INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS — SHOCKTOBER!

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ColeSmithey.comBy far the best version in the franchise, Philip Kaufman’s venerable revamping of Don Siegel’s 1956 black-and-white sci-fi horror classic delved deeper into nitty-gritty details of a pod-induced mass transformation of humans into emotionless doppelgangers.

In so doing, Kaufman gave his movie the visual lift it needed to instill palpable dread and fear in an audience that didn’t know what hit them.   

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The filmmakers use a recurring image system of spider-web similes, which act as a unifying filter of discord. San Francisco has been turned upside-down over night. Everything is different. Garbage collectors are busy on every street collecting the grey fuzzy waste from swapped-out bodies.

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Donald Sutherland plays San Francisco health inspector Matthew Bennell with a cozy sense of paternal confidence that makes him seem immune to anything that could possibly usurp his empathetic soul. Civilization’s sudden loss of compassion to a population of cold conspiratorial aliens, incapable of something as simple as laughter, proves a terrifying idea when played out to its logical extreme.

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Casting Donald Sutherland in the lead role proved to be a coup for Kaufman. Strains of Sutherland’s iconic performance in Nicholas Roeg’s deeply disturbing psychological thriller “Don’t Look Now” (1973) carried over into "Body Snatchers."

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Thematically, the film’s allegory regarding viral-groupthink has plenty of wiggle-room for interpretation because it is so profoundly vague yet universal. It’s easy to imagine authority figures such as police and politicians inhabited by aliens, because they so frequently express an utter disregard for the value of human life in favor of corporate profits for the one-percent.

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A significant genre-imposed rule of the movie is that its characters can’t fall sleep lest they succumb to possession. Doing so enables one of the recently arrived pods-from-space to produce an exact physical replica that will come to life after sucking the subject’s body dry of its meat, bones, and brains.

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Matthew Bennell’s health department co-worker Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams) notices a change in her husband. She alerts Matthew to her concerns just as it seems society has begun to flip. A man in a business suit inexplicably sprints through traffic.

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Kaufman sets his audience’s teeth on edge with an inventive soundscape, involving things like heartbeats. Sounds move between the film’s Dolby Stereo format, making the audience feel as if the action is taking place around them.

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Kaufman’s remake gets cameo endorsements from Don Siegel, and from Kevin McCarthy, the lead actor from the original "Body Snatchers" movie. Siegel plays a pod-changed cab driver taking Matthew and Elizabeth for a little ride. Kevin McCarthy’s character is the same as in Segel’s movie except that he seems even more desperate now.

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Philip Kaufman's “Body Snatchers” is famous for a couple of offbeat scenes that you hardly believe when you’re seeing them.

Not Rated. 80 mins. 5 Stars ColeSmithey.comCozy Cole

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January 13, 2024

ASTEROID CITY

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

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ColeSmithey.comHow far the mediocre have fallen.

Wes Anderson has become more of an art instillation filmmaker than a storyteller.

"Asteroid City" is a fine thing to project on the wall of your next cocktail dinner soiree, but it isn't much of a movie, or a play, or whatever the feck Wes Anderson thinks it is.

Here is a movie you'll feel better about walking out on before it begins, than you will wasting the fifteen minutes it takes you to realize what a disastrous piece of inert garbage it truly is.

Still, walk out you will.

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Other than inspiring a few chuckles, "Asteroid City" doesn't deliver enough humor, meaningful satire, or narrative structure to be entertaining.

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If you like watching paint dry, then you should probably stick to watching paint dry.

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I suppose Anderson's name actors (of which there are too many) were happy enough with the two-hundred to five-hundred grand that each were ostensibly paid for their participation in this huge waste of their individual talents.

Childish is as childish does.

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Scarlett Johansson's gratuitous (body-double) nude scene takes the cake for just how embarrassingly low Anderson is willing to sink.

Disgusting. 

Rated PG-13. 105 mins.

Zero StarsZERO STARS

Cozy Cole

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December 29, 2023

MAESTRO

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel. Punk heart still beating.

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Screen Shot 2024-02-21 at 9.39.44 PMIt's rare for an actor/director/screenwriter to become so enthrall with his or her creation that they get their hand stuck in the cookie jar of their own movie.

Such is the sad case for Bradley Cooper, whose deep impersonation of Leonard Bernstein obliterates everything around it, including Carey Mulligan's exquisite portrayal of Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein.

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Bradley Cooper's insistence on giving his historic character the stuffed-up voice of man with a constant cold, wears out the viewer early on.

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A lack of narrative focus exposes Bernstein's outrageous narcissism. The result leaves the viewer to wonder why we should give two cents about Leonard Bernstein as anything other than an abuser of everyone he came into contact with.

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What a monster of a human being.

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Perhaps there's room for a gay #MeToo movement.

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Here is a film that needed a serious rewrite, much tighter editing, and direction by a filmmaker other than Bradley Cooper.

At least "Maestro" is an easy movie to forget.

Rated R. 129 mins.

1 Star

Cozy Cole

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December 27, 2023

AMERICAN BOY: A PROFILE OF STEVEN PRINCE

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.ColeSmithey.comThis ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comIf you've ever seen Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" then you most likely remember the scene wherein Travis Bickle buys a slew of handguns from a savvy criminal in a hotel room. The slick black market gun salesman is played by Steven Prince. His performance is so seamless, so patient and professional that you believe him entirely.

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So it is that two years after "Taxi Driver's" release, Martin Scorsese made this fascinating document about Steven Prince, the actor that Scorsese had hired to be his driver, bodyguard, and drug connection.

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Filmed in a friend's (ostensibly) Los Angeles living room, Scorsese directs from in front of the camera while working from a handful of notes to prompt Steve to tell wild anecdotes from his eventful 30 years of living.

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A master storyteller, Steven recalls events from his days managing Neil Diamond, stage managing "Hair" in downtown Manhattan, and growing up in New York City. Clips from home movies of Steven as a kid help paint the picture.

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A couple of Steven's stories might sound familiar since Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater each used them in their own films.

I won't spoil any of the shock of hearing these tales for the first time, but suffice it to say any of Steven's stories would make great audition monologues for any actor willing to do his or her homework.

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"American Boy" is also a great chance to get a peek into Martin Scorsese's intimate directing style.

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I love this movie! You just might love it too!

Not Rated. 55 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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