crew of the film. Unfortunately, enough happens that the film gets canceled only 6 days into production. The insurance company that insured the picture ends up getting the rights to the screenplay and everyone is sent home. It is said that Terry Gilliam has gotten the rights back and may someday soon make another attempt at finishing what he started. Lost in La Mancha not only shows the rise and fall of Gilliam’s ambitious film, but also documents the cursed history of other failed attempts at making a film out of the tale of an old misguided man who goes on a quest to do battle with windmills thinking they are giants. Hopefully one day Gilliam will get to finish his quest.


finished footage from the film:


Overnight (2003)

Directed by: Tony Montana, Mark Brian Smith

Starring: Troy Duffy, Cast & Crew of The Boondock Saints

Continuing my three part series taking a look at the making of three turbulent films, Overnight is the story of Troy Duffy and how overnight success leads to his alienation of his friends and family including the rise and fall of his own directorial career and band.

Troy Duffy was a Hollywood dream. A bartender at a small Los Angeles Irish bar, Duffy managed to sell a first time script for The Boondock Saints to Miramax and signed on to be the Director. Instantly he was the focus of attention as the press heavily promoted the event. Duffy even negotiated to have his band perform in the film and to have an accompanying soundtrack. Things were looking up for everyone. The band’s co-managers were tasked with shooting the behind the scenes documentary that was suppose to record rise to stardom for everyone involved. Unfortunately, things didn’t turn out the way they were planned.

Frustrated with the slow progress of preproduction and having his film go into what is known as “turn around,” Troy Duffy becomes frustrated with the Hollywood progress and falls victim to his own ego. He begins side stepping his producers and shops his script to other studios. Something that Miramax, and Harvey Weinstein specifically, do not look kindly upon. Soon everything goes to hell as Duffy finds himself in a downward spiral. His budget gets slashed, clashes with his band mates erupt as the band falls apart, and going against Harvey Weinstein eventually leads to being blacklisted.

After watching Overnight, it becomes evident that it is a miracle that not only did The Boondock Saints get made, but that it is as good as it is (I know this is a sentiment not shared by everyone). Some may feel that Troy Duffy is right for feeling the way he does and is merely a victim of a corrupt industry, but I can’t help and wonder if the outcome wouldn’t have been better had only Duffy been a little more humble and less egotistical. The ending is painful when it revealed what happened to everyone in the band who were once close enough to be like brothers. In the end, The Boondock Saints got a very limited theatrical release and only sold well on DVD via word of mouth as it grew in cult status. Troy Duffy never negotiated for a share in DVD sales. Just desserts or a sad ending to a promising career? Rumor has it that Troy Duffy is currently working on a sequel.

Note: Netflix members can watch the film via streaming from their site.

The trailer for The Boondock Saints:


Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse (1991)

Directed by: Fax Bahr, Gearge Hickenlooper, Eleanor Coppola

Starring: Francis Ford Coopla, Cast & Crew of Apocalypse Now

Awards: Won Emmy’s for Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Directing and Outstanding Individual Achievement – Informational Programming – Picture Editing (1992)

After a bit of a hiatus due to life stepping in, I’m back. I won’t bore you with the details, but to make up for my absence here is a three part look (other two reviews to follow) at how, just like life, the making of movies can get complicated.

First off, let’s take a look at the making of a classic. Hearts of Darkness: A Filmaker’s Apocalypse is a documentary about the behind the scenes for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Having worked on a few movie sets myself, I’ve seen first hand some of the trials and tribulations involved with having a lot of people working under stressful conditions in tight quarters with clashing personalities. Nothing I’ve witnessed can compare to what the cast and crew for Apocalypse Now had to deal with in the Philippine jungles. Shot by Eleanor Coppola, the Director’s wife, Hearts of Darkness was meant to be a way to keep her busy while on set and also as a way to document the making of the film. What they got instead was a very personal look at human nature.

Apocalypse Now was a movie that defied the odds. Taped in a conversation with his wife unknowingly, Francis Ford Coppola confides that he thinks the film will be disastrous. He doesn’t like the ending and is shown to be clearly giving in to the pressure. At the verge of a nervous breakdown, one can see why after seeing the obstacles he has to face in telling his tale. One example is a Philippine military who loan him helicopters only to take them away at the spur of the moment to combat rebels. Another is having to replace main actor Harvey Keitel with Martin Sheen a week into shooting. Martin Sheen ends up having a complete breakdown while drunk in a scene as the audience gets to bare witness to a man battling his own personal demons.

The biggest confrontation in the film besides the Director being his own worse enemy is when he has to confront the main villain in his picture, Marlon Brando. Showing up on set exceeding the weight that the role called for, Francis is forced to shoot around him. Marlon Brando also proves to be a very difficult personality who forgets his lines, is impatient with direction, and overbearing. Despite all these problems and more that are shown by the documentary, Francis Ford Coppola overcomes his adversity and manages to create a film that is still highly regarded today as one of the best representations of the Vietnam War.

Here is the opening scene:


Brazil (1985)

Directed by: Terry Gilliam

Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Kim Greist

Awards: Nominated for Oscar for Best Art Direction and Best Writing/Screenplay and Hugo for BestDramatic Presentation(1986), Won BAFTA for Best Production Design and Best Special Visual Effects (1986)

Self described as 1984 1/2, Brazil is Terry Gilliam’s take on an Orwellian vision of a retro-future. The government controls everything as the populace is held hostage to overpowering bureaucracy. Sam Lowry is an everyday man who gets tangled up in the wrongful death of a man mistakenly killed for being a suspected terrorist. As he tries to unravel what has occurred, he crosses paths with a woman who he has been dreaming about, gets branded a terrorist himself, and soon becomes a victim of the system he has long been a part of.

Brazil, like most of Terry Gilliam films, is a dark comedy wonderfully realized through art direction and style. Sets made up of old buildings retrofitted with ductwork, typewriters and old televisions converted to computers, and a society that is obsessed with the perception of image are all just a few of things that make up this fantasy. Gilliam suggests in the commentary that everything that occurs in the film was based on real life events during the eighties and was meant as a social commentary about overindulgence and corruption in America. I think it is safe to say that the film rings even more true given the current state of our political government and lifestyle. Everything is mocked in the movie ranging from obsessions with plastic surgery, slave-like devotion to remedial jobs, and blind obedience to overbearing laws and regulation without question.

Notoriously known for having trouble on his films, Brazil was no less a mess for Terry Gilliam. The film was held back for a year from being released in the United States due to Universal re cutting the film for a happier ending. Gilliam fought back by showing the film without the studio’s consent for two weeks at in LA to movie critics and film students. Pressure from them and rumors of attempted pre-release Oscar nominations eventually forced the studio to put out the original version of Gilliam’s film. While the visual effects are somewhat dated by today’s standards, the film is still fun to watch and serves as a chilling warning to a future that may yet come. All from a film that came about from a wish by Gilliam to do a movie where a man losing his mind ends up being a happy ending.

Other Notable Films by this Director: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Time Bandits (1981), Twelve Monkeys (1995)


Walk the Line (2005)

Directed by: James Mangold

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Patrick

Awards: Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (2006). Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy, Best Performance by an Actor, Best Performance by an Actress (2006). Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack Album (2007).

When I was a teenager and started to wear all black, my stepfather would tease me and asked “who do you think you are… the man in black?” At the time I had no idea who he was talking about. Sure I had heard a song or two from Johnny Cash on the radio or in a movie, but I didn’t really know anything about the man until later as my music knowledge grew. There was just always something about his songs that appealed to me. Dark lyrics, catchy rhythm, and an underlying attitude that seemed to tell the world to fuck off. Walk the Line goes even further by pulling back the curtain and letting us see just who was the man behind the music and what drove him to make the songs that he did. Like many talented artists, there are few demons wandering around in Johnny Cash’s past. An overbearing father, the loss of an older brother who was his best friend, a wife who didn’t share his joy for music, the hardships of living on the road, and of course: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The film also deals with Johnny’s courtship of June Carter as she comes and goes through out his life and ultimately helps Johnny conquer his demons. It is their underlying love story that helps elevate the movie past just being a memoir of another musician.

Joaquin Phoenix is outstanding in the role of Johnny Cash. He simply loses himself and becomes “the man in black.” Likewise, Reese Witherspoon brings in a great performance as well and together the two are just enjoyable to watch. They both even performed the songs themselves rather than lip sync to the original music helping to make the movie feel all the more real. Even if you are not a fan of Johnny Cash’s music, this film stands up well as it tells the story of a man who reaches rock bottom and then manages to pick himself up with the help of others and rise above the darkness. Come and take a walk with the man in black.

Other Notable Films by this Director: 3:10 to Yuma (2007); Girl, Interrupted (1999)

Here is one of the last music videos Johnny Cash made before his death, his cover of Nine Inch Nail’s Hurt. It is a fitting end to his legacy and is both powerful and sad. Shortly after, June Carter Cash died. Four months later Johnny Cash joined her.


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