Showing posts with label Retrospective. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Retrospective. Show all posts

Jesus Christ Superstar - The First Movie to Feature Twerking

Written by: Melvyn Bragg, Norman Jewison, Tim Rice, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John
Directed by: Norman Jewison
Music by: Tim Rice, Andrew Lloyd Webber
Starring: Ted Neeley, Yvonne Elliman, Carl Anderson, Barry Dennen, Philip Toubus, the principal from Billy Madison
Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe
Are we still giving credit to huge movie studios that don't love us back?: Universal Pictures

There is no great shortage of biblical film adaptations; it's called the greatest story ever told for a reason. There are varying degrees of success here; one can quickly point to either version of The Ten Commandments or Ben-Hur as useful and worthwhile works of art, while Wholly Moses! and Noah's Ark are wastes of time. It's a tricky balancing act; you've got to respect both the belief system that's been around for a couple millennia lest you upset one of the biggest religious movements in the world, but you've got to commit to the art form as well lest you disappoint the general moviegoer. Right about the 1970s, Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber had a really bright idea: how about a musical that portrays Jesus Christ as some sort of funk rock superstar?

Really, were they that far off? Jesus was a real phenomenon in his day, and his disciples weren't his only die-hard fans. As to whether the narrative works, it's widely accepted that this film is largely uneven and certainly not going to please everyone who watches it. It's not even immediately apparent what the film's purpose is, but in the end I'll make the argument that it's more than a bowl of sugar for breakfast.

The first time I saw this was on an Easter Sunday early in my life, sometime after the morning Mass. Dad put it on for my brother and me instead of Jesus of Nazareth, which was probably the right call. It's one of the first times I remember him explaining how a movie works, what they were trying to get across, and how it tied into my religion and worldview. I liked it enough to buy it on DVD, and I watched it almost obsessively back in high school - it's a surprisingly educational motion picture for a prospective film buff. For this review, I'm just gonna go song by song and capture the feelings I had while watching.

Almost as soon as the movie kicks off, one recognizes how excellent the music is, and how the musical uses various themes repeated throughout the movie to its advantage. The music is about as love-it-or-hate-it as you can get; personally, it's exactly the kinda music I can get into, but others (like the owner of this blog) can't stand. Your mileage may vary, but it's better than most musicals I've listened to. I think the performers this time around are much better than in the Broadway version. That's a somewhat hot take considering how Broadway had Ian Gillan (the lead singer of Deep Purple, one of the best singers I've ever heard) and Murray Head, but Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson just do a better job all around. Yvonne Elliman was retained, and the movie is better for it.

The basic framing device is that this is a group of American performers who came to put on a performance (for no audience, and with no visible backing band) in the Holy Land of a really controversial musical. This really only comes about in the very beginning and the very end, but it's kinda helpful to show a) how long the message of Christ has lasted and b) this could be just about anyone. It's also useful for explaining why the sets, outfits, and props are the way they are in the movie. Right about the time the cast starts unloading assault rifles from their groove bus, it's immediately apparent why people love this movie, why people protested this movie, and why people have trouble taking this movie seriously. The movie was made by a group of amateurs, and it shows in a number of scenes, but cinematographer Douglas Slocombe wasn't one of them. His fantastic work, subtle in some cases and ostentatious in other shots, is excellent at building the story and showcasing the drama in the work. He later went on to do the first three movies of the Indiana Jones trilogy, which are pretty good from what I've heard.

Sure hope they use that thing responsibly
Heaven on Their Minds
Very easily one of the best songs in Jesus Christ Superstar, this is another bit of controversy, but it's important to have a song like this to let the audience know exactly what the movie is all about. Y'see, there are a number of "villains" in the passion of the Christ: Caiaphas and the pharisees, Pontius Pilate, John Lennon, and obviously Judas Iscariot. The musical makes it clear right from the onset that it will do its utmost to be as fair as possible to all involved, and to be at least somewhat sympathetic to the characters who have long been vilified throughout history. Even if it's not entirely sympathetic, you can at least tell what Judas is dealing with, and what all his hang-ups are throughout his song.

What's the Buzz
One of the things I like that the movie does is to portray the political struggles many of the people around Jesus were faced with in their days; the disciples were faced with more than just the salvation of humanity, but also political repression from Rome, and they wanted Jesus to lend more than a spiritual hand. It's also pretty obvious how 70's this is when listening to it, dig-that-funky-beat, etc. Let's appreciate that we moved beyond this sort of fashion, but not this kind of enthusiasm

Strange Thing Mystifying
It's debatable as to whether Judas is the main character; I'd still argue Jesus is the protagonist here, but they're almost treated as equals here. They both make good points in their argument, and it's the kind of debate that I kinda enjoy.

What's my guy on the left doing?

Then We Are Decided
This song was added specifically for the movie, as a bit of clarification as to what the pharisees were thinking when they decided to eliminate Jesus. In the musical, Caiaphas is left as an unredeemable villain, but this song makes it clear that he's conflicted, and has obligations to his people, and is only doing what he thinks is right. That doesn't make it right, of course, but it adds depth to a character, and any song that does that will earn a bit of praise from me. It does kinda leave Annas as a scheming vizier, though.

Everything's Alright
Definitely one of my favorite songs here - it's probably the sexiest song one can do in a tale of the Christ, by which I mean it's got dignity and sensuality. Yvonne Elliman was the perfect choice for this role (before she started doing meth), and her voice couldn't be replaced by anyone else here. Again, Judas and Jesus both raise valid points in their argument, and it shows how Judas' philosophical differences have reached a breaking point. One of the most dramatic moments in the film occurs at the end of the song, where Judas and Jesus clasp hands then let go and drift apart. It was the first time I could tell what a character was thinking without them telling me; i.e., each knows what will become of the other - but not of what will becomes of themselves.

This Jesus Must Die
This is where Caiaphas is forced to convince the other pharisees that they're going to have take out Jesus on their own, and it's one of the better ones in the movie. I don't know why Bob Bingham decided to wear a steamrolled Rubik's cube on his torso, but I guess that was just the fashion back then. I've always wondered if people liked to dress up like this, hang out on scaffolding, and bang their hands on the pipes like a bunch of rowdy schoolboys.

Perhaps the most forgettable song in the entire movie, it was still a pretty neat decision to have the camera freeze on Jesus' face when his followers ask whether he would die for them. The seriousness of the moment is somewhat diminished by the Looney Tunes marimba in the background. Take it easy for a hot second, Ruth Underwood.

Simon Zealotes/Poor Jerusalem
Now this is a showstopped. This is Be Our Guest, from Beauty and the Beast. It's about as useful to the story, too (which is to say, not particularly). I just love experiencing all the time and effort that goes into something like this; look at the athleticism of the dancers, the complexity of the choreography, and the sheer unrestrained energy of Larry Marshall. This also led to my dad explaining the subtler aspects, like the presence of the Roman guards signifying the approaching political dispute that will end in tragedy, Judas fearing the growing hero worship. What if all these people are wrong about him? Ultimately, they are wrong: this is a song about missing the point.

Pilate's Dream
I'm one of the few Christians I know to find Pilate to be a sympathetic character, and this is one of the songs that convinced me. Pontius Pilate was a man caught in a very difficult situation, and succumbed to the people in an effort to do what he thought would be the safest thing for everyone (particularly himself). The movie never really explains what the deal is with his female companion, though.

The Temple
So far this movie has taken a pretty fast and loose approach with the final days of Jesus Christ, but that's alright. I don't mind the slight modernization of historical stories, as long as it's mature, carefully thought out, and useful in some capacity. The movie then decides to throw in gyrating prostitutes, grenades, and honest-to-Ted Neeley gatling gun. It's a pretty jaw-dropping sight, and not for the intended reasons. It's then perfectly understandable that Jesus has such an outburst, and it's nice to have a movie where a powerful person absolutely believes what he espouses, and is not some corrupt lech who's willing to wet the beak just to make a few silver coins on the side. Mr. Pataki thought the follow-up songs featured Jawas.

Don't remember that in the gospels.

I Don't Know How to Love Him
It's pretty obvious why this is one of the most well-known songs from the musical; not only is Yvonne Elliman at the absolute top of her game, but the song is thoughtful, touching, and emotional. It's got that same thing that kinda bugs me about some of the songs in the musical, where they were clearly written so they could apply to any subject, thus giving it broader appeal to artists interested in covers, but I've warmed up to it over the years.

Damned for All Time/Blood Money
Right when I hear that distorted guitar, I know I'm gonna have a great time. You thought the grenades were a bit much in The Temple? How about a set of tanks chasing Judas through the desert? Even my dad couldn't explain that one to me. He was quick to let me know that no, there were no tanks in the Bible. I checked and it turns out he was right. Older mature viewers will recognize this song is built almost entirely on the riff from the 60's Batman television show theme song.

The Last Supper
This is a complicated one; personally, I feel it's an extremely underrated song. It's the emotional climax of the film, with Judas and Jesus both unloading on each other; it feels more like the dissolution of a friendship than a betrayal of humanity's savior. This is all the more difficult to pull off, because the movie hasn't ever truly shown Judas and Jesus in a friendly manner. I find myself listening to this song more than any other from the soundtrack.

Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)
Intended to be the big solo piece for whoever plays Jesus, this song is a surprisingly weak spot, even though scripturally there's not too many problems here. There's no way anyone could've possibly known what was going through Jesus' mind when he realized he would be crucified, and the insertion of the multiple depictions of His death is somehow dramatically effective at impressing upon Him the salvation He would bring about. My qualms are primarily melodic; even with the exciting moments, it's just not as great as even some of the throwaway songs here. I can't even blame what's going on during the song (just Jesus climbing a mountain and yelling at the sky). Pilate's Dream is one of my favorites and it's just Barry Dennen wandering around whichever nondescript ruins were assigned to him that day.

The Arrest
A shockingly good one here; it starts with Philip Toubus (who, with a name like that, unsurprisingly went on to become a prolific adult film director) and the other disciples awaking up and reprising What's the Buzz? and getting ready to defend their leader. Shame they don't actually have swords, because Jesus tells them to drop their swords. I know Ted Neeley covers well by saying this to a Roman centurion (who is armed), but this was clearly supposed to be directed to his disciples, who made the distinctly impolite move to cut off a Roman's ear (big party foul in the Middle East back then). Then it proceeds to show Jesus being accosted by the people as he's taken in custody to Caiaphas, and everyone holds their hands up to his face like they're holding invisible portable recording devices. I guess it's supposed to be a critique of the media, but as Judas will say later on, "Israel in 4 B.C. had no mass communication."

Peter's Denial
I don't know why I like this song so much, it's practically a throwaway song, it's a recycled melody (remember Strange Thing Mystifying?) and it's not like anyone was begging to see more of Philip Toubus. I guess I just like their voices, whatever Yvonne Elliman is doing with her face, and that guy's sweet purple tank top.

Pilate and Christ
I don't have anything useful to say about this song, besides Christ uttering history's very first "no u". Pilate sends Jesus off to King Herod, who, if I recall correctly, was the guy who originally sent out people to kill this king of the Jews before he had even been born, acting on a prophecy (this is one of the reasons Jesus was born in secret). Sounds like a real evil jerk, I can only imagine what his song is like.

King Herod's Song
Hoo boy, where do I even start? The movie's tone flits back and forth between serious dramatic portrayals of scripture and...whatever this is supposed to be. Don't get me wrong, it was one of my favorite songs when I first saw it, and it's a kinda catchy beat. It just misses the entire point of Herod, and is a complete departure from the (somewhat) serious tone of (most of) the rest of the movie. The choreography is pretty damn good, but I can't get over a movie giving the principal from Billy Madison his own song - shirtless, I might add.

Could We Start Again Please?
This is a song that was fairly obviously added in to lengthen the movie's run time, but I don't have too much against it. It's a decent song, and it shows how much Mary and the disciples lament the end of not just their following, but their friendship. Unfortunately, it's another one of those songs where it could be about any subject, and it would still make sense. I guess I just like a little specificity in my music. I can't get over Philip Toubus' name. It's too perfect.

Judas' Death
It would be a really cheap out to just bring up the Batman theme again, so instead I'll focus on the intensity of this song. It's not just the beginning; the part right after the quiet section is excellent in showing how Judas' mind is swimming, how he feels like he's the one who's been used - not by the pharisees, but by God Himself. The sound the guitar makes still sends shivers up and down my spine. I still don't know how Norman Jewison accomplished the effect of Judas hanging himself.

Trial Before Pilate
This is it. The big one. The climax of the entire picture. I gotta admit, this is a tough one to watch - but I mean that in a good way. It's not cheesy or corny or anything, the music is excellently written and performed, and it shows exactly what the main political dispute going on at the time was, and why Pilate is stuck between several rocks and a hard place. The 39 lashes, though, are shockingly hard to watch. I remember sitting through The Passion of the Christ, and that was pretty rough, but one of the things the movie never shows is anyone reacting realistically to Jesus's injuries. Ted Neeley's own mother couldn't watch this scene. I still don't know what's up with Pilate's female companion(s).

Look, now there's more of 'em!
This is a great song, and it's obvious why it was one of the lead singles, but I don't know why it's interspersed with the road to crucifixion. These scenes are remarkably difficult to watch, and it's a shame because Superstar is one of the best songs in the movie, and you can tell how much fun everyone is having. Personally, I haven't got anything to say about the crucifixion scene. It's almost exactly what you'd expect. In the end, it's nice to see everyone get on the bus in their street clothes, adding another element of humanity. One of my favorite parts is seeing the shepherd at the end - who was completely unplanned and unexpected by the crew, by the way.

Fitzcarraldo: Conquistador of the Useless

Director: Werner Herzog
Writer: Werner Herzog
Starring: Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale
Music by: Popol Vuh

Fitzcarraldo is a movie about a guy who drags a boat up a hill.

When Harry Met Sally...Ringing in the New Year by Going Completely Off-Brand

Year of release: 1989
Starring: Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Buddy Hackett Bruno Kirby
Writer: Nora Ephron
Director: Rob Reiner
Cinematographer: Barry Sonnenfeld

2018 just has to be the year. I don't know what it'll be the year for, but it oughta be the year for something really special. Anything can happen; we got the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs, we got a failed gameshow host as U.S. President, and I hear tell they might even be bringing back Animaniacs. The human race is precipitously balanced on the edge of a razor blade, or maybe we're skating on thin ice, or perhaps we're dancing a waltz on a powder keg, or we could just be doing none of those extremely stupid, dangerous things and there isn't a superfluous metaphor to apply to society these days, try as we might. Maybe it's because I watched Good Girls Revolt, witnessed talking heads on the news debate whether the United States would turn North Korea into a concrete parking lot or vice versa, and saw the Iranian protests, but it seems like the world is just raring for a revolution of some sort. People sure would like to belong to one. The populace desires change. As usual, I've got just the thing.

Folks, it's time to for us, as a species, to watch more Rob Reiner movies.

50 Shades of Grey - Whips, Nips, and the Drizzling Shits

I wasn’t planning on writing a review for this shit. Fifty Shades of Grey is two (!) hours and nine (!) minutes long. Dozens of scathing deconstructions already exist, both for the books and the movie. Some of those reviews were written by people with far better knowledge on BDSM and romantic relationships than I. I was just going to get reeeeally high, watch the movie, laugh a lot, and go to bed. It was supposed to be easy. Fun. A lighthearted romp with a movie that grossed 167 million God-Bless-America dollars and received a steady 25% on RottenTomatoes. The leading pair were known to have no chemistry, and supposedly the book author had a total stranglehold on production. It was incidentally nominated for an actual, honest-to-god Academy Award. This should have been great! I love pig slop that’s easy to point and laugh at- that’s why I’m here. Plus, I’d already read the books. And by ‘read the books,’ I mean ‘floated in a pool listening to the audiobook.’ Really, who has time to read actual books nowadays? Not this mess of a human being, that’s for sure.

So here I am, taking deep breaths and readying my brain for the onslaught. These next couple hours surely won’t be intellectually stimulating, but they might at least be pleasantly bad. And hey! I hear people get naked!

Silent Hill 3 - Just a Little Bit Overrated

Taking a break from my massive Tekken retrospective, I deigned to play the original Silent Hill  a couple days ago. It still holds up as one of my favorite games ever made, and my pick for the scariest game ever made. Even though the 1999 PS1-era graphics make it look like the Blocky Horror Picture Show, the first Silent Hill game is fascinating in just how well it succeeds at creating an effectively chilling, horrific atmosphere. There are flaws, to be sure; the aforementioned graphical limitations do no favors unless one is into that sort of thing (like I am), the voice acting is about as bad as one might expect for a PS1-era survival horror game, and it's a bit hard to buy the idea of an all-powerful cult when you only see one of its members, yet I find myself replaying it at least once a year to remind myself just how scary it is and how engrossing the atmosphere is. Silent Hill to be one of the absolute finest games ever made.

Fantasia 2000

Fantasia 2000

Fantasia was released some 77 years ago, a result of Walt Disney's misreading of the citizenry's support for animation. What should have been the zenith of Joe Public's recognition of animation as high art was instead a masterpiece that didn't make any profit until 1969 - 29 years after its initial release - and even then it was released as a sort of gimmick with a psychedelic-styled advertising campaign (if you need drugs to enjoy Fantasia, there is something dangerously wrong with you). Featuring some of the most beautiful animation the world had ever seen set to some of the most beautiful music the world had ever heard, with the entire crew working the hardest they ever had or would, the movie should have been the biggest thing to hit the art world, more powerful than a revolution - a giant steel obelisk standing as testament that none before or since would compare to the majesty of Disney.

But it didn't make enough money.

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers The Movie: Part 4

Film's Climax Produces Insurmountable Mental Breakdown

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers The Movie: Part 3

Mom so help me God if McDonald's gives me the Rocky toy one more time I will raise Hell of a biblical magnitude in that shithole and that clown won't show his face if he knows what's good for him.


Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers The Movie: Part 2

In which I continue to mock this movie for being a cash grab, knowing good and Goddamned well I had every single Happy Meal toy.

Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers The Movie: Part 1

Capitalism at its most radical.

The King of Iron Fist Retrospective Part 2 - Tekken 2

Tekken 2 poster

This is bullshit, Jeff. If you keep spamming the eye lasers I'm taking my Dualshock and going home.

UFC 200 - Return to the Brocktagon

Brock Lesnar UFC 200 weigh ins


The King of Iron Fist Retrospective Part 1 - Tekken

Witness the power of the Terrible Zaibatsu 

Mortal Kombat - That Sonya Blade Is One Piece of Ace

Actually written by Chris the Intern, I'm an idiot who posted it on the wrong account.

                                                                                                              Fan poster: Source

Chris' opinions do not reflect or represent the views of terrible blog dot net. 

God dammit Chris. 

Silent Night, Deadly Night - Santa's Watching, Santa's Creeping

Silent Night, Deadly Night
Directed by: Charles Sellier
Starring: Nobody
Release Date: November 9, 1984
Run Time: 85 minutes
Body Count: 13

In the Winter of 1984 a slasher directed by the man who created Grizzly Adams snuck into theaters. The poster depicted an axe-wielding Santa Claus going down a chimney and old white people were less than thrilled about it. It opened on the same day as A Nightmare on Elm Street and made more money at the box office, but the power of middle class white people was too strong to fight and it was unceremoniously yanked from theaters. So what is so special about this silly little Santa Claus murder movie? Why does this film have such a strong cult following, and why in God’s name are there four sequels? Let’s dive in. If the movie itself is even half as good as its name, we should be in business.

Jack Frost - The Most Important Film Duology Since Drumline

Santa's Slay - The Most Important Wrestler-Dressed-As-Santa-Murdering-People Film of Our Generation


Friday the 13th - It's Got A Death Curse

Friday the 13th
Directed by: Sean S. Cunningham 
Starring: Betsy Palmer, Adrienne King, Kevin Bacon, Not Kevin Bacon, Ms. Not Kevin Bacon
Release Date: May 9, 1980
Run Time: 95 minutes 

Body Count: 11 (if you include the snake)

In the late 1970's an exploitation filmmaker named Sean S. Cunningham placed a full page ad in the papers to drum up interest in a movie. He had no backing, no script, just a name: Friday the 13th ..."The most terrifying film ever made!" The name sounded cool and nobody sued him over it, and that was all the green-lighting he needed. He took the most memorable parts of Halloween and Psycho, sprinkled in some Kevin Bacon, and a franchise was born. 

Evil Dead (2013) - One By One We Will Take You. Again.

Poster by Trevor Anderson

Evil Dead (2013)

Directed by: Fede Alvarez
Produced by: Bruce Campbell, Robert Tapert, Sam Raimi
Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci, Jessica Lucas, Elizabeth Blackmore
Release date: April 5, 2013
Running time: 92 minutes - You know it's an Evil Dead movie because by the time you hit the hour thirty mark you're already seeing the soundtrack listing in the credits.

I’m very new to the series but Evil Dead 2 is not only my favorite movie in the Evil Dead franchise but one of my favorite horror movies period. In my research (i.e. Googling a lot) I’ve found the first movie is more or less forgotten, even among some horror fans. Evil Dead 2 is such a perfect "do-over" that it completely overshadows the original in the minds of so many people. Obviously I didn't see this movie when it came out, but I remember the fan backlash. "Why is this so serious? It's missing the point, it's supposed to be funny.” That’s all a load of shit. Sam Raimi didn’t testify in front of a court in the UK because the original was just so fucking hilarious. 

The fan response was all I really knew about this movie going into it. The most vocal people were the people who seemed to know the least about it, if they even saw it. You know, the people who weren’t going to be happy no matter what happened. They were furious about making an Evil Dead movie without Ash, but they would have been just as mad if they’d tried to recast him. Just imagine how hard they’d be tickety typing away online if some no-name actor had the NERVE to say “groovy.” They would have thrown molotov cocktails at the director’s house.

This is the rare remake where it’s not some company buying the rights (Platinum Dunes with Chainsaw, Friday, and Nightmare) and going down the checklist of what’s supposed to be in those particular franchises and hoping to double up on their investment. Raimi, Tapert, and Campbell all served as producers and Raimi handpicked Alvarez, a Uruguayan unknown who up until Evil Dead had made a Youtube short film.

Enough bullshit, let’s get into this. I love the first movie and it’s a cornerstone in the horror genre, but it had plenty of room for improvement. This one is long as shit and there’s plenty of violent gifs ahead, so if you don’t want to explain to your boss why you’re looking at a tongue getting forked by a box cutter, maybe wait till you get home.

Army of Darkness - Hail to the King, Baby

Army of Darkness (1992)
Directed by: Sam Raimi 
Starring: Bruce Campbell and Bruce Campbell 
Release date: February 19, 1933
Running time: 80 minutes

I tried to go in without thinking about the cult status or all of the hype I've heard about this movie over the years. It's one of those movies where even if you've never seen a single frame of it, it's so ingrained in pop culture that you know everything about it. You know Ash, you know the chainsaw, you know the boomstick, you know "groovy." You know most of the beats without ever even knowing who Bruce Campbell is. I tried to put all that aside and go in fresh. It's impossible to go in completely blind, but I'm only going in with a bit of knowledge about it. Most importantly the fact that it's not called Evil Dead 3 for a reason. I'm hoping it still retains a bit of the horror that made me love Evil Dead 2 so much without going completely over the top, but I get a strong feeling I'm not going to get any of it.