Blu-Ray Review: The Fisher King – Criterion Collection

Director: Terry Gilliam
Screenplay: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams, Mercedes Ruehl, Amanda Plummer
Country: USA
Running Time: 137 min
Year: 1991
BBFC Certificate: 15


The Fisher King is a film I thought I’d seen before, but wasn’t sure. After watching it again for this review I found myself remembering several moments, but I’m still not sure I’d seen it from start to finish. Regardless, I’m glad I definitely got through it all last week as I thought it was great.

The Fisher King centres around Jack (Jeff Bridges), a self-centred and cruel ‘shock-jock’ DJ whose career is on a high as he’s set to take the lead role in a TV sitcom. However, when he gives some insensitive advice to a listener, causing the man to gun down several people in a restaurant, his world comes crashing down and he retreats into a depression. One night, when he’s drunk and feeling particularly low, he decides to commit suicide, but before he attempts to do so, a couple of young thugs attack him. He’s saved by a group of homeless people led by Parry (Robin Williams), a particularly unhinged man who thinks he’s a knight on a quest to recover the Holy Grail, which he believes is kept in a ‘castle’ in New York. Jack tries to get away from Parry as quickly as he can at first, but learns that Parry’s wife was shot and killed in front of his eyes, during the massacre caused by Jack’s poor on-air advice. This shocking incident is what caused Parry’s current mental state, so Jack feels responsible and wants to help the man somehow. Initially he tries to solve the problem with money, but Parry doesn’t care about that and it doesn’t make Jack feel any better about the situation either, so he sets about trying to make a better life for Parry in other ways, which in turn he hopes will improve his own mental stability. The primary goal is to set Parry up with the woman he’s fallen in love with from afar, the mousey, socially awkward and clumsy Lydia (Amanda Plummer).

Terry Gilliam is a director who has famously had problems getting films made (or at least released) the way he wants them, or in some cases even made at all. He’d had particularly bad luck with the two films he made prior to The Fisher King, Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. These were both quite ambitious projects, involving a lot of special effects and elaborate production design, which might explain why The Fisher King was more grounded in reality on a relatively more intimate scale. It seems to have been a relatively smooth production and post-production process for Gilliam too. That’s not to say the film plays against the director’s usual style though. Gilliam visualises Parry’s Arthurian fantasies, most notably the Red Knight, his nemesis. This frightening creation, always on horseback, covered in red flowing material and breathing fire, represents Parry’s inner demons and is used highly effectively, particularly in a key scene towards the end which also features some shocking flashbacks of the restaurant massacre where Parry’s wife was killed.

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Blu-Ray Review: Fat City

Director: John Huston
Screenplay: Leonard Gardner
Based on a Novel by: Leonard Gardner
Starring: Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, Susan Tyrrell, Candy Clark, Nicholas Colasanto
Country: USA
Running Time: 96 min
Year: 1972
BBFC Certificate: 15


The late John Huston had an unusual career. Making his directorial debut with a cast iron classic, The Maltese Falcon, followed by a handful of other masterpieces, award winners and commercial hits, he then hit the doldrums for a while, making a couple of gems among the rough, but struggling to stay relevant as the 60’s rolled on. 1972’s Fat City was a bit of a comeback though, critically at least, leading to a pretty solid end to his career and life (we can forget about Annie). It’s been rather forgotten over time, but the critical love for Fat City remained enough to prompt this fine re-release package by the up-and-coming UK label, Indicator. Before I dig into Fat City I must take a minute to applaud Powerhouse Films for digging out so many lesser known gems, bravely picking some less than obvious titles to launch the first few months of their Indicator label. They pull out all the stops for special features too. Adding to the wonderful Blu-Rays released by Eureka, Arrow and The Criterion Collection, I’m truly spoilt for classic and cult re-releases these days.

Anyway, back to Fat City. Tully (Stacy Keach) is a former boxer who had a chance to make it big, but fell apart due to personal problems (he blames a woman and his manager, but as the film goes on we realise he’s got a drinking problem). When heading back to the gym in an attempt to get back into the sport, he comes across young Ernie (Jeff Bridges) training there for a bit of fun. Seeing potential in the 18 year old, Tully recommends Ernie speak to his ex-manager Ruben (Nicholas Colasanto – better known to me as Coach from Cheers). The film then charts, largely separately, Tully’s attempts to get back in the ring whilst battling personal demons and Ernie’s development as a boxer in the rough ‘skid row’ of Stockton, California. As both struggle to find the level of success Tully in particular dreams about, their lives intertwine with two women – Tully’s with alcoholic Oma (Susan Tyrrell) and Ernie’s with teenager Faye (Candy Clark).

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Trailer: Hell or High Water

I love a good modern western, be it No Country For Old Men or A History of Violence, films that take a lot of the themes of the genre and yet are set in modern times, with a contemporary look. Here we have Chris Pine and Ben Foster playing brothers with some financial problems they feel can be solved by robbing banks. Jeff Bridges plays the aging sheriff looking to get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s all soaked with honeyed cinematography, masculinity (facial hair, and crude language abound) and a fair amount of desperation. Nothing particularly original here, but the pleasure of this kind of movie is in the details.

Hell or High Water is written by Taylor Sheridan, fresh off Sicario, scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and has a lot of pedigree for a simple story. Just the way I like it.

A story about the collision of the Old and New West, two brothers—Toby, a straight-living, divorced father trying to make a better life for his son; and Tanner, a short-tempered ex-con with a loose trigger finger—come together to rob branch after branch of the bank that is foreclosing on their family land. The hold-ups are part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that powerful forces beyond their control have stolen from under their feet. Vengeance seems to be theirs until they find themselves in the cross-hairs of a relentless, foul-mouthed Texas Ranger looking for one last triumph on the eve of his retirement. As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their plan, a showdown looms.

Trailer: Hell or High Water

I love a good modern western, be it No Country For Old Men or A History of Violence, films that take a lot of the themes of the genre and yet are set in modern times, with a contemporary look. Here we have Chris Pine and Ben Foster playing brothers with some financial problems they feel can be solved by robbing banks. Jeff Bridges plays the aging sheriff looking to get to the bottom of the mystery. It’s all soaked with honeyed cinematography, masculinity (facial hair, and crude language abound) and a fair amount of desperation. Nothing particularly original here, but the pleasure of this kind of movie is in the details.

Hell or High Water is written by Taylor Sheridan, fresh off Sicario, scored by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and has a lot of pedigree for a simple story. Just the way I like it.

A story about the collision of the Old and New West, two brothers—Toby, a straight-living, divorced father trying to make a better life for his son; and Tanner, a short-tempered ex-con with a loose trigger finger—come together to rob branch after branch of the bank that is foreclosing on their family land. The hold-ups are part of a last-ditch scheme to take back a future that powerful forces beyond their control have stolen from under their feet. Vengeance seems to be theirs until they find themselves in the cross-hairs of a relentless, foul-mouthed Texas Ranger looking for one last triumph on the eve of his retirement. As the brothers plot a final bank heist to complete their plan, a showdown looms.

While You Were Out…

The Big Lebowski was finally released on Blu-ray yesterday. The balance of forces between good and evil are finally tipped in the direction of the former. It really ties the room together. And so begins the celebration:

 

*UPDATE* Well I’ll be damned. You can watch the entire reunion on The Big Lebowski Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/BigLebowskiMovie?sk=app_183835695015178

Cinecast Episode 198 – Pickle

 

Two films, different colours in the title and vastly different tones in the filmmaking. Kurt and Andrew dig into relationship (and American Ratings Board) dysfunction with Blue Valentine before Gamble saunters in to talk Michel Gondry and his Green Hornet; a film which takes almost nothing seriously but nevertheless comes across as sporadically entertaining (hmmm, echoes of this podcast). Then Gamble gives a preview of the ‘mildly funny time waster’ No Strings Attached. Other things watched include a little Martin Scorsese, a little Edward Zwick, a little David Mamet magic (featuring Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants), some Motorohead and Anime before closing with the war in the parking lot, as the goofy yet delightful documentary, The Parking Lot Movie, makes it to Netflix Instant. As always, DVD picks, tangents and other loquacious frivolities await on the Row Three Cinecast.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_198.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_11/episode_198-alt.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
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Cinecast Episode 195 – Z-Axis

 
The last episode of 2010 clocks in with a triple review, as Kurt and Andrew look at David O. Russell’s earnest and farcical boxing drama, The Fighter, as well as John Cameron Mitchell’s look at how a couple (in this case, Aaron Eckhart and Nicole Kidman) grieve the loss of their young son in Rabbit Hole. Andrew and Gamble gripe on and praise Tron 2 for various reasons, before Gamble gives a double-sneakpeak of The Green Hornet and Fockers 3: Meet those Tiny Mothered-Fockers. All three of the boys discuss their Top 5 male performance picks of 2010 (and add a few honorable mentions in there to boot), and along the way there are digressions on Stanley Kubrick, Stephen King, the nature and requirement of good comedy writing and whether or not it is a good idea to watch mega-blockbusters under the influence of strong cocktails and bacon popcorn.

The Cinecast will return early in 2011. Be safe. Be happy. Be catching up on the holiday cinema offerings if the family gets to be too much for you!

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_195.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_195-alt.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 195 – Z-Axis (Alt. No Music Version)

Cinecast Episode 194 (alternate version with no music). This post is simply for streaming purposes and easier access for iTunes subscribers. For full show notes and listener comments, please visit the official post for this episode.

Thanks!

 

 
 

Cinecast Episode 194 – An Island of Loneliness

 
 
After several weeks of ‘shooting the shit’ and not bothering with the current film releases, we attempt to make up for lost time, and even (mother mercy!) get ahead of the game. This episode is loaded down with SPOILER-style reviews of two films in limited release (there is your fair warning) and one that many are looking forward to this Christmas. But fear not dear listeners, Black Swan is getting wider by the week and Finnish oddity Rare Exports, a delightfully deadpan anti-Christmas kids flick is probably coming to a theatre near you any moment now, hopefully VOD or other distribution channels will follow. The last is the Coen Brothers latest, a re-envisioning of the Charles Portis novel that is similar enough to the 1960s John Wayne movie in story and plot that spoilers are more or less moot. The boys pour on the love of classic westerns as well as experimental looks in the genre from Cat Ballou to Deadwood. And being that years end is just around the corner, it is time for lists once again. All three of us present our TOP FIVE female performances as an appetizer for our ten picks of the year. Some great DVD choices this week lead into a rousing “discussion” (and by discussion, we mean an epic They Live styled “PUT THE GLASSES ON” smackdown with Gamble doing his best Roddy Piper and Andrew assuming the stoic Keith David position) of how ‘interesting’ Michel Gondry’s Green Hornet is for what it is. It is worth staying to the end for that one, even if Kurt throws up his hands in exasperation of the whole argument. Oh, and just to mix things up a little we talk some Terrence Malick and the recently web-release Tree of Life Trailer.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


 
 

 

To download the show directly, paste the following URL into your favorite downloader:
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_194.mp3

ALTERNATIVE (no music track):
http://rowthree.com/audio/cinecast_10/episode_194-alt.mp3

 
 
Full show notes are under the seats…
Would you like to know more…?

Cinecast Episode 194 – (Alt. No Music Version)

Cinecast Episode 194 (alternate version with no music). This post is simply for streaming purposes and easier access for iTunes subscribers. For full show notes and listener comments, please visit the official post for this episode.

Thanks!

 

 
 

Review: True Grit (2010)

Director: Joel and Ethan Coen (Raising Arizona, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, A Serious Man)
Novel: Charles Portis
Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen
Producers: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, Scott Rudin
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Hailee Steinfeld, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Barry Pepper
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 110 min.


Tough to go any extended length of time knowing that a Coen Brothers film is right around the corner. It is an event for most cinephiles and everything else just seems to pale in comparison with the expectations and anticipation felt by movie goers everywhere. So finally the day comes and we rush to the theater with excitement. Is it worth the wait? The short answer is yes. True Grit has all of the trappings of a Coen Brothers picture; complete with antiquated, yet somehow goofy dialogue, fabulous casting, a fun storyline (often having to do with a satchel of money or some sort of “on the run” scenario) and of course Roger Deakins. Yes, this is a worthy trip to the multi-plex this holiday season. But there are some reservations.

It must be understood that this is not a remake of a film of the same name produced in 1968 and starring the late, great John Wayne. No, this is the Coens’ own interpretation of the novel. That said, having seen the 1968 version, one would find it difficult to not compare the two as they’re both extremely similar on many levels – neither of them deviating much from the screenplay-like dialogue of the book. So I’ll get this out of the way first: overall, I like the original version of the film better. It’s arguably not fair to compare the two movies and one should let this product stand on its own. But again, that’s difficult to do with the previous version so fresh in the mind and if I were letting it stand on its own I’d say its certainly a lesser entry into the repertoire of Joel and Ethan.
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