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Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Iron Man 2 (2010)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Jon Favreau

Screenplay: Justin Theroux

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Scarlett Johansson

Genre: action adventure, comic book adaption

 

Senator Stern: My priority is to get the Iron Man weapon turned over to the people of the United States of America.
Tony Stark: Well, you can forget it. I am Iron Man. The suit and I are one. To turn over the Iron Man suit would be to turn over myself, which is tantamount to indentured servitude or prostitution, depending on what state you’re in. You can’t have it.
Senator Stern: Look, I’m no expert…
Tony Stark: In prostitution? You’re a senator. Come on.

 

Sequels are often created due to the fact that the original film was well received and the studio which made the film now sees an opportunity to make more money. When a sequel is conceived for this reason, the film is not a vehicle to continue the story of the first movie. When a sequel is made for the purpose of money, it is more than likely going to be  a failure. If planned, instead of forced, the sequel has the potential to out shine the movie that came before it. Iron Man 2 has failed its predecessor and its audience.

Iron Man 2 takes place six months after Iron Man 1. As a result of revealing Iron Man’s true identity, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is hounded by the American government to reveal the secrets of his technology. His refusal allows Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell), Stark’s competitor, to gain contracts with the government to build their own Iron Man model. While Stark battles the government, he realizes that the palladium in the arc reactor keeping shrapnel from penetrating his heart has begun to poison his body, which could ultimately kill him. His attempts to find a replacement have failed and the closer he comes to death the more he acts out. Stark’s true and few friends, Lt.Col. James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) try to keep Stark under control as the villain Ivan Vanko, known as Whiplash (Mickey Rourke), tries to seek revenge against Stark. With the help of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Stark finds the strength to fight Whiplash.

Almost every movie in existence suffers from plot holes. The trick to the plot hole is often how the director structures the scene around it. If the scene is fast paced, often the audience will not notice it and  if what is occurring at the time that the plot hole is revealed is remarkable in some manner, then the audience can be very forgiving toward it. The issue with the numerous plot holes within Iron Man 2 is that they are so up front and in the viewers face, that it makes everything that takes place in the movie seem ridicules. Movies such as Iron Man 2 are more than entertainment, they are a form of escape. They are not meant to be thought provoking. They are meant for the viewer to sit peacefully in his/her theater seat, munching on popcorn, and forgot that after the next two hours they must return to their lives. When a summer block buster movie such as Iron Man 2 pulls the viewer back and out of the element of the movie to question the legitimacy of a scene, the movies has failed miserably.

Iron Man 2 is riddled with plot holes. One example of a plot hole is that the organization S.H.I.E.L.D. is left looking weak and pointless (other than promoting a future movie). The movie gives the impression that S.H.I.E.L.D.  agents are, regardless of time or place, everywhere. The issue lies in the fact that whenever a problem arises the agency never steps out from the shadows to help resolve the crisis. This is most prevalent during the Stark Expo. When an army of Iron Man drones attack the audience the only agent that is seen is the Black Widow. While the drones are shooting at the crowd, she runs off to try to capture Vanko, who is not where she assumes he is. This weakness leaves  one to wonder why is S.H.I.E.L.D. apart of this film and what exactly are they even doing when they are needed most. Yes, S.H.I.E.L.D. is being rebuilt and recruiting new members but Iron Man 2 displays the fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. is not only made up of superheroes but of humans as well, which they seem to have plenty of. A second example of  a plot hole takes place when Lt. Col. James Rhodes steals an Iron Man suit. In the first Iron Man and now the second, a major feature of the plot is the reactor that is in Stark’s chest. The reactor is the power supply for the Iron Man suits and is according to both films, the only way to use the suit. The director seemed to disregard this and toss aside two major factors of both Iron Man films by allowing Rhodes to put on the suit and use it in order to steal it. This also raises the question as to how does Rhodes know how to use it? In the first Iron Man, a great deal of time was set aside to show the audience how Stark learns to use the suit. In a matter of minutes Rhodes steals the suit, fights Stark, and then flies away. Even if the director missed the opportunity to tell the audience that the suit had a reactor built into it that still does not explain how Rhodes can use the suit so perfectly and why the suit was not shut down with the computers in Stark’s lab when the Black Widow knew what Rhodes had done. A continuation of the pervious fact is that Whiplash is able to create his own reactor, that powers and is built into his own suit. Yes, Whiplash has done what might explain how Rhodes could have stolen the suit but he stole Stark’s suit, not Whiplash’s. The flaw with this is that in the first few minutes of the film, Stark sits before the American government and tells them that they cannot have the Iron Man suit/technology because the suit is powered by the reactor in his chest, therefore he and the Iron Man are one.

Aside from plot holes, Iron Man 2 is filled with instances that come off as more irritating then entertaining. One example of this is that the film is 124 minutes long and the majority of the action occurring at the end. That action goes on for roughly 15 minutes. The rest of the movie is used for character and plot development but sadly this information is given either too fast, too slow, or is irrelevant. A second example is the lack of depth to the dialog. While using the Iron Man suit and in pursuit of the attacking drones, Stark is given the worst one liner in comic book movie history. Stark tells Rhodes, “Drop your socks and grab your crocs, we’re about to get wet on this ride.” If Starks does indeed wear crocs, the character has just lost the respect of the majority of its audience.  A third example is what finally pushes Stark toward the end of the film to fight Vanko.  After telling Nick Fury that his father did not love him or show him affection, Fury gives Stark a trunk containing several items that used to belong to his father, one of these items is a home movie. While watching the film, Stark’s father talks to camera and tells his son that everything he has done he did it for him. Somehow after a life time of neglect it is these few words that begin to heal old wounds and give Stark the incentive to fight Vanko.

Iron Man 2 could have done what The Dark Knight did for Batman Begins, it could have been a well-thought out continuation of the story and an improvement of the movie that came before it. Instead, Iron Man 2 has more in common with Spiderman 3, then it does The Dark Knight. Iron Man 2’s dancing emo Spiderman moment takes place during his birthday party. While intoxicated, Stark begins dancing in his Iron Man suit. Not only does he dance, he shows the crowd how he urinates in the suit, and then shooting random things that his guest begin throwing into the air. Regardless of the film, every superhero must show a moment of weakness and at some point not use his/her powers for good but if this is Stark’s moment then the background music might as well have been “Staying Alive.” While this scene seemed as pointless as a dancing Spiderman, it helped allow Rhodes the opportunity to steal a Iron Man suit and give the film the chance to briefly discuss Stark’s issues about his father. All of which was incredibly pointless.

The climax of any comic book film is always the final battle between the superhero and the villain. Often it is this fight scene that can leave the audience begging for more or make them feel like they just wasted two hours of their time. Unfortunately for Iron Man 2, the final battle is short,  rushed, lackluster, and disappointing. The final battle may seem hurried because there is virtually no build up between Stark and Vanko. The villain, Vanko literally appears one day as Stark is racing a car, disappears, and then shows up for the final battle. With such little interaction between the hero and villain, Vanko seems to be more of an annoyance then an actual threat. At no point in the film is there a scene that helps establish Vanko as a true villain. The audience is given no reason to want the hero to defeat the villain. For many comic book villains their reasoning behind why they want to destroy the hero is often understandable. For Vanko, his motives are more juvenile then justified. Vanko’s reason is that his father and Stark’s father worked together on a project that would help create massive amounts of energy. Stark’s father wanted to use the creation for good, while Vanko’s father wanted to sell it and make money. For this decision, Vanko’s father was deported back to Russia. For this Vanko sets out to destroy Starks. Despite the fact that many crimes have been committed for less reasons, villainy requires more.

Iron Man 2 has a cast of well-established actors. While each actor has given noteworthy performances in other films, in Iron Man 2 many of the main supporting cast was either given very little do to or not needed at all. The best example of this is Scarlet Johansson as the Black Widow. For her role, Johansson is often seen more then heard. She spends more time catering to Starks, than actually fighting. While given only one fight scene, Johansson does the best she can with what is given to her. While taking place in a hallway, Johansson must fight through several guards in order to make her way toward the room in which Vanko is housed. It is during this time that the most over-choreographed fight scene in the entire film takes place. While using mediocre weapons that serve little purpose and performing acrobatic stunts on mere henchmen, the Black Widow character over does a situation that could have been solved with several punches. Sadly, Iron Man’s fight scenes were never given the amount of thought it took for this scene. If the director had paid as much attention to the final fight scene of Iron Man taking on Whiplash as he did with the Black Widow’s only fight scene in the entire film, then maybe the ending of the film could have been saved. The absence of judgment toward this lack of detail may be the result of Jon Favreau, the film’s director, playing Harold “Happy” Hogan. During the Black Widow’s fight scene, Hogan accompanies her and fights off one guard. While this adds humor, it also adds to the doubt of who’s best interest does the director have? His or the movies? Aside from this, the major problem with the cast of Iron Man 2 is that it tries to insert to many characters that will appear in Iron Man 3 and the Avengers movie. With so many characters it leaves the movie and the storyline a mess. As character after character is piled on, it makes Iron Man 2 feel more like an advertisement for other Marvel Comic movies then a true sequel.

At its heart, Iron Man 2 is a movie weighed down by a combination of plots and sub plots. The mixture of these plots clutters the film and proves to be another movie that tried to achieve too much while not being done very well. Had the director focused solely on Stark’s failing health and the introduction of Whiplash, the mess that is Iron Man 2 could have been avoided. In the end, Iron Man 2 is reduced to a typical Hollywood summer blockbuster. It is flashy, loud, packed with explosions, and beautiful women. While these elements are fun, the film has  lost everything that made the first Iron Man movie shine.

Iron Man receives a 5 out of 10

Side Note: After watching the trailer for Iron Man 2 I decided not to see it in the theater, which I believe was the best decision. From the moment you see the Ironettes dancing on stage you know exactly what you are in for, something pretty to look at but with zero substance.

Robert Downey Jr. is charismatic as always. Gwyneth Paltrow is whiny and adds little to the film other than screams. Sam Rockwell is one dimensional. Don Cheadle is flat and meekish. Mickey Rourke is given little to do other than smile a lot. Scarlett Johansson does little for this movie other than look good in a tight black dress. Samuel L. Jackson plays the same bad ass that has become his staple, only a toned down version. Obviously, the acting potential that the director had at his fingertips clearly escaped him.

Chainsaw Cheerleader presents a bias review: A Merry Fuck You Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized on December 20, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

Note: This review was not written to create an argument but purely as a means to provide an alternative to those, like I, who have seen A Charlie Brown Christmas one too many times.

Every year as September comes to a close a dreaded cycle begins. As Halloween and Thanksgiving have yet to be celebrated, the most frightening holiday of them all slowly creeps into commercials and stores around America. While the ghosts and goblins of Halloween decorations are put away the smothering begins. Christmas, bah! humbug!

The same classic Christmas carols blast over store loud speakers. How many times can someone hear The Twelve Days of Christmas before being driven insane? How many times can one listen to Frosty the Snowman before one becomes physically ill? But before then the commercials choke the airwaves with the hottest new toy or coolest of gadgets. They proclaim to parents that they can only be seen as cool or loved by their children if they buy them all the gifts they ask for. They declare that one can only truly be loved by their girlfriend or wife if they buy her diamonds. They state that a man is not manly enough unless they buy some useless piece of crap that is stereotypically male oriented.

I may not be Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch but I have such a dislike for Christmas. Like everyone else I buy gifts and visit loved ones. I highly enjoy the family time and love seeing family who live fourteen hours away or those who have fought in Afghanistan but still I hate it. My rationale is mainly reasoning and a dash of cynicism but my bias is not important. What is though are the films that are alternatives to It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street. Yes, there are films that are set around Christmas time but are not about Christmas. To this I will rejoice.

A great deal of films have been released that merely use Christmas as a backdrop. Die Hard, Rambo: First Blood, and Gremlins are by far the most famous of these films. Aside from being centered around Christmas, these movies help define genres and pop culture.

Die Hard (1988)

John McClane: You throw quite a party. I didn’t realize they celebrated Christmas in Japan.
Joseph Takagi: Hey, we’re flexible. Pearl Harbor didn’t work out so we got you with tape decks.

The Plot:

Off-duty New York cop, John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Los Angeles to met with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia) to try to save their marriage. Upon arriving at her office on Christmas Eve, a terrorist group takes control of the building. Knowing that the terrorists have taken hostages, McClane sets out to single-handedly rescue each one of them.

Die Hard is what Christmas movies should be. It is about family and celebrating the birth of Christ with explosions. Christmas  is very much a family holiday and as McClane kills terrorist after terrorist to save his wife, he proves that nothing says family quite like mowing down terrorists with a machine gun. I’d love to see Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) from White Christmas sing and dance his way out of a gun fight with Die Hard’s main villain, Hans Gruber. It is only McClane that can save Holly and properly introduce Gruber to the laws of gravity.

Rambo: First Blood (1982)

Teasle: Whatever possessed God in heaven to make a man like Rambo?
Trautman: God didn’t make Rambo. I made him!

The Plot:

During the Christmas holiday, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone), a former Green Beret who fought in Vietnam travels to Washington to visit a friend. Still haunted by Vietnam, Rambo is harassed and taunted by the town’s local police. After being arrested for vagrancy, Rambo escapes police custody and flees into the forest. The town’s sheriff, William Teasle (Brian Dennehy), is determined to kill Rambo and is consistently halted in such attempts by  Rambo’s guerilla tactics. Soon Rambo’s commanding officer, Colonel Samuel Trautman, arrives in order to try to save Rambo and the sheriff’s department from each other.

For reasons unknown, many do not realize that Rambo: First Blood takes place during Christmas. One must assume that the audience is awestruck by the seer awesomeness that is Stallone to not be able to notice Christmas lights and decorated pine trees. The images of Santa in the background must go unseen as the audience is blinded by the pure brilliance that is the character Rambo.

Stallone presents Rambo’s war ravaged persona with a deep troubled brooding that is accompanied by an actual lack of violence. While only one person dies in Rambo: First Blood, the only death isn’t even Rambo’s fault.  With a combination of well thought out action sequences and a fairly believable story, Rambo: First Blood not only looks at the miss use of power but helped show that seven years after Vietnam the American soldiers who fought in that war desperately still needed our help. This sentiment still echoes loudly today.

I could become preachy by saying that this Christmas as we are forced to gather with our families while eating and drinking to the point that would put the self-indulgence of the Romans to shame, we should be grateful for the poor bastards who took/take bullets for us. I could do that but the 25th brings a family load of guilt and we all know that day fills up our guilt quota for the rest of the year.

Gremlins (1984)

Kate: Now I have another reason to hate Christmas.
Billy: What are you talking about?
Kate: The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was 9 years old. Me and Mom were decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple hours went by. Dad wasn’t home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire. That’s when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He’d been climbing down the chimney… his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.

The Plot:

After buying a creature named Gizmo as a present from Chinatown for Christmas, a father has unwittingly given his son a gift that is an adorable little weapon of death. After ignoring the advice of the man that his father bought Gizmo from, Billy (Zach Galligan) gets water on his new pet. From this mistake, green scaly monsters called Mogwai take over a small town on Christmas Eve.

Gremlins is a horror comedy that is rated PG. With a rating of PG, Gremlins is often marketed as a Christmas movie for children, which must be part of the comedy aspect of the film. The movie was actually based on a children’s book called The Gremlins by children’s author Roald Dahl in 1943, which was published by Walt Disney. These same characters were often seen in Disney cartoons as the dopey eyed tiny creatures who tried to crash planes and blow up bombs while Bugs Bunny tried to stop them. I guess the true horror of this film is realizing how much Disney has shaped our childhoods. But on the lighter side it may be rather funny to watch the parent who just rented this movie for their child, be forced to explain to him/her why one Gremlin just blew up in a microwave, the second was ground up in a smoothie machine, the third stabbed to death, and the fourth was decapitated. But it is not the violence that may receive the most laughs but when Kate (Phoebe Cates), Billy’s girlfriend explains to him why she hates Christmas. As the above quote states, Kate tells Billy that her father died pretending to be Santa. Not only has a child just watched four deaths but now knows that Santa isn’t real. So, Virginia there is no Santa Clause because he broke his neck falling down the chimney.

Holiday Related Alternatives:

Bad Santa

Black Christmas

Jack Frost

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Nightmare Before Christmas

Scrooged

Silent Night, Deadly Night

The Gingerdead Man

Honorable Holiday Mention:

The Hebrew Hammer

 

Merry Christmas Everyone

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: A Reader Request: Titus (1999)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Julie Taymor

Screenplay by: Julie Taymor

Written by: William Shakespeare

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jessica Lange, Alan Cumming, Jonathan Meyers, Matthew Rhys

Genre: drama, period piece, play adaption

 

“Oh villains, Chiron and Demetrius. Here stands the spring whom you have stained with mud, this goodly summer with your winter mixed. You killed her husband, and for that vile fault two of her brothers were condemned to death, my hand cut off and made a merry jest, both her sweet hands, her tongue, and that more dear than hands or tongue, her spotless chastity, inhuman traitors, you constrained and forced. What would you say if I should let you speak? Villains, for shame, you could not beg for grace. Hark, wretches, how I mean to martyr you. This one hand yet is left to cut your throats whilst that Lavinia, ‘tween her stumps doth hold the basin that receives your guilty blood.” -Titus

 

Titus is the first film adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play entitled “Titus Andronicus.” Titus is a revenge tragedy that is one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works but also his most violent. Filled with brutality, murder, nudity, and  orgies, Titus peers briefly into the Roman empire. This gaze helps showcase the rapid progression of revenge and how it forces each character to cry out for blood.

 

 

Titus details the revenge cycle of a Roman general, Titus Andronicus (Anthony Hopkins), and the Queen of the Goths, Tamora (Jessica Lange). Upon returning home from a hard won battle, Titus takes his Goth prisoners to the crypt in which his dead soldiers shall be housed. In order to appease those lost in battle, Titus sacrifices the eldest son of the queen. While Titus was away at war, the king died and he is offered the crown. Refusing the title, Titus declares that the king’s oldest son, Saturninus (Alan Cumming) be crowned. After taking the throne, Saturninus tries to make Titus’s daughter, Lavainia his bride. Upon hearing the news, Lavainia flees the castle with her fiancé, Bassianus, the new king’s younger brother. As Bassiianus, Lavainia, and her brothers run from the king, Titus is filled with shame and promises the king that he will right their wrongs. With the absence of Lavainia, the Goth queen talks Saturninus into marrying her. With the power and the recourses of a king behind her, Tamora plots her revenge. With the aid of her irresponsible sons and Aaron, her black servant and lover,  Tamora’s revenge brings about severed limbs, rape, racism, adultery, cannibalism, murder, and violence on a massive scale. It is only when Titus is driven to madness that he gains the upper hand.

 

 

Titus Andronicus is very different when compared to Shakespeare’s later work. It was written during the era when the revenge tragedy genre was most popular, the Elizabethan age. Titus Andronicus is different due to several facts: quicker pacing, greater violence, more sexuality, and taboo subject matter. Despite these differences, Shakespeare still presents the taking on of complex themes and  the creation of multifaceted characters. Besides revenge, some of the themes that Titus Andronicus takes on are ones sense of duty, obedience to king and country, justice, compassion, and absolution. While true to the play, Titus is faithful to these very themes.

The film’s director, Julie Taymor, is a stage director. As a stage director, Taymor is able to combine the environment of the theater with the realism and effects that only film can bring. Taymor proves that theater offers a great deal for film. While combing the theatrical styles of British theater and the American method of acting, Taymor uses a great deal of visual imagery to portray acts that many would rather not see. The best example of this is instead of showing the act of rape, Taymor uses symbolism. As the two son’s of the Goth queen rape Lavinia, the scene shows Lavinia holding herself while standing upon a pedestal as two large tigers leap toward her. While the scene is shot in the colors of blue and white, it is easy to understand what has happened as Titus says on more than one occasion that, “Roman is full of tigers.” Taymor was once quoted as saying that these abstract images are meant to portray the interior landscapes of the mind.

 

 

The entire film is artfully arranged and uses a limited color scheme of white, black, red, and blue. This lack of color emphasizes each character and his/her choices. This direction also allows an ushering in of a mixture of modernization and ancient Rome. While Titus is a surrealistic take on the combining of two different eras, Taymor did not try to set the film in its rightful historical period or change it to echo our modern society. The director presents Titus as a world separate from ours. This combination includes costumes ranging from togas to jazz era suits, activities shift from hunting to playing arcade games, driving chariots to cars, and events taking place in ancient ruins to modern day buildings. While the Romans listen to jazz during orgies and speak over 1930’s styled microphones, the jarring differences do not take away from the fact that just like in the time of Shakespeare, human nature is still human nature regardless of the time period. This blend of elements is almost confusing when during the first ten minutes of the film the viewer is not completely aware that this was done on purpose. The opening scene of Titus takes place in a modern kitchen. As a young boy, who later turns out to be Titus’s grandson, violently plays with action figures an explosion blasts through the kitchen window. The child’s father then runs into the kitchen, scoops his son up, and exits the house. Upon exiting the house, the two enter an ancient coliseum just as Titus returns from war and displays his dead soldiers before them. As the film progresses, the confusion subsides and each change fits.

 

 

The difficultly with Shakespeare is that it often does not translate well to film. The dialogue is often too complex to be spoken in a natural manner. Titus has done what many films could not, it made Shakespearean dialogue seem like normal everyday conversation. What complements Titus and allows the film to achieve this is its outstanding cast. Each actor, main and supporting, is truly talented. There are very few actors who can take on the role of Titus. Anthony Hopkins easily shifts between a duty above all else general to a tortured father slipping into insanity. It is roles such as this that reminds the viewer why Hopkins is regarded as a superior actor. Jessica Lange as the Queen of the Goths, Tamora, presents her character with grace, a silver tongue, and pure hatred. Alan Cumming is enjoyable to watch as Saturninus. While coming across as insecure and impressionable, Cumming is able to add the childlike quality that helps define the type of king that Saturninus is.

 

 

It is clear that from the beginning of the film until its end that Taymor tried to communicate to her audience some form of social commentary about humanities lack of progression throughout the ages. While not coming across as preachy, Taymor leaves the viewer to make this connection on their own. If one disregards the message of the film, they still will be thoroughly entertained. One example of this occurs when Lavinia’s uncle discovers her silently standing on a stump near a swamp. After he begs her to speak to him, she turns to him revealing that her hands have been severed and replaced with twigs. Her uncle demands to know who has done this to her and as Lavinia tries to answer him, she reveals that her tongue has been cut from her mouth as blood pours from her lips. A second example of this takes place toward the end of the film. While sitting in a bathtub, drawing pictures with his own blood on sheet after sheet of paper, Titus hears his name being called from the garden behind his home. Looking out the window he sees three figures, two of which are dressed as tigers.  The figures call themselves the spirits known as rape, murder, and revenge. After briefly speaking to them through his bathroom window, Titus exits into the garden. Playing the mad fool, he pretends to not know who the three that stand before him are. Titus then invites them to dinner. It is this conversation that leads to the climax of the film, which ushers in cannibalism, murder, filicide, and Titus’s ultimate revenge.

While some may find Shakespeare dry, Titus proves that there is more to the playwright then stories of unrepentant love. In order to watch Titus one does not need to have to understand what the character’s are saying or even know what the play is about to begin with. Each scene is so neatly crafted that even if one was to watch the film on mute they would know exactly what it happening. One does not need to enjoy Shakespeare to enjoy Titus. The film is beyond any Shakespearean play that one was forced to read in high school English class. It is about the most primeval of human desires, revenge and how like a fever it peeks.

Titus receives a 7 out of 10

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Hunger (2008)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Steve McQueen

Written by: Steve McQueen, Enda Walsh

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Liam McMahon

Genre: biography, history, drama

 

Bobby Sands: I always felt that thief next to Jesus got off lightly.
Father Dominic Moran: Ah, but he recognized his sins.
Bobby Sands: Did he though?
Father Dominic Moran: Aye. Said as much.
Bobby Sands: When you’re hung from a cross you’re gonna say anything. Jesus offers him a seat next to his daddy in a place called paradise you’re always gonna put your hand up and have a piece of that.
Father Dominic Moran: Aye. Even when it’s nailed to your cross.

 

Northern Ireland is a world unto its own. In 1981, as cries of public protest fell upon deaf ears, many turned to violence in order to be heard. While Northern Ireland remained under British control, the 1960’s would see a period of ethno-political conflict titled The Troubles, which would last thirty years. At its core, The Troubles, brought about such vicious protest due to two key issues. 3,526 people would die due to the  fight over the relationship between Unionists (Protestants) and Nationalists (Catholic) and the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

With such dire times, it often takes a momentous event to speak to a people that have been deafened by violence. To evoke poignant change often most people must witness complete and utter inhumanity. But when in a world ruled by violence how does one speak to the masses when brutality is a daily event?  Change at times, can come through the smallest and nonviolent of gestures. For Bobby Sands, his body had become his last form of protest. As a last resort, while  locked away in Belfast’s Maze prison, Bobby starves himself to death to protest the cause he believes in to his very last breath.

Hunger  follows the journey of the last six weeks of Provisional Republican Army (IRA) member, Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender). As the IRA fights to reclaim political status, Davey (Brain Milligan), a new IRA prisoner that has just arrived at Maze prison, is labeled a “non-conforming prisoner” and is thus imprisoned in H block (a section of Maze prison reserved for IRA prisoners). Davey rooms with a fellow IRA member who, in protest, has smeared the walls and ceiling with feces. As his roommate shows Davey how the imprisoned IRA members live and the tactics they use to protest within the prison, Davey soon meets Bobby, the leader of the imprisoned group. It is Bobby who reinforces morale as the British controlled prison allows its guards to severally beat, degrade, and torture the men. Bobby leads the men through three different protests. The first being the Blanket Protest (which the men refuse to wear prison uniforms), second the Dirty Protest (which the men do not bath or cut their hair), and finally the Hunger Strike. It is the Hunger Strike that takes the life of Bobby Sands and eight of his fellow IRA members.

To understand why a man would starve himself to death is to understand not only how 1980’s Irish politics worked but how deeply Sands believed in his cause. After being convicted for possession of a firearm, Sands was sentenced to fourteen years imprisonment. While not being able to affect the political landscape outside the walls of Maze prison, Sands believed a hunger strike would draw attention to the IRA’s cause. Sands believed that in order to gain a great deal of publicity he and the other IRA members would strike at different intervals in order to prolong the protest. The aim of the hunger strike was to have the men declared political prisoners and to achieve some form of political standing. The British Government would grant all demands but refused to give them official acknowledgment of political status. During the three strikes nine men would die and sixteen prison officers would be killed (shot by hit men outside of the prison). Sands could not go to his government and ask that his people be helped. Those who joined the IRA were largely ignored and thought of as less then. As violence was answered with violence, Sands faith in his cause became justified as the British Government decided to imprison or kill those who stood up against them. Through Sands eyes, his death was the only way to draw attention to the treatment of his people at the hands of the British Government. At a young age he realized that if one does not speak for the group then non will. In Hunger, Sands reflects upon this as he talks with a priest. Sands tells the priest that once when he was a young boy, he and several class mates were running by a river. At the water’s edge a newborn animal had fallen on the rocks and cut herself deeply. The animal was slowly and painfully dying. The boys argued over  what should be done but they did nothing. Sands parted from the boys and held the animal’s head under the water and killed it. A teacher saw what he had done and punished him for it. Despite the punishment, Sands knew what he did was right and stood up for the animal that could not help itself. It would be his younger self, the boy who did what he believed to be right for the sake of the animal, that he would hallucinate about as his brain shrunk due to starvation. His younger self looked upon his dying self and stood silent. Neither giving praise nor rage, he softly took his dying self’s hand and comforted him.

Hunger is, video artist, Steve McQueen’s first movie. McQueen paid great attention to creating and filming beautiful shots. While the story is ugly, McQueen let the visual element of the film tell the story rather than the prisoners themselves. For example, not one word to exchanged between the prisoners and the guards. It is the violence between the two that speaks for them. This is best displayed when the guards line a hallway in full riot gear. As they smash their batons against their shields the camera pulls back to reveal a guard who has turned the corner, with his back up against wall, sobbing as he is revolted by the torture of the prisoners and the guards enjoyment of it. Another example occurs when the prisoners have gathered urine in paper bowls and then pour the urine out the bottom crack of their cell doors. The urine flows into the hallway. Shortly after a lone guard is seen mopping it up. The silence between the two warring groups declares that when one group acts the other will react (often in a brutal manner).

The true success of Hunger is that McQueen has done what few directors can, taking on a political subject without taking sides. While remaining neutral, McQueen focuses on the dark realities of the event. McQueen presents the facts and allows the viewer to make up his/her mind about the situation. Another high light of the film is that McQueen was able to portray Sands a neither a hero or a villain. The viewer neither pities him nor are they angered by him. As the viewer watches Sands slowly waste away, McQueen simply documents the process of his death. For any director to be able to accomplish this throughout an entire film is truly noteworthy.

McQueen took into account Irish folklore and used it to help explain the dying process. In Irish folklore, low flying birds are omens that foretell a change for good or bad. After Sands is seen puking blood, he painfully rolls over, and convulses. In the process of his image fading dark bird fly from tree tops into the night. The camera then shifts around the room, while still focused on Sands. The swooping motion of the camera gives the impression that the viewer is witnessing his deterioration through the eyes of a bird. This omen also appears at his death. McQueen never reveals whether this omen will bring about good or bad.

Hunger contains the longest shot in mainstream film. McQueen recorded in a single shot 17 minutes of unbroken dialogue between Sands and a priest. As the camera stays in the same position for the entirety of the shot, Sands and the priest discus the morality of a hunger strike. The length of the shot is not to bore or bother the viewer, it is important dialogue that explains why Sands has chosen to take that path he is on. It is during this time that the viewer will hear Sands philosophies and determination. It is the only time throughout the entire film.

In order to prepare for this scene, Michael Fassbender would rehearse the 17 minutes worth of dialogue with the actor who played the priest up to fifteen times in a single day. Having to remember 17 minutes of dialogue for a single shot requires a great deal from an actor. The ability to  achieve and master this feet says a great deal about the actor.

As Bobby Sands, Fassbender is astonishing. Fassbender has acted in 300, Inglourious Basterds, and Band of Brothers. Despite having been in a number of well received films, he is almost unrecognizable in appearance. After losing over thirty-five pounds to play an emaciated Sands, Fassbender can almost be compared to Christian Bale in The Machinist. While not as malnourished as Bale, Fassbender had clearly dedicated himself to the role.

For some the violence that occurs in Hunger may be too much. McQueen blatantly depicts the reported events of violence and  wicked punishments handed down by the guards of Maze Prison. The fact that the prisoner’s humanity was taken away and they were treated as less then at the hands of fellow human beings may be hard for some people not only to watch but to understand. One example of this takes place during the no wash protest. With over grown beards and long hair, the prisoners are dragged from their cells and held down so that a guard may cut their hair. Using large scissors, the guard not only cuts their hair but large pieces of their scalp as well. A second example of this takes place when several guards search the anuses and then mouths of the prisoners while using the same pair of gloves. Lastly, after being severely beaten, Sands drops onto the floor of his cell and rolls over with blood coming out of his mouth. The blood streams up the corner of his mouth, making it appear as a bloody smile.

Hunger is a retelling of history. It does not take sides but simply reports the facts. It is for you, the viewer to decide who was right and who was wrong. It is for you to ponder how far would you go to fight for something you believed in with all your life.

Hunger receives a 7 1/2 out of 10

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: SLC Punk (1999)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 4, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: James Mereendino

Written by: James Mereendino

Cast: Matthew Lillard, Michael Goorjian

Genre: independent comedy-drama

 

“I don’t know who started it and I don’t give a fuck. The one thing I do know is that we did it harder, we did it faster, and we definitely did it with more love, baby. You can’t take that away from us.” -Stevo on whether punk music started in England or America.


When I was an adolescent my parents moved the family from Rhode Island to Livermore Falls, Maine. Leaving the city for some little air biscuit of a town that can barely be found on a map. For those living in Maine you either enter the state by two means: you were born there or you vacationed there at some point. Maine is like a trap set for tourists. Once you vacation there you are more than likely to come back and never leave again. Living in a place that was an hour from a mall and two hours from a city can result in either two things: conform with the high probability of becoming a redneck or rebel and rebel hard. My choice was obvious. In a place where black people made up less than .50% of the population rebellion was only natural. I found that rebellion in music. Punk music.

Punk music bleeds into your soul and adds fuel to the fire that rages in your belly. It stands for something and falls for nothing. At its core it is about being who you truly are and telling people to fuck off if they don’t like it. It is not fashion and it is not a cliché. It is revolution.

Growing up in a small conservative religious town  just begs for the opportunity to relate to someone or something. That opportunity came in the form of the movie SLC Punk. I have watched this movie a million times and I will watch it a million times over.

The plot of SLC Punk takes place in Regan era Utah. The film follows the day to day lives of two punks, Stevo and Heroin Bob during the latter half of 1985. After graduating college with honors, Stevo is faced with the decision as to whether he will stay true to his own beliefs or start planning for the future. His father, an ex-hippie and now lawyer, applied for Stevo to Harvard Law School. After being accepted Stevo must choose between not having a future and Harvard Law School. Proclaiming his father to be a sellout, Stevo fights against his future, while doing so with his best friend, Heroin Bob. Bob’s nickname is ironic due to the fact that he hates needles and does not believe in any use of chemicals other then smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol. As the two spend most of their time going to concerts, parties, and fighting with members of other subcultures Stevo begins to feel that the punk scene is turning lame as it is being corrupted by poseurs. While being shaped by their parents and the environment in which they live, the two are going nowhere fast.

SLC Punk is based on the life of the films writer/director, James Mereendino and focuses on his  experiences growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah. While SLC Punk is not autobiographical, many of the characters in the film are based on real people that Mereendino knew. Many of the events that take place during the film are true but they have been exaggerated to help further the message of the movie. The character of Stevo is based on Mereendino but he is named after Stephen Egerton, who played in the Salt Lake City punk band Massacre Guys. Egerton would later go on to join the Descendants.

The major question that SLC Punk raises is how do we grow up without selling out? How does one stay hardcore and still have hope for the future? In the end, regardless of one’s lifestyle, we all need to find away to feed ourselves, cloth ourselves, and afford shelter. For the majority of societies the only way to achieve this is to earn money. Earning money means getting a job and getting a job means following someone else’s rules. In the end we are all sellouts. We compromise our beliefs a little each day in order to live. The greatest example of this is the parents of Stevo. Like most children born in the 70’s and 80’s we had the major chance of our parents being hippies. The hippies started a movement based on love, peace, and freedom. Now they are older and the vast majority have compromised everything they stood for. They are now their parents. The exact thing they rebelled against in the first place.

For Stevo, his once hippie father wants him to attend Harvard Law School just as he did. Seeing his son’s rebellion as a phase, he tries to convince him he is not selling out to the system but buying in. This can best be explained by the following dialog:

Stevo: Wait, time out. I just wanted to ask real quick, if I can. You believe in rebellion, freedom and love, right?
Mom: Absolutely, yes.
Dad: Rebellion, freedom, love.
Stevo: You two are divorced. So love failed. Two: Mom, you’re a New Ager, clinging to every scrap of Eastern religion that may justify why the above said love failed. Three: Dad, you’re a slick, corporate, preppy-ass lawyer. I don’t really have to say anything else about you do I, dad? Four: You move from New York City, the Mecca and hub of the cultural world to Utah! Nowhere! To change nothing! More to perpetuate this cycle of greed, fascism and triviality. Your movement of the people, by and for the people got you… nothing! You just hide behind some lost sense of drugs, sex and rock and roll. Ooooh, Kumbaya! I am the future! I am the future of this great nation which you, father, so arrogantly saved this world for. Look, I have my own agenda. Harvard, out. University of Utah, in. I’m gonna get a 4.0 in damage. I love you guys! Don’t get me wrong, it’s all about this. But for the first time in my life, I’m 18 and I can say “FUUUUUCK YOU!”
Dad: Steven, I didn’t sell out son. I bought in. Keep that in mind. That kid’s gonna make a hell of a lawyer, huh?
Mom: Yeah, he takes after his father. He’s a son of a bitch.
Dad: Well fuck you dear.

A major highlight of SLC Punk is the dialog. It is not only filled with quotable lines but nothing is added for the sake of being funny or outrageous. Every word is spoken from the heart. Here are a few example of this:

Stevo: Posers were people who looked like punks but they did it for fashion. And they were fools, they’d say “Anarchy in the UK.” What the fuck’s that? Anarchy in the UK. What good is that to those of us in Utah, America? It was a Sex Pistols thing. They were British, they were allowed to go on about Anarchy in the UK. You don’t live your life by lyrics.

Stevo: You see life is like that. We change, that’s all. You see, the guy I am now is not the guy I was then. If the guy I was then met the guy I am now he’d beat the shit out of me. Those are the facts.

Stevo: To be an anarchist in Salt Lake City was certainly no easy task, especially in 1985. And having no money, no job, no plans for the future, the true anarchist position was in itself a strenuous job.

Stevo: I rest my case on this: In a country of lost souls rebellion comes hard. But in a religiously oppressive city, where half its population isn’t even of that religion, it comes like fire.

Stevo: The Fight: What does it mean and where does it come from? An Essay: Homosapien. A man. He is alone in the universe. A punker. Still a man. He is alone in the universe, but he connects. How? They hit each other. No clearer way to evaluate whether or not you’re alive. Now. Complications. A reason to fight. Somebody different. Difference creates dispute. Dispute is a reason to fight. Now, to fight is a reason to feel pain. Life is pain. So to fight with reason is to be alive with reason. Final analysis: To fight, a reason to live. Problems and Contradictions: I am an anarchist. I believe that there should be no rules, only chaos. Fighting appears to be chaos. And when we slam in the pit a show it is. But when we fight for a reason, like rednecks, there’s a system, we fight for what we stand for, chaos. Fighting is a structure, fighting is to establish power, power is government and government is not anarchy. Government is war and war is fighting. The circle goes like this: our redneck skirmishes are cheap perversions of conventional warfare. War implies extreme government because wars are fought to enforce rules or ideals, even freedom. But other people ideals forced on someone else, even if it is something like freedom, is still a rule; not anarchy. This contradiction was becoming clear to me in the fall of ’85. Even as early as my first party, “Why did I love to fight?” I framed it, but still, I don’t understand it. It goes against my beliefs as a true anarchist. But there it was. Competition, fighting, capitalism, government, THE SYSTEM. That’s what we did. It’s what we always did. Rednecks kicked the shit out of punks, punks kicked the shit out of mods, mods kicked the shit out of skinheads, skinheads took out the heavy metal guys, and the heavy metal guys beat the living shit out of new wavers and the new wavers did nothing. What was the point? Final summation? None.

One important aspect that is used to help explain the social order of the cliques that are represented  in the film comes in the form of a long monologue by Stevo (written about in the above paragraph). Each different group is referred to as a “tribe”. The Tribes are explained and placed in the order of who fights with who. SLC Punk focuses mainly on the punk tribe but goes into detail about the tribes known as the Mods, Rednecks, Nazis, Heavy Metal Guys, and New Wavers.  Talking about these different groups help explain how the punk tribe is different and why the things that separate them from the other tribes help make them who they are. Having an understanding of who they are as part of the punk tribe helps them realize what they stand for and who to take their aggression out on. This also helps support why punk music is so important for those of the punk tribe. Understanding the concept of the tribe helps give insight into Stevo and Bob.

SLC Punk has received criticism from some viewers. The major issue that is often discussed is that Matthew Lillard plays Stevo. It is these viewers who have claimed that SLC Punk is a poseur in the punk film genre because Lillard plays the main character. With such complaints, one  begins to feel that these are the same people who argue that someone isn’t punk enough if they do not dress the part. To me, these people are like the cool kids in high school, they dismiss you because you do not look them. Judging simply by looks is more poseur then having Lillard in the film. After all punk is about the music and not about fashion. To dismiss people who like and/or believe in the same movement as they do is acting like the very thing that they have rebelled against. There is no reason to question the legitimacy of SLC Punk due to the fact that Lillard is part of the cast. He is an actor. Had he been an actual member of the punk movement or an individual who played in a punk band, this doubt  may have seemed more rational.

Lillard’s performance outshines the normal teen movies he has acted in. It is also sad. Lillard’s acting in SLC Punk is fun and energetic. He lays bare all the emotions of his character easily and with such high energy. Some may see this as campy but he does so with such sincerity that he completes the character without making him look like a fool. A high light of  his acting is the narration he gives throughout the film. The narration enables the viewer to be able to look deeper into the character. The film can easily be described as chaotic but with Lillard’s narration, he pulls the entire movie together and gives it some order. The reason why this is sad is that Lillard’s acting is fantastic. SLC Punk shows the viewer that Lillard can act but he is often given roles that do not require skilled acting. Lillard’s films are often movies for tweens or teens. Lillard maybe better known for acting in the Scooby-Doo franchise, Scream, and National Lampoon styled movies. These types of films maybe all that Lillard is offered and that is sad because he can clearly do more then what is asked of him.

Every great movie about punk music and the life style must have an even greater soundtrack.  SLC Punk features the standards of punk music, the bands that everyone knows and loves. The Stooges, The Ramones, and Dead Kennedys are by far the most recognizable bands played throughout the movie. Other bands such a Minor Threat, The Exploited, Generation X, The Specials, and The Adolescents are given a chance to shine. The placement of each song throughout the movie is placed during scenes that work with the lyrics. The song entitled “Gangster” by The Specials is about police officers and their abuse of power. As “Gangster” begins to play Stevo and Bob try to buy beer as a cop calls for assistants because he believes there is going to be trouble. The duo then begin to fight with the police that are deemed rednecks. The song “She Loved like Diamond” by Spandau Ballet is a song about the death of the subject of the song. “She Loved like Diamond” plays during a scene where a New Waver gives Bob “aspirin”. It is this song that alludes to a very important scene that takes place toward the end of the film. Yes, Spandau Ballet is not punk but they are a New Wave band. It is important to remember that when the New Wave band plays it is a New Waver that gives Bob the “aspirin.” The music throughout SLC Punk is dedicated to telling the story of Stevo and Bob. For many people, music is life and by using songs to help tell a story, SLC Punk only furthers this opinion.

SPOILER:

SLC Punk neatly bring to a close not only the end of the film but that of Stevo’s punk lifestyle with the death of his best friend, Bob. For Stevo, Bob was more than a friend, he was his accomplice, his partner in crime. In the film Bob is the one who introduced Stevo to punk music and together they came to believe in anarchy. Bob was the reason that Stevo now lived as he lived and thought as he thought.

Bob’s death is ironic. Being anti-chemicals, was part of Bob’s major belief system. After having a severe headache, Bob for the first time since becoming a punk, asks for aspirin. He is given Percodan (which is a combination of aspirin and oxycodone), instead. After taking the drug while intoxicated with alcohol, Bob dies of an accidental drug overdose in his sleep. It isn’t until morning when Stevo enters where Bob sleeps, tries to wake him, and realizes his best friend is dead. Stevo quickly falls apart.

There are not many movies that make me cry but SLC Punk is one of those very few. Even after having seen the movie many times, it is when Stevo realizes that Bob is dead, questions his death, and then cries out, “Only posers die you fucking idiot!” that I cry. It is always that scene that punches me in the gut every time.

The true testament of any film is would the viewer watch the same movie over again and would the same emotions stirred by certain scenes be felt again with another viewing. SLC Punk accomplishes this and it does so effortlessly. I do question though if I am bias do to the fact that I am a rabid fan of punk music. SLC Punk is highly relatable for me but if someone related more to country music or rap music would they feel the same way as I do? I am unsure but the underlying message of SLC Punk is not completely about the music but about rebellion and trying desperately to hold onto your own beliefs as you grow older and try to find your place in the world. Regardless of any style of music, this is a universal message.

:SPOILER ENDS


SLC Punk is about rebellion but it is also about growing up. Not everyone may like punk music or like the message it may bring across but everyone, regardless of the music they like, has questioned everything around them. This movie is for the poseurs and the non-poseurs. It is for every kids who has grown up and realized just how fucked up their society really is.

SLC Punk receives a 8 1/2 out of 10

Disclaimer: The SLC Punk trailer does not do the film justice. The film is indeed fun but more serious then the trailer leads the viewer to believe.

Chainsawder Reviews: Downloading Nancy (2008)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 1, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

Note: Some may consider what has been written below to be spoilers but the final outcome of the film is well known and is used to describe the movie in its entirety. While the ending is apparent, much has remained unwritten as it is more important to the film then the actual end result of the main character.

Directed by: Johan Renck

Written by: Pamela Cuming, Lee Ross

Cast: Maria Bello, Jason Patric, Rufus Sewell, Amy Brenneman

Genre: suspense, dark drama, based on a true story

 

Nancy: It’s like walking on fake ground upside down, choking.
Carol: Oh, is that what you think love feels like?
Nancy: No. Death is like sucking pure oxygen.
Carol: And life?
Nancy: It’s like being trapped inside the wrong house looking for a way out.

 

No introduction, well-written or not, can rightfully sum up the act of suicide or murder. Life and the taking of it has been debated since man first realized how easily it all can be taken away. Death is feared and in some cultures honored. It is the end of everything and for some the beginning. For Nancy, her life can only truly begin the moment it ends.

The plot of Downloading Nancy focuses on Nancy Stockwell (Maria Bello), a woman who is deeply depressed. After being a victim of sexual abuse as a child, Nancy is still affected by this abuse in her adulthood. The abuse has come to define her and her perception of love and life. Nancy has moved beyond therapy, medication, and feelings. All that remains is violence, the only form of coping that she has ever known. Suffering in a lifeless marriage, her husband (Rufus Sewell) is so obsessed with his work that he does not even bother to make the effort to give Nancy what she needs. Nancy goes on to find what is missing over the internet. Believing that only death can complete her, Nancy searches for someone to kill her. Not seeing this action as suicide, she meets a man named Louis Farley (Jason Patric), who will complete her.  After telling her husband that she is leaving to see friends, Nancy travels to meet with Louis. After realizing he had not heard from his wife after nearly a week, he begins to search for the answers that at one time he could have cared less to seek out.

Downloading Nancy is based on the true story of the death of Sharon Lopatka. In 1996, Lopatka used the internet to search for a man that would torture and then kill her. In her search she found several people who showed interest but quickly backed away from her request. After exchanging a number of e-mails with a man named Robert Glass, the two agreed to met in North Carolina. Glass agreed to fulfill Lopatka’s request and strangled her with a nylon cord after torturing her for a great length of time. Four years later Glass would plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter. The death of Lopatka is the first recorded case were the internet was used as a tool to commit consensual homicide.

To understand Nancy is to understand her view of existence and how she exists in the world. Her existence is defined by finding herself and the meaning of her life through free will and choice. In her search to understand who and what she is, she makes choices based on her beliefs and experiences. Her choices become distinctive regardless of any form of truth. Nancy believes she has come to the point where she must choose a final solution and while being responsible for that choice she will do so without the help of societies fundamental  beliefs of death.  When the viewer begins to understand Nancy’s belief of her own existence her choice of death becomes easier to comprehend. This comprehension forges sympathy.

The film is shot in a documentary fashion that still feels like a normal film but pulls the viewer in. Certain camera angles feel purposely shot in order to comes across as being as if the audience was there in the room with Nancy. The movie does not follow the traditional trappings of normal documentary styled films. The shots flow smoothly from scene to scene. This is only complimented by the use of drab colors that give the film a lifeless feel. The dull color tone of the film portrays the message that there is no hope or healing for Nancy. This use of or lack of use of color creates an emotional impact as it prepares the viewer for the enviable.

Maria Bello, who plays Nancy, gives a performance that can only be dreamt about by lesser actresses. There is no one word to describe Bello’s performance other than perfect. She fully embraces the role of Nancy. Every emotion seems genuine. Every word spoken seems as  if it comes from the heart. Every action and gesture serves a purpose. It takes a great deal for me to speak so passionately about any actress. Over the past couple of years I have grown very cynical of many of the actresses in Hollywood. Beauty has replaced the actual ability to act. Acting is meant to be an art form. There is much more to it than reciting lines while looking pretty. Bello is a wonderful reminder that real actresses still do exist within such a superficial world.

The reviews for Downloading Nancy have been shaped due to ones level of empathy. Those who feel for Nancy have given the movie rave reviews. Those who saw the film as simply torture porn could not see past Nancy’s enjoyment of the pain she received from Louis. The pleasure she receives from the pain is not the point of the movie but merely a side note. It is a key to understanding why she seeks death. Some mistake the images of pleasure as sexual. When one lacks the emotional ability to feel, pleasure can be expressed through the act of feeling something, feeling anything. Having the ability to understand or relate to another’s  life experiences gives Downloading Nancy a depth that many may not see or dismiss. An issue that may confuse those who do not like this film is that certain scenes are so deeply emotional that they may be mistaken for something other than the complete bearing of one’s soul.

The end result of the film leaves the viewer wondering if they should be sad or happy for Nancy.  Is it pain you should feel for Nancy or something else? Having been sexually abused as a child and now living in a emotionally cold and dead marriage, Nancy can only feel through the act of cutting herself. She has died on the inside and it is only her flesh that waits to follow it. She finds so much happiness in the pain of torture because it brings her closer to death. Are we meant to feel some emotion related to relief for her as she dies? Death is something she seeks and begs for. She has come to terms with her end and embraced it with open arms. The film does not tell us how to feel. It does not hold our hand and guide us through the emotional journey that Nancy takes in order to be murdered. The film leaves the viewer to wonder  what they have just seen and come to their own conclusion as to how they should feel about and for Nancy.

Downloading Nancy is not an endorsement for suicide or homicide. It does not justify the taking of one’s life or the taking of another’s.  It has no message. The film does not set out to inform the viewer about a subject or tell the viewer how they should feel about it. It simply tells a story. Downloading Nancy is about the sad hopeless people it focuses on and their decisions. It has nothing to do with you or I. It has nothing to do with an opinion or belief. It is about Nancy and that is all it really should be about.

Downloading Nancy receives a 8 out of 10

Chainsaw Cheerleader Reviews: Reform School Girls (1986)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2010 by chainsawcheerleader

Directed by: Tom DeSimone

Written by: Tom DeSimone, Jack Cummins

Cast: Wendy O. Williams, Linda Carol, Pat Ast, Sybil Danning

Genre: exploitation, WIP (women in prison)

 

Truck Driver: Let’s play carnival.

Jenny: What’s That?

Truck Driver: Sit on my face, and I’ll guess your weight.

 

During the late 1960’s censorship laws began to lose control over artists and more locations willing to show questionable films became more abundant. It is during this time that exploitation films were allowed to fully develop into what they are now famous for. Quickly subgenres of these films followed. One such subgenre is known as women in prison (WIP). WIP films pushed aside any moral lesson often learned from pervious prison films and focused purely on male fantasy. While filled with graphic scenes of sex and violence, the WIP film often contains taboos centered around lesbian sex, voyeurism, sadism, humiliation, nudity, and sexual assault. Reform School Girls is one such film.

WIP films have certain plot elements that are included in each movie. Often these films have the same types of characters who are placed in situations that reoccur in films of the same genre. These plot elements include: a generally good girl who fell in with the wrong crowd being sent to a corrupt prison or reform school that is run by an evil warden, humiliating group strip searches, being sprayed with a firehouse while being nude, lesbian sex scenes between the prisoners and/or guards, female prisoners performing hard labor while being humiliated, sadistic punishments handed down by guards, girl on girl fights that often take place in the shower while they are nude, an escape occurs, a violent revolt takes place, and then the bad guys of the film are often killed in a gruesome manner. Reform School Girls does indeed follow these plot elements but never fully commits to how harsh a WIP can be. The main character, Jenny and those she arrived with to the reform school are subjected to a majority of these elements. The most sadistic this film becomes is when one girl is held naked against the floor of a bathroom by three other girls who brand her rear end with a heated coat hanger. Not to diminish the horror of that situation but the rest of the film is very lite compared to that scene.

Reform School Girls’ plot begins with an innocent juvenile named Jenny (Linda Carol). After being present during a robbery and murder that is performed by her boyfriend, Jenny is sentenced to the Pridemore Juvenile Facility until the age of twenty-one. Jenny enters the reform school with a group of girls that she soon becomes friends with. Their friendship is formed mainly as a means of protection. Upon entering the reform school, Jenny and her friends are shown whose boss by being humiliated by Edna (Pat Ast), who is the headmaster of the ward. The head of the reform school is run by a naziesque warden named Sutter (Sybil Danning). It is these two women who will show Jenny and her friends the meaning of control but they are not the only obstacles that Jenny will face. Charlie Chambliss (Wendy 0. Williams) is the leader of a gang of girls who has an oddly close relationship with Edna. Charlie has declared herself leader of the school and tries to put Jenny in her place as she refuses to take any of her harsh punishments.

Reform School Girls was marketed as a satire of WIP films. After having watched the movie it is very difficult to tell whether this is true or not. One may assume that the marketing team for this film had no idea what to do with it and tried to pass it off as satire. The reason for this is that at times Reform School Girls is funny. With certain actors, their acting is so over the top regardless of how serious the scene may be. Pat Ast and Wendy O. Williams are cartoonish in their behavior.  For the majority of the movie, the women that have been sentenced to the reform school wear tiny tight uniforms or walk about in lingerie. The lingerie and big hair can only be compared to a Motley Crew video.  The look of these women or of them in certain scenes is so campy it could be seen as parody. While being laughable in some areas, Reform School Girls is not as violent as normal WIP films but it does follow the standard plot elements of every one of these films. The major reason why it is difficult to tell if this movie is a parody or not is because the actors play their roles very seriously. The actors act as if this was a drama and not a joke.

The only reason why I decided to watch Reform School Girls is because the punk-rock lead singer of The Plasmatics, Wendy O. Williams had a starring role. Williams was known for her outrageous stage performances and outfits (often wearing nothing more than black electrical tap covering her nipples). Williams may better be known for being the first female singer to be arrested for simulating masturbation on stage. While performing this act with a sledge hammer, she was arrested and then punched in the face by a male police officer. I have always enjoyed The Plasmatics and Wendy O. Williams’ ten pack of cigarettes a day sounding voice. So, watching Reform School Girls was only natural.

Williams plays Charlie Chambliss, a juvenile offender sentenced to the reform school for an unknown reason. The role fits Williams’ personality very well. The role is over the top and extreme. Williams’ personality is nothing less. At 37 years old, Williams may have been the oldest juvenile offender ever. Despite her age, Williams could have safely been called a butterface at any stage in her life. I am sure even if she had been a teenager during the shooting of this film her face would have clearly made her look older regardless. The roughness of her face is well known amongst her fans and I am sure Williams knew herself but could have cared less. In spite of that, Williams knew she had a killer body and loved to flaunt it on stage. This clearly has translated onto film.

I cannot say that I have watched a lot of WIP films but I have a general understanding of them. Knowing how extreme any sexual fetish can get, I believe that Reform School Girls is a great movie for anyone who is new to the genre. Reform School Girls covers all of the points of a classic WIP movie but it does so lightly. It does not go straight for the extreme  but eases the new viewer in slowly so that he or she will know what is waiting for them with their next WIP film.

Reform School Girls receives a 5 out of 10

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