BBB THE GLASS CASTLE, WHAT HAPPENED TO MONDAY?, DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE, TWIN PEAKS (Season 3)

In today’s episode of Beers, Beats & Bailey, Ricardo Medina and I discuss the biographical drama “The Glass Castle”, the Netflix sci-fi action flick “What Happened to Monday?”, the Criterion Collection documentary “David Lynch: The Art Life”, the long and weird filmography of David Lynch himself, and the third season of one of the most iconic TV shows ever made – “Twin Peaks”.

– Matthew

BBB SAMURAI JACK (Season 5), ALIEN RECAP, ALIEN: COVENANT

In this episode of Beers, Beats & Bailey, we review the long-awaited final season of one of Cartoon Network’s best series “Samurai Jack” and Ridley Scott’s third “Alien” movie “Alien: Covenant”, in addition to recapping the long and ridiculously weird trajectory of the “Alien” franchise from 1979 to now.

– Matthew

Rainy Day Movies – “The Big Sleep” (1946)

Remember last April when I started a fresh category called “Rainy Day Movies” in my now-cobweb-infested blog? And the first review I wrote in it was on this sci-fi thriller from 1998 (which may or may not have consciously inspired “The Matrix”) called “Dark City”?  No? No one? Nobody remembered that? The name “Dark City” ring any bells? No, not “Dark Knight”…..”Dark City”. No, not “Arkham City”….. “DARK CITY“. Look, you know what? Go back to waiting patiently for “Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham” to come out (on November 11th and November 14th 2014 in the U.S. and Europe respectively for the PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Wii U, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Windows (WOO-HOO!!!!), Mac OS X and iOS) and leave me and my precious, cobweb-infested blog alone!!! Sheeeeesh. 

 

Aaaaanyway, today’s post is the second, long-awaited entry into a category I call “Rainy Day Movies”. Now a “rainy day movie” is a term that I may or may not have invented during a moment of extreme duress to describe movies that are best enjoyed when it’s rainy outside. Regardless of genre and decade, these movies must hold your attention from start to finish – to the point that you won’t even care if it’s raining cats and dogs or not. And it’s even better when the experience of watching a “rainy day movie” is heightened emotionally and/or physically by the cold temperature. Of course, you don’t necessarily have to watch “Dark City” or the film in today’s write-up on a rainy day, but believe me, it wouldn’t hurt to try.

 

I know at least two of you are probably thinking to yourselves right now: Why, oh why, am I writing about a movie from 1946 when I could be writing about “The Maze Runner”, “If I Stay” or some other recently-released tween movie based on a young adult novel that I’m certain I WON’T be reading due to lack of time? Well….I’ll tell you. “The Big Sleep”, directed by legendary filmmaker Howard Hawks  (“His Girl Friday”, “Rio Bravo”, “Scarface”– the original, not the 1983 one) will be opening the official return of Campus Film Classics on Thursday October 9th at the UWI Film Building, No. 12 Carmody Street, St. Augustine, Trinidad. An initiative of the (St. Augustine) University of the West Indies’ (my alma mater, by the way) Film Programme, Campus Film Classics showcases some of the best films from the history of world cinema. Screenings are free and open to the public, and will take place once a week from Thursday October 9th to Thursday December 11th. All films will be introduced by film experts, including staff from the UWI Film Programme.

 

As I will be actively involved in Campus Film Classics (and no, I don’t mean as an attendee), I’ll be reviewing one film per month from its 10-week schedule, one of which will actually be introduced in person by….you guessed it….yours truly. I’ll leave it up to you to figure out which film I’ll be introducing by checking out the CFC lineup at the end of this write-up.

 

And now, before you go into a big sleep, here’s my review of “The Big Sleep”. Yes, I will try to keep this review spoiler-free for those who haven’t seen this film. And yes, YOU’RE WELCOME!

 

 

 

“THE BIG SLEEP” (1946) –  “So you’re a private detective. I didn’t know they existed, except in books, or else they were greasy little men snooping around hotel corridors. My, you’re a mess, aren’t you?”.  So says Mrs. Vivian Rutledge, played by the recently-deceased Lauren Bacall, to Phillip Marlowe, played by Humphrey Bogart. “The Big Sleep”, based on the novel of the same name by crime-fiction novelist Raymond Chandler (and the first in his career), was the second film centered on the fictional private detective Phillip Marlowe, the first being the impressive “Murder, My Sweet” (1944). It is the second film where Humphrey Bogart played an on-screen private eye, the first being the noir CLASSIC (and one of the greatest movies of all time) “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), and the second on-screen pairing of Bogart and Lauren Bacall after the WWII romantic adventure – and Bacall’s official film debut – “To Have and Have Not” (1945).

 

The history behind Bogart and Bacall’s second film is a Hollywood story in itself. As soon as “The Big Sleep” wrapped production, “To Have and Have Not” was released in theaters. Critics praised the performance of Bacall as the sultry, boldly insolent “Slim” Browning, an American wanderer who found herself in Martinique (the film’s setting) from “TRINIDAD, PORT-OF-SPAIN” (her words, not mine!), and her on-screen chemistry with Bogart, which was further emphasized by some of her lines in the movie, a MAJOR example being the famous, steam-inducing double entendre: “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and… blow”.  “The Big Sleep” was also set for release in 1945, but got pushed back since World War II was drawing to a close and Warner Bros. wanted to get their war-themed films out of the way. Bacall’s next film was the WWII espionage drama “Confidential Agent”. Released theatrically after the marriage of a 20-year-old Bacall to a 45-year-old Bogart (thus proving the age-old philosophy that men are NEVER too old to marry! Here’s looking at you, George Clooney!), the movie received negative criticism for Bacall’s “amateur” performance. Studio execs at Warner Bros., who still had an unreleased “The Big Sleep” in their hands, sought to save Bacall’s career by doing re-takes of particular shots that they felt didn’t match the insolent character from “To Have and Have Not” that made Bacall famous in the first place. The result was 15 minutes of new sequences shot by Howard Hawks and added into the film before its official release on August 23rd 1946.

 

The Big Sleep”, like the novel that inspired it, is famous for its convoluted plot.  One character’s death in particular (I won’t say who) was brought to the attention of Raymond Chandler himself by the director and the screenwriters, and even Chandler – the AUTHOR of “The Big Sleep” – couldn’t figure out who killed that character and why.  But as the late, great film critic Roger Ebert stated in his “Great Movies” review of “The Big Sleep”, the movie is about the process of a criminal investigation, not its results.

 

The story begins with Marlowe visiting the mansion of his newest client General Sternwood (Charles Waldron). Sternwood is being blackmailed over some gambling debts owed by his younger daughter Carmen (Martha Vickers) to Arthur Geiger (Theodore von Eltz), a collector and seller of rare books.  Normally, a situation like this would’ve been handled by Sternwood’s employee Sean Regan, but about a month ago, he disappeared mysteriously. Sternwood wants Marlowe to “get Geiger off his back”. However, Sternwood’s older daughter Mrs. Vivian Rutledge (Bacall) believes that her father’s ulterior motive is to locate Regan. And thus begins Marlowe’s journey into a seedy world of double crosses, blackmail and murder, whilst trying to avoid….DUM DUM DUMMMMMM!!!! “THE BIG SLEEP”. That’s death, in case you were wondering.

 

Howard Hawks wanted to make sure the audience didn’t know any more than Marlowe, so Bogart is literally in every scene in the film, thereby allowing the story to unfold through his eyes and the audience’s. This makes for an engaging and very entertaining “WHODUNIT?” viewing experience,  as you and Marlowe are trying to figure out who did what, who murdered who and why, and what the hell is really going on. And on the subject of Marlowe, Humphrey Bogart is FANTASTIC as the wisecracking, cynical private eye, and delivers some of the film’s most memorable lines (“Those are harsh words to throw at a man, especially when he’s walking out of your bedroom”,  “I collect blondes and bottles too”, “Wait a minute. You’d better talk to my mother”. SIDE NOTE: Die-hard hip-hop heads should recognize that last quote as one of the samples used in Eric B & Rakim’s TIMELESS “Paid in Full (Coldcut Remix)”. If not, then you are NOT a true hip-hop head!! More like a foot or ankle or something, but certainly NOT a head!!!.

 

Lauren Bacall gives a brilliant performance as the “spoiled, exacting, smart and ruthless” (as the character of General Sternwood describes her in an early scene) Vivian Rutledge. She starts off being cautious to trusting Bogart, but slowly and surely (and obviously in a film starring two real-life love interests) falls for his automatic charm.  Like her character in “To Have and Have Not”, Bacall shows off her singing ability, this time in the rendition of a piano-driven “forties song” during the latter half of the movie. This song (I assume the title is “Sob Sob Sister”), with its theme of a male spendthrift and blatant a-hole who treats his wife like absolute crap, is actually kind of unsettling (by today’s standards) when you think about it, especially with lines like “But when his wife said sweetie / What did you get for me / He socked her in the choppers / Such a sweet, sweet guy was he”. Uhhhh-huh.  However, the way the song is delivered (more particularly the use of Bacall’s trademark husky singing voice) makes this musical number oddly humourous, in a dark, peculiar, “so that’s the kind of music people were listening to back in the 40s. And they say “Blurred Lines” is misogynistic” sort of way. Anyhoo, Bacall’s character may be exacting, smart and a “tad bit” ruthless, but honestly,  she’s far from spoiled. Martha Vickers’ character Carmen Sternwood  (Martha Vickers), on the other hand, IS. Crafty, conceited and overtly sexual (by 1940s standards), Carmen is CLEARLY the femme fatale in the story.

 

The script by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett and Jules Furthman is  witty, clever and well-written. The musical score by iconic composer Max Steiner, isn’t as memorable as his compositions for “King Kong” (1933), “Casablanca” (1942) and of course, his GREATEST work – “Gone with the Wind” (1939), but its orchestral, melodramatic dips and swells matches the moody tone of the film perfectly. It should be noted that there is a presence of subtext in the film, cleverly weaved into its narrative to get past the censorship rules of the Motion Picture Production Code (or the Hays Code as it was commonly referred to). The novel’s sexual themes of pornography and homosexuality were altered (*COUGH*subtly hinted*COUGH) in the script to ensure approval of the film by the Hays Code. So if and when you notice a dialogue scene CLEARLY hinting at sex that ends up with the two fully-clothed, fully-consented adults bidding each other farewell and parting ways as if NOTHING happened, don’t blame the filmmakers. Blame the goshdarn whippersnappin’ sons of hussies Hays Code!

 

In the end, “The Big Sleep” is an excellent film noir, and one of the best entries to emerge from that genre. The complex plot will prove daunting to first-time viewers (I’ve seen the movie twice and I’m still missing a few pieces of its narrative puzzle to make complete sense of it) but I suggest that if you keep your ears and eyes open, try not to think too much about what’s going on, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, try not to sleep on it (just because the name of the movie is “The Big Sleep” doesn’t mean you’re required to doze on it), you’ll find much to enjoy with this movie. A tighter script would have elevated “The Big Sleep” to the status of masterpiece like “The Maltese Falcon”, but with superb acting, sharp dialogue, masterful direction and enough twists and turns to make your head spin, it comes very close.

 

MY RATING: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars (“Definitely see this movie. Best enjoyed on a rainy day“)

 

 

 

ALSO: As promised, here is the Campus Film Classics schedule for the next ten weeks.  Each film begins at 7 p.m.   For news of upcoming events, check out the UWI Film Programme Facebook page at:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/UWI-St-Augustine-Film-Programme/10150109075250321

Thursday October 9th – “The Big Sleep” (Howard Hawks. 1946, USA) – see long review above.
Thursday October 16th –  “Bus 174” (Jose Padilha, 2002, Brazil) – A hard-hitting documentary based on a real-life incident in Rio de Janiero involving a young man who held passengers on a bus hostage for four hours.
Wednesday October 22nd – “Moloch Tropical” (Raoul Peck, 2008, Haiti) – A democratically elected president wakes up to a violent revolution in this political satire.
Thursday October 30th – “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” (Robert Weine, 1919, Germany) –  Murder and madness follow the arrival of two villagers to a carnival run by a mysterious doctor in this mind-bending silent horror classic.
Friday November 7th – “36 Chowringhee Lane” (Aparna Sen, 1981, India) – A lonely Anglo-Indian schoolteacher is befriended by her former student and her author-boyfriend.
Friday November 14th – “Blue is the Warmest Color” (Abdellatif Kenchiche, 2013, France) –  The intimate relationship between a French high school student and a blue-haired painter are explored in this provocative, critically-acclaimed romantic drama.
Friday November 21st – “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” (Chia Ling-Liu, 1978, Hong Kong) –  Gordon Liu (“Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2”) plays the legendary Shaolin disciple San Te in a film widely considered to be one of the greatest martial arts films ever made.
Friday November 28th – “Sankofa” (Haile Gerima, 1993, US/Ethiopia) – A modern-day African-American fashion model is spiritually transported to a West Indian plantation in this powerful look at the horrors of slavery.
Thursday December 4th – “Ugetsu” (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953, Japan) –  In this haunting, unforgettable ghost story set in the 16th century, two peasants, blinded by ambition, abandon their families for a better life .
Thursday December 11th – “Brazil” (Terry Gilliam, 1985, UK) – The daydreams of a civil servant collide with the nightmarish reality of the totalitarian society he belongs to in this wildly original sci-fi/fantasy cult classic.
– Matthew

Rainy Day Movies – “Dark City” (1998)

Holy shit, that’s a lot of rain! If you reside in Trinidad and Tobago (i.e. my homeland), then you must be aware of the HEAVY rainfall that has devastated crops, disrupted traffic, left commuters stranded due to flash flooding and so forth during the past few days. The Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Office says that this constant rain is normal around this time of the year, and it doesn’t mean that the rainy season (i.e. my homeland’s version of winter) has started just yet. Even though the rainy season is two months away (give or take), you can anticipate to spend some days during that season – or before – sick from the flu, or sleeping in your bed, or complaining for hours about how shitty the connection speed is simply because everyone within a 10-mile radius is at home and online as well, or staring outside, pissed off at Mother Fucking Nature for allowing the rain to fall on the one day you planned to go out.  But if you’re like me, and you want to escape the rain-drenched, chilly atmosphere of the world around you for at least a couple hours, then it couldn’t hurt to enjoy what I call a “rainy day movie”.

 

So what is a rainy day movie, you ask? For one thing, it’s not a term that I invented. I’m sure that some other person in some other part of the world where rain falls on a regular basis uses that term as well. But for me, a rainy day movie is, simply put, a movie that you can watch while the rain is falling. Unlike the “popcorn movie” which is a film (usually action or comedy) that’s far from intellectual, a shitload of fun to look at, and best enjoyed while chomping down kernels of butter-laden, salt-laced, sodium-increasing, cholesterol-raising popcorn, a “rainy day movie” can technically be within any genre from any decade – as long as it keeps you enthralled even though it’s cold inside and rainy outside. In my personal opinion, a “rainy day movie” is all about mood. It can either put you in a mood where you’re so emotionally invested in the film (whether it’s romance or adventure or comedy or tragicomedy) that you could hardly care less if it’s still raining or not, or in a mood where the cold atmosphere enhances your movie-viewing experience, thus mentally immersing yourself into the world of the film, making you feel as “cold” and “moody” as the world, and its inhabitants, presented onscreen.

 

Today’s post is the first (and hopefully not the last) in a new segment called “Rainy Day Movies” – the idea of which, admittedly, I came up with yesterday morning while I was stuck at home thanks to the rain. In this segment, I’ll write about a film that you’re guaranteed to enjoy during wet, windy (sometimes), and worrisome (also sometimes) weather.  Obviously, you don’t have to watch the film ONLY when it’s rainy outside, but if Mother Fucking Nature ruined your plans for the day, you can do no better than curl up on the couch or lay on the bed and be entertained with a movie or two – or even three.

 

Keep in mind that this write-up is pretty much a spur-of-the-moment affair. So if by the time you read this review, the sun is out and it’s blazing hot, please don’t consider this post to be meaningless. With that being said…..

 

 

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From Alex Proyas, the director of the still-AWESOME 1994 comic-book adapted action fantasy “The Crow” (well-known for the ill-fated death of its lead actor, Brandon Lee), the 2004 sci-fi action flick, “I, Robot” (with a moody performance by Will Smith and a pain-in-the-ass performance by Shia “BUMBLEBEE!! BUMBLEBEE!! NOOOOOOO!” LaBeouf) and the dark and depressing-as-fuck 2009 sci-fi disaster film “Knowing” (starring everyone’s favourite Best Actor Oscar winner Nicolas “NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES!! AAAAAAAHHH!!” Cage), comes his neo-noir, sci-fi film “Dark City”. It stars Rufus Sewell (who people may remember, provided they gave a shit about the damn movie, as the evil vampire Adam in last year’s “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”),  the always-attractive Jennifer Connelly (star of “A Beautiful Mind”, “House of Sand and Fog” and “Blood Diamond”), William Hurt (star of “Syriana”, “Into the Wild” and “The Incredible Hulk”) and TV’s “24”‘s  very own Jack Bauer himself, Keifer Sutherland.

 

Rufus Sewell plays John Murdoch, a guy who wakes up one night in a hotel bathtub  with no recollection of how he ended up there in the first place. While trying to figure out what happened, and what his real name is, John gets a call from Jack Bauer…oops, I mean, Dr. Daniel Schreber. He warns John to leave the hotel from a group of men on their way inside. Before leaving, he finds the corpse of a mutilated woman and a bloody knife nearby. This sets in motion the possibility posed in the film that John may or may not be the killer. Anyhoo, the men after John belong to a mysterious group of male (or androgynous though it’s hard to tell due to their pale-white faces and bald heads) extraterrestrials called “the Strangers”. They have names like Mr. Clean, Mr. Book, Mr. Sleep etc.  Mr. Hand (Richard O’Brien) is ordered by Mr. Wall (Bruce Spence), the leader of the Strangers, to capture John.  It’s revealed early in the film that John was part of an experiment led by the Strangers, which went wrong resulting in the erasing of his memory. Also looking for Mr. Murdoch are his wife Emma (Connelly), a nightclub singer whom John was unaware he was married to initially, and a police inspector named Frank Bumstead (Hurt) who has reason to believe that John is behind a string of murders similar to that of the dead woman at the hotel. Meanwhile, John begins to realize that something is incredibly wrong with the city around him. It’s always night time (with no instance of daylight), the citizens instantly fall asleep at exactly midnight and then they reawaken with no memory of the day (or in this case, night) before. He then discovers that like the Strangers, he has psychokinetic powers (allowing him to move matter with his mind, and create matter out of his own thoughts) which he uses to evade them. Will John learn his true identity, and the truth behind the city, or will he be forever shrouded in darkness?

 

“Dark City” came out one year before the Wachowskis’ (then brothers) groundbreaking sci-fi, kung-fu, philosophical, cyberpunk, action hybrid “The Matrix” in 1999. And while the latter remains an influential film of the late 1990s, “Dark City”  is usually little-known and underappreciated. Which is a shame since this movie is fucking BRILLIANT!  It is SO brilliant that the late, great film critic Roger Ebert rated it as the “best film of 1998” (and on a side note, Ebert has his own audio commentary on the DVD for the Director’s Cut of “Dark City” which you should definitely BUY).  And that was a year that gave us “Saving Private Ryan”, “Shakespeare in Love” and “Life is Beautiful” ….. so yeah, THAT’S saying something! As I mentioned above, the film is part neo-noir and part sci-fi. The concept of the seemingly-innocent man accused of a murder which is part of a much bigger scheme is a familiar staple of noir films. But in “Dark City”, this concept is only part of a much bigger story. “Dark City” deals primarily with memory and being defined by our memories. Questions are explored: are our memories really our own, or are they someone else’s? If you committed a murder, and the memory of that murder was suddenly erased, are you still capable of murder? But to the Strangers, the real question is: do memories make us truly human? Like “The Matrix”, “Dark City” also deals with the perception of reality; Is reality really reality, or is just a figment of our imagination – or in this case, memory?

 

And it’s funny that I would compare “Dark City” to “The Matrix”, since in actuality, they do share some similarities, most of which are coincidental. OR ARE THEY?! Hmmmmmm.  For example, the Strangers are just as devoid of humanity as the Agents from “The Matrix”. On the subject of bad guys, Mr. Hand (played menacingly by Richard O’Brien) is similar to Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving). The scene where Dr. Daniel contacts John for the first time echoes the office scene in “The Matrix” where Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) contacts Neo (Keanu Reeves), also for the first time. John’s awareness of the false reality surrounding him, and his new-found abilities to bend that reality, resembles Neo’s path to becoming “The One”. But while “The Matrix” looks to Eastern philosophy, Japanese anime and Chinese heroic bloodshed films for inspiration, “Dark City” seeks its own from noir films of the 1940s and 1950s and German expressionist films like Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (which hugely influenced the themes and visuals of the film) and “Nosferatu” (evident in the make-up and costume design of the Strangers). And while “Dark City” is not as glossy, explosive and big-budget as “The Matrix” (even though its budget was around $30 to $40 million), it benefits from its dark, moody atmosphere, superb cinematography by Dariusz Wolski, solid acting from the entire cast, a powerful musical score by Trevor Jones and a well-written, well-crafted story by Lem Dobbs, David S. Goyer (who helped write the scripts for the Dark Knight Trilogy and the upcoming “Man of Steel”) and Alex Proyas himself.

 

This film has it all: bad-ass action sequences, heart-pounding suspense, creepy bad guys, ingenious special effects, memorable visuals and even a heartwarming love story. It immerses you into its world  and keeps you there until the end credits start showing up on-screen. It’s one of the best sci-fi films I’ve ever seen, and it remains one of my personal favourite movies. Long story short, you shouldn’t have to wait until the rainy season  shows up to your doorstep to check out “Dark City”. See this shit as soon as you can! You can even choose between the theatrical and director’s cuts, as either one is DEFINITELY worth your time and your butter-laden, salt-laced, sodium-increasing, cholesterol-raising popcorn. Recommended viewing on a rainy day by yours truly.

 

MY RATING:  4 1/2 stars of out 5 (“Definitely see this movie”)

 

– Matthew