Review: Scandal (1950)

Yes, it’s a Christmas movie.

All Ichiro Aoye (Toshirō Mifune) wanted was to get his latest painting done while up in the mountains. But a chance encounter with famous singer Miyako Saijo (Shirley Yamaguchi) leads to an innocent motorbike ride past a bus with a pair of nosy magazine photographers looking for an exclusive interview with her. They don’t get it, but manage to snap the two seemingly sharing a room (they’re not). Once the photo arrives back at Amour Magazine, a salacious story gets written and both Ichiro and Miyako deal with the resulting fallout, even though they both temporarily benefit from career boosts due to the resulting gossip.

Thus begins Akira Kurosawa’s Scandal, which manages to poke a finger in the eye of celebrity worship and the often lousy and slanderous “journalism” that comes with it. The film is also has bits of comedy, does double jury duty as a decent courtroom drama and you’ll also find the old heart string tugboat towing the SS Kleenex for good measure. There’s a big slice of mundane, but honest sentimentality here that still resonates more with age and for me, it’s Kurosawa’s most “American” film, despite the Japanese setting.

in Japan, extreme painting is a spectator sport.

Ayoe goes to the magazine’s office, slugs the article’s writer and tells them he plans to sue. Later, he’s approached at his home by a somewhat disheveled lawyer, Hiruta (Takashi Shimura) who gives him his business card and asks to represent him at the upcoming trial. Ayoe says he’ll give it some thought, but his friend Sumie (Noiriko Sengoku) comments on Hirata’s smelly feet and warns Ichiro about his choice. The next day, Ichiro visits Hirata’s rundown home to accept but meets his bedridden young daughter, Masako (Yōko Katsuragi), who’s had tuberculosis for five years, but still greets him with a joyful smile and shows Ichiro what’s currently keeping her happy: an intricate wedding outfit her mother has made that’s to be delivered the next day to a future bride. That old tugboat is puffing out gently scented tissue smoke right about now.

I am the law?

Inoue also stops by Hinata’s cluttered “office”, a tiny shack on the roof of a building that looks as it it was built by the lawyer himself where he finds some bike racing forms and a photo of Hinata’s daughter tacked up near the door where she’s standing up and still bearing that warm smile. Ichiro leaves a chalkboard note saying he wants to retain the lawyer and leaves. The film gets busy touching on that period between Christmas and New Year’s Day where there are some laughs to be found and you realize that drunken revelers are the same almost everywhere. Hinata’s plans to one-up the magazine by secretly revealing his trial plans to its shady publisher backfires badly and he eventually takes money to gamble on the races, where he seems to keep losing.

See, I told you this was a Christmas movie!

Everything culminates in quite the ending that’s guaranteed to get that tugboat huffing out more tissue smoke of course, but with Kurosawa, it’s in for a penny, in for a few pounds. there are a few ways to watch this from poorly subtitled versions posted online to the far superior Criterion Collection box set you can get here that gets you five of the director’s post World War II films. Whichever way you choose, you’re in for quite a holiday.

-GW

Film Review: Donald Cried

donald_cried

Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen. ― Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

Well, sometimes reverent listening isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when you go home and find things not only unchanged, but unhinged. Kris Avedisian’s excellent Donald Cried is a great, gloriously uncomfortable can’t-miss classic, a bleak comedy (it’s not for the kids!) with a sentimental side that will get under your skin if you identify with any of the characters portrayed here. Even if you don’t, you’ll be laughing one moment and reflecting the next. A sort of love child of Chuck and Buck, The Odd Couple and Curb Your Enthusiasm, the film serves up a perfect trip to hell for its poor protagonist, Peter Latang (Jesse Wakeman) after he heads up to Rhode Island to take care of his late grandmother’s affairs. Continue reading

Film Review: WYRMWOOD: Road of the Dead

WyrmwoodROTDposterLike a shambling dead thing encased in a suit of the strongest armor, the zombie in popular culture is pretty unstoppable even at this point of over-saturation. That said, it’s a fine day indeed when someone comes up with a new angle on the undead while making a crowd pleasing viewing experience worth running out and catching in a theater or owning on a disc down the road. Welcome to WYRMWOOD: Road of the Dead, director Kiah Roache-Turner’s first (and hopefully not last) film that deserves a place in horror fan’s still beating hearts.

As that poster to the left states, what you’re getting is more or less Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead, but the film is a lot more than that handy to memorize tagline suggests. Co-writers Tristan Roache-Turner, Kiah Roache-Turner have cooked up a fast-paced action flick that blends biting wit and dramatic bits just about perfectly. A cast of likable thrust into their post-zombie apocalyptic heroics characters, some truly nasty villains and yes, hordes of zombies keep things pumping and the film never wears out its welcome even when it deftly ventures into cliche territory. Continue reading

Film Review: CUT!

CUT MPJust when you think the modern Hollywood horror film has been all tapped out, along comes one of those movies that keeps you guessing even if you think you know what’s coming. Director/co-writer David Rountree tosses some tasty ideas into his chunky horror stew that will keep you hooked in and guessing right up until the double (or is it triple?) back-flip ending. It’s tricky to discuss the film in detail without spoiling a few of its twists and turns, but if you’re paying attention you may see a few of the surprises coming.

That said, if you go in with expectations of yet another slasher film, it’s a good sign that the movie shoots you down a few predictable paths before whipping the red carpet from underneath you much more than you’d think. Rountree also stars in the film as Travis Simon, an employee of a film equipment rental shop who works with Lane (David Banks), an ex-con with a rather nasty disposition and a particularly unsettling hobby. When Travis decides to make a low-budget horror film with Lane’s help, let’s just say things go predictably awry and downhill fast. A little accidental death during the making of their film doesn’t deter the pair from continuing their project and in fact, spurs Lane on as he starts taking things a bit too seriously. Continue reading

Film Review: EXTRATERRESTRIAL

Extraterrestrial3The Vicious Brothers’ (Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz) third film, EXTRATERRESTRIAL is a sci-fi/horror hybrid that takes its cues from plenty of genre films with interestingly mixed results. If you go in expecting something completely original, you may be mildly to moderately disappointed. On the other hand, it’s a fine example of the perfect mindless popcorn flick if you go in blind and let what’s here smack you around during its 106 minute running time.

Yes, it’s formulaic and yes, it’s maybe a few minutes too long thanks to some visual effects overindulgence, slow build-ups to stuff you know will happen and what I like to call a “jump & thump scare” sound mix where loud noises carry fright scenes more than the actors. Warts and all, you can clearly see the Brothers have scads of talent in what they do and how they do it – they just need a bit more polish in the polishing things up department… Continue reading

Film Review: POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold


Advertising isn't new to entertainment at all, folks. In fact, in the last century, both radio and TV broadcasts were sponsored by major companies pushing everything from cigarettes to cars to cereal and dishwashers. Soap operas were in fact, heavily reliant on pushing laundry detergent to a mostly female audience (though that selling point was phased out over time, the name stuck). However, these days, it's gotten to an over-saturation point where too many films,TV and even news shows are non-stop advertisements for nearly everything held, eaten or otherwise remotely handled by their casts.

Director Morgan Spurlock is no stranger to throwing himself head first into his documentary projects as a more than eager human guinea pig and in POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, he dives into the rather shifty world of product placement and manages to pop up smelling like roses and shilling to the masses simultaneously. The film is a hilarious peel back the curtains “Doc-buster” on how advertising agencies along with Hollywood film and TV studios have turned nearly every form of entertainment or information source into stationary or moving ads for thousands of popular products. If you've ever wondered about why you're seeing all those familiar foods, cars, clothes and tech toys called out by name or lovingly displayed in your favorite shows, films and news, you'll want to drop that remote and go buy a ticket to this instant classic.Read more »