Decades Blogathon — Berlin: Symphony of a Metropolis (1927)

Thomas J

Here we are in the penultimate day in the 2017 edition of the Decades Blogathon. It’s been a really fun one to co-host yet again with the sterling Mark from Three Rows Back. With any luck this is a trend that will continue, it’s just so great having the contributions we’ve had three years in a row. So with that, I’d like to clear the floor for the featured reviewer of today — Charles from the wonderful blog, Cinematic. Please do check out his site if you have some time. 

Although cinema has always been continuously evolving since its inception, 1927 is perhaps the critical turning point in film. That year saw the debut of The Jazz Singer, the first major “talkie” that led to silent cinema’s decline and introduced the concept of spoken dialogue to the screen. 1927 also greeted audiences with the inceptions of F.W…

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Decades Blogathon – Jackie Brown (1997)

Welcome to the penultimate day of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and my partner in crime Tom from Thomas J. For those who don’t know, the blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and today I’m very pleased to welcome Natasha from it’s the turn of the one and only Zoe from Life of this City Girl who is too-cool-for-school in her choice of QT’s Jackie Brown.

Jackie Brown Poster

Plot: A middle-aged woman finds herself in the middle of a huge conflict that will either make her a profit or cost her life (

A quick peek over at Tom’s blog alerted me to the fact that it was time for his and Mark’s annual Decades Blogathon. In the past I’ve been too petrified to take part – some seriously talented bloggers writing over here – but this year I knew I would have to take a shot at it. I chose Jackie Brown, one of the only Tarantino films I haven’t seen as my choice.

So I sat down with Jackie Brown. The film is very Tarantino – the long winding conversations characters have that seemingly have no point, the extremely long duration of the film, the presence of Samuel L. Jackson and a strong female character.  It lacks his typical violence and his perplexing need to appear in every movie he directs, but you won’t hear me complaining about that.

The cast is wonderful. Pam Grier as Jackie Brown was entertaining with her fast and sharp dialogue, her attitude and her sassy personality. What a woman. She was equal to every man on screen and smarter than all of them combined.

Jackie Brown

Samuel L. Jackson is back again as Ordell Robbie, the man with questionable hair and even more questionable morals. Ordell is an interesting guy. He has some of the fastest dialogue and sharpest wit and his choice of the women he keeps are so different that it only serves to make him more interesting. There’s Melanie (Bridget Fonda), by his admission his blonde surfer girl, who has zero ambition and zero class; Sheronda (Lisa Gay Hamilton), a country girl taken off the streets by him and who doesn’t seem all there; and Simone (Hattie Wilson), who is an older lady with a lot of curves. I don’t know, it was an interesting part to his character that he’d want such a different range of women in his life. He’s also a criminal who is smart and dangerous and doesn’t care to take out an employee if he himself is in danger of exposure. His only real affection is for Louis (Robert DeNiro), a man who has just been released from prison. Louis is quite a loser of a character, an excellent performance by DeNiro who manages to look pathetic and washed out.

More notable cast members include Michael Keaton (Ray Nicolette) and Michael Bowen (Mark Dargus), the two cops that are tasked with capturing Ordell. They are both eager and very young, and Keaton especially shows that energy of a young and optimistic police officer. The last important character, Max Cherry (Robert Forster), reminded me of old Hollywood with his classic handsome look and persona. He seems like a hero from the early 1950s, and his character was one of the cleanest and most honorable in the movie.

The movie moves quite slow. Once again, typical Tarantino. It requires constant attention or you might miss something, and the director again takes his time getting through the elaborate plan he has set out for his characters. Even at the end they were still leisurely discussing things and there were a few moments where I could feel the grey hairs forming on my head. On two hours twenty minutes I was convinced that they weren’t ending the movie. Would there be more blindsiding? Would Jackie turn her car around and return to Max? There were a few seconds where I thought she would kill him, but that would have been against her character.

Jackie Brown

I really enjoyed Jackie Brown despite the long, long, LONG time it took to get through the film. The strong female characters, Tarantino’s disregard of what movies usually look like and the typecasting they subject to, the sharp dialogue and the ’90s tone to Jackie Brown made it worth the watch. I am also now really close to having watched all his films, and of this feat I am rather proud.

Thanks for hosting me Tom and Mark!

Decades Blogathon — Empire of the Sun (1987)

Thomas J

Welcome back around to another week in ‘Decades.’ Lucky Number Seven may be entering into its final stretch these next few days, but it bears worth mentioning again — it’s been another really fun event for me and my wonderful co-host Mark of Three Rows Back. There were so many things to choose from — evidenced by the fact that no one claimed perhaps the most obvious choice, a certain Star Wars episode. Yet we do have another ‘Empire’ title in the mix though, and it is brought to you by Rob of MovieRob, who is returning for his third straight blogathon. His contributions have been greatly appreciated, and please do check out his site after you’ve read his piece! 

“Learned a new word today. Atom bomb. It was like the God taking a photograph. ” – Jim

Number of Times Seen – Between 5-10 times (Theater in ’87, video, cable…

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Decades Blogathon – Zodiac (2007)

Welcome to Week 2, Day 5 of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and the awesome Tom from Thomas J. For those who don’t know, the blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and today it’s the turn of the one and only Zoe from the one and only Sporadic Chronicles of a Beginner Blogger who, unlike director David Fincher only needs one take to nail the 2007 true crime classic Zodiac.

“I need to stand there, I need to look him in the eye and I need to know that it’s him.” – Robert Graysmith

SYNOPSIS: A serial killer in the San Francisco Bay area taunts police with his letters and cryptic messages. We follow the investigators and reporters in this lightly fictionalized account of the true 1970s case as they search for the murderer, becoming obsessed with the case. Based on Robert Graysmith’s book, the movie’s focus is the lives and careers of the detectives and newspaper people – via IMDB.

Ha! So Mark and Tom were hosting yet another rendition of their super successful Decades Blogathon, and I absolutely just had to participate again. It took me moments to decide I just had to do Zodiac, and I was pleased as punch when I heard that nobody else had taken it. Anyway. Enough waffling. Let me get to it.

Zodiac is absolutely brilliant. I loved it when it came out, I loved it in subsequent rewatches, and I still love it. Why? Because it is put together extremely well, the cast carrying this movie is fantastic, and it looks amazing. There is really just too much to love about this and nothing to complain about. It’s atmospheric, engaging, well-acted and constructed brilliantly and just flows. These are just some super quick points listed about what contributes in making this movie awesome.

Jake Gyllenhaal never disappoints and his Robert Graysmith is really interesting to watch, like a dog with a bone. Robert Downey Jr. is excellent as prick crime reporter Paul Avery, and showcases how he really has more talent than just Tony Stark/Iron Man. I really miss when he used to take other roles. The final big player here is Mark Ruffalo, and I always enjoy watching the man in anything. His detective character David Toschi is also a big draw, and I really like how these three characters each had their own obsession; they all danced around one another, were all similar but completely different. I think the movie really runs home the point of obsession, and how it interacts with everyday life, which is very interesting. Not only that, the movie is obviously shot phenomenally because, well, David Fincher.

The script it also tight, laying out all the pieces of evidence you need in the case of the terrifying Zodiac killer, who freaked people out beyond anything, even though he was never caught. I think that Robert Graysmith did a great job of investigating and seriously has the strongest case stacked against Arthur Leigh Allen. Zodiac is engrossing and mesmerising and demands your attention throughout, and barrels along at such a pace that you are not left behind, but are gripped, and does not allow your attention to wander for even a moment. It’s also extremely atmospheric, and I really love that.

One cannot miss that immense amounts of work, interest and passions that went into the film, everything from costume design to the sets that were done, and reading up on the trivia for it, all this is confirmed. I have not read Graysmith’s book, but I will most certainly be looking into it as soon as possible. If you have not seen Zodiac, it is high time you rectify that.

In Retrospect – Jurassic Park (1993)

The year 1993 proved to be a defining one for Steven Spielberg as he delivered not one, but two cinematic masterpieces.

A career with either Jurassic Park or Schindler’s List in it would be more than enough for most directors, but Spielberg achieved the seemingly impossible by helming both at the same time.

Jurassic Park PosterBoth films put the bearded one back on top after the failure of his 1991 misstep Hook, with Jurassic Park redefining the blockbuster and becoming one of cinema’s most beloved thrill rides.

Viewed almost a quarter of a century on from its release, the film has lost very little of its giddy roller-coaster exuberance, achieving a winning balance of pulse-racing spectacle and character-driven drama.

Spielberg got wind of writer Michael Crichton’s novel early on and was mapping out storyboards before the book had even been finished. Crichton had become one of the literary world’s most successful proponents of high concept page-turning fiction and for Jurassic Park he lifted the blueprint of his 1973 sci-fi drama flick Westworld (which he also directed as well as wrote) to create a theme park whose main attraction (destructive dinosaurs instead of rampaging robots) soon gets out of control.

Jurassic ParkWhat strikes you about the film is just how many of its characters are either suspicious, uncomfortable or downright hostile to the concept of resurrecting creatures 65 million years after they had been wiped out.

The park’s game warden Robert Muldoon (Bob Peck) thinks the whole idea of inviting tourists to the Costa Rican island inhabited by the myriad prehistoric creatures is foolhardy (in spite of the fact he’s being paid by the same man whose venture this is), while paleontologist Dr Alan Grant (Sam Neill) questions how anyone could honestly know what to expect (in spite of accepting money from the same man whose venture this is).

The most critical voice is reserved for Dr Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum), an advocate of chaos theory who attacks park owner John Hammond (Richard Attenborough) both for his hubris and abuse of power after they learn of how the park came to be through the animated Mr DNA presentation (still one of cinema’s most inspired exposition dumps).

Jurassic ParkAlthough Malcolm, like Grant and fellow paleontologist Dr Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) are initially gobsmacked at what Hammond has managed to pull off, the reality of what the park represents horrifies him. Indeed, as he later says in Spielberg’s 1997 Jurassic Park sequel The Lost World: “Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running and… screaming.”

Like Jaws almost two decades earlier, Spielberg knows that delivering the goods too early dilutes the impact of the main event and, following several teases, finally gives us a taste of what’s to come with the reveal of the Brachiosaur towering above the protagonists. It remains a spine-tingling moment that’s completely sold by the stunned reactions of Grant and co.

Spielberg also knows that we, like the main characters of the film, are also suckers for grand pageantry and unashamedly hands it to us while planting the thought in our head that, if a Jurassic Park were to actually exist it would undoubtedly be a Very Bad Idea.

Jurassic ParkIn spite of the technology’s relative infancy, the CGI on display stands up remarkably well; an indication that, when done with care, attention and real skill, computer generated effects can be a boon rather than a way to cut corners (The Scorpion King, anyone?).

The film’s central T. Rex attack on the disabled eletronic cars is a masterclass in building suspense – achieved through a sublimely simple shot of water rippling in a glass of water as the danger approaches. Spielberg effectively uses life-sized animatronics in the close-ups of the T. Rex assaulting Hammond’s grandchildren Tim (Joseph Mazzello) and Lex (Ariana Richards), which lends the scene added weight (the sometimes unpredictable nature of the animatronic meant that its actions would catch the cast off guard).

Other inspired uses of special effects include the herd of CGI Gallimimus flocking past Grant, the kids and the camera, and the memorable image towards the end of the film of the velociraptor enveloped by a computer screen’s display. While the T. Rex is the big daddy, the Jurassic Park‘s biggest threat remain the agile, ferocious ‘raptors and they are used to full effect in the celebrated kitchen escape sequence (a scene Spielberg would carbon copy in his under-appreciated adaptation of War Of The Worlds in 2005).

Jurassic ParkThe sound design is also striking and underlines the danger that lurks all around our stricken heroes. Each dino is given their own call, with the T. Rex’s bone-shaking roar achieved by slowing down the sound of a baby elephant and the ‘raptor’s bark the product of tortoises having sex (!).

The sound is matched only by John Williams’ majestic score, which suits the enormity of the creatures, while dialling it down for the more contemplative moments that are interspersed between the mayhem.

The incredible success of 2015’s Jurassic World confirms, if it were needed, that we’re all suckers for dinosaurs on the big screen. However, originals are often the best and in the case of Jurassic Park it remains a blockbuster classic almost without rival.