Tag Archives: Bruce Dern

Our Souls at Night

When two elderly neighbors (Robert Redford, Jane Fonda) begin to share a bed at night, simply to cure their loneliness, the arrangement doesn’t sit well with everybody in their lives… The director of The Lunchbox (2013) delivers another romantic drama for grownups, one that unites the two stars onscreen for the first time since 1979. At the age of 80, they are perfectly cast and carry a movie that shows how sins of the past will haunt you long after they happened. Presented with a gentle and careful touch that makes it a pleasure to watch… but the drama never really reaches great heights.

2017-U.S. 103 min. Color. Directed by Ritesh Batra. Novel: Kent Haruf. Cast: Robert Redford (Louis Waters), Jane Fonda (Addie Moore), Matthias Schoenaerts (Gene Moore), Judy Greer, Bruce Dern, Iain Armitage.

Trivia: Co-produced by Redford. First shown at the Venice film festival, then released on Netflix.

 

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The Hateful Eight

NO ONE COMES UP HERE WITHOUT A DAMN GOOD REASON.

hatefuleightAfter the Civil War, two bounty hunters (Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell) and a prisoner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) arrive at a stagecoach lodge during a blizzard in Wyoming where they are trapped with four strangers. The first movie to be shot in Ultra Panavision 70 since the epics of the 1960s was done in the same style as those old “roadshow pictures”, complete with an intermission. A beauty to behold, with vast, wintry landscapes and all the details of a claustrophobic lodge, as well as an ominous score. The story plays like a whodunit, with Leigh a standout in the cast, but it’s thin and awfully familiar to Tarantino fans.

2015-U.S. 168 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Cinematography: Robert Richardson. Music: Ennio Morricone. Cast: Samuel L. Jackson (Marquis Warren), Kurt Russell (John Ruth), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Daisy Domergue), Walton Goggins, Demián Bichir, Tim Roth… Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum. Narrated by Quentin Tarantino.

Trivia: When the script first leaked in 2014, Tarantino shelved his plans to make a movie and considered releasing it as a novel, then changed his mind again. Viggo Mortensen was allegedly considered for a role.

Oscar: Best Original Score. Golden Globe: Best Original Score. BAFTA: Best Original Music.

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Highlights of Comic-Con 2015

This year’s Comic-Con in San Diego ended last Sunday. Time to sum up what we enjoyed the most:

The Star Wars panel – We get J.J. Abrams explaining his vision for the new movie, and Lawrence Kasdan as a connection to the original trilogy. We get real examples of newly designed creatures. And we get a Carrie Fisher-Mark Hamill-Harrison Ford reunion that is irresistibly charming, especially since it’s the first time we see Ford since the plane crash that almost killed him. And, unexpectedly, he’s in a great mood! The panel was accompanied by a very pleasant reel that gave us an insight into The Force Awakens and also made a clever connection to the original trilogy, which is key to the success of the film.

Hugh Jackman celebrating Wolverine – The Australian actor owes his career to the X-Men movies and the Wolverine character, and his appearance was a heartfelt celebration, where he also told the audience that “old man Logan” will make a final appearance in a new movie directed by James Mangold who made The Wolverine (2013). It was followed by Jackman and director Bryan Singer singing each other’s praises. They are clearly in debt to each other.

The Hateful Eight panel – It has Quentin Tarantino explaining the background to the whole issue of his screenplay being leaked and his decision not to make the movie, and why he changed his mind. But it also has a girl in the audience dressed up in full Kill Bill gear asking Tarantino a question. It has Walton Goggins in a Pharrell hat. It has Michael Madsen! Bruce Dern! It has Kurt Russell sporting a beautiful moustache. And it has Tarantino once again touting the virtues of film as the opposite of digital – and announcing that Ennio Morricone will write the music score, his first Western in 40 years. This panel has everything you need, a complete nerdgasm.

The best trailer – Some thought the Deadpool trailer was the best thing to come out of Comic-Con, but I think that’s because they expected much less from Ryan Reynolds. The real hoot came in the form of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer. I was disappointed in Man of Steel (2013), but this preview looks promising, tying the destructive final act of that film into the sequel as motivation for Bruce Wayne to resent Superman. There’s a 9/11 atmosphere, and we are introduced to Lex Luthor and Wonder Woman. But how will the filmmakers manage to fit all these ingredients into the blockbuster in a satisfying way?

The worst preview – This Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 teaser was meant to inspire fans, having Jennifer Lawrence in a gorgeous red outfit as a contrast to the white-clad soldiers. But the clip is just too silly for a franchise that also should have ended with the last chapter instead of cutting the third book into two halves. As one YouTube user quips, “What’s up with the Michael Jackson dancers?”

 

How many superheroes can you fit on a stage? #FoxSDCC #XMenApocalypse #Deadpool #Gambit #FantasticFour #Wolverine

A photo posted by 20th Century Fox (@20thcenturyfox) on

The obvious selfie of the year…

The very best clip of the year, obviously. King Bryan Cranston, we salute thee…

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Nebraska

 

nebraskaDavid Grant (Will Forte) learns that his ailing dad (Bruce Dern), whom he’s never had a great relationship with, is trying to get to Lincoln, Nebraska where he believes one million dollars is waiting for him; reluctantly, David agrees to take him there. Director Alexander Payne’s first movie where he was not directly involved in the script is an exceptionally well cast story about aging and our battle-weary relationships with family. Tender, funny and true; likely to affect audiences very differently, depending on your own situation in life. Dern and June Squibb are simply perfect. The raw black-and-white cinematography captures Nebraska in a natural but not too flattering light.

2013-U.S. 115 min. B/W. Widescreen. Produced by Albert Berger, Ron Yerxa. Directed by Alexander Payne. Screenplay: Bob Nelson. Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael. Music: Mark Orton. Cast: Bruce Dern (Woody Grant), Will Forte (David Grant), June Squibb (Kate Grant), Bob Odenkirk, Stacy Keach, Mary Louise Wilson.

Trivia: Bryan Cranston and Matthew Modine were allegedly considered for the part of David; Gene Hackman and Robert Duvall as Woody.

Cannes: Best Actor (Dern).

Last word: “For this film, it took over a year of casting to find, for example, those retired farmers who play some of Bruce Dern’s character’s brothers and their wives. And it was a long process of putting out casting notices on, for example, rural radio after the farm report or in small-town newspapers. … For retired farmers, we weren’t so much expecting them to submit auditions, so we were targeting their kids — in their 40s, 50s, 60s — who might go over to their folks’ house on a Sunday and say, ‘Hey! Look at this, I read this. Come on, just for a hoot let me put you on my iPhone reading these lines of dialogue and let me email it into Omaha.'” (Payne, NPR)

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Winners at Next Sunday’s Golden Globes

In the clip above, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, hosts of next Sunday’s Golden Globe awards are having a little fun. “Ten seconds or less why the Golden Globes are the best awards show… hmmm… gimme a minute…” Looks promising. The time has come for some predictions.

FILM:

In the Drama categories, 12 Years a Slave looks like a winner, but Alfonso Cuarón is likely to win an award for his direction of Gravity; so will also Steven Price for his score. Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (12 Years a Slave) are up for a duel, but Cate Blanchett will win her category for Blue Jasmine. Best Supporting Actor looks like a shoo-in for Jared Leto in Dallas Buyers Club; Supporting Actress might turn into a fight between Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave).

In the Comedy/Musical categories, American Hustle will win Best Motion Picture. Bruce Dern looks set to be rewarded for his work in Nebraska, but will face a challenge from Leonardo DiCaprio who’s simply outstanding in The Wolf of Wall Street. Amy Adams will likely win a Golden Globe for American Hustle. The Screenplay category will probably also go American Hustle’s way.

Best Song might go to Frozen (“Let It Go”, performed by Idina Menzel), and that movie will also win Animated Feature. The Foreign Language Film category belongs to Cannes favorite Blue is the Warmest Color.

TV:

I believe that Breaking Bad will win Best Drama Series; Bryan Cranston will also take Best Actor and Aaron Paul might win Supporting Actor. Kerry Washington looks set to snatch a Golden Globe for Scandal.

In the Comedy category, I wouldn’t be surprised if Brooklyn Nine-Nine pulls off an upset. The acting categories are more predictable, with Michael J. Fox slated to win for The Michael J. Fox Show and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep. The Supporting Actress category is also predicted to go to Sofia Vergara for Modern Family.

As for TV movies and miniseries, Behind the Candelabra will win, along with Michael Douglas in the Best Actor category. Best Actress however looks like a duel between Helena Bonham Carter in Burton and Taylor and Jessica Lange in American Horror Story: Coven.

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Django Unchained

LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF VENGEANCE.

 

djangounchainedIn 1858, a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) buys a slave, Django (Jamie Foxx), and makes a deal with him: if Django helps him identify three wanted brothers, he’s a free man. With Quentin Tarantino, you know what you’re getting – this unashamedly blood-soaked, overlong spaghetti Western pays homage to movies like Django (1966) and Mandingo (1975) but is also clearly related to his own Inglourious Basterds (2009), now with slaves instead of persecuted Jews. Clever, wickedly entertaining, but suffers from a weaker third act. Inspired performances by Waltz – and Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson as master and slave.

2012-U.S. 165 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Stacey Sher, Reginald Hudlin, Pilar Savone. Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino. Cinematography: Robert Richardson. Cast: Jamie Foxx (Django Freeman), Christoph Waltz (King Schultz), Leonardo DiCaprio (Calvin Candie), Kerry Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Walton Goggins… James Remar, Don Johnson, Franco Nero, Russ Tamblyn, Amber Tamblyn, Bruce Dern, Jonah Hill, Robert Carradine, Tom Savini, Quentin Tarantino.

Trivia: Will Smith was allegedly considered for the lead.

Oscars: Best Supporting Actor (Waltz), Screenplay. Golden Globes: Best Supporting Actor (Waltz), Screenplay. BAFTA: Best Supporting Actor (Waltz), Original Screenplay.

Last word: “What happened during slavery times is a thousand times worse than [what] I show. So if I were to show it a thousand times worse, to me, that wouldn’t be exploitative, that would just be how it is. If you can’t take it, you can’t take it. Now, I wasn’t trying to do a ‘Schindler’s List’ you-are-there-under-the-barbed-wire-of-Auschwitz. I wanted the film to be more entertaining than that. But there’s two types of violence in this film: There’s the brutal reality that slaves lived under for… 245 years, and then there’s the violence of Django’s retribution. And that’s movie violence, and that’s fun and that’s cool, and that’s really enjoyable and kind of what you’re waiting for.” (Tarantino, NPR)

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Big Love: Utah Crime Family

Big Love was the little show that could. When the first episode aired immediately after the premiere of the sixth season of The Sopranos, it didn’t look like much. The first season was acknowledged as interesting and well-crafted but nowhere near as compelling as the celebrated mob show. Big Love was never a favorite among Emmy and Golden Globe voters either. But it did find a fan base and critics who recognized the show as one worth writing about. In the end, its five seasons once again proved HBO’s status as a guarantor of quality television.

The show focused on Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton), a successful Utah hardware business owner who had a secret. He was officially married to Barbara (Jeanne Tripplehorn), but few others knew that he had also taken two other wives in the tradition of his faith, as a member of the Mormon church. They were Nicolette (Chloë Sevigny) and Margene (Ginnifer Goodwin). All in all, Bill had fathered eight children with these women and they all shared three adjacent houses in a Salt Lake City suburb; on the outside they all looked like friendly neighbors, but the houses had a common back yard where the entire Henrickson clan could gather without prying eyes. Those who knew the truth about the Henricksons included Bill’s business partner (Joel McKinnon Miller) and his (generally speaking) wicked relatives. They included his mom and dad (Grace Zabriskie, Bruce Dern), a pair of white-trash losers who were constantly at each other’s throats, as well as the folks at Juniper Creek Compound where Bill grew up. The highly conservative Mormon community was run by Roman Grant (Harry Dean Stanton), a vicious prophet who made Warren Jeffs look like an innocent.

Two sides of the Mormon church
The show presented two sides of the Mormon church. There was lightness in the shape of the Henricksons who remained (largely) true to each other. The darkness was represented by Juniper Creek whose members were obedient followers to the highly immoral, criminal and mean-spirited leadership of Grant  – and subsequently his son Alby (Matt Ross), a dangerous man who resented his father and was a closet homosexual, but still found it too difficult to leave the cult behind. Bill had to confront other members of the church who were even more murderous than the Grants, which led to action-packed events that were undeniably exciting but sometimes felt out of character for the show. Because Big Love was always primarily about the Henricksons and the complex dynamic between Bill and his three wives. Over the years, the strength of their relationship would be tested. Played to perfection as a square-jawed conservative by Paxton, Bill and his actions constantly exposed his family to dangers. This was true when he got involved in the casino business in the third season and when he ran for state senator in the fourth and ended up telling his voters that they had just elected a polygamist. Still, it was hard not to sympathize with Bill’s fervent belief in doing what’s right. Sevigny, Tripplehorn and Goodwin were all exceptionally good as three very different women who fought hard to keep the family together while also trying to discover themselves.

Always more intelligent and challenging than one might expect, Big Love ended with a shocking resolution that ultimately led to happiness for most of its characters. It was a fitting (and moving) ending to a series that sometimes tried to go in all kinds of directions, but always was at its best dealing with its central theme: love and how to protect its fruits.

Big Love 2006-2011:U.S. Made for TV. 53 episodes. Color. Created by Mark V. Olsen, Will Scheffer. Cast: Bill Paxton (Bill Henrickson), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Barb Henrickson), Chloë Sevigny (Nicolette Grant), Ginnifer Goodwin (Margene Heffman), Douglas Smith, Matt Ross, Grace Zabriskie, Amanda Seyfried (06-10), Shawn Doyle, Melora Walters, Mary Kay Place, Harry Dean Stanton (06-09), Bruce Dern, Joel McKinnon Miller.

Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actress (Sevigny) 10.

Last word: “I came up with the idea and Will hated it but there was a period where I was doing some research because I didn’t know it was all that good either; it seemed like a catchy premise. There was a whole cottage of a first person biography publishing industry in Salt Lake City with people who either were polygamists or [about] the whole Mormon culture and reading them it was like ‘Wow, this is bizarre!’ but it was universal. ‘I can relate to this.’ I passed it on to Will and he shared the enthusiasm and then we both just got behind it. We saw the universal in the material. We saw our families in the material, we saw our marriage in the material [Olsen and Scheffer are life partners] so that’s kind of it.” (Olson, The Futon Critic)

ABOVE AVERAGE

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All the Pretty Horses

SOME PASSIONS CAN NEVER BE TAMED.

alltheprettyhorsesA few years after the end of World War II, best friends John Grady Cole (Matt Damon) and Lacey Rawlins (Henry Thomas) head to Mexico to work as cowboys. This film was allegedly shot as a huge epic, but director Billy Bob Thornton was forced to make equally huge cuts, resulting in an episodic movie where we’re thrown between scenes that are quite different from each other. The biggest problem here is a lack of emotional strength. Damon does his best, but the only one in the cast to deliver a memorable performance is Lucas Black as the headstrong teenager.

2000-U.S. 117 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Billy Bob Thornton, Robert Salerno. Directed by Billy Bob Thornton. Screenplay: Ted Tally. Novel: Cormac McCarthy. Cast: Matt Damon (John Grady Cole), Henry Thomas (Lacey Rawlins), Lucas Black (Jimmy Blevins), Penélope Cruz, Rúben Blades, Robert Patrick… Bruce Dern, Sam Shepard.

Trivia: Brad Pitt was allegedly considered for the part of Cole.

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The Laughing Policeman

EIGHT PEOPLE KNOW WHO THE KILLER IS – AND THEY’RE ALL DEAD!

laughingpolicemanOne late evening in San Francisco, a massacre takes place on a bus with a sole survivor; one of the victims turns out to be a cop. This Americanization of a Swedish crime novel is quite effective, with the obvious ambition to portray the work of policemen and doctors as realistically as possible. Unfortunately, after a dynamite opening the proceedings turn less exciting and, though well-acted, the characters played by Walter Matthau and Bruce Dern (who find their partnership an uneasy alliance) more clichéd. Still, it’s a good story and the San Francisco locations help.

1974-U.S. 111 min. Color. Directed by Stuart Rosenberg. Novel: Maj Sjöwall, Per Wahlöö. Cast: Walter Matthau (Jake Martin), Bruce Dern (Leo Larsen), Louis Gossett, Jr. (James Larrimore), Albert Paulsen, Anthony Zerbe, Anthony Costello… Joanna Cassidy.

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The Great Gatsby

GONE IS THE ROMANCE THAT WAS SO DIVINE.

greatgatsby74In 1922, Nick (Sam Waterston) rents a small house next to two Long Island mansions; getting to know both owners he finds out about a secret romance that refuses to die. The most famous screen adaptation of “the great American novel” can hardly be labeled a “great American film”, even though plenty of money was spent on it. Handsome production values, a bittersweet music score, soft cinematography and an engaging story… it’s all there, but somehow the director fails to make the ingredients gel. The best performance comes from Bruce Dern; Robert Redford doesn’t quite convey the complexity of Gatsby.

1974-U.S. 144 min. Color. Directed by Jack Clayton. Screenplay: Francis Ford Coppola. Novel: F. Scott Fitzgerald. Cinematography: Douglas Slocombe. Music: Nelson Riddle. Art Direction: John Box. Costume Design: Theoni V. Aldredge. Cast: Robert Redford (Jay Gatsby), Mia Farrow (Daisy Buchanan), Bruce Dern (Tom Buchanan), Karen Black, Scott Wilson, Sam Waterston… Lois Chiles, Edward Herrmann, Patsy Kensit.

Trivia: Truman Capote began writing the script but was replaced by Coppola. Ali MacGraw was allegedly considered for the part of Daisy; Warren Beatty as Gatsby.

Oscars: Best Original Score, Costume Design. BAFTA: Best Cinematography, Art Direction, Costume Design. Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actress (Black).

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They Shoot Horses, Don’t They: Dance Till You Drop

PEOPLE ARE THE ULTIMATE SPECTACLE.

Director Sydney Pollack died a while ago, mourned by anyone who had ever seen Tootsie (1982), or Husbands and Wives (1992) where he put his acting talent on display. In a small tribute that I wrote to him on this website I quickly mentioned They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), his breakthrough film, and then moved on. Perhaps I should have written more about it, but I hadn’t seen it. Now that I have, I can say for certain that it is his finest film along with Tootsie, an experience that makes you feel both angry and sad.

The film is based on a novel by Horace McCoy that was written in 1935, showing how the Depression made people sacrifice their honor and sometimes more. A dance marathon is being arranged on the Santa Monica Pier; the contest will have many different couples competing against each other over several weeks. Everybody can take occasional breaks for food and sleep, but as soon as the siren sounds off they must go back to dancing. The participants are poor and need the cash prize they might win desperately; the increasingly tired and dirty look of the dancers over time only adds to the enjoyment of the spectacle for the viewing crowds. We get to know several contestants. The charismatic emcee Rocky (Gig Young) finds a partner for Gloria Beatty (Jane Fonda) in Robert Syverton (Michael Sarrazin), a young guy who just happened to be there. Gloria resents the fact that she needs money so badly that she has to stoop to this level; Robert is more timid and quiet. There’s also Alice (Susannah York), a naive girl who wants to be the next Jean Harlow; Harry (Red Buttons), an ageing sailor; and Ruby (Bonnie Bedelia), a pregnant farm wife who needs the money for her family.

Casualty: Human dignity
It is soon clear just how grueling this competition is, but it’s the emcee’s job to hide the reality from the onlookers. There’s even a moment where the contestants are to race around the dance floor; the three couples that end up last are eliminated. Anyone can quit this freak show at any time, but these folks are too poor to do that. It’s amazing that these events actually existed; there’s plenty of upsetting scenes that show the consequences, how human dignity was one casualty of the Depression. It’s embarrassing and sad to watch this humiliation and Fonda convey the shame in a convincing way, her first major, serious performance in a film the year after she made Barbarella. York is also splendid as the vulnerable young actress who loses her mind; so is Buttons as the likable sailor, another great dramatic performance for the comedian. Young received an Oscar for his work as the emcee; always smiling to the audience, always coldly calculating behind the scenes, somewhat dropping his clean-shaven façade as the weeks go by. Pollack has done an impressive job, using flash-forwards to give us clues to what Robert Syverton did at the contest that landed him in jail. The final sequence is heartbreakingly tragic, the ultimate surrender to the effects of the Depression.

The film begins with a scene where young Robert sees one of the family’s horses fall and break his leg. Robert’s grandfather looks at the horse with sadness, but doesn’t hesitate to raise his rifle and end the animal’s misery. It’s an act of mercy, one that colors Robert’s perception of life. A powerful symbol in a film that equally symbolically portrays dance marathons as a modern equivalent to gladiator games.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? 1969-U.S. 120 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Robert Chartoff, Irwin Winkler. Directed by Sydney Pollack. Screenplay: James Poe, Robert E. Thompson. Novel: Horace McCoy. Editing: Fredric Steinkamp. Music: Johnny Green, Albert Woodbury. Cast: Jane Fonda (Gloria Beatty), Michael Sarrazin (Robert Syverton), Susannah York (Alice LeBlanc), Gig Young, Red Buttons, Bonnie Bedelia… Bruce Dern.

Trivia: Warren Beatty was allegedly considered for the part of Robert; Lionel Stander for Rocky. At one time, Charlie Chaplin also fancied the project as a vehicle for his son Sidney and Marilyn Monroe.

Oscar: Best Supporting Actor (Young). BAFTA: Best Supporting Actress (York). Golden Globe: Best Supporting Actor (Young).

Last word: “‘They Shoot Horses’ was an enormously challenging picture in the sense that it took place in one set, it was the same activity over and over, and it had to get slower because they got tired. So I had three things that are a director’s nightmare: no visual relief from the set, no relief within the set in terms of the activity, and worst of all, you can’t pick up the pace, it has to get slower. So I had to find other ways to pick up the pace.” (Pollack, Venice Magazine)

 

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The ‘burbs: Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire

LIFE IN THE BURBS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!

Since I’m currently on a vacation visiting my parents who live in the ‘burbs, and don’t really have all that much to do but go through a pile of old VHS movies while waiting for a promised heat wave, it felt highly appropriate to watch this underrated Joe Dante comedy again. The ‘burbs is a movie about people with far too much time on their hands who allow their sense of imagination to spin completely out of control. But where there’s smoke in a Dante flick, there’s fire.

We’re introduced to a nice little suburban neighborhood somewhere in America and its colorful inhabitants. Teenager Ricky’s (Corey Feldman) favorite hobby every morning is to sit on the porch and just study his crazy neighbors. There’s the Vietnam veteran, Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern), whose latest war is against a poodle that uses his lawn to take a dump; there’s Art (Rick Ducommun) who hunts birds in his garden with a gun; and there’s Ray (Tom Hanks) who needs his vacation to be quiet and relaxing, but still can’t keep away from everything that’s going on in the neighborhood. Ever since the Klopeks moved in next to Ray, mysterious events have made the street weirder than usual. No one has barely seen the family; odd, noisy activities seem to take place inside their house and it doesn’t take long for Ray, Art and Mark to assume that the Klopeks might very well be a family of murdering freaks. In fact, one of the neighbors, Walter (Gale Gordon), who owns the poodle, disappears without a trace. Art and Mark assume that the Klopeks have him and talk Ray into joining their mission to find the truth. Well, what else are vacations for?

Humor and horrific absurdities
The story is a bit like some old Twilight Zone episode and the film as a whole is also reminiscent of the director’s own Gremlins (1984). Dick Miller, who appeared in Roger Corman flicks, plays the garbage man here and is a nice symbol of the mixture of humor and horrific absurdities that Dante is aiming for. Many critics found the film predictable and too familiar, but I think it’s a hoot. Hanks is perfect as the “normal” neighbor who initially can’t believe that there’s anything wrong with the new neighbors; Dern and Ducommun are lots of fun as his trigger-happy, crazier buddies. Henry Gibson adds his brand of weirdness to the freakish Klopek family; the filmmakers have us guessing if they are a family of monsters or not right up until the dramatic finale. The film may be shot on the Universal lot, but the fake neighborhood is convincing and the filmmakers along with the cast provide many amusing moments, especially the more excited everyone becomes about the prospect of catching a killer on their own. Perhaps the best part is watching grown men basically turn into adventure-seeking children as soon as the vacation begins; there’s a ring of truth to it. Jerry Goldsmith’s music has the right touch; he even gets to spoof his own score for Patton whenever Mark shows up.

I’m getting a little inspired here. Maybe tomorrow I should grab a pair of binoculars and see what the folks next door are doing. The ‘burbs are full of bizarre people up to no good… and in your neighbor’s view, you’re probably one of them. 

The ‘burbs 1989-U.S. 103 min. Color. Produced by Larry Brezner, Michael Finnell. Directed by Joe Dante. Music: Jerry Goldsmith. Cast: Tom Hanks (Ray Peterson), Bruce Dern (Mark Rumsfield), Carrie Fisher (Carol Peterson), Rick Ducommun, Corey Feldman, Wendy Schaal… Henry Gibson.

Last word: “Funny how ‘The ‘burbs’ is outstripping ‘Gremlins’ as the movie I’m asked about most often! We were the only picture shooting on the lot during the writer’s strike of 1988 and a lot of the funniest stuff in it was ad-libbed by the cast. The whole thing was fun actually.” (Dante, Bloody Disgusting)

 

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The Glass House

TO EVERYONE ELSE, THEIR SIMPLE GAME OF DECEPTION WASN’T OBVIOUS. TO HER, IT WAS AS CLEAR AS GLASS.

glasshouse16-year-old Ruby Baker (Leelee Sobieski) and her kid brother move into the house of their suddenly deceased parents’ best friends, but they act strangely… A very ordinary thriller that gets a boost from charismatic acting; Sobieski is engaging as the bright, independent teen and Stellan Skarsgård is suitably repugnant as the wealthy but troubled Mr. Glass. The closer to the ending we get the more he is allowed to turn into a complete psycho and of course credibility is the first casualty. Still, there’s a much-appreciated aura of unpleasantness.

2001-U.S. 106 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Daniel Sackheim. Cast: Leelee Sobieski (Ruby Baker), Stellan Skarsgård (Terry Glass), Diane Lane (Erin Glass), Bruce Dern, Kathy Baker, Trevor Morgan… Rita Wilson, January Jones.

Trivia: Followed by a direct-to-DVD sequel, Glass House 2 (2006).

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