Special thanks to returning commissioner Sean Ray for having us devote a few hours to Oliver Stone’s 1991 political thriller, JFK. The film is a weird duck. In our opinion, the movie is a work of pure flim-flam. However, it’s also one of my favorite movies to watch, because it’s a really well done, and interesting piece of flim-flam that belies it’s crazy long run time and features Oliver Stone using every last ounce of his considerable film-making skill to confuse, beguile and bedazzle his audience. This movie is so star studded that few films are capable of approaching it on acting wattage alone. The sound track by John Williams hits all the right notes, from sweaty, cigarette-hazed and mentally crazed late night conspiracy theories to soaring patriotic hymns. Aside from it being, you know, mostly fiction, we’re also uncomfortable with the Grand Gay Conspiracy angle that’s being pushed. But it also sparks a lot of conversation about conspiracies in general, America’s uncomfortable relationship with Vietnam and the truth, and just why the hell is material related to the JFK assassination still classified, anyway?
Thanks to Sean Ray for commissioning the classic 1992 western, “Unforgiven”. Directed by and starring a perfectly-aged Clint Eastwood, the story has him reconciling the man he was in his drunken youth with the man he wants to be, and more importantly, the man his dead wife would have him be. Where does he come down on it? It’s a classic so you probably already know but one of us didn’t and the discussion is interesting.
Special thanks once again to Sean Ray for commissioning thus podcast for the 1982 John Carpenter sci-fi/horror classic, The Thing. The location, sense of isolation and paranoia, and atmosphere of dread this film is able to generate is incredible. Kurt Russel is iconic in his role as everyman bad*ss. And the gruesome, disturbing practical effects work still effectively sells the horrific alien action.
Special thanks to multi-multi-multi-commissioner Sean Ray for dialing up the number to Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007). This edition is intended by director Ridley Scott to be the definitive version. The interesting thing is, Jim and I have always been a bit “meh” on the classic Blade Runner experience. Sure, we see how influential it is, and can understand why it was highly regarded “for it’s day”. We both felt like we saw the film with fresh eyes on this cut. Their are problems with world building and pacing here and there, but everything tracks so much cleaner, and the third act which was always a standout is now a pure joy. Thanks again, Sean! It’s not every day that a commission completely has us do a 180 on a project, this is one of those rare times!
Special thanks to our commissioner for today’s podcast, Sean Ray. You may recognize him as the man behind such classics as It Follows, and Black Rain, which if nothing else is unique. Today he selects the great A Few Good Men, where a gruff Colonel in the US Marine Corps takes issue with the USMC’s kinder, more gentler ways of discipline and organization, leading to the death of one of the men under his command. Tom Cruise and Demi Moore are effective as the counsel for the defense, and are given a lot of juicy material to work with. Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Rob Reiner, the script is packed with Sorkinisms and shot with a steady, confident eye. The performances are phenomenal, especially Jack Nicholson’s elemental performance of Col. Jessup.
Today’s commission is courtesy the kind support of Sean Ray, a five time commissioner! He selected It Follows, an extremely clever and inventive horror flick written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. It has big ideas, and while it struggles to live up to them in places, the concept and performance of the plucky cast of likable yet relatively obscure young actors really makes the film shine. It’s fun to watch, it’s fun to think about, and it’s fun to talk about. How would you survive being hunted by “It”? That and a few beers is a topic that can easily kill a whole evening of hanging with your friends.
Special thanks to Sean Ray (previous commissioner of the Insidious series, and Blood Simple) for commissioning this late 80’s Ridley Scott crime thriller, Black Rain. Michael Douglas plays a cop alongside Andy Garcia that gets mixed up in a gang war between the Yakuza and a rival upstart over counterfeit US currency. The film explores the intercultural exchange as Douglas’s corrupt and brash NYC cop runs into the brick wall of Japanese police decorum and honor, but how successful it is in that exploration is an open question. The film is great looking, has some solid action sequences, and hilarious Michael Douglas hair, and it’s concepts don’t quite stand the test of time. But Andy Garcia’s chest hair is magnificent.
Sean Ray is back with the second half of his two part Insidious series, this time for Insidious: Chapter 2. Once again James Wan helms another scary story starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, with a bigger budget, a clever plot that builds on everything from the first installment, to deliver arguably a more frightening experience with even more emotional heart.
Special thanks once again to Sean Ray (veteran commissioner of Blood Simple) for having us check out an early effort by horror master James Wan (The Conjuring), 2010’s Insidious. Starring Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne, Insidious delivers some solid scares on a serious budget, reportedly just $1.5 million. This is the first of a two part commissioned podcast series. Next, we will consider the sequel, Insidious 2, and compare and contrast the two.
Sean Ray commissioned one of his favorite movies, the Coen Brothers’ 1984 directorial debut, Blood Simple. Starring Coen favorite Frances McDormand, it’s an interesting look into the prehistorical fossil Coen record. So many shots and themes established in this first film go on to make up the DNA of their later works. You’ll see Fargo, Miller’s Crossing, No Country for Old Men, and even a few dashes of Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski in this film. Having said that, there is a whole helluva lot of 1980’s film making and first time directing on display as well.