By James May
BUY IT AT AMAZON: Click HERE
STUDIO: The Disinformation Company
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 89 Minutes
Not a whole hell of a lot else
Make a black comedy involving murder, rape, and kidnapping whilst depicting the growing split between the lower class and the party faithful in the crumbling pre-Gorbachev Soviet Union.
Director: Aleksey Balabanov
Cast: Aleksei Poluyan, Leonid Gromov, Aleksei Serebryakov, Leonid Bichevin, Agniya Kuznetsova. Natalya Akimova, and Yuri Stepanov
What happens when you mix an increasingly disconnected from reality Professor of scientific atheism, an ex-con grain vodka distiller, a police captain looking for love with the kidnapped daughter of a Communist party member, and a goods trading rock and roller looking for a good time at a disco? If you guessed wackiness you’re not even close.
It’s pretty much a given that I, and probably most of you guys here on CHUD, are difficult to offend, so given the subject matter I had really hoped to find something a bit more fun and horrible. Don’t mistake me, this movie does horrible with the best of them, and while I found a good laugh here and there don’t jump into this expecting an Ichi the Killer-like experience.
Taking place in the quickly dissolving Soviet Union (1984 to be exact), Cargo 200 takes a fairly dim view of life among the ruins. Ugly industrial landscapes (not unlike some sights in Detroit for that matter) and a growing cultural divide between the party faithful and the lower class alongside a generational divide set the backdrop for an ugly, brutal and bitterly funny at times film.
The movie opens with two brothers, one an army colonel the other a professor, discussing the war in Afghanistan (the Soviet one, not ours) and the problem of returning military corpses. Rock music enthusiast and goods trader Valera meets up with a female friend, Angelika, at a disco and they drink their way to a local distillery. Valera ends up passed out drunk, a Vietnamese gardener ends up dead and Angelika ends up raped and kidnapped by the Leninsk captain of police, Zhurov.
Having broken down and taken refuge in the same distillery where the murder and rape-napping took place earlier that night, the professor takes an interest in the case, prior to which he had been helped by the murdered man, Sunka, and the arrested suspect, Aleksey. Aleksey faces death unwilling to speak up because of a standing debt owed Zhurov. Zhurov, meanwhile, has acquired the newly returned corpse of his rape wife’s fiance, having taken it off the hands of the colonel. Hoping to make his new love happy, Zhurov delivers to his handcuffed sweetheart a box of fiance and his love letters he acquired in his investigation into his own crime. Zhurov’s mother meanwhile enjoys lots of vodka and tv, whilst trying to ignore the growing fly community taking space in her apartment.
It’s a pretty shocking, mean spirited film that has no problem dick punching any fondness for Stalin’s Russia or what was left of it by the end of ’84. It would take a person with a pretty nasty sense of humor to find laughs among the grotesque in this movie, but if you can laugh at a scene featuring a naked girl chained to a bed she’s sharing with a couple rotting corpses, this may very well be the movie for you. That said, the movie looks great and the period specific music is well utilized if mostly inconsequential.
The cover of the disc features a fist with the knuckles tattooed USSR, which is about as blunt and without nuance as this movie never completely is but occasionally flirts with. The image quality is mostly very good and the colors, even as dingy as most of locales are, really look great.
If you are hoping to find anything on this disc that might help you understand this movie, the writer/director or the history behind the chosen time period you will find nothing of the sort. Only an animated menu and a chapter selection are on this disc.
JUST ANOTHER LOVE STORY
By Brian Putman
BUY IT AT AMAZON: Click HERE
STUDIO: Koch Lorber
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 100 Minutes
While You Were Sleeping, but with 300% more murder.
Writer, Director: Ole Bornedal (Nightwatch)
Starring: Anders W. Berthelsen, Rebecka Hemse, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Charlotte Fich.
A stylish Danish thriller.
“So, do I look fat in this? You sure?”
In the first five minutes you see two scenes from different parts of the timeline. First a man sprawled across the ground in the pouring rain, adressing the audience in narration, a woman rushes to his side. Second we see a different woman holding a gun to a man’s head as he coaches her where to place it. As the movie progress you will learn how both come to pass. When the linear narrative kicks in we are introduced to Jonas (Berthelsen), which we recognize as the man in the rain. He has a marriage, kids, mortgage, job, and is dissatisfied with it all. His staid existence is suddenly interrupted the day he witnesses a brutal car wreck. He rushes out to aid victims and comes face to face with an unknown woman (Hemse), which we recognize as the woman who held the gun. He tries to comfort her as she stares forward blankly, calling for Sebastian. When the scene cuts we’re back with Jonas. The woman has stirred something in him and through a friend he discovers her name is Julia Castlund. He decides to visit her at the hospital and though initially rebuffed is quickly ushered off by a relative when he claims to be Julia’s boyfriend. Jonas is forced to maintain the deception when confronted with the grieving kin gathered around Julia’s comatose body. He’s reticent to play the part, but he offers what comfort he can. Jonas returns the next day intent to reveal the truth only to be met with a further complication. Julia is now conscious, though suffering from memory loss and depleted vision. Once again he maintains the ruse. He begins to grow comfortable in the role and his attraction for Julia only deepens as he recounts to her the memories of a relationship that never existed. From here the main thrust of the narrative begins with the questions from the first two scenes in mind, and the obvious conflict brewing as Jonas draws closer to Julia.
Underwater DeNiro always kills.
This is a great film. It has a lean running time, and keeps a steady pace. Bornedal employs a great sense of style, while also displaying restraint in not letting the style overwhelm the narrative. Berthelsen and Hemse carry the film well and Kass is quite effective in his scenes as Sebastian. Fich is also worth a mention in her role as Mette. She gives the character a grounded reality that makes you feel Jonas actually stands to lose something as he pursues Julia. The ending may be a little too convenient, but it doesn’t lessen what comes before it.
Definitely worth your time.
No one ever truly leaves the Daughter of Sauron
The artwork is good. It presents an intriguing image of a man holding a gun on a woman nicely contrasted against the connotations of the title. It does a nice job letting you know what kind of film this is.
There are no special features.
MORGAN STEWART’S COMING HOME
by Sean Blackwell
BUY IT AT AMAZON: Click HERE
RUNNING TIME: 92 Minutes
The guy who spent the 80s not being Ferris Bueller stars as a privileged-but-quirkily-cool prep school kid whose attempts to bond with his stuffy parents results in surprisingly restrained hijinks.
Cast: Jon Cryer, Lynn Redgrave, Paul Gleason, Nicholas Pryor, Viveka Davis
Director: Paul Aaron and Terry Winsor (both as Alan Smithee)
Morgan Stewart (Cryer) is the son of a United States Senator (Pryor) who has spent the bulk of his youth in prep schools while his domineering mother (Redgrave) has guided (or pulled) his loving-but-preoccupied dad up the political ladder. When Morgan’s folks send word for him to come home, he assumes that family time is on and the reuniting is going to feel so good. Unfortunately, his homecoming is just a part of the family political advisor’s (Gleason) plan to give the incumbent senator a much-needed boost at re-election time. Things predictably do not go according to plan for anyone, as Morgan discovers love both familial and romantic, Momma and Poppa Stewart discover what’s really important in life, and sneaky Jay becomes the third person inside of a week to discover what’s at the bottom of the Stewart family fountain.
The first sign that Donnie & Marie weren’t your typical brother-sister duo.
This is a surprising little movie, especially given the fact that it was made in the cheese Mecca of the late 1980s. Unless made by John Hughes, most comedies of the time were badly-acted slaptastic guffaw fests whose only real aim was to ape the better comedies of the day. You know, kind of what the rotten bastards behind the Scary/Epic/Disaster/Babykiller Movie series of today are all about.
Instead of going for an “everybody go completely over the top” type of vibe, the leads do their thing in a surprisingly restrained manner. While Lynn Redgrave turns in a scenery-chewing, through-gritted teeth performance as Morgan’s laser-focused mother, she does so in a way that never veers into wacky or pandering territory. The same can be said for Paul Gleason, whose slimy political advisor Jay Le Soto comes across as the dickishly more successful older sibling of Gleason’s own principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club. Cryer does a solid job by enthusiastically playing off of the striaghts around him. If you’re a fan, then you’ll find plenty to like. If not, then you probably need to ask yourself why this one made it into the DVD player. The real standout here is Morgan’s love interest Emily (Viveka Davis – think a more interesting Almost Famous-era Kate Hudson), who refreshingly comes across as a genuine person instead of just some cookie-cutter girlfriend caricature.
Drawing the short straw on the Peter North Gala cleanup crew was never a plum assignment.
Up until the climax (in which the 1980s-era contractually-obligated “bad guy ends up driving into a body of water” scene occurs), the film does a good job of getting its point across without resorting to too much bush league bullshit. The best comedy seems to come from the moments (the shower scene is a great example) where the cast is allowed to do their thing without the need for slapstick or blaring musical cues (more on that in a sec).
That’s not to say that things don’t occasionally get a little heavy handed, though. For example, the overabundance of pseudo-mainstream horror namedropping that occurs is pretty staggering. We get that these kids dig horror films, but it comes off a bit like the guy who claims to be a hardcore punk aficionado but constantly extols the virtues of Blink 182.
Also falling on the sledgehammer side of subtlety is the overbearing synth-heavy score, which feels the need to musically diagram exactly how the onscreen proceedings are supposed to make us feel. The cast does a good enough job conveying emotion, and the score acts as an unnecessary set of emotional “APPLAUSE” signs. It may have been my setup, but the mix seemed to push the score way too far to the forefront, bringing even more attention to it.
After Maid to Order, Sheedy’s job offers began to dry up.
These quibbles aside, this movie is hard to dislike. Is it pretty dumb at times? Of course. Is it predictable? It’s an 80’s comedy for Christ’s sake. Is it still a surprisingly well done (and restrained at the right times) look back? Yes it is. Why directors Aaron and Winsor bailed on credit for this is a bit of a mystery, as it hits much more than it misses.
Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home is presented on this disc in gloriously nostalgic full screen. You know, in case you want to fully immerse yourself in 80’s-ness and watch it on your 26” RCA console set complete with wood grain casing. Full screen presentation is really inexcusable at this point, but that equine corpse has been flogged quite enough.
Special Features include a selectable Trivia Track, which functions as a Pop-Up Video-style smattering of multiple choice questions and factoids loosely related to what’s appearing onscreen. For example, when Morgan and Emily are pretend-skiing down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, our friends at Lionsgate were kind enough to inform the viewer that, “Alpine is the most common form of skiing.” They don’t call it “trivia” for nothing, folks.
Anjelica Huston’s audition tape for The Color Purple was the stuff of Hollywood legend.
Also included is the trailer for the movie you just watched, as well as trailers for remastered versions of Dirty Dancing, The Monster Squad, and the original My Bloody Valentine. All in all this disc is feather light on the features side, but a director’s commentary for a film that the helmers (both of them) disowned was probably too much to ask for anyway. Widescreen, however, is not.
HOPE & FAITH – SEASON ONE
by Simon Rowson
BUY IT AT AMAZON: Click HERE
RUNNING TIME: 92 Minutes
The Odd Couple, if Felix looked like an emaciated Kate Hudson (So, well…Goldie Hawn) and Oscar were a necrophiliac’s wet dream. Which I guess he might be, to some especially terrifying fetishists. Someone should really check Walter Matthau’s grave…
Faith Ford, Kelly Ripa, Ted McGinley, Nicole Paggi, Macey Cruthird and Paulie Litt.
The lives of straight-laced suburban Stepford wife Hope and her family of generic stereotypes – the precocious, wiser-than-her-years middle child, the superficial, boy-crazed older sister, and the rambunctious son who’s so cute you just want to kick him down a mine shaft – are rocked when spoilt, irresponsible former soap star aunt Faith moves back to town, tearing their existence asunder by refusing to use coasters and rearranging their carefully-ordered sock drawers (Gasp!).
“If you mention me killing Happy Days one more time, I’ll hack you off at the knees and use your severed limbs to re-paint the kitchen…”
I’d begin with the proviso that this probably isn’t the kind of DVD that the average CHUD reader would rush out to spend their money on, but then I realise that I can’t think of anyone at all who’d go out of their way to own such a bland, cookie-cutter sitcom which most likely airs daily in syndication anyway. Then the final revelation comes that Hope & Faith aired for a whole three years, and I weep into my Cheerios like a molested 8 year old. It’s frequently baffling how such slight, stale shows can last quite so long while more intelligent shows fall by the wayside.
Formulaic plots unfold, with kooky and care-free Faith too grating and abrasive to be endearing, Hope too bland and prudish to be likeable, and older daughter Sydney an Aryan void of personality, while the OTT laugh track pipes up at even the slightest action to remind the audience that ‘Things are happening! You should react with laughter!’, like an aural puppetmaster attempting to tug the strings of its brainwashed zombie audience. For the most part,
it’s trite “comedy”, with the occasional bout of cloying sentimentality not made much more fun by the unbearably shrill Faith (Kelly Ripa, who bafflingly veers from looking incredibly attractive to resembling a skeletal prop from Army of Darkness).
Still, there’s the occasional smile and a guilty giggle to be had, usually thanks to Ted McGinley or Macey Cruthird, whose character is blessed with the closest thing to wit in a show whose perceived zenith of hilarity is PEOPLE TALKING LOUDLY, or the noble art of the food fight. Their scenes together even manage to be quite sweet, if schmaltzy and saccharine (Insert “Awwwh!” here).
“Kid, I don’t want to alarm you, but I think there’s a Vietnamese family living in your hairstyle…”
Hope & Faith isn’t an offensively bad show; it’s no worse than the average interchangeable laugh-track show (According To Jim, or Still Standing, for example), but unfortunately it never strives to break free from formulaic sitcom mediocrity, with no bite, wit or originality to be found. In a day and age where other, much superior comedy shows grace the airwaves and store shelves, and even sitcoms mired in clichéd concepts manage to be consistently fresh and hilarious (How I Met Your Mother, for instance), there’s not much to inspire a recommendation here.
People who’re already unabashed fans of the show and similar sitcoms will already know what to expect and will likely want to snatch up these discs in a heartbeat. Anyone else might want to place their hope and faith in another show. *Cringes* Sorry.
The DVDs come with a clear 1.78:1 transfer, bloopers, interviews with the cast and crew, and a handful of commentaries – two from Faith Ford and child actors Cruthird and Paulie Litt, and two from McGinley, creator Joanna Johnson and Evecutive Producer Emile Levisetti.
The commentaries are mostly of the fluffy “I remember this scene! She was really great! Let’s describe everything that we’re watching!” variety, with the occasional vaguely interesting and/or terrifying snippets – the costume designer forcibly spray-tanning 10 year old actress Cruthird and forcing her to wear shorter outfits are the stuff nightmares are made of. The blooper reel is enjoyable enough, with the cast flubbing lines, ad-libbing and being funnier than the writers ever allow them to be on the show itself. The half hour ‘Making Of’ feature is pretty comprehensive, but largely uninteresting, with much of the information (and a joke or two from McGinley) already covered in the commentaries, and no footage of the alternate pilots despite extensive talk of them.
There’s a lot for fans of the show to enjoy, and Lion’s Gate have assembled a shockingly decent package for the set, even if the content doesn’t quite deserve it.
Wanna try your hand at The Chewer Reviewer? Well just make sure you’re registered for our message boards and visit this thread.