Movie Review: The Man With Two Brains

 

Last night, I was in the mood for another movie. I didn’t want anything too serious; you might say I wanted to watch something brainless. Sad to say, I got what I wanted.

A brain surgeon marries a living woman but falls in love with the brain of his deceased wife.

From the beginning, it tries to be Young Frankenstein. You have the mispronounced surname, running gags, brain trouble, and all that jazz. It isn’t Young Frankenstein, that much is obvious and painfully so at times.

I admit that one of my quirks is that I’m literal-minded at times. I expect that the title of a movie has to relate to the content of the film or at least name-dropped somewhere, with some exceptions. Here, I expected a man would undergo an operation and have two brains, a plot that would be funnier in some aspects. Nope. I waited and waited but it never came to fruition.

During the runtime of ninety minutes, I had three small chuckles. The subtitles gag was one of them and I forget the rest, probably because I stopped paying attention. That is not a good ratio. For a film that’s labeled as a “comedy”, it fails to live up to the label.

I suppose it’s no big loss. It only cost me fifty cents at Salvation Army. Right now, it’s sitting in the donate pile that will go to Half Price Books, when I feel like it. Just give me Abby Normal instead.

P.S. How is this my 150th movie review? I can’t believe I’ve reviewed that many films.

2/10

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Movie Review: The Atomic Cafe

 

I don’t know about you, but that outfit wouldn’t suit me. Too lifeless and intimidating. I’m sure some decals or stripes would make it more fashionable. Then again, I wouldn’t know.

Using original archive footage from films and themed music, we get a grim view into the attitudes of the atomic age.

For the time this documentary was made, the shorts and newsreels could be found in libraries or in abandoned storage areas. Now, there are whole YouTube channels dedicated to this kind of content and DVDs of atomic-era shorts (I happen to own one). From today’s standpoint, this could easily pass as a YouTube playlist without the ads every few seconds.

The movie has been described as “darkly humorous”. I expected it to reach levels of Dr. Strangelove; not so much, though it does end in a similar fashion. It’s rather dry until an hour in when we see children and young adults discussing what to do. Duck and cover. Duck and cover. Duck and cover. Duck and cover. Duck and cover. The information presented is a product of the time. Sure, we know better now but not so back then.

Speaking of duck and cover, the eponymous short is featured.

 

 

I found it entertaining and horrifying at the same time. The fact that the bomb can drop at any moment and that this precaution practically does nothing for long-term side effects. Besides, what are the odds that you’ll have to protect yourself from monkeys with dynamite on fishing poles? At least it has a somewhat catchy tune.

Now, it could replace The War Game on the 1001 list in terms of content and style. But is it enough? Probably not. If this kind of thing interests you, you can find it online. Otherwise, it’s a curious history lesson.

6/10

Movie Review: Videodrome

 

The spine on the cassette box blended in so well at the thrift store that I would’ve missed it. I walked into this movie only reading the entry in the 1001 book and handling the Criterion Collection print at a Barnes & Noble, only to put it back on the shelf when I saw the price. I figured it would be an interesting experience by watching a discarded VHS rental copy from New York on a flatscreen in the dark before bed. What could possibly go wrong?

A CEO of a television station is exposed to a bizarre program and loses touch with reality as he is caught in a game of cat and mouse.

From what I recall from the entry, I imagined the entire film would have wall-to-wall nightmare fuel. It wasn’t until the 35 minute mark that things developed a life of their own. Sure, there was some weird imagery before that but nothing over the top. Then came the living tape.

The videotape piqued my interest. I kept asking myself how exactly that was done as it pulsed and squirmed in Max’s hand. The television warped and the screen expanded. I’m looking at the back of the box just to remind myself what year the film was made. I was impressed.

Now, some of the effects and content are byproducts of the time. Betamax, anyone? There are a few frames where you notice that the shot moved slightly just to film an effect. The helmet imagery was lo-res but I wasn’t expecting 1080p for an 80’s movie. I can’t really complain as the majority of the special effects still hold up today.

Watching Max fall into the mystery of Videodrome is very dizzying. I was on board for the most part but then, like Max, I didn’t know who to trust. The lines were very blurred, making a gray morality. I tried piecing things together but as the film progressed, it left me with no clear-cut answers.

But why broadcast Videodrome to everyone, let alone conceive it? There is no real need. To program a signal capable of hallucinations and tumors disguised as ultraviolent torture for what purpose? It’s an interesting form of brainwashing. How you can deprogram someone from that, I don’t know or can explain.

Even with all of this, I enjoyed watching Videodrome. This was my first experience with David Cronenberg and I look forward to watching more of his work.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

Movie Review: The Fox and the Hound

 

This film is not the first to answer that age old question that has plagued the greatest minds of all time, “What does the fox say?” If anyone was going to use that as a comment, sorry I spoiled your fun.

A fox and a hound, natural enemies, become friends as kids and then grow up to realize the awful truth.

I only watched this maybe one or twice as a kid but the tape “mysteriously disappeared” for a long time. I dug it out yesterday and watched it with my family. It was interesting how my autistic brother immediately recognized Paul Winchell playing someone other than Tigger. Other than that, the movie itself has some faults.

The screentime is divided in a curious fashion where the film could easily be called A Fox, a Hound, and Two Birds. The relationship of Dinky and Boomer, instead of providing brief moments of comic relief, has more than its fair share of screentime. As I watched their scenes, I questioned what characters the movie was supposed to focus on. I didn’t find them entertaining and I wanted them to vanish with each passing second the movie stayed solely with them.

I thought Chief should’ve stayed dead once he got hit by the train. The damage he takes during his fall was enough to have him out for good. Besides, he didn’t go through a noticeable character arc for the entire film. We see him wrapped in bandages and that’s that.

But what about Tod and Copper? I only remember watching them in their early days, mostly due to one of those Disney Sing-Along tapes as “Best of Friends” was featured. Of course, they’re cute as kids; just look at baby Tod in the picture. Once they turn into adults, their tone becomes more serious when they’re together. It’s quite striking, seeing as how each of their perceptions have changed because they have to follow the laws of nature. The ending does leave them resolved, but to be apart.

It’s just an average film. I suppose it’s fine for kids but probably better with an adult around for the more serious imagery. The fox is cute, no doubt about it.

5/10

Movie Review: Blade Runner: The Final Cut

Just think, in only five more years LA will transform into something neot-ech. After all, we’re supposed to have hoverboards next year according to Back to the Future Part II; but I digress.

A burnt-out detective takes on an assignment that involves retiring replicants after they illegally return to Earth.

First impressions of a film are irreversible. This can be difficult when more than one version of the film exists, like Donnie Darko or THX 1138. I was told a year or so ago that the only version of this film I should see is The Final Cut. That vanished from my memory when I found a copy of Blade Runner at my library during my sophomore winter break. When the conversation came up months later, I wondered if I saw the right one. Sure enough, I did. To this date, this is the only version I’ve seen even though I own a first-run Director’s Cut on DVD and a domestic/international print (the box is in terrible condition) on VHS.

The environment is very immersive to the point where I felt cold and wet from all of the rain shown. The low-key lighting complements the derelict sets. There is nothing clean about any part of the set; everything looks and feels used.

Before I even saw the film, I had heard several pieces on Pandora. I had grown accustomed to rhythm and flow but was surprised to hear them severely truncated in the film during my initial viewing. I have the soundtrack in my car whenever there’s a rainy day (fitting, indeed).

I have heard some people comment, primarily negatively, on the slow pacing. I don’t have a problem with it. For me, I use 2001: A Space Odyssey as a benchmark for runtime. I should be able to grasp broad concepts in the time allotted while still leave information I can analyze upon repeated viewings. With films like this and 2001, the pace is appropriate. If it were any faster, subtext would be missing as well as some key points.

I would like to focus on the questions used with the Voight-Kampff machine that determines whether or not a subject is a replicant. On the surface, they seem like they have obvious answers. Other times, there may be a specific answer that could only be given as a programmed response. When watching the first Deckard/Rachel interrogation with the Voight-Kampff, Rachel responded rather quickly. The response time provided means that she can either be a human who had access to the question key beforehand or a replicant programmed with the information from the key.

Assuming the second half is true, I feel like a replicant (at least the concept) at times. I may look human and provide some kind of response but it doesn’t always feel real. It takes a lot of mental effort to function a certain way and pass as “normal”. Even Rachel asks Deckard if he even took the test, only to be given no response. It seems only fair if the test is adminstered to those who will proctor it later on.

Originally, I had planned to review every single print available and list the differences. I changed my mind, mostly because it’s been done (complete list here). Also, the 1001 list doesn’t specify which print should be viewed. Consider this my sole review for the film.

Not everyone will like this film, I get that. There are enough thrills and content to satisfy anyone looking for a serious film. If you haven’t seen this yet, I strongly recommend watching The Final Cut before anything else.

8/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

IMDB Top 250

AFI Top 100 (2007): #97

400 Nominations for AFI Top 100 for both years