The first time I saw an Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window, The Birds) movie it was on television. I never made it all the way through because it scared me too much; the film was Psycho. It caused nightmares and made me afraid of the bathroom shower curtain when I was a little kid. Not until I got older did I finally see the movie in its entirety. Back then I did not understand the genius of Alfred Hitchcock. When I got older I started to appreciate the way he directed his pictures. His movies like Vertigo, To Catch a Thief and North by Northwest were a marvel to watch even on the small screen of a television. I remember when I learned Alfred always did a cameo in his films; searching for him added to my enjoyment level. If memory serves me correctly I believe Alfred had a weekly television show. I have a vague memory of him standing on a box or chair with a noose around his neck. His show bordered on the macabre I believe. As my love of movies grew and I was exposed to other directors I never quite found another director who had a similar style to Alfred. Not until I saw a Brian De Palma (Dressed to Kill, The Untouchables) film did I recognize familiar traits and here is the funny thing, no one ever told me Alfred was Brian’s idol. Just from watching one of Brian’s movies I saw such a resemblance to those old Alfred Hitchcock pictures, I immediately became a big fan of Brian. For someone who has admired his work through the years, this documentary provided an oral history to his films. SITTING in front of a fireplace it seemed as if Brian was spending the day telling me about his movies. As the consumer I was thrilled to listen to him talk about the back stories to some of his famous films such as Carrie and Blow Out. Directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Frances Ha) and Jake Paltrow (Young Ones, The Good Night), the two directors for the most part let Brian sit and go through his films in chronological order. There were no actors or other directors doing any tributes or dishing, it was just Brian alone and I have to say he was very entertaining. If one is not a big movie lover I feel this documentary may become tedious after some time, though there were a variety of film clips shown where he explained what they had to do to achieve a certain affect or look in the scene. For me this was a treat and I could appreciate the hard work it must have taken since CGI was not available back then to the standard it is now. I find it amusing that yesterday’s movie review talked about listening and for this film listening would be a requirement. Except for the film examples there was no action or drama, simply a man discussing his passion for making films.
3 ½ stars for movie aficionados 3 stars for the average moviegoer
Along with the required classes I took, there was included courses on peer pressure. There was no financial cost. I had never signed up for them, but I quickly learned about it during my schooling. During our younger years, where we may not have yet built-up a base of self-confidence, it was the more assertive pupils who staked out claims to yield power over fellow students. Those kids who were not strong enough (either emotionally or physically) would follow the assertive/aggressive leaders of the class. Now I have seen it time and time again, those who seek out and gain power strictly with brute force tend to have a weak moral compass. It starts out slowly with an odd request or weird command before things escalate and the leader has his own personal lynch mob at his beck and call. The saddest part of this equation is seeing those individuals, who on their own would never act out in such a way, having to participate in a wicked attack goaded on by their fierce leader. There is an ugly addition to this scenario which involves those students who refuse to participate. Chances are they will become the hunted as the aggressive head of the group directs his minions at the innocent. DURING wartime there were horrors one expected but Eriksson, played by Michael J. Fox (Back to the Future franchise, Family Ties-TV), never imagined he would be involved in the kidnapping of a young innocent girl, instigated by his platoon leader Sgt. Tony Meserve, played by Sean Penn (Fair Game, All the King’s Men). This film festival wining war drama was directed by one of my favorite directors, Brian De Palma (The Untouchables, Dressed to Kill). He has an eye for setting up scenes similar to Alfred Hitchcock. I say this because I want you to be aware of the backgrounds during scenes; Brian places other forms of action behind the actors. The pairing of Sean and Michael would appear odd at first, but it actually was a brilliant choice and they were amazing together. So were other members of the platoon like John C. Reilly (Chicago, Step Brothers) as PFC Herbert Hatcher and John Leguizamo (Romeo + Juliet, Chef) as PFC Antonio Diaz. Inspired by true events, the story offered a different view of military life during the Viet Nam war. One other thing I wanted to mention about Brian’s directing; the way the scenes were filmed really amped up the intensity of them. After recently reviewing the movie American Sniper, I found it interesting that this DVD should show up soon after. There were scenes that included blood and violence in them.
3 1/2 stars — DVD
The reaction I had to this movie may surprise some of you. This happens to be one of my favorite movies and I will explain why. The first time I saw this film I teared up, because I had a secret in common with Carrie. One of my coping mechanisms when I was being bullied in high school was to imagine the perpetrators being placed in a class room, where I had installed special apparatus that would seal the room. From my vantage point I would visualize a couple of water pipes bursting, slowly filling up the room with ice cold water. As the bullies rose closer to the ceiling I could see the panic on their faces and then they died from drowning. I know for some this sounds macabre, but please understand it always stayed as an imaginary fantasy, giving me the strength to return to school the following day. This is one of the reasons I love Carrie and why I am particularly fond of this dramatic thriller. Nominated for an Oscar for her incredible acting, Sissy Spacek (The Help, Coal Miner’s Daughter) played shy high school student Carrie White. With her intensely religious mother Margaret, played by Piper Laurie (Children of a Lesser God, The Faculty), controlling almost all aspects of Carrie’s life, it was hard for Carrie to make any friends. When a prank was put into play to humiliate Carrie in front of the student body, the tormentors had no idea Carrie had a special gift that would be her coping mechanism. Besides Sissy being nominated for an Oscar, Piper was nominated for supporting actress. Director Brian De Palma (Body Double, The Fury) did justice to this movie based on the Stephen King novel. Helping Brian was a solid supporting cast led by Betty Buckley, Nancy Allen, Amy Irving and John Travolta. This by no means was a typical horror film; it was a well crafted tale of high school–for some.
3 1/4 stars — DVD
With this gripping film, we return to a theme I covered previously: Are some people simply born evil or is it something they learn? When the media covers a story, depending on the spin; we can believe a person is innocent or guilty. I find especially true these days, a news story gets twisted in a positive or negative way based on the news station’s affiliations. One of my favorite directors, Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables) wrote and directed this intense docudrama about a group of soldiers manning a military checkpoint in an Iraqi town. I had a hard time remembering this was a fictional piece; it seemed so real to me. The idea of having soldier Angel Salazar, played by Izzy Diaz (If I Had Known I Was a Genius, several various TV show episodes), documenting his time by video taping it, was brilliant. We were able to see what Angel was recording through his viewfinder. It was fascinating to see how some of his informal scenes were later covered by the media. Witnessing fellow soldiers B.B Rush’s and Reno Flake’s, played by Daniel Stewart Sherman (The Briefcase, Mr. Popper’s Penguins) and Patrick Carroll (several various TV show episodes), heinous behavior was disturbing. I wondered if they always had that type of behavior or if it came on due to the environment. One of my best friend’s brothers never spoke of his time overseas during the Viet Nam War. I was always curious what life was like for him. In truth, the only ideas I have of military life in battle is what I have seen on the news. After watching this movie, should I assume war nourishes the seeds of evil in some individuals? Blurring the line between fact and fiction, this haunting story could easily be someone’s nightmare. Bloody, violent scenes.
3 stars — DVD