“Soylent Green” (1973)
The unfortunately sad truth about “Soylent Green” is that most people only remember the film for its twist ending, though said ending has been ranked as one of the best twists in all of cinema. But it is too bad because “Soylent Green” does have a bit to offer outside of that twist.
In particular “Soylent Green” has an sickening atmosphere that matches its all too realistic future setting. Ask most scientists what is the biggest problem that humanity must face in the future, and every answer you’ll get will come back to the same instigator – overpopulation. The world was not made to support seven billion human and growing, and as a result our resources will slowly being to dwindle, our environment will fade away to support the incoming supply of humans and poverty will set in for most societies.
“Soylent Green” takes the problem of overpopulation to its ultimate conclusion – 40 million people living in New York City, most animals are extinct including the animals we use for food, 30 million people are without a job, and even the people that do have income and a place to live have never seen vegetables, meat, books or a hot shower, much less any of these fancy LED shower head systems that are coming out. There is a sick green mist throughout most outdoor scenes, as if the air is polluted, giving the film a feeling that everyone is sick and dying, including the planet.
It paints a drastic picture of a future where survival is everything, even if it means stealing from others who are more fortunate. The main character, Frank Thorn (Charlton Heston), has a decent job as a detective, but takes every opportunity he can get to steal from the rich so that he and his friend, Sol Roth (Edward G. Robinson, in his last role), can enjoy the small things that remind them the earth was once plentiful and beautiful.
For this reason, the twist ending seems almost logical from a business stand point. The Soylent company is fighting to save the human race from extinction, and is using the resources that they have left to do so. It just so happens that those resources are unethical and immoral.
“Soylent Green” is one of the few science fiction films that depicts a future that seems so real that it is frightening. From the crowded hallways of apartment complexes to the inability to move through the city without taking an hour to go one block, there is this fear that we are not too far off from that if we continue to populate without considering the ramifications.
Final Grade: B
“Hannah And Her Sisters” (1986)
This Woody Allen film is like a “Seinfeld” episode, if they removed all the character and comedy. Just a lot of pointless chatting that amounts to basically nothing.
“Hannah And Her Sisters” is one of the prime examples of why I often cannot stand Woody Allen’s work. His films feel like they’re always working up to that last joke, where everything comes together and gives the audience one big laugh. But the problem with that is Allen seems to forget that we have to wait for an hour and a half to hear that punch line, all while we have to listen to his annoying ramblings about his fears of having a brain tumor or how he needs proof that God exists and that he doesn’t see a point in living if there isn’t anything definitive.
There were points in this film where I found myself saying “Shut up” to Woody Allen being a nihilist hypochondriac. There is nothing redeeming or enjoyable about a character who won’t stop talking about how much life sucks or complaining about how his life is terrible.
I think the point where I started to not care about “Hannah And Her Sisters” was a scene where Holly (Dianne Wiest) and April (Carrie Fisher) go around New York City with this guy they just met. After touring some buildings in New York, the group then spends at least two minutes arguing about which should be taken home first, as they work out the details of traffic, miles and city streets.
They spend what feels like an eternity discussing traveling through New York City.
I understand that “Hannah And Her Sisters” is supposed to be more of a piece on life and have it move at a normal pace, while the characters talk like normal people. But that’s boring. That is merely our reality, when film is supposed to be reality taken to its most extravagant extremes. What is the point of a film where nothing interesting happens?
This isn’t a film, it is a family slide show extended to an hour a half.
I can see why others would enjoy “Hannah And Her Sisters,” but I am not one of them. This film is annoying, unfunny and not gripping at all. It reinforces my stance that Woody Allen can be a tedious filmmaker – He has his share of gems, but you have to be really patient while you get through his irritating work.
Final Grade: D
Even if you’ve never seen this film, you probably heard of the premise and how it is utterly ridiculous – A tire comes to life, learns that it has psychic powers and becomes a serial killer.
While watching “Rubber” my reaction was the same as it was while seeing the trailer – Huh?
I don’t know how else to describe it – This is a film about a killer psychic tire. How can you respond to that other than massive confusion?
To the films’ credit, they do attempt to explain why it is not that baffling, with an opening narration from a police officer, as he tells the audience watching the tire come to life, that a lot of great moments in cinema happen for “no reason” like why the aliens in “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” are brown or why in “The Pianist” Adrien Brody has to live in the slums and use his talents to buy a nice house. Of course, there are reasons for why these events happen, but it does offer a different perspective, some people don’t think about why they happen.
“Rubber” lives in its own little world, where it constantly reminds the audience, both the one watching the film and the other in the film watching the “film,” that you’re not supposed to think about why the tire is alive and how it got these powers. To look beyond that gap in logic and reason, and judge the film as piece about new life discovering its place in the universe.
I’m reminded of the ending to the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” theme song – “If you’re wondering how he eats and breaths, and other science facts, then repeat to yourself ‘It’s just a show, I should really just relax.'”
That being said, the tire, somehow named Roger, seems intent on killing all humans.
“Rubber” is a strange piece of surreal cinema. Without breaking the fourth wall, this gives us a film within a film, where you’re not exactly sure where the acting ends and where “reality” begins. It is never even explained why there is an audience in the middle of the desert watching this first, and why none of them brought food or water. But this film does a great job and showing instead of explaining, down to the convincing effects on the tire to give this inanimate object its own character.
There aren’t many films that can say they’ve made a tire come to life and make it look realistic.
Final Grade: B-
“All-Star Superman” (2010)
This is a very simple, straight forward Superman about the misadventures of the Man of Tomorrow, as he finds out that he is slowly dying and wants to make the most of the little time he has left.
It takes advantage of the reason Clark Kent became Superman – to show people the way to lead a better existence. Superman could easily enforce his will on Earth and take it over, but he choose not to. He instead shows us kindness, forgiveness, and knowledge, never asking for anything and reminding us that we don’t need super powers to become better.
Not much else to add to that. Most of the journeys and fights in this film are unconnected and to the point, including a visit from Samson and Atlas to fight the Ultra-Sphinx, Lex Luthor fighting his way through a massive prison while Superman (disguised as Clark Kent) fights Parasite, and the final battle between Superman and Lex, who has been gifted with Superman’s powers for 24 hours. All of them are neat in their own right and it is nice to see a side of Superman that isn’t just a guy who punches everything.
Final Grade: B-
“Miami Connection” (1987)
I cannot wait for the Rifftrax of this one.
In case you have never heard of this gem, let me give you a brief description – The film does not actually take place in Miami but Orlando, it follows a rock band named Dragon Force, a bunch of orphaned teenagers that all know Tae Kwon Do, except they’re not orphaned since at least two still have their fathers, and they play a shady club owned by another master of Tae Kwon Do. A rival band is upset they can’t play at this club, always screaming that it is bullshit even after Dragon Force gives logical explanations, and they end up calling in a gang of motorcycle ninjas to take down Dragon Force once and for all. Oh, and roughly 45 percent of the movie is the band performing songs about friendship and kissing ninjas.
“Miami Connection” does not take itself seriously, and neither should you. One of the better “so bad, it is good” movies I have seen in a while. Get a couple of friends and some beers, sit back and enjoy the stupidity.
Final Grade: C+
“The Shop Around The Corner” (1940)
I can see why this film would eventually become a great stage play – most of this takes place in two or three locations, there is a great emotional pull-line throughout the film that leads to some witty banter and has a colorful cast of characters that add to the feeling of community.
Part of what makes this film internationally famous is that it takes place in Budapest, yet everyone speaks perfect english. Even the main stars, James Stewart and Margaret Sullivan seem like they fit in America, yet no one bothers to hide behind any sort of nationality.
One of the important points I found in “The Shop Around The Corner” was the key differences between the way men and women think. There is a key scene where the employees of the shop discuss an item they have an abundance of – a cigarette box that is also a music box. The men think it is a terrible idea, since if you smoke a lot, you must listen to that song a lot, whether you want to or not. While the women believe that others will find the tune enjoyable, and it’ll make smokers into music lovers, and music lovers into smokers, which is great for business.
This comes into play throughout the entire film, as we see James Stewart be practical and logical, while Margaret Sullivan is emotional, honest and true to herself. The two constantly butt heads over their different perspectives, but there is a genuine need to care for one another. They hate one another, but they make each other better people.
“The Shop Around The Corner” is an emotional little slice of life that perfectly captures the comradery between fellow employees and the family that builds between them, while also giving us a neat perspective on the differences between the sexes, which was unheard of in the 1940s.
Final Grade: B+