Love is in the air with today’s Journal, as we take a look at ANNA KARENINA, the John Belushi comedy CONTINENTAL DIVIDE, the gay love story YOSSI & JAGGER and even Robert Altman’s loopy POPEYE. But as you can see here, love isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Back when we were doing the original Film Geek Central podcast, the lowest rated episode was the one I unwisely christened “Love Kills.” Let’s see if we can’t improve on the traffic this time out, shall we?
FILM GEEK JOURNAL – ENTRY 32
POPEYE (1980) – Popeye the sailor arrives in the town of Sweethaven in search of his long-lost Pappy. There, he meets Olive Oyl and the two hit it off, which immediately infuriates the hulking Bluto. Popeye and Olive also find the abandoned child Swee’pea and resolve to take care of the tyke. Meanwhile, Bluto seeks his revenge against Popeye, Olive Oyl and the town of Sweethaven.
Two things work in this film – Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy and Paul Smith as Bluto. Otherwise, POPEYE is one of those films that constantly confounds me, and I know I’m not alone on this. Somehow, someone thought this was a good idea. Not saying that film based on Popeye couldn’t be entertaining. But somehow, it became a big budget film and was primed to be one of the year’s biggest hits (It wasn’t, although it did turn a modest profit.). The decision was also made to turn the film into a musical, with some incredibly simplistic and annoying songs penned by Harry Nillson. And in the director’s chair, they hire Robert Altman, someone who was a complete wrong fit for this kind of material. The gigantic sets look cramped and dirty. The cinematography by the typically great Giuseppe Rotunno is drab, ugly and even a bit depressing. The film is under two hours and yet it seems like it goes on for three. When it’s not boring, it’s grating to the nerves. I went to see this in the theatre when I was five years old and already I found it poor and juvenile. Watching it again, I see my post-toddler assessments were correct. ½★ (out of ★★★★)
CONTINENTAL DIVIDE (1981) – Ernie Souchak (John Belushi) loves Chicago and his loves being a newspaper man. His investigative reporting, in which he tries to skewer a corrupt politician with mob ties, has finally ruffled too many feathers. After an attempt on his life, he is sent to the Rocky Mountains to recuperate and lay low. He meets a strange, earth mother type woman named Nell Porter (Blair Brown) who is at home in the woods as Ernie is in Chicago. Ernie is not a fan of the woods, nor is he a fan of Nell. But the whole “opposites attract” thing works and the two fall in love. But that’s only half the story as the two states of mind clash when Ernie’s vacation from reality ends.
There have been reports that this was Belushi’s favorite film. I can believe it. While it may not be quite as fantastic as THE BLUES BROTHERS, it does feel pretty special. You get a real sense that Belushi, perhaps for the only time in his career, was playing a real, believable human being. He commits to this part completely and it’s his most endearing character. The relationship aspect is great. While most films would quickly resolve the problem experienced by Ernie and Nell, this film really shows how difficult it would be. It also shows a real love of Chicago as well as appreciation of nature. In other words, something for everyone. ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)
YOSSI & JAGGER (2002) – At a cold, snowswept outpost in the Holy Land, two male Israeli soldiers are having a secret affair. They hide it from their conservative comrades, even though suspicions arise. When they have to engage Palestinians in combat, it threatens the outpost and the two lovers as well.
There has recently been a sequel to this film, titled simply YOSSI, which focuses on one of the protagonists of this earlier effort. I was supposed to review it for the site, but wound up not doing it. While it was mainly scheduling problems that prevented me from doing so, another possible reason is that I didn’t want to sit through any more of this insufferable material than I had to.
This could have been an intriguing film. After all, it deals with a homosexual relationship against the seemingly alpha-male mindset of both the military and the defense of a religious holy land. Moreover, it allows us access to these remote outposts at which the people of Israel fulfill their mandatory military service. But while we get glimpses of interest, the film falls flat. The direction is terribly amateurish. The soundtrack, filled with generic dance tracks, is horrendous. Even at less than 70 minutes, the film seems to go on and on. ★½ (out of ★★★★)
ANNA KARENINA (2012) – Based on Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel, Anna Karenina (Keira Knightley) is the wife of a key figure in Imperialist Russia. Her husband (Jude Law) is a kind but emotionally distant man whose main focus seems to be on his status and political affairs. She meets the much younger Count Vronsky, a military officer. What ensues is a long, torturous tale of love and mostly obsession that alters everyone’s life forever.
When I heard that Joe Wright (ATONEMENT, PRIDE & PREJUDICE) was tackling this material, I was intrigued. When reviews started popping up pointing to Wright’s odd directorial choice of filming everything as if it were a mammoth stage production, I got considerably less intrigued. But watching the film, I find that Wright’s choice may be alienating to some, but that’s not such a bad thing. Everything is far too hectic for the first 12 minutes of the film, but once it settles, the film improves considerably. Wright has crafted a complex, beautiful and intricate production. I did not mind the condensing of the novel, as everything moved nicely. Top-notch performances and a beautiful film to watch. Just mind the few missteps. ★★★ (out of ★★★★)
THE HOST (2013) – After a race of alien “souls” have taken over the bodies of virtually everyone on the planet, a small group of humans try to survive in hiding. A young girl, Melanie Stryder (Saorise Ronan) is captured and implanted with a soul named Wanderer. Melanie still survives within Wanderer’s mind. Melanie wants desperately to get back to her true love, Jared and her younger brother Jamie. She convinces Wanderer to find the human resistance who immediately distrusts her. But confusing things even further is Wanderer’s attraction to another of the humans, Ian.
I already wrote a much longer review to this one on site, which you can read HERE.
The following films were watched for review on an upcoming episode of FILM GEEK CENTRAL PRESENTS: THE FILMS OF 1985. This is our podcast in which we review every film released in American theaters during 1985, on its corresponding weekend in 2013. Check out the shows we’ve already done and look at some of the films yet to come, including:
BREWSTER’S MILLIONS (1985) – Richard Pryor plays a down on his luck former baseball player who is given the chance of a lifetime. He has thirty days to spend $30 million. If he succeeds, he will inherit $300 million. The only catch, he can’t spend it on any assets and he needs to keep the reasons for his lavish spending a secret.
THE HIT (1984) – Ten years after a former gangster testifies against his cronies, two hitmen kidnap him and transport him across Spain, taking him to his eventual death. Along the way, traitor works on each of the hitmen psychologically and no one seems sure if he’s merely trying to manipulate the situation to his benefit or if he really has made peace with his fate. Starring Terrence Stamp, John Hurt and Tim Roth. Directed by Stephen Frears.
MALIBU EXPRESS (1985) – Private detective Cody Abilene (Darby Hinton) investigates a wealthy household to find the person responsible for selling computer information to the Soviets. A murder takes place, and soon Cody is investigating the various blackmailing and bed-hopping that has been occurring at the lavish estate. This T&A-filled flick is directed by Andy Sidaris, who would soon undertake his “Ladies of L.E.T.H.A.L.” series.
A VIEW TO A KILL (1985) – In Roger Moore’s last outing as James Bond, 007 investigates another meglomaniacal billionaire industrialist (Christopher Walken) out to destroy Silicon Valley and corner the microchip market. This one co-stars Grace Jones, Tanya Roberts and Patrick McNee.
Total films watched in 2013 so far: 145
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