Tag Archives: media

Videodrome – Review

7 Feb

David Cronenberg. What can I say about him? It’s pretty indisputable that he’s the master of body horror, and thinks of some crazy ways to creep us out with putting the physical body through some of the most bizarre situations a human being can ever think of. Personally, I have a love/hate relationship with Cronenberg. I was very excited than immediately disappointed with both Scanners and A History of Violence, but I was blown away by Eastern Promises. In 1983, Cronenberg released Videodrome, one of the strangest movies I think I have ever seen.

Videodromeposter

Max Renn (James Woods) is the sleazy president of a UHF television station called CIVIC-TV. Renn believes that it’s his job to give the people what they want, mostly concerning shows that feature violence and softcore pornography. Harlan (Peter Dvorsky), the operator of the station’s pirate satellite dish, discovers a strange show called Videodrome, a program that has no plot to speak of, but instead just seems like some sort of snuff film, which Max automatically thinks is fake and decides it’s perfect for CIVIC-TV. Max also begins a relationship with radio host Nikki (Deborah Harris), a sadomasochist who is turned on by Videodrome, and decides to audition for it. When she fails to return, Max begins inquiring about the show, but everything begins to spiral as he starts having the most horrific hallucinations imaginable and his body starts mutating out of control.

This only is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Videodrome. There’s a lot more I’d like to mention in that summary, but unfortunately it would go on for a while and I would also be ruining some of the experience. Trust me on that one, this movie is quite an experience. Like I said, I’m not always a fan of Cronenberg’s stuff, because despite every movie I’ve seen of his being incredibly strange, but the story and the plotting have to be set up nicely. So far, Videodrome is my favorite of Cronenberg’s work, because not only is it ridiculously strange, it was very much ahead of its time when it was made and the relevance of the movie may even seem more important in our present technological situation.

videodrome-1

By saying that the movie is more relevant now than it was in 1983 isn’t stretching it too much. A lot, if not all, of the technology in Videodrome is completely outdated, from VCRs, Betamax tapes, and cathode ray tube televisions. But what Cronenberg is saying about technology, the media, and the public’s desensitization to violence are now heated issues discussed heavily today.  All of these themes really come across very strongly and are very hard to miss, but I’m still not quite sure I follow everything Cronenberg is saying. All of the trippy insanity, that really makes the viewer question what they’re seeing, sometimes fogs the messages of the movie. I can at least say that about me because sometimes I really couldn’t believe what I was looking at.

Videodrome also reinforced my opinion that the animatronic effects used in the 1970s and the 1980s will always reign supreme because of how they look and the skill it takes to create them. While I really didn’t like Scanners and thought The Brood was passable at best, I have to admit that the effects in both of those movies are outstanding. The effects in Videodrome beat both of them out, and are only rivaled by Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly. There are some totally disgusting scenes using crazy looking animatronics and awesome make up effects by Rick Baker, who worked on Star Wars before this.

David Cronenberg’s Videodrome is a movie that inspires me as someone who wants to make film his career. The story is and outlandish sci-fi horror with themes that not only still hold up, but have become more important. This is a sick and twisted kind of movie that will run your brain in circles as you try to keep up with what’s going on. It isn’t a puzzle film, but it’s so strange it’s almost too weird to fully comprehend until you really let it sink in. Videodrome is now one of my new favorite movies.

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Romero’s “Dead” Series – Diary of the Dead

15 Aug

This is kind of a bizarre entry in the “Dead” series because it takes place during the same time as Night of the Living Dead, just in a modern setting. That being said, it appears George Romero threw out all realistic concepts of his timeline for Diary of the Dead. This entry is also unique for the in-movie camera style that is similar to films like Cloverfield and [REC.].

 

As I said before, this film takes place during the events of Night of the Living Dead. A group of film students are making a low budget horror movie in the woods when they hear about the undead rising and consuming human flesh. Determined to document the events, Jason Creed (Joshua Close) continues to film the horrors that the group encounter while on the road to Scranton, Pennsylvania.

I honestly wasn’t expecting much from this movie because of the weird timeline changes and the synopsis. Well, I really learned my lesson because Diary of the Dead is a refreshing entry into the “Dead ” series. I’m not sure how many times a film maker can pump out movies in a series that follow the same basic premise and keep it interesting without changing it up a bit. Also, I have a soft spot in my movie loving heart for this kind of hand held, in-movie camera style.

 

This movie has some of the best suspense and shocking violent moments in the entire series. From an Amish man throwing dynamite into a group of zombies to acid burning through a zombies skull, Romero delivers awesome scenes one after another. Compared to Land of the Dead, however, Diary of the Dead might seem a little tame. I use the word “tame” just to say it isn’t quite as gory or violent as the previous entry, but there isn’t really a “tame” Romero movie, especially in this series.

Like the first three entries in this series, this film didn’t have that large of a budget and the actors were mainly unknown. Romero once again proves that you don’t need an astronomical budget and Brad Pitt to make a good movie. This is a movie that has characters that I found strangely relatable, especially since I am a film student living in Pennsylvania, and the continuing satire that has become a trademark in this series.

 

This time the satire deals with mainstream media and the negative effects that it has on people when it comes to information. Instead, Romero favors the more independent thinkers who are crusading for the truth, like the characters in this movie. This is a timeless notion that I think is very important presently with all of the violence in the Middle East and even on our own soil that is covered up or warped by the media for ratings or to maintain a certain agenda. There isn’t a zombie apocalypse happening now, but what if there was? If the media handles it anyway like they did in this movie, what hope would we have?

As a small side note, Diary of the Dead has the most hard hitting, thought provoking, and depressing ending in this entire series. If you aren’t shaken or left wondering at the final image, then there might be something seriously wrong with you.

Diary of the Dead was a pleasant surprise. The style and characters made this movie interesting, but the zombie horror and awesome suspense brought it to the level of “awesome.” There is probably a lot of people who don’t like this movie because it strays away from the others in form, but I found it to be an excellent addition to the series. Definitely worth a viewing.

I’ll be finishing up this series with my next review of Romero’s final zombie film to date, Survival of the Dead.

 

Syriana – Review

20 Mar

It’s 8:52 on a Monday night and I have just finished watching Syriana. I wanted to write that down so I can remember that this is the most mentally exhausted and politically uneasy I have ever felt after watching a film. This film not only condemns, but paradoxically accepts everything that it is warning its viewers against and it is guaranteed to leave you breathless, confused, and worried.

I can not simply summarize the plot of this film and still do it justice. There is just way too much that would have to be said. At its most simple, this film is about oil and the many different people who want it and are willing to do absolutely anything to beat out their competitors. Connex is a United States energy giant who is attempting to merge with a small oil company, Killen, after they won rights to drill in the much sought after Kazakhstan. Bennett Holiday (Jeffrey Wright) is an attorney who is hired to promote an image of due diligence for Connex after they have been accused of corruption, but Holiday soon finds himself mixed up in the corruption himself. Bob Barnes (George Clooney) is a CIA Officer who is used as a scapegoat for his own department after a botched assassination attempt on the emirate’s foreign minister and son of a natural gas magnate, Prince Nasir al-Subaai. Bryan Woodman (Matt Damon) is an energy analyst who soon becomes the Prince’s financial advisor after the tragic death of their son at on of the emir’s private parties. Finally, Saleem Ahmed Khan is an ex-factory worker who soon becomes a follower of a friendly Islamic fundamentalist cleric. All of these stories are expertly woven together to form a political epic that spans many different countries and people.

Trying to wrap your head around this entire plot and how everyone fits together would be a very difficult thing to do after only one viewing. Much like I said in my review of Good Night, and Good Luck, this film demands your full attention and expects the viewer to be intelligent and even a little politically and economically savvy. But even if the plot feels too complex and layered, the entire point of the film is to give faces to these big companies and governments. Holiday represents the justice system, Barnes represents America’s covert government, Khan represents the very human followers of certain extremists, and Woodman represents a family man lost in the middle of all of the international chaos.

The painful part of this movie is that it may be a work of fiction, but activities and business that is seen conducted in this movie is very real and very dangerous. Human beings like me and you are caught in international fraud and deception just so they can be ahead in whatever game they find themselves in, even if they are running the risk of losing their own life. This isn’t a movie that was made solely for the sake of entertainment, even though it did entertain me the whole way through, but rather it is a narrative speaking out against people like the gentleman seen in the video above ranting and raving about the positive nature of corrupt business.

George Clooney won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor 2005 for his role as Bob Barnes. He put on 35 pounds for the film and regrets it indefinitely to this day. While shooting a particularly cringe worthy scene, Clooney injured his spine and was forced to stay in a hospital bed for three weeks and deal with his excruciating body pain and migraine headaches. He even came out and said he didn’t think he could live anymore with the pain he was enduring. What would our world be without George Clooney?

Syriana is a terrifying look at the hidden world that companies we want to trust keep hidden from us every day of our lives. The word “Syriana” is actually a term used by the American government that is a hypothetical state of peace between America and Syria in relation to oil. This is an interesting and deliberately ironic choice of title for a movie that is so focused on the tension and violence surrounding oil. Syriana is a complex and intelligent film that can be easily placed at the top of the list for political thriller films. It is expertly written, filmed, and acted. This is truly an unforgettable film that should not be missed.