Movie Project #23: The Fly [1986]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

The Fly [1986]

The Fly [1986]
Director: David Cronenberg
Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi
Starring: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and John Getz
Runtime: 96 minutes

David Cronenberg’s The Fly starts off innocently enough as a simple sci-fi story. Jeff Goldblum is Seth Brundle, a reclusive scientist who meets journalist Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis) at a networking event. Brundle has been working feverishly on a scientific breakthrough and jumps at the opportunity to show off his work to a pretty lady. Veronica follows him to his home/lab, where she makes the stunning discovery that Seth has a set of “Telepods” — teleportation devices that can transport inanimate objects from one area to another.

Teleporting living creatures is still a work in progress, as his most recent attempt ended up with a baboon bloodily turned inside out. Somehow a spark ignites between Seth and Veronica, and they begin spending more time together. A romantic encounter reinvigorates Seth, and this leads to him figuring out a way to successfully transport living objects.

The Fly [1986]

One night, paranoid that Veronica is hooking back up with her former partner, Stathis Borans (John Getz), Seth gets drunk and decides to test his Telepods on himself — the very first human subject. The teleportation is successful, but there is one small problem (literally) with the test: there was a fly in the tube with Brundle.

It takes some time for the effects to kick in, but Brundle eventually begins turning into a fly. This is when the movie transforms itself from not just sci-fi but to full-blown horror as well.

The Fly [1986]

Parts of Brundle’s body begin falling off. His fingernails. His ears. He starts vomiting profusely. He develops the ability to cling to walls and ceilings. All of this is captured expertly by Cronenberg and his makeup crew, with some disgustingly impressive gore and so-called “body horror” effects. Seriously, this film has a reputation for its graphic special effects, and it does not disappoint at all in this regard. The Fly actually won an Oscar for Best Makeup, and it still holds up remarkably well today.

Underneath the horror and sci-fi elements is a tragic love story between Seth and Veronica, with Stathis finding himself entangled as well in the bizarre happenings. There is a surprising amount of depth to The Fly, and for those who can handle the excessive gore, there will be something for everyone to enjoy. Goldblum and Davis are fun to watch together, and the story, while familiar, is a good one. Chalk this one up as my favorite Cronenberg film so far.

8/10

Movie Project #17: Annie Hall [1977]

The 50 Movies Project is a personal “marathon” of mine. In June, I compiled a list of 50 movies that I felt I needed to see by the end of the year. Old, new, foreign, English — it doesn’t matter. These are all movies that I have heard a lot about and have been wanting to see for some time. This project gives me a way to stay focused on the goal.

Annie Hall [1977]

Annie Hall [1977]
Directors: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Language: English
Country: USA

Why I Chose This:
Woody Allen has 40+ movies to his name, yet I have only seen a few of his most recent films. What better way to dig deeper into his filmography than to start with 1977’s Best Picture Oscar winner?

What It’s About:
Woody Allen stars as Alvy Singer, a neurotic comedian in New York City who struggles to maintain a relationship with his scatterbrained lover, Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The movie follows the tumultuous relationship over the course of the 1970s.

What I Liked:
The New York setting. One thing I have noticed with Woody Allen movies is that the man knows how to make great use of cities. New York is the perfect backdrop for Alvy and Annie’s up-and-down relationship.

The breaking of the fourth wall. I loved how Alvy would randomly start talking to the camera to explain certain things happening on screen. I also enjoyed the random visual changes, such as the inexplicable transition to cartoon animation for a brief scene.

Annie Hall [1977]

Some truly classic lines.
“Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.”
“I don’t want to live in a city where the only cultural advantage is that you can make a right turn on a red light.”
“Honey, there’s a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick.”

Brief cameos from Christopher Walken and Jeff Goldblum. Both guys are in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it roles, but both are amusing.

What I Didn’t Like:
Some of the rapid fire dialogue felt forced. This is a film that focuses heavily on talking, and rarely slows down enough to catch its breath. While I found myself laughing at some of Alvy’s wisecracks, there were just as many that fell flat.

Alvy Singer. Allen’s character’s full-of-himself shtick became grating as the movie progressed. He found a way to complain about EVERYTHING, with these quips only sometimes being amusing. He wasn’t as enjoyable as neurotic characters like, say, George Costanza on Seinfeld or Larry David on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

My Verdict:
It’s a bit startling to think that this beat out Star Wars for Best Picture (though I am not a huge fan of that either). I like Annie Hall, but I feel like the film lacks the same punch it had upon its initial release. The movie has obviously been influential — I had no idea this is where the aforementioned masturbation line came from — and I enjoyed it more than the recent Allen films I have seen, but it didn’t resonate with me in the way it seemingly has for others. Woody Allen sure has a distinct style, though, doesn’t he?

7/10

* I would love to hear your thoughts on this new “review” format. I will only be using it for Movie Project posts, but I feel it works better for some of these older titles. What do you think?

The Switch [2010]

The Switch [2010]

The Switch [2010]
Directors: Josh Gordon & Will Speck
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Language: English
Country: USA

A romantic comedy with a ‘spermy’ twist.

The Switch stars Jennifer Aniston, who is apparently on a mission to tackle every rom-com role made for 40-year-old single women. This time around her character, Kassie, has decided she wants a baby and is going to go the insemination route instead of opting for more conventional circumstances. Her best friend, Wally (Jason Bateman), is disappointed by this but attends her “insemination party” anyway. At the celebration, Wally proceeds to get shitfaced and accidentally dumps the donor’s (Patrick Wilson) sperm (conveniently left in a cup) down the bathroom sink. In a fit of boozy negligence, Wally decides to fill the cup back up with his own, ahem, specimens.

Flash forward seven years later. Kassie, now back in NYC after leaving for a job, meets up with Wally and introduces him to her child, Sebastian (Thomas Robinson). A series of uncanny resemblances leads Wally to remember that fateful night (he was near a “blackout” stage when it happened), and then hilarity is supposed to ensue.

As with so many other romantic comedies, The Switch has its shortcomings. There are some ridiculous plot developments (an insemination party, really?), occasional cookie-cutter dialogue and the usual issues with predictability, but this movie rises above most in its genre due to one person: Jason Bateman. Seriously, his performance as the lonely, subdued Wally is entirely what makes this film watchable. This is a man who has been in love with his best friend for so many years, yet has never been able to take those feelings to the next level. I usually could care less about these types of movies, but I couldn’t help but root for the guy to follow his dream, even considering the bizarre circumstances that got him into this situation. This is a testament to Bateman’s performance (certainly not the script).

Other than Bateman (and the kid, who is actually pretty funny), the general cast is mediocre at best. Aniston sleepwalks through her performance, not really adding anything new to her repertoire. Patrick Wilson is solid, albeit unspectacular, as Kassie’s other love interest. Jeff Goldblum and Juliette Lewis both have small roles, and neither one seemed thrilled to be doing their parts.

Without Jason Bateman, The Switch would have likely fallen into the same rut that so many other romantic comedies belong to. The movie has its funny moments and it isn’t boring — that’s about all you can ask for from something like this. If your girlfriend is begging to watch something in the genre, opt for The Switch instead of The Backup Plan. You will be glad you did.

6/10