Tag: John Travolta

***2015 RECAP*** MOVIE REVIEW | Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Going Clear

“What the fuck is this?!?”

Scientology is a pretty soft target.  It’s some wackadoo sounding bat shit crazy stuff.  And it boasts a lot of the most wackadoo, bat shit crazy people in the world, ie. Hollywood celebrities.  But the thing is, when you look at the stories at the basis of most popular religions, they’re all pretty wackadoo and bat shit crazy.  But for some reason, thousands of years of history makes us more open to the stories of the old school religions, even if we don’t believe them.  As aware of that as I am about my own opinions, I still found Scientology pretty hilarious.  But now that I’ve seen Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, it’s less funny and more terrifying.


Made up almost exclusively of talking head interviews form ex-members, we get a history lesson on the evolution of the church, founded in the 50s by WWII veteran, science pulp fiction writer and all around first class liar, L Ron Hubbard.  In some ways his attempts to deal with possible PTSD from the war, in a lot more ways all about making a shit load of cash and paying no tax on it, Scientology was based on a pretty positive idea.  Eliminate all negative thoughts from your mind and negative influences from your life. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)

Going Clear

“What the fuck is this?!?”

Scientology is a pretty soft target.  It’s some wackadoo sounding bat shit crazy stuff.  And it boasts a lot of the most wackadoo, bat shit crazy people in the world, ie. Hollywood celebrities.  But the thing is, when you look at the stories at the basis of most popular religions, they’re all pretty wackadoo and bat shit crazy.  But for some reason, thousands of years of history makes us more open to the stories of the old school religions, even if we don’t believe them.  As aware of that as I am about my own opinions, I still found Scientology pretty hilarious.  But now that I’ve seen Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, it’s less funny and more terrifying.


Made up almost exclusively of talking head interviews form ex-members, we get a history lesson on the evolution of the church, founded in the 50s by WWII veteran, science pulp fiction writer and all around first class liar, L Ron Hubbard.  In some ways his attempts to deal with possible PTSD from the war, in a lot more ways all about making a shit load of cash and paying no tax on it, Scientology was based on a pretty positive idea.  Eliminate all negative thoughts from your mind and negative influences from your life. (more…)

MOVIE REVIEW | ***AFI WEEKEND*** #94. Pulp Fiction (1994)

“The American Film Institute’s list of the 100 Greatest Movies was selected by AFI’s blue-ribbon panel of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community to commemorate 100 Years of Movies”. Every weekend(ish) during 2015, I’ll review two(ish), counting them down from 100 to 1.
PULP-FICTION
True Romance was an amazing debut from a new screenwriter who introduced a new style of wordy, pop culture obsessed dialogue and story telling that was as inspired by high brow, classic cinema, as it was by 70s schlock, as it was by modern day blockbusters. Reservoir Dogs showed that the writer of True Romance had a visual style to back up the words on his pages. But as amazing as that one-two punch introduction was, Quentin Tarantino didn’t declare himself as Hollywood’s newest, loudest, most stylistic voice, until Pulp Fiction.


Fresh off the plane from Amsterdam, Vincent Vega (John Travolta) is on his way to conduct some gangster style business with Jules (Samuel L Jackson). Retrieving a briefcase from some young criminals for their boss Marsellus (Michael Clarke Duncan), Jules and Vincent end up with a headless dead body in the backseat of their car.

But Vincent has a bigger problem. He has to entertain Marsellus’ wife while his boss is out of town. With a fresh story of a man being thrown out of a window due to the jealousy of Marsellus, Vincent approaches the night with some trepidation. When he meets the wife, Uma Thurman as Mia, there’s an instant chemistry between the two that leads to $5 milkshakes and a late night overdose.

Meanwhile, boxer Butch (Bruce Willis) is being paid by Marcellus to throw a fight. A deal he breaks in the hopes of making one big score by betting on himself, before leaving town to start fresh. Once again, Vince is dragged into the situation, once again, things don’t go so well.

Pulp fiction is a movie that I always think is great, but not the mind blower its reputation would have you believe. Then every four or five years I watch it again, and wonder why I never give it the credit it deserves as a mind blower. Even 20 years later, the dialogue is as sharp and kinetic as ever. For a movie so reliant on references and pop culture allusions, I can’t believe how effectively Pulp Fiction refuses to seem dated.

Visually, Tarantino set a new standard that was copied incessantly for a lot of years after, that almost no one could ever emulate in any effective way. And again, I was surprised about how well it holds up. Actually, ‘holds up’ doesn’t do the look of Pulp Fiction justice. Usually when something this ground breaking happens, the unavoidable cheap imitations take some of the shine of the original. Here, it made me appreciate Tarantino’s eye even more.

I like the Tarantino movies that have come since Pulp Fiction (except Death Proof, possibly the biggest wast of movie watching time in my life), but I sometimes think the style is hiding a little lack of substance. Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained are great looking, well written, expertly acted movies, but they seem like movies that know they’re movies. With Pulp Fiction, Tarantino made this amazingly hyper world, but the people living in it seem like real people, really living in it. In a few months, I’ll probably start to think it’s a little over rated again, but right now, I’m already looking forward to that next viewing in four or five years when it blows me away all over again.

Pulp Fiction
Directed By – Quentin Tarantino
Written By – Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avary

Academy Awards
Best Picture (nominated, lost to Forrest Gump)
Best Director (Tarantino nominated, lost to Robert Zemeckis for Forrest Gump)
Best Actor (Travolta nominated, lost to Tom Hanks for Forrest Gump)
Best Supporting Actor (Jackson nominated, lost to Martin Landau for Ed Wood)
Best Supporting Actress (Thurman nominated, lost to Dianne Wiest for Bullets Over Broadway)
Best Original Screenplay – Tarantino and Avery  

MOVIE REVIEW | Carrie (1976)

Carrie 1976
Stephen King adaptations seem to miss way more often they hit as movies.  And for me, I think the strike rate is even worse than box office receipts would show.  Even something like The Shining, which has an amazing reputation among movie nerds, never grabbed me.  As is legally require by anyone of my generation, I really love Stand By Me.  And The Shawshank Redemption is one of those movies I can’t turn off if I stumble across it while channel surfing.  Which I guess means I like his non-horror stories way more than the horror work that made him the highest selling author of all time and possibly the most adapted by Hollywood.  And that all began with his first published novel that would also go on to be the first to be made into a movie, Carrie.

In what has to be one of the greatest pieces of casting ever, Sissy Spacek is Carrie, a lonely, strange girl, isolated from the realities of life by her crazy, protective, religious mother (Piper Laurie).  Everything different about Carrie has also made her the target of the popular, pretty girls at school.  After the latest round of abuse at school, Carrie is taken under the wing of Betty Buckley’s gym teacher, Miss Collins.

Miss Collins threatens the mean girls with being banned from the prom after their last piece of emotional abuse, and head bitch Chris (Nancy Allen) decides to get the ultimate revenge, with the help of her boyfriend Billy (John Travolta) and a whole mess of pig’s blood.  Meanwhile, former mean girl Sue (Amy Irving) has decided to try to make amends by having her dreamboat boyfriend Tommy (William Katt) take Carrie to the prom.  Oh, and because this is a Stephen King story, Carrie is also developing telekinetic powers while all of this is going on.

Everything good about Carrie comes down to Sissy Spacek.  That vacant look behind her dead doll’s eyes…   The slumped over, beaten down posture of someone with no concept of confidence…  The look of evil and cold satisfaction that comes when she unleashes her powers…  All of these things make what is a ludicrous character within a ludicrous story seem kind of believable.

Watching Carrie for the first time, I guess I can kind of see why it’s still so famous and iconic today, more than 35 years later.  But it didn’t blow me away in a way that makes me now want to read more King horror and watch more horror movies.  It’s a silly story taken just seriously enough by De Palma and his actors that it’s kind of scary and intense.  I’m kind of glad I’ve filled a hole in my movie knowledge, but at the same time, it didn’t have any surprises for me that hadn’t been ruined years ago after a lifetime of references, parodies and knock offs.

Carrie
Directed By – Brian De Palma
Written By – Lawrence D Cohen 

MOVIE REVIEW | Carrie (2013)

Carrie 2013
Whenever remakes come out, nine times out off ten, my reaction is, why?  I can kind of understand it with something special effects heavy like King Kong.  Traditionalists will tell you the 30s original is amazing, while the rest of the world just wants slick CGI that makes the monkey look real.  I totally get it when there’s a remake because the first version wasn’t very good and wasted a good story, like the terrible half animated Lord of the Rings.  And there are times when it seems totally unnecessary and the new version barely strays from the old, yet it’s still great, like the Coen Brothers remake of True Grit.  Then there’s Carrie, a movie I couldn’t see a single reason for remaking, until I watched the 2013 remake on the same weekend as seeing the 1974 original for the first time.

Sticking pretty close to De Palma’s original, and I assume Steven King’s source novel, it’s still about a weirdo high school girl, this time played by Chloe Grace Moretz, her nut job, abusive mother (Julianne Moore), her sympathetic gym teacher (Judy Greer) and some real class A bitches who pick on her at school.  When pushed too far, Carrie starts to exhibit telekinetic powers.  And she gets pushed too far a lot.

At first, the faithfulness to the original made me wonder why the remake needs to exist.  The beauty of a protagonist with telekinesis means your special effects budget only needs to be big enough to afford a few rolls of fishing line.  Make some furniture move around the room and bingo, powers displayed.  It’s not as if 2013 CGi technology really ads a lot to this movie.  But then I realised why it’s not such a lazy idea remaking Carrie.

It’s a movie about high school kids, so the target audience is probably also high school kids looking for some cheap thrills and scares.  With that in mind, I don’t think a 2013 teenager would even recognise the world in the original movie.  No computers, no mobile phones, teachers smoking in their office, John Travolta before being ravaged by decades of hiding in that closet.  The world of 1974 just doesn’t exist anymore.

And even though the screenplays are almost identical, Kimberly Pierce’s direction makes it look and feel like a totally different world to De Palma’s.  Here, the teenagers are actually played by teenagers, instead of adults in their mid to late 20s.  It’s also way less pervey, no opening titles set in slow motion with full frontal nudity of the ‘high school girls’ locker room.  No long, creepy exploitation of Carrie in the shower when embarrassment hits.  Pierce’s version gets to the point a little quicker without so much fodder for Mr Skin to mine later.

There are a couple of moments though when the updated version slows down to spell out the odd plot point and character motivation in explicit detail, when the original was happy to just put it out there, move on and assume the audience was on the right track.

As someone with no feelings of nostalgia for the original, this remake of Carrie is totally fine.  The main place it falls apart is in the casting for the main role.  I think Chloe Moretz is generally great.  She was perfect in the first Kick-Ass, she was great in Hugo and she managed to make the English language remake  of Let the Right One In almost as good as the original.  But she’s just too pretty for the role of Carrie.  Sissy Spacek had such a perfect, kind of strange look in the original.  Even with frumpy clothes and bushy ginger hair, Moretz still looks like she should be hanging out with the glamorous mean girls, not the victim of their cliquey abuse.

Carrie
Directed By – Kimberly Pierce
Written By – Lawrence D Cohen, Robert Aguirre-Sacasa 

MOVIE REVIEW | ***FLOP WEEK*** Battlefield Earth (2000)

battlefield_earth_002
Wow, has this thing already been a punch line for thirteen years?  It seems like only yesterday I first heard about this cinematic shit bomb to rival all cinematic shit bombs, before and since.  Somehow I’ve managed to avoid it for almost a decade and a half.  But now, I can no longer count myself as untainted by Travolta’s butt brush of Scientology.  For I have seen Battlefield Earth and I have been underwhelmed to such a degree that I forget what it feels like to be truly,  utterly and unapologetically whelmed.


Alright, Battlefield Earth is so boring, I’m not even gonna pretend it kept my attention long enough to follow it’s…  I guess for lack of a better word, I have to call it, “story”.  So I will blatantly paraphrase the plot synopsis from my crack research team at Wikipedia…

In the year 3000, Earth has been ruled for 1,000 years by the Psychlos, a brutal race of giant humanoid aliens. The remnants of humanity are either enslaved by the Psychlos and used for manual labor or survive in primitive tribes living in remote areas outside Psychlo control. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler, a member of one such tribe, leaves his home in the Rocky Mountains on a journey of exploration…  He obtains gold from Fort Knox…  After a week of training, the rebels launch a mass uprising against the Psychlos using Harrier jump-jets and other weapons.

That actually makes the move sound loopier than it really is.  If it was that loopy, I at least might have found something to be entertained by.  But somehow, even with all this crazy shit, Battlefield Earth is just really mind numbingly boring.  Except the bit where cavemen fly fighter jets.  If you don’t think a caveman flying a fighter jet is super cool, then why bother living?

The film making is more than serviceable.  Old mate Roger Christian knows how to shoot a movie, especially if you want it to look like it was shot by a one legged camera man.  Seriously, I appreciate a good Dutch angle as much as the next man, but I’d rather not get a stiff neck because an entire movie is set at 45 degrees.  And Christian uses so much unnecessary, indulgent slow motion, even Zack Snyder would say, “Damn, that’s some straight up unnecessary, indulgent slow motion.”

Jonnie Goodboy (best character name ever) is played by Barry Pepper, and you have to give him credit for not half assing it.  Pepper really does use his whole ass and makes an obvious attempt to take this ludicrous bullshit seriously.  Even when he’s required to scream “Noooooooooooo!” in anger on no less than two separate occasions in the first twelve minutes, he manages to keep a straight face.  Now that, is acting.

Battlefield Earth is a terrible, terrible movie.  But worse than that, it’s a boring movie.  The first hour is just Pepper running from the baddies, getting caught by the baddies, escaping from the baddies, running from the baddies, getting caught by the baddies, escaping from the baddies, running from the baddies.  And because it spends so much time caught in that loop, there’s no time left to develop the second half where shit actually happens.  Cavemen flying fighter jets type shit.

Budget $73million / U.S Box Office $29.7million

Razzies Won:
Worst Picture
Worst Actor – John Travolta
Worst Supporting Actor – Barry Pepper
Worst Actress – Kelly Preson
Worst Director – Roger Christian
Worst Screenplay – Corey Mandell, J.D Shapiro
Worst Screen Couple – John Travolta (with anyone sharing the screen with him)

Battlefield Earth
Directed By – Roger Christian
Written By – Corey Mandell, J.D. Shapiro

Instead of Battlefield Earth, watch Barry Pepper be awesome in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada