Tuesday, June 28, 2022

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS



I enjoyed Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness overall. Some of the dull & “uneventful” parts looked like a bad SyFy channel movie (which is a bigger overall issue with this most recent phase of the MCU outside of just this one movie) but other parts of it reminded me of the underrated Drag Me To Hell (the plot of this Doctor Strange sequel mostly focuses on a witch terrorizing our protagonists through multiple dimensions). No matter how much of the cookie-cutter MCU Disney ”look” is injected in to Multiverse Of Madness, we’re still occasionally reminded of why it’s a good thing to have a legendary veteran filmmaker like Sam Raimi direct this. He has style (like we saw in Drag Me To Hell and the Evil Dead saga) and it shines through at the right parts. Hating on Marvel films is so easy at this point and a large chunk of their online fans have taken on this fake oppressed sore winner persona where any (valid) criticism is seen as bullying or unfair. But I’m sorry - some of these recent Marvel movies are just uninteresting & flat-looking (The Eternals, the second half of Shang-Chi, Black Widow, etc). Something like Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness should be praised due to having some original style. Even if this that style is borrowed the director's previous work...

Drag Me To Hell / Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness

Army Of Darkness / Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness



Other parts of the movie reminded me of classic horror that shaped Sam Raimi when he was younger (it was made clear that Multiverse of Madness would be horror-themed). I came across a recent interview on cinemablend.com where Raimi professes his love for Stephen King adaptations like The Shining and Carrie which he references in Multiverse Of Madness

I love The Shining, but someone [Stanley Kubrick] already had that - Sam Raimi, cinemablends.com

The Shining / Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness


I love CARRIE, but that had already been made by the time I had read it - Sam Raimi, cinemablend.com


Carrie /
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness


Raimi has always been an observant fan of cinematic connections outside of his own work so I appreciated all the homages to classic horror movies in Multiverse Of Madness...

Really the way he [John Woo] approaches sequences are very different. As different as when Hitchcock approached suspense. John Woo is to action what Hitchcock was to that - Sam Raimi, BBC

The Birds /
The Killer


Another (possible) Stephen King reference?

IT /
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness


A possible Cocteau reference?

Orpheus /
Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness


At the end of the day this a was fun movie. Sam Raimi did a great job. Perhaps this will get folks to revisit/reassess his earlier comic-based films like Dark Man and the obvious Spider-Man trilogy (I’m still not a fan of the third one but at this point talking shit about that movie feels cheap & pointless). There are only a small handful of MCU movies that I truly dislike. Outside of that all the other movies range from tolerable to fun. In my opinion Doctor Strange in The Multiverse Of Madness was the most fun I’ve had watching a marvel movie since Black Panther.

Saturday, June 4, 2022

KIDNEYS ON FILM: PART SIX - CRIMES OF THE FUTURE



Not to make this about myself (typical only child move), but Crimes Of The Future hits a bit closer to home when you’ve had an organ transplant or suffer from any kind of chronic pain. For those of you that are new here - I had a kidney transplant 15 years ago and it comes up in my writing from time to time. On top of that - my father died from kidney disease (he had a heart attack brought on from complications/side effects of dialysis). So I know a thing or two about organ disease & transplantation. David Cronenberg’s fascination with organs is on full display here. There are a ton of visual self-references in his latest film (which you can see below), but he also reaches back to the early years of his career for thematic similarities…




Within the first 15 minutes of Cronenberg’s latest masterpiece (probably the best thing he’s done since Spider) we hear talk of organ transplants, organ registry and the possibility of new organ growth. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again - I don’t normally like when film critics & movie writers personalize their reviews but when you’re a movie-loving kidney transplant recipient, it’s kind of impossible to not personalize things a bit.
This isn’t even really a “review”. These are just my immediate thoughts. I might come back to this later and write more. But in the meantime I wanted to jot down a few words.

For anyone reading this that wants to know what Crimes Of The Future is about, it’s a mix of everything ranging from pushing the limits of what performance art can be to sustaining the human race with a possible new form of digestion. There’s more to the film but those are the two major plot points that really stood out to me. Just about every Cronenberg movie is layered and about multiple radical topics (David Cronenberg is incredibly intelligent & well-read and much more than the exploding head/body horror guy). Crimes Of The Future is no different. 
Right now I’m just stuck on the focus of organs and the sensory overload of it all. From Viggo Mortensen’s constant grunting in pain to the way Scott Speedman chews & eats. Everything is so heightened… 


In addition to the dialogue & imagery concerning organs & organ transplantation, the characters in Crimes Of The Future are constantly poked, sliced, jabbed & prodded by all kinds of surgical tools. It will more than likely go unnoticed but Viggo Mortensen gives one of the best physical performances in years simply from his constant grunting & moaning from chronic pain due to all the experimental medical/artistic procedures he goes through. The last few years of my dad’s life were filled with groans & grunts due to constant pain on top of the daily dialysis he had to do. Seeing someone with tubes hooked up to their stomach (something we see quite a bit of in Crimes Of The Future) reminds me of not only my dad’s dialysis, but the semi-regular biopsies I have to endure to make sure my Uncle’s transplanted kidney is still working (at 15 years I’m still considered stable by the way).


Another fascinating element about Crimes Of The Future is that Cronenberg seems to draw from the imagery from almost all of his previous films. This comes a year after Julia Ducournau’s Titane which felt like one big Cronenberg mixtape. 
In 2022, Cronenberg makes his own mixtape of his own greatest hits…

eXistenZ / Crimes Of The Future 

eXistenZ / Crimes Of The Future 

eXistenZ / Crimes Of The Future 

Naked Lunch / Crimes Of The Future 

Shivers / Crimes Of The Future 

Videodrome / Crimes Of The Future 

Videodrome / Crimes Of The Future 

Crash /
Crimes Of The Future 

Videodrome /
Crimes Of The Future

Crash /
Crimes Of The Future

Dead Ringers /
Crimes Of The Future

The Fly /
Crimes Of The Future

Crash /
Crimes Of The Future

Crash /
Crimes Of The Future

Scanners /
Crimes Of The Future

Crimes O The Future (1970) /
Crimes Of The Future

The Fly /
Crimes Of The Future

Dead Ringers / Crimes Of The Future


The Cronenberg self-references are so deep that there are visual similarities/reveals that can be traced to his underseen television work...

Friday The 13: The Series / 
Crimes Of The Future


Other similarities don’t need to be shown visually. The medical tools shown on display in the art museum in Dead Ringers carries over in to Crimes Of Future where we see medical procedures presented as art performances. We also see a very similar “twist” right out of Eastern Promises. The autopsy of the child in Crimes Of The Future is also right out of a moment in The Brood...

Videodrome /
Crimes Of The Future 

The Brood / 
Crimes Of The Future



There are only so many clips and trailers available online but Cronenberg also subconsciously pulls from filmmakers like Carl Theodore Dreyer

The Passion Of Joan Of Arc/ Crimes Of The Future

to Luis Buñuel…

L'Age d'Or / Crimes Of The Future

L'Age d'Or / Crimes Of The Future


And I could be reaching here but Viggo Mortensen’s “Saul Tenser” resembles Cronenberg himself at times…




There’s even some Alien franchise imagery in the film which comes right back to Cronenberg himself…

Prometheus / Crimes Of The Future

Ron Shusett, who’d had a lot of success with Alien, which, I have to say, took a lot of stuff from Shivers. There’s a parasite that lives inside you? Burns its way out? Jumps on your face and goes down your throat? I did all that before Alien and Dan O’Bannon (who wrote Alien) certainly knew my work - David Croenberg, "David Cronenberg: Interviews with Serge Grunberg"

MOVIE FROM HELL: CRIMES OF THE FUTURE


As an added bonus/supplement to my recent thoughts on Cronenberg's Crimes Of The Future, check out my appearance on the Movies From Hell podcast where we delved a bit more in to the film (click here or the image above to go to the episode)

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

I HIRED A CONTRACT KILLER



Aki Kaurismaki strikes me as someone who hates rigid & constrictive labels but I can only describe his 1990 film I Hired A Contract Killer as an “anti-comedy”. It is certainly funny but in a typical Kaurismaki deadpan matter-of-fact kind of way. It doesn’t go for too many cheap laughs or corny set-ups (almost like if Bresson had made a comedy). The basic premise of I Hired A Contract Killer sounds quite silly on paper. A recently unemployed French immigrant living in the UK (Jean Pierre Leaud) hires his own hit man because he can’t seem to successfully commit suicide after a few tries.

If other filmmakers tackled this basic premise it would more than likely be a basic silly comedy. But Kaurismaki strips away most of the typical comedic tropes and makes a straightforward barebones story that deals with issues ranging from loneliness & depression to the unjust & unethical treatment of immigrant workers. There’s even a love story wedged in there.

Look at the popular Kids In The Hall Sketch; “The Hit” for further proof that under a more traditional comedic umbrella, the basic premise of a guy hiring their own hit man would be handled in a more predictable way (click here to watch “The Hit”).


No offense to The Kids In The Hall ("The Hit" is a funny sketch) but Kaurismaki’s comedy draws inspiration from non-comedic sources like Ozu (one of Kaursmaki’s favorites), while The Kids In The Hall draw inspiration from typical sources like Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. Again - nothing against that. I just sometimes find non-traditional comedies rooted in drama to be a bit more interesting when done right.

Dragnet Girl / I Hired A Contract Killer

Dragnet Girl / I Hired A Contract Killer

Dragnet Girl / I Hired A Contract Killer

An Ozu-esque opening...
Floating Weeds
/ I Hired A Contract Killer


Ozu’s influence has always been a constant force in the work of Kaurismaki. From his earlier work like Shadows in Paradise to semi-recent stuff like Le Havre


What moves me in Ozu's work above all else is his humanity, his honesty, his rectitude - Aki Kaurismaki, Film Quarterly
Floating Weeds /
Shadows In Paradise

Floating Weeds /
Shadows In Paradise

Floating Weeds / Shadows In Paradise


What I respect most is that Ozu never needed to use murder or violence to tell everything that’s essential about human life - Aki Kaurismaki, Talking With Ozu
Equinox Flower / Shadows In Paradise


I refuse to go to my grave until I have proved to myself that I’ll never reach your level, Mr. Ozu - Aki Kaurismaki, Talking With Ozu
Floating Weeds /
Le Havre

Floating Weeds /
Le Havre

Floating Weeds /
Le Havre

Tokyo Story /
Le Havre


Social justice, immigration & the exploitation of the working class has been at the root of Kaurismaki’s films since day one. I Hired A Contract Killer is, in my opinion, one of the first films of his where he mad an overt political statement about the way immigrants and non-born citizens are treated in Europe specifically. This film also planted the seeds for future works like Le Havre and The Other Side Of Hope where we see immigrant life through the eyes of non-white characters (I’m not the biggest fan of either film but I appreciate the idea behind them). Kaurismaki does a very clever thing where he starts this journey with White European immigrants (I Hired A Contract Killer) then eventually transitions to characters like Africans (Le Havre) and middle eastern people (The Other Side Of Hope).

Kaurismaki has always been a political filmmaker (and a very outspoken critic of things he feels to be unjust in his personal life). He just didn’t always wear it on his sleeve so heavily until this past decade. I Hired A Contract Killer is a great mix of comedy and not-so heavy-handed social commentary that clocks in at the perfect runtime of 78 minutes.

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