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JakeBlues's Reviews

Displaying Review 1 - 5 of 9 in total

  • Written by JakeBlues on 17.05.2012

    One dollar.
    The entire, complicated and incredibly amusing plot revolves around a single dollar bill!

    There's no need to recap the story, as the movie quickly turned into a Christmas classic and a comedy classic as well, coming from the state of grace period that director John Landis had during the first half of the eighties (remember Animal House, An American Werewolf in London, The Blues Brothers, Coming to America?).

    State of grace that's extended here to the entire cast of actors appearing in the movie.

    Dan Aykroyd, in perfect physical shape a la Elwood Blues, is great as an arrogant w.a.s.p. yuppie in the first part of the film and even greater and funnier as a desperate tramp (his dirty, hungry and drunk version of Santa Klaus is probably the funniest in cinema history!)

    Eddie Murphy, playing a role that was originally written for the prematurely and tragically disappeared John Belushi, is equally entertaining.

    Then, there's the astounding beauty of Jamie Lee Curtis, whose nudities and smiles from this movie are simply unforgettable.

    It's also impossible not to mention three actors in non leading roles that really shine here: Denholm Elliott as Coleman, the perfect butler, Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy as the evil tycoons, the brothers Duke.

    Finally, there's that unique vein of levity and madness that only John Landis at his best was able to create.
    The train scenes, for example, are pure Landis.

    There's nothing more to add: just sit down, relax, and enjoy this jem that is quintessentialy from the eighties and their edonistic spirit.

    And if you already saw the movie many times, you can watch it again and again with the same amount of enjoyment and laughs (this is another peculiarity of the best comedies from John Landis)!

  • Written by JakeBlues on 07.06.2012

    There are movies that, simply, can only be described with the word "cult": The Blues Brothers is definitely one of them.

    There are movie whose cultural impact on a generation is unique: again, The Blues Brothers is one of them.

    There are movies that are almost impossible to categorize in a certain genre, as one of their distinctive features is to fluctuate between genres: The Blues Brothers is one of those movies.

    When the film was originally released, in 1980, the world was listening to disco music and rock, blues and rhythm and blues were almost completely forgotten.
    The idea to invest time and money on a movie that is 100% focused on blues and rhythm and blues was therefore simply bold, if not daring.

    Not to add the fact that musical movies as well were almost forgotten, and the Blues Brothers is, by all means, a musical.

    The original screenplay, created by actor Dan Aykroyd, at the beginning was more than 1.000 pages long, and director John Landis had to cut hundreds of pages to reach a workable version for a movie.

    The idea of the leading characters, Joliet Jake and Elwood Blues, was born on TV, in that unique laboratory of comedy that was NBC's Saturday Night Live in the late Seventies.
    Born as a musical interlude between different parts of the TV program, the songs and dances of The Blues Brothers and their band became so popular with the live studio and TV audiences, to quickly convince a cinema studio like Universal that it could be easily transformed into movie material.

    In addition to the creativity of Aykroyd and Landis, there was also a comedy genius involved, under the name of John Belushi.
    An actor whose face, attitude, expressions, walk, voice and dancing was, is, and will always be unique and unforgettable.

    As Joliet Jake Blues, together with his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd), with just this movie they were to become as popular and iconic as Laurel & Hardy or Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.
    Their portrait of the two leading roles, with their black suits, black hats and black sunglasses, with the way they move and dance, it's simply unbeatable.

    Add to that a director that was leaving in those years his state of grace period, such as John Landis, and the magic is somehow explained.

    The plot is full of great ideas, there are many scenes that are genuinely funny and entertaining even after several views, the dialogues are just fantastic, especially when Belushi and Aykroyd talk to each other ("Elwood: Shit! Jake: What? Elwood: Rollers. Jake: No? Elwood: Yeah. Jake: Shit").

    Two more elements add to all the above, contributing to turn the movie into an all time masterpiece: the musicians and the city of Chicago.

    As rhythm and blues was almost forgotten, music geniuses such as Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, etc. were almost jobless in those days: their appearances and wonderful performances in The Blues Brothers gave to all of them a reborn career, and their music contributed to create one of the best soundtracks in cinema history.
    The very musicians of the band of the blues brothers, in the movie, are all great professionals and both their musical performances and their acting in non leading roles also add to the overall quality of the movie.

    Then, there is Chicago.
    For many many years, the mayor of Chicago didn't like to have movies shot in his city, and therefore the fantastic skyline and atmosphere of Chicago was missing in films.
    A change in the administration and the vast popularity of Belushi (a true son of Chicago) and Aykroyd, allowed essential parts of the movie to be shot in downtown Chicago, remembering everybody that this is one of the most visually stunning cities in the world.
    The car chases and the vast amount of police cars destroyed around Chicago, and the final, epic scene in Daley Square (a real breakthrough, for director John Landis) quickly became quintessential, in the city's history.

    What more can be added about this comedy and musical masterpiece?
    "Elwood: It's a 106 miles to Chicago. We got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark and we're wearing sunglasses.
    Jake: Hit it!"

  • Written by JakeBlues on 08.06.2012


    When director Frank Darabont meets Stephen King, magic always happens.
    Unfortunately, this just happened twice: for 1994's The Shawshank Redemption and for 1999's The Green Mile.
    Few of the works coming from Stephen King happened to find a decent transposition to the silver screen, but when the adaptation was in Frank Darabont hands, you could expect a new masterpiece to be born.

    The Shawshank Redemption, both a typical and unique prison movie, shines from the sad beginning to the triumphal ending.

    Andy Dufresne, the character played by Tim Robbins, is one of those movie characters that will stay with you for a long time, after the first time you meet him on the screen.
    Tim Robbins' acting, here, is simply perfect, at the same time understated and over the edge.

    Red, Morgan Freeman's character, is also unforgettable (I personally believe that this is his best performance to date, together with his portrayal of Detective Somerset in David Fincher's Se7en).

    However, what probably makes the movie so great are its story and dialogues (voice-overs included).

    Andy's arrival at Shawshank, his first troubled times, his new friends and enemies, his continue refusal to be "institutionalized", to use one of the keywords of the movie and its plot, until the final, epic escape, all diluted in decades, is indeed one of the best stories ever told (and brought to the silver screen).

    Then, you have the location: Shawshank, the fictional Maine prison of many of Stephen King's books, is one of the leading character itself, adding precious elements of atmosphere and drama to the entire film.

    Many big and small jewels can be found throughout the all movie: I believe that at least one must be remembered in this review: the music scene.
    This is absolutely not a movie about music, but every time I have to explain what power the music can have on men and human nature, I always make reference to the Shawshank Redemption's scene when Andy is able to switch on the prison speakers and let some classical music (Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro) circulate and reach all the prisoners' ears.
    Then, we hear Red's Voice Over: "I have no idea to this day what them two Italian ladies were singin' about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I like to think they were singin' about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared. Higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made these walls dissolve away... And for the briefest of moments, every last man at Shawshank felt free".

    To me, scenes and concepts like these are the reason why movies, sometimes, reach perfection, and that is why I love them so much.

    JakeBlues was here

  • Written by JakeBlues on 10.06.2012


    First things first: the graphic novel "V for Vendetta" from eccentric genius Alan Moore and illustrator David Lloyd is a literature masterpiece, and no movie can reach the same quality or overall importance in general culture.

    This being said, the Wachowski brothers screenplay adaptation for the screen of V for Vendetta turned into a great movie, able to deliver to (wider) audiences many of the concept contained in the original graphic novel.
    This difficolt task is achieved mainly by being as loyal as possible to the original plot, its characters, its both old fashioned and futuristic atmosphere.

    The acting performance from Hugo Weaving is peculiar, as it's entirely played wearing a mask.
    If this unusual situation doesn't allow the actor to deliver any facial expression while playing V, his performance is in my opinion praiseworthy, as his physical presence and movements are always as charismatic as the main movie character needs and deserves.

    On the other hand Natalie Portman, playing V for Vendetta's other main leading role, contributes an extraordinary quantity and quality of facial expressions and acting.
    Her character, Evey, goes through many transformations during the movie, and Natalie is always convincing in every part of the movie.

    The way V and Evey's lives meet and the impact that each of them has on the other is the key element in the movie's story.

    Evey's life and destiny will be totally changed (not only in positive ways) by her meeting with V, and she'll have to go through a complete rebirth.
    In the end, V's intervention will not only save her virtue at the beginning of the movie, but will totally eradicate fear from her nature, in the end transforming Evey into V's true heir.

    But it's probably the unexpected impact that Evey has on V's life that represent the most poetic element to the entire story.
    V's initial feelings are completely dead, his entire existence is totally focused on his refined revenge plan, nothing else matters to him.
    Evey's unforeseen arrival and presence brings back his entire humanity and, if this is not enough to change his mind and avoid his final sacrifice (and vendetta!), when he faces death he is not alone anymore, love is finally entered in his life, his redemption is complete.

    Then, there are the proverbial visionary elements coming from the Wachowski brothers, that are particularly compatible with the original graphic novel.
    The movie has many visually stunning and gratifying moments, not only in the fight scenes, one of their trademarks!

    Overall, it's the cultural, social and political message of the graphic novel and of the movie that is the most important element, here.
    In a moment in history such as this difficult, critical beginning of the 21st century, where democracy itself is under great pressure from economy, finance, political parties driven by personal profits, social tensions, etc., a story like V for Vendetta fits just perfectly.
    Its strong message of complaint and condemnation against totalitarianism has a universal value, for everybody.

    This is why V's mask, the most powerful (and beautiful!) visual symbol of the graphic novel and the movie, quickly became one of the symbols of the "Occupy..." movements around the world.

    Alan Moore, as surly as ever, wanted his name eliminated from any credit of the movie, probably considering it too commercial for him and his reputation.
    He will never admit it, but I'm sure that he's now secretely happy and proud that part of his work now has a real, concrete and precious presence in real life, as a universal symbol of fight for human rights, against injustice, and for the survival of (real) democracies.

    For all these reasons this is not only a beautiful, but a very important movie, and I invite everybody to watch it and to:
    "Remember, remember,
    the fifth of November,
    the gunpowder treason
    and plot.
    I know of no reason
    why the gunpowder treason
    should ever be forgot".


  • Written by JakeBlues on 12.06.2012


    Visionary director David Lynch is remembered and famous for many movies, such as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, just to name a few.

    To me though, his absolute masterpiece is and remains the less known, underrated The Straight Story.
    It is indeed an atypical film in many ways, for David Lynch.
    His usual visionary, oniric approach is in fact much less evident here, this being, to me at least, and advantage more than a downside.

    The story revolves around Alvin Straight (Richard Farnsworth), a real iconic movie character, and his journey and quest for his long lost brother Lyle (Harry Dean Stanton), that will only briefly appear in the last, truly emotional, scene of the movie.

    Richard Farnsworth's interpretation of the movie leading role is incredibly convincing.
    The actor was even nominated for an Academy Award for this role (unfortunately and unfairly, the Oscar that year went to Kevin Spacey for American Beauty, in any case another great movie and impeccable performance).

    The great Sissy Spacek is equally shining, portraying Alvin's somehow both handicapped and intuitive daughter, Rose.

    Following Lynch direction and Farnsworth and Spacek acting, the filming locations are probably the fourth key element to this movie.
    "Outside is America" (as in U2's song "Bullet the blue sky"), and what we see in The Straight Story is the REAL America, the rural country, the province and its endless spaces.
    The main part of the plot is an unusual road trip, from Laurens, Iowa to Mt. Zion, Wisconsin, as Alvin decides to leave his home and be on the road, to try and reach his brother Lyle.

    Finally, we have the peculiar transport that Alvin is forced to adopt for his trip: a small, old John Deere tractor (one of the last true symbols of rural United States itself).
    This is what turns a trip that would otherwise be perfectly normal into an epic journey.
    At the slow speed allowed by his tractor, in fact, Alvin will need several weeks to reach his final destination.

    Time is therefore dilated for him, he starts to live in a kind of parallel, relativistic world where his slow speed quickly becomes a state of mind, both for him and for who watches the movie.
    This is probably the most precious element of The Straight Story, as the message that becomes more and more clear is that probably Alvin's speed is or should be the right one, for the entire world, and not the other way around.

    Another fundamental message coming from the movie is a low key but very strong condemnation of any war, when old Alvin meets a contemporary.
    Both fought in War World II, and both realize how those war experiences, if tens of year far in the past, are still with them and still affect their true nature deeply.

    To make a long story short, The Straight Story is a small jewel, probably forgotten by many, that still brilliantly resists to the test of time and that's still as fresh and important as when it originally premiered, in 1999.

    Everyone should see this movie at least once and let a small place in their heart and memory for the great Alvin Straight.

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