Johnston in Accident Man (2018) in 1080hd
Hyde in The Unseen (2017) in 1080hd
Rodriguez Perez in Woodpeckers (2017) in 720p
Elwy in The Passing (2015) in 1080hd
Sagnier in The Devil's Double (2011) in 1080hd
Saddam Hussein and his
sociopathic son Uday both employed body doubles.
Like many people in Iraq under Saddam, the doubles
were coerced into servitude in various ways,
particularly by threats to their families. Uday's
double, Latif Yahia, eventually managed to escape
the clutches of his twin/captor, but did so at a
great cost. True to his psychotic word, Uday Hussein
killed Latif's father as revenge for the escape and
"betrayal." Latif wrote a book about his
experiences, and this film is an adaptation of that
The film is accurate in the sense that the events
pictured on screen really happened, but they did not
all happen in Latif's presence. The story got
embellished like a secret whispered around a circle.
When Latif wrote his book, he made it seem as if he
had been an eyewitness to many events that he
probably heard about second-hand. Because he was
Uday's double, it's not likely that they were often
in the same place together in public, yet this story
makes it seem as if they were rarely separated. The
screenwriter then offered some embellishments of his
own. Latif, for example, has told interviewers that
he was often with Uday in public because Uday was
rebelling against his father's insistence that he
use a body double. That explanation was no more
compelling to the screenwriter than it probably is
to you, so the film script overlays a story about
how Uday made the search for a body double his
personal project, and ended up falling in love with
the double as an extension of himself. You may then
be wondering how the film explains why, if Uday
really believed in the value of the program, the
twins are so often seen together in public, looking
identical, and thus blowing the cover. The script
doesn't really deal with that issue, which is
confusing. We are left to conclude that Uday was
insane, drug-addled, and reckless, and just didn't
care if everyone knew he had an identical twin. That
may not be accurate, but it's not unreasonable.
The film also shows Latif being an active
participant in, and in fact the instigator of, the
assassination attempt that left Uday partially
crippled. Although the gun battle happens in a
crowded urban area filled with Uday's bodyguards,
Latif simply walks away in slow motion, like a
character walking away from an explosion in a bad
action movie cliche. He is spotted by one of the
bodyguards, but that particular guy spares Latif's
life in repayment of a similar kindness in the past.
The assassination scene is pictured much as it
really happened, but I couldn't find anything in the
historical record to place Latif in that scene. I
haven't read his book, so I don't know if the
dramatic and highly cinematic embellishments were
created by Latif for the book, or by the
screenwriter for the film.
Not that it matters. The story pictured in the film
is substantially true; it's fascinating; and it's
told well. The most comparable recent film is The
Last King of Scotland. If you liked that one, you'll
like this one for most of the same reasons. It held
my attention from start to finish and got me to the
edge of my seat more than once. Uday's abusive life
is pictured in all of its violent madness, thus
graphically illustrating Lord Acton's famous axiom
about absolute power. Uday picks up schoolgirls,
rapes them, beats them, then throws them away, often
after they have died. He tortures and beats Iraqi
athletes who fail to win international competitions.
Waving his golden pistol and backed by his entourage
of thugs, Uday makes all the glamorous guests at his
birthday party get naked. They comply because it's
better to be naked and alive than to be a spiffy
corpse. In scene after scene, Uday goes through a
seemingly endless string of sex partners and a
bottomless reservoir of cocaine. He's the Iraqi
The casting was unusual.
Englishman Dominic Cooper played both Uday and
Latif. French actress Ludivine Sagnier, normally a
blue-eyed blond, played an Iraqi courtesan with an
integral role in the story, as the lover of both of
the twins. She did change her hair color for the
role, but did not wear contacts. There were those
who criticized this casting, based on the general
modern belief that ethic roles should be played by
actors of similar ethnicity. I agree with that in
general, and I think we've come a long way since Al
Jolsen wore blackface, but I didn't see any problem
with the casting here. Except for Sagnier's hair
color, both actors performed with their natural
coloration and features, yet Cooper looked very much
like the real Uday Hussein.
In fact, I'd say that Cooper's
performances were two of the best of that year.
Tilly in The Wrong Guy (1997) in 720p
This is a laid-back comedy which
is conceptually very similar to the early Woody
Allen movies, except with Dave Foley playing the
Woody role as the hapless, wimpy schmuck with an
inflated view of his own skills. As the film begins,
Dave enters his office one morning, filled with
confidence that he will be named his company's next
president. When he hears that the position is going
to a rival named Ken, he protests because he has
gone so far as to become engaged to the chairman's
daughter. Turns out that Ken has one-upped him and
is engaged to the chairman's favorite
daughter. Dave keeps whining and the chairman is
finally forced to tell him that he's a complete
schmuck and a weakling who could never run a big
company, whereupon Dave goes ballistic and threatens
to kill his future father-in-law.
Funny thing about that. A short time later, when
Dave marches into the chairman's office to offer yet
another piece of his mind, he finds the big kahuna
lying there with a knife in his neck. Dave tries to
pull it out, then realizes that the man is already
dead, while he's standing there with a bloody knife
in his hand and his clothes soaked in blood. Then it
dawns on him that this all happened about an hour
after he threatened to kill the guy in front of
witnesses. So he runs - out of the office and into a
life as a fugitive, assuming he'll been hunted as a
desperate, violent criminal.
Only one problem. The police have access to the
company's 24-hour surveillance tapes and know that
Dave has nothing to do with the murder. In fact, the
police detective keeps calling Dave "the woman who
found the body," because the same security tapes
show Dave's reaction when he sees the knife, and
he's wailing and shrieking like a 13-year-old girl
at a Beatles concert. That's what the movie is
about: Dave's perception of himself as a ruthless,
big-time wanted criminal on the run, as contrasted
to the world's perception of him as a unimportant
witness and a complete pussy. In order to make
things a bit more interesting, Dave's flight keeps
crossing paths with the real killer, with the law
hot on his trail, and the screenwriters
construct the scenes in such a way that Dave thinks
the police are actually after him.
Pretty funny idea.
I originally popped this in the DVD player with
minimal expectations. After all, I had never heard
of this movie, and it's a twenty-year-old Canadian
film which took five years to get to video. For some
reason, Disney shelved it completely after having
liked it enough to purchase the distribution rights
in the States, so The Wrong Guy never received any
theatrical release in the USA. Given all those
facts, I really only watched it for the Jennifer
Tilly nightie scene.
But The Wrong Guy turned out to be a pleasant
Seigner in Bitter Moon (1994) in 1080hd
Nobody can accuse Roman Polanski
of being in a career rut.
If you looked only at his serious early successes,
like Knife in the Water, and his fairly recent award
winner, The Pianist, you would conclude that he is
some kind of morose, ultra-somber Northern European
intellectual, like Strindberg.
In fact, you would be quite wrong.
In the 40 years between those two movies, he has
flitted about like a butterfly from mood to mood,
and genre to genre. He has made many horror movies,
but they range from serious stylish ones like The
Ninth Gate, to campy ones like Rosemary's Baby, to
out-and-out farces like The Fearless Vampire
Killers. He has also made a crappy pirate movie
starring Walter Matthau, a beautiful and sensitive
Thomas Hardy period piece, a daring version of
MacBeth with a nude Francesca Annis sleepwalking
scene, and one of the greatest Film Noirs ever
This particular Polanski film, Bitter Moon, is a
sexy trash movie, basically the kind of lurid
lowbrow erotica you'd expect from Zalman King. In
fact, you could probably watch this as a trilogy
with Wild Orchid and Two Moon Junction, and never
know you'd switched directors.
Here are Hugh Grant's comments on working with
Polanski on Bitter Moon:
Well, you know
he's a nutter. A genius but bonkers. Coming from
a cozy English tradition, and going to Paris. He
doesn't work in the morning at all.
(Impersonates Polanski) "I hate the morning." So
you come in at lunch time and go into make up.
Instead of someone saying, "Do you want a cup of
tea and a donut?", they say, " Would you like a
line of cocaine?" And then his wife will be
there in make-up, usually topless, (another
imitation) "So you like these?" Yeah, they're
great. Very bohemian. "Bitter Moon" had trouble
finding a distributor until after "Four
Weddings" but I like it. And there are other
psychotics who like it
The film's premise:
An English couple (Hugh Grant and Kristin
Scott Thomas) is taking a cruise to exotic ports,
seeking to add zest to their bored lives. Grant
makes a pass at a sexy Frenchwoman (Emmanuelle
Seigner) one night, is rebuffed, and is then warned
away from the woman by her crippled husband. The
husband says he is not protecting his wife, but is
being solicitous of Grant. He claims his wife is a
monster. The husband (Peter Coyote) claims that the
Frenchwoman is responsible for his withered
condition, and he then proceeds to explain how all
that happened in a series of flashbacks. Grant
listens to the stories because - well, what else is
there to do to pass the time in the evenings on a
long ocean voyage?
The flashbacks detail a sexually
obsessive relationship between two people who
created a world of their own, then didn't know how
to function when they became sexually bored with one
another, experienced a painful break-up and an even
more painful reunion.
Hugh Grant, being Hugh Grant, pays no attention to
the husband's advice, and pursues the sexy woman,
resulting in wild, lurid, over-the-top consequences
for everyone, involving perverted sex, humiliation,
sadistic manipulation by Coyote and Seigner, murder,
suicide, serial vomiting, and other expected
The story is "sex gratia sexis", so forget about the
plot. That isn't the central allure of the film.
Your reaction to the movie will depend on whether
you'd like to see Mathilde Seigner in various stages
of undress performing various sexual practices.
There are some very sexy ones. Seigner plays a
dancer, and one night she performs a dance while
wearing only a transparent nightie. This scene
includes a graphic gynecological shot of Seigner,
who is director Polanski's wife. In another scene,
Seigner intentionally dribbles milk from her mouth
onto her body, then gets Coyote to lick it all off.
Seigner and Scott-Thomas even have an onboard
lesbian tryst in which Scott-Thomas flashes her own
body. It's pretty steamy stuff, if you're in the
mood for an erotic entertainment.
I thought it was tawdry, and the three main
characters were all detestable, but it is very sexy,
in a very sleazy way, and I think that's all it was
supposed to be.
Wright in State Of Grace (1990) in 1080hd
I was really surprised to see that there was a
movie as good as this that I had never heard of before
watching a DVD. You see, it's a 1990 film and I lived in
Europe from 1990 to 1993. While some American movies
make it over there, possibly even concurrently with
their run in the States, not every movie makes the
migration. There was no reason for European distributors
to take a chance on this New York Irish gangster film.
It didn't even interest anyone in the United States. (It
took in a whopping two million at the box office).
So I had never heard of the film, and it was a pleasant
It's about a cop who goes back to his old neighborhood
under cover, with the intent of busting the racketeers
there, who basically consist of all of his oldest and
closest friends. The cast includes Sean Penn, John
Turturro, Ed Harris, Gary Oldman, and Robin Wright, with
lots of great character actors in supporting roles as
I don't mean to oversell it. It's good, but the film
doesn't cover any new ground. In fact, it uses the
official American Gangster Movie Plot which seemed to
form the basis for every crime film made in America in
the 1930s. Tough Irish kids grow up together in Hell's
Kitchen. One kid grows up to be a notorious gangster
(Jimmy Cagney or John Garfield), his best friend grows
up to be a priest or an honest cop (Spencer Tracy or Pat
O'Brien). Eventually their paths must cross, and the
priest or cop must decide whether to enforce the law or
remain loyal to his friend. Almost invariably, one of
the friends is in love with the other's sister (Anne
Sheridan), who gets caught between them. Or maybe the
gangster is now involved with the girl who used to date
the priest in his pre-padre days. Various members of
their old neighborhood gang will also get caught in the
struggle, like the lovable but dumb guy (Huntz Hall) who
doesn't understand what's going on.
For a comparison, see the plot summary of 1938's Angels
With Dirty Faces. That's the same ground State of Grace
treads upon. Gary Oldman and Ed Harris filled in for
Cagney and Bogart as the street criminal and the slick
criminal. Sean Penn filled in for Pat O'Brien in the
"cop or priest" role. Robin Wright took the Anne
Sheridan role, and John C. Reilly took over brilliantly
for Huntz Hall as the doofy-lookin' guy. If they ever do
a Huntz Hall biopic, Reilly is my choice for the role.
1934's Manhattan Melodrama played the same tune with
Clark Gable as the gangster and William Powell as his
childhood pal, the crusading D.A.
1937's Dead End told the same story with Joel McCrea as
the model citizen and Humphrey Bogart as his childhood
pal, the tough Baby Face Martin.
State of Grace doesn't add much very new
except color photography, the modernization of the
crimes (drugs) and threats (Haitians trying to muscle
in), and more explicit modern levels of sex and violence
than you would have seen in the days of the Hays Code.
But a movie doesn't have to possess earth-shattering
novelty to be good. This film has the usual story, but
it's done very well, and acted exceptionally well, so it
was a pleasant surprise.
Perrine in Lenny (1974) in 1080hd
George Carlin on Lenny Bruce:
I don’t need many words to say this: Lenny Bruce was a
revolutionary comedy figure because he brought honesty
into a form which previously had been little more than
an empty crowd-pleasing truth, and he took it down the
path that led to acceptance of the complete English
language in his performance. The greatest gift I derived
from knowing him and his work was the importance of
honesty, in the words and on the stage. Lenny made being
full of shit old fashioned.
Ralph J. Gleason on Lenny Bruce
And Lenny Bruce was really, along with Bob Dylan and
Miles Davis and a handful of others (maybe Joseph
Heller, Terry Southern and Allen Ginsberg in another
way) the leader of the first wave of American social and
cultural revolution which is gradually changing the
structure of our society and may effectively revise it.
Lenny Bruce on Lenny Bruce:
I'm sorry if I'm not very funny tonight, but I'm not a
comedian, I'm Lenny Bruce.
Paul Krassner (Lenny's friend and editor) on Lenny
He was still funny, but he didn't get a laugh every 15
to 25 seconds. He was funny sardonic....
Can you read what those comments are really saying?
Between my sophomore and junior years of high school,
Newsweek magazine published an article about the
obscenity arrests of hipster comedian Lenny Bruce, and
this more or less certified his status as an Underground
Cultural Demi-God. Dissent was not popular in those
days, children were supposed to be seen and not heard,
and even comedians - guys who were supposed to make fun
of people - told innocuous mother-in-law jokes or kidded
about their golf scores or their tightwad friends.
And then Lenny came along, and changed all that. He had
been an inept schtick comedian, but he became the
darling of the underculture when he started to take on
society's sacred cows. He was completely fearless on
stage. He'd come out in favor of minority rights, he'd
talk honestly about how men really think about women,
he'd discuss the dangers of Kennedy's reckless
brinksmanship in a nuclear world, and he'd say
absolutely anything to shock. He'd joke about how Jews
killed Christ, or how LBJ probably killed Kennedy. He
touched whatever raw nerve he could touch.
Ironically, in terms of today's standards, he was 100%
politically correct. He was a social liberal who used
naughty words and sex jokes to draw attention to his
political agenda. As Lenny himself put it, he gave us an
education in "how to talk dirty and influence people".
He was pushing the liberal, anti-establishment social
agenda. If Lenny and Hillary Clinton could have met and
compared notes, they would have been in 100% agreement
on the issues, although Lenny would have stated his
opinions a bit more colorfully. And of course, Lenny
wouldn't have thrown any ashtrays. Ashtrays were sacred
to him, and breaking one would have been a sacrilege.
Being interested in anything spicier than the mainstream
of postwar American culture, I determined to find out
everything I could about Lenny after I read that
article. I did learn something about him, and
about America, but most of what I learned had to do with
the nature of humor.
You see, Lenny wasn't funny. His material wasn't
inherently funny, and his delivery was worse. He talked
so fast you couldn't understand what he was saying half
of the time. When I read his words written out, I
realized that he was intelligent, he was incisive, he
was daring, he was hip, and I agreed with every word he
said. And hindsight has certainly shown that he never
should have been prosecuted. Hell, every comic seems to
do a variation of his act today. Lenny was arrested for
saying "cocksucker", but even Meryl Streep and Jessica
Lange said "cocksucker" in famous Oscar-winning
performances some years later. Yes, Lenny died for our
sins. But the motherfucker wasn't funny.
He struggled along as a bad mainstream comedian for
years, until he realized that he could provoke audiences
with shock elements, as I just did above. Language was
part of it, but only part. He talked about all the stuff
your parents wouldn't ever tell you. Only from Lenny
could you hear what it's like when you go down on
someone and they fart in your face. But he wasn't any
funnier after he became successful. He was the same old
bad comedian, but he was more daring, and he said the
things the counter-cultural people wanted to hear. There
were plenty of people in America who called Lyndon
Johnson a cocksucker in their mental monologues, but
Lenny said it out loud.
Back then, when I was 15, I first began to realize that
"humor" is often mistaken for "things people want to
hear". Let's face it, when the Nazis got together, ol'
Goering would say something like "we're really teaching
those fucking Jews a lesson, I wanna tell you", and the
table would roar with laughter. Bob Hope would make a
reference to long-hairs looking like girls, and the GI
audiences would roar with laughter.
Hey, wipe that smug look from your face, young man,
because we all do the same thing, to some degree.
Including me. Any mention of David Hasselhoff or the
Harmonicats tends to get a laugh out of me, even if it
isn't clever or witty. I have just internalized that
ridiculing David Hasselhoff merits the laughter of
agreement. When those 60's hipsters laughed at Lenny,
they were laughing the laughter of agreement, and the
laughter of appreciation, and more than a little nervous
laughter of discomfort. Lenny wasn't really a comedian.
He was a jazz poet and a social reformer who used shock
to entertain and educate.
He did have one line that always cracked me up. "Ok, I
admit it, we Jews did kill Christ. And you're lucky he
didn't come along in the 20th century, or all those
parochial school kids would be wearing a little electric
chair around their necks"
One other thing you may not know about Lenny if you buy
into the conventional wisdom: we wasn't destroyed by his
prosecutions. In fact, that's what made him a star! He
was destroyed by his incoherent and unfunny post-trial
performances. A great comedian - a George Carlin or an
Eddie Murphy, a Jerry Seinfeld or a Steve Martin - could
have turned those trials into comedy gold and become a
national institution. Bruce only turned them into
tiresome, obsessive kvetching. Was he a martyr for free
speech? To a great degree. A trail blazer? Certainly. A
genius? Maybe. A great comedian. Not hardly.
The film was made in 1974, and was told in such a way as
to approach documentary style, framed by contemporary
interviews with his wife and agent. If you did not
recognize the actors, you could easily have assumed that
it was made with real B&W documentary footage. I
think it is done beautifully. Because Lenny was
essentially a jazz poet and not a comedian, Bob Fosse
was the perfect choice to direct. Since Lenny was not
very funny, Dustin Hoffman was a perfect casting choice,
although many people have criticized the casting of the
humorless Hoffman in the movie, versus the hilarious
Eddie Izzard in the London version of the play.
Well, of course Dustin Hoffman wasn't funny. He is a
perfectionist, and he was playing Lenny Bruce. He was
doing his job. Brilliantly, I might add.