Brazil, Where the Nuts Are!

DATELINE: Beyond the Twilight Zone

acting chops Whose Acting Chops?

If you thought nutcase movies are here today, you are about 30 years off. Brazil is a movie aficionado’s fantasy and nightmare, defying convention and logic. You just passed the signpost of Ipanema.

Terry Gilliam (of Monty Python fame) went out of his way to make the Citizen Kane of kookoo-bird movies in 1985.

This was no small achievement as the film holds up as beyond modern and relevant. Its madness may yet to be realized in the future.

Like Blade Runner, the future is the past. There is an aura of 1940s film noir interspersed with superhero comic fantasy.

Jonathan Pryce is some bureaucrat by day and by night, in his dreams, some kind of flying circus performer out to save a damsel in distress. In the meantime, he works in mindless government agencies that are after Harry Tuttle (Robert DeNiro) in an early comedic performance as a heating engineer who is a wanted man for doing duct work without a license.

Pryce’s mother Ida Lowry is played by the youth-conscious Katherine Helmond in a face-stretching performance with Jim Broadbent, as her fey plastic surgeon, striving for tighter skin.

Included in the shenanigans are such familiar faces as Bob Hoskins, Ian Holm, Michael Palin, and Ian Richardson. If they wanted to kick off the unorthodoxy of their careers, this film is definitely the forerunner.

If you want a plot, you will fall into a black hole and likely be stretched to kingdom come.

You can ride the wave of this movie from one loony tune moment to the next, not bothering to connect the dots or the scenes. It’s like being in the Trump Administration: you just sit back and experience the Cinerama of movie magic to the mambo-jumbo notes of the song “Brazil.”

Heavens, or is that Land of Goshen?

Holding a Grudge Against Bad Taste


Grudges aside


We forced ourselves to sit through Grudge Match, despite our desire to shut it off at various points.

Two highly professional actors seem hellbent on turning the clock back. Robert DeNiro and Sylvester Stallone were the epitome of boxers in their prime.

Greed forces them with the assistance of Kevin Hart and Alan Arkin to do a geriatric version of Rocky Vs. Raging Bull. Here they are shadow boxers named Razor and Kid.

The cutesy stuff starts early—with both men sharing an interest in Kim Basinger, their old flame. The film is at its best when it is parody, and at its worst when it takes itself to ridiculous ends.

We did like the montage of LaMotta and Balboa in their boxing glory films, and we found the photo-shopping of them fighting each other in youth to be a good place to stop the movie.

Alas, it goes on to the requisite major bout where two aging actors box for nine rounds to a sold out crowd, and with points to be made on all sides of the script. We almost guess that each star has exactly the same amount of screen time, down to the nanosecond.

If the film had stayed the course as a light satire of their early film images, we’d probably have enjoyed it much more. Training time is a take-off on the earlier bits by Rocky in every one of his movies. Yet, Stallone already did this in Rocky Balboa (VI).

We were reminded of aging Brando playing a godfather in a weak comedy toward the end of his career and life.

These may not be the lasting images we want of Stallone or DeNiro. Worse yet, they seem to take their images all too seriously at the climax.

We stayed the course till the bitter end, and are much sorrier for the experience.

Another Turkey Dead on Arrival

DATELINE: Hunting Down Bad Guy Movies


Two Troupers in a Turkey

It arrived straight to video, streaming, and online viewing. It did not pass “Go,” and it did not collect any awards.

Killing Season is not about life on a turkey farm the week before Thanksgiving, but features to actors who seem a bit long in the tooth for their roles as action vengeance seekers. Robert DeNiro and John Travolta are well-worth watching even under duress in a birdbrain movie about the cold dish of revenge.

John Travolta plays someone from Eastern Europe, replete with accent that has no specific location, that comes to the cold Appalachian country of the United States to kill a former soldier now living in hiding (that’s DeNiro). He’d probably die of old age soon anyhow without aspirin.

Travolta is a Bosnian who has survived execution and spends 18 years tracking down DeNiro, even able to enter the United States with his weapons cache. It may have something to do with the fact that Travolta in his beard looks more like Abe Lincoln than Raymond Massey ever did.

We liked the idea of anti-social, retired ex-military man living in rustic luxury out in the middle of nowhere in pleasant conditions until a nutcase forces him into survivalist mode.

Talk about déjà vu all over again. You probably have seen this plot rehashed with different cultures, ages, wars, and cleverness. We can think of a half-dozen films with the same storyline: hunter and hunted running all over Adventureland.

We also must admit we haven’t seen too many movies with a theme related to the Bosnian genocides of the 1990s—and we presume most movie viewers have no idea where Serbia is on the map, let alone that NATO used American soldiers in cleaning up the atrocities.

In the age of political correctness, however, you cannot count on the idea that the American is a good guy, even when he used to be Don Vito Corleone hunted down by Vinnie Barbarino.

Don’t forget to read MOVIE MASHUP or MOVIES TO SEE –OR NOT TO SEE for a full rundown on all the recent films worth seeing (and classics worth re-seeing). Both books are available on for Christmas stockings everywhere.