This week had a lot of hustle and bustle to it with a new apartment and a new puppy in the mix so my time consuming film was somewhat limited. Having already caught Furious 7 at SXSW, I didn’t post any new reviews this week though did catch two solid screenings – While We’re Young and Ex Machina – that I’ll post about later this week. Aside from that, I finished watching The Jinx on HBO – and though it’s caught some flack for its “gotcha” journalism tactics, I found it wholly compelling and enjoyed it immensely – as well as some new It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia over at FXX and finally those accounted for below, including a new doc that’s getting a lot of attention as well as a few classics that I had new Blu-Rays of. So with only three on the docket, let’s Weekly Review.
GOING CLEAR: SCIENTOLOGY AND THE PRISON OF BELIEF (2015)
Ever since South Park ousted Scientology in their 2005 episode “Trapped in the Closet” – the episode contained an animated segment recounting scientology’s great secret doctrine of life”, with the all-caps sentence “THIS IS WHAT SCIENTOLOGISTS ACTUALLY BELIEVE” plastered over it – the religion took on an almost jocular status. If prolific documentarian Alex Gibney dispels any untruths in Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, it’s that Scientology is in the least bit funny; the horrors behind this religion as cult are gut-wrenchingly tragic to hear unfurled, particularly in the case of “Spanky” Taylor; and to see families torn apart, privatized secret police employed in intelligence gathering missions and vast smear campaigns – one such plotted against Nicole Kidman to turn her children against her – all enacted under the guise of a “self-help system” is a terrible, appalling irony. Gibney gathers a plethora of accounts from ex-Scientologists and rather than focusing on the wacky fundaments of their belief, he hones in on the very real, and very distressing, systematic emotional abuse and manipulation that haunt current and former members. If there were ever a louder cry for help to the IRS on film, I’ve not seen it. #revoketaxstatusnow (B)
THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985)
John Hughes‘ sophomoric feature has for decades been called one of the best coming of age stories and for good reason. Hughes’ seminal tale of teenage rebellion showed his voice as that of a man mature enough to poignantly reflect on his own high school experience without schmaltz and cloying nostalgia and yet still young enough at heart to really tap into the zeitgeist of ’80s teenagedom. Hailed for essentially giving birth to the Brat Pack – the kings and queens of 80s teen movies – The Breakfast Club was originally supposed to pull a Before Sunset and reunite the gang every ten years but cripplingly poor repartee between Hughes and star Judd Nelson made such a reuniting nigh impossible. Which is a shame because these characters really do seem to have something to say, even in their slightly transcendent trope vocabulary. But alas, The Breakfast Club marked the second and, surprisingly, final time Hughes and Molly Ringwald worked together (as a director-starlet duo) and such a sequel – or series of sequels – was never to be. (B+)
PLANET OF THE APES (1968)
Charlton Heston‘s ape-rebukin’ overacting. Noticeably bad ADR dubbing. Awesomely clunky (by today’s standards) makeup FX – that still earned John Chambers an Honorary Academy Award. Jerry Goldsmith‘s iconic (and also Oscar nominated) score that so directly and so clearly inspired Michael Giacchino‘s work on Lost (amongst a plethora of others.) A franchise builder that is more a moral play than an action film. Planet of the Apes has it all. It’s an epically odd science fictioner that deals in moral outrage and philosophical treatises on animal rights just as much or more-so than it does in the set pieces and action spectacles of traditional blockbusters. With an astounding visual language made possible by vast, on-location shoots and meticulous monkey makeup, Planet of the Apes really does feel other-wordly, even if we were on ol’ planet Earth all along. (A-)